The Most Interesting Comics of the Week
Every week I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, 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.
By Tom King and Mitch Gerads
DC Comics is in the midst of launching 12 new titles to Vertigo, their mature readers imprint, hoping to breathe life into the once groundbreaking publishing line. The most promising of these new titles might just be Tom King and Mitch Gerad's The Sheriff of Babylon, which begins this week. Set in Iraq in 2003, it follows three characters looking to solve the murder of an Iraqi police recruit.
Tom King is a former counter-terrorism operations officer for the CIA who was stationed in Iraq, which is an experience he draws on for this comic. (King has said in interviews that he has to submit every issue to the CIA’s publication review board for approval.) This has been a breakout year for the writer whose other DC books, Omega Men and Grayson, allowed him to apply his knowledge of espionage and insurgencies to the world of superheroes.
Perhaps it’s how this comic explores the underworld of an embattled, post-war country, or the gritty realism of Mitch Gerads' artwork, but it’s hard not to draw comparisons to a great comic DC published in the early ‘00s called Winter Men. Fans of that series, which explored post-Cold War Russia through the eyes of a superhero-turned-policeman, will probably want to see what King and Gerads do here. Winter Men artist John Paul Leon is even providing the covers for this series.
By Koren Shadmi
Koren Shadmi’s The Abaddon was a webcomic that began in 2011, and it comes to print this week courtesy of indie publisher Z2 Comics. The compelling mystery reads like a dream: creepy, sexy and laden with cryptic meaning. It begins when a man named Ter, recently returned from an unnamed war and still bearing the bandages, attends an open house in an old, two-story apartment occupied by four roommates. Once he accepts their offer to live there, he finds that there is no way to actually leave, and what proceeds is like MTV's The Real World on an acid trip.
Since most of the action takes place inside the apartment (at least for the first half of the book), The Abaddon reads like a play. (It is loosely based on Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist play No Exit, about a group of people locked in a room that turns out to be hell.) The Abaddon deals with death, karma, and the afterlife, but it's not all that bleak. It will make you laugh as often as it makes you cringe. An Israeli cartoonist based in Brooklyn, Shadmi's expressive pencil drawings are reminiscent of the great animator Bill Plympton, and the tones of green and red he uses with them add to the unreal, dreamlike nature of the story.
By Greg Pak, Frank Cho and Sonia Oback
As Marvel Comics comes back from the other side of their Secret Wars event, they have promised that everything will return “All New, All Different.” The most different of these returning comics may be the new Hulk series (now called Totally Awesome Hulk) which stars not Bruce Banner but Amadeus Cho, a teenage Korean-American “boy genius.” This is the latest move in Marvel’s attempt to diversify their A-list heroes, following the new female Thor and the African-American Captain America.
From the perspective of new storytelling opportunities, Bruce Banner as the Hulk had long ago lost his punch. There have been other Hulks recently like Rick Jones and Thunderbolt Ross, but none have added much interest to the concept. Amadeus Cho has been a popular supporting character in the series for a number of years and is a logical successor to Banner. He was created by writer Greg Pak who returns for this series along with fan-favorite artist Frank Cho (Liberty Meadows, Shanna the She-Devil).
Pak and Cho plan to bring a sense of humor and fun to the Hulk, a character that has become too often about joyless aggression and angst. The fact that Amadeus Cho can turn into the Hulk at will because he wants to, unlike Banner who always dreaded the transformation, is a nice wrinkle that readers looking to enjoy some good “Hulk Smash” might appreciate.
By Roman Muradov
Latvian publisher kuš! (pronounced “kush”) has been on a mission since 2007 to introduce comics to the adult reading audience in their home country through magazine anthologies like the eponymous kuš! and its sister-publication š! (pronounced "shh"). Before they came along, comics were unpopular in Latvia, but kuš! has been responsible for helping the medium by showcasing an international array of cartoonists, as well as some up and coming Latvian ones.
Now, kuš! is making the move into publishing graphic novels, and their first book is a beautiful little 100-page comic called The End of a Fence by Russian illustrator Roman Muradov (he currently lives in San Francisco). With a mixture of geometric shapes, brushy textures, pixelation, a beautifully soft color palette, and an almost alien-looking typeface, Muradov explores humanity’s relationship with technology in a way that is like watching a wonderfully designed graphical interface degrade and break apart.
This is Muradov’s second graphic novel, his first was the Ignatz-award nominated (In a Sense) Lost and Found. You can order a copy of The End of a Fence through the publisher.