3.25.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

For books hitting the shelves on 3/25, the top slot is basically a toss-up between Eric Stephenson and Simon Gane’s They’re Not Like Us #4 and Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey’s The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #5. The former is an adolescent power manifestation riff that feels like a modernized version of what happens when the X-Men premise meets Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s Demo, and the latter is superb fantasy world-building that contains some very subtle elements analogous to the post-9/11 present day, both published by Image Comics.

Image Comics also has some of their best sci-fi offerings available this week with Drifter #5 by Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein, and The Fuse #11 by Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood. If sci-fi isn’t quite your thing, you could always turn to the immensely popular post-pop quasi-religious treatment of fame in The Wicked + The Divine #9 by the team of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

If corporate comics are your thing, I’ll recommend The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1 by Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke, which is DC’s Earth-33 (hey, that’s us!) installment of Morrison’s multiverse project. I’m so thoroughly confused by DC’s current (lack of) continuity and what’s about to happen with their (Fourth? Fifth? Sixth? Is anyone counting? Does it matter?) line-wide (partial) reboot as an outsider who rarely dips my toe in any longer, but Grant Morrison comics are still usually worth a look and an insightful meta-chuckle. Marvel also has Darth Vader #3 out from Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca. I haven’t been convinced that Gillen really has Vader’s voice down in a convincing way, but hey, it’s Star Wars, and it’s hard to look away out of sheer nostalgic curiosity.

Oni Press has decided that it’s a good week to be a Joshua Hale Fialkov fan, with both The Life After #8 (art by Gabo) and The Bunker #10 (art by Joe Infurnari) available. I’ll admit I’m losing interest in The Life After unless it's all Hemingway all the time, but The Bunker is still a solid time-jumping thriller that’s steeped in the type of paranoia-fueled drama that’s easy to get sucked into.

IDW is offering the much-hyped Jem & The Holograms #1 by Kelly Thompson and Sophie (nee: Ross) Campbell. Shameless Plug: My LCS, Yesteryear Comics in San Diego, has a great variant cover by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, so check it out! But, I’m really interested in this for so many reasons, to see what this reimaging looks like, to see if the book will live up to the hype and have one of those cult followings, and I’m always curious to chart the career paths of fellow critics making the jump to other roles in the industry, be it editorial or writing.

On the collected edition front, there’s several solid picks this week. First up, we have a Dark Horse collection of Ed Brisson’s Murder Book, a little cottage industry with multiple artists that showcases the strength of low-budget crime vignettes in a sordid manner that’s reminiscent of the work of David Lapham on Stray Bullets, with perhaps a little more noir thrown in for good measure. Oni Press has Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque’s Letter 44 Volume 2: Redshift, a terribly fun drama that’s easily parsed as Independence Day meets The West Wing. Lastly, Image Comics is offering Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope, Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini’s take on a post-apocalyptic underwater future, one which is initially a slow burn, but then hones right in on Remender’s go-to theme of familial bonds fueling the narrative through so many clever obstacles.


3.18.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

It’s a big week! As usual, Image Comics is leading the charge, and I’ll give the top slot to Punks #5 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain. The guys always manage to pull off unexpected humor with their analog collage motif and wry social observations. I believe this issue also marks the close of the first arc. Image also has Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta’s Outcast #7, a title which actually does little for me script-wise, but Azaceta has been putting on straight-up art workshops with every issue in terms of composing layouts and creating unsettling mood. It’s fantastic. C.O.W.L. #9 is also due out, the Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis tale about unionized supes in 1960’s era Chicago. If you thought the Powers TV debut sucked, and can’t find an easy entry point into the comics, then I recommend this title as an alternative you can easily hop onto for some realism applied to the most unrealistic genre.

Image Comics is also offering several new launches, including Invisible Republic #1, the gritty sci-fi epic by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko. Shameless Plug: Be sure to grab the Exclusive Variant Cover by artist Johnnie Christmas, available at my LCS, Yesteryear Comics in San Diego. Chrononauts #1 by Mark Millar and Sean Murphy also joins the creator owned fray, as does Red One #1 by Xavier Dorison and Rachel & Terry Dodson. Millar is usually pretty hit and (mostly) miss for me as a writer, but I did enjoy his recent Starlight series with Goran Parlov, so I’ll give this one a try. Similarly, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Dodsons, but there’s something about the premise here that looks intriguing, so I’ll give it a shot.

