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The EW pull list: The best comics of November (so far)

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The Wicked And The Divine
Image Comics

Welcome to the EW Pull List, a regular selection of some of the most interesting comics and graphic novels available. 

At first blush, The Wake—winner of this year’s Eisner award for best limited series—looks like a horror comic. And for a while, it is. But only for a while.

Written by Scott Snyder with art by Sean Murphy, The Wake begins with Dr. Lee Archer, a marine biologist called down to examine a monster at a secret undersea base. What starts as Alien many leagues below the sea becomes something grander in scope, a story about beginnings and endings and survival.

Bringing that story to life is Sean Murphy’s dense, moody linework. Murphy is absurdly talented—his work is instantly recognizable and worth the price of admission alone. That it’s paired with the work of superstar colorist Matt Hollingsworth makes it all the better. Scott Snyder’s story is fantastic too—perfectly paced, it’s both sweeping and personal; a wonderful piece of genre fiction with a real beating heart.

****

When mob muscle gets locked up, it’s time for the ladies to pick up their slack in The Kitchen, a new eight-issue Vertigo miniseries by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle. Set in the New York neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen circa the 1970s, The Kitchen starts with a bunch of made men getting a prison sentence. Following their last days as free men, it’s up to their wives to collect money they’re owed. Except they’re not getting the respect their husbands would. What happens when they decide to take it?

Masters and Doyle have crafted an intriguing first issue in what promises to be a great crime story, a book that effectively pulls off a clever inversion of the criminal notion of respect. But of course, like any good crime yarn, everyone’s in just a little bit over their heads.

****

Announced early this year, Spider-Verse is big Spider-Man crossover masterminded by current Spidey scribe Dan Slott. Promising to feature “every Spider-Man ever,” the crossover already included some standout work via the Edge of Spider-Verse anthology leadup miniseries. Now it’s finally underway, with the first part of the story beginning in Amazing Spider-Man #9, which in turn is accompanied by Spider-Verse #1, a collection of short stories featuring different Spider-People.

First, the anthology. Spider-Verse #1 is fun but feels a bit inessential—barring two great gag stories by Dan Slott, the stories featured aren’t as engaging as the Edge of Spider-Verse one-shots. There is one exception—Katie Cook’s “Penelope Parker,” a wonderful and hilarious rendition of the Spider-Man origin done up like a modern webcomic. Cook’s art is full of great visual humor (there’s one particularly great web-swinging sound effect gag), and her story makes for a fun conclusion to the book.

The Spider-Verse crossover itself, however, leaves a lot to be desired so far. Amazing Spider-Man #9 is beautifully illustrated by Olivier Coipel—it’s a joy to see his depictions of various Spider-People in motion. However, the story is a bit of a silly mess. Slott’s decision to use Morlun, a controversial villain from J. Michael Straczynski’s run who feeds on “spider totems,” is an interesting one. Less interesting is the decision to expand his story to include a whole family of totemic vampires, depicted as squabbling mustache-twirlers who aren’t particularly scary or intriguing. There’s a lazy sort of math done in establishing the threat of Morlun’s family, as they’ve slowly been killing off lesser Spider-Men in the leadup to this story, but there’s nothing particularly special about them. However, our Spider-Man—the main, “true” Spider-Man—is very special, which is something the story can’t stress enough.

And that’s probably the biggest problem with Spider-Verse so far. There’s a whole lot of telling, and not enough showing—which is unfortunate to see when such a talented artist is working on the story.

*****

The business of figuring ourselves out as young adults often comes with an unfortunate side effect— an inability to attribute the complexity we see within ourselves in other people. So we make labels for them, construct cartoonish versions of their personas for our benefit—when your identity is in flux, it’s just too much work to imagine your peers all experiencing the full range of human emotion happening in your head at any given moment.

Written and illustrated by Jamie Coe, Art Schooled (Nobrow Press) is a series of vignettes about Daniel Stope—a straight-edged, small-town kid—and his four years at art school. Taken on the whole, the book hits a lot of extremely familiar beats. Your mileage on this sort of thing will vary—the story of Stope and his friends is a relatable one, but it’s also well-worn.

However, what ultimately makes Art Schooled work is the way in which it is structured. It’s a collection of short stories, varying in coloring and layout and tone, but all concerned with its protagonist wrestling with a single question, the sort that never gets old: Who am I?

****

Written by Joe Keatinge with art by Leila Del Luca, Shutter is an Image Comics series about Kate Kristopher, a girl whose father gave her the world when she was seven years old. See, Mr. Kristopher was an explorer and adventurer, dedicated to finding the strange secrets of an Earth much weirder than the one we inhabit. Everywhere he went, Kate came with him. Then he died, and Kate stopped exploring—but her family’s got a history that’s about to catch up with her.

