Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. We have a bit of a lighter week this week — I’m taking the opportunity catch back up on Monstress and also get into DC’s Super Sons, so expect to see those two around in the near future. But in the meantime, we have one old friend and two new faces for you to check out, so let’s get down to it.
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.
Ratings: The Pull List rates a comic’s power level on a scale of 0 to 5, where 5 is something thought-provoking, groundbreaking, and/or masterfully executed, and 0 is something I wish I hadn’t even started reading.
CN: Disease and graphic depictions of wounds in Pestilence, corpses in Black Bolt
The ongoings and miniseries I can’t live without
Writer: Mark Waid; Penciler: Humberto Ramos; Inker: Victor Olazaba; Colorists: Edgar Delgado with Nolan Woodard; Letterer & Production: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Cover Artists: Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado
The way I organize this column means you get dessert first. This was far and away the best comic of the week — I’d go so far as to call it a masterpiece of an issue. The plot is, as the cover suggests, the fallout of the previous issue, and the Freelancers revealing that they’ve copyrighted and marketed the Champions logo. This issue is, basically, everyone’s reaction to the trademarking, and to the inevitable Internet backlash of the Champions merchandising their name, and all of it is, well, perfect. Everyone’s reaction both reinforces what we already knew about the character, and tells us something new about them — including a few things that are surprises even to them. Included in that is a comment by Viv that was possibly the most important panel of the week, with her both stating that she is not attracted to men and also stating that she is not actually yet sure of her sexual orientation or gender identity, a claim that is very real and that not enough mainstream comics characters are making. Then we come to the resolution of the trademarking situation, and it’s both breathtakingly clever and breathtakingly obvious, to the point where I asked myself why I didn’t think of it at the same time as the characters. There is a quotable line and/or a stellar piece of art on every page, and perhaps most impressively, this feels like a real, important superhero book without a single moment of violence against a person. Champions is one of the best comics — no, one of the best things — and I am so grateful it’s out there, punching up for all of us.
Power Level: 5 of 5
New and Shiny
Black Bolt #1
Writer: Saladin Ahmed; Artist & Cover Art: Christian Ward; Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Variant Cover Art: John Tyler Christopher; Butch Guice & Andy Troy; Jack Kirby & Paul Mounts; Paul Pope & Toby Cypress; Rahzzah; Design: Nicholas Russell; Logo Design: Jay Bowen
A good, almost great, comics debut for Ahmed. Our story follows the reveal at the end of Royals #2 that the Black Bolt traveling through space with the other Royals is, in fact, Maximus, and this issue reveals what happened to the Silent King: He went to a secret prison in Maximus’s place, and now he has to escape. Ward and Ahmed both do a stellar job with this conceit: Ward’s art is gorgeously detailed, lending a feeling of oppression and claustrophobia to the prison halls while also making it feel otherworldly and fascinating. Ahmed’s near-lyrical narrative style infuses the proceedings with mythic weight, really making you feel both how powerful Black Bolt is, how restrained that power forces him to be, and how driven he is to escape. We get a little surprise in the middle, and then a fairly big surprise at the end, and I’m definitely intrigued enough to be in for Issue #2, but, I’m also a little hesitant about committing to a long-term subscription. Ahmed is a great writer, he really is, and his love for the character of Black Bolt is obvious in his writing, but this issue rings just a teensy bit hollow — which makes sense, as he and Ward are probably still trying to find the right balance of show and tell. Worth reading, worth keeping an eye on the series, but I’m not praying for its release date to come sooner or anything.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
Writer: Frank Tieri; Artist: Oleg Okunev; Story: Eric Bromberg, Brandon Auman & Frank Tieri; Colorist: Rob Schwager; Letterer: Marshall Dillon; Logo: John J. Hill; Cover: Tim Bradstreet
My effort to bear the torch for more indie comics began here this week, and unfortunately, this starting point is to my chagrin. The concept for the series is a good one, easy to explain: What if the Black Plague were actually a zombie apocalypse? It’s an easy conceit to get your head around, but unfortunately “easy” seems to be the order of the day here. The script is simply a bit uninspiring, but not for lack of great ideas. Pestilence reads like action-movie fare, with a clean, comfy portrayal of the medieval age in which the main characters quip as they display a mastery of both combat and cunning that makes them read like a medieval A-Team. Really, it felt like the book was setting up for Resident Evil, but during the medieval age, which actually could be amazing; unfortunately, it chooses to be a little too faithful to the idea of “medieval zombie story,” setting up the exact same tropes I’m used to from Night of the Living Dead or 28 Days Later, but with characters in breastplates and chainmail instead of fatigues. There are a couple hooks for future stories laid down, but not enough to really hook me; if the ideas here sound fun to you, give it a look, but I think it’s safe to pass.
Power Level: 2 of 5
Quote of the Week:
Hulk: “Yes! We need a name for this move!”
Cyclops: “How about the Fastball Special?”
Hulk: “Um…bad news, Slim…”
— Champions #8
And with that, I am off. Next week we have a more typical Pull List offering for you, including the second issue of the apparently runaway Image delight Black Cloud; I’ll see you then, but for now, keep loving comics!