Chrononauts #1 & #2 by Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy with Matt Hollingsworth. Image, 2015.
Time Travel is such a bummer. This century’s great Time Travel stories — Primer, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, 12 Monkeys, even the Terminator franchise — are all predicated on paradoxes, loops, on having the metaphysical vagaries of time travel figured out. After one issue, I was really concerned this was what Chrononauts would be like.
How easily I forget that just a generation ago, Time Travel could be fun. Marty McFly time-travelled in a DeLorean and got to invent rock’n’roll and ride a hoverboard. Bill and Ted had an Excellent Adventure and got to mess around in ancient Greece, Napoleonic France, and 1860s Washington without consequence. By the end of Chrononauts #2, during which the rather bland bro-heroes had caused a mess of trouble in no less than seven centuries, I was fully on board.
Mark Millar’s trademark libertarian Machismo is all over this new series with Sean Murphy. The basic premise is – what if Franklin and Bash had a Tardis? If you’re worried too much about how Time Travel would work and how a bootstrap paradox could disrupt the entire fate of the universe, you may want to pass. But since you’re a comics fan, you probably learned everything you ever needed to know about time travel from Cable and Bishop in the Uncanny X-Men.
Yeah, I’m the kind of person who wants to see a moghul hoarde repelled by Apache helicopters, or a T-Rex get buzzed by an F-14 Tomcat. I’d stand up and shout that from the rooftops.
Rebels #1 by Brian Wood and Andrew Mutti with Jordie Bellaire. Dark Horse, 2015.
Look around and it’s easy to feel like we’re on the brink of a sea change. There are riots in the streets. We grow weary of the police state. For now the conflict may seem small, isolated, distant. But revolutions do start somewhere.
Once upon a time a revolution broke out among a group of white property owners who didn’t want to pay their taxes. Brian Wood’s historical (Northlanders and now Rebels) and futuro-historical (DMZ) fictions frequently depict variations on this theme, of Free Men holding out against the forces of the Colonizer. In that context, even his brief stint as the scribe of Dark Horse’s last offical Star Wars series makes some sense — what is Rebels vs. Empire if not a Revolutionary War story gone to space?
But if Wood’s work are read as his own interpretation of the current political climate, their distinctly Tea Party bent seems increasingly out of touch with the Reality on the Ground. Yes, White Property Owning Men in America at present find themselves besieged — but not by a Big Bad Government looking to take away their guns and tax their Cadillacs. Rather, their McMansions are surrounded by an increasingly vocal chorus of the real majority, those huddled masses who fit every description but Straight White Cisgender Male, who clamor to take their own share of the dream — the American Way of Life that has been promised and remained ungiven since at least 1775.
I’m not faulting the historical accuracy of Rebels — the research is fastidious, the subject an un-mined gold vein of interest for American Studies nerds — only noting that Wood’s continued fascination with the great white hopes of history is starting to drain the relevance from his once biting political fiction.
Thor #7 by Jason Aaron and Russel Dauterman with Matthew Wilson. Marvel (Disney), 2015.
“What if someone actually tried to make something optimistic?” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s essentially what Andy Greenwald asked of the superhero genre on a recent Hollywood Prospectus podcast. What if the radical idea wasn’t that superheros can be flawed, but that anyone could not be flawed? What if a hero’s Godlike powers were used not in a morally ambiguous battle royale with other heroes (see: Civil War, Batman vs. Superman), but used to, I don’t know, head off environmental catastrophe and dismantle vile corporate overlords who earn short-term profits off of long-term pollution, deforestation and mass extinction?
That’s kind of what Thor’s up to, and she’s the first one to really do it since Captain Planet. Three Cheers for Nuclear Waste Cleanup!
Zero #15 by Ales Kot and Ian Bertram with Jordie Bellaire. Image, 2015.
Is Ales Kot the most talented writer in mass market comics today, or just the best read?
