16 Jan 2016

Ten Forward: March 2016

Every month we spend an evening scouring the pages of the latest issue of Previews and pick the ten titles we are looking forward to the most. This month it's the January issue which includes comics scheduled to ship in March 2016.

BLACK WIDOW #1
Writer: Chris Samnee & Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I quite enjoyed Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto's recent Black Widow series (though some of the later issues remain in that growing pile of unread comics presently), but the prospect of Waid and Samnee picking up Natasha's story after their incredible run on Daredevil is just a reader's dream. It certainly appears that following Scarlett Johansson's successful portrayal of Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the publisher are keen to push the character's profile ever more to the fore - something we can expect of Janet(Hope) Van Dyne in the next few years too I imagine - and from an interview with the pair over at CBR last year it seems that they have a fairly open plan with very few constraints. The interesting thing for me is that where Waid really got to the heart of who Matt Murdock was in Daredevil it seems that Natasha has always been a more mysterious, enigmatic character and I'm excited to see this master writer tackle her motives and emotions.

THE BAKER STREET PECULIARS #1
Writer: Roger Langridge
Art: Andy Hirsch
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Matt C: I’ve got a lot of time for Roger Langridge’s irreverent brand of weirdness so anything new by him will always catch my attention. This offers a neat spin on Sherlock Holmes, imagining a world where the famous detective is actually a fictional creation invented by housekeeper Mrs. Hudson, who writes Holmes’ adventures under the pen name of John Watson, and who has to call on a group of young sleuths when her caseload becomes too much for one person to handle. Although Langridge isn’t illustrating (that’ll be Andy Hirsh of Adventure Time fame) I’m confident that this will be full of his usual oddball humour and wonderful characters.

THE RED VIRGIN AND THE VISION OF UTOPIA HC
Writer: Mary M. Talbot
Artist: Bryan Talbot
Dark Horse Comics $19.99

Billy P: Bryan Talbot has been working in comics for over four decades, and his resume is impressive, to say the least. I first came across his work in 2000 AD when, as a teenager, I would stare in wonder – and abject horror – at his artistic black magic on Nemesis The Warlock (still one of the best comic series in history). To be frank, Bryan is legendary, a pioneer, an auteur of the medium. If you haven’t read his work, I suggest you pause here, and get yourself to Paradox Comics to put in an order. I recommend A Tale Of One Bad Rat, Luther Arkwright (a multiversal tale that overshadows even Hickman’s Secret Wars), Alice In Sunderland, or the anthropomorphic brilliance of the Grandville series. Joined by wife, Mary Talbot, The Red Virgin And The Vision of Utopia continues thematically from their other collaborations, Dotter Of Her Father’s Eyes – which won the Costa book award -- and Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, a feminist fable situated firmly in the history of the women’s movement. Some might say that living with Bryan for so long has rubbed off on Mary, but that would be grossly unfair to her skills as a writer. Indeed, Mary’s former career as an academic and her research into the politics of gender is clearly as much an influential factor, and the comics medium has proven to be a fertile and fruitful ground for an extension of her feminist agenda. (As an aside, Mary and Bryan’s collaborations have been massively successful with students, many of who wouldn’t even consider reading political history in any form. Comics have the potential to be valuable teaching materials and I am currently preparing a lecture on the Talbots as a litmus test). Last time, it was the Suffragette movement; this time, the Talbots travel to 19th century France to chronicle the story of revolutionary feminist, Louise Michel, the so-called ‘Red Virgin of Montmatre.’ Due to be published in May 2016, The Red Virgin And The Vision Of Utopia will hopefully continue to demonstrate that comics are so much more than capes, cowls and tights. Order your copy now!

