Comics We're Excited About for 2/3/2016

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Comics We're Excited About for 2/3/2016

There’s a good chance you, the refined reader, don’t even read this introduction text. You’re in a rush to get to the good stuff a mere click away in the gallery above—to mainline your sequential art fix for the week and get that sweet, sweet ink-on-paper goodness. We here at Paste can hardly blame you. If you are pausing to read our rambling nonsense, you’ll notice that we’ve bid adieu to master list-maker Tyler Kane (who lives on in the Books section reading and re-reading Infinite Jest into eternity) and have welcomed all-star contributor Tini Howard to round out our recommendation crew. Captain Sean Edgar and first matey Steve Foxe remain onboard to push our personal taste agendas and make sure the books we love don’t get canceled three seconds after they’re announced.

Happy incoming New Comic Book day, folks.

Dejah Thoris #1

Writer: Frank J. Barbiere
Artist: Francesco Manna
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

Before Dynamite tasked Gail Simone with leading a cadre of female creators on their typically male-written-and-drawn pulp adventure characters, few modern comic readers could be blamed for seeing Dejah Thoris' barely-there metal bikini and continuing down the racks. Edgar Rice Burroughs' Princess of Mars finally gets her due in this new solo series from writer Frank J. Barbiere and artist Francesco Manna. Barbiere ably brings new readers up to speed as an assassination plot leads to a dramatic new status quo for Thoris. The Five Ghosts scribe also does a particularly fine job making Thoris an independent, resourceful character without degrading her marriage to John Carter—the couple is supportive and stands on equal footing, but there are some things Thoris needs to do on her own. Manna, who has few American credits to his name, has a Mirko Colak vibe that meshes beautifully with the vibrant coloring from Morgan Hickman. Proof positive that nearly any character can be resuscitated with the right creative vision. Steve Foxe

Doctor Strange #5

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Publisher: Marvel Comics

It wouldn't be a Jason Aaron book if the main character wasn't staggering around, bleeding and beat to hell, would it? Doctor Strange is no different, showing us a version of the Sorcerer Supreme who spends his every waking moment exhausted, fighting back forces from other dimensions. Aaron's view into the Doctor's days and Chris Bachalo's beautifully disgusting illustrations will leave you with heartburn. It's hard to crave something that makes you feel so nauseous, but Aaron and Bachalo are doing it with every issue. And with the pace building and the arrival of the magician-hunting, horrifying Witchfinder Wolves, we're running out of ways to keep the acid down—something's definitely coming through the walls. Tini Howard

Kennel Block Blues #1

Writers: Ryan Ferrier
Artist: Daniel Bayliss
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Paste recommended Ryan Ferrier and Daniel Bayliss's Kennel Block Blues in our Most Anticipated of 2016 list, and publisher BOOM! posted the entire first issue for free on Tumblr in advance of the book's final cutoff order date, so there's no reason an informed comic aficionado should be clueless about this fever-dream take on anthropomorphized pound puppies. Ferrier, in addition to a prolific lettering career, is building an exciting bibliography of offbeat fan-favorites like D4ve and Curb Stomp, while artist Daniel Bayliss proved he could get weird on Translucid. Adopt don't shop doesn't apply here—plop down real money for this one. Steve Foxe

The Manhattan Projects Deluxe Edition Vol. 2

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Nick Pitarra
Publisher: Image Comics

The Manhattan Projects sounds like what might happen if you showed a distracted 10-year-old a sampling of Wikipedia pages about 20th-century figureheads, and then asked the kid what happens next? You might hear a never-ending ramble of misadventures punctuated by backstabbings, aliens and secret twins instead of halcyon memoirs and trips to the Hamptons. Manhattan Projects follows a similar template, but instead of ADD children riffing about ray guns, master storytellers Jonathan Hickman (Secret Wars) and Nick Pitarra cook up a twisted genre bombshell with deeply unsettling twists. (Also: ray guns.) The second deluxe edition collects issues 11 to 20, charting the further adventures of Einstein, Oppenheimer(s), Enrico Fermi and other alternate-reality sociopaths with unlimited resources and homicidal agendas. It's like high school history, except infinitely more entertaining and nauseating. Sean Edgar

Midnighter #9

Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: ACO
Publisher: DC Comics

Everyone's favorite ultraviolent Grindr user sets off to obtain the Perdition Pistol, this time in the employ of the mind-bending Spyral organization. It's hard to get enough of this beautifully weird corner of the DCU, which draws off everything from Batman, Inc. to the original Wildstorm lineup. This issue kicks off a two-part battle against upcoming cinematic darlings the Suicide Squad, so if you were looking for anyone to feed those guys a taste of their own unhinged medicine, Midnighter's the guy to do it. New fans drawn in by the series' GLAAD Media nomination are in for a bloody good time. Tini Howard

