10.29.14 [#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.

My personal book of the week will be The Massive #28. I’ve read an advance copy, and in these last few issues, Brian Wood and Garry Brown are more deliberately moving the book into the sci-fi space that Wood promised back when it started. I like that the series operates within the uncertainty of a gray moral area. The way it straddles genres also means that it sort of defies analysis. I almost feel like it’s partially Wood defying dudes like me to tell everyone “what it all means.” It’s becoming less of Mother Nature’s hard reboot of the planet, and more some sort of weird Earth Elementals (my term) being forced to leave because man seems intent on taking just 14 hours to go “from birth to ruin” when presented with any natural resource. From a larger perspective, it calls into question not just Cal, or Mag, or Ninth Wave’s existential dilemma, but that of the entire human race. Wood has always written books with important social themes, but within that library, The Massive has proven itself one of the most critical.

Image Comics also comes full force this week, with two offerings from Rick Remender in the form of Black Science #10 with Matteo Scalera (certainly the best FF book I’ve ever read), and Low #4 with Greg Tocchini. There’s also Saga #24, Sex #17, Umbral #10, Southern Bastards #5, and Captain Victory & The Galactic Rangers #3. It’s an impressive lot with an evergreen series like Saga and not one, but two Joe Casey books, yet I’m probably most curious about what Rascal is up to as her journey continues in Umbral. This is a book which has become a definitive work for Antony Johnston’s world-building ability and the sheer visual poetry that Chris Mitten is capable of conjuring out of thin air. Southern Bastards also took an incredible turn last issue, so I’m very curious to see how the new direction shapes the look and feel of the series. It’s almost as if the first arc was just prologue to get to the actual story that Jason Aaron and Jason Latour wanted to share with us. I do enjoy these underplayed, let’s not say “twists” – because that’s de rigueur, but books with an ability to turn the aircraft carrier on a dime and surprise the audience in a way that’s not cheap shock value or hyped-up marketing spectacle.

Little Nemo: Return To Slumberland #2 is also out from IDW, and though it seems like it’s been a long time between issues, it’s already one of those rare books worth the wait. Writer Eric Shanower is taking on the impossible and even commented during an IDW panel at SDCC that it’s foolish to attempt any return to Winsor McCay’s classic, but so far he’s certainly up to the challenge. And if you want to capture the magic, whimsy, and adventure of a near-100 year old property that was light years ahead of its time, having Locke & Key alum Gabriel Rodriguez at your side to add copious details and lush environments to the proceedings seems like a smart play. It doesn’t really matter if you feel you’re the demographic for this story or not, it’s marvelous to behold the craft, just the sheer act of “comics making” that goes into this book is incredible. Lastly, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari have The Bunker #7 out from Oni Press, a series I’ve really enjoyed. It’s a post-apocalyptic mystery at heart, but the generational notes and epic scope make something greater than the sum of the parts, it’s what I’ve been calling an American version of Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, with a group of kids attempting to avert a disaster that they themselves may have inadvertently caused.

On the TPB and OGN front, you could do a lot worse than plunking down $9.99 for C.O.W.L. Vol. 1: Principles of Power by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis, published by Image Comics. It’s a fun series that takes smart design work and a noir approach to unionized supes in 1960’s Chicago, with elements of Watchmen deconstructionism, the nostalgia-busting introspection of Mad Men, with street level superheroics in the Brubaker/Phillips vein, sort of all rolled into one. I think it’s been flying under the radar, so I’ll continue to recommend it. If you want to get all indie with me, I’m also quite curious about One Year In America from Elisabeth Belliveau, available from Conundrum Pres, and I Remember Beirut by Zeinia Abirached, published by Graphic Universe, the latter being a graphic novel memoir of growing up in 1980’s Lebanon. 


10.22.14 [#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 another strong week, especially on the Creator Owned Comics front, so let’s get right to this week’s picks! I’m most looking forward to Lazarus #12 by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark. If you pushed me to answer, I’d probably say that this was the single best book coming out from Image Comics at the moment. It’s certainly high praise, but when you look at the gravitas of the aesthetics and the thematic extrapolations about collective social fears surrounding class distinction, resource allocation, and the wealth divide in this country that Rucka is systematically examining, then you’ll start to understand my position. It’s a phenomenal near-future world-build, full of intensity, and absolutely relevant. This arc in particular has been grand, introducing the Lazarus of yet another family, and building toward the titular “Conclave” sit-down meeting that’s equal parts organized crime commission and G8 style summit.

