Required Reading: Comics for 6/14/17

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Required Reading: Comics for 6/14/17

Readers on the east coast of the United States, including Marvel’s home base of NYC, are experiencing a bit of a heat wave this week following a chilly start to June, and rising temperatures make for ideal crank-the-AC-and-stay-inside-reading weather. Both halves of the Big Two publishers have major launches planned this week to further entice you out of the sun: DC kicks off Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s magnum opus Metal with the confusingly named Dark Days: The Forge, while Marvel feels the Netflix heat with Defenders from Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez. The “Batgirl of Burnside” team’s creator-owned Motor Crush exudes pure cool with its first collected edition, while Steve Niles and Alison Sampson’s Winnebago Graveyard basks in the fires of Hell. Whether you’re reading outside (covered in sunscreen!) or sticking to the shade, this week’s comic releases have you covered.

STL046950.jpeg Bitch Planet: Triple Feature #1
Writers: Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Andrew Aydin, Conley Lyons
Artists: Maria Frohlich, Joanna Estep, Craig Yeung
Publisher: Image Comics 

Kelly Sue DeConnick is a fan favorite both for the quality of her work and her engagement with reader communities, but her creator-owned projects don’t have the best track record for timeliness. While she and co-creator Valentine De Landro bank pages for Bitch Planet’s third arc, DeConnick has invited a host of new talent to provide grindhouse-style shorts in the Bitch Planet universe. The writer specifically sought out women, gender-nonconforming and nonwhite creators to tell these tales of noncompliant women, helping pay it forward and introduce new talents to her large existing fan base. “President Bitch,” the preceding arc, continued to prove that DeConnick and De Landro’s sci-fi satire is worth the wait, and Triple Feature is a promising way to hold us over until the next installment. Steve Foxe

STL046946.jpeg Briggs Land: Lone Wolves #1
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Mack Chater
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

The second arc of Brian Wood and Mack Chater’s tale of nationalist drama on a family scale kicks off with a new title and a new central character. Where Briggs Land focused on matriarch Grace Briggs, Briggs Land: Lone Wolves shifts the focus to her youngest son, Isaac, fresh off a tour in Afghanistan. Readers probably won’t be surprised to discover the series is already in development to become a TV show on AMC; it has all the intimate violence and theatrics of Sons of Anarchy set in rural New England, and the book shares some similarities with A&E’s modern western, Longmire. By redirecting the reader from the larger Briggs clan strife to the more isolated issues Isaac faces—not only as a member of a chaotic secessionist family but also as a veteran—Wood sets a high-pressure situation up and invites readers to watch it blow. Chater’s skill has grown and refined in the first six issues, with isolating landscapes and brutal close-ups. Lone Wolves promises to be a worthy follow up to a great first arc, and a perfect place for new readers to jump in. Caitlin Rosberg

DDays_Forge_1_58cf4ec753f2b9.98428986.jpg Dark Days: The Forge #1
Writers: James T. Tynion IV, Scott Snyder 
Artists: Jim Lee, John Romita Jr., Andy Kubert
Publisher: DC Comics 

The marketing copy for DC’s summer event—Dark Nights: Metal—relies more on an ominous mood than spoilery plot points. We do know that the Dark Knight harbors a weapon/secrets that cold threaten his peers, à la Tower of Babel, but the covers also hint at ominous parallel timelines in which the Bat reigns with an iron cape and cowl. Our hope is that Dark Days, an introductory series whose first issue launches this week, ties into Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, an ‘80s sci-fi fantasy reinterpretation of the Bible that publisher DC is slowly phasing back into its mainstream mythos. Writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo have teased art that shows heroes locked in a cosmic arena, covered in magenta blood in some gorgeous Kirby-esque armor. If this isn’t a snapshot of DC’s hell analogue and the stomping grounds of their big bad, Darkseid—Apokolips—we’d be very surprised. This prequel issue kicks the mystery off with Snyder and frequent associate Jame Tynion IV working alongside artists Jim Lee, John Romita Jr. and Andy Kubert to lay out a series of plot threads. Expect more questions than resolutions, but with that roster of artists and a potential wormhole back into one of DC’s most gloriously unhinged creative periods, The Forge is worth the purchase. Sean Edgar

