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Comic Culture: Three Monthlies You Should Be Reading

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Everyone has their own personal favorite monthly series they look forward to reading when they are released. And I’m sure if I took a poll, the results would be all over the spectrum. Keeping that in mind, this week’s installment of Comic Culture will showcase three monthly books that I personally feel everyone should be reading on a regular basis. Take my advice, or not, just know that at the very least you should be considering these books. Well then, let’s get on with it!

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Black Science: No modern day writer does science fiction currently like writer Rick Remender. Fear Agent remains one of the more recent sci-fi classics that was somehow overlooked when it was coming out, but now that it is collected has surpassed cult status. Black Science is touted as the spiritual successor to Fear Agent. That withstanding, it is still very much its own book and is NOT a continuation or in the same universe as Fear Agent. Focusing on a team of dimension hopping scientists, with a flawed lead who is simply trying to get his kids home safely to his wife seems a little like a shallow premise. But, trust me it is not, and Remender is currently weaving a masterpiece in the making. On the topic of art, Matteo Scalera’s art in this book is simply on another level. This is my first experience with his art and the man certainly does not disappoint. His art is fluid when it needs to be, and restrained when it should be. Being that this is a sci-fi tale that hops around on alien planets the character and creature designs could easily fall flat. However, Scalera manages to create some of the most interesting and unique creatures I have ever seen in a sci-fi comic to date. I can’t imagine that Remender is making it easy on him creating some of these planets and creatures, but Scalera certainly proves he’s up to the challenge. Some of the credit has to go to Dean White, the colorist on the book. His use of blacks in conjunction with very bright colors really helps take Scalera’s art to that next level. His color palette in general also helps bring the book to life and really sell these alien worlds. All in all this book just sings to me and I am definitely on it until the end. All in or nothing. Remender and company have hooked me on this one for sure.

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Letter 44: Charles Soule is a writer that has quickly taken hold of a good corner of the comic market, writing around 7 monthly books on a regular basis. While most of his work to date has been on Big Two books, it is my opinion that his Oni-Press creator-owned book Letter 44 is the cream of the crop. Combining a sci-fi alien cover-up, while using shows like The West Wing as a blueprint of sorts,this book is always on top of my to read pile when it comes out. And keeping in mind, that I don’t normally like politically driven books, that is saying something. Centering on a newly elected president that finds out that there is a team of astronauts in space investigating an alien ship/entity all while trying to go about his daily presidential business is a really intriguing premise. Soule writes President Glades as a take-charge/no-crap character that wants to do what is best for the American people, as well as the astronauts putting their lives at risk. It becomes clear quickly that the previous administration was hiding something, as well as had ulterior motives with the discovery of these aliens. Glades seems to be slowly peeling back the onion on the broader picture as the book unfolds. The astronauts themselves deal with a lot of different hurdles in the first few issues while in space, as well as just trying to wrap their heads around the thought of making contact with alien life. They have literally become a family, who sometimes gets along, but most of the time don’t. All of Soule’s characters in this book are well-thought out, fleshed out and just intriguing to read. On the artistic side of things, Alberto Alburquerque appears to be a new face to the scene, but brings his own unique style to the book nonetheless. His line work is a little more square/geometric, and his characters really have a presence about them. At first, I found his style a little jarring because of its rigidness, but once I settled into the story it really started to gel for me. Deep down, I think this book is trying to convey the idea of staying strong in the eyes of any adversity, and Alburquerque’s pencils help convey that message. There just so happens to be aliens involved, and that is a plus for me.

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The Woods: James Tynion IV is a rather new name in the comic writing landscape. Touting himself as one of Scott Snyder’s pupils, he sharpened his teeth on the Bat universe over at DC before finally starting his first creator-owned title. Basically, this book is about a high school that is suddenly, and inexplicably transported to an alien planet/moon in the middle of a magical forest with all the students and teachers inside. Quickly chaos ensues as everyone involved realizes that it is not necessarily safe on their “new” home, and order needs to be restored to stay alive. This is where battle lines are drawn between the teachers, and multiple groups of students. It seems to be “do” or “die” and everyone wants to “do” it there own way. I am getting a strong Lord of the Flies vibe from this book, sprinkled in with the sci-fi elements, of course. There are usual stereotypical high school tropes at play here with the jock, nerd, outcast, overachiever, etc. and while that has definitely been overdone I think it works because Tynion seems to have a grand plan for all of these characters. A small group chooses to break off and go out into the woods, and I have a feeling things are going to heat up fast. Michael Dialynas is an artist that is new to me, and I am really liking what he is doing with this book. His art isn’t too overly detailed, yet it isn’t too simplistic like a Mike Allred. His character designs for the students are great, and the woods are eerily creepy, yet almost inviting. Because the color palette is extremely bright and vivid it really drives it home that these kids are on a different planet. Together, the writing, art and coloring all make this book work for me and I can’t wait to see what these kids get themselves into in the woods.

Honorable Mention:

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The Empty Man: I have been on the lookout for a “new” horror book as of late and this one has the potential to fill that void for me. Writer Cullen Bunn has definitely been around the industry for awhile, but I am just beginning to discover some of his upcoming projects. He has done A LOT of Marvel stuff, but seems to really be expanding his creator-owned work lately. This is one of those books. Through and through, this is a horror book. There seems to be a lot of themes running through it, but there is very clearly a combination of John Carpenter’s Thing and Wolfgang Petersen’s Outbreak coming through. The Empty Man virus is running rampant, and those infected are doing terrible things to themselves, as well as others, but no one can seem to get a bead on the disease. The FBI/CIA and CDC have joined forces to try and figure it all out, but are having a real hard time doing so. One of the main characters even says that, “It appears to have a mind of its own.” The story is definitely creepy, and the visuals are stunningly creepy. Relative newcomer Vanesa R. Del Rey has a very striking and painterly quality to her work that really amps up the intensity of the book. She uses a lot of blacks and keeps the color palette rich, yet almost dirty and muted. Her style works perfectly for a horror story. I really think this series has a lot of potential and I hope people aren’t overlooking it.

Oofta! You still with me? Anyone out there reading any of these books? Any disagree with me and think these books aren’t up to snuff? While I may disagree with you, I’d love to hear you opinions about them as well as any other books you think should be mentioned. Leave a comment below or hit me up on twitter.

Happy reading.

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  • chris ellis

    I think the Empty Man is a miniseries.