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Beasts of Burden, Cold Spots, West Coast Avengers & More in Required Reading: Comics for 8/22/2018

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We’ve got just two Wednesdays left in the summer of 2018, and publishers are doing their best to send this sweaty season out with a bang. Marvel rolls out two new number-one issues, on the farthest ends of the spectrum when it comes to tone and intent. Legendary horror artist Kelley Jones returns to Gotham with a new Batman mini-series, perfect for fans uninterested in the Caped Crusader’s current ongoing adventures. Beloved supernatural animal property Beasts of Burden returns with a new fan-favorite artist in tow. Lisa Hanawalt brings her singular cartooning vision back to shelves with a longer story format than her recent works. What we’re trying to say is that this week offers a lil’ something for everyone, and you should just scroll on down to find out for yourself.


Batman: Kings of Fear #1
Writer: Scott Peterson
Artist: Kelley Jones
Publisher: DC Comics 
Just in time for the beginning of Batman Day celebrations, two of Gotham’s finest—former Batman editor Scott Peterson and veteran DC artist Kelley Jones—return to the character for a six-issue mini-series about how insecurity can eat away at even the strongest will. As the master of fear in the rogues’ gallery of a superhero who relies on fear to police his city, Scarecrow has a lot of potential as a fascinating mirror image to the caped crusader, but it often goes untapped. With the freedom to explore a story outside of current continuity, Jones and Peterson can push Batman to new and different limits, explore depths that are unplumbed in the current Bat-titles. With a low barrier of entry and a low investment of just six issues, this kind of mini-series can be just the thing to introduce the character, or even cape-and-cowl comics as a whole, to a new reader; it can also be a chance to become familiar with creators modern fans don’t know, but may want to research. Caitlin Rosberg


Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs & Eldritch Men #1
Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artist: Benjamin Dewey
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Beasts of Burden returns this week with a new series after a lengthy period filled exclusively with one-shot issues. Evan Dorkin once again writes the canine/feline adventure, joined by new artist Benjamin Dewey. With Jill Thompson’s watercolors defining so much of the previous books’ tone, it’s unavoidably disappointing to find her name missing from this outing, but Dewey’s experience with The Autumnlands and his work on I Was the Cat provide relevant reassurance for his ability to draw expressive, interesting animals. Beasts of Burden combines the best parts of some familiar tropes, giving voices to animals who have vowed to protect people from the supernatural dangers that they don’t even know about. The fact that the books are so thoroughly focused on the secret lives of pets gives the creative team opportunities to tell deeply emotional stories wrapped up in ghostly mysteries. Dorkin’s current work on Blackwood is just as spooky and fascinating as ever, and promises great things for this new series. Caitlin Rosberg


Cold Spots #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Mark Torres
Publisher: Image Comics 
Cullen Bunn churns out new horror concepts at a rate that could contest Stephen King in his prime, and this week’s new spook is Cold Spots with frequent IDW Publishing contributor Mark Torres. Cold spots—unexplained pockets of much colder temperatures—are common components of ghost stories, but Bunn and Torres take the concept a step farther into full-on freezing territory, and the solicit text teases elements of cosmic horror behind the frostiness. Torres’ stark, smoky style is a perfect fit for a ghost story, and Bunn, while almost detrimentally prolific, never seems more invested than when he’s crafting a new scare. Bonus: Cold Spots is a mini-series, which makes it a shorter commitment and lessens its chance of running out of steam (no temperature puns intended). Steve Foxe


Coyote Doggirl
Writer/Artist: Lisa Hanawalt
Publisher: Drawn + Quarterly
Lisa Hanawalt two previous books were both delightful, but they skipped around from story to story, with a lot of one-pagers and scattered jokes. When she expanded the length, her stuff didn’t suffer for it. That’s all a long way of saying that this is a single-narrative book, which is exciting! It’s also a western, in glorious color, with lots of excuses to paint horses. Hillary Brown


Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Mike Feehan
Publisher: DC Comics 
Well, no one expected this from DC Comics’ revival of its Hanna-Barbera properties. The ‘50s/’60s animation juggernaut churned out beloved property after beloved property, but wasn’t particularly known for the transgressive storytelling on display in DC’s Flintstones comic, for instance, which uses the charming, dinosaur-slave-labor-exploiting prehistoric family as a way to discuss class and workers’ rights, or Wacky Raceland, which transports the goofy drivers of Wacky Races to a post-apocalyptic wasteland. At the top of 2018, Flintstones writer Mark Russell returned to the H-B corner of DC with artist Mike Feehan for Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, a mini-series that envisions the pink mountain lion best known for exclaiming, “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” as a closeted gay playwright in New York during the “Red Scare” panic over communism. S.P., as he’s known, hobnobs with the real-world intellectual and cultural elite of the era while maintaining his hidden private life at venues like the historic Stonewall Inn gay bar. Exit Stage Left is frequently tough reading—life wasn’t a walk in the park for queer individuals of the era, feline or not—but it still stands out as one of 2018’s most thought-provoking surprises, and readers who missed the monthly installments—or who want to gift this highly unique book to a friend—can nab the complete trade this week. Steve Foxe


