Friday, April 24, 2015

What's On My Pull List? (Curb Stomp, Spider-Gwen, and More!)

It's been a while since we did one of these, and I figure it's high time I update you on the comics that have made it onto my pull list at the Local Comic Book Shop of Awesome (also known as the Comic Stop - they're Seattle based and seriously rad). You can find the previous incarnations of this list here, here, and here

So for those of you new to us here and who don't know your comics lingo, a pull list is a list of comics that you have decided that you like and are pre-ordering through your local comic shop (LCS). Some shops let you do this for free, others ask for a nominal yearly subscription, but pretty much every comic shop I've ever heard of is one hundred percent okay with you telling them ahead of time what comics you want and will buy.

Why? Because for them, this is guaranteed business. They only have to buy the comics that people actually want, they get really good feedback on what people like and want to read more of, and the publisher knows in advance how well their book is going to sell. Plus, for you, you don't have to think much every week, you just show up and buy a stack of comics that have already been "pulled" from the shelves for you. Get it? It's like getting yourself a present every Wednesday!

Now, I am well aware of the fact that my pull list is more extensive than yours is apt to ever be. That's okay. I have pretty broad taste, and I make a point to budget for comics. Comics are a really easy way to tell companies like Marvel and DC what stories you like - when you pre-order you're sending a message that you approve of they way they interpret a certain character or storyline. And this can be seriously great. I mean, so many people pre-ordered Lumberjanes that the series was quickly bumped up from an eight issue mini to an ongoing series. That's great!

Plus, with the popularity of comic book movies right now, you can bet your butt that the film studios are watching to see which comics do well in stores. That will give them ideas on what to adapt for the next big project. Heck, Ms. Marvel has done so well in the past year or so that it's now rumored to be getting its own show on ABC. Just a rumor for now, but that's huge.

So, without further ado, these are the comics that I've added to my list lately. Some of them are limited run, some are ongoing, and all of them are fabulous.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl - Marvel - written by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson

If you've never heard of Squirrel Girl, you're in good company. Pretty much no one had up until a couple of months ago, but it turns out that Squirrel Girl, or Doreen Green as she goes by in normal life, is basically the best Marvel superhero to come around in ages. Her superpowers are weird - she has the proportional speed and strength of a squirrel, as well as being able to talk to them - and she's kind of nuts, but that just makes the story fantastic.

And seriously, I cannot stress this enough, the story is fantastic. The first four issues have Doreen moving into her college dorm in New York City, only to be called away when the network of squirrel astronomers informs her that Galactus is approaching planet Earth and intends to eat it. But as she goes to defeat Galactus (and bear in mind that her superpowers are basically being a squirrel sort of), she also runs into Kraven the Hunter, Whiplash, some bank robbers, Tony Stark's security system, and more. It's pretty much silly ridiculous fun all the way through, but by no means is that a put down. No, this book is delightful and hilarious and you will love it.

Also, it's worth noting that Doreen is far from the superhero siren we're used to seeing. Her costume is full coverage, she herself has a relatively normal body type, and the comic itself is populated with a diverse cast of interesting people - basically, it's unusual in all the best ways. Pro tip: there is a tiny bit of flavor text at the bottom of each page. It's easy to miss but it's hilarious so you should totally read it.

In general, to be frank, you should totally read all of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl because your life will be much happier if you do. This might be the most positively I've endorsed anything since Pacific Rim.

Lady Killer - Dark Horse - written by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich, art by Joelle Jones

So on a completely different tone, Lady Killer is a dark comedy look at the world of the 1950s housewife - if the prototypical 1950s housewife were an assassin working for a shady pseudo-governmental agency. It's a weird book, but it's great.

Our heroine is Josie Schuler, a lovely, loving housewife. Her husband does some kind of office work. She has two adorable blonde daughters. Her mother-in-law lives with them and Josie cares for her...about as much as you would care for your elderly, German, cranky mother-in-law. The twist, of course, is that Josie is also an assassin. Under the cover of selling makeup for Avon and "volunteering" at the "hospital", Josie goes off and performs secret missions for somebody or other, killing bad people and disposing of the bodies. Half the fun of the book is honestly just in the thrill of seeing someone in fifties housewife drag do incredibly violent things.

