Goddess Mode, Miles Morales: Spider-Man, The Batman Who Laughs & More in Required Reading: Comics for 12/12/2018

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<i>Goddess Mode</i>, <i>Miles Morales: Spider-Man</i>, <i>The Batman Who Laughs</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 12/12/2018

Ho ho ho, Christmas edges ever closer…and we’re running out of different ways to say so. Regardless of whether or not you acknowledge the high capitalist holy day, the lovable giant machine of comic publishing grinds on, offering new sagas every Wednesday (not literally a new Saga every Wednesday, though—that book is on hiatus). As if in a mad rush to get books on shelves before Christmas really revs up, this week sees every major publisher pushing out some big guns, from the return to Miles Morales at Marvel to a duo of devilish Batmen at DC Comics. Giant Days gets a special December treat, joined from publisher BOOM! Studios by the decidedly more controversial Sons of El Topo. Magic: The Gathering makes comic inroads, Hellboy celebrates another holiday (or three) and Zoë Quinn’s highly anticipated comic debut finally lands in readers’ eager hands. Make some extra space in your stocking—it’s Required Reading time.

Animal Man by Grant Morrison Book One 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Writer: Grand Morrison
Artists: Chas Truog, Others
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics
With Grant Morrison’s return to monthly DC Comics for The Green Lantern—and the upcoming holiday gift-giving season—the timing couldn’t be better for a re-release of one of his best works at the publisher. Animal Man by Grant Morrison Book One doesn’t collect the entire run of Morrison’s Animal Man, but it does hold the first 10 issues plus Secret Origins #39, including a story where Buddy Baker is called in to help investigate a theft involving a vaccine for AIDS. Morrison has a skill for dramatic superhero stories with enough adventure to balance out the emotional weight and ethical ruminations, and his work on Animal Man is no different. Though several of the artists that Morrison worked with on this run may not be very familiar to fans who’ve recently come to comics, this book can act as an excellent primer on what comics, animal rights activism and Morrison’s increasingly experimental approach were all about in the late ‘80s, to say nothing of the deep-cut additions that the book made to DC canon. Caitlin Rosberg

Batman: Damned #2

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Lee Bermejo
Publisher: DC Black Label/ DC Comics
After the ruckus caused by Bat-nudity in the quickly censored first issue, fans should get their hands on Batman: Damned #2 as quickly as possible. There definitely won’t be any similar bare skin after the outcry in September, but Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s foray into the darker side of Gotham forges ahead with grit. The book continues to lead the Black Label imprint, and carries the weight of a lot of expectations, which the first issue did nothing to diminish. The Joker is dead, and the second issue finds Batman delving further into Gotham’s darker corners. The guest stars for this issue indicate Batman will be confronting internal issues and beliefs just as much as external threats, with Deadman and the Spectre both making appearances along with the ultimate inner demon, Etrigan. The story promises to be grand and cinematic, and Bermejo’s painterly, detailed art rarely disappoints. It might not be the best introductory Batman book for new readers, but it’s definitely something fans of the character should check out. Caitlin Rosberg

The Batman Who Laughs #1

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jock
Publisher: DC Comics
Do you like the Clown Prince of Crime? If you don’t, DC Comics sure does. In addition to Batman: Damned above, the publisher launches The Batman Who Laughs this week, a six-issue series from Scott Snyder and Jock that spins out of the character’s appearance in Justice League. The Batman Who Laughs, introduced in Dark Nights: Metal, is a Jokerized Bruce Wayne by way of Hellraiser, and this mini-series introduces yet another evil Bruce: a Punisher-esque version who killed Joe Chill with the criminal’s own gun on the night of his parents’ murder. Grim! If you’re a fan of Jock’s angular, horror-tinged ink work, or Snyder’s complicated, gonzo-science-y take on Batman’s deductive reasoning, The Batman Who Laughs is a shot of Joker toxin straight from the heart (in the most literal way popular). For those less enthused by either the Snyder or the Tom King Bat-era, Batman Annual #3 from Tom Taylor and Otto Schmidt is also out this week, and provides an emotionally uplifting look at one of the Dark Knight’s few treasured relationships. Steve Foxe

