Singles Going Steady 6/3/14: Run for Shelter

A comic review article by: Taffeta Darling, Justin Giampaoli, Lance Paul

Singles Going Steady

Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup. 

Sheltered #9

(Ed Brisson / Johnnie Christmas / Shari Chankhamma; Image Comics)

Man, that is a killer cover!

Sheltered #9

I was a little saddened to hear Ed Brisson explain that Sheltered would be coming to a planned end at issue 15 after three arcs of five issues each, yet there’s something to be said for crisp storytelling with a finite beginning, middle, and end. Nancy’s plight in this issue is really emblematic of the entire community of Safe Haven, and you can extrapolate its meaning to things out here in the real world. If she failed because she wasn’t prepared, she can’t leave and admit she was wrong, because then it means all of the wrongdoing the group undertook was for nothing. It’s a chilling psychological Catch-22 that questions if the end always justifies the means by default.

There’s a ton of moving parts in this issue, all of them totally exciting, from Curt and Justin’s side mission coming to a head, to Victoria saving Lucas out of a sense of personal integrity, to the point-counterpoint of ice and fire brought on by the visuals of Johnnie Christmas and Shari Chankhamma, to the fate of the lone man who escaped the shootout. The denouement in the random guy’s house is a tutorial on how to choreograph an intense action sequence. Christmas depicts the random scatter of gunfire with wild pops of sound effect placement. It’s a really good visual track that shows how manic and crazy and imprecise real shootouts are.

At the end, Lucas tries to recapture some of the moral high ground, and with only 6 issues remaining, I’ve never been more excited to see how it’ll all unfold. #TEOTWAWKI

- Justin Giampaoli

C.O.W.L. #1

(Kyle Higgins / Alec Siegel; Image Comics)

3.5 stars

The Chicago Organized Workers League – essentially the world’s first Super-Hero Labor Union! Originally set up as a ray of justice and hope in the face of a organized and unbeatable super-villains society, it now stands as a played-out organization in which the public has become disillusioned with.

It's raining Call and Duty out there!

It’s raining Call and Duty out there!

The issue starts high energy and briefly introduces the team while targeting the last of the infamous villains. The story is high on intrigue, yet only gives us a quick set-up — for a new series — that leaves the reader wondering, “with all the bad guys locked away in thirst issue, what will become of C.O.W.L?”

Kyle Higgins (Batman Beyond 2.0) and Alec Siegel (Avengers Origins: Vision) do present this interesting tale with an instant swerve: their heroes complete their last mission within the first few pages. So far, I’m feeling inspiration from the old 50s noir magazines meet the Watchmen. And with this sort of surmise, your Dutchess can’t help but feel like there are many ways this new series could develop.

This first issue is a shallow introduction into to the C.O.W.L. universe and let’s hope as it carries on it will focus more on character building. There is a lot of potential at the heart of this story.

While the story isn’t totally satisfying, the art is a dish full of flavor. Rod Reis (Aquaman) does a fantastic job of slowing the reader down to enjoy each panel for a moment more. The colors are raw and gritty which isn’t the look you’d find in a superhero type story but a welcome change, nonetheless.

You can bet the highly original C.O.W.L. will remain on my sub-list for a few more issues assuming the plot doesn’t flatline.

Taffeta Darling

Southern Bastards #2

(Jason Aaron / Jason Laour; Image)

Like Scalped before it, Southern Bastards is quickly becoming a portrait of a little-understood slice of American Culture, which stands in as a microcosm for society at large. The South is but one thread in the American Tapestry, but you can see all of the ills of the greater nation played out in this small fishbowl.

I enjoy the way that Jason Aaron has infused his love of football (“Roll. Damn. Tide.” should not be foreign to you if you follow him on Twitter) into this mess. “Coach Boss” is the local Hutt and Friday nights in the South can mean only one thing – football. Earl Tubb is packed and ready to go, but there’s something stuck in his craw here in Craw County, something he just can’t let go. Jason Latour’s football game is all kinetic beauty, the characters staged in such a way, flowing from one panel to the next, that you can almost see the figures moving on the page.

Earl stumbles into the middle of a botched hit in a town where everything is a scam, from corrupt cops to rampant big-fish-in-a-little-pond syndrome, and trouble has a way of just finding you. Earl is fighting his past demons and trying to step out of a big man’s shadow, trying to find his true place in the world, and at times I fear this might have a little too much in common with Scalped structurally and thematically, a little too on-the-nose, but it’s still charmingly dirty. I enjoy the neighbor kid as some sort of devil-on-the-shoulder Redneck Yoda.

There’s a slightly, let’s call it “not-quite-supernatural” turn that the story takes, but I’m still in. One can only hope that the hordes of fans who dug Aaron’s Marvel work and followed him to Southern Bastards will go back and read Scalped, which was his breakout creator owned book before creator owned books became all the rage.

- Justin Giampaoli

Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1

(Mark Waid / Neil Edwards; Dynamite)

Dynamite celebrates their revival with the resurgence of the Master of the Occult! In this re-imaging we find that he is still chasing demons and slaying vampires– but he’s younger, with more technology at his disposal. This revamp of another Gold Key character has Dr. Spektor leading the life of a reality TV show character that’s a poor substitute for Dr. Strange and Constantine. When Adam Spektor isn’t fighting demons on his reality show, he’s struggling with his own inner demons and turmoils in real life.

Beats being that Phil Spector guy...


