Runners up for week 30: Red Skull: Incarnate 1, Sweet tooth 23, Gladstone’s 3.

3. Red Skull: Incarnate #1 (Marvel comics)
Great, human, emotional. This book offers a serious origin for the man who would become Captain America’s greatest foe. While it coincides smartly with the release of the recent Captain America movie, this is not one of those throw-away, money grabbing movie tie-ins. Au contraire, for those familiar with Greg Pak’s Magneto testament, it’s clear that this series is a well researched documentation of fictional characters in a sadly non-fictional history. While the title characters of both books originate from brightly colored superhero comics, Pak’s World War Two titles are anything but colorful and do not contain superheroes (or anything fantastical for that matter). It tells the story of the young Johan Schmitt, who grows up in an orphanage in Germany at the time that Hitler’s NSDAP is gaining power. The kid is the victim of a terrible and violent life and before long starts to commit his own acts of violence… The story seems to be terribly historically accurate and rife with truthfulness. The only reason the writing is not perfect is because of the lack of resolution. This issue shows the first and a very terrible step to becoming a monster, but it doesn’t resolve enough or go into what comes next.
Art: 8           Writing: 9         Overall: 8.5

4. Sweet tooth #23 (Vertigo)
What to say about Jeff Lemire’s art? Other than that it’s mighty fine, it’s dark, moody and expressive and quite distinctive. I’m guessing a lot of mainstream comic readers are turned off by his style… …they are wrong. As to the story: While Gus and co finally find themselves in a safe place, tensions between the different individuals are rising to a boiling point. This leads to the characters having to make choices. Gus and Jepperd want to keep moving to Alaska, while the girls want to stay sheltered in the Dam. Meanwhile the professor sows seeds of distrust that are presumably based on the bible scribbles of Gus his dad. Screw X-men schism, if you want to read about a group of characters that gets torn apart because of circumstances, read Sweet tooth… I really admire the way that Lemire has woven a tail of postapocalyptic animal children, intense human drama and a conspiracy that reminds me of the Dharma Initiative.
Art: 8           Writing: 8,5      Overall: 8.3

5. Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors #3 (Image comics) Great original story and interesting set up with a worldwide (?) truce between superheroes and super villains. However, darkness is looming on the horizon because certain villains are rebelling and trying to break the armistice. This issue explains that the villains leave their kids under the impression that there is no truce until they’re seventeen. Interestingly though, we learn of two students of the supervillain academy that are tasked by their imprisoned parents to bring an end to the peace between heroes and villains. Just as last issue I’m immensely impressed by the world-building by creators Mark Andrew Smith and Armand Villavert. In just three issues they have set up a rich and believable world that plays with the usual superhero formula’s, but turns them upside down in a way that’s wholly new to me. And as a central plot device they use a school for supervillains with which they can tell the story through the kids’ eyes. Last time I compared Villavert’s art with Darrow and Kirby, while I still agree with that I think it’s more fitting to put him in the school of art that gave us the Luna brothers and Jamie MCCalvie: Very clean, stylized, illustrating. Again, the only (minor) problem is the lack of backgrounds. Otherwise this title has all the ingredients to follow the success of a series like Invincible… This may be my favorite new book!

Art: 8           Writing: 8         Overall: 8

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