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Underrated: Dragonfly and Dragonfly Man

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: a prequel to The Wrong Earth, Dragonfly and Dragonfly Man


I initially stumbled over The Wrong Earth because the first issue of the second volume caught my eye. I enjoyed it, a lot, and decided to circle back and order the trade of the first volume. After loving that, I found the prequel book that details the parallel lives of the Dragonfly and Dragonfly Man.

So what is the book about? Well to tackle that, first we need to grasp the nature of Wrong Earth for those who either haven’t read it or missed my previous column on that story. So because I don’t see the need to rewrite the publisher’s blurb for Wrong Earth, I’ll paste it below.

“On dark, gritty Earth-Omega, masked vigilante Dragonfly punishes evil maniacs and evades corrupt authorities. On sun-splashed Earth-Alpha, costumed crook-catcher Dragonflyman upholds the letter of the law. Now they’re trapped on each other’s worlds, where even the good guys don’t share their values!”

If the idea of the Silver Age Batman or the Adam West Batman and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight switching places sounds awesome, to you, well, that’s because it is. But it’s also so much more than just that elevator pitch. But if you want to know more about why that book is awesome, check out the Underrated where I talk about that, because here we’re looking at Dragonfly and Dragonfly Man.

Written by Tom Peyer, featuring art by Peter Krause, Russ Braun, with finishes provded by Juan Castro and Leonard Kirk and colours provided by Andy Troy and Paul Little with Kelly Fitzpatrick. Rounding out the creative team is letterer Rob Steen, who’s contributions to the comic are often subtle until you catch the sound effects giving you a nostalgic Silver Age smile in Earth Alpha. The book is published by Ahoy, a publisher that I’ve become increasingly more aware of as I notice their logo on books I’ve been thoroughly enjoying.

This book essentially takes the same story and tells it twice; once with the Silver Age sensibilities of Earth Alpha, and once with the Modern Age darkness. Because they’re told concurrently, you get to see how the two versions of the same hero react to very similar situations – the dichotomy of the two worlds emphasizes the fish out of water scenario that Wrong Earth deals with, and yet you get to see just how similar the heroes are despite the differences in their respective worlds. The story, essentially, focuses on how Dragonfly and Dragonflyman deal with the threats of Tommygunner and Devil Man, and Peyer captures the spirit of their respective eras very well. I find myself increasingly drawn to the Silver Age shenanigans’ of Earth Alpha; I won’t lie, it’s stirring an urge to find more Silver Age Batman comics/stories to enjoy as the escapism is more refreshing than I’d have expected it to be.

I know that Peyer is currently writing the sequel to Wrong Earth, but I really want to explore more tales told in this fashion to expand upon the universe.

As with Wrong Earth, I’ve only really scratched the surface with this book, because a lot of it you’ll benefit from going in as blind as you can and spotting the similarities between Earth Alpha and Omega, and also the similarities between the two eras of Batman’s past. This series has fallen below far too many radars, and every person to whom I have shown the trade has been thoroughly engrossed and intrigued in the trades.

Seriously, this is well worth checking out.

With the potential richness in the Wrong Earth universe, and the quality of Peyer’s writing and the artistic team’s collaborations, I’ve definitely found one of those comics that I’ll be reading for a long time. You can read this book without having read Wrong Earth, and still find it just as enjoyable – perhaps if you do that you’ll end up with a lot more context in Wrong Earth and its sequels. Go find this underrated gem at your favourite retailer now.


Unless the comics industry ceases to exist this week, Underrated will return next week.

Review: The Wrong Earth: Night And Day #3

The Wrong Earth: Night and Day #3

If you haven’t been paying attention to Ahoy‘s Wrong Earth series, you’re missing out. The Wrong Earth: Night and Day #3 is the first issue I’ve read in time to actually get a review together after catching up on the first volume via trade and the previous two single issues (the first issue of Wrong Earth: Night and Day I read and reviewed before reading the first volume). The beauty of this series is that you don’t need to have read the first volume to enjoy Night and Day because the essential concept of the book is really simple for a fan of superhero comics – or even a person with a slight awareness of a certain character – to grasp; what happens when a silver age hero and his modern counterpart switch places?

