September is upon us! And while we’re sure some of you are mourning the impending end of summer, we’re here to provide some solace with new recommendations to guide your wallet to the best comics that dollars can buy. Granted, that won’t stop the leaves from changing colors. That said, if you take our advice, you’ll be far to busy burying your nose in comic books to care.
Taking center stage this week are a variety of comics from a range of publishers including Marvel, DC, Vertigo, Image and BOOM! Included among the highlights is the first issue of Death of Wolverine, the latest Lumberjanes and the first issue of God Hates Astronauts.
All this and more waits for you on the next page:
Adventures of Superman #16
On one level I’m not sure if I can really call Adventures of Superman a good comic. I honestly found the writing to be a bit confusing at moments and its narrative flow a bit less than stable. That said, it’s definitely an interesting read and very much tap into probably one of my favorite themes for the character, i.e. Superman as a myth. Opening on the doomsday of a future Earth, the book is primarily a recounting of Superman as he exists throughout the ages, starting in his early days in the late 1930s and following him to the end of time itself. This framework is used both to revisit some of Supe’s old visual styles, but also to forward the idea that no matter how long it takes, every problem, failure and setback has a solution worth striving to find. I liked it and I’d recommend picking it up if you’re a fan of the Man of Steel.
Favorite Moment: “For him, for us- There’s always a way.”
Uncanny X-Men #25
It’s funny how quickly the X-Men books can turn around and recapture my imagination when they actually stick to the ground where they’re strongest. Uncanny X-Men 25, for instance, focuses in on the story (told through the dead man’s own words) of a younger Charles Xavier and a difficult moment where he was forced to compromise his ideals and essentially neuter a destructive young mutant’s powers for the greater good. This, of course, sparks off a debate among the current X-Men, several of whom are understandably devastated to learn that the justice they’ve been fighting for their entire lives was bendable even by the man who raised them to believe what they believe. Add in the fact that we already have disparate factions forced into the same room and there’s just this lovely sense of tension that kept me turning the pages and wishing for more when I’d hit the back cover.
Favorite Moment: “Just this one last time: To me, my X-Men!”
Death of Wolverine #1
Let’s be honest here. If Wolverine actually dies in Death of Wolverine, it’s not going to stick. This is comics, of course, and the X-Men are nothing if not good at finding ways to return their deceased members to the land of the living. As silly as they are though, I have to admit to being a bit of a sucker for these “your favorite character is totes gonna die” events and Death of Wolverine kicks off well enough that I can’t help but love it already. For those not in the know, Wolverine has lost his healing powers and, in turn, his recent adventures have seen him having to deal with the fact that he’s now mortal and a lot more killable. This comes to a head in Death of Wolverine when Reed Richards instructs him to lay low while he devises a way to restore his powers, only to have his vacation away from action invaded by a slew of assassin’s and villains out to claim a bounty on his now vulnerable head. What this amounts to is a fun read where Wolverine’s a bad ass. What more do you need from a comic book?
Favorite Moment: “Come on then you cowards.”
I bring my daughter with me to my weekly comic store runs. She, only being two, usually picks a book from the kids section. That said, last month she wandered over to the Marvel shelves and asked me if she could have a copy of She-Hulk 7. Having no idea what was contained between its covers I decided to do the responsible Dad thing and buy one to read myself so I’d know if it was appropriate the next time she pointed to the “green” book with longing eyes. Imagine my surprise when it wound up being one of my favorite comics of that week. Now, having read issue 8, I can confirm to you all that my enjoyment wasn’t a fluke and that you too should be reading this delightful book. The illustrations, the writing, the story, the ending (Daredevil crossover for the win!); it’s all just fantastically enjoyable and you’d be remiss to miss out on this book.
Favorite Moment: “You guys know I’m a Hulk, right?”
The Names #1 (of 8)
I love revenge stories, and will gladly talk for days about my love for The Count of Monte Cristo. Revenge is a powerful, visceral motivation for characters that can build really interesting heroes and villains if done right. So, I’m pretty excited this week to pick up The Names #1. This is the first issue in a new eight issue series from Vertigo, and it’s a bloody and brutal story of revenge (mature readers here, folks). The art, by Leandro Fernandez, is raw and emotional, and writer Peter Milligan knows just how to hook you into the mystery.
Katya Walker is determined to get to the bottom of her husband’s mysterious suicide. Convinced that Kevin must not have jumped out of his Wall Street office voluntarily, Katya begins a campaign of violence against the creepy financial consortium that seems to have offed him. More The Driver than Kill Bill, Katya doesn’t hesitate to act, and her first major confrontation is a vicious one. I can’t wait to see how this revenge quest turns out.
Favorite Moment: “I’m just changing.”
Cloaks #1 (of 4)
Street magician Adam D’Aquino commits felony theft on the side, passing off most of his gains to a local orphanage that once housed him. Caught in the middle of a crime, Adam is given a choice to join the secret organization CLOAKS or be charged for his felonies. Cloaks #1 leans heavily on some tropes (you might even guess the reveal a bit early), with Adam starring as the scrappy Robin-Hood-type facing strong-arm recruitment tactics from a mysterious agency. Writer Caleb Monroe packs so much detail into each page, a second read was necessary to catch every nuance he’s delivering. Artist Mariano Navarro’s style is very cinematic, and it almost feels like you’re reading a comic adaptation for an action flick. His even brings in the popular blue-orange film coloring when things get dangerous. Despite being a little predictable, it’s entertaining, and the novelty of seeing sleight of hand and magician’s tricks on a comic book page sells it. At just four issues, I’m willing to forgive some tropey shorthand to get us into the action quickly, and Monroe has racketed up the intrigue and mystery enough to bring me back for issue #2.
