The Warning #1 — Writer/Artist: Edward Laroche; Colors: Brad Simpson
Sex Death Revolution #2 — Writer: Magdalene Visaggio; Art: Kasia Witerscheim; Colors: Harry Saxon
Archie: 1941 #3 (of 5) — Story: Brian Augustyn and Mark Waid; Art: Peter Krause; Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Kim Reaper: Vampire Island #4 (of 4) — Creator: Sarah Graley
Let’s start with the smaller-publisher indy books again this week; if you’re getting bored with all those big crossover superhero events like Drowned Earth and Infinity War, these can offer variety, in both genre and style. Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. in their modern-day versions are supernatural folklore/horror books, with a sprawling serial backstory that’s gone on for decades, but their “1956” stories are more self-contained and accessible. Three different artists contribute chapters here, with Michael Avon Oeming’s quietly-chilling version of the Russian princess/demon Varvara the best. The other first issue, The Warning, is a G.I. combat/science fiction book that uses a backwards-in-time structure to reveal its big premise at the end; it’s an effective set-up for what looks to be a Starship Trooper-esque series. Sex Death Revolution reminds me of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s early Phonograph, with its look at modern magic as practiced by sleek interrelated twentysomethings; it’s got a hissable villain and a creepy what’s-real plot to snag the reader. Man-Eaters is a feminist allegory about a near-future world where many girl who begin their periods start turning into man-eating homicidal panthers; authorities respond by pumping hormones into everyone’s water so girls won’t menstruate any more. This is not exactly what you’d call a subtle feminist allegory, but the first three issues have world-builded it, and its appealing main character, very well, and the last page promises satisfying payoffs coming soon. Archie 1941 has the Riverdale gang graduating high school in 1941 (the year Archie first appeared), and dealing with Pearl Harbor being bombed and the US entering World War II; Archie, of course, enlists. This issue is more about the hometown characters than him, though, and while there’s little of the traditional Archie humor it’s a surprisingly-realistic-feeling portrait of everyday Americans struggling with the uncertainties and fears of global apocalypse, 77 years ago. Kim Reaper concludes the second mini-series featuring Sarah Graley’s apprentice soul-catcher, her best friend/love interest, and their attempts to be regular college-age adults while encountering all manner of cartoony supernatural menaces. You’ll either find this cute and compelling or really really stupid, but it’s worth picking up a copy to see which.
Barbarella #12 (of 12) — Writer: Mike Carey; Kenan Yarar and Jorge Fornes; Colors: Mohan and Celeste Woods
Strangers in Paradise XXV #8 (of 12) — Creator: Terry Moore
Rick and Morty has a prequel to the “Vindicators 3” episode of the TV cartoon, so we get lots of superhero-genre takedowns from Rick; it’s a little too insider-baseball-y if you’ve never seen the series, but if you have you’ll appreciate it. Barbarella ends its current run with a one-shot tale that calls back to some of her previous adventures. Mike Carey has made this a very smart sf comic, and totally got the character’s mix of extreme competence, straightforward sexuality and nonchalance in the face of weird alien danger; judging by sales, you probably haven’t been reading it, but this is a great one-issue summary of what you’ve been missing. Strangers in Paradise XXV is working maybe a little too hard to shoehorn in and connect itself to every single series Terry Moore has ever published, but it’s like a 25-year reunion of a fondly-remembered TV show and its cast: you’re so happy to see everyone again, and watch them interact (especially all the half-remembered supporting characters, and even more especially as drawn by Moore), that the story doesn’t really matter anyway. I keep expecting each new copy of Stray Bullets to finish its now-40-issue-long “Sunshine and Roses” serial, but it just keeps building pressure, weaving dozens of characters with motives of revenge, greed, lust and violence together, and slowly gathering them for a presumably-explosive, bloody climax that’ll probably leave most of them dead — maybe next month….
