'Thumbnail' is a new recurring feature on ComicsAlliance in which we invite our writers to reflect on comic book details that deserve a little extra attention, whether it's a favorite character, and artistic choice, or a striking page. For this installment, John Parker looks at Criminal artist Sean Phillips' unusual affinity for beautiful and realistically rendered cars.
If you're getting a sense of deja vu right now, that's because you actually have read this article before. Right before the latest volume of Batman: Black & White began back in 2013, ComicsAlliance published a list of the ten best stories in the celebrated anthology series. But the fourth volume was really, really good, and included some stories strong enough to be considered among the very best.
Making a new version of that same list with just a few replacements would be cheating you, and require me to read my own writing (ecch). So instead, we're just going to stick with the 'ten best' thing. Here are the highlights from the latest volume of Black & White, and a few that were barely edged out of the first list. Will there be another version of this article after the next volume? You bet your ass. We're gonna stay here until we get this right, people.
Hollywood just can't keep its grubby little hands off of our stuff. Last week it was announced that Sony Pictures snapped up the rights to Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen's Descender well before the book's March publication, a practice becoming more common. This type of announcement may cause consternation among some, but you have to take it on a case-by-case basis: If anything Mark Millar writes gets a deal before publication, please, be offended; in all other circumstances, reserve judgment until a "professional" receives an advance copy and dictates your opinion to you. (This is my new persona: hated.)
Descender, on its way from Image in March, is epic, intelligent, and full of heart, and it looks like Sony was right on the money for once.
In common with a fairly significant chunk of the comics community, Brian K. Vaughan was in New York on September 11th, 2001, and witnessed the events of that day first-hand. Sublimating his experiences into his art, Vaughan penned Ex Machina, a modern masterpiece that used an alternate version of 9/11 to explore America's relationships with its heroes. But just as the long-term effects of September 11th are still palpable, Vaughan has continued to explore the anxieties of post-9/11 American throughout his work.
Who doesn't love a good postmodern murder mystery? Boring people, that's who. Dull, uninspired, abandoned buildings pretending to be human beings who prefer their detective stories to be streamlined and logical, with a series of clues that can be interpreted to lead to a definite answer, and no funny business with fragmentation, parallel narratives, or the sudden appearance of the author in their own story.
If, however, you're an interesting, exciting, attractive person with an undeniable elan, Vertigo's Bodies might be more your style. Written by Si Spencer and drawn by a team of four artists, Bodies takes place in four distinct time periods ranging from the 19th century to the far future, where four detectives investigate four identical murder cases. Not just identical in that it's the same M.O., with the exact same injuries and found in the exact same spot throughout time; identical in that, over a span of 160 years, it's the same body.
Having been one of the creators who saved superhero comics in the 1990s, it can be difficult to think of Kurt Busiek as anything other than a superhero comic writer. But between all of his high-profile runs on big Marvel and DC books and undisputed classics Marvels and Astro City, Busiek has frequently played in the fantasy genre with great results. If you've never read The Wizard's Tale, Arrowsmith, or his run on Conan, you've been missing out on an aspect of Busiek's all-world talent that shouldn't be overlooked, and it's time to getcha life right.
Created by Busiek and Benjamin Dewey (I Was The Cat), Tooth & Claw is a fantasy about the end of magic, a mythical hero, and a dog-boy named Dunstan. And somehow, given all those words I just typed, it's also a dark Mature Readers comic about the suddenness and finality of death.
With a new hardcover omnibus of Alias by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, Marvel re-releases one of the most critically successful comics of the early 2000s. Apart from its various awards nominations and wins, it was one of just a few comics that everybody seemed to love, during an era when Marvel was equal parts creatively daring and ridiculously misguided. The first comic published under the mature readers MAX imprint, Alias officially broke ground on Marvel's R-rated label with an emphatic F-word, which immediately strikes one as both obvious and necessary. Unlike many other titles that sprung from the MAX imprint, though, Alias went far beyond than the gimmick of sex and cuss words in the Marvel Universe, and was easily one of the most readable comics on the stands for its entire twenty-eight-issue run.
That's just my memory, though, and I wouldn't exactly describe it as sharp. So how good is it on a re-read? Particularly as Marvel prepares a new live-action Netflix series based on the book, and has hinted as recently as last week that Jessica might be "getting back to work".
The way things are going, it's won't be much longer before we start referring to Image Comics as "that European sci-fi publisher.... but American." Over the last few years, Image has been host to a string of challenging and offbeat titles with strong Euro SF influences, and so far they've all been exceptional. With the combined comics goodness of Saga, Prophet, Nowhere Men, Black Science, and Starlight, stylish science fiction is trending upwards, and with Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein's forthcoming Drifter, the trend continues.
In advance of the November release of Drifter #1 (final order cutoff is next week, for you pre-orderers and retailers), Image has provided ComicsAlliance with an advance copy of the book, and boy, is it purdy.
When you consider the entire history of Magneto, it's pretty ridiculous. He's been assumed dead at least half-a-dozen times; he's probably flip-flopped from villain to hero more times than that; and he's been resurrected as both a Nelson-haired clone (millennials: Google "Nelson band" to get how funny that is) and a star-headed Taoist. Mistakes have been made with the character; mistakes so big that the character's retcons and course-corrections have diminished his stature, leaving readers to wonder; Just who the hell is Magneto?
In Marvel's Magneto, by Cullen Bunn, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Javier Fernandez, and Jordie Bellaire, that question is finally getting a good answer.
On its own, the police procedural doesn't have that much traction within modern comics. In the early days of the medium -- especially in newspaper strips -- it was a different story, and straight-up police tales were among some of the most popular of the day. A little over a decade ago, though, everybody seemed to realize the potential to mix police procedurals with other genres, frequently to fantastic and award-winning results: Alan Moore and Gene Ha's Top Ten; Gotham Central, by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark and others; and Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. Those books realized the natural fit that cop stories had within superhero stories, and thus a sub-genre was born.
But there's still plenty of room left for cop shows in comics, and over the last few years, the sci-fi procedural has definitely been in its ascendance. With Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood's The Fuse, we have a new standard by which to judge all others.