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Scarlet, House Amok, Looney Tunes Crossovers & More in Required Reading: Comics for 8/29/2018

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Summer is over. Summer. Is. Over. It’s hard to process, even if you welcome the end of endless heat waves, but thankfully, this week offers up a relatively lighthearted batch of comics to send August out with a bang. Months with five Wednesdays typically find comic publishers filling this fifth week with annuals, one-shots and odds and ends, and this week is no exception. As has become something of a summer tradition, DC Comics offers up four crossover specials between its legendary superhero icons and some of its most beloved cartoon characters. The Black Crown imprint kicks off its latest series, House Amok, and Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Scarlet returns for a brand-new tour of duty. Marvel is light on launches this week, but its ongoing Wolverine saga reaches something of a mid-arc conclusion, and a fan-favorite Spider-Man character makes her long-awaited second starring appearance. All of this and more await you below in this week’s (and summer’s final) Required Reading.


Batman: A Lot of Li’l Gotham
Writers: Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Publisher: DC Comics 
Many modern fans may be most familiar with Dustin Nguyen through his work with Jeff Lemire on Descender, where Nguyen’s skilled watercolors defined a massive worldbuilding effort and created deeply emotional robotic moments over the last three years. But Nguyen is also one of the minds behind Batman: Li’l Gotham, a bright and fun digital-first all-ages title that ran from 2013 to 2014. This week’s release of Batman: A Lot of Li’l Gotham collects all 12 issues that Nguyen made with co-writer Derek Fridolfs, a DC veteran with a slew of Batman writing credits (and Nguyen’s frequent inking partner). Though the book is in Nguyen’s familiar watercolor, it’s both sharper and softer than much of Nguyen’s other work. Firm lines are featured where in other work Nguyen uses color and white space, and the characters are drawn a little closer to caricatures than usual, focused on expressions and motion rather than muscles and scowls. The adventures are sweet and lighthearted but firmly rooted in DC canon, and the book serves as an excellent primer for kids who have graduated from picture books but might not be quite ready to dive in to the main continuity—or adults who want some continuity-free Bat-fun. Caitlin Rosberg


Beyonders #1
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Wesley St. Claire
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Paul Jenkins’ tenure at AfterShock Comics has been marked by good intentions but substantial shortcomings. His newest series, Beyonders with Fu Jitsu artist Wesley St. Claire, looks to be much more comfortably within his wheelhouse. The young protagonist is obsessed with crop circles and other paranormal phenomena, and receives the ultimate validation: it turns out all of his favorite conspiracies are true. We don’t know much more about Beyonders’ plot beyond the presence of a “one-eyed, flatulent Welsh Corgi,” but what more do you really need to know? St. Claire’s fluid cartooning should lend a fun, animated bent to both the farting hound and the supernatural secrets unconcerned by Beyonders’ cast. Steve Foxe


Catwoman/Tweety & Sylvester Special #1
Writers: Gail Simone, Shea Fontana
Artists: Inaki Miranda, Walter Carzon
Publisher: DC Comics 
The mash-ups that brought Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera characters onto the same pages as well-loved DC Comics mainstays have continued to be one of the unexpected joys of the last few years. It’s a comics event that doesn’t create all of the same issues that traditional summer events do: no massive shifts in continuity or confusing crossover issues to keep track of, no super-fights, just one-shot comics written and drawn with the intention of telling a self-contained, typically funny story. Now that Catwoman is finally enjoying her own solo title again, it’s nice to see her participating in this round of mash-ups, especially with a main story written by Gail Simone and drawn by Inaki Miranda. Though the price tag is a little high at $4.99, it’s almost 50 pages of content and includes a backup story by Shea Fontana and Walter Carzon. With Selina teaming up with Sylvester to catch Tweety, and the canary recruiting a mystery ally of his own, it’s bound to be a wild, ridiculous ride. Also out this week: Harley Quinn/Gossamer Special #1 and The Joker/Daffy Duck Special #1. Caitlin Rosberg


Edge of Spider-Geddon #2
Writers: Zac Thompson & Lonnie Nadler, Gerard Way
Artist: Alberto Alburquerque
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
The Spider-Man-centric crossover Spider-Verse served as the genesis of a number of popular new arachnid-themed characters, from Spider-Gwen to SP//dr, the latter of whom returns to comics this week in the run-up to Spider-Geddon. Created by Umbrella Academy writer Gerard Way and artist Jake Wyatt, SP//dr transports the Peter Parker story into a Neon Genesis Evangelion-inspired mecha setting. Scripting Peni Parker this go-around is the Come Into Me duo of Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler, recently off of Cable and preparing for a run of Apocalype back-ups in October’s X-Men Black mini-series. Alberto Albuquerque, who contributed to the similarly teen-focused Generation X, steps in to fill Jake Wyatt’s estimable shoes. No matter your interest in Spider-Geddon, this prelude issue is worth the investment for more of Way’s fan-favorite Spider-creation. Steve Foxe


