2.27.2015

3.04.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

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I’m most interested in Blackcross #1 this week, a book which seems to be flying under the radar. It’s Warren Ellis and Colton Worley’s first foray into Dynamite Entertainment’s Project Superpowers line. Ellis is one of the rare buy-on-sight creators, regardless of company or collaborator, as there’s always kernels of brilliance, even among his occasional “misses.” Blackcross promises to juxtapose Golden Age Superheroes with small town supernatural mystery, something quirky enough that it could be a sleeper hit.

Image Comics continues their mindshare dominance with Saga #26 from BKV and Fiona Staples, Nameless #2 by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham, Black Science #12 by Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera, the brand new Descender #1 from the team of Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, and the finale (of this run) of the series in Supreme: Blue Rose #7, by Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay. Of the lot, it’s sorta a three way tie between the ever-adventurous Black Science (part of the ridiculously good writer’s trifecta with Low and Deadly Class, it’s a helluva a time to be a Rick Remender fan!), Nameless (I’m quite curious to see where the guys take this series), and Supreme: Blue Rose (since it’ll be interesting to see how they stick the landing).

If you held a gun to my head and made me buy a corporate comic this week, I’d certainly choose the Disney/LucasFilm/Marvel premiere of Princess Leia #1 by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson. I’ve never been a huge Dodson fan (though that cover image admittedly looks terrific), but Waid is a writer with longevity who I respect, and I’m quite interested to see what fan reaction will be to this book. It sounds like it’ll cover some of the same emotional ground as Brian Wood’s Star Wars run, and I’m wondering if fans will similarly push back on Waid’s treatment of her as a blaster-wielding, X-Wing piloting leader of an insurgent cell.

IDW is offering Winterworld #0 by Chuck Dixon and guest artist Tommy Lee Edwards, so I’m definitely checking out this prequel story to the post-apocalyptic affair. Lastly, I’ll be picking up Lady Killer #3 by Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones, published by Dark Horse Comics, which wryly merges suburban ennui with period wetwork, something which seems to be a rising sub-genre in the collective consciousness of the last few years.

2.21.2015

2.25.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

There’s a few sure buys this week, with quite a few maybes thrown in. I’m most excited for Danger Club #7 from Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones, followed closely by They’re Not Like Us #3 by Eric Stephenson and Simon Gane. Image Comics also has Low #6 by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini out (growing to be a stalwart buy because it focuses on Remender’s go-to theme of the parent-child dynamic), ODY-C #3 by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward (maybe too ambitious for its own good, this issue will likely either make or break my continued support), Sex #20 by Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski (this will probably be my last issue, there’s just too much narrative foreplay and not enough of the actual storytelling act itself), and The Wicked + The Divine #8 (I’m more interested in Jamie McKelvie’s confectionary visuals than Kieron Gillen’s pop mythology).

I’ve been picking up copies of all the new Star Wars comics for my cousin who is overseas in Abu Dhabi, so I’ll read his copy of Darth Vader #2 in the new Marvel Comics venture, and chalk it up in the maybe column. For some reason, I could never quite get into Jason Aaron and Ron Garney’s series despite liking both Scalped and Southern Bastards a great deal, so Men of Wrath #5 is a maybe as well. Over at Oni Press, I’ve enjoyed the series, but have been feeling a little ambivalent toward it lately, so ditto the maybe sentiment for The Life After #7 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo.

I’m even less interested in Sandman: Overture #4, a series that saw the first issue released on October 30th of 2013. Like many in my age group I assume, I credit Neil Gaiman and Sandman with getting me back into comics in my college years, and I’ve loved JH Williams III since I first saw his work at a local con in our hometown around 1992, way before Chase or any of his early work, on a weird little horror title called Demonic Toys, but for some reason this title just leaves me totally cold, and I have a hard time supporting a publishing model that’s managed to only get out an average of two issues per year. I’ll give it a flip, but can’t in good conscience plunk down the money.

