Weekly Reading Round-Up : 06/30/2019 – 07/06/2019

For awhile there, it seemed like all we covered in this column was first issues. Then we got back into looking at minis and other self-published stuff. And now we’re whiplashing back to looking at a whole bunch of first issues again. Because I really do have this over-arching need to keep you folks off-balance, I guess. Anyway, we’ve got for of ’em to check out this week, so here we go :

Sea Of Stars #1 comes to us courtesy of Image Comics, writers Jason Aaron and Dennis (Hopeless) Hallum, and artist Stephen Green. Anybody with half a brain probably steers clear of Aaron’s creator-owned stuff at this point (what happened to Southern Bastards? Or The Goddamned?), but I have a full  brain, and so I picked this up — and walked away from it pretty glad that I did. An “all-ages” sort of thing about a father-son interstellar salvage crew that becomes as physically separated as they are mentally and emotionally following the untimely passing of their wife/mother and a subsequent catastrophe that befalls their ship, this was a brisk read loaded with fun and energetic art, cool concepts, and plenty of, as the kids say, “feels.” If it sticks to a regular publication schedule, that’d be nice, as this reasonably refreshing twist on being, quite literally, “lost in space” was a nice enough way to spend 20 minutes and four dollars.

Postal : Deliverance #1 from Image and Top Cow brings us back to the so-called “Edenverse” for the first time in far too long, with creator Matt Hawkins sitting on the sidelines and handing full reins over to writer Bryan Hill and artist Raffaele Ienco. A fair amount of time appears to have passed since last we saw our principal players, but “deposed” mayor Laura looks to be having trouble keeping a low profile while on the lam, her Asperger’s-afflicted son Mark doesn’t seem to be taking too much to either assuming her former job or to marriage and fatherhood, and there’s a new bad-ass come to his “off-the-grid” colony for ex-cons determined to make his presence felt by any means necessary. Ienco’s art is stunning, the story keeps you turning the pages, and while there’s pretty much zero on offer here to entice new readers, grizzled vets such as myself are sure to have a blast with this one.

Lois Lane #1 wasn’t a comic I was expecting to pick up, much less like, but Greg Rucka can spin an espionage yarn/crime thriller like no one else not named Brubaker, and this turned out to be a timely, topical read. “Superman’s Girlfriend” is, of course, now his wife, and while she’s taking on the Trump administration (not that it’s ever explicitly named as such) over running privatized border “detention facilities” for a profit, she’s got the Rene Montoya iteration of The Question out hunting down on an even bigger lead. Artist Mike Perkins does a nice job invoking the aesthetic of Lee Bermejo with his own twist, the characterization is solid across the board, the suspense is fairly palpable — hell, this is just a really good comic. Can’t say that about too many DC titles these days.

Doom Patrol : Weight Of The Worlds, which arrives in our hands courtesy of their Young Animal imprint, is another one you can say it about, though. I thought the last run of this series devolved into utter nonsense pretty quickly, but maybe Gerard Way taking on Jeremy Lambert as co-writer helps here, since this comic has a solid core premise (the team is tooling around the cosmos in Danny the Ambulance looking to help/for trouble), a well-defined core cast of characters (with Jane running the show!), and some intriguing subplots (humanity isn’t agreeing with Cliff all that well, as it turns out). I miss Nick Derington on art, sure, but he’s still doing the covers, and James Harvey isn’t just an adequate replacement, he’s plenty awesome in his own right — just check out his multi-page homage to the famous “this would be a good death” scene from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns if you require any proof of that assertion. I wasn’t counting on this being all that great, but great it was, and I can’t wait to see where this “season” goes.

And that should about do it, apart from the customary reminder that this column is “brought to you” each and every week by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. You can join up for as little as a buck a month, so let’s be real here — what have you got to lose? Take moment to check it out at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

2017 Year In Review : Top 10 Series

Okay, let’s keep our best-of-2017 theme going here with a look at the Top 10 ongoing series of the year. A quick refresher on the rules : both ongoing and limited series are eligible in this category, as long as they meet a three-issue minimum. The idea here is to rank comics that are chained to a regular(-ish) production schedule, as opposed to those that come out whenever a cartoonist or creative team has the time and/or finances (in the case of self-publishers) to release them. Those books were all eligible (and, frankly, dominated) the “Top 10 Single Issues” list that I cranked out a couple days ago — and, as with that, this one won’t feature full reviews of each series, nor even ones that graduate to the “capsule” review level, just short summations of why I like ’em.

Sound good? I’m happy if you agree, and frankly could care less if you don’t. And so, with my “arrogant asshole” credentials out of the way, let’s get into it:

10. Doom Patrol (DC/Young Animal) – This book has seen numerous production delays, but whenever a new issue comes out, it’s worth it. Yeah, writer Gerard Way leans pretty heavily on Grant Morrison’s DP run for influence, but he’s not slavishly beholden to it, and Nick Derington’s art is equal parts classic and forward-thinking. The closest thing to an “art comic” you’re likely to get from either of the “Big Two” publishers.

