Island #8 by Brandon Graham, Emma Rios, et al. (Hilary)
Island is consistently one of my favorite comic outputs, and this month’s offering, featuring work from Xulia Vicente, Michael DeForge, Ben Sears, and Simon Roy, was particularly strong. DeForge’s Mostly Saturn, about what happens to people after they die, is a symphony in cool tones and deceptively simple design. As Island issues often do, this one includes beautiful two-page art layouts in the beginning and as an interlude between stories (art by Vicente and Sears, respectively). And finally, Roy, who worked with Brandon Graham on Prophet and created one of my favorite one-offs ever (Jan’s Atomic Heart), gives us the third and final chapter of Habitat, a futuristic space world on the edge of mutiny and destruction, featuring, of course, crazy robot fights and gorgeous art spreads.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #42 by Katie Cook, Andy Price, Heather Breckel, and Neil Uyetake (Charles Paul Hoffman)
The My Little Pony comics are consistently fun reads, but Friendship Is Magic #42 takes it to a whole new level as Pinkie Pie, “Equestria’s third-best gift giver,” turns to Rarity for help in making a hand-illustrated book retelling that classic pony fable “The Princess’s New Dress.” The only problem: Pinkie Pie can’t decide on a consistent art style, leaving the comic full of homages to Roy Lichtenstein, Mike Mignola, Chuck Jones,Charles Schulz, etc., along with real life crocheted and clay pony dolls, a cut-out theatre diorama, and even a Mad fold-in. Rarity may be right that the result is “a complete mishmash of arts and crafts that I’ve only ever seen in my nightmares,” but at the end of the day it’s as crazy fun as Pinkie Pie herself.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens #1 by Chuck Wendig, Luke Ross, Frank Martin, cover by Esad Ribić (Kay Taylor Rea)
I was predisposed to like this comic because a) Star Wars and b) I love Chuck Wendig’s writing. This isn’t his first foray into the world of Star Wars (his novel Aftermath released in 2015 and the sequel, Aftermath: Life Debt, releases July 12, 2016) or Marvel Comics (he’s the writer for a new ongoing Hyperion run) and his ease with the content and format really shows in the first offering from the five-issue adaptation of The Force Awakens. Martin’s color art is vibrant and lends an appropriately cinematic feel. Ross’ does a brilliant job with backgrounds, tech, and clothes, though I was underwhelmed by the characters’ faces. Translating actors we know by face in real life into comic form isn’t easy, so I’ll happily shrug that off. I’m excited to see how the rest of this mini-series plays out.
The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E.K. Weaver (Latonya Pennington)
It’s one thing to find a slice-of-life webcomic about a gay guy of color and a not straight dude going on a roadtrip. It’s another to find a webcomic that shows gay people having explicit NSFW sex after falling for each other. This comic is a gem for these reasons and the fact that the characters are so relatable and well written. They geek out, get angry, and learn from each other and themselves. The artwork is great because it is as down-to-earth and realistic as the characters. By the end of the comic, I felt sad to finish the road trip, but happy that I joined TJ and Amal on it.
Green Arrow: Rebirth and #1 by Benjamin Percy, Otto Schmidt, Nate Piekos, and Juan Ferreyra (Jess Plummer)
I had kind of given up on Green Arrow. Oliver Queen has long been one of my favorite characters, especially the O’Neil/Adams and Smith/Hester versions, but the past decade’s attempts to gritty him up – not to mention depoliticizing him – left me half-convinced that the character I loved so much was long gone. With the Rebirth series, though, Percy and Schmidt have cherry-picked the best elements of the New 52 and DCW Green Arrows and married them to what was so great about classic Oliver: a deeply passionate, vocally liberal hothead whose heart is in the right place but who is often his own worst enemy. Percy’s Ollie is unquestionably flawed, but doing his best and learning to listen. Pair that with engaging linework, gorgeous colors, and a supporting cast that’s mostly kickass women who don’t have time to coddle Ollie, and out of nowhere I’ve got the Green Arrow book of my dreams. Now bring back Connor, Mia, and Cissie!
