This Week's New Comics: Superman's Secret Identity Exposed
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.
By Gene Luen Yang, John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Dean White
This month, DC has emerged from its Convergence event with a renewed vigor and creative energy that we haven’t seen since its line-wide reboot in 2011. They have introduced titles like Bizarro, Starfire, and Midnighter that take a fresh look at characters who weren’t getting a fair shake before. They’ve also brought in new creative teams to shake up the stagnant “house style” that was making their books feel dated and uninspired.
The most interesting and surprising addition to their stable of talent is, without a doubt, Gene Luen Yang, a writer associated with the more literary end of comics publishing who will now be the regular writer on Superman, joining artist John Romita, Jr. who is another interesting recent addition to DC after spending his entire career drawing for Marvel.
Yang has won awards and critical acclaim for every graphic novel he has ever written, starting with his breakout 2006 book American Born Chinese. He often writes about the Chinese-American perspective, and his most recent, last year’s The Shadow Hero, told the story of a Chinese immigrant family’s struggle with assimilation through the lens of a superhero origin. It was one of the most enjoyable superhero comics of the decade and showed that Yang understands what makes superheroes entertaining in a way that too many comics creators do not.
Superman is one of the great metaphors of assimilation but, right out of the gate, Yang (along with Greg Pak who is writing the Superman companion title Action Comics) shatters that allusion by destroying Superman’s secret identity. In a surprise turn of events that was revealed in DC’s Free Comic Book Day sampler last month, Lois Lane will write an article for the Daily Planet outing Superman as Clark Kent. This is a controversial move that not only takes away a major ingredient of Superman stories, but it also runs the risk of damaging Lois in the eyes of fans who may not easily forgive her, even if she’s just doing her job as a reporter.
Russian Olive to Red King
By Kathryn and Stuart Immonen
As Gene Luen Yang makes the jump from literary to superhero comics, a successful model for him to follow is Stuart and Kathryn Immonen. The married writer-artist team is a unique pair in the comics industry in that they can move between mainstream comics (Star Wars, X-men) to the occasional literary graphic novel.
Their latest graphic novel, one they’ve been working on in between various Marvel projects since 2010, is Russian Olive and Red King, and it will be released this week through the design-oriented boutique publisher Adhouse Books. The story, which the Immonens describe self-deprecatingly as "a romance that isn’t romantic, a ghost story that isn’t frightening,” is broken into two parts: the first is about Russian Olive who, after a plane crash, is trying to get back to her love, Red King. The second is told in illustrated prose in the form of Red’s letter to Olive.
This is a personal project for the couple, one they admit is hard to describe in easily marketable terms. But the strength of their recent collaborations like Snipe and Moving Pictures—and the fact that this just looks stunning in its presentation, with Stuart’s rich colors and subdued, realistic cartooning—makes this a must-see.
By Max de Radiguès
Joey is a timid high school student who is relentlessly and horrifically bullied by a kid named Jason. Joey finds solace and escape from this brutality by avoiding Jason’s torments on the bus and instead walking to and from school through the snowy woods where he finds an almost spiritual connection to nature, especially when he comes face to face with a large moose.
Belgian cartoonist Max de Radiguès originally serialized the English edition of his comic Moose through the boutique mini-comic publisher Oily Comics a few years back. This was a great fit because de Radiguès’ stark and delicate line work is reminiscent of the work of Oily founder Charles Forsman (TEOTFW). Now, Canadian publisher Conundrum Press has packaged the story in a 160-page graphic novel with a wonderful color cover.
At one point, the story seems like it’s going to become My Bodyguard with a moose in the place of the Adam Baldwin character, but it takes a dark and surprising turn. The ending makes you consider the harsh consequences of bullying and how it can irreparably damage both the victim and the aggressor’s sense of morality.
Moose was officially released last month and may not be available in all comic book shops. Ask your local shop about ordering it or find out more at Conundrum’s website.
The Secret Loves of Geek Girls
Edited by Hope Nicholson with various creators
Coming on the heels of the success of the Fresh Romance Kickstarter is another anthology that looks to bring back romance-themed comics for a modern audience. The Secret Loves of Geek Girls is a project curated by small-press comics publisher Hope Nicholson, whose stated goal is to bring together the stories “we tell each other but never make public” about love, dating, and sex.
Where the “geek” aspect comes in is what makes these individual stories stand out. There’s a comic by Meags Fitzgerald about how her “pre-teen love of Sailor Moon” affected her budding interest in sex. Roberta Gregory tells about the downsides of making adult comics for the past 50 years of her life. Sam Maggs and Selene Goulding tell an illustrated prose story about “Bioware crushes.” Brandy Lynn has a story told via text messages about flirting while playing D&D.
Headlining the book is the godmother of geek girl fiction, novelist Margaret Atwood, who actually draws her own comic about her own young adulthood for this book. There's also a reprint of some of Danielle Corsetto’s highly popular webcomic Girls with Slingshots and lots of other comics by up-and-coming female creators like Irene Koh, Sarah Winifred Searle, Jen Vaughn and many more.