New to Comics? New Comics for You! 4/29/09

Comic books, graphic novels. They’re all the rage! Have you read one recently? There’s lots of stuff out there. Why not check out some of these new items that are getting released tomorrow?

Since I don’t live in the future, I can’t guarantee the quality of the below items, but based on word-of-mouth, early reviews, buzz and other intangible factors, I think these are safe bets. They should require little to no previous knowledge. You ought to be able to go into these stories cold and enjoy them just fine. Get yourself a copy by following the links below (the Amazon.com links will give a little to the “Help Corey Do What He Loves” Fund) or head over to your local comic book store.

If you pick any of them up, let me know what you think?

Archie: High School Chronicles Vol. 1: Freshman Year – $10.95
By Batton Lash & Bill Galvan
112 pages; published by Archie Comics; available at Amazon.com

Archie and his friends have forever been stuck in the latter portion of high school, but now, after many long years, the story of how “the gang” all met up is finally being told in this, the first edition of “The High School Chronicles!” This pioneering storyline, captured in issues #587-591 of ARCHIE and now again in this graphic novel reprint, brings us the beginning of the “eternal love triangle,” the introduction of Mr. Weatherbee as principal of Riverdale High, the formation of Moose and Midge’s relationship (and Reggie’s subsequent schemes to split them up), and other Archie staples! It’s all brought to you by fan-favorite writer Batton Lash of “Wolff & Byrd” and “Archie Meets the Punisher” fame, along with popular Archie Comics artist, Bill Galvan. So get your Homecoming dress, pack your brand-new backpack, and pick up your school map to find your way to the biggest Archie story of the year!

Some simple and clean fun with an American staple.

Female Force: Michelle Obama – $3.99
By Neal Bailey & Joshua LaBello
32 pages; published by Bluewater Productions; available on Amazon.com

This one-shot features the United States’ latest First Lady, Michelle Obama. A mother, political force, and now, wife of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, it’s obvious that Michelle Obama has lived a life many have only dreamed of. Continuing Bluewater’s examination of strong female figures in politics, this visual biography will examine Michelle’s life in detail to help find her context in modern history.

This one is recommended with some reservations. I’m always glad to see comics explore non-fiction genres like history and biographies but I can’t say I’ve heard much response to the publisher’s previous issues on Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin beyond, “Hey look! Comic books about modern day politicians! What a novelty!” Hopefully it’s a biography that actually digs in a little, but I don’t know if that’s possible in only 32 pages.

Star Wars Adventures Volume 1: Han Solo and the Hollow Moon of Khorya – $7.95
By Jeremy Barlow & Rick Lacy
80 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics; available at Amazon.com

No one ever said being a smuggler was easy!

Before they ever met Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca had already lived a lifetime of adventures. In this action-packed tale, Han and Chewie are caught between gangsters and the Empire, and their only help is Han’s former partner — who may be worse than either!

Star Wars Adventures is a new series of graphic novellas designed for readers of all ages!

I can’t say I’m a big Star Wars fan. Sure I enjoyed the original three movies and have a healthy amount of disdain for the prequel trilogy, but that’s kind of the extent of it. I realize there are many people not like me. And come on. It’s classic Han Solo and Chewie. It’s probably a safe bet if you liked those characters and want more without a huge boatload of overwhelming mythology to weigh it down.

Blazing Combat – $28.99
By Archie Goodwin, et al.
208 pages; published by Fantagraphics Books; available at Amazon.com

A comic book classic with timely resonance. Blazing Combat was an American war-comics magazine published by Warren Publishing from 1965 to 1966. Written and edited by Archie Goodwin, with artwork by such industry notables as Gene Colan, Frank Frazetta, John Severin, Alex Toth, Al Williamson, Russ Heath, Reed Crandall, and Wally Wood, it featured war stories in both contemporary and period settings, unified by a humanistic theme of the personal costs of war, rather than by traditional men’s adventure motifs. As one letter-writer in the third issue put it, “Do you seriously expect to make money with a war magazine that publishes nothing but anti-war stories?”

