Welcome to MTV Geek's New Comic Book Day Pull-List! Each week, we'll look at the best new releases hitting comic shops, and point you at the books you should be reading.
Art book? Autobiography? Graphic novel? Scrapbook? Process study? This book is all those things and more, which kind of makes it none of those things, but something else entirely. It's a visual representation of the interior of Sam Kieth's mind; a stream-of-consciousness trip through one man's lifetime of creativity; a huge, beautiful, well-constructed object to sit on a coffee table or nightstand, and be re-read and absorbed when I find a spare moment (and can cancel all engagements for a few hours while immersing myself in the pages).
And I love that this book is so unorthodox in style and form. Sam Kieth has always defied easy pigeonholing, producing a body of work that ranges from hyperactive 90s antihero comics to dreamy fairytale tableaus to incisive psychoanalysis, and sometimes mixes all those elements within a few panels of a single story. He was the artist who launched The Sandman with Neil Gaiman for DC, his grotesquely-muscled Wolverine and Punisher images made him a fan-favorite in the grim and gritty world of 90s comics, and his creator-owned The Maxx series was an early bestseller for Image Comics (and spawned a cult-classic animated series on MTV). He's done lots of things, some of which I don't care for, most of which I adore, and a few of which manage to use non sequitur and innate weirdness to connect with me on an almost subconscious level. So wrapping his artistic retrospective in this style of dream-logic makes perfect nonsensical sense, and makes it perfectly of a piece with the rest of his creations. This is a bizarre and rewarding hybrid of fact and freak-out and fantasy, a strange and wondrous look inside an artist's life, work, and imagination.
Vertigo's latest launch is a head-twisting explosion of science fiction psychedelics, the story of a near-future world where the laws of physics are given to spontaneously failing, and an entire government agency (the Federal Bureau of Physics, or FBP, for short) have been created to deal with the fallout. Simon Oliver's writing is razor-sharp and shot through with wild-eyed absurdity, Robbi Rodriguez's art is fluid and hyper-kinetic, and Rico Renzi's adrenalized color designs push the whole production over the top and straight toward the heavens – this is a comic with manic energy to spare, and a high-concept premise that gives room to expand into even wilder directions.
This issue concludes 'The Enemy Within', the crossover story that brought together this title and Avengers Assemble over the last few months, and does so with plenty of all-out action and a good old-fashioned emotional punch to the gut. Kelly Sue DeConnick has made Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel into one of Marvel's top characters over the last year, telling tales of hardship, friendship, and triumph over adversity – and here, along with artists Scott Hepburn and Gerardo Sandoval, she reaches even deeper, and creates a story that has all the superpowered trappings one could ever wish for, yet also deals with innate issues of heroism and humanity.
This special edition reprints last month's Batman #21, but does so in a unique and really appealing way: the art for both the lead and back-up features are reproduced directly from the original pencils (complete with the blue-line borders), with the text balloons, sound effects, and caption boxes overlaid – so the story can be read like a regular comic, yet it gives comic art nerds (like myself) an awesome glimpse behind-the-scenes, and a chance to marvel at Greg Capullo and Rafael Albuquerque's beautiful un-inked work. As a bonus feature, Scott Snyder's original scripts for both stories are reproduced in the back, giving even more insight into the creative process. I loved this issue when I read it the first time around, and now that I can study it in greater detail, I love it even more.
This issue does many things at once: it's a full-on spacefaring soap opera, it continues establishing the Guardians' place in the hierarchy of the Marvel Universe, it drops the newly-Marvelized character of Angela into the middle of the action, it drops foreboding hints about the world-shaking fallout from the recently Age Of Ultron event, and it feeds directly into the upcoming Infinity mega-crossover. And, most importantly, it's a hugely enjoyable read – Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli are an absurdly skilled team, and they fit wonderfully together on this title.
I'm a sucker for classic Marvel Comics, and so I clearly couldn't resist Black Bolt: Something Inhuman This Way Comes when I saw it on the stands – it's a triple-length comic, reprinting a handful of early-70s Black Bolt/Inhumans stories, which presumably provide some background for Marvel's upcoming Infinity and Inhumanity events (that feature Black Bolt as a major character). Tom Strong And The Planet Of Peril #1 is a invigorating dose of pulpy planet-hopping meta-textual fun. Uncanny X-Men #9 (by Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo) is a quick-moving blast, that showcases Dazzler in her new role as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and also contains some wonderful personal beats between Cyclops, Emma Frost, and some of the latest recruits to their team. And Archie #646 is a light-hearted sci-fi romp telling the story of a long-ago alien Archieverse, with a variant cover by Andrew Pepoy that's a note-perfect homage to Wally Wood's classic E.C. illustrations.