Best of the Week // Vs. The World

The Awards

Velvet #1The book opens as you’d expect. The lights of Paris are gleaming as Jefferson Keller waltz’ through an operation, dressed impeccably well, completely unfazed by the violence he’s committing to other people. He’s a secret operative, suave and untouchable, women want to be with him and men want to be him – until, of course, he’s murdered on the streets, lonely, alone.

A gorgeous stylistic two page spread of Velvet follows, gun aimed expertly at an unseen assailant. This is something different. This will not be what you expect.

C!TB's Best of the Week | April 23rd, 2012

Ta-daaaahhh

Ladies, laddies and ne’er-do-wells! Welcome to what will prove to be another fucktastic week at Comics! The Blog! We’ve got a lot to get to this week (if Brandon actually goes through with some planned articles) so let’s stop screwing around and get to the goods.

COMICS RULE EVERYTHING AROUND ME

BRANDON’S

It’s a hardcover. People are wary of hardcovers. There’s a certain connotation involved with buying one. The price and the fact that a cheaper softcover will soon be on the horizon is usually enough for a casual reader to shrug and wait. It happens with books, it happens with comics.

It does not happen with The Black Mirror.

Before the big relaunch, and before he began writing the Batman title, Scott Snyder was telling tales of Gotham City within the pages of Detective Comics. Featuring Dick Grayson in the role of Batman, alongside an interwoven tale about Commisioner James Gordon and his family, it was an odd sort of book, quite atypical for the family and the line. It remains one of my favourite Bat-books to date.

Flash forward to now, several months after the relaunch. A heady mix of a high profile gig and a heaping helping of talent have readers champing at the bit for more of Scott Snyder’s Batman. Many of them didn’t know about his previous gig – and they are all too willing to jump at the chance to nab The Black Mirror pretty much sight unseen, based off of Snyder’s name alone. Or at least this has been my experience while working in the comic shop. The switch in everyone’s brain telling them to wait for the trade is gone. They need more now, and they are willing to pay a premium to get it. Quite a few of them have come back to the store gushing.

Scott Snyder writes good Batman books. This, of course, holds true for this week’s issue of Batman, in which the Night of Owls begins in earnest. Having just gone through a psychologically damaging and disorienting fight with a Talon, Bruce returns to his home, where he soon finds himself beset by many of them. The fight gets quite out of hand, as the group ends up finding out quite a lot about Mr. Wayne – more than they had bargained for – all the while targeting several other targets in the city.

It’s a big plot, one that will spill out into every Bat-related title next month – and yet Snyder still manages to make the read feel contained. You can be content with just reading this book, or if you so choose, you’ll be able to see the larger effects by checking out the other titles in the Bat family in May. And as always, the art by Greg Capullo in this is just phenomenal. I honestly wasn’t sure what kind of book we were going to get from him when he was first announced, as the only places I knew him from were Spawn and Haunt – two books that never quite grabbed me art-wise (until Nathan Fox started rocking the hell out of Haunt – but that’s another article altogether). But the book looks amazing. Kinetic, cinematic, energetic – exactly what a Batman book needs.

A great read, quite deserving of our Cowardly and Superstitious Award. (B)

ADVENTURE IS INSIDE

Fiction barrels into the unknown.  It’s about exploring new worlds and situations; even old ones can be rediscovered and recontextualized to discover new layers and meanings.  In Defenders #5, Matt Fraction and his artists, Mitch and Bettie Breitweiser tackle both with an energy that’s positively electric.  The twin ideas of rediscovery and exploration go hand-in-hand throughout the entire issue.  First, there is the discovery of an ancient seal on the ocean floor, and the release of creatures long forgotten.  On a second, metatextual level, the comic looks at Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, creations of Jules Verne over a century ago, and turns them over in its hands, massaging and folding them into the Marvel Comics universe we know.  Finally, it examines the character of Namor, reintroducing him to an event from his youth, when he brushed against the world of adults and their sins but turned away, and forcing him to consider it now that he is an adult in his own right.

