Today, we delve into the land of comics, one of my first narrative loves. I’ve been reading comics since I was a kid living in Brooklyn, taking the deposit from our cans and bottles down to the Friendly Local Comic Store and buying issues of X-Men and Spider-Man. I’ve been getting back into comics more in the last year, thanks to once again having a Friendly Local Comic Store with great taste and a friendly atmosphere. Add to that the ease of impulse buying digital comics via Comixology and things like Humble Bundles and I’m facing an embarrassment of riches.
Since it’s Baltimore Comic-Con this weekend, I thought I’d give y’all a report on some of the comics I’ve been enjoying of late:
Wonder Woman: Down To Earth (2003-2004)
I’m a big Greg Rucka fan – I love his Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia and his commitment to writing women in interesting, leading roles. Rucka came to speak at a grad class I took on Superheroes back in 2007, and he’s a cool dude in person. I’d heard really good things about his Wonder Woman run, but hadn’t done more than glimpse at it before. In Down To Earth, Rucka and artist Greg Johnson shift the focus of Diana’s adventures to a more political and social sphere. The story focuses on Diana as the ambassador from Themyscira and the imminent launch of her collection of essays and speeches, which is designed to rouse debate and challenge the cultural norms of the man’s world. I really enjoy the more political, progressive, and global approach to the character, as she puts her fame and power to making actual social change, rather than just waiting around until there are bad things that need to get punched. Bad things get punched, but the social and political elements of the story are far more compelling for me. If you’ve been thinking about trying out a Wonder Woman story, and are more a social/political reader than a ‘people in tights punching things’ reader, Wonder Woman: Down To Earth is a good place to start.
A more recent series from an all-female creative team (Writers: Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, Artist: Brooke Allen), this is a delightful YA/MG series about girls attending a sleepaway camp that turns out to be way more than any of them imagined, complete with monsters, adventure, ancient secrets, and more. The art is distinctive, the writing is energetic, and the whole thing feels like an action hug of friendship. Highly recommended, especially as a comic for young women who want to see themselves in comics.
Evil Empire (2014–)
This series I didn’t so much love as find creepily compelling and discussion-worthy. (Writer: Max Bemis, Artist: Ransom Getty, Cover Artist: Jay Shaw). The comic opens in extreme-land, showing a wild and terrifying future for the USA in 25 years, where chaos and violence reign. Then it jumps back to the present day, where a political candidate’s wife is killed, and the story surrounding her murder leads to an inciting incident that threatens to set the USA down the path toward becoming the titular Evil Empire.
I find the central premise of the comic — that all it’d take is a major political candidate’s speech to plunge the USA into widespread violence and lawlessness — rather ridiculous, but also scarily compelling as a thought experiment. I’d call this one worth checking out, though be warned it’s pretty graphic along a couple of axes.
The Wicked + The Divine (2014–)
This comic has been getting a good amount of buzz, but I want to make sure to add to that. The team of Kieron Gillen (story) and Jamie McKelvie (art) — with colors by Matt Wilson — brings us a world where the gods of old are reincarnated every ninety years, burning bright and making social change, only to die after two years. This time around, the gods are the world’s greatest celebrities, holding crowds in rapturous attention. The art is gorgeous and the concept gripping to a folklore and mythology geek like yours truly. Definitely check this one out.