The question most often asked of the ComicsAlliance staff is a variation of, “Which comic books should I be reading?” or, “I’m new to comics, what’s a good place to start?” The Wednesday deluge of new comic books, graphic novels and collected editions can be daunting even for the longtime reader, much less for those totally unfamiliar with creators, characters and publishers, and the dark mysteries of comic book shopping like variants, pre-ordering, and formats.

It’s with these challenges in mind that we’ve created Best Comic Books Ever (This Week), an ongoing guide curated by the ComicsAlliance staff. This is where new comics readers and seasoned Wednesday shoppers alike can find our picks of the best books the medium has to offer.

  • BUYING GUIDE

    NEW SINGLE ISSUES

    Single issues are periodicals, usually around 20 pages in length and priced from $2.99 to $4.99, and published in print and digitally. Single issues are typically published monthly, but some titles ship twice a month or even weekly. Single issues are the preferred format for many longtime comic book readers, and ideal if you enjoy serialized stories with cliffhangers.

    TRADES & GRAPHIC NOVELS

    Trades: Colloquial term for paperback or hardcover compilations of comic book stories originally published as single issues. The preferred format for readers who enjoy comic book narratives in substantial chunks.

    Graphic Novels: Typically any comic book that is a complete story in a more-or-less novel-length format. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with trades.

  • EMPRESS #1

    Writer: Mark Millar

    Artist: Stuart Immonen

    Publisher: Marvel/Icon

    How does an artist get lines as clean and concise as Stuart Immonen? Meditation, robot hands, Scientology? Although there's nothing particularly flashy about his work, it is consistently economical and elegant but never lacking in action, tension, or energy. He's achieved an uncluttered visual brevity that makes everything he produces a joy to take in no matter what the subject matter is. In Empress, the subject matter happens to provide stuff Immonen is awesome at: sci-fi/fantasy, other worlds and alien cultures, and freaking dinosaurs. In the latest Mark Millar movie pitch, the wife of an alien warlord attempts to escape her husband with her three children, not all of whom want to leave daddy despot behind. Five years ago I wouldn't have cared about this series other than to stare at Immonen's work, but Millar has been turning out some very good stories recently and I'm curious to see if he can continue the streak. Plus: dinosaurs! [John Parker]

  • MIDNIGHTER #11

    Writer: Steve Orlando

    Artists: Aco and Hugo Petrus

    Publisher: DC

    Apollo is back! He’s right there on the cover of this issue. This whole run has set up Apollo as the ex-boyfriend that Midnighter still has complicated feelings about, so it looks like that series-long subplot is about to come to a head. For the past year Orlando, along with Aco and other artists, have been putting out one of DC’s best superhero comics, and one of the best series about a queer superhero that’s ever been published. And now, sadly, we know the book is ending when DC Rebirth arrives, so each remaining issue feels like a precious gift to be treasured. And with the reunion of Midnighter and Apollo, this may be the most precious of all. [Elle Collins]

  • THE WICKED AND THE DIVINE #18

    Writer: Kieron Gillen

    Artists: Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson

    Publisher: Image Comics

    It feels like so long since #17 and that cliffhanger, and I can’t get to my LCS quick enough this morning to find out just what that means for the world Gillen, McKelvie & Wilson have built with WicDiv. The character work that the team is accomplishing with this book is absolutely second to none and the world building could support an entire line of comics unto themselves.

    There’s a reason The Wicked and The Divine has the devoted following (myself included) that it has, and if you’re still not on board there’s still time to catch up. With Jamie McKelvie returning to regular art duties as of this issue following the guest-artist “Commercial Suicide” arc, WicDiv #18 is going to be an absolute blockbuster of a single issue. [Kieran Shiach]