The previous issue saw the two counterparts, the gritty Dragonfly from Earth Omega and the charming Dragonfly Man from Earth Alpha finally team up after being stuck in each other’s world for the first volume as they meet in a third world, Earth Zeta, that has been gradually poisoning the other worlds. As you can probably imagine, things didn’t go smoothly when Dragonfly tried to kill a henchman, and the pair ended up captured by Number One, the Joker to their Batman (honestly, now that I think of it, Wrong Earth is a better version of Three Jokers in how the three different versions of the same character has been handled).

Writer Tom Peyer plays into the dichotomy of the two characters and the hallmarks of the eras that they pay homage to with no sense of irony. It took me by surprise a little when I realized that Peyer was treating things like the anti-bullet spray with a genuine seriousness, but as I fell deeper into his world, I realized that there’s a charm to that era of comics that we’ve lost as the medium has trended toward the realism and violence seen in today’s comics. It’s fun. Genuinely fun, and watching Dragonfly’s gobsmacked reactions makes me laugh every time.

The plot of the comic takes a bit of a turn in this issue from where I was expecting the story to go, and I am all for the direction that Peyer is taking this story. He’s taking what is ultimately the bigger conflict of the series and moving it center stage, which opens up the possibility of some fantastic story telling and identity questions that can be explored.

Artistically, penciller Jamal Igle, inker Juan Castro and colourist Andy Troy hit the nail on the head. There’s a generous amount of white in this book, allowing you to focus on certain parts of the art and story. But we also take a visit to both Earth Alpha and Earth Omega, with the two worlds having a distinct flair to their settings, embodied by something as simple as the facial hair or lack thereof of the main characters. There’s a lot to enjoy on the visual journey of this book, a lot to take in, but it’s the subtleties of the art that really elevate the comic as a hole. It sounds almost foolish that stubble can make a book, but here we are.

The Wrong Earth: Night And Day #3, like previous issues also include a couple of prose pieces that aren’t necessarily required reading, but are certainly nice additions to a comic that was already worth buying on the merits of its main story (which clocks in around 20 odd pages). Wrong Earth is fast becoming one of my most anticipated series – whether you start with this volume or you pick up the first trade, you really can’t go wrong with this. Peyer walks the line between tongue in cheek send-up and deadly serious story in the same way a tightrope walker moves across the rope – with impeccable balance.

Story: Tom Peyer Art: Jamal Igle Inker: Juan Castro
Color: Andy Troy Letterer: Rob Steen
Story: 8.6 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

AHOY Comics provide Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyZeus Comics

Review: The Wrong Earth: Night and Day #1

The Wrong Earth: Night and Day #1

The vengeance-dealing Dragonfly sticks it to the man! The acrobatic sleuth Dragonflyman assists the police! These alternate-earth versions of the same masked crimefighter meet face-to-face for the first time in this new series by the original creators of the smash-hit The Wrong Earth! Will their impossible encounter result in a team-up…or an all-out war? Find out in The Wrong Earth: Night and Day #1!

The Wrong Earth: Night And Day #1 is the follow up to AHOY‘s The Wrong Earth, but you don’t need to have read the original series (or its prequel) to enjoy the first issue of this one because the tale is positioned in a way that any who are familiar with the Batman 66 comics or TV show and the grittier modern Batman comics will understand the status quo of the comic with the simple recap page. Because it really is a simple concept, but it’s one that hooks you in rather effortlessly.

The comic is an easy read, and plays off the switch between the gritty Dragonfly and the innocuous Dragonfly Man as they inhabit the wrong world – although after a year, the characters have some familiarity with their surroundings

Writer Tom Peyer is able to write a sequel comic that’s every bit as accessible to new readers, of which I am one, than the first issue of volume one. He strikes a unique balance between telling the story and giving you a sense of who the players are without spoon feeding you the details in a way that will leave returning readers rolling their eyes as the unnecessary recaps. Peyer gives each version of Dragonfly (Man) a unique voice, playing into the dichotomy of their switched roles with a level of dry humour that sings to me.

Artistically, penciller Jamal Igle, inker Juan Castro and colourist Andy Troy deliver a solid book. It’s worth mentioning that there’s a slight slip in the art – there are two panels with the hilariously named Lady Dragonfly Man where the lines of her legs don’t seem to follow any real anatomical sense. While I did spend a few minutes trying to work out how what I was looking at made sense, I didn’t feel that it really took away from the experience of the comic on the whole because the trio give an energy to the story that makes you want to keep turning the page.