With its first volume, Wanderlost, now on stands, it’s the perfect time to catch up on this wildly imaginative series full of crazy science-fiction tinged Indiana Jones action. Keatinge and Del Luca, with help from colorist Owen Gieni and letterer Ed Brisson, have built a world where an Earth full of anthropomorphic animals and a police flying saucers is nowhere near as mysterious as a family’s history. It’s the story of what happens when a young woman who gave up discovering the secrets of the world around her is forced to confront the secrets of her own family.

Fun and vibrant, Shutter is a wild ride of a comic—so much so that one wonders why it isn’t an all-ages affair. Its moments of violence and profanity aren’t really all that excessive, but it is definitely not for younger readers. Which is a shame—it’s kind of the perfect family story.

****

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are one of my absolute favorite creative teams working in comics—their work on Young Avengers is one of the most satisfying and fun comics to come out of their first wave of Marvel NOW! titles. Over the summer, the duo launched The Wicked and the Divine, their new creator-owned series from Image Comics. A contemplation of mortality and the creation of art, the book is about twelve gods who, once every ninety years, inhabit the bodies of young people to become pop stars—with all the adoration and vitriol that comes with that. Then, two years later, they die.

The Wicked and the Divine is a slower sort of comic book—sure, there are twists and shocking moments, but you don’t really read it for that. You read it for all the times you’ve ever discovered an album or film or work of art you connected with and loved deeply. You read it because you are enthralled by such things and maybe a little bit obsessed. You read it because this stylish and wonderfully illustrated comic is rooted in the dark question that’s asked of anyone who sets out to make something: Will you do something great before time runs out for you?

*****

Marvel’s Avengers NOW! initiative is finally in full swing, and it’s brought with it another set of really satisfying launches. All-New Captain America by Rick Remender and Stuart Immonen launched with a first issue that serves as both a fantastic introduction to Sam Wilson, and a great setup for the sort of spy adventures on which he’ll be going.

I already wrote about Superior Iron Man at length, but it’s another promising start with a heavy layer of social commentary. With Tony taking on a clearly malevolent role, it’ll be interesting to see how far into villainy writer Tom Taylor and artist Yildray Cinar will push him—and just what the hell’s going on with that cliffhanger.

Meanwhile, Thor #2 serves up a proper introduction to the mysterious woman who’s taken up the legendary hammer to become the Goddess of Thunder. Despite being a new series, Thor #1 was more of an epilogue to the arc Jason Aaron ended with the conclusion of his previous series, Thor: God of Thunder, with the new Thor not showing up until the very end—in a page that was previewed all over the internet long in advance.

The second issue, however, is focused squarely on our new Thor. While we don’t know her identity yet—although there is one very likely candidate—Aaron and artist Russel Dauterman craft a fun issue that showcases the new Thor in action while pitting her against some of the former Thor’s unfinished business.

Also, are you reading Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier by Ales Kot and Marco Rudy? Because the art in that book is something else.

****

A stray dog is the catalyst for a man’s sudden breakdown in Gabriel Hardman’s Kinski. Previously available as a digital-only series from digital publisher Monkeybrain Comics, the six-issue miniseries has been brought to print as a single graphic novel courtesy of Image Comics. Written and illustrated by Hardman, Kinski is about a traveling salesman named Joe who happens upon a stray dog in a motel parking lot. He decides to keep the dog, and names him Kinski—even after he finds out it belongs to someone else. Hardman’s story is lean and his art is hazy, sweaty, and spare, turning up the tension as Joe slowly starts to abandon all reason. It’s a small story told well, with an adorable puppy at its center. You should read it.

****

Also worth checking out: Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder tell a Smallville horror story in Action Comics #36; DC’s Batman books follow up on promising new story arcs that began last month in Gotham Academy, Batman, and Batgirl; and Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips continue what might end up being their best collaboration yet with the third issue of their Image Comics series The Fade Out.

****

And finally, Community Editor Andrea Towers writes in about why now’s the perfect time to start reading Captain Marvel:

Is it coincidence or serendipity that news of a Captain Marvel movie was announced a few weeks ago—then the comic’s newest installment was one of its best issues yet? Writer Kelly Sue Deconnick shared that issue #9, in which Carol takes a trip through space with rock star Lila Cheney, was the perfect “jumping on” point for those who wanted to get into the series, and she was absolutely right. Think of the issue as a fun one-off, the way your favorite television show might break up its mythology with a story that you don’t need much prior knowledge to follow. Through DeConnick’s strong writing, you still get a feel for who Carol is and what her relationships are, but you’re not entirely confused about what you’re reading. (As an added bonus, much of the issue is written in rhyme, which makes it even cooler.)