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Welcome to Comics Wire, SYFY WIRE's weekly comics column that gets at the pulse of what's going on in comics right now. We've got what you need to know about huge crossovers, real-life issues facing the industry, cool first looks, the week's hot new comics, and everything in-between.
In the world of Big Two superhero comics, there are the massive, universe-shifting books that are billed that way -- your Avengers, your Justice League, your linewide crossovers, what have you -- and then there are the more intimate, character-focused sagas that nevertheless have a kind of reach and acclaim that ends up shifting the whole universe whether creators and fans saw it coming or not. It happened with Hawkeye at Marvel, for example, and with Mister Miracle at DC, and if you've been paying attention, you know that it's been happening again with Chip Zdarsky's time writing Daredevil.
Over the course of nearly three years now, Zdarsky and primary collaborator artist Marco Checchetto have been building a new era of the Man Without Fear that, whether you noticed or not, is shifting the foundations of the street-level action in New York City and beyond. It's one of the most celebrated books in comics right now, which is why some fans were caught by surprise last week when Marvel announced they were ending the run with issue #36.
To be clear, Marvel was open upfront that the announcement didn't mean Zdarsky's time with the character is actually ending, just that the current volume of the book is... for now, anyway. Still, after a day of a certain portion of the comics internet buzzing about What It All Means, Zdarsky felt compelled to address the announcement in his newsletter. Here's how he described events:
"The Daredevil title is on pause after our giant-sized issue 36 because the events in that book kind of, uh, spiraled out of control? And Marco and I need to deal with it before we can jump back onto the Daredevil title. Will that be issue #37? Or an all-new issue #1? I can honestly say I have no idea. All I can say is that we’re continuing and have more story to tell after issue 36, especially leading to our big issue 38, which is Legacy Numbering issue 650!"
Zdarsky went on to tease that the upcoming 36th issue will bring "massive changes" to the landscape of the story as well as, possibly, the whole Marvel Universe. Which, for a book that's set up a new reign of the Kingpin in such a devastating and effective way, could really be saying something.
So, why mention all of this? Well, for one thing, to remind everyone that they should be catching up on Daredevil, because Zdarsky's done some truly daring things in title that's known for daring things. For another, though, there's the potential impact on the larger Marvel landscape here, not just in terms of plot but in terms of the long-term influence Zdarksy's time with the book could have. Frank Miller's Daredevil is still remembered as one of the all-time great superhero runs, setting the template for years of street-level stories that followed it.
As he evolves his own time with Daredevil, I see the potential for Zdarsky to do something like that again, launching ripple effects throughout Marvel's various solo hero titles. Seriously, this book has the reach to be that influential over time, and it's worth paying attention when Marvel's willing to take this kind of leap and meet Zdarsky over on the other side of it.
Daredevil #36 arrives in November.
Infinite Frontier's promising second act
Moving from the vitality of solo titles to the vitality of big event books, DC Comics announced earlier this month that writer Joshua Williamson will continue the story he's developing in the Infinite Frontier miniseries with a new Justice League Incarnate book this fall, following the adventures of multiversal heroes like President Superman, Flashpoint Thomas Wayne, and yes, Captain Carrot.
The announcement of that five-issue miniseries, co-written by Williamson and Dennis Culver and featuring art by Andrei Bressan and Brandon Peterson, was intriguing in and of itself, but it gets more intriguing when you hear what Williamson has to say about the overall scope of the book. Speaking to Newsarama just a few days ago, Williamson billed the book as the second act of the Infinite Frontier saga, spinning directly out of that title's sixth issue.
"I'm not even sure I'd call it a sequel," Williamson said. "It's all pieces of the same story. We started telling a story in Infinite Frontier, and we knew that story was going to be broken up into pieces. The first act was going to be the Infinite Frontier mini-series. The second act starts essentially the moment that Infinite Frontier #6 comes out. The second act includes Justice League Incarnate but also includes some other books we have that all lead into the bigger third act."
So, the big crossover miniseries is getting a spinoff book that will also tie into other spinoff books stemming from the same crossover miniseries. Why does this intrigue me so when it sounds so familiar? Because, while the idea of spinning a book out of an event miniseries is nothing new, the stakes at work in Williamson's larger narrative are particularly interesting.
