Every week, Paste takes a look at the most interesting releases due out Wednesday in comics, graphic novels and other goodies. You may have to take out a second mortgage because there is no shortage of great material to mine tomorrow. Big Two royalty like Avengers, Multiversity and Batman all reach concluding chapters of massive storylines, leading into the summer events and new status quos kicking off in next week’s Free Comic Book Day. Jillian Tamaki also releases her This One Summer follow up, the disarming, hysterical SuperMutant Magic Academy.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So. Time ran out.
In 2012, writer Jonathan Hickman launched a fierce, uncompromising narrative within the pages of New Avengers and, eventually, Avengers: every universe under the Marvel banner boarded a trajectory to oblivion. These universes began to collide in pairs; temporary salvation only emerged if one universe destroyed the other before the point of impact. Heroes committed cosmic genocide. Villains went through bizarre transformations. And a whole ecosystem of near-omnipotent, quantum beings crept out from under the folds of the stars.
Ambitious doesn’t begin to describe the labyrinth tapestry that’s been woven. Now we receive two penultimate chapters showing a Marvel616 freshly out of options, moments before oblivion. We don’t know how these plot fuses will unite and ignite during next month’s Secret Wars miniseries, but we do know that if you’ve been with this storyline from the beginning, missing out on these two titles simply isn’t an option at this point. Sean Edgar
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo?
Publisher: DC Comics
This is it! The showdown for all the marbles! The end of the Joker’s “Endgame!”
Seriously, though. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have had an incredible Batman run. I’ve said it once, at great length, and I’ll say it again. I’ve loved their take on the Dark Knight from start to finish. We’ve been with Bruce Wayne through an eye-opening tale of Gotham’s high-class underground with The Court of Owls. Batman’s own team was compromised in the first part of Snyder’s Joker tale, Death of the Family. And we got a cool, Riddler-heavy origin tale with Zero Year. Sure, it’s had its bumps and lulls, but any comic run does through nearly four years. But this team has brought an exceptional new take on the proper Batman title, and I’m thankful for that.
Earlier last week, we teased the final issue of the run, at least as we know it. Post-Convergence, the Batman team will be taking a radical turn in not only the direction of the story, but who takes on the Bat mantle. And with a terrifying Joker tale as the turning point, I can’t wait to see how Snyder and Capullo segue into the next chapter. Tyler Kane
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Publisher: Image Comics
Kelly Sue DeConnick, fresh off her second consecutive Eisner nomination for Best Writer, is rejoined this month by Valentine De Landro, Bitch Planet’s main series artist. Robert Wilson IV provided an excellent fill-in last month and the talented Taki Soma is pitching in for issue #6, but it’s nice to see the original gang back together for everyone’s favorite science-fiction feminist exploitation action title. DeConnick snagged the aforementioned nomination for her work on Pretty Deadly and Captain Marvel, and Bitch Planet stands to top both series if it continues at its current level of quality. If nothing else, it has definitely inspired more tattoos than any other comics with fewer than five issues on the stands. Get onboard now or track down the first trade when it drops in July, complete with a discussion guide. Steve Foxe
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Doc Shaner
Publisher: DC Comics
You know the drill by now: Convergence mini-series revisit a nostalgic period of DC’s past while shoehorning in an intrusion from obscure Elseworlds characters. This month the uninvited guests are steampunk citizens of the Batman: Gotham by Gaslight world, the very first Elseworlds title and still one of the best.
Within April’s titles, the main show is a dream: writer Jeff Parker and Internet favorite artist Doc Shaner on the World’s Mightiest Mortal, Shazam! (or as most fans would prefer to think of him, Captain Marvel). Shaner has posted Shazam! art for years, an entertaining tease for fans of Billy Batson’s light and cheery era over the much grimmer stories DC has forced on the character in the last decade. Between this two-part tale and Cameron Stewart’s Thunderworld issue of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity, this has been a great year for fans of the wholesome Big Red Cheese. Steve Foxe
Writer: Jacob Semahn
Illustrator: Jorge Corona
With the rise of Wytches, Nailbiter and Harrow County, not to mention a little title called The Walking Dead, there’s no question that comic fans are dishing out cash for scares. And with Image’s $9.99 first volumes of trade paperbacks, it’s no strain on the wallet to hop on a promising new title, and its latest offering is Goners. The title follows the Latimer Family, which protects humanity against all sorts of awful, paranormal entities; think of them as a broader-spanning, more powerful version of the Warrens. But after the family heads are offed, the Latimer kids have to take a shot at this paranormal mystery thing. Think one part Walking Dead, another part Scooby Doo, another part just wacky fun. Everything I could want in a new title. Tyler Kane
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Ivan Reis
Publisher: DC Comics
Grant Morrison is neither fleeing superheroes nor the comics medium as a whole, but a bittersweet sensation of finality looms in Multiversity #2. This issue concludes a miniseries that spans myriad parallel universes with faux no. 1 issues, all molded from the DC Universe. Last month’s Ultra Comics pulled the meta camera back as far from a two-dimensional panel as it’ll go. After traversing the fourth wall, Morrison revealed villains that drain comic book readers of their life purpose and productivity…by having them read comic books. Meanwhile, countless analogues of caped gods strive to repel this new existential dread that not only threatens them physically, but threatens their entire concept.
