Stand Up Comics is a regular column by Adan Jimenez. These titles need no introduction: just read the column, then read some good comics!
The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (Image Comics, $9.99, 9781632150196)
The gods return to Earth every 90 years or so, becoming avatars of the latest pop culture trend. In the Roaring Twenties, they were swingers and flappers. Today, the Pantheon are pop stars, selling out concerts, raves and underground sessions. The gods used to be regular teenagers before their powers manifested, and they get to live only for another two years before they must leave this plane of existence again.
Laura is our character of entry, and she couldn't be a better one. She's a teenager in Britain who is wholly in love with all the gods, and guides readers through their various incarnations in a way only a teenage fan could. Gillen and McKelvie have a long history of mixing music and magic (check out their Phonogram), and adding myths to the mix is an excellent way to keep their proto-genre fresh.
I wrote about this title for my Best of 2014 column back in February, but a second volume has recently been released and a third volume will be out early next year, so this is a great time for everybody to start on this excellent series.
Handselling Opportunities: Fans of music and myth, especially a Bowie-inspired Lucifer, and the phenomena of musicians as objects of worship.
Fables Vol. 22: Farewell by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha (Vertigo, $17.99, 9781401252335)
The final collection of the long-running Fables comic features the conclusion of the Snow White/Rose Red war that had been brewing in the previous Happily Ever After collection. The Final Battle is both epic and intimate, and happens the only way it really could.
It also includes many more "Last Stories," which also ran in the previous collection. These stories feature the last stories of many Fables characters, both borrowed and original, including Stinky the Badger, the Lady of the Lake, Clara the Dragon, Santa Claus, Death (sort of), and Bigby and Snow's seven cubs. These are all drawn by some of the greatest artists in comics today, anchored by the amazing Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha.
It was not a perfect series (and some of Willingham's recent public comments concerning women in comics can throw cold water on your enjoyment), but I am sad to see it end. I can't say I'll miss the characters, though, because as Bigby put it in the final line of the main story: "I'm going to stay by you until the sun and the moon and the stars spin down into darkness and dust." Fairy tales never really go away, after all.
Handselling Opportunities: Anyone interested in European folktales and new interpretations of the same (though you really should start at the beginning).
Hellboy and the B.P.R.D: 1952 by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Alex Maleev (Dark Horse, $19.99, 9781616556600)
For most of his published history, we have seen Hellboy as either the seasoned BPRD veteran or the innocent child who loves pancakes and circuses. But, beyond a few shorts, we have rarely seen Hellboy as a young adult rookie in the BPRD. This volume finally gives readers a much bigger view of that.
Hellboy's first mission as a member of the BPRD is full of everything Hellboy should have: demons, creepy castles, Nazis, mythological creatures, the undead, apes and huge monsters for Hellboy to punch in the face. We also get the beginnings of the restless, impatient and impulsive man Hellboy will grow up to become.
This volume serves as both a reminder of what the original Hellboy comics felt like (before they became all doom and gloom, and were mostly about the boom), with Alex Maleev providing both atmospheric and exciting art, as well as a welcome reprieve from waiting for Mignola to finish drawing the next installment of Hellboy in Hell.
Handselling Opportunities: Fans of the original Hellboy comics who might be champing at the bit for Mignola to finish the art on current Hellboy tales.
ODY-C Vol. 1: Off to Far Ithicaa by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward (Image Comics, $9.99, 9781632153760)
Sing, O Muse, of the cunning of Odyssia, daughter of far and fair Ithicaa, that broke and sacked the siegeworld Troiia, all for the face that launched a thousand swiftships: the beautiful He. It is time to return home, but the goddesses Zeus and Poseidon do not wish their entertainment to end, and so conspire to keep Odyssia as far as possible from fair Ithicaa.
This is a sci-fi retelling of Homer's Odyssey with nearly every major character cast as a female or a Promethene-manufactured intersex gender called sebex. In Fraction's version, the goddesses are just as petty and venial as the gods of the original, and the mortals are just as bloodthirsty and unforgiving. Fraction covers the stories of the Lotus-Eaters, the Cyclops, and Aeolus, the Keeper of the Winds, in just five issues, which probably makes this the least verbose Odyssey of all time.
Ward's art is mesmerizing, with intense use of line and color making his style very different from pretty much everything else available. I'm sad that the amazing gatefold from the first single issue is missing from the trade. It had the history of Fraction's updated cosmology on one side and possibly Ward's most amazing piece of art on the other, featuring Odyssia and her warriors as they walk through the destroyed Troiia.
Handselling Opportunities: Fans of classical mythology retold.