Hello everyone, and welcome back to COMFORT FOOD COMICS PRESENTS: SPECIAL INGREDIENT.
In every column, we look at a newer comic and the “Special Ingredient” that made it extra delicious. It could be a character, a location, a plot device, a callback to a previous issue… basically anything that jumped out to me and made me think “mmm, that really improved the taste of this comic.”
In this week’s column, instead of following the usual formula, I am going to a Special Ingredient roundup, touching on character appearances from several recent comics that made me happy, and why. So, without more ado about nothing…
First off, let’s talk about one of the best comics that came out this week (year?) – The Other History of the DC Universe #1 by John Ridley, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Andrea Cucchi, José Villarubia, and Steve Wands.
The main character, Black Lightning, is one of the special ingredients of this comic. The issue does a great job of re-telling Jefferson Pierce’s story, and demonstrating why he is (or should be) a key character in DC Comics’ lore. After finishing the first issue, I immediately wanted more, as the book re-contextualizes Black Lightning’s past in real-time, reflecting how he saw and felt about real-world events, and the white superheroes who didn’t stop them from happening in the DC Universe too.
Keeping it in DC terms, it feels like The New Frontier, but from a black perspective, and I am here for it.
The other special ingredient in this book is the craft of it. The layouts, by Giuseppe Camuncoli, forego the usual paneled storytelling structure of comics and rely heavily on a mixture of splashes and collages instead. This puts extra weight on the shoulders of the lettering, by Steve Wands, and the coloring, by José Villarubia, to carry the eye across the page in the right direction and maintain the flow, and they both do the job wonderfully. Wands’s lettering stood out to me so much for how natural it felt in the book that I stopped to tweet about it after having only read a third of the issue. It feels like reading a memoir, and Camuncoli and Cucchi and Villarubia have managed to pull the imagery out of your imagination and put it on the page with the text.
Andrea Cucchi’s finishes really compliment Camuncoli’s layouts too, making the book look remarkably different from most of his other work, of which I was already a big fan.
For recommended reading, if you’re interested in Black Lightning, you can’t go wrong with anything on CFC founder/editor-in-chief’s Perfect 10: Black Lightning list. For Giuseppe Camuncoli, my personal favorite thing he’s done is Captain Atom: Armageddon from 2005-2006, followed closely by his issues of Dark Wolverine (issues 75-77, 81-84) and Daken: Dark Wolverine (issues 1-6).
Next, we have a DC comic from November 24th that wasn’t nearly as good, but still entertained me in its own right, Batman Beyond #49 (by Dan Jurgens, Paul Pelletier, Norm Rapmund, Chris Sotomayor, and Travis Lanham) and its special ingredient – Booster Gold.
To be clear, I don’t love Dan Jurgens, and I don’t love Booster Gold. But when the final page of Batman Beyond #47 revealed that Booster Gold would be guest-starring in the upcoming issues of the series, I genuinely laughed-out-loud and exclaimed “of f**king course!” Because one cannot have an ongoing series written by Dan Jurgens without Booster Gold showing up at some point.
The plot itself is rather convoluted and, dare I say, unnecessary, but Booster is his usual cocksure self and has some fun moments with Skeets and Batman (the classic Bruce version, not the future Terry version, because time travel).
So Booster Gold is a special ingredient from Batman Beyond #49 (and #47 and 48), not because he was truly special in it, but because it was so obvious that I was left wondering why he hadn’t been included sooner.
Recommended Booster Gold reading is 52, and other recommended Booster Gold content is episode 7 of Justice League Unlimited – “The Greatest Story Never Told.”
Now, speaking of characters who are, maybe, a little dumb, brings us to the special ingredient of Superman – Man of Tomorrow #20 by Josh Trujillo, Stephen Byrne, and Clayton Cowles – Sooperman’s greatest fan, Bibbo Bibbowski.
Bibbo was created in the post-Crisis era of Superman that is mostly known for John Byrne. He is the owner of the Ace O’Clubs bar in Suicide Slum, and, on first meeting, he mistook Superman for some guy in a costume and tried to punch him. Obviously, it didn’t do much, and so “Sooperman” (as Bibbo calls him) became his “fav’rit” because he’s tough.
In Man of Tomorrow #20, someone on the internet has “outed” Bibbo as being Superman’s secret identity, in amongst a list of dozens of other potentials, and it has put all of their lives at risk, requiring the real Superman to save the victims from threat and find the perpetrator before it’s too late.
My first real exposure to Bibbo, and Superman in general, came from the novelization of The Death and Life of Superman by Roger Stern, based on the comics in which Superman fought Doomsday, died, and later came back after being replaced by four alternates. The novelization is still my preferred form of reading that story, as you get to spend a lot more time with the supporting cast, including Bibbo, getting a lot more into their characters and how they feel about Superman, and his death.
In comics form, the best parts for Bibbo are in Adventures of Superman #498, Action Comics #687, Adventures of Superman #501, and Adventures of Superman #502. The part where he saves the puppy is an all-timer.
Next up, we have 2 characters I absolutely could have focused this whole column on, but I didn’t want this to just become regular installments of “what I love about Daredevil.” The special ingredients of Daredevil #24 (by Chip Zdarsky, Mike Hawthorne, JP Mayer, Mattia Iacono, and Clayton Cowles) are Kirsten McDuffie and Typhoid Mary.
