Heroes in Crisis, Man-Eaters, Stranger Things & More in Required Reading: Comics for 9/26/2018

Comics Lists Required Reading
Heroes in Crisis, Man-Eaters, Stranger Things & More in Required Reading: Comics for 9/26/2018

It’s hard to believe, but September is already on its way out (even harder to believe: the madness of New York Comic-Con is just around the corner). This Wednesday sees the long-anticipated—and perhaps even dreaded, depending on your outlook—release of DC Comics’ Heroes in Crisis #1, the publisher’s new event series that straddles the line between bombastic murder mystery and somber exploration of trauma. Don’t let that series steal all the headlines, though: we’ve also got Chip Zdarsky’s final Spidey outing, a new Faith adventure, two thrilling launches from the Vault Comics/White Noise partnership, the first Stranger Things comic, Chelsea Cain’s return to comics and more in what is sure to be a packed autumn New Comic Book Day.

STL093505.jpegDomino Annual #1
Writers: Gail Simone, Fabian Nicieza, Leah Williams, Dennis Hopeless
Artists: Victor Ibanez, Juan Gedeon, Leonard Kirk, Michael Shelfer, Natacha Bustos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It’s no surprise that Marvel Comics launched a Domino series in the wake of the character’s appearance in Deadpool 2 earlier this year, but it is a bit shocking how well the solo outing has taken off. Under the guiding hand of fan-favorite writer Gail Simone, Domino has come into her own with a mix of humor and mercenary action, and now the Neena Thurman love has spilled out into an oversized annual featuring additional creators. Simone kicks things off with the origin of Outlaw’s place in Domino’s posse, famed Cable writer Fabian Nicieza teams with artist Juan Gedeon for an update on Cable and Domino’s infamous baths, Dennis Hopeless returns to the Cable & The X-Force era to reunite Dom with former flame Colossus and Leah Williams and Natacha Bustos introduce the RejeX, a support group for mutants stuffed full of cameos that should make a lot of deep-cut X-fans very happy. If Domino’s ongoing adventure leaves you hungry for more, this annual should suffice. Steve Foxe

STL091203.jpegFaith: Dreamside #1
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: MJ Kim
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
The modern incarnation of Valiant Comics launched in 2012 with reimaginings of some of the publisher’s biggest characters: Bloodshot, X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong and the Harbingers, with cult-favorite properties like Shadowman and Ninjak following soon after. What few could have predicted, though, was a Harbingers ensemble cast member breaking out into superstardom all on her own. Faith Herbet, a.k.a. Zephyr, outshined her peers thanks to her perseverance, upbeat personality, nerdy interests and her status as one of the few plus-sized protagonists in the mainstream superhero genre. The first collected volume of her ongoing series earned accolades from the Young Adult Library Services Association and across the internet comics press, and writer Jody Houser has now shepherded the character through two different series and a time-traveling mini. Starting this week, Houser and Faith return in Faith: Dreamside with artist MJ Kim. In this “Valiant Beyond” mini-series, Faith must cross the boundary into the “Dreamside”—a new aspect of the Valiant Universe’s Deadside—to protect the dreams of her younger teammate, Animalia. To do so, Faith will need to recruit the help of Dr. Mirage, Valiant’s premiere parapsychologist hero. It’s a Valiant team-up for the ages, and fans of either character—or readers curious about where to get started in the Valiant universe—will want to pick up this dreamy first issue. Steve Foxe

STL091422.jpegFearscape #1
Writer: Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Publisher: Vault Comics
The first of two Vault Comics/White Noise partnership titles out this week, Fearscape is one of those rare comics that really needs to be read to be understood, as a short pitch simply doesn’t do it justice. Yes, there’s a plot about a Muse who comes to Earth once a generation to recruit our greatest Storyteller to combat the titular Fearscape, but that sounds like the one-billionth forgettable tribute to the peak literary days of DC’s Vertigo imprint from 25 years ago—and that’s the point. From the delightfully satirical first page on, it’s clear that writer Ryan O’Sullivan and artist Andrea Mutti are taking the piss out of every mediocre writer who ever fashioned himself the next Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman but didn’t have the chops to back it up. Fearscape isn’t purely a diss track—there’s substance beyond the subtle digs—but anyone who bemoans the faux-deepness of most meta-fantasy comics will leave this issue with a wide grin. Steve Foxe

STL088556.jpegFriendo #1
Writer: Alex Paknadel
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Publisher: Vault Comics
Alex Paknadel first crossed Paste’s radar for his writing on Arcadia, a bold sci-fi story from BOOM! Studios that imagined the next steps for a world in which everyone has uploaded their consciousness into digital form. Friendo, his first series under Vault Comics’ partnership with Paknadel’s White Noise collective, aims a little closer to reality, but still one significantly changed by digital marketing run amok. We first meet protagonist Leo after he’s involved in a car crash that was actually an attempt at viral advertising, and we follow him as he meets Jerry, his new personalized virtual-reality friend. As with Arcadia and Turncoat, Paknadel is skilled at taking a somewhat familiar premise and pushing it to the next level, which is what gives Friendo its J.G. Ballard-for-the-21st-century edge. Joining Paknadel is Punks Not Dead artist Martin Simmonds, who digital artwork perfectly captures the ever-so-slightly dystopian tomorrow of Los Angeles already kinda-dystopian today. If you like your sci-fi with bite, Friendo is a must-read this week. Steve Foxe

