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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The Locust Moon Top 40: May 2014

40. SECRET AVENGERS

Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Doop be damned — this may be the most fun book that Marvel is putting out. Come for the comedy, stay for the wild sci-fi ideas and propulsively energetic storytelling.

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39. Alan Moore Interview on Robert Anton Wilson

Robert Anton Wilson has had an outsized impact on comics sci-fi as one of the prime influences of two of its major writers: Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. Now, as bonus content for the COSMIC TRIGGER theatrical Kickstarter, you can hear comics favorite curmudgeon spend an hour kvelling about the importance of Wilson’s particular brand of visionary oddball sci-fi.

38. SHE-HULK

Charles Soule & Javier Pulido continue making us smile with their latest issue of She-Hulk, taking the jolly green she-giant over to San Francisco to see Daredevil — making for an obviously perfect crossover. The two super-lawyers wonder why they never went up against each other back in NYC, and so do we…

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37. THE AMATEURS

Conor Stechschulte’s graphic novel debut is a strange little incantation, a quietly funny nightmare in black & white — the sort of book that lingers in the back corners of your mind.

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36. KIRBY NEW GODS ARTIST’S EDITION

The unadulterated tiger-force, delivered straight from the tiger-source.

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Continue reading

good this week

secret avengers #2 : issue #1 was terrific and #2 tops it with a great blend of action, humor, and intelligence in ales kot’s script topped off by flawless visual storytelling from michael walsh.

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shutter #1 : a book with the potential for a ton of fun, with some killer art from leila del duca.

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all-new doop #1 : i get it, little guy. i really do. i think we’ve all had a crush on kitty pryde at one time in our lives.

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lumberjanes #1 : fun, funny stuff, with some fine cartooning from brooke allen.

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jonah hex shadows west : it’s good to see some of the fine work tim truman did in the 90’s coming back into print, with the release of the masterful HAWKWORLD last month and now this collection of hex mini series with writer joe lansdale. great hard-edged supernatural horror.

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spongebob #31 : spongey and patrick stay up past their bedtime.

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east of west #11 and east of west volume 2 : volume 2 added all kinds of wickedness while issue #11 lays the groundwork for major confrontation between the nation states. consistently excellent.

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–chris stevens

good this week

stray bullets killers #1 & stray bullets uber alles edition: back with a bang, david lapham’s ‘lost’ masterpiece returns this week with an ‘uber’ edition that collects the original series, an issue that wraps up the original run, and this brand new series. lapham crafts crime stories that read like slice of life tales from the suburbs. he’s a pretty flawless storyteller, and anyone who hasn’t checked out the world he created in STRAY BULLETS is urged to get into it.

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beasts of burden hunters & gatherers : this book is an instant smile whenever it comes out. evan dorkin’s wit and characterizations perfectly inform the watercolor world of animal paranormals that jill thompson paints. down to the distinctive lettering of jason arthur, all the details are in place to immerse you into this charming, sometimes scary world tailor-made for anyone who loves animals or hellboy.

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secret avengers #1 : this reads and looks like an outtake from HAWKEYE & FRIENDS. that’s a good thing. bang-up job establishing the team and tone here by ales kot and michael walsh.

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the fox #5 : haspiel & company go out with a bang, wrapping up the initial arc with all the whimsy, winks, and cartoony punch the series promised. lots of good character beats here that make me look fondly toward the next, just-announced run.

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cannon by wallace wood : the master does comic strips like no one else before or after. a pristine collection of wood’s military journal strips produced as entertainment for those soldiers overseas during the height of the cold war. so, so good.

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east of west #10 : onwards with one of the best monthly series in years.

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manifest destiny #5 : continually entertaining. a nice change of pace book.

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ff volume 2 tpb : wrapping up matt fraction & mike allred’s run on one of the best things to come out of MARVEL NOW.

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–chris stevens

good this week

trillium #6 : this series is going to make for a great evergreen once it’s done. a huge heart, compelling story, and killer cartooning & atmosphere from jeff lemire and josé villarrubia.

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red light properties : haunted real estate and tasty storytelling chops, courtesy of dan goldman. one of the more interesting books to come out in a while.

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ant colony : michael deforge seems like he was born speaking comics instead of english, his first words a 9 panel grid. then, as he grew up, the language became one that’s all his own. come hear him speak it next wednesday.

https://www.facebook.com/events/250044305164145/

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the fox #4 : dean haspiel is pouring a ton of fun into this comic, and his clean, poppy art is worth the price of admission on its own.

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new avengers #14 : dr. strange sells his soul, and simone bianchi makes damn sure he looks good doing it.

