So odd—there’s a TON of great comic books out this week, almost like there’s some kind of national event happening next week that no publisher in their right mind would want to compete with. I wonder what it could be?
Well, whatever’s going on on November 3, we’ve been blessed with a deluge of incredible comics this week. Unexpectedly, my favorite is a take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that actually manages to feel fresh—who knew there were unexplored angles left in that franchise? But we also have a fascinating dive into a giant-robot dystopia with a Miyazaki vibe, and a spellbinding (and true!) story of a Native American rock band. And that’s just the start! There’s more to gather up in your grubby little hands this week than I can remember seeing since the beginning of the pandemic, so if your local comics shop seems a bit more harried than usual, it’s because things are… dare I say it… starting to feel like they’re getting back to normal. Weird!
Read on for my top picks, selected in partnership with Phoenix Comics (where you can grab all the books mentioned herein)!
There’s nary a party dude in sight in the grimy new series The Last Ronin, chronicling a vengeful plot by the last surviving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. In a terrible dystopian future, New York is ruled by familiar forces of evil, the city drowning in pollution and depression. Now is the perfect time for this all-grown-up tale, which avoids easy nostalgia tropes and instead creates an intriguing new urban hellscape that feels a bit Blade Runner, a bit Gargoyles, and a bit Escape from New York. I generally roll my eyes whenever I hear that something will get a gritty reboot—does the world really need another edgy take on thirty-year-old cheese? But Issue #1 manages to avoid being mere ironic fanservice. This is a world conquered by villains, a story laced with equal parts anger and despair. It feels like a high school reunion where there’s a strange sort of relief to discover that absolutely everyone’s life has descended into chaos. (Demand for this book is high, but if stores are sold out, don’t worry—Nick at Phoenix says more are on the way.)
In the distant future, humanity lives inside the crumbling husks of giant robots that once battled each other and nearly destroyed the Earth. But while the premise is epic and huge, Giga's focus is far more intimate, spending time with hapless humans who struggle in the aftermath of what seems like a long-distant apocalypse. Such a creative setting could easily overshadow characters, but a fallen engineer named Evan is as rich as the book's premise, particularly when he and his companions stumble across a shocking murder mystery: Who killed God? One of Giga’s great strengths is its ability to vary its scale, careening from colossal Evangelion-sized robots to puny human squabbles like a camera framed on a person’s face before zooming into the mites on their eyelashes.
Luke Howard and Isabella Rotman have pulled off something unique with A Quick and Easy Guide to Consent—it’s an adorably illustrated guide to a foundational aspect of sex and relationships that feels neither preachy nor bland. This is the sex ed lesson that everyone’s teenage years should start with, and I’d urge high schools to buy copies for every incoming student. (Parents of younger kids might consider having a copy on hand as well, so you’re not unprepared when the time comes.) That’s not to say this book is only for the uninitiated. It makes no assumptions about the reader’s level of expertise as it light-heartedly unravels the implications of saying “yes.” It addresses a few topics that might stress out even the most seasoned of playmates, such as changing your mind mid-romp, describing previously hidden kinky interests, and how to use substances responsibly.
Do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with the amazing story of Redbone, a real-life rock band composed of Mexican-American and Native American artists. You may know their work from the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, where the song “Come and Get Your Love” helped form the story’s emotional heart. Behind that catchy tune is a band that sits at a pivotal place in American history, with adventures through LA’s music scene, collaborations with Jimi Hendrix, and some tough choices about honoring one’s heritage. Written in partnership with band co-founder Pat Vegas, the book provides a fascinating first-hand glimpse into a rock-star lifestyle unlike any other you've ever heard.
Okay, there are so many fantastic books this week that I’m going to have to squeeze in a bunch of quick-hits on some of them so that this roundup doesn’t wind up being twenty thousand words long. Feast your eyes on Monkey vs Robot: The Complete Epic by James Kolchalka, which gathers twenty (!) years of this beautiful indie comic with new color and a sometimes-brutal, sometimes-tender look at how technology and nature interact. I love everything Kolchalka touches and I can’t believe I’ve been enjoying this story for two decades, my God we're all old.
Also great is Measuring Up, a sweet story about a child of immigrants connecting with her family and making new friends through cooking; and Odessa, a thrilling story of people desperately seeking connection in the wake of a world-shattering earthquake. If you’re looking for something beautiful for your coffee table (or a gift for a nerd in your life), pick up the Dark Crystal Bestiary, a collection of sketches and lore that is beautiful enough to draw tears to your eyes; and also Magic: The Gathering Legends, a Visual History which is a treat for MTG fans but could maybe have stood to be printed two or three sizes larger.
One more thing: This week sees several Issue Twos of stories I glowingly reviewed last month. Now’s the time to grab the next installment of An Unkindness of Ravens, Department of Truth, Shang-Chi, and also Issue #6 of Tartarus, which picks up where the recently released paperback leaves off. WHEWWWWW.