The Quantum Age #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Wilfredo Torres
Comic books love taking trips to the future. It may involve taking a hero out of their timeline to show them the impact of choice or tweaking character archetypes by imagining their role in the future. Sometimes, as is the case of Black Hammer: The Quantum Age, it’s simply a future generation of heroes. As Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer universe continues to expand, it may have only been a matter of time before he pulled the same sort of maneuver Marvel does with their 2099 titles, or DC with Batman Beyond. As with other books in the universe, Lemire’s writing hits just left of center. The themes being explored are familiar territory, but Lemire manages to populate the territory with compelling characters, giving so much with a few panels but leaving so much more unexplained.
The future world of The Quantum Age is clearly fascist and xenophobic but seems peaceful enough. The heroes of the Quantum League are dead or in hiding after a largely unexplained Martian invasion and subsequent disaster. The flashbacks to 25 years prior leave just enough to the imagination to be compelling. Wilfredo Torres’ art borrows heavily from the Black Hammer Universe’s Golden Age conceits, but his use of open flat planes of color and off-center perspective gives an airy and almost voyeuristic quality to the pages. The story and its illustration are very matter-of-fact, but the twists at the end tell us that The Quantum Age is going to be anything but simple.
Captain America #1
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
A country facing a crisis of confidence, and the embodiment of the American Dream wrestles with his legacy and life’s work. Ta-Nehisi Coates is already well-regarded for his work with Black Panther, bringing a literary sensibility to his story arcs, and weaving complex political and philosophical threads throughout. Just as Captain America struggles to reclaim his soiled legacy in the aftermath of Secret Empire, America is struggling to define what it sees in the mirror. The story begins with Captain America fighting a group of hostage takers, with the stars and stripes tattooed on their faces. The American Dream he is fighting for is coming out of a nightmare of fascism. Captain America notes that the nightmare came to be not because of failed resistance, but because it was welcomed with open arms.
Leinil Francis Yu’s depiction of Captain America is at times elegiac and could adorn any number of faded propaganda posters as Steve Rogers greets the grim reality of his country with a tight jaw and vibranium-grade resolve. Perhaps it is for the best that the primary antagonist of the series, at least at this early stage, hails from Russia. When faced with an external opposing force, it becomes easier to define one’s own position. Just as Black Panther’s A Nation Under Our Feet showed how tumultuous it can be for a nation’s identity to fall apart, Coates picks up Captain America’s narrative in the aftermath of the collapse, embracing all of the awkward navel-gazing that goes along with the stages of loss. The timing seems appropriate, and if any comic book hero could save a world seized by hopelessness, it’s the measured optimism and hope of Captain America.
Judge Dredd: Under Siege #2
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Max Dunbar
Early Judge Dredd was unabashedly violent and fun, a series of short paeans to zero-sum morality and adherence to The Law. The character has soldiered on for decades, weathering countless iterations. At the end of the day, Judge Dredd remains timeless, the trappings of Mega City One not changing all that much from when he first roared onto the scene on his Lawmaster. Siege both pays homage to the simplicity of Judge Dredd’s single-minded purpose, but partners him with another Judge whose view of the world is not nearly as absolutist. While on a mission to rescue Judge Beeny in the Patrick Swayze block, he rescues Beeny, but quickly finds himself working alongside supposed criminals.
Mux Dunbar’s illustration offers a beautiful exploration of Mega City One, but more importantly, offers some compelling close work on a series of compelling characters. The setting for Seige is a public works project gone wrong, where the residents were left holding the bag after the government failed to deliver on its promises. It’s a story that strikes a lot of chords in a lot of places around the world, especially when it’s made clear that it takes a city-threatening disaster to get authorities involved. While it remains to be seen if Mark Russell’s depiction of Dredd will see his binary view of the world develop a bit, Under Seige promised to pack in the action over the course of this 4-issue storyline.