The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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DC Comics

Every Wednesday, I preview the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web. I'm trying a slightly different format this week so let me know what you think.

1. Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years/Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years

By Various
DC Comics

What's it about?
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of Superman, DC is releasing two hardcover volumes dedicated to both Superman and Lois Lane, collecting some of their definitive stories. The Superman volume begins with Action Comics #1, of course, and moves forward from there with selections from the Golden, Silver, Bronze and Modern age of comics that Superman has managed to span.

Some of the many single issue stories collected in the Superman volume include:
- The first ever team up between Superman and Batman from Superman #76 in 1952
- Some Silver age classics illustrated by definitive Superman artists like Curt Swan and Wayne Boring
- Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic "For the Man Who Has Everything" from 1985
- The battle with Doomsday in the 1993 issue of Superman #75 that would lead to the Death of Superman event
- And Grant Morrison's recent "The Boy Who Stole Superman's Cape" From Action Comics #0

Meanwhile, the Lois volume includes:
- Some of Lois' first appearances in the early issues of Action Comics
- The marriage of Earth-2 Superman and Earth-2 Lois in Action Comics #48
- John Byrne's re-introduction of Lois Lane in issue 2 of 1986's Man of Steel
- Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's now classic All Star Superman, issues 2 and 3
And lots more.

Why is it interesting?
These are two of the oldest and most loved characters in superhero comics. Seventy-five years is a big deal, and it's nice to see Lois getting equal treatment. Chris Sims over at Comics Alliance gives a thorough rundown of what is included in the Superman volume and what those selections have to say about how DC sees its own hero. He notices that many of the stories here feature more of a sad sack, defeated Superman rather than a heroic, hopeful one.

Still, both of these volumes contain a number of classic stories that show how the presentation of these characters has changed from era to era, and they feature the work of the most definitive Superman creative teams. From Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's original stories of a significantly less super-powered hero fighting gangsters and political corruption in the '30s and '40s to the loopy, sci-fi stories of multiple earths, distant futures and imaginary tales by Otto Binder, Bill Finger, Curt Swan and Wayne Boring in the '50s and '60s. From the post-"Crisis" reboot by John Byrne in 1986 to Superman's death and rebirth in the 1990s and finally Grant Morrison's modern and even post-modern takes of the past few years. Of course, Lois Lane has weathered a lot of changing cultural attitudes towards female comic book characters and it might be most interesting to see how consistent she has been as an uncompromising woman (despite many, many unflattering stories where she is just crushing on Superman and falling for his silly secret identity tricks). Together, all these stories give you a pretty complete picture of Superman and Lois and their trip through 75 years of comic book history. 

2. Black Science #1

Written by Rick Remender; art by Matteo Scalera and Dean White
Image Comics

What's it about?
Grant McKay is a bit of a Randian individualist, a self-educated member of the Anarchist Order of Scientists whose hubris in tampering with the "black science" has trapped himself and his crew in a parallel dimension full of hostile environments and strange, violent creatures. Wracked by guilt for endangering his crew (which includes his own family) and inflicted with doubt that he can't actually save them, McKay must jump them through one horrific alternate reality after another to get them all home.

Why is it interesting?
Rick Remender has become one of Marvel's hottest writers after the surprise hit of his dark and twisted run on Uncanny X-Force. Now he's even writing one of their flagship titles, Uncanny Avengers. What originally put Remender on the map, though, was his penchant for making comics that take pulpy concepts straight out of the EC Comics or dime store paperback novels from the early 20th century and put a modern, gritty, yet human spin on it. 

In Black Science, Remender returns to throwback sci-fi territory similar to his 2004 series Fear Agent but with more of an emphasis on both "weird science" and real science. He has spent some time researching heavy concepts like string theory to give some weight to the story even while it leans heavily towards being a Doc Savage type of adventure full of frog and fish people and laser bull whips. Remender often does a good job of giving his tough guy heroes something for you to latch onto and care about, though, and McKay's love for his family and his fear that he has doomed them may be just that.

