The Saga Re-Read: Saga #7

By Zack Quaintance & Cory Webber — Saga #7 is an issue that’s heavy on this book’s dual interests: family dynamics, and a state of infinite galactic war. For my money, it’s also the issue in which those two throughlines begin to seamlessly blend, as writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples seem to discover here the formula that best serves their story.

Look, for example, at the first five pages, an anecdotal lead that indoctrinates us to young Marko’s earliest experiences with the war. This little bit, short as it is, does wonders to indoctrinate readers to the effect prolonged generational hostilities have on society through the lives of one family, while simultaneously seeding the tense dynamic between Alana and her new in-laws. It’s work that hits that magic middle ground in comics, straddling the line between efficiency and entertainment.

But I digress...I can (and do) prattle on about storytelling craft and comic book structure all day. Let’s put a pin in all that and get on to the specifics of this issue of Saga!

Saga #7

Here’s the official preview text from way back when for Saga #7:

Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' smash-hit ongoing series returns! An all-new adventure begins, as new parents Marko and Alana make an unexpected discovery in the vast emptiness of outer space.

So yeah, this is the start of the book’s second arc, likely following a roughly three-month break, the same sort Saga has taken since the series inception (until this recent one year minimum hiatus, the impetus for our reading project). There’s definitely, as I touched on above, a new sense of polish and focus to the comic now, so much so that one imagines Vaughan and Staples sitting down together before getting to work again so as to evaluate everything that worked and didn’t work, identifying along the way the direction they wanted the tone of the book to go.

A Re-Reader’s Perspective by Zack: This was just a fantastic issue of Saga, likely my favorite yet, with the way it runs the whole range of this series’ strengths. It’s all in this book: Hazel’s voice and narration, gross out visuals, unique new monster designs, soap opera twists, and family bonding that moves at breakneck speed from disastrous to awkward to heartrending. This is the first time since we’ve started I’ve been tempted to push right through and read the next issue. Great stuff.

A New Reader’s Perspective by Cory Webber: Saga #7 features a familiar family dynamic: disapproving in-laws (not that I speak from experience or anything). Herein, Vaughan introduces us to Marko’s parents, and we see similarities between the generational gaps that we experience in our own lives, namely attitudes toward war and how the younger generation doesn’t make much mind of it, or seem to respect it, since it’s been an ever-present part of their lives. I think this is one of the bigger appeals to Vaughan and Staples’ Saga, the parallels between their worlds and ours. Also, another hallmark of their work is their talent for injecting real, emotional drama, and we see it again in this issue by way of a startling confession. All this and I haven’t mentioned the splash page that will forever be burned into my retinas. Maybe I was avoiding it? At any rate, if you’ve read Saga #7, then you know what I’m talking about. If not, then you’ve been forewarned — keep the eye bleach handy!

Cory’s New Reader Predictions: Vaughan and Staples will find a way to replace the aforementioned image burned into my retinas with one that will be even grosser.

Cory Webber is a work-from-home entrepreneur who also reads and reviews comics for fun. Find him on Twitter at @CeeEssWebber. He lives in Lehi, Utah with his wife and three sons.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by  night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.


Top 5 Marvel Comics Right Now

By Zack Quaintance — Earlier this week (or maybe it was last?), I mentioned on Twitter that I thought Immortal Hulk was Marvel’s best book...and that it wasn’t close. Now, I threw in that last bit because, well whatever, and also because overstating things can be a great way to get attention online (only use that power for good). Somewhat surprisingly, the vast majority of folks who responded to my effusive Hulk Tweet seemed to agree with me! This could be an effect of disagreers having healthy attitudes about life and just rolling past, going on with their days.

Orrrrrrr, it could be that Immortal Hulk is really that good. Whatever the case, it became clear that there was a conversation (and listicle) to be had around the things that Marvel has been doing well in recent months, at least since the publisher’s semi-weird Fresh Start announcement turned out to be less of a drastic relaunch, and more of a soft but steady refocusing. Anyway, what I’m here to talk about today are the Top 5 Marvel comics right now.

I’ve culled this list from the suggestions of folks on Twitter plus a healthy dose of my own opinions. Let’s do this!

Top Five Marvel Comics Right Now

Immortal Hulk #6, with guest artist Lee Garbett, is out now.

1. Immortal Hulk

Al Ewing is a writer who’s had a number of beloved-by-critics-yet-ignored-by-fans superhero book, with the most prominent among them being The Ultimates. The Ultimates was fantastic, a direct cosmic successor to many of the ideas in Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four/New Avengers/Avengers. The problem, however, was that the book wasn’t pushed hard enough. It should have been billed as Marvel’s flagship title, but it was shuffled out with a wave of other forgettable All New, All Different team books, fated as it was to go unnoticed. Immortal Hulk, however, has avoided that.

