The Best Comics in December Part 2: Welcome to Bitch Planet

Categories: Comics

Bitch Planet #1
Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Click here for Part 1.

Bitch Planet #1: Now this is the book that everyone is going to be talking about in 2015. Bitch Planet is the common name for a high-tech space facility where non-compliant women are sent to learn the error of their ways. The minds behind this marvel of misogynistic technology are called the Council of Fathers, and in the first issue we get a look at some of the women incarcerated there.

Our nominal heroine is an older white woman named Marian Collins, in for making threats against her husband when he had an affair. We see her story and his told like gears working into each other, and it paints this dripping red picture of how society has relegated women to their place as servile to men.

Joining Marian are Penny Rolle, a massive, Amanda Waller-esque figure who instigates a riot almost immediately with the violent battle cry of, "Where'm I s'posed to put my tits?!", and Kamau Kogo, a quiet but brutal capoeira fighter who uses her skills to try and make a difference on Bitch Planet.

Every page is just filled to the brim with a blistering commentary on the state of the world and how women are viewed in it. As writer Kelly Sue Deconnick says in the back, "The striking thing about Bitch Planet is that we're already on it." Hopefully this series will show some women who think feminism isn't necessary anymore just how wrong they are.

Rating: 10 of 10

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The Best Comics in December Part 1: Addressing the Transphobia in Batgirl

Categories: Comics

Batgirl #37
Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review.

Batgirl #37: It's probably the most controversial issue of Batgirl since Gail Simone took Barbara Gordon out of the wheelchair. #37 finds Babs pursuing a fake Batgirl using a blinged out costume, hard partying instagram account, and petty theft to draw attention to herself. Eager to try and salvage her reputation, Batgirl tracks the impersonator after seeing images of herself in a wheelchair at a local art show.

The impersonator turns out to be a desperate male artist going by the name Dagger Type, whose mysterious patron laid out his plans and told him to kill Batgirl and take her place. Obviously in a medium where trans people of any kind are thin on the ground this raised the hackles of a fair number of trans comic readers.

As a cis-straight white male I have enough sense not to wander in here and try and defend the actions of Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, and Babs Tarr. The creators have already taken to social media to apologize and promise to listen hard to the stories being told by outraged and hurt fans. If you want a textbook example of how to compassionately respond to a controversy then this is probably the best you'll get.

I do see what they were going for, though. The book itself is a pretty interesting commentary on identity and more importantly the worth of a real one. The public of Burnside is happy to explore Batgirl as an icon through art, but when it comes time to have the big reveal Type was looking for they turn in disgust claiming "everything cool is always an ad". That's a very powerful message that is very relevant in this age of so much anonymous and misleading online personalities.

Maybe the creative team felt that having a man try to supplant Gordon was an interesting shake-up and twist. Heck, maybe it even is, but it was still a misstep in a book that has already done wonders for the positive portrayals of trans people in the form of Barbara's friend Alysia. The fact that Stewart and company could recover so magnificently from that misstep and still deliver a gripping read reaffirms my faith in a book I stopped reading when Simone left. Time to give Batgirl another chance, for all of us, I think.

Rating: 8 of 10

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The Best Comics in November Part 2: Tony Stark Is Such an Ass

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review.Click here for part 1.

Multiversity: Pax Americana
I'm one of the people that has called Grant Morrison's Multiversity this generation's Watchmen. It's still an incredible book, but I do think I'm going to have to walk back that statement.

Pax Americana is a fantastic read, don't get me wrong. The Question gets to take center stage for much of it, and Vic Sage is always worth reading about. He is such an unforgettable mix of genius and insanity that he damn near flies off the page. On the other hand, Morrison is so beholden to the Watchmen legacy that this issue is more of a homage than something that stands in its own right. Sage is essentially Rorschach more than The Question, and jokes to that effect never stop coming. His relationship with Blue Beetle is a mirror to the relationship Rorschach has with Nite-Owl, and even his speaking patterns take on the aspects of Alan Moore's creation.

Then there is Captain Atom as our Doctor Manhattan. He's a terribly fun character, full of meaning and depth, but no matter what he does it's clear that we're meant to simply be looking at Not-Doctor Manhattan. Add in the trendy, edgy backwards assassination in the first few pages and the homage feels kind of desperate.

