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Emil Ferris/Fantagraphics

The 10 Most Interesting Comics of February

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Emil Ferris/Fantagraphics

Each month, we round up the most interesting comics, graphic novels, webcomics, digital comics and comic-related Kickstarters that we recommend you check out.

1. The Wild Storm #1

By Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt and Ivan Plascencia
DC Comics

Twenty years ago, Warren Ellis began writing Stormwatch for superstar artist Jim Lee’s new company, Wildstorm. That title would lead directly into The Authority, a comic that would influence the storytelling style of superhero comics from that point forward and made Wildstorm (by then owned by DC Comics) one of the most important publishing imprints of the early 21st century. Things change quickly in comics, though, and by 2010, DC shut down Wildstorm, folding some of its characters like Grifter and Midnighter into the newly rebooted DCU.

Now, DC has recruited Ellis to curate a new line of Wildstorm comics beginning with a 24-issue series called The Wild Storm, written by Ellis himself along with artist Jon Davis-Hunt. Some classic characters and concepts like The Engineer, Jenny Sparks, Wetworks, and the HALO Corp. will get rebooted and some new ideas will be introduced, all with Ellis’s familiar penchant for political paranoia, tough female leads and cutting edge technology.

2. My Favorite Thing is Monsters

By Emil Ferris
Fantagraphics

Flipping through this 300-plus page graphic novel, you can understand why it might have taken its author 15 years to create. Made to look like the notebook diary of a 10-year-old girl, each page is filled with elaborately rendered drawings done in ball point pen on lined paper. But Ferris’s early process on her debut book was dramatically disrupted when she contracted the West Nile Virus, becoming paralyzed from the waist down and losing the use of her right hand. This did not deter the 40-year-old single mom from re-focusing her life on making art and finishing her book. If that wasn’t enough, Ferris faced one more obstacle when the shipment of final printed copies of the book was detained by the Panamanian government after the shipping company went bankrupt, delaying the release of this book by four months.

The first of two volumes, My Favorite Thing is Monsters is a fictional memoir about a young girl in 1960s Chicago who is trying to solve the murder of her upstairs neighbor, a Holocaust survivor. Ferris pulls in elements of horror films and pulp magazines as well as an aesthetic of 1960s underground comix to tell a challenging story about history, family, outsiderism, adolescence, and murder.

3. Wonder Woman Rebirth Vol. 1: The Lies

By Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp and Laura Martin
DC Comics

The first volumes of DC’s Rebirth-branded trade paperbacks are hitting bookstores six months after the relaunch of all of DC’s ongoing titles. Wonder Woman has been one of the best of these Rebirth comics, spearheaded by fan-favorite writer Greg Rucka, who returned to the character with the mission of fixing some continuity discrepancies that arose during DC’s last reboot. Published biweekly, the comic has an interesting publishing schedule because it jumps between two ongoing stories every other issue: the first, a “Year One” tale of Diana’s first encounter with Steve Trevor and the world outside her Amazonian home, and the other, a present day adventure with Trevor, Etta Candy, and Barbara “Cheetah” Minerva in which Diana journeys back home to rediscover her past. DC is logically collecting each story separately so Volume One contains just the present day story. Veteran comic creators Liam Sharp and Laura Martin produce breathtakingly detailed work here, full of stunning exotic locales and a visual rendition of Wonder Woman that is beautiful and regal yet also physically solid and intimidating.

4. Pretending is Lying

By Dominique Goblet
New York Review Comics

Goblet’s 2007 graphic novel is being published in English for the first time through the brand new comics division of the venerable New York Review of Books. It is a personal, revealing memoir told with a variety of experimental art styles, jumping between multiple narratives. Each section explores Goblet at a different point in her life from childhood to motherhood. The award-winning artist came out of the Franco-Belgian independent comics scene of the 1990s and was an early contributor for influential publisher Frémok. She crafted the stories that comprise Pretending is Lying over the course of 12 years, and while they are ostensibly about Goblet herself, they are even moreso about her relationships with the three most important people in her life: her father, her boyfriend and her daughter.

5. Black History in its Own Words

By Ron Wimberly
Image Comics

Though really more of a book of illustrations than a comic, this book is a labor of love from an exciting new voice in comics. Wimberly manages to pick thought-provoking quotes from a range of influential African-American voices and work them into a striking portrait of the subject done in his bold, graphic, and energetic style. His choices of subjects are interesting and, in some cases, more contemporary than you might expect for a “black history” project. His subjects include Angela Davis, Spike Lee, James Baldwin, Laverne Cox, George Herriman, Dave Chapelle, Serena Williams, Ice Cube, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and more. Wimberly’s project began at The Nib in 2015 and has since turned into something of an ongoing project with this book debuting some brand new portraits.

6. Weird Detective

By Fred Van Lente, Guiu Vilanova and Mauricio Wallace
Dark Horse Comics

Comics are rife with homages to the work of horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft, but there’s never been one that is so reverent and irreverent at the same time. Best described as “Law & Order with Cthulu,” this five-part series (released this month in trade paperback form) follows an NYPD detective whose body is inhabited by a tentacle-ridden creature from another world. His uncanny ability to instinctively solve almost any crime paired with his complete and total inability to act normal when interacting with other people is simply explained away by fellow cops as his “being from Canada.” His charade gets more difficult when he gets a new partner who has been charged with investigating him. With a lot of deadpan wit, Van Lente makes otherworldly, unspeakable Lovecraftian horror accessible and often hilarious while still being really unsettling.

