Darkseid, Moneypenny, Mace Windu & More in Required Reading: Comics for 8/30/17

Comics Lists Required Reading
Darkseid, Moneypenny, Mace Windu & More in Required Reading: Comics for 8/30/17

Five-Wednesday months are notorious for petering out by the final week, with publishers shipping odds and ends to wrap up the sales period. August’s last gasp couldn’t buck the trend more. DC Comics pays tribute to the late, great Jack Kirby with its final two special one-shots, highlighting Kirby creations both famous and overlooked. Marvel, meanwhile, wraps up its much-discussed Secret Empire crossover while continuing its Generations rollout with dual Hawkeyes. Sage Jedi Mace Windu ventures into his series, as does James Bond’s secretive Moneypenny. If you prefer to read your comics in neat collected editions, Top Cow’s latest Magdalena outing, written by former Paste contributor Tini Howard, arrives on shelves next to the first volume of Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez’ The Old Guard. Finally, Ben Hatke and Tillie Walden have your original graphic novel needs covered. Summer may be ending, but it’s not going out without a bang.

STL053803.jpegThe Black Racer and Shilo Norman Oversize Special #1
Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Artists: Bill Sienkiewicz, Denys Cowan
Publisher: DC Comics
DC Comics’ tribute to Jack Kirby on the 100th anniversary of his birth is a bright, welcome respite in the middle of some dark times in comics. A slew of one-shots has been released, revisiting characters that haven’t been meaningfully seen in ink in years. It’s a great opportunity to introduce new readers to Kirby’s masterful creations and perhaps even reintegrate them into canon, and it’s nice to see DC taking advantage with more obscure one-shots like The Black Racer and Shilo Norman. Though fans of any of the Flashes may be familiar with the Black Racer, an embodiment of death that is closely linked to the Speed Force, neither he nor Shilo Norman make frequent appearances these days. Norman is the third Mister Miracle after Scott Free, who’s enjoying his own resurgence in popularity, and Thaddeus Brown, the circus performer who inspired Free. Industry vets Reginald Hudlin, Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz team up for this one-shot, which judging by the cover may, touch on the Black Racer’s back story as a wounded veteran, too often forgotten and all too relevant today. Caitlin Rosberg

STL053851.jpegDarkseid Oversize Special #1
Writers: Mark Evanier, Paul Levitz
Artists: Scott Kolins, Phil Hester
Publisher: DC Comics
If the Black Racer and Shilo Norman represent DC shining a light on the more obscure corner of Jack Kirby’s creations, Darkseid Oversize Special is the marquee money shot. Despite the DCEU taking its sweet time getting around to Darkseid himself, the big rocky dude is one of the King’s most iconic creations, and easily the most intimidating guy to ever don a skirt. Mark Evanier, who literally wrote the book on Kirby (or a book, anyway) joins artist Scott Kolins to craft a tale of Darkseid relentlessly pursuing an escapee from his prison planet, Apokolips. The second half of this special pairs Paul Levitz with Phil Hester for an untold tale of OMAC, who, while less well-known than Darkseid, has stayed decently popular in the modern DCU in various iterations. As with all of the specials, there are also Kirby reprints to fill out the page count and share the gospel of his great work with new readers. Steve Foxe

STL053869.jpegGenerations: Hawkeye & Hawkeye #1
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Stefano Raffaele
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The latest Generations one-shot is one of the goofier match-ups: while most of these specials connect iterations of heroes who haven’t existed in costume simultaneously, the elder and younger Hawkeyes have shared top billing in several Hawkeye series. Instead of another typical Clint Barton/Kate Bishop adventure, writer Kelly Thompson, who currently scripts Kate’s solo outing, and artist Stefano Raffaele, who illustrated an earlier Clint series, transport Kate back in time to meet a younger Clint in the midst of a “Most Dangerous Game” set-up with the world’s most dangerous archers. Thompson has a strong handle on what makes Kate so compelling outside of her Young Avengers roots, and Raffaele’s Italian style should make each arrow land with precision. It’s just a bit less earth-shattering to see these two purple-clad heroes sharing the page. Steve Foxe

STL053541.jpegJames Bond 007: Moneypenny #1
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Jacob Edgar
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Of all the characters in the James Bond mythos that deserve their own stories, Moneypenny never gets enough attention. In the years since the original novels and movies premiered, the tone has shifted significantly, but while “Bond girl” has come to mean something fairly different, Moneypenny is still largely relegated to a prim assistant role. Dynamite’s new version of Bond, starting with Warren Ellis and Jason Master’s Vargr in 2015, is closer to post-Quantum of Solace Bond than earlier incarnations of the character, focusing on the intersection of spycraft and technology in complicated, winding stories. Along with that comes a Moneypenny who’s a young black woman, a former MI6 field agent who becomes M’s bodyguard as well as his assistant. This one-shot is a look into Moneypenny’s own story, too often sidelined. Writer Jody Houser is a perfect fit for this book, especially with her work on Mother Panic, and artist Jacob Edgar has a sharp, pop-art sensibility that will lend a retro air to the book. Hopefully, Dynamite will consider revisiting Moneypenny as protagonist, since chances of a Moneypenny movie starring Naomi Harris are nonexistent. Caitlin Rosberg

MagdalenaReformation.pngThe Magdalena: Reformation
Writers: Tini Howard, Ryan Cady
Artist: Christian DiBari
Publisher: Top Cow/ Image Comics
For all the revamps, resurrections and rebirths of the current comic landscape, one corner has remained oddly asleep despite a very palpable obsession with the ‘90s. Illustrator Marc Silvestri’s Top Cow pocket of Image—then a safe haven for former Marvel talent to build their own empire—once sold many, many comics. Witchblade and The Darkness were mostly shallow, double-page spreads of very attractive, scantily-clad people recreating Milton for horny teens, but the books eventually interlocked to form a mythos that warranted curiosity. Though most of those books lie in a mass grave of distorted anatomy and fill-in artists, Darkness spinoff The Magdalena has thrived, notably under upstart scribe (and, full disclosure, former Paste writer) Tini Howard and co-writer Ryan Cady.

