Hello everybody, and welcome back to the Pull List, the apartment down the street from the House of Ideas. This week is another fun-size week, but it’s also another very good week for comics, so it balances out.
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 #3
Writer: Saladin Ahmed; Artist & Cover Art: Christian Ward; Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Variant Cover Art: Joe Quinones; Design: Nicholas Russell; Logo Design: Jay Bowen
Superpowered cosmic jailbreak? Yup, I’m here for this. Visually, this issue is once again stunning, with Ward showing off chops that make him one of my favorite modern comics artists. Narratively, this issue continues in vein of Issue #2, though it feels like a little bit of a step back because for the most part, this is exactly what Issue #2 left us expecting: Black Bolt, Absorbing Man, and the rest of the inmates enact a plan to stop the Jailer and break out. It’s not entirely a straight line — there are some interesting reveals and twists, as well as a cameo by an obscure Marvel character I haven’t seen in a while, and the sword-and-sorcery, almost Conan-esque style of Ahmed’s narration continues to charm, investing the whole thing with epic gravitas that makes every twist and turn exciting. But that doesn’t change that there just aren’t that many twists and turns, and one of the major ones is just described by one character as having already happened, in a way that suggests either a future twist or the team not being quite sure how to deal with it. The worldbuilding is solid, and the reveals in this issue give Black Bolt some very interesting avenues for character growth going forward, but it was also a lot of very pretty writing and phenomenal art covering a pretty thin story. This series continues to brush its fingertips against greatness, and I’m here to watch it keep reaching, at least for now.
Power Level: 3.5 of 5
The Wicked + The Divine #29
Writer: Kieron Gillen; Artist: Jamie McKelvie; Colourist: Matthew Wilson; Letterer: Clayton Cowles; Flatter: Dee Cunniffe; Original Designer: Hannah Donovan; Designer: Sergio Serrano
Now we’re cooking with gas. After several issues of the characters not really doing much of anything, Sakhmet’s tiny little case of mass murder last issue has sparked things up into a more active place — a tonal shift that it turns out was intentional on Gillen and McKelvie’s part, so, I’m glad I didn’t put my foot in it by complaining too much. The sense of the characters being forced out of their opposing ruts here is very strong, as is the sense that relationships among the gods are badly breaking down in the wake of Ananke’s death and the vote for Anarchy in the face of the Great Darkness. This issue did perhaps the best job of making me see Laura/Persephone for the problematic figure that she is — something that’s clear elsewhere, but her issues and her potential for harm are shown in a very tangible way. Not that anyone who stars in this issue comes out smelling good, though — Sakhmet, the Morrigan, the Norns, and the utter grotesquerie that is Odin all get a chance to stake their claim as mayor of Terrible Town. This is a very active, very humanizing issue, and while I was complaining about the plot not moving, if we continue to wade through these characters’ heads this way I could keep going for a very long time.
Power Level: 4 of 5
New and Shiny
Zodiac Starforce: Cries of the Fire Prince #1
Publisher: Dark Horse
Written by: Kevin Panetta; Art and Cover by: Paulina Ganucheau; Colors by: Sarah Stern; Lettering by: Christy Sawyer; Variant Cover by: Jen Bartel
Do you like magical girls? Scratch that, how much do you like magical girls? Zodiac Starforce is a love letter to the entire genre, without ever feeling slavish or appropriative in the process. This series is actually a sequel to the original Zodiac Starforce, which I have not read, but the basics of the characters, the mythology, and the up-to-now backstory are provided (in a way that also doesn’t prevent me from going back and reading the first ZS series, which I appreciated). Ganucheau’s art is perfect — it carries some of the same feeling of anime and manga without just feeling like a knockoff, investing the story with its own life and style, and at the same time, visual nods to the medium are sprinkled throughout the book (I specifically caught a Revolutionary Girl Utena reference in addition to the obvious Sailor Moon stuff); Stern’s colors do that art justice, giving depth and life and motion to Ganucheau’s panels. Panetta’s writing, meanwhile, is bubbly and funny and genuine; the main characters display pretty strong and distinct personalities in the little time we get to spend with them, trading wit, concern, and affection as they deal with the standard magical-girl mix of high school life and horrible monsters. I also loved the diversity of the main characters — everyone is a different skin tone, the body types vary, some non-white ethnicities are in evidence instead of a single token — this is progress. This world felt very real and alive, and I was excited enough by this issue that I bit the bullet and shuffled out The Kamandi Challenge to make room for this in my pull. If you like magical girls as much as I do, I think you’ll get a kick out of this.
Power Level: 4 of 5
Quote of the Week:
“Oh great. Walking through walls into Crap Narnia. I hate this chthonic bullshit.”
— The Norns, The Wicked + The Divine #29
And with that, I am off. I’ll see you next week; until then, keep loving comics!