Marvel wisely spun the book out of its attention-grabbing (if not quite meriting) 16-issue weekly Avengers event, No Surrender, making clear as it did that this was A. the return of Bruce Banner, and B. the Hulk in a horror book like you haven't seen before. It was a great conceptual move, one that Ewing and artist Joe Bennett capitalized on by setting a clear tone, telling four seemingly self-contained stories to start, and then segueing into an ongoing story arc that pulls in all of Marvel’s hardest hitters, including The Avengers, just like any good Hulk crisis would. It’s really something, and I can’t recommend it enough. For extra reading points, do yourself a favor and try guessing the villain of this story. I think about it every month, and it makes this title all the more engaging.

2. Thor

Artwork by Russell Dauterman.

Jason Aaron’s run on Thor has just been so good for so long, ascending into the pantheon of all-time great Thor stories alongside those of Jack Kirby and Walt Simonson. Oh yeah, and it’s not even headed for its end just yet (although it’s likely well past halfway). Aaron just gets the nordic lore that inspire Thor. He also gets that this hero is immortal, and that his time in The Avengers is but a blip on his life arc.

Understanding all this the way Aaron does has freed up his story, allowing it to extend through all of time. He walks a careful tightrope with chronology and he walks it well, expertly plotting developments so as to not contradict himself. And, really, I could have very easily put this book number one. In fact, given the length of its run, it probably merited it, but, hey, this is monthly superhero comics, where the attitude of what have you done for me lately reigns. A more interesting question is whether the opening arc on Immortal Hulk ends up being as good as the opening God Butcher arc was for Thor. That’s a battle.

3. Venom

Artwork by Ryan Stegman.

Donny Cates is a rising star at Marvel, with nearly everything he touches finding a vocal and extremely pleased audience (presumably a tattoeed and head bang-y too). After tooling around with brief stints on properties like Doctor Strange and Thanos (read Thanos Wins, like, yesterday if you haven’t), Cates seemed to land on a book he’s always wanted to do: Venom.

And his love of the character has certainly shown, along with his obvious desire to write a sustained run, potentially to rival Aaron’s Thor (which he’s already entwined his Venom story with). I’ll be honest, I’ve never read Venom for any length of time before this, but Cates collaboration with veteran Spider-Man artist Ryan Stegman has been great. It hasn’t totally obliterated me with sheer excellence the way Immortal Hulk has, but I don’t have a single complaint about this title. It’s going to be very good for a very long time.

4. Captain America

Artwork by Leinil Francis Yu.

This is a beautiful comic, drawn to near-perfection by one of Marvel’s best artists, Leinil Francis Yu. Plus, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose background is firmly in non-fiction and journalism, clearly learned a lot from his early stumbles in 2016 on Black Panther. This book has all the compressed and exciting action that run lacked, complete with the poignant ideas that he executed well even as he was learning the medium.

5. X-23

Phew, writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Juan Cabal sure had a tough road to follow, taking on Laura and her world after Tom Taylor’s fantastic run with her on All-New Wolverine, but they’ve done a fantastic job, keeping the best bits and the boundless heart from his work, while bringing a slightly more serious, horror-tinged new direction. If this Fresh Start business has a sleeper book, I’d definitely say it’s this one.

Others Receiving Votes

Amazing Spider-Man has especially been a favorite of mine, with writer Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley really working to capture the long-time spirit of Marvel’s flagship title, and, really Amazing Spider-Man and X-23 could be 5a. and 5b.

At one time, Marvel 2-in-1 and X-Men: Red would have been no-brainers, but the debut of Fantastic Four and the forthcoming event of Uncanny X-Men have really sucked the momentum out of those titles.

Punisher had a great first issue with savage artwork from Szymon Kudranski.

Exiles, meanwhile, has been eclectic and high-energy, if a bit frivolous (which to be fair is by design).

The aforementioned Ta-Nehisi Coates’ continuing Black Panther run has been strong, but it’s more of a new arc than a fresh start proper.

And after this week’s Avengers #8, I’m all in on Jason Aaron as the long-term writer for Marvel’s flagship superhero team...what a quiet but strong feat of character building that was!

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by  night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Patience! Conviction! Revenge! #1 By Patrick Kindlon, Marco Ferrari, Patrizia Comino, & Jim Campbell

Patience! Conviction! Revenge! is out 9/19.

