If you're here in the Panel Discussion programming block, you might be a lapsed comics reader, trying to find a way back to the JLA Satellite. Or you might someone killing time until you pick up your weekly Wednesday pull list. Or maybe you've said goodbye to dozens of longboxes to embrace the promise of digital comics. Whichever it is, you're still interested in the good stuff.
Welcome, then, to the Panel Discussion Dozen, where I pick out twelve just-released or out-soon comics that I think are worth paying attention to. Ready? Then, let's meet the sequential art that'll be draining your wallet this week.
The Goon #39
Eric Powell's series about a freakishly strong, pug-ugly everyman trapped between the worlds of crime and horror has been an underappreciated gem for years now. There's been a mix of lowbrow hilarity, surprisingly gentle relationships and forebodingly criminal menace that have won the book a loyal following. But apparently that's enough as the book sees a superhero spoof makeover with this issue. Multicolored Goons? This should be good.
Mass Effect Homeworlds #1
Maybe you want more Mass Effect, even after all the controversy about the ending of BioWare's hit threequel. Each issue of this series will take readers into the backstories of a ME character, and this first issue will look into the past of beefcake soldier James Vega. We better find out who the hell taught Vega to play cards when the galaxy is going to hell. That guy needs a talking-to.
Star Wars Blood Ties: Boba Fett Is Dead #1
There's a classic heist-caper/crime-thriller set-up ingrained in this Star Wars story, which starts the story with the big feat already accomplished and repercussions beginning to reverberate through the lives of the crew who did it. In this case, the hired guns who offed Boba Fett start dying mysterious deaths while the son of a clone of Jango Fett finds himself embroiled in the aftermath. This sounds like it's going be a grittier-than-normal take on the Star Wars mythos and should be worth checking out.
I've liked the current storyline going on in Geoff Johns' reboot, which deals with the team of metahumans that the King of the Seven Seas belonged to before the Justice League. They're all a bunch of cultural outsiders which makes the bonds between them resonate differently than those between big-name superheroes. BUt their darker histories merge with Arthur Curry's own and lots of bad stuff happens as a result.
Gears of War #23
As Cliff Bleszinski himself said in last week's interview, the Gears of War comics have room to explore parts of the shooter series' fiction that the games can't. This issue explores the tensions between the Stranded and the Gears who try to maintain society after the Coalition of Ordered Governments falls apart.
A lost city. Mysterious, myth-born enemies. A desperate escape. Sure, you expect all those things in an Uncharted story. But this issue also promises that "Chloe has one more surprise for Drake!" I, for one, hope it's a button-down shirt. The untucked Henley thing is so two-games-ago, Drake.
Gotham Central, Vol. 4: Corrigan
This volume brings together issues from one of the best Batman series ever, made all the better for almost never having the Dark Knight in its pages. Gotham Central focuses on the Major Crimes Unit in Batman's hometown, showing how the stress of trying to solve crimes before a certain Caped Crusader does ratchets up the tension of an already tough job.
Gotham Central is a police drama in the vein of Hill Street Blues and Homicide TV shows where the detectives in Major Crimes hate Batman, but they still need him sometimes. In the stories collected here, a bunch of teenaged boys dressed up like Robin start showing up dead and superheroes start butting into the murder investigations. All in a day's work at Gotham Central, even if work sucks.
Black Orchid Deluxe Edition HC
Before he wrote The Sandman, won all sorts of literary awards and became a self-sustaining fiction ecosystem all unto himself, Neil Gaiman penned this wonderful, horror-inflected take on a second-string DC superheroine.
As the title character tries to find out why she was murdered and reborn as a plant elemental, she runs into characters like the Swamp Thing, Poison Ivy and Batman. The artwork here is by Dave McKean, who would go on to create the spectacular visual template for The Sandman with Gaiman. It's a great early work by a power duo that's been out of print for a while. Worth picking up.
I know what you're thinking: "Really, Evan? Popeye?!" Maybe I'm showing my age but reruns of the old Fleischer Bros. Popeye cartoons made me a big fan of the character. And the fact that it's Roger Langridge—who had great runs on The Mighty Thor and The Muppets—handling the writing chores means that this should be perceptive and funny.
Astonishing X-Men #49
I like Majorie Liu. She writes psychologically complicated superheroes. Astonishing X-Men has been a place for slightly divergent takes on the mutant mythos and, with a story focusing on Northstar, I'm hoping that Liu's talent for quirk shines through.
The Omega Effect crossover that's been happening between the Punisher, Spider-Man and Daredevil comics reminds me of a time when I actually liked team-ups and interwoven plotlines. The personalities of each crime-fighter are distinct and well-drawn, making the tension that rises when they work together more believable and enjoyable. There's a tug-of-war over what to do with a hard drive full of damaging information Daredevil has on major supervillain organizations. I'm guessing that whatever happens, it's going to be a great read.
Now that the big cosmic hoohah from the previous story arcs has died down, FF writer Jonathan Hickman seems to be giving us character-focused issues to balance out all the plot-heavy action of the last few months.
This episode has Spider-Man and the Human Torch—two characters who've always had a friendly rivalry—moving in together as roommates. Hickman's created a vibrant emotional landscape for the Fantastic Four books of late and he should have some fun with these two buddies in an Odd Couple arrangement.