Wrong Earth: Night And Day #1 also include a couple of prose pieces that aren’t necessarily required reading, but are certainly nice additions to a comic that was already worth buying on the merits of its main story (which clocks in around 20 odd pages). Despite not needing to read the first volume of the story to enjoy the start of this volume, I’m now curious and interested enough to circle back and pick the first trade up. This is just the kind of refreshing story I needed to kick off 2021.

Story: Tom Peyer Art: Jamal Igle Inker: Juan Castro
Color: Andy Troy Letterer: Rob Steen
Story: 8.6 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

AHOY Comics provide Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: Zeus Comics

AHOY Comics Announces Dragonflyman Day on June 16

Dragonfly & Dragonflyman

AHOY Comics has announced that June 16th will henceforth be known as “Dragonflyman Day.” This historic occasion will coincide with the bookstore publication date of the upcoming trade paperback release of Dragonfly & Dragonflyman — the prequel to the dazzling series The Wrong Earth — by writer Tom Peyer, artist Peter Krause, colorist Andy Troy, and letterer Rob Steen.

In the darkness of Earth-Omega, The Dragonfly exacts vengeance from sadistic killers and corrupt authorities. On sunlit Earth-Alpha, the upstanding Dragonflyman fights for justice alongside the police. Now, for the first time ever, all five issues of the series, plus the 2019 AHOY Free Comic Book Day story, will be available in one dimension-smashing volume—and, coincidentally, just in time for everyone’s new favorite summer holiday: Dragonflyman Day.

A brand-new but already beloved tradition wherein people from all over earth—Omega, Alpha, and otherwise—celebrate this all-too-misunderstood superhero, Dragonflyman Day will be full of exciting festivities, such as the aforementioned bookstore release date of the trade paperback. 

Dragonfly & Dragonflyman will be available in comic stores on June 3rd and bookstores on June 16th.

AHOY Comics Returns with All New Releases and New Schedule

AHOY Comics will resume publishing new comic book magazines in June. The updated summer publishing schedule includes:

ASH & THORN

A 5-issue miniseries by bestselling writer Mariah McCourt (True Blood, Stitched), artist Soo Lee (Analog Sci-Fi Magazine, Charlie’s Angels vs. the Bionic Woman), and colorist Pippa Bowland (2000AD), with lettering by Rob Steen and covers by legendary artist Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother, Wonder Woman: True Amazon).

Originally scheduled to debut on April Fool’s Day, the highly-anticipated debut issue #1 of ASH & THORN will be published on June 24, 2020, followed by issue #2 on July 8, issue #3 on July 29, issue #4 on August 19, and issue #5 on September 9, 2020.

ASH & THORN

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND

A 6-issue miniseries by acclaimed writer Mark Russell (Second Coming) and artist Steve Pugh (Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass), and colorist Chris Chuckry, with lettering by Rob Steen. Issue 1 features a cover by series artist and co-creator Steve Pugh and a variant cover by bestselling artist Pia Guerra (Y The Last Man).

The critically acclaimed series returns on July 1, 2020 with an all new second issue, followed by issue #3 on July 22, issue #4 on August 12, and issue #5 on September 16.

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND

CAPTAIN GINGER SEASON 2: DOGWORLD

A 6 issue mini-series by acclaimed writer Stuart Moore (Bronze Age Boogie) and artists June Brigman (Power Pack) and Roy Richardson, and colorist Veronica Ghandini, with lettering by Rob Steen.

CAPTAIN GINGER: DOGWORLD, which had two issues published at the time of lockdown, will complete its serialization in exclusive digital editions from Comixology. The first new issue of CAPTAIN GINGER SEASON 2: DOGWORLD, issue 3, will be released digitally on June 10, followed by issue 4 on July 8, issue 5 on August 5, and issue 6 on September 2.

Each upcoming issue of CAPTAIN GINGER: DOGWORLD will contain a special Digital Bonus Book at no additional cost: issue #3 features DRAGONFLY & DRAGONFLYMAN #1, issue #4 features BILLIONAIRE ISLAND # 1, issue #5 features BRONZE AGE BOOGIE #1, and issue #6 will feature will feature a selection from EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF TERROR, including Hunt Emerson’s Black Cat comics.

