Welcome to this month’s BOOM! Pubwatch, where I’ll be gushing about Wonder Pony, a new middle-grade comic that I loved, as well as the start of Seven Secrets #1, and the graphic memoir, Happiness Will Follow, which I have some mixed feelings about. In the news section there is some celebrating the Jenny Frison Cover deal, but also some important questions raised in the wake of the BRZRKR announcement. Let’s jump right in!
Jenny Frison Cover Deal
If you ask me to name my favourite comic cover artists, Jenny Frison will always be at the top of the list. I can’t remember what I encountered first, her gorgeous work on the series Revival or her Red Sonja covers, which made me see the character in a whole new light.
You may also know her for her work on Wonder Woman, Vampirella, or Clean Room.
So I was thrilled to learn that Frison and BOOM have signed a huge cover deal. As part of the deal, Frison will be creating twenty new covers for BOOM from now through 2021. Some of the covers will include variants of We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #1, An Unkindness of Ravens #1 and Something is Killing The Children #11.
Creative Team for Dune: House Atreides Announced
This fall, BOOM is releasing Dune: House Atreides, as a companion to the upcoming movie. This comic will be set in the years leading up to the Frank Herbert novel and will take readers to meet Pardot Kynes on the desert planet Arrakis. But his isn’t the only story explored in these comics. While he tries to unearth the planet’s secrets, a coup is being arranged by Shaddam Corrino, the son of Emperor Elrod, an enslaved eight-year-old, Duncan Idaho, who tries to escape his masters, and a young Leto Atreides is about to head out on a fateful journey.
The creative team behind this ambitious project is led by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, who have experience in this world, having co-written a couple of Dune novels together. They’ll be joined by artist Dev Parmanik (Paradiso) and colorist Alex Guimarães. As a Dune fan, I think this a great team and I’m excited to see the results of their collaboration in October.
Keanu Reeves is Writing a Comic?
Back in July, BOOM! made the surprise announcement that Keanu Reves would be making his comic book writing debut with the new twelve-issue limited series, BRZRKR. Working alongside comics superstar Matt Kindt, Reeves in BRZRKR will tell the story of a half-mortal, half-God who has been cursed and compelled to commit violence. After struggling with the curse for centuries he’s finally found some relief working for the U.S. government to fight the battles too violent or dangerous for anyone else.
Though I have been enjoying the recent Keanaissance we’ve been experiencing, I have to admit this comic doesn’t really sound like my style. While I obviously enjoy some horror comics (the number of times Something Is Killing the Children has appeared in this column should be proof of that) I tend to shy away from things described as “brutally violent.”
The reason I bring it up in this month’s Pubwatch, is that this announcement launched a larger conversation about BOOM!’s current pay rates. Many have pointed out that BOOM! often offers dismal pay for many creators, something that seems especially exploitative when you think about how much money they must be spending on this project. I haven’t seen any sort of response from BOOM about this, but here’s hoping they’ve seen some of the backlash and are re-evaluating their current policies for creators.
I am incredibly curious what kind of deal Boom made for that Keanu book and how it's ultimately going to allow them to continue exploiting younger creators with dinky rates and punishing deadlines.
— Zachary Clemente (@clementeworks) July 17, 2020
Mike Fiorentino (letterer), Edward Gauvin (translator), Marie Spénale (writer & illustrator)
July 29, 2020
The star of this middle-grade graphic novel is a young girl named Louison. She’s starting sixth grade at a new boarding school and one day she and her new friends find a secret cache of items hidden by the students who came before them. They divide up the candy, nail polish and other goodies, and Louison ends up with a toy pink pony. Little does she know that this seemingly ordinary toy (known as Jean Pierre) has the ability to transform her into Wonder Pony! A superhero that has the strength and power of a pony.
Have you ever had a terrible week and then read something that instantly made you feel a bit lighter? That was Wonder Pony for me. The whole comic is just so bright. From the colours to the adorable and expressive characters, even the monsters they would fight brought a smile to my face. How many comics have you read with giant sentient broccoli? Louison is the perfect relatable protagonist, as she copes with the insecurities of starting a new school, struggling to fit in and learning the ups and downs of being a good friend. She makes mistakes but with the help of those around her (and Jean Pierre), she is able to learn from her mistakes and try and make the school a better place.
Seven Secrets #1
Walter Baiamonte (colourist), Daniele Di Nicuolo (artist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer), Tom Taylor (writer)
August 12, 2020
For centuries there have been seven briefcases, each holding important Secrets. These briefcases have been protected by the Keepers and Holders of the Order. But when their stronghold is attacked, the Order must face their greatest threat yet. This is a fairly high stakes premise, but this first issue dips its toes in slowly, introducing us to some of the central players and laying the foundation of their relationships. But just because it’s revealing the story slowly, doesn’t mean it’s lacking in action. The panels fly by at a mile a minute, with sharp angles and lots of motion. Daniele Di Nicuolo’s art gives each page a high-energy feel that doesn’t let up from beginning to end.
The main narrative of this story is a bit reminiscent of Saga, in that it’s being told from the perspective of the child of the two main characters we meet in this issue. We know that he, Casper, will eventually become the Order’s youngest member, but we do not meet him directly in this issue. I’m intrigued to see how he fits into the larger plot. Overall, this is a strong first issue, as it gives you just enough information to get you hooked and leaves you with the promise of even bigger things to come.
Happiness Will Follow
Sam Bowen (colourist), Mike Hawthorne (writer & illustrator), Ari Pluchinsky (colourist), Clem Robins (letterer)
August 12, 2020
Content Warning: Child abuse
This graphic memoir explores the relationship between Mike Hawthorne and his mother. She is a single mother, raising him alone in New York City, away from much of their family in Puerto Rico and one day she is convinced Mike is the victim of a Santeria death curse. This sparks a chain of events, including moving out of the city, being subjected to abuse, insecure housing and drugs. The story can be very intense at times, and there were particular scenes, especially those detailing some of the abuse Mike suffered at the hands of his mother, that were difficult to read.
I’ve got to be honest, I went back and forth a lot, trying to decide whether or not to include Happiness Will Follow in this month’s Pubwatch. I found some of the storytelling to be a little disjointed, and there were a couple of confusing time jumps. But despite some of its flaws, Mike Hawthorne is very brave in trying to work through these memories in this way. He could have easily painted his mother as a villain, but he does a good job trying to balance all of the terrible things she had done, with her own struggles. He doesn’t make excuses but he does show that her life was complicated and messy. Overall, this comic may not be for everyone but it is a very raw and emotional read and an important story to tell.
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