Each week, 8th Dimension’s Jeremy Bulloch reads every new comic that comes out and recommends some of the best titles for you to check out. Here are this week’s picks!
Happy! #1 (Image Comics)
Grant Morrison is my favorite writer, and I’ve been a huge fan of Darick Robertson’s artwork ever since I first read Transmetropolitan. While both have done tons of independent work over the years, there’s something special about Happy! Morrison has described the story as Sin City meets It’s a Wonderful Life, and that’s a very good assessment. Nicky Sax is a former cop turned cold-blooded killer. He’s been betrayed by the mob after a contract killing went awry, and found himself shot up, sedated, and under guard at a hospital. Then a magical cartoon flying horse arrives and declares itself to be his new imaginary friend. This is a four-issue miniseries that will come out monthly, leading up to Christmas. It’s filled with f-bombs, vile sex acts, and as I mentioned earlier, magical cartoon flying horses. It’s a super-violent buddy comedy that teams up a hate-filled cynic and a cheerful optimist, who is also a magical cartoon flying horse. This will NOT be a book for the easily offended, but if you’ve enjoyed comics like Preacher or The Invisibles, I strongly recommend you get Happy!
Captain Marvel #4 (Marvel Comics)
Carol Danvers is unstuck in time, apparently due to the actions of her mentor, cold war aviatrix Helen Cobb. There is some secret hidden in the airplane that she inherited, and that secret led her to a meeting with the women air service pilots known as the Banshees. This time travel is no random occurrence; it clearly has been arranged. I like seeing Captain Marvel act as an inspiration to other women, and we get a lot of that in this issue. We also see more of a younger version of Helen Cobb, the woman who inspired Carol to fly. She’s an awesome and totally self-possessed woman who will not take no for an answer. George Howard, the head of the Mercury Space Program, was overwhelmed by the force of her personality and forced to allow women to fly. The parallels between Carol and Helen are obvious, and I’m very interested in seeing how their story continues to unfold.
Flash #0 (DC Comics)
It’s not a huge surprise that Francis Manapul delivers a great origin issue. This is a great jumping-on point for a new reader, and a wonderful standalone comic. Two stories are juxtaposed upon each other, each one important to who the Flash is. First is a childhood trauma: Barry Allen’s mother has been murdered, and all evidence points to his father as the killer. Barry refuses to believe it though, and dedicates his life to science and justice to prove his father’s innocence. Flash forward (see what I did there?) and Barry is a police scientist and a survivor of a terrible accident. Lighting struck him, and electrified chemicals covered his body with serious burns. As he lies bandaged in a hospital bed, the world keeps moving forward. We get some great subtle character shadings that flesh out some previously unseen dynamics. The relationship with Barry and a policeman named Darryl Frye is clearly love tinged with sadness. If his mother hadn’t been killed, maybe they would have been a family. Maybe they’re one anyway.
Talon #0 (DC Comics)
This is a spin-off of the Court of Owls story arc from Scott Snyder’s Batman, and it’s really cool. Writer James Tynion IV was a student of Scott Snyder at Sarah Lawrence College, and both men share a lifelong obsession with Batman. Snyder was asked if he had a follow-up to his fan-favorite story arc, but he had no immediate plans. It turned out that his protégé was overflowing with ideas. A natural escape-artist, Calvin Rose honed his talents as a young runaway with the Haly Circus. He was unaware of the dark secrets that they hid under their big top. The Haly Circus recruited their best and brightest as assassins for the Court of Owls. Calvin was made a Talon, but the Court never managed to fully subjugate his will. Refusing to carry out his bloody assignments, he did what he had spent his whole life training to do: escape. Now he’s on the run. The Court wants him back, but Calvin won’t let himself be imprisoned by anyone.
Aquaman #0 (DC Comics)
It’s important that we see some of Arthur’s past now. The first dozen issues of the new Aquaman series have starred a bitter man who is very wary of others getting close to him. Here we start to see WHY Aquaman is the man that he is. After being attacked by the treasure hunter known as Black Manta, Thomas Curry lies mortally wounded. Thomas is the only parent that Arthur has ever known, but there is a whole other life waiting for him under the sea. Vulko, a long-standing supporting character in Aquaman, is re-introduced as a mentor for Arthur. Vulko answers all of the questions that have been driving him crazy since childhood. He learns of his mother Atlanna, the Queen of Atlantis, and his cruel half-brother Orm. More importantly, he learns the location of Atlantis. Vulko believes Arthur to be the true king, but I somehow doubt that everyone feels that way.