Mark Waid (Daredevil) does his best to keep the readers intrigued and interested, but this Darling Nun was getting bored with it about halfway. Neil (Fantastic Four) Edwards‘ art feels understated and out of place at times. He’s trying hard to offer us the juxtaposition between reality TV Spektor and real life Spektor. It all seems flat and monotone.

- Taffeta Darling

The Fuse #4

(Antony Johnston / Justin Greenwood; Image)

Ralph and Klem are still doing what they do, chasing leads all over the orbital station to explain why the mayor’s man Birch would kill the mayor’s long-lost brother and then apparently go all self-inflicted gunshot wound. Something doesn’t quite add up, and by the end of the issue, there’s forensic evidence from the autopsy that suggests otherwise.

It’s a bit of a talky issue, but we get to meet Klem’s son and the complications that brings, more of the FLF is explained, and there’s even some notes in the letters about gender politics in pop fiction. Justin Greenwood’s art seems to grow and evolve with every project, here it’s the backdrops in Central Park, with a sense of depth and layers that were perhaps missing from some of his very early work, visually extending Antony Johnston’s already strong world-build. Ralph wanted to further indoctrinate himself in the intricacies of Midway culture, and uhh, be careful what you wish for! #SpringRolls

- Justin Giampaoli

Star Wars: Rebel Heist #1/#2

(Matt Kindt / Mark Castiello / Dan Parsons / Gabe Eltaeb; Dark Horse Comics)

I've headed back to the Star Wars universe, with a tale of espionage in the post-New Hope era.

Matt Kindt (Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.) takes us through this usual premise with a unusual spin: Every issue in the series — at least we so believe — is witnessed through the eyes of a different protagonist, as they are either saved or aided by the heavy-hitters. Rebel Heist #1 finds a new recruit running afoul of Han Solo, while issue #2 finds a Twilik dancer aided by Princess Leia. The nice thing about this take on the universe? Kindt allows the reader to see what the common rebel thought of our fan favs following the destruction of the Death Star. Though, who wouldn’t think of Han Solo as a genius tactician after going TIE for Falcon with Darth Vader– or believe the Princess is nothing but stuck-up royalty (unless you had the pleasure of seeing her get her hands dirty, either commanding forces or firing blasters)?

While Dark Horse could have chosen a more suitable penciler than Mark Castiello (Green Arrow), the story does make up for the comic’s lack of visual clarity. Still, the combination of Dan Parsons on ink and Gabe Eltaeb (Green Lantern Corps) on colors is quite refreshing, and enough to recommend this mini, especially with #3′s promised focus on the wookiee.

- Lance Paul

Sex #13

(Joe Casey / Piotr Kowalski; Image)

3.5 stars

Annabelle Lagravenese finds herself in the middle of a weird domestic sitch, where her work concerns have bled over into the personal life of one of the girls in her employ.

It’s a total aside, but this is the third Semisonic lyric I’ve caught in a comic within about two months, so there’s something in the zeitgeist, I guess? As if Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski’s comic wasn’t odd enough, let’s just cut to the “Dance Meeting” between Dolph and Cha-Cha. I’ll just leave that right there for a second. Good? Kowalski always seems to sell the over-the-top elements with the emotion of brilliant facial expressions, but Casey makes him earn his keep here. The issue is all over the place, between oral on the dance floor, to The Prank Addict on the loose, to Tanaka’s death, to callbacks to The Armored Saint’s days, to the uhh, whereabouts of Warren. It doesn’t always feel cohesive, but there’s something still oddly compelling about Casey’s willingness to substitute repressed sexuality for superheroics in a post-action treatise on “what happens after the shared universe concept?”

- Justin Giampaoli

Avengers #30

(Jonathan Hickman / Leinil Yu; Marvel Comics)

4 stars

A story has been building in Avengers for some time thanks to Jonathan Hickman (East of West )– and, thankfully, this main event tie-in doesn’t distract from it.

In this ish, Hick tackles the sin of the Illuminati in all his dark and sultry greatness, providing plenty of memorable character moments. Just wait ’til you check out current 616 Hawkeye tangle with his future self (complete with a subtle inquiry of his lost dog, as seen in Clint Barton’s standalone series…). Just remember, if you’re looking for an actual Original Sin tie-in that moves the main event along, this book doesn’t really advance the search for the Watcher’s balls. I’m talking, EYE balls of course. Leinil Yu (Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk), as usual, is quite amazing on the spreads. My only issues with the.. well.. issue, is that if you’ve seen one future Avenger you’ve seen them all. If Hickman is known for his world-building, then maybe he should stick to building new characters instead of the new future hero witnessed every six issues.

- Lance Paul

Deadly Class #5

( Rick Remender / Wesey Craig / Lee Loughridge; Image)

With '80s pop culture drops abounding, it’s clear that Rick Remender is composing an examination of identity for himself and the rest of us Gen Xers. Ostensibly the issue is about Marcus’ role in Billy’s dad’s demise, but the larger thematic concern is kids who don’t want to be defined by their parents, something all generations seem to struggle with. Wes Craig does quite a number with the acid trip droplets, skewing the visual perspective for an altered casino-wandering reality.

As if Marcus didn’t have enough going on, he gets in the middle of Chico and Maria, creating a literal threat to his life, and a more figurative threat to his developing feelings about another character. With some bonus process backmatter, this is the best issue of the series to date. It has action galore and finally bears a strong thematic constant. It’s existential meaning amid an adrenaline-fueled fight or flight episode. #SorryT

- Justin Giampaoli

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