By Matt D. Wilson
Each week, Matt Wilson, co-host of the War Rocket Ajax podcast and author of The Supervillain Handbook, examines at a major comic news item and picks a few winners and one loser among the week’s comic book releases.
Last week, ComiXology made an announcement that it had rejected from and was going to be taking down some of the comics already available in its iOS app because they violated Apple’s App Store guidelines for content. You can see a list of the books that got removed here.
Tellingly, those books are still available at comixology.com. That, in conjunction with my recent discovery that comics creators actually make more off the sale of a digital comic bought through the ComiXology website than one in the App Store, has soured me a little on buying comics directly on my iPad.
(To briefly explain the whole creator cut thing: Because Apple doesn’t get a cut, more money can be divvied up between the creators, the publisher and ComiXology, the retailer. You’re basically cutting the distributor, who takes a pretty big hunk of the money, out of the equation.)
About the removing titles part: None of these books are “Saga.” They’d almost all get put behind a black curtian, or at least behind the counter, in a lot of stores. Howard Chaykin’s “Black Kiss” and the Joe Casey/Piotr Kowalski Image book “Sex” have more sexually explicit content in them than “Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose,” and that’s saying something. Johnny Ryan’s “Prison Pit” and “Angry Youth Comix” are incredibly gross fun, but they’re also pretty intensely disturbing. I haven’t read “Satan’s Circus of Hell,” but I can imagine.
What I’m saying is, if you’re going to have rules about keeping books out of your store because of sexual content, I get why these are there. I may not agree with it in principle, but I get it.
One book on the list that really surprised me, though, is the Fantagraphics anthology “No Straight Lines.” I’ll admit outright that I haven’t read it, but I have read quite a bit about it, and from what I can tell it’s not really a book about sex, though friends have told me that there’s definitely some sexual content, some of it quite explicit, in there. It’s really a history and a celebration of the LGBT comics community. It shines a spotlight on an area of comics that isn’t often recognized.
For that reason, the book being removed from the App Store irks me.
Look, I know rules are rules. And explicit sexual stuff in a comic is explicit sexual stuff, no matter what the intent of the book is. But it seems to me that there’s a pretty clear line between “Satan’s Circus of Hell” and “No Straight Lines.” I mean, yeah, for all I know, “Satan’s Circus of Hell” could be a poignant examination of religion in our times, but I have a pretty good sense it isn’t.
“No Straight Lines” is a pretty important look at a often ignored corner of the comics universe. And readers who buy their comics exclusively through the App Store will have to continue ignoring it. They have no choice in the matter.
And now the comics of the week!
(Marvel Comics, by Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel)
First of all, I’d like to just say that Olivier Coipel could basically draw the characters in this book standing in an elevator looking uncomfortable for 22 pages and it’d be gorgeous. The guy can make anything look great. Luckily, he’s given what feels like the opening scenes of a big-budget “X-Men” movie with an all-female cast of heroes to work with here, and everything really just works. The issue actually has a tone I wasn’t expecting, based on the preview stuff. It’s not a school drama or about new motherhood, like the preview pages indicated; it really does feel like an action movie, with big setpieces and a lot of suspense leading to a big last-page reveal that feels like something really huge. I’m hooked.
“The Wake” #1
(Vertigo, by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy)
Speaking of not totally being what I expected, this new sea-based horror series plays around with a structure I didn’t see coming at all. It’s intriguing, to say the least, though I’m not really sure I can say how well it works just yet. Intrigue really is the name of the game here, as the lion’s share of issue revolves around Dr. Lee Archer being called in to work on a project with Homeland Security that is obviously not what it seems from the very beginning. Murphy adds just the right amount of mood to the proceedings to make the little morsels of information the reader gets worth following up on.
This is kind of a big collection of backup stories, and the backups in the regular series have been a little bit hit-or-miss (the main stories have been consistently great). Luckily, these are all pretty good. The Roger Langridge opening story takes what seems like is going to be a tired conceit and makes it really delightful. Josh Williamson and Jason Ho’s story, “Dungeons and Desserts,” offers a great twist, and the mountain-climbing story by Whitney Cogar and Mad Rupert is beautifully crazy. On the whole, a terrific little collection of short stories.
Speaking of collections of short stories, this collection of the first three digital “Adventures of Superman” stories is downright delightful. I’m so glad the creative teams in this book were able to sidestep the big controversy surrounding it (though it’s still on the horizon, I suppose). Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee’s story about Superman trying to gingerly handle a drug addict with new powers has a great retro-fun feel to it, Jeff Lemire’s take on kids pretending to be Superman and Brainiac is really sweet, and Justin Jordan and Riley Rossmo’s Bizarro story has a lot of heart, despite the Bizarro-speak nearly getting out of control. The book’s just so heartfelt; it’s perfect for a collection of Supes tales.
I really wanted to like Cho’s arc on this series. I did. But in the end, it all just kind of felt like a collection of moments that didn’t amount to much. Some of those moments are pretty neat, for sure — The Hulk getting chomped by a whale is hilarious, as Amadeus Cho points out — but I walked away from this simply feeling like I didn’t get a complete story. It doesn’t help that Amadeus, my favorite new Marvel character of the past decade, just feels…off.