We’re No. 1! is a weekly feature looking at first issues in new comic series, as well as one-offs and special releases. In his reviews, Jeff highlights stories with diverse characters and plot lines Geekquality readers can care about, as well as points out comics that miss the mark.
At long last, DC’s Villains Month has come to an end, and I’m certain I’m not the only one to be thankful. While there were some gems in this massive undertaking, most of the origin stories and one-offs of DC’s rogues gallery were poor efforts. This week, one much anticipated release sticks out. Joker’s Daughter #1 (Batman: The Dark Knight #23.4) is an origin tale and reboot of the character formerly known as Duela Dent. It’s ironic that this full reboot, in which Joker’s daughter is clearly an evil character, happens as a part of the Forever Evil event involving the villains of DC’s Earth-3, the alternate universe in which most of DC’s characters switch allegiance. The original Duela Dent claimed to be the daughter of that world’s heroic Jokester. Here, she’s far from heroic, having acquired the New 52 Joker’s face mask. (As in, his face. He had it sliced off and wore it as a mask until he disappeared into the caves under Gotham City. And it’s super gross.) The mask is found by a young girl named Duela, a severely troubled child. Deeply fascinated by pain, which she expressed through hurting animals, as well as self-mutilation, she has deep-seated issues stemming from her father’s inability to love her and her imperfections. Once adorned with her new “father’s” face, Duela proceeds to violently take control of a sect of former Arkham inmates living beneath Gotham, all of whom respect and fear the power of the Joker, and thus the young woman wearing his face. Duela’s mental illness is depicted similarly to that of The Ventriloquist, but in a slightly more campy way. This can largely be attributed to the brightly colored artwork by George Janty and Michelle Madsen. The colors are so bright and vivid, they bounce off the page – a poor choice for such a dark story. Duela is difficult to take seriously, despite her history, and while I at least wanted to be terrified by her, this tale pales in comparison to the Ventriloquist. Hopefully her run as a villain, beginning next month in the regular Catwoman title, will flesh out her character more thoroughly.
Moving on, there are three great new books on the shelves this week, each with a premise more unusual than the last. For the vegans and animal lovers out there, there’s an unusual take on zombie horror from IDW in The Other Dead #1 by creators Joshua Ortega and Digger T Mesch and artist Qing Ping Mui. This time around, it’s not the humans who rise from the grave to violently attack and devour the living, but rather the animals. That’s right, animal zombies, from angry deer hunted for sport, to ducks force fed fat for foie gras. The story is narrated by a human, who seems to be talking about the event as if in the past, but the first wave of an apparent animal zombie plague is depicted in real time. Thankfully, there are a metal band and the President of the United States on the way to save us all! The premise is funny, but the story takes too long to get going and there are only a couple of zombie animal attacks, but none of that matters. The single best part of the story is a hunted deer rising up from it’s own blood to violently attack the Vice President, an obvious nod to Dick Cheney and his hunting buddies. That was worth the price of admission alone.
The two highlights of the week both come from Image Comics (as if that surprises anyone). Sex Criminals #1 is the latest from Matt Fraction (Iron Man, Hawkeye) and it’s a unique and deeply personal story. Suzie is a young girl who lost her father to a random act of violence. She and her mother live shattered lives of regret, and Suzie is forced to do a lot of growing up on her own. Thus, she’s not prepared when her first forays into adolescent self-experimentation lead to a shocking realization: when Suzie has an orgasm, she stops time. Literally. With no one to explain the birds and bees to her, Suzie is shocked at first, and has a few traumatic experiences when attempting to share this new found gift. She is soon continually losing herself in what she calls “The Quiet,” a world of swirling colors and silence in which she’s the only one who can move. Or at least, so she thought. In college she meets Jon, a funny, intellectual young man who shares the same ability. Their mutual enjoyment of at last finding someone like them is short lived, however, as they begin to use their gifts to commit robberies. The depths of how they descend into a life of crime are left untold in the first issue, but it’s not a story that I’m ready to have thrown in my face just yet. This is an honest, poignant, and sometimes disturbing tale of a grieving teenage girl discovering her sexuality in the most unusual of ways. Fraction, with staggering art by Chip Zdarsky, depicts Suzie with a wry sense of humor that very clearly masks some deeper issues, and she’s both charming and fragile at the same time. Jon’s bravado and whimsical nature seem to be covering some of those same cracks, though he’s not as well explored yet. Watching their new relationship develop, albeit along the most unusual of lines, will be exciting to watch.
And then the laughs really roll in with Rat Queens #1 by Kurtis J. Wiebe (Peter Panzerfaust) and artist Roc Upchurch. The Rat Queens are a rag-tag group of women in a wild fantasy world. They are a group of elves, dwarves, and humans, some lesbian and women of color. They are magic users and warriors and hard-partiers who never back down from a brawl. And most of all, they are all hysterically funny. There are many things to love about this book, from the high-adventure action sequences, to the diversity of all the characters. The local sheriff is also a person of color, and he’s got a jail full of adventurers with too much time on their hands. Besides the Rat Queens, there are the Obsidian Darkness (Goth inspired elves who meet an untimely end cleaning toilets) and the Brother Ponies (an overt Brony culture reference), who exude brotherhood by speaking only in unison. The Rat Queen leader, Hannah, has a magic rock that basically functions like a cell phone, giving her magical access to … her overbearing parents. (She promises her friends it’s a magical gift they really don’t want.) The women spend a lot of time debating the values of taking mushrooms, and arguing the necessity of religion. They are smart and driven and very connected to each other. And, they kick a LOT of monster ass! This is one of the best examples in a while of a great team of women with strong personalities, their adventure framed by a powerful sisterly bond and their riotous wit. BUY THIS ONE TODAY, people, and keep reading it in the weeks to come.