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.

REVIEW: Harbinger Wars 2 #2 by Matt Kindt, Tomas Giorello, Diego Rodriguez, Renato Guedes, & Dave Sharpe

There is a level of novelty to  Harbinger Wars 2 #2  that  Marvel  and  DC  are no longer capable of reaching.

There is a level of novelty to Harbinger Wars 2 #2 that Marvel and DC are no longer capable of reaching.

By Zack QuaintanceHarbinger Wars is one of the first superhero events in a long while that feels totally justified, in large part because Valiant hasn’t overdone its crossovers. It's a luxury Marvel and DC no longer have, and it adds a level of relevance to this huge story, taking it to a significant place those larger publishers are perhaps not capable of reaching, not anymore. This all occurred to me about halfway through Harbinger Wars #2. Long-running characters were meeting/fighting on the page for the first time—what was this feeling? The story seemed...important? Maybe not quite that, but it at least seemed novel.

It was a feeling I remembered from when I was a much younger reader, and the Big 2 had a few relationships that weren’t quite as rote as they are nowadays. In recent years, event stories at those publishers have seen characters take self-aware, here we go again attitudes toward massive galactic threats. There are exceptions, of course (Hickman’s Avengers stands out), but for the most part, the major dangers of the galaxy or multiverse are met with a wink. As a younger publisher with less continuity, however, Valiant has the luxury of acting like they haven’t been here before, despite this all being a sequel to a previous event.

That to me is the single greatest strength of Matt Kindt and Tomas Giorello’s Harbinger Wars 2 #2. Not to give specific plot points away, but there were fights here that had me rooting for both sides with no idea what would happen, which is very rare for superhero comics. There were also character interactions that felt weighted and poignant, like the world depended on them, even if it was just two heads talking. That’s no easy feat, especially given one scene in particular that involved characters Kindt hasn’t recently been writing.

This issue works really well for the most part, even if Giorello’s hyper-realistic artwork felt a little out of place for characters that are usually depicted by less realistic artists, like Animalia and Faith. The range of emotions in this book is pretty stunning, though, specifically in a scene where Kindt uses a young psiot to remind us of something Marvel’s X-Men used to do better—that many of these abilities make lives worse, much much worse. It’s a brief scene of well-tread thematic space, but it’s well executed, reminding us of the human stakes behind the superhero war.

Overall: Harbinger Wars #2 has just enough action as it builds toward what is presumably a gigantic climax in the final two issues of this event. Kindt and Giorello especially excel here at giving character interactions and conflicts the weight an event story deserves. 8.0/10

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: Harbinger Wars 2 #1 by Matt Kindt, Tomas Giorello, & Diego Rodriguez

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I’ve always thought of Harbinger as Valiant’s answer to X-Men, which is, admittedly, a fairly obvious comparison to draw. Harbinger Wars 2 #1, however, was actually a really nice reminder that this franchise’s significantly more under-the-radar status allows it a degree of agility the now-hulking X-Men behemoth no longer has, and it uses that degree expertly in this issue to play upon current societal woes and concerns. Essentially, the first part of this summer’s Harbinger Wars 2 event is a poignant and engaging story, involving nearly all of Valiant’s best characters (where’s the Eternal Warrior at these days, btw?).

As it should. The Harbinger concept to me is the center of Valiant’s universe (or was until Divinity showed up, anyway), and this event is poised to treat it as such. It’s yet another tale of superheros turning against each, and as common as that has become these days, doing it convincingly is still tricky business. Without giving anything away, I’ll say this book handles it better than most in recent memory, rich as it with solid and believable motivations for the involved heroes to take their respective sides. The action of the shadowy government types here are a little harder to fathom, as they almost always are, but I digress.

But let’s keep it abstract, seeing as this is an advanced review (this book drops May 30) and I don’t go in for spoilers. Let’s get away from details and talk about the commentary. In a sense, the themes in Matt Kindt’s script are nothing we haven’t seen done or attempted by X-Men several times over the years: an outcast population, children on the run because of who they are, a government acting out of fear, a debate over what constitutes proper methods of resistance.

Kindt, however, is an incredibly nuanced writer who doesn’t need to hit us over the end with any of that to make this story compelling. He puts all those questions and themes in here seemingly as a mechanism for understanding the reasons our characters have for fighting, then he gives them all plans that start to pull them together. Each page pulls our opposed characters closer, revealing more about their motivations as it does so and setting the stage for a massive rumble to come.

There’s a cinematic quality to this story, in both its structure and scope, as well as in the way characters from various Valiant franchises are introduced, presented in big splashy panels as if they were leaving room for an applause break. Tomas Giorello hits the artwork here out of the park, as he has during previous collaborations with Kindt in Valiant’s best ongoing right now, XO Manowar.

Overall: Come for the incredibly tense and entertaining story, stay for the subtle commentary on our times—exactly as a book about outcasts persecuted by vast governmental power structures should be. This issue is all rising action, bringing in power players and stopping just short of slamming together. I can’t wait for No. 2. 9.3/10

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