I had a writing teacher in college whose favorite word was “disequilibrium.” (He also liked “stentorian,” but I am having trouble pegging that word to this article.) Like the best sex, the best stories involve some imbalance of power: Someone’s up, someone else is down; sometimes they trade; and it’s never quite clear how things will end.
Disequilibrium is particularly acute in this week’s comic book picks: In Junji Ito’s Remina, just released in English, an unlikely teenage celebrity finds the entire planet calling for her execution; in Post Americana, the end of the world sets up unsettling factions between the wealthy and a nation of cannibals; and Invisible Men is a spellbinding historical portrait of comic creators who were never given their due.
These titles come your way via our friends at Phoenix Comics — as always, do support your local comic shop!
A vital book for anyone who cares about the history of comics, and indeed the shaping of pop culture through the 20th century. This gorgeously researched and beautifully presented book chronicles the often-overlooked work of Black artists in the Golden Age of comics. Frequently hidden behind the scenes, these men helped shape the medium that led to the massive movie franchises of today — folks like E.C. Stoner, a descendant of one of the people enslaved by George Washington. The detailed research into their lives is accompanied by lovely full-page illustrations that are simply impossible to find anywhere else; their compilation here, along with full historical context, is an incredible treasure trove. Even the physical production of the book is exquisite — Invisible Men is a wonderfully dense volume that begs to be picked up and is impossible to put down.
What, am I not going to recommend a Junji Ito book? A master of horror, Ito has created some of the world’s most disturbing comics, and this new English translation of his 2005 book is outstanding. A killer planet has appeared at the edge of the solar system, and is making its way toward Earth. Humanity panics, and decides that they must kill the girl after whom the planet was named — Remina, the teenage daughter of the scientist that first spotted it. Horrors abound on the surfaces of both planets, both in the form of grotesque Lovecraftian phenomena and human cruelty to each other. Ito’s imagery here is among his most startlingly upsetting: crucifixion, tentacles and eyeballs, melting flesh — and behind it all, an indictment of the wealthy (who plan to abandon Earth to its fate) juxtaposed with the desperation of the poor. Life’s just not fair, and neither is death.
The world has ended again, ah geez what a nuisance. At this point, you may be wondering if there could possibly be anything new to say about the apocalypse — so many comics have tackled the topic, particularly in the last few years. Post Americana throws in a civil war twist: The wealthy have retreated to a bunker, and now they plan to march forth into the wasteland and crush the less fortunate beneath their heels. And by “less fortunate” I mean true ghouls; America is now populated by mutants and monsters and cannibals. The artwork is grotesque, with blood and organs splattering with gusto across every page; and the writing is about as far from subtle and nuanced as a book can be. Why am I recommending it, then? Because of its central heroine Carolyn, an absolutely fascinating warrior whose grit and bravery redeem what would otherwise be just another routine day after the end of the world.
A few more interesting titles this week: I’m not even sure what Solid Blood is, other than some kind of postmodern experiment. Issue #17 is out this week, which is actually the first issue — it just came out of nowhere in the middle of a story, bafflingly. The back cover bears an ad for something called Kickfight 9, coming in March, and I have no idea what that is either.
Also check out Issue 3 of Die, which is basically gothic Jumanji — adults revisiting a sinister magic game that they played as kids. Issue #2 of the excellent Barbalien is now out — an absolute must-read about a gay alien cop in the 1980s. And there’s a gorgeous reprint of X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, the story on which the original X-Men movies were based. And you might enjoy Reckless a vigilante-noir story from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
And for something a little more down to Earth, consider The Adoption, a sometimes-sweet, sometimes-heartbreaking story about an elderly man who unexpectedly becomes a grandparent.