The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Rich Barrett
Sho Murase/Marvel Comics
Sho Murase/Marvel Comics / Sho Murase/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. All New Hawkeye #1

By Jeff Lemire, Ramon Perez and Ian Herring
Marvel Comics

I don’t think too many people would disagree that the best comic Marvel has put out in the past 5 years has been Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Annie Wu’s Hawkeye. They took a character that hasn’t been used effectively throughout his 50 year history and turned him into Marvel’s coolest, most fallible, and most human superhero ever. The down-to-earth, “This is what he does when he’s not being an Avenger” approach has influenced almost every Marvel solo title to come out since.

Fraction, Aja, and Wu’s run has come to an end, making room for a new creative team and a new series. Marvel has made the smart move to match this character with another team that matches the indie/superhero crossover appeal of the last guys. Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez are both Eisner Award winners who have made names for themselves both in and outside of superhero comics (Lemire with his Essex County trilogy and graphic novels like Underwater Welder, Perez with his gorgeous adaptation of Jim Henson’s Tales of Sand). Perez's clean but expressive style brings some nice visual continuity with Aja's previous work. This is Lemire’s first book for Marvel after spending the last few years at DC where he actually wrote for Hawkeye’s counterpart, Green Arrow.

Lemire tends to tell stories about family—boyhood, in particular—so it’s no surprise that his initial story arc will split time between action in the present day and flashbacks to Clint Barton’s childhood and his relationship with his brother, Barney. The present-day side of things will look to further develop Clint’s relationship with his understudy—the scene-stealing other Hawkeye, Kate Bishop.

Here’s a preview.


2. Descender #1

By Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
Image Comics

Jeff Lemire is one of the most prolific writers in comics today, so it’s not surprising that he has two big debuts hitting in one week. Descender is a new science fiction series about an investigation to discover who or what created a group of planet-destroying robots called Harvesters. The source of the mystery may revolve around a robot boy named TIM-21 who “wakes up” one morning to find his human family dead and himself all alone on a mining colony in deep space. As mentioned in regards to Hawkeye, Lemire tends to write stories from the perspective of young boys, making TIM-21 the prototypical Lemire protagonist, even though this is a very different kind of story than we’ve seen from him so far.

Dustin Nguyen’s fully painted watercolors, sans any inked line work, are airier and more painterly than what we tend to see in most American science fiction comics—but they are epic in scale and give a great sense of foreboding. See for yourself in this preview. By the way, Sony pictures has already optioned the film rights for this comic well before the first issue hits the stands, so look for the buzz to continue to build.


3. MFK

By Nilah Magruder

Last week at the Long Beach Comics Expo in Long Beach, CA, the inaugural Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity was presented to surprise recipient Nila Magruder for her webcomic MFK. Magruder’s self-published comic beat out better known nominees like Marvel’s Ms. Marvel, First Second’s The Shadow Hero, and Dynamite Entertainment's Shaft. The award, created in the name of the influential African-American television and comic book writer who passed away unexpectedly in 2011 at the age of 49, is designed to celebrate comics that boast diversity and inclusion.

Magruder’s comic, which has been running strong since 2012 with over 100 pages of story so far, is a sci-fi fantasy about a young girl named Abbie who just wants to quietly scatter her mother’s ashes across a mountain range and then move on with her life. Her trek becomes an epic journey and she makes friends and enemies along the way as Magruder develops the world of this comic and the cast of characters that populate it.

Magruder, like many webcomic creators, works in the animation industry, and her artwork is very much a mix of Western and Japanese styles with page after page of stunning compositions. This award will probably bring MFK a lot of deserved attention, and Magruder, who is still relatively brand new to the comics industry, is bound to become a star to watch in the future.

Go catch up on MFK now.