House Amok #1
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist: Shawn McManus
Publisher: Black Crown/ IDW Publishing
The first wave of Black Crown comics may be finished, but the second is just starting to gain speed as titles like Euthanauts (second issue out this week) build speed. Writer Christopher Sebela is vying for the title of busiest man in comics, with Crowded, Shanghai Red and now House Amok all on shelves simultaneously. House Amok revolves around a young girl whose family has embraced delusions and conspiracy theories that cause them to enact extraordinary violence as they try to defend themselves from their invisible enemies. Dylan, just 10 years old, is caught up in the whirlwind of terror that their madness has created, and while House Amok sounds like it will tread far darker paths than some of Sebela’s other work, the question of what is real and what isn’t still remains. Sean McManus’s experience on Vertigo titles like Fables and Sandman Presents bodes well for fans of horror and larger-than-life hallucinations, and with Lee Loughridge on colors readers are all but guaranteed a book that will be a visual joy, even if it’s deeply unsettling. Caitlin Rosberg


The Hunt for Wolverine: Dead Ends #1
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Ramon Rosanas
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Are we being punked? Is this issue really called Dead Ends? The Hunt for Wolverine event meandered through four distinct mini-series, none of which offered much in the way of Wolverine information, making Dead Ends much too apt a title. Still, writer Charles Soule and artist Ramon Rosanas do an admirable job recapping and connecting the four mini-series in this bookend, and finally progress the core Logan mystery in the issue’s final pages. Dead Ends is by no means essential reading, but if you followed the rest of the event—or want a tidy wrap-up of the Hunt for Wolverine saga before the new Wolverine ongoing series debuts—then Dead Ends is a solid use of your $4.99. Steve Foxe


Lex Luthor/Porky Pig Special #1
Writers: Mark Russell, Jim Fanning
Artists: Brad Walker, John Loter
Publisher: DC Comics 
Last summer, the Batman/Elmer Fudd Special issue was a breakout hit from a run of books that put cartoon characters into panels alongside some of DC’s most recognizable names. This year, Mark Russell and Brad Walker’s take on Lex Luthor and Porky Pig is poised to steal that same spotlight. Russell’s work on The Flintstones and the recently concluded Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles have earned him a reputation for writing evocative and thought-provoking comics by leveraging totally unexpected characters to tell difficult stories. This one-shot issue takes Lex Luthor back to his capitalist roots, crafting an adventure that focuses on Luthor’s business and Porky Pig’s new role in it. Artist Brad Walker and inker Andrew Hennessy have teamed up on titles like Aquaman and The Demon: Hell is Earth, and they’re a skillful duo who know how to work together smoothly. There’s even a backup story written by Jim Fanning and drawn by John Loter, who also did the backup for the Martian Manhunter/Marvin the Martian Special last year. Caitlin Rosberg


Scarlet #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Publisher: Jinxworld/ DC Comics 
The second of four announced titles from Brian Michael Bendis’ Jinxworld imprint at DC Comics, Scarlet reunites the series’ original creative team for a new-reader-friendly kickoff issue. Frequent Bendis collaborator Alex Maleev, most recently of Infamous Iron Man, rejoins Bendis for a fully painted saga of a woman pushed too far, and the government that will do anything to stop her. Bendis’ creator-owned books can occasionally suffer from too much decompression, but Scarlet is a tale he and Maleev have been telling on and off for eight years now, and eager new readers have two previous trades they can pick up if Scarlet #1 leaves them dying for more. Steve Foxe


Sugar Vol. 1
Writers: Matt Hawkins & Jenni Cheung
Artist: Yishan Li
Publisher: Top Cow/ Image Comics 
For those familiar with his work because of Aquaman or even the fanart he’s done of other DC characters, it may be a surprise to learn that Stjepan Šeji?’s most prolific work is actually a queer BDSM romance comic called Sunstone. Šeji? has worked with his wife Linda Lukši? Šeji? to complete five volumes of the comic, which contains three of the four planned story arcs. After the success of Sunstone, spinoff Swing was published straight to trade in May of this year, written by Matt Hawkins and Jenni Cheung with art by Linda Šeji?; as might be expected with the name, it focused on a couple trying swinging. Sugar is the second such spinoff series, and the first without a Šeji? on the creative team. Hawkins and Cheung return and are joined by artist Yishan Li. Li’s previous work has mostly been in manhua, or Chinese comics, and Cheung is a newcomer to the industry outside of her experience with Swing and Sugar. Hawkins isn’t exactly known for his romance work, but he is an Image veteran, and it’s gratifying to see Image invest time and talent into romance and erotica, two genres that the publisher, and indeed most mainstream American comics publishers, have ignored despite their popularity. Like Swing, Sugar’s title is a bit literal: the characters in this book begin their relationship as a sugarbaby/sugardaddy, and things get complicated. Caitlin Rosberg


Web of Venom: Ve’nam #1
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Juanan Ramirez
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Look, we’re not proud of typing “Ve’nam,” but Marvel has forced our hands, and there’s no denying that Donny Cates’s reinvention of Spider-Man antagonist-cum-antihero Venom has struck a chord with readers. Cates’s work in the main title involves a substantial reworking of symbiote history on Earth, and Web of Venom: Ve’nam is the first companion series designed to flesh out this new back-story. During the Vietnam war, known haver-of-good-ideas Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. sought a way to turn the tide in his favor. His answer: the precursor to Eddie Brock’s Venom suit. Joining Cates on this Full Symbiote Jacket flashback is artist Juanan Ramirez, who offers his own spin on the Venom aesthetic established by Ryan Stegman on the main title. If Venom’s new mythology doesn’t interest you, Venom: The First Host also kicks off this week, telling a new Venom tale removed from Cates’s ongoing saga. Steve Foxe

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