Comics We're Excited About for 3/23/2016

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Comics We're Excited About for 3/23/2016

If the continued forum furor over Man of Steel is any indication, passionate superhero fans will be arguing about landmark legal case Batman v Superman for years to come. Years. And if you’re not quite sold on the idea of a Zuckerberg-ian Lex Luther or a Wonder Woman who’s a head shorter than her Trinity peers even in heels (ugh), then your best recourse is to return to the source material where—especially for these legacy heroes—a near-inexhaustible treasure trove of stories await you. Or you can just ignore these characters completely and enjoy an overload of other comic splendor, as evidenced by this week’s impressively diverse haul. We’ve got everything from from an ‘80s alt-press throwback to a new series exploring the aftermath of that time Will Smith blew up aliens in 1996, plus a collection of gothic Euro-erotica for good measure. Let’s see Zack Snyder cram all that into the next Batfleck outing.

Agony


Writer/Artist: Mark Beyer
Publisher: New York Review Comics

Mark Beyer's Agony isn't named ironically. The underground cartoonist's work typically obsesses over embarrassment, awkwardness, disfigurement and death, all rendered in his deceptively childlike—and thus deeply unsettling—style. Modern readers tend to remember only those "comix" creators whose work penetrated the mainstream, but Beyer's impact is quietly impressive: he worked with Alan Moore, had a cartoon on MTV and his recurring Amy & Jordan strips helped inspire Gregg Araki's discomforting cult hit, The Doom Generation. If your only exposure to the gritty world of '80s alt-press comes from the Crumbs and Pekars of the world, this New York Review Comics reissue of Agony should help expand your brain—even as you watch the gray matter leak out of the protagonists' geometric heads. Steve Foxe

Art Ops #6


Writer: Shaun Simon
Artist: Eduardo Risso
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics

Shaun Simon and Mike Allred's psychedelic caper Art Ops feels ripped right out of a Vertigo catalogue from an earlier era, so it's only fitting that the book should call upon noir wizard Eduardo Risso of 100 Bullets fame to lend his heavy inks to a new two-part arc. The mature-readers imprint dropped 12 new books on readers this fall and a few have struggled to secure a steady audience, but fans of Doom Patrol-era Grant Morrison and vintage Peter Milligan should find a lot to like in this series now that a full arc is on stands. And if Risso is indicative of the caliber of Allred fill-ins we can expect, Art Ops will remain a visual delight for plenty of issues to come. Steve Foxe

Batman #50


Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Publisher: DC Comics

At last weekend's C2E2 comic convention, the Batman creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo admitted that their initial partnership wasn't without tension. At their onset, Capullo challenged his scribe's verbose wordplay, and Snyder would defend himself by name-dropping his literary awards. Capullo responded, "I'm sure your mother is very proud," which is hilarious. But their collaboration evolved and shifted contours to easily produce the best comic book at DC since the publisher issued its hard New 52 relaunch in 2011. There isn't a hint of house style in its DNA, which can't be said for many of DC's comics. Each voice thrives without contradicting the other: Snyder still paints huge meta-analogies, while Capullo channels the sweeping vertical energy of vigilante acrobats beating the shit out of one another. Batman will wrap its current incarnation with April's "quiet" 52nd issue, but this week's conclusion to the "Superheavy" story arc should promise a bombastic end including cops in mech suits, floral boogeymen and classic heroes reassuming their legacy. To say the least, Synder and Capullo aren't flapping gently into that good night. Sean Edgar

Bloodshot Annual 2016


Writers: Jeff Lemire, "The Original Writer," Ray Fawkes, Michel Fiffe
Artists: Kano, Joe Bennett, Ray Fawkes, Benjamin Marra
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment

We'll have to wait till May to get a literal Friday the 13th, but the Bloodshot Annual 2016 takes an unexpected aesthetic swerve by lampooning the grainy VHS dread of '80s horror cinema. Writer Jeff Lemire and artist Kano pit the titular android soldier against "Jacob" the "Silver Lake Slasher" in what starts as a riff on B-Movie excess and becomes much more. Lemire, who has spent most of his run on the title exploring themes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and violence desensitization, then subverts any and all expectations. The resulting tale proves hilarious, rhythmic and devastatingly melancholy in its final moments.