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judge dredd mega city two # 2 : ulises farinas continues his star-making turn. surf’s up!

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–chris stevens

good this week

saga #18 : lying cat. oh yes.

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furious #1 : lots of twists & turns in this new take on superhero celebrity from bryan glass and victor santos of MICE TEMPLAR fame. looking forward to talking this up with bryan this friday night at the shop!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1389868561273036/

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east of west #9 : SAGA and this book in the same week? yee haw.

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miracleman #2 : you can argue about the format marvel’s chosen to roll this out, but there’s no argument about the alan moore material. seminal, game-changing comics that read as good today as they did 30 years ago.

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black science #3 : we get into some back story and blood shed here. this book is going places.

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marvel masterworks x-men vol #6 : neal adams delivers some powerhouse, dynamic work here.

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unwritten vol #8 : the latest volume in this spellbinding series.

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adventure time with fiona and cake : monster-fighting, queen-defeating wackiness.

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–chris stevens

East of West, by Hickman & Dragotta

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East of West seems almost custom-designed to foil synopsis, but here’s me trying: it takes place in 2049 in an alternate America that was wracked by extensive civil wars, and has split into seven nations, including the Confederate States, a unified Endless Indian Nation, and New Shanghai. Somehow these seven nations, or at least a number of their highest-placed members, share a holy text — a pieced-together book of enigmatic apocrypha called The Message, which details (and immanentizes) Armageddon.

Jonathan Hickman’s richly layered story begins when, as foretold in The Message, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse awaken, embodied as children and eager to bring about the endgame, but surprised to discover that they are only three. Death, it seems, has broken off on his own.

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He’s riding a pale robot-horse across the seven nations, murdering acolytes of The Message in key positions. At first, his purposes are oblique, but soon become clear: Death is actually a little bit of a sap, and he’s trying to track down the woman he loves, who once loved him back.

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Like Emma Rios and Matteo Scalero, Nick Dragotta is a highly skilled and promising professional who’s done a fair amount of work for the big two and then taken a quantum leap into auteur cartooning with an astonishing new Image series. Books this vital bring new meaning to the phrase ‘creator-owned’ — not just the intellectual property but the voice itself, so fully developed and alive on the page, the world-building so immersive, so effortless and thorough, that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else drawing it. This is a cartoonist’s voice in perfect tune with the subject matter, the space where the stark lyricism of John Ford meets the hard, cold sheen of Ridley Scott. Dragotta can take something as silly as a cowboy riding that aforementioned robot-horse with a laser cannon for a face and render it so artfully, so matter-of-factly, that you don’t blink.

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East of West is a baffling book, and it demands rereading. It wants to be puzzled over and dissected like an esoteric text. Why, for instance, does a book set in a shattered and rejiggered United States never offer us a map of the new territory?* Because it wants to disorient us, is my guess. It doesn’t just want to tell a story about the wild west — it wants to BE the wild west, a mapless, trackless wilderness in which we have to find our own way. It’s the worst of both worlds, the lawless west and the sci-fi distopia — the desolate unsafety of the uncharted territory meets the tight social net in which we’re all pawns of forces beyond our control. The tension between security and freedom has been resolved by eliminating both.

So what we have on our hands at first appears to be some kind of retro-futurist hard-science gnostic political-intrigue western. But Death’s longing to be returned to his wife and child are the hook on which the wild digressions and house-of-cards world-building of the series are hung. Death is what passes in this book for a protagonist (if a story this huge in scope and this resistant to reader-identification can even be said to have one), and he has a formality, a slow, lanky, Gary Cooper courtliness at odds with the river of carnage he leaves in his wake.

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There is something appealing about him. The characters in East of West are motivated occasionally by lust, or greed, but mostly they are motivated by pure grievance and hatred. The only true cooperation in the book is an uneasy collaboration among sworn enemies in the interest of burning the world to the ground. It is never explained, at least thus far, why they want to bring about the end times — but in a world this dead-eyed, this calculating and vicious, it doesn’t seem totally counter-intuitive. Death, though just as violent and selfish as the rest of the characters in East of West, is motivated by devotion and ardor. So it turns out that East of West is a soul-sick romance, with a sense of strangled longing that pierces like an arrow through its huge, dark expanse. For all of its futuristic trappings and alternate past, it is about our modern world: irredeemable, possessed by hatred and avarice and resentment, seemingly on the verge of toppling into ruin, yet still, against all odds, animated by the capacity for love.

*As Rick and Justin pointed out in the comments, there IS in fact a map included in an early issue of East of West. I must have missed it the first time through, though, and didn’t see it in my recent re-read of the trade. I fully embrace the confusion that’s ensued!

– Josh O’Neill