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Comics Wire: Miles Morales' Clone Saga; Man-Bat takes flight; this week's hot reads and more!
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, as Death Metal ended and Future State began, we took a look at some of DC Comics' most ambitious upcoming stuff and what it might mean. In the week since then, the fine folks at Marvel Comics have rolled out a series of new announcements of their own, and while they're more focused on ongoing series than line-wide events this time, they're no less exciting — so let's take a look.
On Tuesday, Marvel revealed that Saladin Ahmed's run on Miles Morales: Spider-Man (one of the most consistently entertaining superhero books on stands right now) would be moving into classic Spider-Man territory with a new version of 'The Clone Saga" tailored to Miles' own story. Written by Ahmed with art from Carmen Carnero, this story arc promises to "put Miles through that iconic wringer in his own distinctive way,” as Ahmed put it in a Marvel press release.
As longtime Spider-Man fans may recall, the original Clone Saga was a lengthy, messy affair that ended up far more complicated than it was initially intended to be, yet still has fans because of the sheer wildness of the storytelling. Though they share a name, and we can expect to meet three major Miles Morales clones along the way, we should not expect quite that level of chaos from the Miles Clone Saga, as Ahmed notes this is a story he's been laying groundwork for throughout his entire Miles Morales run. It's not just a remix, but a new vision of what this kind of story can be, and it feels like it has the potential to be a major statement on what it feels like when a hero goes to war with themselves. The saga begins in the pages of Miles Morales: Spider-Man #25 this April.
The Miles Clone Saga might be the biggest Marvel announcement of the last week, but it's far from the only intriguing one, and if you were to ask me what particularly caught my eye, I'd direct to you a new announcement in the X-Men world. Ever since the Dawn of X era began, some fans have been waiting for an expanded role for Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, aka the Best X-Man (that's just a fact, I don't make the rules). It feels like something's been building, but we haven't known what, and now we finally have a chance to find out. Marvel announced late last week that writer Si Spurrier and artist Bob Quinn are set to explore Nightcrawler's role in the age of Krakoa in Way of X, a new ongoing series that will see Kurt assemble a crew of mutants to probe the mysteries of mutantkind's new way of life.
"I should probably just tell a lie for the sake of a neat elevator pitch and say that Way of X is a story about the creation of a new mutant religion. But it's not - not really. That's kinda where it starts, for sure," Spurrier said in a press release. "Nightcrawler realizes something's wrong with the hearts and minds of mutantkind and sets out to fix it. But as he quickly discovers, this isn't a job for priests and prayers ... The question is, what do they have to become in order to fight it? Preachers? Cops? Executioners? Or something entirely new?"
Nightcrawler has always been the beating heart of any mutant team he's on, so the idea that he'd be the one to rise up and explore the souls of mutantdom in their new era is both fitting and beautiful. I've been waiting for exactly this kind of book ever since House of X and Powers of X wrapped up, and I can't wait to see what Spurrier and Quinn do with it when it launches in April.
But even that's not the full extent of Marvel's recent announcements Among the other big news in the past week, we've also learned about...
- Jason Aaron continuing his Jane Foster saga with co-writer Torunn Grønbekk and artist Mattia de Iulis in The Might Valkyries, which will see Jane launching a quest she's sent on by Loki.
- Comics legends Louise and Walter Simonson returning to their iconic X-Factor run for a new in-continuity story dropping in the third issue of X-Men Legends.
- A massive hardcover omnibus collecting every single comic the company published in August of 1961, the same month Fantastic Four #1, and thus the Marvel Universe, was launched.
Right now, events like King in Black, Enter the Phoenix, and Reign of X are in full swing across the various Marvel titles, but the spring will bring it with lots of fresh new life at the House of Ideas. Update your pull lists accordingly.
DC previews an intriguing new Man-Bat comic
I've never been one of those comics fans who thinks it's basic to love the big names, but I've also always loved the deep bench that the fictional universes of the Big Two provide. I love Spider-Man and Batman and Nightcrawler, sure, but I also love the weirdos, because with the right creative teams in place the characters who exist beyond the A-list are endlessly, beautifully adaptable. Which brings me to Man-Bat, a character I'm fascinated by because he can play just as well in gritty Gotham City crime dramas as he can in major superhero narratives and supernatural adventures within the DC Universe.
Next month, the creature known as Man-Bat will get to stretch his wings a bit as he takes center stage in his own brand-new series from DC, written by Dave Wielgosz with art by Sumit Kumar, Romulo Fajardo Jr. and Tom Napolitano. Titled simply Man-Bat, the series will explore what happens when Kirk Langstrom's alter ego reaches a breaking point that leads to a rampage, and then proceed to explore fallout that will involved everyone from Batman to the Suicide Squad. The series was announced a while ago, but DC just released a preview that reveals a bit of the monstrous scope that we're talking about. Check it out:
Though the first issue will primarily focus on whatever sparks Man-Bat's rampage in Gotham, the rest of this series has a lot of potential in terms of transforming Man-Bat as a character into something we all understand and even sympathize with in a much more intimate way. He's the kind of character who has the potential to be a bigger name than he already is, and it feels like this book might get him there. I'm excited to dig in when Man-Bat #1 lands February 2.
