Required Reading: Comics for 11/30/2016

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Required Reading: Comics for 11/30/2016

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed with asinine savings on an assortment of comic goodies, but we still saved a fraction of our rent budget for the cornucopia of treats coming out tomorrow. DC Comics is rolling out its first selection of annuals post its line-wide Rebirth, with Batman’s iteration sporting a spectacular group of creators including Tom King, Scott Snyder, Paul Dini, Neal Adams and Riley Rossmo. Coincidentally, the publisher has also been incubating its next wave of writers and artists who show off their work in New Talent Showcase—a collection of shorts from the men and women who participated in the DC Talent Development Workshop under the tutelage of aforementioned Bat-scribe Snyder.

Outside of the Big Two, cartoonist Ed Luce offers a new tome featuring our favorite queer metal-head wrestler in Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal, Michel Fiffe sends his group of degenerate government fodder on a new mission in Copra: Round Four and Image flaunts three of its best series with new chapters from Monstress, Deadly Class and Seven to Eternity.

Batman Annual #1

Writer: Scott Williams, Steve Orlando, Paul Dini, Scott Snyder, Tom King
Artist: David Finch, Declan Shalvey, Neal Adams, Riley Rossmo, David Finch, Bilquis Evely
Publisher: DC Comics

Oversized annual issues often fall just close enough inside a monthly story arc to hold the attention of people who are already reading, but their real advantage is that they pose a prime opportunity for new eyes. With DC's accessible Rebirth well underway and the Bat-family books moving quickly through multiple plots, Batman Annual #1 is the perfect chance for those curious of the cape and cowl to join the party. The issue features a roster of potent creators currently contributing to Batman books. In particular, illustrators Riley Rossmo and Bilquis Evely bring a stylized edge that casts the Caped Crusader and his family in new aesthetics. Former bat-fans who haven't dived into the ongoing series should pick this up regardless of their current involvement with Gotham's finest, if only for the chance to see Paul Dini and Neal Adams collaborate on a Harley Quinn tale, as well as a touching story of animal stewardship from Tom King and David Finch. Caitlin Rosberg

Copra: Round Four

Writer/Artist: Michel Fiffe
Publisher: Bergen Street Press

Michel Fiffe continues to embarrass the heck out of every other person working in comics with his tour de force one-man assault, Copra. Written, drawn, colored, lettered and sequentially self-published by Fiffe, Copra began as a copyright-testing homage to the Ostrander-era Suicide Squad tales before evolving in its own bizarre way. Round Four continues the psychedelic assault of Copra's highly expendable commandos, rendered in his masterful multimedia style. Copra collections can be challenging to nab, and the title is much more appreciable after reading the whole epic in order, but Fiffe's mad creation continues to be one of the best comics in existence and is more than worth hunting down. Steve Foxe

Deadly Class #24

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Wes Craig
Publisher: Image Comics

Wes Craig and Rick Remender have pulled off a narrative feat few other creative teams have managed: killing off their main characters only to replace them with equally compelling protagonists. But unlike similar twists in Peter Milligan and Mike Allred's X-Force, the tortured teens in Deadly Class expired after we had 21 issues to grow attached to them. The following three issues have introduced a new class of Freshmen at King's Dominion High School, and they're ridiculously interesting.

Remender diagrams the political landscape of the late '80s with characters like Helmut, a flatulent, communist-despising German, and Zenzele, a devoted Christian from Ethiopia who feels compelled to study murder for the sake of her parents' survival. The plot organically blends Cold War-era action excess with the biting insecurities of teenhood, making for equal parts John Hughes with Paul Verhoeven. The latest issue follows this new motley crew while panning back to the guilt of elder students Saya and Petra, who played a large role in the devastating events mentioned above. Under the deft, hyper-stylized pen of Craig, the anxieties of high school inflate into neon palates of pain and sensation. And with such a ballsy second act, the creators have proven to be valedictorians of story and style. Sean Edgar

Ghost Rider #1

Writer: Felipe Smith
Artists: Danilo Beyruth, Tradd Moore
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Thank Mephisto. For a hot minute, it looked like Robbie Reyes might fade into the same limbo as Alejandra Jones, the previous "new" Ghost Rider, as Felipe Smith, Tradd Moore and Damion Scott's nitro-infused run failed to burn up the sales charts. Enter ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to help earn the flame-headed hot-rod racer a second sequential chance. Original writer/co-creator Felipe Smith returns with new artist Danilo Beyruth for a core story that immediately drops Robbie into the wider MCU with a guest appearance from new Hulk, Amadeus Cho. While it's a bummer that Moore wasn't available for another full-length master class on kinetic car action, he does return for a back-up that introduces a new villain for Reyes. With Smith still in the driver's seat and Beyruth sitting capable in shotgun, we're confident that one of Marvel's best recent debuts is back in the fast lane. Steve Foxe

