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 DC, Fantagraphics, Image, and more!
Now with most of these reviews, I try my best to avoid spoilers. It’s a difficult line to walk – telling you why you should pick up a comic without telling you much about the story that’s being told – but most of the time, I can find elements to pick out, talk about, and enthuse over. I try to talk not about the story, but how it makes me feel. And then I hope that readers connect with that feeling and check out whichever book I’m talking about.
That’s usually what I do. But with this book, I don’t feel a need to avoid spoilers, because it doesn’t really matter. Harlan Ellison is a living legend, one of the world’s finest living storytellers. And thus, I’m not really worried about ruing this story for anyone, because it’s not about the story. It’s about the telling.
In short, this is a Magnificent Seven / Seven Samauri story set in space. A mysterious figure clad in a robe needs to assemble a team that can pull off a huge job, and save the planet Earth from certain doom. And the team that he assembles is appropriately diverse: a robot, an amazon, a mad scientist, and four other classic sci-fi character templates, united to do battle with evil and protect the world from disaster. Their path takes them across galaxies, through space, time, and alternate realities. The story isn’t built on surprises and twists, it succeeds due to the small, perfectly formed twists it puts on formulas. The craft and individual interpretation are what matters.
Ellison also has the perfect collaborator for this work: Paul Chadwick handles action sequences and quiet character beats with ease, his art shimmering with energy and emotive power. And in both pictures and words, nothing is hidden or obtuse; the characters are iconic and clearly delineated, which gives readers an immediate way into the story. This isn’t a reinvention of the wheel – it’s a better and more refined wheel, with white wall tires and style to spare, made by two masters of genre and form.
Boom! Studios seems to release a new Adventure Time comic on almost a weekly basis lately, expanding from one core title to an entire line of tie-in miniseries focusing on the various bizarre denizens of the Ooo-niverse. And what’s been amazing so far is that each of the books has held to a uniformly high standard of quality, and managed to showcase creators’ individual visions while utilizing characters from this Cartoon Network owned property.
In fact, this issue (the first of a series focusing on Princess Bubblegum and her erstwhile assistant sweets), is one of the best Adventure Time comics yet. Writers Ananth Panagariya and Yuko Ota take Peppermint Butler and Cinnamon Bun, deputize them as ’protectors of the kingdom’, and let the insanity roll. Artist Ian McGinty has a distinctly kinetic style that’s perfectly suited to the rubbery, free-flowing characters, using a variety of angles and close-ups to convey emotion and add comedic emphasis. And together, this team has created not simply a good licensed comic, but a bizarre work of sugar-coated fantasy that’s fit for all ages.
A supernatural Ocean’s 11. That’s a hell of a high-concept pitch for a comic, and I can only imagine that that’s the way that Joshua Williamson and Goran Sudzuka, the creators of Ghosted, proposed their new series to Skydog/Image.
But I’ve seen a lot of these high-concept projects, comics that can be easily described as “___ meets ___”, and 99% of the time, they slam together some disparate elements and end up as an unholy mess. This is the exception to the rule. It kicks off with a jailbreak, throws in a mysterious benefactor, assembles the cast, and then throws them into a situation that seems tailor-made for disaster. It’s one of those genre-mashing ideas that actually works, and the ensuing comic is one of the most enjoyable launches I’ve checked out in a long while – a fast-paced haunted house heist flick, full of snappy dialogue, fascinating characters, and some wickedly clever plot twists.
The second volume of Leslie Stein’s ’Eye Of The Majestic Creature’ collects three more of her self-published stories, semi-autobiographical magical realism vignettes of Larry Bear (Stein’s fictional stand-in) and her best friends, a trio of anthropomorphized musical instruments. Stein has a distinct art style that manages to be both grotesque and appealingly cartoony, and her stories have an air of believability while incorporating absurd and bizarre flourishes. The stories here follow Larry and her pals as they move amongst the landmarks, pitfalls, and cockroaches of New York City; drinking, hoping, and looking for the miraculous in the mundane details of daily life. There’s a deep resonance in the skewed perspectives of these comics, and Stein negotiates the divide between beauty and melancholy with a masterful hand, creating rainbows of emotion in thin lines of black and white.
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Honorable mentions (or books that I also loved this week, but don’t have as many clever-sounding things to say about):
The second issue of Si Spurrier and Jeff Stokely’s Six-Gun Gorilla manages to top the first in the ridiculously entertaining ultraviolent futuristic sci-fi western sweepstakes.
The first issue of the new Valiant’s re-imagined Quantum & Woody series is all set-up, but what a set-up it is. The lead characters are estranged brothers, brought back together in the wake of their father’s murder. The only problem is, they’re both kind of terrible human beings. And when they decide to work with each other to find out who killed their father, well… It all goes haywire pretty quickly. James Asmus’ script is sharp and snappy, and Tom Fowler’s art shoots across the page with exuberant energy and expressive detail.
In Young Avengers #7, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie continue to develop the motivations and interactions of their young cast, while also including all the action, musical references, and insane ideas that you could hope for.
Daredevil #28 dives into Matt Murdock’s past to give some fresh perspective on his younger years, while telling a present-day story that leads to a wild cliffhanger. Mark Waid and Javier Rodriguez are working at the top of their game here – month after month, this continues to be one of the finest superhero books on the stands.
The Invincible Haggard West #101 is actually a one-shot sneak-peek at the forthcoming Battling Boy graphic novel from Paul Pope and First Second books, but don’t let that dissuade you from picking it up – it works on its own merits as a greatly entertaining story of a jetpack-wielding hero, and his final, doomed mission. And Pope’s art is, as ever, a miracle of composition and form.
And Uncanny X-Men #8 contains pretty much everything I want in a Brian Michael Bendis comic: intrigue, some heart-wrenching conversations, a fight scene, and a twist at the end that I never would have expected, yet, upon reflection, makes perfect sense. (And it’s all wrapped up in stunning Chris Bachalo artwork.)