But the books do have more depth than I'm suggesting here. Josie, for starters, isn't doing all of this randomly, and her connection to the shady organization comes into question pretty quickly. Why is she an assassin? How the heck did she get this job? Those are all very good questions, and the book makes it clear that they will be answered.

Plus, there's a lot of drama to be mined from Josie's traversal of post-war gender roles. She has to play the part of the perfect housewife just to fit in, but there's also a sense that she enjoys her life. She really and truly loves her husband and children. She likes being a wife and mother, it's just that she also likes killing people for money. Truly, I can relate.

Well, actually I can. Because the beauty of this story is that it uses the absurdity of Josie's situation to actually make some good points about the struggle of home-work divide for working parents, specifically working mothers. Does being a mother who works make you a bad parent? Do you need to spend all your time at work thinking about how much you miss your children? Is this okay? It's pretty cool to see all of this addressed, and I don't mind that Josie is also just a deeply entertaining character to read. She's sassy and weird and it's great.

Spider-Gwen - Marvel - written by Jason Latour, written by Robbi Rodriguez

Aaand, there are a ton of these so I'm going to have to be more concise from here on! Okay. Spider-Gwen is about an alternate universe in which Peter Parker never became Spiderman. Instead, Gwen Stacy was bitten by a radioactive spider and now she has superpowers. Also Peter Parker was fridged before the comic even started, and Gwen is deeply and meaningfully upset over his death. It causes her angst. Just like, you know, it's always told where Gwen dies so that Peter can have angst. Ah, reversals.

Anyway, the story is mostly about Gwen figuring out how to balance crime-fighting with her normal life. This is made especially hard when your father is a cop, as hers is, and when you're still a student with a life and responsibilities. Gwen's up against some pretty tough foes, not least of all the Daily Bugle, which seems to loathe spider people in any reality. 

Oh, and did I mention that Gwen is in a band? It's called The MaryJanes, it's a punk band, she's the drummer. This book is super fun, the art is fantastic eye candy, and it's just a wonderful look at an alternate universe where the girl gets to live.

Sirens - BOOM! Studios - written by George Pérez, art by George Pérez

I'm going to be completely honest: I do not get Sirens. I mean, I keep buying it, so clearly something in here is compelling to me, but I do not understand this book and I don't want to imply to you that I do. I really, really, really don't.

Still, as far as I can tell, it's interesting? Sirens is, I think, about a group of intergallactic warrior women superheroes who have all been gathered for one last battle against the forces of darkness. They come from all different times and worlds, and they have all different powers, but each of them is a Siren, a beautiful, deadly, skilled warrior who will totally succeed in fighting...whatever it is that they're fighting.

Not gonna lie, this book is bonkers. It's huge walls of text, completely impenetrable story, and art that kind of makes me cringe. But. It's doing something weird and unusual, which I genuinely appreciate. Plus, it's a comic entirely about badass women. Sure, I have no idea what these women are doing or who the hell they are, but they are badass and it is worth at least glancing at. Maybe you'll make more sense of it than I have.

Bitch Planet - Image - written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, art by Valentine De Landro

This comic I do understand, and I love it. Bitch Planet imagines a world in the not-distant-enough future where all non-compliant women are sent off world to "Bitch Planet", a space station devoted to reforming them and helping them to become "useful members of society." What makes the story interesting is that all of these women are in jail not for actual crime, but for the crime of being "non-compliant". Which means that they're there for being something society disapproves of.

The world of Bitch Planet is horrifying, but in very recognizable ways. The whole world is run by old white men who like to categorize people's appearances and choices and criminalize women who are fat or have bad hair or don't like shaving. They saturate the media with images of over-sexualized, hyper-feminine, utterly unrealistic "ideals" and then punish women for not conforming. Any woman who speaks up is deemed non-compliant and sent to be straightened out. The newest fad is getting a tapeworm. That sort of thing.

The actual plot is about the women of Bitch Planet staging a coup and gaining back their dignity, but it's a slow burn. A great burn, but a slow one. Still, worth the ride, and the backstory issues are seriously amazing. Definitely check it out.

Princess Leia - Marvel - written by Mark Waid, art by Terry Dodson

I will be the first to admit that I don't really care much about Star Wars. But I do like Princess Leia, so I am cautiously optimistic about this comic. It takes place directly after the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, and has Princess Leia out scouting for the lost people of Alderaan, hoping to bring them to the new rebel base so they can figure out how to rebuild society.

