The Most Anticipated Comics of Summer 2017

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The Most Anticipated Comics of Summer 2017

Summer and fall tend to be the seasons of renewal for the comic industry. It’s when superhero publishers tweak their branding, blockbuster events explode and independent houses release their literary gems. The sweltering months are great for venturing into swimming pools and Florida theme parks, but they’re even better for decompressing with a stack of comics and graphic novels as the AC hums. The biggest books in the coming months are slightly more introspective than in previous years; if 2016 embraced the hyperbole of Marvel’s Civil War II and DC’s line-wide rebirth, this summer specializes in illuminating key pockets of the superhero strata. Tom King’s new Batman arc “War of Jokes and Riddles” dissects the psychology of the Dark Knight’s two smartest adversaries while the author also reteams with Sheriff of Babylon illustrator Mitch Gerads for a Mister Miracle maxiseries. Matt Wagner returns to his epic meta-fantasy in Mage: The Hero Denied after 18 years, while Marvel also explores decades of bravery in Generations. Drawn & Quarterly readies its next grand autobiographical suckerpunch—Poppies of Iraq—with Fantagraphics planting Johnny Appleseed years after its finish. It’s not enough to say that there’s something for everyone, but that everything looks exceptionally thoughtful and delightfully immersive, a promise of empathy and escape as the thermometer’s crimson head ascends heavenward.
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Batman: The War of Jokes and Riddles

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Writer:Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Publisher: DC Comics
Tom King tackles three of the most complex psyches in the Batman mythos in his new arc, “The War of Jokes and Riddles.” Told as a flashback from Bruce Wayne to current fiancé Selina Kyle, the six issues recount a brutal conflict that erupts between The Joker and The Riddler, with the Dark Knight attempting to assuage the collateral damage. Stories of this nature require a writer to slip into the personage of a genius—or in this case, three geniuses. It’s a daunting task to emulate the thought patterns of an OCD vigilante, a symbology savant and an antisocial clown who uses the concept of laughter to cope with…something, but King is one of the few writers whose cerebral approach can do it justice. This is a scenario where the reader can watch the punchlines, fists and brainteasers collide, knowing that its author probably spent sleepless nights concocting this deep narrative algorithm. Artist Mikel Janin’s sleek, bloody figures render the chaos with vivid clarity, promising a book as sexy as it is smart. Sean Edgar
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Dark Nights: Metal

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Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Publisher: DC Comics
Since their work together on the main Batman comic came to a close, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo have been hinting at a new collaboration. Snyder has continued to influence the world of the Dark Knight in All Star Batman, but this summer’s big event from DC is the first time the two will join forces since April 2016.

Snyder has spoken at length about how long this story has been incubating, and it seems to track towards DC’s recent habit of leaning on multiple universes for big events. It allows for the opportunity of a dreaded Super Fight without forcing conflict between two characters who are ostensibly allies, which is one of the chief complaints aimed at summer events in general. Snyder and Capullo have cooked up a story that wonders what the DC universe would look like if invaded by evil versions of Batman. Snyder and Capullo’s names will draw a lot of fans to the title, and the idea of pitting the detective who is prepared for every eventuality against multiple versions of himself makes the attraction that much greater. Caitlin Rosberg
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Demon Vol. 3

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Writer/Artist: Jason Shiga
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: July 18, 2017
Jason Shiga’s multi-volume book about game theory and the philosophy of ethics is a rip-roaring good read full of disgusting jokes and terrible behavior issues, and now enters its third volume this summer. If you didn’t read the whole thing online when it was being serialized, the second volume ended on an especially tense cliffhanger, driving anticipation for this volume. Unlike most of publisher First Second’s books, this one is not for kids, reveling in ultra-violence and addressing topics like suicide and crippling adult malaise. Volume four is due in November and wraps things up. Hillary Brown
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Generations

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Writers/Artists: Various
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: August 2017
Let’s not mince words: Marvel is floundering. The absence of comprehensive sales data, as well as Marvel’s strategy of flooding the market, makes it hard to pin down economic specifics, but the books themselves are mired in endless staggered relaunches, event tie-ins, title dilution, too many replaced heroes and creative teams that rarely have the time to build into anything remarkable. The publisher is in the process of rolling out details of its Legacy initiative, which means you’ll either feel more optimistic or more hopeless for the Marvel U.’s future by the time you read this, but the first attempt to recapture the magic comes in the form of the already-announced Generations one-shots. These 10 standalone stories touch on 10 of the publisher’s most popular “legacy characters”: heroes who have inherited or taken on the mantles of older characters, from Jane Foster Thor to Teen Jean Grey (who qualifies via time anomaly).

