Reggie Byers to Resurrect Shuriken

You heard it here first, folks!

Reggie Byers just stopped by the Cirsova blog to let us know that he plans to digitally reprint the first four issues of Shuriken and intends to launch an ongoing.

I hope that Marvel/Disney does not fight him over the rights to the character. While Malibu/Eternity owned the character, the Shuriken in Ultraverse/New Exiles was an entirely different character [Brittany Chien; chinese instead of japanese; some superficial similarities, but otherwise a distinct character], and Byers’ Kyoko Shidara never appeared in any Marvel titles.

It’s kind of strange… Shuriken is a property that I called “mediocre,” [and admittedly, the art and writing are sufficient but not great], but there’s something about it that spurred a fervent interest in it. I’ve got ALL of Shuriken now [except for #9], multiple copies, even, as I tracked it all down.

Contrast that with Billy Tucci’s Shi, which I checked out because of the Kickstarter and picked up a bunch of back-issues from a bargain bin. While it’s VERY similar and better technically in almost every way, it just leaves me feeling ‘eh…’

But this girl? I love her.

Image

One of the few pieces of comics “memorabilia” I own and am incredibly proud of is an original portrait Byers did of Shuriken. It was listed only as “anime girl” and I got it for a song. I’ll have to scan and post it one of these days.

Meanwhile, I would be remiss to not mention that Cirsova Publishing is reprinting another cool black & white 80s indie comic, Badaxe. The first issue is reprinted in our spring issue and we’ll be serializing it over the next two issues later this year.

Quick Review of Soulfinder: Black Tide

Soulfinder: Black Tide (Book 2) - Hardcover

Recently got in my copy of Doug Ernst’s newest installment of his Soulfinder series, Black Tide.

With everything Tim Lim has going on, Doug had to switch artists, but with Matt Weldon taking over pencil duties, it still has excellent artwork.

The core of Black Tide is a nautical horror/monster story; a cultist in the navy absconded with a nuclear sub and its crew and is looking for an incorruptible who sank to the bottom of the ocean. Without offering up too many spoilers, they go out to sea, encounter the cultist, fight the monster.

The most impressive part of Black Tide may be its gorgeous packaging; I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a comic presented as nicely as this–multi-textured casewrap hardcover, heavy-stock pages, gold-foil leaf, sewn in ribbon. It’s REALLY nice.

The comic itself was good, but I don’t think it was quite as good as Demon’s Match. This might just be a matter of taste, but the first Soulfinder delved a bit deeper into the characters, and I think that’s where Ernst’s work really shines. In Black Tide, the characters are there but the circumstance of their mission has to carry the book, because there’s not much new that we see in regards to their backgrounds.

If I had any real complaint about Black Tide, it’s that the story didn’t have enough space to properly breathe and unfold. The setup is one which should allow for a greater buildup of menace and suspense. But I also understand that there’s always the fear with the graphic medium that decompression not only leads to pacing issues, it inflates costs. That said, I think that Black Tide needed more pages and more time to let the tension between the Soulfinders and the crusty old sea captain simmer. I also think that a longer story would have better suited the ultra-deluxe presentation of this volume. Strangely, while both Demon’s Match and Black Tide are 56 pages (I actually had to check), Black Tide felt substantially shorter.

Fans of the first Soulfinder will enjoy this–I did–but I don’t know that Black Tide is a good jumping on point for new readers, particularly at its price. The production values certainly justify the price point, but some readers may want more story for their money.

You can get Soulfinder: Black Tide direct from Iconic Comics.

What the Heck is Going on with Future State and Batman?

One of the rules of modern post-Crisis DC has been Batman never reboots. Never fully. They will do soft reboots, slide the timeline around a bit, but generally tend to avoid doing a hard reboot on Batman. And Future State has been no different, though, they’ve gone about it rather strangely…

Death Metal most recently hit the reset button on the DC universe, but it ran at the same time as an incredibly successful Bat Family event that repositioned the direction of the myriad Bat-books going forward out of Joker War.

Future State is either the remnants of an aborted project known as G5 or a spinoff event from Death Metal [with everything being framed as part of the infinite possible futures following the latest reset of the multiverse] depending on who you ask.

For Batman, it’s a weird postlude to Joker War. Like I said, Batman’s not allowed to be fully rebooted, so all of the Future State Bat-books are following a storyline of the aftermath of Joker War, taking place roughly two years later.

