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Makoto Yukimura // Dark Horse Comics
Makoto Yukimura // Dark Horse Comics

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Makoto Yukimura // Dark Horse Comics
Makoto Yukimura // Dark Horse Comics

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.

PLANETES OMNIBUS

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.

SCARLET WITCH #1

By James Robinson, Vanesa Del Rey and Jordie Bellaire
Marvel Comics

Despite being a mainstay in Avengers-related comics, the Scarlet Witch has never had her own series (at least one she didn’t share with her one-time android husband The Vision) until now. This new series sees Wanda Maximoff wandering the Marvel Universe trying to fix magic, which has become broken the world over. Marvel has had enough success with solo Avengers series after the breakout hit Hawkey that they’re willing to apply an appropriate variation of the formula to different characters. Now, it’s Wanda’s turn.

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.

THE BARRIER #1

By Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente
Panel Syndicate

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.

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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
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Deadpool Fans Have a Wild Theory About Who Cable Really Is
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Deadpool 2 is officially in theaters and ruling the box office just like its predecessor did back in 2015. But this installment is about more than just crude jokes and over-the-top action scenes; it also includes the debut of a longtime Marvel character that fans have been clamoring to see on the big screen since 2000’s X-Men hit theaters: Cable.

But the Cable in Deadpool 2 isn’t quite the one fans have gotten used to in the books—for starters, his powers and backstory are reined in considerably. While it’s easy to assume that’s by design, so that audiences can better relate to the character (which is played by Josh Brolin), some fans have speculated that the changes are because, well, this character isn’t really Cable at all; instead, Screen Rant has a theory that this version of the character is actually none other than an older Wolverine from the future.

So how can Wolverine be Cable? Well, it’s actually quite easy, considering that Wolverine was Cable in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe comics, which was a series of books in the 2000s that completely reimagined the regular Marvel Universe. In this reality, a grizzled, aged Wolverine takes on the Cable nickname and travels back in time to prevent a takeover of Earth from the villain Apocalypse.

We were already introduced to Apocalypse in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, and while he was defeated in the end, Screen Rant theorizes that he could return like he does in the Ultimate X-Men comics: by inhabiting the body of Nathaniel Essex, a.k.a. Mister Sinister. Essex was already name-dropped in Apocalypse and Deadpool 2, so it stands to reason that there might be some larger story on the horizon for him.

This would, of course, lead to more X-Men movies down the road, with Cable revealing his true nature and teaming with a crew of mutants that includes the classic X-Men cast as well as their younger selves to battle a newly formed Apocalypse. It’d also allow the character of Wolverine to live on in Brolin, leaving Hugh Jackman to enjoy a retired life without claws.

Obviously this is just one fan theory based on a comic storyline from over a decade ago. It would also have to ignore a whole host of continuity problems—including the events of Logan. But having a twist with Cable actually being Wolverine from the future (and likely from a different reality) is the type of headache-inducing madness the comics are known for.

[h/t: Screen Rant]

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King Features Syndicate
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8 Things You Might Not Know About Hi and Lois
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

A comics page staple for nearly 65 years, Mort Walker and Dik Browne’s Hi and Lois is a celebration of the mundane. Married couple Hiram “Hi” Flagston, wife Lois, and their four children balance work, school, and family dynamics, all of it with few punchlines but plenty of relatable situations. This four-panel ode to suburbia might appear simple, but it still has a rich history involving a beef with The Flintstones, broken noses, and one very important candy bar wrapper.

1. IT’S A SPINOFF OF BEETLE BAILEY.

Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker had been drawing that military-themed strip for four years when a friend of his named Lew Schwartz approached him in 1954 with a new idea: Why not create a strip about a nuclear family? Around the same time, the Korean War was ending, and Walker had sent Beetle home on furlough to visit his sister, Lois. Drawing a line between the two, Walker decided to pursue the suburbia idea using Lois as connective tissue. Hi and Lois was born: The two strips would see their respective characters visit one another over the years.

2. A CANDY BAR HELPED DEFINE THE STRIP’S LOOK.

Already working on Beetle Bailey, Walker decided to limit his work on Hi and Lois to writing. He wanted to collaborate with an artist, and so both he and his syndicate, King Features, went searching for a suitable partner. Walker soon came across ads for both Lipton’s tea and Mounds candy bars that had the same signature: Dik Browne. Coincidentally, a King Features executive named Sylvan Byck saw a strip in Boy’s Life magazine also signed by Browne. The two agreed he was a talent and invited Browne to work on the strip.

3. HI ORIGINALLY HAD A BROKEN NOSE.

As an artist, Walker had plenty of input into the style of Hi and Lois: Browne would later recall that trying to merge his own approach with Walker’s proved difficult. “When you draw a character like Hi, for instance, you immediately set the style for the whole strip,” he said. “You have already dictated what a tree will look like or how a dog will look, just by sketching that one head.” In his earliest incarnation, Hi had a broken, upturned nose to make him seem virile, puffed on a pipe, and wore a vest. Through trial and error, the two artists eventually settled on the softer lines the strip still uses today, an aesthetic some observers refer to as the “Connecticut school style” of cartooning.

4. EDITORS WERE WARY AT FIRST.

When Hi and Lois debuted on October 18, 1954, only 32 papers carried the strip. The reason, Walker later explained, had to do with concerns that he was spreading himself too thin. At the time, cartoonists rarely worked on two strips at once. Between Hi and Lois and Beetle Bailey, there was fear that the quality of one or both would suffer. Editors were also worried that having two artists on one project would dilute the self-expression of both. Walker stuck to his intentions—to make Hi and Lois a strip about the small pleasures of suburban life—and newspapers slowly came on board. By 1956, 131 papers were running the strip.

5. TRIXIE MAY HAVE SAVED THE STRIP.

With readers a little slow to respond to Hi and Lois, Walker had an idea: At the time, it was unusual for characters who don’t normally speak—like Snoopy—to express themselves with thought balloons. Walker decided to have baby Trixie think “out loud,” giving readers insight into her perspective. Shortly after Trixie began having a voice, Hi and Lois took off.

6. CHIP IS THE ONLY CHARACTER TO HAVE AGED.

Like most comic strip casts, the Hi and Lois family has found a way to stop the aging process. Baby Trixie is eternally in diapers; the parents seem to hover around 40 without any wrinkles. But oldest son Chip has been an exception. Roughly eight years old when the strip debuted, he’s currently 16, a nod to Walker's need for a character who can address teenage issues like driving, school, and dating.

7. IT LED TO HAGAR THE HORRIBLE.

Browne might be more well-known for his Hägar the Horrible, a strip about a beleaguered Viking. That strip, which debuted in 1973, was the result of Browne’s sons advising their father that Hi and Lois was really Walker’s brainchild and that Browne should consider a strip that could be a “family business.” By 1985, Hägar was in 1500 newspapers, while Hi and Lois was in 1000. Following Browne’s death in 1989, his son Chris continued the strip.

8. IT ALSO HAD A BONE TO PICK WITH THE FLINTSTONES.

The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera’s modern stone-age family, premiered in primetime in 1960, but not exactly the way the animation studio had intended. Fred and Wilma were initially named Flagstone, not Flintstone, and the series was to be titled Rally ‘Round the Flagstones. But Walker told executives he felt the name was too close to the Flagstons of Hi and Lois fame. Sensing a possible legal issue, they agreed.

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