Required Reading: Comics for 3/22/2017

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Required Reading: Comics for 3/22/2017

So, did everyone enjoy binging Iron Fist on Netflix this weekend? Based on most reviews: no, you did not. While a Marvel misfire was bound to happen at some point (and plenty of folks would argue that Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World or Avengers: Age of Ultron already claimed that title), it’s too bad that a character known for such creative peaks managed to flop so epically. Thankfully, this week brings a bounty of new comics unhampered by television production budgets or stilted acting, including a brand-new Iron Fist #1 that will hopefully strike a new path for the beleaguered character. If white-boy ninjas aren’t your thing, we’ve also got Valiant’s highest-profile relaunch yet, a caffeine-deprived dystopia, watercolor horror, lycanthropic law-enforcers, ectoplasmic crossovers and a new entry from the singular mind of Michael DeForge. Focus that chi, y’all.

STL031598.jpeg Afar
Writer: Leila del Duca
Artist: Kit Seaton
Publisher: Image Comics 

More mainstream publishers have embraced creators who exist on the fuzzy line between artist and writer in recent years, inviting new collaborative efforts that push the envelope of what comics look like. Rather than a creative team with fixed roles, books like Southern Cross and Mirror feature not only highly creative stories, but also writers who are best known for their artistic skills. Joining Becky Cloonan and Emma Rios in making that leap, Shutter artist Leila Del Duca joins Kit Seaton for an original graphic novel about a young woman who gains the ability to astral-project to distant worlds. Partnerships like this tend to be visually stunning, because the writing half of the team is sitting at the keyboard with an artist’s mindset, working closely with their co-creators to make something fantastic. Seaton and del Duca are skilled separately, but together they offer something particularly beautiful. A speculative-fiction story about a young woman exploring far-off lands and having adventures is totally welcome in today’s market, and watching main character Boetema deal with the fallout of her trips should be fascinating. Caitlin Rosberg

STL032546.jpeg Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story
Writer/Artist: Peter Bagge
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Crafting comics focused on American history and offering contributions to the libertarian magazine Reason, Bagge’s personal politics have remained front and center in his work, which makes his decision to do biographical comics anomalous on the surface. After the success of 2013’s Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story, Bagge’s second biographical book takes on the life of Their Eyes Were Watching God author Zora Neal Hurston. Fire!! follows the template of Woman Rebel as a celebration and investigation of a woman who left an indelible mark on our society, but is largely left out of textbooks and modern pop culture. Bagge’s a known quantity with enough cartooning skill to pull off the book. His biggest challenge is that the industry has changed in even just the past five years: what was remarkable in 2013, for a man to do a biography of an influential woman, is now seen by many as an overstep. There are plenty of women, particularly women of color, just as skilled and capable as Bagge who didn’t get the opportunity to tell Hurston’s story with this same platform. Let’s hope Bagge used his position respectfully. Caitlin Rosberg

STL036521.jpeg Ghostbusters 101 #1
Writer: Erik Burnham
Artist: Dan Schoening
Publisher: IDW Publishing

Judging by the response to 2016’s Ghostbusters, this new comic will invite disparate reactions from fans. When the original four ‘busters return to their teaching roots and open up their shop to students, hijinks ensue and space-time continuum shenanigans bring 1984’s cast crashing into 2016’s foursome. Teaming up all eight of the Ghostbusters is a great way to integrate the two stories, and writer Erik Burnham has already done this kind of work: in 2015, he penned a Ghostbusters miniseries where the cartoon cast met the live-action crew. Burnham and artist Dan Schoening have also teamed up on a slew of Ghostbusters titles for IDW, so Ghostbusters 101 feels like a logical extension of the publisher’s work with the license rather than a forced gimmick. Hopefully it will spin off into Ghostbusters 2016, giving Holtzmann, Abby, Patty and Erin even more adventures. Caitlin Rosberg

STL036564.jpeg Helena Crash #1
Writer: Fabian Rangel Jr.
Artist: Warwick Johnson-Cadwell
Publisher: IDW Publishing

Anyone who follows Helena Crash writer Fabian Rangel Jr. on Twitter knows that this mini-series represents his deepest fear: a future in which coffee is illegal. The titular protagonist is a black-market caffeine trafficker who finds herself thrust into a turf war between enemy gang bosses (one of whom, the “White Demon,” is an alien) tussling over the precious cargo she delivers to weary coffee-drinkers. Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, a Tank Girl alum, brings this nightmarish possible future to life with suitably gonzo style, and a kinetic energy that’s perfect for Helena Crash’s vehicular mayhem. While it may be too scary to imagine life without your morning cup of wake-me-up, Helena Crash is rollicking, sword-swinging fun with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Steve Foxe

imageedit__8073688909.jpg Iron Fist #1
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Mike Perkins
Publisher: Marvel Comics 

Yikes—the first time Marvel gets its act together to launch a comic series alongside its Netflix counterpart and the show seems, by all accounts, to be a critical dud. Hopefully Marvel didn’t instruct writer Ed Brisson and artist Mike Perkins to hew too closely to the lifeless TV iteration, but left room for the duo to resurrect the Danny Rand fans have been missing since the end of the storied, mystical Brubaker/Fraction/Aja run. In this new series, Iron Fist’s powers are waning as the magical city of K’un Lun lies in ruins. Kaare Andrews’ recent grindhouse-influenced Iron Fist run met with a mixed reception, and the announced Iron Fists series seems to have joined Blade in Marvel limbo. If Bullseye scribe Brisson and Marvel mainstay Perkins can marry the kung-fu action and endearing humor of prior iterations, Iron Fist may yet end up with at least one 2017 success. Steve Foxe

