Comics We’re Excited About For 5/6/2015

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Rejoice, comic shop owners! It’s gonna be a busy week.

With Free Comic Day, the Avengers back on the big screen and Marvel’s Secret Wars launching, this Wednesday might see some elbows bumping in front of the new release shelves. Also—it’s crazy coincidental that all lined up in the course of one weekend, right? But, while you’re in the store, there are plenty more titles to add to your stack. From Archie to Wonder Woman to Valiant’s latest crossover epic—and yeah, a few Marvel gems—we’ve listed our own favorite picks below.


Afterlife with Archie #8

Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artists: Francesco Francavilla
Publisher: Archie Comics

Lame joke alert: the only thing slower than the shambling undead is this book’s release schedule. Issue #7 hit stands in December, but each new dose of this ghastly take on America’s favorite teenagers reminds us that the wait is worth it. Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa pulls no punches maiming and mangling Riverdale’s finest, and artist Francesco Francavilla brings it all to deliciously gory life. Afterlife has been wise to wear its influences on its rotting sleeve: the story kicked off with a straight Pet Sematary riff and this issue promises a full-on dose of The Shining as the survivors hole up in a hotel over Christmas to discuss dark pasts and, yes, twincest. Archie Comics is really making up for the Spire years with this series. Steve Foxe



Baltimore: Cult of the Red King #1

Writers: Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden
Artist: Peter Bergting
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s Baltimore story is an interesting cousin to the core Mignolaverse. Baltimore’s WWI-era Europe is definitely not Hellboy’s world, but fans of Mignola’s folklore-and-legend approach to storytelling will find plenty of shadow-steeped supernatural horror to like. A word of warning, though: there are no likable, quirky supporting characters to be found here, only one grim man’s relentless quest to eradicate the forces of darkness. Swedish artist Peter Bergting joined the series with The Witch of Harju and continues to ably fill the void left by original artist Ben Stenbeck, who continues to provide striking covers. Steve Foxe



Dead Drop #1

Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Adam Gorham
Publisher: Valiant Comics

Valiant’s shared universe is still small enough to allow crossovers like this and The Valiant—self-contained stories that don’t spill over into every distantly related solo title—that are practically nonexistent at the tie-in happy Big Two. Ales Kot’s brain typically spawns experimental, out-there fare like The Surface, but Secret Avengers and a too-brief stint on Suicide Squad prove he can rein in his philosophical musings to tell a solid licensed action story, too. Joined here by Adam Gorham, one of his many Zero collaborators, Kot should be firmly in his wheelhouse creating an episodic conspiracy story starring Valiant’s finest in a race to stop the release of a biological weapon devised from Vine technology (the malevolent alien species who created the XO Manowar armor, not the six-second looping video app). Steve Foxe



Descender #3

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Publisher: Image

The last issue of Jeff Lemire’s Descender was an emotional roller coaster for a lot of us at Paste. Like, there may or may not have been an email exchange about tears shed while reading the thing. And while comic fans packed theaters this weekend to see the cold, calculated world of AI in the new Avengers movie, Jeff Lemire is showing the flip-side of that coin in the more-human-than-human AI tale, Descender. Issue #2 saw our hero, the boy-like TIM-21, in a perilous situation, and its third issue will unpack the aftermath. Descender hits me with that same, unexpected lump in my throat near the end of WALL-E all those years back—that same bummer feeling when you see a creature, designed to perform mechanical tasks, discovering its humanity. Difference is, Lemire doesn’t take an hour and a half of wordless dialogue to drum up that feeling. Tyler R. Kane



Jim Henson’s Storyteller: Witches Hardcover

Writers/Artists: S.M. Vidaurri, Kyla Vanderklugt, Matthew Dow Smith and Jeff Stokely, Others
Publisher: Archaia

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Witches resembles the cult ‘90s show it’s based on in less obvious ways than the arcane subject matter: both are undeniably imaginative, eclectic and deserve far more recognition than they ever received. This hardcover collects the four standalone issues behind Archaia’s miniseries, showing a spectrum of enchantresses in such diverse cultures as ancient Japan, Ireland, Russia and England. The art and passion behind these tales cast a potent spell. Cartoonists S.M. Vidaurri, Kyla Vanderklugt, Matthew Dow Smith and Jeff Stokely each employ vastly different aesthetics that nonetheless operate as a seamless whole. Last chapter,“Vasilissa the Beautiful,” takes special note for Henson historians; it’s based on an unused teleplay from the show that’s also included in the back matter. Simply put, this book is all-ages wonderful, an intoxicating example that Jim Henson’s magic is truly timeless when channeled through the right wands. Sean Edgar


Mad Max: Fury Road Inspired Artists Deluxe Edition

Artists: So Very Many
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo

Leave it to a country birthed from a British penal colony to create one of the dirtiest, grimiest, lawless properties in all of cinema. Australian director George Miller’s Mad Max series has aged spectacularly well in an era when the apocalypse tends to be on everyone’s mind and Oprah includes Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in her book club. But Max offers one thing other end time porn depressingly lacks: fun. Where else can you watch a man bungie jump around a cage with a chainsaw while Tina Turner watches?

