The Most Interesting Comics of the Week
Every week I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.
1. Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever
Adapted from a teleplay by Harlan Ellison; By David Tipton, Scott Tipton and J.K. Woodward
Trekkies are very familiar with the 1967 episode "City on the Edge of Forever” from the very first season of Star Trek, in which Dr. McCoy accidentally injects himself with a drug that sends him out of his mind and through a time portal where he ends up on Earth in the 1930s. Instantly, his actions alter the time stream, erasing the starship Enterprise and the entire Federation from existence. Kirk and Spock, safe from these events by being in the proximity of the portal, go after him, but the crux of the time disruption comes down to the life of a woman named Edith Keeler (played in the episode by Joan Collins), whom Kirk ends up falling in love with. This is considered by many to be one of the greatest Star Trek episodes ever, but its writer, famed novelist Harlan Ellison, has always argued that it could have been better.
Ellison, known for being contentious and more than a little cranky, hated that producers changed elements of his story, and even sued CBS and the Writers Guild over it. Novelizations of the original teleplay have previously been released, but IDW Publishing decided to take a stab at seeing what Ellison’s original vision might have actually looked like by creating a photo-realistic comic book adaptation. Originally put out as a 5-issue mini series, a graphic novel edition complete with foreword and afterword by Ellison hits bookstores this week.
When it comes down to it, the differences between this and the televised version are actually pretty minimal. Instead of McCoy being the one who sets everything amiss, it’s a new character named Beckwith who, we learn at the start of the story, has been secretly dealing drugs on the Enterprise and jumps through the portal to escape punishment. The producers felt drug deals were a bit too edgy for the show, but a lot of the other changes really seemed to come down to budgetary concerns (simplifying the number of speaking parts, discarding expensive special effects, keeping the runtime to a normal show length). Either way, it’s a fantastic time travel story and artist J.K. Woodward’s realistic paintings bring it to life even though it teeters on the edge of looking like one of those old fotonovels. It also sports a series of wonderfully retro covers by Juan Ortiz, known to Star Trek fans for his series of '60s movie poster-style prints for each of the original episodes.
2. Silk #1
by Robbie Thompson, Stacey Lee and Ian Herring
You probably were not aware that the radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker also bit a nearby teenage girl, were you? Well, in a spectacular feat of retrofitted comics history, Spider-man recently learned about the similarly spider-powered young woman named Cindy Moon after rescuing her from a bunker where she had been conveniently kept from the world for the past seven years (roughly six years after both were bitten by that spider). Peter was surprised to not only find that Cindy had powers similar to his own, but that, when in close proximity to her, the two share a nearly uncontrollable mating instinct that makes it impossible to keep their hands off each other. Using the superhero codename Silk, Cindy has proven herself a formidable hero, appearing with Jessica Drew in the new Spider-Woman series and alongside numerous alternate universe Spider-men and Spider-women in the Spider-verse crossover event. Now, she’s getting her own ongoing series.
Written by TV writer Robbie Thompson (Supernatural) and drawn by exciting newcomer Stacey Lee, this series will show Cindy finding her way as her own hero while also looking to pick up the pieces from the six years of her life she lost in that bunker. Silk will be joining an ever-growing cast of Spider-people in the Marvel Universe.
3. Barbarella: The Wrath of the Minute Eater
By Jean-Claude Forest; adapted by Kelly Sue DeConnick
I wrote about the first volume of European comics publisher Humanoids' restoration and reinvigoration of the 1960s French science fiction comic Barbarella when it was released last fall. Now, somewhat confusingly, the second installment also contains the original story from that first volume, albeit printed in a smaller format, in addition to 1974’s The Wrath of the Minute Eater, which has never before been printed in English. If you’re a digital comics reader, Humanoids has begun selling their comics through Comixology, and each half of this new volume is sold separately there for only $5.95.
These comics, which inspired the 1968 Jane Fonda film of the same name, are imaginative, fun, and sexy, but in a way that never takes agency away from its heroine. While occasionally a naive ingenue, Barbarella more often than not takes charge of the situations she finds herself in. These stories, written and drawn by Jean-Claude Forest, were progressive for their time and his loosely brushed linework gives these weird, otherworldly environments an organic, feminine quality that you don’t see much in today’s science fiction. The inherent feminism of the comic is accentuated by the adapted English script from American comics writer Kelly Sue DeConnick.
With her career enforced by transforming Ms. Marvel into Captain Marvel and creating a new science fiction commentary on women rebelling against male compliance in the new Image Comics series Bitch Planet, DeConnick’s involvement in this production gives it extra contemporary relevance while in return adding another feminist feather to DeConnick’s cap. Ideally, someone right now is working behind the scenes to get DeConnick to write a new Barbarella series.
Humanoids has a number of preview pages here. If you’re familiar with the first volume, you’ll note that the blue tone coloring which helped add a little clarity to Forest’s linework is gone from both stories in this edition. However it remains in the digital version of volume one.
4. Dredd: Urban Warfare
By Arthur Wyatt, Matt Smith, Henry Flint and Paul Davidson
The 2012 film Dredd brought a Judge Dredd to the screen that was much closer to what fans of the long-running comic are familiar with than the campy version Sylvester Stallone made back in 1995. While international box office and DVD sales initially seemed to be enough to warrant a sequel, plans have stalled, inspiring fans to take to signing online petitions.
In the meantime, three stories (Top of the World, Ma-Ma, Underbelly and Uprising) that originally ran in Judge Dredd Megazine have now been collected in a book called Urban Warfare, and they are the closest thing we’ll have to a sequel for now. It is set in the universe of the films, which is somewhat different than what has been slowly built in real time over the past 38 years in the Judge Dredd comics published by 2000 AD. One story features the origin of the film’s villain Ma-Ma, while the other stories deal with the aftermath of the films' events and the fall of Ma-Ma’s organization. Each story is written by 2000 AD and Dredd veterans Arthur Wyatt and Matt Smith and features appropriately gritty art by Henry Flint and Paul Davidson.
5. She-Hulk #12
By Charles Soule, Javier Pulido and Munsta Vicente
In today’s superhero comics, especially the ones from Marvel, nothing lasts forever. With rumors of some sort of universe-wide reboot coming this summer and many series regularly getting re-launched with new #1s to give readers proper and frequent jumping-on points, it’s neither surprising nor particularly clear what it means when a book comes to an end.
Purportedly, Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s She-Hulk has been canceled due to low sales and Marvel has not announced any plans for a re-launch in the near future. It’s a book that was on many people’s Best of 2014 lists (including mine) and has inspired fervent love among those who do buy it. Still, we should be happy that we got 12 issues of smart, funny, and beautifully drawn superhero comics. The alchemy of Soule’s sense of humor and legal expertise (like She-Hulk herself, the comic book writer is also a working lawyer) and Javier Pulido and Munsta Vicente’s sense of fashion and visual flair made this book one of the most fun superhero comics on the stands.
The twelfth and final issue concludes the “Blue File” story that the creative team has been telling for most of their run. Maybe Marvel will still bring the series back at some point, but in the meantime; She-Hulk seems to be front and center in the upcoming all-female Avengers book A-Force.