Required Reading: Comics for 12/14/2016

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Required Reading: Comics for 12/14/2016

Is December 14th the first day of Christmas, or is that Christmas itself? It seems like the hyper-capitalist machine that powers the holiday has determined the former is now true, in which case this week’s new comic haul is the perfect way to kick off the jolliest chunk of the year. Whether you celebrate religiously, secularly or not at all, this Wednesday offers a small harvest of sequential gems ranging from a delightful one-off cartoon tie-in to jumbo Big Two holiday spectaculars to a horror legend flexing his creepiest muscles—all of which make perfect stocking stuffers! We’ve also got an Image debut, an indie compendium, a Star Wars fan love-letter of the highest caliber, a Marvel event entry and the return of everyone’s favorite purple archer (no, not the dude). If you’ve got a moment between mad shopping dashes, kick back and sip some nog while enjoying this week’s Required Reading.

Batman & Robin Adventures Vol. 1

Writers: Paul Dini, Ty Templeton
Artists: Rick Burchett, Tim Harkins, Brandon Kruse, Ty Templeton
Publisher: DC Comics

An entire generation of fans were introduced to Batman not in the pages of comic books, but on the screen of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's Batman: The Animated Series. Their vision saturated the character's identity in myriad ways, defining Batman and his cohorts for countless viewers. The series' tie-in comic, Batman & Robin Adventures, ran for 25 issues from 1995 to 1997, and Volume One collects the first 10 for the first time. It's a great throwback to a specific kind of Gotham vigilante, perfect as a gift for long-time fans and as a gateway for new ones. Strong art from co-writer Ty Templeton and his team keep the book in line with what fans of the show love, but give it space to breathe on its own. Fans of Dini in particular may want to pair this with the fourth-place entry in Paste's Best Comics of 2016, Dark Night: A True Batman Story, to get insight into the author's personal relationship with the character and the ways in which comics can help people process trauma. With perfect timing to be a holiday gift, Batman & Robin Adventures has a universal appeal that's rare in comics these days. Caitlin Rosberg

DC Rebirth Holiday Special #1

Writers: James Asmus, Vita Ayala, Cullen Bunn, Heath Corson, Paul Dini, Gustavo Duarte, Eric M. Esquivel, Bill Freiberger, Steve Orlando, K. Perkins, Tim Seeley, Mariko Tamaki, James Tynion IV, Gene Luen Yang
Artists: Matias Bergara, Reily Brown, Elsa Charretier, Ian Churchill, Gustavo Duarte, Dan Jurgens, V. Kenneth Marion, Andrea Mutti, Pablo Pantalena, Thomas Pitilli, Robbi Rodriguez
Publisher: DC Comics

DC's efforts with the Rebirth launch have largely been successful. Titles that were lagging have new life, and staples that were doing all right in the New 52 have been revitalized with fresh creative teams and a pull toward something more light than the past few years have seen. The DC Rebirth Holiday Special is a great time to celebrate those successes and highlight some of the names responsible, giving readers a quadruple-sized issue with a variety of different stories. Steve Orlando, Tim Seeley, James Tynion IV and Gene Luen Yang have been bringing in readers new and old across the DC lineup, and with guest stars like Paul Dini, Mariko Tamaki and Robbi Rodriguez, this special issue is a real draw. The price point is higher than the average Rebirth title, but not outrageous with the higher page count. Think of it like a line-wide annual issue—a tasting menu that offers flavors from every offering in a fun, festive package. Caitlin Rosberg

Green Valley #3

Writer: Max Landis
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Publisher: Skybound/Image Comics

If Green Valley seemed a hair too traditional to come from the hyper-analytical, genre-bending mind of Max Landis, the writer behind Chronicle and Superman: American Alien, its third chapter should remedy expectations. The first two issues followed the Knights of Kelodia, near-superhuman defenders who failed to protect their kingdom from invading barbarians. The brotherhood has been called upon to safeguard a neighboring settlement from a "dark wizard" and his "dragon," and though the antagonist falls under those terms adequately, there's obviously more going on that we won't spoil. This tale of redemption and old-school bravery thrives under the pencils of Giuseppe Camuncoli, who nails bravado as much as the more vulnerable and subtle moments. The title also hints at future cameos from monsters unorthodox to swords-and-steeds fiction, which should result in a unique visual take for the genre. Sean Edgar

Gwenpool Holiday Special: Merry Mix-Up #1

Writers: Chynna Clugston Flores, Christopher Hastings, Nick Kocher, Ryan North, Karla Pacheco
Artists: Chynna Clugston Flores, Myisha Haynes, Nate Stockman
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Don't be scared off by the pink-clad hybrid character you can't believe Marvel is still pushing: Gwenpool Holiday Special: Merry Mix-Up is the publisher's prime holiday offering this year, with the zany blonde running throughout Yuletide tales featuring Miles Morales, Punisher, Donald Tru—err, the Red Skull—and other Mighty Marvel favorites. Even if Gwenpool herself isn't your cup of nog, contributions from Chynna Clugston Flores and House of Ideas humor mainstays Christopher Hastings and Ryan North make this an appealing festive foray. Steve Foxe

Hawkeye #1

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Leonardo Romero
Publisher: Marvel Comics

