I know I’m beginning to look like a bit of a shill for Image Comics. This weekly column is often filled with a majority of Image titles, with the other publishers each fight amongst themselves for the title of distant second. My only defense is that all of these comics are at the very least so damned interesting. These concepts are sometimes rehashes and amalgamations of well-worn tropes, but just like any bit of Pop the creators are trying to mix them up into something new and the results are exciting. I love getting my hands and brain on as many of these new ideas and characters as possible.
Which of course leads me to my next Image push: The Image Humble Comics Bundle. This is, without a trace of hyperbole in sight, one of the best deals in digital comics you are going to find for a long time. If you’re unfamiliar with Humble Bundle, it’s a site that promotes computer games, ebooks, audiobooks, and digital comics at a pay-what-you-want level. Not only that, but you can choose how your money is split between the company offering the titles, a charity, and Humble Bundle itself. There are also tiers for more great stuff the more you donate.
The tiers for this bundle are amazing. If you only want to donate a dollar, you get no less than nine full trade paperbacks. Paying more than the average amount currently going will net you 10 more trades. The best deal is paying just $20.00 or more. At that level, you get two more trades, a deluxe trade of 10 issues and two compendia that each clock in at 47 and 41 issues, respectively. In terms of sheer volume, $20.00 will pad your digital comic collection with over 200 individual issues. $.10 per issue. Less even. That’s insane.
If frugality isn’t your kink, then the actual stories in the bundle should make it an instant purchase. One of those compendia is the first 41 issues of Stray Bullets, currently one of my absolute favorite comics to date and one I wrote about at length last year. The latest two volumes of Saga are in here to catch you up if you’ve only read the hardcover collection. If you’ve loved The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, you’ll love the two volumes of Phonogram they wrote. They explore a world in which music is a literal form of magic while simultaneously showing how music affects us in reality. You get two separate Warren Ellis trades and a suite of single issues to dig into and see if you’ve found a new favorite comic. Oh, oh, and they’re DRM free! You can even download PDF versions or print them out if you have a work printer and supervisors who don’t pay attention (I’ll allow it – ed). I can’t think of a single reason why you would want to pass this up. Go, donate, and set yourself up for at least a year’s worth of original comics reading. The bundle ends in five days, so hurry up already.
I swear Image didn’t pay me to write that. Now back to your regularly scheduled breakdown.
Astro City #31 by Kurt Busiek, Jesus Merino and Alex Sinclair (Vertigo)
Astro City just finished up a great two-parter in which Busiek told the story of his Fantastic Four stand-ins attacking an alien planet to rescue one of their team members, but from the point of view of the kidnapping aliens. It wasn’t the most original concept, but like always Busiek is able to take a normally tired superhero story and inject a grounded sense of humanity into it. There’s an old fashioned feel to these stories, as they’re generally upbeat, but they always tend to come off as timeless instead of dated. I don’t know how he does it, but we’re getting into 70 issues now total and I’ve loved reading every one of them.
This issue is a one-and-done that delves into the fears of Busiek’s analog to the Justice League by way of a monster called the Living Nightmare. It’s the superhero comic that tries to show us what superheroes fear which is, again, a bit of a cliche. However, I know that in Busiek’s hands we’ll get a completely fresh angle and an interesting exploration that you don’t get from most regular superhero comics.
Dark Horse Presents #18 by Various (Dark Horse)
Dark Horse has been releasing this anthology for decades now, the longest running of about three ongoing anthology comic series. Like written short stories, these small bursts of comics allow creators to try out different techniques in writing and drawing, dip new characters’ toes into the water, and breathe new life into old concepts that may have been ahead of their time.
There are always stories that are already in progress but these are generally easy to pick up and enjoy, and there are new stories starting up to grab your attention. Some of these stories even break out as ongoing series after their debut in Dark Horse Presents so you may end up getting in on the ground floor of some great comics from Dark Horse.
Nowhere Men #7 by Eric Stephenson, Dave Taylor, Emi Lenox, Jordie Bellaire and Fonografiks (Image)
If you listened to my manic entreaty above, this the perfect time to grab issue seven of Nowhere Men. The first six issues are included in the Humble Bundle so you can get yourself caught up for pennies on the dollar. I pitched this comic last month with the following statement:
“Four scientists start a company to change the world with their discoveries and inventions and this comic takes place after the inevitable break up of the entrepreneurial band.”
Allow me to decompress that sentence now that I have a little more room. Some time in the ’70s, the four most prominent scientists in the world get together and form a company called World Corp which acts as a sort of for-profit think tank. Shortly thereafter, amazing breakthroughs in several different fields of study start coming out of the company at a record pace. And then, at some point and for reasons that are explained as the comic progresses, the group falls apart. The comic jumps between the beginning of World Corp. and the present day in which each scientist has gone his separate way. The fun comes from figuring exactly what happened and the way the past and present storylines feed and complement one another.
There’s been a gap in publishing between the sixth and seventh issues, but it seems Stephenson is back on track and now that you have the first storyline this is the perfect time to start picking up the single issues.
