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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Comics Talk: The Next Three Months - Big Names, Big Image Comics Titles.

It's been a while but here's a quick look at three very promising titles coming out from Image Comics in the next three months - each by mostly established talent. I'm going to keep this relatively brief, as I'm gearing up to review a terrific, brand-new original graphic novel from Vertigo Comics in the upcoming weeks.

Snotgirl (by Bryan Lee O'Malley (writer) and Leslie Hung (artist); July 2016). A comic book about a fashion blogger with major allergies may be one of the least promising premises ever but Bryan Lee O'Mally has made a career out of turning dopey premises into something special. He did it with Seconds, with Lost at Sea and, most definitely, with his thoroughly wonderful Scott Pilgrim series. I see no reason why Snotgirl shouldn't be the same.

Both his first (presumably) monthly comic and his first major project with someone else providing the art, Snotgirl still promises to be vintage O'Malley. The preview - which, if nothing else, is an exciting showcase for newcomer Hung's beautifully cartoony, colourful and expressive artwork - may have been nothing but a taste of what's to come but it does look like what's to come is the usual O'Malley mix of goofy-smart humour, memorable characters, plenty of heart and something to say about a specific aspect of modern life through both well-placed metaphor and more explicit character building. 

This is the very definition of a must-buy for any fan of Bryan Lee O'Malley's previous work and potentially a good introduction to non-fans. Though, honestly, if you haven't read Scott Pilgrim yet (or seen the terrific film adaptation), what the hell are you waiting for? It really is about as good as comics get - and a pretty good indication of just why fans are so very eagerly anticipating a series about a fashion blogger with a runny nose.

Kill or Be Killed (by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist) and Elizabeth Breitweiser (colourist), August 2016). It almost makes absolutely no difference what this series is about because, with this team at the helm, it's hard to believe that this series will be anything but excellent. Brubaker and Phillips have effectively established themselves as the Lee and Kirby of gritty, crime-tinged noir comics over more than a decade a now; with very nearly every month seeing the release of something new by them. From their non-creator owned Wildstorm Comics property, Sleeper, through to their recently concluded 50s Hollywood noir miniseries, the Fade Out, these guys have never missed a beat in delivering compelling, genuinely dark and profoundly human stories about the underbelly of human existence.

For those who aren't already hooked, the story of this long-form ongoing series (a departure from their usual, novelistic miniseries format) concerns an ordinary guy who is forced to murder bad people for reasons that will become clear, presumably, as the series goes on and has been described by its creators as a mix of Death Wish and early Spider-man comics and a deconstruction of the revenge thriller. It sounds both somewhat different from their usual stuff and very familiar too. 

And, with the inimitable Betty Breitweiser again providing some of the best colouring in comics to Sean Phillips' already detailed and expressive work, it should look as great as it reads.

Seven to Eternity (by Rick Remender (writer), Jerome Opena (artist) and Matt Hollinsworth (colourist), September 2016). Once again, the vague plot synopsis of this new epic fantasy series tells me little that would make me want to buy the book anywhere near as much as the talent involved. Rick Remender is, very simply, one of the best and most prolific writers in comics today, while Jerome Opena is an undeniably brilliant talent whose art I have shamefully sampled all too infrequently.

Remender's latest crop of comics may be noticeably different from one another, often existing in entirely different genres, but they all make brilliant use of genre fiction to tell allegorical tales about his own life and his own views on what's going on in the world around him. While Deadly Class is a heightened exploration of his early, often troubled years, Low explores the value of hope in the bleakest of circumstances and Tokyo Ghost examines the effects of our obsession with both technology and entertainment. They're all terrifically exciting stories, with wonderful art (well, Low a bit less but that's just personal preference) and vivid characterization but it's their... soul that make them some of the best books on the stand.

Going for a full-blown epic fantasy series is yet another departure for Remender in terms of genre, though the most obvious reference point for this would probably his early creator-owned work, Strange Girl, a post-Rapture theological fantasy that happened to feature an issue or two illustrated by none other than Jerome Opena - and, again, was infused with Remender's own struggles with religion and black and white morality. Will Seven to Eternity touch on similar ideas or go for something completely different? Who knows but, I for one, cannot wait to find out.         
Lengthy previews for all three titles can be found in the Image+ magazine and, presumably, online as well. For South African readers, get all three of them by pre-ordering from Zed Bees Comics Universe in Edenvale, Gauteng. 

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