comics reviews


Week of September 2, 2015:

In which X-Men ’92 and Star Lord and Kitty Pryde end; House of M is a better miniseries than event; Age of Apocalypse is a better event than miniseries; and we have big plans for Rose City Comic Con!


  • *X-Men ’92 Infinite Comic #8 (00:42)
  • House of M #2 (03:02)
  • Age of Apocalypse #3 (06:21)
  • Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde #3 (09:06)

*Pick of the Week (11:24)

Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men is 100% ad-free and listener supported. These video reviews–and everything else here–are made possible by the support of our Patreon subscribers. If you want to help support the podcast–and unlock more cool stuff–you can do that right here!

You can find more information about our RCCC lineup over here, and more about the show itself here!

Episode 51

Welcome to episode 51, which you can find on itunes, on RSS, or online here. We’ve got a lot for you this week: reviews of Fütchi Perf by Kevin Czapiewski, If You Steal by Jason, Super Mutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki, a manifesto, some Van Morrison history, and more!

Here’s the manifesto that Alex wrote, hosted at the Indiana Review blog.

Here’s Mike Dawson’s Kickstarter for his upcoming collection, Rules for Dating My Daughter. Go help fund it!

This is the Prometheus exhibit that inspired the Philadelphia Museum of Art to collaborate with Locust Moon Press on a once-of-a-kind comic, Prometheus Eternal (you’re going to want to see the cover). Show’s up this fall.

And here’s Van Morrison singing “Ringworm,” recorded for his so-called Contractual-obligation Album. You’re welcome.

Fütchi Perf by Kevin Czapiewski

If You Steal by Jason

Support the podcast by buying IF YOU STEAL from this link.

Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Support the podcast by buying SUPERMUTANT MAGIC ACADEMY at this link.


Graphic Details Reviews: Princeless Vol. 1 (TP) by Whitley and Goodwin

Okay I promise to start reviewing comics that I didn’t like, or one’s that were just so-so at some point so you know what to avoid or so you have something to compare these reviews to but TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY.

Princeless is witty, clever and tons of fun. It’s suitable for all ages but there’s plenty in it were grown-up comic fans to laugh over including the women warriors armour scene which had me in stitches for ten minutes. 

Not only is a female led comic, with tons of characters of colour and the world’s most adorable dragon since Toothless but it’s just good writing plain and simple. 

Can’t wait to read volume 2.


Review: Mighty Star and the Castle of the Cancatervater by A. Degen

Previous work by A. Degen has shown up on my 2014 “Comics that Challenged Me” list, and so when Koyama Press announced it would publish Mighty Star and the Castle of the Cancatervater as part of its Spring 2015 lineup, I was immediately intrigued. Mighty Star is A. Degen’s first long form comic and was originally published on the Study Group website. In its collected form, Degen has taken the originally published comic and added a prologue and epilogue. At 172 black and white pages, it represents Degen unfettered by the economy of page that exists in his previous works; the result is a cacophonous romping thing, built on the bones of Astro Boy and steeped in philosophy.

I mention Astro Boy, the old Tezuka manga, because the plot of Mighty Star could have easily been a Astro Boy plot; an evil philosopher and a bad apple kickstart a giant golem called the Cancatervater that kidnaps artists, a librarian, and scientists to create for itself a body made of flesh and blood. Mighty Star, our intrepid hero, must fight the Cancatervater and rescue the kidnapped humans before the golem is able to destroy the world government and take over. The comparison to Astro Boy is not only because of its reminiscent plot, but also in Mighty Star’s sense of motion and flow, which feel heavily influenced by Tezuka.

Mighty Star, like most of Degen’s comics, is wordless. In the hands of a lesser cartoonist, the resulting work would be hard to access or read. Each page is full of images and references, but Degen commands his characters, their emotions, the story’s pacing, and the movement throughout in a masterful way, making words unnecessary, and potentially superfluous.  Part of the joy of Degen’s work, then, is finding an interpretation of the work that fits into a purposefully opaque and open framework.