The comic deals very honestly with Leia's privilege, as she confronts people from her world who have lived very different lives than her, and with the concept of grief on such a literally global scale. It's a good story, but it's not very far in yet, so I'm hesitant to give it a stunning review. Suffice to say, it's good and it will hopefully stay that way. Stay tuned.

Curb Stomp - BOOM! Studios - written by Ryan Ferrier, art by Devaki Neogi

Curb Stomp is not for the faint of heart, but this mini-series (it's only four issues long and three of them are already out) is a fantastic look at the racial, social, and gender politics of inner-city life. The story follows a gang in Old Beach, a rundown slum outside a booming city. This gang, the Fever, keeps the peace in Old Beach, fighting off the drugs and violence that spills over from the other boroughs. 

But all of this is put to the test when two rival gangs make a deal with the city's mayor to destroy the Fever and raze Old Beach to the ground so that a new casino can go in. The Fever are fighting literally for their lives and the existence of their community. It's an intense, harsh, sad story, and it's really well told. But it's also super gory and brutal, so exercise your best judgment on this one.

Silk - Marvel - written by Robbie Thompson, art by Stacey Lee

Sort of like Spider-Gwen, Silk is about an alternate world in which someone else was bitten by a radioactive spider. Only in this world there is a Peter Parker Spiderman. There's just also Silk, aka Cindy Moon, a classmate of Peter Parker's who was bitten by the same spider, gained superpowers, and then spent ten years being trapped in a bunker because some extraterrestrial weirdos were trying to eat her.

Now she's out of the bunker - sort of - and living her life. But it's hard to re-assimilate into society after ten years of Netflix and canned food. Cindy has a job and a place to live, but she has no idea what happened to her family after she was taken and she really has no idea how to actually be a person now. 

It's an honestly very touching story, but also lighter than I think I've made it sound here. Cindy's a great heroine, very light and silly and fun, and her story has a depth that makes it relatable as well as just ringing very true. Plus, we've got to give it up for her being one of the first Asian-American women to get her own superhero imprint!

Thor - Marvel - written by Jason Aaron, art by Russell Dauterman

This version of Thor, which tragically ends next month, puts a new twist on the story. With the Odinson no longer able to life his hammer, a new Thor has been chosen, and this time it's a woman. This mystery woman, whose identity has only just been maybe revealed, now possesses all the power of Thor, and that's a good thing because she has to fight off an invading army of Frost Giants, a corporation with serious exploitation problems, and Odin's crazed brother. 

To be fair, there's really not a whole lot here if you aren't already a fan of Thor, though. Like, it's still the same world of the comic, the Odinson is still a major character, and mostly it's basic Thor fights things with the hammer stuff. But it's very well done and it's nice to see a woman in this character, even if it's been rather brief. Sorry, I'm not overly enthusiastic about this title, but I do like it.

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier - Marvel - written by Ales Kot, art by Langdon Foss

Like Sirens, I'd be utterly lying if I said that I got this book. I don't. I really don't understand a single thing that is happening in this story. But, as I said before, I really do like to reward and appreciate artists and writers who are willing to go out on a limb and tell a completely different kind of story. Do I think it always works? No. Do I think they're pulling it off even half the time in this comic? Not really.

But do I think that this comic is still important enough to buy every month? Absolutely. It's got some really compelling kernels of story in between all the weirdness, and I just have to reward that. Roughly, the story is about Bucky Barnes (and Daisy Johnson, aka Quake) going on adventures in space. But it's also about Bucky's past alternate self trying to stop a horrible future, Bucky falling in love with a strange alien woman and maybe having kids but maybe not, and the possibility of an inevitable peaceful future.

It's weird. And dense. And super confusing to read. But it's also beautiful and unique and one of the most interesting things I've seen in years.

Batgirl - DC - written by Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart, art by Babs Tarr

As you may recall, Batgirl got a soft-reboot last year and Barbara Gordon (who is tragically no longer Oracle, since Oracle was retconned out of existence in the New 52) has a new costume and a new life. Now she's living in Burnside, which is basically Brooklyn, getting her Master's in computer science and living it up as a single girl in her twenties. Also fighting crime. But the crime fighting comes in a solid third, which causes problems between Barbara and her crime-fighting buddy, Dinah Lance.

