REVIEW: Sera and the Royal Stars #1 is beautiful

By Zack Quaintance — Sera and the Royal Stars #1 is one good-looking comic, so much so that I want to start this review by highlighting artist Audrey Mok and colorist Raul Angulo’s vast contributions to this story. This is a fantasy comic, one beholden to certain visuals (cloaks, swords, arrows, boots, horses, etc.) as fantasy comics often are. Within that, however, Mok and Angulo’s work quickly sets a tone for this world, nodding to certain real world cultural touchstones while taking scenes and settings and extending them into fantastical and creative new aesthetic territory. They pull influences, they add their own touches, they bring us to a world at once familiar and intriguing. The visual world-building here is all very done. 

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REVIEW: Wasted Space #8 ranks as the series best issue so far

By Zack Quaintance — As I mentioned last month in my review of Wasted Space #7, this book being officially turned into an ongoing series by publisher Vault Comics has enabled its creators to do deeper character work, doubling down on this comic’s trademark humor and high-minded pathos. What it has also allowed them to do is slow the pace just a bit, opening things up for what gamers might call side quests, which is exactly what we get in Wasted Space #8.

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REVIEW: Vault Comics’ Wasted Space #7 makes smooth transition into ongoing monthly comic

Wasted Space #7 is out 2/27/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — I’ve been reviewing Wasted Space since the series started in April of last year, and I’ve loved this book from the start. As I wrote in our Top Comics to Buy for February 27, 2019 feature this week, this is the best original space opera in all of comics today. You can read more detailed and nuanced thoughts over on our Reviews Page, but to sum it up, I think this is a versatile and smart comic, one as capable of making jokes about sex robots as it is asking profound questions about religion and power structures.

This is all a means of establishing why I was so excited when late last year publisher Vault Comics announced that the book would be its first proper ongoing series, extending past the always-difficult 20 issue mark. Now, I’m not always one to clamor for more, more, more from creatives, believing as I do that inspiration is a flighty and special commodity, and that writers, artists, etc. shouldn’t mine topical areas that have long gone dry. Wasted Space, however, has brimmed from its inception with almost too many ideas, too many hilarious exchanges, exciting conflicts, and just straight up space operetic adventures.

In Wasted Space #7, the value of transitioning from a finite story to a longer ongoing series for a book like this becomes clear: writer Michael Moreci is able to dedicate more space to the excellent characters he’s been building for half a dozen issues, giving us a chance to get to know them a little bit better. This is—make no mistake—an exciting issue, in which several major plot developments (especially for Dust and Molly) come to a head and push our characters into new directions. But there are also several scenes I think are only possible in the context of a longer-form story

And they’re some of my favorite scenes in this issue. I’m thinking specifically here of the opening, in which Billy and Molly have one of the series trademark philosophical conversations in a cosmic convenience store (rendered with great detail and better colors by the art duo of Hayden Sherman and Jason Wordie). Billy leans back and pours blue space slurpee directly into his mouth as Molly essentially satirizes social media, landing the Wasted Space culture commentary line of the issue with: I have been to the social stacks though. You have terrible people saying terrible things, then you have so-called good people assuming everyone who doesn’t share their exact principles is a total monster. And all it leads to is everyone screaming and no one listening. As usual, this is great stuff.

So yes, while not every comic is best-served by long-form serial narrative, Wasted Space certainly is, quickly making the most of the format and giving us more than enough value for the price of admission. One last note...the editorial team is already buzzing about how good Wasted Space #8 is, so I for one am circling my (non-existent and entirely theoretical) calendar for its due date, March 27.

Overall: Wasted Space #7 is another great example of this books strengths: operatic space adventure blended with philosophical discourse about modern society, all filtered through Hayden Sherman and Jason Wordie’s fantastic artwork. This remains one of the best comics today. 9.5/10

Wasted Space #7
Writer:
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99

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

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.


Top Comics to Buy for February 27, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — This week feels like a bit of break, in that there aren’t roughly 50 titles I want to read and another dozen I want to put in our five slots for the top comics to buy for February 27, 2019. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t good comics coming out this week. There are plenty of really great books, more than enough really, and we’ve done our best to highlight a diverse array of them as we do every Monday.

Leading the way is Ice Cream Man #10, which we’ve been waiting for anxiously since Ice Cream Man #9 blew our minds back whenever that first came out. We also have the sophomore issue of Invaders finally arriving after the debut seeded a mystery and then went away for six weeks, as well as the continuation of three runs we’ve without questioned mentioned in this space before. So, go forth and rejoice with these comics, as well as any of the other titles that strike your fancy on our Top #1 Comics this week or the Others Receiving Votes.

With all that out of the way, let’s take a closer look!

Top Comics to Buy for February 27, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Ice Cream Man #10
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Ice Cream Man #10 Review
"HOPSCOTCH MÉLANGE," Part Two: En este cap tulo, no existen las fronteras. El mundo está lleno de amor, pero el amor es peligroso.
Why It’s Cool: So yes, Ice Cream Man #9 blew our collective mind and expanded our perception of what this vignette horror series might ultimately prove to be. Ice Cream Man #10, meanwhile, is a bit of a return to this comic’s core concept: a mostly one-off comic in which the principal characters have horrifying things happen to them that speak to universal ideas of existential dread...with the titular Ice Cream Man and his own foil bouncing around the periphery. At least that’s how it used to seem, anyway. Knowing what we know from Ice Cream Man #9, they now feel like the center. Regardless, this is one great comic. Look for a full review later this week.

