The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Rich Barrett
Lissa Treiman/Boom! Studios
Lissa Treiman/Boom! Studios / Lissa Treiman/Boom! Studios

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. Frankenstein Underground #1

By Mike Mignola, Ben Stenbeck and Dave Stewart
Dark Horse Comics

Frankenstein Underground is a new four-issue mini series in which Mike Mignola brings Mary Shelley’s classic creation into his own universe of creatures—the so-called Mignola-verse, home of Hellboy, Abe Sapien, and many monsters from myths and fables like Baba Yaga and the Devil himself. This is by no means the first time Frankenstein's monster (who is in the public domain with the exception of the green, flat-headed version copyrighted by Universal Pictures) has appeared in some form or another in comics and, technically, this isn’t even Frankenstein’s first appearance in the Mignola-verse. In the 2011 graphic novel House of the Living Dead, we briefly saw him tangle with Hellboy in a wrestling match in Mexico. This new comic picks up shortly after that fight, with Frankenstein wandering in a state of existential crisis, unsure if he is monster or man. Before long, he finds himself underground and surrounded by Mignola’s typically decrepit monsters, idols, and crypts.

Mignola is writing this series, while Ben Stenbeck, his collaborator on the vampire comic Baltimore, provides the art. Stenbeck’s style is less graphic and iconic than Mignola’s, which gives this a little more of a straightforward feel than the dark, otherworldliness of Hellboy. As with Hellboy companion titles B.P.R.D.and Abe Sapien, though, it still manages to be recognizable as the gothic world of horror that Mignola has been building for years. Mignola claims that this series will tell a complete story, with no plans to have Frank sticking around and running with the B.P.R.D. crew in the future. Here’s a preview.


2. Sexcastle

By Kyle Starks
Image Comics

I wrote about Kyle Starks’ graphic novel Sexcastle last year when he was running a Kickstarter to fund its printing. It was one of the best surprises I’ve come across since writing this column and probably the funniest comic I’ve read in years. I wasn’t alone in my love of Sexcastle, which built up a lot of good word-of-mouth over the year, leading to the book being picked up and distributed by creator-owned comics giant Image Comics.

Sexcastle is for anyone who loves ‘80s action films. Its hero, Shane Sexcastle, is an amalgam of Kurt Russell, Patrick Swayze, and David Carradine. He’s a manly killing machine who must defend a small town (including the single mom and her son who have managed to break through his hard exterior) from a league of assassins that resemble Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, Mr. T., and others. Starks perfectly captures and then playfully skewers everything you love about this era of Hollywood manliness. Here’s an extended preview.


3. Giant Days #1

John Allison, Lissa Treiman and Whitney Cogar
Boom! Studios

John Allison is one of the great webcomic pioneers, having created some long-running works over the last 15 years like Scary Go Round and Bad Machinery. He specializes in establishing ensemble casts of enduring characters and then, after a few years, spinning off one or two into a new series. That’s how Giant Days originally came to be, taking Scary Go Round’s goth teen Esther De Groot and building a new ensemble of characters around her exploits in college.

Now, Allison is taking his comics to a new level and to an audience of print comic readers (which is probably a lot smaller than his webcomic audience, truthfully) with his first comic from a major publisher—Boom! Studios. Giant Days is a six-issue mini series featuring Esther and her friends Susan, Daisy, and Ed, all familiar characters from past Giant Days comics but reintroduced here for new readers. The comic is primarily about the friendship (and antagonism) between the three girls as they navigate through their new lives in school, but there are some barely-there bits of magical wackiness thrown in, too. In this first issue, the girls make a bet that Esther can’t go a week without causing some sort of drama around her (and sometimes that drama does seem to be supernatural in origin), but when a guy from Susan’s past shows up, the drama suddenly seems to revolve around her.

One big difference between this Giant Days and previous iterations is that Allison is not drawing this one. He is working with artist Lissa Treiman, who was once such a big fan of his webcomics that she would send him art before breaking into the scene herself. While Allison’s strengths are his witty dialogue and strong character development, it’s hard not to miss his expressive and gestural drawing style here. That said, Treiman is pretty expressive and gestural herself, and with Whitney Cogar’s painterly colors, the comic takes on a look that is very much in Boom!’s house style but with Allison’s influence showing. Take a look.


4. Invisible Republic #1

By Corinna Bechko, Gabriel Hardman and Jordan Boyd
Image Comics

Husband and wife creative team Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman describe their new series from Image Comics as “Breaking Bad meets Blade Runner.” One look at protagonist Arthur McBride—a bearded, bespectacled everyman who somehow becomes a Stalin-like dictator—and the dark, futuristic setting that Hardman’s art captures so well will put that analogy in your mind right away. Hardman is a storyboard and concept artist for such films as Inception and X-men, so he knows how to pull off the cinematic, but he’s also steeped in influences like the works of Al Williamson and Alex Raymond, who were skilled newspaper strip artists of old. This gives his work a classic expressiveness and energy that many artists who work in “realism” don’t have.

The main thrust of the story in Invisible Republic comes from a journalist who uncovers documents about McBride’s past, revealing the identity of a woman named Maia who seems to have been expunged from all historical records. Behind every strong man is a woman whose contributions have been belittled or erased altogether, so this comic looks like it will explore some interesting political and emotional issues amidst the sci-fi spectacle. Here’s a preview.


5. Lighten Up

By Ronald Wimberly
The Nib

Ronald Wimberly is an African-American cartoonist who has done a lot of work recently for Marvel (Wolverine & the X-men and She-Hulk most notably). In the short comic Lighten Up for’s The Nib, Wimberly discusses race and skin color and how comic book colorists (and their editors) handle it. How to choose the right skin tone for ethnic characters can result in some uncomfortable editorial mandates, especially when those editors are white.

Wimberly’s description of skin color context is almost reminiscent of the whole online white-gold/blue-black dress debate from a couple of weeks back, in that it examines how color can rely a lot on other environmental factors and our own biology. Give it a read here.