Happy Birthday, Daredevil

Daredevil, the rare character who gained powers after  deciding  to perform a heroic act.

Daredevil, the rare character who gained powers after deciding to perform a heroic act.

By Andrew Scott — What makes a hero? It’s a simple question with a complex string of not-so-simple answers. If one’s actions are what determines one’s character, though—as F. Scott Fitzgerald posited— then how can we best understand true heroism within the confines of the superhero genre?

The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and even Captain America were just in the right place at the right time (or wrong place/wrong time, depending on your perspective). Reed Richards and crew were, let’s face it, kind of dumb to fly into space only to be belted with cosmic rays. Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider during a school trip. Captain America just happened to be rejected as 4F while an Army scientist with kooky ideas was nearby and recruited him into the secret Super Soldier program.

“Matthew Murdock was a hero before he gained his superpowers…”

“Matthew Murdock was a hero before he gained his superpowers…”

The Flash? Freak accident. Superman? Sure, his Kansas family raised him right, but the power of our yellow sun pulses within every one of his Kyptonian cells, whether he likes it or not. Batman’s parents were killed, and his actions are informed by that tragedy, but it’s still something that happened to him.

Mutants are, like Lady Gaga, just born that way. They have no choice. All of those gods and goddesses—well, divinity has its privileges, I guess. And forget anyone who possesses some kind of object that grants them special powers, whether it's an amulet, a ring, whatever.

But Daredevil? Matthew Murdock was a hero before he gained his superpowers because he chose to perform a heroic act. He pushed a blind man out of the way of an oncoming vehicle that was carrying radioactive material. The toxic goo blinded him and enhanced his other senses. But his actions made him a hero first.

Happy birthday, Daredevil.

Check out Andrew Scott’s recent interview with artist Peter Krause, and check back to the site Wednesday for a review of this week’s new Daredevil #1.

Andrew Scott is the author of Naked Summer: Stories. He has written for dozens of outlets. He lives in Indianapolis. You can find him on Twitter: @_AndrewScott.

Comic of the Week: Action Comics #1007 is a must-read chapter in the Bendis Superman run

Action Comics #1007 came out 1/30/2019.

By d. emerson eddy — Last year, Brian Michael Bendis walked across the aisle in terms of Big Two comics publishers. After nearly two decades of shaping the Marvel Universe, he hung up his Spider-tights and donned a pair of red underoos at DC. It was a pretty big deal, probably one of the biggest exclusivity changes we've seen in the past 10 years. Some people cheered, some jeered, some waited patiently to see what would occur. I shrugged, because I wasn't reading any DC Comics at the time of the announcement and wouldn't again until recently. I just knew I was going to miss Bendis' writing on Jessica Jones and Defenders.

Fast forward to late last year, when the temptation for The Sandman Universe and Jinxworld titles became too great. I started with those titles, before giving the broader DC Universe a chance again. Although I may have some trepidation at some bleaker corners of their publishing, I feel like Brian Michael Bendis has become like a shining light for them, a light in the darkness. With the Superman titles, Wonder Comics, and Jinxworld, I feel like he's been rejuvenated. Some of his familiar writing quirks are still there, but not to excess. The dialogue tics and decompressed storytelling approaches are present, but not at the point where they feel overboard. And Cover and Pearl (with the inimitable David Mack and Michael Gaydos respectively) feel like some of the freshest, most inventive work that he's written in years, possibly ever.

It could be the excitement of playing in a new sandbox, but that joy, wonder, and freshness carries over into the Bendis-penned Superman titles as well. People may argue about Superman itself, but I feel like he's nailing Action Comics month in and month out. Action Comics #1007 begins “Leviathan Rises” (or “Leviathan Rising” if you go by the cover) that promises to unearth secrets of the DC Universe, and this is a promising start. There have been hints of things going on since #1001, but this issue starts with a bang when it comes to someone targeting other shadowy organizations. It's a decent hook, but what particularly puts the story over the top here is a personal moment between Lois Lane and her father. I won't spoil it, but it's a conversation that will have huge ramifications and is something that you probably don't want to miss.

Steve Epting joins the series to provide the line art for this arc, a perfect choice. Shadowy conspiracy and espionage-tinged stories are his forte, and he shines here. Despite the brightness of Superman's world, he brings a tinge of darkness from the corners in the attacks on the other secret societies and black ops organizations. Those attacks are also beautifully enhanced by the explosion effects provided by Brad Anderson. It's nice to see the contrast between Superman's bright, bold colors and the darkness of an organization like Kobra as well. I'd also go back to the conversation between Lois and her father, wherein Epting and Anderson play it out like a spy meeting her handler for the first time in years in its composition and coloring, adding a nice tension to the entire scene. And Josh Reed serves as the backbone again for the series with his lettering. There's a quite nice effect with the “Faith to Kali Yuga!” chants.

Overall, Bendis, Epting, Anderson, and Reed provide a good jumping-on point here with Action Comics #1007. Although it does build on what's come before, it's not absolutely necessary to have read since the run started with #1001, giving you more than enough to be hooked by this issue alone. The mystery of the attacks and the character work pretty much make this unmissable if you're a Superman fan. It's also laying some of the groundwork for the future of the DC Universe. I'd suggest getting in now.

Action Comics #1007
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Steve Epting
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

d. emerson eddy is a student and writer of things. He fell in love with comics during Moore, Bissette, & Totleben's run on Swamp Thing and it has been a torrid affair ever since. His madness typically manifests itself on Twitter @93418.