More news: A new Cullen Bunn series, a new exploration of Dracula, and more!
- Any time Cullen Bunn conjures up a new horror concept, I'm paying attention. He's a horror machine, and this April he's at it yet again with Phantom of the Scan, an AfterShock Comics series that re-teams him with Cold Spots artist Mark Torres and promises to offer "new angles to those ideas you're familiar with" in the realm of horror stories about people with psychic powers. The series arrives April 14, and you can check out a preview over at the AfterShock website.
- Late last year, Source Point Press announced that they'd acquired distribution rights for the indie horror hit Cult of Dracula, and now we know when the wider world will get to read this book. The horror miniseries by writer Rich Davis and artist Henry Martinez promises to offer a brand-new spin on the Dracula mythos in a number of ways, including reinventing Mina Murray as a documentarian and casting the title character as a woman, and the cover alone evokes a certain style that makes me eager for more. This bold new spin on Dracula arrives March 31, and is now available for pre-order.
- If you're looking for a new fantasy series for yourself and the younger reader in your life, you're in luck. On Tuesday BOOM! Studios announced Orcs!, a new six-issue series that explores what happens when a group of orcs banished from their home set out into the wider world to seek their fortune and follow in the footsteps of the great orc heroes who came before them. That's perhaps easier said than done. The series hails from writer/artist Christine Larsen (Adventure Time) and arrives in stores February 10. You can check out a preview at the BOOM! website now.
New comics: The Seeds concludes, Space Bastards begins, Future State continues, and more!
That's the news. Now let's talk about some of the comics I got excited about this week.
The Seeds: The second issue of The Seeds, a planned four-issue sci-fi miniseries from Ann Nocenti and David Aja, was published in September of 2018, which means we've spent more than two years waiting for the other half of this story. Though its creators didn't intend it, the news that this month would finally bring the concluding chapters leant a kind of mythic quality to the whole affair. Two of comics' finest talents, working at the top of their game, circling back to finish a story they'd long ago started? What's not to love about that whole scenario?
The trouble, of course, is that scenarios like that often breed disappointment, if only because we've mythologized the thing just a bit too much by the time we actually read it. That is, I'm happy to say, very much not the case here. When I sat down to read the complete edition of The Seeds it felt not like a comic we'd been waiting for the other half, but like an entirely new piece of comics craft rolled out just in time for the moment we're living in. It wasn't dusted off and finished, but perhaps even more vital and exciting than it was back when it first launched.
The Seeds works so well, I think, for two reasons. First, this tale of a journalist, an alien seed collector salvaging what they can from the fallen Earth, and the empathic woman who falls in love with the alien, is so deeply layered with thematic and visual resonance that the complete edition practically demands you read each page twice. Aja's layouts, confined to a nine-panel grid but stunning and perfectly structured as always, are packed with the kind of meaning that only masters manage to infuse to such depth, and Nocenti's writing is thick with gorgeous narration and dialogue brimming with gravity, all of which brings me to the second thing I think works so well about The Seeds. This isn't just a work of tremendous craft, but a work of obsession. There's a sense that Nocenti and Aja might be doing this even if they had no idea if we'd ever read it, or if they did, they wouldn't really care. They seem to ache to tell this story, and that feeling jumps off the page and grabs you. It's an astonishing piece of work, and I'm glad it's finally finished.
Future State: Kara Zor-El, Superwoman #1: Though I'm definitely here for the team-up books and the new characters, I think perhaps what I was most excited about when DC's Future State arrived was the chance to see familiar characters thrust into new situations that were at once true to who they are and deeply imaginative on the part of their creators. I got that last week with the debut of the Swamp Thing miniseries, and this week I got it again with the instantly spellbinding Kara Zor-El: Superwoman from writer Marguerite Bennett and artist Marguerite Sauvage.
This future vision of Superman's cousin places her on the moon, where she's become a kind of steward to a sanctuary for various beings from the around the galaxy in the wake of some kind of event that led her away from the Earth. Though the issue's primary physical struggle deals with the arrival of a strange alien being in Kara's sanctuary, the real meat of the story is Kara's own reckoning with her anger, her resentment, and her need to move past both in order to build a better world in spite what she views as her own selfish feelings about her place in the House of El. It's in those emotional spaces, both intimate and vast, that the book really becomes something special.
Sauvage's art, from the design of the moon sanctuary around Kara to Kara's own wardrobe, is absolutely stunning, the kind of vital reimagining something like Future State was made for. None of it feels out of place or forced or like it's reinventing something just for the sake of reinvention, and yet it all feels new, like we really are getting a glimpse of something magical just beyond the horizon of the current DC Universe. Bennett's script, which blends a lighter-than-air pace with narration packed with heart, conveys something quite similar, evoking that same sense of familiar-but-new wonder that gets at the heart of what Future State makes possible. I adored this issue.
