It’s the first new comic book day of the week! What are you all looking to get? What are you excited for? Sound off in the comments below! While you decide on that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.
Ah, the pleasures of having Labor Day off to celebrate work. It’s a contradiction as old as time, where honoring work means taking a (well-deserved and utterly necessary) break from it. After all, most workers have jobs that go year-round and the daily grind does take a toll. A day off is the least that can be afforded to them.
Recognition is the other thing we should doling out in industrial quantities during this federal holiday. As such, comic books are filled with stories about the fruits of labor, both in a literal and a politically figurative sense. Be it by actually exploring the hardships of being a worker to acknowledging the monumental task that is organizing movements in support of them, labor is central to the motivations behind some of comic’s best stories.
Here’s a short list of comics that either directly or indirectly showcase the roles workers play in keeping life and society functional. These comics dive headfirst into the specifics of what ‘putting in the work’ means, recognizing that everything that’s done in the service of others usually rests on human struggles both painful and exhausting. The comics below give workers their time in the spotlight so we can appreciate just how much it takes to go out and keep the world turning.
1.Trashed, written and illustrated by Derf Backderf
This book can best be described as a sobering love letter to one of the most underappreciated and openly repudiated jobs known to humankind: garbage collection. Following Backderf’s critically-acclaimed My Best Friend Dahmer, Trashed is based on the author’s time as a sanitation worker himself, surrounded by other workers just as enthused about collecting trash as he was (which wasn’t a whole lot). The inner workings of sanitation are presented through a combination of autobiographical anecdotes and well-researched facts and data that reveal just how complex, dangerous, and even clumsy picking up and storing trash can be. It’s a funny but scary look at how sanitation can save the world while also turn it into a ticking time bomb.
2. Damage Control, originally created by Dwayne McDuffie (W) and Ernie Colón (A)
A superhero’s job is to save the day, crumbling infrastructure be damned. With them, though, comes a unique concern for property damage, mostly focused on the inevitability of mass destruction. In comes a company solely dedicated to cleaning up after extinction-level battles and then putting the pieces back together called Damage Control. In essence, this Marvel comic is about unsung heroes. It’s about doing essential work knowing there’s no glory waiting at the end of it (much like Trashed, in some respects). McDuffie’s scripts are a masterclass on chaos and property politics, but it’s Colón’s attention to detail amidst the chaos that sets this story apart. The original series (there are a total of 4 series published) takes to a kind of MAD Magazine-style approach to comedy with visual gags and crude humor leading the charge, but it’s all well-orchestrated and it makes for reading that rewards those who scan comics pages whole multiple times.
3. She-Hulk: Law and Disorder, written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Javier Pulido
At a glance, Soule and Pulido’s She-Hulk gives the impression of being a kind of ‘slice of life’ story about a superhero that chooses law as her preferred battleground. The book, however, is about so much more, and it might have more in common with Damage Control than an actual legal drama. She-Hulk takes the anger-filled superhero and turns her into a working-class woman that’s trying (and struggling) to make her own legal services business work. She puts it all together from the ground up but is immediately confronted with the hardships of balancing work, heroics, and the semblance of a personal life on an even keel. One of the greatest, and most entertaining, aspects of the comic lies in the formation of the character’s legal practice and how at odds it can be being both a superhero and a normal person with other interests. It dives deep into the complications of working multiple jobs, but it shows an appreciation for those who lead their lives under that predicament. Soule and Pulido create a story that supports and applauds those who undertake the task of holding several jobs at once, honoring the sacrifice it requires of one’s self to survive it.
