November will be our first full month for The Weekly Comics Breakdown, and with a new month comes some changes to this very column. Namely, I will be double-checking release dates so a comic that has been out for three weeks already doesn’t end up on my list of new comics. Which comic was it?
Read on to find out!
Comics to Look Forward to This Week:
Black Science #17 by Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera and Dean White (Image)
I’ll get into this series in more detail in a few weeks once the hardcover collecting the first three arcs is released, but very basically it’s a cross between Lost in Space and Sliders, except every character is extremely flawed and it’s hard to root for any of them at first. And once the comic starts jumping around dimensions, you don’t really want them to get home just so you can see what the next Alternate Earth looks like.
I rolled my eyes after reading the official description for this comic as “a great jumping on point” – Marvel and DC throw that line in every other issue for their descriptions – but with the aforementioned hardcover coming later this month it’s fairly apt. Pick this issue up and read it after you buy the collection. Matteo Scalero’s art is beautifully organic, and the story is heavy on the action and unpredictability.
Lazarus #20 by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, and Santi Arcas (Image)
If you enjoyed last week’s recommendation of Black Magick and its writing, Lazarus shouldn’t disappoint. Lazarus takes place in the near future, after the top 1% of wealthiest individuals in the world (or more realistically the .1%) decide to control of the world and parcel it out amongst themselves. Kingdoms arise and the ruling families try to consolidate their power while they attempt to eliminate the other families. Lazarus focuses on one family and their genetically modified enforcer Forever.
The first arc consisted of detailed world-building, which I enjoyed immensely, but now the story has ramped up after a disastrous meeting of the families. It’s a great time to catch up (the first two arcs as a hardcover[link] and the third as a trade[link]) and get into the action as we see this new world order at war.
Paper Girls #2 by Brian K. Vaughn, Cliff Chiang, and Matt Wilson (Image)
This issue is of course “a great jumping on point!” if only because the series just started last month and missed a write-up by about a week. Brian K Vaughn has been pumping out great titles in the last couple of years with ongoing series Saga and a couple of mini-series (The Private Eye and We Stand on Guard), and Paper Girls looks to be continuing that trend. Drawn by Cliff Chiang (fresh off of his amazing run on Wonder Woman with Brian Azzarrello), Paper Girls is the story of a small group of newspaper delivery girls in the early ‘80s as they come face-to-face with an otherworldly invasion into their neighborhood. Giving away any more would take some of the punch out of the first issue, so I would definitely pick that one up before reading this one. It definitely has that Amblin Entertainment feel to it that I think Vaughn is striving for, which definitely puts it towards the top of my read pile.
Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #9 by David Lapham (Image)
Stray Bullets is currently one of my favorite series on the stands. Written and drawn by David Lapham, there’s always something a little different about comics created by cartoonists. When the entire comic-making process is directed by one person, there’s a purity of vision that you don’t get when writers, pencillers, inkers, colorists, letterers and editors are involved to varying degrees. You’re getting the story and the look the cartoonist wanted to convey, without any possibility of crossed signals or misunderstanding.
On the other hand, without collaboration there’s no chance for creators to compensate for their fellow creators’ weaknesses. Cartoonists need to be great at story, dialogue, drawing, panel structure, word balloon placement, and every other aspect of making a coherent and enjoyable comic book. Luckily, David Lapham is that calibre of cartoonist. He’s been weaving a story that began publication in 1995, took a seven year hiatus in 2007, and came roaring back in 2014 without missing a beat.
The story takes place between the mid ‘70s and the mid ‘90s, following a loosely connected group of low-level criminals and their attempts to stay alive and stay on top. Lapham doesn’t hold the readers’ hands as he catapults the story back and forth through time with each arc. An event whose repercussions are explored in the second story arc is only now being fleshed out in the current Sunshine and Roses story.
Which isn’t to say that readers need to be caught up. Each arc works on its own as a tightly crafted noir but you should read everything up to this point because everything about this comic is stellar from issue one. Pick up the Uber Alles (Amazon link) edition, which collects the first 41 issues, as well as the latest collected arc from Image (Stray Bullets Killers Amazon LInk).
Velvet #12 by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting and Elizabeth Bretweiser (Image)
Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting worked on an amazing Captain America run together, in which Steve Rogers was “assassinated” and the Winter Soldier had to take on his mantle until the Marvel Gods sought fit to resurrect their favorite WWII vet. The later issues that focused on Bucky felt especially like a genre-bending spy thriller, which is why I was so excited to pick up Velvet when it first came out. Brubaker and Epting have crafted a spy thriller without having to shape it around tights, which we don’t see terribly often in the form of comic books. This one follows Velvet Templeton, a Moneypenny type who has to fend for herself when all evidence of a field agent’s murder points to her. Taking place in the ‘70s, It’s vintage Bond without the misogyny and it tackles the toll being a secret agent has on a person’s psyche.
Doctor Strange #2 by Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend
Here we are with my public shaming. I should have known that the first issue was released on October 7th. I have no idea why my preview list had it listed for last week, but rest assured that I’m actually confirming that these comics come out when I originally list them. And so, unless Marvel decides to wait another week for no reason, Doctor Strange is coming out on Wednesday. Luckily for me, the first issue was such a solid start that the series gets a second recommendation!
