Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica, Eugenic & More in Required Reading: Comics for 10/4/17

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<i>Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica</i>, <i>Eugenic</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 10/4/17

October tends to be quite the month for comics, between Halloween ramp-up and the hectic buzz of New York Comic Con kicking off later this week, but that didn’t stop publishers from front-loading the month with more sequential goodness than we could cover here. Marvel in particular is banking on a big October, with the Legacy renumbering for series like Avengers and Iron Fist kicking off this week. DC is no slouch this Wednesday, though, with Gotham all aflutter across two inter-company crossovers and the launch of Sean Gordon Murphy’s out-of-continuity White Knight mini-series. Archie Comics kicks out the jams by making The Archies an ongoing and Valiant meets them note for note with its improbable Shadowman/Rae Sremmurd mash-up. First Second and Top Shelf provide your all-ages options this week, while Retrofit/Big Planet, Skybound, Albatross, BOOM! and Marvel MAX all have adults-only options to see you through the start of Samhain season.


The Archies #1

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Writers: Alex Segura, Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Joe Eisma
Publisher: Archie Comics
Mark Waid’s relaunched Archie series and the accompanying Riverdale TV show have turned up the musicianship of comic’s favorite every-teen to 11. In addition to navigating inconceivable love triangles and drug-smuggling families, Archie just wants to strum his telecaster alongside his co-eds, sans Lynchian drama. This new ongoing from writers Alex Segura and Matt Rosenberg and artist Joe Eisma gives the varsity-jacket icon a chance to bust his band outside the talent show and onto the road. Judging from a preceding one-shot and the Archie Meets Ramones special, this series should emphasize fun and escapism over some the more dramatic plot twists that have occupied both the core comic and show, including the recent arc that landed Betty in the hospital. One of the cooler elements here: The Archies crossing paths with real bands. Aside from seeing more mainstream groups pop in, we’ll also be waiting for Molly Rankin of Alvvays to bust out a marriage proposal in the first arc. With Archie PR stalwart Segura and 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank’s Rosenberg keeping the beat, The Archies should be up for repeat listens, rendered with stylish vitality by Eisma. Sean Edgar


Cast No Shadow

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Writer: Nick Tapalansky
Artist: Anissa Espinosa
Publisher: First Second
It’s the first week of October and you bet we’re filling our reading list with sequential art designed to spook. Some of the best comics and graphic novels for the season have recently emerged from the young readers and middle-grade arena, including Raina Telgemeier’s utterly excellent Ghosts, Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost and Zac Gorman’s Costume Quest. Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa look to join that legacy with Cast No Shadow, a graphic novel about a teen who falls in love with a young girl in a dilapidated mansion. The new pair’s troubles run deeper than awkward parental meetings, though, as new GF Eleanor lacks a pulse or non-ectoplasmic body. (At least they’ll never receive the dreaded “talk.”) This is the first major work for the creative duo, but preview pages hint at an endearing, bubbly descent into afterlife puppy love, with stylized, soft coloring from Espinosa. Sean Edgar


Extremity #7

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Writer/Artist: Daniel Warren Johnson
Publisher: Skybound/ Image Comics
Paste has continually lauded Daniel Warren Johnson’s morality fable, Extremity, throughout its publication. The comic neatly diagrams the perils of revenge, defined in kinetic battles and evocative characterization, a salient pacifist message bubbling through the intoxicating war vistas. But this 12-part maxiseries has also tilted the spotlight on another emergent truth: Johnson is a beast of an artist. His previous stints on his webcomic Space Mullet and trucking blockbuster Ghost Fleet displayed a keen eye that knew exactly when to zoom in, revealing emotive character moments, and pan out to paint grand landscapes of calculated chaos. He welds a grasp on scope, exploring every perspective of the narrative. Extremity has remained the showcase of an artist graduating into mastery, and it has been a pleasure to witness. (Also: just look at commissions like this or OMG JUST LOOK A THIS.)

This story of two warring sci-fi Celtic clans and one girl’s education of the zero-sum game just wrapped its first trade, and issue seven unfurls the second and final arc. In addition to provoking jaw-dropping moments of destruction and energy, this series expands with new designs and fantasy beasts as heroes Thea and Rollo “enter the Ancient Dark.” We have no clue what that may be, but if Johnson is drawing it, it’s worth embracing. Sean Edgar


Eugenic #1

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Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Eryk Donovan
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
James Tynion IV and Eryk Donovan’s “-ic” thematic trilogy—there has to be a cooler label for it [Update: there is plumbed Black Mirror-ish sci-fi depths since its first entry, Memetic, followed the idea of a deadly meme to its most apocalyptic conclusion. Second installment Cognetic introduced a capable FBI protagonist to its psychic stew, and now the third series goes full social metaphor as a future plague’s cure comes at the cost of severely altered new generations. Donovan’s work has grown leaps and bounds since Memetic, notably in his Black Mask collaboration Quantum Teens are Go! with Magdalene Visaggio. Tynion IV, meanwhile, is more than a year into a critically and commercially blockbuster Detective Comics run. The “-ic” books have been a bleaker outlet for Tynion IV’s storytelling, so look for this three-issue mini-series to live up to its provocative title. Steve Foxe


Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica #1

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Writers: Paul Dini, Marc Andreyko
Artist: Laura Braga
Publisher: DC Comics & Archie Comics
It’s repetitive at this point to praise DC Comics and Archie Comics for their unexpected crossovers, both together and with other dance partners. Each publisher’s willingness to be flexible with its icons has captured ample media attention and reader goodwill. Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica pit DC’s chaotic lady duo against Archie’s best frenemies in a standoff involving…free college tuition and wetlands preservation? Never say that crazy crossovers can’t also tackle relevant societal issues. While it’s unfortunate that neither company could tap a woman writer for this series about four major female characters, Paul Dini has ample experience with the Gotham City Sirens and Marc Andreyko has contributed to Wonder Woman ‘77 among other stories of powerful women. Artist Laura Braga has lent her polished DC house-style skills to the fan-favorite Bombshells series, making her an excellent choice for this Gotham-meets-Riverdale zaniness. Also out this week in the Bat-realm: Steve Orlando continues his Batman/The Shadow saga at Dynamite with artist Giovanni Timpano and Sean Gordon Murphy kicks off his Joker-as-hero what-if in Batman: White Knight #1. Steve Foxe


Hillbilly #8

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Writer/Artist: Eric Powell
Publisher: Albatross Funnybooks
Like Conan the Barbarian creator Robert H. Howard and modern disciples Mike Mignola, Jason Aaron and Brandon Graham, cartoonist Eric Powell knows how to sing a mythology into existence. Instead of presenting one macro sequential narrative, each issue of his Hillbilly series offers an isolated bonfire tale that weaves into an arching epic. And like Hellboy, Conan or Doc Savage, the meatier topics emerge indirectly around the periphery of their respective vignettes. So when each issue of Hillbilly opens with the caption “There are many tales of Rondel the wandering hillbilly. This is just one…” the task becomes cherrypicking the repeating themes surrounding the titular, cleaver-welding nomad. Powell laid some potential hints last issue, casting Rondel against a world-destroying wolf in a 3-D hallucinogenic sequence. This Wednesday’s eighth issue promises even bigger revelations, with the traveler finding his “true purpose and the rocky road he must travel to fulfill it.” Powell has previously stated that he doesn’t know whether Hillbilly will surpass 12 issues, but his brutal Appalachian wonderland setting could fuel an odyssey as expansive as his previous masterwork, The Goon. Hopefully this tale paints a larger scaffolding for the character to ascend, delivering monthly witches, critters and moonshine for decades to come, rendered in Powell’s honed, desaturated palette. Sean Edgar


Punisher: Platoon #1

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Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Goran Parlov
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The Punisher, as a character and a concept, has been woefully, dangerously misinterpreted countless times over as a guns-blazing power fantasy of giving criminals the hot-lead sentencing they deserve. What Garth Ennis and a handful of other writers understand is that Frank Castle is a broken man who has internalized the most self-destructive message possible from his family’s death. Punisher: Platoon reunites Ennis with his Fury collaborator Goran Parlov to explore the MAX version of Castle’s earliest days in Vietnam, including his first command and his first kill. Parlov’s expertise with layout and rendering should get a workout in the Vietnam setting, as Ennis explores one of the U.S.’s most misguided modern conflicts and its affect on Castle’s psyche. Punisher as righteous vigilante has little place in today’s world; Punisher as the dangerous result of a damaged man may still hold narrative value. Steve Foxe


Shadowman/Rae Sremmurd #1

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Writer: Eliot Rahal
Artist: Renato Guedes
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Somehow Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica isn’t even the most unexpected comic crossover this week thanks to this Valiant mini-series pitting critically acclaimed rap duo Rae Sremmurd against supernatural guardian Shadowman. Written by Bloodshot’s Day Off’s Eliot Rahal with art by frequent Marvel and DC contributor Renato Guedes, Shadowman/Rae Sreummurd may not have been on anyone’s prediction list for 2017, but has a shot at reinvigorating Valiant’s voodoo hero/unknowable supernatural force in a classic set-up of musicians-made-good coming into conflict with demonic entities. Think of this as “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” for 2017, with a little extra action and a lot less fiddling. Steve Foxe


Spacebat and the Fugitives Vol. 1

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Writer/Artist: Chris Sheridan
Publisher: Top Shelf/ IDW Publishing
Chris Sheridan is the mad-mastermind cartoonist behind Motorcycle Samurai, a melding of energetic cartooning and mish-mashed tropes. Spacebat marks his entry into the all-ages realm, as the titular intergalactic misfit is recruited by a trio of kids to combat an evil scientist and his reality-bending plans. Sheridan’s expressive cartooning captures the madcap energy of Jack Kirby or Mike Allred without directly aping their styles, which should lend itself equally well to bat-like aliens as it did to sword-wielding cyclists. While we tend to think of heavier emotional fare when we talk about comics for younger readers, the explosion of the market—and the proliferation of the next generation of comic readers—relies on a bevy of genre options, including outer-space bonkers-fun action like Sheridan delivers here. Steve Foxe


Steam Clean

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Writer/Artist: Laura Kenins
Publisher: Retrofit/ Big Planet
Brian “Box” Brown’s Retrofit Comics has served as one of comic’s most unique labs, devoted to producing a cache of ink-and-paper alternative “floppies” each year. The publisher’s latest offering comes from Laura Kenins, a nation-hopping journalist and cartoonist whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books. Her 84-page Steam Clean sounds superficially like a less controversial version of Alan Moore’s Lost Girls, uniting a group of old friends at a women’s sauna in northern Europe for a night of confessions and anecdotes. Kenins effortlessly addresses the modern frictions of online dating and non-binary identification to far more sweeping truths, including a character who’s the “goddess of women.” The cartoonist uses pencil and crayon for an unpretentious aesthetic, the unvarnished surface holding a tactile map of wax valleys and planes to mirror the vastness of the characters within. Steam Clean feels uncategorizable and imminently cool, a vivid treatise on what it means to be a woman in this era—no matter your country. Sean Edgar

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