By Zack Quaintance — The solicit copy for this comic mentions crime syndicates and cyberpunk Las Vegas, before doing that new comic book formula thing and landing on Elmore Leonard novels with a touch of Blade Runner...which is all a means of saying that the preview peaked my interest in this book, even though I am admittedly unfamiliar with these creators. I will note, however, that AfterShock Comics has somewhat quietly been putting out very strong science fiction stories in a marketplace brimming with them (you’re all reading Relay, right?). But I digress.

Let’s get to the question of whether this comic is good! The dialogue is definitely strong, pithy and clever, fast. I’d wager Kindlon grew up reading or was heavily influenced by Brian Michael Bendis. His script here does a very Bendis thing, taking snippets of conversation, turns of phrases, and cadences one commonly hears somewhere mundane—riding public transit, at the next table in a coffee shop, in the breakroom at a job, etc.—and juxtaposing them with the fantastical sci-fi action comic books demand.

The result isn’t as honed as what you get from Bendis (that guy is the master of this), but it’s strong none the less, a solid tone-setting choice for a book that seems determined to be entertaining. Given his protagonist Renny’s genius-y skillset, the best description for how this comic reads is probably Bendis by way of Rick and Morty (or vice versa, I’m not entirely sure how that construction works), which I think is a more recognizable reference for its target audience than Elmore Leonard.

As for the art, Marco Ferrari’s linework and Patrizia Comino’s colors make a great team, especially in this comic’s many two-page spreads, whether they be of a heavily-detailed and intricate robotic workshop or a cave wall being used as a canvas with varied light on it that demands tricky bits of shading. Where the visuals really start to shine is in exploring the past, outside of the onenote desert setting. The art, really, is probably this book’s greatest strength, as impressive as it is.

That said, I think at times the wordiness of the script gets in the way of the plot and artwork, both of which I liked quite a bit. A little bit of editing could be helpful in drawing focus to the best jokes in here (which are quite good), allowing the strongest writing to shine. In the end, I think the art and ideas do enough to bring me back for a second issue.

Overall: Clever dialogue abounds in this one, which reads like a Brian Michael Bendis comic by way of Rick and Morty. The artwork, however, really stands out as the biggest reason to pay attention to this book. 7.0/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by  night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Burnouts #1 by Dennis Culver, Geoffo, Dave Dwonch, & Lauren Perry

Burnouts #1 is out 9/19.

By Zack Quaintance — Burnouts #1 is essentially a hybrid of a B-movie and a teen comedy romp, in which there are glowing neon green aliens possessing people, green aliens that only a few outcast kids in a random suburban town can see...while they’re wasted. It is, essentially, a comic that piles trope on top of trope, hoping it will all add up to some new ground, while also doubling as the antithesis to the D.A.R.E. program (is that still a thing?).

And it kind of finds a little bit of new ground, especially toward the end of the book when we start to get a little glimpse at what’s going on. The creators do a good job of doling out the most perfunctory exposition when the action on the page is at its highest, kind of like putting medicine in with chocolate. It’s a great way to get information across, and it really works to serve the story in this book.

The pacing in this comic is also strong, in that it’s a quick read that hums right along. Part of that is the discretion they use in withholding information to make their story lean, and part of that is that there just doesn’t seem to be much deeper meaning to be found here, nor is there much characterization. In fact, I wasn’t entirely sure which character was the protagonist until about halfway through this issue (although to be fair, if I’d gone back and looked at the cover, it would have been pretty obvious that it was the nerdy kid in the center, Andy).

Also to be fair, my inability to lock into this comic might be an effect of my age. This premise, which puts being totally wasted at its center, is one I would have found exciting in high school. I’m a few years past that now—ahem—and I just kept thinking that the alternatives to partying (especially watching Star Trek and having pizza) sounded like a much better time. I suppose part of the point here is sober people (like me) are automatons, but isn’t that a little outdated in 2018? I live in California, where I can get weed delivered to me door in the next 15 minutes...by three different businesses. It’s hard to think of something that’s become so entrepreneurial as subversive or countercultural at all anymore.

That said, first issues are incredibly hard, and I think there’s enough capable storytelling in here to suggest it’s still possible to turn this title around.

Overall: A quick read, an alien invasion story by way of Stranger Things. Burnout #1 shows some potential toward its end once its premise becomes clear, but the characters are pretty ill-defined throughout. The whole thing relies heavily on tropes, and the characters are a little hazy, much like the weed smoke at the center of this premise. 6.0/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Crude #6 by Steve Orlando, Garry Brown, Lee Loughridge, & Thomas Mauer

Crude #6 is out 9/19.

