Comics Shotglass Reviews for 11/18/15: Is Family a Fantasy?

Comics Shotglass Reviews for 11/18/15: Is Family a Fantasy?

This week, it's all about about trusting your family and friends.

This week was an odd Wednesday for me, given that the 18th was my birthday. It was a low-key birthday since I was still working and didn't really feel I needed all the pomp and circumstance that normally surrounds the day. But I did get my comics, so you're getting reviews!

This week I'm covering Birthright #11, The Mighty Thor #1, Martain Manhunter #6, The Beauty #4, and Ms. Marvel #1. Yes, some of those are from the previous week, but I was in Korea, so that derailed everything again. Like always, this series highlights just a few of the comic books on sale each week, without delving into heavy spoilers. If you're interested in any book, click on the title and it'll take you to that book's Comixology page. Let us proceed.

Birthright #11

Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Andrei Bressan, Adriano Lucas

One year ago, the Rhodes family went through any family's worst nightmare: a lost child. While out playing ball with his father, Mikey Rhodes went into the woods and never came back. Mikey's loss destroyed his family, shattering his parents marriage, and causing his father to become a drunk due to accusations of killing a child.

Then an adult man in Conan-esque garb stepped back into our world, turning the Rhodes family upside down. The warrior claimed he was Mikey, a child who had spent years in a fantasy world called Terrenos. He was taken years ago (only a year on Earth) by rebels who wanted him to become the chosen one and defeat the God King Lore. He did and now he's back on Earth hunting the last of Lore's refugee generals.

Spoilers abound! If you want to actually enjoy Birthright as intended you can either pick up the Collected Editions on Comixlogy or Amazon (Vol 1, Vol 2). That'll catch you up to this issue.

Image from the first Birthright collection.

The thing is, Mikey is lying. Yes, he was taken by rebels to become their Chosen One. Yes, he did go to kill the God King Lore. Only thing is, he fell under his thrall. He's not back on Earth to kill the God King's allies, he's there to kill his enemies and prepare our world for domination.

Birthright is great comic. The overall story is about Mikey's evil quest in our world, while he presents it as a righteous crusade to his family. At the same time, his family (and the local law enforcement) has to come to terms with what Mikey has become. Is this really the son and brother they lost a year ago? Where has he been? Can they believe his wild tale? The book takes place in two times: the current day exploits of Mikey and family as Terrenos begins to encroach upon Earth and flashbacks, showing how Mikey became the corrupted warrior he is now.

Birthright is probably the best fantasy comic I'm currently reading, even if it does straddle the line between fantasy and real world. It's that split that makes Birthright what it is. You're only two volumes behind if you're not reading it. Get to buying!

Martian Manhunter #6

Written by Rob Williams
Art by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Gabe Eltaeb

We're in new territory here with J'onn J'onzz. Writer Rob Williams has laid down his master plan with this issue. The original Martian Manhunter was a essentially a Martian cop who happened to survive the death of his world. That's no longer the case. This new J'onn J'onzz was crafted by the Martian race as a last ditch effort, a backdoor to revive their doomed world again. But J'onn has grown beyond that original mission. He wants to be a hero and that means fighting against his programming.

Williams also upends some of the assumptions we've worked with until now. The various aspects of J'onn - FBI Agent Daryl Wessel, Arabic thief The Pearl, old man Mould, the odd Mr. Biscuits, and the disabled Leo - have all been converging together. But no one ever stopped to ask if everyone was actually a part of J'onn. One of the aspects isn't. One of them is a traitor to the cause.

So everything goes horribly wrong.

I'm really getting a kick out of this new origin for J'onn, one that makes him an outsider even in the general Martian culture. I don't like his new look though; I get where the creative team wanted to go, but I think the overall design could use some tweaks. This is still more compelling than J'onn has been in years. DC has had a hard time defining the character outside of being the Justice League's Data and once he got cut from that team, it's been ever harder to find him a place in the DCU. Good job, Williams.