Dark Horse is offering EI8HT #2 by Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson, and the introductory issue used palette to great effect when composing moody sci-fi. I know nothing about Shaper #1 by Eric Heisserer and Felipe Massafera, also published by Dark Horse, but based on the cover image alone it looks very promising, with a painterly aesthetic and insinuations of an ominous space epic. IDW has Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #4, the final issue of this incarnation of the Winsor McCay classic, helmed by Eric Shanower and Gabriel Rodriguez. The title was poised to make a splash at SDCC last summer and I really enjoyed the first few installments, but then it seemingly went dark, so I wonder if it lost some media momentum with the delays on the final issue. Nevertheless, Rodriguez has become one of those rare buy-on-sight creators, basically a modern day George Perez, with detailed expressive figures, even more robust line weights, and an on-model sense of consistency that’s gorgeous.

Ok, ok, ok, if you really want some Marvel and DC Comics instead of all this creator owned filth, then here’s what I can suggest. I found the first issue very lackluster, but I’ll be reading the Disney/Lucasfilm/Marvel Princess Leia #2 by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson (because I’m collecting SW comics for my cousin who is overseas, you’ll get tired of hearing me qualify this purchase every time). Though I can’t recommend it per se, I do find it interesting to see how the property is being managed from a business standpoint and, execution aside, books featuring pop culture leading ladies are always welcome. Out here in Burbank, DC has one of their weird anthology books for you with Strange Sports Stories #1 through the Vertigo imprint. It’s the first of four issues, and with creators like Brian Azzarello, Paul Pope, Nick Dragotta, Chris Mitten, and Darick Robertson, you could do worse things that plunk down $4.99 for 40 pages.

If collected editions are what you’re after, there are lots of choices this week. If you want to kick it old-school, there’s the IDW Jack Kirby Mister Miracle Artists Edition Hardcover. These IDW Artist Editions are things of beauty, basically coffee table art books that show off the raw grandeur of original art work in their oversized format. Mister Miracle is easily my favorite Kirby Kreation, so my wallet is already wincing in anticipation.

If you wanted to bring it up a little more turn of the century, DC has the Ocean/Orbiter Deluxe Edition Hardcover, featuring two of Warren Ellis’ WildStorm era sci-fi series, with outstanding art collaborations. We’ve got Chris Sprouse on the Ocean end of things (and few people do clean sci-fi visuals better than Sprouse), with Colleen Doran reaching for the stars on Orbiter, tracking a Space Shuttle crash landing on Earth after being mysteriously missing for a decade. It’s the epitome of one of Warren Ellis’ classic “What If?” premises that he uses so sharply to propel high-interest sci-fi.

If you wanted to get all present-day, then I wholeheartedly recommend Lazarus Volume 3: Conclave by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, published by Image Comics. It clangs together a near-future extrapolation of social fears and rapidly advancing biotechnology in a world where organized crime corporations control everything. It’s got intense action, family drama, and social relevance. For my money, it’s easily the best book Image Comics is currently publishing, and is a contender for best current series from any publisher, period.

“Surviving The Big Wet”

With our Comics Bulletin Wasteland Retrospective entitled “Surviving The Big Wet” concluding this week, I thought I’d just leave a quick link-dump here for everyone, to catalogue the posts in a way that I can easily point people to in the future. It was an absolute honor to help bring this series home in my small little way, and to be a fringe part of it. I feel nostalgic when thinking about Wasteland, and feel a special connection to it. It’s been running for about as long as I’ve had this site.

I picked up a signed copy of Wasteland #1 in 2006 at San Diego Comic Con. I chatted briefly with Antony, Chris, and (then) cover artist Ben Templesmith at the Oni Press booth, loved the issue, and went off and wrote a review. Months later, I walked into my LCS to unexpectedly find a pull quote on Wasteland #6, the first I’d ever gotten outside the world of mini-comics. Web traffic spiked after that, and in some small way I felt that it was a sign I’d arrived as a mainstream critic. I used to joke that Thirteen Minutes was “the house that Wasteland built.”

