Captain America, Witch Boy, Akira & More in Required Reading: Comics for 11/1/17

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<i>Captain America</i>, <i>Witch Boy</i>, <i>Akira</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 11/1/17

Happy Halloween! We’ve been celebrating the wicked holiday all month, but now the day is finally upon us (and almost wholly overshadowed by indictments galore!). If you’ve peeled yourself away from a Stranger Things binge, you’ll find a bevy of spooky delights for you this week, from a witchy coming-of-age tale to gravediggers-turned-supernatural soldiers. Scariest of all: the price tag for the deluxe hardcover Akira box set (which may just be worth every telekinetically controlled penny). If you’ve already expended all of your Halloween energy, we’ve also got a gorgeous Italian Batman story, the first step towards Captain America’s rehabilitation, a surprising one-shot extension of an ‘80s Marvel favorite, a handsome hardcover collection of Paper Girls, DC’s latest socially conscious cartoon redux and new works from the utterly singular minds of Bryan Talbot and Neal Adams. Plenty of treats, one or two tricks—we’re celebrating Halloween right.


Akira 35th Anniversary Box Set

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Writer/Artist: Katsuhiro Otomo
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
It feels borderline insulting to summarize the impact of Akira in a few sentences, but it would be a greater injustice to omit its gorgeous box set from this week’s required reading. Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga is a lynchpin of international pop culture, its saga of drugs, motorcycles, government and mayhem seeping into every nook of modern media. The plot concerns two youths imbued with near-godlike power—the titular Akira and Tetsuo—and the destruction they inflict on a pre- and post-apocalyptic Tokyo. Outside of comics and anime, pioneers ranging from Kanye West to the Wachowskis have channeled its feverish energy into the 21st century. We can’t imagine a character like Stranger Thing’s Eleven existing in a world without Akira and its reality-warping juvenile delinquents.

Publisher Kodansha has offered various print editions, but its new 35th Anniversary Box Set is intimidatingly attractive. The package includes all six hardcover volumes (presented in their original right-to-left reading order), the Akira Club art book and a patch with protagonist Kaneda’s pill logo. Amazon is currently asking $107 for it, which averages around $15 a book; that’s one hell of a deal for one of the best comic expressions in the history of the medium, especially considering that each book holds more than 300 pages on average. Paste will be taking a deeper look into this cyberpunk gamechanger in a new series of features throughout November. Sean Edgar


Batman: The Dark Prince Charming Book One

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Writer/Artist: Enrico Marini
Publisher: DC Comics
Not that this statement isn’t often true, but it’s a good time to be a Batman fan. Both the core Batman series and Detective Comics have been lauded by fans and critics alike since the Rebirth era began, Batman-centric event Metal is dominating sales charts with its slew of dark Batmen, Sean Gordon Murphy’s Batman: White Knight launched last month with a Joker-as-hero spin, and now Italian comic creator Enrico Marini enters the fold with a gorgeous two-part hardcover tale of the Bat, Cat and criminal jester. Marini’s style melds stylish, Eastern-influenced cartooning with impressively grand set design and painterly colors to achieve a prestige feeling without sacrificing action and motion. His designs for Batman and his supporting cast situate the book just outside of continuity, but comfortably within an accessible Bat-mythos. Marini’s two-part story of a mysterious young girl and the way her kidnapping unites Batman and his clownish arch-foe will conclude early next year. Steve Foxe


Captain America #695

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Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Much like the country he represents, Captain America has a long road to recovery ahead of him. The year-plus build-up to Secret Empire tarnished the patriotic icon by revealing him to be a Hydra sleeper agent before plunging into an awkward on- and off-the-page explanation of how Steve Rogers could be a fascist Nazi ally without being a Nazi himself. Secret Empire under-sold and proved to be a critical bomb, leaving Mark Waid and Chris Samnee quite the task to bring Steve back to his flag-waving roots. The creative duo collaborated on fan-favorite runs on Daredevil and Black Widow, but Marvel’s momentum has slowed as of late, with Waid’s own Avengers and Champions runs failing to make much of a splash. As Captain America sets out on a rustic road trip to rediscover himself and what he stands for, Waid and the insanely talented Samnee have their work cut out for them in restoring Steve to his proper heroic status. Steve Foxe


Deadman #1

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Writer/Artist: Neal Adams
Publisher: DC Comics
Neal Adams is a certified living legend in comics, partially responsible for visually redefining the medium decades ago and for contributing some all-time great runs to series like Batman and Green Lantern. He’s also a completely bonkers writer, with bizarre pet obsessions (the “Expanding Earth” theory) and a boldness rarely seen in modern-day superhero storytelling. His Batman: Odyssey maxi-series took place largely within a hollow Earth and featured a shirtless, hirsute Batman screaming wildly at the reader as a framing device. Deadman expands plot themes from that title with an increased focus on Boston Brand, the undead acrobat Adams first illustrated way back in the ‘70s. With Adams’ loose, confident art and utterly batshit scripting style, Deadman is sure to be unlike anything else hitting stands this week. Don’t read this one under the influence of any mind-altering substances. Steve Foxe