On each of these three levels, the comic pushes forward.  Sometimes fearlessly, sometimes fearfully, but ever onward.  Knowing what is now known, there is no turning back, for the team or for Namor.  The series, its creators and its readers will have to see what happens next month, as the machine keeps on moving.  Defenders is a series that is steeped in the unknown.  Its characters are surrounded by a mystery they can only grasp at, and they can’t talk about it to anyone but each other.  It’s black and murky all around them, and all they can do is keep trying to figure things out.  As a reader, it’s thrilling; how often do we get to go into something so blind?  To discover things as the characters do, one issue at a time?  How often do we get to be this surprised?

As beautifully as Fraction explores these ideas, it’s the art by the Breitweisers that makes everything that extra little bit more perfect.  Much like in their recent issue of Journey Into Mystery, their style evokes a certain timelessness and echo of the past, and in an issue about rediscovery and memory, it’s brilliant.  Evocative and tinged with nostalgia and regret, it’s the ideal companion for Captain Nemo and for Namor’s self-reflection.

Plus, it closes with Iron Fist macking on Misty Knight while wearing sweatpants, which is pretty damn baller if ever a comic has been.  I think it’s earned the inaugural Drawstring of Discovery award. (J)

Better than alllll the rest

Trying to put together a silent comic is a ballsy move.

At it’s core the art of comics is a cohesion of words and pictures, text mingling with single moments in time, gutters giving the implication of time, all stacked or arranged sequentially to tell a story. Taking the words out of the form sometimes results in well meaning, but technically clunky storytelling. Fortunately, that was not the case with this week’s issue of The Sixth Gun.

The ongoing’s 21st issue is an homage to the Marvel published G.I. Joes #21, the infamous “silent” issue in which no dialogue or text appeared in the story. Done so masterfully there, the silent comics has been tried many times over the years. Here, Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt enter the comic after blowing one of their main character’s eardrums – thus providing them means for a lack of sound. That clever bit certainly helped the suspension of disbelief of those who nit-pick at things that they enjoy. What emboldens the whole experience is the fantastic acting and staging that Hurtt provides. His characters are expressive enough that emotion and intent radiate through, without a need for anything to be said. Reactions follow actions without confusion. The plot moves forward quite nicely. The structure of the story, as provided by Bunn works quite well too, moving plot without the crutch of text. Really, this is a stellar example of storytelling, and definitely the best read of this week. (B)

This is Comics! The Blog. We now commence our broadcast week.

You Read These With Your Eyes! | April 17th, 2012

If it's good enough for Elvis, it's good enough for you, dammit.

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and we tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

THE SHADOW #1 (Dynamite Comics)

Old pulps have always fascinated me. It’s an odd fascination though, in that I have yet to read through a single old pulp story on my own volition. I have some collections, and I stare at them hungrily. More than anything, I like the idea of them – quick and dirty tales of daring do, of scum and villainy overcome by larger than life vigilantes. Obviously, this fascination comes from my love of superhero stories, but there’s just something… something different about the pulps, how they made no bones about being disposable entertainment, how they were made purely to entertain, rather than be held up as works of art.

This week, Dynamite starts reviving some of the old pulp characters with a new take on The Shadow. Garth Ennis will be writing the series, and it looks to be set in the 1930s, when the character was originally released. And of course, it’s going to be violent as hell. Because c’mon. It’s Garth Ennis.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to this book, and the companion title (The Spider, from accomplished prose and comics writer David Liss) as a bit of a gateway into the pulps. It should be an interesting journey with people so talented at the helm.

SIXTH GUN #21 (Oni Press)

Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s amazing supernatural western book is going to try something ballsy this week: a comic without any dialogue.

