The EW pull-list: Say goodbye to 'She-Hulk' and catch up on 'Fables'
It’s been a while since we’ve spoken about comics—what are you reading? Are you sad to see She-Hulk go? Are you going to be sad when it’s Fables’ turn to take a bow? “Everything ends,” as Marvel is fond of saying these days—but more things are ending than usual lately. Fortunately, plenty of comics, like Celine Dion’s heart, will go on. Here are some you should think about reading, if you aren’t already. Feel free to recommend your own comics in the comments!
Batgirl #39 (Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr): Ever since the creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr revamped Batgirl with issue #35, the book has—barring one ill-advised story decision which they apologized for—been firing on all cylinders with a contemporary take that still feels singular in Big Two comics. While the book’s hip new aesthetic isn’t beloved by all fans, there are arguably more who were upset about a decision that long preceded the current Batgirl team—inexplicably healing the paraplegic Barbara Gordon (who had taken on an invaluable role as the computer hacker Oracle) and making her Batgirl again, when there was already a proud legacy of succession. With #39’s final, shocking twist, the Batgirl team reveals all may not be as it seems—and where it goes next might cause lapsed fans to perk up with interest.
Fables #149 (Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham): Over much of the past year, Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham have been quietly setting the table for the grand finale of their long-running epic about fairy tales in the real world. While the going has been slow over this final arc, the table is finally set for the final 150-page finale/celebration that Willingham, Buckingham, and all their friends have been planning to send Fables off right in July. Few comics endear themselves to you the way Fables does, with its warm (and sometimes downright frightening) stories about the magic of stories, and how deceptive the mundanity of our world can be. Consider catching up before the end—there are some great stories there.
Bitch Planet #3 (Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robert Wilson IV): Unapologetic and uncompromising, Bitch Planet continues its scathing social commentary with its story about women who refuse to comply with the society men have built to keep them in “their place.” It’s also a damn good sci-fi prison story. Issue 3 is the first of what writer Kelly Sue DeConnick is calling “special thirds,” where every third issue she welcomes a guest artist to tell a standalone story about one of Bitch Planet’s inmates. This month we meet the large and imposing Penny Rolle in “Too Big to Fail,” which explores the events that led to Rolle’s incarceration on Bitch Planet in a story that ties specific themes on body image into the larger Bitch Planet ethos of self-worth and agency in a society constructed to smother them. With its battle cry of “non-compliant,” strong social media engagement, and essays on feminism accompanying every issue, Bitch Planet is making itself clear: this is more than just a comic—it’s a movement.
The Valiant #3 (Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, Paolo Rivera, Joe Rivera): There’s no sugarcoating it—most comic book crossovers are the worst. They are bloated, messy affairs, with endless tie-ins and sometimes barely comprehensible storytelling.The Valiant, then, is the anti-crossover—a blockbuster that still feels personal, a big comic book story stuffed to the gills with tons of heroes that you might be following, but works just as well if you haven’t. What’s more, it’s only four issues long, with each book making for a satisfying read in and of itself. It’s also a great introduction to the wider Valiant universe, which rebooted in 2012 and is a great, less overwhelming alternative to the sprawl of Marvel and DC, shepherded by acclaimed creators doing fantastic work. Oh, and speaking of creators—The Valiant is also artist Paolo Rivera’s return to doing interior artwork outside of the occasional cover, and it’s pretty much worth the price of admission alone. Don’t miss it.
The Kitchen #4 (Ollie Masters, Ming Doyle): Another miniseries that should be on your radar hit its midpoint this week. Set in the meaner, more dangerous New York City of the 1970s, The Kitchen is a crime story with one of the best hooks in recent memory: when the law catches up with a number of made mobsters, their wives step in to pick up where they left off—and maybe even take things further. The Kitchen is a brilliant inversion of the crime genre’s obsession with the male experience, and Doyle and Masters craft each issue to be satisfying in and of itself—although I suspect the series won’t really pick up until it’s all collected as a single graphic novel. I don’t know why you’d wait so long though—you’re missing a pretty great ride.
She-Hulk #12 (Charles Soule, Javier Pulido): Marvel is undoubtedly in the middle of a hot streak, but as Secret Wars looms on the horizon, a number of its most acclaimed titles are coming to an end. This week, it’s She-Hulk. Equal parts legal drama, dry comedy, and year-long mystery, She-Hulk (which was scripted by practicing lawyer and writing machine Charles Soule) never sold nearly as well as a comic with Spider-Man or the X-Men on the cover, but was much beloved by most everyone who read it. With last week’s #12, Soule and Pulido bring their singular run to a close with a promise that we’ll see the cast of She-Hulk again. Hopefully, it’s in a second volume. Until then, if you haven’t been reading, you’ve got 12 fantastic issues of catching up to do.
Ei8ht #1 (Rafael Albuquerque, Mike Johnson): Is it weird to say that the coolest thing about a time travel story is its use of color? Because Ei8ht‘s color scheme is intriguing as hell. Designating the past as green, the present as purple, and the future as blue, Ei8ht establishes a visual language that also serves as a strong hook when it serves up the curveball that is The Meld—which it describes as “something else entirely” and colors in a flat beige-like orange. While the colors make for a strong hook, the story and art bring the goods as well—Ei8ht is about Joshua, a man who takes on a time-traveling assassination mission for the chance to save his wife. Unfortunately for him, he gets lost in The Meld, a sort of island of misfit toys but for all manner of things lost to time. Fortunately for us, The Meld looks like a great breeding ground for some fantastic comic book storytelling.
Southern Bastards #7 (Jason Aaron, Jason Latour): First there was a man who wanted to clean up his hometown with nothing but a big stick. Then there was the coach who stood in his way. In its second arc, “Gridiron,” Aaron and Latour have pivoted slightly from deep-fried southern pulp towards a slow-burning Breaking Bad-esque tragedy about how a promising football star becomes a vicious crime lord unlike any other. Bastards gets a lot of points for its unique setting and authentic feel, but Aaron and Latour are also doing fantastic character work within its pages, turning a despicable character into a tragic one, and conveying with heartbreaking clarity the crushing weight that falls on someone when their only way out of a dead-end life is taken from them.
Silk #1 (Stacey Lee, Robbie Thompson): One of the best things about Spider-Verse—a story I didn’t like that is also an unabashed tie-in machine—has been the surprising quality of the tie-ins it is committed to churning out, and the creative teams it’s putting on them. Silk is the latest of these, an ongoing series featuring the Asian-American Cindy Moon, a character recently revealed to have been bitten by the same spider as Peter Parker, but has been MIA all this time thanks to her being locked in a bunker by the mysterious continuity headache Ezekiel. What makes Silk stand out is her struggle with reintegrating with society, trying to be a superhero whilst fighting the constant urge to withdraw back to where she feels safe. Keep an eye on this one.
Last week’s trade paperbacks: There were a number of great collected editions released last week worth picking up—Daredevil drops the second volume of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s still-embarrassingly-good run on the character post-San Francisco reboot which will, sadly, be coming to an end soon. At the other end of the Marvel Universe, the first volume of Greg Pak and Victor Ibanez’s Storm, Make It Rain, collects the first five issues of the can’t-miss solo series that will show you why Storm is one of the best X-Men. Finally, Image Comics reprints the second volume of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ seminal noir book Criminal—Lawless. If you haven’t read that one, it’s definitely time.