While most stories took place during World War II, they ranged in settings from the 18th century to the present-day. Some dealt with historical figures, such as Revolutionary War general Benedict Arnold and his pre-traitorous victory at the battle of Saratoga, while “Foragers” focused on a fictional soldier in General William T. Sherman’s devastating March to the Sea during the American Civil War. “Holding Action,” set on the last day of the Korean War, ended with a gung-ho young soldier, unwilling to quit, being escorted over his protests into a medical vehicle.

What proved to be the most controversial were stories set during the then-contemporary Vietnam War, particularly the classic short “Landscape,” which follows the thoughts of a Vietnamese peasant rice-farmer devoid of ideology, who nonetheless pays the ultimate price simply for living where he does. While writer Goodwin evenhandedly portrays the North Vietnamese Army’s brutal summary executions of village officials, and a well-meaning U.S. Army fatally bludgeoning its way through the village in a counterattack, the story caused key distributors to stop selling the title.

Fantagraphics is proud to present a deluxe, hardcover edition, magnificently printed and bound, of these stories, superbly reproduced from the original printer’s film negatives.

Considered by some to be the best war comic. Or is it the best anti-war comic?

Mister Universe – $3.50
By Vassilis Gogtzilas & K.I. Zachopoulos
32 pages; published by Image Comics

Everybody needs Mr. Universe -– the superhero whose adventures ring throughout the cosmos! Day and night, he watches over the city, offering help to the helpless! Without the luxury of a secret identity, unable to remain invisible among the crowds, he continues to fulfill his duty! Mr. Universe! The restless superhero! At least, that’s what Tommy thought…

There probably won’t be too many super-hero comic books in this column because most of them require a lot of knowledge about their world and history, which is frequently near-insurmountable for casual readers and of mixed quality. But every so often the people that make comic books remember that super-heroes don’t have to be done that way. I really hope this is one of those.

Second Thoughts – $9.95
By Niklas Asker
80 pages; published by Top Shelf Productions; available at Amazon.com

Jess is a novelist without a novel. John is a photographer running away to New York. Though it lasts only a moment, their brief encounter in Stansted Airport will transform both of their lives.

How do you measure the distance between satisfaction and settling? At what point does wishful thinking take on a life of its own? In Second Thoughts, the clean, emotional ink-work of Swedish newcomer Niklas Asker guides two characters, in two worlds, through modern city life and love. Reality and fiction overlap in this haunting, deceptive, and inspiring graphic novel about the lives we imagine for ourselves, the lives we imagine for others, and the lives we ultimately must live.

Top Shelf Productions is accurately named. They consistently put out high quality material.

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed – $14.00
By Brian Cronin
256 pages; published by Plume; available at Amazon.com

Fascinating and often bizarre true stories behind more than 130 urban legends about comic book culture

Was Superman a Spy? demystifies all of the interesting stories, unbelievable anecdotes, wacky rumors, and persistent myths that have piled up like priceless back issues in the seventy-plus years of the comic book industry, including:

· Elvis Presley’s trademark hairstyle was based on a comic book character (True)
· Stan Lee featured a gay character in one of Marvel’s 1960s war comics (False)
· Wolverine of the X-Men was originally meant to be an actual wolverine! (True)
· What would have been DC’s first black superhero was changed at the last moment to a white hero (True)
· A Dutch inventor was blocked from getting a patent on a process because it had been used previously in a Donald Duck comic book (True)

With many more legends resolved, Was Superman a Spy? is a must-have for the legions of comic book fans and all seekers of “truth, justice, and the American way.”

Not a comic book but an entertaining and informative book at those wacky comics and the even wackier stories behind their creation. Plenty of the content is brand new, but a percentage of the book collects favorites from Brian’s column Comic Book Legends Revealed. Some of it might be too enmeshed in the convoluted super-hero mythologies for newcomers, but it should be great for anyone returning to comics.

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