It’s a neat storytelling excursive that has been tried many times in the past, most famously by Larry Hama in the pages of G.I. Joe #21, which in turn inspired a month of Marvel Comics that did away with words in late 2001 under the blanket label Nuff Said. It goes without saying that some of these comics worked a little better than others – but this issue of Sixth Gun? I expect to be phenomenal.

The series is already stunningly good, using issues as full episodes rather than singular acts in a larger story. A lot is accomplished in each issue, and somehow, Bunn and Hurtt just seem to get better and better with each passing month. It’s always a joy to read, and I can’t wait and see what they accomplish with this self imposed limitation.

THUNDER AGENTS VOL. 2 #6 (DC Comics)

And thus, another Nick Spencer series draws to a close at DC Comics.

THUNDER Agents was a book that never quite fit in with the rest of the line – and somewhat rightfully so. It’s one of those aquired properties that the company tends to dabble in every now and again, this one a creation of Wally Wood back in the day for a different comic book company.

Because the book functions in its own corner, and is not so tied up in the editorial push and pull of the main line, the stories told in the pages were quite unique and refreshing, in regards to superhero comics. After all, a team that agrees to take on a set of powers, knowing full well that their use will eventually kill them – that’s quite a different place to start – one that doesn’t quite match with the core of a publisher like DC, built upon the perpetual unending nature of their mainstay superheroes. Either way, the stories were fantastic and compelling, and I really wish we were getting more.

But hey, if this frees up Spencer to try his hat at writing a Jimmy Olsen ongoing inside of this New 52 universe, whelp, I might just be persuaded to be a little less sad about this.

C’mon DC. You know you wanna.

DEFENDERS #5 (Marvel Comics)

Oh hey look, a Matt Fraction book on our recommendations list! Will wonders never cease?

This is a book that takes the craziness of Casanova and distills it for the bits that are more appropriate for a title befitting the main line of a large superhero comic publishing house. The results, are quite stunning, from the stories bursting with swagger, to the weird little blurbs at the bottom of pages – which in this issue, are all in Atlantean. So you better believe I will be glued to the damn computer on Wednesday, waiting for someone to pop up a translator for me to decode my copy.

Oh, and yeah, Fraction will also write amazingly, with pretty, pretty art provided by Mitch and Bettie Breitweiser. But really, you should expect that by now.

Buy this.

FEAR AGENT VOL. 6 (Dark Horse Comics)

And finally, the book I am most excited about – the final volume of Fear Agent.

Fear Agent follows Heath Huston, the very last Fear Agent, as he tries to save all of existance in a glorious, amazing series of space pulp adventures. The book is written by Rick Remender, who is currently rocking all of your shit with Uncanny X-Force, Venom and Secret Avengers – and if you’ve read any of those books, could you imagine what a Remender book would look like without any kind of leash holding the ideas in?

This series was and is a big, brash, and ballsy, hitting you with fits of violence, humour and incredible heart. It will make you laugh, make you cheer, and it will break your god damn heart – and this conclusion ends the entire run with the absolute perfect pitch. Seriously, Remender rocked the hell out of that ending.

And hey, you know, having artists like Tony Moore and Jerome Opeña as your principle artists (along with pinch hitters like Mike Hawthorne and Kieron Dwyer) doesn’t make for a shabby looking book either.

If you haven’t started this series, do so – and if you have? Here’s the ending you’ve been waiting for. It was worth the wait, goddammit.

These are five of the many great books being released this week! You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.

C!TB’s Best of the Week | February 6th, 2012

Ta-daaaahhh

It’s Monday, which means it’s time to get your nose to the sexy grindstone and get back to sexy work!  To prevent chafing, check out our picks for the best comics of last week!

COMICS RULE EVERYTHING AROUND ME

LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS

With just Last of the Innocent and two issues of Fatale, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have won me over completely.  In Fatale #2, we get a deepening of everything that the first issue gave us.  There isn’t a character we don’t learn more about, and somehow we also get bits of details – like Walt’s cryptographer friend who was driven insane and committed suicide – that sound like they could be entire stories in their own right.

