November 6, 2019

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Catch It at the Comic Shop November 6th, 2019

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:

Wasted Space #11 by Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman, Jason Wordie and Jim Campbell, published by Vault Comics
Wasted Space is a science fiction comic that's both funny and serious, and is playing with both big ideas and has plenty of sex jokes. It's one of the best comics being published and I highly recommend it. Moreci continues to do excellent work writing, and the team of Hayden Sherman and Jason Wordie bring the story to life in a wonderful way. Sherman keeps getting better and better, and his scratchy style belies some very precise work.

Heist #1 by Paul Tobin and Arjuna Sussini, published by Vault Comics
Heist fits in well with fans of Wasted Space, as it's a fun, very entertaining science fiction series set in a grimy, lived-in cosmos. If you love Star Wars but think "you know, I don't really care about the Force or the Jedi or anything, I just want to know about the criminals" then this is the story for you. I've read the first issue and Paul Tobin and Arjuna Sussini combine for a strong, funny, engaging, assured debut issue.

November Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction, Elsa Charretier, Matt Hollingsworth and Kurt Ankeny, published by Image Comics
Matt Fraction is one of the funniest comic writers out there. But even his funniest comics (Sex Criminals, Hawkeye) are also simultaneously comics where Fraction is completely unafraid to look at darkness and all of the weird and messy parts of the human condition. So, I'm excited here to see what he brings to what feels like more of a film noir setting. He's paired with the spectacularly talented Elsa Charretier, who's got a beautiful, expressive, classic old-school style (evocative of Darwyn Cooke) she's going for something grittier, and less pretty, in this story. I've read some of November, and it's pretty interesting and I'm looking forward to reading more.

New Mutants #1 by Jonathan Hickman, Ed Brisson and Rod Reis/X-Force #1 by Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara, both published by Marvel Comics
I have never had any sort of connection to the New Mutants, and I haven't particularly been interested in an X-Force book since Uncanny X-Force by Rick Remender, Jerome Opeña, et al. (which was 6+ years ago). But this is the Dawn of X, and I'm reading and very much enjoying all of the new X-related books. In X-Force, I'm excited to see how they explore the X-Force concept now that Krakoa is its own nation.  In New Mutants, I'm mostly excited because Hickman is co-writing, and the art is from Rod Reis (whose work I love). Thus far all the books have been a lot of fun.

Mike's Picks:

Locke and Key: Dog Days by Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Jay Fotos, published by IDW Entertainment
I remember when I bought the first trade of Locke and Key years ago. It was a welcomed recommendation from my friends at Third Eye, because it wasn’t something I’d have thought to pick up. I’m not a horror guy, and I inevitably miss things that would be in my wheelhouse outside of a half-hearted genre aversion. But Locke and Key quickly became a favorite, and my wife and I devoured the entire series. To see its unexpected return, even for a one shot that’s impetus stems from the upcoming television adaptation, fills me with excitement. It might be one of my favorite series of all time, and I can’t wait to re-enter the world of Lovecraft

Wasted Space 11 by Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman, Jason Wordie, and Jim Campbell, published by Vault Comics
Wasted Space is my favorite ongoing book. It’s the series I put to the top of my read pile when it arrives in shops. I was thinking about something profound to say about it. I’ve gone on about how it’s both a love letter and a satire of the genre, how it functions both as a self-contained story and an allegory, and how it manages to continually drive a plot with twists and turns that don’t feel hokey or cliché. So, I was trying to come up with something new, something clever, when I saw our friend Zack from Batman’s Bookcase refer to it as Space Opera by way of David Foster Wallace, and yeah I got nothing it’s a great series go buy it.

Heist, or How to Steal a Planet 1 by Paul Tobin, Arjuna Susini, and Vittorio Astone, published by Vault Comics
Yes, two Vault comics for me this week. I’m probably not alone here. There’s a good chance if you’re into something like Wasted Space, you’ll also dig Heist, a book that promises to continue Vault’s record for diverse, unique stories that beautifully bend genres. I’m not incredibly familiar with Paul Tobin outside of Bandette and Made Men, but I was impressed by his pacing and setup, as well as the way he was able to subsume tropes from both the crime and sci-fi genres. This is a great looking book, and if you’ve never read anything featuring Vittorio Astone’s (Maxwell’s Demons) colors before, you’re certainly in for a treat.

October 30, 2019

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Catch It at the Comic Shop October 30th, 2019

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:

October 25, 2019

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The Relatable Fears of Raina Telgemeier’s Guts

Written and Drawn by Raina Telgemeier
Published by Graphix (Scholastic)

Raina Telgemeier’s latest book Guts returns to the semi-autobiographical form of Smile and Sisters, telling the tale of young Raina and fourth grade. During that year, just thinking about puking induced serious anxiety into Raina, practically making her sick enough to end up puking. This lead to a year of illness, doctors and therapy. From the iconic cover, with the usual smiley face looking worried and not too good, through to an often shivering, heaving Raina, Telgemeier traces a school year where Raina feels more and more alone and isolate because of her illness. Guts traces Raina’s growing health issues and how they exacerbate her normal 4th grade insecurities.

