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Falcon, Baking With Kafka, Overwatch Anthology & More in Required Reading: Comics for 10/11/17

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<i>Falcon</i>, <i>Baking With Kafka</i>, <i>Overwatch Anthology</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 10/11/17

Another New York Comic Con is in the bag, which frees up the comic press and fans alike to focus on the looming high-horror holiday of Halloween, represented among this week’s comic selections by Adventure Time’s latest spooky annual. If frights aren’t your style, DC Comics kicks off three wildly different debuts: Ragman’s supernatural PTSD, Michael Cray’s cutting-edge mortality meditation and Gotham City Garage’s dystopian biker action. We’ve also got deluxe hardcovers collecting esteemed runs from last year and the turn of the millennium, a fresh start for the Falcon, a collection of British wit, a bundle of master-rank video game tie-ins and a Kirby-infused tattoo explosion brought to bonkers-mad sequential life. Now everyone leave us alone and let us sleep off the con crud for a few more days.


AbsoluteAuthority.jpg Absolute Authority Vol. 1
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Bryan Hitch
Publisher: DC Comics 
Author Warren Ellis is currently reintroducing a new generation to characters he created more than a decade ago in The Wild Storm, a grand mash-up of corporate warfare and government intrigue with a sci-fi left hook. Publisher DC is capitalizing on the series and its spin-offs with new printings of the comics that founded it. Though a slew of other creators—including Jim Lee, Alan Moore, Whilce Portacio and J. Scott Campbell—contributed to the imprint’s founding titles throughout the ‘90s, it was Ellis’ aggressive, modernist sensibilities that transformed heroes for the millennium, and mainstream publishers soon followed his lead. The crux of that revolution can be found in The Authority, a comic that pitted “superheroes” against oppressive governments, invading realities and, um, “God.” The dialogue was abrasive and clever, the characters were endearing and the stakes were monumental—so much so that artist Bryan Hitch’s double-page battle vistas inspired the term “widescreen comics.” Also: the comic features gay avatars of Batman and Superman who are far more interesting than their inspiration. DC has published an Absolute edition of Ellis and Hitch’s run on Authority before, but if you haven’t devoured this sequential arts game-changer, it’s worth the $75 cover price for this new printing. Sean Edgar


ADVENTURE time spoooktakular.jpg Adventure Time 2017 SPOookTACULAR
Writers: Adam Cesare, Grady Hendrix, Chris Lackey, Alyssa Wong
Artists: Heather Danforth, Slimm Fabert, Christine Larsen, Kate Sherron
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Since 2013, BOOM! Studios has invited a mathematical team of cartoonists to celebrate Halloween with Finn, Jake and the Adventure Time ensemble. Creators ranging from Ming Doyle and Frazer Irving to Hanna K. have revealed the macabre underbelly of the Land of Ooo, veering from the quirky D&D elements of the show to spoopier extremes. This year’s holiday special starts on a delicious note with a Peppermint Butler cover from Ian Culbard, the man responsible for 2011’s comic translation of At The Mountains of Madness, which netted a British Fantasy Award. The formal candy occultist doesn’t just grace the cover, though; he stars in three separate tales courtesy Adam Cesare, Grady Hendrix, Heather Danforth and Slimm Fabert, among others. This narrative witches’ brew retains AT’s mix of daring questing and disarming whimsy, with Pep-But trading spells with adversarial magicians and using the arcane to clean his bowtie. One of the entries even takes place in the gender-swapped reality of the Ice King’s fan fiction, as Peppermint Butler’s female iteration—Butterscotch Butler—squares off against Marshall Lee. Comics like this are one of the rare instances of a work appropriate for kids, but still wildly entertaining to adults—an even more uncommon treat in the horror arena. Sean Edgar


Atomahawk_00-1.png Atomahawk #0
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Ian Bederman
Publisher: Image Comics 
One of the most captivating debuts from Grant Morrison’s Heavy Metal tenure looks unlike any comic that’s come before. Atomohawk sprung from the mind of rising star Donnie Cates and illustrator Ian Bederman, whose colorful efforts can be mostly found under the skin of visitors at Royal Legion Tattoo in Austin, Texas. In the confines of a psychedelic fever-dream Euro space opera, his aesthetic comes across like sci-fi hieroglyphics filtered through Jack Kirby body language and 70’s trade paperback hyperbole. Cates’ plot matches that energy with the legend of a weapon that summons a mech monster called the Cyberzerker. It’s brazen, over-the-top and delightfully esoteric in the best ways, recalling Moebius’ contribution to the budding genre half a century ago. Image has collected the serialized tale in this one-shot, with hopefully more to come. Sean Edgar


BakingWithKafka.jpg Baking with Kafka
Writer/Artist: Tom Gauld
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Tom Gauld is a god of understatement, poking at universal truths in the brevity of few panels. Likewise, his character designs rarely accumulate more than two dot eyes and maybe a nose; many are silhouettes. His humor is the most British thing since colonialism and shitty food. For proof, check out Baking With Kafka, a potent best-of collection of the cartoonist’s frighteningly astute visual jokes, curated from The Guardian, The New Yorker and The New York Times. Like Hark! A Vagrant’s Kate Beaton, Gauld romanticizes classic authors and books in our ADD, screen-obsessed present. One of the saddest strips stars an anthropomorphic book lamenting how everyone is reading Wikipedia descriptions of it and watching the movie translation without experiencing its prose splendor. Other bits are goofier, including a line of panels proposing Jaws sequels, the last illustration captioned “Existential” as a man gazes into a shark-less sea. Ultimately, Gauld is a post-modern gem of an artist who embraces every definition of clever. Sean Edgar


