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Required Reading: Comics for 5/10/2017

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Required Reading: Comics for 5/10/2017

If the Fourth wasn’t With You, or you faltered in your quest for gratis sequential art on Free Comic Book Day, fret not: another week, another Wednesday, another batch of new releases. The Allred family kicks off a killer Kirby tribute in the pages of Bug, Marvel revives the Secret Warriors banner to combat Secret Empire, Rocket Raccoon blasts off again, the Atomic Blonde source material returns with a more cinema-friendly title, the Eternal Warrior lives up to his name yet again and the American Vampire team reunite for an All Star outing, among other mid-May delights.


STL042837.jpeg All Star Batman #10
Writer:   Scott Snyder  
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Publisher: DC Comics 

The first arc of All Star Batman featured several of the Caped Crusader’s most famous rogues, many of whom were sidelined during writer Scott Snyder’s run on the main Batman book. Two-Face, Poison Ivy, the Mad Hatter and Mr. Freeze dominated the first nine issues, but with the 10th, Snyder turns Batman’s attention from his famous rivals to his allies. The plot sounds fairly similar to Snyder’s own Court of Owls arc with Greg Capullo, as Batman faces a years-long conspiracy and a foe who was once one of his most trusted friends. The biggest draw, besides Snyder, is that American Vampire artist Rafael Albuquerque is working on at least the first three issues of the arc. Albuquerque helped relaunch Batgirl to great effect, pulling Babs out of Burnside and into an international adventure that benefited from his deft hand. He sports a sketchy, kinetic style that pops with colors from Jordie Bellaire, one of the best colorists in the business. A team with that kind of skill is a draw for any book, but especially for fans of the Bat. Caitlin Rosberg


STL035058.jpeg Atomic Blonde: The Coldest City
Writer: Antony Johnston
Artist: Sam Hart
Publisher: Oni Press

With the impending release of the film adaptation of Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s Cold War spy thriller, Oni Press is rereleasing the book with a new cover and a new title to draw filmgoers back to the source material. What was known as The Coldest City, first published in 2013, is now Atomic Blonde: The Coldest City, and features movie-poster styling and a photo of star Charlize Theron. The comic is more subtle and understated than the trailer and marketing for the movie; Johnston is great at unwinding a plot slowly, using distinct and interesting characters to progress the plot. Hart’s art style is brutal in its severe contrast between black and white, but he lets the story trickle from panel to panel, incrementally revealing secrets. There are inevitable comparisons to Queen and Country, but the book is more Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy than 007: cerebral and winding. Even without the movie on its way, The Coldest City and the prequel, The Coldest Winter, are well worth reading. This new edition just gives readers a chance to get in on the ground floor of “the book was better.” Caitlin Rosberg


STL044327.jpeg Black Cloud #2
Writer: Jason Latour, Ivan Brandon
Artist: Greg Hinkle
Publisher: Image Comics 

The first issue of Black Cloud hit the ground running at full tilt with its premise of Inception meets folklore of fairy kidnappings—but with a better color palette. Co-writer Jason Latour has made no secret of his personal politics, and artist Greg Hinkle’s cover of Black Cloud #2 is nearly as confrontational as Latour’s Southern Bastards #10, which featured a dog ripping up the Confederate flag. The book’s protagonist, Zelda, is featured in the same neon, sharp colors as on the first cover, this time hiding from a group of white men all wearing a familiar style of red baseball hat. It’s not subtle, but it packs a punch. In the first issue, Zelda used her ability to enter and leave the dream-space that she calls home to make some money and avoid capture for as long as possible, selling spoiled rich kids a different kind of high than they’re used to. In this second issue, she’s still running from her mysterious past, and the entities pursuing her are getting closer. The story itself is interesting, sharp and relevant; Hinkle’s art is a good fit with a high level of detail on both characters and the delirious backgrounds. Matt Wilson’s vivid colors make this book sing, and if the team continues to deliver the kind of sharp, beautiful panels, Black Cloud promises to become another Image must-read. Caitlin Rosberg


