Required Reading: Comics for 5/24/2017

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Required Reading: Comics for 5/24/2017

There’s not much to say about a penultimate Wednesday in May, but there’s a little something for just about any fan this week. Archie Andrews shoulders his guitar and lives out his rockstar dreams, noted prose author Victor LaValle updates Frankenstein for a chilling political now, Kieron Gillen puts his stamp on James Bond, Tradd Moore makes Venom great again and Valiant answers our prayers with the end of the world. Inebriated werewolf tale Moonshine arrives in trades, as does Bitch Planet Vol. 2 and Violent Love. If monthly comics aren’t your jam, Ben Passmore’s Your Black Friend gets a much-needed wider release and Gabrielle Bell’s latest collection hits shelves. There’s little connective tissue to be drawn between this week’s New Comic Book Day offerings, so just bask in the buffet.


STL035877.jpeg Archies One-Shot
Writers: Alex Segura & Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Joe Eisma
Publisher: Archie Comics

With all of the drama that crops up in Riverdale, Archie Andrews’ love of music often ends up sidelined. Since the Archie Comics lineup was revamped in 2015, there hasn’t been much of a chance to see the redheaded protagonist on stage, but this Archies one-shot changes that. Writers Alex Segura and Matthew Rosenberg, who tackled Archie Meets Ramones last year, return for a single issue that sees Archie’s ambitions drive a wedge between him and his friends. Segura and Rosenberg know their punk stuff, and with art by Joe Eisma, currently working with Mark Waid on the main Archie title, Archies promises to be a fun ride. Rosenberg is doing an incredible job right now on 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank, and Eisma’s work has only continued to grow since his days on Morning Glories. With Segura’s long history with Archie and his cohorts, this team is the perfect fit. If that’s not enough to attract, the cover by Love and Rockets’ Jaime Hernandez might help. The one-shot format gives the team more freedom to play around with the characters, and to avoid the seriousness that Waid has steered Archie towards in the last few issues. Caitlin Rosberg


STL043830.jpeg Victor LaValle’s Destroyer #1
Writer: Victor LaValle
Artist: Dietrich Smith
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Monstrousness is a favorite metaphor of creators across nearly every medium. Using literal inhumanity to describe and explore the ways in which people hurt and abuse one another has produced some of the best fiction of all time, and reframing classic monster tales like Dracula through new lenses has injected life into tropes that can become stale. In Destroyer, celebrated prose author Victor Lavalle twists Frankenstein for modern readers and new concerns, bringing discussions of race and institutional violence into the equation. By making his monster a young black teen murdered by police, Lavalle takes a well-known story into entirely new territory in his first solo venture as a comic writer. Lavalle has successfully tackled stories like this before, but he’s going to have to lean on artist Dietrich Smith since comics are a new form for him. Smith contributed to the excellent Shaft: Imitation of Life and has a clean, modern style that should serve the book well. It’s a fascinating premise from two talented creators, and one likely to make readers think critically about an otherwise familiar tale. Caitlin Rosberg


EIF_cover_500px.jpg Everything Is Flammable
Writer/Artist: Gabrielle Bell
Publisher: Uncivilized Books

Gabrielle Bell has spent more than two decades transposing her life into panels dotted by descents into surrealism—including a film collaboration Michel Gondry about a woman who transforms into a chair. Her latest project unspools a year during which she helped her mother rebuild a house after it burned down. Like her myriad mini-comics and collections, Bell doesn’t analyze or stylize, but maintains a tight devotion to documenting her own life in two dimensions devoid of excessive stylization. This episode explores the friction between Bell and her mother through her turbulent childhood in rural California, as the cartoonist attempts to build a new relationship on the literal ashes of her youth. Falling in the lineage of memoir comics royalty that includes Harvey Pekar, Vanessa Davis, Phoebe Gloeckner and Chester Brown, this nonfiction bombshell is a captivating reminder of Bell’s singular talents. Sean Edgar


GOLEM_cover.jpg The Golem’s Mighty Swing
Writer/Artist: James Sturm
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

The Golem’s Mighty Swing debuted in 2001, and as explored in Paste’s recent interview with cartoonist James Sturm, it’s only become more relevant in the passing years. Sturm relays his original story of an early-20th-century Jewish baseball team that creates a Golem mascot to drum up hype. It’s a potent reminder of the cyclical bouts of prejudice the group faces, a recurring epidemic through the centuries that society can’t seem to remedy. It’s also a damn entertaining period piece about America’s greatest pastime, delving into the Depression era and the rural Midwest with a group of underdogs facing down curveballs and WASPs with valor. Drawn & Quarterly’s new print also includes an introduction from Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature who has also tackled themes of identity and prejudice in American Born Chinese and other works. Sean Edgar


STL043688.jpeg I Am Groot #1
Writer: Christopher Hastings
Artist: Flaviano
Publisher: Marvel Comics 

Despite one contrarian clickbait article claiming otherwise, Baby Groot was the comedic highlight of the fluffy, fun Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, dancing his way around interstellar Lovecraftian monsters and adorably misunderstanding a doomsday weapon. Sadly, Marvel’s recent track record with solo Guardians titles doesn’t bode well for the lil’ dude: Star-Lord limps to its conclusion in an annual this week, Rocket is on the second of two immediately consecutive series with poor sales and both Gamora and Drax quietly wrapped to little fanfare. Regardless of quality, it seems that Marvel’s readership just isn’t clamoring to see these ensemble players on their own, even with proven humorist Christopher Hastings scripting this tale of Groot stranded without an interpreter millions of miles away from his crew. Artist Flaviano previously lent his vibrant cartooning to Power Man & Iron Fist and should make a perfectly animated fit for Groot. Just don’t get your hopes up that this’ll break the trend and last more than one arc. Steve Foxe


