THE RETURN OF SAGA!!! Catch It January 26th, 2022

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:

Saga #55, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, published by Image Comics

Saga is back!!! I'm so thrilled. Reading Saga takes me back to a time when I used to spend more time talking about comics on Twitter with friends, and it felt like each week Image had an amazing new comic (like circa 2013-2015). It's been 3 years or so since the last issue of Saga came out, and wow was it a doozy of an issue. To prepare for the new issue, I reread the entirety of Saga this past weekend. It's a hell of an emotional roller coaster. If you've never read Saga, let me be the very first person to tell you that it's really good. You've probably heard that already. But what I really want to say about Saga is that you will fall in love with these characters immediately. By the middle of issue 1 I was already emotionally invested in the characters. It's a love story, it's a story about family, it's a (sometimes incredibly raunchy) story about trying to just live your life and all of the different obstacles you can face. Now, it's a crazy sci-fi/fantasy story with magic and spaceships, but all of the things the characters deal with are incredible relatable. It's also much more topical and political than I hear most people talking about. It's primarily a love story and a family story and an adventure, but it's also incredibly chock-full of ideas - war, media, propaganda, entertainment, the treatment of sex workers, the purpose of literature, LGBTQIA+ issues, class struggles, abortion, and more. But I think people don't necessarily think of it as a "political" book is because the storytelling is so masterful. Like I said, you will come to love (or hate) the characters. So much of that comes from the masterful work of Fiona Staples. I don't know if there's a comic out there that I would less want to ever see drawn by someone else. Staples has an incredibly appealing style - characters feel "real" without being overly realistic, the sequential storytelling is masterful, the character design is incredibly memorable and distinctive, the locations are beautifully rendered. Staples' art alone is more than enough reason to read Saga, but thankfully there's a masterful story being written by Vaughan. So, this just in: Saga is wonderful, and you should read it.

Deadly Class #50, by Rick Remender, Wes Craig, and Lee Loughridge, published by Image Comics

Speaking of that time that I miss, Deadly Class was another one of those must-read Image Comics books.  In recent years the release schedule has become a lot more sporadic, but time was that Deadly Class was a book you'd read every single month and it was always full of "holy s%^t" moments. It's winding down now, in its final arc. And I'm so incredibly curious how it's all going to come together. There's ben some time jumping in recent issues, but like I said they've come out sporadically. I look forward to going back and reading the series in its entirety. I think that will make it easier to appreciate how great of a series it really is. For those who haven't read it, it's the story of a secret underground (literally and figuratively) high school for training assassins, and of a homeless kid named Marcus who ends up going to the school, and all of the insane things that happen. Like an R-rated, cynical Harry Potter but with assassins instead of wizards. And the art of Wes Craig (and colorists Lee Loughridge and Jordan Boyd) was and remains an absolute revelation. Craig has a unique style that's incredibly kinetic and exaggerated and making for great storytelling, intense action, and great drama and humor. Loughridge and Boyd have provided amazing, weird, brought, atmospheric colors. Every aspect of the story is terrific. It's a fantastic read.

Human Target #4 by Tom King and Greg Smallwood, published by DC Comics/Black Label

Human Target has been one of my favorite series recently. It's a fun, sexy, stylish mystery story (who accidentally poisoned Christopher Chance, the Human Target?) that ostensibly takes place in the current day but evokes classic stories set in the 50's or 60's. The story has the spirit of a Darwyn Cooke story, and that's due to the incredibly artistry of Greg Smallwood. Every page of this bok is fun and distinctive and stylish and memorable. Smallwood is a great storyteller first and foremost, but he also just has an incredible sense of design and aesthetic. You're going to want to put on your best suit and drink some scotch once you read this comic.

Batman/Catwoman Special #1 by Tom King, John Paul Leon, Mitch Gerads, Klaus Janson, Lee Bermejo, and more, published by DC Comics/Black Label

Batman/Catwoman has been an interesting series, so I think I would pick this up regardless. But the reason I'm suggesting you pick this up is that it has (I believe) the final art drawn by John Paul Leon before he sadly passed away last year. Leon was an incredible talent, a real artist's artist. He was not a household name, but when I saw the outpouring of grief and emotion and praise when he passed away, I understood just how beloved he was among artists. He was instrumental in drawing the original Milestone comics of the 90's, and he did some mind-boggling work in Earth X. I knew him from an incredible few issues of Detective Comics that he had drawn, and from Batman: Creature of the Night, and other works here and there (I hope to some day read The Winter Men when it's more accessible). We won't get to see all of the other amazing works that Leon might have produced, but this issue is one more chance to see his masterful work. I believe the issue has been completed by other incredible artists. So, pick this up to get one more chance to appreciate the work of an incredible artist that's gone far too soon.

Sean’s Pick:

Past the Last Mountain #1 by Paul Allor, Louie Joyce & Gannon Beck and published by CEX Publishing
Here we have a story with an alternate version of the United States imprisoning all creatures of fantasy as we settle into a setting and get introduced to our new favorite rendition of a dragon. Griffins, Fairies, Unicorns, Trolls, Elves, Minotaurs and Dragons; every last fantasy creature has been captured by the United States military, held in confinement with no real explanation for why. (Stay tuned for the short stories at the end of each issue for flashbacks of the war which presumably had brought this world to where it now is). All said creatures now locked away, that is ..until three sneaky little characters somehow escape and our story begins. I cannot recall a story as utterly brilliant, timely and fitting with our current non-fictional dilemmas in addition to our collective obsessions for fiction told in fantasy as Past the Last Mountain describes itself to be. I learned this was a digital series originally that was then collected as a Kickstarter. Lucky for the rest of us, now it will reach a wider audience through a printed serialized format and I could not be more happy for Paul Allor and the rest of the creative team. This four issue miniseries will be a delight to read, I am certain. And I would also point out the fact that all four issues are said to be 40+ page perfect-bound comic book magazines. Your coin will definitely be well-spent as you swap it at checkout for this book. Amidst all of those post-apocalyptic titles and caped and cowled high-flying books on the rack, be sure to look for this one; the one from CEX with the dragon, faun and troll on the cover. I anticipate Past the Last Mountain to be more than just a statement on geopolitical turmoil, but having that snuck into a story with winged creatures and otherwise is all fine by me.