Heather Penn
Heather Penn

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Heather Penn
Heather Penn

Every Wednesday, I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, Kickstarter, and the web. 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. C.O.W.L. #1

Written by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel; art by Rod Reis
Image Comics

Superhero teamster unions in a Mad Men-style drama.

Back in the day, superheroes were generally depicted as lone vigilantes. When they'd organize, it was usually as a loose-knit team often funded by a wealthy benefactor or by one of its own members (there’s almost always a rich playboy running around in tights ready to help out financially). In recent years, comics have begun to explore the team angle from more real-world perspectives. We began to see corporate-sponsored (WildC.A.T.S) or government-funded (The Ultimates) supergroups. Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis are adding to this trend in their new series C.O.W.L. in which superheroes are able to join a labor union.

Set in Chicago in the 1960s, a time in history when both unions and comics were in something of a “Silver Age,"C.O.W.L. seeks to tell different kinds of superhero stories. There's a touch of Mad Men's style and sex appeal as well asWatchmen’s serious approach to heroes. This first issue mostly introduces us to the cast of characters and sets some pieces in motion, but you can tell it’s going to be a complex drama with super heroics used mostly as a jumping-off point for stories about politics and personal drama.

What makes it all work is the stunning artwork by Rod Reis. Digitally painted in a style that calls to mind some of the great advertising and poster illustrators of the 1960s, Reis gives this comic a proper look that many contemporary comics set in this era can’t achieve.

Here is a preview of the 1st issue.


2. The Amateurs

By Conor Stechschulte

What has caused two butchers to lose their memory and what lengths will they go to to hide it?

One morning, two butchers open up their shop located in a small shack just off the river, and mysteriously find they have no recollection of how to do their job. When customers come in, the men scramble to figure out how to slaughter the animals and fulfill their orders without raising suspicion.

This is how Conor Stechschulte’s debut graphic novel, The Amateurs, gets going and quickly turns into an uncomfortable and bloody black comedy. With its turn-of-the-20th-century setting, surreal sense of horror and humor, and cross-hatched artwork, The Amateurs puts you in that era as if you’re watching some weird, early “talkie.”

Stechschulte has been making mini-comics for a number of years and originally self-published The Amateurs back in 2011 before it got picked up by Fantagraphics. His work leans towards experimental art comics, but The Amateurs can be enjoyed by most, even when it leaves you wondering what is really going on.

Fantagraphics has some preview pages here.


3. Final Incal

Written by Alejandro Jodorowsky; art by Moebius, Ladronn and others

The conclusion to a 30-year-old science fiction epic.

85-year-old comics iconoclast Alejandro Jodorowsky first released The Incal (L’Incal) in 1981. It would eventually be the middle piece of an epic trilogy that would include Before the Incal and Final Incal. The comic was a collaboration with legendary artist Jean Giraud, better known by the name Moebius, and has been among the pair’s many influential science fiction works. It was considered such an influence on Luc Besson’s 1997 film The Fifth Element that Jodorowsky and Giraud unsuccessfully sued the filmmaker for pilfering their visual ideas. It also kickstarted what is known as the “Jodoverse,” a connected universe of stories written by Jodorowsky that includes other classics such as Metabarons and Technopriests.

The story of The Incal trilogy follows the exploits of John DiFool, a private detective who finds himself in over his head when he is given a powerful crystal called the Light Incal. With characters and aspects based on tarot cards, The Incal explores grand concepts of life, love, and technology with action and a bit of comedy.

Jodorowsky and Giraud reunited in 2000 to create the intended final piece of the trilogy After The Incal (Après l’Incal). However, Moebius, ill at the time, turned in pages that were in a much more cartoony, simple style than the previous books. Jodorowsky was not happy with the visual disconnect and approached José Ladrönn, known for his realistic sci-fi/fantasy work on comics like Hip Flask, to redraw the pages and complete the book.

This week, Humanoids will release the English translation of Final Incal, which will include Ladrönn’s 154-page concluding chapter as well as the 56 pages that Moebius (who died in 2012) originally drew for After The Incal. There are multiple formats being released, ranging from lower priced digital editions to a large, limited edition $600 hardcover that include book plates signed by Jodorowsky and Ladrönn.

Some preview images and options to buy here.


4. Everywhere Antennas

By Julie Delporte
Drawn & Quarterly

A fictional diary by a young woman unable to cope with the modern world.

Being that Julie Delporte’s previous graphic novel was a collection of hand-drawn diary entries called Journal, you’d be forgiven for mistaking her latest effort as another autobiographical comic. Everywhere Antennas is written and drawn to look like very personal entries in someone's sketchbook, but in fact is a work of fiction about a young woman in the midst of a nervous breakdown that she attributes to TV, radio, and wifi waves constantly permeating her brain.

