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New Agents of Atlas, Excellence, The Flash: Year One & More in Required Reading: Comics for 5/8/2019

Comics Lists Required Reading
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We don’t want to downplay the massive amount of work still needed for mainstream comics to accurately reflect its readership, but this feels like a pretty darn-good week for representation in funny books. Marvel’s New Agents of Atlas unites many of its most prominent Asian heroes while introducing new names like Wave and Aero, while DC ComicsBatman and the Outsiders launches with one of the publisher’s most diverse lineups of heroes. Over at Image Comics, Excellence proves that creator-owned comics can leapfrog right over corporate-owned publications when it comes to showcasing other perspectives. Aside from those wins, this week also brings us the long-awaited “The Flash: Year One” story arc in the pages of Barry Allen’s ongoing series, and a host of original graphic novels ranging from historically accurate war stories to emotive middle-grade tales to heartstrings-tugging YA romance. Whatever you’re looking for, this week’s Required Reading probably has you covered.


Batman and the Outsiders #1
Writer: Bryan Edward Hill
Artist: Dexter Soy
Publisher: DC Comics 
After some panic when the pre-orders for Batman and the Outsiders were cancelled late last year, the first issue finally reaches readers this week. There was some confusion around the earlier cancellation, which writer Bryan Edward Hill explained was due to conflicts between what he and artist Dexter Soy had created and changes to larger DC canon. That’s one of the risks of any comic set in a shared universe, but it’s still a relief to see the book finally become available to fans. The title has been used before, but this new iteration has a whole new lineup working with Batman. Black Lightning anchors a team that’s been gathered in part to help keep Batman from slipping too far into the darkest part of his world. It is a Batman story after all though, so it comes with ramifications from the past as well as hidden agendas as the team works together to find and rescue a young woman who could be a danger to herself and the rest of the world. Signal, Orphan and Katana round out the team, making Batman and the Outsiders officially one of the most diverse superhero comics available from the Big Two of Marvel and DC Comics. Caitlin Rosberg


Eve Stranger #1
Writer: David Barnett
Artist: Phillip Bond
Publisher: Black Crown/ IDW Publishing
It seemed only a matter of time before Phillip Bond launched a full series under Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint (the shared surname isn’t a coincidence, after all), and Eve Stranger sounds perfectly in line with the punchy, fast-moving Vertigo series on which Bond first made his name. Written by English journalist and fiction writer David Barnett, Eve Stranger introduces the “ultimate amnesiac-for-hire,” who can be anything from a babysitter to an international assassin for the right price—and who forgets it all as soon as the gig is over. Like a British super-spy take on Dollhouse, Eve Stranger should fit right in with Black Crown’s collection of oddities when it hits shelves this week. Steve Foxe



Excellence #1
Writer: Brandon Thomas
Artist: Khary Randolph
Publisher: Skybound/ Image Comics 
Excellence sounds exactly like the kind of story that fans of dystopian YA novels will appreciate: a tale duty and magic in the face over overwhelming odds. Created by artist Khary Randolph and writer Brandon Thomas, it follows the story of Spencer Dales as he struggles to contend with his father’s legacy of service and his own desire to change things for the better. Spencer’s father belonged to a group of Black magicians guided by unknown hands to improve others’ lives, and now Spencer is confronting a broken system that seems to be built to take advantage of people like him. There are certainly some superficial similarities to Black as well as beloved series like Mercedes Lackey’s The Last Herald-Mage; it feels like a natural fit for fans of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London, too. One of the biggest draws Excellence sports is Randolph’s dynamic, stylized art, which was one of the strongest parts of DC ComicsWe Are Robin series and has also been featured on the covers of the aforementioned Black. Excellence is bound to be an incredible adventure with beautiful art, and well worth checking out. Caitlin Rosberg


The Flash #70
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Howard Porter
Publisher: DC Comics 
Announced way back during New York Comic Con 2018, “The Flash: Year One” finally kicks off in this week’s The Flash #70. Ongoing The Flash writer Joshua Williamson and rotating series artist Howard Porter team up to explore Barry Allen’s origins and, much like perennial favorite Batman: Year One, this tale will focus on the hero’s early days on the job, as Barry establishes his identity and acclimates to fighting crime at high speeds. The first teaser art from Porter, now this issue’s cover, shows the Flash strapping on elbow and knee pads and lacing up tennis shoes, so expect a very fresh side of the Scarlet Speedster within these pages. Williamson may not get as much attention as DC peers like Scott Snyder and Brian Michael Bendis, but at 70 issues and counting, he has a clear claim on “Most Successful Flash Scribe Ever,” knocking aside previous speedy heavyweights like Geoff Johns and Mark Waid. All signs point to “Year One” continuing—and boosting—that hot streak. Steve Foxe


Ghost Hog
Writer/Artist: Joey Weiser
Publisher:Oni Press
Miss Mermin? Yeah, me too, but Joey Weiser has new things in store with this book about a boar struck down before her time who’s learning about the afterlife and trying to make up her mind about vengeance. Weiser’s proved himself gifted at spinning out a narrative and cast of characters more complex than most folks produce for kids, and his work is a sort of gateway to manga, with Japanese influence running strong behind much of what he does. Not convinced? You may have already stumbled across some stories not in the book but featuring the same characters in Oni Press’s Free Comic Book Day offering this past weekend. Hillary Brown


Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Publisher: First Second
It’s possible we may have goofed up and left this off of last week’s Required Reading, but we’re going to break form and correct that error today. Mariko Tamaki is taking over corners of the YA and middle-grade graphic novel market, and it’s something a lot of readers, young and old alike, should be happy about. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is the perfect next read for fans of Love, Simon and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, books about young love and struggling to figure out what it means. What makes Laura Dean particularly special isn’t just that the titular character is in a relationship with another girl, Frederica, but also that Rosemary Valero-O’Connell is providing the art. Valero-O’Connell has worked on Lumberjanes and has a bright, detailed style that’s soft enough to suit a romance story but unflinching enough to handle the less-fun parts of being a teenager in love. Freddy struggles not just with Laura Dean and their constant breaking up, but also with trying to unravel why everything else is falling apart around her, and who is to blame. It’s exactly the sort of book that a lot of teens need to read to feel a little less alone, and a good gateway graphic novel for fans of Netflix’s new glut of romances or a stepping-stone for readers ready to graduate from graphic novels like The Baby-Sitters Club adaptations to more complicated, nuanced stories. Caitlin Rosberg


Island Book
Writer/Artist: Evan Dahm
Publisher: First Second
Evan Dahm’s Rice Boy was one of the most unique and enjoyable books of 2018, but his work flies under the radar for a lot of readers. He has several long-running webcomics to his name, most of them a bit unfamiliar to even regular webcomic readers. His characters are only sometimes humanoid, but the stories he tells are deeply emotional and sympathetic, linked by overarching themes of acceptance, friendship and hard work. Island Book starts when a monster arrives at the titular Island, and after Sola bravely stands in the creature’s way, she is shunned by the rest of her community. Upset and afraid, she takes to the ocean to try to find answers and comfort that is no longer available to her at home. Island Book is aimed at middle-grade readers and will hopefully unlock new worlds and exciting adventures. With a rich bibliography already available, Dahm is an ideal author for young readers to get hooked on. Caitlin Rosberg


Six Days
Writers: Robert Venditti & Kevin Maurer
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics 
Most of the big comics publishers have been out of the war-comics business for years; superheroes can offer war stories of their own, but beyond Sheriff of Babylon, random one-shots and the occasional inclusion in an anthology book, historical comics based on real wars are few and far between. Six Days changes that. A new graphic novel from Vertigo featuring the talents of Hawkman’s Robert Venditti along with journalist Kevin Maurer and artist Andrea Mutti, Six Days is a personal project for Venditti, who landed on the core of the story when he discovered a letter written by one of his uncle’s friends who’d fought beside Venditti’s relative in the Battle of Graignes. From there, the creative team began to unravel a story about war, but also about the things that can bring people together. Venditti’s Uncle Tommy was part of the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France in World War II, but unlike the soldiers that landed directly on the beach, his unit was parachuting deeper into the French countryside. Caught miles from their intended landing point and much closer to enemy soldiers than they’d anticipated, the group was welcomed and sheltered by the French citizens, who kept them alive long enough to help turn the tide of the war. The Battle of Graignes is not one of the best-known parts of World War II, and it’s exciting to see a creative team come together to tell the story visually, emotionally and historically. Caitlin Rosberg


The War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Gang Hyuk Lim
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Marvel’s The War of the Realms event is sprawling in true Marvel cash-in-tie-in fashion…but it’s also been really freaking good so far. New Agents of Atlas is the latest spinoff from the main event, picking up after Malekith’s evil forces have divided the world’s continents under new, much more wicked control. Sindr, Fire Demon Queen of Muspelheim, has claimed all of Asia, and jade-hued teen genius Amadeus Cho isn’t going to let that happen without a fight. New Agents of Atlas has a lot going on. Writer Greg Pak has been a longtime advocate for better Asian representation among Marvel’s heroes, and this series unites former favorites of his like Cho, Shang-Chi and Silk with a bevy of heroes new to the Marvel Universe. Some of these are totally original, like Filipino hero Wave, who Marvel seems to be leaning into—she even appears on the promotional art Patrick Gleason drew to announce his new exclusive contract with the company—while others are imports from Marvel mobile games. It also can’t be overlooked that the book’s title repurposes cult-favorite series Agents of Atlas into a new context—although it’s unclear if Cho’s squad will officially adopt the title or continue to loosely refer to themselves as “The Protectors.” Pak and West Coast Avengers artist Gang Hyuk Lim are reliable talents, and New Agents of Atlas is clearly something of a passion project for Pak, tie-in or not. With several of these characters getting spinoffs in the near future, now’s the time to acquaint yourself with Marvel’s newest Asian stars. Steve Foxe


Waves
Writer: Ingrid Chabbert
Artist: Carole Maurel
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
In many ways, Waves is a perfect storm of a comic: an autobiographical graphic memoir written and illustrated by two women, which dips into difficult subject matter and leverages both large swaths of dialog-less pages as well as the use of color to isolate characters and demarcate dreams. It’s the sort of book that is instinctively easy to read, even for people who aren’t experienced with the tropes and patterns that visual storytelling often relies on. Based on writer Ingrid Chabbert’s struggles having children, and drawn by Carole Maurel, Waves is a graceful and quiet book in many ways; it feels gentle, not only to Chabbert but also the reader, with soft shades and a slow, forgiving pace. It is a powerful contrast to Lucy Knisley’s Kid Gloves that came out earlier this year, focused more on the emotional peaks and valleys that trying to conceive can bring. Paired together, the books offer incredible insight into the many struggles and sometimes-overwhelming weight that come along with motherhood. Waves is a kind, powerful reminder that no one is alone in these struggles. Caitlin Rosberg

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