1. The Wild Future Vision of “Motherlands.”
One of the great advantages of a sci-fi comic is that you can create a future with a limitless budget, and cram all the wild ideas you’ve got into its pages. Si Spurrier and Rachael Stott (with Felipe Sobriero coloring and Simon Bowland lettering), are definitely leaning into the potential in their new book “Motherlands.”
For starters, its got a pretty novel take on what would happen if parallel Earths were actually discovered. It’s cool, weird and, like my favorite sci-fi, reached a point by the time the story starts where it’s all kind of mundane.
Artists get to go really wild when it’s time to build a new world, especially when it comes to battle outfits. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what inspired this one, only that’s totally incredible.
And the design of this . . . thing…person . . . is even wilder.
There’s also a (colorfully named) bonkers setting, rendered with enough detail to sell the scale of it.
There’s also a delightful story at the center of it. Obviously the key to any good sci-fi world are characters that you care about driving our discovery of it.
2. These title cards Tite Kubo puts in front of every chapter of “Bleach.”
Yes, of course sequential art is an essential part of the wondrous nature of comics, but sometimes you need to make room for a little style on its own. Tite Kubo’s “Bleach” is about a high school kid who discovers he can see (and eventually fight) ghosts. While it starts in regular-old Japan, it quickly shifts into ethereal worlds and lots (and LOTS) of traditional Japanese garb.
But that doesn’t stop Kubo from littering these stories with Gorillaz-class one offs, completely unrelated to the story.
Even the coolest of high school age characters never look this cool in the story.
This never happens.
No one ever listens to music.
And they definitely did not all sit down on a long white couch in coordinated jump suits.
Still, these perfectly capture the style and attitude of the characters, and Kubo’s classically modern art-style. I love them.
3. The loosely refined settings of “Low.”
Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini’s “Low” has an incredibly consistency of vision. It’s centered around Stel Caine and her very long and very difficult journey to secure hope for her family and the world that’s left in this (mostly) underwater future.
Tocchini (who is occasionally assisted by Mariane Gusmao or Dave McCaig on colors and always joined by Rus Wooton on letters), builds an incredibly detailed world out of lines that, when you look closely, are remarkably loose and freeform. When you pull back a little, somehow they come together to make images like this one:
He also designs incredible vehicles and machinery, like this crazy thing. Note how consistent the color scheme is across the panel and then compare it the one above:
Also, of course, so much of the action takes place in the sea, so you know he’s gonna be drawing some wild fish.Continued below
When the weird ships and boats run into the organic creatures, it’s an incredible tableau.
He also takes care to sell the scale of these enclosed undersea cities, even hinting at their sociopolitical landscape. One look at the ramshackle floating town in the foreground in front of the clean and ornate senate building behind it and you understand the politics of this place immediately.
As the story has continued, Remender has fed Tocchini an unbelievably varied amount of things and places to draw. And I didn’t even get into how well he sells the emotion of what can be an incredibly grim fight for its characters to retain their hope.
3. The American cities of “100 Bullets.”
“100 Bullets” by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (and Grant Goleash and Digital Chamelon on colors and Clem Robins on letters), is about so many things. Crime, conspiracies, morality, a few guns here and there, but mostly it’s a story about America.
One of its best tricks is that its individual story arcs (and stand alone stories) almost always center their action around a single city. And there’s never a title card. It’s up to (occasionally) the dialogue of the characters and (usually) the incredible work of Risso to establish the place through key items of detail in establishing shots.
Like this one of Chicago. The “El” train tells us everything we need to know.
Or the Brooklyn Bridge here.
Or the iconic arc in Washington Square Park.
I swear there are a ton of stories that aren’t in New York City, but this just looks too good, right?
And look at what Risso chooses as the central characteristic of Los Angeles.
It’s a continuing note of subtlety that carries throughout the series, and folds its America seamlessly into the story it tells.
5. The great, lost “Winter Soldier” run of Jason Latour and Nic Klein.
Back in 2013, after Ed Brubaker had wound down his run on the Captain America franchise, Marvel still wanted the magic to keep going on the “Winter Soldier” (I don’t know, maybe the movie was out or coming out? Who cares.) so they tapped young upstarts Jason Latour and Nic Klein to tell a totally wild story about Bucky and an old spy caught in a web of intrigue.
Like a lot of Winter Soldier stories, it had plenty of lingering on Bucky’s terrible past as an assassin, but I’m sure you’ve never seen that kind of story told with this level of style (Klein does everything here but Joe Carmagna’s letters):
There’s also a healthy dose of brash irreverence from two guys who are clearly telling a story like it could be their last opportunity to play in the Marvel sandbox.
The fight scenes (and their color schemes) are little pop masterpieces.
And Klein’s sense of design when it comes to putting a page together is sublime. (Also note Carmagna’s inspired Soviet type treatment, something that is usually just thrown together with a few backwards characters.)Continued below
Klein also makes some great and novel choices in his color work, like the classic 3D edges to Nick Fury’s hologram. Does it make sense? I don’t know, but look how cool it looks!
I’m also a total mark for creators playing around with what pop culture is like in the Marvel Universe. (Also, check out how Joe Robards completely dunks on that M.O.D.O.K.)
Do yourself a favor and seek out this rarely discussed but absolutely classic five-issue arc. It’s a total blast.