WE STAND ON GUARD #1 (Image, $2.99) ~ This is an odd new title from Image, in which veteran scribe Brian K. Vaughan presents us with a grim vision of war between the United States and Canada. The story kicks off in 2112 (a nod to Canadian prog power-trio Rush), when the States' military obliterates Ottawa via missiles, then launches a land invasion, ostensibly in retaliation for a September 11-style terrorist attack that somehow gets blamed on the Great White North (I figure it's going to be exposed as a false flag attack ginned up as an excuse to go after Canada's fresh water supply in a future issue). Jump ahead a decade or so, and a rag-tag team of Canuck survivalists dodge interceptor drones and bring down giant manned robot "mechs" with little more than their wits and their tremendous Canadian balls. The combination of angry, paranoid polemic and crazy sci-fi action/adventure is a tough sell, and I'm not sure if I'm buying yet. I'll give it another issue or two to decide once and for all.
STRANGE FRUIT #1 (Boom!, $3.99) ~ Speaking of angry polemic, here's a shockingly good idea that I'm surprised hasn't been done before: What if Superman's alien craft had crash-landed in rural Mississippi in 1927, just as the KKK was getting ready to go into the Black part of town and fuck shit up? And what if he emerged from that craft a full-grown Black man? Named after Billie Holiday's legendary anti-lynching song, this series by J.G. Jones and Mark Waid is rendered in a gorgeous, painterly style throughout, and considering the book's final image is of Black Superman covering his nudity with a Confederate flag torn from a Klansman's standard, it couldn't be more timely. If the first issue of this four-issue miniseries is any indication, I predict that Strange Fruit will be winning multiple statuettes come award season next year. Well worth checking out.
FUTURE IMPERFECT #1, #2, # 3 (Marvel, $3.99 each) ~ There's not much that I like about Marvel's ongoing, continuity-wide "event", Secret Wars 2015. With every single Marvel title taking part in this deeply flawed, pathetically transparent, and ultimately misguided attempt at copycatting Game of Thrones, the entire superhero dynamic is thrown out of whack. I mean, it's basically game over. The heroes failed and the Multiverse has collapsed into nothingness, leaving behind only Doctor Doom's personal AD&D game, populated with amnesiac versions of characters that we USED to know and love... some of them barely recognizable as such, and many of them present in multiple versions of themselves. I mean, Captain America is a barbarian who roams the various wastelands of "Battleworld" with his pet, King Dinosaur. And there's a region populated by nothing but Hulks. And there's a Great Big Wall that separates all the "Zones" from the Marvel Zombies and the Ultron Annihlation Wave... except it's on the SOUTH side of the map, so it's not another Game of Thrones rip-off! No way! Anyway, my main question about this iteration of Secret Wars is, why should we care about these heroes if there's no normal people left for them to protect and save and be heroic for? I'll have more to say about this mess in later columns, but for now, I just want to say that I picked up the first three issues of the Future Imperfect 4-part tie-in series exclusively for Greg Land's excellent renderings of both the Maestro Hulk and The Thing (even though this Thing is... ugh... General Thunderbolt Ross). I guess I'll pick up the fourth issue, even though the story is pretty much for shit. This goes to show you... good art goes a long way in comics!