Posts Tagged ‘Jaime Hernandez’

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Before we get rolling on our look back at 2016 in the world of comics, let’s take a brief moment to acknowledge the passing of two masters, shall we? Darwyn Cooke and Steve Dillon were  very different artists with very different visions and very different styles, no doubt about that, but both were among the very best at what they did, both entered this undeserving world in 1962, and both exited it, leaving it a decidedly poorer place for their passing, in 2016. Both gentleman turned the medium upside – down with their brilliance and created bodies of work that are more than guaranteed to stand the test of time, so I feel it’s only appropriate, prior to diving into our annual retrospective (which, you’ve officially been warned, will take a minute, so buckle in) to say “thank you” and “we miss you” one more time to this pair of undeniable greats. And now, onto the business at hand —

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Wow, it’s been quite a ride, hasn’t it? In a year when both of the “Big Two” decided to hit the “reset” button again, it’s probably fair to say that DC Universe : Rebirth #1 — and the entire Rebirth initiative in general — will go down as the major “event” of 2016, given that it essentially catapulted the publisher from a distant-second-place competitor to Marvel to “Top Dog” in the industry in the space of one month. That doesn’t mean that the comic itself was any good, of course — my feelings on it are well-known and I believe that Geoff Johns and his artistic collaborators Gary FrankEthan Van SciverIvan Reis and Phil Jimenez essentially churned out a stinkbomb here that will ultimately do both the DCU “proper” as well as the so-called “Watchmen Universe” no favors by setting them on a collision course with each other — but at this point, what’s done is done, and in the short run that means we’ve got a two-horse race for the top spot in the Diamond sales charts every month as DC’s decidedly mediocre twice-monthly efforts compete with yet fucking another round of “Marvel Now!” relaunched books that by and large are, in their own way, every bit as uninspired and predictable as their rivals’ four-color “floppies.” Honestly, this has been the most convoluted path back to the status quo that I’ve ever seen, and just goes to show that a bunch of hype is all that’s needed to sell readers on the same old crap. Of the two reboots, Marvel’s is the most promising, given that they’ve made an effort to carve out some space for genuinely interesting and off-beat titles, but you know most of ’em aren’t going to last, as the so-called “House Of Ideas” is putting far more promotional muscle behind crap like this —

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than they are behind intriguing and potentially subversive fare like this :

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So, yeah, on the whole, count me as being more or less completely uninspired by both major initiatives by both major publishers. Marvel’s in the awkward position (although it’s one they’re well used to after last year’s Secret Wars) of rolling out a raft of new books hot on the tail of a major crossover that hasn’t even ended yet, given that Civil War II was beset by the usual delays we’ve come to expect from these things, but I do give ’em credit for having about a half-dozen or so pretty good books stemming from “Marvel Now!” 2016 — and that’s roughly four more than post-Rebirth DC is giving us. For all that, though, once you move outside the Rebirth realm, DC is actually putting out a fair number of quite good books, which brings us to our main order of business here —

Ryan C.’s Top 10 Comics Series Of 2016

Same rules as always apply : these can be either “limited” or “ongoing” series — as long as they came out within the past 12 months in single-issue format (our preferred consumption method around these parts), we don’t discriminate. But it’s not a “real” Top 10 list without at least a couple of “honorable mentions,” though, is it? So let’s look at those first —

Honorable Mention #1 : American Monster (Aftershock)

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Brian Azzarello — whose name will be coming up again later for decidedly less complimentary reasons — is proving he’s “still got it” and then some with this decidedly sleazy, amoral small-town crime series that features a cast of pedophiles, gun-runners, neo-Nazis, corrupt preachers, and other fine, upstanding citizens. And Juan Doe‘s animation-cel inspired art is absolutely killer. Unfortunately, this book has seen so many publication delays that we only got three issues all year. If it was coming out on anything like an even remotely consistent basis, this would not only be “Top 10” material all the way, it might be “Top 2 Or 3.” I love this comic. Now feed me more of it.