4. Ex Machina, written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Tony Harris
While aggressively political and metaphorical, Ex Machina does something few other stories on governmental responsibility manage to achieve: make the role of an elected official look and feel like a real job. The story follows Mitchel Hundred, a man that renounces his superhero persona to become mayor of New York city. After only managing to save one of the Twin Towers during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hundred realizes he can do more good as an elected official rather than as a superhero. Vaughan and Harris take full advantage of this setup to go beyond political speeches and discourse to get Hundred’s hands dirty with the real act of running a government. Hundred has to address the legality of surveillance in times of crisis, protocols for public demonstrations, controversial content in city museums, infrastructure, and police freedoms all while controlling the urge to use his still functioning superpowers to speed the process up. As is the case in She-Hulk, Hundred also attempts (with few successes) to balance his personal life with the job. Problem is, the job demands too much of his time, hence the temptation to use his powers. Ex Machina is a stark reminder that being an elected official actually means holding down a job with real consequences attached to it, something many politicians seem to have lost sight of.
5.Gotham Central: In the Line of Duty, written by Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka and illustrated by Michael Lark
The profession of law enforcement is under serious scrutiny at the present moment, and rightfully so, but it’s still a job certain men and women take on despite the complexities of outdated and dysfunctional practices that are in desperate need of revision. And that’s on top of the racial problems that have shaped its many, many systems. However, there are those who do take the job seriously and work hard to ‘protect and serve’ with the best of intentions under the law. Gotham Central prioritizes this viewpoint, focusing the cops and detectives that work in Batman’s Gotham City. Without the resources or the exceptions afforded to the Dark Knight, the GCPD is still tasked with responding to criminal activity, regardless of whether it’s of the supervillain type or not. Main characters René Montoya, Crispus Allen, Marcus Driver, and “Josie Mac” MacDonald, among others, are divided into day and night shifts in a city that is in a constant flux of crime. The job takes its toll on a personal level and there’s an emphasis on how much one gives in the line of duty, but there’s also an appreciation of honest cops walking the line in the face of overwhelming police corruption and abuse. It’s a complicated and sometimes contradictory read, but it makes no excuses while confronting the damning inconsistencies of the job.
6. Wooblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World, edited by Peter Buhle & Nicole Schulman
The Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW, has a wild and exuberant history, to say the least, which makes it the ideal subject for comic book storytelling. The IWW was created in Chicago, Illinois in 1905 as a union for marginalized workers led by Marxist principles. Miners, lumber workers, immigrant workers, indigenous workers, non-white workers, severely underrepresented female workers, and workers all over that had no rights or protections saw in the IWW as the means to fight towards better working conditions. Wooblies! (alluding to the nickname given to the members of the union) enlists the talents of cartoonists such as Peter Kuper, Harvey Pekar, Trina Robbins, Sharon Rudahl, Sue Coe, Carlos Cortez, among others to tell the story of how forgotten and underrepresented workers rose up against the odds to gain the rights and respect owed to them. The anthology has a very underground ‘comix’ feel to it, but it’s allegorical and metaphorical inclinations do a better job of capturing labor struggles better than a traditional story ever could. This might be the quintessential Labor Day reading right here.
Workers, laborers, holders of jobs, these comics honor your contributions, your efforts, and the near impossible feats you pull off. Read and relax, but overall, enjoy your hard-earned Labor Day holiday.
Thanks to their work on titles like Criminal, The Fade Out, Kill or Be Killed, and many others, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Philips’ collaborations have been some of my favorite comics to seek out on the stands. And their new Image Comics graphic novella, Pulp, is no exception. Set in New York in 1939 with occasional flashbacks to the turn of the 20th century, Pulp chronicles the last days of Max Winters, an Old West gun fighter and outlaw turned writer of pulp Westerns for the fictional magazine Six Gun Western. Brubaker and Phillips with amazing spot reds from colorist Jacob Phillips blur fact and fiction and show and steadily build up that Winters’ character, the Red River Kid, is a barely fictionalized version of his younger self.
While Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips riff on crime fiction tropes in their usual manner and add a dollop of the “one last job” story, I would consider Pulp to be a straight Western even though it’s predominantly set in New York. This mostly comes from the way Max behaves, especially in crime settings. (Car chases are definitely more stressful than horse ones.) However, Brubaker and Phillips aren’t merely content to do their take on this classic American staple of the Western, but instead recontextualize the genre to be about resistance against those who would exploit others (Basically, class warfare.), especially Nazis and fascists.
