Generations, Elsewhere & More in Required Reading: Comics for 8/2/17

Comics Lists Required Reading
Generations, Elsewhere & More in Required Reading: Comics for 8/2/17

August has snuck up on us like a Russian super-spy, and the only respite is jumping into our giant robots and reading some cartoon-crossover comics. As the summer’s final month gears up, so too does Marvel’s Generations series of one-shots and DC’s collection of Jack Kirby tributes. This week also brings us one potential (though unlikely) answer to the Amelia Earhart mystery, the second volume of a cannibal mind-screw manga, dinosaur hunting, music/comic hybridization and The End of the Fucking World. Stay cool out there, kiddos.

STL051477.jpegAdventure Time/Regular Show #1
Writer: Conor McCreery
Artist: Mattia Di Meo
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Adventure Time and Regular Show are two of Cartoon Network’s tent-pole offerings, heirs to shows like Courage the Cowardly Dog and Dexter’s Laboratory. There’s a particular magic to making a kids’ show that appeals to adults, balancing serious themes and absurdist sensibilities with bright, welcoming characters full of personality. After the end of the Cartoon Cartoon era, Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward reinvigorated that artform just in time for many fans to have kids and disposable income of their own. These two shows have launched their own separate comic series (with Regular Show since concluded), but this week brings the first crossover in print, sending Jake and Finn into a confrontation with Mordecai and Rigby’s world, seeking a way to save the Kingdom of Ooo from a powerful new evil. Writer Conor McCreery might be best known for his surreal, hilarious and thoroughly researched Kill Shakespeare, and Mattia Di Meo has experience on other Adventure Time tiles, which makes them an ideal team for what promises to be a trippy, hilarious book with heart. Caitlin Rosberg

STL053810.jpegElsewhere #1
Writer: Jay Faerber
Artist: Sumeyye Kesgin
Publisher: Image Comics
Long-lost pilot Amelia Earhart regularly inspires genre-fiction examinations, decades after her mysterious disappearance. While popular theories posit that Earhart lived out her days on a desert island or was lost forever in the Bermuda Triangle (or, most likely, drowned at sea), Elsewhere throws this intrepid explorer into a full-blown alternate dimension stuffed with monsters and malevolent beings. Writer Jay Fearber has been an Image staple for years but, unlike many of his peers, hasn’t made a jump to other major publishers. Artist Sumeyye Kesgin’s clean cartooning executes Earhart’s acting and the alternate-dimensional beasties with equal skill. Fans of portal fantasies like Birthright should make room on their pull list for this flight of fancy. Steve Foxe

TEOTFW_Hardcover.pngThe End of the Fucking World
Writer/Artist: Charles Forsman
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Many recent and excellent indie comics have addressed teenagers staring down the barrel of the apocalypse: Liz Suburbia’s Sacred Heart featured a colony of kids navigating modern ruins, while Jen Lee’s Garbage Night cast anthropomorphic, beanie-wearing critters as survivors during the end of times. But cartoonist Charles Forsman realizes a vital truth in The End of the Fucking World: society doesn’t need to burn for a teenager to feel like the end is nigh. Serialized in 2013, this collected graphic novel follows young lovers James and Alyssa as they learn about one another in the worst way possible. James soon manifests sociopathic and extreme compulsions, and in her hormone-fueled uncertainly, Alyssa enables him. Forsman’s figures are exaggerated and bubbly—not unlike Charles Schulz’ Peanuts designs, lending a sobering contrast between innocence and corruption. The premise hints at how awful and complicated human intimacy can be, especially with its initial discovery. In November, publisher Fantagraphics will also release Forsman’s Celebrated Summer, a (slightly) less neurotic portrait of two teens, enhanced by liberal acid dropping and us-verse-them camaraderie, serving as a narrative bookend to these warped bildungsromans. Sean Edgar

STL054088.jpegGenerations: Banner Hulk & Totally Awesome Hulk #1
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Matteo Buffagni
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Thanks to Marvel’s onslaught of Legacy teasers, we know the Amadeus Cho Hulk (and She-Hulk Jennifer Walters) persist into the all-new, all-old era coming this fall, with Cho slated to have his own interstellar barbarian saga just in time for Hulk’s role in Thor: Ragnarok. This Generations one-shot, scripted by longtime Hulk scribe and Cho co-creator Greg Pak and drawn by Matteo Buffagni, should hopefully help flesh out how the Totally Awesome Hulk is coping with Bruce Banner’s legacy post-Civil War II. The Generations issues are pitched as largely standalone, evergreen stories, but Pak has such ample Gamma-irradiated experience that it’s hard to imagine this not becoming a key turning point for Cho’s time as a cocky big green dude, and Buffagni’s fluid line work will assure that every punch lands like a megaton bomb. Steve Foxe

STL053820.jpegGhost Station Zero #1
Writer: Antony Johnston
Artist: Shari Chankhamma
Publisher: Image Comics
Stay with us: Atomic Blonde is based on The Coldest City, the writer of which, Antony Johnston, also created the spy thriller Codename Baboushka, which is getting a sequel series this week titled Ghost Station Zero. Antony Johnston, kickass lady spies, many different titles—got it? The pitch for the Baboushka series is What if the Russian femme fatale was actually the main character? Ignoring Black Widow’s prominence for a moment, Johnston knows how to spin a spy yarn, with ample help from co-creator Shari Chankhamma. The titular “Ghost Stations” are abandoned Soviet bases, and Baboushka has been tasked with investigate a dissapearnce at one. If Charlize Theron left you wanting more ass-kicking, Ghost Station Zero should deliver. Steve Foxe

