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Event Leviathan, Silver Surfer: Black, Jughead’s Time Police & More in Required Reading: Comics for 6/12/2019

Comics Lists Required Reading
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We had a hard time choosing which cover to crop for the main image above this week. Alex Maleev’s Event Leviathan #1 feels like a movie poster straight out of the ‘80s heydey of genre films, while Tradd Moore’s Silver Surfer: Black exudes an otherworldly quality, both for Moore’s irregular shape rendering and the stark black background. Maleev won out, if only because everything Donny Cates touches at Marvel seems to turn to gold—Norrin Radd hardly needs our recommendation. But he got it nonetheless, along with a time-traveling Jughead, a new Image Comics fantasy jaunt, a few deep-cut reprints, the conclusion of the latest Umbrella Academy and more in this week’s Required Reading.


Event Leviathan #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Publisher: DC Comics 
Brian Michael Bendis and event comics go together like Batman and Robin, but Event Leviathan, despite sporting the word “event” in its title, is no typical line-wide superhero smash-fest. Spiraling out of Action Comics, Event Leviathan starts off with a culling of the DC Universe’s myriad governmental agencies and dark-ops groups, from ostensibly heroic organizations like Task Force X to the purely evil Kobra Cult. From there, an assemblage of the publisher’s greatest detectives comes together to decipher the clues to Leviathan’s identity and true mission. Each lead-in entry to the story has dropped compelling clues, with the DC Year of the Villain short also offering a first look at Alex Maleev’s artistic approach to the book. Bendis has been batting a near-perfect average since jumping ship to Marvel’s Distinguished Competition and Maleev has rarely looked better. There are a lot of events jockeying for your coin this summer, but don’t discount this espionage whodunit. Steve Foxe


Jughead’s Time Police #1
Writer: Sina Grace
Artist: Derek Charm
Publisher: Archie Comics
One of the best parts of the Archie Comics reboot has been the wild, weird and wonderful stories starring the perennial sidekick, Jughead. Between the new #1 from Chip Zdarsky and Erica Hendersen in 2015 and Jughead: The Hunger in 2017, Jughead has enjoyed a slew of adventures that feel fresh and interesting in entirely new ways. The newest adventure starring Jughead is from Sina Grace and Derek Charm, and it takes the titular rascal back in time as he tries to undo the mistakes that led him to be banned from the Riverdale Annual Bake-Off. A book by the same name ran in the early ‘90s, so this new five-issue mini is a return to form for the burger-loving protagonist. It’s also a return for Charm, who worked on the main Jughead title; on both that and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, he worked with writer Ryan North, and demonstrated a great understanding of the physical comedy and ridiculousness that makes for a great Jughead book. Grace has a host of semi-autobiographical titles under his belt, but is probably best known now for the cancelled-before-its-time Iceman. Especially as a limited miniseries, this is a must-read for fans of the character or the creators, and a great companion to the Jugheads that have gone before, and will go again. Caitlin Rosberg


Moonshadow Definitive Edition
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artists: Jon J. Muth, Kent Williams, George Pratt
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
It’s easy to forget just how much the public perception of comics, particularly graphic novels, has changed in the last couple of decades. Thanks in no small part to the booming growth of YA graphic novels, there’s some base understanding of how these books work, and increasing artistic literacy giving people the terminology to discuss the art inside the covers. Moonshadow is hailed as the first fully painted graphic novel, though it was originally published, and then republished, as individual issues that were later collected. This week, a new definitive edition hits shelves, along with a new introduction by creator J.M. DeMatteis and backmatter that shows off concept art and other early work. Moonshadow is a coming-of-age story as told by a less-than-reliable narrator, full of tall tales and extraordinary adventures through space. The story has a lot in common with Le Petit Prince and Little Nemo, but it’s distinctly and definitely targeting adult readers. Art by John J. Muth, celebrated for work on children’s books as well as The Sandman, as well as additional illustrations from Kent Williams and George Pratt, are a huge part of the draw. The paintings featured in the original comics have all been digitally restored, and the book even includes the Farewell, Moonshadow epilogue that was added when the story was reprinted at Vertigo. Moonshadow is the perfect book for old-school comics fans that want to get a copy of this influential work for themselves, but it’s also an excellent entry point for readers new to mature graphic storytelling. Caitlin Rosberg


Penny Nichols
Writers: MK Reed & Greg Means
Artist: Matt Wiegle
Publisher: Top Shelf
Like a lot of people in a certain age range, the titular character in Penny Nichols has no idea what she’s doing or why. She has bounced from job to job, without any central drive towards a specific career or life goal. It’s a rut that’s only partly of her own making, and she’s not sure how to get out of it. When she accidentally encounters a group of people making a horror movie with no budget but a lot of enthusiasm, Penny gets sucked into the world of DIY movie-making and everything that comes with it. She finds herself at the center of the chaos, holding everything together, and figures out some things about herself and what she wants out of life. Writers MK Reed and Greg Means have worked together in the past on books like Cute Girl Network, and it’s always good to see creative teams reuniting to collaborate again. Reed has also worked on a slew of titles for First Second and Lion Forge, about everything from dinosaurs to Saved by the Bell, as well as the Comixology Original title Delver with Spike Trotman, while artist Matt Wiegle appears newer to the scene. Penny Nichols feels like exactly the sort of quarter-life not-quite-crisis that will be familiar to a lot of readers—a book about chasing joy and collecting found family in the face of everyday constraints. Caitlin Rosberg


