The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Rich Barrett
Terry and Rachel Dodson/DC Comics
Terry and Rachel Dodson/DC Comics / Terry and Rachel Dodson/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.

Teen Titans Earth One Vol. 1

By Jeff Lemire, Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson
DC Comics

A reimagined Teen Titans, no longer just teen sidekicks.

DC’s Earth One line of graphic novels reimagines the origins of their biggest heroes in hopes of modernizing them for new audiences, and it makes for comics that read like movie or TV adaptations. It’s an approach that Marvel used in their Ultimate line of comics, but the key difference here is that the Earth One books are not serialized as “floppy” comics first. Instead, they appear for the first time as 100+ page original graphic novels—a publishing practice that both Marvel and DC usually shy away from partly because of the long lead time involved in making the books.

This is the first in the Earth One series to appear since 2012. Wonder Woman Earth One by Grant Morrison and Yannick Paquette was originally scheduled next, following books about Superman and Batman, but it has been delayed. Instead, we get a story that digs a little deeper into their character library—The Teen Titans.

Teen Titans Earth One introduces a set of teenaged characters that we’ve seen before, but with different origins and different relationships to each other. These Titans all go to school together in Oregon and soon learn that they have powers that connect them to a secret project at S.T.A.R. Labs involving a distressed, captive alien being known as Starfire and a Native American teenaged girl named Raven.

The classic Teen Titans were a super team of sidekicks like Batman’s Robin, Green Arrow’s Speedy, and Flash’s Kid Flash, but the need for adult counterparts and super hero legacies do not work in the context of this universe where there are very few existing superheroes. Instead, writer Jeff Lemire focuses on the second generation of Titans—Cyborg, Terra, Beast Boy, Jericho, Starfire, and Raven—that arose in the 1980s during Marv Wolfman and George Perez’ classic run . Lemire is joined by husband and wife artists Terry and Rachel Dodson, who are generally best known for their sexy, statuesque female superheroes, but adjust their style here to a slightly more cartoony, teen-friendly approach.

Here’s a preview.


Terms of Service: Understanding Our Role in the World of Big Data

By Michale Keller and Josh Neufeld
Al Jazeera

Two journalists use the comic book format to investigate issues surrounding privacy and Big Data in the modern world.

Al Jazeera has joined the ranks of online publications like The Guardian, Slate, and The Nib to embrace comics journalism and long form comics “articles." The very first comics project from Al Jazeera is Terms of Service, a 46-page novella by Al Jazeera America reporter Michael Keller and cartoonist Josh Neufeld, best known for his highly acclaimed A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. Keller and Neufeld look at the recent history and current state of “Big Data" and how it is affecting our lives and our concept of privacy. Keller and Neufeld begin with Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page introducing the concept of Gmail in 2004 as a new and better way of organizing your email, which also happens to scan the keyword-content of everyone's messages. The authors proclaim this moment as ushering in a new era of big data, one where the user makes major privacy tradeoffs in return for services and convenience.

Keller and Neufeld make great use of the comics format by placing themselves into the work, interviewing people and debating each other on the merits and fears of privacy issues. Their presence adds a human and entertaining touch to a topic that has the potential to bore some people. Some of the topics they discuss are Fitbit, grocery store rewards cards, Facebook and the “internet of things” in relation to “data for a discount” where users gets something for free (like access to Facebook) in exchange for their personal information.

It’s a very informative piece about an important aspect of modern life and presenting it as a comic really helps keep it fun and interesting. My favorite visual motif—which they repeat often—is the depiction of data collection as a floating probe droid from Empire Strikes Back. You can read the whole comic here. A limited run print edition may be forthcoming.


Batman ’66: The Lost Episode

By Len Wein and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
DC Comics

An episode of the Adam West Batman show that never came to be is now a comic book.

Arguably the biggest news in the world of DVDs this year was the recent release of the 1960s Batman TV show, long held up in legal and licensing limbo. DC Comics had been prepared for the news of its long-anticipated release by bringing the Adam West version of Batman to the comics for the first time in the ongoing Batman ’66 comic book series. It captures the camp essence of the classic show but utilizes the limitless “budget” for special effects and locations that comics allow to tell stories the TV show wouldn’t have been able to attempt.

One story the show intended to attempt but was never filmed was the introduction of the villain Two-Face into the cast. “The Two Way Crimes of Two-Face” was written by acclaimed science fiction author and Batman enthusiast Harlan Ellison, but never made it to the small screen. Now, comics veterans Len Wein and José Luis Garcia-Lopez take Ellison’s original outline and run with it in a special edition 80 page comic (which includes Ellison’s original outline).

These Batman ’66 comics are a great choice for young readers, but they’re especially fun for those of us who grew up on the show. Here’s a preview.


Spider-Woman #1

By Dennis Hopless and Greg Land
Marvel Comics

Remember the Spider-woman butt controversy?

Even if you only pay half-attention to comic news, you probably remember the Spider-woman “butt” controversy from a few months back. An odd-looking cover showing Spider-woman and her big, red, heart-shaped butt sticking in the air caused quite a stir even across some mainstream news outlets when it was first solicited in the comics previews. Due to the nature of advanced solicitations, that whole controversy has come and gone long before the comic itself even hit the stores—which happens to be today. The cover itself, which, despite the weirdness of the pose, was actually drawn by revered Italian comics master Milo Manara, was always intended to be a limited-run variant edition and not the main cover (which is what you see above).

As for the comic itself, it’s the beginning of a new series featuring the original Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew. Although she’s been around since 1977 (when Stan Lee was compelled by copyright reasons to very quickly publish something with a female version of Spider-man in it before the competition beat him to it), the character has really only started coming into her own in the past 10 years thanks to Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis who featured her in many of his Avengers comics and helped turn her into a kick-ass agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This new series, written by Dennis Hopeless and drawn by Greg Land, aims to tell a defining story for the character, however, out of the gate it seems to be tied explicitly to events running through other comics like “Spider-verse” in which Spider-men from alternate universes are being hunted down and killed. It also features guest star Silk, which is a new Spider character introduced this past year and is an integral part of the Spider-verse storyline.

Here’s a brief preview.


Absolute Zero

By Christopher Nolan and Sean Gordon Murphy
Wired Magazine

A comic book prequel to Christopher Nolan’s latest film.

Christopher Nolan is inextricably linked to the comics world thanks to his trilogy of Batman movies, but as far as I know, Absolute Zero is the first comic story he’s ever written. It’s a 7-page prequel to his latest film,Interstellar, and is illustrated by one of the most exciting artists to hit comics in the past few years, Sean Gordon Murphy (The Wake).

Absolute Zero gives us a look at the Lazarus Mission led by Dr. Mann (played in the film by Matt Damon) who finds himself pioneering a cold, desolate planet with no one but his robot KIPP at his side. Murphy is like a modern day Jim Lee with his intricate, detailed drawings. Nolan almost never releases deleted scenes for his movies, so it is interesting that he has taken an approach outside of filmmaking to bring this to life.

The comic appears in the newest issue of Wired Magazine which Nolan guest edits. It hits magazine racks next week but is available to read now on