One of the big things that really helps drive Telgemeier’s storytelling is the simplicity of her artwork. Owing far more to Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse comic strip than to any long form comic,Telgemeier has developed a rhythm that’s based around a mixture of representation of the physical and the emotional being of her characters. Her drawings capture an uncomplicated world that’s thrown into an everyday but still complicated chaos. Similar to a cartoonist like Johnston, Telgemeier’s characters act in a very broad style. They wear their hearts and their minds on their drawn sleeves. There’s not a lot of work for the audience to do here because she has her characters doing a lot of it for us.

WIth so much of the story clearly expressed on the page, Telgemeier gets to find moments to play with the conventions of cartooning, creating some wonderfully surprising sequences. This playfulness creates some really fun moments in the ways that she tells the stories. One such moment in early in the book finds a vomiting Raina kneels in front of the toilet. The final panel of the page features her equally sick mother rushing into the toilet, covering her mouth and asking her daughter to move. It’s a familiar enough scene where you expect the first panel on the next page to be her mother taking Raina’s place at the toilet. Instead of a gory and uncomfortable vision, we see a gleeful Raina the next day describing the whole scene to her grossed-out friends. Telgemeier plays with our expectations here. Raina telling her friends about her mom puking basically describes the image that we were expecting but Telgemeier turns it into a moment of joy by jumping ahead and giving Raina some distance from her sickness. It’s also one of the early moments of her own maladies that she’s able to share and commiserate over with someone else.

Telgemeier also takes Raina’s experiences with sickness and uncertainty and visually frames them occasionally to make the moment larger than it is. Later in the book as she contemplates the possible connections between her illness and the onset of puberty, she draws Raina wide-eyed and staring into space. But she breaks the image of the girl into four panels, creating time and space in this moment of introspection. Lying in bed, in the grass, on a couch and in a bathtub, Telgemeier shows how Raina’s thoughts transcend a single moment to become something more than just a passing musing.

More than just focusing on her childhood illnesses themselves, Telgemeier uses her book to dive into what it means for a young girl to have a condition that keeps her apart from her friends and family. As much as Guts is about being physically ill, it spends most of its pages navigating how young Raina feels alienated from her classmates because she’s scared to reveal too much about her self for fear of being really shunned by the other children.

Through this book (like she does in many of her other books,) Telgemeier is telling us that it’s ok to be “different.” Or at least to think we’re different as Raina learns that she’s not the only one who is trying to hide secrets. She’s not as alone as she thought she was, a nice callback to the night her and her mother were both hunched over the toilet. Guts encourages us not to listen to that nagging voice that exists in the back of most of our minds telling us that there’s something wrong with us and that we’re not good enough. Whether you’re 10 or 50 years old, it’s hard to ignore that voice and even harder not to believe it. In this book, Raina moves through this school-age world where she feels like she’s the only one who doesn’t fit it. It’s lonely and scary until she realizes all of her friends feel that same way for their own reasons. Like the best autobiographical storytellers, Telgemeier is able to take personal events and trauma and turn them into universal stories that we all can relate to.

October 24, 2019

CAB Preview 2019

For the third year since it's relocation out of Williamsburg, Comics Art Brooklyn (CAB) will take place at Pratt Institute in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn NY. This year it is scheduled for Saturday, November 2 and the big draws are Gary Panter, who among other things is famous for the paper mobile hanging from the ceiling in Harvard Square's Million Year Picnic; Aline Kominsky-Crumb, renowned underground cartoonist and erstwhile editor of Weirdo magazine; and Chris Ware, fresh off the publication of Rusty Brown.

This will be the first chance many get to flip through Gary Panter's new book, Wildest Dream, published by the organizer of the festival, Gabe Fowler of Desert Island. I can't wait to get a look at it myself, but the focus of my attention is on comics that I would otherwise not be able to see at all without paying massive shipping fees or living closer to one of the five or six best comic stores in the continent such as Copacetic, The Beguiling, Quimby's, Floating World, or Desert Island.

In previous years the big draws for me at CAB were Breakdown Press from the UK and Hollow Press from Italy. Both of these publishers now have distribution in the U.S., so while CAB may give you an advance shot at their new books, opportunities to save big on international shipping are diminished.

Breakdown Press has fewer new books this year than in some years past, but one book of note is The Pits of Hell by Ebisu Yoshikazu, with translation and essay provided by the inestimable Ryan Holmberg. Ebisu Yoshikazu apparently worked as a janitor in the 1960's while publishing short comics in Garo magazine, the Japanese monthly known for it's counter-culture and offbeat manga. The preview images Ryan Holmberg has shared on his Instagram look angry, vicious, and fed up with the daily frustrations of blue collar work.