CAPTAIN GINGER SEASON 2: DOGWORLD

In June, AHOY will also be publishing the trade paperback of DRAGONFLY & DRAGONFLYMAN, the prequel to the dazzling series THE WRONG EARTH—by writer Tom Peyer, artist Peter Krause, colorist Andy Troy, and letterer Rob Steen. The trade paperback will be released in comic book stores on June 3rd and in bookstores on June 16th.

DRAGONFLY & DRAGONFLYMAN

Originally scheduled for release this summer, as part of the company’s fourth wave of releases, PENULTIMAN, the new super hero title by Tom Peyer and Alan Robinson, will be resolicited at a later date.

Review: Age of Conan: Valeria

Head to the Hyborian Age in a story set before the classic Conan tale “Red Nails.” Meet Robert E. Howard‘s Valeria, a young woman out for justice and revenge.

Age of Conan: Valeria collects issues #1-5.

Story: Meredith Finch
Art: Aneke
Color: Andy Troy
Lettering: Travis Lanham

Get your copy in comic shops now and bookstores on February 25! To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon
Kindle/comiXology
TFAW
Zeus Comics

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site

Review: Superman: Heroes #1

Superman: Heroes #1

I’m totally okay with Brian Michael Bendis finally allowing Superman to reveal his secret identity as Clark Kent. It seems like a sales gimmick or one that will be walked back in a couple years. It’s remarkably in-character and makes up for the half-assed “mystery” that was Event Leviathan. Superman: Heroes #1 shows the reactions to the big reveal. It does so from a variety of perspectives from Lois Lane to the Justice League. Drawn by the fantastic Kevin Maguire! to Clark Kent’s high school chemistry teacher in a sweet story by Matt Fraction and Scott Godlewski. Fraction also pens Jimmy Olsen’s reaction to his “pal” losing the secret identity. That features slick, emotive art from his Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen collaborator Steve Lieber.

And wait, that not’s all. After being terse in the Maguire 12 panel grid sequences, Batman gets to open up to Wonder Woman about his true feelings in regards to Superman’s reveal. It’s a powerful story written by Greg Rucka and drawn in atmospheric shadows by Mike Perkins. However, there’s room for comedy too. Booster Gold finally gets to shout that Superman is Clark Kent after keeping it in for so long because he’s from the future. This comic is a true marriage of different tones. Art and writing styles from Bendis and Maguire set up a running Plastic man gag to Batman coming up with legit, devil’s advocate style arguments for why Superman revealing his secret identity to the world is a terrible idea.

Bendis, Fraction, Rucka, Maguire, Perkins, Lieber, Mike Norton, and Godlewski use Superman: Heroes to show how important Superman is to the both the community of heroes in the DC Universe and the superhero genre as a whole. They also show his roots in Smallville, connections to Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, and the consequences of his actions. The best parts of this comic are connected to Smallville. The opening scene features a great conversation between Ma and Pa Kent and young Clark about feeling different or weird and having a greater responsibility to the world because of his abilities.

Superman: Heroes #1

The Fraction/Godlewski Superman and his chemistry teacher scene is really Eisner-worthy. From Godlewski’s clean line and the vivid colors to the underlying theme that it’s been Clark’s work ethic and moral compass that made him a great hero and man and not his superpowers. I also love how he draws Superman’s smile. Even if this means he got a C- in molecular chemistry. Clark Kent is the kid at the end of the bench who hustles for every loose ball, or the student that stays up late and goes to extra tutoring sessions that just happens to have the power of a god. Matt Fraction demonstrates his understanding of Superman’s moral character that pervades the “Truth” storyline as well as his, Rucka, and Bendis’ take on the Metropolis side of the DC Universe.

As evidenced by the “King Superman” plotline brewing over in Superman, Bendis isn’t afraid to look at the negative consequences of Superman revealing his secret identity. That extends to the moral dilemma he’s in as the Daily Planet is owned by Marisol Leone. However, that will be covered in later stories. Maybe Action Comics once the “Year of the Villain” shenanigans are over.

As I’ve mentioned a few times, Rucka and Perkins dig into it immediately in the form of the other 2/3 of the Trinity have a spirited conversation where neither Bruce or Diana is in the right. I really love the panels at the end of scene where Perkins’ heavy shadows lighten, and Diana tells Bruce that maybe he’s jealous that Superman can live his life out in the open and whole. The specters of Tom King’s botched Bat-marriage hang in the shadows of this one. Rucka’s dialogue gets to the core of Batman’s identity issues that have pervaded his best stories. He can’t retire or be a public-facing, but must strike fear into criminals as an archetype of fear.

