by Molly Jane Kremer, Arpad Okay, Clyde Hall, Brendan Hodgdon, Sara Mitchell, and Jarrod Jones. With the year halfway over, the DoomRocket team scans the horizon ahead for the projects and creators we’re most excited to check out in 2019.
2019 TOP READS
Bury the Lede. (BOOM! Studios, October) BOOM! Studios is making serious moves in 2019. No longer contented with the knowledge that its all-ages fare is making smiles and warming hearts the world over, the Los Angeles-based publisher has been focusing more of its formidable energies towards headline-grabbing, prime-time overtures in the adult reader market. Its approach? Crafty as hell as it turns out; with an upcoming slate of adult-oriented graphic novels BOOM! is merging into the comics lane that is largely populated by the Azzarellos and Brubakers of the industry. And BOOM’s October’s offering looks to be a beaut.
It’s Bury the Lede, written by New York Times best-selling author Gaby Dunn (I Hate Everyone But You), illustrated by Claire Roe (Batgirl and the Birds of Prey) with colors by Miquel Muerto, and it looks absolutely stunning. The quick pitch: Intrepid, untested newspaper intern Madison Jackson of The Boston Lede, ever on the hunt for the scoop that will cinch her career, finds herself on the scene of a double-murder that involves Dahlia Kennedy, celebrity debutante and the case’s prime suspect who will only talk to the young would-be reporter. Now Madison has not only herself to prove to her stern editor and colleagues, she must navigate the darkest corners of the highest society.
That’s one hell of a set-up. A concise narrative dripping with malicious intent, populated with stand-out characters and noirish, Criminal-level visuals. For those who are equally enthralled by the prospects of this Dunn/Roe/Muerto collaboration, BOOM! has an extended preview for you to sample. Once 2019 makes its inevitable turn towards the eldritch season, many readers will likely be on the hunt for darker, more sinister fare. Bury the Lede will have no problem meeting demand. — JJ
Sea of Stars. (Image Comics, July) Though Jason Aaron and Dennis Hallum have been busy with a couple different wars over at Marvel (those of the Realms and the Stars respectively), the two have found time to team up with artistes extraordinaire Stephen Green and Rico Renzi for a new science fiction comic series over at Image Comics called Sea of Stars.
Aaron’s absence from the creator-owned end of things has been palpable for the last year or so, (I can only assume helming a massive Marvel universe-wide summer crossover demands much of one’s time), but seeing him back co-writing a new series with a breakout artistic talent like Green will be a balm for those of us patiently waiting for more Southern Bastards and The Goddamned.
Co-writers in comics aren’t unheard of, but Aaron and Hallum will be veering off the beaten path with this one. The two will tell parallel narratives from different character’s points of view: Hallum will follow the odyssey of a recently widowed space trucker searching for the young son he was separated from on a cross-universe long-haul. The boy’s cosmic adventures will be Aaron’s territory, as he discovers new powers and makes strange new friends.
Promo copy has Sea of Stars’ inspirations varying from Jack Kirby to The Neverending Story to Hayao Miyazaki, and Green and Renzi are especially suited to dwell within the center of that particular Venn diagram’s visuals. Preview pages hint at the wonder and excitement in store in the first issue, which drops next month on July 3. — MJ
The Cursed Hermit (Hobtown Mystery Stories #2). (Conundrum Press, October) The Hobtown Junior Detective Club is awkward not just in name, but solving crimes—all gawky knees and elbows. Smart enough to unravel the mysteries a quiet town affords after school. And yet somehow also capable of facing a string of murders tied together with weird paper plates. Hobtown Mystery Stories is absurd, but in an inspired way, with surreal shifts in what reality permits.
If the first book nailed “small town can’t be bothered to investigate the evil things it does” (and it did), the second one is aimed straight at “something’s wrong with that boarding school and us”. Don’t be deceived by the school library set dressing that Kris Bertin is subverting; The Cursed Hermit promises to be another rough lesson on why children don’t investigate homicides.
