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Thanos, Ascender, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge & More in Required Reading: Comics for 4/24/2019

Comics Lists Required Reading
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Snap—oops, half of this week’s comics are gone. Just kidding: Marvel’s new Thanos series takes place long before the Mad Titan gets his hands on any gems (or stones, or whatever they’re called now). We’ve still got a full Required Reading ahead of us, including two new horror graphic novels, two different writing debuts from editorial talents, a Valiant kickoff, a theme park tie-in, a fanciful guide to gender and sexuality, a sequel series to a favored Image Comics title and more. This week may just feel like prelude to Endgame viewing, but don’t discount the source material—there’s just as much quality content waiting for you on the page (or digital device).


Ascender
Writer:   Jeff Lemire  
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Publisher: Image Comics 
It has to be a pleasant surprise for any creator to learn that what they’ve made resonates with their audience. When Descender wrapped last year, writer Jeff Lemire put words to paper in the back of the final issue, sharing with readers that not only had he been blown away by the response to the world he and artist Dustin Nguyen had created, but that fans had actually prompted him to change the ending. This shift allowed Lemire and Nguyen to make plans for a follow-up series, exploring the magic and mystery that stood waiting in the wings as technology and robots took main stage in Descender. Lemire and Nguyen proved with their collaboration that they could make an emotionally evocative, imaginative and utterly original book together, and fans are justifiably eager to see what happens to Tim-21’s brother Andy and Andy’s descendants once all the technology that defined the previous age is gone and the era of Ascender begins. Caitlin Rosberg


Dick Tracy Forever #1
Writer/Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Publisher: IDW Publishing
For new readers especially, it can be easy to forget the role that newspaper comics have played in the industry since the beginning, serving as an all-ages (or at least widely accessible) gateway to monthly comics and giving even casual fans familiarity and literacy they need to appreciate longer formats. Dick Tracy has long been a staple in newspaper funny pages, a detective whose influence has spread far beyond the panels he inhabits. Michael Avon Oeming, probably best known for co-creating Powers with Brian Michael Bendis, is bringing Tracy back into the limelight this week with a new monthly series that Oeming both writes and draws. His clean artistic style is a great fit for Dick Tracy—simple and sharp without being too polished or clean. This book should be a perfect throwback for old fans of one of the first and most long-lived comics detectives, or a great way to introduce readers who love Batman and newer noir comics to one of the originals. Dick Tracy Forever is bound to be a fun ride, and a welcome reminder of just how far comics have come. Caitlin Rosberg


Ghost Tree #1
Writer: Bobby Curnow
Artist: Simon Gane
Publisher: IDW Publishing
When things aren’t going great, the temptation to step outside of the everyday and go on a journey can sometimes be too hard to resist—and it often makes for good storytelling as characters search for comfort or meaning away from what’s familiar and known. Ghost Tree is the story of a person doing just that, returning to his ancestral home and discovering a tree full of haunted spirits, each bound by grief and pain. Brandt’s goal is to heal the pain of these spirits, but it will be difficult while he’s contending with his own pain, too. Writer Bobby Curnow has been at IDW for years, mostly as an editor on books like My Little Pony and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so this foray into original work is an exciting (and surely nerve-wracking) transition. Simon Gane’s art is enough to get folks to grab the book off the shelves: detailed and textured and loaded with the kind of moody aesthetic perfect for a book like this. There is some concern with the book being set in Japan, as traditions surrounding death and ghosts are culturally specific and may not translate or be handled with the respect the topic deserves, but it’ll ultimately be up to readers to decide how Curnow and Gane pull it off. Caitlin Rosberg


Little Girls
Writer: Nicholas Aflleje
Artist: Sarah DeLaine
Publisher: Image Comics 
Recently, Image has been experimenting more with formats, publishing some comics in monthly installments and later putting out trade paperbacks, while others skip the floppy releases and go straight to collected editions—and some even making that swap midway, like Motor Crush and Moonstruck. Particularly with books that appeal to demographics that don’t traditionally buy monthly titles, it’s a wise way to continue to reach a broader audience. Little Girls is one of those experiments, an original graphic novel that hasn’t been serialized in any prior form. Both Nicholas Aflleje and Sara DeLaine are relatively unfamiliar names to most readers, though DeLaine has worked with AfterShock in the past. Because of this, the spooky, atmospheric cover of Little Girls will carry a lot of the weight of selling the book, which is about two friends trying to survive a brain-eating monster well known from local legends. It’s the sort of coming-of-age story that mixes fear, horror and the trials and tribulations of puberty, like Sabrina and Stranger Things before it. The idea is sound, the trope is popular and DeLaine’s art is tight and beautifully unsettling. Little Girls is set in Ethiopia, and as with Ghost Tree above, hopefully the creators have done the research to respectfully portray the environment, people and culture. Caitlin Rosberg


Punk Mambo #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Adam Gorham
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
The female characters of Valiant Entertainment have experienced some high highs—most notably Faith’s runaway success—but don’t tend to sustain runs as long as their male colleagues. Rough-and-tumble Voodoo priestess Punk Mambo has popped in and out since the early days of Valiant’s revival, but this week’s debut marks her first ongoing solo series (she had a single one-shot in the past). Imagine John Constantine in Louisiana with a garish Mohawk and you’re not far off from Punk Mambo’s whole deal, which should make her a good fit for writer Cullen Bunn. While Bunn does feel like a bit of a safe choice, as opposed to recent Valiant hires like Vita Ayala and Tini Howard, Bunn’s sweet spot has always been in supernatural action, and Punk Mambo should offer that in abundance. New Mutants: Dead Souls artist Adam Gorham picks up interior duties, further establishing Punk Mambo as a series to watch; Gorham’s grungy yet clean-lined style is improbably like the bastard child of Chris Samnee and Jason Shawn Alexander, which makes him one worth following to just about any title. Steve Foxe


