Still No Shortage of TP (Trade Paperbacks) with Moongirl, Clue, C.O.W.L., and More
Wednesday March 25, 2020 was a solemn day. It marked the last shipment of new comic books by Diamond until the Covid-19 precautions come to an end. That means no more new comic books for the foreseeable future. The era of the stay-at-home order may have exhausted supplies of toilet paper, but there’s still a surplus of trade paperbacks out there. Even if you can’t leave your house, there are plenty of books to help keep you entertained and to help take your mind off of the state of the world. This article is a follow up to my earlier piece, No Shortage of TP. Every title on this list is available to be borrowed from Hoopla. For some of these titles, Hoopla also has the subsequent volumes.
Covers and Script by Monty Nero
Art and Colors by Mike Dowling
Lettering by Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Published by Titan Comics
Why You Should Read It: To enjoy a “sex, drugs, and rock & roll” take on a superhero comic.
In this a six issue story, writer Monty Nero puts a new spin on super powered individuals. In Death Sentence, a new STD called the G+ Virus is sweeping across Europe and America. Those who contract the virus, for which there is no cure, will die within six months. However, there is an upside. In those final six months, the person infected with the virus gains super powers. The narrative’s perspective switches between three characters, each of whom receives different powers after becoming G+ positive. As can be expected from this type of story, one of these characters uses their powers to experience as much as they can before they succumb to the virus. What isn’t expected, is that the other two characters just keep on living their lives, more concerned with their own mortality than their newly gained abilities. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book because it is a nice change of pace from other stories with similar plots. The narrative also includes elements of satire and an examination of the importance of creativity. This comic is full of nudity, drug use, and ultra-violence. The artwork is gritty and perfectly fits the story’s tone and concepts. If you enjoy sex, drugs, rock and roll, and/or superheroes, you’re in luck. Death Sentence combines all them before concluding with an intense climax.
Volume 1: Principles of Power
Story by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel
Art by Rob Reis with Stéphane Perger (#4)
Letters by Troy Peteri
Published by Image Comics
Why You Should Read It: This comic is another unique take on a superhero story.
The premise of C.O.W.L. is superhero team meets Chicago labor union. In the early 1900s, super powers begin to manifest in human beings. During the Roaring Twenties super villains and organized crime bosses carve up territory in Chicago and the city falls into corruption. Three heroes return from the war and begin cleaning up the streets, eventually forming the Chicago Organized Workers League. The premise may sound a little ridiculous, but the story is well written. The world has depth to it and draws inspiration from Chicago’s history. The writers put these elements together to create a thrilling crime drama where the superheroes are just the icing on the cake. The heroes want to help people and serve the greater good, but their unionization assures they get paid by the city for their efforts. I found this take on superheroes very interesting. The story also has elements of noir and this is often reflected in the book’s artwork. Reis uses multiple styles in his illustrations. Sometimes utilizing simple sketch work and other times adopting almost a modern impressionist style. Reis’ colors give the book a unique hand painted look that accentuates his artwork. Admittedly, I did spend the first issue trying to figure out which character was which, but once I got used to Reis’ multiple styles, the visual narrative became much easier to follow. The trade paperback includes a hero roster and H.R. files that provide background info on the characters. The first volume ends with a cliffhanger, but luckily the second volume is also on Hoopla.
ARCHIE HORROR ANTHOLOGY: CHILLING ADVENTURES IN SORCERY
Written and Illustrated by Archie Superstars
Published by Archie Comics
Why You Should Read It: To enjoy a collection of horror tales from the beginning of the bronze age of comics.
Chilling Adventures in Sorcery is a collection of creepy stories published in 1973 by Archie Comics, and then continued under the publisher’s Red Circle imprint. This trade paperback collects the first seven issues of the series. I found it interesting that it includes a “written in a less socially sensitive time” disclaimer, similar to the tags that are now inserted before episodes of Looney Tunes. All the stories collected in this book feature classic horror themes. The first two issues are narrated by the original version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. These stories are more spooky than scary, and have a fun tone. The next five issues feature stories that are much creepier. Each of the stories is a great piece of short horror fiction. Each issue includes a short story, several short comics, and later issues include an illustrated essay with a supernatural theme. All of the art has been remastered, giving these horror tales an old school feel with the look of more modern inks. The issues published by Red Circle have intricately detailed art. Many of these stories are drawn to resemble classic black and white horror movies. One of my favorite stories was “Rivals.” It’s not often you come across supernatural elements in a story about prohibition era gangsters. Chilling Adventures in Sorcery’s mix of tales with familiar and unique premises is sure to delight fans of classic horror.
GRINDHOUSE: DOORS OPEN AT MIDNIGHT
Volume 1: Double Feature
Published by Dark Horse Comics
“Bee Vixens From Mars”
Script and Letters by Alex De Campi
Art by Chris Peterson
Colors by Nolan Woodward
“Prison Ship Antares”
Script and Letters by Alex De Campi
Art by Simon Fraser
Colors by Simon Fraser with Victoria Lau and Gary Caldwell
Why You Should Read It: Perfect for those who prefer their horror to be rated M for mature.