STL059836.jpeg Falcon #1
Writer: Rodney Barnes
Artist: Joshua Cassara
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
In most contexts, stepping away from the Captain America moniker and shedding the iconic shield would feel like a demotion, but fans of the once-and-future Falcon, Sam Wilson, are likely relieved. Wilson’s tenure as Cap was marred by misguided storylines from writer Nick Spencer and interruptions from maligned events Civil War II and Secret Empire. This week, in one of Marvel Legacy’s few new-series launches, Wilson returns to his avian roots as the Falcon, complete with a slick new costume and fresh creative team in the form of Boondocks writer Rodney Barnes and artist Joshua Cassara. Barnes and Cassara will be new names to many Marvel Zombies, but the character stands to benefit from fresh eyes after the last few years. Falcon’s inaugural adventure will see him train a new Patriot as his sidekick while battling the demonic forces of Blackheart, the villain who helped introduce Miles Morales to the main Marvel Universe following Secret Wars. Steve Foxe


STL060583.jpeg Gotham City Garage #1
Writers: Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly
Artist: Brian Ching
Publisher: DC Comics 
Who knew that the secret to digital-first success was basing your stories around designer statues? Following the path established by DC Comics Bombshells, Gotham City Garage lets loose rising DC talents to grow a fully realized alternate world based on statues from DC Collectibles, this time the babes-on-bikes of Gotham City Garage. Co-writing team Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly and artist Brian Ching have imagined a tech-based dystopia where citizens must stay in line or face over-the-top law enforcement (the fictional part being that the law enforcement wears Bat-symbols). When young Kara Gordon finds herself at odds with Governor Lex Luthor’s oppressive
regime, she joins the ladies of the Gotham City Garage in their two-wheeled resistance. Ching, who kicked off Supergirl’s latest series last year, is perfectly suited to the world Lanzing and Kelley have created around these statues, making this another spirited standalone from DC’s digital-first venture. Steve Foxe


HellboyinHellLibrary.jpg Hellboy in Hell Library Edition
Writer:   Mike Mignola  
Artists:   Mike Mignola, Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse
Paste has written a lot about Mike Mignola’s contribution to comics through Hellboy, his sprawling epic about a benevolent demon beating the stuffing out of the international forces of evil. The series concluded in summer 2016 with Hellboy in Hell, and despite sounding like an immaculate van painting, it is far more reserved, melancholic and impressionist in its beauty. These final 10 issues followed the titular hero to his logical end, reuniting him with his demonic family and his decision to fight for the human population he was bred to destroy. Punches happen, and they are wonderful, but Mignola seems to care more about conveying a feeling as a place— treacherous, lonely and romantic, an inverted European coastal town for his hero to find some semblance of harmony. Finished in Dave Stewart’s desaturated palette, this is a work you absorb as well as read, and deserves a slot on any comic lover’s bookshelf. Sean Edgar


STL060590.jpeg Michael Cray #1
Writer: Bryan Hill
Artist: N. Steven Harris
Publisher: DC Comics 
Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt’s The Wild Storm gets its first spinoff series this week courtesy of Top Cow mainstay Bryan Hill (Postal) and artist N. Steven Harris (Watson & Holmes). Michael Cray, in Ellis’ hyper-modern new interpretation, is a corporate assassin who has recently been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Hill and Harris will explore Cray’s relationship with mortality while pulling back the curtain on a major The Wild Storm mystery: how do these new versions of the characters relate to the mainstream DC Universe? While it’s unlikely that Michael Cray will give readers a definitive answer—the main series has doled out its secrets at a deliberate pace—Cray’s first target is billionaire Oliver Queen, otherwise known as the Green Arrow, so expects some major emerald clues at minimum. Steve Foxe


3001931.jpg Overwatch Anthology Vol. 1
Writers/Artists: Various
Publisher: Dark Horse
 Overwatch launches its second Halloween event this week, and the online multiplayer shooter shows no sign of winding down. Aside from tightly balanced characters, gorgeous art design and accessible gameplay, one of Overwatch’s best aspects is its opt-in approach to canon. There’s no story mode, which means there’s no mandatory entry barrier (beyond the price of the game and at least a few matches getting your ass handed to you by foul-mouthed preteens). Blizzard has instead portioned out back-story and characterization via short animations, Easter eggs and comics available via their website. Dark Horse has now collected the first 12 issues of these comics, which feature art from DC contributor Bengal among others, in a handsome hardcover for Overwatch fans with a little extra cash to blow and no need to invest in Loot Boxes. If reading on the screen isn’t your jam, or if you just want these tales sandwiched between sturdy cover stock, Overwatch Anthology is a nerdy must-have to watch as closely as that enemy Sombra who keeps sneaking behind your team. Steve Foxe


STL060587.jpeg Ragman #1
Writer: Ray Fawkes
Artist: Inaki Miranda
Publisher: DC Comics 
If the New 52 relaunch/reboot era from 2011 to 2016 was about reinventing beloved characters, the Rebirth period that began last year has been about reinvigorating them, returning icons like Superman and Green Arrow to more recognizable characterizations while still breaking new ground. Books like Ragman and the upcoming “New Age of DC Heroes” line (formerly called Dark Matter) seem to buck that trend, instead offering different interpretations of familiar names. Ragman still stars a man named Rory, but this take on the mystic vigilante is now an Iraq War vet haunted by the deaths of his squad members. Back home in Gotham, something has followed Rory home—and may be essential to repelling an eerie new threat. Writer Ray Fawkes excels in the creepiest corners of Batman’s home turf, as evidenced in Gotham By Midnight and Fawkes’ issues of Batman Eternal, and artist Inaki Miranda’s various Vertigo contributions likewise prime him for supernatural shenanigans. While the New 52 era might have thrown the super-heroic baby out with the bathwater a bit too often, it’s nice to know DC is still willing to experiment during its Rebirth. Steve Foxe

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