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.
Awards Season is upon us, and while we tend to associate this time of year more with films and television than printed works, comics are getting in on the love too. Last week the nominees for the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards were announced, highlighting stories that offer "fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community and the issues that affect their lives," and some of the best comics of 2020 made the list.
Ten different comics releases — ranging from superhero series to one-shots to standalone graphic novels — made this year's list of nominees, and both DC and Marvel were well-represented. At DC Comics, the excellent Green Lantern series Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell, Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins' now-completed Lois Lane maxiseries, Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo's run on Suicide Squad, and the Aqualad graphic novel You Brought Me The Ocean by Alex Sanchez and Julie Maroh were all honored with nods.
Over at Marvel, the Lords of Empyre: Emperor Hulkling one-shot by Anthony Oliveira, Chip Zdarsky and Manuel Garcia and its companion piece, Empyre: Aftermath Avengers by Al Ewing and Valerio Schiti, earned a combined nod, alongside fellow nominees X-Factor by Leah Williams, David Baldeon, and Carlos Gomez, and the ongoing Guardians of the Galaxy series by Al Ewing, Juann Cabal, and Marcio Takara.
Beyond the Big Two, BOOM! Studios also had a solid showing this year, earning nominations for the fantasy series Wynd by James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas and the coming-of-age story Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera and Celia Moscote. And then there's Trung Le Nguyen's The Magic Fish, one of the most breathtaking graphic novels published in recent memory, rounding out the nominations.
These are all excellent comics full of vibrant, compelling LGBTQ characters. Many of them made my Best of 2020 list just a few weeks ago, and they're all worth going back and revisiting if you didn't have a chance to read them last year. We'll find out who takes home the prize when the GLAAD Media Awards are handed out in a virtual ceremony this April. For the full list of nominees in all categories, head over to GLAAD's website.
DC Comics goes to the vault
Last month, DC Universe relaunched as DC Universe Infinite, a comics reader and fan community that DC has promised to continue building on in the coming months. We've already seen the redesigned interface, the arrival of various key Vertigo and DC Black Label series and even the digital debut of various Milestone Media titles on the service, but one of the new features DC promised was also brand-new original digital series that would arrive first for Infinite subscribers. On Tuesday, the publisher dropped the first of these, and it's a great idea.
Let Them Live is a new DC Digital First series that debuted its first issue on DC Universe Infinite this week with a very intruiging hook: The bi-weekly series will feature previously unpublished DC Comics stories that have been sitting in DC's vault, waiting to be free. Each story will also feature brand-new material in the form of a frame story written by Elliott Kalan with art by Mike Norton and Marissa Louise, and narrated by Ambush Bug, who in addition to his normal DC Universe duties is also apparently the DC Comics night janitor.
The debut issue features a Suicide Squad tale from Jim Zub, Tradd Moore, Felipe Sobreiro and Nate Piekos, and features the team trying to pull a job against a ticking clock, laid out so that each page equals a minute in a countdown they're racing. It's a fun story, framed by a fun two-page Ambush Bug narrative that will continue on in previous installments, including a Nightwing story on February 16 and a Batman story on March 2. It's a great idea for a digital series, and one that has the potential to unearth some real gems in the weeks and months to come. Plus, it's probably only the beginning of the new stuff we can expect from DC Universe Infinite.
More news: Marvel Masterworks return, TCAF 2021, and more!
- When I was a young comics fan, before digital subscription services made the classics a click away, some of my most prized possessions were the Marvel Masterworks line of collections that lovingly reprinted the very earliest stories starring Marvel's key heroes. I still have the ones I managed to collect, but over time they got harder and harder to find, and a little of the magic seemed to fade. Now, the House of Ideas is bringing them back. Marvel announced last week that new Masterworks volumes, in a kid-friendly 6X9 format, will be out this June collecting the first 10 issues each of the Lee/Ditko Amazing Spider-Man run, the Lee/Kirby X-Men run, and the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four run. So, if you've got a budding young comics fan in your life, keep a lookout for these re-issues.