  • MIGHTY ZODIAC #1

    Writer: J. Torres

    Artists: Corin Howell, Maarta Laiho, Warren Wucinich

    Publisher: Oni Press

    Corin Howell had a great 2015, making a real name for herself with work on both Batmite and Transformers across the course of the year, at times seemingly simultaneously. This next project for her looks tremendously great fun, as well, with her teaming up with J. Torres for a new series across at Oni Press. This seems to take several ideas that comics don't try out enough and squishes them all together into twenty-odd pages. We've basically got a band of animal ronin on our hands here, a team of lively veteran warriors who have to quest the world in search of seven fallen stars which glide to earth following the death of Blue Dragon. Their reasoning is simple: without the stars, the world is fallen to darkness. Their only hope is to bring back the light. Now! I don't know about you, but that's the kind of story I can really get behind. A simple, empathetic idea, bolstered by a great writer and one of the most versatile, light artists in the industry today. This looks incredibly fun to me. [Steve Morris]

  • DREAMING EAGLES #4

    Writer: Garth Ennis

    Artist: Simon Coleby

    Publisher: After-Shock Comics

    Most talk about Garth Ennis’ war comics is about the writer, and with good reason; between the research he puts in and his skill at storytelling, he’s the reason the phrase “Garth Ennis war comic” is an instant selling point for me.

    But more needs to be said about Simon Coleby, who on this series has done stellar work; translating the stillness of a summer night talk between father and son, capturing the details of wartime life, keeping dialogue-heavy scenes dynamic and entertaining to read. And of course, the terrifying chaos of battle, which broke out in issue #2 and saw series narrator, Reggie Atkinson, score his first fighter kill, and reflect in the series’ present on what exactly that meant to him.

    This series continues to be engrossing, tackling a very important subject matter with care and wit, and may be destined to take its place amongst the best of Ennis’ stories in the genre – and there’s a lot of competition there. [Charlotte Finn]

  • NINJAK #13

    Writer: Matt Kindt

    Artist: Diego Bernard

    Publisher: Valiant Entertainment

    I’m on the record as being a pretty big fan of Ninjak -- I can’t even say that dude’s name without drawing it out into a fist-pumping NINNNNNJAAAAAAK -- but if you need a little more convincing that you should be reading this comic, consider this: It is a book that moves. Matt Kindt has a gift for action storytelling, and in this title more than any other, he’s mastered the art of keeping things going at a pace that’s almost exhausting.

    Basically, Colin King’s life never stops being a huge, big-budget action movie, and as soon as one big, bizarre set piece ends, the next one starts right up. In this case, Colin King has just gotten back from exploring the supernatural side of the Valiant Universe in “Operation Deadside,” only to return home and immediately find his house being blown up by a new unknown assailant who is trying to murder him with extremely large explosions. And, just in case you don’t already know, his “house” is actually a castle.

    Everything in this book is taken two steps past the extreme - which, I suppose, is exactly what you’d expect from a ninja named Ninjak - and since this is a new story arc, it makes for a pretty good time to jump on and get your recommended daily allowance of explosions and swordplay. [Chris Sims]

  • BATGIRL #50

    Writers: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher

    Artists: Babs Tarr, Roger Robinson, John Timms, Eleonnora Carlini, James Harvey and Cameron Stewart

    Publisher: DC

    Technically, there are still two more issues of Batgirl before it gets rebooted, relaunched or rebirthed this summer, but this oversized issue is the final one by the full Stewart, Fletcher and Tarr team. And it certainly feels like it, as they assemble all of the villains Babs has faced to square off against her and all of her allies in a climax in which the fates of the entire population of Burnside are the stakes. Part conclusion and part victory lap, this issue is a perfect summation of the Stewart/Fletcher/Tarr teams rehabilitation of the character and the book, which has become a veritable how-to at a publisher that seems forever trying to find the right takes on their various characters (Here's hoping the higher-ups have been studying and dissecting exactly what it is that makes Batgirl work for the last couple of months, and that their research went into their "Rebirth" plans).

