Catch It at the Comic Shop March 24th, 2021

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...

Rob's Picks:

HaHa #3 by Roger Langridge and W. Maxwell Prince, published by Image
It's tough being a mime in the best of times, but try being one in *this* economy, am I right? Our pantomime protagonist is down on his luck until a literal dumpster dive lands him a robot companion who takes his act to a new level. Everyone's a critic, however, as we see in this comedy collaboration between one of my all-time favorite creators and one of my new favorites in Prince. These two make an excellent pair, with Langridge able to emote everything in his linework, allowing the moments when we do get language to feel really powerful. Prince's darkness really shines here even as the illustrations look bright and sunny, and some of the panel constructions are simply amazing. I'd love to see Roger guest on an Ice Cream Man story. In the meantime, make sure you get out of your invisible box and pick up this issue.

Lady Baltimore #1 by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Bridgit Connell and Michelle Madsen, published by Dark Horse
World War II's evils extend to the magical realm as Hellboy Universe readers know all too well. With Lord Baltimore dead, a new heroine must rise up to carry on his work--without destroying herself in the process. I don't know a ton about this one yet, but it's the excellent Mignola-Golden combo, and the promo text promises "witches, vampires, and Nazis on the march" --exactly the kind of horrible combo that makes these stories so good to read. Brigit's work on Brother Nash, which I loved a ton, should be perfect for this world, as she's able to mesh real world with the mysterious with ease. I'm really impressed with the 2021 work coming from the halls of Hellboy so far. This looks to be no exception.

Bitter Root #11 by David F. Walker, Sanford Greene, Chuck Brown, Sofie Dodgson, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, published by Image
After the events of the prior issues showed that the fight the Sangerye Family finds themselves in is unlike any they've faced before, it's time to take stock of the situation in this issue that's a bit more recap and stage-setting than I'm used to from this series but really lays out just how fractured everyone is, as the literal representation of hatred and bigotry drives everyone to the brink. Once that pattern forms, it's easy to see the strategy of the structure here, with Greene doing a great job mixing pastiche with moving forward the visual narrative. Things look impossibly bleak and I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, there's not going to be a happy ending at the end of this story. And given the world we live in, that depressing but honest message might be the right direction as we all face the reality this comic uses magical creatures to highlight. We must all be like the Sangeryes, battling as best we can.

James' Picks:

Barbalien: Red Planet #5 by Jeff Lemire, Tate Brombal, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire, and Aditya Bidikar, published by Dark Horse
I've really loved almost everything that's come out of Jeff Lemire's Black Hammer universe. It started as a weird superhero mystery story (and in some way remains that) but it's branched out into a number of different stories, and different types of stories. These stories involve a lot of analogues for Marvel and DC characters, but telling stories that those publishers might not tell. Case in point is the story of Barbalien: Red Planet. Barbalien (Mark Markz) is a shape-shifting Martin who came to Earth years ago and assumed the identity of a police officer in Spiral City, as he held a similar role on Mars.  But he was banished from Mars for being gay. Unfortunately Mars doesn't appear to be any more enlightened than Earth as far as letting people love who they want to love. But Barbalien: Red Planet is telling a very specific story set in a very specific time and place. It's the 1980's and AIDS is ravaging the gay community. People are standing up and fighting back. Mark is torn between his obligations as a police officer, and his secret identity as a superhero, and his identity as a gay man, whether human or martian (shape-shifter characters are a great mechanism for telling stories about identity). He grapples with his own identity, and his place in the world, and what he owes to himself and others. It's a really lovely, profound story.  With incredible art from Gabriel Walta and Jordie Bellaire. This is a definite must-read.
We Only Find Them When They're Dead vol. 1 TP by Al Ewing and Simone Di Meo, published by Boom! Studios
We Only Find Them When They're Dead (WOFTWTD, for short) has a recipe for comics that I can't resist - heady, thought-provoking ideas, a compelling plot, interesting characters, and absolutely astounding, gorgeous artwork. Like some of the very best science fiction stories set in the distant future or on a far-off world, it's got imaginative and original ideas that also serve as perfect allegory for the world we're living in right now. It's the story of a future where resources are scarce, and humans compete to mine the corpses of dead space gods. So, come for the intriguing ideas and stunning visuals, and stay for the trenchant critique of late-stage capitalism. WOFTWTD is many things, but it is first and foremost a stunning work of art thanks to the gorgeous work of Simone Di Meo. Di Meo has a style that’s incredibly accessible and appealing. It feels very reminiscent (to me) of classic Japanese animation from my childhood (Robotech, Voltron, Star Blazers). Di Meo’s line work is clean, and his panel layout feels very cinematic, such that you could easily imagine this comic on a huge movie screen. WOFTWTD is a great series full of drama, gorgeous visuals, and big ideas.