It turns out that the third volume of “Rat Queens” did represent the beginning of the end for that series. Just not in the way that I thought it would. While issue #16 came out a couple weeks ago, word came out from artist Tess Fowler a couple weeks ago that she was being pushed out of the series to make way for the return of co-creator/original artist Roc Upchurch. This is after he departed the book amidst charges of domestic abuse and Fowler was apparently told by co-creator/writer Kurtis J. Wiebe that Upchurch would not be returning to the series. It’s an ugly situation that Fowler is taking in stride and coming out looking like a champ through the good vibes she’s been maintaining through her Twitter posts on the matter and refusal to turn this into a crusade/vendetta against the “Rat Queens” creators. As for the series itself, it was already on hiatus and Wiebe has said that he’s not sure what the future holds for the series -- if there even is one -- as he needs to find his voice for the series again.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Wiebe leaves the series behind altogether. He’s got a new series, “Bounty,” lined up over at Dark Horse and has shown himself to be a fairly prolific man of ideas with all of the other series he has done through Image. “Rat Queens” was his biggest success, but this new controversy has sadly turned it radioactive with an unknown half-life.
The Black Monday Murders #1: Jonathan Hickman’s new series, with art from Tomm Coker, imagines a world where the banks control all the power… because they’re actually fronts for ages-old clans of magicians! Russian vampire oligarchs, Black Popes, enchanted American aristocrats, and the IMF’s own cadre of hitmen are all promised here. It may be a crazy premise, but Hickman has shown that’s the kind he thrives on digging into. The challenge here will be in seeing whether or not he can keep it going. “East of West” is currently his longest-running creator-owned series, with “The Manhattan Projects” on hiatus, and “The Dead and the Dying” waiting for the right moment to spring back to life (I think). Now that he’s no longer steering his massive “Avengers”/”New Avengers” run at Marvel, the odds would appear to be in Hickman’s favor for a long and successful run on this title.
Kill or be Killed #1: Brubaker and Phillips are at it again. This time with a character who is forced to kill bad guys. The solicitation text says “forced,” and yet it also calls this series a deconstruction of vigilantism. So I’m guessing this is more of a psychological compulsion than a blackmail thing. Maybe even an exploration of what Frank “The Punisher” Castle would be like in the real world after Brubaker never got around to writing the character full-time while he was at Marvel. Still, after their return to form with “The Fade Out” (which I WILL get around to talking about in full at some point) I fully expect this to be a compelling read.
Eden’s Fall #1: Matt Hawkins has written several titles for Top Cow -- “Think Tank,” “The Tithe,” and “Postal” -- that have received good reviews and word of mouth, but have yet to set the sales charts on fire. His solution? Combine all three into one title. Here you have FBI agent James Miller (from “The Tithe”) investigating the town of Eden, Wyoming, which serves as an unofficial haven for criminals living off the grid (from “Postal”). It sounds like a logical setup and even though genius arms developer David Loren isn’t mentioned by name here, he’s on one of the covers. I liked “Think Tank” and “The Tithe” well enough, but have yet to get around to reading “Postal” which Hawkins co-wrote with Bryan Hill (as he does here). My younger self probably would’ve flipped over this kind of personal crossover. As for my jaded current self, he thinks it’s a neat trick that he’ll get around to checking out eventually.
Lake of Fire #1: It’s 1220 A.D., the crusades are still raging, and an alien spacecraft has just crashed in the remote wilds of France. Are these aliens the friendly and benevolent kind here to shepherd humanity through this time of religious strife and bring unto them a greater sense of unity and understanding of their fellow man? Nope! The ship is carrying a bunch of alien predators (unfortunately that “p” is meant to be lowercase) and it’s up to a small group of crusaders and one “heretic” to take them down. It’s a premise that sounds just crazy enough to work… for a limited series. There’s no indication that this series from writer/colorist Nathan Fairbairn and artist Matt Smith is only going to run for a certain number of issues. Unless they’ve got a twist they’re saving for the first issue (which is quite likely) this sounds like the kind of setup that will work great so long as it’s kept to a run of four-to-six issues.
Saga #37 & Revival #42: The solicitation text for these issues features two different approaches to getting trade-waiters (like yours truly) to jump onboard with reading the single issues. “Saga” takes the friendly approach, calling their new arc an “event” that they’ve been building to since the first issue and therefore the perfect time to jump onboard the monthly train. As for “Revival,” it takes a trolling approach which I find more amusing than anything else. Issue #42 marks the start of the final arc of the series and the text taunts us with the reveal of Emily’s killer while also noting that trade-waiters are SCREWED if they don’t jump onboard now. I’m just going to troll them right back by saying, “Nice try, guys. That final volume will look better on my shelf than six individual issues.” Well played by both camps, but I’m not jumping ship on how I read either of these titles so late into their runs.
The Autumnlands #14: End of the second arc and… my that’s an ominous cover. You’d think they’d wait a bit before pulling that particular trigger. The *ahem* fallout from that should make for an interesting start to the third volume when it arrives.
East of West #29: “At long last, Death finds his son.” That’s not going to end well. For anyone. At all.
The Walking Dead #157: Part one (of six) of “The Whisper War.” The last time Rick Grimes went to war, it took him twelve issues to come out on top over Negan. With six issues for this latest conflict, I’m betting that it’s going to get meaner and nastier a lot quicker. Also, no time jumps after the war is over. If things get as bad I think they will, Kirkman will be digging into them for material to drive the series for the next couple of years. Also, if Rick does wind up dying in this arc, I’m going to go ahead and say “Called it!” right now.
Blood Stain vol. 2: In which we’ll find out if the series can actually deliver on the comedic/dramatic potential of its down on her luck college girl goes to work for mad scientist premise. You know, as opposed to the actual first volume of this series. I know I’m being hard on “Blood Stain,” but if the second volume delivers then all will be forgiven.
Criminal vol. 7: Wrong Time, Wrong Place: Huh, so two extra-sized specials actually can make for a full-sized collection. More fun with the Lawless family in the 70’s as father Teeg tries to survive life behind bars, and son Tracy gets to practice his getaway driving skills. It’s been a while since the last volume of this title. Too long, to be honest. All of the previous installments in this series from Brubaker and Phillips were great and the fact that we’re getting one more after all these years is still a good thing.
The Fix vol. 1: In which Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber try to recapture the magic of “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man” with actual small-time crooks instead of D-list supervillains. Again, I see nothing wrong with this. It is worth noting that the text advertises the fact that the hero of this story is a drug-sniffing dog named Pretzels. That’s good because that means there will be at least one likeable character in the cast, thus freeing up all of the humans to be hilariously unlikeable.