    The only disappointing aspect is that the Batgirl and her allies assembled on the cover are not going to be the Birds of Prey featured in the upcoming Batgirl and The Birds of Prey, at least, not based on what little info we've been given about that book. It's really too bad, as this creative team using that cast of characters for a new Birds of Prey book was my first thought when DC announced a new title with that name back in February. [Caleb Mozzocco]

  • STAR WARS: POE DAMERON #1

    Writer: Charles Soule, Chris Eliopoulos

    Artst: Phil Noto

    Publisher: Marvel

    I mean, come on. Who doesn't want to read the adventures of the dreamiest pilot in the Resistance since Han Solo passed the better part of 70? Sure, Finn (and I guess Rey) won't be along for the adventure to keep his bestest man company, but BB-8 will be there to be cute and adorable and keep Poe Dameron safe from the First Order.

    Speaking of that little ball of droid joy, Chris Eliopoulos will showcase BB-8 in his own little side story. Say what you will about the humans in Star Wars, it's the droids everyone remembers and adores. Would Kylo Ren ever have inspired something as incredible as BB-Skate? I didn't think so. [Luke Brown]

  • BLACK WIDOW #2

    Writers: Chris Samnee and Mark Waid

    Artist: Chris Samnee

    Publisher: Marvel

    The first issue of Black Widow was widely regarded as one of the greatest first issues of a comic in years. And of course this series is the follow-up to Waid and Samnee’s masterful run on Daredevil, so there was already no shortage of high expectations going in. Now we’ve reached issue two, where some of the questions behind last month’s issue-long “Black Widow versus SHIELD” action sequence will need to be answered. I have no idea what the answers will be, but I have great faith they’ll be interesting. This is shaping up to be the series that Natasha Romanoff should have gotten years ago (she should also have had a movie by now, but that’s a separate complaint), and I genuinely can’t wait to see where it’s headed. [EC]

  • THE FIX #1

    Writer: Nick Spencer

    Artists: Steve Lieber, Ryan Hill, Nic Shaw

    Publisher: Image Comics

    And so the team behind Superior Foes of Spider-Man race away together from Marvel, and straight across to a creator-owned home at Image Comics. The Fix seems to cover similar ground to the duo's previous success, but with Ryan Hill and Nic Shaw joining them here, this looks like it'll be a brasher, bolder, almost certainly swearier crime caper comedy. This time round we have a group of LA sleezebags attempting to one-up each other in the attempt to close the deal of a century -- but at each turn, find themselves betrayed, bewildered, and generally befuddled as a series of disturbing events keep everybody at bay. It would be easy to look at the series and wonder if it isn't a chase at a former glory, a creative team finding a level of comfort in replicating a type of story which previously proved popular for them. But there's further ambition at play than that - and in fact that familiarity is probably what actually makes this series so interesting. They're in the same sandbox they've been in before, so how do they make sure they build a bigger sandcastle than ever before? [SM]

  • BLACK PANTHER #1

    Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Artist: Brian Stelfreeze

    Publisher: Marvel Comics

    Is this the most anticipated superhero comic book of the year? Quite possibly. Coates is one of the foremost journalists and analysts of our time, especially when writing about politics, life as a black man and the intersection of the two. There’s no character more suited to him for his comics debut than T’Challa, The Black Panther. I’m really interested in this because it’s said to be asking a question I don’t think has ever been broached in Black Panther before. Why does the most advanced nation on the planet still have a monarchy?

    With Brian Stelfreeze on art, this promises to be as huge a deal as Marvel promise it to be. The designs for Black Panther and his take on Wakanda look so crisp and modern, I can’t wait to see how it all looks in print.The pages we’ve seen so far look like he’s taken things to a whole new level and he’s already considered a living legend. There’s going to be a lot of talk about Black Panther this week, and I can’t wait to be part of the conversation. [KS]

  • BATMAN ADVENTURES, VOL 4

    Writer: Kelley Puckett, Paul Dini

    Artist: Mike Parobeck, Bruce Timm

    Publisher: DC Comics

    With this issue, DC has finally reprinted The Batman Adventures in its entirety. I mean, yes, technically, they still need to get to Batman and Robin Adventures and Gotham Adventures, which were basically the same book, and it would be nice if they ever got around to doing a proper reprint of the Dan Slott/Ty Templeton volume that took place after the DC Animated Universe had ended on television and allowed them to get really weird with it, but those are concerns for another time. For now, we celebrate one of the little victories, and if you’re on the fence about buying this one, here’s a few things to consider.

