Wednesday's New Things: It's a Hit!

This week, crime comics next big thing is back... click on covers for a preview, where my cursory googling could find one

Hit: 1957 #1, written by Bryce Carlson, art by Vanesa Del Rey, colors by Nikos Guardia, letters by Ed Dukeshire

Hit was one of my favorite books from 2013, a worthy, if a stylistically stilted, entry into the crime comics genre drawn by then-new comer Vanesa Del Rey, whose super thin line and hyper awareness of shape was the real attraction. Set in Los Angeles, it's got clear vibes from Chandler and Chinatown, which could have been a real stretch, but the book worked, enough that I think it's one of the great crime comics of the last few years. Having retroactively titled that book Hit: 1955, Boom's brought the series back as Hit: 1957, I guess with the idea being that it'll move forward in time, sort of a Mad Men gimmick. As before, even if this genre doesn't do it for you like it does for me, take a peek for the sake of Del Rey. I could look at her art forever, and comics can only be better when such a talented artist is a proven sale. 

The Autumnlands #5, written by Kurt Busiek, art by Ben Dewey, colors by Jordie Bellaire, letters by Comicraft
The Empty #2, by Jimmie Robinson
They're Not Like Us #4, written by Eric Stephenson, drawn by Simon Gane, colors by Jordie Bellaire, letters by Fonografiks
The Wicked and the Divine #9, written by Kieron Gillen, drawn by Jamie McKelvie, colors by Matt Wilson, letters by Clayton Cowles 

A quartet of quality books from Image this week. Autumnlands has been quietly very good,  particularly since Busiek dumped some of the details that were a little too cute from the first issue. A sprawling fantasy piece of the first order, it's worth a looksee if you like Redwall or a politically oriented, vaguely retrofuturist kind of fantasy. The Empty is worthwhile, although the first issue was a little inconsistent and very on the nose; I'm interested to see where it goes. They're Not Like Us is a neat deconstructionist riff on the X-Men, and, although it's surprising to say this since superhero deconstruction is thirty years old, it's pretty fresh. I've been wanting to write about a particular physical element of that book that I really love, so maybe this week's the week I do that, and it may also be the week I write about how crazy issue #8 of WicDiv was. After largely avoiding the formalism that made Young Avengers so interesting, Gillen and McKelvie went all out last issue. Even if this book doesn't feel as vital as their work sometimes does, I'm all in here, particularly if they're headed back towards forward formal thinking. 

Past Aways #1, written by Matt Kindt, drawn by Scott Kollins, colors by Bill Crabtree

Something sort of fun from Dark Horse, a sort of Booster Gold-style time travel story, with an exploring the past kind of angle. Parts of it seem a little trite, but Scott Kollins's art is simple and slick, and the colors are bold. Writer Matt Kindt is always best when he's working as his own artist (and his art is really something), but its good to seem him get work like this. 

Nemo: River of Ghosts, written by Alan Moore, drawn by Kevin O'Neill

New Alan Moore is always news (did you hear we're finally going to see his million word novel Jerusalem? Can you imagine holding the damn thing?! In hardcover?! Coming 2016). I'm really pleased that he's still playing in the League of Extraordinary Gentleman sandbox; in some ways, Moore's real talent is for taking the elements of mainstream superhero comics, tearing them down to their base parts, moving them around or redressing them, and then turning something recognizable and also somehow unrecognizable back out into the world. I would have figured that he was bored with that by now, but there's something about doing patchwriting with literature that keeps him going, and I'm very glad for it.  

Wednesday's New Things: Trapped In A Blog He Never Made!

It's a slow week, so I'm going to get the duck on with it already. Click for a preview, where I could find one. 