Honorable Mention #2 : Power Man And Iron Fist (Marvel)

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David F. Walker is The Man. You could ask for no more perfect writer to chronicle the exploits of Luke Cage and Danny Rand. And Sanford Greene and frequent fill-in Flaviano Armentaro are doing a nice job on the art. Unfortunately, this title got sidetracked for no less than four months into the creative black hole that is Civil War II, and while these issues weren’t bad for tie-in nonsense, they were still — well, tie-in nonsense. Now that we’ve got the real story rolling again, all is right with the world, and you can blame this one narrowly missing out on the Top 10 squarely and solely on Marvel editorial, who steered the ship into “event” territory before it even had a chance to properly get its feet off the ground. It was a real momentum-killing decision, and I sincerely hope it won’t prove to be a fatal one, as well — but it may turn out to be just that given that sales on this series have been tanking in recent months. So much for the notion that cross-over “events” boost interest in a book.

Honorable Mention #3 : Love And Rockets (Fantagraphics)

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I’m not too proud to admit it — seeing the first issue of this new series from Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez on the shelves of my LCS, and back in its original magazine format at that, was enough to make me tear up just a little bit for a second. It was hardly an issue for the ages or anything, but everything about this just feels right. I love it when life comes full-circle, I love Los Bros., I love their characters, and I love this world. It’s a shoe-in for the Top 10 next year, but one issue is simply too small a sample size for me too include it in good conscience this time out. Not that I wasn’t tempted.

Honorable Mention #4 : The Fix (Image)

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Nobody does fuck-up criminal low-lifes like Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber, and in the pages of this book they up the ante by making their fuck-up criminal low-lifes cops, to boot. This comic is all kinds of perverse and depraved fun, and I’d dearly love to have found a spot for it in the Top 10, but there simply wasn’t room for more than — well, shit, ten titles. Nevertheless, it’s a series you absolutely should be pulling.

And now onto the main event —

10. Doom Patrol (DC’s Young Animal)

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The flagship title of Gerard Way‘s new “art comics” imprint, this book is proving a mere three issues in that it’s gonna push these characters in directions even Grant Morrison never dreamed of. Way and artist Nick Derington are doing the genuinely unthinkable here — producing a well and truly experimental comic with the full blessing of one of the “Big Two” publishers. All may not be lost, after all.

9. Deadly Class (Image)

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Rick Remender and Wes Craig gave us the “Holy Shit!” moment of the year in comics when they actually fucking killed their protagonist (doubly shocking when you consider he was an obvious stand-in for a youthful Remender himself) twenty-some issues in, but the new crop of students at King’s Dominion Atelier For The Deadly Arts is decidedly less interesting than was the last, hence the drop for this series from its loftier perch last year.

8. Southern Bastards (Image)

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Jasons Aaron and Latour just don’t let up. This deep-friend southern noir is loaded with so much gallows humor, spot-on characterization, and low-rent evil that not even a spotty publication schedule and a lackluster fill-in issue could keep it outta the Top 10. A legend in the making, even if it ends up taking a decade for it all to get made.

7. Jacked (Vertigo)

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As near as I can determine, nobody other than myself actually read Eric Kripke and John Higgins’ superb six-part tale of pharmaceutically-charged super-hero revisionism, and that’s a damn shame as it’s one of the single finest and most honest portrayals of mid-life crisis that this beleaguered medium has ever produced, and the art is simply sensational. Do yourself a favor and grab it in trade — you won’t be disappointed, and you won’t hate yourself for that beer gut and receding hairline anymore, either.

6. The Vision (Marvel)

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Enough ink — both physical and digital — has been spilled in praise of Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta‘s admittedly Philip K. Dick-inspired techno-Shakespearean tragedy that adding to it just feels like piling on against the rest of the industry at this point. Suffice to say all the superlatives you’ve heard are true and then some and yeah, this one has “destined to be talked about for years to come” written all over it.

