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Monday, June 6, 2016

Our Favorite Current Comics - June 2016

It's been a while since we've had a chance to write a group piece on our current favorite pieces of media, thanks to some pretty demanding schedules (hey, we all do this for free after all!). But, this past week, our core team of Cal, Shane, Harper and Kyle got together to list out some of our current comics we're reading and why we think you might love them too! This isn't necessarily *the* definitive comics you should be reading list, but it is certainly *our* definitive list. Let us know what you like in the comments below and what we've overlooked, let's get a conversation started!


Hellboy & The BPRD
Written by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson, Art by Paolo Rivera and Dave Stewart

As of last week, Hellboy in Hell came to a close. I've sung that series' praises before, as it's arguably one of the last bastions of the multi-decade saga in mainstream comics (if we count Stray Bullets, it's one of the only two), with the original creator, Mike Mignola, still at the helm to boot. But as of Wednesday, that's over for the forseeable future, and what an end it was. Somber, distant, beautiful, tear-inducing, it was exactly what I needed from the end of what has become over the past year, my favorite alternative to DC/Marvel world-building. But, what does that leave us with? Why, the closest thing to a Hellboy reboot that you're ever going to get. This relaunched series technically began with the Joshua Dysart scripted (with Mignola) BPRD 1946 and continued on through subsequent years 1947 and 1948, telling tales of the BPRD before Hellboy was old enough to go on missions with the team. Two years ago, Hellboy & The BPRD 1952, scripted by John Arcudi (again with Mignola) hit and this year we were treated to the next iteration Hellboy & The BPRD 1953 made up of a number of Mignola written short-stories and one longer mini-series written by Mignola and newcomer to the Hellboy universe Chris Roberson. It's been a blast, and with Paolo Rivera on art, gorgeously rendered to boot. This is Hellboy before all that doom and gloom prophecy stuff, here he's just kicking ass and digging into some fun monster mythology. It's the perfect place to get reignited with the character if you'd like to get a taste without having to read 20 years worth of comics. Though I recommend that too.

The Vision
Written by Tom King, Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Tom King is so good, it's criminal. The Omega Men was a startling treatise on terrorism and religious extremism, The Sheriff of Babylon is a profound noir set in the Green Zone in Iraq, and his run on Batman is off to a pretty good start too with this week's Batman Rebirth. But The Vision, why that's a comic that even Hannah (who doesn't read many comics regularly) loves. Eschewing the high voltage pyrotechnics of his adventures with The Avengers, this solo series centers on Vision's seemingly idyllic home-life and the serenity he's attempted to build around himself as an android. It's dark, twisted, and utterly tragic while at the same time entrenched in the formalist tendencies that Tom King is making his trademark. There's a reason why when the news hit about Tom King going exclusive to DC, so many were concerned about the future of this series. It's that attention-grabbing, you should let it nab yours. Think Animal Man by way of Alan Moore.

Revenger & The Fog
Written and Art by Charles Forsman

There's a great strain of action-based comics that have been hitting the market lately, from COPRA to Sexcastle to Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T., Revenger joined that list last year as the first ongoing effort from cartoonist Charles Forsman. Best known for his work in graphic novels like Celebrated Summer and The End Of The Fucking World, Revenger marked a stark transition and read unlike anything he had developed up to that point. The basic premise: a tough as nails woman roams the post-apocalypse, righting wrongs, and it goes from there. The initial series is now available in trade (and one I highly recommend), Forsman also produced two subsequent projects, the Revenger is Trapped one-shot, which jumps the character many years and battles ahead in time in a sort-of hicksploitation horror-tale. The newest release, Revenger & The Fog, goes backwards in-time to before the initial mini-series, when the character was young and part of a vigilante gang. It's as wonderfully violent as before, and informs just what tragedy marked the character when we met her the first time. For those who like their comics propulsive and bone-crunching, this is just the place to be.

Moon Knight
Written by Jeff Lemire, Art by Greg Smallwood

It has not been too terribly long since Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey put what many consider to be an indelible spin on the character of Moon Knight....two years to be exact.  Now Jeff Lemire has taken over the mind of Marc Spector and has once again taken the anti-hero in yet another unexpected, yet welcome direction.  This Moon Knight does an excellent job right out of the gate of not only honoring what has come before, but tossing Marc Spector in a brand new direction that is unusual and twisted, but works exceedingly well.  Without spoiling to much, imagine if you thought you had lived your life as this crazy vigilante, only to wake up in a mental institution and being told your "memories" never happened.  If Marvel Studios decides to adapt Moon Knight to Netflix, I want them to turn to THIS run first.  It's that good.  This is, of course, in no small part due to the fantastic work of Greg Smallwood and Jordie Bellaire.  This series is only three issues in, so it's in a nice sweet spot where it is both easy to pick up and easy to wait for trade.  Take your pick.

Written by Jeff Lemire, Art by Dustin Nguyen

Descender is an interesting little comic for me.  This is mostly due to the fact that I only read the comic in trade.  With two volumes out already, though, Descender is quickly becoming not only one of my favorite comics of 2016, but one of my favorite comics right now.  In this Image book, Jeff Lemire crafts the story of Tim-21, a robot who wakes up one day to a world where robots are hated and hunted for scrap.  If you need one of these modern comparisons, think Saga meets Wall-E with a dash of Short Circuit.  Technically, the film rights to this comic were bought before issue 1 even debuted, so if you want to have a leg up on moviegoers before this becomes even more popular, now's your chance.  Dustin Nguyen's art shines just as much as Lemire's unique story.  The use of water color adds a grace and beauty to a world that is missing quite a bit of both of those things.  You owe it to yourself to check this comic out.