It’s been a joy to watch the series evolve over the years and to see long-form storytelling in action, to see new artists contribute their interpretations of the post-apocalyptic world  (a genre I just adore), and to follow the creators to other projects, from Antony Johnston’s The Coldest City with Sam Hart, to Justin Greenwood on Stumptown with Greg Rucka, to Antony and Chris Mitten just absolutely killing it on Umbral and getting the acclaim they deserve.

Anyway, special thanks to Antony, Chris, Justin, Shy Allott, and James Lucas Jones at Oni Press for the opportunity. I’m nervously awaiting the finale of #60, a bittersweet moment where I’ll celebrate the rare feat of indie creators sticking the landing of a long-running title and telling the story they wanted to tell in the manner they wanted to tell it, but I'll also lament the loss of a book that’s been a constant favorite in my life for nearly a decade. But hey, we’ll always have those gorgeous crimson Apocalyptic Edition Hardcovers, and I’m one of the lucky people who has a rare black one!


Wasteland Retrospective @ Comics Bulletin

For those of you not following me on Twitter @ThirteenMinutes, you may have missed today's kick-off of the unofficial "Wasteland Week" over at Comics Bulletin. In anticipation of the final issue, #60, hitting the stands later this month, I'm doing an exclusive four-part retrospective of the series published by Oni Press, entitled "Surviving The Big Wet." I'll  be interviewing writer Antony Johnston, along with artists Christopher Mitten and Justin Greenwood, and spiking the posts with some never-before-seen concept art, like the glorious character design for Abi you see here. Check it out!


3.11.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

This week, all eyes should be on Ed Brisson, Johnnie Christmas, and Shari Chankhamma’s Sheltered #15 from Image Comics, the final chapter of this genre-defying pre-apocalyptic tale that’s largely about the tension between millennials and their generational antecedents, all wrapped up in what is essentially a grand scale crime drama.

Image Comics is also offering Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon’s Casanova: Acedia #2, a title always worth a look, East of West #18 by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta, a title that pulls me into spirited debates with my LCS owner about which is the best Image Comic currently being published – East of West (his contention) or Lazarus (mine), as well as Southern Cross #1 by Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger. I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of Southern Cross and I liked it just fine. It’s not exactly what I expected, but the ornate European-influenced design work and outsider protagonist have potential, and if you slap a Becky Cloonan cover on something, well, I’m usually a sucker for that. I’m also curious about The Surface #1 by Ales Kot and Langdon Foss, what looks to be some sort of organic sci-fi affair, and while I’ve yet to identify a book from the writer I’ve warmed to, I like the artist enough to give this first issue a go.

I think Marvel Comics has now set-up a publishing scheme in which they’ll be able to offer at least one new Star Wars related comic every single week, part of the Disney-helmed effort at multimedia marketing dominance. I have to admit, the franchise is still capable of moments of brilliance (Did you catch the season finale of Star Wars Rebels? My God. The lightsaber duel. The reveal of Fulcrum. The long slow descent of a Star Destroyer crashing down over Mustafar. Shit was on point!), even if the recent comics have left me somewhat cold as they stretch out Dark Horse’s last iteration over at least three diluted titles, with very uneven results. Nevertheless, I’ll pick up a copy of Star Wars #3 for my cousin who’s currently overseas, and give it a read. I’m honestly more interested in what will happen in Howard The Duck #1. It’ll be great to see what Chip Zdarsky is able to pull off with all eyes on him, and Joe Quinones is someone who’s been on my radar ever since those gorgeous Green Lantern pages in DC’s Wednesday Comics experiment.

Hey, it’s the only DC/Vertigo series I’m currently supporting, Astro City #21 by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson.  Astro City is sort of the comic book equivalent of a warm blanket on a cold night, reliable and comforting in a way that makes you nostalgic for deceptively simpler times. Oni Press is offering Hellbreak #1 by Cullen Bunn and Brian Churilla. I can’t say I’ve yet found a book from either creator I’m a fan of, but for the $1 introductory price point, that’s a very low risk gamble that I’m willing to take.

