good this week

east of west #18 : as good as it gets in monthly comics right now.

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ant-man #3 : nick spencer hits all the right notes in this family-oriented, funny superhero romp. fans of the taskmaster, delight.

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star wars #3 : jason aaron and john cassaday are making star wars fans everywhere very, very happy.

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the surface #1 : to quote from ales kot’s own words here, i have no idea whether this book is going to actually work, but the spirit that he and artist langdon foss brought to this opening issue make it worth it to find out.

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howard the duck #1 : SEX CRIMINALS artist chip zdarsky turns out to be the perfect guy to bring the irascible duck into the 21st century. teamed with joe quinones on art, this is a book that any fan of the recent HAWKEYE, SHE-HULK, or SILVER SURFER series needs to check out.

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silver surfer #10 : wonderful wrap-up to this all-new galactus trilogy from michael & aura allred and dan slott.

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mouse guard: legends of the guard vol 3 #1 : devid petersen’s anthology featuring various creators playing in his mouse guard world is always a delight, and with stories from creators like mark buckingham and skottie young, this new series is off to a fine start.

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ragnarok #4 : walt simonson’s grim, energetic return to the ground he built his own legend on is heating up.

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tuki save the humans #3 : the same can be said for jeff smith’s new series, as this 3rd issue is the strongest one yet.

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spider-gwen #2 : spider-ham! the vulture! that costume! fun stuff.

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–chris

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good this week

the fade out volume #1 : old time hollywood in the hands of CRIMINAL masterminds ed brubaker and sean phillips. this is about as good as noir gets, folks.

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sex criminals volume #2 : what would you do if you could stop time when you orgasm? give this a read, it’ll help you figure it out.

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abigail and the snow man #3 : is anyone better at this kind of innocently sophisticated cartooning as roger langridge? parents and the young at heart, start here and go to SNARKED and the wonderful MUPPET books roger did.

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spider-gwen #1 : this book brings a lot of heat on the heels of the over-the-top fun SPIDER-VERSE storyline. there was a lot of talk about the batgirl costume redo from a few months back, and that was cool, but gwen’s webbed hoodie is one of the best new character designs i can remember in a long time.

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ody-c #3 : whoah. this sci-fi gender-bent retelling of THE ODYSSEY is pure comics.

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the manara library volume 6 : the final volume in dark horse’s fantastic collection of italian master milo manara’s singular work takes off on its own sci-fi flight of fancy. yes, it’s sexy.

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curb stomp #1 : we’ve got the makings of the baddest girl gang since the lizzie’s here…

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django/zorro #4 : matt wagner just flat out knows how to handle these characters, and an improbable pairing becomes a cracking good yarn in his hands.

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–chris

good this week

silver surfer #9 : barreling along in what’s going to be one of the touchstone SS runs, this galactus-ized issue sets up a thrilling 3rd act to this book’s best arc yet. the inimitable art work of michael&laura allred is worth the ticket alone. and this cover has to be an early candidate for cover of the year…

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the multiversity mastermen #1 : grant morrison continues to march across the entirety of dc’s history like adolph hitler thru 1939. wait a minute…that’s hitler on the toilet. thanks, grant.

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she-hulk #12 : so, so sad to see this book go away. if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and check out what charles soule, javier pulido, and co. put together here.

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bitch planet #3 : a world where women can wind up in an off-planet prison for…wanton obesity? but don’t worry, these ladies are about to fight back. another perfectly paced, involving episode of this early candidate for series of the year.

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silk #1 : cindy moon was bitten by the same spider that bit peter parker. what else do you need to know?

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eight #1 : the talented rafael albuquerque throws his hat into the sci-fi ring, with some good-looking early results.

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–chris

good this week

darth vader #1 : marvel is 2 for 2 so far with their STAR WARS roll-out. this is a vader who is suffering the backlash of the death star’s destruction and feeling the first glimmers of awareness that a certain farm boy named luke might be more than he seems.

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southern bastards #7 : blood, guts, and heart. jason’s aaron and latour have quickly established this series as one of those books you gotta read as soon as you get your hands on it.

