Comics Load: Mourning Becomes Kevin Keller

Greetings, Comics Load fans! We’re adding a new little feature to the Load that I hope you’ll enjoy. Starting this week, Brian and I will each select a Book of the Week to begin our reviews. I expect it will become a highly coveted position in the comics industry, and you’ll soon see “FBOTU Book of the Week” stamped on those comics lucky enough to get our approval. However, power and glory aren’t our only goals…this time. We know money is tight, and comics don’t cost a nickel anymore, like when I was a kid. So, if you’re going to spend $2.99-$3.99 of your hard-earned cash on one book, we want to give you some solid recommendations to start with. It’ll be cool. Now, sit back, relax and enjoy this week’s Load!

Brian‘s Load image

image Brian’s Book of the Week
The New Avengers: Fear Itself #15

What a fun comic! Every now and then writer Brian Michael Bendis pulls out a completely left-of-center wacka-do story about a completely “nobody” character and writes the &%$* out of it. Who knew that Squirrel Girl (yeah you read that right, Squirrel Girl) could make for such an action-packed, humorous and thrilling tale? Frankly, I know pretty much zero about little miss Squirrel Girl, but seeing her take down Wolverine, battle giant robots and brave the stares and scorn of everyday non-squirrel college-aged-people, only helps to make our little miss hero even more of a hero in her own right. Seeing her front and center in an A-list team book like the Avengers speaks to my young, loser-kid heart. Pick this book up, sit back and enjoy a fun, compelling and, dare I say it, inspirational read.
image X-Men #15.1

Lady Ghost Rider, the X-Men, Pixie and Moonstar (of the New Mutants) all round out this issue’s cast for one of the zaniest comics in years. And the funny part is that this issue is meant to be a jumping-on point for new readers, one that isn’t supposed to be bogged down by the dreaded “C” word (and no I don’t mean that “C” word, or that “C” word, or even that “C” word. I’m talking continuity, pervs, one that sums up what this comic is about in a single issue, so that new readers will be compelled to come back for seconds. Yet this book has little to nothing to do with the X-Men’s core theme—the idea that they are outcast mutants struggling to make a difference in a world that fears and hates them—it’s just your run-of-the-mill evil demons attacking a dying old lady story. Like we haven’t read that a million times over! Only this time around we have the fire-headed, skull-girl Ghost Riderette. Yeah, perfect! Welcome, new readers!
image X-Men: Legacy #253

You know what kills me about this book? Somehow, Magik (of the New Mutants) is in X-Men Utopia jail for being a dangerous mutant who threatened the lives of all the X-Men with her schemes. Meanwhile, Legion is running around scott-free, despite having changed the entire world—twisting everyone into different versions of themselves and making them experience awful things in the Age of X storyline that ran a few months back—causing all kinds of havoc and hurting innocent people. Huh? How does that make sense? Personally, I think Legion and his multiple personalities are far more of a threat than my darling, my beloved, my adored Magik ever was, or is. But I may be biased. The story does end with Rogue heading into deep space, so you know the Shi’ar aren’t far behind! Bring on the feather heads!
image Cloak & Dagger #1

Now, this is how you write the hell out of a story! Writer Nick Spencer has to have been created by a comic-book-loving scientist in a lab or something, because boy can he write his nips off like few others can. The enthralling story sails along from start to finish, completely letting readers in on the duo’s rich comic history, while updating their present and moving them forward into the future. It was clever, it had action, it had emotional struggles, it had lovely art by Emma Rios. It was, and should be, the blueprint for how you write a great story using characters that aren’t quite A-list-y. As a side note, C&D’s limited series back in the 80s was one of the first comics I ever bought as a skinny little pre-teen budding comic fan. I can vividly recall bringing the comic to my grandparent’s house during spring break while I worked selling cherries from their fruit stand. That was back when comics where 65 cents. And back when Cloak and Dagger fought drug dealers, pimps, child sex-slavers and spent a lot of time busting people in porn shops who watched ladies dance and do nasty things. Hey, no wonder I turned out so perverted! Thanks, Cloak and Daggs!
image Kevin Keller #2

For such a light, fluffy, cute story about our resident gay in the Archie Universe, I sure got chocked up, and I’ll admit, a bit teary-eyed while riding San Francisco’s public transportation to work. I was completely caught off guard by how emotional I found this sweet story. I was also keenly aware of how embarrassing it was to be quietly crying over a comic book in front of dozens of strangers. Anyhoot, this was, as I stated, a fluffy story, but one that touched the little gay boy in my cold, near-dead heart when I read how much a military manly man could care about and love his gay son. If only all dads could be as great at Mr. Keller, Senior. *sniff*
image DC Retroactive: Justice League of America #1

Back when I was still a young, skinny, four-eyed nerd, I picked up an issue of this much-reviled version of the JLA, and I loved it. For me, this is the Justice League. I had no idea these characters were all new, never tested and deeply hated. I just knew that they were heroes and they were part of Aquaman’s team. I remember how much of a jerk I thought Aquaman was (much like all devastatingly hot guys are), and how weird his wife’s flipper feet were, and how much I adored Vixen. The back-up reprint of Vixen’s battle with her big bull uncle was the moment I knew that I loved the character and that I would be a JLA fan for life. Of course, this era of the JLA didn’t last long, as we soon transitioned over to the funny version of the group (the Bwahaha version) that I also collected and enjoyed, but for one brief moment in time, this Justice League of America team, and Vixen’s sexy dreadlocks, sealed my fate as a long-time comics reader! Thanks, Detroit JLA!