Asian cop who lost his eye in Joker War won his mayoral election right before Future State launched, and his anti-mask platform has turned Gotham into a police state, where all the criminals and capes are being hunted and locked up.

Bruce Wayne/Batman has been killed, but he hasn’t, Lucius Fox’s son is filling in as Batman, the rest of the Bat family is around struggling and not doing so hot, Batman is in hiding, or he’s in a prison, or he’s on a train. I’m not entirely sure. There’s a clear chronology to the Batman Future State books, but they’re being published out of order so that it can all run concurrently over the course of two months.

The problem: Future State did a two year time skip, but the Future State Bat-books all tell parts of a single story that spun out of Joker War… Where will the mainline books pick up in March? Things were ending just before Punchine’s trial, and Tec was set up to build into the story that would become the Future State Magistrate story. Will the Future State Batman storyline just be the new normal going forward; will Batman go back to a pocket continuity [like Tom King’s run before he killed Alfred] while it wraps things up that happed during the two years before Dark Detective and Next Batman? Will things rewind to Punchline’s trial and the Mirror gang and Future State doesn’t happen? Who knows.

Anyway, one of the main things I’ve noticed about Future State bat books [other than the homogenous neon mud coloring] is that it seems like a pendulum swing–someone was like “oh, crap, we have to run an ACAB storyline, because Joker War ended up being anti-BLM!” I do wonder what happened to Clown Hunter, whether there’s a story reason for him not being in Future State or if Tynion just said “no.”

Critical Blast Interview with Michael Tierney, The Local Comic Shop Guys, and Wild Stars Art From DarkFilly

Friday night, Michael Tierney and I were on with R.J. Carter of Critical Blast talking about the new issue of Cirsova and The Artomique Paradigm.

Saturday, Michael also appeared on the regular Critical Blast feature round-table of comic shop owners.

Here’s a piece of the Red Queen of the Space Pirates of Corsairiana with Achilles Hister the Elder of the Artomiques by Dark Filly.

Be sure to back our kickstarter for our 5th Anniversary Issue!

On with Superversive + Sneak Peek at Badaxe!

I was on with Anthony Marchetta and Ben Wheeler of Superversive on Sunday. It was a pretty long podcast, but we had a lot of fun! Anthony in particular had a lot of great things to say about Teel James Glenn’s Tiger, Tiger, which was our Winter Cover Story.

As you ought to know by now, we’re taking pre-orders for our Spring 2021 issue. One of the features of 2021 is we’ll be reprinting Paul O’Connor’s epic Sword and Sorcery Comic, Badaxe, which has been digitally restored by Michael Tierney. Below is a sneak peek.

Want more? Back the Spring 2021 issue on Kickstarter now!

Cirsova 5th Anniversary Highlight: The Artomique Paradigm

One of the showcase items of 2021 will be Michael Tierney’s newest Wild Stars novel, The Artomique Paradigm.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cirsova/cirsova-5th-anniversary-issue

What are the Wild Stars?

Aeons ago, Earth was nearly destroyed by an alien invasion. Refugees were led to the stars by a powerful immortal being from another universe, known only as the Ancient Warrior. These refugees became the Wild Stars. From time to time, they have revisited Earth, checking on humanity’s progress.

Now, after two centuries of modern man exploring and colonizing the stars, humanity’s Wild Stars cousins have re-established relations with Earth and her colonies.

Who are the Artomique?

The Artomique are refugees from a now-destroyed timeline where fascist Germany had nearly conquered the world.

They are led by Achilles Hister, the son that timeline’s equivalent of Adolf Hitler, and have worked in the shadows to attempt to restore their timeline. Failing that, they have worked to establish a new Artomique supremacy using stolen Wild Star technology and become one of the dominant political factions on Earth.

