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It was a great philosopher of the late 20th century who, pondering the rippling effects of one’s decisions, asked aloud, “Did I do that?”

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Okay actually it was Steve Urkel, but anything can be philosophy if you want it to be. What unintended, invisible effects do any of our actions have? I bought the last rotisserie chicken at QFC last week, which means someone else who was planning to get one had to adjust their dinner plans and, who knows, schlep out of their way to grab fast food, or toss together an unpleasant frozen meal that kept them up that night, or maybe steal their roommate’s pasta leading to yet another fight. I might’ve upended a stranger’s whole evening without ever crossing paths with them — did I do that?

Causality is at the heart of a new paperback out this week from Image, in which time-travelers wander forward and back through centuries in the hopes of untying hopelessly knotted strands of fate. Another dispenses with agency altogether, and presents a hero who just sort of plops into her circumstances without taking much action. And the third is about having good penmanship, which is a welcome break from constantly thinking about philosophy though I’m sure you could find an angle if you tried. Thanks as always to Phoenix for helping to sort through the week’s releases!

TIME BEFORE TIME VOLUME #1

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It’s the distant future, and the invention of time-travel machines means that it is also the distant past, and also right now, and maybe a couple years in either direction. The temporal loops and causality in this book are a little head-scratching, but the Austin Powers principle of not worrying about it too much and just enjoying yourself holds true. Two rival gangs of time-traveling smugglers are at war, leaping through centuries to scheme and attack and double-cross. One employee has had enough and plans to escape — but it’s hard to get away from your enemies when they can find you at literally any time. Gunfights, chases, car crashes, and tearful reunions ensue, accompanied by constantly shifting alliances that are a pleasure to predict. Though the pages are jammed with action, I found my mind lingering on its grim unfolding reality: While the world will drastically change from one century to the next, the one constant is that it will always be run by greedy, unfeeling oligarchs who prey upon the weak, and that every day’s worth of work only serves to put you deeper in debt to them.

Rating: 🕑🕑🕑🕑 (4/5)
Writers: Declan Shalvey, Rory McConville. Artist: Joe Palmer. Colorist: Chris O’Halloran. Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. Editor: Heather Antos. Designer: Sasha E Head. Cover: Declan Shalvey.

THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO COMIC BOOK LETTERING

Support The Stranger

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I’m not in the habit of reviewing technical manuals here but this book is so goddamn useful. This essential guide is precisely what the title promises, and much more: It’s several semesters’ worth of classes in graphic design, typography, Adobe products, communication, and storytelling crammed into 260 priceless pages. Maybe you don’t care about any of those things, in which case this book — like many comic books — isn’t for you. But if you are ever called upon, in any context, to “make words look nice,” well, just crack this open, flip to a random page, and start vacuuming up the inspiration. I’m particularly eager to try out some of the Illustrator tips, as I never really got the hang of paths and shapes and masks and whatnot. (There are also handy explanations of how hand-lettering is accomplished, in case the apocalypse has happened and you need to letter a comic book without electricity.) It’s essential reading for anyone who works in sequential art, but also a must-have for amateurs with the occasional need to pretty up a Keynote presentation, sticker design, or sign in the office kitchen asking everyone to wash their plates.
Rating: 🖊️🖊️🖊️🖊️🖊️ (5/5)
By Nate Piekos.


ANT ISSUE #1


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A quick note about this one: Due to a last-minute delay, Image asked shops not to sell this issue until next week.
The Ant character has her origins in the early 2000s, but the original series lacked the sort of guidelines that keep a train on the tracks, and it quickly became a bit of a tangled mess. This well-deserved reboot streamlines past lore without straying too far from the source, and serves as a launch for a superhero story about a young woman with ant-based powers and justifiable rage at the powerful men whose greed destroyed her family. There are also nipples, thanks to artwork that is particularly intrigued by the nude female form — or at least, how a woman might be shaped if her bones were creatively rearranged to produce a permanent thrust to the chest and hips. Our heroine is not exactly what you’d call active; her powers are thrust upon her by her father, and when she goes into hero-mode she seems to operate on a sort of insect-autopilot. And while I’m always happy to see a Black woman leading a series I can’t say there’s much to distinguish her passion for protecting “the innocent and weak” — yes ok sure that’s very nice but also sort of the baseline for a hero, right? At least she’s mastered the jacko pose.
Rating: 🐜🐜🐜 (3/5)
Story, art, and color: Erik Larsen. Flats: Mike Toris. Letters: Jack Morelli. Farm boy: Josh Eichhörn. Based on the work of Mario Gully.

ALSO: AN ELEPHANT FRIEND, A MURDER MYSTERY IN SPACE, and CATWOMAN’S COUTURE


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Definitely take a look at Far Sector Issue 1, which collects the first 12 issues of N.K. Jemisin’s sci-fi murder mystery and which I would absolutely have written more about this week if Marvel wasn’t so peculiar about review copies. You may also be pleased by Marshmallow and Jordan, a cute (thick!) book about an elephant that befriends a girl in a wheelchair. Nubia and the Amazons gets an issue-one this week, as does the grindhouse horror Fridge Full of Heads, an indigenous hero in Phoenix Song: Echo, and some particularly stunning costumes in Catwoman: Lonely City.