Take a character like President Superman. He's been around for a while now, and he's even become something of a fan-favorite, but how many stories has he actually gotten a chance to be a part of? How many times have we seen him, and other Justice Incarnate members, taken out of their boxes for an issue or two only to disappear back into cold storage. At least so far, Infinite Frontier is the book that's aimed to change that, and to work that "it all counts" ethos that worked so well in Dark Nights: Death Metal into every aspect of DC Continuity while also keeping the books accessible to casual readers.
It's a very, very tough needle to thread, and it's easy to imagine that approach dissolving into the ether the minute the main miniseries is over. With this clarification, Williamson's noting that not only will the story continue beyond Infinite Frontier, but that it's far from over. We won't get an immediate status quo reset and these characters won't be relegated to the background right away.
In other words, there's more room for them than there's ever been before, and if that's true, I'm very intrigued about what the next couple of years of DC Universe storytelling will look like on both a macro and micro scale.
Justice League Incarnate lands in November.
More news: New Image and Vault books, and more!
- The November solicitations trickling out over the last couple of weeks brought with them a number of intriguing books on the creator-owned front, including What's the Furthest Place From Here?, a new post-apocalyptic story from 4 Kids Walk into a Bank creators Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss. Set after the end of the world, the book will follow a young girl who leaves the gang of fellow kids she runs with to venture out in search of something more. And to make things even more interesting, Rosenberg and Boss are commissioning limited edition vinyl singles of original music to go with a deluxe release of the first issue. Comics arriving with their own soundtracks is becoming more and more common, and this feels like an especially momentous version of that. For more info, head over to Image's website.
- Last week, on the heels of the announcement that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will return to comics, Archie Comics announced yet another investment in its future as a horror publisher. To go with an expanded role at the company as Senior Director of Editorial, Archie's Jamie L. Rotante revealed that one of her first new upcoming projects will be Chilling Adventures in Sorcery, a new horror anthology uniting creators like Eliot Rahal, Amy Chu, Derek Charm, and many more. To get a peek inside the anthology, which arrives this fall, head over to Archie's website.
- In My Personal Favorite Superhero of All Time news, Marvel has announced that bestselling crime novelist Walter Mosley will make the leap to comics alongside artist Tom Reilly for a new six-issue miniseries starring The Thing. The book arrives in November, and promises a Marvel Universe-spanning, quest star-packed odyssey for Idol of Millions. I will, of course, be there with bells on.
- And finally, I'm gonna say we should all definitely be paying attention to Fox and Hare, the new cyberpunk comic from writer Jonathan Tsuei (Sera & The Royal Stars) and artist Stacey Lee (Unstoppable Wasp) which promises to "reclaim" the subgenre for Asian creators and characters. It has an intriguing premise, it looks gorgeous, and it's out in November. For more, check out CBR's exclusive reveal.
New comics: Marvel's Voices: Identity, Superman '78, Echolands, and more!
That's the news. Now let's talk about some of the comics I got excited about this week.
Marvel's Voices: Identity #1: There's a very particular needle each creative team needs to thread in an anthology like Marvel's Voices: Identity, a book expressly designed not just to showcase a certain group of characters, but a certain group of talent. You have to craft a compelling story for the characters you've chosen, of course, but you also have to find a way to inject your own creative personality deep into the roots of every page, because you only have a few pages to get that across. It's tricky, but when it works, we get to enjoy the magic.
And there's a lot of magic in Identity, an anthology joining the Voices line to celebrate Asian characters and creators across the spectrum of the Marvel Universe and talent pool. It begins, appropriately, with a Shang-Chi story from Gene Luen Yang and Marcus To that explores a key theme of a book like this: How our choices inform who we are as much as our birth. From there, we get everything from a 1950s Jimmy Woo story from Greg Pak and Creees Lee (which, honestly, should become its own miniseries for how much it is) to an Armor and Silver Samurai Krakoan story from Ken Niimura to a beautiful and impactful Kamala Khan tale from Sabir Pirzada and Mashal Ahmed.
Each story excels in its own way, but what's most striking about the book as a whole is just how well it demonstrates the breadth of talent at work. At no point does this feel like an anthology where creative teams were boxed in or pressured to pursue a certain theme or emotional end. It feels, appropriately, like an honest expression of who the characters are as well as who the writers and artists are, and that makes it a worthy entry into an ever-expanding lineup of Voices anthologies.
