On this week’s comic book review podcast:

GI Joe: Castle Fall
IDW
Written by Paul Allor
Art by Chris Evenhuis

Snow Angels #1
ComiXology
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Jock

The Immortal Hulk: Flatline #1
Marvel
Written and Art by Declan Shalvey

HAHA #2
Image Comics
Written by W. Maxwell Prince
Art by Zoe Thorogood

King in Black #4
Marvel
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Ryan Stegman

Batman/Catwoman #3
DC Comics
Written by Tom King
Art by Clay Mann

Savage #1
Valiant Comics
Written by Max Bemis
Art by Nathan Stockman

Guardians of the Galaxy #11
Marvel
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Juann Cabal

Stillwater #6
Image Comics
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Ramón K. Perez

Future State: Superman Worlds of War #2
DC Comics
Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Brandon Easton, Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, Jeremy Adams
Art by Mikel Janin, Valentin de Landro, Michael Avon Oeming, Siya Oum

Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #2
DC Comics
Written by Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, L.L. McKinney
Art by Jen Bartel, Alitha Martinez

Future State: The Next Batman #4
DC Comics
Written by John Ridley, Vita Ayala, Paula Seven Bergen
Art by Laura Braga, Aneke, Emanuela Luppachino

Future State: Catwoman #2
DC Comics
Written by Ram V
Art by Otto Schmidt

Future State: Nightwing #2
DC Comics
Written by Andrew Constant
Art by Nicola Scott

Future State: Shazam #2
DC Comics
Written by Tim Sheridan
Art by Eduardo Panic

Thor #12
Marvel
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Nic Klein

Excellence #10
Image Comics
Written by Brandon Thomas
Art by Khary Randolph

Once & Future #16
BOOM! Studios
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Dan Mora

X-Men Legends #1
Marvel
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Brett Booth

Aria: Heavenly Creatures
Image Comics
Written by Brian Holguin
Art by Jay Anacleto with Brian Haberlin

The Last Ronin #2
IDW
Story by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird and Tom Waltz
Script by Tom Waltz & Kevin Eastman
Layouts by Kevin Eastman
Pencils & Inks by Esau & Isaac Escort, Ben Bishop and Kevin Eastman

Black Widow #5
Marvel
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Elena Casagrande w/ Rafael De Latorre

Sabrina: The Teenage Witch #5
Archie Comics
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Veronica Fish and Andy Fish

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Full Episode Transcript

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

Justin:              I’m Justin.

Pete:                I’m Pete.

Alex:                 On The Stack, we talk about a bunch of books that have come out this week. Let’s kick it off, because we got a packed stack.

Justin:              Oh, yes.

Alex:                 [crosstalk 00:00:19] G.I. Joe: Castle Fall from IDW, written by Paul Allor, art by Chris Evenhuis. I got to tell you, never in a million years would I have expected that a G.I. Joe book would be at the top of my personal stack, but that’s where we are. This book is what a lot of what this book has been leading up to. Cobra has taken over the entire world. Finally, G.I. Joe gets an in to fight back. It doesn’t go exactly how you think it’s going to go. There’s a big twist there. This book is great.

Justin:              I got to say, I mean, I was not allowed to watch G.I. Joe as a child because they had guns in their hands.

Pete:                Here we go. Jesus Christ. Can we talk about G.I. Joe one time without you dropping that?

Justin:              What? I’m just saying. It was just sort of an introduction to say that I also love this book. I also wasn’t allowed sugary cereals, which led me to enjoy a lot of Grape Nuts.

Pete:                And you also had to drink well water, and your teeth are falling out.

Alex:                 Don’t spoil. The next book we’re talking about is Grape Nuts #1, which is also very good.

Justin:              That’s going to be good. It’s going to be good. Just put a little honey on it. No. This book is so good, and what I love about it is they’ve been building up to it over the course of all these smaller issues and books to get here, and each one, for the most part, has been excellent, and the fact that they’re building this whole little universe around G.I. Joe is something that … Again, I don’t know if I said. I never watched as a kid.

Pete:                Oh, my god. Fuck, I hate you. I mean, this is great. I mean, you get to see Roadblock fucking pick up a fucking giant cannon of a gun and just fucking shoot. It was great. Yeah. The art’s really good. The storytelling, the plot’s impressive. It’s a lot better than a lot of the cartoon’s plot, but I thought this was-

Alex:                 Not all of it. I would say like 50 percent of the cartoon’s plots. Most of the cartoon’s plots were very good, as we all know.

Pete:                Sure. Sure. Because we all watched them as kids.

Alex:                 I never watched it.

Justin:              It must have been fun for you, Pete, to see your favorite Joes, like soup can, hub cap.

Pete:                So far you haven’t named one.

Justin:              Dance party.

Pete:                Nope.

Justin:              Hat hair. Hat hair is so good in this issue.

Pete:                No.

Justin:              He’s so good because he’s like [crosstalk 00:02:30]-

Pete:                Did you see? My favorite scene in the issue is when load-bearing beam really brings the hurt down.

Justin:              That guy is so tough.

Pete:                [crosstalk 00:02:39].

Justin:              He’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Pete:                I’m the only one who knows the names, and you guys are still doing bits. It’s just ridiculous.

