DC Festival of Heroes & Comic Book Reviews for 5/12

Last week I had some complaints about how I was reading the same old stuff every week. This week I decided that it should give me a reason to quit crying. Between, X-Corps, Guardians of the Galaxy, and DC Festival of Heroes, I’m flooded with heroes I don’t normally give my attention to. 

Honestly, it’s perfect for just about everything but my wallet. The amazing part is, that this is only half my pull list of this great week. I just figured that I’d talk about the best books, and the books I haven’t talked enough about yet. There are a lot of books you need to start reading so hopefully your wallet is thicker than mine. Mine’s dying.

X-Corp #1, written by Tini Howard and drawn by Alberto Foche

X-Corp is one of the books that makes the week alongside DC Festival of Heroes.
The only billionaires you should want to know.

I think my favorite thing about this new generation of X-Men comics isn’t how they’ve united my favorite characters, placed X-Men at the top of Marvel teams, or the fact that it’s almost always firing on all cylinders. No, I think my favorite thing about this era is how it somehow convinces me to buy books with characters I don’t care about, some I actively dislike, and makes me care about them. X-Corp does it best. 

I’m going to be honest, I didn’t give a damn about any of the four X-Men in this book before X-Corp. Sure, Angel is a classic X-Men, but whether he’s Angel or Archangel, he always bores me. I can’t explain just how milk-toast he is, and he started on the most milk-toast X-Men roster. Then there’s Jamie Madrox, whose power is to multiply and get the crap get beaten out of him a hundred times. I can’t think of a time I found his power used interestingly. Trinary is fine, she was a cool creation in X-Men Red, but past her introduction, Tom Taylor had barely any chance to do anything with her. 

And Monet St. Croix? Penance? I had absolutely no idea who the fuck she was before House of X. I didn’t even realize she was telepathic before this issue.

Now what do I think of these characters after reading this issue? Now I think they’re in charge of one of my favorite X-Books. Tini Howard has always been able to craft gripping dialogue between her characters. The main issue I have with Excalibur is the plot more than anything. X-Corp comes in and shatters any notion of this book having that same problem. The corporate world is Howard’s playground, and she owns it like Monet owns X-Corp. 

This book combines the magic of boardroom dramas I usually hate, with the sci-fi of the X-Men. It all churns together to make the central business deal burn with more tension than the thruple in the Summer house.

I’m all in with X-Corp, and I finally see why all my mutuals on Twitter love Monet. 

Star Wars: The High Republic #5 by Cavan Scott and drawn by Ario Anindito

Star Wars: The High Republic meanders some more, unlike DC Festival of Heroes and X-Corp.
Am I even in to Star Wars anymore?

This book is getting weird to me. I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, I’ll admit. I was at one point, back when Mara Jade was canon and actively around, but not anymore. With the advent of the High Republic I want to get back into Star Wars. The TV shows and movies aren’t doing anything but retreading old overrated eras to me, the ideas behind this book are fresh. 

So… why does this comic feel anything but?

The Jedi are out and about, protecting the galaxy, hundreds, maybe thousands in number. Why does it feel like they’re not doing anything important? I’m going to say its the setting, and the enemy. 

What made the Old Republic so interesting? That setting spanned planets across the galaxy, ones that we weren’t familiar with and some that we were. Those worlds were distinctive, and breathtaking on screen and on the page. We could inhale in the world of the Old Republic so naturally because it had so many different places to go. 

Why have we been on nothing but generic farm planets after five issues? Where’s Coruscant? Camino? Where are the environments we’ve never seen before? 

And where are the villains in this comic? There’s supposed to be this new group to replace the Sith, space pirates I’ve been told; why is everyone fighting plants? I hate to break it to you, every fight against nature kind of feels stupid in the context of Star Wars. 

Obviously, nature always wins, and its deserves to. It feels like the opposite of what the Jedi should be fighting, especially with burning Lightsabers.

I’m starting to think that the Jedi and Sith are like any good superhero/supervillain nemesis relationship. Having one without the other can get really boring. When the Jedi have no real moral or mental challenge, it’s just about slinging lightsabers. There’s nothing behind it save for Keeve Trennis’s forced internal monologue. This isn’t a mark on her character, she’s cool, all the characters are cool, but they’re cool despite their circumstances.

