2015 Eisner Awards Insight: Which Series Will Win?

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on July 1, 2015.

The 2015 Eisner Awards are less than two weeks away! On Friday, June 10 many of the best creators in comics will gather at a gala in San Diego to celebrate the best works of the previous year. There are a LOT of categories and nominees to look through. That’s why we are bringing you some guides to the hottest categories and comics up for the biggest award at Comic-Con International next week.

This time we are looking at all of the awards for comics published as series. This includes anything that falls into the standard publishing routine of American comics where floppies are sold as individual units of a larger whole. Some categories focus on single issues, while others look at the full expanse of what was published in 2014, but they all focus on series.

Eisners - Multiversity Pax Americana

Best Single Issue

Astro City #16: “Wish I May” by Kurt Busiek & Brent Anderson (Vertigo/DC)

Beasts of Burden: Hunters and Gatherers, by Evan Dorkin & Jill Thompson (Dark Horse)

Madman in Your Face 3D Special, by Mike Allred (Image)

Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration #1 (Marvel)

The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1, by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely (DC)

Who We Think Will Win: The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1

When this issue was published last year it was all anyone could talk about, like nothing else had come out that week. On the day it came out, the headline of the ComicBook.Com review declared it to be the best single issue of 2015. It is a perfect issue where each panel is designed like clockwork to hold meaning by itself, within the page, and as part of the entire comic. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely are masters who have always elevated one another’s work, and this may be the best 40 pages they have ever created. Together with Nathan Fairbairn’s immensely complex colors, they reminded us just how much comics are capable of.

Who We Think Should Win: The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1

This isn’t even up for discussion. All other answers are wrong. The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1 was the best single issue of 2014. ‘Nuff said.

Eisners - Southern Bastards

Best Continuing Series

Astro City, by Kurt Busiek & Brent Anderson (Vertigo)

Bandette, by Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover (Monkeybrain)

Hawkeye, by Matt Fraction, David Aja, & Annie Wu (Marvel)

Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Image)

Southern Bastards, by Jason Aaron & Jason Latour (Image)

The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, & Stefano Gaudiano (Image/Skybound)

Who We Think Will Win: Saga

Predicting that Saga will win the Eisner for Best Continuing Series is becoming a matter of math. It has won a total of three Eisner Awards each year of its run, including Best Continuing Series both years. The series quality has not been diminished in the least either. It’s every bit as good as when it debuted, so there’s little reason to doubt that it’s bound to win again.

Who We Think Should Win: Southern Bastards

This one hurts a little because I love Saga. I’m glad to have seen it won twice in a row, and would love to see it achieve the hat trick, but Southern Bastards is really, stupidly, incredibly good. I’ve looked at the series three times in the past year, and each time I was blown away. Jason Aaron and Jason Latour are producing the best work of their careers with a series that has a lot to say, and says it so very well. Southern Bastards is raw, powerful, and utterly enthralling, the best comic series continuing today.

Eisners - Little Nemo

Best Limited Series

Daredevil: Road Warrior, by Mark Waid & Peter Krause (Marvel Infinite Comics)

Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland, by Eric Shanower & Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

The Multiversity, by Grant Morrison et al. (DC)

The Private Eye, by Brian K. Vaughan & Marcos Martin (Panel Syndicate)

The Sandman: Overture, by Neil Gaiman & J. H. Williams III (Vertigo/DC)

Who We Think Will Win: The Multiversity

There are only good issues in The Multiversity and they represent a diverse array of styles, both in art and tone. Pax Americana #1was easily the best issue of 2014, but Thunderworld #1 was an incredibly fun and lovingly rendered issue, exceedingly good as well.Society of Super-Heroes #1 and The Just #1 are both nothing to scoff at. The Multiversity delivered a lot of great issues in 2014, and it’s easy to see why it will most likely win Best Limited Series.

Who We Think Should Win: Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland

Best Limited Series isn’t a category that focuses on the quality of individual issues though, it’s about the greatness of the complete series and no other limited series was as consistently great as Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland. Based on Windsor McKay’s groundbreaking newspaper strips, this series applied McKay’s sense of invention and imagination to the comic book and pamphlet and delivered incredible results. Eric Shanower and Gabriel Rodriguez did something special with every page they published, and crafted a magnificent series that both honors the past and pushes the comics medium forward.

Best New Series

The Fade Out, by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (Image)

Lumberjanes, by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, & Brooke A. Allen (BOOM! Box)

Ms. Marvel, by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona (Marvel)

Rocket Raccoon, by Skottie Young (Marvel)

The Wicked + The Divine, by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie (Image)

Who We Think Will Win: Ms. Marvel

More than a year after Ms. Marvel debuted, the series is still experiencing an immense amount of love to absolutely no one’s surprise. G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona created THE breakout character of 2014, and her adventures have inspired a new generation of comics and superhero fans. It is a truly fantastic series and one that anyone with a heart is hoping will continue for a long time.

Who We Think Should Win: The Fade Out

It’s hard to beat one of the greatest pair of collaborators to ever make comics though. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips will one day be spoken of with the same reverence as Kirby and Lee. The Fade Out shows why that legacy is inevitable. It’s pulpy, character-driven, and loaded with subtext. Elizabeth Breitweiser’s colors have lit up Phillips’ version of Golden Age Hollywood making each issue something to behold. There were a lot of breakout series in 2014, but none hit quite the same highs as The Fade Out (except forSouthern Bastards, which isn’t nominated in this category for some bizarre reason).

Eisners - The Private Eye

Best Digital/Web Comic

Bandette, by Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover, Monkeybrain/comiXology.com

Failing Sky by Dax Tran-Caffee, http://failingsky.com

The Last Mechanical Monster, by Brian Fies, http://lastmechanicalmonster.blogspot.com

Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson, http://gingerhaze.com/nimona/comic

The Private Eye by Brian Vaughan & Marcos Martin http://panelsyndicate.com/

Who We Think Will Win: The Private Eye

When The Private Eye wasn’t nominated at the 2014 Eisner Awards or even listed under Brian K. Vaughan’s writer nomination, there was a minor uproar. It appears that someone on the nomination committee got the memo though. The Private Eye is Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s beautiful, pick your price comic book. Designed for viewing on computer screens and tablets, it is structured in widescreen, horizontal pages, each of which is absolutely stunning. It’s a bold new model and design for digital comics presented by one of the best series of the past few years.

Who We Think Should Win: The Private Eye

Remember that time when I dismissed the idea that anything was even close to being as good as The Multiversity: Pax Americana #1, and it was obvious that it should win the Eisner? It was only about four sections back. Well, copy and paste that notion for The Private Eye. It’s an obvious and deserving winner.