4. Guardians Team-Up #1

By Brian Michael Bendis, Art Adams and Paul Mounts
Marvel Comics

As the surprise hit of Marvel’s cinematic universe, Guardians of the Galaxy has quickly changed the visibility and importance of the comic book property it was based on, which was previously confined to one series that had been canceled back in 2010 after just 25 issues. With a new Guardians of the Galaxy comic written by Brian Michael Bendis going strong, the Guardians are ready to follow the model of other successful superhero franchises by branching out with spin-off titles, guest appearances in tons of comics, and now the launch of a second ongoing Guardians title (also written by Mr. Bendis).

Guardians Team-Up will pair everyone’s favorite team of intergalactic misfits and cut-ups such as Rocket, Groot, Gamora, Drax, and the rest with characters from all across the Marvel Universe, starting with no less than the Avengers. What will get longtime comic book fans most interested in this will be the series artist: veteran fan-favorite Art Adams (remembered most fondly for his epic Uncanny X-men and New Mutants annuals back in the ‘80s) whose intricate line work and exaggerated figures single-handedly inspired an entire era of comic book artists like Rob Liefeld and Todd MacFarlane.

Here’s a preview.


5. Inner City Romance

By Guy Colwell

In 1972, Guy Colwell had just been released from serving two years in a minimum security prison for draft dodging, and he began working on the first in his series of underground comix, titled Inner City Romance. Drawing on his observations in prison and hanging around the ‘70s San Francisco drug scene, Colwell wrote and illustrated stories that were mainly about black men, drugs, and lots and lots of sex.

At first look, a white man making sexually charged underground comics about black culture in the era of R. Crumb seems like it would be an uncomfortable read, and some of Colwell’s drawings can teeter on the edge of racial caricature. However, he is authentic and sincere in his effort to tell stories from a black POV (to the point that readers at the time actually assumed he was black himself).

The best of his comics may be the one that opens the book, in which three men (two black and one white) get out of prison and embark on an endless bacchanal of drugs and sex to make up for lost time. One of the two black men, however, does not partake in the scene and instead ponders the choices that are now available to him.

Like much of Colwell’s work, it is political in nature but easily drifts off into hardcore pornography. His artistic influences are founded more in fine art and urban street art than comics, and the detail of his work is ambitious, sometimes overshooting his artistic ability at the time. His renderings could get insanely detailed, especially when depicting sexual acts which go from being pornographic to diagrammatic and back, but some of his best scenes are when he’s trying to convey out of body experiences like the vibrating psychedelia of an acid trip or the unknowable transcendence of the wandering mind of a teenage boy falling to his death.

This new softcover collection from Fantagraphics includes never-before reprinted issues from the original series and comments about each issue from Colwell himself. It also showcases a lot of his non-comics work—paintings of layers of people that show his skills as an observationist. Here is a preview.


6. Princess Leia #1

By Mark Waid, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson and Jordie Bellaire
Marvel Comics

After the launch of both Star Wars and Darth Vader, a new Star Wars comic from Marvel isn’t exactly news anymore. However, the third book in this first wave of comics features the sole female character from the original trilogy (apologies to Mon Mothma and that one dancer from Jabba’s palace), so it will be interesting to watch this book from a sales perspective. How will it fare with fanboys compared to the other books? Will the fangirls get behind it and help boost sales?

Initial orders are lower than the Darth Vader book, but those are pre-orders for comic book stores (notoriously catering more toward male shopping tastes than female). We’ll have to watch digital sales and look for 2nd printings to get the full story. It should also be noted that, unlike Star Wars and Darth Vader, this is not an ongoing series, but rather a 5-issue mini.

As with Marvel’s other Star Wars comics, they’re putting some big creative guns behind this. Mark Waid, known for his fun, classic takes on superhero characters like Superman and Daredevil, teams with artist Terry Dodson, who is known for drawing beautiful, statuesque women in comics like Wonder Woman and Uncanny X-men. Dodson, unlike Star Wars artist John Cassady, looks like he will be less beholden to photo reference of the actors and will be drawing Leia in his own visual style. Also like with the other books, Princess Leia takes place immediately after Episode IV, so we’ll see Leia learning to deal with the fact that her home planet of Alderaan has been destroyed. Here is a preview.