Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider, Dead Kings, Lodger & More in Required Reading: Comics for 10/24/2018

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<i>Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider</i>, <i>Dead Kings</i>, <i>Lodger</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 10/24/2018

We mostly spotlight new number-one issues and graphic novels here, but every once in a while, an installment of an ongoing series just gets us right in the Kryptonian heartstrings. This week, that issue is Action Comics #1004, which nails the Lois and Kal dynamic that made them such an endearing couple in the first place. If your cold, dead emotional center is too locked down to appreciate superhero romance, fret not: we’ve also got Fury Road-style Harley Quinn, a new beginning for Spider-Gwen, a fresh chapter for Books of Magic, the next entry in Molly Knox Ostertag’s touching Witch series and more in this week’s Required Reading. But seriously—read this Superman comic. We dare you not to get a little choked up.

Action Comics #1004

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook
Publisher: DC Comics
Never let it be said that we can’t admit when we’re wrong. Paste wasn’t too impressed by Brian Michael Bendis’ first two Superman shorts in Actions Comics #1000 and DC Nation #0, but it didn’t take long for the newly exclusive DC writer to prove that his take on the Man of Steel wouldn’t be just a palette-swapped version of his Marvel Comics work. Bendis gets Superman, and that goes for both the costumed hero and the bespectacled reporter. Both Superman and Action Comics have had core ongoing plots—Rogol Zaar in the former and organized crime in the latter—but Bendis isn’t really plotting tightly for the trade here, and Action Comics #1004 stands on its own pretty well, especially with the stunning addition of Ryan Sook artwork. During Bendis’ Man of Steel mini-series, Superman’s dad, Lois and Jon Kent all decamped for space, but now Lois is back…and she didn’t tell Superman. What sounds on paper like a cringeworthy crumbling of DC’s premiere couple is actually one of the most genuinely romantic stories you’ll read in a mainstream superhero book all year, with a final page likely to bring a tear to your eye. If you’ve been on the fence about the Bendis Super-era so far, this issue should sway you. Steve Foxe

The Backstagers Halloween Intermission #1

Writers: James Tynion IV & Sam Johns
Artists: Rian Sygh, Savanna Ganucheau, Shan Murphy, Abby Howard
Publisher: BOOM! Box/ BOOM! Studios
The Backstagers is back with a special anthology Halloween issue filled with spookiness to surprise and delight fans. Series creators James Tynion IV and Rian Sygh return to the world they created behind the stage of the theater department at an all-boys school, and they’re joined by Shan Murpy, Abby Howard, Savanna Ganucheau and Sam Johns. Johns also contributed to the Valentine’s Day special that came out earlier this year, which makes the Halloween Intermission the second of Tynion and Sygh’s planned oversized holiday issues. The price tag is a bit steep at $8, but it is twice the size of usual comics, and fans have been missing these boys for a while now. Seasonal, themed anthology comics are a great way to return to an established universe like The Backstagers, with a low barrier of entry for new fans and ample rewards for existing readers. And with new contibutors pitching in for this spooky overnight tale, the Halloween Intermission also serve as a great chance to introduce Backstagers readers to new creators. Caitlin Rosberg

Black Panther vs. Deadpool #1

Writer: Daniel Kibblesmith
Artist: Ricardo Lopez Ortiz
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Ta-Nehisi Coates and his artistic collaborators are crafting a nuanced story in Black Panther, deepening the lore around the character and adding fascinating new angles to T’Challa’s supporting cast. Black Panther vs. Deadpool is not that book. You get what you came for in the pages of Daniel Kibblesmith and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz’ first crossover issue, with the talkative mercenary acknowledging out loud that the two titular heroes will have to fight through a misunderstanding before inevitably teaming up against a greater threat. That’s not to say there isn’t fun to be had here. Since this outing doesn’t affect continuity in the least, Kibblesmith and Ortiz seem to have gotten extra leeway to mimic the film versions of both Deadpool and Black Panther (and Shuri, who has a few great lines), which makes Black Panther vs. Deadpool a great gateway comic for moviegoers. As with every Deadpool vs. comic, not every joke lands, but Kibblesmith manages a good batting average, including a sequence that edges right up to “too far” in the best way possible. Ortiz taps into a zany, angular street style that highlights the appeal of both leads while providing an aesthetic distinct from either current solo titles. Black Panther vs. Deadpool certainly isn’t essential reading, but it is fun, and what more do you want out of your weekly haul? Steve Foxe

