comixologist recommends

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A comiXologist recommends…

THE EXPANSE: ORIGINS #1

The Expanse: Origins #1 is a prequel. Yes, I am aware of the sentiment that comes with uttering that word. Prequel. Ugh. It does make one feel like they’re watching Anakin talk about sand, or pod-racing. Though there is a difference between a “bad” prequel and a “good” one; I would categorize The Expanse: Origins as one of the good.

Origins is a series of four issues focusing on the four major characters of The Expanse series of novels. This first issue focuses on the backstory of the captain of The Rocinante, James Holden, and his time as a lieutenant in the United Nations Navy.

Having only cursory knowledge of the characters, the books, and the show, I read The Expanse: Origins #1 as a primer, to see if the characters would be intriguing enough for me to revisit the books and to finish them with this new interest. Issue 1 portrays a man who is not right for the military, yet he is there by choice. There is an event that unfolds which shows Holden is in the right, but the restrictions and restraints of command are not for him.

Yes, Holden eventually becomes a Captain. Yes, he involves himself in a major conflict. Of this, I am aware, but how does this short backstory come into play with his future self? Do the events that occur in Origins predict the character and actions to come? 

Beginning with The Expanse: Origins provides a unique opportunity for those of us who are not fully involved with The Expanse novels – we can read from the absolute beginning. For those who have finished the latest book, Origins is more – more content, more backstory, more connection to the characters.

Will I be returning to the novels? Yes. Will I be read the remaining Origins stories? Of course. Will I continue to wish that we were 200 years into the future commanding a spaceship? Damn right. 

Dane Cypel really wishes he can command a spaceship. If it was named Enterprise, that would be even better.

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A comiXologist recommends…

LETTERS FOR LUCARDO Vol. 1

Ed Fielder is a 61-year-old scrivener at the palace of the Night Court. Ed is quite mortal, something that’s not a given in this world. Ed is so dedicated to his work that he barely notices when his most frequent client, Lucardo Von Gishaupt, one of the immortal and forever-young aristocrats, flirts with him. 

Lucardo is a handsome man with enticing eyes, and Ed wonders why such a man of high rank would ever want to be with him. But after Ed’s initial hesitation, their romance blossoms, which causes friction in Lucardo’s family, who are not too pleased to see their immortal son spending his time with a mortal. Especially a mortal nearing so close to his twilight years. And Ed has to overcome his feeling of inadequacy while being around people who have not only lived a life of luxury he cannot understand, but who also joke of drinking blood.

Letters for Lucardo is Noora Heikkilä’s first in a four-part series focusing on these star-crossed lovers of the Night Court. The book is masterfully illustrated and the characters are portrayed as real and vulnerable. The scenes in the Night Court, with veiled figures enshrouded by candlelight, are intriguing. But Heikkilä truly shines when it comes to how natural a simple laugh bursting out of Lucardo feels. Or how palpable the dawning horror becomes as we watch Ed realize he has woken up in the bed of Lucardo’s father, The Lord of the Night Court.

The romance of Lucado works because Heikkilä has created an intriguing world and characters we come to adore. Any fan of romance, vampires, or court intrigue will find something to love here.

(This is an adult graphic novel. It contains adult situations and content, and is inappropriate for anyone under age 18.)

S.M. Vidaurri is a digital editor at comiXology. He is a cartoonist, a musician, a writer, and is the human subjugate of three beautiful cats. You can find his work in Adventure Time Marshall Lee Spectacular, a comiXology Original.

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comiXology Unlimited Staff Selects

Hip Hop Family Tree Vol. 1 @fantagraphics

Writer/Artist: Ed Piskor @edpiskor
What it’s about: A painstakingly researched and consistently entertaining history of hip-hop.  Volume one covers the mid-70′s through 1981.
How you discovered it: My friend Ben Marra (@traditionalcomics) has a pin-up in the back (plus everybody’s talking about this book)
Why you like it: Music and comics don’t seem like a natural match, but Piskor taps into something really elemental in this book.  It probably helps to know the songs a bit, but you can basically hear them coming out of the page.  Plus, the book’s energy and enthusiasm are totally contagious- if you’re not already a hip-hop fan, HHFT could make you one.  This comics just, like, vibrates.
Favorite moment: There are a few stories that weave through this first volume, but my favorite is the buildup to “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” (I also like it when another friend of mine, Michael Holman, makes an appearance)

Recommended by Harris Smith, production coordinator/social media editor

Read Hip Hop Family Tree Vol. 1 and thousands of other comics with our all-you-can-read subscription service comiXology Unlimited!

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A comiXologist recommends…

NOVAE #1

You can only appreciate Novae if you set a slow pace to your reading. With very little dialogue and an emphasis on emotions conveyed by very small details – a trembling hand, a shining pin on a coat, a furtive look – Kaiju tells us the story of Sulvain and Raziol in Paris 1672. Sulvain, described to us as a world traveler and expert physiologist, comes to the French capital to meet his friend, the astronomer Huygens. The famous scientist is working on new discoveries with the help of his assistant, Raziol Qamar, an eager and enthusiastic apprentice who is immediately intrigued by his patron’s friend.

