Comics We're Excited About for 7/13/2016

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Comics We're Excited About for 7/13/2016

With Marvel in full pre-SDCC hype mode and certain comic websites in full pre-SDCC leak mode, the run-up to the comic industry’s biggest annual convention finally feels real. Given the pre-order system of the direct market, comic publishers need us to get pumped about books a quarter of a year in advance, which can sometimes distract from the excellent series currently on shelves. Putting aside teasers for a moment, this Wednesday sees the release of so much sequential goodness, we couldn’t cram every noteworthy book into our round-up.

In addition to the fine comics listed in the gallery above, a trip to your local shop can net you the second installment of the Harvey-nominated all-ages smash The Only Living Boy; the latest volumes of Southern Bastards and Monstress, two of our favorite Image comics of the moment; and, after too many years out of print, a collection of current Wonder Woman scribe Greg Rucka’s first tenure on the Amazon. While there are surely some stellar books currently being solicited for the Halloween season, we’re pretty darn flush with awesomeness right now.

Conan the Slayer #1

Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Sergio Davila
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard recalled the wild yarns of Civil War veterans when he weaved his fictional oeuvre of warriors, magicians and puritanical pioneers like Solomon Kane. Writer Cullen Bunn nourishes a similar adoration for old tales, incorporating a sense of mythological campfire lore into his breakout comics Harrow County and The Sixth Gun. Publisher Dark Horse likely saw the similarities between the two auteurs and gave one of their most prolific new scribes his own vehicle for the hulking, swords-and-sorcerers nomad.

The Slayer slant on this new series promises bisections and bloodshed a plenty. Sergio Davila's runs on Lord of the Jungle and Red Sonja showed that the artist can conjure that carnage with clear storytelling, and Lee Bermejo's cover is a lesson in two-dimensional testosterone. Though some old-school decapitations will never lose their superficial appeal, this title will float on its deft world- and lore-building, which the creative team is more than capable of cleaving out. Sean Edgar

DC Elseworlds: Justice League Vol. 1

Writers: Chuck Dixon, Various
Artists: J. H. Williams III, Various
Publisher: DC Comics

Why have a Multiverse if you're not gonna use it? DC Comics Elseworlds line has historically been the answer to that question, allowing creators to play in the sandboxes of the alternate timelines presented by the publisher's own cosmology. While many of proposed multiverses are more aesthetic than Butterfly Effect, fans can't help but love the results. The Justice League in the Wild West (with early-career J. H. Williams III art), Wonder Woman taking on Jack the Ripper and more make up these stories that are half "coffee shop AU" and half cosplay paradise. Tini Howard

Hip Hop Family Tree Book 4: 1984-1985

Writer/Artist: Ed Piskor
Publisher: Fantagraphics

Ed Piskor's ascent as a hip-hip historian hasn't wavered a millimeter as his web of MCs, DJs and promoters has enlarged to a dizzying scope. His first enlarged graphic novel covered an entire decade as underground Brooklyn funk transformed into something far more unique and indescribable. The last two books have only tackled a year or two, as the art form in the '80s hit a new density of development. This chapter—covering years 1984-1985—lays the seeds for hip-hop's growth into mainstream, commercial ubiquity beyond acts like The Fat Boys and Run-D.M.C. Will Smith, Salt-N-Pepa, Dr. Dre and Def Jam Records all make their debut on the tree, branching out alongside a Hollywood ready to seize the movement with um, classics, like Breakin' and Breakin' 2 Electric Boogaloo.

These books are the comic equivalent of a good friend talking your ear off on a newfound obsession after a few drinks—pupils dilated, forehead veins throbbing, passion leaking from every pore. Piskor sampled the jaundiced color of comics taken from the era when these albums were released, imbuing a sense of tactility and history. The cartoonist also nails the onomatopoeia and rhymes in big, bouncy fonts that perfectly complement the audio counterparts. Even if you're not a fan of the music, hip hop, like jazz, is one of the few art forms America can exclusively call its own, and the story of its creation is just as endlessly fascinating and vital. Sean Edgar

Horizon #1

Writer: Brandon Thomas
Artist: Juan Gedeon
Publisher: Image Comics

Science-fiction has long had a colonialism problem, supported by the popular trope of a dashing (straight white male) human space explorer coming to the rescue of an alien civilization, usually through the defeat of an opposing alien race that of course looks less typically attractive by human standards. This convention is upended in Horizon, Skybound's latest launch. Written by relative newcomer Brandon Thomas and illustrated by rising artist Juan Gedeon (Strayer, Ghost Racers), Horizon stars Zhia Malen, a young alien woman journeying to Earth—not to invade, but to retaliate for Earth's invasion of her home planet. Skybound specializes in sleek high concepts that translate well to other media. If Horizon can nail the imprint's polish while tackling some of the thinly veiled issues of its genre, it'll soar. Steve Foxe

