It's always a weird, unexpected sequence of events, isn't it?
Klik Klik Boom #1 (w: Doug Wagner, a: Doug Dabbs)
Publisher: Image Comics
Two Dougs, one really fun book.
In this book we have a manic-pixie dream girl badass, a flighty podcaster trying to be a journalist, a crotchety Vietnam vet, violence, flashy colors, and corporate corruption. While the nature of the corruption, the motivations of the characters, and the overall thrust of the narrative are still pretty foggy, it was a super fun first issue.
Our main protagonist is a quirky young lady who is mute and only capable of communication through gestures and Polaroid photographs she consistently takes. We open to her creeping out a family trying to celebrate a birthday for their child before she walks her way down the street and begins shooting up a business. Cut to Serena, our podcasty protag as she is trying to uncover the mystery of the Polaroid-picture-littering crazy and what the connection this person might have with a company called Minerva World Services. At the behest of her co-hosts, Serena marches into Minerva corporate and demands an interview, thus kicking off a chaotic string of events she never expected, placing her deep in the middle of the corruption she sought to bring to the light.
I absolutely love Wagner's characters. He has an incredible ability to create stories around violent, mentally unwell individuals and yet make them so endearing and sweet. Considering his last few books have all been about serial killers, this protagonist is a significant step down in the violence, though not without her quirks. This character feels very Hit Girl meets Ramona Flowers. I had a lot of fun this one and just found the whole thing weirdly adorable.
XINO #1 (w/a: Various)
Publisher: Oni Press
Xino is an anthology title that focuses mainly on technology and how it interacts with human life. This first issue is made of 4 stories.
The Oddly Pedestrian Life of Christopher Chaos #1 (w: Tate Brombal, a: Isaac Goodhart)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
I should start by pointing out that James Tynion IV's name is attached to this as "based on an idea by" and I just honestly don't know what that means. It's got real strong "wrote something on a cocktail napkin" vibes.
Anyhoo, this book is incredible. If you're a fan of Umbrella Academy or Runaways or other indie books in the "teens surviving a crazy world" genre, then this is not one to miss.
Christopher Chaos is an average teen. Goes to school, has a crush on the cute boy from drama club, approaches each day just trying to fit in, is constantly haunted by his ability to see the equations and mathematic structure of the world allowing him the ability to construct and alter things around him. Y'know, totally normal.
While Christopher's abilities are fairly vague, they've resulted in him having a rough go of the world. He wants nothing more than to fit in. However, his isolation from the world comes to an abrupt end when he discovers that not only is the world full of strange beings like himself, but it's also way more dangerous than he first thought. Christopher must decide if he continues to try and stifle his potential, allowing tragedy after tragedy to befall him, or does he give in to the madness of the world and take control.
Christopher is a great character (with a fantastic name) and is just downright adorable. You yearn to see him connect to his mother or figure out what his true potential is. This coupled with an incredible character design and amazing art from Goodhart, this is a book destined for cult classic status. Run out and get it now!
Void Rivals #1 (w: Robert Kirkman, a: Lorenzo De Felici)
Publisher: Image Comics
Not every story has to be completely original to still be a quality tale. This story, for example, is about as predictable as it comes. Enemies made enemies by the people in power, held apart by imaginary differences and falsified hatred. It's basically Romeo and Juliet without the (immediate) love story. Two interplanetary travelers, rivals of different species and worlds, crash land on the same abandoned rock and have to work together to try to survive. But how do you put aside generations of bias and hatred?
The "twist" at the end is really hardly a twist if you've ever read any heavy-handed allegory about race or "othering." But the fact it's set on a foreign world, with what feels like an elaborate set of cultures and society just vaguely to the left and right of us, gives me a lot of interest in what could go down in this book. Will the whole narrative stay on this planet? Will we go back to their society and start a rebellion? Will it stay this transparent, or will we get some massive nuance in the middle? I dunno, but I'm pretty interested nonetheless.
