Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. This week was that bizarre anti-unicorn of a week where absolutely none of my regular series had new issues come out; with that in mind, I present to you two completely new series, one series I reviewed the first issue of, and one that is new to your humble reviewer but has been going for some time. Let’s have an adventure!
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.
Script: Tom King; Art: David Finch (Pencils, Pages 1, 4, 8, 10, 12, 16-20), Danny Miki (Inks, Pages 1, 4, 8, 10, 12, 16-20), Clay Mann with Seth Mann (Pencils & Inks, Pages 2, 3, 5-7, 9, 11, 13-15); Colors: Jordie Bellaire; Letters: Deron Bennett; Covers: Finch, Miki & Bellaire; Variant Cover: Tim Sale & Brennan Wagner
Superhero poetry of the most Gothic sort. As the story title suggests, this is a slower, more emotional issue, a breather after “The Button” storyline wrapped up last issue. The framing device is Batman conversing with Gotham Girl about both of their futures, and we learn so much about Batman in that conversation that it left me in awe; much of it is variations on familiar strains, but it felt very raw and emotional and human in a way that I have only seen from the very best Batman writers, with none of the overdone Byronic artifice that tends to get draped on the Bat. The art sings right along with it, giving stillness and melancholy to the Batman/Gotham Girl scenes and intensity and action to the interstitial moments of Batman and Catwoman racing across rooftops. The stuff with Gotham Girl is so good that it could stand on its own as a little character study of Batman, but then you get to the final pages and it hooks you right in. I’m not convinced the shocking twist at the end is going to stick, but it’s got me wanting to tune in for Issue #25 at least. Just plain stunning work.
Power Level: 5 of 5
Black Bolt #2
Writer: Saladin Ahmed; Artist & Cover Art: Christian Ward; Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Variant Cover Art: Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire; Ryan Stegman & Jesus Aburtov; Design: Nicholas Russell; Logo Design: Jay Bowen
Saladin Ahmed has settled in, and it is glorious. In this issue it feels like the voice settled down a little bit and picked a feeling; that mythic, poetic style of the narration in Issue #1 rounds out into something like the narrator of Conan the Barbarian, giving the whole thing a sword-and-planet feel that really suits the character of Black Bolt. The voices of Creel, Blinky, and the other prisoners are much clearer and smoother now; there is a lot of depth to them that this issue takes time to showcase, and it only aids the proceedings. The direction of the plot is also made clear, and I could not be more excited about what it seems like we’re going to do next. But lest I dance around about the script this whole review, I need to praise the art. Ward’s art is absolutely freaking stellar here; background art is used in several panels to portray what Black Bolt is thinking, and the depth and heft it gives to the foreground interactions is something that simple dialogue or a lesser artist could not have conveyed. I grit my teeth and subscribed after this issue — yeah, my list is long, but stellar storytelling and giving money to marginalized voices is a hell of a one-two punch.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Darth Vader #1
Writer: Charles Soule; Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli; Inks: Cam Smith; Colorist: David Curiel; Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna; Cover Artist: Jim Cheung & Matthew Wilson
Surprising fun from a story that so well-trod. This issue takes place almost immediately after the conclusion of Revenge of the Sith, with Darth Vader venting his rage and now-Emperor Palpatine coaxing him down the road into full Sith Lordship. Soule absolutely nails the voices of both Palpatine and Vader, giving Palpatine a sinister edge that actually reads like McDiarmid’s gravelly hissing, and putting such raw anger into Vader that the dialogue alone makes him intimidating. The visuals are equally good, with plenty of action and some quiet, ominous drama beats to help bring home the darkness that this series will be delving into. We even get an explanation (however metaphorical) for why Sith all have red lightsabers! My main complaint is that in actuality, very, very little happens in this issue — Palpatine monologues a bit as fascism rises around him, Vader is sent on a quest, things break, and people die. It’s invested with such emotion at the beginning that the action almost feels like a disappointment (which I think may just be me being used to how dynamic the Force is in the newer movies; seeing it as speed lines on a page is not quite as visceral). Still, this was enjoyable, and more so than I expected a book about Darth Vader to be. If you love Star Wars, this is a good pickup.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
The Unsound #1
Written By: Cullen Bunn; Illustrated by: Jack T. Cole; Lettered by: Jim Campbell; Cover by: Jack T. Cole; Unlocked Retailer Variant Cover by: David Lafuente; The Comic Mint Insiders Exclusive Cover: Michael Dialynas
I picked this up because of a story I loved, and unfortunately found a story I’ve read many times before. I’m an avowed fan of The Black Tapes, in which the concept of “the Unsound” features prominently, and so I was drawn to this; plus, Cullen Bunn is a Big Name Writer. I was also sucked in by Cole’s artwork, which is phenomenal, exuding both an Edward Gorey and Silent Hill flair while maintaining a look all its own, and on the strength of the artwork alone I am glad I picked up this issue. Unfortunately, the story feels like paint-by-numbers modern psychological horror, and some of the more problematic aspects of it are embodied here, the use of the mentally ill to paint a “surreal” or “creepy” vibe chief among them. The tone is really good, and it feels like some interesting stuff could be happening here, and there are questions to which I need answers even just from this one issue; and if the Bedlam House trope does not trouble you, this one might be good to pick up. But for me, so much was done wrong that I have to take a pass.
Power Level: 2.5 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“It’s all crazy. But I once used magical powers given to me by a god to turn myself into a pile of cocaine. I can handle crazy.”
— Absorbing Man, Black Bolt #2
And with that, I am off. Next week, I’ll be paying for this week’s strange little bye with eight issues of my regular subscriptions, so brace for a long column; until then, keep on loving comics!