Welcome, then, to the Panel Discussion Dozen, a round-up of comics that will enrich your sequential art enjoyment. It's more like 3/4 of a dozen this week but there's great stuff coming out tomorrow. Chime in with what you think everybody needs to be reading in the comments below.
The Shade #7
What's the most attractive thing about the series featuring DC Comics' rougish, shadow-sustained hero? It's the way that James Robinson's gives you an expansive sense of the immortal lead character's life. Sure, there's an uber-plot about family and nature-vs-nuture hovering each issue, but each new sequence delivers the sense that you're in the company of a man who's lived centuries and enjoyed all of it. Good show.
Grant Morrison takes a goofy concept from 1950s Batman lore—masked crimefighters from different countries modeling themselves after the Dark Knight—and makes it into a sublime travelogue. This collection puts the first nine episodes of the storyline into one place. Morrison mixes trippy conspiracy threads and gruesome violence with just enough self-aware camp to make Batman Inc. an utterly unique must-read.
America's Got Powers #1
One of comics' best visual stylists teams up with British talk show host for this creator-owned series about a reality show where super-powered teens compete against each other for glory. With work like The Authority and The Ultimates behind him, Bryan Hitch has shown that he's a master at creating amodern superhero aesthetic. And Ross has been a savvy commentator on the sidelines of comics, so it'll be interesting to see how his media sensibilities shape this new series.
The first issue of Saga entranced me like very little else has these past few years. We're only getting a taste of the tapestry that Brian K. Vaughn's weaving, but it already feels incredibly dense and organic. War-weary robot rulers, magical counter-culture rebels and a whole social structure architected around and in-between the two bear down on a newly-wed couple that's just given birth to a daughter. Despite all the horned heads and android antagonists, Saga feels more human than anything else on the shelves.
Jonathan Hickman's on a ridiculously good tear right now. His mainstream comics work for Marvel has revitalized the publisher's Ultimate Universe and his creator-owned work at Image etches out inventively paranoid speculative fiction with smart, geopolitical twists. Secret is the latest from the latter category and looks to be a twisty, hardcore look at spycraft and how messed it could really get. Pay attention to this one.
Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky
Just when it seems like Marvel's too busy pushing forward into movies, TV shows and video games to pay attention to its publishing past, out comes a fondly remembered gem of a graphic novel. Hooky falls under the category of work that I thought would never be reprinted. It's Spider-Man's first graphic novel and the fantasy adventure that the web-slinger goes on departs from the street crime norm that's Peter Parker's usual milieu. Legendary artist Bernie Wrightson makes the whole thing look astounding, too.
This Spidey title pairs up the wall-crawler with a new partner every issue and this issue kicks off the three-part Omega Effect crossover with the Punisher and Daredevil. These Manhattan-based crimefighters all have violent history together, having traded blows and gunshots over their long careers. All their titles are enjoying really strong writing now so I'm intrigued to see where this winds up.
Secret Service #1
Years after I enjoyed Wanted and his run on the Authority, I've grown extremely weary of Millar's bluster-heavy, all-high-concept, no-conceptual-buildout movie pitches on paper. But, despite myself, I still show up for the first issues of his new projects. I'm hoping that this one exceeds the shallow depth of Nemesis and Superior, though. Chances are that it might given that Dave Gibbons—one-half of the legendary team behind the classic Watchmen—is an excellent scripter and plotter in his own right, along with being a great artist.
Courtney Crumrin And The Night Things HC Special Edition
The gorgeous creepy-cute cult comics series by Ted Naifeh's been out of print way too long, making this hardcover a welcome arrival. It's like Edward Gorey and Joss Whedon collaborated on a new not-for-kids horror tale.