REVIEW: Ghosted in L.A. #1 is a great story about Los Angeles that also has ghosts

By Zack Quaintance — I probably used the ideal opening line for my headline, so I’ll just re-purpose it again here: Ghosted in L.A. #1—a new comic from BOOM! by  Sina Grace, Siobhan Keenan, Cathy Le, and DC Hopkins—is an absolutely great story about youth and love (both romantic and platonic) and Los Angeles...that also happens to have some ghosts in it.

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REVIEW: Faithless #1 is a good-looking, acerbic curiosity

By Zack Quaintance — Every comic is unique, of course, but Faithless #1 struck me as a singular book from the first pages. It’s written by Brian Azzarello, a veteran comics writer who has had success with a wide range of titles, from hey day Vertigo stuff like 100 Bullets to recent Big 2 works like…

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Comic of the Week: Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 is a new start with much love for the original

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 is out 1/23/2019.

By d. emerson eddy — Into each generation a slayer is born...or reborn as it were. To many my age Joss Whedon's television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, even Dollhouse, served as a backbone to our cultural development. Particularly Buffy and Angel since they came first. They informed a lot of our attitudes towards the world, reflected many of our musical tastes and speech patterns, and all around showed a world where it was all right to be the outcast, the fringe, the geeky nerd, because you'd be accepted into a family of like-minded weirdos. And, of course, you'd look fabulous while dusting vamps.

It's been 15 years since Buffy and Angel have been on the air, in that time culture has changed, in some ways evolved, in some ways regressed. In those intervening years, Dark Horse and IDW continued on the legacy of the Whedonverse, sometimes taking it to welcome places, sometimes strange. At times for me it was like checking in with a friend that you've lost touch with and grown apart, but when you see one another you're picking up old conversations like you've not lost a beat. Because the memory remains.

BOOM! Studios' new launch of the series does not continue on from any of the previous comics or television series. Instead, it takes us back to a new interpretation of the beginning, and I'm perfectly okay with this. It feels right to start again, especially when it's being done with as much skill, reverence, respect, and outright love of the source material as it is by Jordie Bellaire, Dan Mora, Raúl Angulo, and Ed Dukeshire. The old, familiar faces of Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Giles are here representing that core configuration. Slightly different than before, but still capturing that same spirit.

With Redlands, Jordie Bellaire has proven that she can write horror and the supernatural very well. With this first issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she transports some of that with the usual vampires and ancient relics and such, but she also shows an ear for the catchy dialogue and banter that was a hallmark of any Whedonverse joint. It's not a copy of Whedon and co.'s dialogue patterns, but like the overall story, it captures the spirit.

Likewise with Dan Mora's gorgeous artwork. His approach to likenesses is interesting, because the characters are recognizably Sarah Michelle Gellar, Allyson Hannigan, et al. yet simplified. He makes the characters his own, such that we don't have any of the common bizarrely over-rendered stars in a comic compared to the supporting and background characters. And equally excels with the action as with the quieter interpersonal moments.

Raúl Angulo's colors perfectly complement Mora's line art, giving the series a somewhat ethereal glow. It reminds me somewhat of the color approach that the “New Riverdale” line from Archie Comics had of mixing some of those classic vibrant comics colours with a bit of a modern haze. It works really well for adding atmosphere to the story.

Ed Dukeshire rounds out the creative team here, performing his usual exemplary job of providing some tight lettering, showing some interesting variation for vampires and the narration.

Overall, this relaunch is very well done. As a longtime follower of Buffy and the Scooby Gang, I think that Bellaire, Mora, Angulo, and Dukeshire have done a very good job at capturing the spirit of the property while also weaving it into a new and compelling story. Even if you've somehow never experienced Buffy the Vampire Slayer before, it introduces well to the cast and the overall premise and tone of this new series. There are also some surprise appearances and a twist in the tale that should have everyone champing at the bit to see the next issue.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1
Writer:
Jordie Bellaire
Artist: Dan Mora
Colorist: Raúl Angulo
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Price: $3.99

Check out past Comic of the Week selections by d. emerson eddy on the list page.

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 of 2018, #16 - #25

By Zack Quaintance —  The most difficult thing about a strong year for comics (like this one) is doing a year-end Best Of list. Now, to be sure, no one mandates websites do rankings. That would be a clear violation of civil liberties. There is, however, a part of the pop culture blogger brain that goes wild for it, whispering all year long...where does this one rank...and if you don’t satisfy that beast—well, bad things happen.