Suiciders #1 is another Vertigo offering this week that I’ll give a flip. Honestly, the premise is thin, sounding like a rehash of about three other things mashed together, but with Lee Bermejo art, it’s still a little intriguing. I’m curious about Curb Stomp #1 by Ryan Ferrier and Devaki Neogi (especially with covers by Tula Lotay), so I’ll check out this Boom! Studios debut swirling around the heart of punk. Lastly, I’ll give The Black Hood #1 a flip, this being the Archie Comics debut of their in-house superhero property at the hands of Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos. This artist is always worth a look, and if the recent Afterlife With Archie is any indication of future performance, it could be grand.

On the collected edition front, I’ll recommend G.I. Joe Volume 1:  The Fall of G.I. Joe, IDW’s latest offering of the property, this time featuring an off-type political thriller by Karen Traviss, Steve Kurth, and killer design work on the covers by Jeffrey Veregge, which stays true to the general spirit of the original premise, yet also manages to feel more sophisticated and socially relevant in the post-9/11 age of asymmetrical warfare. 

2.14.2015

2.18.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

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This week is very representative of the kind of material I want to be consuming, cramming so many of my current favorite books and creators into one place. Nearly every week at the LCS, I’ll get the question as a prompt and make the case for this book being the single best series Image Comics is currently publishing, and it’s Lazarus #15 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. This issue promises the conclusion of the Conclave arc, which has been a great look at the other families, and like Tyrion Lannister at The Eyrie, it appears we’ll be getting trial by combat in the denouement.

Image Comics also has Manifest Destiny #13 out, by the team of Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, and Owen Gieni, another great series which easily made my Best of 2014 list for its blending of speculative historical fiction (Lewis & Clark’s fabled expedition to chart a waterway to the Pacific Ocean) and good ol’ fashioned monster mayhem (imagine the real reason we got such a deal from the French is because the Louisiana Purchase was inhabited by supernatural creatures!). In an age when colorist recognition is on the rise with stars like Dave Stewart, Dean White, and Jordie Bellaire, I’d love to see Owen Gieni getting some of that well-deserved praise.

Don’t stop there with your support of The House of Creator Owned! Image Comics will also bring you Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s Deadly Class #11, Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein’s Drifter #4, along with The Fuse #10, and The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #4. There really is something for every taste, a foray into every genre, and so many diverse creators you should support. I’m most excited for this installment of The Fuse (with Antony Johnston’s well thought out sci-fi world-building and Justin Greenwood’s storytelling ability growing in every issue) and Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey’s gorgeous and poignant work in The Autumnlands. I usually call it “Kamandi meets Game of Thrones.”

Dark Horse Comics is featuring EI8HT #1, a new mini-series by Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson, a time-displaced sci-fi adventure that has me very curious about Albuquerque’s writing ability. Over at Oni Press, we have Charles Soule’s Letter 44 #14, this time with art by Drew Moss in a special flashback issue. There’s also the final issue of Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood’s Marc Spector arc in Moon Knight #12. I’ll be very sad to see this go, as Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Brian Wood, Greg Smallwood, and Jordie Bellaire all did very special things with this series that renewed interest in the character while telling visceral tales with instantly distinct approaches to the art.

On the collected edition front, we have Umbral Volume 2: The Dark Path, collecting issues 7 through 12 of this superb fantasy piece by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten. DC/Vertigo is also putting out the first hardcover installment of one of their greatest series ever with Scalped Book One: The Deluxe Edition. For me, this is still the best thing Jason Aaron has written, rich with social secrets and seedy crime and larger notes around the crumbling subculture of the Native American diaspora, and it’s an absolute crime that his chief collaborator R.M. Guera hasn’t since been picked up for plying that rich inky style on an ongoing series. 

