Top Comics to Buy for October 24, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This is, admittedly, an odd week, because I’m writing this way sooner than I normally put this column together, due to leaving for Ireland tomorrow (which by the time you read this will be several days ago...which, ultimately, hurts my head). Anyway, this week’s group of books should be taken with the caveat that seismic shifts in the world could potentially occur between now and then, rending all these choices moot (but they probably won’t). Also, apologies to colorists and letterers this week, but those details are way too hard to find online before review copies make their way to me, so I don’t have those either. Gah, the pains of taking a vacation!

Anyway, this is a good week in that we get selections from two of the longest-running series at the Big 2: DC’s Action Comics and Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man. So, that’s always nice. It gives the week almost a classic feel. Meanwhile, we’re also getting some newness, too, coming in the form of Lodger #1, which seems the Laphams coming to Shelly Bond’s fantastic Black Crown imprint, and Mars Attacks #1, which sees the always-hilarious Kyle Starks writing that property. I know I’ll enjoy both, and I’m hoping that Lodger in particular finds a nice big audience and becomes a hit.

Now onward to the books!

Top Comics to Buy for October 24, 2018

Action Comics #1004
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Superman confronts Lois Lane and wants answers: Where is Jon Kent? What happened during Lois' trip into space with Jor-El? Why didn't she contact the Man of Steel when she returned? And most importantly, does she still love him? Or is the world-famous reporter looking to let Clark Kent down easy? Lois and Clark's relationship gets redefined in this issue illustrated by acclaimed artist Ryan Sook!
Why It’s Cool: I only vaguely understand the concept of shipping, but I guess I ship Clark Kent and Lois Lane? I don’t know, who knows, does anyone know? I just like romantic love as a nice little accent to my stories, and this issue seems poised to have a great take on one of the longest-tenured and most-romantic (if done well) relationships in all of fiction. Plus, Ryan Sook is a favorite artist of mine.

Amazing Spider-Man #8
Nick Spencer
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
The heist of the century is ON! Who are the Thieves Guild of New York? Spidey might dying trying to find out.
Why It’s Cool: This ongoing Amazing Spider-Man run is absolutely a delight, a blast of the humor and minor pathos and battles with guilt that made me first love the character. Nick Spencer does Spidey’s voice very well, which goes a long way. The recent villain-heavy issues have been the funniest yet of this young run. Highly recommend.

Lodger #1
David and Maria Lapham
David Lapham
Publisher: IDW’s Black Crown Imprint
Price: $3.99
A handsome drifter murders his way through the midwest while hiding in plain sight as a travel blogger, leaving families in shreds and body bags in his wake. Ricky Toledo was fifteen when she fell hard for "Dante"-until he killed her mother and got her father sent to prison for it. It's three years later, and Ricky will stop at nothing to get revenge. Lodger is a dark, grimy, psychological thriller-a game of cat and mouse between a broken young woman and a serial killer-and like all the best crime noir... a twisted love story.
Why It’s Cool: I was in the room at SDCC when veteran Black Crown editor Shelly Bond unveiled this title for the first time, and her excitement was evident. Bond knows comics, as do the Laphams, who have put together one of the most interesting crime noir stories of all time with Stray Bullets. It is going to really be something to see what they all have come up with here together. It’s also worth noting that Black Crown’s last two books - Euthanuats and House Amok - have been absolute gold.

Mars Attacks #1
Kyle Starks
Artist: Chris Schweizer
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Price: $3.99
Spencer hasn't finished a dang thing in his life. So when he goes to visit his dad to see if maybe he can borrow some money, the last thing on his mind is global survival. Now Spencer and his father are on the run, trying to avoid being spaceray'd by a bunch of destruction happy Martians, heck bent on zapping them dead!
Why It’s Cool: Have you read Rock Candy Mountain or Sex Castle? Kyle Starks is one of the funniest original voices in comics. Mars Attacks also seems like a great fit for the work he does. Exciting to see what he and collaborator Chris Schweizer have come up with here.

