I know they’re still making Marvel movies and shows in yambut none of the new bits of superhero culture coming out of Disney these days seems to be able to capture that old thrill. Shang Chi was wonderful, but very much its own creature, as it was WandaVision. The less said about the poor Eternals the better. I can’t even remember how Captain America’s Two Boyfriends ended, and I still haven’t got around to watching the new Good Aim Guy series.
But Marvel (and, on a good day, DC) aren’t the only source of adventure in town, and there are some smashing thrills to be found in a new book set in a far-off future West Africa. New Masters was the recipient of a grant for new creators from Image Comics, and it’s a stunner — written by a kid who grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, it presents a vision of a future that presses every button of the finest action-adventure romps.
Thanks as always to Phoenix for helping to sort through this week’s new releases, and for the advice about fixing the binding on my worn copy of wheel of time (apply Gorilla Glue with a brush, then clamp and let dry for three days).
NEW MASTERS ISSUE #1
One of the most exciting issue-ones to hit stands in recent memory, New Masters you introduce a gripping Afro-futurist adventure in a vibrant far-off future on an Earth that has been transformed by technology — but where the struggles of rich and poor are all too familiar. This first issue bounces from one richly complex character to another: Ola is a lone scavenger on a hoverbike who recovers scraps from crashed ships with the help of a robot pal; Tosin is the governor of a wealthy district and daughter of a miserly merchant; two mysterious inventors named Mr. and Mrs. Reis have arrived in an indigent slum to broker a deal with local leaders. Everyone is scrambling for scraps of obsidium, a powerful dark substance on which human civilization has come to rely. But an alien spy has caught word of a long-lost ancient power that might liberate humanity from the grueling competition for resources and provide abundance at last. It is a world of secrets, hidden vulnerabilities, and exciting powers, highlighted with beautifully-written dialogue with rich dialects. Action zooms from caverns to abandoned cities to well-appointed offices to bustling night markets, every panel a tantalizing glimpse at a thrilling Africa of the far future (and, just past the metaphor, of right now). A colossal thriller. More please.
Writer: Shobo Cooker. Art: Shof Coker. Book design: Hye Mardikian. Color assistant: Julmae Kristoffer.
MANOR BLACK: FIRE IN THE BLOOD ISSUE #1
Yes, you COULD start with this first issue of the new Manor Black series, but you’re better off jumping back to the start of the prior series, which ran in 2019. The choice to offer no recap whatsoever is quite the obstacle to newcomers, who will likely be like, “wait, what?” The previous installment chronicled the squabbling of a family of sorcerers, each one attempting to position themselves as leader once the patriarch dies; this new story focuses on his chosen protege from him, who is having doubts about whether he wants to follow in the gruff old man’s footsteps. Flashbacks to the family post-World-War-II illuminates the present-day dad’s bitterness; and the ghosts of the past hint at magical dangers awaiting the next generation. But the reliance on having read the previous installment makes this book feel a bit like reading a supermarket tabloid while traveling abroad: The reader is left to wonder, “who are these people, and why should I care?”
Rating: 🔥🔥🔥 (3/5)
Writers: Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt. Line art: Brian Hurt. Colors and lettering: Tyler Crook. Alt cover: Francesco Francavilla. Publisher: Mike Richardson. Publisher: Daniel Chabón. Assistant editors: Chuck Howitt, Konner Knudsen. Designer: Brennan Thome. Digital art technician: Josie Christensen.
EAT OVER, EAT OVER
This book’s out next week, but comic shops don’t always order Drawn & Quarterly titles unless you ask them to, so consider this your advance heads-up about this reprint of a touching slice-of-life comic series from 1988 and 1989. I vaguely remember Lynda Barry’s cartoons from when I was the age of the characters in them, and while I didn’t “get” them back then I sure do now. Maybonne is 14 and going through itand anyone who has ever been that age will know precisely what Item is: Mean friends, inscrutable boys, gross teachers, passing notes, annoying siblings, and realizing for the first time that adults are tragic and that someday you, too, will be a tragic adult. Though the characters are kids, most youngsters probably won’t relate to them since the story’s greatness is in the unstated melancholy of looking back on youth, like The Wonder Years or Freaks & Geeks. To Maybonne, the dramatic beats of her adolescent life de ella feel like the most urgent problems in the universe, from middle-school social survival games to getting caught sneaking out to kiss a boy. As readers, we know that many of these incidents are the normal contours of youth, and that when she looks back in ten, twenty, or now the 35 years since the book’s original printing, she’ll recognize that these were the little moments that steered the rest of her life.
Writer & Illustrator: Lynda Barry.
ALSO: MONKEY PRINCE, ANCIENT SPACESHIPS, and CROSSING THE BORDER
If you’re looking for more superheroes this week, you’re in luck — there’s The X Cellent and a very silly Savage Spiderman from Marvel. I’m very excited to see a new telling of Monkey Prince by the fabulous Gene Luen Yang, which includes one of the most startling cliffhanger-endings in recent memory. Borders is a gripping account of migration. And I love what Disney’s up to with Star Wars: Halcyon Legacy, an anthology of stories set aboard a spaceship that is several hundred years old, allowing for a wide range of short one-off tales. Yes, that’s right, it’s The Love Boat but with aliens.