STL051551.jpegMech Cadet Yu #1
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Greg Pak has established himself as one of a shortlist of people who can reliably write fun, engaging teenagers without falling into terrible tropes or making them sound like miniaturized adults. Though his work for Marvel in particular has proven this skill, he’s definitely at his best when he’s allowed to play in his own sandbox, not constricted by other people’s rules and intellectual property. Teaming up with his Code Monkey Save World partner, Takeshi Miyazawa, who’s earned fans from his run on Ms. Marvel, Pak has created a title that sounds like all of the best parts of Voltron and Pacific Rim combined, with a healthy dose of the Chosen One anime trope. Mech Cadet Yu centers around a kid chosen to pilot a giant robot from outer space, just one in a line of similar kids that use their mechs to help defend the world from alien invasions. Pak proved with Kingsway West that even when he’s writing a seemingly familiar story, he leans so far into the tropes that he makes something completely new and remarkable, and Mech Cadet Yu looks like it will be no different. Caitlin Rosberg

MURDER BALLANDS_reinwand.jpg
Murder Ballads
Writer: Gabe Soria
Artists: Paul Reinwand, Chris Hunt
Publisher: Z2 Comics
Writer Gabe Soria alongside artists Paul Reinwand and Chris Hunt pay homage to the lurching rhythms and minor seventh chords of the blues in this graphic novel, which also includes one hell of a bonus—an original EP by Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach and genre staple Robert Finley. The project stands as a chiseled love letter to that musical legacy and its battered history, revolving around an aspiring A&R man and his soon-to-be-ex wife. The duo encounters a pair of brothers and a burnt-out producer who promise rags-to-riches redemption, but it’s no spoiler alert to say that a comic called Murder Ballads probably won’t land on a happy note. Paul Reinwand and Chris Hunt both submerse the reader into the smoky, bottom-shelf underworld of Shreveport, Louisiana, swinging from moody swaths of ink to angular suspense sequences. The additional album constructs an immersive, form-is-function totem to an art form baked into the fabric of America’s underbelly, and a trans-media experience unlike anything released this year. Sean Edgar

STL053788.jpegNew Gods Special #1
Writer/Artists: Shane Davis, Walter Simonson
Publisher: DC Comics
DC Comics has loaded up a slate of Jack Kirby tributes in time for the King’s 100th birthday at the end of August, including a series of one-shots starring his DC creations. New Gods Special zeroes in on Orion, the hot-headed son of Darkseid raised in the paradise of the New Gods, and features Shane Davis pulling double duty as writer and artist. Davis’ style seems like an odd fit for a Kirby tribute—more ‘90s Jim Lee than Kirby—but taps into the legacy of Orion and the King’s boundlessly energetic side. Even if Davis isn’t your style, living legend Walter Simonson, one of the few cartoonists to follow Kirby on the New Gods, contributes a backup story worth the price of admission alone. If Marvel’s handling of Kirby’s characters has left you wanting, DC is working to do right by the industry’s most important American godfather. Steve Foxe

OtherworldBarbara_v2_Cover.pngOtherworld Barbara Vol. 2
Writer/Artist: Moto Hagio
Translator: Matt Thorn
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Moto Hagio created her own lexicon of subconscious spookiness in Otherworld Barbara, an atmospheric manga first published from 2002-2005 in her native Japan before Fantagraphics brought its first volume state-side last year. That tale concludes this week with volume two, promising more family drama, ghostly occurrences and parallel dream realms. The story began when dream investigator Watari went psyche spelunking inside a comatose girl, Aoba, who murdered and ate the hearts of her parents. Nestled inside her consciousness, Watari finds the aspiring cannibal marooned on an island named Barbara, and potentially splayed among alternate universes. That dense plot framework may sound confusing (and it is), but Hagio’s aim is likely more to shroud the reader in a psychedelic horror haze than to choreograph a sci-fi giallo. (Or possibly both.) Read the first volume before buying this essential import, but the overarching narrative is inspired and disorienting, a grand embrace of genre tools honed into sequential art wonder. Sean Edgar

STL053549.jpegTurok #1
Writers: Chuck Wendig, Aubrey Sitterson
Artists: Alvaro Sarraseca, Dylan Burnett
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Dynamite continues to try fun, interesting things with the characters in their roster, though readers may not be as familiar with these names as they are with those from DC and Marvel. From Shaft to the Swords of Sorrow miniseries to more recognizable IP like Vampirella and Red Sonja, creators have been pushing the envelope a little bit under the radar, and that’s a shame. Turok is best known for the video game line of the same name, but those were based on a pulp comic from the 1950s, in addition to Fabian Nicieza’s ‘90s contribution to the title; main story writer Chuck Wendig and artist Alvaro Sarraseca have plenty of source material to work from and a lot of room to play around. Sarraesca is a relative newcomer, but Wendig has proven his abilities with grand, sweeping science fiction stories in the Star Wars universe as well as Marvel’s Hyperion. Turok is exactly the kind of title Dynamite excels at, and sometimes all you want is to read a comic about a man punching evil dinosaurs in the face. Caitlin Rosberg

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