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 Mark Waid and Fiona Staples
Over the last couple of years, Archie Comics has become one of the more audacious comics publishers, taking all kinds of risks with their brand and characters that have gotten people talking (in both good ways and bad). Their latest bold move is the kind of reboot we’ve seen publishers like DC attempt with their own aging properties.
Archie #1, the first in a line of re-launched titles (Betty & Veronica, Life with Kevin, and Jughead are to follow), is a fresh re-imagining of the Riverdale gang in an attempt to appeal to younger, modern readers. Gone is the four-color, Dan DeCarlo-created aesthetic from the 1960s that we’ve come to associate with the comic. Into its place steps the more realistic yet highly expressive art of Fiona Staples.
Staples has become a name that sells comics and for good reason. Her work is character-driven, which is perfect for a teen comedy book, but she is also an inventive and interesting storyteller. She and writer Mark Waid (Daredevil) take the basic elements of a typical Archie story (Archie goofing off, trying to impress Betty, getting unexpected words of wisdom from Jughead) and freshens it up with the snappy pacing of a 21st century television comedy, complete with montages and a lot of talking to the "camera." These Riverdale teens look and sound more stylish, contemporary, and diverse while still retaining some of that 1950s wholesomeness that is a big part of their appeal.
As an added bonus, this issue also contains the very first Archie comic strip which appeared back in 1941. It’s a fun artifact included not just to highlight the changes of the new Archie but also to show that the cores of the characters were pretty much there from the start.
Here is a preview (you’ll have to scroll past the downright ridiculous number of variant covers in order to get to some actual story pages).
Bandes Dessinées on Comixology
Dessinées (“BD") is a French term meaning “drawn strips” and is used to describe Franco-Belgian comics encompassing a broad swath of material. Like manga in Japan, BD stands out for its sheer variety of content. You can find comics about almost anything (although generally not superheroes), and the artwork is usually of a very high quality. The biggest publisher of this material in Europe is Delcourt, which was founded in 1986 and has amassed an enormous library of comics. Still, translated editions have only infrequently made it to the States.
Starting this week, Delcourt will begin selling English editions from their vast library through Comixology, the biggest digital comics distributor. Initially, they are releasing six titles, three of which are digital-first comics making their debut on Comixology. There is a nice range of material here from horror-tinged war comics to dating comedies. The stand-outs of this batch include:
Come Prima by Alfred
All six of these books have outstanding art, so it says a lot that Come Prima is the most beautiful of the bunch. Written and drawn by the singularly named Alfred, this 224-page graphic novel won the Best Comic Award at Angoulême in 2014. It is set in the 1960s and tells the story of two brothers begrudgingly traveling home to Italy and confronting their animosity towards each other, their father, and their own past mistakes.
Promethee by Christophe Bec and Sébastien Gérard
Not to be confused with Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, this is also a foreboding tale of space exploration and impending apocalypse with heavy themes of Greek mythology baked into it. This first issue sets up the mystery and parallels to the Greek titans’ fall from grace, and it is a compelling start with some cinematic artwork by Bec.
Joséphine by Pénélope Bagieu
Bagieu made her American debut this year with Exquisite Corpse from First Second books, but she has been a phenomenon in France ever since comics like Joséphine, which debuted in 2008 and was later adapted into a live action French film. It collects a series of humorous webcomic strips about a young woman dating, working for a fashion magazine, and being an all-around likable, accident-prone goof.
Fans of The Walking Dead will also want to check out the WWI-era horror comic The Curse of the Wendigo which is drawn by Charlie Adlard. You can browse and purchase the books from Comixology’s website.
By Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa
Dark Horse Comics
Zan Jensen is a disgraced Olympic snowboarder who has ended up addicted to drugs and working in Nepal with a man named Haskell Price. Together they extort the families of climbers who have died on Mount Everest for the expense of retrieving their bodies. When one of the bodies they come across ends up being a rogue government agent, Zan and Haskell find themselves in over their heads—and in grave danger when the black ops agency he ran from comes looking for his body.
The great concept behind Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa’s High Crimes propelled it to two Eisner Award nominations when it was initially serialized as a digital comic through the digital-first publisher MonkeyBrain. Now that all 12 issues have been released, it is making its debut in print as a complete hardcover graphic novel from Dark Horse Comics. The critical acclaim for this comic put Sebela on the map, leading to work from Marvel and Boom! Studios, including the recent and ongoing Escape from New York series. The true star of High Crimes however is Moustafa, whose drawing style is reminiscent of detail-oriented artists like Sean Gordon Murphy. Although there is quite a bit of action (and lots of extreme climbing), most of the drama is Zan’s struggle with herself, and Moustafa depicts that internal drama well.
Invader Zim #1
By Jhonen Vasquez, Aaron Alexovich, Megan Lawton and Simon Trousselier
Jhonen Vasquez's animated TV series Invader Zim was a cult hit in the early 2000s that was canceled after just two seasons. Its fans have not forgotten it, however. Vasquez, who got his start in comics in the 1990s with his influential independent comic Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, recently realized that returning to this medium would be the perfect way to continue all the Zim stories he still had in his head.
Invader Zim is about an alien who is sent to infiltrate Earth as a joke. Zim doesn’t catch on that he’s being made fun of and earnestly begins his work of spying on humans like Dib and Dib's sister, who quickly figure out that Zim is an alien. Like many of the recent comics that pick up where canceled TV shows left off, this is probably not made for the uninitiated, but diehard fans of the show will be delighted to see it return. Plus, fans of Vasquez’ early Johnny the Homicidal Maniac will be happy to see him back in comics even if he is only writing.
In Search of Lost Time: Swann's Way
By Stéphane Heuet; translated by Arthur Goldhammer
W.W. Norton & Company
Many people may be curious about the work of Marcel Proust but doubt their ability to read and comprehend the French author’s famously long and dense novels. If so, Stéphane Heuet may have an option for you. In an attempt to give readers a more accessible gateway to Proust’s most famous work, Heuet has attempted a graphic novel adaptation of In Search of Lost Time. The seven-volume novel about the nature of recollection famously begins with Proust dipping a madeleine in his tea, triggering a flood of memories about his childhood and his mother and proceeds to build a circular narrative between past and present.
Heuet first tackles volume one, Swann’s Way, with English translation by Arthur Goldhammer. While the idea is akin to something like a Cliff’s Notes version of Proust, it is interesting to note the struggle involved in paring down a complicated work known for the elegance of its prose into a visual medium while still hoping to retain at least some of what makes the original work important.
There is a lot of pressure put on the artwork, which is serviceable but gets overwhelmed by the amount of text still needed to retain the original narrative's meaning. Compound that with the task of translating it from French to English and you get a graphic novel that hopes, at best, to light a spark of interest in the reader who will someday graduate to the original.