I’m quickly discovering that it’s this that might be Brubaker and Phillips‘ greatest skill: their ability to make a world and the characters they populate it with feel so real, like we’re only getting a small piece of their story.  Every face in the crowd could be another great comic, it feels like, but I’m glad to get the stories we do, because I’m not an ingrate.  Besides, this issue is just so magical that how could you not be happy with it?

I’d like to single out Phillips quickly for his spectacular art in the issue.  Not only is it distinctly his style while also seeming fitted to the comic’s world, which is perhaps exemplified best by the final panel of the issue, but it’s almost magical watching the subtle things he does on each page.  My favourite bit of his art might be right on the first page, when our heroine, a seemingly immortal femme fatale with an unearthly power over men, works her glamour on a building landlord.  A close-up shot.  She tips her sunglasses and smiles.  We see a flash of her green eyes and… for a second… I was hers.  Lots of artists can draw beautiful women.  But an artist who can actually capture a genuinely magical bit of seduction, who can make you feel it, even if you know it’s fiction? That’s eminently rare, but Phillips does it with aplomb.  For that and more, I’m thrilled to award him and Brubaker the Ray-Ban Award for Excellence in Eyewear. (J)

WINTER SOLDIER #1

Whenever a new Brubaker penned Captain America books hits the stands, I’m always transported back in time to when he was first solicited as the new writer on the relaunched series. In the midst of names like Brian Michael Bendis taking over the Avengers and making them “New” and Warren Ellis on a new Iron Man book, Brubaker was the unknown quantity to some. I hadn’t read a whole lot from him beyond Sleeper, which had been recommended to me by a good friend before the second season began. Apparently, he had done a pretty solid run on Catwoman and Batman/Detective Comics previously, but had gone largely unnoticed until… BOOM! Marvel swooped in and grabbed him for some of their books, locking him into an exclusive contract.

I remember telling my comic shop guy that, of all the relaunched Avengers titles, I was most excited about Brubaker’s Cap and being greeted with a face that said, “Really?” My old digs didn’t have shops where the retailers really “read” the comics (and when they did, they had opinions) so this was unsurprising. Trying to sell the retailer on the book was met with a, “Okay, whatever kid” (I believe I was around 17? 18 at the time?) but I didn’t let that hamper my excitement. When the first issue came out, my excitement was rewarded with an amazing comic that has continued to be sensational right up until this very day – and over the course of time, not only did Brubaker sell readers on a few things that would’ve caused lesser writers a great deal of post story pain and heartache (resurrecting Bucky, killins Steve and putting Bucky in the Captain America costume).

And now, with all of those wonderful stories behind him (and hopefully quite a few more ahead of him), he’s launched a new ongoing starring Bucky. It’s a spy book, and sometimes, there’s test tube sleeper agents and communist primates – and it’s amazing. One of the best things Brubaker has been able to do with his Cap stories right from the very beginning, is meld that sense of realism readers seem to crave with the balls out craziness that is the Marvel Universe. When the dude with the giant face for a chest shows up, you don’t think that’s goofy – you think holy fuck, that guy looks like trouble. True, some of that credit goes to the fantastic artists Bru has worked with on the run (Steve Epting, Michael Lark, Butch Guice, etc.) but the tone he strikes in his stories are just perfect and that continues to be the case here.

Winter Soldier is a tense spy tale with heaps of style and that old school sense of adventure. It’s serious with a touch of levity, grounded with it’s head in the clouds, taut but with some god damn soviet monkeys. It’s the kind of book I wanna read, which is why we’re giving Bru and Butch Guice the Barrel of Monkeys Award. Good on you boys. Onwards. (B)

Better than alllll the rest

CONCORDANCE IN THE STREETS

This is perhaps the least surprising Award we have given out in a while.

