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‘Lola,’ ‘Lazarus,’ ‘Legion of Super-heroes’: This week’s Super comic book picks

Every Wednesday–New Comic Book Day–Super will pick three top titles you should pick up from your friendly comic book shop. These are the picks for this NCBD, March 25, 2020:

“Lola: A Ghost Story” (Oni Press)

Ten years ago, Portland, Oregon-based Oni Press released a most unusual graphical novel. “Lola: A Ghost Story” was written by J. Torres, a Filipino-Canadian writer who had written a lot of young adult reader stuff for comics, most notably DC Comics’ “Teen Titans Go!” Torres was born in Manila but moved to Toronto. The art for “Lola” is provided by Elbert Or, a Filipino comic creator who has done a lot of work (the cult classic “Cast,” the K-Zone addiction “Bakemono High”) but also providing the distinctive art for Tahanan Books’ iconic “The More The Manyer” series. All that comes together in “Lola,” which follows teenager Jesse, who comes to the Philippines after his lola dies and starts sees visions of ghosts and other otherworldly Filipino creatures. There is both a coming-of-age story and a mystery unfolding here and Torres unfolds it slowly like a scroll. Or adds just the right level of whimsy and spookiness as “Lola” pays respects to its Filipino roots but also thoroughly lives up to its young adult scare elements. It’s also, ultimately, about family. It’s right there in the title, as it has both “Lola” and “ghost story” in it. Finally, after 10 years, Oni is rereleasing “Lola” with a revised ending and retouched art and we can’t be happier. All Filipino comic book readers need to find a way to find “Lola: A Ghost Story” and put it on their beloved book shelf.

“Lazarus: Risen” # 4 (Image Comics)

Writer Greg Rucka knows a thing or two about hot creative properties. His work was turned into the Kate Beckinsale movie “Whiteout” in 2009 and his “Stumptown” series about a grumpy wannabe private eye is now an ABC primetime series starring Colbie Smulders. He has his own series of novels starring professional bodyguard Atticus Kodiak and written comics featuring Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Wolverine, among many others. But perhaps his best series had been the gritty, uber-realistic spy series “Queen & Country,” which was published by Oni Press from 2001-2007. That has been surpassed by this new series. “Lazarus” is about a dystopian future when the world is ruled by 16 families, each controlling the territories economically, politically and militarily. The families have champions, trained and enhanced soldiers each called a Lazarus. The Carlyle Lazarus is named Forever, and this violent, built-out series shows how Forever is revived after each battle and that she is the seventh in a series of clones: This now an eighth. The original Image series started in 2013 and ran 28 issues. In 2019, the sequel series “Lazarus: Risen,” now quarterly instead of monthly, began. With this fourth issue, Forever and her chosen soldiers have taken things into their own hands, carrying out an ambitious plan that will eventually lead to the long-planned end of this great series. Each book also has a back-up text story with illustration set in this world. Not enough can be said with the other mastermind behind “Lazarus,” artist Michael Lark, who has brought an edge and a poeticism to “Lazarus” from the start. Rucka waited for Lark to finish issues instead of using fill-in artists for the main series and it has been worth it, as the saga has a consistent look. The fake ads, also set in the world of the book, are wonderful and Rucka’s letter columns, complete with his ruminations about the geo-political and scientific developments of the day, are unlike any other. “Lazarus: Risen” is one of the smartest, bloodiest and most relevant comic books out there today. This is our future? Starting reading about it now.

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“Legion of Super-Heroes” # 5 (DC Comics)

The Legion of Super-Heroes has one of the greatest legacies in DC Comics, dating all the way back to “Adventure Comics” # 247 in 1958. It’s a team book set in the 30th-31st century future that allows DC to combine science fiction with a large cast of teenage characters with different powers and personalities from all over the universe. Through the years, certain creators had defining runs on the book with powerful continuities, notably Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen. But the alternate future, legions and Superboys gave DC a continuity headache, leading to various realignments and reboots through the years, including several series starting and then abruptly being cancelled. This new “Legion of Super-Heroes” ongoing is helmed by DC’s prize prize poached from Marvel, Brian Michael Bendis, someone who knows a thing or two about writing teenagers. That should also give him more issues to work with. Bendis crafts a very modern take on the Legion with a bent for social media and diversity. He has a Superboy–Jon Kent, Clark’s son–and a Robin–Damian Wayne, Bruce’s son–who have traveled from the past. The series is still in the process of setting itself up so it’s very busy and characters are still essentially being introduced. We find out more about the Legion’s background and hopefully we’ll soon find out why Superboy is so important and Robin so dangerous in this future. The art by Ryan Sook and Travis Moore is top-notch.

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