As a Cartoonist, Noah Van Sciver is One of the Best: Catch Its for July 27th, 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...

Rob's Picks:

As a Cartoonist by Noah Van Sciver, published by Fantagraphics
Noah Van Sciver is one of the best of his generation of creators at examining what it's like to be human, whether it's through serious scholarship (The Hypo), autobiogaphical work (One Dirty Tree) or farcical depictions of overblown, self-important characters (Fante Buchowski). He's also unbelievably good at using the 19th Century to reflect on the 21st Century, which we saw often in Blammo. Now, with As a Cartoonist, Noah takes the concept to a new level, inventing a fictional cartoonist and using his signature style to depict their life while also making a few notes on his own--and really, so many of us, too. The premise is a great way to make social commentary, and Van Sciver's intricate linework is perfect to emulate the style of the period he's depicting. As he continues to grow as a storyteller, the message Noah brings to us--what truly matters in life?--really hit home hard. This is yet another great book from someone that I can honestly say hasn't produced a bad comic yet. That in and of itself is a rare feat and shows just how good Noah really is.

Book of Shadows #1 by Cullen Bunn, Vicente Cifuentes, Nick Filardi, and Dave Sharpe, published by Valiant
Something is marking the earth by sacrificing countless numbers of people in small towns. Luckily, Jack Boniface, aka the Shadowman, and his new partner, Persephone, are on the case. When it's clear it's more than they can handle, suspicious allies in the form of Punk Mambo, Doctor Mirage, and Gilad the Eternal Warrior join the fight against an old foe of Gilad's in this first issue that's a whole of demon-battling fun. I appreciate that instead of a "fight then team up" scenario, this new group of magical protectors (really cute calling them "Defenders" Valiant!) instead verbally spars even as they're trying to stop the larger threat. It's a lot of set up, but the reader gets the gist quickly thanks to Bunn's great scripting, and the action scenes are balls to the wall packed, with creatures and heroes like thrown all about. I wish Mambo looked a little grittier, to be honest, to contrast against tv-friendly Dr. Mirage, but that's a small thing. This is a horror book with gigantic stakes, a great combination of characters, and the feel of an old-school romp that we don't see nearly enough. I'm looking forward to seeing just how awful Bunn can make things for the team as they tear through their corner of the Valiant universe.

James' Picks:

Superman: The Space Age by Mark Russell, Mike Allred, and Laura Allred, published by DC Comics
I'm so excited for this comic. Mark Russell is one of my favorite writers in comics. He's written some of the smartest, funniest, and most poignant comics I've read in recent years (The Flintstones, The Snagglepuss Chronicles, Billionaire Island).  Mike and Laura Allred are (similarly) one of my favorite art teams in comics. I'm such a fan of the Allred's work (Silver Surfer, FF, Bowieand many more books); I think that they capture the spirit and pop sensibility of the 60's, and Allred is a spiritual successor to Kirby in his style and spirit. And Superman is my favorite character (when done well)! So, put all of this together and I am incredibly excited for this comic. Russell and the Allreds taking Superman on a tour through history. This is going to be full of joy and action and poignancy, I am sure of it. I can't wait. 

Ant-Man #1 by Al Ewing and Tom Reilly, published by Marvel Comics
I really enjoy the Ant-Man movies, and I'm thrilled to read about the character in a new miniseries from a top-tier creative team. Al Ewing is one of the very best writers out there right now. With Immortal Hulk, he left an indelible stamp on the character. He's also writing big, heady sci-fi in We Only Find Them When They're Dead. And Tom Reilly is a fantastic artist whose fun, pop sensibility I recently loved in The Thing. It looks like he and Ewing are out to tell a really fascinating, ambitious story in Ant-Man, a comic which aims to tell a big story about all of the various Ant-Men across a significant stretch of time. It actually feels conceptually similar to this week's Superman comic - and both are from amazing creative teams. Anyway, having seen preview art from this first issue, it looks like it will be taking place in the past, and the comic has an amazing silver-age feel to it. I can't wait. 

Rachel's Pick:

The Wrong Earth: Meat by Tom Peyer, Greg Scott, Andy Troy, Rob Steen, published by Ahoy Comics
One thing that I've really appreciated about The Wrong Earth series is how well the writers and artists are able to shift the tone. In this issue we are first presented with the gritty, grim Earth-Omega, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Gotham City portrayed in Christopher Nolan's Batman films. But a couple of pages later, we move to Earth-Alpha, a place where terrible (or if you're a dad, amazing) puns pepper the dialogue. The reader expects Stinger, the young ward of Dragonflyman, to say "Golly!" or "Gee whiz!" at any moment. As a kid who grew up watching Nick at Nite, I loved the 1960s Batman television show. Dragonflyman and Stinger of Earth-Alpha were clearly designed in light of Adam West's Batman and Burt Ward's Robin. I laughed over details like the villain Meat's thugs wearing fur-lined coats with labels like "Chop" and "Lean," on the back, and how he refers to them as his cutlets. What I also appreciate is how Tom Peyer makes it clear that anyone who is a vigilante in the mold of Dragonfly is also someone who is not a happy, fulfilled person. Nor are they probably the best person to be meting out justice. You wouldn't necessarily expect this kind of social commentary from a comic that also features a medical condition called "double-super concussion" so I was pleasantly surprised. This has been a really fun series, and I hope that it will come back for more issues.