THE ETERNALS ARE HERE! From the thought-provoking minds of Kieron Gillen, Esad Ribić, and Matthew Wilson comes a brand new vision of Jack Kirby’s classic Marvel creation in Eternals #1!
Whether you are a longtime fan of the Eternals or experiencing these enigmatic heroes and demons for the first time, be prepared for an unpredictable heroic journey that will change everything you thought you knew. Get your first look at this mind-melting new series in a special announcement video, featuring Esad Ribić’s stunning interior artwork and don’t miss Eternals #1 when it makes its way to your local comic shop this November!
“I AM PHOENIX!” Those immortal words will take on new life this December when Jason Aaron and Javier Garron’s next great Avengers epic, “Enter the Phoenix,” begins. To anticipate the return of the cosmic chaos-bringer, your favorite Marvel characters will be reborn as Phoenix hosts this November in astonishing variant covers by some of the industry’s top artists including Salvador Larroca, Kris Anka, and Aaron Kuder. Captain America, Black Panther, and She-Hulk are no longer the heroes you knew as they bond with the Phoenix Force to spread rebirth—or destruction—throughout the Marvel Universe. In the end, only one will be chosen to wield this terrifying and great power when the Phoenix Force chooses a new host.
Find out more when “Enter the Phoenix” begins this December but in the meantime, check out the Phoenix Variant covers listed below and keep your eyes peeled for more coming your way in November!
AVENGERS #38 BLACK PANTHER PHOENIX VARIANT COVER by AARON KUDER with colors by MATTHEW WILSON
CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 CAPTAIN AMERICA PHOENIX VARIANT COVER by SALVADOR LARROCA with colors by FRANK D’ARMATA
DOCTOR DOOM #9 DOCTOR DOOM PHOENIX VARIANT COVER by DECLAN SHALVEY
IMMORTAL HULK #40 SHE-HULK PHOENIX VARIANT COVER by TAURIN CLARKE
FANTASTIC FOUR #26 NAMOR PHOENIX VARIANT COVER by KRIS ANKA
Chris Samnee teams with co-writer Laura Samnee and colorist Matthew Wilson for an ongoing middle reader adventure series, Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters in June.
Exploring the drive and boundaries of rebuilding a family after disaster strikes, Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters follows a tag-team of brawn and brains as two sisters, Rainbow and Jonna, strike out into the unknown on a hunt for their missing father, who was taken a year before.
Battling treacherous territory as the planet around them mysteriously dries up, Rainbow and Jonna will have to combat monsters as they struggle to rediscover their trust and sisterly bond after a year of separation, they struggle to find people in this new world they can trust to help them along the way.
Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters is an ongoing series for ages 8 years and above, available in comic shops everywhere in June.
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
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‘sTomie, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With the end of War of the Realms and Jason Aaron’s epic run with Thor, it makes sense to restart the series with a new issue considering a new team. Thor #1 is a fresh start in numerous ways. It delivers a starting point for new readers and a new direction for long time fans.
Writer Donny Cates takes on guiding Thor in his new role as ruler of Asgard. Cates has been quietly shaping Marvel’s cosmic universe and here he seems to be bringing Thor into his grand vision. What’s impressive is how Cates does that all.
The comic is a new beginning. Even if you skipped Aaron’s run, you can start with this issue. Cates lays out the status quo and where the series is going. He’s able to do that and delivers a lot of emotion throughout. Cates gives us a good sense of Thor’s emotional state and the unease he has in his new role. This was a character of action and a blunt instrument at times. The concept of ruling and not being in the midst of battle is something new for him. You get the idea this is a character struggling to find his new role and balance in responsibilities and wants.
The art by Nic Klein is fantastic. Marvel has teased out Thor’s new costume and there’s an unexpected reason for it. If you’ve had issues with the look, by the end of the issue it makes much more sense as to the why. Klein is joined by Matthew Wilson on colors and Joe Sabino on lettering and the comic looks crisp and engaging. Cates’ script has a mix of action, quieter moments, and jaw-dropping scenes and the creative team delivers it all with beautiful art.
