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 missed a lot of things over the course of the spring of 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19, and the comics industry is no different in that regard. Shops closed, new product stopped shipping for several weeks, and every major publisher was forced to contend with an entirely new schedule. This dramatic upheaval also applied to one of the comics world's most beloved traditions: Free Comic Book Day, which we can usually look forward to the first Saturday in May.
Sadly, Free Comic Book Day as we know it didn't happen this year, but that doesn't mean the event is going away. In fact, this year it's now going to run for an entire summer.
Free Comic Book Day organizers announced last week that, instead of cramming all of the annual releases for the event into one rescheduled Saturday this time, "Free Comic Book Summer" will take the place of the usual one-day event and give us a selection of new free comics every week from July 15 to September 9.
So, how will this year's event work if it's suddenly a weekly thing? Well, the same 45 titles we'd previously heard about from big and small publishers will still be coming out, but this year they'll be released at a rate of five or six new books each week for nearly two months. That means each time you go to pick up your new comics, you'll have the opportunity to find a new story, whether it's something from a creator you know and love or something that you've never heard of before
Plus, organizers are encouraging local retailers to adapt to this change in FCBD status quo in a way that suits their situation at the time. They can offer all of that week's titles at once, drop a new one each day, or come up with some other promotional plan. The summer-long plan is a compromise, but with all the publishers participating and retailers getting a chance to try something new, it just might turn out to be a pleasant surprise. I've personally seen shops so crowded during past FCBD events that I couldn't even park to see what they had going on. Plus, the longer release window means more opportunities for shops to offer various discounts and other promotions to boost sales.
Free Comic Book Summer 2020 kicks off in three weeks with comics like Power Rangers: The Road to Ranger Slayer from BOOM! Studios (pictured above), a new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series from IDW, Marvel's X-Men offering, and more. For the full list of titles releasing all summer long, head over to the FCBD website.
Hot New Projects
Kickstarter is a fun place to find comics that make you immediately think "I need this to be real," because then you can actually play a part in making the thing real. In that spirit, this week brought with it the launch of an amazing new comics project for Pride Month: Glitter Vipers, which honestly sold me with the title alone.
Created by The Pride writer Joe Glass and the art team of Katie Fleming, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Lucas Gattoni, Ted Brandt, James Gifford, and Spire Eaton, Glitter Vipers is a 60-page story that follows a Manchester drag queen named Bi Phallicia (again, already sold on this) and her friends, who decide to basically form "the most fabulous street gang in the world" to patrol their city after a hate crime leaves them with a desire to fight back. Here's the synopsis:
"Glitter Vipers is the 60-page story of Manchester drag queen Bi Phallicia and her friends who find themselves victims of an awful hate crime and decide that they are going to fight back. So they strap up, hit the streets and are ready to fight back against bigotry with a sequin baseball bat and some bad ass righteous fury!"
The book launched this week and is approaching the halfway mark on its funding goal. If all goes well, you'll get to read the book this October. For character designs and bios and more on the creative team, head over to the Kickstarter page and consider backing the book.
I've written before about how much I enjoy digging into a big high-concept book by an intriguing creative team, but that's perhaps putting it too simply in some cases. I especially like digging into a book with a concept that makes me go "Wow, that's gonna be a tough needle to thread" so I can see if the creators actually pull it off. The Scumbag, as the title might suggest, is one of those books, but if anyone can pull it off, it's probably Rick Remender.
Image Comics announced the new series, written by Remender with an all-star rotating art team that's led by Lewis LaRosa on the first issue, on Tuesday, and it's got the kind of hook that's hard to forget. As the cover says, "The world's fate rests with the worst person on it." Here's the synopsis:
"The Scumbag is the story of Ernie Ray Clementine, a profane, illiterate, drug addicted, biker, with a fifth-grade education and the only thing standing between us and total Armageddon because this dummy accidentally received a power-imbuing serum making him the world’s most powerful super spy.
"Ernie is a relic of a bygone era, the living embodiment of sex, drugs, and rock and roll — so, this doesn’t make things easy for the spy organization that needs his help as they bribe, cajole, and manipulate Ernie to choose between his own self-interests and doing what's right."