Alex:                 Well, what I love about this is I, again, I have no interest in G.I. Joe particularly because of the names, because they’re so silly and over the top, but every character is so distinct, from the art, to the writing, to their motivations here, including the villains as well. The way that they fleshed out Cobra here and made them interesting rather than just going “I’m a serpent name, and I have a mask, and I’m evil,” and that’s pretty much my whole impression of Cobra Commander. I think there’s two of them, right?

Pete:                Oh, my god.

Justin:              No. There’s more. You need 20 minutes.

Alex:                 There’s Destro and also Cobra Commander? I don’t know how this works.

Pete:                Okay. All right. Destro does not talk like that.

Alex:                 Everyone’s shit.

Pete:                There’s Serpentor.

Alex:                 I’m Destro.

Pete:                Oh, my god. All right. You are killing me.

Alex:                 I’m the Baroness.

Pete:                Okay. All right. First off, let’s back up the truck. If you’re going to do bits about their names, know the show, because one of the funniest things is they would do PSAs after the show, and there would be a character whose name is Barbecue, and he has a flamethrower on his back, and then he’s like “Hey, kids. If you have a house fire, you should run away,” and it’s like “Hey, Barbecue. How did that house fire start? You have a flamethrower, and you’re standing next to a fire. This isn’t cool, man. You shouldn’t set people’s houses on fire and then teach kids about fires.”

Justin:              It’s very funny to me that you were like “Justin, you’re making fun of this by saying the names you said. If you said the name Barbecue,” who’s the hero you like’s name, because when I said hub cap, you were like “That’s stupid,” but you said Barbecue, and you were like “That’s good. Hub cap is bad, but Barbecue-“

Pete:                I mean, Snow Job’s a real … That’s a real name.

Justin:              What about tippy toe? I really like tippy toe.

Pete:                Oh, my god.

Alex:                 This book is fantastic. Definitely pick it up, even if you don’t know anything about G.I. Joe.

Alex:                 Moving on to Snow Angels #1 from ComiXology, written by Jeff Lemire, art by Jock. I said this on the live show, but I’ll stick with it. That team is on a book, and you’re in no matter what, but thankfully this book is great and weird anyway. It’s about a world, maybe a world, that has been covered in ice. All that exists is this snow trench. There’s a family, a father, and two daughters who are skating through the trench for one theirs 12th birthday, and things get weirder and deadlier and more dangerous from there. This feels like the perfect gelling of these two creators’ tastes.

Pete:                It seems like it’s Snowpiercer 2, where after the train’s gone, now they’re just living on the tracks. You know what I mean? And that’s where this takes place.

Justin:              Withering criticism from Pete LePage.

Alex:                 But you say that about anything that involves snow. You said that when you saw the Michael Keaton vehicle Jack Frost as well.

Justin:              Yeah. No.

Pete:                The Michael Keaton vehicle.

Justin:              When the Weather Report came out, Pete screamed at the TV. It’s like “Snowpiercer. Get out of here.” I like this book a lot. You said it best, Alex. It’s such a great combination of these two creators’ work. A lot of great blood splatters on this, and very few snow angels, and ice skating is hard, and these characters do it constantly.

Pete:                Yeah. Yeah. I mean, growing up in upstate New York, you needed to kind of … You might as well put skates on, because you’re walking around so much ice, but I did really … All joking aside, I really love the last-page reveal. The art’s unbelievable. This is a very unique, cool kind of world that we’re kind of thrown into here. I thought it was an amazing first issue of getting you established with what’s going on and then kind of raising the stakes. I thought this was really fantastic book.

Alex:                 Next up, the Immortal Hulk: Flatline #1 from Marvel, written and art by Declan Shalvey. This is another, as you can probably tell from the title, spinoff of the Immortal Hulk doing one-shot stories about him here. Bruce Banner meets one of his old teachers. Things don’t go that well over the course of the issue. How do you think this held up to the high standard of Immortal Hulk?

Justin:              I like this a lot. Declan Shalvey has been talking about this book a lot online. There’s a lot of pride and just love for this book coming from the creator. So I really appreciate that, and it’s a great story. It feels like a classic Hulk story that we haven’t seen in a while, because the main book has been so focused on just straight-up horrifying imagery. So this takes it back a little bit and really says “Hey. Be nice to your teachers, because they might come at you from some gamma-irradiated vision and really fuck up your life if you’re not careful.”

Pete:                Yeah. Teachers will haunt you for the rest of your life, man. You got to be careful.

Justin:              Yeah.

Alex:                 Totally agree. Haha #2 from Image Comics, written by W. Maxwell Prince, art by Zoe Thorogood. This is the second issue, of course, from the creator of Ice Cream Man. It is an anthology about clowns. Here, we’re getting to meet a character who … It’s not revealed until the end of the issue exactly what she’s doing, but as a child, she ran away with her mom, who had a bit of a psychotic break and thought she was a clown, wanted to go away to a fun time happy land. Things do not end up fun time or happy. How’d you feel about this one?

Justin:              So good. Haunting. We love W. Maxwell Prince’s work on Ice Cream Man, and to see it sort of grounded in a weird way … I didn’t expect this series ostensibly focusing on clowns to be the more grounded version of his storytelling, but it really is. It’s sort of real-world stories of people going off the map a little bit with their choices, with clown imagery, and there’s such a melancholy to all of this work, and I really like that.

Alex:                 Pete?