Invaders #2
Writer:
Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Carlos Magno with Butch Guice
Colorist: Alex Giumaraes
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
After the SHOCKING reveals about NAMOR last issue, THE HUMAN TORCH goes deeper into the Sub-Mariner's PAST, hoping to uncover his plan. But CAPTAIN AMERICA goes the direct route: TO ATLANTIS. Alone against THE MAD KING and his ARMIES in the exciting second chapter of WAR GHOSTS: THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR!
Why It’s Cool: The first issue of Invaders was a fantastic update of the WWII Invaders concept, essentially catching up with the core characters from that bygone book—Namor, Captain America, and Winter Soldier/Bucky plus a bit of Jim Hammond Human Torch—to give us an update on their statuses as it still pertains to the war. What does that mean? Well, something is off with Namor, and it’s fallen to his old war-time compatriots to address his behavior. I won’t spoil it, but the first issue ended with a mystery. We can’t wait to see where this second installment picks up.   

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #2
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Casper Wijngaard
Colorist: Mary Safro
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Price: $3.99
Humanity is at a crossroads, between life and annihilation. The threat comes not from space, but from a place absolutely inconceivable to anyone other than Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. Only he can take Earth's remaining heroes to confront that which threatens us all...but when he knows so much more than they do, should he? Also: strike a light, how hot is Tabu now? This is what happens when you give "DREAM DADDY" as the main artistic direction.
Why It’s Cool: Speaking of ending with a mystery and picking up somewhere fascinating, our next book is Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. This comic is about a character that one of the Watchmen characters—Ozymandias—himself was based on, and it’s using the homage as its central conceit. We discussed all of this in our review of Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1, but it’s worth revisiting because the second issue continues to build on the charater’s connection to Watchmen. I don’t want to tip any of the surprises, but this is one of the most metafictional comics I’ve ever read and I’m absolutely fascinated to see what a team of creators as collectively strong as writer Kieron Gillen and artists Casper Wijngaard and Mary Safro are ultimately aiming to do here.

The Terrifics #13
Writer:
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Joe Bennett
Inker: Dexter Vines
Colorist:
Mike Spicer
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
The Terrifics are back! And they're ready to enter the final battle with the Dreadfuls, Doc Dread's revenge squad that has systematically wiped out dozens of Mr. Terrifics from across the Multiverse. As the many Mr. and Mrs. Terrifics fight for their lives, the cavalry is on its way-but will Phantom Girl, Plastic Man and the repowered Metamorpho reach the battle in time? And how can the heroes possibly count this as a win with a mountain of bodies in Doc Dread's wake?
Why It’s Cool: It’s no secret that writer Jeff Lemire is winding down his time on The Terrifics (and if he is to be believed, on work-for-hire gigs in general), and while we’re excited to see what his replacement, the intriguing Gene Luen Yang, will do with this team, we’re currently enjoying the hell out of Lemire’s finale. This is some of the most character-driven emotional storytelling taking place in all of superhero comics, with multiple storylines so well-developed they threatened to make me cry during recent issues (I’m sentimental and don’t care who knows it). Lemire is also joined here by artist Joe Bennett (with Dexter Vines ink and Mike Spicer colors) who is one of my favorite prolific superhero artists, generally associated right now with Immortal Hulk. Anyway, The Terrifics continues to be a must-read comic and we’re excited for this issue.

Wasted Space #7
Writer:
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
Read our full Wasted Space #7 Review!
Reunions and betrayals! Our reckless heroes stage a rescue mission to save Rex-and secure the nuke still threatening to kill everyone. Along the way, Billy and Molly make a pit stop at a galactic gas station, where they discover brain-freezes and morality, and past demons catch up to Dust and Fury.
Why It’s Cool: Wasted Space is the best space opera in all of comics today. The first five issues of this book—all of which you can read more about on our reviews page—were pretty tightly plotted, orienting readers to this series’ versatile tone and characters. A TON happened in that arc. Toward the end of it, publisher Vault Comics announced that this series would become an ongoing, making issues like this one possible. Wasted Space #7 is loaded with character moments, rewarding progressions, and setup for the future. It’s an absolutely joy to spend time with this dysfunctional group that writer Michael Moreci and artists Hayden Sherman and Jason Wordie have brought together here. Check back later this week for our full review.   

Top New #1 Comics

  • Age of X-Man: The X-Tremists #1

  • Captain Marvel: Braver and Mightier #1

  • Emotional Data One-Shot from Silver Sprocket

  • Forgotten Queen #1

  • Honor and Curse #1

  • Punks Not Dead: London Calling #1

  • Sweetie #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Action Comics #1008

  • Amazing Spider-Man #16

  • Black Hammer: Age of Doom #8

  • Black Panther #9

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer #2

  • Captain America #8

  • Daredevil #2

  • Flash #65

  • Hellboy and the BPRD - 1956 #4

  • Martian Manhunter #3

  • Redlands #11

  • Shazam! #3

  • The Wicked + The Divine #42

  • Wonder Woman #65

  • Wyrd #2

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Wasted Space #6 picks up with all the humor and high ideas from its first arc

Wasted Space #6 is out 2/6/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Wasted Space #6 is the start of this madcap sci-fi comic’s second arc. It’s been five months since the previous issue, and so I’d like to start a recap. Last we saw the Wasted Space crew—self-loathing former voice of God Billy Bane, future-seeing eyes of God Molly, Billy’s best friend the Fuq/Qil Bot Dusty, and Dusty’s rekindled lover The Fury Qil—Billy had just assassinated a galactic dictator, setting into motion the launch of nukes that might start a war that might end existence...and then a massively-powerful balance-bringing force called Legion showed up to tell him that to save the world he had to kill God.

Phew.

That’s where we left off, that’s the status quo, and it’s a status quo that speaks to the many reasons I love this book (see my Top 10 Comics of 2018). As I’ve written, this is a story that has gotten better with each issue, forging a unique thematic aesthetic (something like Star Wars by way of David Foster Wallace) that enables it to make a point about God, political terrorism, and sex robots...all on a single page. I, for one, am ecstatic it’s back.

One of many moments in this issue that cracked me up.