So, here we our with ours, freshly formulated for 2018 by our committee of one. Before we dive into part 1, which features in descending order selections #25 to #16 (the other two parts are coming tomorrow, worry not), let’s lay down ground rules:

  • No trades or OGNs: Building out our OGN coverage is a priority for 2019. We’re just not there yet. So, while I absolutely loved work like Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, Box Brown’s Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, and Ryan Lindsay and Eric Zawadzki’s Eternal, you won’t find them here. Ideally, next year’s we’ll have an entire post dedicated to OGNs.

  • No webcomics, manga, or newspaper strips: Again, our site is a bit deficient covering these (if you are into these things, we’d love to chat about you writing for us!). I should, of course, mention that in 2018 someone under the pen name Olivia James took over the long-running Nancy strip and did amazing things with it (Sluggo is lit), but, again, you won’t find it on our list.

  • Longevity matters: New this year, you will find what I consider a key stat—how many issues were published this year. Late debut series like Die, Electric Warriors, and Bitter Root have tons of promise. They just haven’t been around enough to be a definitive comic of 2018. Ditto for comics that ended in April or earlier.

There you have it: guiding principles of our Top Comics of 2018. Now, without further adieu, let’s get this bad hombre started!

Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25

25. Snotgirl
Writer:
Bryan Lee O’Malley
Artist: Leslie Hung
Colorist: Mickey Quinn
Letterer: Mare Odomo
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 4

In 2018, Snotgirl returned from hiatus with an every-other-month schedule, which ended up spreading four issues over the year. Its steady publication schedule gave it a decidedly 2018 feel. We also saw the plot in this story evolve, using its Instagram-driven L.A. ego hellscape motif to dip a toe into ideas of the supernatural.

Moreover, this book has a singular look and feel. O’Malley’s scripting is satirical and biting, using our increasingly-intense desire to appear perfect online as fertile ground for true existential horror. More credit, however, is owed to the art of Leslie Hung and colors of Mickey Quinn. From Hung’s disheveled-yet-shapely men and women—all of whom are equally gorgeous and barely hanging on—to the vibrant greens Quinn lands somewhere between snotty and stylish, the visuals work in perfect harmony with the story. It’s really something special.    

24. Abbott
Writer:
Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Sami Kivela
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Issues in 2018: 5

Our committee of one won’t be able to sum up this book better than contributing writer Maya Kesh in our Best Comics of 2018: Contributor Picks. So, go check that out. When you’re done, I’ll be here trying to add to Maya’s excellent thoughts on this series. Like our #25 pick before it, Abbott is a singular comic in everything from its protagonist to its setting to the concerns of its characters.

It’s set in the ‘70s in Detroit—a place and time dismissed as of late by most stories in pop culture. Add a black female protagonist who works as a reporter, and you’ve got a collection of story elements that stand on their own as different and intriguing. Writer Ahmed and artist Kivela don’t, however, rest on that. The story they tell is tense and mysterious, rich with themes of oppression and the paranormal. Basically, I’m with Maya when she says she hopes we haven’t seen the last of this character.

23. Long Lost Part 2
Writer:
Matthew Erman
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Publisher: Scout Comics
Issues in 2018: 5

This is, perhaps, cheating, seeing as the finale to this series is due in 2019 but I’ve already read (and loved) it. I won’t, however, let the ending slip. Long Lost is a poetic and understated story about change, the past, and family. From husband-wife team writer Matthew Erman and artist Lisa Sterle, Long Lost is a literary and confident comic with much to say about our transient generation, so bent on putting withering hometowns behind us.

And it says these things with a mix of ideas and imagery. The penultimate issue came out on 12/19, and as I wrote in my Long Lost Part 2 #5 review, it saw the creators expressing what this story is about: “Long Lost is about leaving your hometown...yet feeling a pull to return, a call home from our past. When we arrive, the place is nigh-unrecognizable. Relatives we thought we knew are so different as to be irreconcilable with who they once were in the past. They’re acting in strange ways, motivated by the hopes of enticing a magic cure for suffering, unemployment, sickness...with methods making them all uglier.” It was a great read in 2018 will be collected in trade this spring.

