‘Laid Waste’ May Be the Best Indie Comic All Year
Also this week, when Catwoman tries to comment on the election, furballs ensue.
Panel selection from Moon Knight #8. Illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, Wilfredo Torres, James Stokoe, and Greg Smallwood. Screencap via the author
This week’s comics feature some complex works and one very obvious take on the election. It’s tempting to only cover the best and brightest when talking about weekly comics (especially when indie comics are better than ever right now), but when something's particularly grabby, good or not, it warrants review. Moon Knight tells the story of a mixed-up superhero, Laid Waste is about love amidst apocalypse, Elfquest is collected for classic (albeit cheesy) fantasy magic, and Catwoman: Election Night is so bland, broad, and confused in its storytelling that it’s a wonder the comic got past DC’s (generally pretty good) editorial staff.
The new mayor of Gotham is up for election, and DC Comics timed this special mini-series very shrewdly. This comic couldn’t get more Batman in its blatancy: The Penguin is running for Mayor, and if elected he’ll build a wall around Gotham City to keep the criminals out. As he states, “We don’t have time for political correctness! Gotham City is overrun with criminals. They’re scum, lowlifes. I should know. I was one of them.” A little on the nose; and then the story gets even weirder when it turns out that the Hillary analogue was a cold-blooded killer as a child in a foster home, and changed her name to get away with it. So, where does Catwoman come into play? She was in the same foster home with the potential murderer-in-chief, and now kicks people in the face a few times and “solves” the whole thing. The worst part is, Catwoman really doesn’t have much agency, or even get to show off her skills. Batman comes in and mansplains the central mystery for her, handing her a tattered manila envelope containing all the answers. This is easy, lazy work, tapping into the public fears about the election with the depth of a Family Guy episode. It kind of rules.
Moon Knight is one of the most dizzying, heady comics Marvel’s currently putting on shelves. The story centers around Moon Knight, a hero who died under the statue of an Egyptian god. But he’s also kind of connected to a space astronaut, and a cab driver, and a movie producer, and all three of those people are beginning to feel their lives all bleed together. This comic does a great job of keeping the reader actively confused, and the result isn’t as frustrating as it sounds. In fact, it’s kind of exhilarating. Recommended for comic fans who don’t mind losing the thread of the story every now and then.
Written and illustrated by Julia Gfrörer, Laid Waste is one of the most beautiful, elegant, and heart-wrenching graphic novels to come along all year. The story follows Agnès, a young, very strong woman, as she struggles to survive (both physically and mentally) in a medieval, plague-devastated town. With a final set of panels at once breathtakingly beautiful and hauntingly sad, this comic is one that will stick with readers long after they put down the book. Gfrörer’s simple line work creates a sense of crumbling isolation, and everything works so well that Laid Waste may be a mini modern masterpiece.
Elfquest is a comic from another age, and the feel of the comic has been perfectly preserved over the years so that it still looks and reads like the original issues released in 1978. That’s thanks to series creators Richard and Wendy Pini, the husband and wife team who’ve been tirelessly making the comic since its inception. The story follows Cutter, leader of the Wolfriders, on his quest to find other elves like himself on a barbaric planet. It’s pure, unadulterated fantasy, plucked from the ‘70s. This “Complete Volume 3” collection of comics, available only in print, follows the history of the Wolfrider clan. Dedicated to their work and their story, Richard and Wendy Pini even have all the Elfquest comics they put out before 2013 available to read for free. So check some of those out before picking up these volumes.
What were your favorite pulls this week? Let us know in the comments or at @CreatorsProject.