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SYFY WIRE Comics Wire

Comics Wire: DC brings FanDome virtual con back; Hellfire Gala teasers; Marvel's Heroes Reborn launch & more

By Matthew Jackson
Heroes Reborn 1 cover

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.

Last week, amid increasing news that in-person conventions will be making a comeback in the back half of this year from San Diego to New York, DC Entertainment announced that DC FanDome, the virtual fan experience that launched last summer as the pandemic wiped the 2020 convention season away, will return this October for its second year.

The first FanDome, which unfolded over two weekends in August and September of last year, was widely viewed as a triumph both in terms of the engagement it offered DC's various film, TV, comics, and video game properties and in terms of the showmanship that came with the interface and the various participants. At a time when a lot of people were still trying to figure out how to make a livestream more exciting, DC seemed to nail it.

That helps explain why the event is coming back later this year, and I'm taking the return of FanDome as a hopeful sign that we've learned a thing or two about the value of virtual presences on the convention scene going forward. Yes, in-person conventions are great and vital and everyone misses them, but there's something to be said for being able to be part of something from the comfort of your home even after the pandemic has quieted a bit.

Yes, nothing will ever replace the experience of a massive comics convention, whether we're talking about the roar of the Hall H crowd or the simple joy of flipping through a dollar box in the dealers area. There's an immediacy to it, a community that can't be replicated online, which is why the best online conventions over the course of the last year have been the ones that haven't really tried to replicate the in-person convention experience, at least not whole cloth. Events like FanDome worked because they took advantage of the digital spaces available to them to open up participation to a global stage, to unite talent and fan communities and more from across the world, and even to do things like premiere trailers in a way that everyone could be part of at once without having to wait for a bootlegged video from a convention hall to hit Twitter.

And that's to say nothing of the accessibility benefits of virtual conventions. There are people who can't physically navigate crowded convention halls or wait in long lines for panels, just as there are people who simply can't afford to travel to the biggest shows around the country and feel like they're part of that experience. I know because I've often been part of that latter category, and the immediacy of a virtual experience like FanDome would have been so heartening to me even just a few years ago.

So, as in-person conventions return and everyone gets back out to their exhibit halls and panel rooms and artists alleys, let's remember what virtual events did for us in the last year, and let's not simply let them all fade away as vaccination rates rise. They have a value, whether we're talking about buying a livestreaming pass for an in-person con and logging on for DC FanDome, and we shouldn't unlearn that lesson.

A feast of Hellfire Gala teasers

We're a month out from the arrival of the Hellfire Gala — the latest event in the Krakoan era of X-Men comics — and Marvel just keeps upping the ante on its marketing for the event in a way that both impresses and delights me. I know it's not necessarily everyone's cup of tea, but the Hickman/Krakoa era of X-books won me over from the very beginning and hasn't lost me yet in part because even when I read something I don't necessarily love, I can at least feel a sense of ambition and inventiveness behind it. It's not just subversion for the sake of subversion either.

Recent entries like S.W.O.R.D. and the just-launched Way of X have continued to open new frontiers of this particular way of mutant life, and all of it feels like part of a greater whole in a way that I perhaps wouldn't have predicated two years ago when it started. Very often these kinds of grand shared storytelling designs start to head into retcon territory fast, but that hasn't happened here.

Which brings us to the Hellfire Gala, billed as massive gathering on the moon during which various mutants will wear the most absolutely stunning outfits they can find and do... well, we don't know yet, but it's sure to be surprising, engaging, and filled with the same kind of ambitious playfulness that made stuff like X of Swords work so well for me. The event will unfold throughout June across every current X-title before ushering in a few new stories along the way, including a new creative team on X-Men and a couple of secret books that we don't even know about yet.

Right now, though, the thing that's really captured the internet's imagination is the outfits, as artist Russell Dauterman just keeps churning out incredible looks for everyone from Colossus to Jean Grey to wear on the Hellfire Gala carpet. There's even a trailer that emphasizes the red carpet affair of it all. It's playful, it's forward-thinking, and it allows all the X-Men creative teams to really break with the classic costume formula that's carried so many characters even in the Krakoan era.

Yes, some people are mad about it, but let me just say two things. One, if you're not having fun with this, I don't know why you're reading X-Men comics anymore at all. And two, the X-Men have been just absolutely pansexually horny since at least 1980, so you might as well deal with it.

