Captain Phasma, Venomverse & More in Required Reading: Comics for 9/6/17

Comics Lists Required Reading
Captain Phasma, Venomverse & More in Required Reading: Comics for 9/6/17

Summer doesn’t technically end until September 22nd, but most of us are officially in autumn mode with Labor Day in the rearview mirror. The arrival of September brings with it a full harvest of new comics: DC Comics’ fan-favorite Bombshells returns for another round of pin-up-inspired heroism, Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss’ critically acclaimed 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank reaches its long-awaited conclusion and both Marvel and IDW Publishing contribute to mounting The Last Jedi hype with new Star Wars series. This Wednesday is so stuffed we can’t even cover every notable book hitting stands. In addition to the picks below, the Helena Crash team of Fabian Rangel, Jr. and Warwick J. Cadwell team up for an all-new Samurai Jack adventure, The Crow creator James O’Barr provides a cat-tastic variant cover to Doom Patrol, Mark Millar recruits Rob Williams and Simon Fraser for a new Kingsman miniseries and Riri Williams gets her own Generations one-shot. Good thing we won’t be distracted by the beach this weekend—there’s a lot to read.

4kids5.jpeg4 Kids Walk Into a Bank
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Tyler Boss
Publisher: Black Mask
Published over the course of a year and a half, what 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank lacked in frequency it more than made up for with hyper-stylized humor and heart. Writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Tyler Boss choreographed witty banter, ‘80s nostalgia and Saul Bass-inspired design into five relentlessly inventive issues. The fifth and final chapter lives up to the mini-series’ namesake, as grade-school protagonist Paige and her buds attempt to liberate a bundle of cash to ease her father’s debt to a band of Neo-Nazis. The title gorgeously contrasts childhood escapism with harsh adult realities; each issue juxtaposed nostalgic 16-bit and D&D fantasies against missed bills and abrasive violence. Rosenberg pits those two extremes against each other in the domestic epic’s final pages, and its denouement is likely to saturate these panels a darker hue with reader tears. It’s a shame this project only lasted a handful of issues, but it remains near-perfect in its economy; no panel is wasted, nor is any second spent with this gaggle of unforgettable juvenile delinquents. Sean Edgar

STL048467.jpegThe Black Beetle: Kara Bocek HC
Writer/Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
When it comes to atmospheric mysteries and horror comics with a hint of something retro, it’s hard to top Francesco Francavilla. The Italian artist is probably best known for his prodigious cover output, not to mention the grim and grisly Afterlife with Archie. His Instagram account is a boon to fans of old-school horror and monster movies, bursting with illustrations of Dracula and spaghetti westerns in broad swaths of black and poppy color. The Black Beetle: Kara Bocek collects a story that Francavilla both wrote and drew, originally serialized in Dark Horse Presents and printed together for the first time in this hardcover. This mystery lies in the vein of radio dramas, a Nazi-punching spy story with superhero identities that revisits characters established in 2013’s The Black Beetle: No Way Out. Francavilla’s already impressive work has continued to improve in the intervening years, and it’s always nice to see a creator return to a story he clearly enjoyed. Caitlin Rosberg

STL056777.jpegBombshells United #1
Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Marguerite Sauvage
Publisher: DC Comics
The Marguerites pair up once again to launch a new DC Comics Bombshells title, one of the boldest comics on shelves since it began two years ago last month. The original Bombshells title proved to be an antidote to a lot of what ails cape-and-cowl superhero titles: a character-driven series with supportive and loving relationships and moments of joy to contrast very real violence and loss. In an ideal world, a book about punching Nazis that features both platonic and romantic relationships between women wouldn’t be political, but Bombshells is, and Bombshells United seems to be pointed at all of the same targets. In this installment, Wonder Woman is called back to the United States by Donna Troy and Cassie Sandsmark to confront internment camps at home just as she and her friends faced the horrors of concentration camps and xenophobia on the European front. Shifting to focus on the Wonder Girls is a smart choice from Bennett, as their Batgirl compatriots continue to protect Gotham. If Bombshells United is anything like its predecessor, it will be a necessary reminder of all that these characters stand for, while still fun, visually appealing and uplifting to read. Caitlin Rosberg

ExtremityVol01.pngExtremity Vol. 1
Writer/Artist: Daniel Warren Johnson
Publisher: Skybound/ Image Comics
Daniel Warren Johnson’s sci-fi war epic packs one hell of an intriguing aftertaste. After getting buzzed off Bosch-dense landscapes of steampunk armies, massacre-bound robots and Miyazaki fantasy beasts, Johnson introduces a cutting ingredient to his fantasy bloodbaths: guilt. Extremity is a pacifist manifesto built into an adrenaline-lacquered Trojan horse, offering the story of a young girl who lost her hand to ages-old battles and her father’s Ahab-blind rage to crush their oppressors. Sit back and let the careening space skiffs and post-Celtic designs suck you in before planting this sobering lesson about the zero-sum game. This trade paperback collects the first half of the 12-issue maxiseries, introducing one of the most original, kinetic and thoughtful new concepts in comics this year. Sean Edgar

JohnWick1.jpegJohn Wick #1
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Giovanni Valletta
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
For all its brutally efficient shoot-‘em-up action, the world of John Wick is flush with a complex set of rules by which Keanu Reeves and his fellow assassins live and die, rules that writer Greg Pak and artist Giovanni Valletta will explain in this Dynamite Entertainment series. Pak is busy at Marvel these days, guiding the Totally Awesome Hulk and the crew of Weapon X, while Valletta brings a knack for action and capturing actor likenesses that should endear this sequential outing to fans of the film. Valletta is also complemented here by a neon-soaked palette that further recalls the dualogy’s trademark cinematography. There’s something to be said for “less is more” and not over-explaining cinematic universes, but fans want what fans want, and Pak is one of the most reliable workhorses in the business. Steve Foxe