Image Comics also has Sheltered #12 out from Ed Brisson, Johnnie Christmas, and Shari Chankhamma, marking just three issues left. For my money, this is an all-star creative team, with Brisson totally grasping the inherent drama of closed-room interpersonal dynamics, Christmas’ lightning crisp art crackling with sharp angles and forced perspective, and Chankhamma’s sensual colors always delivering the right emotional content. She’s definitely part of the “New Wave” of colorists that I love, with folks like Dean White, Jordie Bellaire, and Owen Gieni. The final issue of Mark Millar’s mini-series is out, with Starlight #6 hitting the stands. I’m generally not a Millar fan, but the pure adrenaline rush and memorable characters really delivered, while Goran Parlov’s art is a thing of deceptively simple beauty.  I’ll also check out The Wicked + The Divine #5 from Phonogram alum Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. The series is a bit like Saga or Sex Criminals for me, in that I think it gets slightly more praise than it actually deserves, but I still can’t resist the confectionary treat of McKelvie’s art style.

Not to be outdone, Oni Press is offering Letter 44 #11 by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque, along with Stumptown Vol. 3 #2 with the team of Greg Rucka and Justin Greenwood. The former being the compelling premise of The West Wing meets Independence Day, rife with Obama and W analogues that shed new light on what’s really going on behind the scenes, while the latter is Rucka’s ongoing series of mini-series surrounding Portland based Private Investigator Dex Parios. Stumptown is as much about her personal struggles, social life, and psychological motivations as it is centered on any type of procedural thriller, and for that it’s a win. It seems like the boys caught a little flak for the slow burn re-immersion of the first issue, but at this point I’m basically a Rucka loyalist since he wrote my beloved Queen & Country, and while Greenwood’s style is markedly different from what preceded it, he’s definitely an emerging talent whose career arc continues to be noteworthy.

On the collected edition front, I have two great picks for you. First up is Wasteland: The Apocalyptic Edition Volume 04. This oversized velvety hardcover collects issues 40-52 of the Oni Press series from Antony Johnston, Chris Mitten, Justin Greenwood, Russel Roehling, et al. I believe this is the penultimate edition, with just one left to collect the final issues of the series, which is planned to wrap up soon at #60. It’s the definitive format you’ll want to own this grand epic in. Marvel Comics also has a new printing of the Alias Omnibus Hardcover by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos. For me, this is a seminal work, a contender for Bendis’ best ever, one that heavily favored the personality fugue and character deconstruction of Jessica Jones over silly ol’ straight-up superheroics, and was a forerunner to the modern street-level slice-of-life solo projects like Hawkeye, Iron Fist, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Moon Knight, etc. that Marvel is now so fond of. It collects all 28 issues of the regular series, plus a peripheral What If…? installment. I also want to go on record as saying that Jessica Chastain is the only choice for playing Jessica Jones in any sort of TV or film adaptation. Your Argument Is Invalid. 


10.15.14 [#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.

Welcome back to our weekly look at what’s hitting the shelves, as I spotlight my favorite picks! This is a relatively small week, but it does contain some really choice material. Taking the lead is Manifest Destiny #11, which blends speculative historical fiction and monster mayhem. It’s a brilliant high concept: What if ol’ Tom Jefferson’s off-book spec ops mission for Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark was to investigate supernatural forces inhabiting the Louisiana Purchase (the real reason we got such a deal from the French!) as The Corps of Discovery charts a path to the Pacific Ocean? It’s rich with history, action, and imagination at the hands of writer Chris Dingess and artist Matthew Roberts, with lush colors by Owen Gieni.

Image Comics has other great material out this week too, everything from Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s Deadly Class #8 (another entry in Remender’s expanding oeuvre examining the parent-child dynamic, specifically lost kids in the vacuum of parentis absentia), to a duo from Warren Ellis that includes Supreme: Blue Rose #4 with artist Tula Lotay and Trees #6 with artist Jason Howard. These are both the kind of sci-fi that Ellis excels at, the former is a psychological mind-bender that plays fast and loose with non-linear time and the very nature of reality, while the latter is a more classic “what if?” concerned with the way man deals with the unknown, in the vein of an old Twilight Zone episode, but on a global sociological level.

Oni Press will also have a really good week, with The Life After #4 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo, a story that’s slightly comedic, but has bouts of poignancy, but isn’t afraid of sudden bursts of action amid the deeper mystery. It’s a real triple threat in that regard, and also unique for the “sidekick” (Ernest Hemingway!) sort of upstaging the ostensible protagonist of the series. I enjoy the book, and I think it’s still flying under the radar of many consumers. Also from Oni Press, Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten are on the last leg of their grand post-apocalyptic opus with Wasteland #58, marking just two issues left until the series wraps. Johnston has taken the book in a completely unexpected direction with this last arc, with flashbacks to the present which predate The Big Wet and begin to explain the events we’ve seen taking place 100 years in the future.