Howard the Duck #1, written by Chip Zdarsky, drawn by Joe Quinones, colors by Rico Renzi
I think that Howard the Duck may be the hero my generation needs. Trapped in a world we never made? Check. Have to endure articles about how terrible we are based in part on lazy reporters looking in the wrong place? Also check. In fact, I think what we really might need is Steve Gerber's version of the character but, in Chip Zdarsky, we've got someone who's interpretation is going to be anywhere from passable to good. Zdarsky, who came to prominence working with Matt Fraction on Sex Criminals, has a very well developed sense of humor and comically exaggerated, probably affected, sense of self importnace that leads him to do things like throw his own little convention, dedicated to himself, in a Toronto park. He is, in other words, more or less the perfect person to write a contemporary Howard the Duck. Some of the jokes in the preview do fall a little flat, but I  think they'll probably play better in a form that's got actually context and flow, unlike a comic book preview. And he might need a few issues to get his sea legs anyway; this book, more than most, probably needs an investment of a few issues before deciding whether or not to keep pulling it. Joe Quinones's art is good, relatively simple and straight cartooning, but lacking the design influenced and retro style of Paolo Rivera, Javier Pulido or Marcos Martin. In a good example of form following function, though, Quinones's cartoony style does sign a particular kind of humor and irreverence even if, like Zdarksy, he might need a couple of issues to get his sea legs.  

The Surface #1, written by Ales Kot, drawn by Langdon Foss, colors by Jordie Bellaire, letters by Clayton Cowles

Ales Kot, who seems to have exploded into comics 18 months ago or so and just taken off since then, is working here with his Bucky Barnes colleague Langdon Foss, who's straight style, sort of like the vaguely Euro-look of Frank Quitely or Nick Pitarra but with a smoother line, is weirdly matched with Marco Rudy's experimentation on that book. Here, they're working on a soft sci-fi/hacking adventure story set in Africa, which seems like it's worth a look. 

Southern Cross #1, written by Becky Cloonan, drawn by Andy Belanger, colors by Lee Loughridge

Wednesday's New Things: The Man From Essex County

A rare small week. Click on the covers for previews, where I could find one. 

 Descender #1, written by Jeff Lemire, art by Dustin Nguyen 
All-New Hawkeye #1, written by Jeff Lemire, art by Ramon Perez

Two new books from cartoonist extraordinaire Jeff Lemire, who seems to have settled in to the role of mainstay mainstream funny book writer quite nicely. The sci-fi Descender is the heir to his creator owned Sweet Tooth and Trillium books and seems, in particular, to pick up on the themes of the latter. He's working with Dustin Nguyen, who has painted all of the art. Painting seems like a sort of weird strategy for attacking sci-fi and, in general, I find painted art to be static and ugly, but Nguyen's is beautiful, and subtle, adding a soft atmosphere and has a nice texture. That it's dissonant with the tone of the scene in the preview only serves to make that scene that much eerier. More interesting, if only because it's kind of out of left field, is Lemire's All-New Hawkeye. The series that he's following, Matt Fraction and David Aja's very well regarded Hawkeye, has been released at inconsistent intervals since about six months in, and isn't concluding until next month. Despite it's frustrating pace, Fraction and Aja's work is very well liked, in part because it's about how unglamorous super heroics can be; in terms of genre, its an espionage cloak covering a story about what happens when Marvel's vaunted man on the street happens to be so skilled at one particular thing that he can use it for good. It's also deeply, deeply engaged with comics as a form, with the extraordinarily talented artists Aja and Annie Wu, along with colorist Matt Hollingsworth, breaking the form and putting it back together on a semi-regular basis. Thankfully, Marvel seems to have figured out that it's not just the character that's bringing people to the book, and by tapping Lemire and artist Ramon Perez (the kind of worthwhile and intriguing creator choices they were making a year ago before abruptly pulling up), they've put themselves in a position to maintain a fair bit of the audience they've built up. Perez's art is slick and cartoony, with a little bit of Bruce Timm influence, and Lemire is well aware that this book plays to his strengths, which are more in the realm of thick characterization than in traditional superheroics. Part of the book is going to be flashbacks to Clint Barton's childhood and about his relationship with his brother Barney, which makes me hopeful that what we're getting is the other side of Lemire's work on Essex County, just with the Marvel insignia on the front cover. If, in fact, that's what's in store, then we'll have a transcendent comic book on our hands, the fulfillment of Lemire's promise as a writer of mainstream comic books. 
Big Man Plans (1 of 4), written by Eric Powell and Tim Weisch, art by Eric Powell

