By Molly Jane Kremer, Stefania Rudd, Clyde Hall, Mickey Rivera, and Jarrod Jones. Comics that challenge us, slay us, beguile us — the comics we simply can’t wait to devour. That’s DoomRocket’s Staff Picks. Here’s what has set our hearts ablaze this week.

Doomsday Clock #1Doomsday Clock #1

DC Comics/$4.99

Written by Geoff Johns.

Art by Gary Frank.

Colors by Brad Anderson.

Letters by Rob Leigh.

MJ: We can argue the ethics of its publication all day (and we discussed it at length in this week’s Casual Wednesdays podcast), but Doomsday Clock was always as inevitable as its title portends. Though original series co-creator Alan Moore has been adamantly against any mucking about with his work—a little comic called Watchmen, you may have heard of it, kinda reinvented a genre—this is only the second time DC has dipped into that nine-panel well and returned to the alternate superhero reality of Moore and Gibbons’ creation. And this time it’s to tie Watchmen inexorably into the DC Universe proper, an event that’s already been stated outright in the DCU Rebirth one-shot, and alluded to a few times since, in the Flash/Batman crossover “The Button“, and in “The Lazarus Contract“.

DC have put the biggest guns they have on this project at least; no one can say they’re not taking it deadly seriously. Geoff Johns writes, Gary Frank is on art, Brad Anderson colors and Rob Leigh letters. Johns and Frank have both been away from comics since last year, and I gotta say, it’s good to see them both back. (And to see Frank drawing Superman again.) Whether or not you think DC should have made this, it’s an undeniably beautiful comic book, and it’s gonna sell like crazy. And, c’mon, you have to admit you’re at least a little curious.

Gregory Suicide HCGregory Suicide HC

Dark Horse Comics/$19.99

Written by Eric Grissom.

Art by Will Perkins IV.

MR: Being a soldier is infinitely more difficult when you have more than one life to give. Gregory Suicide deals with the semi-spiritual awakening of an artificially intelligent, vat-grown clone who’s programmed to carry out murder and espionage. Success rate doesn’t seem to factor into poor Gregory’s performance evaluations, because regardless of how it goes his sadistic creators eventually force him to put a handgun to his temple and pull the trigger, often with an ear-to-ear grin on his face as he does so. His memories and thoughts follow him into a new body after each mission, making Gregory painfully aware of his own infinite mortality. He’s come to realize that his particular brand of A.I. is fast becoming obsolete, and each painful death he’s experienced is becoming exponentially more meaningless.

At face value, the concept alone isn’t much to write home about, but the up-and-coming talent behind it definitely makes it worth a look. This 144-page book from Dark Horse expands on a tightly crafted one-shot Eric Grissom and artist Will Perkins published in May of this year. The small press original (now conveniently available for free if you sign up for a newsletter) is refreshingly morbid, but it doesn’t play edgy for mere kicks. Grissom’s pitch-black humor is expertly laced with Gregory’s internal monologues, which propel readers into the mind of a surprisingly poetic artificial intelligence. With more pages to work with and the exposure afforded by a bigger publisher, I’m betting this story will only get better.

Betty and Veronica: Vixens #1Betty & Veronica: Vixens #1

Archie Comics/$3.99

Written by Jamie L. Rotante.

Art by Eva Cabrera

Colors by Elaina Unger.

Letters by Rachel Deering.

SR: With each announcement of a new Betty and Veronica title, my heart skips a beat with excitement — and then goes into a slight panicked worry that I may be let down. I have been burned by my emotional anticipation for a solid gal-pal driven B & R book in the past. However, this time, I am hoping that writer Jamie L. Rotante gets it right, and it appears as though she has.

In Betty and Veronica: Vixens #1, we get the recipe for such a book: one part friendship, one part empowerment, and oh yeah, one part badass biker chicks leading an all-gal biker gang. (Record scraaaatch!) Wait, what was that last part? This may be the Betty & Veronica book that finally gets my motor runnin’.

The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #13The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #13

Marvel Comics/$3.99

Written by Jody Houser.

Art by Nick Roche. 

Colors by Ruth Redmond.

Letters by Joe Caramagna.

JJ: Sure, he was a teenager once, and he was certainly a pain in the neck for his dear, sweet Aunt May… but now that Pete’s all grown up (and married with a kid, to boot) how is he gonna like things now that the webbed boot is on the other foot?

“8 Years Later…” puts Peter Parker in a place he’s never really been before. He’s been a superhero, he’s been a husband, and in Renew Your Vows, the alternate-Earth Spider-book, he’s been a father. But how is he going to contend with a teenage, super-powered daughter? It’s a bold new world in the Spider-Verse, and to commemorate the occasion, Marvel Comics has wisely tapped on the shoulder of one of comics’ best writers working today, Jody Houser, to script the adventure.

Houser’s been making moves within the industry for a few years now, and the Big Two are taking note of her talent. It’s a big deal for a woman to write a Spider-Man book, sadly enough. For Marvel, it shows that a page has actually turned for the House of Ideas — which, for those of you keeping score, was kind of the point behind its Legacy initiative. Houser is one of the most important voices in comics. If you didn’t that by know, then buster — start paying attention.

Batman/The Shadow: Murder Geniuses HCBatman/The Shadow: Murder Geniuses HC

DC Comics/$24.99

Written by Scott Snyder, Steve Orlando, and Denny O’Neil.

Art by Riley Rossmo, Irv Novick, and Dick Giordano.

Colors by Ivan Plascencia.

Letters by Clem Robins.

CH: My introduction to The Shadow was courtesy of Mike Kaluta and Denny O’Neil in their seminal 1973 DC adaptation. Batman #253 came later that year. The World’s Greatest Detective teaming with The Shadow, even acknowledging that the elder vigilante inspired him to become a crimefighter. Heady stuff for an 11-year-old fan.

So, it’s heady reborn to see DC’s Batman/The Shadow: The Murder Geniuses HC, collecting their Batman/The Shadow six-issue collaboration with Dynamite, plus a story from Batman Annual #1 with art by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano, written by O’Neil. Riley Rossmo’s cover and interiors set a proper noir atmosphere, and both dark heroes read strong, distinct, and willfully dedicated to their individual ways of dealing with the evil in men’s hearts.

Dynamite’s Shadow sometimes feels Shadow-lite, especially in their “Masks” series. Not here. Murder Geniuses was worth the cover price just for moments like this: Batman’s rogue’s gallery, led by the Joker, cackle insanely at the captured Dark Knight’s pending plight. The laughter slowly dies down, Joker last, but there is still one echoing, haunting laugh filling the chamber. It’s The Shadow. Gooseflesh. All this, and some distinctly cthulhoid goings-on, too.

Some collections are fine in TP format, but HC is justified for the teaming of two characters so vital to establishing and defining the masked vigilante genre. Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando have crafted a tale worthy of both.

What books are YOU looking forward to reading this week? Sound off in the comments below.