January 16, 2018

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Catch It at the Comic Shop January 17, 2018

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

January 14, 2018

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Stew Brew #5 by Kelly Froh and Max Clotfelter: Cross-Country Chronicling at Its Finest

Stew Brew #5
Written and Illustrated by Kelly Froh and Max Clotfelter

Kelly and Max fly to Wisconsin to get a free car from Kelly's Mom, then drive back across seven states, encountering the little things that make America so wonderfully strange in this collaborative zine that mixes comics, found objects, and small sections of text, in the best tradition of those in comics who also come from zine culture.

Opening with snippets from items they collected along the way--receipts, tourist pamphlets, postcards, and whatnot, we move into Kelly and Max's comics, sharing moments from their adventures, whether it's forgetting it's 9-11, meeting Rob Kirby and his partner, or an overabundance of possibly rabid prairie dogs. There's no attempt to capture everything, nor should there be. This is like sitting down with the pair and hearing the highlights of their adventure, or sharing an old-school slide show (without the boring parts).

As a person who traveled from Baltimore to Portland, Oregon several years ago, I found a lot to remember fondly, even though our paths were not the same, and due to having three cats in tow, we were unable to stop anywhere. America is really huge, and when you get outside of the major cities and attractions, there's so many curiosities to discover. This is captured well by Max in a panel of roadside billboards for everything from a car show to an 1880s town to an "American Owned" hotel, showing vague racism is alive and well. 

When they do make it somewhere, such as the Bible themed encounter, we don't get a lot of details, but Max's linework really sells the visuals and packs a lot into his panels. We can imagine the wider world they've traveled into, such as the greasy spoon diner that hints at a dirty kitchen without showing it. His sections feature heavy shading, panels packed to the gills, and characters whose wide-eyed expressions evoke a very familiar alt-comix experience.

On the other hand, Kelly's sections have much more open space, with only so much details as are necessary to set the stage, such as a very basic set of lines to represent a table. Her trees and shrubs are abstracts, and cowboy boots on a rack are capital-Ls. Her figures are no less able to tell you what is going on, but they don't carry the details that Max's do. 

Side by side, they offer a contrast that's striking, providing you with two very different parts of the indie comics world. Neither is superior to the other, though depending on your taste, you may find yourself more attracted to one style or the other. These are two people sharing their story together, and their visual voices are as a distinct as would be the case if we were all at the bar together, with Kelly and Max alternating the journey.

Call it a zine or a mini-comic, depending on what tradition you come from. The thing that I like best about Stew Brew #5 is that it's a way for Froh and Clotfelter to share their experience driving across country with you, if you want to come along for the ride. Those who enjoy reading about road trips and keeping up with the events of their friends in comics/zines should plan to join them. There's a lot of fun packed into a small number of pages.

You can purchase Stew Brew #5 here.

January 12, 2018

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Scott's Completely Subjective and Totally Questionable Best Comics of 2017 (Weekend Pattering for January 12th, 2018)


From Pope Hats #5 by Ethan Rilly

Previously on Panel Patter

Favorite Lists of 2017

Cover of the Next Week

Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise XXV #1

I gave up on Terry Moore's Strangers In Paradise somewhere around 2/3rds into its initial run but I don't really remember why.  While none of Moore's subsequent series have really caught my imagination that much, seeing Katchoo on the cover of a new comic throws me back to the 1990s and the self-publishing boom.

And really, if this was just another SiP comic, I don't know if I'd really care but I love the mystery of this image with Katchoo standing on a train platform, surrounded by people who look like they're on their way to work but have these masks over their faces.  Why?  What's going on here?  This is a great cover that provides a strong hook.

Your Moment of Scott's Favorite Comics of 2017

from The Mighty Thor #700 by Jason Aaron, Russel Dauterman & Matt Wilson

This year I joined the Best Shot's crew at Newsarama and named my Gold, Silver and Bronze comics of 2017.

Gold: Boundless (Drawn & Quarterly)
Silver: Royal City (Image)
Bronze: Batman/Elmer Fudd (DC)

During 2017, I already wrote about Batman/Elmer Fudd and Royal City.  Jillian Tamaki's Boundless has been sitting next to my computer for months now, waiting for me to write something about it.  It is the book that's really stuck with me this year as Tamaki's collection of short stories explore a world that seems just slightly off-center from ours.  She creates these stories around recognizable things but shifts their point-of-views just enough to throw you off any solid footing you may have.  It's a great reading experience.

Here are other books from 2017 that deserve to be celebrated as some of the best comics and, if I wrote about them, links to those reviews. (Of course, these are the best that I read.  I'm sure that there's plenty of books that I didn't read that should be up here on this list.)
from Palookaville #23 by Seth

Current Mood

January 11, 2018

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Breaking the Boundaries of Art in Emil Ferris' My Favorite Thing is Monsters

The first volume of My Favorite Thing is Monsters makes no judgments about art. As the first half of a planned two-volume series, this debut book incorporates art from everywhere, from horror magazines to classic paintings found in the Art Institute of Chicago. But for Karen, the young protagonist of Ferris’ book, there’s no difference in the meaning or in the value of the art. Pulp art and fine art are the same things and each has an equal influence on how she sees the world after a neighbor is killed in an upstairs apartment. As the young girl tries to unravel the mystery of who killed her neighbor and friend Anka, the world around her is changing in both monumental and minuscule ways, and in many of these seismic shifts are not even related to the murder. Against the civil unrest in America, Karen and her brother also have to deal with their mother, who is far sicker than she lets on to her daughter. Ferris’ book is broad in its approach, looking at the lives of both Karen and Anka but incredibly focused on this girl who has to learn at an early age about the spiritual murkiness of the world.

For most people, a ballpoint pen is a conveniently clumsy device for taking notes or scribbling doodles but for Ferris, it’s as expressively lush as any brush ever set to canvas. Drawn in a schoolkids’ spiral-bound notebook, every page of this book reminds you that Ferris is telling this story through the eyes of a young, adolescent girl. This is Karen’s journal as much as it is Ferris’s book and we see the world as Karen does, informed by monster magazines and centuries-old paintings. Karen’s own self-image of herself is as one of those monsters but for her being a monster is not a curse but an aspiration. Picturing herself as a young werewolf private eye, complete with fangs, trench coat, and fedora, Karen is on the case, chronicling the men, women, boys, and girls she runs across as she tries to make sense of her neighbor’s murder. 