SUICIDERS: KINGS OF HELL.A. #1
Writer: Lee Bermejo
Art: Alessandro Vitto & Lee Bermejo
DC/Vertigo $3.99

Stewart R: One of the very finest miniseries of last year came in the form of Lee Bermejo's post-disaster, West Coast (US, we're not talking Cornwall here) death-arena thriller, and the news that we're getting more from that rather fucked up world is an absolute delight to read as we struggle through the darkness of winter. Bermejo is taking us back 15 years, before The Saint rose to Suicider prominence, to show us the day to day survival of a gang living in the post-earthquake rubble of a city rebuilding and tearing itself apart at the same time. It's something of a shame that Bermejo isn't illustrating this series as well, but if you're going to bring on someone to depict the brutal, bloodied New Angeles skies then Alessandro Vitti (Red Lanterns, Secret Warriors) is a damn fine choice in my opinion as he certainly captures anger, pain and savagery like no one else in his style.

THE DISCIPLINE #1
Writer: Peter Milligan
Art: Leandro Fernandez
Image $2.99

Rob N: We all need a bit of discipline in our lives, or so my Primary School Teacher used to tell his class of bewildered looking children, but then he used to be in the army, and probably expected us to fight in another great European war when we turned 16. Pete Milligan seems to be popping up quite a lot recently, with varying results. I have great respect for the man, as some of his works (Shade The Changing Man, Enigma and Hellblazer in particular) are stone cold classics of the very highest order, but then he writes something like New Romancers which turned out to be, well... I was disappointed, to say the least. What we have here then is an “all new series about sex, death and metamorphosis” and it's billed as an 'erotic thriller' which can be something of a double-edged sword as the erotic content in most 'erotic thrillers' is about as clich├ęd as you can get, but then I'm speaking as someone who tends to laugh at 'erotic content'. Curiously this was originally scheduled as a Vertigo title before it moved to Image. It would be interesting to know why – did Vertigo think it was a bit rubbish when they finally saw the finished project, or does Image simply offer better terms and rates these days? Whatever the reason, Mr Milligan has a respectable enough body of work behind him to prompt me to check this one out.

PATIENCE
Writer: Daniel Clowes
Art: Daniel Clowes
Fantagraphics $29.99

James R: Any new work from the genius of Daniel Clowes is a cause for celebration for me. For the last 26 years (and counting from the creation of his seminal Eightball anthology) Clowes has produced a magnificent sequence of comics that have either become part of mainstream culture (as with the success of the Ghost World movie) or been straight-out stolen (if you're unaware of Shia LaBeouf's 'inspiration' from Clowes' Justin M. Damiano, I implore you to look the torrid tale up). Naturally, I'm thrilled that Clowes has a new graphic novel out - Patience is described by its creator in the following way: "A very simplified and therefore misleading description would be 'A violent time-travel love story.'" SOLD! This was the standout title for me in Previews, and I have every reason to believe this will be one of the standout releases of 2016.

LORDS OF THE JUNGLE #1
Writer: Corinna Bechko
Art: Roberto Castro
Dynamite Entertainment $3.99

Simon M: Dynamite have a history of bringing old pulp heroes back to the modern reading audience. This March is no exception as Lords Of The Jungle brings Tarzan of the Apes and Sheena Queen of the Jungle together for a time-travelling adventure set in the 1930s. Tarzan has been around for over 100 years and Sheena is not far removed, debuting in 1937. This story sees Tarzan leave his natural habitat as he finds himself in the dark and gritty streets of London. It is in this totally foreign place that he must face his enemies, while Sheena has been whisked back in time from present day to the jungles Tarzan calls home. The problem with writing such well-known literary characters is if the story is not strong enough then fans are left feeling disappointed. Luckily this book has been given to the more than capable Corinna Bechko. Currently she is writing Invisible Republic with her partner Gabriel Hardman, which is fantastic and highly recommended. This book is certain to look good with the skills of Castro on board. He has done a fair bit of work for Dynamite in the past including Flash Gordon and Lords Of Mars. All round, I'm really looking forward to this one.