Sentry #5
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Joshua Cassara
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
Bob Reynolds and the Sentry are both it's time for something new to rise in their place!
Why It’s Cool: This book, initially announced as an ongoing, ended up being a mini-series that didn’t feature the same artist throughout, which is all kind of to really uncool, but a finale is a finale and we love Jeff Lemire, so we’re still excited to see how he ends things here.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Black Panther Vs. Deadpool #1

  • Books of Magic #1

  • Dead Kings #1

  • Judge Dredd Toxic #1

  • KISS Blood and Stardust #1

  • Old Lady Harley #1

  • What If? Thor #1

  • Whispering Dark #1

  • X-Men: Black - Juggernaut #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Batgirl #28

  • Babyteeth #13

  • Cold Spots #2

  • Die! Die! Die! #4

  • Justice League Odyssey #2

  • Olivia Twist #2

  • Punisher #3

  • Redneck #16

  • Terrifics #9

  • Titans #28

  • Usagi Yojimbo #7

  • Wonder Woman #57

  • X-Men: Red #9

  • X-O Manowar #20

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

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

Powerful Sacrifice and Saga #11

By Zack Quaintance — Of all the comics I read (and I read a lot of comics), Saga is potentially the one that feels the most immersive, the most real, the most relatable. I attribute this to the depth writer Brian K. Vaughan has given not just to his characters but to the relationships that bind them. It’s one thing to give us establishing details about individuals, but what Vaughan actively engages in here are flashbacks and other touches that let us know not only how characters feel and act toward each other, but also why.

In the second arc, which started in Saga #7, this has meant dual flashbacks exploring Marko’s relationship with his parents as well as the roots of the romance between Marko and Alana. It’s a great choice, one that subtly nudges readers to make connections between the two, and that’s really what I think Saga #11 is all about—exploring how Marko’s father’s life has informed his own, with a touch of foreshadowing thrown in, too. More on all that below.

So then, let’s check it out!

Saga #11

Here’s the official preview text for Saga #11, first released on March 20, 2013:

It's an intergalactic family reunion, as Hazel's parents and grandparents join forces to escape a dying world.

This issue is nothing if not all of that. Let’s get right to the individual elements that make it so...

The Cover: A beautiful cover, one that captures both who Marko’s father Barr was and the story development awaiting him within these pages. As readers, we didn’t get much time with Marko’s father, but the time we did get with him was certainly telling. Indeed, it gave us insight into both Marko’s gentler side, the one aspiring to never use violence again, and into the romantic dynamic that exists between Marko’s parents, which even armchair psychologists like myself realize heavily informs his approach to romantic relationships in his life. Anyway, if this cover is meant to be a memorial, it’s a beautiful and fitting.

The First Page: Yowzer, this is a classic Saga first page, sporting as it does maybe the most graphic depiction of intercourse in the book, although this is Saga, so I could of course be wrong. Sex on its own doesn’t necessarily merit discussion, especially in a book about relationships. What makes this first page provocative is that the next page immediately reminds us our story is being told by Marko and Alana’s daughter. Yeah yeah, so my mom and dad used to have sex, Hazel says, What? Like your parents just willed you into existence? And we’re off!

Saga #11 features one of the series’ first devastating sacrifices made for family…but far from the last.

The Surface: This issue continues the second arc’s pattern of using flashbacks to flesh out (heh) Marko and Alana’s love story before advancing the plot in the later acts. The key development here is the sacrifice Marko’s father Barr makes to save his son and his young family. SPOILERS. A different sort of sacrifice is to come later for Marko, under very different circumstances, but after re-reading this issue I feel a little bit better about all of that, knowing that Marko is likely at peace with what happened, being his father’s son as much as he seems to be.

The Subtext: This is the second straight issue where the plot on the page is a little light on deeper meaning. There is, perhaps, an undercurrent of sacrificing for those you love running through here, as Marko’s father gives his life to fuel their escape, while The Will risks his to reel in Lying Cat from the depths of space. It’s all pretty overt, though, which doesn’t make it any less dramatic but does make it perhaps a little less apt to fit into this section.

The Art: There’s not really any new ground nor designs for Staples work to cover in this one, although she is tasked with a pretty wide range of scenes. In this issue, she’s asked to depict coitus, an intensely romantic conversation driven by facial expressions, and a man flying through space to save his floating gigantic blue cat, among other things. And she nails it all. Great versatility.

Check out past installments of our Saga Re-Read.

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

Did Marvel Comics Low-Key Launch a Prestige Imprint?

By Zack Quaintance — Take out your tinfoil hat (or whatever), because I have a theory that might sound a little absurd: I think Marvel Comics is low-key running a new prestige imprint, one where creative teams are kept largely intact and allowed to tell stories independent of constant crossovers and editorial interference.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think Marvel is stopping those bad habits. In fact, in sections of its line, it’s maybe worse than ever. Hunt for Wolverine and Return of Wolverine, with all due respect to the talented creators putting in work on those, has a foundation that feels like a direct order from someone in marketing who ran a focus group with 10 randos from the mall who all like Wolverine. Meanwhile, a pair of creators who freely voice opinions via social media have been unceremoniously dumped by editorial in recent weeks.

