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.
Kept you waiting, huh?
Okay so we've been silent for quite a while. Turns out moving to an entirely new state is a difficult, demanding process. However, we are now officially moved and slowly becoming settled, so it's time to get back into regular content drops for the homies. Without further ado, here are some of the best comics that have come out in the month or so since we last posted.
Deep Cuts #1 (w: Joe Clark, Kyle Higgins; a: Danilo Beyruth)
Publisher: Image Comics
Deep Cuts is a six-part anthology of stories spanning the length of America's musical history and the rise and evolution of Jazz. In the first entry, titled "What it Means," we follow a young clarinetist named Charles in 1917 New Orleans. Charles has aspirations to play with his musical idol, Jack Cartier. Once he finally gets noticed by Jack, Charles soon finds himself caught between two paths. On one, through the teachings of Jack, he can sacrifice all his principals and obsess over money, lavish social gatherings and achieving the perfect set. However, another path presents itself, wherein Charles learns that music is about what it brings to the people. It's about the heart that goes into it and performing whether there is monetary gain or not.
This is a slice of life with a lot of growth, and Charles is a wonderfully sweet character. It's not horribly shocking what befalls him in his relationship with the slick Jack Cartier, but I honestly think that makes the story and the resolution all more effective. This young man is driven by hope and optimism, despite the warnings of those around him, and the audience falls in line with those naysayers telling him to be careful around Jack. We know characters like this, and we anticipate the drop of the other shoe at every page turn. And yet, when the shoe does drop, Charles remains bright and hopeful. He holds to his principals and becomes stronger for them. It's a beautiful story, beautifully presented by Beyruth's art. Definitely going to be a fun anthology for music lovers and those just looking for a swinging good time.
W0RLDTR33 #1 (w: James Tynion IV, a: Fernando Blanco)
Publisher: Image Comics
I honestly don't feel like I need to say much about W0RLDTR33 since Tynion and the comics world at large have been saying so much about it. It is worth all the hype. I am a bought and sold Tynion fan, but even beyond that bias, this is a cool book. Techno-horror, creepy naked alt ladies, murder sprees. Good times.
The Great British Bump Off #1 (w: John Allison, a: Max Sarin)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
I absolutely ADORE this book. It's incredibly witty, wonderfully cute and a compelling concept all wrapped into a delicious Tiramisu.
Our quirky and energetic hero is Shauna, one of twelve bakers participating in the Great British Bake Off The UK Bakery Tent, a baking competition with high stakes and even higher caloric intakes. As the initial excitement fades, tensions arise in the test kitchen when one baker, Neal, tries to use every oven in the kitchen for his practice recipes. Shauna and her friends, Jill and Sunil, convince everyone to leave Neal to finish while they all go to get dinner, effectively saving Neal from a full on beat down from three or four of his fellow contestants. Upon returning, Shauna finds Neal face first in a bowl of batter. He has been poisoned! Gasp!
In order to keep the show from being pulled from air, Shauna somehow convinces the producers to let her try and solve the case. Can she effectively sniff out a heartless murderer while also trying to keep herself from being eliminated? She sure hopes so!
This book is absolutely adorable and Shauna is without a doubt my newest comic book crush. She is such a fun main character follow through this incredibly wacky world. Sarin's art brings the whole thing together we wonderful energy and an animated feel. Incredible book. Definitely one to keep up with. Bon appetit!
Parting Ways #1 (w: Alex Scherkenbach, a: Gustavo Novaes)
Publisher: Scout Comics
A romance comic. No alternate dimensions. No ghosts. No people in spandex. Just a good ol' fashioned romantic drama. It's incredibly refreshing.
The premise is admittedly a bit like a Lifetime movie for me. I don't know why every dude in Romance media has to be in the military, but here we are. Gabbee is a Brazilian emigrant studying digital media, Brandon is an Army medic hoping to one day become a doctor. The two meet at the coffee shop where Gabee works and thus begins their romantic entanglement. However, things come to a head when after dating for some time Brandon finally reveals that he is shipping out to boot camp soon. Can these two lovebirds maintain their spark as their dreams and plans for their future clash?
