The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Cameron Stewart/DC Comics
Cameron Stewart/DC Comics / Cameron Stewart/DC 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. Batgirl #35

By Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr and Maris Wicks
DC Comics

Batgirl updated for the selfie generation.

Last week, I looked at a new book from DC Comics called Gotham Academy that seems to signal the company taking a step towards putting out books that might appeal to younger, female readers, while remaining firmly in the company’s superhero-driven wheelhouse. An even better, more high-profile example of this is the newest issue of Batgirl, which has built a lot of buzz online, especially among Tumblr users who have been sharing images of her redesigned costume for months now.

While the title itself is not relaunching, the 35th issue is heralding a major change in direction for a comic that, in its first issue, brought the original Batgirl, Babs Gordon, out of her wheelchair and back into costume. Since then, it has been languishing in unexceptional, grim, and gritty territory. Similar to Gotham Academy, DC is putting a young creative team on this book with a fresh perspective on how to handle this character.

We’re so used to seeing the same creatives show up on all of DC’s books, leading to what is known as the DC “House Style,” but the teams on both of these books are consciously breaking from that. Brenden Fletcher, a relative newcomer, is co-writing both books and is again teamed with a superstar artist-turned-writer—in this case, Cameron Stewart. Known for his slick, Bruce Timm-inspired cartooning style, Stewart is also providing layouts for the artwork with finishes provided by another newcomer, the aptly named Babs Tarr. He is also responsible for redesigning the classic Batgirl costume. This sensible, cosplay-friendly design is what has made this book a hit before it has even come out.

The series will see Babs Gordon going to grad school and moving in with a new roommate. If you’re someone who gets turned off by millennial “selfie” culture, don’t let the (fantastic) cover dissuade you. She’s presented here as a smart 20-something who is trying to juggle schoolwork, a social life, and costumed crime-fighting.

Here’s a preview.


2. Battling Boy: The Rise of Aurora West

By Paul Pope, JT Petty and David Rubin
First Second

A prequel to last year’s Battling Boy starring the daughter of Haggard West.

My favorite parts of Paul Pope’s 2013 graphic novel Battling Boy were the few scenes involving Aurora West, daughter of the deceased science hero Haggard West. She was pained by the loss of her father but driven by the need to fill his shoes, and her story was more compelling than that of the title character. Unfortunately, we were given precious little of her in that volume. Although it seems like Battling Boy is building towards her playing a crucial role in the next chapter of that story, this new book, Battling Boy: The Rise of Aurora West, seems to be what Pope was saving her for.

The unusual thing about this book is that it is the first part of a prequel to a series that only just saw its own beginning last year—The Rise of Aurora West builds on the backstory to a world that we were only just introduced to. Here we see Aurora and her dad working together to fight the hordes of monsters that have been stealing away children in the city of Arcopolis. The West family is still reeling from the death of Aurora’s mother and attempting to solve the mystery of how she actually died.

While Paul Pope is writing this book (with help from JT Petty), the artist is David Rubin, who does his best Pope impersonation in order to keep a visual continuity in the Battling Boy universe. A common complaint of the first Battling Boy book was that it was printed too small to fully appreciate the dynamic artwork. This book actually goes a little bit smaller, and it is in black and white which can make some of the action scenes a little hard to make out (but fits the manga-sized book market and its younger readership that this looks to appeal to).

Here’s an excerpt.


3. Blacksad: Amarillo

By Juan Diaz Canales and Junajo Guarnido
Dark Horse Comics

The 5th volume of the gorgeously illustrated hardboiled drama starring John Blacksad.

Fans of Juan Diaz Canales and Junajo Guarnido’s Blacksad series of anthropomorphic crime noir graphic novels will assuredly be anxious to get their hands on the fifth book, Amarillo, originally released in French and now translated into English by Dark Horse Comics. If you’ve never seen Blacksad, prepare to be astounded by one of the most lushly illustrated comics out there.

The Blacksad series is set in America the 1950s and hits on a lot of film noir and social tropes from that era. Previous volumes revolved around the KKK and McCarthyism while featuring a hardboiled private eye named John Blacksad (a suave, square jawed panther) who takes on the kinds of cases in which Philip Marlowe always ended up neck-deep. In this latest volume, Blacksad finds himself chasing a beatnik writer (a scraggly maned lion) who gets in one deadly situation after another.

Both Canales and Guarnido have backgrounds working on Disney feature animations and it shows in the way they stage their scenes. Their use of anthropomorphism is so smart and, even though there are some characters exaggerated for comic relief, it is played so straight that you forget you're reading a book about animals.

You can read a preview here.


4. Wytches

By Scott Snyder and Jock
Image Comics

Vampires and zombies are played out. It’s time for witches.

In Wytches, the new series from Image Comics, a teenage girl named Sailor moves to a new town and a new school but can’t seem to get away from a horrible incident that occurred to her one night in the woods. Not only can she not escape the memories, but everyone in this new school seems to have heard the rumors about her. As she's getting acclimated to school life, weird stuff begins happening in her new home.

Scott Snyder, who has become a huge star due to his writing on DC’s flagship Batman comic, is primarily a horror writer and got his big break by putting a new spin on vampires with DC Vertigo’s American Vampire. Now, it seems he’s going to try to do the same for witches (although he’s bringing this idea to creator-friendly publisher Image Comics rather than his usual horror home, DC Vertigo). He’s working here with the artist known as Jock who primarily does cover design work (and is one of the best in the business), but, on occasion, he takes that rough, gritty graphic style he uses on his covers and adapts it for interior page work. Snyder and Jock previously collaborated on a well-liked Dick Grayson story for Detective Comics before Snyder became the official Bat-writer for DC.

This is going to be the big release this week for most horror comic fans. We’ll see if it sparks a future witch onslaught in the media. What I found interesting about this first issue is that the main plot hinges on bullying; taking a real-world, everyday horror that many kids go through and putting a supernatural spin on it.

This old preview doesn’t seem to actually be from the first issue and is either “trailer-only” material or future content, but you’ll get the idea either way.


5. Beauty

By Hubert and Kerascoët
NBM Publishing

Another twisted fairy tale from the artist team that brought us Beautiful Darkness.

I mentioned Beauty in my SPX roundup a few weeks back when it debuted, but it’s worth mentioning again. This comic from the French writer Hubert and the singularly named husband-and-wife art team Kerascoët officially hits comic book shops this week.

Coddie, a chinless, homely waif of a girl, makes a wish to a fairy who she has saved from being eaten by a bullfrog. Her wish is to be beautiful, which the fairy can not literally grant, but what she can do is to place beauty in the eye of the beholder. From that point forward, anyone who looks at Coddie will see the most beautiful woman they’ve ever seen. Of course, a wish like this always brings complications, and if you’ve read this year’s Beautiful Darkness, you know that Kerascoët make fairy tales that go horribly wrong.

Kerascoët’s Beautiful Darkness is a top contender for best graphic novel of the year and Beauty looks to be just as wonderfully illustrated. Their previous collaboration with Hubert, Miss Don’t Touch Me, also sees a re-release this week.