Young Justice, Captain Marvel, Criminal & More in Required Reading: Comics for 1/9/2019

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<i>Young Justice</i>, <i>Captain Marvel</i>, <i>Criminal</i> & More in Required Reading: Comics for 1/9/2019

Okay, that’s more like it. After a few fallow weeks, publishers are exiting their winter funks and loading the shelves with enticing new releases. Three superhero titles arrive this week with cinematic parallels to spare: upcoming MCU star vehicle Captain Marvel, newly minted Golden Globe winner (give or take) Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man and returning animation sensation Young Justice. If capes aren’t your speed, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ noir favorite Criminal kicks off at its new publishing home, David F. Walker branches out into historical biography, a YA series gets the omnibus treatment, three Dynamite properties get new approaches and Fantagraphics releases a wholly unique cartooning experiment. Happy New Year for reals this time—it’s Required Reading.

Barbarella/Dejah Thoris #1

Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: German Garcia
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Leah Williams has made a big impact in a relatively small number of books, with X-Men Black: Emma Frost and What If? Magik standing out among the roughly eight-billion comics Marvel published last year thanks to Williams’ assured voice and pacing. This week, Williams expands her growing bibliography with Barbarella/Dejah Thoris, a time-crossed mashup of Dynamite’s licensed leading ladies. The outstanding, uhh…assets on Zach Hsieh should tip you off to Dynamite’s intended audience, but count on Williams to elevate the proceedings to goofy, sexy fun, aided by Red Sonja contributor German Garcia. Crossovers like this may seem like they’re appealing to an increasingly narrow audience, but don’t discount what the right creators can bring to the table. Steve Foxe

Captain Marvel #1

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Carmen Carnero
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Captain Marvel is easily one of the most fascinating characters in the modern superhero pantheon—not simply based on the character herself, but on her publishing journey. A longtime Marvel standby as Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers became a fan sensation when Jamie McKelvie redesigned her flight suit and Kelly Sue DeConnick and co. relaunched her as Captain Marvel. Yet the publisher seemed unable to sustain the hype after DeConnick moved on, and subsequent volumes faltered—especially with the line-wide crossover Civil War II casting Carol in a particularly caustic role. Following last year’s mini-series Life of Captain Marvel, which reconfigured Carol’s back story to better match the upcoming movie, West Coast Avengers writer Kelly Thompson and X-Men Red artist Carmen Carnero are giving Carol one more go at super-stardom. Thompson is one of the most reliable writers in Marvel’s current stable, consistently imbuing books with captivating characters and a sense of fun, while Carnero made a fast name for herself following in Mahmud Asrar’s footsteps on X-Men Red. If any team can right the Carol ship before Brie Larson soars across screens this year, it’s these two. Steve Foxe

Criminal #1

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
It’s not hyperbole to say that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are the crime comics masters. While a few other names hold competitive claims to that crown (David Lapham, we’re looking at you), the sheer volume and excellence of Brubaker and Phillips’ collaborative efforts have established them as the gold standard against which all others are measured. First launched in 2006 under Marvel’s creator-owned Icon imprint and returning this week from Image Comics, Criminal is a series of largely standalone crime noir stories that are at once acutely aware of the genre’s tropes and expert realizations of genre standards. While each arc can be read independently, characters overlap and intersect over the two-dozen-plus issues, fleshing out a web of bad decisions, bad luck and bad fates. This double-sized relaunch focuses on the familiar face of Teeg Lawless, whose teenage son is causing him a brand-new kind of trouble. Like many other Brubaker/Phillips joints, the single issues will also feature backmatter essays and articles to flesh out the reading experience. Steve Foxe

Euthanauts #5

Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Publisher: Black Crown/ IDW Publishing
This week marks the end of the first volume of Euthanauts, an inventive and remarkable read from Tini Howard and Nick Robles. Euthanauts is part of the Shelly Bond-led Black Crown imprint, which has put out a slew of fascinating titles exploring themes not often touched upon in monthly comics. The fifth issue of Euthanauts brings readers back to Thalia, a young woman who acts as the living-world tether to a scientist who has discovered a way to exist in a post-death liminal space. Thalia has been struggling with her role and her own identity, and the fourth issue ended with a cliffhanger that stands to upend the world and her place in it. Howard is doing some of her most creative and interesting work to date, and Robles has created swirling, psychedelic art that’s gothic and modern at once.Caitlin Rosberg

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Juann Cabal
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics is launching a lot of new series this month and next, but near the top of the list is Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man from All-New Wolverine collaborators Tom Taylor and Juann Cabal. With the recent conclusion of Chip Zdarsky’s excellent run on Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, this new series brings us back up to two monthly Spider-titles and continues to explore the more local, relatable side of the Web-Slinger. Taylor excels at mixing feverishly inventive superhero drama with interpersonal connections and character moments; check out X-Men Red for a near-perfect example. Cabal is quickly making a name for himself at Marvel, coming off of a successful X-23 launch and back into partnership with Taylor for this book, promising an added dose of creative synergy to help bring this wallcrawling saga to life. Spider-fever is pretty darn high right now, and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man looks like the perfect treatment. Steve Foxe