Alexander Forbes’ art style fits a mystery paperback. Crisp black on white, real pen-and-paper comics. Is it Canada? Is it teen mystery? Whatever the reason, Hobtown feels 90s, cool kids peeled off a Lookout Records sticker, and creepy townies as Liquid Television nightmares. It’s proper, and professional, but it’s also punk. If Ted Stearn was working with PT Anderson. A comedic tumble down into the heart of rural darkness. — AOK
Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice. (Dark Horse Comics/DC, July) I’ve imagined Jeff Lemire, when under exclusive DC contract, fervently pitching Justice Society and Legion of Super-Heroes story ideas to disinterested brass. That could have led to the origin of his Black Hammerverse, a place with recognizable simulations of many DC characters. Lemire has said that his world is based on comics history but stands apart from it.
Bottom line, he’s been able to tell some of the best DC adventures of recent years using the world of Black Hammer as a surrogate. Now DC and Dark Horse have tapped Lemire and artist Michael Walsh to bring these crazy kids together. This must be how it feels having a Deathstroke/Deadpool: Wilsons’ World crossover, only serious. — CH
The Far Sector. (DC’s Young Animal/DC) After a largely-successful and strongly beloved first volley, DC and Gerard Way’s Young Animal imprint has returned this year poised to be even better than before. This is due in no small part to The Far Sector, a title that not only promises to do something wholly original with the Green Lantern mythos but also introduces indomitable novelist NK Jemisin to the comics medium and pairs her with the tremendous skill of artist Jamal Campbell.
The pitch for The Far Sector involves a unique new world, one far removed from Earth and the regular Green Lantern goings-on. This should give Jemisin a lot of space in which to craft her story exactly as she wishes, and if her prose work is any indication we should get a truly vibrant setting and compelling hero for this tale, one that is not lacking in political commentary or thematic depth. And to see Jamal Campbell’s take on such an expansive, galactic tale should be quite the treat, as he continues to build on his fantastic work with DC’s Naomi.
Perhaps the only disappointment surrounding the announcement of The Far Sector is the lack of a firm release date for it. This title has the potential to be a truly remarkable addition to DC in general and Young Animal in particular. Still, it’s one worth waiting for. — BH
Canto. (IDW Publishing, June) Canto is the aww-inspiring tale of Canto, a brave little toaster of a man who’s super-cute, and I love him. But seriously, he’s more than that. He’s honorable. Canto’s people are members of a slave race of creatures whose hearts are removed early in life and replaced with clocks. They are forbidden relationships and names, and they work stoking the fires that burn under the city of Arcana. They work until their little clocks run out, after which their bodies are tossed into the flames, wasted to the fires as they are in life. But our main man Canto takes on the call to save a young girl’s life when slavers damage her clock. He voyages beyond the small world he knows in search of her heart.
This tale of adventure, love, and personhood that our soft little hearts desperately need is created by writer David M. Booher and artist Drew Zucker. Featuring letters by Deron Bennett and colors by Vittorio Astone, coming in hot off of the absolutely stunning These Savage Shores. Canto will also feature a variant cover for its first issue by Nick Robles. I encourage you all to embrace #protectcantoatallcosts as you read, because that’s definitely something I might start. — SM
2019 BELONGS TO…
John Allison. (Giant Days finale, By Night, BOOM! Studios; Steeple, Dark Horse Comics) John Allison has to be one of the most modestly appreciated humorists of our time. As a writer who can take the angst of modern living and turn it into something vital and hilarious, it’s my contention that Allison’s unique brand of wit and observation puts him head-and-shoulders above his contemporaries. Ennui is rarely as amusing in the comic format than it is when John Allison is wielding it.