That's an amazing logline for what's billed as a "comedy espionage series," and the book's structure only makes it more intriguing. Remender will be accompanied by a team of artists who will trade off issues and covers for the series, which means the style of Ernie's adventures will change month by month. Among the artists embarking on this deranged adventure are Yanick Paquette, Mike McKone, Eric Powell, Tula Lotay, Duncan Fegredo, and more.
The Scumbag #1 arrives October 21. Check out a preview over at Image's website.
Many people, even fans of tabletop RPGs, tend to think of Dungeons & Dragons only as a world, a canvas upon which players at home can craft their improvised stories, but that's only part of the picture. The world of D&D is so rich and vast that it also provides a canvas for storytellers across various mediums to weave fantasy epics into the particular vernacular built up through years of gaming, which means D&D comics can be loads of fun to read. Later this summer, we get another one from an exciting creative team.
IDW Publishing announced Monday that author and former WWE star AJ Mendez and Lucifer star Aimee Garcia, who previously worked together on GLOW vs. The Babyface, have teamed with Magic: The Gathering and Star Trek: Year Five artist Martín Cóccolo for Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World, a four-issue series featuring all-new characters and an all-new adventure. Here's the synopsis:
"In At the Spine of the World, the never-ending winter’s night is slowly driving an isolated town in the depths of Icewind Dale to the brink of insanity. To save them all, a perilous journey awaits a band of adventurers as they battle a furious icy god and uncover the plot of an ancient primordial evil."
Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World arrives later this summer. For more information, including a look at character designs, head over to IDW's website.
Comics This Week: Marvel's Empyre prologue, Green Lantern turns 80, and more!
Here's a look at the comics I got excited about this week, including the prologue of Marvel's next big event.
Empyre #0: Avengers: Next month, Marvel Comics will kick off Empyre, a massive event that merges the cosmic with the Earthbound in ways that tie back heavily to The Kree-Skrull War and both the Fantastic Four's and the Avengers' long-running relationships with Marvel's two most prominent alien races. That means that, while longtime fans of Marvel continuity will be able to jump right into that bit of history, readers just looking for a big event book to ride through the summer will need a creative team that's able to take all that history and make it new. Fortunately for this issue and the Empyre event overall, Al Ewing is one of those guys.
With help from the phenomenal artistic talents of Pepe Larraz, Ewing launches the first of two prologue issues (the second will follow the Fantastic Four and will be scripted by Empyre co-writer Dan Slott) with a story that is both a fun adventure for the current incarnation of Earth's Mightiest Heroes and an intriguing trip down memory lane centered on the Blue Area of the Moon and its long history of alien carnage. With a script that leans heavily on Tony Stark's inner monologue as he reckons with what's coming, Ewing is able to set up the Blue Area as a flashpoint for what's to come in a way that Kree/Skrull War fans might found a little familiar, but the issue never dives off the deep end of continuity to the point that it loses new readers. If you're looking for an introduction to the longstanding hostilities between Marvel's various cosmic forces, this will do the trick, and it ends with a cliffhanger that makes me eager to read the next prologue issue. Plus, Larraz just keeps getting better, and I'm saying that even after he knocked it out of the park with House of X last year.
Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular: DC Comics has decades worth of legacy characters that weave a complex web of alliances, friendships, and intertwining histories, and none of those legacies are more complex than that of Green Lantern. That particular superheroic moniker has been reinvented so many times that, if you're trying to chart the course of the line as a new reader, it can sometimes feel almost head-splittingly complicated. The good news is that certain creators have learned to wield that complexity to their advantage, celebrating the strange twists and turns in the Green Lantern saga in a way that manages to both focus on individual heroes and highlight the diversity of the entire Corps. On the 80th anniversary of Green Lantern's debut, DC's latest 100-Page Super Spectacular manages to pull that off in a number of memorable ways.
