The Most Interesting Comics of the Week
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. Spider-Gwen #1
By Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi
Late last year, two comics released within weeks of each other seemed to satisfy an itch that Marvel and DC didn’t seem to realize fans had. One was Batgirl, which swept aside DC’s recent penchant for grisly violence to make way for a lighter tone that now seems to be permeating their upcoming wave of books. The other was the second issue of Edge of Spider-Verse, a mini-series that was merely meant as a prelude to an upcoming Spider-man storyline and one that introduced an alternate-universe version of Peter Parker’s long-deceased girlfriend Gwen Stacy, who was bitten by that same old radioactive spider. “Spider-Gwen,” as she was affectionately called by fans and the creative team, was a big hit online from the moment artist Robbi Rodriguez posted the first image of her costume. She was never meant to carry on beyond that Spider-Verse event, but with Edge of Spider-Verse #2 now in its fourth printing, Marvel quickly realized it had a hit on its hands and put the same creative team to work on an ongoing series.
Both Batgirl and Spider-Gwen seemed to hit a chord with the same group of comic readers that often feel ignored by Marvel and DC: 20-something female readers who want a hip, fun comic about a super heroine that isn’t overly sexualized for the sole benefit of her male audience. The designs for both characters also tapped into an energy around cosplaying and fan art that talented young artists post all over social media.
What really makes Spider-Gwen work is the enthusiastic, tight-knit creative team behind it that you can tell has really gone all-in on a concept that probably has no right to be this good. Jason Latour (a double-threat, writing comics like Wolverine & The X-men while at the same time drawing comics like Southern Bastards) along with artist Robbi Rodriguez and colorist Rico Renzi (both from Vertigo’s FBP) are working on this book at a point when their careers are about to take off in a big way (this could be what sets that off).
By Ariel Ries
Ariel Ries is an animation student from Australia who has been working on her first webcomic, Witchy, since January 2014 and has been updating it on a weekly basis. Witchy takes place in a kingdom called Hyalin, which is protected by a military-style Witch Guard. The strength of one's witch-ness is determined by the length of their hair, and the strong are conscripted into the Guard. However, those with hair that is too long are hunted down and burned to death. The focus of the story is a teenage girl named Nyneve who goes to a witch school but hides her hair length which is long enough to mark her for death—exactly what happened to her father, years ago.
What makes Witchy interesting, besides being a fun comic with absolutely wonderful drawings, is that it bases its world and its magic on South Asian and Islamic influences rather than overused Western ones. This influence spreads to the ethnicities of its diverse cast: Nyneve is Afghan/Indian while other characters are mixtures of Mongolian, Chinese, Tibetan, and other Southeast Asian heritages. Most interesting though is a character named Prill, who is a trans gender teenage girl. She’s tough and sassy but with a lot of heart and is generally a great trans-positive character, which we don’t see a lot of in any media.
3. Seraphim: 266613336 Wings
By Mamoru Oshii and Satoshi Kon
Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics is continuing to bring us never-before-translated editions of books by the late Satoshi Kon, the Japanese manga artist and anime director who died of pancreatic cancer in 2010 at the age of 47. Kon was a fantastic, detail-oriented artist who became primarily an anime director later in life, responsible for such films as Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers. In Seraphim: 266613336 Wings (or just Seraphim if we want to be reasonable here), he was drawing a story written by another famous anime director, Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell). The story was originally serialized in the 1990s but, unfortunately, the two men had differences about the direction it was taking and never completed it.
Seraphim takes place in a future where an incurable virus that causes the afflicted to sprout angelic wings is ravaging the world. A military unit under orders from the World Health Organization accompanies a mysterious young girl named Sera and her basset hound companion (whose droopy presence makes this a true Oshii story) into the heart of the most devastated regions of Central Asia in order to determine the cause of the epidemic. It’s initially a slow burn drama that takes its time painting a picture of the political landscape of this apocalyptic setting before erupting into an action-packed race against time to save the world’s last hope.
4. Criminal Special Edition One-shot
By Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips recently established an exclusive deal with Image Comics that includes bringing Criminal in from its original home under Marvel’s creator-owned imprint ICON. Criminal is single-handedly responsible for rejuvenating the crime genre in comics and may even be the greatest crime comic ever made. Image has been slowly re-releasing the six volumes of previously published material, and Brubaker and Phillips launched their new Image deal with the 1950s Hollywood-noir series The Fade Out which sees its first collected volume hit stores this week.
After completing the first story arc of The Fade Out, the duo are finally returning to the world of Criminal after a number of years (with the addition of new colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser) with a one-issue special edition that includes a variant printed in an oversize format to echo the great comics magazines of the 1970s like Savage Sword of Conan. Criminal and Conan may not seem to make sense together until you read this issue that takes place in a prison in 1976, but begins inside a sword-and-sorcery style comic that is being read by inmate and Criminal regular Teeg Lawless. The real star of Criminal has always been Sean Phillips and his ability to portray the genre stylings of any era, and it is fun to see him stretch that ability jumping back and forth from gritty realism to comic-booky barbarians.