On this week’s comic book review podcast:

Black Cat: King In Black #1
Marvel
Written by Jed MacKay
Art by C.F. Villa

Blade Runner 2029 #1
Titan Comics
Written by Mike Johnson
Art by Andres Guinaldo

The Expanse #1
BOOM! Studios
Written by Corinna Bechko
Illustrated by Alejandro Aragon

Locke & Key: …In Pale Battalions Go… #3
IDW
Written by Joe Hill
Art by Gabriel Rodriguez

Commanders in Crisis #3
Image Comics
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Davide Tinto

Rorschach #3
DC Comics
Written by Tom King
Art by Jorge Fornés

Decorum #6
Image Comics
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Mike Huddleston

New Mutants #14
Marvel
Written by Vita Ayala
Art by Rod Reis

Post Americana #1
Image Comics
Story & Art by Steve Stroke

Batman #105
DC Comics
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Carlo Pagulayan & Danny Miki, Alvaro Martinez & Christian Duce

Stillwater #4
Image Comics
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Ramón K. Perez

We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #4
BOOM! Studios
Written by Al Ewing
Illustrated by Simone Di Meo

Wolverine: Black, White & Blood #2
Marvel
Written by Vita Ayala, Saladin Ahmed and Chris Claremont
Art by Greg Land, Kev Walker and Salvador Larroca

Head Lopper #14
Image Comics
Story and Art by Andrew Maclean

Dark Nights: Death Metal #6
DC Comics
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo

Seven to Eternity #15
Image Comics
Written by Rick Remender
Drawn by Jerome Opeña

The Immortal Hulk: King in Black #1
Marvel
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Aaron Kuder

The Immortal Hulk #42
Marvel
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Joe Bennett

Once & Future #14
BOOM! Studios
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Dan Mora

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Full Episode Transcript:

Alex:                 What is up, everybody? Welcome to The Stack. I’m Alex.

Justin:              I’m Justin.

Pete:                I’m Pete.

Alex:                 And on The Stack, we talk about a bunch of books that came out this week, kicking it off with Black Cat, King in Black number one. I wish that rhymed, but it didn’t. Marvel, written by Jed MacKay, art by C.F. Villa. This is of course tying into the King in Black event, but it’s also bringing back the Black Cat title that I know Justin liked ever so much. This one, Felicia Hardy is dealing not only with Knull, the king of the symbiotes, but she’s about to pull off a heist of her own. What did you think about this issue, Justin.

Justin:              I think this is a great issue. I love this black cat series. I think Jed MacKay has a really great understanding of the character, the way that she speaks and we’re in her head for a lot of the earlier series.

Pete:                You love being in the characters heads.

Justin:              I love. Isn’t that the dream? God, if I could be in the head of Pete LePage and Alex Zalben on a daily Basis.

Alex:                 Oh, that’s delightful. [crosstalk 00:01:09].

Pete:                No, no way. Would not be good for you.

Justin:              I spent a couple of weeks in Pete’s head. I don’t know what happened, if there was a lightning strike. [crosstalk 00:01:17]. Yeah, it was just as you’d expect.

Pete:                Well, it was like what women want situation, but just with Pete.

Justin:              I finally know what Pete wants, and it begins and ends with a meatball sub from the subway. And this issue, really great art, some fun stuff. Her and her team steal the Spider-Mobile and get to drive that one a bit.

Pete:                Yeah, the Spider-Mobile was fun bit. I loved seeing that.

Justin:              And this crosses into King in Black in such a fun, great way. It feels important and real, and the reveal, or the sort of mission at the end of the first issue is super fun.

Pete:                I got to say, this is a great example of tie-ins done right. We’ve been reading a bunch of kind of tie-ins to this and it’s like, “Wait, what? Is that really a tie-in?” This is done really well. It fits, it makes sense. It’s really cool for the character. It gets you excited about the event. I was really impressed with this book.

Alex:                 Well, it’s also really good in on the Black Cat book, because clearly a lot of stuff has gone on there, which frankly I have not been reading. I think we only talked about one issue maybe at one point on The Stack or the live show. But this fills you in on everything you need to do very ably. You’re able to jump in on her supporting cast and understand what’s going on with them as well as her previous adventures over the course of this book. I agree, really fun stuff. I was very surprised how much I like this, and I’ll definitely be reading more.

Pete:                Also I just want to say the art is absolutely fantastic.

Justin:              Yes. Thank you. Thank you guys for getting on board with this. You’ve really made my 2020 a perfect year.

Alex:                 Even better than 2020 though is going to be Blade Runner 2029 number one from Titan Comics written by Mike Johnson, art by Andres Guinaldo. This is of course-

Pete:                That’s why you get paid the big bucks Zalbs.

Alex:                 Thanks man. I do get so much money off of the show. This is clearly taking place in the very near future in the Blade Runner universe.

Justin:              You make it sound like it’s real. You’re like, “This is our future.”

Alex:                 I’ll be upfront and honest about something.

Justin:              Ooh.

Alex:                 I’ve never seen Blade Runner. I’ve also never seen Blade Runner [crosstalk 00:03:33].

Pete:                No of the movies?

Alex:                 I know what’s going on because I live in the world and you can’t avoid understand what’s going to go on Blade Runner, so it wasn’t a big surprise. I actually liked this despite not having ever seen those movies. I thought it was a pretty solid story of tracking down replicants. The main character was interesting.

Pete:                Sorry, Alex.

Alex:                 The character was interesting. I like this quite a bit.

Pete:                I’m sorry, Alex. Alex.

Alex:                 Hold on. Mike Johnson is a good writer of tie-ins, so clearly he knows what he’s doing here and I think that works. Yes, Pete.

Pete:                Because you’ve never seen any of the movies, no one gives a fuck what you have to say about this comic now.

Justin:              Wow. Yeah, exactly.

Pete:                Because if you haven’t, if you don’t know the material, shut the fuck up.

Alex:                 No, I know. It is the ice skating competition movie.

Justin:              Yes.

