One of the most anticipated comics for me in early 2021 is Snow Angels #1. Announced in October 2020, the comiXology Original comic features Jeff Lemire and Jock, two creators whose work I regularly enjoy. A 10-part digital comic series, the debut issue introduces us to a brutal wintery and frozen world.
In the debut issue, we’re introduced to Milliken, Mae, as well as their father. The trio are members of The Trenchfolk, a settlement of people that live in The Trench? What is that exactly? While we’re not quite sure, it’s presented as an endless trench carved into a wintery world. The Trench is endless but it also provides and those living within it must never leave. Outside it lives The Colden Ones, their frozen gods. But within lives a danger in The Snowman, the Trench’s deadly defender.
Snow Angels #1 is an interesting debut that teases much of the world and keeps things very focused. We take the world for what it’s presented as by Milliken, Mae, and their father. There could be a sprawling civilization just outside the Trench but we’d never know. They believe nothing lies beyond it and accept this as fact. So, we the reader does as well. The comic presents itself as one of belief and faith and we the readers are sucked into this narrative religion as we must believe the truth presented by our trio of lead character.
Lemire’s opening introduction to the world is cold and barren. We’re isolated and focused on the trio and the tight focus delivers an emptiness to what’s presented. It’s a bleak existence and you can feel the freezing land through the digital screen.
That’s helped by the work of Jock whose art builds the world. The settings are limited but intriguing. The art and design really build the mystery of the world with small details that beg the reader to explore. There’s only so much you can do with a snowy world, but Jock finds an opportunity to add details to add a lot of character to the snowy surroundings. The lettering by Steve Wands helps build the atmosphere as well. There’s something about the dialogue that feels minimal, a constricted style that befits the tightness one feels enmeshed in snow and surrounded by cold.
Snow Angels #1 is an intriguing debut. We both do and don’t know a lot about this world. We’re presented the “rules” of it all but teased there’s so much more. Then, you get to the end and get a feeling the series is going in a whole other direction. With this creative team, it’s not surprising the debut is so good. It’s a mystery that sucks you in to its wintery nightmare.
Story: Jeff Lemire Art: Jock Letterer: Steve Wands Story: 8.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy
comiXology provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Written by Jeff Lemire Art by Jock Colored by Jock Edited by Will Dennis Purchase
Two of the most acclaimed creators of their generation — Writer JEFF LEMIRE and Artist JOCK — together for the first time in SNOW ANGELS — a 10-part science fiction adventure story set in a brutal world like no other!
Milliken and Mae have never left The Trench — it’s all they’ve ever known. They were born in The Trench, and they’ll die there, just like all their people do. The two girls, eight and eleven, are a part of The Trenchfolk, a sprawling settlement of people living inside the massive ice walls of a vast, seemingly endless frozen trench carved into the surface of an otherwise icy wasteland. The Trenchfolk survive in this hostile world by following The Three Testaments of The Trench — golden rules repeated like a mantra from birth to death…
YOU MUST NEVER LEAVE THE TRENCH.
THE TRENCH PROVIDES.
THE TRENCH IS ENDLESS.
Milli and Mae don’t really know how their people came to live here. No one does, not even their wise and gentle Father. On Milliken’s twelfth birthday, their father takes the two girls on an overnight skate down the trench — a coming-of-age ritual to teach them how to fish the frozen river, how to hunt the wild Trenchdogs that wander its frigid banks, and how to give proper thanks to their frozen Gods — The Colden Ones. It’s the trip of a lifetime until the girls push beyond the borders of their humble land and awaken the Trench’s deadly defender… The Snowman! What follows next is an action-packed story of survival, loss and redemption.
Part of the comiXology Originals line of exclusive digital content only available on comiXology and Kindle. Read for free as part of your subscription to comiXology Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime. Also available for purchase via comiXology and Kindle.
Rejoice! For at long last the tale of the Boy’s miraculous birth is revealed. A savior born of holiness and science! Truly, such a feat could only be conducted by one as holy as Father. Behold! As the stage is set for the final confrontation between man and the abhorrent hybrid beasts that walk the earth! Praise! For out of nothing Father has birthed a savior: the Boy.
