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Extermination, Pearl, Crowded & More in Required Reading: Comics for 8/15/2018

Comics Lists Required Reading
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We’re smack-dab in the middle of August and those of us not drowning in our own sweat are drowning in sequential-art goodness. Marvel Comics leads the week with the X-Men event Extinction and a Cable/Deadpool reunion perfect for fans new or old, but don’t count out the other publishers: DC Comics’ Jinxworld imprint officially begins with Pearl, the highly anticipated Crowded #1 hits shelves, Ice Cream Man fiddles with form to great success and original graphic novels like Idle Days, Sanpaku and Sheets offer summer reads to those of us who don’t care for the pace of monthly comics. Wipe off your brow and dig into this week’s Required Reading.


Cable/Deadpool Annual #1
Writer: David F. Walker
Artists: Paco Diaz, Various
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
David F. Walker’s tenure at Marvel has been marked by excellent comics that were cancelled long before their time: with Stanford Greene on Power Man & Iron Fist, Ramon Villalobos on Nighthawk and Carlos Pacheco and Gabriel Hernandez Walta on Occupy Avengers. Walker has a reputation for sharply observant comics with a clear ethical and political viewpoint that still leaves room for nuance and difference, so seeing his name attached to a one-shot issue for Cable/Deadpool is intriguing. These two characters have a long history, but haven’t shared a title like this in over a decade. Their stories tend to be full of time travel, hijinks and ridiculous humor, so it will be interesting to see how Walker integrates some of his overarching themes into this issue, if at all. Marvel has assembled a host of guest artists for this issue, while Paco Diaz takes on the bulk of the art responsibilities. He’s a Marvel veteran with Deadpool experience and a clean, dynamic style that’s well suited for the kinds of over-the-top adventures Wade and Nate often find themselves in. With a stellar creative team and a low barrier to entry given that it’s a single issue, this is an pick that old-school fans and recent movie converts alike should pick up.Caitlin Rosberg


Crowded #1
Writer: Christopher Sebala
Artists: Ro Stein & Ted Brandt
Publisher: Image Comics 
As the lines between online and in-person continue to blur, the consequences of fame have changed, with bigger and more dangerous stakes. Writer Christopher Sebela has already explored some sticky questions of morality and infamy in books like Blue Beetle, Dead Letters and Injustice, but Crowded is a different kind of book with a stickier question. It pushes past the question of what happens if we rank people online—a scary enough prospect that’s been bubbling up around the world in real life—and asks what if we could crowdfund assassinations for people who piss us off. Instead of a campaign to help someone pay for life-saving medical treatment or to create the next big fidget cube, Crowded offers up a world where professional killers can be hired directly through a website that collects money from anyone who wants to contribute. It’s internet mob mentality at its worst, taken to a logical, if extreme, conclusion. The book stars the target of one of these professional hits and the private contractor hired to protect her. Artistic duo Ro Stien and Ted Brandt have contributed to a couple of individual issues here and there at Marvel, but Crowded is their first starring role, and they’ve come prepared. The team assembled to tell this story is sharp and skilled, and Crowded couldn’t be more timely. Caitlin Rosberg


Extermination #1
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
X-Men fans have been through enough over the last 10 years that the announcement of a book called Extermination prompted as many weary sighs and wary pearl-clutches as it did excited gasps. Short teasers running in the backs of other X-Men comics this summer have helped set up this event’s plot: the continued presence of the teenaged original five X-Men in the current timeline is causing increasingly dire future consequences, and an ultimatum is upon the mutant population to deal with it. Frankly, it’s shocking that the O5 cast lasted this long in the current continuity, and if Extermination does succeed in sending them home, it’ll be a bummer to lose unashamedly gay Iceman, confident and independent Jean Grey, magic-abusing Beast and a teen Cyclops who’s earnestly doing his best not to grow up into a douchebag (teen Angel, much like adult Angel whenever he doesn’t have blue skin and metal wings, is handsome and superfluous). Writer Ed Brisson has done a solid job steering Old Man Logan and artist Pepe Larraz has quietly grown into one of Marvel’s most dependable straightforward superhero artists. We know Uncanny X-Men is a round the corner and serving as a de facto event comic, so it’ll be curious to see how (and if) Extermination wraps up the Original Five plotline before the franchise pivots to its next world-ending threat. Steve Foxe


Giant Days Novel
Writer: Non Pratt
Publisher: Amulet Books
Along with Lumberjanes, Giant Days has acted as a cornerstone for BOOM!’s wide-appeal and YA-friendly offerings, a dependable and excellent title that consistently earns plaudits from critics and fans alike. Now Giant Days is branching out into prose storytelling in the same universe with a novel by writer Non Pratt starring Daisy, Esther and Susan. This isn’t the first time that creator John Allison’s characters have jumped mediums, of course; Esther was a regular part of his webcomic universe before she appeared in print, but the leap to a prose novel feels much bigger and in some ways riskier, particularly as written by someone other than Allison himself. Pratt has a growing reputation in the YA world with her 2014 novel Trouble launching her into the industry and garnering praise for the way it tackled tough topics like teen pregnancy. The chance to introduce Giant Days to the massive YA audience is an exciting prospect, and just getting more of the cast’s internal lives will be a draw for fans and new readers alike. The novel is set earlier in the young women’s relationship than the comics, with Daisy becoming a bit too involved in a yoga group until Esther and Susan make efforts to free her from their flexible clutches. Caitlin Rosberg