Chance‘s Load image

image Chance’s Book of the Week
Detective Comics #881

This—THIS!—my friends is how you do a finale. Holy psycho siblings, Batman! Bat-Dick is in a race against time to stop James Gordon, Jr. from slowly stabbing his sister Barbara to death. If the daggers in her legs don’t kill her, then surely his long-winded explanation of his crimes against Batmanity will. Yes, his villain monologue is a tad long, but it actually serves a great purpose, because even if you haven’t read a single issue of this story arc, you get all the info you need in this final gritty, grisly conclusion. Plus, this is a nice little curtain call for our boy Dick. Bruce is nowhere to be seen in this issue, which is perfect, since Dick deserves a little recognition for holding Gotham and the extended Bat family together all this time. Great stuff! Don’t miss it!
image Alpha Flight #3

I’ve only been sort of half-following the Canadian political intrigue going on in this series. But you know what really gets my attention? Crazy-ass Aurora having a full-blown Black Swan throwdown with her alternate personality Jeanne-Marie. We’re talking mirror shard in the gut here, kids. That’s really become the cure of choice for multiple personality disorder lately, so I expect the American Psychiatric Association will be recommending it in a journal soon. Or, in this case, the Canadian Psychiatric Association. Either way, now I know that when the voices in my head start calling me a whore, it’s time to break a mirror. (P.S. When did the Beaubier twins get their pointy ears back? Did I miss it?)
image Batgirl #24

Really? REALLY?! This is not the finale that Steph deserves. After all she’s been through and accomplished, all she gets is a couple of pages of dialogue with her mom, then a bunch of goofy pin-ups and splash pages, then a couple of pages of dialogue with Barbara? That’s it? No crazy Wendy coming back for revenge? No resolution with Tim? There is one pinup that shows an older Steph with a Tim-esque kid who could just as easily have been Dick-esque or Damian-esque. At least Damian gets the briefest of cameos in this issue to sort of wrap-up his love/hate relationship with our girl. Sorry, Steph. You deserved better.
image Fear Itself #5

“Hey, Beardo—suck it!” –Spider-Man

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that… Anyway, Matt Fraction’s epic(?) summer event continues, and all heck is breaking loose, and there’s a lot of fighting to be done. This chapter is called “Brawl” after all, and it delivers. Tony Stark lets Odin have it. Thor lets the Hulk and the Thing have it. Sin lets Cap have it. Spidey lets Beardo have it. It really feels like all hope is lost. But this is Book 5 of 7, so things are bound to get worse before they magically get better. Since this event has the potential to kill off some more characters, I took it upon myself to fax a few helpful suggestions to Mr. Fraction. I’ve respectfully requested he kill off all gamma-powered, spider-powered and armor-powered characters. And I’ve asked him to keep all the adamantium-powered, Norse-powered and Emma Frost-powered ones. You’re welcome.
image Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons #3

Where do I start? The conclusion of this Flashpoint re-imagining of the inevitable homoerotic destiny of Dick Grayson does not disappoint. This is the only Flashpoint title I’ve been reading, but if the rest of them were this gay, I’d totally read more. In flashback, Dick’s dad assures him that “New tricks always feel strange and even scary. Just remember—you have to learn to miss the jump before you learn to make the jump.” Well, not since “Just be nice to the gentlemen, Fancy, and they’ll be nice to you” has a parent given such good advice to their kid about handling new tricks. Seriously, from the cover art of Dick being swallowed by Boston to the prolonged scene of Dick running away from the villainous women (while clutching a phallic-shaped helmet) to Boston entering Dick’s body to help him escape from said women to a final shot of both Boston and Dick gently caressing the helmet, this is pure gay comics gold.
image Kevin Keller #2

In the second issue of the Archie Comics ground-breaking series featuring Riverdale’s newest resident, Kevin and his mom are in the midst of planning a surprise party for Kev’s dad. Well, you can’t have a party in Riverdale without Veronica! So, of course, she swoops in and takes over with hilarious—I’M SORRY, I CAN’T DO THIS. I thought I could just breeze through this review, but if you’ve read this issue, you know I can’t just let this pass. Am I the only one who thinks that Kevin is just way too into his dad? It’s getting creepy. Like borderline Electra complex creepy. Kevin writes essays and articles about his dad, puts together a scrapbook for his birthday and plans to follow in his footsteps just as soon as the whole DADT thing gets sorted out. He even “accidentally” stuffs a few pages from his epic book about his dad in the scrapbook for pop to find. Even Kevin’s sister finds all of this strange, summing up Kevin’s birthday tithes and offerings as “awkward.” That’s an understatement, sister. You’d think Kevin would have a few kind words for his mother, too. You know, the woman who raised two kids by herself while military dad was away? But no, Kevin’s heart belongs to daddy. Good luck with that, kid. Personally, I find your obsession with the pater familias a little too pater familiar.
image Red Robin #26

I liked the concept here, if not the execution. I feel like we’ve already seen Tim pull himself back from the edge a few times, so upping the ante with the man who killed his father doesn’t have the full impact I think they were going for. More than any of the other Batboys, Tim has the potential to pull an Anakin and go all dark side. There’s a fine, fine line between supergenius and supervillain (believe me, I know), and I hope the new Red Robin retains some of that struggle and ambiguity. Tim’s murky morality doesn’t go unnoticed, of course, and old Brucey has to show up and do what he does best: withhold approval. Thanks, Bruce. Why don’t you go back to your prehistoric cave? You know, the one Tim rescued you from.