Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by Big Digital News
Digital takes the lead this week in Comics Disassembled, and nothing will ever be the same? Let’s discuss that in more as we look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics.
1. DC Universe, Going Infinite
In a recent interview, DC’s Jim Lee said DC Universe would be continuing on as a comic-centric platform, but they weren’t ready to reveal specifics quite yet. That has now changed, because the specifics are out there. It’s called DC Universe Infinite, and it’s launching on January 21st and Internationally in the summer. By and large, it’s basically the same thing that existed before, but with a few crucial changes.
First, new comics will arrive on the app six months after initial release, a vast improvement on the 12 month gap that they had before and one that matches what Marvel Unlimited offers. Second, digital first titles like DCeased: Hope at World’s End will arrive first on this platform, with those comics presumably being included in the subscription fee rather than requiring 99 cents for each purchase as they currently are. Third, there will be digital originals dropping on here, with these titles – called DC Universe Infinite Originals because my god there’s no way to say anything briefly, product wise – connecting to existing characters and stories.
I like it! Those three changes help a lot, and I’m really hoping that the focus on comics only going forward will help tailor the product to easier reads and better searches because the previous iteration of the app was awful from a user experience standpoint. There will apparently be a whole lot more comics on here, with plenty more to come, so my first step would be improving that experience to make it much more usable. If that happens, I will be extremely onboard with this, because I’ve been dying for an adequate DC equivalent to Marvel Unlimited for forever. Maybe this is it!
2. Archie, Getting Unlimited
Now this is the most interesting news of the week to me. Archie Comics announced that all of its new comics will be released day-and-date – meaning released the same day as print – on ComiXology Unlimited. What that means is they aren’t just releasing new comics on ComiXology for purchase on the same day as comic shops receive them, but subscribers to ComiXology Unlimited get all of them too. As noted in the press release, Archie was the first to go that route on for purchase digital comics, but this is a bird of a completely different feather. This is a publisher leaning into effectively a Spotify/Netflix-like reading experience instead of the usual a la carte dining comics prefer.
This may not seem like a huge deal, but I think it is one, especially considering item #1 and how DC is debuting new series on their subscription product, but as digital first ones. Could this – like Archie’s commitment to day-and-date releases before – be the first step to others going this route? Imagine Marvel debuting titles on Marvel Unlimited or DC on their platform or others via ComiXology Unlimited the same day they are meant to go up for sale. That would fundamentally change the direct market.
I’d be very intrigued to know what comic shops think about this. Archie is a bit of a non-factor for the most part, so the clear and present danger isn’t significant with just that thread in mind. But if it spreads – and I’m also curious what other publishers thought of this move, because someone like Oni or Vault could benefit from the visibility of a platform like this – it becomes something different altogether. The biggest restriction on these all-in-one comics streaming platforms has been the lag between print release and release on the platform. If that changes, everything does.
I’m not saying that’s happening, at least not soon. But someone had to take the first step to make that a thing. The first step has been taken. Where do we go from here? I don’t know, but I’ll be keeping an eye out, that’s for sure.
3. S.W.O.R.D., Being Raised
What if I told you that Al Ewing and Valerio Schiti were making a S.W.O.R.D. comic?
If you’re like me, then the answer would undoubtedly be, “YES I WOULD LIKE THAT PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY.” That is the case here, as that comic is in fact happening – on the heels of the item that appears next on this list – and arriving in December. I’d be an easy sell just from that writer, that artist, and that name, as Kieron Gillen and Steven Sanders’ previous title with that name is a personal fave, but the fact that it is what it is makes it even more appealing.
Krakoa doing what it can to protect the Earth from extra-terrestrial threats, as a squad that includes my girl Abigail Brand, Magneto, an absolutely fabulous looking Fabian Cortez (dat cape, tho), Cable, Manifold, Frenzy and Wiz-Kid will reside in space – on occasion – to lead the Sentient World Observation & Response Directorate. I love everything about that. I love Magneto, Frenzy and Cortez being back in space, having a nice Magneto and the Acolytes reunion. I love Al Ewing carving a cosmic niche for himself between this and Guardians of the Galaxy. I love the designs for the character. I love it all.
Let us, in fact, go. I’m all in on this book.
