"The Black Ghost" is a fun Latina twist on urban noir superheroes

Marvel found a lot of success with their street-level Netflix series, focusing on those less-super superheroes like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Across town, Batman has always been one of the most beloved DC heroes, more because of his lack of powers than despite them.

Now, Comixology's original digital-only publishing line is offering their own twist on the gritty powerless superhero genre with The Black Ghost. Written by comics and crime writer (and Archie Comics co-president) Alex Segura and comic writer/artist Monica Gallagher with art by Marco Finnegan and George Kambadais, the comic follows a bitter alcoholic beat reporter named Lara Dominguez, whose obsession with a local vigilante called the Black Ghost gets her wrapped up in multilevel crime syndicate that has its eyes as much on real estate and media as it does in petty crimes. It feels like both an origin story, and a chapter in a larger story that's been going on for years — just like a good superhero comic should.

The story takes place in a city called Creighton. And while we don't know where exactly that is (the protagonist's former life in Miami has followed her to this new dying city), the grey skies and crumbling buildings could be almost any fading former factory hub along the East Coast. As I read, I kept thinking of it as the Bridgeport version of Gotham City or Metropolis — generic, but accessible, and fleshed out just enough to make it feel lived-in and real.

From the first issue, it's clear that The Black Ghost is going to shamelessly lean into the tropes of the genre — but with just enough inversions of expectations. Read the rest

Review: "Liebestrasse" is a frighteningly relevant LGBTQ graphic novel set in the Weimar Republic

Liebestrasse is a new original digital graphic novel from Comixology, but it follows more in the European tradition of small, character-focused slice-of-life stories than the bombastic speculative fiction that's made the American graphic novel field so popular. In less than 100 pages, it tells the story of an American businessman named Sam who takes a job in Berlin during the Weimar Republic, where he meets and falls in love with an art dealer named Phillip.

Of course, the dramatic irony abounds. As readers, we know what Germany's immediate future holds—and soon enough, that other shoe does indeed drop. But also as readers, it's easy to get wrapped in the simple tenderness of burgeoning romance and ignore the warning signs that lurk in the shadows—just like Sam and Phillip.

The rapport between the two lovers is charming and realistic, with Phillip's witty flamboyance playing perfectly off of Sam's strong silent Americanisms. Artist Tim Fish does tremendous work with the subtleties of facial expressions; though the style is slightly more cartoonish than what most American readers might expect, I found myself consciously commenting on the acting as I read through the pages, as if these were actual people rather than drawings. I read a lot of comics, and that's something rare and unique, at least in the American market. The color palette by Hector Barros also gives the story a very classical comic vibe that fits the time period. Though the pigments are digital, the simple, solid color patterns evoke a more innocent era. Read the rest