You know, I figured if anyone could find the fun in seeing Doctor Doom trying to rehabilitate his image as (The Infamous) Iron Man it’d be Mark Waid. The man has a great handle on knowing how to respect a character’s history and subvert it which he demonstrated to regular and frequently excellent extent on his “Daredevil” run. So imagine my surprise when I see that Waid wasn’t the sole writer on the two issues in which Doom guest-stars in this volume. Jeremy Whitley, writer of “The Unstoppable Wasp,” co-writes these two issues and… they’re fine.
With vol. 3 being the end of the main story Greg Rucka was telling on his latest “Wonder Woman” run, I was skeptical that this volume could really add anything to it. Said skepticism is justified here as “Godwatch” makes for an awkward end to his tenure as a writer for this title. The issues collected here at least manage a solid narrative through-line as they flesh out the backstory and character of her antagonist Veronica Cale. Even if Cale is clearly meant to be cut from the same cloth as Lex Luthor, she’s distinguished here by the ruthless lengths to which she’ll go to make sure her daughter is restored to her proper self and her friendship with her business partner Dr. Adrianna Anderson, a.k.a. “Doctor Cyber.” You also get to see how Phobos and Deimos became part of the story and they deliver some quality preening villainy along the way.
The problem with all this is that it feels like it should’ve come before the previous volume. This is one of those rare instances where reading the issues as they came out, since the ones collected here were originally published between the issues collected in vol. 3, looks like it would’ve been preferable to reading them in the collected edition now. However, they couldn’t have simply made this vol. 3 instead because the final full issue collected here would’ve spoiled part of that one. “Godwatch” does sport some very lovely art from Bilquis Evely, with Mirka Andolfo pitching in for one issue, and it closes out with a cute story about the first time Wonder Woman met Batman and Superman in this continuity. All things considered, this is very much a case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts which is a good way to sum up Rucka’s run overall this time around.
This is an odd volume for a couple of reasons. It dials back the crazy plot twists the series usually thrives on and takes a break from advancing the main plot to focus on exploring the backstories of the crew of the Clarke as well as the alien Builders. In addition, “Blueshift” is also the penultimate volume of “Letter 44.” While I’m glad that it collects the issues that were left out of previous collections, all the development it offers here doesn’t really add much to the series.
This series manages a tricky balance of the creepy, unsettling, and even heartwarming with its third volume. It’s biggest surprise turns out to be relevant to the plot in ways you wouldn’t expect as the old woman introduced at the end of vol. 2 turns out to actually be Shiva’s aunt. Yes, the same one who abandoned her Outside where she was found by Teacher has now come to bring her back Inside with the king’s guards providing backup. The “rescue” is successful and Shiva and her aunt are allowed to go live in a village on the periphery of the Inside while the king awaits further divine revelation from the head of the church as to how the little girl will be able to save them from the curse of the Outsiders. So Shiva and her aunt have some time to renew their bond and enjoy the comforts of civilized human life. That is, unless the curse of the Outsiders decides to make itself known on the Inside once again.
Even though the opening chapter of this volume is heartbreaking in that it shows Shiva and Teacher being forcibly separated, it’s actually kind of nice to see the little girl get to know her aunt again. Auntie genuinely cares for the little girl and tries her best to shield the girl from the unpleasantness she has had to endure at the hands of the monarchy and church. All this eventually leads to some of the creepiest and most dramatic imagery that mangaka Nagabe has rendered yet in this series as the town descends into chaos for fairly spoilerific reasons.
If there is one thing I have against this volume, it’s that it doesn’t provide any answers to the many questions its narrative has raised so far. In fact, vol. 3 ends with an even bigger question being raised in regards to Shiva’s origin. This is annoying, but not a dealbreaker. It’s clear from this volume that the real heart of the series is the relationship between Shiva and Teacher as it remains compelling even when they’ve been separated.
There hasn’t been any interesting Image news to comment on over the past month. Which, from a certain perspective, is kind of refreshing compared to the constant stream of drama that comes out of the Big Two. It doesn’t make for an interesting way to begin a column like this, so let’s just dive into March’s solicitations.
He’s not even a month into his tenure as Marvel’s new Editor in Chief but C.B. Cebulski is already dealing with his first major controversy. Namely, the fact that he previously wrote for the company under an assumed Japanese name: Akira Yoshida. The way this happened sounds more amusing/absurd than anything else as Cebulski came up with the name to use as a pseudonym for working as a writer for other companies while he was employed as an editor at Marvel. Though Marvel had (has?) a prohibition regarding editors working as writers they wound up unknowingly hiring him to write a few titles thinking he actually had a background in manga.
In this current day and age, posing as a Japanese writer for a time is not a good look for anyone to have. Particularly at a company like Marvel that is still struggling with diversity when it comes to the creators who write their comics. The irony here is that while Cebulski posed as a Japanese writer he was actually instrumental in getting some Japanese creators to come work for the company. We have him to thank for that Kia Asamiya-illustrated arc of “Uncanny X-Men,” a Kazuo Koike-written “Wolverine” story and a few covers from Katsuya Terada. This is in addition to the minority outreach he practiced while working as a talent scout for the company to bring in talented creators like Adrian Alphona.
