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Dark Nights: Metal, Spy Seal & More in Required Reading: Comics for 8/16/17

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<i>Dark Nights: Metal</i>, <i>Spy Seal</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 8/16/17

It’s the middle of August, which means Halloween is just around the corner, and some of this week’s comics are wising up to that spooky fact. Dark Horse has a double whammy with a Hellboy prose collection and the newest volume of I Am a Hero, one of the finest horror mangas to reach America shores. DC’s massive summer event Dark Nights: Metal, isn’t quite horror, but toys with darkness and reintroduces a key gothic-fiction character to the main DCU. Elsewhere, Marvel celebrates an ultimate anniversary and gathers two of its many Wolverines, Valiant remains divine, Top Cow resurrects a Genius, Image denies a hero and welcomes subterfuge from a sea mammal and DC brings us a dream. Okay, so it’s not all about Halloween quite yet, but can you blame us for being eager?


STL053793.jpeg Dark Nights: Metal #1
Writer:   Scott Snyder  
Artist: Greg Capullo
Publisher: DC Comics 
It’s getting started a little later than usual this year, but DC’s summer event hits shelves at full force this week with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s return to the Batman mythos. Unlike a lot of summer events, which end up sprawling and taking over every title on the shelves, Dark Nights: Metal is relatively self-contained, though it promises to have some impact on the larger DC canon. Two explanatory prequel issues, The Forge and The Casting, are already out, and broke the news that the Justice League won’t be confronting some external god or monster but instead versions of their own caped crusader. The elephant in the watchtower is Batman’s perpetual need to be prepared to take down his teammates, and the idea of confronting multiple Batmen with the same kind of paranoia and intelligence, combined with the powers of the other Leaguers, is compelling. Snyder and Capullo brought some much-needed life and mystery to the Batman title during the New 52 years, and clearly have a good working relationship. If Dark Nights is even remotely as fun as the prequels have hinted at, readers are in for a great ride and an awesome payoff, with the bonus of Capullo’s epic skill at drawing a battered Batman and gritty, daunting fight scenes. The only downside is the hefty $4.99 cover price. Caitlin Rosberg


STL052056.jpeg Divinity #0
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Renato Guedes
Publisher: Valiant
Valiant has gathered steam behind its line-up of superhero comics in the last few years, lead in part by the success of titles like Faith and Archer and Armstrong, newbie-friendly books that introduce readers to the larger roster of characters with fun, funky stories and a lot of heart. On the other end of the Valiant spectrum, Matt Kindt has helmed a whole collection of books, including the Stalinverse event that imagined a world where the Soviet Union dominated history. Divinity #0 resets the clock, as the titular cosmonaut with apparently limitless powers sets things right. Kindt did good work with Stalinverse and giving him control over its recovery makes sense for story cohesion. It doesn’t hurt that Renato Guedes’s sharp, traditional superhero style graces the pages of Divinity moving forward; his art in Bloodshot Reborn settled him into a good place for Valiant, and the publisher can continue to solidify itself as a strong alternative for folks who like cape-and-cowl books but aren’t in love with what DC and Marvel have on shelves these days. Caitlin Rosberg


STL053856.jpeg Generations: Wolverine & All-New Wolverine #1
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Ramon Rosanas
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
The Generations train chugs along this week with the release of the Wolverine issue, matching current Wolverine Laura with her dearly departed former mentor…who still exists in the comics as both an apocalypse-surviving old man and via an alternate-universe son. Comics! The goofiness of Marvel’s have-their-cake-and-overeat-it-too approach to Wolverine’s demise aside, All-New Wolverine has been the consistent fan-favorite among Marvel’s beleaguered X-Men titles, with writer Tom Taylor fleshing out Laura’s inconsistent personality as she gets comfortable in the blue and yellow outfit. Artist Ramon Rosanas has a nondescript approach to superhero action that has made for an underwhelming fit on Mighty Captain Marvel and is unlikely to stand out when applied to the SNIKT! crew, but Taylor’s guiding hand has done well by Laura so far and should make this an essential, if visually unchallenging, chapter in her ongoing story. Steve Foxe