So then, let’s get to the big question: how does this issue compare to all that came before? Well, I can all but guarantee fans of the series will love its return. This issue, of course, pushes the book in a new direction. It basically had to. There was really no other way to do it, seeing as the first arc’s MacGuffin, Devolous Yam, was killed at the end of the fifth issue. The story needs a new object of pursuit, and, without tipping into spoiler territory here, it definitely gets it.

What’s familiar, however, are the book’s two greatest strengths: it’s humor and its ability to synthesize intense feelings stemming from today’s headlines into space opera adventure. The humor is there right from the start, when Legion (the aforementioned all-powerful balance-bringing force) accidentally Of Mice and Mens an innocent dog and realizes that it is indeed possible to love something so much you start to hurt it. The laughs keep coming as the plot progresses too, especially when the reunited Fuq/Qil bots give into their passions.

The commentary is back as well, and it’s as relatable as ever, feeling like writer Michael Moreci took it right from conversations I’ve had personally about America in 2019. Billy Bane (who is by no means a role model, so take his opinions for what they’re worth) has previously bemoaned his complacency in the order that is tearing the galaxy apart, poignantly saying things like, “With enough drugs I could live with the idea that I only kinda sorta played a role in the galaxy’s downturn….because I was scared, because it was easier to downplay my role in the galaxy’s oppression rather than try to make it better and fail.” Or, “If I believed things could change, well, that would put me on the hook to actually do something.”

In Wasted Space #6, Bane criticizes a devious member of the elite class for virtue signaling in order to craft a progressive image that obscures the true nature of what he does to maintain wealth and power, a list that includes supporting violent radicals in order to create chaos that inspires the masses to fall back in line. “But as long as the plebs keep bickering amongst themselves, the tyranny of wealth pretty much goes unnoticed,” this character says. I gave a solemn nod of heavy agreement after reading this line, and it’s really just one example of poignant writing. As has been the case throughout its run, Wasted Space is dense with complex sentiment, yet never at the cost of its story.

Overall: The best space opera in comics is back, bringing the same high level of humor and commentary with it as its cast of characters embark on a new quest. This is one of my favorite series in all of comics, and I’m happy to say it’s as great as ever. 9.5/10

Wasted Space #6
Writer:
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99

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

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics to Buy for February 6, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — This is pretty much a perfect week for new comics, featuring as it does the launch of multiple exciting new #1 series (the bright shiny new toy to the long-time comics fan) as well as the return of some of the best books on the market right now, including a new arc for Wasted Space and the conclusion of the phenomenal Archie 1941. Plus, books like Die continue to establish themselves as wonderful new comics.

There is, simply put, a lot going on this week, and so here we are as always with a brief guide: Top Comics to buy for February 6, 2019. As is standard protocol, we’ve selected our top 5 (plus a pick of the week), listed the most-exciting new #1 issues, and thrown-in for good measures the others that received votes. The top 5 are more heavily weighted toward books that have already established them, but rest assured, you can’t go wrong this week checking out anything from Female Furies to G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte. Just choose wisely, there are a ton of stellar comics to pick from.

And now, on to the actual comics!

Top Comics to Buy for February 6, 2019

Archie 1941 #5.jpg

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Archie 1941 #5
Writers:
Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid
Artist: Peter Krause
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Publisher: Archie Comics
Price: $3.99
Archie Andrews-MIA and presumed dead! His friends and family-devastated! Don't miss out on the conclusion of this headline-making comic event!
Why It’s Cool: It’s a young year, but this is easily a front-runner for the best single issue of 2019 at this point. This entire series—which re-imagines Archie set in 1941 (incidentally the year he was created) during WWII—has been something truly special. With a different sort of fandom than superhero comics but no less an iconic history, Archie Comics as a publisher is generally freer to use its characters for alternate takes, or at least such has been the case in recent years. While the horror comics and Life With Archie have all been interesting, this is the prestige picture in the bunch, a comic with impeccable historical research, a deep emotional core, and unbelievable artwork courtesy of Peter Krause. This is not to be missed.

Die #3.jpg

Die #3
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"FANTASY HEARTBREAKER," Part Three: One of the saddest comics in Kieron's career. One of Stephanie's prettiest. Clayton's lettering, of course, remains impeccable.
Why It’s Cool: As we wrote in our reviews of Die #1 and Die #2, this comic is one of the most-exciting new creator-owned books in some years, combining as it does the recent trend of teen D&D nostalgia with the dark lessons of life's hard-lived. Well, this third issue to the book feels like a bit of a thematic pivot. Fantasy has always been inherent to this title (the basic premise is that years ago six friends went into a realized fantasy realm via a role-playing game and only five came out—and now those five have been pulled back in), and this comic looks at some of the real-life inspiration for fantasy as we know it: WWI, which Lord of the Rings progenitor J.R.R. Tolkien himself was a veteran of. Essentially, this is a gorgeous and sadly poetic comic that draws a shattering parallel between fantasy games and stories we enjoy, and the real-life strife that helped to create them.

Justice League #17
Writer:
Scott Snyder
Artist: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Cheung with Mark Morales and Walden Wong
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
After the disastrous events of the Justice League Annual, Martian Manhunter decides to take matters into his own hands and negotiate a peace with Legion of Doom leader Lex Luthor. Traveling to a distant moon, the two enemies face their intertwined pasts in a showdown for the fate of the Multiverse. However, before either of them can lay claim to the power of the Source Wall once and for all, an unexpected threat forces them to unite...or risk death at the ends of the cosmos.
Why It’s Cool: Last week’s Justice League Annual #1 was my favorite issue of the Snyder/Tynion/Cheung/Jimenez Justice League era to date, but it won’t reign long—this one is even better. Since No Justice ended, my favorite element to this complex and grandiose run has been the idea of Martian Manhunter and Lex Luthor essentially captaining their opposing teams in a conflict of ideology wherein both thinks they are doing what’s best to save the multiverse or at least the Earth. This story takes that concept to another level. I won’t go into how, but it’s a sight to behold. Highly recommend this.