Tenement #1 (w: Jeff Lemire, a: Andrea Sorrentino)
Publisher: Image Comics
We have done a relatively recent Graphic Novelties episode on another work in the Bone Orchard collection called The Passageway, so it feels only appropriate to give a shoutout to the next comic title in the line. Visually beautiful, narratively vague, and genuinely ominous, this title follows 7 tenants in an apartment building that feels strangely isolated. The cast of characters range from kindly old men, to suspicious drug runners, to a scared young boy who saw something he simply can't explain.
There's definitely something creepy going on in and around this building, but as of the first issue, it's clear we won't know what that creepy thing is for quite some time. Is it demons? Is it other dimensions? Is it just a plague of mental instability that is going to overpower everyone in this building? Lemire & Sorrentino, as always, do an exceptional job setting up the tone to make you constantly uncomfortable from the very first page.
Wild's End #1 (w: Dan Abnett, a: I.N.J. Culbard)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
This book was an absolute joy. We open up in an anthropomorphized-animal-occupied city, clearly somewhere along the English shore, sometime in what feels like the early 20th century. The town is small enough where everyone knows everyone else's business, and the biggest news story of the day revolves around new street lights being added by the harbor.
It's quaint and charming and you instantly fall in love with the crew of The Merry, including Roddy, a rough-and-tumble badger who's mended ways and wants to make something of himself, and Flo, a widowed pit-bull who's stayed on the ship even after the war was over. As they realize the fish are slow-going, they notice something else - the radio isn't quite right, and the emptiness of the sea feels a little too empty.
I'm completely drawn in to the story, the characters, the mystery. It's kind of like the title "Stray Dogs," where the art is sort of cute and cartoony, but the content seems like it's going to take a turn for the gory and dark. I can't wait to see what happens next, and fingers crossed all crew members stay careful as things get dicey.
The Traveler's Guide to Flogoria #1 (w/a: Sam Moore)
Publisher: Scout Comics
When I was young, I moved around a lot, which resulted in me spending time in different schools across the country. At three different times in my academic career, I re-wrote and repurposed the same book report on the same book. That book was Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and that's because the book was so good I could make it relevant to every class, every time. What am I rambling on about? Well, this title scratched an itch I didn't realize I still had.
Our lead, Harry Blandford, is an overly-anxious fellow who works as a reporter, trying to hide behind his desk as much as possible to prevent himself from actually having to do anything. What happens next is a series of unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on the next issue) events that lead to him getting eaten by a giant alien fish and forced through a surprising worm hole into another dimension sort of similar to our own but just-not-quite.
Every character, every every situation, every narrative push feels like it could have been written by Douglas Adams as an extension of his existing Hitchhiker's universe, and I'm honestly impressed as the way this sucked me in from the first couple pages. The characters are weird and relatable, the story is strange and exciting, and just like the Adamsverse, it gives you that same "anything could happen, even in the real world" type feeling in your chest. The world we live in is strange; it's really nice when people lean into that.
A shapeshifting mediocre spy-thriller disguised as a Marvel action TV show.
So, I need to address my own personal elephant in the room first: the nature of taking a storyline that easily could have been it's own Thanos-level threat and making it a grounded miniseries focusing strictly on the non-super super spy side of the MCU. My biggest fear when this show was originally announced was that they wouldn't be able to make the stakes big enough without feeling too awkwardly empty of 'thems what do the Avenging.' Honestly, I haven't had those fears assuaged yet.
That said, our first episode, titled "Resurrection," does provide a fairly decent spy thriller featuring familiar characters. Nick Fury is called down from his position in space by Maria Hill and his green shapeshifting pal, Talos. Along the way, we meet a cheeky MI6 leader looking to smoke out some Skrulls, a plot set to trigger war between Russia and America, and more "hey do you remember that history we have together that either happened off screen or so long ago that we have to remind the audience about it" dialogue than you can shake an Adidas track suit at. The action was good, with some fairly well choreographed fight sequences; though, not as well executed as Marvel has done in the past. Samuel L. Jackson does extraordinarily well as Nick Fury, as always. He was born for this role, and I hope he knows it. Everyone else does fine, but most of the acting seems fairly muted. The characters barely seem like they want to be there, occasionally just mumbling lines almost inaudibly, and whole sections of dialogue just seem bizarrely confused as to what emotions the audience is supposed to take away from it.
