by Molly Jane KremerArpad OkayClyde HallBrendan Hodgdon, 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 Berger Books’ ‘Invisible Kingdom’ #1 to Image Comics’ ‘Criminal’ #3, here are the comics that have our hearts set ablaze this week.

Invisible Kingdom #1

Berger Books / Dark Horse Comics / $3.99

Written by G. Willow Wilson.

Art by Christian Ward.

Letters by Sal Cipriano.

MJ: Hard to believe, but Dark Horse’s Berger Books imprint has been releasing challenging comics from incredible, award-winning artists and writers for only a little over a year. Now, with G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward, they’ve added two more critically-acclaimed creators to their roster in their new science fiction epic, Invisible Kingdom.

G. Willow Wilson, fresh off her over-fifty-issue run on Ms. Marvel and after having refined and redefined what a superhero can be for a new generation, has turned her sights to sci-fi. Social commentary is the lifeblood of this genre (or, at least, the good versions of it). Wilson positions Kingdom directly upon the roiling intersection of religion, politics, and capitalism. A pro at fantasy (both sequential and prose), experiencing Wilson’s work in this Final Frontier will be a treat.

Christian Ward’s science fiction chops are voluminous and well-established, from Infinite Vacation to ODY-C to Eisner Award-winning Black Bolt. His work is easily described as psychedelic; he utilizes bright, bold colors, and dreamily tangible imagery. Ward packs truly affecting emotion and incredible storytelling skills into his visuals, and the teaming of him with Wilson is going to produce some phenomenal comics.

Many current stalwarts of comic book science fiction are ending soon—finales loom for series Black Science, Paper Girls, East of West, and Low. Invisible Kingdom is a new chance to fill those ominously-close black holes, and quite possibly, to surpass them all.

The Immortal Hulk #15

Marvel / $3.99

Written by Al Ewing.

Art by Joe Bennett.

Colors by Paul Mounts.

Letters by Cory Petit.

CH: Scads of comic books embody why I read them for enjoyment. The Immortal Hulk has become one of the select titles that embody why I read comics, period. Eyebrows crept into hairlines when writer Al Ewing entwined the mystical with the traditional Marvel pseudo-science effects of gamma ray radiation. But the resulting dissection of mortality, morality, and the very spiritual nature of what we deem ‘good’ and ‘evil’ vindicated the bond for me.

Dialogue powerful enough to back a K.O. right cross doesn’t hurt, either. (Check out issue #11 for a discussion between Bruce Banner and Jacqueline McGee regarding rage.) In this week’s #15, a personal favorite character returns to Hulk’s orbit. Doc Samson was always a support player with potential, from his sketchy gamma-theft origin to adolescent power fantasy brought to life. If anyone can finally realize more of that Samson psychiatric potential than has yet been mined, it’s Ewing.

Spider-Man: Life Story #1

Marvel / $4.99

Written by Chip Zdarsky.

Art by Mark Bagley.

Inks by John Dell.

Colors by Frank D’Armata.

Letters by Travis Lanham.

SR: Comics have always used the issues of their day as a backdrop to enhance a storyline or to give purpose to a character. With each new generation of readers some of these topics are mere prologue, while others have sat back and watched the hero’s journey evolve with more contemporary matters.

One thing that may not change are the heroes themselves. Through our suspension of disbelief they tend to remain the same, seemingly regenerating into new bodies and costumes with each creative team. Which is why the premise for Spider-Man: Life Story grabbed me immediately.

Writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Mark Bagley, both of whom have done work previously featuring our beloved and iconic Spidey, are taking Peter Parker back to his college days in the 60s in this debut… only to later age him with each successive issue—and each subsequent decade. As much as I’m tempted to call Life Story Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” combined with ample amounts of Spider-Sense, I know that Zdarsky & Co. will take this idea beyond those obvious expectations by cleverly weaving a web of humanity and history.

High Level #2

DC Vertigo / $3.99

Written by Rob Sheridan.

Pencils by Barnaby Bagenda.

Colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr.

Letters by Nate Piekos.

SM: Fanaticism will always find a way. Greed and power will always find a way. No matter how many times you blow up the world and make humanity start over from scratch, these things will always find a way. High Level is set in what has been dubbed the post-post-apocalyptic world. With no foundation to model themselves after, humanity has rebuilt itself without a guiding light from the past.

While this may seem pessimistic, greed and power will always find a way, an even more singular truth is this: strong-willed people will always find a way to disrupt the power. In High Level, that person is Thirteen, a young, self-sufficient skeptic. Greatness is thrust upon Thirteen when the supposed savior of humanity, a small girl named Minnow, is put into her care.

I could go on and on about the art and the themes of this story, which both deserve respect and praise, but it all comes down to Thirteen. I trust her to be smart and I trust her to be imperfect, and not in the way where she’s quirky yet adorable. I trust Thirteen to be completely infuriating because she’s so strong-willed and she’s rightfully terrified of the task that’s been placed upon her.

There is a team brewing with thoughtfulness behind the scenes of High Level, and I can feel everything they want to tell us just boiling beneath the surface of the first issue. Along with greed, and power, and power disruptors, and all the things the world will always find a way to bring back again, there will always be the power of myth and stories. High Level is a story worth having around during this, our current attempt at finding a way.

Criminal #3

Image Comics / $3.99

Written by Ed Brubaker.

Art by Sean Phillips.

Colors by Jacob Phillips.

JJ: Con season is upon us once more. Early mornings, bad coffee, late nights, rough bar tabs. The shuffling hordes, bumping, burping, wafting a lingering scent of fear and desperation into the air. The Sunday gauntlet of bleary eyes and aching feet. It’s all back. Ain’t this biz the best?

Chief among the comics convention angst is facing the, erm, opportunity of meeting your heroes. Some are gracious, friendly, patient. Sometimes you have it together enough to repay that patience and graciousness in kind. Other times it’s the complete fucking opposite experience. Now consider young Jabob’s plight in the latest arc of Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips’ Criminal. Long before he was rubbing elbows with the Lawless family (I think; whiskey nights make this timeline a blur), Jacob found himself ushering his former hero and mentor Hal Crane through a lost weekend of a particularly grueling sort. Details are worth saving; after all, you’re already reading this book and have adequately prepared yourself for all the wince-inducing moments of charlatanism and chicanery Hal has in store for us. And Jacob.

Maybe Jacob’s a bit too judgmental. Maybe Hal’s just a heel. But the next time some creator gets short with you, remember this issue and appreciate the perspective: At least you never had to tie anyone up just to make your heroes happy.

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

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