These Savage Shores #3
Writer:
Ram V.
Artist: Sumit Kumar
Colorist: Vittorio Astone
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
The stench of war clings to the air as Hyder Ali of Mysore comes calling for the levy. Good men and demons alike are set to march, even as lovers part with the promise of a safe return. But in these troubling times the promise of a hunt brings the devil himself to this faraway coast. Along These Savage Shores where blood begets blood and dawn-light shimmers over a land soaked in betrayal.
Why It’s Cool: Way way too many disparate properties these days are getting compared to Game of Thrones. In fact, I feel like it’s become reductive pop culture short-hand for something I like that’s slightly beyond average scope. But! Try as I might, I can’t help but describe this third excellent issue of These Savage Shores as feeling in scope a bit like Game of Thrones. It just has so many of the elements: large-scale political machinations, alliance building, betrayals, and seemingly inconsequential deaths having ripple effects that seemed destined to have retribution due. These Savage Shores also remains a gorgeous comic, as lush with its artwork as it is lyrical in its dialogue and narrative prose. If you’re not reading this comic, I don’t know what to tell you at this point.

Wasted Space #6
Writer:
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
Now officially an ongoing! The whole fam damily is back! Billy visits a crooked politician. Dust and Fury make sweet bot-love in unsanitary locations. A ghost haunts Molly's visions of Rex. And Legion pets a dog. The galaxy is still totally borked, but maybe together they can un-bork it... oh, probably not.
Why It’s Cool: One of my absolute favorite comics of 2018 is back, and it’s at the same high (sorry) level it was when we last saw it. This issue has all the hallmarks of this series: the humor, the high-minded philosophical contemplations, the subtextual commentary on the modern world, and the ever-looming threat of even more space nukes that might destroy the world. It is, in other words, a very very good comic. We’ll have a review of this book later in the week, but know now that each and every one of you should be reading this.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Battlestar Galactica: Twilight Command #1

  • Daredevil #1

  • Female Furies #1

  • G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte #1

  • Girl in the Bay #1

  • Gunhawks One-Shot

  • Man and Superman 100-Page Super-Spectacular #1

  • Oberon #1

  • Red Sonja #1

  • Vindication #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #1

  • Archie #702

  • Avengers #14

  • Batman #64

  • Conan the Barbarian #3

  • Deathstroke #40

  • Dreaming #6

  • Giant Days #47

  • The Green Lantern #4

  • Immortal Hulk #14

  • Killmonger #4

  • Prodigy #3

  • Self/Made #3

  • Tony Stark: Iron Man #8

  • Wrong Earth #6

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics of 2018, #6 - #15

By Zack Quaintance —  The most difficult thing about a strong year for comics (like this one) is doing a year-end Best Of list. Now, to be sure, no one mandates websites do rankings. That would be a clear violation of civil liberties. There is, however, a part of the pop culture blogger brain that goes wild for it, whispering all year long...where does this one rank...and if you don’t satisfy that beast—well, bad things happen.

So, here we our with ours, freshly formulated for 2018 by our committee of one. Before we dive into part 2, which features in descending order selections #15 to #6 (Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25 is up now, with the Top 5 due later today), let’s rehash our ground rules:

  • No trades or OGNs: Building out our OGN coverage is a priority for 2019. We’re just not there yet. So, while I absolutely loved work like Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, Box Brown’s Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, and Ryan Lindsay and Eric Zawadzki’s Eternal, you won’t find them here. Ideally, next year’s we’ll have an entire post dedicated to OGNs.

  • No webcomics, manga, or newspaper strips: Again, our site is a bit deficient covering these (if you are into these things, we’d love to chat about you writing for us!). I should, of course, mention that in 2018 someone under the pen name Olivia James took over the long-running Nancy strip and did amazing things with it (Sluggo is lit), but, again, you won’t find it on our list.

  • Longevity matters: New this year, you will find what I consider a key stat—how many issues were published this year. Late debut series like Die, Electric Warriors, and Bitter Root have tons of promise. They just haven’t been around enough to be a definitive comic of 2018. Ditto for comics that ended in April or earlier.

There you have it: guiding principles of our Top Comics of 2018. Now, without further adieu, let’s keep this bad hombre going!

15. Seeds
Writer:
Ann Nocenti
Artist, Letterer: David Aja
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Issues in 2018: 2

The second issue of this series absolutely blew my mind. So much so it was enough to land this comic in our list, and at no. 15 too! I’m going to struggle to articulate why this is not only one of the best comics out today, but also the comic with the most potential to be an all-time great series. But here goes…

Writer Ann Nocenti and artist David Aja have clearly thought hard about the state of the world, dwelling on current trends, struggles, challenges, \and even a few victories to extrapolate a future the likes of which we’ve never seen. There are (as noted in yesterday’s list) many near-future disaster stories running through comics. Many of them do admirable jobs extending a fear or concern to logical places. Seeds encompasses much more with its predictions, in a way that feels impossibly novel yet so obvious you wonder why its ideas hadn’t previously occurred to you. If you start listing story elements—failing planet, media corruption, alien love story/menace—they sound a little rote, but the way these talented creators bring them together is nothing short of remarkable. Now, if only they could get a handle on the delays...  

14. Doomsday Clock
Writer:
Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Speaking of delays (hey! would you look at that transition), next we have Doomsday Clock. Writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank were as good as their word this year, mostly sticking to the every-other-month schedule they promised following Doomsday Clock #3. We got six new issues in 2018, and the last three were straight up killer comics. This series has, to be blunt, massive ambitions.

