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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.
Though he's perhaps best known among more casual superhero fans right now for his work on stuff like Immortal Hulk, writer Al Ewing has also spent the last few years building out his resume as a Marvel cosmic writer, taking the Guardians of the Galaxy in a new direction (including adding Doctor Doom to the team), helming the Empyre event, and most recently launching a new S.W.O.R.D. book in the wake of the X of Swords event. Now, all that work Ewing has put out in the cosmos is going to pay off in the form of a new event that ties into some of the most popular and successful Marvel cosmic storytelling ever.
Marvel announced earlier this week that Ewing will take the lead this summer on The Last Annihilation, a new crossover event launching this July that will unfold across several titles, including Ewing's own ongoing runs on Guardians of the Galaxy and S.W.O.R.D. Here's how Marvel describes the kickoff of this massive new cosmic saga:
Guardians of the Galaxy #16 will see the entire galaxy under attack, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Annihilus first waged war. Someone out there has awakened with a new vision for the universe and they have the army to make it a reality. When five different planets fall under siege, will it be too much even for the new Guardians of the Galaxy to handle?
S.W.O.R.D. #7 will take place immediately following the Hellfire Gala. The party is over...but not all the guests have gone home. Victor Von Doom is staying for dinner. Be there as he catches up with an old friend… just as The Last Annihilation hits!
Marvel also dropped this teaser for Guardians of the Galaxy #16, complete with the blacked out shape of whoever's behind this devastating new attack.
Annihilation is a title that longtime Marvel readers will no doubt recall as one of the biggest space-based events in the company's history, a massive crossover that unfolded out in the galaxy while Civil War was taking place back on Earth. The most popular modern incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy arose out of the conflict, as several major spinoff and sequel events that, in some cases, are still rippling through Marvel continuity today.
Now, Ewing will get to put his own spin on the story, beginning June 23 with the reveal of the new foe in the pages of Guardians of the Galaxy #15. If you're looking for a big crossover to keep an eye on this summer, look no further.
New Batman one-shots, including Tom King's take on the early years of Bat/Cat
Gotham City's getting a little more crowded with new Bat-Family titles in the coming months, but as is so often the case at DC Comics, the talent involved means it's worth the extra reading. Over the last week the publisher has announced three new one-shots in the Gotham world, including two focused on key Batman allies and a third that shines a light on the past of one of the most-anticipated DC Comics of this year.
Since December, writer Tom King and artist Clay Mann have been busy laying out their epic romantic vision for the love story of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle in Batman/Catwoman, and while they're not done yet, they're now also promising a little aside to let us in on some of the key moments that came before. DC announced last week that King is teaming up with his old Black Death in America collaborator John Paul Leon for a special Batman/Catwoman one-shot that will explore more of the continuity set up by the King Bat/Cat saga, namely just how closely the fates of these two characters have always been tied together. Here's how DC described the story:
The Batman/Catwoman series shows readers the romance between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle as it changed over their lives, but what about their connections from before they became costumed adventurers? Whether it was fate or coincidence, this story gives even more reasons why Selina and Bruce’s connection is one of the most enduring love affairs in comics.
Though some fans are still mourning its absence from the main Batman series, moving King's love story over to DC Black Label was a smart choice, in part because it gives him room to run with expansive side stories like this one. Batman/Catwoman Special is out July 20.
This July will also bring two new one-shot entries under the banner of Batman Secret Files, a new line of stories from top creators that will spotlight some of Batman's greatest allies. On July 6, writer Tony Patrick and artist Christian Duce will team up for Batman Secret Files: The Signal #1, the story of Duke Thomas' return to Gotham and his role as the city's bright protector.
Then, on July 27, writer Mariko Tamaki and writer/artist David Lapham will team up for Batman Secret Files: Huntress #1, the story of how the title vigilante finally got a superpower of her own after an unfortunate encounter with a parasitic villain. So, if you're looking for even more Gotham tales to add to your pull list, July is the month to do it.
More news: AfterShock's Clans of Belari, Stoned Master Kickstarter, Mouse Guard returns, and more!
- If you're on the hunt for a new sci-fi series to look forward to this year, AfterShock Comics has you covered. The publisher announced Tuesday that this July it will debut Clans of Belari, a new spacefaring sci-fi series from writers Rob and Peter Blackie (creators behind the TV series Frontier) and artist Daniel Maine. Set in a distant group of planets known as the Belari system, where a feudal dystopia holds sway, the book "will follow a young girl named Te’a, and her adoptive father 'Gummy,' as they start a revolution, and unite the system’s clans against an alien threat." Maine's art looks stunning, and the Blackie brothers are working with some very interesting ideas regarding how to discuss modern issues through a distant sci-fi lens. For more on the series, and to see more of Maine's beautiful designs for the project, head over to AfterShock's website.
