by Jarrod JonesBraving 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 HOT PRESS. With so many comics out there screaming for your eyeballs, HOT PRESS is here with short-burst reviews of the latest releases from this wild comics industry of ours. This week: the debuts of ‘The Thing’, ‘Robin & Batman’, ‘What’s the Furthest Place From Here?’, and ‘Venom’, a check-up on ‘Batman: The Imposter’, and catching up with ‘Dark Knights of Steel’.

The Thing #1
Marvel / $4.99
Written by Walter Mosley.
Art by Tom Reilly.
Colors by Jordie Bellaire.
Letters by VC’s Joe Sabino.

30 vivid, lively pages that detail the plight of Ben Grimm, be still my heart. Mosley’s tapped into what has made the Marvel Universe’s NYC so captivating over the last 60 years: The Thing has smiling arm-linked-in-arm strolls down autumnal city avenues, a tour through the Baxter Building, a cool-down in an NYPD superpowered hoosegow with Hercules, more. This book’s got the goods. Giving Mosley’s story extra oomph is Tom Reilly, who renders the Thing with character and soul, his imposing body language a tell-tale sign of the grumpiness, goofiness, and loneliness one looks for when one reads a solo Thing tale. (Plus: Reilly’s in the “no-teeth” camp, a plus for this Grimm fan.) Bellaire nails the isolated, seasonally-depressed energies without squandering the subject’s larger-than-life gusto, Clowes gives me serious Sam Rosen vibes, what a team. What a book. Buy this issue. Buy all of them. (Available now.)

Batman: The Imposter #2
DC / $5.99
Written by Mattson Tomlin.
Art by Andrea Sorrentino.
Colors by Jordie Bellaire.
Letters by Steve Wands.

Well, shut my mouth. I was careful about heaping praise on the first issue of Batman: The Imposter, largely because I wasn’t familiar with Mattson Tomlin and I was worried I was walking into another Superman: American Alien kind of situation. (You can look it up.) As far as his comics are concerned, so far I’m sold. Tomlin’s a sharp writer. I like his impulses, I like how he uses his brain, and I love where The Imposter is going. Harshest-reality Gotham City saga that comes packing an intriguing mystery, isn’t afraid of bloodying its knuckles, and it even bothers with a bit of weirdo romance and sex—and it’s not of the Batman/Catwoman variety I’m happy to report, whose much-touted sex scenes feel like they’re just there to be there. In The Imposter, love is doomed, and doom is coming. Sorrentino and Bellaire heap scads of atmosphere into the book; the layouts are a gonzo maze of conspiracy and paranoia, real echoes of Pi, its world held together by bronze, shadow, and dried blood. Now let’s see this sucker stick the landing, I’m ready. (Available now.)

Venom #1
Marvel / $5.99
Written by Al Ewing, Ram V.
Pencils by Bryan Hitch.
Inks by Andrew Currie.
Colors by Alex Sinclair.
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles.

Post-event fallout debut that follows the new King in Black, who goes by the name Eddie. Cosmic-scale Marvel that touches down on terra firma every once in a while and throws in a couple of Invasion of the Body Snatchers creeps along the way. The new Ewing/V writing team has a big, bombastic plan in store for Eddie Brock, which I’m sure will be appropriately heady and wild considering we’re dealing with the braintrust behind, respectively, The Immortal Hulk and The Swamp Thing. (I hope we get a lot more Zombo and Grafity’s Wall out of this, but this is Marvel.) Reading this was a bit of a chore, what with its ludicrous, portentous story length and its equally ludicrous, portentous amount of story captions (abolish first-person captions!), which largely obscured a reliably impactful Bryan Hitch/Andrew Currie/Alex Sinclair effort. New debuts don’t need to be this long, Marvel; we all have other things we need to do throughout the day. Anyway. I’m sticking around for a bit longer because of the team and not the character, who I always felt had more fun being a slimy, veiny Lethal Protector than the earnest astro-god he’s become. (Available now.)

Robin & Batman #1
DC / $5.99
Written by Jeff Lemire.
Art by Dustin Nguyen.
Letters by Steve Wands.

Do we know what’s up with DC continuity at this point? Kinda feels all over the place right now, doesn’t it? Anyway, it’s been twenty-odd years since we got a proper Dick Grayson-Robin origin story (I don’t think we need to count All-Star Batman and Robin, do you?), and this one has the makings of being a darn good one. Lemire’s Batman is a firm-but-fair teacher (less encouraging and considerate than Dixon & Beatty’s Bats in Robin: Year One), but his version of Dick is about as tortured a soul as he’s ever been in continuity; his world is small, his mind is bent on gaining acceptance from his mentor, and his heart yearns for vengeance (though in what form has yet to reveal itself in the story). Plus, Lemire’s tying Dick’s circus past with a strange (albeit logical) villain from Batman’s rogues gallery in a way that I’m not all the way excited to see play out. But Nguyen’s better than ever; his Gotham is abstract and cold and frightening, and his character work is equal parts striking and affecting. I wrote a lot more about this for Polygon this week, go check that out—after checking this out, of course. (Available now.)

What’s the Furthest Place From Here?
Image Comics / $4.99
Written by Matthew Rosenberg.
Art by Tyler Boss.
Letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

The latest from the 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank group just might also be their greatest. I wrote a bit more about it a couple weeks back.

Dark Knights of Steel #1
DC / $3.99
Written by Tom Taylor.
Art by Yasmine Putri.
Letters by Wes Abbot.

Maybe the most ambitious DC debut of the year? Sure feels that way; there’s a lot of lore and even more characters stuffed inside Dark Knights of Steel #1, but Taylor makes it work. (For my money, Taylor’s the king of knocking out an interesting and entertaining debut issue at standard-length with a minimum of fuss.) As for the look of it, Putri makes it sing: chainmail, steel armaments, plated armor, lovely views of a glorious kingdom, the odd display of magic and power, everything about this clicks. Taylor’s chasing intrigues and dark secrets and betrayals, writing the kind of dirt-under-the-nails fantasy where everyone (and I do mean everyone) has a target painted on their back, which will likely cause a lot of folks to draw parallels to Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. That almost seems deliberate. I think Taylor wanted to do a swords-n-sorcery version of his rarely-dull Injustice series, and that on its own is an admirable pursuit. The result: a mightily fun Elseworlds debut that has everything working for it. Now bring back the Elseworlds brand, DC; everyone wants you to. (Available now.)

That’s all I got this week. Read any good comics lately? Share them in the comments or email me: jarrod@doomrocket.com. Talk soon.

More HOT PRESS:

HOT PRESS 11/3/21: ‘My Bad’, ‘Newburn’ & ‘The Human Target’, other good stuff

HOT PRESS 10/12/21: ‘What’s the Furthest Place from Here?’, ‘Batman: The Imposter’, and ‘Undone by Blood’

HOT PRESS 10/6/21: A new format, an apology, some comics stuff, etc.