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Comics Wire: Unpacking DC's Future State slate; Local Comic Shop Day; and this week's hot reads
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.
In a bit more than a month, we get the arrival of Future State, an ambitious two-month event in which DC Comics will basically put its entire superhero line on pause in order to give us a collection of more than two dozen miniseries that will take us into various points in the future of the DC timeline, not just in the main universe but in the entire Multiverse. It's a big, bold idea that hopes to snag some new and returning readers while also introducing us to various characters the publisher may deploy in some big ways even after the Future State event has concluded, as we've already seen with new Wonder Girl turned future Wonder Woman Yara Flor.
With just weeks to go until the effort launches, we've seen teases of what's to come -- including everything from a mysterious future Batman to a non-binary, alternate universe future Flash -- but a comprehensive view of what Future State is and what it will do is probably impossible until we've had a chance to read all these promising new miniseries. Still, DC Comics is willing to give us a bit of a boost in that direction, and they proved it this week by dropping a free DC Nation preview of Future State available on ComiXology, the DC Comics website, and at local comics retailers. Though it obviously doesn't spoil any of the stories to come, the issue does give us a fairly comprehensive view of many of the goals of Future State, and when you sit down and read the whole thing it paints a fascinating picture of what the long-term effects of these stories could be. So, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to parse out some of my hopes for this effort just a bit.
One of the key selling points of Future State so far has been the idea of new characters inheriting old superhero mantles. We've seen it with Yara Flor and with Jess Chambers, the non-binary Kid Quick set to become the future Flash. We've seen it with the way Jon Kent is set to grow into his role as Earth's new Superman, and in John Ridley's promise of a new Batman so mysterious that he's adopted a full-face mask rather than even showing us his chin. So yes, new heroes abound, and already introduced ones (including Jon Kent and the excellent Far Sector Green Lantern Jo Mullein) will be stepping into more prominent roles, but all that said, the classic heroes aren't exactly going away.
Bruce Wayne will still be part of this story in some form, as will Clark Kent, and Diana Prince (who will apparently still be around battling evil at the literal End of Time, if this magazine is to be believed), even as their respective successors move into adventures of their own. Why and how all of these transitions happen, how much they factor in continuity, and what the fallout will be from each of these stories remains to be seen, and Future State itself is spinning out of an event we haven't seen the ending of yet: Dark Nights: Death Metal. There are a lot of question marks, but one thing is clear, and if DC is smart about it they could end up with an incredible revitalization of one of the best parts of their history.
DC Comics is a place for legacy heroes, whether they're Wally West or Kyle Rayner or Cassandra Cain or, now, Yara Flor and Jess Chambers. It's one of the great strengths of the company's long, often patchwork history that various storytellers have found ways to make these characters co-exist, and while I loved a lot of the stories in efforts like The New 52 the hobbling of that legacy through condensed timelines just never worked for me. It's thrilling and fun and deeply meaningful to watch things like Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, and Wally West all running beside one another, and if Future State works correctly (and given the talent involved there's a very good chance that it will) it could offer that same sense of resonance.
Yara Flor doesn't replace Diana Prince anymore than Jon Kent replaces his father, but instead they all become part of the same proud continuum of heroism in the vastness of the DC Multiverse, while also providing a place for younger readers to jump on and see themselves in the story. Future State could be a gimmick, or it could be the next step in that vast, deeply satisfying legacy. I'm betting on the latter, and I'm excited to see it arrive January 5.
Celebrate Local Comic Shop Day
It's Thanksgiving week, which also means the start of holiday shopping season, which means if you're a comics fan you're about to start thinking (if you haven't already) about what you want for yourself and what you want to get the fellow comics fans in your life. This year, perhaps more than ever before, local comics retailers could use your cash as you head out to shop, whether you're doing it curbside or masked up in the store, and thankfully Local Comic Shop Day is here to remind us all of that.