No one has really managed to match the success of David Aja, Annie Wu and Matt Fraction's Hawkeye since that run's awkwardly delayed end last year. Neither in his solo title nor in any team books has anyone captured the spirit of "human tire fire saves the day" that had readers flocking to Hawkguy, and it's left a niche empty on local comic shop shelves, especially with recent Hulk-related events taking Clint Barton off the rails. This week, one of the best parts of that run returns, with Kate Bishop finally getting a solo title of her own. Writer Kelly Thompson has proven herself, with Jem & The Holograms especially, as someone who can write a variety of different young women and create meaningful relationships between them in a way that escapes more seasoned comic pros, all with a sense of humor to match her wit. If she and artist Leonard Romero are left to their own devices, Kate may finally get the kind of funny, snarky life that she's deserved and been denied for so long. If all goes well, a new generation of readers will find a Hawkeye with whom they can identify and aspire to be. Caitlin Rosberg

Inhumans vs. X-Men #1

Writers: Charles Soule, Jeff Lemire
Artists: Leinil Yu
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The concept of the X-Men has never been more relevant than today. In a political landscape that threatens ethnic registries, internment camps and alt-right government rule, a superhero team forged by the '60s Civil Rights movement could be the statement fiction needs to make sense of these turbulent times. Or…they could just beat the shit out of a bunch of outer-space weirdos because of toxic gas clouds. Marvel hasn't embraced its Merry Mutants as it did in years past, leaving the characters in both a creative and literal state of limbo—the team actually lives in purgatory. With a relaunch set for spring in the ResurreXion event, this comic could well set the stage for a brighter future. While The Inhumans—characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby during their iconic Fantastic Four run—have always worked better in smaller doses, a slate of ongoings and an upcoming TV show have pushed them to the fore….where, they feel a lot like the X-Men, sans themes of racism and equality. This showdown should at least offer some entertaining, mainstream escapism, courtesy talented scribes Charles Soule and Jeff Lemire, especially if the X-Men beat the Inhumans and they go away forever. Jannon Callaway

Rockstars #1

Writer: Joe Harris
Artist: Megan Hutchison
Publisher: Image Comics

Image caps off a killer year for debuts with Joe Harris and newcomer Megan Hutchison's ongoing supernatural rock mystery. An unsolved rash of groupie murders in modern-day Los Angeles tips off rock historian and urban legend aficionado Jackie Mayer, who quickly connects the killings to a similar streak in the '70s. Mayer recruits caustic music writer Dorothy Buell to uncover the sacrificial conspiracy behind the slayings. Harris has steadily built up an Image catalogue with titles like The Great Pacific and Snowfall, but this is Hutchison's first time on the main stage, and her psychedelic, fluid figures should prove a perfect fit for Rockstars' homage to the guitar-driven genre. Check back later this month when Paste asks a genuine rock star for his thoughts on the book. Steve Foxe

Shadows on the Grave #1

Writer/Artist: Richard Corben
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Horror/fantasy guru Richard Corben is one of a handful of comic creators for whom the title "living legend" may be an understatement. For decades, Corben had contributed his unmistakable gnarled, burly figures to tales of violence and fear in iconic publications like Creepy, Eerie and Heavy Metal, as well as stunning adaptations of Poe and Lovecraft and some of the best Hellboy stories of all time. Now, after completing Rat God and a Mexican Big Red jaunt with Mike Mignola, Corben has returned to the anthology format for eight issues of his own short shockers. Shadows on the Grave is largely set in a bygone rural America not unlike Corben's own formative years (or so he told Paste in advance of the series' debut), with brief chillers in the vein of Tales from the Crypt. Fans of Corben's more fantastical work shouldn't despair: the only serial in the book features a Grecian hero who should feel familiar to the master storyteller's most diehard readers. Anyone seeking a little more Halloween in their holiday season should dig this one up. Steve Foxe

The Spire tpb

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Jeff Stokely
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

BOOM! Studios does a lot right as a publisher, but their long gaps between a series' end and the resulting trade publication can grate on the nerves of folks who missed out the first time around. Simon Spurrier, who had an excellent 2016 with fan favorites like Cry Havoc and Weavers, reunited with his Six-Gun Gorilla collaborator Jeff Stokely for this Eisner-nominated, Euro-tinged fantasy/sci-fi miniseries. Set in and around the titular looming tower, The Spire follows a City Watch commander with a major romantic conflict of interest as she seeks to unravel a conspiracy threatening the crown. Stokely is in prime form rendering the bonkers world Spurrier has scripted, and an eleventh-hour, emotionally fraught twist makes The Spire more poignant—and timely—than readers may have expected. If you didn't follow this one monthly, shell out for the hefty collection now. Steve Foxe

Star Wars: Tales From the Far, Far Away #2

Writers: Michael Moreci, Tim Daniel, Ryan Cady
Artists: Phillip Sevy, Kendall Goode, David Stoll, K. R. Whalen, John Broglia, Drew Zucker, Morgan Luthi, Michael Pasquale
Publisher: Self-Published

In addition to being an inaugural DC Talent Hunt winner and the scribe behind the Roche Limit trilogy, Michael Moreci is a Star Wars fanboy of the highest order, and he and his fellow rebels aren't waiting around for permission to make comics set in a galaxy far, far away. Tales, the second installment of Moreci and Tim Daniel's fan comic, recruits Tomb Raider artist Phillip Sevy, Top Cow contributor Ryan Cady and other dedicated creators to tell (obviously) out-of-continuity stories from across time periods—including the prequel era otherwise not getting much love from Marvel's official offerings—with all of the polish of legally sanctioned tie-ins. If Rogue One has you chomping at the bit for more Star Wars than the House of Mouse can offer, peruse the Twitter accounts of any of Tales From the Far, Far Away's creators to nab the free download link and dig into this 115-page love letter to the universe Lucas built. Steve Foxe