The first arc of this new story has just ended, and it was really interesting, dealing with Barbara's pain in the aftermath of her being shot by the joker. I'm not really sure where this story is going next, but I have some confidence that it will be good. This creative team has proven itself resourceful. I figure they've got something neat up their sleeves. And it's nice to see that this new costume, yellow Doc Martens and all, has become the official Batgirl costume. It's on the merchandise now, which hints at strong DC confidence in the character. We might get a Batgirl movie one of these days, guys!

Spiderwoman - Marvel - written by Dennis Hopeless, art by Javier Rodriguez

Finally, another spider person from the Marvel universe. Spiderwoman, aka Jessica Drew, is a rather complex character because even the comics aren't sure what to do with her. Only five issues into the new series, she underwent a soft reboot and a complete costume change. Now Jessica is working as a private eye in New York City, hunting down people who've gone missing and generally being a do-gooder. The hitch is that she's not used to doing things on a small scale. 

She was an Avenger for years and is more comfortable with the burn and slash attitude that comes when you have a nearly unlimited budget. Now she has to be more careful and under the radar, and it's fun to see her try.

The story is fun, the art is newly de-sexualized and very vivid, and the story looks promising. I can't be more concrete than that, but it's definitely enough to keep me reading, if only so I can keep apprised of anything that might affect the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

And that's all for now. I'm sure that as some of these series end and more come out that this list will change, but that's what updates are for! As for now, you should totally go check these comics out at your local comic shop. I, in the meanwhile, am going to curl with this week's stack of books and get some serious reading done.


  1. This mystery woman, whose identity has only just been maybe revealed, now possesses all the power of Thor, and that's a good thing because she has to fight off an invading army of Frost Giants, a corporation with serious exploitation problems, and Odin's crazed brother.

    Well, not "maybe" any more. So is it ok to talk about? Because her identity - and the surrounding circumstances - are interesting - and very very Viking.

    1. Oh my gosh I love that reveal. I figure, it was revealed on twitter, so we're totally out of the realm of anyone getting to cry spoilers now. Jane Foster forever!

    2. It dodges the trap of the woman as victim of her power. Mjolnir is killing her, may kill her, yes - but as far as I can tell, she knew that when she picked it up. And she has a standing offer of a cure for her cancer, but she won't take it (whether not not you agree with that decision, and I'm not sure of her reasons for it). Which turns it into a woman choosing to meet death on her terms - said terms including epic battles with frost giants.

      And I love that.

      Also, I wasn't kidding about the Viking part: "This weapon will one day kill you, but until then you get to be an absolute metal badass with it;" Vikings dreamed about shit like that.

      That acceptance of death, but conditional, with a demand that death respect you back - that's what makes a Thor different from "just" a great hero.

      And Jane is a Thor.

      In reference to your earlier post, though, I'd have preferred to see this from the beginning, or at least a quicker reveal. "This new Thor is a woman" is great from the perspective of news about comics, but it's not a reason to care about [i]her[/i] - but this? This is a reason to love her.

      [Someone on RPGNet expressed a desire that in the MCU, Darcy would prove to have a similar streak, wield Mjollnir, and end up with her own hammer, which would of course be called Mew Mew. Much as I love her, I don't really see that* - though I love the image of it, especially if Sif could inherit Mjolnir when Thor dies or takes the throne, and the two could go on to have a buddy thunder goddesses movie.

      * Although since she took part in the battle against Malekith, you'd have to work hard to question her bona fides as a hero]

    3. Oh man. Yes. I love the emphasis on Jane Foster being master of her own fate and refusing to allow anyone to take away her agency.

      ....Which is exactly why I'm having some trouble with the current THORS imprint for Battleworld. It's not my favorite and it's basically entirely built on fridging Jane Foster. Grrrrr.

      I do agree that it would have been more fun if the whole run weren't just about her identity and more about her being a badass Thor.

      And I like the idea of Darcy wielding Mew Mew, but I think I like better the idea of Darcy being Sif's backup/tech queen and having a cat named Mew Mew. Because Mew Mew is the best name for a cat and I think I need to name a cat that.