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Hugh Likes Comics: Atomic Robo and the Dawn of the New Era

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Atomic Robo and the Dawn of the New Era #1
Written by Brian Clevenger
Drawn by Scott Wegener
Colored by Shannon Murphy
Published by IDW

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The Skinny: Atomic Robo returns with the most perilous action science adventure yet – Fatherhood.

I’m a sucker for mad science. Arcing Tesla coils, doomsday devices, snappy lab-wear and villainous monologues, give me the whole bit. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always found Clevenger and Wegener’s Atomic Robo so interesting. Being the robot son of Tesla himself, he is the very essence of pulp weirdness, but he constantly struggles to make sense of the world, be it through rigorously mapping non-euclidean spaces or just punching out his velociraptor arch-nemesis, Dr. Dinosaur. He’s the product of mad science, but for the most part he is trying to straighten the field back into something sensible.
This is very much the case in the latest issue, which starts a new story arc, and is a great place for new readers to jump on. Throughout his adventures, Robo has gone from pulp-style adventurer to solider to scientist to tech mogul. But this story puts him in a very different role, that of a father. Through a series of events, he is now the caretaker of ALAN, a networked AI from the 1950’s that has lost its memory, and is effectively a new person. The original ALAN was willing to destroy the world, but Robo has a chance to give it an education, and hopefully a different future.
Clevenger’s writing is as spot-on as it’s ever been, and Wegener’s art remains appealingly chunky. Fans of the character will find plenty to enjoy, and this is a great issue for new readers to pick up. You can find Atomic Robo and the Dawn of the New Era on Comixology or at your local comics shop. And if you like it, there are plenty of back issues to pick through for free over at Atomic-Robo.com.

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Hugh Likes Comics: Conan the Barbarian #1

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Conan the Barbarian #1
Written by Jason Aaron
Drawn by Mahmud Asrar
Colors by Matthew Wilson
Published by Marvel Comics

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The Skinny: A perfectly CROMulent return to comics for the archetypal antihero.

With much fanfare, Conan the Barbarian has returned to Marvel Comics, and his first effort back is pretty good, I think? I should begin this review by saying that I’m not very familiar with the Marvel run that began in the 70’s and added so much to the character’s mythos. I am more well-read on Robert E. Howard’s original short stories, however.
And this comic, to me at least, is good. Aaron tells a nice little Conan story that doesn’t stray from the path of a Conan story. Conan kills a dude for reasons, meets a sexy lady that ALSO kills people and is super into him. Conan sleeps with her even though it is a SUPER OBVIOUS TRAP, and cuts his way out of trouble after the trap is sprung. Aaron’s signature here is in tying King Conan and Barbarian Conan together. It is reminiscent of writing on Thor, contrasting the brash youth with his scarred older self. It works well, and I’m onboard to see where he goes with it.
Asrar’s art is downright gorgeous, all rippling muscle and larger than life figures that can’t be contained by their panels. Matthew Wilson’s coloring is also outstanding, bringing a brightness that echoes the 70’s origins of the comic. The art team has big shoes to fill here, as the comic opens with a double-page collage of Smith and Buscema art.
The comic also includes a serialized prose novella as backup material, written by John C. Hocking, which feels very much in the vein of the original, but it is a bit too early to tell.
Conan the Barbarian #1 is a return to good old fashioned sword and sorcery, with a simple plot and bold and bloody art that leaps off the page. It knows exactly what it is and doesn’t push too far beyond it, but if you’re looking for a simple fantasy adventure for adults, you can find it at your local comics shop or in digital from Comixology.

Hugh Likes Comics: 2018 Top 5

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Eternity Girl

Eternity Girl
Written by Magdalene Visaggio
Drawn by Sonny Liew
Published by DC/Young Animal

After losing control of her powers and being suspended, superhero Caroline Sharp, A. K. A. Chrysalis, has become suicidally depressed. Unfortunately, her powers make her functionally immortal. But the shade of her greatest nemesis appears with a solution: If she destroys all of reality, Caroline can finally be at peace. Eternity Girl starts out as a meditation on classic trope but quickly blossoms into something much more extraordinary. The surreal, shifting story is both personal and grand in a way few comics manage to pull off, and Liew’s art steals the show, including a breathtaking sequence in which reimagines the characters in a multitude of comic styles, from Peanuts to Watchmen. If you liked Into the Spider-Verse but wished it was more philosophically meaty, this is the comic for you.