They lay the breadcrumbs for this early on as Max stands up for a young Jewish man at the subway station even though it leads to him getting his ass kicked, having a heart attack, and being robbed of his entire freelance paycheck that he was squirreling away to buy a house in Queens for him and his partner, Rosa. This scene sets up Max as a champion of the marginalized as Phillips and Phillips’ visuals convey the righteous fury in his soul as he stands up for what’s right even if no one helps him out when he takes a beating. The fury extends to the salty frankness of his dialogue as he tells the young anti-Semite, stating “Everyone here’s had enough of your crap”. Max is like if Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven had a social conscience, and this informs all of his actions in the narrative, especially in the second half of the book when he decides to fall in with an old foe. And not just any old enemy: a Pinkerton.
Even though they had semi-heroic beginnings as bodyguards for President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, Pinkertons become synonymous with strike-breaking and cloak and dagger operations to uphold the status quo. Historically, they tracked down the Jesse James Gang and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid so they’re a good fit for baddies in a Western and are still doing private security to this day as part of the firm, Securitas AB. So, basically, Brubaker and Phillips set up the former Pinkerton, Goldman, who catches Max trying to do a robbery in broad daylight as an untrustworthy fellow with a bit of a bitter edge. Sean Phillips never draws Max and Goldman as buddy buddy arranging them in opposition to each other with Goldman as a savvy operator and Max as a cowboy stuck in city alleys instead of the open plains of Wyoming or another Western state.
This visual depiction extends to Ed Brubaker’s plot as what Max thinks is just good old-fashioned stage coach robbery (But with Nazis instead of cattle barons.) turns into something a little more complex as Goldman wants to hit at the names and accounts of Nazis, not just their cash. Of course, Max thinks this is all bullshit and his captions the 1939 Old West gun fighter version of ACAB. (“Why would I trust a fucking Pinkerton?”) However, Brubaker and Phillips drop in Goldman’s backstory that he had a good job doing accounting work for Henry and was laid off because he was Jewish, which makes him more of a sympathetic figure, and also sets up Max’s final showdown where he takes guns a-blazing vengeance against the fascists and on behalf of his Jewish partner, who was wrongfully murdered, even though he (and we) know that this will end in his demise. But he has that house in Queens for Rosa so he has nothing left to lose.
For better or worse, Max’s actions in both the Western past and New York present of Pulp are consistent. He always fights on behalf of folks that are exploited by those who have the power in society whether that’s settlers and robber barons or Jewish people and Nazis. He even advocates for ownership of his character Red River Kid (Pretty much self-ownership.) and going in a new creative direction with the character instead of retreading the same plots, but as anyone who has read about the history of comics that’s a futile battle. There’s a real Martin Goodman/Stan Lee vibe from Max’s editor Mort and his nephew Sidney, who’s a fan of Max’s Westerns and will do his job for a much cheaper rate. These scenes and Max’s sense of justice lead to more anger and chest pains and is what leads to him to picking up gun again and becoming an outlaw.
In Pulp, Brubaker and Phillips create a strong through-line between the exploitation of capitalists and fascists whose actions are insulated by people “just following orders”. Max is very aware of the banality of evil, and that’s why his final showdown is at German Bund beer hall and not against a veiled stand-in for Adolf Hitler atop a zeppelin. He has put his affairs in order, has set up his partner Rosa for life, just wants to avenge the death of his unlikely friend, Goldman, and put some goddamn Nazis six feet under. Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips up the intensity of the visuals in these final pages with plenty of guns, red, and abstraction while Ed Brubaker’s narration sums up what Max thinks of himself before his death, namely, “We weren’t heroes. We were killers.” Even though Max has good values, it was his quick trigger finger that kept him alive in the Old West, and it’s deteriorating heart that gets him in the end in a bar in New York surrounded by swastikas. But, at least, he went down shooting.