STL043171.jpeg James Bond: Service One-Shot
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Antonio Fuso
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

Much like Judge Dredd and Constantine before him, James Bond seems to invite a turn at the wheel from all the major British comic malcontents, and The Wicked + The Divine’s Kieron Gillen is up this week with a timely one-shot in which 007 must foil an assassination attempt that aims to destabilize Britain’s tenuous diplomatic relationship with the world. Joining Gillen is Antonio Fuso, the artist behind IDW’s Drive, a host of G.I. Joe comics and Vertigo Crime’s A Sickness in the Family, whose Jock-like angular ink swaths stand out as one of the edgier, more appealing visual contributions to Dynamite’s 007 offerings. Gillen’s leading men are more often dorky-cool than debonair, but Ian Fleming’s superspy isn’t an assignment that one takes lightly—even if your brand has evolved into “Comics’ DJing Trickster God.” Steve Foxe


STL031600.jpeg Moonshine Vol. 1
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso
Publisher: Image Comics 

Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are well-known collaborators to most comics fans, and the duo behind the celebrated 100 Bullets regrouped late last year to release a new book with a much different take on organized crime. Rather than focusing on a shadowy organization with entirely suspect motives, Moonshine revolves around Prohibition-era backroom deals between New York mobsters and Appalachian moonshiners. If the creative team alone isn’t enough to hook readers, the booze hounds in West Virginia are quite literally that: werewolves who rely on preternatural powers just as much as distilling deals to keep power in their grasp. Azzarello is a master storyteller and Risso’s stark, high-contrast art makes for pages and panels that are a joy to read. The two are a powerhouse team, pushing each other and working together to create fun, sharp, surprising comics. This initial volume collects the first six issues of Moonshine, true to Image standard operating procedure, and gives readers a great opportunity to jump on while waiting for #7. Caitlin Rosberg


STL043193.jpeg Rapture #1
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: CAFU
Publisher: Valiant

Valiant puts out “event” comics about as often as their “big siblings” Marvel and DC, but these prestige mini-series, from The Valiant to Book of Death, rarely require the same line-wide buy-in or complex existing knowledge of continuity. Rapture, the latest Valiant event, puts rich-white-boy ninja Ninjak front and center, alongside Shadowman and Punk Mambo, popular legacy characters who’ve rarely led their own titles in the current Valiant landscape. The conflict is no less than a siege on Heaven conducted by a vengeful elder god, and Heaven’s only hope lies with these three anti-heroes and Tama, a Layla Miller-esque tween deus ex machina with prophetic knowledge of the battle to come. Matt Kindt, who’s currently orchestrating a massive X-O Manowar relaunch, is joined here by CAFU, the slick Valiant mainstay who previously contributed to, well, most of Valiant’s books. Whether you’re already a Valiant diehard or merely Valiant-curious, don’t get left behind in this Rapture. Steve Foxe


STL043712.jpeg Venom #150
Writers: Mike Costa, David Michelinie, Others
Artists: Tradd Moore, Ron Lim, Others
Publisher: Marvel Comics 

During Marvel Sales VP David Gabriel’s now-infamous retailer remarks in which he stated the company was hearing from shops that “diversity doesn’t sell,” Gabriel cited the return of Eddie Brock as Venom as one of the publisher’s successes—bringing back older properties over newer mantle-bearers like Flash Thompson. A quick look at publicly available sales data disproves that—Mike Costa and Gerardo Sandoval’s ‘90s-tastic Venom relaunch landed to solid numbers but dropped fast, bottoming out in the 30,000s within its first arc before experiencing a mild slingshot in advance of this week’s blowout. To be fair to the book, this oversized issue, the first current Marvel title to reset to cumulative numbering, should appeal to most sequential-art fans, thanks to All-New Ghost Rider’s Tradd Moore lending his singular style to the main story. (And this weekend’s news that Tom Hardy will portray the Lethal Protector in Sony’s upcoming film certainly won’t hurt the issue’s shelf presence.) Among the other creators joining Moore for this symbiote love fest are David Michelinie and Ron Lim, Venom’s original solo creative team. Steve Foxe


YourBlackFriend72.jpg Your Black Friend
Writer/Artist: Ben Passmore
Publisher: AdHouse Books

Ben Passmore’s dissection of casual racism has passed through a number of publishers, including Paste contributor Zainab Ahktar’s Shortbox and Silver Sprocket, and this week marks a new release via AdHouse Books. In any format from any publisher, it’s required reading—especially for white liberals. The beauty of this graphic novel is how it approaches the shades of gray that lie in how the progressive majority addresses minorities. The floating narrator begins most text blocks with the line “Your black friend…,” before launching into explanations of why white folks should know there are more black musicians beyond Beyoncé and how awkward niceties can prevent real progress. Passmore doesn’t care about being awkward: he’s telling all of his white “friends” the things we should probably know, but will never hear, and that stereotypes can still thrive under the best of intentions. Sean Edgar

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