Books of Magic #1

Writer: Kat Howard
Artist: Tom Fowler
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics
The fourth and final debut issue of the inaugral Sandman Universe slate has one of the oddest legacies with which to contend. The Dreaming is effectively a direct sequel to The Sandman, House of Whispers is all new and Lucifer stands in the mighty shadow of the Mike Carey/Peter Gross/Dean Ormston run, but Books of Magic carries forward the story of Tim Hunter, whose initial four-issue, Neil Gaiman-penned tale is widely read…but whose long-running follow-up series have been largely forgotten and left out of print for quite some time. Novelist Kat Howard and artist Tom Fowler get a tidier reset button handed to them, then, with an iteration of Tim Hunter who is magically destined but who hasn’t yet figured out what that entails. Howard takes to the medium with ease, while Fowler proves yet again that he’s one of the most underrated cartoonists in the business right now. With cameos from Sandman stalwarts and a plot that’s set to actually explore the titular Books for once, Books of Magic gets off to an accessible, intriguing start, and may just prove to be the Sandman Universe’s best ambassador book for newcomers to the larger mythos. Steve Foxe

Dead Kings #1

Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Matthew Dow Smith
Publisher: AfterShock
If there is a particular type of story at which that Steve Orlando excels, it’s tales of people facing what feel like impossible odds to repair or rejoin their family. From Virgil to Namesake, he’s created characters and worlds that draw people apart despite their best intentions. In the case of Dead Kings, it’s a saga of family and soldiers, war and recovery. Sasha Vasnetsov is on the hunt to locate his younger brother who was sent to a work camp after the end of a war where technology and magic both wreaked havoc on the world. Previews have compared the book to True Grit—a wild west story set in a universe that’s just as chaotic as the real world, but armed with elements that cowboys could have only dreamed of. It verges on cyberpunk, but Orlando isn’t one to stick too closely to a single genre. Artist Matthew Dow Smith displayed in his work on X-Files that he’s got a good hand for realistically rendered people in fantastical settings, and that seems to be an ideal fit for Dead Kings. Caitlin Rosberg

The Hidden Witch

Writer/Artist: Molly Knox Ostertag
Publisher: Scholastic Graphix
The Hidden Witch picks up where The Witch Boy left off, following Aster on his quest to become a witch despite the gendered restrictions in his family around who is allowed to learn witch magic. This middle-grade series is a bright star in a crowded field, with strong characters who work hard to define themselves and protect the people they care for. In this second book, Aster is facing not only the gender dynamic he’s been struggling against since the first outing, but also new dangers in the form of his long-missing great-uncle and a dangerous, unsanctioned spell that’s attached itself to his new friend Charlie. Molly Knox Ostertag has a particular skill with introducing nuanced and difficult questions of morality and forgiveness, and there’s little doubt that The Hidden Witch will continue that trend. Her bright and welcoming art style and her respect for the emotional needs and intelligence of children make her work a perfect fit for fans of Steven Universe and similar cartoons. The Witch Boy and The Hidden Witch are an ideal way to reinvigorate a reluctant reader’s interest as the fall slump and Halloween sugar overdoses hit. Caitlin Rosberg

