The Unexpected, The Immortal Hulk, About Betty’s Boob & More in Required Reading: Comics for 6/6/2018

Comics Lists Required Reading
The Unexpected, The Immortal Hulk, About Betty’s Boob & More in Required Reading: Comics for 6/6/2018

Hope you’re ready for a doozy comic fans, because your favorite publishers are ringing in June with a bang. Marvel debuts enough new series this week to block out the rest of our list (which is why we name-checked most of them in one entry), while DC Comics has the one-two-three punch of Man of Steel #2, Justice League #1 and the long-awaited The Unexpected #1, the capstone “New Age of DC Heroes” title and a tantalizing follow-up to the smash-hit Dark Nights: Metal event. If capes and primordial super-demons aren’t your thing, About Betty’s Boob sensitively (and near-silently) tackles breast cancer; The Cardboard Kingdom opens up a rainbow of multifaceted children’s storytelling; Brian Wood returns to his beloved Vikings in Sword Daughter; the Eisner-nominated No. 1 With a Bullet arrives in trade format; and more. May your summer be chock-full of more great comics than you can shake a lawn chair at.

STL077885.jpegAbout Betty’s Boob
Writer: Vero Cazot
Artist: Julie Rocheleau
Publisher: Archaia/ BOOM! Studios
One of a growing number of French comics and graphic novels to hit the American market in the last few years, About Betty’s Boob also joins the ranks of intimate, personal storytelling by female creators. Though it’s not autobiographical in the tradition of creators like Bechdel and Knisley, Vero Cazot and Julie Rocheleau tackle the complex and nuanced emotions that come along with breast cancer. Breast cancer is one of the most well-researched and most publicly discussed illnesses, but there aren’t many comics that confront it. The recent run of The Mighty Thor was one of the highest-profile sequential-art discussions of this kind of disease, but About Betty’s Boob is still wading into largely uncharted territory. Tackling loss and questions of femininity and identity from a comedic angle keeps the focus and agency rooted in Betty, not just her cancer or her boob, a fine line that many cancer stories fail to establish. As the book is mostly silent, the lack of dialog to translate will hopefully make the transition for English readers even smoother. Caitlin Rosberg

STL081947.jpegThe Cardboard Kingdom
Writers: Chad Sell, Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, Cloud Jacobs & Barbara Perez Marquez
Artist: Chad Sell
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers/ Random House
Though parts of the direct market still haven’t quite figured it out yet, middle-grade and Young Adult comics and graphic novels are unquestionably one of the cornerstones of the industry now, propping up less stable demographics with creators like Raina Telgemeier at the lead. The Cardboard Kingdom builds on that strong foundation, telling the stories of a neighborhood of kids as they create adventures and identities for themselves out of cardboard. Created, organized and drawn by Chad Sell, the book features contributions from a slew of different writers, each one telling a story in the same shared cul-de-sac. Sell’s art may be familiar to fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race, as he has created beautiful art of the oversized personalities from that show for years, as well as popular cheeky superhero pin-ups. It comes as little surprise that the cast of characters he helped create is diverse in gender, race, ability and orientation, making a world where as many young readers as possible will feel welcome and represented. His style is big and colorful and cheerful, helping to create a lot of story in a small amount of space—perfect for a kids’ book. Equal parts Hey Arnold! and a slightly younger Nimona, The Cardboard Kingdom is a good opportunity to explore a lot of new comics talent all in one book. Caitlin Rosberg [Full disclosure: Paste Comics editor Steve Foxe edited this title while at his former position. He is no longer an employee of Random House.]