If this were any other kind of comic, I’d probably take issue with the exploitative nature of the art in this book. However, considering these stories are a homage to a particular genre of film, the explicit scenes featured in this trade paperback are both common to the films that inspired them, and are rather tame by comparison. Grindhouse theaters specialized in low budget films of low artistic merit. Yet in Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight, the creative teams’ talents really raise the quality of these stories beyond any expectations born from the genre on which they’re based. Progressive themes also elevate these stories beyond the genre that inspired them. In “Bee Vixens From Mars” space bees infect a small town, turning all the women into mutant bee monsters. Newly transformed, they quickly begin to prey on the town’s men. The only thing that can stop them, is Deputy Garcia. She’s an eye patch wearing Latina who is the biggest BAMF in the entire book. In “Prison Ship Antares” women prison inmates are sent to colonize the nearest habitable planet. Not believing the prisoners are worthy of honor, the ship’s warden has plans to cleanse them of their sins. Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight is a great choice for those who love graphic novels and B-movie horror flicks.
Written by Paul Allor
Art by Nelson Daniel
Letters by Neil Uyetake & Gilberto Lazcano
Published by IDW
Why You Should Read It: A good choice for those in the mood for a nostalgia fueled murder muster with a humorous tone.
You’ve probably played the board game, maybe even seen the 1985 film. Now experience the next version of Hasbro’s beloved murder mystery game with an original graphic novel. The story features all the classic characters from the board game, plus a few new ones. New cast members include Dr. Orchid and Detectives Ochre and Amarillo. Mrs. White is reimagined as a U.S. Senator who made her fortune as the CEO of a housecleaning company. My favorite character is Upton the Butler. He breaks the fourth wall throughout the entire book and his commentary and sideways glances at the reader are hysterical. Allor does a great job of introducing all of the characters early in the first issue. Thanks to Allor and Daniel’s character designs, the look of the players in this mystery have all been reimagined. It was nice to see so much diversity in the cast, especially considering how “white washed” the characters are in the board game. Like any good mystery, each character has their own unique personalities, and they all have their own secrets, agendas, and histories with one another. Daniel’s artwork really makes each panel stand out. It’s always clear what’s happening from panel to panel and the colors fit the story’s funny dialogue. Clue is a comic fun-filled, whether it be nods to the board game or the witty dialogue. It’s an enjoyable read that will grab your attention from the very first page.
Written by Ben Blacker
Art by Mirka Andolfo
Colors by Marissa Louise
Letters by Josh Reed
Published by DC/Vertigo
Why You Should Read It: This comic features a different spin on witchcraft and a whole lot of girl power.
The premise of this comic book drama is Stepford Wives meet the occult. It’s more serious than any of the other titles on this list, but there’s enough action to keep it exciting. Admittedly, the pacing is a little slow at first but it picks up as the story progresses. For centuries, a coven of reincarnating witches has been at war with a group of men who call themselves the Architects. Tired of constantly being defeated, the Architects decide to change tactics. Using a little magic of their own, they manage to brainwash the witches, making them forget their past and the fact that they have powers. The witches become the Architects doting housewives. That is, until they start to remember who they really are. Despite the fact that they’re magical beings, the witches are written as real people, even before the mystic brainwashing. The art is reminiscent of the “fifties housewife” setting the witches have been trapped within. There’s a great aesthetic to both the panel backgrounds and the character designs. The scenes in which magic occurs are colored beautifully. There is some bloodshed and a little bit of tasteful nudity, but at its heart this is a story about taking down the patriarchy and the bonds of sisterhood. Hex Wives is a good choice for those who aren’t into the standard superhero fare or those who are looking to read a different type of fantasy story.
MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR
Volume 1: BFF
Writers: Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder
Artist: Nathan Bustos
Color Artist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanhan
Published by Marvel Comics
Why You Should Read It: It’s a superhero comic where one of the heroes is a T-Rex. This one is a no brainer.
In this series, writers Montclare and Reeds bring one of Jack Kirby’s characters into the modern age while reimagining another. Devil Dinosaur may not have changed much since 1978, but his companion Moon Boy certainly has. The other half of this superhero duo is now Lunella “Moon Girl” Lafayette. She’s a genius 4th grade inventor who finds a mysterious orb while looking for discarded alien technology. The orb opens a portal to the past and Devil Dinosaur, a huge red Tyrannosaurus like dinosaur, walks through into present day New York. The two soon bond and Lunella helps Devil Dinosaur adjust to a new world, while Devil Dino helps Lunella realize the type of person she’s meant to be. Although this comic is geared more for a younger audience, there are elements to the story that will be relatable to readers of all ages. Along the way to Lunella becoming a hero, the narrative explores themes of what it’s like to grow up different and accepting the things that make us special. The story itself is cute and fast paced. Lunella’s exploits and attitude make her a fun character to read. Plus Devil Dinosaur is hilarious. The art team does great work and every page is filled with clear illustrations, bright colors, and dynamic layouts. This is a title appropriate for all ages, and a great comic to share with the kids. Or to just read on your own to enjoy some dino-fueled mayhem and adventure.
Still No Shortage of TP