Wytches Halloween Special, Emma Frost, Hex Wives & More in Required Reading: Comics for 10/31/2018

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Wytches Halloween Special, Emma Frost, Hex Wives & More in Required Reading: Comics for 10/31/2018

Happy Halloween, spooky, ooky Paste Comics readers! We will avoid trick-or-treat puns throughout this Required Reading installment, but rest assured all of the suggestions below are as sweet as a your favorite candy. From a stellar Emma Frost outing, a “wytchy” return and a DC crossover kickoff to not one, not two, but three oversized anthology specials, this Wednesday has a bounty of options for readers to take in before they don their costumes. What are you waiting for? Get scrolling, boys and ghouls!

STL097449.jpegAvengers Halloween Special
Writers: Gerry Duggan, Jay Baruchel, Rob Fee, Robbie Thompson, Jen & Sylvia Soska
Artists: Laura Braga, Luca Pizzari, Eoin Marron, Bob Quinn, Jonas Scharf
Publisher: Marvel Comics
While DC Comics has produced a steady run of oversized anthology issues, typically themed around holidays (see Cursed Comics Cavalcade from earlier this month), Marvel trots out the format with less frequency. The Avengers Halloween Special features a good mix of established House of Ideas contributors along with fresher faces. Sharing the page count with Gerry Duggan and Robbie Thompson, actor and Canadian comics publisher Jay Baruchel makes his Marvel debut, and sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska offer a taste test before their upcoming Black Widow series. Artists include the consistently creepy Eoin Marron and the ever-solid Laura Braga, making the Avengers Halloween Special a fun, if inessential, trick-or-treat read for Marvel fans. Steve Foxe

BMSFCv1.jpgBatman: Secret Files #1
Writers: Tom King, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Taylor, Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Ram V
Artists: Mikel Janin, Jill Thompson, Brad Walker, Elena Casagrande, Jorge Fornes
Publisher: DC Comics
Tom King’s steady hand has taken the main Batman title into new territory, and with Secret Files, he and an impressive crew of additional contributors are fleshing out history to act as foundation for all sorts of stories moving forward. King and frequent Batman artist Mikel Janin provide bookends for this oversized issue, a framework within which other creative teams deliver stories about Batman’s case files and some of his most famous adversaries. It’s particularly exciting to see colorist Jordie Bellaire on the writer side of things, as her work with Vanesa Del Rey on Redlands has a similar sense of atmosphere and place as the best Gotham-set tales. Anthology books like this are a great way to introduce fans to new creators and ideas, giving publishers and editors a chance to test the water. This issue also marks another appearance of Justice League Dark’s Detective Chimp, with a story from Tom Taylor and Brad Walker that teams the world’s greatest detective with a chimpanzee in a deerstalker. Caitlin Rosberg

imageedit_6_5855049289.jpgCatalyst Prime: Kino #10
Writer: Alex Paknadel
Artist: Diego Galindo
Publisher: Lion Forge
Lion Forge’s nascent Catalyst Prime shared superhero universe has had interesting elements, but has often struggled to stand out in a packed capes-and-tights publishing era. Now that most of the titles have shipped at least two full arcs, it seems that Lion Forge is willing to take a bit more risk. Following nine issues from writer Joe Casey and artists including Jefte Palo, Catalyst Prime: Kino welcomes new creative team Alex Paknadel and Diego Galindo. Incoming readers need not fear: Paknadel and Galindo pick up on the status quo left behind by Casey and crew, but do so in an accessible manner. Super-powered Alistair Meath finds himself homeless, his family having moved on without him—and his country under the thrall of a far-right politician who insists that “The Event” that kicked off the Catalyst Prime universe never even happened. Paknadel is invested in smart, biting sci-fi like Arcadia and the currently running Friendo, and Galindo provides an easy visual bridge from original artist Palo. If you’re looking for an original superhero story with more room to experiment than the average Marvel or DC outing, consider joining the Kino train with this convenient jumping-on point. Steve Foxe

STL096810.jpegGreen Lantern/Huckleberry Hound Special #1
Writers: Mark Russell, J.M. Dematteis
Artists: Rick Leonardi, Tom Mandrake
Publisher: DC Comics
DC Comics’ Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbara crossover specials have become something of a fifth-week staple for the publisher, fleshing out their line during extended months with fun, inconsequential, improbable—and sometimes shockingly good—standalone tales. While many of these are stuck with weird depictions of cartoon animals never meant to share page spaces with realistically depicted superhero characters, the best of these one-shots (like Lex Luthor/Porky Pig) just embrace the absurdity of it all. Green Lantern/Huckleberry Hound calls back to the socially conscious early days of John Stewart, as he finds himself face to face with a blue dog protesting societal ills. Writer Mark Russell thrives with politically nuanced takes on existing characters (see: Exit Stage Left and Prez), making this particular special the easiest bet of this week’s crop—although you’ll need to buy them all to read the complete Secret Squirrel backup. Steve Foxe

STL096802.jpegHex Wives #1
Writer: Ben Blacker
Artist: Mirka Andolfo
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics
It’s unwise to question the supernatural bonafides of writer Ben Blacker, a producer on The Thrilling Adventure and Supernatural Suspense Hour and writer for long-running TV show Supernatural. Along with his writing partner Ben Acker, Blacker has contributed to a slew of comics at Image, Marvel and BOOM! Studios in addition to DC. But with Hex Wives, he’s tackling something new: a coven of witches who have been captured and brainwashed by an all-male group of witch hunters, forced to serve as housewives in a town that has more than a passing resemblance to Pleasantville. The idea is an intriguing one, and Mirka Andolfo’s name helps the book demand even more attention; her work on DC Comics Bombshells has earned her a lot of fans. The danger here is that Hex Wives could fall into the same trap Supernatural often has, framing a story about powerful women exclusively through their relationship with men who abuse them. Given that the story is starting with powerful women kidnapped and manipulated by men who want them dead, Blacker will have to work hard not to succumb to that trope, but it’s worth checking out to see if the book is less Stepford Wives and more Practical Magic. Caitlin Rosberg

