So here we are at my second column of TRY SOMETHING NEW! already. Wasn’t too pleased with how the the first one came out, 20/20 hindsight and all, but we press on. New comics wait for no man or woman and so this column where I berate you for not buying enough new comics waits for no man or woman. Let’s get right into the berating, shall we?
DARK HORSE PRESENTS #19 comes out this week. Is it stupid to call a series that is on issue #19 “something new?” Sort of. But I did it anyway. DARK HORSE PRESENTS is a monthly anthology of short comics, sometimes stand alones and sometimes serialized stories, from a mix of the best creators in comics and the most exciting newcomers. Each month Dark Horse Presents offers you something new, hence it’s inclusion in this column. Ranging from one page absurdity pieces to stunning series beginnings, DHP has something for literally every type of comic fan. Lately anthology books have had trouble finding an audience which is a shame unto itself, but the level of talent and great comics in DHP turns that shame into a tragedy. This month alone features a new story from Matt Kindt’s excellent MIND MGMT, Duane Swierczynski and Eric Nguyen bring back X, and Gabriel Hardman and Corrina Bechko start a giant monster story called STATION TO STATION.
A bunch of issues back DARK HORSE PRESENTS premiered a new series by writer Frank Barbiere called THE WHITE SUITS. I thought it was one of the best introductions to a series I had read in years. Equal parts SIN CITY, 100 BULLETS, & WINTER MEN, that first chapter filled a void in comics that badly needed filling- smart and stylish crime books with a healthy amount of conspiracy. Now THE WHITE SUITS is returning and I couldn’t be more excited. Even if the other stuff in DHP doesn’t interest you, I promise this story is worth the price of admission alone. RIYL: Short stories, great things in small doses, being into cool stuff before everyone else.
NOWHERE MEN #2 Eric Stephenson, Nate Bellegarde, & Jordie Bellaire have crafted a really interesting book in NOWHERE MEN. The simple tagline/premise of “What if scientists were our rockstars?” opens the door just enough to make one curious without revealing anything at all. The first issue firmly established Stephenson’s remarkable ability to build interesting worlds and characters all while using some clever narrative tricks. Bellegarde turns in the work of his career so far making pages that are both very effective and visually unique without being hindered by being too “sylized.” And Bellaire is simply one of the best colorists in comics. The book has all the “sciencey” feel of a Jonathan Hickman book, without all of the actual “science.” Other than that is was hard for me to say what the book was about… which I loved.
Since it is a medium that relies on people coming back and paying every month, comics tends to rely on playing it’s cards early and then twisting and turning every month after to keep you interested. It’s feeding the reader just enough so they feel like they paid for a meal, but not enough to that they won’t need to eat again very soon. This works (moderately) well for the industry, but is a terrible hindrance to storytelling as a whole. The NOWHERE MEN team seems to have decided to not care if you “get it” in favor of building a smarter story that unfolds at the pace they want it to. I tend to love comics that are willing to take chances to do better work and that is why I bothered to write this recommendation. If you are a reader who prefers the safe and predictable there are plenty of other books you might want to grab instead. Don’t mind us. We’ll be over in the corner eating weird food, playing with switchblades, getting bad tattoos from sketchy dudes, and reading unpredictable comics. And laughing at you. RIYL: MANHATTAN PROJECTS or TRANSHUMAN, mid-70’s KRAFTWERK, or a weird movie that I am imagining that is a cross between 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE and DR. STRANGELOVE.
IRON OR THE WAR AFTER Archaia does a great job of finding comics that are truly breathtaking and original and wouldn’t fit in at any other publisher. IRON OR THE WAR AFTER is the newest example of this. Shane-Michael Vidaurri writes and illustrates this surreal tale about anthropomorphized animals engaging in espionage during a literal Cold War. The subtle, slow pacing and beautiful and delicate watercolors almost guarantee that this book will fly under a lot of people’s radars this year. They also guarantee that those who pick it up will have a new favorite book. RIYL: Watership Down, Beasts Of Burden, or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
COMEBACK #2 I’ll say it right now. Note the time. Ed Brisson is the next superstar writer in comics. If the Big 2 publishers are not already scouting him then their editors are sleeping on the job. His self published series MURDER BOOK is on par with the best comics published in the last 10 years.
COMEBACK is his new book at Image/Shadowline and the first issue made quite an impression on everyone who was lucky enough to find a copy. Gritty crime noir meets slick sci-fi in a “time travel gone wrong” story. Michael Walsh does stunning work in the wheelhouse of folks like Sean Philips or Alex Maleev. That should be all you need to know.
LOOPER, THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, MINORITY REPORT, INCEPTION, I am sure that Mr. Brisson is already tiring of the comparisons, but there is something inherently cinematic in the way he tells a story. It’s crime for people who are bored with crime, sci-fi for people who are sick of sci-fi. COMEBACK would easily make my Top 10 comics of the year list if I didn’t think Top 10 lists were demeaning and obnoxious. You should go ahead and buy this book now so that when it inevitably becomes a hit movie you can say “the book was way better” and other annoying but true things. RIYL: CRIMINAL, INCOGNITO, or other stuff by Ed Brubaker, Movies by Christopher Nolan that don’t involve a growling dude dressed like a huge flying rodent, Philip K. Dick.
That’s all the room I have. Thanks for taking the time to read this stuff. Please don’t hold it against these great books that I am sort of obnoxious and don’t take this very seriously. Even if none of this stuff grabbed you, remember to try something new. It’s good for you. Stay tuned for my “Top 10 Best Comics of ’12” next week.