Required Reading: Comics for 3/15/2017

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Required Reading: Comics for 3/15/2017

With everything going on in the world, it’s easy to forget that holidays still exist. But happy St. Patrick’s Day, if that’s your jam! The celebration luckily falls on a Saturday this year, so no amount of queasily green alcohol consumption should keep you away from this week’s new comics haul. We’ve got a landmark Web Crawler issue (now that #25 amounts to an unusually large number at Marvel), a promising all-ages launch in the supernatural vein of Lumberjanes, a few stunning DC deluxe editions, the second issue of Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt’s revolutionary The Wild Storm. Also: the first issue of Dark Horse’s American Gods adaptation. You’re in luck, folks: the pot at the end of the rainbow is within reach this week.


imageedit__9465258233.jpg Amazing Spider-Man #25
Creators: Dan Slott, Stuart Immonen, Hannah Blumenreich, Cale Atkinson, Giuseppe Camuncoli, “Top Secret” bonus creative team
Publisher: Marvel Comics 

Dan Slott remains a divisive Twitter user but a consistent sales powerhouse, and the addition of fan-favorite Star Wars artist Stuart Immonen on pencilling duties for this oversized issue certainly isn’t going to hurt Amazing Spider-Man’s commercial prospects. The penciller lends his sleek linework to the kickoff of “The Osborn Identity,” but the most exciting part of this issue might be the back-up story from web-based (no pun intended) creator Hannah Blumenreich, who earned a devoted following through her heartfelt, relatable Spider-Man fan comics. It’s not often that a publisher takes note of fan works for a good reason, and both Marvel and fans at large are all the better with her voice in the mix. Blumenreich’s presence in the issue also marks one of the first times in history that the core ASM title will feature a female writer. Better late than never? Steve Foxe


STL035995.jpeg American Gods: Shadows #1
Writers:   Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell
Artist: Scott Hampton
Publisher: Dark Horse

Neil Gaiman’s success crossing back and forth from novelist to comic book writer is unparalleled. For many readers, The Sandman remains a gateway drug from Gaiman’s prose work into the world of comics—or vice-versa, for comic fans chasing his wordier tales—and the arrival of a comic adaptation of Gaiman’s best-known novel for adults only solidifies his role as a tether between two realms. Working with frequent collaborator P. Craig Russell (The Sandman: The Dream Hunters adaptation) to craft the script, Gaiman revisits American Gods just in time for the upcoming TV adaptation. Artist Scott Hampton offered his emotive, chiseled art to the original Sandman and also contributed to Gaiman and Russell’s other novel-to-comic jam, The Graveyard Book, proving that this is exactly the team fans would want on this title. Picking up a comic with Gaiman’s name on the cover is generally a safe bet, but this one is all but guaranteed. Caitlin Rosberg


STL034348.jpeg Batman: Ego and Other Tails Deluxe Edition
Writers: Darwyn Cooke, Paul Grist
Artists: Darwyn Cooke, Tim Sale, Bill Wray
Publisher: DC Comics 

With Darwyn Cooke’s unfortunate passing last year, it’s no surprise that DC is gathering some of his best work into a collected volume. Though Cooke’s influence on Batman and the company at large may not be as broad or deep as Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s, his signature style is just as easily recognizable. This book collects Batman: Ego and Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score, as well as a few issues of Gotham Knights and Solo. It can be difficult (and expensibe) to find some of those titles on their own, so having Cooke’s Gotham work bound together makes this handsome deluxe edition well worth the cost. The talent represented in these pages is some of the best of what DC has to offer when it comes to Batman, and this spread of self-contained stories makes Batman: Ego and Other Tails a great starter title for those new to comics, Cooke or even Batman himself. Caitlin Rosberg


STL035332.jpeg The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir
Writer/Artist: Thi Bui
Publisher: Abrams

A genre with clunky names including autobiographical novel and visual memoir, the ever-growing library of comics designed to encapsulate real lives is bringing a wide range of important stories to entirely new audiences. Following in the footsteps of authors like Gene Luen Yang and Lucy Knisley, Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do presents the story of the cartoonist’s family as it travels from Southeast Asia to America, and the position Bui finds herself caught in as she becomes sandwiched between her child and parents. As with many immigration stories, Bui’s book revolves around identity. The Best We Could Do has been a long time in the making, and its author has sold early chapters online, but this printed volume collects all 15 in one place. Born in Saigon, Bui and her family came to America after the fall of South Vietnam, and her story offers readers a particular insight into the life of a family fleeing violence and fear in a time of political upheaval—a reminder of the micro consequences of macro political actions. Caitlin Rosberg


STL036298.jpeg Coady and the Creepies #1
Writer: Liz Prince
Artist: Amanda Kirk
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Lumberjanes changed the game when it debuted in 2014, introducing thoughtful, age-appropriate considerations of identity, Raina Telgemeier-level all-ages storytelling and a metric ton of fun to monthly floppy shelves, and BOOM! Studios is eagerly looking for potential peer series. Following the success of The Backstagers, Coady & the Creepies is the latest BOOM! series to marry a complex, yet relatable, young cast with a supernatural hook—a band of triplets, except one is a ghost. Creators Liz Prince and Amanda Kirk aren’t yet household names, but the BOOM! Box and KaBOOM! Imprints have established a reliable level of quality from its mostly web-cultivated talent. Be sure to check back later this week for an interview with the creative team. Steve Foxe


