It’s a new year of comics books, folks! 2019 has started very steadily with a slew of high profile and smaller indie releases, with a focus on long-running franchises and, refreshingly, a more all-ages audience. Celebrated and masterful comic creators Batton Lash and Ron Smith passed away this month with their contributions to the industry being immortalized in the pages of their work. And a new Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer dropped, with little concern for its place in post Infinity War continuity.
So let’s take a beat, and have a look at what the industry has had to offer in the dawn of the new year!
Best New Issue: “Criminal” #1
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have been a tour de force in the indie and mainstream comic industry for nearly ten years now, creating superb, self-contained series like “Sleeper” at Wildstorm and “Fatale” at Image. However, their collaborations really kicked off way back when with the series “Criminal”, which showcased them as seminal crime fiction storytellers within the comics medium. After some time, the two are back with the most recent installment of said series, and with Sean’s son Jacob on board for coloring, this proved that the team still knows how to talk the talk.
What’s most exciting is the ongoing, serialized nature of this book. In the past, “Criminal” has been published as original graphic novels, being single stories that weaved together in the grander scheme of the “Criminal” world. However, Brubaker has said he and the Phillips’ will be exploring more done-in-one stories, as well as continuing to establish larger story arcs thanks to the monthly release of this comics. With the first issue being so damn good, especially visually, I can’t wait to see how this all turns out.
Best Franchise Reboot: “Conan The Barbarian” #1
Marvel has once again taken the reigns back from Dark Horse of a popular franchise with “Conan The Barbarian”. As a big fan of the original Dark Horse publications, especially the later series with writer Timothy Truman and artist Tomas Giorello, I was skeptical to see how Marvel would handle this. However, with creative powerhouse Jason Aaron on board and Mahmud Asrar providing a balance of serious high fantasy and more superhero style visuals, I was won over. Sure, the tone is definitely more Marvel house style than ever, especially with the characterization of the brash and arrogant younger Conan, but this is still as much of a fresh take as you can get on an eighty-seven year old franchise.
The issue does what Jason Aaron does best: tell the story of a brash warrior-type from several eras of his life, ultimately weaving into one bigger story. It’s a lot of fun and pushes the superb lore of Robert E. Howard’s Hyperborea right from the get-go. Even better, we are getting two more Conan series down the line (one featuring red-hot up and comer Tini Howard as the writer), and I can imagine potentially more considering the success of this series so far. It’s a good time to be a fan of the brutal Cimmerian warrior.
Most Inevitable Takeover Of Superhero Publisher From A High Profile Writer: Brian Michael Bendis at DC Comics
It all started with an advertisement way back when with the bold statement titled “BENDIS IS COMING.”. We’ve had Brian Michael Bendis slowly assert his power with the takeover of the “Superman” line over the past year. But in January, Bendis has really started to stretch his wings. Bendis and Patrick Gleason’s Wonder Comics imprint arrived, launching with the light-hearted and joyous “Young Justice”, injecting a sense of sorely needed heart into the teenaged side of the DC universe. We’ve also seen Bendis’ collaboration with writer David F. Walker and artist Jamal Campbell, “Naomi” #1 hit the stands. This delivered a fresh face in the mysterious yet well written Naomi, delving into a fun and intriguing side of the all-ages imprint.
What’s really established Bendis’ role in DC’s lineup this month, however, is “Leviathan”. Bendis let slip his plans for the next big DC event in the newsletter pages of “Cover” #5. This means Bendis, and longtime collaborator Alex Maleev, are getting their hands on not only the main canon Batman but also getting to sink their teeth into the DC universe at large. Bendis has commented in his newsletter page saying that “This special event story lets Alex do everything he’s ever wanted to at DC.”, solidifying the idea that the two are working on something huge. I’m assuming this will mean that Bendis will be on for a ten-year run of varying quality event comics at DC, so brace for impact, readers.Continued below
Most Unexpected Comic Announcement At Superhero Publisher From A High Profile Artist: Rob Liefeld’s “Major X”
Some people know me as a bit of a Rob Liefeld apologist. He’s a genuinely lovely guy on social media, and his artwork in the nineties perfectly encapsulated the sheer raw energy and angst of the era. Liefeld’s by no means a technical prodigy, however, and outside of his peak, it is a little harder to appreciate his work. That’s why the announcement for his “Major X” series, with collaborators Whilce Portacio and Brent Peeples took me by surprise.
The character is very by-the-book for Liefeld, using the same color scheme as Deadpool and general weapon schematics. However, the plot line seems a little more interesting. The series seems to be detailing a huge retcon, with Liefeld slotting Major X into the mainstream universe circa 1991, where we will explore how he then fits into continuity up until present day. I’m all about confusing, dense and wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey X-Men tropes, so I’m sure this will tickle a soft spot for me. Let’s just hope that we get some of that Good Good Liefeld art this time around.
Most Eligible Comic Book Retiree: George Perez
In a surprising move for the industry, industry veteran and all-around machine George Perez announced his retirement from comic art. The artist, known for years of stellar superhero work on series like “The New Teen Titans”, “Crisis On Infinite Earths” and “Avengers”, has recently been ailed by health issues that have continued to affect his ability to work. He added in his announcement that he’s happy with the years of work that he’s experienced and that he looks forward to the future of the industry, saying “Now I can sit back and watch the stuff I helped create entertain whole new generations. That’s a pretty nice legacy to look back on.”
Perez was known not just for his expansive backlog of work, but for his incredibly highly detailed art style. It was part of the reason why he was selected to draw the super expansive “Crisis On Infinite Earths” back in 1985 since few others could render a scene of almost every DC character interacting with each other in an interstellar battle. For that reason and many more, he has more than earned his keep and deserves every bit of respite he can get. Look after yourself, you living legend, you.