5. Hip Hop Family Tree (Fantagraphics)

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Ed Piskor put the wraps on the 12-part single-issue reprintings of his cultural history milestone earlier this year, and while I’ll certainly continue to collect and enjoy his oversized hardcover volumes, there was just something about having these previously-told stories presented on cheap, pre-yellowed newsprint that was beyond awesome. And the last issue even came packaged with an old-school floppy record — that was actually a code for a free digital download, but whatever. This book was more satisfying than a 40 of Olde English on a hot summer day.

4. Glitterbomb (Image)

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Jim Zub and deliriously-talented newcomer Djibril Morissette-Pham came out of nowhere with this series about Lovecraftian horror intersecting with the seedier side of post-fame Tinseltown (with bloody results) and just blew me the fuck away. The surprise hit of the year for this armchair critic and a book I can’t stop thinking or talking about. The first trade should be out soon enough and collects the self-contained story presented in issues 1-4,  and they’re coming back in late 2017 with a new arc that — man, I just don’t even know where they go from here. But I’m dying to find out.

3. The Flintstones (DC)

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Believe it. Mark Russell and Steve Pugh are putting out the most socially- and politically-relevant comic on the stands, and the satire in this book is by turns hilarious and heartwarming. A truly “mature” take on characters we thought we already knew everything there was to know about, and consistently one of the smartest books you’ll have the pleasure of reading. I don’t know that I have words to adequately describe how unexpectedly awesome this series is — when I said that DC was actually putting out some damn good stuff outside its main Rebirth line, this is exactly what I was talking about. If you’d have told me a year ago that one of the books I was going to be most eagerly looking forward to month-in and month-out was going to be The Flintstones, I would have thought you’d lost it. In fact, I probably would have said that Donald effing Trump had a better chance of being elected president. And yet, here we are — ain’t life crazy? And shitty? But at least we have this comic, and as antidotes to a new age of right-wing anti-intellectual barbarism go, you won’t find much better.

2. The Sheriff Of Babylon (Vertigo)

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The Vision may have gotten all the attention, but Tom King‘s best series of 2016 — by a wide margin, in my view — was this Iraq-set murder mystery drawn heavily from his own experiences as a CIA case officer during that bloody boondoggle of a war. Every aspect of this comic is almost painfully authentic, and Mitch Gerads rounds the package out with artwork so gritty you can feel the sand underneath your fingertips. This. Shit. Was. Amazing. Or maybe that should be “is” amazing, since — well, more on that in a minute.

1. Providence (Avatar)

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I’m out of superlatives, honestly. I review each issue of this series as it comes out, and my mind is blown more completely every time. I said last year that Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows were potentially creating the comic of the young century with this volume of their “Lovecraft Cycle,” and with one installment left to go in this 12-parter, I think it’s safe to say we can take the “potentially” qualifier out of that statement :  Providence is, in fact, the best comic of the century so far.

Wait, though! We’re far from done —

On the graphic novel front, it’s gotta be said that 2016 was a banner year, as well, in many respects — but I’m always a bit perplexed on how best to assemble a “best-of” list when it comes to the GN format because it only seems fair to subdivide it down into wholly original works, trade collections, old-school vintage reprints, etc. Throw in the fact that may “original” graphic novels got their start as serialized installments on the web, and things get even dicier. What really constitutes “new” work anymore? Still, there is definitely plenty outside the realm of the single-issue “floppy” that deserves a mention, and so —

Original Graphic Novel Of The Year : Patience By Daniel Clowes (Fantagraphics)

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Five years in the making, and it shows in every panel on every page. Clowes outdoes himself with each new project, it seems, and this is jewel in his creative crown — until the next one, at any rate. Love, obsession, longing, time travel, regret, loneliness, desolation — even optimism? This work encompasses all of it and then some; a monumental achievement of staggering proportions.

