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New Comics Haul Week Of 7.27.22

This week’s article proves my wife right about something, as all good and useful things in life do. I have offered–indeed, requested–on a number of occasions to just merge our finances and let her take care of the money, but she’s a scrupulous watcher of bank balances and tells me that she simply could not handle seeing how much I spend on comics. And y’know what, fair play to her, points for self-knowledge. TO WIT, this here big-ass list, which, look, sometimes you do a bunch of preorders over the course of several months and don’t realize they’ll all converge like this; it’s a real March 31st situation.

IN ANY EVENT. Let us dive into this treasure-trove of digital ink and magic, and see what we can hold on to when we surface, sputtering and coughing gold and jewels from our lungs.

Beastlands: Keepers Of The Kingdom, By Curtis Clow, Jo Mi-Gyeong, And Toben Racicot

“A heartfelt fantasy adventure from the writer of The Wild Cosmos, with luscious art by powerhouse Jo Mi-Gyeong, artist of Eve and The Dark Crystal.
In a medieval fantasy world filled with powerful companion creatures known as “keepers,” one boy and his friends are on a quest to find his missing father.
Tensions rise as the angsty teens run out of clues and face unexpected peril at every turn. A grieving tyrant has outlawed keepers from the land and sent his murderous soldiers to exterminate every one of the beasts they can find. Mac, Ava, and Ping will have their friendship tested as they struggle, tooth and claw, to save each other and as many keepers as they can.
Collects Beastlands #1–5.”

I’ll be honest: I don’t know jack about this story besides what’s in the blurb, but the story of the book is an absolute triumph that I hope we see ONE MILLION more of: a successful crowdfunded campaign that saw a work through to the completion of the creator’s vision, unbothered by corporate bullshit, and then picked up by a publisher for mass distribution. I’ve backed a number of graphic novel projects through various crowdfunding platforms–Kickstarter is still the biggest and has the hardest shadow to get out of, but its plan to move to a blockchain-centric model is deeply troubling–and like, I definitely got them, and I have them as PDFs on my computer, but computers aren’t made for reading comics and most comic-reader programs try to make importing PDFs as easy as possible, but that’s damnation by faint praise; for example, I just stopped writing this for half a goddamn hour so I could try to get Panels to import the copy of Glow, Vol. 1 I got a year ago but haven’t been able to friggin’ read yet. Also? I don’t wanna have to have two goddamn comics-reading apps on my iPad!
My point is, I’m sure Beastlands isn’t the first crowdfunding-to-wide-publishing success story, but it’s the first I’ve heard of, and I really hope it isn’t the last, because that’ll be better for the creators and better for the readers. Also if you’re like me and have tons of comic PDFs you get from bundles and Kickstarters and similar, and aren’t sure how to read them, Panels and Chunky Reader are both pretty good, I’m just mad that I can’t add them straight to my Kindle–and thus Comixology–library like I can with almost any epub doc.

Bolero, By Wyatt Kennedy And Luana Vecchio

It’s Christmas in snowy Los Angeles, and Devyn “Dagger” Dagny is heartbroken. Her twelve-year relationship with her ex Natasha has just come to a tragic end, she’s an aimless college dropout floundering at her job, and now her best friend is getting married to the wrong guy.
But what if she could start all over again?
A mysterious stranger. Something called an “anti-door” and a “mother-key.” Only 53 chances. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Locke and Key as writer WYATT KENNEDY and artist LUANA VECCHIO take you on an emotional journey across the multiverse.
Collects BOLERO #1-5

I’m on record as not being a fan of “X Meets Y” as a descriptor, because very few works can be boiled down to the point where you know exactly what someone means when they reference it. “Fury Road meets Pokémon” isn’t helpful; does Fury Road refer to feminism, or disability representation, or huffing silver spray paint? Does Pokémon refer to RPG mechanics, scratching the collector’s itch, allegories about the dangers of exploiting nature?
That said, I must say that “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Locke & Key” is PRETTY EVOCATIVE, and also I really wanna know what an anti-door is and how I can steal it for my tabletop RPG campaign.

