Low-Key Loki and Other Tales to Astonish: Catch It at the Comic Shop June 16th, 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:

Jim Henson's Storyteller Tricksters #4 by Robin Kaplan, A.L. Kaplan, and Jim Campbell, published by Boom! Studios
A thunderstorm prompts the Storyteller to weave an old favorite of mine, the time Loki helped Thor get his hammer back by turning the God of Thunder into the Bachelorette. This version of the tale is pretty mild in terms of how the characters are presented, making it age appropriate, but the archetypes of boastful Thor, scheming Loki, and their dumb-as-a-sack-of-hammers antagonists shine through. There's even a bit of commentary at the end that not all things end as well for the Gods as this story does. A.L. Kaplan's artwork is phenomenal, with a touch of P. Craig Russell in the style, but with a unique contrast of flowing lines and abrupt angles. I love how the figures move across the page, and the illustrations of Thor trying to act like a woman are to die for. This is always an awesome anthology series, and the closing issue here is one of the best I've read.

Now #10 by Richard Sala, Steven Weissman, Tim Lane, Walt Holcombe, Hartley Lin, Sylvia Rocchi and M.S. Harkness, edited by Eric Reynolds, published by Fantagraphics
Moving into a multi-story anthology, Fantagraphics' not-as-new anymore Now reaches its 10th issue with a special tribute to the late Richard Sala, one of the all-time greats, with a nine page special of previously unpublished work. There's also an entry featuring the intricate detailing of Tim Lane and a piece by one of my current new favorites, M.S. Harkness, whose Tinderella is a amazing modern memoir. Most will pick this one up for Sala (and who can blame them?) but I recommend Now for being one of the best anthologies featuring new and classic works. It's splendidly curated, book in and book out.
Heart Shaped Tears by Abby Jame, publish by Silver Sprocket
Abby Jame's work always stands out to me because while there are a lot of similar types of comics out there right now, her ability to weave things together, make you feel like you know her characters and their experiences, even when it moves from the semi-reality into pure science fiction. Her coloring, which is always purposefully unrealistic, helps underscore the erratic nature of the figure work. Jame seems to have a regular home with Silver Sprocket, and since they're rad as hell, it's a great match that I'm always happy to see.

Kelli's Picks:

Maison Ikkoku Vol. 4 by Rumiko Takahashi, published by Viz Media
Hilarity reigns as Godai and Kyoko continue their dysfunctional courting ritual in volume 4 of Takahashi’s romantic comedy Maison Ikkoku. Godai has it bad for his fellow resident Kyoko. He has just managed to get her to notice him in that way, when somehow he also snagged a new girlfriend? The interaction between Godai and Kyoko is great, but the real comedy comes from the other residents of Maison Ikkoku. They oscillate between helpfulness and sabotage to the detriment of Godai and Kyoko’s relationship. Mrs. Ichinose in particular is a delightful character. She’s the epitome of a busy body, ever eavesdropping and meddling in other people’s affairs. Another great character is Yotsuya. A voyeur, he enjoys spying on Godai through a man-sized hole in the wall between their rooms. He also delights in tormenting Godai, stealing his food and generally undermining him. There is this great scene where Yotsuya, in front of the other residents, alludes to Godai’s solo nocturnal activities, and the cries of Kyoko’s name he hears coming from Godai’s room. Maison Ikkoku is a product of the 80s, and for those of a certain vintage, the nostalgia will run deep. That the humour is still fresh is a testament to Takahashi’s skill. She is a master of comedic timing and a keen study of the human condition.

Blue Flag Vol. 8 by KAITO, published by Viz Media
This is the final volume of KAITO’s slice of life romance series. The story centres around four teens who all have crushes on each other. Toma and Taichi have known each other since they were kids, and they’ve always been close. Toma, however, has feelings for Taichi that go deeper than mere friendship. Taichi meanwhile has feelings for the painfully shy and awkward Futaba. Unfortunately for him, Futaba has feelings for Toma. Rounding out this quadrangle is Masumi, Futaba’s bestie. She has a crush on Futaba. It would be an ordinary teenage pablum if not for KAITO’s deft storytelling and character development. Masumi in particular is a really interesting character. She agonizes over the ramifications of deciding to come out. How will it impact her family? Is it okay to put her feelings and desires before those of her family, can she be that selfish? Toma, for his part, is also struggling with his sexual identity. He feels suffocated at home, and confined by his status as the school hottie that all the girls want to date. KAITO also digs deep into subjects such as bullying and sexism. There’s also some disturbing stalking masquerading as intense romantic interest going on as well. Pretty heavy stuff from a series that, from the first volume, looked like it was going to be a fluffy romance. I am looking forward to sitting down and revisiting this series from volumes 1-8 now that it is complete.

Factory Summers by Guy Delisle, Drawn & Quarterly
Delisle is probably best known for his travelogues, particularly Shenzhen and Pyongyang. I have yet to read either, but I have read Hostage, which tells the story of Christophe André who was kidnapped and held for 3 months in what amounted to solitary confinement. It is an alternately ruminative and meditative graphic novel; an amazing read, that I would recommend to those who like introspective stories. I would also highly recommend checking out Delisle’s newest work, Factory Summers. In it Delisle takes his readers back to the summers of his youth, when he worked in a pulp and paper factory. The story follows the trajectory of his decision to become an animator, but it is also a study of his fellow mill workers. In the pages of Factory Summers the ghosts of these men walk the floors between the rows of machinery, their stories fragmented and unfinished. It’s an atmospheric read that captures the cultural climate of the working class in Quebec in the 1980s. Like, Hostage there is a meditative quality to Factory Summers. The isolation created by the drone of the machinery, the long hours spent working alone, the repetitive tasks, all help to create a sense of isolation and introspection. Rachel, a fellow writer here at Panel Patter, has written a lovely review of Factory Summers. Check it out for panels and a more in-depth discussion.

Mike’s Pick:

Usagi Yojimbo 20 by Stan Sakai and Tom Luth, published by IDW

I’ve been on a tear through a bunch of Usagi comics, including catching up on the newer IDW stories and their colorized renderings on the original Fantagraphics stories as well as the early chunks of the Dark Horse iteration, and – my goodness – Sakai has never missed a beat. It’s astounding how this series feels both fresh and nostalgic at every point. I’ve always said there is almost no bad point to jump into Usagi, and this 20th issue of the latest series is no exception. Sakai has created a number of great characters over the years that have helped to grow his world, and this week, it’s Yukichi, a young sword bearer with a delivery mission, recalling the excellent recent Tatami.

James' Picks:

Seven Swords #1 by Evan Daugherty and Ricardo Lattina, published by AfterShock Comics

I really enjoy stories involving characters from different stories teaming up. I loved the first few volumes of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and I was sold immediately on the pitch for the story. D'Artagnan (of the Three Musketeers) needs to defeat a supernaturally enhanced Cardinal Richelieu and so he teams up with Don Juan and Cyrano de Bergerac, among others. I know virtually nothing about the creative team here, but having taken a look at a few pages of preview part, I'm excited for this book. It looks like just the sort of action-packed, fun, violent adventure I'm looking for. 

Planet-Size X-Men #1 by Gerry Duggan and Pepe Larraz, published by Marvel Comics

I think the recent X-books have been somewhat divisive. And maybe with good reason. They're definitely making some specific choices. X of Swords was very entertaining, but had a lot less sword-fighting than one might have expected. And now, all of the focus is on a big party the mutants are hosting to celebrate mutantdom, and to invite some non-mutants as well. I do love a good party, and it's clear that some big, incredibly eventful things are going on and are going to happen at this party.  Gerry Duggan is writing this issue and I've really been enjoying his work in Marauders. It's a fun book with a spirit of humor and adventure. And this issue is being drawn by Pepe Larraz, who did absolutely masterful work on House of X/Powers of X.