- Convention season is once again approaching, but as with last year it won't look quite the same. Virtual events will continue for the forseeable future, but the good news is we have a better idea of what those look like and how to do them well now, and one of the best comics shows in the world has a plan. The Toronto Comic Arts Festival announced Monday that its virtual convention will go be held May 8-15, with on-demand programming like Q&As and workshops, exhibitors, shopping, and more. Head over to the official TCAF site for more info, and sign up if you want to exhibit (the deadline is March 3).
- The Hero Initiative and the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, two organizations that continue to do amazing work for creators and retailers, launched a new fundraising event this week in the form of Double Visions, a massive art auction that features pieces which team two artists drawing two different characters. The first round of auctions kicked off on eBay Tuesday with stuff like Matt Wagner and Tim Sale doing Spider-Man and Green Goblin, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Marco Checchetto doing Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, and more. New pieces will be added to the auction at a rate of five per week, and proceeds go to both very worthy charities. Check out the auction page and see if you might be able to afford any of these incredible pieces.
New comics: Black Knight, Maniac of New York, Man-Bat and more!
That's the news. Now let's talk about some of the comics I got excited about this week.
King in Black: Black Knight #1: It makes sense that we're getting a new Black Knight series now, ahead of the character's live-action debut, but I have to say I didn't expect the comic to be quite this wild right out of the gate. Launching the series amid the King in Black event meant any creative team would have to juggle the central character with an ongoing Marvel Universe crisis, but perhaps only Simon Spurrier could have managed to pack this much stuff into a single debut issue. Throw in some beautiful art by Jesus Saiz, and you've got what turns out to be a must-read.
There's a lot going on with the Black Knight as a character even if you don't have symbiote dragons dominating the skies of Earth. Dane Whitman is a modern hero with a medieval bent, an Avenger who's also constantly fighting the violent urges of his blade, a black-clad warrior who also has an almost Indiana Jones-ian streak when he gets in over his head. There's a lot to work with, and what's perhaps most striking about this issue is how much Spurrier and Saiz are willing to not just tackle all of that, but build on it right away. It's not just a reintroduction to the Black Knight and his mythos, but a journey to Shanghai, a team-up with heroes Aero and Sword Master, and an encounter with the symbiote god Knull.
Another writer might attempt to pack all of this into one issue and end with something that just feels overstuffed and sloppy, but not Spurrier. This is a writer who's proven he can do dark fantasy and superhero stuff time and time again many times, and he lives up to that promise yet again here. Saiz's art, which balances the medieval aesthetic of the Knight himself with the urban slickness of the surrounding story and the monster madness of King in Black, is the perfect accompaniment to this ambitious debut script. I'm sold on whereever this one goes next.
Man-Bat #1: Over at DC, we're taking a break from the events of Future State this week, because I've been waiting for a while now to see how this new Man-Bat series by writer Dave Wielgosz and artist Sumit Kumar would look upon its debut. I've always liked Man-Bat, probably thanks to my childhood love of Batman: The Animated Series, and the older I get the more convinced I am of his versatility. He's a fascinating personality who deserves a deeper dive, and it looks like that's exactly what we're getting here.
Wielgosz and Kumar's story picks up as Kirk Langstrom's life is starting to unravel yet again due to continued dependency on his Man-Bat serum, which seems to be consuming more and more of his existence even as those in his support system held out hope that he'd find a way to get it under control. When that starts to feel a bit like a lost cause, Langstrom starts to fall apart, and as the cover of the issue promises, a meltdown begins that will have major ramifications for Langstrom, Batman, and potentially all of Gotham.
Comics like Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run and Al Ewing's recent triumph with Immortal Hulk prove time and time again that the monsters within superhero universes deserve a chance at introspective conflict amid all the comic book carnage, and that's exactly what Man-Bat feels like it's setting up here. Wielgosz's script sets the stage for something that's part creature feature, part existential struggle for one of the strangest and longest-serving Batman antagonists, and this first issue is dripping with potential for emotional payoff and horror-action setpieces. Kumar's art, including a beautifully executed Man-Bat design, walks the line established by this storytelling mode perfectly, delivering Langstrom's angst-laden face and the title creature's snarling visage with equal fervor. This has the potential to be something really special in the coming months.