Hollow Press might have the second most anxiety inducing website in all of comics after Comics Workbook, but they consistently put out killer books. They should have Tetsunori Tawaraya's latest book, Assassin Child at CAB. The book is silver ink on black paper and depicts a crash landing scenario of asexually reproducing aliens on a distant planet. It promises imaginative and highly detailed depictions of monstrous figures navigating bizarre alien landscapes and if it's anything like his previous books is well suited for fans of Matt Brinkman, whom Hollow Press has also republished. Tetsunori Tawaraya himself is also tabling at the show where I would expect him to be selling screen printed pink and neon shirts from a large disorganized pile.

Lale Westvind will be at this year's festival with the sequel to 2018's Grip aptly titled Grip 2This book was published by Acceptable Press at the end of September and continues in a similar vein as it's predecessor with a strong woman working wonders with her hands. One sequence in particular brings to mind the popular YouTube channel where a guy is shown building elaborate structures, such as underground pools, with his bare hands. She'll also have a new book from Berlin publisher, Colorama, called Code 3:5; Burnout, a new Grip riso print, a new screen print, and some small gauche paintings. Everything she does is worth checking out.

Unlike Breakdown or Hollow Press, the aforementioned Colorama Press' presence at the fest may in fact present opportunities for savings on international shipping as distribution for their books in the US is limited. Besides the new Wesvind comic they will have the latest by Olivier Schrauwen, titled Sunday 2 as well as a reprint of his previously self published Sunday 1, which recounted the mundane daily activities of a man, allegedly Shrauwen's cousin, while his girlfriend was out of town. Schrauwen is a Belgian cartoonist and was a special guest at last year's CAB coinciding with the publication of a major collection of his
short works by Fantagraphics Books. Schrauwen is the funniest working cartoonist today but no one would would classify his comics as humor. They are beautiful, formally inventive, and manage to have depth of character and story while walking on the edge of absurdity. A new Schrauwen comic is a drop-everything-and-get-it-now scenario. These comics will likely be collected at some point in the future, it's up to you to decide if you are the type of person who can wait for that or if you would prefer them now.

Mega Press is a publisher operated by cartoonist Panayiotis Terzis. I'm mostly aware of them from their Trapper Keeper anthology series which has frequent contributions from artists Lala Albert and Leon Sadler and depicts grim though colorful risographed visions of the future. In collaboration with Neoglphyic Media they will have a new 100 page anthology at CAB called An Unknown Power, with an impressive array of contributors including Lando, Margot Ferrick, and Robert Beatty cover art, but the contributor who caught my eye was Lilli Carre. Carre has been largely absent from comics for the last six or seven years and maybe her contribution here means we will see more from her in the future. In fact she also had a new stand-alone comic just last month, mini kuš! #80, from the Estonian publisher, kuš!, who will also be at CAB.
Paradise Systems is a New York based publisher that brings comics to the US from China with a focus on “weird, sincere, [and] experimental storytelling." Earlier this year they kickstarted their most ambitious project to date, the translation and publishing of a 100 full color page anthology titled Naked Body that was originally published in China in 2014. It's the first the first major anthology of independent Chinese comics published in the US. As I understand it, independent publishing is technically illegal in China and yet a thriving independent comics scene exists of which I am entirely ignorant and would love to learn more.

There are over 300 exhibitors at CAB this year, so I can't hope to mention them all or make a blanket statement that encompasses the types of comics you will find there. One last exhibitor I want to mention though is Bubbles Fanzine. Bubbles is edited and self-published by Brian Baynes, a Richmond native and the co-creator of the Richmond Zine Fest. Issue #4 of Bubbles was released earlier this fall and I'm looking forward to picking it up at the fest. If your budget doesn't allow for beautiful $50 risographed anthologies there will probably be plenty of mini-comics scattered throughout the fest, but Bubbles issues at $6 each are arguably the greatest value you will be able to find in the room.

October 23, 2019

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Catch It at the Comic Shop October 23rd, 2019

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:

Money Shot #1 by Tim Seeley, Sarah Beattie, Rebekah Isaacs and Kurt Michael Russell, published by Vault Comics
Money Shot is the perfect comic for the whole family! If, you know, you want to get into trouble.*  But if you're looking for an engaging, hilarious, sexy, ribald sci-fi comic, I highly recommend Money Shot.  It's a few decades from now. There's a research team that has a gateway they can use to get to other worlds, but scientific research still isn't being properly funded. You know what people DO pay for though? Porn. But there's so much available online that people are losing interest and getting bored by anything and everything. But you know what might not bore them? Human-alien sex. That's the premise behind Money Shot which, for all its outrageous subject matter, is actually a very sweet comic.  The script from Tim Seeley and Sarah Beattie is hilarious. If you follow Beattie on Twitter, you know that's no surprise. Her deadpan raunchy, highly political humor is fantastically sharp. So it's a fun story, and the art from Rebekah Isaacs is very strong as well. She's got an engaging, accessible style that's a little "cartoony" but not overly so. She also smartly depicts the various people as attractive, but looking like real people with varied body types. Anyway, this is a fun. smart, raunchy debut, and I highly recommend it.