Think on that development for a moment. Where do you go from there? What do you say? Morrison has posited such a large, absolute question that it’s hard to imagine what more he could comment on within the confines of comics. The author confirmed that his future projects would move past “boys adventure fiction,” which seems like such a criminally simplistic description of his sprawling odysseys. In any case, enjoy these 56 pages that could very well mark the end of a thematic era. Sean Edgar
Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Artist: Johnnie Christmas
Publisher: Image Comics
Horror is an odd genre in comics. There’s no shortage of vampires, demons and supernatural spooks, but genuinely scary books are few and far between. Kurtis J. Wiebe and Johnnie Christmas aim to change that with Pisces, a Vietnam-era psychological body horror tale of a traumatized vet drafted into a shadowy space program. The first issue doesn’t let many of its secrets slip, but Christmas’ visceral art (complemented by Tamra Bonvillain’s otherworldly colors) deserves a much wider audience than it ever received on Sheltered. And while Pisces is quite a different beast than Rat Queens, Weibe’s GLAAD-award winning fantasy romp, that title’s success is sure to give this one a boost. Steve Foxe
Writers/Artists: Jeremy Sorese & Various
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe cartoon started as a funny, kind and quirky take on the magical girl genre starring a pudgy little boy named Steven and three powerful warrior women known as the Crystal Gems. Over the first season’s 56 episodes, what seemed like a solid entry to the current Cartoon Network lineup revealed itself as a layered, emotionally complex tearjerker that’s still full of enticing question marks. The Gems’ homeworld, Steven’s developing abilities and their former leader, Rose Quartz (Steven’s mother) have continually offered engaging areas of exploration and intrigue. Greg Universe, Steven’s lovably deadbeat dad, has mostly played a supportive comic relief role on the show, but recent revelations about his relationship with Rose Quartz in episodes like “Story for Steven” have helped make Greg a more central emotional component of one of the best developing stories on television.
This oversized special, much like KaBOOM!’s recent Bravest Warriors: Paralyzed Horse Giant, puts the spotlight on the character by enlisting new and returning talent from the world of webcomics for short, standalone stories. Nab it now as an early Father’s Day gift for the guitar-strumming, flip-flop-wearing, Gem-loving dad in your life. Steve Foxe
Writer/Artist: Jillian Tamaki
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Founding X-Man Bobby Drake may have recently ventured outside the closet, introducing even more diversity to a title devoted to acceptance and tolerance. But Jillian Tamaki (That One Summer) has been running her own progressive school for exceptional adolescents in SuperMutant Magic Academy, a poignant, hilarious and bold webcomic collected in print this week by Drawn & Quarterly. These raw panels may show kids with fantastical and physics-defying abilities, but Tamaki knows that magical mutant kids—even cat hybrids and boys that reincarnate throughout the cosmos—are still kids. They yearn, strive, hurt and meander into listless futures. Under this light, SuperMutant Magic Academy is far more real than its title would ever suppose. The students also (sometimes) perform hysterical live art installations that involve toilets in the middle of the hall and profane acts at zoos (we love you, Frances). Sean Edgar
Writers: Peter Milligan & Various
Artist: Hope Larson & Various
One of the coolest things Vertigo has done in the last few years is bring back high-quality anthology comics on a semi-regular schedule, often by reviving old DC copyrights (Strange Sports Stories) on their way to expiration. Last year, Vertigo struck away from nostalgic nomenclature and older properties to debut an originally themed quarterly, CMYK, that highlighted one of the four basic printing colors in each issue. It looks like the experiment paid off well enough for Vertigo to bring the format back for a second year, this time revolving through four popular sound effects: POP! SLAM! KRAK! BANG! As with previous anthologies, Vertigo Quarterly: SFX has a mix of established voices and new creators, which makes it a treat both for completionists and readers looking to discover the next big thing. Steve Foxe