The Cancatervater is described as an amalgamation of old ideas, and in my mind, feels like a reference to the destructive tendencies of capitalist structures. We see the commodification of art, science, and knowledge to create a monstrosity that ruins governance and kills indiscriminately. The bad apple, a creature intent on destroying the world government to build a new utopia through the work of the Cancatervater, seems almost Randian. Mighty Star is unable to defeat the creature and its creator in his first encounter, and only with the help of a trio of goddesses and of librarian Honey Hush can Mighty Star save the day. In these characters we see Degen reference the Chinese Zodiac’s Rat, Snake, and Rooster (and potentially the Zoryas from Slavic myth or the norns from Norse myth). Mighty Star, no matter how you slice it, is a densely packed comic.

And that density is appealing. By stripping a manga-influenced superhero story of the constraints of language, Degen forces readers to confront the symbolism of image and the potential for self-defined narrative. This is Degen’s strongest work to date; a must read. Recommended.


A. Degen adactivity is a cartoonist based in Brooklyn. His short comics have been published by Sonatina and Snakebomb. You can find more of his work here

A Proper Re-introduction //  Comic Reviews //  Capsule Musings

At the top of my written list of goals this year was a small checkbox with the words “Write More” written next to it. I cannot tell you how many years that little checkbox has been at the top of my yearly resolutions and how many times I’ve run into the same wall. 

A wall composed entirely of the sentiment that anything I write will never be as “important” as my cartooning // illustration work. Long periods of never stretching these writing muscles have solidified into atrophy, another brick to add atop my previously existing insecurities. My drawn work is incredibly gratifying, but stringing words together is turning out to be a relishable challenge. Also greater than the fear that my writing is terrible, is the fear that if I never start writing my poor brain will never be free of certain thoughts // ideas. 

Concurrently, I’ve been feeling that this blog has become such a hygienic extension of myself without any real personality. Over the last few years, there’s been this subtle push that artists should be intentionally crafting their online personas to be as hygienic as possible. Personal and professional spaces should be separate so that there is never an overlap + your ideological expression never intersects with your work. This is probably all excellent advice, but it’s not working for me.  

Subjectively, as a content creator in the year 2015, it feels as if my own perception of art has been so streamlined in it’s delivery that I’ve failed on multiple occasions to engage with the complexities of another person’s existence. These damn blue websites too often act as stages where we put on crude masks and act out the most basic narratives we can. I don’t particularly think it’s good for me to continue standing on this platform and bowing with the knowledge that what I’m providing is hollow + that I don’t know any of the faces out in the crowd. At the back of the mind, there’s a growing fear that even a portion of the people who “follow” my work don’t give a damn about who I am as long as I keep making pretty pictures. Or, even worse, are just waiting to pounce on me if my performance doesn’t live up to their expectations. 

So I’m going to try + keep writing. And hopefully the mask I’m holding up will fall. The face underneath isn’t always pretty, but I pride myself on it being an honest one. 

Following is a collection of comics reviews and personal anecdotes: two different kinds of responsive writing.

Lone Wolf and Cub Volume 1 by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima

Earlier this year, my friend unexpectedly handed me 10+ volumes of this manga in a paper bag. When I asked her why she didn’t want them anymore, she explained a growing dread about the sexual violence inflicted upon the female characters. It’s been sitting on my shelves for the past few months, an intimidating collection of work that I’ve been afraid to engage with. It’s a certainty that the inherently misogynistic sentiments in the work could grow to be too much for me to bare as well. There are foreshadowings of these in this early volume, but the technical qualities of it have me continuing onward with reservations. 

An area of special interest to me is the way the architects of these stories handle pacing. In this volume there were several stories that drop large blocks of text at the beginning + end, but rendered the middle with minimal text. It gave the stories an a breezy yet satisfying feeling. That’s a hard balance to strike. It was also a specific pleasure to read a piece of historical fiction set outside the streamlined history explored in the United States. There were many political structures that I’m not literate in, making the story’s setting even more engaging to me. 

