They’ve been off saving the world (or something perhaps coping with the fall out from Secret Empire), but we’re pleased to announce that the Paradox Comics Group are back from their brief hiatus with their latest round-up of the best mainstream digital comics on ComiXology featuring: Secret Empire, Britannia, A.D., Weapon X and Black Monday Murders,.
SECRET EMPIRE #1
Publisher: Marvel Writer: Nick Spencer Art: Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten & Matthew Wilson Price: $4.99 from ComiXology
Matt C: People are having really strong negative reactions to this event series, and it’s interesting watching how they’re responding to this issue in particular, and how it possibly says more about them than it does the story itself, because, even within the confines of the superhero genre, this is edgy material, and it’s pushing buttons all over the place. The thing is, you strip it down to its core ingredients and Secret Empire isn’t original in the slightest: an alt-timeline created by cosmic tampering where the bad guys are in power and the heroes are on the back foot. There are a whole slew of events over the years that have taken that as their central premise, so why is this tale in particular kicking up such a fuss? Are there too many elements that comment both directly and indirectly on situations unfolding in the real world? Possibly, and perhaps that’s the genius of the whole premise, watching a writer construct a smart, thrilling narrative that reflects what’s going on in a way that can rile people up, get them angry and – yes – get them thinking. Personally I believe this is Marvel at its most culturally aware; sure, it’s left-leaning and some will no doubt find it too near the knuckle, but it’s an audacious opening salvo, brilliantly illustrated, and an undeniable page-turner. Oh, and a reality-altering cosmic cube lies at the heart of the set-up, so perhaps some perspective is needed in some quarters, right?
BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #2
Publisher: Valiant Writer: Peter Milligan Art: Juan Jose Ryp & Frankie D’Armata Price: $3.99 from ComiXology
James R: Britannia continues to be an unexpected gem. Following a great opening last month, Milligan builds on the promise of the first issue with an equally enjoyable delve into the arena. Antonius Axia’s investigations lead him to discover more about the fearsome Achillia, who has become a hero for the women of Rome. The role of gender is very much the focus of the plot here, with Milligan highlighting that by Nero’s time, women weren’t the equals of men, but women can escape the restrictions of culture and law. The more cerebral elements are nicely balanced with some great sword & sandals staples (cut throats aplenty, a suitably mad Nero). Ryp’s pencils are complimented nicely by D’Armata’s colours, and the academic essay on women in Rome is a great bonus. I hope Valiant keep Britannia going; I’m certainly giving the regal thumbs up to more cases for detectioner Axia.
A.D.: AFTER DEATH BOOK 3
Publisher: Image Writer: Scott Snyder Art: Jeff Lemire Price: $5.99 from ComiXology
Matt C: The delay in publication can’t diminish the profound impact this concluding instalment has. The brilliantly alluring structure, and the surprises it reveals, is nothing short of breathtaking. Both Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire are at the very top of their game, inspiring each other to even greater heights as they’ve gone along, so that by the final page it’s impossible not to be affected on a deep and significant level. Thematically, it’s as much about memory as it is about death, and the importance our recollections play on the directions our lives take, but ultimately it does come down to our mortality, and how we’re never truly prepared to face the great beyond, no matter how much we try and convince ourselves otherwise. A masterpiece, and it’s unlikely 2017 will see anything better than this in the medium.
WEAPON X #3
Publisher: Marvel Writer: Greg Pak Art: Greg Land, Ibraim Roberson, Jay Leisten & Frank D’Armata Price: $3.99 from ComiXology
Jo S: I enjoyed the first couple of issues of this series, as Logan and Sabretooth formed an alliance against a team of adamantium cyborgs, imbued with their own DNA, rendering them invisible to the heroes’ super-sniffing skills, and worked (in an endearingly tetchy way) together to try to resist the capture of further mutants by the cyborgs’ mysterious creators. Those already aware of my interest in all things droid-cyborg-tinman-related might have guessed that the robo-bad guys in this are a distinct win with me (Shiny metal muscles! Shiny bald skulls!) but this issue ups the Jo-love ante by adding Domino, my new favourite hero, to the mix. She literally makes her own luck but will she escape the clutches of her Weapon X stalkers? Fantastically snappy action and a creative variety of environments elevate this story, which could have been repetitive as the pursuers work their way through a list of targets, and witty timing and elegant fight sequences keep it tight and engrossing. Plus the sound effects attached to Logan using a computer (which, frankly, looks as incongruous as my dad trying to come to grips with a mobile phone) made me giggle disproportionately.
BLACK MONDAY MURDERS #5
Publisher: Image Writer: Jonathan Hickman Art: Tomm Coker & Michael Garland Price: $3.99 from ComiXology
James R: This is a title that oozes class. From its epic (does Hickman do anything else?) first issue, Black Monday Murders has been a comic that showcases the greatness of the writer and, increasingly, the outstanding work of Tomm Coker. This month we’re introduced to Thomas Dane, a former CIA agent drawn into the dark world of the Rothschilds. What I love about this book, and Hickman’s scripts per se, is that he demands your attention – these aren’t comics to be casually flicked through, they’re ones that reward a reader who wants to be educated as well as entertained. Coker’s art is fantastic here, and with Michael Garland’s dark and moody colours, it has a wonderful cinematic feel. One of my favourite titles, and a perfect example of just how good monthly comics can be.