So who do you think ought to win the Eisners for best collected editions? Be sure to let us know in the comments below. And make sure to check out our presentation of other Eisner categories this week as well with looks at both Creators and Series nominated for awards.

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Fastball Feedback: Comic Book Reviews for July 1

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on July 1, 2015.

FF

Good vs. Evil. It’s a phrase so iconic that it has transcended cliché. If you read comics, it’s a conflict that’s impossible to avoid. Except evil doesn’t always make it easy for that confrontation to occur. Sometimes it’s better off avoiding the heroes of a story and continuing on its merry way, so the good guys have to hunt it down. All three of the comics in this week’s Feedback are set in vastly different settings from a post-apocalyptic wastelands to a culinary-influenced mystery-comedy to a vampire-ravaged Europe resting between World Wars. But all of them share one thing in common: good is hunting evil.

FF The Spire

The Spire #1

Written by Simon Spurrier

Art by Jeff Stokely

Colors by Andre May

The Spire #1 cannot be faulted for a lack of ambition. The first issue introduces a fantastical, post-apocalyptic world filled with characters, history, and secrets. Most of the story is revealed through the perspective of Commander Sha, who guards the citizens of The Spire, a towering city in the middle of an expansive wasteland. There’s a lot happening in the first issue and no time to slow down.

Jeff Stokely’s depiction of this city and its inhabitants is fascinating. An early spread showing both the towering city and its barren surroundings is rich in texture and soaked in lines. He provides a visceral quality to the comic, with that same line work adding a layer of grit. The action in The Spire #1 streaks across the page. A chase scene at the beginning of the issue provides a sense of immediacy along with some inventive layouts. As Sha climbs a ladder after some thieves, Stokely merges three panels together so they can be read instantaneously and the effect will make readers cringe.

The speed in Stokely’s artwork keeps pace with the content-heavy script, although the latter is less effective in its aims. Simon Spurrier is introducing readers to the world on a micro and macro scale. The former focuses on Sha’s work as an officer of the law, while the latter deals largely with politics. These two narratives intersect, but only Sha’s story provides readers a reason to care. Details are abundant, including a variety of dialects shown in both speech and lettering. Unfortunately, this bit draws a lot of attention to itself and adds very little to the story, distracting readers rather than immersing them. Other items, like casual references to people with unique qualities called “skews” (a slur), help build the world naturally.

There is a lot to like about The Spire #1. The detail-rich artwork, slick action sequences, and captivating setting provide readers with a world they can lose themselves within. The introduction of so much in such a small amount of space is cluttered at times, but cannot remove the wonders that inhabit this strange, desert tower.

Grade: B-

FF Chew

Chew #50

Written by John Layman

Art and Colors by Rob Guillory

Ongoing series are based on an unspoken promise that every issue is leading to something bigger and better. When you’re 50 issues into a series, that promise becomes a hard one to keep. After hours hours of reading and over $100 in issues or collections (unless you pirate it, in which case you suck), Chew #50 acknowledges the promise of the 49 previous issues and proceeds to fully deliver upon it.

John Layman and Rob Guillory have been establishing the key elements and stakes in this issue for a very long time; clearly preparing for this moment. Two of the most iconic parts of Chew: Poyo and the death of Toni are used to create this climax and it delivers on the respective comedy and tragedy of those components. The Collector has served as the series villain for a long time, and the final showdown between him and Tony had to be big. Layman recognizes the size of the battle doesn’t come from scope, but from the emotional core of the series. It’s not important because of how much is at stake, but because of what Tony has lost and wants to protect. Every blow feels incredibly important because to Tony, this is the most important battle in the world.

Guillory delivers the best action sequence in the series so far. His fluid artwork lends an urgent sense of motion to every panel. It’s impossible to not fly through each page of the fight, with the action quickly guiding your eye. The only way Layman can slow the pace of this brawl is to use Chew’s familiar time-hopping structure, giving readers a chance to breathe. Backgrounds are still peppered with jokes, including a great Jeff Goldblum call out, but they’re less common than usual. Guillory recognizes the significance of this issue and allows the drama to take the lead every page.

Chew #50 is a lot of things. It’s funny, action-packed, surprising, and a joy to read. But above all else, it’s just really bad ass.

Grade: A

FF Baltimore Cult of the Red King

Baltimore: Cult of the Red King #3

Written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden

Art by Peter Bergting

Colors by Dave Stewart

Baltimore is a dramatically different story now than when the comic began 5 years go in “The Plague Ships”. Lord Baltimore’s quest has grown larger, and with it the supporting cast and scope of his story. The midpoint of “The Cult of the Red King” shows just how far the story has expanded, and why it’s a good thing.

Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden have split the narrative between two groups, one in frozen St. Petersburg and the other in balmy Carthage. Issue three begins to sew these two distinct missions back together as the strength of the villains is revealed. The first 2 issues were used to set the stage and build tension, which is released to great dramatic effect here. Unlike many past antagonists, the cult in Carthage and witches of St. Petersburg are not individually threatening, but hold strength in numbers. Those multitudes are terrifying though, especially when set against only a few individuals. The fight at the end of the issue is shocking and painful to watch, making readers feel as powerless as the person attacked.

Peter Bergting has evolved along with the series since it began in 2010, and the subtle advancement of his craft is used to great effect here. A close up of Father Stanislas’ fractured glasses and a few minor lines highlights his loss of humanity in a striking manner, making him appear bug-like in appearance and thought. Bergting subtly brings out the humanity or lack thereof in all of these characters, illustrating a continuum central to the thematic core of the series. Dave Stewart does a beautiful job illustrating the balance between the two locations as well. His colors pull out the dichotomy between hot and cold, making that difference felt as much as seen.

Baltimore: Cult of the Red King #3 shows just how far the series has come in five years, and will leave readers stunned with its final sequence. The stakes are higher than ever, and Mignola and Golden have not lost track of the thematic core of the story. It is a comic about reflections and dualities: humanity and inhumanity, life and death, heat and cold. Even without this enormous cliffhanger, the issue gives readers every reason they might need to return for more.

Grade: B+

What did you think of this week’s comics? Sound off in the comments below.

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ComicBook Countdown: New Releases for the Week of June 29

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 29, 2015.

CC

There’s nary a week when great comics, movies, or television shows aren’t all vying for our attention. It can be hard to keep up with it all, but that’s why we’re here. Each Monday at ComicBook.Com, we take a look at the five most exciting things coming to the world of fandom to keep you in the know.