* One time a few years ago we accidentally sent our younger daughter to school (she was maybe 9 at the time?) with an issue of Bitch Planet in her backpack. Thankfully no one saw it there otherwise there might have been some tough questions. 

Marauders #1 by Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli, and Russell Dauterman, published by Marvel Comics
I was a little skeptical about the premise of this book at first.  Mutants sailing the seven seas as pirates, rescuing mutants and also selling mutant super-medicines. But then I saw a preview and I am completely sold. This book looks like a lot of fun, and the art seems completely delightful. Looks like there should be some fun interplay between Kitty (excuse me, Kate) Pryde and Emma Frost. And in general, good adventures and intrigue.

Immortal Hulk #25 by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, German Garcia and Alex Ross, published by Marvel Comics
If you haven't been reading Immortal Hulk, you're missing the very best Marvel Comics has to offer these days. This book is deep and intense and thoughtful. It's also an incredible example of intense body horror in comics. But it's also occasionally very funny. There's a ton of thoughtful Biblical references (not the obvious overdone ones), and as of last issue and now this issue, the comic also seems to involve the eventual death and rebirth of the universe and the role that the Hulk will have to play in that. So, I'd say Immortal Hulk is a pretty ambitious comic. And the art from Joe Bennett (primarily) has been really remarkable - intense and atmospheric and sometimes horrifying. This is the definition of a must-read book.

Sean's Picks:
Marvel Action Spider-Man #10 by Delilah Dawson & Davide Tinto, published by IDW Entertainment
If I am an apologist for anything it'd be for stories featuring Spider-Man. That feeling you get when you read the sound his webbing makes as it exits his wrists and onto evildoers: “Thwip! Thwip!” So many Spidey stories to tell with all the time to tell them. Having two school age children in the house gives me all of the reason to read these even though there isn’t any reasoning required. The consistent standout feature for the beloved Spider-Man has quietly been released twice monthly and geared mainly toward children. It's a fun, and new twist to the classic story with specific purpose to introduce characters to a new, younger audience. This particular Marvel Action title groups Peter Parker, Miles Morales, and Gwen Stacy all somehow occupying the same Earth , at the same school, and the same age. Not your traditional Spidey story, obviously, but it gets the job done when the actual mythos of Spidey is a literal convoluted cluster. It would take a lifetime to catch oneself up to speed with the many lives Peter Parker has led, and how many others he has crossed paths with. What better way to bring in new readers than with new stories featuring the three most beloved faces of the character? Most every young person has adored one of these Spider-People at some point growing up, so it suits as a natural transition. This week's issue is the beginning of a new arc that features what is being solicited as the Marvel Action debut of my favorite villain in the half century old epic urban saga. If you do decide to pick up this book, the time it may take you to realize you stopped caring that this is a child's comic book is significantly shorter than the time it has taken you to finish reading this short recommend.
Spider-Man Life Story TP by Chip Zdarsky & Mark Bagley, published by Marvel Comics
Chip really does know how to write Spidey. He gets him, really.. he really does. It is no easy task to take six decades of a classic superhero mythos and transform it into six monthly issues of successful storytelling. Zdarsky and Bagley did with Life Storywhat has traditionally been segmented for the dead and dying and wrote a book meant filed in the back aisles alongside the biographies. This is a dark story. It touches on the hard choices Peter had to face during the course of his time as the webslinger. When a story lasting as long as Peter Parker’s is condensed down to its core formula there really is no mistaking the blemishes in the tattered hues of the blues and reds for anything other than blacks and blues. I had simple gripes about this series as it was being put out monthly; they were silly things such as missed opportunities with decade specific art styles, and overlooked plot details that were skipped over entirely. Truthfully, when I read this comic collected as it's own story it deserves none of those critiques. This is a perfect telling of the most important fictional character to ever be created - don't @ me. It is sad, it is dark, it is heroic, it is triumphant, and most of all.. it is the story of Spider-Man with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Bad Reception #3 by Juan Doe, published by Aftershock Comics
The first issue of Bad Reception was 28 pages of unexpected brilliance. It took on a format of comic book storytelling and reduced it down to almost nothing while simultaneously cranking the suspense level up to heights only seen achieved by the few. The second issue, out last month, reasserted itself as a more traditional thriller with all the expected characters and various plot points presented. A specific reveal illustrated on the final page of that same issue caused my skin to crawl as my fingers went numb as I threw the book down and out of my hand. I remember audibly saying to myself in an empty room: “oh god!” and to cause immediate and out-loud involuntary responses to a written story is something in itself. There is one individual behind this comic, and his name is Juan Doe. The artist who brought us the hauntingly stunning illustrations within Dark Ark is now flexing his all-inclusive creator-owned content with Bad Reception. Do not ignore any hype you might see on this one, because all of it is justified with every reason to believe more should follow. Full disclosure… I’m forcing this one into my already crowded list of subscriptions. When a book is this good one would be foolish to look away. Don’t walk, run.