By Zack Quaintance —  It all ends here...unfortunately. I can’t help but feel like this story deserved to be longer. Clearly, there were plans for that at some point. The solicit for Crude #6 says END OF STORY ARC, not end of series. But, alas, writer Steve Orlando’s note in the back of this comic makes it pretty clear that our story has now ended, and, really, so too does the action on the page.

Crude hit its emotional heights last issue, with a revelatory chapter in which the protagonist finally got what he really wanted all along—a better idea of who his son was and what his son’s life was like. Throughout this series there has been somewhat of a duality, a physical plotline in which the main character battles the actual villains, thugs, and conspiracies responsible for his son’s murder with his highly-skilled fists; and an unseen subconscious struggle the main character has waged against guilt he felt over being dishonest with his son about who he was.

It’s been a powerful book, to be sure. There are surface level lessons about acceptance, but those stories are ones that have been told quite frequently in recent years. How Crude sets itself apart is with the case it makes for familial honesty. The exact nature of the secrets that our father and son duo kept from each other matter less as our story progresses. Piotr is not guilty per se about having been a government tough, and when he learns of his son’s bi-sexuality he’s accepting. It’s the lack of emotional courage that kept them from being honest with each other that engendered the deep guilt and regret, not the nature of their lives.

And it’s actually this notion that makes me most regret we won’t get more issues of Crude. It’s an intriguing one rarely (if ever) tackled by such a macho story. I’d have liked to have seen it tackled at a slower pace. Orlando and the art team of Garry Brown and Lee Loughridge, however, do a great job here of wrapping up the physical action on the page, making it both satisfying and cathartic. The foil for Piotr is aggressively awful right up to the point our hero doles out his comeuppance. It’s a classic revenge plot resolution, executed to perfection by skilled creators. I just wish we could have seen more of the lead-up and aftermath, of what Piotr’s life and grieving will be like.

Overall: A cathartic and fitting end to a book that packed as much of an emotional punch as it did a physical one. This final issue felt a bit compressed, but the creative team should still be proud of the emotional journey it put its protagonist through. If you missed out on Crude as a monthly comic, I HIGHLY recommend picking it up in trade. 9.0/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

REVIEW: Skyward #6 by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela, & Simon Bowland

Skyward #6 is out 9/19.

By Zack Quaintance — With its first arc done (and done well, I might add), Skyward finds itself in an interesting place, one where it now has motivated characters with compelling goals inhabiting a world that the story can continue developing in unexpected ways. A key aim of any great storyteller is throwing myriad obstacles into characters’ paths, separating them from their desires and thereby forcing them to act in ways that complicate situations.

What Skyward has essentially done through five issues is convincingly create a situation—the  Earth is plagued by diminished gravity—in which the setting is liable to assail the protagonists at any time. As we saw in Skyward #5, something as traditionally innocuous as a rainstorm is vastly altered by the new environment, turned perilous and far more dramatic. One can only imagine how much fun it is to tell a story with so many possibilities, imaging the ways the changed world can pose new threats.

These creators definitely seem to be enjoying all their status quo enables as they catapult from one new environmental development to the next at a breakneck speed. This, simply put, is the type of comic that moves so quickly the novelty becomes part of the attraction, and, when the plot does slow down, the change in pacing makes whatever's happening on the page all the more serious or poignant. Basically, I’m as bullish about this book’s future now as I was at its start (which is very bullish, indeed).

Skyward #6 is the first chapter in which our main character also faces a new status quo. In the context of the hero’s journey, the intro arc ended with her experiencing a tragic call to action: the death of her father and revelation she can save the world by restoring earth to its normal gravity, subsequently undoing the top down classism that now afflicts the planet, thereby honoring the sacrifice her dad made to save her. She, however, is now a wanted terrorist pursued by the most powerful man in the world, a corporate exec responsible for her father’s death (who’s also profiting like crazy from lack of gravity).

It’s all in here, the good stuff that makes for a compelling story: character with searing motivation, high stakes, commentary on power, villainy, a treacherous setting where just about anything is possible. There are, to be sure, many books with solid foundations. I was reminded again in this issue, however, that veteran artist Lee Garbett’s vast talent in particular contributes so many near-intangibles to the story, little things like individual page pacing and slight facial expressions, making the book feel organic and real, allowing the whole package to really shine.

Overall: Skyward #6 is another great issue in an impeccably constructed and perfectly executed comic. It’s the first of a new story arc and status quo, and all indications are that this will continue to be a book to follow. 9.0/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

ADVANCED REVIEW: These Savage Shores #1 by Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vittorio Astone, & Aditya Bidikar

These Savage Shores is due out 10/10.