5 Terminator Genisys

5. Terminator: Genisys | Paramount Pictures

Terminator: Geonosis has only garnered mediocre reviews so far, but not all hope is not lost because the movie has a secret weapon up its sleeve: Old Arnold. Schwarzenegger is experiencing a revival that combines a great sense of fun and some incredible performances in movies like Maggie. He’s returning to his most iconic role in Terminator: Gynecologist and carrying a big smile. Just watching his delivery of lines in the trailers and seeing videos like this is enough to show that he’s bringing something special to the movie. However Terminator: Gymnastics turns out, there’s at least one good reason to check it out.

4. The Spire #1 | Boom! Studios

If you missed the mini-series Six-Gun Gorilla, you missed out. Writer Simon Spurrier and artist Jeff Stokely’s vision of post-apocalyptic adventure and meta-fictional commentary was like nothing else on the market. They’re returning to those concepts inThe Spire, but with a brand new premise (one that sadly lacks gunslinging apes). It features an enormous tower arising from toxic Wastelands, and the adventures of Commander Sha to keep the peace. There’s a massive world to explore here, and both Spurrier and Stokely have shown they’re up to the task. If The Spire is anything like Six-Gun Gorilla, it’s going to be smart, exciting, top-notch comics.

Y The Last Man Absolute 1

 

3. Absolute Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 | Vertigo

Picking a favorite Brian K. Vaughan series is a lot like picking a favorite child (says the guy without any kids). Saga, Ex Machina,Runaways, The Private Eye, and more are all revered by comics fans across the world, but Y: The Last Man may stand out as the definitive Vaughan series. Pia Guerra and Vaughan spun a 60 issue epic that brought many new readers to comics and returned others to the fold. It’s an incredible accomplishment, and is finally being collected in a beautiful absolute edition. This is a story and book that anyone with a library ought to be proud to present.

2 Secret Wars #3

2. Secret Wars #4 | Marvel Comics

Secret Wars may already be seeing delays, but that doesn’t appear to be quieting the hype and for good reason. All of the tie-ins feature different spins on the superhero genre from across Battleworld, but nothing has quite hit the same highs as Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic’s central series. No one knew quite what to expect, but it probably wasn’t a mashup of Game of Thrones and deep cuts from throughout Marvel history. That’s what we’re getting though and it is a ton of fun in classic Marvel fashion. It may have taken a couple of extra weeks to get Secret Wars #4, but it was almost certainly worth it.

1 Valiant Summit Image Expo

1. Valiant Summit and Image Expo | Valiant Entertainment and Image Comics

Number one this week is a tie. It may be difficult to pick a favorite BKV series, but this decision was impossible. Both Valiant Entertainment and Image Comics are holding events in San Francisco this week to roll out their plans for the future. No other publisher in comics is as consistent in making great comics and employing brilliant creators than these two. They’re laying down the tracks for the future of the industry in North America, and this week they will both be showing off some blueprints for the path forward. All eyes will be on San Francisco this week, and the news that drops may even overshadow what happens in San Diego next week.

What new comics, shows, and other releases are you looking forward to this week? Share in the comments below.

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#LoveWins: Marriage Equality and Participating in History as a Viewer

This article was originally published at Loser City on June 27, 2015.

“The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right.”

– Harvey Milk

There’s no need to explain why that quote is especially appropriate right now. Even Mike Huckabee, who apparently lives under a rock and fears knowledge, couldn’t avoid the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality on the morning of June 26. When the announcement that bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional, word instantaneously spread across Twitter, Facebook, and old fashioned sources of human communication like watercooler talk. Profile pictures lit up like rainbows and a variety of commemorative hashtags sprung up; there was no other conversation to be had. It was a moment that could instantly be recognized as both important and historic, the sort that would be forever recorded in history textbooks.

I was lucky enough to be living in Washington, D.C. when the ruling was announced. I had nothing to do with what happened. While I have been an active proponent of marriage equality since I was aware of what that term meant, the victory had nothing to do with me. I wasn’t part of the legal team that argued the case nor was I an active volunteer in organizations like the ACLU that helped to make this happen. No, I was just lucky enough to have a job that decided I should be in D.C. this summer, a lucky idiot who got to enjoy the experience of this day without putting in any effort.

And it was an incredible day to experience. The steps of the Supreme Court were littered with a potpourri of people that afternoon. Reporters reclined in lawn chairs with umbrellas and iPads, shooting the breeze and waiting in case someone might do something memorable, stupid, or some combination of the two. Couples and groups of friends took photos and spoke excitedly. Heart shaped balloons filled the air, one carried by a little girl held aloft on the shoulders of two men. In the middle of the action were scattered protestors. A young man with no sense for sound design squawked through a speaker rigged on his hip. Three college students stood with red tape across their lips inscribed with the word “LIFE”; one of them refused to stop texting and added a comical dose of irony to their actions. Those steps were alive. For motives both well-intentioned and otherwise, everyone wanted to see where this decision had been made.

Supreme Court

The real event of the day was held later though, after the sun had gone down and the spotlights that bring the landmarks of D.C. to life every night went up. President Obama made a small adjustment to the lights in front of the White House, swapping the amber shading out to reflect a rainbow on the front of the building instead.

When I arrived at the plaza in front of the White House, people were gathered on the sidewalk, swarming like Koi discovering a piece of bread. Police had tape strung up along barriers and were holding everyone back as dogs and flashlights scanned the area. Was it a mysterious package? Had someone called in a threat? Nobody knew. Despite the large number of people packed into this narrow strip of cement, there was no frustration or pressure. Everyone stood calmly and waited. It had taken decades to reach this moment, what difference did a few more minutes make?

Only moments after I arrived the tape was lifted and we all began to walk in. There was no rush to the front, just a calm procession of people mixing together. As I drew closer to the White House, reds and yellows and blues began to glimmer from behind the trees. Then the other groups who had been held back became apparent, three streams of people all converged in front of the gates to witness a rainbow shining at night across the home of our President.

Hundreds of people stood together and a wave of collective joy washed over us. That’s not hyperbole. Simply being there resulted in a contact high, the kind that makes you feel drunk even when you haven’t touched a drop all day. Laughter and tears were released in equitable quantities, and a buzz of chatter filled the warm summer air. Friends and strangers alike patted one another on the shoulder, hugged, and snapped photos.

White House Rainbow

We were all standing together. We had come to celebrate a victory and bear witness to its symbol. No anger or fear or anxiety could be found; only an immense sense of relief. I don’t know how long I stood in that crowd, talking to so many people with enormous smiles. It simultaneously felt like a minute and an hour. But I never wanted to leave.

So why am I talking about this on a pop culture website?