Emil Ferris

Every page of Ferris’s work is in itself a piece of art, longing to be observed, absorbed and lived. That’s what’s arts is in Karen’s Chicago; it’s a part of life and it doesn’t matter if it’s in a pulp magazine, in a museum, or even if it’s a tattoo on her brother’s body. In telling a story about a murder, Ferris is also creating a story about art and the ways that it shapes us and our own worldviews. As a young girl and a bit of an outcast, she identifies more with the werewolves, Frankenstein monsters, and werewolves from her beloved magazines more than she does with most of the girls and boys her own age. And in a time where both her neighbor and Martin Luther King Jr. can be killed, it must make a lot of sense to see everyone else in Chicago as one of those mobs out to destroy the beauty and souls of those monsters.

Trying to solve a mystery as only a 10-year-old girl can, Karen is forced to grow up and learn truths about her neighbor Anka, a European Jew who survived World War II, and about her brother Deeze, a local lothario who is haunted by his own demons. Karen is still young so her own demons are self-imagined and self-projected; she’s the innocent in a world which seemingly abhors innocence. While Anka and Deeze’s demons are more formed, they are still reflected in their faces just as Karen’s are. But where Karen thinks she wants to be her own type of demon, these people who she thinks she knows hide their demons from Karen. They have lives and experiences that Karen doesn’t know anything about. As she tries to play detective, it’s difficult to know just how much of the truth of the world is changing her.

Set in 1968, Ferris’s story is a long way away from any “summer of love” or any “peace, love and happiness” sentiments. It’s important to realize the time of this book as the world then was falling apart socially and politically even as our modern day seems to be on the brink of some kind of collapse as well. It’s not that Ferris has created a political book but she acknowledges that politics are a part of our lives that influence us. Karen’s politics are what she knows from her mother and her brother so you have to wonder how do events like the assassinations of President Kennedy (a memory for her) and Martin Luther King Jr. (an event that happens during this book) affect how she sees the world.

Emil Ferris

Chronicling her investigation in a ruled-line notebook, Karen’s visions of the world alternate between incredibly beautiful and monstrously ugly. Anka is usually drawn with a blue pen, shading her in a chilling beauty. Others get this same blue line, giving them the icy appearance without the beauty. Karen’s image of the world acknowledges and accepts the coexistence of beauty and ugliness. Ferris’s depiction of late 1960s Chicago is a tapestry of types and a more honest portrayal of the makeup of a city months away from rioting at the Democratic National Convention. Again, it’s not the politics of the story that influence Karen but it’s how those politics flavor the atmosphere of Ferris’s story.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is a child’s romanticized view of an ugly world. Emil Ferris gives us a violent, horrific Chicago that is full of real monsters and people who are unfairly labeled as “monsters.” And among all of that, we have Karen, our innocent child who wants to be a monster even though she is anything but one. Her desires come from the magazines and movies she enjoys but it’s also a desire to be strong enough to face the real terrors that live in her neighborhood and maybe even in her building. Even as she hides behind her fantasies, Karen has to learn to see the world beyond those fantasies. Emil Ferris’ book perfectly captures that moment in our lives where we’re between seeing the world through a child’s eyes and understanding it from an adults point of view.

January 10, 2018

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Catch It at the Comic Shop January 10, 2018

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

James' Picks:

January 8, 2018

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Staring into the Eyes of Love in Tee Franklin and Jenn St-Onge's Bingo Love

There’s a lot to unpack in Tee Franklin and Jenn St-Onge’s Bingo Love. It’s a love story. It’s a love story of two women. It’s a love story of two women who have to spend a large portion of their lives hiding their confusing-to-them loving relationship. It’s a love story about two women who grow up to realize that their love is natural and beautiful. It’s an LGBT love story that straddles a line of being a comic about the issues and being a comic about romance (but why can’t it be both?). Tee Franklin’s story about Hazel and Mari, two young girls who fall in love only to be forced apart for decades before getting their “happily ever after,” is a wonderfully complex and heartfelt story that is more ambitious than what Franklin and St-Onge can ultimately put on the pages of this comic.

Franklin and St-Onge simply infuse every page with love, whether it’s their love for this story or the characters’ love for one another. St-Onge’s art perfectly captures the uncertain thrill of first love as well as the pain that years apart and even the tears that years together can bring. Taking Franklin’s script, St-Onge and colorist Joy San provide the compassionate spark for these characters. You can tell everything that Hazel feels for Mari through Hazel’s facial expressions. Through St-Onge’s performance of the characters, you get to experience the range of emotions and conflict that Hazel is living through, the joy and the pain that comes along with discovering who Hazel is and the living with the decisions that she makes during a lifetime.

The empathy of Franklin’s story encompasses a life that has many varied and complicated facets. There are many points where Bingo Love could follow one of those facets and become a book almost solely about that one aspect of the story, whether it’s about race, sexuality, age, or even family, but Franklin touches on most of those while keeping the heart of book on the romance and love shared by Hazel and Mari. Love is already a complicated thing to begin even before Franklin throws all of these different complexities into Hazel and Mari’s relationship for them to try and overcome. There’s no doubt that Franklin and St-Onge’s characters are struggling to understand the trials of true love even as they have lives that separate them from one another.

Franklin spends so much time focusing on Hazel’s view of the world that the other characters get sidelined in their story. Mari lives with the same secrets that Hazel does for decades but her own marriage to a man gets written off in one or two lines. As the love of Hazel’s life, Mari barely becomes more than a prop in Hazel’s story, a means to write about “forbidden” love without ever giving Mari a story and a life of her own. The same with Hazel’s husband James, who has his own story and secrets unfairly relegated to a digital-only bonus. Mari, James, and Hazel’s family and children add their own complexities into Hazel’s story but her actions have little ramifications or impact into their stories. Everyone adapts to Hazel without ever growing or changing with her except in the most superficial of ways. For as rich as Hazel is a character, everyone else in this book only exists as an object to orbit Hazel’s life and not as in independent person with their own experiences of this story.