DC New Talent Showcase 2018 #1

Creators: Ryan Cady, Isaac Goodhart, Sanya Anwar, Magdalene Visaggio, Others
Publisher: DC Comics
It seems that DC Comics’ ambitious talent program is laying low for the time being, following several rounds that helped elevate creators like Matthew Rosenberg, Michael Moreci, Joëlle Jones and Christopher Sebela. While the structured workshops most often led to work for creators who already had published comic credits at other major publishers, each class was nevertheless a fascinating snapshot of the ever-changing creative landscape, and 2018’s graduates are no exception. This anthology showcase has been a long time coming—several included students, like Magdalene Visaggio, Philip Kennedy Johnson and Isaac Goodhart, have published or completed substantial DC projects since “graduating”—but it’s worth the wait to see what Scott Snyder’s pupils do when turned loose on DC’s biggest toys. Infinite Dark’s Ryan Cady teams with Goodhart for a Zatanna story, Sanya Anwar and Priscilla Petraites take a crack at British punk mystic John Constantine, Visaggio and artist Aneke contribute a Wonder Woman tale and that’s just half of what this issue has to offer. While there’s no guarantee every creator within this extra-sized issue will become a DC star of tomorrow, previous classes suggest one or two of them might just have a shot. Get a first peek now so you can say you knew them way back when. Steve Foxe

Giant Days: Early Registration

Writer/Artist: John Allison
Publisher: BOOM! Box/ BOOM! Studios
Giant Days is a phenomenon that, frankly, doesn’t get the love it should around Paste’s hallowed halls. Daisy, Esther, Susan and the others have comprised one of the brightest and most engaging casts of characters in recent memory—in any medium—and now BOOM! Studios is making it easier than ever for fans to discover their earliest university adventures. Before Bad Machinery cartoonist John Allison teamed up with artists like Lissa Treiman and Max Sarin to launch the proper Giant Days series in print, he wrote and drew Giant Days stories solo, and Early Registration, out in comic shops this week, collects those first-quarter university misadventures for the first time. Whether you (or your gift recipient) is a Giant Days diehard or a newcomer to the story, Early Registration is just about the only school-related read that won’t elicit a groan this holiday season. Steve Foxe

Goddess Mode #1

Writer: Zoë Quinn
Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics
Zoë Quinn is a woman of many talents, a game maker and Hugo Award-nominated author with experience both speaking in public and being the subject of a lot of public scrutiny. Goddess Mode is her first foray into mainstream comics as a creator, and the killer combination of Quinn and Robbi Rodriguez is more than enough to get a lot of eyes on the book. It’s a big week for Rodriguez, with this book hitting shelves and the wide release of Spider-Man: Edge of the Spider-Verse bringing Spider-Gwen, a character he co-created, to the big screen for the first time. In Goddess Mode, a young women strains under the pressure of doing tech support for an omnipresent and powerful A.I. that runs the world. When she discovers a group of women who are fighting one another for control of that technology, her life changes forever. It sounds like pure cyberpunk, Snow Crash meets Ghost in the Shell, and perhaps the heir to Devin Grayson’s User, a sharp and tech-savvy new adventure bathed in stunning art and brilliant neon thanks to Rodriguez and longtime collaborator Rico Renzi. Caitlin Rosberg

Hellboy Winter Special 2018 #1

Creators: Mike Mignola, Ben Stenbeck, Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá & Tonci Zonjic
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Most major publishers offer some sort of holiday-themed one-off or anthology in December, but few can match Hellboy’s Yuletide spirit. Last year brought us the Krampus-focused Hellboy: Krampusnacht, which earned creators Mike Mignola and Adam Hughes a coveted Eisner Award for Best Single Issue. We won’t hold the Hellboy Winter Special 2018 to the same exacting standards, but we’d be lying if we didn’t admit to high hopes given the assembled talent. Like the recent Hellboy & the B.P.R.D.: 1956 launch, this one-shot features three short stories illustrated by different artists, and at least two of the tales have strong precedents: frequent Lobster Johnson artist Tonci Zonjic draws and writes a Lobster story; lauded twin illustrators Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá return to the world of B.P.R.D.: Vampire; and Mignola teams up with Baltimore artist Ben Stenbeck for the story of a séance gone wrong. Hellboy is one of the most consistent bets in comics, and his Christmastime outings never disappoint. Also out from publisher Dark Horse Comics this week: the Cthu-Louise one-shot from Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer, which sees Lemire reteaming with Plutona’s Emi Lennox for a focus on a tentacle-faced lil’ girl. Steve Foxe