Pete:                Yeah. This is so haunting and messed up in ways that I wasn’t ready for. This mother-and-child-like relationship was very scary to me, and I kept waiting there to be kind of fun moments, and so far it’s just a fucking nightmare, and I’m scared to keep reading this comic, because it was like … I feel like Ice Cream Man kind of encouraged this, and I’m a little worried about what the payoff is going to be.

Justin:              Encouraged it.

Alex:                 I don’t think there’s going to be a payoff. I think it’s just an anthology of stories.

Pete:                I think maybe the people reading it will slowly start to go insane and then paint their faces like clowns and then die horribly.

Justin:              I guess the payoff is when you show up to do the show in full clown, which honestly I think we’re pretty close to.

Alex:                 What if all of these people in this book joined together in some sort of book, all of these crazy people who are clowns forming a group together. It would be some sort of insane clown posse. I mean, just to throw something out there, I feel like that’s maybe how it could work at the last issue.

Justin:              Huh. That’d be quite a league of extraordinary clowns. As long as they aren’t fueled by some sort of small-market soda, I think we’ll be fine.

Alex:                 King in Black #4 from Marvel, written by Donny Cates, art by Ryan Stegman. This is a big issue here where once again Donny Cates redefines the Marvel universe, does a little bit of the old retcon action to come up with an explanation for something that has not made a lot of sense. Eddie Brock is lying dying. Dylan Brock, his son, has been trapped by Knull, the King in Black. All of the heroes are trying to fight back, and they finally get a foothold here as we enter the endgame of this title. What’d you think about all the twists and turns?

Justin:              I love the reveal at the end of the issue. When I first started reading comics, and I will spoil this sort of twist at the end right now, but Captain Universe was what was on the stands right then. Spider-Man had just had the Captain Universe powers, and he was recovering form that, being sort of de-powered. I think the first Spider-Man issue I ever read, he was shooting upwards into space, having just lost the Captain Universe powers, and trying to web himself to a passing airplane, and so to have that make sense and maybe join the Marvel universe with Eddie Brock at the helm I thought was great. It was crazy to see the heroes turn it around so hard in this issue.

Pete:                Yeah. I really thought this was great. Lot of cool reveals in this issue. The good guys are getting their butts kicked for a long time now. It’s nice to see what kind of cards we’re going to play here. So I was really, really impressed with this issue, a lot of cool stuff, and I can’t wait to see how this whole thing unfolds. I went from being like “What is this?” to really I’m bored with this kind of event. So I feel like it was really cool, and then the backup story, the Demon Days, was also really cool as well.

Alex:                 That was very fun. That seems to be a title that we’re going to see going forward that is a Japanese, I would say, art-style-inflected X-Men tale, which I thought was kind of neat.

Justin:              Yeah.

Pete:                Yeah.

Alex:                 Next up, Batman / Catwoman #3 from DC Comics, written by Tom King, art by Clay Mann. We’re continuing this time-hopping story of Batman and Catwoman as they fight a war on three different fronts. I like this one. I felt like I had a better handle on what’s going on in this issue than I did necessarily in the first two issues. How’d you guys feel about it?

Pete:                I love this. I thought this was really amazing. I love the kind of tone that’s even set up in the beginning with the double play, the double-spread title page of Bat and Cat. I think this is such a cool area to explore. If the Bat and Cat are together, how do they exist? You know what I mean? Is Catwoman have to be more good? Does Batman have to try to be more bad? How do they exist?

Pete:                I think this is a very interesting position to put Batman and Catwoman, and the kind of reveal of Joker in the money suit … I lost it. I thought that was so funny and hysterical, and that whole “Paul Fleischman is dead. Oh, god. No. Who’s Paul Fleischman?” … I’m really having a lot of fun with this book. I’m very, very impressed with it. Yeah. I can’t say enough nice things about the art and everything that’s going on.

Justin:              Yeah. The art is so stylized. It’s so composed in such a specific way, especially a story that moves around so much. It’s so nice to see the art really reflecting a meticulous design style, but yeah. This reminds me of, oddly, the last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the jumping between-

Alex:                 Oh, okay. I can see that.

Justin:              … jumping between different eras, telling one story, because it almost feels like in this comic that the characters are aware of the time jumps. I don’t think they actually are, but it feels like they’re very complicit in telling the story in this particular way, and I think that’s what allows it to hang together so well as opposed to … Because it’s jarring, jumping between the different time frames in this. There’s very little visual direction, but there’s just so much emotional direction where we’re seeing so much happen at once, and at the same time, we’re introducing Mask of the Phantasm here, which is a horrifying character [crosstalk 00:14:58].

Alex:                 I got to say that’s the one thing for me that is not quite working about this book is I really like the Phantasm. It just right now feels like this element that I don’t quite get how it fits in and how it’s part of the story.

Pete:                Just wait for it. All right? Don’t-

Alex:                 I’m sure. Yes. I know. It will pan out, and it’s fine, but the Joker stuff in both the past and the present seems to connect. I get that the Phantasm is this outside thing, but it’s such an out-sized presence, perhaps given because of its real-world weight of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm being the best Batman movie, that I felt like “Oh. This is its own story. What is going on with the Phantasm? Why are we not telling this story? Why is this only one third of the book?”

Pete:                Yeah, but-

Justin:              I think that is that exterior pressure, because to me, and I’m someone that didn’t … I didn’t watch that when I was younger. So it’s not something I revere maybe as much. So just seeing the imagery that’s there to be scary as opposed to being like “Look. I’m this character you know,” … I think it’s working.