Cold Bodies, By Magdalene Visaggio, Andrea Mutti, Nate Piekos, Daniel Chabon, Chuck Howitt, Konner Knudsen, And May Hijikuro

From Magdalene Visaggio, the Eisner and GLAAD Media Award-nominated writer of the breakout hit Kim & Kim and creator of SyFy Channel’s Vagrant Queen, and Prometheus’ Andrea Mutti comes this 1980s meta-horror homage focusing on how trauma affects victims of slashers and never leaves decades later.
Years ago, Denise Stokes was the sole survivor of the brutal Winter Man massacre, in which several young adults were slaughtered during a powerful blizzard in Wisconsin. Now, in present day, Denise has tried to bury the past behind her, while the world around her has become obsessed with the murders through a popular film franchise called Snow Day. And as the anniversary of the killings approaches, Denise finds herself in a dark place as she begins to see the Winter Man show up again and the difference between what’s real and what isn’t begins to collapse around her.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything I’ve read that Andrea Mutti has had a hand in (Infinite Dark, Bunny Mask, Maniac Of New York, I’ve got Parasomnia on deck and am very much looking forward to Panic); the man KNOWS from terror, and horror, and humanity. This actually sounds like a thematic follow-up or counterpoint to Maniac Of New York specifically, which sees a Store-Brand Jason Voorhees carve a red swath through a city that doesn’t seem to care about what’s happening to its citizens; that story is about the people who are trying to stop him, but it looks like this story is about–to borrow a phrase–who will survive, and what will be left of them.
As we come more and more to grips with the nature of trauma, healing, and learning to move forward from who we used to be, we’re more and more interested in stories that place that in a horror context for palatability’s sake; the work of Stephen Graham Jones, particularly The Only Good Indians and My Heart Is A Chainsaw, does this out loud and on purpose, and I cannot recommend his work enough for those interested in Horror Therapy.

Daredevil: Woman Without Fear, By Zdarsky, De Latorre, And Blee

“The next pulse-pounding chapter in Chip Zdarsky’s sprawling saga of New York City’s Guardian Devil, starring Elektra Natchios in her new role as Daredevil — and spinning directly out of the shocking revelations in the pages of DEVIL’S REIGN! Elektra is the world’s deadliest assassin — but she’s taken a vow never to kill again. And now someone has put themself directly in her path, with potentially deadly consequences! What else would you expect from the greatest hunter in the Marvel Universe?COLLECTING: Daredevil: Woman Without Fear (2022) 1-3, TBA”

Look, it took Chipper to get me to give Daredevil a try at all and his run on the title is some of the best comics I’ve ever read, period, and only his work could convince me to give an Elektra-centric title a try for the same reasons it would take some pretty serious incentive for me to invest in a solo title about the Punisher, Black Widow, or Taskmaster: by and large, assassins are boring. But seeing her take up the red mantle in the last couple volumes has really fleshed her out and given her a chance to be more than just a walking advert for leave-in conditioner who also kills people for money, and against my wishes, better judgment and legal counsel, I wanna know more. So good job, Zdarsky, ya snagged me with character growth and moral complexity and the ethics of interpersonal obligation, like a sucker.

Dungeon Crawlers Academy, Book One: Into The Portal, By J.P. Sullivan, and Elmer Damaso

“When four kids went through a mysterious portal, they discovered an endless dungeon full of treasure, monsters, and magic! They returned home as heroes. But when adults tried to enter the portal, they couldn’t. Only kids were granted access. And so the Dungeon Crawlers Academy was born: a school devoted to training young adventurers to explore the dungeon and bring back its fabulous treasures. Nathan always dreamed of being a hero. A dangerous encounter with a tiny dragon becomes his ticket into the Academy. Now, a whole new life awaits, as Nathan struggles to learn how to use magic… and survive school!”

I genuinely can’t tell if this is actual YA or just leaning into maximum wholesomeness and joyous adventure, but either way I’m here for it. This carries the clear smack of modern Dungeons & Dragons, and while I wish we could get some comics grounded in other TTRPG milieux like The 13th Age or Monster Care Squad or Lancer, just any kind of variety, really, I’ll be the first to admit that 5e’s ubiquity has provided a common language and introduced millions to the hobby, and inspired countless more to create works like this (or at least given them frameworks to assemble their stories in), and I’ll take that all day.