Rick and Morty Presents: Mr. Meeseeks #1
Writers: James Asmus & Jim Festante
Artist: CJ Cannon
Publisher: Oni Press
One of the most memorable episodes of adult-animation sensation Rick and Morty was the debut of Mr. Meeseeks, a being that is summoned with a Meeseeks Box, completes the first task given to it, then disappears. Havoc ensued as Rick’s family ignored his advice to keep the tasks simple, and dozens of Meeseeks soon piled up to help Jerry take two swings off his golf game, allowing the Meeseeks to finally die. (It makes sense if you watch it, trust.) Rick and Morty Presents: Mr. Meeseeks reunites the The End Times of Bram & Ben co-writers James Asmus and Jim Festante to pose an even more challenging task to the Meeseeks: find the meaning of life. Joining the oblivion-driven fun is regular Rick and Morty contributor CJ Cannon, who has illustrated a good chunk of Oni Press’s reliably off-kilter R&M tie-ins. Fans of the show, as well as fans of Asmus’ genuinely funny approach to humor comics, won’t want to miss this existential outing. Steve Foxe


The Ride: Burning Desire #1
Writer: Doug Wagner
Artists: Daniel Hillyard, Adam Hughes
Publisher: Image Comics 
The Ride was originally conceived as a vehicle for creators to tell the type of stories they wanted to, all organized around and linked by a literal vehicle, a 1968 Camaro. Though the characters and settings changed from story to story, the Camaro provided a central conceit and a sense of continuity. It was an interesting experiment, and ultimately produced 10 issues in the main title along with two issues each for The Ride: Southern Gothic and Gun Candy. To celebrate the 15th anniversary, The Ride returns as a five-issue mini-series thanks to the creative team behind Plastic, with a backup story from Adam Hughes. This new entry revolves around a former Atlanta detective who was sent to prison for 15 years after pleading guilty to murder. Now that she’s out again, she’s working as a bouncer in an exotic dance club, but struggles to fully escape her past. The Ride has always been at least a little pulpy, full of pinups and the sort of girls, guns and hot-rods imagery that isn’t as common in comics as it once was. But the covers on this series, particularly those by Hughes, can be even more cheesecake-heavy than the interiors, which will be a hurdle for some readers. For folks who love a grindhouse double feature, The Ride just might be the read for them. Caitlin Rosberg


Silver Surfer: Black #1
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Tradd Moore
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
It’s been a while since Norrin Radd enjoyed his own solo title, and not without reason. As a sidekick to Galactus, the Silver Surfer acts as a sometimes-interesting foil, a place to find some human connection in the face of destruction. But outside of his relationship to the planet-eater, it can be difficult to give him a truly compelling story on his own without sapping him of his alien nature. Seeing Tradd Moore’s name on the cover should certainly boost confidence in this five-issue mini-series; Moore has a dynamic, kinetic style that breathes life into unfamiliar organic shapes. His work on All-New Ghost Rider and Luther Strode books have proven his skill when it comes to ambitious, bold art, and his brief moment drawing Venom showed his deft hand at giving extraterrestrial forms terrifying scope and shape. Writer Donny Cates has recently been spending a lot of time in the Venom corner of the Marvel universe, so it will be fascinating to see how he adapts to a very different fish-out-of-water—or perhaps alien-out-of-space—story. Caitlin Rosberg


Sonata #1
Writers: David Hine & Brian Haberlin
Artists: Brian Haberlin & Geirrod van Dyke
Publisher: Image Comics 
It’s been a struggle for readers and comic book shops to find a way to fill the hole that Saga has left behind while on hiatus, with everyone seeking out speculative fiction stories with a deft mixture of magic, technology and raw human drama that might be the next big thing. Ascender is just taking off, but Coda has wrapped up and Paper Girls is winding down. Sonata is arriving just in time, then, with a story of two different groups going to war over a planet that they each believe is their destined home. There’s a stark contrast between the two cultures, and under the tension and violence between them are the Sleeping Giants indigenous to the land that they’re fighting over. The titular Sonata is a young girl who is pushing back on expectations, trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs against the backdrop of this conflict. The creative team is a skilled and experienced one, with credits on books like The Bulletproof Coffin, Witchblade and Spawn, which should endear them to Image regulars. With stories about land disputes, there’s always a danger of clumsily overreaching the bounds of the book in an attempt to tie the story into current events, but it will be fascinating to see where the creative team takes Sonata if they can avoid that pitfall. Caitlin Rosberg


Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane: The Complete Collection Vol. 1
Writer: Sean McKeever
Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa’s mid-2000s teen-girl-focused floppy remains one of the most charming comics of its era, a lovely riff on high-school angst with a bit of superhero stuff for gravy. Spider-Man doesn’t show up all that much, and Mary Jane Watson doesn’t need him to. She can hold a book all by herself, without much in the way of acrobatics (emotional ones excepted). It’s been a long time since a quality Spider-Man comic actually aimed itself at young readers, but with Spider-Man: Far From Home on the horizon, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, now reprinted in a Complete Collection gathering Mary Jane, Mary Jane: Homecoming and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, is worth revisiting for an appreciation of the Webhead’s less violent outings. Hillary Brown


Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion #7
Writer: Gerard Way
Artist: Gabriel Bá
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Hotel Oblivion, the third installment of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s Umbrella Academy series, was a long time coming. Publisher Dark Horse Comics announced the series in 2009, but the first issue didn’t hit stands until October 2018, nearly a full decade later. Few fans would complain, though: all the madcap energy and raw imagination displayed in the first two volumes is still in full effect, honed by years of creative refinement from Way and Bá and elevated in popularity by the release of a successful live-action adaptation on Netflix. This week, Hotel Oblivion shuts its imposing doors—but not before massively expanding the scope of Umbrella Academy’s world and putting its makeshift family unit through the explosive ringer. Fans of the franchise (in all of its forms) won’t want to miss the revelations brought to light in this issue. Steve Foxe

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