    First of all, this collection includes not one, but two Christmas stories, including one where Batman has to fight his way through a series of thugs who are all singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” while attacking him with five golden rings and - wait for it - three wrench hens. If that doesn’t get you interested, then you and I have completely different opinions on how many holiday puns should be in our Batman stories. My answer is “all of them.”

    Second, you know that panel that you always see making the rounds on Tumblr and such, where Batman tells Catwoman “I promise no matter what I will never be your friend and I will never forgive you and I will hate you for the rest of my life,” and then swings away? Usually, you see it paired with a sarcastic line about how immature Batman is when dealing with his on-again, off-again lady friend, but what nobody ever seems to mention is that that panel comes from what might be the best Hugo Strange story ever. It’s a three-parter in which Batman’s memories have been stolen away, leaving him with the body of Batman and the mind of a six year-old Bruce Wayne -- a six year-old whose parents never died. If you don’t already have these comics, they’re some of the most overlooked gems you’ll ever read, and they’re well worth picking up. [CS]

  • WONDER WOMAN: EARTH ONE, VOL 1

    Writer: Grant Morrison

    Artist: Yanick Paquette

    Publisher: DC

    Admittedly, my enthusiasm for this book has waned a bit. The "Grant Morrison Wonder Woman project" was teased way back when we all still thought Lost was cool, and in the intervening half-decade-plus, the teasing has gotten a little old: it seemed like every eighteen months Morrison was doing an interview about Wonder Woman and William Moulton Marston, meanwhile the release date kept blue-shifting further away. Even though I'm not as excited as I once was, though, it only takes a few minutes of thinking about All-Star Superman and Batman to pique my interest once again. Morrison is probably better at finding the quintessence of iconic characters than anybody else: reconciling the original versions with all the versions that followed and making a kind of microcosmic statement that is always fascinating. Add to that Yanick Paquette's sumptuous, muscular artwork and the various scenes of female domination/empowerment (as seen in preview images from 2013!) that recall the earliest stories by Marston and Harry Peter, and Wonder Woman: Earth One becomes pulse-quickening once again.

    By the way, I fully realize that I just implied that female domination excites me. I'm comfortable with that. [JP]

  • SUPERMAN: EMPEROR JOKER

    Writers: Jeph Loeb, Joe Kelly, Mark Schultz and J. M. DeMatteis

    Artists: Ed McGuinnes, Doug Mahnke, Todd Nauck and a bunch of other guys

    Publisher: DC

    This nine-part, millennial storyline that took over the Superman family of books for a few weeks began as a mystery, with Superman awaking each day to a world gone mad and trying to escape his cell in Arkham Asylum to figure out what the heck is going on. Given that mystery, I'd normally be hesitant to spoil it, but, well, not only is it 16-years old, but DC went ahead and put Mr. Mxyzptlk on the cover of this new edition, so yeah.

    After The Joker tricked Mxy out of 99% of the fifth dimensional imp's omnipotence, he remakes the universe to suit him. One of the wilder, weirder World's Finest-style mash-ups of the Superman and Batman franchises–at least in the modern era–it featured every character with an S-Sheild, plenty of guest-stars and introduced (Scorch, Ignition) or reintroduce (Bizarro, Bat-Mite) several characters that would play prominent roles in the work of some of the contributors to follow. Like a lot of big crossover stories, it's very much of its time (Supergirl has fire wings because of reasons too complicated to get into here), but the fact that every element of Empeor Joker is so crazy actually mitigates the unfriendliness that new readers might feel walking into such a storyline. It also helps mitigate any occasional weaknesses in a bit of script, or panel of art. Oh, did that scene not make sense, or look quite right? Well, that's because the whole universe has gone insane! [CM]