Staff Picks – Week of 26/09/2018

Retrogade Orbit
Kristyna Baczynski (w/a)
Avery Hill Publishing

Camila says: Avery Hill is killing it this month, with one stunning release after another, including Katriona Chapman’s Follow me in, Tillie Walden’s On a sunbeam, and this little gem by Kristyna Baczynski.

Set on a small planet in a remote solar system, Retrograde Orbit sure has plenty of ‘space’ fun – otherworldly landscapes and architecture and some of the loveliest-looking aliens you’ll ever see, but any sci-fi here is just the background. Retrograde Orbit is a lovely story about family, relationships, and belonging.

The attention to the detail in the characters and overall book design is also a real treat. From the colour scheme to simple details (like haircuts!), observant readers are constantly rewarded for taking their time to appreciate Baczynski’s gorgeous art.

The Amazing Spider-Man #6
Nick Spencer (w), Humberto Ramos (a)
Marvel Comics

Liz says: It’s the beginning of a new story-arc for this series, and it’s off to a cracking start! Humberto Ramos (series artist for much of the Dan Slott run) joins writer Nick Spencer, lending to a pleasant balance of familiarity and freshness. Once again, I found myself laughing out loud (the most inspired usage of the Black Ant’s powers I’ve ever read are employed opening pages) and grinning throughout the whole of the issue. Spencer clearly relishes reintroducing the characters from his ‘Superior Foes of Spider-Man’ run, and I certainly enjoyed seeing them! I’ve been loving this book so far and highly recommend it, so if you missed the first arc, now is the perfect time to jump on!

Rolled and Told #1
Various Creators
Lion Forge

Will says: It’s been one of those weeks where we’ve been spoiled for choice. Philippa Rice treats us with her latest comic, Sister BFFs, a laugh out loud story about the relationship between herself and her sister. Kristyna Baczynski takes us away from home and into colourful reaches of space with Retrograde Orbit (see Camila’s pick!). Dami Lee charms us with her hilarious account of living between South Korea and America and more in her collection of diary comics, Be Everything at Once. I love weeks like this, though my wallet will disagree.

My pick this week is actually none of the above. Indulging my geekiest characteristics, my pick is Rolled and Told, a magazine for dungeon masters all about your favourite role playing game. This hefty comic sized mag is a bundle of goodies assured to make any dungeon crawler smile. The contents include articles about the game to compliment the gruelling adventures you put your PCs through – this particular issue writes about the importance of critical hits and this writer’s approach on how to effectively implement them into your campaign; there are two shortish original campaigns to inflict on your party or inspire your own campaign, complete with pages detailing some unique monster stats akin to your monster manual; additional supplementary material such as tables of pirate themed loot; and there is even a short comic of an adventuring party, alongside it full character sheets of our protagonist PCs. All this and some lovely illustrations by a variety of talented comic creators.

The magazine is understandably written to be tailored towards 5th edition adventures, but all can very easily be adapted to your preferred play style. It’s a fantastic read for anyone who loves immersing themselves into fantasy role playing worlds and will certainly encourage you to organise that next session of yours. The series will be released monthly and I can’t wait for next month’s Halloween themed issue.

Heroes In Crisis #1 (of 9)
Tom King (w), Clay Mann (a)
DC Comics

Chief says: This could have been this years mega-crossover event, with 36 tie-ins, a special, two additional minis and a wrap up aftermath issue. It does have the word ‘Crisis’ in the title after all. Thankfully, all that crap seems to have fallen by the wayside. What you have instead is a wonderfully crafted mystery. A murder mystery set in a country house, no less. One in which the the world’s greatest detective and his super-friends have to solve a multiple hero take-down.

One of King’s greatest strengths is his ability, like Kurt Busiek, to humanise and empathise with the Gods that walk the Earth and make you register the emotional costs of the things they do and things done to them. No battle is easily fought, no day without cost. In King’s hands, heroes are domesticated in the best possible way, given emotional cores in a way that makes you reappraise characters you may have previously deemed disposable. He continues his love affair with Booster Gold that began in ‘The Gift’ storyline in Batman and places him firmly in the centre of the action almost managing to make me interested in Harley Quinn as a character again, something that hasn’t happened since Gotham City Sirens. The central conceit is gold too. A trauma centre for superheroes, helping them work out their baggage when the many dangers they face threaten to overwhelm them physically and emotionally. And then the murder mystery starts.

I would have been content with the Heroes Hospital idea but King has other concerns and is soon reminding us why he’s writing Batman as the first threads of the mystery are sewn. King shows smarts by having Superman be our entry point into the mystery element, giving us the character on whom all emotions get projected to, well, project our emotions on. It would be remiss not to mention Clay Mann’s lovingly handled art. He seems to have chosen a slightly rough, unfinished look for flashback scenes and a more polished sheen for the forward sections of the story, rooting in you in the time a space of the story with ease. The colours and inks are also beautifully balanced, giving you a pastoral feel undercut with all the menace that King layers into his work.

I’m in for the nine issues, even if there is a surprise wrap-up. This is one of the best-crafted books of the year. DC have had the decency to keep the cover price reasonable too, which is unusual with any event book. All in all, it’s 32 Pages of Mann showing us why he’s the MAN and King showing us why he’s the (wait for it…) KING!