Batman: Damned, Return of Wolverine, Check, Please! & More in Required Reading: Comics for 9/19/2018

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<i>Batman: Damned</i>, <i>Return of Wolverine</i>, <i>Check, Please!</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 9/19/2018

It’s a gloriously diverse week on comic shelves, and we’d be shocked if there wasn’t something for just about every reader this Wednesday. Do you love relentlessly grim (and somewhat ponderous) Dark Knight tales? Cute boy/boy love stories with adorably non-dire stakes? More serious reflections on gay life in the 21st century? How about Old Hollywood horror, or pulp-hero throwbacks? Creepy cartoon tie-ins? Inspiring patriotic heroes or claw-happy mutant anti-heroes? New twists on familiar sci-fi stories? Sorry, that’s a lot of question marks, but you see where we’re going: this New Comic Book Day is a wide-ranging bounty for readers, and we’re breaking it all down for you below (in non-question format, don’t worry).


Batman: Damned #1


Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Lee Bermejo
Publisher: DC Black Label/ DC Comics
DC Black Label arrives this week, heavy and dark, starting with a brand-new Batman story from two of the industry’s most recognizable names. In case the imprint’s name and general creative roster wasn’t a dead give-away, this is about as far from a kid-friendly take on DC’s icons as you can get at a cape-and-cowl publisher. The Joker has been murdered, and the best detective in the world is trying to figure out if Batman himself is the one who did it. Batman isn’t struggling with the mystery alone; rather than teaming up with one of the many sidekicks he’s had over the years, Batman has John Constantine at his side sifting through evidence and providing bizarre narration. The question that remains, beyond the identity of the killer, is Constantine’s motive, and if he’s being honest (spoiler: he usually isn’t). Though that summary is probably enough to sell the book to most fans, seeing Joker collaborators Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s credits on the cover only make it that much more compelling and attractive. At $6.99, the price point is steep, but it’s also a double-thick issue. The title ships every other month and is slated to wrap up after three issues. Caitlin Rosberg


Captain America Annual #1


Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Chris Sprouse & Rom Lim
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Not to make this all about us, but two years ago, former Paste contributor Tini Howard wrote, “Where are the women writers leading summer-long events or steering the course of these massive franchise-heads? Over at Marvel, Iron Man’s never had a woman writer on his lead book, nor has Captain America.” This Wednesday, Howard answers her own call to arms with Captain America Annual #1, alongside industry veterans Chris Sprouse and Rom Lim. Since departing these hallowed digital halls, Howard has made an impressive name for herself on titles like Power Rangers: Pink, Assassinistas and the currently running Euthanauts. This one-shot story returns to the battlefields of World War II as Cap and Bucky stumble across an unshakable band of concentration camp escapees—an all-too-rarely-explored aspect of Cap’s WWII-era adventures. If you’re wondering who will be running the show at Marvel in the next few years, look to this fall’s crop of annuals and one-shots: besides Howard, Saladin Ahmed, Seanan McGuire, Leah Williams, Bryan Edward Hill and a handful of others are all making big splashes, and are only likely to climb higher from here. Steve Foxe


Check, Please! Vol. 1


Writer/Artist: Ngozi Ukazu
Publisher: First Second
As large publishers, and some of their fans, complain about how difficult diversity is to market (or how it’s “ruining” comics), webcomic creators are proving them wrong and outpacing them by leaps and bounds. Ngozi Ukazu’s Check, Please! is wildy popular on Tumblr, attracting a loyal legion of fans who pledged almost $400,000 on her last Kickstarter, and who create enough fanart and fanfiction to rival popular television shows. Check, Please! is perhaps best described in simplest terms: it’s gay hockey boys in love. Main character Eric “Bitty” Bittle, a figure skater, baker and vlogger, finds himself a fish out of water when he goes to college and begins to play hockey. The romance is slow to develop, the characters are diverse in personality, background and motivation, and Ukazu’s art is cartoony and sweet without being overblown or cloying. What really sets Check, Please! apart is the love in it. The way the characters love each other, both romantically and platonically, the way Ukazu clearly loves hockey and the comic itself. The enthusiasm and kindness, even as characters face tough decisions, make Check, Please! a welcome respite from grim, gritty stories that introduce LGBTQ+ characters only to inflict violence on them, and readers can now experience the story in print, too, courtesy of First Second, the perfect publisher for a book like this. Caitlin Rosberg


Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #1


Writers: Lee Allred & Michael Allred
Artist: Rich Tommaso
Publisher: IDW Publishing
The powerhouse Allred family is teaming up again to tackle one of the most recognizable detectives in comics (but not the one with pointy ears). Dick Tracy comics have been published in newspapers since 1931, eight years before the World’s Greatest Detective premiered in Detective Comics. This week’s new #1 isn’t the first monthly comic that’s starred Tracy, but it has been years since his yellow trench coat and prescient wrist communicator graced the shelves of local comics shops. With brothers Lee and Mike Allred co-writing the four-issue miniseries, readers are likely in for something retro and full of capers. The latter is also doing covers for the series and inking Rich Tommaso’s interior pages, with Laura Allred on colors. The Allreds know comics inside and out, and the name recognition for both those three creators and the main character definitely won’t hurt when it comes to attracting readers’ attention. Tommaso has had a handful of critically acclaimed, exceedingly stylish titles come out from Image, but might be best known by some for a social media post that outlined the struggles that he had marketing and selling his creator-owned titles, which sparked a larger conversation about the industry. It’s not often that he works with a larger creative team, so it will be interesting to see his crisp, detailed work paired up with the Allreds’ bright, vintage style. Caitlin Rosberg


Marilyn’s Monsters


Writer/Artist: Tommy Redolfi
Publisher: Life Drawn/ Humanoids
Humanoids’ Life Drawn imprint has had an impressively broad 2018, importing everything from sensitive coming-out stories to wry travel memoirs to an adorable cat diary, but no title has piqued this particular editor’s interest like Marilyn’s Monsters. Sporting a cover blurb from horror titan David Cronenberg, Tommy Redolfi’s graphic novel follows Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe, to most) as she arrives in the Hollywood Hills and faces monsters of all sorts—from the literal to the figurative. Redolfi’s cartooning moves between aesthetics, from the nightmarish real world to the style of vintage cartoons, creating a hallucinatory effect that perfectly matches the dark underbelly of old Hollywood, and the sacrifices stars made to become beloved by millions. If you’re looking to get a jump on your Halloween reading, Marilyn’s Monsters is just the right sort of unnerving to ease you into the season. Steve Foxe


My Brother’s Husband Vol. 2


Writer/Artist: Gengoroh Tagame
Publisher: Pantheon
The bulk of Gengoroh Tagame’s work carries a NSFW tag, but this recent import is more about poignancy than arousal, even if the wait between volumes has been more painful than any of Tagame’s consensual bondage scenes. The titular brother is recently deceased, and his Canadian husband Mike Flanagan has come to Japan to learn about his late partner’s origins and living relatives, which forces protagonist Yaichi to reflect on how he treated his twin brother’s coming out and identity. Yaichi is a single father, having amicably separated from his wife, and his young daughter Kana is immediately entranced by the Canadian gaijin, which prompts Yaichi to keep him around longer. Tagame takes a hopeful yet realistic look at modern Japan’s attitude toward homosexuality—not as fire-and-brimstone as conservative America’s, but nowhere near openly accepting—and allows Yaichi ample room to mess up and grow in response to Mike’s presence. Tagame’s mastery of the human form allows him to simplify his approach in comparison to his erotic work, lending the book an inviting, open cartooning style, and further positioning My Brother’s Husband as an accessible look at what it means to be gay in a different culture. This second volume concludes the story, as Mike’s impending departure back to Canada leads to new revelations and reflections. Steve Foxe


