New Comic Book Day Pull-List: ‘Subatomic Party Girls’, ‘Avengers Arena’, ‘The Outliers’ And More Reviewed

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

This week, we have picks from Monkeybrain, Marvel, Titan, Panelvision, Image, and Boom!

“Subatomic Party Girls #2″
(written by Chris Sims and Chad Bowers, illustrated by Erica Henderson, published by Monkeybrain Comics)

Subatomic Party Girls is a new digital title from Monkeybrain that follows an all-girl power pop band as they adventure across the universe – and two issues in, it’s quickly becoming one of my new favorite comics.  Writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sims handle the story in assured and easy fashion, shooting their trio of raucous rockers into peril on the far side of the galaxy. And artist Erica Henderson is nothing short of a revelation, her expressively cartoony style working perfectly whether depicting thrashing musical sequences or spacefaring swashbuckling.  Together, they’ve created a fun-filled piece of genre-mashing entertainment: a rocket-powered rock-and-rolling sci-fi frolic for the ages.

“Avengers Arena” #13
(written by Christos Gage, illustrated by Karl Moline, published by Marvel Comics)

This issue was one of my great surprises of the week, a brief pause in the nonstop action this series has made its stock in trade; a momentary step away from the devastation that this series has wreaked on the teenage population of the Marvel Universe.  It’s a very different type of AA issue: one that jumps to the other end of the galaxy, and looks at what’s happening on earth while our young heroes are pitted against each other in gladiatorial combat on a planet light years away from home.

But don’t misunderstand, this isn’t a calm, peaceful interlude – it’s a slow, steady turning of the screws.  The reader watches helplessly as events unfold, knowing the big picture, hoping that things will get better while knowing they’ll probably only get worse.

It’s a pretty agonizing read for anyone who’d been following the series, and its quality is all the more amazing when one considers that it’s a fill-in – Christos Gage (writer) and Karl Moline (artist) do a masterful job of establishing a counterpoint to the main story, raising the stakes, and laying groundwork for the regular creative team’s return next month.  Plus, they throw in guest appearances from a number of assorted Marvel characters (including one sequence which ought to make a lot of Runaways fans happy).  It’s a great tension-filled issue, one that kept me turning pages frantically and going back to the beginning the moment I finished, just to flip through it again.


It Came! #1 (written and illustrated by Dan Boultwood, published by Titan Comics)

A clever homage to ’50s B-movies, this series tells the tale of a debonair scientist and his lovely assistant as they traverse the English countryside and end up in the path of a oversized rampaging robot.  Creator Dan Boultwood has a way with snappily artificial dialogue, his art combines thin ink lines with lush grey washes, and the entire production ends up working beautifully as both a send-up and a celebration of the old-fashioned “GIANT THREAT FROM OUTER SPACE” productions that populated weekend matinees and afternoon TV broadcasts, and sparked the imaginations of kids worldwide.

“The Outliers #1″
(written and illustrated by Erik T. Johnson, published by Panelvision Productions)

Erik T. Johnson is an artist and graphic designer who has contributed illustrations to the New Yorker, the New York Times, Maxim, and many other publications.  And this, his first full-length comic book, marks him as a creator worthy of immediate attention.  I don’t want to talk about the specifics of this story, as much of my enjoyment came from being completely off-guard, having NO IDEA what I was reading, and being tossed and tumbled to and fro as I flipped through the pages. But I feel comfortable in saying this: it’s the story of a young mute boy with strong ties to supernatural phenomena.  It’s a stunning art object, with embossed cardstock covers wrapped in a multicolored outer jacket.  It possesses both a childlike sense of wonder, and a cerebral fascination with the bizarre – think David Lynch directing ’The Iron Giant’, and you’re not far off.  It’s understated, hallucinatory, and deeply strange.  Johnson’s thick linework and deep shadows fit his story perfectly, and the beautiful duotone printing heightens the dreamlike atmosphere.  It’s both confusing and compelling, and it’s being added to my pull list immediately.

“Ghosted #2″
(written by Joshua Williamson, illustrated by Goran Sudzuka, published by Image Comics)

Joshua Williamson and Goran Sudzuka continue their magnificently creepy new series, stirring together hard-bitten crime and skin-crawling ghost story.  It’s an R-rated Scooby-Doo caper, dripping with mood, punctuated with sharp right turns and sudden surprises, building steadily toward certain doom, pushing me closer to the edge of my seat as I await each tiny payoff.

“Six-Gun Gorilla #3″
(written by Si Spurrier, illustrated by Jeff Stokely, published by Boom! Studios)

This series continues to amaze me with every issue. Yes, it’s a comic about a trigger happy primate, but it’s also a supremely clever adventure that riffs on cliches from a wide variety of genre fiction (flea-bitten westerns, civil war combat stories , dytstopian sci-fi).  And in doing so, it manages to work on a variety of levels – one can enjoy the story purely as a pulse-pounding adventure, or one can delve deeper and pick out any number of details that reward closer consideration.

Really, there’s five important points about this series:

1) It’s a a rootin’ tootin’ good time, and a ridiculously pure example of unchecked simian id.

2) It’s an astounding meta-textual riff on pulp traditions in genre fiction, taking elements from Burroughs’ John Carter stories, Max Headroom, and Starship Troopers, and blending them into a cohesive whole.

3) Artist Jeff Stokely throws distorted kinetic figures across the page in inspired fashion, rendering emotion, action, and technology with equal agility.

4) Si Spurrier’s script perfectly navigates the line between hyperactive cleverness and pure entertainment.

5) MONKEY SHOOTING THINGS.

In short, it’s got everything I could want in a comic book.