As for the plot, the premise is fairly light. Skrull rebels are mad that they don't have a planet, decide to take earth by sowing chaos around the globe. Skrulls are immune to radiation, so I guess the plan is have America and Russia nuke each other into oblivion and then build a new Skrull planet on the ashes. Pretty shoddy plan considering what the world would look like after a nuclear holocaust, which I feel probably should have been researched during the development phase. I guess the nuclear power plant the rebels are hiding in doesn't have WIFI. Anyhoo, the rebels want to use a dirty bomb at a Russian cultural festival and somehow implicate the US in such an act. How they intend to do that, we haven't seen yet, we've just seen them explode a bunch of stuff and some Skrull played weird mind games with Nick.
Okay, I'm being harsh, but I do believe the series has time to improve. We just need to develop the story and the bad guys a bit more. Currently, they feel a little reminiscent of the baddies from Falcon & the Winter Soldier, in that their main motivation simply seems to be that they got mad at some point and couldn't shake it. Writers: people need more motivation than just being angry and/or slightly peeved (honestly most of the people in this show just look like they're wearing uncomfortable shoes). If moderate anger leads to terrorism, then the developer of Getting Over It would have been locked up years ago.
Overall, I'm luke warm to the series so far. Only one episode in, so time will tell, but it just wasn't a super strong start for me. Had some funny moments and great Nick moments. Some cool action. Beyond the little tidbits though, the real meat of the series just felt undercooked. Or half-cocked. One of those. And as for my initial fear I mentioned above, it seems like the response to making the stakes not big enough or too big to not be an Avengers level threat was to just make the stakes kind of... not exist in any capacity? Or feel very vague at least. Honestly, if you told me this script was written by ChatGPT, I'd believe you.
Speaking of: the AI intro was also garbage. Not worth cutting out paying jobs for.
Episode 2 comes out June 28th. We'll meet you back then to see if things have shaped up. Ha.
Maybe, just maybe, folks should just stop heistin', heh?
Sins of the Salton Sea #1 (w: Ed Brisson, a: C.P. Smith)
Publisher: AWA Studios
Not much to say about this one except that it is a no frills neo-noir book with a crazy amount of twisty-turns at a super high-octane pace.
Wyatt is a thief and an explosives expert who has given up the life of crime, now bouncing from town to town under different names, working menial jobs just to get by. One night he is confronted by his brother, Jasper, who asks him to help with one last job so Jasper can also quit: $50 million, give or take, easy smash and grab from some oil tycoon's son. However, the brothers soon find the job to be hardly as easy as promised, and as the bodies pile up, the two find the cargo to be even more confusing then the false intel.
Like I said, this book is incredibly fast paced. It goes from cold open to heist to chaos really fast. I like the twist and am curious to see if it's gonna drip a little sci-fi into the mix. Worth picking up if you're itching for an action/crime book.
In Hell We Fight #1 (w: John Layman, a: JOK)
Publisher: Image Comics
Hm, another book where a heist results in different cargo than the thieves expected.... weird...
Anywho, this book is super fun. Reminded me of a Chuck Palahniuk book from a few years back called Damned, wherein a 'Breakfast Club'-esque group of teens residing in Hell roll around mucking up the place. Similarly, this book sees three teens, namely Midori, Xander, and Ernie as they plan to rob an ice cream truck in Hell. They are joined, much to Midori's annoyance, by a young demon named Balphie. They go through with their plan and are SHOCKED by what they find!
