webcomic that claims to be the diary of a certain frustrated artist and man-out-of-time named Steve Rogers. Like a more emo, light version of Millar's Ultimate Captain America, this Cap is haunted by his time displacement, baffled by the modern era and grappling with the insecurity he feels when confronted with this alien modernity. Often very funny or quietly witty, the strip also takes its premise very seriously, never resorting to a cheap punchline. Steve earnestly discourses on religion, art, gender, technology, and politics, all of which have changed tremendously in his time away. And the humor is balanced by real, sometimes startling, pathos and emotion. The simple, economical drawings, with the figures and their musings positioned in white space, both fits the faux-sketchbook format and places the emphasis on the cartoony expressiveness of these characters. A quick must-read for any fans of superhero psychology.
Legends of the DC Universe #24-25 (Jamie Delano & Steve Pugh) - As recommended by Sven. Really excellent. A punk kid on Apokolips reawakens the spirit of resistance and free will through graffiti and an unwillingness to follow orders. Really moving and poetic, especially since Delano traces much of the story through the transformation of one of Darkseid's Hunger Dogs, who is so shaken by the kid's disobedience that it totally undoes a lifetime of subjugation, of cruel deeds perpetrated both on and by him. It's hard to imagine a better ode to the persistence of the human spirit, with Pugh channeling Kirby's grandeur and bombast in the art to further convey this optimistic, heartfelt message. It's a great fusion of punk ethos with the Fourth World saga's potent morality.
Dr. Strange: The Oath (Brian K. Vaughan & Marcos Martin) - A really fun and smart miniseries that explores the Sorcerer Supreme through the lens of not only magic but science and medicine, the earthly as well as the mystical. Vaughan imparts thematic richness to the story through flashbacks to Strange's youth as an arrogant surgeon, and a plot in which the medical and the magical cross over and intermingle. Magic "has no rules," someone complains early on, so Vaughan confronts Strange's magic with the laws of nature, the laws of man, and science's constant quest to test the boundaries of those laws, and to expand those boundaries. Martin's art is dazzling, with a charming cartooniness and bold, thick lines - it's Martin, as much as Vaughan, who makes this book essential. Martin also gives the book much of its charm and energy, in the rakish wit of Strange (very like William Powell here), the simmering romantic chemistry between Strange and Martin's effortlessly sexy, sophisticated Night Nurse, and the eye-popping imagination of the book's mystical realms and magic battles.