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 Makoto Yukimura
Dark Horse Comics
When people recommend a good “gateway” manga for American comic readers, one choice that comes up often is Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes. Originally serialized in Japanese magazine Weekly Morning from 1999 to 2004, Planetes is a “hard sci-fi” drama set in the year 2075 that follows a crew on a debris-collection ship in outer space. It is highly recommended by manga enthusiasts, in part, because of its realistic tone, rich backstories, and complex themes involving environmentalism, terrorism, and existentialism. Another reason is Yukimura's artwork, which mixes cartoony characters with detailed backgrounds and machinery to ground it all in a sense of realism without losing the energy often associated with good manga.
Dark Horse has brought a lot of quality manga to North American readers in the past couple of years, and with Planetes they’ve assembled the entire story into one giant 500+ page omnibus with restored color sequences.
By James Robinson, Vanesa Del Rey and Jordie Bellaire
James Robinson will be the regular writer, and he is coming off Airboy, an interesting creator-owned comic at Image. Each issue of this book will feature his work with a different artist starting with Vanesa Del Rey, who is an exciting up-and-coming talent. Future issues will include collaborations with other outstanding female artists like Marguerite Sauvage, Annie Wu, Tula Lotay, and Joelle Jones, as well as some talented men like Chris Visions, Javier Pulido, Steve Dillon, and more.
By Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente
Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente are the Louis C.K. and Radiohead of comics. Their enormous success selling their digital comic The Private Eye through a pay-what-you-want model inspired other self-publishers to experiment with similar sales methods and helped bring self-published digital comics to a more mainstream audience.
Now, through PanelSyndicate.com, the team has returned with a new five-issue mini-series called The Barrier. As they did with every issue of The Private Eye, they have released this issue to the public with no prior PR rollout. Set on the Mexico-U.S. border, The Barrier follows two characters, one on each side: Liddy, a female rancher fed up with members of a drug cartel killing her livestock, and Oscar, a Honduran who risks his life to cross over into Texas. Oscar’s half of the comic is all in untranslated Spanish but, thanks to Martin’s deft storytelling skills, you really don’t need dialogue to follow the action.
At first, The Barrier reads like a Cormac McCarthy novel, but by the end a clear science-fiction element reveals itself. Just as The Private Eye used sci-fi to tell a story about our current struggles with privacy and technology, The Barrier uses the genre to talk about a hot-button political issue.