Indeed, the intentions of this comic are starting to crystalize, and if Johns and Frank can pull this off, they could end up with a story that speaks to the current rise of authoritarian governments across the globe, the reactions of the media and the populous, and what it means to be a public hero today, to take a strong position. It’s heady stuff, with potential to shape DC’s line and maybe even the stories the aging company does for the next decade.

13. Ice Cream Man
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 8

As I’ve noted throughout, ranking the many many many excellent comics this year has been no easy feat. There were a ton of tough choices, but as my friend Rob from Panel Patter noted, at a certain point you have to choose, otherwise there’s no purpose to the endeavor. For me, placing Ice Cream Man was the most difficult decision. An anthology horror comic linked only by the titular (and hella creepy) ice cream man, this book has been a tour de force.

The reason it lands at #13 is twofold. No. 1, 13 is creepy and it seemed fitting, because aside from one other selection (we’ll get into that later), this is the highest-ranking horror comic on our list. No. 2, I’m trying to rank series for holistic reading experience. Ice Cream Man being made of vignettes makes that trickier. This book is easily one of the best comics of 2018, and we’ll heap more praise on it in future posts, specifically the Best Single Issues of 2018, coming later this week. For now, I’ll just note everyone should read this comic, just pick up random issues (they’re all self-contained) and go. The rate of success is high enough I’m confident you’ll all find flavors (sorry) you like.

12. The Wild Storm
Writer:
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 8

It’s pretty amazing this far into a celebrated career, Warren Elllis is doing his best work, writing a slow-burning epic that strips down characters he’s handled for years before building them back into something searingly-relevant for 2018. This new The Wild Storm has a few familiar names, while remaining entirely accessible for first-time readers of this universe. And what Ellis is doing here is exploring the vast influence wielded by long-standing (and hard to comprehend) power structures.

He’s joined by Jon Davis-Hunt, one of (if not the) most underrated artists in comics. Davis-Hunt comes fresh from career work of his own on Gail Simone’s Clean Room, and as good as he was there, he’s hitting a new level, crafting graphic sequential storytelling both kinetic and real, capable of disrupting any visual laws of reality yet photorealistic and engrossing. As intellectual and nuanced a comic as we’ve seen, this is a must-read story.

11. The Mighty Thor / Thor
Writer:
Jason Aaron
Artists: Russell Dauterman, Mike del Mundo, Christian Ward, Jen Bartel, Various
Colorists: Matthew Wilson, Marco D’Alfonso
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 4 / 12

Jason Aaron’s ongoing run on Thor is the best long-form story happening in superhero comics, and it’s really not even close. Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder #1, which essentially marked the start of this current run, hit stands in November 2012, a vastly different time in the world and industry. Marvel has no other run close, with Hickman and Bendis gone from the company and Dan Slott off Amazing Spider-Man. Invincible has also ended, and DC’s main challengers—Batman and Deathstroke, for my money—date back to summer 2016, which is hardly a challenge at all.

Thor, however, keeps going strong, landing this year’s 16 issues (and a Jane Foster one-shot) at #11 overall on our list. Our committee of one suspects it will be higher next year, what with the War of the Realms coming. The Jane Foster finale was certainly a high point his year, but it felt like more of a pause than a proper finish, setting the table for what is sure to be some damn fine comics to come. In summation, 2018 was another great year for Aaron’s Thor run, but we all but guarantee 2019 will be even better, possibly the high water mark for this story.

10. X-Men Red
Writer:
Tom Taylor
Artists: Mahmud Asrar, Carmen Carnero, Roge Antonio
Colorists: Ive Svorcina, Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 11

What a surprise this comic was. I’d tapped out on X-Men: Blue and X-Men: Gold, deciding to wait for whatever next big X-thing. Then comes an announcement of a third color, part of the Marvel Legacy line, which, let’s face it, was dead on arrival. But here’s the thing: Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s X-Men: Red was good. Like, really really really good. Taylor’s scripting understood the franchise better than any writer I’ve read in I don’t know how long, casting the team as equal parts superhero high-flyers and common defenders of the oppressed, all with a geopolitical angle.

It made Jean Gray the face of Xavier’s continuing dream, a brilliant move given her legacy (ahem) and similar skill set, and it faced the X-Men against threats essentially derived from the messages of hate coursing through the modern media landscape, be it reportage or social posting. It was a brilliant stretch of 11 issues that ended way too soon, and, in my opinion, it was the first real hint how the X-Men can be made relevant for 2018, 2019, etc., taking them out of their long-standing continuity mire. It will be missed, and I hope this new generation of X-writers draw from its example.

9. Vault Comics: Fearscape / Friendo / These Savage Shores
Writers:
Ryan O’Sullivan / Alex Paknadel / Ram V.
Artists: Andrea Mutti / Martin Simmonds / Sumit Kumar
Colorists: Vladimir Popov / Dee Cunnife / Vittorio Astone
Letterers: Andworld Design / Taylor Esposito / Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 3 / 3 / 2

Okay, so this one is cheating, but of the three new Vault Comics launched by British writers with clear literary roots in the fall, I couldn’t pick any one to elevate above the others. They’re all incredible, and so I built myself a loophole (it’s my website, afterall), and included all three on the list. I heard Vault editor Adrian Wassel on a podcast earlier this year, saying comics could swing to a literary place that incorporates both recent cinematic storytelling trends and their unique ability to synthesize words and pictures. All three of these titles reflect that viewpoint.

You can read more thoughts about each on our Reviews Page, but let me run through them quickly. Fearscape is a look at pretense, literary culture, and how the nature of creative writing often sees authors bouncing violently between bouts of outsized ego and crippling insecurity. The voice is pretentious and incredible. Friendo is a meditation on the decline of late-model capitalist countries, specifically the United States, casting apathy, ceiling-less corporate greed, and the marginalization of government checks as truly terrifying villains. These Savage Shores is a gorgeous and deep commentary on imperialism, using misdirection to to create an engaging and tone-heavy narrative. Basically, all three of these are well worth your time, and I highly recommend them all.

8. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles
Writer:
Mark Russell
Artist: Mike Feehan
Inker: Sean Parsons
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Speaking of literary comics, Mark Russell and Mike Feehan’s Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles (improbably) falls in that bin as well. Last year we highlighted Russell’s work on Flintstones. Another year and another smart take on a Hanna-Barbera property, and here we are again. In Russell’s re-imagining of this mythos, Snagglepuss is a basically closeted playwright during McCarthy-ism, trying to stay true to his values without running afoul of the federal government and staid societal interests.

Russell uses this premise to tell a sophisticated story that dances with ideas about life, art, politics, group think, and conservatism. The emotional core to this thing is the Huckleberry Hound character, whose tragic story beats brought tears to my eyes a couple of times. If reading a comic about Snagglepuss doesn’t sound appealing, don’t worry—you’re not alone in that thinking. But Russell also uses the legacy of the character to do work toward the satirical points he’s making, to help drive them home.  

7. Wasted Space
Writer:
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 6 (counting the holiday special)

Phew, now we’re getting into the comics that I can’t imagine my 2018 without, the first being Michael Moreci and Hayden Sherman’s Wasted Space. I have heaped my fair share of praise on this book over the past 12 months, and I’m not alone. In fact, Nerdist has called it “easily the best new series to hit comic shops so far this year.” For my money, it’s without question the best wholly new property of 2018, and I’m going to quote myself to elaborate on why...

Wasted Space to me feels like Star Wars by way of 2018, determined to honor the hi-jinx & high adventure of space opera while fearlessly exploring the central conflict of our times: where should one’s desire for comfort end and their obligation to combat oppression begin? I’ve compared Moreci’s absurdist, idea-heavy writing to the late David Foster Wallace and I stand by that, noting that Sherman’s chaotic high-energy art style brings the world to life in a special way. This is maybe the highest compliment I can give: in a day and age where i buy fewer paper comics than ever before, I still have a pull list and on it near the top is Wasted Space.

6. Thanos Wins
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Toward the end of 2017, Brian Michael Bendis left Marvel, dealing the publisher as significant of a writing void as I’ve seen in the past two decades, dating back to before Bendis established himself as the company’s prime writing voice. The thing about voids like that is they force publishers to take bigger risks and bring in younger, newer talent. For Marvel in 2018, that meant Donny Cates (among others).

One of Cates’ first charges at Marvel was to takeover Thanos in the wake of another essentially departing writer, Jeff Lemire, who seemed from the outside to be off to focus on the superhero universe he owned and created, Black Hammer. What Cates and past collaborator Geoff Shaw did with the final six issues of this run was absolutely remarkable, telling what is not only the best Thanos story of all-time, but the best end of the Marvel Universe tail this side of Jonathan Hickman. It’s called Thanos Wins, and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

Thanos Wins is as bold a statement as a young writer doing his first work at Marvel could have made. Aided by the out-of-this-world Geoff Shaw artwork and Antonio Fabela colors, Cates seemed to put all of comics on notice here, not being content to just decimate the very futures of these decades-old beloved characters, but insisting on doing so with wild grin viscerally affixed to his face. You might wonder, how do I know he was laughing and smiling as he wrote all of this. I think the better question, is how could anyone who’s read Thanos Wins doubt it?  

Read our analysis of Thanos Wins here!

Check back later today for our Best Comics of 2018, #1 - #5! Check out Best Comics of 2018, #16 - #25! And check back later in the week for more year-end lists, including our Best Single Issues and our Top Creators of 2018!

For the history-minded readers, you can find our Top Comics of 2017, Part 1, 2 and 3 online now!

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Friendo #2 makes good on the first issue’s intriguing promise

Friendo #2 is out 11/14.

By Zack Quaintance — Before we talk Friendo #2, I think it’s worth a brief reminder of how the first issue ended...with a likely vagrant (who’s not the main character’s dad, but maybe?) stabbing our hero in the back before taking his wallet and remarking, Never look for meaning in a desert. Then a downed powerline flopped into our hero, electrocuting him so severely we saw his bones. Caught up? Good, because issue two picks up where the previous chapter ended (sort of): a desert in which its unwise to look for meaning.

Visually, I found the opening of Friendo #2 stunning, rendered by Martin Simmonds (with bright colors by Dee Cunniffe). I especially liked the placement of the first three panels and their contents: a setting sun, followed by a slightly lower lizard’s beady black eye, followed by a human eye within a face that’s clearly had its skin peeled. Next, we see said skinless human walking across the desert, almost surreal, like something from a film by Jodorowsky.

One could be forgiven for thinking our main character, Leo, was dead, but also, Friendo is a comic that won’t let the poor guy off that easy. So, soon we’re back in the near-future, where ambush marketers crash cars on purpose (incurring serious injury), paparazzi drones roam the skies evaluating who’s worth filming based on cold algorithms, and raging wildfires send ash into the air, always (sound familiar?). By the time we get past the ethereal opening and to the plot proper, the book is primed to delve into what’s really been its central concern from the start: unbridled and addictive consumerism (and its impact on the identity of the individuals it needs to exist).

Last issue, we saw Leo gifted a two-in-one anthropomorphic search engine and ride or die bestie—brand name, Friendo...individual name, Jerry—and in this issue we see the deeper nature of the insidious relationship that this marketing AI is forming with Leo, one in which he endears himself to our hero and trades actualization so as to foster a never-ending chain of purchases. But we learn as the plot continues that the AI’s power doesn’t stop there, that it’s so relentless in its marketing, it can also influence technology in the larger world, causing harm to other people if they threaten to get in its way.

This book, it should perhaps be noted, is from Vault Comics, and while the books put out by that publisher are disparate in theme and plot, the thing they share is it's tough to pin down their genres, be it Deep Roots, Submerged, or Fearscape. Friendo is cut from that same genre-bending cloth, but to me this issue firmly establishes it as horror, with the traditional monster or knife-wielding baddie played to subtle perfection by unstoppable (yet startlingly plausible) greed.