Seconds later, she feeds you your own spine. It's worth it.

Yes, Defenders #3 is our Best of the Week, and yes, it is yet another Matt Fraction comic that we love to bits.  Truthfully, this could have just as easily gone to anything Ed Brubaker wrote that came out last week, but it was just one little thing that tipped it over the edge: the issue’s narration and voice-overs.

Lettering, especially in narration, is something that’s easy to overlook sometimes when assessing a comic.  If it’s pretty egregiously terrible, we’ll notice it without too much trouble, but when it’s good, it’s greatest magic is usually to make itself an invisible part of the narrative.  In Defenders #3, it’s just too well done not to ignore.

Half of this is the actual content of the boxes themselves, because Fraction has taken some genuine chances with them, as unlikely as it is that someone might describe that about a comic book narrator.  The first part of his magic is the omnipotent narrator himself.  At first, it seems like it’s a throwback to all those Silver Age Stan Lee narrations, full of lush language and wordplay; not making this seem archaic or dated is a victory in itself.  However, as the issue progresses, there’s more of a voice to the narrator, who chides characters and gives advice, who actually feels like they’re guiding you through the story.  And in a story about a team of frequently dickish superheroes racing a Meta-Hulk to a sci-fi mountain where a religious fanatic wants to destroy the universe and escape to a new one with his animal people using an engine powered by non-Euclidean quantum physics, let’s just say that it’s welcome.  In a story as big and crazy as this one, a guide is sometimes exactly the thing to bring everything into focus.

The second part of Fraction‘s narration magic is the actual character voice-overs themselves.  He takes something that I first noticed in Casanova: Avaritia – the stream of consciousness thoughts that simply bleed an emotional state – and moves it to a superhero comic book where that convention simply doesn’t exist.  It could be distracting, it could be a disaster.  Instead, like the narrator, these bursts of pure character voice give such efficient characterization – a must in a 20-page story – that they don’t ever distract from the crazy, exciting action.  It’s Fraction taking part of the most insane comic around, dropping it in a superhero comic and making it work.  Let’s appreciate that for a second.

All of this works as well as it does because of VC’s Clayton Cowles, the issue’s letterer.  Through the issue, he has to handle more than ten different types of narration or voice-over, not to mention several different types of speech bubbles, and he does it so well that not only does he prevent any of it from getting jumbled and confusing, but he actually manages to tie characters together with thought bubble similarities, further deepening the comic.  What he does is magic, and we should remember it even when the script doesn’t require it to do as much heavy lifting as it does here.

Seconds later, she feeds you your own spine. It’s worth it.

Defenders #3 is a comic written by perhaps the best guy in the game, with artists (Terry and Rachel Dodson) at the peak of their abilities, that’s so brilliant down to the lettering that it’s easily one of the best books Marvel is producing at a time when the company is perhaps nailing more creative slam dunks than they have in decades.  Don’t miss it. (J)

This is Comics! The Blog. We now commence our broadcast week.

You Read These With Your Eyes! | February 1st, 2012

If it's good enough for Elvis, it's good enough for you, dammit.

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and we tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

AN ABUNDANCE OF “A” ADVENTURES (Marvel and DC Comics)

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN # 679

ANIMAL MAN #6

Listen, I know this is supposed to just have five issues in it every week, but I needed to talk about Spider-Man or this bus would explode and I also couldn’t not talk about the consistent brilliance that is Animal Man.

First, in Amazing Spider-Man #79, we get to see conclusion to the last issue’s story where Spider-Man is racing against the clock to prevent a catastrophe from occurring at 3:10pm, the aftermath of which he saw when he went “missing” for a day to briefly travel to the future where he was missing for a day and couldn’t prevent the mystery disaster.

It’s… all very complicated.

