Catch It at the Comic Shop May 12th, 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...

Rachel's Picks:

Time Before Time #1 by Declan Shalvey, Rory McConville , Joe Palmer, Chris O'Halloran, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, published by Image Comics

Within the first few pages of Time Before Time, I actually laughed out loud. Tatsuo, one of the protagonists, has just settled a mother and her son into an apartment building in 1987. The son asks, "What's the WiFi password for this place?" The next panel is wordless as both Tatsuo and the mother look at the kid, as if hoping the other will explain the situation to him. After a moment, Tatsuo tells the boy that there is no WiFi in 1987, and it won't be invented for another ten years. There are a lot of ways to establish that time travel exists in your story, but this may be one of the fastest and funniest.

Tatsuo and his friend Oscar work for a company that brings people back in time in exchange for large sums of money. It seems like most customers are running from something: the law, climate change, war, etc. Like most companies in science fiction, the Syndicate only cares about making money. OSHA would have a field day if they could make a surprise inspection. And like most film and TV protagonists before him, Tatsuo wants to escape. Where Time Before Time is different is that unlike Looper, Elysium, Blade Runner, In Time, etc. he isn't a white man. It's a welcome change to see a diverse cast with an Asian man as the main character. Tatsuo reminds me a bit of Spike Spiegel (one of the main characters in Cowboy Bebop), especially with his lanky build, voluminous hair, sharp fashion sense, and willingness to break the rules. 

There may not be any astounding new concepts in the first issue, but writers Declan Shalvey and Rory McConville with artist Joe Palmer do a wonderful job of building this world without the use of expositional captions or "As you know, Bob" dialogue. The only captions we ever get are of the year. We don't know what continent Tatsuo and Oscar live in, let alone what city. Palmer uses signs, graffiti, news headings, and clothing to tell the reader what the world of 2140 is like. Chris O'Halloran, the colorist, uses colors to tell us what season it is or year it is. The scenes that take place in the 1980s are filled with beautiful sunset tones of purple and pink. Panels in the 1960s feature softer earth tones. The colors in 2140 seem more washed out, and like they're being viewed under flickering fluorescent bulbs or by the light of computer monitors. My favorite aspect of the first issue isn’t the premise of time travel or the heist-like elements, but rather the relationship between Tatsuo and Oscar. It’s clear that these two men have been friends for years and the warmth and caring between them is sadly rare to see in comics. It’s things like character development, humor, and realistic relationships that make this world feel more realized than other stories that have far more issues under their belt. Any comic that make me laugh while also criticizing late stage capitalism is going to get a thumbs up from me.

Aggretsuko: Meet Her World #2 "Girls' Day", written by Annie Griggs, illustrated by Abigail Starling, colored by Andrew Dalhouse, lettered by CRANK! with covers by Abigail Starling and Caroline Breault, published by Oni Press

Why is it that companies choose to reward their employees with corporate get-togethers, picnics, parties, etc. instead of just giving their employees what they would really want: money? Probably they do this to increase synergy and optimize performance and productivity. I mention all this because Carrier Man Trading Co., Ltd., the company where Retsuko works, has just such a bonus for all of its employees. The CEO opts to give all the female employees a paint and sip class while inviting the male employees on a catered four-hour boat ride on a yacht. When the women find out about this, they decide to make their displeasure known.

I like that Annie Griggs fleshes out a number of characters like Tsubone, the female Komodo dragon who is in a management position and Kabae, the hippo who has been in the department for many years. In the anime, Tsubone is usually shown to be a caustic presence who loves to dump extra work onto Retsuko, and Kabae is often depicted as the office gossip who is a bit overbearing in her motherly concern for her coworkers. In “Girls’ Day,” we learn that Tsubone and Kabae were once the only women in the department. Tsubone is actually a classically trained painter who took an accounting job for the money. Kabae, who always tries to look on the positive side, was once treated as poorly as Retsuko is now by Director Ton. Abigail Starling’s linework is clean and similar to the art style used on the Netflix anime. There’s a flashback of a younger Kabae struggling beneath the weight of three golf bags while in

her accounting uniform and being ordered by Director Ton to get him a drink. Aside from there now being more female employees, it’s clear that things haven’t changed very much at the company in the past ten or twenty years. There are a number of great details in the background. For instance, the women’s restroom has a silhouette of Hello Kitty on it, and the painting that Retsuko makes at the paint and sip is hilariously bad. While I’m waiting for the next season of Aggretsuko on Netflix, the comic series fills my need for tiny, often angry, red panda antics.

Rob's Picks:

Silver City #1 by Olivia Cuartero-Briggs, Luca Merli, and Dave Sharpe, published by Aftershock
There's as many possible futures after death as anyone can imagine. In the case of our protagonist, she's stuck in a gritty metropolis with no idea how she got there--or even how she died. Immediately drawn into complications, this supernatural noir series is definitely right up my alley. It's really interesting to see just how much new horror is out there right now. There's something for everyone. I don't know what to expect from this one but the premise (tough woman has to both help others and figure out her own crap) is intriguing, the first few pages are literally explosive, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out. Merli's art style is very realistic yet immediately makes it clear you're in a fantasy world, and the details are worth lingering over. Book in and book out, Aftershock's quality is phenomenal and I have no doubt this will be another entry on my 2021 short list.

