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Klaus, Faith’s Winter Wonderland & More in Required Reading: Comics for 12/6/2017

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<i>Klaus</i>, <i>Faith&#8217;s Winter Wonderland</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 12/6/2017

Can you believe 2017 is almost over? For most of it, it’s been an exhausting year full of drama and doom, and 2018…will probably be worse. Hurray! Nothing soothes the soul like escapism, and we’ve got a full range of options to ring in December. Valiant’s Faith and Grant Morrison and Dan Mora’s super-Santa Klaus both debut holiday one-shots, Nickolodean marsupial Rocko returns at BOOM! Studios, sci-fi icon Barbarella and Top Cow flagship Witchblade both make comebacks, and Image series Sleepless and Paradiso create brand-new worlds to inhabit. All of this plus the first trade collection of Marvel’s gorgeous, acclaimed cosmic mind-trip Black Bolt, the revival of Archie’s super-team the Mighty Crusaders and a Jack Kirby omnibus that could be used as a murder weapon. Welcome to the end of the world—err…end of the year!


Barbarella_1.jpg Barbarella #1
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Kenan Yarar
Publisher: Dynamite
Barbarella stands as a comic synonymous with a time and place—the ‘60s sexual revolution in Europe. The future-forward, liberated immensity of Jean-Claude Forest’s creation predates boundary-pushing comics from Milo Manara, Guido Crepax and Moebius’ Metal Hurlant by an average decade, and without Forest’s tale of a buxom explorer exercising her sexual agency across the galaxy, who knows if they’d exist. But in the era of ubiquitous online pornography and near-abstinent millennials, what does humanity’s free-love ambassador mean? Literary comics hero Mike Carey (The Unwritten, Lucifer) and artist Kenan Yarar (whose style can be described as very European and very naked) will answer that question in a new ongoing series from Dynamite, the first issue of which debuts Wednesday. It would have been interesting to see how a female creator might have addressed the property; Bitch Planet mastermind Kelly Sue DeConnick has provided translations of the first graphic novel and that would have been a hell of a read. But aiming a creator as storied and cerebral as Carey at this character could yield plenty of intrigue and growth. Sean Edgar


STL063139.jpeg Black Bolt Vol. 1: Hard Time
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Christian Ward
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Marvel’s push to make the Inhumans a formidable intellectual property has largely fallen flat, despite noble efforts from creators like Charles Soule, Matthew Rosenberg and Al Ewing, but even the harsh fan reaction to perceived efforts to promote the Inhumans over the X-Men can’t deny the artistry at play in the pages of Black Bolt. Fantasy novelist Saladin Ahmed has captured the voice (no pun intended) of the silent celestial patriarch of the Inhuman royal family by imprisoning him in space, and artist Christian Ward has turned out every skill he perfected in books like ODY-C to make Black Bolt one of the most gorgeous books on stands. This inaugural volume collects the first six-issue arc and prepares readers for standalone issue #7 (with stunning guest art from Frazer Irving) as well as issue #8, also out this week, which kicks off the second arc. If Marvel’s first Inhumans books were this good, their merry mutants might actually have been in danger. Steve Foxe


FaithsWinterWonderland.jpg Faith’s Winter Wonderland #1
Writer: Marguerite Sauvage
Artists: Francis Portela, MJ Kim
Publisher: Valiant
The first of two holiday comic specials this week that give greedy, fictional corporations a lump of coal (hey…somebody has to after this week), Faith’s Winter Wonderland transports the perky Valiant heroine to the subconscious of her favorite holiday TV special, a riff off Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In this dreamlike aproxima, she fights embodiments of the advertising and product placement that plagued the real-life show’s production decades earlier—including a memorable altercation with Humpty and Dumpty. Frequent illustrator Marguerite Sauvage handles scripting duties with art from Francis Portela and MJ Kim, all offering a Victorian, rosy-cheeked escapism suited to the underlying themes. Faith has ascended as one of the most recognized and positive staples of the Valiant Universe, and charming detours like this only bolster her deserved place among the grittier action heroes still present from the publisher’s past. Sean Edgar


JackKirbyFourthWorld.jpg
The Fourth World by Jack Kirby Omnibus
Writer/Artist: Jack Kirby
Publisher: DC Comics 
The influence of Jack Kirby can’t be underestimated; the King of Comics helped cultivate the lion’s share of Marvel’s characters, co-creating the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Avengers and countless other properties during his tenure. But his twilight years witnessed some of the auteur’s most daring material, which invoked the Bible, European sci-fi and psychedelia into a grand, and oft-forgotten, slice of comics history. That material has been taking the fore of pop culture recently, with Kirby’s Fourth World characters popping up in the best superhero comic today and the latest DC cinematic blockbuster. The Fourth World by Jack Kirby Omnibus compiles that source material in a door-stop collection that’s relentlessly bonkers and uncompromising. The general plot revolves around two planets—New Genesis and Apokolips—that stand as disco-bright allegories for heaven and hell. Their respective deities war endlessly in vivid costumes, mouths agape and fists hurtling through the page as the cosmos implodes in the background. It’s huge, divisive comics rendered by a genius pursuing a muse only he could see. This 1,536-page tome includes issues from Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, The New Gods, The Forever People and the (classic) Mister Miracle alongside original graphic novel The Hunger Dogs. Complemented by essays from the likes of Mark Evanier and Walter Simonson, this is a near-bottomless well of awesome that will also tone your biceps. Sean Edgar