Problems at Marvel Comics, however, aren’t what we’re here to talk about today. No, what we’re here to discuss is how amid corporate meddling and blatant cash grabbery, a surprisingly solid crop of titles that are concerned first and foremost with long-form narrative storytelling has begun to emerge, and—get this—it’s now been roughly six months or so and there’s nary a crossover in site. Wild.

So, join me as I lay down this theory today in three distinct sections, starting with when this first began...

Marvel’s Fresh Start

In recent years, Marvel has built a seasonal model for comics, rolling out line-wide renumberings roughly every 18 months, with new trade dress, titles, and creative teams, often announced on the same day. Earlier this year, however, the publisher tried something new. Dubbed Fresh Start, its latest initiative has been amorphous, with news of creative teams and titles trickling out slowly and with no clear start date or fancy new trade dress. In fact, I’m fairly certain the words fresh start have never appeared as a label on any Marvel Comic.

This is a strong move. As Don Draper famously noted in Mad Men, if you don’t like what they’re saying about you, change the conversation. That’s what Marvel has done. Fans were loudly complaining about the constant rebranding and new #1s. Now, however, there’s no blast of new #1s, no sensational promise they’ll change comics forever. In fact, this recent wave has been akin to a soft re-focusing, one that’s gotten fans talking with strong storytelling instead of flashy gimmickry. Which brings us to our next section...

The Books of Marvel’s Low-Key Prestige Imprint

Marvel’s low-key prestige imprint is, to be specific, a group of between eight and 12 titles. We’ll look at a list in a second, but it’s perhaps more telling to first look at which books aren’t included. Put simply, Marvel is still putting out plenty of comics feel like cash grabs, complete with insignificant crossovers and events.

This month, it’s been Infinity War one-shots, with their namesake connection to the recent hit movie. They seem to have little (if any) impact on the actual comic book event of the same name (which has been strong). These are far from an isolated incident. In the months and weeks to come, we’re getting something called Spider-Geddon (this may be going on right now), so many weekly X-Men books, and a grab bag of other weekly titles too. There are new books that seem destined to end quickly and clear cash-ins on old ideas.

None of this is unusual, but what has changed is that none of it seems to affect Marvel’s strongest and most high-profile ongoings, a list of which I’ve included below:

  • Amazing Spider-Man by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley, and Humberto Ramos: Even in the midst of Spider-Geddon, Marvel’s flagship Spider-book skates by untouched.

  • Avengers by Jason Aaron, David Marquez, Ed McGuinness, and more: Aaron is Marvel’s best long-form writer, and they know this, giving him space to do his thing with their flagship team.

  • Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates & Daniel Acuna: When you have a winner of a National Book Award willing to write your comics, give him space. That’s exactly what Marvel has done.

  • Captain America by Ta-Nehisi Coates & Leinil Francis Yu: While Black Panther has been hella strong, Coates writing on Captain America is his best yet. Make no mistake, though, both are fantastic. Speaking of which...

  • Fantastic Four by Dan Slott & Sara Pichelli: Most-telling about Marvel’s interest in getting this book right is they’ve pushed the third issue a month.

  • Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett: This is a runaway hit, a deeply scary and cerebral take on a long-tenured superhero character. This book is being widely praised by critics (myself included). Look for it to win Eisners next year. It’s that good.

  • Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Nico Leon: Thor aside, Ms. Marvel is Marvel’s strongest long-term ongoing, and a beast in trade sales. May it live long.

  • The Punisher by Matthew Rosenberg and Szymon Kudranski: I’ve been blown away by these first two issue. Rosenberg and Kudranski are a perfect pairing for Frank Castle.

  • Thor by Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo: This is, simply put, the best ongoing long-form run in all of superhero comics.

  • Tony Stark: Iron Man by Dan Slott and Valerio Schiti: See the above note about Fantastic Four because it applies here, too.

  • Venom by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman: Cates is Marvel’s fastest-rising writer. He’s had great success with brief runs on titles like Thanos and Doctor Strange, and now with Venom he’s proving to be great on a longer running book too.

  • X-23 by Mariko Tamaki and Juan Cabal: The X-line is super chaotic, but this book is seemingly being kept out of the fray of the main line.

Future Outlook  

The thing about these titles is that except Black Panther and Thor, none existed in their current iterations six months ago, and so it remains to be seen how Marvel will handle these books long-term. A massive, presumably line-wide event—War of Realms, coming next year in Thor—has been announced, and it seems likely some of these books will participate. If that happens, fine. War of the Realms has been expertly built over the course of like half a decade— merits line-wide participation.

