I decided to start this blog mostly to talk about older comics that I think are weird or interesting, but with a name like “Wednesday Reads” I think it’s important to at least talk a little bit about what I’m reading week-to-week. So I decided, every Monday I’ll look back at the previous Wednesday and discuss my top three single issues in a little bit more detail than I do in the weekly Wednesday Reads thread on Twitter.
This was a really big week for debuts, not even counting the two that I’ll be about at length in a minute. I quite enjoyed Karmen #1, Batman: Urban Legends #1 and Thor & Loki: Double Trouble #1, as well as the new direction on display in Wonder Woman #770. The week was also strong with old reliable titles like Daredevil, Immortal Hulk and X-Factor that just can’t seem to miss. However, three titles stood out as being the best of the week, so keep reading to see my favourite comics from March 10th, 2021.
Proctor Valley Road #1
(Grant Morrison, Alex Child, Naomi Franquiz, Tamra Bonvillain & Jim Campbell)
I’m always going to be fully in the tank for anything that Grant Morrison does, but recent work just hasn’t been as much to my taste as I’m used to. The Green Lantern and Wonder Woman: Earth One miss the mark for me in different ways, so I’m at a point now where I’ll still give any new Morrison work an immediate look, but I’m a bit more wary going in than I used to be. However, Proctor Valley Road #1 was an absolute delight of a debut issue and sets up a world that I’m keen to explore more.
While they have a reputation for being obtuse and hard to follow Morrison does some of their best work adapting traditional story structure within their own style; All-Star Superman and Klaus come to mind immediately. Proctor Valley Road is a story about kids who make up stories about monsters in the dark that turn out to be real — in a lot of ways it’s a great companion title to Something Is Killing The Children — but it’s the setting and the characters that bring the story to life.
Set in 1970’s California, the series follows a group of friends trying to raise some money to go see a Janis Joplin concert while at the outskirts of town, people are going missing. It’s a timeless story of youth and rebellion pushed up against eldritch horror that works in large part due to how engaging the characters are; the moment Jennie flipped off a racist old bat who told her she can’t be an astronaut, I knew I wanted to hang out with these crew. It’s also worth noting that it’s impossible to discern how much is Morrison and how much is co-writer Alex Child, so Child deserves just as much credit as Morrison for building this world and crafting this story.
The biggest surprise highlight for me in this issue was Tamra Bonvillain using the Doom Patrol palette for Naomi Franquiz’s art, because I’ve always loved how her colours just pop off the page. That’s no slight to Franquiz either who deserves a heap credit for her character design and body language. Each member of the cast is instantly recognisable from their style to their shape to their facial expressions, it’s possibly the most dynamic cast of teens since Giant Days. Everything about this issue is engaging in a way that makes me want to come back for more and I would not be surprised to see it at the top spot next month as well.
The Joker #1
(James Tynion IV, Sam Johns, Guillem March, Mirka Andolfo, Arif Prianto, Romulo Farjardo Jr, Tom Napolitano & Ariana Maher)
I know, it seems preposterous. How do you even make a Joker comic work? James Tynion and Guillem March have the answer to that, and that’s to make it Tomb of Dracula, with Jim Gordon as Frank Drake. It’s the difference between a comic about The Joker and a comic where The Joker is the protagonist, and The Joker is very much the former. The Joker may be Batman’s greatest enemy but he’s hurt the Gordon family again and again in ways that even Bruce Wayne can’t match.
Guillem March is a creator that’s been massively hit or miss for me; I still think of his infamous Catwoman covers when I hear his name but recently he’s hit a balance with his work that I really dig. I especially love the way he draws The Joker as a cthonic horror living within Jim Gordon’s mind that he can’t escape; he’s spent so much of his career doing work which borders on cheesecake but I think he’s finally found a niche in work which borders on horror.
I also have to mention the back-up, which like the main story is about its title character but doesn’t star them. Instead, it’s about Punchline’s influence on society and the way she has an influence over Cullen Row, which is a scarily relevant allegory for the ways young men call down into the Alt-Right Pipeline. What I really appreciate about it though is how Tynion is essentially offering up one of his own pet characters to tell this story because while Cullen doesn’t come off well at all, we also have some sympathy for the ways he’s being manipulated by what he’s seeing online. A new character would just seem like an asshole, but in using someone with a history, we empathise with Harper and have hope he can be saved.
Home Sick Pilots #4
(Dan Watters, Caspar Wijngaard & Adiya Bidikar)
A big week for period horror titles starring out-of-their-depth teens, Home Sick Pilots has been one of my absolute favourite books of the year and it continues to go from strength-to-strength. It’s a weird sell as a concept and I’m not sure I’m quite getting the comic I thought I was going to when it was being hyped up, but I am really enjoying the comic I am getting and along with The Department of Truth and Ice Cream Man, it’s one of my top three books right now.
Unlike the other two issues on this week’s list, this isn’t a debut so I can’t recommend you jump in here but I do think you should check out the previous three issues to get up to speed. Watters crafts a look back at the nineties underground music scene with such authenticity that I’d be fine if that’s all this was, but the addition of haunted houses and the ongoing hook of retrieving possessed items and bringing them back is the hook that set it apart.
Caspar Wijngaard is an artist who I will follow pretty much from title to title at this point following work on titles like Angelic and Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt, but his work on Home Sick Pilots has skyrocketed him into being one of the best comic artists working today. His designs for the monsters are unique and terrifying, he can do a fight scene as well as he can nail an emotional reunion and his pink/white/purple colour palette is an absolute visual treat. I look forward to Home Sick Pilots every month just to see what he’s going to do next.