Captain America, Batman #50, Catwoman & More in Required Reading: Comics for 7/4/2018

Comics Lists Required Reading
Captain America, Batman #50, Catwoman & More in Required Reading: Comics for 7/4/2018

Whoa—it’s quite a week for comics! You may have heard that a certain BIGGEST SUPERHERO ICON IN THE WORLD is getting married this week, and we couldn’t be happier for her. She’s celebrating like any independent woman, with the launch of her own solo series, too. In fact, we’re excited enough for Selina Kyle that we cheated and included 11 recommendations below, so we could fit in her full nuptials alongside launches like a brand-new, socially relevant Captain America, a welcome new arc for Astonishing X-Men, Vita Ayala and Lisa Sterle’s Submerged and a sexy anthropomorphic pig comic imported from Italy. We’ve also got a major milestone for Marvel’s Star Wars series, a continuation of a beloved Jim Henson property, the next steps for the worlds of Black Hammer and Paradiso, and a mini-series that finds a future Frank Castle bonded with the Ghost Rider and acting like Deadpool at the behest of Galactus and Thanos. Comics, everybody!

STL086228.jpegAstonishing X-Men #13
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Greg Land
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Matthew Rosenberg continues his takeover of the X-books this week with Astonishing X-Men #13, a sharp about-face from Charles Soule’s 12-issue saga of a resurrected (with a catch) Professor X. Readers can approach #13 and if it were #1, though—no core cast members carry over, and Rosenberg’s focal character, Havok, neatly recaps his tumultuous recent adventures. Soule’s run had a compelling plot held back by an unnecessary rotating artist approach; undoubtedly many X-fans are prepared for Rosenberg’s Astonishing to be similarly kneecapped by Greg Land’s infamous reference-heavy style. Thankfully, colorist Frank D’Armata seems to bring out the best in Land, and Land keeps his layouts clear and dynamic with different framing choices. Direct face shots can still give off an unnerving uncanny valley feeling, but this is among the stronger work Land has done for the House of Ideas. Along with a struggle-bus-riding Havok, this issue begins the rehabilitation of another compromised mutant favorite, and ends on a surprise return that lives up to the shock factor Rosenberg has been teasing on Twitter. If Rosenberg’s other X-titles are any indication, Astonishing might take its place next to X-Men Red as the publisher’s best X-team offerings. Steve Foxe

STL086528.jpegSTL086344.jpegBatman #50 & Catwoman #1
Writers: Tom King/ Joëlle Jones
Artists: Mikel Janin, Others/ Joëlle Jones
Publisher: DC Comics
Selling readers on Batman #50 shouldn’t be hard, even if the New York Times spoiled part of the will-they-won’t-they this past Sunday. Tom King, along with artists like Mikel Janin, Lee Weeks and Joëlle Jones, have been telling a Batman story that challenges both canon and conventional wisdom. A book that can pitch the Joker and the Riddler against one another and result in heavy emotions about Kite Man is not the kind of comic that cape-and-cowl fans will want to take for granted. Batman #50 brings us to the Bat/Cat wedding, an event that has teased its way through most of King’s 50-issue run. Unlike the NYT, we’ll let you discover for yourselves whether Selina and Bruce walk away with wedding rings on their gloved fingers. Arriving the same day is the first issue of Joëlle Jones’s Catwoman solo title, which takes Selina immediately back into her element just hours after the wedding. Jones is one of the strongest artists from King’s Batman run, and a graduate of DC’s Talent Workshop for writers, which makes her the—apologies—purrfect choice for this book. It’s rare that a romantic event is at the center of a superhero summer arc. With a lot of enemies between the two of them, plenty of allies who’d object to any kind of union between the Bat and the Cat and their own issues with bad behavior and commitment, there are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about this union. The best way to find out exactly what goes down is to pick up both issues this Wednesday. Caitlin Rosberg w/ Steve Foxe