Grandville: Force Majeure

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Writer/Artist: Bryan Talbot
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Bryan Talbot returns to his gilded-age noir epic with Grandville: Force Majeure, the cartoonist’s fifth entry in a series about an anthropomorphic badger solving crimes in alt-history Paris. Like Talbot’s previous benchmarks Luther Arkwright and Heart of Empire, place is the most prominent character, rendered in Talbot’s lavish, ornate post-Napoleonic cityscapes. This new graphic novel shows Scotland Yard Detective Archie LeBrock framed and on the run, not only forced to prove his innocence after being unjustly accused of murder, but also compelled to foil an unscrupulous gang from throwing multiple countries into turmoil. Projects like this wash over the reader with a litany of influences—steampunk, Franco-Belgian—articulated with care by one of the medium’s most distinguished voices. Sean Edgar


The Gravediggers Union #1

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Writer: Wes Craig
Artist: Toby Cypress
Publisher: Image Comics
Wes Craig first debuted The Gravediggers Union as a short story in his online anthology Blackhand Comics, with a crew of world-weary gravediggers repelling the living dead. Now Craig and his cemetery men are back with artist Toby Cypress for an ongoing tale of comedic horror. Cypress’ style isn’t a dead ringer for Craig’s work on books like Deadly Class, but captures an off-kilter stylization that should work spookily well for older men wielding shovels against the forces of the apocalypse. This oversized first issue promises “steroid zombies, monster gods, swamp vampires, ghost storms and space monkeys,” just in time for Halloween. Steve Foxe


The Jetsons #1

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Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Pier Brito
Publisher: DC Comics
A few months ago, DC released a preview of The Jetsons that injected a disarming, emotional core into the cartoon’s vision of the future, originally comprised in the art-deco-obsessed filter of the ‘60s. Unlike DC’s Hanna-Barbera standout The Flintstones, the cartoon studio’s other familiar comedy only witnessed a single season in the ‘60s before snagging a two-year resuscitation in the ‘80s and a feature film in 1990. Given that decade-sprawling history, the creative team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Pier Brito has ample space to streamline, innovate and expound on America’s favorite nuclear family living in a post-post-nuclear age. The preview’s concept of souls transferring to robots held a more optimistic Black Mirror tone, a la “San Junipero,” and if the comic continues that trend of smart, elegant sci-fi, this comic could deliver the publisher another thought-provoking extrapolation of four-fingered nostalgia. Sean Edgar


Paper Girls Deluxe Edition Vol. 1

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Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Publisher: Image Comics
In the pantheon of western comics, few creators have done more to broaden the medium’s prospects than Brian K. Vaughan. His diverse, sexy sci-fi Saga served as the vanguard for creator-owned comics that weren’t afraid to grow up with kids who had devoted their allowance money to Big Two superheroes. His second ongoing at Image Comics appropriately addresses the youth of today, with artist Cliff Chiang and colorist Matt Wilson ushering a DayGlo, Lisa Frank aesthetic to this story of four kids hijacked into a space-time bildungsroman. Paper Girls certainly fits into the ‘80s-fueled renaissance that’s also bore witness to Stranger Things and an endless stream of Stephen King adaptations, but this comic sports its own neon DNA. Each chapter broadens a sprawling epic involving time-traveling mutant rebels, dinosaur-riding authoritarians and, um, warring water bears. Outside of that rich genre tapestry lies one question: at what age do youths stop trying to change the world and decide to maintain the status quo? Chiang’s world-building immaculately contrasts the fantastic with the suburban, complemented by Wilson’s casts of magenta and cyan. Knowing the book’s sales and Paste’s audience, you’re probably already reading Paper Girls, but if you’re not, this hardback collects the first 10 issues and is the perfect way to catch up. Sean Edgar


Power Pack #63

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Writer: Devin Grayson
Artist: Marika Cresta
Publisher: Marvel Comics
One of Marvel’s more puzzling Legacy decisions is the small handful of one-shot series continuations dropping over the coming months, extending long-cancelled series like Silver Sable & the Wild Pack with original-series numbering but no clear future beyond these standalone issues. Will the kids of Power Pack show up in another title down the line? Or is issue #63 a soft test for a new Power Pack mini-series or ongoing? No matter the extended viability of Alex, Julie, Jack and Katie, this standalone issue welcomes Devin Grayson back to Marvel and introduces Marika Cresta, whose only previous work seems to have come from smaller publisher Zenoscope. Grayson rose to prominence over a decade ago as one of comics’ most prolific female writers, notably scripting over 40 issues of Nightwing, but has appeared only rarely in the years since. Power Pack is an unlikely vehicle for her triumphant return, but we’ll take it if it means more Grayson in the near future. Steve Foxe


Witch Boy

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Writer/Artist: Molly Ostertag
Publisher: Scholastic Graphix
Teens are more likely to feel like monsters than to fear them, their bodies contorting into new shapes, pores oozing and hormones pumping. These years mark a massive shift in identity both corporeal and internal, and that jarring change is even more severe for Aster, the protagonist of Molly Ostertag’s The Witch Boy. The graphic novel charts a family whose male members grow into shapeshifters and whose females become witches—with no line-crossing. Yet Aster finds himself more inclined to sling spells than sprout fur, and a new threat emerges demanding his special talents, even if it results in his exile. Ostertag brews a fun and compelling analogy for the grating conformity kids feel as they segue into adults, appropriately constructed around one of history’s most prosecuted groups. Sean Edgar

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