5 comics to read in June: New adventures beckon
The coronavirus isn't gone (in fact cases are spiking again in some states), but some of the stricter quarantine measures are starting to lift. This is great news for the comic industry, which has been mostly on pause for the last few months after the monopolistic Diamond Comics Distributors temporarily shut down its operations. In the months since, DC Comics has formed new relationships with other distributors, and the publishers still working with Diamond are putting new books in stores again. In terms of this column, that means we're back to talking about five books per month instead of three.
Check out our list of comic highlights from this month below, and be sure to support your local comic shop as they try to come back from quarantine.
Adventureman #1 (Image)
Matt Fraction (writer), Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson (artists)
There are more fun genre concepts packed into the first issue of Adventureman than some comics achieve in whole volumes. The issue starts with a battle between steampunk superheroes and the sky fleet of the nefarious Baron Bizarre, but then pulls back to reveal that the story is being read by a prodigious young boy and his single mother. Their reality is hardly less fantastic than the one of the story — they hail from a multiracial family of geniuses — but after the mom discovers a mysterious new volume in her used bookstore, she starts to wonder if the Adventureman stories are real after all. The swarms of bugs coalescing into men to chase her seem to indicate this will be an epic series worth reading further.
Adventureman #1 is available now.
Dragonfly & Dragonflyman (AHOY Comics)
Tom Peyer (writer), Peter Krause & Andy Troy (artists)
This fascinating series is a brilliant side-by-side analysis of the two extreme ends of superhero storytelling: the campy, colorful, fun style represented by things like the '60s Batman TV show starring Adam West, and the dark, gritty, "realistic" style often attributed to the twin '80s comic masterpieces Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. As the former co-writer of the Batman '66 comic that translated the vibe of the West show onto the page for the first time, Peyer is well-qualified for the half of this story set on Earth-Alpha, where Dragonflyman and his sidekick, Stinger, go on wham-bang missions where the stakes are never too high. Then there's the Earth-Omega story line, where Dragonfly and Stinger have a much more adversarial relationship and face much grimmer threats. That story line has a nod to the iconic Green Lantern/Green Arrow run by Dennis O’Neil (who died just this week) and Neal Adams, where the Emerald Archer walks in on his sidekick, Speedy, shooting up heroin — and Peyer and the artists find a way to homage such landmark comics without falling into copies or cliches.
Dragonfly & Dragonflyman is available June 16. Once you finish, you can check out the companion series The Wrong Earth, where these two heroes find themselves switching places!
November: Book Two (Image)
Matt Fraction (writer), Elsa Charretier (artist)
It's a good month to be a fan of Matt Fraction, who has two different comics on this list; sometimes release dates converge like that! The first installment in the November trilogy was EW's favorite graphic novel of 2019, so we're really anticipating the follow-up. November tells the tale of three women ("One of them is a survivor, one of them is a good Samaritan, and the other is struggling against her own obsolescence," Fraction told EW last year) who each find themselves thrust into different aspects of a dangerous noir story. Due to the non-chronological nature of the story, readers probably won't fully understand November's plot until all three volumes are completed. But in the meantime, Charretier's fascinating visual storytelling and the intoxicating mysterious noir atmosphere should be more than enough to entertain.
November Book Two is available now.
Strange Adventures #2 (DC Comics)
Tom King (writer), Mitch Gerads & Evan "Doc" Shaner (artists)
This series about sci-fi hero Adam Strange and the nature of truth got hit hard by COVID-19, which shut down the comic industry shortly after the much-anticipated first issue landed in stores. Gerads assured fans in a video at the end of March that the second issue did in fact exist, and this month they can finally read it! The 12-issue series only really covered the basics in the first issue (showing how Strange's book tour for his memoir of his adventures on the planet Rann is getting derailed by protesters accusing of him of mysterious war crimes). The second lead, Mr. Terrific, didn't even show up until the final page. So now that new comics are getting distributed again (though not by Diamond, in this case), readers can soon get a taste of where King and Gerads are actually going.
Strange Adventures #2 hits stores June 16.
You Brought Me the Ocean (DC Comics)
Alex Sanchez (writer), Julie Maroh (artist)
Aqualad isn't nearly as prevalent in the cultural consciousness as fellow DC sidekicks like Robin. Part of the reason for that is how inconsistent his appearances are. Garth is different from Kaldur'ahm, who is different from Jackson Hyde. The latter is the focus of this new graphic novel, but as with many of the recent DC graphic novels aimed at YA readers, you don't have to be familiar with the ins and outs of comic book mythology to understand the story.
Here, Jake Hyde is a kid living in New Mexico, staring down the barrel of high school graduation. In a town surrounded by desert, he hasn't had much chance to explore his affinity for water, but he soon discovers new powers at the same time he starts developing new feelings for Kenny Liu, the openly gay captain of the swim team.
"That's part of what I'm so excited about with this book: the metaphor between superheroes and LGBTQ people, that sense of having to live a double life and having a secret identity and how well that fits in with the superhero metaphor," Sanchez recently told EW. "When we can truly be who we are and be true to ourselves, then we open up and that's our superpower."
Maroh illustrated the Blue Is the Warmest Color graphic novel that went on to inspire the film, and is therefore well-accustomed to capturing the intimacies of young gay love.
You Brought Me the Ocean is available from booksellers now.