Black Panther Annual, Bloodborne, Punks Not Dead & More in Required Reading: Comics for 2/21/2018

Comics Lists Required Reading
Black Panther Annual, Bloodborne, Punks Not Dead & More in Required Reading: Comics for 2/21/2018

It’s another one of those weeks. You know what we’re talking about: the Wednesdays so stacked with interesting new releases that our attempt to choose just 10 fails miserably. In addition to the sterling line-up below, Brandon Graham’s Multiple Warheads returns with a new one-shot, underground manga classic Red Colored Elegy gets a new hardcover release from Drawn & Quarterly, Marvel’s Infinity Countdown crossover ramps up with another one-shot prelude, Batman #41 kicks off a new Ivy-centric arc, Hit-Girl returns for more carnage and Natasha Alterci’s Heathen begins its long-anticipated second arc. So what did make the list, if these books only warrant an above-the-line mention? Read on and find out!

STL071911.jpegBlack Panther Annual#1
Writers: Reginald Hudlin, Donald McGregor, Christopher Priest
Artists: Daniel Acuña, Ken Lashley, Mike Perkens
Publisher: Marvel Comics
In one of the few examples of Marvel perhaps trying to coordinate what’s happening in theaters with what’s on shelves, Black Panther Annual #1 arrives the week after the film premieres, hopefully giving new fans a good place to jump in. It’s a slight departure from what Ta-Nehisi Coates has been doing with the title since 2016, but fans who want to check out Coates’ work can take advantage of any number of sales happening right now on his run, especially in digital format. This annual invites back three of T’Challa’s most famous writers: Don McGregor, Christopher Priest and Reggie Hudlin. Hudlin’s comic in particular is exciting as it serves as a sequel to his “Black to the Future” storyline, complete with art from his then-collaborator Ken Lashley. Though it’s often a good thing to tie cinematic releases more closely to comics, it’s a missed opportunity that one of the most advertised correlations between this annual and Ryan Coogler’s film is the inclusion of Martin Freeman’s Everett K. Ross character, first created by Priest, instead of, say, Shuri or Okoye. But with Marvel’s uneven track record of figuring out how to entice MCU fans, this counts as a win. Caitlin Rosberg

STL070774.jpegBloodborne #1
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Publisher: Titan Comics
Comics firebrand and Generation Gone writer Ales Kot teams with impressively prolific Sex artist Piotr Kowalsi to adapt the ominous and insanely challenging FromSoftware videogame Bloodborne this week, and the game’s intense fanbase is eagerly waiting to see how the duo pulls it off. Bloodborne (the game) portions out its Lovecraftian lore through small details and haunting design work, not clear narrative storytelling. Bloodborne (the comic) must strike a fine balance between matching the game’s vague menace and telling a cohesive tale set in this world. Kot has yet to take a straightforward approach to licensed comics, and Kowalksi has a flair for the psychosexually grotesque, so odds are good that Bloodborne is in good hands. Now when’s the next game coming out, FromSoftware? Steve Foxe

STL072753.jpegThe Brave & the Bold: Batman & Wonder Woman #1
Writer/Artist: Liam Sharp
Publisher: DC Comics
Greg Rucka may have made his statement on Wonder Woman—passing off her title to an underwhelming current run from writer James Robinson—but Rucka’s collaborator Liam Sharp isn’t quite done with the Amazon. Sharp picks up where he left off with Diana’s modern-day adventures, and he’s bringing Batman along for the ride, dropping the two into a murder investigation of a Celtic god. Sharp’s gnarly take on superhero art proved to be a perfect fit for Wonder Woman’s blend of costumed heroics and mythological drama, and the addition of the Celtic canon opens up new dimensions of monsters and deities for him to work with. This is Sharp’s first major outing as a writer and artist, but his stint working with Rucka is better experience than most Wonder Woman scribes can claim, and the Batman/Wonder Woman dynamic is a frequently under-utilized part of DC’s trinity. Steve Foxe

STL073259.jpegCave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye/Swamp Thing Special #1
Writer: Jon Rivera
Artist: Langdon Foss
Publisher: Young Animal/DC Comics
The penultimate issue of DC’s “Milk Wars” arrives this week, the bizarre crossover that brings the Young Animal imprint and the biggest heroes of DC’s core lineup together only to blow them apart again. Though not as big in scope as Metal or Doomsday Clock, the other DC events in publication right now, “Milk Wars” is ambitious and unique in a way most event comics just aren’t. Each individual issue embraces the weirdness that’s been brewing on the Young Animal side of things, drawing the line further into DC’s core storytelling and giving readers a fun adventure at the same time. As with the previous “Milk Wars” titles, this one is written by the writer at the helm of the corresponding Young Animal title; in this case, Jon Rivera. Artist Langdon Foss may not have the kind of name recognition some of the other contributors do, but his work on Get Jiro! and other offbeat titles makes him a good fit for this unusual pairing. This book also includes the conclusion of Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew’s Eternity Girl backup story, which spins off into a mini-series in the coming months. Caitlin Rosberg