Delporte uses colored pencils to write and draw the story in a series of dated diary entries accompanied by observational life drawings. The book is printed with such high definition that you can see the grain of pencil and edges of Scotch tape. Considering the book is about the toll that technology takes, it very deliberately looks handmade and human in every aspect.

You can see a preview of the book here.


5. Thermohalia

By Heather Penn

A beautiful webcomic about mermaids and robots.

Heather Penn’s webcomic Thermohalia joyfully combines mermaids, robots, and teen aliens. With about 3 chapters posted to date (some are on her website, but she seems to have moved to updating the comic more regularly on, the story follows a young mermaid (or maybe part-girl/part-eel) named Coi who ventures into a city above the water where she meets a part-human/part-bird robot named Heghera.

Penn paints the comic digitally, using tall panels that are filled with breathtaking vistas to immerse you into the quiet, sunny, beautiful world she is creating. It’s the kind of webcomic you wish you could set to fill your widescreen monitor in high resolution wonder.

There are not that many pages posted yet so you can catch up on the story in less than half an hour, starting here.

5 Records Black Panther Has Already Broken

Black Panther isn’t just a success—it’s a phenomenon. Based on the Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the movie has already grossed well over $1 billion at the worldwide box office, and it’s not exactly slowing down, remaining at the top spot for a fourth weekend. It’s currently the seventh-highest grossing movie of all time at the domestic box office, trailing heavy-hitters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic Park, and Titanic.

It’s also a huge win with critics and audiences, as it currently holds the best Rotten Tomatoes score for a Marvel movie, beating out The Avengers, Spider-Man 2, and Iron Man. With all of the praise and money pouring in, we’re taking a look at five records Black Panther has already broken.


February has typically been seen as a soft month at the box office, especially where blockbusters are concerned. But in 2015, Deadpool changed all of that by taking in a record $130+ million over its Valentine’s Day weekend debut. While that was a record at the time—and even more impressive for a movie with an R rating—Black Panther left that total in the rearview, taking in around $202 million in its first weekend in theaters. That was good enough for the highest February weekend of all time, but that’s not even all of it.

The movie’s $75+ million Friday was the highest ever February debut and the biggest opening day overall for a solo superhero movie—exceeding the likes of 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises and 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. It also holds the record for the biggest February preview day ($25.2 million) for its late-night Thursday screenings before its official Friday premiere.


Chadwick Boseman in 'Black Panther' (2018)
Disney/Marvel Studios

In 2017, director F. Gary Gray’s The Fate of the Furious took in an impressive $1.2+ billion at the worldwide box office, with $226 million of that coming from the United States. For a while, that was the biggest box office win for an African-American filmmaker both domestically and internationally. But after its opening weekend, Black Panther was already at $200 million, and after the President’s Day holiday that came immediately after, it had amassed another $40.176 million—easily giving director Ryan Coogler the crown of helming the highest-grossing film for an African-American director (and cast) in the United States (even when adjusting for inflation). And before its run is over, it will certainly top Furious’s worldwide total.


Not even a galaxy far, far away could stand up to Black Panther. Star Wars: The Force Awakens used to hold the crown for the highest-grossing Monday at the box office with $40.110 million but was topped by Panther’s $40.176 million.


Added to that, Black Panther now owns the Marvel record for the highest-grossing Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, as well as the best first Marvel week overall, coming in at $292 million, compared to The Avengers’s $270 million in 2012. It also topped every other Marvel movie’s second weekend with $108 million and only trails The Force Awakens for the best second weekend in history.


Black Panther came out of the gate strong with the biggest debut for a solo superhero movie ever at $75.81 million. Then, after 27 days in theaters, it topped them all, becoming the highest-grossing solo superhero movie in U.S. history, beating out the $534.8 million held by The Dark Knight Rises. This means it topped all the other Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider-man solo movies on the character's first attempt. It still has some work to do to topple the $623,357,910 of The Avengers, but nothing is off the table at this point.

However, these numbers don’t take inflation into account. So while it trounced Spider-man’s 2002 domestic take of $403 million, you’re comparing it to ticket prices from 16 years ago. In reality, Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man would have made $637 million today—and that Avengers total would jump up to $705 million.

Myles Aronowitz, Netflix
10 Super Facts About Jessica Jones
Myles Aronowitz, Netflix
Myles Aronowitz, Netflix

Jessica Jones is back! After a more than two-year wait, fans of Marvel's rough-around-the-edges superhero-turned-private eye are celebrating the arrival of her Netflix series' second season (and binge-watching it accordingly). Here are 10 things you might not have known about the character.


In 2001, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos created Jessica Jones for MAX Comics, an imprint of Marvel. As the star of the comic book series Alias, Jones was the first character created for the new publishers, which allowed for more explicit content than its parent company.

