Invisible Kingdom, Jesusfreak, Spider-Man: Life Story & More in Required Reading: Comics for 3/20/2019

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<i>Invisible Kingdom</i>, <i>Jesusfreak</i>, <i>Spider-Man: Life Story</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 3/20/2019

Now that St. Patrick’s Day has wrapped up its emerald cheer, we can focus on the real holiday of the week: New Comic Book Day. And boy, are readers lucky this week, especially if you’re a Spider-fan. Peter Parker gets two alternate-reality launches this week—one set in the world of his popular PS4 video game, and one that progresses in real-time from his 1962 debut. If Wallcrawlers aren’t you speed, Oni Press digs up a dinosaur saga, caustic fan-favorite The Boys gets a new omnibus edition, Jesusfreak whips up a fury, G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward’s long-awaited original creation finally hits shelves and more. If you’re searching for a pot of gold this week, chances are the rainbow ends at your local comic shop or preferred digital retailer.


STL101864.jpeg The Boys Omnibus Vol. 1
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Darick Robertson
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Just in time for the premiere of the miniseries on Amazon, The Boys returns in a new omnibus that collects the first 14 issues of the comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Thanks to the success of the Preacher TV adaptation, Ennis has earned a legion of new fans, and this might be just the ticket to get more people reading his not-quite-superhero story. The Boys are five people, funded and run by the CIA in an attempt to control superheroes when they go off the rails. It’s a deep dive into the question of who watches the watchmen, but with a lot more beer and swearing. The first arc introduces Wee Hughie, the newest member of the team, and it all goes downhill from there. Robertson’s art manages to skew close enough to Marvel and DC Comics house styles to feel like a true cape-and-cowl book, but neither he nor Ennis avoid the kind of mature content that would get squashed in other titles. For long-time fans, this omnibus is a great way to revisit and collect a beloved read—and for new ones coming in from the live-action series, it’s a bawdy must-read. Caitlin Rosberg


STL101714.jpeg Cretaceous
Writer/Artist: Tadd Galusha
Publisher: Oni Press
Working in the proud tradition of Richard Delgado’s Age of Reptiles series, illustrator Tadd Galusha and publisher Oni Press offer up Cretaceous this week. A silent, fact-based dinosaur narrative, Cretaceous follows a T. Rex that has been separated from its family unit, and must face dangers from the sky, sea and land to reunite with its carnivorous crew. While Delgado is famed for his precise and intricate line work, Galusha employs a more fluid traditional cartooning style, breathing life and personality into his terrible lizards. The dinosaurs are bright and colorful—although feather proponents will be left wanting. Dinosaur fans and readers who get weepy over a good animal journey should get a fossilized kick out of Cretaceous. Steve Foxe


STL111002.jpeg Dark Red #1
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Coril Howell
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
When people talk about flyover states and forgotten men, they’re talking about Chip Ipswitch. Resident of a rural area with a failing blue-collar economy, Chip is forced to confront all sorts of things that aren’t exactly easy to swallow, chief among them the fact that he’s a vampire. Chip’s afterlife is dull, but as readers jump into his story, everything is about to change. In anyone else’s hands that sounds like a recipe for disaster, especially with a cover emblazoned in racist logos and talking points. But Tim Seeley has proven before that he can use context like this to give a story unexpected depth and twists, so readers should tentatively trust that Dark Red is going to go in interesting directions. There will be inevitable comparisons to Rednecks, another rural vampire story, but there’s space enough on shelves for both. Artist Corin Howell will certainly set Dark Red apart with striking, beautiful and action-oriented panels, as her work on the recently launched Calamity Kate with writer Magdalene Visaggio proved. Caitlin Rosberg


DnDDarkenedWish_TessFowlerIDW_Cover.jpeg Dungeons & Dragons: A Darkened Wish #1
Writer: B. Dave Walters
Artist: Tess Fowler
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Dungeons & Dragons: A Darkened Wish brings readers back to the 1987 setting The Forgotten Realms. Its eponymous campaign is one of the most popular among D&D players, with adaptations across novels, previous comics and videogames. Tess Fowler takes up art duties alongside writer B. Dave Walters. Fowler’s most recent project is the creator-owned Kid Lobotomy. Walters is a motivational speaker as well as a writer, and co-host of the Ask Your Black Geek Friend. Their collaboration follows a young wizard named Helene, along with her friends, in the war-torn Sea of Swords, making A Darkened Wish a must-read for any tabletop-gaming or fantasy fans. Josh Hilgenberg


InvisibleKingdomMostAnticipated.jpeg Invisible Kingdom #1
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Christian Ward
Publisher: Berger Books/ Dark Horse Comics
It’s almost cruel how early Berger Books and Dark Horse Comics announced Invisible Kingdom, leaving us to wait half a year or more for G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward’s original sci-fi series. Wilson is of course the writer behind years of Ms. Marvel tales, and is currently spinning an impressive run of Wonder Woman stories at DC Comics. She’s also a Hugo Award-winning prose author, with two original Vertigo series under her belt from back in the day. Ward blew readers away with his cosmic vistas on Black Bolt and Ody-C, which makes him the perfect artist to realize this story of a religious acolyte and a bitter freighter pilot who uncover a massive conspiracy between their system’s dominant religion and an oppressive mega-corporation—and must decide if revealing the truth is worth the anarchy it would create. Books like Invisible Kingdom are exactly what we hoped to see when Karen Berger launched her eponymous imprint at Dark Horse, and this release date couldn’t get here soon enough. Steve Foxe


