Mister Miracle, Redlands & More in Required Reading: Comics for 8/9/2017

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<i>Mister Miracle</i>, <i>Redlands</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 8/9/2017

Taken as a whole, August feels like a bit of a slump. Major publishers are either wrapping up series that have overstayed their welcome (Marvel’s blockbuster Captain-America-as-a-villain event, Secret Empire, which added issues no one asked for) or prepping major events for the fall (the somewhat-confusingly organized Metal…or is it Dark Days? Dark Matter?). Appraised week by week, though, this month holds as many gems as any other, with Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ powerful Mister Miracle standing out among this Wednesday’s offerings. We’ve also got witchy horror from artists-turned-writers, a particularly heavy metal Heavy Metal, sensual retro bloodsucking, retail nightmares, a pulp revival and a basketball legend indulging his passion for British detective serials. Maybe the final month of summer isn’t so bad after all.

The Customer Is Always Wrong

Writer/Artist: Mimi Pond
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Mimi Pond’s muse isn’t a person, but a place and an era. Oakland, California during the ‘70s experienced the death of the free-love movement, but the continuation of drugs and laissez-faire values. For San Francisco’s less glamorous neighbor, that invited a parade of freaks, weirdos and all manner of idiosyncrasy within its borders. Pond witnessed the drama unfold as a waitress at a diner before going on to write/cartoon for National Lampoon, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, The Simpsons and the Los Angeles Times, among other outlets. Over Easy introduced readers to the Imperial Cafe and its colorful customers in 2014, and The Customer is Always Wrong continues its exploration of Pond’s loose autobiography. These pages paint their world using aqua ink washes and distilled honesty—whether navigating abuse, abortion or the narcotic of love, the book contains the highs and lows of a human life. Though escapism is rare, the book engenders a potent sense of empathy that reflects Pond’s graceful storytelling and articulate figures. Sean Edgar

Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1

Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: R.B. Silva
Publisher: Marvel Comics
No one expected the original, teenage X-Men to stick around for quite this long, but the occasional goofiness of these doubled-up heroes is worth it for teen Jean alone. Since Beast dragged the time-displaced mutants through to the present day, Jean Grey has allowed writers to tackle ideas of predestination, expectation and responsibility, included in her excellent solo series from Dennis Hopeless and Victor Ibanez. This Generations issue comes from her X-Men Blue scripter Cullen Bunn, though, with X-Men Gold contributor R.B. Silva on art duties. Bunn has been a consistent, if not a breakout, X-writer in recent years, providing a sense of continuity between relaunches, particularly with the character of Magneto. Of all the characters up for the Generations treatment, few have such fraught relationships with the mantle they stand to inherit, making Phoenix & Jean Grey a must-read for X-fans. Steve Foxe

Heavy Metal #287

Writer/Artist: Various
Publisher: Heavy Metal
Grant Morrison’s tenure as curator for sci-fi mag Heavy Metal hasn’t been as loud as fans may have hoped, despite some standout contributions from talents like Benjamin Marra, but no one can accuse this week’s issue of being low-volume. Creators ranging from Clive Barker to Kevin Mellon assemble in #287 for a special music issue, paying tribute to the songs and carefully constructed aesthetics of Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Iron Maiden and more, all wrapped up in an appropriately epic Kilian Eng cover. If you’ve been curious about Morrison’s work here, and if you’re a bit of a shred-head, this might be the issue to sample. Steve Foxe

Inhumans: Once and Future Kings #1

Writers: Christopher Priest, Ryan North
Artists: Phil Noto, Gustavo Duarte
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Marvel often maintains a bizarrely not-quite-there synchronicity with its multimedia moments. Comic series like Mighty Thor and Captain America get a boosted profile alongside their film counterparts, but typically with different mantle-bearers or status quos. So it is with the controversial Inhumans, who have taken to space in the title Royals just as the long-gestating live-action project finally hits IMAX theaters and television. Enter Inhumans: Once and Future Kings, a mini-series that zeroes in on the familiar royal family to chart the rise of Black Bolt—and the fall of his mad brother, Maximus. Christopher Priest makes his return to Marvel, buoyed by the success of Deathstroke at DC, and is joined by fan-favorite digital painter Phil Noto. Much like the potential trainwreck of a TV series, the real draw here may be the Inhumans pup, Lockjaw, who gets his own backup strip from Eisner-winning Squirrel Girl humorist Ryan North and elastic cartoonist Gustavo Duarte. Steve Foxe

Mister Miracle #1

Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Publisher: DC Comics
With the new Mister Miracle maxiseries, Tom King and Mitch Gerads attempt to build a new literary touchstone in comics. Just as Watchmen channeled the Cold War nihilism of the ‘80s, Ghost World tackled the isolation of the ‘90s and The Ulitmates straddled post-9/11 patriotism and unchecked use of military force, this book aims to reflect the pre-apocalyptic dissonance of now—a toxicity that gave King an anxiety attack so severe it landed him in the ER. It’s a lofty goal, but after reading this first issue, damn if they’re not on the right track. This debut issue catches a zeitgeist of discord in its pages, confining Jack Kirby’s messianic escape artist in a cage of his own malaise. Like his work in The Sheriff of Babylon—also written by King—Gerads’ subtle facials expressions and body language harmonize with naturalistic dialogue, lending each sigh and quip a new gravitas. This isn’t just an immaculately produced comic, but a comic designed for relevance. Sean Edgar