Kaiju’s art gives the reader the impression of looking at a painting rather than reading a story. This impression is reinforced by the coloring: the first issue is nearly monochrome with its use of grey and blue tones, sometimes illuminated by moments of orange. The light of the candle shines on Razul and Sulvain’s first exchange in Huygens’ library. The harsh day light casts a glaring glow on Razul’s exhausted state after he spent two days working on mathematical calculations for a conference.

Be prepared to be hooked: this first issue gives us few details about the story and will leave you clamoring for more. We can assume that Sulvain and Raziol will grow closer but I’m excited to see how this relationship will develop. If you are looking for a slow-burn historical romance, Novae is the comic for you.

Camille Fabre is an online marketing manager at comiXology.

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A comiXologist Recommends

Voltron: Legendary Defender #1 (Lion Forge)

by Tim Hendrick, Rich Iverson and the Digital Art Chefs

Five giant robot lions that combine into one REALLY giant robot to fight aliens in space: an awesomely ridiculous concept that could only have come from the 80s. Voltron is back and looking absolutely fantastic the new Voltron: Legendary Defender animated series, created by much of the same incredible team that brought you Legend of Korra. Of course, as awesome as the robot is, the real draw of this story is the friendship between Hunk, Pidge, Lance, Keith, and Shiro, the new paladins of Voltron. And this week, from Lion Forge, the team stumbles into a new adventure in Voltron: Legendary Defenders #1. (For the continuty conscious, this issue takes place after episode 8.)

While Princess Allura recuperates from their latest face-off with the Glara Empire, Coran takes the paladins out for some rigorous training. Their plans are waylaid, however, when a stop at a dodgy bar leads to a run-in with someone who Coran owes a debt - one that’s overdue by about ten thousand years! While their training must be postponed, the new defenders of the universe will get plenty of hands-on experience as they fight to obtain a Yalexian pearl valuable enough to pay for their friend’s release.

Though this adventure stands apart from the main plot of the animated series, it seems there’s at least one juicy hint of backstory tucked in among the action that fans will be eager to add to their theories and discussions. Who knows what else may be revealed down the line? At the very least, if you blasted your way through 11 episodes of Legendary Defender and are now desperate for more, this 4-part series looks to be a fun bonus chapter to help tide you over until the next season. Which is… when exactly? I have an urgent need to mark my calendar.

Emily Forster is a Digital Editor and spends her free time thinking almost exclusively about various kinds of sentient space robots.

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COMICS GREATEST ROMANCES

Kid Loki and Leah of Hel, B.F.F.s – A study of milkshakes and melancholy

Okay, so here’s the thing about romance – happily ever after is basically the beginning of the end.

Maybe my idea of romance is a little tied up in actual Romanticism.  (I mean, have you seen the Romantics?  Those guys were super goth, complete with hair like Eldritch circa First and Last and Always.)  As an intellectual point of view that is the antithesis to Enlightenment era order and rationalism, Romanticism is about unpredictability and extremes.  Which are not sustainable in a happily ever after situation.  Nothing is less romantic than all that mundane stuff that comes in the settling down aftermath of happily ever after.  Therefore, I contend that the best romance has a tragic ending, preserving forever a sublime heartbreak that hurts-so-good.  

Which brings me to Kid Loki and Leah of Hel.  Their story spans Kieron Gillen’s @kierongillen  run on Journey Into Mystery (2011-2012), with bonus feels occurring in Young Avengers (2013).  Leah is the handmaiden of Hela, sent to aid Loki in various tasks.  In need of not just a helper but also a friend, Kid Loki enthusiastically embraces Leah’s companionship, seemingly impervious to her attempts at keeping her distance by way of sardonic banter.

There are moments when you realize that Leah doesn’t actually dislike Loki, that as a literal embodiment of Hela’s left hand, Leah lacks the autonomy to form a bond with him. And your heart will break a little.  Then there are moments when you realize that they’re both just doomed, and your heart will break a lot.  They are each in their own way children isolated from meaningful connections by forces profoundly outside of their control.  But they have each other.  Until they don’t, because they can’t.  This isn’t even romance with a tragic ending.  It’s romance with a tragic beginning!    

BUT IT GETS EVEN MORE TRAGIC!  The romance of Kid Loki and Leah of Hel is ultimately about stabbing yourself in the heart to hurt the one who cares about you most, but for their own good.  A preemptive act of love and betrayal all at once.  And so the romance is preserved forever precisely because it emphatically can’t ever happen.  And it just…hurts.  So good. Read through Manchester Gods for a nice, cathartic cry.  Read through to the end for a great, gasping ugly-cry.

