Lately, writing out these Previews Picks entries every month has felt more like a grind than a fun diversion from all the reviews I write around here. So this month I’m going to try something new. Below the link are my thoughts on the most notable solicitations from DC, Dark Horse, Image, and Marvel as well as some assorted news stories relating to some of these publishers. This is likely going to be the format for anything Previews-related going forward. If you’ve liked how I’ve given Marvel/DC/Image/Dark Horse their own Previews Picks each month then now would be the time to say something about it either in the comments below or via e-mail.
“Grendel” and “Mage” creator Matt Wagner has also written and drawn several “Batman”-related projects for DC over the years. His latest Bat-joint is issue #54, with current writer Tom King, and it’s going to be colored by his son Brennan Wagner. Which is appropriate since it’s a look at the father/son relationship between Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. Or at least it would be if DC hadn’t worked so hard to screw it up. Turns out that someone at DC didn’t think that Brennan’s coloring was a good fit for how they want their books to look and is having the issue re-colored. Matt took this about as well as you’d expect and you really can’t blame him. Regardless of whether or not the staffer had a point, upsetting a father/son dynamic like that is just rude with the added effect of potentially poisoning the company’s relationship with a legendary creator. Even if DC was just trying to divert attention from the ongoing fallout regarding “Batman #50” (The events of which are still unspoiled for me!), this was the wrong way to do it.
DC Nuclear Winter Special: 80 pages of new holiday-themed comics from the likes of Paul Dini, Steve Orlando, Phil Hester, Mark Russell, Cully Hamner, Giuseppe Camuncoli and more for $10. Insert joke about whether or not we’ll be experiencing an actual Nuclear Winter in the real world by the time this comes out.
The Green Lantern #1: Two words, “FUCK YEAH!” Grant Morrison takes over writing the adventures of Hal Jordan and steers him, and the rest of the Green Lantern Corps, into full-on space cop mode. Which is both a straightforward and easy-to-grasp premise and a license for the writer’s imagination to go absolutely nuts. I mean, do you think Morrison’s going to aim small when it comes to the concept of “Space Crime?” I think not. He’s joined by artist Liam Sharp who, after seeing his work on “Wonder Woman,” seems like an inspired choice to depict this whatever craziness the Mad Scotsman has in mind. Unless something goes VERY wrong here, then the only problem I foresee for this run is its planned twelve-issue length.
Wonder Woman #’s 58 & 59: “Ms. Marvel” creator G. Willow Wilson takes over along with artist Cary Nord and it looks like we’re getting another Ares story leading to a new God of War. Even though I’m still annoyed that Greg Rucka’s run reduced Brian Azzarello’s to “This Never Really Happened” that’s still no reason for me to stop reading all “Wonder Woman” comics that follow in its wake. This creative team makes for an attractive jumping-back-on point for me as far as the character’s adventures are concerned.
Cave Carson Has an Interstellar Eye: The Young Animal series I enjoyed the most gets a final volume. Well, not really. The two-volume “Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye” told a pretty complete story. This relaunched series that was quickly clarified to be a miniseries, like the other titles in the Young Animal line, has an even more ambitious title. I’m not sure where it’s going to be able to go in these six issues, but I’ll probably pick it up anyway because it’s likely to get weird in a way few mainstream comics ever do.
It was the move we all saw coming: After Dark Horse lost the “Firefly” license to BOOM! Comics on account of license holder Fox’s investment in them, Joss Whedon broke the news that the company was going to lose the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” license as well. Honestly, I wouldn’t worry too much for Dark Horse at this point. They’ve managed to survive the loss of the “Star Wars” and “Conan” licenses and I think they saw the loss of “Firefly” and “Buffy” coming as well. Now they’re probably just waiting for the other shoe to drop regarding the “Aliens” and “Predator” licenses as well. Still, I do wonder how BOOM!’s acquisition of these licenses is going to shake out now that Disney owns Fox, and Marvel will presumably have access to their licenses in the same way that they got “Star Wars.” I hope whoever signed that licensing agreement at BOOM! had the good sense to include the appropriate clauses to make sure it survives the Disney/Fox acquisition.
Black Hammer vol. 3: Age of Doom Part 1: After a multitude of spinoffs, we finally get the next volume of “Black Hammer” proper. If you’ll recall, Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s fun superhero pastiche series, left off on a fairly major cliffhanger with one character getting their memory back at just the right time. Unfortunately the solicitation text indicates that the resolution to this cliffhanger is going to be ducked as said character winds up in a grim ‘n gritty world. That sounds annoying, but Lemire has earned a certain amount of trust with me, ensuring that I’ll be picking up this volume to see what he’s got planned in spite of my misgivings.