It's a fun book. It's not the most humorous thing to come out of Layman, but it's interesting to see him write for a (potentially) younger audience. The characters are unique and have decent chemistry. The art is fun and paints a creative image of Hell. I've always been a fan of stories that make Hell into a fairly chill place. Like, it sucks to be there, but it isn't all rivers of molten blood and giant, all-devouring beasties. Some people just gotta live that day to day Hell-Grind.
North Valley Grimoire #1 (w: Blake Northcott, a: Guiseppe Cafaro)
Publisher: Whatnot Comics
So, to be perfectly transparent, most of the Whatnot stuff has been incredibly mid for me. I've tried most of what's been released, and it has all had a particular level of cheese that I just couldn't get into. Finally, however, a book has been released from them that I actually find pretty enjoyable.
This book is like Men in Black meets Constantine. We follow two main characters: Agent Malek, a field agent for a CIA offshoot called "FATHER Division," and Calista, a student at Hawthorne Academy in North Valley, VA. Malek is trying to recover a mysterious grimoire that was being sold by a black market dealer before teleporting away. Calista, on the other hand, is trying to uncover the truth of a mysterious book she found under bed and how it connects to her recently passed best friend, Jackson. The two stories, obviously, are intertwined and both characters will need to solve their own set of mysteries before the grimoire falls into the hands of FATHER Division or someone worse.
This book started as a self-published and crowd-funded novel in 2018, and Northcott has been slowly growing the IP from there. If you're a fan of modern mysticism, specifically magic that ties directly into technology, then this is a cool book to pick up.
Puc the Artist and the Myth of Color #1 (w: Miles Greb, a: Garrett Richert)
Publisher: Scout Comics
There's something inherently charming about a narrative that employs the meta of the medium as a part of the storytelling, and this book does an excellent job playing with the use of color as both a physical attribute to the comic, and a powerful magical component of the story. Another title that I loved that comes to mind in the same vein is Folklords, where the adventurous protag is seeing visions of another world - only for us to know that other world is our own, IRL. Honestly, those two books have a ton in common: young male lead just trying to do what's best, a spunky group of compatriots, a fantasy world that feels ripe with mystery; they both have a lot going for them and I'm pretty pumped about getting a new title in that same vein.
Are movies even allowed to be this good?
Coming into this film, we knew it was going to be a challenge to try and top the original, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. But hot damn, they achieved. Incredible art, an engaging storyline, cameos and references and fan service, oh my! It's like watching the live-action world blend with the comic world in a majestic symphony. Well done, Sony (but don't get comfortable, we still know what you did to Morbius...).
Appearances can be deceiving...
We Are Scarlet Twilight #1 (w/a: Benjamin Morse)
Publisher: Red 5 Comics
I am honestly not a huge fan of books that try and tell a Golden Age type story, but hot damn if this book didn't come out swinging with some super cool twists and turns.
I can't explain what exactly happens without spoiling too much of the really cool surprises, but I'll explain what happens on the surface at least. Captain Lancet is your typical two-note 1930s super person. He has abilities that are better than normal men and radiation guns that somehow solve any problem thrown his way. He fights villains like Dr. Occulto and Madame Satanika. We find him trying to stop Madame Satanika and her cult "the Scarlet Twilight." After beating up a bunch of her underlings, he rushes off to try to stop the Madame herself at a local gala, utilizing his alter ego of Vlad Kingsley, Prince of Wallachia. If all this sounds rudimentary, let me drop some hints:
At times a parody and at others an exploration of the format, the book stays pretty close to the style it's based on. This only enhances the effect of the various surprises and shifts out of the format that Morse works in. It's a very cool story and promises a very wild ride. I was genuinely and very pleasantly surprised by this one.
Catfight #1 (w: Andrew Wheeler, a: Ilias Kyriazis)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Felix Lamarr is a spunky cat burglar living a fast life. He is in debt to some unsavory people, heisting priceless diamonds to pay off his debtors, and mostly just trying to avoid calls from his grandma. A solo act, Felix never teams up despite the generous offers he receives from a mysterious caller named "Schrodinger." However, stuff takes a turn when Schrodinger reveals that their target is none other than Felix's grandmother herself.
