Here we go staggering into 2021, a year that so far has been eighteen years long. Comics experienced a bit of a stumble this week, with some distribution issues that delayed deliveries to shops, but now all those problems seem to have been solved and everything is back to norbal.
As it happens, this was a slow week for trades (there’s some good stuff hitting shelves next week). But in the meantime, there’s some good all-ages reading coming from Boom Studios, a refreshed line from Marvel, and an intriguing two-month experiment starting over at DC. This week’s all about short, digestible reads that you can complete in the time it takes to slurp a bowl of ramen, which given how many distractions are tugging at our attention right now, is quite welcome.
As always, thanks to our Phoenix friends for helping to pick out this week's books!
THE LAST WITCH
I am delighted to encourage this absolutely lovely book into anyone and everyone’s hands — an all-ages magical adventure with just the right amount of sinister shadow. A young lady named Saorise finds her life intersecting with magical forces in a creepy winter forest, imperiling her family and sending her on a thrilling adventure with her brother. Be forewarned, though: Issue #1 is a bit slow, spending a little more time on introductions and setup than I’d have liked, and the adventure doesn’t seem likely to start until two or three issues in. But that’s no reason not to pick up the first book this week to whet your appetite. The art has an adorable charm and there are familiar fairy tale tropes scattered throughout like Easter eggs, and Saorise is the sort of fun plucky stubborn archetype that may remind readers of Dorothy Gale. I’m also a fan of the book’s use of Irish folklore, a genre for which Toronto-based author Conor McCreery clearly has plenty of affection.
Now’s the time to jump into Marvel’s new (kind of) Eternals series, featuring a whole new lineup of spandexy heroes and villains. Originally, the plan was for an Eternals movie to come out in November of 2020 — that’s been pushed to late 2021, but for whatever reason they kept the book’s original release schedule. And honestly, I think that’s a good thing; it gives you time to read up on the storyline and get to know the characters so you can be one of those “now the way this goes in the book is” know-it-alls when you go to see the movie.
The setup is simple enough: long long ago, a bunch of space gods called Celestials visited Earth and screwed around with the genetics of early life, Prometheus-style. They created Eternals (good guys) and Deviants (troublemakers). You don't need to know much more than that to dive into this week’s new Eternals #1, which introduces Eternal straightman Ikaris and whimsical Sprite, who bounce around New York and cause fun mayhem as a larger adventure lurks in the margins. It’s good fresh comic book fun that’ll get you excited about the next round of Marvel movies, as Disney completes its transition into the company that produces all entertainment media for the entire planet.
DC FUTURE STATE
Fun fact, there’s another major company that makes comical books. It’s called “DC,” which stands for “Did you also know about these Comics,” and this week they’re launching a very ambitious series entitled Future State that jump a few years forward for brand-new adventures in various futures. No prior knowledge is necessary, so this is a welcome starting point for anyone who’s been meaning to get into the whole Batman-Flash-Harley-etc ecosystem.
I like to tease DC because it tends to be the Margaret Dumont of comics — so serious, while jokier Marvel runs circles around them like a wisecracking Groucho Marx. But not every reader wants goofs, and if you favor gritty and grim stories over wry Whedonisms, Future State keeps that growl-voiced vibe going. I actively dislike the redesign for Batman that dresses him in cartoonish tactical gear like he’s an idiot trying to break into the U.S. Capitol; but the new world-weary Wonder Woman design intrigues me, and not just because her hair has been styled to look exactly like Claire Saffitz’s.
Future State will run for the next two months, and while I personally wish it had a bit more of a sense of humor about itself, it’s a great way to refresh decades-old characters who’ve suffered from cycles of staleness in the past.
ALSO: SANTA AND JARETH
Looking for more to read? Two more fun books you might consider this week: The New Adventures of Santa Claus, and the ongoing Labyrinth series. The Santa Claus book is a reprint of a 2018 work by Grant Morrison, sort of an Evil Dead take on the Santa Story, pulpy and dumb and fun, with evil robot snowmen. The Labyrinth series just released Issue #4, and it’s been doing a delightful job of capturing the baroque silliness of the original film.