It’s Wednesday, and that means new comics. Let Deadshirt steer your wallet in the right direction with reviews (and preview pages) of titles out today from Image, Dark Horse, IDW, BOOM! Studios, Archie, MonkeyBrain, Oni, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Action Lab, and more!
Written by Marjorie Liu
Art by Sana Takeda
Lettered by Rus Wooton
There’s really nothing else like Monstress in American comics right now, from any standpoint. The level of artistry, the detail to the worldbuilding, the dark, luxurious tone to the story, all of it is unparalleled by anything else I’ve read in a long time. It’s a very special book.
One of my favorite parts of Monstress is that it never holds your hand in terms of relating the vast, complicated world it depicts. The world of the Human Federation and the Archanic Realms is steeped in a history of warfare that affects the story, but (short of a little bit of backmatter) there’s no character who sits someone down and gives a history lesson. Characters like the Cumean witch-nuns and concepts like the magical element lilium are introduced in passing conversation, and slowly readers piece together their understanding of the world. It’s a well-crafted example of a keyhole view of the story, where a symbol on someone’s robe or a name heard in passing slowly gains significance as the plot unfolds.
It’s also refreshing that Monstress has a cast that’s roughly 90-95% female, with a huge level of variety to the characters. Some elements of the universe are explicitly matriarchal in nature (the aforementioned witch-nuns, for example), but just as often minor characters like farmers or jailers just happen to be women. It’s not something you see in most comics, even those that vaunt their feminist creds, and it’s greatly appreciated. The sheer variety of body types and clothing styles is remarkable, from tiny anime-ish fox girls to hulking, silent inquisitrices in executioner-like robes, to the lead Maika, with her intricate outfits and prosthetic arm in flashbacks contrasting against her current rags as she flees the authorities.
In Monstress, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda have created a vast, sprawling world and are giving us a slow, measured tour of it. A monthly serial is probably the perfect way to do it, although I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t devour a sourcebook and backmatter. But it’s a very deliberate story with very deliberate beats and art, and it’s better for it.
(Click image to enlarge)
Brooklyn Animal Control #1 (one-shot)
Written by J.T. Petty
Art by Stephen Thompson
Colored by Len O’Grady
Lettered by Neil Uyetake
Brooklyn Animal Control is a very odd comic, not in terms of story, but in terms of presentation. Clocking in at about 50 pages, this $7.99 one shot feels like the first issue of an ongoing or mini. It’s a solid, if clunky, introduction to the book’s cast and sets up the kind of plots you’d see explored in a 70-issue Image creator-owned title. That it feels like a proof of concept more than a fully realized comic probably has something to do with the fact that a USA Network television adaptation of the title was announced before this one-shot even shipped. It’s definitely not a bad comic, but it’s kind of weird to see something like this from a major publisher.
So what is Brooklyn Animal Control? Basically Men in Black plus Homicide: Life on the Streets plus werewolves. That TeeFury-level of concept mash up doesn’t sound great on its own, but there’s honestly a lot to like about BAC: Petty’s script does a decent job of balancing high concept (a werewolf crime family with deep roots in the construction industry that’s about to erupt into civil war) with a very grounded cast. Brooklyn Animal Control is something of a social services for the werewolf community in addition to being a police force, which is a nice twist on the usual “supernatural cops” formula that’s been beaten to death. The cast of Brooklyn Animal Control is world-weary without being cloying about it. My major gripe is, as much as Petty trusts us to pick up context as he builds this world, he feels the need to throw in totally unnecessary exposition. A rolodex with a detective’s notes on his coworkers is a cute idea, but here it comes off as bludgeoning your readers over the head with backstory.
Thompson brings a lot to the table here art-wise, and his pages remind me of Jill Thompson’s work on Dark Horse’s criminally underrated animal horror comic Beasts of Burden. He’s a great fit on this kind of story, and the subway tunnel fight at the end of this issue really made me want to see this team go further with this story.
Basically, if you dig stuff like Gotham Central or Law & Order, Brooklyn Animal Control is going to be up your alley. You can pick it up from your local comic shop or, apparently, you can just wait until next year when it’ll be on your television for free. The Robert Kirkman age of comics is truly upon us.
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)
Written by Marguerite Bennett
Art by Ariela Kristantina
Color by Bryan Valenza
Letters by Troy Peteri
InSEXts is a chilling horror story that reminds you that we all have potential monsters inside of us—some are just more literal than others. Lady Bertram is a woman of high society who is married to a wretch of a man who abuses both her and the female servants of the household, including her chambermaid, Mariah. Unbeknownst to the house lord, however, the two women are in love, and concoct a rather devious plot to free themselves from the bonds of an evil man-of-society and also, for reasons too good to spoil here, give them a family of their own. The story that unfolds is Victorian erotica ripe with revenge and body horror and praying mantis politics. Suffice it to say, you’ve probably never read anything like it.
As the title clearly implies, there are some insectile themes scurrying through this comic, and just like when you find something creepy crawly in your shower drain, the undertones in the story can make you uneasy. Even the illustrations play with this discomfort by veiling faces in shadow and distorting mirrored reflections. Bryan Valenza’s color palette casts dim candlelight on the entire affair, nixing the bold primary colors so that even the red of blood (so much blood) is softened.
There is beauty, too, however. Ariela Kristantina’s gorgeous cover art looks like it belongs in the deck of Victorian era tarot cards. The lines in her interior illustrations feel wispy and chaotic at times, trailing off and invading other forms within a panel, but everything is still impeccably rendered. Faces and bodies are distinct from one another, even when they are entwined in love-making, as is the case with the leading ladies. The juxtaposition of erotically positioned, voluptuous female forms against some pretty sick body horror comes off as a life and death comparison, which is pretty interesting considering these women who create life are also about to take it all away.
I’ve been looking forward to this comic ever since I saw Marguerite Bennett announce it on Twitter. I love everything she’s done with Angela for Marvel, but I always enjoy seeing what writers do when they have full control of their work. InSEXts is deliciously grotesque and honestly one of the most risqué comics in my pull, and despite being a little bit frightened by Lady B. and Mariah, I’m also totally rooting for them. I’m predicting a time jump and plenty of carnage in the upcoming issues as these women leave a trail of bodies (probably headless) throughout London.
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)