Space Bastards #1: Space Bastards is one of those comics I love because it's clear from the first page that everyone involved just turned the volume up to 11 right at the start and never once turned it down. The new Humanoids series from writers Joe Aubrey and Eric Peterson and Darick Robertson is filled to bursting with the kind of manic energy its title and cover suggests, and if you're looking for a mature readers sci-fi thrill ride, look no further.
The first issue follows members of the IPS (Intergalactic Postal Service), a for-profit organization that employs mercenaries to deliver packages throughout the galaxy by any means necessary, with the added caveat that every delay and change of hands along the way incurs extra fees that the delivery person gets to collect. That means the more chaotic the delivery is, the more profitable, and the more potentially deadly. It's within this free-for-all that we man two postmen: The veteran who believes he's the greatest delivery man who's every flown the starway, and the rookie who's so desperate to earn a buck that he'll do anything to get ahead.
Robertson is predictably suited to this kind of futuristic, swagger-laden chaos, as his past work certainly suggests, but even by the standards of things like The Boys and Transmetropolitan he's really opening things up this time. That same swagger is there, yes, but there's a layer of new inventiveness, a sense that he really can do just about anything with the universe surrounding these postmen, and it pays off in major ways. Aubrey and Peterson's script does the rest, with a joke-a-minute style that's nevertheless full of clever worldbuilding and even, in a time when the postal service is increasingly falling prey to profiteers, more than a little timely. This book is a blast.
Darth Vader #9: A couple of weeks ago, I named Marvel's current Darth Vader series from writer Greg Pak and artist Raffaele Ienco one of the best comics of 2020, despite never having reviewed a single issue of this column. That's because, on the recommendation of people I trust, I finally caught up on the series in the weeks before the end of the year, burning through each issue with a fury that re-ignited my Star Wars fandom in ways that even The Mandalorian didn't. This is an exceptional Star Wars story, and that feeling continues through to the book's first issue of 2021.
Like the previous Darth Vader volumes, Pak and Ienco's story aims to fill in certain gaps in Star Wars lore to tell us what Vader was up to in-between films, specifically in this case in the aftermath of The Empire Strikes Back, after he's revealed the truth of his fatherhood to Luke Skywalker. That creates a lot of different storytelling opportunities, but what I've loved the most about this particular volume is the way it fills these gaps in unexpected ways. This isn't a series that's just about Vader trying to track down Luke or trying to set up the endgame of Return of the Jedi, though it is exploring the ways in which a rift between Vader and Palpatine may start to form. It's also reaching even deeper into Star Wars lore to shed some light on things that won't come into the films until The Rise of Skywalker, which is both surprising and truly refreshing, all of which combines to fill me with delight once again in this issue, as Pak and Iecno shed more light on the past of Sith Assassin Ochi of Bestoon in a story in which Vader has to literally build himself new limbs.
This comic is everything I want out of a Darth Vader story. It's packed with darkness, but not the kind that overwhelms and wraps you in despair. Pak's script is brimming with adventure darkness, the kind of darkness that made us fascinated with Vader in the first place. It's something that's not as easy to capture as it looks, but it imbues the book with a sense of gravity that's ultimately offset by the sense of fun and ambition that runs through the whole thing. Ienco's art, from quiet moments of Vader brooding to fight scenes unlike any we've seen from the Dark Lord before, do the rest, and the result is a must-read Star Wars story. Catch up if you haven't been reading it.
Haha #1: W. Maxwell Prince is known for writing comics that just worm their way into your brain and live there, whether you want them to or not, and I'm pleased (and a little unnerved, let's be honest) to say that the first issue of Haha is another installment in that particular body of work. Pitched as an anthology series of one-shots exploring various facets of clowns, the book aims to pair Prince and his unique fascination with these grease-painted characters with a different artist each time out. This time out, Prince teams up with The Empty Man's Vanesa R. Del Rey, an artist who's no stranger to unnerving visions of her own. The result is a truly unforgettable comic that will echo in your head like a particularly incisive joke.
This first issue of the book follows a clown who's just realized he's on the verge of losing everything, as he's forced to confront unemployment in the midst of already mount financial and marital troubles. His response, and the chain reaction of chaos that follows, is both beautifully orchestrated and entirely unexpected. I've seen enough movies to think I know where "clown who loses his job and then heads out into the world" is going to go, and I can honestly I was floored by exactly how this particular variation on that unhinged theme plays out.
That's because Prince and Del Rey are both creators working with an enormous amount of presence on the page, from the wicked smiles and haunting looks Del Rey imbues each character with to the methodical, mesmeric pacing of Prince's script. Together, their work creates something that verges on the hypnotic, as we get pulled into this tragicomic world that verges on magical realism with its skewed lens. I loved this darkly strange book, and I can't wait to see what the next Haha one-shot delivers.
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."