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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.
This year Skybound Entertainment, The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman's Image Comics imprint that's become one of the most exciting places to find creator-owned work in recent years, celebrates a decade of publishing its own comics. In the years since joining Image as a partner and founding his own imprint, Kirkman has done everything from launch new series of his own like Outcast and Oblivion Song to providing a space for creators to tell stories like Assassin Nation, Manifest Destiny, Excellence, and the recent horror hit Stillwater.
Given Kirkman's own love of surprise reveals and hype-laden comics releases, it stands to reason that we would expect some kind of big event to celebrate Skybound's first decade, and Image Comics finally revealed what that will be: Skybound X, a weekly anthology miniseries launching this summer featuring new stories from some of the most popular properties in the Skybound catalog, along with a few new surprises.
“Surprise! Did you REALLY think we would let Skybound’s 10-year anniversary pass us by without bringing back some of our favorite characters?” Kirkman said in a statement. “We are forever thankful for our community’s support over the past decade and are honored to share this special series with the larger Skybound family. None of these characters have such monumental journeys without the fans, so SKYBOUND X is for all of you!”
Kirkman himself will lead off each oversized issue of the upcoming series alongside Invincible artist Ryan Ottley with new chapters of Rick Grimes 2000, a story that originally appeared as a backup back in The Walking Dead #75 that reimagined the zombie-infested world as a sci-fi landscape featuring aliens and Rick Grimes with a laser sword. The first issue, arriving this July, will also feature the comics debut of Clementine, a fan-favorite character from the Telltale Games adaptation of The Walking Dead. We don't know much about where that story will take us, but for many longtime fans of the franchise, having Clementine on the comics page at last is a dream come true.
Check out covers for the first issue of Skybound X, including two featuring Clementine herself, in the gallery below:
So, what else can we expect from Skybound X? Quite a lot, especially if you've been keep trying of some of Skybound's biggest current properties. Subsequent issues of the five-issues miniseries will feature everything from the launch of a new Stillwater character by Chip Zdarsky and Ramon Perez to the first appearance of a title dubbed Every Day Hero Machine Boy to a Birthright coda tale. Oh, and by issue #5, we'll be getting something secretive and brand-new from Kirkman himself and Big Girls creator Jason Howard.
Skybound X kicks off its weekly run on July 1. For more information on which creators which will feature in which issue, and more covers, head over to Skybound's website.
Moon Knight returns for a new solo series
With his own Disney+ series on the way and Oscar Isaac's training videos making the rounds on social media, you had to know Marvel Comics was cooking up something new for Moon Knight, and last week they finally revealed what we can expect: A new ongoing series from writer Jed MacKay (Black Cat) and artist Alessandro Cappuccio (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) spinning out of the character's presence in the recent Avengers arc The Age of Khonshu which... well, let's just say complicated the relationship between Marc Spector and his patron Egyptian moon deity just a little bit. Here's how Marvel describes the new series:
"The mysterious Mr. Knight has opened his Midnight Mission, his people petitioning for protection from the weird and horrible. That protection is offered by Moon Knight, who stalks the rooftops and alleys marked with his crescent moon tag, bringing violence to any who would harm his people. Marc Spector, in whichever guise he dons, is back on the streets, a renegade priest of an unworthy god. But while Khonshu languishes in a prison that Moon Knight put him in, the white-cowled hero must still observe his duty: protecting those who travel at night. And let it be known – Moon Knight will keep the faith."
This sounds like a wonderful environment in which Moon Knight can run around and be generally a bit nuts while beating up bad guys, and I'm excited about the creative team in particular here. I've been very impressed with MacKay's recent Marvel output, in particular Taskmaster, and it's Cappuccio's first shot at Marvel characters. It's got all the ingredients for something special, and I'm eager to see what they do with the book. Moon Knight #1 arrives July 7.
- Over at DC Comics, voting continues in the fan-decided DC Round Robin tournament to pick the next DC series, and sadly...many of my favorites fell out of the running in Round One. While I'm bummed to lose concepts like JLQ, Son of the Creeper and an Etta Candy series, I do understand that books like Robins are inherently higher-seeded in this bracket, as it were. Plus, I still get to tell you to go and vote for stuff like Zatanna and the King of Nightmares and a Jesse Quick book. Round Two of voting is open through Thursday morning, and you can check out some rad concept art (like the image above) over on the DC Universe Infinite forums.