Keeve is learning how to be a Jedi, and what it means to be a Jedi, but she’s not fighting anything that’s worth learning from. Her master is suffering from a slow separation from the Force, his faith literally personified. Having the Sith and the Dark Side around would bring some real emotional conflict to their story. What if the Dark Side offered Sskeer what he needed? What if the Light Side was waning against the Dark and this was proof to him? Most importantly, what if Keeve saw him fall to the Dark Side? 

All this cool and awesome potential just stops in motion against these stupid plant creatures. I feel like these cool characters and potential are being wasted, it’s so disappointing. Not bad necessarily, but disappointing. I know they want to do something new and avoid using the Sith, but if you can’t come up with something good, it’s okay to use what works. This is a franchise book, we kind of expect you to just keep doing what you love if you’re not going to blow us away otherwise.

Magic #2, written by Jed MacKay and drawn by Ig Guara

Magic #2 improves on the first issues strengths and weaknesses.
I love Magic’s variant covers.

First thing’s first, I appreciate how every copy I get for this comic is a cool variant. First was of Soren, the second is of Vraska, and they’re both beautiful.

I think this issue is a stark improvement over the last issue, which I reviewed and enjoyed. This one not only moves the story along, but better balances its exposition and character introductions over the first. There are far less instances of characters telling me their character traits, or the history of the world. At most, the narrate just gives me information on their names, and a sentence about their factions. 

This allows for us to get better looks at the three planeswalkers who will continue to be our main characters. They’re coming into their own, Vraska, Kaya, and Ral Zarek, with MacKay developing a different voice for each of them and the new side characters.

Also, as a huge white angels player, I loved the quick cameo of Aurelia.

This book isn’t necessarily fast, I must warn. The mystery and conflict is still be set up and the characters have yet to start the quest, but its getting there at a healthy pace. The only real criticism I have is with Ig Guara’s art, and its small. 

Guara got a bit inconsistent this week, particularly with Vraska. She had a couple different faces throughout, and it was distracting. She looked really ugly in a couple of these panels, and not because she has a snake-head. 

At the same time, I also have to praise Guara for how he makes each character distinct, even in their head shape. I’ll never stop mentioning when an artist can draw more than just two faces, one male and female. I appreciate it, and I appreciate Guara’s work on this series more than I want to criticize him. This is my new fantasy book to recommend. It’s just fun, and I hope it remains so.

Guardians of the Galaxy #14, written by Al Ewing and drawn by Juan Frigeri

Guardians of the Galaxy continues to blow my mind.
This cast of characters is as strange as it looks, and all the better for it.

If I love X-Corp for getting me into new characters, I love this Guardians series for the same reason. I may actually love the artist, Juan Frigeri, for this more than Al Ewing. The way he captures these characters and makes them both distinguishable from each other, yet iconic in their uniforms is amazing. He’s character designs for Phyla-Vel and Avril’s Quasar alone have me glued to the page and everything they do. 

Not only does he make characters look cool, he translates their mien perfectly. It helps that Al Ewing also does what I love most about Tom Taylor’s work. He weaves conflict and humor seamlessly, and switching between them almost at will. 

Somehow, some way, in two pages, he’s turned Dr. Doom from the greatest Marvel villain, into a brand new Guardian of the Galaxy, and I hear no one complaining. 

This book continues to work better than it should. With an overstuffed cast, it should feel suffocating rather than bursting with character. With so many plot lines that get introduced and finished in moments, everything should feel rushed. In reality, I don’t know many other books paced as perfectly as this one. 

Even if you don’t like the characters in this book, check this out. If anyone can change your mind, it’s Al Ewing, and this isn’t the first time I’ve thought this.

Future State: Gotham #1, written by Joshua Williamson and Denis Culver drawn by Giannis Milogannis

Jason Todd leads one of DC's most important comic books of the year, but it isn't quite as important DC Festival of Heroes.
The black sheep of the Bat-family is back!

This is it, the second most important DC comic of the week, and likely the third most important DC comic of the year. This is the only ongoing at the moment that continues plotlines from Future State. Should this succeed, we may see some of the other successful ideas and stories of Future State continue. Maybe some can continue through this book, and some from their own.

So thank god it’s good.

First, I want lament the art inside the book. The choice to make it black and white feels like it put unnecessary pressure on Miliogannis to make things overly detailed so we can see them. This has left things feeling distractingly busy at times, and blended into the background at others. I don’t like it.

But I do love Miliogannis’s art style. The overdetailed panels improve on his work in Future State: Red Hood, and the continuation of that story there is music to my ears. 