Alex:                 Where they have to do [crosstalk 00:04:21] the cutting edge. Oh, yeah [crosstalk 00:04:23].

Justin:              Oh, that’s [crosstalk 00:04:25]. Surely you’ve seen the director’s cut of Blade Runner then.

Alex:                 No, I’ve seen the directors kind of cutting edge.

Justin:              You just have seen the theatrical release.

Alex:                 They called it the director’s cutting edge is what they call it.

Pete:                Oh, wow.

Justin:              Yeah, the director’s cut.

Alex:                 I’ve also seen Cutting Edge 2049.

Pete:                It keeps getting better every time you see it.

Justin:              It’s crazy, they’re replicants. They’re all replicants. I have seen the Blade Runner films.

Pete:                Thank you. Now I want to know what you think of this.

Justin:              Well, yeah, we shouldn’t be allowed to comment on something if we haven’t seen the underlying material. Hold on to that thought for anything else we’re talking about this year. I thought this was really good and I agree with Alex, you don’t actually really need to know a ton about Blade Runner except for Harrison Ford’s theological underpinnings to his character when you’re watching the director’s [crosstalk 00:05:21].

Pete:                Yes. Thank you. Yes.

Alex:                 I have seen Firewall, does that help?

Justin:              No. If you’ve seen Air Force One, you’ve seen Blade Runner, my man. But the art of this book is really-

Pete:                If you’ve seen Regarding Henry, then you have seen Blade.

Justin:              Regarding Henry, I think that movie was fine. I look forward to the comic book adaptation. This book was good. It’s a good story. The art is great. I love the tone of the art they have here.

Pete:                Yeah, I really agree. I love the tone that the art sets up. It does a great job of really fitting into the world. Yeah, I was really impressed with this book. It really has a great pace to it, a lot of awesome action, some really fun moments where the replicate kind of gets their haircut and stuff like that. I thought the whole wall thing was really impressive. Always really thought this was a great, great comic, even though I’ve seen the Blade Runners and like them, this comic was kind of above and beyond that.

Justin:              Classic flex. The art is almost Moebius like, I really like that.

Pete:                Ooh.

Alex:                 Yeah, this is very good stuff. Easy to get into, even if you haven’t watch the stuff. Let’s move on to another one and talk about The Expanse number one from BOOM! Studios written by Corinna Bechko, illustrated by Alejandro Aragon. Now I got to say this is another one, I’ve seen the first season and change of The Expanse. And of course I’ve seen The Expanse 2049. But I’ll tell you without slamming it too much, this felt like the complete opposite of Blade Runner 2029 to me where I had no idea what was going on for most of this book. And it felt like you had to have watched the show to understand the characters, to understand the settings. And that was a real bummer to me because I enjoyed the first season. I would be happy to pick up an Expanse comic books, see more of this world, but I don’t want to have to have watched every episode of the show to necessarily get into it. Did you guys feel the same way?

Justin:              I’ve never seen The Expanse, but I understood every aspect of this comic book.

Pete:                I have seen every episode of The Expanse. I have read the Bubblegum comic book series that Joe Blow did for a little while. I have read fan fiction. I am very well-educated in this and I thought it was spot. No, I haven’t read any of it [inaudible 00:07:50].

Alex:                 It’s funny that you did. I was pretty sure you were lying, but the fact that you didn’t mention the novels that it’s based on. Bubblegum first.

Justin:              Joe Blow.

Alex:                 But given that we don’t necessarily have a familiarity with The Expanse. How do you feel this worked as a comic book?

Justin:              No, I mean, I agree with you. This is definitely for fans. It is so rooted in … You have to know, I think you have to fully know the characters when you come into this book, there’s not even a preamble to get us into the world and what’s happening. And I think that’s fine, it’s definitely just not a book for someone who’s never read or watched the show.

Pete:                Yeah, it’s tough if you’re just kind of at a comic book shop or buy it however you do, because you’re like Boom! Studios because they do great books. It’s definitely a deep cut. I was definitely lost for a little bit. But kind of getting an idea of what’s happening and by the end of it, it won me over. Art, I thought was fantastic. A lot of talking, but I’m kind of into it. I liked how it ended.

Alex:                 Yeah.

Justin:              And this ties into the X-Men.

Alex:                 Yes, it does. It’s a direct spinoff of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, everybody’s favorite X-Men movie. Next one we’re going to talk about Locke & Key, In Pale Battalions Go number three from IDW written by Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez. Of course, this is a series that we’re all in on. But this is wrapping up [crosstalk 00:09:18] the mini series before the mini series, which is kind of fascinating thing that they’ve been doing. Initially was supposed to be the sad man crossover which we’re about to get into called [inaudible 00:09:28] that’s going to be, I believe two issues long at this point.

Alex:                 But then very slowly, they expanded outwards the amount of issues they were doing for this prequel that leads directly into it after this issue. And I think after the last issue we kind of know what the setup is going to be for the sad man Locke & Key crossover. But this is still wrapping up this three issue mini series. The story of what happens when one of the old timey Locke family members goes to war in World War I, comes back, brings some German soldiers back with him. Things go very, very badly. And in this issue Key house fights back in incredibly graphic and bloody ways. Pete, there were attack teddy bears in this issue. You have got to have loved this.

Pete:                Oh my God, yeah. I love that whole teddy bear scene. This was just classic Locke & Key, amazing storytelling, the art going above and beyond in all the greatest ways. There’s a moment where she’s shutting the door, but it’s like disappearing. It’s just, Gabriel Rodriguez is a goddam legend. The moment where it was like, welcome to Key house motherfucker, it was just … This comic continues to be amazeballs every time these two team up is just absolute magic. It’s just gross and fun and over the top and all the great ways. Yeah, I don’t get tired of watching German soldiers die, and there’s a fun little kind of ad in the back where it’s Kinsey’s comic corner, fantastic.

Justin:              This was so upsetting as a story, just so well done and heartbreaking. And especially the fact that this is connected, it’s the same family from among the stars story from back in the day, the one where they are-

Alex:                 Is it over the moon?

