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The funniest laugh in 1979’s The Muppet Movie comes right after Kermit and Piggy meet and fall in love. Their moment is interrupted by a big chase in which a car crashes into a billboard and a giant whipped cream pie falls on another car and Gonzo falls out of the sky and goes “I’m back!” ... at which point Piggy, who has only just joined the film moments earlier and has not witnessed any of the events that led up to the string of mayhem, turns to Kermit and sighs, “I don’t understand any of this.”

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The comedy here — if I may ruin it by explaining it — is that it asks the audience to consider how ridiculous and confusing the Muppet hijinks must look to someone who has joined their tomfoolery in the middle of things. And that, alas, is a problem encountered by several new comics releasing this week, all of which get bogged down by outside reading requirements in order to follow the story.

That having been said, jumping into a story mid-stream can sometimes be a good way to test the waters and figure out if you want to jump back to the beginning. Just, you know … be prepared to feel like Miss Piggy. Thanks as always to Phoenix for helping to sort through this week’s comics!

AFTERSHOCK TRIPLE-PLAY: WE LIVE, DARK ARK, ANIMOSITY

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I have to hand it to AfterShock for finding a clever way to re-use content here. This book combines material from past Free Comics Days into a single triple-story anthology, making a convenient sampler. You’ll get a little snippet of Animosity, a sci-fi comedy series in which animals suddenly gain human-like sapience just as the world is ending; one from Dark Ark, a sinister satanic story about the end of days; and a bit of We Live, in which a group of children struggle through one apocalyptic wasteland in the hopes of escaping a more thorough impending apocalypse. Of the stories excerpted here, Animosity does the best of standing on its own; the concept is gettable, and though the full story is clearly truncated to fit in this volume, there’s still a beginning, middle, and end. The other two feel like disjointed moments of a half-remembered dream, or like walking into the wrong classroom on the first day of school. That’s a shame, since I think that of them, We Live is the strongest series. It offers a suspenseful, scary adventure with complex, conflicted characters (no easy task when writing children!). The trade paperback is available right now (and has been since May, so I don’t know why AfterShock is giving it this months-later promo push) and you should pick it up rather than flipping through what amounts to three unsatisfying appetizers.
Rating: 💣(1/5)
Writers: Marguerite Bennett, Cullen Bunn, Inaki Miranda, Roy Miranda. Art: Antonio Fuso, Inaki Miranda, Elton Thomasi. Colors: Marco Lesko. Cover: Andrei Bressan.

BATGIRLS: ONE WAY OR ANOTHER ISSUE #1

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I don’t normally review Marvel and DC’s spandex books, since those long-running superhero stories often require encyclopedic back-issue knowledge to follow along (also both companies are weird about withholding review copies, so, okay, fine, whatever, guys). But this one came highly recommended so I gave it a shot. And: It’s fine. Three separate Batgirls have moved in together to fight crime in a particularly grungy Gotham neighborhood; as they move in, their styles clash (somewhat) and the women catch glimpses of some mysterious neighborhood malevolence. There’s a twist at the end that I bet is a real hum-dinger if you’re a fervent Marvel reader, but if not, you’ll be like “I don’t understand any of this.” That would be fine if there was some particularly entertaining chemistry between the Batgirls, but their interactions are fairly mild. Not too excited, not too angry, not too scared … you get the idea. A story about a clash of Batgirl styles could have been a real hoot! As it is, they seem like politely-acquainted roommates. The art’s outstanding, though, with sketchy graffiti-style splatters, big expressive faces, and big bright neon colors.
Rating: 🦇🦇🦇 (3/5)
Story: Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad. Art: Jorge Corona. Colors: Sarah Stern. Letters: Beca Carey. Al Covers: InHyuk Lee, Rian Gonzales, Dan Hipp, Toshitaka Amano. Editors: Jessica Berbey, Ben Abernathy, Jessica Chen.

THE FIREFLY HOLIDAY SPECIAL ISSUE #1

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I’ve watched the entire Firefly series several times through — and the Serenity movie twice, which was the maximum my poor heart would allow — so I thought I was equipped to follow this book at least. And … I was, mostly? If you know the show, you’ll recognize the characters, but their lives have clearly continued to be eventful since the events you last saw on screen. Their living arrangements have drastically shifted over the course of other comic books, and you may experience a bit of disorientation: “Wait, why isn’t HE there?” “Wait, how come SHE’S like that?” The book is set around the holiday-times on the ship, with a story that follows Jayne through a Christmas-Carol-style awakening to the danger of his misanthropic ways. It’s sweet, it’s fun, it’s a welcome return to the genre for fans. It is also, I can’t help thinking, a reminder of the deeply unpleasant real-life politics of actor Adam Baldwin, with lines like: “Tragic thing about him was that there was good in him … we were all rootin’ for him … but the bad kept getting the best of him, until finally … well, we had to cut him loose.” It’s a lament likely familiar to many whose loved ones have spun into oblivion with conservative fantasies. Alas, the pace of Jayne’s ghostly visions is too speedy to amount to much; it feels like we’re sprinting past three interesting stories with no time to discover any meaningful revelations. As far as I can tell, this is a one-shot (despite the “issue #1” in the title) — a three-parter would have given an otherwise pleasant story sufficient room to breathe.
Rating: 🎅🎅🎅 (3/5)
Writer: Jeff Jensen. Lettering: Jim Campbell. Cover: InHyuk Lee. Art: Jordi Pérez, Vincenzo Federici, Fabiana Mascolo. Colors: Francesco Segala, Gloria Martinelli, Licia Di Giammarino, Fabiana Mascolo. Alt covers: Caitlin Yarsky, Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer. Designer: Madison Goyette. Editors: Gavin Gronenthal, Elizabeth Brei.

ALSO: KID DETECTIVES GALORE, HERO FASHION SHOW, and A SHAPELY BUTT

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Oddly enough, there’s a couple of new books about kid detectives this week: Shirley and Jamila’s Big Fall is a fun middle-grade sleuther, Rez Detectives is about mystery-solving kids on a reservation, and Just Roll With It is a sweet middle-grade book about solving the mystery of friendship through tabletop roleplaying games. On the more adult end of the spectrum, take a look at the fabulous fashions of Marvel’s Hellfire Gala, or the perfect ass on display in DC’s Nightwing. I’m also interested in Hecate’s Will, about a graffiti scavenger hunt; and Passport, in which a young woman makes an alarming discovery about her parents. Take a look at Self Defense Study Guide for Trans Women, a zine that is exactly what it sounds like. Also engaging in highly accurate advertising is I am a Cat Barista, which is about … well, you know.