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.
We have arrived at another big week for fans still hoping to have some version of a convention experience this year, and this time the week brings with it not a digital recreation of a previously existing event, but something brand new. DC FanDome, billed as a 24-hour immersive fan experience like no other, lands this Saturday, and while a great deal of attention is going to be focused on the film and television side of the DC Entertainment empire, there are still plenty of comics worth talking about.
So, what can we expect on the comics side of FanDome? Well, sadly, a bit less than we could a few hours ago. After fan concerns were raised over the demands of the schedule — it's a lot to watch in just 24 hours — and after DC as a whole was hit with layoffs less than two weeks before the event was scheduled to begin, we're now looking at a two-day event. Yes, DC FanDome will now unfold across 48 hours split up by several weeks, with the second day of content now set to land on September 12. Not to worry, though, because that just gives you a little more time to enjoy the prime "Hall of Heroes" content landing this Saturday that DC has already announced. So, within DC's revised schedule, here's what I'm excited about on the comics side:
The Sandman Universe: Enter the Dreaming (Hall of Heroes 1:45 p.m.) - We're in the midst of an exciting new era for Sandman comics and other stories, and Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs, G. Willow Wilson and Michael Sheen are set to discuss how we got here. If you love Sandman and its assorted spinoffs on both the page and in your ears, this is the panel for you.
Multiverse 101 (Hall of Heroes, 2:15 p.m.) - DC Publisher Jim Lee, DC Films head Walter Hamada, and DC TV icon Greg Berlanti get together for a discussion of all their different storytelling pathways into the DC Universe. If you struggle to keep all this stuff straight in your head, watching these three try to untangle it for you should be fun, particularly if you're interested in how all of these different mediums use the characters at the same time.
Surprise DC Comics Panel (Hall of Heroes, 5 p.m.) - What could this be? Could it be the announcement of the next major DC Comics event, the announcement of the next several major DC Comics events, or something else entirely? Whatever the surprise turns out to be, I'll be there to hear about it.
Tomorrow's Super Heroes with Jim Lee brought to you by Gold House (Hall of Heroes, 7:25 p.m.) - Comics legend and DC publisher Jim Lee chats with Bing Chen, founder of the nonprofit Gold House, about the impact of Asian storytellers in the world of comics and comic-book inspired stories, and the impact they'll continue to have going forward.
Sadly, this rescheduling means that a great deal of the comics content that was planned for FanDome this weekend is going to be held until Saturday, so we'll be back then to talk more about the rest of this now two-day fan experience. DC FanDome kicks off this Saturday at 1 p.m. EST.
We love highlighting Kickstarters here at Comics Wire, whether they're for cool new projects from established talent or up-and-comers trying to make their visions a reality. This week we've got not one, not two, but three intriguing campaigns that you can go support right now, so let's get to it.
Nocternal: Easily the most high-profile Kickstarter drop this week, Nocternal is a new collaboration between fellow Batman legends Scott Snyder and Tony Daniel, and features Snyder's particular knack for coming up with creepy and intriguing premises to hang stories on. The series is set 10 years after the light from the Sun stopped reaching Earth, in a darkness that transforms anyone who stays in it too long into a monster, and follows a woman whose job is ferrying people through dangerous unlit passages in an endless dark. That's a great post-apocalyptic hook, the art is gorgeous, and you can get a PDF of the collector's edition of the first issue for just 10 bucks.
Major Holmes & Captain Watson: I love stories that take well-worn characters and remix them in surprising ways (more on that later in this very column) and Major Holmes & Captain Watson looks to be an exciting version of that. Creators Jeff Rider, Ismael Canales, Roger Sorruca, and Justin Birch are setting out with this campaign to deliver the first-ever print run of the tale, which follows Sherlock Holmes' nephew and his American partner as they attempt to unravel a vast and dangerous conspiracy in 1910s London. I could tell from the first page of the preview art that I'd be into this, and you get digital copies of the first two issues for just $8.