Justin:              Unlock the moon, sorry.

Alex:                 Unlock the moon.

Justin:              Unlock the moon, among the stars is what’s written on his grave, it’s just so tough. But the art in this book is so good. It’s just so intense. And there’s just dread throughout. We talked about this a lot with Locke & Key, the way that they’re able to sort of have this low level hum of great narrative stress as you’re reading this, because you feel for the characters and you know bad things are happening is so good. Something I noticed while reading this, and I don’t know if this has been featured in any other thing or if it’s maybe something to curb in the future. They feature the graveyard a couple of times in this book. And one of the characters, Fiona Locke, there’s a little key hole in her gravestone. Do you feel like that’s a … maybe there’s something to be done there?

Alex:                 Yeah, potentially. I mean, maybe it’s like a zombie Key or something like that, or it’d bring back the dead Key. I mean, I think we could delve into spoilers here, but certainly the goal seems to be the current Locke patriarch in this continuity potentially heading down to hell to try to rescue his wife or something like that.

Justin:              Yeah, maybe that’s the doorway. He opens the door and goes down a pair of steps, a set of steps sort of Legend of Zelda style. One other thing I want to say real quick, the character-

Alex:                 It’s dangerous to go alone is what I have to say about that.

Justin:              You are the guy that hands in the wooden sword. The character, one of the main characters here, the kid that goes to war is named Jonathan Tyler Locke. Jonathan Tyler is my brother’s name. When I saw that in the grave, I was like, “Yo.”

Pete:                Oh man, you should send them a screenshot, man. You know what I mean? Just be like, “Thinking of you bro. Hope you’re good.” Because what’s great is that you could cut it off because it says Jonathan Tyler, and then says Locke underneath. So you could totally do a little cut in there and just make it nice.

Alex:                 Yeah, that’d be great to really fuck with your brother. To the point you were saying though Justin, I really liked that this story was in a very different mode than the Locke & Key title that we knew. It felt like it tells its own story with its own tone. It’s a tragedy as opposed to the other one, which is a horror adventure story, and that’s great. I’m really excited to see what they do with Helen gone. But the more different types of stories they can tell in this world, I think overall the better for its longevity, particularly as we know there is more coming.

Alex:                 Let’s move on and talk about Commanders in Crisis number three from Image Comics written by Steve Orlando, art by Davide Tinto. So Empathy is dead or is Empathy, because Empathy has come back to life and the commanders are trying to figure out exactly what’s going on. I think we were pretty high on the first two issues of this book. Do you think it continues to hold up here on the third?

Pete:                Yeah, I mean, I see Orlando as having a lot of fun with this. This is really cool the way it’s written in the way that characters are. I love the voices and the different stuff. It kind of starts off really grody and kind of crazy in the beginning. But yeah, it gets a little emotional, but then kind of right back into the kind of humor and action I was impressed with how this ends. It does a great job of giving us a little bit of getting excited for the next issue at the end of each comic. Yeah, I continue to be impressed with this team and the different voices and stuff on it. This is a lot of fun.

Justin:              Yeah, I agree. Steve Orlando is such an idea generator, you can see in all of his work his stories are super complex, calling on so much continuity. And I feel like with this, he sort of put it all, all of his just wild ideas in full throttle going forward. He’s created all these characters and he has him just driving through all these different ideas. There’s the multi-verse, there’s superheroes just fighting on the ground. We have the villain here is the social callers. It’s some sort of social media slash cell phone tech vampire or tech zombiefication for the situation. And it’s just fun. It’s a lot of new ideas all the time.

Alex:                 From new ideas to old ideas, let’s talk about Rorschach number three from DC Comics written by Tom King, art by Ori Fornace. In this issue we find out more about the cowboy character that we’ve met in the first two, who was actually assassinated in the first issue of the book. We go back in time, find out about her backstory as the main detective investigates further, what was going on with her, this new old Rorschach. I really liked the sushi quite a bit, not just in terms of fleshing out Tom King’s take on the world, but also how the story purposefully unfolded confusingly in terms of the timeline at first, but became clearer as it went on. I still don’t know how this connects to the main narrative or exactly what our overall dramatic thrust is here necessarily, but as a one-shot one-off issue, I thought this was very well done.

Pete:                Yeah, I agree. I’m really impressed with how crazy this is, but how this issue we’re getting specific information about this main character that we’re dealing with in this issue. And it’s really impressive. There’s just so much going on, but it’s done in such a kind of cool way that keeps the story moving in such a creepy, but good way. Art and pace is phenomenal. This continues to be a very interesting, cool book, but it brings up this interesting point and I’m interested to get your guys’ take on this. Sometimes to love your father, you have to shoot him in the head. How do you guys feel about that?

Justin:              As fathers?

Pete:                Yeah, as fathers with daughters.

Alex:                 I have my kids sleep with a gun every night.

Pete:                Smart.

Alex:                 And every night I go to bed praying that they’ll shoot me in the morning and so far it hasn’t happened.

Pete:                Wow.

Alex:                 I just run right into the rooms and go [inaudible 00:17:43]. But then they say, “Good morning, daddy.”

Pete:                Oh man.

Alex:                 Disappointments, both of them.

Justin:              What a startling vision of Alex’s home life.

Pete:                Same thing for you, Justin?

Justin:              What’s that?

Pete:                Same for you with your daughters?

Justin:              Yeah. No, I’m always waving a gun around the house. They’re going to get there, I don’t need to tell them quite as hard as Alex does. I want them to come to it on their own.

Pete:                Okay. Yeah.

Justin:              But I like this a lot. It’s funny the last, this issue and the one before felt like a standalone issue with just lightly touching the events of the first issue.

Pete:                Agree.

Justin:              And I think, I mean this time, King does this a lot where you only realize the story he’s telling a little bit into it. And I think it often works, I think it’s working here. It’s interesting that the characters we’re learning about here are sort of conspiracy theorists. They believe that the squids affect your brain. And I wonder if that’s, if Rorschach is going to believe that as well. Because it makes these characters maybe probably delusional. If he’s commenting on believing in conspiracy theories, it feels like these characters are not understanding reality. Which Rorschach’s whole thing was believing these outlandish things. But this one happened to be true in the watchman.