- In Perfect Timing news, creators Aubrey Sitterson and Chris Moreno used the occasion of 4/20 on Tuesday to launch a Kickstarter campaign for a comic that I'm frankly annoyed isn't in my hands right this very minute. Stoned Master #1, the first in a planned five-part series, is set to tell the story of Frankie Wong, a burnout who also happens to be really, really good at kung fu, which will come in handy when his Los Angeles neighborhood is beset on all sides by gentrification and corporate greed. It's billed as Kung Fu Hustle meets Pineapple Express, and I need it, so I head to over to their Kickstarter page and back it. Five bucks will get you a PDF copy of the first issue.
- The Last Annihilation isn't the only ultra-ambitious project Marvel announced in the past week. A few days ago the publisher revealed that writer/artist Kaare Andrews is back at the house of ideas for a new project called Amazing Fantasy, a miniseries that pays tribute to bygone eras of Marvel by uniting three vintage version of its greatest heroes -- World War II Captain America, teenage Spider-Man, and Red Room Black Widow -- on a fantastic island where they have no memory of how they arrived and a ton of adventures ahead of them. It looks great, it's a great concept, and I'm very excited to check out this mash-up of Marvel past and present in July. For more info, check out Marvel's announcement.
- It's been a few years since we got a new Mouse Guard story, but The Beat revealed last week that this summer writer/artist David Petersen is returning to his beloved fantasy masterpiece with a new one-shot. Mouse Guard: The Owlhen Cargiver will feature three new short stories from Petersen himself, and the book looks just as gorgeous as you remember it. For a closer look, check out The Beat's exclusive reveal.
- If you've been reading Radiant Black, one of the most exciting new superhero books of the year, and you'd like a little multimedia experience for this week's third issue. Image Comics dropped a clip on Monday showcasing Sam Ewing (co-composer for The Walking Dead) leading an orchestra in a live recording of a tie-in he put together just for issue #3. Check it out over on the publisher's YouTube page, and if you haven't checked out Radian Black yet, you really should.
New Comics: The Many Deaths of Laila Starr, Champions, Justice League, and more!
That's the news. Now let's talk about some of the comics I got excited about this week.
The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #1: Ram V is one of the great storytelling powerhouses in modern comics, and not just because of the concepts he's able to dream up. I've rarely come across a writer who's able to evoke tone with his scripting quite as quickly as he does, whether we're talking about his Image graphic novel Blue in Green or his current work on The Swamp Thing and Justice League Dark. Even without the art, he's casting a spell, and when that kind of writing prowess meets the right artist, the results are truly magical.
"Magical" is definitely the first word that comes to mind when I think of The Many Deaths of Laila Starr, Ram V's new series alongside artist Filipe Andrade. The series begins with a great hook -- What if Death was fired because immortality was solved, then tried to go back and undo it by killing the person who solved immortality? -- but that's not what grabbed me when I started reading. No, what got me was the way in which Ram's script seamlessly and beautifully weaves together humor and tragedy, darkness and light, metaphor and intricate character work, all in the span of a single issue. This isn't just a high-concept book about Death coming to Earth. It's a book about what it means to be human.
And Filipe Andrade is... well, he's Filipe Andrade. That magical feel that comes across through the script is present in every single stroke of his pencil, from the designs of the Gods up above to the very human characters inhabiting in his version of near-future Mumbai. It's all familiar yet slightly otherworldly, witty yet grandiose, bombastic yet relatable. It all combines to make The Many Deaths of Laila Starr one of the best new series of the year, and a must-read for fans of everything from Sandman to These Savage Shores to Love and Rockets.
Champions #6: I've been eagerly awaiting the launch of the Danny Lore/Luciano Vecchio era of Champions over at Marvel, just because I liked the idea of the energy that particular creative team would bring to the book and to the young heroes who inhabit it. Now the first issue of their run is here, and I'm very pleased to say they didn't let me down.
