Middlewest, 24 Panels, American Carnage & More in Required Reading: Comics for 11/21/2018

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<i>Middlewest</i>, <i>24 Panels</i>, <i>American Carnage</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 11/21/2018

For our American readers, the week of giving thanks is upon us—and we’re thankful for all these comics, heyo! In all seriousness, whether you celebrate Turkey Day, Tofurky Day, or Just-Another-Thursday-Day, you should have plenty of reading to keep you occupied starting this Wednesday. Over the Garden Wall fans can treat themselves to an original graphic novel that takes place after the cult-hit animated show, Mignolaverse devotees have the opportunity to learn more about one of the franchise’s most elusive antagonists, symbiote stans have an all-new Carnage jam to check out and crime/procedural junkies can look forward to American Carnage from Vertigo. We’ve also got new fresh series like Smooth Criminals, Lightstep and Middlewest to balance out intriguing revivals of Bettie Page and Go-Bots. Rounding the week out with good intentions is 24 Panels, a benefit anthology for survivors of the Grenfell fire. Swing by your local comic shop or preferred digital retailer before settling down at the dinner table this week and enjoy a heaping helping of Required Reading.

24 Panels

Writers: Alan Moore, Ram V, Alex De Campi, Al Ewing, Others
Artists: Melinda Gebbie, Doug Braithwaite, Jan Wijngaard, Ted Brandt, Rosy Higgins, Others
Publisher: Image Comics
While it’s unfortunate that there’s an ongoing need for benefit anthologies like 24 Panels, it’s inspiring that creators and publishers continue to rise to the occasion. Like Love is Love, Where We Live and others before it, 24 Panels rallies creators to contribute short comics—in this case, 24 stories, each no longer than 24 panels—to raise money for a charity. Although it didn’t get much news coverage in America, the June 2017 Grenfell fire killed 72 people in a 24-story tower block in West London, and prompted countrywide discussions about the safety standards of housing and low-income housing specifically. Image Comics’ anthology unites a mix of established names—Alan Moore, Melinda Gebbie, Al Ewing and others—with submissions drawn from an open call. All proceeds will go to a fund set up to address the PTSD needs of Grenfell survivors. Steve Foxe

American Carnage #1

Writer: Bryan Hill
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics
From the late ‘90s until around the time Scalped and 100 Bullets shipped their final issues, DC Comics’ mature-reader imprint Vertigo was a bastion of compelling crime comics, a niche now largely kept aloft by David Lapham and the dynamic duo of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Trends come and go, so that’s no surprise, but it is nice to see that heritage acknowledged in Vertigo’s new anniversary lineup. American Carnage from Bryan Hill and Leandro Fernandez follows disgraced FBI agent Richard Wright, who’s offered a shot at redemption if he embeds himself in a white supremacist cell suspected of murdering a fellow agent. Hill has ample experience with the murky world of men emboldened by the government to wield a gun, from Top Cow’s Postal to DC Comics’ own Michael Cray. Artist Leandro Fernandez has been in the game for ages, but hit a gorgeous new stride on The Old Guard with Greg Rucka. Vertigo’s most recent relaunch has had an impressive few months so far, and all signs point to American Carnage being a compelling, challenging addition to that roster. Steve Foxe

Bettie Page #1

Writer: David Avallone
Artist: Julius Ohta
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Bettie Page, by dint of being both a real person and a “character,” has always felt like a weird fictional investment. While she undoubtedly helped alter everything from popular fashion to the fetish community, her personal life, especially near the end of her life, was marked by trauma and tragedy. With that unfortunate asterisk attached, Dynamite Entertainment has kept her fictional exploits alive for a new generation, including this week’s brand-new Bettie Page #1, in which Page is recruited by British intelligence to investigate the disappearance of the new Queen of England—and uncover whether or not UFOs are involved! Writer David Avallone has succeeded with the similarly real/fictional Elvira: Mistress of the Dark character, and artist Julius Ohta has relevant British investigative training from his work on Sherlock Holmes. Bettie Page might be a weird figure in the annals of comic heroines, but it seems that she’s in the best hands possible for “The Princess and the Pinup.” Steve Foxe

Crimson Lotus #1

Writers: Mike Mignola & John Arcudi
Artist: Mindy Lee
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
The “Mignolaverse” family of titles is at an interesting junction, where side characters (Koschei the Deathless) and antagonists (Rasputin) are receiving their own focused minis, with the latest spotlight falling on Lobster Johnson’s longtime foe the Crimson Lotus. Clearly deriving inspiration from stereotyped Asian villains of the pulp era, the Crimson Lotus is a supernatural spy whose character has been slowly fleshed out throughout Lobster Johnson volumes, but never to the extent advertised for this series. Mike Mignola, joined by former B.P.R.D. co-writer John Arcudi and artist Mindy Lee, turn the clock back 30 years to explore the Crimson Lotus’ family trauma during the Russo-Japanese War, and her ensuring revenge decades later. The Mignolaverse’s female characters rarely take center stage, which makes Crimson Lotus one of the more compelling spinoffs in recent memory. Steve Foxe

