Required Reading: Comics for 1/11/2017

Comics Galleries Required Reading
Share Tweet Submit Pin
Required Reading: Comics for 1/11/2017

The new year marches on with its second New Comic Book Day, debuting everything from a frosty, winter-appropriate installment of All-Star Batman to a graphic-novel adaptation of one of sci-fi’s greatest under-appreciated novels. Marvel, who’s had a busy last few weeks of series launches, takes a backseat to DC’s first Batman collection of the Rebirth era, a Vixen one-shot that capitalizes off the character’s recent multimedia profile and the kickoff of Justice League/Power Rangers, a nostalgia bomb guaranteed to set ‘90s kids’ wallets ablaze. Outside of the major houses, Image imports a Spanish standout, Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw explore God Country, Mike Mignola’s two-fisted vigilante Lobster Johnson returns and Red Sonja dusts off her chainmail for another adventure. If nothing hitting shelves this busy week catches your eye, never fear—we’ve got plenty of backlist Required Reading suggestions, too.

All-Star Batman #6

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jock
Publisher: DC Comics

Writer Scott Snyder continues his study of Batman's iconic foils with this frigid one-shot, casting the tragic Mr. Freeze under the stylized ink of Jock. The same pair produced the sinewy horror epiphany, Wytches, but here they trade malicious forests for a sub-zero showdown in Alaska, and while the plot revels in Snyder's knack for inventive pseudo-science and thematic parallels, this is Jock's show. The English artist's jagged lines sleekly resemble ice crystallization—barbed, intricate and foreboding—and colorist Matt Hollingsworth engulfs the pages in a shroud of inescapable white. All-Star Batman #6 is a comic that can cause temperatures to plummet in the dead of summer, and if the sheer aesthetic isn't enough to sell you, we'll just toss this out there: cryogenic zombies. Sean Edgar

Batman Vol 1: I Am Gotham

Writer: Tom King
Artists: David Finch, Mikel Janin, Ivan Reis
Publisher: DC Comics

Tom King has done a remarkable job with Batman during DC's Rebirth event, considering its punishing twice-a-month schedule and the fact that the writer follows Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's well-liked, era-defining run on the title. Fresh off his success co-writing Grayson, King returns Batman back inside a makeshift family of crime-fighters and vigilantes, embracing their presence with varying degrees of grace. Artists David Finch, Mikel Janin and Ivan Reis are all well suited to King's intellectual summer blockbuster, which is refreshing given Finch's not-too-distant history on his wife's mediocre Wonder Woman run. The introductory arc thrives off Batman's bond with his city, articulated through his mentorship of two new metahumans who love Gotham just as much as he does. Caitlin Rosberg

Beowulf HC

Writer: Santiago García
Artist: David Rubín
Publisher: Image Comics

Ether's David Rubín may not have adapted Beowulf solo—he worked with writer Santiago García after the first attached artist had to bow out for health reasons—but this Spanish import stands alongside Rubín's own two-volume Hero to cement his reputation as a preeminent interpreter of the grand heroic saga. Beowulf eschews most of the anachronisms of Rubín's Hero, which was as much a tribute to Jack Kirby and the superhero myth as it was to Heracles, opting to portray a relatively straightforward take on the oldest English-language saga—"straightforward" being a relative term in Rubín's prodigiously talented hands. While there's little in the text that would shock Seamus Heaney, Beowulf's most famous modern translator, García and Rubín instill their version with subtle suggestions and visual decisions that shed new perspective on this much-discussed story. The best example is one of the quietest: before Beowulf's first sinewy tussle with the bloodthirsty monster Grendel, he lies in wait naked in the mead hall (a detail dictated by the epic poem). Rubín breaks down Grendel's discovery of this idealized man into dozens of panels, including close-ups that suggest a sexual awakening in the monster. It's a small moment, not explicitly present in the source material, that tilts the reader's take on the story just enough to suggest that we may not yet have plumbed the depths of what Beowulf has to offer. Steve Foxe

The Deep #1

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: James Brouwer
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Before he stewarded Marvel's adamantium-laced teenage Wolverine, Tom Taylor made waves (pun apologies) with The Deep, an Australian/Canadian cartoon about a family of deep-sea "aquanauts" encountering cryptids and other mysteries. That production is now streaming on Netflix, and BOOM! has opted to bring the source comic stateside with original artist James Brouwer. Brouwer's bright cartooning, Taylor's knack for characterization and the multiracial, supportive family of protagonists make The Deep an excellent all-ages pick-up for fans of Gotham Academy and BOOM!'s many other young-reader-friendly titles. Steve Foxe

God Country #1

Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Publisher: Image Comics

Like the bastard son of Preacher and Walt Simonson's Thor, Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw's God Country brings cosmic mythology tumbling down onto a sleepy Texas town to thunderous results. Cates and Shaw have collaborated before on The Paybacks, a darkly comedic superhero series that hopped from Dark Horse to Heavy Metal, but God Country seems like a level-up from all involved. Shaw, working with colorist Jason Wordie, is equally at home illustrating tense family drama and the wide-open majesty—and isolation—of the Texas plains. Cates, whose first major work involved semi-truck mayhem, seems to have a particular affinity for down-home tales. To paraphrase the Paste reviewer who took a more exhaustive look at the first issue earlier this week, if God Country lives up to the promise of its final page, this may be the next Image breakout. Steve Foxe

