Top of the stack: Comics read in November worth noting
A return of Valiant Entertainment’s flagship character, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman stories and a visit from the Black Widow make up this month’s selections.
This is the second month of a new segment. Late each month, a sampling of three or four recently released comic books are reviewed in brief, with each comic getting just two to three paragraphs of ink. Not all the books are brand new, but the idea is they were published within the last few months and are worth noting for a variety of reasons. They come from a range of publishers, and represent different genres.
The comics reviewed are presented in no particular order.
“X-O Manowar” No. 2
Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum offers a new take on Aric of Dacia, a 5th century warrior and nobleman who is known as X-O Manowar. Hallum’s interpretation of Aric and his armor, Shanhara, is in stark contrast to the Matt Kindt series which came before. Hallum has put Aric in a situation that’s reminiscent of Dar going through the portal in “Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time,” bringing the barbarian who communicates with beasts into an early ’90s Los Angeles. Aric now operates on Earth in contemporary times, with Shanhara serving as both his partner in combat, and as a liaison of sorts, helping Aric to fit in.
Emilio Laiso is a good artistic partner to bring Hallum’s vision of Valiant’s flagship character into a new era for the comic book publisher. The collaboration between writer and artist didn’t seem as polished in No. 1, so perhaps the long layoff between issues helped the creative team jell more. Laiso proves to be a solid storyteller in this new issue, with a clear sequential style that’s both visually engaging and easy to follow. Ruth Redmond’s colors add pop and texture, while lettering by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou ties the visual layout together, adding richness to action scenes.
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Release date: Nov. 25
Other notes: The first “X-O Manowar” issue to come out since the pandemic impacted the United States.
“Black Widow” No. 3
Three issues in and the plight of Natasha Romanoff thickens. Supervillains are keeping the Black Widow under surveillance while Bucky Barnes, Clint Barton and Yelena Belova watch from a distance, trying to figure out what Natasha has gotten herself into, and how best to help her in this bizarre San Francisco life she’s recently found herself in.
Kelly Thompson’s script is elegant in how it portrays this new version of Natasha, who is being manipulated, though she manages to keep her potency intact despite her agency being removed from her. Elena Casagrande on art and colorist Jordie Bellaire provide a beautifully rendered Black Widow story.
Whether it’s delivering intimate character moments or detailed two-page action spreads, Casagrande’s linework has never looked better in a superhero comic, regardless of publisher. This Black Widow book is unlike any that have come before, and should satisfy any cravings fans have for the character.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release date: Nov. 4
Other notes: This issue has two variant covers available, including a Marvel Cinematic Universe rendition depicting Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow.
“Norse Mythology” No. 2
The partnership isn’t new but it seems to be as strong as ever, as Dark Horse continues publishing comics adapted from classic Neil Gaiman stories. Based on Gaiman’s interpretations of Norse tales depicted in his 2017 book, “Norse Mythology,” which was published by W.W. Norton & Company, P. Craig Russell provides scripts and layouts, with artist Jerry Ordway, colorist Lovern Kindzierski, and letterer Galen Showman contributing.
Whether read in single issues, or later on as part of a grand collection of issues, readers of classic mythology ought to be interested in this comic. The execution of both issues published to date has been flawless in its handling of source material, and No. 2 in particular is fun for those interested in Thor, as the god becomes acquainted with Mjölnir, his enchanted weapon, through this issue. Like with other comics adapted from Gaiman’s works, David Mack provides stunning variant covers for each issue of the series.
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release date: Nov. 4
Other notes: These Norse myths from Neil Gaiman aren’t to be confused with the Marvel Comics stories which feature Thor and other Asgardians.