We’ve got indie triumphs, beauty, revelations, and two giant conventions to recap this month. March was a banger for individual issues, announcements and Twitter feeds overwhelmed by convention maps, so let’s dig in!
Best Issue: “Little Bird #1”
Darcy Van Poelgeest, Ian Bertram (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors) and Aditya Bidikar (letters) roared into March with a stunning first issue of “Little Bird,” published by Image Comics. At once a feverish mash-up of colonialism gone horribly wrong and future-tech religious fanaticism, “Little Bird” introduces us to a most intriguing and unsettling freedom fight. The first issue sold out almost immediately and was rushed back to print, so that might be an indicator that there’s something unique and wonderful in store (hint: it is.)
Bertram and Hollingsworth’s work together on the visuals is stunning, with intricacy and heartbreaking clarity that ground us most unpleasantly in Little Bird’s world as she struggles to carry out her mother’s mandate: Free the Axe. Save the People. Free the north. Save the world. Everything is at stake immediately, but the book doesn’t sacrifice humor or impressively weird character and world design for the plot’s urgency. Van Poelgeest works with spare dialogue that’s elevated by the exceptional skills of Bidikar, who’s at his absolute best with playful, subtle design.
The premise is simple: fight for what you believe in, even when all is lost. “Little Bird” is anything but simple, and if this first issue is any indicator, the creative team working on this book are taking us on a singular journey.
Best Writer: Alex Paknadel
I’m genuinely curious if there’s anything Alex Paknadel can’t write. With a brace of books on shelves in the past year, March saw a stellar double-feature of “Incursion” (Valiant Entertainment) and the explosive finale of “Friendo” (Vault Comics), and the two books couldn’t be more different. Paknadel has a deft hand with Gilad as he plunges into the Deadside to rescue Tama, and blows the tops off our heads as Leo and Jerry’s final desert run staggers to the finish line. Things get weird and upsetting in both books, but we’re never too far from Paknadel’s acerbic and well-timed humor to help drive the knife in just a bit deeper.
The cumulative effect of Paknadel’s work thus far is an extensive, chilling and witty look at pop culture, identity, and family at the fringes of a world that’s straining under the ghoulish yoke of technology. “Incursion” and “Friendo” both take very different roads, but we’re operating at the unsettling fringes of consciousness and desire, and it’s up to us not to flinch. If we can.
Paknadel is one of the illustrious White Noise crew, and they’ve been making waves over the past several years with their collective brand of unique storytelling and killer visuals. They’re also branching out and making their mark at major publishers, so Paknadel’s stints at Titan Comics and his more recent work at Lion Forge are well worth digging into. Watch this space.
Best Artist: Hayden Sherman
Let’s not mince words here: Sherman is absolutely killing it on “Wasted Space” (Vault Comics) and more people should be reading the book. Michael Moreci (writer), Jason Wordie (colors) and Jim Campbell (letters) form the rest of the stellar team, but Sherman’s imagination is taking flight with every issue. March saw “Wasted Space” #8 hit shelves with a gentler, more introspective look at Billy, Dust and the crew, and Sherman proved that his sketchy style can do high emotion just as well as high action.
Sherman’s art is tactical because a ramshackle space adventure to nuke a god can quickly get out of hand when it comes to character design and hyperbolic detail. Sherman balances this by keeping his line loose and his scratchy details minimal so Wordie’s colors can fill the page with a broad a dreamy palette. Sherman’s cartooning is not to be missed, and there’s always just the right edge of humor and pathos to keep even the talkiest scene visually stimulating.
March also saw Sherman announce “Thumbs”, his new joint with Sean Lewis through Image Comics, so come June we’ll all be treated to even more weird and wonderful pieces of Hayden Sherman’s imagination. In the meantime, we’ll have more “Wasted Space” to tide us over.Continued below
Best Indie Announcement: “Grendel” is Back!
After Matt Wagner revisited “Mage,” I didn’t want to get my hopes up for a dip back into the sinister and weird “Grendel” universe, but lo and behold, that’s what we’re getting. Matt Wagner, Brennan Wagner and Dave Lanphear are taking us on another jaunt with Grendel Prime this October in “Grendel: Devil’s Odyssey.”
Grendel Prime is possibly the weirdest avatar of the Grendel universe but certainly not the most esoteric, and given how much of Wagner’s work is deeply influential and an indie landmark, there’s a lot to hope for in this upcoming arc. Wagner’s storytelling has had a positive effect on the industry in a way most people who’re unfamiliar with him might not realize, and he did so with a good deal of humor and darkness.
Before Lemire, before Seeley, before Vaughan and all of our other favorite creators tinkering in their own universes, there were people like Wagner and Motter and Baron paving the way. With all the strange and beautiful comics that are hitting shelves these days, and our collective fascination with post-apocalyptic storytelling, “Grendel” has the potential to fit right in, and will (hopefully) be a great reminder of our current zeitgeist’s roots.
Best Month to Never Sleep Again: It’s ECCC vs. C2E2!
A lot of things happened this month, but possibly none bigger than two of the most notable comic conventions in the U.S.: Emerald City Comic Con and Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. Whether it was Image Comics spotlighting their most innovative creative teams at ECCC or Marvel staging a one-man Fanfare panel at C2E2, everything to do with comics was on dizzying display – both digital and analog. C2E2 also hosted DC’s Batman 80th Anniversary panel, which covered every detail of the iconic caped crusader’s illustrious history.
And, most importantly, each con featured an Artist’s Alley where you could find just about everyone. Sometimes twice! A lot of creators took the plunge this year and did both cons back to back, which made for some delirious Twitter moments and, hopefully, a lucrative whirlwind that’ll help our favorite writers, artists, colorists, letters, presses and creators keep making the comics that we love.
Conventions tend to bring out the best and worst in comic fans, and as more creators build a brand and interact with their fans on the internet, real-life lines can get blurred. A genuine thank you to all who perused, purchased, and enjoyed their favorite comics and new discoveries alike with respect for the creative teams behind them, and a gentle reminder to everyone else: be polite, don’t assume people recognize you from the internet, and, well. Be polite, okay?