Florida is a place that captures the imagination, from the expanse of the Everglades to the glitz of Miami, to the sordid headlines the region seems to specialize in. Jordie Bellaire’s Redlands has been working some deep magic and weaving these threads together. The heroes are a coven of witches, backed up by a cryptozoological boyfriend, a bound ghost and a familiar. Bellaire’s story is aggressively feminist, and the subject matter, along with its stunningly kinetic depiction by artist Vanesa Del Rey, is decidedly for mature audiences. In forewords and afterwords, Bellaire continually reaffirms that the book was written for whoever it resounds with, be they male or female, rebel or more straight-laced.
There are only a few characters in comic books that might deserve to be killed off multiple times, and this issue leaves the reader hanging as far as the final kill count for a very famous X-man. Extermination has been a really solid cross-over that’s not a cross-over. Appearances by members of the Blue, Gold and Red X-Men teams, as well as Old Man Logan, X-Force and plenty of others, not only keep the book interesting, but it reminds readers that just because a certain title is soggy doesn’t always apply to the characters themselves. The book, regardless of the conclusion, also promises to simplify things by sending the younger versions of the X-Men back to their home time zone.
The Punisher is always one of the first to pick a side, and almost always the first to pull the trigger. Frank Castle’s new crusade against Hydra is especially compelling because it makes the heroes of the world somewhat complicit as they struggle to take Castle off the board in favor of the glacial pace of the justice of the courts and world opinion. The Punisher’s war on Hydra is some of the best writing for the character to date, precisely because it shows how far Castle is truly willing to go. He’s certainly taken just about everyone in the Marvel Universe on, and he never shies away from a fight, even when he’s way out of his weight class. Matthew Rosenberg has taken Castle to the world stage; the whispered gangland legend, now taking out international figures and causing Hydra itself to turn tail and go underground.
For the futuristic world of Wakanda and a deeper exploration of Shuri, it’s only appropriate that Marvel bring in Hugo Award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor. Leonardo Romero brings a disciplined and authoritative style that brings life to the background hum of Wakandan life but keeps the characters front and center with excellent close work. Okorafor leans on Shuri’s wit and youth here; while she may have a direct line to Wakandan ancestors, she’s ever the little sister of T’Challa. With a convocation of “The Trunk”- a meeting of women- called to help determine Wakanda’s fate in the absence of T’Challa, the theme of youth and seasoned wisdom in conflux is a driving factor. Enter Shuri as the favored heir to the mantle of Black Panther in her brother’s absence. It’s a role she’s filled before, but never before with such a deeply explored and developed history, nor with the bandwidth generated from Shuri’s time on the big screen. Between the adventures of Shuri and T’Challa’s intergalactic quest to find home, fans have plenty of reasons to resound “Wakanda Forever” while they wait for Black Panther II to drop.
As the struggle for the soul of comic books continues to be waged in angry blogs and twitter screeds, lines are being drawn. While the fanatics foam at the mouth, many creatives in comic books are putting those lines to paper. Rarely has there been a takedown of toxic fandom put as succinctly or a beautifully as the Scott Aukerman’s first few panels of X-Men Black: Mojo. As a true connoisseur of the X-Men, Mojo believes only he understands his obsession and is more than willing to liquidate characters created in the name of inclusivity. It’s pure poetry that none other than the affable Blob shows up to provide an angel on Mojo’s putrid shoulder. Blob has never been, nor will likely ever be, a leading character, and his prominence in the story provides one of many levels to this middle-fingered salute to angry basement-dwellers.
The story is a timely one, and while Magneto’s own story is culled from the pages of history, this particular tale is ripped from the front pages. It has a predictable arc and the moral of the story is one of acceptance, tolerance, and equality. The fact that this is the predominant quality in the X-Men canon doesn’t detract from the exploration of Magneto Claremont offers. Rather than a devious villain scheming to further an agenda, Magneto is portrayed as a simple but haunted man, pushed to great extremes by a dangerous and hateful world. Of special note is that Magneto goes in for non-lethal measures to secure his goals, while his human adversaries fantasize about much worse fates for mutant kind. This warmer treatment of the usually steely Magneto is surprising and touching, and well worth the read.
Gamma is equally tongue-in-cheek as it is compelling in its storytelling. It features narrative threads that start out confusing, and only get more twisted as the story starts skipping through time. Ulises Fariñas’ tale doesn’t suffer from this complex narrative, but rather it compels the reader to peel back the layers and give each panel that much more attention. Gamma is full of allusions and callbacks from the obvious Pokémon and Voltron references to the more obscure Watchmen, Mega-Man and Neon Genesis: Evangelion nods. The story is trippy, goofy, and nostalgic all at once.