You Are Obsolete #2 by Matthew Klickstein & Evgeny Bornyakov, published by Aftershock Comics
I have an eerie yet strikingly emotional attachment to this story. I have been counting down to the day that I turn forty for nearly three and a half years now. Ever since I was unable to avoid the conversational labeling of being in my mid-thirties I have pulled up those boot straps and embraced the inevitable: closing in on 40. In May of next year I will finally reach that dreaded day, and according to this new series from Aftershock, that is the day in which I will die. In this story, every adult reaching forty lives this life no longer, and every child… is somehow a part of a mysterious omnipotence that everyone refers to as The Children. These tech obsessed children somehow control everything and we have just begun introductions in a story still young enough to not have its thumb on exactly what it is telling us. But no bother, Lyla Wilton is our feet and our eyes in the story all too similar to some other children. Most specifically those whom would congregate in the fields of corn. Unlike this flimsy comparison, the kids in You Are Obsolete haven’t religion as a means to an end, what they assume is a 21st century version of digital religion full of glowing blue screens and CCTV. I know nothing about the creative background for Matthew Klickstein, but with the artistic talent of Evgeny Bornyakov of Descendent fame, I have no reason to assume that this story will miss a hook-laden horror punch to the gut meant for nothing less than what it seems.
Second Coming 4 by Mark Russell, Richard Pace & Leonard Kirk, published by Ahoy Comics
I am unsure if I have recommended this series for every issue, and if I have not then I apologize. I’m most likely going to miss out on heaven because of this book, the blasphemy is just too rich to avoid. The religious satire is so.. current, and the social commentary is written as if no one is safe as Mark Russell narrates us through Pace and Kirk’s perfectly paired illustrations in Second Coming. By no means am I suggesting that Russell et al is a messiah of sorts, but they very well should be in respect to the oft avoided comedic angle in the pretense of religion. The new issue out this week will have Jesus Christ in prison as Sun Man wonders without a clue of his location. The search begins for the missing Christ.. again. It is a ridiculous premise, but somehow seems current as also relevant considering the foundation of story being told. Simply put, Jesus has come back to Earth (hence the title.. so not a spoiler, basically) with no appreciation from his father (God) accompanied by an absent need to care from any human noticing. I find this comic painfully ironic considering that 81% of Christians in America voted for the most vile living human currently in existence (too much?) as president with no end in sight for partisan apologetic tendencies. My favorite thing to do currently is to read this Second Coming on a Sunday morning, just because it feels as if there is no other way. I promise, read this and you won’t be able to disagree with me. With that, I dare you. Go pick up a copy and try.

Mike's Picks:

Invisible Kingdom: Walking the Path by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward, published by Dark Horse/Berger Books
Good gravy, can G. Willow Wilson craft a sci-fi story. For those of you who are fans of literary science fiction but who have yet to delve into Wilson and Ward’s wonderfully metaphorical series, take the plunge with this week’s trade release. Ward’s work has made for one of the more beautiful books on the stands, and Wilson, who is definitely firing on all cylinders – creates a story that has mixtures of Margaret Atwood, Philip K. Dick, and James S. Corey.

Batman: Curse of the White Knight 4 by Sean Gordon Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth, published by DC Black Label
I haven’t had the real opportunity to write about the second volume of Sean Murphy’s Elseworlds-cum-Black Label book because I had fallen behind on the series. Early reviews of this series seemed to complain that the initial issue felt a little flat compared to the previous series, a complaint I felt was fairly unwarranted seeing as the flawed analysis seemed to compare a first issue to an entire run. Nonetheless, issue was was somewhat heavy on the exposition just like – wait for it – issue one of the first volume. Seems to be Murphy’s style, and I’m fine with that because this series has been great, even if it doesn’t match the levels of creativity in the first series. It’s still some of the best Batman we’re getting.

Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan and Zack Weindersmith, published by First Second
Border politics and immigration is likely the source of most people’s Thanksgiving dinner nightmare scenarios, and part of the reason why is that most of us, regardless of our stance, tend to respond with a gut reaction that has been cultivated by a specific moral worldview. An ethical approach – in this case, a fairly Singer-esque utilitarian model – and a scientific approach – think along the lines of Freakanomics – can help to set the stage for more educated conversations around the topic of immigration. Graphic nonfiction is a wonderful teaching tool, and Open Borders looks to open minds with an approach outside the more popular narrative route.

