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SYFY WIRE Comics Wire

Comics Wire: Inside Marvel's Heroes Reborn; Image's horror anthology; & this week's hot reads

By Matthew Jackson
Heroes Reborn promo art

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.

Jason Aaron's lengthy run on Avengers has always sort of felt like a series of major comics events even when the individual issues weren't wrapped up in crossovers with the rest of the Marvel universe. From the very first page, this run was set up to be massive, and this incarnation of Earth's Mightiest Heroes have battled everything from Celestials to an army of vampires to the moon deity Khonshu on the path to save the world. Now, Marvel has unveiled the next phase of Aaron's Avengers saga, in which our heroes will face... well, maybe nothing, because it turns out they never existed.

Last week, Marvel began teasing out an upcoming project dubbed Heroes Reborn, which for many fans immediately called to mind the mid-90s event of the same name in which many of Marvel's key heroes were seemingly killed off in the pages of Onslaught, only to actually be shuffled off into a pocket universe where their origin stories were expanded and refitted for the modern age. Now, we know what to expect from the new Heroes Reborn, and it's another alternate universe story, one in which the Avengers never formed.

Marvel announced earlier this week that the story will take the form of a miniseries event from Aaron and his original Avengers artist Ed McGuinness, which will explore what would happen if the Marvel Universe took shape without Earth's Mightiest Heroes in it.

Here's the official synopsis:

Welcome to a world where Tony Stark never built an Iron Man armor. Where Thor is a hard-drinking atheist who despises hammers. Where Wakanda is dismissed as a myth. And where Captain America was never found in the ice, because there were no Avengers to find him. Instead this world has always been protected by Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Squadron Supreme of America. And now the Squadron face an attack from some of their fiercest enemies, like Dr. Juggernaut, the Black Skull, the Silver Witch and Thanos with his Infinity Rings. Blade is the one man alive who seems to remember that the entire world has somehow been… reborn. And so begins his search for the cause behind this ominous shift in reality.

First of all, I simply can't wait to read about a world in which Blade is the only guy who realizes something is amiss, especially Aaron's blade, who has become one of the most entertaining parts of Avengers comics in recent years thanks to his swagger, his ability to walk in both the monster world and the superhero one, and his frankly incredible dialogue. That's a brilliant choice right from the top. Throw in things like "Dr. Juggernaut" and "Infinity Rings," plus Aaron's endless talent to make even the most bonkers concepts in Marvel Comics somehow not just meaningful but flat-out emotionally resonant, and I'm there with bells on.

Heroes Reborn #1 arrives this May.

Image flips The Silver Coin

The Silver Coin cover

Regular readers of this column will know that I'm a particular fan of comics as a delivery vehicle for scary stories, and I'm always on the lookout for ambitious new horror projects. The good news there is that we're still living in a really great time for horror comics, and last week Image Comics proved that again when they announced The Silver Coin, a new horror anthology series with an all-star roster of talent and an intriguing storytelling angle.

The Silver Coin is the brainchild of Eisner-winning artist Michael Walsh, who said in an interview with IGN that he devised the series after completing work on Black Hammer/Justice League with writer Jeff Lemire. Itching to do a horror comic with top writers as collaborators, Walsh devised an anthology format that would use a shared universe framework, allowing each writer to add their own characters and scenarios to an ever-widening tapestry of terror. The Silver Coin begins in 1978 with the story of a rock band whose luck is turned around by the discovery of the title object, and then expands from there with each subsequent issue.

The first issue of the book will feature art by Walsh and a script by Chip Zdarsky, who recently proved his horror chops with the excellent Stillwater. Subsequent issues will be written by all-stars including Kelly Thompson (Captain Marvel), Ed Brisson (Murder Book), and Lemire, who also just wrapped up a brilliant horror comic with Gideon Falls. It all comes together to set up an ambitious, particularly enticing new comics project that has the potential to be one of 2021's best.

The Silver Coin #1 arrives April 7.

More news: DC's Represent! returns, Magic: The Gathering comics, and more!


