Can’t Wait for Wednesday: If you buy one plague-themed comic this week …

See what the Smash Pages crew has their eyes on this week, as a small number of comics make their way to stores and digital.

It’s week two of DC’s attempt to get comics in front of people during the global pandemic, and they’ve got more on their release list this week than they did last week. It’s still a very small number of comics, but here’s what Carla and I have our eyes on.

Carla Hoffman

Three months ago, when the books released this week were being ordered by comic shops, seems like another lifetime.  Whatever was going on in comics before the U.S. started shelter-in-place orders feels less relevant  than Huntress’s first appearance, on sale this week in a reprint of DC Super Stars #17.  Who we know today as the Huntress is a far cry from her original concept, her TV and movie adaptations.  We’ve all hit our Crisis reboot and it’s hard to connect the then with the now.

But when I see that Hawkman #23 is being released by DC Comics this week and there’s a PLAGUE DOCTOR front and center on the cover (artfully drawn by Mikel Janin), there’s an absurdist streak in me that says I have to own this comic. I know very little about Hawkman himself, but I do know his character has worked around the concept of past lives and, in this issue by Robert Venditti, Marcio Takara and Fernando Pasarin, we are looking back into his most tragic past life experience yet: a mysterious plague doctor who roams 17th century Europe under the shadow of the bubonic plague pandemic. But “how is the doctor supposed to help anyone when he’s hated and feared for his unique immunity to the disease?” 

When this issue was being conceptualized months ago, the idea of a bird-masked Plague Doctor Hawkman seemed more hackneyed than relevant to the modern era, too on the nose of “let’s find a historical period for a man to wear a hawk mask.” But now? I wanna watch a superhero fight a plague.  I want to remember what we thought of such a thing months before we faced our own pandemic and lose myself in the fiction of what we thought that was like.  Reading a comic about a past pandemic during a current pandemic is a delicious irony that I will enjoy sometime in the future.

JK Parkin

While DC has been in the news over the last few weeks for their moves to get their comics back in front of people, Marvel has been fairly quiet, seemingly waiting for things to return to normal and for Diamond to start distributing again. That is, until this week — this Monday was Star Wars Day, and they took that opportunity to release the first issue of their new Doctor Aphra series by Alyssa Wong and Marika Cresta to digital channels. The comic brings back the rogue-ish doc and her crew, along with some new faces, as they look for the score of a lifetime. It’s a fun concept set in a well-known universe, so even if you aren’t as versed in Aphra’s back story as some, hey — there’s a wookiee! And droids! And more fun Star Wars references for you to enjoy.

Finally, I gotta say that this one looks absolutely beautiful — The Lost Carnival: A Dick Grayson Graphic Novel. It’s by Michael Moreci and Sas Milledge, and Milledge’s work looks phenomenal. This is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while, as Batman’s first second takes the center ring.

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