Out of the remaining three stories, Michel Fiffe and Benjamin Marra's (kudos on that pairing alone) collaboration makes the most impact. The pair skewers Clive Barker's S&M opus Hellraiser, tossing Bloodshot into a digital hell dimension full of bizarre sex demons and existential monologues. Marra's art makes every panel an argument against realism, faces contorted in rage, muscles flexed in plasticine majesty. This is the aesthetic mash-up you never knew you wanted, and with the main series proper tackling post-Apocalyptic westerns, Valiant's genre experimentations have paid off with wit and energy. Sean Edgar

Circuit Breaker #1


Writer: Kevin McCarthy
Artist: Kyle Baker
Publisher: Image Comics

First announced way back in 2012, Kevin McCarthy and Kyle Baker's anime-inspired alternate history Circuit Breaker finally hits shelves this week. With bright, animated art and a robo-cute lead protagonist, this one looks ready to tackle the big questions of Blade Runner boiled down to a Big Hero 6-style world. Will the mighty mechanical maiden dismantle the robot uprising as intended, or will she question her programming and turn the tide against humanity? And how adorable can she be while she does it? All fine questions, brought to us by the team of Baker and McCarthy. Tini Howard

Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways TPB


Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Fans of A-Force and New Avengers will love these early appearances of some of their favorite characters in this overdue trade paperback reprint. When the entire superpowered world goes to town on each other, the kids aren't all right. Years before books like Avengers Academy and Avengers Arena blurred the lines between teen-hero properties, Young Avengers & Runaways was the crossover that fans of each book had been waiting for. And for a few months during 2006's biggest comic event, Civil War (soon to be a major motion picture, don't you know), we got it: Avenger wannabes partnered with the children of an evil cabal in order to survive a war that intended to chew them up and spit them out—or imprison them forever. Bonus points for the first time Noh-Varr would be tied to the Young Avengers brand, which undoubtedly helped plant the interdimensional seeds for his beefcake appearance in the later Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie run. Tini Howard

The Complete Crepax


Writer/Artist: Guido Crepax
Publisher: Fantagraphics

Guido Crepax operates at one of those blurry edges of art that can be appreciated for its cultural merit, historical relevancy or blunt sexual titillation—or maybe all of the above. The Italian artist was undoubtedly a pornographer, though his work operates at a misogyny level a standard deviation or two lower than fellow cartoonist and countryman Milo Manara. That said, the man can draw well and cast a potent mood, even if the sociological ramifications remain hazy at best. His anatomy never dragged curves to unrealistic illusions and his dreamy facial expressions hinted at a psychedelic escape lost to time. Nothing like a new Crepax comic will ever exist again, which carries a degree of lament. Thank the niche comic historians at Fantagraphics for this oversized hardback, which collects Crepax's translations of gothic bulwarks Dracula and Frankenstein as well as a handful of Valentina strips and other bookends. Sean Edgar

Hyperion #1


Writer: Chuck Wendig
Artist: Nicole Virella
Publisher: Marvel Comics

A few recent Marvel launches (we're looking at you, Red Wolf, Black Knight and Starbrand & Nightmask) seem like they were made to live fast and die young among a throng of flashier books. Both Hyperion and the upcoming Nighthawk, from David Walker and Ramon Villalobos, seem poised to skirt the same line with protagonists pulled from the Squadron Supreme alternate universe. Doomsaying aside, both books have supremely (sorry) talented creators attached, with Hyperion boasting art from rising star Nicole Virella (1802), words by Star Wars novelist Chuck Wendig and a premise that looks to nail the idea of a super man traveling the country to better understand humanity. With the shadow of Civil War II falling across most primary and secondary Marvel titles in the coming months, tertiary books like Hyperion might be a good bet for True Believers looking to get their fix while avoiding the Event Industrial Complex. Steve Foxe

Independence Day #1


Writer: Victor Gishler
Artist: Steve Scott
Publisher: Titan Comics

I trust you all, so I can admit to being really excited for the new Independence Day movie. I love that world, that story and something about finally getting expanded material on a sci-fi blockbuster darling from my youth has me jazzed. Longtime Marvel and Dark Horse scribe Victor Gischler brings us the story of the twenty years between the original movie and the upcoming Resurgence sequel, and Steve Scott's shaded art seems perfectly suited to communicate the paranoia that comes along with an alien invasion. I'm ready for it. Welcome to Earth. Tini Howard

Mirror #2


Writer: Emma Rios
Artist: Hwei Lim
Publisher: Image Comics

If you haven't read the first issue of Emma Rios and Hwei Lim's gorgeous, looping, fantastical Mirror, this second issue isn't the place to start. Even if you did read that first issue, you may want to refresh your memory. Rios and Lim aren't holding any hands in this 8house installment, and the narrative structure can feel as alien as many of the book's man-made inhabitants. Readers unafraid of a challenge will appreciate Rios' lyrical voice and Lim's expressive watercolors—and who ever complained about getting more than one read out of a floppy? Steve Foxe