Top Comics to Buy for February 6, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — This is pretty much a perfect week for new comics, featuring as it does the launch of multiple exciting new #1 series (the bright shiny new toy to the long-time comics fan) as well as the return of some of the best books on the market right now, including a new arc for Wasted Space and the conclusion of the phenomenal Archie 1941. Plus, books like Die continue to establish themselves as wonderful new comics.

There is, simply put, a lot going on this week, and so here we are as always with a brief guide: Top Comics to buy for February 6, 2019. As is standard protocol, we’ve selected our top 5 (plus a pick of the week), listed the most-exciting new #1 issues, and thrown-in for good measures the others that received votes. The top 5 are more heavily weighted toward books that have already established them, but rest assured, you can’t go wrong this week checking out anything from Female Furies to G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte. Just choose wisely, there are a ton of stellar comics to pick from.

And now, on to the actual comics!

Top Comics to Buy for February 6, 2019

Archie 1941 #5.jpg

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Archie 1941 #5
Writers:
Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid
Artist: Peter Krause
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Publisher: Archie Comics
Price: $3.99
Archie Andrews-MIA and presumed dead! His friends and family-devastated! Don't miss out on the conclusion of this headline-making comic event!
Why It’s Cool: It’s a young year, but this is easily a front-runner for the best single issue of 2019 at this point. This entire series—which re-imagines Archie set in 1941 (incidentally the year he was created) during WWII—has been something truly special. With a different sort of fandom than superhero comics but no less an iconic history, Archie Comics as a publisher is generally freer to use its characters for alternate takes, or at least such has been the case in recent years. While the horror comics and Life With Archie have all been interesting, this is the prestige picture in the bunch, a comic with impeccable historical research, a deep emotional core, and unbelievable artwork courtesy of Peter Krause. This is not to be missed.

Die #3.jpg

Die #3
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"FANTASY HEARTBREAKER," Part Three: One of the saddest comics in Kieron's career. One of Stephanie's prettiest. Clayton's lettering, of course, remains impeccable.
Why It’s Cool: As we wrote in our reviews of Die #1 and Die #2, this comic is one of the most-exciting new creator-owned books in some years, combining as it does the recent trend of teen D&D nostalgia with the dark lessons of life's hard-lived. Well, this third issue to the book feels like a bit of a thematic pivot. Fantasy has always been inherent to this title (the basic premise is that years ago six friends went into a realized fantasy realm via a role-playing game and only five came out—and now those five have been pulled back in), and this comic looks at some of the real-life inspiration for fantasy as we know it: WWI, which Lord of the Rings progenitor J.R.R. Tolkien himself was a veteran of. Essentially, this is a gorgeous and sadly poetic comic that draws a shattering parallel between fantasy games and stories we enjoy, and the real-life strife that helped to create them.

Justice League #17
Writer:
Scott Snyder
Artist: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Cheung with Mark Morales and Walden Wong
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
After the disastrous events of the Justice League Annual, Martian Manhunter decides to take matters into his own hands and negotiate a peace with Legion of Doom leader Lex Luthor. Traveling to a distant moon, the two enemies face their intertwined pasts in a showdown for the fate of the Multiverse. However, before either of them can lay claim to the power of the Source Wall once and for all, an unexpected threat forces them to unite...or risk death at the ends of the cosmos.
Why It’s Cool: Last week’s Justice League Annual #1 was my favorite issue of the Snyder/Tynion/Cheung/Jimenez Justice League era to date, but it won’t reign long—this one is even better. Since No Justice ended, my favorite element to this complex and grandiose run has been the idea of Martian Manhunter and Lex Luthor essentially captaining their opposing teams in a conflict of ideology wherein both thinks they are doing what’s best to save the multiverse or at least the Earth. This story takes that concept to another level. I won’t go into how, but it’s a sight to behold. Highly recommend this.

These Savage Shores #3
Writer:
Ram V.
Artist: Sumit Kumar
Colorist: Vittorio Astone
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
The stench of war clings to the air as Hyder Ali of Mysore comes calling for the levy. Good men and demons alike are set to march, even as lovers part with the promise of a safe return. But in these troubling times the promise of a hunt brings the devil himself to this faraway coast. Along These Savage Shores where blood begets blood and dawn-light shimmers over a land soaked in betrayal.
Why It’s Cool: Way way too many disparate properties these days are getting compared to Game of Thrones. In fact, I feel like it’s become reductive pop culture short-hand for something I like that’s slightly beyond average scope. But! Try as I might, I can’t help but describe this third excellent issue of These Savage Shores as feeling in scope a bit like Game of Thrones. It just has so many of the elements: large-scale political machinations, alliance building, betrayals, and seemingly inconsequential deaths having ripple effects that seemed destined to have retribution due. These Savage Shores also remains a gorgeous comic, as lush with its artwork as it is lyrical in its dialogue and narrative prose. If you’re not reading this comic, I don’t know what to tell you at this point.

