Mini Reviews: Midnighter #1, Bat-Mite #1, Optic Never #14, Starve #1

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With the new round of DC comics coming out and a whole series of creator-owned work coming out in full force from Image, Dark Horse, and Oni Press, it was hard to nail down exactly what to review.  We chose a couple that might be popular and on your pull list, as well as a couple that might be a little more hidden from view.

Midnighter (2015-) #1, DC Comics

The Midnighter rounds out the new #1s on DC that are coming out in the post-Convergence DCU.  Unlike many of the more cosmic and esoteric characters that are going to confuse you with their #1s, the Midnighter creates a fully realized character that focused on physical confrontation and vigilanteism.  A lot is going to be made about the character’s sexuality, and in this case it probably should be.  This is one of the first superhero series on a main two publisher where the main character is openly gay, not to mention has a sex scene with another man in the opening issue.  What is nice here is that they do not rely on eccentricity or effeminancy to describe the character, which so often is the default for queer male characters in comics.  Instead, he presents a kind of strong character that has a positive sexuality that is out in the open.  As the story goes, it is better written than any of the other new comics released from DC in the opening run, and you will find a strong character art and dialogue.  This is the one new DC series that might have gone under your radar, but the one you should probably watch.

Bat-Mite (2015-) #1, DC Comics

This is an All Ages comic done right.  Bringing back Bat-Mite, who many people know from the back alleys of the Multiverse, he begins scampering around Gotham.  Living in the hopes that he will accepted as the new partner for Batman, he engages mostly in odd and spastic quips that are both fun and centered in the action of the rest of the superhero comics.  What is especially interesting is the kind of humor that you are going to find in the pages of Bat-Mite that is, while still funny and intriguing for younger audiences, actually will resonate more with people who grew up on older animation and Looney Tunes.  Jokes about nurses really are for a generation past, as well as horndog child characters, but here is actually feels nostalgic rather than tired.  This is the first of a six-issue miniseries and it looks to be a relatively pleasant ride, and hopefully this will be a sign of how DC can better integrate all ages titles into the regular continuity without sacrificing quality.

Optic Nerve #14, Drawn & Quarterly

If you are mainly a traveler of the main DC and Marvel titles, then Optic Never may be something that you are not even aware of.  This is an anthology series from the celebrated indie publisher Drawn and Quarterly, which is well known for more autobiographical and experimental works from people like Chester Brown and Daniel Clowes.  Optic Never, which seems to publish about once a year, has shorter stories that stray heavily from the comics mainstream and tend to tell creative and personal stories.  This is exactly what you get in issue #14 where it starts with an incredible story about a young misunderstood teenage girl trying to become a comedienne, and the background story of the change happening in her family.  This is one of the most powerful, and engaging, stories you will read all year, and worth the $5.99 cover price.  The second story, Intruders, also manages to match an alignment with a character while capturing some of the unease of social relationships.  This is a flagship publication that gives you the opportunity to tap into real storytelling without having to adapt to a long continuity.

STARVE #1, Image Comics

This is one of the most interesting comics to come along this month, and probably the year so far. Brian Wood’s Starve is telling the story of a host of a cooking competition show who was in the Far East living like Hunter S Thompson, unsure of whether or not he would really return to television. During this time the global economy has collapsed into some kind of libertarian dystopia. In this climate his television show, Starve, has become the #1 program in the U.S. He is returned to finish his season, consisting of eight more episodes, to get paid his salary, which may, or may not, go to his ex-wife who is consistently suing him after he came out of the closet. In a field like comics that is so heavily dominated by genre and convention, this is a refreshing book that seems uniquely from Brian Wood in tone and character, yet brand new. One unique thing about the book is that it is really just ascribed to creators Brian Wood, Daniejel Zezelj, and Dave Stewart without identifying who does what. Comic Vine does attribute Brian Wood as the writer, Zerzelj as the artist, and Dave Stewart as the colorist, but it is a great move to just attribute it to all three since what results is really a collaborative process where the complicated art and colors really plays together with the storyline to drive you into a certain emotional place to read the story. Readers familiar with Woods’ work will immediately see this in light of his post-apocalyptic canon along with books like DMZ and Channel Zero, yet stylistically this owes most to the recent Dark Horse book The Massive. It is early for a series like this, but this should be one to watch as it unfolds over the course of the year. This is just another example while Image is the leading publisher today because they are providing a platform for comics to take the next step in their evolution.

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