Currently Reading: Aliens: Defiance, The Autumnlands, Black Magick, Black Road, Black Science, Briggs Land, Copperhead, Deadly Class, Descender, East of West, The Fuse, The Goddamned, House of Penance, Injection, James Bond, Lazarus, Low, Manifest Destiny, Moon Knight, No Mercy, Paper Girls, Pretty Deadly, Rebels, Saga, Sheriff of Babylon, Starve, Stumptown, They're Not Like Us, Vision
Well, there’s really only one book this week that I can wholeheartedly recommend and that’s Channel Zero: The Complete Collection (Dark Horse). It’s absolutely perfect timing for this new edition containing all the CZ stories and bonus materials to be hitting the shelves. With DMZ having finished its single issue run in December (and collected editions next week), and the The Massive about to kick off, now’s about as good a time as any to offer up the idea of the trio of Brian Wood books forming a loose thematic trilogy. In short, here’s what I’ve been telling people: Channel Zero was about a girl and her broken city, DMZ was about a boy and his broken country, and The Massive is about a man and his broken world. Anyway, this is where it all started as Brian Wood burst onto the scene in 1997, bringing about comics with dangerous ideas and graphic design-meets-street art sensibility. It’s just $19.99 for 296 pages. If your LCS only carries Superman and Spider-Man or you just don’t have a local retailer, then Amazon has a swell deal, currently 46% off at $10.74, which is dirt cheap. Don’t miss it.
Mind MGMT #1 (Dark Horse): I’ve been sitting back, kind of slowly cataloguing the slew of pop fiction that’s come out in our post-9/11 world specifically featuring airplane tragedies. I’m talking about stuff like Lost, Flash Forward, Fringe, The Event, a couple other TV shows I’m forgetting, some recent Avengers work, and now Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT, which all open with some sort of airplane disaster. Even a decade past the events of September 11, 2001, this scar in our psyche is so deep that it’s been manifesting itself in fictional tales where uncertainty fills the skies. It’s like an airplane crashing into a building, or some unexplainable phenomenon aboard a plane, is now the absolute scariest thing we can imagine. That’s not meant to be a pejorative slight against the originality of Matt Kindt’s work, just an observation that it’s happening in a broad fashion. In this original series, there’s an “Amnesia Flight,” where all the passengers, save one child, lose their memory, and all the passengers, save one, are accounted for. One is mysteriously missing. This mystery is placed against the backdrop of a secret government spy agency that utilizes agents with mind control powers. I’ve been a fan of all of Matt Kindt’s projects to date, but this seems like it’s the pinnacle of where he’s been heading for a few years. There’s the fusion of historical elements with covert agencies and his fascination with all things espionage-twinged. His ink washes and muted Earth tones seem to bring warmth to everything as he uses modern techniques to achieve a more classic pulp-inspired aesthetic. The other part of this book I really love is that Kindt is offering bonus material that will be exclusive to the floppies, much like Brian Wood’s plan on The Massive, also out from Dark Horse next month. These guys are trying to resurrect the art of the floppy by incentivizing the purchase with "only here" material. Kindt overtly states that he’s a trade-waiter and he’s trying to make a monthly comic book that would make him buy monthly comics again, so he’s offering something of an interactive experience, with clues, puzzles, cryptic messages that test your pattern recognition skills, that exclusive content I mentioned (in the form of bonus strips that fill in the history of the world he’s working in), and that’s all on top of a riveting mystery rendered in his lush style. Anyway, I love that dedication and action aimed at the ailing floppy. It's really putting your money where your mouth is. This book is clearly a hit right out of the gate, and I hope it sticks around for a while. Grade A+.
My wallet appreciates this rather light week, but at least 2/3 of what’s coming out I’m very excited about. It’s a very close competition for the top slot this week, but I’ll go with the debut of Mind MGMT #1 (Dark Horse) from the inimitable Matt Kindt. I’ve loved just about everything Matt Kindt has released on the indie scene as well as from smaller press publishers, so it’s nice to see him moving more toward the spotlight with a creator-owned series from Dark Horse. The premise of a secret organization of super spies with variable mind control powers is also very intriguing. Prophet #25 (Image) continues the great reimaging of this series from writer Brandon Graham and why-doesn’t-he-work-more NYC artist Farel Dalrymple, finishing up his little two-issue burst. Lastly, we have Batman Incorporated #1 (DC), which I think is supposed to be Morrison’s last gasp of creativity regarding the Batman Mythos, concluding his 6-year commentary on the character. I’m a very passive Morrison fan at best (as I think he's become the very thing his characters and voice and fans seem to want to think they're rallying against, not to mention his work is very hit and miss for me, mostly the latter...), but the Chris Burnham art is a real draw for me, somewhere in between the styles of Frank Quitely and Sean Murphy. What looks good to you?