Doctor Horrible: Best Friends Forever: It turns out that Whedon was bummed about seeing Dark Horse lose the license to the two titles that he’s most closely associated with despite their solid handling of them over all these years. So he wanted to do them a solid and is writing this new “Doctor Horrible” one-shot by himself with Jose Maria Beroy and Sara Soler providing the art. That’s nice and all, but… just one issue? If Whedon’s intent was to provide Dark Horse with some pizza and beer money then okay. Now if the writer was REALLY feeling bad about it, he’d want to get around to writing “Twist” the “What if ‘Batman’ was a woman in a steampunk universe” miniseries that he announced at one of the company’s Comic-Con panels a few years back. A miniseries that converts easily into a trade paperback that could wind up being a perennial seller for Dark Horse sounds like a much better way to do a solid for the company than a one-shot.
God of War #1 (of 4): One reason why I’m not worried that Dark Horse is going to fold up shop after losing several key licenses in the past few years is their ability to find promising new ones to make comics about. Like this new miniseries based on the most recent “God of War” game from regular Mignolaverse co-writer Chris Roberson and artist Tony Parker. The latest game has sold over five million copies so far, so maybe there’s a small but dedicated audience that’d be interested in the further adventures of Angriest Dad Kratos.
Wandering Island vol. 2: It actually exists! The second volume of this series, I mean, not the titular island. When the first volume was published in the states the second volume hadn’t even come out in Japan. Given that I’d heard mangaka Kenji Tsuruta published new installments of this series very erratically, I was expecting this to wind up in the same category as “The Monkey King” in that it’s a manga title published by Dark Horse that isn’t on hiatus, but it’s creator is too busy with other stuff to put out another volume. That said, I liked the first volume well enough that I’ll definitely pick up this second one. I desperately hope that it’s a concluding volume but I’m not going to hold my breath.
World of Tanks: Citadel: Garth Ennis does another war comic: I’m in. PJ Holden, who illustrated the back half of the previous “WoT” miniseries is back to illustrate the Battle of Kursk. That was a major WWII conflict that Ennis hasn’t chronicled yet so I’m interested to see his take on it.
Bitter Root #1: Co-written by “Shaft” writer David Walker and indie vet Chuck Brown with art from the awesome Sanford Greene. This new series takes place in Harlem in the 1920’s with the Renaissance in full swing. The catch is that supernatural forces are gathering to wipe out New York first, and then the world. Only the Sangerye family can stop this threat, but they’re going to have to put aside years of feuds and bitterness in order to do it. It’s a solid premise with a great creative team so I’ll definitely check it out when it’s collected.
Outer Darkness #1: This is being billed as “Chew” writer John Layman’s next big (read: hoping to last for around the 60 issues that “Chew” did) creator-owned project, this time with artist Afu Chan. The solicitation text makes the series sound like a sci-fi horror adventure with demonic possessions, hauntings, cosmic horror, and a dark secret in the outer darkness of space. There’s a disturbing genericness to the threats described here, but after Layman gave us the endlessly inventive “Chew” I’m going to assume that the published product is going to be a lot more interesting than its description here.
The Wicked + The Divine: The Funnies: Behold, the last “W+D” one-shot! Which means the trade paperback collecting them all won’t be far off now. Creators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are joined by the likes of Chip Zdarsky, Erica Henderson, Kate Leth, and more for a series of comedic takes on the concept of the series. Like Gillen’s own “The Wicked + The Canine” which has the gods being reborn every 90 years as dogs. Which stands a good chance of being the worst thing I’ve ever read from him because it’s about dogs and not cats.
Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses vol. 3: For those of you keeping track at home, we’ve now gone from not having any collections of this latest “Stray Bullets” series since its debut in February 2015 to three in one year. I could complain about how long it took us to get these collections, but since we’re getting three new volumes of “Stray Bullets” in one year I’ll just shut up now.
Sunstone vol. 6: Now this is a pleasant surprise. Creator Stjepan Sejic outlined plans for two more arcs of this excellent S&M romance series in the backmatter of vol. 5. While it was great to have an indication of what was coming next, Sejic also started working with DC on a number of projects including an arc of “Aquaman,” issues of “Suicide Squad” and the upcoming “Justice League Odyssey.” With all that on his plate, I figured it was going to be a while before he got back to his signature series. I’m glad to have been proven wrong. This volume is the first part of the “Mercy” storyline as the focus shifts away from Ally and Lisa (which makes sense since vol. 5 was basically the end of their story) to the new relationship that Alan and Anne have started up.