STL047333.jpeg The Defenders #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez
Publisher: Marvel Comics 

For all that Brian Michael Bendis’ creative tics, it’s hard to deny that he hits his peak authorial alchemy when working with the Marvel U.’s street-level heroes. The Defenders, a major no-brainer launch in advance of the same-titled Netflix series, sees Bendis returning to a vigilante he helped rejuvenate (Daredevil), a hero he raised from obscurity (Luke Cage), a character all his own (Jessica Jones) and…Iron Fist. David Marquez, Bendis’ collaborator on the capably drawn Civil War II, lends his slick superhero stylings to this TV-ready team-up. Marquez has a clean approach to cape comics that doesn’t gel with the grittier artists (Michael Gaydos, David Aja, Alex Maleev) typically associated with these characters, but should prove accessible should any Netflix fans nab the trade in a few months. Steve Foxe

KillTheMinotaur.png Kill the Minotaur #1
Writers: Chris Pasetto & Christian Cantamessa
Artist: Lukas Ketner
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound

Ray Harryhausen meets Clive Barker in this new six-issue Greek history horror jaunt from Walking Dead imprint Skybound. Writers Chris Pasetto and Christian Cantamessa have largely written for film and games, and that visceral, funneled focus can be found in this first issue. The miniseries innovates on the ancient legend, as Athenian Prince Theseus confronts the Cretan King’s human sacrifice network to appease his monstrous son—the titular Minotaur. Illustrator Lukas Ketner appropriately veers from majestic to grindhouse in the scope of a few panels, continuing the thread of moody architecture and clear storytelling he employed in Skybound’s debut comic, Witch Doctor. Though this first issue abounds with pivoting twists and a jolting pace, future installments offer some astoundingly clever set designs and gruesome characters; this isn’t the stone labyrinth you read about in grade school. Check back in a few days for our chat with Ketner and Pasetto on our Sequential Heart podcast. Sean Edgar

STL046490.jpeg Martian Manhunter/Marvin the Martian Special #1
Writers: Frank Barbiere, Steve Orlando, Jim Fanning
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Jerome K. Moore, John Loter
Publisher: DC Comics 

Since the House of Mouse acquired Marvel in 2009, Disney has experimented with strategies and tie-ins that include intellectual property from the Avengers to Star Wars to more obscure properties like Big Hero 6, and it’s easy to forget that DC has a similarly large catalog from which to pull. The same company that owns Batman also owns Bugs Bunny, and DC is capitalizing on that by releasing a series of one-shot issues connecting the beloved WB cartoon characters to the DC Universe. Perhaps the most obvious mash-up of all is Marvin the Martian and J’onn J’onzz, who, despite a surprisingly touching run as part of the DCYou initiative, hasn’t enjoyed much popularity of late. Co-written by Frank Barbiere of Five Ghosts fame and Steve Orlando, who continues to put out fantastic work on Justice League of America, the interstellar issue features art from DC veteran Aaron Lopresti and Jerome K. Moore, along with a Looney Tunes backup from Jim Fanning and John Loter. The (obviously out-of-continuity) idea of J’onn trying to stop Marvin from destroying Earth while struggling with his own identity might sound ridiculous, but with such a great team at the helm and the Justice League’s resident alien philosopher in a starring role, this one-shot is a must-read. Caitlin Rosberg

STL038313.jpeg Motor Crush Vol. 1
Writers: Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr
Artists: Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart
Publisher: Image Comics 

Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr’s hyper-cool “millennial” take on Batgirl stands out as one of the most critically and commercially successful DC reboots of the last five years, and the trio’s new costume and approach to Barbara Gordon have persisted into the Rebirth era under a new creative team. The “Batgirl of Burnside” crew, meanwhile, has been off creating their very own stylish sci-fi tale of slick bikes and slicker brawls. Domino Swift lives a double life, participating in globetrotting motorcycle races and engaging in gang fights over the possession of “Crush,” a motor stimulant contested as hotly as any human narcotic. Fletcher and Stewart continue to deliver on the script and worldbuilding, but it’s Tarr who once again steals the spotlight. When she was recruited for Batgirl, Tarr had no previously published sequential work; now, she’s been unleashed to define the visuals for a wholly original world full of badass biker ladies and two-wheeled carnage. Be sure to check out our Guest List with the creators for a perfect sonic accompaniment. Steve Foxe

STL046690.jpeg Old Man Logan #25
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Mike Deodato, Jr.
Publisher: Marvel Comics 

Much like Jean Grey before him, Logan has stayed deceased in the core Marvel U. for an impressive amount of time relative to his popularity and ability to sell books. Of course, Old Man Logan, under Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, has been all but indistinguishable from the “real” Wolverine anyway—a curmudgeonly Canadian with a few extra wrinkles and a healing factor reduced from “godlike” to “still pretty helpful.” Lemire’s approach satisfied fans looking for a traditional take on somewhat-tortured-loner Wolverine without jettisoning the alternate-reality hook. Now Lemire completes his Marvel exodus by passing Old Man Logan to rising writer Ed Brisson and Marvel stalwart Mike Deodato, Jr. Brisson’s work on Bullseye and Iron Fist has been met with critical praise but challenging sales, and a high-profile placement on Old Man Logan should help expose his talents to a larger audience. Deodato, Jr.’s recent style has leaned heavily on digital effects and, presumably, computer posing software. It’s a jarring look, but may fit Logan’s post-apocalyptic fight with the Maestro, this new arc’s chief threat. Steve Foxe

Uncomfortably Happily.jpg Uncomfortably, Happily
Writer/Artist: Yeon-Sik Hong
Translator: Hellen Jo
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Uncomfortably, Happy unpacks one of the key struggles afflicting millennials on every continent: making art, being poor and living in insufferably expensive cities. All three descriptors intertwine into a universal plague sending 20-somethings into the arms of law firms, restaurants and banks. Cartoonist Yeon-Sik Hong addressed the situation by knocking out one of those variables, moving from bustling Seoul to the mountainous countryside with his new wife. Those travails are documented in Uncomfortably, Happily, translated by Hellen Jo and released by Drawn & Quarterly this week. Indie cartoonists using the medium to vent their frustrations is a common experience; Hong’s work feels more like an experiment to assuage that tension, with the hypothesis tested to hilarious and charming results. It also serves as a pastoral to the Korean countryside through the seasons, the land serving as an unexpected muse whose original function was solely pragmatic. Uncomfortably, Happy should prove disarming in its simplicity and nourishing in its focus, an honest appreciation of life’s struggles and harbors, however unconventional. Sean Edgar

wingrave.jpeg Winnebago Graveyard #1
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Alison Sampson
Publisher: Image Comics 

Some of the very best horror stories start with road trips, and for good reason. Travel creates liminal spaces, a sense of unreality and unease that is tough to shake even in the best of circumstances. There’s a vulnerability that comes with travel, being far away from known safe spaces, and it’s even more prevalent when traveling in rural areas, far away from conveniences. Writer Steve Niles and artist Alison Sampson bring that fear to life in this new mini-series from Image about a family that finds itself stranded in a terrifying small town while on vacation. Niles is an expert at horror and chills, with titles like 30 Days of Night and The October Faction under his belt. What makes the book especially enticing is the art team led by Alison Sampson, who has a near-photo-realistic style that’s surreal, with touches of Twilight Zone and enough reality-bending to keep readers feeling appropriately unsettled. The industry is currently awash in quality horror comics, and Winnebago Graveyard is a Satanically perfect addition to the roster. Caitlin Rosberg

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