What do you think the parallel version of you, in another dimension, is doing right now? Do you think they had a good breakfast? Is their hair better than yours? Would they be proud of you?
I think about parallel-me a lot, probably more than is healthy for an imaginary entity that in all likelihood doesn’t exist or at least I will never meet. But for me, these daydreams have become a sort of compromise-alternative to comparing myself to real people, which is even more unhealthy. Oh, that real person was on a thirty-under-thirty list before they even graduated from college; oh that person looks so good at the beach; oh that person has so many friends — it’s a toxic preoccupation, fantasizing about how someone else stacks up against you. At least by comparing myself to a pretend version of me, I can daydream self-improvements I might actually make. And I won’t get all flustered when my secret comparison-person talks to me.
This week’s new comics teeter on the edge of parallel worlds, including a vision of World War I with dragons that I found particularly captivating. As always, visit your local comic shop to grab new issues — thanks to Phoenix, my favorite outlet — and consider picking up a title that parallel-you might enjoy.
ARROWSMITH ISSUE #1
What if World War I, but magic? In a fantasy universe juuuuuust slightly to the side of our own, a British flying ace and his dragon are shot down and sent to recuperate before a top secret mission lands in their laps. Most of this introductory issue is spent on familiarizing the audience with the rules of the world: England is called Albion, trolls are vaguely Russian and discriminated against, the Pussians are the bad guys and they’ve got dragons of their own. These tropes seem familiar enough that their exposition is perhaps a bit overdone — like holding the audience’s hand a bit too long to explain the World War II dogfights in Star Wars. As it is, the book is shortchanged on time between characters, like the dashing but headstrong “pilot” and his giant placid troll friend. Also left unexplored in this first issue are the relationships between the soldiers and their dragons, which seem to be deeper than just a man and his pet. Still the promise of secret wartime missions behind enemy lines, with the added twist of magical fantasy, is intriguing, culminating in a tempting, pulpy cliffhanger for issue 2.
Rating: 🐉🐉🐉🐉 (4/5)
Writers: Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco. Ink: José Rafel Fonteriz. Color: José Villarrubia. Lettering & design: Comicraft’s Tyler Smith & Jimmy Betancourt. Editor: Kel Symons. Alt covers: Howard Chaykin, Gustavo Yen, Dave Johnson, J.G. Jones, Gabriel Walta. Special thanks: Scott Dunbier.
BOLERO ISSUE #1
Bolero imagines a world in which there exist at least 53 parallel universes, and 53 variations on your life. You can jump from one to another, trying out different identities — but you can never return to the ones you left behind. An interesting premise, and I just wish that this book had picked a more interesting universe in which to start. A young woman named Devyn is discontent with the trajectory of her life, her career, her romantic prospects, her parents; her job’s a joke, she’s broke, her love life’s DOA. Nothing about Devyn’s plight is particularly unusual for the first half of one’s twenties, and maybe that’s the point — she thinks everything’s desperately ruined when in fact it’s all perfectly normal. Maybe her walking-out on her life will eventually be revealed to be a dreadful mistake. Or maybe she truly is destined for something greater like Dorothy knowing she must leave Kansas, and the great tragedy of her story might be that she will eventually be persuaded to accept her dreary origins? At any rate, Devyn’s plight is likely to be relatable to anyone who’d endured a quarter-life crisis, and your enjoyment of the book will correlate with your ability to endure a reminder of that time in your life.
Rating: 🐈🐈🐈🐈 (4/5)
Writer: Wyatt Kennedy. Artist: Luana Veccio. Letterer: Brandon Graham.
CURSED PIRATE GIRL: THE PIRATE’S CAVE
I evaluate this installment of Cursed Pirate Girl not so much as narrative serialized storytelling, but as a dreamscape of potential tattoos. A continuation of a story that ceased publication several years ago, this issue picks up right where we left off; but where that is, I am unable to say. We are presented with a boundaryless flow of doodled designs that look like they’ve marched off of the margins of a 300-year-old treasure map, interbred, and crawled into a kaleidoscope full of LSD. A young woman seeks her pirate father somewhere at sea, and slithers through a hallucination of bizarre aquatic creatures, monsters from the deep, and dialogue bubbles that don’t flow as they do froth and churn. The art is lush and gorgeous, meticulously detailed, and worthy of a printing at twice its current size. If Alice had been lured by a mermaid instead of a white rabbit, these are the dreams she would have upon her return.
Rating: 🐙🐙🐙🐙 (4/5)
Writer & illustrator: Jeremy Bastian.
ALSO: SHE-HULK TUSSELS, STAR WARS BAKES, and BATMAN GRUMBLES
Also out this week is a very fun She-Hulk with some great chemistry between a hero and a villain who, it turns out, can be very good friends while also slamming each other into walls. Junkwraith is a fascinating young-adult book about leaving the past behind. X Lives of Wolverine is a must-read for superhero fans following the live-and-death cycles currently being explored in the Marvel books. And I’m delighted to report that there’s a new Star Wars: The High Republic book that is all about a bake-off.