I'm live at my local comic shop Conquest Comics this week to grab some titles from the rather stuffed boxes and try to keep up with new titles as well as the ongoing gems that have been keeping my interest. On the whole, we're seeing some pretty stellar artwork from genre comics and creator-owned works, dazzling glimpses of possible worlds and characters who might just tug at your heart strings more than you think they can manage to do.
King's Watch from Dynamite begins this week, written by Jeff Parker, with art by Marc Laming and colors by Jordan Boyd. It's pulpy cover has plenty of verve, with a masked hero (The Phantom), a mysterious magician (Mandrake), and an adventure hero complete with sabre and ray gun (Flash Gordon). These 1930's heroes are in for a team-up and seeing them in action together in a new comic is a pretty exciting thing. Terrible nightmares break out all over the world, visions of a coming onslaught by some kind of alien conquering race. When giant lizard creatures start rampaging in Tanzania, we get to see one of the more amusingly strange images in recent comics: The Phantom on horseback fighting a reptilian foe on planet Earth. The comic has a lot to accomplish in short order: providing some backstory for each of the characters (and there's plenty to tell), jumping around in global settings, and managing to bring the three heroes together for their mission. Jeff Parker handles the characters with respect and even a degree of curiosity, prompting the reader's own. That makes you want to keep reading. Laming and Boyd manage to produce a sense of historical homage in the artwork without overburdening to the point of making the comic feel like a period piece re-imagined.The comic moves quickly, and detail is important to get a grip on things to come. Issue #1 has plenty of energy, and an enthusiasm for the characters, but the bigger story, seeing the heroes in action together, is forthcoming.
Brain Boy's first issue appears this week from Dark Horse, written by Fred Van Lente, pencilled by R. B. Silva, Inked by Rob Lean, with colors by Ego and letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot. It's got one of the more psychedelic covers released from Dark Horse in a long while, but suggests an interesting hybrid between luminous and noir elements. Silva's artwork is immediately appealing and Lean's inks have a versatile edge to them that creates a triple play with Ego's colors. This is a visually strong first issue. Having psychic characters in stories, be they sci-fi, crime, or superhero tales has always gotten a fair amount of traction with readers, but making it funny is even better. Matt Price, the "world's most powerful telepath" starts off his day "hate-surfing" the thoughts of other road-rage fuelled drivers and the off-beat comedy of that sets the tone for the comic. In fact, we begin to suspect that the comic has a lot to do with flows of information and the wild, chaotic aspects of our society seen through an information filter who revels in the strangeness. And that makes for a very interesting comic, too. Subcontracted to the US Government, "Brain Boy" has plenty of detractors who treat him like a freak, but he definitely has the suave to handle them. He rummages through the "hot mess" of people's psyches, and when he's dealing with international situations, that can get surreal. But when he breaks out his powers of "feedback" it becomes clear that Brain Boy is also about a kind of superhero of an often-understated variety. But what kind of moral compass, exactly, does he have? And how does he stack up to adversaries who know the score? There's plenty to explore in this bright, active, interesting new series, and it's definitely one to pick up.
Eternal Warrior #1 from Valiant has been anticipated for quite some time by fans. To be honest, anything that opens in ancient Mesopotamia with a bunch of badass looking warriors is likely to keep plenty of people onboard for at least a few pages. Myself included. Written by Greg Pak, with art by Trevor Hairsine, and colors by Brian Reber, the comic tells the origin and ancient history of one of Valiant's most intriguing characters and in that way humanizes him. Suddenly he has a longterm context that not just left open to the imagination, but etched in to include family life, highly emotional drama, and plenty of violence. Hairsine's artwork is of a particularly high quality, and extraordinarily well-suited to this kind of story. He's a natural when it comes to the movement and lines of ancient clothing and epic facial expressions. Pak's decision to use some narrative from Xaran, Gilad's daughter, is a wise move, and a welcome use of the female perspective in the comic. Her energy and bloodthirstiness drive the conflicts in the comic, and while psychological explanations are not always necessarily to help readers engage with a character, this comic goes a long way to exploring just why Gilad (aka The Eternal Warrior) is so immersed in death. Even if you're not yet reading Valiant titles, this actually makes for an interesting jumping on point given how much it resembles an "origin story" while plugging into wider plotlines.