STL085569.jpegJim Henson’s Beneath the Dark Crystal #1
Writer: Adam Smith
Artist: Alexandria Huntington
Publisher: Archaia/ BOOM! Studios
Jim Henson’s creative output has enjoyed a resurgence in comics thanks to a slew of titles from BOOM! Studios’ Archaia imprint, with new stories ranging from Fraggle Rock to Labyrinth to The Dark Crystal. The 12-issue miniseries Beneath the Dark Crystal acts not just as an expansion of the stories already told, but as a direct sequel to the beloved film and its previous continuation, Power of the Dark Crystal. Readers rejoin Kensho’s story as he reaches the Crystal Castle and decides who will go on to lead the Thra. An all-new creative team tackles the project, though writer Adam Smith did participate in the Jim Henson’s Labyrinth 2017 Special. Smith wrote Long Walk to Valhalla and was featured in the DC New Talent Showcase but this looks to be his first series credit; artist Alexandria Huntington is also an industry newcomer. They have large shoes to fill with Simon Spurrier and Nichole and Kelly Matthews behind the success of The Power of the Dark Crystal, not to mention Henson’s original vision. Fans of the film and the universe it introduced should definitely pick up this new issue, and its success could spell even bigger things for Smith and Huntington down the line. Caitlin Rosberg

STL086925.jpegCaptain America #1
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Francis Yu’s hotly anticipated Captain America #1 arrives on the Fourth of July (of course) and the most shocking thing about it isn’t its quality—we know by now that both of these men can craft a damn good comic book—but how willing it is to confront the character’s recent legacy. Nick Spencer’s long tenure with Captain America culminated in the Nazi-adjascent terrorist organization Hydra seizing control of the United States, with a Steve Rogers lookalike (more or less) as their figurehead. Rather than take Captain America #1 as a full fresh start, Coates and Yu lean into the fallout, portraying an America culturally at war with itself. Much like #MAGA in the real world, the Hydra takeover was a Pandora’s Box of America’s nastiest impulses, and knocking the green Pretty-Much-Nazis out of power doesn’t suddenly wipe the slate clean for the thousands (if not more) of Americans who were actually pretty into super-villain rule. Longtime fans will be pleased to find Bucky taking an active role in the title once again, and anyone who thinks they know what to expect from a Coates/Yu Captain America title should find themselves pretty quickly navigating unexpected waters with the introduction of a left-field villain. Happy Independence Day, America. Steve Foxe

STL086926.jpegCosmic Ghost Rider #1
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Dylan Burnett
Publisher: Marvel Comics
There’s a lot going on with Frank Castle these days. Since the end of the Becky Cloonan run, he has donned the War Machine armor, and now in this new miniseries spinning out of Thanos, a future version of Frank serves as the Ghost Rider, complete with obligatory skull motif. Thanks to Faustian bargains with the devil, Galactus and the Mad Titan movie star himself, this iteration of Frank Castle is now the Cosmic Ghost Rider, going places only Surfers and Guardians have dared visit before. Donny Cates, the man behind the Thanos story that introduced this Deadpool-esque take on Frank, is back for this five-issue series, with art by his former collaborator Dylan Burnett. When independent enough to stand alone, short series like this can act as great entry points for new readers. But since this is a Thanos spinoff more than a Ghost Rider tale, and the fact that this could easily be part of Marvel’s upcoming #WhoGetsWarped mash-ups, there is some risk for confusion here. Cates also scripts Death of the Inhumans #1 this week, but dog-lovers should avoid that one at all costs. Caitlin Rosberg w/ Steve Foxe

STL086860.jpegParadiso #5
Writer: Ram V.
Artist: Devmalya Pramanik
Publisher: Image Comics
Set decades after a mysterious event known as the “Midnight” in the bizarre, pulsing city of Paradiso, Ram V. and Devmalya Pramanik’s Paradiso sends readers on a breathless dive into a fully formed world of dangerous cyborgs and desperate conflicts. Protagonist Jack Kryznan possesses an item that may disrupt the future of the city, which plops him squarely in the sights of…just about everyone, from forlorn survivors to cruel crime lords. Perhaps most easily described as China Miéville scripting Akira or Trigun, the expansive sci-fi series returns this week for its second arc, which finds Jack and his allies plunging beneath Paradiso, into an inverted city full of things that go bump in the night. If you missed out on Paradiso the first time around, snag the trade paperback and catch up before you’re left behind on one of 2018’s wildest rides. Steve Foxe

