Fiction: 'The Conquest of America' by Cleveland Moffett
Pygmalia: Watch and Ward by Henry James

Review Round-up: Hawkeye, Red One, Giant Days & More

DetailA few highlights from the last month that you should still be able to get from your local comic shop or via publisher apps and Comixology.

These are deliberately new starts and jumping-on points. If you knew the stuff I waded through to bring you these picks… 

Hawkeye #1 (Marvel Comics): In one week, writer Jeff Lemire had both this and his Image series Descender released. It was a good week for both Jeff Lemire and the people who read comics. The new Hawkeye series actually launched before the end of the Matt Fraction/David Aja run, which has been delayed beyond belief. Lemire’s take on the series, working with artist Ramon Perez, is a conscious exploration of the Hawkeye identity, not just a story of Clint Barton, so in that respect they’re building on the previous run’s inclusion of Kate Bishop and Clint’s brother Barney. The opening story is split between a present day caper for Kate and Clint and flashbacks to the Barton brothers’ childhood, each of which Perez depicts in an utterly different style, both of which work extremely well. The issue one Skottie Young variant cover is a thing of beauty, and on the basis of this package the new Hawkeye is full of promise.

Descender #1 (Image): As noted above, this is Lemire’s other big new launch this month and another winner. A fairly hard-sci fi tale of alien incursion, robotics and a young boy/robot called Tim who could be in a lot of trouble, Descender carries echoes of a lot of other fiction but still manages to feel fresh and interesting. Lemire and artist collaborator Dustin Nguyen achieve a significant amount of worldbuilding through action rather than info-dump, and set up Tim well enough that his peril in the first cliffhanger feels properly worrying. The invading aliens, despite inescapably reminding the reader of Marvel’s Celestials, are properly awesome and utterly enigmatic. I really don’t know where Descender is going, which is part of the reason I like it.

Sw-5Spider-Woman #5 (Marvel): Though it’s issue five, the first four were all connected to the Spider-Verse crossover, so this feels like what should have been the first issue of the run, especially as it’s a “bold new direction” set up. Jessica Drew has quit The Avengers and gone back to her Private Investigator role. She’s ditched the costume she’s had (barring some very minor tweaks early on) for her entire almost-forty year existence to date in favour of a new and very cool look, picked up a new supporting character in the shape of Daredevil’s Ben Urich, and everything feels fresh and new.

I bow to no one in my love for Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman, and I’m glad that she’s getting a new chance to shine. I worry that she’ll get lost in the sudden rush of new spider-women (Silk and Spider-Gwen versions), which she shouldn’t as she’s a fascinating and challenging character and one that deserves the attention. My one negative is that writer Dennis Hopeless is doing some breaking down to build back up and in doing so is painting her as far less capable than she should be. Though artist Javier Rodriguez does a lovely job of creating a grounded world for Jess after the extra-dimensional madness of the crossover.

Red One #1 (Image): I almost feel like this one deserves a full-scale review as there’s a lot to unpack. Ostensibly a cold war tale of Soviet infiltration of the US (which, as the creative team note, is almost the only plot US TV drama is doing at the moment) it’s more significantly a story of freedom vs duty, of the manipulation of perception and of ends and means. But most fascinatingly it’s an examination of America’s deeply conflicted feelings towards sex, ‘liberation’ and creative freedom, and the puritanical moral crusades that are their frequently-recurring antithesis. Red One posits a late-1970s in which The Carpenter, a morally crusading psychopath is doing such a good job of slaughtering the ‘immoral’ that he’s almost regarded as a super-hero, and an Anita Bryant-like religious leader is able to ride his coat tales towards political power. Aware that a USA which has fervently turned on its own people in a wave of conservative sentiment is a danger to Soviet interests and an active threat to world peace, the Soviet authorities assign their top operative, Vera Yelnikov, to go to America and become an opposing force to The Carpenter.

Written by Xavier Dorison (whose European sensibilities I suspect make this interrogation of US culture work), with art by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson, Red One pretty much defies categorisation so far. It’s far deeper and more interesting than its premise suggests will be the case, and though the Dodsons’ art incorporates their usual quotient of cheesecake, it’s done so gorgeously, and so knowingly, that it’s hard to get angry about. Vera herself and her ‘home’ life are fascinating and surprising at every turn, and the whole thing is shot through with actual, proper wit. Hugely recommended.

STK666288Giant Days #1 (Boom! Box): And speaking of hugely recommended…

Take three young women in the first days of their university life. Each is completely different from the others but collectively different enough from everyone else to have bonded immediately. Add some social stresses and the inevitable man trouble, mix in a skewed hint of something supernatural going on and cover it with a strangely meta storytelling style (“Flashback! Do a flashback!”) and you might have something close to Giant Days. If you then added humour and gorgeous, quirky art you’d be closer still.

What’s great about Giant Days is that I have no idea who it’s aimed at. I think everyone could get something out of it, regardless of age, gender, culture, anything. Creators John Allison (writer), Lissa Treiman (illustrator), Whitney Cogar (colourist) and Jim Campbell (letterer) have made something clever, funny, warm and charming. With a hint of the mysterious thrown in for good measure (seriously - there are hints at oddness but I have no idea whether yet there’s actual oddness in this world yet).

People occasionally ask me what’s a good comic to get their kids (and especially their daughters) into the field. I’d add Giant Days to my shortlist without hesitation, but don’t let that stop you reading it even if you’re as old and jaded as I.