The idea is to both confirm the validity of the newer mantle-bearers and strengthen the foundation of the original heroes, and results will surely be mixed; Captain Marvel writer Margaret Stohl, for instance, hasn’t done much to help Carol Danvers’ struggling profile, and few of Captain Marvel’s modern fans are likely to care about her relationship to the male former Captain Marvel, who has been dead in the Marvel universe for three decades. Still, these opportunities occasionally bring out the best in creators like Jason Aaron, who wowed years ago with a Dark Reign one-shot and will likely do the same here paired with Mahmud Asrar for a Thor team-up pitting both Thunder Gods against an ancient Apocalypse. Marvel has worn down fan enthusiasm in the last few years—here’s hoping Generations is the first step toward righting the ship. Steve Foxe
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Grosz

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Writer/Artist: Lars Fiske
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Lars Fiske’s new, nearly wordless biography of the German artist George Grosz is an explosive, fierce, foul howl of anger, and it’s quite a read. Strongly anti-Nazi, Grosz left his home country in 1933 for the United States, but continued to make trouble wherever he was. He pissed off German nationalists, the church, the army, the ruling classes and traditionalists in the art world, among others. Crude and harsh, his art still has force decades later, and Fiske captures its impact through similar effects. Hillary Brown
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Johnny Appleseed

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Artist: Paul Buhle
Artist: Noah Van Sciver
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Release Date: September 2017
Johnny Appleseed has popped up in the periphery of comics news since 2015, first set for release from Alternative Comics before finding a new home at the excellent Fantagraphics. Paul Buhle—a former Senior Lecturer at Brown University—charts the life of John Chapman, a man who planted a ridiculous number of apples in the Midwest while eschewing a philosophy of peace and copious hard cider. Noah Van Sciver pencils the graphic novel with hyper-detailed, evocative obsession, ferns and wood engulfing the early 20th-century countryside. Appleseed tends to persist as a character of folklore, but his biography is filled with moments just as massive and subversively zen. And with a release in September, this graphic novel is the perfect companion for a trip down to the local orchard. Sean Edgar
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Kaijumax Season 3

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Writer/Artist: Zander Cannon
Publisher: Oni Press
Release Date: July 12, 2017
Did you enjoy HBO’s OZ? Do you also enjoy stories about monsters, including the bonkers beast comics Jack Kirby did before helping launch the Marvel Universe? If you’re one of a select few who can answer “yes” to both questions, then hoo boy, is Zander Cannon’s Kaijumax for you. The scene is a maximum-security facility for giant monsters, and the resulting alliances, conflicts and tragedies are far more compelling and moving than they should be. Cannon has mined maximum awesomeness—including legit commentary on prison conditions, racial profiling and police brutality—out of one of the craziest concepts on stands today. Mark Peters
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Mage: The Hero Denied

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Writer/Artist: Matt Wagner
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: August 16, 2017
The concluding chapter of Matt Wagner’s Mage epic arrives nearly 20 years after the previous arc hit shelves; the fact that we are still excited is a symptom of how excellent the work is. The story is old-school urban fantasy at its heart, Dresden Files meets Arthurian legend, with a hefty dose of Shakespeare for good measure. Kevin Matchstick is exactly the kind of protagonist that you want for a comic with those themes, entangled in magical drama and struggling against forces far larger and more powerful than he is, even if he’s destined to follow the legacy of King Arthur. Mage has been a fan favorite for a long time, and for good reason, and it’s exciting to see Wagner get a chance to finally finish Matchstick’s journey. Caitlin Rosberg
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Mech Cadet Yu

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Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Release Date: August 2, 2017
Greg Pak has long been a vanguard for Asian-American representation on and behind the comic page, perhaps most visibly with his Marvel creation Amadeus Cho, now the Totally Awesome Hulk. Mech Cadet Yu sees Pak re-team with original Cho illustrator Takeshi Miyazawa to create an original Asian-American teen hero away from under Disney’s intellectual property umbrella. In the world of this BOOM! Studios series, giant interstellar robots come to Earth once a year to bond with extensively trained teens in a fight against a malicious alien threat. This year, the robot bonded with…the wrong kid. Pak’s writing is never less than solid, and Miyazawa’s cartooning has become more distinctive and adaptable in the decade since their collaboration on Cho’s genesis. Pitched to fans of Pacific Rim, Mech Cadet Yu looks like a robotic slam dunk and an excellent new option for readers seeking Asian-American heroes on and off the page. Steve Foxe