STL086981.jpegQuantum Age: From the World of Black Hammer #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Wilfredo Torres
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
At this point, Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer universe is taking no prisoners. DC Comics keeps the Justice Society on ice? Boom, Starman analogue series Doctor Star. No sign of the Legion of Superheroes returning this century? Enter Quantum Age: From the World of Black Hammer, which leaps 1,000 years into the future of the farm to introduce a familiar assembly of teen sci-fi heroes inspired by the capes-and-tights antics of previous eras. Lemire is joined here by artist Wilfredo Torres, whose clean, bold line is a departure from other artists in the Black Hammer fold, but a welcome one given Quantum Age’s much different setting. At least one familiar superhero identity pops up in this issue, but readers will have to go all in to discover if Quantum Age stands to reveal any secrets to the Black Hammer mystery or, if like Doctor Star before it, this is a standalone branch of Lemire’s ever-expanding superhero cosmos. Steve Foxe

STL085435.jpegSubmerged #1
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Publisher: Vault Comics
The expanding number of comics about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, especially young women, has invigorated an entire subgenre of books. Books like Misfit City, The Woods and Skyward offer some of the same comfort of slice-of-life stories that seem to only happen when superpowers aren’t involved, but still center fantastic elements and real stakes. Vita Ayala, fresh off the successful launch of The Wilds over at Black Mask, crafts a story about urban danger and sibling bonds, following Elyisa Puente as she hunts for her brother down in the flooded New York subway system during a massive storm. Artist Lisa Sterle is the artist for horror indie Long Lost, and has an aesthetic that can really suit this type of book, focused on character acting just as much as setting. Submerged could very well be one of the few comics to confront the dangers of climate change and the uneven impact it has on different people and locations, but either way readers are in for a wild and emotional ride if The Wilds is any indication of Ayala’s skill in building original worlds. Caitlin Rosberg

STL086265.jpegStar Wars #50
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Salvador Larroca, Giuseppe Camuncoli
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Marvel’s blockbuster Star Wars ongoing hits a major milestone this week, and thank goodness Kieron Gillen is at the helm of this particular Star Destroyer. While previous writer Jason Aaron did a bang-up job launching the series, Aaron’s run ran out of Kyber crystals badly by the time he got around to an arc of Yoda dealing with giant sentient rock monsters. Gillen, though, is a long-term planner, as seen on Journey Into Mystery, Young Avengers and the current The Wicked + The Divine, and Star Wars #50 brings plot points simmering since his Darth Vader run to full boil. Salvador Larroca is along for the ride, and anyone initially turned off by his photo-realistic faces should rest easy knowing that that aspect has been dialed way back. It’s not clear if this series is actually getting close to the events of The Empire Strikes Back, but if Gillen and Larroca keep up the current quality, we’re happy to see the post-A New Hope era stretched out a bit longer. Current Darth Vader artist Giuseppe Camuncoli also contributes a back-up short. Steve Foxe

STL086690.jpegUnnatural #1
Writer/Artist: Mirka Andolfo
Publisher: Image Comics
Perhaps best known for her art in DC Bombshells and Bombshells: United, Mirka Andolfo makes her U.S. creative-owned debut this week with the English release of Unnatural. Originally published in Andolfo’s native Italy, Unnatural explores a world where personal freedoms are severely limited and deviation from the norm is punished. The comic stars Leslie, an anthropomorphized pig girl who, like a lot of humans her age, doesn’t like her job and lives under the thumb of a government that she hates. It’s not often that American print comics delve too far into anthropomorphized animals, and even less often that the book can have any sort of sexual implications; easily recognizable exceptions like Blacksad are European, while books like Mouse Guard and Angel Catbird aren’t as overtly sexual. Judging by the cover alone, Unnatural is going to confront some uncomfortable and necessary tropes about sex and autonomy, and Andolfo seems like she has a lot to say. Caitlin Rosberg

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