The last few weeks haven’t exactly been brimming over with new comics and collections, but tomorrow will see the release of some fantastic new projects and blockbuster titles to ring in the new year. Here are some of the books we’re looking particularly forward to. We’ll also be following up every week to point out some noteworthy releases in addition to our reviews and features.
BOOM!’s young reader branch should have a great week between the release of BOOM! Box 2014 Mix Tape — a short story sampler of the imprint’s coolest projects — and the first issue of Adventure Time Presents: Marceline Gone Adrift. Pendleton Ward’s post-modern apocalypse of old-school Leon Schlesinger Looney Tunes, dungeon & dragons adventure and hilarious non sequiturs feels the most natural around its most eccentric characters. Finn & Jake may provide an everyman angle to help kids acclimate to the unfettered insanity of Adventure Time, but Marceline the Vampire Queen embraces its wonder and anarchy with undeniable swagger. This new miniseries sends the mischievous chanteuse into outer space after she suffers a severe bout of writer’s block while trying to pen some new tunes. This development also begs an even cooler question: what does the chaotic great beyond look like when your world has already slipped down the rabbit hole?
Scott Snyder’s first long-form project tends to receive the least amount of attention, though it’s by far his most ambitious. The characters in American Vampire float around a nexus of brazen evil known as Skinner Sweet, an insidious metaphor for America’s merciless development, sucking the life from the innocent to grow ceaselessly. Collecting the first five issues of American Vampire: Cycle Two, this new volume catches up with Pearl after the savage attack that killed her lover, Henry. Even more compelling, Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque thrust the reader into the tumult and social cogs of the ‘60s, opening the plot up to one of the most pivotal eras in U.S. history. American Vampire is excellent in any format, but these affordable collections allow us to connect the dots and view the bigger picture in one sitting.
Michael Jordan has claimed his role as one the most accomplished athletes in the history of all sports. Even if LeBron James surpasses Jordan statically and technically, the man who wore #23 delivered a sense of the theatric that transcended showmanship. The litany of endorsement deals that followed only helped define Jordan as a zeitgeist among zeitgeists; $10 says you can still hum the Gatorade anthem “Be Like Mike” right now — you’re probably literally doing it as you read this. (Also: Space Jam). It’s this facet of the drama and art that Wilfred (21: The Story of Roberto Clemente) Santiago so beautifully channels in Michael Jordan: Bull on Parade. From a scuffle with Patrick Ewing in the book’s opening pages to the titanic feat of multiple NBA Championships, this book breaths with potent comic book electricity, phrasing court pivots and jump-shots with the same bombast as celestial superhero brawls.
And speaking of the ‘90s…
Writer Shawn Kittelsen and artist Dextor (Captain Marvel) Soy offer a comic prequel to the next interactive saga in bodily dismemberment and neon stripper outfits. (The proper game sequel arrives on April 15). Both projects share the name Mortal Kombat X and both are absolutely gorgeous. As far as storytelling is concerned, the games have never quite excelled in profound characterization or, um, logic, but those were never barriers to good video game mechanics. However, developer NetherRealm Studios and writer Jimmy Palmiotti showed that story and online fisticuffs go together like peanut butter and chocolate with Injustice: Gods Among Us, a game rooted in the DC superhero universe that’s been complemented by a damn great comic on a weekly basis since launch. That tactic could, and should, prove just as compelling here. As long as we can see more Blind Kenshi and witness whatever profound disillusionment motivated Sonya Blade to mate with Johnny Cage, this series will shatter expectations like a heart-bound fist through a rib cage.
Kurtis J. Wiebe has handled the topic of Roc Upchurch’s transition off Rat Queens with grace and sensitivity, though the development left a huge question mark before it was announced that the very capable Stjepan Sejic would be assuming art duties. This special should also placate any misgivings, providing “The Bastard” Orc of the Peaches with her own chapter that explores her estrangement from her native peoples. Illustrated by Tess Fowler, who draws a mean pirate Tom Waits, this is the perfect palate cleanser before the new creative team launches into the next phase of one of the most fun, vibrant comics in the Image stable.
So, there’s going to be a lot Star Wars content for the foreseeable future, especially mounting up to the December release of the new canon film, The Force Awakens. Is this a good thing? A bad thing? Well, just like the industrial firehouse spew of marketing and synergy we’ll all be at the tail end of, it’s more of an everything. There will be enough material for this franchise to create its own genre. The best we can do is evaluate each work on its own terms and by the people that make it, and in this context, Marvel’s new Star Wars comic is well worth your consideration. Writer Jason Aaron did a wonderful job diagramming how hardcore drugs are smuggled into Indian Reservations in Scalped, so he can no doubt replicate that same tension and detail on an intergalactic scale with characters like Han and Chewie (substituting heroin for Kyber crystals, of course). John Cassaday also nails the ‘70s aesthetic; this story will occupy the haze between the first two movies, A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. While the leg room for dramatic story twists and reinterpretations is significantly small, these two creators should at least provide a good read for the thousands who propel this book up the sales charts.