Comic of the Week: Euthanauts #5 establishes this series as a truly special comic

Euthanauts #5 is out 1/9/2019.

By d. emerson eddy — Every once in a while a comic comes along that changes the landscape. Something that redraws a neighborhood or delivers a new map. Sometimes it's just a few new houses that no one's seen before, other times it's an entire continent. Watchmen, Sandman, The Walking Dead, Hellboy, Preacher, American Flagg, The Vision, Spawn, Sin City, The Invisibles, From Hell...each of these works charted new regions and territories for comics storytelling to go into, sometimes in simple ways, other times profound. Euthanauts is one such title, charting a new course into an undiscovered country of thanateros.

This series has been one about acceptance. Of death. Of love. Of change. Of identity. Individually and all together in numerous permutations. Of Thalia coming to accept her strange nature and using it to try to help people. It spirals out into the strange, but always snaps back to stark reality.

This is never more apparent than through the artwork of Nick Robles and Eva de la Cruz. Robles is a genius of perspective and design, working through the weird of deathspace to the continued infection of Oscar's personality upon the world. His style through this series has reminded me a lot of both Jill Thompson and John Ridgway's work, with beautiful character designs, but still having a real grit to the presentation. Particularly impressive are his double page spreads, creating his own maps as Thalia and Mercy reforge their own connection and Mercy tries to explain the impossible. Atop Robles line art, de la Cruz's colours enhance and deepen the weird and mundane.

It's all grounded, though, through the narration provided by writer Tini Howard. The script is full of beautiful, mad ideas, but it's measured through simple concepts, observations of nature, tiny facts that keep us thinking about normal things while working through the connections to the stranger, broader fanciful ideas of deathspace. Or having an identity subsumed by a relative whose ego is too large to let go after he dies, whose dialogue is interestingly represented by a different font and word balloon approach from letterer Neil Uyetake. It's also often funny as hell as symbolic representations of what might happen in the real world spontaneously manifest. There's a very interesting exploration in this issue of the core concept of the title, as represented in Thalia presenting Circe's wishes for her funeral/remains to handled. To experience a happy death. And there are killer Bowie references.

Overall, Tini Howard, Nick Robles, Eva de la Cruz, and Neil Uyetake have crafted something unique here. Delving into death and dying from a different perspective that requires a bit of reflection and understanding to deal with, similar to how loss can strike us in profound and unexpected ways. All while opening up a new avenue to explore human connections and family. It's been beautiful and strange.

Euthanauts #5
Writer:
Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Colorist: Eva de la Cruz
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Publisher: IDW - Black Crown
Price: $3.99

Check out past Comic of the Week selections by d. emerson eddy on the list page.

d. emerson eddy is a student and writer of things. He fell in love with comics during Moore, Bissette, & Totleben's run on Swamp Thing and it has been a torrid affair ever since. His madness typically manifests itself on twitter @93418.

REVIEW: House Amok #1 by Christopher Sebela, Shawn McManus, Lee Loughridge, & Aditya Bidikar

House Amok #1 is available Aug. 29, 2018.

By Zack Quaintance — Simply put, writer Christopher Sebela is on fire, rolling out some of the most compelling creator-owned books in all of comics with a nigh-unparalleled range of themes, concepts, and genres. His summer started with the historic high seas/frontier revenge story Shanghai Red, continued with the satirical late-model-capitalist nightmare Crowded, and culminates now with the morbid reality-bending familial murder story, House Amok.

House Amok pulls the difficult double duty of orienting the reader with traces of recognizable tropes while mercilessly pushing into original circumstances as its story demands. Our leads are the Sandifers, a dysfunctional family the exact likes of which I’ve never seen, not in any medium, made unique not by the macabre violence they’re perpetrating—horrifying as it is, it has been done—but rather their justifications. That’s what makes this story so urgent and vital. Not only do the Sandifer parents utterly believe in some contorted and bloody logic, they’ve made it a matter of survival for themselves, their oldest son, and their younger fraternal twin girls, our protagonists.

It’s this decision that makes House Amok so compelling on essentially two separate fronts: first as a story of depravity and survival, and second as a tale of precocious innocents trying to parse the truth of their parents' dysfunctions. While there is little universality in the horror elements within House Amok, it’s this feeling of having to forge a world view from within the imperfect lens provided by one's parents that most (if not all) readers will relate to, hard. I could even see the story broadening into a look at shared delirium among certain segments of society. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing where Sebela and team take this narrative potential. 

From a craft perspective, House Amok is impeccable, as have been all the books from IDW's Black Crown imprint. Shawn McManus is a confident and veteran artist, and it shows in his linework, which conveys deep terrors from within a mundane childhood framework, and Lee Loughridge contributes much with a standout set of muted palettes and fitting color tones.

House Amok’s greatest strength, however, is the voice of its narration, which guides readers through the madcap reality-skewing imagery of this story with an orienting calm, poetic and assuring in a way that made my brain tingle. The twist at House Amok’s end is fittingly subdued, yet the unexpected nature of it is such that it ranks as one of the most chilling cliffhangers I’ve read in a #1 issue all year. Closing though: Egad, did I love this comic.

