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Hugh Likes Comics: Daredevil

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Daredevil #1
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Drawn by Marco Checchetto
Colored by Sunny Gho
Published by Marvel Comics

Daredevil(2019)

The Skinny: After recovering from dying (again,) Matt Murdock returns to crime-fighting, but things aren’t so easy anymore.

Matt Murdock is tired. After having come back to life, although in a bit more medically plausible fashion this time, he is hitting the rooftops as Daredevil, but finding that things aren’t as easy as they used to be. With Wilson Fisk the elected mayor of New York, NYPD has standing orders to stop vigilantes, with Daredevil being a major target.
Plus, Matt is rushing things. He’s impatient, and isn’t back to his old self. Like an old boxer, he is wondering if her ever will be, and how long he can rebound before physical injury and infirmity catch up to him.
Chip Zdarsky is hitting it out of the park with another more serious book at Marvel. I’ve already reviewed his writing on The Invaders, and this is a similarly thoughtful take on a character who has seen horrors and how they have internalized them. My favorite line of the issue is when he tells the woman he takes home from a bar not to fetishize his disability. There is a bone-tiredness there that speaks volumes about Matt’s experiences both in and out of his superhero identity.
Marco Checchetto’s art and Sunny Gho’s coloring both serve the story well. I liked Checchetto’s cramped, overlapping page layouts and Gho’s dark and gritty colors both do a great job of establishing an atmosphere and pace to the issue that would be a little unclear without them.
The issue also has a four-page backup story by Zdarsky that is a nearly-wordless short about Matt saving a kidnapping victim that does a great job of showing the events first from an outside point of view, then from Matt’s, using a great visualization of his sensory powers.
Daredevil #1feels very reminiscent of the Netflix series, but this is a very strong return for the character, and I can’t wait to see where this team goes with this direction. You can pick up a copy from your Local Comics Shop, or get the digital version from Comixology.
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Hugh Likes Comics: Naomi

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Naomi #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker
Art by Jamal Campbell
Lettered by Josh Reed
Published by DC Comics

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The Skinny: DC’s newest imprint opens with a surprisingly quiet, but beautiful, introduction

What is it like to live as an adopted teenager in a world where someone like Superman exists? When a fight with a super-villain sends him hurtling through the small town of Port Oswego, Naomi is left grappling with how she feels, and the nagging doubt that something about her suburban, middle-class life is off. And after the fight, and even the cleanup is over, she’s left wondering, what other extraordinary events is the town hiding, and why won’t anyone talk with her about the day she was adopted?
Bendis and Walker do a great job of approaching a stock comics trope from a new angle. The lens of this issue is focus squarely on Naomi, instead of the marketable superhero. There isn’t a lot of tension for a first issue, giving us a real taste of what Naomi’s normal life is like. This is likely to change, but for a first issue to let us simply meet this new character is both unexpected and refreshing.
The real standout here is Jamal Campbell’s art, though He really breathes life into what could be a staid, and honestly, boring comic. His Port Oswego is vibrant and dynamic, while still retaining its small-town atmosphere. He does a lot of great work with layouts and panels as well. We get a pair of sequences where townspeople respond to Naomi’s questions, and she sits outside the panel grid, but also underneath it. There is a lot of subtle characterization in those tight frames.
Naomi #1 is the start of something really interesting. You can buy it digitally from Comixology, or pick it up in print from Your Local Comics Shop.
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Hugh Likes Comics: Invaders

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Invaders #1
Written by Chip Zdarski
Drawn by Carlos Magno with Butch Guice
Colored by Alex Guimarães
Published by Marvel Comics
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The Skinny: A new story of Marvel’s Golden Age heroes rooted in the trauma of war.

Invaders #1 is a comic out of time. The retconned compilation of Golden Age Marvel, then Timely Comics, The Invaders were a team of patriotic superheroes fighting for the Allies in World War II. This included Captain America, but also Timely’s two biggest heroes of the period: The original Human Torch, Jim Hammond, and Namor, the Sub-Mariner. This story of the team is split between the war and the present, as Hammond interviewing Cap and his fellow soldiers for a book he’s writing, and Namor, as king of Atlantis, is preparing to start another war.
This book walks a perilously thin line, but I think it manages it beautifully. This isn’t just a superhero soap opera, but an earnest look at the trauma of war. This kind of subject hasn’t always been handled well by comics as a medium, but Zdarski, better known for his humor writing, is evocative and realistic, balancing genuine pathos with the more fantastic melodrama. In one scene Captain America is talking with Hammond about his own complex feelings about reliving the war over speaker phone, while battling a Tony Stark-designed arming of training robots. It should come off as goofy, but Zdarski’s writing, and the art, sells it.
The art is stand-out here. Using two art styles, and in this case two artists to denote different time periods isn’t a new innovation, but Magno and Guice are both distinctive, and each style is well suited to its respective period. Giuimarães’s colors are also a sharp division, with muted browns and yellows for the war contrasting with more vivid colors for Steve’s training session and Atlantis.
Invaders #1 is the start of a story that is so far doing an excellent job of balancing two different storytelling extremes. I’m very much interested in seeing how it plays out. You can find it digitally from Comixology, or pick up a physical copy from your Local Comics Shop.

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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.

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.

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