Grave Lillies #1

Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: George Kambadais
Publisher: Z2

Cullen Bunn may receive the most attention for his nostalgic, rural creep show Harrow County, but the prolific scribe has launched a satellite of sequential art spook shows throughout his career at a host of publishers. Z2—home of Carver: A Paris Story and Legend—offers Bunn's latest effort, Grave Lillies, with artist George Kambadais. The narrative revolves around five super-powered heroines who emerge from stasis tubes after a massive explosion. With a vibe that hints at the haunting sci-fi of Stranger Things and nostalgic camaraderie of Paper Girls, Grave Lillies broadens the selection for readers seeking female-fronted YA comics without capes. Kambadais' clean designs and hyper-stylized colors also lend a unique edge to the book, and we're curious to see what's inside as it blooms. Sean Edgar

Hellblazer Vol. 15: Highwater

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artists: Marcelo Frusin, Guy Davis, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cameron Stewart
Publisher: DC Comics / Vertigo

Back in 2013, DC Comics escorted blue-collar mage John Constantine from mature-readers imprint Vertigo to its mainstream superhero continuity, arguing that the transplant would only neuter the character's caustic dialogue. But it also raised the question: would the cockney bastard created by Alan Moore also be able to indulge in carnal affairs with Bruce Wayne at seedy S&M clubs? Hellblazer often stabs at the boundaries of violence, but writer Brian Azzarello and artist Marcelo ended their subversive run with one of the most sexually explorative takes on the character. And, like all of Azzarello's road trip through America with the titular warlock, it's absolutely electric.

This massive trade paperback also contains preceding story arc, "Highwater," a sobering dissection of Appalachia and the sordid means surivors will go to put food on their tables. Azzarello created a new climax for the legacy anti-hero, and Moore stated that his run ranks as the best modern interpretation. Aided by Frusin's angular shadows and menacing grin, this is required reading for fans of adult genre comics. Sean Edgar

House of Penance TPB

Writer: Peter Tomasi
Artist: Ian Bertram
Publisher: Dark Horse

The Winchester Mystery House sits at the intersection of the supernatural, rich people with more money than sense and Victorian women slowly succumbing to madness—the perfect obsession for all sorts of different nerds. Peter Tomasi and Ian Bertram tap into this material for House of Penance, giving readers horror and intrigue to complement the real-world strangeness inherent in the subject. The textured, gritty nature of Bertram's art, and Dave Stewart's limited color palette, turn the book into one truly worthy of the bonkers inspiration and its tortured architect. The trade collects all six issues of a story about one woman haunted by guilt and a small army of firearm victims—a gorgeously illustrated descent into hysteria that earned the series a place on Paste's Best Comics of 2016 list, and Bertram a nod in our Best Artists countdown. Caitlin Rosberg

Justice League/Power Rangers #1

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Stephen Byrne
Publisher: DC Comics/ BOOM! Studios

Say what you will about the importance of continuity and super-serious superhero takes, but Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles struck a near-perfect balance of nostalgia and creative execution to become one of the best-selling titles of 2016, and DC has every intention of repeating that feat with Justice League/Power Rangers, a cross-publication with BOOM!'s Power Rangers license. Written by Injustice and Wolverine writer Tom Taylor and drawn by popular new talent Stephen Byrne (next seen on the JLA: Ray one-shot), JL/PR takes advantage of a faulty Power Rangers teleporter to send original PR Zack into the DCU, where he comes face-to-face with a certain masked vigilante. It's becoming increasingly clear that DC has been learning hard lessons from its New 52 years, and its repeated willingness to embrace fun projects like JL/PR bodes well for its accessibility with new readers. Steve Foxe

Justice League of America: Vixen Rebirth #1

Writers: Jody Houser, Steve Orlando
Artist: Jamal Campbell
Publisher: DC Comics

One of the best things about comic books branching out into other media is that characters who've been benched (or worse) in their native sequential art are earning new audiences and adventures on the page. Mari "Vixen" McCabe hasn't been totally invisible in comics of late, with guest spots in DC Bombshells and Batgirl, but seeing her name on the cover of a solo outing is great. The version of Vixen from her animated show, Arrow or DC's Legends of Tomorrow might cross into comics for the first time, and the powerhouse team on this book offers a great introduction for TV fans taking the comics plunge for the first time. Writers Jody Houser and Steve Orlando have both proven adept at writing emotionally complex, compelling action stories, between Faith, Mother Panic, Midnighter and Namesake, and Prowler artist Jamal Campbell provides stunning interior pages. The whole Justice League vs Suicide Squad event leading into Orlando and Ivan Reis' JLA is pumping out an array of interesting one-shots, and hopefully Vixen's can be parlayed into an ongoing series if interest is strong enough. Caitlin Rosberg