In terms of the future, I also see other titles likely to join this crop. Iron Heart and Miles Morales Spider-Man are both incoming and could rise, and, heck, maybe even an X-Title could emerge too. The real test of my theory, though, will be taking stock at this time next year, to check how many of these creative teams remain intact (or at least just the writers), and to see how many have had their narratives disrupted by crossovers, events, or spin-offs. Here’s hoping we can count them on one hand.

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

Skyward #7 Continues Upward Trend (Heh), Doing Everything Right

Skyward #7 is out 10/17.

By Zack Quaintance — I keep waiting for Skyward to feel tedious or repetitive, even a little bit, and it just never does. Simply put, this book has been rock solid from its start, juggling a number of feats I’ve often seen trip up experienced writers and artists, especially those who move from established corporate properties to creator-owned work. These feats include world-building, orienting readers, and establishing a compelling rate of revelation (all of which I’ve discussed in previous Skyward reviews as being strengths of this title). Skyward just seems to blow past every challenge with expert use of structure and craft, remaining ever-charming as it goes.

I’m happy to report that Skyward #7 does not break this momentum. I don’t want to go too far into plot specifics, but this is yet another installment that throws massive obstacles at our protagonist (massive giant bugs this time, to be exact), and then shows the audience what she’s made of as she overcomes them. In the course of her battling adversity, the story also continues to seamlessly world-build, revealing more details about how the environment has changed in the wake of gravity lessening to the point that human beings float into space if they aren’t tied down.

This issue even takes a double turn into horror, first with the giant bugs that come out after nightfall and second with the secret it reveals about our hero’s rescuers. One thing I greatly admire about Skyward is how compressed each issue feels. It’s maybe telling that writer Joe Henderson has a television background (he’s one of the producers of Lucifer), because the speed of the plotting here reminds me of one my favorite network sitcoms, The Good Place. Both that show and this series speed from one plot development to the next, almost recklessly, checking off developments that plodding stories would have lingered on for whole seasons (or story arcs). The end result is a narrative that feels urgent, and, by extension, all the more important.

That’s what I think has really powered Skyward to such effective heights (sorry): this is a story that feels like it has something vital to tell us, some deep secret about society to reveal, and it’s hell-bent on using an intense narrative momentum to get us to that place. If I have one complaint about this title it’s that the side character feel a bit amorphous and I often forget who they are or what their relationships are to the lead protagonist, but, admittedly, this could easily be solved with a brief re-read on my part. It also hasn’t impugned my enjoyment of the main story one bit.

Overall: Another great issue in what has been one of the most solid and surprising new titles in years. Skyward #7, like the six issues that came before it, is impeccably structured and paced, accomplishing some of the best world-building in comics without sacrificing any tone or suspense. 8.5/10

Skyward #7
Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99

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.

Black Badge #3 Is a Great Comic—Scout’s Honor

By Bo Stewart — Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins’ Black Badge has been somewhat of a surprise hit for BOOM! Studios, in my opinion. As a fan of the creators’ previous collaboration, Grass Kings, I was initially thrown off by Black Badge’s premise, which is essentially super spies but with boy scouts. It just didn’t seem to fit into their existing body of work. Three issues into this series, however, I am now confident that there is much more to Black Badge than the premise lets on.

That’s not to say that Black Badge has a weak premise. The notion that scouts would make the perfect spies is hysterical, and the creators play off the natural comedy of that scenario without beating the reader over the head with it. Scouts pretending to get lost in the woods truly is a perfect cover for espionage. Kindt sometimes winks at how silly the situation is, but the world is so well developed that he can rest assured that his readers will go with it. The gadgets the scouts use, the casual attitude the team has toward missions (including a trip to North Korea in #1), and the character dynamics of the team all add up to one of the most charming spy tales I’ve read in quite some time.

Like most of Kindt’s work, though, Black Badge’s real charm comes from its central cast of characters. In this issue the scouts are still recovering from the loss of their teammate, Jimmy, desperately trying to figure out how the team will continue, knowing that their friend is no longer with them. They clearly haven’t figured it out yet here, but their superiors don’t seem to care. Instead they hit the scouts with the old I’m tough on you because I care about you argument, and send them out on their next mission. All throughout, this book does a great job of covering up normal teenage struggles with spy thriller trappings.

The highlight of this issue comes from the reveal of how Jimmy died. A mysterious figure called Hook Hand has been sneaking into camps, kidnapping a scout, and leaving only a little red flag behind. The team’s leader, Kenny, fell asleep while on watch the night Jimmy disappeared and has been trying to prove Jimmy is actually still alive ever since. Kenny blames himself for Jimmy’s disappearance, and, over the course of the issue, he makes some rash decisions in an effort to fix things. When little red flags start to literally appear around the scout’s camp, we can’t help but wonder if Kenny is leading the team further down a dangerous path.