Things lead off with a story about the original Lantern, Alan Scott, by James Tynion IV and Gary Frank, and they knock it out of the park with a tale that both recenters Alan Scott as a gay character after his New 52 reboot established that and leans heavily into the emotional burden he's always carried. Then, of course, there are the Hal Jordan stories, including one by Geoff Johns (the most influential Green Lantern writer in decades) and one by the late, great, Denny O'Neil, who got to revisit his Hard-Travelin' Heroes one last time. The stories range from run bits of reminiscing to high space adventure to some surprisingly touching meditations on the legacy of the characters and the creators who shaped them, which is particularly evident in Robert Venditti and Rafa Sandoval's story "Four" and Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie and ChrisCross John Stewart tale "Reverse the Polarity." All that plus a whole lot more makes for a surprisingly comprehensive celebration of one of the most convoluted character sagas in all of comics.
Ash & Thorn #1: I love stories that take familiar fantasy tropes and twist them into something new thanks to amazing execution and a clear, entertaining point of view. Ash & Thorn, the new Ahoy Comics series from writer Mariah McCourt and artist Soo Lee, is exactly that kind of story, and the first issue is one of the most delightful starts to a comic that I've picked up so far this year.
The "Thorn" of the title is Lottie Thorn, a little old lady who enjoys relaxing at home with a cup of tea. But lately things have been changing for Lottie in ways she doesn't quite understand, at least until Lady Peruvia Ashlington-Voss shows up at her door. It turns out Lottie's been breaking things around the house because she's the newly ordained Champion meant to save the world from the forces of darkness. Turns out you're never too old to learn how to kick a monster's ass.
What follows is a dynamic that fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other Chosen One narratives will instantly recognize, but filtered through a delightful new framework that's anchored in just how fully realized both Lottie and Peruvia seem to be from the start. This is a series that doesn't have first issue jitters, doesn't need time to figure itself out, and doesn't take its time making with the monster action. It arrives with a big magical flourish, and its an absolute delight to read thanks to beautifully paced dialogue and absolutely gorgeous art that has me itching to see what kind of monsters Lee will dream up next.
Bleed Them Dry #1: I'm also hungry for new vampire stories, particularly ones that are willing to go all-out with an idea that extends beyond the way we're used to seeing bloodsuckers in a large portion of Western fiction. Bleed Them Dry, from creator, Hiroshi Koizumi, writer Eliot Rahal, and artist Dike Ruan, is that kind of story. The first issue of this new Vault Comics series feels like Blade Runner meets Angel, and I can't wait to find out what happens next.
Set in the far future, in a vast metropolis where humans and vampires have managed to get along, the series follows a detective as she tries to solve a series of vampire murders that's exacerbated by the discovery of vampires that are suddenly rabidly hungry for human blood. The twist? The human detective has a vampire partner, and as they dig deeper into the mystery, secrets will come out that threaten the entire city.
One of the best parts of Bleed Them Dry is the way in which Rahal and Ruan dive into their world in a way that doesn't tell us everything about it upfront, but still exudes a sense of storytelling confidence which means we're willing to follow them until we get the bigger picture. Ruan's clean, expressive art delivers gorgeous cityscapes, while Rahal's dialogue delivers something that's equal parts hardboiled crime story and futuristic vampire drama. Bleed Them Dry is a thrilling hybrid of a lot of different that come together for a series with lots of potential.
Doctor Tomorrow #3: I'm somewhat of a latecomer to the world of Valiant Comics, but one of the things I love about their stories is the universe's place in a time well after Marvel and DC were well-established. That means that Valiant is able to traffic in superhero conventions we all recognize, but because they arrived later to the game their creators are always looking for creative ways to set themselves apart, and the result is often some of the most fun you can have on a comics page. Doctor Tomorrow, the current series from writer Alejandro Arbona and artist Jim Towe, is a great example of that.
The series follows a kid named Bart, who's confronted one day by the superhero known as Doctor Tomorrow, who explains that he's actually Bart from another reality and needs his help to save the world. So, the first two issues are basically the adventures of a superhero and his smaller doppelganger, with some reality-altering twists thrown in. In issue #3, the battle lines that are drawn in the first two installments explode in a massive clash that manages to rope most of the Valiant Universe in, and by the end of the issue the series has introduced yet another intriguing new hook.
Between Towe's clean, classic looking art (his faces remind me of John Romita Sr.'s, in a very nice way) and Arbona's knack for pacing and digesting huge chunks of comic book plot into snappy dialogue exchanges, this book is just pure fun, and each issue leaves me wanting more.
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."