Wasted Space #6
Writer:
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
Now officially an ongoing! The whole fam damily is back! Billy visits a crooked politician. Dust and Fury make sweet bot-love in unsanitary locations. A ghost haunts Molly's visions of Rex. And Legion pets a dog. The galaxy is still totally borked, but maybe together they can un-bork it... oh, probably not.
Why It’s Cool: One of my absolute favorite comics of 2018 is back, and it’s at the same high (sorry) level it was when we last saw it. This issue has all the hallmarks of this series: the humor, the high-minded philosophical contemplations, the subtextual commentary on the modern world, and the ever-looming threat of even more space nukes that might destroy the world. It is, in other words, a very very good comic. We’ll have a review of this book later in the week, but know now that each and every one of you should be reading this.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Battlestar Galactica: Twilight Command #1

  • Daredevil #1

  • Female Furies #1

  • G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte #1

  • Girl in the Bay #1

  • Gunhawks One-Shot

  • Man and Superman 100-Page Super-Spectacular #1

  • Oberon #1

  • Red Sonja #1

  • Vindication #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #1

  • Archie #702

  • Avengers #14

  • Batman #64

  • Conan the Barbarian #3

  • Deathstroke #40

  • Dreaming #6

  • Giant Days #47

  • The Green Lantern #4

  • Immortal Hulk #14

  • Killmonger #4

  • Prodigy #3

  • Self/Made #3

  • Tony Stark: Iron Man #8

  • Wrong Earth #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.

Creator Journal: The Stewart Bros. Studio

This piece is the first of a monthly series giving nascent creators a chance to share and document part of their artistic journeys on our site. We’ll be following four individualswriters, artists, writers/artistsfeaturing each on a rotating basis throughout 2019. Future installments will take more of a traditional journal format, giving creators a space to share thoughts and comics. For the intro, however, we’ll get to know each better with a question and answer.

With all that in mind, we’ll cede the space now to our first creators, Bo and Harrison Stewart, brothers from North Carolina who make up Stewart Bros. Studios. Regular contributors to our website, The Stewart Bros. are hard-working comic book writers. Check back the last Friday of next month for a look at our next participant!

From left to right, Bo Stewart, Mitch Gerads, and Harrison Stewart at Hampton CC.

From left to right, Bo Stewart, Mitch Gerads, and Harrison Stewart at Hampton CC.

Q: So let’s start with what are your aspirations for making comics and what is your biggest motivation to get there?

A: Being partners came as a natural extension of being brothers. We’ve always told each other stories. It’s how we communicate and make ourselves understood. It’s as central to our relationship as anything. Over time, we realized that some of these stories (read: the ones that weren’t Star Wars fan-fic) weren’t half bad. And with the right artist, the worlds that had only existed in our minds could be made real and true for others, as real as they’ve always been for us.    

Our motivation is simple: we write comics we want to read. And, perhaps more importantly, we want to make comics we think will resonate with people, but that aren’t currently available in the wider industry.    

Q: Where do you see yourselves at in your career trajectory?

A: We’re focused on building a resume. Anytime you tell someone you’re a writer, you get the same response: “What’ve you written?” You’ll note the question isn’t about being published, but the only way to convey serious intent is with a body of work—proof of concept. This is the part of our career where rubber meets the road.

Networking is also a huge priority. But the fun thing about comics is that networking doesn’t have to be as cold and calculating as in other industries. It’s more like making friends. If you like someone’s work, say so! Being honest and polite takes you much farther than treating people as a means to an end. And eventually, you’ll find yourself with a solid group of peers and collaborators that will give you that extra push on the days you need it (thank goodness for Dave LeNoir).

From  Witch Hunt  by The Stewart Bros. and Caroline Autopsy.

From Witch Hunt by The Stewart Bros. and Caroline Autopsy.

>>CLICK HERE to read The Stewart Bros. comic, The Witch Hunt!<<

Q: What are some of your short term goals and what are some of your longer term goals for 2019?

A: Short term goal would be putting out our first full-length comic, i.e. 20+ pages. We’ve mostly dabbled in shorter comics, so graduating to a complete OGN would be a huge step forward. The project in question focuses on King Tut. We’re collaborating with artist J Paul Schiek, who nails the vibe we are looking for. We’re really excited to get it in people’s hands.  

Long term, we’re aiming to have a table this year at one of our local cons. Eastin DeVerna, a fellow creator and friend, was kind enough to let us help man his table so we could get a feel for it—an experience we highly recommend to anyone looking to break in. We also have a few additional mini-series we’re looking to get off the ground (possibly through Kickstarter), so stay tuned for updates on those!

Also, “Straw Man.”

From  Witch Hunt  by The Stewart Bros. and Caroline Autopsy.

From Witch Hunt by The Stewart Bros. and Caroline Autopsy.

Q: One of the most valuable pieces of advice I've ever gotten is there's no harm in not knowing things, as long you know what you don't know. With that in mind, what are some areas of improvement you're currently targeting within comics?

A: Unlike other media like TV or movies, which require large production teams, sequential art is inherently intimate. The only required positions are writer, penciler, inker, colorist and letterer, oftentimes casting creators in multiple roles. The small team mentality is wonderfully liberating, as it leaves only a few degrees of separation between you and a finished product. But as a writer (particularly one who doesn’t double as artist), you can sometimes forget this isn’t a solo act.

Using the art as a genuine means of storytelling and not just pictures to go along with your words can be challenging. Most creative writing classes focus entirely on words. Instruction about how to write for pictures isn’t that common place. So, reintroducing that extra element can feel jarring, as if you’re now supposed to ignore what you’ve been taught. But there is hope: listen to your artist. Trust that when they tell you your words aren’t needed in a given panel, they do so to improve the finished piece, not to take away from your work. We have by no means mastered the art of listening, but it’s an area where we are actively seeking to grow.

From  Witch Hunt  by The Stewart Bros. and Caroline Autopsy.

From Witch Hunt by The Stewart Bros. and Caroline Autopsy.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about your time management process in terms of working on comics?

A: Um… pass?