Williamson continues to write the best Jason Todd we’ve had since the start of Rebirth. He’s willing to do what needs to be done, be the black sheep, the double-agent inside the Magistrate. At the same time, he does whatever he can to help. Being a hero is in his nature, at his core. It’s been a debate over whether Jason should be a hero in the Bat-family, or a villain to them. I think this is the best of both worlds. 

Now he can have the moral high ground to readers, but we understand all this drama and mistreatment he gets from the Bat-family. Also, continuing the Future State Gotham here gives us both more Future State and what will hopefully be a Bat-family book that doesn’t need Bruce Wayne. I can already sense the dynamics forming, and I hope Williamson can live up to that promise.

This book has the action, character drama, and stakes it needs to succeed. Please DC, just give it some color, I’m begging you.

DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Celebration #1, by various writers and artists

DC Festival of Heroes : The Asian Superhero Representation gives us the heroes we deserve, but we deserve more.
The Asian representation we deserve.

First off, I want to say that DC relegating their Asian representation to only backups before and after this one-shot is reprehensible. They’ve been better about black representation with the renewal of Milestone comics, but Asian representation is just as important and just as deserving. 

That being said, it takes nothing away from how good this collection of short stories is. If anything, this collection highlights what DC is missing from the various groups of people they don’t represent with their comics.

The stories in DC Festival of Heroes focus both on what challenges these characters face as Asians in America and around the world. Not all of them work, some (like the Katanna story) aren’t quite capturing the characters too accurately. That one actively played into stereotypes (since when does Cyborg say slammin’?) and ham-fisted dialogue to make a point. Though, even that story has its merits, and that’s saying something.

My favorite in DC Festival of Heroes has to be the first, Mariko Tamaki’s and Marcus To’s Batgirl. To’s Cassandra Cain has to be the best I’ve ever seen her captured in costume. She’s a force to be reckoned with, the true heir to Batman’s cowl as she stalks Gotham’s streets. Her own challenges to overcome aren’t forgotten, her father’s abuse and struggle to speak intertwines with her struggle respectfully, culminating in a moment where she overcomes it with two kind words. All Cassandra Cain fans should want to read this. Words, you will be hers.

Another favorite of my is the about Cheshire Cat. This one successfully creates a new identity that will actually continue in a future comic. But, it also creates questions we want answered and does a lot to garner excitement to see her in said future book. The is the story of a girl who wants to know not only who she is, but where she came from. It’s an old tale, but it keeps coming back for a reason, it’s great.

The Grace Choi story is spectacular too. It’s good for Asian and queer representation, while tying back into classic canon. Grace Choi is a just meeting her girlfriend’s family for the first time, and it goes awry as superhero outings do. It’s an introduction to an old and forgotten character, bringing her back in the best way. 

The thing connection a lot of the best stories is how they bring back old characters who deserve more love, and creating new ones for the future. DC Festival of Heroes is a tribute that DC has to live up to. It’s pointless to create all these well-written introductions to amazing characters and do nothing with them. They deserve spots on teams and some even their own solos. 

With each story, it never felt they were scraping the barrel, except for maybe Katanna. They’re all characters full of stories worth being told, DC just has to make them. Several stories in DC Festival of Heroes had promises of more to come. Those promises should be kept and expanded on, or else this being one of the best comics of the year will be more sad than inspiring. 

Isn’t ‘inspiring’ what DC heroes are supposed to be?

Closing Out a Good Week with DC Festival of Heroes, X-Corps, and Representation

One weak outing makes 5 our of 6 books worth reading. That’s amazing, but there’s one book you need to buy if you buy nothing else… DC Festival of Heroes. This book, and eventually DC Pride, are necessary to get the books we deserve on the shelf. There are so many characters that DC has that are on ice. They don’t deserve to be. 

Do I think it’s all prejudice, no, I think its money. If you put your back into it DC, like you did with Batman and Harley Quinn, or maybe even just half that effort, you can make more characters successful like Batman and Harley Quinn. We deserve more Asian heroes, queer heroes, Hispanic heroes, all of them. DC Festival of Heroes is a step in the right direction, keep walking that way.

On a lighter note, it helps to tell everyone that Marvel is continuing to land slam dunks. This week at least, I have a new X-book rather than the same old ones, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel did this week what DC needs to start doing. They’re uplifting new and lesser known heroes so they can rise as high as they can. X-Corp and Guardians of the Galaxy are in an amazing class all their own. If you want to what I thought of last week’s comics, check that here. If you haven’t grabbed your copy of DC Festival of Heroes, get it. Get it now, what are you waiting for?

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