By Molly Jane Kremer, Clyde Hall, Mickey Rivera, Sara Mitchell 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. From Dark Horse Comics’ ‘War Bears’ #1 to two glorious new debuts from DC Vertigo, here’s what has our hearts set ablaze this week.
Dark Horse Comics/$3.99
Story by Margaret Atwood and Ken Steacy.
SM: Dark Horse Comics is releasing a 3-issue mini-series which takes place in WWII Canada and follows Al Zurakowski, a comic book artist who has created a Nazi-fighting bear-woman superhero named Oursonette. It’s War Bears, created by Margaret Atwood (swoon) and Ken Steacy (faint).
Need I say more?
Anxiety is free-floating these days. Like an airborne illness. Intangible, infectious, and gripping. So much happens every day that we have no control over. It seems at times that the fate of the world simply cannot be wrangled. War Bears is not the first time in recent years people have looked back at the Second World War to try to find a lens through which to look at ourselves today. We can’t always punch our problems in the face, especially when that problem is actual living, breathing, marching Adolf Hitler. Atwood wants us to meet Al Zurakowski. Her greatest gift to our generation of readers is that she has put us into the shoes of those whose stories are severe and lesson-bearing. If she wants us to learn from this cute little guy in glasses, then I am pulling up a seat at that drawing table.
It may feel at times there is no power to be gained in this world, but sometimes you just need to put yourself into the shoes of someone like Oursonette, or like Al. While I’m not taking an actual swing into the face evil, my mind has taken me there. It is still catharsis. On the other side of that catharsis is clarity. It’s a step away from the anxiety; the infection. It’s a clearer step towards answering, what can I do? How might I take a swing at evil?
Written by Si Spurrier.
Art by Bilquis Evely.
Colors by Mat Lopes.
Letters by Simon Bowland.
MR: One summer Saturday in 1998, 14 year-old me came across something that didn’t fit with the usual action-packed hero covers that populated the comics rack at my local video rental shop: The Dreaming #25, written by Peter Hogan. Prior to finding it I had never so much as heard of The Sandman or the extended mythos and fan cult surrounding him. I lucked out picking an issue that works perfectly as a stand-alone, about a raven who served a god, who was once a man and longed to remember what mortality was like.
This is a fresh start for The Dreaming, and there’s plenty of reason to get excited for it. Jae Lee’s cover features one of the scariest, coolest crescent moons I’ve ever seen. (Just look at that ragged maw!) It features writer Simon Spurrier, whose name stands out to me because of his work for 2000 AD, including Future Shocks, Judge Dredd and a standalone black and white horror tale named Chiaroscuro. And of course there’s artist Bilquis Evely, a brilliant illustrator with an eye for blending the down-to-earth with the fantastic.
I had that shop pull The Dreaming for me for a year before I finally got around to tackling Sandman. Now I’m ready for more. The world of the Endless is just that good.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis.
Art by David Mack.
Digital colors by Zu Orzu.
Letters by Carlos M. Mangual.
Design by Curtis King, Jr.
MJ: When Mr. Brian Michael Bendis moved his talents and loyalties over to the Distinguished Competition, he brought his Jinxworld creator-owned properties with him, and even launched two new series with a couple long-time collaborators. First was Pearl with Michael Gaydos, and now here comes Cover with David Mack, which sports one of the most interesting and unique premises of them all.
In Cover, a comic book artist is in the beginning stages of being recruited by the CIA—because quite honestly, the amount of traveling for conventions (and cash transactions) a lot of comics pros do would be the perfect, yes, cover for a spy. As one can imagine, the book itself is extremely “inside baseball” about the comics industry, but has enough artful explanation to not leave a newbie hanging. It has a healthy sense of humor about itself, and builds tension and unease effortlessly.
David Mack’s painted art is beautiful throughout. It switches over to pencils and inks periodically, to great effect; Zu Orzu’s digital colors on these sequences are soft, quiet… drawing you in to impart whispered secrets.