No, but time management is probably the hardest part. There’s no perfect solution for how to best use time, which is your most precious asset. But one thing we always try to keep in mind is this: does your action get you closer to your end goal in some way? That doesn’t mean you always have to be working. Even reading a bad comic can be productive if you’re taking time to notice the pitfalls you should avoid. It’s simply a matter of framing your leisure time within the larger structure of where you want to be.

Q: Finally, tell us about the piece you've shared here today…

A: First thing’s first: the fabulous art you see is by Caroline Autopsy. You’ll want to keep an eye on her. We met at a convention and swapped social media after discussing how much we liked her style. And when we saw that she was open for commissions, we started a script. This was our first time writing with a specific artist in mind, and, trust us, it makes a world of difference. It’s much easier to graft words to images when you have a solid idea of what they might look like.

>>CLICK HERE to read The Stewart Bros. comic, The Witch Hunt!<<

As for the piece itself, this was a blast to make. We wanted a simple message that could be slipped into a comedic frame.The news itself (which is rife with comedy these days) provided our answer, or at least the question: does a witch hunt necessarily preclude the existence of witches? With that, we were off to the races.

We’ve been asked how political the piece was intended to be. But in our view, that depends entirely on the reader. The term “witch hunt” existed long before current events and will probably be here long after. The underlying theme we wished to convey was simply a warning against allowing good intentions to blind oneself to clear and present danger. With that in mind, we hope you enjoy this little ditty from us, Caroline and our excellent letterer, Matthew Gallman!     

You can find more of The Stewart Bros. work here! And you can follow them on Twitter at @stewart_bros.

Check back next month to meet the second of four creators participating in this series!

The Saga Re-Read: Saga #26, to fight or not to fight?

Saga #26 was originally released 3/4/2015.

By Zack Quaintance — Saga #26 is almost—but not quite—one of those comics that seemed bent on making its readers mentally decide what they would do in a given situation...would they accost the man robbing the convenience store or fade into the back and hope he doesn’t notice them? Would they fight the dragon monsters trying to eat them or listen to the little girl suggesting they should talk? Would they stab the TV-headed terrorist in the neck with the shiv or join his anti-establishment revolution?

Okay, so maybe these aren’t all relatable within the context of our everyday lives (and I’ll go into what I think they mean later), but there is a shared question to them all: would you use violence or try to find another way? This isn’t a novel question within the context of the series. Hell, in some ways this is a war book, meaning would you fight is the question all along, but this issue embraces the episodic format and uses that question to show readers more about each character. This, I must admit, is yet another little bit of craft I didn’t notice my first time through.

Now on to the rest of it...

Saga #26

Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #26, which was first released alllllll the way back on March 4, 2015, which means I would have still been living in Austin, Texas and gearing up for South by Southwest, which is that city’s Mardi Gras. Ah, memories....

Gwendolyn's quest takes an interesting turn.

Well, hot damn! After not getting much (or really any, excepting the last issue) of Gwendolyn and The Will in the last arc, this new one is a veritable bonanza of continuing their story. I’m there for it. I like them well-enough and love (as regular readers well know) Lying Cat as a narrative device. Anyway, onward to the individual elements!

The Cover: Another busy cover with a lot going on, and I hadn’t even recovered from the hella busy cover for Saga #25 yet! But yes, this cover is packed. The main thing is, of course, Gwendolyn using a wooden staff to prop open some lizard beast’s mouth as it tries to eat both her and Sophie. I kind of like Lying Cat looming over and side eye-ing the whole deal, but, overall, this isn’t one of the more memorable Saga covers for me.

The First Page: Whoa whoa whoa! Another first page split into panels. Memory is a funny thing, like a boat filled with holes plugged by assumptions. For my part, I guess I’d assumed that the entirety of the series was all one-panel splash pages openers. I certainly think now that the series will get back to it at some point, but can you really trust me after that last confession? Probably not. Anyway, this one is a bit of a trope: Marko shopping in a convenience store in the middle of a robbery—something that happens to a strong majority of fictional characters but never to anyone I’ve ever met in real life. This does that always-interesting Saga thing of directly juxtaposing the fantastical and alien with familiar activities or imagery from real life.

What would you do?

The Surface: Marko goes on to break up that robbery in a fit of violent rage (more on that in foreshadowing). Marko’s not the only one who has to face down a tense situation. Alana, Marko’s mom, and Hazel are all still hostages of Dengo as the Revolution arrives, while Gwendolyn, The Brand, Sophie, and Lying Cat are on the brink of being eaten by a bunch of dragon mares (as they search for a bull dragon to get The Will medicine he needs).

The Subtext: The metaphor here has much to do with the way raising children means you spend time with odd adults you might otherwise never met. It’s not the most subtle point, though, given that Hazel’s own narration basically comes out and says that, as it is often wont to do with this series’ subtext. In a larger ideological sense, the subtext in Saga #26 has to do with perspective. Meaning, from one perspective the Revolution might look like freedom fighters, but from another terrorists. With the media manipulation we’ve dealt with so thoroughly in recent years, this is a topic that should resonate as much (if not more) today than it did when this comic was new almost four (!!) years ago now. There’s also a question raised that I think about a lot, which is does combating powerful opponents justify extreme tactics? Like the best fiction, the book leaves the answer largely to the reader’s interpretation.

There’s other, more prominent, subtext here as well that serves as a double commentary on gender roles, toxic masculinity, and the way violence begets violence. The majority of the male characters in this story have often resorted to violence. Marko does so again to solve his robbery problem, Prince Robot IV is a very violent character tormented by visions of his now-dead wife, who Dengo (yet another male character) is torn with guilt over murdering. Our central female protagonists, meanwhile, solve their problems with diplomacy...eventually. Lending this issue that commentary (although Gwendolyn and Alana were both leaning toward committing violent acts when something else got in the way).