Alex:                 All right. Fair enough.

Pete:                Yeah. I agree. Just because something was amazing, don’t let it hurt this story before we get what it’s about, but I understand what you’re saying and it makes sense. I’m just so happy we’re getting this story, because we got little teases of it, and then DC was like “No. We’re kind of doing something else.” So I’m so glad that, in this Black Label thing, we get this story that we were kind of given a little bit and then taken away. So I’m just so happy right now with what’s going on in this book.

Alex:                 Next up, Savage #1 from Valiant Comics, written by Max Bemis, art by Nathan Stockman. In this, we are picking up with Savage, a wild little boy who was left in a dinosaur land and came to the present. Now he’s a social media star. Don’t worry. There’s still dinosaur battles in this book. I thought this was a lot of fun. What did you guys think?

Pete:                Yeah. I-

Justin:              Yeah. This …

Pete:                Go ahead.

Justin:              This is a lot fun. It reminds me of back in the day, the Ultraverse line of comics. This feels like strong pitch, strong concept, mixing a classic sort of comic book trope with a modern spin on it, and then the story’s just really fun.

Pete:                Yeah. I agree. It’s fun to see kind of Savage exist now and how that would kind of look a little bit, but I’m glad that we still get to kind of see Savage do what Savage enjoys doing-

Justin:              What Savage do.

Pete:                … and it was … Yeah. The art’s unbelievable. This is a very visually pleasing book, and it really delivers.

Justin:              Oh, pleasing. So pleasing.

Pete:                Yeah.

Alex:                 Pete’s not having any of it tonight.

Justin:              Yeah.

Alex:                 All right. Let’s move on, talk about-

Justin:              He’s displeased.

Pete:                Also, I’m very excited. We talked to Cullen Bunn about Shadowman, and we get a little peak of this in this. So I’m very excited about what that’s going to be like.

Alex:                 There you go. Guardians of the Galaxy #11 from Marvel, written by Al Ewing, art by Juan Cabal. In this issue, this is the second-to-lat issue, I believe, of this run on Guardians of the Galaxy. They are facing down dark olympian gods. Star Lord has been through some very weird stuff that’s affecting him here. I know we haven’t really can keeping up with this book. So what’d you think about this issue?

Justin:              I feel like the Guardians of the Galaxy are the most emotional team in comic books. They’re an emotion-first team, and this book is it. All the characters are just wide open talking about what they’re going through, and they’re like “We have to fight, but I really want to talk about this,” and I appreciate that. They’re fully therapeutic. They’re getting it out there. They’re telling it like it is, and the art’s wonderful. It really is a ragtag group of characters. Just it’s used very well.

Alex:                 Yeah. Pete?

Pete:                Yeah. I mean, it’s a lot of fun. Art’s unbelievable. Yeah.

Alex:                 Great. Great stuff. Stillwater #6 from Image Comics, written by Chip Zdarsky, art by Ramón K. Pérez. This is a big flashback issue kicking off of the cliffhanger from the last issue where a bunch of military dudes were right outside the town where nobody dies. In this issue, we find out how they got there, what’s going on with it. As we talked to Chip Zdarsky about on the live show, the danger and the action ramps up in a big way in this book really quickly, which I continue to find very impressive.

Justin:              Yeah. He’s really done a good job of setting up a very explosive environment, the politics of Stillwater. Now we have these military guys on the outside of town. Our main character sort of doesn’t want to be there, is unsettled. That combined with Ramón Pérez’s very pastoral art, I think, makes for just a nice juxtaposition, and I like this book a lot.

Pete:                Yeah. I agree. Just when you think “Okay. This is what’s going,” it really amps it up even more. Art is unbelievable, and the kind of going between times, the adjustments it makes there, but also just in its storytelling and its panel movement … I cannot believe “Okay. Oh, sure. Yeah. Nobody dies. Okay. Oh, yeah, but now we’re going to deal with this thing.” It’s like “Wait. What?” It just keeps kind of keeping the action going, and it’s crazy in all the right ways.

Alex:                 All right. Now it is time for our Future State block as we have been doing the past couple of weeks. We’ve read through every single issue that came out from DC in Future State this week. We’re not going to talk about all of them, but we’re going to talk about some highlights, but if you’re wondering what came out, we got Future State: Superman: Worlds of War #2, Immortal Wonder Woman #2, The Next Batman #4, Catwoman #2, Nightwing #2, and Shazam #2. So let’s call some stuff out. Pete just dropped something on the floor. I don’t know what’s going on.

Pete:                Yeah. I just accidentally dropped a pencil. I-

Justin:              A pencil?

Pete:                Yeah.

Justin:              Oh, no.

Alex:                 Were you writing on your phone with a pencil?

Pete:                No.

Justin:              But Pete, what about your sketching?

Pete:                [inaudible 00:21:27].

Alex:                 Not a lot of people know this, actually, but Pete does these very funny caricatures of us during taping The Stack, and it’s a delight.

Justin:              You got to release those, Pete, because honestly, you’re like the Colossus, famously a painter, of the podcast.

Pete:                Sure. Sure. Anyways, so I really liked The Next Batman #4. I mean, having a black Batman is a great idea, but the part where Batman’s just like “Listen. I’m going to be real with you guys,” I was like “Oh, this is so much fun,” but I really like how this is different. You know what I mean? Because Batman in this book has parents and is willing to maybe stab his mom to get what he needs to get done and keep Gotham safe, and I don’t know if our Batman would do that.