William S. Burroughts once postulated a fiction that could be written and subsequently read in any order. His most famous novel, Naked Lunch, was at least partially assembled using cut-ups, haphazard reassemblies of original passages and textual samples.
All Art is Magical in Origin.
The many worlds theory suggests that every possible reality coexists eternally, causality functioning not as a chain but rather a fractal.
In one reality Edward Zero is a fictional super agent created by William Burroughs and based partially on his own life and that of fellow beat poet Allen Ginsberg.
In one reality Edward Zero is a real super agent who has uncovered, will uncover or is uncovering a global threat in the form of fungosporic virus.
In one reality Burroughts and Zero are both the fictional creations of Ales Kot, a writer who works for Marvel Comics and Image. Their stories unfold month by month with the help of a different artist. The collage approach to comics making suggests that the issues, or even the panels within, can be reassembled and consumed in any order with no change in the fidelity of meaning.
In one reality all of those possibilities coexist eternally, causality functioning not as a chain but rather a fractal.
Star Wars: Darth Vader #3 & #4 by Kieron Gillen and Salvador LaRocca with Edgar DelGado. Marvel (Disney), 2015.
Patton Oswalt famously noted that no one cares what Darth Vader was like as a kid. I believe that to be true, and I believe it to be doubly true that no one cares what Darth Vader does in his free time. But if you do, then this Buddy Comedy starring Yung Darth and a Generic Tattooed Hacker Chick, along with Dark C3PO, Machine Gun R2D2, Eyepatch Chewbacca, and a bunch of throwaway characters and locales from the prequel trilogy will surely feed your dark urges. While I’m patiently waiting for Star Wars to get good again (I mean those trailers are GD bootiful), I suppose I can stand to watch Star Wars get silly. This is some Christmas Special level buffoonery, and as a long term addition to the Canon it has about as much of a shot as:
Archie vs. Predator #1 (of 4) by Alex de Campi, Fernanado Ruiz and Rich Koslowski with Jason Millet. Dark Horse, 2015.
Way too much Archie and not nearly enough Predator – as if the creators really feel the need to explain to me how these two disparate universes could collide. Who cares, please get to the Predator decapitating Riverdale bullies and Jughead covering himself in mud in order to hunt the ultimate hunter! It seems like making this four issues long was ill-advised, because such length required actual plot and characterization to maintain, while the best Archie comics are a few pages long and the only decent Predator movie is like 88 minutes and most of that is without dialogue.
Nameless #3 by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham with Nathan Fairbairn. Image, 2015.
I believe that one day Morrison/Burnham will be regarded as one of the great writer/artist duos in comics, and this little series will be slotted in between Batman, Inc. and the team’s inevitable masterpiece in some massive triple slipcase retrospective Omnibus Artist’s Edition that will cost 5,000 Galactic Credits. Morrison’s greatest work has been wildly original, and this is more of a mashup: Kirby + Kubrick, Umberto Eco + Paul W.S. Anderson, chaos magic + Ancient Aliens. But god bless anyone who can draw giant forboding Space Artifacts this well.
Bitch Planet #4 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro with Cris Peter. Image, 2015.
So far this is my early front runner for Best Debut Series of 2015. It is both one of the most instantly accessible and fun action series out there — a riff on The Longest Yard set on an alternate future prison planet — and yet it remains poetic, salient and thought-provoking. It’s very sexy and violent, delivering “the exploitation tropes” without getting “male gazey”  It’s also very violent, very frightening, and yet very optimistic. The utterly paternalistic world it imagines seems never to have recovered from the Victorian era — but it’s mostly uncomfortable because it still seems so familiar. Basically the antidote to the Great White Hero point of view espoused in the Brian Wood comics reviewed above.
 Quotes from DeConnick’s afterward to this issue
Southern Bastards #8 by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour. Image, 2015.
I came down quite hard on this title when it’s first arrived, criticizing it for the cliched pastiche of the Deep South it offered. The time has come to admit that I was totally wrong, because I see now that it is that very pastiche that allows this series to transcend from just a story to something like a myth.