So I’m not about to write Cebulski off for something he did years ago even if he’s just getting around to ‘fessing up to it now. As for everyone who’s saying that someone like him shouldn’t be EIC of Marvel Comics, well… isn’t being the new EIC of Marvel punishment enough? It’s going to be Cebulski’s job to revitalize years of sagging sales in the wake of a near-universally unliked crossover and now that the company’s strategy of near-constant relaunches appears to have been run into the ground. The glib might say that there’s nowhere for the company to go but up at this point. That’s not true as things could worsen to the point where Disney decides to pull the plug on Marvel Comics’ print operations entirely. Now it’s up to Cebulski to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Yeah, that got kind of grim. Let’s see if there’s anything more positive to consider in these solicitations…
In the wake of the “Milk Wars” crossover Gerard Way’s Young Animal imprint goes through a familiar rite of passage at DC in this month’s solicitations. That would be the “soft relaunch” as three of its titles are getting new #1 issues and a new miniseries debuts alongside them. Of the group, Cave Carson Has An Interstellar Eye #1 sounds the most interesting as I liked the first volume of the original series and I’m curious to see what “spelunking inside a black hole” entails. As for Shade, The Changing Woman #1 and Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. #1 both look to be relying on greater ties to the series that they were derived from. The original Shade will be showing up to meet his successor in that title and the Joker is now a balloon-making sad clown in the dystopian future of “Gotham A.D.” We also get Eternity Girl #1 (of 6) from writer Madeline Visaggio and recently minted Eisner award winning artist Sonny Liew about an immortal former superhero and super spy who is suffering from depression and is offered the opportunity to die from her former nemesis.
Assuming that the second volume doesn’t disappoint, I’ll be picking up the new “Cave Carson” series when it’s collected. Everything else doesn’t really sound bad, but, well… *shrugs* The previous launches from Young Animal started off with strong sales before cratering quickly. Unless these new titles turn out to be substantially better and buzzier than their predecessors expect history to repeat itself here.
So how about that Disney/Fox merger that just happened? Assuming it goes through it’ll wind up being the biggest entertainment merger ever and likely to have a huge impact on the films and TV we watch. The “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four” joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe might actually wind up being on the low end of importance here, all things considered.
Then there’s the fact that with this deal Disney now owns the rights to a lot of other properties. Including “Aliens,” “Predator,” “Prometheus,” “Firefly/Serenity,” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” You can probably see where I’m going with this. There’s no question that Dark Horse was burned by the loss of “Star Wars” but they’ve managed to survive and even thrive with the success of their artbook line, which includes the massive national bestseller “Hyrule Historia.” That said, they still publish a lot of comics related to these properties and they make up a substantial part of the company’s backlist so their loss would certainly hurt. Assuming that they do lose their license to publish these comics. None of these properties are on the level of “Star Wars” so it’s possible, maybe even likely, that Disney lets the company continue to publish comics based on them and focuses on their existing titles.
Dark Horse has shown itself to be really good at surviving challenges like these and I’m sure that publisher Mike Richardson has been aware of the implications of this deal and is taking steps to make sure it survives this one. It’s possible that we could see an even greater focus on their licensing of art-and-sourcebooks for various gaming properties. Or even an uptick in their licensing of manga now that all of the major players in that field have their own American offices and there’s less of a chance of them losing a top-tier title like “Akira” or “Ghost in the Shell.” That, however, is merely some pie-in-the-sky hopefulness on my part.
What kind of dungeon-centric cuisine can you expect to experience in this latest volume? How about broiled kraken parasite -- with sauce! There’s also a meal made from grilled bits of kelpie, an undine boiled with tentacles into a stew, tentacle gnocchi with giant frog meat, and porridge that was made from rice floating around some (dead) adventurers. As always the imaginative dishes our protagonists cook up are the main attractions here. Well, along with seeing how they manage to kill the monsters in question that make up these various dishes, and how they can come back to life after getting killed in the process of doing that.
Vol. 3 adds a few interesting wrinkles to the world of “Delicious in Dungeon.” Such as the bit about how resurrection works: only in the dungeon because it’s under a curse that binds a soul to a body. We also get some nice backstory about the relationship between Marcille and Falin (Laios’ dragon-digested sister who everyone is trying to rescue) as we see their time in school together as the laid-back and inquisitive latter teaches the book-smart former a thing or two about how magic works. Original dwarven party member Namari makes a return with a new group, just in time to grudgingly help the party recover from being attacked by an undine and to recognize the rare metal Senshi’s pot and lid are made out of.
It may not have started out this way, but mangaka Ryoko Kui is managing to interject a notable amount of worldbuilding and character development into its title. While its main focus will always be on the meals that can be made out of monsters, you can expect to see the story and characters become more interesting as things go on. This is the beginning of “Delicious in Dungeon” transcending its core gimmick and I can assure you that things are only going to get better from here.