Runaways, Harley Quinn & More in Required Reading: Comics for 9/13/17

Comics Lists Required Reading
Runaways, Harley Quinn & More in Required Reading: Comics for 9/13/17

Autumn is getting its act in gear (with a terrifying host of climate disasters tagging along for the ride), but the theme of the week seems to be returns, not the falling-leaf metaphor of goodbyes that accompanies early fall. Marvel’s fan-favorite Runaways gets its first proper comic in almost a decade as the publisher’s most famously departed hero gets a Generations appearance. Cartoon Network hit Over the Garden Wall is revisited in art-book form (with assistance from one of Paste’s best and brightest), BOOM! mini-series Slam! gets a second loop around the track, Valiant’s Ninjak offers a double whammy end and beginning, and the delightfully Nordic Moomins make another appearance on American shelves. We’ll even consider Mister Miracle #2 a return, as the wait since issue #1 has been near unbearable. Also out this week: Harley has a birthday and Image adds two new titles to the “R” entry of their alphabetical category with Retcon and The Realm.

STL048479.jpegArt of Over the Garden Wall
Writers: Sean Edgar, Patrick McHale
Artists: Various
Publisher: Dark Horse
Though Cartoon Network has been producing a slew of fascinating, emotional shows in the past few years, none quite match the melancholy and dreamlike vibes of Over the Garden Wall. With the same emotional depth as Steven Universe but much creepier musical numbers, Over the Garden Wall is weird and wild in a way kids shows usually aren’t, but rooted in the kind of magic and macabre that fills the original versions of familiar fairy tales. The show has lived on in an excellent comic from BOOM! Studios, but unlike other Cartoon Network shows, fans don’t have a wide variety of merch to get their hands on. Art of Over the Garden Wall features concept and production art from the crew that brought the show alive, with commentary from creators Patrick McHale and Nick Cross, interviews and behind-the-scenes peeks that will delight fans. Paste’s own Sean Edgar co-wrote the book with McHale, so our suggestion isn’t unbiased, but it’s still a must-have for fans that want more of the contemplative, mysterious adventures of Wirt and Greg. Caitlin Rosberg

STL056919.jpegGenerations: Captain Marvel & Captain Mar-Vell #1
Writer: Margaret Stohl
Artist: Brent Schoonover
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Current Captain Marvel Carol Danvers has more often been cast as a legacy inspirer than a legacy inheritor, thanks to the popularity of teenage Danvers super-fan Ms. Marvel, but she’s one of the only heroes in Marvel’s Generations roster who can claim both sides of the equation. Unfortunately, Danvers’ publishing profile has dipped since her heyday under writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, who tirelessly self-promoted the book, and current writer Margaret Stohl has had the unenviable task of taking over Captain Marvel’s solo adventures following Civil War II, in which Danvers became one of the least likable heroes in the Marvel U. This issue, drawn by Howling Commandoes artist Brent Schoonover, reunites Danvers with one of Marvel’s most famously deceased heroes, Captain Mar-Vell. As Danvers has ascended the ranks of Marvel’s most visible heroes, few fans or creators have wanted to dwell on her male inspiration. This Generations issue has the potential to neatly close the door on this aspect of Danvers, or provide yet another misstep in her recent publishing history. Steve Foxe

STL056730.jpegHarley Quinn 25th Anniversary Special #1
Writers: Amanda Conner, Paul Dini, Daniel Kibblesmith, Jimmy Palmiotti, Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Amanda Conner, Chad Hardin, David Lafuente, Dustin Nguyen, Joe Quinones, Others
Publisher: DC Comics
Harley Quinn is one of the few characters to arrive in mainstream superhero comics following a premiere in another medium, and 25 years after her debut in Batman: The Animated Series, DC is taking time to celebrate one of their most beloved, and often misunderstood, bad women. This anniversary issue is double-sized, and has a price to match, but the long list of talented creators involved make it worth the cover cost. Paul Dini, along with Bruce Timm, headed the show that brought Harley into the world, and Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have been at the helm of various Harley-centered titles for the past few years. Add to that artists like Joe Quinones and Annie Wu, and the book is sure to be both a visual delight and a funny outing. The unexpected joy of Chip Zdarsky, whose penchant for hijinks and surreal humor seems like a perfect fit for Harley, makes the title all but guaranteed to be a pun-filled blast. Here’s hoping it focuses on Harley and her female friendships, instead of her notorious ex-boyfriend. Caitlin Rosberg

MisterMiracle.jpgMister Miracle #2
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Publisher: DC Comics
If any two creators could funnel the seething cognitive dissonance of 2017 into sequential art, Tom King and Mitch Gerads hold that skill set. Translating the feeling of sea-change politics and sociological chaos, the pair behind last year’s excellent Sheriff of Babylon address a character who can escape any trap save his own existential malaise. The original Mister Miracle is one of many latter-day creations from the great Jack Kirby, who used the Christian Bible as inspiration for a neon space odyssey where good and evil clash in psychedelic splendor. This comic, announced in an exclusive interview with the creative team on Paste earlier this year, shows what happens when not only the balance between good and evil distorts, but when the definition of those extremes blur. With a first issue that witnessed the titular hero (spoiler alert) attempt suicide and the equivalent of God die, issue two would be expected to offer a break from this onslaught of anxiety. Nope! Rendered with emotional realism from Gerads—check out that sequence with the toxically sweet Grannie Goodness—this is the most horrifically relevant comic on stands, and a mythological badge of what it means to be a human being living through 2017. Sean Edgar