Queen of Bad Dreams #1
Writer: Danny Lore
Artist: Jordi Perez
Publisher: Vault Comics
Danny Lore and Jordi Perez may not yet be familiar to some readers, but in the next few years that’s very likely to change. Lore is the editor on the critically acclaimed The Wilds by Vita Ayala and Emily Pearson; Perez is the artist working with Ayala on upcoming issues of the new Xena comic that premiered last week. This Wednesday, though, their original comic Queen of Bad Dreams hits shelves. Stories about dreams becoming reality and people who are tasked with keeping the balance between dream worlds and waking ones aren’t new, but Lore and Perez center their story on scenarios that sound very much like police procedurals, with investigative standards and copious red tape. It’s part Black Cloud and part Minority Report, and bound to be an exciting, interesting read. Lore’s work as an editor, and their social media presence, display a sharp wit and powerful observations, and Perez’s strength with expressions and detailed backgrounds set expectations high, but there’s little doubt this team can meet and exceed them. Caitlin Rosberg


A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities
Writers/Artists: Mady G and J.R. Zuckerberg
Publisher: Limerence Press/ Oni Press
Oni Press continues its Quick and Easy Guide series with A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities, out this week through Oni’s erotica and sex education imprint Limerence Press. Together Mady G and J.R. Zuckerberg offer an introductory exploration of gender identities and sexual orientation through the eyes of Iggy, a very cool snail, and the lovely floral Sproutlings. The book is at times a bit dry—it’s sometimes more of a lavishly illustrated textbook than a “quick and easy” guide in places it doesn’t need to be, and in turn, lighter on details about some identities than you’d expect, particularly intersex folks in the sections about gender and sex. But the illustrations are warm and inviting, and the interludes with the Sproutlings, who are truly adorable, are some of the highlights of the book. This is very clearly a labor of love for both creators, and it offers a welcoming and still fairly thorough exploration of the LGBTQIA+ community for allies looking to expand their knowledge or folks who may just be beginning to question themselves. C.K. Stewart


The Replacer
Writer: Zac Thompson
Artist: Arjuna Susini
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Age of X-Man co-architect Zac Thompson shares most of his professional credits with co-writer Lonnie Nadler, but the Canadian upstart takes the solo reins for this deeply personal story told against a horror backdrop. In the mid-‘90s, Thompson’s father survived a debilitating stroke, which irrevocably changed the family dynamic. The Replacer fictionalizes Thompson’s experience as a child, with a protagonist who is certain that his father hasn’t just suffered a medical episode—he’s been possessed by a malevolent entity with the aim of tearing apart his family. No other member of the family sees what the young protagonist witnesses, and tensions soon spiral out of control. Told in one complete 64-page installment, The Replacer marks an important format experiment from publisher AfterShock Comics, and is hopefully just the first of many projects that deserve an expanded page count but aren’t good fits for serialization. Joining Thompson is artist Arjuna Susini, whose lived-in style perfectly captures the period and makes the supernatural aspects of the story all the more unsettling. Steve Foxe


Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge #1
Writer: Ethan Sacks
Artist: Will Sliney
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
If we have one broad criticism of Marvel’s modern Star Wars comics, it’s that they tend to hew close to what’s seen on film, as opposed to the much wilder Dark Horse era that introduced countless new faces, concepts and locales (with original Dark Horse characters Aayla Secura and Quinlan Vos even impressing George Lucas enough to make the jump to cinematic canon). Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge bridges that gap with the power of corporate synergy, as writer Ethan Sacks and artist Will Sliney plop familiar Star Wars faces in the brand-new location created for Disneyland’s latest themed expansion. Set both during the rise of the First Order and in flashbacks, Galaxy’s Edge introduces franchise addition Dok-Ondar, an antiques dealer who requires the services of Han Solo and Chewbacca. Future issues also tease Marvel creation Doctor Aphra, making this a full family affair. Sacks has a growing resume at Marvel, most recently with Old Man Hawkeye and Old Man Quill, and Sliney comes directly from the Solo adaptation, where he put his likeness skills to the test. Star War: Galaxy’s Edge is merely the first salvo in the tie-in department, with multiple related novels arriving later this summer to further expand on the immersive Disneyland attraction. Steve Foxe


Thanos
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Thanos has come a long way from a somewhat obvious Darkseid knockoff piloting an itty-bitty helicopter. The purple-hued Mad Titan is a household name thanks to a decade of Marvel Cinematic Universe build-up and a commanding performance from Josh Brolin, and this week, Marvel Comics is exploring a little more of what makes Thanos tick in a new series from breakout writer Tini Howard and Death of the Inhumans artist Ariel Olivetti. Thanos has two defining relationships: to his adopted daughter, Gamora; and to his one true love, Death. Howard is adept at navigating both complicated families (Assassinistas) and mortality (Euthanauts), which puts her in a great position to reveal new levels to the imposing character. Olivetti is typically best known for the digital paints he applies over most of his work, but Death of the Inhumans saw him working with a more traditional colorist, and the result was a gorgeous, highly European sci-fi style. With Avengers: Endgame on the horizon, we couldn’t be more excited to see a Thanos series in this vein. Steve Foxe

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