9. Royal City (Image) – Jeff Lemire’s moody and slow-burning solo book is a little bit examination of a town that has seen better days, but mainly a compelling family drama about a dysfunctional clan that has definitely seen better days. A touch too mired in ’90s nostalgia for my tastes (news flash, that decade sucked — yes, even most of the music), but damn near pitch-perfect apart from that.

8. Dept. H (Dark Horse) – Matt Kindt’s underwater murder mystery is probably the most compulsively page-turning series going right now, and the watercolor-style hues provided by his wife Sharlene complement the atmosphere perfectly. I dunno how a book with a whole ocean to play in ends up being having such a claustrophobic feel, but damn if the walls don’t seem like they’re closing in on every member of the ensemble cast, all the time.

7. Black Magick (Image) – Writer Greg Rucka and artist extraordinaire Nicola Scott took a break from this one to work on Wonder Woman for awhile, but now they’re not only back, but back with a vengeance. Part police procedural, part Wiccan educational text (for the uninitiated, at any rate), this comic is like nothing else out there, and the rich, cinematic art will absolutely knock your socks off.

6. Mister Miracle (DC) – Yeah, this thing has been over-hyped to the hilt, and won’t seem anywhere near as “revolutionary” as advertised to anyone who’s seen a few David Lynch flicks (particularly Mulholland Drive), but Tom King and Mitch Gerads nevertheless deliver a smarter, more confounding, more complex, and more conceptually spot-on take on a Jack Kirby concept than we’ve seen to date — heck, I daresay The King himself would probably be proud of this one.

5. The Wild Storm (DC/WildStorm) – Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt have done the unthinkable with this series : turned Jim Lee’s gone-and-largely-forgotten relic of ’90s comic book excess into a thought-provoking, Philip K. Dick-esque, paranoid sci-fi political thriller. Crisply scripted, lavishly illustrated, and overflowing with key visual information in every panel, this is borderline-brilliant stuff.

4. Violent Love (Image) – Nobody bought this just-wrapped series and even fewer people are talking about it, but fuck it, that’s their loss. Frank J. Barbiere’s Badlands/Natural Born Killers/Bonnie And Clyde -style “criminals on the road” script is as fast and furious as they come, and Victor Santos’ art is the most stylish thing going in any “major independent” book, brimming over with ’70s exploitation grit and film noir cool.

3. The Flintstones (DC) – Truth be told, all of DC’s licensed Hanna-Barbera comics have been far better than any rational reader had probably assumed they would be, but this recently-concluded revisionist take on life in Bedrock from writer Mark Russell and criminally-underappreciated veteran artist Steve Pugh is clearly the best of the bunch — and, obviously, one of the best comics of the year. Spot-on social and political commentary that spares no sacred cows matched with wit and whimsy that’s downright charming, this wasn’t so much a Fred, Wilma, Barney, and Betty “re-launch” as it was a thematic and spiritual successor to Howie Post’s legendary Anthro. Utterly sublime, and hopefully a second “season” will be in the offing sooner rather than later.

2. Love And Rockets (Fantagraphics) – Los Bros. Hernandez have brought their series back to its original magazine format, and whenever a new issue hits the racks, all is temporarily right with the world again. Beto’s stuff is arguably at its most deeply self-referential right now, but rest assured it’s still great, and Jaime’s strips are aging so gracefully it’s almost painful to take in — seriously, Maggie, Hopey and co. are even more compelling at mid-life than they were in their twenties. By all rights this comic should have devolved into nostalgia and stagnation by now, but not only has that not happened, there are no signs that it ever will. Who are we kidding? This is one of the greatest comics not only of the year, but of all time. Always has been, always will be.

1. Black Hammer (Dark Horse) – Just when you thought super-hero revisionism was finally dead and buried, along comes Jeff Lemire and a majestically resurgent Dean Ormston (who had to re-train himself to draw after suffering a stroke) to show that you can move the most tired sub-genre of the most tired genre in the medium forward while writing a love letter to its past at the same time. This book consistently hits every note that long-time comics readers could possibly ask for, and somehow does so without a hint of either cynicism or irony. Capes and tights haven’t been done this sincerely since Alan Moore’s run on Supreme, and who knows? By the time all is said and done, this just might — I say again, might — prove to be almost as good.

Like my list? Hate it? Somewhere in between? Let me know! Certainly I had to leave a few solid contenders off, but as with the single issues, I’m really comfortable with my rankings — in fact, I had no hesitation about any of them, nor where they should fall. It all came almost disturbingly easy. Which, in theory, means I’m probably missing something really obvious — but I don’t think so.

Up next : the Top 10 Collected Editions (Contemporary) list, which will rank the best books presenting material from the beginning of the so-called “Modern Age” right up to the present day. TPB collections, comic strip collections, anthologies, webcomics collections, and the like are all eligible in this category, as long as their contents appeared somewhere else, either physically or digitally, first. I’ll hope to see you back here in a handful of days for that one!