New Comic Book Day: A Unicorns In Comics Panel

Rosy Press
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How about that Women in Comics panel at Denver Comic Con last weekend? The one with no women on it? That makes a ton of sense, to be honest. Why would anyone want to talk WITH girls when you can talk AT them instead? I mean, the safest way to make sure that I’m interested in a subject is usually hectoring lectures about my proper place within that fandom. That’s how I got into Transformers – two dudes standing in the toy aisle of an old KB, telling me that my Ultra Magnus was just a repaint and that I wasn’t a real fan because “Rodimus Prime is for kids, kid,” waiting for me to lose interest. You the real MVP, Denver Comic Con.

This week in comics: women! And men. And giant floating heads. And evil snake gods. And sarcasm that translates well. But first, romance!

Fresh Romance #1 (Rosy Press)

Janelle Asselin of Comics Alliance just ran a successful Kickstarter to get this off the ground, under the operating theory that the world needs more romance comics. I happen to agree completely – a healthy industry puts books out in every possible genre, and the history of comics has romance books as one of its cornerstones. Fresh Romance, which she’s editing, faced a fairly steep challenge to accomplish its storytelling goals – it’s trying to revive a dormant genre of (in America, anyway – manga is all about romance books) comics, and it’s an anthology, which means the stories are short enough where it’s sometimes tough for them to set their hooks in the reader. Fortunately, all three stories are pretty good.

The first, from Kate Leth and Arielle Jovanellos, is standard high school fare: the cool kids are playing games to keep the masses and their parents twisting as to the real nature of their romantic entanglements, playing off status and expectations. Jovanellos nails the art here. These kids look every bit the cool ones, but she does a great job conveying their conflict in their body language and facial expressions. The second story is from Sarah Vaughn and Sarah Winifred Searle, an Austenish (Jane, not Chuck, thank FSM) Victorian story about a woman heading to the altar who clearly doesn’t want to get married. Searle’s art is heartbreaking. Catherine, the main character, is so visibly dejected by the prospect of marrying someone she doesn’t care for that it’s hard not to feel depressed on her behalf. I can’t really praise it enough. If you read this and don’t walk away mopey, I don’t even know, man. The last story is from Sarah Kuhn and Sally Jane Thompson, a sci-fi story about two alien baristas with matchmaking powers getting into math-coupling-related hijinx. Thompson’s art is fantastic, expressive and anime-inspired and a ton of fun, and this story being a little bit sci-fi was the one most in my wheelhouse.

I’m definitely coming back for more, and we’ve got the next couple of covers down at the end of the column so you can see what’s to come. You are not, however, allowed to look at them if your first thought was to jump in the comments and give me shit about Jane Austen being Regency and not Victorian era.

You can pick up Fresh Romance online via Comixology.

Dark Horse Comics

Tony Takezaki’s Neon Genesis Evangelion (Dark Horse Comics)

Everyone’s going to be talking about Fight Club 2 from Dark Horse this week, but I want to buck the trend, because this is a comic made for my very particular tastes.

Parody requires a working knowledge of the material being made fun of, so Takezaki’s spoof on Evangelion is going to have a reeeeeeeeeeeeeally specific appeal. Thankfully, my second favorite pastime (after trying to figure out what’s going on in a Grant Morrison comic) is trying to figure out what the shit happened in the last three episodes of Evangelion. Takezaki, who apparently made his name in Japan ripping Mobile Suit Gundam to shreds, takes on the most ridiculous tics from one of the most absurd, insane anime I’ve ever seen. Based on the preview pages, it’s going to be hilarious. Seriously, “Rei, WTF, LOL” had my monitor covered in spit.

You can pick up Tony Takezaki’s Neon Genesis Evangelion at your friendly local comic shop or online via the Dark Horse app.

DC Comics

Convergence #8 (DC Comics)

This week sees the end of what is simultaneously the least important (narratively) and yet one of my favorite DC crossovers of all time.

I say it’s unimportant based on the previews DC has been putting out of its post-Convergence line. I’ve read through every single one of them, and while the quality varies from awesome to uninteresting (I’m so psyched for Prez and The Omega Men, and pretty meh on Aquaman), the one thing they all have in common is that Convergence doesn’t seem to matter to almost any of them. Even Batman Beyond, a pretty radical departure from the source material and from what came before, is more of a direct continuation of Future’s End than it is anything springing from this series.

At the same time, I think Convergence was really successful at what it set out to do – tell an entertaining story about the multiverse getting smushed together, and to act as a pause point for the Earth 2 characters. I was interested enough in them, especially in Dick Grayson and his journey to becoming Batman, to have spent a couple of hours in a Wikipedia-hole reading about Val-Zod and Wildcat and Earth-2 Supergirl and then I disappeared for a while on the various Supergirl pages and the next thing I remember I was covered in sweat and it was Saturday. I wish there were a browser plugin that stopped you from clicking links on wiki articles after the second one.

You can pick up Convergence #8 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

Avatar Press

Dark Gods #6 (Avatar Press)

No wheels have been reinvented with Justin Jordan’s horror story, but any comic that throws shade at Dr. Jenny McCarthy is A-OK in my book. When you turn vaccine denial into a Cthuluist plot to take over the world using Facebook misinformation, you are speaking my language. It turns out, BTW, that my language is mostly hyperbole.

