September! New month, new comics, new things to look out for. We had a wander round the solicitations and picked out the comics we’re all most looking forward to this month. Also I got them to pick their favourite DC villains, because there’s a DC Villain Month coming out and well, why not.
Boxers & Saints
Gene Luen Yang, Sept 10
The release I’m most looking forward to this month is Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers and Saints diptych. Yang’s books are always note-worthy and Boxers and Saints promises more of the same, combining topical history, rich narratives and his unique art style. Releasing as both a slip-cased box set and as 2 individual books, the books each tell the story of the two sides of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion: the Christian West vs the traditional Chinese gods, and all they represent.
Killer Croc (DC)
Tim Seeley, Francis Portela, Sept 25
I have a soft spot for Batsy’s lesser villains (he does not), especially Killer Croc, simply because I like the conceit of mutated man/animals and a man/crocodile is too hard to pass up. My favourite iterations of him can be found in the Batman Adventures vol 2 and Broken City: where he’s written in vastly different ways- the first more human and noble and working as an underground fighter despite his mutations, and the second, as a creature who’s given in to his animal side: debased and cunning.
Like any comic fan and their favourites, I’d really like to see him used in a story leaning more towards the latter characterisation. For me Croc is impactful even when he’s dropped into books as a passing, bit character and not really doing much, like when Batman’s night sojourns sees him pass through the sewers and he encounters an indifferent and mono-syllabic Croc keeping a low profile. As with most Batman villains the scope for an exploration of their grey personalities and psyches is broad, although rarely indulged.
Ballistic #2 (Black Mask Studios)
Adam Egypt Mortimer and Darick Robertson, Sep 11
Because issue one was the best comic I’ve read since… it’s hard to quantify that actually. I think it’s even better than Saga, so you know I’m being serious here. There are some comparisons to be made with Robertson’s Transmetropolitan, a future cyber-punk, semi-political, anti-hero tale. But Ballistic is wildly different in tackling the sheer scale of a bio-tech landscape fuelled by Mieville-esque madness and Cronenberg horror. It’s madcap, it’s psychedelic, and it’s ultimately a buddy adventure between one guy and his drug-addicted, foul-mouthed, snarky gun.
In issue two we realise that our hero Butch is not nearly as dim as he was trying to make out, and if anything the art is even better, even cleaner and more evocative than in the brilliant first issue – described by Grant Morrison as his favourite comic of 2013. Of course I read it first and said the same, but I perhaps have rather more time on my hands! I’m a trendsetter yo.
Every page is beautiful, worthy of being made into a best-selling print. Butch is actually shaping up to be a rather sexy hero (à la Spider Jerusalem, naturally) and while the previous issue was an introduction to this bizarre world and a standard-ish heist gone wrong, issue two sees the plot EXPLODE in all manner of crazy directions – but importantly, never losing the reader in the process. There’s some nifty panel-play at work here, and some manipulation of time within panels, and the exposition is neat but not heavy.
As always Mortimer’s notes at the back of the issue reveal just how expansive this world is. Ballistic is, I think, a miniseries. I hope to god it is turned into a gorgeous series of beautiful mind-bending, psychedelic volumes of genius.
I can’t praise this book enough. It’s quite possibly the comic of the decade and I love it.
The Black Project (Myriad Ed)
Gareth Brookes, Sep 12
Brookes appeared at the Stripped stand of events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last weekend (alongside the wonderful Hannah Berry) and I was immediately intrigued by his labour of love. The Black Project, created with linocut relief print and embroidery, is a rather unique object containing a rather unique story.
Getting yourself a girlfriend is easy, according to Richard. All you need is papier mache, string, soft material, a balloon, some old fashioned bellows, and a good pair of scissors. The difficult bit is keeping her secret. Set in an English suburb in the early 1990s, this is the story of Richard’s all-consuming passion for creating ‘girls’ from household objects. But as his hobby begins to flourish, his real life friendships and family relationships deteriorate.