Heroes in Crisis #3 (of 9) — Writer: Tom King; Art: Lee Weeks with Clay Mann; Colors: Tomeu Morey
DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 (of 1) – Creators: Various
Batman: Kings of Fear #4 (of 6) — Writer: Scott Peterson; Art: Kelley Jones; Colors: Michelle Madsen
Scarlet #4 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis; Art/Colors: Alex Maleev
Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth ends that ocean-based crossover event, and sets up a new status quo for the Sea King in his own comic. Like Witching Hour, the weekly installments have kept reader interest up, and allow even a plot with a lot of moving parts and a fast-moving global disaster to be easy to follow; with their success, look for more of these smaller mini-events, from both DC and Marvel. Heroes in Crisis continues its murder mystery at a superhero-therapy retreat; there hasn’t actually been that much plot yet (other than everyone there apparently having been killed), but the concept — heroes being traumatized by their life-or-death existence — is intriguing, and King, who’s always been best at the little human moments in his comics anyway, has a lot of characters and smart psychology to work with. DC’s Nuclear Winter Special is one of their $9.99 anthology titles; the hook is that all of the stories involve heroes dealing with post-apocalyptic landscapes (why “nuclear winter”? Because it’s Christmas…). Satirist Mark Russell (The Flintstones, Snagglepuss) contributes a Rip Hunter wraparound sequence, and then there are nine tales (deep breath…): Damian Wayne as a future Batman (by Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Cam Smith); Superman One Million and J’Onn J’Onzz (by Steve Orlando, Brad Walker and Drew Hennessy); the Flash (by Jeff Loveness and Christian Duce); Supergirl (by Tom Taylor, Tom Derenick and Yasmine Putri); Aquaman (by Mairghread Scott and Dexter Soy); Firestorm (by Paul Dini and Jerry Ordway); Kamandi (by Phil Hester and Ande Parks); Catwoman (by Cecil Castellucci and Amancay Nahuelpan); and Green Arrow (by Dave Wielgosz and Scott Kolins). I thought the first two and the Firestorm were the best, but that’s a more-than-decent group of creators, and almost everyone should be able to find at least a couple of likable stories. Batman: Kings of Fear keeps being buyable because it’s Kelley Jones drawing both the Caped Crusader and the Scarecrow, battling in the gothic Gotham shadows, while Action Comics has Brian Michael Bendis surrounding Superman with a big Metropolis cast, both old and new; while his Superman comic has focused on big pyrotechnic events like Earth being trasnsported to the Phantom Zone, this one has his interactions with the city, its politicians and police and fire departments, and the Daily Planet as the spotlight. Ryan Sook, who can handle both the small character bits and the encounters with killer red-cloud assassins with equal skill, is a good choice for the art. Bendis also has a bunch of creator-owned books out through his “Jinxworld” imprint with DC: Scarlet is about a girl, whose boyfriend is killed and framed by corrupt cops, who then begins an increasingly-snowballing Occupy-type revolution. It’s a passionate political/suspense mix that predated the Age of Trump, but now gets a lot of relevance from it; even if you’re bored by the politics (which are more about systemic corruption than any particular party) the Alex Maleev art rewards your attention.
Spider-Geddon: Spider-Girls #2 (of 3) — Writer: Jody Houser; Art: Andres Genolet; Colors: Jim Charalampidis and Triona Farrell
Spider-Geddon: Spider-Gwen: Ghost Spider #2 (of 3) — Writer: Seanan McGuire; Art: Rosi Kampe; Colors: Ian Herring
Lots of Spider-books this week — Marvel Action: Spider-Man #1 is an out-of-continuity series meant to piggyback on the Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse feature cartoon that will be in theaters in a few weeks, introducing Miles Morales and the idea of alternate-universe Spidey characters to viewers; it teams Miles, Peter Parker and the Gwen Stacy Spider-Gwen (or, now, Ghost Spider) in kid-friendly adventures. Interestingly, it’s created, not by Marvel, but by IDW publishing, a small outsourcing experiment by Marvel parent Disney that may or may not prove significant for future . The regular Marvel universe’s own alternate-Spidey event, Spider-Geddon, continues with two mini-series covering various spider-people fighting the multiverse-conquering, vampiric Inheritors; Spider-Girls has “our” universe’s current Spider-Girl, Anya Corazon, teaming with the May Parker who’s the daughter of Pete and Mary Jane from all those alternate-future Spider-Girl books in the ’90s and early ’00s, and the other spider-daughter from the current alternate-future Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows comic; meanwhile, Spider-Gwen: Ghost Spider has that character trapped in an unfamiliar timeline and encountering its (unpowered) Peter Parker and other familiar faces. Both of these are pitched at younger female readers, but have strong tie-ins to the main Spider-Geddon book, too, and since they’re only three issues long are worth a look. Amazing Spider-Man itself sees Nick Spencer, who’s been writing it since its recent relaunch, getting more into its arachnid groove (his first arc, which split Pete and Spidey into separate beings, one with the power and one with the responsibility, felt too DC Silver Age-y), with the Black Cat guest-starring as she and the wallcrawler battle a reconstituted Thieves’ Guild that’s been stealing superhero equipment and tchotchkes. It’s funny and action-packed and includes a couple of nice character bits; the Humberto Ramos art, as always, is lithe and attractive helps make it feel like the series is in good hands.
