If you're here in the Panel Discussion programming block, you might be a lapsed comics reader, trying to find a way back to the JLA Satellite. Or you might someone killing time until you pick up your weekly Wednesday pull list. Or maybe you've said goodbye to dozens of longboxes to embrace the promise of digital comics. Whichever it is, you're still interested in the good stuff.
Welcome, then, to the Panel Discussion Dozen. Each instalment, I'll be picking out twelve just-released or out-soon comics that I think are worth paying attention to. Ready? Then, let's meet the sequential art that'll be draining your wallet this week.
Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi: Force Storm #2 Is everyone aware that the origin of the Jedi Order is being told in comic-book form? This Dark Horse mini-series reveals the men and women who were amongst the first to be called Je'daii, way way before even the Old Republic era. How far back are we talking? There are no blasters or lightsabers to be found; the warriors here wield swords and bullet-firing pistols. John Ostrander — the legendary writer behind great runs of Suicide Squad and The Spectre — brings out Star Wars' pulp elements to the forefront in Dawn of the Jedi, making things seem less self-serious than most of the Force fiction of recent years.
Batman #7 Going back to his great Dick-Grayson-as-Batman run before DC Comics' New 52 continuity re-boot, Scott Snyder's managed to injection a sense of real mystery and threat into the Dark Knight's world. The Court of Owls storyline currently winding through the Bat-books owes its power to presenting the best antagonists that the Caped Crusader's world has seen in years. This issue's promising to reveal some secrets behind the ages-old cult, so here's hoping Snyder doesn't lose momentum as new plot beats come to life.
Diablo #3 You know what should come with every issue of the tie-in comic to Blizzard's popular action/RPG? Loot. It's the whole reason you play Diablo, right? (Don't lie; yes, it is.) Stick a QR code for a special piece of in-game gear and watch issues fly off the shelves.
Green Lantern Corps #7 One thing I've loved about writer Peter Tomasi's interpretations of the Green Lantern mythos is how he forefronts the notion of the Corps as a paramilitary entity, not just a conglomeration of random adventurers who all wear the same colours. There are regulations, procedures and duties. In this issue, human GL Johns Stewart — aka the Brother Who Can't Catch a Break — has to do the worst duty a soldier has to perform: informing loved ones of a relative's death.
Justice League #7 This issue of DC's powerhouse super-team represents a two-fold turning point. It leaves behind the oh-how-cute-they're-learning-about-each-other-for-the-first-time origin story of the last story arc behind, meaning that Geoff Johns will finally be showing us a League that's more mature. There's less built-in goodwill from the reader, so it'll be interesting to see how Johns plays with expectations Secondly, there's art by the utterly amazing Gene Ha this time out and anything he draws is a must-buy. Seriously. Anything.
Wonder Woman #7 Come on. Look at that cover. It doesn't scream "Buy me!" to you? If you need more convincing, consider the fact that Brian Azzarello — about as naturally suited a writer there is to comic-book tragedy — takes on the Orpheus myth in this issue. So you get Azzarello's take on one of the scariest, saddest legends ever told, drawn by art demigod Cliff Chiang in the comic that mixes horror and spandex action like nothing else out today. And that gorgeous cover? Again: come on.
Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1 There's a unique mix of elements that'll have me picking this up. Firstly, artwork by Denys Cowan has always boasted a kinetic angularity that I've loved. Secondly, Selwyn Hinds used to be an editor of rap magazine The Source and has since been mixed up in intriguing sci-fi and speculative fiction. Lastly, this is a fantasy construct set in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the combination of history, upheaval and hoodoo magic should make for a good time.
Fatale #2 NOTE: This is a reprint of a previously sold out issue that can be found in comic shops this week. In its digital form, of course, it's not possible to sell out. Why's it in the Dozen, then? Because it's your chance to catch up with the newest project from the best guys doing noir comics today. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have already done killer work on Incognito, Criminal and Sleeper, all of the rough stories about the slow moral erosion of men caught between both. Centred on the mysterious female lead Jo, Fatale's a hardboiled Lovecraftian hybrid that blends the seedy underbelly of post-war San Francisco with character-driven occult crime drama. Part of what makes the fantastic elements in Brubaker's noir genre work sing so well is that he grounds them in deeply needy characters who hope that magic or super-science can help them escape their own flaws. You read these tales just waiting for the final turn that shows you whether those flaws win out or not. So get this issue in print or on screen, get the one before it and the ones after it, too, and enjoy watching the Fatale cast's incredibly messed-up lives get even more so.
Prophet #23 Comics' great Moebius died a few weeks back and the breadth of work influenced by his talent stands as a testament to how beloved his output was. The re-invented Prophet seems to have taken further deconstruction of Jean Giraud's crusty, baroque planetscapes as a starting point and moved onto the idea of an Earth where humanity's in decline. Right now, this book's pacing is slow and blown-out but I think it's supposed to be. Once its brand of weird starts to feel normal, all new sorts of weird will probably coming into orbit. If Prophet keeps looking this good, then I'll be sticking around.
Super Dinosaur #9 Robert Kirkman knows how to boil his concepts down to the point where you can basically absorb them into your pores. The retro-Marvel teenage superhero of Invincible and the post-zombie-apocalypse human drama of The Walking Dead attest to that skill. And though you want to laugh at its naked high concept, Super Dinosaur delivers tween-boy catnip with an armour-wearing, video game-loving T-Rex partnering up with a young boy to stop bad guys. It's full of wish-fulfilment energy that doesn't take it self too seriously. Great for the budding comics fan in your life.
Invincible Iron Man #514 Playing around with Tony Stark's substance abuse problem could be like juggling dynamite. On one hand, it's great narrative ore that's become part of the character's lore. It's hard leaving something that valuable on the table. On the other hand, part of what makes Stark heroic is the ability to overcome adversity. What Fraction and Larocca have done in their classic run is pattern out a tricky, true-to-life dance of a character constantly struggling to harness his compulsions — be it intelligence, the high life or an outsize ego — to the greater good. Nevertheless, all of Tony Stark's decision cost him and when they're really bad ones, even this billionaire may not be able to write them off.
Last of the Greats, Vol. 1 Joshua Hale Fialkov's proven himself to be one of those comics writers where genre boundaries don't mean anything. He's done small-town-gone-wrong drama in Elk's Run and sexy post-modern bloodsuckers in I, Vampire, securing those books and many more with finely tuned ear for character voice. The series collected here represents his creator-owned brush with mainstream superheroics, twisted around an all-powerful egotistical character who hates normal folks as much as they hate him. LotG rotates around that unhealthy symbiosis and lobs in a few surprises that quickly separate it from any forerunners that may have felt familiar.