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Mike Allred/Marvel Comics
Mike Allred/Marvel Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Mike Allred/Marvel Comics
Mike Allred/Marvel Comics

Every Wednesday, I highlight the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, Comixology, Kickstarter, and the web. These are not necessarily reviews insomuch as they are me pointing out new comics that are noteworthy for one reason or another. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.

1. 2000 AD Prog 1874

Various
2000 AD

For 37 years, the influential British science fiction magazine 2000 AD has been publishing weekly Progs of serialized short comics created by some of Britain's most famous creative talent. ("Prog” is short for "Programme," and it's the result of the publication being produced by legions of droids working under the watchful eye of 2000 AD's editor, Tharg, of the planet Quazann in the Betelguese system. So there’s that.)

Since every prog is made up of about five stories running around six pages each, the magazine likes to have a clean jumping-on point every once in a while with each story starting a new chapter at the same time. With Prog 1874, available this week, we get a new Judge Dredd story written by co-creator John Wagner about a young evaluator in the Justice Department who is having doubts about the nature of what they do there. 2000 AD co-creator Pat Mills returns with the ongoing adventures of Celtic barbarian Slâine with fully painted art by Simon Davis. Dan Abnett (whom American readers will know as the guy who revitalized Guardians of the Galaxy for Marvel) returns with Sinister Dexter. Jaegir, a brand new spin-off from long running 2000 AD property Rogue Trooper, brings a new female heroine to the magazine. And finally, another new series called Outlier about a private detective hunting down an alien serial killer begins in the Prog.

2000 AD has been available in monthly print packs at comic book stores for years but, the appeal is its availability on a weekly basis, especially via various subscription options. Now with digital iOS users can subscribe via the Newsstand app and web users can buy DRM-free downloads via 2000adonline.com. Weekly digital comics are becoming all the rage and 2000 AD is well positioned to capitalize on that trend with their decades of experience publishing on that schedule.

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2. Silver Surfer #1

Written by Dan Slott; art by Mike Allred; colors by Laura Allred
Marvel Comics

The Silver Surfer, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby during their classic run on The Fantastic Four during the 1960s was very much a product of its time, what with his groovy philosophizing about the galaxy and his place within it. The Silver Surfer is popular enough to be frequently given a chance at his own series, but he usually can't carry it for very long before readers lose interest.

This time out, Dan Slott and Mike Allred have an idea that seems to be taken right from the Dr. Who playbook: pair the cold, analytical, otherworldly Surfer with a cute, down-to-earth and very human young woman. In this new series debuting this week, the Surfer meets Earth girl Dawn Greenwood and the two begin to travel the Marvel Universe together, hopefully giving readers a relatable character through which to enjoy the wonders of the cosmos.

Writer Dan Slott has been the Spider-man guy at Marvel for quite some time now and he's been doing an outstanding job finding fresh angles to take with that character. Here he's joined by husband-and-wife team Mike and Laura Allred whose retro-60s pop-art style is a perfect choice for the Silver Surfer. The Allreds have recently been working on the Fantastic Four spin-off FF where they were already playing around with Kirby creations. They always manage to perfectly capture the colorful appeal of comics from that era while giving it a contemporary spin that feels both tongue-in-cheek and lovingly genuine at the same time.

Read more about this book and look at some nice art over on Marvel.com

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3. Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery

Written by Kurtis J. Weibe; art by Roc Upchurch
Image Comics

This week sees the release of the first collected volume of Image Comics' breakout hit Rat Queens. This book came out of nowhere from two relatively unknown creators. It's a Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy book with an all-female cast of mercenaries who look and act unlike your typical medieval wenches. It's a comic full of crass humor, cursing, and graphic violence. Kurtis J. Weibe and Roc Upchurch's band of sword-wielding and trash-talking "Rat Queens" are a refreshing cast of characters.

The Queens are made up of four ass-kicking women, each with a distinct and almost incongruously modern personality. There's Violet, the hipster troll who’s cute when she shaves her beard; Betty the diminutive, happy go-lucky elf who has a penchant for drink and drugs; Dee, the atheist cleric who comes from a family that worships squids; and Hannah, the rockabilly sorceress. The way Roc Upchurch draws them makes you think you're watching a movie set in the Middle Ages but cast with actresses who look too contemporary for the roles, and that's part of the charm. The book does not take itself too seriously by any means, but it does take its female characters very seriously and does not objectify them. They’re all drawn with realistic body types and are not presented as mere eye candy. It's not surprising this comic has a growing and vocal female fan base.

Upchurch himself is yet another surprise with this book, being pretty new to the comics scene. His dynamic action scenes, spilling with blood and gore, are exactly what you want from an adventure book. A number of the fight scenes he illustrates here are astounding–but he is equally good at giving these characters relatable and recognizable personalities, which not every action-oriented artist can do.

You can preview Rat Queens and also purchase it directly from Image Comics' website here.