What happened on June 26, 2015 isn’t very different from what we love about the culture we consume. Events at the Supreme Court, the White House, and throughout America reflect the climax of a powerful narrative. Just like in the best movies, comics, shows, and other stories this day held a powerful meaning, the kind capable of changing how we perceive the world we share.

I talk about fictional stories a lot. How do they affect us? What do they reveal about us? Are they capable of making us better? These questions aren’t limited to fiction though. They’re just as applicable to history, both that which we learn in school and the events happening in front of our own eyes. Going to the White House that night, I knew I was lucky to be there. Despite having done nothing to earn it, I was witnessing a moment in history and the climax of a very important story. And as pretentious as it may sound, I feel like I have a responsibility to bear witness to what I saw.

That gathering in front of the White House represents a culmination of decades of working. The path to marriage equality in the United States dates back to Harvey Milk’s first election, the Stonewall Riots, and beyond. It has been an incredibly difficult journey for so many people. But this day represents a substantive and meaningful victory. It is the heroic climax to a story filled with incredible characters, tragic turns, heroic turns, and all of the other elements that form long-lasting epics.

It is silly to think that the history of the gay rights movement is as formulaic as a movie. The rainbow shining on the White House is not the absolute victory of a detonated Death Star. There are still a lot of challenges to overcome. But the narrative it forms is an important one because we so often perceive and understand the world through stories. The story of June 26th may not give all people everything they deserve, but it can give us what we need to continue: hope.

As time goes on, the story of the night where rainbows shone throughout the night sky across America will grow. Those of us who were there will embellish and add details. It will move from a historical memory into the realm of legend, and that’s a good thing. This memory doesn’t belong to me. It’s not here for my benefit. The best possible thing I can do with this story is to share it, not just today, but years down the road when future generations are facing their own struggles.

This story, however it grows, will inspire us and give us hope. It is the story that tells us no matter how vicious the voices of bigotry are, they will one day be ignored. It is the story that tells us no matter how many challenges may arise, they can be overcome. It is the story that tells us no matter how ugly the worst days will be, better ones lie ahead.

It is the story that tells us #LoveWins.

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Daredevil #16: The Potential Energy of a Page Turn

This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on June 25, 2015.

Daredevil 16 - Cover

The page turn is one truly unique element of the comics medium. In a form where readers are exposed to long sections of a story simultaneously, able to jump ahead based on a whim, it is the only form of control that creators can exert. Hiding something on the back of a page allows artists to conceal information from readers, and potentially deliver it with incredible impact. Page turns aren’t as basic as jump scares or flash reveals in movies, but when they are executed well they are something truly special, something that cannot be replicated by any other form of communication. Daredevil #16 offers a perfect example of what a page turn can be.

Daredevil 16 - Conversation

At the start of the issue, Daredevill has come to Kingpin looking for help. His friends have been put in an impossible situation and only the Kingpin has the resources to save them. They spend the first five pages of the issue talking about the situation and the possibility of making a deal, and then the page turns. What is revealed on page six is jaw dropping. Without a single word it changes the story entirely and leaves readers to stare in wonder.

A great page turn is a lot like great comedy. While the turn itself is the punchline, the thing that makes people laugh, respond, and talk, it requires an excellent set up and delivery to work. It’s not the turn between pages 5 and 6 in Daredevil #16 that does all of the work. The craft and execution of everything leading up to it, and the delivery of that final page are the key to making it function.

The five pages that play as set up are focused entirely on Daredevil, Kingpin, and their conversation. Forms fill the void, but reader’s eyes are never allowed to wander to far from this auditory focus. The lack of focus on visual elements places readers in Daredevil’s perspective. As a blind man, he is focused on what he can hear and the structure of his surroundings. Colors and visual details are beyond his senses, and so they are removed from the reader’s concentration as well.

Daredevil 16 - Radar

When visual elements enter the scene or are altered, Chris Samnee ensures that the conversation remains the focus of the story. As Daredevil and Kingpin walk from an office into an art gallery, Samnee obstructs the view. Panels are carefully angled to focus on walls and doorways that obstruct what decorates these rooms. In an establishing shot, Daredevil’s radar sense is used to show the form of things, but not their details. Readers know where these characters stand, but cannot discern any more information than Daredevil himself can.

Daredevil 16 - San Francisco

Even the most potentially distracting panel in the story, in which a pane glass window reflects the city of San Francisco, is muted by colorist Matthew Wilson. Both the skyline and Kingpin are reflected in the pale pink hues of a sunset. When all of these shapes are made equal, Kingpin stands out as the largest figure. Even a complete cityscape is incapable of distracting from the discussion. This same cool, industrial color scheme is applied throughout the conversation. Grays make for a sensible office aesthetic, but also help readers to focus on the red and white outfits sported by these two men.

Daredevil 16 - Kingpin

Even Waid’s script and Joe Caramagna’s lettering work to focus readers on the men and their words alone. Waid leaves only 1 of 20 panels without any narrative captions or dialogue, and even this panel features the “loud” fist of the Kingpin at its center. Caramagna streamlines all of Waid’s writing throughout the issue, running multiple captions and speech bubble directly from left to right. It results in a fast-paced reading experience where readers are pushed forward by the words and encouraged to ignore the backgrounds.

The result of all of Samnee, Wilson, Waid, and Caramagna’s work is to place reader’s securely in Daredevil’s perspective. We are focused on reading speech bubbles and examining the men creating them, ignoring the rooms they enter besides a few basic geographic details. On the bottom of page five, when Daredevil says “I offer the death of Matt Murdock. Interested?”, that’s all we can see. Then page five is turned to page six and everythingchanges.

Daredevil 16 - Art Gallery

Page six inverts everything that has built to it. It is a single spread with no text, the two figures are minimized in the center of the panel and surrounded a diverse, colorful set of images. The sudden change in style and focus is a shock to the system. Before you are even able to comprehend the information being conveyed, you are struck by a powerful, visceral reaction.

The sudden shift reflects a change in perspective, moving from Daredevil to Kingpin. Page six is based on the power of sight. It is covered in paintings, something a blind man (even Daredevil) cannot hope to experience. Furthermore, it is an art gallery at the heart of Kingpin’s home, revealing that which he most desires: the death of Daredevil. The various paintings all depicting a singular goal make Kingpin’s desire inarguably clear and pay off Daredevil’s previous question perfectly.

There is a stunning density of information to the page as well. Samnee plays off a wide variety of influences in constructing the art gallery. Many classical styles and artists are featured. Greek pottery is featured prominently in the foreground, while more detailed works based in traditions dating back to the Renaissance are shown elsewhere, drawing some inspiration from Hieronymus Bosch. He even includes some more modern styles like surrealism and cubism, including a piece that can be connected to Picasso’s rose period. Even for readers unfamiliar with art history, the diversity of style and strength of theme makes for a very powerful collection of images.