Hobo Mom

Writers/Artists: Max de Radiguès, Charles Forsman
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Collaboration is vital to many if not most comics and graphic novels, but Max de Radiguès and Charles Forsman took it to a new height as they worked on Hobo Mom, drawing the book simultaneously while working together from the United States and Belgium, respectively. Forsman is likely best known for The End of the Fucking World, recently adapted into a Netflix series, and while de Radiguès’ name may not be familiar to some American readers, he has won fans and critical acclaim for Bastard. They have similar-enough visual styles that the pages can blend cohesively as the story of an errant mother unfolds. Natasha, who once abandoned her family to hop trains, returns to her husband and daughter after years of absence, and the creative team explores issues of affection, duty and family. The question is what Natasha will do now, confronted by the impact of her own actions and faced with the needs of people who care about her. Caitlin Rosberg

The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Narrative of a Slave’s Journey from Bondage to Freedom

Writer: David F. Walker
Artist: Damon Smyth
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
David F. Walker’s ability to weave emotionally evocative personal stories with important historical context has been on display in many of the comics he’s worked on in the past few years. Even when tackling superhero adventures, Walker has a skill for providing a larger picture beyond fist fights and cleverly named villains, creating backdrops out of real world issues; particularly in the case of his work on Shaft, Walker did a remarkable job using history to shape and influence the story he told, educating and entertaining readers equally. It makes sense then that Walker would eventually turn to biographies of extraordinary people like Frederick Douglass, using his skill as a writer and storyteller to bring the man’s reality to new readers. With art by Damon Smyth and colors by Hex Wives colorist Marissa Louise, The Life of Frederick Douglass promises to be a fascinating read, based in part on Douglass’ own writings. There’s no better team to tackle this historic man’s story, and with national conversations about race and the impact of the Civil War at a new high, no better time to read it. Caitlin Rosberg

Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars Omnibus

Writer/Artist: Jessica Abel
Publisher: Super Genius/ Papercutz
Over 200 years in the future, not only have humans gone to Mars, but they’ve settled comfortably enough to have a demand for sports like hoverderby. As with young people in any era, Trish “Trash” Nupindju believes that becoming a professional athlete is the best way for her to break free of the cycle of isolation and poverty that seems to be inherent to life at her family’s moisture farm. With all that weight already on her shoulders, Trish finds a seriously injured Martian on her doorstep one morning and everything falls apart. This three-volume series, collected in omnibus format this week, is a dystopian sci-fi story that confronts many issues readers will recognize from life as it is now, with lessons on the history of company towns and the science of terraforming. That may sound like there’s a lot going on, but Jessica Abel’s handling of intersectional identities and issues is what takes Trish Trash from a fun read to something both enjoyable and thought-provoking. Papercutz has primarily targeted younger kids with their graphic novels, but Trish Trash aims at adults and kids over 12. Caitlin Rosberg

Turok #1

Writer: Ron Marz
Artist: Roberto Castro
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
We named Dynamite Entertainment’s The Lone Ranger as one of our favorite comics of 2018, and noted that it stood out by embracing a fresh take on the property rather than playing into nostalgia like so much of Dynamite’s lineup. Ron Marz and Roberto Castro’s Turok almost admirably takes the opposite approach, promising in the solicit text that, “This is Turok as you’ve never seen him before … and Turok as you’ve always seen him!” If hearing Turok’s name evokes fond memories of Native American warriors duking it out with prehistoric beasts, Marz and Castro have you covered, without any paradigm-shifting twists. If the dinosaur ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Steve Foxe

Young Justice #1

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Publisher: DC Comics
Just in time for fans who are enjoying the arrival of new Young Justice episodes on the DC Universe streaming service, Young Justice returns to the shelves of local comic shops, too. Written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Patrick Gleason, this first issue ushers in not only a long-dormant team title at DC, but also another entry point for new readers. Though the lineup is not identical to the show, Young Justice, like Teen Titans, offers fans a place to start with legacy characters new and old. While it’s fun to see Bendis working his way into more corners of the DC universe, it’s especially exciting to see Gleason’s name on this project; he’s contributed to some incredible Damian Wayne stories and it will be interesting to see what he does with Tim Drake, Impulse, Wonder Girl and the other teen heroes. Conner Kent, who hasn’t appeared in the comics in years, is also back, and in one of his most iconic costumes, complete with leather jacket and superfluous straps. Topping it all off, there’s a new teen Green Lantern and Jenny Hex, who is descended from Jonah and briefly appeared in Bendis and Nick Derington’s Wal-Mart Batman serial. Young Justice is just the first of Bendis’ new Wonder Comics imprint, and it will be intriguing to see how the line fits into and changes the DC cannon; hopefully the creator pool will expand to include more people of color and women as it continues. Caitlin Rosberg

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