Overall — House Amok is a comic so rich and immersive that its ending will ambush you, leaving you demanding the second issue. It’s a childhood horror story that raises questions about fears, realities, innocence, and shared delusions. It is, quite simply, yet another must-read title from IDW’s Black Crown. 9.5/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

SDCC 2018’s 10 Coolest Comic Announcements

By Zack Quaintance — Yes, San Diego Comic Con is more about movies and TV than it is about comics, but! That doesn’t mean there aren’t still some pretty cool comic announcements happening the week of/during the con (some of which I got to be in the room for!). These are, of course, announcements about real printed comics, dozens of which are somehow written and drawn and shipped to small businesses across the country each week (which is all pretty crazy if you think about 2018 and the media landscape long enough).

With that in mind, we’d like to take a quick look today at 10 (plus one extra) of the coolest comic announcements to come out of this year’s con, ranked below in a fairly random order...let’s do it!

10 Coolest Comic Announcements

Electric Warriors Mini Series by Steve Orlando and Travel Foreman
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: November 2018
More Info: Diplomacy and Death via the Electric Warriors
Why It’s Cool: DC has essentially given Steve Orlando—one of its best writers when it comes to capturing the beauty to be found in obscure bits of continuity—and Travel Foreman—a visionary comic artist if ever there was one—a fairly-open canvas to do with what they will. This canvas—Jack Kirby’s Great Disaster future—is inherently Kirby-esque (seeing as he created it) and now we’ll get what is likely to be complex and surprising take on it spread through six issues. Sign me up.  

A potentially Dune-esque high-concept sci-fi story heavy with 2018 sensibilities by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward.

Invisible Kingdom by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics and Berger Books
Release Date: March 2019
More Info: G. Willow Wilson to Write for Berger Books
Why It’s Cool: Speaking of visionary science fiction, have you seen the cover for G. Willow Wilson’s forthcoming Berger Books comic, Invisible Kingdom? Phew. The art is something, and the solicit evokes Dune-esque ideas of exploring the intersection of religion and commerce (presumably without all the stuff about how “spices” can expand one’s mind). Wilson is a thoughtful and attentive writer, and a take like this edited by former-Vertigo heyday editor Karen Berger is very cool indeed.

X-Men Black
Publisher: Marvel
Release Date: October 2018
More Info: News from Marvel's X-Men Panel
Why It’s Cool: The X-Offices have tapped a super eclectic bunch of writers to do X-Men Black, a weekly series this October in which each issue centers on a different villain. It’s a pretty cool move to have Chris Claremont writing about Magneto one week, noted Maggott aficionado Leah Williams doing Emma Frost the next, and Scott Aukerman (Hot Soccermom) of Comedy Bang Bang on Mojo the next. Pretty cool indeed, especially as it seems to be leading a revival of Uncanny X-Men in November…

Gail Simone Overseeing Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime
Publisher: Lion Forge
Release Date: Simone seems to be hard at work on this already
More Info: Gail Simone Discusses Being Named Architect of Catalyst Prime
Why It’s Cool: Speaking of cool oversight gigs, how about Gail Simone becoming the architect of Lion Forge’s still-nascent Catalyst Prime Universe? Cards on the table, I’d been contemplating jumping off this line after the former architect, Joseph Illidge, left for Valiant earlier this year, but now with Simone at the wheel I’ve scratched those plans and re-upped my excitement for this concept.

Donny Cates ‘Showrunning’ a Marvel Knights Commemoration
Publisher:
Marvel
Release Date: November
More Info: Donny Cates and Team to Commemorate Marvel Knights’ 20th Anniversary
Why It’s Cool: Speaking yet again (last time, I promise) about cool oversight gigs, Marvel announced that big ideas/bigger personality writer Donny Cates would be “showrunning” an event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its classic (for my generation, anyway) line of Marvel Knights properties, which back in the day told prestige TV-esque stories about characters like Daredevil, Moon Knight, and Black Panther. Joined in this effort will be an exciting new guard of Marvel writers that includes Matthew Rosenberg, Tini Howard, and Vita Ayala. Cool!

The Laphams doing ‘The Lodger’ for IDW’s Black Crown
Publisher: Black Crown via IDW
Release Date: October
More Info: Shelly Bond Announces Laphams Book on Black Crown
Why It’s Cool: From its inception, Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint at IDW (which has an aesthetic I describe as slightly drunk at a DIY punk rock show) has seemed to promise edgy and interesting comics, and the first batch was, indeed, strong. The second batch, however, is shaping up to fully capture Bond’s vision, starting with Euthanuats and continuing now with The Lodger, which is from the Laphams, a husband and wife duo behind the modern noir classic comic Stray Bullets.

Rush album cover artists are burning with jealousy.

Green Lantern by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: November
More Info: Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp to Take Over Green Lantern
Why It’s Cool: It’s Grant Morrison writing a cosmic book in the DC Universe, which alone would be cool enough to make this list, but, hey, it’s also Liam Sharpe on art! And his early work looks like an insane prog rock album cover. This, friends, is going to be epic.

