Sharkey the Bounter Hunter, High Level, The Amazing Nightcrawler & More in Required Reading: Comics for 2/20/2019

Comics Lists Required Reading
Sharkey the Bounter Hunter, High Level, The Amazing Nightcrawler & More in Required Reading: Comics for 2/20/2019

Did everyone blow their comic budget footing the bill for Valentine’s dinner last week? If so, it’s time to dig into the piggy bank—and if not, congrats on being single and ready to mingle with some excellent sequential art. This Wednesday sees the latest Millarworld title hitting stands, starring a purple bounty hunter shooting his way through space with his kid sidekick close at hand. If Mark Millar isn’t your speed, Marvel has two unexpected mutant series debuting—Nightcrawler as a Hollywood icon and Wolverine as a cosmic crusader—while DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint continues along with the launch of High Level. We’ve also got a throwback romance comic, a brand-new fantasy series from comiXology Originals, a new Valiant event, a hobo roadtrip and more in this week’s Required Reading.

STL108613.jpegAge of X-Man: The Amazing Nightcrawler #1
Writer: Seanan McGuire
Artist: Juan Frigeri
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The seeming utopia of Age of X-Man has been unraveling piece by piece, as the dark underbelly of X-Man’s passionless paradise is hinted at with each new installment of the mega-event—but hey, Nightcrawler seems to be making out okay. While Nightcrawler has always had alternative sex appeal—check out his Jacuzzi scenes in early issues of Uncanny X-MenAge of X-Man finds Kurt Wagner living it up as a movie star and superhero, balancing responsibilities thanks to his personal trainer Kylun, stunt coordinator Magma and leading lady Meggan. Of course, Tinseltown has its own drawbacks, even in a mutant paradise, and writer Seanan McGuire and artist Juan Frigeri will surely put Nightcrawler through the Hollywood ringer in this mini-series. As with previous X-Men alternate realities, it’s best to just enjoy the ride, especially when the franchise’s dashing blue buccaneer is finally getting his deserved spotlight. Steve Foxe

DelverCover.jpgDelver #1
Writers: MK Reed & C. Spike Trotman
Artist: Clive Hawken
Publisher: Iron Circus Comics/ comiXology Originals
We’re admittedly not the best at keeping up with comiXology Originals’ digital-only slate of new series—in our defense, there are a lot of comics published each week—but occasionally one of the Amazon subsidiary’s titles demands an extra look. Delver is a new, inclusive fantasy series co-written by Iron Circus publisher C. Spike Trotman and The Castoffs co-writer MK Reed, and drawn by rising artist Clive Hawken. Set in the village of Oddgoat (which, yes, is home to at least one odd goat), Delver begins with a portal to a vast, RPG-style dungeon suddenly appearing in a family’s food cellar, irrevocably changing the community by attracting roving explorers known as “Delvers.” As one might expect, the younger, restless villagers find themselves wrestling with the temptation to enter the dungeon in search of its dangerous riches. Trotman has helped reshape the comics industry with her line of Kickstarter-funded projects, and it’s thrilling to see her branch out into other avenues to spread her storytelling far and wide. As Delver is a comiXology Original, look for this one online, not in your local brick-and-mortar store. Steve Foxe

HIGH LEVEL 1.jpgHigh Level
Writer: Rob Sheridan
Artist: Barnaby Bagenda
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics
DC Comics’ storied mature-reader imprint Vertigo began a massive rejuvenation project last year, announcing the return of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Universe alongside seven brand-new series (now five, with the more-than-justified cancellation of Border Town and the disappointing removal of Second Coming from the upcoming slate). Hex Wives, American Carnage and Goddess Mode are on shelves now from a mix of familiar comic names and exciting outside talents, and High Level is next up at bat. Writer Rob Sheridan worked with the band Nine Inch Nails on an alternate-reality game, and one assumes that experience helped him craft a post-dystopia in which human society rebuilds itself from scratch, including the titular mythical city from which no one ever returns. Artist Barnaby Bagenda helped Tom King realize complicated sci-fi territory in Omega Men, and it’s enticing to see what he’ll do when building a world from the ground up. Steve Foxe

Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Ario Anindito
Publisher: Marvel Comics
File Greg Pak, Cory Smith and Guiu Vilanova’s Weapon H under “concepts that definitely shouldn’t have worked yet somehow did.” The Weapon X/Totally Awesome Hulk crossover that spawned the ungodly hybrid of Wolverine and the Hulk seemed to drag on forever, but the resulting solo series starring the gamma-irradiated, Adamantium-laced ex-soldier has been leagues better than the ‘90s gimmick you’d expect it to be. Chock that up to Pak’s character skills, especially with Hulks. Weapon H has clashed with Roxxon, traveled to Weirdworld and picked up some unexpected allies along the way—including Black Widow. Now it seems that Marvel’s recent purge of redundant characters may be catching up with him as Hulkverines finds Weapon H’s genetic godfathers come calling. It’s too early to tell if this will end up being Weapon H’s swan song—how long can a Hulk/Wolverine hybrid realistically exist in the Marvel universe?—but it’s a sure bet that Pak and collaborator Ario Anindito will make this potential sendoff worth your while. Steve Foxe