Pulp is a fantastic transposition of the Western to the big, modern city as Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips apply outlaw-turned-pulp-writer code of fighting for the downtrodden to championing Jewish people against fascism even before the United States declared war on Nazi Germany. Max’s actions and ideals strike a chord in 2020 where the President of the United States himself called Nazis and white supremacists “very fine people”, and they run rampant both in the street and online. With his vulnerability, tenacity, soft spot for Rosa, and heart for justice, Max Winters is definitely the character find of 2020, and Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Jacob Phillips do a wonderful job making a Western story both exciting and socially relevant.
In this week’s Comic Deserve Better, Brian, Darci, and Logan discuss Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá‘, and Dave Stewart‘s life and death masterpiece, Daytripper, and get emotional and occasionally personal while breaking down the craft of this great title. They also chat about a plethora of recent indie releases ranging from Singaporean newspaper comics about Covid-19 and self-published comics about going to movie theaters (Remember those!) to Vault Comics‘ Finger Guns, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips‘ Pulp, and the manga, Yona of the Dawn. There’s something for everyone in this episode! (Episode art by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá.)
This December, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are getting Reckless, a new original graphic novel being published by Image Comics. The second volume in the series will be out April 2021 but each graphic novel is a standalone story.
Meet Ethan Reckless: Your trouble is his business, for a price.
A former student radical, with the scars to prove it, Ethan is one part repo man, one part private eye, and one part wrecking ball. But when a fugitive from his Weather Underground days reaches out for help, Ethan will have to face the only thing he really fears… his own past.
It’s sex, drugs, and murder in early ‘80s Los Angeles, as Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips launch their first graphic novel series with an electrifying new take on the paperback pulp hero.
Brubaker and Phillips plan on releasing three graphic novels in the first year with outlines for at least five more after.
Written by Steve Orlando Pencils V Ken Marion Inks Sandu Florea Colored by Andrew Dalhouse Purchase
The final showdown between Aquaman and Scorpio!
Batman: The Adventures Continue (2020-) #5
Written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini Pencils Ty Templeton Inks Ty Templeton Colored by Monica Kubina Cover by Joe Quinones Purchase
Deathstroke and Robin face down Firefly, but can the two stand the heat after the firebug gets the upperhand? And who’s hired Deathstroke to take down the Dark Knight?
Captain America: Marvel Knights Vol. 1
Written by Chuck Austen, John Ney Rieber Art by John Cassaday, Trevor Hairsine, Jae Lee Cover by John Cassaday Purchase
Collects Captain America (2002) #1-16.
Captain America gets the critically acclaimed Marvel Knights treatment! In the aftermath of 9/11, Captain America – already a man out of time – must adjust once again to a terrifying new global landscape. From the ruins of the World Trade Center to the horrors of a small town rocked by terrorism, the star-spangled super-soldier is forced to consider what it means to be the Sentinel of Liberty in an age of incomprehensible new threats. Meanwhile, the man named Redpath has his own American dream, and he orders his Extremists to cleanse the country by force. Only a true patriot, the living embodiment of the United States, can stop them. But when Captain America uncovers new truths about his decades trapped in the ice, the scale of the conspiracy may bring him to his knees!
Daredevil by Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark Ultimate Collection Vol. 1
Written by Ed Brubaker Art by David Aja, Michael Lark Cover by Tommy Lee Edwards Purchase
Collects Daredevil (1998) #82-93.
The critically acclaimed, award-winning creative team of Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark make their explosive debut! For the past few years, Matt Murdock’s life has been teetering on the edge of destruction. Now, pushed beyond the limit, Matt finds himself behind the eight ball with no clear way out, the people he calls friends slowly deserting him, and Hell’s Kitchen gradually slipping out of control. The question is, when his back is against the wall. just how far will Daredevil go to get back what is his? Plus: a special episode focusing on Daredevil’s best friend, Foggy Nelson. Spinning out of the stunning finale of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s ground-breaking run, Brubaker and Lark pick up the billy club and run as hard and as fast as they can to leave their own mark on one of comics’ most enduring legends.