The villain here is basically late model capitalism at its skeeziest. One thing I particularly liked about this issue was that it twisted the idea of capitalism as a villain (which is being done all over now in this age of awful President Trump), and made it not as deliberate and overt as it could be. The capitalism-born antagonist in Friendo is not just a CEo, but rather a natural extension of CEO intent that has been turbocharged by a malfunction and deregulation as a corporate board looks the other way...which makes it even scarier and way more real.

Overall: As I noted in my review of Friendo #1, the debut of this series was loaded with intriguing potential. Friendo #2 makes good on that promise, crafting a near-future horror story that casts extreme capitalism and human indifference as its villains. It’s chilling stuff, laden with cautionary lessons for our times. 9.0/10

Friendo #2
Writer:
Alex Paknadel
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: Taylor Esposito

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

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.

Top Comics of October 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This month there are quite a few titles from spring and summer appearing for the first time, books that launched with promise, settled in, and just now landed really memorable issues. I’d certainly put Action Comics #1004 and Submerged #3 in that category, both of which come from series I’ve liked from the start and was just waiting for a marquee issue to celebrate.

Meanwhile, our Shout Outs for October is heavily weighted toward superheroes. I’m not sure how this happens (or why), but I will note our Best New #1 Comics of 2018 had more creator-owned books. This could all, of course, be happenstance. I should also note this wasn’t one of the stronger months for individual issues in recent memory, but a quick glance at November indicates that is soon to change.

And now! On to the comics!

Shout Outs

I pointed this out recently on Twitter, but we are, indeed, lucky to have National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates writing comics. His work on both Black Panther #5 and Captain America #4 was outstanding, continuing to establish him as a massive talent increasingly confident within this medium. Shout outs as well to artists Daniel Acuna and Leinil Francis Yu.

Coates, however, isn’t the only massive talent with two killer books in October. Jeff Lemire had Gideon Falls #7 and Black Hammer: Age of Doom #6, stellar works from great series. Props to Black Hammer guest artist Rich Tommaso and Gideon Falls’ Andrea Sorrentino for their contributions.

Tony Stark: Iron Man #5 was a pleasant surprise in a series that is consistently fits that description. Writer Dan Slott and artist Gang Hyuk Lim incorporate (heh) Tony’s ethically gray younger brother in a one-off that foreshadows repercussions for the main plot as well. I’ve just found the futurism and corporate politicking angles in this run intriguing, so far.

Shout out to Bryan Edward Hill and N. Steve Harris for concluding their run with Wildstorm: Michael Cray #12, which ends the story of the titular character, murdering his way (sympathetically!) through evil versions of the Justice League within Warren Ellis’ new Wildstorm Universe.

Mark Russell is at it again in Green Lantern/Huckleberry Hound Special #1, which is set in the Vietnam Era, and told in a way that draws comparisons to now and leaves one feeling wistful for the integrity of Nixon and Watergate.

Not much to say about Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch’s Hawkman #5, other than carry on boys, what you’re doing with this character and book is refreshing and excellent.

Meanwhile, Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis’ Superman #6 was good, but Action Comics #1004 was better. Bendis’ dueling Man of Steel series are two of our favorite things at DC right now. More on that below.

Our other favorite thing at DC? Scott Snyder, James Tynion, and some of the best artists in the business ongoing Justice League epic, which reads like a really smart big budget epic touching every corner of the DCU. This month we get Atlantis, spread through a bevy of titles, including Justice League #9 and #10, Aquaman #41, and the Justice League Aquaman Drowned Earth #1 special.

Top Comics October 2018

5. Hot Lunch Special #3
Writer:
Eliot Rahal
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Price: $3.99
After Hot Lunch Specials’ first issue, I pegged it as a generational, Fargo-esque Midwestern noir, a comic that planned to deal in equal parts with a modern American immigration story and the sort of organized crime retribution that would be more at home in The Godfather. There is, to be sure, a fair amount of that stuff in this comic. Hot Lunch Special #3, however, serves up notice to readers that this book is headed for places they never expected.

Every issue of this comic so far has been great, but this issue pushes the book to a new level, one of organic storytelling (not a food pun) that has me excited to see how this all ends up. I don’t know how to explain it that much better without revealing the twists. So, I’ll just say that Hot Lunch Special is a must-read comic, last month and from here until its end.

4. Redneck #16
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Lisandro Estherren
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
From its start, Donny Cates and Lisandro Estherren’s Redneck has been a neatly-constructed vampire romp, filled with Robert Kirkman-esque twists and a down home Texan accessibility Cates has honed. This issue, however, does something I wasn’t sure Redneck could: it goes to emotional places that are welcome and justified.

In fact, in the parlance of this title, I’ll say I reckon’ Redneck #16 is a great representation of Cates’ biggest strengths as a writer. It has a scene in which Nazis are outlandishly thrashed in a prison (so cathartic) and another later on in which a son inadvertently/reluctantly comes out to his father, who meets the news with easy acceptance. I never get tired of that scene, and Redneck #16 nails it. There’s been a whole lot of blood in this book, but this is the first issue with a massive amount of heart (in retrospect that sentence was gross and I’m sorry).

3. Submerged #3
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Colorist: Stelladia
Letterer: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
We wrote a Submerged #3 review, so we won’t rehash the many reasons we love this book too much, but we will note this issue made us even more interested in a title that has hooked us from the start. Simply put, Submerged #3 simultaneously takes us to the most fantastical places this story has gone while also rooting its stakes deeply in character. It’s a great mix for a wonderfully scary and introspective book steeped in personal experiences.

Like many of Vault Comics other books coming out right now, this one is very much a must-read title.

