February 14th, 2024

Rob's Picks:

Penthouse Comics #1 - Penthouse returns to comics with the relaunch of their alt-anthology series. The original Penthouse Comix, which debuted in 1994, featured works that ranged from subversive to smut from artists like Richard Corben and Kevin Nowlan. This revamped title makes a strong case for itself with five original stories from independent artists. One of the highlights is "Miss October," a noir thriller by Stephen Desberg and Alan Queireix. The most grounded story in this collection follows a police detective in 1963, investigating a serial killer who turns his crime scenes into grotesque pin-up photos while trying to keep his own double-life secret. This tense and serious story gives sharp contrast to works like the gleefully schlocky, rainbow-colored ode to exploitation cinema that is "Gun Crazy." Artist Jef makes this story of women on an ultraviolet road trip the visual standout of the book. For the more literate, there is an adaptation of "I Spit on Your Grave" (the book, not the film), and some editorial on AI and pirate-themed pornography. We’ve been in need of a high-quality, non-horror anthology book that can take risks on new creators and mature stories, so hopefully this iteration of Penthouse Comics has more staying power than the first.

Transformers #5 - The epicness of Daniel Warren Johnson's Transformers is growing exponentially with every issue. I’ve already praised the action and how he’s elevated the tone to something more mature than a half-hour toy commercial, but this installment shows that there is a lot of real heart to Johnson’s storytelling, and a genuine affection for these characters. We open on Optimus and Sparky sharing a moment in the aftermath of their last battle, reflecting on the costs of war. Fighting without end can make even the morally righteous Optimus question what makes him different from his enemies, but the Decepticons aren’t wasting any time considering ethics. Having scrapped Skywarp for parts, Starscream is raising more soldiers for his next assault on the Autobots and their human allies. Starscream is characterized as a tunnel-visioned true believer, whose zeal has descended into a state of manic obsession. His actions in pursuit of total and immediate victory make him equally scary and hilarious as he kicks around subordinates and dismantles his coworkers. It’s hard not to crack a smile when he calls his next attempted mass murder a “violence party.” The Autobots start to turn the tide, finding a more sustainable means of repair. As you should expect by now, these events are only set up for the next spectacular set piece, featuring this series' first appearance of the Constructicons!

Wesley Dodds: The Sandman #5 - It’s time for a heist! Wesley Dodds' book of deadly chemicals, the failed experiments that lead to his signature sleep gas, is still in the wrong hands, but after dispatching the imitation Sandman, he’s closer than ever to getting it back. Colonel Breckenridge, who Wesley once tried to sell on the notion of “humane warfare,” has been revealed as the mastermind behind the theft, intent upon using all the lethal potential for the coming war in Europe. Having been a victim of his own weapon, the Sandman is more hesitant to use it than ever, especially against the soldiers between him and his target. The issue is a tense caper that sets the stage for the finale of this superhero period-piece.

Solomon's Picks:

Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver #1 - This issue of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver by Steve Orlando and Lorenzo Tammetta left quite the impression with its fantastic illustrations, relatable exchanges among siblings, and the gripping storyline. The issue opens up with a classic team-up between the pair as they fight off a group of clerics threatening the city around them. They make light work of the group, and shortly after, they are sent a box from none other than Magneto himself (or someone posing as him). There is only a letter in the box, and Wanda is the first and only person to read that letter. Whatever Magneto wrote was so vile that, enraged, the witch burned the letter before anyone could read it. She claims that this was to protect Pietro from whatever the message was, which of course, only infuriates the hotheaded speedster. This is the main conflict of the issue, as Wanda and Pietro go their separate ways to cool down, landing both of them in pretty tricky spots. This was a fantastic opening, and I’m so hyped to see where this story goes!

The Displaced #1 - A well-written, gripping debut issue! By Ed Brisson and Luca Casalanguida comes The Displaced. This issue is tricky to talk about because it’s one of those stories where every little thing matters, but this was an excellent mystery story. The city of Oshawa is a quiet place where the citizens go about their lives generally unbothered. This all changes one day when the very earth beneath them splits wide open, growing larger and larger in size before finally swallowing the town whole, leaving only a handful of survivors. The hole fixes itself very quickly, and the world is quick to move on from the tragedy. We’re left with a line that flat out states the city never even existed, though one of the characters seems to have experienced this same event on several different occasions in multiple cities. The cast that remains towards the end all have very distinct life challenges, and I’m curious to see how their chemistry will be in the second issue. I’m excited to see this series progress and to work towards the mystery of whatever left our cast of characters without a home!

If You Find This I’m Already Dead #1 - Matt Kindt and Dan McDaid deliver a very exciting and promising new story with If You Find This, I’m Already Dead. Our protagonist, Robin Reed, is a seasoned reporter from Earth, tasked with documenting a crew of Earth’s finest soldiers in an attempted colonization effort of a habitable planet named Terminus. In the opening pages, we’re told by the general of the unit that this mission is brutal, and that if they aren’t careful they could quickly end up dead. A few page turns later, we see the crew meeting their unfortunate ends at the hands of the terrifying, but absolutely badass aliens. Imagine being chased through a strange planet by a 6-foot-whatever alien, armed with a blaster and a “totally-not-a lightsaber” energy blade. The horror elements and sci-fi blend together perfectly to create a wonderfully crafted war story, and I’m here for it. There are also excellent dialogue exchanges within this book, and I can guarantee anyone picking this up looking for a new read will be pleased with its contents!