Pete:                So it’s nice to see this Batman really stepping it up and be like “Sorry, ma. Sometimes you got to stab somebody for your beliefs,” and I don’t know. I just think this is … The Future State here, I’m still having a lot of fun with the choices that they’re making with these heroes, and this, The Next Batman, I’m having a great time with.

Justin:              Well, it wasn’t my favorite of the week, but I want to throw it to Nightwing #2, just piggybacking on Pete’s comment, because Nightwing #2 features of this new Batman and Nightwing, and I love the dynamic that’s created here, where our new Batman is sort of deferential to Nightwing. He’s like “I’m just sort of figuring this out right now,” and Nightwing’s like “I get it,” but our new Batman refuses to leave his side despite the fac that Nightwing … It’s a great flip of the dynamic of Batman usually being in the leadership role and Nightwing being more of a sidekick. I just hadn’t seen that before, and it really caught me off guard in a good way.

Alex:                 So what was your favorite of the week then, Justin?

Justin:              Superman: Worlds of War #2. This story-

Pete:                Oh, yeah. Can we talk about it?

Justin:              This story by Phillip Kennedy Johnson at the front end of this book is so fucking good. He just boils down Superman and Clark Kent to just … I’ll tell you about what happened if you haven’t read it. There are these two kids are sort of in Smallville exploring the area. They walk to the original Kent farm. In this world, obviously Superman’s revealed that he’s Clark Kent.

Justin:              So they’re trying to find the original Kent farm, because everybody knows he’s Superman, and the main girl is recounting an article she read that Clark Kent wrote about the town, and it’s so good, so interesting, about a soldier that went to war and how it affected his life, juxtaposed with images of Superman on Warworld just fighting, sacrificing everything to free some people who have been captured on Warworld against Mongul, and it’s just … It’s beautiful. It’s drawn beautifully. It’s so smartly written. It’s so good.

Pete:                I want to take a moment just to talk about the art alone. I mean, unbelievable, just absolutely. The character designs, Mongul and Superman, their faces … Just it fits so well with the story in such a great way. The paneling, the art flow … It’s really, really well done. I was really impressed with this book.

Alex:                 I’m surprised, Pete, that you didn’t call out Michael Avon Oeming’s art on the Midnighter story towards the back of this book, because we get kind of a little Midnighter going through time, and that seems exactly your jam.

Pete:                Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, yeah. If we can talk about that for a little bit, I mean-

Justin:              No. I’m so sorry. We just ran out of time [inaudible 00:25:19]. We don’t have time to talk about it.

Pete:                Yeah. I thought that was unbelievable. Obviously, I’m a huge Midnighter fan, but just what a cool concept, and Oeming … His art is just fantastic.

Justin:              I particularly like the old and young Midnighter versions that Oeming draws here.

Alex:                 Super fun. It was really hard for me to choose, this week. I think, again, this is a very strong week for the Future State books. I kind of want to go for Immortal Wonder Woman #2 just because-

Justin:              Another great book.

Alex:                 … I think it was a gorgeous story, Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad, art by Jen Bartel, of Wonder Woman being the, I guess, second-to-last person in the universe, and it’s just, like a lot of these things, a mission statement on Wonder Woman and what she means, but the one that I kind of left until the end and that I was like “Oh, right,” … The first issue of this was awesome, Shazam #2-

Justin:              I knew you were going to say it.

Pete:                Yeah.

Alex:                 … by Tim Sheridan and Eduardo Pansica. Fucking great. So good.

Justin:              Dark. Dark take.

Alex:                 Oh, so dark. This is like the darkest Shazam story I’ve ever read in my life, but I love it, and I love the cliffhanger that it ends off up on, the way that the characters are drawn, just terrifying throughout, of Shazam and Billy Batson being split apart, where it leaves off, where it’s leading into this Future State Black Adam book. Just put it in my veins. I’m having a blast reading it.

Justin:              I agree. I liked that too, and I know we weren’t going to talk about all of them, but I got to throw it out to Future State Catwoman #2 as well-

Alex:                 Great.

Justin:              … because it’s a great story. It’s a train robbery. We get to see Batman, Bruce Wayne, show up. Everyone thought he was dead. Catwoman reunites with him, such a great moment, great action. Onomatopoeias there for some reason, but it’s very cool. It was just great.

Alex:                 Yeah. I’ve been reading this book. The fact that it’s all set on a train, did you feel like it was more of a Snowpiercer kind of book?

Justin:              Oh, yes. That’s what. I was like “Where’s all the snow? They should be just piercing each flake?”

Pete:                I did want to ask. In Immortal Wonder Woman, the art is so amazing, and I was like “What is this reminding me of.” It reminds me a little bit of She-Ra: Princess of Power on Netflix. The way the art kind of jumps off the page is really impressive, and I really liked it.

Alex:                 Good stuff.

Justin:              It reminded me a little bit of the Green Lantern book that we love so much, Far Sector.

Pete:                Oh, yeah.

Alex:                 All right. Let’s move on, because we have a lot of other books to talk about. Thor #12 from Marvel, written by Donny Cates, art by Nic Klein, another one of my favorite books of the month, because you got Throg and Lockjaw in a huge fight with Donald Blake, who has [crosstalk 00:28:03]. So much fun just fighting through dimensions, just a blast to read, also so dark, but great.