Best Collected Edition Of Recent Work : American Blood By Benjamin Marra (Fantagraphics)

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Anyone who’s read Terror Assaulter : O.M.W.O.T. knows that Ben Marra exists on a planet of his own, and this collection of the self-published works issued under his awesomely-named Traditional Comics imprint runs the stylistic gamut from insanely exaggerated pseudo-“realism” to Gary Panter-esque primitive id-channeling. WaPo columnist Maureen Dowd as a sexy super-spy? Bloodthirsty barbarians from distant worlds? Gang-bangers who do nothing but fuck and kill? Freed slaves who can tear white men apart with their bare hands? It’s all here, in suitably gaudy purple-and-white.

Best Collected Edition Of Vintage WorkMarvel Masterworks : The Black Panther, Volume 2 By Jack Kirby (Marvel)

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In recent years, the awesome body of work produced by The King Of Comics during his second, late-’70s stint at Marvel has finally been given its due as the visionary output it so clearly was, but while books like Machine ManThe EternalsDevil Dinosaur and “Madbomb!”-era Captain America have now taken their rightful place among the rich pantheon of Kirby masterworks, Jack’s Black Panther run from that same period still doesn’t get anything like the love it deserves. Hopefully this handsome hardbound collection will finally start to clue readers in to what a magical and imaginative Wakanda Kirby created in this high-flying techno-fantasy epic.

It wasn’t all good news, though, and since we’re on the subject of T’Challa, we might as well segue into some of 2016’s lowlights —

Most Disappointing Series Of The Year #1 : Black Panther (Marvel)

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There’s no doubt that Ta-Nehisi Coates is a literary and journalistic genius, and his voice in this ugly new Trump-ian era is more necessary and urgent than ever. Unfortunately, he can’t write a comic to save his life, and his dour, humorless, self-absorbed, navel-gazing take on The Panther reads like a relic of the worst sort of over-wrought 1990s excesses. This is a genuinely lousy title, and it doesn’t help that neither of its usually-reliable artists, Brian Stelfreeze and Chris Sprouse, are delivering anything like their best work.

Most Disappointing Series Of The Year #2 : Batman (DC)

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Tom King giveth, and Tom King taketh away. We’ve already covered the great stuff he’s given readers in 2016, but he’s also taken one of the most consistently-good super-hero books and turned it into a massive fucking train wreck. Lots of people were jazzed when he was announced as Scott Snyder‘s replacement on the “main” Bat-book, but King has struggled to find a “voice” for Bruce Wayne either in or out of the cape and cowl, his two major storylines to date have featured ridiculous plots, and 13 issues in all we can really say is that he writes a pretty good Alfred. The illustration by David Finch on the first five-issue story arc was atrocious, and the only thing that saved this title from being dropped from my pull for the first time ever was when the magnificent Mikel Janin took over art chores with the second arc and delivered work of absolutely breathtaking scope and grandeur. Still, at this point, I have to say — when he goes, I go. And I think he’s gone after next issue. And yet, horseshit as this book has been, it’s nothing compared with our —

Worst Comic Of The Year : Dark Knight III : The Master Race (DC)

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Unmitigated garbage that plumbs new depths of hopelessness with every issue, Brian AzzarelloAndy Kubert and Klaus Janson (with nominal involvement from Frank Miller) are doing something here no one thought possible : making fans yearn for the days of The Dark Knight Strikes Again!  (which, admittedly, I’ve always liked, but no one else does). Also, they seem to be doing their level best to match that title’s glacial publication schedule. At this rate, we’re gonna wait three years to complete a story that’s been a total waste of time from the outset. This series is honestly starting to rival Before Watchmen  in the “artistically-bankrupt blatant cash-grab” category. I expected nothing from it, true — and yet somehow we’re getting even less than that.