Overall: Black Badge mixes spy thriller and coming-of-age conventions to great effect. The mystery of Hook Hand plus The chilling cliff hanger has me eager to continue on with this story. I think you’ll enjoy this book too—scouts honor. 8.0/10

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

Bo grinds for the man by day so he can create comics by night. He is the lesser half of the Stewart Brothers writing team and can be found on Twitter and Instagram @stewart_bros

Submerged #3: Upping the Personal Stakes Amid a Descent Into the Underworld

Submerged #3 is out 10/17, with this stunning cover by Jen Bartel.

By Zack Quaintance — In Submerged #3, the hints of underworld mythology that have been doled out by writer Vita Ayala and artist Lisa Sterle in past issues become central to the plot. Not to go too far into details, but as the New York City subway system faces threat of a flood caused by a raging storm above, it morphs into a supernatural plane of existence, one our protagonist must maneuver, glimpsing along the way haunting ethereal flashbacks to pivotal moments from past days of life.

It’s a compelling way for the story to blur reality while also strengthening our emotional attachment to our central character. What I find most interesting about the way that Submerged #3 is constructed—especially as it relates to previous issues—is that this is simultaneously the chapter with the most fantasy and the most truth, the one that ups the impossibility of the story while also grounding us in emotions so real they sting. There’s an impressive dichotomy at work that really serves this story well.

Indeed, throughout the penultimate chapter of this four-part story, reality is increasingly loose, with underground doors that open onto the street level, a childlike (spectre?) that oscillates from insecure to aggressive, and a train graveyard that seems to extend forever. There is no overt threat to the lead of Submerged aside from nature and concern for a wayward brother, but the creators have done a wonderful job of fostering an unsafe and eerie feeling throughout, of making it apparent how much this all matters. I once had a writing teacher who said short stories (like this one) should not feel like a slice of life but rather like the slice of life. It’s one word, but it makes all the difference.

Submerged very much feels like the slice of life story our hero will contemplate for years to come, and this sense of hefty narrative weight works in tandem with the aforementioned ghostly tone to really push the book forward. As the plot moves toward a climax, the story also does an impressive job of painting a coherent picture of the lifetime relationship between the siblings at its core—Elle and Angel—the disparate expectations from their parents that shaped their youthful conflicts (often due to gender), the ways they were regarded differently by their traditionalist father, and how it has now manifested for them as adults. It’s a credit to Ayala’s script that this all unfolds so cleanly, that it all feels achingly compelling.

And it’s also a credit to Sterle’s artwork, which has a way of seamlessly intermingling the real and extraordinary without ever tipping into jumbled. The dark underground setting is a potentially difficult one visually, but this book handles it well. Most prominently, however, Submerged #3 delivers a stunning last page reveal, one likely to linger until we get the fourth and final issue of this excellent story.

Overall: Submerged #3 is simultaneously the most fantastical and personal issue of this book to date. The action of the overall story rises along with the water levels in the tunnels, ultimately delivering us to a last page that pays off so much of what this excellent comic has been about. 9.0/10

Submerged #3
Vita Ayala
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Colorist: Stelladia
Letterer: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99

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

Cemetery Beach #2: Warren Ellis at His Most Accessible

Cemetery Beach #2 is out 10/17.

By Zack Quaintance — In the first issue of this series, we got an adequate amount of backstory, enough to ground us in this world: in 1920, a group of industrialists and scientists invented space travel and sent colonizers to another planet...and we’ve had no communication with that planet in the years that followed. Civilization took hold and has since modernized, but, indeed, still looks anachronistic. Now, a scout has arrived to check things out, and what he’s found is chaos and barbarity, with no enthusiasm about reconnecting with home.

It’s an interesting premise, one writer Warren Ellis and artist Jason Howard established briefly before launching their central character (the visitor from Earth) into a prison escape chase scene that set their plot in motion. This second issue gives us a bit more info, opening as it does with a scene that stars a powerful man from the new world, who notes in no uncertain terms that he will do whatever it takes to prevent the visitor from “old home” (as they call it) from escaping, lest he eventually return with an invading force.

The philosophical argument being made by the presumed leader of the colonized planet is, essentially, that it’s best to be defensive. It’s a paranoid knee-jerk move in which he casts himself as victim to justify whatever he will do next (sound familiar?). In the course of this leader elaborating, we see him portrayed as glutinous, uncaring, and obsessively concerned with upholding power structures that serve him. He orders the capture of our hero and the death of his companion (whom he aggressively brands a dissident), and then smiles as he notes that if capture becomes too difficult, death is also fine.