Immortal Hulk

Immortal Hulk
Written by Al Ewing
Drawn by Joe Bennett
Published by Marvel Comics

Superheroes get reinvented all the time, but this new take on Marvel’s Angry Green Giant is the most impressive I’ve seen in a long time. By day, Bruce Banner wanders the back roads of America, hitching his way across the country. But night belongs to The Hulk. Ewing uses Marvel’s latest death and resurrection of the character to tell a clever horror stories about guilt, secrets, and self-delusion.

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The Long Con
Written by Ben Coleman and Dylan Mecconis
Drawn by E. A. Denich
Colored by M. Victoria Robado
Published by Oni Press

Five years ago, a disaster convinces the attendees the world’s biggest comic convention that the world had ended, and the world thought the convention center had met the same fate as Los Spinoza, CA. But the Long Con is still going. When proof of survivors surfaces, reporter Victor Lai, one of the last reporters to escape the city, is sent back in. But without protection, and more importantly, without a badge, how long will he survive? This comic is a delightful skewering of post-apocalyptic, nerd culture, and sci-fi tropes.

Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk
Written by Delilah Dawson
Drawn by Matias Basla
Colored by Rebecca Nalty
Published by Boom! Studios

Art, the illegitimate daughter of an English lord, has always lived at odds with the world she was raised in. But when the Faerie Queen switches places with her in a plot to take over the human world, she’ll have to try and save it anyway. But little does she understand what that will cost her, and every choice has devastating consequences in Faerie. Gorgeously illustrated and dream-like, Sparrowhawk is a Victorian portal fantasy with modern sensibilities.

WCA

West Coast Avengers
Written by Kelly Thompson
Drawn by Stefano Caselli and Daniele Di Nicuolo
Published by Marvel Comics

Sometimes you just need to read something unabashedly fun! This relaunch feels less like The Avengers than a new take on the themes of classic Excalibur. As the title suggests, the series is set in Southern California, far away from Marvel’s NYC, and is more than willing to embrace sillinessess. The first volume stars best Hawkeye Kate Bishop and friends as they form a team to save Los Angeles from B.R.O.D.O.K. and his army of 200-foot tall monster women.

Hugh Likes Comics: Die

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Die #1
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Stephanie Hans
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image

Die

The Skinny: Less “Dungeons and Dragons” and more “It.”

In 1991, Dominic and his friends played a game, and then disappeared. In 1993, they returned, unable to tell a soul where they had been or what they were doing. And one of them, Dominic’s best friend and GM Solomon, never returned at all. Twenty-five years after that, Dominic receives a strange and chilling birthday present: A crystalline 20-sided die. The game isn’t over.
Writer Kieron Gillen’s first creator-owned project since The Wicked + The Divine tackles nostalgia, trauma, and the scars left by fantastical childhood journeys on adults. This isn’t untrodden ground, of course. It has been approached in all sorts of ways, from the Robin Williams movie “Hook” to Stephen King’s It. This tale hews more closely to the latter, as you might expect. Gillen makes things more interesting by incorporating another element: Dungeons and Dragons. His epigraph at the end of the comic makes the reference more explicit: The unfinished 80’s cartoon which transported six real-world kids to the roleplaying fantasy land. He’s also tapping into the 80’s “satanic panic” surrounding the game, with six kids who were literally swallowed and chewed up by the game. It’s an interesting twist on the concept, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.
Hans’s art is gorgeous, and impliments some cool tricks with light. The is dull, dark, and full of shadows. Not to spoil things, but this is reversed in a double-page spread late in the issue to great effect. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding logo design from Rian Hughes, which takes a D-20 and spreads it flat into a maze of triangular segments. Hans takes it and pulls off a neat trick on the cover, interposing the design for a character and her in-game persona.
Die #1 is an intriguing new fantasy horror series, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next. You can find it at Your Local Comic Shop or digitally from Comixology.