22. Skyward
Writer:
Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 9

My reaction to Skyward #1 was: where did this comic come from and how is it so polished and fully-formed? The answer on both fronts is that this book was written by Joe Henderson—a TV veteran who most recently oversaw Lucifer—who I came to find out (via the Word Balloon podcast) has a long history of involvement with comics dating back to Bendis’ message board. He’s teamed with powerhouse artist Lee Garbett on this one.

There’s a lot to like about Skyward. It’s narrative structure is ironclad, leaving no holes or lapses to distract reader attention. The science within extrapolates a world-altering event similar to how Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra did in Y: The Last Man, and it’s characters’ tones are so earnest and hopeful that one could probably even read this comic with family. It’s also kept to a regular release schedule, which is so key for creator-owned books like this one, jockeying for attention on a crowded rack.

21. Euthanauts
Writer:
Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: IDW Black Crown
Issues in 2018: 4

This is another book that a contributor summed up so perfectly earlier this week (this time it was Allison and you can and should read it here). Yet, once again as the official committee of one, I will do my best to inject something new into this conversation. Euthanauts is, quite simply, one of the most gorgeous books on the stands. It’s the type of story you let wash over you like a poem, finding intense ideas and moments of beauty as you page through it.

Writer Tini Howard and artist Nick Robles are both powerful talents, destined for greatest things in the industry. Before they get there, however, I for one feel lucky to be around to see their beautiful book of life and death unspooling in real time. There are many great books right now on Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint (House Amok and Lodger both could have made our list had they published more issues), but Euthanauts is the crown jewel of that collection.

20. Royal City
Writer/Artist:
Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 7
Royal City wrapped up in August, which I found surprising, possibly because the ever-prolific Jeff Lemire (who pulls double duty here both writing and doing art) has put out so much work since this one concluded. And while a hefty volume of that work is to be celebrated (more on that as we get closer to the top), none of his stories had the intense emotional core that Royal City did.

A spiritual and semi-direct successor to Lemire’s seminal work on Essex County, this is one of the rare comics in 2018 that moved me to tears, doing so with its story of love, loss, adolescence to adulthood, and perseverance in the face of life’s small-yet-crushing defeats. I would love to get a hardcover version of these 14 issues to keep forever on my shelf, which given the space limitations that plague my collection these days, is a high compliment indeed.

19. Submerged
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Colorist: Stelladia
Letterer: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 4

The first—but certainly not the last—of the Vault Comics on our list, Submerged launched in July and concluded in December. It’s a haunting story of family discord that ultimately manifests in a tangle with mythology during one of the most dangerous storms New York City has weathered in modern history. Vita Ayala is one of the brightest rising stars in the industry, and they do incredible work with this one, expertly balancing the revelations about family backstory with the paranormal threats faced in the present by our characters.

Lisa Sterle (who you may remember early from our writeup of Long Lost) once again creates grounded-yet-disturbing imagery to go along with Ayala’s scripting. This is one of those four-part stories you’ll want to go out and get in trade, so you’ll have it to page through often at your leisure. The impression it leaves is indelible, and Ayala and Sterle are both clearly creators to watch in the coming year.

18. Cover
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Mack
Digital Coloring: Zu Orzu
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Issues in 2018: 4

I saw Brian Bendis and David Mack talk about this book during Rose City Comic Con this September in Portland. Bendis noted that most other mediums—movies, music, books, etc.—have had myriad stories told about what it’s like in their industry. Not so with comics. Cover, however, sets out to change that, detailing what it feels like to table at cons as a semi-notable pro...while also working for the CIA.

The espionage subplot is, to be sure, the engine propelling this comic further, but the emotional core has to do with artistic accomplishments and satisfaction, with finding the places where ones art ends and real life begins, with examining how much artistic achievement can wash away loneliness, solitude, and rifts between family. On top of that thematic goodness, this one is expertly rendered by Mack, who uses visual flourishes often to convey intensity of emotion.    

17. Crowded
Writer:
Christopher Sebela
Artist: Ro Stein
Inker: Ted Brandt
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: Cardinal Rae
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 5

After what I personally perceived as somewhat of a down year for new comics in 2017, Image (our committee of one’s favorite publisher) bounced back with a vengeance in 2018, launching a dozen new series and mini-series with major staying power (more on that next week...so stay tuned!). Chief among those great new books was Crowded from writer Christopher Sebela and artists Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, and Triona Farrell.