Favorite Moment: “The numbers will be known only to you…”
Rocket Raccoon #3
If Skottie Young set out to make the Marvel Universe a little more gooey and gross, he’s succeeded. Rocket, Groot, and Macho Gomez are outgunned by the EX-Terminators, and so the trio jumps out of danger through Guppy Warp. Let that sink in for a moment. They toss out a fish, fly into its gaping-space-mouth, “Zzzop” out of danger, and are spat out onto a sandy planet. The squishy sound effects are almost audible, and I hope I someday see Macho’s three-eyed squid hat in glorious, drippy cosplay. That said, the sudden escape from danger feels a little forced, and I hope we see the EX-Terminators get a resolution with our furry hero soon.
Young’s art, and his talent for unusual compositions, big two page spreads, and slapstick sound effects have earned Rocket Raccoon a permanent spot in my pull list. I tend to read pretty fast, but even with the Looney Toons feeling that the series has, it manages to make me stop and really take in the page. The lead up to the cliffhanger ending is particularly great, with Young using color and shadow expertly as the tone shifts. The banter between Groot and Rocket is sublime. I can’t recommend this series enough, to those with an established comic habit or newcomers.
Favorite Moment: “You know, a typical Tuesday.”
When I last checked in the Lumberjanes, the campers had finally convinced their scout leader Jen that strange, paranormal things were happening in the woods. With the discovery that the boy’s camp has been possessed, camp direct Rosie heads off to handle the strange goings-on, leaving Jen in charge. Her hopes for a quiet day making friendship bracelets are shattered by a sudden velociraptor attack, and the Lumberjanes must think quickly to defeat them.
Packed with references to Jurassic Park and Alien, things just keep getting stranger in Lumberjanes. The danger in the woods is beginning to escalate quickly now, and this issues gives us a bit more information about exactly who may be behind the attacks. With dinosaurs making an appearance, it’s clear now that whatever powers are at work, they aren’t restricted to mythological figures. Despite the mythological enemies, Lumberjanes manages to feel like an authentic camp experience. It’s the kind of series I would have lugged with me to summer camp, to keep me company on rainy days, and I can see it being a formative comics experience for new readers. It’s genuine, beautifully illustrated, and fun.
Favorite Moment: “Hey, Dino butt!”
God Hates Astronauts #1
I strongly suspect that God Hates Astronauts exists because its creators got lost on the way to Adult Swim, and ended up pitching their vision to Image Comics instead. It borrows from the irreverent style of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, the superhero archetypes of The Venture Bros. and Frisky Dingo, and deals out immensely quotable non-sequiturs on every panel. Much of the humor is based on the ridiculous imagery and the shock value of swear words. There’s even a character named “Admiral Tiger Eating A Cheeseburger”. It’s silly and juvenile, but I can’t help it; this is the most I’ve laughed at a comic book in a long time.
God Hates Astronauts is set in a universe where anthropomorphic animals have a treaty to keep out of each other’s galaxies, but rogue astronaut farmers launching silo rockets into space puts that treaty at risk. In response, NASA has authorized a superpowered Power Persons Five to terminate such farmers with extreme prejudice before the silos launch. This first issue of the second God Hates Astronauts mini-series focuses on one such battle, filled with ridiculous characters and insanely over-the-top cartoon violence. Meanwhile, in a distant galaxy, a farmer rocket that the Power Persons missed threatens to spark an intergalactic war.
God Hates Astronauts is not a series that’s about to win any Eisner awards, but it’s so dedicated to its crass universe that it’s hard not to feel a little bit charmed. If that’s your brand of humor, than this is definitely worth a read.
Favorite Moment: “Not only will I arrest your ass, but I’m going to go into your fields and eat all of your corn.”
Southern Bastards #4
I’ve never been to any of the small Alabama communities that Southern Bastards is inspired by, but if Jason Aaron and Jason Latour are being honest, they aren’t always pleasant places. Reading the first story arc of Southern Bastards felt like being punched in the gut for every issue. A snarling, mangy dog is a recurring image across the series. Behind its sports trophies and charming waitresses is an ugliness that permeates every page. Yet despite that ugliness, Southern Bastards is a deeply compelling read, taking the complexities of Jason Aaron’s Scalped and applying it to something more personal: a fictionalized version of where he grew up. And with Issue #4 concluding the first storyline, I want to take more of these gut punches to see what happens next.
Southern Bastards first story arc followed Earl Tubb, the only person seeking justice for a murdered friend in his hometown. In this issue, his struggle finally comes to a head as he faces Coach Boss, the ruthless town leader, in a showdown similar to High Noon in a Western. But this isn’t the Wild West, and these townsfolk aren’t cowering in their homes; they’ve come into the streets to watch a fight, and none of them are on Earl’s side. A fan letter published back in Issue #2 summed it up by describing “the people who will help you change your tire on the side of the road, but beat you nearly to death if you follow the wrong football team”. That’s the real ugliness behind Southern Bastards‘ opening storyline, and it’s what makes Earl’s struggles and small victories so powerful and heartwrenching.
Also, stick around for the epilogue; it might feel like a final twist of the knife, but it also has big implications for where Southern Bastards is headed. But if you’re like me, you’d probably decided to crawl back well before that.
Favorite Moment: “That’s some stick. But carrying that stick don’t make you your Daddy.”