Friday, January 05, 2007

Supergroups and Panthers we love

To usher in a brand new year of Comic Art Fridays, I thought I'd begin with a list of five currently ongoing comic series or miniseries that I'm especially enjoying right now. By coincidence, the five books share something in common — each features the adventures of a group of superheroes.
  • Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters. I was skeptical when I bought the first issue of this eight-volume miniseries. After six issues, I'm already dreading the impending end of the storyline. The book features updated versions of several heroes with Golden Age pedigrees: The Ray, Phantom Lady, Doll Man, the Human Bomb, Black Condor, and of course, Uncle Sam. The writing team of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti (or "Graymiotti," as they're sometimes known) has crafted a compelling plot featuring interesting twists on old character types. The distinctive, painterly art by Daniel Acuña complements the action perfectly.

  • Agents of Atlas. Another series resurrecting heroes from the distant past — in this case, the 1950s, when the company today known as Marvel Comics was known as Atlas (among other names), Agents brings together the most unlikely assemblage of superdoers since Marvel's 1970s Champions series. Ageless secret agent Jimmy Woo leads a reunited team consisting of a spaceman (Marvel Boy), a goddess (Venus), a simian (Gorilla Man), a robot (M-11), and a merwoman (Namora) through a series of scrapes narrated by a new character, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Derek Khanata. Writer Jeff Parker and artists Leonard Kirk and Kris Justice have taken a kooky concept and spun it into gold. As with Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, I'll be sorry when Agents of Atlas is over.

  • JSA Classified. Although a brand new Justice Society of America series recently hit the stands, I've grown fond of the more personal and intimate short-run stories being told in JSA Classified. The current story arc by writer Scott Beatty and artists Rags Morales and Michael Bair features an old favorite, Doctor Mid-Nite.

  • Heroes for Hire. I'd eagerly anticipated the start of this Graymiotti-scripted series, and I haven't been disappointed in the least. HFH throws together some sadly neglected Marvel characters from back in the day — including the Daughters of the Dragon (bionic-armed Misty Knight and katana-swinging Colleen Wing), the Black Cat, and Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu — with such newer heroes as Tarantula and Humbug. Comic Art Friday perennial Al Rio takes over the penciling chores from Billy Tucci and Francis Portela effective next issue.

  • Avengers Next. I'm not a fan of Marvel's various alternate universe series, but I decided to sample this one because Ron Lim is providing the pencils. Am I ever glad I did! Former Marvel editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco is crafting a fun, fast-paced, cheerfully old-school superhero yarn, featuring a new generation of young heroes in a possible alternate future. It's everything comics used to be, and rarely are today. As expected, the art by Lim and inker Scott Koblish is energetic and awe-inspiring.
Of course, one thing I always love about comics, and have for some 35 years or so, is the Black Panther. Let's check out some BP art.

My always wonderful hometown comic shop offers frequent "Starving Artist Saturdays," where local comic artists drop in and sketch on-spot commissions for an afternoon. Last Saturday, I dropped by to visit with the artiste du jour, a fast-rising North Bay talent named Paul Boudreaux. Paul kindly drew this gorgeous, strikingly detailed, and huge — the actual image measures 14" x 16" — T'Challa scenario for me.

And, because one Black Panther is never sufficient to satisfy our craving for all things Wakandan, here's another snazzy sketch, drawn in Kirbyesque style by former Milestone Media artist Angel Gabriele.

Go read some comics, willya? Because that's your Comic Art Friday.

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