Pete:                The art and the way Throg is drawn … Some of the action stuff is just so phenomenal, like him catching the hammer. I had so much fun with this book. I didn’t know it would be this great. I was really, really impressed. This was such a great comic.

Justin:              I mean, time to redo your frog power rankings-

Pete:                Yeah. Dude, are you kidding me?

Justin:              … because Throg’s rise, overtaking the WB frog, Kermit the, really just jumping in here with a big hammer swing.

Alex:                 I want to give a particular shout out though to the first double-page … I think it’s a double-page [inaudible 00:28:48], or maybe it’s a single page, which shows a dissected, cut-open frog-

Pete:                Oh, no.

Justin:              Yeah. It’s the first page of the issue.

Alex:                 … with Throg’s narration, and it’s talking about the legacy of Throg and all the things that he’s done and how he’ll always be remembered, and you’re reading that, and you’re like “No. What happened? What did I miss? This is terrible,” and then if you flip to the next page, it’s like “But he will not die today,” and you’re like “Oh, you son of a bitch, Donny Cates.” Great, just a great, fun little feint right there at the top of the book, just delightful to read.

Justin:              Well, it’s very fun to have Throg be such a badass but also Throg get his little tail-less ass kicked in the middle of the issue, but Donny Cates is having so much fun in all of his work, really, but this issue particularly, and then the last panel I thought-

Pete:                Oh, man.

Justin:              I thought it was so cool, and this is a shout out to anybody, I don’t know, for maybe one person who listens to this podcast, but Odin at the end of this issue looks like Key lime pie Steve, who drinks in B61 back in the day, a bar I used to bartend at, so much that it took me out of the issue for a hot sec.

Pete:                Wow.

Alex:                 That’s amazing. Let’s move on to another book then, Excellence #10 from Image Comics, written by Brandon Thomas, art by Khary Randolph. We’ve been loving this book, which is a very different, very spectacular take on magic. In this book, our main character is still on the run, still in bigger trouble every single issue. As we talked about with the last couple, they not exactly stepped away from this, but sort of layered this in without explicitly saying how much this book was about race and racism, and now they’re starting to hit it hard, and it is so good.

Pete:                This is phenomenal. I mean, the art and the paneling and the storytelling is great, the action sequences. I mean, there’s this one page where someone gets just Street Fighter punched and is like “Fuck what you thought.” I’ve wanted to do that to somebody for so long. It’s just so great, so much fun.

Justin:              Sonic boom. You want to sonic boom someone.

Pete:                Oh, man, do I.

Justin:              Yes. I mean, I agree. The way this comic approaches race is so smart, so good, but I don’t want to lose the other side of it. The way this comic approaches magic is also just a philosophizing about it and really going deep on all of the subjects that are sort of on the table in this comic. It really just is such a smartly written book and beautifully drawn. One of my favorites.

Alex:                 Next up, Once & Future #16 from Boom! Studios, written by Kieron Gillen, art by Dan Mora. Pete, there’s a badass grandma in this one. You want to talk about this book?

Pete:                I mean, if you’re not-

Alex:                 You love grannies.

Pete:                If you’re not reading this book-

Alex:                 You’ve got a real grandma fetish, one might say. Go ahead.

Justin:              Yeah.

Pete:                If you’re not reading this book at this point, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. This book is just magic. Every time, every issue, unbelievable art, unbelievable storytelling, action packed, twisting and turning stories that you know and love in different ways. Yeah. I cannot wait for this to be a movie or a TV show. I need more Once & Future in my life.

Justin:              “If you’re not dating a badass grandma at this point, what are you doing with your life,” Pete says and wonders. This is maybe the most consistent comic book on the stands right now, and I mean that in a good way.

Alex:                 Yeah. I agree. This issue continues to be great, unfolding the mythology of the book. Super, super fun.

Alex:                 Let’s move on to one I’m very excited to chat with both of you about for very different reasons, X-Men Legends #1 from Marvel, written by Fabian Nicieza, art by Brett Booth. Here’s what this book is. First of all, this is a new book that Marvel is launching which finishes or continues stories that are in continuity. This is an in-continuity X-Men story that Fabian Nicieza began almost 30 years ago and never got to finish about the third Summers brother, which, spoiler, we get confirmation here is in fact Adam X the X-Treme.

Justin:              Finally.

Alex:                 Finally. So the thing that I’m very curious about is this felt like the perfect synthesis of things that the two of you like about X-Men. Pete, it’s a bunch of X-Men killing each other and fighting each other in classic style. Justin, Adam X the X-Treme is in it. What’d you guys think about this book?

Justin:              I will not rest until Adam X the X-Treme is hanging out on Krakoa, because this guy’s going to be the number-one get on fuck island.

Alex:                 Didn’t you like him? Am I wrong about that?

Justin:              No. I mean, it’s a very ’90s character. He’s a backwards-

Pete:                It’s Justin turned up to 11 is what it is. He’s got his hat backwards. He’s doing hand stands, wearing tight T-shirts. This is all Justin.

Justin:              That’s very funny, Pete, and maybe makes me rethink a lot of my self worth, but yeah. I mean, I do like the character. I liked the introduction of this character back in the day, and so I appreciate that they’re going back and making it real, and also this comic looks like it happened already. This looks like it’s straight out of the ’90s.

Pete:                Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Justin:              [crosstalk 00:34:20].