Ghost Cage, By Nick Dragotta, Caleb Goellner, Rus Wooton, Frank Martin Jr., And David Brothers

“When his megacorp power plant falls under attack by terrorists, the super-scientist who revolutionized and controls all energy on Earth sends his ultimate creation (and an adequate employee) in to destroy his most monstrous secrets.
Bestselling artist NICK DRAGOTTA (EAST OF WEST) and Eisner Award-winning writer CALEB GOELLNER (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures) combine their energies for a visceral thrill ride of pure comics power!
Collects GHOST CAGE #1-3″

Lava-skull? Wee glowy ghostum? Big ol’ eyeball guyball? OH HOLY SHIT THE ARTIST FROM EAST OF WEST?! Sign my ass up! No further thoughts–WAIT I JUST NOTICED THE SCREAMING WAVE, you hate to see it, that’s not what you want in your tidal phenomena.

Hulk, Vol. 1: Smashtronaut!, By Cates, Ottley, Rathburn, And Martin

Collects Hulk (2021) #1-6 and material from Free Comic Book Day 2021 (Avengers/Hulk).
Look to the stars as the next exciting era of HULK begins! The gamma-powered creative team of Donny Cates and Ryan Ottley takes on the Hulk – and the results are sure to be incredible! The Hulk’s uncontrollable rage has reached a new level – and nobody, including the Avengers, is prepared to handle it. But is it really the Hulk that people should fear, or is another factor at play? Bruce Banner thinks he finally has total control of his emerald alter ego – and in fact, he might. But variables can happen at any time, and this one is something even his brilliant mind couldn’t have imagined. Now, as Bruce hurtles deep into outer space on a dangerous quest, he’s about to find out that the Hulk isn’t alone!”

I am a huge fan of Immortal Hulk; it was one of the first reviews I did when I started and definitely ranks near the top of Marvel fare for me. That said: it’s also extremely high-minded, confusing and frankly exhausting, and it’s a good thing it reached its very satisfying conclusion when it did.
That said, Donny Cates drops bangers every time, and as much as I enjoyed Bruce Banner and his other selves literally arguing with the Devil about the nature of sin and redemption, I am VERY ready for some Hulk Smash, not Hulk Postulate. I’m sure it won’t be that simple, and a fresh start and a chance to take ol’ Jade Jaw in a new direction will doubtless be fertile ground.

Into Radness, By Kyle Strahm, Jake Smith, And Crank!

“Dylan, Trixie, and their friends want to be Internet famous, but their show, INTO RADNESS, has 12 subscribers and it’s terrible. Blowing up old VHS tapes and setting slime on fire just doesn’t bring in the views.
But freaky things are starting to happen in the city of Back Alley. When the teens are filmed defending themselves from an oozing ZONKED creature, they become overnight celebrities. Oh, and that creature? There are a lot more of those roaming the streets!
Friendships are strained and battle plans drawn as six teens descend INTO RADNESS!! From creators Kyle Strahm (Unearth, Spread) and rising star artist Jake Smith (Blood Force Trama).”

It must be exhausting to hear me say “Oh I love this person from Other Comic”, but y’know what, turns out it’s a relatively small world and a lot of the same people work on stuff, especially when you get rotating crew by volume or even by issue. REGARDLESS, yeah Unearth and Spread especially were great and super gross, which bodes well for the various monstros and goos that are implied. I am also very into the scrappy punk aesthetic; it tastes a lot like Night In The Woods to me, and so I am already predisposed to love it.
I also like that, to the best of my ability to discern, this appears to be the complete series, a trend I’m very much in favor of as a man with only so much time to read yet another volume of this or that. Or maybe it’s not a trend; maybe I just have more of an appetite for one-and-done stories as an older man who looks at his library and realizes he’s collected 25 volumes of Lumberjanes, which is not a complaint but is a consideration, and the less often I have to make it, the better.