KlausCrisis.jpg Klaus and the Crisis in Xmasville
Writer:   Grant Morrison  
Artist: Dan Mora
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
The jolliest holiday special doesn’t feature ‘70s claymation or a Midwestern kid lusting after a BB gun, but Santa as a psychedelic shaman kicking ass, taking names and checking them twice. Post-modern scribe Grant Morrison and kinetic artist Dan Mora pop down the chimney once more with Klaus and the Crisis in Xmasville, a hefty one-shot that pits the jolly old elf against a nefarious cola corporation. As he did in his original maxi-series and last year’s Witch of Winter, Morrison weaves a dense tapestry that incorporates the icon’s incarnations across the globe, as well as the endearing camp of ‘60s sci-fi schlock like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The result is gloriously creative and evocative, a sleigh ride into one of history’s most beloved myths lacquered with high-genre frosting. After detours in Medieval Europe and the present, this adventure tackles the free market’s attempt to claim the holiday during the ‘80s, along with a feral anti-Klaus who kidnaps tikes nestled in their beds. Visually, Mora adds watercolors, adding hand-wrought personality to the crimson and white displays. Sean Edgar


STL065523.jpeg The Mighty Crusaders #1
Writer: Ian Flynn
Artist: Kelsey Shannon
Publisher: Archie Comics
Archie may have struck gold with Lynchian teen drama and horrific reimaginings of sunny characters, but their superhero characters have struggled to maintain altitude, with only the grim-and-gritty version of the Black Hood sticking around for a sizable run. The Mighty Crusaders is the latest attempt to reverse the trend, with longtime Sonic scripter Ian Flynn and cartoonist Kelsey Shannon leaning into what seems to be a classic take on capes-and-tights heroism. While there’s no obvious subversion of tropes here, the market might be ready for a straightforward, brightly colored super-team at a time when many Marvel icons have passed on their mantles and DC prepares to integrate the Watchmen universe alongside Superman and Batman. Flynn has ample experience telling long-form stories and holding audience attention, and Shannon’s style is clean and clear. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Steve Foxe


STL066729.jpeg Paradiso #1
Writer: Ram V.
Artist: Dev Pramanik
Publisher: Image Comics 
While some Image series hang their prospects around an elevator-pitch-style high-concept hook, others just go for it. Ram V. and Dev Pramanik’s Paradiso is an example of the latter, set decades after something called the “Midnight Event” in a bizarre, pulsing locale known as Paradiso City. Protagonist Jack Kryznan possesses an item that may disrupt the future of the city and the forces that work for and against its safety. And, as we mentioned when announcing the neon series, Paradiso may or may not involve sociopathic cyborgs who emit lasers from their faces. If you’re ready for the next big thing in expansive sci-fi action, Paradiso may be your year-end treat. Steve Foxe


RockosModernLife.jpg Rocko’s Modern Life #1
Writer: Ryan Ferrier
Artists: Ian McGinty, KC Green
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Rocko was a quarter-life crisis mascot for a generation that had yet to enter that ambiguous phase of life. The Nickelodeon cartoon wallaby offered a taste of what it means to be a new adult searching for meaning and money in a chaotic world that has only gotten less hospitable in the intervening years. Writer Ryan Ferrier has experience treading on the cogs of the daily grind as seen in D4VE, his story of a robot swimming against the tide of the mundane. As such, Ferrier and artist Ian McGinty (Welcome to Showside) provide a seamless transition from the show to panel; the character designs and sloppy, wet anarchy are fully intact, maintaining a fever pitch stress. The story witnesses the titular marsupial laid off from his job at a call center, take on an unruly roommate and struggle to stock the fridge. It’s a glorious reflection of the ‘90s that’s depressingly relevant today, brought to whacky, Tex-Avery fused life in this new comic. Cartoonist KC Green also adds a whimsical tale of grouchy neighbor Mr. Bighead suffering in the dentist’s chair. Sean Edgar


STL066734.jpeg Sleepless #1
Writer: Sarah Vaughn
Artist: Leila Del Duca
Publisher: Image Comics 
The Image boom over the last few years has been particularly kind to sci-fi and fantasy fans, with books like Mirror, Arclight and Leila Del Duca’s own Afar scratching itches rarely noticed by the Big Two of Marvel and DC. Sleepless pairs Del Duca with writer Sarah Vaughn, frequent collaborator of the Luna Brothers, on the story of Lady “Poppy” Pyppenia and the Sleepless Knight who guards her. While we don’t know too much else about this fantasy romance just yet, Del Duca is a fan-favorite thanks to her art on Shutter. And, in a nice turn, Vaughn and Del Duca have credited editor/colorist Alissa Sallah and letterer Deron Bennett right in the solicitation info, saving folks like us a lot of digging, and reminding comic consumers that it takes a village (or at least four people) to craft these wondrous worlds. Steve Foxe


STL066714.jpeg Witchblade #1
Writer: Caitlin Kittredge
Artist: Roberta Ingranata
Publisher: Top Cow/ Image Comics 
Top Cow’s Witchblade, though frequently clad in revealing armor and endowed with superhuman…proportions…has long been a cult favorite among readers of all genders thanks to its blend of paranormal action, dark romance and detective drama. This new #1 sees Coffin Hill writer Caitlin Kittredge and Italian artist Roberta Ingranata introduce Alex Underwood, gunned down and left for dead, then seemingly resurrected by the titular ancient weapon and thrust into conflict with the demons who walk among us. Kittredge, also a prolific author of urban fantasy, is in her comfort zone with secret devils on the snowy streets of New York, and Ingranata’s clean cartooning and expressive acting bring a new, accessible style to the Top Cow stable. Full disclosure, I did write a Witchblade-centric issue of Artifacts in 2014, but bias aside, this is a notable relaunch for one of Image’s most enduring characters. Steve Foxe

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