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SYFY WIRE Comics Wire

Comics Wire: Marvel's Dark Ages, DC's Infinite Frontier, new Vault and AfterShock books, and more!

By Matthew Jackson
Marvel Dark Ages 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.

This week we once again find ourselves in the midst of a major solicitation cycle, as publishers big and small start to let readers know what they can expect this September. At Marvel, that means a lot of new things, but if you love big events comics from all-star creators, you might be particularly excited about Dark Ages.

Late last week Marvel revealed that writer Tom Taylor, who's already documented a couple of major alternate-reality superhero crises at DC with Injustice and DCeased, will launch a new six-issue event series at the publisher this fall alongside rising artist Iban Coello (whose work on Black Knight I enjoy quite a bit). Like those major DC events, Dark Ages will feature Taylor showing us a world in which our heroes faced a catastrophic threat, and couldn't rise to the challenge as they had so many times before.

Marvel Dark Ages cover

"I'm excited to team up with the brilliant Iban Coello on one of the most epic stories I've ever been involved in,” Taylor said. “Marvel's Dark Ages is a story unlike any we've told before. And it all begins with the shocking revelation of what the Watcher has been watching for. A danger older than the Earth threatens everything. And for once, the heroes who have saved the planet time and again find themselves almost completely powerless in the face of it. X-Men and Avengers will assemble. Spider-people and the Fantastic Four will come together. Heroes for Hire will fight alongside Champions. But none of it will be enough. The lights are about to go out... forever."

What exactly does that mean? Well, we're not sure yet, but last year's X-Men Free Comic Book Day issue holds at least a few clues, and we'll no doubt learn more about Dark Ages in the coming months. For now, check out Coello's cover for the first issue above, and get ready for the lights to go out across the Marvel Universe on Sept. 1.

A busy September at DC Comics

Harley Quinn DC Connect

Over at DC Comics, this week the publisher rolled out some major September announcements of their own, beginning with the news that DC Connect, the previews catalog DC launched after their new distribution agreement began last year, will be available at comics shops as a free print magazine beginning June 29. With that news also came the reveal of several intriguing new titles arriving at DC this September.

What sort of new titles? Well, for one thing, the much-anticipated Deathstroke, Inc. from The Flash team of Joshua Williamson and Howard Porter is coming, as well as I Am Batman, the latest entry in the Future State Batman saga from John Ridley and Olivier Coipel. The Aquaman: The Becoming series featuring Jackson Hyde will be joined by a new Black Manta series from Bitter Root's Chuck Brown and Bitch Planet's Valentine De Landro, and the Harley Quinn animated series on HBO Max will get a comic book companion piece in the form of The Eat. Bang. Kill Tour, from writer Tee Franklin and artist Max Sarin.

Oh, and in case you're already gearing up for Halloween, DC also announced Are You Afraid of Darkseid?, a new anthology horror one-shot dropping Oct. 5. And if you're gearing up for Christmas, they also announced Milestone Compendium One, a massive collection of 1,300 pages (not a typo) of stories from Milestone Media's early days. They're all big months, but September's primed to be an especially big month at DC Comics.

More news: New books from Dark Horse, Vault, and AfterShock

Mazebook cover

— Jeff Lemire has become one of the most important voices in modern comics not just because of the great stories he's delivered over the years, but because of the sheer volume of his body of work. He's a story machine, working in classic superhero narratives, superhero deconstructions, and more abstract genre efforts with the same intense enthusiasm and craft, and somehow he manages to remain both prolific and brilliant after all this time. That means any new Lemire book announcement is exciting, and Mazebook sounds especially exciting for Lemire fans. Announced by Dark Horse earlier this week, the five-issue series will be written and drawn by Lemire, and follow a lonely man mourning the loss of his daughter who becomes convinced she's trying to contact him, and uses an unfinished maze left behind in one of her journals as a map to other worlds. I can only imagine what kind of ambitious artistic scaffolding Lemire has constructed for this one. Mazebook #1 is out Sept. 8.

