Love and Rockets #6 — Creators: Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez
Go-Bots #1 — Creator: Tom Scioli
Rick and Morty Presents: Pickle Rick #1 (of 1) — Writer: Delilah S. Dawson; Art: CJ Cannon; Colors: Brittany Peer
Middlewest #1 — Writer: Skottie Young; Art: Jorge Corona; Colors: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Dick Tracy #2 — Writers: Lee and Michael Allred; Pencils: Rich Tommaso; Inks: Michael Allred; Colors: Laura Allred
Exorsisters #2 — Writer: Ian Boothby; Art: Gisele Lagace; Colors: Pete Pantazis
Black Badge #4 — Writer: Matt Kindt; Art: Tyler Jenkins; Colors: Hilary Jenkins
Burn-Outs #3 — Writer: Dennis Culver; Art: Geoffo; Colors: Lauren Perry
Archie #700 — Writer: Nick Spencer; Art/Colors: Marguerite Sauvage
The indy companies get first place this week, largely because of a new issue of Love and Rockets. The Hernandez brothers have been producing it, off and on, since 1981, with the characters aging in real time; Gilbert’s contribution this issue, particularly, has themes of time passing, new and old generations, and now-gone friends and family that older fans who’ve been following it since the beginning will appreciate. Even if you’re a newcomer, though, and don’t recognize all the history and Easter eggs, the precise, ultra-clean artwork, from both bros (each has a claim as one of the top ten comics artists, especially writer/artists, of the last half-century) demands to be seen. Go-Bots #1 looks at first glance like just another Transformers rip-off, but look closer; it’s by Tom Scioli (Godland, and all those weird Super Powers back-up shorts scattered through DC’s Young Animal imprint titles over the last few years); he’s got an underground sensibility and a Kirby fetish that serve him well, and while his style may seem primitive, this tale about transport robots gaining sentience and trying to take over the world will worm its way into your head, and be hard to resist. Rick and Morty Presents: Pickle Rick is another in a series of one-shots by that fast-growing cartoon franchise; unlike the regular comic, which has all-new stories, each issue of this adapts an episode of the TV show — but not completely; it’s more an alternate-universe version that expands and deepens the original, adding extra scenes and taking it in unexpected directions. If you’re a fan (as any productive member of the multiverse should be), you’ll like it. Middlewest, written by Skottie Young (I Hate Fairyland; Rocket Raccoon, Bully Wars; eight million variant “little heroes” covers for Marvel), starts out about a kid in, yes, the Midwest, who has a mean father and independence issues, but then widens out into a fantasy quest, complete with a talking-fox spirit guide; it’s more serious than most of Young’s stuff, and Jorge Corona’s art, darker and a bit less cartoony than his, fits it well. Dick Tracy is pencilled by Rich Tommaso, who makes it look nothing at all like Chester Gould’s version, but somehow still manages a similar in-your-face, caricature-rich oomph; this is helped considerably by the Allred family: brothers Lee and Michael on the cop-against-a-corrupt-system script, with inks by Michael and colors by wife Laura. The title characters in Exorsisters aren’t, precisely, sisters; we get their relationship explained fully in this second issue, and it involves their mom and a deal with, if not the devil, at least a devil. Its appealing neo-Archie art, and the sisters’ id/ego relationship that drives the story, make it work. The Matt Kindt-written Black Badge continues to expand its high-concept conceit about Boy Scouts being recruited as elite spies/black-ops soldiers, with suitably-twisty, morally-dubious action and a look at other badge colors and responsibilities, both building the world and keeping the characters interesting. Burnouts has a similar elevator-pitch concept: a small country town invaded by an alien force invisible to humans… unless they’re drunk or high or otherwise consciousness-altered; this means that only the stoner-kid outcasts can see them, and the resulting Steven Spielberg/Cheech and Chong mashup keeps the plot-pot boiling. Finally, Archie reaches its 700th-issue milestone with a script by Nick Spencer (Morning Glories; Amazing Spider-Man; Secret Empire — and, no, he doesn’t turn Archie into a Nazi….) that manages to squeeze in most of Riverdale’s sprawling cast, and give the ageless redhead a new love interest with a longstanding character; Marguerite Sauvage’s sleek style nails the sweet spot between the old (Dan-Decarlo-cartoony) and the new (teen-soap-opera-realistic).
Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse #1 (of 1) — Writer: Ralph Macchio; Art: Flaviano; Colors: Erick Arciniega
Spider-Geddon #4 (of 5) — Story: Dan Slott; Writer: Christos Gage; Pencils: Jorge Molina and Carflo Barberi; Inks: jay Leisten and Jose Marzan Jr.; Colors: David Curiel
Spider-Geddon: Spider-Force #2 (of 3) — Writer: Christopher Priest; Pencils: Paulo Siqueira, Marcelo Ferreira and Szymon Kudranski; Inks: Oren Junior, Roberto Poggi and Szymon Kudranski; Colors: Guru-eFX
Web of Venom: Carnage Born #1 (of 1) — Writer: Donny Cates; Art: Danilo S. Beyruth; Colors: Cris Peter
Uncanny X-Men #2 (Legacy #621) — Writers: Ed Brisson, Matthew Rosenberg and Kelly Thompson; Pencils: R. B. Silva; Inks: Adriano Di Benedetto; Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Mr. and Mrs. X #5 — Writer: Kelly Thompson; Art: Oscar Bazuldua; Colors: Frank D’Armata
Spider-Man: Enter The Spider-Verse is a one-shot tying into the animated film of the same name due out next month; it introduces the Miles Morales Spider-Man, and the whole alternate-universe Spidey-avatar concept, to civilians. You can tell by the cover, up to the right there, which alterna-versions, besides Miles and “our” Peter Parker, they think will be the biggest hits. To round out the issue (and justify the $4.99 price), there’s also a reprint of the post-Secret Wars Spider-Man book, the first where Miles was part of the “regular” Marvel universe, and not the Ultimate one; that’s by Brian Bendis and Sara Pichelli, so if you don’t have it, it’s worth reading. Spider-Geddon, the currently-running mini-series exploring all those alternate Spider-people, reaches its penultimate issue with the bad-guy Inheritors still winning, the good guys squabbling, and the former Doctor Octopus (seemingly) betraying the group: all the stuff you’d expect at this point in the story, and entertaining enough. Spider-Force details a side trip within the main narrative, involving a small group of Spideys looking to stop one of the Inheritors and prevent another from being reborn; it’s written by Christopher Priest, which makes it worthwhile, although the multiple artists make the visuals a little uneven. Web of Venom: Carnage Born is just what it says, a one-shot resurrecting Cletus Kasady as the psychopathic serial-killer in the red symbiote suit. It’s by Donny Cates, the main Venom writer, and ties in very strongly to that title; it also sets up an ongoing quest involving Kasady/Carnage looking to kill everyone who’s ever been possessed by one of the symbiotes — which, as the story’s last page makes clear, is a very long list…. Meanwhile, over in the X-books, Uncanny X-Men continues its weekly ten-part tale setting up that title as the tentpole of all the mutant books; there are lots of characters and subplots, and artist R.B. Silva gets a cool T-rex splash to draw, while the character who arrives on the last page will be familiar to fans of the various Marvel TV series. Mr. and Mrs. X ends its first arc successfully, with Kelly Thompson concluding Rogue and Gambit’s sprawling space adventure and cementing their now-marital relationship in ways that fans should appreciate. Oscar Bazuldua has one of those slightly-cartoony styles that makes everyone look attractive, although the Terry Dodson covers make me wish he was drawing the actual comic….