Lodger #1

Writers: David Lapham & Maria Lapham
Artist: David Lapham
Publisher: Black Crown/ IDW Publishing
The creative team behind the Eisner Award-winning series Stray Bullets is bringing their talents to the Shelly Bond-curated Black Crown imprint at IDW Publishing, marking the line’s first black-and-white miniseries in the process. Written by David and Maria Lapham and drawn by David, Lodger is a crime noir comic about murder and revenge. With the booming popularity of true crime stories and media like My Favorite Murder and I’ll be Gone in the Dark, it seems to be the sort of premise that will appeal to a lot of readers: the story of a man who kills people all over the midwest, posing as travel blogger and leaving chaos and pain in his wake. He destroys the life of a teenage girl when he murders her mother and frames her father for the crime, and it takes her years to hunt him down and try to punish him for it. It’s a promising idea, particularly satisfying to a lot of true-crime fans who often crave justice for survivors. But the solicitation text does describe Lodger as a twisted love story, and with the core characters being an 18-year-old victim and an adult serial killer, the Laphams have some delicate topics to navigate here. Caitlin Rosberg

Mob Psycho 100 Vol. 1

Writer/Artist: ONE
Translator: Kumar Sivasubramanian
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
From the creator of the infectiously popular One-Punch Man comes another story of power over not just the evil that populates the wider world, but also the little cruelties people can do to one another. Fans of writer and artist ONE often discuss the growth of his skills when it comes to visual storytelling, and Mob Psycho 100 is definitely proof of that. The original manga of One-Punch Man began flat and just above stick figures, while Mob Psycho 100 features more refined perspective work and tighter character design. It stars a fake exorcist who uses the cheap labor of his supernaturally skilled and criminally underpaid student worker Shigeo to actually deal with the spirits he’s been hired to address. The danger of Shigeo’s powers is how quickly they can get out of control when he allows himself to feel emotions like a normal boy might. The anime of Mob Psycho 100 is already available in the U.S. and the popularity of One-Punch Man means that this book has a built-in fan base eager to welcome this new English translation. Caitlin Rosberg

Old Lady Harley #1

Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Inaki Miranda
Publisher: DC Comics
From The Dark Night Returns to Marvel’s burgeoning Old Man universe, why is it geriatric men who get to have all the fun? After all, women live longer on average, especially when they know how to swing a comically oversized mallet. Old Lady Harley explores, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, a possible semi-dystopian future for the DC Comics universe, including an incorporated Atlantis, a President Power Girl and the Laughing Boys Gang—you can probably guess who they idolize. Frank Tieri and Inaki Miranda are both DC workhorses, turning in regular and reliable work without any notable long runs under their belts. Capped at five post-apocalyptic issues, Old Lady Harley is a good bet for Quinn fans—or readers who still haven’t tired of Fury Road send-ups. Steve Foxe

Spider-Gwen: Ghost Spider #1

Writer: Seanan McGuire
Artist: Rosi Kampe
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Spider-Gwen is poised for a triumphant return to a solo title, along with her new codename Ghost Spider. As the original creative team that brought the character to life steps back, an entirely new one has taken over, bringing fantasy novelist Seanan McGuire further into the Marvel Comics fold along with artist Rosi Kampe. Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez and colorist Rico Renzi originally brought Spider-Gwen to life as part of the Spider-Verse event that marked the exploration of multiple different universes full of different Spider-people, so it’s only fitting that this new chapter should kick off under the Spider-Geddon banner. The character originally just had a small part to play, but fans responded so powerfully to her, and especially to Rodriguez’ costume design, that she was given an ongoing title that has lasted three years. McGuire’s prose work has often starred nuanced, conflicted, strong female characters and her work for Marvel so far has been solid. Kampe’s sharp, stylish art is a great fit for the sometimes aggressive attitude of the book, and overall it’s exciting to see a female creative team crafting a Marvel book about a female character, though Latour and Rodriguez will be missed. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for McGuire and Kampe to skew this title a little young, as Ghost Spider’s popularity has boomed with her introduction into the Marvel Rising cartoon, and thus far none of the books she’s headlined have been particularly kid-friendly. Caitlin Rosberg

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