This Week’s Comics: A Big Gay Heist Blends Indiana Jones with Oscar Wilde

Well, that’ll just about do it for Pride month … except no, it won’t, because even though the corporations took the rainbows out of their logos, Pride doesn’t end until we say so, which is never. Enjoy July, which you may think of as “Second Pride” if you like, or “Wrath Month”–whatever suits. We’ve got some marvelous queer reading to do in this week’s new comic releases, so let’s get to it.

Thanks as always to Phoenix for sorting through the new releases with us!

SINS OF THE BLACK FLAMINGO ISSUE 1: LOVE IS A STRANGER

Indiana Jones meets Oscar Wilde in Sins of the Black Flamingo, a series I already know will be among my top 10 comics of the year. Sebastian Harlow is a gentleman thief and aesthete with nothing to declare but his genius—and his ability to perceive mystical secrets, which he uses to steal arcane artifacts from gauche billionaires and return them to their rightful owners. With the help of a beautiful and commanding mesmerist, Harlow enters the lion’s den: a fancy dinner party whose a host may be practicing some sort of forbidden magic. But there’s an incredible surprise hidden in this grotesque mansion.

Stupendously written and gorgeously illustrated (with particularly loving attention to the male physique), Harlow is the rogue I’ve been waiting all my life to meet, a wry cat burglar who tosses off bon mots like “Why can’t the rich afford irony ?” He’s also a little bored: What amusements can possibly entertain the world’s greatest thief? That’s why it’s such a pleasure when he stumbles across a forbidden raison d’être in issue one’s final panel. Great wild queer fun. If this story were a limited series on HBO, it would pair perfectly with Our Flag Means Death.

Rating: 🦩🦩🦩🦩🦩🦩 (6/5)

Writer: Andrew Wheeler. Artist: Travis Moore. Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain. Letterer: Aditya Bidikar. Editor: Andy Khouri. Logo and design: Dylan Todd.

Publisher: Image Comics.

TO STRIP THE FLESH

Humans are weird, gross, occasionally beautiful meat bags. In this collection of six stories, writer and illustrator Oto Toda explores what it means to live and die inside a bundle of flesh and guts. In one story, a young trans man struggles with expectations around his body while his father’s anatomy is ravaged by cancer. Other such touch on the pain of growing through different phases in life, a doll who loves his owner, and the strangeness of having the power to create life.

The lightning-quick two-page stories at the end of the book are particularly intriguing, each a complete story in just a handful of panels. But readers will likely find their thoughts lingering most on the story that compares the relationship between a person and their gender in her to that of a hunter and prey. Thoughtful and tender, each tale locates a kernel of insight about the weird tension between human emotion and human bodies, then nurtures that understanding into something revelatory.

Rating: 🐟🐟🐟🐟🐟 (5/5)

Story and art: Oto Toda. English translation and adaptation: Emily Balistrieri. Touch-up art and lettering: Annaliese “Ace” Christman. Design: Alice Lewis. Publisher: Pancha Diaz.

Publisher: Vis.

PUBLIC DOMAIN #1

With its focus on the cutthroat cruelty of the comics industry, this book has a chip on its shoulder that’s hard to miss. Written by industry veteran Chip Zdarsky, this new series introduces a weary, aging comics artist who’s been battered and ignored by a media machine that leeches his creative ideas to make billions of dollars for someone else. It’s a happy arrangement for executives, lawyers, actors, and PR reps—everyone, that is, except the original creator.

Much of this drama comes off as inside-baseball, the sort of conflict it’s hard for readers to invest in unless they’re in the exact same position as the characters. Nearly all of this first issue is table-setting for a meal to follow (or at least that’s what’s promised by the cliffhanger on the final page), and it might’ve been nice to get to cut about half the repetitive, on-the -nose exposure so we could get to the action sooner. And as long as we’re getting all “This is how the sausage is made” about the publishing industry, I’ll add that the book’s credits-page nod to Substack, the newsletter-publishing company that not only tolerates but actively funds far -right conservative voices, is a great big red flag.

Rating: 🎨🎨🎨 (3/5)

Writer and illustrator: Chip Zdarsky. Publisher: Allison O’Toole.

Publisher: Image Comics.

ALSO: MORE GAY STUFF!

If you’re not rushing out the door to read the new Marvel Voices Pride, featuring a story by my friend Anthony Oliveira, I don’t know what you’re doing with yourself. Also this week, there’s a new Variants issue with Jessica Jones, a Thor story that’s a precursor to the forthcoming film, and Iron Cat. Check out Agent of WORLDE for a big sci-fi story with gorgeous, meticulously rendered art; and a cautionary tech tale in Mindset. gender-queer is now out in hardcover, and numerous conservative efforts to censor this book make it a good time to give it a read. Also take a look at Liebestrasse, a historical tale of queer love set as the Nazis are rising to power in Germany. I wish that description wasn’t as timely as it is.

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