By Courtney Ryan, Arpad Okay and Jarrod Jones. Our Week In Review collects our thoughts on the comics that demand attention. Do you have a deep-rooted desire to know what we think about all your favorite books? Well. This is where you need to be.
Written by Mark Millar.
Art by Stuart Immonen, inks by Wade von Grawbadger.
Colored by Ive Svorcina.
Lettered by Peter Doherty.
CR: With only two more issues left in Mark Millar’s intense sci-fi escapade, Empress #5 throws a wrench in its central conflict by separating Queen Emporia from her children. For one thing, she’s no longer merely fleeing her husband; now she must save Aine, Adam, and baby Puck from being sold into slavery by a violent scrap family. More interesting than that, we get a chance to see how well the kids do on their own. Since the beginning, Queen Emporia has claimed her escape was a noble rescue mission on behalf of her children, but now we know that Aine and Adam don’t necessarily need rescuing.
Millar continues to sample liberally from some of his favorite space sagas, such as Star Wars and Flash Gordon, but as usual manages to add original twists to create a thrilling and unpredictable arc. Tension builds on each page as every main character finds him or herself on the verge of death. Emporia, Dane, and Tor must repair their severely damaged ship before being charred to a crisp in an ancient Nakamoor fertility ritual, and Adam and Aine must combine their brains and brawn if they’re going to take down their captors.
Stuart Immonen adds to the tension by clearly revealing each character’s anguish through compelling facial expressions. His suburb scenery captures the diversity of the Empress universe, but it’s not so busy that we’re taken out of the action by reveling in his excellent detail. Ive Svorcina’s colors and Wade von Grawbadger’s inks are beautiful, matching the vibrancy of Millar’s storytelling. With only two issues left, everything is amounting to what looks like a pretty thrilling climax.
8.5 out of 10
Black Panther #5
Written by Ta-nehisi Coates.
Illustrated by Chris Sprouse and inked by Karl Story; colored by Laura Martin.
Lettered by Joe Sabino.
AOK: Both panther and monarch are known for silence. If the monarch speaks, it is measured. It is poetry. If you rep the gods, everything you say is going to be written down, analyzed, proselytized, propagandized. You had better make sure what you are saying is worth the attention. There is incalculable pressure on T’Challa (and Ta-nehisi Coates) to be as sound as Solomon… and perhaps they are. Yet now that the work T’Challa is doing matches the importance of his station, everyone who stands beside him is stepping up to meet the challenge and shining. Even a monarch is a collective. There is no one man.
Not that the train can be stopped now. Politics in Wakanda are ablaze. The resistance is weaponized to commit acts of terrorism. On the ground, the crown is finally making that Midnight Angel difference, saving soldiers. On the throne, they contemplate fighting terrorism with terrorism. There is as much wisdom as there is folly in the pages of Black Panther, and they exert a glorious, torturous tension on the reader that comes from the heart burning for one to extinguish the other.
While the story rolls forward, the art in Black Panther undergoes a changing of the guard. Brian Stelfreeze will return for the third quarter, and Chris Sprouse and Karl Story have taken his place. Their work is pulpy and modern (like Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell), touches of Kirby, a large dose of Gillo Pontecorvo. It is serious, clean, spare, but finely detailed. Laura Martin continues to color the book, and her work this issue is just off the charts. She lifts the art up. Together, they realize Coates’ lush vision, they capture and communicate the silent power of the panther.
9 out of 10
The Black Monday Murders #1
Written by Jonathan Hickman.
Art by Tomm Coker.
Colors by Michael Garland.
Letters by Rus Wooton.
JJ: It’s frightening how easy it is to manipulate someone into believing a lie. In the year 2016 there are some people who truly believe that the Earth is flat or that the Moon landing was a sham. And while it’s plenty easy to mock people like that, it’s even easier to forget that we’re probably in possession of a truth that was once a lie ourselves. In the wrong hands, a lie becomes the truth because enough people are made to believe it. It’s an election year. This concept should be familiar enough.
Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker’s The Black Monday Murders, a fascinating and wicked entertainment from Image Comics, plays with fictionalized revisionism in a way that opens the eyes and shivers the flesh. What arcane methods made this destructive global market, a perception of reality so real to some it may as well be a fifth dimension? Hickman has a few answers, or at the very least, a ridiculously engrossing story to make our understanding of it a bit easier to comprehend. Just don’t go taking it too seriously, now.
Yes, if it’s Hickman’s contention that bankers are inherently evil, you can’t say he didn’t do his homework. The Black Monday Murders is structured so immaculately that it comes with its own appendices, placed intermittently throughout this oversized debut issue so that the reader doesn’t become too overwhelmed by the unfolding mystery. These financial trees and charts measure the rise and, in one chilling instance, the fall of families and empires leading up to present day. We’re oriented within the story by information presented so matter-of-factly that it’s almost impossible not to consult Google to see if any of this stems from actual historical record.
And that’s the game. Hickman tilts the axis on our grasp with what we know just enough that the ground underneath us is no longer sound. Tomm Coker is in on it too, he has to be — why else would he craft a world around this sinister yarn that looks as convincing and sober as a standard police procedural? Coker’s art is brilliantly structured and sophisticated as hell, which only pulls us further into the conspiracy. What can we trust: these storytellers out for our reason, or our own wobbly intuition? Stop what you’re doing and go get The Black Monday Murders.
10 out of 10
House of Penance #5
Dark Horse Comics/$3.99
Written by Peter Tomasi.
Illustrated by Ian Bertram.
Colors by Dave Stewart.
Lettered by Nate Piekos.
AOK: House of Penance is a nickelodeon of the grotesque. The images flash past. Sweaty face. Elephant eyes. Teardrops fall up. The wheel turns, the unsettling moments unite to animate an apocalypse. The tears on our hero’s cheeks burn up as he sinks his memories into the fire. His ghosts, brought to life by the claret thundering beneath the floorboards and behind the walls. House of Penance clears up for a moment to make a damning indictment, calculating the cost of Westward expansion as tallied by the man hired to kill all those who resisted it. Then, the ghosts of the house, Peck’s victims, Lady Winchester’s responsibilities, every body found by a bullet, they come together and overwhelm. There is an eruption and it is a terrible thing to behold.
This book is bent and it will warp you too. The ship is sinking, the perspective spinning. The fairy tale castle that is the Winchester dream home has gone Tetsuo, shooting waves of veins and flesh from its walls with a fervor that could make both S Biesty and HP Lovecraft blush. This is psychedelic terror peaking at maximum intensity. A Disney princess look, but the acid lingers. The almond-eyed Happily Ever After has a scarred face. Sweating or crying or both. No smooth cheek to rest upon here.
Yeah, House of Penance presents the reader with things they’ll never see anywhere else. Things that no one should ever see. Writing meant to disturb the mind’s eye; to actually look upon it is to court madness. This is going to be a cult classic down the road and it will be because of issues like this one. Part horror, part mystery, all the facts are finally laid out for us, right before the table is cleared.
9 out of 10
From earlier this week —
Agree? Disagree? What books are YOU reading this week? We want to know! Tell us about those feelings of yours in the comments section below.