What Ellis’ script for Cemetery Beach #2 seems most interested in is showing the absurdity of assigning all conflicts a pair of equal sides, noting that we all see ourselves as the heroes of our stories but that alone doesn’t make it so. It’s a timely and interesting concept, and it’s also one that doesn’t really stand out as heavy handed. No, just as with the first issue, Cemetery Beach #2 is first and foremost an action story in which two people flee the state, blowing up flying motor bikes and running through underground tunnels in the middle of the night.

In terms of the artwork, Jason Howard continues to make the most of the idea that a space colony was built with the mechanical capabilities and design sensibilities of 1920. The machines, clothing, and weaponry here are all futuristic, yet clearly extrapolated from what was possible in that era rather than in our own. It adds an extra layer of immersiveness to an already entertaining story.

Indeed, this comic continues to be Warren Ellis at his most accessible, even if the ideas its built upon are, as per usual, heady and complex. This approach blew me away in the first issue, as I wrote in my Cemetery Beach #1 review, and I’m still enjoying it a great deal here. If I have a complaint about this second chapter, however, it’s that it didn’t move the narrative forward in any truly unexpected way. We got confirmation that the colony’s leader was the big bad and we learn from the hero’s new friend that there are layers of inequity a plenty at work here, but we could have mostly surmised that from the subtext in the first issue. I’m still very much in on this book, but here’s hoping the next issue will find some less predictable ground.

Overall: In Cemetery Beach #2, Ellis and Howard continue the high-minded adventure started in the debut issue, pulling the curtain back a bit on the political dynamics at work on this forgotten colony established a century ago on some far-flung planet. This continues to be Ellis at his most accessible, expertly crafted in a way that doesn’t sacrifice complexity. 8.0/10

Cemetary Beach #2
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jason Howard
Letterer: Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99

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

Gideon Falls #7 Feels Like a Fantastic Season Premiere

Gideon Falls #7 is out 10/17.

By Bo Stewart — Gideon Falls ended its first story arc earlier this year with a bang. Our trip into the sinister and supernatural Black Barn was a high point not only for the series, but for horror comics at large. Coming into Gideon Falls #7, I suspected we would likely face a dip in excitement, but thankfully that isn’t the case. Creators Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino very wisely treat issue seven like a season premiere of television. It’s maybe not as fast-paced as previous issues, but this comic effectively resets the board while also laying the groundwork for what’s to come in the arc ahead.

Gideon Falls is a strange-people-in-a-strange-town story done right. Ever since Twin Peaks became a cult classic, storytellers have tried and (more often than not) failed to replicate this sort of formula. It’s a delicate balance of finding the absurd in mundane moments, and precious few stories have the patience to let narratives like this build to crescendos. Once the town secret is revealed, the story quickly becomes stale. Gideon Falls #7’s greatest triumph is proving that the story of the Black Barn has legs.

The Barn’s origins, nature, and intent are the central mystery of this story. We got a small peek behind the curtain in #6 (in one of the best sequences of the year), but the full mysteries of the Barn won’t be revealed until the main character, Norton, achieves his goal of rebuilding the Barn…using the original materials that he’s collecting and keeping in jars. The undertaking of finding chips of wood, nails, screws, etc. spread all over town, and subsequently using them to rebuild the original Barn is overwhelming, especially as others continue to question Norton’s mental health. It gives the reader a keen insight into Norton’s mind and the suffocating presence the Barn has had and continues to have on his life.

Indeed, the second arc of this story is appropriately titled Sum of its Parts. Andrea Sorrentino’s art plays off this and engages the reader in ways no other book is currently doing. The panel variety is astounding, with each issue featuring at least one type of layout that I’ve personally never seen before. These innovative layouts give us a far better sense of who Norton is than any dialogue or narration ever could. For example, for the final page of Gideon Falls #7, the art is literally flipped vertically on its side. In most books, this would be a distraction, but here, the disorienting effect actively aids the storytelling. Like the title of this arc, each page adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

Gideon Falls is comics storytelling at its finest. It prioritizes mood and sense of place over fascination with a mysterious barn. Each page is littered with tension and oozes atmosphere. I think it’s this focus that makes Gideon Falls such a success where similar stories have been failures.  It’s a comic that knows exactly what it is and after#7, I can confidently say I’m in for the long run.

