5 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Laura Beck and Jonas Madden-Connor
Laura Beck and Jonas Madden-Connor / Laura Beck and Jonas Madden-Connor

Every Wednesday, I preview the 5 most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web. These aren't reviews, just brief highlights. If there's a release you're excited about, let's talk about it in the comments.

1. Can't Lose: A Friday Night Lights Fanzine   

Edited by Melissa Mendes with various creators

Trust me, you are not alone out there in your undying love for Friday Night Lights, the television show about high school football in Dillon, Texas that, despite its cancellation, continues to find new, devoted fans through Netflix. One such fan, cartoonist Melissa Mendes, decided that the high school crush feeling that FNL gave her would best be paid back with a loving fanzine collecting cartoons, collages and pinups from other devoted fans.

After posting a call for submissions through social media, Mendes received contributions from cartoonists like Dan Zettwoch, Laura Beck, Henry Eudy, Sean Ford, Derik Badman and more. Mendes' boyfriend, cartoonist Charles Forsman, created the cover. Can't Lose: A Friday Night Lights Fanzine was born.

The contributions consist mostly of comics such as Thien Pham and Mark Miyaki's story about forgotten season 2 character Santiago. There is a photo-based contribution about an FNL-themed marriage proposal. Jesse Lucas created a flyer for Landry's garage band Crucifictorius. The highlight of the book may be Laura Beck and Jonas Madden-Connor's Tim Riggins paper doll which you can see at the top of this page. It's printed on thicker paper so that it can be cut out and assembled.

Mendes is considering doing a followup issue in the future since she continues to find creative people out there that are big fans of the show. If you're one of those people, hop on over to her website and tell her you want to contribute to the next one. In the meantime, go and order a copy of Can't Lose for only $5.

2. Sex Criminals #1

Written by Matt Fraction; art by Chip Zdarsky
Image Comics

The comic that you will be most wary to pick up based on the title alone this week is Sex Criminals #1. However, the contents of the book actually may not be as prurient as it sounds. It certainly got your attention though, didn't it?

Marvel Comics mainstay and writer of books like Hawkeye and the upcoming Inhumans, Matt Fraction has lately been balancing his superhero output with more original work through creator-friendly publisher Image Comics. In this new book he's working with artist Chip Zdarsky who has a couple of cult favorite comics to his name like Prison Funnies and Monster Cops but mostly does really fun illustrations for the Canadian National Post under his real name, Steve Murray, and entertains his followers on Twitter with his absurdist wit. This is his first major release comic book series and Zdarsky fans everywhere are rejoicing.

Sex Criminals starts by introducing us to a high school girl named Suzie who is discovering her sexuality and trying to understand what is normal and what isn't. For her, whenever she has an orgasm, time literally stops around her, colors bleed into each other and she is left free to walk around in an ethereal stillness she calls The Quiet. Eventually, as an adult, Suzie meets Jon, who has the same sexual affliction, and together they run off to use their…superpower?… to rob banks.

Fraction and Zdarsky describe the book as a "sex comedy" equivalent in tone to an R-rated Judd Apatow film. At least to start, the scenes we've seen so far in previews suggest it is a sweet, coming of age story that eventually leads into morally shady sci-fi territory reminiscent of Nicholson Baker's 1994 novel The Fermata.

Read some SFW preview pages here and a hilarious interview with the creators here.

3. Sin Titulo

By Cameron Stewart
Dark Horse Comics

Cameron Stewart's award-winning webcomic Sin Titulo was very influential among webcomic creators (myself included) looking to do long form narratives in a medium that usually just rewards short form content. Started as an exercise in loosening up his drawing style in order to produce a story quickly, Stewart worked in an improvisatory manner without an exact idea of where some elements of the story would take him. It very quickly turned into a compelling mystery that had readers anticipating its weekly updates, clamoring for answers. This week, the long-awaited print edition of the webcomic hits stores courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

Sin Titulo (which means "No Title" in Spanish) is part surreal thriller, part autobiography. Stewart began writing the story after learning about the death of his grandfather and incorporates various personal memories into this story about a man who goes on a search for a mysterious woman in a photograph that he finds among his late grandfather's possessions. The improvised nature of the story gives it a dream-like atmosphere much like the work of David Lynch. 

This comic was a turning point in Stewart's career. His work on comics for DC like Batman Inc. and Catwoman have made him a popular artist over the years, but this was his first time writing and drawing his own story. Having won an Eisner Award for the webcomic, he has reached a point that many working comics creators aspire to: readers are anticipating his next personal work just as much, if not more, than his next work-for-hire comic.  

Dark Horse has an 8 page preview of the book here. The webcomic is also still up at SinTituloComic.com to read.

4. Fantasy Basketball

By Sam Bosma

Sam Bosma released his new comic Fantasy Basketball at the Small Press Expo last week and completely sold out while he was there. The beauty of this new modern age, however, is that he will never sell out of the digital comic. He's offering a PDF edition for the suggested price of $2 through the Gumroad service.

Fantasy Basketball is a 40 page comic about two adventurers searching for a key in an ancient temple who find they must defeat the "boss" in a game of basketball in order to proceed. It's part video game, part manga, part inspirational sports flick. It's also beautifully drawn. If you're not familiar with Bosma, he's an award-winning illustrator whose work has appeared in places such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Tor and Muse Magazine. His comics work has been scant so far but he has become widely appreciated on the internet for his amazing prints and lovingly rendered fan drawings of Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice And Fire characters.

This is an accomplished piece of comics work and it is also a blast to read. The flow of the action during the basketball scenes are a delight but the dialogue is also quite funny, particularly from the skeletal English-accented referee/temple guard. You can tell that Bosma enjoyed every minute of drawing it.

Buy a copy here.

5. Judge Dredd Complete Case Files

By various writers and artists
2000 AD

For over 30 years now, Judge Dredd has been laying down the law in a dystopian future where judges perform arrests, sentencing and executions of violent criminals at the scene of the crime. It is the longest running comic in the British sci-fi magazine 2000 AD, having begun in 1977 and it continues to run to this day.

2000 AD is now selling 20 volumes of the Judge Dredd Case Files through their iOS app. Each volume sells for $9.99 and together they comprise every Dredd comic published over the past three decades. These stories are credited to some of the greatest British comics creators working in the industry such as John Wagner, Garth Ennis, Brian Bolland, Grant Morrison, Brendan McCarthy, Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, Alan Grant and more.

Being a magazine, the 2000 AD app actually shows up in the iOS Newstand application after you install it, unlike the Comixology app or other comics-related apps. Through that free app you can purchase various other collections of some of the best sci-fi comics ever produced.

Here's a direct link to download the free app. Look for the Judge Dredd Case Files collections within. A 21st volume is on the way, too.


Empowered Special: Nine Beers with Ninjette
Adam Warren's fun, sweet and cheesecakey super heroine comic Empowered focuses on secondary character Ninjette in this new special and features guest art by Takeshi Miyazawa, a manga-influenced artist from Canada who is perhaps best known for some comics for Marvel like Runaways and Spider-man Loves Mary JanePreview it here.

Set in Greece in 1936, this graphic novel by French artist David Prudhomme is a beautiful looking story about jazz musicians living in the shadow of a dictatorship. Some preview images here.

Tropic of the Sea
The major manga release of the week from Vertical by the late Satoshi Kan, originally published in 1990, about the changes the modern world has on a fishing village that has for generations had a ritual involving an egg it receives from a mermaid. More info here.