4. X of Swords, Ruling
In this week’s edition of The Pull, cracks in my X of Swords-created armor began to show for the first time. Skepticism entered my brain on the heels of Excalibur #12 and X-Men #12, as both of those issues felt a bit uninspired to me for big event prelude issues. I needed a big showing from X of Swords: Creation to get me feeling it again.
So I have good news: I’m feeling it again! That’s because I loved X of Swords: Creation, a comic that felt like a big deal set up in the vein of classics like X-Men: Alpha or the one-shot that set up Messiah Complex, giving me everything I needed in one issue and setting up oh so many chess pieces for this sprawling, 24 issue event. It had it all. Gorgeous Pepe Larraz art! Beautiful Marte Gracia colors! An outrageously amazing final page! A+ data pages! Betrayal! Death! New characters! Old favorites! SWORDS, BABY!
I am hot for this crossover now, as I can now see what the field looks, and it looks GREAT. This is how you start an X-Event, as this puppy spoke loudly, specifically, and carried a very large sword. I would like more of that, please and thank you.
5. Olivier Coipel, Eating
Continuing on a recent mini-trend of Marvel titles having covers of characters in diners – including Daredevil #14 and the upcoming Immortal Hulk #41 – I saw Olivier Coipel’s cover to Thor #8, and you know what? I am all about that. Thor eating burgers, even if they are genuinely disturbing probably burgers but maybe hot dogs? Hell yeah. I said this on Instagram, but I am here for this mini-trend becoming something much bigger. Marvel, you love theme months. Give me diner month! Krakoan diners! Wakandan diners! Under the sea diners! I want it all! Keep this trend going and I will keep buying. I love it. More of this, please.
6. TKO, Waving
TKO Studios’ third wave of releases were revealed this week, and while there are no immediate ultra A-listers like in the first wave – shouts to Garth Ennis and Steve Epting’s Sara as well as Jeff Lemire and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s Sentient! – it’s an interesting trio of releases. This one is led by The Pull, a sci-fi story exploring this question, “What would you do if you only had six days left to live – give up or fight back?” that’s from Steve Orlando, Ricardo Lopez Ortiz, Triona Farrell, and Thomas Mauer. I am extremely into “what if you had x amount of days to live” stories for unknown reasons, so pairing that with a sci-fi angle and that art team is something I dig.
The other two I’m less into. One is simply because the art. I’m just not a Szymon Kudranski fan, and seeing him on Lonesome Days, Savage Nights is tough stuff. That said, Steve Niles is always an interesting read, and I do like supernatural crime stories. The other is a horror story from Alex Paknadel and Nil Vendrell called Redfork, and as much as I’ve appreciated the two of them in the past at times, the concept feels like one I’ve read before (especially considering at first glance I genuinely thought it was the Redlands logo, as in the Image title from Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa del Rey).
The big selling point for me, bizarrely, is I love the production value for these books. The single issue box sets and collections of the whole series are both well made – I could go for a smidge heavier stock on the covers of the trades, though, or even a hardcover alternative – and they just look good front to back. Production value and knowing that my guy Sebastian Girner has great taste goes a long way to getting me to try out new comics. We’ll see if I do that when these launch on November 9th.
7. Eternals, Approaching Infinity
Covers are really drawing my attention – and partially my ire – lately, and this week’s visit to my local comic book shop underlined that to a degree. Eternals #1 is a comic I’m excited for, as previously noted in this very column, as a comic from Kieron Gillen, Esad Ribic and Matt Wilson is not a hard sell at all. It’s connected to a (now delayed) big movie launch, and it is even connected to the return of Thanos, an assuredly anticipated arrival once it happens.
Not happy with all that heat, Marvel has decided to buoy – or weigh down, perhaps – its launch with, as far as I can tell, 40 covers. So when I came into my shop on Wednesday, I overheard a clerk not pitching Eternals the comic, I heard them pitching the above, godforsaken document that helps people order all the covers they want. That’s not the clerk’s fault! This is an insane situation, and they’re trying to adequately manage it so customers are as happy with what they get as possible without the shop needing to take on a ton of risk just in case.
But when I look at a document that is asking – and likely getting! – customers to prepay hundreds of dollars so they can get 65 copies of the same comic, I can’t help but think this is comics in its very worst form. How is getting people to order dozens of the same comic so they can get covers that aren’t even revealed yet presumably so they can resell incentive variants on eBay a good thing? I legitimately do not understand. It is bewildering to me.
