The best comics from August: Marvel's Defenders reunite, Crisis Zone relives the early pandemic
Hello again, true believers! Now that Labor Day weekend has come and gone, EW is happy to present the highlights of last month's best comics. August had quite a diverse lineup of goodness; we enjoyed some YA-oriented feel-good comics as much as extremely NSFW adults-only stories, along with an all-ages Marvel masterpiece.
Check out our comic picks for August 2021 below.
Best new book
Defenders #1 (Marvel)
Al Ewing (writer), Javier Rodriguez (artist), Álvaro López (colorist)
Looks like it's been long enough since the Marvel-Netflix era that the Defenders franchise can revert back to its original format as a team-up of some of Marvel's more eccentric magical and cosmic heroes who don't fit easily in other boxes. Most of all, though, this relaunch proves that Al Ewing's writing and Javier Rodriguez's art are two great tastes that taste even better together.
Rodriguez has proven his mastery of magical and cosmic art with runs on Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme and Exiles, and he cemented himself as a heavyweight when he illustrated a new history of the Marvel universe in 2019. Now he's reached such a level that even exposition-heavy scenes (which are to be expected in the first issue of a new team book like Defenders) are livened with intricate layouts and visual storytelling. Doctor Strange doesn't just talk to newish character the Masked Raider about the need to save the world from a new threat — he does it while blowing tea smoke into the shape of their mysterious enemies or floating upside down in a hail of tarot cards.
Ewing fans, meanwhile, should be glad to have a new source of his writing now that Immortal Hulk is wrapping up (though in contrast to that 50-issue Green Giant epic, Defenders is only a five-issue miniseries). Speaking of Immortal Hulk, it's awesome to see Betty Ross (and her new monstrous form as the Red Harpy) remain under Ewing's stewardship by moving to this book. On top of that, the cliffhanger ending of this first issue is a welcome sign that Ewing still wants to play with the concept of Galactus, having previously written one of the most interesting takes on the character in Marvel history in the pages of The Ultimates. There's been a Galactus-shaped hole in the Marvel yniverse since Thor killed him last year, so it's nice to see that Ewing at least isn't done playing with cosmic devourers.
Best new collections
Crisis Zone (Fantagraphics)
Simon Hanselmann (writer/artist)
The COVID-19 pandemic is still going on, and it seems possible this virus will just be an element of our lives for the foreseeable future. But the post-vaccine world still feels a lot different than last spring, when we were all hunkering inside and weren't quite sure whether we were living through an apocalypse. If you're ever interested in revisiting that atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, and lockdown ennui with the benefit of hindsight, it's captured perfectly in the new collection of Simon Hasnelmann's Crisis Zone.
Crisis Zone — a continuation of Hanselmann's Megg, Mogg, and Owl series featuring the very NSFW escapades of a bunch of magical monsters and anthropomorphic animals — is itself a relic of the early days of the pandemic, having originally been published piece by piece on Hanselmann's Instagram feed last year. If you read it in real time, its NSFW weirdness escalated in tune with the feverish moods of the COVID era, but reading it now in collected form gives it the aura of historical artifact — as well as a delightfully bonkers read in and of itself.
Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters vol. 1 (Oni Press)
Chris Samnee (writer/artist), Laura Samnee (writer), Matt Wilson (colorist)
Chris Samnee is one of those prolific comic artists who is well worth following on Twitter, because on top of the many comics he already illustrates, he's constantly rattling off sketches and mini-illustrations. But as delightful as it is to see Samnee's take on various superheroes (his light style is reminiscent of the best classic cartoons), it's even more awesome to watch him cut loose with new kinds of visuals — like, say, a young nomad girl leaping through the sky to punch a kaiju in the face.
Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters is a family book in the truest sense of the word. On top of being co-written by the husband-and-wife team of Chris and Laura Samnee, the two young girls at the center of the story are based on their daughters. That doesn't mean this book is lacking in danger or stakes; it's essentially a post-apocalyptic story about humans trying to survive in a world dominated by giant monsters. But because we see it through the eyes of young Jonna and her older sister, Rainbow, there's a sense of warmth and adventurous fun throughout that prevents Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters from ever feeling too dark.
We originally teased the first issue of this series in our March comic column, but if you missed it then, be sure to check out the collected edition now.
Savage Hearts #2 (Dark Horse)
Aubrey Sitterson (writer), Jed Dougherty (artist)
In its first issue, Savage Hearts presented an ambitious genre mash-up: romantic comedy by way of jungle adventure. The meet-cute between fierce warrior Bronwyn and horned trickster Graow felt almost too fun to be true (especially given Graow's alliterative sobriquets for his new crush), but the second issue proves this concept has gas in the tank. Though Bronwyn still doesn't have much interest in Graow (she's more concerned with avenging her previous lover's death at the hands of an evil wizard), their dynamic is getting more and more fun — as is the backup story No Kings No Masters (written by Sitterson with art by Goran Gligovic), a more anarchism-flavored take on Robin Hood. All in all, Savage Hearts is definitely a book to keep an eye on.
Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?! (Random House Graphic)
Sophie Escabasse (writer/artist)
This delightful series gets a new installment, even more fun now that the basic world-building is out of the way. With protagonist Effie now safely entrenched in the home of her two witchy aunts, learning magic from a talking suit of armor after school, it's fun to watch writer and artist Sophie Escabasse expand the world of Witches of Brooklyn to depict more mystical versions of common middle-grade experiences.
In this volume, Effie has to deal with an all-too-common middle-grade experience: a new kid coming to school and changing the dynamics of a friend group. The fact that Effie herself is still relatively new at school doesn't change her resentment of French transfer student Garance; in fact this might only enhance it. But by accompanying her aunt to resolve a face-off between two magical statues (one of which is much more recently arrived than the other), Effie learns the value of patience and understanding. Escabasse's facial expressions are charming beyond belief, as are the touches of Brooklyn color — the best example of which might be the circle of real witches discussing the phenomenon of performative Tumblr witches and astrology obsessions.