On the collected edition front, I wholeheartedly recommend Copperhead Volume 01: A New Sheriff in Town, which is probably the best in a whole slew of recent sci-fi offerings from Image Comics. For me, it just has the best elevator-pitch premise, basically “take your favorite Western and set it on Tatooine,” and executes it flawlessly, with a female protagonist to boot. 


3.04.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

I’m most interested in Blackcross #1 this week, a book which seems to be flying under the radar. It’s Warren Ellis and Colton Worley’s first foray into Dynamite Entertainment’s Project Superpowers line. Ellis is one of the rare buy-on-sight creators, regardless of company or collaborator, as there’s always kernels of brilliance, even among his occasional “misses.” Blackcross promises to juxtapose Golden Age Superheroes with small town supernatural mystery, something quirky enough that it could be a sleeper hit.

Image Comics continues their mindshare dominance with Saga #26 from BKV and Fiona Staples, Nameless #2 by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham, Black Science #12 by Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera, the brand new Descender #1 from the team of Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, and the finale (of this run) of the series in Supreme: Blue Rose #7, by Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay. Of the lot, it’s sorta a three way tie between the ever-adventurous Black Science (part of the ridiculously good writer’s trifecta with Low and Deadly Class, it’s a helluva a time to be a Rick Remender fan!), Nameless (I’m quite curious to see where the guys take this series), and Supreme: Blue Rose (since it’ll be interesting to see how they stick the landing).

If you held a gun to my head and made me buy a corporate comic this week, I’d certainly choose the Disney/LucasFilm/Marvel premiere of Princess Leia #1 by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson. I’ve never been a huge Dodson fan (though that cover image admittedly looks terrific), but Waid is a writer with longevity who I respect, and I’m quite interested to see what fan reaction will be to this book. It sounds like it’ll cover some of the same emotional ground as Brian Wood’s Star Wars run, and I’m wondering if fans will similarly push back on Waid’s treatment of her as a blaster-wielding, X-Wing piloting leader of an insurgent cell.

IDW is offering Winterworld #0 by Chuck Dixon and guest artist Tommy Lee Edwards, so I’m definitely checking out this prequel story to the post-apocalyptic affair. Lastly, I’ll be picking up Lady Killer #3 by Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones, published by Dark Horse Comics, which wryly merges suburban ennui with period wetwork, something which seems to be a rising sub-genre in the collective consciousness of the last few years.


2.25.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

There’s a few sure buys this week, with quite a few maybes thrown in. I’m most excited for Danger Club #7 from Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones, followed closely by They’re Not Like Us #3 by Eric Stephenson and Simon Gane. Image Comics also has Low #6 by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini out (growing to be a stalwart buy because it focuses on Remender’s go-to theme of the parent-child dynamic), ODY-C #3 by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward (maybe too ambitious for its own good, this issue will likely either make or break my continued support), Sex #20 by Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski (this will probably be my last issue, there’s just too much narrative foreplay and not enough of the actual storytelling act itself), and The Wicked + The Divine #8 (I’m more interested in Jamie McKelvie’s confectionary visuals than Kieron Gillen’s pop mythology).

I’ve been picking up copies of all the new Star Wars comics for my cousin who is overseas in Abu Dhabi, so I’ll read his copy of Darth Vader #2 in the new Marvel Comics venture, and chalk it up in the maybe column. For some reason, I could never quite get into Jason Aaron and Ron Garney’s series despite liking both Scalped and Southern Bastards a great deal, so Men of Wrath #5 is a maybe as well. Over at Oni Press, I’ve enjoyed the series, but have been feeling a little ambivalent toward it lately, so ditto the maybe sentiment for The Life After #7 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo.