To their credit, it did remind me to add Eternals to my pull. Just one main cover for me, please and thank you. Esad Ribic is, and always will be, good enough for me by himself.
8. The MCU, Shuffling
The coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on…well, everything, but that also includes the Marvel Cinematic Universe within that everything. Considering this is a column about comics and comic related things, that kind of thing is of interest to me, and this week, major changes were made to the schedule of releases in that universe. Black Widow has now been pushed back even further, with its release to theaters now set for May of 2021, while Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has evacuated its May release date for one in July and Eternals moves all the way from February to November after originally being scheduled for November of 2020.
That is, of course, a lot, and there’s likely more to come. With James Gunn not just helming Suicide Squad but also a Peacemaker HBO Max series, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 seems likely to be delayed for who knows how much longer, so the MCU’s plans are definitely fluid right now. Understandably! We are in fact in a pandemic, and I can tell you this much: I sure as hell am not going to a movie theater any time soon. It all feels like the right moves, but I do think some of the scheduling remixes are fascinating. It’s interesting that Shang-Chi will arrive before Eternals now. There’s likely not a ton of overlap between those two stories, but still, it’s curious.
Meanwhile, WandaVision saw its first full trailer drop, and beyond it breaking people’s brains with a House of M nod in a bottle of wine, it looks great! When will it arrive? Who knows! The Disney+ shows continue to build steam from a promotional and announcement standpoint, but there’s little suggestion as to when they might arrive. There was a brief suggestion WandaVision was meant to drop in December 2020, but that has since been removed. So…we shall see.
9. The Way of the Househusband, Utterly Delighting
My pal Bruno Batista from Big Bang Comics told me I should read Kousuke Oono’s The Way of the Househusband, and despite my skepticism of Batista’s taste – mostly because he hates Gambit – I decided to listen. I was immediately rewarded for that decision, because I’ll tell you what: the winner of 2020’s Eisner for Best Humor Publication is actually, in fact, extremely funny.
The premise of this comic is simple, as is its structure. A former Yakuza boss – nicknamed The Immortal Dragon – gets married and decides to become a househusband. Consider it John Wick before the movie starts and before his wife dies but after he left his life as a hitman, but if it was instead played for laughs. Each chapter – each story is told in episodes, as most manga stories are, as they’re typically delivered in anthologies – has roughly the same setup: we’re led to believe our househusband lead, Tatsu, is back to his Yakuza ways, but invariably his intensity is being channeled into something mundane and domesticated, like making lunch for his career woman wife or scoring big at a department store sale.
Each chapter has the same structure for that reason, roughly speaking, but its formulaic nature does not downgrade it in any way. Like the best jokes, we know the structure effectively. It’s setup and then punchline. But like those same jokes, they work because of execution and cleverness. The Way of the Househusband thrives at this, as throughout the first volume, I kept walking my wife through specific sections as I say things like, “THIS IS SO FUNNY!” as I point and she shakes her head. But it really is that. It is so funny.
The Way of the Househusband is an utter delight. If you’re looking for a fun comic to read with low stakes and big laughs – plus phenomenal cartooning! Oono has got it going on! – this is the comic for you. Jump on it, because Bruno was right! It is very good!
10. Cape & Cowl Comics, Expanding!
The heartiest of shouts to Eitan Manhoff of Oakland’s Cape & Cowl Comics, whose (excellent) shop is doubling its size with an expansion of the shop. A lot of digital ink has been spilled about how shops are closing and are struggling and this or that, and while that’s true, here’s a secret: some shops are doing very well! Take Cape & Cowl, for example. They’ve been closed to customers throughout the pandemic, both because of California state guidelines but also because they just decided to focus on curbside pickup, mail order, and other avenues, but Manhoff’s shop has done well for itself.
Well enough to even double the size of its available space, adding about another thousand feet of space, so they’re going from a great shop to a great AND enormous one. As someone who has become a semi-regular long distance customer of Cape & Cowl during the pandemic – thanks to an introduction caused by artist Ramon Villalobos during my attempts to help comic shops back in April – I can and do preach to the greatness of both the shop and its owner. If every shop was like Cape & Cowl, comics would be in incredible shape. And now, if every shop was like Cape & Cowl, every shop would be gigantic! Congrats Eitan! Best of luck in making that magic happen!