4.01.15 [#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.

Welcome to Picks of The Week for April 1, 2015! In the top slot this week, the Distinguished Competition is offering the long-awaited Sinestro Annual #1 (DC). If you’re following the series as closely as I am, then you know that a mysterious traitor has been lurking in the Sinestro Corps for some time. And, if you’re anything like me and my good friends Daniel Elkin and Keith Silva, you know that the cover can hopefully only mean one thing. It’ll be even more ret-conned Lantern Lore, perhaps the reveal of the peace-loving horticulturists, the Almond-Beige Lanterns, and their attempt to take down our favorite character in all of comics – Larfleeze! (aka: Agent Orange, aka: “Gonzo,” who DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns ingeniously created by combining the words “lard” and “sleaze.” Classic!)

I would also be remiss in not recommending the visceral violence in Deathstroke #3 2nd Print (DC). Deathstroke is really an underrated gem of a title (and character in general), full of the inherent irony of a contract cape-killer who never quite seems to hit his mark and actually kill who he was hired to kill. It’s the epitome of the glorious illusion of change we all love in mainstream comics. While I do already have the first print of this issue, I’m such a completist when it comes to The New 52 Universe titles that I’ve been slowly picking up every printing, of even these second tier non-key issues, in order to have the complete set for maximum collectability. Check out that cover, with blood-spattered globules suspended in mid-air!

I’ll also be picking up Convergence #0 (DC). I’m not sure who’s writing or drawing this one because it’s done in that homogenous DC House Style I just love, but what’s important is that it’s the kick-off of the latest mega-crossover event from DC Comics (when I was a kid, these events were reserved for summers, so I’m glad they’re now year-round and one just leads right into the next, ad infinitum), with plenty of ancillary one-shots and off-shoot mini-series to pick up. I don’t understand why some of the haters out there complain about endless DC Event malaise when they’re this exciting. It promises to be “the biggest event in DC History,” and I believe it this time when they say this will resolve continuity once and for all. From The Wild West Justice League to Captain Carrot & The Amazing Zoo Crew, “Every Story Matters” according to the truthiness of the solicitation copy!

At The House of Ideas, I’m really excited for Spider-Gwen #3 (Marvel). Not necessarily because it features a modern female protagonist with a fresh creative team that first made their name in indie comics, and is a title bringing throngs of “civilians” into the LCS every week, but because this sucker will probably fund my first-born’s college tuition! I’ve already pre-ordered 30 copies of this book from my retailer, that’s 27 of the regular cover, with all 3 variants, and I plan to submit those for professional grading and slabbing through CGC before hitting eBay. I never got around to actually reading it, but I’ve made a small fortune on the first 2 issues and the sky’s the limit (and that’s not even counting my sales of Edge of Spider-Verse #2, her first appearance!). Has anyone even read this? Is it really that good?

Marvel also has Return of The Living Deadpool #3 (Marvel) available this week. It promises a planet overrun with Deadpools and a tummy sore from laughing! Haha! I definitely love that kind of non-cerebral pratfall sight-gag humor in my self-aware superhero meta-fiction, and I can only hope we’ll see more of Deadpool (and Wolverine, for that matter) in the comics and movies and video games and toys and classy hooded sweatshirts and Funko Pop! Figures and Zombie Variant Covers and Ryan Reynolds homages to Burt Reynolds because I think he might be just a touch under-exposed and under-utilized as an IP at the moment. Pro Tip: There’s money to be made here, Marvel.

My regular readers know that I don’t veer away from beloved Marvel and DC characters very often (and I especially try to avoid that weird creator-owned stuff as a general rule), but when I do branch out, it’s usually because I love adaptations of TV shows, even if they’re based on a mediocre series from 1999. That’s right, it’s Angel & Faith Season 10 #13 (Dark Horse). Some people might be confused by the continuity, but it’s basically just the continuation of the previous Angel & Faith comic book series from Dark Horse (which was a continuation of the Angel series from IDW Publishing), AND picks up from the Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Nine comic book series, which was a make-believe “continuation” of the original TV show that spawned the Angel spin-off TV show in the first place, which this title obviously features characters from. Easy. In addition to vampires being such a hip new concept to explore, this arc has showcased a very original idea, the return of magic, and what could be more clever than Angel acting as the Sheriff of a place called “Magic Town?” 