Justin:              So to have Rorschach believe something that isn’t true is an interesting take. I’m very curious, it makes him less of heroes, less of a character you can get behind if he’s totally on this crazy path. I don’t know, it’s just like a lot of time King stuff, it’s really interesting to see where it’s going.

Pete:                Agree.

Alex:                 Next up, Decorum number six from Image Comics written by Jonathan Hickman and art by Mike Huddleston. We’re finally bringing together this issue, which is wild that we’re doing it in issue six. But we have this courier character that’s been training to be an assassin. At the same time these weird [inaudible 00:19:52] beings who’ve been doing something, who even knows what. But in this issue they finally come down and hire the assassins and say, “Hey, can you find this egg for us?” And then we kind of avoid that in the back of the issue, but it’s still-

Justin:              They’re prepping for their egg mission.

Alex:                 Sure, they’re prepping for egg mission. There are points particularly on the assassin side of things that are so funny and so fun, particularly because they’re coming in the middle of this wild, very dead sci-fi and Saturday. I am finding myself loving this book more and more with every issue.

Justin:              A 100% agree. I thought this issue was great. And all of the things we’ve talked about with Hickman, both in this book and with his X-Men work where it’s like, what’s he doing? What’s all this information like. It was all worth it to get to this where it’s super fun the whole time, the story’s coming into focus, we’re seeing the mission. And the characters are set up in a way where it’s going to be exciting to watch them bump into each other.

Pete:                Yeah, I agree. This was a really solid issue.

Justin:              Yeah, Pete.

Pete:                I felt like this clicked into place for me. The art is phenomenal, a lot of different styles mixing here, but done in such a great way, it doesn’t feel like a separate story. It’s really, really impressive how well the art kind of makes this all work. Yeah, I’m excited for more. I’m a little worried about Hickman fucking me because there’s all these weird symbols everywhere that don’t need to be. But so far the art is really winning me over, so this is great.

Justin:              Pete, the original Hick maniac coming around for Decorum. I got to say though, the symbols and all of the extra pages, I think they do serve a purpose. They let you digest what you’ve seen before and see that it’s all sort of a picture frame that holds the story.

Alex:                 Because their chapter breaks is essentially [inaudible 00:21:49].

Pete:                I thought you were going to say a palate cleanser, Justin.

Justin:              Maybe, I don’t know. You’re supposed to have a little bit of sorbet when you see the Decorum, just a light sorbet.

Alex:                 Every time I get to one of those picture pages I eat an entire pint of Chunky Monkey.

Pete:                Nice.

Justin:              Chunky Monkey picture pages.

Pete:                I’m more of a, what is it? Chunky hubby or what was that? Hubby-

Justin:              Chubby Hubby.

Alex:                 Chubby Hubby.

Pete:                That’s the one that I like.

Alex:                 Chubby Hubby is very good. Pretzels in that, always love pretzels in an ice cream.

Justin:              I don’t like [inaudible 00:22:24].

Alex:                 Here’s a couple of tastes that go great together, the New Mutants number 14 from Marvel written by Vita Ayala, art by Rod Reis. This kicks off Vita Ayala’s run on the title, bringing a bunch of the original New Mutants together minus Cipher, which is a huge missed opportunity of course, I think we can all agree on that. But man, I love this issue. I thought this was so smart, so well done. As a lot of the recent X-Men stuff has been in terms of focusing in, here you have the older New Mutants teaching the younger New Mutants how to use their powers. They come up with a creative thing that I don’t think we’ve ever seen on the X-Men before, where the new mutants characters combine their powers to figure out new ways of using them, which was paced out so well, it’s so fun.

Alex:                 There’s a thing where I think it’s two pages earlier, Rahne and Magik by their powers where they’re one teleporting Wolf in, and then two pictures later, it’s five teleporting Wolfs out, which is very funny. It was just perfectly paced out. The other thing that I loved about this book, and this is obviously very much on purpose, but bringing the Amahl Farouk, The Shadow King here, who also seems to be in some way on Krakoa, which is very suspicious. But clearly Rod Reis is channeling Bill Sienkiewicz, who is the definitive Shadow King artist here, also the definitive New Mutants artist. But it very much feels like its own thing. I love this from top to bottom. Pete, I know you’re probably going to have some anti X-Men bias going on here with this book.

Pete:                Yes.

Alex:                 But I thought this was really good. This is one of my favorite books of the week.

Justin:              Because you hate mutants.

Alex:                 I thought this was so well done. And I was so happy with how it was executed.

Justin:              You call them flat scans, right Pete? Because you’re a mutant hater.

Alex:                 Pete by the way, since you guys can’t see on Skype is wearing one of the smiley robot suits that the right has.

Pete:                I don’t even know what you’re talking about. All right. So the art in this is phenomenal. It’s like some parts are almost like water color, it’s so beautiful. Magik is just glorious in this, some really fun paneling. There’s some stuff that’s going on that I don’t understand. But I do like the idea of bringing The Shadow King into this. I mean, if you’ve got fuck Island, you might as well have The Shadow King.

Justin:              That’s your excuse for everything.

Pete:                And also it makes me want to rewatch Legion.

Justin:              Yeah. I feel like there’s definitely some channeling of Legion here, which is great. And I agree with you, Alex, combining the New Mutants powers in that way, it’s very like Final Fantasy, the video game in a cool way. And I really appreciated that. Great book.

Alex:                 Yeah. Just super fun across the board. Next up, here’s a wild one, Post Americana number one form Image Comics, story and art by Steve Skroce. This is a future society where everything has fallen apart in America. We start off with some sort of militaristic remnants of America who seem ready to take the country back. But of course, or maybe they’re actually fascistic, we don’t really know. One person escapes, encounters some insane people that are in the bad lands, including cannibals and other people, find a bad-ass woman who’s ready to take the back. It is wild. It is bloody. It’s over the top. It’s often funny, like when chickens just rip apart a dude.

