Top Comics to Buy for September 26, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — It’s a week of fantastic new indie #1s, with two powerhouse books debuting from Vault Comics, and the creative team of Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk rolling out Man-Eaters, the creator-owned follow up to their excellent Mockingbird title at Marvel a couple years back now. All three of these made our top comics to buy for September 26, 2018, along with a Big 2 #1, in Justice League Odyssey.

Now, the big omission from that list is probably Heroes in Crisis #1, a book I’ve been bullish on because of the accomplished creative team. I am, however, leaving it off here for a couple of reasons: one, the marketing has been overwhelming, so much so that you’ve presumably already decided whether to buy it; two, I think it’s going to need a couple of issues to clarify things before we can make any sort of evaluation. That second one is a continuing trend as superhero storytelling remains almost ludicrously decompressed, designed for sleak trade formats rather than monthly reading.

Annnnnnyway, enough! Let’s take a look at the top comics to buy for September 26, 2018.

Top Comics to Buy for September 26, 2018

Doomsday Clock #7
Writer:
Geoff Johns
Artist:
Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
The critically acclaimed team of writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank continue the groundbreaking miniseries bringing the world of WATCHMEN to DC. In this chapter, the truth behind Dr. Manhattan's curiosity with the DC Universe is revealed as the planet teeters on the edge of the Super-War.
Why It’s Cool: Remember Doomsday Clock? Sure you do! And guess what? This issue is, simply put, the one where things start to happen. Finally, we get a much better idea of what this comic—and in a broader sense the secrets of Geoff Johns DC-reviving one-shot DC Rebirth #1—is all about.  

Fearscape #1 (Read our review!)
Writer:
Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Colorist: Vladimir Popov
Lettering: Andworld Design
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
The Fearscape is a world beyond our own, populated by manifestations of our worst fears. Once per generation, The Muse travels to Earth, discovers our greatest Storyteller, and takes them with her to the Fearscape to battles these fear-creatures on our behalf. All has been well for eons, until The Muse encounters Henry Henry, a plagiarist with delusions of literary grandeur. Mistaking him for our greatest Storyteller, she ushers him into the Fearscape. Doom follows.
Why It’s Cool: Short stories, novels, and even films do it all the time, but rarely have comics aspired to capture the insecurity and frustration of unfulfilled artistic ambitions, especially those related to writing. Fearscape #1, however, absolutely nails it, making a pair of wise choices: one, to have a protagonist who is massive talent in his own head, rather than a gifted artist waiting to be discovered; two, blending in fantastical abstract adventuring. This is a powerful book, a must-read for those interested in the art life.

Friendo #1 (Read our review!)
Writer:
Alex Paknadel
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
Leo wasn't allowed toys as a kid, but now that he's all grown up he's going to take yours. He used to play by the rules, but then governments and corporations set fire to the rules and still expected him to behave. He probably would have if it hadn't been for his new friend Jerry. See, Jerry isn't human; he's a personalised marketing VR... and he's malfunctioning. Unhinged ultraviolence from Alex Paknadel (Arcadia) and Martin Simmonds (Punks Not Dead).
Why It’s Cool: Friendo #1 is such a perfect blend of so many of the forces giving shape to our culture, from social media, to the gig economy, to the increasingly-hard-to-identify nature of marketing. It’s delivered by a fantastic creative team, too, in writer Paknadel and artist Simmonds.

Justice League Odyssey #1
Writer:
Josh Williamson
Artist: Stjepan Sejic
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Spinning out of JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE! When a cosmic menace threatens worlds beyond our own in the Ghost Sector, it falls to a new Justice League team to answer the call to battle! Cyborg, Starfire, Green Lantern Jessica Cruz and an out-of-his-element Azrael head to deep space inside a commandeered Brainiac Skull Ship. But as these wildcard teammates try to break through the impenetrable maelstrom imprisoning the desperate collection of planets, they discover something that nothing in the universe could have prepared them for: Darkseid...who says he's there to help?!
Why It’s Cool: This is the third book of DC’s red-hot new Justice League line, spinning out of the weekly event from May, No Justice, and, dare I say, this is the freshest of the three titles. It’s a cosmic book with a truncated yet interesting team, plus also heavy theological implications for dead planets. Read that again, if you must. It’s all pretty freaking cool.

Man-Eaters #1 (Read our review!)
Writer:
Chelsea Cain
Artist: Kate Niemczyk
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
A mutation in Toxoplasmosis causes menstruating women to turn into ferocious killer wildcats-easily provoked and extremely dangerous. As panic spreads and paranoia takes root, the fate of the world rides on the shoulders of one twelve-year-old girl. Part Cat People, part The Handmaid's Tale, MAN-EATERS will have everyone talking.
Why It’s Cool: Writer Chelsea Cain is one of the sharpest satirical high-profile voices in comics, catapulted to notoriety by a successful career as a prose writer, a fantastic Marvel debut a few years back on Mockingbird, and an ensuing controversy that angered all the right people. We may not be getting her Vision book from Marvel, which was to be a sequel to Tom King’s seminal run on that title, but we are getting this unrestrained and imaginative comic satire from her and Kae Niemczyk. Don’t miss out.

Wonder Woman #55
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Raul Allen and Patricia Martin
Colorist: Borja Pindado
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Then, two armies stand ready to annihilate each other, with Wonder Woman and Artemis caught in the middle, fighting for the souls of the exiled Amazons living in Bana-Mighdall! Does Diana possess the might and diplomatic prowess to convince her sisters to stop their march toward war? Who will fall beneath the flaming swords of Rustam? And more importantly, how does she make sure this doesn't happen again? Will Diana have to Occupy the Amazons?!
Why It’s Cool: This is the fifth (and, sadly, final) issue of Steve Orlando’s fill-in Wonder Woman arc, against which all future fill-in runs should probably be judged. Orlando’s time on Wonder Woman has been a treat, start to finish, and this final issue doesn’t disappoint, powered as it is by the fantastic art duo of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin.