The Art: Like last issue, there aren’t any jaw-dropping splashes or massive holy sh%t visuals, but this is another dense script that asks Staples to often fit in panels that could have been a splash...and she does so seamlessly. Below you can find an example of a couple pages that really tickled the part of my brain reserved for absorbing stories (weird)...

This whole sequence had enough action for multiple splash pages.

The Foreshadowing: Jeez, forgive me for not being all that careful of a reader, but I hadn’t realized just how many times we saw Marko give in to a fit of uncontrolled violent rage that starts out being maybe a bit justified and then ends with him going way over the line. This issue certainly has some of that, with Marko assuming a pose that almost directly mirrors the one we saw him take in Saga’s most recent issue. He even goes into a bit of a fugue here before we see him put his foot down about no killing (more of that comes later too). Oof. I’m getting busted up all over again...

Saga #26
Writer:
Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics

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.

Best New Comics January 2019 - Naomi, Guardians, and Young Justice

By Zack Quaintance — Regular readers will know this is the column wherein we look at the best new comics from January 2019, specifically one-shots and new #1 issues. They may also notice that I’ve cheated this month, selecting six comics for my usual top 5. First of all, I set the rule so I’m kind of like, oh well. Second, I expanded that section this month so that it wouldn’t be pretty much all Big 2 superhero comics, and I don’t think that’s ever a bad thing.

The good problem that I had this month was that both Marvel and DC launched a pair of super high-quality comics that I couldn’t leave out of my top five, with Guardians of the Galaxy and Invaders coming from Marvel, and Naomi and Young Justice from the Distinguished Competition. So yes, it was a great start to the year for fans of superhero storytelling. In fact, I may write a full piece about this sometime soon, but I think we’re in one of those rare periods where both of those publishers are putting out generally stellar work. But that’s a topic for another time.

Today, let’s get on with our look at the best new comics of January 2019!

Quick Hits

As d. emerson eddy noted in his Comic of the Week feature, Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 is accessible and entertaining even to readers who may not have seen the old show...a group that embarrassingly includes me. That said, I thought this book was fantastic.

Another TV-based book I thought was fantastic? Adventure Time: Marcy and Simon #1 by Olivia Olson and Slimm Fabert. I’m a huge Adventure Time fan, and thought this book—which is set after the TV show ends—more than did the source material justice.

Let’s keep the transitions rolling and note that another book that more than did its source material justice was the new Conan the Barbarian #1, from Marvel, which was also a Comic of the Week pick this month.    

A little less exciting (at least for me) was Marvel Comics Presents #1. I still like this format—prestige creators telling short, one-off stories about the Marvel Universe—but other than the fantastic Namor story, this first installment was pretty average.  

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1.jpg

There were a couple nominative #1 issues this month with the Uncanny X-Men and Justice League annuals. The former was a character-driven story that minimized the weirdness of Cyclops coming back, and the latter a grandiose space opera epic that clarified some points about what’s happening in Justice League and why.

Another great Big 2 #1 was Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, which got even better with its second issue. Full review of the debut here.

Another comic I wrote a full review of was Oliver #1 by Gary Whitta and Darick Robertson. It’s a post-apocalyptic story with only a loose connection to Oliver Twist. I recommend it.

And one more review comic, Wyrd #1! You can read my full thoughts via the link, but this is a book that has all the hallmarks of the start of a special run.

Finally, I liked Barbarella / Dejah Thoris #1 well enough, but I overall recommend paying attention because the series’ writer, Leah Williams, is on the rise and it’ll be interesting to see how earlier work like this compares to later stuff.

Top 5 Best New Comics January 2019

Criminal #1.jpg

Criminal #1
Writer:
Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Read our full review of Criminal #1!

Ho man, what have we as contemporary comics fan done to deserve a team as talented as Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (joined here with colors by his son Jacob Phillips)? Seriously, the comics these guys make are almost too good. I read Criminal #1, which was an over-sized issue, with such an intense focus that I don’t think I liked up once until I was entirely through out. It’s that immersive.

Contributing writer Bo Stewart really summed up why it works so well in his review, but I’ll just reiterate again in brief: these are two masters of the craft working in tandem with a level of alchemy that is perhaps unprecedented. Do yourself a favor and read this comic.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1.jpg

Guardians of the Galaxy #1
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99
Read our full review of Guardians of the Galaxy #1!

As regular readers of the site may be aware, Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw’s Thanos Wins was one of our top comics of 2018, and now it’s essentially being continued in Guardians of the Galaxy. Of all the writers at Marvel—even the long-tenured vets—Cates arguably writes the best new #1 issues, and this one is no exception. It establishes a killer premise, gleefully speeds through it in grandiose fashion, and leaves the reader fondly looking for the release date of the second issue.  

As with Criminal, we also ran a full review that elaborates in greater depth on this comic, so I will again keep it brief and just note that I’m not even all that big a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy, and yet the continuation of this series just became one of my most-highly anticipated comics of 2019. So, yeah.

Invaders #1.jpg

Invaders #1
Writer:
Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Carlos Magno with Butch Guice
Colorist: Alex Guimaraes
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99

I’ve always liked Invaders more as a concept—the team of Golden Age Marvel characters that fought for the allies in WWII—more than I have in modern execution. Their stories have always felt like nostalgic throwbacks, inherently dated. This new comic, however, essentially flies in the face of that, with a first issue that seems to promise an exploration of the old times that will take us to modern places that are new.