Bingo Love
is an ambitious book, trying to chronicle decades of a couples’ lives into just over 80 pages. That means that they have to breeze by years and years of Hazel and Mari’s life apart from each other which ultimately undermines the impact of those years and what they meant. But even if the history of these characters runs a little too thin, the heartfelt romance of Hazel and Mari is present on nearly every page, through the good times and the bad times. Tee Franklin and Jenn St-Onge’s Bingo Love is a very modern romance comic that has lofty storytelling goals and but isn’t able to get everything it wants to onto the page. But on the pages where you see Hazel and Mari staring into the other’s eyes, the warm spirit of the comic surpasses those goals and gives you a warm feeling that love will ultimately outlast us all.

Bingo Love
Written by Tee Franklin
Drawn by Jenn St-Onge
Colored by Joy San
Lettered by Cardinal Rae 
Published by Inclusive Press (Kickstarter Edition)
& Image Comics (published February 2018)

January 6, 2018

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Rob M's Favorite Horror Comics of 2017

I didn't read as many horror comics as I like to do, but the ones I read were fabulous. It was hard to come down to just these five, but here they are. It's also funny because "horror" is one of those categories that's sometimes hard to pin down. For example, one of my picks, "Kim Reaper" isn't exactly blood and gore, but it does feature a cute queer character who helps things go to the afterlife, so...here it is in horror. At least for me. On the other hand, while Jen's excellent Deadwater might have been in horror for most folks, I didn't necessarily think of it that way, though it does have some great horror elements.

If this were a comic and not prose, this is where a little bubble with Erica's face in it would show up to remind me that horror is an element, not necessarily a genre to itself. I'm still not ready to push that button, but I think I'm beginning to understand.

Also, why didn't I mix this list with Sci-Fi and Fantasy? Damned if I know. By the time it occurred to me, I'd already blocked everything out. So here's horror with its own category this year, and I've got five entries that I highly recommend if you missed out on them in 2017.

Without further ado, let's get creepy...

Black Magic by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott, Published by Image Comics
After setting the stage in volume one, Rucka and Scott move forward with their story of a police officer who has ties to magick and is being targeted by sinister forces. It's not always easy to keep the quality up on a series after the first volume, but this team has things well in hand. I really like the fact that, relatively speaking, the magick used in this series feels like it has basis in real practice, just taken to fantastic levels. Meanwhile, Scott's art continues to do a great job of being realistic as well, even as the horror elements ramp up.

Hack/Slash vs Vampirella by Shawn Aldridge and Rapha Lobosco, Published by Dynamite
I'm a long-time fan of Shawn's work, and when I heard he was doing this one, I got really excited, and wasn't disappointed one bit. Aldridge gets the humor and absurdity of these characters and plays it to the hilt, along with the killings and the sexiness, doing each a bit over the top but not to the point of causing the reader to roll their eyes. Lobosco matches this well, making the characters sexy without it feeling like he's going for cheap poses. He just lets the characters be who they are, and in the end, we get a fun romp. Probably a comic most would overlook, to their own loss.

Kim Reaper by Sarah Graley, Published by Oni Press
What happens when you have a crush on a young woman who also happens to be a part-time Reaper? It's complicated. This incredibly cute series captured my attention as I wrote earlier this year, with a plot line that takes some of the usual tropes and twists them up by making the relationship queer and not shying away from the fact that maybe for once you should be scared when your potential partner has weird, mystical connections to death. Graley's style works well for this comic, which features things like a crazy cat man and more, emphasizing the cute but not sacrificing clarity. I can't wait to see what she works on next.

Made Men by Paul Tobin, Arjuna Susini, and Gonzalo Duarte, Published by Oni Press
I think every time I make a yearly favorites list, Paul Tobin ends up on it at least once, and this year is no exception. This was an easy call--the premise is right in my wheelhouse: What if a cop knew the secrets of Frankenstein and then lost their squad in a brutal set-up? Sewing body parks hijinks ensue, drawn ably by Susini and give some great bloodiness by Duarte. This book isn't trying to take itself too seriously, and I love the mashing up of ideas, just like how the good Doctor liked to mash up body parts.

My Pretty Vampire by Katie Skelly, Published by Fantagraphics
It's always a good year when we get a new comic from Katie Skelly, and this is one of my favorites yet. A young woman, who is also a vampire, is "protected" by her brother, whose intentions are not honorable in the slightest. She escapes, but finds being a vampire in the wider world isn't easy. Skelly does such a wonderful job with this one, making her main character somewhat naive but also absolutely deadly. I also love how she can keep her characters sexy without making them sexualized, a fine line that a lot of artists of all genders can't manage. There's multiple plotlines going on, but they all center around the young woman's desire to lead her own life--and the cost she'll bear for it. I hear a rumor this is already out of print? I'm happy it's being purchased, but wow, let's get this one back in people's hands ASAP, Fanta!

Some of you may be ready to tell me this is a horror-able list. So be it! I'd love to discuss it, talk about what great horror comics I missed out on (because I know there were a ton, I'm sure), and why my list is all wrong (or all right?). You can reply here or talk to me on Twitter at @rob_McMonigal

January 5, 2018

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Rob M's Favorite Superhero-Style Comics of 2017

Being quite honest, this is the one where I have the least amount of potential material. It's not that there weren't interesting-looking superhero-style comics made in 2017--it's just that some of them came from a publisher I'm personally avoiding and the others are just now starting to go into trade, so I expect to be reading a lot of the best comics that came out in 2017, like Mr. Miracle, sometime in 2018. Others might not make it at all, because I have so much to read and only a certain amount of time.

As I've said repeatedly, we have an amazing amount of comics these days. There is no way to keep up with everything, unless you're Aaron Meyers, and I have no idea how he does it. For me, having read so many superhero stories growing up, I think sometimes I tend to put this one on the back burner in terms of priorities. Maybe that will change, like how I used to read any and every autobio comic, something I no longer do. Our interests come and go, even within a particular medium. At some point, I might want to read more traditional comic book stories. For now, though, I'm being pretty selective about that.

That doesn't mean these comics aren't just as good as the other things on my various favorites lists. For example, this group contains my Comic of the Year, and frankly, no one is more surprised about that than I was. I think the key is keeping things fresh or just doing something different--and these comics fit that bill for me. Maybe if you overlooked them, they'll fit the bill for you as you form your reading plans in 2018.

Let's get started, shall we? To refresh, my favorites are alphabetical. If I liked it enough to put it on here, then I'm not going to quibble as to what's #2 vs #4. Life's too short for that, at least for me. It's like trying to keep track of legacy numbering...

