Upcoming Comics for Your Reading Pleasure
By Andrew A. Smith
2012 has been a pretty good year so far in comics. But what’s coming this summer may put what’s come before in the shade. A number of publishers were enthusiastic enough to answer our call for a summer roundup, so here we go …
Perhaps the feel-good story of the year is the return of Valiant Comics. Launching in May with X-O Manowar #1 – which is on its third printing – the new/old publisher has continued with one new title per month through the summer, plus a surprise guest star in September.
A new version of Harbinger already debuted in June, by Joshua Dysart (Unknown Soldier) and Khari Evans (Carbon Grey). And Bloodshot (by Duane Swierzynski, Manuel Garcia, and Arturo Lozzi) begins this month, with our lethal protagonist trying to figure which of the voices in his head is his own.
“Bloodshot #2 goes on-sale in August,” said Warren Simons, Valiant Executive Editor, “and the book might as well come with a fuse. It's quite possibly the most action-packed comic I've ever edited. But it's not all about exploding planes and gunfire and corrupt agencies hunting a hero who's hunting himself. Duane Swierczynski has added a brilliant wrinkle to Bloodshot's powers, something that is visualized wonderfully in the issue. And the action by Manuel Garcia is beautiful and kinetic and something that only comes together when the guys are putting their hearts into the project. I went over the book again last night and can't wait for it to go on-sale. Keep matches away from this one.”
Next, August brings the welcome return of Archer & Armstrong, this time by writer Fred Van Lente.
“Archer and Armstrong don't meet until about three quarters through the first issue of the book named after them,” Van Lente said, “and that meeting is what I'm most looking forward to. We're taking time and care in establishing these characters – the martial arts master raised on a fundamentalist compound and the immortal strongman from the ancient city-state of Ur – and they're not going to like each other at first, just because that's the convention of the buddy genre. Opposites don't always attract. Instead we're going to take the time to build this relationship and show how it's one of the best in comics history and one of things Valiant fans remember so fondly about the original line.”
And did I mention a September guest star? That would be fan favorite Ninjak, in X-O Manowar #5. But that’s not all:
“X-O Manowar #5 will be a pivotal issue for Aric,” said writer Robert Venditti. “Having finally escaped The Vine's slave pens, he'll return to Earth only to discover that everything he has ever known – everything he fought so hard to get back to – is gone. But he'll also learn that a whole host of new adversaries exists, and they're far more formidable than anything he has faced before. For anyone who has been wanting to pick up the series, but has been unable to track down the earlier issues, this will be the place to jump in.”
IDW has emerged as one of the top five publishers in recent years, and 2012 is a good demonstration as to why. Among their many summer offerings, fans can look forward to The Crow #1 in July (with a story related to the upcoming movie) and Star Trek: The Next Generation: Hive #1 in September (featuring Hugo Award-winner Brannon Braga).
And there’s so much more, Chief Creative Officer/Editor in Chief Chris Ryall answered personally, with so much enthusiasm that I’m simply going to get out of the way and let him talk:
Mars Attacks (June): “Every now and then, a creative team fits so perfectly on a licensed title that it's hard to envision anyone else doing as much justice to that book,” he said. “Johns Layman and McCrea are exactly that team here, absolutely nailing the bleak humor, absolute carnage and insane personalities a book like this needs to succeed.”
Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom (July): “Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, the same team currently working on Marvel's best title, Daredevil, are applying their many strengths to a wonderful Rocketeer tale. This is the first feature-length Rocketeer story we've done, and this team not only does great comics, they also nail the adventure-serial feel of Dave Stevens' classic strip.
Godzilla: Half-Century War (August): Tour de force gets overused at times, but in this case, since James Stokoe is writing, penciling, inking, coloring and lettering this entire miniseries, it's as apt as can be. And anyone who's seen his insanely detailed work in the Image book Orc Stain knows that this one's going to be something special.”