How, you may wonder, does it do that? Well, if you’re so curious you really ought to read the actual comic, which, believe me, is very good. Chip Zdarsky is Marvel’s most nuanced writer. He may not write the flashiest stories (ahem, Donny Cates) or the best long-form narratives (Jason Aaron), but he’s the most likely writer in the Marvel stable to surprise and to land big emotional moments. This issue, which ends with a cliffhanger rooted in the past, gives every indication Invaders will be well worth readers’ time.

Naomi #1
Writers:
Brian Michael Bendis & David F. Walker
Artist: Jamal Campbell
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

We don’t play favorites in this section, but, truth be told, Naomi #1 just might be our favorite new comic of the month. It takes a new approach to DC Comics most iconic heroes in a few ways. It takes us to a new town we’ve never seen (a hip, semi-rural enclave in Oregon), it gives us a young girl we don’t know (yet), and it dives deep into her point of view, how she sees Superman and what as an adoptee herself she sees to relate to, as well as why.

There’s a mystery that seems destined to end with Naomi growing into a superhero, maybe even a Kryptonian or Superman analog herself, but moreover, there’s just a really solid human story here. Whereas Marvel has basically an entire universe of everymen and everwomen, that has never been DC’s strength. Naomi is looking to fix that, and I for one am hella excited to see where this comic is headed. Oh, and Jamal Campbell’s artwork is absolutely stunning.

Peter+Cannon+Thunderbolt+#1.jpg

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Casper Wijngaard
Colorist: Mary Safro
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Dynamie
Price: $3.99
Read our full review of Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1!

Wowzer, did this comic catch me by surprise! I—embarrassingly—had no familiarity with Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt as a property. I did not realize he was one of the original characters from Charleston Comics that the Watchmen characters were later based on, and I certainly didn’t know the rights had gone up for grabs and become property of Dynamite. That said, I love what Kieron Gillen and Casper Wijngaard seemed to be engaged in after this first issue.

You know the drill—more thoughts in our review—but this has a last page that all Watchmen fans will be interested to read. It could ultimately end up being a very nice counterpoint to Doomsday Clock.  

Young Justice #1.jpg

Young Justice #1
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: DC Lettering
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99

The Brian Michael Bendis-curated Wonder Comics imprint has arrived, and it is...well, wonderful. Young Justice #1 was the inaugural issue for the new imprint, and if this is the tone these books are looking to strike, well done. It’s fast, funny, and bent on being very tongue-and-cheek with DC continuity. It’s exactly the sort of in-universe lighter imprint DC needs, what with the other parts of the line seeming to perpetually bend back toward dark and gritty.

The most interesting thing about this individual story though, is the way it plays with continuity. It seems to know that readers have questions about the current status quos of characters like Impulse, Connor Kent, and Cassie Sandsmark, which by extension plays to more questions about what from the New 52 counted and what is wiped away. This is the central mystery the comic is built around, and it’s a really intriguing one, to be sure.

Check out more of our many monthly lists here.

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

Thirsty Thursdays January 2019: A Thirsty New Year

By Allison Senecal — Superhero comic art has evolved at a really impressive rate in recent years...so much so that sometimes it can be a lot to handle. First there’s excitement, obviously, but then that excitement turns into something else...which is why each month we’re running our Thirsty Thursday rankings, a new and different way to look at our favorite comic art. Welcome to a sporadic examination of (as the kids say) the month’s thirstiest comics.

Enjoy!

Artist: Mahmud Asrar       
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Conan the Barbarian #1 - I came into 2019 praying that the new Conan line from Marvel would deliver the goods every month, and so far it’s batting a thousand. It’s sexyyyyyyyyyyy. Here’s hoping Asrar and Wilson get to give us their take on Bêlit before they’re done. 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Conan, what is best in life?

Conan, what is best in life?

Artist: German García
Colorist: Addison Duke
Barbarella/Dejah Thoris #1 - It’s been weeks and I still can’t shut up about how gorgeous and charming this damn opening issue was. García and Duke’s Dejah Thoris is the best iteration of the character I’ve ever seen, and they aced Barb’s whole vibe as well. The ideal blend of cute and sexy, with pitch perfect banter from Williams that I assume will only get better in future issues. 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

I hope someone brought water to this team-up because a thirst warning is in full effect!

Artists: Carlos Magno and Butch Guice
Colorist: Alex Guimarães
Invaders #1 - NAMOR! So much Namor! And Steve in a military jacket! NAMOR IN A SUIT! Bet y’all didn’t think Invaders could be a sleeper thirst series of 2019, but this art team is here to prove you wrong. 💦💦💦💦 out of 5

This guy on the left?…SAME.

Artist: Iban Coello
Colorist: Andres Mossa
Man Without Fear #3 - Tough to pick one issue of this series to highlight, and the whole thing was a Sad Matt™ thirst trap, but Coello and Mossa served up the saddest, sweatiest Matt so #3 it is. 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Oh my dear dear Sad Matt™…so sad, so sweaty.

Artist: Juann Cabal
Colorist: Nathan Woodard
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #2 - I know this series is about SPIDER-MAN, but Johnny Storm is babysitting in this issue! I don’t even like kids, but every time Johnny is adorable with them I feel that cynical void inside me whisper “oh %$#&”. 💦💦💦💦 out of 5

I think we all need a lot of things, Johnny.

