Welcome to another installment where Chad Reads Things. Today, instead of taking you on a deep dive of some story that’s already finished, I wanted to take a different route and try to share some of the books that are on my radar already in progress but not quite done yet. We always have stuff worth reading in the Stratosphere lounge, whether it’s for the podcast or a review. There’s enough that’s already been published out there for us to excavate to keep things running for years. But every now and again, the stars line up and recharge my excitement for my weekly comic shop run. Right before the world went pandemic crazy, I started noticing that comics in general were having a light refresh for me, with plenty of new books popping up that are worth noticing. Most of these series are 2-3 issues in at this point. Some of them started just before the Covid break if not later, so there’s a chance you can still get caught up with any of these 8 books in one quick stop to your comic shop.
Marvel’s Snapshots: Captain America
This one-shot is part of the Marvels revival curated by Marvels writer Kurt Busiek and covers by Marvels Artist Alex Ross. Everything else is done by other folks. This particular issue by Mark Russell (writer), Ramon Perez (art), and Rico Renzi (colors) dropped within a month or so, and tells about what happens after the Madbomb hits a poor neighborhood. Just like the main Marvels series, this comic explores the people living in the world and suffering the consequences of the neverending battle between costumed heroes and villains. If you’re curious why things like the Black Lives Matter movement need to be things in the first place, give this book a read. While this story isn’t so much about police brutality per se, there was still a bit of prescience to it as Russell uses the madbomb to illustrate what happens all too often when the systems in place are turned against a population, and that population is turned against itself. It’s powerful stuff hidden in this Captain America comic where Captain America and his super heroics are more secondary to everything else.
Every generation gets that teen hero book to latch onto. In the 80’s, you had New Mutants. In the 90’s that gave way to New Warriors and Generation X. More recently, you’ve had Wolverine and the X-Men serving as a school book starring brand new batches of mutants and the Future Foundation doing the same for the fantastical types. Now, it’s time for magical characters to get their turn, as Scotty Young (writer), Humberto Ramos (art), and Edgar Delgado (colors) bring you Strange Academy. Marvel stalwarts like Brother Voodoo, Magik, Dr. Strange, Man Thing, and the Ancient One take their turn as professors to a host of new magical characters. You’ve got frost giants and ice monsters and dormmamus and a ton of other fun school aged characters. Think Harry Potter mixed with that Marvel Magic and Mindful Ones serving as cafeteria staff. Young does a great job helping you to care about a number of new characters, and Ramos is packing in small details that have made both issues of this series a joy to read.
Have I mentioned that I keep giving Mark Russell books a shot just because? This one is Mark Russell (writer), Steve Pugh (art), and Chris Chuckry (colors) skewering the rich by setting loose a Punisher style character on a fantasy island of the wealthy. It’s snarky and cruel and the fun type of social commentary, which is a nice change of pace from his serious, heartfelt and introspective social commentary from books like that Captain America one I mentioned earlier. Russell keeps folding back the curtain on society’s ills so the light can shine there. Here, he just has a lot of wicked fun doing it.
Adventureman by Matt Fraction (script), Terry Dodson (pencils/colors), and Rachel Dodson takes the old Doc Savage era pulp motifs and crosses them with some family drama and a fun single mom lead that’s a more modernized version of your classic manic pixie dream girl. Two issues in, there’s the plot of the pulp-era hero group combating mystical threats and the modern story of the librarian and her son that read about their adventures. Then one day, they get dragged into participating once they uncover a book detailing a lost adventure. Fraction’s writing, and I’m more often a Fraction fan than not, has been so-so to this point. It’s enough that I’m excited about the book, but I don’t know if I’m all-in just yet. It’s hard to argue with the Dodson art team, as they have that perfect art style that’s just real enough, even though everyone is beautiful and everything is sharp. Thus far, I’ve enjoyed the book enough to be in for the first storyline and then I’ll reassess. The plot, the world they’ve created, the characters—they all have potential; heck, I could even see this being turned into a big-budget Hollywood picture if we ever get those again. It’s either going to unlock whatever element that’s keeping it from being totally awesome or it won’t. Even if it doesn’t pan out story wise, that Dodson art is still something special.
