If there’s ever been an excuse to read comics all day, I had it last weekend. Southeast Michigan is HOT, people, and I found a temporary oasis among sequential art, blasting fans and Arnold Palmers. Looking at the forecast, next weekend will look pretty similar—and thank goodness, because this week’s filled with gems.
We’ve got the return of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s mighty Sex Criminals, which returns to our pull-list stack after several sad, sad months. Mike Mignola is also set to release a ‘30s-rooted one-shot with Lobster Johnson.
Comics. They’ll make your summer less miserable.
Batgirl Annual #3
Writers: Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher
Artist: Bengal, David Lafuente, Ming Doyle, Mingjue Helen Chen
Publisher: DC Comics
Without DC outright saying as much, Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher and Babs Tarr’s Batgirl has become the flagship title in its roster of approachable, accessible and inclusive new comics, making Annual #3 something of a marketer’s dream. Batgirl: Endgame artist extraordinaire Bengal returns (among many others) to the fold in an oversized issue that introduces Babs to Helena Bertinelli from the beefcake-tastic Grayson before detouring into a backup with the spooky kids of all-ages favorite Gotham Academy. If you know a Bat-fan who has yet to catch on to the Batgirl of Burnside phenomenon, this is an excellent tasting platter for one of the best DC books on the stands. Steve Foxe
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #4
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Robert Hack
Publisher: Archie Comics
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina churns my stomach, and it’s not because of the cannibalism or Melissa Joan Hart associations. Robert Hack’s clean, photogenic illustrations look as if they were salvaged from an antiquated hygiene manual or ‘50s Sears catalog. The sepia color scheme hides underneath opaque brush textures, resembling a relic from a spit-shined age when the greatest generation finally settled down in the halcyon suburbs. So when the blood spurts and the skin strips, merging this benign approach with gory viscera provokes a vivid sense of dissonance that would be much less severe if the illustrations followed a more traditional horror template. (Archie followed a similar route when artist Fernando Ruiz sketched flayed corpses in its loving house style.) Meanwhile, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa mixes such ingredients as feminism, teen melodrama and, um, satanism into a campy, bizarre brew unlike anything else on stands today. This issue shows the aftermath of Sabrina’s botched coven initiation, ratcheting up the drama for our favorite teen enchantress. Sean Edgar
Lobster Johnson: A Chain Forged in Life One-Shot
Writers: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi
Artists: Troy Nixey, Kevin Nowlan
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Among Mike Mignola’s expansive, consistently excellent “Mignolaverse” of horror-action titles, Hellboy’s childhood hero Lobster Johnson stands out for the unabashed sense of adventure that pervades his grim stories. Largely unburdened by the Lovecraftian cosmic horrors that permeate the present-day Mignolaverse books, the Lobster’s 1930’s-set stories jump right into the character’s pulp roots with flying fists, blazing bullets and stark black-and-white morality. This one-shot delivers Christmas in July as Johnson must find and rescue a murder witness who just happens to be a department-store Santa Claus. Artist Troy Nixey brings an EC Comics flair to the proceedings, although the legendary Kevin Nowlan’s distinctive inks tend to override anything he touches (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for fans of the sporadically seen artist). Steve Foxe
Not Funny Ha-Ha: A Handbook for Something Hard
Writer & Artist: Leah Hayes
Leah Hayes’ Not Funny Ha-Ha is turning heads for its groundbreaking illustrated subject matter. We’re not talking about the comic headlines of earlier this year: superheroes declaring same-sex preferences, or handing the Thor hammer over to a female. No, for Hayes’ Not Funny Ha-Ha, the L.A.-based multimedia artist is tackling one of society’s hottest-button issues: abortion. But rather than sway minds with one point or another, Hayes explores abortion through stories, details, feelings rather than hot-headed political logic. It’s a story that demands the illustrated treatment, and Hayes’ shows a lot of thought and heart. Tyler R. Kane
Sex Criminals #11
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Chip Zdarsky
Publisher: Image Comics
Well hey there, Sex Criminals #11.
It’s so good to see you! It’s been, what…six…seven months? Well, you should develop at your own pace, and sometimes a bi-annual schedule is the way to go. What? Oh. Yeah, I did hear that you had just left the printers when some folks had objections to some of your content and you had to start from scratch. Right…Batman defecating on Comm….sorry, a parody of Batman defecating on a parody of Commissioner Gordon. Right. Fair Use in Commentary and Criticism is totally a thing that exists and may have protected you from the lawyers of a media conglomerate with billions of dollar in revenue. But like none of your characters say—better safe than sorry! Well, listen: we love you whether you have iconic superheroes shitting on one another or not. We love your humanity, humor and expressive, soft linework. We love your bravery in expanding the comics medium to new areas most books wouldn’t dare set foot in. We’ll always love you, no matter what decisions you make. Except if you get a guest artist…then we’ll disown you and leave you rotting bagless and boardless in a Half-Priced Books wooden crate.
Hope to see you soon…er!
The Shrinking Man #1
Writer: Ted Adams, Richard Matheson
Artist: Mark Torres
Publisher: IDW Publishing
It’s an odd summer when there’s more than one comic about a man named Scott who can shrink to the size of an ant, but IDW’s adaptation of Richard Matheson’s early science-fiction landmark, The Shrinking Man, is a far cry from Marvel’s more humorous diminutive hero. Adapted by IDW founder/CEO Ted Adams and IDW regular Mark Torres, The Shrinking Man embraces the horror of finding the scale of the world around you thrown drastically off-balance. IDW’s success with Shadow Show, inspired by the works of Matheson contemporary (and fellow Twilight Zone contributor) Ray Bradbury, proves the publisher can handle genre legends with due reverence, making this mini-series a good bet for Matheson fans and sci-fi/action-adventure lovers alike. Steve Foxe
Star Wars #7
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Simone Bianchi
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It’s a solid bet than certain Star Wars fans are waiting for Marvel to stumble with its new mega-franchise/cash cow, but the company hasn’t yet given haters the satisfaction. Jason Aaron has a better handle on the Original Trilogy cast than perhaps anyone since the movies numbered three in total, and notoriously slow artist John Cassaday completed the opening arc on schedule without any noticeable dip in quality. Simone Bianchi, whose layouts tend to land on the confusing side, steps in to illustrate this one-shot focusing on Ben (Ben!) Kenobi, and the preview pages seem to show the talented artist more aware of readability and page flow than ever before. Something about the Force clearly brings out the best in creators, as we’ll no doubt see when Stuart Immonen takes the reins for the second arc next month. Steve Foxe
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Chris Sprouse, Goran Sudzuka
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman’s Thor relaunch was more than just an inspired exploration of gender and masculinity; it’s a damn fine comic. Yes, the new Thor sports some lovely XX chromosomes, but the series’ world-building and (we won’t spoil it if you don’t know) tragedy cement it as Marvel’s finest monthly. As the most hyped miniseries from this summer’s biggest event, Thors deviates from its predecessor, opting for the kitschy b-movie fun of Secret Wars and flying with it to absurd heights. Yes: this is a comic about multi-dimensional variations of the same Norse god working in a police procedural. And it works! Chris Sprouse’s clean, stately characters fit the divine subject matter perfectly. Guest penciler Goran Sudzuka joins on after some glorious work in DC’s other god family drama, Wonder Woman, which makes me desperately want to read a Thor/Wonder Woman crossover. Before we return to the series proper, this detour offers a side-show exploration of the vigor and hilarity of people who wield comically-large hammers and solve crime. There may be better ways to spend $3.99, but they’re probably not legal. Sean Edgar