Most kids who join the Scouts realize, at some point, they’re being groomed for the military. Maybe not pressured into it, exactly, but the program’s roots in military training are abundantly clear once you hit a certain point. Matt Kindt, with Tyler and Hillary Jenkins on art, takes this to its natural conclusion by turning a small group of elite Scouts into a band of black ops killers in Black Badge, which launches today from BOOM! Studios and might be the year’s most dryly funny book.
Kindt loves secret conspiracies buried in bureaucracy, and that’s all over this book, but it also pays off some concepts in some deeply funny ways, especially if you ever joined the Scouts. It’s told from the perspective of overachiever Willy, who has earned literally every possible merit badge. Yeah, he’s that guy. But since he’s racked them all up, he’s got the right stuff to earn a secret badge. Needless to say, Willy quickly finds himself way out of his depth and terrified for his life, especially since his fellow scouts are terrifying people in their own right.
Underneath the comedy, Kindt and the Jenkins team, who give this book a loose style that feels like hazy spy photos, have a larger point. This is as much a book about indoctrination and justifying your actions to yourself as it is a book about killer kids with merit badges. But Kindt also doesn’t lean on the “just kids” excuse for his characters. It promises to be a fascinating new book, Scout or not.
Hot Lunch Special #1, Aftershock Comics
Elliot Rahal and Jorge Fornes team up for a book about the dirty dealings behind vending machine sandwiches. Yes, it sounds absurd, but Rahal and Fornes know what they’re up to, quickly laying out the gangster history of the Khoury family and the behind-the-scenes bribes, and backstabbing is only slightly exaggerated. Fornes’ crisp lines feel like newspaper photos, and the plot keeps things grounded while having just enough drama to keep the pages turning. If you’re a noir fan, this might well be your new favorite book.
Farmhand #2, Image Comics
Rob Guillory continues his mix of personal drama, mad science, and corporate intrigue. It’s an often deeply funny story, including a few jabs at self-righteous potheads and the cartooning industry as a whole. But it’s also an affecting one. For all the over-the-top elements in this story, and there are plenty, the complicated relationship of a father and a son sit at the center, anchoring it and elevating it at the same time.
She Could Fly #2, Dark Horse
Christopher Cantwell and Martin Morazzo continue their look at mental illness and how it skews your life. Morazzo’s work, in particular, is stunning as it looks hard at Pure OCD, the condition where a thought echoes in your mind until it’s impossible to escape, no matter how horrifying it is, while Cantwell uses that as the grounding for a broader story about the media, the madness of crowds, and how a society can become obsessed with unanswered questions. This is shaping up to be a can’t-miss book, not least for its thoughtful look at mental illness.
Fantastic Four #1, Marvel
Dan Slott, Sara Pichelli, and Simone Bianchi bring back Marvel’s first family after an extended hiatus. Building off Chip Zdarsky’s superb work in Marvel Two-In-One, this book is a touching, genuine tribute to the Four and their true calling as a family. And also to Doom’s true calling as a tyrannical wang with an ego the size of the Hoover Dam, but hey, everybody’s gotta be somebody.
Plastic Man #3, DC Comics: Gail Simone and Adriana Melo both pay tribute to DC’s strangest legacy character and needle their bosses in a hilarious and even touching issue.
Bloodshot Salvation #12, Valiant: Jeff Lemire and Doug Braithwaite wrap up their epic tale with an affecting, emotional finale that will stick with you, as Bloodshot finally discovers whether he can truly save his child.
Sandman Universe #1, DC Comics: DC’s upcoming Sandman label launches with a short anthology book introducing us to the many, many people struggling in the wake of Dream’s sudden, worrying absence.
Domino #5, Marvel: Gail Simone and David Balderon tell a stirring tale of self-confidence, self-respect, and kicking a grown man’s face in because he damn well has it coming
Assassin’s Creed: Conspiracies #1, Titan: Guillaume Dorison and Jean-Baptiste Hostache offer up a fun tale of London in the Blitz, and the Assassin trying to, well, stop a conspiracy.
This Week’s Best Collections
Look Back And Laugh, IDW Publishing ($20, Softcover): Liz Prince spent a year documenting everything that happened in her life in comics form, one new comic every day. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes touching, sometimes witty, but always a great read.
Disney Masters: Donald Duck: The Great Survival Test, Fantagraphics ($40, Hardcover): When Carl Barks retired, Daan Jippes and Freddy Milton took over. But few in the US read their comics, making this hardcover a great way to catch up.
Wolfpack: The Complete Collect, Marvel ($40, Softcover): This well-meaning comic tried to launch a new, inner-city superhero team and… well, failed miserably, to be honest. But it’s a fascinating pop cultural artifact.