Ice Cream Man #6
Writer: W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Publisher: Image Comics 
Though Kickstarters and independent publishing abound with anthology comics, larger publishers hesitate to embrace the non-sequential storytelling that affords creative teams and readers opportunities to dive in and out of narratives at will without losing track of what’s going on. Ice Cream Man is one of the few titles to buck that trend, as the creative team of W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Morazzo and Chris O’Halloran deliver unexpected and compelling stories in each issue with only minimal connection between them. Comparisons to The Twilight Zone are entirely earned: each issue offers up a new horror, linked by a single man who weaves himself into the story while offering up only hints at his real role in the proceedings. The sixth issue marks a new kind of experiment: a single narrative with three different perspectives with the appropriate title of “Strange Neapolitan.” Diving in for this single issue lacking context from the first five should be easy, but readers who do will likely want to go back to read them all. Caitlin Rosberg


Idle Days
Writer: Thomas Desaulniers-Brousseau
Artist: Simon Leclerc
Publisher: First Second
While publisher First Second has a reputation for all-ages comics, their publishing slate is one of the most varied in the industry, with books like Idle Days existing several steps removed from bright-and-bubbly middle-grade fare. Protagonist Jerome is a military deserter in WWII Canada, hiding out at his grandfather’s remote farm in the wake of his father’s violent death. The guest house and the woods around the farm both drip with menace, the reverberations of dark deeds of the past. Simon Leclerc’s impressionistic, painterly artwork dives headlong into the autumn and winter colors of rural Canada, bringing to mind the golden days of painted Vertigo comics by the likes of Kent Williams, Duncan Fegredo, Dave McKean and John Bolton. As summer turns to fall, Idle Days is an ideal, menacing-but-not-outright-horror read. Steve Foxe


Mysticons Vol. 1
Writer: Kate Leth
Artist: Megan Levens
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics has reunited the team behind the charming magical mystery miniseries Spell on Wheels for a brand-new middle-grade OGN based on Nickelodeon’s animated series Mysticons. The series itself is a blend of magical girl conventions with Dungeons & Dragons lore, featuring four girls who stumble onto a powerful magical item that transforms them into super-powered guardians charged with putting an end to a legendary evil. It’s a tale as old as time, but if there’s anyone who can deliver a fun, fresh take on the genre, it’s writer Kate Leth, artist Megan Levens and colorist Marissa Louise. Leth’s previous take on the genre with Matt Cummings, Power Up!, was a delightful twist on shoujo conventions, and if the promise of twin bikers and drag-racing circuits is any indication, this team is poised to bring the same humor to the first Mysticons OGN this week. Levens and Louise did fantastic work together on Spell on Wheels, and it’ll be fun to see them take on an urban fantasy setting even less grounded in the “real” world. C.K. Stewart


Pearl #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Publisher: DC Comics 
During Paste’s illuminating chat with Brian Michael Bendis in June, two things became clear: surviving a near-death experience has the prolific creator more excited and grateful than ever to be working, and he’s using that newfound excitement to put out original books with his friends and closest collaborators. Pearl is one of two brand-new creator-owned titles from Bendis debuting under the DC Comics banner, and it finds him reunited with his Alias/Jessica Jones partner Michael Gaydos. Gaydos, like fellow Bendis collaborators Alex Maleev and David Mack, relies heavily on photo-reference and life models, and Pearl can at times feel like some sort of cinema-book adapted from film stills. The first issue highlights Bendis’ trademark decompressed storytelling; we meet a tattoo artist with porcelain skin and discover that she knows her way around a gun, but learn little else about the yakuza tension brewing under the surface. Bendis fans know how the man operates, though, and he and Gaydos are clearly invested in building a new world together, unrestrained by ties to an existing universe. Also included at no extra cost is a short Batman story from 2000—Bendis’ sole pre-Marvel-contract DC Comics story that just so happened to be drawn by Gaydos. Steve Foxe


Sanpaku
Writer/Artist: Kate Gavino
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Sanpaku is the kind of book that’s tough to nail down, though at least part of that seems to be a marketing problem. The word sanpaku is Japanese, meaning a belief that being able to see the white of a person’s eyes on three sides around their iris indicates they are doomed. Many of the initial announcements about Kate Gavino’s new book focused solely on that word and its meaning, as if that was all Sanpaku had to offer. Instead, the book tells a host of intersecting stories, with a girl’s sanpaku obsession serving as the string that ties them all together rather than the central plot. Though the book is written in the first person and draws from Gavino’s own experiences, it is not a memoir. Gavino works in black and white, each page featuring a different background pattern, and renders individual characters in detailed but slightly stiff and sketchy lines; character features and reactions are often outsized, and it lends a sense that the reader is getting a peek into a journal or diary drawn by a young girl as she experiences conflict and discovery alike. Caitlin Rosberg


Sheets
Writer/Artist: Brenna Thummler
Publisher: Lion Forge
As Lion Forge continues to expand their offerings for kids and teens, a slew of new books and fresh talent have started to appear on shelves. Brenna Thummler, a talented artist who previously contributed to a graphic novel adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, is one of those fresh faces. Sheets is her first lengthy solo work: the story of a young girl who feels invisible and the ghost who threatens to turn her life upside down. The feeling of being an unseen occupant in your own story is something a lot of teens, especially girls, are familiar with, thanks to school, family and the changes that growing up brings. But Marjorie has the extra pressure of helping with her family’s laundromat, which is haunted by the ghost of a young boy named Wendell. Marjorie and Wendell’s needs and wants end up in direct conflict, and the book tracks how they change individually and together, as a relationship born out of proximity changing into something different. The book has already been praised by YA and children’s literature giants like Brian Selznick and looks wonderful rendered in Thummler’s bright and charming style, not quite cartoonish but still appealing and playful and colorful. Caitlin Rosberg

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