X-men '92
Written by Chris Sims and Chad Bowers, Art by David Nakayama

Who would've thought that a spin-off of a Secret Wars tie-in would end up being one of the best X-men books Marvel has published in years.  Maybe it's because I got really into comics by reading 1990's X-men, but X-men '92 is just too much fun.  I was a bit lukewarm on the Secret Wars tie-in of this, primarily because I felt that the art tried way too hard to look exactly like the work Jim Lee did back in the day.  Fortunately, with this on-going series, David Nakayama takes a lot of visual cues from Jim Lee and the popular X-men: The Animated Series, but makes things feel perfectly modern.  Set in a world all its own, X-men '92 sees the classic team of Wolverine, Psylocke, Storm, Jubilee, Bishop, Gambit, Beast, and Rogue take on threats including Omega Red and Dracula.  This is the kind of fun X-men story I've been dying for in a world that seems to love having the comics and movie X-men be dark, gritty, and ultra serious.  X-men '92 may not win any Eisners for its writing, but I always come away from each issue with a grin on my face. 

Sheriff of Babylon
Written by Tom King, illustrated by Mitch Gerads

We're pretty big fans of Tom King around here. The formalist writer came out of nowhere after years of government work, and immediately grabbed some attention working on Grayson with Tim Seeley. But it was on Marvel's The Vision and Vertigo's Sheriff of Babylon that he really started garnering acclaim. Kyle discussed The Vision above, but Sheriff of Babylon is if anything a denser, more personal work, Middle Eastern noir that takes place during the American occupation of Iraq. The book follows an American police officer tasked with training the new Iraqi police confronted with the corpse of one of his trainees, and the investigation that follows. Illustrated and colored by Mitch Gerads, the book is gorgeously gritty, and Gerads has a talent for creating character in his figures, the way they move or hold themselves saying a lot. King and Gerads make a phenomenal team, and Sheriff of Babylon particularly lets them play around with structure, often utilizing page layout and panels to create expectation and dictate tone in a way that I haven't seen many other teams attempt. Sheriff of Babylon isn't as attention grabbing as The Vision, but it's every bit as worth your attention.

Pretty Deadly
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Emma Ríos, colored by Jordie Bellaire

Let's be frank: There's nothing on the shelves like the lyrical, mythic weird Western that Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Ríos, and Jordie Bellaire are crafting at Image Comics. The second volume of Pretty Deadly was long-awaited by fans, and if anything, Ríos and Bellaire have surpassed their work on the first one. DeConnick has almost faded into the background and let the art team create some of the most surreal, chilling visual storytelling in mainstream comics today, marrying a quasi-World War I story with an apocalyptic vision of the afterlife. Pretty Deadly is one of the few books out there that can haunt my dreams with its vision of the past.

No Mercy
Written by Alex de Campi, illustrated by Carla Speed McNeil, colored by Jenn Manley Lee
No Mercy started out as a book that was beautifully made but relatively easy to predict. A group of Ivy League pre-freshmen go to South America to build houses as a humanitarian project, but when their bus crashes in an isolated area, many are killed and injured, and the rest are forced to survive in the wilderness. In the issues that followed, however, the series has taken any number of twists and turns. The group split up; some found civilization, some found organized crime. The series continues to grow, with different issues focusing on the different plights - or surprising salvation - of the book's sprawling cast. I often get tired of the repetitive genre exercises at Image, but whenever I run that risk, here comes Alex de Campi, Carla Speed McNeil, and Jenn Manley Lee with another harrowing, classical survival drama.

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank
Written by Matthew Rosenberg, Art by Tyler Boss

I know, I know, we're only one issue in, but it left a hell of an impression! Rosenberg has created some great characters with the group of titular kids, and the combination of his endearingly comedic scripting and Boss's stylistic paneling work made for an exciting debut. While the title hints at some criminal activity looming in the future, for now we have a fun introduction full of imagination that dips into Hawkeye hipster territory, but plays it just right. Easily the most exciting first issue so far this year.

Black Widow
Written by Chris Samnee and Mark Waid, Art by Chris Samnee

Brought to you from the familiar team that helmed an impressive run of Daredevil over the last few years, they're not bringing their particular brand of character driven action to Natasha Romanova. From the nearly wordless first issue that set the stage to the ultra-stylized 2nd and 3rd issues, it's clear that Samnee is taking a much larger role in the scripting that more than justifies his co-writing credit. Samnee's impressive visual storytelling skills are on full display here, and each issue so far has been a thrilling experiment with the form.

James Bond
Written by Warren Ellis, Art by Jason Masters

The prospect of turning a character that has spanned dozens of novels and been played by no less than six actors into a new comic character is one that fascinates me, and Ellis and Master's take is absolutely worthy of the name. They nail the character's core personality while avoiding most of the misogynist pitfalls that usually come along with it, and Masters gives the book a unique sleek-but-gritty look that sets it apart from typical property-driven comics. As a big fan of Bond, it's exciting to get a new story that feels true to form and yet a fresh take.
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