Superman: Heroes #1 is a high note for Brian Michael Bendis’ current run on the Superman titles. It also features insightful writing from Matt Fraction as well as Greg Rucka reminding readers that he’s one of the greatest Batman and Wonder Woman writers. On the visual side, Mike Perkins shows a conversation can have just as much power as a good fight scene. Kevin Maguire is still the master of the superhero group shot. Steve Lieber’s comedic timing and use of beats works for friends being open and vulnerable together. Even if you aren’t current on Bendis’ Superman comics, Superman: Heroes #1 is worth picking up and dropping $5.99 on. It’s an intelligent and heartwarming take on the first superhero.

Story: Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Greg Rucka
Art: Kevin Maguire, Mike Perkins, Steve Lieber

Art: Mike Norton, Scott Godlewski Colors: Paul Mounts, Gabe Eltaeb
Colors: Andy Troy, Nathan Fairbairn
Letters: Clayton Cowles, Troy Peteri, Simon Bowland
Story: 9.5 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Marvel’s Avengers: Hulk #1

In the lead up to the Marvel Avengers video game, Marvel Comics takes a look at the Hulk!

Story: Jim Zub
Art: Ariel Olivetti
Color: Andy Troy
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

Get your copy in comic shops! To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon
TFAW
Zeus Comics

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site

Review: Second Coming #6

Second Coming #6

Second Coming #6 channels The Last Temptation of Christ and Superfriends and is a solid season finale despite the occasional whiplash in tone from funny and satirical to earnest to maybe serious. Mark Russell, Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Troy spin the story of Sunstar’s wedding and Jesus’ final showdown with Satan that may have some people of faith have similar reactions as some Superman fans did to the ending of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.

The best part of this comic and probably of the whole miniseries is how Russell and Pace riff on how Jesus, God the Father, and Satan are portrayed in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. (My favorite one is Jesus’ reaction to the writings of St. Paul.) With callbacks to changing water to wine, the Last Supper, and even Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the interrogate the nature of faith as well as the temptations of money and power that Jesus rejected according to the New Testament narrative. Pace’s scratchy inks and sepia color palette versus the cleaner lines, bright colors, and classical proportions of Kirk and Troy’s art in the Sunstar scenes create tension and doubt in these flashbacks.

Russell sometimes undercuts this by going for the easy, obvious joke (i.e. his description of circumcision), but from his work on the page and in the letters column, he seems to have a desire to grapple with the relationship between faith and religion, Instead of going the route of Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard and seeing Abraham as a “knight of faith”, Russell and Pace point out the absurdity of his actions and especially the naivete of Isaac, who despite being a teenager, lets his father kill because God “said so”.

However, there is a positive side to this dig as Jesus shares with his new “followers” that they need to think carefully about what they choose to trust and believe and not just blindly do something or follow someone because they think a higher power told them to. Pace is great at showing the quick reactions to these ideas from Jesus’ new followers, who have a knee jerk reaction instead of listening and asking questions. Then, Leonard Kirk and Andy Troy jump back in when Sunstar comes to save the day to show the futility of the outwardly heroic, yet inwardly flawed superhero to bail him out. Jesus has to make a sacrifice, and in Second Coming, he makes an ideological one that raised the stakes higher than any crucifixion/resurrection redux or superhero slugfest.

Speaking of superheroes, these elements are the weakest in Second Coming, and the conspiracy theorist in me thinks that they were inserted to make the pitch more initially palatable to DC Comics/Vertigo. The superhero genre is so well-trodden, and Russell, Pace, Kirk, and Troy don’t really break new ground with Sunstar’s struggle to balance relationships with crime fighting. However, earlier issues created a nice contrast between Jesus’ pacifism and Sunstar’s violence. Russell and Pace unfortunately don’t have Jesus and Sunstar after Jesus gives into violence in the conclusion of Second Coming and just have him and Sheila be Jesus and God’s bowling partners. It’s a fun joke, but shows that the superhero part of Second Coming was just kind of there and didn’t really enhance the narrative except for the aforementioned visual contrast or a joke or two.