The Goon's (man, I just love the Goon) Eric Powell turning his attention to a more or less straight crime comic? That's something sweet. 
The Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet, by Geoff Darrow with colors by Dave Stewart 
Princess Leia #1, written by Mark Waid, pencils by Terry Dodson, inks by Rachel Dodson, colors by Jordie Bellaire 


Wednesday's New Things: It's Just Criminal

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips's finest series returns. Click the cover for a preview, where I could find one.
Criminal: Special Edition One Shot/Criminal: Savage Edition Magazine Variant, written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Sean Phillips, colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser
If this new issue of Criminal were the only comic book released this week, I would come home from my LCS a happy man. Criminal is my absolute favorite of the very long running and more or less uninterrupted-from-the-first series of collaborations between Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips; of all their work Criminal plays it the straightest. Even so, the most recent series, "The Last of the Innocent," was a riff on Archie comics, and it presaged their more recent work with genre experimentation in Fatale and the attempt at meta-Hollywood-melodrama in The Fade Out. I liked those recent series, but I've often wished they'd come back to Criminal and now, happily, they've done so, in a double length one-shot that comes smack dab in the middle of Image's lovely rereleases of the trade paperbacks. Perhaps most fun of all, Brubaker and Phillips return here to Teeg Lawless, a character that popped up in the series in its earliest iterations. The kernel of the idea here is that Lawless is in county lock up and reading a Savage Sword of Conan-style comic, something that Brubaker says he thought up after learning what kinds of comics were popular with prison populations in the 70s and 80s. Presumably, the two stories proceed together, which squares with the kind of experimentation that they've been doing over the last couple of years (and has fun resonances both with the earlier "Last of the Innocent" serial and Watchmen) but makes me pessimistic that we'll ever see Criminal comics that are quite like the early ones. There's also a neat publishing thing going on here, since the regular edition is being released alongside a slightly more expensive magazine sized edition, which presumably also has some extras. This is a gimmick they tried a few months ago with an issue of The Fade Out and, although I liked the idea, I passed because the magazine variant followed the regular edition by a couple of weeks, and I didn't want to pay for the same content twice. If the two editions are released together, however, (EDIT: both Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips tweeted at me to say that they came out on the same day; my mistake) I'll absolutely pony up the extra buck for the slightly bigger one. I hope that this strategy works; I'd like to see it more often. For what it's worth, I'd love to see more Criminal, too.! 
Love: The Tiger, written by Frédéric Brrémaud, drawn by Federico Bertolucci
 This one's an award winner from France, totally wordless and the first in a series dealing with the life of an animal in a particular kind of environment. Written for an audience at the intersection of children and adults, it has the kind of charm that books meant for wide audiences often rely on. The art is very highly rendered, somehow both stiff and lithe, but it gives a real and detailed sense of the world of the tiger, which is what Bertolucci is probably going for. From the preview, the utter silence of the pages seems extraordinary, emphasizing what's going on in individual panels in away that more cartoony silent comics, like Jason's, don't manage (although, for Jason, that's not the point). I have hunch that, for that reason, this book, and the ones that follow in the Love series, are unusual reading experiences, certainly worth a look. 
Prince Valiant #1, written by Nate Cosby, art by Ron Salas
I'm on the record as liking the idea of these King Features/Dynamite comics, and this Prince Valiant comic looks like the best of the bunch. As a corollary to WHO IS THIS COMIC FOR?! though, one wonders if it wouldn't have been a better idea, in terms of sales, to go full on Hal Foster, in order to bring in those who like the original Prince Valiant strip for its storybook feel, as well as for its content. 
The Wicked and the Divine #8, written by Kieron Gillen, drawn by Jamie McKelvie, colors by Matt Wilson, letters by Clayton Cowles

Coming Soon To A Spinner Rack Near You: Astro Boy

In September, Dark Horse is putting out a 700 page Astro Boy omnibus. 700 pages. Somehow, Amazon has the retail price listed at $20, which seems impossible, but, hey, I'm in. Tezuka is such an important creator, and Astro Boy is such a well known property, that I'm positive that this isn't the first time we've seen this work in English. I can't, however, ever recall actually seeing it in a comic book store, so I'm looking forward to cracking it open.