Required Reading: Comics for 3/29/2017

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Required Reading: Comics for 3/29/2017

Alas, we were this close to having New Comic Book Day fall on April 1st, which would have opened the door for Paste’s jokesters to pop off some satirical suggestions. Instead, we’ve got a week full of genuine recommendations from across the sequential spectrum. Slice-of-life featuring felines, superheroes out to pasture, unlikely cartoon crossovers, a pair of Prime relaunches and a backwoods barbarian all mark March’s final Wednesday in style, offering a little something special to just about anyone interested in that magical combination of words and pictures.


STL025447.jpeg Adventure Time OGN Vol. 9: Brain Robbers
Writer: Josh Trujillo
Artist: Zachary Sterling
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

BOOM! Studios’ core Adventure Time title, which helped flip how readers view tie-in comics, has been marked by long, uninterrupted creative runs—which is where its OGN series comes in. These standalone tales allow fresh creators a chance to play in the Land of Ooo, with fun, offbeat tales that wouldn’t necessarily merit a mini-series or a stint on the main book. Brain Robbers pairs Love Machines’ Josh Trujillo with Adventure Time veteran Zachary Sterling for a Wild West mystery focused on Lumpy Space Princess, the utterly unique globby brat voiced on the show by AT creator Pendleton Ward. Nab this one for old and new Ooo addicts alike. Steve Foxe


STL030439.jpeg Black Hammer Vol. 1
Writer:   Jeff Lemire  
Artist: Dean Ormston
Publisher: Dark Horse

Jeff Lemire  continues his odyssey to create the most dysfunctional family in comics with Black Hammer, a quiet, contemplative series about veteran superheroes inexplicably trapped in a small, rural town. Lemire and artist Dean Ormston go full post-modern, creating characters who represent the old tropes of sequential art’s past: Madame Dragonfly pulls from iconic horror staples Warren and EC, Barbalien could have leapt off a pulpy Wally Wood sci-fi anthology, Golden Gail harkens to the era of kids who transformed into super heroes ala the Marvels, etc. Once a proud group of crime fighters, now they all bond, seethe and reminisce in a makeshift clan—literally put out to pasture. Lemire deftly shows what their psychological evolutions may look like today, the optimism and innocence of the ‘50s both honored and dissected with moody introspection. Ormston renders that complexity with sinewy, melancholic figures, hunched and often obscured in shadows. The most enticing facet of the book is the history left unexplored. Like Mike Mignola’s Hellboy cosmos, Lemire has the capacity to mold a multi-creator universe from these characters. Fortunately, it looks like that might be in the cards. Sean Edgar


STL037189.jpeg Booster Gold/The Flintstones Annual #1
Writers: Mark Russell, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Rick Leonardi, Pier Brito
Publisher: DC Comics 

God bless Mark Russell, the eccentric man whose mind probably runs on ‘70s philosophical theses and ‘70s cartoons. He distilled the Judeo-Christian bible into two rollicking, heretical guides, tore apart the corpse of America’s political system in Prez and now uses old Hanna-Barbera properties to explore domesticity and sociological norms, because of course he does. He’s a walking implosion of high and low culture, and when comics inevitably loses him to some other, more lucrative media, it will be our loss. So will oddities like this annual, which cross the modern Stone Age family with the time-hopping beta hero Booster Gold.

The plot tasks BG with traveling to pre-history to discover the mystery of alien reptiles who will ravage earth in the 25th century. Whatever. As long as Russell still takes a scalpel to monogamy, consumerism and any other concept that releases his biting wit, he can toss in the whole Euro Justice League for all we care. Also available this week: Adam Strange/Future Quest, Green Lantern/Space Ghost and… Suicide Squad/Banana Splits!? Sean Edgar


STL030600.jpeg Doom Patrol #1 Director’s Cut
Writer: Gerard Way
Artist: Nick Derington
Publisher: Young Animal/ DC Comics 

“Director’s Cut” issues are often cash-grabs—unfinished art and light commentary printed for rabid fans—but nothing about Gerard Way’s pop-up imprint Young Animal could be described as “typical.” Doom Patrol was one of 2016’s most impressive, important launches: a return to form for DC’s oddest super-team and a manifesto for Way’s intent with YA. It also introduced many readers to the intricate, Allred-meets-Los Bros Hernandez-meets-Quitely linework of artist Nick Derington, which is reprinted here in his original pencils. Way’s full script, including doodles, notes and roughs from Derington, is also collected here, offering a Rosetta Stone for the complicated goings-on of the story and a fascinating look at Way’s writing style. Consider this a master-class for $5.99. Steve Foxe