Thor #1 mixes action, emotion, and spectacle. The result is a debut issue that’s welcoming to new readers and should intrigue long-time fans. With unexpected twists and a whole new direction and status quo, this debut sends Thor off into the cosmos for adventure and excitement.
Story: Donny Cates Art: Nic Klein Color: Matthew Wilson Letterer: Joe Sabino Story: 8.75 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
The plans Jonathan Hickman has for the X-Men aren’t just big; they’re giant-size. Fresh off launching the X-Men into an exciting new era in House of X and Powers of X, Marvel revealed at MCM Comic Con London that Jonathan Hickman will be joining forces with the industry’s top artists to craft a stellar new series: Giant-Size X-Men. Starting in February, each issue will combine Hickman’s captivating storytelling with the iconic art of a different superstar artist to depict grand-scale adventures focused on specific X-Men characters.
And it all begins with Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey and Emma Frost #1! The new mutant nation of Krakoa is the place for fresh starts, and Jean and Emma, known for their fierce rivalry, will unite to rescue Storm from danger. The two powerful telepaths are in good hands as artist Russell Dauterman will be the first to partner with Hickman for the series. Dauterman will be accompanied by expert colorist Matt Wilson.
Giant-Size X-Men was first used as a title in 1975 in a legendary special issue by Len Wein and David Cockrum. It not only marked a new genesis for the team, introducing iconic characters like Storm and Nightcrawler, but is credited for catapulting the X-Men into the powerhouse franchise they are today, a legacy that Hickman and others will now honor month after month. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements about other upcoming Giant-Size X-Men issues and the artists and characters you can expect to find within their pages!
The Killing Horizon is the explosive new sci-fi vision from Jamie McKelvie,co-creator of the bestselling, award-winning The Wicked + The Divine, and Eisner Award winning colorist Matthew Wilson, launching from Image Comics in Summer 2020.
The project sees McKelvie return to writing for the first time in a decade, after establishing himself as both a popular artist of comics such as Young Avengers and designer of iconic superheroes including Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel and Loki.
The Killing Horizon takes place in the post-post-apocalyptic future. Far from Earth, a specialist in studying dead alien societies is embedded with a military unit to excavate a new find. She’s done it before. It’s good work and it’s safe. She thinks it’s just another job.
Lost and alone, deep beneath the warped, skeletal spires of the millennia-dead city, she finds something powerful. Something unlike anything any human has ever known. Something that needs her to take it on a journey no living being has ever taken. Something that will make her a target for every side fighting a deadly war. It calls to her.
Joining the established partnership of McKelvie and Wilson are letterer Aditya Bidikar, designer Cecile Richard, and editor Katie West.
“At every occasion, I’ll be ready for the funeral.”-Band of Horses
Like the David Bowie song, five years is all we got with The Wicked + the Divine, and writer Kieron Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson go out on top in WicDiv #45,which is set 40 years after the events of the previous issue. It’s a thoughtful issue in the vein of The Sandman “The Wake” and is a fantastic character study as Gillen and McKelvie show what happens when the Pantheon grows old beginning with the much guarded secret of the final cover.
The entire issue happens at Cassandra’s funeral and wake so it’s fitting that the first big reveal is that she and Laura ended up married after a relationship with Eleanor. Speaking of Eleanor, it is so strange to see Lucifer as a senior citizen, and McKelvie does a fantastic job with all the wrinkles, crow’s feet, and other accoutrements of age for a group of characters that I, at least, thought would all flame out in their twenties. But, no, they get to live and reflect on life and relationships beneath the eaves of Valhalla, which has been turned into a National Trust site. There is continuity in the earlier Daft Punk/futuristic elements of Valhalla, but Wilson uses a more muted color palette in keeping with the somber occasion.
One of the most beautiful elements of WicDiv #45 is the interweaving, naturalistic conversations about the characters’ relationships as Gillen and McKelvie do a more graceful version of “Where are they now” with a good mix of grid layouts and wider panels. We get the last word on Zahid and Valentine with the brief return of Baal’s Nathan Fairbairn colored fresco as Zahid wistfully talks about how they have never been or will be with such a force like Baal. It all comes to a climax with Cassandra giving her own eulogy hologram-style, and what, in lesser creative hands, could be a pop-joke about the exploitation of Tupac or Prince turned into a wonderful final analysis of the Pantheon from the sharp, yet loving mind of a journalist turned goddess turned mortal.