Fantastic Four #4 (Legacy #649) — Writer: Dan Slott; Art: Stefano Caselli and Nico Leon; Colors: Erick Arciniega
Daredevil #612 — Writer: Charles Soule; Art/Colors: Phil Noto
Dead Man Logan #1 (of 12) — Writer: Ed Brisson; Art: Mike Henderson; Colors: Nolan Woodard
Uncanny X-Men #3 (Legacy #622) — Writers: Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson and Ed Brisson; Art: Yildiray Cinar; Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Of the non-spider books, Ironheart is the debut of a new series starring Riri Williams, the teen inventor from Iron Man; it fits nicely into the Champions/Unstoppable Wasp/West Coast Avengers stable of books with teen leads, lots of Marvel superhero continuity connections, and a brisk drama/humor style; here, we see her thinking her way through a confrontation with an old Spider-Man villain, trying to juggle school (she’s 15, but has a lab at M.I.T.), relationships and super-hero stuff, and making an effective mission statement at the end: a good start for a comic that might stick around a while. Fantastic Four sees the FF cleaning up from their big cosmic slugfest (backed by “everyone who’s ever been in the FF,” which turns out to be dozens of characters) last issue, and returning to earth only to find that their Baxter Building headquarters has been taken over by a new team; it’s clever and characterization-rich, and sets up next issue, which is (a) the 650th anniversary, and (b) the wedding of the Thing and Alicia Masters. Despite the title’s years-long hiatus before its recent relaunch, under writer Dan Slott it feels both comfortable and energetic, like it never left. Daredevil concludes its “Death of Daredevil” arc, which, for now, ends the title (of course, not for long; there’s a five-issue weekly mini-series called Man Without Fear out in January, and presumably yet another first-issue relaunch next year). Charles Soules’s plot doesn’t quite go where you think it will — to its credit, it’s predictable without being predictable at all — and that makes what could have been a perfunctory kiss-off more entertaining than not. Speaking of deaths and resurrections, there’s a lot of that going on in the X-books right now. Wolverine, for example, is currently represented by two guys; one, “Old Man Logan,” is from a post-apocalyptic timeline where the bad guys, with his unwitting help, killed almost all of the heroes and took over, while Return of Wolverine follows our regular Canucklehead, alive again (or maybe “still”) but partially amnesic. Dead Man Logan gives the older Logan a year to live; he vows to track down the bad guys who, on his world, killed everyone, and stop them, starting with Mysterio, but finds that his actions may be hastening the apocalypse in his adopted world instead. In Return Of..., there’s a similar set-up, as the personality-split hero gets manipulated into attacking his friends; it has the benefit of being much shorter (five issues to DML’s twelve), and being by Charles Soule (him again) and Declan Shalvey. Hopefully, they’ll get him back to normal in time to join the lineup of the latest Uncanny X-Men; that venerable title is currently on part three of a ten-part weekly revival story, involving dozens of characters (thousands, counting all of the versions of Multiple Man Jamie Madrox running around), that’s clearing out the underbrush, resolving various lingering sub-plots and time paradoxes, and setting the stage for a classic ’70z/’80s version of the misunderstood mutant heroes in just a few months.