New Comic Book Day Pull List: ‘Astro City’, ‘Mister X’, And More Reviewed

Welcome to MTV Geek’s New Comic Book Day Pull-List! Each week, we’ll look at the best new releases hitting comic shops, and point you at the books you should be reading. 

This week, we have picks from Marvel, Vertigo, Dark Horse, and indie publisher Bergen Street Comics!

Astro City #1 (written by Kurt Busiek, illustrated by Brent Anderson, published by Vertigo / DC Comics)

Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson have finally returned Astro City to comic shop shelves after far too many years away, and they’re wasting no time with preamble.  There’s backstory and characters and events that new readers can go back and catch up on later, but none of it matters at this instant – there’s a story to tell, and we need to get moving.

This isn’t what I expected.  I assumed I’d have to wade through a few introductory pieces of extrapolation, re-establishing the sights and sounds and history of Astro City.  But thankfully, Busiek realizes that none of that is necessary to enjoy this issue.  He knows that if it’s entertaining, we’ll all follow along.

And it’s entertaining, alright.  There’s a narrator, who seems to be a bit deranged.  There’s a anime-styled girl superhero.  There’s a giant glowing door that appears in the sky.  And there’s a fairly normal man who, meeting his daughters for lunch, ends up getting pulled into the events that ensue.

Busiek and Anderson are a top-notch team, and they’re on fire here, clearly thrilled to be working together again.  They show us what we need to know, and hold back enough that we stay intrigued.  They populate their world with a mix of fantastic and mundane, and keep the attention where it belongs, on the story and the central characters.  And they don’t waste time explaining what’s come before, when they can be inventing what’s ahead.  It’s a city filled with superheroes.  That’s the set-up.  Now, on with the show!

Mister X #2 (written and illustrated by Dean Motter, published by Dark Horse Comics)

When it first appeared in the early 80s, Dean Motter’s Mister X was like nothing else on comics racks; full of deep shadows and hi-tech robotics, it was a defining work of indie comics, and an undeniable influence on countless young artists and filmmakers.  The two tales in this issue perfectly illustrate why the original series was such a sensation: the main story continues the overarching mystery of corruption and kidnapping begun in issue #1, the back-up feature expands on a particular plot point and fills in additional context and character development.  And Motter’s art is simply stunning: the art deco cityscapes of Fritz Lang’s films and Fleischer Studios’ Superman cartoons illustrated in a style that evokes Alex Toth at his most impressionistic.  I like a good noir tale, and this is as good as it gets.

Daredevil: Dark Nights (written and illustrated by Lee Weeks, published by Marvel Comics)

This new Daredevil limited series is something of an odd experiment for Marvel, comprising three unrelated story arcs by three different creative teams over the course of eight issues.  I’m not at all sure why it’s being formatted this way, instead of being sold as three separate, stand-alone series – I can’t imagine there are many hardcore comic fans who will start picking up single issues of a limited series with #4 or #6, rather than waiting for the inevitable collected edition.

So, I’d encourage all fans of good comics to start right in with this issue, because this is a really, really good Daredevil story.

Seminal DD artist Lee Weeks handles the creative duties for this inaugural arc, telling a tale of a blizzard-swept New York, a hospitalized Matt Murdock, and the life of a small child hanging by a thread.  The penciling style and color palate are well-suited to the story: browns and spotted blacks contrast with the expanses of white covering sidewalks and rooftops, patches of snow bleed into panel borders, shallow yellow/green lamps shine across interiors.  It’s a small and intimate story of hardship and heroism, and a classic depiction of the man inside ’The Man Without Fear’.

Copra Compendium (written and illustrated by Michel Fiffe, published by Bergen Street Comics Press)

This oversized volume compiles the first three issues of Michel Fiffe’s self-published Copra, a series that occupies a world somewhere between superhero fantasy, Asian action movie, and Steve Ditko’s existential experiments. The visuals are intensely psychedelic: masked crusaders and wild vigilantes fashioned from thin black lines and pastel colored-pencil tones, sharp angles and rubbery curves building a world of the impossible.  The writing is similarly stark and angular, tough-talking action heroes and terse narration juxtaposed with devastating action sequences.  It’s a bizarre mix of pulp imagery and fine-art finesse, brimming over with robot punching matches and hallucinatory dimension-hopping.

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