Moomin.jpgMoomin Begins a New Life
Writer/Artist: Tove Jansson
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Few Americans will understand how internationally beloved The Moomins are. Encompassing nine books and a strip that ran for 48 years, Tove and Lars Jansson’s amiable hippo clan has also ascended through multiple TV shows, feature films, theme parks and even airplane endorsements, their broad snouts gracing the fuselage of Finnair’s fleet. Drawn & Quarterly has capably offered a slew of reprints to English-speaking audiences, showing the heart, charm and wit that overflow within these panels. (The publisher has also accomplished a similar feat with another international treasure—Shigeru Mizuki’s Japanese monster epic Kitaro.) Moomin Begins a New Life sounds hilariously, paradoxically adult, featuring a religious leader who storms Moominville with a message of transformative happiness, only to end up causing mass disorder when he frees the local jail’s inmates. Draw your own conclusions in the era of Joe Arpaio from both perspectives, but storylines like this are also proof of Jansson’s skill at seizing timeless issues that affect families, no matter political identification. And her soft, rounded forms offer a disarming interface to explore bigger issues, unspooled reasonably and briskly in these pages. Sean Edgar

STL056524.jpegNinjak #0
Writers: Matt Kindt, Christos Gage
Artist: Francis Portela, Tomás Giorello, Others
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Valiant rarely lets a milestone go uncelebrated, but it’s hard to knock their occasional anniversary issues when the publisher so often makes smart use of these deluxe-sized offerings. Ninjak #0 concludes Matt Kindt’s run on MI-6’s finest graduate, with Faith artist Francis Portela illustrating an early adventure from the purple-clad ninja. The second half of this issue introduces the new Ninja.k (Panic! at the Disco-style punctuation intended) creative team of Christos Gage and Tomás Giorello, which sets up the new series for its November debut. Ninjak seems like the character least likely to weather an update from Valiant’s ‘90s origins, yet the wealthy white-boy ninja seems likely to keep shuriken-ing his opponents in style for years to come if the publisher keeps up current efforts. Steve Foxe

TheRealm01.pngThe Realm #1
Writer: Seth M. Peck
Artist: Jeremy Haun
Publisher: Image Comics
Image Comics has recently made strides in genre that largely avoid superheroes, vouching for horror, fantasy, science fiction and whatever hybrids cross-pollinate within that DNA. The Realm sits firmly in the latter category and is a hell of a lot fun, filling a post-apocalyptic wasteland with magic and dragons. Writer Seth Peck and artist Jeremy Haun imbue fantasy with the survivalist rigor of Cormack McCarthy (The Road) or Stand-era Stephen King, dotting this first issue with threads that straddle human need with intoxicating supernaturalism. The plot revolves around Will Nolan, a mercenary who escorts travelers through a hazardous wasteland teeming with human traffickers and orcs and it all looks strikingly lovely given the harsh themes. Haun and colorist Nick Filardi sculpt dwarfing vistas of metropolitan atrophy, striking a balance between depressing and exotic that begs to be unpacked. The Realm is an undeniably cool side road through traditional escapism that should appeal to fans of Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan’s Birthright or Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera’s Black Science. Sean Edgar

STL057035.jpegRetcon #1
Writer: Matt Nixon
Artist: Toby Cypress
Publisher: Image Comics
The word “retcon” can spark a variety of reactions from comic book fans, most of them not very positive. Retconning, the act of retroactively changing canon to better suit current publishing or storytelling needs, is often derided for leaving fans bereft of years of emotional investment in characters who are suddenly no longer familiar. Matt Nixon and Toby Cypress’s creator-owned title seems oriented towards meta-commentary on this problem, billing itself as “the reboot of a comic book miniseries that has never existed.” Nixon wrote on a couple of Marvel titles in the late nineties, but hasn’t been seen in the industry much since then. For his part, artist Cypress contributed to titles like The White Suits and Blue Estate, but Retcon is still a bit of a mystery, literally and figuratively. The main character is tied both to violence and the law, and it appears Retcon will attempt to solve the supernatural mysteries surrounding his past. The idea of a retconned yet brand-new comic is a novel one, and it’ll be interesting to see where this mystery goes. Caitlin Rosberg

STL056483.jpegRunaways #1
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Kris Anka
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Finally. Just in time for the upcoming television adaptation, The Runaways get another shot at comics, this time from massively celebrated YA author Rainbow Rowell and slick, stylish fan-favorite artist Kris Anka. The last volume (not counting an enjoyable but in-name-only Secret Wars tie-in mini-series) concluded before its time in 2009, with writer Kathryn Immomen and artist David LaFuente dropping a bit of a cliff-hanger that Rowell and Anka amazingly seem to be picking up a full eight years later. Anka’s eye for fashion and attitude is perfectly suited for Nico and the gang, and Rowell has ample experience navigating teens’ interior lives. Most promising about this series, though, has been Marvel’s attempts to explain to Rowell’s existing prose fanbase how best to support the book, with explainers about comic shipping and distribution. Maybe this run will get to see itself through to its intended conclusion. Steve Foxe

STL054400.jpegSlam!: Next Jam #1
Writer: Pamela Ribon
Artist: Marina Julia
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Pamela Ribon and Veronica Fish’s rollicking roller-derby mini-series Slam!, in which characters broke bones and the rules, has now joined the ranks of BOOM! titles like Goldie Vance and Jonesy in getting a “series order” for more issues, albeit in a new mini and without original artist Fish. In her place is Marina Julia, a contributor to BOOM!’s Adventure Time titles and the creator behind the popular Starfire zine, Starry Eyed. Julia’s work is a bit softer than Fish’s, which should offer a new angle on pummeling skate-rink action. Ribon’s focus here is the character work, though, which fits nicely alongside BOOM!’s stable of intimate, intricate portraits of female friendship and queer-inclusive storytelling. Steve Foxe

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