Rainy Days

It’s been raining the last few days in Minneapolis. Rain is an important symbol // environment for me to be in. It instantly draws me back to the Dutch community turned pseudo-suburb of Lynden, Washington where I grew up. I remember looking out the window of car doors as a kid to a world permanently glazed with water.

The rain sends me into a predictable emotional cycle where I am chilled out the furious and stress filled emotional machine I pilot, softly depresses me to sleep, and then wakes me back up to a slower world where I feel comfortable writing + being with people with fewer inhibitions. Like alcohol in reverse.

Mesmo Delivery by Rafael Grampa 

The typography is superb in this comic and coupled with a Tarantino level of ultraviolence, makes for a memorable reading experience. It’s the kind of comic I would have ripped-off and immersed my creative identity in if I’d picked it up in high school. Now I sense my level of participation is at best the dipping of a single toe. 

I often read books like Mesmo Delivery wondering if the creators have ever killed a living thing larger in size than an insect. I had the same musing while reading Umbrella Academy: Dallas last night. In rural Idaho (another place I grew up), it’s often a turning point in your adolescence when you establish your relationship to death. Many people feel called at some point to take role of solemn executioner. I remember, when in order to end the suffering of a baby bird, I had to don this responsibility. 

Having carried out this part a handful of times since, I wonder if those who revel in this depiction of violence have ever seen life ebb from a body after a violent severing. I can’t see the appeal of it.


This has been the semester where I’ve had to confront my depressed tendencies and call them out for what they are. Over the course of the last few months, these cycles have started coming on quicker and more intensely. My responses to pleasure during these periods became frighteningly dim and more frustrated. It feels good to have some respite before going back home and seeking medical advice. It’s also a special kind of fear, knowing that another cloud of fog could come into my life without me realizing and my entire world would be totally numb again. 

 Superhuman Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

If no other contenders enters the ring, this book will stand triumphant as my favorite comic of the year. Tamaki crafts a long narrative arc with these characters through an unassumingly simple comic strip exercise. It’s the kind of comic that stresses to me, as a younger cartoonist, that comics are not purely about “polish” (whatever that means anymore). On top of that, the ending chapter is one of the most masterful endings to a narrative I’ve ever encountered. It’s a warm goodbye that truly captures the soul of the characters while giving us enough time to truly say goodbye.

School Ending

My third year of MCAD is over. I’m no longer a junior at this institution. From what I see on the horizon, everything from here on out is meant to start “culminating in something”. The wild experiment is over. 

The world seems to be whispering “How fun it was to be so young and dancing and live frivolously. Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get back to the hay fields. Buck those bales. Earn your keep.” 

It all feels silly. My niece just got a new trampoline. The majority of my summer will likely be spent bouncing on it with her. 


Graphic Details Reviews: Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery

This is a story about an elf-mage, human cleric, dwarf warrior and halfling thief but I guarantee you that you have never read this story before. 

Rat Queens takes the most obvious and tired idea of the team of adventurers and completely knocks it out of the park. Image is having a really, really good year but this is a total homerun. There are not enough sports metaphors in the world to describe how much this comic just wins. 

It’s funny, savage and totally shameless. Fans of fantasy, MMORPGs or Dungeons and Dragons will particularly appreciate but honestly anyone who like massive amounts of sass, swearing and brawling will love it.

Not even a little bit suitable for children.
Review Group - Criminal: The Last Of The Innocent #4

External image

I just realised I forgot to link this Review Group from 2 weeks ago to here. I fail at being a self-facilitating media node. But here it is!

