X-Men Black #1
Marvel Comics
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Dalibor Talijic

Cover for X-Men Black #1

Source: TFAW.com

Before the world of Marvel blazed with debate over Cyclops, the OG mutant rights villain was undoubtedly Magneto. At times simply misunderstood, at others, completely brutal, Magneto is one of the most compelling characters in all of comics, let alone Marvel. Marvel’s debut of villain one-shots with the X-Men Black title goes hard with the biggest X-antagonist of all. However, Chris Claremont’s story takes great pains to show the man behind the mask- his motivations and his aspirations. At the same time, in some stellar action shots from illustrator Dalibor Talijic, readers get a reminder of how far Magneto is willing to go to achieve his ends when he literally dusts two X-Men in a training simulation. With the safety protocols removed, naturally.

The story is a timely one, and while Magneto’s own story is culled from the pages of history, this particular tale is ripped from the front pages. It has a predictable arc and the moral of the story is one of acceptance, tolerance, and equality. The fact that this is the predominant quality in the X-Men canon doesn’t detract from the exploration of Magneto Claremont offers. Rather than a devious villain scheming to further an agenda, Magneto is portrayed as a simple but haunted man, pushed to great extremes by a dangerous and hateful world. Of special note is that Magneto goes in for non-lethal measures to secure his goals, while his human adversaries fantasize about much worse fates for mutant kind. This warmer treatment of the usually steely Magneto is surprising and touching, and well worth the read.

Dead Rabbit #1
Image Comics
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: John McCrea

Cover for Dead Rabbit #1

Source: TFAW.com

Gerry Duggan has delivered again. Analog, the breakout post-digital neo-noir spy yarn just dropped Vol. 1 in paperback, the same week Duggan gives us another masterful study in character creation. Dead Rabbit shows us the decidedly unglamorous life of the eponymous big-time thief long after retirement. While most people could manage to live comfortably off of several million dollars, our hero is stricken with hemorrhoids, working as a greeter at Wal-Mart and about to fall back into patterns of behavior he abandoned in the late 90s. Duggan brings his usual dry humor and packs it into the panels in just the right spots. It’s all locked in place with John McCrea’s dark and percussive illustration, keeping the pace tight.

The first issue brings forth loads of compelling questions, that help elevate Dead Rabbit as a concept, rather than a Rorschach-meets-Robin Hood bandit. With an ill wife, a mob boss out for revenge and what’s left of stolen millions and the entire city of Boston abuzz with the return of a criminal celebrity, Duggan has given us a broad stage that he’s sure to make full use of. If the continued success of Analog and this first salvo of Dead Rabbit is any indicator, Duggan’s got whole libraries waiting for eager readers. Aside from his previous work on Deadpool, Duggan’s notched two solid entries of his own in the anti-hero category. With Analog being adopted for live-action treatment, and Dead Rabbit off to a great start, Duggan’s stock is on the rise.

Death Orb #1
Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Ryan Ferrier
Artist: Alejandro Aragon

Cover for Death Orb #1

Source: TFAW.com

Cults, shadowy new-world orders and genetic experimentations are just a few of the things going on in the background of the world of Death Orb. That’s not to detract from Ryan Ferrier’s main story- that of a man on a mission to find and rescue his pregnant wife, but it does help provide a sense of scale of the world building Ferrier accomplishes in a few dozen pages. Readers are treated to a short and sweet bar-brawl (amidst the detritus of a previous brawl) in the first few pages, and then gloriously sprawling techno-wastelands as our protagonist sets off on his search.

Alejandro Aragon’s panels flip seamlessly between the behind-the-scenes intrigue and soaring landscapes and dank alleys, giving us a damaged, pre-apocalyptic Earth that’s reminiscent in places of Children of Men. It wouldn’t be dystopia without some elements of Mad Max tribalism or tricked-out police state officers, and Death Orb is a really beautiful book to read. Ferrier leaves us with more questions than answers about Rider, our protagonist, along with the Lords and the force behind it all, Father. While the central thread may be one man’s search for his wife, there’s a lot of territory to be explored before whatever the Death Orb is comes calling and ends it all.