By Zack Quaintance — Earlier this year, the good folks at Vault Comics announced plans for books from each of the writers in London’s White Noise Collective, including the eco-fantasy series Deep Roots, plus the forthcoming comics Fearscape and Friendo (both of which I’ve read and absolutely adored). Due out Oct. 10, These Savage Shores from writer Ram V, artist Sumit Kumar, colorist Vittorio Astone, and letterer Aditya Bidikar is the latest to join this White Noise wave.

Cards on the table: of all Vault’s books this year, These Savage Shores was the one I found myself most strongly drawn to based on its description, which involves merchanteering in India circa 1766 and also vampires. I can’t really intellectualize it, but the book’s tagline—Along these savage shores, where the days are scorched, and the nights are full of teeth—is the type of poetic-yet-gaudy teaser that makes me mutter to myself, cool, especially when coupled with Kumar’s appropriately savage cover artwork.

The poeticism of the summary and tagline actually permeates much of the prose in the book, with lines like I hear it is found beyond the water’s edge on fairer shores, where men die with dignity and learn to live with shame. This lyrical, flourish-heavy writing is something I’ve come to expect from Vault, lines more likely to be found in literary journals than comic books, and Ram V’s work in These Savage Shores is rich with them.

Silent panels like this one do wonders to convey These Savage Shores interests in colonialism and power structures.

This book, however, is never overly reliant on prose. It uses letter writing as a framing device in a way that enables Kumar and Astone to create kinetic action sequences that give readers vital exposition. Kumar and Astone’s artwork is overall very strong, especially as it pertains to tone. There’s one panel in particular this applies to, depicting a proper vampiric Englishman as he surveys Calicut from beneath an umbrella, standing at the bow of an approaching rowboat, posture ramrod straight with one hand kept behind his back. You can almost hear the bustle of the shore and feel the oppressive humidity as this man condescendingly absorbs what to him must be an exotic locale, one in which he will clearly be an interloper.

Tone and feel are two of These Savage Shores most noticeable strengths, both conveyed often and with much versatility, in scenes that range from the one I described above to a creepier set piece in which an ancient tree erupts with a bat colony to a character placing a tender reassuring hand on a pensive lover’s face to, finally, another scene intercut with sensual dance and primal nightstalking. If this sounds like a unique book, that’s because it is, one I highly recommend following.

Overall: Thematically, this comic promises contemplation of power dynamics and colonialism, piloted by a creative team with the clear storytelling chops to turn deeper concern into compelling narrative. Yet another strong book from Vault Comics, These Savage Shores is one to watch. 9.0/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

Top Comics to Buy for September 19, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This was an especially strong week, with the penultimate issue of Mister Miracle sort of headlining the books I’m looking forward to. It kind of seems like that book has been going on for years (even though it launched in August 2017) and like we’ll have it for the rest of our days (the last issue is currently due out on Oct. 24...although if recent issues are an indication it's probably likely to slip).

The book has just been so so good, and we will most definitely be sad to see it go. That said, we’re also enjoying the heck out of these final few issues. Tom King is one of the best and most introspective superhero writers, and what he’s done first with The Vision and now with Mister Miracle is work that seems likely to find a wide audience for a good long while. It’s been really rewarding to follow it in monthly issues, even with these minor delays.

Oh hey, and also there’s a lot of other good stuff, too! Let’s take a look...

Top Comics to Buy for September 19, 2018

Crude #6
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Garry Brown
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Publisher: Image Comics
Price:
$3.99
Piotr has fought his way across Blackstone to avenge his son's death. Now he faces off against the biggest bastard of them all, and only one will walk away.
Why It’s Cool: This is the finale of a fantastic book about closure, violence, secrets, acceptance, and fathers and sons. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. Creators Steve Orlando and Garry Brown, however, streamline their many powerful themes into a cathartic and powerful story.

Harley Quinn #50
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artists (In Order of Appearance): John Timms, Whilce Portacio, Agnes Garbowska, John McCrea, Kelley Jones, Jon Davis-Hunt, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Scott Kolins, Dan Jurgens, Guillem March, Mirka Andolfo, Babs Tarr, Tom Grummett, Cam Smith
Colorists (In Order of Appearance): Alex Sinclair, Gabe Eltaeb, John Kalisz, Michelle Madsen, Andrew Dalhouse, Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
In a special anniversary story, "Harley Saves the Universe!"-no kidding! While reading a mysterious Harley Quinn comic book, H.Q. accidentally breaks all of reality. And you know the saying: if you break it, you bought it! Now it's up to Harley to travel through both time and space to fix all the continuity errors she created. Luckily, she'll have a little help, 'cuz riding shotgun is none other than special guest star Jonni DC, Continuity Cop! Good thing, too, because if Harley fails, it means her own mom will be lost forever. Gulp! That doesn't sound very funny!
Why It’s Cool: Listen, I’m not a big fan of Harley Quinn stories. The zany superhero books (ie Deadpool) don’t usually do it for me, but this one takes a gigantic and meta idea, using it to tell a poignant story about the nature of superhero franchises, sprinkled liberally with fun deep cut nods to DC continuity. It’s a must-buy for long-time DC readers.