Kirsten McDuffie was introduced in Mark Waid’s run on Daredevil, mostly illustrated there by co-storyteller Chris Samnee, although first drawn by Paolo Rivera. She immediately became one of my favorite characters. The cover to Daredevil vol 3 #12 is etched in my brain. A snarky, confident woman, she proved a great foil to Matt’s own ego. I am very happy that Chip Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto and company have brought her back in the current run, after the disappointing way she was cast aside in the last run, and the interactions between her and Mike Murdock, as he pretends to be Matt, will surely continue to be super-fun.
Typhoid Mary is another of my favorite Daredevil characters, from my personal favorite era of Daredevil comics – the Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr. era. I tend to define the best eras of Daredevil by his love interests – Elektra in the Miller era, Mary in the Nocenti era, Milla by Bendis, Dakota North by Brubaker, Kirsten by Waid – so all of them can be special ingredients for calling back to those older Daredevil comics they’ve appeared in. Typhoid coming to Kingpin in this issue, and then showing up in court to throw Daredevil off, is a great move, based on her history of playing the two of them against each other.
For recommended reading, Daredevil volumes 3 & 4 are all the Kirsten McDuffie there is up to the current run, but all of it is worth it. Typhoid Mary is at her best in her earliest appearances, Daredevil #254-260, but I also really enjoy the Typhoid limited series.
Speaking of great female characters, there is one who has been appearing semi-regularly in the DC work of Brian Michael Bendis whom I love, even though she hasn’t really had any great moments in a while. I speak of none other than Kate Spencer, “Manhunter,” who appeared this past week in Action Comics #1027 by Bendis and John Romita Jr., with Klaus Janson, Brad Anderson, and Dave Sharpe.
Created by Marc Andreyko and Jesus Saiz in 2004’s Manhunter Vol 3 #1, Kate Spencer was a federal prosecutor who got tired of seeing superpowered murderers get away with their crimes because of shifty defense lawyers or their ability to escape after the fact, so she stole a supersuit and weapons from an evidence vault and sought out her own brand of justice as Manhunter. Like a female mix of Daredevil and Punisher, Kate was also a divorced mother and later found out she was related to classic heroes like Iron Munro, Phantom Lady, and Starman.
Since reappearing in the New 52 and Rebirth era DC Comics, Kate has played defense attorney to Oliver Queen and Clark Kent and Lois Lane, and was involved in the whole Event Leviathan debacle as Manhunter. She was supposed to finally get her first solo series in 11 years earlier this year, written once again by Marc Andreyko, but COVID-19 shutdowns and other turmoil at DC Comics sadly shuttered those plans. Bendis seems to keep using her though, which I appreciate, even if I feel it’s a little bit because she reminds him of his creation, Jessica Jones.
For recommended reading, Manhunter Vol 3 #1-38 is basically all there is, but IMO it was the The Silencer of its time.
Now let’s talk about another great mom who shined in this week’s comics – Jubilee, who really stood out in Excalibur #15 by Tini Howard, Mahmud Asrar, Stefano Caselli, Sunny Gho, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Clayton Cowles.
I love Jubilee, the young mom. I feel like her desperate resilience to provide and care for her adopted son, Shogo, is one of the most relatable and best things to be done with the character in recent years. Don’t get me wrong – ‘90s Generation X comics are great. But what was Jubilee doing between those and now? Not a heck of a lot.
If anything, I want to see Jubilee interacting with Chamber and Husk and Skin and Synch again and just, like, showing them pictures of Shogo on her phone.
Jubilee showing up in Excalibur #15, with the Priestesses of the Green in full force behind her, refusing to go back to Krakoa for her own safety without Shogo, was the best. One of the top moments of X of Swords.
Recommended reading for Jubilee, the mom, is 2018’s Merry X-Men Holiday Special wherein Jubes gets more pages than anyone else as she and Shogo are kidnapped by Arcade to test out his Murdermall. Jubilee, the mom, Christmas, and Arcade. It’s three things I love in one book.
And lastly, it’s one of the other best moments of X of Swords – the return of the Captain Britain Corps in X of Swords: Destruction #1.
I am probably not the best person to write about Captain Britain. I am not British, after all. And I’ve never read the old Captain Britain comics, or even all of the original run of Excalibur. But I still love Captain Britain based on what I have read of him, and I love the idea of the Captain Britain Corps as uniquely magical protectors of the multiverse.
There’s probably a lot of disagreements about what the British identity really is (just like with any other country) and I like that Tini Howard, in Excalibur, has been addressing that somewhat with the discrimination Betsy Braddock is experiencing for being a female, mutant Captain Britain.
But, after Betsy was the first victim of the X of Swords tournament, seeing the myriad different versions of her represent as the Captain Britain Corps (despite Opal Luna Saturnyne’s best efforts), and save the day as the forces of Arakko and Krakoa fell into outright war against each other, was fantastic.
For recommended Captain Britain reading, my personal favorite is Captain Britain and MI-13 by Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk. It also features a death and return of Captain Britain, as well as the Black Knight, Spitfire, Blade, Dracula, and a fun demon named Plokta. But again, I haven’t read the classic Captain Britain stuff. I hear it’s great, and if you can find it, probably worth checking out.
I hope you enjoy these recommendations, and, as always, happy reading!