Mental Floss

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Rich Barrett
Alex Ross/Marvel Comics
Alex Ross/Marvel Comics / Alex Ross/Marvel Comics

Every week I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, 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. Darth Vader #1

By Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca and Eduardo Delgado
Marvel Comics

Marvel’s return to Star Wars comics is off to a fantastic start. The first two issues of Jason Aaron and John Cassady’s Star Wars have perfectly captured the feel of the original trilogy and have pretty much blown away all of today’s current comics in terms of sales. Just as Disney plans to milk the brand for all it's worth with multiple spin-off films over the next few years, Marvel is going to be putting out lots of different Star Wars comics as well. In addition to the main title, we know about two additional books, all set during the same post-Episode IV time period: A forthcoming Princess Leia solo series and this week’s debut of a comic starring Darth Vader.

Vader is an interesting choice to headline his own series. It takes place in the middle of his character arc that the first two trilogies established, beginning right after his humiliating defeat at the battle of the Death Star. We’ll get to watch his attempt to redeem himself in the eyes of the Emperor while wrestling with his past and slowly coming to realize who this Rebel pilot Luke Skywalker actually is. It’s also interesting for a series to star a character whose face and emotions are hidden behind an immovable mask, but Marvel has brought in two creators whose experience working on Iron Man comics will probably come in handy. Salvador Larroca’s skill at drawing photo-realistic machinery makes him a good fit for a Vader book and a match for the cinematic work Cassady is doing on the main title. He’ll be working with superstar writer Kieron Gillen (Iron Man, Young Avengers, The Wicked + The Divine), showing again that Marvel is putting their heavy hitters on these Star Wars comics.

Here’s a preview.


2. Tonya

By Katie Skelly

Darth Vader is not the only comic out this week about a great villain of the 20th century. There’s also Katie Skelly’s mini-comic about Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding. Skelly delves into something akin to an origin story for Harding—complete with talking wolves and mother issues—which leads up to the fateful moment she decides to take out her competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. It’s a comic that doesn’t take itself too seriously but fits in nicely with Skelly’s still young oeuvre of bad-girl comics.

Skelly has hit the mini-comics scene in a big way over the past few years after her Barbarella-inspired debut Nurse Nurse and last year’s critically acclaimed biker chick/runaway comic Operation Margarine. Her work mixes elements of manga and Eurocomics into an appealingly lo-fi but stylish package. At only 13 pages, Tonya is a quick little comic that will probably feel like it ends suddenly, but this is a result of Skelly having fun and using the web to get some comics out quickly and easily.

You can buy a digital copy of Tonya for the suggested price of $2 via the Gumroad download service.


3. Love & Rockets: New Stories #7

By Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez

Since the Hernandez brothers transformed their classic long-running comic Love & Rockets into an annual 100-page softcover book, its release has become an event among fans of literary, independent comics. The wait has been a little bit longer than usual this time, but the 7th issue is here this week and it contains, as usual, a nice mix of stories from both brothers. Gilbert continues to take characters from his Palomar epic and place them into science-fiction and fantasy settings through the vehicle of B-movies. Popular buxom B-movie actress Fritz stars in a story about Aladdin and the magic lamp while another story flashes back to the life of Fritz’s mother, Maria (previously seen in the graphic novel Maria M). Meanwhile, Jaime continues the story of Maggie and Ray, in which Maggie goes out of town, leaving Ray on his own to do as he will.

There aren’t a lot of comics that come out annually like this and the Hernandez brothers have been making that format work for them for a strong seven years now.

Fantagraphics has a preview that gives you a taste of two stories from each of the brothers.


4. Intelligent Sentient?

By Luke Ramsey
Drawn & Quarterly

Luke Ramsey is an illustrator as well as an artist who tends to work in large public spaces, creating giant murals and installations with lots of intricate, almost intestinal design patterns. His style is like Keith Haring updated for the Adventure Time generation. Intelligent Sentient?, published by Drawn & Quarterly, is his first graphic novel and is maybe more of an art book. It consists entirely of double-page spreads printed in a wide, horizontal format with one scene after another of wonderfully trippy landscapes. Ramsey has even enlisted some artists with a very similar style such as Michael DeForge and Jesse Jacobs to contribute scenes that seamlessly mesh with his own. There is also a Haring-like figure that makes its way through these weird environments in silent contemplation. This is all not to say there aren't some hints of a story going on, but whatever it is may be somewhat beside the point.

Drawn & Quarterly has some preview images here.


5. The Bloody Footprint

By Lilli Carré
The New York Times

Webcomic fans sometimes wonder what the future of the medium will look like. Should they have more animation? Should they be long-scrolling or avoid the scroll altogether? Will they become more widespread or give way to downloadable digital comics? Lilli Carré’s short comic about memory, "The Bloody Footprint," is a great example of a webcomic that hits on some of these questions.

Similar to the envelope-pushing webcomics we’ve seen from people like Emily Carroll, Jen Lee, and Boulet, “The Bloody Footprint" embraces today’s trend in long-scrolling web pages and utilizes animated gifs in a subtle way that adds greatly to the story without turning it into something that’s more animation than comic. It also happens to appear in the Opinion section of The New York Times, a place that traditionally uses illustrated op-eds, but perhaps has used nothing before that could be considered a full-blown webcomic. In the past few years we’ve been seeing webcomics pop up on more and more large online publications—from Boing Boing to The Guardian to Vice to Slate—and now we can add The New York Times to the list.

As far as the comic itself, which came out last Thursday, it’s an ethereal and dreamlike reflection on memory and how witnessing an event can sometimes get conflated with experiencing it. It’s a subject that is very much in the news these days due to the recent suspension of NBC News anchorman Brian Williams.

Go ahead and read the comic here.