Wednesday is New Comics Day

Rich Barrett
Marvel / Marvel

Every Wednesday, I highlight the five most exciting comic releases of the week. The list may include comic books, graphic novels, digital comics and webcomics. I'll even highlight some Kickstarter comics projects on occasion. There's more variety and availability in comics than there has ever been, and I hope to point out just some of the cool stuff that's out there. If there's a release you're excited about, let's talk about it in the comments.

1. Hawkeye Vol. 2 Little Hits/ FF Vol. 1 Fantastic Faux

Written by Matt Fraction; Hawkeye art by David Aja and others, FF art by Mike Allred

Matt Fraction is on a roll lately. Having now written a number of comics for Marvel that have found varying degrees of commercial success (Iron Man, Thor, Fear Itself, Defenders), he seems to be finding his voice now and making his unique mark on the Marvel Universe. It all seemed to come into place with Hawkeye. 

With the second volume hitting stores this week, an under-the-radar book ostensibly about what Hawkeye does on his "days off" from being an Avenger has become Marvel's most talked about (and now Eisner-nominated) series, with the hype culminating in issue #11 (included in this volume) which people are already calling the best single issue of 2013. With its witty humor, natural dialogue and appealing chemistry between the book's lead characters (Clint Barton and teenage Young Avenger Kate Bishop), Hawkeye achieves a contemporary freshness that most superhero comics can't seem to attain. This is due in no small part to the art of David Aja. From his stylish covers to his smartly designed page layouts, Aja makes this book come alive in its down to earth Brooklyn setting and shows that—having worked together before on the Immortal Iron Fist series—he and Fraction are a writer/artist combination that we'll be hoping to see together for years to come.

Meanwhile, another little comic that Fraction has taken and turned into something unlike any other Marvel book out there is the Fantastic Four spin-off FF. Working with pop-art comics stylist Mike Allred, this book is almost the opposite of Hawkeye in terms of the balance between reality and comic book reality. It's a seemingly tongue-in-cheek take of super heroics and celebrity but set in the "reality" of the Marvel Universe. The premise is that the real Fantastic Four has taken a time-traveling vacation from which they were supposed to return in four minutes. Just in case something went wrong they each chose a replacement to form a new team to stay behind in the Baxter Building and take care of the odd assortment of children that make up the Future Foundation (the true meaning of the title's acronym). Something of course has gone wrong and this oddball group of heroes which includes a Katy Perry like pop star who has taken to wearing a Thing suit finds themselves saddled with an enormous responsibility.

Both of these hardcover volumes are on sale today, including the latest single issue of Hawkeye—making this a big Matt Fraction week.

2. The Death of Haggard West

By Paul Pope
First Second

Paul Pope fans have been impatiently awaiting the October release of his long-awaited, two volume sci-fi epic Battling Boy, set in an alternate universe where the city of Acropolis is becoming overrun by other-dimensional creatures and the only hope to stop them, the superhero Haggard West, is dead. That last hope comes to rest upon a twelve year old demigod, the titular Battling Boy.

While we're waiting for the first volume of that story to begin, this month we get a 32-page teaser in the guise of the 101st and final issue of the fictional comic book series The Invincible Haggard West. It's actually a standalone oneshot acting as a prequel to Battling Boy and showing the death of Batman-like vigilante hero Haggard West, which sets the stage for the events of the main story.

Paul Pope is one of the most exciting creative minds working in comics. His sense of science fiction grandiosity takes elements of Jack Kirby, Moebius, Frank Herbert, Alex Toth, and Hugo Pratt and mixes into in his own kinetic style that is unparalleled in today's comics. His past work, from 1995's THB through 2007's Batman: Year 100, are up there among the most highly regarded comics of the 20th century. With Battling Boy he plans to explore the superhero from a 21st century perspective and The Death of Haggard West may be just a taste of what's to come this October.

3. Quantum & Woody #1

Written by James Asmus; art by Tom Fowler, colors by Jordie Bellaire
Valiant Entertainment

Fans of the '90s have been generally elated about the recent return of Valiant Comics, a tightly woven universe of comics originally started by former Marvel Comics editor in chief Jim Shooter and soon rebooted when bought by gaming company Acclaim Entertainment in 1994. One of the most loved and fondly remembered books from the Valiant/Acclaim years was a short-lived comic about "The World's Worst Superhero Team"—Quantum and Woody. Since Valiant Entertainment returned to publishing comics in 2011, fans have awaited (with some admitted trepidation) for this book's return.