Now, I don’t care much about Wolverine, or Marvel Comics, or a corporation’s intellectual property catalogue, and how they choose to manage event comics purporting a pseudo “death.” At this point, all signs seem to be pointing to the fact that it’ll be in name alone, ie: perhaps the character of “Wolverine” (as a masked adventurer) ceases to be for a time, but I’m sure Logan, nee: James Howlett, will live on. This gives Marvel the most storytelling mileage after all, they can bench him, effectively taking him off the board like Han Solo in carbonite, do all sorts of things on the periphery in the interim, and always tease him taking up the mantle again. But. All of that said, Charles Soule is a writer I respect, so I’m curious how he’ll snikt! the landing in Death of Wolverine #4 purely from a craft standpoint. I was sworn to secrecy, but at a recent event, he was generous enough to share with me what the final word of the final panel of the final page will be, so I want to see how he gets from point A to point B.

Lastly, on the TPB front, I’ll recommend Star Wars Volume 4: A Shattered Hope, the last entry in the Brian Wood run from Dark Horse Comics. This volume collects some fascinating material, including a two-part story that was very dark in tone about a black ops hit squad Vader puts together, all from the perspective of a young Imperial Ensign, who becomes disillusioned with her once bright-eyed military service. It also houses the somewhat rare FCBD 2012 issue, a short story involving an early team-up between Darth Vader and Boba Fett, explaining in part why this go-to guy is the Dark Lord’s Bounty Hunter of choice. With Marvel now effectively at the helm of forthcoming Star Wars titles, these 4 trades will likely go out of print, so snap them up while you can!


10.08.14 [#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.

This is a huge week for me. I’m probably most enamored of Punks #1 by Kody Chamberlain (Sweets) and Joshua Hale Fialkov (The Bunker, The Life After). This is a deadly team, as both writers are great at taking familiar genre tropes and spinning them in fascinating ways, often clanging them up against other genres, whether it’s NOLA-based crime noir, post-apocalyptic mystery, or purgatory cum buddy team-up. Punks is a decade-old web-comic come to print with new stories featuring the enigmatic Dog, Skull, Fist, and that scamp Abe Lincoln. Chamberlain’s art in Punks has a crafty way of capturing the throwback analog process and a crackling ransom note aesthetic in the digital age. I’ve read an advance of the issue and it felt like what would happen if Beavis & Butthead penned The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I don’t mean that as a pejorative either. Amid the sight gags and irreverence, I found it quirky, raucous, and laced with some cutting social observations. It’s nice to see Image Comics having a sort of Comedy Renaissance with Tom Neely’s The Humans, Ryan Browne’s God Hates Astronauts, and Punks.

Astro City #16 also hits the shelves, an always enjoyable series at the hands of industry veterans Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson, which has a way of exploring the peripheral edges of a shared universe concept and making those elements the core focus. There’s the inimitable Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #3 from Tom Scioli and John Barber, which is basically taking a nostalgic view of my Gen X childhood and refracting it through an indie comics lens. I’m also into Tales of Honor #5, which wraps the first arc, and is a surprisingly rich sci-fi series adapted by Matt Hawkins and Sang Il-Jeong, from the Honor Harrington novels written by David Weber. It sort of fills the hole left in the wake of things like BSG and the short-lived comic book series The Red Star.

If you want to lean harder into sci-fi, you’ve got a trio of great books in Black Science #9 by Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera, and (my favorite colorist working today) Dean White. Black Science has always read like a rejected FF pitch that was reworked into a more intense adventure of consequence, with cerebral elements examining the relationship between parents and children, a recurring theme in all of Remender’s work. I recommend Winterworld #3 by Chuck Dixon and artist Butch Guice, stepping in for the late great Jorge Zaffino. It’s sci-fi survival featuring post-apocalyptic drifters, in the vein of Whiteout meets Mad Max. I was very impressed by the first issue, so I’m also excited to see where Coppherhead #2 goes, a dirty, lived-in, sci-fi Western from Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski, which strikes a nice balance between action and gravitas. I’ve basically told customers down at the LCS, “take your favorite Western and set it on Tatooine with heaps of social tension.”

There’s also Sex Criminals #8, a book which I can’t really pimp, you’re either already on board or you’re not interested. I’m curious to see if Wytches #1 by Scott Snyder and Jock can live up to the hype. Snyder is responsible for one of DC’s only real tentpole books in Batman, but I’ve always enjoyed his creator-owned work, whether it’s the Americana pervading American Vampire or the cinematic spectacle of The Wake, so I’ll give it a go. On the GN front, we have Battling Boy: The Rise of Aurora West, the next installment of Paul Pope’s project, this time co-written by J.T. Petty, with art by David Rubin (which feels a little old hat now since I picked up an Advance Reader’s Edition back at SDCC in July), but nevertheless Rubin does his best Pope impersonation and Aurora herself was one of the most promising elements of the first volume. Lastly, we have the CBLDF Liberty Annual 2014, an organization truly worth supporting, this time featuring shorts by Jonathan Hickman, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire, and Brian Wood, among others in the 48-page anthology.