(Hey, remember when I did this a week or two ago? Here it is again!)
Nonplayer #1 by Nate Simpson (Image)—Nate Simpson's debut has been getting a crazy amount of buzz, and for good reason: Holy shit is it gorgeous. Talking about it much beyond that is where it gets tricky: If the first issue's any indication, this thing's gonna be a mix of fantasy, sci-fi, and day-to-day drama centering around Dana, a young woman who delivers tamales and/or bickers with her mother in her futuristic real life, but delves deep into a virtual role-playing game for fun. (That's the simplified version, anyway: There are a couple more levels of reality/fantasy going on here, too, but I'll let you parse 'em out yourself.) Nonplayer's story feels very, very early—on its own, it probably wouldn't be enough to keep me coming back, at least at this stage. But when taken as a whole, alongside Simpson's stunning art? I can't wait to read Nonplayer's future issues. Pick this thing up—or, at the very least, check out the preview. I'm guessing once you've seen this book's first three gorgeous pages, you'll understand why everybody's talking about it.
Rambo 3.5 by Jim Rugg (self-published)—A goofy little ashcan from Jim Rugg (Street Angel, Afrodisiac, The Guild) that has George W. Bush and Rambo teaming up to fight Rambo's former pals al-Qaeda. Well, sort of. There's some fun stuff in here, even if it's hard to imagine any joke that's more tired than "George W. Bush sure was an idiot!" (I mean, yeah, he totally was, but that joke/observation/riff/whatever died years ago. UNLIKE RAMBO, WHO IS IMMORTAL.) You can read the whole thing online for free, but be a champ and pick up a copy. I snagged mine when I swung by Secret Headquarters in L.A. last week (ooOOoh, I'm so faaaancy!), but I've also seen 'em at Floating World here in town.
Fear Itself #1 by Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen (Marvel)—Not sure if you guys've noticed, but I kinda like how this Fraction guy writes. But Fear Itself, the latest big, expensive (seven issues at four bucks a pop? Oof), and ostensibly meaningful crossover event from Marvel, is a different beast than the kinds Fraction's familiar with. So how'd he do? Well... we'll see. This 44-page first issue boasts solid art by Stuart Immonen and some welcome real-world elements to balance out the spandex—though it's not made explicit, the issue begins at a heated protest in Lower Manhattan, at what's clearly the proposed site of Park51; later, much is made of the fact that things are currently... well... shitty. ("People are mad right now, and broke and they've been lied to and ripped off—and when people who're already mad get scared then all hell kinda breaks loose," Tony Stark tells Steve Rogers, after not-so-politely informing him that "'Captain America' doesn't come with the same caché it once did.") There's also plenty of punching and spectacle, because, y'know... superhero crossover. While casual readers will be stuck filling in a lot of blanks (so, Hulk's red now? The Norse gods' city Asgard is now a ruin in Oklahoma? The Red Skull has a daughter?), this issue gets a whole lot of interesting cogs spinning, and Fraction's take on these characters is predictably solid. I'll be back for the next issue, though that's largely 'cause I'm curious to see what Fraction does with an event book, not so much because of the event itself.