Required Reading: Comics for 1/25/2017

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Required Reading: Comics for 1/25/2017

Inauguration Day has come and gone since the last time new comics hit the shelves, and recent Trump target John Lewis collected another armful of awards for his stunning March series with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell. For many, comics may represent a safe space during this turbulent administration, and publishers are out in force with new offerings this week. Lady knights, forbidden brides, totally awesome Asian-American heroes, wintry hellspawn, post-apocalyptic boy saviors, homeless avengers and robot politicians all lead the charge. Whether you marched or spent the weekend sobbing into your floppies, this Wednesday’s haul should have something that appeals to you.

The Abominable Mr. Seabrook

Writer/Artist: Joe Ollmann
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Cartoonist Joe Ollmann has spent a career exploring the breach between the mundane and the fantastic, whether that involves surprise pregnancies (Mid-Life) or revelations of childhood alien abductions (Science Fiction). The Abominable Mr. Seabrook is a perfect synthesis of that dynamic, dissecting the life of an alcoholic adrenaline junky journalist who hung out with Aleister Crowley and participated in overseas voodoo rituals. (The guy appropriately introduced western audiences to the zombie craze.) Ollmann never flinches from the inherent humanity of his subjects, though; his shadow-steeped, angular figures and emotive faces ground the batshit-crazy antics in a relatable channel. Comics that embrace early 20th-century weird fiction and indie bio books rarely occupy the same space, but The Abominable Mr. Seabrook achieves a new high point for both. Sean Edgar

Animosity: The Rise #1

Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Juan Doe
Publisher: Aftershock Comics

Aftershock has traded on familiar names since its debut, including luminaries like Mark Waid and Garth Ennis, but there's a strong case to be made for Marguerite Bennett emerging as the publisher's breakout talent. Bennett has cultivated a strong following through Big Two books like DC Comics Bombshells and the Angela trilogy, but Aftershock plays home to Bennett's two original concepts, InSeXts and Animosity, and represents the scribe at her most unrestrained. Regular artist Rafael De Latorre takes a break for this one-shot that spotlights the ascension of intelligent animals around the globe, as illustrated by artist Juan Doe, who also lent his bold graphic style to American Monster with Brian Azzarello. If you've been curious about the Animal Farm-esque series, The Rise offers a tantalizing teaser to what Bennett has been orchestrating. Steve Foxe

Batman '66 Meets Wonder Woman '77 #1

Writers: Marc Andreyko, Jeff Parker
Artists: Karl Kesel, David Hahn
Publisher: DC Comics

DC's recent Rebirth editorial initiative has realigned the publisher toward fun and vibrant comics, embracing the ridiculousness inherent in stories about people who dress up in costumes to fight crime. But before that, there were a couple of books that readers could rely on to be lighthearted and funny, a throwback to comics and cartoons long concluded. Batman '66 and Wonder Woman '77 were welcome respites from dark story arcs of the character's modern adventures, and now they're meeting for the first time. Writer Jeff Parker has steered Batman '66 from the beginning, and artists Karl Kesel and David Hahn previously teamed with him for Batman '66 Meets the Man From U.N.C.L.E.. Adding Marc Andreyko from Wonder Woman '77 adds more flavor to this crossover. The creative team knows how to evoke both shows that inspire the comics without completely kowtowing to nostalgia, and if the idea of Adam West and Linda Carter uniting to punch bad guys and share zany hijinks is your kind of thing, this is a must-buy. Caitlin Rosberg

Black Monday Murders Vol. 1: All Hail, God Mammon

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Tomm Coker
Publisher: Image Comics

Jonathan Hickman's ability to blend technology and magic has created some seriously interesting comics in the past, but dragging that aesthetic from fantasy settings into the "real world" lends a new weight. Conspiracy theories about Wall Street and multinational corporations aren't hard to come by. In Black Monday Murders, Hickman posits that not only does a shadowy cabal control the global economy, but a shadowy cabal that harnesses black magic and arcane horrors. One NYPD detective—a cross between Luther and Rivers of London's Peter Grant—investigates the murder of one of the cabal's members. The story is sharp and the world-building intense and complicated, but Tomm Coker's art sells BMM. Pages are drenched in thick swaths of black, oily and unforgiving ink. The characters are all suitably unlikable and look perfectly villainous, and with the state of the world right now, Black Monday Murders feels completely plausible. Caitlin Rosberg