Top New #1 Comics for September 26, 2018

  • Domino Annual #1

  • Faith Dreamside #1

  • Fantasmagoria #1

  • Harbinger Wars 2 Aftermath #1

  • Heroes in Crisis #1

  • High Heaven #1

  • Star Trek vs. Transformers #1

  • Stranger Things #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Action Comics #1003

  • Amazing Spider-Man #6

  • Batgirl #27

  • Black Panther #4

  • Bone Parish #3

  • Extermination #3

  • Flash #55

  • Justice League Dark #3

  • Long Con #3

  • Marvel 2-in-1 #10

  • Punisher #2

  • Redneck #15

  • Sentry #4

  • Shanghai Red #4

  • X-O Manowar #19


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.

How Hawkman Soars: A Five-Panel Explainer

By Zack Quaintance — Hawkman by Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch feels like a throwback (in a good way) for a couple reasons. First, it’s a story of a modest scale. This is an odd notion, given we're talking about a comic that spans all of space and time, but at its core Hawkman is a relatively simple adventure starring a character who is unraveling personal mysteries while also combating threats to the larger world. Second, it features killer artwork by Bryan Hitch.

Regarding Hitch: it’s often hard to see how the standards and conventions of a storytelling medium limit it until someone breaks them. This was true of my perception of comics in the ‘90s (a super weird decade, yet not as bad as its reputation...a topic for another day). Hitch’s work on The Authority showed me the freeing potential of excessively splashy spreads brimming with gigantic action and wide perspective. Basically, I’d never realized how claustrophobic most books felt until Hitch blew it up.

Lately I’d forgotten how much a revelation his style once was, especially since it has now become commonplace in superhero stories. Obviously, it’s not a fit for every book, and it has maybe been overdone at times (way overdone), but when used well as it is in Hawkman—look out. And so that’s what I’d like to discuss today via five-panel explainer: how Hawkman soars on the wings of old school adventuring and free-flying artwork. Let’s do it!  

Panel One - The Continuity

Like many DC heroes, Hawkman is a great character with a long and convoluted history, one that can potentially act as a barrier of entry for new readers. Venditti and Hitch realize this, and in Hawkman #1 we get this stunning panel, which orients us and conveys the basics while also establishing that this book is about our hero himself coming to terms with his background. Basically, they’re telling us relax...it’s okay to be confused. We’re heading out—together—to explore.

This killer spread from Hawkman #1 does a great job refreshing the current state of Hawkman's continuity. 

Panel Two - The Journal

From Hawkman #3, our hero pours through his journal, reminding us of the status of his quest.

This second panel is less visually-exciting, yet it’s just as important as the one above in terms of giving structure to the narrative. If that frenetic spread establishes we’re sorting out our hero’s past together, the journal acts as a device for reminding us what we’ve so far learned. It gives our protagonist an organic means of taking stock of his progress, and it gives Venditti a nice way to craft interesting narration without showing the writer’s hand in the story. It’s been well-done through three issues, and I'm hoping we’ll see more of it moving forward.

Panel Three - The Museum

Not to go too far into the story, but this book is about Hawkman learning he’s been reincarnated not just over time but also throughout space. In any given issue, the story goes to another planet, another time, and then back to present day. It’s a lot and it could become unwieldy...if Venditti and Hitch weren’t so good at creating pedestrian visits to things like subways and museums. Basically, this book positions Hawkman as the Indiana Jones of the DCU, and so it needs the cleaned up scenes where Indie is curating or teaching classes. So far, we’ve gotten them done well. This panel is a personal favorite.

The significant of an epic quest can sometimes get lost if there's nothing present to ground a character, which Venditti and Hitch do well in this museum scene from Hawkman #2.

Panel Four - The Monsters

An old school adventure comic book is nothing without its monsters, and Hawkman is no exception. This was the hardest panel to pick because there were so many good choices, but I went with giant angry ape (apologies to giant angry T-Rex and giant angry flock of automaton birdmen). This is classic Hitch, with larger than life kinetic artwork that explodes through panels and off pages. Love it.

What's an adventure that travels through space and time without giant angry monsters? Scene from Hawkman #1.

Perhaps the most important panels in the entire series are those in which Hawkman takes to the sky. Artwork from Hawkman #3.

Panel Five - The Skies

The best visual bits of this book, however, are the open skies...as they should be in a story about a flying character. There are plenty of closeup action shots, sure, but Hitch and Venditti often pull the theoretical camera back to show us what a speck our hero is against the vastness of the sky he moves through. This framing is used often and clearly not meant to diminish his stature, which it really doesn’t—we’re never more than a panel or two away from him hitting a dinosaur or something with his mace—but instead it aims to show us the freedom of his explorations, the limitless nature of his life and his journey, and it wildly succeeds.

To wrap up, I’ll say that through three issues Hawkman has established itself as a welcome addition to DC’s superhero line, a book that flies a bit beneath the radar, content to function on its own as a rewarding and good-looking read, hard to predict and loaded with mystery. It remains to be seen if the creative team can take the protagonist to meaningful places through a prolonged run, but Venditti has a good track record with long-form superheroics (see X-O Manowar and the recently-concluded Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps), while someone in Burbank deserves a hearty pat on the back for fitting Hitch’s artwork to this character and story.

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

REVIEW: Black Badge #1 by Matt Kindt, Tyler Jenkins, Hilary Jenkins, & Jim Campbell

Black Badge #1 is a polished and confident debut from the same team behind Grass Kings.

