Required Reading: Comics for 2/22/2017

Comics Lists Required Reading
Required Reading: Comics for 2/22/2017

It’s a grab-bag of a week on comic shelves: Image Comics debuts a host of passion projects ranging from gothic horror to immortal warfare to…whatever the heck Sun Bakery is, while Marvel hedges its Netflix bets with its latest Elektra kickoff. Archaia offers Dark Crystal fans the closest they’ll ever see to a canon sequel for the dark-fantasty puppetry cult hit, Mike Mignola pulls back the curtain on one of Hellboy’s oldest mysteries, Spaniel Rage satisfies the rough-around-the-edges indie autobio crowd and Paste contributor Magdalene Visaggio is back with another Black Mask sci-fi favorite-in-the-making. It’s hard to group this week’s new releases into a tidy category—which is one of the best parts of today’s wide-ranging comic industry.

TheBelfry_Oneshot-1.pngThe Belfry
Writer/Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Publisher: Image Comics

Gabriel Hardman pivots from the sci-fi oeuvre he’s produced alongside Corinne Bechko (Invisible Republic, Planet of the Apes) for this horror sucker punch. Based on a sketch he made years previous, The Belfry follows the terrifying trajectory of Bill and Janet, whose plane crash lands in a jungle infested with bat humanoids. Hardman crafts an economic jolt of terror with surprisingly dense world building, myth and characterization given the page count. His rough-hewn line and chapped textures approximate vision adapting to night, as faint shapes bleed into real menace. That ambiguity substantiates into nightmare fuel involving faces, fish heads and sharp objects as the climax nears. The Belfry is a bizarre one-shot that would fit perfectly into the Eerie and Creepy anthologies of the ‘70s, and also shows the fertile creative grounds that can be mined when creators break type. Sean Edgar

STL032820.jpegElektra #1
Writers: Matt Owens
Artist: Juan Cabal
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The final piece of Marvel’s Daredevil-centric launch slate arrives this week with Elektra #1, which sees the sai-wielding assassin escaping to the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, only to come face to demented face with X-Men villain Arcade. Frank Miller’s iconic Greek ninja assassin got a big profile boost thanks to Elodie Yung’s portrayal on Netflix’s Daredevil, so expect Luke Cage writer Matt Owens to fold in aspects of that iteration for this series. Midnighter artist Alex Morgan was originally announced for art duties, but has since been swapped over to Bullseye to illustrate legendary creator Marv Wolfman’s backup strips. In his place is Juan Cabal, who has occasionally lent his deliberate, Kevin Maguire-esque linework to the X-Men line of books. Elektra’s previous solo outing was gorgeous but failed to connect with readers—hopefully Ms. Natchios fares better under a Netflix-ier take. Steve Foxe

Highlander_TheAmericanDream_01-pr-1.jpgHighlander: American Dream #1
Writer: Brian Ruckley
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Publisher: IDW Publishing

The Highlander franchise hasn’t maintained the cult following garnered by the first movie, but a Highlander comic can pick up right where the inaugural film left off, choosing to embrace or ignore excess continuity. Written by fantasy novelist Brian Ruckley, Highlander: American Dream follows near-immortal Connor MacLeod through his life in the United States leading up to “The Gathering” in 1986. Familiar faces fill the pages courtesy artist Andrea Mutti, who did remarkable work on Rebels and Control, proving he’s a great fit for the wide swath of historical fashion ranging from the Civil War to the Reagan era. On the screen, this kind of story would require a hefty budget to accommodate the cast alone, but the ongoing trend of continuing beloved TV shows and movies in comics means fans can enjoy new adventures without the massive price tag. Actors’ ages and audience tastes change, but the love of a Scottish swordsman with an anachronistic accent is forever. Caitlin Rosberg

STL026309.jpegThe Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts
Publisher: Dark Horse

