PUBWATCH: BOOM! Studios, August 2018

BOOM! Studios logo 2017

Hey folks! If you’ve been regularly following this here BOOM! Pubwatch, you might notice things are a bit different, as we’ve secretly replaced your regular host, the fearless Claire “Jack ‘The Joker’ Napier” Napier, with, well, me.

Archival footage of Claire leaving the BOOM! Pubwatch:

Jon Snow leaving Castle Black saying "My watch has ended"

Well, have no fear, because I’ve bowed down in front of a tree that had “Magneto Was Right” carved into it and sworn the Pubwatch oath and everything:

Comics gather, and now my watch begins. It will not end until, IDK, 2019? I shall take no husband (lol), hold no lands (have you seen the price of real estate?), (mutters incoherently) no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no paycheck. I shall live and die at my post.

I am the pen in the darkness. I am the watcher on the pub. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn (this part goes on for a bit), the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the websites of women. I pledge my life and my honor to the Pubwatch, for this month and for, IDK, several months to come.

Okay, those formalities done, I’m here to report to you on (checks notes) what BOOM! Studios and its imprints have been up to for the previous month.

What Does BOOM! Have in Store for Us?

For those of you who like knowing what’s coming up, there were a few exciting things in BOOM!’s August solicitations, which describe publications that will be coming out in the fall, including the upcoming Sparrowhawk by Matias Basla (artist) and Delilah S. Dawson (writer), which follows the adventures of the illegitimate daughter of a naval captain as she tangles with the Faerie Queen. The solicitation describes it as “Teen Victorian fairy fight club!” which frankly sounds AWESOME. The first issue is out in October.

Cover of Sparrowhawk #1
Sparrowhawk #1, cover by Miguel Mercado.

For those of you still aching from the cancellation of Backstagers, well, I’ve got some good news. October will also be bringing us the Backstagers Halloween Intermission one-shot, which promises spooky tales of terror from Savanna Ganucheau, Abby Howard, Sam Johns, Shan Murphy, Rian Sygh, and James Tynion IV.

BOOM! also announced the continuation of the popular Fence boys school sports drama by Johanna the Mad and C.S. Pacat beyond its current twelve-issue run, with stories to continue in a series of original graphic novels. Fence joins a growing trend for teen-focused comics to skip single issues and go directly to trades. I would not be surprised to see some of BOOM!’s other series, especially in the BOOM! Box imprint, follow suit in the near future.

And now onto the watching of the pub!

Pub Watch, P-p-pub Watch!

With one possible exception, all of BOOM!’s imprints are going strong.

The main BOOM! Studios line had some major releases, including the premiere of Black Badge by Jim Campbell (letterer), Hilary Jenkins (colorist), Tyler Jenkins (artist), and Matt Kindt (writer), which imagines a troupe of Boy Scouts acting as secret military scouts, as well as the Rod Serling Planet of the Apes Visionaries OGN by Marcelo Costa (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer), Dana Gould (writer/adapter), Chad Lewis (artist), Darrin Moore (colorist), Miquel Muerto (colorist), and David Wilson (inker), which adapts Rod Serling’s original—and later abandoned—screenplay for the Planet of the Apes film. BOOM! Studios continues to be BOOM!’s home for more adult-focused (or nostalgia-driven) licensed books and original comics.

Cover of Planet of the Apes Visionaries, showing astronaut in a loin cloth in front of a modern city of apes in clothing.
Planet of the Apes: Visionaries, cover by Paolo Rivera.

The kid-focused KaBOOM! also had a good month, with a relatively full slate of comics and trades, including the premiere of the Steven Universe: Harmony miniseries by Meg Casey (colorist), Mike Fiorentino (letterer), Mollie Rose (artist), and S. M. Vidaurri (writer) (more on this in a bit). Steven Universe aside, I didn’t find many of KaBOOM!’s offerings particularly thrilling, but I’m also not the target audience here.

BOOM! Box, on the other hand, continues to release some stellar books targeted at teens and tweens, but enjoyable by pretty much everyone, like Lumberjanes and Giant Days. One notable entry this month: the Lumberjanes: A Midsummer Night’s Scheme one-shot by Nicole Andelfinger (writer), Maddi Gonzalez (artist), and Brittney Williams (writer/artist), as well as the Lumberjanes Adult Coloring Book. BOOM! Box didn’t have any major #1s this month, but its ongoing series remain spectacular.

Finally, there’s Archaia, which is in some ways the odd duck out at BOOM!. Not only is it the only imprint that doesn’t have “BOOM!” in its name (it used to be a separate publisher), its line is focused so strongly on the Jim Henson license that—as much as I love its output—I miss the fun all-ages fantasy graphic novels they used to put out with some frequency. I also worry a little about the imprint’s future if BOOM! should ever lose the Jim Henson license. But, putting all that aside, Archaia’s output in August was pretty spectacular, including the hardcover collection of the Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Fairies miniseries from earlier this year, the absolutely beautiful Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Artist Tribute hardcover, and issue #6 of Archaia’s Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation. Archaia did have one non-Jim Henson-related publication in August—Kate Gavino’s original graphic novel Sanpaku—though I unfortunately have not had a chance to read it yet.