— Vault Comics has become one of my go-to stops for new horror books over the last couple of years, and this week they announced another must-read title. Writer Peter Milligan and I Walk With Monsters artist Sally Cantirino will team up this fall for Human Remains, a new horror series set in a world where a dangerous invader has made it potentially deadly to express any emotions, even positive ones, stripping away what it means to be human. According to Milligan, the book was inspired by the limitations of pandemic quarantine, and based on what he did with Happy Hour (a book about people forced to be happy) at AHOY Comics, I'm very eager to see how he translated this particular idea into a new story. Human Remains arrives in September.

— Also over at Vault this week, the publisher revealed that they'll be parlaying their World of Darkness comics license, which has already produced some great Vampire: The Masquerade books, into an epic crossover event. Titled World of Darkness: Crimson Thaw, the book brings together an all-star roster of talent that includes Jim Zub, Tini Howard, Danny Lore, Tim Seeley, and Addison Duke to tell a story that will both expand the World of Darkness comics universe and feature some exclusive material for tabletop gamers. To find out more, check out CBR's exclusive reveal on the book.

— Not to be outdone, of course, the folks at AfterShock Comics also announced an intriguing new thrill ride of a title this week with Party and Prey, an original graphic novel from writers Steve Orlando and Steve Foxe and artist Alex Sanchez. Though details are scarce on the story for spoilery reasons, the book is described as a "taboo-breaking queer thriller" that follows a young man through a night at a club that goes horribly wrong. If any team can pull it off, I think it's this one, and I'm excited to see how Foxe and Orlando — who have a very different new AfterShock book out later this year with the young-readers-aimed Rainbow Bridge — navigate these waters. Party and Prey arrives in October.

— And finally this week, some good news in the form of a tribute to a bright light in the comics industry taken from us too soon. The Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) festival announced last week that it plans to launch the inaugural Tom Spurgeon Award at this year's seventh annual event, honoring the late Comics Journal and Comics Reporter journalist. The award is aimed at honoring anyone who has moved the industry forward, whether they're working as a publisher, retailer, journalist, or beyond. Spurgeon, who died in 2019, was one of the best journalists to ever cover comics in any form. He was the best of us, and it's nice to see an award in his honor, devoted to recognizing people who do what he did best.

New comics this week: Infinite FrontierBlack Hammer RebornGood Luck, and more!

Infinite Frontier 1 cover

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

Infinite Frontier #1: After a knockout run on The Flash, Joshua Williamson's ambitions in the DC Comics Universe haven't dimmed at all, and Infinite Frontier is proof of that. It's Williamson's chance, alongside artist Xermanico, to take all the big ideas and inventive storytelling he brought to the Fastest Man Alive and apply them not just to one universe, but to a whole omniverse of potential stories.

Infinite Frontier #1, which landed this week after months of anticipation, reflects that sense of scope and scale right from the beginning. The issue isn't just one story, but more like five, each with its own tonal variances and sense of personal importance, as the story zips from President Superman to Barry Allen to Alan Scott and his children to present a kind of wide-angle view of the current state of the newly formed multiverse. Xermanico's pencils are perfectly, thrillingly suited to this kind of dimension-hopping fun, as he delivers everything from wild cosmic danger to intimate character moments with the same epic style. What's especially impressive about it all, though, even beyond Xermanico's own chameleonic panels, is Williamson's script. This is a comic, like his Flash run, that never slows down for a second, and yet it also never loses the reader. Infinite Frontier is primed for greatness, and I expect issue #2 to deliver on that.

Black Hammer Reborn #1: Black Hammer as an overall comics franchise began its life as a story of heroes who lost their way, steeped in mystery over how that happened but always laser-focused on the impact that sense of loss had on its characters. Now, as it enters a new phase of the saga, Black Hammer Reborn, from original writer Jeff Lemire and new Black Hammer artist Caitlin Yarsky, takes that same thematic spirit and pushes it forward with a different kind of loss story still steeped in the same Black Hammer aura.