I’m going to close on something of a high note for DC, though, if you can believe it, because they also get the award for —

Best Development Of 2016 DC’s Young Animal

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I’m still not sure what the hell a “pop-up imprint” is, but Gerard Way has one he can call his very own, and so far all four series released under this label’s auspices — Doom Patrol (as previously discussed), Shade, The Changing GirlCave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye and Mother Panic — have been not just good, but great. While at first DCYA sounded like little more than a stylistic heir to vintage-era Veritgo to my mind, in fact its aims seem to be much different, while admittedly utilizing a number of characters and concepts from that fan-favorite period. This is an imprint where anything both goes and can happen, and we’ve sorely needed that for waaaaayyy too long. In short, this is the most exciting thing either of the “Big Two” have done in — shit, as long as I can remember. Long may it continue.

So — What About The Year To Come?

By the sound of it there’s plenty to be excited about, from Warren Ellis spearheading the re-launch of WildStorm to the debuts of much-publicized new series from Image such as God Country and The Few, but my most-anticipated events of 2017 (at least as far we know now) would have to be —

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March 31st (seriously, guys?) is slated as the provisional release date for Providence #12, and to say that I can’t wait to find out how it all ends would be an understatement of criminal proportions. It would also be an equally-proportionate understatement to say that I’ll simply “miss” this series when it’s over. So, ya know, maybe take your time with that last issue, after all.

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The so-called second “season” of The Sheriff Of Babylon is due to hit sometime in the latter part of the year and, simple as the “teaser” image shown above was, it was still enough to get me excited. And finally —

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January sees the release of the first installment of Kamandi Challenge, a “round-robin” 12-part series from DC starring The Last Boy On Earth that features a different creative team on each issue trying to solve the cliffhangers left by the folks the month before, as well setting up new messes for the next bunch to get themselves out of. This is the first of what I hope to be many releases commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jack Kirby that we can look forward to over the next 12 months — in fact, DC has just also announced an omnibus hardcover reprinting of Kirby’s entire original Kamandi run, so let’s hope that 2017 really will be a vintage year for fans of The King.

Whew! Okay! We’re done for the year! Enjoy your holidays — or what remains of them — and we’ll see you back here in January, when we get to start the whole thing all over again!

 

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Like a lot of you, I’m still pretty well numb with shock over what the hell happened last Tuesday night — and if you’re not, read no further since what I’ve got to say will just piss you off. Will we survive this mess? Do we even deserve to if our country is this fucking stupid? Both are questions none of us can answer right now — but when I ride the train to and from work and see the abject terror on the faces of my fellow Minneapolitans who happen to be Hispanic or Muslim, I know this country has taken a turn for the darker, and it’s going to be up to those of us with a conscience to make sure that our friends, neighbors, and family members all feel both welcome and safe in this new, reactionary America. The angry white males are back in the driver’s seat — hopefully for the last time, given their shrinking numbers — and the threat to everyone who doesn’t fit into that narrow demographic is downright palpable. For my part, I refuse to get on board and quietly accept this repugnant new anti-intellectual, nativist, xenophobic vision of our country, and fortunately for those who are of a like mind, there’s plenty we can do in order to make our voices heard by lawful means, including — buying comic books?

Yup, while cartoonists from R. Crumb to Garry Trudeau have skewered our president-elect (I still throw up in my mouth a little bit every time I have to say or type that) quite righteously over the years, there are plenty of funnybooks on the stands right now that, while not taking Trump on explicitly or specifically, vigorously repudiate the man and everything he stands for, so here’s a sampling of five current titles (note this is NOT intended as a “top five” list, as these are all fine reads) to help remind you that there is another, better US of A hidden within the one we currently see playing itself out before our eyes (and, crucially, it’s a LARGER one, given that the orange-hued blob of flatulent fascism actually LOST the popular vote) and that one day — hopefully very soon — the values of optimism, inclusion, tolerance, and (not to be too grandiose) love will win out over the petty fears and prejudices of a dwindling and ill-informed political minority.