Watchmen is the iconic book it is because it both explored things in comics that have never been explored before, but it also tapped into the world it was a part of of at the time. it was relevant (And remains so). Multiversity more and more feels like it's really just concerned with comics themselves and what they mean. That's fine and good, but it's navel-gazing when greater things could be happening.

Rating: 7 of 10.

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The Best Comics in November Part 1: Alice Cooper and Haunted Gotham

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review.

Tooth and Claw #1
Kurt Busiek's newest epic from Image comics had the potential to be one of the greatest fantasy books of all time. Though I'd still say that nothing can top Saga at the moment for sheer sprawling wonder, Tooth and Claw is a very close second.

It follows a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, each species segregated into castes. For instance, the Buffalo people are bottom feeding nomadic near slaves, while Eagles and Dogs live on high in floating cities. It's an amazing world that's beautifully rendered, but it is also dying as magic fades.

The answer from one wizard is to reach back through time and try to draw from antiquity a champion to open the gates of magic once more. It's like the Manhattan Project of sorcery, with even more tragic results. The giant-sized first issue is nearly a tale all on its own, and more than worth the cover price to check Busiek's strange and glorious vision.

Rating: 9 of 10

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The Best Comics in October Part 2: Edward Scissorhands Returns

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Yesterday we ran Part 1.

Goners #1: Jacob Semahn has an interesting new book out from Image about a famous demon-hunting family. There's not enough Belmont homages in the world for my tastes, and Semahn pulls out a great legacy showing exactly how something like an ancestral line of monster hunters might adapt to the modern world.

In this case they decide to start a reality television show. Good idea, but there's a reason they don't take TV crews into hostage negotiations and active battle zones most of the time. Needless to say, this idea goes quickly to shit.

It's honestly a little hard to follow this book. The dialogue is amazing, but the characters swirl in and out of recognition sometimes thanks to flashbacks and sudden appearances. It was also cool to see the bakaak (which I was raised to call the bay-kok) make a showing as a monster in a comic. The liver hunters always scared the crap out of me as a kid and aren't used nearly enough, in my opinion. Special love goes to artist Jorge Corona, who keeps things pulp but warm in his drawings.

Rating: 6 of 10

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The Best Comics in October Part 1: Harley Quinn Makes a Friend

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Check out Part 1 here.

Axis #3: Yet another X-Men/Avengers mega-event? It always seems weird to me that Marvel spends so much of its time making great personal stories but just can't seem to not have some mighty universe-wide arc going on every five minutes. It's literally like watching a Bryan Fuller drama and the third installment of a Michael Bay action franchise at the same time.

Where we are now in Axis is that the Red Skull has taken over the brain of Charles Xavier and has now unleashed Professor X's near-limitless psychic power to become Red Onslaught and start his Eternal Reich. In this he is aided by Iron Man's adamantium sentinels, designed as fail-safes against the world's heroes should they go rogue. The combined force of the X-Men and the Avengers is quickly decimated.

In a tremendous fight scene, Magneto leads an army of villains into the fray, including Carnage, Doctor Doom and the Absorbing Man. The huge battle is easily the best part of the book and a big reason why Marvel manages to keep pulling off the crossover events. Carnage alone is worth the cover price, as is Doom and Loki's bickering. This is supposed to be a series that shakes the Marvel universe to its core, and as annoying as that often is, it is also pretty fun.

Rating: 7 of 10

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The Wild World of High-End Comics Collecting

Categories: Comics

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
This nearly-pristine copy of Action Comics #1 was purchased for $3.2 million dollars in August by Metropolis Collectibles in New York City.

When a person attends a comic book convention, there's an expectation of seeing people in Spider-Man T-shirts and brightly-colored Spandex costumes. However, at the Metropolis Collectibles booth in New York City, the dress code is more Wall Street than Wolverine.

Sharply dressed men in suits and ties engage in intense conversation, peering intensely at old comics safely ensconced in hard, clear, plastic cases. Some are those presented for consideration by hopeful sellers. At the other end of the counter, a man in who appears to be in his fifties quietly passes over a $3,600 check to purchase one of the offerings. No one at the booth appears to be younger than 40.

