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Border Town, Bully Wars, The Dreaming & More in Required Reading: Comics for 9/5/2018

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If we’re being brutally honest, August went out with a bit of a whimper in its fifth week—but September is here to blow the doors of your local comic shop clean off. Two new Brian Michael Bendis series, a Thor/Guardians of the Galaxy mash-up, the first ongoing Sandman series of the modern era, Margaret Atwood’s sophomore comic outing and a fresh start for the beloved Vertigo imprint all line shelves this week, alongside a highly anticipated Image Comics launch, a much-requested trade collection of a digital series and an origin story for fiction’s most enduring super-spy. It’s not quite fall just yet—it’ll be in the ‘90s here in NYC most of the week—but there’s no denying that, in the publishing world, the seasons are turning (turn, turn, turn) for the better.


Asgardians of the Galaxy #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Marvel’s announcement of the upcoming Donny Cates/Geoff Shaw Guardians of the Galaxy relaunch takes the cosmic wind out of Asgardians of the Galaxy’s sails just a tad—even if it was clear that this Infinity Wars spin-off was never truly intended to fill the gap left behind by Gerry Duggan & Co.’s GotG series. Writer Cullen Bunn and artist Matteo Lolli have gathered a who’s-who of whoever isn’t in Jason Aaron’s ongoing Thor saga to track down Thanos’ cast-out cyborg daughter, Nebula. At least former Spawn character Angela leads the team in a welcome return from the limbo she found herself in after the conclusion of her last solo series. Marvel sent advance copies of this first issue to a select number of retailers this past weekend, resulting in spoilers aplenty surrounding the final page’s shocking return. We won’t reveal the book’s secret cast member here, but suffice to say that fans of Asgardian lore from the last decade may not want to write this one off. Steve Foxe


Border Town #1
Writer: Eric M. Esquivel
Artist: Ramon Villalobos
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics 
The Sandman Universe #1 officially marked the revival of Vertigo last month, but the imprint’s true 25th-anniversary overhaul begins this week with Border Town #1, the first of seven announced new series debuting between now and early 2019. Like most of those other books, Border Town assembles a team with little Vertigo experience under its collective belt: writer Eric M. Esquivel, artist Ramon Villalobos and colorist Tamra Bonvillain. Set in Arizona, Border Town takes the concept of a border up a notch by ripping a hole in reality, spilling forth the monsters of Mexican folklore. It falls on a ragtag band of high-school misfits to defend the residents of this Arizona ‘burb, even when the demonic mutilations start getting blamed on “illegals.” Villalobos, who found a wider audience with Marvel’s Nighthawk, is the real draw here: his fresh spin on Frank Quitely-esque aesthetics is a perfect fit for Border Town’s premise, and it’s a delight to have his interior work gracing shelves again in a regular basis. Steve Foxe


Bully Wars #1
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Aaron Conley
Publisher: Image Comics 
Skottie Young’s deliriously violent I Hate Fairyland was one of Image Comics’ most beloved and successful ongoing comics during its run, and now Young is back with Sabertooth Swordsman artist Aaron Conley for Bully Wars, billed as an “all-ages Freaks and Geeks meets Hunger Games…without the killing.” Set in the forebodingly named Rottenville, Bully Wars follows new freshman Spencer and his lifelong bully, Rufus, as they form an uneasy alliance to help Rufus compete in the “Bully Wars,” a challenge to establish the pecking order in their new school. Will Rufus rise to the raucous occasion or will he join Spencer down on the bottom rung? Nab the first issue this week to find out. Steve Foxe


Cover #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Mack
Publisher: Jinxworld/ DC Comics 
It’s a twofer week for Brian Michael Bendis’ Jinxworld imprint at DC Comics; in addition to new series Cover with David Mack, this Wednesday sees the return of United States of Murder, Inc. (the “now” replaced by “vs.”) with frequent collaborator Michael Avon Oeming. While the new volume is billed as an entry for new readers, you probably already know if USoM, Inc. is up your alley. Cover, on the other hand, is brand-new, and one of Bendis’ most enticing original concepts yet. Drawing on his and Mack’s real-world experience working on behalf of the U.S. government abroad (although not, as far as we know, in espionage roles), Cover introduces a cast of comic creators tapped by the C.I.A. to serve American interests during overseas conventions. One part spy thriller, one part love letter to the comic industry, Cover has the potential to catch Bendis at his best—and who can pass up David Mack interior art following all of his stunning cover work Steve Foxe


