Required Reading: Comics for 10/19/2016

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Required Reading: Comics for 10/19/2016

One of Marvel’s biggest new launches hits stands this week, which should come as a welcome respite for the publisher as it takes a sales beating in the wake of DC’s hyper-successful Rebirth initiative. Infamous Iron Man, written by Civil War II scribe Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by his longtime collaborator Alex Maleev, won’t singlehandedly push Marvel back to sales dominance, but the House of Ideas could surely use a hit this month. On the other side of the Big Two aisle, DC’s Rebirth train keeps chugging along, as does the Gerard Way-curated Young Animal imprint, which drops perhaps its most bizarre title, Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye, cowritten by Way and Jon Rivera and drawn by artist Michael Avon Oeming. If doom-ified Iron Men and gonzo retro reboots aren’t your thing, this mid-October Wednesday is a surprisingly good week for all-ages fare thanks to a heroic bear, a super-pooch and a very lazy cat. All of this plus some aging rockers, bold tie-ins and vampire-bashing teenagers make up this week’s Required Reading.

A Piggy's Tale TPB

Writer: Tod Emko
Artist: Ethan Young
Publisher: Bohemian Press

Kids books, comics included, can be pretty hit-or-miss. Sometimes they treat kids like miniature adults who don't swear, other times they reduce them to little idiots. But every once in a while, a creative team makes something special, a story that's both fun and meaningful; A Piggy's Tale is certainly that. Created by Tod Emko and Ethan Young, it tells the story of a dog with three legs who teams up with a feisty cat and a girl who can talk to animals to save the pets of New York City. A Piggy's Tale is sweet without being cloying, full of both adventure and relevancy. The series was inspired by Emko's real-life tripod dog, and the team has created educational programs focusing on literacy, disability and animal welfare taught around the world. Young's art, like his work in his Eisner-nominated Nanjing: The Burning City and The Battles of Bridget Lee: Invasion of Farfall, is strong, grounding the story in reality. The trade collects all four issues of A Piggy's Tale and is absolutely worth picking up. Caitlin Rosberg

Black Hammer #4

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dean Ormston
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Jeff Lemire's exploration of a rural, dream-like (surrural?) town and the family of retired superheroes inexplicably trapped in its borders continues to be one of the most moody, captivating titles from the author in years. The comic pivots from the nostalgic battles of the characters' pasts to the conflicts raging inside their heads as they navigate involuntary retirement. This chapter focuses on Abraham Slam, the only member of the clan content with the new, decompressed status quo. Slam hesitantly invites his new waitress paramour to a family dinner, a scenario more perilous than any of the world-breaking fisticuffs he hosted in his younger years. Ultimately, Black Hammer is an accessible, articulate comic that would be welcome to fans of post-prime-time series like The Leftovers and The Path, drawn with sinewy darkness by Dean Ormston. Sean Edgar

Black Hood: Season 2 #1

Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Greg Scott
Publisher: Dark Circle/ Archie Comics

It frequently feels like Archie's biggest hurdle to success is nailing a regular release schedule. Duane Swierczynski's first run on Black Hood was praised for its shockingly dark aesthetic, but it wasn't always clear when a new issue was hitting stands (a problem that also plagues publisher siblings like Afterlife with Archie). Relaunching with a "second season" should help remind crime fans to check out the hardened take on the vigilante, brought to life by Greg Scott's capably noir-ish artwork. If you're a fan of Punisher and the gone-too-soon Nighthawk, Black Hood looks to be a worthwhile addition to your pull list. Steve Foxe

Buffy: The High School Years: Glutton for Punishment

Writer: Kel McDonald
Artist: Yishan Li
Publisher: Dark Horse

Supernatural teen dramas tend to work best so long as the teens stay...well, teens. Or, at the very least, young-ish. Protracted angst and repetitive story arcs can bring down even the most compelling monster-of-the-week franchises after too long. So it's gratifying to see one of the best of the genre returning to its roots. Buffy: The High School Years: Glutton for Punishment is unlike the other Buffy titles out right now, which extend beyond the run of the TV show, instead taking readers back to the years when the Scoobies were still stuck in homeroom. Writer Kel McDonald has already proven her chops when it comes to wrangling casts full of young people, especially young women, and she's got a talent for snark that will serve a Buffy book very well. Since it's completely self-contained and gorgeously illustrated by Yishan Li, Glutton for Punishment would make a great gateway drug for Buffy fans who don't normally read comics. If they dig it, hand them Paper Girls, Gotham Academy or Giant Days next. Caitlin Rosberg

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye

Writers: Jon Rivera, Gerard Way
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Publisher: DC Comics/Young Animal