Tia Vasiliou is a Digital Editor at ComiXology. She has it on good authority that she is None More Goth.

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A comiXologist Recommends

Power Man & Iron Fist

2016 series by David F. Walker and Sanford Green

1978 series by Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Dan Green and Dave Cockrum

As a young Luke Cage fanboy it is my esteemed pleasure to discuss the Power Man and Iron Fist bromance. I am all about it.  Their friendship is one for the ages, forged in fire and fun quips that we should all aspire to have.  It’s like Foggy and Matt Murdock without the legal and ethical disagreements.  It’s the strong foundation of Bucky and Steve without the years of being an ice cube only to wake up a puppet of the Soviets and slug it out.  Luke Cage and Danny Rand, through thick and thin, are the best of the best friends Marvel has ever had.  

Now for the sake of brevity, because we are all busy people, I’m only going to vaguely explain two particularly good places to look in on these guys and their antics.  If any reader wants to go right on ahead and start at the very beginning of the team-up “Power Man & Iron Fist” series from #1, do it. Be sure to note though, it’s a lot of wild, sometimes dated, Marvel 1970s camp. Marvel back then can sometimes be a polarizing experience to the uninitiated.

That said, my first selection is the 2016 PM&IF series that reunited these beautiful guys after years of separation.  This series (which ties into the recent “Civil War II” event) brought the two together to stop an old friend-turned-foe from taking complete control of all organized crime in New York.  The charm of this series comes from the guys being semi-retired from super-heroics.  Luke is married (to Jessica Jones) with a young daughter, and Danny is Luke’s screw-up best friend who wants to “get the band back together.”  Putting these two back on the street level beat is so funny.  With David F. Walker penning some fantastic situational humor and action for Sanford Greene’s art skills, this series is one not to miss out on.

For my next second selection I am taking a step back near the beginning, but not to the very beginning.  My top choice from the classics is issue #50 of the original PM&IF series. This is THE one to read if you want to understand Luke and Danny’s friendship.  This wonderful story (called “Freedom!”) is their past, present, and gave us their beautiful future together.  I will give nothing up of this story except the aforementioned origin of their true friendship.  It is the “must read” story for these perfect brothers in arms and cannot be overlooked.

You can get both the old and new Power Man and Iron Fist series buy-one-get-one-free with the checkout code MARVEL through 9/5!

Recommended by Matthew Burbridge, Digital Editor at ComiXology.

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A comiXologist Recommends (her favorite comics of 2015)

Transformers: Holiday Special #1

IDW’s Transformers Holiday Special is out this week, just in time to take its place as once of my absolute favorite single issues of 2015. It’s made up of three short stories from IDW’s Transformers continuity, all of which had me laughing out loud on every page. I would recommend picking this issue up to anyone with even a passing childhood remembrance of Transformers, if only for the hilarious Christmas poem about a grinchy, scroogey Starscream.

Of course, because I’m a die-hard More Than Meets The Eye fan, the highlight for me is Silent Light, a cheeky side story which, in typical fashion for the series, gets in some quality jabs at your heart and a bunch of juicy character development in between 10 pages of hijinks. Kotteri’s art in this story, accompanied beautifully by Joanna Lafuente’s colors, is lively and bursting with personality in every line. After seeing all these characters (especially Whirl) come to life in this style, I’m really hoping Kotteri lends their wonderful work to the main series someday in the future. Finally, my favorite Former-Decepticon & His Dog duo Thundercracker and Buster star in their very own holiday film noir (it’s a new genre.)

It’s still balmy here in New York City, but when I read this comic I swear I heard sleigh bells ringing… or maybe that was Lightbright and Sparkstalker’s wedding bells?

EMILY FORSTER is a Digital Editor at ComiXology and a cartoonist. These days, robots kissing is all she can think about.

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A comiXologist recommends:
Archie #1

by: Emily Forster

Recently, we’ve seen bold new stories like Afterlife With Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Archie Vs. Predator mash up the horror genre with the bubblegum world Riverdale. While I’m also a fan of these series (check them out!) what impresses me about Archie #1 is that it is equally bold in a way that can’t be described with one simple sentence. There’s no twist. It just does what every reboot aspires to do: it truly reinvents an old story without changing anything that made the original beloved in the first place.

Gossip is flying at Riverdale High following the breakup of Archie Andrews and Betty Cooper. Everyone is absolutely dying for details on the mysterious “lipstick incident” that triggered the split. The couple themselves seem resolved to move on and get past the drama, but their friends aren’t giving up on them so easily… and if you’ve ever read an Archie comic, you probably know without me telling you that plenty of hijinks ensue. But this isn’t just the latest twist in the road for Archie and the gang - it’s the beginning of Archie #1, kicking off a total relaunch of the series for the first time since the 1940s.