Story - As a society, we in general like to see the bad guys get punished, we like to see ‘em get what’s coming. It’s why the Hays Code, along with banning homosexuality and interracial kissing in movies, also made it a law that all criminal acts had to be punished, and that criminals should not elicit sympathy from the audience. Now of course that was the 1930s, society has moved on, but the rule generally still applies, in a story, we expect to see the criminal get somewhat of a comeuppance. Look at the reaction to AMC’s The Killing when they didn’t reveal who killed Rosie Larsen! This is why ever since Riley Richards killed his wife Felix at the end of Criminal: The Last Of The Innocent #2, I and many other readers have been waiting for the full weight of the law to come crashing down on Riley, and watching with bated breath as his plans spin out of control…

…except Brubaker swerved us. We have been conditioned to expect Riley to get punished. We saw his Father-In-Law’s suspicions, we saw him hire the P.I Britt Black, we saw his alibi come under threat. But Riley still got away with it. At the end of this issue, Riley is rich, happy and has a new girlfriend, his life has been improved by the crime. This goes against everything the Hays Code stands for!

It was very surprising to see Riley get off scott-free, and for me, it shows again why Criminal is one of the best comics on the market, it never does what you expect, Whilst this wasn’t quite up there with the twists at the end of the 'Bad Night’ storyline, it was still great. I do have a few problems with it however. Brubaker introduced several possible threats to Riley’s alibi in #3, most importantly a Private Detective, and I feel that the way that these threats were dealt with was a bit rushed, and that lessened the sense of danger. The same sense of the story being rushed was also present in the revelations about the Brookview Serial Killer in the past, Brubaker had not developed this background detail enough in previous chapters to deserve this payoff. I feel that perhaps this story would have been better served by being an issue longer. Brubaker has previously felt able to extend his stories if he needs to, Incognito went from 5 to 6 issues and I think Criminal: The Sinners was extended from 4 to 5. I feel he could have done the same with this one. But you never know, in the alternate world where this story is 5 issues, I’m probably complaining that it’s too long.

So there are some problems here, but they aren’t big ones, and these little niggles don’t negate the surprise of Riley getting away with it.

But then I start to think… did Riley actually get away with it? Yes he’s not in prison and he has money and a hot redhead girlfriend, but in the process of doing this he’s sacrificed himself and his innocence. In one of the most heinous acts I’ve seen in a comic, he leaved a poisoned hot-shot for his best friend Freakout and killed him. He may be doing this to try and get back to how happy he was when he was a teenaged kid, but in doing so 3 of his friends from that time are now dead, Felix, Freakout and Teddy. This story was about more than just the crimes Riley commits in the here and now, it was about nostalgia, and how in reaching for your past you can only damage your present. Nostalgia can bedeadly, and in the world of Criminal, it literally is. Riley thought he could go back to his past and be happy, but he never can.

This was another great instalment of Criminal, and despite a few small plot problems, it had an impact on me and left me thinking about the nature of nostalgia and the nature of innocence long after I read it. This story was perhaps the most ambitious Criminal story so far, since it was about more than telling a great noir story, but exploring more theoretical and allegorical ideas, but whilst it’s reach may have exceeded it’s grasp, it was still excellent comics. There are few better. I suppose, just like Riley, Brubaker has gotten away with something he shouldn’t.

Art - Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker are just the perfect combination, each word and each image are perfectly intertwined. I love every page these two work on together, whether it’s Criminal, Sleeper, Incognito or Powerpuff Girls (note, Bru and Phillips have not actually done a Powerpuff Girls comic, but if they did, it would probably be really good). The thing that of course set this arc apart was that Phillips used different styles for the flashback sequences, using a cleaner line and a style reminiscent of Archie comics, and it’s really great to see the two styles meld together at the end. I’m not quite sure what Riley and Lizzie turning into their cartoony selves means, it’s another thing I’ve been puzzling over. Phillips is simply one of the best, and I can’t wait for his next project.

