Comics We're Excited About for 12/23/2015

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We’re happy to announce that, in a valiant effort that lasted between the late hours of Thursday evening and earlier this morning, Assistant Comics Editor Tyler R. Kane broke the suction between his own eyes and local screenings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in order to compile this article. And his timing is pretty good. After all, it’s about to be Christmas time, which is great news for comic readers who celebrate those kinds of things. Beyond our favorite comics of the year, our favorite comics covers of the year, and our favorite comics gifts of the year, these beautiful books remind us that our weekly pull-lists are like mini-Christmases every week—except you have to pay for the Christmas, and your “gifts” wind up in long- and short-comic cases, occupying space that some believe might be better for, say, a pool table. Or a TV. Or a refrigerator.

But The Paste Comics Team never lets things like that get in our way, and Christmas week for us will be like any other week: A decent one to stop by your local comic shop.

Bloodshot Reborn #9

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Butch Guice
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment

In Bloodshot, Jeff Lemire constructs an action epic for the climate of 2015 built on a foundation of testosterone-drenched '80s and '90s hyper-violence. What can John McClane, Martin Riggs or Harry Callahan say in a year that's experienced at least four mass shootings? What does an action hero react to in a world consumed and bitterly polarized over action? In Bloodshot's case, the former killing machine recovers from a past of paramilitary carnage through narcotics, while avoiding the gravitational pull of further violence. But now the same technology that numbed him into a career of slaughter has infected random civilians, forcing Bloodshot from retirement to contain these new destructive parties. Last issue's sobering cliff-hanger displayed Lemire's provocative strategy of using genre action beats to critique the very field they thrive in, and no other comic today can offer an experience equally thrilling and introspective. Sean Edgar

Deadly Class #17

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Wes Craig
Publisher: Image Comics

Rick Remender and Wes Craig's Deadly Class is the best Reagan-era exploitation film you've never seen. Remender reflects on his past as a vagrant, self-destructive youth while incorporating John Hughes-esque social cliques, gonzo drug benders and surrealist violence. Wes Craig's contributions to this hallucinogenic cocktail can't be understated; the high-contrast artist sticks a lighting gel on each scene, casting auras of fevered red and chilling blue to accompany the exploits of a school that trains children to murder. As for this pivotal issue? Hell breaks loose. School Headmaster Lin instructs all students to hunt and kill the "rats," or all pupils who aren't part of assassin legacies such as the Mafia, Yakuza or FBI. Protagonist Marcus now scrambles through his previous home as an onslaught of racists seek his evisceration. Class warfare takes on a ridiculous and bitingly funny literalness in these pages. Sean Edgar

Darth Vader #14

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Like most oxygen-consuming humans I've encountered since last Thursday, I expect The Force Awakens has breathed a renewed life—and interest—in the Star Wars universe. For casual comic readers looking to grow that newfound love, there's a modest treasure trove over at Marvel with their recently relaunched Star Wars lines. Among the best of them is Darth Vader, which explores the trials and tribulations of SWU's first beloved black-mask and red-lightsaber-wielding baddie. With only a few issues into a new arc and crossovers galore, now's a great time to hop on the Vader train. Tyler R. Kane

The Demon: Hell's Hitman Vol. 1

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artists: John McCrea, Various
Publisher: DC Comics

Before Garth Ennis' contempt for superheroes hit a fever pitch, the Preacher scribe dabbled with a few notable spandex-wearers including Spider-Man, the Hulk and The Demon, an oft-rhyming Jack Kirby creation who sticks around the periphery of the DCU to help flesh out magic-user group shots. Drawn primarily by his frequent partner in crime John McCrea, Ennis' run on The Demon features plenty of his trademark nastiness, including a guest appearance from his and McCrea's cult favorite creation, Hitman. Like the Millar Swamp Thing collections currently hitting shelves, Ennis' The Demon is solid older material for fans of a character who struggles to stick in the current market. Steve Foxe

DK III: The Master Race #2

Writer: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
Artist: Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson
Publisher: DC Comics

The opening issue of Dark Knight III was mostly expository scene-setting, but it did throw nostalgic fans head-first into Frank Miller's legendary Dark Knight Returns universe. We might've received a massive cliffhanger ending at the end of Issue #1, but here's the part where fans start rubbing their palms together in excitement. Don't get me wrong, DK III's still a slow-build in its second issue, but I'm absolutely happy to be on the ride—and plus, we'll get some clarification on that whole controversial "Master Race" phrase. Tyler R. Kane