Star Wars: Vader Down by Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron, Salvador Larroca, Mike Deodato Jr (Kristina Pino)
I read Vader Down as the third volume of the Darth Vader series, but it can stand on its own and is a crossover event for folks who are also reading the main Star Wars line. The big thing in this arc is that Vader has discovered Luke is his son, as well as that Luke is the one who destroyed the Death Star. So he’s trying to goad Luke into joining forces with him. You start to see why he ends up making certain decisions later, how he gets his redemption and all that, but more than anything, you get to see a truly badass side of Vader (even if he’s not on the “good” side in this case). There’s this one line… he says, “All I am surrounded by is fear and dead men.” Chills. Chills.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink #1 by Brenden Fletcher, Kelly Thompson, Daniel Di Nicuolo, Sarah Stern, Ed Dukeshire (Sara Kern)
I’ll be the first to admit that I pulled this comic purely out of nostalgia. I wasn’t expecting much from my old friend Kimberly, who in retrospect does not seem all that awesome as a role model. (I remember finding her interesting mainly because she had boy problems. Well, boy problems and cool accessories.) In retrospect, I’m glad I gave the issue a chance, because it completely exceeded my expectations. As an adult reader I expected to be bored, but the charming dialogue and post-apocalyptic-gone-nineties art kept me bemused throughout. Above all, the comic shone because the protagonist comes off as a badass: not only is Kim clearly a successful gymnast and twenty-something, but she’s unafraid to go solo when her family needs her. And she still has awesome accessories: she rides a motorcycle and wears combat boots, and ohmygod her bow. It will be interesting to see what kind of character development the creative team can bring to Kim, whose only major problem at this point seems to be her monstress enemies. Either way, I’ll be picking up the second issue. If you have a young lady in your life, or just a lively sense of nostalgia, I highly recommend that you do, too.
DC Super Hero Girls: Finals Crisis by Shea Fontana, Yancey Labat, Monica Kubina, Janice Chiang (Katie Schenkel)
If you or your little one have been enjoying the DC Super Hero Girls shorts (or maybe have nabbed one of the great figures in their toy line), then you’re going to want to check out their first graphic novel, punnily named Finals Crisis. Super Hero High is just a day away from finals, and each of our heroines (Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Poison Ivy, Katana, Bumblebee, and Harley) are preparing in different ways. But a mysterious foe is targeting the heroines one by one — will they make it to class?! You might recognize the Supergirl chapter from Free Comic Book Day, but the graphic novel itself gives each of the heroines time to shine in their own POV chapter, with other storylines weaving in and out in the background. Altogether, the book is a fun exploration of the characters with lots of DCU easter eggs for older readers. If you’re the parent of a superhero-loving kid but don’t know where to start them off in comics, DC Super Hero Girls: Finals Crisis would make a fantastic introduction.
Divinity II #3 by Matt Kindt, Trevor Hairsine, Ryan Winn, David Baron (Thomas Maluck)
Throughout Valiant’s universe, every appearance of Abram Adams (codename: Divinity) tops the last. His powers extend through space, time, perception, and atomic structures. If he doesn’t want to fight you, you will simply land ahead in your own timeline past the moment you would have met him. That is, unless you are a fellow Divinity. Abram left two teammates behind at the edge of the cosmos, and one of them, Myshka, is not nearly as zen about her omnipotence as Abram. She left as a Cosmonaut of the U.S.S.R. and returned to restore Mother Russia to its former glory. Her revisionist patriotism clashes with his non-interventionism as they chase each other through decades, with one particularly excellent scene diced into panels drawn and colored according to which portions correspond to which era. The rear bonus pages do an excellent job of showing off how the layout, pencils, inks, and colors become a progressively layered stack of talents and intents. This is a clever, time-bending showdown that continues to build off the amazing first Divinity book. (Here’re my own bonus notes about the book’s secrets: Abram’s whispered text contains a Latin phrase, and Myshka’s Russian fairytale is real, with one significant change.)
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton (Melody Schreiber)
This is the nerdiest of nerd comics, and I love it wholeheartedly. I oscillated between loving all the historical, literary, and musical references and learning a ton about those fields. Who knew that Jules Verne and H.G. Wells squabbled over how much science and how much fiction to include in their books? What must it have been like to be Mozart’s nephew, or the residents of the islands where Robinson Crusoe was stranded? ALSO… Fat Pony. Need I say more?