7. Angel Catbird Vol. 2

By Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain
Dark Horse Comics

Acclaimed novelist and geek culture ally Margaret Atwood is back already with the middle volume of her graphic novel trilogy, which launched last September. This tongue-in-cheek tale of animal-human hybrids gets even more fanciful by introducing some faux-mythological characters in the vein of volume one’s Count Catula like Queen Nefer-kitty and Atheen-owl. This is a light-hearted comedy-adventure with a message that intersperses facts about caring for stray cats with the type of loony storylines you would find in Golden and Silver Age era comic books.

8. Dissolving Classroom

By Junji Ito
Vertical

Junji Ito is one of Japan’s great horror manga creators, known for works like Tomie and Uzumaki. His latest book, making its English language debut this month in the States, is a collection of loosely connected short stories. Ito’s ultra-realistic style is intricate with extra attention paid to grotesque scenes depicting horrific things like melting faces. There is a satirical bent to these stories that explore societal issues surrounding beauty, vanity and more.

9. Lovers in the Garden

By Anya Davidson
Retrofit Comics

Exploitation comics have been a popular trend for the past few years, with a number of comics deriving their lo-fi aesthetic and storytelling style from blaxploitation and grindhouse films as well as underground comics. Davidson’s addition to the genre is part blaxploitation, part feminist crime noir set in 1970s New York. This 64-page graphic novel follows an ensemble of characters including a black female reporter, two Vietnam vets, and a drug dealer who cross paths in a violent and engaging romp full of quirky, Tarantino-like conversations.

10. Spaniel Rage

By Vanessa Davis
Drawn & Quarterly

Originally published in 2003, Spaniel Rage is a collection of daily sketch comics about Davis’s day-to-day life as a single woman in New York City. It’s a little more Curb Your Enthusiasm than Sex in the City though. There’s some dating, but also a lot of self-doubt, awkward encounters with co-workers, honest conversations with friends, and self-deprecating jokes. The comics are all very loosely drawn, full of mistakes and smudges which only add to their honest and approachable charm. Davis has proven to be an influence on a lot of today’s young female cartoonists and this re-release aims to show that the work retains its relevance and influence more than a decade later.

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Noriyuki Saitoh
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Art
Japanese Artist Crafts Intricate Insects Using Bamboo
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Noriyuki Saitoh

Not everyone finds insects beautiful. Some people think of them as scary, disturbing, or downright disgusting. But when Japanese artist Noriyuki Saitoh looks at a discarded cicada shell or a feeding praying mantis, he sees inspiration for his next creation.

Saitoh’s sculptures, spotted over at Colossal, are crafted by hand from bamboo. He uses the natural material to make some incredibly lifelike pieces. In one example, three wasps perch on a piece of honeycomb. In another, two mating dragonflies create a heart shape with their abdomens.

The figures he creates aren’t meant to be exact replicas of real insects. Rather, Saitoh starts his process with a list of dimensions and allows room for creativity when fine-tuning the appearances. The sense of movement and level of detail he puts into each sculpture is what makes them look so convincing.

You can browse the artist’s work on his website or follow him on social media for more stunning samples from his portfolio.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

[h/t Colossal]

All images courtesy of Noriyuki Saitoh.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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History
P.G. Wodehouse's Exile from England
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You don’t get more British than Jeeves and Wooster. The P.G. Wodehouse characters are practically synonymous with elevenses and Pimm’s. But in 1947, their creator left England for the U.S. and never looked back.

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, better known as P.G., was living in northern France and working on his latest Jeeves and Wooster novel, Joy in the Morning, when the Nazis came knocking. They occupied his estate for a period of time before shipping him off to an internment camp in Germany, which he later said he found pretty pleasant:

“Everybody seems to think a German internment camp must be a sort of torture chamber. It was really perfectly normal and ordinary. The camp had an extraordinarily nice commander, and we did all sorts of things, you know. We played cricket, that sort of thing. Of course, I was writing all the time.”

Wodehouse was there for 11 months before being suddenly released to a hotel in Berlin where a man from the German foreign office named Werner Plack was waiting to meet him. Wodehouse was somewhat acquainted with Plack from a stint in Hollywood, so finding him waiting didn't seem out of the ordinary. Plack advised Wodehouse to use his time in the internment camp to his advantage, and suggested writing a radio series about his experiences to be broadcast in America.

As Plack probably suspected, Wodehouse’s natural writing style meant that his broadcasts were light-hearted affairs about playing cricket and writing novels, This didn’t sit too well with the British, who believed Wodehouse was trying to downplay the horrors of the war. The writer was shocked when MI5 subjected him to questioning about the “propaganda” he wrote for the Germans. "I thought that people, hearing the talks, would admire me for having kept cheerful under difficult conditions," he told them in 1944. "I would like to conclude by saying that I never had any intention of assisting the enemy and that I have suffered a great deal of mental pain as the result of my action."

Wodehouse's contemporary George Orwell came to his aid, penning a 1945 an essay called “In Defense of P.G. Wodehouse." Sadly, it didn’t do much to sway public opinion. Though MI5 ultimately decided not to prosecute, it seemed that British citizens had already made up their minds, with some bookstores and libraries even removing all Wodehouse material from their shelves. Seeing the writing on the wall, the author and his wife packed up all of their belongings and moved to New York in 1947. They never went back to England.

But that’s not to say Wodehouse didn’t want to. In 1973, at the age of 91, he expressed interest in returning. “I’d certainly like to, but at my age it’s awfully difficult to get a move on. But I’d like to go back for a visit in the spring. They all seem to want me to go back. The trouble is that I’ve never flown. I suppose that would solve everything."

Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack before he could make the trip. But the author bore no ill will toward his native country. When The Paris Review interviewed Wodehouse in 1973, they asked if he resented the way he was treated by the English. “Oh, no, no, no. Nothing of that sort. The whole thing seems to have blown over now,” he said.  He was right—the Queen bestowed Wodehouse with a knighthood two months before his death, showing that all was forgiven.

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