2.07.2015

2.11.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #5 is my primary book of interest this week, it’s IDW’s delightfully batshit insane pairing of 1980’s properties at the hands of Tom Scioli and John Barber, which manages to simultaneously play like an earnest nostalgia piece and a tongue-in-cheek send-up that subverts everything it purports to love all at once. It’s a joy to read, one of those books you’re amazed actually got made in the first place, chock full of obsessive knowledge porn, with plenty of backmatter commentary by the creators.

If you’re looking for another licensed property, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larocca are helming Darth Vader #1, the second offering in the new Marvel Star Wars era, and the first-ever ongoing series featuring this character. I’ve found Marvel’s iterations of the Star Wars mythos to sort of stretch continuity plausibility right to the point of breaking, but it’s nevertheless interesting to see what the property can withstand. Given the resurgence in this cultural phenomenon, we’ll be likely talking about “the new Star Wars” – book, film, game, whatever – for the next 100 years.

But, if you’re on this site, reading this column, then you’re probably smart enough to know that Creator Owned Comics are where it’s at! May I then recommend Southern Bastards #7 from The Jasons, Aaaron and Latour, following up an incredible cliffhanger/twist/prologue realization at the end of the first arc. For my money, Jason Aaron is at his best when he’s exploring misunderstood corners of the American Tapestry, so if you were a fan of the impressive Scalped, then this exploration of culture in the American South is where you should be spending your time.

There’s also perennial favorite Astro City #20 by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson, published by DC/Vertigo. Astro City has an interesting publishing history, surviving Image, Homage, WildStorm, and now Vertigo incarnations, perhaps a testament to the core premise of exploring the humanized peripheral elements of the shared universe concept. The older I get, the more I appreciate someone like Busiek, a writer with consistency of quality, longevity of career, and the ability to still play emotionally relevant, even when tinkering with the industry’s most prevalent genre.

I’ll also recommend The Sculptor, this is the long-anticipated 496-page hardcover tome by Scott McCloud, published by First Second. It looks to examine the very nature of creativity, and literal ruminations on life and death, all from the Godfather of the formal analysis of how the medium functions. It’s absolutely terrific to see an original creation from McCloud, one which will likely be poured over panel by panel in the wake of his seminal work Understanding Comics, and I expect to see it on many Best of 2015 lists come December.

If you wanted to check out a throwback gem, you could do much worse than DC: The New Frontier Deluxe Edition Hardcover. That’s a mouthful of a title, and if you’re anything like me, you already snagged the gorgeous Absolute Edition before it went out of print. But, if you didn’t feel like spending $75 on that, this new printing is a deal at $49.99, featuring Darwyn Cooke’s sweeping treatise on DC lore, depicting the liminal state between The Golden Age and The Silver Age, a generational transition that basically established the company’s outlook for the modern era.

1.31.2015

2.04.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

The book drawing the most attention from me this week is the penultimate issue of Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas’ pre-apocalyptic drama in Sheltered #14, published by Image Comics. Things have finally reached a boiling point at Safe Haven, and I can’t wait to see how the guys wrap the series up. Image Comics also has East of West #17 and C.O.W.L. #8 out this week, both books with impressive world-building, the former a post-apocalyptic alt-future centering on the sci-fi end of days within a post-Civil War era fracturing of the United States, and the latter a haunting vision of unionized superheroes in 1960’s era Chicago.

There’s perennial favorite Saga #25 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, easily described as a sci-fi Romeo & Juliet enjoyed to the tune of an old Steve Miller Band song (you know the one), along with The Humans #4 by Tom Neely (one of my indie comics favorites) and Keenan Marshall Keller, featuring world-weary biker gang apes surprisingly steeped in 70’s film style social commentary, as well as Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s Nameless #1, which throngs of fans will surely be checking out. I’ve been enjoying Morrison’s gleeful take on the DCU in the various Multiversity books of late, but no doubt he’s at his best with original creations.

