Ugh, halfway through spooky month already? Better get to work on my costume (a bear skin rug, so I can just lie on the floor). This is the time for comics publishers to release all their scary, bloody, creepy books, so you’re spoiled for choice if you’re looking for one of these. An excellent airport horror awaits this week. Or, for something a little more gentle, a thoughtful manga about a girl who grows up to be an artist—but not without some regrets.

Thanks as always to Phoenix Comics for helping to sort through the week’s new releases, even in the face of an unexpected absence. Get well soon, Nick!

The Approach Issue #1

Part of the fun of a good horror story is knowing that even though there’s nothing scary happening yet, at some point it will, and then sinking into a sort of preemptive fright-state even though everything, for the moment, seems completely normal. The Approach does a great job of eliciting the “everything’s fine but not for long” dread of classics like The Thing and The Shining and the Pleasure Island scene from Pinocchio: a snowstorm has trapped a small clutch of passengers and airport workers at a tiny regional airport, and after an unexpected flight crashes on a nearby landing strip something unsettling seems to have joined them. Most of this first issue is spent on routine snowstormy procedures, an effective backdrop for the various grievances of the well-rounded cast of characters. There are only hints at something more sinister to come (until the final page, which gives a bit too much away), leaving the reader to enjoy a sense of dread and foreboding. If you like that sort of thing.

Rating: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (5/5)

Writers: Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley. Artists: Jesús Hervás, Lea Caballero. Colors: Brett Weldele. Letters: Ed Dukeshire. Alt Covers: Jeremy Haun, Nick Filardi, Megan Hutchison-Cates, Dee Conniffe, Francesca Francavilla, Björn Barends, Zu Orzu, Francesca Mattina, Ebrahel Lurci. Design: Veronica Gutierrez, Marie Krupina. Assistant Editor: Gwen Waller. Editor: Elizabeth Brei.

Publisher: Boom! Studios.

Look Back

A melancholy meditation on loneliness, art, and roads not taken, Look Back follows the path of a young girl as she grows into a teenager and then embarks on a career in manga. Along the way, she intersects with a shy fellow artist, and the two find unexpected meaning in the act of creation. Sorry to be so vague about the plot details, but there are quite a few twists and surprises that I wouldn’t want to give away. There’s also a strange … I’m not sure what to call it, a daydream? A recontextualization? An alternate universe? Where we see the consequences of alternate choices that our heroine might’ve made. Ultimately, the story is a quiet, peaceful (and at times tragic) explanation of the power of art to connect us, even across gulfs that seem insurmountable. With beautiful art that invites the eye to linger in quiet moments, Look Back is gentle, sad, and inspiring.

Rating: ✏️✏️✏️✏️✏️(5/5)

Story and art: Tatsuki Fujimoto.

Publisher: Viz Media.

Also: Chicken Devils Are Back

There’s a new Black Panther series out this week from Marvel, as well as a Star Wars Visions series that builds on the Disney+ anthology. Last year’s Chicken Devil gets a sequel series that launches, entitled Chicken Devils. (I didn’t care for the original, but I guess enough people liked it.) I like the look of She Loves to Cook, She Loves to Eat, a new manga about two women developing a relationship over food. She Eats the Night is a gory horror tale, as is the first volume of Slumber (I gave the first issue four rabbits out of five). And for something a bit more studious, consider LGBTQ+ Comics Studies, a new textbook that is exactly what the title suggests.