Dark Ark, Angelic, Batman: The Red Death & More in Required Reading: Comics for 9/20/17

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<i>Dark Ark</i>, <i>Angelic</i>, <i>Batman: The Red Death</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 9/20/17

What do you get when you combine flying monkeys, nanotech-enhanced preteens, murderous speedsters and a boat full of monsters? A weekly comic haul so stuffed with notable releases that we can’t cover them all below. In addition to gorgeous graphic novels like The Dam Keeper, Little Red Wolf and Present, this week also sees the release of the next installment of Jim Zub and Djibril Morissette-Phan’s Glitterbomb serial, the latest Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror, Declan Shalvey and Philip Barrett’s Irish crime caper Savage Town and the Ms. Marvel issue of Marvel’s Generations concept. So what did make the cut for our weekly recommendations? A Skybound editor’s first authorial outing, a sword-swinging cross-company matchup, the return of The Wild Storm and more, all of which you can find below, written with the typical Paste passion for sequential entertainment.


Angelic #1

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Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Caspar Wijngaard
Publisher: Image Comics
“Think Wall-E by way of Watership Down,” the promo for Angelic implores, and who are we to question that ambitious angle? Cry Havoc writer Simon Spurrier and Limbo artist Caspar Wijngaard seem focused on breaking through the static by force of sheer oddness, as they tackle the weight of societal and gendered expectations via winged monkeys and techno-dolphins. Spurrier has always shown a knack for the weird, as in his Eisner-nominated The Spire with artist Jeff Stokely and his surprise-favorite X-Men Legacy run that served as inspiration for the TV show Legion, and Wijngaard’s neon-noir worldbuilding in Limbo proved he can match that off-kilter pace. Angelic may not lend itself to an easy elevator pitch, but it has the potential to be Image’s next great, unusual breakthrough hit. Steve Foxe


Batman: The Red Death #1

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Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Publisher: DC Comics
Scott Snyder’s Dark Nights: Metal blockbuster event merges two of the Batman writer’s honed specialties: supernatural horror and marquee superheroism. The story asks what would happen if a slew of inverted Batmen weaned off Bruce Wayne’s greatest fears invaded Gotham City and beyond. Readers will witness the origin of the first of these dark(er) knights in Batman: The Red Death, introducing a variant caped crusader who murdered The Flash to gain super-speed in a crumbling alternate dimension. Executed by the monthly Flash team of Joshua Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico, the first issue of this spinoff excels when it captures unadulterated pathos. Years of stories have ably shown that Batman is the most resourceful, victorious vigilante in the DC Universe, far more adept at tackling world-threatening baddies than alien gods and mythological warriors. Is it unreasonable that he’d desire the means to amplify his presence, expanding his mission on a global scale? Even if that desire turns homicidal with the aid of time-leeching bats? Rendered with spooky sci-fi cool by Di Giandomenico, this comic hints at a cross-genre avalanche of fun in the coming months, buoyed by smart writing and stylized art. Sean Edgar


Bloodshot Salvation #1

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Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Lewis LaRosa & Mico Suayan
Publisher: Valiant
Despite keeping its publishing line relatively small and self-contained, Valiant has found ample opportunity to enrich its history, plot its future and explore concepts of legacy that alternately honor and infuriate larger publishers. Bloodshot Salvation continues writer Jeff Lemire’s run on the nanite-enhanced super soldier, following previous volumes that tackled themes of post-traumatic stress and the military-industrial complex. Salvation catches up with the titular Bloodshot, Ray Garrison, in a two-pronged story, with one thread set in the modern day as he fends off attackers chasing his girlfriend and their unborn child, and one set in the future as that daughter, now eight years old, must harness her abilities in a nightmarish new America. Valiant stalwarts Lewis LaRosa and Mico Suayan handle art duties, lending a grounded feel to the modern-day chapters and a more dynamic action bent to the future storyline. Steve Foxe


The Dam Keeper

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Writers/Artists: Robert Kondo, Dice Tsutsumi
Publisher: First Second
In 2014, former Pixar art directors Robert Kondo and Daisuke (Dice) Tsutsumi released The Dam Keeper, an intoxicating, sun-drenched animated film about a pig and a fox fighting bullies with artistic expression and a toxic fog through windmills. The moving short won an Academy Award, and its brief runtime (18 minutes) left room for future stories. Kondo and Dice have since partnered with publisher First Second for two new graphic novel sequels, the first of which launches this week. The 160-page book takes place five years after the events of the film and sees the pair venture outside the town with a new companion in tow—Hippo—to unravel the mystery of the poisonous fog. If this book only featured the warm, evocative paintings of its creators, it would be worth the trip. The aesthetic casts anthropomorphic animals à la Richard Scary into a European playground of ambient lighting and candy-colored palettes. Merged with profound and touching coming-of-age themes, The Dam Keeper invites a groundswell of emotion. Sean Edgar


Dark Ark #1

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Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Juan Doe
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Based on his output, “Cullen Bunn” may well be a codename for some sort of scripting super-computer, and 2017 in particular has seen the Harrow County scribe slashing out horror books left and right. Following Regression, Unholy Grail and The Unsound, Bunn and AfterShock MVP Juan Doe get biblical in Dark Ark, which kicks off with the premise that Lucifer got boat envy during the Great Flood and commissioned his own rescue ship to match Noah’s. Sorcerer Shrae wasn’t asked to round up giraffes and toucans, though—the Dark Ark is full of manticores, vampires and other creatures the go bump in the night, all of them—and Shrae’s family—with their own agendas. Doe was an infrequent contributor to Marvel and DC prior to AfterShock’s founding, but the upstart publisher has turned him into a regular feature across their line, from the grisly violence of Animosity to the gritty noir of American Monster. Bunn may be busy, but with Halloween around the corner, a boat full of secretive snake people and backstabbing bloodsuckers isn’t unwelcome. Steve Foxe