A web of theft, murder and intrigue, Catfight is an incredibly exciting first issue. The characters we've met are fun and organic, while the ones we haven't met seem eccentric enough to be the rogues gallery of a Shonen anime. The story in this first issue is fast and energetic, dragging the reader along to remarkable locations and dire situations page after page. Kyriazis art keeps the energy up by playing with layout in a fun and creative way during moments of exposition, while Dennis Yatras's colors fit the beautiful, vibrant locations perfectly and bring a pop to the whole thing.
A delight and genuinely fun to read, I highly recommend giving this one a chance. Great for heist/crime fans that like their stories more fun, less noir.
Superpowers don't eliminate anxiety, you know.
Oh snap, we've got another Joe Sparrow graphic novel, and this one is quite a bit thicker and meatier than Homunculus, but still in the same sci-fi vein. Our main character, Dorothy, goes through something strange and unexplainable when she's a child, and it isn't until much later, when she's struggling with college and her future and what she really wants to do with herself, that it comes back to have a significant impact. Less of a coming-of-age, and more a coming-to-terms-with, being an adult is hard and no one articulates some of those weird feelings better than Dorothy. It's supernatural, it's weird, it's beautifully drawn - this book hits on some heavy topics in a powerful way that feels relatable and inspiring. Go get this book!
Why are wrestling books always so good?!
Dark Space: Good Deeds #1 (w: Che Grayson, a: Kelsey Ramsay)
Publisher: Image Comics
I'm admittedly biased because this book takes place in St. Augustine, FL and seems to have the exact same love/hate relationship I have with that city...
Two stories unfold parallel to one another. One story follows a writer trying to recover from some unknown incident five years prior. She is handed a puff piece on St. Augustine's 450th Founder's Day. The second story follows a high schooler whose mother just purchased an old diner in the same town. She's having a hard time fitting in at school but is excited to help her mother with this new stage of life. However, both women find themselves surrounded by something mysterious. Our writer keeps seeing a strange, haggard apparition, while our student is saved from an assault by a mysterious and violent haze.
While not much happens beyond character development in this first issue, a satisfying air of mystery has been established. I like the angle Grayson is taking, focusing on the history of St. Augustine as a backdrop for a story about ancient, almost druidic horrors. We honestly don't see much of these mysterious forces of nature beyond the establishing pages and the aforementioned mist, but it's a cool set up for a spooky tale. I like the art and the characters feel real enough to be empathetic. I really liked the first entry in the Dark Spaces collection, Wildfire, so I'm hopeful that this one can keep up that same excitement.
Ghostlore #1 (w: Cullen Bunn, a: Leomacs)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
If there's one thing Cullen Bunn does well (and there's more than that, but come with me on this), it's a ghost story that simultaneously feels new and different, but well steeped in traditional horror tropes. It's like getting a new blanket; same coziness you expect, but still a new pattern or color or size.
In this tale, we watch a family struggle to connect. The father is a paster watching his congregation walk away from the church slowly but surely, the mother is cynical and struggling to keep the family together, the teenage daughter is moody and ready to leave the minute she's 18, and the son... has just stopped talking, for some reason. It's very standard dysfunctional family, but because they're so easily relatable, Cullen's able to dive right into the meat of it all without too much exposition.
The meat, by the way, is a car crash. And that, my friends, is when it all gets weird. Body horror, demons, ghosts, lies... The vibe changes FAST, but in a good way. It's a pretty quick read, and while it doesn't up-end the genre in any way, it's still a tasty morsel for horror traditionalists.
Arcade Kings #1 (w/a: Dylan Burnett)
Publisher: Image Comics
This book is cool AF. If you've been around for a while, you know one of our favorite new (and sort of random) new genres of comics lately have been wrestling-centered tales. Not really sure what happened in the industry, but all of a sudden a TON of new stories all centered around the ropes started happening all at once, and what's even stranger is that most of them are really, really good! This one, thankfully, is no different.