- Last fall, DC Comics launched Represent!, a new digital first series designed to highlight underrepresented voices and provide an outlet for creators to tell stories that exist outside of more conventional superhero narratives we might expect from DC. Now, with Black History Month just days away, the series is finally following up its beautiful first issue with more stories from more exciting talents from the world of comics and beyond. DC announced last week that Represent! will release a new 10-page chapter every Monday in February, beginning February 1 with "Heritage" by Jesse Holland and Doug Braithwaite. Upcoming chapters will include work by Regine Sawyer, Eric Battle, Nadira Jamerson, Brittney Williams, Tara Roberts, Yancey Labat, and Dominike "DOMO" Stanton. For more details, head over to DC's website, and get ready for some exciting new stories.

- Like Dungeons & Dragons before it, Magic: The Gathering feels like the perfect gaming property to make the leap to comics because of the sheer scope of its worldbuilding potential and, of course, the opportunities for improvisation and surprise inherent in the way it's set up. This spring, BOOM! Studios is taking full advantage of that through a partnership with Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast to launch Magic, a new fantasy comic book series from writer Jed MacKay (Black Cat) and artist Ig Guara. The series will launch in the city of Ravnica, where assassination attempts against three different Guildmasters shake the city to its core, and set up a confrontation with one of the "most enigmatic" Magic: The Gathering personalities. If that all sounds a little confusing to you, don't worry. The series is intended for longtime fans and new readers alike, so it's still worth checking out to see how this massive world translates to the comics page. Magic launches from BOOM! this April.

- Hey, speaking of gaming properties that translate well to the comics page, God of War is returning to comics this March. Dark Horse announced Tuesday that God of War comics alums writer Chris Roberson and artist Tony Parker are returning for God of War: Fallen God, a new miniseries that takes place between the events of God of War III and the 2018 God of War game, following Kratos as he sets sail after winning a war against the gods, only to find that the war against himself is still raging. The first issue in the four-issue miniseries arrives March 10. For more info, check out Dark Horse's website.

New comics: Future State continues, Sympathy for No Devils, and more!

Future State Superman versus Imperious Lex cover

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

Future State: Superman vs. Imperious Lex #1: I've mentioned before in my coverage of Future State that I'm particularly interested in the creative teams that are going to take the biggest swings with the concept, which means as soon as I saw Mark Russell and Steve Pugh's name attached to this particular one, it was among my most-anticipated in the whole line. The Billionaire Island team doing a book about Lex Luthor taking over a whole planet and launching a cosmic business empire? There's no way that won't be at the very least interesting.

Imperious Lex is certainly interesting, but just as they did with Billionaire Island, from the very first page Russell and Pugh prove they're not just out to do a one-note joke for 22 pages. The issue follows Lex himself and his adventures in empire building, yes, but it does it from a very interesting point of view, looking in on a future version of the United Planets as they attempt to solve their Lex problem with a little help from Superman, only to find the issue is more complex than they perhaps thought.

This framing — beginning on Earth as a frame story and then stretching out into the stars — allows both Pugh and Russell to really stretch their creativity with this corner of the DC Universe, and they come out swinging in every single panel. Pugh's alien creations and fresh takes on classic DC creatures are predictably bright and eye-popping and witty, and Russell's script is tight and beautifully paced and laden with fun dialogue. It's a blast to read, but then it goes deeper, and it becomes a story about things staying the same the more they change in the future of the DC Universe. The result is a remarkable portrait of one of comics' oldest rivalries.

Sympathy for No Devils #4: I'll be honest, when I read the first issue of Sympathy for No Devils, I wasn't entirely sure what to make of it. It was well-crafted, for sure, but there was something about the tone of it that caught me off guard, and I wasn't sure it was for me. Then a funny thing happened: I couldn't stop thinking about this wild world, and I wanted to go back.

Now here we are, at the penultimate issue of this five-issue story from writer Brandon Thomas and artist Lee Ferguson, and I'm so glad I stuck around to settle into the singular rhythms of this hardboiled monster mystery story. Set in a world where monsters have taken over and the only human left is an uncannily lucky private investigator named Winston Wallis, Sympathy for No Devils takes a lot of things you love about pulp fiction — dames, mob bosses, murders, crooked cops, tight scrapes, and crackling dialogue — and transplants it into a world full of strange beings from small blobs to colossal creatures. It's as wild as it sounds, particularly when the story really starts to expand out to show the wider net of conspiracy surrounding Winston's latest case.

