This week the Two Guys with PhDs visit grounds they rarely tread: superhero comics. Don’t worry, they don’t completely forsake their mission statement, but they definitely approach the line. While each of the titles they discuss reflect the mainstream and/or the superhero genre, in one way or another, they all nonetheless stand outside of the usual machinations of the Big Two.
The guys begin with Tarzan: The Complete Joe Kubert Years (Dark Horse Books), a 600+ page omnibus collecting almost all of Kubert’s DC Tarzan run. Or at least those stories on which he served as artist, in some way. In fact, Andy admits at the outset that this idea for a superhero-tinged episode springs from him wanting to discuss Kubert’s Tarzan. And as both he and Derek make clear, this is an impressive volume that is well worth reading. It contains adaptations of three of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s novels — Tarzan of the Apes, The Return of Tarzan, and Tarzan and the Iron Man — and a wealth of short stories Kubert wrote for the 1970s series. Some are more traditional jungle adventures, while others (such as “The Magic Herb” and the one Korak story in the collection) delve into the fantastic.
Next, Derek and Andy look at the first issue in the new ongoing Faith series from Valiant Comics, written by Jody Houser with art by Pere Perez and Marguerite Sauvage. Last year the publisher began a four-issue miniseries based on Zephyr, the crimefighting identity of Faith Hebert. That was apparently successful enough to warrant an ongoing series. What makes this title so appealing is its lighter tone, contrasting sharply with the dark and gritty atmosphere found in most superhero comics, and especially its handling of the female protagonist. Through the figure of Faith, Houser explores popular (mis)conceptions of female body image and heroic ideals. In this way, Faith can be read as a meta-commentary on the superhero genre and pop culture fandom, as a whole.
The Two Guys wrap up their sorta-superhero show with a discussion of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer (Dark Horse Comics). Issue #2 comes out this week, and guys point out the possible similarities between this title and Lemire’s Plutona for Image Comics. The premise is intriguing, although it participates in the kind of alternative superhero storytelling often found in non-Big Two publishers. Both Andy and Derek are on board for this title, especially given Ormston’s art, although they’re not sure if they’re going to read this on an issue-by-issue basis or if this is a title that might better be read in trade collections. It’s something they recommend that listeners should definitely pick up and then decide for themselves.
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