Wake Up And Smell The Coffee: A Day For The Underdogs

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Happy holidays everybody! Chances are you’re just finished with Hanukah or getting ready for Christmas… so this is the perfect opportunity to spring some great books on you while there’s a hole burning into your pockets. The problem with the industry, at least these days, is the overwhelming hype machines that scream and blare over the power of word-of-mouth. For this simple reason, many fantastic titles either disappear into the void or hang on long enough to find a real voice. You would be surprised at some of the gems out there just below the radar… some are written by your favorite creators while others are practically sitting right in front of you. I’m going to take this chance to share some of the books I feel deserve a closer look this holiday season, or any other season for that matter. Do yourself a favor and check a few out, as it never hurts to try.

Nightside (Marvel) – For those of you that read Marvel Comics’ Cable over the last year and a half, you may already know what I’m talking about. For the rest of you who don’t, you’re in for something new and original from a publisher known for its masked superheroes. Award-winning horror novelist Robert Weinberg, having just finished an acclaimed (and award-nominated) run on Cable, got to launch the first creator-owned series from Marvel since the fall of the Epic line in the early ‘90s. Teaming with up and coming artist Thomas Derenick (using his distinct tonal style), Weinberg introduced the world of the Nightside through a four-issue mini-series that debuted in October. The Nightside is a society where every monster of myth and legend exists, albeit behind-the-scenes and among the crowds in places forbidden and unseen. Forbidden to all but the select few normal humans who respect their rules and keep their secrets. One of those few is the private detective Sidney Taine, a mysterious woman whose skills (both mentally and physically) place her on the line between the daylight and the Nightside. This horror/mystery series is wonderfully crafted, features spectacular art and offers a truly different experience from the “House of Ideas”. Be on the lookout as the third issue shipped this week.

Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset (DC/Wildstorm/America’s Best Comics) – Ah, the popularity of the pulp hero is finally on the rise again. Written and penciled by Rick Veitch, this six-issue mini-series is the first spin-off of Alan Moore’s ABC anthology series, Tomorrow Stories. Featuring the myriad adventures of Indigo City’s one and only Greyshirt, the stories themselves vary from a prose tale based on the cover to a several page Greyshirt adventure and/or prequel/origin story. This is actually my favorite ABC title behind League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and I hope enough people turn onto the book so that we may see more projects like these down the line. Fans of costumed characters such as Batman, the Shadow or the Sandman (the original ‘40s vigilante) should definitely check this out.

Queen & Country (Oni Press) – Written by Greg Rucka, this bi-monthly ongoing series is a spin-off from the critically acclaimed Whiteout mini-series, also written by Rucka and drawn by Steve Lieber. Starring a British government operative named Tara Chase and the agency she works with, these realistically depicted espionage stories are much alike the kind of action drama you’ll get from Kiefer Sutherland’s current TV series, “24”. Each story arc is penciled by a different art team and presented in black & white, though you shouldn’t let that stop you. It’s one of the best non-superhero books on the market.

Ruse (CrossGen) – I’ve only just started on this monthly, but it already has me in awe. Written by Mark Waid (Flash, JLA) and drawn by Jackson Guice (Birds of Prey), this is the first CrossGen series to interest me enough to pick up. I’m not a big fan of fantasy fiction, but when I saw they were offering a new series depicting a world based on Victorian culture… I leaped at it. Definitely owing much of its inspiration to the Sherlock Holmes mysteries by acclaimed novelist Sir Conan Arthur Doyle, this book is still one of a kind in today’s industry. Following the exploits of a renowned and brilliant man named Simon Archard and his beautiful assistant, the story is still part of the larger CrossGen mythology but simplified enough as not to scare those with less interest in the sigil-bearers (like me). Through Simon, Waid dazzles the reader with keen sensibilities and fine-tuned perceptions that could draw a conclusion from even the most minute details of an everyday environment. To top off the mystery and intrigue of a world class detective, industry veteran Guice pencils some of the most extravagant pictures I’ve ever seen in a comic. To say the art in this book is anything less than the best would be a crime. If you’re like me and you have yet to find a book from CrossGen that does not overwhelm you with fantasy concepts, take a chance on Ruse. I doubt you’ll find it a disappointment.

The Incal (Humanoids Publishing) – What can I say about this title? It’s an experience of its own, really. The simple answer would be to tell you it’s about a boy raised in an oppressive society on some planet in the far off future, struggling to find a way to strike back and still get what he wants out of life. Yeah, that’s the simple explanation… everything else is much deeper or just plain out there. From the mind of filmmaking genius Alejandro Jodorowsky and artists Moebius and Janjetov comes one of the most bizarre and fascinating comics ever seen. For those of you looking for something truly different, but still retaining a serious and well thought out direction, than look no further than the Incal. Developed as part of an entire fictional universe, this story is also connected to the Metabarons series, also written by Jodorowsky and collected/published by Humanoids.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – In case you missed it, the first issue of the new bi-monthly ongoing series shipped this week by original creator/writer Peter Laird and current artist/collaborator Jim Lawson. This isn’t the Image series or the cartoon, friends, it’s back to basics. Don’t miss out.

Next edition I’ll be giving another much needed wake up call to those greedy, frightened fools running DC Comics. See you then and have a happy holiday/new year!

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