Comics We're Excited About for 9/7/2016

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Comics We're Excited About for 9/7/2016

To everything (turn, turn, turn)/ There is a season (turn, turn, turn). Break out your flannels and stash away your bathing suits: summer is over and only Emma Frost can get away with rocking white until next Memorial Day. Comic publishers are doing their best to soften the blow for their readership, loading up this first post-Labor Day Wednesday with all manner of sequential delight. Literary icon Margaret Atwood joins artists Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain for the madcap fun of Angel Catbird, Jim Zub and new talent Djibril Morissette-Phan launch autumn’s first must-read horror yarn, DC gives Justice League also-ran Cyborg another shot at his own ongoing title and the ever-prolific Ben Hatke is back with another all-ages gem. As beach reads become fireside reads, Paste has got you covered.

Alters #1

Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Leila Leiz
Publisher: AfterShock Comics

The comic industry is finally waking up to the need for marginalized communities not just to see themselves on the page, but to tell their own stories, so it's with trepidation that many readers will approach Alters #1, Aftershock's latest launch. Much of the press for the book has revolved around Chalice, a young "alteration" (a.k.a. mutant) dealing not just with her emerging powers and a conniving villain, but with her gender transition. European talent Leila Leiz will be new to most American readers, but writer Paul Jenkins has a long legacy in comics, from the highs of Sentry to the lows of...that retcon about the Sentry and Rogue getting it on. Hopefully the Paul Jenkins of Inhumans shows up to kickstart this original superhero story, and does right by Chalice and the under-represented community she represents. Steve Foxe

Angel Catbird Vol. 1

Writer: Margaret Atwood
Artist: Johnnie Christmas
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

What if one of the most respected literary minds of our lifetime wrote a comic—and had an absolute blast without taking herself too seriously? You'd get Angel Catbird, written by Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale), drawn by Johnnie Christmas and colored by Tamra Bonvillain. Far from being the highminded meditation you might expect from the author of The Blind Assassin and the MaddAddam trilogy, Angel Catbird is as earnestly goofy as its title, riffing on the comics of Atwood's youth to tell both a cautionary tale about protecting domestic cats and wild birds (there are factoid cutaways throughout) as well as a wild fantasia about animal-people hiding out in speakeasies. Christmas and Bonvillain have a blast rendering half-rat ratfinks and feline fatales, not to mention the Dracula-inspired were-cat who graces the volume 2 cover. Angel Catbird may disappoint readers expecting a more serious Atwood, but everyone involved is clearly having the time of their lives bringing this beautifully bizarre book to life—and all for a good cause, too. Steve Foxe

Bedtime for Batman Picture Book

Writer: Michael Dahl
Artist: Ethen Beavers
Publisher: Capstone Press

Once in a while, we cheat and recommend a book that isn't strictly a comic. Bedtime for Batman falls under that adorable umbrella, as a young boy obsessed with the Caped Crusader imagines his hero going through his nighttime routine with him. From brushing teeth to one final bathroom break, Bedtime for Batman is a comprehensive goodnight manual starring the Dark Knight. Michael Dahl's simple, yet effective, text and Ethen Beavers' bright illustrations may not offer much to adult vigilantes, but anyone with a young sidekick of their own will appreciate this fun, gentle, heroic take on hitting the sack. Steve Foxe

Cyborg: Rebirth #1

Writer: John Semper, Jr.
Artist: Paul Pelletier
Publisher: DC Comics

Way back in 2011, Justice League #1, the very first New 52 comic, established two things: the Justice League members were all kind of jerks to each other when they first met, and also Cyborg was there. It was meant to be a promotion for long-time Teen Titan Victor Stone, tucking his time with Robin and co. into a dusty corner of unwanted continuity and elevating him to founding member status. Fan reaction was mixed, but anticipation ran high for Cyborg's seemingly inevitable solo series. Readers waited…and waited…and waited, and were finally rewarded with the "DC You" launch in summer 2015 alongside critical darlings like Midnighter and Black Canary.

Despite rising-star writer David F. Walker and surefire DC stalwart Ivan Reis, Cyborg failed to take off, which makes the prospect of a twice-monthly Rebirth series from John Semper, Jr.—best known for his time on the Spider-Man animated series in the mid-'90s—and workhorse artists Paul Pelleteir and Will Conrad…suspect. Luckily, DC is riding high on the booming sales and warm reception of its existing Rebirth books, and wider audiences just got a better look at Ray Fisher's upcoming cinematic portrayal via the recent Justice League trailer. Bionic fingers crossed that this book is finally the one to give Cyborg his due. Steve Foxe

Disillusioned Illusions

Writer/Artist: Greg Stump
Publisher: Fantagraphics

If the two facial silhouette reliefs from the optical vase illusion often seen in Psych 101 textbooks had a conversation, what would they say? Would they explore their existence, questioning whether they were shadows of a receptacle for plants, or whether the container was the bizarre-looking negative space between their profiles? Or maybe they'd reach some existential Schrodinger's Cat compromise, in which they either did or did not exist, but let the philosophy remain unresolved.