STL072762.jpegDeathbed #1
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics
Deathbed sounds like a mashup of Big Fish, Up and every horror film about an old man in an older house rolled up and smoked by Lois Lane. A young writer is sent to record the deathbed confessions-cum-memoirs of an aging adventurer whose tall tales turn into something even more unbelievable as time goes on. Joshua Williamson has a penchant for weird adventure stories filled with twists and intrigue, as proven by his work on Birthright, and seeing Riley Rossmo back on a book for more than a single issue is always exciting, even if Deathbed is a limited miniseries. Rossmo’s sharp, kinetic style was a big part of why both Constantine and Batman/The Shadow worked so well, to say nothing of the success of The Batman Who Laughed in the Metal event. Vertigo feels like a shadow of what it was in the past, and many stories that might once have found a home there are in other imprints and at other publishers, but Deathbed may just inject some life into Vertigo during its 25th anniversary. Caitlin Rosberg

STL072537.jpegDoctor Strange: Damnation #1
Writers: Nick Spencer & Donny Cates
Artist: Rod Reis
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Marvel has steered clear of mega-event crossovers in the wake of the poorly received Secret Empire, but that hasn’t stopped the publisher from greenlighting smaller crossovers in distinct corners of their universe. With Infinity Countdown subsuming the cosmic characters, Doctor Strange: Damnation arrives to give the Marvel U.’s magic users a crisis of their own. Doctor Strange writer and Marvel rising star Donny Cates splits writing duties here with Mr. Secret Empire himself, Nick Spencer, who has been absent from the line during the “Legacy” relaunch era. Spencer’s involvement makes sense; Damnation picks up Secret Empire’s destruction of Las Vegas, as Marvel’s favorite Satan stand-in Mephisto seizes the opportunity to make a foothold in the city of sin. Rod Reis, who contributed to Secret Empire and Spencer’s Captain America, lends his painterly style to the hellish proceedings, and continues to prove himself as one of Marvel’s best recent talent acquisitions, landing somewhere between Mike Del Mundo and Bill Sienkiewicz. Steve Foxe

STL071584.jpegLucas Stand: Inner Demons #1
Writers: Kurt Sutter & Caitlin Kittredge
Artist: Jesús Hervás
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
It’s not often that success in one medium translates to another, but Kurt Sutter, creator of Sons of Anarchy as well as a producer, writer and director on The Shield, has found a niche for himself in comics, too. After the success of the six-issue miniseries Lucas Stand, Sutter, co-writer Caitlin Kittredge and artist Jesús Hervás have returned to to the character for a new four-issue story. The titular Stand is a veteran who got himself caught up in deal best described as Ghost Rider meets Quantum Leap, as he’s sent back and forth in time to hunt demons. In this new series, Stand has broken free of the original arrangement and finds himself on his own without guidance from a master, vulnerable to new dangers. It’s always good to see an entire creative team returning to continue a story together as if a testament to the fun they had the first time around. Caitlin Rosberg

STL071402.jpegMata Hari #1
Writer: Emma Beeby
Artist: Ariela Kristantina
Publisher: Berger Books/ Dark Horse Comics
Mata Hari marks the third release from legendary Vertigo editor Karen Berger’s new imprint at Dark Horse, and perhaps the biggest question mark yet. Incognegro and Anthony Bourdain are both proven quantities, but writer Emma Beeby is much better known in the U.K. than stateside. Beeby, the first woman to write iconic British sci-fi character Judge Dredd, is joined on Mata Hari by Insexts artist Ariela Kristantina, who tightens her style slightly to depict Mata Hari’s eclectic life. As is fitting for a woman known for slippery definitions of the truth, Mata Hari takes a looping approach to the titular character’s life, switching between the moments before her execution by firing squad, her (briefly) privileged childhood, her stint as a “Javanese princess” and other periods of her historic life. Beeby says in an afterword that this is the story she’s been dying to tell for years, and the effort in this first issue certainly backs up that statement. Steve Foxe

STL071265.jpegPunks Not Dead #1
Writer: David Barnett
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Publisher: Black Crown/ IDW Publishing
The Black Crown imprint at IDW, led by former Vertigo guiding voice Shelly Bond, has developed some interesting, unique books since it launched last year. Assassinistas is just hitting its stride and Kid Lobotomy wraps up its first arc soon, so Punks Not Dead arrives at a great time. A teenage boy discovers that he has supernatural powers when the ghost of a punk rocker arrives in his life. There are echoes of Lucifer, Books of Magic and Sandman here, not to mention Hellblazer: the irreverent, punk treatment of death and magic revolving around a young man who probably wants nothing to do with it. Writer David Barnett has a lengthy prose bibliography, but he did write two comics starring the open-source character Jenny Everywhere under a penname. Artist Martin Simmonds, on the other hand, has contributed to a slew of different projects, and his style has a contained sort of chaos to it that seems like a good fit for Black Crown’s Vertigo-esque legacy. Punks Not Dead doesn’t feel quite as unexpected or quirky as the other Black Crown titles, but it should still fill a relatively empty niche in the industry. Caitlin Rosberg

STL064936.jpegRust Vol. 4
Writer/Artist: Royden Lepp
Publisher: Archaia/BOOM! Studios
Cartoonist Royden Lepp channeled the loss of his father, also an artist, into Rust, a steampunk-ish sci-fi comic about automaton war, family and a boy with a jet pack, and now the saga comes to its conclusion in this fourth volume, published seven years after Lepp first began his tale. Previous volumes found a family defending its farm from robot attacks, aided by the mysterious Jet Jones, whose origins might doom the very people he hopes to protect. Lepp’s cartooning is animated and stylish without undercutting Rust’s more serious themes, making the series a perfect read for fans of Bone, or any younger readers looking for age-appropriate comics that indulge in sci-fi adventure. Steve Foxe

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