About a decade/entire lifetime ago, I found myself wandering George Lucas’ house in Skywalker Ranch, and spotted a display case containing the golden idol prop from the first Indiana Jones movie. My first impulse, of course, was to find a bag of sand to put in its place (I did not, George, don’t worry).
As much as I love them, I find it harder and harder to watch those movies as time goes on. That golden idol sequence is so exciting and delightful … until you realize that he’s a thief, and hey, wait, maybe all those angry Indigenous people have a point. Somebody ought to break into Indy’s house and steal his hat, see how he likes it.
That’s why I’m so interested in the flipping-around of the usual tomb-raider trope in Compass: The Cauldron of Eternal Life — one of several fantastic issue-ones hitting comic book shops this week. The book introduces a fearless, resourceful middle eastern scholar/adventurer named Shahidah El-Amin, whose exploration brings her into lost tombs and into opposition with sinister supernatural forces.
Thanks as always to Phoenix for helping to pick out the highlights in a week jam-packed with truly excellent new releases. Now go get out there and read.
REPRESENT! TRADE PAPERBACK #1
I don’t know why DC seems to be burying this anthology of stories about Black heroes — good luck finding it for sale online — but it’s absolutely worth your time. This paperback collects several short stories by various authors and artists that the company started releasing back in September, and it’s wonderful to see them all gathered here. Among the highlights are a fictionalization of the infamous real-life encounter between a Black bird watcher and an agitated white woman who called the police (written by the birdwatcher at the center of the incident!); and also a lovely tale featuring a girl learning about the heroes in her family’s past. Alas, not every story packs the same punch, as they’re all quite brief and don’t always have enough room to thrive. But at any rate it is extremely weird that the company has made virtually no information about this collection available online, especially since more single-issues in the DC Represent series are due out in the future. Go grab a copy at your local comics shop — which you should be in the habit of doing with all of your comics.
Rating: 🦸🦸🦸 (3/5)
SAVE YOURSELF #1
I loved every page of Save Yourself, an adorable magical-girl adventure-romance told in a sugary palette of pinks and purples. The world is defended by a group of heroes named The Lovely Trio who arrived a few years ago to battle space monsters, or at least that’s the story everyone’s been led to believe. But what if … there’s more to the monsters than meets the eye??? Okay, this is maybe not the first time you’ve encountered the trope of heroes who might be secret villains and monsters who might be secretly good. But what a beautiful approach: Gigi is a kind-hearted champ, and her friends are adorable; the monster design is inspired; and the colors! Oh my stars, the colors. Also, there is a kiss in this book that made me giggle out loud. The book is a love letter to magical-girl tropes, and it’s entirely deserving of love letters from fans.
Rating: 🎀🎀🎀🎀🎀 (5/5)
Writer: Bones Leopard. Artists: Kelly & Nichole Matthews.
TEEN TITANS: BEAST BOY
Reading this new take on Beast Boy took me back to the very first Tobey Maguire Spider-Man film — a sweet-hearted, modest story that nails the balance of teen-drama to action. While the paperback was released back in September, this new hardcover version is worth having on your shelf, or gifting to a friend. We begin with Garfield Logan as your typical melancholy teen, an awkward goof who laments his unpopularity. (Never mind that he is good-looking and charismatic; please just go along with the premise that he is, for some reason, an outcast.) You can probably see where this is going: Hidden within Gar is a secret superpower just waiting to be unleashed, which of course eventually happens, as pubertily as possible. But the green shape-shifting is a small sliver of the appeal; Gar’s charming personality and in-over-his-head hijinks make him an awkward hero worth rooting for because he has absolutely no idea how heroic he is. An excellent companion to the Raven book, now also out in paperback. I don’t normally recommend stories about heterosexual couples (haven’t we had enough already?) but I would defend these two kooky kids with my life.
Rating: 🐍🐍🐍🐍 (4/5)
Author: Kami Garcia. Artist: Gabriel Picolo.
Like Quentin Tarantino getting his professional start working in a video rental store, Cartoonist Guy Delisle began his career making paper. For three summers, he worked in a paper factory, a monotonous job in which he was a tiny little stick figure amongst gigantic clunking machines and a never-ending river of pulp and paper. Factory Summers is a meditative memoir — one slice of a young man’s life between idle childhood and the crossroads at the start of a career. The guys at the factory are macho. The work schedule is unpredictable. Animation school competes for his attention. His dad, who works elsewhere at the factory, hovers at the periphery of his vision like an occasional ghost. Over the course of the summers, Guy gradually gains an appreciation for the individual trajectories of those around him; some stay at the mill for the rest of their lives, some pursue their passions, others drift away without explanation. For his part, Guy mostly rides the current, occasionally nudging himself towards a career in art but mostly just sitting back to observe, perhaps anticipating that the whirring reams of paper speeding past would one day carry his memories.
Rating: 📝📝📝 (3/5)
Author & artist: Guy Delisle.
ALSO: SUPERGIRL, STATIC, and PLANET-SIZE X-MEN
For some reason this is a rich week for superhero issue-ones. Static gets a revamp for a world in which Black superheroes are more meaningful than ever. Supergirl goes searching for meaning … again. The X-Men launch a major new storyline, following up on a recent glitzy gala. And I’m intrigued by Compass: The Cauldron of Life, in which a daring adventurer seeks fame and fortune in the raiding of tombs. But this book inverts the usual trope of white colonizers stealing from cultures of color; in this book, Shahidah El-Amin departs Baghdad in search of a secret of eternal life in Wales.