Cartoonist Greg Stump attempts to answer this query in nearly 400 pages, and the result is far more trivial and entertaining than anyone could ever expect. The graphic novel reads like an inane, caffeine-fueled Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows) art project that never fails to sucker-punch laughs and surprise. These two incorporeal characters debate cigarettes, book deals and flakey collaborators with often mundane and disappointing outcomes, juxtaposing high concept against deflating realism. As the panels glide by, Stump exercises a steadfast control of improvised futility, resulting in a charming, sad portrait of anti-ambition. Sean Edgar

Eclipse #1

Writer: Zachary Kaplan
Artist: Giovanni Timpano
Publisher: Top Cow/ Image Comics

Sci-fi high-concepts are always in demand, and new talents Zachary Kaplan and Giovanni Timpano have a blistering one on their hands in Eclipse. In a world where sunlight has become unbearable, humanity has been forced underground to survive away from deadly solar rays. When a serial killer starts using the sun to murder, it's up to a solar engineer to track him down. Timpano has worked primarily with Dynamite's pulp heros, and his stark blacks serve him well in a book where casting a shadow means you're about to be incinerated. Top Cow's shared-universe titles seem to be an acquired taste—you're either a diehard fan or you have zero interest—but original titles like Think Tank and Postal have succeeded in attracting new eyes to the Image imprint. Steve Foxe, who, full disclosure, once wrote a Witchblade comic for Top Cow

Glitterbomb #1

Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Djibril Morissette-Phan
Publisher: Image Comics

Like the American Horror Story season we deserved but never got, Hollywood horror launch Glitterbomb follows a desperate middle-aged actress competing in an industry where youth and superficial beauty trump all. Her hunger attracts something otherworldly, leading to the bloody-good tagline: "It's time to eat the rich. For real." Writer Jim Zub has proven his range on everything from swords-and-sorcery comedies to steampunk Disney adaptations, but straight-up horror is a new one for the prolific creator. Expect newcomer Djibril Morissette-Phan to be Glitterbomb's breakout, though—still in his early 20s, Morissette-Phan has a confident grasp on storytelling essentials as well as an eye-catching style. Steve Foxe

Jughead #9

Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Derek Charm
Publisher: Archie Comics

Though grand prankster Chip Zdarsky and artist Erika Henderson's run on this snack-munching, endearing wingman capped at an all-too-brief eight issues, Ryan North and Derek Charm may be the only creative team in Riverdale to keep the laughs, melodrama and obscure comic references flowing. North's opening issue sports one hell of a hook, pun intended: amicable witch Sabrina, whose horror solo title often frequents this list, casts a spell on Jughead as the new burger-headed mascot of the titular character's favorite diner. Whether this new scenario is purely plutonic or challenges the teen's identification as asexual, we can't wait to see our favorite enchantress and favorite wiseass trade quips, a skill North (Dinosaur Comics, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl) is a practical wizard in. Derek Charm has mainly focused on licensed TV gems like Powerpuff Girls and Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, and his expressive, lithely figures should keep the sass and sarcasm at a high. Sean Edgar

Kill or Be Killed #2

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips will be remembered for laying a big, inky noir thumbprint in modern comics, but they're less recognized for how successfully they've merged tales of doomed PIs and manipulative bombshells into other genres. Sleeper snuck sci-fi and superheroes into one double agent's descent into hopelessness, while historical fiction and a metric ton of Lovecraftian doom wrapped their tentacles around the bittersweet epic of Fatale. Kill or Be Killed strives for that same elasticity in the tale of a suicidal student, Dylan, possessed by an unclean spirit that demands a monthly body count from his host.

Brubaker and Phillips have apparently enjoyed turning their characters' metaphorical demons into literal ones, and this series remains bleak and depraved, the sequential art equivalent of a 35mm Golan Globus exploitation movie—although executed with far with more care and talent. And like her work on Outcast, colorist Elizabeth Breitwiser cuts murky blacks and browns with splashes of hallucinatory color, including electric white/blue snowflakes and crimson epiphanies of blood. Those touches reinforce the theme of the unknown corroding the mundane, and this sophomore chapter should reveal how far this title is willing to fall down the horror rabbit hole. Sean Edgar

Mighty Jack

Writer/Artist: Ben Hatke
Publisher: First Second

Only three months have passed since Ben Hatke's last all-ages wonder, Nobody Likes a Goblin, but the prolific cartoonist returns this month (with a new Eisner award in tow) for Might Jack. Like previous Hatke creations Zita and Julia, Jack is a relatable kid protagonist thrust into a world of fantasy and marvel. This riff on Jack and the Beanstalk shows the titular character taking care of his autistic sister when she advises him to trade their Mom's car for a batch of seeds. And for better or worse, he does.

Hatke innovates past Joseph Jacobs' ubiquitous tale of giants and needles, though, incorporating onion babies, cognizant pumpkins and a dragon, inspired by the rural terrain of his own Virginia home. Overflowing with personality, action and warmth, Mighty Jack is another example of Hatke's growing presence in both comics and grade-school fiction. Sean Edgar

Rise of the Black Flame

Writers: Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson
Artist: Christopher Mitten
Publisher: Dark Horse

The new Rise of the Black Flame miniseries is pure continuity crack for Mignolaverse enthusiasts, featuring the looming big bad of various B.P.R.D. arcs including the massive Plague of Frogs tomes. The comic dwells in the pulp corner of the Hellboy mythology, following two officers as they search for the kidnapped daughters of British estates in South-East Asia, believed to be abducted for sacrifice by the historical Thuggee Cult. If that footnote sounds familiar, this plot bears more than a passing resemblance to '80s nightmare fuel Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, as both featured antagonists who worshipped the Hindu Goddess of death, Kali. But mixed with Mignola's characters (how cool is globe-trotting monster-fighting adventurer Sarah Jewell?), this history assumes new energy and verve, and is well worth the time of those already invested. Sean Edgar