Written by Robert Kirkman, with art by Chris Samnee and colors by Matt Wilson, Fire Power is taking a unique approach when it comes to its release. Up first was a trade paperback prelude, which was released on the same day as their Free Comic Book Day issue. The plot thus far has been the Iron Fist origin mixed some ninja-monk training hijinx, some powers from the Street Fighter video game, and the “every time I try to get out, they pull me back in” motif from the mafia movies. Similar to Advetureman, the creative team is the bigger hook for me than the story thus far. That’s not to say that it’s bad; it just all feels like set-up for something bigger. The good news, that’s what it is. The series hasn’t even officially started with the first issue! This is another series that has me for at least another round or two of stories, if only to get Chris Samnee art on the regular again. I guess that Kirkman guy has potential to write good stuff, too. If Adventureman has potential to be a big Hollywood CGI romp, Firepower looks to be a great set up for a Kung-Fu crossed with Sopranos series.
Other books I’m pumped about that are sliiiightly past the ground floor that I still wanted to mention include the following:
The biggest question for the creative team of Mr. Miracle, Tom King and Mitch Gerards (plus Doc Shaner) before this series started was, could they keep the magic going. 3 issues in, I’m willing to say yes. If you like exploring heroes with moral ambiguity and truth that’s even more ambiguous, pick this book up. If not, just pick this book up for the Gerads/Shaner art team. There’s a lot left to come, but so far, it looks like it has potential to be even better than Mr. Miracle, and that was probably the most impressive series I’ve read in years.
We’re 5 issues in to the the first 6 issue arc from Donny Cates (writer), Nic Klein (art), and Matt Wilson (colors). Klein’s art is worth mentioning because it’s beautiful and the story doesn’t work with out it, but the real star is Donny Cates’s story. I’ve given Cates a back-handed compliment in the past saying he takes dumb ideas and makes them awesome—it turns out that’s the perfect recipe for a Thor book. There’s Galactus, heralds, re-writing of everything that’s come before in a single stroke before revealing that it’s all prelude to an even bigger, even crazier story. I know issue 5 has become fodder for speculators, so you might have to catch this one in trade eventually, but this series is the big, cosmic, sprawling fun that I’ve always wanted from a Thor book.
Hawkeye makes bad choices. That’s pretty much this story in a nutshell, if you want to leave out the parts of Rosenberg writing the best screw-up Hawkeye since Matt Fraction and Otto Schmidt earning a spot on my “artists to watch” list. Matthew Rosenberg and Otto Schmidt have crafted this awesome six part series that released four issues pre-pandemic. Then, Marvel announced it was going digital only to finish out the story. Marvel makes bad choices, too, sometimes. My heart was sad, but resigned to finishing the story once it hit the Marvel Unlimited streaming service. But lo, Marvel’s brass changed their minds! Issues 5 and 6 will see a print release so I can finish out my series the way nature intended. Sure, 5 and 6 are already released digitally, so you might already know the ending. Regardless, this is a series I would recommend even without having finished it, the first four issues were that good. So if you go out and buy it, either digitally or physically, it increases my chances of seeing another round of Rosenberg and Schmidt showing Hawkeye making bad choices, and that’s a choice I would like to make.
So those are the books, in addition to what I would consider to be my normal pick-ups, that have made their way onto my pull-list. Check out your local shop and see what tickles your fancy. It’s worth noting that Free Comic Book Summer officially kicked off this week, so most shops will probably have some freebies. Maybe they even still have some of that Fire Power issue!
Let me know if you’re reading anything else that I should be paying attention to, or if you decide to pick any of these up.
Until next time, I’ll be trying to read all these books I keep adding to the pile!