Although there are remarks about Laura being Cassandra’s “vice”, Cass’ final speech shows that she has become a little sweeter in her old age and that the conflict and drama of the two years of the Pantheon didn’t even matter to the end. When she calls Umar, who was feeling pretty down in his dialogue and missing Cameron something fierce, the best person she had known, it resonates emotionally because she isn’t the kind of character to hand out compliments willy nilly. She even gives Eleanor, one of the people she detested the most, the kudos for basically going hard and being the best embodiment she should ever be. Luci was the catalyst for me taking a Milton seminar in undergrad and, by extension, writing about comics academically so that series of panels landed hard.
After remarks on all the remaining Pantheon members, Kieron Gillen flexes his writing muscles and Jamie McKelvie’s flexes his facial expression and gesture ones for a poignant monologue on aging, which is honestly what WicDiv #45 is all about. There was the high energy, passion, action, and fandom of the early arcs supplemented by the greater context of the specials and “Mothering Invention” finally culminating in the Pantheon realizing that they could opt out of the millennia-long cycle of death and rebirth as ordinary humans. (Except Aruna can play the fuck out of a double neck guitar.) This issue shows the product of this mortality and has some awesome group hugs as the death of Cassandra causes surviving, former Pantheon members to come to terms with their mortality.
And because of how much Gillen and McKelvie have fleshed out this cast of characters over five years, The Wicked + the Divine #45 is an easy comic to self-identity with, especially when Laura faces the reader, does a final 1-2-3-4, and there’s a fade to white. Getting old is something that both scares me and is something I’m in denial of, and seeing characters that I felt like I grew up with wrinkles, long happy marriages, and stories of the past makes it a little more palatable. For a series that had a fairly large body count and had some dark relationship dynamics, this happy ending is a delight and an ode to building relationships and craft your own destiny and story to get a little bit meta.
This is a bit obvious to those of you who have been following me on my WicDiv reading/reviewing/interviewing, and yes, living journey the past five years, but The Wicked + the Divine is my favorite comic of all time. Sure, Sandman and The Invisibles are up there, but with WicDiv, I got to go on the journey each single issue, or step, of the way and theorize, weep, celebrate, and even build friendships along the way. It’s a book that’s always been about the big ideas like life, death, the creative act, but always had time for the little things that make life great like puns, pops, literary allusions, and fantastic costume design from Jamie McKelvie.
Even though I’ve been in denial since Monday when I read the final issue, The Wicked + the Divine #45 is the perfect ending to the series with Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson’s carefully crafted words and visuals on aging, looking back, and looking to the future. This is a comic that has engaged both my head and heart. Like Ananke, and in this issue, Cassandra say, “I love you. I love you all. I’ll miss you.” This comic will always have a beloved place in my heart, and I look forward to rereading, reminiscing, and recommending it into the decades to come even as I begin to look like the characters in this issue.
*This review contains full spoilers for The Wicked + The Divine #44*
With its skull on the first page of issue one, None More Goth visual trappings, and high body count, The Wicked + the Divine sometimes seems to be a book about death. However, it’s really about life and growing up and discovering your true identity, and stuff that sounds like self-help, hippy dippy bullshit. The Wicked + The Divine #44 is executed in a beautiful way by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson. Even though there’s one issue left of WicDiv,this The Wicked + The Divine #44 ends the series’ main plot and the tale of godlike teenagers, Ananke and Persephone, and best of all, Luci and Laura, the relationship between mad, bad, and dangerous to know and shy, innocent fangirl that hooked me on the series and evolved well beyond that.