The page is shocking and immersive, but most importantly it makes the Kingpin’s mindset absolutely clear. He is not a trustworthy ally, and he most definitely has designs on Daredevil’s life. As Daredevil builds towards its finale, Kingpin has returned to become the hero’s greatest villain once more. His motives and planning are played out in the rest of the issue, but they come as no surprise after this moment. Everything reader’s need to know is discovered with a single turn of the page.

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Fastball Feedback: Comic Book Reviews For June 24

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 24, 2015.

Fastball Feedback

For more than 75 years, alter egos and secret identities have been a central trope in superhero comics. They are a major source of tension and a never-ending struggle to maintain. So what happens when heroes are exposed? This week, three comics examine that question in very different ways. Daredevil continues to balance work, life, and derring-do, the backstory behind Superman’s public outing is exposed, and Ninjak tries to keep his head after an unfortunate exposure. All three comics are filled with potential for drama and some knockout stories. Let’s see how they turned out.

Superman 41 Review

Superman #41

Written by Gene Luen Yang

Art by John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson

Colors by Dean White

Superman #41 is the start of “Truth” and promises to reveal why Lois Lane outed Superman’s secret identity. However, no answers are provided in this issue. Instead it focuses on Superman, Jimmy Olsen, and Lois Lane working together to combat a gun smuggling operation in Metropolis. It is a small-scale issue that shows Gene Luen Yang establishing his take on the Man of Steel.

Yang expresses a clear love for Superman here, making effective use of both his roles as a superhero and reporter, as well as his supporting cast. He includes a gotcha moment that will have die-hard Superman fans twisting in their seats at a seemingly incredulous turn. All of the various elements you would expect from a Superman story are in play, even if the thrust of the story isn’t particularly exciting. There is a lot of set up, including an opening page that points to a significant change which fails to be carried out in the pages of this issue. This style of flash forward has become a tired trope in superhero comics, one the issue would be better off without.

John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson offer some of their best work on the series to date with an action sequence that is the heart of the issue. It’s fast paced, fun, and inventive, featuring a battle with a spider-like 3-D printer. Romita still has some occasionally stiff looking panels, but the big dynamic punches (like the one above) really land. He and Janson capture the power of Superman here and it looks fantastic. Dean White experiments with luminescent colors for effect in a few panels, which might look good in another book, but clash with Romita’s rougher, pencil heavy style.

Superman #41 reads like a test drive. Yang, Romita, and the rest of the team are breaking in their new approach to the character. While there are some issues within the art and the plotting is solid at best, nothing is broken. In fact, the entire creative team seems to have a solid grasp of what they do well and how they would like to apply those talents to Superman. It’s an encouraging start for what could be the best take on this series since its relaunch.

Grade: B-

Daredevil 16 Review

Daredevil #16

Story by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Colors by Matthew Wilson

The end of Daredevil is almost here with the antepenultimate issue landing this week. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have sprung the elements of their planned finale quickly, and the pace does not relent in this issue. In addition to following up on Daredevil #15’s shocking reveal, they reintroduce even more characters from their run and deliver some surprising stakes in an issue too good to spoil.

There’s a lot going on in Daredevil #15, far too much to unpack in a bite-size review, but the entire issue hinges around a single page turn. It comes early in the story during Daredevil and Kingpin’s confrontation, and reveals Samnee to be an absolute master of the comics page. Everything in the scene is dark, obscuring almost all details beside the two central figures. It not only keeps the conversation focused and builds tension, but it also poses the scene from Daredevil’s blind perspective. Then the Kingpin’s point of view is revealed in a stunning splash page. It’s the sort of page that requires you to linger for minutes without a single word on it, and is worth the price of admission by itself.

This one page may be the high point of the issue, but that shouldn’t undersell the rest of the experience. Samnee delivers several more revelations that make the power of a single page turn incredibly clear. Daredevil #16 feels like a busy issue because it is. There are a lot of characters and events all occurring in tandem. The weight of everything happening makes it possible to forget other parts of the story until they reappear, but when they do return, it’s never problematic.

Daredevil continues to surprise and astound with each issue. All of the madness introduced in #16 would overwhelm lesser talents, but Samnee and Waid juggle these plots almost with ease. Each significant moment lands, and the impact of some are enough to take your breath away. This is the setup for what looks to be a finale every bit as good as the series preceding it.

Grade: A-

Ninjak 4

Ninjak #4

Written by Matt Kindt

Art by Juan Jose Rup, Clay Mann, Seth Mann, and Marguerite Sauvage

Colors by Ulises Arreola

Ninjak #4 begins and ends on the same cliffhanger that concluded Ninjak #3. Ninjak is still exposed and still has the deadly, Medusa-like, assassin Roku lunging at him, but the tension is increased to even greater levels. The issue jumps away from this nail-biting moment in order to examine Roku’s origins and the bitter irony they add to what is happening.

Matt Kindt provides plenty of style to this origin story. It is told like a folktale with an impartial narrator and clear structure. Roku’s life before serving as an assassin extraordinaire is not completely detailed, instead the story focuses on how she was transformed into a woman who can control every cell in her body. It’s a fantastical narrative with ninjas and oni, each of whom provides a unique challenge. Kindt gives just enough detail about Roku’s motives and past to help readers make some leaps in logic. It’s this subtlety that makes the final pages, and return to the present, significantly tenser.

The base of this story is continued by Juan Jose Rup with assists from Clay and Seth Mann. Their slick style provides a baseline promising everything that happened to Roku, Japanese demons and all, really did happen. The inclusion of Marguerite Sauvage provides Ninjak #4 with a special spark though. Her soft, moralistic panels provide an old-world sensibility that highlights the folk lore aspects of Roku’s story. These inclusions feel as though they could have been lifted from a scroll, and provide a comparison to the modern narrative that is different, but never distracting.

Ninjak #4 jumps away from a heart-stopping cliffhanger, but still manages to make this break feel both important and worthwhile. Rather than distracting from what is happening, it make the present story all the more significant. It’s the sort of unique, one off, scripting at which Kindt excels, and the artistic team makes the issue feel even more special. The result is another great issue ofNinjak, fusing its own importance into a much larger narrative.

Grade: B

What did you think of this week’s comics? Sound off in the comments below.

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ComicBook Countdown for the Week of June 22

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 22, 2015. 

Countdown

Welcome back to ComicBook Countdown, ComicBook.com’s weekly walkthrough of the week’s biggest releases.