Doctor Who (September): Andy Diggle and Mark Buckingham, both guys I always wanted to work with for more than just the one-off cover or script, are re-launching the good Doctor's series, so you know it's not only in the hands of guys who know the character inside and out, but they are also two of the more exciting, talented guys working in comics today. As good as the covers for the book will be, to paraphrase the description of the TARDIS, this one is ‘even better on the inside.’”
Locke & Key: Omega (November): “After an August noir-influenced one-shot, Locke & Key: Grindhouse, that's full of black comedy, nasty and hilarious French-Canadian criminals, and an homage to classic crime comics, Locke & Key closes in on the final storyline of the epic tale Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez have been telling. Bad things have been happening to the Locke family since the start, but hoo-boy, that ain't nothin' compared to what's to come in this now-seven-issue final story.”
Judge Dredd (November): “I've been wanting to work on a Judge Dredd comic for decades, before I ever envisioned a career in comics, and this one's off to a ripping start. If only I could share those details here, but we're keeping the creative team under wraps for just a bit longer. Suffice it to say, it's a team that fully ‘gets’ Dredd, and is going to stack up nicely next to the 35 years of great comics that the 2000 AD folk have produced.”
Some other old friends are returning at Archie, where the original MLJ super-heroes have returned once again under the “Red Circle” banner. The “New Crusaders” debuted online May 16, with six new pages posted each week for subscribers. It’s by writer Ian Flynn (Sonic the Hedgehog) and artist Ben Bates, whom Paul Kaminski, Red Circle’s Executive Director of Editorial, described at the time as “our best guys on our top book.”
This new incarnation of the Crusaders has allowed the original characters to age normally, but will feature their children and protégés, including new versions of Comet, Fireball, Fly-Girl, Jaguar, Steel Sterling, and The Web (all led by the original, but still formidable, Shield). The title crosses over into print with New Crusaders: Rise of the Heroes #1 in August.
Not that the regular Archie line is standing still. The Occupy Movement hits Riverdale in Archie #635 (in July), with a lovely variant cover by Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother). Jaws should drop for Archie #636 the next month, when Sabrina’s magical cat Salem gives Archie, Betty, and Veronica a sex change so they can see how the other half lives. I am not making this up.
But perhaps the best Archie product this summer won’t be from Archie at all – Archie Archives Vol. 6 arrives in August from Dark Horse, featuring stories from 1946. Which is a natural segue to …
DARK HORSE COMICS
“I've got a lot of stuff coming this summer than I'm kind of in love with,” said Scott Allie, Senior Managing Editor. “The Creep from John Arcudi is something I've wanted to publish for a long time, and I was really pleased that Mike Richardson and I were able to talk John into bring back his old Dark Horse Presents character.” That character strongly resembles Rondo Hatton, the actor who turned his disfiguring acromegaly into a movie career. The Creep is a four-issue mini-series begins in September with a cover by Mike Mignola, with a zero issue in August with a cover by Frank Miller.
Michael Avon Oeming’s The Victories, a five-issue mini-series beginning in August, “is the sickest, craziest superhero comic in a long time,” Allie continued. “The last time I got excited about a superhero comic was Umbrella Academy, and this could not be more different than that, but it's fun.
“We're also making Eric Powell's The Goon monthly again,” Allie said, “which is like our greatest possible gift to humanity. Eric's doing his best work ever on the title, really beautifully drawn, and great, unforgettable stories. And spinning out of the Whedonverse, we have a new Spike series, by Victor Gischler and Paul Lee, which digs into the character in a way we've never been able to do in the comics. I'm really proud of that one. Victor and Paul have become a surprisingly great team.”
“That's just off the top of my head. I've got a lot coming …”
… which should be mentioned. For example, a new Ghost series, by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel) and Phil Noto (X-23), debuts in August with a zero issue. And a new B.P.R.D. mini-series arrives in September, courtesy of Arcudi and artist Tyler Crook.
Meanwhile, NBM has already scored this year with P. Craig Russell’s eye-popping The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde Vol. 5: The Happy Prince. But they’re not done yet.
“NBM releases a small, but very select number of titles, so it really isn't very difficult to get enthusiastic about all of them,” said NBM Publicist Stefan Blitz. But he did pick out three that excited him in particular.