Deep Beyond #1: Mirka Andolfo has been a hot streak lately, and this week that continues with the launch of Deep Beyond, a new 12-issue series co-written by Andolfo and David Goy with art by Andrea Broccardo that's part creature feature, part dystopian adventure, and part personal journey into a world where other humans might be just as deadly as the monsters lurking outside.
Deep Beyond is set in a future where humanity is forced inside, sealed off from the outside world, into pockets of survival that range from communal survival systems to dens of excess for the wealthy. All the while, certain key groups of scientists still work to get to the heart of what went wrong, and discover the secrets of the monstrous creatures that have taken over the surface world, even as something more terrifying than anything they've experienced so far might be lying in wait.
The first issue juggles multiple plot threads with deft grace, as Andolfo and Goy's script takes us from a chaotic high-society event gone wrong to a research lab beset to carnage to a scientist who encounters a secret that might change everything, and all the while the issue propels itself along without a hint of clunkiness. It's a thrilling, inventive, and layered first issue made all the more impactful by Broccardo's gorgeous art. His pages call upon him to do everything from designing futuristic survival suits to crafting monsters and alien-looking plant life to capturing the high emotions of key scenes, and he manages to make it all work through a combination of intense beauty and intense violence. The result is one of those debuts that makes you feel like you've just scratched the surface of a much bigger world you can't wait to get back to.
Maniac of New York #1: What if Jason Voorhees became an everday nightmare? What if the same regular anxiety we feel about the pandemic, or terrorist threats, of severe weather, were suddenly applied to a single superhuman maniac with a mask and a machete? That's the central hook of Maniac of New York, the new AfterShock Comics series from writer Elliott Kalan and artist Andrea Mutti, and it's as wild and compelling in execution as it is in theory.
After establishing the pattern of violence that led to this moment, the series picks up on New York City at a time when regular attacks from a being known as "Maniac Harry" have become so normal that sightings of him are announced with the same banality as subway maintenance closures. Harry's presence has numbed the city to the point that even the comics who are supposed to stop him have come to see their job as treading water, but will one intrepid task force leader be the cop who changes that?
So yeah, this is basically what would happen if Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Mahattan were a movie in which Jason actually took Manhattan, and I didn't realize that's everything I've ever wanted from a horror comic. Kalan's script is crackling with enthusiasm for the concept, to the point that you can feel the passion on the page and sense the level of care that's gone into designing this strange thrill ride. Mutti's art, from the design of Harry himself to the way the residents of the city have come to settle into life with him around, crackles with the same sense of enthusiastic purpose, and it creates something that feels positively addictive. This is a great idea executed with wit, and intelligence, and a sense of real popcorn movie pleasure laced with deeper commentary on our own indifference to everyday suffering, and I can't wait to keep reading it.
Specter Inspectors #1: This column has made my love for horror comics very clear, and I have a particular fondness for stories that aim to get younger readers into the weird and spooky, which is why I was looking forward to checking out BOOM! Box's new series Specter Inspectors. Written by Bowen McCurdy and Kaitlyn Musto with art by McCurdy, this series promises to explore what happens when a group of young ghost hunters stumble upon a haunting bigger than anything they'd imagined when they started their show. It did not disappoint.
The story begins as the Specter Inspectors -- Noa, Astrid, Gus, and Ko -- head to a notoriously haunted American town with the goal of producing their best episode yet and driving up online engagement for their ongoing adventures. What begins as another predictable ghost hunt that's more about energy than concrete evidence soon starts to come apart, as Noa and Astrid realize they're at odds with each other...and then everyone realizes something is very wrong in this town.
McCurdy and Musto's script is packed with humor and life to such a degree that each character in the quartet is instantly endearing. The book does a phenomenal job of establishing their roles within the group early and with real warmth, so that when the scares start to kick in they really land even beyond the visual impact. McCurdy's art builds on the sense of intimacy laid out in the script, imbuing each of the Specter Inspectors with a sense of fullness that many debuts struggle to reach, and the result is a wonderfully spooky, funny, joyous book that's a must-read for young and old scary story fans.
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."