Writers: Alex Paknadel & Andy Diggle
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
One of Valiant’s smarter publishing strategies is its focus on shorter, relatively self-contained volumes and limited events, which offers frequent jumping-on points for new readers. You don’t need to have read prior Eternal Warrior tales to understand Incursion, it’ll merely deepen your appreciation for the complicated father/daughter-ish bond growing between the Eternal Warrior and Tama, the current (incredibly powerful) Geomancer. And since Imperatrix Virago, Incursion’s ruthless primary threat, is a brand-new creation, both new and returning readers have something to discover together. Valiant’s approach is also a boon to readers who prefer to follow creators, not characters, and Incursion offers up quite the roster behind the scenes: artist Doug Braithwaite, a mainstay of Valiant’s efforts; Andy Diggle, current mastermind of Shadowman; and Alex Paknadel, who makes his Valiant debut co-writing with Diggle. Paknadel is the whip-smart rising talent behind books like Friendo and the latest arc of Kino from Lion Forge. Steve Foxe

STL063873.jpegLong Road to Liquor City
Writer: Macon Blair
Artist: Joe Flood
Publisher: Oni Press
There’s been a small resurgence of travelin’-hobo comics, from Kyle Starks’ Rock Candy Mountain to Cecil Castellucci and Jose Pimienta’s Soupy Leaves Home. Maybe it’s because so many of us would love to toss out our smartphones and live off the land these days (although we know we’d only last about six hours before the need to check Twitter did us in), but this week, we’ll be able to add one more title to the legacy: The Long Road to Liquor City from writer Macon Blair and artist Joe Flood. Blair is the filmmaker behind I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore and an actor in films including Green Room, The Florida Project and Logan Lucky, making his Oni Press debut alongside his Hellcity: The Whole Damn Thing collaborator Flood. Flood is also the writer and artist of Cellies from Lion Forge’s Roar imprint, as well as a contributor to the Science Comics series. Steve Foxe

STL108700.jpegLove Romances #1
Writers: Jon Adams, Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum, Gail Simone
Artists: Annapaola Martello, Roge Antonio, Others
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It’s late February, and that means two things: discounted candy and romance anthology comics. Love Romances #1 is a throwback to a title that launched at Atlas Comics in 1948 before transitioning to Atlas successor Marvel and staying in production until 1963. Unlike some other anthology books, it’s a standard-issue length at 24 pages but boasts three different stories by industry veterans Jon Adams, Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum and Gail Simone. Simone may be best known for her work on books like Secret Six and Domino, and Adams has created cartoons for both The New Yorker and MAD, so it’s all but guaranteed their stories will plenty of humor along with some heart. It is frustrating that Marvel has been unusually vague about the other artists collaborating on this issue; readers may be happy to follow writers, but art is a vital part of reading comics and artists deserve the same level of recognition. Still, Love Romances marks a return to Marvel’s history and an embrace of the romance-comic market, not to mention a fun and easy post-Valentine’s treat. Caitlin Rosberg

STL109316.jpegSharkey the Bounty Hunter #1
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Simone Bianchi
Publisher: Image Comics
Netflix’s 2017 purchase of Millarworld spelled some big changes for both the streaming giant and the comic banner, and Mark Millar has only increased his output in the last few years. Starting this week is Sharkey the Bounty Hunter, one of seven of Millar’s comics that are currently in various states of production at Netflix, along with Jupiter’s Legacy and Empress. Joining Millar on this new title is Simone Bianchi, an Italian artist who has worked on a slew of superhero titles like Warren Ellis’s run on Astonishing X-Men and Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory. The titular Sharkey is an interstellar bounty hunter who travels around the galaxy thanks to a rocket-powered ice cream truck and the help of his 10-year-old partner. There’s certainly a taste of Cowboy Bebop in the premise, and if there’s one thing Millar knows how to handle, it’s a fast-paced, high-stakes, gun-slinging adventure. Bianchi’s detailed, adept style will help to ground a book this wild and out of this world. Fans who loved Empress should definitely check this out, and the six-issue length keeps the barrier of entry low for new readers. Caitlin Rosberg

Writer: Phil Hester
Artist: Ryan Kelly
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
While it’s true that some AfterShock Comics series struggle to break through the noise, the ones that do are remarkable works that benefit from the free reign the publisher offers. A Walk Through Hell was one of our favorite horror series of 2018, thanks to its absolutely unflinching content, and Stronghold seems poised to be an early standout this year. Written and illustrated by two criminally under-appreciated talents, Phil Hester and Ryan Kelly, Stronghold subverts the Superman myth by revealing that our planet is actually a prison for an amnesiac alien who possesses incalculable power. Living under the name Michael Grey, the alien works as a Midwestern insurance underwriter and is kept in the dark about his true past by a shadowy society—until someone falls in love with him and considers risking the entire planet to bring that love to fruition. Steve Foxe

STL108732.jpegWolverine: Infinity Watch #1
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Andy MacDonald
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The recently revamped Uncanny X-Men series made a good case for having the Wolverine back in action after years of making do without, but goddamn has his return been a bumpy road. Between a Charles Soule-led event and follow-up mini-series that offered few concrete details about Logan’s resurrection, and Infinity Stone-related appearances in Infinity Wars and Avengers, a complex, confusing timeline of the berserker X-Men’s path back to the living has emerged. When was Wolverine brought back by an evil mutant with mind-control abilities, as seen in Return of Wolverine (which concludes this week), and how did he come into possession of an Infinity Stone that enabled him to pal around with Loki and stare down Celestials, as seen in Avengers? Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Andy MacDonald set out to bridge those seemingly large gaps in Wolverine: Infinity Watch, which sees Logan and the God of Lies teaming up in cosmic fashion. When all is said and done, it will have taken roughly 30 issues to transition Logan from metal-covered corpse to metal-enhanced X-Man, so lets hope this final leg of the journey is an entertaining one. Steve Foxe

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