Required Reading: Comics for 11/16/2016

Comics Lists Required Reading
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  • required-reading-1116 stl019215 Alex + Ada: The Complete Collection
    Writers: Sarah Vaughn & Jonathan Luna
    Artist: Jonathan Luna
    Publisher: Image Comics

    On the surface, Alex + Ada is a story you’ve heard before, mostly in manga and anime. Boy doesn’t want android, boy gets android anyway, emotional growth and/or adventures ensue. But creators Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna aren’t your average comic book team, so Alex + Ada isn’t your average robot story. Both are veterans of the industry and Big Two publishers Marvel and DC, with Vaughn’s most recent jaunt at DC being the excellent gothic horror romance Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. What’s really remarkable about Alex + Ada is the way it grapples not only with humanity and identity, but also questions of free will and emotional connection. The new omnibus is a great value, including all 15 issues. It’s a little bit Blade Runner and a little bit YA novel, which from these two creators is a winning combination. Caitlin Rosberg
  • required-reading-1116 archie14 Archie #14
    Writer: Mark Waid
    Artist: Joe Eisma
    Publisher: Archie Comics

    Every-teen Archie has gone through a lot in the 14 issues since his comic's relaunch. Not only did his ex-soul mate, Betty, attack him with lipstick, but his next uptown inamorata, Veronica, was swiftly yanked out of Riverdale after her dad lost a political election. That love triangle lacks an ounce of the hellfire that Cheryl Blossom could inflict on the fragile psyche of our favorite varsity jacket model. Conniving, sultry and condescending, Blossom debuted in the early ‘80s only to disappear because parents found her too sexy. Writer Mark Waid has deftly balanced teen abandon with accessible soap opera cliffhangers for a comic that’s proven its relevancy far past the series’ sterling ‘50s heyday. Introducing a new alpha predator is certainly a fresh way to upset the romantic ecosystems, and new artist Joe Eisma (Morning Glories) has demonstrated storied finesse in framing the emotions of all things teen and hormonal. Sean Edgar
  • required-reading-1116 689525-ee5c8f3527e060c6506582a71969a1a4de1b842d Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #2
    Writers: Jon Rivera, Gerard Way
    Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
    Backup Writer/Artist: Tom Scioli
    Publisher: Young Animal/ DC Comics

    Paste awarded the debut issue of Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1 a perfect 10 out of 10, and every panel deserved that accolade. The comic read like a Paul Thomas Anderson movie rendered in gorgeous panels from Michael Avon Oeming, dissecting the crumbling reality of an ex-adventurer ungracefully aging into a lonely future after his wife passes away. Plagued by hallucinogenic episodes brought on by his inexplicable, artificial eye, the former spelunker hit a bittersweet tone of nostalgia and madness that co-writer Gerard Way perfected in his previous Dark Horse series, The Umbrella Academy. This sophomore chapter hints at a descent into the bowels of earth, where Kirby-inspired monsters with impossibly large fists and mouths wait to brawl. If CCHaCE continues to nail Cold War-era bombast with aching characterization, there’s no reason we’ll stop our exploration into this deep, winding narrative. Sean Edgar
  • required-reading-1116 cosplay-xmas-shaw-web-1 A Cosplayers Christmas
    Writer/Artist: Dash Shaw
    Publisher: Fantagraphics

    Dash Shaw is having a landmark year. The feverishly creative mind behind such Paste favorites as New School and Doctors, Shaw directed Lena Dunham, Susan Sarandon, Jason Schwartzman and John Cameron Mitchell in his animated film My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea last September, the same month that also saw the release of Cosplayers. The latter book compiled Shaw’s lovingly objective portrait of flawed people miming perfect fantasy. This week sees the release of a new holiday-themed chapter starring Annie and Verti as they contemplate gifts to further disappear down their favorite costumed rabbit holes. Whether Shaw reveals a “Gift of the Magi” twist or keeps things gloriously awkward and discordant, this is the work of an artist who has honed a unique voice in the indie marketplace that auteurs strive for years to achieve. Also: a milk cartoon cosplaying as Rorschach from Watchmen. Sean Edgar
  • required-reading-1116 689359-df03d141f8c858894711c526935127855b8271bb Ether #1
    Writer: Matt Kindt
    Artist: David Rubín
    Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

