A man in a cape, eyes obscured, arms crossed at the bottom of the frame. This is a cut from the cover of Swordquest.

Last Week’s Comics 6/28/2017

Crosswind #1

(Image- Writer: Gail Simone; Artist: Cat Staggs)

A man with a gun stands back to back with a nervous looking brunette woman. This is the cover for Crosswind #1. So Freak Friday with an assassin and a housewife? I’m in. I was even more in when I saw Gail Simone’s name attached. Simone’s latest project, Crosswind is the store of what happens when a hired gun in Chicago and an emotionally abused wife in Seattle swap bodies. They never have a chance encounter, they don’t put a quarter into a carnival gypsy. They just swap after a homeless man maybe puts a curse on Cason Bennett, an assassin. Shortly after, he swaps with Juniper Blue, a woman in Seattle.

In its premier issue, Crosswind is a neat little introduction into what seems like two brilliant fish out of water stories. Neither has any idea why or how it happened. Neither really spares a moment to try and figure it out, they just start moving.

It’s especially worth noting that not only are ages and locations being swapped but also genders. When Case becomes June one his first reactions is to poke his new body in the breast. Moments later, he firmly grasps his new chest with both hands. June is much more tempered. She checks out the gun in Case’s jacket, the one he was so poetically describing to begin the book. Then she realizes she’s at the scene of violent murder.

Credit where credit is due, illustrator Cat Staggs does an amazing job communicating character through body language. As soon as June and Case swap their postures completely change. The confident, brusque Case-in-June stands straighter. His shoulders are tucked back a little, his speech is suddenly terser. June-in-Case has the opposite effect. Her fingers rush to Case’s mouth. In fact, in most panels Case’s fingers are rarely distinct. Now they’re as expressive as anything El Greco painted. Though June-in-Case never gives us the body language says it all.

This short 4 page sequence is what says it all for me. This series has something special to it. Simone has always had a flair for characters of specific backgrounds who don’t betray their circumstances in any given situation. They’re solid, movable but with resistance. Here, even though the characters say and do little, they speak volumes and show their inner selves.

While I don’t think I’ll ever fall deeply in love with this particular art style it doesn’t matter. It has the acid washed quality of a fever dream. It’s not bad or ugly. Its just not for me and that’s okay.

Who really knows where the story goes from here. I hope they don’t try and find a talisman or something. I picked up Crosswind on a whim and I was glad to. You will be too.

David Shimomura

Gene Simmons, illustrated, with red devil wings and a long purple red tongue. This is the cover for Kiss #9


(Dynamite—Writer: Amy Chu; Artist: Kewber Baal)

The city of Blackwell thought it was the last vestige of humanity floating around in space. Last issue they encounter what they think are aliens. These tall Kiss meets Cylon-looking figures take off their helmets and are actually Japanese girls. Their ambassador appears to be a Japanese Colonel Sanders. Apparently the colony ship is called The Obayashi, the girls are the Obayashi Council. The ship has a population of 4.1 million people, mostly from Tokyo and its surrounding suburbs. Most of this issue explains this, and how 4.1 million people are being kept alive on the ship. Apparently they’re refugees from an apparently massive rock concert that have been floating around in outer space. That part made the most sense to me out of all the info gleamed about this space colony.

KISS #9 is a weird issue, but I’ll give it some credit beyond the pretty great cover art by Kyle Strahm. It’s expanding the world beyond this little place we’ve been hanging out in for the last eight issues, and keeping up with the quirky details. Also the ending may introduce Kiss into the storyline? I know I’ve been ripping on this series for a while now, because Kiss is ridiculous and in real life are pretty terrible people. It’s so hard not to laugh at any kind of their self-mythologizing because they are so ridiculous and terrible people. The fact the Amy Chu is manipulating this ridiculousness is great though, she’s doing an admirable job of it. Scenes involving world-building in this series can be fun, despite the fact that the eyes of Simmons watching this can be felt.  I wouldn’t be surprised if memos passed from him to creative say things like “There must be at least four songs referenced in every issue, and Kiss branding must appear on every page”.

