It’s a fun time to be a comic book fan. Comic book movies are coming out constantly and making good money, and comic-based television series are not far behind. The big publishers are shaking things up to grow readership and a growing number of small presses are staking out a space for themselves. One of our favorite byproducts of all this comic-love are the new titles coming out that play with existing genres, and experiment with putting familiar pieces together in new ways. Below are three comics (all new in 2012) that tickle our twisted sensibilities.
Fatale (Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips): The Dark Noir of the Soul
The alternate cover to Fatale number one really sets the stage nicely. It depicts a tentacle-faced monster holding a Tommy-gun. If that image has got you thinking Lovecraft plus gangsters, you're not far from the truth. What makes Fatale so engaging is that it uses the "evil cultists in the detective noir world” setting as a starting point, not a destination. Compelling characters, brutal action, and heaps of supernatural mystery make the story so much more than the one-note pastiche that it could easily have been. The fact that Brubaker has stated that the series had to be expanded in order to fit in the entire plot only encourages our sense that this will continue to be one heckuva ride.
The Manhatten Projects (Jonathan Hickman/Nick Pitarra): History with a Twist (or three)
We all have a sense of how alternate history works; you take history, make a tweak, and see what happens. What if the Nazis won World War II? What if Rome never fell? The Manhattan Projects takes that same principle and applies it over and over with equal parts absurdity and awesomeness. [Spoilers ahead for the next few lines] What if Oppenheimer were psychotic with an essentially infinite number of split personalities? What if Wernher von Braun were a homicidal cyborg? What is Franklin Delano Roosevelt were an undead supercomputer? [End spoilers] You can see how this might be a title that keeps the reader coming back month after month, and we assure you that what's described above is only the tip of the crazy-pants iceberg.
Secret (Jonathan Hickman/Ryan Bodenheim): Super Spy Smashup
Alright, “espionage” was probably a better term than “spy,” but that would have meant losing out on the alliteration. Espionage stories come in a lot of different flavors. There's the low-plot, high-action variety like the James Bond films. There's the taught, talky character drama, like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. There's the torture-plus-yelling-equals-excitement model pioneered by the Fox television show 24. Secret falls somewhere in-between all of these. Yes, people seem to get things cut off or pulled out of their bodies in each issue, but there is also a complex and layered story that interconnects the fast cars, customized bullets, and threatening monologues. It's no accident that two of these comics share the name Jonathan Hickman. Throughout his work, Hickman has consistently put unusual spins on familiar genre tropes like time travel (Pax Romana, Red Wing) and superheroes (Transhuman, Red Mass for Mars). If there's anyone we trust to take us to some unusual new spaces, it’s certainly Hickman.
What other new genre trips did we miss?