Swamp Thing Winter Special, VS, X-Men Red & More in Required Reading: Comics for 2/7/2018

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<i>Swamp Thing Winter Special</i>, <i>VS</i>, <i>X-Men Red</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 2/7/2018

Interesting comics hit stands each and every week, but some New Comic Book Days are certainly more stacked than others. Occasionally, we have to reach a bit to find 10 worthy entries for this list that go beyond “part four in a compelling 12-issue story!” This is not one of those weeks. February is off to a riotously entertaining start in the sequential-art world, so much so that books like the delightfully charming Backstagers Valentine’s Day Special, post-apocalyptic epic Niourk, cosmically powered Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock, roaring-and-swinging The Wicked + The Divine: 1923, skinny-dipping memoir Get Naked and supremely Swedish Red Winter only get mentioned in this introductory paragraph. To see which 10 comics actually made the list, scroll on down—and brace your wallets before heading to your local shop or digital storefront this Wednesday.

STL071403rr.jpeg Incognegro: Renaissance #1
Writer: Mat Johnson
Artist: Warren Pleece
Publisher: Berger Books/ Dark Horse Comics
While the entire initial slate of legendary editor Karen Berger’s Berger Books imprint at Dark Horse will surely reflect Berger’s long history of taste-making at Vertigo comics, Incognegro: Renaissance carries perhaps the most direct legacy from DC Comics’ mature-readers imprint. Writer Mat Johnson and artist Warren Pleece’s original Incognegro graphic novel (out in a new edition from Berger Books) was first published by Vertigo in 2008, and follows black reporter Zane Pinchback, whose light skin allows him to go “undercover” to investigate lynchings in the 1930s American South. Incognegro: Renaissance is a prequel mini-series set before the events of the graphic novel, as Zane goes “incognegro” for the first time to determine who murdered a black writer at a “scandalous” interracial party in 1920s New York. With Pleece’s skill for period-appropriate art and Johnson’s studied, multifaceted approach to race in the early part of the last century, Incognegro: Renaissance makes for an impressive kickoff to Berger’s new era. Steve Foxe

STL072750.jpeg Mother Panic/Batman Special #1
Writers: Jody Houser, Magdalene Visaggio
Artists: Ty Templeton, Sonny Liew
Publisher: Young Animal/ DC Comics 
The Milk Wars story that began in last week’s JLA/Doom Patrol Special continues as one Gotham vigilante meets another. Though praise for Shade the Changing Girl and Doom Patrol has been more vocal, Jody Houser has been quietly keeping her corner of the Young Animal imprint running smoothly and smartly with Mother Panic. The book is an easy sell for some people, flipping the Batman mythos to spotlight a wealthy young woman with just as much money and motivation as Bruce Wayne, but much more anger and different targets. The prospect of pitting the titular character from Mother Panic up against a dogmatic preacher version of Batman is a fascinating one, and the addition of Ty Templeton’s award-winning art only makes this crossover entry that much more tempting. Bat-fans should definitely check this out, and double back to read Houser’s Mother Panic run if they haven’t already. This issue also continues the Eternity Girl backup story by Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew. Liew’s work has been missing from the DC lineup since the end of his run on Doctor Fate, and he and Visaggio have been crafting a complex, retro-tinged story that will soon spin off into its own five-part mini-series. Caitlin Rosberg

PrinceAndDressmaker.jpeg The Prince & The Dressmaker
Writer/Artist: Jen Wang
Publisher: First Second
Jen Wang wowed readers with her art for In Real Life with Cory Doctorow, and her latest release sees Wang handling both script and art for an identity-bending romance set in old-timey Paris. Prince Sebastian’s parents are seeking a bride for their son, but Sebastian is much more passionate about his secret life as Lady Crystallia, Paris’ favorite fashion icon. Sebastian lives his fabulous second life with the help of his dressmaker best friend Frances, who keeps his secret but longs for greatness beyond her silent success with Lady Crystallia. Wang delicately navigates questions of personal identity while spinning a charming love story and bringing to life a gorgeously decadent period in French fashion and culture. The Prince & The Dressmaker is a timeless, inclusive fairy tale for the modern age. Steve Foxe

STL073141.jpeg Scales & Scoundrels #6
Writer: Sebastian Girner
Artist: Galaad
Publisher: Image Comics 
This week brings not one but two Scales & Scoundrels books with issue #6 and the first collected trade hitting shelves at the same time. While #6 picks up on the heels of a cliffhanger set up in the previous issue, Scales & Scoundrels Vol. 1: Into the Dragon’s Maw collects the first five issues entirely, allowing readers to catch up same-day. Scales & Scoundrels reads like an all-ages tabletop game between friends, a campaign to find treasure in a labyrinthine dungeon—the titular Dragon’s Maw. And like most tabletop campaigns, the party coalesces around one goal only to find more exciting distractions along the way. Writer Sebastian Girner is perhaps best known for his work on Shirtless Bear-Fighter, as well as his editorial duties on a number of Image titles, but he and artist Galaad have created a bright, cartoony, adventurous comic that dares to have a lot of fun while telling a big story. Caitlin Rosberg