The Hellfire Gala launches next month, and I for one can't wait.

More news: OctobrianaNinjak, and more!

Octobriana with Love

- Last week, a very intriguing comics Kickstarter launched that promises to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the most fascinating superheroes in the history of the medium. Octobriana with Love unites an all-star creative team for an anthology of stories celebrating Octobriana, a Russian superhero whose real-life backstory is as wild as her fictional adventures. Seriously, Google the history of Octobriana if you want a story with some twists. The book itself is edited by Stu Taylor, who also crafted several of the stories alongside talent including Stephanie Phillips, Andy Belanger, Stephen Byrne, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, Marguerite Sauvage, Michael Cho, and many more. The book's already hit its funding goal, so head on over and reserve a copy for yourself. You can get a digital edition of this jam-packed anthology for less than $10.

- Valiant Comics' 2021 comeback continues. Hot on the heels of the release of a new Shadowman series, the publisher also announced this week that Ninjak will return this summer with a long-awaited new volume written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Javier Pulido. The new story follows the title character, aka Colin King, as he embarks on a global journey to identify the people hunting him after every MI6 agent is compromised and sent on the run. If you didn't already know: Ninjak is Ninja James Bond, and everyone needs some Ninja James Bond. The first issue is out July 14, and you can read the first seven pages over on Valiant's website right now.

- And hey, if you're looking to support a good cause this week, Humble Bundle and Heavy Metal have partnered for "Heaviest Metal," a massive bundle combining classic issues of the legendary magazine and standalone comics series with offerings starting at just $1. The proceeds go to benefit the Hero Initiative, which provides funds and support to comics creators going through medical and personal struggles. So, if you've got a few bucks, head over there and see what you'd like to read.

New comics this week: Heroes RebornThe Good Asian, and more!

Heroes Reborn 1 cover

That's the news. Now let's talk about some of the comics I got excited about this week.

Heroes Reborn #1: In a Marvel career that's seen him invent, reinvent, and remix just about every corner of the universe at this point, it feels natural to me that Jason Aaron's next big swing at an event is something a bit experimental even by his standards. Sure, alternate universe stories are nothing new, especially in the Marvel Multiverse, but as Heroes Reborn's first issue unfolds, it's clear that Aaron is less interested in holding our hand as we walk into this new world and more interested in playing with an entirely new set of toys, and the result is one of the most fun issues of superhero comics so far this year.

Written by Aaron with art by his Avengers teammate Ed McGuinness, Heroes Reborn opens in a world in which the Squadron Supreme, not the Avengers, are Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and they're very busy battling villains like Doctor Doom with Juggernaut powers and Thanos with his "Infinity Rings" and Wanda Maximoff after she absorbed her dead brother's powers to become the Silver Witch. Other than the obvious fun of playing in that particular sandbox, two things immediately stand out as intriguing. For one thing, all of the ingredients for the Avengers are still in place. The characters are still out there, leaving their non-heroic lives, but they never got the kickstart they needed to become something more. And for another, the only being in the world who seems to know this is Blade.

Why Blade? We don't know, but anchoring our introduction through his voice is one of the smartest decisions in a script full of smart decisions. It gives us a different perspective on the chaos of it all, and Blade's uniquely determined survivor instincts mean he's willing to jump in and mix it up right away, which gives McGuinness room for some truly terrific early fight sequences. All of that, plus a lot of intriguing implications set up by this issue, plus the Squadron Supreme's unique roots as the late Mark Gruenwald's Justice League analogues, mean that this is a meaty, thrilling, dynamic debut that has me looking forward to the rest of the event.

EVE #1: Taking the dark backdrop of post-apocalyptic fiction and infusing it with joy — not just levity, but real joy — is tricky even if you have hundreds of pages to do it in, but it's especially difficult to convey in the 30 or so pages offered by the first issue of a comics series. Yet that's exactly what happens in the debut issue of EVE, the new BOOM! Studios series from writer Victor LaValle and artist Jo Mi-Gyeong starring a young girl tasked with saving the world in her own very specific way. Yes it's set in a dark future where the planet is devastated by loss and climate change, but within that bleak backdrop these creators immediately latch onto something that's both palpable and downright refreshing in the year 2021: The promise of hope.