Justin:              That was funny.

Pete:                Don’t fuck with chickens man.

Alex:                 The art in particular reminds me a lot of Jose Von Ryp I think is his name, the guy who does a lot of stuff for Valiant, and he did Crossed as well.

Pete:                Oh, yeah, reminds me of Crossed.

Justin:              This feels very Crossed to me both in substance and style.

Alex:                 But I enjoyed this, I enjoyed the tone of the characters and the dialogue a lot. Just, they felt very different to me in fresh and ridiculous in exactly the right way. How’d you guys feel about it?

Pete:                Yeah, I was really impressed with this. This was a lot of fun. It was really over the top, lot of action, lot of violence. You got to love that. This was a very cool interesting take. Yeah, it’s hard to know who to kind of root for here with what’s going on. I mean, America kind of looked like the evil empire but we’ll see how this all unfolds. But man, what a great first issue to get you pumped up for what’s going to happen? But yeah, man, it’s exciting and fucked up.

Justin:              You don’t know how to root for it Pete, so you’re maybe rooting for the cannibals.

Pete:                Yeah, you don’t know who to root for here, man.

Justin:              Because let me say the cannibals who we meet at the end of the book-

Pete:                Maybe rooting for the chickens.

Justin:              Lot of human skin fashion in this last page.

Alex:                 A lot of them were wearing hair suits, I would call them.

Justin:              Like our facial, like faces sown into [crosstalk 00:27:16].

Pete:                Or skull in front of your junk.

Justin:              The leader’s wearing a button-down made of human faces. It’s wild.

Alex:                 Maybe they’re good.

Pete:                Yeah.

Justin:              So you never know.

Alex:                 Maybe they’re the good guys.

Justin:              They clearly have a strong sense-

Pete:                Because you’ve got to use everything. You’ve got to use every part of what you’re using.

Justin:              Well, let me ask you, don’t you think-

Alex:                 Just like I said to Jeanine back in the day of the comedy club, you got to use every part of the [inaudible 00:27:39].

Justin:              Wow.

Pete:                Wow.

Justin:              Wow. Sorry, I’m still stunned by that. Do you think, if you’re a cannibal and you’re butchering the meat.

Pete:                Sure.

Justin:              Do you cut the skin off? I feel like if I’m eating Turkey or if I’m eating some other, sometimes I eat the skin.

Pete:                Yeah, definitely.

Justin:              Why are these people leaving all the skin behind?

Alex:                 It’s probably too thick, right? Humans whose skin is too thick.

Justin:              Not Pete skin.

Pete:                Only one way to tell Zalbs.

Justin:              Pete’s very thin skin.

Alex:                 Great point. I’ll tell you what, after my children shoot me to death, I’ll tell them to cook me and eat me and let me know how it goes. [crosstalk 00:28:27].

Pete:                Yeah. Let us know how it goes.

Justin:              Yeah, let us know. And we can come over.

Alex:                 [crosstalk 00:28:32] podcast.

Justin:              Let me work … We’ll work out the menu.

Alex:                 Yeah. You got to start with some survey I think between every dish. Good book, definitely pick it up. Batman number 105 from DC Comics written by James Tynion IV, art by Carlo Pagulayan and Danny Miki, Alvaro Martinez and Christian Duce. This is the final part of the Ghost-Maker story, and it doesn’t end I think quite how anybody necessarily expected. It also seems to maybe be the end of James Tynion’s run on Batman-

Pete:                What?

Alex:                 … which is surprising in and of itself. Well, I don’t know. I mean, he seems to be tying stuff up before a future state.

Pete:                Well, maybe he’s just cleaning, getting a fresh start for his new story arc. I think this was a really great … It’s nice to see Harley Quinn open up, get a little emotional here with the kid clown on her. I really liked the kind of flashback with the Ghost-Maker and Batman stuff, nice to get all that. And then we kind of had a nice moment. I don’t know how much we want to spoil here, but reading I was like, “Aw.” I thought it was … you don’t get to see as much. It was nice to see a little Batman being a little soft.

Justin:              I was sort of surprised about that choice at the end. I expected Ghost-Maker to be either a villain that is someone who bothers Batman in Gotham or someone who leaves and maybe works in the shadows to cause a problem for Batman. The way it ended, I was surprised by, and I don’t know if I love it.

Pete:                Oh, come on man.

Justin:              But the everything else in the book I thought was great and I’ve really liked the art in this book and the way they’re able to sort of seamlessly transition between artists.

Alex:                 I liked it more for Batman than Ghost-Maker, if that makes sense. I like the idea that Batman is trying to be more compassionate [inaudible 00:30:29], but Ghost-Maker at the end and saying, “I’ve tried to kill you most of my life, but you know what, let’s be friends.” Seemed a little-

Justin:              Let’s be coworkers.

Alex:                 Yeah. Which I don’t know, I guess we’ll have to see how it plays out. But I agree with you, I think it was a little quick there even though I enjoyed the issue.

Pete:                I mean if Batman can be friends with like Damian and a bunch of other people who are at different stages of maybe being evolved.

Justin:              Well, he’s his father.

Pete:                Yeah. But still he’s kind of a psychopath. And so I feel like this works, Batman’s opening up to this person and might as well try to work with them to hopefully get Ghost-Maker to a better place.

Alex:                 All right. Fair enough. Let’s move on and talk about Stillwater number four from Image Comics written by Chip Zdarsky, art by Ramon K. Perez. This takes place in a town where nobody ever dies. One guy comes into the town, finds out about it from the outside, but turns out he was actually born there. This issue, we flash back and find out that his history, how he was taken outside of the town and exactly what happened. I like this issue quite a bit and particularly coming in issue four, I think that was a smart place to put this because waiting much longer to parse out these mysteries might’ve kind of frustrating. But I liked the answers that we got personally.

Justin:              I agree, and I love the … Ramon Perez’s art is so good. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time and really like it here. This book has such a good tone. It feels like it’s ready-made to be a TV show. And the characters are really well-made.