Unfortunately, it’s 3:09pm and Pete has no idea what to do in the next minute.  Could this be the end of our hero and of New York?  Oh come on, pull your head out of your ass.  There’s a giant Spider-Man event starting in like a month and he kind of has to be alive for that.  Plus, killing the company’s mascot wouldn’t be good for business.  Still, I have no idea how he’s going to get out of this and there is no better feeling in comics than that.  Dan Slott, you complete me.  You too, Humberto Ramos.  Hug?  Hug.

Instead of an ending, in Animal Man #6 we’ll see a brief interlude after the terrifying conclusion to the first arc in Issue #5, where, you know, Buddy and his daughter accidentally helped the evil force known as The Rot spread throughout the world, risking the very future of the earth as we know it!  GODDAMN, comics!  In this interlude, we get a callback to the series’ first issue, where Buddy mentioned trying his hand as an actor in a low budget but critically-acclaimed superhero movie, except now we get to watch the movie, starring a comic book character, in a comic book about the fictional actor, giving me my first meta-storytelling fix of 2012..  Eat your heart out, Grant Morrison!

This is either gonna get really sexy or really NOT.BETRAYAL OF THE PLANET OF THE APES #4 (Boom! Studios)

Okay, to be totally honest, I missed the third issue of this because I am an idiot and I am kicking myself over it.  Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman’s story set before the first Planet of the Apes movie is actually making me want to watch all those old movies and have some serious Ape Talk because even from just the two issues I’ve read so far, it is exactly the Apes story I want.  It’s got intrigue!  Politics!  Hard questions about society!  Violence!  Bearded men with loincloths!  Everything you could want, really.

Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes tells the story about how the world of the original Charlton Heston movie became aligned the way it was in the years preceding it.  However, instead of just being a prequel and contributing little other than nostalgia, Bechko and Hardman have taken a world that is familiar to even the most casual Apes fan (me) because of its timeframe and used it to tell an ambitious story about society and how it treats change.  Plus, it certainly helps that Hardman is producing one of the most beautiful, breathtaking books on the shelves.  That dude just loves himself some apes and hey, if he wants to draw the heck out of those and some gorgeous environments, who am I to not start giving him all my money?

DEFENDERS #3 (Marvel Comics)

If you’ve visited the site before, you’ll be familiar with this drill.  There is a new Matt Fraction comic!  You will buy it!  It has pretty Terry & Rachel Dodson art!  Where did all your money go?

For those who are less familiar, I’ll elaborate.  Defenders is a book about the Hulk bringing together a group of the few people in the Marvel Universe that he believes he can trust, and asking them to take care of a little problem: a being of pure rage and destruction – and for the Hulk to be saying this, I imagine this qualifies as Serious Business – that might destroy everything if they don’t stop it first.  But they can’t tell anyone, so they ask Iron Fist to come along so they can use his experimental billion dollar private jet to get around secretly.  They immediately get it destroyed and then the team gets involved in sci-fi religious fanatic’s desire to also destroy everything so that he can get to a better universe.

Comics!

Defenders is an exciting book, full of big, bold ideas and a relentless enthusiasm that the creators get to tell this story in this medium.  Fraction has described Tom Brevoort selling him on doing the book by reminding him that he could write all the characters he loves but who couldn’t carry a solo series at the moment, and his love for all of them, from Iron Fist to She-Hulk, shows.  Reading it, it feels like a modern spin on old Silver Age styles of storytelling, with a voice that’s unmistakably Fraction’s.  It’s a team book that has the kind of action you expect with a sly, subversive note running through it.  Plus, the Dodsons make some super pretty art!

I think things are gonna work out just fine!FATALE #2 (Image Comics) (BONUS: FATALE #1 second printing!)