STL053814.jpeg Genius: Cartel #1
Writers: Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman
Artist: Rosi Kampe
Publisher: Top Cow/ Image Comics 
The timing couldn’t be better for the return of Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman’s Genius, a book about a gifted young black woman who attempts to secede part of Los Angeles from the United States. Published only three years ago, the first five issues of Genius showed that there was not just space for a new kind of comic book character, but also an audience hungry for it. Genius’ protagonist Destiny was complicated and nuanced and flawed, but unabashedly a heroic figure driven by her community and likened to the most well-known military geniuses in terms of intelligence and ability. Bernardin and Freeman return to Destiny’s story, and readers will find her stuck in what sounds like a more industrial-prison-complex version of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. The original artist, Afua Richardson, most recently seen working on Black Panther: World of Wakanda, isn’t returning with the writing team, but taking over for her is Rosi Kampe, who’s contributed to a few Marvel titles of her own. It’s a shame to have lost Richardson, but Genius is a vital, complicated story. Without it, there might not be Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur or Riri Williams, or even enough confidence for the short runs of Nighthawk and Vigilante: Southland we’ve seen. At just five issues, it’s well worth picking up a trade of the first Genius run and catching up quickly to fully understand Cartel. Caitlin Rosberg


Hellboy_AnAssortmentOfHorrors.jpg Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors
Writers: Various
Artist: Mike Mignola 
Editor: Christopher Golden
Publisher: Dark Horse
Throughout his exceptional run on Hellboy, a comic about a demonic paranormal investigator fighting his infernal destiny, cartoonist Mike Mignola built on the horror foundation chiseled by history’s most macabre pulp scribes. Mary Shelley’s DNA was evident with a cameo from Frankenstein himself, H.P. Lovecraft would approve of the eldritch horror and monstrous tentacles looming at the bottom of the seas, and even M.R. James’ moody, Victorian ghosts wind through many of the sobering one-shots. Though Mignola’s shadow-drenched pencils and Dave Stewart’s otherworldly colors are an undeniable facet of the comic’s legacy, a gaggle of writers is bringing that inspiration full circle with prose-only stories in this week’s Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors. Notable contributors include Bram Stoker Award-winners Jonathan Maberry and Paul Tremblay, Eisner nominee Chelsea Cain and B.P.R.D. and Hellboy helmer Chris Roberson. Mignola has hinted at the end of Hellboy sister title B.P.R.D., and though it’s unlikely that this fictional cosmos will wrap with a new movie on the horizon, a chance to see the character’s interpretation through the lens of some of horror’s best wordsmiths should prove fascinating. Sean Edgar


STL044243.jpeg I Am a Hero Vol. 4
Writer/Artist: Kengo Hanazawa
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
The Paste crew includes a few bone-deep horror fanatics, so we make a habit of trumpeting scary sequential art to the best of our abilities. Across three previous omnibus collections, I Am a Hero creator Kengo Hanazawa has pushed both the horror manga art form and undead terror to new creative heights, mirroring the pacing of Western horror to draw out impeccably rendered grotesquery for dozens of terrifying pages. The end of the previous volume saw protagonist Hideo joining a rooftop colony of survivors with strict rules, while trying to hide from his presumptive allies that his companion, Hiromi, is infected but not a full-blown mindless flesh-chomper. Hanazawa’s style mixes meticulously rendered backgrounds with moments of artful exaggeration, from fisheye angles to Hideo’s cartoonish anxious expressions. Steve Foxe


