As you may or may not have noticed, there was no comics column last week and for that I am sincerely sorry. I went on a trip to slowly torture myself by jogging on pavement for over five miles only to be rewarded with Michelob Ultra. Who the hell wants to drink Michelob Ultra? Maybe I was supposed to pour it on myself in celebration? Fuck that. Just hand me my banana and chocolate milk so I can celebrate like a man.
Where were we? Oh yes, let’s read those comics!
Comics to Look Forward to This Week
Archie #4 by Mark Waid, Annie Wu, Andre Szymanowicz, Jen Vaughn and Jack Morelli (Archie Comics)
Only a few years ago I had absolutely no interest in an Archie comic of any sort, save that Archie Meets the Punisher [link] comic from back ‘94. The goofy jokes just didn’t do anything for me when I got back into comics after college. I have nothing against all-ages comics, or anything all-ages for that matter, but Archie just always seemed stale and tired.
Of course, as you saw a few weeks ago [link] the publisher Archie Comics seemed to agree, looked at their comics line with a fresh eye and decided to mix things up. They started the update with a refreshingly light-handed introduction of a gay character into the Archie universe, followed by the comic that piqued my interest, Afterlife with Archie. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina soon followed, and now those are two solid horror comics I devour each time a new issue hits the stands.
Then Archie Comics decided to reboot their flagship title Archie – the first time in the comic’s history (which in the world of comics is actually pretty rare) – with Mark Waid writing and Fiona Staples drawing and I found myself picking up a third Archie Comics book almost against my will. Waid has found a way to propel Riverdale into the 21st Century without superficially tacking on modernity for the sake of trying to connect with the young kids. It’s a modern story with classic characters and an injection of genuine humor. Even though Staples only drew the first three issues before heading back to Saga, Annie Wu drew quite a few issues of the last Hawkeye run and I’m sure she’ll be amazing on this issue.
Art Ops #2 by Shaun Simon, Mike Allred, Laura Allred and Matt Brundage (Vertigo)
DC’s adult imprint Vertigo was my reintroduction into comics back in college. Before my freshman year roommate gave me Sandman to read, I hadn’t picked up a comic since Junior High, and those comics were only from Marvel and DC. But ever since, I have read as many comics as I could get my hands on, many of which were Vertigo comics. Vertigo encourage creators to tackle any subjects they wanted and to be as weird as the market would allow. As a result, we now have classics like Y: The Last Man, Transmetropolitan, 100 Bullets and Fables to grace our shelves and impress our neighbors.
However, Vertigo definitely lost steam over the past decade, with many of the interesting comics one would expect from Vertigo making their way to Image Comics instead. Towards the end of this decline Vertigo’s original Executive Editor Karen Berger left the company, which I thought would be the nail in the coffin for the imprint that brought me back into the comics world.
I would love to say that the twelve comics Berger’s successor Shelly Bond has been introducing over the past couple of months is a defiant refutation of that assessment, but so far we’re not far enough into these titles to pass judgment.
But the comics certainly are intriguing again, including Art Ops. The main draw so far is the comic’s main conceit and Mike Allred’s art. The story follows an organization that tracks down figures from famous works of art that escape their original paintings. It’s fun to dig into fine art in comics and how these freed characters affect our world. Allred’s style of art is the perfect accompaniment to this kind of story. He has a very distinct pop and bright look to his art, and I’m sure he’s having a blast recreating all of the masterpieces that act as catalysts for Art Ops’ story. Fewer and fewer breakout indie hits have the iconic Vertigo logo on their covers, but hopefully that’s going to change.
Weird Love #10 by Various (IDW)
I love watching terrible and campy movies, and Weird Love is the comic equivalent. It’s trashy B-movie grade stories about what middle-aged men thought young women yearned for romantically, and it’s as misogynistic and wrong-headed as you imagine it to be. Each issue is filled with reprinted stand-alone stories from Romance comics of the 1950s. Romance comics were pretty ridiculous back in the day, and this monthly collection from IDW tries to the find the most absurd and terrible examples of the era
This issue features the misadventures of an overweight woman called “My Heavy Heart” (because of course that’s the title), “I Tortured My In-Laws,” as well as the crazy story featured on the cover of a woman marrying some I’m assuming fake Middle Eastern prince of some sort by the name of Abdul Abdulbul. If only her friend could save her in time with the earth shattering news! There’s no continuity so you can pick any and all of these up at will for a quick fix of trashy ‘50s Romance.
Black Magick #2 by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott (Image)
Black Magick’s first issue was a great set up to this new series. Detective Rowan Black is a police detective in Portsmouth, Oregon who also happens to practice witchcraft. She’s called to a hostage situation which doesn’t end particularly well. We got a little taste of Rowan’s witch life and a tense glimpse at her police life, with a hint that the two won’t stay separated for much longer.
I’m excited to see where this story is going and it looks like it’s going to dip into the police procedural genre with its other foot firmly planted in magical horror. The art by Nicola Scott continues to deliver a moody black and white style that’s heavy on the grey, with only some rare splashes of color for effect. There’s still time to grab the first issue and catch up.