Ice Cream Man #7
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99
"MY LITTLE POLTERGEIST"
Another sullen, sequential short! Here, a little girl's best friend comes back from the dead. Or does she? It's hard to say, ghosts being an unreliable sort.
Why It’s Cool: Ice Cream Man #6 was one of my favorite books of 2018 so far, accomplishing some really impressive feats of comic-making craft. It did, however, leaving me wondering if this book was becoming a bit nihilistic...until this issue put that question at rest. This is the most heartfelt issue yet of one of the best comics on the stands, and I highly recommend picking it up.

Immortal Hulk #6
Writer:
Al Ewing
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE GREEN DOOR" STARTS HERE! Bruce Banner is alive - and everyone knows it. Now he's hunted by the government, Alpha Flight, the mysterious Shadow Base...and the Avengers. And someone's going to find him first. But Bruce has bigger problems. Something terrible has infected him. Something with unspeakable plans for humanity. And the only one who knows about it...is the IMMORTAL HULK.
Why It’s Cool: I’ve liked Immortal Hulk quite a bit from its first disturbing issue, but last month’s Immortal Hulk #5 introduced a new villian that in my opinion gives this story a chilling new sense of direction, one that stands to make it an even more powerful book. This is, quite simply, my favorite comic at Marvel right now.

Mister Miracle #11
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher:
DC Comics
Price: $3.99
If there's one thing popular fiction has taught us by now, it's: never make a deal with the devil! And yet Mister Miracle is still listening when Darkseid approaches him with just such a devilish proposition-if Scott sends his newborn son to Apokolips, there will be peace on New Genesis. Since when has Darkseid been famous for his honesty?! It'll be a miracle if this doesn't blow up in Scott's face.
Why It’s Cool: Our site and many others have spent the past year or so heaping praise upon Tom King and Mitch Gerads Mister Miracle, and that’s not going to stop now that we’ve reached the penultimate issue. This is a series filled with equal parts introspection and misdirection. Expect some answers here, but also expect to wait for Mister Miracle #12 to really get a clear idea of what’s been going on.

Recommended New #1 Comics for September 19, 2018

  • Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

  • Batman: Damned #1

  • Burnouts #1

  • Captain America Annual #1

  • Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #1

  • Gideon Falls: Directors Cut #1

  • Return of Wolverine #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Avengers #8

  • Batman #55

  • Black Badge #2

  • Black Hammer: Age of Doom #5

  • Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #3

  • Ether Copper Golems #5

  • Justice League #8

  • Lost City Explorers #4

  • Pearl #2

  • Skyward #6

  • Teen Titans #22

  • Thor #5

  • Usagi Yojimbo The Hidden #6

  • Venom #6

  • The Wild Storm #17

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

The Saga Re-Read: Saga #6

In Saga #6, the narration continues to do so much work, floating through panels like wisps of nostalgia gently tinging all that's taking place.

By Zack Quaintance and Cory Webber — Let’s talk about Saga’s narration, about the little snippets of Hazel looking back at the story. They just do so much work, both in setting an epic and emotional tone as well as in helping Saga stand apart from other comics, which I think is accomplished mainly through the aesthetic way the font seems to float through the panels, as if it were wisps of nostalgia gently tinging all that’s taking place.

Anyway, my point is that the narration is back and heavier in Saga #6 than it has been in some time, and I’m glad for it. This is the conclusion of the first Saga trade, the one I’ve bought for more than a few people and always been absolutely puzzled if they decide not to move on. How, I wonder, could anyone (regardless of their experience with the medium) stop following this story after these six installments? Then I shake my head and shrug, because, hey, we like what we like and anyway it’s not really my business.

What is my business is continuing this one-issue-per-week plodding Saga re-read. Onward!

Saga #6

Here’s the official preview text from way back when for Saga #6:

The epic hit series continues, as Alana and her baby finally reach the legendary Rocketship Forest, where everything changes forever.                                

Despite the presence of epic phrases like the legendary Rocketship Forest and everything changes forever, this is still a pretty bare bones teaser for the issue. The cover is decent, though, juxtaposing an indelible sign of nature (a bright green leaf) with the harsh and instantly-recognizable void of outer space. The color contrast works well enough too. I wouldn’t, rush, however, to put this cover up with the best of the series.