My Pretty Vampire

Writer/Artist: Katie Skelly
Publisher: Fantagraphics
My Pretty Vampire is the best ‘60s underground gem that never was, a descent into big hair and paisley politics by acclaimed cartoonist Katie Skelly. The graphic novel revolves around Clover, a recent member of the undead whose brother, Marcel, constrains her freedom for fear that she’ll be hunted. Bram Stroker’s 120-year-old bloodsucker yarn, Dracula, reflected the conservative, Victorian mores of the era—the only thing more monstrous than a shape-shifting impaler was an aristocrat who penetrated more body parts than necks. This tale appears to play with some similar themes, capitalizing on both the aesthetic and feminism of a time when our mothers burned their bras and began taking birth control. The cover art and color scheme embody a Warholian fever dream, using clean lines and soft gradients for a vivid, erotic aura. Off the strength of Skelly’s Nurse Nurse, this would guarantee a read even if its approach wasn’t so exotic. Sean Edgar

Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook

Writers: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Raymond Obstfeld
Artist: Joshua Cassara
Publisher: Titan Publishing
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a man of many talents, but only in the last few years have audiences begun to learn the depth of his love for Arthur Conan Doyle’s less famous Holmes brother. On the heels of releasing Mycroft Holmes, a prose novel written with Anna Waterhouse, Abdul-Jabbar is working with Raymond Obstfeld to pen a comic for publisher Titan. The prose novel was nuanced and complicated, as one can expect from a man who’s successfully shifted his career from sports to political and social commentary, and quickly became a favorite of both critics and longtime Sherlock Holmes fans. The comic, with art by Joshua Cassara, is not nearly as introspective or self-reflective as the novel, but it is a fast-paced, fun and furiously intellectual adventure that gives the elder Holmes some much-deserved time in the spotlight. Like much of the intellectual property Titan has adapted of late, from Rivers of London to Penny Dreadful, Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook stands out because it’s a fun read, but also because of the obvious love the team has for the characters and the world in which they live. Caitlin Rosberg

Redlands #1

Writer/Artists: Jordie Bellaire, Vanesa R. Del Rey
Publisher: Image Comics
Jordie Bellaire deserves credit not only for her incredible work as a colorist on books like Injection and Pretty Deadly, but for her efforts to increase reader understanding of the effort and skill required to be a colorist in the comic book industry. Despite the huge impact they have on tone and storytelling, colorists, along with letterers, are often left uncredited on covers and online, even as journalists and audiences become more aware of ensuring that artists receive the same amount of recognition as writers. Bellaire has worked with some of the most inventive and creative minds in comics, and it’s exciting to see her branch out into writing with artist Vanesa R. Del Rey, who has worked on titles like Hit and Constantine: The Hellblazer. Rural, especially southern, horror is enjoying something of a revival in comics lately, between titles like Winnebago Graveyard and Redneck, and Redlands adds to that roster. Bellaire and Del Rey are unleashing a coven of murderous witches on a small Florida town, and based on what we’ve seen so far, there’s little doubt that they will join Becky Cloonan as female artists making extraordinary horror comics. Caitlin Rosberg

The Shadow #1

Writer: Si Spurrier
Artist: Daniel HDR
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
In a rare show of good timing, Dynamite is dropping a new issue #1 for The Shadow as their partnership with DC Comics on the excellent Batman/The Shadow continues. The pulp character continues to capture fans thanks in part to Garth Ennis’ run five years ago, but the Shadow is rooted in old-fashioned radio dramas and has rarely enjoyed the kind of pop-culture recognition as characters that clearly took inspiration from his adventures. This new series leans heavily on the fact that the Shadow is all but forgotten, building the story around a woman that he saved years ago when she was a child, now confronted with a horribly injured man that she believes to be her savior. Si Spurrier’s Cry Havoc proved that he knows how to build a story centered around belief and the power of zeitgeist, and artist Daniel HDR has a sharp, traditional cape-and-cowl style that will be a fascinating fit for a story that’s just as campy and over the top as superheroes, but more subdued visually. The only way to find out what evil lurks in the heart of men is to keep up with The Shadow, and now is a perfect time to introduce him to a new generation. Caitlin Rosberg

The Wendy Project

Writer: Melissa Jane Osborne
Artist: Veronica Fish
Publisher: Emet Comics
Classic kids literature melds with psychodrama in The Wendy Project, a graphic novel that taps into the legacy of books like Joanne Greenberg’s I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. Writer Melissa Jane Osborne reintroduces Wendy Darling not as a denizen of Neverland, but a traumatized 16-year-old dealing with the untimely death of her brother, Michael. The graphic novel unspools her thought process through a vivid diary, illustrated by recent Archie artist Veronica Fish. Wendy’s need to reconcile a family member’s passing and her underlying responsibility flits between escapism and internalization; she insists that her former flying, crowing chum, Peter Pan, is responsible for Michael’s absence, and the reader excavates the truth throughout her sessions with her therapist. A premise that weighty deserves attention on its own terms, and rendered with Fish’s dynamic poses and otherworldly collages makes The Wendy Project well worth another trip second star to the right. Sean Edgar

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