Writer Mark Waid has struck a perfect balance between preserving the goofy tone of classic Archie and gently pushing it into something a little more believable, with snappy dialogue that’s got just a touch of teenage angst mellowing out the silliness. No one says “gee,” but no one goes out of their way to drop obtrusively current slang either, maintaining the kind of timeless quality that is purely Archie while still grounding it in the present day. It is Fiona Staples’ art that takes this comic to another level, though. Her characters are so wonderfully observed and true to life that for the first time in many years, Archie and his friends feel like real teenagers again. Oh, and I have a crush on everyone. Especially Jughead.

It was also strikingly wonderful to read a first issue of Archie where characters who were introduced over the years to diversify the cast were there from the get-go, instantly lending a new authenticity to their friendships. The student body of Riverdale High feels more alive than ever before, and I can’t wait to see what they get up to this time around.

[Read Archie #1 on comiXology]

Emily Forster is a Digital Editor at ComiXology and a cartoonist. She likes comics about food and fights to the death.

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A comiXologist recommends…

BATMAN/ELMER FUDD

Batman/Elmer Fudd #1 is here to make some very funny and beautiful noir comics out of the bumbling and gullible hunter. Disclaimer - NO OFFICIAL CANON CLAIMS HAVE BEEN MADE, but they should.  I just think Fudd and the rest of the Looney Tunes (who might be in the book) should be in Gotham all the time. The tracks have been laid and we need only to buy our ticket into a new vibrant world where our most treasured comedy characters stalk the streets at night.

Tom King and Lee Weeks bring about the most old-school Batman story this year.  Elmer Fudd is an intense as all heck gun for hire who has been sent to take out Bugs “The Bunny,” a sleazy crook who hangs out at Porky’s Bar down the way.  After a brilliant opening monologue in Fudd’s trademark Rhotacism up against Bugs’s clever roundabout ploys the hunter goes looking for Bruce Wayne.  It isn’t Wabbit Season.  It’s Bat Season.

This is some simple fun for everyone who loves Looney Tunes and Batman. Weeks’s art is intense classical Batman noir which always works on me and anybody with eyes.  Tom King’s writing is intensely hysterical because it has all the beats of a good Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies short while capturing the crisp, rain drenched sulk of our favorite crime thrillers.

This one issue is one for the ages, and I hope to high heaven it becomes canon.

Most importantly, EVERYONE should try to read Fudd’s dark dialogue out loud and as grim as they can make it.  

Matthew Burbridge is a Digital Editor at ComiXology and he thinks you’re super cool.

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A comiXologist recommends…

KING: A COMICS BIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR, by Ho Che Anderson

Ho Che Anderson’s King covers the expected territory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. We see his journey from local pastor to his participation in sit-ins through the late 1950s and 60s up through his ascent as a leader of the Civil Rights movement in the fateful March on Washington. But what distinguishes Anderson’s take on Dr. King’s legacy is its refusal to rarefy its subject. This is a powerful attempt to show Dr. King in full. In his personal life, we see Dr. King struggle through a troubled marriage. We see his drinking and cavorting with other women. We see him doubtfully confront the weight of his accomplishments and his role in the movement for racial equality. Despite his eventual triumphs, this is a version of King that can never rest easy.

Anderson’s black and white style immediately sets the perfect tone for such a laborious tale. In the opening pages, we see a young Martin, etched in shadow, creeping through the back of a church towards his father. The scene calls to mind the harsh tonality of Lynd Ward’s woodcuts or the lightning of the German Expressionists. It’s uneasy, dreary. But it’s an opener that properly sets the stage for the story of struggle that’s to come in the next 200 plus pages.

Beyond the stylistics of this remarkable opening, Anderson uses a barrage of other techniques to make this story come to life. Particularly moving is his integration of newspaper prints from key moments in King’s life as well as the lives of his contemporaries like Rosa Parks. Anderson sets out with his eyes on the history of the Civil Rights movement and not just the narrative of Dr. King.

Another compelling quality of Anderson’s comic, perhaps the counterpoint of the expressive take on the key moments in the life of Dr. King and his contemporaries, is the focus on “The Witnesses”, a collective of anonymous, fourth-wall breaking respondents that punctuate the proceedings with their own commentary. We hear from the young acolytes who praise Dr. King and the doubtful who see him as a false prophet. It’s an equitable tapestry that honors the difficult climate of the times and the complexity of the journey Dr. King embarked on personally.

In the wake of a tiresome election that calls to mind the struggles of Dr. King’s journey, this is not a read to miss.

Taylor Morgan is a merchandiser at comiXology.