The cover for Saga #6.

Now on to our takes!

A Re-Reader’s Perspective by Zack: Ho boy, the brief interaction between Prince Robot IV and The Will put dread in the pit of my stomach. Oh, the things that come...anyway, here’s a great line about our lovers: Marko, the father, is a force of fucking nature. But it’s the mother who really frightens me. Awesome. In terms of craft, it’s evident in this issue that Staples potential is vast and unlimited. Her linework isn’t quite as clean as it becomes, but she’s really nailing the excellent grandeur, specifically the first shot of the spaceship. The design work on the ship’s interior is also interesting as is the ship in flight and the armor for Marko’s parents. I’m noticing upon re-reading that the domestic drama cliffhangers (And then my grandparents came to live with us) are just as significant (if not more so) than those rooted in action or blood.

A New Reader’s Perspective by Cory Webber: The family expands! I love how Marko’s parents were introduced. I just hope Izabel is okay. After all, we see her get zapped and nothing after that. Also, I’ve just assumed Horrors couldn’t die...again, but I digress. Moreover, I loved the developments here: a wood-based rocket ship with empathetic abilities, Marko’s parents being introduced, and The Will showing human emotion (again!). I can’t wait to crack the next issue and see where the intergalactic saga goes next. Although, I will admit I am pretty anxious about this journey based on the general sentiments regarding the developments in the final issue before the hiatus. For now, I’m buckled in and ready to take this ride for eight more volumes! Wish me luck!  

Cory’s New Reader Predictions: Izabel will be okay, right?! I mean, she’s bonded to Hazel. That has to mean something!

Cory Webber is a work-from-home entrepreneur who also reads and reviews comics for fun. Find him on Twitter at @CeeEssWebber. He lives in Lehi, Utah with his wife and three sons.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

Top Modern Superhero Artists: The Sultans of Style at Marvel and DC

By Taylor Pechter — In comics, there’s always debate over what is more important: writing or art. These discussions can go either way, but they almost always conclude that both are equally important in different ways. Writers give characters their personalities, desires, and struggles, while the artists give motion and create a flow to the story. Artists also give characters different body types, faces, and ticks that writers can’t show with words alone. They are, simply put, storytellers in their own right.

Through the many decades of comics history individual artists have helped inform the style of the time. From legends like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby in the Golden and Silver Ages, to the sleek photorealism of Neal Adams in the Bronze Age, to the incomparable detail of George Perez that helped usher in the Modern Age of comic art. However, in the past 20 years, a handful of artists have helped push the medium forward, while defining the company they belong to. This has been dubbed house style.

Exactly what is considered house style has changed during the past few years, but, even so, what I’d like to look at today are the artists who who have helped define their respective superhero universes.

DC

1. Jim Lee — Arguably the most popular artist of the 1990s, Jim Lee rose to fame drawing the X-Men for Marvel in the early years of the decade before breaking away to form Image and his company, WildStorm Productions. In the late 90s, he sold his company to DC, bringing his signature style over to the brand. Lee’s style contains heavy linework, chiseled jawlines, extreme detail, and dynamic action. This style has helped define the look of the modern DCU by making it grander and more epic in scale. Currently, Lee serves as Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment.

Notable Works:

  • Batman: Hush

  • All-Star Batman and Robin: The Boy Wonder

  • Justice League: Origin

  • Superman: Unchained

2. Ivan Reis — Coming to American comics all the way from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ivan Reis has quickly become the go to event artist for DC of the past decade. Combining the sleekness of Neal Adams, the cinematic flair of Bryan Hitch, and the sheer scale of George Perez, Reis is a defining artist of the current generation. He’s also a notable collaborator with modern DC architect Geoff Johns, and his delicate-yet-cinematic style has helped bring new prominence to characters like Green Lantern and the Teen Titans. He’s currently drawing Superman, which is written by Brian Michael Bendis.

  • Infinite Crisis (With Phil Jimenez, George Perez, and Jerry Ordway)

  • Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War

  • Blackest Night

  • Teen Titans: Titans of Tomorrow

3. Gary Frank — English superstar Gary Frank is a roughly 23-year veteran of the business. Frank got his start at DC helping co-create the Birds of Prey team with legendary Bat-scribe Chuck Dixon. He later honed his craft at Marvel, drawing the Incredible Hulk and also collaborating with J. Michael Straczynski, but he eventually returned to DC to become one of, if not the defining Superman artists. With his keen eye for detail, simple-but-effective panel layouts, deep shadows, and expressive faces, Frank has become a favorite of mine and of many others.