Gasolina #1

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Writer: Sean Mackiewicz
Artist: Niko Walter
Publisher: Skybound/ Image Comics
After years of work editing comics at DC Comics, Image and now Skybound, Sean Mackiewicz is trying his hand at on the creator side of the equation, along with Demonic artist Niko Walter. Gasolina sounds like a mixture of Breaking Bad and Supernatural, with two young lovers caught in the middle of violence both human and supernatural. Walter has help on the art side from colorist Mat Lopes, and the preview pages look great. The biggest risk for this book is the choice for the setting and the big bad: by plopping the characters in the middle of a drug cartel war, Mackiewicz and Walter have bumped the difficulty level for their jobs. Gasolina has the chance to confront real, complicated problems—racism, addiction, cartels and xenophobia are pressing issues—and framing them around a young couple facing supernatural threats gives this team a chance to accomplish something fascinating. Caitlin Rosberg


The Little Red Wolf

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Writer/Artist: Amélie Fléchais
Publisher: Lion Forge
The Little Red Wolf is the first of two books by Amélie Fléchais being published in English for the first time in the next year, with The Lost Path coming in 2018. It can be hard for European creators to break into American comics, as our comics industry is structured and funded so differently, but Fléchais’ books seem to have found a good home. These English translations are being published by Lion Forge, which has grown in the past few years by putting out monthly titles similar to Valiant’s sci-fi/action heroes while also printing books that ride the line between illustrated children’s books and graphic novels. The Little Red Wolf, as the title suggests, is a twist on Little Red Riding Hood, this time centered around a young wolf trying to visit his grandmother and the human girl who takes advantage of his journey. Of course, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen a new take on a classic children’s story, but Fléchais’ lush art, reminiscent of old-school Little Golden Books as well as Kerascoët and Fabien Vehlmann’s Beautiful Darkness, is a huge draw. Caitlin Rosberg


Present

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Writers/Artists: Leslie Stein
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Much how she describes her life approach, Leslie Stein doesn’t care for borders and paths. She’s written about roaming and exploring her adopted home of New York City, letting the pavement carry her to improvised dinners, parties and drinking sessions. She takes a similarly open-ended approach to her art, while still injecting a living sense of spontaneity and energy. The cartoonist excludes face outlines and panels, letting two dot eyes and single-line mouths convey streams of body language in a few honed pen strokes. New graphic novel Present collects Stein’s contributions for Vice, weaving a loose autobiography through 23 stories spanning the cartoonist’s life. In one entry, she visits an ex’s place to sleep after an agonizing night of drunken insomnia. Another notable chapter sees her nestle into a coffee shop on Christmas day after plane tickets prove too costly to visit her parents. Stein plays nicely with onomatopoeia (example: sizzling “Ss” float among small pictures of bacon to symbolize breakfast cooking) and ephemeral watercolors, crafting a sense of place and rhythm rare to the medium. The resulting diary is a river of vignettes with a strong undertow, offering a vulnerable intimacy familiar to fans of James Kochalka’s American Elf, Vanessa Davis’ Spaniel Rage and Gabrielle Bell’s library. Sean Edgar


The Wild Storm #7

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Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Publisher: DC Comics
A few weeks ago, we gave you an exclusive preview of The Wild Storm’s first spin-off solo series, Michael Cray, which will explore the fatally diagnosed assassin and expand Warren Ellis’ pop-up imprint’s relationship with the DCU. The Wild Storm #7, out this week, kicks off the core book’s second arc by introducing a new iteration of John Colt, best known as the android Spartan. Ellis and collaborator Jon Davis-Hunt have rapidly populated their cutting-edge new take on WildStorm properties with familiar names and faces in unfamiliar contexts, and Colt looks to be far removed from his ‘90s action-hero origin. Davis-Hunt, who became familiar to American audiences through the Gail Simone Vertigo chiller Clean Room, has an exacting style perfectly suited to Ellis’ grounded futurist drama, capable of portraying corporate competition and alien interlopers with equal skill. The Wild Storm, projected at 24 issues, is taking its time unraveling its mysteries—and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Steve Foxe


Wonder Woman/Conan #1

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Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Aaron Lopresti
Publisher: DC Comics/ Dark Horse Comics
Some of the most fascinating and fun comics coming out of DC lately have been only tangentially related to their core roster of superheroes. With titles like The Flintstones earning attention and the success of the recent DC Comics/Dynamite collaborations featuring Batman and the Shadow, it’s no surprise that these experiments would continue, but it’s still a bit unexpected to see serious creative weight thrown behind them. Gail Simone needs little introduction for most comic fans, with work spanning characters from Deadpool to Red Sonja and Batgirl. Simone at the helm for a Wonder Woman/Conan the Barbarian crossover sounds at once epic and utterly reasonable. The scribe has written Diana before, and proved that she understands the heart of the character, spawning one of the most often repeated quotes about the character: “If you need to stop an asteroid, you call Superman. If you need to solve a mystery, you call Batman. But if you need to end a war, you call Wonder Woman.” She proved on Red Sonja to understand the kind of humor and brutalism that suits high-fantasy worlds. Aaron Lopresti and inker Matt Ryan are solid artists with the kind of experience you’d want for a book this sweeping in scope and scale, but it would have been neat to see this story with something that skewed away from DC’s “house style.” The book will likely be hilarious and fun regardless, and it’s nice to see DC continuing to embrace Wonder Woman and their wild and weird publishing possibilities. Caitlin Rosberg

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