Doctor Strange has recently been relegated to other characters’ comics as part of the Marvel Illuminati – a group of ostensibly superior intellects who nevertheless can’t help but fuck up more than they fixed in the universe on any given day – so it’s nice to see this reboot putting him back in New York City battling supernatural threats that no one else can even fathom. Magical creatures are being framed as essentially psychic gut flora, magic-users from across the Marvel Universe meet up in a magician-only tiki bar, and Stephen Strange has a sense of humor as he helps desperate people fix their magic problems.
Star Wars #11 by Jason Aaron, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Justin Ponsor and Chris Eliopoulos
I was just as excited as everyone else for the Marvel reboot of a Star Wars comic back in January, and thankfully Jason Aaron and John Cassaday didn’t disappoint. Of course with Cassaday as artist I knew he couldn’t last more than a half dozen issues, and I was right. Much to my surprised delight, he was replaced by Stuart Immonen, one of my favorite artists working at Marvel. He’s moved from NextWave to Ultimate Spiderman to All-New X-Men, and each time I’ve absolutely loved his art.
Marvel’s decision to put Immonen on a Star Wars comic written by Aaron almost guarantees I’ll read it but I’m happy to say that the story remains strong. The last 10 issues have been an exciting story filling in the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Luke is in way over his head as he tries to find out more about the Jedi and Han and Leia are at their bickering best, as are everyone’s favorite will they/won’t they droid couple Artoo and Threepio. The comics have definitely gotten me excited for more Star Wars, and will hopefully be there to comfort me after the (Please God not this time. Not again) almost inevitable disappointment of the next movie.
New Comics to Try This Week
Klaus #1 (of 6) by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora (Boom!)
Even comics aren’t a respite from Christmas crap getting crammed down your eye-throats immediately after Halloween. This comic may just be worth it, though. Grant Morrison, the British Invasion member most likely to have chemically altered his brain too often, is back with a story about Santa Claus’ origin. He looks pretty badass on that cover, doesn’t he? Maybe there were nine original reindeer. I’m not sure the world needed Morrison’s take on Santa, but this comic definitely looks like ridiculous fun. Is Santa going to get out of this bar alive!?
James Bond #1 by Warren Ellis and Jason Masters (Dynamite)
I can’t stand the way Dynamite and Avatar publish variant covers for their comics to the point of absurdity. They’re short term boosts in sales for the comics themselves and only really benefit some comic shops who sell them at orders of magnitude more than they paid for them or feeding the manic need of OCD collectors. For an interesting discussion about variants and comic delays, you should check out this interview with Image’s publisher Eric Stephenson. James Bond is no exception, with 8 superfluous covers to collect. But it is written by Warren Ellis, whom I give a pass because I’ve liked or loved every comic he’s written. His story will definitely be a unique take on James Bond and I’m ready to see what it is.
Howard the Duck #1 by Chip Zdarsky, Joe Quinones and Joe Rivera
Just like Unbeatable Squirrel Girl from last week, this is another series that was barely getting started before it was interrupted by Secret Wars, Marvel’s universe reboot this year. The same writer and artists are coming back to tell more tales of the talking duck stuck in our world as he kind of solves mysteries as a PI while inexplicably interacting with Marvel’s A-list superheroes. Howard the Duck has always been a comic that pokes fun at the Marvel Universe and this version follows in that tradition proudly. If you loved Squirrel Girl last week, you’ll get the same goofy humor and irreverence for continuity and logic here. Last year’s story brought us the Abundant Glove and Spiderman’s Greatest Enemy, so I can’t wait to see what Howard has to deal with now.
Trade Waiting is the Hardest Part
Archie Vs. Predator Hardcover by Alex de Campi, Fernando Ruiz, Rich Koslowski and Jason Millet
I would recommend Archie Vs. Predator regardless of what the rest of the Archie Comics line has been doing over the last year or so because I love absurd stories and I have a soft spot for Predator cross-over comics. I still remember my Batman Vs Predator trade with far too much fondness than is probably warranted. However, the publisher Archie has been going through an almost Renaissance of character reinvention for modern tastes. The seed for this reinvention started with the introduction of their first gay character, Kevin Keller, but really picked up steam when they started their Afterlife with Archie zombie comic and a spin-off Sabrina the Teenaged Witch horror comic and culminated with Archie’s first-ever reboot to Archie #1, written by Mark Waid with art by Fiona Staples.
Long story short, Archie Comics are interesting for the first time since I’ve been able to read and Archie Vs Predator is another prime example of them working outside their children-centric line of digests. This comic is basically a B-movie horror comic that follows the Predator as he hunts down and eviscerates (often literally) Archie and his pals. Writer De Campi knows how to create campy horror from his Drive-In Bleed Out series of comics, and this just puts an Archie skin on that kind of story, stupid jokes and love triangles included. Here’s one page from the comic:
But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a Predator comic as well:
That’s kind of a spoiler, I guess, but come on. Almost everyone’s going to die in this comic. If you’re a fan of Archie, Predator, or just weird stories that can only get made as comics, you should definitely check out this guilty pleasure. Here are some covers from the original run because they’re ridiculous:
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.