Best Comics in March Part 2: Jem and the Freakin' Holograms
Star Wars #3 I finally got a chance to catch up with the new Star Wars series being done at Marvel by Jason Aaron, and I haven't loved an expanded universe story so much since Shadows of the Empire.
The book takes place shortly after the Battle of Yavin, with the rebels starting to press their advantage. The normal gang is all here, but Luke is still a very novice Jedi with only a fraction of his eventual skills. He, Leia and Han go on a mission to destroy a huge weapons factory where everything promptly goes wrong.
Darth Vader is the true star of the book, being an unstoppable force that singlehandedly takes out an Imperial walker and commands his troops with an iron fist. He's terrifying to watch in action, and really gives a feel for how one-sided the war truly was. It's hard in a prequel to make you feel afraid for your hero because you know for a fact he or she makes it, but the danger to Skywalker isn't physical. It's how much of a toll fighting this bloody conflict will take on him.
Rating: 7 of 10
The Fly: Outbreak #1 Though I'm not sure if the world ever really cried out for a continuation of the Fly franchise, I'm right glad someone decided to do it anyway. No less a genius than Brandon Seifert, the mind behind the impossibly good Witch Doctor, picks up the tale.
The story follows The Fly II, with Martin Brundle continuing the telepod experiments of his father. He continues to work on his former boss, Anton Bartok, who he mutated in revenge for manipulating his life from birth. In the course of this, a possible contagious element to the mutation process is introduced, putting the whole world at risk.
Brundle is a brilliantly complex and strange character. In keeping with the timeline of the film, he can't be more than ten years old despite having the body of a man in his late twenties. He's cold and odd, given to sexual masochism and heartless proclamations, but he's endlessly compelling for it. Maybe the world needed another Fly more than we knew.
Rating: 7 of 10
Jem and the Holograms #1 I watched every single episode of Jem and the Holograms growing up. It was a great show, but it was also a great show for a little kid raised on MTV glam metal and sparkle pop. How does a new comic read with a 33-year-old man?
The nostalgia isn't there, that's for sure. You can't really re-create something so centered in a decade outside of that decade. Even if you ape the tropes perfectly, the world moves on and you can't feel the same way about something in the context of a different world.
That said, it's a fine all-ages book that I think will resonate well with a new generation. The themes of personal awkwardness and shyness being overcome are still relevant in this day and age. It's easy to forget that Jerrica's greatest weakness was her own lack of confidence in who she was. That plays well in this new series, even if trying to make everything as Day-Glo as the original cartoon comes across a little heavyhanded. I think going in a direction closer to what Sia does would have been truly, truly outrageous, but it's still a solid effort.
Rating: 6 of 10
Criminal Special Edition I'm never going to be the world's biggest Ed Brubaker fan, but I have to admit he can tell a hell of a story. Criminal was part of Marvel's Icon imprint for years. Icon was trying to be the go-to home for creator-controlled comics, but it's more or less become the shadow Image these days. Hence, Brubaker moving Criminal over with this special.
Teeg Lawless is a hard man who can't manage to stay out of trouble for more than a few minutes at a time. After a successful heist, he ends up in jail because he picked a fight with a biker while having a celebratory drink and got picked up on a traffic warrant. No big deal, except that he was supposed to pull a hit job for a big shot, and now he's locked in jail with a ton of criminals who all want to pick up a bounty for his head.
It's typical Brubaker, bloody and brutal, but there are some wonderful moments that involve Lawless's love of a Conan-like pulp hero that he shares with the prison librarian. Panels of the comic form a motif that mirrors Lawless's mean life and help give the man a sense of depth.
Rating: 6 of 10
Sexcastle Last up this month is a stand-alone graphic novel. Sexcastle is what would happen if Snake Plissken were the star of Adventure Time. Kyle Sparks creates something so wonderfully wrong that it's perfect.
Shane Sexcastle is as ridiculous as he sounds. He was a Secret Service agent and an assassin who went to jail for killing the vice president and now tries to find a new path working as a florist in a small town. Of course, immediately the local mob boss crosses his path and the nunchucks and murder all start a-coming.
The thing that makes Sexcastle such a remarkable book is the way that it dances the line between action expo and honest sincerity. Sexcastle honestly desires change, and though he's as quippy as any action man, he often makes it a point to caution his language and correct bad guys on their non-progressive attitudes about women.
It's silly but highly memorable. In the end it even manages to make solid points on the nature of redemption, and I suspect it's one of those cult tomes we'll be hearing about for a long time.
Rating: 8 of 10
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