The arrival of July on our calendars can only mean one thing: San Diego Comic Con. That’s right, Nerdvana returned to bring us announcements, trailers, and oh so many toys. While SDCC dominated the news, the comics wheel kept on turning with new releases every week vying for our hard earned pennies. There were new series being released (“Astonishing X-Men,” “Generation Gone” to name but two,) old series coming to an end (“Shutter”,) new origins explored for old characters (“Go Go Power Rangers” #1) and more than a couple of cliffhanger endings. What rose to the top in July? What books, artists, writers and moments stood out in a very busy month? Find out here!
Best Issue: “TMNT/Usagi Yojimbo”
There were a lot of great contenders this month, including “Calexit” #1 (more on that below) and “James Bond Kill Chain” #1; even “Detective Comics,” “Unbeatable Squirrel Girl,” and “All-New Guardians of the Galaxy” had arguably their best issues so far. There’s something about Stan Sakai’s cartooning, however, that will always win me over. He’s once again pairing up his anthropomorphic Ronin with Eastman and Laird’s anthropomorphic ninjas in a one-shot story that captures the essence of both franchises really well. Not bad for one of the world’s most consistently prolific creators.
Best Writer: Matteo Pizzolo for “Calexit” #1
There’s never been a better time, politically speaking, for this concept to be explored. Even the name of the book is loaded with controversy and entirely-too-relevant meaning; however, what Matteo Pizzolo achieves here is a delicate balance. This easily could have been an issue with an unavoidable, in-your-face agenda but, instead, “Calexit” #1 is an engaging, character fuelled and, yes, even fun, issue that utilises the current political climate to push its dystopian vision of a country pushed to extremes. Throw in some insightful, self-aware back matter, and Pizzolo is building a series that is as much about crafting an elegant fiction as it is processing the news that surrounds us.
Best Artist: James Stokoe for “Aliens: Dead Orbit” #3
When James Stokoe releases a new series, you pay attention. When he tackles a beloved franchise in a way that both rejuvenates and elevates the source material, you acknowledge it appropriately. That’s why, for me, there was no one that came close to Best Artist this month. It’s not only his attention to the dirty, 80’s lived-in sci-fi detail of this world, but his structure, his pacing and his design are capturing what it was like to be terrified of the Xenomorphs when you encountered them at their best (i.e. in Alien and Aliens.)
Most Exciting SDCC Comic Announcement: “X-Men: Grand Design” by Ed Piskor
There’s no denying that SDCC had some great announcements this year, more than previous years, but for me this was firmly in the category of “Too Good to be True.” Ed Piskor’s painstakingly detailed and beautifully designed “Hip-Hop Family Tree” is becoming a definitive reference tool, an entertaining and informative biography of the rise of a musical form. To hear that he’s applying those skills to the history of the X-Men is genuinely surprising and incredibly exciting. Of any comic book franchise, the X-Men is the one that would most benefit from a biographical style retelling; their soap opera history; their convoluted back stories of death and rebirth, and their overwhelmingly complex labyrinth of series and mini-series and events could do with a hand-book, and to be getting one so wonderfully designed as this is a dream come true.
Biggest SDCC Troll: DC’s “The Terrifics”
Look, when this book was announced, we all knew what DC was doing. If Marvel were going to sleep on the concept of a family of superhero explorers then someone was going to jump on it. That it’s their biggest rival is one thing, but to then find that the chosen characters form a team so thematically similar as to border parody is something else. Then, to top it all off, you have the creators themselves throwing very choice words out there:
That, my friends, is some fantastic trolling.
Strangest Yet Least Surprising Fake-out: “Archie” #22Continued below
This issue was DEFINITELY marketed as having a death in it. Here’s the solicit:
However, that’s been walked back, to the point where the writer Mark Waid is denying anyone even said that a character was dying, until we’re left with an issue that has to be very careful how it moves forward. If they do this right then we could get a prominent disabled character in the “Archie” universe. If they don’t, it’ll just be another fake-out.
Biggest Business Opportunity: Advertising on the Universal Source Wall from “KFC: Across the Universe” #3
Say what you will about The Colonel, he never lets a great opportunity pass him by.