I feel like I have been doing this column long enough now that you all must be dying for a behind the scenes peek at how the magic happens. It all starts around 1:30 AM on Sunday night/Monday morning. That’s around 4 hours after I am supposed to have emailed this in to Tyler, our lovely wizard/graphic designer. I sit down in a chair and make up a bunch of stuff about new comics. I then send it to Tyler’s cauldron of spells/email account. He then does some process I don’t understand, blah blah blah, now it looks nice to look at. Then someone does something so that some internet nerds make it a blog post and someone else or maybe the same person does something so that printing nerds make it a newsletter. Viola! And that’s how it works. Same as the New York Times. It’s like Arthur C. Clarke once said to me, “Any sufficiently advanced low level comics journalism/sales pitch is indistinguishable from magic.” Anyway, there is a surprisingly good amount of new stuff on shelves this week and I have wasted a lot of space making jokes that only I will find funny, so let’s get on with it.
First, a moment of sadness and thanks to the great Jeff Lemire who wraps up his brilliant post apocalyptic coming of age story Sweet Tooth this week in SWEET TOOTH #40. If you haven’t ever read Mr. Lemire’s work you should be ashamed. SWEET TOOTH vol.1 is one of the true great joys of comics in the twenty first century. RIYL: SANDMAN, THE ROAD, or Children Of Men.
Also well worth reading no matter your feeling on superhero books, or anything else really, is WONDER WOMAN. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang are quietly sitting in their own corner of the DC universe taking one of the most beloved characters in comics history and telling new stories for her that feel exciting, fresh, and look about as good as a comic can look. Matthew Wilson’s coloring on this book will be studied for years to come as the correct way to have coloring not just serve the pencil art, but to make coloring it’s own art. You don’t have to know anything going in, nor do you have to care about the rest of the DC universe. You just have to like good comics. DC is finally putting out WONDER WOMAN vol. 1 & vol. 2 this week. This is about as good as superhero comics get so you should get them. RIYL: Wonder Woman stories on any level, Clash Of The Titans or any modern takes on mythology
DEVIL IS DUE IN DREARY #2 is also out this week. I really loved issue #1 of this series that felt like a perfect cross between the modern western elements of PREACHER and the foreboding tone of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. Add to that art that looks like a smoother Howard Chaykin and you have a really well made book. I know this is a book that will fly under most folks radars but that is a real shame. It has just enough uniqueness to make it stand out, just enough familiarity to be relatable, and is good enough to be a classic if people gave it a chance. RIYL: JONAH HEX or any modern westerns, FELL, PREACHER.
EERIE #2 hits shelves as well. I don’t hide my love for anthology comics and EERIE is a classic. Dark Horse’s relaunch of the series is off to a great start with weird short stories from Mike Allred (MADMAN, iZOMBIE, FF), Brian Clevinger (ATOMIC ROBO), and others. If you just want to read some fun & unusual stuff this is a no-brainer. Don’t be the guy or girl in your local comic shop who has to admit “I just like unfun & usual stuff.” RIYL: Old EERIE comics or other EC stuff, TWILIGHT ZONES, feeding your short attention span.
Peter Bagge is one of the modern legends of indie comics for his brilliant series HATE. When there is that much love and respect heaped on ones work it becomes easy for a lot of creators to shrink away from ever doing something substantial again. Fear of the followup or what have you. But Mr. Bagge has dived headfirst into new and brilliant projects one after another. From APOCALPSE NERD to YEAH! to OTHER LIVES his post HATE work has been varied and fun. It’s a different time for comics and it’s hard to get people as excited about a new book as it once was, but Mr. Bagge’s latest series, RESET, is maybe his best work since HATE and, if it were a different time, would be loved and talked about in much the same way. RESET is the story of a man who enters into an experiment that allows him to relive and change choices he’s made from his past. Weirdo stuff ensues. RIYL: Older Bagge stuff like HATE, the modern indie masters like Daniel Clowes or Charles Burns, or the idea of going back in time and messing things up like a creepy Marty McFly.
I don’t have much of an interest in Conan. Never did really. Some things aren’t for everyone. I know why people like it, I get that, it just wasn’t for me. Then Brian Wood wrote the excellent NORTHLANDERS series about badass vikings axing each other and whatnot and I immediately got the appeal. Apparently someone at Dark Horse did too because they snatched Mr. Wood up and put him on their CONAN book. I don’t know if that worked to bring new readers into the fold but it damn well should have. Mr. Wood is great at huge epics (DMZ, NORTHLANDERS), great at telling stories smarter than they need to be (COURIERS, CHANNEL ZERO), and great at working with amazing artists. For the beginning of his run, collected as CONAN vol 13: QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST he continues these trends. A smart Conan story that feels epic and has beautiful work by two of the more consistently interesting artists working today; BECKY CLOONAN (AMERICAN VIRGIN, DEMO vol II) and JAMES HARREN (B.P.R.D.). For those of you who have ever loved Conan and forgotten about it, this is the time to jump back on. And for those of you like me, who never saw the appeal, this is the comic that will make you fall in love with a barbarian with an ax. That’s a good thing.
RIYL: NORTHLANDERS, people using swords and stuff on each other, old pulp stories made relevant again.
END TIMES OF BRAM & BEN #1 is out this week. A buddy comedy set around the rapture. Image pumped out more good series debuts in 2012 than most people can afford to read and ETOBAB is their hope for their first big hit of 2013. This book is clearly gunning for the bookshelves of fans of smart and snarky comics and is definitely worth checking out if that is you. Co-writer James Asmus is a rising star over at Marvel but is also doing his time at Image on THIEF OF THIEVES with some nobody named Robert Kirkman. If you look for comics that have some action but really want to make you smirk this should fully be on your radar by now. RIYL: BATTLE POPE, CHEW, or the film Dogma.
My last recommendation is BETA TESTING THE APOCALYPSE. 10ish short stories from Tom Kaczynski that all play with the idea of exploring modern intangible concepts like capitalism or utopia and breaking them down into very tangible and very human stories. These are big ideas made very small and personal. Kaczynki’s style makes all the heavy stuff feel very immersive with out ever feeling oppressive. It is a delicate balancing act, and one that clearly he is comfortable with. BETA TESTING THE APOCALYPSE, like a lot of the Fantagraphics stuff from the last decade, is definitely one of those books that’ll please almost everybody who has the interest to pick it up and for a select few it will become a most cherished and prized possession. RIYL: J.G. Ballard, the more esoteric but personal stuff Fantagraphics puts out, CONCRETE.
Ok. I’m done.