Phoenix Resurrection, Hawkman Found & More in Required Reading: Comics for 12/27/2017

Comics Lists Required Reading
Phoenix Resurrection, Hawkman Found & More in Required Reading: Comics for 12/27/2017

It’s appropriate that one of the final comics released in 2017 is called Doomsday Clock. Even for those of us with great personal achievements in the preceding 360-odd days, this year has been a clusterf*ck of upheaval, from national politics all the way down to weekly comics. Publishers struggled not just to sell comics (two of the titles recommended below have already been announced for cancellation), but to manage controversial crossovers and tackle harassment and poor management within the industry. Despite massive bright spots, there’s a lot worth leaving behind in 2017—but before we welcome the fresh start (one might say resurrection) of 2018, have one last go at this year’s finest Wednesday offerings, detailed below.

anyasghostrr1227.jpgAnya’s Ghost
Writer/Artist: Vera Brosgol
Publisher: First Second
Anya’s Ghost apparated in 2011 to conjure a small freighter of awards and accolades from the likes of Neil Gaiman, confirming a new tween classic about a first-generation American who befriends a ghost who’s not exactly transparent. Cartoonist Vera Brosgol cut her teeth at Laika, the stop-motion film studio behind Coraline and Paranorman, and that whimsical mix of bonfire spookiness and coming-of-age heart reverberates throughout these pages. Its appeal hasn’t remained unnoticed: last August, director Dan Mazer (Dirty Grandpa, writer of Office Christmas Party) announced that he would escort Brogol’s story to the silver screen. We don’t know whether the ensuing production will be terrifying for all the right reasons, but publisher First Second is offering a reprint of the source material this week and it still maintains its position as a modern touchstone. For more Brosgol excellence, a safer bet is Be Prepared, the artist’s upcoming graphic novel memoir about summer camp life, set for a May debut. Sean Edgar

STL066722.jpegBonehead #1
Writer: Bryan Edward Hill
Artist: Rhoald Marcellius
Publisher: Top Cow/ Image Comics
Top Cow’s partnership with GLITCH, a Jakarta-based design studio, might be a bit left-field—GLITCH’s properties otherwise seem to have a minimal U.S. footprint—but the results are a visually resplendent cyberpunk outing regardless. Bonehead introduces the titular parkour pro, a masked acrobat who speaks via minimal digital chatter, as well as his handler, a robo-saurian-themed enemy gang, a Halloween-clad potential ally and a lawman of sorts who wouldn’t look terribly out of place in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Writer Bryan Edward Hill seems to relish the break from more grounded speculative work like Michael Cray and Postal, indulging in plenty of Neal Stephenson-worthy jargon, and artist Rhoald Marcellius is a refreshingly fluid break from Top Cow’s typical style, equally adept at the GLITCH-established design aesthetic as he is with flowing combat. Sci-fi fans looking for a slick new world should be enthused with this drone-filled tumble. Steve Foxe

3001039.jpgB.P.R.D. Hell on Earth Vol. 1
Writers: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi
Artists: Guy Davis, Tyler Crook
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Hellboy tends to receive the demon’s share of attention in the macabre cosmos that Mike Mignola wrote, but B.P.R.D. exercises just as much scope, bombast and gothic splendor. Unlike Hellboy’s Campbellian journey from prophesied world-ender to humanity’s savior, this loping series—co-written by John Arcudi—offers an ensemble about the men, women and were-jaguars struggling and dying to keep the darkness at bay. Hell on Earth follows the Plague of Frogs mega-arc as well as a smattering of smaller stories, and it ups the ante significantly. Protagonists Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman and their misfit collective discover that they may be personally responsible for a looming apocalypse, and chaos ensues. The first three storylines of this story cycle find a weighty home in this omnibus, and also invite Harrow County’s Tyler Crook to follow Guy Davis’ lengthy run on art duties. Crook adds a vivid disgust to the outer-dimensional horrors within, balanced with a touching humanism between the members of the titular organization. Sean Edgar

