In a tight economy, it's not always clear what you should spend your hard-earned money on, and with comic books getting more and more expensive, your dollar doesn’t go as far at the comic shop as it did in the past. We here at Complex feel your pain, so we're providing you with a rundown of the best comics coming out on June 6, 2011.
Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)
Avengers vs. X-Men #5
What it’s about: Since its debut, there was little doubt that Avengers vs. X-Men would bring the action in a way that most comics simply can’t keep up with. Starting with the first issue, this crossover event has provided us with dazzling fight scenes, operatic plot twists, and the promise of an irrevocably changed Marvel Universe.
Last issue, Hope struck a deal with Wolverine to kill her if she couldn’t control the Phoenix Force. Together they traveled to the blue area of the Moon, where oxygen and gravity are all in play. This is where the original Phoenix died, and where Hope planned on exorcising her demons.
What to expect this month: It’s the Avengers clashing against the X-Men on the moon over the future of Hope! If that doesn’t get you excited, then you simply don’t like comic books. Titanic action abounds as these two super teams battle it out with the aid of the superb artwork by John Romita Jr. This issue marks the end of the first act of this crossover, and it’s plainly obvious that this thing is just heating up as the Phoenix arrives.
The most notable part of the crossover is that there's a rotating roster of writers attached to it, so every issue has a slightly different voice to it. It's written by Matt Fraction, who is easily one of Marvel’s freshest talents of the past decade. Having written Uncanny X-Men, Thor, and Iron Man for so long, he really gets these characters in a way that is both accurate to the decades of comic book lore, and similar enough to the recent live-action incarnations to be enjoyed by newcomers as well.
The Boys #67
What it’s about: In a world where costumed superheroes and vigilantes really exist, someone needs to keep an eye on them, and that’s where The Boys come in. Put together by the CIA, this group of antisocial misfits polices the super powered celebrity culture that has been causing havoc all over the globe. If they get out of hand, The Boys are forced to get their hands dirty.
More recently in the series, The Boys came face-to-face with an army of super foes, including an incredibly gory showdown in issue 65. Now that writer Garth Ennis has announced that the series will end with issue 72, this last arc, titled “The Bloody Doors Off,” promises to wrap up some loose ends and include the standard amount of bloodshed.
What to expect this month: What The Boys #67 does so well is that it slowly sets up plot threads for later on in the arc. The mystery behind the death of Vas, the problems with Mother’s Milk’s daughter, and how they all relate to Billy Butcher are all explored here in depth. However, longtime readers of the series shouldn’t expect much bloodshed here as Ennis is doing his best to cram in as much story as possible for a satisfying conclusion down the road.
What makes this issue work, other than Ennis’ intimate knowledge of these characters, is the art by Russell Braun. He makes an issue that is basically just extended conversations between characters interesting because of his ability to craft facial expressions and movements that help inject some energy into these scenes.
If you have been reading The Boys from the beginning, then #67 is a no-brainer. For everyone else, do yourself a favor and start from the beginning. The Boys doesn’t nearly get the love that it should, and it’s impending conclusion will undoubtedly leave an emptiness in our reading diet.
The Spider #2
What it’s about: Created in the ‘30s during the height of the pulp craze, The Spider was one of the original vigilantes to be introduced into modern pop culture. Armed with nothing but a handgun, hat, and cape, he was ruthless and violent long before the likes of Batman and The Punisher hit the stands.
Now the character has been relaunched by Dynamite Entertainment and novelist David Liss. Along with artist Colton Worely, this modern version of the character sticks closely to its violent, pulp roots, but it also has the sense of humor and social commentary we have come to expect from an indie book.
What it’s about: After an absolutely stellar first issue, The Spider continues to hunt down the mysterious woman named Anput, who is hell-bent on cleansing a corrupt New York City by controlling the minds of its population. Liss manages to squeeze an extraordinary amount of character depth into every page of the book as The Spider, aka Richard Wentworth, narrates the entire thing with a jaded edge.
And when he’s not recalling the disappointments of his splintered personal life, he’s dual-wielding handguns and kicking serious ass in the streets of NYC. For anyone tired of heroes playing things by the books and not caring about the little guy, this comic is for you. He's a hero obsessed with fighting for the lower class, while giving criminals nothing but a bullet between the eyes.
It’s hard-boiled, intense, tragic, and yet supremely gratifying. Liss and Colton make a great team as they seem to be well on their way towards giving comic fans everywhere a blood-soaked and socially conscious alternative to the somewhat sterilized superhero genre.
What it’s about: Of Valiant Comics’ most recent company-wide relaunch, Harbinger is perhaps the most intriguing. For those unfamiliar, Harbinger wasn’t just well-known back in the ‘90s; it was one of the most successful books of the decade. Focusing on a group of teenagers with bizarre powers, the book took an over-the-top look at what real kids would do with these startling abilities.
Now the property has been given new life under the guidance of writer Joshua D. M. Dysart and artist Khari Evans. This new Harbinger title has been updated for more modern storytelling sensibilities, but there is no doubt that the original book’s spirit is intact. The issue begins with a look at Peter Stanchek, who has the power to read and control minds. He’s the audience’s entry point to the story, and he’s someone that most of us could relate to on some level.
And what does he do with his powers? He abuses drugs, steals money, and mentally controls girls to sleep with him. Not a bad racket, right? But he soon learns that he isn’t alone in this world, as two opposite parties wish to control him. Fortunately, Toy Harada, the most powerful Harbinger on Earth, is there to lead him down the right path. But there are other evils lurking in the darkness that want him for their own gain.
The universe here is introduced quickly, but there is also plenty of time to digest everything that is going on. Like the recent hit found-footage film Chronicle, Harbinger focuses on real people getting amazing powers, and they’re not always to be trusted with them. There's an X-Men/Teen Titans vibe going on here that absolutely works in its favor. It’s dark and mysterious, but there is enough humor and genuinely relatable dialogue to make it all feel organic.
Adventures into the Unknown Archives: Volume 1
What it’s about: Before the Comics Code Authority censored everything that even hinted at gore back in the ‘50s, horror anthologies were among the best-selling comics of all time. These short stories packed in plenty of shocking twist endings, beautiful dames, and murder most foul. And among the most popular horror titles at the time was Adventures into the Unknown, published by American Comics Group. Now, Dark Horse Comics has reprinted an absolutely mammoth first volume hardcover book that collects over 200 pages of these bone-chilling stories.
Including the work of comic talent like Edvard Moritz, King Ward, Fred Guardineer, Al Feldstein, Leonard Starr, Al Ulmer, and Paul Reinman, the stories included here are pure nostalgia as they delve into the world of ghosts, killer puppets, werewolves, vampires, and the undead. With shockingly brutal artwork, these tales are about as sick and twisted as they come. People get strangled, stabbed, shot, blown apart, and hanged without any hesitation. There's a campy morbidity to these stories that have made them endure for decades. Highlights here include “The Haunted House,” “Giants of the Unknown,” “The Affair of Room 1313,” and plenty others. Typically, each one lasts less than a dozen pages in length, but there's enough meat on the bone that it feels much more substantial than that.
Each portion of this anthology is filled with an undeniable charm that is absent from a lot of comics today. Genuine creativity and imagination are palpable throughout as the creators attempted to fill each panel with enough shocks to keep readers coming back for more. For its time, Adventures into the Unknown was one of the premiere reads in the industry, and this collection is a great piece of history for anyone looking to truly study the medium.