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5. Bitch Planet (Image) – Let’s not kid ourselves : our soon-to-be president is an unrepentant sexist and misogynist of the lowest, most reprehensible sort, and his supreme court nominees are certain to do major damage to women’s rights. So thank the goddess that we’ve got the most stridently feminist comic series of all time going right now courtesy of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro. This grindhouse-flavored book does women in prison with a sci-fi twist, and just as important as its all-inclusive cast (women of color, trans women, and even men play active roles in the proceedings) and politically-charged story is its superb backmatter, which is a gathering place for feminist thought and discussion every issue. I can only imagine the positive impact these (accurately) self-described “community pages” will have on an increasingly-marginalized-and-objectified female readership in the face of the forthcoming all-out assault on their very humanity courtesy of President “Grab ‘Em By The Pussy.” Bitch Planet was always challenging and enlightening reading — now it’s flat-out necessary reading.

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4. Ms. Marvel (Marvel) – The best way to fight back against Islamophobic bigotry? Show that Muslim Americans are people just like anyone else, of course. G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel (currently illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa) has been bridging divides since she first came on the scene in 2014, and now Kamala Khan has graduated to the level of a genuine pop-culture phenomenon.  Is there a place for her in Trump’s less-than-brave new world? You bet there is, as long as as we keep supporting this fine series. Positive representation of our Islamic brothers and sisters is downright crucial now, and fortunately for us, it’s already happening in the pages of this book. One word of warning, though — Marvel head honcho Ike Perlmutter was a major Trump supporter and financier, so you may want to take that into consideration before deciding to put money in his pocket.

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3. Shade, The Changing Girl (DC/Young Animal) – This might seem a surprising choice since it’s in no way a political comic, but so far Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone’s series has been a terrific look into the mind of a true outsider — outsider as in, an other-dimensional alien in a teenage girl’s body. And if there’s one thing history’s taught us about would-be authoritarian strongmen, it’s that they’re quick to marginalize and endanger anyone they consider “the other” — racial, sexual, ethnic, and religious minorities are usually at the top of the list of targets, but anyone who acts or even thinks differently is bound to be labeled a “freak,” “weirdo,” “subversive,” or even “traitor” in fairly short order. Shit, it wasn’t that long ago that anyone and everyone opposed to the Bush/Cheney war agenda was called “unpatriotic” and even “unamerican.” Multiply the nationalist zealotry and enforced conformity of those years by about a thousand and you’ll have some idea of how ugly it’s going to get for people opposed to Trump. “Safe spaces” for the culturally marginalized are going to be a real oasis in the years ahead — this comic definitely says “it’s okay to be different.”

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2. Love And Rockets (Fantagraphics) – Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your series populated with punks, queers, and strong Latinas got us through the Reagan years in one piece, and now you’re back just in time to do the same through an even more reactionary period in our history. Everything about this comic just makes me think the world’s gonna be okay.

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1. Renato Jones : The One % (Image) – One thing’s for sure : for all his phony-ass populist rhetoric, Trump’s a rich bastard, and he’s going to look out for himself and his pals first and foremost. If you thought the class war was hopelessly one-sided in favor of the wealthy before, wait until you see what the next few years bring. He’s already talking about lowering the top marginal income tax rates substantially and slashing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%. The so-called “1%” are going to feast on the rest of us under a Trump administration, but  Kaare Kyle Andrews and his eponymous hero, Renato Jones, know what to do about these sons-of-bitches — take ’em out by any means necessary. When non-violent resistance simply doesn’t cut it for you anymore, this is your “go-to” comic. Renato’s already given one Trump stand-in a violent comeuppance, and right now is taking down another — while romancing a fictionalized Ivanka. Surreal, ultraviolent stuff with a strong social conscience.

So there you have it — all may seem lost right now, and who knows? Maybe it is. But let’s not go down without a fight. And let’s not go down without our comics.

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I probably shouldn’t even try to review this, to be honest.