STL084488.jpegDazzler: X-Song #1
Writer: Magdalene Visaggio
Artist: Laura Braga
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Listen—it’s a big week for Marvel Comics. A huge week, even. Doctor Strange is going to space, Deadpool gets his first new ongoing creative team in years and Ant-Man and the Wasp kick off a new team-up ahead of their duo film. All of those comics should be considered heartily recommended, at least for a tester issue. But we here at Paste are nothing if not Dazzler marks, and there’s no way Wade Wilson is knocking Alison Blaire off of our Required Reading roundup. Dazzler: X-Song was almost definitely originally intended to join Power Pack #63, Master of Kung-Fu #126 and the other one-shot series continuations released last fall, but for whatever reason, Dazzler’s comeback tour got delayed a few seasons. Magdalene Visaggio’s experience with the punky ladies of Kim & Kim should serve her well with the X-Men’s resident mutant rock star, and Laura Braga remains a criminally underrated superhero artist. Dazzler is next slated to show up in Matthew Rosenberg and Greg Land’s Astonishing X-Men, so X-Song is probably a self-contained one-off, but who doesn’t love a good hit single now and then? Steve Foxe

STL082095.jpegGarfield: Homecoming #1
Writer: Scott Nickel
Artist: Sara Talmadge
Publisher: kaBOOM!/ BOOM! Studios
Garfield tends to get lost among BOOM! Studios flashier, newer licensed properties, from perennial favorite Adventure Time to more recent hits like Rocko’s Modern Life and Rugrats. Like his distant cousins in Peanuts, Garfield’s lower profile likely stems from how well BOOM! accomplishes the classic feel of the strip, which is more of a gentle chuckle than a loud guffaw. Jim Davis’ iconic feline comes to life most when BOOM! is allowed to have a little extra fun, and writer Scott Nickel is the go-to cat wrangler for these occasions. Garfield: His 9 Lives saw Nickel collaborate with a batch of off-kilter cartoonists for unusual takes on the titular kitty, and now Garfield: Homecoming follows a similar path, pairing Nickel with a different artist each issue for a wild ride through a traveling circus. Up first is Steven Universe’s Sara Talmadge, with equally idiosyncratic artists waiting in the wings for future issues. Steve Foxe

STL083819.jpegThe Immortal Hulk #1
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Joe Bennett
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer Greg Pak’s work on The Totally Awesome Hulk these past few years has been an awesome showcase for the character Amadeus Cho, but the Jade Giant portion of the book never quite clicked as well as it does with the classically cursed Bruce Banner. Following his bow-and-arrow demise in Civil War II, Banner is back—and he couldn’t die again even if he wanted to. In Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s horror-tinged The Immortal Hulk, killing Banner does nothing to kill the Hulk, who rises again each night like a green ghoul to wreak his emerald-tinted havoc. Bruce Jones, Brian Azzarello and Richard Corben have all explored the horror potential of the Hulk before, but Ewing is one of Marvel’s most consistently strong and surprising talents, and Bennett’s approach to the book fits the subject matter creepily well. Marvel’s iconic heroes are returning left and right: Tony Stark is a dashing iron-suited hero again, Dude Thor has a hammer once more and Captain America almost definitely isn’t a fake Nazi now. The Immortal Hulk does us one better by giving us back Bruce—with an all-new, all-spooky, totally authentic direction to boot. Steve Foxe

STL082425.jpegJustice League #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jim Cheung
Publisher: DC Comics
Hot on the heels of the deliriously bonkers—and bonkers fun—Justice League: No Justice four-issue mini-series, Scott Snyder makes his proper JL debut alongside frequent Marvel Comics heavyweight Jim Cheung in Justice League #1. Like No Justice, Justice League goes for absolute broke, throwing caution (and physics) to the wind. Snyder approaches the League’s members with quips to spare, which may remind readers of Joss Whedon’s work on the cinematic Justice League. Cheung, meanwhile, was absolutely born to render DC’s most inconic heroes. Sometimes when an artist makes the jump from one half of the Big Two to the other, their style is so heavily associated with their former home that the transition takes a while to settle in. Not so with Cheung, who nails several stunning two-page group shots in this debut issue alone. And with artist Jorge Jimenez on hand to alternate with Cheung, Justice League is likely to remain the prettiest, most insanely big superhero team book on stands. We’ll miss the just-concluded Justice League of America and Justice League titles, but fans will likely enjoy Snyder’s take on the franchise. Steve Foxe