STL043914.jpeg Bug!: The Adventures of Forager #1
Writer: Lee Allred
Artists: Mike Allred, Laura Allred
Publisher: Young Animal/ DC Comics 

Legendary creator Jack Kirby would have turned 100 in 2017, and few comics coming out this year promise to pay tribute to the King quite like this Allred family jam arriving under the banner of Gerard Way’s Young Animal imprint. Madman creator Mike Allred has long been one of Kirby’s most vital stylistic disciples, perfecting the akimbo poses and near-floating figures of Kirby’s cosmic heyday. Leaving his run on Silver Surfer (another Kirby creation) behind for a few months, Mike Allred; his wife, acclaimed colorist Laura Allred; and Mike’s brother, writer Lee Allred, join familial forces for a bonkers mini-series starring Forager, one of Kirby’s most off-kilter creations from his time orchestrating DC’s Fourth World. Forager, as the title implies, is part of an insect-like hive, but breaks free to embark on bizarre adventures. Young Animal has thus far been marked by a strong early-Vertigo vibe, a tone that hasn’t often been played against characters heavily associated with Kirby. With the full force of the Allred clan behind this outing, expect Bug! to honor one of comics’ best and brightest in suitably weird style, and prove the breadth of work possible under the ever-exciting YA banner. Steve Foxe


STL044457.jpeg Dragon Age: Knight Errant #1
Writers: Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir
Artist: Fernando Heinz Furukawa
Publisher: Dark Horse

Some of Dark Horse’s licensed video-game tie-ins have appeal outside of the source property—Paul Tobin and Joe Querio’s Hellboy-esque Witcher comics come to mind—and others are better suited to diehard franchise fans. Dragon Age: Knight Errant seems to be the latter, with a promise to expand on the game’s canon as “Elven squire Vaea and her knight arrive in Kirkwall for Varric Tethras’s appointment as viscount,” a phrase that will mean everything or nothing to you depending on your time spent with the game series. Writers Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir are best known for contributing to the X-Men franchise, particularly teen-focused titles like New X-Men: Academy X, and artist Fernando Heinz Furukawa has spent much of his career in the gory trenches of Avatar Comics, making for an inspired creative team for this high-fantasy outing. If you don’t count yourself among Dragon Age’s legions of dedicated players, you can at least appreciate this series offering cover artist Sachin Teng another outlet to stun readers with gallery-ready arcane designs. Steve Foxe


STL043387.jpeg Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Renato Guedes
Publisher: Valiant

For five years, Valiant has been doing a great job elevating its large roster of unique characters, proving that there are superhero books beyond the Big Two of Marvel and DC and widening their appeal with titles like Faith. Now, to commemorate the 25-year anniversary of the publisher’s original founding, Valiant is putting out several one-shots celebrating some of their most famous characters, including this invulnerable war general. Robert Venditti returns to tackle the universe’s immortal fighter once again following the success of Wrath of the Eternal Warrior last year, and is familiar with how to put the character through his paces. But rather than flinging him straight back into a war without end, Awakening leaves Gilad Anni-Padda isolated, injured and without memory. Artist Renato Guedes previously worked on Bloodshot Reborn, so the creative team has ample experiene bringing this cosmos to life. An immortal master of warfare and killing isn’t an uncommon trope in comics or any other nerdy medium, but Venditti and Guedes have everything they need to make a fun, exciting issue. As a one-and-done story, this book should offer a great introduction to readers new to the publisher. Caitlin Rosberg


STL043827.jpeg Misfit City #1
Writers: Kiwi Smiith & Kurt Lustgarten
Artist: Naomi Franquiz
Publisher: BOOM! Box/ BOOM! Studios

