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.
Judge Dredd: America
By John Wagner, Colin MacNeil
In 1990, John Wagner and Colin MacNeil serialized a different kind of Judge Dredd story in Judge Dredd Megazine, a publication Wagner created to tell more sophisticated and mature stories. Up to that point, most Dredd stories had been broad satires of the U.S. criminal justice system, but since they were read through Dredd's point of view, readers were compelled to get a kick out of his overly harsh sentencing—even of the most benign perps. In "America," however, Dredd becomes a background figure seen through the eyes of two new characters, and his fascist tactics no longer seem so funny.
Even though it is considered the best Dredd story of all time and Wagner’s own personal favorite, "America" and its two sequels have never been easy to find here in the States. This week, British publisher Rebellion will release a collection of the whole trilogy called Judge Dredd: America. It seems an appropriate time to reintroduce this classic, as the first story is about citizens protesting police brutality, which gets new relevance in today’s post-Ferguson landscape. Additionally, “Fading of the Light" focuses on a character who has a very sci-fi version of gender reassignment surgery, and the sympathetic view the story takes of him seems ahead of its time.
“Fading of the Light” was published six years after “America,” and the third chapter, “Cadet,” came ten years after that. What makes Judge Dredd stories remarkable is how they play out in “real time,” so we actually see sixteen years pass and one character, America Beeny, go from a little girl born under unusual circumstances to a Cadet in the Academy of Law training under Dredd’s tutelage.
Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1
By Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie first broke onto the scene with their 2006 mini-series Phonogram, which examined magic and its correlation to music, specifically ‘90s Britpop. After making their names in the mainstream with a popular and acclaimed run on Marvel’s Young Avengers, the two hit the big time last year with their creator-owned The Wicked + The Divine, which was recently optioned for a TV series. Now, they return to their first hit as veritable indie comic superstars, and they have honed their craft quite a bit since.
Phonogram and WicDiv share some obvious similarities, mixing Gillen and McKelvie’s affection for pop music and the supernatural. Phonogram may seem like WicDiv-lite to new Gillen/McKelvie fans with its narrower focus in both areas. Compared to the original series or its 2008 sequel, this six-issue series benefits immensely from how much McKelvie has advanced as an artist, especially since teaming with colorist Matthew Wilson. The fun of Phonogram was always the clever covers that mimicked classic ‘90s album art. This time around, they go back to the ‘80s, as the name of the series and the Nagel-inspired cover may imply. (There is a particularly great scene within the book that will please any A-Ha fans out there.)
By Joshua Hale Fialkov, Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo
Jet City Comics
Ever since the success of The Walking Dead there has been a flood of dark, nihilistic survivalist comics about post-apocalyptic America. But with Joshua Hale Fialkov and Bernard Chang’s King we get a refreshingly comedic look at dystopia.
King is the name of the last human on earth and he’s got a job making runs for Los Angeles' Department of Reclamation, a bureaucratic organization run by mutant middle managers. Like any Angeleno he has to deal with nightmarish traffic, but in King’s case that means dodging hyper-intelligent dinosaurs and musclebound duck/human-hybrid biker gangs to get to work every day. With a lot of L.A.-specific jokes about navigating the 405 and the San Fernando valley, King reads like a post-apocalyptic version of that Saturday Night Live skit "The Californians."
DC Bombshells #1
By Marguerite Bennett and Marguerite Sauvage
You’d be forgiven for thinking a comic titled DC Bombshells was simply an exploitative book of heroine pin-ups posing seductively for male readers. You might dismiss it even quicker if you found out it is a new comic based on a line of collectible statues of the same name. But you’d actually be missing out on a very pro-feminist superhero comic with some of the best artwork of the year. It is written and drawn by the two Marguerites—Bennett and Sauvage—and they represent a new wave of young creators at DC who bring a diversity of style, background, and voice that break drastically from the company’s “House Style” of the past decade.
This new ongoing series debuted recently as a “Digital First” title on Comixology and it makes its debut in print this week. The comic is set in an alternate universe where the heroes of WWII are all women. In this first issue we meet familiar characters like Batwoman, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and Suicide Squad’s Amanda Waller, but they are set in a new time period with new backstories (Supergirl was raised in Russia and fights on the side of the Soviet army; Kathy Kane is a pro baseball player and wields an actual bat as Batwoman). Marguerite Sauvage’s art, with its soft, gauzy lines and colors perfectly nails the WWII-era style, looking like cels from a classic animated film.
By Jeremy Haun and Jason A. Hurley
A few years back, publisher Top Cow ran an annual contest called “Pilot Season” in which they published one-issue “pilots” for potential new series and let readers vote which ones should continue. For whatever reason, many of the winners took a long time to come to light (and some never have), but this week the 2011 winner, Beauty, gets its official first issue from Image Comics.
In Beauty, there is an STD running rampant in the U.S., though it is one that people actually want to catch. Those afflicted with the disease become physically beautiful, and now half the country’s population have contracted it, leaving the other half bitter, antagonistic, and violent. When a young “beauty” literally explodes on a subway train for no discernible reason, two detectives (one afflicted and one not) try to solve her mysterious death and find that something even bigger may be at play.