    It's fitting that Ether is about a world where science and magic collide: writer Matt Kindt has been playing mad scientist at Dark Horse for years with Mind MGMT, Dept. H and Past Aways, while European artist David Rubín’s singular style is unlike anything else in this earthly realm. Rubín, whose two-volume anachronistic (and incredibly graphic) Hercules adaptation The Hero is also published by Dark Horse, merges aspects of Paul Pope and Jack Kirby into a madcap cosmic mind-trip all his own. With such promising creators at the helm, Ether seems destined to join Black Hammer and Kindt’s own Dept. H among the ranks of new Dark Horse classics in the making. Steve Foxe
  • required-reading-1116 692310-g-i-joe-revolution-1-subscription-variant G.I. Joe Revolution #1
    Writer: Aubrey Sitterson
    Artist: Giannis Milonogiannis
    Publisher: IDW Publishing

    Certain franchises, especially those bolstered by nostalgia, seem to have an interest ceiling—few stunts, creator names or accolades can sway vast swaths of new readers to give the book a chance unless they're already invested in the property. IDW may have cracked that conundrum with G.I. Joe Revolution, and the solution was Prophet's Giannis Milonogiannis. Working from Street Fighter X. G.I. Joe writer Aubrey Sitterson's accessible, fast-paced script, Milonogiannis turns the beloved action figure tie-in into a full-blown '80s action manga, crossing streams like an out-of-control Ghostbuster to breathe new life into the laser-packing international combat team. It's still a Revolution tie-in—expect Robots in Disguise and shapeshifting, legally dubious Dire Wraiths—but this one-shot nicely sets up the Joes in Hasbro's new shared universe without requiring curious fans to care about the wider scope of the crossover. If Sitterson and Milonogiannis keep it up, G.I. Joe may be one of 2016’s breakout must-buys. Steve Foxe
  • required-reading-1116 689420-8dbebb29397bb622b1d1b9c9a4909aed3422913f Harbinger: Renegades #1
    Writer: Rafer Roberts
    Artist: Darick Robertson
    Publisher: Valiant Comics

    Readers that have been following the exploits of Valiant’s Faith and its titular character know well just how fractured her former team has become. Faith, aka Zephyr, has struggled with relying on her former teammates and wanting to protect them, while at the same time moving on with a new job and a newly revived love life. With Harbinger: Renegades, Faith and other psiots (superpowered people) are teaming up again to protect their homes, recruit new members and prove to the world just how important and special they are. Rafer Roberts has been absolutely knocking it out of the park with Archer & Armstrong, and Darick Robertson’s art is perfect for this boots-on-the-ground team. It’s the Inhumans but more human, or the X-Men without the repetitive interpersonal issues, and Harbinger: Renegades only strengthens an already impressive Valiant line up. Caitlin Rosberg
  • required-reading-1116 sciencecomicsvolcanoes Science Comics: Volcanoes
    Writer/Artist: Jon Chad
    Publisher: First Second

    On the heels of entries addressing dinosaurs and coral reefs, publisher First Second is blowing out their line of middle school educational graphic novels with Volcanoes, by Jon Chad. A teacher at Vermont’s Center for Cartoon Studies, Chad frames the facts in the absorbing tale of a young girl, Aurora, stranded with her tribe in a frosty wasteland. She soon discovers the mysterious phenomena of magma and craters, teaching her comrades of their intricacies. The pages swim in deep violets and aquamarines to offset the livid oranges and reds, an appropriately surreal palate when explaining the sheer majesty of mountains that vomit liquefied rock. Whether your kids know their mafic from their felsic magma, this series has continually been the best Trojan horse for youngsters with fleeting attention spans and voracious imaginations. For further proof, check Chad’s previous rock-centric science fantasy, Leo Geo. Sean Edgar
  • required-reading-1116 689604-d348412aefa6f81d235baba102e347da40856cbf Slam #1
    Writer: Pamela Ribon
    Artist: Veronica Fish
    Publisher: BOOM! Studios

