By James Tynion IV, Marcio Takara, Alvaro Martinez, Eddy Barrows, Dean White, Brad Anderson, Adriano Lucas, Raul Fernandez & Eber Ferreira
Last week Detective Comics released their milestone 950th issue. However, instead of using the occasion to focus on Batman or one of the title’s other central characters, such as Batwoman, writer James Tynion IV choses to put the spotlight on figures who have not been prominently featured in his run so far. While Orphan and Azrael have functioned well within Tynion’s excellently executed group dynamics, they have not been given the same amount of attention as Spoiler or Red Robin. Tynion rectifies that situation with his anniversary issue.
By Marguerite Bennett, Cameron Deordio, Audrey Mok & Kelly Fitzpatrick
“I was reading Machiavelli at age 11. My gym teacher had to politely dissuade me from playing dodgeball.”
A few months ago, Archie expanded the scope of their recent revival with a relaunch of Josie and the Pussycats. Having gotten the band together in the debut issue, writers Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Deordio quickly sent them on the road and away from the familiar environs of Riverdale. The initial chapters were fun rollicks, full of Bennett’s trademark charming character work and meta-humor. These traits continue in full force for #4, wherein Bennett and Deordio’s references range from Homer to Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull to Zach Snyder’s Superman movies (as is “Damnit Melody, crime fighting isn’t in our contract! None of our moms are named Martha!” Seriously, David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio are never living down that one). However, in the midst of all these madcap hijinks, Bennett and Deordio are also crafting an ever deepening portrait of female friendship and empowerment. Last issue saw Josie confront some of her failings towards Alexandra, a scorned childhood friend. The latest installment offers up lessons about romance and self-worth. Josie is shaping up to be not simply an entertaining comic, but an affirmational one as well.
By Ryan North, Will Murray, Erica Henderson & Rico Renzi
“You said you’re ten, right . . . [so] why are you already deciding there’s things you can’t do, Doreen Green?”
by Ryan North, Erica Henderson,Rico Renzi, Will Murray & Steve Ditko
Last week, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl celebrated the 25th Anniversary of its title character. Co-created by Will Murray and Steve Ditko, Squirrel Girl debuted in a one-off tale for Marvel Super-Heroes #8. In the story she tussled with Iron Man before defeating the latest egotistical machinations of Dr. Doom. Despite some initial editorial skepticism, she would stick around the Marvel Universe over the next couple decades landing gigs on The Great Lake Avengers and as Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ babysitter. Her biggest spotlight, however, arrived in 2015 with the premiere of her first solo series. Writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson invested the title with a distinctive flavor which was an immediate success, winning over new legions of fans for Doreen Green. North and Henderson bring that same spirit to the anniversary issue, crafting a charming, heartfelt portrait of a girl discovering herself.
What is the role of ritual, specifically religious ritual, in society? Regardless of the beliefs behind the actions, is there something inherently soothing in such ingrained ceremonial motions? In the first issue of The Black Monday Murders, wealthy financier Daniel Rothschild was murdered. Four issues later, the series’ initial arc concludes with Daniel’s funeral. #4 is full of religious imagery, yet, for what purpose? Is there something within these formulas which soothes the soul of Daniel’s twin sister Grigoria? Such questions add new layers to Black Monday Murders, which from its debut has proven to be one of the most fascinating series of the year.
By Jody Houser, Jim Krueger, Tommy Lee Edwards, Phil Hester & Trish Mulvihill
After three reboots of pre-existing concepts, Gerard Way’s new Young Animal imprint unveils its first original character: Mother Panic. The debut issue of her adventures is an intriguing hybrid which mixes new ideas with familiar tropes. Protagonist Violet Paige is introduced lounging on her private jet as it approaches Gotham City’s airport. She downs a glass of wine as an unidentified companion warns Violet of overexerting herself. The context is vague, leaving the reader unclear what sort of destructive tendencies the aide is referring. Violet immediately conveys the spoiled apathy of the privileged, flipping off the paparazzi greeting her at the airport with questions about the latest gossip. Internally, Violet muses about this corrupt city to which she keeps returning. Perhaps she should simply burn it to the ground and be done with it all. Still, for all that cynicism, she remains capable of brightening a stranger’s day. When she glimpses two fans timing their selfie for the moment Violet will pass in the background, Violet offers a sly grin for their camera. In the course of these initial two pages, writer Jody Houser successfully introduces these multiple aspects to Violet’s personality, immediately drawing the reader into Violet’s story.