Hugh Likes Comics: Bitter Root

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Bitter Root #1
Created by David F. Walker, Chuck Brown, and Sanford Greene
Color Artists: Rico Renzi and Sanford Greene
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image

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The Skinny: Dieselpunk Monster Hunting in the Harlem Renaissance

Set in 1920’s Harlem, Bitter Root is the story of the Sangerye family, monster hunters who protect humanity from terrifying monsters called “Jinoo.” But they work in secret, and not without cost. As the older generation passes, the younger members of the family are called upon to step up, but trainee Cullen struggles, and Blink chafes at her role doing “women’s work.” But with the forces of darkness closing in around them, can they afford family tension?
Following their run on Power Man and Iron Fist in 2016, Walker and Greene are back, along with co-writer Chuck Brown, and they are killing it.
Pairing the monster hunting aesthetic with the Harlem Renaissance is a bold and brilliant move from this team. Greene’s designs and costuming are great, full of big chunky machines and a variety of period fashion that looks great on these characters. The night-time coloring is moody and atmospheric, and the period setting reminds the reader that we don’t have to visit fictional countries to see black excellence in comics.
Period punk sub-genres too often get caught up in the pomp of Empire and the glitz of Roaring Twenties, and forego the punk responsibilities for pulpier trappings. Bitter Root does an excellent job of bringing the shine and the shadow of the times to the front. I can’t wait to see where this series goes next. You can find it at Your Local Comics Shop or digitally via Comixology!

 

Hugh Likes Comics: Sparrowhawk

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Sparrowhawk #1and 2
Written by Delilah S. Dawson
Illustrated by Matias Basla
Colored by Rebecca Nalty
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Published by Boom! Studios

Sparrowhawk

The Skinny: Illegitimate daughter Artemisia must fight for a world that has always rejected her when she accidentally trades places with the Faerie Queen.

Artemisia Grey has had a difficult life. Born to a roustabout English nobleman and a slave, she was treated as no more than a servant to the rest of her family, serving as her older sister’s maid, until they needed a marriageable daughter to marry off, of course. Artemisia wishes for nothing more than the freedom to do as she wishes and for someone to love her as she is. The Faerie Queen uses her desires to trade places with her, trapping Artemisia in her realm and gaining a foothold in the human world. It is up to her family and her world, but when the time comes, will she even want to?
Dawson’s dark faerie tale is smart and well paced. Art’s trip through the looking glass from horrible situation to worse feels like an inverse of Alice’s story. Unseelie is a land here everything makes the most brutal kind of sense. Her guides through this world a Crispin, a monstrous little creature that is constantly urging her to acts of violence, and Warren, the only unloved son of the Unseelie Queen, and an avowed pacifist. Together they navigate a complex and mysterious fantasy world.
Basla’s art and Nalty’s colors create a vibrant but unsettling world, full of dutch angles and oversaturated and unnatural tones. It’s an excellent effect, and is contrasted with their much more constrained treatment of the ‘real’ world.
“Sparrowhawk” is a sharp and dark portal fantasy that delves into some fertile thematic territory concerning Love, Colonialism, and the moral hazards of both. You can find the first two issues online via Comixology, or in print at your local comics shop.

Hugh Likes Comics: The Long Con

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The Long Con
Written by Dylan Meconis and Ben Coleman
Drawn by E. A. Denich
Colors by M. Victoria Robado
Published by Oni Press

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The Skinny: The Comic Con at the end of the world

What happens when The End of the World happens during a major Science Fiction convention? Five years ago, a cataclysmic event destroyed the city of Los Spinoza, and, presumably, the Los Spinoza Convention Center, home to Long Con, the world’s largest and greatest comic convention. But what makes a better bomb shelter than 600,000 square feet of Brutalist concrete? When evidence emerges that something survived, struggling reporter Victor Lai, who barely escaped from the Long Con minutes before the disaster, is sent back in by his editor to investigate.
The Long Con is a delightful look at the apocalypse through the lens of pop culture fandom. It’s a clever microcosm of fans, some of whom are literally eating each other once they get cut off and have to figure out how to survive. The book seamlessly shifts between the last day of the convention and Victor’s return, with his friend Dez guiding him though the twin mazes of Convention culture and the survivors. Meconis and Coleman’s wit is sharp, Denich’s designs are charming without being too cartoonish, and Robado’s use of color is spot on. The past is a riot of bright colors, and the future is just the right touch of grimy.
The story weaves in a third layer, a fictional Star Trek-inspired media property called “Skylarks” that does a lot of great storytelling work and a delightful piece of parody all on its own.
The Long Con just released its fourth issue, and you can find it on Comixology or at your local comics shop. I highly recommend it.

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