Mental Floss

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Rich Barrett
Olivier Coipel/Marvel Comics
Olivier Coipel/Marvel Comics / Olivier Coipel/Marvel Comics

Every Wednesday, I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, Kickstarter, and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.

1. Thor #1

By Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson
Marvel Comics

Thor’s a woman now. Deal with it.

In the first issue of the new Thor, the thunder god has fallen and been deemed unworthy to lift his mighty hammer, Mjölnir, which lies forsaken on the surface of the moon. The inscription (as you can see in the image below) suddenly changes to read, “Whosoever holds this hammer, if SHE be worthy…”

Yup, this is the issue you’ve been hearing about everywhere from to The View. By the end of this issue, a woman will pick up the hammer and become the new Thor, possibly signifying a major shift in how Marvel views the demographics of its readership. It’s also possible that it's just a short-lived publicity stunt. Only time—and sales—will tell if this is as big as Marvel wants us to think.

Whatever their intent is, the publisher seems hell bent on shaking up the status quo of their A-list heroes. They’re currently in the process of killing off Wolverine and will soon be handing the mantle of Captain America to an African-American hero. This has been a big year for diversity among the Marvel characters (even if the creative teams behind them are still mostly white and male).

Marvel has kept a tight lid on who this new Thor will actually be, but promises that she will be the real Thor (not a “Thorita” or “She-Thor”). They’ve signified this by not only keeping the name of the hero “Thor,” but also by keeping Jason Aaron who has been writing Thor since the last relaunch two years ago.

Here’s a preview.


2. Gotham Academy #1

By Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Geyser, and Dave McCaig
DC Comics

Something a little different for DC Comics: a teen prep school drama set in Gotham.

Marvel is not alone this week in making some shifts in how they attract new (read: female) audiences. Gotham Academy is a new series that is set firmly in the “Bat-verse” but is otherwise very different from the type of books DC generally publishes. It is written and drawn to appeal to a younger and primarily female audience that other independent comics and webcomics have long proven is out there but that publishers like DC have been reticent to attract in the past. Paired with this month’s upcoming redesign and relaunch of Batgirl, DC is taking some steps, albeit in a somewhat different approach from Marvel, to make some comics that will hopefully appeal to this audience.

Gotham Academy takes place in Gotham City’s prestigious boarding school whose benefactor is local billionaire Bruce Wayne and whose school grounds seem prone to mysterious and supernatural happenings. The first story arc focuses on Olive Silverlock, a student who seems to have experienced something over the summer that has affected her relationship with her boyfriend Kyle. We also meet Kyle’s little sister, Maps, who follows Olive around, and Olive’s antagonist, Pomeline Fritch (if nothing else, this book is going to add some fantastically memorable names to the DC Universe).

While Marvel is diversifying their characters more than their creatives, DC seems to be making moves to do both. Gotham Academy is written by Becky Cloonan who is primarily known as an artist but has written and drawn some very impressive and award-winning self-published comics like The Mire and Demeter. She is joined by co-writer Brenden Fletcher who will also be working on the new Batgirl series and artist Karl Kerschl who is best known for his award-winning webcomic The Abominable Charles Christopher. This is a young and interesting creative team that stands out markedly from what you might consider the usual DC “House Style.”

Here’s a preview.


3. Maddy Kettle Book 1: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch

By Eric Orchard
Top Shelf Productions

A young girl sets out to change her parents back from being kangaroo rats.

If you follow Eric Orchard on Twitter, Facebook, or almost anywhere else, you’ve probably seen his progress on his series Maddy Kettle. Orchard is active on social media and uses it as well as any artist out there to engage with his fans and invite them into his process. Those fans are probably delighted to see the first book in this series hitting bookstores and comic book shops now.

In the first volume of this all-ages series, we meet young Maddy, an eleven year old girl whose parents have been turned into little kangaroo rats by the Thimblewitch. When the same creature steals her floating spadefoot toad Ralph, she goes off on her own to save Ralph and hopefully turn her parents back to normal. The story really picks up when she meets a couple of traveling cloud cartographers, a bear, and a raccoon named Harry and Silvio, who serve as the book's comic relief.

Orchard’s illustrations have a weighty simplicity that's mixed with an intricate, cross-hatched texture as if they were drawn from dramatically lit clay figurines. There is a weird darkness to his style that is not unlike the classic children’s horror stories of Edward Gorey, while Maddy Kettle's magical nature may remind some of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.

Maddy is a smart, resourceful heroine, which parents of young girls are always looking for more of. While this is the beginning of a future book series, this volume stands nicely on its own. Top Shelf has a preview here.


4. The Hospital Suite

By John Porcellino
Drawn & Quarterly

A mini-comics and zine legend recounts his battles with OCD, tumors, and depression.

John Porcellino is one of the most influential cartoonists that most readers have never heard of. Like the old saying about the Velvet Underground—not many people listened to them at the time but everyone who did started their own band—Porcellino has influenced a whole generation of mini-comic and zine creators with his autobiographical series King-Cat. Started in 1989, it is the longest running mini-comic of its kind and Porcellino has used it to share some very personal aspects of his life. His new graphic novel, The Hospital Suite (published by Drawn & Quarterly), collects a group of his most harrowing and personal stories yet.

In 1997, Porcellino began suffering from stomach pains that doctors couldn’t explain. Repeat appointments eventually led to the discovery of a tumor in his intestines. But this is just the beginning of his troubles. From tumors to warts to debilitating cases of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression, Porcellino’s life began to fall apart for the next few years. He lost almost everything—even, for a time, his ability to make comics.

This would be a tough book for those prone to health anxieties, but I think it will strike a chord with people who have suffered from illnesses that have upended their lives. The chapters where he recounts his OCD are especially affecting and upsetting in their sheer extremity. There’s a scene where he finds a Godzilla movie at the library that he’s been craving to see again since he was a kid, but he gets it in his head that watching the film may possibly conjure up the monsters in reality and he returns it, unwatched. It's a scene that is heartbreaking the way Porcellino tells it.

Porcellino’s cartooning style almost seems amateurish at a glance. Its simple pen lines do what they need to do in conveying his story but nothing more. The book itself is even printed with a stark white, no frills cover, much like his mini-comics. Drawn & Quarterly has a preview here.


5. Underwhelming Lovecraft Comic Synopses

By Patrick Dean

Various Lovecraft stories done in one comics page.

Earlier this year, Patrick Dean had been posting some great drawings of low-key, “underwhelming" creatures on his Tumblr that, if actually created by legendary horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, would have ended up in his discarded ideas pile. Last month, Dean decided to take his fondness for Lovecraft down a different road by creating one-page comic synopses of some of the writer’s short stories. Keeping with the “Underwhelming” theme, he crams the essence of the stories into a few panels and often wraps them up with a punchline that conveys Dean’s own dry sense of humor. It's partly an exercise in concise storytelling and partly a way to have fun with Lovecraft's typically humorless tales of creepiness.

There are a handful up on his Tumblr so far; feel free to dip back into the archives to browse his Underwhelming monster drawings.