Dark Horse Comics has Lady Killer #2 out from Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones, sort of a Mr. & Mrs. Smith meets Mad Men affair, with a pinch of The Milkman Murders thrown in for good measure, suburban subversion at its finest, and Jones has seriously stepped up her artistic game on the title. I know a couple customers at the LCS who have doubled-down on multiple copies of the already-gone-to-second-print #1, thinking this’ll be the next hot book. I’ll check out Marvel’s Star Wars #2 for harmless nostalgia, but I’m more excited for The Bunker #9 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari over at Oni Press, as well as the debut of Ed Brisson and Damian Couceiro’s sharp looking new sci-fi series Cluster #1 at Boom! Studios. Though, I admit there may be some market saturation nearing with all of these strong sci-fi titles like Drifter, Bitch Planet, Concrete Park, that seem to be operating in the post-Pitch Black zeitgeist, where the words “prisoner,” “stranded,” and “rugged environs” exist in the overlapping circles of some storytelling Venn Diagram. 

1.24.2015

1.28.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

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Image Comics is absolutely dominating this week! There’s new stuff! There’s old stuff! There’s returning stuff! I’m most excited for Danger Club #6, the long-awaited return of this Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones joint (last seen in April of 2013), which I’ve sometimes described to people as Warren Ellis doing a 1960’s Teen Titans riff. It’s got subversive intent with analogous heroes disappearing, and their ill-equipped sidekicks stepping up to fill the void, either trying to rule the world or trying to save it. I believe this incarnation will end with #8, and we’ll be seeing the forthcoming issues very regularly. Another book which fans have been clamoring for is Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon’s Casanova: Acedia #1, the return of everyone’s favorite universe-jumping agent. This time, Casanova Quinn comes to Los Angeles, with a back-up story featuring Michael Chabon and Gabriel Ba. This is can’t-miss shenanigans, and something I expect to see on Best of 2015 lists come the end of the year. I’m also excited to see more of Antony Johnston and Chris Mitten’s dark fantasy series in Umbral #12, a book which sneaks up on you with charming rogues, highly efficient world-building, and the most lush visuals steeped in sick sepia, bloody crimsons, and royal purples that sing with all the weight of the dread forces at work.

In the new department, there’s The Dying & The Dead #1, Jonathan Hickman & Ryan Bodenheim’s latest creator owned effort. Hickman has been a creator to watch ever since he burst onto the scene with his infographic-laced design sensibility in The Nightly News and (personal favorite) Pax Romana, and I love Bodenheim’s work, especially the rugged sci-fi of Red Mass For Mars. The new book promises an epic feel, spans multiple generations, and the first issue is an impressive 60 pages for just $4.50. I enjoyed the indie X-Men take of this series debut, so I’m also excited to check out They’re Not Like Us #2 by Eric Stephenson and Simon Gane, as well as the self-aware hilarity of Punks #4 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain. The thing is, humor is subjective. It’s hard to do humor. It’s even harder to do humor in comics. But, these guys just nail the funny, with both quirky visuals and jaunty dialogue, and also manage to seamlessly work in wry social observations in the process. That’s really the role of “good” humor, not only to entertain, but to leave you with some little gem of social insight.

If you wanted some books with “sex” in the title, you could do a lot worse than Sex #19 by Joe Casey and guest artist Ian Macewan, a book I’ve sort of had a like-love relationship with, moving from bouts of fence-sitting flirtation, to eager lustful enjoyment, back to a lukewarm refractory period. But, the central premise of “what happens in a post-shared superhero universe concept?” is a good one, even if Casey sometimes leaves you with the feeling that he’s making it up as he goes for the exploratory ride, and doesn’t necessarily have a master plan with a fixed end-point in mind. Not enough sexy? Try Sex Criminals #19 by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky. I’m not sure this book is the “better” of the two, but it’s certainly more popular thanks to the antics of both creators and their willingness to eschew embarrassment, taboo, indoctrinated social mores, and other words I learned in my social anthropology classes in college.