STL092888.jpegHeroes in Crisis #1
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Publisher: DC Comics
Some of the most compelling superhero stories aren’t about daring feats or astonishing bravery, but the more emotional and tragic side of saving lives. The real-life people who fight for justice and peace often suffer from a variety of mental health crises, and it stands to reason that their fictional counterparts would have some of the same problems. For the past few years, Tom King has been putting Bruce Wayne through some of the most raw and vulnerable moments the character has ever experienced, setting personal crises and trauma in his path, so it feels appropriate that he’s guiding this look at what happens when superheroes seek help and it all goes wrong. The Sanctuary was supposed to be a place of healing, and now someone has murdered almost everyone inside—and the two prime suspects are Harley Quinn and Booster Gold. Clay Mann’s technical prowess and ties to traditional house style art make him a good fit, but his problem with same-face syndrome and occasional strange choices for female characters (Harley Quinn is Margot Robbie here) might prove distracting in a book that seems to focus more on emotional conflict and nuance than punching villains in the face. Caitlin Rosberg

STL086358.jpegJustice League Odyssey #1
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Stjepan Sejic
Publisher: DC Comics
The fallout from Justice League: No Justice continues as another team coalesces in the much-delayed first issue of Justice League Odyssey. Joshua Williamson, the mind behind Nailbiters and Birthright as well as the current Flash run, guides a team of veteran heroes and their untested new relationships as they head into space. Seeing how Starfire, Cyborg, Jessica Cruz and Azrael work together under pressure is an intriguing conceit under any circumstances, but art by Stjepan Sejic of Aquaman and Sunstone fame only makes the book more tempting. Many of DC’s heroes have been Earth-bound for a long time, but it’s especially intriguing to see characters rarely associated with space headed into the stars. Odyssey also boasts one of the more diverse iterations of the Justice League, a welcome continuation of Steve Orlando and company’s Justice League of America work. This first issue promises mystery and drama in the form of Darkseid, who claims to be there to help the team in their quest to face the dangers waiting beyond the universe as they know it. Caitlin Rosberg

STL093474.jpegMan-Eaters #1
Writer: Chelsea Cain
Artist: Katie Niemczyk
Publisher: Image Comics
Chelsea Cain has had a big month. The much publicized and thus-far unexplained cancellation of Vision, the Marvel title she was working on with Marc Mohan and Aud Koch, followed by her own unabashed press tour discussing said cancellation have in some ways set the tone for Man-Eaters to come out this week. Toxoplasmosis is a disease that many, if not most, cat owners have, a result of one of the most common parasitic infections in the world and one that may be linked to the compulsion to get even more cats. In Man-Eaters, a mutation results in toxoplasmosis turning menstruating women into vicious wildcats. Fans of Cain’s previous works will definitely want to pick this up, especially those who loved her Mockingbird run, as Man-Eaters marks the reunion of the entire creative team. Along with Bitch Planet and Monstress, Man-Eaters is now part of a trifecta of Image books about terrifying, powerful women who are changed and shaped by the world around them. Caitlin Rosberg

STL093546.jpegPeter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #310
Writer/Artist: Chip Zdarsky
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Chip Zdarsky rose to prominence in comics as the irrepressibly goofy artist of Sex Criminals, but his work as a writer has repeatedly proven just what a nuanced talent he really is beyond the unusual internet humor. From Star-Lord to Marvel Two-in-One to Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Zdarsky is particularly skilled at revealing the rarely explored emotional depths of Marvel’s leading men, blending laughs with genuine poignancy. Zdarsky didn’t lack for amazing collaborators on Spectacular, from Adam Kubert to Chris Bachalo, but his final issue finds the cartoonist both writing and drawing as his bids adieu to Spidey (for now). The highest—and most bittersweet—compliment that anyone can pay Zdarsky might be that, no matter how exciting the relaunches of Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man may have felt, it was something of a letdown that he wasn’t moving from the related books to the core titles after producing such amazing runs. Spectacular #310 is a pitch-perfect sendoff for Zdarsky’s Spider-tenure and we can’t wait to see where he lands next. Steve Foxe

STL091826.jpegStranger Things #1
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Stefano Martino
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
It seems inevitable that nostalgic Netflix hit Stranger Things would eventually make its way to comics—it’s about nerdy kids in the ‘80s, after all—so it’s a relief that the show found a publisher and creative team that knows what it’s doing. Dark Horse is best-known for its robust licensing program and its relationship to horror of varying degrees, from supernatural action to full-blown terror, which fits Stranger Things better than a vintage Ghostbusters Halloween costume. Writer Jody Houser is also a licensed-property pro, constantly balancing her more original work on corporate characters like Mother Panic and Faith with gigs for Star Wars, StarCraft and Doctor Who. Artist Stefano Martino is a newer name on the scene, but paired with colorist Lauren Affe, he ably captures the throwback vibe necessary for the property. This initial Stranger Things adventure follows Will Byers’ previously unexplored time navigating the Upside Down in season one, and the creators surely have other nooks and crannies in which to find stories should this run prove successful. Steve Foxe

STL093591.jpegThe Wicked + The Divine: 1373 #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Ryan Kelly
Publisher: Image Comics
The Wicked The Divine’s historical one-shots started out as intriguing flashbacks to other manifestations of the series’ pantheon of returned gods—teasers for other comics that could have been. As events progressed in the main series, though, it became clear that each one-shot was something of a helpful additional puzzle piece in solving WicDiv’s ongoing mysteries. The Wicked The Divine: 1373, the final historical one-shot, reunites Kieron Gillen with his Three collaborator Ryan Kelly as a historical version of Lucifer—a nun, because of course—hears the confession of Ananke, one of WicDiv’s most complex characters. Kelly is an eternally underrated artist, capable of drawing pretty much everything from slice-of-life teen drama (The New York Five) to wartime mythological conflict (Cry Havoc), which guarantees WicDiv: 1373 will look great even if the whole thing is set in a confession box. Steve Foxe

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