Penultiman TP by Tom Peyer, Alan Robinson, Lee Loughridge, Rob Steen and others, published by Ahoy
Speaking of publishers who are on my short-list speed dial, Ahoy's Penultiman was part of that list last year for its amazing skewering of the idea of a heroic alien from another planet. The Penultiman is obsessed with self-loathing because of his former status on his home world and it keeps him from his full potential. When a hang-up free robot understudy fills in for him, things just get worse. Peyer's a great writer and teamed with Robinson' and Loughridge's art pairings that invoke the big bold illustrations of an older era of comics when things were less grimy, but it doesn't feel like a nostalgia grab. They're also excellent at matching Peyer's comic timing. This was a great series and if you didn't get it month by month, make sure you get this trade and laugh at the pain of others.

James' Picks:
Barbalien: Red Planet TP by Jeff Lemire, Tate Brombal, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire, and Aditya Bidikar, published by Dark Horse
Barbalien: Red Planet is a really powerful miniseries. It would definitely help for you to be familiar with the broader Black Hammer story, but it's not really essential. All you really need to know is that Barbalien (a/k/a Mark Markz) is a shape-shifting superhero (i.e., like DC's Martian Manhunter) from the planet Mars, and he is gay, which is a source of discrimination on Mars just as it is on Earth. This story takes place in the 80's during the height of the AIDS crisis, and Mark is dealing with his own issues of identity, all the while, the climate in Spiral City is boiling over, as the gay community feels put-upon and oppressed and they are tired of it, as many of their number die from AIDS. This is an incredibly powerful story and I can't recommend it highly enough. The art from Gabriel Hernandez Walta (with colors from Jordie Bellaire) is really special. Walta is a remarkable illustrator who brings emotion and action and drama to life, and makes the most alien characters feel very human. This is a great read.

The Silver Coin #2 by Michael Walsh and Kelly Thompson, published by Image Comics

The Silver Coin is a great horror anthology idea. Each issue is written by a different artist, but all of them are drawn by the fantastic Michael Walsh.  The first issue was a 70's rock story gone terribly wrong. This second issue is equally terrifying, both in the horror sense, but also in the way that it depicts how teenagers treat one another. The book is scary even before horrific things start happening. And they do indeed start happening. This issue is a great read for anyone that is a fan of the classic teen slasher stories from the 80's and 90's. Walsh is fantastic on art, as he conveys a lot of emotion and empathy onto the characters, but when it is time to bring on the gore, he definitely lets loose. These are a very fun read if you like horror.

Mike's Picks:

DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Celebration by Amy Chu, Dustin Nguyen, Ram V., Gene Luen Yang, Bernard Chang, Marcus To, Audrey Mok, and Marcio Takara, published by DC Comics

I've been anticipating this release since it was announced. Not only is this a veritable Murderer's Row collection of creative talent, it features some of my favorite characters, including Tai Pham from the Green Lantern: Legacy young adult graphic novel. The other thing that has me stoked for this release is the way the aforementioned creators have been sharing their excitement about the project. It isn't entirely foolproof, but I find that enthusiasm in a project often indicates something special about it. And yes, I'll admit, I'm mostly jazzed about the idea of Gene Luen Yang bringing the legend of the Monkey King and Journey to the West to the DC Universe in the character of the Monkey Prince.

Static by Matt Lesniewski and Carlos Badilla, published by Dark Horse Comics
It seems like mainstream comics - and by that I mean mostly anything not published by small presses - have become impossible shiny. I'm all for clean lines, but it often feels like most comics descend into one variation of house style or another. And then there is Matt Lesniewski, whose style radiates a far more visceral feel. When I read Lesniewski, I feel transported to early 90s proto-Vertigo; I find influences from 70s underground comix; I find that raw element I miss in most books. Yet, Lesniewski's rawness is tempered by a conscious refinement of style exemplified by the detail of his work. It ultimately reminds me of Darrow, Quitely, Backderf, Panter and 2000AD all at the same time. Static feels right in Lesniewski's wheelhouse. He leans into the weird with sinewy lines and frozen grotesques, all the more appropriate for a book about a mad scientist and his genetic experiments.

Sean's Picks:

Static OGN by Matt Lesniewski and Carlos Badilla, published by Dark Horse
Out this week is a new spin with an old top. Matt Lesniewski takes the wheel with both hands as he draws and scribes the new Dark Horse graphic novel, Static. Imagine if you were to combine story of Dr Frankenstein with Mad Max (the Charlize Theron one not the Mel Gibson one) then you will start to understand where Static is headed. It’s basically a mad scientist creating animal hybrids and using a recovering bug-biting junkie addict as his hitman. I gotta say, Lesniewski has one of the freshest pencils out in comics right now, and I am absolutely here for every last bit of it. Speaking from my vantage point it’s plain as day, but please ..go check out Static this week before you take my word for it when I tell you that this guy’s gonna be on the front lines of the next generation of comic creators.

Ice Cream Man #24 by W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Morazzo, Chris O’Halloran & Good Old Neon, published by Image

Holy smokes. This series is about as painfully depressing as any story could ask to be. Hell probably didn’t even ask to be any of whatever it has become. And what it’s become is one of the best ongoing horror comics (dare I say?) ever. If you aren’t reading this series ..WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!? Sorry ..I get overly ambitious with my enthusiasm sometimes and I come across aggressively, force feeding my opinion on others. (Is this why I became a comic reviewer? facilitate a version of therapy onto myself?) By now you all know that Ice Cream Man is an anthology series that only loosely relates to the other issues. Pick up one, or read them all completely out of order —- it does not matter. That is what makes this comic so reader friendly. In this particular issue, Prince and Morazzo piece together a telethon story of how we, the readers, are able to help (or hinder) the issue’s main character. Let me warn you, it doesn’t end easy. And you won’t find yourself smiling at the end. But what you will hear yourself saying is: “goddamn that was a fuckin fantastic comic!” Go. Get. This. Damn. Comic.