I’ve heard it suggested that once you start noticing Garfields in your surroundings, you see him everywhere. Yes, that’s right, the orange cat. At this point, Garfield sightings are so much a part of our lives that we’ve come to ignore him, but he truly is inescapable.
And so, too, is Batman. I recently made a video about Kevin Conroy, the voice actor who played Batman for 30 years, and since then I’ve been seeing Batmans (or Batsmen?) everywhere, including on the counter of the comic shop this week, thanks to a bizarre collaboration between Image and DC that has the caped crusader encountering, of all characters, Spawn.
Also of interest from the superheroes: there’s a new Iron Man and a Photon comic for fans of Monica Rambeau. I’m particularly curious about A Vicious Circle from Boom, which is a time-traveling romp that careens from 22nd-century Tokyo to prehistory.
Ultimately, the three that caught my eye for review this week tread on familiar (almost Garfield-esque) ground, returning to the world of The Witcher, art history, and a well-worn romance genre.
Thanks, as always, to Phoenix for sorting through the week’s new releases!
The Witcher: The Ballad of Two Wolves Issue #1
A fantastic twisty fairy-tale set in the world of The Witcher, this four-part series stitches together a bit of Grimm with a bit of modern economic theory. Okay, that sounds pretty boring, but the socioeconomic ideas take a back seat to snarling adventure and chipper balladeering from a familiar cast of characters. Fans of the original novels, the videogame adaptation, and the Netflix show are in for a treat. Geralt and Dandelion have found themselves in a small town terrorized by a werewolf, and a young woman in a red hood has asked them for help on her grandmother’s behalf. This little nod to familiar mythology is a clever jump-start to a quest that quickly takes a swerve as Geralt discovers that not everyone in this town is as they seem, with hidden agendas that flip expectations on their head. A bit of fun monster-fighting violence, some saucy flirtation, and engrossing fantasy art make it easy to sink into the story and be carried away.
Story: Bartosz Sztybor. Illustrator: Miki Montlló. Lettering: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. Art assistant: Oriol Pérez. Color assistant: Helena Rossetti. Alt covers: Jakub Rebelka, Otto Schmidt, David López.
Publisher: Dark Horse.
Art Brut Issue #1
Something is causing people to lose their minds and go on murderous rampages in the name of art, and the person who can get to the bottom of things is a man who does not have an entirely firm grasp on reality… or does he? Uncertainty about what is real, what is fake, and what exists between the two is at the heart of this clever supernatural mystery, which shares a tone with some of the best phenomenon-of-the-week episodes of The X-Files. Issue one lays a bit of groundwork, some of which (but not all) pays off. Highlights include a crowd at the Louvre making a shocking discovery about the Mona Lisa, an art institution for unsettling children that feels like a twisted version of Professor Xavier’s school, and the revelation that the safety of humanity hinges on the integrity of works of art. Intrigue, action, and fascinating characters are all in plentiful supply. The one thing that’s missing, though, is some sort of thesis or clarity about what it’s all supposed to mean. (Which seems important for a comic about capital-A Art!) Maybe that will unfurl in later issues. Fortunately, this ride is fun enough to see where it goes next.
Writer: W. Maxwell Prince. Pencil and ink: Martin Morazzo. Colors: Mat Lopes. Backup colors: Chris O’Halloran. Letters: Good Old Neon. Alt Covers: Morazzo & Lopes, Alex Eckman-Lawn.
Romantic Killer Volume 1
A metatextual comedy-manga that never quite goes far enough over the top, Romantic Killer is a fun skewering of shojo tropes that fans of the genre will like and others will find completely mystifying. A high schooler named Anzu has no interest in romance, but she may have to develop one when a magical being appears and announces that Japan’s birth rate is declining and she must engage in a relationship with a boy at school. She resists at first, but some form of connection seems destined to happen anyway. It’s fun to see every trope of the romance genre skewered one by one, but the book seems to have trouble making up its mind about whether it truly wants to be a parody or simply be a very well-done story about teen emotions. As a result, it’s pretty good at both, but doesn’t quite break out into saying anything particularly novel. Fans aren’t likely to be bothered by that, but I wish this book could have been just a little bit more.
Story and art: Wataru Momose. Translation and adaptation: Adrienne Beck. Touch-up art and lettering: Inori Fukuda Trant. Design: Shawn Carrico. Editor: Nancy Thistlethwaite.