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A COMIXOLOGIST RECOMMENDS

Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever

Writers: Tom Neely

Artists: Champoy, Crom of Finland, Matthew Allison, Jeremy Baum, Josh Bayer, J. Bennett, Max Clotfelter, Aaron Conley, Andrew Cox, Michael DeForge, Gabrielle, Gamboa, Bruno Guerreiro, Justin Hall, Megan Hutchison, Keenan, Marshall Keller, Ed Luce, Bobby Madness, Benjamin Marra, Kyoshi Nakazawa, Mari Naomi, Scot Nobles, Marc J. Palm, Mark Rudolph, Jonny Ryan. M. Moseley Smith. Reuben Story, Noah Van Sciver, Geoff Vasile

Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever is in short the greatest story that no one asked for. If you’re not familiar with the joke-turned-cult classic, H&G4ever is the fictionalized tale of love between punk and hardcore icons Henry Rollins (Black Flag) and Glenn Danzig (The Misfits) as told through the lenses of art collective Igloo Tornado and various guest authors.

H&G4ever’s love story premise was apparently a joke among artist friends that spiraled out of control in the best way possible. Anyone who grew up liking any sort of alternative music understands the once serious air about both Rollins and Danzig that ironically resulted in nostalgic, comical, and sometimes lovable fodder upon the arrival of the internet age (ex. Cat Flag, the Danzig Kitty Litter meme, etc.). H&G4ever just so happened to take the absurdity of this shift in public perception and give it due diligence.

Collecting four serialized comics and featuring 100+ extra pages of unreleased art and guest stories, Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever is a comprehensive collection of the imagined universes surrounding this fake love story’s history as interpreted by a collection of talented, hilarious writers. Some artists imagined the pair in absurd scenarios (ex. Henry & Glenn Forever In Space, Henry & Glenn’s Psychic Voyage) while others focus on the nuanced realities of conventional relationships as illustrated by two of the least conventional public figures (ex. Going to a Benihana, dressing up pets, agreeing to never go to bed angry, etc).

Across all versions of this love story was an underlying acknowledgment and appreciation for the influential musical era surrounding the pair. The book was filled with self referential jokes (ex. Danzig yelling lyrics to his song “Mother” at his own mom) and random but delightful musical cameos (ex. Hall & Oates are their neighbors and Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye plays a love interest). Overall this is a great read for music fans who don’t take themselves too seriously and a testament of the weird and awesome power of the internet on indie comics.

Christina Troitino is comiXology’s Marketing Manager and met Henry Rollins once at a park in sweatpants.

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A comiXologist recommends:
Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #47

Never has there been a more aptly named series than “More Than Meets the Eye.” The office book club that developed around this series (no, really, it’s great) jokes about it, but it’s true.

Let me preface this by saying I didn’t care about Transformers until this past summer.

What changed?

I binge read seven volumes worth of the most intelligent, witty, and gut-wrenchingly painful comics that gave me what I lovingly refer to as “robot feelings.”

Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye delves into the aftermath of a four million year war, spanning across galaxies and peoples, organic and inorganic alike. The series follows the exploits of the Lost Light, a ship carrying the most marvelous cast of D-listers since Justice League International (https://www.comixology.com/Justice-League-of-America-1987-1996/comics-series/6906?ref=Y29taWMvdmlldy9kZXNrdG9wL2JyZWFkY3J1bWJz); captained by the incredible and incredibly incompetent Rodimus, they journey (in a decidedly roundabout way) on a Quest to find the fabled Knights of Cybertron.

It explores PTSD, mental illness, vengeance, and prejudice. Sounds bleak, right? Yes, but beyond that it celebrates friendship, personal growth, love, acceptance, and what there is to do in a future you never thought you’d have.

Not to mention this is one of the most LGBTQ inclusive series in mainstream comics right now. Surprised? I have two words for you: Robot. Marriage. The newest issue delves into how to “put a ring on it” and become “conjunx endura” (spouse) amidst the slow burn drama of a love triangle between three male identifying robots.

The overall approach telling this story is incredibly refreshing. One of the greatest strengths is the willingness to take time to explore and develop the uniqueness of the characters, both as individuals and through their interactions with the rest of the crew. But don’t despair, or perhaps do, because there’s also enough violence and soul-crushing sorrow to make even the most veteran of comics readers weep and/or scream.

Writer James Roberts crafts the most charming (yet also delightfully painful) series with grace, intelligence, and an abundance of humor. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will be ruined in the best of ways. Despite seeing so many comics, I gladly say that due to Roberts’ nuanced writing and ability to give his audience what they want while remaining true to his intent to tell a great story, More Than Meets the Eye is my current favorite ongoing series.

With Volume 8 having recently released and Nick Roche’s new stand alone Sins of the Wreckers starting today, it’s a great time to be a fan of Transformers and quality comics.

Don’t let this franchise comic in disguise fool you – give it a read, transform your comics-reading life, and roll out!

Read Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #47 on comiXology

Jen Keith is the Captain of the Digital Editors at comiXology, comic artist, music addict, and it only took a few months for her desk to be completely overrun by Transformers toys.