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the empty #1 : fantasy books are a tough road to hoe, but jimmie robinson won me over here with pleasing layouts and color work. i can’t think of another book right now that looks like this, and that’s a good thing.

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transformers vs gi joe #5 : now, i’m friends with the mastermind behind this book, tom scioli, and gi joe was the thing i loved most from those golden years of boyhood say 8-12. that said, this is still the most improbably good book since brandon graham relaunched PROPHET. it’s obvious on every page that tom is all in, and there’s a joyous, anything-goes quality that only the best comics have.

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fables complete covers by james jean : you need me to tell you why you need this? well, it is the first time all of james’ storied FABLES covers are in one place.

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ps. this is actually the cover to the original, incomplete volume of jj’s covers. i couldn’t find the new cover online for the life of me.

–chris

 

The Locust Moon Top 40: July 2014

40. THE WICKED + THE DIVINE

The new Image series from McKelvie & Gillen, a sort of bottomless bonus track to their dark-magic rock opera PHONOGRAM, is one of the most promising series to debut in 2014.

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39. This NSFW Spider-Man Statue

This baffling statue, atop a South Korean shopping mall, gives new meaning to the phrase “web fluid.”

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38. CHARLES SCHULZ’S PEANUTS: ARTIST’S EDITION

This beautifully designed collection of unaltered original Peanuts artwork brings us Charles Schulz’s earliest strips just as he made them — raw, unfiltered, and a little bit mean.

40 peanuts

37. OUTCAST

The world-weary horror of Robert Kirkman’s story is brought to life by the atmospheric, choking tension of Paul Azaceta’s moody, worrisome artwork. A promising debut for what looks to be a truly frightening series.

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36. This Animated Lobster Sculpture

Very lifelike. Keep it far away from butter sauce.

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35. THE LEFTOVERS

This off-beat, darkly funny, sprawlingly intimate HBO series, based on Tom Perotta’s novel of the same title, follows life in a small town in the years following the Rapture.

Continue reading

good this week

saga #21 : things are getting slipperier for the families on both sides here. on another note, i want FRIENDO.

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ragnarok #1 : YES. walt simonson back in the saddle, with john workman bringing the BRAKKATHOOMs.

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avengers 100th anniversary #1 : james stokoe. need i say more?

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transformers vs gi joe #1 : tom scioli pulls off a perfect evocation of all that made generations of kids spend countless hours on kitchen floors playing out action figure battles & plots.

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batman ’66 #13 : the most enjoyable bat book of its day sees dean haspiel ride in and deliver pitch perfect storytelling chops and just the right amount of wink-wink this book thrives on.

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tuki: save the humans #1 : where jeff smith goes, we follow.

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mike mignola’s hellboy artist’s edition : seeing the master’s hand unadorned packs a punch.

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-chris stevens

Seconds : Bryan Lee O’Malley (with great help from Nathan Fairbairn) does it again with his new, beautiful, magical realist fable.

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Street Angel HC : AdHouse Books has brought Jim Rugg’s modern classic, bar-raising series back in perfect form. Street Angel changed the way I looked at comics 10 years ago, and this new, handsomely produced edition (which includes a few bits and pieces old fans might not have seen) is the one it’s always deserved. Everyone who missed it the first time around owes it to themselves to read it now.*

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-Andrew Carl

*Diamond didn’t actually ship us our order of Street Angel HCs this week, but we’ll be getting them in soon. Regardless, this roundup wouldn’t have been right without her.

PRETTY DEADLY by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios

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The English writer Walter Pater said that all art aspires to the condition of music. I’m not so sure about that, but PRETTY DEADLY certainly does. It wants to inhabit the haunted space from which country songs like “Long Black Veil” or “St. John the Gambler” emerge — the bleakly spectral west of lost highways, of fiddles at the funeral pyre, of hangmen and heartache. It sounds a high, hollow note as its lonesome melody unwinds, echoing through the canyons.