The titular character is a descendant of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, ordered by the Catholic Church to destroy all manner of Satanic beastie with the spear that pierced Christ’s side at the climax of his crucifixion. In this collection, the latest bearer, Patience, battles demonic infestations and an overeager, Gyro-welding apprentice. The dialogue pivots at a light, conversational pace and penciler Christian DiBari recasts goth baddies with Saturday Morning Cartoon verve, creating a hell of a fun collection of Biblical fisticuffs. It’s also a clear template if the publisher would ever want to reintroduce the stable of properties this book nestles nicely into. (We see that Darkness Easter egg in the first issue, all.) Sean Edgar

MightyJackandtheGoblinKing.jpgMighty Jack and the Goblin King
Writer/Artist: Ben Hatke
Publisher: First Second
Ben Hatke is an imagination machine, a Peter Panalogue
whose pencil and words unleash a bestiary of aliens, spaceships, robots, skeletons and so much more on a feverish schedule. Branching from his sci-fi trilogy Zita the Spacegirl, the Virginia-based cartoonist has concocted another multiple-volume epic in Mighty Jack. The book updates the British fairy tale, balancing the source material’s furious adventure with a disarming emotional core. The first volume, released a year ago, stars a scrappy middle-grade protagonist striving to look after his young autistic sister while his single mother worries about paying the bills. Those concrete realities contrast against the fanciful escape of a garden that unfurled leafy dragons and vegetable imps. This sequel dives further down the metaphorical beanstalk as Jack, Maddie and new friend Lilly phase into a chaotic realm filled with the titular beasts who won’t hesitate to grind some bones. Rendered with agile, swimming energy, this graphic novel joins the legacy of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane for a refreshing reframing of the coming-of-age tale. Sean Edgar

STL048525.jpegThe Old Guard Vol. 1
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Publisher: Image Comics
Greg Rucka favors a particular style of main character, a niche that he’s settled into and all but perfected over the years. Picking up one of his books, you’re bound to find a rough but emotionally engaged woman, often with a motorcycle and/or a responsibility role. It can be comforting to know what you’re going to get when you see his name on a cover, and the stories are different enough to give him the space to revisit a theme again and again. With The Old Guard, Rucka and artist Leandro Fernandez have created a cast of immortal warriors, mercenaries who rely on people hiring them for their skills to sustain them in perpetuity. New technology and new kinds of battles have made their old tactics obsolete, and made it difficult for them to go unnoticed as they refuse to age or die. Fernandez’ art is crisp and atmospheric and colorist Daniela Miwa’s work elevates it to something gorgeous and unique on modern shelves. This first trade paperback collects issues #1-5, and fans of Rucka’s previous work should check it out. Caitlin Rosberg

STL053981.jpegSecret Empire #10
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve McNiven
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Like a course of treatment following a medical episode, Secret Empire finally comes to a conclusion this week, following an extension of its originally planned length. The mostly maligned crossover recast Steve Rogers as a fascist would-be dictator, igniting passionate fan backlash and casting writer Nick Spencer in an aggressively defensive position of regularly explaining his narrative goals via social media. Cultural context aside, Secret Empire has had its moments, although constantly shifting artists undercut the event’s potential impact. This final issue sees the return of penciler Steve McNiven to close off this dark chapter of the Marvel U. before the publisher attempts to pivot with their Legacy initiative. We already know that Mark Waid and Chris Samnee will attempt to resuscitate Steve Rogers this fall, so consider this recommendation morbid curiosity more than anything else. Steve Foxe

Writer/Artist: Tillie Walden
Publisher: First Second
Tillie Walden is a marvel of empathy, a cartoonist who can dive into emotions at a molecular level through dynamic panels with shifting perspectives. That talent has diagrammed the journey from youth to adulthood in works including I Love This Part, A City Inside and The End of Summer. Spinning glides over similar truths in Walden’s memoir of competitive ice skating. The 400-page journey feels intimate and personal without straying into self-important extremes, capturing the treasured epiphanies that spur kids to abandon defunct dreams and embrace new ones. Walden renders the taut calves and frozen breath with a devotion that underlies the 10 years she spent practicing the sport. The doorstop book offers the same honest humanity as Craig Thompson’s Blankets and the Tamaki cousins’ This One Summer, and serves as a perfect palette cleanser to segue into the colder months. Sean Edgar

STL054008.jpegStar Wars: Jedi of the Republic: Mace Windu #1
Writer: Matt Owens
Artist: Denys Cowan
Publisher: Marvel Comics
After initially favoring the Original Trilogy era, Marvel (and Disney) seems to have loosened the reins with Star Wars sagas outside of the Luke and Leia window. Mace Windu, which carries a Jedi of the Republic banner that hopefully portends additional series focused on the warrior-monks of the Prequel Trilogy, catches up with the character portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson as he reckons with his sudden role as a general. Writer Matt Owens is a new name at Marvel, with an Elektra mini-series and credits on the Luke Cage television show under his belt. Artist Denys Cowan, on the other hand, is a veteran with a distinctly sketchy style that should match the grimy horror of clone-on-droid combat. Steve Foxe

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