Overall: Creators Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino treat Gideon Falls #7 like a season debut of television. This issue isn’t as fast-paced as some chapters from the first arc, but it thrives in character-driven moments. I’m eagerly awaiting the twists to come. Oh, and that cliffhanger… wow! 9.0/10

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

Bo grinds for the man by day so he can create comics by night. He is the lesser half of the Stewart Brothers writing team and can be found on Twitter and Instagram @stewart_bros

Top Comics to Buy for October 17, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — It’s a rare week that has a hands down winner for our most exciting book. We are, admittedly, quite pleased with what’s happening in comics right now, and that tends to show via indecision over which series ranks as a weekly favorite. This Wednesday, however, our choice is clearly Black Hammer: Age of Doom #6, which pairs writer Jeff Lemire and his frazzled, acid flashback of a character Colonel Weird with artist Rich Tommaso, who has been teasing some of the artwork from the comic for months. It looks—in a word—fantastic.  

Close behind Black Hammer: Age of Doom, however, are a number of other enticing books, including the Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack creator-owned collaboration, Cover, which is quickly rising to the ranks of our favorite titles, as well. This is also just two Wednesdays out from Halloween, a holiday comics folk tend to bring their A games for, and this year that’s taken the form of some really great novelty comics, including this week’s Marvel Zombie one-shot from sinister Ice Cream Man mastermind creator W. Maxwell Prince. There is, of course, more info on all these books below.

Let’s take a look!

Top Comics to Buy for October 17, 2018

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #6
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Rich Tommaso
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99
After the shocking revelations in the last issue, Colonel Weird finds himself as a stranger in a strange land, where reality is ever changing!
Why It’s Cool: Black Hammer is easily one of our favorite ongoing things in comics, and recent issues have really pushed its plot forward, bringing some new light to some of the series long-running mysteries. This book features a guest artist as well as a plot that’s presumably a bit of a diversion. Still, with artist Rich Tommaso coming aboard for a quick arc, we’re super excited to see the results.

Cover #2
Brian Michael Bendis
David Mack
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Nazi-hunters? Escape artists? Some M.I.A. for decades? Exactly how long have comics creators been part of the intelligence community? Follow the latest recruit from the Comic-Con circuit as he falls in with this mysterious crowd. The secrets he uncovers about its legacy will shock and delight, well, just about everyone.
Why It’s Cool: The books in Brian Michael Bendis’ creator-owned Jinxworld imprint are all love letters to craft that pair the veteran writers with uber talented artists he’s been collaborating with for years. The standout of the bunch so far, however, has been Cover, which sees an A List comics pro being recruited as a cultural attache for the CIA, which turns out to be a bit more dangerous than he expected. There have, of course, been comics about making comics in the past, but this one seems to have the greatest potential to become an iconic work. The second issue makes good on the promise of the debut, too.

Gideon Falls #7
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"ORIGINAL SINS," Part One...After the mind-blowing events of the first arc, Norton digs deeper into the mystery of the Black Barn, and secrets of his past begin to come to light. Meanwhile, Father Fred does some digging of his own and learns the hard way that some secrets should just stay buried.
Why It’s Cool: Of all the top-tier new horror comics launched in 2018—and, indeed, there have been more than a few—Gideon Falls is easily the most fully-formed. Credit that to Lemire and Sorrentino having worked together so well on past projects with the Big 2, including Green Arrow and Old Man Logan. Anyway, the point is this book is back for a second arc, and you better believe we’re excited about it.  

Marvel Zombie #1
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Stefano Raffaele
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99
Years after an incurable zombie virus ravaged the world, a small colony of survivors is protected by the Marvel U's few remaining heroes, including Spider-Man, Daredevil and the Falcon. But when their last chance at salvation arrives, will they be willing to sacrifice their own humanity in the process? From the twisted minds of ICE CREAM MAN writer W. Maxwell Prince and Stefano Raffaele (Generations: Hawkeye) comes the next macabre obsession for fans of The Walking Dead and The Road!
Why It’s Cool: W. Maxwell Prince has been writing one of our favorite creator-owned comics for some time, that being Ice Cream Man over at Image. Ice Cream Man is a varied and excellent horror anthology, one just as adept at focusing one month on body horror as it is on existential crisis the next. As such, it seems like this one-shot return of Marvel Zombie will most certainly be something to pick up.