The Mighty Thor #1

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson

Dr. Jane Foster is the Mighty Thor, one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe. She's also dying of breast cancer. This presents a difficult problem for Foster, because when she uses Mjolnir, it cleans the chemotherapy drugs from her system, as the magic assumes they're foreign agents. What it leaves behind is the cancer. So she can either stop being Thor and take a chance that the chemo will put her cancer into remission, or she can continue to save people, knowing it's a slow death sentence.

Jane Foster is also at the center of a growing war, a war between the nine realms. Asgardia, the updated city of Asgard once under control of the All-Mother, is now under brutal regime of Odin himself. Former All-Mother Lady Freyja is imprisoned and Thor Odinson has hidden himself, probably on some grand quest. Thor has been outlawed in the realm, while Jane Foster is the Midgardian representative of the Congress of Worlds. So she has to be Jane Foster to keep the peace, preventing her from simply staying as Thor the entire time. That's a great push-and-pull, forcing Foster to give up immortality for the greater good.

Ever since Jason Aaron started his run on Thor: God of Thunder back in 2012, he's been seemingly playing a long game on the title. The main character of the book has changed, but the story is still clearly connected. The seeds were even laid long ago. In the beginning of God of Thunder, Old King Thor stood on the lonely throne of Asgard, missing his arm and eye. (We only need to lose the eye to catch up.) Jane Foster's cancer? The growing threat of the Dark Elf Malekith? Those threads were introduced back in God of Thunder too. I don't know where Aaron is going, but this is shaping up to be a run equal to Hickman's work on Fantastic Four and FF. If you love Thor, you're doing yourself a disservice by not reading the current run.

The Beauty #4

Written by Jeremy Haun, Jason Hurley
Art by Jeremy Haun, John Rauch

What if a sexually-transmitted disease actually had beneficial side-effects? How would we as a society react? That's the question at the core of The Beauty. The eponymous disease makes a person into their best self: young, beautiful, and toned. Some people want to be infected by the disease, while others do their best to avoid it and stigmatize those who have it. Sometimes, those folks even cross over into violence. Detectives Foster and Vaughn handle those cases.

The first issue of the Beauty kicked off with two major points. The first is the the mature version of the disease actually causes people to burn from the inside out, not unlike spontaneous combustion. The second is that Foster's wife has been cheating on him and has passed the disease on. He spent the first issue as the stereotypical movie cop, a slightly overweight, greying, white male, only to wake up at the end of the issue looking like a supermodel. That's a bad thing to happen when you've just found out the disease does have drawbacks.

Now the Detectives are racing to find out who's killing people infected with The Beauty and who's covering up the fact that the virus can lead to an untimely death. And they're being chased by the crazy, scarred hitman Mr. Calaveras.

It's a solid science fiction procedural about a world where the ugly people are literally not having sex. To be beautiful is to be in the in-crowd, even if you don't necessarily want to be. Unfortunately, everything has a drawback and The Beauty's is that you'll burn bright until you literally burn. What is beauty worth to you?

Ms. Marvel #1

Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring

The world was supposed to end, then it didn't. Now eight months later, everything is coming up aces for Kamala Khan, also known as Ms. Marvel. She's learning the ropes as an Avenger, her school has been rebuilt with a new Stark-funded super science focus, Loki's lightning golems are still hanging around, and Bruno has a new girlfriend. Oh wait, that last thing isn't good. I guess everything isn't perfect! Her neighborhood is also being gentrified and the developers are using Ms. Marvel's image to promote the change. Even worse, they have thugs and robots out in force to make sure the current residents go along with the program.

Kamala is learning the price of fame. Now she's the symbol of something bigger to people and since she hasn't been paying attention - being an Avenger is hard work, you know - that symbol has been co-opted for nefarious means. And she's been so busy with the hero game that she completely missed Bruno's updated status quo for weeks. What's the answer? Less Avengers, more community? Or does she leave the community behind to do the hero game full time? We'll see!

I also enjoyed the perfect shift between artists Takeshi Miyazawa and Adrian Alphona in this issue. Miyazawa - who I loved in Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane - handles the current status quo, while Alphona takes over when Bruno tells his flashback tale. It looks like Miyazawa with be the book's primary artist for the foreseeable future, but Alphona is still along for the ride. Luckily they both compliment each other, while still being rather distinct. Good pairing, Marvel.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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