At some point in every comic book superhero's life, they find themselves contemplating the nature of their existence and asking themselves, "What's the point of all this? Why guard the galaxy? Why protect the forces of creation? Why fight to win a game of dodgeball? Why?" Pondering those questions is the reason comic books exist, and each of this week's best new comics focus on coming to a variety of different answers.
Rick and Morty's Vindicators. Image: CJ Cannon, Nick Filardi (Oni Press)
Loma Shade having a conversation with Rac Shade, her mentor who is also the original Shade, the Changing Man. Image: Marley Zarcone, Kelly Fitzpatrick (DC Comics)
Shade, the Changing Woman
Cecil Castelucci's Shade, the Changing Girl was one of the most fascinating stories to come out of DC's Young Animal imprint in 2016 that (criminally) flew under the radar. Fresh from her return in DC's Milk Wars event, the alien avian-turned-human Shade returns to comics in Shade, the Changing Woman.
After stealing a coat that gives her the ability to manipulate reality by tapping into the entropy that exists within all things, Shade leaves behind her dull life on a faraway planet in favour of Earth and getting lost in the vast chaos of humanity. By possessing the body of a comatose sociopathic teenager, Shade put herself in the perfect position to experience what it means to be a human in a state of physical and emotional flux - something that also made her the perfect concept for a compelling superhero.
In The Changing Woman, the deconstruction of Shade's multiple identities has a new weight to it because, for the first time in a long while, Shade is forced to recognise the fact that she has to live with the consequences of becoming permanently human. With her avian form destroyed, Shade accepts that the body she chose - Megan - is now hers to keep, and with it come all of the kinds of existential crises big and small that make Shade wonder whether she's made a mistake. (Cecil Castelucci, Marley Zarcone, Kelly Fitzpatrick, DC Comics)
From left to right: Casey's butt, Tomás getting hit by a dodgeball, and Drew. Image: Cara McGee, Brittany Peer (Boom! Studios)
There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who crave the visceral thrill of playing dodgeball and those who don't. Dodge City is a charming comic about a group of people who do.
If you've read other sports-themed teen drama comics such as Fence and Check, Please!, then Dodge City will feel like familiar territory to you. As the newest member of the Jazz Pandas dodgeball team, Tomás is unsure of himself both on the court in the midst of a match and on the sidelines when he has to interact with his teammates. Though the protagonists in this genre are usually set apart from their rivals and reluctant allies because of how they don't conform to a standardised norm, Dodge City pivots by filling out its cast with characters from a diverse array of different backgrounds and experiences.
Everyone on Tomás' team is presented as having a strong sense of self, respect and acceptance for one another. Their issue with Tomás isn't that he's "different", really, it's just that he's erratic on the court and the Jazz Pandas play to win (even though they're on a losing streak). The interesting message tucked into the first issue is that regardless of how tolerant or accepting a space (such as a dodgeball team) may be, it doesn't matter if you aren't comfortable just letting loose and being yourself. Obviously, Tomás will figure that out sooner or later, but the real question then becomes whether he can actually hold his own during a match. (Josh Trujillo, Cara McGee, Brittany Peer, Boom Studios)
Rick and Morty discussing how everyone who reads comics experiences event fatigue. Image: CJ Cannon, Nick Filardi (Oni Press)
Rick and Morty Presents: The Vindicators
As much as we may try to convince ourselves that major comic book events aren't exhausting excuses to have popular superhero characters cross over with one another to fight and boost sales, we all know that that's exactly what they are. It's refreshing, then, to see a comic book address that fact head on while also unabashedly relying on the inherent coolness of superhero crossovers to make itself interesting.
Rick and Morty Presents: The Vindicators both hates and loves stories about superheroes in a similar way to how Rick and Morty hates and loves itself. When the "all-new, all-different" Vindicators show up to conscript Rick and Morty into yet another dangerous mission to save the multiverse, Rick is quick to point out that the knock-off Avengers haven't actually changed all that much about themselves other than their costumes. Of course, Morty's down for the space adventure and Rick's eventually swayed when he learns about the Vindicators' newest foe: The mad entity Boon, who wears the mighty Infinity Glove that he uses to handle the legendary Infinity Balls.
Rick and Morty Presents: The Vindicators is packed full of stinging jabs at genre culture and the fans who love it, but every punch that's thrown is also being pulled. The comic's definitely making fun of other comics, but it's doing it out of love because hey - dumb comics can still be fun. (J. Torres, CJ Cannon, Nick Filardi, Oni Press)