    What better publisher for a book called Slam than BOOM!—or BOOMbox, to be specific, the slightly more experimental, often inclusive imprint that's also home to crossover hit Giant Days. And like Giant Days, Slam looks to use its premise—roller derby drama—to tell a character-driven story. Rick and Morty writer Pamela Ribon teams with outgoing Archie artist Veronica Fish to introduce Jennifer “Knockout” Chu and Maise “Ithinka Can” Huff, two bffs who find themselves drafted onto opposing teams. High concepts are fun, but few publishers nail investment-worthy interpersonal relationships better than BOOM! Steve Foxe
  • required-reading-1116 689383-c9afff848d35239bc6e452905bcbf06a6c11fbfe Thanos #1
    Writer: Jeff Lemire
    Artist: Mike Deodato
    Publisher: Marvel Comics

    October saw Marvel on the rebound, reclaiming market dominance on the back of strong high-profile debuts like Champions. Despite the creative pedigree of Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato, Thanos feels like it's arriving a few years too late for the Mad Titan, who was at his height menacing the Marvel U. during Infinity and in the lead-up to Secret Wars. Still, the House of Ideas has a lot riding on the purple dude with a crush on Death herself, as his CGI screen version remains the end-point Big Bad of its cinematic universe. No less than the great Jason Aaron stumbled trying to put Thanos front and center in his own series—we'll see how Lemire and Deodato manage in this ongoing that pits Thanos against his own terrifying relatives. Steve Foxe
  • required-reading-1116 689451-97cdc6d58ceb8317ddb6800cedab27fed987ced9 Uncanny X-Men Annual #1
    Writer: Cullen Bunn
    Artist: Ken Lashley
    Backup Writer/Artist: Anthony Piper
    Publisher: Marvel Comics

    Now that Marvel has announced its spring refresh of the X-line, including the return of ‘90s nostalgia faves like the Blue and Gold teams and Generation X, it’s hard not to feel like the current titles are treading Terrigen-tainted water. The push to integrate the X-Men and Inhumans franchises, whether driven by multimedia concerns or not, dampened enthusiasm for Marvel’s merry mutants, and the consensus seems to be that fans are ready to see X-gene carriers unburdened by their mist-huffing cousins. Before 2017 hits the relaunch button on this corner of the Marvel U., this Uncanny X-Men annual strengthens the series’ ties to the black-ops X-Force series. The issue resurrects former squad member Elixer in Cullen Bunn and Ken Lashley’s main story, before giving cartoonist Anthony Piper the reigns in a Domino-centric tale. If your anticipation of neXt year hasn’t totally spoiled the current line-up for you, this one-shot looks likely to please fans of the Yost/Kyle/Crain series from days past and put a few key characters back into play. Steve Foxe
  • required-reading-1116 689418-9d145806f26cb4705d7f09bdab54777104ffa7fb Vampire Hunter D: Message from Mars #1
    Writer: Hideyuki Kikuchi
    Adaptation: Brandon Easton
    Artist: Michael Broussard
    Publisher: Stranger Comics

    Vampires are thankfully no longer the dead center of pop-culture monster madness, so it feels like a prime opportunity to return to some of the most compelling bloodsucker stories in comics. The name Vampire Hunter D will be familiar to many manga and anime fans, but the stellar storytelling really should have a much wider fanbase. A new comic based on original author Hideyuki Kikuchi’s novella Message from Cecile, Vampire Hunter D: Message from Mars is a precursor to the stories that most fans are familiar with, the original Vampire Hunter D and its sequel, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Watson and Holmes writer Brandon Easton is at the adaptation's helm with incredible art from Michael Broussard that’s perfectly suited to the anachronistic art deco feel Vampire Hunter D needs. This is just the first issue, made possible by a successful Kickstarter, and it’ll be good to see D back on bookshelves again. Caitlin Rosberg
  • required-reading-1116 689371-2b4f9ceddb3048821d2895c6b6fed369fb0d8522 Yakuza Demon Killers #1
    Writer: Amit Chauhan
    Artist: Eli Powell
    Publisher: IDW Publishing

    Based on the pitch alone—two thieves find themselves caught in the middle of a turf war between Japanese organized crime and demons from hell—Yakuza Demon Killers seemed locked in as the sort of "horror" series that sacrifices scares for action. Preview pages featuring Eli Powell’s ink-scrawled Satan spawns should give genre fans hope: like Clive Barker fever dreams rendered in the style of Sean Gordon Murphy or Geoff Shaw, the titular demons are downright disturbing. Writer Amit Chauhan, who collaborated with Powell for a Kickstarter project, is a similarly fresh talent, but Yakuza Demon Hunters shows promise for ever-hungry fans of sequential horror. Steve Foxe
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