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Top of the Hump: Best Comics 2/22/23

Every hump day, we dive into our pull list and select our favorite comics of the week.

Top of the Hump is a new weekly column where we select our two favorite comics of the week. This Wednesday, we're celebrating some killer number ones with Blue Book from Dark Horse Comics and Local Man from Image Comics.


Today, we're feeling that nineties nostalgia something fierce. Our two favorite comics of the week have an eye on that most extreme decade, having a little fun with yesterday while still providing fresh perspectives. Both of us claim the nineties as our childhood decade. Young Brad kept his nose planted in the pages of Spawn and Youngblood, and Lisa killed her time chasing Polly Pockets and slamming Pogs. And, of course, we took every free opportunity to snap into a Slim Jim.

Maybe you've seen that "Never Have I Ever" meme floating around Twitter and Facebook this week. It's where you award yourself a point for every listed activity you've never done. You get one point if you've never used a rotary phone and another point if you've never listened to music on CD. Lisa scored two points, having never operated a MySpace page or used an AOL email address. Brad nabbed a single point for also lacking an AOL email.

Such memes are cute but also a touch cloying. Nineties nuts like us love to brag about our low scores as if our ancient history signifies a superiority to youth culture. Also, "kids today" are not nearly as clueless about our ways as we often think. They've got Google like everyone else.

What the hell does all that have to do with this week's best comics? Blue Book and Local Man are tied to the nineties, and they offer the same nostalgic pleasure boost as the "Never Have I Ever" meme but are also significantly additive. The emotional plight of their characters remains glued to the now, and the fraught relationships in both books feel anything but bygone.


Lisa's Pick: Blue Book #1

Image Credit: © 2023 Dark Horse Comics

Script : James Tynion IV

Art: Michael Avon Oeming, Klaus Janson

Letters: Aditya Bidikar

"I want to believe." While Mulder's basement office poster didn't hang in my bedroom, it did hang prominently in my mind. UFO abductions are a fascinating phenomenon, and my skeptical brain can't quite wrap my head around them. Still, I love visiting their possibility, especially when recreated with such an open, loving, and creative intelligence.

Blue Book #1, from James Tynion IV and Michael Avon Oeming (and featuring an even wilder backup story illustrated by Klaus Janson), is a richly compelling re-telling of the alien abduction that some would say started it all. The first issue depicts the night Betty and Barney Hill encountered a flying saucer on their way home from a vacation cut short. Betty trusts her eyes. Barney does not. The little gray (blue?) men don't care.

With Blue Book, Tynion and Oeming attempt imaginative non-fiction. As films like Communion and Fire in the Sky have done before, the comic replicates infamous "true stories," or what Tynion calls "true weird stories." Unlike The X-Files, the fabrication is dialed down, highlighting the absurdity as well as the terror. Oeming brings the fright with Betty and Barney's expressions as they react to what cannot be above them. Special shout out to the color philosophy, which seems pleasant and basic until it's not. Blue Book's final panels sent waves of goosebumps across my skin. Absolutely spellbinding. Bring on the next issue.


Brad's Pick: Local Man #1

Image Credit: © 2023 Image Comics

Script: Tim Seeley, Tony Fleecs

Art: Tony Fleecs, Tim Seeley

Colors: Brad Simpson, Felipe Sobreiro

Flats: Lauren Perry

Fonts: Comicraft

I was not prepared for Local Man. I'd seen the Extreme 90s homages. I'd read the basic premise on the comics' website, and the book I anticipated was much more jocular and ridiculous. Instead, Local Man #1 is a somber little slice of Americana. It's a small town noir where super teams like Cyber Force and Brigade are a reality. As is Third Gen, the pouch-heavy badasses who booted Cross Jack from their roster after some as-yet-unnamed scandal.

The disgraced hero returns to his midwestern hometown and his parents' basement. The locals recognize him, and they want nothing to do with him. Well, except for the maniac dressed in some sort of warthog warrior costume. He's got a score to settle. Cross Jack just wants respect, and that ship set sail when the spandex came off.

Local Man #1 is as moody as it is weird. There are chuckles to be scored here and there, but the mystery of Cross Jack's disgrace and his acceptance of his pathetic station will have me coming back for more. The subtle and not-so-subtle nods to classic 90s era Image don't hurt either. The comic is a nerdy delight, but there's nothing winky about its central heartache.


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