Daredevil by Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark Ultimate Collection Vol. 2
Written by Ed Brubaker Art by Paul Azaceta, Lee Bermejo, Gene Colan, Marko Djurdjevic, Michael Lark, Alex Maleev, John Romita Jr., Bill Sienkiewicz, Lee Weeks Cover by Marko Djurdjevic Purchase
Collects Daredevil (1998) #94-105.
Critically acclaimed, award-winning creators Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark continue their explosive run! Everything Matt Murdock thought he’d gotten back teeters on the edge of a precipice, ready to shatter all around him, as he fights a battle on both fronts of his life — in the courtroom and on the rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen! And with the post-CIVIL WAR fallout all around him, the price of being Daredevil just got even higher. Nominated for three Eisner Awards: Best Continuing Series, Best Writer and Best Penciler-Inker Team!
Daredevil by Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark Ultimate Collection Vol. 3
Written by Ed Brubaker, Ann Nocenti, Greg Rucka Art by David Aja, Paul Azaceta, Michael Lark, Clay Mann, Tonci Zonjic Cover by Marko Djurdjevic Purchase
Collects Daredevil (1998) #106-119 and #500.
Critically acclaimed, award-winning creators Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark conclude their explosive run! The Hand is back in New York, and Lady Bullseye is in league with them! The Kingpin has also returned, forging a surprising pact with Daredevil to target the ninja cult — but what is the former crime boss’s true plan? Plus: An old friend brings Matt Murdock the last-minute appeal of a Marvel villain sitting on death row. What will he do when confronted with a convicted bad guy who’s completely innocent? Nominated for three Eisner Awards: Best Continuing Series, Best Writer and Best Penciler-Inker Team!
Dead of Night Featuring Man-Thing
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Art by Kano, Brian Denham, Nic Klein, Nick Percival, Javier Saltares Cover by Kaare Andrews Purchase
Collects Dead of Night Featuring Man-Thing #1-4.
Biochemist Ted Sallis and his team are on a mission: To recreate the serum that spawned the world’s first super-soldier. But like the swamp itself, there are dangers lurking beneath the surface. Ted’s partner Eric, his girlfriend Ellen, the government, terrorists – everyone wants what Ted has, but what Ted doesn’t realize is that the swamp itself may want him! A radical re-imagining of the Man-Thing’s origin begins here, in a horror-tinged tale narrated by Digger, keeper of the Tower of Shadows!
Catwoman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular
(W) Ed Brubaker, Paul Dini, Tom King, Ann Nocenti, Mindy Newell, Will Pfeifer, Others (A) Cameron Stewart, Mikel Janin, Adam Hughes, Emanuela Lupacchino, Steve Rude, Jim Balent, Tula Lotay (CA) Joëlle Jones In Shops: Jun 03, 2020 SRP: $9.99
Our gal Catwoman is turning 80 next year (and looking very good, if we meow say), and DC is celebrating with nothing less than with a huge soiree, invite only, packed with creators who mean the most to her and to whom she means the most! Stories featured in this 100-page spectacular include a tail-sorry, tale-that takes place at the end of the Brubaker/Stewart Catwoman run, in honor of artist Darwyn Cooke. Plus, Catwoman is caught by an exotic cat collector, runs into a wannabe thief trying to prove himself as her apprentice, encounters a mystery involving memorabilia from alternate continuities, and of course some Bat/Cat fun.
It’s always exciting to see a new release from Panel Syndicate as you know you’ll be treated to quality. When you get a release that’s completely unexpected, it’s hard to not want to dive in right away. Friday was a surprise announcement today featuring writer Ed Brubaker, artist Marcos Martin, and colorist Muntsa Vicente. A group of talent that makes you take notice right away. And it’s good, really good.
Friday Fitzhugh—girl detective—and Lancelot Jones—her best friend and also the smartest boy in the world—spent their childhoods solving crimes and digging up occult secrets. But that was years ago. And now Friday is in college and starting a new life on her own. She’s moved on. Until she returns home for the holidays and is immediately pulled back into Lance’s orbit.