There’s such a thing, after all, as being too attached to something — and Love And Rockets, arguably the seminal independent comics series of all time,  has been part of my life since I first discovered it at age 12 and allowed brothers Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (heck, third brother Mario was even part of the mix back then) to expand my definition of what comics could both achieve and be well beyond my then-current preconceptions of the medium. And while there have been times when my interest in it has ebbed and flowed, it’s always been there. From its first magazine incarnation to the “solo” series that followed in its wake to its second iteration in standard comic-book format to its most recent version as a series of annual (or thereabouts) graphic novels (all published, as they have been since the beginning, by Fantagraphics Books), I’ve grown up — and now find myself growing old(er) — with Maggie, Hopey, Luba, Fritz, and the rest of this series’ heartbreakingly human cast of characters. But in recent years, something hasn’t felt quite right.

It’s not the stories or art, don’t get me wrong — while I can’t imagine that readership for the graphic novels is anywhere near as large as the series used to enjoy as a periodical, those who haven’t been following it of late have missed out on some of the best stories Gilbert and Jaime have ever produced. It wasn’t until the announcement was made a few months ago that the upcoming fourth volume of Love And Rockets would see it return to its original magazine format, though, that I realized what had been missing, and while it’s tempting to say that this switch is more an appeal to nostalgia than anything else, in truth I think there’s something more — something greater — going on here. It feels like the time is right for all of these characters to come home.

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Not that they really can, of course. Or, perhaps paradoxically, that they ever even left. One of the great things about what Los Bros. have done over the nearly 35-year span of this series is that they’ve allowed each and every member of their now-sprawling casts to change, evolve, and essentially lead real lives. They may age more slowly than you and I, sure, but they’re not frozen in time by any means, and it’s been fascinating to see how they all fall into patterns of behavior most of us can recognize and relate to, then occasionally break or find themselves thrust out of them by choice or circumstance, only to (usually) drift back into them with ever-increasing knowledge of exactly what they’re doing each time it happens. And seriously — would you have it any other way? I mean, the whole Maggie/Hopey “thing” will probably never be resolved — but who the hell wants to see them part company for more than a short while, anyway?

At some point in life we start to value the comforts of the familiar, it’s true, but that needn’t necessarily mean that creative stagnation has to set in for Gilbert and Jaime. It just means that this next phase in both of their respective narratives seems to be arcing toward a sort of return to roots, a new look at what’s made their work so singular and special from the outset from a new, more mature, more settled perspective. And if that prediction holds true, than the return to a magazine format will make sense not only from a commercial perspective, but from a creative one, as well.

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Some of that may be wishful thinking on my part, I suppose, but these guys haven’t let me down yet. And while it’s more than fair to say that the first issue of the “new” Love And Rockets isn’t without its flaws — Jaime’s opening strip is strangely flat, emotionally speaking, and in truth neither brother does much in order to acclimate potential new readers to their surroundings — it’s just as true to say that this all somehow feels inherently “right” in ways that a simple format switch alone can’t explain. Aging, one way or another, is the unifying thematic thread throughout the stories presented here (except for Jaime’s surreal sci-fi tale at the end — don’t ask me what that one’s about, but I still loved it), and while it may sound wretchedly pretentious to say it like this, one gets the distinct impression that, after wandering off and exploring other options, Love And Rockets is ready to be a magazine again.

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I hope a lot of readers that have drifted away from it are ready to come back, too. This issue is one of those things that has the very real potential to bring folks back into comic book stores who haven’t been there in a long time. Certainly sales at my LCS were brisk — there were only four copies left by the time I got there around 2:00 in the afternoon last Wednesday, so that’s a good sign. And who knows? If going back to the oversized periodical works for Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, maybe folks like Dan Clowes and Peter Bagge might find themselves tempted to do the same?

Okay, no “that may be be —” disclaimer required this time : I know that’s wishful thinking on my part. But what the hell? I already feel a good 20 years younger thanks to this comic. What harm can come from allowing myself to dream again? And if there’s one thing that Love And Rockets #1 proves above all else it’s that dreams, at least occasionally, do come true.