Magic: The Gathering: Chandra #1

Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Harvey Tolibao
Publisher: IDW Publishing
It didn’t take long for former Marvel editor Daniel Ketchum to make the most of his new position in the Wizards of the Coast art department, as he was announced earlier this year as the editor of WotC’s collaboration with IDW Publishing on brand-new Magic: The Gathering comic stories set in the world of the popular card game. The debut series in the partnership stars franchise hothead Chandra, a Planeswalker (which hopefully means something to M:tG fans) and pyromancer who takes on her own hero’s journey following an unspeakable tragedy. Guiding this inaugural adventure is rising star Vita Ayala, who is also lending their skills to Marvel’s current Marvel Knights series, a number of DC anthologies, Black AF: Devil’s Dye, Valiant’s Livewire and several creator-owned series like The Wilds and Submerged. Joining Ayala is artist Harvey Talibao, who is known for a cheesecake-heavy take on traditional superheroic art. The world of M:tG has ample fans the world over, and with few lore offerings beyond the cards themselves, they should be hungry to collect these new canon stories about their favorite pastime. Steve Foxe

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1

Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Javier Garron
Publisher: Marvel Comics
After an unexpectedly long hiatus, Marvel finally has a solid duo of new creators guiding Miles Morales, just in time for the character’s big-screen animated debut. Morales, the teenage Spider-Man co-created by Brian Michael Bendis, was written almost solely by Bendis until he signed an exclusive contract with competitor DC Comics late last year. Miles Morales: Spider-Man (blessedly not named Spy-D, as was once rumored) finds Eisner Award-winning Black Bolt writer Saladin Ahmed teaming up with “Young Gun” artist Javier Garron and cover artist Brian Stelfreeze, who drew Ta-Nehisi Coates’s initial Black Panther run. Based on this first issue, which does offer the expected amount of catch-up for new or lapsed readers, Miles Morales: Spider-Man will focus on the youthful Spider-Man as a community hero dealing with both costumed drama and massive real-world problems like human trafficking, and will pair Miles with classic Spidey foe the Rhino in the opening arc. If seeing Miles on the big screen sends you web-slinging to a comic store, Marvel couldn’t possibly make it any easier fo you to know where to start. Steve Foxe

The Sons of El Topo Vol. 1: Cain #1

Writer: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Artist: José Ladrönn
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Legendary (and legendarily divisive) filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky is known in the comic world for his string of collaborations with god-tier French artist Moebius, but his cinematic legacy is perhaps best represented by El Topo, a 1970 Mexican “Acid Western” film written, scored, directed by and starring Jodorowsky himself. A staple of midnight showings around the world, El Topo follows the titular black-clad gunslinger and his naked son as they ride across the desert and encounter a disorienting blend of Christian symbolism and Eastern philosophy—not to mention gallons of bright, red blood. The Sons of El Topo Vol. 1: Cain, written by Jodorowsky and illustrated by José Ladrönn, picks up years later, as the merciless El Topo has found enlightenment as a sort of holy vessel capable of bestowing great miracles (and punishing those unworthy of said blessings). This new era for El Topo is threatened when his son, now fully clothed and named Cain, returns to kill the father who abandoned him years before. Cain finds himself unable to strike down his saintly father, and instead sets out on an epic quest to hunt down his half-brother Abel instead. While The Sons of El Topo Vol. 1: Cain will best be understood by readers who’ve seen El Topo—or at least have some familiarity with Jodorowsky’s singular creative vision—the graphic novel is a visual feast from cover to cover, thanks to Ladrönn’s immaculate artwork. Unsettling church rites, graphic violence, desert caravans and scenes that push the boundaries of good taste (full warning, there is an explicit scene of sexual assault) are all executed with a master’s pen, and fans of surrealist narratives and strange Westerns owe it to themselves to pick this one up during the holiday season. Steve Foxe

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