The amazing cliffhanger of WicDiv #43 brought Luci back to the forefront of the narrative and the general limelight just before the end. Gillen has her call herself “the whole world’s dream girlfriend”, and McKelvie and Wilson oblige with some rockstar poses and a side of hellfire. Her new costume is one of my favorite McKelvie designs of the series and gives her the swagger of a person who is only herself when she’s performing in some way. She’s Lord Byron, Bowie, Jagger, and most of all, the Adversary. Luci desires to create chaos and enjoy life with her new lease on it, doesn’t want to relinquish her powers like the other Pantheon members, and would definitely rather reign in Hell.
This is where some writers would have a big punch-up, Miracleman #15 style, with Luci being full of hubris and wrecking London. However, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie definitely “zag” away from this path and do something a little more life-affirming with Luci and Laura. In a red and black, near farce of the Pantheon transformation sequence and using third-person narration, Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson sort through the pain that Laura has gone through the past two years, and how much she cared for Luci even when she was on trial for murder back in “Faust Act”.
It all culminates in one of the most touching sequences of the series (And we’re only on page 8.) where Luci simply says, “I’m Eleanor”, kisses Laura, and becomes human again. This series of pages is a wonderful inversion of the other Pantheon transformation sequences throughout the series, and the moments after are raw, filled with tears, and the formerly sharp-tongued Lucifer having almost nothing to say. It expertly combines the lofty themes of identity, godhood, and immortality with two estranged friends hugging it out as Laura demonstrates growth by choosing reconciliation over alienation.
I could probably write this whole review about Luci and Laura, but hey, there are other characters and storylines in The Wicked + The Divine #44 all connected to the throughline of simply living even if it doesn’t mean being a god with worshipers or pop star with fans. With Luci returned to mortality, the situation with Minerva/Ananke is the last big plot thread on the table, and there’s a debate over what to do with her. Laura wants to kill her, but she’s growing as a person and defers to Cassandra’s sensible solution of using Mimir’s plot device engine one last time. (Cass’ reaction is priceless.) But Baal just wants to kill her and be the embodiment of toxic masculinity. His last interactions with Inanna are tragic and are a reminder of how great this series was at exploring queerness and gender performance.
He’s done this throughout the series, but I would like to draw attention to how Jamie McKelvie draws panels with multiple figures in WicDiv #44. He doesn’t just focus on reader eye level, but in the spirit of the old film adage “acting is reacting”, imbues each figure with a small story of their own. A good example of this is the first reaction panel after the deaths of Baal and Minerva. Laura furrowing her brow and figuring what to do with two dead bodies and a SWAT on the way is the focus of the panel.
But McKelvie reminds us of the deep pain that Inanna feels about the death of his former lover and the empathy and friendship Dionysus has for him through his detailed work with them. All of this is with no words; just visuals. Also, Wilson uses a lot of black to give the panel and page a real funereal feel for the literal characters, Baal and Minerva as well as all of Ananke’s machinations and the concept of the Pantheon. There is also a slight glow in the background, which connects to the spotlights used by the cops throughout the issue and symbolizes that the ex-Pantheon members have to deal with the harsh light of reality as mortals from now on. (See the courthouse scene.)
With its opening words and repeated mantra “Once again we return” as well as the revelation of the eternal conflict between Ananke and her sister, WicDiv has been a study of cycles of life and death. This beautiful symmetry pays off big time in WicDiv #43 whose final page is not just an homage to the ending of its predecessor, Grant Morrison’s Invisibles, but the first page of WicDiv #1 with the visual of a living head instead of a skull. It’s also like the ending of John Milton’s Paradise Lostwhere Adam and Eve lost a chance of immortality in an utopia, but gained the ability to choose “their [own] place of rest”. Laura might not be a goddess any more and is still in hot water for killing Ananke, but she gets to live life as a human being untethered to any rituals or schemes.
I’ve spent the last five years living, regressing, and sometimes growing alongside these characters expertly crafted by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson so emotions definitely run high in The Wicked + The Divine #44 especially in regards to Luci and Laura and Baal and Inanna. But it is one of the most life-affirming comics I’ve ever read, and I’m glad that we (hopefully) get to see a peek of the lives of Laura and company in the final issue of the series. (That final cover reveal, y’all!!)