Pete:                Yeah, this is very interesting. We kind of have this … we’re finally getting pieces that kind of make sense, clicking into place here about our main character and why he’s coming back to this place and what it means and what he’s a part of. And it’s too bad they didn’t kind of push this, I think earlier a little bit, because they could have had like a baby boss tie-in real easy. You had a very-

Alex:                 Boss Baby.

Pete:                Boss Baby, yeah, sorry. But like that smart baby in the beginning, that could have really tied in nicely.

Alex:                 Cool. All right. Let’s move on and talk about We Only Find Them When They’re Dead number four from Boom! Studios written by Al Ewing, illustrated by Simone Di Men. Di Men, Is that right? Or did that auto correct? Di Menco I think.

Justin:              Simone Di Men.

Alex:                 Simone Di Men.

Justin:              Simone Di Meo.

Pete:                Di Meo, yeah. D-I-M-E-O.

Alex:                 Thank you very much. My auto correct is out of control.

Justin:              That’s crazy that it changed that letter from O to N, it’s crazy.

Alex:                 Nuts, it’s disgusting is what it is.

Justin:              They’re right next to each other in the alphabet.

Alex:                 This book is fascinating to read because I think the art and the coloring in particular almost overpower the story of everything that’s going on. It’s beautiful to look at, but sometimes honestly a little hard to follow at this point.

Justin:              Yeah, it’s funny, it’s a book that I wish I had the hard copy of.

Pete:                Yeah, exactly.

Justin:              Because I really think that would make it a little cleaner. It’s a book that I want to just be further away from when I’m reading it, because it is such a wash of color. I appreciate the choices. I think it is really cool and different. And I don’t know enough about what’s happening to know where we’re headed. But I still trust the storytelling here. It’s Al Ewing who I think is great.

Pete:                Yeah, I agree. I don’t mean to kind of echo the old demand of what we’re saying, like, “Oh, it makes it hard to read.” But I think it’s-

Alex:                 Did you guys look at it with your spectacles on?

Pete:                Yeah. I had one of the bifocals gone and it still didn’t work, but yeah, it’s really cool. The art, the paneling, the really pushing stuff, making the story move, helping the action, which is great. But just sometimes because the layouts are so intense, it’s a little tough to kind of follow so it takes a couple of reads, but if we were holding the physical comic, I think it wouldn’t be an issue.

Alex:                 Next up, Wolverine: Black, White & Blood number two from Marvel written by Vita Ayala, Saladin Ahmed and Chris Claremont. Art by Greg Land, Kev Walker, and Salvador Larroca. As with the first issue, there’s three stories of Wolverine, three different adventures. I got to tell you, I thought the first issue was pretty good. It was well done. I didn’t love absolutely everything in it. This issue is great. Just really well done. And in particular, one of the things I was so impressed by was Greg Land takes a lot of knocks for his art and potentially rightly so. But stripping all the color out of it and all the metallic wash and shine that usually goes over his characters. And just in that story, focusing on the black and the white and the occasional splashes of red really emphasized how good and dynamic his art is. And Vita Ayala leaned into that with a story, which I thought was great as well. I was really impressed overall with nearly every story on this issue.

Pete:                Yeah, I agree. I think this issue is really kind of clicking. This makes a lot more sense, this whole black, white and blood. I was just blown away by the art, the action, the violence, it’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful, a lot of fun, a lot of great Wolverine kind of stuff, that if you’re a Wolverine fan, you know about this character, so it kind of bounces all over, which is great. I was really impressed. Two or three really solid stories in this book.

Justin:              I thought the art was great across the board, I love, it feels like they put them, these stories in a particular order where it’s sort of the most black and white, the first story, and it gets redder as the issue goes on. [crosstalk 00:36:36]. Yeah. It’s funny on the live show, Alex, you talked about the cliche of Wolverine being in a bar and then having an adventure. And it felt like especially the first two stories were very like Wolverines in the woods and then somebody gets him. It felt like it was dealing with those tropes, living in those tropes a bit. But the Chris Claremont story I thought was … it was my favorite of the three, which I was surprised about. But in general I like the book.

Alex:                 Well, I mean, to that point, I think the things that worked about both of these to me, the same thing that didn’t quite work about the first two stories in the first issue of this, where that they stood back and let the art do their thing, that they were like, “Yeah, we’re going to do classic Wolverine setups,” but it’s all about setting up Greg Land. It’s all about setting up Kev Walker to do the thing that they do, which I thought was really nice. Next up, Head Lopper number 14 from Image Comics, story and art by Andrew MacLean, continuing the Pete block we have here on The Stack.

Justin:              Pete block.

Alex:                 In this issue some heads get lopped, I think a head.

Pete:                Yeah, maybe [crosstalk 00:37:45].

Justin:              A head finally gets lopped.

Pete:                Huge head. Yeah, we get a Medusa, old head lopper goes up against Medusa. This is just glorious. I mean, plus it starts with a double page spread of a map, which I’m a sucker for. And yeah, this is just a fantastic story of kind of like Conan the Barbarian type of thing, wandering the earth, having adventures, hanging out with the witches as you do. And yeah, this is kind of a fun day, head lopper has a little bit of a team working with them now. This is just continues to be a bad-ass fantastic book that doesn’t try too much and just stays in its fucking wheelhouse.

Justin:              That’s the dream, stay in your fucking lane artists. But I do, this is a fun book. This is like a modern Usagi Yojimbo.

Pete:                Yeah.

Justin:              Did we say that last time? Because I see why Pete likes it, it’s very good. I like it as well. I thought the witch head was going to get turned to stone, I really did.

Pete:                Oh yeah.

Justin:              I was worried.

Pete:                That would’ve been crazy.

Justin:              Yeah. I also liked that this is clearly a huge universe, a long adventure that we want to be able to go on for a long time, and I hope we get to.

