The more we look at the past, the more it feels like we’re just staring in the mirror. In partnership with our friends at Phoenix Comics (where all these titles are available to pick up), we’ve rounded up some of the week’s best new comic book releases, most of which harken back to the past in some unexpected way.
I’ve been simmering in nostalgia a lot lately, not only after reviewing a bunch of '80s tributes last week but also because I’m working on a separate project about The Addams Family. And a phenomenon that I’ve noticed lately is that certain stories tend to come to us when we most need them: The Addamses, for example, tend to experience a rebirth whenever America faces disillusionment with traditional family structures. So what are we to make of this week’s comic releases, which feature melancholy fairy tales, true-crime tales of the abusive rich, and the decadent filth of 1970s Los Angeles? Well, if I had to guess, it’s that we’re experiencing a bit of collective malaise, something that has never ever happened in our nation’s history.
What an absolute unmitigated pleasure it is to recommend such a wonderful book. Trung Lê Nguyễn has created a real spellbinder of a must-read with The Magic Fish, which tells the story of a kid named Tiến who struggles to find the words with which to come out to his family. Complicating his dilemma is the cultural baggage around being a son of immigrants, along with linguistic barriers and the trauma of being disconnected from your past, both as a child and as a parent. Rather than speak directly about difficult topics, Tiến and his family communicate through the telling of fairy tales, Darmok-and-Jaladding each other to share truths that they aren’t ready to speak out loud. This book isn’t just a loving tribute to immigrant families, queer stories, and to the past (though it is all those things); it’s a tribute to the power of story and myth to connect us on levels deeper than we knew we possessed. I’ll never forgive you if you don’t read this book.
A fascinating true-crime tale of murderous maids and revenge on the cruel rich, Katie Skelly’s new book is the definition of a page-turner. It is 1933, and sisters Christine and Lea are employed by the miserly Lancelin family, who are rich and therefore terribly cruel (not like rich people today). Little do their employers know that the sisters have a traumatic past and unsettling secrets. As the Papin family engages in petty drama, abusing their two maids, Christine and Lea lose their grip on reality until the situation descends into true horror. Based on an absolutely horrifying true story, the book’s class critique has hints of the movie Parasite, but with an adorable 1930s-style that only serves to heighten the sense of doom overshadowing the tale. I generally find true-crime stories prurient and exploitative, but rather than salaciously over-lingering on the suffering of others, the book instead poses uncomfortable and important questions about the gender, sex, and the excesses of wealth.
A gleeful grindhouse bloodbath, Dracula, Motherfucker! is intense nostalgic fun that is not for the squeamish but will send frissons of joy through the undead hearts of anyone who loves the campy gore of '70s vampire trashfilm. The Dracula story is transposed from Transylvania to Los Angeles, 1974, and bloody mayhem ensues. The art style perfectly evokes Hammer Horror, as well as the dork-gothic aesthetic of movies like Incense for the Damned, The Vampire Lovers, and even a touch of the slightly more suave The Hunger. And the monster himself, while depicted as something far more horrifying than a suave European count, retains a touch of erotic excitement with his unyielding hunger for bodily fluids and his unsettling brides. Los Angeles of the 1970s was a filthy, seedy cesspool (not like Los Angeles today) and it’s a magnificent setting for a monster chase, a whodunnit, and buckets of beautifully vibrant red.
Blend a little Fallout with some Kipo and a touch of The Walking Dead, and you’ll get this lush story of two post-apocalyptic siblings struggling to find safety amidst the ruins of humanity. Though the main characters are children, be careful when handing this book to the youngsters in your life: Not only is there startling violence, but the premise rests on existential horrors that may keep young readers up at night. For that matter, it is likely to have the same effect on adults. Humanity has been almost entirely destroyed due to our hubris (not like humanity today), and those who are left behind have only five days to escape a cataclysm that will wipe out the remaining survivors. Two children race against time and monsters to reach safety, but even if they reach their destination in time, only one of them can be saved.
It’s a great week for new releases, and in addition to these picks there are a handful of additional books you might want to pick up: The first is Commanders in Crisis, a fascinating fresh take on superhero books, launching a whole new suite of characters along with a surprisingly optimistic tone for an Image book. The second is a new Killjoys story from Gerard Way and Shaun Simon, sure to delight teen readers who feel as though they’re just not like the other kids.
There are also two Watchmen products that fans may find tempting: The first is Doomsday Clock, a sorta-sequel to Watchmen that connects to other DC stories. The second is Rorsach, a spinoff that I cannot for the life of me imagine anyone was asking for. These continuations of Alan Moore’s vital original work aren’t necessarily bad, but the end of the original is so satisfying that I’m not sure that additional material will bring you any further joys that you haven’t already experienced.