Alex:                 I got to tell you. When I was putting together the stack and sending stuff to you guys, I looked this is, and I was like “Is this a reprint? What’s happening? Is this a reprint? What’s going on?”-

Pete:                Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Alex:                 … and I did way too much research for just sending you guys a comic to be like “I got to make 100 percent sure this is actually a new book and not something that came out 30 years ago.”

Justin:              But let me say the meticulous dedication to the poses that Cyclops is in are straight out of the ’90s. Cable shows up here for sort of no reason. The Starjammers are in this, and it’s like “Oh, of course. Why not?” They’re just hanging around. It’s perfect. It’s a perfect version of what it is.

Pete:                I thought this was a reprint, and then I scrolled down. I was like “Oh. Jordan D. White. This is real. Let’s go.”

Alex:                 What’d you think, Pete?

Pete:                This was just ’90s, over-the-top stuff, and I was just like “You know, it’s a fun blast from the past,” like “Oh, I remember when comics-“

Alex:                 What do you want, Pete? What do you want out of an X-Men book?

Justin:              What makes you happy?

Alex:                 I don’t even understand at this point.

Pete:                You know, I was like “Yeah, but we’ve evolved from this. Why would you go back here?”

Justin:              What? Just because hub cap and tippy toe and the other Joes aren’t in this, can’t you enjoy this for what it is?

Pete:                First off, G.I. Joe and X-Men are completely different. How dare you?

Alex:                 Are they? They both have very stupid names.

Pete:                Sure. Sure. That doesn’t mean that they are stupid though.

Justin:              That’s true. The thing is, all the X-Men are named non-compound words, and all the G.I. Joes are named compound words.

Pete:                Yeah. Yeah.

Alex:                 Great. I’m glad we settled that. Let’s move on and talk about Aria: Heavenly Creatures from Image Comics-

Pete:                Oh, here we go.

Alex:                 … written by Brian Holguin, art by Jay Anacleto and Brian Haberlin. This is a very Top Cow book.

Pete:                What is this? What did you make us do here?

Alex:                 It’s a very Top Cow book. It’s about-

Justin:              Perhaps the most Top Cow book.

Alex:                 Yes. It’s a fairy teaming up kind of with a witchblade, but not exactly a witchblade, in Victorian times, and it’s a little bit sexy, but not too sexy. So you can feel okay reading it but be like-

Pete:                No. You shouldn’t.

Alex:                 … “Oh, this is sexy.”

Pete:                You shouldn’t feel okay reading it.

Alex:                 I don’t know. I enjoyed reading this. I was surprised how much by the end I was like “Yeah. This is silly, but I’m having a fun time.”

Justin:              Alex has been missing watching soft core pornography, apparently-

Pete:                Yeah. I think so.

Justin:              … because that’s very-

Pete:                This is just fucking boob comics.

Justin:              Alex, because you put this in the stack, you should have to go read this on the Subway right now.

Pete:                Yeah. You should. Yeah. You should-

Justin:              You should have to go ride the Subway and read this.

Pete:                … [crosstalk 00:36:54] up and down the line. Yeah.

Alex:                 Yeah. Watching a little Skinemax on my phone while I’m doing it.

Justin:              Just listening. Just listening to the Skinemax. That’s all you need.

Alex:                 Yeah. Okay.

Pete:                Yeah. Watching USA Up All Night.

Alex:                 Great.

Justin:              Pete.

Alex:                 Thanks for the review, guys.

Justin:              No. I mean, the heart of this book … This book is … It has such a vibe.

Pete:                It’s just boobs.

Justin:              Well, but there is a lot of that, but it has such a vibe, which I recognize that, and the art is so specific to what it is. I liked reading it. I’m not shitting on it, but it’s very funny that you’re like “This is good,” because there’s a lot of poses where people be showing off their bodies.

Alex:                 Me? No. I’m not saying it’s good, necessarily. I’m just saying I had fun reading it.

Justin:              This is the-

Alex:                 There’s a big Victorian werewolf who eats people. What?

Justin:              Yeah. That part’s cool. This is the OnlyFans of comic books, if you want to get in on that.

Alex:                 The Last Ronin #2 from IDW, story by-

Pete:                Here we go.

Alex:                 … Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, and Tom Waltz, script by Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman, layouts by Kevin Eastman, pencils and inks by Esau and Isaac Escorza, Ben Bishop, and Kevin Eastman. This is, of course, continuing the story of the last turtle left alive. We got a cliffhanger in the last issue that April O’Neil is also alive, and we find out a lot more about that here. Pete, over to you.

Pete:                All right. So first off, you can’t have enough varying covers. You need varying covers. you need tons of them, and you need like 20 pages of it. No. I’m just so happy that Eastman and Laird have teamed back up to give us another turtle book. I could give a shit if it’s any good or not. This is good. I’m loving every single moment of it, and it goes back to the black-and-white stuff. I am just in heaven, and it’s just so great. I feel like I’m back in time and a little kid reading this in my bed. So it’s just glorious, and I don’t care if anybody doesn’t like it or not. This is just my jam.

Justin:              It’s very funny that you say you feel like you’re a little kid reading this, because this book is about being old, the images of Michelangelo, no longer a party dude, where he’s just super wrinkly, he’s all wrinkles, and they’re just like “Remember? Oh, it’s so great to be alive. Now we’re old. I have a robot hand.” It’s a wild read, but it’s good.