Best Line - 'So now I can be whoever I want’


Shinning Comic: Princeless Vol 1

Adrienne is a princess who isn’t afraid to ask question. When she is locked away in a tower it’s up to her to set herself free then fight back against her oppressive dad. This amazing story with writing and story by Jeremy Whitley, art from M. Goodwin and Letters by Jung Ha Kim. Each person on the team does a great job at what they are put on the book to do. The art stands out, the colors pop, the writing is so amazing it makes me jealous. 

This book has some amazing characters Bedelia, Devin, and most of all Adrienne stand out. Bedelia is the daughter of a blacksmith, half dwarf and half human. She was making skimpy woman armor on the side and it’s a rather funny joke that leads to her creating this amazing set of armor. Devin is the brother to princess Adrienne and he is pretty cool. He is a character who doesn’t want to fall under male gender roles but has to deal with it. Last but not least Adrienne she is this amazingly smart woman. She has always been calling out what’s wrong with the world and refused to accept things for just being the way things are. Adrienne is an amazing role model who isn’t just smart but is also really talented. 

What this book really feels like to me is a look at how patriarchal systems or generally oppressive ones seem to affect everyone. Adrienne, Devin, Bedelia, the queen, the prince who tried to rescue Adrienne everyone here is being hurt by the system that the ruler of Ashland is doing nothing to fight against. To him women are just to be controlled and other men are only there to serve his ends. The story’s focus on a princess trying to save her sisters and other princess from being locked up is brilliant. Woman saving woman, woman working together, it’s all really amazing. Volume one only has a few towers visited but each trip Adrienne takes is fantastic.

It all ties up in a fantastic way. There is a backup story at the end featuring a character who tried to save Adrienne showing how the lay of the land had taken away his agency as well. It was also about how a system can break you and change you and I think that was brilliant. This is a book I find hard to not recommend to someone. I guess if you hate fantasy you may not enjoy this book but even then it feels like fantasy light.

So  yeah unless you hate fiction books go out and buy Princeless vol 1. i know I’m just waiting for a bit more money so I can get volume 2. While you’re at it you could jump into Raven the pirate princess that’s only two amazing issues in. You can buy it here and then we can talk about it.


Review: Marvel Anthologizes Romance in Secret Wars: Secret Love

“My favourite story in this issue which is saying a lot because all of these stories are fantastic. This is my first time reading anything by Jeremy Whitley, but I’ve seen Gurihiru’s art in the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics. This is a match made in heaven. Gurihiru sold us visually on what Whitley is selling us: the difficulties a relationship can go through and two people who love each other enough to fight for it (and a dinosaur). I really do hope there is an ongoing after this, Marvel! It’s a great read that can stand on its own and prior knowledge isn’t necessary (Danny does Misty’s bantu knots while watching a movie. THIS IS AMAZING). It gave me a giant grin which is awesome as far as comics experiences go. MORE.” -  Misty and Danny Forever

“I was a bit hesitant about this one-shot because even though Bennett does great work, North and Henderson’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is sheer perfection. However it is Squirrel Girl, and Thor/Odinson, and Bennett and Anka…so I wasn’t that hesitant.

The story is short and sweet and definitely feels like a fanzine, as Kate pointed out. It’s like a fan wrote Squirrel Girl’s dream date…with the opportunity to objectify Thor, which I so support. It does stand on its own, but I think knowing more about Squirrel Girl is makes the sweetness and goofiness of the story even better. I mean, she starts naming Thor’s pecs!” -  Squirrel Girl Wins a Date With Thor


What are you getting for New Comic Book Day today? If you’re not sure yet, or you just like discussion, check out this week’s video of our haul! If you can’t find something at your local comic shop, click the link below to check it out digitally!

Featured trade paperbacks:
-Southern Dog
-The Delinquents

Featured first issues: 
-Postal #1
-Cluster #1
-Imperium #1

Featured ongoing titles:
-Lady Killer #2
-Birthright #5
-EGOs #5
-Angela, Asgard’s Assassin #3
-Ms. Marvel #11
-Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #2

Book of the week:
-Hollywood Zombie Apocalypse #2

Did we miss something? What did you pick up?