SUPERMAN #50
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Art: Howard Porter
DC $4.99

Billy P: We keep hearing how the big ol’ blue boy scout is a difficult character to write – the age-old excuse being that his intrinsic moral fibre is an obstacle to great storytelling -- but Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr gave us a fantastic Superman arc in 2014/2015 (#32–#39). I was initially excited by the news that ‘new blood,’ Gene Luen Yang, would take over from #41 onwards; but this arc has been rather weak, especially in comparison to Max Landis’ American Alien miniseries that is simply one of the best Superman stories this side of the Millennium (and we’re only three issues in!). Like most comic readers, I enjoy a well-done crossover, but, at the same time, suffer from periodic bouts of event-fatigue where I throw a hissy fit and curse the penny-pinching habits of the Big Two. Granted, not quite an event-series, but the current Superman story spilled across into Action Comics – a title I have since dropped – Batman/Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman. Given that Superman had his power-set significantly reduced while dealing with the fallout from having his secret identity revealed to the world by none other than Lois Lane should have sown the merry discord of Kryptonian drama. But it didn’t quite work for me. I soldiered on for a short while, but I just didn’t care. Now, as some DC titles reach the #50 milestone (a milestone that Marvel won’t reach anytime soon due to their strategy of relaunching every other year or so), Superman returns with a new arc and the restoration of his powers. Despite yet another $4.99 price tag, I am looking forward to this and sincerely hope that Yang, alongside Howard Porter on pencils, can rejuvenate the Man of Steel and save the title from being culled from my regular purchases.

BATGIRL #50
Writer: Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart
Art: Babs Tarr
DC $4.99

Ann L: When Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher were at the helm of the relaunch of Batgirl way back in October 2014 (issue #35), I have to say I was like a giddy schoolgirl. I had loved Gail Simone’s darker preceding run, but I was ready for something new and exciting. I wasn’t disappointed. The ‘new’ Batgirl spoke to me. Maybe it was because I could identify with the trials and tribulations Barbara Gordon was going through as a PhD student (I had experienced some of those same issues myself years earlier!), or maybe it was the creative integration of social media in the comic (everyone’s got that single friend who’s been on Tinder, right?!), but whatever it was, the comic spoke to me; it was trendy, cool and something I was eagerly anticipating each month. Cut to the end of the first arc, the hype about the ‘relaunch’ has died down, and gone with it seems to be the creative magic that Stewart, Fletcher and the artistic talent of Babs Tarr had brought to those first magical six issues. I’m bored now. When the fellas asked me to write about issue #50, I had to pause for a moment and think if I was actually still reading Batgirl on a regular basis (I am), but the narrative is clunky, it seems like it’s lost its way. The only issue that I’ve really enjoyed since the second arc began was #45 when Dick Grayson popped in for a visit. He at least jazzed things up a bit, created a bit of action, a bit of suspense, a bit of intrigue, but alas, that was all tied in a neat bow by the concluding pages, and we’ve been back in the doldrums ever since. But this is a preview about #50, the BIG 5-0… It’s the start of a new arc, and well, I’m just hoping the creative cobwebs will have been dusted off and Stewart and Fletcher get it together… as for Tarr, a small request please? Can you at least draw Barbara’s face in the same way as you did in the first arc? The pointy chin and her depressing-looking face is giving me a migraine!

X-MEN '92 #1
Writer: Chris Sims & Chad Bowers
Art: Alti Firmansyah
Marvel $3.99

Kenny J: Twenty-four years ago, probably on a Saturday morning, I was introduced to a mallrat that shot sparks from her fingers, a white-haired woman who could control the weather and a Texan with the ability to knock giant robots through walls. I was hooked. That initial throwdown between the X-Men and the Sentinels had had me coming back for more X-Stories across two decades. So imagine my delight when Marvel announced a digital comic featuring that original team that kickstarted this love of comics. Sure, X-Men ‘92 is an exercise in pure nostalgia complete with those Jim Lee inspired costumes, but it’s one I have no guilt in.

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