Batman/Elmer Fudd by Tom King, Lee Weeks, and Byron Vaughns, Published by DC Comics
Let's just start with my Comic of the Year. Yes, I don't like to place one comic over another as a general rule. But rules are made to be broken, which is exactly what this comic does. There is absolutely no way a gritty, Frank Miller (minus the racism and sexism) take on Fudd should have worked, but it did. To a T. With incredible cameos by most of the Looney Tunes gang turned into real people (King's take on Bugs Bunny might be the best thing of all time), Fudd must hunt down Bruce Wayne for hurting the only women both loners have ever loved. Weeks knocks it out of the park, doing something I've never seen before--he makes most of the comic completely shrouded in rain and clouds, yet everything that happens is crystal clear. His takes on the characters work well, making them realistic yet familiar, and matches King step for step. The backup is just a silly take on the Rabbit Season-Duck Season trilogy, but it's also pitch-perfect in tone. I loved loved loved this comic and am so glad I grabbed what was, at the time, the last copy my local shop had. Can't wait for trade collecting all the stories, but I can't imagine any of them being better than this one.

Black by Kwanza Osajyefo,Tim Smith 3, and Jamal Igle, Published by Black Mask
Going from the silly to the serious, Black looks at something I often think about: What if a hated minority, in this case black people, got powers and the majority with the traditional balance of power did not? Taking the "X-Men are an analogy for black people" theory and making it literal, Osajyefo, Smith 3, and Igle take readers on a big dose of reality alongside their fantasy. There's no way in the world that black people with powers could be anything but hunted and pursued, and would make life dangerous for any black people without powers, should it become widely known. But in the effort to protect people, at what point do you cross a line? What could easily have been ham-handed gets a great dose of nuance. Meanwhile, Igle draws the hell out of this thing. He's born to do superhero characters, and from the opening pages we can see the dynamic angles, slick lines, and constant movement even when talking that makes for the best kind of superhero comics (i.e. not posing every other page). Sometimes Black is hard to read, but it's well worth it.

Doom Patrol by Gerard Way, Nick Derrington, Tamra Bonvillan, and a few guests, Published by DC/Young Animal
Though there's been many iterations of the Doom Patrol, once Grant Morrison turned them into an absurdist series, there really is no other version of these characters that works, because it sets them apart. Attempts to make them like the "classic" team or whatever never work. Way gets that, and immediately goes full-on Morrison from the first issue and never looks back. Sentient ambulances, cults, and general weirdness are in all play, with Derrington keeping pace with the strangeness while Tamra gives the whole thing this awesome, bold, comic-booky color that I'd forgotten how much I missed. With Cliff back to being the straight man while the whole world goes insane, I'm happy to have this one back at last--for as long as they let it last.

Faith by Various Creators (primarily written by Jody Houser), published by Valiant Entertainment
This spot basically holds down all the various Faith-fronted comics that came out this year, but especially Faith and the Future Force (which managed to both tell a good story and tweak the nose of time-travel fans via Fath's enthusiasm for the concept) and the Winter Special. I've loved the character of Faith since she debuted, because in a universe where things are pretty dark and shitty, she genuinely feels like the world can be a better place, often embodying the values of Superman better than DC handles one of their signature characters. Add the fact that artists are not shy about showing that Faith is a character of size alongside strong, consistent character work, and you have one of the few superhero comics I'd hand to a non-superhero fan and say, "Give this a try."

So yeah. Like I said, I know I missed some good stuff from DC, I'm criminally behind on the rest of Valiant, and I didn't get to as much Lion Forge as I wanted. Lots of stuff I'm probably missing out on in this corner of the world. If you've got some good comics to recommend to me in this area that are not Marvel, I'm all ears either here in the comments or on Twitter at @rob_mcmonigal

January 4, 2018

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Rob M's Favorite Sci-Fi and Fantasy Comics of 2017

Another day, another list from me to start off the year! This one is probably cheating a bit--after all, technically, all superhero comics are fantasy--but I tend to use a category like this one for the comics that have a lot in common with the genres I read in prose.

I'm particularly happy with the variety of comics on the list this year. We have everything from the intricately detailed On a Sunbeam to the "Oh shit, this is too on the nose" Bitch Planet to some nifty stories that look at traditional fable work and re-imagine them.

I don't have a lot else to say except the daily reminder that I don't rank books in my favorites--these are the ones I liked best of the comics I read, and I point them out here to help bring a bit more attention to them as we move into 2018. Let's get started, shall we?

Amelia Cole Omnibus by Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride, and Nick Brokenshire, Published by IDW (originally Monkeybrain)
One of the original Monkeybrain titles finished up late last year, but the omnibus came out in 2017, so I happily got to add this story of three worlds, two magical, one not, threatened by a force too hidden for most to notice. Amelia Cole walks the line between worlds, with a magic wrench and a cool golem pal, trying to use her powers to protect people in a world that often wants her to follow the rules instead. A great all ages story with bright colors and cool characters, I am sad this story is over, but happy to see it collected for new fans to enjoy.

Arabian Nights by Arnar H. Onnuson and Marta Selusi Luis, Self-Published
The first in a series of stories, this tale of love, theft, and a bit of magic really caught my attention because of its telling a new story within very familiar territory--and was willing to show its two main characters weren't entirely good people, just two lovers trying to make it in a world that pushed them into the margins. Using the backdrop of djinns, princes, and markets, Onnuson and Luis craft a story of being dedicated to each other. Luis's art has the slightly shaky style of Joann Sfar, but with larger, bulkier characters who push against the panel borders. Fitting for the world, the colors are bright and appear to be colored pencil, though with so much digital editing these days, it's hard to tell what's digital and what's analog. I look forward to more from this creative team.

Bitch Planet Triple Feature by Various Creators, Published by Image Comics
Sometimes good things can come out of being behind on deadline. While DeConnick and Valentine De Landro caught up, they invited a wide variety of creators, including Dylan Meconis, Matt Fraction, Joanna Estep, and Andrew Aydin to seed short stories within their dystopic world that went from improbable to highly likely within one presidential election. Not going to try and describe the stories here--suffice it to say that each creator did their best to expand the corners of a hellscape where women are often forced to pit themselves against each other just to survive. So...kind of like now, I guess. I'd originally been iffy on the concept of this whole series, but I've come around to see that we really are just a few missteps away from creating a world like this one. If you passed on this because it wasn't core story, I strongly urge you to go back and pick it up. It's great work.