Speaking of the “Conan” license, Marvel has announced the creative team for its first title featuring the world’s most famous barbarian. In a move that should surprise no one who has been paying attention to which Marvel writer has been chomping at the bit to write the character, Jason Aaron has the job. I think he’s a solid choice as he knows how to write over-the-top action and characters while keeping them interesting. The only thing to watch out for is when (not if) Conan will have to face off against some kind of cult of evil children -- this seems to be a recurring thing in Aaron’s work. Joining the writer on art will be Mahmud Asrar whose rougher style in his recent projects looks to be a good fit for the character as well. Right now the plan is for a twelve-issue opening arc called “The Life and Death of Conan” so we’ll see how that goes. I’ll be picking it up in collected form, at least. While this is a good start for Marvel’s handling of the license, I can only hope that they keep it to this one title for now and that their rumored plans for two more ongoing series continue to be just rumors.
Uncanny X-Men #’s 1-3: The flagship X-title is back, as a weekly series! Co-written by Kelly Thompson, Ed Brisson, and Matthew Rosenberg, the opening ten-issue arc involves a mysterious disappearance that might lead to the X-Men’s final adventure. Yeah, right. Unlike the last weekly Marvel event series I read, “Avengers: No Surrender” this iteration of “Uncanny” is slightly disadvantaged by the format. Where “No Surrender” was an ending for that era of “Avengers” comics, this weekly “Uncanny” series has to lay the groundwork for the series going forward. It’s a big event that has to keep the momentum going into a monthly series. As a reader whose “X-Men” fandom is decades old at this point I’ll be picking this up for sure. My main concern is that only one of the three writers (Thompson) has proven themselves in my book. I guess it’s time to start reading up on Brisson and Rosenberg’s body of work to see what they have to offer.
Marvel Knights 20th #’s 1&2 (of 6): This miniseries is meant to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Marvel Knights. The way they’ve chosen to do that is by plugging some of the imprint’s most notable members, Matt Murdock, Frank Castle, Bruce Banner, into a world where none of them have any powers. Or do they? Marvel’s latest (justifiable) golden boy Donny Cates is running the show here, writing the first issue and co-writing the remainder with artists like Travel Foreman and Niko Henrichon providing the art (for issues #1 and #2, respectively). I can’t say I’m completely thrilled by this setup, but I’m holding out hope that Cates and co. can surprise me.
The Vision #1 (of 6): This is being marketed as a follow up to the much-loved (by just about everyone but me) maxi-series from Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta. The married writing team of Chelsea Cain and Marc Mohan, with artist Aud Koch, are taking a look at how the title synthezoid is adjusting to single parenthood in light of the events of the previous series. Speaking of which, my big problem was that King clearly had a story about that decay and rot that can infest a normal marriage in suburbia and basically hammered it into the Marvel Universe in a way that didn’t really fit. Can Cain, Mohan, and Koch make this new setup work any better? I’m at least curious to see if its possible.
Dead Man Logan #1 (of 12): Yes, they’re really doing a 12-issue maxiseries about the “Death of Old Man Logan.” Let’s move on…
Star Wars vol. 9: Hope Burns: This arc was initially titled “Hope Dies” and is even called that in the issues of the ongoing title which reference it in these solicitations. I like it better than “Hope Burns” for the awfulness it connotes. That said, this volume promises to be a major turning point for Kieron Gillen’s run on this title as we see one of the key reasons why the Rebellion wound up in such a bad place at the start of “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Mighty Thor vol. 5: The Death of the Mighty Thor & Thor vol. 1: God of Thunder Reborn: The final volume of Jane Foster’s adventures as Thor hits paperback at the same time as the first volume of the Odinson’s return to his traditional role is collected. Jason Aaron’s run on “Thor” has rarely disappointed in any form so the fact that we’re getting TWO volumes of it in one month sounds great. Knowing my luck, though, “Thor vol. 1” will probably arrive before “Mighty Thor vol. 5,” but even I can recognize that’s pretty far down the ladder as far as first world problems are concerned.
Amazing Spider-Man by Nick Spencer vol. 1: Back to Basics: I’m all for seeing Spencer’s take on the title character, but if I’m being completely honest he’s not the main attraction here. That would be “Invincible” artist Ryan Ottley, making his Marvel Comics debut. Ottley has shown for years on “Invincible” that he’s one of the best superhero artists around. Marvel Comics should consider themselves lucky that he decided to go with them rather than do another creator-owned project. So this first volume is going to look AMAZING (natch) and the writing will probably be pretty fun too.
Along these lines, the final volume of Dan Slott’s “Spider-Man” run is collected this month as well. Amazing Spider-Man: Worldwide vol. 9 shows us what happens when Norman Osborn teams up with Carnage to become the Red Goblin and wreak a fresh kind of hell upon Spider-Man’s life. Slott’s “Spider-Man” run has been one of the most reliably entertaining reads I’ve had over the past few years so I’m very much looking forward to seeing how he wraps it all up.