Welcome to my Most Anticipated Comics for the Week of 2/17/2021. This is where I look at the books I am most excited to read that are coming out next week. A big week for books as a number of notable series are making major returns.
Now onto the countdown…
10. Excellence #10
Writer: Brandon Thomas
Artist: Khary Randolph
Publisher: Image Comics
Description: Spencer Dales: Agitator? As Raymond Dales is dragged into questioning by The Aegis, the only question on his mind: “What has my boy done now?”
Why it Made the List: You ever hear the saying, “They can’t miss you if you never leave?”. Well, that can be true for comics as well as Excellence makes its way to the shelves for the first time since August. This series has taken the idea of a secret magical world and places far more spirit and culture into it. A storying about living up to expectations. The trial and tribulations one must go through to become who they are. Khary Randolph’s art has been something to behold. He brings the world to life and finds creative ways to make magic have stakes. Magic is a tricky thing to get right. Trying to make rules that make sense and stay consistent can get in the way of character work. So far that has not happened as Spencer Dales among many others are proving to be complex and compelling characters.
9. Hollow Heart #1
Writer: Paul Allor
Artist: Paul Tucker
Publisher: Vault Comics
Description: EL used to be human. Now he’s a jumble of organs in a bio-suit. EL is also in tremendous pain and has been for a very long time. Hope arrives in the form of Mateo, a mechanice brought in to work on EL’s suit. Mateo sees LK in a way no one ever has. And what’s more: Mateo offers EL an escape. Hollow Heart reunites Tet creators Paul Allor and Paul Tucker for a queer monster love story about the choices we make between giving our loved one what they want and what we think they need.
Why it Made the List: A big reason I am anticipating this new series? I trust Vault as a publisher. Their hit and miss ratio is as good as any publisher. The concept also has a lot of promise. At the very least I doubt I will read anything quite like this anyplace else. Both creators have done some work I have admired in the past as well. Paul Allor helped make the Clue comic far better than anyone thought it would be, and Paul Tucker’s work for the series Nobody Is In Controls seems like it would fit in well with this idea. These seem like two creators on the precipice of bigger things a book like this could ignite.
8. Future State: Superman: Worlds of War #2
Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Becky Cloonan, Brandon Easton, Michael Conrad, Jeremy Adams
Artist: Mikel Janin, Siya Oum, Gleb Melnikov
Publisher: DC Comics
Description: Meet the rising champion of the gladiatorial pits of Warworld: Superman! The Man of Steel is still down in the pits duking it out with Mongul’s hordes and working his way up to the big boss himself. But since it’s Superman, there has to be more to this than a simple determination to win the title belt, right? Yes, because he’s also got Midnighter out there on a mission to chase down a dangerous new power source…but the man standing in his way is all too familiar. Plus, the Black Racer smashes her way to freedom, and Mister Miracle, now trapped on Warworld himself, has to find his way back to the bottle city of Metropolis—and his only mode of transportation is a busted Boom Tube!
Why it Made the List: In a way Future State: Superman: Worlds of War #1 was a prologue to the story that will really begin in this issue. With Superman gone we saw Earth mourn his absence as Smallville became a mecca of Superfans hoping to spread his good word. Now we are getting more of the man himself as he fights in gladiator games. Mikel Janin’s art fits naturally into this setting as his characters have this chiseled design as if they are living Greek gods. The additional stories have also been solid as well. Not surprising when you have creators like Becky Cloonan on writing duties.
7. The Immortal Hulk: Flatline #1
Writer/Artist: Declan Shalvey
Description: ONE CREATOR – ONE HULK – ONE SUPERSTAR STORY! Declan Shalvey writes and draws an IMMORTAL HULK tale that gets to the heart of gamma! Every morning, Bruce Banner wakes up in a new place. The Hulk is trying to tell him something — but Bruce has had enough of his green-veined alters. When a new gamma-powered villain shows up in a small New Mexico town, Bruce is forced to confront the source of his anger…and it’s not what you expect. Don’t miss an extraordinary tale from one of the industry’s top talents!
Why it Made the List: I could see why someone might dismiss this one shot. Using the Immortal Hulk name despite not having any of the main current creators attached can seem a bit cheap. However, the past one-shots proved to be quite good despite being in different hands. Declan Shalvey is an accomplished writer and artist so one would assume that streak will continue. His career speaks for himself so if Marvel gave him freedom to tell the story he wanted the way he wanted this should live up to the quality set by the main series. There seems to be this competition between these artists to see who can design the most deranged Hulk transformation sequence. So I wonder what Shalvey has up his sleeve.
6. Black Widow #5
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Elena Casagrande
Description: THE END IS ALSO THE BEGINNING… As Natasha finally begins to escape her paradise and takes aim on her enemies, she can’t ignore that her freedom comes at a devastating cost. Is this what finally breaks The BLACK WIDOW? Winning the day will change Natasha forever and set her on a bold new path. Losing…is no longer an option.