Centralia 2050 by Michelle Stanford, Self-Published at http://centralia2050.com/
A sci-fi story drawn in OEL Manga style with intriguing characters, a central mystery, robotic creatures and people, and an underground that fights against the power. A webcomic that recently funded on Kickstarter for a print edition, this story reminds me of something that Sparkler Monthly might have published. It's got a lot of the things that make for a shojo story: Mysterious girl, reluctant male character who helps her, and the possibility of a romance. There's a lot of great close-up work, as you'd expect from an OEL, with just enough scenes of the outside world to set the stage, allowing the reader to fill in the details of what it's like to live in this future that isn't perfect by any means, with people disappearing and brute force to any who step out of line. Stanford's linework is designed to highlight facial features and body language, and it's clear she's trying hard--and succeeding--evoking a style. Good stuff, and I am very curious where this story is going.

Heartthrob by Christopher Sebala, Robert Wilson IV, and Nick Filardi, Published by Oni Press
The first volume of Heartthrob, set in the 70s and featuring a woman in a dead end job who gets a heart transplant and finds its old owner, a bank robber, now lives inside her head, was a breakout hit for me. The second volume is even better than the first, which is no easy task. Callie tries to separate herself from her "partner," but once stealing is in your blood, it's hard to escape...assuming you ever wanted to. With Sebala's amazing dialogue filled with quips, Wilson IV's stunning visual work, especially his expressions, and Nick Filardi using color as mood, this is one of my favorites again this year.

Little Gods by Leda Zawacki, Published by Tinto Press
Sometimes fables are meant to be re-imagined. Little gods does this very well, taking a creation story and looming at it from the perspective of the created, who want to form their own ideas about life, despite the dangers. When one of the Sky God's daughters leaves home and discovers she is in love with another runaway, the two form their own bond, making for a tragic, but still uplifting story of queer love. First tackling the original myth and then working into her own, female-focused version, Zawacki shows how stories are meant to be adapted and changed based on the desires of the storyteller. Very thin lines define the characters and there are some great moments, such as when we see red splashed across the next panel, implying blood from what's happened on the page before, show off Zawacki's talent of using her art to tell as much of the story as her words. I'm definitely adding Zawacki to my list of creators to follow going into 2018.

Mech Cadet Yu by Greg Pak, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Triona Farrell, Published by Boom! Studios
Greg Pak, re-teamed with the co-creator of Amadeus Cho, does a story about a young boy who isn't supposed to be part of the Giant Robot team, but ends up being bonded to one, and must learn how to survive, both on the battlefield and in an atmosphere where he isn't exactly wanted. Once again doing his part to bring more representation to comics, Pak also brings his great sense of humor and storytelling, while Miyazawa captures the size and scope of the characters extremely well. I enjoyed this series a lot more than I expected to!

On a Sunbeam, Self-Pubished online at http://www.onasunbeam.com
Tillie Walden is incredibly talented, and her linework only improves with age. Given how young she is, that's really saying something in terms of her potential. This webcomic, soon to be published by First Second, blew me away with its intricate details, even if sometimes the story itself wandered a bit more than I'd prefer. But when you are getting a chance to look at Tillie drawing ancient space ruins, the vastness of space itself, and young queer characters, it's really perfectly find to just wander alongside the drawings. Walden is a phenomenal talent and I fully expect see her on my favorites list for as long as she wishes to keep creating.

Zodiac Starforce by Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau, published by Dark Horse Comics
Like Mech Cadet Yu, this series takes some of the things we've seen before and puts them together in a way that a ton of fun to read--and a lot of that is Ganucheau's artwork, which is amazing. I love how each character has their own look, from body shape to hair to outfit--even when in the Starfoce Uniforms. The bright, rainbow coloring fits with the characters as well as the queer themes, and the dialogue from Panetta is solid and doesn't feel tin-eared the way that some writers do with young characters. I'm so glad this series is back, and I hope we get a lot more of it moving into 2018 and ongoing.

That's my sci-fi and fantasy favorites for 2017! I liked each of these books a great deal, for widely varying reasons, and I think it's also a list that has some things that definitely didn't get a wide enough audience. So check them out if you can! Again--I really want to have a good discussion on these, so feel free to comment here or hit me up on Twitter at @rob_McMonigal. Looking forward to it!

January 3, 2018

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Rob M's Favorite Anthologies of 2017

Welcome to the second of my favorites lists for 2017, this one focusing on anthologies. In the past, I've grouped anthologies by their content type, but I decided to put them together this year instead. Why? I dunno, really. Just did. We'll see what next year brings.

This list does not include a lot of great anthologies that came out in 2017. As a matter of fact, I don't think I read an anthology I *didn't* like that was published in 2017. But listing all of them doesn't make for much of a favorites list, now does it?

In this year of trying to figure out how to live in an era where one US party is openly fascist and the other is openly willing to sell out people in order to stay in power here in the US, the anthologies I was most drawn to either challenged power structures, the status quo, or made me think extremely hard about what I was reading and my willingness to transgress boundaries. I read several other great anthologies that didn't quite make my list because I didn't feel that draw in them. That's not a slight, and please don't take it that way. This is Rob McMonigal's favorites, and isn't a judgement. It's a sense of where my taste is as of the end of the year.

As always, listed in alphabetical order, because the goal here isn't to pit these varied styles against one another. I don't like using numbers, it's why Panel Patter doesn't grade things on a scale. (That keeps us off some review summary sites, but whatever. How do you say that an collection of erotic horror was numerically better than a collection of short stories meant to reflect on global warming?)

Here we go... [A few edits later in the day, for clarity.]

January 2, 2018

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Catch it at the Comic Shop January 3, 2018

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

James' Picks:

Boom! Box Mix Tape TP by various, published by Boom! Studios.
This is a collection of the Boom! Box Mix Tape comics from 2014 - 2016, and it should be a lot of fun. Those were some great comics, which contains short stories highlighting a number of different, great all-ages comics published by Boom! Box. I'd recommend this as a sampler of the various offering you can pick up on at Boom! Box, in particular any Giant Days or Lumberjanes stories.