“The first is Lovers’ Lane: The Hall-Mills Mystery, the latest volume in our ‘Treasury of XXth Century Murder’ series by the inimitable Rick Geary. I'm a sucker for true crime stories, and a new volume from Rick is always worth celebrating.” Geary’s latest – which I certainly recommend – is in NBM’s June solicitations and has an Aug. 1 release at Amazon.
“The other two books are from two cartoonists doing their first work with NBM,” Blitz said. “Taxes, The Tea Party, and those Revolting Rebels: A Comics History of the American Revolution by Stan Mack is a wonderfully executed, funny, and informative look at the birth of our nation, and Margreet de Heer's Philosophy: A Discovery in Comics is a charming and extremely accessible examination of the history of Western philosophy through both famous thinkers and their doctrines. Each of them is truly a special labor of love.”
Oni Press’s editors are proud of this summer’s releases – especially Crogan's Loyalty in June, and Guerillas Vol. 2 and Xoc: The Journey of a Great White in July – and aren’t afraid to show it.
“The third book in Chris Schweizer's historical adventure series, Crogan's Loyalty might be my favorite thing from Professor Schweizer yet,” Editor in Chief James Lucas Jones said. “Yes, it shares the same painstaking attention to detail and historical accuracy with Chris's other Crogan tomes, but the sibling rivalry between two brothers fighting on opposites sides of the American Revolution adds a familial element that's new fodder for Chris's always engaging characters.”
Charlie Chu, another editor at Oni chimed in: “Guerillas Volume 2 is the second in Brahm Revel's trilogy about jungle combat at the height of the Vietnam War. Not only is Brahm one of the best cartoonists and storytellers in all of comics, this is a no-holds-barred story about attack chimps with machine guns. What's not to love?”
Jill Beaton, a third Oni editor, had more to add. “As an avid shark enthusiast, I was really excited to work with Matt Dembicki on his book Xoc: The Journey of a Great White,” she said. “With equal parts narrative and environmental message woven into a single compelling story, Xoc highlights both the instincts that have served the shark population for thousands of years and the current dangers they face from human encroachment on the seas. A great book and a call to action!”
Image is another publisher that seems to be exploding with new titles, new ideas and new creators. Once again, I’m going to shut up and let someone else talk – in this case, PR and Marketing Director Jennifer de Guzman:
Creator Owned Heroes (by Steve Niles, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Phil Noto, and Kevin Mellon, in June): “The COH team is celebrating the spirit of independent comics with original stories and great art, as well as articles and interviews. With the boom in creator-owned comics that we've seen this year, this is the perfect series to let readers know what independent comics are all about.”
The Red Diary/The Re[a]d Diary (July): “I think sometimes people can forget that comics is a medium capable of experimentation and innovation, but Steven T. Seagle is not one of those people. When he saw a French-language graphic novel by his frequent collaborator Teddy Kristiansen, he didn't wait for an English translation; he wrote his own dialogue and narrative, creating a new story with Kristiansen's sequential art. Paired with the actual translation, Seagle's ‘remix’ offers a startling example of how the same image can evoke very different meanings, while still maintaining the same core themes. In the case of The Red Diary/The Re[a]d Diary, those themes are art, mortality, and identity.
Fatale Volume One: Death Chases Me (June): “Beautiful, haunting work by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips that offers a horror-bent version of the noir genre and a complex and human – but also inhuman – femme fatale who pushes the confines of her archetype. This first volume is set in 1950s San Francisco, with all the atmosphere that setting conjures.”
It Girl and the Atomics (August): “A spin-off of Mike Allred's Madmen, It Girl is series about a comics super-heroine whose power to take on the properties of anything she touches make her a formidable foe of any baddies lurking in Snap City – or they will be once she figures out the whole crime-fighting thing! Jamie S. Rich and Mike Norton are a perfect team, matching witty writing with top-notch, fun art.”