What strikes me most about this series is how patient it is with its own pace, how much confidence it has right upfront that the reader will, like me, ultimately get what Thomas and Ferguson are going for here. It's a remarkable genre mash-up that blends neo-noir with kaiju adventure and a hint of anime sci-fi cool, and Ferguson absolutely packs the thing with unforgettable designs and visual tableaus. Thomas' script, which feels like a hybrid of Double Indemnity, The Wire, and Cowboy Bebop, is brimming over with life, and packs such a clear grasp of character that the emotional investment you have after just a couple of issues is palpable. This is a brilliantly executed genre comic, and if you haven't been reading you should definitely catch up before the conclusion.

Sweet Downfall #1: Sometimes an artist gets an idea that just sort of explodes out of them in a way that feels like it has no filter, like they just uncaged some raw imaginative energy and let it run while still somehow maintaining a sense of order and craft through sheer force of discipline. I've written before about my affection for these sorts of dialed-to-11 books, and I'm always looking for more, which is why I was very pleased to find Sweet Downfall, a new sci-fi action book from writer/artist Stefano Cardoselli that feels like The Fifth Element, The Incal, and Judge Dredd got together and had a very wild baby together.

The story follows Jonny, a crash test dummy living in a sprawling mega city controlled by a mob boss who's just happened to reprogram Jonny to be his number one assassin. Jonny's very good at his job, in part because his programming means he follows orders perfectly, but what happens when he doesn't? What happens when Jonny starts to dream about something more?

Cardoselli frames his story almost like a fable, like a fairy tale someone might tell children one day about the kindly robot who goes rogue from his life of pre-determined murder, and the storytelling style sets up a certain level of innocent warmth that is then immediately juxtaposed with the ultraviolent dirty future aesthetic of the art itself. Beauty and gore are place side-by-side in this book to magnificent effect, and there are some panels I just wanted to stop and study for hours just to marvel at the level of detail. I can't wait for the rest of this wild ride.

Damned, Cursed Children #1: There are horror comics that like to lure you in slowly, and horror comics that like to go all-out from pretty much the very first page. Damned, Cursed Children from writers Howard Wong and Josh Stafford and artist Robin Simon Ng is very much in the latter category, and the result is a horror throwback that plays like the gleefully chaotic opening of the wildest zombie movie you've never seen.

As the title probably suggests, this a book about killer kids who suddenly turn into feral little monsters all over town and just...well, basically start wrecking shop. The entire first issue is devoted to watching this chaos unfold in various settings, and as a result this comic positively flies until you've reached the last page wishing you'd gotten more. Wong and Stafford know exactly when to pepper in dialogue and when to let the carnage do the talking, and Ng's art is arranged in a perfect black-and-white EC horror tribute style, complete with a good bit of dark wit laced in. It's an impish delight of a first issue, and I'm eager to see what's next.

Savage Avengers #17: There was a time when I slept on tie-in comics as stories that both detracted from whatever the ongoing series was previously trying to do and took time away from whatever the main event was that the comic was tying into in the first place, and I honestly can't believe I used to be that guy. Do yourself a favor: Next time a big superhero event comes around and you've got disposable income, pick a tie-in book and just give it a whirl. You'll find creators willing to really stretch their legs and play in the sandbox of the crossover, and that leads to some great fun.

Which brings us to Savage Avengers #17 from writer Gerry Duggan and artist Kev Walker. This issue hasn't forgotten about the ongoing struggles of the regular Savage Avengers storyline, and they're mentioned even as the events tying into the ongoing King in Black battle start to play out. But those struggles take a backseat for a little while so that Duggan and Walker can tell the story of what happens when Conan gets thrown into Ryker's Island after a bar fight, and the only person who can bust him out is the one and only Deadpool. What follows is 22 pages of Odd Couple awesomeness, complete with Deadpool's healing factor being put to gratuitous use, Conan reveling in the joys of confiscated weapons, and much more. By the end, it's also managed to build to something bigger that will no doubt make Savage Avengers #18 a must-read for me as well. I was delighted. Long live tie-in comics.

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."