A Very Brief Outline of the Wild Stars

  • Exodus from Earth following the Marzaanti invasion. (Wild Stars IV: Wild Star Rising)
  • Erlik, son of the Ancient Warrior, wins the Icarus stone (and with it custodianship of Earth) from Carthage. Carthage allies with the wolf-like Brothan and Artomique to wage war against earth. (Wild Stars: Book of Circles)
  • While the Brothan have lost the war, Carthage exacts revenge on Erlik’s family, leading them on a wild goose chase through time. The Artomique begin a secret arms race using stolen Wild Stars technology. Hyper-intelligent dinosaurs get their hands on a Marzaanti space probe which accelerates their evolution. (Wild Stars II: Force Majeure)
  • Terraformers begin discovering evidence of Wild Stars presence on worlds thought to have been uninhabited. Space pirates have orchestrated a large-scale mind-control coup against humanity. Extra-dimensional monsters are unleashed in a tear in the fabric of the universe. (Wild Stars III: Time Warmageddon)
  • The Ancient Warrior returns, having laid the foundations of an aeons-long plan to rescue Phaedra from the prison of the God-Father and his knights in the heart of a super-massive black hole. (Wild Stars IV: Wild Star Rising)
  • The Wild Stars have revealed themselves and are prepared to reunite humanity among the stars, except the Artomique have been developing new weapons in secret while their leaders have achieved a sort of immortality using stolen Wild Stars cloning technology. (Wild Stars V: The Artomique Paradigm)

Quick Post-mortem on Shuriken Cold Steel

When I got a bunch of issues of Caravan Kidd to fill in the gaps in my collection, I also picked up the last three issues of Shuriken: Cold Steel to complete my set.

I’ve talked at length about the different Shuriken series, and Cold Steel was easily the worst, but I wanted to see if it turned around before the end [because the series after Cold Steel by the same writer WAS good].

Well, it didn’t.

Start to finish, Kyoko is kind of a cold, self-centered bitch, drastically unlike her characterization in the original Byers runs. The art from Christopher Taylor never gets better and maintains a serviceable-but-generic B&W Indie aesthetic that doesn’t jibe with the IP. Cold Steel also feels like S.A. Bennett trying to back-door his own superhero team book through the then-popular Shuriken. And his superhero team isn’t terrible, but it’s not what I would’ve picked up a Shuriken book for.

Cold Steel didn’t publish many letters in its short run, and the few they did more or less like the new title, but at least one person who had previously been a fan unloaded on the shoddy writing.

Cold Steel is the one Shuriken book that’s just plain bad. Bland and no charm at all, which is a shame. I really wondered what happened between Cold Steel and Shuriken Vol. 2–whether it was an editor stepping in, Bennett taking the character more seriously and trying to understand her, or maybe he got into some weeb stuff and figured out how to write a Shuriken story, he goes from having written one of the worst Shuriken books to what may be one of the best Shuriken books.

Anyway, that’s it. That’s all I have. If Cold Steel was the first Shuriken book I’d read, I probably wouldn’t have read any others. As it is, it gives me something to gripe about in context of some more enjoyable titles.

This cover is about the only good thing to come from Cold Steel

Now all I have to do is find the Hellbender one-off…

Who Are the Best DC Superheroines?

Was playing Mortal Kombat vs. DC with GF last night and we got to talking about Wonder Woman.

Now, I don’t hate Wonder Woman, but let’s face it–she’s kind of a garbage-tier hero that everyone pretends is A-list for ReasonsTM.

She’s not that interesting, outside of Greek Gods, her only memorable villains are the furry cat girl and the Chinese egg. A lot of her clout comes from being part of the DC Trinity: stick anyone with Batman and Superman, and they’ll feel important. But on her own? Wondy is kind of eh… That’s me, though. Other than War of the Gods, I can’t think of any meaningful Wondy events. [No, Death Metal is not a Wonder Woman event, no matter how much the writers insist otherwise.]

My girlfriend also thinks she’s kind of cringe and rolls her eyes at the “she’s so empowering!” reasoning most folks will give for liking Wondy. She’s not really into cape comics that much, and was wondering “aren’t there better ‘female role model’ characters in comics than Wonder Woman?”

I thought about it a bit, and while the answer is “Yes”, I realized a lot of them are overshadowed by Batman, because a lot of the best ones I’m familiar with are from Bat-books, and she hadn’t heard of most of them:

  • Katana [this is the only one she knows, because I actually collect Katana merch–I don’t have a lot, because there’s not much merch for her]
  • Spoiler
  • Orphan/Black Bat
  • Huntress
  • Oracle
  • Zatanna [I know, she’s not really ‘from’ Bat-books, but that’s mostly where I’ve seen her]
  • Montoya [okay, I don’t actually like her in the comics that much]
  • Bat-Woman [not exactly a ‘role model,’ but Kate Kane, at least in the books I’ve read, is a fascinating and tragic character, moreso maybe than Batman, because her problems are mostly her own creation yet she proceeds under this Calvinist shadow of doom]

So, what have you got? Who are your favorite DC ‘Best Girls’ who you like for reasons other than ‘teh sexy’?

