Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. And just like that, Comic-Con International is upon us. But while tens of thousands of people are dashing to airports, exiting planes and checking into hotels on Wednesday, many of the rest of us will be making our weekly pilgrimage to the comic book store for this week’s releases.
So before the announcements start rolling out of San Diego, join us to see what comics caught the eyes of the ROBOT 6 contributors.
Dinosaurs Attack #1
Martian attackers are cool and all, except I always associate them with the uneven Tim Burton movie as much as the awesome trading cards from the ’60s. I don’t have that problem with Dinosaurs Attack, the Mars Attacks homage cards from the ’80s. The story for the Dinosaurs cards was written Gary Gerani, who also wrote an aborted Dinosaurs Attack miniseries for Eclipse Comics, with art by Herb Trimpe and Earl Norem, both of whom also worked on the cards. Originally planned as a three-issue series, only the first 40-page issue was published by Eclipse. Now, IDW Publishing is releasing the whole thing as a five-issue series (presumably with shorter page counts per issue), and I can’t wait to see it in all its gory glory. — Michael May
The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics
Artist Grady Klein has been doing a series of non-fiction Cartoon Introduction books with Macmillan imprint Hill and Wang, and here’s the latest. They have a high-education crossover that seems halfway targeted to students, but also aim to grab the general interest of the curious-minded. The first two books were a two-part introduction to Economics. Statistics teams Klein’s goofy artwork with Alan Dabney, associate professor of Statistics at Texas A&M University, to present the basics of how statistics work, how they’re generated, what they actually mean, and how they can be manipulated. Klein grounds the whole thing into a narrative-based presentation to keep it from being too dry, and even amusing. Math “amusing”? I know, unthinkable! Then they get down and dirty with formulas and numbers at the back of the book with the Math Cave. Schools and libraries should eat this up. If this is how I learned math, my life would probably be much different. — Corey Blake
Tales of Batman: Archie Goodwin
From the “New Look” Batman of 1964 to the DC Implosion of the late ’70s, Julius Schwartz edited Detective Comics — except for seven issues in 1973-74, when a young up-and-comer named Archie Goodwin took over. Tales of Batman: Archie Goodwin reprints those issues, along with later work like the Night Cries graphic novel (drawn by Scott Hampton) and the five-part posthumous tribute “Siege” from the original Legends of the Dark Knight (plotted by Goodwin, scripted by James Robinson, and penciled by Marshall Rogers). Still, the early work stands out for me. Not only did those Detective issues feature Goodwin scripts and art by Jim Aparo, Sal Amendola, Howard Chaykin and Alex Toth, they also introduced Goodwin and Walt Simonson’s revival of “Manhunter,” one of comics’ most stylish series. Put it this way: when Batman shows up in the final installment of “Manhunter,” it almost feels intrusive. — Tom Bondurant
Think Tank, Vol. 2
I really liked the first volume of this action-packed story about a rogue scientist at DARPA. Dr. David Loren was a child prodigy who was enticed into a military career in his teens; now, as an adult, he regrets the real-world human consequences of the weapons he helped create. In the first volume he escaped from the clutches of DARPA thanks to a couple of his own ingenious inventions; in this second volume he is back at the lab but none too happy about it. Filled with nifty gadgets, surprise twists, and unlikeable characters getting their comeuppance, Think Tank is a perfect summer read — smart, but not too taxing. — Brigid Alverson
The Mysterious Strangers #1 and #2
Writer Chris Roberson and artist Scott Kowalchuk are starting this new ongoing Oni Press series at the best time. It strikes me as a kindred spirit to the visual delight that was Roberson and Mike Allred’s iZombie and a thematic cousin to Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case’s Batman ’66. See for yourself thanks to the FCBD free edition of Issue 1. Roberson said all I needed to know about the potential of this series when he described it as ” it’s the ’60s world as seen in Danger: Diabolik or The Avengers or The Prisoner or the Adam West Batman.” Kowalchuk’s art style strikes me as a mixture of Allred’s whimsy and Mike Mignola’s odd clunky grittiness (clunky is a compliment in this instance). I also find it fascinating that. As Oni offered a FCBD edition of the first issue, that Issue 2 (the second part of a two-part tale) will also go on sale Wednesday. — Tim O’Shea
Judge Dredd: The Complete Cam Kennedy, Vol. 1
Cam Kennedy is something of a surprise choice to be IDW Publishing’s third artist showcased in this series, after Brian Bolland and Carlos Ezquerra. Ezquerra co-created the future lawman, while Bolland defined him for many. Cam Kennedy came fairly late to the character: After having drawn more than his fair share of workman-like war comics for DC Thomson’s Commando and IPC’s Battle, Kennedy came into his own on 2000AD’s Rogue Trooper. There, his style matured into something unique. As that series wound down, he got more and more assignments drawing Dredd. By that time, John Wagner and Alan Grant’s co-writing on 2000AD‘s flagship character had settled into a sometimes wry, sometimes angry, satire. Dredd was as often the villain as the hero of his own strip. Kennedy got to illustrate some of their finest works in this vein: he was a master at imbuing the victims of the Mega City 1 judicial process with pathos and humanity, even as their fates were played for dark laughs. His Dredd is a lean, mean force of nature, trampling the innocent and the guilty alike in his dogged adherence to the law. Kennedy also had a flair for design, and several recurring elements and characters in Dredd mythology get their introductions in this collection.
Kennedy has all-but retired from the comics medium due to failing eyesight, creating fine art at his studio in the Orkney Islands instead. It’s great that this tribute is being paid to the man’s sizable contributions to the Dredd universe. And after this wild card choice in IDW’s deluxe artist-driven reprints, I’m left wondering who’ll be next for the fancy slip-cased treatment? McMahon? McCarthy? — Mark Kardwell