Black Panther, Lumberjanes #50, “Flash Wars” & More in Required Reading: Comics for 5/23/2018

Comics Lists Required Reading
Black Panther, Lumberjanes #50, “Flash Wars” & More in Required Reading: Comics for 5/23/2018

Podracing! Podracing in the year 2018. No, the podracing-focused Star Wars Annual #4 isn’t the biggest book out this week, but we couldn’t resist leading with that news. If you want to talk “big,” Marvel has a big beginning and an even bigger ending. Brian Michael Bendis, who’s readying his Man of Steel launch at DC Comics, sees his final Marvel issue hit stands with Invincible Iron Man #600. To avoid the House of Ideas becoming too somber this week, Marvel also launches Black Panther #1, which expands Wakanda’s reach into the stars. If Marvel isn’t your jam, we’ve also got an all-ages anniversarie, a time-spanning tie-in, a new Mignolaverse entry, the beginning of “Flash Wars” and whatever singular thing it is that Michael DeForge does so well. Strap in, accept that podracing is a better fictional sport than quidditch and enjoy this week’s Required Reading.

STL079158.jpegAdventure Time: Beginning of the End #1
Writer: Ted Anderson
Artists: Marina Julia
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
BOOM! Studios helped change the licensed-comic landscape with Adventure Time, and now that the cartoon is wrapping up and BOOM!’s primary comic series has concluded, the publisher’s latest Adventure Time offering focuses on a slightly different take. “Set in a world separate from but inspired by” the Ooo we know and love, Adventure Time: Beginning of the End recruits My Little Pony writer Ted Anderson and SLAM! The Next Jam artist Marina Julia to pit Finn against Chronologius Rex, the Lord of Hours and All Time in a three-issue saga. Finn and his buddies must tackle alternate past, future and present versions of themselves to prevent Finn from reaching the Vanishing Point and being erased from all of existence. Steve Foxe

STL079963.jpegBlack Panther #1
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Daniel Acuña
Publisher: Marvel Comics
As with Avengers #1 and #2 before it, Black Panther #1 makes it clear that last fall’s Marvel Legacy #1 probably should have dropped in May of this year instead. Jason Aaron’s entire Avengers plot stems directly from that kickoff title, and now Ta-Nehisi Coates and Daniel Acuña will pick up the Black Panther teaser shown there for a brand-new Black Panther #1. It turns out that Wakanda isn’t just a fiercely guarded African nation—it’s also an intergalactic empire founded in T’Challa’s name. After a bit of a dry start, Coates has settled into his groove on Black Panther, and Acuña’s work on titles like Uncanny Avengers proves he’s the perfect choice to take T’Challa to the stars and beyond. Black Panther’s profile has never been higher than it is right now, which makes a bombastic new #1 is a no-brainer for Marvel and fans alike. Steve Foxe

STL081202.jpegFlash #47
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artists: Howard Porter
Publisher: DC Comics
Flash versus Flash, oh my! Joshua Williamson’s run on Flash, much of it drawn by JLA legend Howard Porter, has been an extended love letter to fans of the Speed Force and its current pacesetter, Barry Allen. With an abundance of speedsters burning rubber throughout the book, Flash is an electrified ode to straightforward superhero comics, and nothing says “superhero classic” like a mentor/mentee showdown set against time-travel shenanigans. With Iris West stolen away to the future to stand trial for the murder of Eobard Thawne, Barry Allen and Wally West seem fated to come to super-speed blows while attempting to rescue her. Flash hasn’t been a particularly innovative take of DC’s Scarlet Speedster, but it’s never skimped on the fan service, and this “Flash Wars” kickoff issue is sure to deliver the same level of thrills for dedicated readers. Steve Foxe

STL079579.jpegInvincible Iron Man #600
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Stefano Caselli, Alex Maleev, Others
Publisher: Marvel Comics
This week marks the end of several eras all at once. Brian Michael Bendis’ final monthly issue at Marvel (at least for the time being) arrives in the form of Invincible Iron Man #600. Bendis has for years been a leading force and main attraction at Marvel, not only writing many individual titles but also helming a slew of events and crossovers. This final issue also marks the return of Tony Stark and directs the characters at the center of the Iron Man universe toward the future. Bendis is joined by longtime collaborators Stefano Caselli and Alex Maleev, among others, for 42 pages at a $5.99 price tag. This isn’t just the end of Bendis’ Marvel reign, though; the return of Tony Stark also displaces Ironheart Riri Williams, who helmed the title while Stark was out of action. Riri, along with the Jane Foster Thor and other recent additions at Marvel, have slowly been benched or removed from play all together over the last few months as Marvel leans hard into its “Fresh Start” relaunch and returns characters to their most iconic status quos. With the creator behind Miles Morales and Riri Williams officially gone from Marvel’s creative lineup, the shift feels even more pronounced. Invincible Iron Man #600 marks so many endings it would be hard to name them all, but it also comes with a brand-new villain, and it’s a must-read for Bendis fans and Tony Stark lovers. Caitlin Rosberg