The first issue follows the title character, an 11-year-old girl whose whole life has been spent in confinement she didn't truly grasp, who realizes in the span of moments that her life is not what she thought it was. In fact, the world isn't what she thought it was, and she might be its last best hope. To that end, Eve must venture out from her home with no one but an android teddy bear to help her, and a quest ahead of her that could change the future.

LaValle's script throws a lot of information at the reader in very short order, but it never feels overwhelming except in the ways that it should overwhelm. We are, after all, learning about these particular circumstances alongside Eve, and that creates both urgency and emotional investment right away. From there, Jo's art does the rest, engrossing us whether it's revealing the confines of a vault of the expanse of a wasted Manhattan skyline. It's a powerful, emotional, hopeful story that's both expansive and intimate at the same time. I was entirely swept away, and I'll be following the rest of Eve's adventures with rapt attention.

The Good Asian #1: Pornsak Pichetshote and Alexandre Tefenkgi's new Chinatown noir series The Good Asian has built up quite a bit of buzz over the last few weeks, and when I read it last weekend I immediately saw why. This is a book that balances a lot of elements right away and balances them very, very well, and the result is one of the best new crime comics you're likely to read this year.

The title character is Edison Hark, a Chinese-American detective who walks between two worlds thanks to his upbringing with the help of a white family and his place as part of the first generation of Americans to come of age under an immigration ban that's still a little-known part of history. All of that, plus his position as a police officer at a time when police are overwhelmingly racist toward Chinese people, puts Edison in a position of self-loathing, second-guessing, and constant danger of one kind or another, none of which gets easier when he finds himself on the trail of a killer.

Pichetshote's script somehow manages to convey all of this in the span of a single issue without ever losing a step or stumbling in its effort to also convey a very particular kind of noir tone. In someone else's hands this story might get too noise, too crowded with influences and themes to hold together under the weight of it all, but Pichetshote has a very clear grasp of the kind of story he wants to tell and the delivery system he wants to bring along with it, and that shows on every page. Tefenkgi's art, dripping with noir slickness while beautifully emotive at the same time, completes the effect. It's a stunning launch issue that reads like nothing else on the stands right now, and that's a very good thing.

Green Lantern #2: When it comes to a book like Green Lantern in just about any of its incarnations, it's tough to create the impression that you're going big right out of the gate, because what does "going big" in a comic about space guardians who cover literally the whole universe really look like?

We could debate that all day, but I'm here to tell you that whatever your definition of a big Green Lantern story is, the current run from writer Geoffrey Thorne and artists Dexter Soy and Marco Santucci is probably rising to meet it. In just two issues this book has done everything from introduce a new adversary with devastating consequences to teasing a new mystery in deep space to launching a debate about the future of the Corps itself, and that's just scratching the surface of what's in issue #2.

Thorne's scripts are packed with big ideas that stand to reshape the cosmos of the DC Universe, but they also play out like emotional character dramas in which veterans and newcomers reckon with the fate of the cause they've all pledged to. Soy and Santucci deliver epic visuals to match the epic scope of the story, delivering a look that feels both like classic Green Lantern and like a depiction of the Corps at a tipping point, where you can almost see the landscape shifting in the panels as Oa and the Corps itself stand to evolve. It's an ambitious, exciting, gorgeously rendered comic, and if you haven't picked it up yet you should catch up while you can.

Poison Flowers and PandemoniumA year ago this week we lost Richard Sala, a singular cartoonist with an eye for mixing and matching genres and tones and uniting them under the same madcap visual umbrella in a way that only he could. Thankfully, Sala left us with a parting gift in the form of four new comic novels that make up his final collection, Poison Flowers and Pandemonium. And reader, it's a hell of a parting gift.

Completed just weeks before Sala's death, the book is more than 300 pages of absolute visual splendor, as the legendary writer/artist takes us through tales of rogue criminals and cavewomen battling dinosaurs, monsters and mayhem, blood and beauty. All of it defies the boundaries of genre and tone and even comics form, as Sala does things like devote an entire story to a series of nearly wordless splash pages and use long sections of prose to develop a meta-narrative that's as funny as it is ferocious. He was, to the last, an artist only interested in going his own way, and it shows in the pages. Poison Flowers and Pandemonium will stand as a self-made tribute to one of the great comics minds of the past half-century, and a testament to the power of pure, unfiltered imagination.

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."