STL099781.jpegJustice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth #1
Writer: James T. Tynion IV
Artist: Howard Porter
Publisher: DC Comics
For the past couple of years, DC Comics has been crafting a lineup that typically includes several smaller events rather than one big summer blockbuster, which has the benefit of drumming up interest across multiple titles while reducing disruption to readers and ongoing stories. In this Drowned Earth kickoff, ancient gods called the Ocean Lords have invaded Earth and covered it with water even faster than humans have managed to via climate change. They’ve got a bone to pick with both Aquaman and Wonder Woman, which leaves the Justice League and Mera struggling to combat their transformative tidal waves and save the world. Howard Porter’s looser current art style is a good fit for this kind of sweeping event storytelling, and it’s written by James T. Tynion IV, who has been increasingly involved at DC in canon-shifting stories, most recently with the Wonder Woman-centric “Witching Hour” saga that concludes this week. With the Aquaman film right around the corner, this is a great way to get excited about Arthur Curry, despite the best efforts of years of more parody-focused pop culture. Caitlin Rosberg

STL096230.jpegPlanet of the Apes: The Time of Man #1
Writers: Dan Abnett, David Walker, Philip Kennedy Johnson
Artists: Carlos Magno, George Schall, Morgan Beem
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
BOOM! Studios has done well by Planet of the Apes fans, offering everything from a graphic novel adaptation of the original screenplay to tie-ins with the new continuity to crossovers with properties like King Kong and Green Lantern. This hefty one-shot features three standalone stories set across the Apes spectrum, all focused on the most insidious foes in the franchise: human beings. Of particular draw, Planet of the Apes: The Time of Man features, for the first time ever, a story set after the events of War for the Planet of the Apes, as the final few human survivors struggle to, well, keep on surviving. At $7.99, Planet of the Apes: The Time of Man is either a sound investment for existing Apes fans or a fun splurge for the Apes-curious. Steve Foxe

STL096238.jpegSex Death Revolution #1
Writer: Magdalene Visaggio
Artist: Becca Farrow
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Writer Magdalene Visaggio has earned acclaim from readers and critics alike for telling stories about nuanced, conflicted female characters with diverse motivations and stories. Between Eternity Girl, Kim & Kim and Quantum Teens are Go, she’s proven her ability when it comes to compelling stories about intimacy, trust and sometimes punching people in the face. It’s exciting to see her continuing her work with Black Mask Studios, where she got her first Eisner nomination and has clearly built a fan base and good working relationship. Much of her work in the past has concerned itself with technology, so to hear that Sex Death Revolution is an urban fantasy about a New York sorceress is an intriguing change of pace. Esperanza’s life has fallen apart and begun to turn back on itself as history is rewritten, and the question of how she handles all this change is at the center of the book. Becca Farrow handles the art, and her reputation as a fan artist, game maker and from comics like Ladycastle make her an ideal partner for Visaggio. Both creators value character-driven storytelling and truly diverse casts, so Sex Death Revolution is all but guaranteed to be a great read. Caitlin Rosberg

STL097863.jpegWytches: Bad Egg Halloween Special
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jock
Publisher: Image Comics
Years after the first Wytches story hit shelves, Scott Snyder and Jock return to the haunted world they created together, perfectly timed to Halloween. With the Rook family from volume one torn apart by ancient, evil magic that’s been fed for generations by townspeople willing to sacrifice other humans in exchange for tonics and favors, it’s not immediately obvious where the story will pick up for volume two. The Bad Egg Halloween Special is a one-shot issue that can stand alone, but also acts as a prequel for the next story arc, which will premiere in 2019. Rather than revolving around a family as in the first volume, Bad Egg is about two young boys raised on opposite sides of the struggle that Wytches first outlined. Bad Egg was originally published in segments in Image+, Image’s monthly magazine, but this new book collects the entire run and throws in some extra pages for good measure. Snyder has been leading a lot of big efforts over at DC for the last few years, but fans of this series have been waiting patiently for him to revisit the supernaturally brutal and terrifying world he and Jock spun together, and hopefully this will tide readers over until next year. Caitlin Rosberg

STL097530.jpegX-Men Black: Emma Frost #1
Writers: Leah Williams, Zac Thompson & Lonnie Nadler
Artists: Chris Bachalo, Geraldo Borges
Publisher: Marvel Comics
In one of those rare cases of creative self-actualization, writer Leah Williams has spent ages tweeting about her appreciation for Emma Frost, and it shows in every page of this final X-Men Black installment—not because this issue is all fan service, but because Williams just gets the X-Men’s on-again, off-again White Queen. Frost, currently on the outs with her former teammates, recruits the X-Men to help her take down the Hellfire Club once and for all. Drawing Williams’ razor-sharp take on Emma is Chris Bachalo, a longtime franchise veteran who, one questionable fashion choice aside, makes for a perfect pairing with subject and author. Unlike prior X-Men Black one-shots, Emma Frost actually leaves the title character with an intriguing new status quo by the end of things, so consider this truly Required Reading. Also out in shops this Wednesday from Williams: What If? Magik, which shows off Filipe Andrade’s artwork and proves Williams’ witty writing in Emma Frost is no fluke (if anything, this What If? continuity might top Magik and Doctor Strange’s 616 continuities). Steve Foxe