BOOM! Box’s latest original series wears its Goonies/’80s nostalgia on its sleeve. The comic features a squad of young women stuck in a sleepy town famous as the setting of a decades-old cult-classic film; the crew discovers a real treasure map and sets off for adventure. Between KaBOOM!, BOOM! Box, the core BOOM! line and the publisher’s licensed properties, the California-based comics machine has a near-total lock on the preteen and late-teen demographics, with Misfit City landing alongside other titles like Giant Days and The Woods. Co-writer Kiwi Smith made her name in Hollywood writing 10 Things I Hate About You and co-writing Legally Blonde, making her something of a girl-power superstar. Artist Naomi Franquiz is the latest internet-beloved cartoonist to make the BOOM! jump. With Smith’s pedigree, Franquiz’ expressive art and a nostalgia-friendly hook, Misfit City is an ideal addition to BOOM!’s catalogue. Steve Foxe


STL044201.jpeg Regression #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Danny Luckert
Publisher: Image Comics 

Cullen Bunn seems to be everywhere these days, with books at half of the major publishers in the game. With Regression, he taps yet again into the growing horror comics genre, telling the story of a man so troubled by terrible visions that he undergoes past-life regression therapy to figure out what’s going on. He soon discovers that a presence has joined his psyche. The hook sounds a bit like Clean Room, which is good timing since that Vertigo title has been put on hiatus. Bunn is working with artist Danny Luckert, a relative unknown who has only done a couple issues for small publishers in the past. Luckert provides a clean line that benefits from the right coloring, reading as flat when there’s insufficient texture, but is incredibly clear. His style might be a little facile for a horror comic, but the bigger risk here is if Bunn gets spread too thin across the books he’s currently spinning. But based on the strength of the writer’s horror work on Harrow County, Regression is worth checking out. Caitlin Rosberg


STL043700.jpeg Rocket #1
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Adam Gorham
Publisher: Marvel Comics 

Rocket #1 is a good example of Marvel’s complicated relationship with attracting new readers and their dollars. The Al Ewing/Adam Gorham space caper launches immediately on the furry heels of Matthew Rosenberg and Jorge Coehlo’s Rocket Raccoon, which was positioned as an ongoing series but was clearly, in hindsight, one of Marvel’s “stealth mini-series”—finite runs pitched as long-term series so as not to encourage “trade-waiters” or scare off fans who, for some puzzling reason, dislike limited series. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hit theaters last week, presumably priming new potential readers who may want to follow the smash-hit characters into comics. Now those readers will be faced with the confusion of a rack of Rocket Raccoon comics still in single-digit issue numbers as well as a series simply called Rocket. Hopefully new fans of the Bradley Cooper-voiced interstellar firearm enthusiast parse out the numbering, because Ewing and Gorham make for a more-than-worthy follow-up. Ewing has been Marvel’s under-appreciated superstar on runs like Ultimates and New Avengers, while Gorham has applied his capable cartooning to The Violent and Valiant. Rocket remains in great hands—it’s just a question of how easy it’ll be to get the book into readers’ hands, too. Steve Foxe


STL043710.jpeg Secret Warriors #1
Writer: Matt Rosenberg
Artist: Javier Garrón
Publisher: Marvel Comics 

Marvel’s most successful new Inhuman creations feature resistance fighters struggling to survive the violence perpetuated by Hydra-Cap in the pages of Secret Empire. It’s too bad that rising stars Matthew Rosenberg and Javier Garrón are saddled with the highly controversial Secret Empire as a launching point for this team—Ms. Marvel and Moon Girl are two of the publisher’s most accessible and widely loved recent additions, and Quake and Karnak both bring wider TV recognition to the book (Inferno is here, too). Yet the heavily Nazi-inspired SE has alienated large swaths of the fanbase that this team would might otherwise attract. There’s good reason not to count this one out just yet, though: Spider-Woman launched as a Spider-Verse tie-in with Greg Land on art before recruiting Javier Rodriguez for a widely praised, and much improved, run. Hold your nose during the crossover and expect great things from this crew. Steve Foxe

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