Welcome to the Part-Time Fanboy picks of the week for October 1, 2014! Each week some of the crew at PTF will pick their most anticipated books for that Wednesday’s releases based on their own individual tastes. Hopefully this list will help give you, the discerning comic book reader, some ideas on what to pick up at the comic shop during that particular week.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery’s work. With their hit indie comic series Kill Shakespeare they’ve found great success mining the Bard’s work to create an imaginative new world of adventure. Now they’re applying their writing skills to what may be one of the most ingenious team up concepts in a long time. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a preview of this book and it’s a great read with some solid art. Plus, how can you beat the world’s greatest detective teaming up with the most famous escape artist the world has ever known? You can’t. It’s a terrific idea that I’m sure a ton of other comic creators had thought of first. This looks to be a great start to a fun series and with these writers at the helm I’m sure it’ll be a comic that lives up the potential of the two titular characters.
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Image Comics
If you’re as much a sucker for alternate universe history comics touched with a dash of super-science and smacked with a gob of ultra-craziness as I am you will not be able to resist this book. The Manhattan Projects is a comic that I’ve loved since I picked up the first trade paperback. Imagine a world where the great scientists of the twentieth century engaged in projects for an ultra-secret government organization and you’re just imagining the tip of the iceberg. This hardcover edition collects the first ten issues of the series and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s original, creepy, violent, and absolutely bizarre…and I consider it to be one of the best comics to be released in the past several years. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra craft a world that is both horrifying yet intriguing at the same time. If you haven’t read any of this series yet this is a great opportunity to start in on it. The only problem is that once you’ve read it you will absolutely not be able to wait for the next hardcover release…you’ll be out hunting for the next trade collections as soon as you finish. It’s that addictive.
By: Brian Phillipson, Alex Cormack
Publisher: Bliss On Tap
When I first read about this new series about time-travellers, I thought it was a copy of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 in which a time displaced man attempts to prevent the Kennedy assassination. In fact, the time agents of this book are working to untangle a broken time line and cause the murder to happen.
The agents have been sent back from the future by a nearly omnipotent machine called The Sing. The Sing is sending people back through time to repair the timeline, but may be working toward its own ends. Imagine if SkyNet used human agents instead of Terminators. I’ve read some preview pages on the comic’s Facebook page, and it’s clear that the agents are conflicted about their missions.
This indie book has a ton of potential, and I’m curious enough from what I’ve seen to check this out.
Publisher: Bongo Comics
In my book, it’s just not Halloween without a few Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons. When those writers get their hands on all of my favorite sci-fi and horror film tropes, I’m always entertained.
These comic versions are pretty funny, too. In fact, the quality of writing in the comics has frequently matched and sometimes surpassed the television writing. This issue of the comic is zombie-centric and features parodies of Dawn of the Dead and Sharknado. I look forward to indulging my inner 12 year old.
Genre: Teen Drama
Publisher: DC Comics
This is probably the most mainstream entry of our Picks of the Week that you’re likely to see from me. I generally don’t bother to point people to books from DC Comics and Marvel Comics because it’s a pretty safe bet that if you’ve stumbled on to this site, you have probably at least heard of their comics and certainly their characters. My personal goal for this column is to recommend comics that require little to no previous knowledge. Just buy, read and enjoy. The vast majority of the output from those two publishers relies on decades of history, even if tangentially. Some of them stand-along wonderfully but there are so many more comic books and graphic novels being made these days that don’t even need to skirt the issue. They’re accessible and more likely to appeal to the real mainstream, which may like occasional superhero stories but doesn’t need the vast majority of their entertainment to be consumed by the single sub-genre. I also don’t often recommend individual comic books because the now-standard cover price, increasing inching toward $5, can be a tough sell for the return on the number of story pages that frequently tell one-sixth of a story.
Having said all that, Marvel and DC do put out good books. Even better, this week’s two releases represent a culture shift in the superhero comics pocket of the industry. Finally, after years, decades even, of many people telling them that women want to read their comics, they’re finally starting to make comics that women feel welcome reading. There have certainly been examples of this before this week, but they often felt more incidental or accidental. Both publishers have realized that both boys and girls love their characters, and there is currently a concerted marketing effort that reflects that.
Gotham Academy #1 is one of those. It’s a teen drama set within the world of Batman. Little knowledge should be required. If you’ve ever seen a trailer for a Batman movie, you probably have enough information. Eccentric billionaire Bruce Wayne is secretly a superhero detective who protects Gotham City. That’s it, you’re all set. Gotham Academy tells the story of kids at a prestigious yet spooky prep school with ties to Bruce Wayne. Hijinks ensue. There will surely be some creepiness and some adventure, with superhero shenanigans probably downplayed or kept to a minimum.
Part of what makes this so promising is the creative team. Becky Cloonan is a respected and talented cartoonist. Her self-published trilogy of comics, Demeter, The Mire, and Wolves, have won awards, praise and more attention than most self-published comics with a very small print run. She’s also been the artist on acclaimed comics like Demo and Northlanders. This is not the first time she’s worked on non-creator-owned comics but it’s certainly been the exception to the path of her career so far. It should be fun to see her use the Gotham sandbox. She’s joined by co-writer Brenden Fletcher, who is also co-writing another promising new comic from DC, Batgirl.
Buzz on the book has been high, meriting its own almost-official Tumblr, which shows off lots of really cool art by Karl Kerschl. I was disappointed that Cloonan wasn’t drawing this series herself, but Kershl’s involvement is a huge treat. He worked on superhero comics for a number of years, and then decided to do his own thing, the wonderful webcomic The Abominable Charles Christopher. He really seemed to find his creative voice with that project, and it won him a lot of deserved praise and attention.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The other version of this welcome trend is Thor #1. Marvel is revamping one of its Avengers stars and introducing a woman in the title role. Who is this new female Thor? No one knows!
This was announced to much fanfare in July, with the day-time TV all-woman talk show The View getting the exclusive. I don’t really know if stay-at-home moms are really the market for this book, but OK sure.
This is just the latest in a string of female-led books. Ms. Marvel, starring a Muslim teenager in the title role, has been one of the most exciting and finely executed releases from Marvel in years. I don’t expect this Thor #1 to be of that caliber but it seems like a fun exploration of Marvel’s God of Thunder mythology.
Yes, this is probably temporary until the next Thor movie comes out. The status quo of superhero comics is notoriously cyclical. The trick is to enjoy it while it lasts and then jump ship when it’s no longer enjoyable. Otherwise, you’re just paying to be annoyed.
Yes, I wish there was a female creator either writing or drawing this (I don’t know who is inking or coloring). But Russell Dauterman’s cover already seems iconic. And Jason Aaron has been handling Thor’s comic for a couple of years now, so it feels like this is being taken seriously with the regular writer handling it.