By Zack Quaintance — Black Badge #1 is writer Matt Kindt and artist Tyler Jenkins follow up to Grass Kings, and, at first glance, it seems to be a gentler story, one about a group of scouts on a special trip to faraway South Korea. Like its predecessor (and like most comics, really), however, there is also a darker complexity at work here.

There are a few layers to this book. There’s the premise: our heroes are part of an elite troop of boy scouts that the U.S. government sends on covert missions, kind of like green berets with a deceptive and innocent veneer. There’s the thematic interests: merit badges here seem to be standing in for ornamental and ultimately meaningless life achievements, things we convince ourselves we must obtain because we’re told that’s what we should want. And there’s an examination of what it means to be the good scout, or in this case, soldier.

Black Badges #1 is very much a straightforward and well-done introduction to this story. It’s an engaging read, a polished #1 comic that never stumbles by over-explaining who are heroes are, which does the double work here of leaving room for the creators to later build in secrets. We get a four panel grid in which a bully underestimates each of them, saying things like, You brought everything you need? Your tedd bear in there? And, Willy. Dude. you need to lay off the scout snacks. Typical bully snark that shows us how our elite team will be both perceived and underestimated.

This excellent four-panel grid does a great job telling us about our protagonists without feeling like an info dump.

This first issue is well-told, an effective and entertaining means of learning who are heroes are, what they do, and, in part, why they do it. It works well as a hook, although the exact direction of the plot is still fuzzy. There definitely seems to be an exploration of morality in the offing, one that might use the age of the characters to explore idealism as well as the way children are often treated as invisible non-actors (our team’s secret weapon). Previews of future issues also hint at the book taking a look at foreign policy, and they've definitely set up a great lens to do just that. I certainly trust Kindt and Jenkins too, especially after the success they had with Grass Kings, which had a less engaging premise, at least on its surface.

Overall: Black Badge #1 seems to be the start of another great series by Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins. This first issue has all the exposition we need plus some intriguing hints into its thematic interests, yet it never feels like an info dump. This is a confident and polished debut issue, one that hints at big things in store. 8.0/10

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

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

ADVANCED REVIEW: Fearscape #1 by Ryan O’Sullivan, Andrea Mutti, & Vladimir Popov

Fearscape #1 is out Sept. 26, 2018.

By Zack Quaintance — Fearscape #1 is the latest new series from fast-rising indie publisher Vault Comics, with hints of a diverse range of stories about stories, from movies like Midnight in Paris to famous cartoon shorts like Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck (Google it, you’re likely familiar…). This comic is smart and unique, and it pushes the limits of the sequential graphic storytelling medium, deploying a strong literary voice along with a concept that ranks among the best of today’s creator-owned comic wave.

It’s one part Saga, Monstress, or Wic + Div, and it’s one part that killer short story you read in The New Yorker, maybe by Zadie Smith, T.C. Boyle, or Lauren Groff. It’s an amalgam of your favorite graphic novels and that conversation you had last week with that annoying guy in tweed at your friend’s dinner party, the one who kept referencing his MFA.

Phew. That’s an onslaught of gimmicky descriptors, but this book grows from, speaks to, and stands upon mankind’s storytelling traditions. As such, references are perhaps the best means of giving readers an idea of what they’re in for when they open this comic. Now then, let’s get granular and go into Fearscapes’ plot, strengths, and best lines, shall we?

Plot: An otherworldly being called The Muse comes to take humanity’s greatest storyteller to The Fearscape, a realm of dark magic where human fears exist as living creatures. That storyteller is tasked with overcoming the greatest of all fears, thereby freeing humanity from them. The Muse comes for a venerable fantasy writer and instead finds Henry Henry (perfect failed author name, btw), a fraud who is busy stealing a manuscript from the home of the aforementioned famous writer, who is Henry’s friend/benefactor and is also sick and dying. It’s a lot, but Andrea Mutti’s artwork is clear and imaginative, and it orients the reader, while writer Ryan O’Sullivan makes excellent use of authoritive narration, which brings us to Fearscape #1’s single greatest strength...

...its voice, which is just pretentious enough to remind us what type of guy Henry Henry is (seriously, perfect name) without making us totally hate him, although holy wow is it close. Voice does so much work in this story, conveying that our main dude is a personification of imposter syndrome, oozing insecurity with his pretentiousness cranked to 11. It remains to be seen if the creators can emotionally vest us in the guy, but for now the intrigue and imagination is so compelling it doesn’t matter.

So, let’s get into some of best lines, including: All authors are ultimately translators; endlessly rewording stories and ideas we’ve heard countless times before.

And this resentful take on genre writing: Twenty-seven novels. All of them fantasy. All of them set in the same trope-ridden dragon-infested world.

Finally, this shot at a particularly loathsome subclass of human: Yet, despite this, we shall still find ourselves opposed by the casual reader and, even worse, its mutated older sibling, the critic.

Overall: A nigh-perfect debut, a unique comic that pushes the boundaries of sequential graphic storytelling. Fearscape #1 is one part killer creator-owned comic, one part famous literary short story, and 100 percent not to be missed.  10/10

Fearscape #1 is available Sept. 26, 2018.

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

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

Top Comic Book Previews for the Week of July 30

By Zack Quaintance — Our previews feature is back after a week hiatus during our trip to San Diego. Last week we did, however, roundup our picks for SDCC 2018’s 10 Coolest Comics Announcements...so check that out if you haven’t already.

Anyway, no use in belaboring it...on to the previews!