MageTheHeroDenied_01-1.png Mage: The Hero Denied #1
Writer/Artist: Matt Wagner
Publisher: Image Comics 
Last week, Tom King and Mitch Gerads released the first issue of Mister Miracle, the debut chapter of a project designed to embrace the literary legacy of ‘80s sequential art benchmarks Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. This week provides a comic of similar promise, a sequel to a book just as important and gorgeously crafted as anything by Frank Miller or Alan Moore. Matt Wagner’s Mage mythos deconstructs the hero’s journey, updating fantasy beats from Sir Thomas Mallory and Le Morte d’Arthur into an urban setting. In addition to Wagner’s gorgeous art through previous miniseries Mage: The Hero Discovered (1984-1986) and Mage: The Hero Defined (1997), the epic has channeled the undying spirit of benevolence through their respective eras’ shifting ideologies. The first volume ably countered the grim, corrosive claustrophobia of Regan’s ‘80s and the second bolstered the concept of altruism throughout ‘90s hyperbole. Who knows what Mage: The Hero Denied will say about the age of Trump, featuring protagonist Kevin Matchstick as a veteran hero ready to slap monsters around with his magical baseball bat. Wagner knows how to toss his narratives into new and jolting directions, and where his final act veers is anyone’s guess, but promises nothing short of elation. Publisher Image is also releasing hardcovers of the previous series, which deserve a slot in any comics library. Sean Edgar


STL053799.jpeg The Sandman Oversize Special #1
Writers: Dan Jurgens, Steve Orlando
Artists: Jon Bogdanove, Rick Leonardi
Publisher: DC Comics 
Jack Kirby’s cape-clad iteration of the Sandman is often overshadowed by Neil Gaiman’s gothic take as well as by the gas-mask-wearing noir vigilante of the same name, but leave it to DC stalwart Dan Jurgens and caretaker of DC obscurity Steve Orlando to spin new tales with the ‘70s hero in honor of Kirby’s centennial. Jurgens is joined by artist Jon Bogdanove for a team-up between Sandman, Brute and Glob against an onslaught of bad dreams, while Orlando pairs with Rick Leonardi for a story focused on Jed Walker, a young boy who became an important part of Gaiman’s saga—and who Kirby intended to be a version of Kamandi from “our” reality, according to Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2. DC’s efforts to preserve Kirby’s legacy and highlight his contributions—each special also includes Kirby reprint material—are appreciated, especially given the current status of Captain America, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men across the pond at Marvel. Steve Foxe


Spy_Seal_01_cvr_FULL.jpg Spy Seal #1
Writer/Artist: Rich Tommaso
Publisher: Image Comics 
Spy Seal cartoonist Rich Tommaso made headlines earlier this month after lamenting on low orders for his vibrant new book. It’s a shame as the cartoonist is clearly talented and funneling a cool aesthetic—the clean, ‘60s Franco-Belgian all-ages fun of Tintin—in his marine mammal mystery. It marks the third visual pivot from Tommaso at publisher Image, first with the pot-boiler noir Dark Corridor and then the watercolor ‘80s horror of She Wolf. As with those previous entries, Tommaso embraces every aspect of his adopted aesthetic. The benign, simple font, an adherence to color fills instead of gradients, and an overall devotion to clarity (Tintin’s “Ligne claire” style translates as “clear line”) make Spy Seal look more like a relic that exists inside of Wes Anderson’s head instead of a comic from a mainstream publisher. Fortunately, it is, and it is damn delectable. Buying this series is cultivating a marketplace willing to breach house styles and stretch the color palette range a few shades beyond the customary, and allowing yourself to be surprised by artistic legacies that shouldn’t belong solely in history books. Sean Edgar


STL054007.jpeg The Ultimates 2 #100
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Travel Foreman
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Al Ewing’s run on The Ultimates has ably reinvented the title that once changed the scope of mainstream comics, turning the book from a widescreen action free-for-all into a cosmic odyssey illustrated by some of the most dynamic artists currently contributing to Marvel. From Kenneth Rocafort to Christian Ward and now Travel Foreman, The Ultimates stands above most other current Marvel team offerings on visual strength alone. This landmark issue takes early inspiration from Legacy’s renumbering scheme and assigns itself a shiny #100, with the promise of a meeting between the Ultimates of today and the Ultimates of yesterday—take-no-prisoners heroes seemingly erased from existence by the reality-warping effects of Secret Wars. Ewing is a consistently under-appreciated writer capable of elevating this meeting of the teams above gimmick-level, and Foreman’s distinctly horror-influenced pencils should make for a surprising iteration of the old-school Ultimates aesthetic of practical costumes and “realistic” action. Steve Foxe

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