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SYFY WIRE Comics Wire

Comics Wire: Marvel's new Black Panther era revealed; Aquaman turns 80; Wonder Girl launches & more

By Matthew Jackson
Black Panther 1 cover 2021

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.

Next week, one of the most celebrated superhero runs in recent memory will wrap up when writer Ta-Nehisi Coates drops the concluding issue of his time on Marvel's Black Panther. It's the end of an era for Wakandan storytelling, but it also presents the opportunity to start something new. On Tuesday, Marvel revealed what that something new will be, and it's clear they're not messing around when it comes to attaching high-caliber talent to what's become a core title at the publisher.

The New York Times revealed via an exclusive interview this week that writer John Ridley, the Oscar-winner behind 12 Years a Slave who's recently spent quite a bit of time at DC Comics with The Next Batman and The Other History of the DC Universe, will make the leap to Marvel as the writer of a new ongoing Black Panther series to be drawn by rising star Juann Cabal (Guardians of the Galaxy). The series will spin directly out of the ramifications of Coates' time on the book, and carry an espionage-heavy feel, as T'Challa sets out to save a Wakandan agent who carries secrets that could change everything.

"It’s a hybrid espionage-superhero thriller, but at its core, it’s a love story," Ridley told The New York Times. "And I don’t mean just romantic love, although there’s some of that as well. It’s love between friends.

"We’re coming out of a summer where we saw Black people fighting for our rights, standing up, fighting in ways that we haven’t had to do in years," Ridley added. "And it was really important to me after the year we had where we can have these conversations with Black people and we can use words like love and caring and hope and regret and all these really fundamental emotions that everybody has."

Black Panther #1 arrives this August with a beautiful cover from Alex Ross.

Black Panther 1 cover 2021

But that's not the only major new publishing event Marvel announced over the past week. The publisher also revealed last week that this summer will bring the launch of its own anthology celebration of Asian characters and creators with the next installment in the Marvel's Voices line, Marvel's Voices: Identity.

Bringing together talent ranging from Gene Luen Yang to Greg Pak to Marcus To to Lynne Yoshii, the oversized one-shot promises to deliver tales starring characters ranging from Jimmy Woo to Shang-Chi, Kamala Khan to Jubilee. Marvel's Voices: Identity arrives August 11, so keep a lookout for more surprises stemming from that release in the coming weeks.

Aquaman turns 80

Aquaman 80th anniversary cover

I've been saying it for a long time now, but it's worth saying again: DC Comics has really got character celebrations down with their 80th anniversary specials at this point. Those anthologies really could just be a dry recitation of a character's history, and instead thanks to solid editorial guidance they very often transform into showcases for the diversity of storytelling and talent you can apply to a particular character if you just use a little imagination. I've enjoyed every one that I've picked up, and this week the publisher's announced that it's finally Aquaman's turned.

This August, DC will release a 100-page "Super Spectacular" issue devoted to celebrating eight decades of its legendary King of Atlantis, Arthur Curry, and though the full contents haven't been revealed yet, the talent is already stellar. Writers for the anthology will include Dan Jurgens, Geoff Johns, Brandon Thomas, Chuck Brown, Stephanie Phillips, Michael Moreci, Marguerite Bennett, Dan Watters, Jeff Parker, Becky Cloonan and Francis Manapul, while Steve Epting, Paul Pelletier, Valentine de Landro, Hendry Prasetya, Pop Mhan, Trungles, Miguel Mendonça, Evan "Doc" Shaner, and more will contribute art.

But even beyond the stories within the issue, the Aquaman 80th Anniversary Special will do something remarkable in the form of a series of decade variant covers from various all-star artists, include Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez on the 1970s variant, Walt Simonson on the 1960s variant, and the legendary and underappreciated Ramona Fradon getting the recognition she deserves with the 1950s variant.

The Aquaman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular arrives August 31.

More news: The Heroes Union, Killer Queens, Kang the Conqueror, and more!

The Heroes Union promo art

- In Comics Legends Reunited news, a new comics company that's dubbed itself Binge Books -- founded by TV writer Darin Henry and named for its effort to create "binge-able" oversized issues of comics -- announced this week that this August it will release a 68-page comic called The Heroes Union. The creative team behind this project? Writer Roger Stern and artists Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema. Those are classic names behind classic stories, and The Heroes Union is hoping to evoke that feeling, telling the story of a "new generation" of heroes while also adding bells and whistles like the Comics Code Authority seal and individual numbering for collectibility. It's an intriguing project, and one I'll definitely be keeping an eye on. For more info, check out the Binge Books website.