The Liminal Zone, By Junji Ito

“What destiny awaits them after the screaming?
After abruptly departing from a train in a small town, a couple encounters a “weeping woman”—a professional mourner—sobbing inconsolably at a funeral. Mako changes afterward—she can’t stop crying! In another tale, having decided to die together, a couple enters Aokigahara, the infamous suicide forest. What is the shocking otherworldly torrent that they discover there?
One of horror’s greatest talents, Junji Ito beckons readers to join him in an experience of ultimate terror with four transcendently terrifying tales.”

Look the simple fact of the matter is that Junji don’t miss; some of his work is stronger and stranger than others (I’ll take the horrifying, beautiful weirdness of Gyo over his Frankenstein collection any day, but that collection is still a triumph of gross terror), but no matter what you’re in for an awful, disgusting, great time. I tend to find his longer series more satisfying, but that’s just because I’m a sucker for worldbuilding and want to know more about these spirals and awful mechanical fish-spiders/spider-fish, and it’s clear that he thrives in the short story, and as long as he keeps pumping them out, I’ll keep gobbling them up like one of his protag–NOPE, NOT FINISHING THAT SENTENCE, I DON’T NEED TO SUDDENLY REALIZE I’M FICTIONAL AGAIN.

Orphan And The Five Beasts, By James Stokoe

A brand-new kung-fu epic from James Stokoe, the creator behind Orc Stain and Aliens: Dead Orbit!
Spurred on by her master’s dying words, the adopted warrior “Orphan Mo” seeks to find and kill five former disciples who now threaten the land with corruption from their demonic powers. Part Five Deadly Venoms and part surreal grindhouse, James Stokoe brings his knack for ultra-detailed fantasy imagery and over-the-top violence to this classic tale of revenge.
This concludes the first arc of the epic kung-fu masterpiece to be continued in a brand-new miniseries soon!

What can I say: this has been up in the preorders for almost a year, and I’ve honestly forgotten what it’s about or why I was interested; all I know is that it taunts me and I must have it.
That said, Aliens: Dead Orbit was one of the rare Aliens comics I actually liked, and “ultra-detailed fantasy imagery and over-the-top violence” sounds like a recipe for success and possibly barfs. Mostly I’m fascinated by the colors on the cover, I think. Regardless, it did its job: convinced me to buy it, for fear that my life would be incomplete if I should fail to.

Supergirl: Woman Of Tomorrow, Tom King, Bilquis Evely, And Matheus Lopes

“Kara Zor-El can no longer find any meaning or purpose in her life. But all that changes when an alien girl seeks her out to help her take revenge on the bad guys who destroyed her world. Now a Kryptonian, a dog, and an angry, heartbroken child head into space on a journey that will shake them to their very core. It’s Supergirl like you’ve never seen her before in a character-defining sci-fi/fantasy masterpiece! Collects the entire miniseries Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #1-8.”

It’s…awkward to be a comics fan who tries to champion diversity in both representation on-page and behind the scenes, and also enthusiastically agree that some of the most monumental and defining work in the history of the medium is being done by two white dudes called Tom. Like, both King and Taylor are titans, but it’s hard to say they deserve to be at the top of the game when it is very safe to assume–would, in fact, be willful delusion to do otherwise–that there are plenty of female creators, creators of color and on the LGBT+ spectrum that are capable of doing work of equal or exceeding quality if given the platform and the support that the Toms are given.
Also, if they weren’t both called Tom, I probably would’ve realized sooner that this wasn’t by the same guy who did the excellent Superman: Son Of Kal-El, but that’s a me-being-a-dingdong problem, not a Ma-and-Pa-King-named-their-child-wrong problem.
REGARDLESS, despite my intense confusion regarding several key facts about this title–apparently it’s just a miniseries???–I could not be more excited, because much as with Son Of Kal-El I don’t know the first damn thing about Supergirl, and there’s no creator I trust more to introduce me.

Good Store-Brand Lord, what a haul. What a time to be alive.
What’d you all get? Which comics creators do you constantly get mixed up? Which version of the Hulk have you been horribly, TERRIFYINGLY wrong about? What did Chip Zdarsky trick you into buying? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time, assuming I can afford a next time, take care of yourselves, take care of each other, wear your goddamned masks, and if you see four lights, say four lights.
–The Bageler

Stars don’t owe you anything
Don’t give a damn about your nations

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