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 August 8, 2012.
Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)
Conan the Barbarian #7
What it’s about: Since its inception earlier this year, writer Brian Wood’s take on Conan has been remarkably different from all of the other interpretations that have preceded it. Instead of focusing on the rippling muscles and testosterone-drenched dialogue of the warrior king, Wood has decided to slim Conan down and give him some actual pathos for audiences to latch onto.
With a decidedly indie feel to the stories, Wood and artists like Becky Cloonan have carefully crafted a Conan title for people who wouldn’t normally be caught dead reading a Conan book.
What to expect this month: Conan and his lover Bêlit return to his home of Cimmeria only to hear of an imposter claiming to be him that has been leveling villages and killing women and children. Right away we see that his return home isn’t a nostalgic walk down memory lane; instead, the villagers are very wary of him and his lover, who they feel is nothing more than a filthy foreigner.
With this being the first issue of a new story arc, Wood takes his time to set up the main conflict while also furthering the characters of Conan and Bêlit. There isn't much action to speak of in this installment, but there is so much going on from a storytelling standpoint that you won’t even miss the blood-splattered swords and fists of previous issues.
Artist Becky Cloonan’s return to the book is also a welcome sight here as she imposes her will on the story with her energetic and emotive illustrations. She perfectly balances the grey, morose landscapes of Cimmeria with some beautifully crafted characters to create a world that feels authentic and lived-in.
Slowly but surely Conan is becoming one of the best licensed character books on shelves. While the superheroes are busy stuck in countless crossovers with regurgitated plots and muddled continuity, Conan is providing us with thrilling adventures and memorable characters on a monthly basis. We can’t think of any better reason to pick this up.
The Massive #3
What it’s about: Brian Wood’s dominance over at Dark Horse doesn’t stop with Conan, because so far his environmental thriller, The Massive, has been a worthy successor to the writer’s previous socially conscious works. Focusing on a squad of environmentalists who are cruising the open waters after a mysterious “crash” has destroyed the Earth’s ecosystem, The Massive blends high-stakes action with the type of relevant themes that fill up newspapers and blogs on a daily basis.
What to expect this month: As the crew of The Kapital attempts to retrieve its lost mates and discover what happened to a sister ship, The Massive, Wood brings us a collection of flashbacks that further flesh-out this new, terrifying Earth. Scenes of nuclear explosions and roaming gangs looking for fresh water are sprinkled throughout the issue as if they are commonplace and mundane in this grim reality.
This series’ strength is that it doesn’t feature a future that is completely unlike our own; instead, Wood goes to great pains to give us a reality that isn’t too far away from our own if a few terrible pieces fall into place. Strengthening that direction is the art by Kristian Donaldson, who is able to illustrate convincing landscapes and characters that never seem far off from reality.
By unveiling bits of the mystery surrounding “the crash” and introducing some interesting moral dilemmas for the crew of The Kapital, Wood has given us yet another strong installment in this series. And with the first act of the series basically over, we predict things are about to pick up in a big way. There is no reason not to hop on this book now and get involved in perhaps one of the most thought-provoking comics of 2012.
What it’s about: One of the rare spy/espionage comics currently on shelves, Dancer is a tremendously taut thriller written by Nathan Edmondson with incredibly moody art by Nic Klein. The book focuses on a retired spy named Alan who attempts to retire with his ballerina girlfriend, Quinn. But when his doppelganger crashes into their life and kidnaps Quinn, Alan is forced to go back into action to try and stop a man who knows everything about him and every movement he plans to make.
What to expect this month: Alan puts his plan to rescue Quinn into motion as he recruits some help to shoot down his clone. Edmondson’s main focus in this issue is a visceral action scene between the two that is about as chaotic and brutal as you will see all week.
This scene is all made possible courtesy of the art by Klein, who has such a meticulous attention to detail and movement that you should feel each explosive beat run throughout your body. But as they have done all during this series, Klein and Edmondson manage to keep everything understated and grounded instead of settling for the broad elements of most action-oriented comics.
It’s not often that a series takes us completely by surprise like this, but Dancer seemingly came out of nowhere earlier this year and it has since become one of the most solid offerings from Image. Sure there are sexier, higher-profile books out there at the moment, but most of them won’t compare to the story that Edmondson and Klein are telling here.
The Creep #0
What it’s about: Part detective story and part human tragedy, The Creep #0 is an interesting set-up for writer John Arcudi’s forthcoming miniseries this September. The story begins with a teenager committing suicide in his bedroom and his mother’s quest for answers. The trail leads her to an old flame and current detective, Oxel Karnhus. But unbeknownst to her, since the last time they saw each other Oxel has developed acromegaly—a physical deformity resulting in brutish facial features at mid-life. Think Andre the Giant type features.
Arcudi and artist Jonathan Case seamlessly transition between the harsh, ugly world that the characters live in now and the idealized lives they used to have. Oxel’s physical deformity is the character’s main draw as he goes through life alone, mocked by a society that tries its best to make him feel like an outsider. He doesn’t even visit his old girlfriend, Stephanie, in person to discuss her son’s case; he instead conducts his business over the phone with her to spare himself the humiliation.
And as Arcudi and Case dig deep into how his condition affects his life, they also sew the seeds for a mystery that will drive the miniseries along. Because this is a #0 issue, don’t expect a whole lot to happen here. This chapter of the story merely sets the table for what is to come down the line. That might not be enough to warrant the price tag for some people, but fans of the tone and flavor of Dark Horse Comics will definitely find the whole package intriguing, especially the very Sin City-esque cover by Frank Miller.