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Rob M's Favorite Indie Books of 2017

It's the end of the year, so now as people who write about comics, it's time for us to talk about the books we liked best from the past year. James has already done his thing in his own inimitable fashion, and Scott should be working on a list which I believe he is checking twice. (The man has a complex spreadsheet, it's really impressive.) Mike's piece ran earlier today. One of these years, we'll do one as a team. But not this time. We're just lucky to all still be here, after recent events.

Careful readers will notice two things: One, this is my first year doing lists in awhile. All I can say is that after 2016's election in the US, I was barely thinking about comics. The second is that yet again, I've changed how I looked at the comics I read in 2017. I'm pretty happy with this breakdown, so it might stick. Or it might not. We'll see.

I decided to start with the one that has the most candidates for me, books I've loosely lumped into the indie category. These are the books that I didn't feel fell cleanly into a genre like horror or sci-fi, though one could make an argument for a few of them, I'm sure. Anyway, these are my lists, my rules, my categories.

I'd also like to note that there are so many good comics I didn't get to in 2017 that I'm sure would have made my list, like Spinning by Tillie Walden (who shows up on another of my lists) or even the new Groo series, which I just never got a chance to read. So don't take my lists as exhaustive--they're just the books that stuck with me in a really shitty year that found me taking months to even want to look much at comics again. I hope 2018 is better.

And if you didn't get to any of these books, I highly encourage you to do so. They're all excellent. That's why I list alphabetically instead of using numbers. I'm not going to tell you that a comic showing just how sad the current US President is two numbers better or worse than the story of running a fan site in the wild, "early" days of the internet. They're both amazing and worth your time, for different reasons.

Let's get to the list, shall we? It goes up to 11, for no other reason than I can't let James claim all the jokes...

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Mike's 10 . . . no 13 . . . Favorites Things about 2017


2017 will certainly enter the annals of history for a multitude of mostly embarrassing reasons. Like always, the world of comics, cartooning, and . . . um . . . original graphic novelling . . . I don't know. Where was I? Oh yes, the sequential art community did the three things it has done since comic strips started to appear in newspapers - nay! since cavemen created the first cave drawings. Creators provided the necessary element of escapism, they comforted us with the continued stories of characters we have grown to love, and they provided the satiric response to an increasingly satire-worthy world at large.

With that being said, I'm going to (briefly . . . no, I lie) discuss the ten things - books, concepts, writers, trends, etc - that had the most positive affect on me as a reader. I have a love for the form of comics as a whole, everything from Superman to Berlin, from Brian Michael Bendis to Derf Backderf. I hope you enjoy this list, and perhaps pick up something you hadn't originally thought to read this year.

This list follows in no particular order, save for the first, most important event of 2017:

December 31, 2017

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Youth in Decline Offers Frontier 2018

If part of your 2018 goals is to read more comics by people you may not already know, I can think of no better way than to kick that off by taking advantage of the subscription offer by Youth in Decline, which features 4 comics by the creators listed above. I really wish I'd been watching this series before, as the list of prior creators is a who's who of folks who I really dig: Eleanor Davis, Mike DeForge, Jilian Tamaki, Emily Carroll, and Sam Alden, just to name a few. This gives you a good idea of the quality of the creators they've selected in the past, so that you have an idea going in, even if you aren't familiar with the creators.

December 27, 2017

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Catch It at the Comic Shop December 27th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight for the 27th of December...

 James' Picks:

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe: The Quintessential Collection HC by Tom Scioli and John Barber, published by IDW Entertainment.
This was such a wonderfully weird comic. Transformers vs. G.I. Joe was sort of like if Jack Kirby wrote and drew Saturday morning cartoons for an underground zine. They're detailed and funny and ridiculous and a fantastic read for anyone who came of age in the 80's (or at any time) and has a love for classic cartoons and comics. Transformers kind of were my childhood, and Tom Scioli's art feels like action figures come to life (in the weirdest, most subversive possible way), so this is a must-have for me.

Eternity #3 by Matt Kindt, Trevor Hairsine, Ryan Winn and David Baron, published by Valiant Entertainment.
Eternity has been a very fun read thus far full of some pretty wonderfully odd cosmic goodness. It evokes classic cosmic Kirby or Starlin, with weird creatures battling, and forces of light and darkness.  Kindt continues to be a very skilled writer in many genres, and the art here is wonderfully detailed and the absurd becomes something you accept because it's so well-rendered.  I would recommend reading the three Divinity miniseries before you read this, so you know what's what, but those are great too. 

Doomsday Clock #2 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, published by DC Comics.
I know this is a controversial book for many, but I'm super curious about it, and I enjoyed the first issue. It's topical and interesting, and I wonder how Geoff Johns is going to pull it all together (i.e., bringing together the Watchmen and DC universes).  Gark Frank's art is terrific here, as good as he's ever done.  I think they're building something interesting, and am very curious where it goes.

December 21, 2017

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James' 2017 Favorites, in 17 Ridiculous Categories

2017 was a ridiculous year, filled with fake news and all other sorts of absurdities. In looking back at the comics I loved in 2017, I've decided to divide up my favorites into 17 completely serious, not at all ridiculous and fake categories. 

As always, these aren't the BEST comics, just my personal favorites.  Where I've previously reviewed the book for Panel Patter (within the past few years), I've provided a link to my earlier review in case you want to learn more. 

1. Great Series Where I Have No Idea What's Happening

Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, published by DC Comics.
I knew that Mitch Gerads was super-talented at bringing highly detailed, realistic worlds to life, from his work on Punisher and The Sheriff of Babylon.  But I had no idea he could turn those talents into something so unsettlingly weird and existential unease-inducing. But that's Mister Miracle, a fantastic book from Gerads and talented writer Tom King (not the last time you'll see him on this list). King and Gerads are telling a story about the New Gods, but what it feels to me like they're really doing is taking a deep dive into both depression and delusions, and the way that mental illness can alter your very sense of reality, and make you your own unreliable narrator.

December 19, 2017

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Catch It at the Comic Shop December 20th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight for the 20th of December...

Rob's Picks:

Assassinistas #1 by Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez, published by IDW. 
Tina Howard writes great women. Gilbert Hernandez writes and draws great women. The story features a mother who's also a bounty hunter that spent her son's college tuition on gear. Really, I shouldn't have to say a word more. Absolutely cannot wait to read this.