STL030651.jpeg Henchgirl
Writer/Artist: Kristen Gudsnuk
Publisher: Dark Horse

Kristen Gudsnuk’s series about the trials and tribulations of a supervillain’s employee gets a second lease on life via this Dark Horse collection, and protagonist Mary Posa’s struggles with crappy hours, rude coworkers and no insurance remain as relatable as ever. Gudsnuk’s clean cartooning falls somewhere on the spectrum between Scott Pilgrim’s Bryan Lee O’Malley and humor maven Kate Beaton, which adds to the ennui of Mary’s familiar struggles as well as the absurdity of working for a supervillain. Check back later this week for an interview with Gudsnuk to learn more about Henchgirl’s escapades. Steve Foxe


STL034944.jpeg Hillbilly Vol. 1
Writer/Artist: Eric Powell
Publisher: Albatross Funny Books

In late 2015, Eric Powell retired from his campy, gothic opus, The Goon, leaving a hole on the stands for fans who love to watch huge dudes punching monsters. Fortunately, he resurrected a brand new myth half a year later with Hillbilly. The series thrusts a stoic nomad who looks vaguely like Rob Zombie into a D&D Appalachia fantasyland, where witches, talking hounds and possessed fiddles cause havoc in the hills. Released under Powell’s own publisher, Albatross Funnybooks, the comic is divided into done-in-one stories that ease new readers into the foreboding world of Rondel, the titular badass. This is as close as we’ll get to Conan the Barbarian doused in moonshine, and offers another glimpse into the bonfire escapism Powell has been spinning for years. This trade collects the first four issues, cast in evocative washes of grey and green, and will probably guarantee another journey to track down the remaining single issues. Sean Edgar


STL037898.jpeg Inhumans Prime #1
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Ryan Sook
Publisher: Marvel Comics 

IvX, or Inhumans vs. X-Men, is (thankfully) in the rearview mirror, so it’s possible that the ResurrXion banner may not indicate future mutant shenanigans for the Inhumans. Marvel seems intent on making the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee creations “happen”—there’s a TV show on the way, after all—but tying them up with fan-favorite mutants, often at the expense of making the X-Men look bad, didn’t do the Inhumans any favors. Thankfully, Inhumans Prime sends Black Bolt, Medusa and the rest of the royal family back where they worked best: outer space. Writer Al Ewing has built up a string of cult hits at Marvel, often dealing in cosmic mayhem, and Jonboy Meyers’ slick, stylized cover bodes well for his work on the ongoing that spins out of this one-shot. Ryan Sook lends his gorgeous lines to this “bridge issue” as Ewing helps the Inhumans bid farewell to Earth and hello to surprise addition Marvel Boy, last seen as eye candy in the Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie Young Avengers. There may not be room for the Inhumans in the crowded NYC of the Marvel U., but tossing them back into orbit could help the property find its place with fans. Steve Foxe


STL035926.jpeg Jughead: The Hunger #1
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Michael Walsh
Publisher: Archie

The “What If” Archie comics have been some of the strongest that the publisher has released in the last five years, from Afterlife with Archie to Archie vs. Predator. That’s part of what made Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson’s run on Jughead so fascinating and fun: the individual issues, while ostensibly “in continuity,” felt silly and irreverent in the best way possible, exploring all sorts of ridiculous adventures with Riverdale’s most infamous burger lover, mostly in his own head. Jughead: The Hunger is a new one-shot that posits what the sleepy town would look like if the titular character’s drive for food shifted to something more…human. Michael Walsh’s work on Secret Avengers, and especially his covers for We Can Never Go Home, guarantee that this is going to be a visually interesting book, so it’s up to longtime Marvel and DC contributor Frank Tieri to step up. His recent Catwoman run paled in comparison to Genevieve Valentine’s, preceding stretch, but he certainly has a grasp on noir storytelling that could serve this lycanthropic tale well. Caitlin Rosberg


