I'm writing live from my local comic shop Conquest Comics today, and while Villains Month continues for DC, it's a big week for Dark Horse (might even call it a big month), but also a strong week for Image and we have the new book by Neil Gaiman and Skottie Young today, too, Fortunately, the Milk which was touted quite a bit on Gaiman's big, final book tour around the US via readings.
Zero debuts this week from Image, written by Ales Kot, illustrated by Michael Walsh, inked by Walsh and Adam Gorham, with colors by Jordie Bellaire, and letters by Clayton Cowles, also has several stunning variant covers by Walsh, Becky Cloonan, Chris Burnham, and Paul Pope, all designed by Tom Muller. That line up is enough to get the blood pumping, and Walsh's cover appears in bold yellow that pops, with purple and red accents. Psychedelic really is the new black when it comes to covers these days. Set in 2038, Zero flashes back to 2018 and the first appearance of a "biomodified soldier" with stolen tech from "The Agency". Zero, who is the last of the "90's operatives" working for the Agency has had heavy dealings in a struggle between Israel and Hamas, and sets up his reflective tale with an unknown kid poised to kill him in later life. The artwork on Zero is impressively spare in contrast to many future-set war-based comics where plotlines may fail under the weight of over-emphasis on action and gore. The narratorial voice from Zero helps keep the reader on track jumping between time periods, but he's also not the only character we "follow", which makes for a refreshing change-up in beats since we also get glimpses of the Agency officers handling him. It's a strong start for Zero, which has plenty of breathing room in its panel layouts and a realism in its detail that makes sure we know this is the not-too-distant-future. We're set up to wonder what happens to Zero between points A and B, and that'll bring readers back for more.
The new series Kiss Me, Satan, from Dark Horse has one of those covers that insists you keep studying it, not a bad strategy from the creators. We have an angel-winged, devlish tough guy, and a couple of gore-dripping werewolf maws along with the text "New Orleans is a Werewolf Town". That should set you up nicely for the strangeness contained therein. Written by Victor Gischler, with art by Juan Ferreyra, and letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot, we've got evidence of a solid creative team-up before we even dig in. Ferreyra's artwork is lush, with a winning play between hard edges and softer, painted textures, which works wonders on a tale of the occult and bizarre. In a town where werewolves "run all the usual rackets" and keep their paws in everything, we've got "retrieval teams" of pistol-toting demons, a "trinket" everyone's after, and the hard work of a fallen angel, Barnabas Black, to try to keep up his "obligations" and get a foot back in the door in heaven. Witches, babies with portentious futures, and plenty of what you'd expect from an occult thriller give the comic a varied and energetic flow. But Ferreyra's artwork is so compelling that his night scenes, even better than his day scenes, bristle with energy and movement, and bring a colorful, dangerous world to life. Kiss Me, Satan, is a book you should take a close look at and consider adding to your list.
Batman '66 continues in all its madcap tradition-bending parade of dangerously camp characters, now on issue 3. Written by Jeff Parker, with art by Joe Quinones, colors by Maris Wicks, and letters by Wes Abbot for "The Joker Sees Red" and art by Sandy Jarrell, with colors by Rico Renzi for "Scrambled Eggs", issue 3 feels like it delivers on some of the promises the series concept offers. By that I mean we get the Joker on a true theatrical rampage like the best of his character from the show writ large in a format without having to worry about TV censors. Batman and Robin head out to visit the Joker in his rehabilitation at the Arkham Institute for the Criminally Insane, where he's called "Patient J". From the moment Patient J takes the scene, the comic erupts into kaleidoscopic color and a disorienting, nicely disturbing atmosphere prevails, particularly when he's loose in Gotham's underworld again. "Scrambled Eggs" changes things up with more of a cartoony feel, highlighting the humor and rapid action of the TV show, with an impressive Batcopter to boot. Orange and yellow background themes work well as the duo struggle with Egg-Head. This may be the most significant issue of Batman '66 so far as the book moves away from the already attractive spectacle possible in every issue toward the combination of ongoing conflict with visual fireworks now that the Joker's rampage looks to set up a longer storyline.
Dark Horse publishes Buzzkill #1 this week, written by Donny Cates and Mark Reznicek, with art by Geoff Shaw and colors by Lauren Affe. Shaw's angular lines, with plenty of muscle behind them, are apparent from the cover as a heroic-looking figure smokes surrounded by a sea of booze bottles. "Welcome to my nightmare" makes a great opening line from a narrator, particularly when it's offset by an everyday, morose scene of attending a "meeting" of addicts. The premise kicks off right away: our superhero gets powers from alcohol and drugs. But he can't admit he's an addict and that raises interesting questions. He's also got anger issues, just to keep things extra-edgy. We get a nicely embedded origin story in a teen accident, but by this point, the story has moved beyond tropes and is emotionally engaging. His superhero friend is also "doped up on painkillers", but seems fairly straight-edged by comparison. With a hero who often can't "remember anything" after his exploits, this is a comic that'll keep you guessing, and there are set-ups for plenty of weird super-villain interactions to come. But the artwork on Buzzkill is quite simply killer, and bound to keep you reading well beyond issue 1 even if the concept, which is a gutsy, rivetting one doesn't happen to be the biggest draw for you.
So Neil Gaiman and Skottie Young have this little book out this week that will probably turn your ego inside out if you think you're too hardened and wizened a comic reader to pick up a tome that is, ostensibly, a kids book. It comes in pocket format, like a compact novel, and when it says "illustrated by Skottie Young", it really means it. Page by page, it's packed with inked drawings that break into occasional full-page compositions, with sound effects. It's a dialogue between image and text in an off the grid way, and that makes it a strange creature you should definitely hunt down. Fortunately, the Milk, got some prose-teasers at Gaiman's tour readings, but seeing it as a full collaboration in visual terms clarifies that this is a book with impact and may just change some of the expectations readers have regarding illustrated books.
This is a prosier Dr. Seuss, and just as classic, as a father spins yarn after yarn to explain his lateness bringing back milk for his impatient kids to eat their breakfast cereal. The premise works wonders unleashing both Gaiman's, and Young's imagination, and readers are bound to be aware that these are already two creative minds who don't need that much encouragement in order to leap into bizarre, carnivalesque zones. The charm of Gaiman's narrative lies partly in the rapid movement between words and their suggestive power to create spin-off narratives, and it captures the breathless quality of a tale told on the fly, insistently, demanding credulity. From spaceships to dinosaurs, ponies, and pirates, it's a miscellany that just doesn't stop, and reminds us that storytelling is a vast thing. Young gives no hint of it if illustrating the book is a challenge for him, spinning out in the high-speed narrative with perfectly nuanced touches and humorous detail. He clearly enjoys having the gates thrown open on his own imagination and produces what may be some very personal work, his own tour through illustrative possibilities. Pick up this little book, even if you have to pretend it's for someone who must be a bigger softy than you, surely.
This week, you should also check out the first trade collection of the acclaimed Image series Five Ghosts by Frank Barbiere and Christopher Mooneyham. It's even better in collection, if that's possible, because you can flip through the visual perambulations in retro color and shocking transformations that make it a modern pulp classic.
That's my take on comics this week Live from the Comic Shop. Autumn is being good to readers with plenty of new releases that are worth the time to peruse and sample. And don't forget to thank your local shops for bringing it all close enough to home for you to browse in person.
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 now have their Metallic Harley Quinn exclusive in stock.
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.