December 14, 2017

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Breaking the Code of Larry Marder's Beanworld Volume 4: Hoka Hoka Burb'l Burb'l

To be quite honest, I’m never too sure what I’ve read after finishing any of Larry Marder’s Beanworld books. It’s almost like Marder is cartooning in some kind of code, sending out messages to those with the decoder ring that never ended up in my box of Cracker Jacks. With his latest peek into the world of Mr. Spook, Professor Garbonzo and the quartet of Pod’l’pools, Marder continues to tell his story in this code, expressing spiritual, environmental and existential truths through the simplicity of beans.

There is a way that Marder’s stories function. Beanworld is almost a perfect, self-sustaining cycle. The various elements of this world mesh together to feed and provide a purpose for all of these characters. Marder has warriors, scientists, soldiers, and artists all existing in this harmonious encapsulation of reality. Beanworld Volume 4: Hoka Hoka Burb’l Burb’l begins with this harmony. Mr. Spook leads his Chow Sol’jers into the Hoi-Polloi Ring Herd to get Chow and leave their Sprout-Butt as their way of feeding the cycle of life. This is life in Beanworld. But that’s merely a self-perpetuating cycle and Beanworld is about growth.

The cycle is broken when one of the Chow Sol’jers injures his arm during the raid. This kicks off a series of events that introduces uncertainty into this fairly staid circle of life. And this gets to the heart of Marder’s Beanworld stories. There’s a system to Beanworld which is fairly self-regulating but Marder knows that this “perfect” system doesn’t require the characters to grow at all so he throws conflict at the characters, whether it’s an injury like what happens to one of the Chow Sol’jers or the idea of forces outside of Beanworld like the flighty Dreamishness’s brothers who are introduced in this book. To grow the system, Marder has to break it by introducing uncertainty into it.

Marder’s ecosystem develops and changes because he keeps breaking it and then has to create a new and evolved status quo from the system he just broke. It’s the beauty of a system that it needs conflict in order to evolve. And Marder’s storytelling is systematic but it’s never impersonal or stilted. The self-sustaining nature of Beanworld showcases a world that works together to support itself. There’s conflict but that conflict is actually part of the system and helps to nourish this population. It feeds off of itself while also feeding itself if that makes any sense.

But there’s a difference between what happens in Beanworld Volume 4: Hoka Hoka Burb’l Burb’l and what it means. Marder’s cartooning works in the symbols he’s created through the various classes of beans in his story. In his odd balancing act between individual characters like Beanish and Mr. Spook and the non-individualistic groups like the Chow Sol’jers, the Boom’r Band, and the Pod’l’pool, this book focuses on the changes that can occur within the groups thanks to outside influences. Marder describes this book as the beginning of a new cycle of Beanworld books so maybe it’s a bit too early to understand just what he’s getting at with this book.

Marder is working in parable, using a simple story to reveal a larger truth. But as is often the case when looking at parables, that larger truth isn’t always self-evident. Marder cartoons in symbols and metaphors and only provides the barest of keys to his mystery. The only real key he alludes to in the afterward is that Dreamishness, the one being who exists outside of the cycle of Beanworld, is modelled on his Cory, With that, it would be easy to understand Beanish, the artist of Beanworld, as Marder’s presence in this story but you could probably draw lines from Marder to all of the other characters in this book. That makes Beanworld an incredibly personal story for Marder that’s actually very humanistic. Marder may be all of the characters but he also projects that identification onto the reader as well. We’re artists, scientists, warriors, musicians, children and even hoarders.

Beanworld is billed as “A Most Peculiar Comic Book Experience,” and it certainly lives up to that in Marder’s newest comic. Ultimately that’s what Beanworld Volume 4: Hoka Hoka Burb’l Burb’l is, an experience. As a reader, you experience this world with its creator and its characters, Marder’s wonderfully parabolic cartooning allows this story to be about the personal experience of change. While Marder also peppers in his overarching themes of the right order of the world into the book, he also acknowledges our own personal growth and change that is essential for us and for our society. Hoka Hoka Burb’l Burb’l is the experience of change but it’s also a lesson about the inevitability of change.

Beanworld Volume 4: Hoka Hoka Burb'l Burb'l
Written and drawn by Larry Marder
Published by Dark Horse Books

December 12, 2017

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Catch It at the Comic Shop December 13th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to four single issues or trades for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it. 

James' Picks:

Lady Killer vol. 2 by Joelle Jones and Michelle Madsen, published by Dark Horse Comics.
I loved the first volume of Lady Killer which was based around the general premise of "what if Betty Draper was secretly a mob hit-woman on the side?"  It had an engaging, violent story and sexy, stylish, terrifically detailed and period-accurate art from Joelle Jones. This time around Jones is writer and artist, and I'm very excited to check it out.

Rumble #1 by John Arcudi, David Rubin and Dave Stewart, published by Image Comics.
Rumble was a terrific series written by John Arcudi, with art from James Harren and colors from Dave Stewart. It was a terrific dark urban-set fantasy series, and was highly engaging. It looks like the series is being restarted, this time with David Rubin on art. I'll miss Harren's work but I absolutely love Rubin's work, so I think the series will continue to be in terrific artistic hands, particularly given that Stewart will be providing excellent colors.

Retcon #4 by Matt Nixon, Toby Cypress and Matt Kroetzer, published by Image Comics.
This has been a delightful and weird surprise this year. It appears to be wrapping up and I suggest getting it in trade. Retcon is a fantasy/sci-fi series, where each issue it becomes clear that there's more and more going on. It's an engagingly absurd story, and if you want to draw the weird and psychedelic, there's few better than Toby Cypress to take that on. He's a fantastic artist, and this is a fun book.

Dept. H by Matt and Sharlene Kindt, published by Dark Horse Comics.
I just really love this book. It's an engaging story that continues to build, as we've simultaneously followed a cast of characters trapped at the bottom of the ocean, and we've taken looks at the past of each of these characters. Everyone has a complicated history, and this book really is delving into each of their lives in a deep way. Matt Kindt's art (with terrific colors from Sharlene Kindt) has never been better, this is really worth a look.

December 5, 2017

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Catch It at the Comic Shop December 6th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to three single issues and one trade for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it. (Or you know, Rob totally cheats and goes three trades and a single issue. Well, they are the head writer...)

