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The Best Comics in January: It's Squirrel Girl Because Why the Hell Not?

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Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best books to review.

Effigy #1: I feel bad these days because I owe pretty much all my current interest in comics to falling in love with DC Vertigo at the turn of the century. If it had the Vertigo logo on it, I wanted to read it. Now that niche is mostly filled by the work coming out of Image, but 8th Dimension insisted I try out this book.

Effigy is definitely a one of kind title from writer Tim Seely and artist Marley Zarcone. It opens off the damned wall with a strange cartoonish space adventure where a team of teen space cops apprehend space pirates in order to save... space. Sound cheesy? That's the point because things turn south quick.

Turns out it was just part of a television show and we're introduced to former child star Chondra Jackson, who never escaped her teen idol typecasting and was forced to return home to become a cop in her little town of Effigy Mound. There she's struggling to matter and mean something as a real cop instead of a pretend one, but is little more than a meter maid and the butt of jokes from former friends amused by her fall from grace.

It's an extremely novel title with odd quirks you won't see coming. Chondra's fame-obsessed mother for example is a gift of a character that is so shallowly evil she's like some sort of super elegant maggot. Chondra herself is extremely likable and earnest, and when a chance to get involved in a real murder case comes along she jumps at the opportunity to prove herself. However, it gets real weird real quick. This is the sort of thing that used to make Vertigo the best place for comics, and it's good to say that once again.

Rating: 9 of 10

Casanova IV: Acedia #1: This is a new series by Matt Fraction, and that's pretty much all I should have to say at this point. If you read only comics by Fraction, Scott Snyder, Kieron Gillen, and Brian K. Vaughan you'd still pretty much be reading 80 percent of the best comics being released today.

To further explain, Casanova IV: Acedia (You will never convince me Fraction is not in some sort of ridiculous title contest with another writer) is part noir mystery, part science and sorcery madness. Our hero is Casanova Quinn, a man that wandered out of the desert into Los Angeles a few years ago with no memory and went on to be the majordomo of one of the most powerful men in the city. He's happy with his work, but mysterious women and weird cultist now send him onto a quest for his past.

In addition to just the good solid action and quirky dialogue that Fraction brought to Hawkeye there's a distinct sexual aspect that you see in his Image work like Sex Magic and ODY-C that is unnervingly perverted and weird. There's just something so unashamedly off about the approach Fraction takes to matters of sexual attraction and the absurdity of human anatomy. You feel like you're doing something wrong reading his work, and that's how you know it's good.

Rating: 8 of 10

Thor #4: You'll have to excuse me for not delving into our new female Thor before this. I got kind of involved in the whole GamerGate thing and there's just so many sexist comments you can read before you start reconsidering your writing career.

It's just as well because this issue has the man hereafter referred to as The Odinson meeting with his successor, a mysterious woman chosen by Mjonir to wield the power of Thor. The Odinson is in a bad way. He has lost an arm and must make due with an uru metal replacement. He has lost his hammer, his mother, and everything about himself and he's looking to take it out on Thor as she deals with Malekith and a frost giant invasion.

It's not a really gripping read, honestly. Malekith gets all the best lines, although Thor's internal dialogue regarding her predecessor is interesting enough. She lacks some of the more amusing quips that made The Odinson so much fun to read, but Jason Aaaron still turned in a solid passing-the-torch issue that should dispel the notion of a female Thunder God in most open-minded readers. If the stories can be found for her, I think Thor will prove worthy yet.

Rating: 7 of 10

This story continues on the next page.

Rating: 6 of 10

The Unbeatable Squirrel #1: Always had a big old place in my heart for the ridiculousness that was Squirrel Girl. She's wavered between serious hero and in-universe commentary on comics in general, but she's rarely been boring. Now she's got her very own series written by Ryan North and it is equal parts silly and wonderful.

Doreen Green is moving out of her home in the Avengers attic and leaving behind beating up muggers in Central Park to better herself at Empire State University. Of course, this being New York in the Marvel universe she is still going to have to get involved with heroics.

In this case she winds up on the wrong side of Kraven the Hunter, and in doing so utters the second greatest battle cry in comic history; "You're a jerk who suuuuuuuucks!" The first greatest battle cry is "You bitch that was my favorite tit" from Rat Queens. Anyway, back to Squirrel Girl.

It's definitely an absurdist book more in keeping with something like The Tick than a regular Marvel series. Even so the comic has some very interesting commentary on the nature of conflict in general and how the true path in life is learning how to push yourself to achieve. In the end she doesn't beat Kraven, but inspires him to seek a greater goal, which is just so adorably After School Special you can't help but love it. Erica Henderson's art takes a little getting used to, but once you do you realize that no one else could have drawn this book and made it what it needed to be.

Rating: 8 of 10

Graveyard Shift #2: I make it a point to celebrate good vampire fiction whenever I can. The poor genre suffered so much over the last couple of decades that any time the bloodsuckers get nice and scary again I clap.

Jay Faeber's Graveyard Shift isn't all that original. Faeber's a fan of the film Innocent Blood clearly to judge by the police settings and a few of the tropes in the narrative, not that that's anything t o be ashamed of.

Our hero is Liam, strong-jawed tough cop who now has his hands full with his vampiric love interest being controlled by a head vampire. In this issue he manages to get her under control, but the thirst for blood and the classical limitations of her condition put them both in dangers. It's a little paint by numbers, but it is dark, bloody and beautiful in a horrific way. It certainly stands out in this day and age of defanged vampire stories.

Rating: 6 of 10

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