I am not usually a horror fan, though I am definitely a crime fiction fan.  Despite this, it took me a shockingly long time before reading Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ series Criminal last year.  Of course, I fell in love because a) it is brilliant; 2) Last of the Innocent has some riffs on the Archie Comics characters and that is just wonderful.  Fully jazzed on the power of comics (and murder), I jumped wholeheartedly into Fatale, the pair’s latest creator-owned story combining crime fiction and horror, with a mysterious woman with an unnatural lifespan and strange power over men at its centre.  Fatale #1 blew me away with how elegantly it presented the world of the comic – a recognizable world with something sinister peeking in at the periphery of the mind – and drew me into the emotions of its lead characters.  As always, Phillips’ art was beautiful and he and Brubaker remain one of the partnerships in the world of comics.

Fatale #2 looks to deepen the world of the comics with more exciting, terrifying events and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.  There’s a bonus, too!  If you didn’t manage to get a copy of the first issue, its second printing arrives in stores tomorrow, so pick both up at once and thank me later (preferably with baked goods, email me for my address, non-perverts).  If you like it, remember to tell your shop to order it in for you so that you never miss an issue!

WINTER SOLDIER #1 (Marvel Comics)

In his first Captain America story, Ed Brubaker brought back the character of Bucky Barnes, long thought dead, as the Soviet-brainwashed covert operative known as the Winter Soldier.  Throughout Brubaker’s years on the title, we’ve seen him kill Steve Rogers and have Bucky take over for his friend and mentor.  What many heralded as a cheap storytelling ploy became one of the most rewarding serial stories around, as we got to see Barnes grow into his new role, become accepted, and eventually “die” in the service of the country, allowing Rogers to take up the shield once again.  Throughout his rise and public fall, readers grew to love and accept Barnes all over again and now, in the next phase of Brubaker’s operatic story, we get to see what Barnes does after taking back his Winter Soldier persona to right the wrongs he committed before.  Basically, I am on board because this sounds incredible.

This could blow everything about James Barnes open all over again.  He grew into the role of Captain America, growing up and finding himself, but never really finding peace.  That seems to be the goal of his new series, with one part road trip/travelogue and another part tension-fraught action-espionage story.  What will Bucky and the Black Widow do?  Who will they cross and how will they grow?  I feel like the sky’s the limit.  And with Butch Guice and Bettie Breitweiser bringing their artistic chops to bear, the series is going to look absolutely gorgeous, with both realism and a smoky, distorted feeling to give the series a riveting, ghostly air.

Guys, I fuckin’ love comics and stuff like this is a big reason why.

These are slightly more than five of the many great books being released this week! You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.

A Very Special Journey Into Mystery: Loki has puppies!

At least it's not kittens.JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #632 (Marvel Comics)
By Kieron Gillen, Mitch Breitweiser, Bettie Breitweiser & VC’s Clayton Cowles

Synopsis: If a comic where Kid Loki has to find homes for evil puppies doesn’t make you smile then you’re a goddamn communist.

01. I want to get something out of the way: this is a comic where Volstagg is Broxton, Oklahoma’s mall Santa and that is literally just the first two pages.  That is one tenth of the issue and it is already better than most comics released this year.  Kieron Gillen is not fucking around.

02. I have spoken before about why I love Journey Into Mystery so much, but as crazy as it sounds, this is a series that has only improved throughout the year.  The first arc, a Fear Itself tie-in about Kid Loki assembling a black ops team of myths and legends to defeat the Serpent, recently wrapped with a bang, and by “bang” I mean “Loki writes his own brother’s tragic death into prophecy because the pen is mightier than the sword.”  It was incredibly moving, and in the months that followed it, Gillen has stepped back and told some smaller stories that were no less moving or rewarding.  With #630, he focused on the guilt and sadness that Volstagg hides from everyone, even his family, and as amazing as that was, with #632, he accomplishes an even greater feat: he and the Breitweisers have made a Christmas special about Loki finding loving homes for evil puppies.  And why does he have to find homes for them?  Because his Hel-wolf had sex with Garm, the dog guarding Hel, and now the All-Mother is making him clean up that mess, even if it means cold-murdering 6 adorable-if-slightly-evil puppies and one with demonic Tourette’s.

