by Jarrod Jones. Braving the gauntlet of Big Two events, prestige format risk-takers, off-the-radar indie releases and a non-stop avalanche of floppies is DoomRocket’s EDITOR’S CHOICE. 5 picks, 1 review, once a month. With so many comics out there screaming for your eyeballs, let DoomRocket be your guide.

Steeple #5
Dark Horse Comics / $3.99
Written by John Allison.
Art by John Allison.
Colors by Sarah Stern.
Letters by Jim Campbell.

Oh me oh my, was Steeple wonderful. Cracking scripts, chortle-inducing character work—for those who’ve long followed the works of John Allison, that shouldn’t come as news. With his first post-Giant Days work Allison took on the forces of light and darkness and found that one wasn’t far too dissimilar from the other. And what was supposed to be his finale with issue #5 turned out to be a complete inversion of what we’d come to love and cherish from this far-too-brief series—which has to mean that there’s a sequel run on the way, right? I mean, I’m not John Allison’s boss, and he’s plenty busy as is, but… Maggie! Billie! More!

Daphne Byrne #1
Hill House Comics / DC
Written by Laura Marks.
Art by Kelley Jones.
Colors by Michelle Madsen.
Letters by Rob Leigh.

I’ve enjoyed most of the spooky first wave from Hill House Comics but Daphne Byrne was the first comic from Joe Hill’s DC horror line to properly, thoroughly, unsettle me. The second I turned to the first page, my stomach did a backflip, my eyes widened, my mouth formed the words: Oh, shit. And my pulse didn’t chill out until long after the issue had been set aside. Blame Kelley Jones; when the venerated artist is on the horror beat, shadows take form, shape, texture… then creak, groan, howl. They do all of those things in Daphne Byrne #1, Laura Marks’ utterly captivating invitation to terror. Break out the candles for this one.

Killadelphia #2
Image Comics / $3.99
Written by Rodney Barnes.
Art by Jason Shawn Alexander.
Color by Luis NCT.
Letters by Marshall Dillon.

The shocks of Killadelphia #1 have settled in and now a bigger, more terrifying picture is coming into focus. Barnes & Alexander’s modern vampire saga has a vicious bite and drinks deep from today’s hot-blooded American discord. “Killing something that’s already dead isn’t murder, son,” a character says early in this issue. “It’s mercy.” We feel like we know what it might take for these characters to quell an oncoming vampire horde. (Were such things ever possible.) Then Killadelphia #2 presents its final haunting page and cracks open a new kind of hell directly under our feet. Unsubtle commentary, lively gallows humor, a proper horror tale with us on its mind.

In the Flood
comiXology Originals / $6.99
Written by Ray Fawkes.
Art by Ray Fawkes.
Colors by Lee Loughridge.
Letters by Thomas Mauer.

Brimming with motifs and meaning, Ray Fawkes’ In the Flood is the kind of comics that pushes the medium forward to strange, exhilarating places without seeming to try. In the Flood is a dream, a nightmare, a Biblical deluge that becomes the turning point for two lovers whose romance has long since gone adrift in a sea of tricks and honey. Fawkes’ imagery (sleight of hand, honeycombs, a tree swaying darkly underneath a newly-made ocean) will floor you. What does it all mean? Metaphor? Maybe. Maybe not. But you won’t read anything else like it. (Link’s in the credits.)

THIS MONTH’S EDITOR’S CHOICE

‘Wonder Woman: Dead Earth’, Book One
DC Black Label / DC / $6.99
Written by Daniel Warren Johnston.
Art by Daniel Warren Johnston.
Colored by Mike Spicer.
Lettered by Rus Wooton.

Wonder Woman: Dead Earth is the kind of stuff I wish DC would publish all the time. This isn’t just outside-the-box superhero stuff. Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer and Rus Wooton took the box, stuffed it with those pesky superheroes, strapped the lot to the back of an ACME rocket and fired it towards the horizon. This is a new kind of mainstream superhero comic, a unique pairing of a creator’s vision and a generations-old character that’s so damn perfect that I’m sitting here absolutely dumbstruck by it.

It’s the imagery that caught me at first. The first panel of Dead Earth features a young Diana sticking her hands into the very clay that was once used to shape her into what we’ve long known her to be. Here, Johnson depicts her diving her small hands into that clay, considering all of its possibilities. Something new could come from this. Anything could come from this. “From that husk of clay,” Diana’s mother whispers into her ear, “I breathed life into you, my daughter.”

It’s a beautiful moment, one of the most delicate and meaningful superhero moments I’ve read in forever, and that’s just the first page.

Then there’s the rest of Wonder Woman: Dead Earth, Book One. Johnson’s in the clay too, molding new things around the remnants of a bombed-out DC Universe, powered by his inspired vision of the legendary Diana of Themyscira. Set in the far-flung future where an atomic war has left the last of humanity scrounging among the rubble, Diana awakens from an untold-amount-of-years-long slumber to find scorched earth, scrappy survivalists, and terrifying skull-faced haedras that look like they just stampeded out of Alex Garland’s Annihilation. Survival is paramount, obviously. But there’s also meaning to be found out there amid all this cursed earth—a search for a new reason to survive when all was lost eons ago and the sun doesn’t shine so bright anymore. Because there’s still people, and Diana loves people. Simple.

The dangerous landscape, coupled with the few recognizible bits of DC iconography that chart this issue, is a thrilling gaunlet for Wonder Woman to navigate. But it also keeps readers centered, allows Johnson’s radioactive war-saga to carry the necessary weight a proper game-changing Elseworlds tale ought to have. (A visit to a picked-clean and long-forgotten Wayne Manor is especially affecting.)

Visually, this book will knock you dead. Mike Spicer, the book’s colorist, isn’t interested in the desaturated tones found in your typical destopic wastelands. When Johnson etches craters in the earth’s terra firma, Spicer bathes that desolation in a wash of amber. The skies are choked with irradiated clouds, but Spicer’s lets the sun bake them until the very air takes on the texture of clotted blood. When it’s time for Johnson to tap into Extremity-level havoc, it’s Spicer and letterer Rus Wooton who guide our eyes throught the issue’s various skirmishes with a fusion of bombastic onomatopoeias and a neon-singed palette of fantasy power.

Johnson’s Dead Earth is movement, speed lines, chops from a sword and blood splashed on the cheek. Frenetic, prime-time action comics. And, at the center of it all, Diana. Daniel Warren Johnson understands that she’s more than the battle, more than the sum of all her great deeds. It’s Diana’s compassion that becomes a beacon amid all this atomic fallout. Unfettered by the baggage of the character’s byzantine continuity, Wonder Woman almost glides through these pages, an Amazon princess pushing for a better tomorrow because that’s what she does.

Would you like to submit your book for a potential spot on Editor’s Choice? Send all submissions to jarrod@doomrocket.com.

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