Friday is what comes next after the young adult series. The protagonists have grown up and some have made steps into the bigger world. It’s that awkwardness we feel when returning “home” after a time away.
Brubaker delivers a horror tinged debut that really focuses on the relationship between the two main characters. At its heart, it’s an experience so many of us can relate to. While the young adult version of these two adventures might be more focused on the mystery, this more adult fair is about the two characters. It’s a comic about relationships, it just so happens to have some horror elements within.
And the mystery is solid.
Friday delivers numerous wtf moments but Brubaker’s focus elsewhere won’t have you frustrated at the lack of reveals in the mystery. The scares is more of the driver about the characters, not the initial focus and point of the debut issue.
The art by Marcos Martin and color Muntsa Vicente help deliver the horror flavor to Brubaker’s relationship focus. The art is amazing with detail to guide your eye and teasing so much more. There’s a use of teases throughout as the story mixes the visual and dialogue to build the greater mystery. We’re not shown what’s carved on a tree, we get a glimpse of that and then further hints as to what it means. It’s a solid mixture of show and tell giving the comic a more prose like feel.
Martin delivers expressive characters with unique designs that tell us much about their personality. The horror elements never dive into scare territory or even that creepy. Instead, there’s a general unease about it all. Muntsa Vicente’s colors help creating a dour and morose feel to the comic. It’s winter and you can feel the coldness of the town with the color choices of blues, blacks, and whites. The use of reds and yellows too help change the mood of panel and pages helping to create an emotional ride.
Friday was an unexpected release and one that is more than welcome. It’s the start of a great mystery where the relationship between the protagonists is the main point. The emotional driver and scares isn’t what’s being carved into a tree or an old tale but how Friday and Lancelot relate to each other. It’s a brilliant next step for those who want to see what’s possible after the young adult adventures.
Writer Ed Brubaker, artist Marcos Martin, and colorist Muntsa Vicente have surprised readers with the debut of Friday, a previously unannounced comic on Panel Syndicate.
In the series, Friday Fitzhugh—girl detective—and Lancelot Jones—her best friend and also the smartest boy in the world—spent their childhoods solving crimes and digging up occult secrets. But that was years ago. And now Friday is in college and starting a new life on her own. She’s moved on. Until she returns home for the holidays and is immediately pulled back into Lance’s orbit. This is literally the Christmas vacation from Hell and neither of them may survive to see the New Year.
Friday Chapter One, “The Girl in the Trees,” is available now on Panel Syndicate in English and Spanish, with fans paying what they want to read the story.
Friday will be released on Panel Syndicate in two formats: one for computers and laptops where it’s a double-page spread, and one for iPad, where it’s a single page view. In 2013, Marcos Martin founded the online platform Panel Syndicate with writer Brian K. Vaughan and illustrator/colorist Muntsa Vicente, in order to distribute their creator-owned comic, The Private Eye. Friday marks the first major collaboration between Brubaker and Martin.
The multiple Eisner Award winning creative powerhouse behind such hits as My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies and Bad Weekend — Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips — spin an original graphic novel tale of ’30s era crime in the forthcoming Pulp. This title will hit stores from Image Comics in May.
Max Winters, a pulp writer in 1930s New York, finds himself drawn into a story not unlike the tales he churns out at five cents a word—tales of a Wild West outlaw dispensing justice with a six-gun. But will Max be able to do the same, when pursued by bank robbers, Nazi spies, and enemies from his past? Find out in this must-have thriller from one of comics’ most acclaimed creative teams, perfect for fans of The Fade Out and Criminal.
A darkly mysterious meditation on a life of violence, Pulp is unlike anything the award-winning team of Brubaker and Phillips have ever done. A celebration of pulp fiction, set in a world on the brink.
Pulp hardcover edition (ISBN: 978-1-5343-1644-7) will be available on Wednesday, May 20 and in bookstores on Tuesday, May 26.