4. Ms. Marvel (art by Adrian Alphona/Jake Wyatt, writing by G. Willow Wilson): Whimsical, 60s-style superhero comic with a few post-modern Vertigo inflections. The series alternates layers of metaphor and literalism, with Kamala Khan juggling her faith, family, and friends with body-morphing superpowers, hero worship and civic responsibility, only to find out she’s an heir to one of Kirby’s post-human races. Playful identity politics aside, the series takes on a dual role: role modelling for and celebration of young people. There’s a certain pride in the next generation’s progressive attitudes and stylish aesthetics–particularly the way clothes are used to convey individuality within a social collective–while attempting to channel them towards a greater social good. 3. Revenge (art by Ian Churchill, writing by Jonathan Ross): Ian Churchill uses the worst excesses of his 90s influences for a strung-out, drug-addled fantasia. A comic nasty filled with Botox celebrities, silicone trophy wives, and sweaty black market surgeons, their shared obsession with projecting a pleasant image only laying bare their revolting personalities. At the center of Revenge‘s rotten heart? A pitiable old man, robbed of all his dignity, scrambling for a small measure of redemption because it’s the only thing left he can achieve. 2. Stray Bullets: Killers (art/writing by David Lapham): What’s always striking with David Lapham is he never settles for the obvious. While the requisite murder and mob dealings percolate around the edges of Killers, Lapham is more interested in a sort of cultural crime. Particularly, the way two lovers–Virginia, the girl with a sordid past, and Eli, the one-legged boy with a dysfunctional family–are targeted by their own community. The two fall for each other, almost (almost) healing the psychic wounds their lives have given them, but their circumstances conspire. It’s not the intrusion of Virginia’s criminal past that destroys the relationship, either, but the seeds of doubt planted in Eli’s mind by spiteful passive-aggressives: an overbearing mother (afraid of her son’s burgeoning sexuality and independence), a shitty cousin who uses and abuses people like they were unwanted toys, a teacher who may or may not be hiding some skeletons of his own. All tell Eli that Virginia is not to be trusted, that she will hurt him, that she isn’t worthy. Their words coil in the back of his brain as he watches her, coloring her every action with deceit where there is none. Then, a mobster’s bitter, teenage daughter gives that final push. The hostility seems unwarranted, fueled more by a combination of gossip, childhood indiscretions, and their own sense of inadequacy than anything. By comparison, the mobsters, for all their brutality, seem reasonable, their motivations tangible. Eli’s social circle, members of what’s considered ‘decent’ society, seem to enjoy tearing down people, their hopes and dreams, their loves, in order to feel bigger. It’s they who are the real criminals. 1. Ragnarok (art/writing by Walt Simonson): Still the master of cosmic storytelling, Simonson tears down the Norse pantheon and sifts through the wreckage. There, he finds an outlaw culture living in the faded glory of another world, coded blue by colorist Laura Martin. It’s still a decidedly Viking world, though, strength and courage the only metric of an individual’s worth. This informs the closing moments of the series’ second issue: undead Thor shows respect for the warrior elf he bested in combat, honoring a dying wish to save her daughter from a heavy metal devil. To seal the deal, he summons crackling bolts of lightning to demolish his own tomb. Buildings and cities, monuments and temples, these are transitory things. Actions are forever.
Also Liked: All-New Ultimates, The Maxx: Maxximized, Pretty Deadly, Prophet, Judge Dredd: Mega-City Two, Caliban, Fatale, Rachel Rising
What I Would Like To Have Read: Beautiful Darkness, Seconds, Copra, Through the Woods, Nemo: The Roses of Berlin