By Molly Jane Kremer and Jarrod Jones. Happy New Comic Book Day! This is Casual Wednesdays With DoomRocket, a podcast series where each week we discuss our feelings concerning the comics that mean the most to us, and the industry news that affects us all. This week, MJ & Jarrod dust themselves off after one hell of an election and chat with DoomRocket contributor Stefania Rudd about the comics that make them happy. Then they read their reviews for ‘Slam’ #1 and ‘Kill or Be Killed’ #4.
Don’t forget to share this podcast on the social network of your choosing, and please enjoy.
MJ’s Top 5 Most Anticipated Issues:
Hadrian’s Wall #3 — Image Comics/$3.99
Lady Killer 2 #3 — Dark Horse Comics/$3.99
Ether #1 — Dark Horse Comics/$3.99
Spell on Wheels #2 — Dark Horse Comics/$3.99
Grand Passion #1 — Dynamite/$3.99
Jarrod’s Top 5 Most Anticipated Issues:
Nightwing #9 — DC Comics/$2.99
Kaijumax Season 2 #6 — Oni Press/$3.99
Jackpot! #4 — AfterShock Comics/$3.99
The Electric Sublime #2 — IDW Publishing/$3.99
Thanos #1 — Marvel Comics/$3.99
REVIEWS FOR NOVEMBER 16, 2016
Written by Pamela Ribon.
Art by Veronica Fish.
Colors by Brittany Peer.
Letters by Jim Campbell.
MJ: Lately, I’ve been trying to put my money where my mouth is and read more books written, drawn, or created by ladies; and while representation is improving in our beloved sequential medium, there are some weeks where it can be difficult to find a mainstream monthly comic with one lady involved, let alone multiple. Well, except at Boom Studios. Last month, Tim Hanley’s Gendercrunching column ranked DC and Marvel both at less than 19% women according to book credits, but his most recent look at smaller publishers (calculated from April’s titles, he ranks littler pubs every six months) found that Boom’s creators/editors are all 39.1% ladies. For the obvious boys’ club that is monthly comics, that’s amazingly high, and it means that at Boom, voices that wouldn’t otherwise be heard get tangible and distinct stories. Enter Slam #1, this week’s empowering ode to friendship and roller derby: written, drawn, colored, designed and edited by ladies, and all excellently.
Slam is the second comic book outing from writer Pamela Ribon, who is no stranger to the pen: she’s written short stories, novels, anime, and an issue of Oni’s Rick & Morty comic. She’s also written for a few television shows and was a story contributor to the upcoming Disney animated feature Moana. Notably, and relevant to the comic at hand, Ribon was a derby girl herself, and her life experience gives the comic a distinct authenticity, while her obvious passion for the sport is fully, exuberantly expressed. Aside from being an incredibly fun, thoughtful, confidence- boosting read, Slam could be considered a fully functional testimonial-as-advertisement for roller derby itself. This is one of the most assuredly-written first issues I’ve read in a while.
Artist Veronica Fish is ridiculously versatile, incredibly prolific despite being a relative newcomer to the industry. Within the first two pages of Slam, Fish draws the ladies getting ready for their first bout: one panel shows the back of a derby girl yanking her sports bra on, but focusing on her flexing muscles, band-aids, and hard-earned bruises. Another girl, the panel centered on her butt, pulls out a wedgie. Neither of these panels sexualize their subjects in any way, but still celebrate their bodies — and make it obvious these are some bad-ass mamma jammas. A few certain older, male superhero comic artists could (and should) study this book, to learn how to draw strong, tough, gorgeous women, without sexualizing their forms. It can be done.
Fish also excels at dynamic action scenes, and her layouts (notably in Maisie’s introduction) are inventive and energetic. Brittany Peer’s colors complement Fish’s inks with mostly cool pastels, bringing out liveliness and movement throughout, and keeping story flowing at its brisk, fearless pace. Slam is a comic about making both life changes and new friends, and literally kicking some ass while doing so. And while it’s mostly-female credits (excellent letterer Jim Campbell is the only dude in the credits, including editorial) are a joy to see, above all, this is just a fun damn comic book, full of vitality and optimism, successfully avoiding any whiffs of sentimentality. An assured and joyous debut.
9 out of 10
Kill or Be Killed #4
Written by Ed Brubaker.