Black Mask Studios releases two titles this week, Ballistic #2 and Liberator #3 and I know some of the great work Black Mask are doing through helping out on their title Occupy Comics. Ballistic #2 is written by Adam Egypt Mortimer, illustrated by Darick Robertson, and colored by Diego Rodriguez. True to many of Black Mask's goals to push the envelope in comics by going creator-owned, Ballistic is a visual punch in the face in the sense that you do actually feel like you haven't seen anything quite like this before. It's the combination between Robertson's artwork and Rodriguez's gutsy color choices that creates a certain manic energy rendering Ballistic one of the most visually surprising comics on the market right now. Thematically, it's a horrifying comic and a gripping tale of life being a "bitch" in the 21st century, featuring Butch and his insectoid talking firearm with a newly revealed drug habit. There's a certain wackiness to the world of Ballistic that's uncommon, a sense that it can turn corners narratively and truly surprise you with totally new information that changes your expectations. In Issue #2, you'll find a dream-sequence from Butch's gun that will probably disturb you for quite some time, some of Butch's own psychedelic-horror experiences, and even some new characters. Enjoy. If you're not reading Ballistic yet, it's time.
Liberator #3 picks up on an already intense storyline and some pretty engaging characters in this series about the highs, lows, and complications of fighting for animal rights outside the system. The Ben Templesmith cover on Issue #3 is a particular winner, hinting at some of the internal grace and rage that's driving these idealistic young people. The series is written by Matt Miner, drawn by Javier Sanchez Aradna, and colored by Joaquin Pereyra, and it's already proven in Issues #1 and 2 that they put together a winning team on the comic. With Jeanette in danger of being arrested and Damon taking his sweet time in saving the day, this uneasy alliance develops its own patterns of friction, but also opens doors of opportunity for future team-ups. One of the more interesting tensions that develops this issue is between the covert operations Jeanette and Damon have been getting up to and Jeanette's continuing involvement in public "legitimate" protests while Damon pursues his own solo projects. The reader observes the two working singly, and together, and it seems to raise the question of whether it would be better for the two to work alone. That ambiguity is typical of the comic and part of what makes it an unpredictable, engaging read. Also look out for Sean Von Gorman's extra "L'il Liberator" page in the issue which is pretty damn adorable.
Any week with an issue of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is a good week. Now at Issue #4, the series is written by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon, with art by Becky Cloonan, colors by Dan Jackson, and letters once again by the ineffable Mark Piekos of Blambot. The experience of the comic is dictated by each member of this team in such a pronounced way that it's hard to think of Killjoys existing without the contribution of each. Cloonan's inks have that slightly savage quality that melts into a calligraphic grace which works so well in action as well as dialogue scenes and pops so memorably against Jackson's always edgy colors. The ongoing drama between pornbots Red and Blue keeps up the emotional pitch of the issue, and reminds us that the comic is as much about big storytelling as being emotionally engaging. This series more than many is so firmly about characters that it hits those emotional notes on a regular basis. The girl is now "New Girl" with a resistance makeover, but she's up against some crises of conscience when it comes to Val's behavior, and this suggests that she's going to continue to be the questioning conscience on the book. At what point does a brutal environment create only brutality rather than heroism? Unfortunately, "New Girl" has some very tricky and convoluted claims to sift through that may make or break her future as a resistance member. Never a dull moment with Killjoys.
Is it just me, or have the past couple of weeks in comics been rather electrifying and even a little emotionally exhausting? New titles are bursting onto the scene with pointed determination to grab your interest and draw you into epic conflicts and many ongoing titles are consistently raising the bar. The climate in comics right now, particularly in creator-owned and genre comics, is bracing, and that's the way it should be, but we are facing a bigger influx than ever before, and so its time to make your choices and pick out what makes the cut on your own pull lists. That's all from me this week Live from the Comic Shop and happy reading.
Special thanks to Conquest Comics in New Jersey. You can find their Facebook page here. They are currently dominating POP vinyl collectibles with their White Phoenix exclusive and taking pre-orders for their Metallic Harley Quinn exclusive.
Hannah Means-Shannon is senior New York Correspondent at Bleeding Cool, writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org, and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress. Find her bio here.