Eisner Award-winning artist Michael Walsh will team up with an all-star lineup of collaborators—Chip Zdarsky, Kelly Thompson, Ed Brisson, and Jeff Lemire—in The Silver Coin. This ongoing horror anthology series will launch from Image Comics this April.
Each issue of The Silver Coin will tell a tale of terror in a shared supernatural world interwoven with common characters and overlapping stories. The series begins in 1978 with a failing rock band whose fortune suddenly changes when they find the mysterious Silver Coin. Little do they know that fame comes with a cost, and a curse is always hungry.
The Silver Coin #1 Cover A by Walsh (Diamond Code FEB210045), The Silver Coin #1 Cover B by Tula Lotay, and The Silver Coin #1 Cover C by Maria Nguyen will be available at comic book shops on Wednesday, April 7.
In Barbalien: Red Planet #2, writers Tate Brombal and Jeff Lemire, artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer Aditya Bidikar use the Black Hammer Universe sandbox to show the danger, tension, and yes, joy of being a queer man in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis. The first half of the comic is an homage to ball culture as Miguel, the young Latinx gay activist that Barbalien saved last issue, shows Mark Markz (Disguised a closeted, blond gay man named Luke) around an underground gay club until it is raided by the police. The dark, yet welcoming colors from Bellaire create a vibrant space that is interrupted by the jarring reds of the homophobic cops, their night sticks, and slurs. These are Markz’s colleagues on the force, and throughout the comic, he grapples with his different identities and roles in society: Martian, gay man, and police officer and tries to reconcile them while using abilities to be different things to different people.
Barbalien: Red Planet has done an excellent job of showing how difficult life was for my queer elders. Nowadays, I can go on Yelp and find a decent gay bar or queer-friendly space. Coming out was personally difficult, but being queer is something that is mostly tolerated by members of American society unless you’re a piece-of-shit Republican or Trumper. Rainbow capitalism is a thing, cops show up at Pride, well-meaning, yet tone-deaf corporate grocery stores think that “ally” is part of the LGBTQIA spectrum, and Ru Paul is a fracker. There is an assimilationist streak going on in the queer community (i.e. Lesbian couples throwing gender reveal parties.) where folks try to fit in with our late-capitalist, neoliberal, and fuck it, white supremacist kryriarchal society instead of resisting it. They applaud a racially profiling medium town mayor for being the first LGBTQ cabinet member in the administration of a right of center groper and a gender essentialist TERF and amuse themselves by watching annoying, heterosexual late-night TV hosts act out queer male stereotypes before a bloviating audience. (Aka fuck Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, James Corden, and Prom.)
However, Barbalien: Red Planet #2 doesn’t do any of this and centers on the BIPOC who were critical in the struggle for LGBTQ rights and trying to get the U.S. government to acknowledge the AIDS crisis. In Barbalien: Red Planet #2, Brombal, Lemire, and Walta introduce readers to the Black drag queen, Knight Klub, who is drawn, colored, and even lettered in a larger than life manner. She is an inspiration to queer men like Miguel, who spins stories of her being at Stonewall and assaulting a police officer at the White Night Riots. And Knight Klub lives up to the hype in the comic as she reads one of the raid cops and gives Miguel and Luke a chance to run away into the Spiral City night. The tension between direct action and trying to lay low continues towards the end of the book when Miguel’s friend Rafael channels his inner Marsha P. Johnson and throws a brick into a police station where the cops are planning to “shut down homosexual spaces”. He is angry that the police grabbed his partner Devon, who is HIV positive, and was inspired by Miguel hanging up a Pride flag at the courthouse. However, this is also just plain dangerous even with Markz mediating and trying to make none of his new friends are arrested or hurt. Because I live in an ostensibly more tolerant society, I can’t 100% relate to what happens in this comic, but I definitely have decided to not publicly come out as nonbinary because of pushback and constantly dealing with being misgendered. (I’m using he/they pronouns for now, but really prefer they/them.)