doomsdayclock2.jpgDoomsday Clock #2
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Publisher: DC Comics
Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s curious sequel to the most highly praised superhero comic in existence enters its second chapter, and, despite the sheer ballsiness of the effort, it’s not bad. The creative team behind Doomsday Clock doesn’t seek to recapture the literary density of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ founding masterwork, Watchmen, as much as contextualize it. The original comic channeled the Cold-War nuclear dread of the ‘80s, and hell if now isn’t the right time to revisit that miasma as the 45th US president trades Twitter barbs with Kim Jong-un. Doomsday Clock also mingles the mainstream faces of the DCU—Lex Luthor, Batman, etc.—with the damaged, often sociopathic denizens of the original book, adding a new layer of complexity—or homogeny, depending on your perspective. The second chapter frames those first meetings as misguided genius Ozymandias and nihilistic vigilante Rorschach respectively greet the two most brilliant minds of the DCU with varying degrees of success. Gary Frank’s shadow-heavy artwork recalls Gibbons’ classic noir with modern nuances, including emotive facial expressions. Brad Anderson’s colors also veer from realistic shades to moody, hellish palettes to reflect a world on the cusp of implosion. Sean Edgar

STL063850.jpegHawkman Found #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Bryan Hitch
Publisher: DC Comics
Busy bee Jeff Lemire will soon celebrate his DC return by writing surrogate Fantastic Four series The Terrifics, but not before making a pit-stop in the eternally convoluted Hawk-country. Hawkman Found pairs the creator with superstar artist Bryan Hitch (inked here, in a bit of a wasted opportunity, by legendary-in-his-own-right Kevin Nowlan) for an existential tie-in to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Metal event. “Found” might be stretching it; this one-shot evokes The Prisoner or the myths of Sisyphus and Icarus more than it explains anything about Carter Hall’s repeatedly retconned history, but fans of Hitch’s widescreen style will be pleased, even if Nowlan’s distinctive inking doesn’t quite come through here. Like Batman Lost before it, this issue likely holds puzzle pieces that will eventually make sense within the larger context of Metal. And hey—it wouldn’t be an authentic Hawkman outing if it totally made sense. Steve Foxe

STL065816.jpegIceman Vol. 1: Thawing Out
Writer: Sina Grace
Artists: Alessandro Vitti, Ibraim Roberson, Edgar Salazar
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Recommending the first volume of Sina Grace, Alessandro Vitti and co.’s Iceman is bittersweet—like fellow queer-led, queer-written title America, Iceman’s final issue has been solicited for early next year. Impending cancellation aside, it’s admirable that Grace locked down 11 issues to explore longtime jokester Bobby Drake’s emergent sexuality. Coming out as an adult is a very different process than coming out as a teenager, and it’s often the latter that’s documented in superhero comics—in this case, with the time-displaced teen version of Bobby himself. But while the younger Drake quickly embraced the freedom to live his authentic truth, the elder Drake went through more considerable growing pains, and Grace has ably navigated these complications without depriving Bobby of joyful stories or requisite ice-hurling battles. Grace, a prodigious autobiographical creator and an accomplished artist himself, pulled off one of the most frankly gay books in Marvel history, a treat for the substantial gay fandom surrounding the X-books, and Vitti and the book’s first few fill-in artists helped to keep the title in action territory with large-scale battles. We’ll miss Iceman when it’s gone, but knowing issue #11 is Grace and Bobby’s swan song shouldn’t deter readers eager to see (or educate!) themselves in a Marvel comic. Steve Foxe