*Preview of the Week*
The Sons of El Topo Volume One: Cain OGN
Writer: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Artist: José Ladrönn
Publisher: Boom! Studios
More Info: December 2018
This is a hardcover original graphic novel from legendary filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (Dune) and virtuosic illustrator José Ladrönn (Incredible Hulk) that continues the 1970 Mexican Acid Western film written, scored, directed by and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky himself. This sequel, arriving in stores December 2018, tells the story of El Topo—a bandit without limits and a man with no moral compass. But when his journey through the arid west brought him face to face with a series of rogue outcasts, he found enlightenment in the unlikeliest place and was forever transformed, becoming a holy vessel imbued with the power to perform miracles. This was a journey that took him far from his first born son, Cain, and brought about the birth of Abel.
Our Take: We love Jodorwsky (as much for his films as for his candid appearance in the all-time great art documentary Jodorwsky’s Dune), and while this presumably means an end to any chance of Jodo making a cinematic sequel to the first film, his comics are always imaginative and worthwhile. Oh, and the Ladrönn art is is just stellar.

Blackbird #1
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Jen Bartel
Publisher: Image Comics
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Oct. 3
An all-new ongoing series from fan-favorite writer SAM HUMPHRIES (Harley Quinn, Nightwing) and red-hot artist JEN BARTEL! In this neo-noir fantasy, Nina Rodriguez is positive that a secret magic world ruled by ruthless cabals is hiding just beneath the veneer of Los Angeles. The problem: everyone thinks she’s crazy. The bigger problem: she’s not crazy—she’s right. Can she unravel the mystery before the Great Beast catches up with her?
Our Take: Oooooo, shiny. Sam Humphries sensibilities and Jen Bartel’s art are such a wonderful fit, and look how nice it is washed over with all that neon. We’re not entirely sure what neo-noir fantasy means, but it looks like we’re in for some big magic fight in hella trendy LA. So, that’s cool.

Bone Parish #2
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Jonas Scharf
Publisher: Boom! Studios
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Aug. 29
As a drug made from the ashes of the dead continues to spread across New Orleans, the Winters family is forced to defend their turf from the encroaching drug cartels. But some mysterious deaths could threaten everyone in New Orleans...
Our Take: Cards on the table...we haven’t read Bone Parish #1 just yet, but it was one of those books that half our Twitter feed (roughly) turned out to tell us to read. So, we’re on board with that and we’ll get to it when we have chance, plus also this second issue, too.

Harbinger Wars 2 Aftermath #1
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Adam Polina
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Sept. 26
The power's back online and the fighting is over... but who are the real victors of HARBINGER WARS 2, and what was truly lost in the carnage? For those who survived the terrible onslaught - and who must now witness the devastating aftereffects of their actions - will there ever be peace again? As the seismic summer event of 2018 comes to a close, Eisner Award-nominated writer Matt Kindt (X-O MANOWAR, ETERNITY) sorts through the rubble of the most brutal confrontation ever felt in the Valiant Universe - and discover what lies beyond the bloodshed!
Our Take: It’s all in the solicit, isn’t it? Who ARE the real victors? We’ve enjoyed this event quite a bit (more than most Big 2 Events, incidentally), and what kind of savage would read and like an entire event and bail for the aftermath? Not us….not us.

Valiant High #4
Writer: Daniel Kibblesmith
Artist: Derek Charm
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Aug. 1
Save the last dance! Homecoming is here! For the students of Valiant High - the super-powered preparatory academy where tomorrow's heroes learn what it takes to save the world - that means that the biggest night of their young lives is almost upon them...and that the Immortal Enemy is finally ready to make his move! But as Faith, Colin "Ninjak" King, Peter Stanchek, and Amanda "Livewire" McKee try to stir unity amongst their classmates, can teamwork triumph over ancient evil? From rising star Daniel Kibblesmith (Lockjaw) and Eisner Award winner Derek Charm (Jughead), this side-splitting, all-ages reimagining of Valiant's greatest heroes is going out in style!
Our Take: Save the last dance, indeed! Like the Harbinger Wars 2 event serving as a refreshing alternative to Big 2 events, this 4-part series has been a refreshing proximation of Big 2 fun and irreverent character takes. Kibblesmith is pretty funny guy, both in terms of writing comics and on Twitter, too.

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

ADVANCED REVIEW: Hot Lunch Special #1 by Eliot Rahal, Jorge Fornes, & Taylor Esposito

There is a very personal feel to this story about mafia debts and severed appendages.

By Zack Quaintance — To join in on the food motif of Hot Lunch Special #1, let me start by saying this comic book feels like a main course of generational immigrant success story with a healthy side of Fargo-esque Midwestern crime noir, plus just a taste of a cautionary mafia power struggle. That’s a big meal (end of the food references, I swear), but it’s one that writer Eliot Rahal and artist Jorge Fornes serve up (damn it) expertly.

I liked Hot Lunch Special #1 quite a bit, and the main reason why is that there was a compelling level of realism here, one that at times made it feel almost like a memoir, although not quite because readers are never that far removed from a cops or crooks scene, or gasp a severed finger in a sandwich (that’s page 1, actually). Credit for this realism is, of course, due in large part to Rahal’s script, which I’m fairly certain was heavily informed by his familial history, but it’s also due to Fornes artwork, which strives for and achieves an immersive and intricate level of detail in even the book’s quietest moments—especially in the book’s quietest moments.

Fornes also does some great work with his colors, using them as so many masters have to make clear which scenes were set in the distant past for an older generation (one word: sepia) and which are in modern times.

There’s certainly a lot to pack into this debut, yet the book doesn’t fall victim to a frequent first issue pet peeve of mine: over exposition. No, there are no lengthy exchanges between two talking heads filling in how grandma met grandpa or how the family business first became entangled with organized crime (not a spoiler...all of that was in the solicit). Instead, Rahal and Fornes expertly careen this story through space and time, sparing us any over-inflation and keeping the narrative tight. It works so effectively that I halfway wondered if this was an oversized issued as I read. Put simply, a lot goes down.