Lore's first outing as sole scripter of the book sees the title team in a precarious new position, as "Kamala's Law" prohibiting teenage superheroes is perhaps on the ropes, provided the Champions can keep it together long enough to prove they don't need government oversight. Even with that fight opening up, though, the team also has a new challenge in the form of a rehabilitation campaign over at the dreaded Roxxon corporation, where a new app specifically designed to prove to young users that the company has changed might be doing something else entirely.
This is exactly the kind of story I want to read in a book starring a diverse team of young superheroes in 2021. Lore's script somehow packs everything -- corporate double talk, political maneuvering, broken Capitalistic ploys and the responsibility that still rests with the powerful and privileged -- into a single issue, setting the stage for a superhero tale that's both not afraid to dig deep and willing to go there while also delivering the comic book goods. Vecchio's art, which soars whether he's doing close-ups of Viv Vision or all-out action in the middle of a bank robbery, does the rest. I love this new era for the team.
The Old Guard: Tales Through Time #1: I love The Old Guard, in no small part because its premise offers a near-endless canvas on which creators can paint new vignettes for years to come. This week, that potential gets realized with Tales Through Time, a new anthology series that, if this issue is any indication, will be something I look forward to every single month just as much as I'm looking forward to the next chapter of the main Old Guard story.
Tales Through Time is exactly what it says on the tin: Stories about the immortal warriors who populate this story at various points in their extremely long lives. For the first of these tales, Old Guard creators Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez take a bit of a framing approach, allowing Andy to dig into her own past while also bonding with Nile over the series' coolest weapon. For the second, writer Andrew Wheeler and artist Jacopo Camagni take on a story of the beloved couple of the Old Guard team, Nicky and Joe, as they try to have a quiet night out in Germany amid the rise of fascism.
Both stories are, predictably, wonderful. Rucka and Fernandez have an easy, seamless collaboration that makes it feel like they're not making these stories up, but transcribing them directly from the world of these immortals. What I want to focus on most, though, is the Wheeler/Camagni entry, because it proves what I suspect about The Old Guard as a franchise. This is a place where talented storytellers can come, with most of human history laid out before them, and tell a satisfying genre story while also lacing new meaning into the tapestry of the long lives of these characters. The Joe and Nicky story is an especially potent version of that, and sets the bar for future installments of this series very high indeed through beautiful art that balance violence and romance and a script that is as provocative as it is playful.
Justice League #60: Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez don't have to prove their superhero bona fides to anyone at this point. They're both seasoned creators with a lot of experience on books at various scales, so I didn't really expect a lot of second-guessing to come through in their Justice League run. Even with that in mind, though, I'm impressed with the level of confidence this book is exuding after just two issues, as it digs into a time-honored classic trope of superhero stories with surprising mindfulness.
The trope, in this case, is the reformed villain. Bendis has made no secret of his intention to integrate Black Adam into the Justice League from the start of this run, and that decision plays out in big ways in issue #60 after the idea was first floated back in #59. There are, of course, the expected superhero flash-bangs and big worldbuilding piece-moving to set up the beats of the arc to come, but much of the real estate of this issue is also devoted to just having the Justice League hang out and talk about what it means to bring Adam on board. Bendis' scripting, full of his typically crackling dialogue, makes all of this feel engaging and fun, but the true miracle worker here is Marquez, who's able to squeeze every ounce of energy out of a scene that's basically just an extended chat.
And then there's the Justice League Dark story by Ram V and Xermanico, which is... listen, if you're not reading Justice League Dark yet, go ahead and catch up now. You're going to want to see where this is going.
Paranoia Killer #2: It's been a while since I've checked in with the fine folks over at Panel Syndicate, but they're still churning out excellent creator-owned books at pay-what-you-want prices, and this week that includes the second issue of Paranoia Killer, a thrilling new espionage series from writer and artist Victor Santos that's as fast-paced as it is stylish.
The series follows Nathalie, an FBI agent whose twin brother turns out to be an internationally renowned and mysterious assassin who's been recruited by a shady organization Nathalie's bosses are eager to get intel on. So, she takes advantage of her brother's alter ego and becomes him, heading off into harm's way on an undercover mission that puts her in contact with some of the world's deadliest killers.
Using a 12-panel grid, dynamic colors, incredible pacing, and a highly stylized look that's equal parts Bruce Timm and R-rated Kim Possible (and yes, that's a compliment), Santos weaves an instantly engaging tale that you just get lost staring at even as it's driving you forward to the next page with its sleek espionage plotting. I'm in love with the feel of this whole book, devoured the first two issues in one sitting, and can't wait to read more.
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."