This rebooted version of the book features adopted—but now estranged—brothers Eric and Woody Henderson, who come together after their father is murdered and a strange accident leaves them with super powers.They decide to use those powers to investigate their father's murder. Like the original, this book is a comedy, playing off the inept nature of the duo as actual superheroes (Quantum embraces being a superhero, Woody thinks costumes are stupid) and their opposite natures (Quantum is serious and stoic, Woody is a goofball). Unlike the original series though, this book will not have the book's creators Christopher Priest and Mark Bright involved, despite the fact that these characters are very much associated with them in the minds of its fans. Both Priest and Bright have left the comics industry and some questions about their rights to the characters remain but in the meantime, new creative team James Asmus and Tom Fowler look to give their own take on the book.

Read a preview here.

4. Lost Cat

By Jason

Anytime Norwegian cartoonist and singularly named Jason comes out with a new book, it is most definitely worth a look. After having recently released a handful of shorter works, he now returns with a 160-page graphic novel called Lost Cat about a private detective who searches for a lost cat and winds up finding his soulmate—the cat's owner—only to then inexplicably lose her. 

Jason's books are subtle and intriguing master works of cartooning. He often plays with genres—in this case, the Humphrey Bogart archetype of a private eye—and delivers thought provoking dramas about human nature despite his characters always being drawn as funny animals. The fact that this story involves an anthropomorphic dog looking for a regular old cat is not even anachronistic in Jason's world. His cartoon animals are more human than most cartoon humans you'll see anywhere else.

Read a preview here.

5. Wolverine: Japan's Most Wanted #1

Plot by Jason Aaron, script by Jason Latour; art by Paco Diaz and Yves Bigerel

Infinite Comics are Marvel's label for a series of digital comics that they consider the next generation of comic book storytelling. It is similar in spirit and technique to the work Mark Waid and team have been doing with Thrillbent comics and that DC has begun to jump into with last week's Batman '66. The idea is to move away from the non-existent page turn and to utilize scene transitions, layering and scrolling effects. It sounds like a precarious step away from Motion Comics—the much derided "animated" comics that have appeared over the years using pan and scan effects on still comics and set to voice overs and sound tracks—but it is actually a very logical and relatively unobtrusive use of the digital platform. 

Marvel's latest offering in this still experimental form is one they first announced at SXSW this year and it just hit the Comixology digital storefront yesterday. It's a 13-part Wolverine story that will be released weekly (priced at $2.99 which is steep for a weekly comic and two dollars more than DC's similar Batman '66 comic, but at least a dollar cheaper than most Marvel digital comics). Set in Japan, it coincides nicely with the soon to be released Wolverine (also set in Japan) film. 

If you haven't read a digital comic in this format yet, you may be taken aback by how immersive it actually is. A number of scenes use the reveals and transitions to great effect and you can't help but feel that this wouldn't quite feel as dramatic reading it as a standard print or even standard digital comic.

In addition to an interesting format, this comic boasts an interesting and high caliber creative team. Jason Aaron (Scalped, Thor, Wolverine & The X-men) and Jason Latour (Loose Ends, Sledgehammer, Winter Soldier) have been very prolific on their own recently and were just announced as the writer and artist team on a new creator-owned series for Image Comics. They're splitting up the writing between plot and script here and working with Spanish artist Paco Diaz who has worked on a number of Wolverine-related comics in the past.

You can buy the comic here on Comixology. Unfortunately there is no preview provided that can convey the actual reading experience, though.


- Amazon is now a comics publisher, announcing the launch of Jet City Comics which will publish a mix of print and digital works, with offerings based on properties created by the likes of George R.R. Martin and Neal Stephenson. Any move Amazon makes has resounding effects in the publishing world so this could be big.

- San Diego Comic Con is coming. A sneak peek at their programming schedule can be found here.

- Digital Manga, Inc. is planning to release the entire Osamu Tezuka catalog digitally worldwide.

- Among the many exciting announcements at Image Comics' Image Expo last week is that they are now selling DRM-free digital editions of all their new comics through their website. Digital has proven to be a significant part of their overall sales and they are embracing it by being the first publisher to sell their books in a format that allows readers to actually download and save a digital file to their computers. This could be the beginning of the end of publisher's debilitating fear of digital piracy.