- We're back in a round of solicits for the summer right now, which means intriguing new series are beginning to pop up at various publishers. This week that includes The Me You Love in the Dark, a new horror/romance from the Middlewest creative team of Skottie Young and Jorge Corona that follows an artist who retreats to a spooky old house to find inspiration and ends up finding more than she bargained for. I was in for at least one issue the minute I heard about it, and if you'd like to know more, CBR has the intriguing exclusive.

- And hey, speaking of new series announcements that immediately intrigued me, Dark Horse Comics has one of those as well. The publisher just teased Killer Queens, a "queer sci-fi epic" that sports a 1950s throwback look with a modern touch from the all-LGBTQ creative team of writer David M. Booher, artist Claudia Balboni, colorist Harry Saxon, and letterer Lucas Gattoni. The story of two reformed assassins on the run across the galaxy from their former boss, who just happens to be a monkey with a jetpack, this series had me the moment I got a glimpse of a cover. To learn more, check out io9's exclusive reveal, and look for Killer Queens #1 this August.

- You may remember that earlier this year, AfterShock Comics announced its upcoming young adult imprint Seismic Press, and revealed that the first title from the imprint would be the original graphic novel Rainbow Bridge. Written by Steve Orlando and Steve Foxe and drawn by Valentina Brancati, it's the story of a boy who discovers a mysterious afterlife gateway while mourning his recently deceased dog. Well, now we have a first look at Brancati's stunning art, and it's only made me more excited for what looks like a blend of fantasy and coming of age with intriguing horror flourishes thrown in. Check out the preview at AfterShock's website, and get ready for Rainbow Bridge to drop on August 4.

- Earlier this week here at SYFY WIRE, we revealed a first look at Winter Guard, a new miniseries set to draw readers in after the launch of Black Widow in theaters later this year. Well, it turns out Red Guardian and White Widow aren't the only upcoming MCU characters getting some comic book love this year. Marvel announced last week that writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing and artist Carlos Magno will launch a Kang the Conqueror series this August, this first-ever solo series for the character, that will feature a time-hopping look at his origins. It's perfect timing, too, since moviegoers are set to meet Kang soon in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. For more information, head over to Marvel's site.

Comics this Week: Wonder Girl, Red Room, Home, and more!

Wonder Girl 1 cover

Wonder Girl #1: First issues, particularly first issues starring relatively new characters, often set out with the goal of explaining to the reader "This character is important, and here's why." They achieve this goal in different ways, but rarely have I read a first issue that does it so magically and seamlessly as Wonder Girl #1, the first issue in a new ongoing series from multi-hyphenate powerhouse Joelle Jones.

We've met Yara Flor before thanks to the events of Future State and Infinite Frontier, but when she arrives in these pages she's not really Wonder Girl yet. She's a young woman eager to learn about her past, her family's roots in Brazil, and what weight her departure from her home country as an infant has in her current life. Like Yara herself, Jones is in no hurry to make a point larger than that in the early pages of this issue. She's exploring the space of this new voice in the DC Universe, letting her curiosity and heart shine through with art that evokes both the best work of George Perez and the most gratifying flourishes of Jones' own previous work on books like Catwoman.

Through gorgeous panels that cascade down the page like waterfalls, Jones renders Yara as someone who moves and responds to the world around her like no one else, even when her wardrobe is far removed from Amazonian armor. She stands out even on a page full of other Joelle Jones figures, like someone with an extra beam of light on them, and that adds a grace and a depth to these pages that really hits home amid the issue's conclusion. Throw in the beautifully orchestrated wider worldbuilding and you've got the start of a must-read new series that has the potential to be one of the best books in DC's current lineup.

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1: There's a particular narrative dance that a comic in the Life Story mold has to master, one that falls somewhere between originality and rephrasing, continuity and creativity. As Spider-Man: Life Story proved, there's plenty of room to take liberties, but there are also certain anchor events and tonal resonances that define certain eras of Marvel Comics, and the series' success rests on getting those right no matter how well you pull off the new ideas.