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! #1

Writer: Kate Leth
Artist: Brittney Williams
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Unwieldy title aside, Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! looks like a perfect synergy of Marvel's recent publishing plans: a third-tier character with a complicated history, a pair of up-and-coming creators with sensibilities cultivated outside of the Big Two, and a well-timed popularity boost from film or TV. Leth's Twitter feed promises that she'll be pulling from all of the character's bizarrely disparate periods: Romance Comic gal, Hell bride, Avenger. Williams, who's also slated to bring the Legend of Korra to Dark Horse Comics, has a bright, engaging style that should help attract readers of Gotham Academy, Batgirl, Ms. Marvel and The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl. If Marvel's initial All-New, All-Different Marvel Now! line-up seemed to target largely the same existing fanboys, books like Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! actually stand a chance of bringing new readers into the fold. Steve Foxe

Kaptara Volume 1

Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Kagan McLeod
Publisher: Image Comics

If there was a comic about a He-Man analogue who sang songs about overcoming his overpowering…libido to smite enemies with poisonous darts, would you read it? If there was a woman dressed as a cat who rode a middle-aged balding men into battle against racist, misogynistic mushroom people, would want to know what happens next to her? If Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals) and Kagan McLeod (Infinite Kung Fu) made a comic about various '80s cartoons and toys sucked into a surrealist, ribald space epic, would you read it?

Of course you would. Go read Kaptara Volume One, collecting the Image series' first five issues, until you're either too uncomfortable, overjoyed and/or stimulated to read it any more. Sean Edgar

Nameless #6

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Publisher: Image Comics

Are you still struggling with what to buy your weird cousin whose Christmas list included such hot items as "existential dread" and "non-Euclidean horror"? Look no further than the final issue of Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham's space-bound terror tale, Nameless. The passionate lovechild of Lovecraft, Giger and a vivisectionist high on Hunter S. Thompson's entire stash, Nameless is peak Weird Morrison (quite possibly too weird for fair-weather fans) realized with grotesque aplomb by Burnham. It'll be a pleasure to see Burnham step onto a project with a lower insanity quotient, but no one else could have brought Nameless to such unsettling life. Steve Foxe

Rocketeer At War #1

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Dave Bullock
Publisher: IDW Publishing

The enduring legacy of Dave Stevens' faux-pulp creation the Rocketeer at IDW has manifested as an artistic showcase for the likes of Darwyn Cooke, Geof Darrow, J. Bone, and now Dave Bullock, a storyboard artist and art director who's also a favorite of commission collectors. Bullock, whose most prominent sequential work to date is likely the Deadman serial in Wednesday Comics, has a classic, refined style that draws frequent comparisons to Bruce Timm, which makes him an ideal fit for the vintage wartime setting of Arrow producer Marc Guggenheim's script. Rocketeer At War may cover familiar territory, but it's going to look damn good doing it. Steve Foxe

Teen Dog TPB

Writer/Artist: Jake Lawrence
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Teen Dog was one of the funniest, kindest books of 2015—and also one of the most overlooked. Potential readers likely expected Australian cartoonist Jake Lawrence's skateboarding, pizza-munching canine to be something of a parody, when in reality he's one of the most genuine characters on stands, sticking by his colorful cast of friends in their Saved By The Bell-esque high school. Lawrence structures the book in strips, letting the plot breathe and leaving plenty of room for sight gags and glimpses of The Void. His clean cartooning, gorgeous colors and full heart make this a perfect last-minute gift for fans of BOOM!'s cartoon tie-in properties.

Venus #1

Writer: Filip Sablik, Rick Loverd
Artist: Huang Danlan
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Post-apocalyptic tales are both high in supply and demand right now, but few of them tackle a looming global issue: The environment and natural resources. And while it's true that air-borne illnesses are spooky enough in theory, we're not gathering in Paris to have frank discussions about the ever-present threat of zombies. Venus #1, the first installment in a four-issue series from writer Rick Loverd and artist Huang Danlan, explores a world where Earth's natural resources are completely spent. In order to mine for resources, explorers seek materials on, you guessed it, other planets. As the series might suggest by its existence, the task isn't an easy one. So far, a few preview pages from Venus have already made their way online, and I'm on-board for this high-stakes, planet-hopping saga of a series. Tyler R. Kane