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A comiXologist Recommends:
Michael Crowe recommends

Kaptara #1

Image’s newest science fiction book is (excuse the pun) out of this world! Gorgeously illustrated by Kagan McLeod (kaganmcleod) and intelligently penned by Chip Zdarsky (zdarsky) , Kaptara #1 is an instant classic. It’s the kind of story you didn’t know you needed until after you finish reading it. As someone whose main preoccupation in life (besides horror) is science fiction, this book was a pleasant and refreshing surprise. They hit all the notes that a book in this genre should, while simultaneously flipping on it’s head everything you might expect from a science fiction/action adventure book. This team has crafted a story that is fresh and modern. You can tell that the creators are having a lot of fun creating this world and I had just as much fun consuming it!

Kagan McLeod’s art and designs capture a classic science fiction vibe, his attention to detail is exceptional. The creatures our heroes encounter planetside are fearsome; being both familiar and frightening at once. The character designs are thoughtful, showcasing a starship crew of mixed race, genders, and sexualities reminding one of what made the original Star Trek so great. The alien beings they encounter are pulled straight from classic pulp, referencing medieval designs while still keeping them firmly planted in the realm of science fiction ala Flash Gordon. Why are alien planets always ruled by a kingdom? Because the Royals get the best clothes! I look forward to seeing even more fabulous designs from McLeod in the issues to come. The world he has created is vibrant and colorful, giving even a gorgeous book like Saga a run for it’s money.

I’ve quickly learned to expect the unexpected from Chip Zdarksy. This story does not feel like a retread, in fact many of the narrative decisions made set it apart from anything that’s come before. Playing with conventions is one way this book shines. Zdarksy is not afraid to twist familiar genre tropes, effortlessly updating them for our times. The characters introduced are multifaceted. In the small space of a first issue, Zdarksy is able to breach interesting topics and hint at the rich backgrounds of the major protagonists. What excites me the most about this series is the unapologetic inclusion of a gay character and the promise of natural, organic same sex relationships to come.

Kaptara has quickly become one of my favorite science fiction books. I’ll be praying to the Lords of Kobol for a bi-weekly release (a boy can dream, right?). If you’re itching for more from these creators after reading (and rereading) Kaptara #1 pick up Sex Criminals, written by Matt Fraction with art by Chip Zdarksy and Infinite Kung Fu written and illustrated by Kagan McLeod!

Also be sure to check out two of my favorite science fiction books: Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Fiona Staples and East of West, written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Nick Dragotta.

[Read Kaptara #1 on comiXology]

Michael Crowe is a comixologist obsessed with the future. He dreams of one day vacationing on Mars while being served drinks by robot butlers.

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A comiXologist recommends…

SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE: SUPER CRUSH

Ever wonder what would happen if you took one part Spider-Man and mixed it with one part Gossip Girl and added a dash of Slice of Life Manga? The answer is: AMAZING COMICS. So gather round, buckle your seat belts, and hold on to your heartstrings because it’s time to talk about Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane Vol.1: Super Crush.

Word of warning: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane picks up where Sean McKeever’s two previous Mary Jane mini-series (Mary Jane and Mary Jane: Homecoming) left off. While the series does a good job of handling the backstory, it’s definitely worthwhile to read those first. If only because they’re really good.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane follows Mary Jane Watson as she deals with high school, friends, drama (the kind you do in a theater and the kind you don’t), and, yes, boys. Needing a little distance from her best friends, Liz Allen, Flash Thompson, and ex-boyfriend Harry Osborne, MJ throws herself into other passions like the school play, her growing friendship with math tutor Peter Parker, and her desire to ask Spider-Man out on a date. This is the heart of the series for a lot of people: we know Peter is Spider-Man and Mary Jane doesn’t. Watching the relationships between the main cast (in and out of costume in Spidey’s case) grow, both in friendship and romance, is truly a magical experience.

Art-wise, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane is a blend of Manga and American styles that works so well with the content. Everyone’s unique and expressive, which is huge when the main action of the series is the hurt that flashes across Liz Allen’s face when Mary Jane decides to sit with the theater kids instead of her. Personally, I’m torn for a favorite piece of the art, but it’s down to the incredible colors by Christina Strain and the clothes. The cast wears different clothes from day to day, what they wear reflects their mood, and, being about the same age as Mary Jane in this book, the clothes are more or less accurate to what teenagers were wearing at the time. It builds and sells the reality of the world for me.

As a package, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane has everything: friendship, adventure, romance, and learning about who you are.

Erin is a Customer Advocate at comiXology and she probably still has a few of the outfits Mary Jane wears hanging at the back of her closet.

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A comiXologist recommends:
Hip Hop Family Tree Monthly #1

by: Harris Smith

The moment is now for Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree.  Last month, the second volume of the graphic novel series earned Piskor an Eisner Award for “Best Reality-Based Work,” and earlier this week, the artist announced that the comic is being adapted into an animated series.  This Wednesday, the release of Hip Hop Family Tree #1 marks the beginning of Fantagraphics’ first-ever monthly series.  All of acclaim and awards are well-deserved- Hip Hop Family Tree is a painstakingly researched and lovingly rendered history of hip-hop music and culture.  