- Karen Berger's taste in comics remains exceptional, and her Berger Books imprint is always worth watching because of it. Last week, Dark Horse Comics announced Berger's latest project: Rewild, a magic realist, environmental fantasy from writer Devin Grayson and artist Yana Adamovic, the story of a woman who claims to be a changeling trying to convince a star engineer that he has to build a new park in order to stave off the threat of vengeful mythical creatures whose world is shifting due to climate change. It's out in October, and I'll definitely be watching for it.
- Remember Marvel's announcement of Extreme Carnage, and the redacted mystery figure in the original teaser art? Well, in the wake of King in Black's conclusion the publisher has revealed that mystery guest is none other than Flash Thompson, resurrected and ready to go into Symbiote battle once again when the event kicks off this July with Extreme Carnage Alpha. For more info and a peek at the art, head over to Marvel's website.
- Sometimes I see a piece of art and concept that's so immediately up my alley I can't wait to share it with y'all here, and that was the case earlier this week when BOOM! Studios announced Mamo. The comics series debut of illustrator Sas Milledge, the five-issue story will follow a young hedge witch named Orla as she returns to her hometown after her grandmother's death only to find that her grandmother, Mamo, was the one holding the town's various magical relationships together. The first issue arrives in July, and if the interior looks anything like the absolutely gorgeous cover up on BOOM!'s website right now, I'll be happily lost it in it this summer.
- Last week, the always great Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night) announced that he'd be launching a new free comic dubbed Urnakk: Black Blood on his Instagram, releasing new pages each Monday. Templesmith dubbed the series "me having fun with Conan, just without Conan" and revealed that four pages will arrive every week. The first installment's up now, and if you like Templesmith's particularly brand of beautiful darkness, it's very much worth your time.
- Hey, Tuesday was #PortfolioDay over on Twitter, so if you're looking for an artist for a project, a commission, or just a chance to look at some fantastic work, head over there and explore the tag.
New comics this week: Locke & Key/Sandman, Batman: The Detective, and more!
That's the news. Now, let's talk about some of the comics I got excited about this week.
Locke & Key/Sandman: Hell & Gone #1 - There are certain crossovers that just feel meant to be even before you find out they're happening, and the marriage of Locke & Key and Sandman feels like one of those. Writers Neil Gaiman and Joe Hill share a certain sensibility when it comes to dark fantasy storytelling, and Locke & Key has always felt in some ways like an heir to the kind of expansive storytelling Sandman was prioritizing when it debuted in the 1980s. The question was never whether or not these two worlds could merge. The question was always how, and when, and would it be worth it?
Locke & Key creators Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez answer all of those questions and more in the first issue of Hell & Gone, an ambitious crossover that ties into the past of the Locke family and the beginnings of Gaiman's Sandman story at the same time in a way that feels like they were always intertwined, even if we didn't necessarily notice. But this is just about tying together the fabric of dueling plots, something which Hill does with deft and seamless precision. This is about thematic ties too, and it's there that Hill's scripting becomes perhaps even more impressive. He's always been a masterful hand at dark fantasy stories, but here he proves he's adept at merging Locke & Key with the kind of stories that made Sandman into a comics powerhouse. This is a tale of loss and longing, of dark bargains, of stories within stories, and so it fits right in with the realm of the Dream King.
Then there's Rodriguez's art. Anyone who's read even a single issue of Locke & Key knows he's a master of world building and shaping, and here he extends those gifts into the world Gaiman and his collaborators devised, turning The Dreaming into part of the Locke & Key landscape while also never losing the essential elements of its makeup that first formed decades ago in Sandman's early issues. This too feels seamless, whether he's giving us the sneering face of Roderick Burgess or the hyperviolent dark comedy of Cain and Abel. It all works, and the best part about it is the way the story envelops you to such a degree that you don't even see the puppeteer's strings working to make this crossover come to life. It's magical, and I can't wait to read where it heads next.
Batman: The Detective #1: There's a comforting thrill to reading a comic that knows how to play familiar notes in new ways, particularly when it comes to characters that many fans would brand as victims of oversaturation. There are a lot of comics featuring Batman out there at any given time, so how do you find something that feels fresh? You look for good storytellers who understand how to wield the character's core elements in their own voices, and that's what DC has found with writer Tom Taylor an artist Andy Kubert for Batman: The Detective.