There was no shortage of comics this year that look at terrifying near futures. What Crowded did, however, was extrapolate a startlingly-realistic idea (crowdfunded assassination bounty apps) with as taught of a buddy-drama/chase thriller narrative as we’ve seen as of late in any medium. This is a story built to elicit white knuckles, both in terms of what’s happening on the page and what it has to say about the current direction of society.

16. Gideon Falls
Writer:
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 9

This book has a special place in our committee of one’s heart: It was the first comic we ever reviewed on this site, all the way back in January. We gave it a glowing review, predicting it would become the next big Image comic. Thankfully, time was on our side. This comic—from the well-worn creative team of Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino—hit the ground running and is yet to let up.

It started as what felt like an homage to Twin Peaks. The end of the first arc and the first half of the second, however, has built this story into a creepy mystery all of its own, establishing it as something different with expert use of a dual narrative. Sorrentino’s artwork is also absolutely it’s own thing, as visionary as anything on the monthly comic stands right now. It’s 100 percent a testament to the strength of comics this year that a book as good as Gideon Falls finishes #16 overall on our list, but here we are. Oh, and worry not Lemire fans...his other work will be landing higher (much higher!) on this list.

Check back tomorrow for our Best Comics of 2018, #1 - #15! And check back later in the week for more year-end lists, including our Best Single Issues and our Top Creators of 2018!

For the history-minded readers, you can find our Top Comics of 2017, Part 1, 2 and 3 online now!

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

Best Comics of 2018: Batman’s Bookcase Contributor Picks

By Various — Without our crack team of contributing writers, this site would just be one guy pretending to be furniture while churning out semi-coherent musings about comics. Yes, our super talented group of contributing writers are the lifeblood of Batman’s Bookcase, and as such, they have some pretty great takes about the Best Comics of 2018. From Allison continuing to surprise herself by riding hard for all things Thor to Taylor’s analytical impressions of the revived Wild Storm, there’s a lot to take in on this list.

So please now join our contributors on a trip through some of their favorite comics of 2018!

Allison Senecal

Euthanauts
Writer:
Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: IDW Black Crown
What can I even say about this series that hasn’t already been said by people (Scott Snyder, for one) who are way cooler than me? We already know 2019 is going to be the year of writer Tini Howard, and it sure as #$&% better be the year of artist Nick Robles too (Best Layouts of 2018 Award, not a thing...but it should be). The protagonist of this comic, Thalia, is far and away my favorite original character of the year, and she is just rendered so lovingly. What a heartfelt, at times darkly funny, and just flat-out interesting comic. With its almost cheerfully morbid (not to forget the gut-punches) fixation on death, Euthanauts is in many ways the perfect comic for 2018, but it sure has a lot of great things to tell us about living too.

Mighty Thor/Thor
Writer:
Jason Aaron
Artists: Russell Dauterman, Mike del Mundo, Christian Ward, Jen Bartel, Various
Colorist: Matthew Wilson, Marco D’Alfonso
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
If you told me a decade ago that my favorite Big 2 comic would be Thor, I’d probably laugh nervously at you, but here we are, and it is. Aaron and whichever stellar artist he happens to be collaborating with month-to-month (Dauterman, Bartel, Del Mundo, Ward, Moore, to name but a handful) knock this book out of the park every single time. No hiccups, no filler, all heart and tons of action. I’ve cried with Jane Foster, I’ve wheezed with Odinson, and vice versa. I also like the prospects for this book in 2019, because buckle up, kiddos, the War of the Realms is coming, and if you haven’t caught up on this entire Aaron run, do that now before it arrives.

Read more of Allison’s thoughts about Euthanauts and Thor!

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

Jack Sharpe

The Unexpected
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Various
Colorist: Various
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Publisher: DC Comics
DC’s New Age of Heroes line produced some great comics, even if it sadly did not have sales legs. The best comic of the line for me however was The Unexpected. This book features a very personal tale while also going all out on the cosmic side of the DCU. Writer Steve Orlando crafted an amazing tale and while it’s sad this book is ending in January, there is still more greatness to come from Orlando with Martian Manhunter, which launched in December.

Read more about The Unexpected on our reviews page!

