The diversity in styles among mainstream and indie comics begins to blur as everyone’s technical skills sharpen and focus. It’s increasingly hard to tell the big publishers and small presses apart from artwork and plot lines alone, but as this week’s picks show, it’s still the Wild West out there. While much of the industry melts into an amorphous goo of panels, it's nice to see creators sticking their necks out to be different. From a sampler-platter of Hellboy to a pregnant superhero kicking alien ass, there’s a lot to love about this week’s releases. Here's a look at four of the best, weirdest, and most-interesting books hitting physical and digital shelves this week.
Stories by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, Chris Roberson, Chelsea Cain, and Dean Rankine, art by Tim Sale, Michael Walsh, Michael Avon Oeming, and Dean Rankine, colors by Dave Stewart and Dean Rankine, letters by Clem Robins
Hellboy is one of the much-beloved cornerstones to the Dark Horse Comics stable. Originally created by Mike Mignola in 1994, the comic depicts the life, times, and crime-fighting escapades of Hellboy, a hell-born being with a giant stone arm and horns he files off. It has since spawned offshoot comics, two movies starring Ron Perlman, and much fandom in the comic world. This winter special collects four short stories written and illustrated by a host of contributors, and offers a sample of everything that makes Hellboy special. There’s an ancient-world mysticism story without any mention of Hellboy, a 1950s story about wronged Chinese immigrant workers, a coming-of-age snowman story, and a funny little two-page joke comic about a detective ordering Kung Pao chicken. Hellboy Winter Special is a perfect entry point for newcomers who want to just get the flavor of the series without committing to years of back-reading.
Created by Gilbert Hernandez
The award for the most sexually explicit, absolutely NSFW comic of the week (month? year?) goes to Blubber #2. Created by Gilbert Hernandez (of Love and Rockets fame alongside his brothers Jaime and Mario), this comic takes sexual perversity and sets it in a barren wasteland. Hernandez’s clean-line, simple style eliminates all but the most important, throbbing details, and his writing is sparse and monosyllabic, spoken by lust-crazed creatures. Whether this is an exercise in pushing boundaries or an experiment in the complete abandonment of a moral code, this is a shocking comic about men, women, and animals all battling and making love in a bizarre, near-empty world.
Written by Dennis Hopeless, pencils by Javier Rodriguez, ink by Alvaro Lopez, color by Rachelle Rosenberg, letters by VC’s Travis Lanham
Spider-Woman stars Jessica Drew, a woman who’s had powers similar to Spider-Man since she was a kid. She can cling on walls, has hyper-alert senses, and shoots blasts of energy from her hands. She’s always been awesome, but this new series puts an amazing spin on the hero. In this new run of books, Spider-Woman is extremely, extremely pregnant. Looking like she’s about eight months, this issue finds our hero trapped in a space hospital in a black hole that’s been taken over by evil aliens named the Skrull. Though almost ready to deliver and suffering from baby-kicks, Drew watches over a group of intergalactic pregnant women also stuck on the hospital-ship in an attempt to find freedom and get home. The writing here is witty, sharp, and realistic. The artwork is fantastic, flitting between traditional Marvel styles and truly experimental structuralist cross-sections. And best of all, they depict a pregnant woman as neither victim nor patient. She’s busting heads well into her third trimester, and isn’t over- or de-sexualized in the process. She’s just Jessica Drew, a very pregnant superhero.
Written by Simon Spurrier, illustrated by Jeff Stokely, colors by André May, letters by Steve Wands
Set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy future, The Spire follows several different groups of people struggling to survive in a harsh world. Tackling big issues like indoctrinated racism and religious fundamentalism, The Spire still manages to come off as light on its feet. It moves quickly, the action is well-paced, and Stokely’s character designs immediately and iconically establish who’s who, who’s where, and who’s hating everyone else. While this may be a deep-dive for newcomers to the series, fans of small-line, focused illustration, and swirling Dune-like politicking will definitely enjoy this issue.
What were your favorite comics this week? Let us know @CreatorsProject or in the comments below!