In previous years Local Comic Shop Day has fallen on a Saturday, but because Wednesday is New Comics Day anyway, this year organizers opted to move it to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so you can get a head start on your shopping while you're picking up your weekly haul. Organizers at ComicsPRO also dropped the registration requirement for stores to participate, so there's a good chance more stores than ever will play a part.
So, what can you get on Local Comic Shop Day? Well, publishers from DC and Marvel to Image Comics and BOOM! Studios have cooked up variant covers for the event (including the Spawn comics shop variant above), which you can check out in the gallery at the Local Comic Shop Day website, but depending on who your local store is it's likely the fun doesn't end there. Between Local Comic Shop Day on Wednesday and Small Business Saturday this weekend, there's a very good chance you'll also find a sale or two. So, be sure to hit up your local store and see what they're offering. If you haven't picked a local store, the Local Comic Shop Day website has a handy directory of more than 800 of them, searchable by city.
More News: Eternals trailer, Super Sons return, Dave McKean, and more!
- A while back, Marvel Comics delayed Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribic's new Eternals series by a few months, which is a bummer, but really ultimately just means it jumped from being one of my Most-Anticipated of 2020 to one of my Most-Anticipated of 2021. The series is now set to debut in January, and to tide us over, Marvel released this rad trailer for the series this week highlight Ribic's always-epic art.
- Hey, speaking of Small Business Saturday, how'd you like to bid on some very cool items from comics fans and creators and help out retailers at the same time. Over on eBay, Space Cadets Collection is hosting a massive auction of items benefiting Insider Art, a collective of creators that jumpstarted earlier this year amid the pandemic and is devoted to raising funds to help female and non-binary comics retailers get through these tough times. Items in the auction range from original art and prints by the likes of Becky Cloonan and Liana Kangas to signed comics, vintage action figures, posters, collectibles, and more. Check it out and place your bid in the next five days.
- Want another cool trailer for another awesome upcoming comic? Image Comics has you covered there with a thrilling teaser for its upcoming miniseries Stray Dogs from creators Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner. Described as a "Don Bluth-style" and as "Lady and the Tramp meets Silence of the Lambs," the series presents a thriller about a lost dog trying to unravel the mystery of what happened to her and her owner amid art that's a joyous tribute to traditional animation. Think that one scene in All Dogs Go to Heaven, but somehow even darker. The series launches in February, and you can watch the trailer now.
- And hey, Future State isn't the only cool upcoming DC Comics story we learned more about this week. The publisher announced Tuesday that the acclaimed and super-fun Super Sons stories are back for a third installment in just a few weeks. Challenge of the Super Sons hails from writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Max Raynor, and picks up where Adventures of the Super Sons left off in 2018, this time with Damian Wayne and Jon Kent teaming up to battle an ancient, magical parchment known as "Doom Scroll," and honestly that name alone is enough to sell me on it. The series debuts December 14 with 99 cent digital chapters, and you can read more at DC's website.
- It's always exciting when one of the best creators in the game decides to push themselves into something new, and last week Dark Horse Comics announced that the legendary Dave McKean (Sandman, Arkham Asylum) is doing just that. Next summer, McKean will release Raptor: A Sokol Graphic Novel, his first ever creator-owned character. Described as a story that "flickers between two worlds and two conflicted souls," Raptor divides itself between a fantasy world and 19th century Wales, where a writer and mourns and is willing to try anything to see his dead wife again. I can't wait to see what McKean does with that dual landscape. Raptor arrives in July and is now available for pre-order.
New Comics: The Other History of the DC Universe, The Kaiju Score, and more!
That's the news. Now let's take a look at some of the comics I got excited about this week.
The Other History of the DC Universe #1: One of the most-anticipated comics of 2020 is finally here, and I'm very happy to say that The Other History of the DC Universe has arrived with a first issue that absolutely lives up to all the hype. It's a hell of an achievement, particularly when you consider just how much this series promises to deliver on. It could have been a cookie cutter exercise in showing us old events through the illusion of new eyes, and the right creative team could have sold that, but it aims so much higher, and the result is an astonishing new perspective on a beloved fictional universe.