At the top of each of the plastic comic cases in bold lettering is a CGC grade. CGC (short for Certified Guaranty Company, LLC) is a third-party service that evaluates comic books and grades them according to their condition by specific criteria, just as a jeweler might grade a diamond. In diamonds, one looks at cut, color, clarity and carat weight. In comics, evaluation criterion includes cover, color and condition.

Everything is looked at during CGC's grading process. Are there creases in the cover? How white are the pages in areas that were not inked? Are there color breaks or misaligned staples in the spine? Does there appear to have been any restoration work done and what was the quality of that work? After evaluation, the comic is encapsulated in the clear, hard plastic protector and a grade from 0 to 10 is assigned, with "10" being assigned only to completely flawless comics.

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Best Comics in September Part 2: Green Arrow...The Dick We Need

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Check out part 1 here.

Moon Knight #8

Moon Knight took a long time to interest me, but I'm starting to finally see why the character is brilliant. He's Deadpool without all the bullshit meme stuff attached. Everything that people think they love about Deadpool, they actually love about Moon Knight.

He's the most psychologically damaged protagonist in Marvel. Completely deranged and just barely in control. At times he makes the Scarlet Spider look downright mentally healthy, and now that struggle is starting to come home to roost.

#8 is one of the most cleverly executed comics I've ever seen. Spector is called in to help a hostage situation in One World Trade Center where everyone is understandably a little jumpy. His action is told through security cam feeds and viral videos, with him never appearing in a traditional comic page until the action is over at the very end. It's inventive and keen, but it's also a grand way to look at Spector through the eyes of others.

He's even doing his level best to try and rein himself in, as one of his many personalities gets his police contact to call his doctor while on the case and setting up an attempt to capture himself. In the end, we get Die Hard with an insane superhero instead of an everyman hero cop, and the result is magic.

Rating: 8 of 10

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Best Comics in September Part 1: Holmes vs. Houdini and the Death of Wolverine

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Look for Part 2 tomorrow.

Men of Wrath #1

Jason Aaron got my attention with Southern Bastards, and here comes another terrifying trip into southern brutality and another grizzled old badass. Ira Rath is a contract killer, a man utterly without mercy. Within the first few pages we get to see him perform an act so unbelievably evil it's hard to believe that this is our hero. Yet, somewhere deep inside the now-dying, but still unstoppable murderer is another life that isn't born of cold-blooded death.

The story was inspired by Aaaron;s digging into his own family history, where he found out that his great great grandfather had stabbed and killed a man over an argument about a sheep. From there, a kind of curse was formed on the line, with others in the Aaron family meeting their own strange deaths. That idea of the sins of the father being visited on the son is old hat for Aaron, but it has lost none of its edge in the hands of the master.

I was excited about the new Thor before, but the more and more I come to know Aaron and his deep take on family and violence I more and more I can't wait to see what he does with the wielder of Mjolnir.

Rating: 8 of 10

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Women Celebrate Comics at 8th Dimension Ladies Night

Categories: Comics

Photos by Jef With One F
When Annie Bulloch, one-third owner of 8th Dimension started going out to buy comics while living in Austin it was usually the same.

"You walk in," she says, "And everyone's perfectly polite, you know. But the questions always come. 'Are you looking for something for your boyfriend?' That sort of thing. There was always a sense that women wanting to be involved with comics was weird, and a little unwelcome."

She found a friendlier store while in Austin, and then years later opened her own store. From the very first day they were open, she and her husband Jeremy Bulloch and their partner James Carlson were dedicated to trying to reach out to women comic fans and make it known that their trade was welcome and encouraged.

Saturday was the fourth Ladies Night event at 8th Dimension. Going past close, each one has drawn a progressively larger audience (Minus one night when they neglected to notice it coincided with the opening weekend of the Texas Renaissance Festival). It's not unusual for them to pack the store with more than 100 people, with women and girls vying for spots at the gaming tables, browsing the merchandise, and having animated conversations in the aisle.

Bedrock City Comics has already started trying to launch its own Ladies Nights, and the 8th Dimension is partnering with Alamo Drafthouse to merge the two for a Labyrinth sing-along.

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