I refuse to buy into the Marvel versus DC narrative. They both have incredible rosters of characters and produce some top notch comics, movies, television, and video games. However, if we were going to talk about which of the Big Two was winning, this week wouldn’t even be a contest. DC is knocking it out of the part this week with the return of two of their best series and one of the most hotly anticipated games of 2015. It’s a great week to be a superhero fan, whether you’re reading their adventures or controlling them through a console.

Ted 2

5. Ted 2 | Universal Pictures

Seth MacFarlane’s record on the big screen is hit-and-miss. The less said about A Million Way To Die In The West, the better. Ted, on the other hand, is without a doubt his best movie so far. It’s as raunchy as anything MacFarlane touches, but had a surprising amount of heart too. Expectations are high for the sequel that will return the foul-mouthed bear to fight for marriage rights. There are plenty of ways the premise could go horribly wrong, but if MacFarlane pulls it off again, then we can all anticipate some riotous laughter on Friday.

Superman 41

4. Superman #41 | DC Comics

Superman is one series that has only continued to get better since its relaunch with the new 52. That upward trend is only going to continue with the addition of Gene Luen Yang on this flagship title. Yang has more than earned a few Eisners with comics likeAmerican Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints. He will be bringing his incredible character work and nuanced take on the American experience to Superman, along with John Romita Jr.’s explosive spin on the title. It’s a powerhouse team that is bound to deliver a memorable take on the world’s greatest superhero.

Batman Arkham Knight

3. Batman: Arkham Knight | Rocksteady Studios

I don’t play many video games, but Rocksteady’s Arkham series even managed to ensnare me. Arkham Asylum was the first time I recall really feeling like a superhero when playing a game, and Arkham City only improved on that treatment. The finale of this trilogy (we don’t count Origins) promises to provide even more fantastic action, clever puzzles, and loads of classic Batman characters. If you want to feel like the Dark Knight (and don’t we all?), this is the closest you’ll come in 2015.

Batgirl 41

2. Batgirl #41 | DC Comics

Batgirl  has been the best comic in DC’s roster since Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr, and Maris Wicks took over on layouts, art, and colors, respectively. Even the first few issues, which I picked some nits with were way too well told to dare look away. As the series continued it only got better. The finale of the first arc was a slam dunk, commenting on the legacy of Barbara Gordon’s Oracle alter-ego and tying together the previous five issues. As Tarr continues to improve her already impressive skills, and the series picks up momentum, it’s bound to continue as one of the best series at DC Comics. If you want to be schooled on how good superhero comics can look, then look no further.

Sex Criminals

1. Sex Criminals #11 | Image Comics

As much as I love some of the comics that DC is putting out this week, Sex Criminals is an almost-impossible act to top. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky have been met with rave reviews for every issue, and for good reason. It is a series that manages to be incredibly funny, deeply movie, and stupidly good looking on every page. When it comes to comics that show off just how ridiculous and potent the medium can be, Sex Criminals is one of the absolute best. After a few months away, fans of the series will be overjoyed to have it return. Everyone else should probably catch up.

What new comics, shows, and other releases are you looking forward to this week? Share in the comments below.

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Black Canary #1 Is Gorgeous, But Should Take Some Advice From Elvis

This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on June 22, 2015.

Black Canary - Review - Cover

Black Canary #1 is a beautiful debut, but that’s no surprise coming from artist Annie Wu and colorist Lee Loughridge. Even before the 8-page preview landed, there was little doubt that this dynamic duo would bring something very special to DC Comics’ Divergence relaunch. They prove these assumptions to be absolutely correct, and while Black Canary #1 is far from perfect, none of its major problems stem from the art.

Wu broke into comics in a big way, featured in the almost-concluded (one of these days) Hawkeye as the artist for all of Kate Bishop’s individual stories. Black Canary makes for an excellent point of transition, incorporating many of the strengths Wu has already shown off. It is a street-level, pop culture infused, action comic. Black Canary is touring as the lead singer of a rock group having to face off against thugs and stranger threats while raising money for her dojo. Perfect fit. Loughridge needs no introduction, having consistently ranked amongst the top colorists in comics for the past several years.

Black Canary 1 -Review - Action

The fight scenes in Black Canary are all about momentum. Canary (called D.D. by her bandmates) is a martial artist, and those skills are emphasized over her canary scream. Kicks and throws create a sense of flow, D.D.’s actions connecting and driving other characters with them. There is a fluidity to the violence that makes the smooth lines seem perfectly apropos for the brutality.

This grace extends to her time on stage as well. When she is moving about during a performance, it appears completely natural, comprised of a raw beauty. Wu has conceived of D.D. as a character who has complete control over her own body, no matter where else she may lack it. Whether she’s tossing a goon or leaping mid-performance, the choreography is intentionally perfect.

Black Canary - Review - Rock N Roll

Loughridge offsets this purposeful depiction with dirty, dusty nightclub settings. He captures the grit of a small-time concert perfectly with locales that may remind you of favorite hometown joints, rather than caricatures. The band and stages are still lit up with the harsh lights that small bands and venues can afford. They contrast wonderfully against the darkness that surrounds them and keeps a concise focus on the stars of the issue. Guitar sound effects are wonderfully lit as well, toeing a subtle line between the bright lights and dull walls.

Black Canary 1 - Review - Bus

Wu also continues to demonstrate a strong sense of design and fashion. Each member of the band expresses themselves in some small way through their choice of clothing. D.D. is functional, stylish, and rough around the edges with a gorgeous outfit composed of leather, buckles, and torn fishnets. Meanwhile, the band’s youngest members introduction in a cat jumpsuit (one that resembles Chip Zdarsky’s Garfield onesie) provides a lot of information in a panel where she isn’t even the focus. There are plenty of other great detail-rich panels like a cutaway of the tour bus throughout Black Canary #1 as well.

Once you dig beneath the action, visceral experience, and visual details, Black Canary begins to show a structure that is assembled like Ikea furniture minus a few steps. Brendan Fletcher’s script reads like a first draft. All of the elements, characters, plotting, and premise, introduced in Black Canary #1 are solid by themselves, but they never cohere properly. The missed potential begs the question of where the editors were to help refine this set of ideas into a fully functioning first issue.

Black Canary - Review - Heathcliff

The most egregious examples on display are the manner in which Fletcher introduces the band. When you meet the band’s manager/merch salesperson Heathcliff, you can tell right away that’s he’s the new guy, fresh outta school. You know this because he states that he’s “the new guy, fresh outta school.” Everyone states who they are, what they want, and how they relate to others. It’s important information, none of which ever rings true.