We would especially like to hear from some of the women in the audience–who are your favorite women in DC comics?

Or can you convince us that Wonder Woman has better bona fides than just being a character with roots in the Golden Age and being the Silver Age Justice League’s Smurfette?

What Was Missing From DCEU? Dinosaurs!

When it first came out, the Suicide Squad movie was universally critically panned. DC fans, however, lapped it up and supported it, if for no other reason than to ‘own’ the critics. The problem, however, was that Suicide Squad just wasn’t very good.

Suicide Squad, for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on, felt like an inferior sequel to a movie that was never made. It ran an ‘enemy within’ storyline for a cape-team with no buildup, and Task Force X was just a shaggy dog in the DCEU.

Suicide Squad was where Warner Brothers first really tried to open the DC film franchise into a universe with the breadth of the MCU. Despite fan support, it failed miserably to liven up an already stalling cinematic universe, and I think I know why. Never mind that the rest of the DC movies range from mediocre set pieces that borrow the emotional gravitas of the Nolan films via the Zimmerman scores to just plain trash. No, the real reason was there were no dinosaurs!

The first Suicide Squad move should have been about Rick Flag fighting dinosaurs and kaiju during the Cold War.

BRAVE & BOLD 38 VG SUICIDE SQUAD November 1961

The DCEU lacked a Captain America–everybody, even Superman, was super grim and super serious. Captain America: The First Avenger was a lynchpin film for the first wave of Marvel movies–it captured an idealistic soldier bravely fighting against unadulterated and unquestionable evil, and allowed Cap to be sort of a moral core of the Avengers.

In Suicide Squad, Rick Flag is tossed into a group of villains who create more problems than they solve and really is just kind of there while his girlfriend goes crazy and becomes the big bad of the movie.

Instead, imagine, if you will, a movie that starts in America’s heyday, where a War Hero, his beautiful not-girlfriend, and two pointdexters protect the earth from the kaiju menace in an age before supermen [yes, there were supermen back then, but not in the DCEU].

People were still into kaiju cuz they still liked Pacific Rim, the Jurassic Park franchise was making a comeback, and Americans are [or were] always up for some jingoism. So, before everything goes to hell after the death of Superman and gets even worse with Waller in charge, brave normal men stood between America and the deadly dino menace! It could’ve made for a real blockbuster that could have saved the DCEU and given it somewhere to go.

[Nah, it would never work.]

Anyway, I recently picked up the Silver Age Suicide Squad omnibus for a song at Ollie’s. I’d read one of the stories before in one of the 70s Brave and Bold digests that Mike Barr edited, but this is the first time I’ve read all of the original run of Suicide Squad.

I’ll admit, I don’t like the Star Spangled War Stories Suicide Squad as much as Brave and the Bold. In War Stories, Suicide Squad became a catch-all for ‘soldiers fighting dinosaurs.’ B&B SS didn’t JUST fight dinosaurs, and when they did, the stories relied more on classic sci-fi monster movie stuff than just WWII + dinosaurs.

Anyway, I think that Warner Bros. missed a huge opportunity to cash in on a Silver Age Suicide Squad flick–the time was right for it. But instead, we got uwu trashgirl Harley and Will Smith-desperately-trying-to-rebuild-his-action-hero-brand Deadshot in one of the messiest films I’ve seen in years.

Shuriken!

Misha Burnett’s Endless Summer has 17 days to go! In the meantime, enjoy this piece that is probably the longest anyone has written on Reggie Byers’s Shuriken in years…

One of the weird indie comic title I’ve gotten into fairly recently has been Reggie Byer’s Shuriken.

Shuriken #1

The basic concept is that a young Japanese woman is a professional bodyguard for a firm that offers special protection and assassination services–she has moral qualms about killing, only opting for protection gigs, and this ultimately puts her at odds with her organization.

From what I’ve gathered, Shuriken was a pretty successful and well-loved property as far as indies go. The main thing it had going for it was that it was one of the first Amerimanga [it was written and drawn by a weeb who was also working on a licensed Robotech title]–when more Japanese manga and better Amerimanga became more readily available in the late 80s and early 90s, Shuriken was probably easily overshadowed.

