In the deepest, darkest depths of hell, there is a train station that will take you wherever you want to go. As fabulous as that sounds, it is hell—and so there’s a catch. The train will transport you to wherever, yes, but the platform is packed full of demons.
This is an accurate description of what it’s like to take pretty much every train in New York City, and while it’s not something the heroes of this week’s best new comics have to deal with directly, it’s something that they would keenly understand.
As much fun as it is to read comics that are obviously trying to make you think about complicated, multifaceted social issues, sometimes you just want to kick back with a book whose sole goal is to charm the everliving hell out of you. That’s the kinda book Image’s New Lieutenants of Metal is.
You know you’re in for a fantastic experience when a comic book opens with a playlist that includes “Shake a Leg,” “Shout at the Devil,” and “Freewheel Burning” the way Joe Casey and Ulises Farinas’ New Lieutenants of Metal does. When you actually fire up the music and dig into the comic, reading becomes an experience that isn’t quite like putting your nose in a book to read, but is more like plopping down to watch your favorite cartoon on Saturday morning with a big bowl of cereal.
New Lieutenants of Metal is a comic book that knows exactly what it is and leans into the conceit with a story about a group of heroes fighting to save, at least in the first issue, the world from a gigantic robot. In each of the heroes, you can see bits and pieces of the creators who, like many people, find the idea of comic book teams coming together to smash big, unruly ne’er-do-wells an ideal kind of sport. While there’s definitely a plot to New Lieutenants of Metal, the true joy of reading the comic really comes from experiencing the way that Casey and Farinas tap into that very particular kind of Saturday morning cartoon energy that convoys the fact that you’re about to have a good time. (Joe Casey, Ulises Farinas, Image Comics)
Even though most people who live in New York City don’t know it, we who do actually have a fair amount of experience making our ways through the deepest, darkest depths of hell that, charmingly, present themselves as the subway system.
Vita Ayala, Lisa Sterle, and Stelladia’s Submerged from Vault Comics knows this to be the truth, but does something fascinating by incorporating it into a story about a woman trying to find her brother in the midst of a hurricane. There’s a magic and mystery to Submerged that’s difficult to put into words that make sense—unless you’re familiar with the nightmare that is trying to take public transportation in a major metropolitan area.
Just as an epic storm is about to befall NYC, Elysia sets out to find her missing brother who has no business being out and about when the world’s about to end. The New York that Elysia exists in feels like a place grounded in reality in a way that most other comic books’ depictions of the city do not. In the moments where Elysia’s confronted by subterranean garbage men, you’re there with her and mumbling to yourself “I can’t do this right now. The world is ending and I need to find my brother. Please go away.” There’s a beautiful mundaneness to Sterle and Stelladia’s illustrations that just... is New York in all of its dirty, grimy, honestly-tiring realness. When Elysia makes her way past a subway stop that’s just taped shut, you’re there in the sense that you know exactly what kind of frustration she’s dealing with, and tolerates only because there are no other options.
Submerged is the kind of comic that will make you appreciate the voice and perspective that writers bring to books that, in other hands, could easily be pedantic and tiring. It’s the kind of book that’ll make you stop and take stock of the monotony of your day to day life and realize that you, like everyone else, is fighting and trying to catch the struggle bus because we all just want to make sure that we can get home at the end of the day. (Vita Ayala, Lisa Steele, Stelladia, Vault Comics)