1. SuperZero (No. 3, Feb 2016, AfterShock) – Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti & Rafael De Latorre
Quite easily the most entertaining new series in AfterShock Comics’ roster, Conner & Palmiotti’s coming-of-age narrative concerning an irrepressible teenage fangirl who wants nothing more than to become an actual superhero is ideal for anyone who’s wanting to gauge the temperature of our pop culture-oriented age of juvenescence. Especially endearing throughout the new series is the many hilarious ways that our young heroine attempts to gain superpowers (e.g., enlisting the help of a homeless veteran to mug her parents in an effort to parallel Batman’s origin, exposing herself to X-ray exposed ants à la how Peter Parker became Spiderman, etc). After many years of slogging it at Marvel & DC and not always working on the most forward-looking titles, Amanda Conner has really outdone herself in the way that SuperZero thus far has prioritized depth of character development over breadth of superhero pyrotechnics. An excerpt:
DRU: Hey, Carrie. What are the best comics featuring martial arts?
CARRIE: Well, I love Colleen Wing from Daughters of the Dragon, as well as anything featuring Master of Kung Fu or Iron Fist. Also, Elektra: Assassin and Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil with Elektra in it. That is some of the best stuff.
DRU: Agreed. I love that storyline. The others you suggested, can I get them in collected trade volumes? And how about comics that deal with supernatural stuff?
CARRIE: That’s more Zoe’s thing. I’ll rustle up the other titles for you and leave them at the counter. Zoe, can you help her out? She’s looking for comics with a supernatural theme.
ZOE: There are a lot. Do you want Marvel or DC?
DRU: I don’t buy comics by the company that makes them, that’s ridiculous. That’s like just going to see movies that are only put out by Paramount. Maybe books where beings are conjured into existence? I already have stuff like Spawn and Doctor Strange.
ZOE: Fine. How about Son of Satan . . . or even better, The Conjurer? It’s a mini-series that was banned in some countries for using actual ancient spells in the book. / It’s for adults.
2. Dark Knight III: The Master Race (No. 3, Apr 2016, DC) – Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello, Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson & Brad Anderson
If you were less than enthralled by director Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman, then you may just want to try Frank Miller’s continuation of his beloved 1986 mini-series The Dark Knight Returns. Peculiarly titled DKIII: The Master Race, the eight-issue run is Miller’s newest installment of the “elseworld” story that he so legendarily set in motion three decades ago. Quite obviously the best Batman title currently out on comic book stands, expect to see Wonder Woman and Supergirl as you’ve probably never seen them before.
3. Dreaming Eagles (No. 2, Jan 2016, AfterShock) – Garth Ennis, Simon Coleby & John Kalisz
Perhaps the most important title in AfterShock’s initial line-up, Ennis’ historical corrective to what it was really like for African American military pilots during WWII is certain to open your eyes and inspire awe – and even anger. Particularly affecting is how Ennis and Coleby portray the budding father and son relationship as the former fighter pilot finally decides to open up to his son and reveal the visceral details of flying against Nazi forces occupying Sicily and Italy. A truly admirable work of nonfiction fiction, Dreaming Eagles is ideal for anyone who simply wants to inhabit the mindset of a Tuskegee Airmen.
4. The Totally Awesome Hulk (No. 1, Feb 2016, Marvel) – Grek Pak, Frank Cho & Sonia Oback
If you’re anything like me and you’re always kind of on the lookout for more Korean American male protagonists in comics and pop culture in general – you’re in luck. Writer Greg Pak and artists Frank Cho & Sonia Oback have you covered. Four issues deep, The Totally Awesome Hulk does a hilarious job of introducing a new readership to Amadeus Cho (i.e., the new nineteen-year-old Hulk with a bottomless appetite for tempura double bacon cheeseburgers) and his sixteen-year-old sister Maddy. Beyond the spot-on overprotective sister-brother dynamic, what makes the new Marvel title particularly worthwhile are all of the cross-cultural nods that Pak & Cho reference (e.g., Maddy & Amadeus’ base of operations is a flying Korean BBQ food truck, Spiderman serves Kimchi ramen, etc).
If you’re not familiar with artist Frank Cho’s background, his is similar to artist Jim Lee’s in that Frank initially placated his non-English speaking parents by graduating with a degree in Nursing prior to his fully committing to drawing and writing for comic books. The great care and enthusiasm with which he has depicted Maddy and Amadeus is a testament to his dedication to the medium, especially during those lean frustrating years. The results are impressive: the character Amadeus is neither white-washed nor an Asian caricature. [a sigh of relief] There’s a particular charm and quirk to both Maddy and Amadeus that is part and parcel to their being Korean American. For this alone, artists Frank Cho & Sonia Oback have my admiration.
5. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (No. 4, Apr 2016, Marvel) – Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, Natacha Bustos & Tamra Bonvillain
A perfect read for any young person who can’t quite fit in at school, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur follows the night-time adventures of African American science geek Lunella as she faces the daily monotony of public school education in the Lower East Side. Long-time Marvel fans are certain to get a kick out of artist Natacha Bustos’ re-interpretation of Jack Kirby’s 70s T-Rex creation Devil Dinosaur. Particularly neat in this issue is the guest starring role of the Totally Awesome Hulk; writers Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare do a brilliant job of bringing the two high-spirited personalities to life as they go head to head in a battle of wits.