The story is told in a fascinating way that is reminiscent of a book I read a LONG time ago called "Cry Havoc" from Image Comics and Si Spurrier. Basically, different moments in time are draped in different colors. This book opens in red, showing Gabee fretting over being ghosted by Brandon as someone is in a car outside her house (possibly Brandon, but unclear). Next we see the world cast in blue as Brandon, now a uniformed soldier, meets Gabee by a fountain to discuss his leaving and the status of their relationship. As they ask how they got to this point, the world is now thrown into yellow as we see their relationship start and blossom. Do these different colors represent moments in time, or does the title give away the surprise in that maybe all these different colors are moments where choices could have gone differently. Time will tell.
This is a Scout Nonstop imprint, so the whole story should be available in graphic novel form soon.
Exorcists Never Die #! (w: Steve Orlando, a: Sebastian Piriz)
Publisher: Mad Cave Studios
This book would make a pretty sick anime. It's like Naruto by way of the Knights Templar.
A pair of exorcists, which in this case are skilled martial artists who punch the crap out of demons and occassionally summon the power of biblically accurate angels to aid them, enter into a structure to stop a massive soul auction. They have to fight their way down to the very bottom, encountering the domains of all seven sins along the way, the first being Sloth. Also, they have some baggage from previously being in a relationship that went south. Never date your coworkers, kids.
This is a cool book even if it is a bit too rapidly paced, sacrificing character development for action. I also personally find the common narrative thread of "our male and female lead have romantic history and that is where we'll get our tension from" to be lazy writing. Especially when dealing with demons and the embodiment of sins, it would be more interesting in my opinion to have their personal conflicts be entirely separate from one another. A good example of this is Garth Ennis's "A Walk Through Hell" (which I cannot truly recommend enough, that series was amazing). It's fine to let them have history together, but an entire story arch of them trudging up relationship drama is just cheap and tedious. Still, concept for the action elements is cool, and Piriz does a great job giving a fun spin to what the angels look like.
Neat book, could be better, maybe further issues will develop more compelling tensions.
Hairball #1 (w: Matt Kindt, a: Tyler Jenkins)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
This book is an exercise in what happens when you let a child of divorce deep dive into their trauma and try to see how it could have been worse. In this case, a girl retells the tale of her adoption by a couple with a lot of marital issues, and her relationship to her beloved cat, Bestie, who was brought in on the same day. There are all sorts of issues in this family: the wife is potentially an alcoholic, the father resents the daughter and her financial burden on the family, the mother is having an implied affair with the child's therapist, the father has definite anger issues... it's not a great environment for, well, anyone, really. But what's making it all the worse is Bestie seems to have more going on than meets the eye... like acid spit? Poisonous hair balls? Demon eyes? Bestie, we love you, but what ARE you?
Being told from the apparent grown-up perspective of our main character, looking back on the devastating chaos of her youth, we get a very honest and more mature view of how this family completely fell apart. Hindsight is 20/20, and all that. The pacing is solid, the characters feel very real, and Bestie inserts just enough paranormal strangeness to keep this from being too heavy but still very intriguing. Definitely one to pick up if you can!
Just let people buy good books!
Orc Island #1 (w: Joshua Dysart, a: Alberto Ponticelli)
Publisher: Bad Idea
As with all Bad Idea titles, I am gonna preface by saying DO NOT BUY THIS THIRD PARTY YOU ARE OVERPAYING AND FEEDING INTO A SYSTEM SPECIFCALLY MANIPULATED BY BAD IDEA'S GIMMICKY STYLE.
Anyway, now that that's out of the way, this book was incredible. I am endlessly frustrated that some of the coolest, most unique stuff is coming out of a company whose sole focus seems to be making comics as predatory as possible for a laugh.
