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 January 9, 2013.
Star Wars #1
What it’s about: Though Dark Horse has been pumping out quality Star Wars comics for decades now, this new series—simply titled Star Wars—is perhaps the first to appeal to both fans who can quote Return of the Jedi verbatim and those who might not necessarily know the difference between an X-wing and a Y-wing (that should be common knowledge, however).
Unlike the other Star Wars books on the shelves that deal with the expanded world outside of the movies, this one focuses on old favorites like Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and Darth Vader. Written by Brian Wood, the debut issue re-introduces readers to all of these characters and manages to dig a little deeper into their psyches. The setting is the immediate aftermath of Death Star's destruction seen in A New Hope. Han is dealing with a bounty on his head, Luke and Leia are trying to come to peace with their recent losses while attempting to find a new Rebel base, and Darth Vader is being scalded by the Emperor like a middle-management schlub after the Death Star fell on his watch.
Instead of filling this issue with spectacle and explosions, Wood spends his time establishing the story's time-frame and setting up where these characters are emotionally. There's a lot of exposition to trek through, but, for fans of the franchise, it’s worth it just to see the classic look and feel of the old Star Wars films again after years' worth of prequels. Wood captures each character’s individual voice admirably; however, there are still moments when the dialogue feels a little clunky and overly stiff. But with some more time spent getting accustomed to them, he should settle into a nice groove. The concurrent plots of a potential spy in the Rebellion and Vader’s reaction to his own failures more than make up for any dialogue hiccups.
More impressive than Wood’s strong script, though, is Chris D'anda's art. From every bolt on the Tie-Fighter Interceptor to Han’s stylish sideburns, D'Anda nails the first trilogy's mood and feel flawlessly. The art is bright, slightly cartoonish, and mixed with impeccable detail that transports you back in time. Most impressive are his ship designs, which are just as beautifully crafted as the movie models themselves. It all just feels like Star Wars, and for a franchise that has been around for over 30 years, D’Anda somehow finds a way to inject new life into it.
It’s not quite the perfect debut issue, but Wood and D’Anda could really be on the verge of something special here. Even the most jaded of fans should at least give this issue a try.
What it’s about: Spinning out of the various Hellboy miniseries, B.P.R.D. puts its focus on the titular government group that is tasked with protecting the world from aliens, monsters, the occult, and any other sort of paranormal baddie that threatens the planet. Think of it like the Men in Black mixed with a little bit of the X-Men and you’ll start to get an idea of what the mission statement of this title has been for the past few years.
What to expect this month: This B.P.R.D. issue, unfortunately, simultaneously entertaining and frustrating. While it's ultimately a solid read, it also takes place before the “Return of the Master” story that just ended, thus #103 partially interrupts the title's overall rhythm. That being said, B.P.R.D. #103 still manages to bring the type of occult, sci-fi weirdness that we've come to expect.
Writers Mike Mignola and Scott Allie use this issue to add to the history of the B.P.R.D. version of Earth. We see an agent in the present touch a mythical weapon that links him up with a warrior from the past that reveals bits and pieces about the history and potential future of the Ogdru Hem, the demonic creatures from past Hellboy stories.
James Harren's artwork ties the plot together. His illustrations have a gritty, grimy Paul Pope quality at times, specifically when he's depicting the present day. The first quarter of the issue is easily Harren's strongest as he is able to craft more mood and dark ambiance during the Chicago scenes, as opposed to the flashback sections that take place in grassy fields. However, the monsters and brutal fights that he draws later on in the issue are still impressive as he manages to get some great visceral, violent imagery from each page.
Again, if you’re looking for the follow-up to “Return of the Master,” B.P.R.D. #103 might let you down. Serious followers of this book, however, should be pleased.
Eerie Comics #2
What it’s about: Comic book aficionados will undoubtedly recognize the name Eerie. This was the preeminent horror magazine back in the '60s, featuring all sorts of ghoulish tales including zombies, werewolves, vampires, and every other genre staple you could imagine.
Eerie's stories combined complete, abject gore with O. Henry style endings for a package that would usually leave readers twisted and delighted. Now, Dark Horse has revived the brand and is putting out new anthologies every few months to satisfy horror fans everywhere.
What to expect this month: Eerie returns with two new stories and one reprint from a pair of comic legends that is well worth the cover price alone. The first short focuses on human greed as a man goes to violent lengths to ensure himself a small fortune from an invention that allows people to speak to ants. Written by Damon Gentry and illustrated by indie gem Mike Allred, this tale is like something right out of The Twilight Zone, complete with a bit of horror, social commentary, and a completely perverse ending.
Next we have a tale of a man searching for extraterrestrial life, only to find it in the most unfortunate of ways. Writer Brian Clevinger and artist Evan Shaner don’t necessarily hit a home-run. Still, it’s a solid little tale with a conclusion that should stick with you. No spoilers here, but needless to say, finding aliens isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Those first two stories are all well and good, but it’s the last one that should have comic fans frothing at the mouth. It's a reprint from a 1967 Eerie issue, conceived by the now-deceased duo of writer Archie Goodwin and artist Gene Colan. The story deals with a Nazi scientist trying to learn how fear affects Jewish concentration camp prisoners. It's easily the most collection's dangerous short.
Goodwin's script hits hard, and Colan's art, done in his prime, is absolutely sublime. It’s all in black-and-white (the same as the rest of the issue), and Colan uses the technique to its fullest here. We hate to say anything having to do with Nazis is beautiful, but this is a rare exception. Again, we'll stay spoiler-free, but if you’re a horror fan, or even just someone who's interested in the history of comics, check out this issue to see how the genre has evolved in the medium over the years. As you'll quickly learn, some things just don’t need improvements.
Written by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)