The plot is oddly structured, and so driven by revelation and backstory that to describe much of it would be to ruin part of the fun. But the narrative is driven by Fox, a grief-stricken blind man with a dark past, and Sissy, the little lost girl with whom he shares his travels. They make their living, such as it is, as roving storytellers, moving from town to town and singing the dark ballad of Death-faced Ginny, the Grim Reaper’s daughter. After a few twists and baffling machinations, they wind up with Ginny herself on their tail, and the apocalypse rumbling behind.

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The end — the crashing-down, the river of blood, the fire next time — that, more than the daughter of death, is the great ghost haunting the pages of PRETTY DEADLY, whose characters live lives on the fringes — snake oil salesmen, traveling troubadors, streetwalkers, cowards and liars. Their existences are tenous, itinerant, bound together only by weird, damaged love, by the few connections that refuse to wither and die. Ginny turns out to be just like them — an abandoned nobody who wants the world to burn. But everybody cares about something, and they wind up holding existence itself together with dirty fingernails and gunsmoke.

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How art this densely detailed, this packed with panels and ambitious storytelling choices so effortlessly evokes the open plains of the American west I’m not sure. Emma Rios has taken the style of Paul Pope — the wayward, manga-inflected storytelling and sloppily precise brushwork — and weathered it, barrel-aged it til it started to fray at the edges. Like Mike Mignola, she favors big, splashy illustrations with lots of small inset or intercut panels, turning every page of into a collage-style design piece in its own right, an experiment in the form which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. She tells Kelly Sue DeConnick’s story as a accumulation of tiny, fragmented moments cascading over one iconic image — the mess of reality spilling over the myth — rather than a progression of linear story beats. It can be awfully confusing, but it can also be riveting. For all the recognizable influences, there’s a magnetic, original voice here, as soulful and ambitious as those of her forebears.

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DeConnick’s script, too, favors off-kilter storytelling and fractured rhythms, dropping us into an already-unfolding narrative with almost no context, barreling forward and gradually filling us in with hints, flashbacks, and recollections, letting us sink or swim. Reading it as a monthly book I found it difficult to follow to the point of frustration. Having it all in one place, that weakness can be read as a strength — here is a book that demands your full attention, a book with no course charted through its pleasures and dangers. It wants to be puzzled over and figured out. Its joys are not the joys of suspense, or of plot at all — it operates on a poetic plane, in a mythic mode of storytelling.

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There is a framing sequence, for instance, in which a skeletal bunny speaks to a dead butterfly — there has been, to this point at least, no explanation of how these characters relate to the main plot, or why they are our narrators. And yet, from a poetic point of view, it seems like a fitting choice, even an obvious one: the story is being told the way it wants to be told. It sounds like the voice of a dead rabbit, and so a dead rabbit speaks it.

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The cleverness of this book’s conceit is the blending of the oldest, most worry-weathered of American genres, the western, the ancestral mythology of our still-embryonic nation, with something older, deeper and more mysterious — the ancient gods and monsters of religion and myth. For all its spells and curses, its talking crows and prophesied beasts, PRETTY DEADLY doesn’t feel “supernatural,” the way zombies and vampires do — it feels hypernatural, the way the Odyssey or the epic of Gilgamesh do. It brings the old world gods to the American west. They seem angry and vengeful, like they know they’re on their way to being forgotten.

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I find it very odd that PRETTY DEADLY is an ongoing series. If ever a comic felt end-driven, this one does. (Quite literally, with armageddon hanging in the balance.) There doesn’t seem to be anything resembling a balanced status quo that you can hang a serial structure on, no sensible way that I can see to keep the line indefinitely moving. Once this current plotline is resolved, I have no idea what this series will even be about.

Maybe DeConnick and Rios don’t know either. They’re certainly not afraid of making a big mess from a narrative standpoint. But they’re channeling something pure, mysterious, bafflingly recognizable. I am firmly in favor of this flawed book with its startlingly lyrical voice and its delicate, haunting song. It seems to emerge from some dusty, mythic back country, some weird old American ghost town at the end of an endless road. These stellar creators have the courage to follow that song. Some spirit tongue has their rapt attention, and they have mine.

-Josh O’Neill