1. Chrononauts (No. 3, May 2015, Image) – Mark Millar, Sean Gordon Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth
Mad Max meets Back to the Future, Mark Millar’s labor of love concerning “two best friends who can jump around between 16th-century Persia, the American Civil War, or New York in the ’20s” is quite easily the most frenetic and dizzyingly absurd source of summer fare in recent memory. Issue #3 in particular features one of the most riveting, time-lapsed car chases ever put on paper. If you’re at all new to the medium, you probably know him already from the movies: Millar co-created and assisted in the making of Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service. He’s an ideal ambassador to the world of contemporary comic books. Born and raised in Coatbridge Scotland, Millar discovered comics at the age of four with the seminal The Amazing Spider-Man #121 (1973), which featured the murder of Gwen Stacy. With the sudden dual deaths of his mother and father in his teenage years, Millar dropped out of Glasgow University to ultimately pursue his early love of comics after interviewing writer Grant Morrison for a fanzine. If you’re at all interested in breaking into the comics industry, you’ll most likely find Millar’s upfront and genial bedside manner inspiring. An excerpt from a recent masterclass interview with Mark Millar at Glasgow Caledonian University:
[The transition from working at Marvel to working on my own full-time] is a wonderful feeling and a scary feeling to give up security – especially when you work in the arts. . . . To get a ten year contract from Marvel was amazing, so to give that up was really hard. It was like getting the golden ticket, Charlie. And then opening your own chocolate factory. . . . It really was hard, but also at the same time I was hyper aware that every single person who has ever done this job before me has a shelf life and there’s nothing so special about any of us to where we can be working in the same company till we’re 90. . . . I was very, very aware of the people who created Captain America, Green Lantern, and so on – weren’t even at the premieres of those movies. And it’s not that big corporations are evil, it’s just that that’s how big corporations work: They have thousands of staff, sometimes tens of thousands of staff to pay for. And they have giant Manhattan offices and they have Los Angeles offices now. So to feed the beast [they’ll] pay a good wage – but they never give you ownership of it. It was always at the back of my mind that one day I’ll be one of the guys that they don’t hire anymore.
2. Ei8th (No. 4, May 2015, Dark Horse) – Rafael Albuquerque & Mike Johnson
Not unlike Millar’s Chrononauts, Albuquerque’s new sci-fi series about a time traveler who finds himself trapped in an extra-temporal limbo will simultaneously enthrall and beguile you in its Fury Road / Heavy Metal aesthetics. Issue #4 in particular will convert those who have been on the fence thus far as the menacing Lord Spear is revealed to be an ex-Nazi henchman. If a wideshot of tribesmen riding domesticated dinosaurs in a sparse Game of Thrones landscape is in your wheelhouse, you’ll want to pick up Albuquerque‘s newest venture into the unknown. If nothing else, it’ll give you a window into the imagination of one of the most important living comic artists working today.
3. The Infinity Gauntlet (No. 1, July 2015, Marvel) – Dustin Weaver & Gerry Duggan
Nothing quite marks the transition into summer like the Big Two’s big event series: DC’s Convergence and Marvel’s Secret Wars. The former just ended its limited two month run with its main plot contrivance involving Brainiac who collects cities (e.g., Gotham, Metropolis, etc) and their inhabitants from timelines that have ended (i.e., the pre-52 DC-verse). Similarly Marvel’s Secret Wars, which just started last month, uses the plot device of a mad near-godlike genius (i.e., Victor Von Doom) to rule over a patchwork of worlds that no longer exist. If you missed DC’s Convergence event, you didn’t miss much; the series was seemingly geared mostly for pre-52 DC fans and is quite likely why it never really drew me in. Marvel, on the other hand, is killing it. My favorite thus far is The Infinity Gauntlet. Don’t let the cover fool you: You don’t have to know anything about Infinity Gems or Thanos to enjoy this one. No prior assembly required: Enter an African American family in a barren, post-apocalyptic cityscape trying to find safety from giant, Starship Troopers-inspired insectoids.
4. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (No. 3, July 2015, Archie Comic) – Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Robert Hack
Quite easily the creepiest and moodiest horror title of the month of May. Even non-horror fans will appreciate the exacting way that Aguirre-Sacasa and Hack have paced and presented the story of Sabrina who has only till her sixteenth birthday, the night of the full lunar eclipse, to decide whether or not she wants to follow in her aunt’s witchy footsteps. Will she go through with the ritual sacrifice and join the coven to become the next hand-maiden to the Dark Lord? Or, will the sight of her boyfriend Harvey prevent her from going down the path of the Fallen and the Defiled? To be continued . . .
5. Ant-Man (No. 5, July 2015, Marvel) – Nick Spencer, Ramon Rosanas & Jordan Boyd
A meatloaf of a comic book, Nick Spencer’s new Ant-Man series has just about everything: humor, pathos, irreverent action sequences, etc, etc. Issue #5 is no exception: Be prepared to laugh out loud as Scott Lang relies on the help of a million of his tiny friends to take on the formidable Darren Cross, a “scumbag tech industrialist who killed homeless dudes and took their hearts to keep himself alive.” What has particularly won me over is the way that Spencer has been able to consistently pull at the reader’s heartstrings over five issues – all the while maintaining a level of pathos that is firmly rooted in the realities of the Marvel universe. An excerpt of Ant-Man’s monologue from the last few panels: “When she gets out of the hospital, it ought to be the start of a new life for her. / One without her screw-up of a dad putting her in danger. / I love you so much, Cassie. / You’re the best thing that ever happened to me. My reason for . . . well, everything. / But it’s like they always say – – sometimes, when you really love someone? The best thing you can do for them . . . / . . . is let them go.”