Matteo Scalera and colorist Dean White go absolutely crazy with the visuals. White has a unique, painterly approach to his digital colors which helps give this book the feel of a Frank Frazetta painting. In that regard, Andrew Robinson provides an amazing, Frazetta-like cover for the first issue.

You can see for yourself with this four page preview.

3. Peanuts Every Sunday: 1952-1955 Vol. 1

By Charles Schulz
Fantagraphics

What's it about?
For the past decade, Fantagraphics has been releasing beautiful, bookshelf volumes collecting all of Charles Schulz' Peanuts strips from the beginning to the end. Previously, any Sunday strips have always been reprinted in black and white, but for the first time they are appearing again in color and with great care taken to replicate Schulz' original palettes.

Why is it interesting?
This large format, hardcover book is just an enjoyable experience to look through and a great way to introduce Charlie Brown to younger kids who may not be as keen to look at black and white reprints. Fantagraphics always takes great care with their printing and the colors here are rich but not overly saturated like you might see in other lesser quality reprints.

Being that it collects strips from the first three years, it is fascinating to see how Schulz was still finding his way with some of the characters. Linus and Lucy initially appear as infants for a number of strips before catching up to Charlie Brown's age. Even Charlie's shirt goes through a few different color choices before settling on the classic yellow.

Fantagraphics has more info about the book plus some previews on their website.

4. Animals: Chickens

Written by Eric Grisson; art by Claire Connelly
Self-published

What's it about?
Depicting life on a small farm, we meet a young girl named Marigold who is itching to get out and live her life. She soon befriends her mother's older, male tenant as troubles arise on the family farm. Oh, did I mention the family are all chickens and they farm and slaughter humans?

Why is it interesting?
There have been a number of great "poultry comics" recently that you might want to even label as "vegetarian comics" because of they way they might make you reconsider your stance on eating chicken. Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan and "Farmer's Dilemma" by Sam Alden come to mind. You can add Eric Grissom and Claire Connelly's "Chickens" to that list. The thing is, Grissom and Connelly mostly avoid tackling the gimmick head-on and instead focus on telling a good story about growing up and chasing your dreams, letting the grisliness of a slaughterhouse for humans lurk in the background. Grissom says this is done "to mimic our own world where we have a vague idea of how our food is made, but mostly we just eat it and go about our business."

"Chickens" is one installment in a planned 4-part series (future installments being "Pigs", "Cows" and "Humans"). Each story will be self-contained but will all revolve around the farm that we see in this story.

Grissom and Connelly are selling "Chickens" through the Gumroad service under a "name-your-own-price" model.

5. Pink

By Kyoko Okazaki
Vertical/Random House

What's it about?
Yumi is a beautiful young woman who, by day, has a regular office job, but at night works as a prostitute. One of the reasons she needs to work two jobs is so that she can afford to feed her pet crocodile.

Why is it interesting?
Vertical is publishing this 1988 manga for the first time in the U.S. as part of their translation and introduction of the work of Kyoko Okazaki to Western audiences. They previously published her 1995 manga Helter Skelter about a fashion model whose excessive use of cosmetic surgery leads to psychological derangement. Okasaki is hard to categorize as her work was intended to appeal to young girls (shōjo manga) but would often deal with controversial and mature subject matter that pushed her into becoming one of the most prominent creators of manga for mature women (josei manga).

Okazaki's work was popular in the '80s and '90s in Japan because of its keen ear towards modern dialogue and because her second career as a fashion illustrator worked its way into how she dressed her characters. It also shows in her style of drawing, although Pink, being one of her earlier works, is considerably less fashiony than her later work on Helter Skelter.

Random House has some more info about the book including where to buy it here.

ALSO

Please consider helping Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai who is facing insurmountable healthcare costs for his wife. These kinds of healthcare issues are unfortunately very common for the many under-insured comic artists out there.

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November 27, 2013 - 12:00pm
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