It’s hard to recommend reading for summer fun this year. 2020 is hard, But I have some comics and if you need to take a breather from fighting for justice and punching the novel coronavirus hard, well, these comics are here for you. There are a few titles I’ve talked about before. Comics shipping and production, like many things, was interrupted by the novel coronavirus. Covid 19 is a terrible jerk, but we will punch it in the face. So wash your hands, wear a mask, maintain your distance, save some lives and work for a good cause. And when you need a break, relax and read some comics.
Or color some comics, in the case of Cursed Pirate Girl
Cursed Pirate Girl Coloring Book (Archaia, 2017) Jeremy Bastian
Cursed Pirate Girl is one of my favorite comics. It’s about a girl who becomes a pirate plying the Omerta Seas and discovering its subaqueous secrets. But Bastian’s art is so detailed and the comic takes so long to make that there’s only so many times and ways I can recommend it. Except now, I can say, appreciate the art, chill, and color in some pirate-y pictures. Or just look at them and wonder at how these drawings look like engravings, but are not.
Essential Defenders, vols. 1-6 (issues #1-124 running between 1971 and 1983) (Marvel, 2005-11) So many writers, artists, letterers and colorists.
Look it hasn’t been a great few months of superhero comics between quarantine and shake-ups in comics distribution. But Defenders is here for you with weird, superhero wonders. Dr. Strange, Namor the Sub-Mariner and Hulk join forces for the world’s first “non-team.” And organically Defenders becomes a group of friends and roommates that spend a lot of time at Nighthawk Kyle Richmond’s ranch house. (Dr. Strange and Namor do not crash at the ranch). Do you want to see Hellcat and Hulk serving hot cocoa? You can! Do you want to see Valkyrie try to explain to a man that even though she’s in the body of his ex, Valkyrie is not his ex? You’re in luck! Do you want to see a millionaire superhero struggle with financial problems? Defenders has that, too! Do you want to see a Nick Fury Life Model Decoy drink Schlitz with Fury’s supervillain brother, Scorpio? You can and you will see him try to have a beer with Moonknight. Defenders is where it’s at.
Jughead’s Time Police (Archie Comics, 2020) Sina Grace, writing; Derek Charm, art; Jack Morelli, lettering; Jack Herms, colors.
Jughead Jones’ access to pies are in danger after a freak baking accident. Pies must be saved. Access to pies—and jams—must be preserved*. A wrong must be righted. When Jughead;s potentially prize-winning lemon meringue pie sickens all the judges at the annual Riverdale pie-baking contest, Jughead decides the only solution is time travel. Will Jughead save the future? Will he fix his damn pie? Will the band win one of the other contests that’s happening at the same time? Will he meet a lot of alternate Jugheads including a very Rob Liefeld one? Is this a nice little diversion with cool pictures of Jughead doing equations on a board? Is Jughead’s outfit excellent? Can Jughead’s dog Hot Dog use the microwave? Will Jughead be able to restrain himself from altering the history of the hamburger? You’ll just have to find out for yourself. But at the risk altering the future: all signs point to yes.
The Little World of Liz Climo (Running Press, 2014) Liz Climo
Back in the day, Liz Climo’s work would be in the daily newspaper. But now you can enjoy them online where the spirit of the comics page lives on. And you can get your Little World mug and enjoy your coffee as you do. The stories are short two to four panel comics with animals doing human things but without being over-anthropmorphized. They remain very much themselves. Well-drawn, well-colored, calm and clever. And I like her choice of animals. There’s even a capybara!
Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Vol. 2: Something Wicked (Archie Comics, 2020) Kelly Thompson, writing; Veronica Fish and Andy Fish, art; Jack Morelli, lettering.
Something Wicked continues where the previous volume left off. Sabrina has feelings for both Harvey and Ren. She’s trying to help Ren and her best frenemy, Radhka with a supernatural problem. And she’s not sure who she can go to for help before Ren and Radhka’s problem becomes the whole town’s. Sadly, her black cat familiar, Salem, is no longer a giant winged panther. Giant winged panthers solve almost any problem.
The Tea Dragon Festival (Oni, 2019) Katie O’Neill
Katie O’Neill understands that winged panthers—even when called, “dragons,”—solve almost anything and that is why this follow-up to The Tea Dragon Society wisely includes a dragon who appears to be a flying panther. Said dragon, Aedhan overslept for 80s years when he was supposed to be watching over a village. When he wakes up, ready to work, he has a lot to catch up on. Luckily, he meets Rinn who has experience with the much smaller tea dragons of her village. Rinn wants to help Aedhan figure out what has happened to him. Rinn’s uncle, Erik, and his partner in adventures and romance, Hesekiel want to help, too. You might remember them as tea masters in the first volume. The Tea Dragon Festival is lovely and charming with art reminiscent of a picture book.
Vampirella: Seduction of the Innocent (Dynamite, 2019-2020) Christopher Priest, writing; Ergün Gündüz, art; Giovanni Timpano, guest art; Willie Schubert, lettering.
Hey, it’s comics icon Christopher Priest! And he’s writing Vampirella as hardboiled horror with, as Priest says, Samuel L. Jackson as her therapist. Vampirella has survived a plane crash and is seeking help with her trauma from Dr. Chary (sounds like daktari, Swahili for “doctor”). Dr. Chary believes everything has a rational explanation that does not involve aliens, vampires or alien vampires, which makes the healing process difficult for our own extraterrestrial vampire. Aside from trying to work things through with a therapist who doesn’t believe her story, Vampirella also faces the immortal Baron Gustav von Kriest, The Six Marys pf the Catholic Exorcism Initiative Office, two relationships that should never have happened, and the interference of her mom, Lilith. There’s a lot going on and even Vampirella is having a hard time with it.
*I did it and I’d do it again.
Carol Borden would very much like a collection of all of Jeff the Land Shark’s appearances. He’s very summery.