Allison’s no slouch in the cartooning department, either; his proficiency at the drawing board (in terms of comic precision especially) has lent him an astounding level of collaborative success: His scripts for Christine Larsen has ensured victory for the dark fantasy maxi-series By Night, and his much-beloved run on Giant Days with Lissa Trieman and Max Sarin is unquestionably one for the history books.
2019 has revealed itself to be one of the most important years in his career. With the announcement that October’s Giant Days #55 would be the series’ final issue, John Allison will be walking away from a critical juggernaut at an incredibly high point. And the horizon in front of the writer looks rather optimistic, indeed: Come September 18 we’ll have acquainted ourselves with Steeple #1, a new 5-issue Dark Horse Comics miniseries colored by Sarah Stern, lettered by Jim Campbell and drawn by Allison himself. With Steeple, Allison looks to be exploring headier concepts such as religion and the schisms that exist within its various incarnations, “officious housekeepers and the ever-present sons of the sea”, all of it centered around a quiet Cornish hamlet. Expect things to go wrong, and quick.
“At a time where we align ourselves along ever more partisan lines and refuse to believe that the other side might have anything useful to say, Steeple is my attempt to show just how wide and deep the grey area actually is,” Allison said in May. “I’m uniquely placed to tell this story, as personally, my carefully-held beliefs fold like a card table in the face of anyone who sounds like they know what they’re talking about.”
I will sorely miss Giant Days. But I’m heartened by the prospects of Steeple and what lies ahead for this essential creator overall. I mean, look at the cover above: That chopper-riding priest may as well be Allison himself, roaring down the highway towards the future, perhaps destiny itself. — JJ
Kieron Gillen (Wicked + Divine finale, Die, Image Comics; Once & Future, BOOM! Studios; Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt HC, Dynamite) Does it takes more talent, guts, and stamina to satisfactorily end an ambitious, multi-volume, immensely popular comic series? Or is it harder to start one, to drag it kicking and screaming from your brain, only to launch it into the ether for all to scrutinize? Kieron Gillen is doing both this year, and more besides. This month he’s departing Star Wars—arguably the biggest licensed property in the world—after 29 issues on the series, while also penning the swan song to an opus of his own co-creation (with Mssrs. McKelvie, Wilson and Cowles), The Wicked + the Divine, set to drop a month later in July.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Gillen has numerous new projects in the offing including a brand new limited series with artist Dan Mora. August sees the debut of Once and Future at BOOM! Studios: Arthurian legend in a modern adventuresome setting starring Britain’s greatest monster hunter and her unwitting grandson.
And not only did Gillen recently co-create the new Image Comics series Die with Stephanie Hans, garnering massive sales and phenomenally positive reviews for the first five issues, Gillen has also written an actual game manual for the (no longer) fictional RPG in which the narrative is set. The beta version just became available for download when Die Vol. 1 was released on June 5 and even for those of us (myself included) who aren’t exactly gaming-inclined, the RPG’s manual is a wittily-written 139-page companion piece to the comic. It also functions as a very informative vivisection of how Gillen constructed the breadth and depth of the world inside Image’s best-selling new series, and contains a handful of breathtaking illustrations by Stephanie Hans, as well.
Gillen fashions both beginnings and endings with a flourish all his own. In 2019 we get to read for ourselves the books that he must bury, but also his books being brought to blossom. What a time to be alive. — MJ
Mariko Tamaki. (X-23, Marvel; Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, First Second Press; Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass, DC Ink/DC) Mariko Tamaki is a storyteller vivid and real. She brings vitality to her small press books for kids, and truth to her superhero comics. In 2019, she is fucking killing it.
Her new book with Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, is a subtle touch on young love, how an unhealthy relationship can make you feel like dirt and butterflies both. Tamaki is funny and frank. Laura Dean is her first graphic novel since This One Summer (with her formidable sister, Jillian). Both books speak to authentic experience sublime and bittersweet.
Tamaki has been writing superhero books about powerful women between her books for First Second, recently finishing her run on Marvel’s X-23. How Laura learned to live with being a deadly weapon and a good sister. Later this year, DC is releasing her other new book: Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass.
