The New World #1 (of 5)
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Trad Moore, Heather Moore
While Image Comics tends to focus on short-run stories and characters with finite lifespans, they always seem to have something in the hopper. With the epic conclusion to Jeff Lemire’s Descender (featured in the 4-18 Pull) this week and the difficult news of a year-long intermission from Saga (after a brutal few issues leading to #54), we have the beginning of a new and equally compelling book from Ales Kot. The New World kicks off with a double-size debut issue for a truly impactful entrance. Ales Kot’s story uses a lot of common sci-fi props, along with notable aspects of Calexit and VS, but is grounded in the youthful appeal of its protagonists.
Trad Moore’s illustration and Heath Moore’s colors go a long way in taking this eye-popping book fair distance from some of the visual languages of dystopian science fiction. Many of the close-ups evoke the balance and form of stained glass windows…or propaganda posters. With a California republic ascendant in a post-Second Civil War and the US as we know it in tatters, the margins of The New World, both visual and literal, are packed with meaning, as well as a few in-jokes for the uber-nerds. Star-crossed lovers is a classic theme, and The New World promises a glam-inflected Left Coast tour-de-force of a familiar trope.
The Punisher #228
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Guiu Villanova
Frank Castle always punches well above his weight class. Despite numerous attempts to put him down, Frank’s bested them all, even the Avengers. The Punisher’s absolutist view of justice often lands him on the problematic side of things, and his recent dalliance with Hydra has him trying to make amends. Ever the chess master, Nick Fury uses this and a spare War Machine suit to his own advantage, sending the Punisher out for some dirty work. Fury somehow forgets, of course, that Frank can’t be leashed. Tony Stark is a man in touch with his own brand, and fresh from his coma, he’s not about to let a rogue Iron Man suit ruin that. A showdown between the two was inevitable.
Mathew Rosenberg, also responsible for the highly entertaining time-hopping detective tale in Multiple Man, gives us a clash of two philosophies in cold metal. Guiu Villanova’s illustration does not spare the fireworks, and it’s a truly kinetic issue. Frank Castle’s Achilles heel has always been a combination of being solitary (for the most part) and doggedly adhering to a seemingly mismatched set of ethics and honor codes. While he can and has held his own against all of the Avengers in the past, he eventually gets caught, generally after being outnumbered or simply worn down. Sometimes, he’s disarmed by an appeal to his inscrutable moral code. Whether his perception of the Avengers’ methods as half-measures is correct, it’s what keeps him alive to eventually escape and punish again. While this sometimes makes Punisher story arcs a sort of one-trick pony, it’s a damn good trick, and it often moves the larger Marvel Universe forward in ways no other character can.
Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation #5 (of 12)
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Daniel Bayliss
While not as galactic in size as Star Wars or as epic as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, Jim Henson’s contribution to the world of fantasy was and remains a touchstone for countless children of all ages. Though distinctly different, Dark Crystal and Labyrinth are clearly related, at least in thematic threads. While Dark Crystal is the brooding goth sister of the family, Labyrinth was the more outgoing and silly of the two, complete with song and dance. While David Bowie’s Goblin King Jareth had his menacing moments, he’s still the same tyrannical despot wizard that gave us “Dance Magic”.
Simon Spurrier’s Jareth origin tale is fresh and nostalgiac all at once. The cast of characters is just as wildly imaginative and heartwarming as the original band of misfits that assembled to help Sarah save her baby brother. There are no musical numbers, and Jareth’s predecessor is absolutely menacing, but the story mirrors parts of the arc of the original movie. The callback counterpoints to Coronation’s plot helps to foreshadow, but works on a number of levels, creating a tightly woven story that moves seamlessly between time, space and fond memories. Daniel Bayliss’ heavy ink carves the singular characters off the page, imparting each with a distinct presence in every panel. Sentient rosebushes, angry itinerant mosaics, and ruminating goblins all follow the blueprint laid out by Jim Henson without being derivative. The background illustration alone is ample evidence that the worlds Henson created were truly limitless. This 12-issue series is definitely worth getting into, for fans of Jim Henson new and old.
Any new books on your radar? What are you reading? Let us know in the comments!