A variety of drama is ready to confront D.D. and her band, but the various conflicts are scattered, dividing the dramatic push and robbing the issue of much of its excitement. D.D. is trying to get her life back together, but there’s not a lot of detail as to what has gone wrong or how this solves those problems. She’s as much a cipher to the reader as the rest of the band. The constant fights that follow the band between gigs is played for laughs, and never feels like a real problem given D.D.’s imposing reputation. And the biggest problem, posed by shadow-like villains, is given too little shape to feel really frightening. They appear to threaten Ditto, but Ditto never gives readers a reason to care outside of being a talented child. Unable to state her motives like everyone else, she lacks personality altogether.

Black Canary #1 is a jumble of elements that fail to make a significant impression based on the story, but it moves so fast and looks so good that the failings in the script can easily be overlooked. None of the flaws present are fundamental to what comes next. Given some revision and a bit more thought, it’s a series that could easily match the gorgeous layouts, artwork, and colors on display with a streamlined story of equal merit. As Black Canarycontinues, it could afford to take some advice from one of the greatest performers to ever hit the stage: “A little less conversation, a little more action, please.”

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In The Game of Thrones, There Are No Villains

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 21, 2015.

Joffrey Baratheon - King

*Spoilers for Game of Thrones*

“Mother’s Mercy”, the title of the fifth season finale of Game of Thrones, rings with cruel irony at the end of the episode. There’s not a scrap of mercy to be found throughout it. Revenge, punishment, and betrayal are all there is.

While many of those who suffer in “Mother’s Mercy” are noble or kind hearted, like Jon Snow and Myrcella Baratheon, there are just as many less-than-pure characters who meet cruel fates. Cersei Lannister’s brutal walk of shame through King’s Landing serves as the episode’s centerpiece, while both Meryn Trant and Stannis Baratheon meet even worse ends.

Each of their terrible fates come as a result of their own terrible actions. They have murdered, lied, and raped to get where they are now. Yet the show does not present these final scenes as triumphant or fair. All three receive the same treatment as Jon or Myrcella when they are brought low. In Game of Thrones suffering is a constant, no matter who is experiencing it. There is no moral judgment to be found as the perceived villains of the series fall; they are shown to simply be people in the end.

Each of these three scenes focus upon the humanity of the victimized characters and the consequences of their suffering in different ways. The series’ perspective of the world and morality becomes easier to discern by examining how its worst characters fall.

Meryn Trant - Death

A Lonely Death in Braavos

Meryn Trant lacks redeemable qualities as much as any other character in Game of Thrones. He is the King’s Guard who slew Syrio Forel, beat Sansa Stark, and was recently revealed to be a pedophile. If he received more screen time, he would be just as hated as Ramsay Bolton. But his death does not depict a dangerous man being stopped, but a defenseless one suffering under the knife of a sadist. Once Arya gains the upper hand in their confrontation, she drags out his death as long as possible. He is framed to be smaller than her through most of the scene, shown to be powerless after his eyes are removed. The detail of his missing eyes also purposefully reflects the loss of Oberyn Martell, a beloved character, making it that much harder to ignore.

Arya’s treatment of Trant, in both his torture and death, reveal the act to be inherently cruel. She does not even attack Trant because he is harming children, but because he is the first name on her list. It is an attack motivated purely by revenge, a fact exposed as she draws out his death and makes sure he knows who she is. Furthermore, her pursuit of Trant ignores the even greater threat of a fraudulent insurer of sailors, who is leaving entire families to starve.

Trant’s death not only involves his own destruction, but that of Arya as well. While she considers herself stronger, we see her develop the type of monstrous traits she believes herself to be combatting. Arya is shown to be villainous, committing murder with the same relish as Gregor Clegane as he loomed over Oberyn.

Stannis Baratheon - Defeat

The Fall of Stannis Baratheon

Stannis is a character who has not been as openly villainous as Trant until recently. The choice to sacrifice his own daughter revealed a truly monstrous side of his character that had not been glimpsed since he murdered his own brother at the beginning of season two. Yet this choice led to his complete downfall. In the course of a single episode his wife kills herself, his closest advisor and half of his army abandon him, and he loses what is left in a battle. So when he is confronted by Brienne of Tarth, he is a man with nothing left to live for.

When Brienne first appears, he is shown on the ground bleeding, significantly smaller than his accuser. Again the power differential between these two characters is enormous. Brienne tells him why she is here and that she plans to execute him, to which he can only respond “Do your duty.” He is no longer a threat to anyone and nothing can be achieved from his execution except for Brienne’s own satisfaction.

Yet Brienne’s choice to pursue vengeance steers her away from her oath to protect Sansa Stark, and the first opportunity to aid her in a moment of need. Just as she makes her decision to pursue Stannis, Sansa lights a candle to call her, but it is too late. Stannis’ death (if he really is dead, no body is ever shown) has only worsened the situation of a good person struggling to survive.

Cersei Lannister - Walk of Shame

Shame, Shame, Shame

Just like Stannis, when Cersei meets her comeuppance, she is no threat to anyone. She has been removed from power and tortured by the Faith Militant. Being forced naked through the streets of King’s Landing to have insults, rotten food, and feces flung at her is simply the next step in a long journey through hell. The act is not one of penance for Cersei, but of empowerment for her captor, the High Sparrow.

The walk of shame is shot in an incredibly precise fashion. Handheld crowd shots emphasize the madness and fury of those who surround her. They mirror the audience, reflecting the bloodlust that has surrounded the character amongst the Game of Thrones fanbase. Meanwhile, constant close ups on Lena Headey reinforce her own humanity and suffering. Wider shots of Headey’s body double often loom above her form or force the audience to stare directly at her, again asserting her lack of power. She is not a monster in this scene, but a person ravaged by everyone around her.

At the end of the walk, Cersei has been left sobbing in the fetal position, broken by the people of King’s Landing. Yet she is not powerless. She is lifted by Ser Robert Strong, the unstoppable zombie creation of her associate Qyburn. This is not the end of Cersei Lannister. She has been restored to a position of power and given another reason to lash out at the people of King’s Landing. This is only the beginning of a worse world, driven by a Lannister who will undoubtedly live up to her house words: “Hear me roar.”

Joffrey Baratheon - Death

Winter Is Coming

Just as many “bad guys” as “good guys” fall in “Mother’s Mercy”, but nothing about the episode portrays these deaths as a sign of hope or balance. That has always been true within Game of Thrones, but never quite this obvious. Even when Joffrey Baratheon, the most hated and sadistic character in the show’s history, died his death was presented as a terrible moment. The camera frames him as a terrified, confused child dying in his mother’s arms, not a defeated monster.