3.25.15 [#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.

For books hitting the shelves on 3/25, the top slot is basically a toss-up between Eric Stephenson and Simon Gane’s They’re Not Like Us #4 and Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey’s The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #5. The former is an adolescent power manifestation riff that feels like a modernized version of what happens when the X-Men premise meets Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s Demo, and the latter is superb fantasy world-building that contains some very subtle elements analogous to the post-9/11 present day, both published by Image Comics.

Image Comics also has some of their best sci-fi offerings available this week with Drifter #5 by Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein, and The Fuse #11 by Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood. If sci-fi isn’t quite your thing, you could always turn to the immensely popular post-pop quasi-religious treatment of fame in The Wicked + The Divine #9 by the team of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

If corporate comics are your thing, I’ll recommend The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1 by Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke, which is DC’s Earth-33 (hey, that’s us!) installment of Morrison’s multiverse project. I’m so thoroughly confused by DC’s current (lack of) continuity and what’s about to happen with their (Fourth? Fifth? Sixth? Is anyone counting? Does it matter?) line-wide (partial) reboot as an outsider who rarely dips my toe in any longer, but Grant Morrison comics are still usually worth a look and an insightful meta-chuckle. Marvel also has Darth Vader #3 out from Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca. I haven’t been convinced that Gillen really has Vader’s voice down in a convincing way, but hey, it’s Star Wars, and it’s hard to look away out of sheer nostalgic curiosity.

Oni Press has decided that it’s a good week to be a Joshua Hale Fialkov fan, with both The Life After #8 (art by Gabo) and The Bunker #10 (art by Joe Infurnari) available. I’ll admit I’m losing interest in The Life After unless it's all Hemingway all the time, but The Bunker is still a solid time-jumping thriller that’s steeped in the type of paranoia-fueled drama that’s easy to get sucked into.

IDW is offering the much-hyped Jem & The Holograms #1 by Kelly Thompson and Sophie (nee: Ross) Campbell. Shameless Plug: My LCS, Yesteryear Comics in San Diego, has a great variant cover by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, so check it out! But, I’m really interested in this for so many reasons, to see what this reimaging looks like, to see if the book will live up to the hype and have one of those cult followings, and I’m always curious to chart the career paths of fellow critics making the jump to other roles in the industry, be it editorial or writing.

On the collected edition front, there’s several solid picks this week. First up, we have a Dark Horse collection of Ed Brisson’s Murder Book, a little cottage industry with multiple artists that showcases the strength of low-budget crime vignettes in a sordid manner that’s reminiscent of the work of David Lapham on Stray Bullets, with perhaps a little more noir thrown in for good measure. Oni Press has Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque’s Letter 44 Volume 2: Redshift, a terribly fun drama that’s easily parsed as Independence Day meets The West Wing. Lastly, Image Comics is offering Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope, Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini’s take on a post-apocalyptic underwater future, one which is initially a slow burn, but then hones right in on Remender’s go-to theme of familial bonds fueling the narrative through so many clever obstacles.


3.18.15 [#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 big week! As usual, Image Comics is leading the charge, and I’ll give the top slot to Punks #5 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain. The guys always manage to pull off unexpected humor with their analog collage motif and wry social observations. I believe this issue also marks the close of the first arc. Image also has Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta’s Outcast #7, a title which actually does little for me script-wise, but Azaceta has been putting on straight-up art workshops with every issue in terms of composing layouts and creating unsettling mood. It’s fantastic. C.O.W.L. #9 is also due out, the Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis tale about unionized supes in 1960’s era Chicago. If you thought the Powers TV debut sucked, and can’t find an easy entry point into the comics, then I recommend this title as an alternative you can easily hop onto for some realism applied to the most unrealistic genre.

Image Comics is also offering several new launches, including Invisible Republic #1, the gritty sci-fi epic by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko. Shameless Plug: Be sure to grab the Exclusive Variant Cover by artist Johnnie Christmas, available at my LCS, Yesteryear Comics in San Diego. Chrononauts #1 by Mark Millar and Sean Murphy also joins the creator owned fray, as does Red One #1 by Xavier Dorison and Rachel & Terry Dodson. Millar is usually pretty hit and (mostly) miss for me as a writer, but I did enjoy his recent Starlight series with Goran Parlov, so I’ll give this one a try. Similarly, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Dodsons, but there’s something about the premise here that looks intriguing, so I’ll give it a shot.