Alex:                 Next up Dark Nights: Death Metal number six from DC Comics, written by Scott Snyder, art by Greg Capullo. We are getting towards the end here as the United forces of every single hero and villain in the DC Universe, fight back against the Batman who laughs and his united sources of dark Batmans and dark planets and things like that. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman is off on her own mission to try to save the universe at the universal forge, I believe it’s called. I continue to be struck by not so secretly, but how this is almost secretly like a Wonder Woman series, which I think is kind of great. It gets away from Superman and Batman always being the leads and turns the focus on her. And the solution she figures out towards the end here. I thought it was really fun and really simple and really great. And just overall, again, just a fun issue of this wildly over the top series.

Pete:                This continues to be a lot of fun. I really, really love this issue. Things are starting to finally maybe go in the good guys direction, which is very exciting, epic pages, some old school shout-outs and some touching moments with Clark and Lois and then Clark and Bruce. I fucking love this shit.

Justin:              I’m just waiting for the space Wolverine to pop his claws. It’s about time he popped them and got into the action, you know what I mean?

Pete:                You’re a piece of shit.

Alex:                 If there’s a low bow, why isn’t there a high bow?

Justin:              That’s so good, or a tie bow.

Pete:                Oh boy.

Justin:              I think it’s very funny to me that in this book, the Batman who laughs has been elevated to a god. And it’s funny to think that it’s just a Bruce Wayne. That’s just a regular Bruce Wayne under there, who’s just had a couple bad days.

Alex:                 The weirder part to me, there were two weird things in this issue. Not necessarily bad things, but seeing Barbatos’ face finally whereas I was like, “Oh, that’s not a weird looking dude in there, under that giant cloak. That’s pretty strange.” And then the other one was Superman and Lois saying goodbye to each other. Everybody else was great. I loved everybody else. And even-

Pete:                What is your problem there?

Alex:                 Then said goodbye, what did Superman say? Superman was like … Lois was like, “Superman, you’re always the son that I looked towards.” And Superman is like, “You’re the lead of my story.”

Justin:              Yeah. You’re always my number one lead I think she says.

Pete:                Yeah.

Alex:                 Yeah. That was the point where I was like, “Shut up.”

Pete:                Why?

Justin:              Wow.

Pete:                Why you cold hearted motherfucker?

Alex:                 It’s stupid. That’s a stupid thing to say when you’re about to die, don’t say that.

Justin:              I have it here, “Lois, thank you for this life, for our son, for being my true home planet.”

Pete:                Yeah, that’s fucking beautiful.

Justin:              Very sweet from a long haired mostly dead Superman. And then she said, “Thank you, Clark.”

Pete:                [crosstalk 00:42:02] complimenting his hair was hysterical.

Justin:              Thank you, Clark, for being the best lead a girl could ask for. And then someone off panel, get a room.

Pete:                All right. First off, Zalben fuck you man. I thought that was a great thing for Lois to say.

Alex:                 I don’t know. That was kind of like, and I worked in a newspaper.

Pete:                Fuck you.

Justin:              She doesn’t love him. She just is with him to keep the news flowing.

Alex:                 Yeah, exactly. Also, what is she doing there? Where has she been the entire time? The fact that she is [crosstalk 00:42:34] to be like, “And I’m also here.”

Justin:              She’s covering the end of the universe for the daily [crosstalk 00:42:40].

Pete:                You know what Zalb, she doesn’t have tO prove shit to you. She can come and go as she pleases.

Alex:                 She’s just hastily writing out a newspaper on some dead Robin Skinner or something like that.

Justin:              Yeah, exactly. This just in, holy shit, [inaudible 00:42:56] dead.

Pete:                If you’re reading this congratulations.

Justin:              Bear with me readers because this is confusing. So there’s a dark forge of …

Alex:                 There’s going to be a lot of bi-lines on this one, but fun book. Let’s move on and talk about Seven to Eternity number 15 from image comics written by Rick Remender, drawn by Jerome Opena. This is a huge issue for this book. Our protagonist has slowly been working way towards a place that potentially could make him immortal. We think it has been for reasons of helping his family. In this issue it becomes clear, 100% absolutely is not. And he goes from, I would argue being the hero of the book to turning out to be the villain the whole time, which I think is phenomenal in the best Rick Remender way of doing things. What’d you guys think about this?

Justin:              And conversely, the villain from the book, the Mud King is sort of becoming the hero.

Alex:                 Yeah, 100%.

Justin:              And I would guess that was Rick Remender’s perhaps goal for the series. And he’s done a great job of really just slowly leading us away from our expectations from the very first couple issues of the series. But really this issue, the art is so good. It’s a real like everything is just really well done from the beginning to the end, a lot of big splash pages, it’s so good.

Pete:                This is classic Remender, just like you think you understand, you think … I was so excited. I was like, “Oh, this is great. Okay. We’re finally going to have,” and then at the end I was like, “Wait, what? Goddam Remender, man.” He is a very impressive writer. This continues to be a ton of fun. And the twists and turns are very enjoyable. I’m very nervous about what’s going to happen moving forward, but man, the art and the action are just glorious.

Alex:                 Great stuff. Let’s move on and talk about our Immortal Hulk block two issues [crosstalk 00:45:05].

Justin:              Hulk block.

Alex:                 The Immortal Hulk King in Black number one written by Al Ewing, art by Aaron Kuder. The Immortal Hulk 42 written by Al Ewing, art by Joe Bennett. Starting with the first one, this obviously again is a tie into King in Black. Here, so many things going on at the same time. There’s no reason this should work with the amount of things they have happening. But it’s not only an Immortal Hulk book, which is a thing in and of itself. It’s not only a tie into King in Black. It’s not only a Christmas story. It’s also a completely silent issue at the same time. And it is phenomenal.

Pete:                One of my favorites. This is like, when people ask you like, “Oh, what’s your favorite Christmas story?” This now goes to the top of the list, black Christmas. This is just so cool. And so much is said about Hulk without any words. This really is just a classic Hulk story. Oh my God, this is so great, so much fun.

Justin:              This is your favorite Christmas story now, more than the movie Christmas story.

Pete:                No. It’s one of my favorite Christmas comics, [crosstalk 00:46:15].