But it’s all manageable and the hands of the creators go largely unnoticed. By the time the third act here came to its excellent cliffhanger of a conclusion, I felt like I knew who our main stakeholders were (especially the fantastic antagonist) and, more importantly, I felt like I had a reason to care about the story’s central family. I am—groan—ready for a second helping.  

Overall: Hot Lunch Special #1 takes a very personal generational story and mashes it up with  Fargo-esque Midwestern crime noir. It’s a quiet and grounded comic mostly, one that also feels taut and dangerous by its end. This first issue is promising, an excellent start for what may prove to be a unique book. 9.0/10

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

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

Top Previews for the Week of July 16

By Zack Quaintance — This is an odd week for previews, with publishers and publicists focused on the upcoming San Diego Comic Con, which starts Thursday. News, of course, has begun to leak with the event's schedule and panel announcements, but deliberate releases of interior art (the back bone of this got-danged feature) have been greatly reduced.

But! We have still managed to find five solid choices that are worth including in our weekly roundup, as well as several others that warranted consideration but fell slightly short. This week we have a triple blast from one of this site's favorite indie publishers, Valiant Entertainment, as well as a look at new forthcoming book from another publisher this is quickly rising in the industry, AfterShock Comics.

Oh yes, and we will be in attendance this coming week at San Diego Comic Con...so look for Tweets/maybe even a site update about all of that!

In the meantime, our regular content will continue as scheduled!

*Preview of the Week*
Black Badge #1
Writer: 
Matt Kindt
Artist: Tyler Jenkins
Publisher: Boom! Studios
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Aug. 8, 2018
Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins, the team behind Grass Kings, reunite for a new ongoing series about a top-secret, elite branch of boy scouts tasked by the government to take on covert missions. Among their organization, the Black Badges are the elite; the best of the best. They are feared even by the other badges. The missions they take are dangerous, and they will only get worse as their leader's attention is split between their mission objectives and tracking down a lost team member. A team member who disappeared years ago, presumed dead. A haunting look at foreign policy, culture wars and isolationism through the lens of kids who know they must fix the worlds that adults have broken.
Our Take: Holy cow, we were on board with this as soon as we heard it was the same creative team from the recently-ended book Grass Kings, but a haunting look at foreign policy, culture wards and isolationism through the lens fo kids who know they must fix what adults have broken...? And written by Matt Kindt? This is one of our most hotly-anticipated books of the summer. 

THE LAST SPACE RACE #1
Writer: Peter Calloway
Artist: Alex Shibao
Colorist: Natalia Marques
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Oct. 09, 2019
It started as an anomaly. An outlier in the noise that’s so common in astronomical data. But the truth sends the United States—and the world—careening into what will become humanity’s LAST SPACE RACE. Leading the effort for the United States is one man, Sasha Balodis. A fun-loving tech billionaire turned aerospace titan, Sasha’s seemingly perfect life has been gripped by recent tragedy. Building and launching the most expensive, most ambitious and most important project in history—well, it gives him something to live for again. There’s only one thing standing in his way: his arch-rival and chief aerospace competitor, Roger Freeman.
Our Take: This book wonders what would happen if an extinction level threat started flying our way through space and the government was unprepared...and then it answers that by suggesting tech billionaires would have to step up. It's a frighteningly real premise, one that is being executed by TV veteran Petter Calloway (Legion, Cloak & Dagger, Under the Dome). Basically, we wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being one of those comics fast-tracked for TV adaptation.

Ninja-K #9
Writer: 
Christos Gage
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / July 18, 2018
It all comes down to this! Ninjak – plus his black-ops backup squad of Livewire, Punk Mambo, Doctor Mirage, and GIN-GR – have been sent into Mexico City to destroy an indestructible target! But their quarry – The Jonin, the Ninja Programme’s seemingly ageless former sensei – has assembled his own strike force of improbable powers to meet them head on! Now, the biggest hero-versus-villain showdown of 2018 is about to reach a fever pitch in the stunning finale to “THE COALITION” from renowned writer Christos Gage (Netflix’s Daredevil) and incendiary artist Juan José Ryp (BRITANNIA)!
Our Take: Ah, compared to the full-on mayhem about to break out in the next issue of Harbinger Wars 2, this book seems like it will be a nice reminder of a simpler time when sometimes Valiant characters got along. Also, we are straight-up there for it any time Juan Jose Ryp draws the Eternal Warrior, or really any Valiant characters, come to think of it...

Quantum and Woody! #8
Writer: 
Eliot Rahal
Artist: Joe Eisma
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / July 18, 2018
Quantum and Woody just barely escaped from a surreal atomic realm…and, unfortunately, they’ve brought some pieces of it back with them! As dangerous new threats plunge their city even deeper into chaos, they’ll soon realize that they have bigger problems and bigger grudges than ever before – now if the brothers are anywhere near one another, their powers stop working! The world’s worst superhero team is going to have to go it alone as “SEPARATION ANXIETY” presents a super-powered stress test, courtesy of rising star Eliot Rahal (The Paybacks) and Eisner Award-nominated artist Joe Eisma (Morning Glories, Archie)!
Our Take: Quantum and Woody! is currently one of our favorite things happening at Valiant, as we've detailed in our reviews of Quantum and Woody! #6 and Quantum and Woody! #7, and now the book comes to a full-stop jumping on point with a great new artist, Joe Eisma. In his first two issues, writer Eliot Rahal has shown he can put these character through a wide-range of ordeals. Now, he seems to be returning them back a bit to their status quo, having expanded what's possible within this book beforehand.