Teen Titans #0 (DC Comics)
I’m a lifelong Teen Titans fan, but the current series has not been one that’s really clicked for me as a reader. This issue is a very different story though. It might as well be called Red Robin #0, because it is the New 52 Universe origin for my favorite Robin, Tim Drake. There are many similarities between the pre-Flashpoint Tim Drake and the Tim of this new continuity, but also a lot of major differences. They establish immediately that Tim is unique amongst the Robins. Batman knew from the beginning that he was training an equal and likely successor, not a partner. Batman would be a means to an end for Tim Drake, and not the final destination. He pushed himself to be the best not because of a pivotal tragedy, but because he was naturally that good. In the classic story "A Lonely Place of Dying," Tim Drake used his natural detective skills to crack the mystery of Batman’s secret identity. There are many callbacks to that story here, but they are reinterpreted and updated. What’s important is that Tim is still recognizable as Tim, and that’s not something that has always been the case in the New 52.
Superman Family Adventures #5 (DC Comics)
Baltazar and Franco consistently deliver the most fun-to-read comic book on the stands, and this issue is no exception. Lex Luthor’s slow-witted henchman, Otis, gets his hands on a purple space rock and becomes the Parasite, or as he prefers, “The Purple Superman.” Then Lex Luthor becomes an unpaid intern at the Daily Planet. It’s as silly as you’re imagining, but also really really fun. If you’re a parent looking for a good kid-friendly comic, or if you’re an adult looking for all-ages friendly entertainment, you can’t go wrong with Superman Family Adventures.
Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates #16 (Marvel Comics)
Captain America has been sworn in as the new President of the United States of America. What follows is a wonderful fascist fantasy of a butt-kicking world leader, running across the country like John Wayne, enforcing his word as law. It works, because it’s Captain Freakin’ America. He punched Hitler in the face. Cap is always right, even in the Ultimate Universe. I would never want a world leader dissolving Congress and flying a jet his buddies pimped out to invade Wyoming in the REAL world, but it’s exactly what I want to see in a comic book.
Wolverine & The X-Men #17 (Marvel Comics)
There will be no middle ground here. People will either love this comic as the greatest thing that they have ever read, or they will be wrong. Mike Allred guest-pencils, drawing a character that he co-created with Peter Milligan for their X-Force/X-Statix series: Doop. Doop is a floating, green, potato-shaped mutant who speaks in gibberish and has undefined and unlimited super powers. Wolverine recruited Doop to join him at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, but nobody is really sure why, including the readers. Well, wonder no more, true believer. Doop brings a lot to the table, from masked Mexican tag-team wrestling, to costumed sexy-time with local school boards, to battling a secret Nazi bowling team. Look, I’m not going to claim that this comic isn’t bizarre, but it is probably the coolest thing that you’ll read all week.
Incredible Hulk #14 (Marvel Comics)
Hulk had been missing its crazy for a bit, but it’s all back now. Hulk and Banner are working together to kill Doctor Doom. Is there a heaven for Doombots? This issue definitively answers that question. This is the next-to-last issue of Jason Aaron’s series, and the smashing is just beginning.
Superman #0 (DC Comics)
Superman’s parents Jor-El and Lara have been updated every decade or so, their depiction constantly changing with the times. We’ve seen the primary-colored cheese of the 1950s, the sterility of John Byrne’s 1980s Man of Steel, and even Marlon Brando in a white onesie, mumbling his way across the silver screen. The new universe gives us a pulpy science-adventurer Jor-El and kung-fu doctor Lara. It’s a fun update, but what really makes the story work are the other updates. The destruction of Krypton is now more than just a natural disaster, it’s egged on by a doomsday cult. The end result is going to be the same – boom goes the dynamite, but a massive conspiracy to destroy the planet answers a question that always bothered me. If Jor-El was the greatest scientist on Krypton, why did he have such a hard time getting other scientists to believe him that their planet was doomed? Having a vast network of deranged cultists ensuring the planet’s death makes a lot more sense than a bureaucracy getting so hung up on Jor-El having to fill out his TPS reports that they let their planet explode. This issue is full of plot hooks that will be paying off in future issues. Some of these are long-established elements of the Superman mythos, some are brand new. Obviously we haven’t seen the last of the Horn of Confluence, the Entropy, and then Eradicator.
Justice League Dark #0 (DC Comics)
We now know who the dark-haired man gunning for Constantine and Zatanna is. Years ago, they were in a coven with Nick Necro. Things ended…badly. The John Constantine that we see here is younger and a lot less cynical. He has come to New York City to become a great mage, but magic always has a cost. Constantine was never naïve. Even in his earliest days, he had certain ambitions and desires that he was determined to fulfill, no matter who got hurt in the process. I’m sure he and Zatanna had a connection. They might have even been in love, but there is nobody John loves more than himself.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #3 (DC Comics)
Invincible #95 (Image Comics)
Amazing Spider-Man #694 (Marvel Comics)
Batman Incorporated #0 (DC Comics)
Mind the Gap #5 (Image Comics)
Star Trek:The Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation #5 (IDW)