These atmosphere of activism and the characterization that Tate Brombal gives to Miguel, Rafael, and Devon are like the velvet to the emotional diamond that is Luke’s coming out story. This is technically his second coming out because Barbalien was exiled from Mars for being gay, sympathetic toward humans, and a peaceful man in a warlike society as shown in his previous stories. Luke is new to being around people like him, being called slurs, and even dancing and definitely comes across like a deer in headlights. However, to Miguel, it looks like he is giving off mixed signals, and Walta does a wonderful job of showing his frustration when Luke shrinks away from a kiss. He is exploring his identity during a volatile time, but there are some peaceful moments like Barbalien hanging out next to a Pride flag in Spiral City’s gay village.
These are the moments to savor between cop raids/attacks, and the most typical superhero/sci-fi part of this comic, which is a basically smartphone-wielding Martian bounty hunter tracking Barbalien down to make him pay for his “crimes” against Mars. The bounty hunter is a fairly straightforward protagonist, but Bombral, Lemire, and Walta draw some ghastly parallels between how he treats human beings and the police treat queer men and don’t pull any punches. They’ll kick down the doors just like the bounty hunter will blast them away with a similar intense color palette from Jordie Bellaire, who does a wonderful job gauging the emotion of each panel from peace to awkwardness and even sadness in a silent sequence where Luke looks at the sleeping Miguel, pictures of him with his partner, and then looks down at his police badge as he tries to reconcile his desire for peace and to do good with his true identity as a gay alien.
Two issues in, and Tate Brombal, Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Walta, Jordie Bellaire, and Aditya Bidikar’s Barbalien: Red Planet is easily my favorite story set in the Black Hammer universe (Black Hammer ’45 is fantastic too.). It’s the one I’ve been able to personally connect to. It’s a soul-searing character study for Barbalien/Mark Markz/Luke, and how he struggles with his identity and place on Earth/Spiral City while also centering the role of BIPOC in LGBTQ+ activism during the 1980s and telling their stories as well. And it does all of this with a superhero secret identity/shapeshifting twist.
Script: Tate Brombal Story: Jeff Lemire and Tate Brombal Art: Gabriel Hernandez Walta Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letters: Aditya Bidikar Story: 9.0 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy
Dark Horse Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Father is not very happy with the boy. The boy should have listened to Father. Surely, every boy needs to play, run, and be wild…but the boy can never be free…not really. Now the boy has done something quite bad and made Father very unhappy. Go to your room, young man! But the rooms here are very small, and dark, and cold, and the boy is not very happy in them. No one is happy. But sometimes, even from a bad time, something special and unexpected can blossom.
Dark Nights: Death Metal The Last Stories of the DC Universe #1
Written by: Joshua Williamson, Gail Simone, Christopher Sebela, James Tynion IV, Cecil Castellucci, Mariko Tamaki, Jeff Lemire, Mark Waid, Scott Snyder Art by: Francis Manapul, Christopher Mooneyham, Daniel Sampere, Meghan Hetrick, Mirka Andolfo, Travis G. Moore, Rafael Albuquerque
The last battle against the Batman Who Laughs is at hand…the final fight for everything in the universe. And while the night is usually darkest just before the dawn, what would be the last thing you’d do if you weren’t sure the dawn would ever arrive? Join our heroes in their waning hours as we show their journeys through what could be their final moments…heroes that have fought a million times before, but are keenly aware this could be their endgame. These are the stolen moments detailing the last stories of the DC Universe.
I’ve never read an issue of Sweet Tooth. As much of a fan of Jeff Lemire as I am, I never went back and read the series, no matter how many good things I’ve heard. So, with its latest volume set to debut, I thought I’d dive in to Sweet Tooth: The Return #1. And, after the first issue, I’m intrigued…
Sweet Tooth: The Return isn’t a follow up it seems. From the solicits it’s described as a “bold re-imagining” of the mythology. It takes the elements of the original series and remixes them into something familiar but new. As I haven’t read the original, I can’t really comment on that. The comic and the world is new to me. So, I’ll leave others to go in that direction.