Shadowman #5
Writer: 
Andy Diggle
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / July 18, 2018
As roving gangs ravage the landscape of post-Civil War America, there’s little hope and even fewer chances of escape for those caught in their clutches…except in the shadows! Enter: Marius Boniface – first bearer of the Shadowman loa and Jack Boniface’s own great-great-great grandfather! But as the sun sets, the Shadowman’s coming will lead to more than just a rebellion… Unstuck in time, Jack is about to come face-to-face with the first to bear his curse, and will finally learn the truth about the Shadowman legacy’s connection to his family’s doomed bloodline!
Our Take: Valiant is our favorite underrated publisher, and Shadowman is our favorite underrated character within that underrated publisher. It's all subjective, of course, but damned if that's not how we feel about all of this. Andy Diggle's run on this book has been perfectly morbid and steeped in the occult, and Doug Braithwaite art is always impressive.

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

Top 5 Avengers Eras: A Look at Avengers Teams of the Past

960962_1.jpg

By Alex Wedderien The Avengers may be a massive name in comics and entertainment now, but that wasn’t always the case. Created in the early ‘60s as a way to fill a slot left by a late issue of Daredevil, The Avengers are a product of Stan Lee smashing together some of Marvel’s most popular heroes to form the company’s first super team. From those humble beginnings, the team grew from plucky upstarts to comic book icons.  

Now the basis for a multi-billion dollar movie franchise and a major part of Marvel’s most-recent publishing initiative under comic scribe Jason Aaron, The Avengers look to be in good hands for years to come.

In looking ahead, though, it’s important to also remember comics are a unique medium, and along with their headstrong march into the future, they always keep an eye on the past. With that bright future for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in mind, I'm taking a look today at The Avengers of the past, specifically at the best lineups of years gone by. These are the five bestin my humble opinion of course.

5. The Late '80s Avengers

By the late 80s, The Avengers team was in flux. Taking over for a beloved run which featured what many people feel is the definitive Avengers lineup, Roger Stern and John Buscema decided to mix in some lesser-known heroes to give their book a new dynamic.

Boasting a lineup that featured Monica Rambeau, Black Knight, Dr. Druid, and Namor among the likes of veteran Avengers Captain America and Thor, the run also includes classic storylines like Avengers Under Siege, which sees a Helmut Zemo-led Masters of Evil destroy Avengers Mansion.

4. The West Coast Avengers

If Avengers is the cooler older brother, West Coast Avengers was definitely the scrappier younger brother. Born in the early ‘80s, West Coast Avengers became the first ever spinoff of The Avengers, as well as an answer to the question, Why are all superheroes in New York City?

Based in Los Angeles and featuring a unique roster, the West Coast team was lead by Hawkeye and comprised of Wonder Man, Tigra, Mockingbird, Jim Rhodes’ Iron Man, and eventually even Moon Knight. West Coast Avengers served as a breath of fresh air alongside an Avengers lineup that had remained pretty consistent for the past decade, but by no means were they an inferior version of the main team.

Throughout their 10-year run, the West Coast team battled important Avengers foes like Ultron before it was eventually folded back into the main lineup.  

3. The Late '60s/Early '70s Avengers

Being the follow-up to a beloved debut run can be daunting, but when the duo you’re following is Jack Kirby and Stan Lee it might as well be an impossible task. That’s just what Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Sal and John Buscema walked into with their late ‘60s/early ‘70s run on Avengers.

When it was all said and done, however, they would create one of the best Avengers eras of all-time, their greatest villain in Ultron, iconic stories like The Kree/Skrull War and the debut of one of the team's most beloved heroes, the android Vision.

Along the way Thomas and crew would add a returning Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye, as well as the debuts of Hercules, Vision, and Black Panther to the team, leading the small core of heroes to some of their most classic storylines.

2. Captain America Returns

It was clear in the first three issues of The Avengers that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would need a leader to rally its members. More of a ragtag group than an inspirational team of heroes, the original Avengers were a loose alliance who seemed like they could turn on each other at a moment's notice.   

That all changed with the discovery of the long frozen Captain America, who would shape not only the history of The Avengers, but superhero comics themselves. Almost immediately the team became a unified force under Cap’s tutelage and would go on to become the juggernaut it is today. Simply put, it all started here.

1. New Avengers Vol. 1

New Avengers came directly after the disbandment of the original team in Avengers: Disassembled, and it explored the idea of having a group of characters who had largely never been Avengers previously. Fan Favorites like Spider-Man, Wolverine, Daredevil, Iron First, and Ms. Marvel bolstered the popular lineup that quickly became known for its strong characters and frenetic action.   

Bringing the team back to the forefront in a big way after The Avengers had slipped out of mainstream comics consciousness, New Avengers was the start of The Avengers renaissance that continues to this day.

Alex Wedderien is a writer and pop culture journalist. Find him on Twitter @criticismandwit.

ADVANCED REVIEW: Euthanauts #1 by Tini Howard, Nick Robles, & Aditya Bidikar

Euthanauts #1  is an intriguing comic that lives up to its incredible cover art.

Euthanauts #1 is an intriguing comic that lives up to its incredible cover art.

Tini Howard and Nick Robles’ Euthanuats #1 first caught my attention weeks ago with its title and cover. In tandem, the two evoke thoughts of a woman journeying through death, body withered to bones as her head and mind are protected by a glass bauble, one that glows with life and attracts insects like a light bulb. My interest was bolstered further by the books presence on IDW’s imprint, Black Crown, from former long-time Vertigo editor Shelly Bond. I’ve enjoyed all Black Crown offerings (more here), but it was another book by Howard that really stood out to me: Assassinistas, a collaboration with the legendary Gilbert Hernandez that applies complex modern family dynamics to an archetypal femme fatale death squad.

Whereas Assassinistas is more of a character study, one laced with appropriate bits of humor and modest bouts of action, Euthanuats is better-described as an abstract and surreal walk through our fears, expectations and attitudes around death. Our protagonist is an alienated receptionist who works in a funeral home and is dissatisfied with her life and friendships. For the first two-thirds of the book, the story grounds us in this struggle, functioning well as a slice-of-life comic.