The final sequence of Second Coming #6 is both profound and banal. There are a few more fun jokes like God sucking at bowling and the “+” of the pregnancy looking like a cross. Russell and Pace are also trying to create some kind of meaning out of Jesus choosing to be a killer and not a martyr and land on “You messed up. There will be a fresh start next day/bowling frame.” There is a dark layer of irony to these statements because they’re delivered by God, who basically took this approach to the Earth and its inhabitants during Noah’s flood and was about to destroy the world again if Jesus was killed by modern humans. There’s a whole “I’m all powerful. I don’t give a shit.” attitude air to the gestures and body language that Richard Pace gives whereas Jesus is much more tense, angsty, and heavily inked. Life goes on, and there are no consequences. Oh, and look, here’s a miracle baby for the “faithful” Sheila and Sunstar because that’s something I’ve done in the past.

Second Coming #6 is a comic that is both entertaining and attempts at wrestling with the big questions in life, and Mark Russell, Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Troy succeed at the first part more than the second one. However, there’s also a level of humility to not trying to wrap up a tale of gods and humans, faith and doubt in an easily packaged takeaway. Just like God’s bowling game and metaphor, humans are flawed and messed up, but we have our moments and can find friendship and community like Jesus did with his superhero roommate in Second Coming.

Story: Mark Russell Art: Richard Pace with Leonard Kirk
Colors: Andy Troy Letters: Rob Steen
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 7.3 Recommendation: Read

Ahoy Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Logan’s Favorite Comics of 2019

2019 was an interesting year for me comics-wise as I did not get to read as widely or deeply as I liked because of a variety of factors, including my final two semesters of graduate school, working two library jobs (Where ordering and promoting comics were part of my duties.), and an impending move. Also, I decided to catch up on some “classic” comics like Miracleman, Ghost in the Shell, Junji Ito‘s Tomie, and most of Brian Michael Bendis‘ and Michael Oeming‘s Powers, and Gail Simone‘s run on Secret Six.

However, I did have the opportunity to read some fantastic comics in 2019 as two of my favorite series of all time reached their conclusion. I also branched out a little bit, and this is the first time my year-end list has featured books from Ahoy and Harper Collins as well as a self-published comic.

Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion

10. Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion (Dark Horse)

Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá, and Nick Filardi‘s Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion is as wild and anarchic as the Netflix show was tame and Muggle-friendly. Hotel Oblivion is a love letter to Silver Age supervillains while actually taking time to deal with the relationships between the Hargreaves siblings. Bá and Filardi’s visuals are a chaos magic-shaped bullet to the head and especially sings in the world and city-rending set pieces towards the end of the miniseries that I read in trade paperback format.

Dreamers of the Day

9. Dreamers of the Day (Self-published)

Ned Barnett‘s self-published graphic memoir-meets-historical biography Dreamers of the Day is one of the most unique comics I’ve read in recent years. It chronicles the author’s trip to England as he conducts research on a graphic biography about T.E. Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia and is educational while being emotionally compelling. If there’s one word to describe this comic, it is “enthusiastic” as Barnett’s passion for making art, studying history, and making it relevant to contemporary readers shines through in his iconic, Herge-esque art style and accessible prose.

Winter Soldier

8. Winter Soldier #2-5 (Marvel)

Kyle Higgins and Rod Reis create a redemptive narrative for the sidekick-turned assassin-turned superhero and occasional black ops agent, Bucky Barnes in their Winter Soldier miniseries. The comic’s beating heart is the flawed relationship between Bucky and RJ, a child assassin, that Bucky sees a lot of himself in. There is both humor and tragedy in their interactions. Reis’ lush pencils to color art style works for both the emotional breakdowns and action beatdowns.

Steeple

7. Steeple #1-4 (Dark Horse)

The fantastic John Allison (Giant Days) both writes and draws this miniseries about an Anglican priest in training named Billie, who is assigned to a parish in the kooky village of Tredregyn, Cornwall. Steeple has an “anything but the kitchen sink” tone as its plots include fights against sea monsters, a charismatic Christian cult connected to windmills, and an ongoing conflict against the Church of Satan. (Billie also strikes up an unlikely friendship with the Satanic priestess, Maggie.) Allison mines a lot of humor out of the idiosyncrasies of different religions and small town life as well as the melodrama of good versus evil, and his art is expressive as always with the help of colorist Sarah Stern.

