The month in comics: Marvel delivers an upbeat alternative to its apocalyptic dust-ups

There’s a kick-ass (yet optimistic) new hero in The Unstoppable Wasp, plus the tasteful compendium honouring the Pulse nightclub tragedy


Image credit: Marvel

If you thought 2016 was tough in the real world, the Marvel universe fared a little better. The all-encompassing Civil War II storyline infected a whole raft of comics, pitting hero against hero in an ideological bust-up that really felt like it could have been sorted out over a nice cup of tea. Now the dust has settled, two top-billed Avengers are dead and Tony Stark is in a coma. But with its first new comic launch of 2017, Marvel has delivered something surprisingly optimistic and upbeat.

Issue one of The Unstoppable Wasp stars Nadia Pym, the recently revealed secret daughter of original Ant-Man Hank Pym. Born and raised in the Red Room – the brutal Russian assassination school that counts Black Widow among its alumni – hardy Nadia has flown the coop on hi-tech insectoid wings and pitched up in the US. Despite her joyless upbringing, this latest hero to adopt the Wasp name has an innate sunniness that helps her disarm an overworked immigration official trying to ascertain her citizenship status just as easily as she would a villainess on a giant robot rampage. When not engaging in freelance superheroics, Nadia is also enthusiastically diving into western culture. The Unstoppable Wasp reads like a smart, appealing riff on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the sitcom in which a cult survivor essentially uses positivity as a superpower.

Writer Jeremy Whitley crams this first issue with witty pop-culture shoutouts and smartly potted backstory, but what really elevates it is the art by Elsa Charretier. While more stylized than the usual depictions of Marvel’s New York, Charretier’s bouncier, exaggerated style enhances the playful tone, suggesting her future will be as bright as Nadia’s outlook.


Image source: DC Comics

The currently thriving Marvel omni-empire simply wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for artistic godhead Jack “The King” Kirby. In an absurdly short time in the 1960s, Kirby and Stan Lee dreamed up the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Hulk, the X-Men, Black Panther and countless other action-figure staples (including, in 1963, the original Wasp). After his relationship with Lee curdled, Kirby moved to arch-rivals DC and, while his 1970s creations such as the New Gods and OMAC may not have quite the same cultural heft as his Marvel imperial phase, his career over at what Lee called “the Distinguished Competition” is still viewed as some of his purest and most mind-blowing work.

The King would have turned 100 in 2017, and DC is marking that anniversary with The Kamandi Challenge, an ambitious year-long experiment in pass-the-parcel, hot-potato-style storytelling. Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth was Kirby’s 1970s mash-up of Tarzan and Planet Of The Apes, centred on a lonely but plucky kid being hunted by hyper-evolved animals in the shattered ruins of Earth AD (“After Disaster”). Every issue will be created by a different writer and artist, and while there is a skeleton outline that dictates where each monthly chapter should begin and end – Earth AD is a big place – each team otherwise enjoys the same creative freedom Kirby had: they can tell any Kamandi story they want. The roster of talent includes current Batman writer Tom King collaborating with Ninja Turtles creator Kevin Eastman and rising UK-based writer Rob Williams working with 70-year-old Walt Simonson, the revered artist who drew Thor at his mightiest. This month’s bumper opening issue kicks things off with an extra prologue chapter (written by DC co-publisher Dan DiDio) that features a cyborg cameo from Kirby himself. If the Kamandi Challenge feels like a high-wire experiment almost as likely to end in heroic failure as success, it at least seems in keeping with The King’s vaulting visions.


Image Source: IDW Publishing/ DC

How should comics respond to real-life tragedy? The idea behind Love Is Love was conceived by comics writer Marc Andreyko in the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting at Orlando’s LGBT-friendly Pulse nightclub on 12 June last year, an atrocity that left 49 dead and dozens more injured. The Love Is Love anthology brings together short, predominantly single-page contributions volunteered by more than 100 artists, writers, letterers, colourists and editors from across the industry (as well as celebrity comics fans such as comedian Patton Oswalt, film-maker Morgan Spurlock and Magic Mike star Matt Bomer). It was a digital bestseller over Christmas and is now available as a 144-page physical edition, with all proceeds going to survivors of the shooting via Equality Florida. Collecting so many heartfelt artistic responses to a senseless tragedy can’t help but feel piecemeal, raw and a little chaotic. But the cumulative effect is very moving, and makes a persuasive case for spiritual optimism.

via The Guardian 




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