DC Ink has been putting out titles that feel more like what Tamaki is winning awards for over at First Second. It’s exciting to see them giving Harley to folks as capable as Tamaki and Steve Pugh. Quinn is a character whose younger fans definitely deserve to read the more nuanced, sophisticated voice Tamaki could give her. — AOK
Mark Russell. (Red Sonja, Dynamite; Wonder Twins, Wonder Comics; Second Coming, AHOY Comics) Mark Russell is a gutsy author with a refined talent for characterization. He’s not afraid to follow his imagination, even when projects prove controversial. Whether it’s a Snagglepuss series casting the Hanna-Barbera cartoon cougar as a gay Southern playwright of the 1950s, or a Lone Ranger and Tonto book where the hero and his Native American partner have different outlooks on ‘frontier justice’. DC gave a greenlight on his superhero-meets-Messiah pitch for Second Coming, only to fold when the concept drew criticism. Russell didn’t; he found a home for the project at AHOY. For its whimsical humor and brilliant resolution, his first issue of Wonder Twins stands as my most re-read comic this year.
Remarkably, no matter how much Russell departs from characters’ traditional portrayals, he remains true to them. The entire serio-tragedy of his Snagglepuss series became a perfect lead-in for how the character and his HB companions became cartoon fodder in the 1960s. Maybe this is the year he adds an Eisner to his other awards. — CH
Chip Zdarsky. (Spider-Man: Life Story, Daredevil, Invaders, Marvel; The White Trees, Image Comics) They say you should watch out for the quiet ones, but even more than that you should look out for the goofy ones, particularly when it comes to art. The sense of empathy that makes artists so capable in comedy translates well to drama. This year, the perpetually-goofy Chip Zdarsky seems hell-bent on proving this point in comics, and we all stand to benefit.
Zdarsky is already off to a strong start this year with his trio of Marvel projects. In Spider-Man: Life Story, he’s taking Peter Parker through the 20th century and having him grow with the passage of time. With Invaders, he’s taken some of Marvel’s marquee heroes and thrown them into unabashedly dramatic war stories. And in Daredevil, he’s continuing an impeccable modern run for the Man Without Fear with the same intensity as his predecessors. All three titles are built on honest emotionality, and while not too surprising for anyone who’s read Sex Criminals or Howard the Duck, it still collectively marks a shift in Zdarsky’s bibliography.
And then in August Zdarsky is reuniting with Kris Anka to launch a two-part original called The White Trees. Seeing these two great talents working together again (on their own characters, no less) makes for an automatic Must Read, and the results promise to be equal parts gorgeous and inventive. And in conjunction with his Marvel work, it renders Zdarsky one of the creators to watch this year without a doubt. — BH
Darcy Van Poelgeest. (Little Bird, Image Comics) You will be hard-pressed to find someone these days who isn’t raving about Darcy Van Poelgeest’s Little Bird, his debut series about inherited trauma and a young girl at the forefront of the rebellion against her government. Premiering this past March and wrapping up its fifth and final installment in July, Little Bird came along and charged audiences with the task of balancing the sharp, brutal, inescapable reality of war with the idealism and mysticism of exploring the afterlife.
Van Poelgeest’s success found itself not just in his subject matter but in his ability to give his audience agency. We’re not a suspended, captive audience, but a group of navigators, decision makers and detectives. Looking at the pink organic messes that entangle our main characters on each cover of Little Bird is a perfect way to visualize Van Poelgeest’s style of storytelling. It’s dense and complicated, but satisfying to lay out flat before you. You dust it all off and get to work, like a box of old cables and cords you find in the attic. Slowly but surely, you find the beginning, and you find the end. You might find a new source of power, you might get swallowed alive. It’s a risk worth taking. — SM
You can read our January 2019 selections here.
What are YOU looking forward to in 2019? Share your picks in the comments section below.