Saga #31 by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples and Fonografiks
Normally, catching up on 31 issues of a comic would be a difficult task. You’ll have to plunk down money for every trade that’s come out so far, and possibly track down the last five or six issues at your local comic shop because they haven’t been collected yet. Then you have to slog through the first few issues because the creators are getting comfortable with each other, the characters, the story, etc.
Saga is not normal by many standards. The trades are reasonably priced, the creators release the most up-to-date collections before releasing new single issues, and this comic is solid from Issue 1, Page1, Panel 1. Saga was Vaughan’s reintroduction to regular comics writing after taking a fairly long detour into television but he didn’t seem to miss a step between Ex Machina and Saga. It’s the story of a girl, Hazel, growing up in a galaxy in which the two alien species her parents come from have been at war for decades. It begins as almost a Romeo and Juliet situation, but quickly develops into a deeper story about marriage and raising a child while constantly in danger. One interesting twist is Vaughan’s concerted choice to write all of the dialogue in American vernacular. There are supermarkets, romance novels and babysitters. I can’t think of any kind of made up Sci-Fi words that you normally get to spice up the world-building.
The art is solid from the first issue as well. Staples uses fairly thin lines that create a sort of angularity to everything, and her choices in character creation are all unique and interesting. Each character has had some deliberate thought put into their design. There are already rabid followings for some of the more eccentric characters, like a lie-detecting giant blue sphynx cat or the walrus-riding white seal farmer Ghus (Ghus forever – ed). This is a consistently solid comic that is quickly making a name for itself as a classic. Get thee to reading.
New Comics to Try This Week
Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1953: The Witch Tree and Rawhead Rex and Bloody Bones #1 by Mike Mignola, Ben Stenbeck and Dave Stewart (Dark Horse)
Hellboy and B.P.R.D. are both well into a couple of decades worth of issues and stories, which can be daunting to start reading. I had to invest a lot of time into reading everything in order and it took a few attempts before I really got hooked the way I am now. This Hellboy one-shot solves that problem nicely.
Hellboy and BPRD 1953 (I’m not going to write out the rest because I don’t hate myself) takes place at the very beginning of Hellboy’s career with the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense chronologically so there’s no huge continuity to worry about. Long-time readers will of course find easter eggs and callbacks to previous stories, but new readers won’t be lost. And not only that, but this issue contains two separate one-shot stories. Dark Horse did the same thing last month with The Phantom Hand & The Kelpie, so if you like these little stories that give you a taste of Hellboy, you should look for that one as well.
Dark Knight III The Master Race #1 by Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello, Andy Kubert, Klaus Johnson, Brad Anderson and Clem Robins (DC)
Dark Knight III gives me pause. On the one hand this is obviously another attempt by DC to cash in on one of their perennial best sellers. I didn’t touch the Before Watchmen event when the comics came out in 2012 even though I really love most of the writers and artists that created them.
On the other hand, two of the original creators are physically involved in this sequel so I can give it the benefit of the doubt that there is a possible story to tell. This also has the help of Brian Azzarello (of 100 Bullets fame) and Andy Kubert to make it something better than an old creator trying to milk a little more story and money out his most recognized work. It’s worth a look at least at the first issue, and I’ll reserve judgement until the series is complete. I will, however, say that the title Master Race doesn’t instill the most confidence in me that this will be a layered and subtle comic. But maybe it doesn’t have to be.
Ringside #1 by Joe Keatinge, Nick Barber and Simon Gough (Image)
Ringside looks like it wants to be another comic that scratches a genre itch you didn’t know you had. I definitely watched professional wrestling when I was quite a bit younger, but I never thought I would be intrigued by a comic that looks to explore it and the dynamics in and out of the ring.
This comic looks to mix the politics of wrestling with crime and revenge, while interweaving the narrative between a large cast of characters. The idea that what goes on outside of the ring is infinitely more interesting than what goes on inside might be hard to swallow for some people. But Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler should have disavowed them of any notion that there isn’t a ton emotional pathos in Professional Wrestling. These are actor/athletes who have to maintain false personas in an industry that rewards bombast and theater.
Trade Waiting is the Hardest Part
Especially when there isn’t anything out that warrants a review this week, unfortunately. I know I’ll have a release for you next week. I’ve taken a look into the future, and it is bright.
Fantastic Comics and Where to Find Them
I hope some of these comics appeal to you. If they do, make sure you go out and buy them, either digitally or in the tactilely unsurpassed form of print. Unless the comics are already big sellers or limited series books, buying the single issues is your best chance to make sure that comic persists. This is particularly true when it comes to Image and other Independent publishers. The creators are paying the publishing costs out of their own pockets and a comic that sells low at first very rarely picks up new readers in the short term.
Digitally, you have a few different options. Comixology has every major publisher and a lot of minor publishers. If you’re a big Image fan, you can go directly through them and cut out the middle man. Another plus to Image’s site is that you actually own the comic, DRM-free. You’re not just paying for the right to look at the comic, you can download a .pdf and do what you will with it.]
Paper comics can be found at your Local Comic Book Shop, and should have discounts if you start a pull list with them, which is basically having them order and reserve comics you like every month.