We’re No. 1!

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.

Shutter01_CoverAThere are two stand out releases among the wealth of new cape comics this week, and one is from Image Comics, who had a fine course correction with Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca’s Shutter #1. Kate Kristopher was born in to a family of “explorers”, people who discover the mystical in a world where the mystical is seemingly right out in the open. Regular people coexist right along side the supernatural, from Minotaurs (in monocles, no less) on the subway, to fairies and demons texting each other and serving coffee. In a world like this, how fantastic can Kate’s family possible be? When she was seven, her father – the last of his line – took Kate to the moon. Now, 27 years old and having lost her father, Kate is making a living as a photographer and trying to live a normal life in a world that may very well be magical because of her ancestors. After all, the more discoveries they make, the less of the supernatural world there is to remain hidden. An attack by a talking robot at her father’s grave reveals to Kate that there’s more to her family than she knows and a normal life doesn’t seem likely. A young woman in peril, Kate is capable and her narrative isn’t just about punching her way out of her problems. In fact, Kate is still vulnerable and obviously filled with grief over her father, and her emotional complexity gives the book a lot more emotional depth. The art, meanwhile, is some of the best around; Del Duca and colorist Owen Gieni have given us a book that’s whimsical and emotional in equal measures, but also modern and dark.

boombox_lumberjanes_001_aThe most entertaining book this week was the lighthearted but well intentioned Lumberjanes #1. The Lumberjanes are a group of girls, teens and preteens, who are away at camp for the summer.  But “Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiquil Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types” is no ordinary sleep away trip. It’s also, obviously, fabulously named, with the last three words carved into a board and nailed over the word “Girls”! The girls in question unite in a battle against a pack of three eyed foxes after chasing a “Lady Bear” into the woods, and though their camp counselor is upset with them, the director of the camp knows that these young adventurers are onto something. Mal, Molly, Jo, April and Ripley are the kind of kids you just want to root for, and their vocabulary is as entertaining as their story. (Favorite phrase: “What the Joan Jett are you doing?”). Their tale has even less reality in it than Shutter, but the cartoon style art of Brooke Allen lends itself perfectly to the comic fantasy written by cartoonist Noelle Stevenson and new writer Grace Ellis. The book looks like a slightly punk rock version of The Regular Show, and carries some of the same irreverent comedic feel, but with more heart. These five friends believe in each other, and their bond is the spine of the book, pun intended. The book’s themes of the power of friendship above all else appeal to a younger audience, for certain, but the humor and attitude give it a much wider appeal, and it’s a great read.

ULTIMATESAnd then the cape creators went wild, offering up no less than six new stories featuring familiar characters. The best of them come from Marvel this week in The All-New Ultimates #1. Spinning out of the events of Ultimate Cataclysm, a new team of Ultimates is put together after Galactus destroyed most of the old ones and nearly laid waste to the world. Led by Miles Morales, this diverse team features Ultimate versions of some exciting, and much more fringe, characters in Marvel’s mainstream world. In particular, the inclusion of Morales and the re-imagined Cloak and Dagger bring key roles to people of color. Miles is the Spiderman we’ve grown to love, irreverent one moment, and taking his role as masked hero seriously the next. His counterpart, Spider-Woman (a.k.a. Jessica Drew) is much more serious in her Ultimate incarnation and has more gravity than her rather lighthearted portrayal in the mainstream universe. She’s the leader of this team, and takes Peter Parker’s mantra of responsibility and power very seriously. All in all, there are some great characters in this personal tale of struggle (none of these heroes are conveniently billionaires) and it’s also a good superhero story.

IIFSadly, the rest of the week’s cape books miss the mark. Kaare Kyle Andrews both writes and draws Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #1, the latest book to feature Danny Rand, and begins to explore the origins of Iron Fist in more depth than we’ve seen before. I wanted to like Iron Fist taking on ninja cyborg zombies. Sadly, the book uses a female journalist as a prop, essentially, and the action packed story loses a lot of weight because of it.

Legendary writer Chris Claremont returns to X-books with Nightcrawler #1, a largely innocuous tale of the swashbuckling mutant’s return to life and love. While I thought I remembered him being romantically linked to Storm, his old flame Amanda (Daytripper or Majik, depending on the book she last appeared in) takes center stage in his life this time around. An old enemy of hers is the villain here, and the mystery as to why’s she’s suddenly under attack begins Nightcrawler’s new adventure. Again, while I’m excited to see the return of one of my favorite X-Men to the fold, why can’t Amanda’s story be hers? She’s a sorceress for crying out loud, and can certainly handle her own enemies.  The narrative itself doesn’t really belong to Nightcrawler, yet there’s his name on the title, and it’s off-putting for certain.

Flash01CovHardman

Lastly, while not a “cape” in the traditional sense, Flash Gordon has been a super hero almost as long as comics have existed. Dynamite Comics features him in an all new series in this week’s Flash Gordon #1,  ret-conning or rebooting him or what have you, into a more modern time frame. Flash is a man of modern times, sort of. (Does anyone still think of bungee jumpers as trend setting action heroes anymore?) He’s joined here by his erstwhile companions, scientist Dr. Zarkov and journalist Dale Arden. While Zarkov is up to his old tricks (you know, building spaceships to take Flash to Mongo), Dale is slightly more modern. She covers the science beat but has a disdain for NASA, decrying that mankind can’t get to space because it doesn’t have scientists “who know people”. In a world in which guys like Neil DeGrasse Tyson have become pop culture stars, her complaints seem strangely out of touch. She spends a lot of the book following in Flash’s wake, as the older version of her character did, but fortunately she also steps up when Flash is in trouble, saving the day at the end of the issue rather than being saved. Some of her more frustrating characterization aside, she’s a capable woman and Flash is definitely going to need her, given his same old devil-may-care attitude.

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