Issue one begins in the Bronx in the mid-70s, when the experimental record mixing of DJ Kool Herc and a borough-spanning gang truce inspired (covered in detail in the graphic novel Ghetto Brother: Warrior to Peacemaker) Afrika Bambaataa to reform his gang the Black Spades as the hip hop crew the Zulu Nation.  As the movement grows, we meet a variety of contributors to its development, from innovators like Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore (originator of record scratching) to future superstars (including Kurtis Blow, producer Russell Simmons and his younger brother Joseph, who would go on to form Run DMC with Darryl McDaniels, here identified by his early moniker, Grandmaster Get High) as well as lesser known, but still significant figures like Casanova Fly, DJ Breakout, early female MC Sha-Rock and Coke La Rock (considered by many to be the first hip hop MC).

Hip Hop Family Tree not only has a terrific story to tell, but it tells it with great style.  The pages of the book are textured to look like an old, three color print comic, which has the visual effect of the pops and crackles on a vinyl record.  Piskor draws in a classically cartoony style, somewhat reminiscent of early Bill Wray, which adds a sense of fun playfulness to his serious historical research.  Best of all is the overall tone of Hip Hop Family Tree.  This is not a book that feels the need to convince you of the importance of hip-hop, nor is exclusively geared towards those who are already in the know about the movement’s origins.  It’s accessible and enthusiastic without ever being pedantic or condescending, to the reader or to the book’s subjects, coming off ultimately as exactly what it should be- a labor of love documenting an important and underrepresented portion of history in a way that almost any reader can get something out of.

[Read Hip Hop Family Tree Monthly #1 on comiXology]

Harris Smith is a Brooklyn-based comics and media professional. In addition to his role as a Senior Production Coordinator at comiXology, he edits several comics anthologies, including Jeans and Felony Comics, under the banner of Negative Pleasure Publications. He’s also the host of the weekly radio show Neagtive Pleasure on Newtown Radio.

The Complete Wimmen’s Comix

published by @fantagraphics

Let us begin with a quick history lesson.  The late 60s and early 70s were a fantastic time for comics.  I’m talking about the peak years of the mainstream Silver Age where we were introduced to some of our most beloved characters including but not limited to Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, and The Incredible Hulk.  But those fights-in-tights books weren’t all that was happening.

While in New York the good ol’ DC & Marvel gave us our favorites while following the strict guidelines of the Comics Code, some very bored cartoonists were making some very different work in the San Francisco Bay area.  We had fellows like S. Clay Wilson making his “Checkered Demon” stories.  R. Crumb, easily the most famous of them making his “Mr. Natural” and so many others being the compulsive sketch artist that he is.  Those are two of the more widely remembered, but there was work coming out from Spain Wilson, Gilbert Shelton, Rick Griffin, and so many others! It was a good time for comics.

Albeit as fun and prolific as these artists tend to be, most of the work had a tendency toward the overly violent and misogynistic adhering to a primarily male perspective.  This happened only because it was mainly a boys club that made up the underground scene. It wasn’t their fault, they just didn’t know any better.  But that’s where Wimmen’s Comix came in!  Comics made by women for EVERYBODY.

In this collection (with a foreward by the dazzling Trina Robbins) we are given an entire retrospective of the series run starting with possibly the most famous all-female anthology in American comics history: It Ain’t Me, Babe from 1970.  This series had artists like Patricia Moodian, Aline Kominsky(-Crumb), Melinda Gebbie, Diane Noomin, and so many others!  And they all appear in this book!

It is that level of completeness and attention to detail that really sells me on this book.  There is more to take away from it then a few feminist lessons and some pretty artwork (and the art is very pretty) as many dudes seeing this review will write it off as.

This falls under my heading of required reading.

This anthology collection puts an entirely new spin on a time that was otherwise dominated by a male perspective.  It can even be said that we can learn from these stories how far as an industry we’ve come (which isn’t as far as many might think) and how far we have left to go.

Matthew Burbridge is a Digital Editor at ComiXology that’s coming to the conclusion that his current book is gonna take a little over three weeks to finish at this rate.  He’s really gotta buckle down, dig deep, and just finish it.

A comiXologist (Tia) recommends Monstress #2

Words by Marjorie Liu

Art by Sana Takeda

The monster-sized debut issue of Monstress (66 gorgeous pages!) introduced readers to the brutal and magical world of Maika.  A teenage girl with a psychic link to a formidable monster, Maika is searching for answers about who she is and what this ability means for her identity.

