Welcome back, comic fans (and the comic-curious)! Once again I sort through the massive pile of new comics every week, and pick my favorites to extol the virtues of, giving you a short-cut to buying things that are worth reading! A lot of good options this week, and I’m going to skip some that I talk about a lot in order to highlight some new stuff, but our first entry is just so good I can’t skip it.
Saga is one of the best things to happen to comics in a long time. Devastatingly creative, with very real characters in very alien circumstances. It’s unlikely to make a movie translation anytime soon without losing a great deal, as there are some very adult situations that come up, so enjoy it in this form.
This issue is lighter on action than most, which means there’s more room for character interactions. In particular, we get some delightful moments from Marko’s father. There’s a flashback scene where he teaches his son to ride a, well, giant flying grasshopper for the first time, that’s poignant and immediately familiar to anyone who’s been on either side of bicycle lessons. (Thanks, Mom!)
Another thing to like about this comic is that there are prices to be paid. We left our protagonists in dire straights last issue. They escape, which isn’t a surprise, but there are real, tear-jerking, long-term consequences for all involved.
The story is ultimately narrated by the daughter, who is still a newborn infant at this time. There are tantalizing hints about her future, but all we really know for sure is that she survives. Well, and admires her parents’ heroism. There’s no comic like this one, and nothing tops it on my most anticipated list every week.
Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search, part One
This is not technically a single issue comic, like I usually review here, but it’s definitely a new release, and I’m going to recommend it anyway. Nickelodeon and Dark Horse have been publishing a series of trade paperbacks like this that continue the Avatar cartoon series where it left off on TV. They’ve been very good, as good as the show, and well worth looking for. (And if you haven’t seen the TV series, but like asian-influenced fantasy, go get it. It’s up there with the best quality Anime, and the best American made TV show since Paul Dini’s Batman: The Animated Series.)
The previous series dealt with what was going on with the Fire Nation colonies in the historical Earth Kingdom (and they did not gloss over the implications of that), but this one is a more personal story. Zuko’s mother was notably absent from the series, and we start to learn why. A lot of time is spent in flashback, fleshing out the character of the reluctant bride, loyal Fire Nation subject, and ultimately caring mother, and the ties from her past that cause her to vanish.
Fire Lord Zuko (of course he is) uncovers some clues as to her current whereabouts, and assembles the team to help him, including his less than stable sister. We get to see Katara and Aang’s relationship at a more advanced stage here, see the delightful choice of Tylee after the series, and Appa take on someone his own size! Really good stuff. If you’re not done with Aang-era Avatar stories, this is your fix!
Batman Beyond Unlimited #14
Speaking of continuations of cartoons that have ended, this one goes a bit farther back! It’s a bit challenging to link to the digital version, as it’s being serialized in smaller chunks digitally and then later collected into floppy issues, but I buy the print version. The cover matches, so I think this is the same issue I’m going to talk about.
This is a landmark issue in the life of our future Batman, Terry McGinnis. Remember him? Young, a little reckless, aided by computer geek girl Max, dating a girl named Dana? Mentored by an older Bruce Wayne? It was a worthy successor to the 90s Batman cartoon I already mentioned above, and it continues in fine style here.
We just wrapped up a story arc that had the rise and fall of the new King of the Jokers, who was revealed as Dana’s miscreant brother. Bruce is in the hospital in bad shape, and Dana’s family is grieving in a very real way, facing the reality that their family member is not just troubled, but has killed a large number of people and is beyond redemption.
And then we get a very nice scene with Terry, Dana, and Bruce. And, in a raw emotional state, Dana admits that she’s known for some time that Terry is Batman. It’s a well written scene, one of the better secret identity reveals I’ve read (way better than Alfred letting her into the Batcave), and it’s going to change the status quo of these characters in interesting ways.
There’s also a couple of backup stories, one involving Superman in this era, and another with the new Flash. They’re both fine, but not the draw here. In some previous issues, the future Justice League is pretty neat, though.
So that’s it for this week! There’s some interesting properties continuing in comics these days, including Buffy (which I’m sure I’ll review one of these days), Jericho (the short-lived post-apocalyptic TV show), and Smallville, as well as the normal side stories of ongoing shows like Doctor Who, Adventure Time, and lots of others. Farscape also had some really good comics that took place after the TV show continuity ends. If they can maintain the same quality as the show, I’m a big fan of the idea of using comics to finish off, or add to, stories that ended too soon!