Second Coming

6. Second Coming #1-5 (Ahoy)

Speaking of religious satire, Mark Russell, Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Troy do an excellent job of showing how the historical figure Jesus would be received in the modern world with the twist of having an “edgy” superhero named Sunstar as a roommate. Beginning with a retelling of the creation of the world, Russell and Pace walk a tightrope between reverence and irreverence touching on a variety of issues, including megachurches, homophobia, and Pauline theology. Another enjoyable part of Second Coming is Leonard Kirk’s inking when the story decides to be a traditional superhero comic for a second, or there’s a flashback to Satan tempting Jesus as he plays a complex role in the narrative.

Once and Future

5. Once and Future #1-5 (BOOM! Studios)

I knew Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain‘s Once and Future would be my cup of tea when it featured Arthurian legends and the town of Bath where I studied abroad in summer 2014 as plot points as well as having a complicated relationship between a grandmother and grandson at its core. Once and Future is action-packed read steeped in Arthurian lore with dynamic art from Mora and a mystical color palette from Bonvillain. It’s a straightforward adventure/dysfunctional family/romance comic that also plays with the symbols (Excalibur, Holy Grail etc.) and tropes of these kinds of stories, and I’m glad that it’s an ongoing and not just a mini.

Giant Days

4. Giant Days #46-54, As Time Goes By (BOOM! Studios)

Esther, Daisy, and Susan finally go their separate ways in the final issues of John Allison, Max Sarin, and Whitney Cogar‘s Giant Days plus a reunion one-shot where Daisy and Susan tag-team and rescue Esther from the clutches of Type A London publishing types. The final year of Giant Days had a lot of pathos to go with its usual comedy with several issues focusing on the strained relationship between Susan’s boyfriend McGraw and his father and his reaction to his sudden death. There is also all the usual college shenanigans with moments of reflection to show that these women have come a long way from randomly sharing a room back in far off 2015.

House of X and Powers of X

3. House of X #1-6, Powers of X #1-6 (Marvel)

In their ambitious twelve-issue House of X/Powers of X “event”, Jonathan Hickman, R.B. Silva, and Pepe Larraz made the X-Men relevant again thanks to a heavy dose of speculative fiction, geopolitics, and good old fashioned superhero soap opera. Hickman gave B-list characters like Goldballs, Doug Ramsey, and of course, Moira MacTaggert and the sentient island of Krakoa pivotal roles in his story of a rise of a mutant nation as well as the usual suspects like Magneto, Professor X, the Summers family, Jean Grey, and Emma Frost. He created a fantastic sandbox for these fan-favorite characters to play in as well as leaving some intrigue open for the spinoff stories. (The whole Moira X thing, Kitty Pryde being unable to enter Krakoa, Apocalypse and Sinister’s intentions.) I haven’t been this excited to read the X-Books as a line since Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen were writing Wolverine and the X-Men and Uncanny X-Men respectively. Plus the Hickman designed diagrams add great depth to the story and area visual treat.

New Kid

2. New Kid (HarperCollins)

New Kid is a middle-grade graphic novel by cartoonist Jerry Craft that was recommended to me by my supervisor at the public library I worked at. Itis about an African-American teenager named Jordan, who transfers from a diverse public middle school to a less diverse private one. Over the course of the book, Craft fleshes out Jordan and his relationships with his old friends from his neighborhood to his new ones at the private school as he navigates playing soccer, racial microaggressions, crushes, and bonding over art and video games. The comic deftly navigates race and class issues while being an enjoyable slice of life story with Craft adding some fun visual flourishes like making the title page of each chapter a pop culture homage. New Kid‘s clear storytelling and a relatable storyline about not fitting in at a new school make it a book that I would recommend to kids and adults, comics and non-comics readers.

The Wicked + The Divine

1. The Wicked + the Divine #41-45 (Image)

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson really stuck the landing in the final arc of The Wicked + the Divine, which was titled “Okay” and followed the surviving Pantheon members as they gave up divinity and lived normal lives. Basically, they grew up, and so did I. The last issues of WicDiv are peppered with powerful moments as Gillen and McKelvie connect flashbacks of the millennia past to the Pantheon’s reality and let Ananke/Minerva be a manipulator, Luci be wicked, Baal be a protector, and Laura be human one last time. The final issue is an epilogue set in the future and filled with love and emotion with McKelvie and Wilson nailing the look of the elderly, former Pantheon members. It’s sad to see WicDiv go, but it had a beautiful ending and was my favorite comic, both of 2019 and of the decade as a whole.

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