I’m even less interested in Sandman: Overture #4, a series that saw the first issue released on October 30th of 2013. Like many in my age group I assume, I credit Neil Gaiman and Sandman with getting me back into comics in my college years, and I’ve loved JH Williams III since I first saw his work at a local con in our hometown around 1992, way before Chase or any of his early work, on a weird little horror title called Demonic Toys, but for some reason this title just leaves me totally cold, and I have a hard time supporting a publishing model that’s managed to only get out an average of two issues per year. I’ll give it a flip, but can’t in good conscience plunk down the money.

Suiciders #1 is another Vertigo offering this week that I’ll give a flip. Honestly, the premise is thin, sounding like a rehash of about three other things mashed together, but with Lee Bermejo art, it’s still a little intriguing. I’m curious about Curb Stomp #1 by Ryan Ferrier and Devaki Neogi (especially with covers by Tula Lotay), so I’ll check out this Boom! Studios debut swirling around the heart of punk. Lastly, I’ll give The Black Hood #1 a flip, this being the Archie Comics debut of their in-house superhero property at the hands of Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos. This artist is always worth a look, and if the recent Afterlife With Archie is any indication of future performance, it could be grand.

On the collected edition front, I’ll recommend G.I. Joe Volume 1:  The Fall of G.I. Joe, IDW’s latest offering of the property, this time featuring an off-type political thriller by Karen Traviss, Steve Kurth, and killer design work on the covers by Jeffrey Veregge, which stays true to the general spirit of the original premise, yet also manages to feel more sophisticated and socially relevant in the post-9/11 age of asymmetrical warfare. 


2.18.15 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

This week is very representative of the kind of material I want to be consuming, cramming so many of my current favorite books and creators into one place. Nearly every week at the LCS, I’ll get the question as a prompt and make the case for this book being the single best series Image Comics is currently publishing, and it’s Lazarus #15 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. This issue promises the conclusion of the Conclave arc, which has been a great look at the other families, and like Tyrion Lannister at The Eyrie, it appears we’ll be getting trial by combat in the denouement.

Image Comics also has Manifest Destiny #13 out, by the team of Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, and Owen Gieni, another great series which easily made my Best of 2014 list for its blending of speculative historical fiction (Lewis & Clark’s fabled expedition to chart a waterway to the Pacific Ocean) and good ol’ fashioned monster mayhem (imagine the real reason we got such a deal from the French is because the Louisiana Purchase was inhabited by supernatural creatures!). In an age when colorist recognition is on the rise with stars like Dave Stewart, Dean White, and Jordie Bellaire, I’d love to see Owen Gieni getting some of that well-deserved praise.

Don’t stop there with your support of The House of Creator Owned! Image Comics will also bring you Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s Deadly Class #11, Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein’s Drifter #4, along with The Fuse #10, and The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #4. There really is something for every taste, a foray into every genre, and so many diverse creators you should support. I’m most excited for this installment of The Fuse (with Antony Johnston’s well thought out sci-fi world-building and Justin Greenwood’s storytelling ability growing in every issue) and Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey’s gorgeous and poignant work in The Autumnlands. I usually call it “Kamandi meets Game of Thrones.”

Dark Horse Comics is featuring EI8HT #1, a new mini-series by Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson, a time-displaced sci-fi adventure that has me very curious about Albuquerque’s writing ability. Over at Oni Press, we have Charles Soule’s Letter 44 #14, this time with art by Drew Moss in a special flashback issue. There’s also the final issue of Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood’s Marc Spector arc in Moon Knight #12. I’ll be very sad to see this go, as Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Brian Wood, Greg Smallwood, and Jordie Bellaire all did very special things with this series that renewed interest in the character while telling visceral tales with instantly distinct approaches to the art.

On the collected edition front, we have Umbral Volume 2: The Dark Path, collecting issues 7 through 12 of this superb fantasy piece by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten. DC/Vertigo is also putting out the first hardcover installment of one of their greatest series ever with Scalped Book One: The Deluxe Edition. For me, this is still the best thing Jason Aaron has written, rich with social secrets and seedy crime and larger notes around the crumbling subculture of the Native American diaspora, and it’s an absolute crime that his chief collaborator R.M. Guera hasn’t since been picked up for plying that rich inky style on an ongoing series.