STL054380.jpegLazaretto #1
Writer: Clay Chapman
Artist: Jey Levang
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
There’s no shortage of disaster stories in comics, especially not after The Walking Dead infected so much of our pop culture landscape. One of the reasons that the trope is so attractive and nearly universal is the central question of what people do when they’re put in terrifying isolation, struggling to survive. Lazaretto asks that question of a very specific population, college students at a small university, quarantined together in the face of a pandemic. The comic has the unfortunate timing of arriving just a week after the announcement of a “female-focused” Lord of the Flies movie, which will likely invite some unflattering comparisons. Playwright Clay McLeod Chapman has dealt with some terrible characters in his contributions to titles like American Vampire, but what’s most exciting here is artist Jey Levang, who is new to print comics but has been putting out a supernatural webcomic HeLL(P), that’s gritty and atmospheric in the best ways. The biggest possible pitfall for McLeod and Levang would be accepting Lord of the Flies-style self-destruction as a universal experience. It would be easy to expect characters in Lazaretto to fall back into the grooves carved by the Stanford Prison Experiment, but as James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas’s The Woods proves, it makes for a more interesting story when that doesn’t happen. Caitlin Rosberg

scalesscoundrels.jpgScales & Scoundrels #1
Writer: Sebastian Girner
Artist: Galaad
Publisher: Image Comics
After concluding Max Landis’s medieval, time-hopping jaunt Green Valley, publisher Image Comics serves another spunky fantasy with Scales & Scoundrels. Written by former Marvel editor and Shirtless Bear Fighter co-scribe Sebastian Girner with art from Galaad, the new series frames broke, aimless 20-something wanderlust through a Tolkien lens with the introduction of protagonist Luvander. But instead of filing for unemployment, the lithe adventurer spends hours gambling at the local tavern as well as with her life, seeking out a mint of dragon-guarded treasure. And like most wayward youth, Luvander also searches for a sense of identity in this new landscape, albeit her baggage revolves more around mysterious fire-starting powers. Galaad keeps a quick tempo throughout the panels, ingraining a vibrant sense of place via brick-oven hues for the local town and Chlorophyll-green forests. It’s an excellent segue from fellow Image peer Rat Queens, and a deft mix of quarter-life crisis with swords-and-sandal derring-do. Sean Edgar

STL0574231.jpegStar Wars Adventures #1
Writer: Cavan Scott
Artist: Derek Charm
Publisher: IDW Publishing
The announcement of Star Wars Adventures earlier this year raised more than a few eyebrows: why was Disney taking Star Wars comics “out of house” and away from Marvel? While the House of Mouse and the House of Ideas have a strong creative alchemy with the current slate of adult-oriented Star Wars comics, IDW Publishing, home of My Little Pony and oodles of Cartoon Network properties, has a demonstrably better track record at getting comics in the hands of actual kids, which makes them the perfect pick for an all-ages Star Wars anthology. Writer Cavan Scott, a veteran of properties ranging from Doctor Who to Angry Birds, joins Valiant High cartoonist and frequent IDW contributor Derek Charm to kick off the series with an early Rey adventure on Jakku. Each issue will feature two stories from across all three trilogies, and this debut’s backup promises “a comical tale of clone catastrophe” to balance things out. If you’re working on getting your little Padawan into the Star Wars mythos, this is the place to start. Steve Foxe

STL056482.jpegStar Wars: Captain Phasma #1
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Marco Checchetto
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Call her the Boba Fett of the new trilogy all you’d like: Captain Phasma is cool. She may have spent The Force Awakens looking shiny, providing exposition and getting dispatched with ease, but the Stormtrooper officer played by Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie cut an intimidating, chrome-finished profile and emerged as one of Episode VII’s most memorable visuals. This new mini-series, which arrives on an accelerated twice-monthly schedule, returns to the final moments of the Starkiller Base and explains how Phasma escaped the planet-sized explosion to menace Finn, Rey and the rest of the Resistance in this December’s The Last Jedi. Jem and Hawkeye scribe Kelly Thompson joins Marvel’s Star Wars family alongside Marco Checchetto, a mainstay who has previously illustrated Obi-Wan & Anakin and Shattered Empire, Marvel’s first post-Return of the Jedi outing. If Captain Phasma is successful, Marvel and Disney may continue using their partnership not just to explore untold adventures, but to fill in crucial storytelling gaps and background for characters unlikely to nab substantial screen time. Steve Foxe

venomverse1.jpgVenomverse #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Iban Coello
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Venomverse is the little symbiote-possessed asterisk on Marvel’s “No More Events” pledge following Secret Empire, an already in-progress feast of ‘90s lethal-protection nostalgia that sees Eddie Brock, the original Venom, leading Venomized heroes against “the Poisons,” a new band of intergalactic symbiote-hunters. Cullen Bunn, who followed Rick Remender on the first Flash Thompson Venom title, joins artist Iban Coello for this five-issue outing, which was preceded by Edge of Venomverse and will run alongside Venomverse: War Stories, just in case your symbiote itch still isn’t being scratched. Marvel’s current Venom ongoing has leaned hard into Brock’s ‘90s anti-hero heyday rather than the character’s recent Guardians of the Galaxy tenure, although Flash Thompson fans can surely forgive the slight after Venom #150’s insane Tradd Moore contribution. If Secret Empire represented the inescapable pull of all-consuming crossover events, Venomverse might be the perfect big, dumb palate cleanser. Steve Foxe

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