Hey! Listen! Four years after Dark Horse released The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia and finally clarified the series’ convoluted multiple timelines, the publisher has reteamed with Nintendo for another gorgeous tome. Art & Artifacts is best viewed as a complement to Hyrule Historia; this hefty hardcover is filled to the brim with concept art, sprite design, diagrams and other visual tidbits of lore, but is less concerned with informative text or chronology reveals. Art & Artifacts casts its net over nearly the entire franchise, from its NES roots to the upcoming, highly anticipated Breath of the Wild. Franchise diehards have never had a better coffee-table centerpiece option. Steve Foxe


The Old Guard #1
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Publisher: Image Comics

Greg Rucka is enjoying one of the most widely acclaimed ongoing series of his long career with Lazarus, so it speaks to his confidence in The Old Guard that he’s prepared to helm a second series about nigh-unkillable soldiers—and that’s not even counting his Wonder Woman duties. The Old Guard introduces Andromache of Scythia, or “Andy,” a member of a long-lived order of swords-for-hire who can’t explain their inability to die…but can certainly profit off it. Unfortunately for Andy and her ilk, the 21st Century’s many advancements are making it increasingly difficult to ply their trade unnoticed. Artist Leandro Fernandez, most recently of Peter Milligan’s kinky The Discipline, offers his fluid, heavily shadowed art to bring Andy and the rest of The Old Guard to violent life. Greg Rucka has a long list of beloved tough women in his bibliography, and odds are good that Andy will fight her way into the hallowed halls of his most memorable protagonists. Steve Foxe

STL032925.jpegJim Henson’s Power of the Dark Crystal #1
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artists: Kelly & Nichole Matthews
Publisher: Archaia

Overstating Jim Henson’s impact on pop culture would be difficult. Between Sesame Street , The Muppets, Jim Henson’s The Storyteller , Labyrinth, etc., it would be possible to only watch projects with Henson’s stamp and not repeat for ages. His untimely death in 1990 left even more projects unfinished, including sequels and continuing stories that are only now seeing the light of day. Power of the Dark Crystal is based on an unproduced screenplay by David and Annette Odell and Craig Pearce. The former, a frequent Henson collaborator, wrote the screenplay for the first Dark Crystal movie. An inspired and odd choice, Simon Spurrier transforms the script from movie into comic. The Spire scribe sports the chops for drama and the creepiness inherent in the The Dark Crystal mythos, but his work is rarely kid-friendly. On the other hand, siblings Kelly and Nichole Matthews are the perfect fit for the art; their work on Toil and Trouble proved their skill with both fantasy and emotional stories. Archaia has already shown that they can successfully translate Henson’s vision into comics with the Storyteller series and A Tale of Sand, and hopefully Power of the Dark Crystal will continue that trend and offer fans of the franchise a satisfying next chapter. Caitlin Rosberg

STL033793.jpegQuantum Teens Are Go #1
Writers: Magdalene Visaggio & Eryk Donovan
Artist: Eryk Donovan
Publisher: Black Mask

Readers mourning the (temporary) loss of kickass space mercenaries Kim & Kim can rejoice that writer (and—full disclosure—Paste contributor) Magdalene Visaggio is returning to Black Mask for another sci-fi spectacular. Visaggio teams up with co-writer and artist Eryk Donovan to bring a story of high-tech illegal shenanigans and queer love, complete with time travel and corporate espionage. Donovan previously filled in on two issues of Constantine: The Hellblazer and worked on Memetic, and this new project allows him to tackle a new visual sensibility. Kim & Kim was Visaggio’s first widely published effort, and while entertaining, her skill improved over the run of the first mini-series. The characterization was particularly honed, even if the pacing needed tightening. But between Quantum Teens are Go and her guest spot on Shade, The Changing Girl #4, her star has risen quickly. Caitlin Rosberg

Snotgirl_vol01-1.pngSnotgirl Vol. 1
Writers: Bryan Lee O’Malley, Leslie Hung
Artists: Leslie Hung, Mickey Quinn
Publisher: Image Comics

Cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley has spent a career showing likable, naive characters approaching maturity through a kaleidoscope of pop culture references. Lottie, his latest creation in Snotgirl, isn’t a fraction as charming or likable as Scott Pilgrim or Katie from Seconds. The lime-haired fashion blogger embraces every cliche of the superficial, basing her identity on a sea of anonymous screen surfers she’ll never meet. Complemented by the svelte line work of Leslie Hung, O’Malley reveals a biting cynicism as he addresses web culture (the text abbreviations are especially inspired) and beauty, skewered with a surreal plotline that insinuates that Lottie might not be the most reliable of narrators. The titular mucous alludes to the protagonist’s excessive allergies—her body constantly battling the toxic within. While other O’Malley creations may have waged war against evil ex-boyfriends and evil witches, Lottie spends the first five issues of this engulfing series discovering that she’s her own worst enemy. Sean Edgar

SPANIEL.cover-1400.jpgSpaniel Rage
Writer/Artist: Vanessa Davis
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Like James Kochalka (American Elf), Alison Bechdel (Fun Home) and Harvey Pekar (American Splendor), Vanessa Davis welds the power to transpose a human life onto a piece of paper. Her work resembles documentary more than art—seemingly devoid of stylized interpretation as much as a raw 2-dimensional perspective on domesticity, love, disappointment and ennui. Spaniel Rage collects the cartoonist’s early work, first drawn in 2003 to capture the auteur’s 20-something NYC adventures. Juxtaposed to similar strata like Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie, Davis feels no obligation to structure her work to accommodate punchlines. Prepare for wispy pencil-sketch reflections on bloody flossing and buddies who accidentally snag your underroos—portraits of intimacy that define what it means to be unabashedly human. Sean Edgar

STL033165.jpegSun Bakery #1
Writer/Artist: Corey Lewis
Publisher: Image Comics

Corey Lewis’ Sun Bakery is a rare format: the single-creator anthology. Lewis’ self-published indie favorite first came out in print last year and is now back with higher production values from Image Comics. Sun Bakery continues to show off the Sharknife cartoonist’s singular style, a distillation of manga influence, street style and wild colors that should resonate with fans of Paul Pope, Ronald Wimberly, Bryan Lee O’Malley and Jet Set Radio. This first issue includes “paranormal skateboarding” and “social swordplay” among other off-the-wall premises, and sets the tone for the insanity that’s to come. Steve Foxe

STL031533.jpegThe Time Museum
Writer/Artist: Matthew Loux
Publisher: First Second

Paste recently chatted with Matthew Loux about The Time Museum, his full-color debut after years of working in black and white. The young-readers graphic novel, potentially the kickoff for a series, introduces the titular museum and its internship program, to which kids from across all known time are invited to apply. Protagonist Delia finds herself enrolled alongside cave-boys and future girls, hurtling through time to defend the institution. Loux’s vibrant cartooning meshes well with colors, and will prove an entrancing chronological adventure for younger readers (and perhaps their parents and guardians, too). Steve Foxe

STL031943.jpegThe Visitor: How and Why He Stayed #1
Writers: Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson
Artist: Paul Grist
Publisher: Dark Horse

Hellboy may have bowed out of the spotlight (for now), but Mike Mignola and publisher Dark Horse are far from done with the universe around him. Mignola returns to Hellboy’s origin along with co-writer and Witchfinder collaborator Chris Roberson, diving into the story of the alien creature who witnessed Hellboy’s arrival and refused orders to kill him. Mignola and Roberson have proven their ability to tell incredible tales of suspense and the supernatural, particularly within a specific, limited run. That focus on telling individual stories with a concrete beginning, middle and end is what has allowed Mignola to continue to create fresh, exciting comics despite relying on the same or similar characters and themes. With Jack Staff creator Paul Grist lending his distinct cartooning to a Mignolaverse series for the first time, The Visitor is poised to have one of the most distinct looks of any Hellboy-related tale. Mignola working on deep Hellboy lore isn’t a hard sell for many fans, but The Visitor promises to be a special treat nonetheless. Caitlin Rosberg

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