West Coast Avengers #4 — Writer: Kelly Thompson; Art: Stefano Caselli; Colors: Triona Farrell
Shuri #2 (of 6?) — Writer: Nnedi Okorafor; Art: Leonardo Romero; Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Marvel Knights #2 (of 6) — Showrunner: Donny Cates; Writer: Matthew Rosenberg; Art/Colors: Niko Henrichon
Infinity Warps: Ghost Panther #1 (of 2) — Writer: Jed MacKey; Art: Jefte Palo; Colors: Jim Campbell
Doctor Strange #8 (Legacy #398) — Writer: Mark Waid; Pencils: Andres Guinaldo and Javier Pina; Inks: Javier Pina and Andy Owens; Colors: Carlos Lopez
Immortal Hulk #9 (Legacy #726) — Wrier: Al Ewing; Pencils: Joe Bennett; Inks: Ruy Jose; Colors: Paul Mounts; Additional Art: Martin Simmonds
West Coast Avengers ends its first relaunch arc with an effective combination of humor and adventure; if you liked Kelly Thompson’s previous run on the Kate Bishop Hawkeye, this is pretty much the same thing, but with extra heroes added, especially Gwenpool, Ms. America Chavez, Quentin Quire and the original Clint Barton Hawkeye (who’s found himself helming a number of super-groups, including the Thunderbolts and the original WCA). Shuri continues its focus on the Black Panther’s sister; the first issue got T’Challa out of the way, leaving the princess to take up the Panther mantle and both keep the kingdom together and go look for him in this installment. Leonardo Romero has good-looking, uncluttered art that fits in well with the newer, modern Marvel house style from artists like Chris Samnee and David Aja; an appearance by Storm, and a last-page twist that brings in another of the company’s movie franchises, cements this as rich in current continuity, along with its Afrocentric adventure. Marvel Knights is another book with a high-concept hook: Doctor Doom has somehow wiped out all the heroes’s memories and histories, trapping them in their civilian identities and leaving a reawakened Bruce Banner and Frank Castle to try to knock them awake. Donny Cates, who wrote the first of the six issues, acts as a plotter/showrunner as other writers and artists tackle each installment; Matthew Rosenberg and Niko Henrichon acquit themselves well here. Infinity Warps continues its two-issue tales about mashed-up heroes with Ghost Panther; its title announces its Ghost Rider/Black Panther combo, wherein T’Challa as a youth got kicked out of Wakanda, went to America, joined a traveling circus and took the name Johnny Blaze. If the good-looking cover, showing the leather-clad, blazing-skulled title character riding a fiery black panther instead of a motorcycle, intrigues you, then you’re the audience for this book. Doctor Strange sees Doc fighting old nemesis Baron Mordo, plus a former apprentice; there’s a conclusion, but since we’re two issues away from a 400th-issue anniversary, obviously there’s more to come, including a powerful new adversary. As always, Mark Waid handles the plot and script with skill, wit and a knack for knowing which reader buttons to push. Finally, Immortal Hulk keeps making its case as the best of the new relaunches; from the beautiful red Absorbing Man/green Hulk Alex Ross cover to Joe Bennett’s horror-tinged art, which fits the mood of the book perfectly, this refreshing look at the Green Goliath makes him the dangerous, often-creepy monster that he was in his earliest appearances.
Batman #59 — Writer: Tom King; Art: Mikel Janin; Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Aquaman #42 — Writer: Dan Abnett; Pencils: Lan Medina; Inks: Vicente Cifuentes; Colors: Gabe Eltaeb
Justice League #12 — Writer: James Tunion IV; Art: Frazer Irving and Bruno Redondo; Colors: Irving and Sunny Gho
Pearl #3 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis; Art/Colors: Michael Gaydos
Batman is well into the second half of writer Tom King’s announced 100-issue run, and it’s become clear that the whole thing is about Bane; he’s the current power behind the scenes, and is slowly chipping away at the Dark Knight’s stability and power (just as he did back when he broke his back 25 years ago…); in this issue, Batman confronts him in Arkham, and it doesn’t go at all well. Impressive as always, and a good example of the skillful long game King’s playing. Aquaman ties into the current “Drowned Earth” Justice League mini-saga; it takes place between the end of Justice League #11 (when the Sea King gets speared by the god Poseidon) and the beginning of Justice League #12, and offers a retrospective of his early life and career. Read it first, appreciate Dan Abnett’s grasp of his history and character, and then get the penultimate chapter in this week’s Justice League, one of those James Tynion IV-authored Legion of Doom-focused stories that also carries the main plot forward, and leads into next week’s conclusion in Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth. Finally, there’s Pearl, one of Brian Bendis’s creator-owned Jinxworld books, wherein a tattoo artist/newly-minted yakuza hitwoman falls in love with a young man she’s been assigned to kill; Michael Gaydos’s intricate art shine’s on details like the main character’s elaborate tattoos; this is a beautiful-looking comic with plenty of action and visual interest for suspense fans.