Notable Works:

  • Superman: Brainiac

  • Superman: Secret Origin

  • Batman: Earth One

  • Doomsday Clock (currently ongoing)

4. Alex Ross — Arguably the most recognizable artist of this bunch, Chicago-based painter Alex Ross combines the photorealism of Norman Rockwell with the grandeur of the DCU. Ross depicts superheroes the way they were always meant to be seen: standing taller than life in the face of adversity. Using vast landscapes, strong postures, and smiles galore, Ross has become a multimedia sensation, not only drawing comics but also creating posters for film and video games.

  • Kingdom Come

  • The World’s Greatest Super Heroes

  • Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come

5. Jason Fabok — The newest artist on the DC block, Canadian Jason Fabok rose to prominence during DC’s New 52. While starting on smaller stories in Detective Comics, he later became popular via the mega Bat-event Batman Eternal followed by a run on Justice League with Geoff Johns. With his blend of realism, glossy texture, cinematic layouts, and brutal action, Fabok has fast-become one of the most acclaimed DC artists of the decade.

  • Batman Eternal

  • Justice League Darkseid War

  • Batman/Flash: The Button

  • Three Jokers (upcoming)

Marvel

1. Joe Quesada —  Coming from New York City, Joe Quesada, much like his contemporary at DC Jim Lee, had a hand in crafting Marvel’s signature style coming out of the 90’. With inker Jimmy Palmiotti, Quesada redefined what street-level Marvel meant, fueling the creation of Marvel Knights. Quesada’s use of overly exaggerated proportions, dense and heavy shadows, and cartoony-yet-expressive faces is part of the blueprint for Marvel to this day. He now acts as Chief Creative Officer for Marvel Entertainment.

  • Daredevil: Guardian Devil

  • Spider-Man: One More Day

2. David Finch —  Another comics superstar hailing from the Great White North, David Finch started drawing in the late 1990s for Marc Silvestri’s company Top Cow before moving to the House of Ideas in the 2000s. An early collaborator with a young Brian Michael Bendis, Finch’s heavy shadows, musclebound heroes, and cinematic action helped Marvel craft a denser and darker universe. He now works as a freelance artist and is husband to writer Meredith Finch. Most recently he has drawn issues of Tom King’s ongoing run on DC’s Batman.

  • Avengers Disassembled

  • New Avengers: Breakout

  • Moon Knight: The Bottom

  • Ultimatum

3. Steve McNiven — This is the last Canadian artist on this list, I promise. McNiven has been a Marvel mainstay since the early 2000s, when he did many covers for the publisher. His big break, however, came in 2006, when he was tapped for Marvel’s biggest event of the decade, Civil War. After that, McNiven started a partnership with Mark Millar. He is a king of rendering, using different styles of fabric and metal to do so. He adds many layers of texture that help lend to his somewhat stylized photorealism. His explosive panel layouts and eye for epic moments have led him to become one of Marvel’s blockbuster exclusive artists.

  • Civil War

  • Wolverine: Old Man Logan

  • Death of Wolverine

  • New Avengers: The Sentry

4. Olivier Coipel —  Magical, mythical, grandiose...these are all words that have been used to describe French artist Olivier Coipel’s work. Rising to prominence as a frequent collaborator of Brian Bendis, Coipel helped tear down and rebuild the Marvel Universe many times over. With his delicate linework, his characters move with a certain grace along with detailed architecture and lush landscapes that help create truly stunning comics.

  • House of M

  • Thor (2007)

  • Siege

  • Unworthy Thor

5. Leinil Francis Yu —  Last but not least we come to Filipino artist Leinil Francis Yu, who got his start his start in the late 90’s, his claim to fame being a major stint on Wolverine and other X-Men titles. His style is much looser than the others on this list. Yu uses many different lines to add intricacies. During Marvel’s big resurgence in the 2000’s, he became, much like Coipel and McNiven, a go to artist for the blockbuster events and headlining books. His action is frenetic and that helps greatly set the pace for the books that he draws.

  • Wolverine

  • Secret Invasion

  • Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk

  • Captain America (currently ongoing)

In the end, these artists have all been mainstays of certain universes with styles that while influenced by many great artists before them, are still uniquely their own. They have all played significant roles in creating the house styles that differentiate the two superhero universes, with DC having a more detailed, almost photorealistic look, while Marvel features a more exaggerated, cartoony, and fantastical aesthetic. These artists have helped redefine their universes; they are true sultans of superhero style.

Taylor Pechter is a passionate comic book fan and nerd. Find him on Twitter @TheInspecter.