Go-Bots #1

Writer/Artist: Tom Scioli
Publisher: IDW Publishing
There’s a small class of indie cartoonists who seem able to will themselves into their dream gigs on pure force of will and talent alone. James Stokoe on Godzilla and Alien, Ed Piskor on X-Men: Grand Design, Michel Fiffe on Bloodstrike and now Tom Scioli on Go-Bots. Scioli already applied his madcap newsprint-Kirby-on-acid artwork to Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, so it only makes sense that he’d get to tackle the other transforming ‘80s robot icons at IDW Publishing. If you thought the mythos of Cybertron had some weird components, you don’t know jack about the Go-Bots. The first solicit teases a world in which the Go-Bots have fully integrated into human society, including breakout star Cy-Kill, who stays busy in the Go-Bots equivalent of a fight club. No knowledge of 30-year-old toys is necessary to enjoy whatever off-the-wall adventure Scioli has in store—just a willingness to Go with it. Steve Foxe

Lightstep #1

Writer/Artist: Milos Slavkovic
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
The European comics scene is full of gorgeously imagined science fiction and fantasy, frequently less bound by the American urge toward “realism.” Can you imagine if Moebius reigned himself in so that everything “made sense”? Lightstep from Milos Slavkovic is indicative of the European imagination, presenting a universe in which the ruling class lives out their lives on accelerated, “Lightstepped” worlds where a single day is a lifetime on a normal planet. January Lee was born into the royal caste, but her “holy ailment” allows her to see the truth behind the Primogenitor’s lies, painting a target on her back. Slavkovic’s design sense can best be summed up by “the Sistine Chapel meets Tron,” with angelic neon creations populating the page. Fans of similarly visually inventive sci-fi from the European realm, Image Comics’ VS or Top Cow’s recent slate of design-first books like Bonehead, Dissonance and God Complex should find plenty to enjoy in Lightstep’s radiant mythology. Steve Foxe

Middlewest #1

Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Jorge Corona
Publisher: Image Comics
For as ingrained as it is in popular culture, The Wizard of Oz doesn’t get too much reinvention attention from modern creatures. Maybe it’s just too unimpeachable a work in their eyes, but the story of a middle-American youth, a tornado and a magical other land has mostly meant Dorothy Gale—until this week. Middlewest, written by cartoonist Skottie Young (who spent years drawing Oz comics for Marvel) and drawn by No. 1 With a Bullet’s Jorge Corona, flips the script by taking place in an aimless flyover town that already has traces of strange science and magical elements (talking fox, anyone?). Abel, the brokenhearted lead on Mike Huddleston’s gorgeous first cover, has a poor relationship with his dad, and ample family secrets to work out. Young’s writing bonafides are hardto question when he’s writing gosh-darn Deadpool, and Corona’s expressive cartooning has gone overlooked for far too long. If you’re looking for the next hot Image title, click your heels together and bet on Middlewest. Steve Foxe

Over the Garden Wall: Distillatoria

Writer: Jonathan Case
Artist: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
BOOM! Studios has kept Over the Garden Wall fans satisfied with a steady supply of tie-ins to the Cartoon Network cult-favorite, most recently with the Hollow Town mini-series—and next year, with an adaptation of OtGW creator Patrick McHale’s novel Bags (Or a Story Thereof). Most of these explore unseen moments from Greg and Wirt’s journey through The Unknown, but Over the Garden Wall: Distillatoria, out this Wednesday, gives fans a rare look at what became of the duo after the original cartoon saga. Written by Dear Creature creator Jonathan Case and drawn by Eisner Award-winning former OtGW artist Jim Campbell, Distillatoria finds Greg and Wirt back home—with Beatrice in bird form still in tow. Now the boys have to hide her talkative nature and find a way back to The Unknown. BOOM!’s cartoon tie-in OGNs are pretty much always sure bets, but Distillatoria’s pseudo-sequel status makes it even more of a must-read. Steve Foxe

Smooth Criminals #1

Writers: Kurt Lustgarten & Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith
Artist: Leisha Riddel
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith had an accomplished writing career long before entering comics, with credits like Legally Blonde and 10 Things I Hate About You under her belt. Alongside Kurt Lustgarten, Smith created the breakout BOOM! Studios series Misfit City—and now they’re back as the writing duo behind Smooth Criminals, illustrated by artist Leisha Riddel. The synopsis for the new ongoing series sounds like a hipper, more socially aware Austin Powers set in the ‘90s, as contemporary hacker Brenda accidentally awakens a cryogenically frozen superspy named Mia. The odd-couple female pal-ship should fit right in among BOOM!’s inclusive, uplifting comedic offerings. Steve Foxe

Web of Venom: Carnage Born #1

Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Danilo Beyruth
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Props to Donny Cates and Marvel Comics for showing some restraint, but we all knew it was a matter of (brief) time before the bestselling new era of Venom touched upon everyone’s favorite mass-murdering redneck stereotype (Cates also writes Redneck, so it’s okay to use that term). Carnage, who was teased at the end of the puzzlingly successful Venom movie, seemingly died during the Venomized event, but a dedicated cult of followers is attempting to resurrect their goopy red cannibal idol. Carnage’s creative well felt pretty thoroughly tapped in the ‘90s, but if anyone can pull up something entertaining in 2018, it’s Cates, working here with All-New Ghost Rider contributor Danilo Beyruth. Steve Foxe

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