Artist: Sana Takeda
Monstress #19 - A new crossbow wife???! I keep thinking Sana Takeda is done giving me MORE women with the best designs to swoon over but...Yafaela! 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Is this a type? Can this be a type? I think this is my type…

Artist: Ramon Rosanas
Colorist: Tríona Farrell
Age of X-Man Alpha #1 - Rosanas and Farrell absolutely killed it on this. The character designs (largely courtesy of Mike Hawthorne) are all super swoony and it took me about 40 minutes to read because I kept lingering on every page. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about Nightcrawler, the X-Tremists squad, and Prisoner X here at some point (okay, many points). 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Clearly, this is the thirstiest timeline.

Artist: Adam Kubert
Colorist: Frank Martin
Captain America #7 - *drags hand down face* Steven Grant Rogers. I just want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for the cute sweater. That is all. 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

The right of people to choose… how hard they totally flip for freaking CAP IN A SWEATER.

The right of people to choose…how hard they totally flip for freaking CAP IN A SWEATER.

Artist: Caspar Wijngaard
Colorist: Mary Safro
Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 - I admit — and maybe this hurts my journalistic integrity in regards to this column about thirsty comics art — this is the first comic in a long time I purchased purely as a thirst read. Gillen knows it!! He compared it to Dream Daddies in a solicit, for God’s sake. I don’t know #$%& about the Thunderbolt property but 1. this was a fantastic first issue, and 2. Peter and Tabu (and Nucleon???!!) are hot. 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

I’ll have a glass of that too because this book is seriously thirsty.

I’ll have a glass of that too because this book is seriously thirsty.

Sorry ahead of time for the panel by panel breakdowns of Daredevil #1-2 next month. You may think I’m kidding, but am I?

Check out The Thirstiest Comics of December.

Allison buys books professionally and comics unprofessionally. You can find her chaotic neutral Twitter feed at @maliciousglee.

REVIEW: In Amazing Spider-Man #14, Nick Spencer and Chris Bachalo payoff plots from the first issue

Amazing Spider-Man #14 is out 1/30/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — It is perhaps telling of exactly how old I am that to me Chris Bachalo is an artist that reminds me of how comics used to be, which is a phrase I think everyone uses to describe the time they first got into the hobbie. Simply put, Bachalo was huge when I was a new reader, helping to launch Generation X (the start of which was still a few years before my time), before moving over to help with some of the main X-titles, maybe even drawing Uncanny for a while as Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely did their thing on New X-Men.

Anyway, this is all a means to say that Bachalo is an absolutely perfect fit for a fill-in artist on Nick Spencer’s Amazing Spider-Man run, which is playing out holistically as a series as another example of how comics used to be, at least back in my day. This entire issue—from the art to the narrative construction to the use it makes of continuity—really feels like just a bit of a throwback to a different time, as has this run overall. The clearest example of this is that these Amazing Spider-Man comics are pretty clearly not written for trade compilations, not even a little bit.

You can really see it in this issue, which is 14 issues and six months into the run...and just now playing out pretty minor narrative threads that were dropped loosely into the background of Amazing Spider-Man #1, specifically thinking here of Peter’s offer from Conners. Now, not to sound like that old guy, but this is something that was once commonplace, back when stories weren’t conceived in six-issue bursts that should leave it all on the page lest the market dictate a sudden ending.

And the Connors thing isn’t the only bit in this issue drawn from #1. The conflict with Taskmaster and Black Ant was also seeded way back, possibly in the same scene with The Lizard (though I’d have to go back and verify to be certain). This is all well and good, and I like it because it scratches my long-form narrative itch as a reader. I think it’s an especially good thing for a book like Amazing Spider-Man, that publishes every other week. There really isn’t a need to so clearly define story arcs when the next chapter is generally 13 days away when you finish any given issue. The book should flow from plot to plot, carrying with it remnants as it moves into new territory. That’s certainly what Spencer and his artistic collaborators, whether it’s back in the day Chris Bachalo or regular series linework provider Ryan Ottley.

In terms of an individual read, this is a dense one, with multiple narrators, long conversations, and some pretty strong ideas jockeying for position, be it Aunt May’s disgust at her deceased husband’s sleazy accountant, or The Lizard’s son heartbreakingly wanting to just be a regular kid. There are so many emotional beats in this issue that it fades into a cacophony of feelings at times, making it hard for any one to move to the forefront and land with major resonance.

For me as a reader, that’s a great problem to have, especially for a comic I’m paying $8 a month to keep up with.

Overall: A dense issue of Amazing Spider-Man, packed with bits of continuity, big feelings, and payoffs to plot threads that have been dangling since the first issue. This series continues to have a narrative construction that calls back to times when stories weren’t written for trade, and it’s refreshing. 8.4/10

Amazing Spider-Man #14
Writer:
Nick Spencer
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel 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.

REVIEW: Ice Cream Man #9 changes everything you knew about this book

Ice Cream Man #9 is out 1/30/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Whoa. This issue was nuts, in the best way, and I’m going to do my best to not tip into spoiler territory here. However, I make no promises. So, if you really want to avoid any and all chance of spoilers, I encourage you to skip to the Overall section of this review down at the bottom for a spoiler-free word about whether you should buy this comic. If you have read Ice Cream Man #9, well friend, strap in, because this is about to get wild.

Ice Cream Man #9 up-ended my perception about the scope of this comic. It also sent me back through all eight of previous issues looking for clues. And you know what I found? Tons of them, along with a new sense of what this book is accomplishing. As I wrote in my review of Ice Cream Man #8, I thought this series was a commentary on instant gratification of the soul, on giving into easy feelings of fear and anxiety versus doing the difficult self work it takes to be optimistic, contented, happy. And it is that, to extent, but it’s also quite a bit more.