Alex:                 Yeah. I like this a lot. Definitely when it got to the flashback portion and the old-school turtles title, I was like “Oh, Pete’s going to like this.”

Pete:                Oh, my god. It was so great.

Alex:                 But it’s good. Like you’re saying, there’s a lot of danger there. There’s a lot of nostalgia there. It’s definitely way better than it could have been for a story that they had sitting on the shelf for decades at this point, but a lot of fun.

Alex:                 Let’s move on, talk about Black Widow #5 from Marvel, written by Kelly Thompson, art by Elena Casagrande with Rafael de Latorre. This, hands down, these fives issues, is one of the best Black Widow stories I have ever read in my entire life.

Justin:              A hundred percent. I have loved this series so much. My favorite issue of the week. The way that this took Black Widow, who has sort of really tread this ground of “Well, someone captured her and erased her memories and reset her in a way that is difficult for her to come to grips with,” took that premise, and just emotionally elevated it to a point where you really feel for these characters, all of them. Even we have Hawkeye in here, who is straight up killing people, which I didn’t know he did all the time. Maybe that was a special.

Alex:                 Do you think he just kind of tapped people with his arrows?

Pete:                Yeah. How did you-

Justin:              Well, he usually hits them in the shoulder or the knee. In this, he’s just like “Sorry, dude. Right in your frigging eye.” But you get to see him-

Alex:                 Your good eye too.

Justin:              Your good eye, your shooting eye. You get to see him be emotional here. You get to see Winter Soldier, which I love the Black Widow Winter, Soldier relationship. I look back fondly on the Ed Brubaker days of that, and to have it be sort of touched on here is super sad, but really, Black Widow … You’re just feeling so much for her. I love the setup of the multiple Black Widows going forward. Truly, pick up this series.

Alex:                 Pete?

Pete:                Yeah. I mean, it’s really great. The art’s unbelievable. Amazing story, very touching. I really hope the movie is exactly like this run, and I will be very happy. Also-

Justin:              Pete, that movie came out last year. Did you not watch it?

Pete:                I didn’t. I didn’t. I was-

Alex:                 Oh, really? It perfectly set up Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which also came out last year.

Pete:                Huh. I guess I just was born today then, I guess.

Alex:                 I guess so.

Justin:              That’s true.

Alex:                 Anyway, before we-

Pete:                I just want to point out though, they’re on a carousel for one panel here, and there’s a cat with this fish in his mouth, and I was just on a carousel with a cat and a fish in his mouth, and I didn’t know that was a thing. So that was weird seeing that it’s a real thing. Did you know that was a thing?

Alex:                 What?

Justin:              I don’t know that what you just said is a thing. I don’t know the words you said is a sentence.

Pete:                Well, usually when you go on a carousel, they got horses, you got different animals you can ride, but I was like “Why the fuck is there a cat with a fish in its mouth that you can ride? This is crazy.” I’ve never seen it before, and then I went from riding that cat with a fish in his mouth to then seeing it in this comic book, and I was like “Life is weird.”

Alex:                 Why were you at a carousel in the middle of a pandemic?

Justin:              That’s the real question.

Pete:                Valentine’s Day, and we had the carousel to ourselves, motherfuckers.

Justin:              I bet you took-

Alex:                 Oh, that is very romantic.

Justin:              Yes. I bet you took a lot of carouselfies.

Alex:                 Nice. Before we wrap up here, let’s finish up with an accidental Kelly Thompson block. Sara the Teenage … Sara.

Justin:              Sara.

Pete:                Sara.

Alex:                 Goodnight. Goodnight.

Justin:              Sara the Teenage Human.

Alex:                 Sabrina the Teenage Witch #2 from Archie Comics, written by Kelly Thompson, art by Veronica Fish and Andy Fish. This is finishing up the Something Wicked arc. Pete, you are showing us pictures of this cat and fish, but we cannot see them. They are too bright.

Justin:              Yeah. Pete-

Pete:                Okay. Well-

Justin:              … I don’t want to see all these Valentine’s Day pictures. I know you have an active love and sex life. Please keep it to yourself.

Alex:                 This is a good wrap-up to this book. I’ve really enjoyed it. I think, like we’ve talked about before, it’s the perfect fusion of the Archie Comics style and the TV show style. It hits the nice middle ground there, and that continues with this issue. There’s also a nice cliffhanger here that made me very poignant for the end of the Netflix series.

Pete:                Yeah. I love this. This is really great, and to me, sometimes when you have these characters that are way in over their heads and fighting these battles they don’t really belong in, Sabrina really pulls it off in a way that you can get behind and don’t think it’s like “Oh, this is just weird.” I’m really impressed with the way that they do Sabrina, not only in this comic, but in this run. So great. The art’s unbelievable. Really fun storytelling, and makes me miss the TV show.

Justin:              Yeah. Talking cat, but still good.

Pete:                Oh, yeah. The talking cat was great. That line was really funny.

Alex:                 If you’d like to support our show, patreon.com/comicbookclub. Also, we do a live show every Tuesday night at 7:00 PM to Crowdcast and YouTube. Come hang out. We would love to chat with you about comics. iTunes, Android, Spotify, Stitcher or the app of your choice to subscribe and listen to the show, @comicbooklive on Twitter, comicbookclublive.com for this podcast and many more.

Alex:                 Until next time, we’ll see you at the virtual comic book shop.

Justin:              Hub cap.

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