Mister Miracle

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Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: August 9, 2017
The most thoughtful, articulate team in comics shifts from the sands of war-torn Iraq to the neon heavens of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World in Mister Miracle. Writer Tom King conceptualized the series after a severe anxiety attack landed him in the emergency room. The experience led him to realize the onslaught of dissonance that’s marked the last few years—a parade of political and socio-economic friction that’s only amplified in recent months. Those themes will be dissected in a 12-issue miniseries about a space-opera Jesus Christ who can escape from any trap, save his own identity. The comic also reintroduces comic icon Jack Kirby’s future-forward reinterpretation of the Bible—the aforementioned Fourth World— filled with grandiose designs and a mythic scope. Illustrator Mitch Gerads will bring those heavenly and infernal bodies to earth with humanity, layering each character with emotion and empathy. He also promises a particularly curdling rendition of Darkseid, the DC Universe’s avatar of evil. Sean Edgar
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Moonstruck

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Writer: Grace Ellis
Artists: Shae Beagle, Kate Leth
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: July 19, 2017
Co-creator Grace Ellis departed BOOM!’s smash-hit young adult title Lumberjanes early in its run, but now the playwright is back with artist Shae Beagle and backup contributor Kate Leth for a…queer werewolf coffee shop story? Moonstruck is an Image series, but its creative pedigree is pure BOOM!: translating the storytelling and cartooning of modern webcomics into printed monthly sequential form. Julie is a barista who wants an unremarkable life with her almost-girlfriend and best friend Chet…but Chet is a centaur, Julie wolfs out when she’s upset and the two of them find themselves smack-dab in the middle of a magical conspiracy. Image’s ascent as an independent publisher has rested largely on the backs of high-concept pitches from Marvel and DC talent; Moonstruck represents a different tract for them, one that’s a bit quieter and more character-focused, and hopefully signals the start of greater tonal variation from the industry juggernaut. Steve Foxe
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Poppies of Iraq

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Writer: Brigitte Findakly
Artists: Brigitte Findakly, Lewis Trondheim
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Release Date: September 5, 2017
For a cartoonist so incredibly prolific, Lewis Trondheim still isn’t well known in the American comics world outside of Franco-Belgian and other European circles, but his work is reliably excellent. For this graphic novel, he collaborates with his wife, comics newcomer Brigitte Findakly, on her memoir of her childhood in Iraq, which she wrote and he drew. Born in 1959 to an Iraqi father and a French mother, Findakly grew up in Mosul, first under the socialist rule of General Abd al-Karim Qasim and then under the succeeding Ba’athist Party’s rule. Think Persepolis from the other side of the border, illustrated with Trondheim’s light-hearted drawings. Hillary Brown
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Redlands

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Writers: Jordie Bellaire, Vanesa R. Del Rey
Artist: Vanesa R. Del Rey
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: August 9, 2017
Jordie Bellaire—known as the brilliant color artist for Injection, Moon Knight, Manhattan Projects, Pretty Deadly and many other series—will shift to writing for this new Image series, created with artist Vanessa R. Del Ray. Redlands promises to be a new spin on crime and horror, as the vice-battered town of Redlands, Florida, ends up with bigger problems when a coven of witches starts laying down the law. Readers will find out if lawlessness is preferable to occult rule. Mark Peters
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Rick and Morty: Pocket Like You Stole It

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Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Marc Ellerby
Publisher: Oni Press
Release Date: July 5, 2017
Adult Swim sensation Rick and Morty has a seemingly endless ability to parody popular culture from fresh angles, including the gotta-catch-’em-all phenomenon of Pokémon and its brief app explosion, Pokémon GO, filtered through the show’s off-kilter humor as Pocket Mortys, a real app that proved just as addictive as its source inspiration. Rick and Morty: Pocket Like You Stole It taps Rick and Morty series art contributor Marc Ellerby and rising writer (and former Paste writer) Tini Howard to skewer the implications of catching Mortys and forcing them into battle for fun and profit. Poking fun at Pokémon’s core premise of digital dog fights isn’t anything new—PETA humorlessly does it every time a new installment of the franchise hits shelves—but Rick and Morty is at the top of its game when it comes to lampooning pop culture, and Howard, Ellerby and colorist Katy Farina have the chops to become Pokémon champions. Err, Morty masters. Something like that. Steve Foxe
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Spy Seal

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Writer/Artist: Rich Tommaso
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: August 16, 2017
Rich Tommaso has been writing some of the best under-the-radar comics for Image in recent years, such as the twisty crime series Dark Corridor and insane werewolf epic She Wolf. He returns with a character he first created in the 1980s: the 13-year-old Tommaso released three issues featuring the James Bond of seals. After receiving a strong response to the character on social media, the cartoonist has re-embraced his teen creation. All Tommaso’s comics have a sense of giddy fun and retro exuberance, but this could be his best bonkers creation yet. Mark Peters