But, you ask, were any of these comics any good? Glad you ask, BOOM!kateers, because it’s time for…

Selected Mini Reviews

Cover of Fence volume 1, showing fencer in white holding epee in front of himself


Jim Campbell (letterer), Joana LaFuente (colorist), Johanna the Mad (artist), C.S. Pacat (writer)
July 25, 2018

Technically this one came out at the end of July, but I read it in August and we talked about it at Fantom Comics’ Queer Book Club this month, so I’m counting it. Fence is a fun book inspired by sports manga/anime, with art by Johanna the Mad that feels simultaneously fresh and familiar. One area where Johanna the Mad really excelled: giving everyone truly fabulous, yet individually-distinct, hair. But while I mostly enjoyed the book, I felt the pacing was a bit awkward, and ending the first trade after the first round of fencing team tryouts was especially odd.

Also, while I mostly loved the character of Bobby, I found the book’s decision not to define Bobby’s gender unsettling—by all appearances, Bobby is trans-feminine, so the unexplained use of he/him pronouns by other characters felt misgendering. Even a single line by Bobby explaining “hey, I’m a boy who likes to wear skirts and have long hair” would have gone a long way to make it clear Bobby wasn’t being ill-treated by his/her/their classmates.

Members of the Black Badge scout group looking out, with explosion reflected in binoculars

Black Badge #1

Jim Campbell (letterer), Hilary Jenkins (colorist), Tyler Jenkins (artist), Matt Kindt (writer)
BOOM! Studios
August 8, 2018

The team that brought us the Grass Kings is back with with the tale of four Boy Scouts who are secretly part of an elite military scouting team named after its eponymous double-secret merit badge. The first issue has the kids travel to South Korea, sneak across the border to North Korea, and call in the location of a nuclear scientist for an airstrike, before giving themselves up to North Korean officials under the pretence of having gotten lost. While there isn’t a viewpoint character per se, new member Willy acts more or less as an audience surrogate, as he’s learning about how the Black Badge works as we do. Tyler Jenkins’ art—which relies here on heavy brush strokes on the outlines, without a lot of detail work, giving the book something of an impressionistic feel—works alongside Hilary Jenkins’ color palette to elevate the sense of tension. It has a look reminiscent of a contemporary stylized horror comic, without relying on chills.

Now, if that sounds like your thing, you’ll probably enjoy this book. As for me… it wasn’t so much my thing. I don’t particularly feel the need to read the stories of Boy Scouts who commit war crimes, even with plausible deniability. I also have some concerns regarding the fact that, according to interviews, neither Kindt nor Jenkins were themselves Scouts, which raises worries about the portrayal of the Black Badge Scouts. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Steven trying to grab a crystal heart, while crystal gems stand behind; Sadie’s face is in the background, looking sad

Steven Universe: Harmony #1

Meg Casey (colorist), Mike Fiorentino (letterer), Mollie Rose (artist), S. M. Vidaurri (writer)
August 1, 2018

I’m not usually a huge fan of licensed comics for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it’s hard to make a comic that feels authentically like a work that originated in another medium. But, when it works, licensed comics can be amazingly fun and can add to the franchise in unexpected ways. Steven Universe: Harmony easily falls into that latter category. The main plot—in which the Topazes back on Homeworld accidentally activate a Harmony Drive, whatever that is, also activating the one on Earth—isn’t particularly compelling (at least not yet). But the issue absolutely excels at getting practically every character’s voice pitch-perfect, from Sadie, trying to figure out the purpose of her life without Lars and her job at the Big Donut, to Peridot, who cannot figure out the logic behind rock-paper-scissors, to Buck, who has some of the best one-liners in the issue. The issue was truly a joy to read, and I can’t wait for issue #2. (I’m not quite sure why KaBOOM! decided on the square publication format, though.)

Marie falling into the water, with a stylized labyrinth border around the edge

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation #6

Daniel Bayliss (artist), Jim Campbell (letterer), Irene Flores (artist), Dan Jackson (colorist), Simon Spurrier (writer)
August 22, 2018

This month marked the halfway point for Archaia’s Labyrinth: Coronation, which is slowly unveiling the story of how Jareth became the Goblin King in the first place—and how his mother tried to rescue him from the hands (feathers?) of the prior Goblin King. While this issue doesn’t delve quite so much into the nature of the Labyrinth as recent months, the story is slowly progressing, with at least one major revelation about Maria’s sometime companion Sir Skubbin. Really, though, the standout character of the issue is Cible the worm, who at first feels a tad derivative of the original Labyrinth worm, but then reveals herself to be a swashbuckling hero. (Though being a worm, there’s only so much swash she can buckle.) While I wish things were moving along a little faster, the voyage remains quite enjoyable.

C.P. Hoffman

C.P. Hoffman

By day, C.P. Hoffman writes about digital accessibility and the law; by night, they write about comics, pop culture, books, and gender. They have lived across North America (Indianapolis > Chicago > New York > Montreal > Indianapolis again), but now reside just outside of Washington, DC. C.P. has a particular affinity for Spider-Women, but also loves Wonder Woman, comics about witches, and stories about time travel. For inexplicable reasons, they also tweet a lot about the Fantastic Four. Twitter: @CPHwriter