2. Immortal Hulk #7
Writer:
Al Ewing
Artist: Joe Bennett
Inker: Ruy Jose
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer:
Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
Simply put, Immortal Hulk #7 is the best superhero comic right now. I am far from the only comic critic to say this. Hell, it’s probably comic book critic Twitter’s favorite title so effusive have we been with our praise. Not that that means a book is unimpeachable, but what writer Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett are doing here is truly special.

They’ve taken a horror-laden approach to Hulk stories, which has been done before just not with this level of detail, imagination, and willingness to go to truly disturbing places. In this issue, the undead Hulk gets his comeuppance at the hands of the Avengers, who use a satellite from space to blast him into pieces somewhere in rural Iowa. Except, comeuppance is the wrong word. This title does a great job of making you feel sorry for everyone involved, which is perhaps the only correct way to handle stories about such a brutal, rage-driven figure.

1. Action Comics #1004
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook
Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher:
DC Comics
Price: $3.99
This issue hit me right in my personal life. In Action Comics #1004, Clark and Lois reunite after life has forced them apart. Now, my wife spent this summer in Washington D.C., covering federal immigration policy for the LA Times. Meanwhile, I was in California, working my own job, etc. In this issue, Lois and Clark pick up where they left off sweetly, almost as if nothing has changed, acknowledging that while neither can predict the future, their love is strong, even if their proximity must occasionally be distant.

I found it true to my own experiences with such reunions, especially in tone. I’ve also been a reporter for a decade, and I like Lois quitting the newsroom. I’m not advocating for superhero stories going too far into media industry weeds, but having the most-celebrated journalist on the planet give up the lousy daily newspaper grind to write books is a logical move. Books are, quite frankly, what everyone I know at daily papers now aspires to write. Mileage will (and should) vary based on your own connections with these classic characters; I only speak for my experience with the material.

Check out our Best New #1 Comics of October 2018 plus more of our monthly lists here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Fearscape #2 Brims with Imposter Syndrome…in a Good Way

Fearscape #2 is out 11/7.

By Zack Quaintance — Fearscape #1 debuted last month(ish) as a bonafide hit, selling out, necessitating a second printing, and earning copious praise from comic book creators and reviewers (many—if not all—of whom are aspiring creators too) alike. This was, perhaps, unsurprising. Fearscape’s first issue spoke directly to the feeling of yearning to be an inspired creative genius, and, well, falling short. Simply put, us readers had been there. It was painfully relatable emotional territory for the book’s target audience: monthly indie comics folks. That familiar state of mind was then expertly accompanied by a high stakes fantasy quest in another realm (which most indie comics folk also enjoy), and—BOOM!—narrative dynamite.

A first issue as good as Fearscape’s is a blessing and curse, though, reeling in the audience while setting the bar almost impossibly high for a follow up. In other words, some regression is to be expected. The same tricks that felt so surprising in the debut are less effective. There’s a bit of that in Fearscape #2, but the smart initial construction of this book’s tone, plus an equally smart twist at this issue’s end, make for another thoroughly engaging read. And really, I haven’t stopped being impressed yet with the pitch-perfect narrative voice writer Ryan O’Sullivan has created, nor the way he uses it.

To recap: protagonist Henry Henry (perfect name for a writer, the Guy in Your MFA Twitter couldn’t have done better) went to the home of his bed-bound mentor and stole a manuscript to pass off as his own. Before he successfully absconded with the work, he found himself confronted by a ghostly extra-dimensional muse recruiting Earth’s best storyteller to represent mankind in a fantasy realm called the Fearscape, where storytelling ability is needed to stave catastrophe off from afflicting the real world.

The plot is enough to make for compelling comics. Fearscape, however, adds a deeper character layer with the way it portrays its protagonist’s roiling imposter syndrome. Henry Henry constantly overcompensates with his pretentious narrative voice while outwardly acting like a total jackass. You can see why he does and says things, and it makes sense, even if you can’t help but resent him for it. Here’s a great example: an early sequence has Henry Henry brusquely telling his guide, Try to keep up, muse...followed in the next panel by this narration [The asthma attack which immediately followed the prior scene has been omitted for the sake of narrative cohesion.] It’s creative, meta, narratively-effective, and riddled with self-resentment. It’s perfect.

Fearscape continues to read as if O’Sullivan is taking a deep inventory of the worst and ugliest parts of his own motivation to create...then cranking them to 11 and putting them in a comic. You can practically feel the self-loathing (in a good way), especially as Fearscape #2 comes to its conclusion. And it’s this sincerity that separates this story from the hacky work it worries it may become. This book is rich with words and ways of thinking seemingly culled from ghosts of painful undergraduate creative writing workshops. These moments emotions are honest, staggeringly so.

Andre Mutti is also just such a versatile artist, given a chance to really shine in the fantasy landscapes and characters found in this issue. Mutti’s character designs are impressive, but it’s the level of clarity the artist’s storytelling techniques lend to the ending sequence (which has real potential to confuse) that really stand out.  

This second issue has me curious about the future of the book, too. This is certainly not a Fountainhead-esque experiment about the value of individualism and uncompromising work, but there’s definitely a point of view about artistry coming into focus. To me, the real mystery seems to be not how the world will be saved from the Fearscape or who will be the storyteller to save it, but rather what the real life creators have learned about craft and aspirations along the way. And, really, isn’t that what most stories are all about? Anyway, I’m so far lost in self-reflective theories here, I may need a long walk...

Overall: Fearscape #2 builds on one of the year’s best debuts to deliver another adventure in metafiction, one perfectly tailored for an indie comic audience. The protagonist’s imposter syndrome is so ugly and sincere that writerly types can’t help but relate, regardless of how painful it becomes, and there’s real honest beauty in that. 9.0/10

Fearscape #2
Writer:
Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Colorist: Vladimir Popov
Lettering: Andworld Design
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99

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

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.