5 comics to read this July: Reimagining classic concepts
July is always a big month for comics fans thanks to the annual San Diego Comic Con. But this year, in addition to all the exciting upcoming series sure to be announced at the convention, there are also several fun new comics launching here, now, this month.
The X-Men enter a new era, a Teen Titan actually attends high school, and Jesus learns how to be a superhero. Check out our list of five(-ish) comics to make sure you pick up this July.
House of X #1 & Powers of X #1 (Marvel)
Jonathan Hickman (writer), Pepe Larraz & R.B. Silva (artists)
Once upon a time, the X-Men were the dominant superhero franchise at Marvel. Over the last decade and a half, the Avengers have steadily taken the throne thanks to a multitude of factors (from writer Brian Michael Bendis’ masterful stewardship of the comic franchise to the wildly successful MCU movies) but now writer Jonathan Hickman has a master plan to restore mutants to prominence.
It all starts this month with the advent of House of X and Powers of X (the first X there is pronounced like the letter and the second like a Roman numeral, for what it’s worth). The two six-issue miniseries will alternate each week; House of X #1 is followed by Powers of X #1 a week later, then House of X #2, and so on, until they finish later this year. When they’re done, Marvel will be relaunching its entire line of X-Men comics. No information is currently available on what that will look like (other than Hickman writing the flagship title), but don’t be surprised if some news breaks at San Diego Comic-Con this month.
This is Hickman’s first Marvel comic in a few years after bringing his masterful Avengers and Fantastic Four runs to a head with Secret Wars. Superhero comic fans should take solace that Hickman recently told EW he feels his writing is now better than ever.
“I showed up in comics about 10 years ago. I had never been published or written anything professionally. So I have been learning on the job to be a writer for that entire period of time,” Hickman tells EW. “Honestly, leaving Marvel when I did, being done with Secret Wars and exiting the stage, that’s probably about when I felt really comfortable for the first time as a writer, in control of my craft. I spent a couple years working on independent projects and sharpening all my tools. I certainly feel like I’m writing better than I ever have, and I’m in control of it as a discipline. As somebody who has not felt that way, I feel like this is really the start of me doing work I’m really, really proud of.”
Teen Titans: Raven (DC Ink)
Kami Garcia (writer), Gabriel Picolo (artist)
What if the Teen Titans acted like actual teens? The recent live-action Titans series on the DC Universe streaming platform opened with a young Raven (Teagan Croft) discovering her powers, accidentally catalyzing the death of her adoptive human mother, and then running away with fellow young superheroes to discover the truth of her demonic powers. This new graphic novel from DC’s YA imprint DC Ink does a much better job of situating Raven in high school, where mean girls and first dates take up as much time as demonic conspiracies.
Garcia, who as co-writer of Beautiful Creatures knows a thing or two about stories with magic in them, infuses Raven’s mythology with a welcome strain of New Orleans mysticism. Picolo’s Twitter feed is already a must-follow for Teen Titans fans due to his habit of regularly posting amazing drawings of Raven and the other Titans just hanging out at home, and he brings that same warm energy to Raven’s high school adventures.
Order Teen Titans: Raven here.
No One Left to Fight #1 (Dark Horse)
Aubrey Sitterson (writer), Fico Ossio (artist)
It’s about time Dragon Ball got its due in mainstream American comics. The new Dark Horse miniseries plays with the massive pop culture legacy of Akira Toriyama’s manga/anime classic in a way few U.S. creators have tried before. The biggest villain here isn’t necessarily a magical monster or alien conqueror as much as obsolescence. Years after saving the world from untold threats, master martial artist Vale faces his biggest challenge yet: His 30s.
“It’s a love letter to Dragon Ball, we wear that influence pretty proudly on our sleeve,” writer Aubrey Sitterson tells EW. “But we tried to take all the bits we love and put it together in a story about what it’s like when you’ve achieved some of your goals. You’ve reached the point that you’ve been striving to reach since you were a kid. Then you got there, you won, and you got what you wanted. But that’s not enough, because you have a whole lot of life to live.”
Ossio’s art on the series is mind-bendingly colorful, and his intricate character designs leave a lot of visual clues for readers to unpack as they move through the series.
No One Left to Fight #1 hits stores this week; pre-order it here.
Second Coming #1 (AHOY)
Mark Russell (writer), Richard Pace (artist)
Now here’s one that’s been in the news a bit. Second Coming, the story of Jesus returning to Earth in order to hang out and trade tips with a Superman-like hero, was originally supposed to be published by DC Comics, but after a wave of negative publicity, the creators requested the rights back from that publisher and moved to relative newcomer AHOY.
People have disagreed about the meaning of Jesus’ teachings since he was alive, so perhaps it’s no surprise that a series like this would draw scorn from some. But anyone who’s read Russell’s past comics — such as The Flintstones and Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles — knows that he’s an extremely thoughtful writer. For example, yes I did say The Flinstones just now; under Russell’s stewardship, the town of Bedrock became one of comics’ most potent political allegories of the last few years. Pace’s art, which among other things transforms Jesus’ heavenly father into an eternally-frustrated old man, is equally radical in its own way. This comic isn’t just about shock value; the first issue ends with a powerful discussion between Jesus and his new friend Sunstar suggesting that the most important thing about Jesus’ life wasn’t the manner of his death, but the way he showed forgiveness and mercy.
What would that look like in a superhero context, where evil is typically defeated through physical violence rather than a helping hand? You’ll have to pre-order Second Coming #1 here to find out.
Jimmy Olsen #1 (DC Comics)
Matt Fraction (writer), Steve Leiber (artist)
Something is up with Superman. DC’s big event comic this year is Event Leviathan by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, and Superman is at the center of it. While the Man of Steel deals with that strange new threat, two of his closest allies are getting their own solo comics starting this month. The new Lois Lane series is written by Greg Rucka and therefore not to be missed, but Jimmy Olsen brings the titular character back to his zany roots. It’s an absolute blast.
Modern superhero fans probably know Jimmy Olsen primarily as a mostly-useless redheaded photographer and/or the strapping “James” incarnation played by Mehcad Brooks on Supergirl, but back in the day he was known not so much for his Daily Planet photography as he was simply “Superman’s Best Friend,” who was constantly getting into colorful misadventures before getting rescued by Superman. The first issue of the new series throws back to that type of storytelling, putting Jimmy through a ringer of several different escapades before pointing at a potentially darker mystery.
There’s one particular page from this issue (featuring Jimmy diving to Earth from space) that could very well make you cackle every time you look at it. This is a comic to be treasured.
Pre-order Jimmy Olsen #1 here.