songforthedead1.jpg Songs for the Dead #1
Writers: Andrea Fort & Michael Christopher Heron
Artist: Sam Beck
Publisher: Vault Comics
With three unfamiliar names on the cover, what’s most likely to draw attention to Songs for the Dead #1 is Tess Folwer’s cover. Fowler’s work on Rat Queens and Kid Lobotomy, as well as her outspoken advocacy for marginalized creators and fans, have earned her a loyal following that hopefully will take a chance on Songs for the Dead. Not only are writers Andrea Fort and Michael Christopher Heron relative unknowns in the industry, but so too are artist Sam Beck and publisher Vault Comics. The story is a high-fantasy adventure that revolves around a young woman—a necromancer—looking to solve the mystery of a missing boy. Songs for the Dead sounds like it fits right into the growing list of female-focused fantasy comics, like Another Castle or fellow Vault title Heathen. It shares enough in common with Garth Nix’s popular Abhorsen novels to pique fantasy-fan interest, and the industry can always use more books about young women that actually have women on the creative team. Caitlin Rosberg

SwampThingWinterSpecial.jpeg Swamp Thing Winter Special
Writers: Tom King, Len Wein
Artists: Jason Fabok, Kelley Jones
Publisher: DC Comics 
While Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben carried the character to new emotional heights, Swamp Thing owes his mossy, fungus-covered existence to industry legends Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, both of whom sadly passed away last year. Swamp Thing Winter Special is a tribute to the duo from Mister Miracle writer Tom King and DC stalwart Jason Fabok. Presented in an oversized, squarebound format, this one-shot finds Swamp Thing cut off from the source of his powers and navigating a frozen tundra to bring a young boy to safety. Also included is Wein’s final Swamp Thing script, originally intended as the start of a new series, with art from his collaborator Kelley Jones, making for a bittersweet and heartfelt tribute to two of comics’ most influential creators. Steve Foxe

TwistedRomance.jpg Twisted Romance
Writers: Alex de Campi, Sarah Horrocks,
Artists: Katie Skelly, Magen Cubed
Publisher: Image Comics 
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Image Comics kicks off this four-issue anthology series spearheaded by Alex de Campi. Featuring tales of love gone right, love gone wrong and love gone downright bizarre, Twisted Romance will feature rising talents like Trungles (Fauns & Fairies), Meredith McClaren (Hinges) and, in this first issue, Katie Skelly (My Pretty Vampire), for a mix of prose and comics featuring dramatic dragons, trendy succubi, sexy space pirates and Cupid knows what else. And as an extra heart-shaped treat, the series ships weekly throughout February to spread the love all month long. Be sure to check back later this week for a musically tinged spotlight on this quirky mini-series. Steve Foxe

VSComics.jpeg VS
Writer: Ivan Brandon
Artist: Esad Ribic
Publisher: Image Comics 
War is a spectator sport in the pages of VS, funded by billionaires and private corporations and interrupted by sponsored commercials. When career soldier Satta Flynn (equipped with extra robotic arms) goes up against the latest and greatest fleet of soldiers, he discovers that bloody fame can be fleeting. A mix of epic action and biting satire, VS is the Image Comics creator-owned debut of stunning illustrator Esad Ribic (Secret Wars, Uncanny X-Force). With a script from Drifter’s Ivan Brandon and colors from Brandon’s frequent artistic partner Nic Klein, VS is primed to be one of the most gorgeous books on stands in 2018, full of sweeping carnage and deep introspection about violence and fame. Steve Foxe

XMenRed.jpg X-Men Red
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Mahmud A. Asrar
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
The original Jean Grey just finished raising herself from the dead in the pages of Phoenix Resurrection, but Marvel is wasting no time setting her up in X-Men Red, the latest color-labeled X-team book. Written by All-New Wolverine’s Tom Taylor and drawn by All-New All-Different Avengers and Totally Awesome Hulk artist Mahmud A. Asrar, X-Men Red places Grey in charge of her own eclectic team: Nightcrawler, Wolverine (the Laura Kinney version), Honey Badger, Gentle, Namor and new character Trinary. Aside from Nightcrawler, none of these characters have much of a connection to Jean Grey, but Taylor is a fan-favorite thanks to his time with the former X-23, and Asrar has ably illustrated most of the Marvel universe at this point. Here’s hoping Jean’s return proves to have been worth the wait. Steve Foxe

YoungMonstersInLove.jpeg Young Monsters in Love
Writers: Paul Dini, Steve Orlando, Alisa Kwitney, Others
Artists: Guillem March, Frazer Irving, Nic Klein, Others
Publisher: DC Comics 
DC Comics tapped a crew of horror authors for a Halloween special last October and produced a surprisingly touching holiday issue in December, but the publisher is getting more creative for the Valentine’s season. Rather than straightforward tales of love among the capes-and-tight set, Young Monsters in Love shines the kiss-cam on DC’s ghastlier residents, like Swamp Thing, Frankenstein and star-crossed lovers Monsieur Mallah and the Brain. With creators like Paul Dini, Frazer Irving and Steve Orlando on board, Young Monsters in Love looks like a spookily romantic good time. Steve Foxe