X-Tremists, The Forgotten Queen, Berserk & More in Required Reading: Comics for 2/27/2019

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<i>X-Tremists</i>, <i>The Forgotten Queen</i>, <i>Berserk</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 2/27/2019

We’ve got a few one-two punches to greet readers on this New Comic Book Day. Writer Tini Howard double-dazzles with the launch of The Forgotten Queen at Valiant as well as the collected edition of Euthanauts with artist Nick Robles at Black Crown/ IDW Publishing. If you’re more of a manga reader, Dark Horse Comics has two doorstoppers dropping: the first deluxe volume of the viscera-filled classis Berserk, as well as the ninth volume of the also-viscera-filled I Am a Hero. Beyond our little sub-theme of dueling releases, we’ve also got the compelling next installment in the Age of X-Man alternate reality, a hefty collection of Geoff Johns’s most seminal DC Comics work, a new arc for Black Hammer, a audience-ready one-shot for Captain Marvel, the long-awaited conclusion to Mage and more in February’s final Required Reading.

Age of X-Man: X-Tremists #1

Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: Georges Jeanty
Publisher: Marvel Comics
As the Age of X-Man series continue to expand in scope and number, they’ve finally reached a book that truly explores the cost of creating a “utopia” for mutants. While other titles have focused on what the world looks like for X-Men who are living in this new dream, the leads of X-Tremists are the ones shaping and creating the “perfection” that everyone else gets to enjoy. The team is poised for interesting internal tension: Psylocke has been going through a lot lately, and Iceman and Northstar have the potential for some conflict with revelations about Bobby still top of mind. Ultimately, this is a book about the cost of perfection, and what it takes to create it. Writer Leah Williams is a relative newcomer to creating comics but her work on a couple of one-shots and annuals has been promising, and artist Georges Jeanty is a veteran of titles like Dark Horse’s former Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. Though Age of X-Man looks daunting taken as a whole, each series is a shorter commitment, making this a great self-contained event for mutant fans. Caitlin Rosberg

Berserk Deluxe Edition Hardcover

Writer/Artist: Kentaro Miura
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Kentaro Miura’s Berserk belongs to a class of anime and manga that has an intensely loyal fanbase in the United States, and their patience is paying off in the form of a deluxe hardcover from Dark Horse Comics this week. This hefty tome collects the first three volumes of the manga into one oversized edition that’s hundreds of pages thick, with a dark and moody cover that perfectly fits the story. Berserk isn’t necessarily an easy read, even for experienced manga fans. Though it’s a fantasy story that sometimes evokes a similar tone to Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja and other sword-and-sorcery titles, the pages are drenched in horror that will feel more familiar to true gorehounds. Berserk has a well-earned reputation for being an intense read, but it’s part of many people’s must-read lists for a reason. The characters are flawed and compelling, the world-building is ambitious and the story is immersive. Pairing the manga with the anime, which Miura supervised, would be an incredible gift for fans new and old. Caitlin Rosberg

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #8

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dean Ormston
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
One of the best things Black Hammer had going for it when it first launched in 2016 was focus: rather than attempting to build a new superhero universe from the ground up, series creators Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston relied on recognizable archetypes to tell a true mystery. That’s out the window a bit three years (and four spin-off series, not counting one-shots) later, but that doesn’t mean Black Hammer is any less enjoyable. After a very meta-heavy guest arc from artist Rich Tommaso, Ormston is back in fine form for a new arc that might remind readers of The Good Place in how it resets the board yet again. Given Black Hammer’s critical and commercial success, it’s probably too much to hope that its heroes have a happy ending in store any time soon, but with Lemire and Ormston at the helm, the mystery should stay engaging for issues and issues to come. Steve Foxe

Captain Marvel: Braver & Mightier #1

Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Simone Buonfantino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
On the eve of her Marvel Cinematic Universe, Carol Danvers is getting a whole lot of attention on the printed page, too. Earlier this year a new series started with another #1, written by Kelly Thompson with art by Carmen Carnero, but there’ve also been ample reprints of some of her previous appearances, and now a brand-new one-shot. With her work on Faith and Mother Panic, Jody Houser feels like an ideal fit to write a new adventure for Carol as the character finds herself torn between her responsibilities and identities: a superhero, an Air Force pilot and a human being. That’s precisely the kind of one-and-done comic that can help new fans coming in from the theaters find a good place to start. Simone Buonfantino may not be a Marvel veteran, but he’s got a clean, almost-house-style with a good handle on how to draw high-flying action comics. This is a must-read for Carol Corps members new and old. Caitlin Rosberg