Aquaman by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Robson Rocha
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: TBD (I think? Info seemed scarce on when…)
More Info: DeConnick and Rocha Take Over Aquaman
Why It’s Cool: I couldn't find a release date, but Kelly Sue DeConnick writing Aquaman in time for the character's spotlight via a new movie is super cool. DeConnick is an exciting and polished comic writer, perfect for pushing Arthur in new directions after Dan Abnett’s safe and slow-moving take on the character.

Vision by Chelsea Cain, Marc Mohan, and Aud Koch
Publisher: Marvel
Release Date: November
More Info: Marvel’s Mic Drop Moment at SDCC
Why It’s Cool: Chelsea Cain is coming back to Marvel, in spite of a harassment campaign that resulted from a character wearing a pro-feminism t-shirt in a book about a strong female secret agent. Groan. But it’s good to see Cain back! Her last book for Marvel, Mockingbird, was a complex puzzle box of a story about Bobbi Morse, a.k.a. Mockingbird, one that incorporated interesting character and relationship developments for its lead. Tom King’s Vision is an impossible act to follow, but it will be cool to see Cain, Marc Mohan, and Aud Koch tell their own story with everyone’s favorite Marvel android.

Here's hoping we enjoy this book as much as the Shazam family is enjoying this roller coaster.

Shazam! by Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: November
More Info: Shazam Comic Announced by Geoff Johns
Why It’s Cool: Geoff Johns’ take on Shazam in the New 52 might have been a bit polarizing (I liked it well enough), but circumstances now seem right for him to tell a very cool Shazam story. He’s returning to writing as a main focus and is presumably fired up to do so. Plus, holy cow of all the new art dropped at SDCC, I think Dale Eaglesham’s Shazam piece is my favorite.

Plus One More

Mars Attacks! by Kyle Starks & Chris Schweizer
Publisher: Dynamite
Release Date: October 2018
More Info: Dynamite Relaunches Mars Attacks
Why It’s Cool: Kyle Starks, whose Rock Candy Mountain is quite possibly the funniest comic ever, is now collaborating with Chris Schweizer on a Mars Attacks story. Yes, please.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

ADVANCED REVIEW: Euthanauts #1 by Tini Howard, Nick Robles, & Aditya Bidikar

Euthanauts #1  is an intriguing comic that lives up to its incredible cover art.

Euthanauts #1 is an intriguing comic that lives up to its incredible cover art.

Tini Howard and Nick Robles’ Euthanuats #1 first caught my attention weeks ago with its title and cover. In tandem, the two evoke thoughts of a woman journeying through death, body withered to bones as her head and mind are protected by a glass bauble, one that glows with life and attracts insects like a light bulb. My interest was bolstered further by the books presence on IDW’s imprint, Black Crown, from former long-time Vertigo editor Shelly Bond. I’ve enjoyed all Black Crown offerings (more here), but it was another book by Howard that really stood out to me: Assassinistas, a collaboration with the legendary Gilbert Hernandez that applies complex modern family dynamics to an archetypal femme fatale death squad.

Whereas Assassinistas is more of a character study, one laced with appropriate bits of humor and modest bouts of action, Euthanuats is better-described as an abstract and surreal walk through our fears, expectations and attitudes around death. Our protagonist is an alienated receptionist who works in a funeral home and is dissatisfied with her life and friendships. For the first two-thirds of the book, the story grounds us in this struggle, functioning well as a slice-of-life comic.

Howard’s characterization is strong, with effective interior monologue lines like, “I was thinking about how weird it is that I don’t like my friends and they don’t really like me—when I first saw her…”, as well as snappy character banter, such as, “It’s like, communism works just fine, you just have to really, really likeable.” Robles art is also wonderful, detailed and realistic, glazed over with a fitting color palette that manages to be forlorn without tipping into morbid or noir.

Nick Robles' art in  Euthanauts #1  depicts a non-conventional side of death.

Nick Robles' art in Euthanauts #1 depicts a non-conventional side of death.

It is, however, the plot point that catapults us into the third act that really establishes this book as something special. Not to give too much away, but reality blurs into a world of ethereal surrealism, seemingly a realm of death, or near death. It's unclear, and the book makes a wise decision to keep readers disoriented. I’ve been reading comics for two decades and change, and as such I’ve seen an excessive number of visual depictions of death, limbo, the afterlife, etc. I’ve rarely seen one as intriguing as in Euthanuats, which I take as a testament to both the imagination and research that went into this story.

This has already been a fantastic year for comics as unfettered explorations of nigh-universal fears, concerns, or hang ups (see Eternity Girl, Mister Miracle, and several inward-facing horror books), but Euthanauts charges headlong at the most towering concern of all—death—and emerges with a fascinating and beautifully-told story. I barely have a guess for where this book is headed next, and I love that.

Overall: Engrossing and complex, Euthanauts is the best book yet from former Vertigo editor Shelly Bond’s new IDW imprint, Black Crown. Howard’s script dives confidentiality into a universal concern—death—as Robles' ethereal visuals blur reality. An intriguing and gorgeous comic, this one is highly recommended. 9.0/10

Euthanauts #1 is out July 18. Learn more about it here!

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.