Jack Sharpe is a huge fan of history and comics. When he's not in the trenches surrounded by history, he's reading and studying comic books. You can follow him on Twitter at @JackJacksharpe5  

Maya Kesh

Abbott
Writer:
Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Sami Kivela
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
The ‘70s are my personal golden age of comics. The decade is when I began my journey, with Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane as my gateway book. In 1972 I was 8 years old. I loved bell bottom jeans, the wider the better. I even used to buy flare jeans for my daughter until one day she told me that my loving them was no reason to force them upon her. So, when I read the solicitation for Abbott, I knew I had to add it to my pull list.

Abbott takes place at the end of 1972 and stars a black female reporter, Elena Abbott. Reading it this year, it felt as if somebody was writing a comic book just for me. I had high expectations throughout, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Writer Saladin Ahmed doesn’t flinch from including the racism and sexism of the time. Civil Rights had passed in 1964, just 8 years prior, and the Women’s Liberation (feminism) movement was starting to make waves. This is the context the story takes place within. Elena Abbott lives in a white man’s world and those around her don’t let her forget that. She’s also grieving her husband. There is a really touching flashback with Abbott listening to John Coltrane’s jazz masterpiece A Love Supreme, perfectly rendered by artist Sami Kivela.

The story mixes the supernatural with murders in Detroit, and Abbott is on the beat trying to figure out what is going on. Kivela’s art is a perfect fit, adding a texture and personality to the setting.

The supporting characters also feel alive, giving this story another important dimension. The highest compliment I can give this book, though, is that when Abbott ended, I was left wishing for more adventures with Elena as she climbed the professional ladder and began to rebuild her personal life. This was a clear highlight of 2018, and I really hope there is a second series.

Read more of Maya Kesh’s thoughts about Superman and Lois Lane!

Maya Kesh is a lifetime comic reader and a writer whose articles often focus on how women are portrayed in comics. You can follow her on Twitter at @mayak46

The Stewart Bros.

The Weather Man
Writer:
Jody LeHeup
Artist: Nathan Fox
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics
The Weather Man by Jody Leheup and Nathan Fox combines sci-fi action with black comedy to spectacular effect. This book was one of the highlights of 2018. It also feels like it’s just warming up, and we can’t wait for what’s next.

Fearscape
Writer:
Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Colorist: Vladimir Popov
Lettering: Andworld Design
Publisher: Vault Comics
Fearscape by Ryan O’Sullivan and Andrea Mutti from Vault Comics is the best comic book story about storytelling since Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Full stop. If you have ever embarked on a creative endeavor, this is a book that will speak to you.

Check out The Stewart Bros. Top 10 Comics of 2018!

Bo Stewart 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

Taylor Pechter

Hawkman
Writer:
Robert Venditti
Artist: Bryan Hitch
Inker: Andrew Currie
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Starkings & Comicraft
Publisher: DC Comics
This is, simply put, the sleeper hit of the year. Written by Robert Venditii (Hal Jordan and The Green Lantern Corps) and drawn by Bryan Hitch (The Authority), Hawkman explores the character of Carter Hall. It weaves a story about history and self-discovery that is intrinsic to his character. From its start back in June, this has been a must-read series. Not only is Venditti’s script immaculate in consolidating the convoluted nature of Carter’s origins, but Bryan Hitch is supplying the best artwork of his career. The art is big and cinematic, but it also contains a lot of emotion within it. I’ll be blunt: if you haven’t already, go read this series.

The Wild Storm
Writer:
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics
A holdover from last year, Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt’s gritty, stripped-down, espionage-fueled retelling of the WildStorm Universe continued to chug along in 2018, in all its greatness. Not only did we see the formation of the proto-WildCATs and John Lynch searching down his Thunderbook agents before IO could get to them, but Ellis, like always, was a master of character interactions. His injection of dark humor also added a great edge to this book. Davis-Hunt’s art work continued to be simple yet also dynamic, featuring some of the best rendering of action in the business. The end of 2018 brought us to the end of the third of four arcs for this series. With all the pieces set in place, the final arc is sure to be a doozy, and I am all here for it.

Check out Taylor Pechter’s Top 5 Comics of 2018!

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

So there you have it. That concludes our contributor picks for 2018. Be sure to check back next week for more year-end lists, including Best Image Comics of 2018, Top Creators of 2018, and our official overall Best Comics of 2018!

Find more from our contributing writers on our comics analysis page, and check out our Best Comics of 2017 to see how those choices have aged!