STL074431.jpegKid Lobotomy Vol. 1: A Lad Insane
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Tess Fowler
Publisher: Black Crown/ IDW Publishing
Kid Lobotomy helped Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint hit shelves with a bang as a strong start to a brand-new line founded mostly on both Bond’s reputation as a former editor at Vertigo. To say that Peter Milligan is no stranger to making weird, fantastical comics would be an understatement; beyond his numerous contributions to 2000 A.D., he also wrote Shade, the Changing Man, Enigma, Hellblazer and X-Statix, books that welcomed the unknown and ample meta-commentary. Pairing him with Tess Fowler, whose art is sharp and personal and embraces both gore and magic, was a smart move, giving Kid Lobotomy a sense of reality despite the strangeness, and a heft and weight to each of the characters that made them feel important and fully formed right off the bat. Starring Kid, a rock-star-slash-surgeon-slash-rock-star-surgeon, the book revolves around his twisted family and his relationship to his father’s legacy. Kid spends much of the book trapped in a hotel, combating his own mental gymnastics and the manipulation of people around him. It’s Metamorphosis for the modern age, with questions of identity and agency and intention at every turn, put into a blender with designer drugs and ingested immediately. Part ghost story, part intimate and internal psychological drama, Kid Lobotomy builds on Milligan and Fowler’s skills to make something kooky and singular. This first volume collects all six issues in the complete-for-now run, and is a great jumping on point for readers new to Black Crown’s aesthetic. Caitlin Rosberg

STL079127.jpegLumberjanes #50
Writers: Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh
Artists: Dozerdraws & Brooklyn Allen
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Released four years ago in April, Lumberjanes #1 was initially the first in just eight issues of a miniseries from BOOM! Studios: a launch that felt fresh and new and more than welcome, and unsurprisingly drove the publisher to extending it beyond its initial plan. Monthly comics were only just barely starting to turn toward new demographics, and even still struggle to embrace the young girl readers who have helped rocket creators like Raina Telgemeier onto bestseller lists, but Lumberjanes nevertheless felt like a sea change. This week, Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Dozerdraws and Brooklyn Allen bring Lumberjanes #50 to life with an oversized anniversary issue for a series that continues to be top of the list for recommendations for fun, friendship-focused, female-friendly, all-inclusive books. Both Leyh and co-creator Watters have been writing the book for many issues, and have fully hit their stride as a storytelling team. The consistency on Lumberjanes is both remarkable and one of its biggest draws; it isn’t often that the same creators have a role to play in shaping story and characters for so many issues, and even with artist changes and new characters to introduce, the core cast has remained comfortingly familiar throughout. Lumberjanes not only marked a shift in the industry writ large—it has helped to propel even more change, offering proof that there is a market for something beyond grim-dark cape and cowl fare. For any comic, 50 issues is a remarkable achievement worth celebrating. For a book about teenage girls that focuses on affection and friendship, the achievement is that much more important to recognize. Caitlin Rosberg

STL080023.jpegS.H.I.E.L.D. by Hickman & Weaver #5
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Dustin Weaver
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It’s been seven years since the last issue of Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver’s S.H.I.E.L.D. hit shelves, and against all odds, Marvel is finally publishing the final two installments beginning this week. S.H.I.E.L.D. was a critical smash upon its initial release, and showcased Hickman’s expansive imagination and skill for world-building alongside Weaver’s immaculately detailed art. The two would go on to collaborate again during Hickman’s Avengers tenure, but nothing beats this throwback adventure starring Da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton and Nikola Tesla mixing it up with the Reed Richards and Tony Stark family lines. Unless you have a perfect memory, you may want to dig out your old issues—or the recent bundle Marvel released of the first four issues—before digging into this unexpected long-lost conclusion. Steve Foxe

STL080049.jpegStar Wars Annual #4
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artists: Marc Laming, Roland Boschi, Ario Anindito
Publisher: Marvel Comics
“Strap in, racing fans—we’re going podracing!” So promises the solicit text for Star Wars Annual #4, all but guaranteeing that we’ll be slapping down our hard-earned $4.99 for this oversized issue that finds Luke Skywalker, Sana Starros and Darth Vader mixing it up around the Prequel Trilogy’s favorite sport. Podracing may symbolize The Phantom Menace’s worst excesses to some franchise fans, but we still have fond memories of 1999’s merchandising blitz, from Sebulba action figures to full-blown podracing arcade games. Cullen Bunn’s Darth Maul mini-series hit appropriate Prequel-era beats and the art trio of Marc Laming, Roland Boschi and Ario Anindito all bring capable skill to the table. Fondness for podracing aside, Marvel’s Star Wars annuals have tended to introduce plot points the fold back into the main series, so regular readers shouldn’t skip this just because it gives them Jake Lloyd flashbacks. Steve Foxe

STL079288.jpegA Western World
Writer/Artist: Michael DeForge
Publisher: Koyama
The blurb for this book is practically nonexistent, but it doesn’t need to say more than it does. If you’re into Michael DeForge (relentless pusher of comics boundaries), then you’re kind of going to be there regardless. I know I am. A Western World will collect some of his short work, which is no less interesting than his longer stuff. For more on DeForge, check out some of our previous interviews with the singular creator. Hillary Brown

STL080794.jpegWitchfinder: The Gates of Heaven #1
Writers: Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson
Artist: D’Israeli
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
The ever-expanding Hellboy universe has another title to welcome into the fold this week: Mike Mignola, co-writer Chris Roberson and artist D’Israeli team up for Witchfinder: The Gates of Heaven, the next chapter in the story of an occult investigator and his adventures in Victorian London. One of the strengths of Mignola’s work is that, while it is vast and deep in scope, many of the individual tales are entirely self-contained in just a couple of issues. The Gates of Heaven is set to be five issues long, and builds on four previous arcs. Though that only constitutes a handful of earlier issues, Mignola usually structures these mini-series in such a way that new readers can jump on at any point without getting lost or frustrated. With the backing of the Queen herself, Sir Edward Grey finds himself combating not just a mystical threat this time, but a man with scientific knowledge that threatens Grey’s life—and the rest of London. These ancillary “Mignolaverse” books can hit the sweet spot where Hellboy fans, monster-of-the-week procedural fans and period-piece piece fans all intersect, which makes for an easy draw for new readers. Caitlin Rosberg

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