Okemus: Do you like comics that jump straight to the epic fights, that merge the character work and the grand-scale action in such a clear way that the fight scenes just keep coming? Do you like Super Sentai, Manga, and blockbuster superhero storytelling? Then the indie comic Okemus might be for you. Creator T.J. Sterling has been building this story brick by brick for several years now — this particular Kickstarter campaign is to fund the fourth issue of a planned six-issue miniseries — and if you go back and learn at the early chapters you can see the heart and the deciation growing issue-by-issue. This is exactly the kind of comic Kickstarter was made for, and once the art catches your eye you just might get sucked into the whole world. You can get the entire run of Okemus so far for 20 bucks, or just snag the new issue for as little as five.
Comics: Shadow Service debuts, Wonder Woman: Dead Earth ends, and more!
And now, we come to my favorite part of the week: New comics! Here's what I got excited about this week.
Shadow Service #1: I'm always down for a good supernatural adventure, and I especially like it when a story is able to lead off in a way that tells me that it's not just going to lean back on the most recognizable aspects of spooky subgenre work to draw me in. Shadow Service, the new Vault Comics series from writer Cavan Scott and artist Corin Howell, arrives with a swagger about it, a sense that it's playing by its own rules without ever using the mash-up concept at the heart of the series as a crutch. The result is an absolute blast of a debut that has me craving the next chapter.
The series follows Gina Meyers, a private investigator who also happens to be a witch (though that doesn't necessarily manifest in ways you might think), working relatively boring cases while also having conversations with a rat (yes, really). Through beautifully orchestrated character work and plenty of gruesome scares, the first issue basically follows Gina on a typical night of very atypical casework for her, until things take a turn so bizarre and frightening that even she is caught off guard. Scott's script is crisp, light, and laced with clever little notes of worldbuilding that will no doubt pay off later, while Howell's art is a gorgeous blend of noir and all-out horror that uses Triona Farrell's color work (in particular Gina's affinity for shades of purple) in a really striking way that reminded me a little bit of the heyday of Hammer Horror. This is a book with a clear understanding of what it is and where it's going right from the jump, and that makes it a 2020 debut that I'm particularly excited to keep following.
Wonder Woman: Dead Earth #4: Stories about superheroes roaming through a post-apocalyptic world are not always my favorite thing, because if I'm honest it's just not always fun to see my favorite characters brought low by a sense of desolation and loss like that. Done right, though, those stories can absolutely sing, particularly when they present a clear arc with something to say about a character. Daniel Warren Johnson's Wonder Woman: Dead Earth pulls that off masterfully, and the final issue is a fitting conclusion to a bold vision for Diana of Themyscira.
As the title suggests, the series follows Wonder Woman as she wakes up in the wasted remains of Earth with little memory of how she got there, only to find that almost all of her hero friends are dead and Earth is now home to massive, monstrous creatures known as Haedra. Over the course of the series, flashing back and forward as necessary, Johnson paints a picture of what went wrong, what Diana's part in it was, and why exactly she can't remembered. In this final issue, as humanity makes its last stand against monsters that are closer to Diana than she'd ever dreamed, it all comes together for a striking, emotionally resonant finish.
Superheroes often work best when they're metaphors, and Diana is no different in that regard. She's often referred to as the heart of the DC Universe in part because of her nurturing demeanor and her pursuit of love and truth, but clear explorations of exactly what that means are sometimes hard to come by. By tearing all of that down — with the help of his own stunning, rough-edged post-apocalyptic redesign of the DCU — Johnson is able to build Wonder Woman back up again into the powerful figure we know her to be. It's a trick that could have gone wrong at any turn, particularly during some of the bolder developments of this series, but every gamble in this Black Label high-concept adventure paid off.
Spider-Woman #3: The key to a good solo book is often as straightforward as a clear grasp of the character's voice, which is a harder thing to pull off than it sounds. You can read every issue of a comic starring a particular character across decades, and then when it comes time to write that character everything can come out stiff, contrived, and stale. The new Spider-Woman series from writer Karla Pacheco and artist Pere Perez avoids that pitfall handily, and as issue #3 rolls around it remains a gloriously entertaining book with a clear and constantly witty superheroic voice at its heart.
