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Cover art of Earthdivers #1 (2022). A large image of Tad’s face superimposed over the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria sailing over the horizon toward the viewer. Below the waterline, Tad’s face is skeletal, combining with the blue sky and red, black, and white waters into an image evoking both death and the American flag. Image: Rafael Albuquerque/IDW

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One man must stop the apocalypse... by time traveling back to kill Christopher Columbus

Earthdivers #1 and the best new comics of the last two weeks

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Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

The moment I read the official summary of Earthdivers, I sat up and started listening.

In the climate apocalypse of 2112, a group of “outcast Indigenous survivors [...] figured out where the world took a sharp turn for the worst: America,” and hatched a plan to “send one of their own on a bloody, one-way mission back to 1492 to kill Christopher Columbus before he reaches the so-called New World.” That’s what we call a good hook, a true shot and chaser with the name of the series’ first story arc: “Book One: Kill Columbus.”

Author Stephen Graham Jones (The Only Good Indians, My Heart Is a Chainsaw) and artist Davide Gianfelice (Daredevil Reborn, Northlanders) have turned out a first issue that makes good on the hype. With that kind of concept, Earthdivers could easily be a grindhouse affair, but Jones and Gianfelice are crafting something more layered, already full of character and emotion, despite the heavy lift of establishing a whole universe, plot, and action in just one 36-page first issue.

(Also, just look at that Rafael Albuquerque cover! A single image that condenses everything the story is about into a single image: A hero, Columbus, death, and the treacherous seas of American history. Incredible.)

I’ll be watching Earthdivers with great interest.

What else is happening in the pages of our favorite comics? We’ll tell you. Welcome to Monday Funnies, Polygon’s weekly list of the books that our comics editor enjoyed this past week. It’s part society pages of superhero lives, part reading recommendations, part “look at this cool art.” There may be some spoilers. There may not be enough context. But there will be great comics. (And if you missed the last edition, read this.)

Earthdivers #1

A sailor berates Tad for knowing how to navigate but not how to tie a knot or fold a sail, as Tad reflects “I can run declensions all day, I can build a morphology tree with my eyes shut, and I can transcribe phonetically using the IPA, British and American,” in Earthdivers #1 (2022). Image: Stephen Graham Jones, Davide Gianfelice/IDW

I think my favorite — and the most telling — detail of Earthdivers #1 is that our group of young time-heist assassins can only send one person back, and they choose our hero, Tad. And it’s not because he knows anything about violence, or rigging a ship — it’s because his ability to speak eight different languages is more valuable to a time-travel mission than anything else.

AXE: Death to the Mutants #2

The Eternal Phastos talks with the Machine as he uncovers its unexpectedly mundane breaker switch. “I have learned to be better,” the Machine muses, “I have learned that to be a better person is awful. You have to be a better person every day of your life, from beginning to end. Most frustrating,” in AXE: Death to the Mutants #2. Image: Kieron Gillen, Guiu Vilanova/Marvel Comics

Pour one out for the Machine, the best new Marvel Comics character of the past couple of years; the sarcastic, loving, and oddly innocent Celestial-created artificial intelligence that is the Earth itself. Writer Kieron Gillen debuted the Machine as the unreliable narrator of his and artist Esad Ribić’s Eternals, and (in a metaphor for creating a successful Eternals book in the first place) something so corny and earnest never should have worked, but it did. I’m very sad to see the Machine get hard rebooted into its robotic former self.

X-Men Red #7

“In Magneto’s name,” Storm says, clouds and lighting swirling behind her in the shape of Magneto’s iconic helmet, “Ororo of the Storm claims the Seat of Loss,” in X-Men Red #7 (2022). Image: Al Ewing, Madibek Musabekov/Marvel Comics

The team behind X-Men Red just cannot stop dropping microphones in every single issue and you’d think it would become boring — but then writer Al Ewing and artist Madibek Musabekov drop this panel of Storm assuming the late Magneto’s role in mutant politics while framing herself in a re-creation of his helmet using her own clouds. I hope X-Men Red goes on forever.

Gotham City: Year One #1

Slam Bradley, his figure a black silhouette in a grey trenchcoat and fedora, walks down the ornamental path away from the glowing lights of Wayne Manor. Rain falls in dirty streaks, in Gotham City: Year One #1 (2022). Image: Tom King, Phil Hester/DC Comics

Speaking of art that just works, artist Phil Hester on writer Tom King’s pure, unselfconscious noir detective yarn, Gotham City: Year One. Slam Bradley, a relic of Detective Comics’ fist-throwing detective fiction past, must navigate a world of high society and deadly criminality to solve a Gotham City-colored Lindbergh kidnapping: Infant Helen Wayne (Batman’s aunt, if you’re keeping score), abducted from her stately home.

Kaya #1

Seth is spear-wielding lizard warrior in primary colored armor with flowing hair despite being a lizard man. “I remember my time in Kahaka Fondly, that’s all,” he tells an elder. “When you returned, she was all you’d talk about,” replies the elder “But remember you are promised to another.” Seth looks sad, in Kaya #1 (2022). Image: Wes Craig/Marvel Comics

I feel like I’ve seen a lot of Kaya, a new series written and drawn by Deadly Class’ Wes Craig before the first issue hit shelves, with several pages running in Image Comics’ anniversary anthology. So I knew it was a story about a warrior sister with a techno-magical arm escorting her scholar brother through a fantasy wasteland to find his destiny, but I didn’t know there was a hot lizard boy with flowy blond hair named Seth who is in unrequited love with her, and I love that.

Sword of Azrael #3

“Be... not... afraid...” drawls a massively scarred figure in gold armor and a very manga-style scary lip-less toothy grin in Sword of Azrael #3 (2022). Image: Dan Watters, Nikola Čižmešija/DC Comics

Another thing I love? How obvious it is that the folks behind Sword of Azrael, writer Dan Watters and artist Nikola Čižmešija, have watched Neon Genesis Evangelion. It’s long past time somebody brought an anime/manga sensibility to DC’s foremost recovering, brainwashed-by-his-dad, assassin for an even more secret and evil sect of the Templars. This rules.

Miracleman #0

Hijinks ensue between Miracleman-themed Krazy Kat characters in a parody called Kimota Kat in Miracleman #0 (2022). Image: Ty Templeton/Marvel Comics

Who wore it better: Miracleman’s parody of superlatively influential strip comic Krazy Kat, or...

Edge of Spider-Verse #5

A spider-character protects himself from bricks thrown by the spiders he has captured in his web in a parody of Krazy Kat called Syllie Spider in Edge of Spider-Verse #5 (2022). Image: Phil Lord, David Lopez/Marvel Comics

...Edge of Spider-Verse’s parody? It’s very funny to me that both of these comics came out in two different anthology issues from the same company in the same week.