Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. In the aftermath of Comic-Con International, it’s bound to be a quiet for days for the comics industry, which provides us with plenty of time to settle in with this week’s new releases. Read on to see our top picks from among the titles arriving on Wednesday.
Ulises Farinas (Transformers: Heart of Darkness, Glory) and co-writer Erick Freitas answer the eternal question: What if Ash from Pokemon grew to become an arrogant jerk, then had to lead a team of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and other toy lines into battle against a bunch of kaiju? Follow-up questions: What if he washed out during the war and ended up a deadbeat, getting punched in the face for money at trashy saloons? And what if a beautiful woman wandered into one of those dives looking for Ash’s — I’m sorry, “Dusty’s” — help? Sounds like a brilliant set-up for adventure, and Farinas has just the fantastic, imaginative style to bring it to life. — Michael May
The Monster on the Hill
I’ve been looking forward to Rob Harrell’s The Monster on the Hill since Top Shelf announced it in April. The first in a series of all-ages graphic novels, the 192-page book is set in a fantastical version of 19th century England, where every little town is terrorized by a unique monster, much to the pleasure of the citizens, who view the ferocious creature as a matter of local pride and a magnet for tourism. That is, except for the residents of Stoker-on-Avon, whose monster Rayburn is a little down in the dumps and in need of a makeover from the eccentric Dr. Charles Wilkie and street urchin Timothy. The preview on the publisher’s website looks terrific, and The Monster on the Hill has received ringing endorsements from Jeff Smith, Neil Gaiman and Richard Thompson. High praise, indeed. — Kevin Melrose
The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction #1
Sometimes when I have an interest in a project, it can get pretty primal/far from complicated. Thus is the case with the first issue of The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction miniseries. As much as I am a fan of Mark Waid’s writing, my sole interest in reading this comic is the artist: Paul Smith. For whatever reason (availability or lack of interest on his part), you don’t see Smith do projects very often (the best I can tell the last time a comic of his came out was a few DC Spirit issues in 2008). That it is a team-up of two pulp characters like Spirit and Rocketeer is just icing on the cake. — Tim O’Shea
Creepy Presents Steve Ditko
I’ve said in the past that the comics published by Warren Magazines are something of a blind spot for me, as I just wasn’t exposed to them as a kid. Maybe it was because of poor distribution in the United Kingdom, maybe it was because of their adult nature. Anyway, Dark Horse’s reprint program for this material has been revelatory, and I’ve been holding out for one book collecting these stories, scattered previously through assorted volumes dedicated to Creepy and Eerie. After his depature from Marvel Comics, Ditko produced the art for these 16 short stories (15 of which are written by the late Archie Goodwin, a master of short-form comics) in 1966-67, at around the same time he was creating Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and The Question for Charlton. I’ve heard many comics professionals and critics alike opine that the art Ditko produced for these short stories are among the greatest work of his career: that he had a point to prove after walking away from Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, and here is the place to see it. They say Ditko was still idealistic about comics’ possibilities at this time, pushing boundaries, trying new techniques like ink-washes, enjoying working with larger page sizes without muddy newsprint color obscuring his lines. In just a year or so, Ditko would be creating the cynical Mr A for Wally Wood’s witzend and sinking into a cycle of alternating between creating odd, angry Objectivist comics for himself and producing joyless work for a succession of work-for-hire publishers. The stories in this book, however, represent one of American comics’ greatest stylists at the top of his game, in a fine-looking deluxe hardcover edition, and as such it should be seen as an essential purchase. — Mark Kardwell