STL028660.jpeg Our Cats are More Famous Than Us: A Johnny Wander Collection
Writers: Ananth Hirsh & Yuko Ota
Artist: Yuko Ota
Publisher: Oni Press

Though their names have only recently become known to larger comic-reading audiences, Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota are the stuff of webcomic legend. Hirsh, along with artist Mohammad F. Haque, ran AppleGeeks from 2003 to 2010, and Ota posted creative, interesting modern fantasy comics throughout the early 2000s. Once they teamed up, Ota and Hirsh created Johnny Wander, an often-autobiographical webcomic that’s amassed a large enough following to support multiple Kickstarters and publishing deals for stories like Lucky Penny, not to mention fiction comics like the currently-running Barbarous. Our Cats are More Famous Than Us is almost exactly what it says on the cover: a collection of those autobiographical comics, many of which revolve around the couple’s pets. Ota’s lovely, graceful style and their combined dark and silly sense of humor makes every Johnny Wander project a joy to read, and this massive tome will be no exception. Caitlin Rosberg


STL036801.jpeg Space Riders: Galaxy of Brutality #1
Writer: Fabian Rangel, Jr.
Artist: Alexis Ziritt
Publisher: Black Mask

It’s baaack. The first round of Fabian Rangel, Jr. and Alexis Ziritt’s cosmos-rocking ode to Jack Kirby and the spray-painted sides of ‘70s stoner vans was a rollicking, ass-kicking sci-fi brawl, with psychedelic art that looked like vintage action figures on acid. Galaxy of Brutality picks up some time after the first volume’s conclusion, with the crew of Capitan Peligro’s skull-shaped ship having disbanded, only to reunite to face down an ultimate evil from beyond the stars. Rangel, Jr. and Ziritt operate on a pure pulpy, midnight-movie mindset on this book, from the righteous title font to Ziritt’s blocky swaths of primary colors. No additional substances are required to go on this trip. Steve Foxe


STL032702.jpeg Sunstone Deluxe Hardcover Vol. 1
Writer/Artist: Stjepan Šejic
Publisher: Top Cow/ Image Comics 

Finding evocative, emotional erotica is never an easy prospect in any medium, but particularly in comics. For an industry that’s perfectly fine sexualizing superheroes, plot-driven sexy comics with strong characters are rare, with the exception of publishers like Iron Circus Comics. Aside from Sunstone, Stjepan Šejic is best known for his Top Cow runs and prodigious output of fan art. First published online, and later in collected volumes by Image, Sunstone is a lesbian BDSM story. He offers ample, explicit sex, but Šejic’s art is realistic and kind to the subjects; discomfort comes from the whips and binding instead of unrealistic positions or body expectations. Sunstone frequently touches on issues of consent and delves deep into the intellectual side of BDSM, or really any relationship between two people who have difficult baggage. It’s a loving, lovely comic and Image is releasing this deluxe hardcover, collecting the first three volumes, just in time for new fans to discover Šejic’s saucier side before he joins the Aquaman creative team this summer. Caitlin Rosberg


xmenprime1.jpeg X-Men Prime #1
Writers: Marc Guggenheim, Cullen Bunn, Greg Pak
Artists: Ken Lashley, Leonard Kirk, Ibraim Roberson
Publisher: Marvel Comics 

Reactions to the recent X-Men titles have been mixed—or is that miXed, to borrow a page from ResurrXion’s playbook? The Extraordinary X-Men era, defined by mutantkind’s reaction to spreading toxic Terrigen Mists, often found Xavier’s former pupils behaving rashly, with even beloved heroes like Storm ready to throw down in a race war against the Inhumans rather than talk things out like rational do-gooders. X-Men Prime promises to kick off a new, more heroic era for the team, with Kitty Pryde returning from her stint in space with the Guardians of the Galaxy to lead her former comrades. This oversized issue sets the stage for the wide swath of new mutant titles to come, and with Marc Guggenheim, Cullen Bunn and Greg Pak sharing writing duties, expect key X-Men Gold, X-Men Blue and Weapon X plots to gestate here, with art from Ken Lashley, Leonard Kirk and Ibraim Roberson, none of whom, notably, have yet been named in relation to any of the upcoming ongoings. Judging on the sheer volume of X-titles on their way, it seems like Marvel is once again committed to the mutant corner of their universe. It’s about time. Steve Foxe

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