STL036510.jpeg Judge Dredd: Deviations #1
Writers: John McCrea, Alan Grant, John Wagner, Steve Dillon
Artists: Steve Dillon, John Wagner
Publisher: IDW Publishing

Though they’re often easy to mock in hindsight, “What If” issues often spark some of the most interesting and memorable stories in comics. Encouraging and fostering alternate universes and different takes helps jumpstart stalled titles and stale characters. As a tribute to Steve Dillon, who passed away last year, IDW is reprinting Judge Dredd: Cry of the Werewolf, collecting the story that posited what would happen if Mega City One’s top lawman became a werewolf. Originally serialized in 1983, this reprint features new artwork from a slew of talented artists, with part of the proceeds going to benefit the Hero Initiative, one of Dillon’s favorite charities. Right along with the reprint comes a brand-new tale from John McCrea, frequent collaborator of Dillon’s good friend and creative partner, Garth Ennis. McCrea’s work on titles like Hitman and the creation of characters like Dogwelder prove that he’s got what it takes in terms of absurdity and violence to pull off a continuation of this “What If,” wondering what Mega City One would look like if Dredd never recovered from his lycanthropy. Thirty years later, this alternate universe is still compelling and fascinating enough to warrant the reprint and a whole new furry tale. Caitlin Rosberg


Magdalena #1
Writers: Ryan Cady & Tini Howard
Artist: Christian DiBari
Publisher: Top Cow/Image Comics

Full disclosure: Magdalena co-writer Tini Howard is an occasional contributor to our fine online rag, but we’d be down for this holy crusade even without that hint of nepotism. Howard, co-writer Ryan Cady and artist Christian DiBari have revived one of Top Cow’s most enduring creations, the warrior nun Magdalena. In this new run, Patience, the original spear-wielder, finds herself gravely wounded and in search of a worthy inheritor to the habit. DiBari’s jagged ink swaths are perfect for the unholy demons in Patience’s path, and Howard and Cady’s crisp writing and relatable characterization make this decades-old property feel fresh. Steve Foxe

STL035999.jpeg Rebels: These Free & Independent States #1
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Publisher: Dark Horse

Brian Wood loves the past. From Vikings to centurions to colonial Americans, Wood knows how to weave historical fact into compelling fiction. Rebels: These Free & Independent States reunites Wood with Rebels ongoing series artist Andrea Mutti for another 1700s-set trip through the early days of the American experiment. While the duo occasionally plays a little fast and loose with who was where and when, Rebels is less anachronistic than Woods’ Vertigo epic Northlanders, and this standalone story of early American naval warfare should appeal to history (and Hamilton) buffs in need of an inspiring tale about Americans rebuffing a tyrant. Steve Foxe

STL035887.jpeg Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero #1
Writer/Artist: Michael DeForge
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Drawn & Quarterly collects Michael DeForge’s super meta weekly webcomic between two landscape hardcovers, and it’s as immersive, bizarre and notable as any of the cartoonist’s longer-form works. The comic follows a former Olympian and narcissist who forces herself into the flora and fauna of nature, while encountering a moose and reporter named after famous cartoonists—one of whom may or many not have created the comic in which these events take place. DeForge’s sloping, cylindrical shapes and subtle body language are worth the price of any of his works, but this work stands as one of his most interesting as it charts the decompressed ebb and flow of his storytelling sensibilities. Graced with swabs of salmon spot coloring, it’s an arresting collection of visuals that also peers into the mind of an artist unafraid to let his natural process wind and stray. Sean Edgar

STL036970.jpeg Underwinter #1
Writer/Artist: Ray Fawkes
Publisher: Image Comics 

“Haunting” gets thrown around a lot when discussing horror comics, but few words better apply to writer/artist Ray Fawkes’ ethereal paintings. Underwinter signals Fawkes’ return to writing and drawing his own work after stints at both Marvel (Wolverines) and DC (Gotham by Midnight). His corporate superhero work was solid, but Fawkes clearly has a stranger bent best satisfied by independent work. Underwinter’s first arc, “Symphony,” promises to reveal the cruelty behind music in our modern age, which sounds like Dario Argento meets Black Swan as rendered in Fawkes’ abstracted, off-kilter watercolors, and may join Wytches and Southern Cross as part of Image’s horror renaissance. Steve Foxe

187473_1037475_1.jpg X-O Manowar #1
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Tomas Giorello
Publisher: Valiant

Valiant has warmed up to the idea of relaunches as they’ve matured, and have by and large chosen fresh starts wisely (as opposed to Marvel’s constant churn of new #1’s). This epic new beginning for their flagship character is no exception, following on the heels of the Divinity III crossover and kicking off a promised multi-year run from new writer Matt Kindt and a rotating stable of artists including Tomas Giorello, Doug Braithwaite, Clayton Crain, Ryan Bodenheim and Mico Suayan. Aric, the time-displaced warrior within the alien Manowar armor has finally found peace as a farmer, until he’s conscripted into an intergalactic conflict. Anyone familiar with Aric’s past adventures knows that the Visigoth isn’t one to accept defeat, and Valiant has taken the unusual step of announcing Kindt’s intentions for the series well in advance: Giorello lends his Conan experience to initial arc “Soldier,” followed by Braithwaite’s “General,” Crain’s “Emperor” and Suayan’s “Visigoth” (with a Bodenheim interlude), which promises a quick ascent through the ranks for the embattled warrior—and a wartime epic for the ages for fans. Steve Foxe

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