Crystal Fighters Vol. 1
Writers: Jen Bartel & Tyler Bartel
Artist: Jen Bartel
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Crystal Fighters is a reissue, but one that’s been a long time coming. Previously released as a serial on digital comic app Stela, Crystal Fighters follows Stella, a young gamer who stumbles into a magical-girl fight club that exists beneath the squeaky-clean, kid-friendly exterior of the virtual world in which she’s grown up. Dark Horse Comics is collecting the full series as a trade paperback, translated from the app’s vertical-scroll layout. There’s nobody better suited to drawing a literal magical-girl gang than Jen Bartel—her eye for vibrant and wild color combos rivals even Lisa Frank, and she does a fantastic job capturing the wide-ranging aesthetic of the virtual reality in which Stella spends much of her days. Whether it’s the sugary sweet titular Crystal Fighters game or the more rough-and-tumble underground Stella unexpectedly stumbles into, Bartel delivers amazing designs that fans of her work will absolutely love. C.K. Stewart


The Dreaming #1
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Bilquis Evely
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics 
Of the four new Sandman Universe titles that debuted in the same-named one-shot last month, readers got the best look at The Dreaming, which served as a framing story for the other three tales. Writer Simon Spurrier, artist Bilquis Evely, colorist Mat Lopes and letterer Simon Bowland worked in perfect lockstep to bring Sandman devotees back into a realm both familiar and changed. Spurrier’s writing on titles like Cry Havoc and the current Coda handily prove why he was the right voice to follow—not imitate—Neil Gaiman, but it’s the team of Evely and Lopes who steal the show this issue; every page of their work feels like an event, something not meant for a “mere” monthly comic. If future issues continue to meet this standard of storytelling, then the Sandman Universe is in good hands. Steve Foxe


James Bond: Origin #1
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Bob Q
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Dynamite’s James Bond program has rarely missed a beat, even if it hasn’t commanded as many headlines since writer Warren Ellis told his 12 issues and bounced. This week, Dynamite kicks off one of its most ambitious 007 stories yet, James Bond: Origin. Set in 1941 at the height of Europe’s involvement in World War II, Origin tells the definitive story of Ian Fleming’s original super spy’s first days in the service of her Majesty. Batman ‘66 writer Jeff Parker and Green Hornet staple Bob Q make for an able team, adept at matching the era’s voice and look without skimping on action set-pieces. While the audience for vintage Bond may not meet the demand for cutting-edge super-spy action, Dynamite’s willingness to explore all facets of the franchise can only be considered a boon to 007 fans. Steve Foxe


Old Man Logan Annual #1
Writers: Ed Brisson, Ryan Cady
Artists: Simone Di Meo, Hayden Sherman
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
It’s probably less shocking that Marvel is franchising the Old Man universe than that it’s taken them this long to see the potential in books like Old Man Hawkeye and this Old Man Punisher-focused annual. Regular writer Ed Brisson is joined by artist Simone Di Meo for a down-and-dirty Wasteland flashback that catches up with a geriatric Frank Castle—and the marauders who’ve taken up his banner. There’s an implied wink here at the fans who misinterpret Castle as a power fantasy instead of a violent tragedy, but Brisson and Di Meo also provide plenty of bloody action for your $4.99. Also included is an Old Man Punisher flashback featuring the bone-breaking Marvel debut of Infinite Dark writer Ryan Cady and Wasted Space artist Hayden Sherman. Steve Foxe


Thanos Legacy #1
Writers: Donny Cates & Gerry Duggan
Artists: Brian Level & Cory Smith
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Thanos launched rising star Donny Cates into the Mighty Marvel stratosphere—and then concluded after his initial arc. This week, the Mad Titan returns under Cates’s pen for a bridge story between Thanos’ far-future quest and his appearance in the current Infinity Wars crossover. Cates’s former Thanos collaborator Geoff Shaw passes the baton to artist Brian Level, whose deft command of ink has long demanded a larger audience. If you’re behind on Infinity Wars, you should know that Thanos’ role in the story is both shocking and surely still to be fully revealed. Thanos Legacy makes for essential, gorgeous reading in the ongoing tale of the wrinkly chinned world-ender. Steve Foxe


War Bears #1
Writer: Margaret Atwood
Artist: Ken Steacy
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Angel Catbird, esteemed author Margaret Atwood’s first comic outing, surprised fans by immersing itself not in Atwood’s literary pedigree, but in the storytelling style of Golden Age comics. War Bears takes Atwood’s passion for the comics of her youngest years one step farther, weaving its tale of anthropomorphic bears with a meta-story about the War Bears’ fictional Canadian creator and the upheaval he experiences during World War II. Joining Atwood for her sophomore series is veteran artist Ken Steacy, whose experience on late-‘80s and early ‘90s books make him a perfect fit for the throwback aesthetic of this graphic novel. Comics like Angel Catbird and War Bears perhaps weren’t what anyone expected from the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, but Atwood is having fun and bucking expectations decades into her legendary career—and we applaud that. Steve Foxe

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