Wednesday's New Things 7/3/13

#1 Satellite Sam by Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin

#2 Avengers A.I. by Sam Humphries and Andre Lima Araujo

Two Jasons, An Ed and A Steve: On "Southern Bastards" and "Velvet"

Yesterday, Image held its own little convention, Image Expo, down San Francisco way, a chance for the publisher to take a victory lap after its recent successes and announce some new stuff without the pesky Big Two (or, as will be the case later this month in San Diego, the movie and television industries) getting all up in the spotlight. Of the many, many interesting announcements and interviews done over the course of the day, there are two announcements that seem worth mentioning and parsing out a little bit. 

The first is the news of Jason Aaron and Jason Latour's Southern Bastards, a crime comic with a dixie twist. The end of Scalped a year ago left a big, big hole in the crime comics landscape and, although 100 Bullets is back (speaking of which, HOORAY!), nothing has come along which matches that book's twisting intensity; that Aaron, who is also writing the excellent Thor: God of Thunder and the very fun Wolverine and the X-Men for Marvel, is returning to the genre is very welcome news. That his partner in this new endeavor is Jason Latour is another reason to be hopeful about Southern Bastards. I like Scalped's R.M. Guera a lot, but his compositions get muddied by his heavy line, often to the detriment of his storytelling, and they are often not particularly interesting as individual units in a sequential story. Latour has a much lighter touch, which keeps his art uncluttered and allows him to add expansive detail to his panels. He also has an interesting sense for the way slight adjustments in color make for dramatic results; look closely at that promo image, check out the light red line work, in the background, and the benday dots, in the foreground, and you'll see what I mean. On top of that, his design sense is impecable, and in particular the way that he seems to see words as images that contain important information but which also can have their own distinct visual qualities. All of this is to say that Latour's comics rejoice in the juxtaposition of words and pictures, like a slightly less Popped Chris Bachalo. If the two Jasons can come together in a way even approaching the way I think they could, Southern Bastards may be a step up from Scalped, an actual masterpiece as opposed to merely transcendently good comics. 

Also of note is Ed Brubaker's new spy comic Velvet, which focuses on the life of a character reminiscent Ms. Moneypenny. Brubaker's doing the book with Steve Epting, his partner from the best of his Captain America days, which is another recipe for success. I don't think that Epting gets his due as an artist; although his work approaches photo realism, and he occasionally has trouble drawing characters or objects that or difficult to conceive as actually existing, he's perfect for straight up espionage, like those Captain America comics or this project. Brubaker, of course, reconceived Captain America for those comics as a kind of international super spy, a kind of louder, Red, White and Bluer, James Bond. As his stories developed, first in the pages of the character's home comic, then through Civil War and the long Death of Captain America arc, he seemed to become less and less interested in playing with the possibilities of the conventions of a super hero story in a spy comic, finally turning in a second Captain America series that he didn't quite seem fully behind and, in Winter Soldier, a nice and neat spy story that might be among his best work, before leaving Marvel altogether. I have to confess that I've fallen way behind on Fatale, his most recent series with frequent partner Sean Phillips, so its nice to have a reason to get back to Brubaker's work, but the most interesting thing for me here is his very conscious development as a particular kind of genre writer, one who blurred the boundaries between two different genres (and has actually done it twice, both times very successfully), into one who feels comfortable playing with our expectations in the much smaller space of a single kind of story.