JESUSFREAK cover.jpg Jesusfreak
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: Benjamin Marra
Publisher: Image Comics 
Joe Casey is no stranger to provocative comics—his Image Comics series Sex with artist Piotr Kowalski features ample amounts of the titular act, in every conceivable configuration, and with more erect members than every prestige HBO show combined. Artist Benjamin Marra is similarly unafraid to court controversy, with self-published series like Terror Assaulter O.M.W.O.T. (One Man War On Terror) and Night Business embodying hyper-violent straight-to-VHS ‘80s action decadence on the printed page. It makes sense that a joining of forces between Casey and Marra could push buttons on name alone, but there’s more to Jesusfreak than shock value. “This is a story that deals primarily with the search for self,” Casey told Paste last month. “Our lead character was a revolutionary in a time in history when even daring to be one was a matter of life and death. It’s a blood-soaked, two-fisted tale of faith and transcendence and the journey to become… something more.” What more is there to say? This paragraph either sold you utterly on the book, or you’re already halfway through writing a protest letter to the publisher—there’s no middle ground on Jesusfreak. Steve Foxe


LazarusRisenMostAnticipated.jpeg Lazarus: Risen #1
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark
Publisher: Image Comics 
One of the most reliable Image Comics on stands is back this week—fitting for a title called Lazarus: Risen. Writer Greg Rucka and artist Michael Lark’s saga of power-hungry families and the genetically engineered soldiers who fight their battles went on hiatus throughout most of 2018. Risen picks up two years after the Carlyle Family was betrayed in battle, with the Conclave War encroaching on every side. Johanna Carlyle and Forever present a united front to save the family, but the cracks are starting to show. Lazarus: Risen #1 is a massive 64-page, perfect-bound debut, with a 44-page main story from Rucka and Lark, a short story from writer Lilah Sturges and oodles of supplemental material. Steve Foxe


STL111607.jpeg The Life & Death of Toyo Harada #1
Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artists: CAFU & Mico Suayan
Publisher: Valiant
As Valiant continues to build their superhero universe, they’ve been expanding back-stories and revisiting key characters. Joshua Dysart, who wrote the Harbinger and Harbinger Wars series that helped to define Valiant’s current direction, is returning to that universe for The Life and Death of Toyo Harada, an oversized six-issue miniseries. The artists that have been announced so far, CAFU and Mico Suayan, are talented and have both worked on Valiant titles before, although not all readers care for rotating artists with such different styles, even in a series this short. The bigger challenge here is for Dysart, who will have to carefully navigate the compelling but potentially overpowered Toyo Harada. Harada, a frequent foe of other Valiant heroes, is one of the most powerful characters in the shared universe, wielding incredible Psiot abilities, along with great wealth and political power. That kind of flex can be fascinating, or it can lead to uneven fights and a protagonist who goes largely unchallenged. Given Harada’s fictional back-story as a survivor of the very real United States nuclear attack on Hiroshima, Dysant has a lot of conflicting needs to balance, but his track record suggests he’ll be up to the task. Caitlin Rosberg


Thumbnail image for SM_CAW.jpg Marvel’s Spider-Man: City at War #1
Writer: Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum
Artist: Michele Bandini
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
At the end of 2018, Marvel announced that it’s bringing the Spider-Man of Sony’s hit PS4 game to comics in a new series hitting shelves this week. Marvel’s Spider-Man: City of War is a six-issue mini-series that tells the game’s story with new beats and behind-the-scenes details. Just like in the game, City of War starts off with the incarceration of Wilson Fisk and the backlash of taking out one of New York’s biggest crime lords. The creative team is more than ready for the task: Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum, who wrote the acclaimed X-Men Season One, Avengers Arena and the most recent Cloak & Dagger series, serves as writer alongside X-Men Gold artist Michele Bandini. Together, they’re penning the first in what will be a series of comics Marvel is calling… the Gamerverse. That title could use some work, but this comic is in good hands. Josh Hilgenberg & Steve Foxe


STL111407.jpeg Spider-Man: Life Story #1
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Mark Bagley
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Spider-Man has been given so many opportunities to tell his origin story that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse turned it into a plot point, but with Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley on the latest iteration, it’s hard to walk away. As part of the celebration of Marvel’s 80th anniversary, Bagley and Zdarsky are telling six all-new Spider-Man stories using real-world chronology instead of hand-wavy comics timelines. Peter Parker was 15 years old when he was bit by a radioactive spider in 1962’s Amazing Fantasy #15, and Spider-Man: Life Story wants to stick to that year as the birth of the character. Each of the six issues in the miniseries will tell a tale from one of the intervening decades, giving Spider-Man context within important historical events. This first issue sees Flash Thompson drafted to serve in Vietnam, leaving Peter conflicted about where his powers are really needed. For new Spider-fans, this is a great way to enjoy a self-contained story about a character who has a notoriously long and complicated history. For long-time readers, it’s a back-to-basics must-read with a fascinating new conceit. For everyone, the promise of Zdarsky’s balance of humor and heart is more than enough to justify the price tag. Caitlin Rosberg

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