October 16, 2019

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Catch It at the Comic Shop October 16th, 2019

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...

Sean's Picks:

October 9, 2019

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Catch It at the Comic Shop October 9th, 2019

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...

Mike's Picks:

Batman’s Grave 1 by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch published by DC Comics
Batman Giant 1 by Michael Gray, Ryan Benjamin, Steve Orlando, and Tom Mandrake (new stories), published by DC Comics

A double dose of the caped crusader this week? Dare I? Yes, indeed. What could be better than 100 pages of Batman for approximately 5 bucks? Featuring a new full length story, a new short story (by Steve Orlando!), and some solid reprints, this 100 page giant is a must buy for me.

Powers of X 6 by Jonathan Hickman and R.B. Silva, published by Marvel Comics
To be perfectly honest, the only reason you haven’t seen me pick HoX or PoX every week is because I missed the past three weeks because of an insane work schedule. It’s been hard to carve out even a few moments to stare at the wall to contemplate the irreverence existence while still feeling burdened to reconsider each minute choice I’ve made to lead me where ever I’ve arrived. But you know what I haven’t missed? A single issue of HiX-men.

James' Picks:

East of West #43 by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta, published by Image Comics
I'm thrilled to see the return of East of West, one of my favorite comics of all-time. Seriously, it's that good. This is the final arc so it's not a good time to get on board, but there are a bunch of volumes out there and if you are looking for a big, complex, dramatic series involving alternate history, religious fervor, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, westerns, magic, cool technology, witty characters, and insanely beautiful and sometimes terrifying art, well then East of West is a good story for you. As Jonathan Hickman said once about one of his books (and this really applies to all of them), a good starting point is issue #1. But really, this is a next-level good series. The art from the team of illustrator Nick Dragotta and colorist Frank Martin is really some staggering work.

Thumbs #5 by Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman, published by Image Comics
Thumbs has been a really excellent read.  I recently reread the first 4 issues and this is a strong, dark miniseries that pushes a pretty bleak vision of where dependence on technology could take us. Sherman's art keeps getting better and better, and Lewis knows how to write strong, realistic dialogue and narration that actually feels additive to a story. With Thumbs and The Few, this team has cornered the market on dystopian, breakdown of society stories. I hope they keep working together, and I'd also be curious to see them tackle another genre as they're a terrific team.

Doctor Doom #1 by Christopher Cantwell and Salvador Larroca, published by Marvel Comics
I'm kind of a Doctor Doom snob now, I think. Jonathan Hickman's portrayal of the character (in Fantastic Four, Avengers and Secret Wars) is complex and interesting and regal and beyond good and evil, that everyone else's portrayal just feels wanting. There's been some good work, don't get me wrong. I actually really liked Bendis' Infamous Iron Man run where Victor tried to be a hero for a while. But Slott's Fantastic Four really hasn't worked for me.  Christopher Cantwell (successful showrunner of Halt and Catch Fire) wrote She Could Fly which is a dark, weird series that I didn't totally love (or totally get) but at least it felt like he was trying to do something ambitious and interesting. So, he's someone whose take on Doom will interest me.

October 2, 2019

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Catch It at the Comic Shop October 2nd, 2019

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...

Neil's Pick: 

September 25, 2019

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Catch It at the Comic Shop September 25th, 2019

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:

September 19, 2019

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The Beauty of a Frightful Imagination— Digging into Charles Burns’ Free Shit

Free Shit
Art by Charles Burns
Published by Fantagraphics Books

Charles Burns has never been a cartoonist who seems squeamish or questioning about this drawings. His work in books like Black Hole or Last Call (reviewed here) dares you to look at it as much as it dares you to look away. He’s a classically beautiful cartoonist whose subjects are mostly disturbing or downright nightmarish. Black Hole, a modern classic, is as alluring as it is horrific. His new art book Free Shit shows us Burns’ desire to find beauty and horror in the same image. That’s what his work shows us, this push and pull between the alluring and the disturbing.

In a lot of ways, Burns is a similar artist to both of the Hernandez Brothers, or at least a cross between them. Like Jaime, he has this classic line that would be perfectly at home drawing old fashioned romance comics as it is at drawing modern tales. But he has a sense of the grotesque like Gilbert, casting his gaze toward the beauty that accompanies the macabre. In Free Shit, more than his comics, there’s even a little Gary Panter that peaks through Burns’ images from time to time, creating these out-of-synch image that are some of the most captivating but puzzling images in this book. While we can see similar traits in Burns’ work to these other cartoonists, Burns drawings reveal more of his vision of the underpinnings of reality. His drawings, whether a portrait of a man who’s looking away from us so all we see is the back of a head mostly obscured by shadow or some ghoulish creature still recognizable as human-like but not human, mold this perception of an other world, of a reality that’s adjacent to ours but corrupted by some physical and mental virus.