Danger Club #2 (Image): Landry Walker and Eric Jones are nailing these retro one-page character introductions. They are exceptionally good. In one fell swoop, they give you the origin of a character, offer crisp characterization and a fun nostalgic aesthetic. The balance between that first page and what comes after reflects the balance between the story’s alternate history and dystopian future. Danger Club is instantly grappling with the unflinching idea of people being handed power who are not ready to wield it. This issue focuses on Kid Vigilante and Yoshimi Onomoto. While Onomoto dances with former colleagues in Micro-Tokyo, and women’s rights in the process, Kid V. reveals his underground base. He finds himself in a topsy-turvy world where former enemies are now allies, and former allies have gone bad. In the process, he’s struggling with his own identity, as former teen sidekick, as brother, as leader, as who he risks becoming, when all he really wants to be is just “Andrew.” The art is clean and vibrant, but still has a raw edge to it that feels as dangerous and unpredictable as the world it depicts. Walker’s script is self-aware about the familiar archetypes he’s playing with, but still manages to tell a fresh and original story. These kids are all searching for who they are now, pulling out of the shadow of their former selves, and will hopefully save the world in the process. This is one of my favorite new books. Grade A.
Winter Soldier #5 (Marvel): Is there a more clichéd Russian name in fiction than Dmitri? How about Ivan? Boris? These are the types of little things I get distracted by and think about when I find myself becoming bored with the rote plot. Isn’t it hypocritical of Nick Fury to criticize Doctor Doom so hard about him having all these Doombots running around when Fury himself has had LMDs trotting around the globe for years? I think the best part of this book is actually Butch Guice’s art, which seems to have matured over the years, at times there’s a, dare I say, Kirby-esque thing happening where he’ll play hard with figures in the foreground and then have action occurring in the background, and the juxtaposition creates a really forced perspective aesthetic. I like that. While I realize that Bucky Cap Winter Soldier Barnes has a personal connection to this mission, it still manages to feel rather generic. Rather than him and Black Widow, you could substitute in, say, Hawkeye and Spider-Woman, or Captain America and Sharon Carter, and the end result wouldn’t really be any different. That’s a generic thrillnoir espiohero story. So, what, every arc of this story will now focus on the duo going after one of the lost Project Zephyr agents? Snooze. It’s getting to the point where it doesn’t matter how much I like to imagine the raging clit boner I’d give Scarlet Johansson in my fantasies, I’d rather just point people toward Greg Rucka’s four digest-sized Queen & Country trades for some really good espionage of consequence. It’s getting to the point where it doesn’t matter how competent this book is, I’d rather have people support Antony Johnston’s The Coldest City for some Cold War artifice just on creator-owned principle alone. Grade B.
You could pick just about any book on this list this week and say it’s the book I’m most excited about, but I picked Danger Club #2 (Image) to represent the creative push the publisher is on this year. It seems like every book I’m currently into must be shipping this week too. Also from that publisher is Glory #26 (Image), Saga #3 (Image), and Manhattan Projects #3 (Image), a group which alone would comprise a very solid week. But, on top of that there’s Conan The Barbarian #4 (Dark Horse). Things get a little more unstable with Batwoman #9 (DC) as I try to decide if I should be sticking with this as the art quality slowly slips into the abyss. Vertigo is in a transitional phase, as evidenced by Scalped #58 (DC/Vertigo), as the series marks just two issues left, and Saucer Country #3 (DC/Vertigo), which is attempting to fill a hole in the Vertigo line-up. I’ve been buying this series in trades, but I also wanted to point you to Locke & Key: Clockworks #6 (IDW) which puts an end to this arc/volume. If I recall correctly, Joe Hill is planning just one more mini-series proper to wrap up the story, followed by an additional volume that will collect all of the stray one-shots(?). I’ve been waiting for this book to come out for a very long time, it’s the Cold War espionage thriller The Coldest City (Oni Press) from Antony Johnston and Sam Hart. Lastly… heh… I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to give Female Force: Carrie Fisher (Bluewater Comics) a guilty flip at the LCS just to ogle Slave Girl Leia and momentarily rekindle a fondly remembered 1983-style stirring in my pants.