This is the last issue in Jordan and artist German Erramouspe’s story about an evil group of chaos monster-worshippers trying to unleash their serpent god on a drooling mass of Facebook addicts. The art is a little amateurish in places, but I think that might be a function of the coloring: it only seems to look that way in the flashbacks. It’s also worth pointing out that this is my own personal right way to do cynicism. There’s so much anti-religion meta commentary, but it’s all smart without being preachy or condescending. Jordan’s story is a little bit Gaimanesque in that the gods only have the power their believers give them, and the art is a little bit stock Avatar, with a lot of over the top gore and some tasteful boobage, but overall this is a speedy, entertaining horror story.

You can pick up Dark Gods #6 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.


M.O.D.O.K. Assassin #1 (Marvel Comics)

We (the royal We of Topless Robot. I get to use that, since I’m TR’s self-appointed Duke of Comics) are longtime Fred Van Lente enthusiasts. And his M.O.D.O.K. was my first – M.O.D.O.K.’s 11 remains hilarious, one of those trades that will survive every culling I make. As will Nextwave, for no other reason than it gave us the best UMVC3 alternate costume in the entire game. So a Secret Wars tie-in set in a world populated entirely by criminals and murderers where Tarleton is the greatest killer that’s deliberately named as a callback to one of the best comics ever made (Elektra: Assassin) is pretty much an automatic buy. It helps that the creative team on this, Chris Yost and Amilcar Pinna, are both pretty good at doing comics.

This is one of those under-the-radar best things about Secret Wars. They’re giving some serious burn to everyone from Nextwave. I CAN’T WAIT for Spurrier writing Elsa Bloodstone traipsing through Marvel Zombies.

You can pick up M.O.D.O.K. Assassin #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

Top Shelf Comics/IDW

You Don’t Say (Top Shelf Comics)

Reading this only convinces me that Nate Powell was an absolutely inspired choice to partner with Congressman Lewis and Andrew Aydin on March.

It’s probably not fair of me to keep coming back to that as my own personal touchstone for his work, but that’s what affected me most and first, so that’s what my frame of reference for Powell’s work was built around. You Don’t Say shows the breadth of his skill as an artist and comic storyteller. It’s a new collection of his earlier work, some of it autobiographical, some fiction, some “comics essays.” All of it is amazing. My favorite part of this book is how the collection of all this disparate material shows his intellect and his thoughtfulness in a way that doesn’t necessarily immediately present itself when you’re reading something he’s collaborating on. March shows his incredible talent as a designer (and as a letterer! /geek), but You Don’t Say shows just how smart he is in his own right. Also, Jesus, man, he draws so good.

You can pick up You Don’t Say at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

BOOM! Studios

Curb Stomp #4 (BOOM! Studios)

Ryan Ferrier and Devaki Neogi’s girl gang story wraps up this week as the Wrath, the Fever and the Man all clash in a Warriors-esque riot in Old Beach. This whole series danced right along the line of a traditional exploitation story without ever wholly embracing the tropes of that genre, and I think it benefitted from that. Neogi’s art is occasionally a touch stiff, but that just gives the book an indie vibe that I really liked. And the colors are outstanding – lots of purples and pinks like FCO Plascencia’s Batman stuff, giving the book a neon grime that really helped hammer home the tone that Ferrier and Neogi were trying to establish.

The whole issue is the end of the gang war that the story’s been building to, and it’s a satisfying conclusion. It’s a great little gang war, which in retrospect is a sentence I’ve never even thought before.

You can pick up Curb Stomp #4 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

Every week there are way too many comics for me to read and keep track of. So in every column, I’m going to take a look at a book that came out in the last few weeks, but that I only just had a chance to talk about.

Image Comics

This week, it’s Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman and Afua Richardson’s Genius, a book that I wanted so badly to put on my best of 2014 list, but couldn’t find the space for. I don’t regret what I picked over it, but I’m glad this is out in trade now so I can talk about it, because with one tiny exception, it’s phenomenal.

It’s really hard to write extremely smart people. Look at the Architect in the second Matrix movie – his monologue to Neo is supposed to be this brilliant condensation of the entire rationale behind the existence of the matrix, an explanation of causality and free will that’s supposed to blow the viewer’s mind. What came out was gibberish, like two smart people had a conversation about causality and theoretical physics, and now you’re having that conversation related to you second-hand by a very stupid person in their own idiot words.

Everyone wanted to praise Genius because of its perceived topicality, because it came out at the height of Ferguson’s media attention, but as we’ve seen since the first issue dropped, it could have come out at any given point in time and still been topical. What makes Genius great isn’t that it tackles modern issues in a thoughtful way – at best the plot is a revenge fantasy, even though it is thoughtful. It was one of my favorite books from last year because the story is thorough, about a gifted tactician and intellect that manages to avoid any plot holes or obvious oversights; because Bernardin and Freeman’s writing is legitimately as smart as we’re told Destiny is; and because of Richardson’s fantastic art.

You can pick up Genius volume 1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

And here! Have some Fresh Romance covers!

Rosy Press
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Rosy Press

That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?