A fantastic week for comics! I’m delighted to bring two new series to your attention, that are both incredibly creative and different, and highlight one of the best stories running in comics today! This week is unusually rated M for Mature – these are not comics to loan your 10 year old niece! But quality is quality.
Science Fiction in comics is a weird thing. Comics are a medium where the only limit is imagination, and should be a natural fit for science fiction stories. But the history is spotty at best. DC tried to make a sci-fi equivalent line to match Vertigo for horror a while back, and it gave us Transmetropolitan… and nothing else of note, and folded very quickly. We’ve been waiting for that transcendent, mature sci-fi epic for a very long time. Saga is that comic we’ve been waiting for.
What makes it work at its heart is that, beneath the veneer of weird aliens and strange planets, is that it’s about character. Nobody is a one-dimensional caricature here. (Even the ten year old former sex-slave has just a wonderful page in this issue.) There aren’t really heroes and villains. Just foolish lovers, driven pursuers, and strangely moral bounty hunters.
There’s a brilliant sequence with Alana’s step-mother, who is a perky girl her own age, that she went to school with. She’s fairly clueless, and has no idea that Alana obviously joined the military to get away from the creepiness of her father marrying her classmate, but she’s also fiercely loyal to her family even so. It gives a huge insight into how Alana got so screwed up with her notions of love, which drives her into the plot of the story rather directly.
There’s just no reason not to give this comic a try. It’s fantastic. Don’t just take my word for it; Saga just won Best Writer, Best New Series, and Best Continuing series at the Eisners. This is like Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Picture at the Oscars. A big deal comic, the toast of 2013. Jump in!
Sex Criminals #1
Well, that’s certainly an attention getting title, isn’t it? And this book is so not for kids. Matt Fraction, writer of the brilliant Hawkeye, has one of those premises at work here that makes you think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” And thankfully, he writes it better than I would’ve anyway.
This issue focuses on the history of Suzie. Sexual awakening is confusing for everyone, but even moreso when she discovers that when she orgasms, weird timey-wimey stuff happens and she ends up stepping out of time for a while. It’s actually a really poignant sequence as she tries to figure out if this is normal, and meets all the normal resistance that kids face when trying to learn about sex. One of the best written things I’ve ever seen about sex from the point of view of a middle-school kid.
Eventually she settles in as a librarian, and the quiet place after sex is just her secret place to reflect and be one with her thoughts. Until she meets John, and they’re both absolutely shocked that the other one is there with them. We don’t know John’s story yet (next issue?) but it turns out they both stop time after having sex.
So of course, and to fit the title, they become criminals! The perfect heist setup!
I’m not at all sure where this is going, and it’s a weird concept, but hey, the first issue is great. And it’s getting a lot of buzz. So check it out!
Rat Queens #1
Good fantasy comics happen more often than good science fiction, and a lot more often than good sex-heist spy capers, but every once in a while something with a really fresh voice and great twist comes along. I was very pleasantly surprised by Rat Queens.
The basic setup is, in a fantasy town (your general Waterdeep-ish metropolis), the rulers are getting tired of the adventurer gangs fighting amongst themselves. And so they gather them up, and give them Mandatory Quests to get back on the city’s good side. The gangs are all delightfully colorful, but most of the focus is on the all-female crew known as the Rat Queens.
They’re a colorful bunch. A classic Fighter/Mage/Thief/Cleric adventuring party, but without any stoic or angsty dudes along. The one that shines the most in the first issue is Betty, the halfling (sorry, smidgeon) thief, who has a foul mouth, a giant libido, and packs candy and magic mushrooms for lunch for their quest. (Hannah the mage, the party leader, has enough sense to say no drugs on the way /to/ the kobold killing quest.)
And there’s a plot, too. Someone’s trying to kill the gangs, including the Rat Queens, and they’re being sent into a series of death traps. So, that’s a thing.
This series just sparkles with personality. I’m not automatically sold on D&D romps with ultra-violence, but I love these girls. And the art is fantastic – this is someone who knows how female anatomy actually works. I find that a lot more sexy than gravity-defying megaboobs that are more commonplace in comics. I hope this series is a surprise hit, because it’s a delight.