And there’s more! Man battles machine in outer space in Planetoid, beginning in June. Wild Children, “a story of magic, passion, and disinformation,” is a one-shot in July. Also in July are Harvest #1 (crime thriller about organ trafficking), Revival #1 (psychological horror story in rural Wisconsin), and Hoax Hunters #1 (where the legends are real). In August, Howard Chaykin returns with the sexually charged mystery Black Kiss II, and Think Tank, a “science-action thriller,” also debuts.
Lastly, I’d be remiss in not mentioning The Walking Dead #100, which arrives in July. Early reports indicate that orders for the issue – which has nine variant covers – may be over 300,000.
Finally, several publishers didn’t make our deadline, but that’s no reason to leave ‘em out – especially since they include the Big Two!
June saw the debut of the controversial “Before Watchmen” project, but with the names attached – Brian Azzarello, Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, J. Michael Straczynski, etc. – it’s obvious these books are meant to be the best DC can do. That’s reason enough to keep an eye out for The Comedian, Dr. Manhattan, Minutemen, Nite Owl, Ozymandias, Rorschach, and Silk Spectre.
Also, DC revives some old concepts with the new National Comics beginning in July, and The Judas Coin HC in September. In the former, each standalone issue will feature a new take on a classic character, beginning with Kid Eternity, Looker, and Rose & Thorn. In the graphic novel, the legendary Walt Simonson follows one of the 30 pieces of silver paid to Judas from DC’s past (Golden Gladiator, Viking Prince, Captain Fear, Bat Lash), to the present (Two-Face) to the future (Manhunter 2070). A new Phantom Lady (with Doll Man) debuts in August.
But DC’s biggest news is a “zero month” for The New 52 titles in September. The “zero issues” will feature tales from each character’s past – but some will be the final issues, which will be replaced on the schedule with four new titles. Look for Phantom Stranger, Sword of Sorcery (starring Amethyst and Beowulf), Talon (from the “Court of Owls” in Batman), and Team Seven (Cole Cash, Alex Fairchild, Dinah Lance, John Lynch, Steve Trevor, Amanda Waller, Slade Wilson).
The big news at Marvel continues to be its blockbuster crossover, Avengers vs. X-Men, scheduled to conclude in September. But even with AvX tying up most of the major titles, Marvel’s got some other surprises up its collective sleeve.
For example, July will see a number of debuts, including Captain Marvel #1 (arising from AvX), Hit-Girl #1 (of five issues), Infernal Man-Thing #1 (of three), Powers: FBI #1, X-Treme X-Men #1 (starring Dazzler and three familiar X-Men from another dimension), and the so-weird-it-must-be-good Space Punisher #1 (of four). Oh, and Sabretooth returns in Wolverine #310, because I suppose he must.
August brings another bunch of debuts, including First X-Men #1 by Neal Adams (starring Logan and Sabretooth), Gambit #1 (hey, girls, he’s sparkly!) and Hawkeye #1 by Matt Fraction and David Aja (for which you can thank the Avengers movie).
August is also Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary, which will not only be celebrated in Amazing Spider-Man #692, but also some “continuations” of long-discontinued Spider-titles, such as Peter Parker, Spider-Man #156.1, Sensational Spider-Man #33.1 and 33.2, and Web of Spider-Man #129.1 and 129.2. Look for fabled Spider-names like Roger Stern and Tom DeFalco to contribute.
Dynamite is another publisher that seems to have an avalanche of new titles every month. This summer will be no exception.
June saw the beginning of the company’s first crossover; Prophecy will somehow team up characters like Athena, Dracula, Dorian Gray, Pantha, Purgatory, Alan Quatermain, The Reanimator, and Vampirella. If you’re wondering where Pantha came from, her new series also begins in June.
And while July is fairly quiet on the Dynamite front, August is replete with new titles. Look for a revival of Frank Frazetta’s Thun’Da, a title called Damsels (which resembles Vertigo’s Fairest), and a Dark Shadows/Vampirella mini-series.
Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith has been writing professionally about comics since 1992, and for Comics Buyer’s Guide since 2000.