Kong of Skull Island# 1

Writer: James Asmus
Artist: Carlos Magno
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Writer James Asmus (Quantum & Woody, All-New Inhumans) is best known for his humor, but this new Kong outing, "exclusively authorized and endorsed by the Cooper family as their official King Kong/Skull Island prequel and sequel origin story," looks to be a straight-faced take on the oversized primate. Despite predating occasional costar Godzilla, King Kong seems less evergreen than the giant lizard, and certainly leaves a smaller footprint in the comic world. If Legendary has its way, though, the upcoming Skull Island film will make the big lug a star once more. Drawn by Carlos Magno (after drawing several Planet of the Apes comics), Kong of Skull Island may just get ahead of the curve on massive monkey mania. Steve Foxe

Millarworld Annual 2016 #1

Writers: Mark Abnett, Various
Artists: Pracheta Banerjee, Various
Publisher: Image Comics

When comics superstar Mark Millar offered new creators a shot to play in his world of creator-owned projects, aspiring writers and artists took notice. The winning creators are featured in this inaugural Millarworld Annual, an anthology of brand-new voices taking on Millar hits like Kick-Ass, Hit Girl and the dynamic duo of last year's Chrononauts. It's not every day we get to see novice comic creators take on existing mythologies—or established creators open up their worlds, for that matter—making this one to watch for those seeking new voices. Tini Howard

New Super-Man #1

Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Artist: Viktor Bogdanovic
Publisher: DC Comics

Don't get us wrong—it's not as if we expect children's publishing superstar Gene Luen Yang to only tackle Chinese characters because of his massively successful YA graphic novels American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints—it was just a shame to see DC snatch him up for Superman only to immediately saddle him with complicated crossovers. Yang, the current national ambassador for young people's literature, has the potential to be exactly that for the publisher: an ambassador, attracting new eyes to their stable of legacy characters. Now, with New Super-Man, he may actually have the freedom to do just that.

Kong Kenan is described as "impulsive" and "arrogant," which aren't exactly the characteristics one expects out of someone wearing the S-shield. Somehow, this self-assured young man ends up imbued with a healthy fraction of Superman's powers, and just in time to attract the attention of China's burgeoning superhero program. Artist Viktor Bogdanovic has mostly stuck to Gotham during his DC tenure, which should prepare him well for the bustling metropolis of Shanghai and the cocky smirk of Yang's solar-powered creation. Steve Foxe

Nightwing: Rebirth# 1

Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Yanick Paquette
Publisher: DC Comics

Hot off of his successful run co-writing the character in Grayson, cartoonist Tim Seeley takes Dick Grayson home to Gotham and restores the mantle of Nightwing. And for a character as...visually appealing…as Nightwing, only the best art team will do. DC Comics' powerhouse Yanick Paquette (Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman: Earth One) brings his pen back to Gotham, with relative newcomer Javi Fernandez (Batman Eternal, Magneto) providing a striking cover before taking over the regular series alongside Marcus To. And while it's silly to fuss about cosmetic changes in comics, we have to admit—we're happy to see him back in the black and blue. Tini Howard

Ogres Awake!

Cartoonists: James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, Andrew Arnold
Publisher: First Second

As they accomplished in Sleepless Knight, Gryphons Aren't So Great and the other gems from their Adventures in Cartooning line, James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost and Andrew Arnold lay out a colorful welcome mat for new comic readers that will also entice their parents. The trio's latest venture, co-written and co-illustrated by all three, continues that buoyant whimsy with the tale of a knight, her horse and garden gnomes desperately trying to feed three sleepy ogres lest they destroy a kingdom. The faces convey a litany of emotions, many of them exaggerated and hilarious, and the conflicts always remain more imaginative than scary. Strum may have honed his craft on excellent historical adult fare like The Golem's Mighty Swing and Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, but his second phase with his relatively new cohorts has remained just as endearing, even if it operates at a first-grade reading level. Sean Edgar

The Paybacks Vol. 2 #1

Writers: Donny Cates, Eliot Rahal
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Publisher: Heavy Metal

The comic industry is all about second chances, but it's not often a series gets a rebirth at a different publisher, especially not so soon after the preceding publisher let it go. Such is the case with The Paybacks, so recently of Dark Horse and now happily reborn under the Heavy Metal banner with the full creative team intact. Paste chatted with writers Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal before the first issue of volume one dropped, and it's clear these two (who each have separate series of their own with Heavy Metal) have big plans for their scrappy superhero debt collectors. With an eclectic cast of dubiously heroic cast-offs, intrigue aplenty and stellar art from ink-slinger Geoff Shaw, The Paybacks appears poised to make the most of its second life. Steve Foxe