Taylor's script for this story takes a stripped-down approach to the character, removing him physically and emotionally from much of his Gotham ensemble but leaving the marks of those interactions behind as Batman heads to Europe after a new group of villains personally calls him out. A lot of familiar Batman stuff is here -- the cave, the scars, the hard-boiled inner monologue -- and Taylor knows exactly what to do with it to the point that it remains familiar without ever becoming stale. His script is lean, mean, and full of fun fluorishes (any time Beryl Hutchinson shows up, it's a good day to be reading DC Comics), and at its core is an essential truth of Batman that I don't see too many writers intent on exploring in such a focused way.
As for Kubert... well, it's Andy Kubert drawing Batman, so it was always going to look pretty damn good. I love the decision to put the character in a jacket, I love the focus on the journey to Europe, and I love the promise of letting Kubert play with the character in a sandbox beyond Gotham City. This is, so far, a comic in which two masters of their craft get to play with all the best toys, and that's reason enough for me to stick with it.
Phantom on the Scan #1: I'm really not sure where Cullen Bunn gets the energy to keep churning out as many horror concepts as he does, but if all he did all day was write down elevator pitches for the sheer number of ideas that fill his head, he'd be a creative powerhouse without doing anything else. That he's then able to take all of these ideas and spin them into such consistently great comics scripts is remarkable, and Phantom on the Scan, alongside artist Mark Torres, is the latest addition to that long line of successes.
This comic follows Matthew, one of many individuals who gained strange psychic abilities 20 years ago when a comet streaked across the sky. But these abilities are more than just amusing mind tricks. Something is haunting Matthew, and as he senses that his time might be running out, he assembles a group of fellow gifted individuals to try to get to the bottom of their abilities, and how to free themselves.
Bunn's script is, like a lot of great horror comics, a blend of emotion and mystery, telling us just enough about Matthew's life and circumstances that we're hooked, but never giving away so much that the core thread of why is spoiled for future issues. Torres' art is the perfect accompaniment to this sense of the unknown, and his panels weave an almost mystical spell in the way they depict the dark gifts of the people at the heart of the story. It's a book that looks and feels both horrific and magical all at once, and it's both an intriguing riff on classics like Scanners and a story primed to branch out into new, potentially terrifying territory with emotional stakes to boot. I'm hooked.
Spider-Man: Spider's Shadow #1: Marvel's launching a new era for its popular What if...? line of titles this week with Spider's Shadow, a story that asks the question "What if Peter Parker became Venom?" With this new era of the line comes a focus on longer-form stories, alternate histories of the Marvel Universe that are allowed to branch out into multiple issues rather than wrapping up in 24 or 32 pages. That might sound like overkill in the wrong hands, but as writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Pasqual Ferry prove with this debut issue, the right creative team can make it very worth our while.
Zdarsky proved with Spider-Man: Life Story that he's able to distill quite a bit of character lore into a very short range of pages, and that serves him well again here, catching readers up on where Peter Parker's life was back when he first got what was then just known as the "alien costume." It all moves rather nimbly despite the continuity baggage, and Zdarsky's scripting is able to take all of those factors, from Aunt May to MJ, and construct something that reads as part superhero body horror, part addiction story, as Peter struggles with a dark force that threatens to consume his entire waking life.
Ferry's art leans heavily into this idea, and his rendering of the black suit is among the best I can remember as a result. It feels like a character unto itself, like a monster waiting patiently for its moment, and the ways in which the pencil work subtly alters Peter's physicality in and out of the costume back that up. It's a masterful piece of character work as well as a great dark superhero story, and announces an exciting new era of What if...? books to come.
Monsters: Any time Barry Windsor-Smith decides to put pen to paper, it's worth paying attention, but the publication of Monsters feels especially momentous even when you consider his illustrious career. This is a story decades in the making, a passion project Windsor-Smith has slowly been building panel by extraordinarily detailed panel, and I'm pleased to say that the final product does not disappoint.
Monsters is a story about a holdover Nazi experiment from World War II and how it's applied to one wayward young man in the 1960s, but it's also a story about one ravaged family, about cycles of violence, about the way people in positions of power view other humans as disposable, and so much more. It runs a somewhat intimidating 360-plus pages, and every page is dense with Windsor-Smith's eye-grabbing art. It's horrific, often operatically so, but there's also a sense of human determination running through the whole piece that feels like it extends to the artist himself. The sheer level of artistic weight applied to this work, coupled with the years spent completing it, means this is a tale Windsor-Smith simply had to tell, and you can feel that earnestness on the page. The result is not an easy read, but it is an instantly compelling one, a beautifully orchestrated one, and in many comics circles, an essential one. Barry Windsor-Smith remains a master of the form, and Monsters is proof.
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."