Panel from Superman: American Alien #5. Illustrated by Jae Lee, colors by June Chung. Photo courtesy of DC Comics
Over the past few months, DC Comics has been teasing a “rebirth” theme through their works. This week, they finally announced what the theme means: All of their comics are resetting back to #1. A lot of people in the comic world are groaning right now, and that’s because Marvel and DC have a penchant for wiping the slate clean and starting over… again, and again, and again. With pressure to constantly appeal to both new fans and diehard followers, the big two are in a tricky position. Do they keep long, wandering storylines that reward old fans but confuse new ones? Or do they clean the slate and risk burning bridges with fans who previously invested time and money into a series? It’s an impossible call to make, and no matter what they choose, a loud contingent of their fanbases will be furious.
All that aside, the best of this week’s comics are pretty damn fun. In this week’s roundup, intern Superman beats the snot out of twenty-something Batman, down-and-out criminals try to nail a big heist, a forest guardian exacts its revenge, and Usagi Yojimbo wanders feudal Japan in his 152nd issue. These are some of the best comics of the week.
Variant cover for Superman: American Alien #4. Illustrated by Jae Lee and June Chung. Photo courtesy of DC Comics
Written by Max Landis, illustrated by Jae Lee, colored by June Chung, lettered by John Workman.
Max Landis, screenwriter (Chronicle, American Ultra) and son of director John Landis, teams up with DC Comics to tell the story of a young Superman. Superman: American Alien is the Man of Steel before the cape, focusing on Clark Kent as an unassuming, soft-spoken Kansas dude trying to make a name for himself at the Daily Planet as an intern. The artwork by Jae Lee, from the distant construction of Metropolis skyscrapers to the hazy, sun-soaked colors, evoke the feeling of being lost in the big city. Even the layout, which relies heavily on long, vertical panels, evokes in the reader a sense of being swallowed up by Metropolis, much like Clark Kent is within these pages. With very little action and plenty of dialogue around political and economic ideology, this is absolutely not your standard Superman story.
Cover for Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #12. Illustrated by David Lapham. Photo courtesy of Image Comics
Created by David Lapham, produced and edited by Maria Lapham.
Stray Bullets, a comic that’s been creator-owned and operated by David and Maria Lapham since 1995, follows the lives of criminals, thugs, and hapless crooks throughout a 20-year time period. David Lapham is, after 20 years at work on this comic, a concise writer with perfectly crisp and clean linework. This is a rough-and-tumble kind of comic. At times it can be downright nasty, but it takes an uncompromising look at drugs, crime, and the things people do when pushed against a wall. It features violence and language like a Tarantino flick, but usually features clueless losers a lá Coen brothers’ crime caper. This issue finds the main characters running to pull off a job at a sex club, getting into a nasty car wreck, and fighting violently along the way. It’s not light stuff, but it certainly doesn’t glorify the violence, and there’s a sadness that constantly creeps into the work.
Cover for Guardian of the Forest. Illustrated by Diana Naneva. Photo courtesy of Model Town
Written by Robert James Mediavilla, illustrated by Diana Naneva, lettered and designed by Danny Djeljosevic.
This rambunctious indie comic Guardian of the Forest asks the question “What is the guardian of the forest… without a forest?” Ben Taylor and his daughter June own Taylor’s Country Diner, on the outskirts of a forest that they’ve allowed to be bulldozed. As the deforestation continued, mysterious deaths surrounded their home and business. Now, the Guardian of the Forest, a woman with green hair and antlers, has come for a reckoning. While much of the story is actually told in a short story at the end of the book, the comic itself captures a brief, fateful, and tense moment. Mediavilla’s writing and Diana Naneva’s illustrations pull heavily from a modern distillation of druidic imagery, bringing this Guardian of the Forest to life as a pseudo-pagan nature spirit. And while the image of a “woman with antlers” has been played out before, it feels well-suited to this kind of short, impactful story.
Cover for Usagi Yojimbo #152. Illustrated by Stan Sakai, cover colors by Tom Luth. Photo courtesy of Dark Horse Comics
Created by Stan Sakai.
Usagi Yojimbo, the epic comic that Stan Sakai began back in 1984, follows the titular Usagi Yojimbo, a rabbit-man ronin who wanders the country. Even though all characters are anthropomorphic animals, every other detail of Edo-era feudal Japan (roughly 1600-1860) is faithfully rendered by Sakai. His mix of cartoonish characters with intense action brings a simplicity to these clean, near-parable stories. Any issue is a great issue to jump into with Usagi Yojimbo, so if you’ve seen this samurai rabbit before and you’ve been interested, you may as well start with issue #152, which sees Usagi helping a village prepare for a massive flood.
What’d you read this week? Let us know @CreatorsProject or in the comments below.