Writer and artist Jeff Lemire delivers a world of mystery. It’s a story of indoctrination with a theme and message that can be debated for some time. Where Lemire is going with it all, I’m not quite sure yet but there’s a clear focus on a cult-like world. That focus had me wondering if Lemire was giving us a series with commentary on our modern world, taking his classic concept with updating it with today’s sociopolitical world. Where the environment might have been a topic before, demagogic leaders is the theme of this one.
The debut issue introduces us to a mysterious world as its main character explores and discovers it, so do we. It’s a location where we feel captive and denied knowledge. An interesting debut that toys and plays with how much information is provided to the reader and when. Just when you think you’re about to break free, for instance, you don’t. Instead, the issue and its world remains somewhat claustrophobic and confined.
Lemire is joined by José Villarubia on the art. Lemire’s style is enhanced with Villarubia’s watercolor-like addition. The art is beautiful, as expected. There’s also a weird beauty of this world. It’s an almost sterile environment, perfect in design with nothing out of place. That leaves the small details to focus on. Dirty, crusty finger nails deliver a sense of malevolence. What seems like mechanical nurses adds a bit of unease. It’s a mystery of a debut that forces you to look for clues among the visuals.
Sweet Tooth: The Return #1 is an interesting debut. While it doesn’t have me wanting to see what has come before, I want to see where the series goes. The story of attempting to escape your current reality is something that’s very relevant to today and the religious aspect to it makes it all the more intriguing. As someone new to the world of Sweet Tooth, I’m excited to see where it all goes and watch Lemire work his usual magic.
Story: Jeff Lemire Art: Jeff Lemire Color: José Villarubia Letterer: Steve Wands Story: 8.15 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Written by: Jeff Lemire Art by: Jeff Lemire Color: José Villarubia
Once upon a time there was a little boy named Gus. He had antlers and lived with his father in a little cabin in the woods. Then his father died, and the big man with cold eyes took Gus away. Gus went on many great adventures, found friends, love, happiness, family, and acceptance. Now, years later…it begins again. A young boy with antlers and deer-like feature wakes in a bizarre and completely foreign world where the last humans struggle to survive. They tell the boy he is special, he is chosen, and that he alone can lead them back to a world dominated by the oppressive Hybrids. Sweet Tooth: The Return is no re-hash of the original series, but rather a bold re-imagining of the Sweet Tooth mythology; taking elements of the original series and remixing them into something familiar, but totally new. A divided world. A planet long ago past the point of devastation. And at the center of it all, a child who didn’t ask to be born into any of this, but who has no choice but to try and forge some life for himself. His visions and dreams may not be real at all…they may just be fiction. But they are hope. And sometimes hope is enough. Acclaimed writer/artist Jeff Lemire reunites with colorist José Villarubia to bring you the next chapter in the saga of DC’s acclaimed series Sweet Tooth!
Dark Horse has announced a new incentive for comic shops ordering the comiXology original series Afterlift. Shops that order 5 copies of the graphic novel by the final order cutoff of November 2 will receive 5 free book plates (a max of 20 per store) with original artwork by Jeff Lemire and signed by Chip Zdarsky and Jason Loo.
Arriving in print February 2021, Aferlift is colored by Paris Alleyne, lettered by Aditya Bidikar, and edited by Allison O’Toole, includes a Jason Loo Sketchbook with commentary by Chip Zdarsky as well as a process piece called Anatomy of a Page.
Afterlift is a fast-paced story about car chases, demon bounty hunters, and figuring out your place in this world and the next. Janice Chen recently quit her day job in finance and signs up to be a driver on a ride-sharing app. She has enough to deal with, from annoying passengers to overbearing parents. But what was at first a mundane yet enjoyable way to pass the time takes a terrible turn when she picks up a pair of mysterious passengers who are pursued by otherworldly forces, Janice realizes that her already-terrible day might be headed straight to hell.