Born Jessica Campbell, she got her superpowers when her family was in a tragic car accident with a military vehicle carrying radioactive chemicals; Jessica was the only survivor. After several months in a coma, Jessica was adopted by the Jones family. Shortly thereafter, she discovered that the chemicals had given her special abilities, including super strength, resistance to physical injury, and the power of flight (though she never quite mastered that one).


Before Jessica Jones arrived on Netflix in 2015, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg had originally developed a series based on the superhero for ABC in December of 2010. The pilot, which was originally called A.K.A. Jessica Jones, featured references to Tony Stark and Stark Industries, and acknowledged the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, ABC passed on the series in 2012. A year later, Netflix partnered with Marvel and Disney for four new live-action TV series and a mini-series. Rosenberg was brought on to develop, produce, and write a new version of Jessica Jones, which joins the Marvel/Netflix roster of TV shows, including Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders, a team-up miniseries.


Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones
David Giesbrecht, Netflix

Jessica Jones made her first appearance in Alias #1, as a former costumed superhero who left her post to become a private investigator. Alias ran for 28 issues between 2001 and 2004. Co-creator Brian Michael Bendis originally made the story’s protagonist Jessica Drew, a.k.a. Spider-Woman, but created Jessica Jones instead, “Which is good,” Bendis told USGamer, “because had we used Jessica it would have been off continuity and bad storytelling.”


Jessica Jones went to Midtown High School in Queens, which is the same high school Peter Parker attended. In fact, Jessica had a crush on Parker while they were classmates. He believed they had a special connection because both of them had lost their families under random and tragic circumstances. After Peter Parker became Spider-Man, Jones (not knowing it was Parker) saw the web slinger protect their school from the evil Sandman, which inspired her to use her superpowers for good. 


David Tennant and Krysten Ritter in 'Jessica Jones'
David Giesbrecht, Netflix

Jewel was the identity Jones adopted for her first attempt at being a costumed superhero, and she didn’t do much to make a name for herself. It wasn’t until she came under the mind control of one of Daredevil’s foes, Zebediah Killgrave (The Purple Man, who is portrayed by former Doctor Who star David Tennant), that Jones saw any real action. Ordered to kill Daredevil, Jones arrived at the Avengers Mansion, where she battled the Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, and Vision. Fortunately, she was spotted by her longtime friend Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel), who took her to safety. After another several months in a coma, Jones was watched over by S.H.I.E.L.D. and eventually regained her mind and identity with the help of some psychic therapy, courtesy of the X-Men’s Jean Grey.  


The super-pair met when Jones donned the hardened vigilante identity Knightress. After dealing with the supervillain the Owl, Jones and Cage had a drunken one-night stand. They then started to have an on-again/off-again relationship. Then she became pregnant with their daughter, Danielle, who was named after Daniel Rand (Iron First), Luke’s best friend.


Mike Colter as Luke Cage in 'Jessica Jones'
Myles Aronowitz, Netflix

After marrying Cage, Jones joined the New Avengers and changed her superhero name to Power Woman as a tribute to her husband’s superhero identity, Power Man. But due to the stress of the job and the potential threat to their new family, the pair left the New Avengers and started a new life. Cage later started up another superhero team called the Mighty Avengers, but Jones, annoyed and irritated with her husband, opted not to join because she wanted to raise Danielle instead. 


Bendis followed up the success of Alias with The Pulse in 2004. It centered on Jones taking a job as a “vigilante analyst" with The Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Working alongside reporter Ben Urich, Jones was tasked with uncovering the true identity of Spider-Man, but ultimately discovered that the Green Goblin was really Norman Osborn (which did not sit well with Osborn).


During Marvel’s Civil War, Iron Man and Captain Marvel confronted Jones and Cage about registering with the authorities under the Superhuman Registration Act, which enforced a “mandatory registration of super-powered individuals with the government.” Unwilling to register, Jones and Cage were forced to go underground. 


James McCaffrey, Krysten Ritter, and Rachael Taylor in 'Jessica Jones'
David Giesbrecht, Netflix

Jones’s longtime friend Carol Danvers was originally going to appear in an early version of the TV show. Her character was scrapped and replaced with Trish "Patsy" Walker when the series moved from ABC to Netflix. Marvel then decided to feature Carol Danvers as the star of her own feature film, Captain Marvel, which is due in theaters in early 2019. Oscar-winner Brie Larson will play the title role.

“Back when it was at ABC Network, I did use Carol Danvers," showrunner Melissa Rosenberg explained. "But between then and when it ended up on Netflix ... the MCU shifted, and it also shifted away from the universe in the [comic] book ... But as it turned out, Patsy Walker ended up being [a] much more appropriate fit with Jessica. It was better that her best friend was not someone with powers. It actually ends up being a really great mirror for her.”


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