Oni Press has Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo’s The Life After #6 available, a fun series set in a purgatory style land that is sort of equal parts What Dreams May Come and The Truman Show, with a scene-stealing Ernest Hemmingway helping the ostensible protagonist navigate this afterlife. Diamond is listing Chuck Dixon and Tomas Giorello’s Winterworld #7 as a release this week, which seems curious since #6 of the post-apocalyptic sojourn just came out last week, but perhaps this is a burst of issues to reestablish some sort of slipping schedule(?). It, um, may or may not be hitting the shelves this week, as I wasn’t able to confirm it at the time of this writing.

Books I might take a flip through, but aren’t necessarily guaranteed purchases, include Bitch Planet #2, Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT #30 from Dark Horse, Multiversity Guidebook #1 by some young upstart named Grant Morrison and a whole host of artists (maybe a prohibitive price point depending on the content), and Vertigo Quarterly #1: Black. Basically, ditto my concerns about the price point on this one. While it certainly contains work by some creators I’d love to check out (John Paul Leon, Francesco Francavilla, Steven T. Seagle), for $8 I’d want to like every single piece, which basically never happens in these anthologies.

On the collected edition front, your choices are Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta’s Outcast Vol. 1, which, honestly, I could take or leave the premise from Kirkman, the book has been over-hyped in a vortex created by the wake of The Walking Dead success, an impending TV show, and the rage of the Creator Owned Renaissance at Image Comics, but the art from Azaceta is just gorgeous, full of inky goodness, something for fans of John Paul Leon or Danijel Zezelj, with a little of the old-school Jim Lee commercial appeal thrown in for good measure. The Life After Vol. 1 also arrives, great for catching up with the new issue this week, as well as the excellent Black Science Vol. 2, familial dynamics and high sci-fi adventure, which I sell to people down at the LCS as (pure speculation) Rick Remender’s rejected FF pitch that was too intense for the suits at Marvel. 

1.17.2015

1.21.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

It’s a relatively small week for me, but there’s some great material hitting the shelves. First up is Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey’s anthropomorphic world-building full of political intrigue. Perhaps best described as Game of Thrones meets Kamandi, it’s The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #3. Another rising star from Image Comics is Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein’s Drifter #3, featuring a wayward sci-fi traveler trying to piece together his past while surviving his intense new surroundings after crash landing on a strange planet. It’s got a twinge of The Twilight Zone, with modern sci-fi sensibilities and plenty of action. Image also has the ever-popular The Wicked + The Divine #7 from Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, and with news out of the recent Image Expo that more of their seminal Phonogram series is on the way, I don’t see attention cooling off on these guys any time soon.

IDW is bringing us Chuck Dixon and Tomas Giorello’s latest installment in Winterworld #6, a book that doesn’t necessarily rock your socks off, but Dixon is a consistent and reliable writer, continuing this quietly intriguing take on the post-apocalyptic drifter traversing the land and meeting various tribes of people struggling to compose some form of civilization. Last up is the penultimate issue in Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood’s Moon Knight arc, with Moon Knight #11. This team has been vastly underrated in the wake of Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s departure, but they’ve delivered an equally good romp with their grounded urban vigilante I’ve dubbed “The Ghost Protector of New York City.” Most critics have ceded that Wood and Smallwood were worth staying on for, but I’m not sure civilians got the message. I can only hope that we’ll see more from the Wood & Smallwood creative team in the future.

If you’re into comics at all, you should do yourself a favor and check out work by Jacques Tardi if you haven’t already done so. This week, Fantagraphics is bringing us the latest of their Tardi translations with the neo-noir seedy crime story Run Like Crazy Run Like Hell, which has art by Tardi and a story by Jean-Patrick Manchette. Tardi has a way of forcing us to examine deep character motivations by shoveling all kinds of detail-laden action at us, and it’s the rare book that both entertains and makes you feel as if you’ve learned something about human nature in the process.