The story so far has involved Jessica Drew taking a job protecting the daughter of a billionaire client who just happens to be harboring some secret motives tied to Jessica's own strange history as a child science experiment. Issue one set the stage for that, while issue two upped the ante, and issue three just keeps that sense of escalation going in what turns out to be the most lightning fast installment of the series so far. Perez's art has always been solid, but there are action sequences in #3 in particular where he just absolutely soars with it, cutting between panels so fast that you can barely see the borders, in a good way. It all flows wonderfully, and as with the first two issues it's all anchored by Pacheco's clear, confident vision of Jessica as a character and as a hero. There's a sense of the in-over-her-head action hero that persists through both internal monologue and external dialogue, and it's a consistent blast to read even as the real heart of the character comes through in a way that feels effortless. I could read this series all day and not get tired of it.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -- Too Long a Sacrifice #2: On some level, Too Long a Sacrifice is a rewarding read simply because it's nice to see some new Deep Space Nine comics on the shelves again, but once you get past the joy of that fact and get into the meat of the story, the new series reveals itself to be more than just a welcome return to a particular franchise. This "space noir" series from writers Scott and David Tipton and artist Greg Scott reads as both a wonderful DS9 episode that we never got to watch and an expansive look at the station the unfolds in ways that only a comic book can.
The series kicks off with a bombing aboard the title station in the midst of the Dominion War, and then takes the form of an investigative thriller, as Constable Odo begins interviewing suspects, witnesses, and other interested parties to try to get to the bottom of what happened. Issue #2 picks up just as Odo's investigation gets a lot more complicated, and by the time the issue is over it's all more complicated still as various factions weigh in on the mystery and more chaos envelops the station.
The biggest challenge with a story like this is, of course, making it feel like it's still DS9 even if it's not beaming out from your television, and there the creative team succeeds from the first page without missing a beat. Odo in particular feels wonderfully realized, as do characters like Worf, Quark, and Dr. Bashir, and on some level the book's clear grasp of character just delivers the feeling of checking in on old friends in a very pleasant way. Then Scott's art, and the Tiptons' script, pushes things into new territory, really playing up the "noir" part of "space noir" and taking advantages of all the storytelling conventions comics offer that television does not. The result is a compelling, delightful read that feels like a perfect companion to the TV series without ever feeling like it's trying to copy it.
Adler #3: The easy shorthand — so easy that it's right there in the marketing copy for the book — when it comes to a book like Adler is to call it an all-female version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and indeed the book does deliver that kind of fiction mash-up energy from the very first page. There's certainly nothing wrong with making the comparison, particularly when trying to draw in readers, but the obvious question from that point on is how well does this book stand on its own, outside of those obvious pieces of pop cultural shorthand? So far with Adler, the answer is very well indeed.
The series follows the title character, Irene Adler of Sherlock Holmes fame, as she both teams up with and battles against a variety of other fictional and historical female contemporaries, including Estella Havisham, Jane Eyre, Madame Curie, Ayesha, and more. By the time issue #3 rolls around, the series is trucking along quite nicely, and the initial MacGuffin that launched the story is starting to pay off in really thrilling ways, especially if you're a fan of big, pulpy adventure story high concepts.
From the beginning of the series, writer Lavie Tidhar and artist Paul McCaffrey clearly sought to replicate that pulp adventure feel, and the book reads a bit like a Saturday matinee serial in that way, leaving every issue on the edge of something thrilling that's waiting for you just behind the cover of the next installment. What makes Adler work, though, beyond that sense of recreating something we feel like we know, is the ambition of the piece, something that issue #3 showcases to great effect. There's something massive at work behind the mash-up hook of this story, and the more you read the deeper into that sense of scale you get. It's an addictive feeling, and it makes me want to know what happens next.
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."