Joe, our "dragonfruit-headed" protag walks into town just in time to watch a video game nerd get pummeled right outside an arcade. After interrupting the fight and saving the victim with some super cool fighting moves, they become friends and Joe starts crashing at the arcade, laying low and dominating the fighting games. Laying low from what, we only have vague details about until the last few pages, but it's safe to say he's wrapped up in some hostile crime syndicate of some kind and searching for someone important.
It's colorful, it's creative, it's both based in reality while solidly not at the same time. Dylan clearly has a vision for a Joe's upcoming adventure, and I'm really excited to see it play out.
Can we also talk about how the intro music slaps hard?
It's weird, it's creepy, it's kind of gross at times - it's very Junji Ito. Early in 2023, Netflix launched a new anime dedicated to the story-telling style you know and love from the horror king himself. Featuring some familiar faces, as well as some stories you may not know, it's a compilation of macabre with some hits, some misses, and some icky bits to keep you up at night. If you're into his style, it's definitely worth a watch.
Alexa, I want us to be friends, truly.
There's been a lot of talk about AI lately - some exciting, some scary, some that seems straight out of a science fiction novel. What's so interesting about Homunculus by Joe Sparrow is that it tackles AI head-on, but not in the "what happens when we get overtaken by robots and they enslave us all" angle we see so frequently, but more in a "what happens when humans inevitably destroy themselves, and leave all this AI behind?" It's a deeply emotional, but also uplifting and hopeful take on our relationship with artificial intelligence that left me all up in my feels.
Lot's of people thrown together with lots of magic this week!
Monomyth #1 (w: David Hazan, a: Cecilia Lo Valvo)
Publisher: Mad Cave Comics
So, I'll start by saying this comic isn't super unique. It follows the whole "x number of strangers are thrust together by a magical bond they didn't know about" scenario. In this case, it's seven strangers and none of them really stand out as being any type of interesting. However, two things make this book worth picking up. First: the world-building and design. Lo Valvo brings a really cool art style to the mix, and the design of the creatures and the Homunculus character is really nifty. I like the art a lot, it's edgy without going too hard and doesn't stray too far from a more traditional comic style.
The second thing making this one worth getting is the hook at the end. It seems magic doesn't work the way we expect it to, which is a really fun thing to deliver on the last couple pages. Whether purposefully or not, the book plays heavily into our expectations from the aforementioned overused set-up, and then whirls that around in the end to suggest that magic ain't what it seems. I love stories where magic has a cost, so I'm hooked. Gonna give this title at least one more issue and just hope that the characters either get more interesting or keep dying off.
Star Signs #1 (w: Saladin Ahmed, a: Megan Levens)
Publisher: Image Comics
Okay, bare with me because this is another "strangers thrust together after a magical bond" type of book, but the premise for this one is definitely a good bit more intriguing.
Rana Fawaaz is a catering chef living in New York and just trying to get through life. One day, the stars disappear. Yep, all the stars in the sky. Poof. Gone. She hears about it on Twitter (since you can't even really see the stars in NYC).
And nothing changes, life goes on. Rana continues to work, occasionally dreams of stars. She thinks about her mom, who she coincidentally lost the same moment the stars disappeared. Mainly, she just tries to not get yelled at by her clients.
And then she learns she can freeze time.
Rana is now wrapped up in some sort of event that seems to have granted people all over the world with powers tied to specific zodiac signs. Where she goes from here and what the mysterious Mr. Duke has to do with it, time will tell.
Like I said, it's a super cool premise. I dig the astrological angle. The art is also gorgeous, with Levens beautiful lines being accompanied by an incredibly bold use of colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick that fits the celestial vibe of the book extraordinarily well. It's wonderfully vibrant and fun, delightfully heartfelt and whimsical. Absolutely solid book.
Cover B Podcast
Chris & Tee host this weekly comic-focused show, providing insight on new comics, entertainment news and more.