Inspired by the 1986 History of the DC Universe miniseries, writer John Ridley and artists Giuseppe Camuncoli and Andrea Cucchi opt for a storytelling approach that blends comics art and prose, as Ridley's script charts much of the latter 20th century in the DC Universe through the eyes of Jefferson Pierce, aka Black Lightning. The issue is an extended monologue of sorts as Jefferson tells his version of the story, from his personal struggles and ambitions to the way he became a superhero to how he perceives various other DC heroes from Black Lightning to Vixen to Superman.
As I said already, this could have been a stroll down memory lane that's simply framed by the idea of a new perspective, as though just telling us Black Lightning is the narrator is enough to buy the sense of fresh eyes on an old story, and some gorgeous art and competent scripting might have even made that work. This creative team is not satisfied with doing that, and it shows from the very first page. Ridley, Camuncoli, Cucchi and the entire creative team approach the story with a far greater purpose than that.
We see it in the stunning, symbolism-heavy art that charts the course of more than 20 years of American history with a depth and a passion that both recalls past classics and demands we keep looking forward. We see it in the depth of character rendered through both the panels and the script. And, of course, we see it in the way Ridley makes this story not just about recalling events, but about re-contextualizing them. Jefferson Pierce is not a static figure in this story, even if we think we know how his point-of-view will turn. He grows, he changes, and his views on the world around him change with that growth over the course of a pitch-perfect script. The Other History of the DC Universe has launched with an absolute triumph, and I can't wait to read the next issue.
The Kaiju Score #1: If you've already heard a lot about The Kaiju Score, that's because Hollywood has too. The new AfterShock Comics series was optioned for a film adaptation a full three months before it was set to hit comic store shelves, and it's easy to understand why. It's a series with one of the best high-concept hooks I've heard all year, and I say that as someone who spends a lot of time looking for great high-concept hooks. In a world where comics often get accused of being film pitches in disguise, though, it's also very important to tell you that even outside of its premise, The Kaiju Score is also a damn good comic book.
The setup, as you may have guessed from the title, is this: A misfit crew of crooks are banding together to pull a job, even as people around them warn that it's a very dumb idea. The job? Steal a bunch of art while a museum is empty. The high-concept hook? The museum is going to be empty because a kaiju is heading for the coast, forcing a mandatory evacuation of the city and substantially raising the stakes for our crew.
What's great from the beginning about The Kaiju Score is the way that writer James Patrick and artist Rem Broo play into our expectations of what we're about to read, then gleefully twist them just so into something we've never quite seen before. Patrick's script is crackling with energy and potential, so much so that even a seemingly predictable Getting the Crew Together sequence becomes thrilling, and the pacing is so expertly laid out that I was simultaneously satisfied and itching for the next chapter by the time the first issue was over. Then there's Broo's art, which reminds me of Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon's towering work on Casanova, with a healthy dash of Steven Soderbergh thrown in. It's a blast from the first page to the final page.
X of Swords: Destruction #1: I'm on record as being a pretty passionate defender of X of Swords, even as I've seen friends growing weary with the somewhat high fantasy-leaning direction of the story. I love the strangeness of it, the twists and turns of it that require you to sometimes think a bit magically, and even the lengthy descriptions of new lore that have accompanied key installments of the story. That said, there were points near the end of this saga, when the contest of champions at its heart start to lean into its idiosyncrasies quite a bit, when even I was starting to think "Where are you going with this?" Well, now we've arrived at the conclusion, and...well, I'm sorry for any doubt, however brief, I might have had that this creative team would stick the landing, because X of Swords: Destruction is tremendous.
I'm not going to even tease out the plot here, in part because you definitely need to read both X-Men #15 and Excalibur #15 before you reach this point, but this is the epic conclusion of the whole X of Swords saga as well as a kind of staging area for what might come next, and it manages to succeed on both counts. Writers Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard, who've spearheaded the massive group effort that is X of Swords, pour every last ounce of planning into payoff here, landing all those emotional beats they'd begun to build way back in the prelude issues and then some. And of course, Pepe Larraz's art is as good as we've come to expect and more. He's crushed every X-book he's touched and this is no different.
