Get In on the Ground Floor: 8 New Comics Series with Real Potential

There have been a number of interesting first issues recently, and this is my attempt at recommending the ones I most liked. My only rule is that the series is on its first or second issue at most. Comics at #3 you should nevertheless check out include Memorial, Fatale, Winter Soldier and believe it or not, Scarlet Spider.

Adventure Time (Kaboom)
I really didn't know anything about this cartoon series but the name, but if the comics series is anything to go by, I've got to become a fan. A series like this is just what the doctor ordered in these final months of Tiny Titans. It has the same whismical, anything-can-happen feeling, and gives its writers and artists enormous leeway (there's no actual "house style") in experimenting within the all-ages format (and I mean it, it's not just for kiddies). There's a continuing story about the Lich sucking up the Land of Ooo in his bag, but various charming back-up tales in each issue as well.

Conan the Barbarian (Dark Horse)
I'll come clean. I'm not as big a fan of Conan comics as I ought to be. Every time a new series crops up, I might look at it, but it never quite captures my imagination. Until now. Brian Wood's credit drew me in, and he's making use of Howard's original texts beautifully. The colorful type-written captions have less to do with the Age of Hyborea than with paying tribute to Conan's creator. And Becky Cloonan's art! Her Conan looks younger than most, but has a lot of charm. What I've seen of hers before was more cartoony, but here approaches Paul Pope's fluidity, and her action is always well choreographed.

Kirby Genesis: Dragonsbane (Dynamite)
Of all the Kirby Genesis projects, the youngest but most promising is Dragonsbane, a riff on Thor that uses the popular idea of merging all possible worlds into a fun mash-up universe. The veils between the different pantheons' dimensions have lifted and now Sigurd - he of the impressive helmet - goes on a journey across all myths to help a ghostly princess. All that and Kirby designs too!

The Manhattan Projects (Image)
In the same bold, high-concept way Jonathan Hickman is writing the Fantastic Four and SHIELD, he now brings us an original series that puts the Manhattan Project in the plural, because apparently, the atomic bomb was the least of their projects. The book features real-life scientists, including an Oppenheimer that is not at all what he seems, working in an Area 51-type facility and squaring off against the weird science of other WWII powers. The first issue features Kamikaze killing machines sent by death-powered zen Buddhists. So there.

Saga (Image)
It may be a bit early to tell, but Brian K. Vaughan's newest series efficiently creates a world that is half-space opera, half-myth & magic, using the narration of a character that has yet to be born to tell a story of forbidden love and the assassins sent to squelch it. Fiona Staples' expressive art finds the right balance between fantasy and science fiction, and is rather more spare than most SF art, which tends towards the technical and thus, the highly detailed. If the jury's still out for me, it's because Vaughan makes an effort to create an R-rated story, but none of the "R" elements seem necessary. I think he might have done better to aim for a wider audience, because his canvas deserves it.


Saucer Country (Vertigo)
Paul Cornell's newest project can be summed up thus: The West Wing meets The X-Files. We follow Arcadia Alvarado, present governor of New Mexico and candidate for the presidency of the United States. She also happens to be the daughter of illegal aliens, and have come out of an abusive marriage. And by illegal aliens, I mean people from Mexico, but Cornell may just mean aliens from outer space! That's a great comic book hook, but I'm really reading for the political story, which Cornell writes quite well.


Superbia (Boom! - is it me, or are there a lot of comic book companies with explosive names?)
Grace Randolph's Superbia has been called the Real Wives of Hollywood of the superhero set, with good reason. We've got analogs of the Justice League - through a deconstructionist lens not unlike Watchmen's, which is mildly disappointing - but the focus is on their girlfriends and spouses (of both sexes). Randolph has given us a good mix - the new wife not yet used to staying at home while her husband risks his life, the former villain who seems to have corrupted her boyfriend, the wife-as-business-partner, the stay-at-home dad. If we're going by potential, I've got to include this series in the list. Don't get put off by the Image-y cover, the interiors have a more cartoony charm.

Thief of Thieves (Image)
Robert Kirkman's newest project (but written by Nick Spencer, and there's nothing wrong with that) is the perfect comic for fans of Ocean's Eleven or Hustle. Redmond is a master thief, perhaps the world's best, and he's looking to get out of the life. Of course, there's always one more heist... Through his apprentice, the daring-do and flim-flam are mixed in with procedural elements, like how to steal a car with a minimum of risk. It's the comic book equivalent of hanging out with the wrong crowd and it exudes charm.

So get reading! And I wouldn't mind hearing your recommendations for new series *I* should check out.