Dark Horse is offering EI8HT #2 by Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson, and the introductory issue used palette to great effect when composing moody sci-fi. I know nothing about Shaper #1 by Eric Heisserer and Felipe Massafera, also published by Dark Horse, but based on the cover image alone it looks very promising, with a painterly aesthetic and insinuations of an ominous space epic. IDW has Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #4, the final issue of this incarnation of the Winsor McCay classic, helmed by Eric Shanower and Gabriel Rodriguez. The title was poised to make a splash at SDCC last summer and I really enjoyed the first few installments, but then it seemingly went dark, so I wonder if it lost some media momentum with the delays on the final issue. Nevertheless, Rodriguez has become one of those rare buy-on-sight creators, basically a modern day George Perez, with detailed expressive figures, even more robust line weights, and an on-model sense of consistency that’s gorgeous.

Ok, ok, ok, if you really want some Marvel and DC Comics instead of all this creator owned filth, then here’s what I can suggest. I found the first issue very lackluster, but I’ll be reading the Disney/Lucasfilm/Marvel Princess Leia #2 by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson (because I’m collecting SW comics for my cousin who is overseas, you’ll get tired of hearing me qualify this purchase every time). Though I can’t recommend it per se, I do find it interesting to see how the property is being managed from a business standpoint and, execution aside, books featuring pop culture leading ladies are always welcome. Out here in Burbank, DC has one of their weird anthology books for you with Strange Sports Stories #1 through the Vertigo imprint. It’s the first of four issues, and with creators like Brian Azzarello, Paul Pope, Nick Dragotta, Chris Mitten, and Darick Robertson, you could do worse things that plunk down $4.99 for 40 pages.

If collected editions are what you’re after, there are lots of choices this week. If you want to kick it old-school, there’s the IDW Jack Kirby Mister Miracle Artists Edition Hardcover. These IDW Artist Editions are things of beauty, basically coffee table art books that show off the raw grandeur of original art work in their oversized format. Mister Miracle is easily my favorite Kirby Kreation, so my wallet is already wincing in anticipation.

If you wanted to bring it up a little more turn of the century, DC has the Ocean/Orbiter Deluxe Edition Hardcover, featuring two of Warren Ellis’ WildStorm era sci-fi series, with outstanding art collaborations. We’ve got Chris Sprouse on the Ocean end of things (and few people do clean sci-fi visuals better than Sprouse), with Colleen Doran reaching for the stars on Orbiter, tracking a Space Shuttle crash landing on Earth after being mysteriously missing for a decade. It’s the epitome of one of Warren Ellis’ classic “What If?” premises that he uses so sharply to propel high-interest sci-fi.

If you wanted to get all present-day, then I wholeheartedly recommend Lazarus Volume 3: Conclave by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, published by Image Comics. It clangs together a near-future extrapolation of social fears and rapidly advancing biotechnology in a world where organized crime corporations control everything. It’s got intense action, family drama, and social relevance. For my money, it’s easily the best book Image Comics is currently publishing, and is a contender for best current series from any publisher, period.

“Surviving The Big Wet”

With our Comics Bulletin Wasteland Retrospective entitled “Surviving The Big Wet” concluding this week, I thought I’d just leave a quick link-dump here for everyone, to catalogue the posts in a way that I can easily point people to in the future. It was an absolute honor to help bring this series home in my small little way, and to be a fringe part of it. I feel nostalgic when thinking about Wasteland, and feel a special connection to it. It’s been running for about as long as I’ve had this site.

I picked up a signed copy of Wasteland #1 in 2006 at San Diego Comic Con. I chatted briefly with Antony, Chris, and (then) cover artist Ben Templesmith at the Oni Press booth, loved the issue, and went off and wrote a review. Months later, I walked into my LCS to unexpectedly find a pull quote on Wasteland #6, the first I’d ever gotten outside the world of mini-comics. Web traffic spiked after that, and in some small way I felt that it was a sign I’d arrived as a mainstream critic. I used to joke that Thirteen Minutes was “the house that Wasteland built.”