The Batman’s Bookcase contributors are a super talented bunch, and we’re very lucky that they’ve chosen our site as a regular outlet for their thoughts and feelings about comics. Check back often in 2019 for more great pieces!


Comic of the Week: Klaus and the Crying Snowman #1 is another holiday gift from Morrison, Mora, Dukeshire

Klaus and the Crying Snowman #1  is our 12/19 comic of the week.

Klaus and the Crying Snowman #1 is our 12/19 comic of the week.

By d. emerson eddy -- Grant Morrison, Dan Mora, and Ed Dukeshire's Klaus began life as a mini-series in 2015, introducing a take on Santa Claus that was more evocative of old Germanic mythology as filtered through a kind of superhero meets fantasy lens. I'd almost say it's similar to what Marvel did originally when they reimagined Thor, but somewhat more magical and heartfelt. That series outlines his origin, humanity, and path to immortality as he fought for his friends and family to keep light and joy in the world. Since that original series, the creative team have been delivering a present of a new Klaus one-shot every year, (that can be enjoyed on their own without having read anything else), Klaus and the Crying Snowman now being the third.

Grant Morrison is probably best known for throwing big ideas, outlandish eccentric and hitherto unthought of propositions, out in his comics as if they were candy. His larger-than-life epics tend to get a lot of the spotlight, but personally I find when he's quiet, he's most compelling. When he mixes a childlike sense of wonder with heartfelt adversity and the human condition, I've found he's created his best works in All-Star Superman and Joe the Barbarian. That spirit is what typifies Klaus and again in Klaus and the Crying Snowman. There's the bombast and action of Klaus and Sam taking on the Tree-Clops and the terrors of Titan, to capture the imagination, or the idea of a number of Santa-themed heroes representing different cultures powered by belief, but the heart of the story is Sam's struggle. Of being a snowman created by a son who misses his father.

Bringing the magic to life is Dan Mora, who is criminally unheralded in the industry as of yet. His artwork is gorgeous, his layouts and designs phenomenal, and use of color amazing. He has a style that has hints of the Kuberts, some Stuart Immonen, Sean Murphy, and Russell Dauterman, even a little bit of Walt Simonson, but combines into a look all his own, both detailed and refined. The design for Sam the Snowman alone is wonderful, keeping a simple core body and traditional face, but adding a flair with his scarf and unique visual when it comes to his arms made from branches. And he draws the best wolves.

Ed Dukeshire rounds out the team, providing some great lettering work. The fonts and word balloons for Sam, the Yule-Goat, and Surtur all get a unique appearance, giving an appropriate feel to their voices. Sam's white on blue narration boxes are also a nice touch.

Overall, Klaus and the Crying Snowman captures what I feel is the spirit of the Yuletide. Not the crass commercialism of modern society, nor the overly religious trappings of an observing Christian Christmas, but a sense of wonder, a sense of family, and belonging. It appeals to the kid in all of us that just wants to be safe and warm, surrounded by joy and wonder. That's magic.

 Klaus and the Crying Snowman #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Dan Mora
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Price: $7.99

Check out past Comic of the Week selections on the list page.

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.

Comic of the Week: Wizard Beach #1 is an under-the-radar debut that deserves attention

Wizard Beach #1 is out 12/5.

By d. emerson eddy — This week has seen a fair number of incredible debuts, end-loading the year with some great reads like Die, The Freeze, and Self/Made from Image, Martian Manhunter and Shazam from DC Comics, and Killmonger and Winter Soldier from Marvel. Any one of those could be considered a phenomenal read this week, and you shouldn't be disappointed. From flights of fantasy to intrigue thriller, intellectual science fiction to lighthearted superhero family drama—these comics have you covered, and I can wholeheartedly recommend any of them. But there's one debut this week that may have flown under the radar and deserves your attention, Wizard Beach #1 from BOOM! Studios.

The main draw for me here is the line art from Conor Nolan. I first noticed his art earlier this year when he was working on Bedtime Games from Dark Horse (with Nick Keller, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and John J. Hill), and the artwork just captivated me. Nolan has a style that looks highly influenced by artists like Bernie Wrightson and early Sam Kieth, with maybe a little Eric Powell, presenting highly detailed, but highly exaggerated artwork that works incredibly well for horror, but now also here for humorous fantasy. Nolan's work tends towards a more refined, almost cartoon-like approach for this story, with a fairly clean fresh-faced design for our main protagonist, Hexley Ragbottom, amidst the scruffier cast of characters.

