The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Rich Barrett
Eryk Donovan/Boom! Studios
Eryk Donovan/Boom! Studios / Eryk Donovan/Boom! Studios

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. Memetic #1

By James Tynion IV, Eryk Donovan, and Adam Guzowski
Boom! Studios

Within a day, a meme that starts on Reddit goes viral. Within three days it destroys the world.

The concept of Memetic might sound silly: a meme begins one morning on Reddit, a gif that comes to be known as "The Good Times Sloth”—a sloth giving a thumbs up with a hallucinatory bullseye pattern in the background. Within a day it becomes the most shared viral image in history. Within three days it has caused the end of the world. The meme, it turns out, was “weaponized,” and 24 hours after someone sees it, a horrible transformation occurs. The only people who seem to have a chance to stop it are a teenage boy who has somehow resisted the meme’s effects, a former head of military intelligence who has lost his eyesight, and an expert on memetics who knows better than to look at such things.  We all live in a world where some downright silly stuff goes viral pretty quickly, but the initial innocuousness of “Good Times Sloth" is what makes this comic so terrifying.

Memetic is a three issue mini-series written by James Tynion IV, who has garnered critical and reader acclaim for his sci-fi/horror series The Woods and has most recently been one of the writers for DC’s weekly Batman Eternal series. Tynion has a great handle on the subject of memes and internet culture, giving this an air of realism amidst all the sloth-inspired destruction. As we live amidst fears of the spread of Ebola and endlessly consume fiction about zombie apocalypses, this is a new take on viral outbreak fiction that plays on those same fears.

Memetic hits comic book shops and Comixology this week. Here’s a preview.


2. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1

By Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack
Archie Comics

Sabrina the Teenage Witch like you’ve never seen her before.

If, a year ago, I wrote in this column that Archie Comics would become a quality source for horror, you would have assumed I was joking. Yet, Afterlife With Archie—in which Archie’s hometown of Riverdale is overrun with the undead—has been one of the biggest surprise hits of the past year and has now paved the way for a second horror title from the publisher. Really, at this point, why shouldn’t they put out a series starring their one true supernatural character?

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina features Sabrina the Teenage Witch and is about as far as you can get from the Melissa Joan Hart TV show. This new comic with sepia-toned drawings from artist Robert Hack is like a creepy Polanski flick. It is set in the '60s (the time period when the character first appeared in Archie’s Madhouse #22) with Sabrina growing up with her two witchy aunts, her talking cat Salem, and her warlock cousin Ambrose (a character that appeared early on in the comics and the animated series from the 1970s). She listens to The Beatles and Roy Orbison, casts spells on boys to make them like her, and wonders whether her mother and father will ever come back from wherever they disappeared to.

This new book is not a spin-off nor is it connected to Afterlife with Archie's continuity. It comes on the heels of its excellent sixth issue in which Sabrina—the one who caused the dead to rise in Riverdale—is wed to the H.P. Lovecraft creature Cthulu. Both comics are the brainchild of writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and he mixes his love of ‘60s- and ‘70s-era horror with characters from that same era.

This first issue fittingly includes a reprint of her very first appearance, drawn by classic Archie artist Dan DeCarlo. Each issue will include a reprint of her early comics and it works nicely as a happy go lucky, carefree way to follow up the disturbing main story.

I’m playing catch up a little with this week's column so I should note that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 actually came out a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a preview.


3. Edward Scissorhands #1

By Kate Leth and Drew Rausch
IDW Publishing

Decades after the events of Tim Burton’s film, the immortal Edward Scissorhands is still lurking in the attic.

At the end of Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, we see that Winona Ryder’s character, Kim, is now an old woman telling her granddaughter of the time she befriended an artificial man named Edward (memorably played by Johnny Depp, of course). She never saw him again but knew he was out there somewhere. Since Burton rarely revisits his creations we also have never seen Edward again, until now. Following a recent trend of creating comic book sequels to classic films and TV shows (we’ve previously seen it done with X-Files, Big Trouble in Little China, and Samurai Jack, among others), IDW is bringing back Edward Scissorhands in a new 4-issue series beginning this week.

Edward Scissorhands the comic follows Kim’s now teenaged granddaughter, Meg, who, unlike her mom, believes the story her grandmother told her when she was little. When some strange happenings occur, she is inspired to seek out her grandmother’s friend. Writer Kate Leth describes the series as a “girl detective” story which is a smart way to approach this from an angle that may help it appeal to a new, younger audience. In another smart move, IDW has paired Leth, of the Kate or Die! webcomic as well as the popular and award-winning Adventure Time comic, with an artist whose drawing style is a perfect choice for Burton’s gothic whimsy. Drew Rausch’s characters and design feel appropriately Burtonesque and even bring to mind Skottie Young’s work in the popular Wizard of Oz comics.

It will be interesting to see if the kid-friendly style helps create new Edward fans but grown-up ‘90s goths who have a fondness in their heart for the film should eat this up. Here’s a preview.


4. Bumf

By Joe Sacco

A cartoonist known for reporting from stressful, war-torn countries blows off a little steam

As a cartoonist/journalist known for traveling to war-torn countries to tell the stories of people living in those areas, Joe Sacco is one of the most respected cartoonists working today. His award-winning books—Safe Area Goražde about the Bosnian War and Footnotes in Gaza about two incidents in 1956 in which hundreds of Palestinians were slaughtered by Israeli soldiers—are considered some of the finest reporting on those subjects. He is a serious cartoonist and just about the last guy you’d expect to make a weird comic like Bumf.

To be fair, there has always been a sense of humor evident in at least the way Sacco draws (especially how he draws himself). His style is very much derived from the underground comix artists of the ‘60s and ‘70s like R. Crumb. It works in a peculiar way to humanize his subjects, who have lived through experiences most of us can never fathom. Here, he takes this underground sensibility, inspired by books like Zap and Weirdo, and runs with it much further than he ever could in his more serious books.

Sacco has been working on these comics for a while in between his other projects. Bumf lets Sacco re-process his work experiences in order to make sense of them in a new way. There are still the horrors of warfare both past and present and Sacco himself is still a player, but it’s more like the weird dreams he must have when he’s working on his various books. Sacco plays with a bunch of different ideas and connects them as he goes along. The most memorable bit involves Richard Nixon waking up in the body of President Obama and having a blast with all the drones and secret torturing.

Bumf hit comic book shops last week. Here’s a preview.


One more comic

When I’m not writing this column, I’m often writing and drawing my own comics. Right now, there’s a Kickstarter running for a magazine-sized anthology of horror comics that includes an 8-page story I drew. The book is called Canaan Cult Revival and it contains a collection of disturbing, explicit stories about demonology and exorcism. It’s not for everybody but if you enjoy some truly scary stories inspired by the envelope-pushing horror comics of the Warren Publishing magazines of the 1970s then this is for you. There are a number of up-and-coming artists (including Edward Scissorhands artist Drew Rausch) drawing each story, all written by one writer, Christian Sager.

Pledge your support here