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.
In The Days Of The Mob
(written and illustrated by Jack Kirby, with text contributions by Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman, published by DC Comics)
In 1971, DC Comics published the first (and only) issue of a new title by the legendary Jack Kirby–an oversized, magazine-format historical crime book called “In The Days Of The Mob.” This series was originally planned as one of an entire line of new full-color comic magazines that Kirby would launch for DC, but problems arose almost immediately. First, DC scaled back their expenses, ditching the idea of color printing on glossy paper, and substituting single-color printing on standard pulp magazine stock. Then, they killed the idea of having Kirby operate as editor and curator of the series, leaving it up to him to create all the contents himself. Then they neglected to put their company logo on it, crediting the non-existent ’Hampshire Distributors’ as publisher of the line. And finally, they nixed the third proposed title, and cancelled the first two series before the debut issues even hit the stands. Only one issue of “In the Days of the Mob” and one of its companion series “Spirit World” were ever released, and even then, they proved impossible to find for even the most devoted Kirbyphiles. (Legend has it that without DC’s company clout behind it, the majority of the printed issues never even made it from distributor warehouses to newsstands.)
But last year, DC released a handsome hardcover edition of “Spirit World,” reprinting the sole issue of the title, along with already-completed stories intended for the never-released second issue. And this week, they’ve followed it up with a companion volume of “In the Days of the Mob,” again compiling the scarce first issue, and additional unpublished material.
And man, this is some amazing stuff. Stories full of gangsters, gun molls, and motorcars; confrontations between hard-nosed cops and ruthless racketeers; all delivered in the rough-and-tumble style that defined late-period Kirby. The first half of the book is reproduced in the rich sepia tone of the original magazine, adding an extra layer of otherworldliness to the proceedings. A double-page spread of an underworld party is simply breathtaking – jazz band in the foreground, costumed dancers parading, mobsters smoking cigars and lifting cocktails, delicate brown lines and rich ink washes conjuring a world of seedy grandeur and imminent danger. All of Kirby’s trademarks are in evidence: square-jawed brawlers, glamorous women, and spectacular action sequences – except that, instead of depicting the cosmic conflicts of Thor or The New Gods, here he’s rendering Al Capone’s tommy-gun toting hoodlums as they face off against heroic G-Men, cops and crooks raining down showers of bullets as they battle for the soul of America. These are crime stories on an operatic scale, street-level tales that only Kirby could conjure. And I’m so glad the world is finally getting a chance to read them.
Manhattan Projects #13
(written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Nick Pitarra, published by Image Comics)
A perfect jumping-on point for anyone not already following this wonderfully bizarre series, this issue continues Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra’s chronicle of sinister science and twisted history – a world where the creation of the atom bomb in the 1940s was simply a cover story for far stranger scientific goings-on.
In this world, a cabal of the world’s top minds (including Joseph Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein, Wehrner Von Braun, and a computerized simulacrum of Franklin Delano Roosevelt) are engaging in all manner of sci-fi projects: developing space travel, inventing advanced robotics, attempting to genetically engineer superhumans, and god knows what else. In the meantime, Oppenheimer is manifesting multiple personalities, Einstein is drinking too much, robotic samurai are given to appearing through dimensional gateways, and the world is on the constant brink of collapse. Science will either save or doom Earth. It’s quite a set-up for a comic. New mysteries unfold on each page of every issue, Hickman and Pitarra answering one question as they pose a dozen more, revealing just enough to keep me reading as they fire off mad ideas in every direction. And in this issue, they pause for a few precious moments, re-establishing the grounding while preparing for…something. Something that presumably will involve terrible events, high stakes, and great minds at odds with one another (and in the case of Oppenheimer, with himself). As with each issue since the series began, I’m reading with bated breath, ready to see where this saga of mystery, intrigue, and mad science goes next.
(written and illustrated by Jeff Lemire, published by Vertigo/DC Comics)
It’s a science fiction exploration story. It’s a period piece story of a World War One veteran in search of a forgotten kingdom. Jeff Lemire’s “Trillium” is both those things, separate stories beginning on each end of this flip-book format first issue, and meeting in the middle to mind-blowing effect. I don’t want to say too much, as the experience of discovery when reading this comic is part of the fun – but I will say that I’m bewildered and intrigued by the tale that’s unfolding, in awe of Lemire’s writing and art, and excited by the structural playfulness at work in this initial installment. It looks lovely, it reads quickly, and it ends with a pair of perfect cliffhangers, dovetailing toward a single mysterious destination.