Justin:              If you have children, you’ll read this aloud to them on Christmas.

Pete:                Yes, I will.

Justin:              Which will be [crosstalk 00:46:21] reading.

Alex:                 Say, “Hey kids, gather around, it’s time for the horrifically wildly smiling Hulk story.”

Pete:                Yeah.

Alex:                 The way Aaron Kuder draws, this is these … If you haven’t been reading Immortal Hulk, Hulk is kind of split into different personalities. He keeps morphing between different things. Here we mostly get the skinny childlike Hulk, who’s been showing up. He also shows up in the next issue we’re going to talk about. We also get Joe Fixit shows up for a little-

Justin:              Yeah, he does.

Alex:                 … die hard style action at one point, which is super fun. But yeah, man, this is just great, just a great story. So well-drawn by Aaron Kuder, so well written by Al Ewing.

Justin:              The art is so good.

Alex:                 Again, there’s no reason they should work with the amount of things they have going on here, but it’s a wonderful one-shot.

Justin:              Yeah, it’s really, truly great. One of the best issues on the stands right now.

Alex:                 Let’s move on then and talk about Immortal Hulk number 42, which is the ongoing story of the Immortal Hulk. Here we get a little break as the Hulk fights The Thing, actually lays out everything that’s been going on with him, which I think is the first time in 42 issues any of the superheroes have kind of found out what has actually been going on with the Hulk here, even though he understands the only part of it. And Thing figures it out too, understands the different [inaudible 00:47:38] Fixit and the other Hulk and everything that’s going on, they eat some hotdogs at Coney Island.

Pete:                You’re goddam right. You got to do it while you’re there.

Alex:                 Delicious. And it ends with of course, a very typical terrifying paddle right at the end there for what’s coming up next. But again, a fantastic issue of this book. And I love seeing The Thing, Hulk rivalry in a new light, it’s great.

Justin:              Yeah. You really get to see the tender side of The Thing coming out here, which I thought was really good. And their conversation at the hot dog shop was really nice-

Pete:                The hotdog shop.

Justin:              … getting into like, yeah, sandwich shop, hot dog I guess being a sandwich in that case.

Pete:                Oh man.

Justin:              Hot dog is not a sandwich.

Pete:                Yeah. And the way they talk about the afterlife, The Thing coming back and being bar mitzvah’d and rediscovering some sort of spirituality or having a second spirituality 13 years after they got bombarded with the cosmic rays, I thought was an interesting take. I’ll talk about Joe, but just a really smart issue touching on a bunch of ideas and really sad watching the whole fight and cry.

Alex:                 I mean, I’ll just mention just on the whole thing story where he’s talking about how the 13 years there that was him being reborn. I know that’s something that [inaudible 00:49:02] covered and is one of the thing. But from a Jewish perspective, I got a little choked up, that’s something that they don’t really talk about a lot in the books is that aspect of The Thing. And I think Al Ewing wrote it in a really sweet way and paste it out in a really sweet way. That was very nice to see. It meant a lot.

Justin:              Now we talked about this on the live show, but the podcast just turned 14. Should we have had a bar mitzvah for you since we’ve been doing this for 13 years?

Alex:                 Yeah, no problem. I’ll shoot you guys a tow report and we could read that in the next live show.

Pete:                Oh, that would be great.

Justin:              I would love to.

Pete:                Yeah.

Justin:              Plus we get to go play video games and stuff or something, right.

Alex:                 Sure, that’s how that works.

Justin:              Isn’t there some fun thing?

Alex:                 Yeah, you get to have a party afterwards.

Justin:              Okay. I’m in.

Pete:                Yeah, this continues to be amazing. Really great use of The Thing in this, love The Thing’s new kicks, glorious. Also really fantastic cover, really love the cover. Yeah, just when you think this story, it gets so weird and so grotesque, but also the heart in the story is really phenomenal, it’s very touching. The humanization of these kinds of grotesque characters if you will is fantastic. I cannot believe what they’re doing in this whole comic. It’s really unprecedented.

Alex:                 Last but not least, let’s talk about Once & Future number 14 from Boom! Studios written by Kieron Gillen and art by Dan Mora. In this issue, we’re wrapping up a couple of things as I believe they fight Guen, or they are Guen. I don’t know, I honestly missed the last issue, so I’m not [inaudible 00:50:47] keeping up. But there’s some bloody stuff, it’s a fight continuity stuff that happens and this title continues to be a ton of fun.

Pete:                Yeah. I mean this whole game thing that it starts with, and I mean to say the art is spectacular is an understatement. It’s just so breathtaking and makes things … you’re feeling the stuff that is happening. It’s just so intense and amazing. And then you just have this bad-ass grandmother right in the middle of it. Every issue is just glorious and it continues to be. I don’t know why they don’t turn this into a goddam movie or TV show. It’s just so good. I want to see it in all the different iterations, if it could … Just so many great characters, so much fun. This is really just glorious.

Justin:              There’s a lot of stories about stories, particularly in comics. And I think this one does a great job of making it more complex and it’s a little bit trickier, it really feels like a heightened version of so many things are touched on, where it’s like, no, the story’s, the thing we’re inside a story. And in this our main characters are inside multiple stories at once and they’re competing, they’re juggling them. But it’s also like they’re having a great time, the art is so like high-octane action movie. It’s really fun.

Pete:                Yeah.

Alex:                 Great stuff. All right. That’s it for this week’s episode of The Stack, if you’d like to support us, patreon.com/comicbookclub. Also we do a live show every Tuesday night at 7:00 PM to Crowdcast and YouTube, come hang out. Chat with us about comic books, iTunes, Android, Spotify, Stitcher, or the app of your choice to subscribe and listen to the show. At comic book live on Twitter, comicbookclublive.com for this podcast and many more. Until next time, this has been The Stack.

Justin:              This will always be The Stack. You’re inside The Stack. We’re all part of The Stack.

Alex:                 Oh, my kids are coming in. Let me see what they want.

Pete:                Is that that creeping-

Justin:              Bam.

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