In case you haven’t heard, the planet’s falling apart, so how can anyone feel optimistic about the future? Somehow, someway, the heroes of various new comics out this week find a way to hope for the best in the face of terrible odds. 

Also of interest are Embrace Your Size, a lovely manga about body positivity. There’s a new Frank Miller book that offers a strong female lead and looks exactly as beautiful as one would expect (he’s the Sin City guy if you’re not familiar). I’m also tickled by Mysterium, a mystery comic with Clue vibes that is, secretly, a backstory and tutorial for a 2015 board game of the same name. I can’t take my eyes off the new Dr. Strange: Fall Sunrise, which blends beautiful psychedelia with Japanese-inspired art. Oni Press has a new roller derby adventure called Wild!, for something gorier I Hate This Place is now out in paperback, and there’s so much demand for The Gay Who Turns Kaiju that I wasn’t able to obtain a copy to read. And one more: Men I Trust, from Fantagraphics, is a colorful, scrawl-art style tale of sex work.

Thanks as always to Phoenix for picking out the week’s top releases!

Fear of a Red Planet

A book that starts off looking like an unremarkable sci-fi martian dystopia quickly takes a surprising swerve and becomes an engrossing space-Western whodunnit. It's 2070, and a messy mining colony ekes out a living on the frontier of Mars. As is standard in such tales, an evil corporation keeps the people bound in indentured slavery, but there’s a new sheriff in town. Well, technically, a marshal—a tough gun-toting enforcer named Carolina who works for the corporation but keeps the peace by keeping the colonists’ interests in mind. She’s an agent on the inside, with allegiance to none as she single-handedly holds an angry rebellion at bay. That job is about to become a lot more complicated as the workers’ fury at a petty micro-manager threatens to boil over. What’s more, there are hints that Carolina has a messy past that could complicate her position. The first few pages of the book are a bit of a turnoff, since they feel like a pale clone of stories we’ve seen before, and the art’s stinginess with close-ups makes it a challenge to feel close to the characters. But stick with it: By page seven we’ve mixed in a bit of Firefly and a taste of Once Upon a Time in the West. The heroes and villains have come into sharper focus, and the story’s hooks (and an intriguing mystery) are fully engaged.

Rating: 🚀🚀🚀🚀 (4/5)

Writer: Mark Sable. Art: Andrea Olimpieri. Lettering: Dave Sharpe. Alt covers: Paul Azaceta, Jeremy Haun, Nick Filardi. Logo design: Matt Kratzer. Backmatter design: Charles Pritchett. Editor: Christina Harrington.

Publisher: AfterShock.

Once upon a Time at the End of the World

One doesn’t encounter many post-apocalyptic love stories, which adds to the intrigue of this beautifully-drawn tale. Humanity has crumbled and scavengers roam the wastes of rotting cities. When one young woman stumbles into a booby-trapped high-rise, she meets a naive, lonely young man who has never left his enclave. Her snarling demeanor isn’t exactly the kind face he needs, but something about her calls to him. She, in turn, finds him helpless and tiresome, but isn’t this how all great screwball comedies start? Just when you think you know where this is heading, a startling jump in the final pages completely transforms the reader’s understanding of these two youngsters—and the ruined world that, one hopes, they are about to conquer together. Slow pacing in the middle of this issue holds the momentum back, and for a few unfortunate pages, it’s tempting to skip ahead. A little more character and a little less premise would not have gone amiss. Still, this is a cool, exciting world and the characters could not offer more of a clash if they tried, so I’m definitely reserving time to read the next issue.

Rating: 🐙🐙🐙🐙(4/5)

Writer: Jason Aaron. Illustrator: Alexandre Tefenkgi. Colors: Lee Loughridge. Additional art: Nick Dragotta, Rico Renzi. Lettering: AndWorld Design. Logo design: Jared K. Fletcher. Designer: Madison Goyette. Editor: Allyson Gronowitz. Executive editor: Sierra Hahn. Alt covers: Mike Del Mundo, Jenny Frison, Junggeun Yoon, Naomi Franquiz.

Publisher: Boom! Studios.

Lucky Penny

First released in 2016, this award-winning graphic novel is back with a color edition that’s worth every penny. It’s the tale of unlucky-in-everything Penny Brighton, a post-high-school loser who can’t quite get her life together, but boasts an indomitable, chaotic spirit. She lives in a storage unit, steals showers from a nearby gym, and works at a laundromat where her boss is a 12-year-old… in short, she’s a mess. And yet, if she plays her cards right, love might beckon from around the corner. An absolutely charming delight of a book, every page is a winner with snappy writing and lovely exuberant art. Fans of Scott Pilgrim will be delighted by this (dare I say it) superior spiritual successor, suitable for readers in their teens through adulthood. Colorized re-releases are sometimes just a by-the-numbers money grab, but not in this case: the perfectly-chosen colors by Julia Hagerty bring a fabulous new verve to the story with wild bright palettes that heighten the adventure, chaos, and occasional smooch. Even if you already own the original edition, it’s worth springing for this new one. I wish every book could be just a fraction of as much fun as this.

Rating: 🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍 (5/5)

Writer: Ananth Hirsh. Illustrator: Yuko Ota. Colors: Julia Hagerty. Designer: Angie Knowles. Editors: James Lucas Jones, Jasmine Amiri.

Publisher: Oni Press.