Rob's Picks:

Judge Dredd: Mega City Zero by Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, and Dan McDaid, Published by IDW.
Ulises Farinas isn't afraid to make bold statements, and his work on this Dredd series was no exception. Imagine the man used to upholding The Law finding himself in a world where it doesn't seem to apply? Trying to make law and order out of a world that's not his was a brilliant take on the character, one that is worth visiting. McDaid's art makes the whole thing feel a little surreal by using a style that doesn't quite bring things into sharp focus, and his big, bulky, blocky Dredd is top notch. This is good for long-time fans or those who just know the general gist of the character, too!

Whiteout Compendium by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, Published by Oni Press.
This is the series of books that made me a now long-time fan of Steve Lieber's art. The story itself is pretty cool, a thriller set in a remote location, where the intrigue abounds but the land itself is just as big of a threat. But the art! My God, I've never seen anyone use white a color like this. Steve's linework manipulates blank space the way others master heavy blacks. It's a tour de force, and I'm so glad to see this back in print for others to discover and enjoy the way I did.

Be Your Own Backing Band by Liz Prince, Published by Silver Sprocket.
I've been a fan of Liz Prince for longer than I can think of, going back to first spotting her in the pages of zine-style anthologies and a few minis. This is a collection of her shorts based around music, collected together by one of the best publishers going, Silver Sprocket. Liz's no-holds-barred approach to her work, willingness to spoof herself, and lines that express a ton of emotion all combine for a great collection I highly recommend.

Faith's Winter Wonderland Special #1 by Marguerite Sauvage, Francis Portella, MJ Kim, and Andrew Dalhouse, Published by Valiant Entertainment.
Since her introduction a few years ago, I've been a big fan of the character of Faith, a young woman who really wants to be a hero, in a world where there's a lot of darkness. She's got the mindset of Superman (or someone raised on good Superman comics), but not as much power. Additionally, as a character of size, Faith represents something we rarely see in comics. (The only other one I can think of easily, Amanda Waller, was de-sized by DC, in a shameful move.) This issue can only be described as...fun. Like Faith's imagination used to its fullest, a great pun in the title (that I won't spoil), and some solid linework from the artists. It's a heartwarming story that might just help you if you're ready to give up on the world. Faith's positiveness is contagious.

Mike's Picks:

Batman: White Knight #3, by Sean Murphy, published by DC Comics
Last week, I mentioned that I’ve been loving DC’s renewed interest in Elseworlds’ type tales. Sean Murphy’s take on a Bat-world flipped on its head has been absolutely remarkable. His reimagined Joker, fashioned as some sort of populist hero, resonates without feeling forced. This is a thinking person’s Bat-book, even if most of those thoughts boil down to “wait, what?”

Superman # 36 by Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Doug Mahnke, published by DC Comics
When Tomasi, Gleason, and Mahnke get together, we get incredibly well-executed Superman stories. This issue is a big payoff for readers who have following this storyline since the waning days of The New 52, and it serves as another building block for a revamped New Gods mythos in the Rebirth era. This is high concept Superman with impeccable characterization courtesy of the deft writing of Tomasi and Gleason.

The Mighty Crusaders # 1 by Ian Flynn and Kelsey Shannon, published by Archie Comics/Dark Circle
Archie’s “Dark Circle” imprint has been as sporadically published as it has been consistent in tone and substance. Nonetheless, I’ll bet on this title on the strength of Ian Flynn, who penned the original revival, New Crusaders, back when the imprint was still known as “Red Circle.” This has the potential to be a very fun book, steeped in nostalgia but devoid of continuity conundrums.

The Senses by Matteo Farinella, published by Nobrow Press
Nobrow has a knack for putting out beautifully constructed books. Everything from their paper stock to their quirky publication choices help to set Nobrow apart from other indie publishers. I re-read this solicit a few times, and I’m entirely intrigued. The Senses, by cartoonist and neuroscientist, Matteo Farinella, looks to be an exquisite publication that attempts to distill the feeling of each of our senses into something that can be illustrated on a page. I’m fascinated, to say the least.

James' Picks:

Black Bolt Vol. 1 TP by Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward, published by Marvel Comics.
This has been one of the great surprises of the year for me. I've always found the character of Black Bolt interesting, as the ultimate model of male repression of emotions (his voice is deadly) but other than in the work of Jonathan Hickman, I haven't been too thrilled with the stories about Black Bolt. This wonderful book from writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Christian Ward gives a great insight into the mind and character of Black Bolt by taking him out of his regular environment and surrounding him with memorable characters like Crusher Creel who comes off here as a pretty sympathetic character. Ahmed is a talented writer, and Ward's art is fantastically trippy, and this is a terrific read.

Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibus HC by Jack Kirby, published by DC Comics.
I'm sure I don't really need to tell you about the greatness and importance of Jack Kirby. And this omnibus is $150 so I expect it'll be a while before I pick this up. But I think it's really worth a look. I remember reading the Kirby Fourth World stories maybe 10 or so years ago, when I was first getting back into comics, and they were a revelation. There's a lot of stuff going on, some of it makes sense, and some of it doesn't but these are comics that feel like pure energy. They feel like pure unfettered Kirby. As a visual stylist he is and remains unmatched. So, I'd say definitely give this a look if you're at the comic shop.

Violent Love #10 by Frank Barbiere and Victor Santos, published by Image comics.
I've enjoyed this series from writer Frank Barbiere and and artist Victor Santos, which is wrapping up with this issue #10. It's (as you can tell from the title) a crime and romance story, and I think it's successful on both counts. There's some pretty unflinching portrayal of crime and the violent consequences of crime. And the chemistry between the two main characters in the story really comes across. Barbiere is an engaging, accessible writer, and Santos really brings his A-Game with stylish, classic, gorgeous and gritty art.

Rock Candy Mountain #6 by Kyle Starks, published by Image Comics.
This book has been one of the fantastic surprises of 2017 for me. It's a little disarming of a book, in that Starks exaggerated, cartoony art style doesn't necessarily tell you that you're going to be reading a poignant and emotional comic about a character dealing with PTSD and loss, but that's what this comic is. It's also a hilarious and absurd book where the devil is a character and there is occasional absurdly horrific violence. Not only that, but this story is a pretty good education on the life of a hobo circa mid-20th century. This is a great, engaging read.