Olivia Twist #1


Writers: Darin Strauss & Adam Dalva
Artist: Emma Vieceli
Publisher: Berger Books/ Dark Horse Comics
Earlier this summer, we brought you the exclusive news that novelist Darin Strauss has teamed up with co-writer Adam Dalva, artist Emma Vieceli and colorist Lee Loughridge for his very first comic, Olivia Twist. Strauss is the acclaimed author of Chang and Eng, More Than It Hurts You and the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning memoir Half a Life, and is edited on Olivia Twist by the legendary Karen Berger, whose eponymous imprint at Dark Horse Comics continues to acquire unusual and compelling original projects. Surprising no one, Olivia Twist is a gender-bent (and dystopian) take on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist about “a rag-tag girl gang of thieves running free in a dangerous future.” While some elements of the book feel done to death, fans of Strauss will want to nab this first issue to see what original spins he brings to the comic format, and readers in general may enjoy Vieceli’s clean line work and steampunk-ish designs. Steve Foxe


Over the Garden Wall: Hollow Town #1


Writer: Celia Lowenthal
Artist: Jorge Monlongo
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Cartoon Network and creator Patrick McHale’s Emmy Award-winning animated mini-series Over the Garden Wall became an instant cult hit when it aired in 2014, thanks to its charmingly oddball cast, vintage Americana soundtrack and some surprisingly unsettling dark fantasy imagery. While the animated adventure is a brief 10 episodes, publisher BOOM! Studios has played home to several comic outings for characters Wirt, Greg and Beatrice—and will do so again this week with the launch of Over the Garden Wall: Hollow Town, a five-issue mini-series written by Celia Lowenthal (The Storyteller: Fairies) and illustrated by Jorge Monlongo (Rugrats). Hollow Town sounds like it will hit the pitch-perfect balancing act between cute and creepy that defined the original OtGW, with the wandering trio stumbling into a town of porcelain doll people. Also out from BOOM! this week: Petals, a gorgeous, silent original graphic novel that should impress fans of the publisher’s licensed and all-ages publications. Steve Foxe


Patience! Conviction! Revenge! #1


Writer: Patrick Kindlon
Artist: Marco Ferrari
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
If the title doesn’t give it away immediately, Patience! Conviction! Revenge! sounds like the kind of story readers might expect from pulp magazines or grindhouse films—over the top and bombastic, but a ton of fun. The story revolves around a man who’s been kicked out of an organized crime syndicate and responds by building a robot army to help him fight his way back into the halls of power in Las Vegas. It’s a cyberpunk vision of an already neon-drenched city, with a robot named Death by Torture Bot, which all but guarantees a sharp and silly sense of humor. Writer Patrick Kindlon co-wrote We Can Never Go Home with Matthew Rosenberg, as well as several solo series at Black Mask Studios, and artist Marco Ferrari delivered some serious violence in the four-issue miniseries Killbox: Chicago. With a team like that, this book isn’t going for serious science fiction adventure, but that’s all for the better. There need to be violent hijinks and shenanigans in speculative fiction too, and this comic seems perfectly suited for that. Caitlin Rosberg


Return of Wolverine #1


Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Steve McNiven
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Had Return of Wolverine hit shelves in May, Logan’s first revived “snikt” might have felt a little more impactful. Instead, Marvel spent the summer publishing four Wolverine-related mini-series that held more revelations for characters like Psylocke and Lady Deathstrike than they did for the furry Canadian himself. Still, Charles Soule and Steve McNiven can’t be blamed for the Mighty Marvel Marketing Machine, and they’re the same creative duo who slaughtered Wolverine in epic form a few years ago. Return of Wolverine #1 doesn’t provide a definitive account of how Wolverine got his groove back, but it does connect some of the dots between Logan and Persephone, the mysterious new threat revealed in August. If your patience hasn’t been broken by false leads, Return of Wolverine is likely to quench your Logan thirst better than anything else yet in 2018. Steve Foxe

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