By Kieron Gillen, Leigh Alexander, Dorian Lynskey, Laurie Penny, May HK Choi, Ezekiel Kweku, Kevin Wada, Jamie McKelvie & Matthew Wilson
From the beginning, The Wicked + The Divine has demonstrated a willingness to continually alter its shape. The scope of the series is large, not only in terms of character and plot, but thematically as well. At the outset, writer Kieron Gillen established a narrative which would tackle issues of fame, creativity, popular culture, identity, legacy, youth and mortality. Such rich material naturally allows Gillen the freedom to spin his story off in different directions adjusting the tone along the way. Recently #22 brought to close the Rising Action arc with dynamic action set pieces and wrenching character moments. What followed was an interlude of a more reflective sort, the 1831 Special. Set amongst the 19th Century Romantic Pantheon, it cultivated a more atmospheric, quieter vibe. Tonally quite different, yet, each outstanding in their own way. On Wednesday, Wicked + Divine took another experimental left turn. The result is a fascinating, stunning comic.
Archie’s line of comics have experienced a fair amount of resurgence lately, first with their acclaimed horror title Afterlife with Archie. Following on this success, they turned their attention to more tradition iterations infusing them with A-List talent along the lines of Mark Waid, Fiona Staples and Adam Hughes plus rising stars such as Marguerite Bennett, Annie Wu and Erica Henderson. After Chip Zdarsky wrapped his run on Jughead, Ryan North took over writing duties last month with #9. On Wednesday, his second issue hits the shelves confirming that North’s goofy, upbeat sensibility was a perfect match for the series.
By Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev & Matt Hollingsworth
Over the course of the past 54 years, Doctor Doom has proven to be one of the most versatile of Marvel’s classic villains. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, he originally debuted in grand Marvel style in Fantastic Four #5. The issue is a quasi-ridiculous romp, best remembered now for The Thing’s adaptation of a pirate’s life and the introduction of arguably the most overused trope/narrative cheat in the Marvel Universe: Doctor Doom’s time machine. However, there was something appealing about this character which his further appearances cemented. Lee and Kirby knew the entertainment value of a larger-than-life antagonist cackling about his own brilliance while wearing one of the most eye-catching costumes in super-villainy. Doom’s arrogance was part of his appeal, whether played straight or parodied.
Over the decades, though, various writers would fill out Victor’s personality, giving him layers beyond those of a power mad tyrant. He rose to prominence from a persecuted minority (the Romani). He possessed a tragic devotion to his (literally) damned mother. His dual interest in science and magic define him as a man who blends seemingly irreconcilable mindsets. He could even align himself with heroes at times acknowledging a need for some greater good. Recently, writer Jonathan Hickman drew on many of these facets for his compelling portrayal of the omnipotent Doom struggling to preserve reality in Secret Wars, At the end of Secret Wars, Hickman gave Victor a chance to redeem his life and pursue a nobler path. Brian Michael Bendis picked up this thread by using Doom as a supporting character in Bendis’ Invincible Iron Man book. This week, Doom graduates to his own ongoing title Infamous Iron Man.
In honor of Wonder Woman’s 75th Anniversary, DC has been returning to the character’s roots. Literally. Over the course of the past year, fans have been given multiple retellings of Wonder Woman’s origin. There was Grant Morrison and Yanick Parquette’s long delayed Earth One graphic novel and Renee DeLiz and Ray Dillon’s digital series Legend of Wonder Woman. This summer Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott also begin revisiting Wonder Woman’s backstory for DC’s Rebirth initiative. Yet, while all these projects had good intentions the results were more on the mixed side. In addition, their release within a relatively short period of time begged the question of just how many times readers needed to see poor Steve Trevor crash into Paradise Island? To be fair, how Rucka and Soctt handled this moment was one of the highlights of their run. Still the idea of watching it again so soon was growing as appealing as another illustration of Thomas and Martha Wayne being gunned down in Crime Alley. Yet, on Wednesday DC released another take on Diana’s earliest days, an original graphic novel Wonder Woman: The True Amazon. The good news is that writer/artist Jill Thompson avoids many of the familiar set pieces readers have come to expect from a Wonder Woman origin. This is not a tale of an Amazon learning to comprehend the external world of men, but of a woman taking stock of her interior self. As such, Thompson presents a young, inexperienced Diana which is in many ways a sharp departure from tradition. However, by doing so she locates a novel and poignant expression for the essence of Wonder Woman’s character.
To the ears of your typical angsty teenager, there is little difference between pop music and poetry. Their very nature requires a fair amount of heart worn on sleeve accompanied by the belief that these personal emotions are compelling to others, even if the writer is convinced that no one is interested in giving more than a cursory glance at their pain. Martyrs they all be. Thus, it is only natural that Kieron Gillen would set his sights on the Romantics for his first tale of a Pantheon set outside the present day. After all, it only makes sense that the same culture which nurtured a Percy Shelley would later also produce Morrissey and Robert Smith. In fact, Gillen would be far from the first to make this observation; viewing the Romantics as the rock stars of their day has long passed into cliché. What makes the 1831 special so rewarding is how Gillen digs deeper into the archetypes, crafting a compelling mediation on eternal questions of creativity, death and legacy. His script is in turn stunningly illustrated by Stephanie Hans. With 1831 Gillen and Hans accomplish what all great historical writing aims for: using the past as a means to better understand the present. In such a way, The Wicked + The Divine continues to prove itself one of the best books on the racks.