The beginning pages of the book expose its origin as a prose story, with mostly singular illustrations and short pieces of text. This soon flowers into wonderful sequential passages that bring the story into a more claustrophobic space, befitting for the weird and dark little tale it spins. There is a lot of experimentation with borders and layouts, with Brookes finding inspiration in forgotten art forms including tapestry and even the old design work of stamps and matchboxes.
During his talk I particularly liked his theory that “comics” is just the only word we have left from what was once a massive art form, from great tapestries to communicative embroidery. The clash of the old media used here to create a modern graphic novel is incredibly interesting to see unfold, and the painstaking time that has gone into creating each page reflects the obsession of the main character. The intricacy controls the pace of the book, making it both a leisurely and intense read.
Brookes also has a wonderful dark and wry wit in person, something that certainly comes through in this very unique book.
Justice League #23.2: Lobo (DC)
Marguerite Bennett and Ben Oliver, Sep 11
The DC Villains month event had mostly passed me by, other than checking in now and then on the grumbles about availability and so forth (I honestly struggle to grasp how these percentages and ratios work at a glance). Then I saw the Lobo re-design.
I’m a big Lobo fan. BIG. He was one of the first non-Batman DC characters that I read years ago. I love his insanity, his attitude, and yeah, his punk-ass look. He’s the other side of the coin to Deadpool on a bad day. And then I saw the re-design.
And went, OMG MUST HAVE IT, THE PRECIOUS. Damn, Lobo looks good. I’m interested to see how much of that look is incorporated in this issue as there has been a bit of confusion from the writer. I’m interested to see if his new look when it does come through is as much a commentary on todays sexy superhero culture as it was back when he was highlighting the ridiculous uber-macho superheroes of the ‘80s. I’m interested to see if he’ll get his own kickass series that he so deserves, spitting hate and snark across the newDCU. I’m interested to see if we’re about to get an infinite loop of “I’m Spartacus!” declaring Lobo’s turning up to frag the previous one in the cycle.
I’m interested to see a sexy Lobo dammit.
Hoax Hunters #10 (Image)
Michael Moreci, Steve Seeley; Tristan Jones
This has been strongly hyped up over the last few weeks, following the announcement that the series has been optioned for a TV show. Starting a new storyline this month which brings new series artist Jones onto the book, I’ve been reading and enjoying the series since the start. The idea is that it follows a team of television reporters who star in a TV show where they debunk popular hoaxes. But, actually, all the hoaxes are real, and the Government has hired them to debunk stories which are actually real. When a monster is sighted, the team go over, defeat it, and then tell the world that it never existed.
It’s been really settling into form recently, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it thus far.
Batman 23.2: The Riddler (DC)
Scott Snyder, Ray Rawkes; Jeremy Haun
I know, I know, DC’s villain month has the most confusing titles and set-up, and has totally fleeced retailers. But looking past that to the actual comics themselves — I have such a weak spot for The Riddler! And, unlike some of the other Villain month titles which look like they’re being rushed through somewhat, Scott Snyder’s been planning to use Riddler far in advance of this issue. So, I’m expecting an issue which doesn’t just offer a quickie origin story – this should be a fun part of the whole ‘Zero Year’ storyline.
Green is my favourite colour. It was either him or Poison Ivy, but she loses out because she doesn’t have an adorable hat.
Hip Hop Family Tree (Fantagraphics)
September is always an amazing month for comics as all the fall releases for SPX and the Brooklyn Book Festival roll out, as do the big fall gift books. So much to enjoy from a new Peter Bagge bio of Margaret Sanger; a new Palookville by Seth; and of course a new issue of Love and Rockets is always cause for national celebration. But for my pick this month is Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree.
Although it’s already available online, having it all in an interactive book format means I can jump back and forth between the interconnecting worlds of rappers, producers, DJs and fans that gave rise to the most influential creative movement of the last 40 years. Piskor’s use of the faded, limited palette of the Bronze Age comics give this history the rearview mirror sheen of myth and legend.