Inhumans vs. X-men #0

Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Kenneth Rocafort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The X-Men franchise continues its mini-event march with IvX, the second scenario in four years to pit Marvel's Merry Mutants against another batch of ostensible heroes. Marvel played into fan fears that the publisher was ready to hamstring the much-loved X-franchise to force feed readers on the Inhumans, a shallowly similar property whose film rights are owned by Marvel (as opposed to the mutants tied up in Fox's grips). Thankfully, we already know that the unfortunately named "ResurrXion" is on the horizon, promising a 2017 relaunch of X-Men titles less bound to the Terrigen Mist storylines of current. That makes IvX a bit of a mixed prospect: fans no longer need to fear an "X-termination," but the promise of Inhumans-free X-Books in a few months makes this dust-up feel safely skippable. Writer Charles Soule is solid at absolute worst and capable of turning similar mutant cash-grabs (Death of Wolverine) into surprise must-reads, while artist Kenneth Rocafort, most recently of Al Ewing's Ultimates, assures IvX's unnecessary fisticuffs will look great. Steve Foxe

Monstress #8

Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Publisher: Image Comics

Image Comics introduced a TV-inspired new twist on the monthly publishing schedule by releasing just enough comics to fill a trade paperback before going on a brief hiatus, allowing the creative team to catch up. After several months off, Monstress returned in October with the cast-expanding issue #7, and this week introduces a new chapter that features Maika and her crew turning to the sea. Writer Marjorie Liu's skill with worldbuilding has been on full display throughout Monstress' myriad towns and races, and Sana Takeda's lush, goth-tinged illustrations make every page a small treasure, but their creative harmony has finally hit a new stride with the first arc complete.

Liu's previous experience writing prose novels was evident in early issues, leaving the first six entries heavy and slower—especially the triple-sized debut—but the narrative has felt less expositional and more progressive since. Whereas a full binge was the only way to understand Liu's world previously, single issues now convey the sprawling, interpersonal dramas within. Caitlin Rosberg

New Talent Showcase #1

Writers: Adam Smith, Chris Sebela, Erica Schultz, Michael Moreci, Michael McMillian, Hena Khan, Joëlle Jones, Emma Beeby, Vita Ayala
Artists: Khary Randolph, David Messina, Sonny Liew, Juan Ferreyra, Barnaby Bagenda
Publisher: DC Comics

When DC announced their search for new creators and the creation of a Talent Development workshop earlier this year, the publisher never articulated what the fruit of that labor was going to be. With this first oversized issue of New Talent Showcase, DC is showing off the skills of the writers and illustrators who participated in the program. The book sports a weighty $7.99 price tag, but is nearly four times the length of a standard comic, topping off at 80 pages. The storylines rotate through a spectrum of characters, including a callback to Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's brutal Wonder Woman run where the titular character ascends as the God of War. Most of the names here will be familiar to folks who venture into the offerings of publishers beyond the "Big Three" of DC, Image and Marvel, but it's exciting to see what a shot of creative adrenaline and new blood will do for DC on the heels of its successful Rebirth launch. Caitlin Rosberg

Savage #1

Writer: B. Clay Moore
Artists: Clayton Henry, Lewis LaRosa
Publisher: Valiant

Valiant's latest original launch is the best Ka-Zar pitch Marvel's never gotten around to publishing, with Clayton Henry and Lewis LaRosa illustrating two time periods of the titular character's dino-jungle survival adventure. In LaRosa's gorgeously rendered half, Savage explores the ongoing story of a young man living in a land lost to time, besieged by raptors and other terrible lizards. In Henry's clean-lined portion, writer B. Clay Moore delves into the origins of Savage's parents' crash on the island. While Valiant's ongoing legacy character efforts have continued to please fans of sci-fi action/adventure, it's often the new or less-recognizable properties like Savage that tend to surprise readers and attract new eyes to the publisher. Based on Paste's interview with Moore and the smart dual art team, Savage seems poised to be Valiant's next great launch. Steve Foxe

Seven to Eternity #3

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Jerome Opeña
Publisher: Image Comics

If '80s cartoon icon He-Man was reimagined by Euro comics guru Moebius, strung through the reality-prodding filter of Alejandro Jodorowsky and fitted with a number of political allegories, it may look something like Seven to Eternity. Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña's vibrant fantasy follows a man with a terminal illness, Adam Osidis, revolting against the King of Whispers—a malicious overlord who conquers kingdoms by granting impossible wishes. The last issue introduced a collection of freedom fighters (or terrorists, pending perspective) called the Mosak Knights, who attempt to overthrow the monarchy and banter endlessly. Even built on a foundation of provocative and relevant themes, this book has proven intoxicatingly creative. From a piper demon summoning mud wolf-snakes to an amputee brawler who steals the limbs of her victims, Remender and Opeña are having just as good a time reveling in the genre as they are flavoring it with the real world's burdens. This week's issue unfolds a new layer of mythology as the reader peaks at a spiritual realm where cyclopic librarians and the spirits of former family members reside. Sean Edgar

Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal

Writer/Artist: Ed Luce
Publisher: Fantagraphics

Everyone's favorite burly gay black-metal cat-lover is back in this full-color collection of assorted shorts and new stories from creator Ed Luce. The first Wuvable Oaf hardcover represented a (hairier) side of gay culture rarely seen in mainstream media, but its priority was on delivering a fairly heartwarming story of a hirsute dude looking for love. This follow-up volume looks back at the Oaf's childhood in addition to further chasing Luce's favorite themes of wrestling, mild Satanism, felines and wall-of-sound metal. Although Luce and Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O'Mallet could hardly be further apart on the stylistic spectrum, there's a similar passion expressed by Luce in his honest intermingling of pop- and counter-culture interests, making Wuvable Oaf worth the consideration of metalheads queer and straight alike. Steve Foxe