D4veocracy #1

Writer: Ryan Ferrier
Artist: Valentin Ramon
Publisher: IDW Publishing

IDW's creator-owned books often get lost in the shuffle of its high-profile licensed properties, but the D4ve trilogy from Ryan Ferrier and Valentin Ramon has quietly cultivated a fan following for its robot antics. In the previous outings, the titular D4ve rose from his cubicle trappings to become a cybernetic hero, and now, following an assassination, is levying his popularity into a political career. Ferrier and Ramon took a short break from the satirical sci-fi world for their Hell-set Hot Damn, further cementing their creative harmony. It's a bit draining to consider willingly reading more about politics right now, but robot comedy is a welcome respite from the real world. Steve Foxe

The Dregs #1

Writers: Lonnie Nadler & Zac Thompson
Artist: Eric Zawadzki
Publisher: Black Mask

Despite boasting cofounder Steve Niles of 30 Days of Night Fame, upstart publisher Black Mask hasn't leaned too heavily into horror—until now. The Dregs, from writers Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler and artist Eric Zawadzki, plunges fully into its cannibalistic premise, contrasting class warfare with a very literal reversal of "eat the rich." For whatever reason, Black Mask's artistic pool gets criminally less attention than its rising stable of writers, a trend that Zawadzki may be able to buck thanks to his strong linework and ease with body horror. Last year proved to be atrocious on a macro level but great for horror comic fans, and The Dregs is a hopeful (and bloody) first indication that 2017 might offer similarly ghoulish delights. Steve Foxe

Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire HC

Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Shane Oakley
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

The latest entry in Dark Horse's expanding Neil Gaiman adaptation library is also the first to arrive without a well-known artistic collaborator following Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá's How to Talk to Girls at Parties and Colleen Dorran's The Troll Bridge. But Shane Oakley's chiaroscuro take on Gaiman's satirical (and satirically titled) Forbidden Brides... should endear Gaiman's many fans to this quick, clever adaptation. Forbidden Brides... concerns a scribe struggling with writer's block and the familiar gulf between what is "known" to sell and what a writer would like to write. The upending of this setup doesn't come as too much of a surprise (and will be no shock at all to reader's familiar with the prose source material), but the shadow-drenched journey is welcome all the same. Steve Foxe

Hellboy Winter Special 2017

Writers: Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson, Scott Allie
Artists: Paul Grist, Christopher Mitten, Sebastian Fiumara
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Now an annual tradition, Hellboy Winter Special diagrams the sheer range and density of Mike Mignola's Hellboy mythos. This handsome collection offers a triptych of stories respectively set in 1891, 1961 and 1979. The first tale follows Witchfinder Edward Grey as he discovers a frozen ship with a foreboding secret, while the other two address the titular demonic paranormal investigator as he brawls with possessed Santas and possessing witches. Of note, Jack Staff creator Paul Grist steps in on art duties alongside writer Chris Roberson for a preview of The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed, an upcoming miniseries that expands on an intriguing footnote from early in the epic. As esoteric as the descriptions and references can sound, these stories are immediately approachable with a breadcrumb trail leading to a cavernous library for new readers. Behold the second time this winter a big, red and arguably jolly world citizen arrived bearing gifts. Sean Edgar

The Totally Awesome Hulk #15

Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Mahmud A. Asrar
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Amadeus Cho's reign as the jolly jade giant got off to an iffy start when original artist Frank Cho made repeated headlines for antagonizing fans, but Greg Pak's solid hold on the cocksure teen and Amadeus' many guest spots have helped keep the Totally Awesome series around, even as She-Hulk Jennifer Walters lays claim to the adjective-less Hulk book. This issue, with All-New, All-Different Avengers artist Mahmud A. Asrar stepping in for art duties, sees Cho (the character, not the artist) teaming up with a squad of the Marvel U.'s best-known Asian and Asian-American heroes, including Shang-Chi, Silk and Ms. Marvel. If you're still not sold on the Totally Awesome adventures of Cho-Hulk, this new arc may be the best case yet for Pak and co.'s take on the latest gamma-powered hero. Steve Foxe

Justice League of America: Killer Frost #1

Writers: Steve Orlando & Jody Houser
Artist: Mirka Andolfo
Publisher: DC Comics

The JLA one-shots that have already hit stands—The Atom, Vixen and The Ray—have served to reintroduce and re-establish heroes who fell by the wayside during DC's New 52 launch five years ago. Killer Frost doesn't have quite the same profile challenge thanks to her featured role in the Justice League vs. Suicide Squad crossover, but she remains the most unlikely member of Batman's eclectic squad. (Space bastard Lobo giving her a close run, though.) This one-shot helps explain the frosty foe's transition to heroism, with Faith writer Jody Houser and DC Comics Bombshells artist Mirka Andolfo joining JLA mastermind Steve Orlando to tell the tale of a hopeful Suicide Squad alumna skating on very thin ice. Steve Foxe