03. This comic took me about twice the time that Journey Into Mystery issues normally take me to read, if only for one simple reason: I had to stop every page because I was laughing too hard to focus on what was on the page.  This is a comic where Loki and his friend Leah fool Warlock of the New Mutants into taking a Hel-puppy, give one to the Devil and make the other a Tumblr celebrity so that donations can support its presumably lavish lifestyle.  That’s not the best part, though.  The best part is the montage of Loki’s attempts to give away the evilest puppy (the one that won’t stop screaming “Bastard” and “Murder”) to the people who took the other six, including it chewing on the devil’s shoe, terrorizing children via YouTube and – this is maybe the funniest thing I have seen all year – trying to bite off the dead god Tyr’s sole remaining hand while Tyr screams, “NOT AGAIN!”

Journey Into Mystery: making amputation funny.

04. What does Kid Loki end up doing with the other puppy, even as it screams about how it will kill him?  Well, between murdering it like the SPCA and adopting it while naming it after Thor, there’s only one holiday-appropriate answer.

I would read an entire comic just about paper training evil puppies, I am not joking.

05. I don’t think it’s crass to describe Journey Into Mystery #632 as a Christmas miracle.  This is a comic that started off as incredible and ended 2011 with one of the best single issues released all year.  The Breitweisers‘ art looks like it stepped out of the classic era of comics, and in a holiday issue, that invokes nostalgia like Rankin-Bass Christmas specials (or “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”).  It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s shockingly dark and it has puppies!  Even evil puppies are loveable at Christmas.

God bless us, everyone.

News: "Captain America" becomes "Captain America and Bucky"

Brubaker and Andreyko to assemble words, Chris Samnee to make other artists feel inadequate

And that boy grew up to be Barack Obama.That’s right, true believers!  Marvel must have heard that I recently decided to go to trade paperbacks only with the awesome series Captain America, because they’ve decided to exploit one of my many, many weaknesses: Chris Samnee‘s beautiful art.  Go look at his art for the also spectacular Thor: The Mighty Avenger and come back, then we will talk.

Besides adding Samnee to the series starting with July’s issue #620, the publisher has Other Big Things in store for it, such as a name change! While Captain America will continue with a brand-new #1 (with new series artist Steve McNiven),  the current volume will continue as  Captain America and Bucky, with  Marc Andreyko joining as co-writer, which is bitchin’.

Brubaker, the longtime series writer, describes the shift in the series: “What was Cap like in the early days, before WWII started? This is a question I’ve wanted to explore for years. And of course, the whole series ties directly into what’s going on in CAPTAIN AMERICA and Fear Itself, and sets up future plans.”

Over the years, James Barnes has been a lot of things.  Teenage sidekick.  Popsicle.  Soviet amputee super spy.  Oh, and Captain America.  That sounds familiar.  Now, with Captain America and Bucky, readers will see Bucky and Steve Rogers side by side once more as the series looks at previously unseen parts of Barnes’ past and what they mean for his future.

Now, Samnee is being typically modest, talking about how “The scripts I’ve gotten from Ed and Marc so far have been outstanding” and  “I’m doing everything I can to live up to all the work they’re putting into these scripts and pushing myself to make these pages the absolute best work I can muster.”  He raves about colourist Bettie Breitweiser.  But who’s going to rave about him?

Us, that’s who.  This man is a genius artist putting out consistently amazing work.  Not reading Captain America?  Well guess what, you are now.   Don’t wait for July either: he’ll be doing the co-feature in issues #617-619 before the title change occurs.  If you’re on the fence about how he’ll handle the world of the Captain Americas, look through these when they come out.  Pick up the trade paperbacks of The Mighty Thor.  You won’t be disappointed.  Hell, I bet you’ll be happy to drop the extra $2.99 per month once you see this man’s brilliant work.  Trust me, I’m an amateur.