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.
Billionaire Island #3
AHOY Comics / $3.99
Written by Mark Russell.
Art by Steve Pugh.
Colors by Chris Chuckry.
Letters by Rob Steen.
Billionaire Island is good and you should buy it. *thinks, frowns* I should probably write more than that.
Mark Russell, Steve Pugh & Chris Chuckry are precisely the kind of creative team that ought to reconvene every few years to utterly pants modern society. Luckily for you (and me) the Eisner-nominated team behind DC’s The Flintstones have done exactly that with Billionaire Island, AHOY Comics’ satirical dressing-down of our current malaise, focusing primarily on influencer culture and pin-headed billionaire worship.
Each page has a joke on it, which I’m pretty sure is Rule #1 in the Funny Book Commandments. However. That the team bothers to put this much oomph into these gags makes each successive issue of Billionaire Island feel incredibly special.
In this particular issue, the gags are especially biting: A big-time CEO has passed away, and the processcion of subordinate funeral-goers have to tap their corporate IDs on a scanner to receive their condolences; a pair of Island escapees wander past a billboard promoting a show called “Rich Bitch Restaurant”, where a pair of Insta-famous types take selfies with their mouths stuffed full of gold-plated food (this is meant to be an actual show that airs in this word); and there is also a character named Business Dog that is, and this is true, a dog that is also an actual billionaire. (He wears a suit.)
Buy two copies. Each issue. Buy the trade, also, whenever it comes out. Consider it a long-term investment in your sense of humor.
Scout Comics / $3.99
Written by Saif A. Ahmed.
Art by Fabiana Mascolo.
Letters by Robin Jones.
I wasn’t quite prepared for Yasmeen. It arrived in my inbox one day, attached to a pleasant email from writer Saif A. Ahmed hoping I enjoyed his debut with artist Fabian Mascolo and offering his thanks with no expectations attached. The art grabbed me immediately; clean lines, vivid colors, real people, a world I knew but didn’t fully understand. So I read it.
Yasmeen #1 is incredible. Ahmed, a screenwriter trying his hand at the comics medium, tells a fractured narrative that throws the life of a young Iraqi girl into disarray. The pages went by, and my heart broke. Yasmeen’s attempts to acclimate to American life after two years of slavery at the hands of ISIS is difficult reading, to be sure, but Mascolo’s character work will pull you in, lead you on a path, get you there. By the end of the issue my heart was racing—so effective was this issue.
Yasmeen #1 begins with days of pain, rewinds to moments of joy, hurtles towards an uncertain future. That’s the hallmark of any great debut issue: It leaves you reflecting on what you’ve just read, wondering about the world beyond you, anticipating the future that’s to come.
What We Mean by Yesterday
Written and drawn by Benjamin Marra.
Published daily on Marra’s Instagram profile.
“How long does Mr. Barnes have to ride this rage snake?” Forever, from the look of things. Benjamin Marra’s What We Mean by Yesterday is a strip that has taken on different forms over the years—from a vivid, nightmarish descent into anarchy over on Vice to its current incarnation, a black & white 4-paneled daily on the artist’s Instagram feed. Think of it as Degrassi High on mescaline.
Both center on a high school and its cast of the truly damned: students, teachers, blasé counter jockies, jovial bartenders and death metal types populate the strip, a community strung together by barbed wire. Mostly, Marra’s Instagram has been packed with the misadventures of one Mr. Barnes, a mustachioed nimrod who oozes from one fracas to another with little direction and less self-preservation. Barnes is the dim-bulb underdog who truly thrives in the muck of life—his latest scrap sees him kicking the absolute shit out of a group of intimidating punks, somehow, only to then have the tables turn on him in startling, violent, snotty fashion. None of this should work. And yet.
Marra’s style is stripped to the bone for this strip, a creative choice he says is meant to evoke the style of the “Heta-uma” manga movement from the 70s. (It kind of means “bad but good.”) It works. Each day I swipe through Barnes’ latest exploits only to be left holding my phone and wondering what the fuck is happening. Its cliffhangers are baffling, the narrative is untamed, and I think I hate Mr. Barnes. But I always end up yielding to the surrealist powers of What We Mean by Yesterday, made by an artist exploring the limits of ambition, taste, and sense. You should, too.
Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #12
DC / $3.99
Written by Matt Fraction.
Art by Steve Lieber.
Colors by Nathan Fairbairn.
Letters by Clayton Cowles.
Matt Fraction wrote some serious word salads in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. With bits of ham and plenty of cheese—not very healthy word salads, I’ll admit—Fraction belted out paragraphs at the start of each issue that had to have created all sorts of font-fudging fun for Clayton Cowles. That barrage of suger-addled nonsense (sort of?) prepared the reader for all the tomfoolery in the pages to follow, setting a mood of mirth, the kind you might have read in Otto Binder’s old stuff, delivered in an anxiety-ridden Gen-Xer’s voice.
Every month for a whole year I ate it up. Because Fraction kinda holds the patent on irreverence (as far as superhero comics go anyway), and his approach to Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen was inspired. And taking the piss out of the DCU alongside Matt was Steve Lieber, whose comedic timing ought to be taught in schools and was in fine, ferocious form in this, the best DC maxi-series of 2020.
It’s funny. A comedy book that reconfigures Kirby lore and decades of Superman stories into something this jaw-lockingly hilarious shouldn’t be able to make you feel warm thoughts for Jimmy Olsen, but here we are. Reading this issue’s final sequence, where Jimbo sits atop The Daily Planet with his best bud in the whole multiverse, watching the sun set and thinking about the future, I felt so incredibly grateful that this book existed. A series that featured a space-cat who barfed blood turned out to be the most impactful Superman book I enjoyed all year. Will wonders ever cease.
THIS MONTH’S EDITOR’S CHOICE
Space Riders: Vortex of Darkness #2
Black Mask Studios / $3.99
Written by Carlos Giffoni.
Illustrated by Alexis Ziritt.
Letters by Jim Campbell.
A brief first impression might suggest that Space Riders is emulating the gnarly sort of comic that you’d find stashed away in some long-forgotten shortbox. I mean, it certainly looks that way: With its neon palette, skull ships and lethal lady androids, all of it set against an eternal void of black velvet, Space Riders is simultaneously a throwback strip and something quite new and thrilling.
Flip through the pages of Vortex of Darkness #2 and let it rage into your eye sockets. The intro is full-bleed fury, simmering in yellow, blue, and magenta behind a gladiator who dances amid a deluge of alien arterial spray, her scythe-fingers and spinning buzzsaws making short work of her quarry. A Brutal, Balletic Fatality. Alexis Ziritt, the artist and co-creator of Space Riders, has been drawing monsters getting ripped apart by robots for eons, and his passion for this level of carnage shows on every panel. Respect.
Carlos Giffoni’s a big part of why I’m still sold on Space Riders. (Ziritt? That’s a gimme; he could spill my beer on a napkin and I’d probably offer him money for the napkin.) The series’ original writer, Fabian Rangel, Jr., left comics after the second volume of Space Riders wrapped up, and while I do miss Fabian’s voice and well-caffeinated energy, Giffoni brings something different to the book. That carnage I referred to in the last paragraph aside, Giffoni has managed to find pockets of quiet in both issues of Vortex of Darkness to let us better understand the plight of Peligro, Mono & Yara—the series’ trifecta of terror. These characters may look like album cover icons but they’ve been through some shit, and knowing precisely what kind of shit informs how they might behave now, fifteen years since the last flight of the Santa Muerte. (Blast first, suffer the consequences later. Or, knowing how Peligro rolls, don’t.)
It’s been more than a minute since last I read the exploits of the crew of the Santa Muerte, but time has only endeared them to me further. It has to; it had been damn-near 8 months since Black Mask dropped Vortex of Darkness #1. Waiting is a necessary part of enjoying Space Riders, but each new issue arrives with the same dome-rocking violence and retina-peeling visuals as the last.
And it doesn’t sit idly on its accomplishments. It innovates. There’s a moment in this issue where Peligro is reunited with the Santa Muerte, and the page that contains this moment is a sanity-stripping splash that feels like a giallo-style window into cosmic insanity. It’s just a picture of a skull-faced ship hovering in place. Yet it’s so, so much more.
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