Orc Island is a familiar fantasy story in a lot of ways. A young street rat Half-Elf lives in a world of extreme economic disparity. The poor get to live in lower, filthy places called "shit alley" while the "High Patriarchs" live on floating temples of elegance and debauchery. One day, our main character, Cerrin Son Sion, is given the opportunity to earn some money fighting for the entertainment of the Patriarchs. He does a stunning job, though is nearly executed for saying some offensive things in the court. Having lost any opportunity to fight again, he is approached by a woman with a dangerous proposition: they are adventuring to Orc Island to collect skulls.
Again, a familiar fantasy premise of impoverished rascal is granted opportunity they never would have expected, but what sets Orc Island apart is two-fold. First, the bleakness of it. Cerrin is not a hopeful dreamer, he is a nihilist. His attitude and criminal actions are all in response to his no longer caring if he lives or dies. He isn't adventuring because he feels like he was made for more than what his life in poverty grants him, as many fantasy heroes do. He is adventuring because he feels he has nothing to lose. This unique and weirdly refreshing pessimism is then supported by Ponticelli's absolutely stunning art and character design. AT first glance, this feels like another "Fantasy but the Future" book in the vein of Shadowrun or the many books that take this approach. However, as you move through it, you see that while some modern or more futuristic styling exists, it all still remains archaic and magical. It's a very interesting style where everything feels so advanced and yet so medieval. The floating temples, for example, feel like many sci-fi vessels we've seen in the past, and yet they are effectively just slabs of marble levitating through the power of teams of sorcerers who are eventually driven mad from their service. Honestly, it feels very Warhammer 40K at times, just with less oil and cable. The characters are all brightly colored in various shades, and Matt Hollingsworth's colors make this elaborate magical world absolutely pop. I love the brightness as it works against the bleakness of the narrative. It's a dissonance that doesn't detract from the story but instead serves to enhance the mystique of the world we're experiencing.
There is a backing story by Mike Carey (w) and Kano (a) that is about Noah's Ark and is absolutely hilarious. I would be remiss if I didn't mention it as well and give it a big ol' thumbs up.
One day, if Bad Idea just stopped the gimmicks and printed comics, they would go down as one of the best publishers to exist in the industry ever. Unfortunately, we're already too into the gimmicks, so thus is life. If you're able to get your hands on Bad Idea books, I recommend. If you local doesn't carry them and/or hoards them until they're able to sell them online, pass and go find something else to read. Also, maybe report your shop to Bad Idea for giggles.
Behold, Behemoth #1 (w: Tate Brombal, a: Nick Robles)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
A social worker and a child at the brink of the apocalypse.
After the death of his brother, Greyson finds himself plagued with visions. He's losing time and seeing horrible, dark things. He sees monsters and demons. He see himself fighting back, destroying his enemies. At the same time, a young girl he's responsible for checking on finds herself without a family. She finds herself caught in a web of violence and destruction. All the while, the world crumbles around them both.
This book is wonderful, no other words to say. It's another book with a unique look on apocalypse storytelling, similar to Last House on the Lake, that focuses as much energy on the actual ending world as it does on the ended world. It's a deep, dark and painful read. I love it so much.
The Ones (w: Brian Michael Bendis, a: Jacob Edgar)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
I'm gonna start by saying that I am not offended by the F-word. I use it plenty in my day to day, probably well more than I should. That said, someone needs to take that word away from BMB. I feel like every new indie title I read from Bendis is just panel after panel of F's. He is one of those writers that we've talked about in the past that likes to throw it into the middle of words and it just makes the whole bit of dialogue cringe and awkward. I challenge you, Bendis, to write ONE book with no F-Bombs. See what you can do, friend.