Martin Gray said...

Excellent idea, brilliantly executed. I'll have to try one or two of these.

Matthew Turnage said...

I'm also loving the new Conan series. Apparently some of the Howard purists believe Wood and Cloonan are playing a little too fast and loose with the source material, but I'd personally prefer a slightly loose interpretation in an adaptation. I'm really looking forward to seeing what sort of original material Wood comes up with starting with #4.

Jayunderscorezero said...

Adventure Time is completely fab and packed to the gills with (mildly creepy-flavoured) joy. I hadn't heard of Supurbia but I'll have to give it a look!

Siskoid said...

Martin: Kept it brief and spoiler free.

Matt: I agree with you. Why would I need to read/see an adaptation if it's going to be the same experience as the original?

Jay: Superbia isn't the best book on the list, but it was entertaining.

Randal said...

As an expert Conanologist (administrator of the internet's only non Age-of-Conan Conan wiki), I give the current series a thumbs up. I'm curious how long of a series this will be...and what shape Belit's origin will take this time around.

I'm not sure what the purists are complaining about...except for the fact that Belit isn't naked, I guess. I can get behind that argument. But still, it's been pretty damn close to source material so far.

Saucer Country....big Cornell fan (he signed so much of my stuff at Phoenix Comicon last year...awesome guy)...but was turned off by the Republican slams. sale for issue #2. Shrug. Only so much comics money to go around.

chiasaur11 said...

Adventure Time is the best. Smart, funny, and really, really creative. There's new stuff every episode. Whole cities of random, interesting characters show up for an episode, then never show up again.

Comic's good, but the show is even better.

Siskoid said...

If you're going to have a Democratic candidate, her crew are bound to slam the Republicans. That's just part of the story. I thought Cornell gave a hearing to both sides by giving her a Republican strategist. But then, I don't care about an author's politics unless they actually interfere with the story they're telling.

Randal said...

Oh, sure, agreed...but it was the Republican strategist that was actually making the insults. I don't have the issue in front of me, but the line was "I'm a member of a party that will never gain more than 20% again" or something along those lines.

Eh. Like I said, only so much money in the budget...don't really need a huge excuse to not commit to issue #2.

Anonymous said...

Here's a clip from "Adventure Time"; assess for yourself:

The land of Ooh is actually post-nuclear holocaust earth ... so I put it to you that "Adventure Time" is an Elseworlds version of "Kamandi". Last boy on earth, blue shorts, long blond hair, fights monsters with a dog friend.

Siskoid said...

Then I had TWO Kirby tributes on the list and didn't know it.

thecomichunter said...

I'm buying Conan, Saga, Kirby: Genesis, Manhattan Projects, Saucer Country and Thief of Thieves.

As far as #1s go, Manhattan Projects is the clear winner, with Saga and Thief of Thieves in 2nd and 3rd. Thief of Thieves has the potential to be amazing but it is very much a character book, and as such, is a little slow out of the gate.

The Kirby books, like most of the Dynamite "family" books, is a decent concept but the market is being flooded with the various Genesis books and people are sort of sick of it.

Also highly recommend checking out Fatale (Image) by Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker. Could end up being their best work together yet! (see also Sleeper, Criminal, and Incognito)

The first (and hopefully not last) trade for it just came out today for Last of the Greats! Joshua Hale Fialkov has been blowing me away lately between this, Echeos (also Image) and his amazing run on the very much underrated "I, Vampire" at DC comics!

Siskoid said...

Kirby Genesis was a weird concept book OR a strong family of titles, but I fear it can't be both.

I personnaly can't follow how the main series connects to the other titles too well.

De said...

I will have to check out all of these. Haven't been to a comic shop in almost a year (and the digital comic apps only showcase so much), so I never see anything that's not already on the radar.

Another fan of Adventure Time here. It's so damn nutty plus it's fun to watch with my daughters.

Taranaich said...

Matthew, it depends on which Howard fans you ask. Generally outside of non-issues like Conan looking "girly" or "emo," most of the problems are around Wood misinterpreting Howard's themes and characterisation of Conan, especially apparent in the second issue. It's still a good comic, but it's a very loose adaptation.

Also, a "Howard purist" is simply anyone who thinks Robert E. Howard's works are canon, and anything else is a derivative creation. It says nothing about stories from other authors being automatically condemned or hated, and in fact the original Purist Manifesto composed by Rusty Burke actively advocated more and better new works. You're only not a Howard purist if you consider the works of, say, L. Sprague de Camp to be just as canonical as Howard's own work.


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