Howard’s characterization is strong, with effective interior monologue lines like, “I was thinking about how weird it is that I don’t like my friends and they don’t really like me—when I first saw her…”, as well as snappy character banter, such as, “It’s like, communism works just fine, you just have to really, really likeable.” Robles art is also wonderful, detailed and realistic, glazed over with a fitting color palette that manages to be forlorn without tipping into morbid or noir.

Nick Robles' art in  Euthanauts #1  depicts a non-conventional side of death.

Nick Robles' art in Euthanauts #1 depicts a non-conventional side of death.

It is, however, the plot point that catapults us into the third act that really establishes this book as something special. Not to give too much away, but reality blurs into a world of ethereal surrealism, seemingly a realm of death, or near death. It's unclear, and the book makes a wise decision to keep readers disoriented. I’ve been reading comics for two decades and change, and as such I’ve seen an excessive number of visual depictions of death, limbo, the afterlife, etc. I’ve rarely seen one as intriguing as in Euthanuats, which I take as a testament to both the imagination and research that went into this story.

This has already been a fantastic year for comics as unfettered explorations of nigh-universal fears, concerns, or hang ups (see Eternity Girl, Mister Miracle, and several inward-facing horror books), but Euthanauts charges headlong at the most towering concern of all—death—and emerges with a fascinating and beautifully-told story. I barely have a guess for where this book is headed next, and I love that.

Overall: Engrossing and complex, Euthanauts is the best book yet from former Vertigo editor Shelly Bond’s new IDW imprint, Black Crown. Howard’s script dives confidentiality into a universal concern—death—as Robles' ethereal visuals blur reality. An intriguing and gorgeous comic, this one is highly recommended. 9.0/10

Euthanauts #1 is out July 18. Learn more about it here!

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

A Handy Guide for DC's Big comiXology Memorial Day Sale

Midnighter Vol. 1  is one of our top picks, available for $5.99.

Midnighter Vol. 1 is one of our top picks, available for $5.99.

I am scared to count how much money I’ve spent on DC’s Memorial Day Sale on comiXology, which runs through Monday. Figuring out my budget is a problem for Next Month Me. I also suspect I’m not done yet and I’ll end up making more last minute purchases as the weekend winds down.

To that end, I’d like to enable all of you to spend money along with me. This is America, you know. All told there are 1,000 titles, most of which are marked down to $5.99 while a few others to $4.99. Deciding what to buy can be a bit overwhelming, which is why I’ve compiled this Handy Guide for Last Minute DC comiXology Memorial Day Sale Shopping. Behold!

Below you will find five categories: my top 10 overall picks, a list of significant runs to invest in, some essential classics it’s nice to have, the books that offer the biggest savings, and a quick list of all the $4.99 books.

Hope you find this helpful, and feel free to hit me up on Twitter to let me know what you bought!

Top 10 Overall Picks

This list skews toward books I’ve perceived as underrated or under-discussed recently, with my hope being readers will find new discoveries. I could have put All-Star Superman or Watchmen here, but how helpful would that be, right?

1. The Flintstones Vols. 1 & 2
The Flintstones by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh is one of the sharpest comic book satires ever, commenting on everything from the military-industrial complex to artistic struggles to consumerism. And it’s somehow also about The Flintstones. It takes a leap of faith, but if some or any of what I described sounds appealing, I highly recommend doing it. Total Price: $11.98

2. The Wild Storm Vol. 1
Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt are doing something ambitious and special with this new take on the old Wildstorm universe and characters, which is fresh and stands on its own yet brimming with plenty of nods to long-time readers. The sister title, Wild Storm: Michael Cray by Bryan Edward Hill and N. Steven Harris, is just as good (but, alas, not on sale). Total Price: $5.99

3. Green Arrow: Rebirth Vols. 1, 2, 3, & 4
I know, I know...this book has already gotten much attention, but I just had to include Benjamin Percy’s Rebirth Green Arrow run here. If you want to know why I like it so much, you can find that here. Total Price: $23.96

4. The Omega Men: The End is Here
Before Tom King was Mister Miracle Tom King, or Batman Tom King, or even The Vision Tom King, he was The Omega Men Tom King. This is the book that first brought one of the best current writers to my attention. If you’ve enjoyed his high-profile recent work, you’ll surely appreciate this too, like watching a rookie have a breakout game in sports. Total Price: $5.99

5. Cassandra Cain as Batgirl Vols. 1, 2, & 3
Just like Wally West is always and forever my Flash, Cassandra Cain is my Batgirl. She was, after all, in the costume when I read my first Batgirl comics. If you liked her in James Tynion’s recently-concluded Detective Comics run, you’ll like this book, too. Total Price: $17.97

6. New Super Man Vols. 1 & 2
This title is ending soon, but Gene Luen Yang’s New Super Man—a Chinese teenager genetically enhanced by his government—has been a highlight of DC’s Rebirth. It’s also one of the few titles from the initiative that takes refreshing risks rather than leaning on foundations of long-established characters. Total Price: $11.98

7. Midnighter Vols. 1 & 2 & Midnighter & Apollo Vol. 1
Midnighter, which starts in the New 52 and extends into Rebirth with the six-issue mini Midnighter & Apollo, is the book that first brought Steve Orlando to my attention. It’s complete with faith in the reader and nuanced character beats that make Orlando’s most recent work—Justice League of America and Crude—so favorably-reviewed on our site. Total Price: $17.97

8. Superman and the Legion of Super Heroes
There is a surprising amount of commentary about nationalism in this book (planetism, technically) that feels searingly relevant today. If you’re dying for the Legion to return to the post-Rebirth DCU, this quick read might just tide you over. Total Price: $5.99

9. Swamp Thing (2016)
The last few months of the New 52/DC You were a mess, as the publisher was aggressively looking to the future. Swamp Thing (2016), however, was a standout, and it also ended up being one of the last stories the character’s creator, Len Wein, ever told. Total Price: $5.99

10. Batman: New Gotham Vols. 1 & 2
I may have nostalgia bias here, seeing as this collects the first run of Detective Comics I read as a kid, but I’ve always thought Greg Rucka’s time on the title was underrated. It’s set in the aftermath of No Man’s Land, and it does a great job of depicting the central tenants of Batman’s world, including Bruce Wayne, Gotham City, and the GCPD. Total Price: $11.98

All Star-Superman  is essential reading.