Why it Made the List: This appears to be the week where a lot of major titles finally return. Black Widow was a delight last year. Of course the year we were supposed to get a Black Widow movie we would get a new comic. Who knew it would be this good? Elena Casagrande could become a superstar after this series. Her fight sequences or both packed with creativity and fluid moment to moment. The last issue blew up major elements of the mystery and now we are getting to the fallout. Based on how the last issue ended that fallout could be emotionally devastating. Black Widow has seen her life destroyed and rebuilt only to be destroyed yet again. One worries for those who dared to wrong her.
5. The Picture of Everything Else #2
Writer: Dan Watters
Artist: Kishore Mohan
Description: Marcel has abandoned painting for the glamorous world of criticism. But a monster has returned to Paris with a Faustian offer he cannot refuse. Old wounds will be opened. New wounds will be formed with paintbrush and gun smoke.
Why it Made the List: When I mentioned with Hollow Heart #1 that I trust Vault comics it is because of series like The Picture of Everything Else. They have a tendency to make the type of challenging and thought-provoking books you may not see with other publishers. There are not many other publishers that would approve a comic continuing the legacy of Dorian Gray’s painting. Not the character of Dorian Gray but the person behind the notorious painting. It works as a piece of classic literature in the way it approaches the similitude between beauty and depravity.A murder mystery that is less about who is doing the killing but the why and how.
4. We Live #5
Writer: Roy Miranda
Artist: Inaki Miranda
Description: Extinction day hits humanity like a thunder of death. The countdown to extraction hits zero. The beacons activate and destiny speaks. Nothing will be like before. Not for Hototo. Not for Tala. Not for anyone.
Why it Made the List: What an emotional journey this series has been. The Picture of Everything Else is compelling because of the intricacies of its narrative where We Live is ultimately a rather simple story. Characters need to get from point a to point b in order to be saved. The stuff in-between is what has made it extremely compelling. Knowing this is the last issue I do hope we get a somewhat happy ending. Typically that would not matter to me but these characters deserve it. They have had everything you could imagine and then some thrown at them. I know the world of comics has been filled with post-apocalyptic stories. Few have the creativity of this series.
3. Thor #12
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Nic Klein
Description: DOCTORS FOSTER & BLAKE, READY YOUR SCALPELS! Once upon a time, Jane Foster and Donald Blake were more than friends. With Blake at her side, Jane could’ve shared the very throne of Asgard. Now…they are about to become the bitterest of enemies. And if Valkyrie falls, she’ll have lost more than a crown. All of the Ten Realms are at stake—not to mention the life of All-Father Thor!
Why it Made the List: Thor is currently neck and neck with Daredevil as Marvel’s best current series. Donny Cates and Nic Klein are playing with the mythos of Thor in some creative and fun ways. It started as this big bombastic tale but now has settled down to something more personal. We are now seeing a version of Donald Blake dedicated to the destruction of anyone who has held the mantle of Thor. Odd, and often odd works. The encounter teased at the end of the last issue is promising quite the showdown.
2. Barbalien: Red Planet #4
Writer: Jeff Lemire, Tate Brombal
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Publisher: Dark Horse
Description: Shapeshifting hero Barbalien has found happiness in the company of a young gay activist, but discrimination, his own split identity as a cop and vigilante, and the continued rampage of the martian bounty hunter Boa Boaz all threaten to unravel his life.
Why it Made the List: I have enjoyed all the Black Hammer mini-series but Barbalien: Red Planet has had the most emotional depth. Much of that is due to how it has been linked to real-world events like the 80’s Aids crisis. Barbalien as a character is constantly lost between worlds. From being an enemy of his home planet to finding rejection on Earth as well. An ultimate search for acceptance and the challenge of being true to yourself. Seeing him coming closer to self-actualization has been one of the more fulfilling reads thus far in 2021.
1, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #2.
Writer: Tom Waltz, Peter Laird, Kevin Eastman
Artist: Kevin Eastman, Esau Escorza, Isaac Escorza
Description: Secrets are revealed as we begin to discover what happened in the past to lead to this nightmarish future. The Ronin meets an unexpected new ally but the Foot Clan begins an exhaustive sweep of the Bottom to find the vengeful mutant. And what role does Baxter Stockman play? Secrets are revealed as we begin to discover what happened in the past to lead to this nightmarish future. The Ronin meets an unexpected new ally but the Foot Clan begins an exhaustive sweep of the Bottom to find the vengeful mutant. And what role does Baxter Stockman play?
Why it Made the List: There was no question this was going to be my most anticipated book of the week. We are finally getting issue two months after the first issue debuted. I had a lot of fun with issue one as we saw this Dark Knight Returns take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The plot may have been simplified, but the art brought a lot to the book. It was like like throwing a Ninja Turtle into the middle of The Raid. Now, where does it go? How did we get here? One would think some of those answers will be addressed now that we know who the Last Ronin’s identity. Or do we? Maybe we have been purposefully led astray. We shall see.
Other books I am excited about that did not make the list:
King in Black #4, Batman / Catwoman #3, Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land #1, Cable #8, Iron Man #6, Future State: Catwoman #2, Haha #2, Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #2, X-Men: Legends #1, American Ronin #5, Abbott 1973 #2, Shadow Doctor #1