Above all, though, there's another element of the X of Swords conclusion that, for me, put it over the top in terms of its success, something it seems to share with the very earliest Dawn of X stories and, in some ways, the very best X-stories of the Claremont era. Too often in comics, event stories just...end. The conclusion wraps every little thing up save for a few bells and whistles designed to carry forward to create the illusion of change without ever really upsetting the balance of things. Sometimes the "conclusion" isn't even a conclusion, but an epilogue where characters basically just sit around and talk about what happened. Hickman, Howard, and the entire X-team don't let that happen here. This is a story about hard-fought and hard-won change, about sacrifice and magic and the imposing of various wills on various realities, and that has consequences. I have no idea if the consequences of X of Swords will last, or for how long, but I know that for now this series delivered on the promise that things really would be different when the swords were sheathed, and that in itself is a massive success.
I Walk With Monsters #1: I love emotional horror stories. Don't get me wrong, I love those savage bits of violence that leap right for the throat, too, but the horror that really tends to live deep in the recesses of my brain where I can never, ever clear it out is almost always the kind that lingers on the emotional impact of all the gore and trauma. In that respect the new Vault Comics series I Walk With Monsters is right up my alley.
The series begins as the story of Jacey, a young woman who seeks out very human monsters, and her traveling companion David, who has some not-exactly-human monstrous secrets of his own. Together they hunt, traveling in search of the worst of the worst, motivated by the darkness in their respective pasts. For Jacey, that means someone known as as The Important Man, someone she's been after for a very long time, someone at the root of all her pain.
Writer Paul Cornell and artist Sally Cantirino imbue this story with a deep emotional resonance from the very first page. The expressiveness of Cantirino's character work, particularly Jacey's close-ups, makes every single beat in Cornell's script land perfectly, and her monster designs put the first issue over-the-top in terms of sheer horror effectiveness. Cornell's writing not only plays to his artist's strengths, but weaves a dread-filled tapestry, rooted in a beautifully realized emotional core, that allows the entire issue to hum with a base-level sense of terror that bursts out across the page at exactly the right moments. There's a richness to this first issue that a lot of debuts just can't reach, and the result is a must-read for horror comics fan. In a year full of great scary books, this is an essential one.
X-O Manowar #2: It's been a very long time since we've heard from Valian's most recent X-O Manowar series. The first issue, from writer Dennis "Hopeless" Hallum and artist Emilio Laiso, was published all the way back in March, and with everything going on, it's perhaps a bit easy to forget a new X-O book even launched in 2020. Well, this week the second issue finally arrives, and given that it's been such a long wait, I think it's very worth telling you that if you're looking for a dynamic, compelling superhero story you may have overlooked this year, catch up on this one while you can.
The very concept of X-O Manowar is compelling. It's "Visigoth Warrior Wearing Alien Armor in the Present Day," what's not to love? But what makes this story especially compelling, even beyond all the potential for action storytelling inherent in every X-O Manowar series, is Hallum's drive to examine the character in the context of what kind of hero he needs to be right now, when tech billionaires and politicians and a media quick to look for a demonizing narrative might be just as much his adversary as alien invaders. It's an intriguing thematic framework for a series, but the best part is that Hallum and Laiso don't actually stop there.
This particuar take on X-O Manowar is a compelling character study about the hero's place in the world, yes, but it's also a surprising, often heartwarming fish-out-of-water story in which Aric the Visigoth is forced to examine not just his place as a hero, but his place as a man simply living among other human beings. Laiso's art is particularly impressive because he's able to swing between these different dynamics and make it look easy, whether Aric is fighting a futuristic robot or playing basketball with a group of neighborhood kids. He rises to the challenge on every page, and with the deft hand of Hallum's scripting, it all comes together to make a thoroughly entertaining superhero adventure worth jumping aboard.
And that's it for Comics Wire this week. Have a safe Thanksgiving, and 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."