Art by Sean Phillips.
Colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser.
Editorial supervision by Eric Stephenson.
JJ: Say you were on a subway platform at five p.m. on a Friday and you had the ability to tap into the stream of consciousness of anyone around you. What do you think you would find? Let’s say that if you were to go rooting around somebody’s active thought processes in a crowded area, it’s easy to imagine that what you’d find wouldn’t be very pleasant.
Of course you don’t need to be clairvoyant to understand that most people are monsters, that even the nicest people have terrible secrets lurking just behind their smiles. But let’s say you spotted someone standing on their own, staring out at everyone on that platform from underneath a lowered, angry brow — wouldn’t you want to know what they were thinking?
Kill or Be Killed, the latest series from the Criminal masterminds, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breiweiser, gives us a window into the mind of such a person, and unsurprisingly, what we find is horrific. What’s so fascinating about this particular crime drama, however, is that our window into the main character’s mind is almost as banal as it is frightening.
The protagonist (?) of Kill or Be Killed is perhaps the least interesting character in popular comics today. He’s a white kid in New York City, one that looks just like the dozens of dudes you walk past every day on your way to get a cup of coffee. He’s not as intelligent as his NYU education would have you believe, a fact that’s punctuated by the lust he has for his best friend, who is presently having thangs with his roommate. He’s as average as can be, right down to his haircut, a brown, greasy mop that rests halfway down his forehead. He even has a blandly generic name: Dylan Cross. And like every single unexceptional dude out there, he’s got some pretty fucked ideas bopping around his head — only they weren’t put there by him.
For the last three issues of Kill or Be Killed, we’ve come to appreciate Dylan’s plight, if only because its lurid trappings are bred specifically for funny books. See, Dylan tried to kill himself one night, possibly because his beloved kept getting busy in the next room from him, but like everything else in Dylan’s life, that didn’t quite work out. But Dylan didn’t survive a swan dive off his apartment building because of kismet. He survived because of a demon, who says he’ll let our boy continue to live if he kills one evil person a month for an indeterminate amount of time. (Probably forever.)
Stop right there — if you’re gonna say this is starting to sound an awful lot like Christopher Sebela and Niko Walter’s Demonic, also currently published by Image Comics, well… you’re not wrong. But that’s not the point of this review.
As to why Dylan can only kill bad people, I’ll go ahead and make the assumption that that’s Ed Brubaker’s way of keeping us from hating Dylan entirely. It’s a tricky gamble, but when Brubaker has Dylan commit to the idea by finding some shithead from his past to kill, or by learning how to cope with what he’s doing — like he did in the book’s stupendous second issue — Kill or Be Killed truly sings. Since the first issue already told us Dylan grows into this role as a vigilante killer, taking on the entire Russian mob for reasons that become clearer with this issue, we already know that Kill or Be Killed is gonna nestle itself in more generic trappings sooner or later. It’s going to be Dylan’s journey that makes this book captivating, though it stinks that we have an idea of what’s coming next.
Look, everyone on the creative team of this book has their Eisners and their steady stream of projects (and in one case, a writing job for one of HBO’s most high-profile series). Criticizing Kill or Be Killed on an aesthetic level would be a fool’s errand. What’s more, comparing this book to the team’s illustrious bibliography when it’s not even finished is completely arbitrary.
Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s artwork is always incredible, and here it may be the best they’ve done yet. The panel work maximizes the depths of Brubaker’s shadows, the environments are utterly hostile, regardless of whether we’re watching Dylan tip-toeing around his roommate at home or trying his damndest not to get killed on the street. Breitweiser shifts her reds into nigh-phosphorescence when the action picks up, which yanks you by the collar and smacks you around a little. It’s in these moments that Kill or Be Killed becomes everything it should be.
Too bad the rest of the time we’re stuck inside the mind of a twenty-something kid. What keeps me going is knowing that somewhere in Brubaker, Phillips, and Breitweiser’s shadows lurks a demon. And he’s hungry for blood.
6.5 out of 10
Check back next week for more from Casual Wednesdays!
Before: “Online Harassment And Social Justice,” here.
Top 5 Most Anticipated Background music: “Runner Runner” Produced by Marc Dtwo — SoundCloud, YouTube (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs)