The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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Marvel Comics

Every Wednesday, I preview the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web.

1. Parker: Slayground

By Darwyn Cooke; Adapted from the novel by Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald Westlake)
IDW

What's it about?
After his latest heist goes south, professional criminal and tough guy Parker has to hide out in a closed up amusement park where he is pursued by rogue cops and local mobsters. Slayground, the fourth adaptation of the classic Richard Stark crime novels by Darwyn Cooke, is a cat-and-mouse thriller set entirely in said amusement park.

What makes it interesting?
Darwyn Cooke's love of the original Parker novels has inspired some of his best work in those first three graphic novels and he hasn't seemed to run out of steam yet. In fact, he's still planning on doing at least two more after this one. If you're a fan of crime stories, these are about as sure of a thing as you can ask for since they give you one of the great comic book storytellers of the 21st century adapting works from one of the great crime novelists of the 20th century. 

It's always interesting to see how a writer adapts a work from one medium into another. This particular entry in the original Parker series seems fairly straightforward compared to some of the other more complex, heist-oriented plots, but it's also more action-oriented and hence ripe for a more visual approach. It also may be one of the most loved by fans of the novels. The entire book takes place within the amusement park and it is all about the thrill of the chase. And how can you not be excited about seeing Cooke draw these scenes set in a shadowy, abandoned vintage amusement park?

In addition to including a map of the amusement park for you to follow the action with, this hardcover volume reprints a short story called "The 7th" that originally appeared in the Parker collection called The Martini Edition.

Read the amazing looking first few pages of Slayground here.

2. Marvel Knights: Hulk #1

Written by Joe Keatinge; art by Piotr Kowalski; colors by Nick Filardi
Marvel Comics

What's it about?
Bruce Banner wakes up on the bank of the Seine with no recollection of who he is, how he got there and what he's capable of turning into. Meanwhile, he's being pursued, and is about to find out he's not the only one out there capable of turning into the Hulk. This is the first issue of a new 4-issue mini-series published under the revived Marvel Knights imprint.

What makes it interesting?
Marvel Knights was started in the late 1990s within Marvel Comics, which was at that point struggling both creatively and financially. It quickly became the center of a creative renaissance within the company that launched the careers of creators like Brian Michael Bendis and future Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada. Marvel Knights was a line of books where new creative voices were encouraged to try different things with popular Marvel characters without being overly concerned with continuity among other Marvel titles. In 2006, the various Marvel Knights titles were folded back into the regular Marvel Universe, but now they're trying it again with three mini-series (others include Marvel Knights: Spider-man and Marvel Knights: X-men), showcasing work by relatively new indie creators. 

Joe Keatinge is a writer perhaps best known for his successful 2011 relaunch of Rob Liefeld's Glory while Piotr Kowalski has done a lot of work in the French comics market but is most recently known for his Image book Sex with writer Joe Casey. They have what sounds like an exciting plot for this series and are giving it an approach that is more sophisticated than your typical Hulk comic. Its focus on Banner on the run and its shift away from over-the-top super heroics are reminiscent of Bruce Jones' run from 2001. Keatinge has described his take on the Hulk as being "the American Nightmare" and the "anti-Captain America." Where Captain America represents the American Ideal, the Hulk is the embodiment of our nation's sins committed under the guise of national security. "Captain America is our victory of Normandy; The Hulk is our shame of Nagasaki."

Keatinge and Kowalski also have taken their inspiration from European comics and cinema as they tell a story that starts in Paris and hops all over the world in the span of 4 issues. Keatinge talks about influences from Hugo Pratt's comic Corto Maltese and Jean Luc Godard's French New Wave film Breathless which is certainly an intriguing way to come at a Hulk comic and certainly has my attention.

Check out some preview images and an interview with Joe Keatinge here.

3. Warren Publishing Archive

Archive.org

What is it?
Archive.org has a vast collection of scanned magazines from Warren Publishing such as Creepy, Blazing Combat and Vampirella. These magazines were originally published in the '60s and '70s and are available in various reprinted formats now, but these scans are free to read and are from the original publications. Most are decidedly adult in content but feature work by some of the greatest artists of that era. 