Free Shit is a peak into that other world but where in another artists hands we would be repulsed by it, Burns welcomes us into it. In his drawings, there’s practically no separation between the romantic and the grotesque. It helps that there’s no narrative here as our minds are allowed to just take in the images and craft our own stories and world views around them. But Burns doesn’t let us into his work completely unguided and alone. While some of the drawings are rough, pencilled explorations of images and thoughts, a lot of them are finished, inked drawings where Burns’ older and more conservative influences and styles collide with his own unique perceptions of beauty and classicism.

The artwork leads us through this new reality. This is a guidebook to Burns’ search for beauty where the grotesque lives. But with no story to lead us through this art book, there is no judgement of value applied to these images. Andy concept of beauty or ugliness are judgements that we bring to these drawings. What we take away from these images probably say more about our own perceptions and values than they do of Burns’. This book provides a fascinating litmus test about art and they ways that we “read” images.

The disturbing aspects of Burns’ artwork, whether overtly confrontational or more hidden under a non-threatening image, challenge our own perceptions and concepts of what we want to see. Is Burn’s some kind of psycho deviant for drawing these images? But what does it say about us if we can’t turn away from these images, engrossed by Burns’ imagination? These aren’t nice nature drawings; they are pure imagination, showing a different way of perceiving the world around us. Just because it’s shocking and grotesque, that doesn’t mean that it’s not also beautiful. Free Shit challenges us to understand that beautiful and ugly aren’t completely mutually exclusive terms. There’s ways that drawings can be both. Burns’ imagination is full of ugly, hideous creatures but his presentation of them is simply gorgeous and mesmerizing.

September 18, 2019

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Catch It at the Comic Shop September 18th, 2019

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...

Sean's Picks:

Once and Future #2 by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora, published by Boom! Studios
Award for best supporting cast member in a comic book goes to...“Gram” in Once and Future! Well, to be fair, she’s way WAY more than a mere support in this story that is an instant grab that is hard to put down. The first issue of this comic brought to us by Kieron Gillen, of Die and Wicked + Divine fame, along with Dan Mora was everything to be expected; the dialogue was sharp, the visuals were anything but ordinary, and the pacing was on track with any of its creators’ preceding work. We were immediately introduced to a grandmother and her ginger-grandson as they went parading the darkness looking for a very specific supernatural threat: the resurrected force of King Arthur. “Gram”, who we now know is no stranger to hunting demons in the darkness, knows no reason for hesitation, for it is her grandson who stumbles on more than one occasion bringing folly to this otherwise deep dive in the British monarch and the supernatural. Upon reading this I was immediately hooked as an instant response after just a few page turns. Don’t be the only one *not* reading this. We have a well-paced and fun story being told here. Read with me.

Second Coming #3 by Mark Russell and Richard Pace and Leonard Kirk, published by Ahoy Comics
OMG, I adore this comic. There is nothing about this book that I dislike. It’s brilliance shines through no matter the spin you attempt to take. Even the haters will admit to you, with nearly no hesitation, that this is the *best* piece of blasphemy they’ve seen. Really. No kidding. Google it. The only disappointment for me has been that I have recently found vague confirmation that this will end at issue six. Huge bummer, but I guess all good things must come to an end… just ask the evangelicals. All kidding aside (let’s leave that for Russell as he keeps feeding Jesus Christ one-liners), Sun Man has now seen Heaven and Jesus is still hellbent on his own interpretation of what it means to follow Him. A story couldn’t be any more timely unless, of course, it was somehow biographical. Time will tell. Until then. Read.. laugh.. THEN ask for forgiveness. Well.. cuz Grace, right?

Steeple #1 by John Allison, published by Dark Horse Comics
Giant Days has become one my all time favorite comics. Strange to observe about myself since my favorites typically do not include stories of everyday happenstances. I say this not to say that Steeple will be exactly the same knowing that it is also from John Allison. What I am saying is that the dialogue and stories that I’ve come to love in Giant Days I would be remiss to not expect the same from this new title also. Put aside the college days and the interpersonal and relational missteps, and make room for a new story told by way of two wildly different women about the supernatural amidst a mini-rapture and a war between good and evil. This is solicited as a mini, though I’d hope for something more. Sure, Giant Days is ending, but let’s get this one hyped and keep John busy with another ongoing.

Black Hammer Age of Doom #12, By Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston, published by Dark Horse Comics
Oh man. Black Hammer has been an automatic read of mine ever since it was conceived. I have every floppy of every issue (including the spin-off’s) and even all the variants of the main book. Yea yea yea I’m a sucker for Lemire’s creator owned stuff. It’s rather pathetic maybe, but we all have our reasons to (how do the kids say...?) Stan. This issue of Black Hammer: Age of Doom is advertised as the final chapter of the main story, and with several more spin-offs scheduled for release it’s hard to say that we’ve seen the last of our new favorite Golden Age superheroes. This comes with a definitive beginning, middle, and now an end as it is all set in place with a final issue. It’s another bittersweet goodbye in comics, and I am convinced that this one will be as good as they get.