In issue 2, Maika refers to the monster as “the Hunger.”  In a book that seems to embrace word play in its very title (monstress/monstrous), naming her monster the Hunger hails a powerful association with the ultimate sin of femininity.  We just can’t seem to get over that story about Eve eating the apple. (You couldn’t wait until lunch, Eve?  Come on!)  Historically, in the real world, “good” femininity rejects hungers, denies desires, speaks softly, takes up as little space as possible. But in the world of Monstress, magic is the ultimate power, and magic is located in the bodies of creatures called Arcanics, who are traded as slaves among the ruling class of sorceresses who literally consume Arcanic flesh to possess their magic.  Hunger, therefore, is the precedent to power, and one’s agency in such a transaction is shaping up to be a central theme in this book.

Maika fears her Hunger because she feels powerless over it, and I can’t help but think of this as a metaphor many women can identify with.  I look forward to seeing what direction Liu and Takeda take the relationship between Maika and her Hunger.  Operating in what I can only describe as a Miyazaki-esque paradigm (coming from me this is extremely high praise), Liu strikes a satisfying balance of whimsy and gravitas in the writing, and Takeda’s art is resplendent with texture, pattern, and light. I can think of no better team to explore such important themes.

Tia Vasiliou is a Digital Editor at ComiXology.  Her favorite Miyazaki film is Spirited Away. Wait, no.  It’s Howl’s Moving Castle.  No, Nausicaä!  Or maybe Princess Mononoke?  You know what, don’t make her choose…

4

A comiXologist Recommends

Rick and Morty: Li’l Poopy Superstar #1 @onipress

Writing/Artwork- Sarah Graley

Mr. Poopybutthole.

OOO-weeee. Just… let that name sink in. Let it linger there on your mind for a hot second. What types of vivid images does it conjure? It is a veritable smorgasbord of disgusting, confusing, and downright gross things- though Oni’s Lil’ Poopy Superstar #1 is none of these.

Plopped from the scenes of Rick and Morty is a coming of age tale of love, loss, and what it means to be a three foot-tall-thing-who-is-not-parasite-construct.

The first issue of this series begins in ambiguity. There was a constant feeling of longing. Throughout the first three-quarters I kept asking, when is something going to happen? There is, of course, the required set up, but the meat of the story does not occur until the final pages of the issue. Unlike the show, which is paced extremely well and delivers the dialogue in a rough, improvisational way, this spinoff is more refined and calculated. Whether that is good or bad, we will have to read more to see- but it is promising.

When I write “promising” – I mean, I do not want to wait till issue six to find out what is going on. Without ruining too much, this tale is focused on two things: who or what is Mr. Poopybutthole and where does he come from?  For the time being, that is all I need to be interested. The line is baited and cast and now I am ready to be hooked. So, ignore the things I wrote in the previous paragraph, this focus on Poopybutthole’s backstory is all I want. So will this make me come back for issue #2, yes. Issue #3? Maybe. Issue #4? Hopefully more than issue #3.

The primary Rick and Morty comic series began in a similar way and I am still reading that comic. It is quirky, it is lewd, and it has a chance to delve into this universe further. A Rick and Morty movie will not happen anytime soon and Season 3 is still a ways away, so if you love the series, then this should be on your list. And by should, I mean it must.

So do it. Buy it now. Do it. DO IT.

OOO-weee.

Dane Cypel is a production coordinator at comiXology and not a frequent guest of any podcast. Funny they’re called podcasts when no one really talks about their flashy new iPod anymore.

4

A comiXologist recommends…

Super Sons #7

Super Sons has quickly become one of my favorite ongoing series. It’s fun, wacky, exciting, and the art is gorgeous. For those who haven’t been following along, the series follows Superboy and Robin, biological children of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne, as they fumble their way through their solo superheroic adventures without their parents. Damian plays the angry, cranky, condescending figure with all of the attitude but none of the gravitas of Batman. Jon is a bright-eyed, idealistic, and often naive stand-in for Superman, who seemingly always struggles to get the same amount of respect as his darker counterpart.  I love the dynamic between Damian and Jon. They’re fun, exaggerated versions of how a cynical audience views their fathers.

This issue is the second part of the Super Sons/Teen Titans crossover, “Planet of the Capes.” Last issue, Robin got changed from a young boy (who thought Superboy was too young for the Teen Titans) into an old man (who’s fine with it, because he can’t be bothered to care anymore at that age). Peter Tomasi’s writing on these past few issues has been top notch. Watching a B-List villain summon other B-List villains to fight the Sons and the Teen Titans was so much fun. On top of that, Jorge Jimenez is one of my favorite artists right now. Everything he does is so pretty and energetic. He finds ways to do that manga thing where he pulls off great, seamless storytelling but still manages to make just about every panel look like a dazzling pin-up. It works perfectly for this kind of series as the book’s characters are manic, high-intensity kids. Add in really visually interesting characters like Beast Boy, Raven, Aqualad, and Starfire, and this book quickly jumps to the top of my list for this week.

Jonah Chuang is a Technical Account Manager at Comixology. He likes Superboy better than Robin