New Comics Wednesday: May 4th Edition
Every week, Project-Nerd gives me a bunch of comics. I read them, and then I tell you about the good ones. In the best of worlds, it works out for all of us.
Here are this week’s Project-Nerd picks:
King’s Quest #1 (Dynamite)
written by Ben Acker & Heath Corson; art by Dan McDaid; colored by Omi Remalante; lettered by Simon Bowland
Last year’s King Features line of comics—which featured the likes of Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Jungle Jim, and Prince Valiant—were some of the most fun comics of the year. Two of them, Flash Gordon and Prince Valiant, made my top 10 of 2015. Under the editorial hand of Nate Cosby, the King Features books read like an MCU style unrolling of a classic cast of characters whose own stories would come together to stop Ming The Merciless from terraforming the Earth.
Now they’re back, once again under the editorial guiding of Cosby, who’s enlisted Ben Acker, Heath Corse, and Dan McDaid to bring the characters together in one book. The result is some of the most fun comics work I’ve ever read. The adventure starts right on the first page with some very succinct setup work via the new Phantom’s inner monologue, followed by a rocket crashing on a foreign planet, and Prince Valiant talking a bunch of smack while he fights Ming’s minions.
Dan McDaid crushes it on this book, proving that he’s a more versatile artist than I thought when compared to his more moody work on books like Judge Dredd. There are some really beautifully designed pages (specifically the aforementioned, where Valiant scales a mountain while swinging his sword at a bunch of evil aliens and shouting trash talk at them), two page spreads, and the whole book reads really nicely.
Somehow, team Acker/Corse/McDaid have found a way to fit a group of really well developed personalities onto every page, and the way the characters play off of each other is really what sells it. King’s Quest looks to be one of my favorite superhero team books going forward, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
Gold Key Alliance #2 (Dynamite)
written by Phil Hester; art by Brent Peeples; colors by Morgan Hickman; letters by Simon Bowland
If King’s Quest is Dynamite’s fun homage to throwback characters, then Phil Hester’s Gold Key Alliance is its off-kilter and very strange one. It’s a lineup of classic characters—many of which you’ll remember from when Valiant held the rights to them in the 90’s—that have been revamped in some very fun, weird ways under Hester’s pen.
This second issue does a great job of building up the narrative that Hester began last month and ratchets up the weird in ways that I never saw coming. It’s an example of what a talented writer can do when he’s not bogged down by continuity or multimedia tie-ins. I’d love to see what he’d be able to do if allowed to handle these characters in a long-form comic, because he’s doing some great character work.
In case you missed last months inaugural issue, Gold Key Alliance #2 is a pretty solid jump on point, too. Here’s what you have to know: there’s a dinosaur hunter, a robot fighter, a scientist who has complete control over her atomic structure, and a super strong homeless man who are all going to have to save the world together. The rest of the information you need is elegantly implied so that you’ll never feel out of the loop. If that doesn’t sell you on at least giving this book a look over, I don’t know if I can help you.
Hellboy in Hell #9 (Dark Horse)
story and art by Mike Mignola; colors by Dave Stewart; letters by Clem Robins
I consider myself a casual reader of the Hellboy books, but every time I pick one up, I ask myself why that’s the case. I’ve had a difficult time delving into the larger Mignola-verse, but his work on Hellboy always has the perfect balance of humor, action, and horror that make for an entertaining, thought-provoking read. Hellboy in Hell is no exception.
There’s a current theme in the book of a fresh start. Hellboy’s landed in Hell, and after spending some time there, he’s come to see it as just another world. A place where he can start a new life, unhampered by the trappings of his life on Earth. A basic truth in life is that your mistakes will follow you wherever you go until you face them. In Hellboy’s case, this tenet extends to the afterlife where he faces the specter of a woman he married in Mexico back in the 50’s.
It’s a great chance for Mignola to start over, too. Hell is pretty unexplored territory in comics—it’s shown up a few times in various forms by various publishers, but it’s never been presented as a world that has characters living in it. Leave it to Mike Mignola to be the guy who humanizes Hell for us.
Beasts of Burden: What The Cat Dragged In One-Shot (Dark Horse)
script by Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer; art by Jill Thompson; letters by Jason Arthur
This is a solid one-shot that looks into the magical world of the animal kingdom. I don’t mean magical in the “nature is beautiful” sort of way, but in the more literal “these are animals who perform magical rituals and live in a world full of the occult” sort of way.
It’s also a touching read about anger, revenge, loss, grief, friendship, and family neatly packed into 23 pages—an impressive feat on its own. One-shot comics are difficult to pull off, you’ve only got one issue to tell a story that hooks your reader. There’s no promise of a follow up story next month, and that each page is a perfectly executed marriage of words and pictures that come together to tell a full story is testament to the talent of the creative team.
Artists have an unfair advantage in the way that comics is a visual medium—there’s no shortage of readers who will pick up a book based on the art alone.
That said, it’s worth noting that Jill Thompson truly shines in this issue. She’s a master of visual storytelling, body language, and mood building through color usage. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, I suggest you go back and pick up every single prior volume of Beasts of Burden to see what I’m talking about.
Also available this week:
Boom! — Giant Days #14, Klaus #5, Regular Show #35, Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems #2, Weavers #1, The Woods #22
Dark Horse Comics — Baltimore: Empty Graves #2, Prediator: Life and Death #1
Dynamite — Army of Darkness: Furious Road #3, Bob’s Burgers #11, Devolution #4, Miss Fury #2, Smosh #1, Vampirella #3, Will Eisner’s The Spirit #10
IDW — 3 Devils #3, Amazing Forest #5, Angry Birds #5, Classic Popeye #45, Dungeons and Dragons #1, Ghostbusters International #4, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #228, Hot Damn #2, Insufferable: On The Road #4, Mars Attacks: Occupation #2, My Little Pony: Friends Forever #28, Star Trek: Manifest Destiny #2, Star Trek: New Visions #11, Strawberry Shortcake #1, Weird Love #12
Valiant — 4001 A.D. #1
Project-Nerd is a press partner of BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Alterna Comics, Valiant Comics, Scout Comics, and IDW Publishing. If you would like to see your studios’ content included in our weekly release article, please contact our editors.