Mirror #1

Writer: Emma Rios
Artist: Hwei Lim
Publisher: Image Comics

Emma Rios is a familiar name to American audiences thanks to her ornate, flowing, poetic work on Pretty Deadly with writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and colorist Jordie Bellaire, and now stateside fans are finally able to see what she can accomplish from the writer's desk. Drawn by expressive Malaysian watercolor artist Hwei Lim, Mirror follows "a terrorist talking dog, an idealist mage, and a heroic lab rat" in a quest for acceptance. This ambition fits nicely in the rambling, loosely-affiliated company of 8house and Island, the Brandon Graham-curated creative paradise for creators pulling the bulk of their influence from Europe, Asia, and fine art instead of '90s superhero punch-ups. Steve Foxe

Prez Vol. 1

Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Ben Caldwell, Dominike Stanton
Publisher: DC Comics

Prez is the smartest comic book you're not reading. A reinterpretation of Joe Simon's '70s miniseries about a teenager fighting establishment politics (and, um, Count Dracula), Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell have crafted a subversively intelligent exploration of what it takes to get something done in a democratic government. In this first collection, corndog slinger Beth Ross goes from YouTube clown to Madame President after a voting fluke. Of course Ross' naiveté grants her a clarity untarnished by the political machine, but Prez also reveals insight on a number of relevant issues. Russell's grasp of Big Pharma, public relations and lobbying speaks to a profound familiarity with the topics he effortlessly parodies. Ben Caldwell brings more energy to this sci-fi comedy (how cool are those hologram masks?) than most superhero brawlers. His animated line work conveys the full spectrum of joy, disgust and horror that tend to accompany the careers of most politicians. Instead of superficially mirroring the current presidential race, Prez has veered into something weirder, funnier and more affecting. Sean Edgar

The Sheriff of Babylon #3

Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Publisher:Vertigo/DC Comics

The Sheriff of Babylon is a murder mystery set during the fallout of Sadam Hussein's rule, though the audience is fully aware of who murdered whom and why they did so. Writer Tom King takes full advantage of Alfred Hitchcock's advice to let the watcher feel empathy through the characters instead of themselves. Watching police trainer Christopher, diplomat Sofia and disgruntled ex-cop Nassir collide and repel is far tenser than any Agatha Christie clue-finding exercise could be—and more addictive. But it's the small details and delicious slivers of characterization that make this dissection of unilateral politics so impressive. In a subject that's often morally simplified, King calls upon his years as a CIA agent to explore a world with onion layers of morality. When Sofia states, "There is something about dirty Arab children that makes senators say yes," there's a dark realization that countless variations of this conversation fuel every warfare and reconstruction scenario. This third chapter cements The Sheriff of Babylon as a thinking man's comic grounded in realpolitik horror, where the corpses of patriotism litter yesterday's battlefields. Sean Edgar

Spider-Man #1

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Publisher: Marvel Comics

By the time it reached the end of its first decade in existence, the Ultimate line seemed doomed to increasingly diminished returns, guilty of outliving its core directive of modernized, continuity-light takes on decades-old properties simply because it lasted long enough to become complicated and not-so-thoroughly modern. While not every Ultimate comic pulled out from that tailspin, Brian Michael Bendis steered the pioneering Ultimate Spider-Man series into a rollicking success by introducing Miles Morales, a brand-new inheritor to the Spider-Man name. Beyond grabbing headlines for killing Peter Parker and putting a multiracial teen in webbed tights, Bendis and original series artist Sara Pichelli crafted a complicated, compelling instant fan-favorite. It's no surprise that Miles survived Secret Wars and made it onto the core Avengers squad, but this new 616-set solo title is where fans can expect a full dose of Morales humor and pathos—as well as the secrets behind Miles' introduction to the wider Marvel U. Steve Foxe

Was She Pretty?

Writer/Artist: Leanne Shapton
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Was She Pretty? stems from an unfortunate encounter cartoonist Leanne Shapton's had with an unwise paramour. While crashing at his place for the first time, Shapton encountered a litany of pictures and reminders of her new BF's ex, which is more of a red heresy than a red flag. Instead of getting drunk and swearing off men for three months, the cartoonist produced a series of (mostly) two-page portraits revolving around her friends' imploded relationships. Shapton appears to live in a very Bohemian community within Brooklyn, so expect many models, artists, classical music composers and heiresses from foreign countries waxing philosophical on their singlehood, but this experiment offers a touching humanism despite its understated glamour. These pages swim in anxiety, the skeletal illustrations less significant than the enveloping white space around them asking what could have been? Example: "Graham kept a number of girlfriends on the go. He made them all the same mixed CD—a compilation of romantic and meaningful songs." Maybe in the sequel Not a Fraction as Pretty As You, Graham will be castrated in an industrial fan accident. Sean Edgar

The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 3

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Jamie McKelvie, Tula Lotay, Stephanie Hans, Various
Publisher: Image Comics

The worthy follow-up to The Faust Act and Fandemonium, the third volume of The Wicked + The DivineCommercial Suicide—delivers the back-stories of several of the burn-bright-and-burn-fast gods while still managing to advance the greater mysteries at work in the series. Various guest artists (including Paste Songs Illustrated contributor Tula Lotay) step in to illustrate the world through the eyes of the young pop-star deities, while series co-creator Jamie McKelvie provides the incredibly clever Woden issue—remixed, like an EDM acid trip, from earlier comic panels. As always with WicDiv, you'll put this one down screaming. Tini Howard