STL074463.jpegNo. 1 With a Bullet tpb
Writer: Jacob Semahn
Artist: Jorge Corona
Publisher: Image Comics
An increasing number of Image titles have been confronting questions of social media and fame, particularly raising questions about the role that the Internet plays in our lives. Jacob Semahn and Jorge Corona, the team behind Goners, tackled the subject with a focus on invasive technology and the risks it poses. The entirety of the six-issue run of No. 1 with a Bullet is collected in trade this week, telling the story of Nash Huang, a celebrity whose life has been ripped apart by a pair of contact lenses, a leaked sex tape and the sudden appearance of some dead bodies. Goners was also just six issues, and completely self-contained stories that can fit into a single trade paperback are underrated, particularly as a way to get new readers into comics. For fans of shows like Black Mirror, No. 1 with a Bullet feels like an easy gateway drug, with stories like The Private Eye and the upcoming Crowded waiting in the wings. Caitlin Rosberg

STL074002.jpegSpectacle Vol. 1
Writer/Artist: Megan Rose Gedris
Publisher: Oni Press
Another new entry in the Young Adult comics space, Spectacle stands apart with sharp storytelling that doesn’t talk down to the teenagers that it’s aimed at, trusting them to manage a plot that is both dark and comedic in turns. Writer and artist Megan Rose Gedris has successfully self-published several books and webcomics, but much of that work has also been written for adults or even erotic in nature. Gedris, whose contribution to the anthology Enough Space for Everyone Else earned her an Eisner nomination this year, relies on her own experiences with performance and isolation to create Spectacle, the story of a young woman who tells fortunes in a travelling circus and is trying to solve her sister’s murder. The book effortlessly folds in world building alongside conversations about identity and otherness and responsibility, themes that are important and valuable to any teen, but especially those who feel like they’re on the outside looking in. Much of Gedris’ previous work is inclusive of marginalized people, especially LGBTQ+ folks and those who embrace things that are “too weird” for everyone else, and Spectacle feels like a wonderful culmination of all that into something unique and beautiful. Caitlin Rosberg

STL084417.jpegSword Daughter #1
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Mack Chater
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Northlanders and Black Road writer Brian Wood further establishes himself as the foremost authority on comic-book Vikings this week with Sword Daughter #1, the start of an ongoing Viking-era series from Dark Horse Comics. Inspired by samurai cinema and co-created with Wood’s Briggs Land collaborator Mack Chater, Sword Daughter introduces young, nearly mute Elsbeth and her grief-stricken father, Dag, the only two survivors of a village massacre perpetrated by the Forty Swords gang. Sword Daughter features colors by Jose Villarubia, letters by Nate Piekos and evocative covers from Greg Smallwood as it tackles parental grief, loss and the cycle of violence in a sweeping revenge saga that spans most of Europe. While Wood remains a controversial figure in comics, this is one subject he’s got on lock. Steve Foxe

STL083565.jpegThe Unexpected #1
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artists: Ryan Sook & Cary Nord
Publisher: DC Comics
The Unexpected features a character who has to fight once every 24 hours, or she’ll die—and Janet Fals, Firebrand, is just one of several new heroes introduced in Steve Orlando’s latest series from DC with artists Ryan Sook and Cary Nord. Set in the aftermath of Dark Nights: Metal, Janet finds her life upheaved by the conflict engine that’s replaced her heart—the very engine that drives her to pick fights to save her own life, day in and day out. Orlando, Sook and Nord deliver a band of heroes—or at least, tentative allies—who feel fresh but take inspiration from the long legacy of elder gods and monsters that the Dark Nights: Metal event brought to the forefront once again. Metal’s larger-than-life, cosmic-level event vibe has carried on into several of the “New Age of DC Heroes” titles launched in its wake, and most have been solid starting points for readers who may not have followed every offshoot and crossover of the last few months. With Orlando at the helm, given his experience with other well-traveled characters like Supergirl and Midnighter, The Unexpected will likely be just as easy to pick up. C.K. Stewart

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