Comic Reviews – April 4

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Sex Criminals #23 by Writer Matt Fraction and Artist Chip Zdarsky

This issue of Sex Crimz continues to build on the seemingly apathetic state of the central characters as they try to figure out their place in the world romantically and sexually. Since Suzie and Jon’s separation in the previous arc, each issue has been roughly split in half, giving each character a portion of the book to explore their stories. Additionally, through expanding rifts in the relationships of peripheral characters in the story, it seems as if Fraction is creating a sort-of divergence in the way characters approach their sexuality and sexual identity–identified through their relationship to Jon and Suzie–which in the context of the book speaks loudly about the characters’ mental states and views toward the world.

Interestingly, this issue gives readers a clearer understanding of the central villain’s–Kuber Badal’s–sexual powers (literally, not metaphorically), better defining his larger moral threat to the world, and Jon and the other seX-Men’s plan to overthrow him. Currently, Fraction is remaining rather elusive about what exactly is going on, but it is clear, that Badal’s sex-ploits certainly serve a ethically corrupt purpose, making the enforcement of the sex police more hypocritical. Readers also gain further insights into Jon’s questionable descent into more adventurous sexual encounters and Suzie’s relationship with her father, who she interacts with via his old computer.

Overall, this is another outstanding issue in a series that should be read by everyone, especially younger people growing into their mature sexual identity. Like the other issues in the series, #23 continues to explore an oft-taboo topic with a sensitive and compassionate eye toward personal sexual identity.

– Jesse

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Batman #44 by Writer Tom King and Artists Mikel Jann & Joelle Jones

In another personal take on one of DC’s most mythical couples, Tom King and artists Mikel Jann & Joelle Jones bring readers intimately close to Catwoman aka Selina Kyle as she shops for her wedding dress. Of course, it is only fitting that Selina’s approach to this task is set up as a heist, which is apt for the type of story that King crafted.

Split between Selina’s B and E shopping spree and past encounters between Batman and Catwoman, the story serves to show how the act of marriage–and by extension, the act of choosing a wedding dress–is both unprecedented and entirely traditional within the Batman narrative. To reinforce this concept, the artwork for the shopping scenes and flashbacks are drawn by Jann and Jones respectively, creating a tonal shift between moments. However, as chronology in the flashback scenes move closer to the present, Jones’ artwork begins to resemble Jann’s, showing the growth of the characters and the naturalness of the matrimony.

A particularly fun component of King’s writing in this issue comes in the form of a dialogue between Bat and Cat, in which Batman expresses concern of their marriage. Cat jokingly connects this line of thinking to their changing outfits of the years and adds that what they are looking for is a costume that fits “purrfectly.” This is clearly a joke on behalf of the spectrum of costume changes both characters have endured over the years, but it also points to the strangely natural shift their putting on wedding attire really is–just another costume change.

Tom King is one of the masters of the mundane, making what could be the most painfully tedious aspect of a super hero or villain’s life interesting and deeply probing, and this issue is another example of his skill. I look forward to the Bats and Cats wedding, as I think King’s take has been engaging and humanizing, but I worry that the nature of mainstream super hero comics will ultimately doom this couple to an early divorce.

– Jesse

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Amazing Spider-Man #798 by Writer Dan Slott and Artist Stuart Immonen
Depending on which camp you fall in, a few of villains could qualify as Spider-Man’s nemesis. Those who say its Doctor Octopus or Venom or even Carnage, wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Each one poses a unique and undeniable threat the Web Head (I mean, Doc Ock did bodysnatch Peter Parker and take over as Spider-Man for two whole years). There is a reason however that Dan Slott chooses to bring back the Green Goblin for his final arc. No one has taken more from Peter Parker than Norman Osborn has, and no villain has lost more to Spider-Man. When Harry Osborn, Peter’s best friend, took on his father’s mantle, the Green Goblin became something mythic in Peter’s life. He became a metaphor for the darkness lurking around the corner, the gremlin in the works.
Here at the end (of Slott’s run, not Spidey himself!) Norman Osborn has made a triumphant come back. Not only has rid himself of the nano-tech injected into him by Spider-Man to keep him from ever becoming the Green Goblin, he has also merged with the Carnage symbiote. And now, thanks to J. Jonah Jameson, he knows Spider-Man’s secret identity.
Slott has done some big damn things in his run, from killing Peter Parker to turning the inhabitants of Manhattan into giant spider creatures to presenting us with an interconnected Spider-Verse. Somehow this simple merger of foes feels bigger than all of that. Despite knowing no lasting harm will come to our titular hero, Slott genuinely has me afraid of a goblin that doesn’t register to Peter’s Spider-sense. More chilling than that is Norman’s words in his final moments. He thanks Spider-Man for pushing to do more than he could ever have done alone. Everything that comes next is all thanks to Spider-Man. This new Red Goblin has made one fatal mistake however, in losing sight of the Man in Spider-Man. Peter is down and cannot take this new Goblin in a fight, so it’s time to use his brains.
– Tim
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Runaways #8 by Writer Rainbow Rowell and Artists Kris Anka and Triona Tree Farrell

Molly’s best friend Abigail has a secret that she wants to share. Literally. Abigail was apparently the recipient of a magic cupcake given to her by a witch that has made her thirteen forever. And she just happens to have a second that she wants Molly to eat and join her in perpetual adolescence.
Rainbow Rowell so keenly recognizes the power in writing from a perspective like Molly Hayes’. By turns she is allowed to be goofy, tough, wise, skeptical, and gullible, but always informed by her past. In this scene it’s so clear she wants to believe what Abigail is telling her, yet we can read between the lines to understand how keenly she still feels the betrayal of her parents and everyone besides her fellow Runaways.
This issue also does work to keep the Runaways linked to the greater Marvel Universe. Karolina’s girlfriend comes to visit from New York, and we learn she is none other than Julie Powers of the original kid family super-team Power Pack. During her visit Victor Von Doom attacks their underground home and demands the head of Victor Mancha, which is all Victor is these days. Nico is uncertain what to do in the face of a big league super villain. Julie is calling for the Runaways battle plans and attack strategies assuming them to be the superhero team they are not.
Indecision is the major theme of this arc as the Runaways seem poised to make some more solid commitment to what they are doing. Waiting to see what comes at them next may not be a viable way of living any longer.
– Tim

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