Skyward #7
Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"HERE THERE BE DRAGONFLIES," Part Two...Willa's alone in the middle of the forest, surrounded by giant insects that want to make her dinner. But here to the rescue comes a badass group of sword-wielding... farmers?
Why It’s Cool: Come to watch humans in a minimal gravity world do battle with giant over-evolved insects, stay to enjoy the world-building and the slow evolution of this story into an odyssey that also looks at issues of extreme capitalism and inequality. This is a seriously great book, one I can’t keep recommending highly enough.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Captain Ginger #1

  • Exorsisters #1

  • Lucifer #1

  • Shuri #1

  • Venom Annual #1

  • What If? Ghost Rider #1

  • X-Men: Black - Mystique #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Archie 1941 #2

  • Aquaman #41

  • Batman #57

  • Black Badge #3

  • Cemetery Beach #2

  • Daredevil #609

  • Justice League #10

  • Justice League Dark #4

  • Low Road West #2

  • New World #4

  • Patience Conviction Revenge #2

  • Pearl #3

  • Quantum and Woody! #11

  • Submerged #3

  • Thor #6

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

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

The Saga Re-Read: Saga #10

By Zack Quaintance — It’s cliched to say, but change is a constant in Saga, which is part of what makes the story so compelling enough to span the 54 issues we find ourselves pouring back over now. This is my way of announcing that we’re changing our re-read format, with a big tip of the hat to Cory Webber, who is leaving us to focus on life…or whatever. Fortunately, I refuse to let life (or whatever) get in the way of my own online comics grousing (for better or worse).

Now, we’re turning this weekly piece into what I think this site does best: a snapshot of how a particular comic was perceived at a given time. In the case of Saga, what that looks like is an ongoing weekly review of the series (one issue at a time) during the book’s hiatus, which—not to spoil Saga #54—currently finds itself at an emotional turning point. I’ve been having a lot of fun writing about it, and don’t expect that to change any time soon.

What that in mind, let’s get to Saga #10! It’s taken two-and-a-half months, but here we are in double digits...  

Saga #10

Here’s the official preview text for Saga #10, which was first released way back on Feb. 20, 2013:

Marko and Alana's long-lost babysitter Izabel finally returns to the fold, but at what cost?

Kind of a dramatic summary, given that I think it’s been four issues tops since we’ve been separated from Izabel (and it certainly doesn’t feel like a long time while reading now, even with a week between each chapter). Still, intriguing stuff, right? Especially that capper: but at what cost? Let’s take a look at individual elements of this issue…

The Cover: There was nowhere to go after last week’s cover except for less thirsty, but here we get action of a different type: Marko’s mother confronting his ghostly estranged live-in babysitter with a giant axe on the ruins of a dying world with a rust-colored sky (that old canard). It’s a nice-enough image on its own, but what I really like about this cover is the way it shares so little in common—from color pallette to composition to content—with pretty much any other cover that has come before it. It really sets this book apart, even if overall this isn’t one of my favorite Saga covers.

The First Page: Did I say less thirsty too soon? Perhaps. On re-reading, I’m noticing this stretch of issues is where Vaughan and Staples really embrace the power of the first page, often reserving it for splashes of the grotesque, unexpected, violent, or, in this case, shirtless Marko, literally beckoning the reader to Please. Keep reading. I had forgotten this particular opener, but, also, it was 2013 and I was not (yet) actively involved with the comics Internet. Perhaps most impressively, this framing of Marko isn’t even gratuitous...upon turning the page we find that he’s talking to Alana, who is currently reading the subversive novel so vital to their love story. The thirsty shirtless shot of Marko on the first page is actually him as seen through his lover’s eyes.

On-Page Action: The first act is almost entirely a flashback of Marko and Alana falling deeper into the infatuation that would become love and ultimately give rise to their relationship, and it’s depicted well, indicative of the dynamic that would later take hold between them. Marko is slightly cautious and hesitant, almost resigned to his fate, while Alana is bolder and a little more reckless in a shrewd way, giving him the spark he needs to do what’s best for himself. After this blissful bit, we get right back to our plot...we search (and find) the babysitter, we have some domestic tension, and we hit a plot point at the end that I didn’t remember came this soon—SPOILER—the potential loss of Lying Cat (I say potential because I don’t remember if this a tease or not…if not, I’ll address it more directly next week).  

Deeper Meaning: There’s certainly a motif here about the power of subversive art, about defying norms and conventions that have become twisted and unnatural over time, or maybe were always twisted from the start. That was my favorite subtext this issue. The rest of the themes in Saga #10 are pretty blatant and overt.

The Art: First, I love Fiona Staples’ artwork and think she’s one of the top talents in comics. That much should be implicit every week. Second, I’d like to then use this section to talk about new development in her work or designs that become apparent. This week that takes the form of a ghostly space ape engulfed in flames, as well as his cadre of witch aggressors with upside faces (yes, you read that right…also, see the page included here). Oh, and a planet also hatches.

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