Joining Nolan to tell the tale is Shaun Simon (previously of Art Ops and True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys) and what we get here is a very unique take on wizarding and a world of magic. Often times in these sorts of things, we'll have an upstart young wizard looking to upend the rules and forge his or her own way, but not so here. Instead we get the reverse. Hexley wants to see a return to the days of old when wizards were powerful and respectable, in part to halt the end of the world and the decline of magic, and also out of what feels like responsibility to his heritage. When his father refuses to help, he searches out his uncle, Salazar, who, much to Hexley's dismay, is a beach bum. It's a very funny reversal of roles and leads to some rather unique predicaments even in this first issue.

Rounding out the creative team are Meg Casey's wonderful colors, presenting an amazing darkness in the opening battles between wizards and monsters, then changing to the brighter atmosphere of the wizard beach itself. And Mike Fiorentino embellishing upon the designs on the page with a nice flair for some of the chapter headings and newspaper articles, giving even the lettering a feel of blending the natures of both a magical and a mundane world.

Overall, this isn't the type of story you'd necessarily expect. It's at turns humorous and irreverent, and plays with some entrenched fantasy themes, turning them on their ear. Simon, Nolan, Casey, and Fiorentino have the beginning to something different here, something different and also something highly entertaining.

Wizard Beach #1 (of 5)
Writer:
Shaun Simon
Artist: Conor Nolan
Colorist: Meg Casey
Letterer: Mike Fiorentino
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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.

REVIEW: 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

REVIEW: Bone Parish #3 by Cullen Bunn, Jonas Scharf, Alex Guimaraes, & Ed Dukeshire

Bone Parish #3 is out 9/26.

By Bo Stewart — Cullen Bunn is one of the best horror writers in comics. He excels at creating horrific scenarios, using touches of both the surreal as well as the ordinary. One of the best things about Bone Parish’s premise is that it allows Bunn to engage readers on both of those levels. We see surreal horror through the hallucinogenic properties of Ash (the drug at the story’s core), and we also see the more traditional, real-life horrors that led the Winter family to pursue drug production. Bone Parish #3 further examines these everyday horrors, showing how out of their league the Winter family has truly become.

A power struggle at the top continues to ail the Winters. The thing is, neither Grace (matriarch and current leader) nor her underboss/son Brae are particularly up to the task of running the family business. Grace’s loneliness leads her to seek attention in destructive ways. She abuses Ash, which allows her to relive the companionship provided to her by her deceased husband, while at the same time she is also romantically courting a would-be buyer of their operation.

Brae, meanwhile, excels at running day-to-day operations but foolishly shares trade secrets with an untrustworthy cop. Both Grace and Brae want to run the family business, but neither appear to have the acumen to run it effectively. With the cartel breathing down their necks, the Winters are starting to see exactly how steep the cost for maintaining control of Ash will be. It’s a great predicament, one that’s really driving this series forward.  

Problems with the business of the drug trade aside, in Bone Parish #3 we also start to see that no one truly understands the drug Ash itself. As we saw in #1, Ash is mysterious, capable of duplicating the life events of the dead. But what if Ash can also show us the thoughts of the living? As the drug’s creator, Lucien, says, what we do here…will give us control over both life and death. We can live forever. Our protagonists the Winters, however, don’t understand the potential of what they’re selling, and they stand to pay a steep price for their ignorance.  

This is a good place to mention the expert coloring from Alex Guimaraes. Most of the New Orleans setting in this book is colored with shades of green that lend an uneasy vibe to the Big Easy setting. The scenes where a character is abusing Ash utilize an alluring color palette of blues and purples. The end result is a simple message: Ash, good…real world, bad. Ash is selling at a rapid rate and the coloring helps inform why that’s the case by conveying how it makes its users feel.

We haven’t had a truly terrifying image since Winter Family dealer, Dante, was eaten alive during a bad Ash trip. But every panel in Bone Parish #3 is littered with tension as the stakes continue to rise with each issue. The tight linework from Jonas Scharf is crucial in making those stakes feel compelling and real.

Overall: In Bone Parish #3, the ramifications of dealing Ash are catching up with the Winters family quickly, making for a compelling and tense issue that shows readers exactly how woefully unprepared the protagonists of this story are for the challenges to come. 8.5/10

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.