Euthanauts Vol. 1

Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Publisher: Black Crown/ IDW Publishing
Euthanauts was never far from our thoughts when compiling our year-end lists—it was just disqualified because of a festive conflict of interest. Both Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint and Karen Berger’s Berger Books have produced quality titles, but Euthanauts is perhaps the best realization yet of the Vertigo legacy from which both editors hail. Tini Howard and Nick Robles have compiled an eclectic, complex cast of characters and a nuanced, challenging take on the idea of life beyond death. While we adored Assassinistas and Howard’s work on the Captain America Annual, Euthanauts feels like the purest distillation yet of her creative interests and approach, and Robles’ delirious layouts and expressive character acting elevate the title to must-read status. If you missed the series as it released monthly, the full first arc is out in trade format this week—although fair warning that it’s not for anyone with a looming fear of mortality. Steve Foxe

The Forgotten Queen

Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Amilcar Pinna
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Originally created by Matt Kindt and Pere Perez for the Unity event, War-Monger is a fan-favorite Valiant villain with a vengeance. According to the series’ first solicitations, she’s a witch who traveled along with the Mongol Empire. Her powers could turn any warrior into a berserker—a War-Monger. In The Forgotten Queen, readers will see where War-Monger came from, as well as where she stands in the Valiant universe today, courtesy of Euthanauts writer Tini Howard and Generation X artist Amilcar Pinna, making it a great jumping-on point for anyone interested in the character. Josh Hilgenberg

Green Lantern by Geoff Johns Book One

Writers: Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons
Artists: Ethan Van Sciver, Patrick Gleason, Carlos Pacheco, Others
Publisher: DC Comics
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that the DC Comics landscape, both on the page and on screens, has been utterly changed by writer Geoff Johns over the last 15 years. Beyond obvious initiatives like the New 52 and Rebirth relaunches, Johns has popularized—even institutionalized—a method of superhero writing that favors distilling characters to their base motivations and traits—including, at times, removing newer legacy characters to reinstall more iconic (if often less diverse) prior versions. If your DC experience doesn’t reach back a decade and a half, you may have missed Johns’s most important turning point: Green Lantern: Rebirth, the series that laid the groundwork for much of what followed. This first Rebirth returned disgraced former Green Lantern Hal Jordan to primacy among ring-slingers, and beefed up his villain roster to provide more credible threats for years to come. Along with GL: Rebirth, this collection also includes the first issues of Johns’s ongoing Green Lantern series, along with the brilliantly fun but largely forgotten sibling mini-series Green Lantern Corps., written by Dave Gibbons and illustrated by Patrick Gleason. Steve Foxe

I Am a Hero Vol. 9

Writer/Artist: Kengo Hanazawa
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
I Am a Hero began as a fairly straightforward infection story as Japan quickly succumbed to the “ZQN” plague, but 2018’s installments expanded the scope, showing Taiwan and Paris under siege, introducing new bands of survivors and debuting monstrous new undead behemoths. I Am a Hero Vol. 9 hits comic stores this week, and continues to follow core survivors Hideo, a former manga creator with unusual social issues, and Hiromi, a high-school girl who survived a brush with infection herself. Hideo and Hiromi find themselves face to face with a group of survivors who have broken off from a cult—not to mention powerful new ZQNs and ZQN hybrids. Kengo Hanazawa’s smash hit, collected in America as double-sized omnibus editions, remains one of our favorite ongoing comics, so much so that we gave it the top spot in our Top 15 Horror Comics of 2018 list, and we don’t expect that to change any time soon. Steve Foxe

Mage: The Hero Denied #15

Writer/Artist: Matt Wagner
Publisher: Image Comics
This week marks the end of a comic that’s spanned more than three decades and covered a lot of pop-culture ground. With issue #15, Mage: The Hero Denied is coming to a close, and with it the story of Kevin Matchstick. This final issue is twice the length of an average installment at over 50 pages, and there’s little doubt that creator Matt Wagner will send his creations out with a bang. If nothing else, Mage acts as a great demonstration of just how much the industry and readers expectations have changed in the last 35 years. Wagner is still leaning on some of the same tropes and habits that he used in the first Mage arc, but both he and Kevin have aged and changed. It’s not often that a creator gets to execute an independent vision as large in scope as Wagner does with Mage, and it’s worth celebrating the end of this particular era with both him and the cast of characters he’s created. Caitlin Rosberg

Punks Not Dead: London Calling #1

Writer: David Barnett
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Publisher: Black Crown/ IDW Publishing
David Barnett and Martin Simmonds are teaming up for the second arc of Punks Not Dead this week, the first of the Black Crown titles to go beyond its initial six-issue run. In the first volume, teenager Fergie met the ghost Sid, a dead punk rocker that only Fergie can see. Their adventures and some serious criminal charges have led them to London, thus the subtitle for this second arc: London Calling. Still pursued by the police as well as people who are particularly interested in Sid’s spiritual presence (not to mention some monsters), Fergie and Sid have a lot of work to do. Mysteries and danger abound for them both, though they do have some allies in their corner. The whole Black Crown imprint has been solidly weird and enjoyable, each title unique but linked by a sense of twisted wonder, diving into what is possible instead of focusing on what’s simply probable. Hopefully London Calling signals other Black Crown series are set to start second arcs, as well. Caitlin Rosberg

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