Marvel Entertainment and IDW Publishing announced in 2018 that the two companies will create comic books designed for younger readers. Again, we must be trapped in the Bizzaro World of Marvel.  With the release of the second issue of Marvel Action: Spider-Man, I’m elated to say it has been as good as the top-notch, current Marvel-published comics featuring the famed web-slinger.  The all-ages periodical is as friendly as your neighborhood Spider-Man and accessible to anyone who has only seen characters in the movies or cartoons.  Marvel Action: Spider-Man is a fresh start for all-aged readers of Marvel’s most popular character, and the triumphant return of the kid-friendly periodical comic book.  

Change (and how we deal with it) is one of the themes that runs throughout the Ascender series - one that I think is important, especially in these unsettled times.  It affects us not only on a personal level, but also on a global scale, as well.

Chaos on Olympus Station gives Tilde the chance to run. Stowing away on a transport vessel, she escapes one threat, only to plunge headfirst into another. Writer Johnnie Christmas and artist Jack T. Cole build off the momentum of their explosive premiere issue with an ominous return to the titular Tartarus colony.

Nice. This issue of Bang! is a fun, clever, action-packed dissection and alteration of another hero from the pantheon of modern-day, box-office monoliths. The first issue turned the myth of the famed 007 on its head. Now, we enter the realm of one of my favorite actioneers: Die Hard. It took me two panels to figure out that this was going to be Matt Kindt’s take on the wearied, over-worked Detective John McClane who always seems to be caught in the midst of some kind of hostage situation. Kindt injects a fun twist into the McClane mythology that I’ll let you discover on your own, but I have to say: Giving a reason as to why he’s barefoot all the time is priceless.

In a nutshell, Starship Down #1 is a solid beginning to what seems to be a fascinating sci-fi thriller. Think The DaVinci Code meets Alien vs. Predator, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the tone. At the center of it all is Dr. Jocelyn Young, a cultural anthropologist who’s roped in by US Naval Intelligence to study what looks to be a vessel of extraterrestrial origin. Also along for the ride are the Russians and the Vatican. Can all of these diverging interests align, or will they fray any mutual connections?

In Russia in December of 1916, a mysterious, hooded time traveler named Maya shows up out of the blue to assassinate Grigori Rasputin. Then, in 1944, Virginia Hall, a spy codenamed Artemis, assassinates a prominent Nazi for the Allied troops in Vichy, France. What will happen when these two women cross paths?

As I dug into my Kickstarter pile, I thought it was time to dive into Pneumatic Cases, a Victorian Steampunk mystery by John Wilson.  If you’re a fan of The Thin Man movie series (1934) based on the novels by Dashiell Hammett, then you’ll immediately recognize the similarities between the two lead characters in the comic and the movie. They are married. They love each other and work as a team, and the female character is the snarky one. Why do I point this out? Because we don’t see enough of this type of relationship in storytelling, and I think it’s important to see relationships where both parties love and respect one another.  Now, on with the show…

I have always thought that tardigrades would make great sci-fi creatures. They’re the perfect combination of freaky and adorable. If you don’t know what a tardigrade is, they’re microscopic creatures that look a bit like bears, a bit like pigs, but mostly nothing like anything else you’ve seen before. They can survive in virtually any conditions, including the vacuum of space, and are functionally immortal.

I'm noticing a trend in my reading habits.  If a graphic novel has ghost in the name, I'm almost certainly going to pick it up. I love ghosts! From a storytelling perspective, they immediately offer up hundreds of different possibilities. Sometimes, this is as simple as a character getting to interact with a lost friend or family member, but, in its extreme, it can open up an entire world of magic on a single conceit. Take Paranorman or Coco; both build expansive worlds just on the question of what is the afterlife. All My Friends Are Ghosts reminds me of the latter, taking the idea of someone who sees ghosts and transforming it into an entire lore.

The penultimate issue of Ronin Island has been released, and what an issue. As the Shogun makes a final attempt at the island, Hana and Kenichi finally speak to the underlying themess of racism and classism that have been a part of each of their journeys. It’s wonderful, and it’s emotional. Pak is a phenomenal writer, and I can’t help but relate to the frustrations felt by Hana. By telling a story so far from where I am and in such a different time period, he’s managed to speak to the most haunting truths of our modern society - right here in the great old US of A.

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