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #2 by Kate Leth, Brittney L. Williams, Megan Wilson and Clayton Cowles (Marvel)
Patsy Walker is one of the oldest Marvel characters still existing within the Marvel universe and her survival is due to a lot of wacky permutations of the character. She started off in 1944 at Timely Comics (the publisher that would soon become Marvel) in a humor comic in a similar style to early Archie comics. Her character lasted as a funny character until the ‘60s when her comic transformed into a teen romance format. The funny comic version of Patsy was retconned into a fictional account of her life as a comic character written by Patsy’s mother within the Marvel Universe. She then morphed into the superhero Hellcat in the ‘70s. She then became just like any regular Marvel superhero for the next several decades with diminishing returns.
Leth and Williams’ reboot is looking to take all of those different Patsy Walkers and mash them all together. Patsy Walker, also known as Hellcat, has just been let go from her job as an investigator for She-Hulk’s law firm. She’s trying to find a new job while simultaneously being a superhero and dealing with everyone recognizing her from the old comics her mom created about her. I’m sure there’s going to be romantic interests sprinkled into the mix as well.
Patsy Walker is another new Marvel property that’s looking to tap into the all-ages market along the same vein as Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel and so far I think the formula is working. I’ve never had an issue with the idea of all-ages. One of the most beloved graphic novels, Bone, can be read by anyone. Stories don’t have to be aimed at one specific demographic to sell well or engage readers, they just have to be entertaining. The perfect story element to universally entertain is humor, and that’s the angle Leth and Williams are going for. I’m happily adding to my Marvel read list next to Girl and Marvel.
There’s One Born Every Week
Amazing Forest #1 by Erick Freitas, Ulises Farinas, Julien Dufour, Matt Rota and Melody Often (IDW)
A brand new anthology comic to complement Dark Horse Presents and Islands (which I’ll get into in a future breakdown), Amazing Forest is a group of short stories written by Erick Freitas and Ulises Farinas with art by a variety of artists. I can’t tell yet if these stories are going to continue beyond each issue or if they’re wrapped up by the end, but I want to give this book a shot based just on the scarcity of anthologies in the comics world. The stories look to lean towards science fiction, but there’s always room for horror and fantasy in these collections. Hopefully there’ll be other genres to delve into if this series catches on.
I’m always interested in seeing what punch creators can deliver then they constrain themselves to small chunks of story. They have to introduce a world, characters, and the story within a small number of pages and still deliver a satisfying conclusion. The constraint stretches different creative muscles, and not everyone can do it effectively. I haven’t heard of any of these creators, which is a credit to IDW for giving relative newcomers the chance to get their ideas and characters out in the world.
Captain Marvel #1 by Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters, Kris Anka, Matthew Wilson and Joe Caramagna (Marvel)
Carol Danvers has a humongously loyal fanbase when she was rebooted a few years ago, but since Kelly Sue Deconnick’s first run I haven’t seen anyone really build on that popularity with any measure of success. She’s seen a few more number 1s, including one that put her in space with an alien cat, but I’m hoping she can finally find some traction with her newest iteration here.
Captain Marvel is now the commander of Alpha Flight, which before Secret Wars was the Canadian Avengers, Earth’s first line of defense against intergalactic threats. She has to not only fight any aliens that may have ill will towards Earth, but she’s now acting as a sort of diplomat towards the friendly aliens as well. I’ve read that the comic has a very Deep Space Nine feel to it, with Carol taking on the role of Sisko. That’s a comparison that will get me to read the first few issues, and if Fazekas and Butters can make a compelling space station drama I’ll be hooked.
Silver Surfer #1 by Dan Slott, Mike Allred and Laura Allred (Marvel)
Just like Squirrel Girl, this title and creative team were able to make it out of the Secret Wars fairly unscathed and I’m so happy they were able to continue the story Slott and the Allreds started back in 2014. They started writing a story of the Silver Surfer coming to Earth, picking up the Earthling Dawn Greenwood, a girl who hadn’t left her hometown since she was born, and going on different cosmic adventures. I’m sure Slott’s pitch was a Marvel Doctor Who, what with the god-like being with a vague power-set and an Earth companion who tries to teach him about humanity. I never did get into Doctor Who but I’ve always had a soft spot for the Silver Surfer even if his stories do tend to have a clinical feel to them. Slott’s addition of the human angle to bounce off of Norrin Radd’s alien personality was just what the character needed.
This soft reboot of the Surfer doesn’t mess with format too much. We still have Dawn Greenwood as our sympathetic human foil, but this time it looks as though they may spend some time on Earth instead of dealing with galactic quandaries and aliens in trouble. The comic has been and continues to be drawn and colored by the husband and wife team of Mike and Laura Allred. Mike Allred’s style (last mentioned in November) is perfectly suited for random intergalactic creatures, bizarre architecture and cosmic explosions of a Silver Surfer comic. Laura’s colors are also beautifully bright and almost pop off the page. Another fun and different comic from Marvel.
Trade Waiting is the Hardest Part
Your continued patience in this time of Collection drought is greatly appreciated. I’m really hoping to see some collections in the next few weeks. In the meantime, start reading those issues of Stray Bullets and Invincible you got from the Humble Bundle. Those should definitely hold you over until the publishers start dropping worthy trades again.
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.