Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. Halloween is behind us, and I apparently chose “trick” because I only got one comic in my pull this week. Fortunately for both you and me, that just gave me an excuse to pick up two new comics this week, including something horror-themed in honor of the season.
Spoilers: I try not to spoil the issues themselves too much, but I do post cover images, and I reference past events when they are germane. You won’t see any twists posted here, but some detail is inevitable.
Black Bolt #7
Writer: Saladin Ahmed; Guest Artist: Frazier Irving; Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Cover Artist: Christian Ward; Design: Nicholas Russell; Logo Design: Jay Bowen
An overall good, but decidedly weird issue. The story here is all about Black Bolt’s journey home to Earth, which is framed as a series of small incidents that serve to help define the characters of both Blinky and Black Bolt now that they are no longer in immediate crisis. As character work goes, this is actually great. Ahmed has emphatically hit his stride in this series; his voice has settled very nicely into its Conan the Barbarian style of narration, while still showing that he can write at a different speed through the way Blinky and other supporting characters speak. I enjoyed both Blackagar and Blinky as characters, without fully liking nor hating Black Bolt, which is appropriate for a character who is, at root, a monarch more than a superhero, and who therefore sees the burden of immoral acts for moral reasons as his to carry. I also really like the way Ahmed is handling Black Bolt having no voice, reminding us that he has a huge host of other powers and forcing the Silent King to focus on those, while also allowing him to reflect on the ways he adapted to having his voice now that he doesn’t have to constantly adjust for it. Irving’s stint as guest artist is particularly welcome here; the semi-photographic, detailed-yet-fuzzy style Irving employs really works here, and his detail work is fantastic for the emotional beats between Black Bolt and Blinky. But while the character work is good, the plot is a little bit flat; up until the very end, when there is a solid twist, it all felt fairly work-a-day, more a palette to paint psychology on than a plot in and of itself, and that’s a little bit unfortunate, even if the picture painted is actually really good; it also felt sort of stilted and stuttering, never quite fully hitting its stride as to how long and how fast each segment of the story should be. It’s not a good jumping-on point for the series, but it is a good issue in the series as a whole, and while I think you should start at #1 at this point, I do think it and every subsequent issue has been worth the subscription.
Power Level: 4 of 5
One-Shot: Batman the Devastator #1
Plot: Frank Tieri; Words: James Tynion; Pencils: Tony S. Daniel; Inks: Danny Miki; Colors: Tomeu Morey; Letters: Tom Napolitano; Cover: Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson
I won’t lie — the Dark Nights: Metal crossover event has not enticed me at all up to this point; the designs look extra-grimdark, which I’m on record as hating, and I’m so overloaded with crossovers after Marvel’s recent glut of them that I have trouble imagining signing on again any time soon. But I had a paucity of comics for this week, and this issue was there, and I thought, what the heck. And…I think it might have sold me. The story of Batman the Devastator is actually really cool, even though it’s incredibly bleak, and I think it’s because they used that most august tool of the superhero comics writer seeking to deviate from the norm: the alternate reality. This Batman is a Batman from a world where Superman went evil, and who decided to enact a Plan B for dealing with Evil Supes that turned him into something monstrous. This Batman’s toxic, destructive, abusive ideas about how to “save” the multiverse from Superman are entirely believable within the context of the story, including some truly chilling narration by the Devastator himself and a particularly terrifying monologue by the corrupted version of Supes. The art is also really good, actually; Daniel’s designs for the Devastator are extreme and grim and a little Nineties-tastic, but that works in this context, and he shows off enough non-Liefeldian work in the supporting cast for me to treat this as intentional. If this kind of psychology is where the plot of Metal is going — extremist, damaged alternate Batmen showing up to wreak cryptofascist havoc on a proper superheroic universe that doesn’t have time for their cynical nonsense — honestly, I might have to pick up some more Metal crossovers.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
New Series: The Gravedigger’s Union #1
Writer (Artist Pages 1-5 × Cover): Wes Craig; Artist (Pages 6-30): Toby Cypress; Colorist: Niko Guardia; Letters × Design: Jared K. Fletcher
When I’ve got a spot to fill in my comics for the week, I strive to go indie and creator-owned, and this was not a disappointment. I’m going to deliver my dislike up front: I was not a huge fan of the art in this issue. The abstract, rough, sketchy style is one that can definitely work, and I can see it growing on me here, but it felt like it made it a little hard for me to read some of the panels (I will note that I say some, unlike many indies where I would say all). Fortunately, it wasn’t bad enough that I couldn’t move past it, because actually the story here is pretty darn good. It takes what is now a weirdly tired horror trope (everyone knows about the supernatural and it’s become a part of everyday life with its own branches of government and pertinent laws), and adds onto it the wrinkle of the monster slayers not being a branch of government, but a blue-collar union, with all the attendant hierarchies, regulations, politics, and funding issues, and out of that mix comes something that promises to be a whole heck of a lot of fun. The main characters are POCs, with a couple white supporting characters, and while they do not profess what I would call overtly progressive politics, they aren’t outright regressive, either (at least not in a way that’s framed as heroic). The plot is a little bit thin on the ground, which is to be expected from an Issue #1, but what there is feels like it could be good (though some of it feels like it’s revealed in an on-the-nose way, especially the erstwhile twist). I’m not 100% sold on subscribing yet, but if you like your horror a little self-aware and a decent bit socially aware, this one might be a good series for you.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“I never understood, Bruce. The other Leaguers in their quiet conversations, they always said that you could beat me, head to head. If we really fought. If neither of us held back. With only a look, I could split you in half. With only a breath, I could freeze your heart. With the slightest touch, I could break every bone in your body. And what do you have, Bruce? A spear? Do you understand how weak you all are to me?”
– Earth −1 Superman, Batman the Devastator #1
And there you have it; three up, three down. Have a wonderful start of November, and until next week, keep on loving comics!