What comes after all of this death is bound to be worse. Every act of vengeance and violence in Game of Thrones, no matter who it happens to, makes the show a darker place. Killing is shown to be an impotent act, claiming the lives of those who are no longer effective or allowing worse evils to fill their place. Even when heroes get revenge, they are lessened by the act and hurt others as a consequence.

The only true villains in Game of Thrones are the monsters that are coming from the North. White Walkers (referred to, purposefully, as The Others in the novels) and Wights are the only beings devoid of humanity. They are the true threat to the Seven Kingdoms, capable of ending every life, heroic, villainous, or otherwise.

There has been a cycle of violence from the beginning of the show, one that has encouraged everyone to ignore the true threat of the series. It has continued forward, seemingly without end, wiping out Starks and Lannisters, men and women, sadists and innocents. The only way to end that cycle is not to destroy one side or person, but to stop killing one another and prepare for winter. Until the characters of Westeros are ready to do that, they will continue to fail together.

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Five Comics That Would Fit Perfectly Into The World of True Detective

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on June 21, 2015.

True Detective Season 2

True Detective returns on HBO for its second season this Sunday. There’s an understandable buzz surrounding the premiere. The first season was a stellar achievement in television. Show creator Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukunaga constructed a complex story told in three time lines all hinging around a central mystery. Everything from the show’s cinematography to its cast was absolutely stunning, and fans are still discussing what it all meant one year later.

Season two will focus on an entirely different tale, shifting the setting from Louisiana to Southern California and replacing Hoodoo elements with political intrigue a la Chinatown. However, the tone and style of the anthology series will remain consistent. True Detective isn’t defined by Lovecraft references or Nietzsche quotes. It’s defined by fully-realized characters, examinations of moral ambiguity, and the dark, gritty mood that can only be summoned by the best of mysteries.

We’re in for another ten thrilling weeks of Pizzolatto’s breakout hit, but there’s no reason to wait a year between seasons or even a week between episodes. This style of story can be found in a variety of excellent comics being published right now. Here are five of the best comics on shelves today, all of which could easily fit into the world of True Detective.

Southern Bastards

1. Southern Bastards

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Jason Latour

It’s hard to imagine a story that better mirrors the mood of the first season of True Detective than Southern Bastards. Set in Alabama, rather than Louisiana, this series has delved into the darkness and corruption that haunt small town America. Football, BBQ, and murder are the staples of Craw County, a town with a long, dark history. Jason Aaron continues to provide new perspectives in each new arc, rather than focus the story through a central character. Their histories are told both in the past and present, revealing how good intentions came to naught and opportunities turned to ash.

Jason Latour has provided Southern Bastards with an inimitable style. It is just as dirty, mean, and raw as the characters and events it portrays. A limited color palette emphasizes red above all else, focusing on the blood and passion that drives the story. There are few better comics being published today than Southern Bastards and none that explore themes of crime, corruption, and the destructive power of history as well.

You can buy “Here Was A Man”, the first volume of Southern Bastards, here or at your local comic store.

High Crimes

2. High Crimes

Written by Christopher Sebela

Art by Ibrahim Moustafa

You can’t get much further away from the South than the setting of High Crimes: Mount Everest. However, this comic shows that no matter how far you may go, darkness will follow you. High Crimes details the story of Zan, an ex-Olympian and addict laying low as a guide in the Himalayas. The discovery of a body on Everest leaves her trapped in a game of cat-and-mouse with government operatives that will leave a lot more bodies on the mountain before it’s over.

High Crimes is the exciting digital first debut from two of the most notable rising stars in comics: Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa. They tell the story in two halves, focusing on Zan in the present and the man whose body may have doomed her more than 20 years earlier. The series has developed into an intense examination of both character’s addictions and inability to escape their past. Not only is it a top-notch crime-thriller, but it’s also only 99 cents an issue with a beautiful hardcover coming from Dark Horse in July.

You can buy High Crimes #1 here or pre-order the complete series at your local comic store.

The Fade Out

3. The Fade Out

Written by Ed Brubaker

Art by Sean Phillips

Just like the new season of True Detective, The Fade Out takes place in Los Angeles, but 60 years earlier. It’s set at the end of the Golden Age of Cinema and in the prime of American noir. Murder, conspiracy, cover ups, and child abductions are all part of the landscape here as well, but instead of being shrouded by the poverty of Louisiana, they’re covered by the exorbitant wealth of Hollywood. This combination of elements is so potent that the series already threatens to rival classics like L.A. Confidential (the novel or the movie).

This is no surprise coming from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips though, the all-star team of crime comics. They understand what makes these stories tic on every level. From the broad strokes of the plot to the finest details of Phillips’ panels, The Fade Out is a masterpiece in the making with an irresistible mystery at its heart.

You can buy the first volume of The Fade Out here or at your local comic store.

Stumptown

4. Stumptown

Written by Greg Rucka

Art by Justin Greenwood

This Portland based series presents a wide variety of cases from the perspective of private investigator Dex Parios. Murder and mayhem are not as prevalent as in series like Southern Bastards or High Crimes, but the character work and intrigue are every bit as good. Greg Rucka excels at writing mysteries and stubborn detectives, as evidenced in series like Gotham Central andWhiteout, and he does it here very well. Each case is well crafted and reveals new layers to Dex and her friends.

Previous volumes in the series have been drawn by Matthew Southworth, but Justin Greenwood has taken over for the newest adventures. He provides a slick take on Bridgetown, naturally embedding the cities geography into car chases and events. It’s bound to appeal to local residents as well as those who wish they lived there. Stumptown is a classic detective series with a lot going on beneath the surface of its hard-nosed protagonist.

You can buy “The Case of the King of Clubs”, the newest volume of Stumptown, here or at your local comic store.

Burning Fields

5. Burning Fields

Written by Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel

Art by Colin Lorimer

Burning Fields incorporates a lot of the horrific imagery and supernatural elements that fans of the first season of True Detective responded so strongly too. The series is set in the oil fields of Iraq during the American occupation. There a discharged veteran and Iraqi investigator must discover who is murdering and mutilating bodies at the drill site. There’s no Yellow King here, but there are definitely monsters, whether or not they’re human.

The comic is beautifully (or, rather, horrifically) drawn by Colin Lorimer who presents scenes and characters saturated in darkness. The gruesome mystery of the comic is given just enough detail to repel readers without sending them running to the hills. Burning Fields is a fearsome combination of mystery and horror that ought to delight fans of the stranger aspects of True Detective.

You can buy Burning Fields #1 here or at your local comic store.

Are you excited for the return of True Detective? What are some of your favorite comics set in this dark genre? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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