Unsurprisingly thanks to his history with comics reinventions, writer Mark Russell nails that balance with Fantastic Four: Life Story, which he launched this week with artist Sean Izaakse stepping up to bring this new version of Marvel's First Family in the 1960s to life. Because it's the '60s issue, you're probably expecting a lot of stuff about the Space Race, Reed Richards' spaceflight project, and the resulting transformative fallout, and you get it, but perhaps not the way you're expecting.

Through a combination of homage, careful plotting, and a thorough thematic understanding of who the FF are and what they do, Russell succeeds in producing a beautiful, delicately rendered reimagining of their origin story. Izaakse's art, which both channels the spirit of Jack Kirby and evokes a certain thoroughly modern disability, further underlines this sense of delicate reinvention. There's a lot of love in these pages, but a lot of ambition too, and that makes Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 a deeply rewarding read.

Home #2: The first issue of the new Image Comics series Home from writer Julio Anta and artist Anna Wieszczyk was a gorgeous, emotionally devastating immigrant story with a conclusion that put it on the path to superhero magic. Now that issue #2 is here, the superhero magic has arrived in full force, but what pushes this good series into great territory is not the development of the superhero story, but the way it never loses sight of its heart.

The series follows Juan, a young boy from Guatemala who flees to the United States with his mother, only to be separated from her at the border. By issue #2, Juan is trying to make his way alone, searching for allies while also trying to understand the strange ability he's just begun to develop.

Though the story is a straightforward one, deeply rooted in Juan's own experience, there are layers upon layers at work in Home's storytelling. Anta's scripting weaves together past and present, magic and mundane, fear and faith to tell a story rooted in family, hope, and determination, while Wieszczyk masterfully illustrates the threats of Juan's world and the promise of something better at the same time. It's a deeply affecting comic, one that manages to dive headlong into the superheroes as immigrants metaphor without ever once losing the core humanity of its story. Juan's spirit shines through every page in a tremendously moving way, and that vital heart is what makes Home a must-read comic right now.

Red Room #1: Some comics reach through the pages and grab you. Others reach through the page, grab the seat you're sitting in, and shake it until you're thoroughly and thrillingly rattled by what you've just read. Red Room, the new splatterpunk comic from writer and artist Ed Piskor, is definitely in the latter category, and believe me when I tell you that's a compliment.

The Red Rooms of the title are Piskor's exploration of humanity's appetite for violence and depravity, a dark web legend that looms large in the lives of virtually every character we meet in the pages of this oversized first issue. Whether we're talking about the environmentalists who stumble into their wake, the recent widower who finds himself drawn to them, or the mysterious curators who craft the depraved personas who put on live shows for people with unsavory appetites and enough bitcoin to gain entry, everyone is part of this seedy online underbelly, whether they want to be or not.

Piskor's art, full of exaggerated faces and bodies and over-the-top, splattercore violence, sells the sense of unhinged connectivity to a truly nerve-twisting degree, while his writing overlays the gore with darkly comic elements and even a few deeply human moments of raw emotion. It all adds up to make Red Room a visceral experience, something you almost can't believe you're reading it as it's unfolding before you, and an extremely effective ride for fans of out-there horror.

Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #3: Chris Samnee is one of those artists that can do just about anything, whether we're talking about marital arts epic, intimate superhero dramas, or in the case of Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters, a richly rendered fantasy showcase that allows his imagination to run absolutely wild as the backdrop for a story of sisterhood, loss, and hope.

Written by Chris and Laura Samnee with art by Chris Samnee and colors by Matt Wilson, Jonna spends much of its early issues dealing with the title character as more myth than person, a feral child who dared directly challenge the massive monsters that now roam the landscape of her world and hasn't been seen since. That hasn't stopped Jonna's sister Rainbow from searching for her, though, and as Rainbow's search deepens, the story becomes about more than the hunt for one person. It grows into the discovery of an entire world of survivors, each dealing with the alien landscape that was once familiar in their own way.

Jonna's overall concept means that Samnee can just go as buckwild and inventive as he wants when it comes to laying out monsters clashing along the horizons of Rainbow and Jonna's world, and he's clearly having a blast with it. This is a comic absolutely brimming with joy, something that's echoed even in the darker moments of the Samnees' script, which punctuates its sense of despair and loss with pockets of deep hope, humor, and imagination. Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters is a delightful, stunningly imaginative comic for readers of just about any age, and deserves to be in as many hands as possible 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."