Even though Bendis’ punctuality in turning out issues of his creator-owned series has been questionable at best, perhaps his currently limited amount of superhero output will ensure these little indie babies of his will see the light of day on time. It’s an excellent first issue, and makes me hope Cover won’t be limited to just this six-issue miniseries.
Written by Dylan Meconis and Ben Coleman.
Art by EA Denich.
Colors by M. Victoria Robado.
Letters by Aditya Bidikar.
CH: Fandom of sci-fi, comics and pulp culture revel in tales of humanity putting aside their petty differences to join other intelligent life in the universe and boldly explore strange, new worlds. But in the first issue of Oni Press’ The Long Con, we get to glimpse just how far those same devotees would emulate their idols when faced with their own hazardous five-year mission. It didn’t appear that Captains Kirk, Picard, Janeway, Archer, Commander Sisko, or even Mal Reynolds had to fret about job security.
It’s a timely topic for a series, given observations of modern fandom disparity in promoting and even embodying the principles their beloved icons represent. Writers Dylan Meconis and Ben Coleman managed in the initial issue to reveal Long Con 50 as it was begun five years ago, some of the pop culture it was built around, and the current setting after a terrible, apocalyptic fate befell the civic center holding the Con. It’s believed everyone perished in a radioactive wasteland, but protagonist Victor Lai, a reporter who briefly attended the Con before Armageddon hit, discovers that somehow there are survivors in that Forbidden Zone. Strong characters emerge, especially the traumatized Victor and his editor Cal, a candidate for the J. Jonah Jameson Humanitarian Award. Both scripters adeptly blend humorous and horrific circumstances.
Artist EA Denich also had the right balance of comedy and pathos going in the depictions, and colorist M. Victoria Robado cut loose admirably for the 1960s classic TV show riff of Trek called ‘Skylarks’. Letterer Aditya Bidikar’s work shined from Con badges, posters, and all the conference trappings.
Issue #1 was a quality start, hitting maximum warp to set up the bizarre situation at the core of the narrative. In the second issue, maybe we’ll discover if the GoH has been devoured by attendees and special guests reduced to cannibalism. Commodore Quinn did seem quite the ham, a commodity undoubtably in short supply.
Written by Eric M. Esquivel.
Art by Ramon Villalobos.
Colors by Tamra Bonvillain.
Letters by Deron Bennett.
JJ: Border Town isn’t so much an examination of the American cultural schism as it exists today but an evisceration of it. The characters are broad, either hyper-aware or unrepentantly thick. Those in opposition to each other in this book may as well be living in other dimensions. And wouldn’t you know it? That’s totally the point.
DC Vertigo’s first post-Sandman Universe debut is designed to piss people off. It’s in its very DNA. Series artist Ramon Villalobos charts that molecular chain with spilled blood, crushed bones, death stares and luchador masks. If you find you’re immersed in the detail, that’s Villalobos doing what he does best. If you find you’re leaping over the gaps that lay between languages, that’s Deron Bennett playing around with translation, even having fun with it. And if you find yourself captivated by these pages, that’s Tamra Bonvillain, colorist extraordinaire. She sets the book’s tension to a roiling boil, scorching the surroundings in a red-hot blaze of oranges and purples. You can practically feel the heat radiate from its pages.
Border Town #1 moves fast to get its introductions out of the way. Eric M. Esquivel has a story to tell and doesn’t bother wasting time. So the series’ main character, Frank, adapts to his new hostile surroundings—that being the fictional town of Devil’s Fork, Arizona—with a marked ease. He has to; there are people here who hate who he is and will try to hurt him for it, even as he’s attempting to figure that part of himself out. And that’s the secret ingredient of Border Town: It reminds you to stand up for yourself, especially when you’re not yet sure who you want to be. Also, chupacabras.
It’s for these reasons and the possibilities of its future that I recommend Border Town #1. Esquivel & Villalobos’ story has a heart that beats between two realities—or three, if you include our own.
Bienvenidos a hell. Enjoy your stay.
What books are YOU looking forward to reading this week? Sound off in the comments below. Best answer wins a free set of DoomRocket stickers!