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4. The Only Living Boy

Written by David Gallaher; art by Steve Ellis
the-only-living-boy.com

Dave Gallaher and Steve Ellis are webcomic veterans at this point, and their first comic, High Noon, was one of the big hits out of DC's now defunct webcomic line Zuda. They've been collaborating on other comics since then such as Box 13one of the first digital-only comic to premier on Comixology. Their latest is an all-ages adventure book inspired by pulp serials, Saturday morning cartoons, Jack Kirby, and even the music of Paul Simon. It's called The Only Living Boy, and it follows the adventures of 12-year-old Erik who goes to sleep under a rock in Central Park and wakes up in a drastically changed New York that is now inhabited by dragons, monsters, and insect princesses—and he may be the last human being left alive.

Gallaher and Ellis have been working on The Only Living Boy for a while and have had both web and digital versions of it published in the past. They also successfully funded a print edition through Kickstarter in 2012. Starting today they are relaunching the webcomic and will begin posting new pages of the ongoing story every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Start reading here.

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5. The Chairs' Hiatus

By Matthew Bogart
Comixology Submit

Recently, Comixology had a sale on the top self-published books in their Submit program, giving 100 titles for only $10. When I can, I will be highlighting some comics from this bundle even though they are technically not “new" releases.

The Chairs' Hiatus is a quiet little story about an indie rock band called The Chairs that breaks up after a falling out between two of the members. We meet Mary Sozer, the band's front woman who's trying to live a quiet life, buying plungers at a hardware store without getting recognized. When her former band members Nel and Jen find her, Mary is forced to confront what she has run away from.

I originally stumbled across this comic after reading an article on Medium.com written by the book's author, Matthew Bogart, about his experience selling his comic through the Submit program. I was immediately drawn to his cartooning style and some of the interesting ways he handles the realistic, grounded subject matter of his story. His lines and character work remind me a little of Ethan Rilly (of the excellent comic Popehats). Bogart is a Portland-based cartoonist and he is currently working on a new ongoing comic called Oh, It's The End Of The World that he serializes on his website.

The Chairs' Hiatus is available on Comixology for $2.99. Bogart also has a Patreon page where you can support his comics work and receive various rewards for doing so.

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Pop Chart Lab
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Comics
The Origins of 36 Marvel Characters, Illustrated
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

No matter what their powers, every super hero has an origin story, from Spider-Man’s radioactive bite to Iron Man’s life-threatening chest shrapnel. In their latest poster, the designers at Pop Chart Lab have taken their infographic savvy to the Marvel Universe, charting the heroic origins of 36 different Marvel characters through miniature, minimalist comics.

Without using any words, they’ve managed to illustrate Bucky Barnes's plane explosion and subsequent transformation into the Winter Soldier, Jessica Jones’s car crash, the death of the Punisher’s family, and other classic stories from the major Marvel canon while paying tribute to the comic book form.

Explore the poster below, and see a zoomable version on Pop Chart Lab’s website.

A poster featuring 36 minimalist illustrations of superhero origin stories.
Pop Chart Lab

Keep your eyes open for future Marvel-Pop Chart crossovers. The Marvel Origins: A Sequential Compendium poster is “the first release of what we hope to be a marvelous partnership,” as Pop Chart Lab’s Galvin Chow puts it. Prints are available for pre-order starting at $37 and are scheduled to start shipping on March 8.

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Disney/Marvel Studios
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Afternoon Map
Marvel vs. DC: This Map Shows Each State’s Favorite Comic Universe
Disney/Marvel Studios
Disney/Marvel Studios

Which comic book company is the best: Marvel or DC? This is a perennial argument on middle-school playgrounds and Reddit threads, but this map, courtesy of USDish.com, might just give us a definitive answer. The information here is broken down by state, using information provided by Google Trends to give us a clear winner of not only the most popular comic book company but also the most popular individual hero in each state (let’s show a little respect to Indiana for championing the Martian Manhunter).

According to the map, Marvel is the most popular publisher in 37 states, with DC trailing behind at eight, and five additional states coming to a 50/50 stalemate. The totals weren’t a blowout, though. In certain states like Mississippi, Iowa, and Pennsylvania, the favored company only won by a point. And just because a state searches Google for a specific publisher the most doesn’t mean an individual character from the opposing team isn’t its favorite—Hawaii is listed as favoring Marvel overall, yet they love Aquaman on his own. Same with DC-loving Maryland showing Black Panther some love (helps to have a big movie coming out). Take a look at some of the most notable state preferences below:

So how did Marvel amass so many states when there are just as many DC TV shows and movies out there? Well, according to Andrew Selepak, Ph.D., a professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida, and director of the graduate program in social media, the answer lies in the depth at the House of Ideas.

“While Superman and Batman may be dominant characters,” Selepak said in a statement, “the DC Universe offers few other well-known heroes and villains and when these other characters are presented to the audience in film and on TV, they often are less than well-received.” This is opposed to Marvel, which launches new heroes on the big and small screen seemingly every year.

Does this map tell the whole story? That’s up for debate. When it comes to comics sold, DC and Marvel are always in a close battle: In January 2018, DC had six of the 10 best-selling comics of the month, placing four of the top five. Marvel, meanwhile, had three, while Image Comics had one with The Walking Dead. In terms of overall retail market share, though, Marvel eked out DC 34.3 percent to 33.8 percent.

This is a battle that's been raging since the 1960s, and for an industry that thrives on a never-ending fight between good and evil, we shouldn't expect the Marvel vs. DC debate to be settled anytime soon.

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