Fortunately, the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road looks to revel in that same lunacy and dust-suffocated action opera. Many of comicdom’s finest artists apparently agree, contributing a hardcover’s worth of pinups celebrating a man avenging his family in the most wild of outbacks. Mike Allred, Teddy Kristiansen, R.M. Guera, Dave McKean (!), Tula Lotay, Paul Pope and many, many others contribute portraits of automobile anarchy in this handsome collection. Sean Edgar



Rocket Girl #6

Writer: Brandon Montclare
Artist: Amy Reeder
Publisher: Image Comics

The second arc of Rocket Girl finally begins this week, nearly a year to the day since the previous issue hit stands. Long delays can spell doom for any series, let alone an independent, creator-owned book, but artist Amy Reeder is a fan favorite and protagonist DaYoung Johansson’s time travel shenanigans should resonate with new fans who have been drawn to the medium in the last twelve months. Hopefully the long wait means the next few issues are in the can and will stick to a more consistent schedule—if not, we can just pretend the series itself is traveling through time. Steve Foxe



Secret Wars #1

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Esad Ribic
Publisher: Marvel

Despite being preceded by 77 plus issues of backstory, Secret Wars #1 expertly straddles a tightrope of immensity and accessibility. Seeing as its author, Jonathan Hickman, also crafted one of Marvel’s finest event comics in Infinity only a few short years ago, this development isn’t terribly surprising. Secret Wars punctuates a plot launched in 2012 in which all of the realities under the Marvel umbrella inexplicably begin to collide with and destroy one another. Only two now remain: the original Marvel 616 reality (home to the mainstream tales of The Avengers, X-Men and Spider-Man) and the Ultimate Universe (a 2000 editorial line that repurposed classic characters in a realpolitik modern setting).

We can all confidently assume that the most successful imprint in comics is approaching a complete reboot—most likely incorporating the plot beats of its unfathomably lucrative film cousins—but how Hickman and artist Esad Ribic get there proves feverishly cool. The art zooms from isolating expanses of textured deep space to the very human panic of the characters we’ve adored for decades. The narrative likewise balances colorful asides (Punisher has a sublime moment) with moments of sci-fi immensity. Welcome to an event book that may just deserve its hype. Sean Edgar


We Can Never Go Home #2

Writer: Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon
Artist: Josh Hood
Publisher: Black Mask

This Black Mask title explores an ages-old comic story—young kids coping with powers at a young age—but Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon have still somehow scooped out a fresh take on the tired trope. As a result, comic fans are aching to get their hands on Issue 2, which follows the aftermath of Madison and Duncan uprooting and heading out on the road after a fatal encounter. It’s a fresh story rooted in subtle flashes of the late-‘80s, and we’re guessing a lot of comic fans will feel right at home with the title. Tyler R. Kane



The Wicked + The Divine #10

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Jamie McKelvie
Publisher: Image

The Wicked + The Divine is about to celebrate its first birthday this June, but the series’ puzzle-piece storyline is just starting to fall into place—at a high cost, too. “The Pantheon”—a group of deities who merged with human bodies for a fame-filled, albeit brief, stay on earth—has already lost some major players. But after issue #9’s intense look at the Pantheon’s elder guardian, it looks like huge wheels are turning in the WicDiv world. And if you’re not already on-board, catching up is still as easy as Image’s ultra-cheap trade paperback and a few loose issues. Tyler R. Kane



Wonder Woman ’77 Special #1

Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artists: Drew Johnson, Matt Haley
Publisher: DC Comics

How can you look at that gorgeous Nicola Scott cover and not immediately begin humming the television theme song to yourself? While DC’s primary offerings are increasingly divisive for longtime fans, the digital-first editorial team has consistently put out some of the publisher’s strongest titles, from surprisingly long-lasting tie-in hit Injustice: Gods Among Us to the nostalgia-tinged charm of Batman ‘66. Lynda Carter’s live-action adventures may not spin into an ongoing comic like the campy stylings of Adam West and Burt Ward, but this fun throwback is the perfect antidote for anyone weary of arm blades and super boyfriends. Steve Foxe