The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

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. The Wrenchies

By Farel Dalrymple
First Second

A group of children fighting to survive in a future where all the grownups have become monsters.

It’s immediately evident how much Farel Dalrymple put into all 350+ pages of The Wrenchies, a graphic novel he has been toiling over for 5 years. Not only is nearly every page fully painted and filled with intricate drawings of futuristic landscapes, but the story itself is so dense and multi-layered that you’ll probably want to go back and re-read it in order to piece together what’s real and what isn’t.

The plot of The Wrenchies is hard to synopsize. The Wrenchies themselves, a group of kids fighting demons in a dystopian future where all the adults have been transformed into monsters, are not even really the main characters of the story. The book is really about a boy named Sherwood and his brother Orson–self-professed demon hunters–whose innocence is forever taken when they enter a cave to find a horrifying, fedora-wearing monster called a Shadowsman. The two brothers are traumatized by the event and become separated on some sort of pan-dimensional level.

Sherwood grows into a troubled adult who creates a comic book called The Wrenchies that contains a hidden message meant as a call for help in his search for his brother and the battle against the Shadowsmen.

This only scratches the surface and doesn’t even get to the most compelling members of the cast–a kind-hearted but simple-minded mama’s boy named Hollis who dresses like a superhero and a giant golem with the brain of a scientist who transports Hollis to the apocalyptic world of The Wrenchies and leads them all on their ultimate mission.

Dalrymple is part of a generation that, along with people like Brandon Graham, Jim Rugg, and Ross Campbell, rose up in the early 2000s and brought an art school sensibility to genre-centric comics. From his award-winning first book Pop Gun War to his collaboration with novelist Jonathan Lethem on Marvel’s Omega The Unknown, Dalrymple has gravitated towards stories about kids finding themselves in the middle of unexpected fantasy. The Wrenchies perfectly mixes the fun with the scary. In Hollis’ case, the separation anxiety that permeates his grand adventure is more than just a longing for his mother. He spends his time in the world of The Wrenchies writing letters to God, implying that the all-knowing being he prays to is not present at all in this world.

Here’s some images of the book on Farel’s blog.


2. Death of Wolverine #1

By Charles Soule, Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten and Justin Ponsor
Marvel Comics

Not a dream. Not an parallel universe. Marvel is killing off Wolverine.

Death of Wolverine is a 4-issue mini-series unfolding this month that will bring to a head the events that have been unfolding since the 2013 “Killable” storyline from the ongoing Wolverine comic. In that story, Logan lost his mutant healing power and now he is vulnerable to his enemies. As the title suggests, Marvel will be killing off a character who is, besides Spider-man, their most popular (Spidey, you’ll remember, was also killed off in 2012, but now he’s back). They’re doing this just in time to celebrate his 40th anniversary. No one who regularly reads comics actually believes Wolverine will stay dead, but that doesn’t mean that Marvel and the top-notch creative team behind this series aren’t treating this like it’s going to stick so they are looking to tell a story that they see as a proper send-off for this legendary character.

In just a few short years, writer Charles Soule has gone from obscurity to comics stardom, writing a number of major titles for both Marvel and DC, and is now helming one of the biggest event comics of the year (Marvel just announced that they've signed him to an exclusive contract). He’s joined by artist Steve McNiven who is best known for his work with Ed Brubaker on Captain America and, more relevantly, Wolverine: Old Man Logan, which took more of a non-canonical look at Logan’s declining years.

The question raised by this series is not whether or not Wolverine will stay dead but why Marvel is choosing to kill him. There are lots of big changes afoot in the Marvel Universe (Captain America will soon be a black man, Thor will soon be a woman); is Marvel simply looking to shake up the status quo of their publishing line? Are they testing the public's appetite for how much they can change a character before they head into costly contract negotiations with the movie stars that play these characters? Or is this just what you have to do to sell comics these days? It’s worth pointing out that Marvel is pricing these weekly issues at $4.99 each, with some bonus material like sketches and interviews to help justify the extra cost.

Here’s a preview


3. An Age of License

By Lucy Knisley

One of the best diary cartoonists out there goes on a romantic adventure across Europe.

Lucy Knisley’s An Age of License begins unassumingly as a simple travelogue about an American cartoonist off on her own in Europe. In 2011, Knisely–who is known for her diary comics which focus on travel with a flair for culinary details–received an invitation for a free trip to appear at a comic book festival in Norway. As if that wasn’t enough of an incentive to go, she recently met a boy from Norway while he was visiting New York and makes plans for a romantic rendezvous with him while she's there.

Soon, she is traversing Norway, Sweden, Germany, and France on a romantic journey that forces her to step outside herself and think about where she should be and what she should be doing with her life. Hence the title, which refers to a French saying about the need to take some time when you’re young to figure yourself out.

Fantagraphics has printed this book at a nice, petite, travel journal size that really feels right for the material (although it might be a tad small to truly appreciate the artwork). Knisley’s drawings are primarily in crisp black and white ink with a good number of beautiful, full color watercolor paintings that act as interludes between scenes. What makes her so good at diary comics is that she not only captures the essence of the scenery and events happening around her but she also finds visually inventive ways of depicting her own ideas and emotions. She taps into the doubts and insecurities that young people feel when questioning whether or not they are in love and whether or not they love what they’ve chosen to do with their life.

Fantagraphics has a preview on their website.


4. God Hates Astronauts #1

By Ryan Browne with Jordan Boyd and Chris Crank
Image Comics

Someone needs to stop farmers from launching homemade rockets into space and NASA has just the right people for the job.

Ryan Browne’s God Hates Astronauts began its life six years ago and its popularity led to it becoming one of the comic world's biggest Kickstarter successes. The crowdfunding success led to a deal with Image Comics to publish the next phase of the comic, a new ongoing series which begins this week.

It’s hard to describe God Hates Astronauts because it prides itself on its random, anything-goes nature. The “heroes” of the story are a narcissistic collection of jerks called “The Power Persons Five” whose main goal seems to be preventing astro-farmers from going into space (when they're not bickering or cheating on one another). The new series begins with one of these farmer-made rocket ships crashing into a spaceship commanded by Admiral Tiger Eating A Cheeseburger, a humanoid with the head of a Tiger that is always depicted taking a bite out of a cheeseburger. If that doesn’t sound hilarious to you then this book may just not be your thing.

Here’s a preview.


5. Sex & Violence  Vol. 2

By Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Vanesa R. Del Rey, Romina Moranelli, Rafa Garres and Paul Mounts
Paper Films/Kickstarter

A sexy crime noir anthology with an interesting team of up and coming artists.

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have pretty much got this Kickstarter thing down. As PaperFilms, they have been successfully funding one book after another and they've been using the platform to produce adults-only comics that may not have easily found a home with traditional publishers. One of these books is the crime noir anthology Sex & Violence Vol. 1, which doubled its goal upon completion of its 2012 campaign. Now they’re back for Volume 2 with three new stories drawn by three new up-and-coming artists.

The first story about a mother/daughter team of seductive con artists is drawn by Italian artist Romina Moranelli. She was a contributor to Marvel’s 2010 Women of Marvel anthology. The second is a WWII-era tale of a sniper and a dog trainer in the Soviet army drawn by Spanish artist Raga Garres who has worked on various DC and 2000 AD titles. The third effort is about a killer reflecting on his life and it's drawn by Cuban artist Vanesa R. Del Rey who has done recent books like Hit and The Empty Man for Boom! Studios (and who I think is one of this year’s most exciting new artists).

There are plenty of censored previews of the artwork on the Kickstarter page and they’ve already passed their goal with less than 20 days to go.

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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