The stakes of this issue are also so weird. The action zips along at a clip in issue #9, but at the same time it goes from “You will be executed” to “You know how to play ‘Beth’ by Kiss? Here are the keys to our ancient cloning chambers and space Koi pond” over the course of a few pages. Is this ongoing being cut down to a mini? Something felt that way in this issue, like they were pushing the story along to get to the conclusion. We shall see, because like in This Is Spinal Tap everything may be over by the time the bassist emerges from his primordial pod. Or in this case, those four guys from that band that should have ended decades/centuries ago emerge from a cloning chamber and the series ends. Probably not though, I’m sure it’s just another person from that sad little city that worships Kiss called Blackwell, and this series will soldier on with me continuing to pop in and review it.

Michael Edwards

A man lazes on a large planet, his arms crossed. This is the cover from Swordquest.

Swordquest #1

(Dynamite—Writers: Chad Bowers, Chris Sims; Artist: Ghostwriter X)

This book is of a way higher quality than it could have been. I’ve reviewed a few adaptations of cartoons, movies and video games for Last Week’s Comics, and they run the quality varies drastically. Swordquest is actually an engaging read with characters that feel lived-in and real, not vessels to move the video game plot on to the next level, much like those in a video game. The adapted material for this enhances a story that dabbles in magical realism, but is ultimately about a man making amends before he dies. While that includes getting back in touch with childhood friends, for him right now it is ultimately about the physical sword that got away.

This issue further introduces the key characters of this series beyond Peter, the cancer-afflicted main character who was something of an Atari master in his youth. We learn about his relationship with childhood friends Amy and her brother Alvin, who were key in the original sword quest in the 80s. We are also introduced to a mysterious and mystical motorcycle-riding man, who may be able to help with the modern-day sword quest.

This book does a good job of establishing backstory for Peter and his relationship with Amy and Alvin. It also offers hints that Peter’s mental health is in as rough a shape as his physical health. What we gather is that Peter’s life is pretty miserable, and that he hasn’t had much interaction with his childhood friends, due to a misunderstanding between him and Alvin when they were teenagers as to the nature of their friendship (while in a movie theater watching Flash Gordon). This led to him being rejected on multiple levels, and not the video game kind.

Bowers and Sims do a great job bringing some great character work and real world stuff into a comic about a somewhat forgotten Atari video game. The art by Ghostwriter X is still quite effective at throwing fun 8-bit Easter eggs into the mix, like a Gamergate-type guy being shut down at Amy’s book signing and the being devoured by a giant Pac-Man. Also the framing of bits and pieces of book titles on the bookstore shelves offer insight into what Peter’s intentions and thoughts are, as he tries to use Amy’s position as a highly-regarded video game journalist and book author as a means to gain access to a gaming convention where the sword of his dreams will be on display. For now it would appear that Peter only cares about gaining access to the sword, and little about his friends and family, like his mother who he lives with and still hasn’t told her anything about his cancer yet.

If I have any complaints about this issue it’s that the pacing is a little wonky at times. For a first issue it feels too much like a continuation of #0 instead of a proper introduction to the series. Typically a #0 issue serves as a prequel, world expander or an expositional backstory tool, while issue #1 can be read on its own as the starting point of the series. This issue #1 felt more like an issue #2. Also some of this stuff, like Peter and Alvin’s falling out, could have been rolled out a little more over the course of the series.

Then again this could be to service the sword quest plot of the comic called Swordquest, who knows. I’m liking what I’m reading so far, let’s hope this book keeps it up with the multiple thematic plates its spinning. If the book becomes an Adventure/Heist story from here on out that would be cool, but I do hope all of the quality character building isn’t thrown away. It doesn’t have to be just about the Macguffin sword.

Michael Edwards

Ad Free, Comic Books, Last Week's Comics, Review