All Star-Superman is essential reading.

7 Essential Classics

This section is dedicated to books that all comic fans should own. I have many of these in hardcopy—and, as always, I advise you to support your local comic shop/community by purchasing in that format, too—but it doesn’t hurt to have digital copies, you know, in case you need to clean panel shots to post on Twitter.

  • All-Star Superman - $4.99
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - $5.99
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths - $5.99
  • Kingdom Come - $4.99
  • Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? - $5.99
  • Watchmen - $4.99
  • Wonder Woman by George Perez Vols. 1 & 2 - $11.98 Total

 

8 Significant Runs to Invest In

The section above is mostly standalone books, so let’s look now at some of the best runs in this sale, which range in size from three volumes to as many as nine.

  • Aquaman (by Geoff Johns) Vols. 1, 2, 3, & 4 - $23.96
  • Batman (by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo) Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, & 9 - $53.91
  • Deathstroke: Rebirth Vols. 1, 2, & 3 - $17.97
  • Green Arrow Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, & 9 - $53.91
  • JLA Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, & 9 - $53.91
  • Justice League Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8 - $47.92
  • New Teen Titans Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, & JC - $53.91
  • Secret Six Vols. 1, 2, 3, & 4 - $23.96 & New 52 Secret Six Vols. 1 & 2 - $11.98

All the Biggest Savings

These books cost $29.99 or more but have been marked down for this sale to $5.99.

  • Aquaman: A Celebration of 75 Years $29.99
  • Aquaman: The Atlantis Chronicles $34.99
  • Batgirl: A Celebration of 50 Years $29.99
  • Batman by Azzarello and Risso $29.99
  • Batman: Eternal Vol. 1 $29.99
  • Batman: Eternal Vol. 2 $29.99
  • Batman: Eternal Vol. 3 $29.99
  • Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years $29.99
  • Batman: Ego and Other Tails $29.99
  • Batman: War Games Book 2 $29.99
  • Catwoman: A Celebration of 75 Years $29.99
  • DC Universe of John Byrne $29.99
  • DC Universe of Mike Mignola $29.99
  • DC: New Frontier $39.99
  • Green Arrow by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino Deluxe Edition $39.99
  • Green Arrow: A Celebration of 75 Years $29.99
  • Green Lantern: A Celebration of 75 Years $29.99
  • Justice League of America: The Nail $29.99
  • Justice Society of America: A Celebration of 75 Years $29.99
  • Lex Luthor: A Celebration of 75 Years $29.99
  • Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years $29.99
  • Midnighter: The Complete Wildstorm Series $29.99
  • Shazam! A Celebration of 75 Years $29.99
  • Superboy & The Legion of Superheroes Vol. 1 $34.99
  • Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years $29.99
  • Superman: Doomed $39.99
  • Swamp Thing by Scott Snyder $39.99
  • Tales of the Batman: Archie Goodwin $29.99
  • Tales of the Batman: Carmine Infantino $34.99
  • Tales of the Batman: Don Newton $29.99
  • Tales of the Batman: Gene Colan Vol. 1 $29.99
  • Tales of the Batman: Gene Colan Vol. 2 $29.99
  • Tales of the Batman: Gerry Conway Vol. 1 $34.99
  • Tales of the Batman: JH Williams III $34.99
  • Tales of the Batman: Len Wein $34.99
  • Teen Titans: A Celebration of 50 Years $29.99
  • The Flash: A Celebration of 75 Years $29.99
  • The Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years $29.99
  • The Multiversity Deluxe Edition $34.99
  • The New 52: Futures End Vol. 1 $29.99
  • Wonder Woman by John Byrne Vol. 1 $29.99
  • Wonder Woman: A Celebration of 75 Years $29.99
  • Zatana by Paul Dini $29.99

All the $4.99 Books

If $5.99 still sounds too rich for your blood, worry not! A handful of books have been marked down even lower, and most of them are classics like All Star Superman, Batman: Hush, Kingdom Come, and Watchmen.

Kingdom Come  is on sale for $4.99.

Kingdom Come is on sale for $4.99.

  • All Star Superman $4.99
  • Aquaman by Geoff Johns Vol. 1 $4.99
  • Batman: Hush $4.99
  • Batman/The Flash: The Button: $4.99
  • Doom Patrol Vol. 1 $4.99
  • Flashpoint $4.99
  • Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest $4.99
  • JSA by Geoff Johns Book 1 $4.99
  • Justice League New 52 Vol. 1 $4.99
  • Kingdom Come $4.99
  • Planetary Book 1 $4.99
  • Teen Titans by Geoff Johns Book One $4.99
  • The Legion by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning $4.99
  • Watchmen $4.99
  • Wonder Woman by Brian Azzareto Vol. 1 $4.99
  • Zatana by Paul Dini $4.99

 

That’s it for our guide. I’m sure a good many of you have already poked around, but Hopefully, our little list gave you some new ideas. I know writing it motivated me to spend more money (not like that’s hard with comics—I have a problem).

Anyway, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, and we’ll see you next week for some great reviews of this week’s books, plus a list of New Comic Discoveries for May 2018 and maybe some other content if an idea strikes our fancy.

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