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This Week's Hot Comics: Black Manta's first DC solo series; Marvel's Ka-Zar relaunch; Jeff Lemire's Mazebook & more
Every week, your local comics shop (or digital hub, if that's how you roll) is filled to the brim with new releases, from the latest major event books at the Big Two to intriguing new indie projects at smaller presses. It's a lot to take in, especially if you're not someone plugged into the comics world all day every day — and even moreso if you're not packing a hefty comics budget going in the door.
So, we're here to help. Every Wednesday at SYFY WIRE, on the same day new comics hit shelves, we aim to tell you which comics will give you the most bang for your buck, from superhero epics, to cool Marvel and DC solo 'books, to creator-owned genre hits.
This week, we've got new solo series for both DC's Black Manta and Marvel's Ka-Zar, a new series from Jeff Lemire, a thrilling new issue of Witchblood, and much more. Here's what I'm excited about at the comics shop this week.
Black Manta #1
Black Manta's one of those characters who's never really had the chance to shine much on his own, even as stories about rogues like The Joker have had a place at DC Comics for decades, and it's always felt like something of a shame. Sure, he's never had the profile of a Joker or a Luthor or a Darkseid, but in his own way, Black Manta is one of the DC Universe's most fascinating personalities. Now, a Black Manta solo series is here to show us why.
And right away, writer Chuck Brown and artist Valentine De Landro succeed in proving to us, through clever narration and dynamic, instantly compelling visuals, that Black Manta is worth paying attention to. On the surface, this story is about Manta on the hunt for a mysterious and powerful artifact, something that's affecting him in more ways than one even as other major players are searching for the same item, but then Brown's script goes deeper. Manta's not just searching for treasure. He's searching for meaning, for his legacy, for his very place in the universe he calls home. That, coupled with De Landro's vivid, often brutally effective panels, is enough to make this a must-read first issue for any fan of the Aquaman corner of DC Comics.
Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land #1
Though he does venture out of the Savage Land from time to time, I think we've been trained by years of guest appearances to think of Ka-Zar as a kind of static figure in Marvel Comics. He's just... there, steadfast and courageous and happy to contribute, but never changing even in a superhero landscape known for resets and a certain sense of status quo. Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Land by writer Zac Thompson and artist German Garcia asks us to reconsider this status, not by taking Kevin Plunder out of the Savage Land, but by evolving his place within it.
The first issue of the new limited series is all about adjustments for Ka-Zar as he comes to grips with his own resurrection, his emerging new gifts, Shanna's connection to all living things around, and his son's increasing drive to be a hero in his own right. It's a lot to balance in one story, and Garcia's art emphasizes that sense of scope, giving us a pulp-flavored descent into the wilds of Ka-Zar's home that crackles with life, danger, and a sense of new-ness in among the classically inspired images. Thompson's script, rich with ambition and a horror edge that's helped define some of his best comics work so far, only adds to that sense of depth and reach. It feels like a thrilling new chapter for one of Marvel's most underused characters, and I'm excited to see where it goes next.
Something special happens when Jeff Lemire decides to both write and draw a story these days. As good as he is when collaborating with others, his writing takes on an entirely different flavor when it's also his pencil in the panels, guiding the emotion of story in an even more intimate way. It's always something worth paying attention to, and that feels especially true of the first issue of Mazebook, his new series that explores the fine line between memory, fiction, and even emotional hallucination to dazzling effect.
The story of a lonely building inspector who's kept himself grounded to routine and little else in the decade since his daughter died, Mazebook begins as a kind of deeply invested meditation on grief. We follow Lemire's thread of exploration through this man's day as he struggles to find enthusiasm for anything, then we realize that something more is at work, something lurking at first in the corners of the pages that's threatening to creep to the fore. Packed with immersive, meaningful compositions and layered with emotional beats that feel bound to pay off in big ways later, Mazebook has all the makings of another Jeff Lemire triumph, and the first issue alone stands as a tremendous exercise in comics craft.
Bountiful Garden #1
I like genre stories that have the courage to drop the reader right into the thick of things and then let the worldbuilding and character work trickle in around the edges as the plot propels things forward, and Bountiful Garden sets itself up right away as a delightful example of that kind of storytelling. Written by Ivy Noelle Weir and drawn by Kelly Williams, the book picks up as a group of teenage scientists have awakened unexpectedly from cryosleep on their way to a future terraforming mission. As they try to figure out what went wrong and where they are, we get to know them, and the universe around them starts to expand in ways both fascinating and menacing.
Weir's script is a delicate, deft exercise in layering in lots of character and universe detail while never bogging the story down in overexplanation, and by the end of the first issue I was fully invested in where these characters might head next. Williams' art adds an extra layer of character richness through very expressive designs and close-ups, then couples that by the end of the issue with a layer of deep space dread that leaves you itching to read more. Bountiful Garden #1 is a thrilling, promising start to a new sci-fi journey, and I can't wait to see what issue #2 brings.
Search for Hu #1
A military veteran in America rushes to the side of his immigrant parents when he learns their business was attacked, only to find that he's actually part of a generations-long blood feud that his parents both tried to escape and tried to hide from him for most of his life. That's the hook that launches Search for Hu, a new crime story from writers Jon Tsuei and Steve Orlando and artist Rubine that packs a punch right away and never lets up.
Two things stood out about this book for me instantly. One is Rubine's art, which seamlessly blends action and humor like a Jackie Chan movie, exploring the way in which our hero, Aaron Tse, sort of falls backwards into a criminal conspiracy that may cost him his family. The other is the way Orlando and Tsuei's script balances not just the same sense of violence and humor, but also a striking emotional core that runs beyond the initial family ties. In the end, it sets up a story about chosen family as well as birth family, and it all adds up to make Search for Hu a thrilling new debut that crime comics fans should pick up immediately.
I knew Witchblood was my kind of book from pretty much the first panel of the first page of the first issue, and said as much at the time. Now, months later, I continue to be impressed by just how ambitious, fun, and unpredictable the world writer Matthew Erman and artist Lisa Sterle have built continues to be. After a month off, the book is back this week with an issue that digs deeper into Yonna's history and ties to the larger Witchblood mythology, even as the story also never lets up on the throttle in the present day, as Yonna and her allies continue to purse the vampire biker gang The Hounds of Love.
Naming a vampire biker gang after a Kate Bush album is one way to get me on your side. Delivering a comic this wild and imaginative month after month is another. If you haven't been reading Witchblood, it's high time you made space for one of the best new supernatural books on the stands this year.