comics, comics criticism, dc comics, marvel, Perspectives, writing

The Urbane Turtle 2021 Year in Review – The Comics

In 2020, in the first couple months of this Urbane Turtle experiment, I posted a Year in Review of some of the various forms of media that got me through a difficult year. I was very explicit that it wasn’t a “Best-Of,” and I did not limit it to any medium.

But after a full year as a semi-professional comic critic, I want to share with you my Top 10 comics from the year that was. There is not much in the way of ground rules for how books qualify for this list. They had to release new issues in 2021. I’ve spent the last 2 weeks catching up on a backlog of releases and am happy to finally share this with you all.

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Radiant Black volume 1 cover, art by Marcelo Costa. Radiant Black soars through the sky in a superhero pose.
comics, Perspectives, writing

COMICSXF Interview: Kyle Higgins Breaks Down the First Arc of Image’s Radiant Black

For ComicsXF, I chatted with writer Kyle Higgins about the first arc of Radiant Black. We got into his philosophy of superheroes and the responsibility to take risks he feels in writing an independent comic. Read the interview here.

comics, comics criticism, writing

Image Comics’ Ordinary Gods Questions Heroism and Mythmaking

Comics are often synonymous with superheroes; they dominate the industry whether you like it or not. Their myths and their tropes and their cycles of stagnation, reinvention, and their inevitable return to the way things Always Are. Heroes win, and more important than that: they are heroes. There is comfort in them; I am a fan of them. I don’t begrudge the status quo in and of itself. But often these demands and these cycles hide the hard truths of the industry that creates these stories, the way the corporate sponsors of these lucrative properties exploit and stifle the creators they rely on for their tentpole films and licensing initiatives. The heroes and gods are the myth, but the reality is as ordinary and petty and deflating as any other industry, with its dark secrets and interpersonal frustrations. While Ordinary Gods is not a superhero story, their dominance of the medium and the expectations readers bring to the comics reading experience are inescapable.

Ordinary Gods is a new creator owned series by the red-hot writer Kyle Higgins and artist Felipe Watanabe. Higgins looks to explore and unmask these ideals of heroism and take a harder look at the truth. It serves as a commentary not only on our human tendency for myth-making and hero-worship more broadly but also a metatextual commentary about the comics industry itself that channels his professional frustration of the work for hire system into a cosmic, eternal cycle of death and rebirth.

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comics, comics criticism, dc comics, writing

Nightwing Recommended Reading

After reading through every major Dick Grayson story for my recent piece, it seemed a waste to not to do more with my Nightwing knowledge. And lo, came more content: my recommended reading list of Nightwing comics. Here I tried to capture what I think are the best stories from each major run on the character.

If you recently read Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s fun first issue of their new run and looking to dive into more Nightwing, here are my recommended stories highlighting Dick at his best. I wouldn’t call all of these essential (I don’t think any of Dixon really is) but most are enjoyable or indicative of the creators they represent. Further context and comments below for each one. Most of these stories are available in various collected editions, and I’ve noted the names of those collections. All of them are also included in your DC Universe Infinite subscription.

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radiant black
comics, comics criticism, Perspectives, writing

A Millennial Superhero out to make a difference in RADIANT BLACK #1

In Image Comics Radiant Black #1, Nathan Burnett is a thirty year old screw up who is too scared to pursue his dream of being a writer. He returns to his boyhood home in small town Illinois to live with his parents and dig himself out of crippling debt. While there he is reunited with an old friend who pushes him to open up about his fear and failure for the first time. After a night of drinking beer and catching up with one another, the two stumble upon a strange glowing black sphere on the train tracks. After touching it, Nathan is encased in a sleek alien suit of armor and suddenly finds himself with new powers that, so far, seem to allow him to levitate items as large as a train and fly through the air.

A millennial superhero with something to prove, Nathan’s generational downward mobility leaves him lost and his grand dreams of the future out of reach. It’s a familiar sorrow for many of us who came of age in the years following one of the worst economic collapses in American history, only to be met with a new economic collapse just as we thought we were starting to get a handle on adulthood. 

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