Reborn follows Lucy, who took up her father's mantle as the Black Hammer and had quite a heroic run of her own in Spiral City, but that was 20 years ago. As we meet her again, Lucy is married with children, working a lackluster job and feeling her life seem to unravel just as old threats rear their heads again. It's perhaps not the same as being trapped in a pocket dimension, but Lemire's script works the same old Black Hammer magic once again by focusing in with laser precision and tremendous emotional impact on the kind of adrift feeling that's hammering Lucy every minute of her day. Then there's Yarsky's art, which fits right into the aesthetic of the series and yet maintains its own awe-inspiring, reality-warping flair. Black Hammer is back, and it's as spellbinding as it ever was.

Marvel Voices: Pride #1: This week Marvel Comics rolled out its Pride Month anthology book spotlighting its various LGBTQ+ characters and creators in a wide range of stories spanning everything from one-pagers to epic setups for future stories. As has so often been the case with the books in the Voices line, it's an issue that makes you want more, and thankfully it seems that in many cases these stories are primed to give that to us.

After kicking things off with a beautiful, montage-style overview of Marvel's LGBTQ+ history drawn by Luciano Vecchio, the stories begin in earnest. We get a sweet Wiccan and Hulkling one-pager from Allan Heinberg, and Jim Cheung, a flirty Black Cat tale from Leah Williams and Jan Bazaldua, a sweet Speed/Patriot conversation from Kieron Gillen and Jen Hickman, an unexpected and delightful She-Hulk tale from Crystal Frasier and Jethro Morales, and more.

The real centerpiece, though, is the story from Steve Orlando and Claudia Aguirre that introduces Somnus, a new mutant character created by Orlando and Vecchio that's been among the most-hyped of Marvel's Pride Month offerings. In a story that spans a good chunk of X-Men history, Orlando charts the course of a character who can live lifetimes in a single night, yet missed out on something he'd always dreamed of. Thankfully, in a touch of brilliance that makes the story something truly special, the new age of Krakoa has the power to change that, and the result is a thrilling new character debut that should spell great things ahead. Marvel Voices: Pride #1 is another welcome addition to the Voices line, and I hope Marvel follows through on all the big ideas set up and introduced in its pages.

Good Luck #1: I've written many, many times about how much I love a good concept that's well executed, but sometimes it hits a little differently. Sometimes you honestly come across a concept and think "How can they possibly pull this off?" the moment you read even the tiniest bit about it, then you actually experience the story and realize you've found something special. That's what happened to me with Good Luck #1 from writer Matthew Erman and artist Stefano Simeone.

Set in a world where Luck is a quantifiable, measurable thing like weight or height, Good Luck follows the "Unfortunates," a group of teenagers who've somehow had the misfortune of being born without any Luck at all. Thankfully, that strange ability has made them a kind of twisted super-team, as they're the only ones who might be able to unravel the current chaos of the world. With grace and wit, Erman's script lays out exactly how this works, deftly constructing a backstory for the world while also presenting instantly memorable characters and concepts, and making the whole thing run like clockwork. Simeone's art, which somehow simultaneously evoked X-Men comics and Pixar films like Inside Out and Soul for me, does the rest. This is one that has to be read to be believed, y'all.

Becstar #2: If you're looking for a spacefaring sci-fi adventure with loads of humor and an immediately compelling mythology, make this your week to catch up on Becstar, the Mad Cave Studios series from writer Joe Corallo and artist Lorenzo Colangeli, which drops its second issue today.

Set far away from Earth, the series follows the title character as her past catches up to her while all she's trying to do is enjoy her retirement as a galactic gambler. I was very impressed by the first issue, particularly the way Corallo's script was able to set up so much worldbuilding in such a short span without ever sacrificing character, and Issue #2 carries on that spirit with a trip to a death-trap-laden planet to grab another piece of the story's overall puzzle. Colangeli's art, which revels in everything from creature design to close-up character work, adds to the overall cosmic-crime-romp vibe, making it a perfect book for anyone on the lookout for some sci-fi fun right now.

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."