Spy Seal, from Image Comics today, started as a joke. Rich Tommaso, best known for his experimental horror comic She-Wolf and noir Dark Corridor, tweeted out an image of an anthropomorphic seal in a turtleneck, packing a gun and a love of country. It turned into such a sensation that it’s become a comic, a strange but heady mix of James Bond, John Le Carré, and Tin-Tin.
Tommaso’s angular, isometric style has always felt a bit European, an influence emphasized here by a softened line. The comedic sensibility, though, is all his. Tommaso writes this utterly straight; this is a classic spy story, but it’s courtesy of funny animals dressed sharply and impeccably. Our hero is an unemployed seal who stumbles over, and helps thwart an assassination plot. Thanks to a bit of luck, and a sultry Russian rabbit, he’s quickly sucked into a whirlwind of spy adventure.
Yes, all of this is tongue-in-cheek, but it’s helped by Tommaso’s art and full awareness that the concept is absurd. The straighter he plays it, the funnier it gets, until you find yourself almost forgetting this is a book about funny animal spies. Rich and completely original, you won’t find a book like Spy Seal anywhere else on the stands.
Kaijumax Season 3 #2, Oni Press
Xander Cannon’s clever mix of prison drama and giant monster movie takes a string of turns here, ranging from the heartbreaking as we discover just what the supposed head of a crime syndicate is put through, to a prison staff member learning the hard way that you can’t trust a manipulator, even if said manipulator is a giant alien monster with a thing for injecting uranium. Kaijumax is the rare book that delivers well beyond its concept, and it’ll be fascinating to see where it goes next.
Dark Nights: Metal #1, DC Comics
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo channel the spirit of over-the-top ’70s cosmic comics in this book that features, among other things, the Justice League one-upping Voltron, the revelation that Batman is descended from a tribe of evil cavemen, and, well, that just scratches the surface. One can imagine Snyder and Capullo cackling like mad as they channel the wacky spirit of DC’s disco era, but it’s also an action-packed, and just incredibly fun, read.
Southern Bastards #17, Image Comics
After a long hiatus, Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s sweaty, gritty, witty noir is back. Aaron and Latour throw us right back into the mix with a crime syndicate intimately tied to the local high school football team in Craw County. Football rivalry, it turns out, is just a mask for criminal warfare, as the book introduces new players and set the stage for a much bloodier war.
Secret Weapons #3, Valiant
Eric Heisserer and Patricia Martin really dig into their concept here: “Loser” psiots, people with allegedly useless superpowers, teaming up to prove they’re more than the sum of their parts. Heisserer and Martin, in particular, focus on a Sikh man who is just trying to go to school and get on with life in Oklahoma City, but nobody will just leave him alone. How that pays off here is a thoughtful bit of metaphor of Heisserer’s part, but it’s Martin who fully executes the idea, and it makes for one of the better team books as all this builds to a climax.
Spider-Men II #2, Marvel: Really, this is worth the cover price for Miles and Peter as a comedy team. But Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli do well with the action and pacing, especially with Bendis’ cross-cut plot structure.
Batman #29, DC Comics: The War of Jokes and Riddles takes a slight breather for a fancy dinner in Tom King and Mikel Janin’s latest issue. That it’s insightful, funny, and even scary when all they really do is eat and talk underscores just how powerful this team is.
Generations: Wolverine And All-New Wolverine, Marvel: This time travel one-shot, from Tom Taylor and Ramon Rosanas, has plenty of Wolverine-on-ninja action. But it’s the emotional core, of Wolverine’s daughter trying to reconcile herself with her father, that makes it worth reading.
Godshaper #5, BOOM! Studios: Si Spurrier and Goonface’s thoughtful take on religion and gods just gets better with each issue.
Normandy Gold #3, Dynamite: Alison Gaylin and Steve Scott’s sleazy ’70s noir takes a disturbing turn in this issue that pushes it from homage to ’70s thriller to its own idea.
This Week’s Best Collections
Dead Inside, Dark Horse ($18, Softcover): One of the best crime comics in recent memory, from Toni Fejzula and John Arcudi, follows an investigation of a murder inside a prison. And how the plot unwinds is a smart, well-researched approach to real policework while wrapping a mystery around it. A must-buy for crime fans.
Punisher: Suicide Run, Marvel ($35, Hardcover): One of the stranger, and more interesting Punisher stories from the 1980s, this arc explores, to a surprisingly thoughtful degree, the dangers of vigilantism and the risk of latching onto a symbol without understanding quite what it means.
Eightball: Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron, Fantagraphics ($25, Hardcover): Daniel Clowes is best known for more grounded comics like Ghost World and Wilson, but this strange conspiracy thriller might just be his best work, and arguably the book that cemented him as an indie comics darling.