What makes it interesting?
After the advent of the Comics Code in the 1950s, James Warren found a way around its restrictions by publishing comics in magazine format, claiming that the content restrictions did not apply to magazines. This allowed his company to publish horror and sci-fi comics featuring nudity, violence, and adult themes that regular comics could not go anywhere near. These magazines were very influential and appealed to a lot of readers who wanted darker, edgier, weirder material than standard American comics could provide. Anthology-style magazines like Creepy, 1984 and The Rook would often showcase renowned artists like Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Richard Corben, Wally Wood, Johnny Craig and Bernie Wrightson. Vampirella (which featured stories about a sexy alien from a doomed planet rich with blood that comes to Earth to feed criminals and evil doers) was often drawn by amazing Spanish artists such as José Gonzalez.

Warren's magazines were a precursor to other mature-reader anthology magazines that would come to popularity in the 1980s like Heavy Metal and Epic. Some of the artists that would appear in those publications were first seen in Warren's.

A large number of these Warren magazines are now available to read for free on the Internet Archive at Archive.org. You can read them via a simple web browser interface or download PDFs or hi-res JPEGs for offline reading. Although much of this material has been reprinted in various bookshelf-friendly formats, these scans seem to be from the original magazines and even include some of the ads that appeared inside. The Internet Archive is a non-profit dedicated to preserving reading material online for the purpose of research and reference. Artists and art lovers will surely enjoy perusing these pages. Just be aware that it may not be appropriate for younger art lovers.

In addition to the comics, Warren published a number of movie magazines such as Famous Monsters of Filmland that are included in this collection as well. Plus, it also includes the mid-'70s The Spirit magazine which reprinted Will Eisner's classic strip of the same name from the 1940s. This is a treasure trove of classic material available for free.

Browse the archive for free here.

4. Doc Savage #1

Written by Chris Roberson; art by Bilquis Evely; covers by Alex Ross
Dynamite Entertainment

What's it about?
The classic pulp hero from the '40s returns in a new ongoing series.

What makes it interesting?
There have been many attempts to revive the Doc Savage brand in comics over the years and most usually fizzle out pretty quickly. The character has been a big influence on most of the superheroes that have come after him and we've seen a lot of what made him great remixed into other characters over the years, most notably in Alan Moore's Tom Strong.
In many ways, Savage suffers from the same problem that crippled the recent John Carter film from Disney. After we've seen so many homages to a classic character, it becomes hard for new audiences to not think they're seeing something cliche when the classic is revisited.

Chris Roberson is a writer who has himself worked a lot of what he loved about Doc Savage into other characters he's written. Now he has the opportunity to take the real thing and give it another attempt at a refresh. Roberson's approach will be to start the book in the 1940s (the era Doc Savage originated in) and, over the course of the first 8 issues, bring him forward into present day.

Roberson is joined by Brazilian artist Bilquis Evely who draws in a very clean, realist style that fits very well with the Dynamite aesthetic they've been fostering, especially among their various pulp-oriented books. For covers, superstar artist Alex Ross is providing the gravitas needed to make these books look and feel on par with some of the covers of the classic Doc Savage paperback novels of the past.

Read a pretty long preview here.

5. Justice League 3000 #1

Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis; art by Howard Porter
DC Comics

What's it about?
Set in the 31st Century, a new Justice League has formed with familiar heroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash. But who are these heroes of the future?

What makes it interesting?
The interesting thing is probably how little we know about this book going into it. DC and writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis are keeping pretty tight-lipped on details about the course of this book and the identity of the heroes. Considering that DC recently cancelled its other 31st century book Legion of Superheroes, it's a reasonable guess that this would tie into it in some way, but the writers claim it is its own thing. They also say that the heroes are not the heroes we know and are not descendants, so we'll see where this goes.

Giffen and DeMatteis are fondly remembered for their various humorous runs on the Justice League starting back in the mid-'80s. Their usual partner on those books, Kevin Maguire, was originally slated to draw Justice League 3000 but for reasons unknown was removed from the book and replaced with Howard Porter. Porter also has a legacy with the Justice League, having been the artist on one of the most popular runs in recent memory, Grant Morrisson's JLA from the late '90s.

You can read a preview here.

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December 11, 2013 - 12:00pm
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