STL067002.jpegPhoenix Resurrection: The Return Of Jean Grey #1
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Despite a reputation for resurrections, founding X-Men telepath Jean Grey stayed quite dead in the years following her emotionally charged demise at the hands of Grant Morrison and Phil Jimenez—as long as you don’t count evil clones, fake-outs, and displaced teen versions. The latter (spoiler alert) seemed to come to a fiery end in the latest issue of Jean Grey, and now Marvel hotshot Matthew Rosenberg and a rotating team of artists will bring the OG Jean Grey back to life in a five-week special event. While initial artist Leinil Francis Yu is a better fit for battle spreads than issue one’s trippy, disorienting plot, Rosenberg has an expert handling on large-team dynamics that has been sorely missing from X-Men: Gold and X-Men: Blue, and this inaugural issue sets up a disorienting psychic mystery befitting Marvel’s long-absent mutant icon. Steve Foxe

SagaV8.jpgSaga Vol. 8
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
The arguably best comic of the modern age continues to truck on, and its creators have no intention of falling into complacency. At this point, the best parallel for Saga’s space odyssey of Marko, Alana and their daughter Hazel may be Richard Linklater’s 12-year production, Boyhood. Both pieces function on two levels, at once offering a handful of intimate domestic portraits, but taken over their entire course, construct a grand human landscape that doesn’t have so much of a central theme as a sense of awe. Watching Hazel develop from an infant to precocious, interstellar refugee has remained a joy. Fiona Staples adds to that vision by painting tangible emotion into the most otherworldly character designs—a pivotal skill for the comic’s eighth volume. This storyline witnesses Alana seek an abortion after her second child is killed in womb, following a devastating accident. The politics aren’t exactly subtle, but the drama is—even incorporating a werewolf “Endwife” into its mix, the fantasy exteriors never offer an escapist exit. Sean Edgar

STL065595.jpegScarlett’s Strike Force #1
Writer: Aubrey Sitterson
Artist: Nelson Daniel
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Keeping with the bittersweet theme established by Iceman, we’re recommending Scarlett’s Strike Force with full knowledge that the book is scheduled for an early end with issue three. IDW’s massive Hasbro push last year failed to yield a sustainable readership, but there’s also reasonable evidence that a targeted campaign from conservative “fans” upset with writer Aubrey Sitterson’s Twitter presence helped push IDW to announce Scarlett’s demise before the first issue ever hit stands. Regardless of the factors that went into ending the series (IDW maintains it was solely a sales decision), Sitterson’s previous series with artist Giannis Milonogiannis was a breath of bonkers fresh air for a franchise too often mired in military porn, and that action-figure embrace looks to be on full display with new series artist and IDW regular Nelson Daniel. Sitterson and crew helped modernize Joe without sacrificing the essence of the fan-favorite property, and while a satisfying end seems unlikely given the fast wrap-up, it’s worth seeing how this take would have progressed under the new banner and with Daniel in tow. Steve Foxe

DonRosaDucktales8.jpgUncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: The Don Rosa Library Vol. 8: Escape From Forbidden Valley
Writer/Artist: Don Rosa
Publisher: Fantagraphics
The revamped DuckTales cartoon just wrapped its first season earlier this month, and combined with Paul Rudish’s Mickey Mouse shorts, demonstrate that the whimsical stylings of Disney’s Golden Age still hold relevancy today. But Uncle Scrooge didn’t originate in animated cells, but in sequential art—first under the pen of Carl Barks in 1947’s Four Color Comics before a slew of creators took on the billionaire (?) waterfowl almost half a century later. Key among those contributors was Don Rosa, who became a spiritual successor to Barks’ legacy starting in 1986. Rosa wasn’t afraid to dive into the globetrotting adventure that defined Scrooge’s early adventures, and publisher Fantagraphics has been reprinting those exploits in a gorgeous library series. The eighth volume, Escape From Forbidden Valley, forces Scrooge and nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie to save Donald from a lost world brimming with dinosaurs. For parents wanting to buy their kids a comic that’s both artful, exhilarating and holds a deep legacy, this is perfect for post-Christmas bonding fun, and a guaranteed way to pull young eyes from a screen for more than an hour without diving into a money bin. Sean Edgar

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