The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part Three
Writer: Michael Dante Dimartino
Artist: Irene Koh
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse’s three-part original graphic novel The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars serves as an official continuation for Korra, Asami and the rest of the cast from the fan-favorite Nickelodeon cartoon series, with co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino writing and fellow creator Bryan Konietzko providing consulting duties. Illustrated by artist Irene Koh with colors by Vivian Ng and gorgeous covers by Heather Campbell, Turf Wars follows the increasingly difficult divide between the spirit portal and the encroaching human world, while exploring the romance between Korra and Asami revealed in the cartoon’s groundbreaking finale. In the concluding chapter of Turf Wars, in comic stores this Wednesday, Asami is kidnapped, and Korra mast brave the Spirit Wilds to rescue her, despite the dangers in her way. The Legend of Korra has one of the most passionate fandoms in modern memory, and every self-respecting devotee will want to snag this final volume in Korra’s extended adventure. Steve Foxe


Planet of the Apes: Visionaries
Writer: Dana Gould
Artist: Chad Lewis
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
One of Paste’s most unexpectedly popular news posts this year was the announcement of Planet of the Apes: Visionaries, an original graphic novel that adapts Rod Serling’s original script for the classic film into full-color life—so we know there’s a rabid, waiting audience for this primate project. In Serling’s initial vision, Ape City was a bustling metropolis, not a circle of huts, and the apes wore casual clothes and took in the finer pleasures of life (beyond capturing damn dirty humans, that is). It’s not hard to guess why that expensive imagination didn’t make it to screen, but comedy writer Dana Gould and Avengers Origins artist Chad Lewis had a much less limited budget—namely, whatever Gould was willing and able to illustrate—in bringing the story to life for BOOM! Studios. Between this and Dark Horse’s adaptation of William Gibson’s Alien 3 script on the way, it’s a good time to be an infamous unrealized science-fiction treatment. Steve Foxe


The Punisher #1
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Szymon Kudranski
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Despite his popularity, the Punisher is a difficult character to like—and an even more challenging one to get right in an ongoing context. Divorced of his connection to the singularly traumatic experience of being an American soldier in Vietnam, an origin long since wiped away by sliding timelines, Frank Castle easily becomes a wet dream for men who think guns solve all problems. But go too far in the other direction, rooting the character in the brightly colored superhero antics of the Marvel Universe, and his audience seems to shrink away. Writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Szymon Kudranski look to thread that needle with this latest volume, placing the Punisher in opposition to Hydra and other threats specific to the Marvel U., while still leaning into the classic vision of Castle as a man in a trench coat walking into the room guns blazing. Rosenberg wrote the previous volume as well, which saw Castle take to the skies in co-opted War Machine armor. Kudranski brings a photo-realistic style to the book that looks like Tim Bradstreet’s iconic covers come to life; while some may find it stiff, it does help to marry the zanier elements of the series with the down-to-Earth tone of the Punisher’s most beloved stories. If you’re a fan of any iteration of the skull-logo vigilante, The Punisher #1 is doing its best to meet you in the middle. Steve Foxe


Stairway Vol. 1
Writer: Matt Hawkins
Artist: Raffaele Ienco
Publisher: Top Cow/ Image Comics 
The first in a series of graphic novels, Stairway was originally launched as a Kickstarter project by Image imprint Top Cow last year and, building on that initial success, the book arrives in local comic shops this Wednesday. Written by Matt Hawkins, one of the minds behind Postal and Think Tank, Stairway is a story about technological advances and scientific discoveries with the potential to go very wrong, depending on the hands in which they end up. When a researcher finds information that’s been encoded into what’s often called “junk” DNA—genetic blueprints that appear to do nothing—those in the know scramble to figure out exactly what it means. It’s a tale of science, ethics and capitalism and the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. Artist Raffaele Ienco is fresh off a digital-first DC Comics mini-series, Batman: Sins of the Father, so this is perfect timing for any new fans of his to check out more of his work. Image is experimenting more and more with the straight-to-trade idea, as Motor Crush, Moonstruck and now Stairway demonstrate, giving books and readers who prefer that format a better chance of finding each other. Caitlin Rosberg


West Coast Avengers #1
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Kelly Thompson continues to expand her empire at Marvel, launching West Coast Avengers with a cast that’s a mix of the new and the familiar. America Chavez, Gwenpool and Kid Omega join both Hawkeyes and Fuse for new adventures all up and down the West Coast—a road less travelled in the NYC-centric Marvel Universe. Thompson is coming off a successful solo run for Kate Bishop, and she’s earned a reputation for fun stories that are full of heart and hijinks. She’s joined by Marvel mainstay Stefano Caselli, whose bright and vibrant work helped to inform Riri Williams’ tenure as Iron Heart in Invincible Iron Man. Many of Marvel’s most popular legacy characters have been benched in the last few months, so it’s exciting to see several of them back for a team book under the fan-favorite West Coast Avengers banner, especially with a writer like Thompson at the helm. With members like these, there’s little doubt that the group will get into plenty of trouble as they do their best to save others. Now if we could only get the Great Lakes Avengers back, too… Caitlin Rosberg

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