Last night I went for a run (ugh, it’s the worst, I hate running so much, but I can’t sleep if I don’t spend an hour running around like I’m being chased by an orchestra playing Flight of the Bumblebee) and wound up wandering into an open-air open mic comedy night and telling a few jokes, to my intense surprise.

I will tell the whole extremely weird story in another post later this week, but it reminded me what a bizarre and tense experience it is to stand at a mic before a live audience. I’ve been a livestreamer and YouTuber for many years (since 2008, dear God I’m an old man) but quarantimes have made live audiences fade into a messy memory-porridge. And although the entire experience was out-of-doors and the attendees were standing six feet apart (all five of them) it was nice to tell a few jokes and get a few laughs.

But that is not, alas, the experience of Pryor Brice, the main character of a new comic book about an undead comedian. Nor is a laid-back audience awaiting the hero of Kill a Man, a comic about a gay Extreme Fighting Championship hero. But surprising discoveries do await the trio of characters in Spell on Wheels, a new book about road-tripping witches. As always, a big thanks to Phoenix Comics for helping to pick out this week’s top comic book picks!


I’m pretty confident that I would recommend any Kate Leth book that comes out, even before discovering that Spell on Wheels is a monster-of-the-week road trip story starring three witches driving cross-country in a convertible to recover stolen magic artifacts (and learning a few lessons about friendship along the way, of course). Utterly addictive with charming characters and spellbinding supernatural adventure, this second volume oscillates between paranormal mysteries and interpersonal drama, a sort of Charmed-meets-Riverdale on the open road. Now’s a perfect time to get caught up on Volume #1 before you dive into the new book and find yourself absolutely engrossed.

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It’s the gay Extreme Fighting Championship story you never knew you needed. Look, I know approximately eight facts total about all sports, so I’m not exactly the target audience for a book set in the world of punchy-kicky. But the story of Kill a Man is engaging: A young fighter laments the death of his father, who was killed years ago in the ring after hurling homophobic insults at his opponent. Now all grown up, James is coming to terms with his own sexuality, and an unexpected outing leads him to seek out the man who killed his dad all those years ago. I’ve seen more than enough coming-out stories involving Drama Clubs, thank you, and while I appreciate that particular milieu it’s nice to freshen things up with a world I know nothing about. Add the beautiful tone-on-tone color schemes and the evocative linework that’s easy on the eyes and we’ve got a sporty book that I am absolutely shocked to consider a page-turner.


“But coroner,” the specter above the corpse moans, “I am Pagliacci!” I can’t imagine what inspired the gimmick of Knock ‘em Dead, a new series about an undead stand-up comic, but the story gets off to a promising start with Issue #1 this week. Pryor Brice is an aspiring comedian, a self-described comic; in life, every time he got up on stage to do a set he would die—first metaphorically, then in a more literal sense, which I don’t think is a spoiler since it’s depicted on the cover of the book. In this moody first issue, we do all the standard first-issue stuff: Meet our hero, learn about his discontentment, discover his unhappy home life, etc etc etc. The reader knows that a life-changing (well, life-ending) event is approaching for Pryor, and although it seems unkind to wish death on anyone, I couldn’t help but think, “Hey, maybe this will stop him from making so many shitty decisions.” But knowing the grueling grinding life that comics seem inevitably to lead, I wouldn’t count on it.


Also exciting this week: A new installment of Lumberjanes, essentially an epilogue to the marvelous story. You absolutely must have this series in your life, and in the life of any and all tweens you may know. There’s a graphic novel adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five, which is not exactly the medium in which I think it thrives most, but hey if they can make a movie out of it I’m willing to give a picture book a shot. Also M.O.D.O.K. gets a new issue—he’s the ridiculous giant head that floats around issuing grave pronouncements like a goofy Skeletor—and this time he’s written by Patton Oswalt, which is worth at the very least a raised eyebrow and an interested “huh.” And goo lovers will be happy to hear that there’s a new Venom out this week—check out King in Black, but please wash your hands first.

Washington Ensemble Theatre presents amber, a sensory installation set in the disco era
In this 30-minute multimedia experience, lights & sounds guide groups as they explore a series of immersive spaces.