Eartha.jpg Eartha
Writer/Artist: Cathy Malkasian
Publisher: Fantagraphics 

Animation director Cathy Malkasian (Rugrats, The Wild Thornberrys, Curious George) arrives with her fourth graphic novel and it sounds batshit cool. The story revolves around a reality where incomplete dreams (“sex fantasies, murder plots, wishful thinking”) take on corporeal bodies to take refuge in a fjord. When that migrations stops, one woman—Eartha—decides to find their hidden home, the City Across the Sea, to unravel a weirder mystery. Malkasian works in soft, passive hues (check former comic Percy Gloom), the perfect visual to convey dreams dissipating from memory. The description also hints at the grand legacy of fantasists including Neil Gaiman, Michael Ende and Jim Henson, and Malkasian has proven her finesse at articulating mystery and delight through her previous narratives. This book was designed to suspend reality via laboriously fantastic art and an escapist premise, and there’s never been a better time for its pages to wisp us away. Sean Edgar


STL037181.jpeg Escape from Gulag #396 #1
Writer: Eliot Rahal
Artist: Francis Portela
Publisher: Valiant

Valiant’s Divinity III series might seem a little too timely given its Russian takeover theme, but that Red Scare shouldn’t stop readers from embracing the tightly plotted event. Unlike Marvel and its seemingly endless tie-in sprawl, Valiant tends to keep its event spinoffs capped at a more manageable volume, and Divinity III has enjoyed a string of one-off looks at familiar heroes in unfamiliar, hyper-communist settings. Escape from Gulag #396 pairs Paybacks co-writer Eliot Rahal with Faith artist Francis Portela for a prison-breakout story starring mismatched fan-favorites Archer and Armstrong. Rahal has a knack for humor that should lend itself well to the hedonist/zealot dynamic of the odd couple, and Portela’s clean lines are all but a staple of the Valiant shared universe at this point. If you’re following Divinity III—or just preparing for possible American political futures—consider a stint in #396. Steve Foxe


STL013675.jpeg JSA: The Golden Age Deluxe Edition
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Paul Smith
Publisher: DC Comics 

JSA: The Golden Age will likely never be mentioned in the same breath as Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come with any regularity, but James Robinson and Paul Smith’s bleak look at DC’s—and America’s—post-war boom era deserves similarly lofty praise in the hallowed halls of “serious, mature” superhero storytelling. Robinson focuses on the all-too-human fleet of heroes who traveled overseas to battle the Nazis during WWII, which makes the most godlike among them, including Green Lantern Alan Scott, stand out as truly awesome deities among men. The ‘50s have become an overly glorified decade in modern American myth, and Robinson briskly casts aside any revisionist versions of the period that hide the grime under the smiling American nuclear families. Smith’s clean lines and unflinching character work prevent the book from ever dropping into Golden Age pastiche territory. With a suggested retail price of $34.99, The Golden Age Deluxe Edition isn’t a cheap purchase for four issues of content, but this under-appreciated standalone tale of McCarthyism has rarely felt as timely. Steve Foxe


AmuletBooks.jpg One Trick Pony
Writer/Artist: Nathan Hale
Publisher: Amulet Books

If for no other reason, cartoonist Nathan Hale deserves a monument for creating an educational kids book about cannibalism titled Donner Dinner Party, released under his historical Hazardous Tales series. Hilarious shock value aside, Hale has continually demonstrated humor, passion and willful independence in his offerings, which makes a high-fiction detour all the more attractive. Working with different textures and hatchings, the artist’s work on One Trick Pony is stylized and evocative, enhanced by a monochrome palate with hints of yellow. The yarn behind the European design revolves around a civilization where aliens have ravaged electricity, forcing a family of “digital rescuers” to salvage the few remaining electronics. One Trick Pony offers an interesting parallel of Hale’s occupatio: a man who preserves history through paper is writing a story about people who preserve history digitally, albeit Hale is working through print. (Yes, that’s a sentence that exists.) Whatever meta Hale brings to the table on how humanity protects its loping chronology, this book exudes ambition in both story and art. Also: pony mechs. Sean Edgar


STL036497.jpeg Star Trek: Deviations #1
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Josh Hood
Publisher: IDW Publishing

The Deviations banner is IDW’s nod to Marvel’s much-loved What If? book, where a key decision or moment is tweaked and the resulting (often ludicrous) alternatives are explored. Star Trek Deviations #1, set during the Next Generation era, pairs two of the most exciting rising talents in comics to explore how Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi saga might have played out had the Romulans discovered Earth before the Vulcans. No, it’s not likely to make sense if you’re not at least somewhat familiar with Trek lore, but Donny Cates has fast made a name for himself thanks to God Country and the upcoming one-two horror punch of Baby Teeth and Rednecks, and artist Joshua Hood was a key part of Black Mask breakout We Can Never Go Home’s success. If you can tell a Klingon from a Gorn, you’ll probably want to nab this alternate-universe outlaw sci-fi tale. Steve Foxe


TheWildStorm.jpg The Wildstorm #2
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Publisher: DC Comics 

Nobody writes government conspiracies like Warren Ellis. Military contractors, document leaks, spooks and wet works permanently occupy the man’s verbose lexicon. The Wild Storm takes an antiquated publishing line that the renowned comic scribe helped develop and allows him to chop, skewer, trim, flavor and reshape it to his heart’s content. This sophomore chapter arrives this week, promising a collision between a nanotech engineer (Angela Spica), a technology messiah (Jacob Marlowe) and a government that sees both as dangerous liabilities. Ellis has only started to build his intimidating web of history and backstabbings, but its already damn impressive from the glints he’s offered. Fresh off the surreal horror of Clean Room, artist Jon Davis-Hunt adds a clear line and stark realism to the intrigue, with the action resembling a news feed more than the strongman exaggeration of genre fiction. The Wild Storm’s feverishly moving parts may read better in a trade paperback, but six months is a long time to wait for this dense puzzle of comic cool. Sean Edgar

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