Farmhand Vol. 2 by Rob Guillory, published by Image Comics
Rob Guillory doesn’t get enough credit for what he does. His art in Chew was some of the best on the stands when it was released monthly. Farmhand is not only equally as visually stimulating, but it also has dialogue and a story to match. This is a complete-package Guillory creation; the story, the characters, the visual puns all within the vivid detail of his PG-13 Saturday morning cartoon artistic approach. I really enjoy this book. It’s a fun read and the story has gotten darker with this second volume. Secrets have been revealed and we begin seeing more of the intent behind Grandpa Jenkins and his organic mission to grow body parts to heal the sick. This dark and campy joyride is fun as hell, and I dare you to read it and tell me otherwise.

Neil's Picks:
Once & Future #2 by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvillain, published by Boom Studios
Issue one may not have been the best opening issue for me. It felt incredibly quirky in its delivery, which I wasn’t expecting at all. But Gillen grabs you with captivating characters and teases you with just the right amount of narrative to keep you wanting more. What looks to be a fun “modern” take on the King Arthur legend, filled with magic, monsters and battle-hardened Grandma’s... what isn’t there to like.

Spider-Man #1 by J.J. Abrams, Henry Abrams, Sara Pichelli and Olivier Coipel, published by Marvel Comics
How many of us were surprised to hear the announcement that J.J. Abrams and his son were to write a Spider-Man comic together? I know I was. Hence why I’m really intrigued to see what Abrams Sr. and Jr. can bring to the table. J.J. has already proven in film and television that he can write compelling and exciting scripts, see Super 8, Alias and something called Star Wars. But comics are a whole different medium and something I don’t think he’s dabbled in before. Though having Sara Pichelli on art really up’s the creative team. Her work on Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man run was stunning too say the least. Zdarksy’s run is going to be one tough run to follow.

James' Picks:
Head Lopper Vol. 3 TP by Andrew MacLean, published by Image Comics
I've been a fan of Andrew MacLean and Head Lopper for a very long time (and he's a local Boston guy, so that's cool too), so I'm thrilled that a broader audience is experiencing his excellent work. Head Lopper is a really fun series of adventure stories about a warrior who, you know, lops heads off of bodies, and the witch head he keeps carrying around with him, and their various adventures and misadventures. He's got a fantastic, dynamic style that is in the same general school as Mike Mignola (but to be clear, MacLean's style is very much his own and is instantly distinctive and recognizable) and is just a great storyteller overall.  This is a very fun read.

GI Joe #1 by Paul Allor and Chris Evenhuis, published by IDW Entertainment
I probably haven't read a GI Joe comic since I was a kid. As many kids growing up in the 80's were, I ewas a huge fan of the toys, the TV show and the comics. But in recent years, the only GI Joe comics I've read are Transformers vs. GI Joe (by Tom Scioli and John Barber) and GI Joe: Sierra Muerte (by Michel Fiffe); both of those are more quirky, auteur projects, rather than a proper GI Joe comic. But this new comic intrigued me. I was instantly drawn in by Chris Evenhuis' art style - it's incredibly clean, and feels almost like an animation style. I found it really appealing. I also found the story (by Paul Allor) pitch very appealing - Cobra has taken over, they've won. GI Joe has now become a clandestine, underground organization of freedom fighters.  I think it's a terrific idea, and having read the first issue I can tell you that this is a strong debut issue. The creative team pulls no punches; this is a lot different from the 80's cartoon where nobody actually ever seemed to get hit when the other side was shooting at them. Anyway, if you've ever been a GI Joe fan, I recommend giving this a read.

House of X #5 by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia, published by Marvel Comics
I've SO been enjoying reading the Powers of X and House of X books. Not just because I am completely in the tank for Jonathan Hickman (I am), and not just because Pepe Larraz, RB Silva and Marte Gracia are doing amazing work on art (they are). No, what I'm really loving about these books is that they have reinvigorated comics discussion for me, whether on Twitter or other places, this is a book that rewards really careful reads and rereads and every page holds many mysteries. I've been enjoying discussing, debating, and trying to figure these books out with a group of friends and acquaintances, and it's helped rekindle for me what I liked about the social aspect of comics.

Once & Future #2 by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvillain, published by Boom! Studios
This is such a fun book so far. Dan Mora's art is wonderful, and Kieron Gillen is a hell of a storyteller and world builder (no kidding, right?).  You've got a grandma adventurer dragging her professor grandson (by gunpoint) on a quest relating to Arthur, Camelot, and the frightening possibilities those myths hold were they to become reality. This book is fantastical, and hints at much bigger, broader mysteries. But with Gillen writing, the book never loses its human touch. And really, Mora is doing amazing work on art. I highly recommend this one.