Comic Review: Black Cloud #1, Kim Reaper #1, and X-men Gold #1

Kim Reaper #1
Oni Press
Story by Sarah Graley

What a wonderful surprise! At first I thought I was reading a new Caitlyn Rose Boyle book. Their art style and use of manga comic conventions is so similar that I was shocked to discover that it wasn’t Boyle at all but someone that I had never heard of before. So I quickly went to the Google machine and spent about a half hour following through her equally wonderful autobiographical cartoon “Our Super Adventure” before remembering that I was supposed to be writing a review here and I should probably get back to that.

Now the premise for the book has been done before. The titular character is a young inexperienced Assistant to Death. And Death as a cute goth girl is practically a Neil Gaiman trademark. But there is something very fresh and accessible about this comic. The humour is very hip. Very Adult Swim. My daughter immediately pulled out several quotes that will probably find their way into her regular repertoire.

“You’re missing the thing!”

She was also incredibly chuffed to discover that one of the main characters is gay (or as she put it “Lesbians!” squealed with glee). Seeing more people like her in comics is incredibly important to her. And it’s an issue that I’ve become more aware of as a comic reader.

This book is just fun. Over-the-top crazy fun. Well worth checking out.

Black Cloud #1
Image Comics
Written by Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon
Art by Greg Hinkle and Matt Wilson

There appears to a Renaissance of urban fantasy going on right now. And I’m alright with that. There are lots of cool stories being set in the modern day that mix in fantasy or supernatural elements to drive the narrative. Black Cloud is certainly one of those. But what Black Cloud does that really sets it apart from other Urban Fantasy stories is it takes real advantage of the sequential art medium. Colour is a presence in the book. Colour is a tangible thing. Moving from colour to a grey scale in order to differentiate the ‘real world’ from the ‘fantasy’ isn’t just a cool artistic choice. It is a narrative plot point. It has function.

Is telling you how I think it functions a spoiler? Probably. But since it’s mostly a guess at this point I’m going to float it out there anyway. I’m pretty sure that our main character has access to a dream state collective subconscious sort of place. And Latour is playing with the idea that some people dream in colour and some in black and white. Our main character is a lucid dreamer.

Now when your story is adrift in fantasy, it is really important that your characters are real. And she is. Her flaws anchor the story. Make it relatable.

There is a part that kinda bugged me though. I’m not sure if it is a plot point or a mistake but it feels like a mistake to me. Names are important in this world. That is established. And we’re never told the main character’s name. But there comes a point where another character uses her name calls her “Ms. Barrett” and there’s absolutely no way that I can see that he should know her name. We –the reader- didn’t know it. We never see her using it. She’s homeless. Broke. On the street. So how does the Mayor know her name? It just seemed completely out of place. Jarringly so for me.

Hopefully it is a plot point. Or Latour and Brandon can turn it into one. But right now that is the only flaw in an otherwise great world building issue.

X-Men Gold #1
Marvel Comics
Written by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Ardian Syaf and Jay Leisten

Marvel is hoping that Marc Guggenheim can bring some of his DC television series magic to a Marvel franchise that has been languishing of late. And I think that he succeeds. We’re only one issue in so it’s hard to say for certain but this issue hit all of the right nostalgia notes for me as a long time reader.

The X-men were what got me into comics. Uncanny X-men #143 was the first comic that I ever bought with my own money. From that moment till this one, I’ve been hooked. I love comics. I love what you can do with comics. The stories that you can tell. I always wanted to write them and as the reality that I’m never going to get to do that slowly and painfully settled in, I opened a comic store so that I could –at least tangentially- be a part of this thing that I love so much.

And I love the X-men. So when Marvel announced a complete overhaul of the X-men line with new books –I was dubious. How many reboots do we need? Who isn’t going through reboot fatigue at this point?

But this book… this book… made me hope that maybe this time it would be different. This time it wasn’t just a marketing scheme dreamt up in a board room by people in suits surrounded by graphs of zig-zagging red lines.

This book feels like it is being done by someone that loves comics.

And the art! The art is clean and beautiful. It’s almost too beautiful. There’s no way that Syaf and Leisten can keep producing this quality on a monthly basis. Can they? Something has got to give.

So this isn’t so much a review as it is a plea. Please. Please don’t mess this up. Please let the X-men be heroes again.

And If you’ve read the comic, you know that it ends with a super-villain team reveal. So who wants to play ‘Name the villains” with me? Is that Magma? (once of the New Mutants)

Update: So, of course, there is controversy with this issue. Apparently the artist slipped some Anti-Semitic/Anti-Christian “Easter eggs” into his art. That is incredibly disappointing. Particularly since this team of the X-men is being led by Kitty Pryde, a well-established Jewish character. I wonder if Marvel will try to recall the issues and change the art with a re-issue.

More thoughts on this in a later blog post.

Bullet Reviews:
Eleanor and the Egret #1 (Aftershock Comics): A whimsical and fun book. It reminds me of the French series ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec’. (A movie you should hunt down and watch if you haven’t seen it!) There’s no mistaking Sam Kieth’s art.

Avengers #6 (Marvel Comics): Love the team. Solid ending to the first arc but not really digging the art. It’s beautiful but not very functional. Glad that Hercules has found someplace to land.

Iron Fist #2 (Marvel Comics): Building on the first issue! Now I’m excited by the possibility of Rand losing the Iron Fist and becoming a new Immortal Weapon for a new Immortal City. How crazy would that be?

Spider-man/Deadpool #16 (Marvel Comics): Ugh. Can this crossover end please. Do not want. Am not liking.

Uber: Invasion #5 (Avatar Press): Kieron Gillen is a wonderful storyteller and the art on this book is amazing. A couple issues back I felt a little queasy reading the comic. That had never happened to me before. Having a real visceral reaction to what I was reading.

Aquaman #20 (DC Comics): This and ‘Red Hood’ continue to impress. Easily one of the strongest books that DC is putting out right now.


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