Gerard Way's new pop-up imprint at DC Comics, Young Animal, has firmly ushered the late '80s into the 21st century. The publishing branch channels concepts, characters and attitudes associated with the post-modern renaissance at the comic publisher, defined by comic industry icons like writer Grant Morrison and editor Karen Berger. And, thus far, Young Animal has been pretty damn great. Whereas recent releases Doom Patrol and Shade, The Changing Girl reintroduce comics from that era, Cave Caron's origins are far more obscure. A spinoff of Jack Kirby's Challengers of the Unknown, spelunker Carson has served more as a complement to other antique titles and teams, including Sea Devils and Forgotten Heroes, than a leading man. Way teams with online comics veteran Jon Rivera to boost Carson into the spotlight with this new comic, illustrated with pulpy Golden Age finesse by Michael Avon Oeming. The biggest draw here is the sheer ambiguity; Carson is an empty canvas for the team to show how weird and innovative this new project can truly get. Sean Edgar

Garfield's Big Fat Hairy Adventure

Writers: Scott Nickel, Mark Evanier, Liz Prince
Artists: Antonio Alfaro, Dave Alvarez, Liz Prince
Publisher: KaBOOM!/ BOOM! Studios

KaBOOM!'s OGN program has resulted in some stupendous standalone outings for licensed properties like Regular Show and Adventure Time (the latter of which served as a proving ground for prolific writer and cartoonist Kate Leth). But despite being one of the imprint's best-known licenses, lasagna-loving fat cat Garfield hasn't gotten an extended-length story of his own—until now. Unlike the popular Cartoon Network properties at KaBOOM!, Garfield is aimed squarely at kids and nostalgic adults, with little attempt to raise the bar beyond Jim Davis' well-known template. And why should there be? If you're a fan of the sardonic feline, you know what you're here for: Garfield lazily terrorizing Odie, Nermal, Jon Arbuckle and anyone else who gets in the way of his naps. Hashtag relatable. Steve Foxe

Herobear and the Kid 2016 Fall Special #1

Writer/Artist: Mike Kunkel
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Mike Kunkel's linework is unmistakable. A former animator on Disney features including Hercules and Tarzan, Kunkel exercises a uniformity and exaggeration that swim through the panels of Herobear and the Kid, a comic that's been periodically popping up since 2003. Herobear and the Kid 2016 Fall Special lets the artist fully embrace the visual eccentricity of the season, populating this charming one-shot with a parade of mummies, pirates, vikings and T-Rexes. The monochrome pages can feel like a bummer at first, but Kunkel allows Herobear's cape to shine crimson, emphasizing the optimism and imagination at the heart of this book. An ornately crafted work of pure comics escapism, Herobear and the Kid is the perfect treat as we near Halloween. Sean Edgar

Infamous Iron Man #1

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Marvel's much-hyped decision to replace Tony Stark with Riri Williams, a black teenage genius, is somewhat muted by its simultaneous decision to also replace him with Victor Von Doom, feelin' fresh and scar-free from Secret Wars and newly cast as a foil for the billionaire futurist. There are echoes of Norman Osborn's stint in the Iron Patriot suit from Marvel's Dark Reign era, but Infamous Iron Man writer Brian Michael Bendis orchestrated that era, too, and is (hopefully) conscious of not repeating the same beats. Alex Maleev, fresh off of the somewhat superfluous International Iron Man (they've got to be running out of I-adjectives) brings his photorealist A-game, helping to distinguish Doom's suited adventures from Stefano Caselli's work with Riri in the pages of Invincible. Steve Foxe


Writer: Amy Chu
Artist: Kewber Baal
Publisher: Dynamite

KISS styled themselves as fictional characters long before they licensed their likenesses to comics, cartoons and McFarlane action figures, with a heavy-metal image that's never quite matched their slightly softer sonic reality. Who cares—KISS is about having a good time and rocking and rolling all night. If you have to question it, you're not their target audience. After a long stint away from the comic shelves, Dynamite is reviving the Demon, the Starchild, the Spaceman and the Catman under the guidance of hardworking writer Amy Chu and artist Kewber Baal in some sort of post-apocalyptic, Blade Runner-inspired sci-fi romp. Break out your biggest hair and just go with it. Steve Foxe

Midnighter Vol. 2: Hard

Writers: Steve Orlando, Brian K. Vaughan, Christos N. Gage, Peter Milligan
Artists: ACO, Hugo Petrus, David Messina, Others
Publisher: DC Comics

Yes, DC approved titling the second volume of Steve Orlando and ACO's critically acclaimed Midnighter run Hard, yet another small triumph for DC's gay little book that could. This volume wraps up the DC You run just in time for readers looking for a refresher before diving into Midnighter and Apollo, Orlando's recently launched follow-up miniseries with artist Fernando Blanco. Orlando managed to weave together Wildstorm lore, a healthy dose of Morrison-era JLA nostalgia and a successfully integrated Suicide Squad crossover without decentralizing his hyper-violent murder-hero. ACO (helped along by a few fill-in artists) made sure Midnighter was one of the best-looking books on stands. Hopefully Warren Ellis' The Wild Storm takes note of what worked here. Bonus: this volume contains a few issues of previous Midnighter runs, as well as a Valentine's Day short. Steve Foxe