Ice Cream Man is a book telling an overarching story despite on its surface largely appearing to be an anthology series, albeit one with light connective tissue. The spider from the first issue here, a cop we vaguely know there, plus the titular Ice Cream Man and his weird enemy cowboy guy. A closer look, however, reveals that all along there has been a battle raging between two ancient polemic forces, one of malicious chaos and another that just wants folks to know we’re all friends, all connected, all just trying to live our peaceful lives.

To tell that story, writer W. Maxwell Prince, artist Martin Morazzo, colorist Chris O’Halloran, and letterer Good Old Neon have tapped almost every unique quality inherent to the monthly comics medium, ranging from the slow nature of the release schedule (used to draw the focus to the vignettes, rather than the forces in the background) to juke readers on the format of the narrative to the lettering, which is shaded white in boxes for the evil monologues and black fro the good. This comic has been a true work of patient serialized art, and now in Ice Cream Man #9, the creators are pulling what this book is really about from the background to center stage. And, to be crass, this sh** is f***ing epic.

I read this issue twice. The first time intrigued but bewildered. Then I went back and browsed previous issues for every appearance of the Ice Cream man, and I read it again. That time, I was absolutely blown away at what the creative team is doing. With that in mind, it is perhaps fitting and intentional that in Ice Cream Man #9 the old man character in this story tells the black-clad cowboy Caleb, End, beginning. It’s all the same, because Ice Cream Man is a comic built with no distinct start or end point. It’s a fluid story that demands repeat readings to really grasp its nature. At least the first eight issues play that way.

This issue pushed me to look back and also forward, seeding questions with every new reveal as if it were the work of David Lynch, who is a pretty clear influence on this whole deal, what with the idea that below the idyllic surface of life is bugs, as well as the counterpoint—we’re all the same and connected—which is rooted in Lynch’s beloved transcendental meditation and its universal field. But I digress and I’m getting long-winded here anyway, so let’s wrap things up...

Overall: The end of the beginning of the beginning of the end. An absolutely mind-wrecking read that suggests a more grandiose story than initially promised. Get past issues of Ice Cream Man nearby, because the creators have built something complex and subtle that will re-wire your perception of this series. 9.8/10

Ice Cream Man #9
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
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.

REVIEW: Wyrd #1 is a pastiche of classic comics atop some new truths

Wyrd #1 is out 1/30/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Dark Horse Comics’ new original series Wyrd is a pastiche of classic comics ideas used to uncover deep truths about country, contentment, and feeling out of place in a harsh world. Wyrd is a dash of Mignola, a healthy serving of the most twisted Captain America you’ve ever seen, and a foundation of a main character whose attitude has more than a little in common with John Constantine from Hellblazer. But in between all the homage, a unique writer’s perspective shows through.

That writer is Curt Pires, and in this comic he spins some of the best writerly dialogue in recent memory. There are nice turns of phrases throughout, usage of prose that would hold its own in grad school level creative writing workshops (as much as any prose ever does in those cruel things). Two examples stuck in my mind most clearly after reading. And I’ll get to them both, but first a brief summation of our plot.

Our main character is Wyrd, a freelance monster hunter/weird shit handler for the U.S. government. In this first installment, we learn that he’s troubled, maybe even suicidal, before seeing him shipped off overseas to hunt a super soldier out of control. It’s a relatively simple story in setup but not in execution. Within this solid framework, Pires and his artistic collaborators Antonio Fuso and Stefano Simeone do some seriously heavy lifting with mood, aesthetic, and tone.

Fuso and Simeone’s artwork gets pretty gruesome at times. I’m not always one to appreciate a violent comic, but I had no issue with the way harsher visual storytelling was deployed here. In other words, the proceedings never tipped into gratuitous or repulsive. There are in-set panels a plenty showing the damage Wyrd incurs as he fights, but all of them are necessary to establish his regenerative abilities (add Wolverine to our pastiche, btw). Simeone’s colors push the visuals a step further, especially in the flashback scenes that use a duller set of shades without deploying the sepia cliches. Wyrd #1 is by design a grizzly and rough-looking comic, and that’s good, it should be.

The forlorn beauty of this book is in its language. Let’s get to those promised bits of writing that really stand out. The first is the monster at one point telling Wyrd, I can see through you. Transparent. You’re a ghost in a man suit. A black hole covering memory. It makes sense in the plot but one also gets the impression that Pires might just feel that way period and is using this as a chance to express it. It’s these little gold coins that lead readers throughout the comic.

The second is the gorgeous soliloquy at the end about the joy and hope a child represents in the world. It’s a subtle moment. I might even call it understated if it didn’t serve as a coda for everything that came before, and I absolutely loved it. Wyrd’s self-destructive drinking and sarcasm would run the risk of feeling too familiar if it wasn’t bookended with the poignant reason for his discontent. A great decision by the storytellers that sets up a fascinating series moving forward.

Overall: Wyrd #1 is one part deep comics pastiche and one part introspective look at a troubled man, likely at a point in his (too long) life where he’s lost any belief in the systems. This is a solidly-constructed comic that might just grow into something really special. 8.2/10

Wyrd #1
Writer:
Curt Pires
Artist: Antonio Fuso
Colorist: Stefano Simeone
Letterer: Micah Meyers
Publisher: Dark Horse 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.