Superman '78 #1: In my mind, pulling off a book like Superman '78 has always felt perhaps a little trickier than pulling off a book like Batman '89, or if not trickier then at least tricky in a very different way. With Batman you at least have a very particular design aesthetic, courtesy of Tim Burton, to hang onto if you're looking for inspiration. Richard Donner's legendary Superman film, on the other hand, feels like a hybrid of a very straightforward, naturalistic directing style and Donner's own determination to pull the feeling of original Superman comics right off the page. Taking that and translating it back to comics, then, was always going to be tough.
And yet, Robert Venditti and Wilfredo Torres have pulled it off with this dazzling, delightful first issue that introduces Brainiac and his habit of collecting bottle cities in the Superman '78 continuity. Venditti's writing is, predictably, a pitch perfect rendering of the Donner vibe, particularly when it latches onto that trademark crackle between Clark Kent and Lois Lane, and his script becomes even more impressive when it starts to build out from that familiar starting point. Then there's Torres' art, which is so crisp and bright and joyful that you can practically hear John Williams' music radiating out at you from the pages. If you want that Superman: The Movie feeling again, don't miss this comic.
Echolands #1: We've seen what the team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman can do before on titles like Batwoman, so the promise of them teaming up for something like Echolands was always enticing. Billed as an imagination-fueled, anything-can-happen journey into a new world, with a format designed to maximize Williams' fluid art style, Echolands got a major push from Image Comics when it was announced earlier this year. Now that it's here, it's very easy to see why.
Set in a future world haunted by massive reminders of the version of civilization that came before it, Echolands follows a thief named Hope as she sets out to steal something very valuable from some very bad people, opening the door to an adventure that will have implications for the entire world in the process. The first issue unfolds like an extended chase sequence, with Williams and Blackman's script never letting up on the throttle while still effortlessly introducing us to a variety of characters and concepts along the way. Then there's the "landscape" style of Williams' art, unfolding in horizontally oriented layouts across the whole book.
The propulsive writing coupled with this predictably gorgeous layout style means that the whole first issue plays like one long journey through corridor after corridor, acquainting us with this strange, beautifully imagined world. It's all a rather breathless, stunning experience, and it announces Echolands as one of the fantasy comics to watch in 2021.
Lifeformed #1: I've written before in this column (probably too many times) about how much I enjoy stories that feel both intimate and expansive at the same time, and the first issue of Lifeformed from writer Matt Mair Lowery and artist Cassie Anderson feels like something with the potential to be exactly that kind of story. The book follows Cleo, a somewhat awkward 11-year-old who, unbeknownst to her, is about to be swept up in an alien invasion that will forever change her life and the life of her father.
The less said about how that all unfolds, the better, but I was immediately taken with the emotional weight of this story, and the deft way Lowery's script lays it all out. Combine that with Anderson's expressive, warm art that manages to convey both human faces and spaceships with equal vibrance, and this becomes an immediately endearing new sci-fi adventure that I can't wait to revisit.
Once & Future #19: Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora's Once & Future was one of the best new comics of 2019, a dark fantasy series with loads of character and storytelling potential that was originally billed as a limited series but proved so popular that it expanded to an ongoing fairly early in its run. With that little bit of history in mind, you might wonder just how far an originally finite story can end up going. Well, here we are at the start of yet another arc for the series, and Gillen, Mora, and colorist Tamra Bonvillain are delivering as much Arthurian awesomeness as ever.
Once & Future began as the story of what happens when a group of misguided Nationalists try to resurrect King Arthur to "save" Britain, only to find that the Arthur they thought was their savior is actually a monster. The metaphor for the dangers of nationalism worked very well in those early days, but as it grew in scope Once & Future proved to be just as adept at exploring the power of stories to shape our lives and destinies, to the point that now our heroes are actually trapped in one large representation of a story they've been struggling with since the beginning.
Those big ideas, combined with Gillen's pitch-perfect character work and Mora's phenomenally propulsive fantasy art, mean that Once & Future is still one of the best fantasy comics on the stands, and has enough narrative fuel to keep burning for quite a while longer. So, if you fell off the series at some point, or you still haven't started, now's the time to start catching up.
And that's it for Comics Wire this week. Until next time, remember what John Custer told his son Jesse in the pages of Preacher:
"You gotta be one of the good guys, son: 'Cause there's way too many of the bad."