It’s hard to say “Shuriken is good” today and really mean it, even though I really enjoy it. Byer’s art is not great [though it’s certainly middle-of-the-pack to above average when it comes to B&W indies if you look at them as a whole], and his writing serviceable at best [though miles above some of today’s superstars… looking at you, Bendis!]

The first two Shuriken series by Byers have a certain charm, though. It may be the sort of cringy charm that comes from it literally just being an OC of an 80s weeb with just enough talent to pull it off, but it has a charm nonetheless.

Blade of Shuriken #1

Really, I think the main appeal of Byers’s Shuriken is that, setting everything else aside, Kyoko is someone that you would like to know and enjoy spending time with: she’s cute, fun, and a good, caring friend–SHE is charming, and that’s kind of enough to carry it.

After Byers sold the rights to Malibu/Eternity, Shuriken gets farmed out–Volume 1 [Victory Comics] peters out [there’s a cover for a Shuriken #9 and an entry at MyComicShop, but they’ve confirmed that in the 15 years they’ve kept track, they’ve never come across a copy], Blade of Shuriken [Eternity] ends after its first real arc with issue 5, and the cliffhanger in Shuriken Team-Up #1 is never resolved.

Shuriken #9
This comic probably doesn’t actually exist!

Shuriken relaunches with the Shuriken: Cold Steel series. While the art is better in most objective senses, it abandons the Amerimanga style and loses much of the charm and emotion that Byers’s rough designs conveyed. The writing [S.A. Bennett], while marginally better, feels like a more generic 80s action comic–it loses its weebness, and at the same time, Shuriken loses her warmth. After the events of Blade of Shuriken, she’s turned into a surly layabout who’s managed to alienate her friends and blow through her wealth. She’s a very different Kyoko from the loving, caring woman who is there for her friends and family to laugh and cry with. Frankly, she’s kind of a bitch.

The third issue has a guest writer, and Shuriken plays a small role in a team story [feels like a backdoor pilot?], and I haven’t read the second half of the series yet, so maybe it gets better?

Shuriken Cold Steel #3

Ironically, one of the first letters in the letters column of Cold Steel complains to Eternity about starting a new Shuriken series with so many of of their other series [including two of their Shuriken series] left unfinished.

Cold Steel cites the last arc of Blade of Shuriken in its continuity, obviously throwing out the never-to-be-finished Shuriken Team-Up series whose first issue ends with Shuriken being thrown out a window by a demon after some other guy staked two succubi with the wooden legs of a chair he’d smashed. [The Team-Up book was actually not bad, and I can see why people were miffed it was canned].

Shuriken Team-Up #1
“Wow, I haven’t seen that book in 30 years!” – Jimmy Palmiotti

After Cold Steel, Eternity offers Shuriken Vol 2, the 4th or 5th series, depending on how you count them.

Shuriken #1

Honestly, this is the first Shuriken book I would call legitimately good. This title goes back to a manga style [Eternity’s internal solicit brags “It’s manga!”], though not Byers’s Amerimanga style. Both the art [Wes Abbott] and the story [S.A. Bennett] are reminiscent of the pre-GitS Masamune Shirow whose work was gaining traction in the west through publication of books like Dominion and Black Magic via Eclipse just a year or two before.

Bennett seems to have a bit better grasp on the character [at least in the first issue] than he did at the start of Cold Steel, but she still doesn’t feel like the same “go to the carnival and win a Cerebus the Ardvark doll” Kyoko. Still, I’m curious to see where he goes with her in the remaining issues of the last Eternity run.

Despite her appeal, both Shuriken and Byers’s stars rose but briefly–in his hands, Shuriken was a charming, if mediocre, IP; out of his hands, she was just another martial arts character in a sea of martial arts characters at a time when the trope was falling out of vogue and better “authentic” manga titles were becoming available to comic readers. The sad saga of Shuriken ultimately ends with Marvel buying Malibu and killing the IP in favor of introducing their own character Shuriken in their Malibu UltraForce series.

Anyway, if this post made you curious to check Shuriken out at any point, you can find most of it available at MyComicShop.com.

Update: Issue #9 DOES exist! https://www.zipcomic.com/shuriken-issue-9