It’s been a joy to watch the series evolve over the years and to see long-form storytelling in action, to see new artists contribute their interpretations of the post-apocalyptic world  (a genre I just adore), and to follow the creators to other projects, from Antony Johnston’s The Coldest City with Sam Hart, to Justin Greenwood on Stumptown with Greg Rucka, to Antony and Chris Mitten just absolutely killing it on Umbral and getting the acclaim they deserve.

Anyway, special thanks to Antony, Chris, Justin, Shy Allott, and James Lucas Jones at Oni Press for the opportunity. I’m nervously awaiting the finale of #60, a bittersweet moment where I’ll celebrate the rare feat of indie creators sticking the landing of a long-running title and telling the story they wanted to tell in the manner they wanted to tell it, but I'll also lament the loss of a book that’s been a constant favorite in my life for nearly a decade. But hey, we’ll always have those gorgeous crimson Apocalyptic Edition Hardcovers, and I’m one of the lucky people who has a rare black one!


Wasteland Retrospective @ Comics Bulletin

For those of you not following me on Twitter @ThirteenMinutes, you may have missed today's kick-off of the unofficial "Wasteland Week" over at Comics Bulletin. In anticipation of the final issue, #60, hitting the stands later this month, I'm doing an exclusive four-part retrospective of the series published by Oni Press, entitled "Surviving The Big Wet." I'll  be interviewing writer Antony Johnston, along with artists Christopher Mitten and Justin Greenwood, and spiking the posts with some never-before-seen concept art, like the glorious character design for Abi you see here. Check it out!


3.11.15 [#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.

This week, all eyes should be on Ed Brisson, Johnnie Christmas, and Shari Chankhamma’s Sheltered #15 from Image Comics, the final chapter of this genre-defying pre-apocalyptic tale that’s largely about the tension between millennials and their generational antecedents, all wrapped up in what is essentially a grand scale crime drama.

Image Comics is also offering Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon’s Casanova: Acedia #2, a title always worth a look, East of West #18 by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta, a title that pulls me into spirited debates with my LCS owner about which is the best Image Comic currently being published – East of West (his contention) or Lazarus (mine), as well as Southern Cross #1 by Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger. I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of Southern Cross and I liked it just fine. It’s not exactly what I expected, but the ornate European-influenced design work and outsider protagonist have potential, and if you slap a Becky Cloonan cover on something, well, I’m usually a sucker for that. I’m also curious about The Surface #1 by Ales Kot and Langdon Foss, what looks to be some sort of organic sci-fi affair, and while I’ve yet to identify a book from the writer I’ve warmed to, I like the artist enough to give this first issue a go.

I think Marvel Comics has now set-up a publishing scheme in which they’ll be able to offer at least one new Star Wars related comic every single week, part of the Disney-helmed effort at multimedia marketing dominance. I have to admit, the franchise is still capable of moments of brilliance (Did you catch the season finale of Star Wars Rebels? My God. The lightsaber duel. The reveal of Fulcrum. The long slow descent of a Star Destroyer crashing down over Mustafar. Shit was on point!), even if the recent comics have left me somewhat cold as they stretch out Dark Horse’s last iteration over at least three diluted titles, with very uneven results. Nevertheless, I’ll pick up a copy of Star Wars #3 for my cousin who’s currently overseas, and give it a read. I’m honestly more interested in what will happen in Howard The Duck #1. It’ll be great to see what Chip Zdarsky is able to pull off with all eyes on him, and Joe Quinones is someone who’s been on my radar ever since those gorgeous Green Lantern pages in DC’s Wednesday Comics experiment.

Hey, it’s the only DC/Vertigo series I’m currently supporting, Astro City #21 by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson.  Astro City is sort of the comic book equivalent of a warm blanket on a cold night, reliable and comforting in a way that makes you nostalgic for deceptively simpler times. Oni Press is offering Hellbreak #1 by Cullen Bunn and Brian Churilla. I can’t say I’ve yet found a book from either creator I’m a fan of, but for the $1 introductory price point, that’s a very low risk gamble that I’m willing to take.

On the collected edition front, I wholeheartedly recommend Copperhead Volume 01: A New Sheriff in Town, which is probably the best in a whole slew of recent sci-fi offerings from Image Comics. For me, it just has the best elevator-pitch premise, basically “take your favorite Western and set it on Tatooine,” and executes it flawlessly, with a female protagonist to boot.