All f***ing-griping aside, this book was pretty awe-f***ing-some. This book follows a man creating a team of heroes in order to stop a great evil from consuming the world. The catch is that all the heroes are "chosen ones," or people with some form of prophetic or fate-determined heroism. The group itself is comprised of a series of familiar pastiches, from Superman to Buffy to a man filling the trope of "chosen one baby" who never did anything beyond being a baby who was a chosen one. It's a fun cast of characters, and Edgar's design for them is rooted in our familiarity but with just enough uniqueness to feel fresh and fun. I personally think this is some of Bendis's better character writing I've seen. The characters seem very unique from one another and there isn't a ton of Bendis's own voice draped over them, which is a trend in his writing that I know divides some people. So, F-Bomb addiction aside, I think this is a slam dunk for BMB. The overall "mission" of the group is a bit bland and not anything we've not really seen before, but I'm hoping that the fun cast of characters working together and perhaps some creative writing choices keep everything feeling fresh.
Nature's Labyrinth #1 (w: Zac Thompson, a: Bayleigh Underwood)
Publisher: Mad Cave Comics
It's like Cube by way of Squid Games, and I mean that in the best way. Sure, there are some beats from both that crop up, but it's issue one and those things are somewhat necessary for establishing the stakes of a story like this. It's forgiveable.
Nature's Labyrinth sees the winners of some kind of tournament from all over the world finding their way onto a cruise ship. They party and chat, drink and dance. Eventually, they are invited to dine with the captain, and then things take a sharp turn. When the drugs wear off, they find themselves on an island somewhere, split into small groups, and then the rules of the game are explained to them.
Again, it's nothing revolutionary, but there are some mysteries afoot that I always find compelling whenever we get a story like this. I think Thompson and Underwood have done a good job making an interesting cast of characters, and our main protagonist is compelling in a stoic action hero kind of way. We learn a small tidbit about her later that makes things even more interesting. The highlight of the whole thing is Bayleigh Underwood, who is just an absolutely delightful artist. I first experienced their work in Marvel Action Thrillers, and I truly hope to see them more. The art in this book is loud and fast-paced, with moment of action sweeping smoothly from panel to panel. Underwood's drastic choices in the anatomy of characters builds such a bizarre and almost absurd world, and I am stoked to see them design even more deadly traps deep in the labyrinth.
What you may have missed in February!
Honorable Mention Highlights: February 2022
Speed Republic #1
We've had a handful of race-based books in the past couple years, but none nearly as broody as this one. It's a post-capitalist society, where everything is controlled by corporations and we're all manipulated for their amusement... Bezos, please don't read this one. Cool?
Land of the Living Gods #1
A dead world, roving gangs, cybery, shiny ghosts, and a magical plant. This book is unique, charming and generally lovely. I am excited to see where the story goes and who gets wrapped into the mix. However, post-apocalyptic stories are a dime a dozen these days, so it can be a bit exhausting digging through another. I like this book, but I am very close to the end of my interest in the post-apocalypse.
The Killer: State of Affairs #1
An assassin holds down a 9 to 5 office job as a cover while working on a possible maybe coup plot. This book, while not necessarily groundbreaking or ultra exciting, is a pretty approachable action book told by a character whose perspective we don't often get: a more reserved, almost introverted cold-blooded killer.
Kids... In... SPAAAAACE...
Weekly Pull Highlights: September 8, 2021
We've got a big theme of space in this episode, from the movie-in-a-comic in Deadbox, to the Space Case-meets-Alien vibe in Bountiful Garden, to the endless void built from grief in Mazebook. It's a lot, but it's really good, promise.
Sometimes, there's more than snakes on the plane.
Weekly Pull Highlights: November 11, 2020
Some excellent books this week from publishers we don't normally get to talk about! The indies are teaching us all sorts of cool stuff, like how to be a parent AND be haunted, how the upper elite REALLY live, and how absolutely insane the 80's really were. Ah, adventures and then some.
Will we get REAL Supes, or like, CVS brand Supes?
Weekly Pull Highlights: November 4, 2020
Well heck, there were a TON of new comics this week! We finally got our hands on the much hyped new Cates title, 'Crossover,' and the hilarious new Priest title 'John Walker: US Agent.' There's so many books, we couldn't even cover everything, and honestly, this much distraction was exactly what we needed from a stressful week. Here's to new beginnings!
Cover B Podcast
Chris & Tee host this weekly comic-focused show, providing insight on new comics, entertainment news and more.