Every Wednesday, I preview the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about.
1. Minimum Wage #1
By Bob Fingerman
The 1990s are often thought of as the time comics almost ate themselves in a fit of foiled cover gluttony and nearly choked to death as an industry. It was also the decade that birthed a movement of independently published alternative comics that has led straight to the golden age of independent comics we’re currently experiencing. Image Comics, having been founded in the early ‘90s by the likes of Todd MacFarlane and Rob Liefeld (among others), is often associated with that era with both positive and negative implications. Image is on a bit of a crusade lately to find a new home for some quality independent comics that were born in the 1990s. They recently announced a return of the much missed crime comic Stray Bullets and this week they bring back one of the most acclaimed and beloved comics of that time: Bob Fingerman’s Minimum Wage.
The original 10 issue run of Fingerman’s semi-autobiographical comic was recently republished in an oversized volume by Image, thanks to the urging of Wage fan Robert (The Walking Dead) Kirkman. Now, 15 years after retiring them, Fingerman is returning to the characters and revisiting their lives three years from where he left them. The series focuses around a Fingerman stand-in named Rob who is now recently divorced, living with his mom and trying to get back into the dating scene. Very much your typical ‘90s New York slacker, Rob is now about to enter the year 2000 at long last.
Minimum Wage is often credited with being an early example of cringe comedy (years before The Office and Louie made such uncomfortable humor mainstream). It draws from realistic and relatable scenarios that artsy, down-on-their-luck guys like Rob would find themselves in. It has a devoted fan base and has inspired many cartoonists such as Kirkman but also comedians such as Patton Oswalt, David Cross and Marc Maron.
2. Black Widow #1
Written by Nathan Edmondson; art by Phil Noto
We all remember Black Widow's “red on my ledger" speech from the Avengers film. The idea of the former KGB assassin having a bloody past has become even more of an integral part of her character in the comics since that scene (I believe a recent issue of Avengers even had her say a similar line). Now, in a brand new ongoing series, Natasha Romanov will explore her past as she seeks to atone for it.
Marvel has attempted a number of Black Widow solo comics over the years with very little success, but thanks to Scarlett Johansson's portrayal she is now much more of a marquee character than she's ever been. They've enlisted one of comics' newest espionage experts, Nathan Edmondson, to write the book. Edmondson made a big splash a few years back with his acclaimed spy thriller Who is Jake Ellis? for Image Comics. Since then, he's become a bit of a go-to guy for this kind of material. It's even gotten him hired to write for a Tom Clancy video game.
Phil Noto is known mostly for his pinup and cover work. His style is very reminiscent of the classic advertising illustrators and poster artists of the 1960s and he excels at drawing beautiful women. His interior comics work in the past has typically lost a lot of the richness and sexiness of his fully painted cover work but the preview images from issue no.1 of this book look like he’s found a way to bring the magic of his covers into the sequential imagery inside.
Marvel is starting the new year with an onslaught of new books and a lot of them are hitting at once this week. In addition to Black Widow we're also getting:
• All New Invaders #1 - James Robinson and Steve Pugh bring the WWII Invaders into the modern age with Captain America, Namor, the original Human Torch and the Winter Soldier.
• Avengers World #1 - Yet another Avengers book under the guidance of Jonathan Hickman (with Nick Spencer). John Cassady, recently of Uncanny Avengers, is the artist on this series which will focus on developing some of the lesser tier characters that are populating the main Avengers book.
• X-Factor #1 - Peter David returns to the book that he is most popular for. This time out, X-Factor is a corporate-owned mutant team featuring Polaris, Quicksilver, Gambit and others.
3. Li'l Vampi #1
Written by Eric Trautmann; art by Agnes Garbowska
The "itty-bitty"-fication of popular comics characters in order to appeal to kid readers is going strong. The trend, that owes thanks in no small part to the Oh Yeah Comics guys and books like Itty Bitty Hellboy is growing in popularity among both kids and grownups. Dynamite Entertainment is now launching a series of one-shots of "Li'l" versions of various titles that they currently publish such as Red Sonja and Battlestar Galactica. This week, they're taking a character that is steeped in adult horror and cheesecake art and transforming her into something that every little girl would love to read.
Vampirella is a teenage paranormal investigator living in Stoker, Maine (population: boring). She's a little bit emo, she has a knack for solving mysteries and stopping werewolves and mummies, and she hates when people call her Vampi. Based on the sexy, blood-sucking alien that appeared in her own magazine put out by Warren Publishing in the 1970s and which continues to headline her own comics from Dynamite Entertainment today, Vampirella is just about the last character you’d expect to see marketed towards kids. Yet, seeing her in this context, she looks like a character straight out of Monster High.
Li'l Vampi is drawn by Agnes Garbowska who is fantastic at illustrating super-cute characters like this. She's been doing covers for some of the most popular kids' comics out there like My Little Pony and Powerpuff Girls.
4. Detective Comics #27
Whether planned or by happenstance, DC Comics' recent rebooting of their issue numbers has allowed the new Detective Comics #27 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Batman's first appearance in the original Detective Comics #27.
To commemorate, this issue will be extra-sized at 96 pages with multiple stories including a retelling of Batman's origin by novelist and comics writer Brad Meltzer and superstar artist Bryan Hitch. The Batman writers from the other Bat-titles, Scott Snyder and Peter J. Tomasi, each have stories here as well. Snyder is joined by his The Wake collaborator Sean Gordon Murphy and Tomasi by Guillem March. Other contributors include Paul Dini, Franco Francavilla, Neal Adams and more. Plus, John Layman and Jason Fabok begin a storyline called "Gothopia" that will crossover into various other Bat-books.
This issue has courted some minor controversy due to one of its alternate covers (shown above) by Frank Miller. The cover was initially rejected by DC and has been deemed by many to be oddly raunchy for a commemorative issue. From DC’s standpoint, when you've got a Frank Miller cover you run it.