Best Comic Books Ever (This Week) – New Releases For April 8, 2015
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.
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.
Writer: Alisa Kwitney
Artist: Rick Leonardi
This is the week that DC kicks off their latest universe-reshuffling event, and of all the Continuity tie-in titles, this one is likely to be a stand-out. Writer Alia Kwitney, veteran penciller Rick Leonardi, and inker Mark Pennington bring about the much-demanded return of pre-Flashpoint Batgirl Stephanie Brown, in a story that also features fan-fave supporting characters Red Robin, Cassandra Cain, the villainous machinations of Catman, and a special appearance by simian super-genius Gorilla Grodd. [Patrick Reed]
Publisher's description: STARRING HEROES FROM THE PRE-FLASHPOINT DCU! After a year living under the confinement of the dome, Stephanie Brown isn’t sure she wants to be Batgirl again. But when she’s attacked by Catman and Gorilla Grodd from the world of Flashpoint, she’s forced to put on the cape and cowl to fight alongside Red Robin and Cassandra Cain!
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham, Nathan Fairbain
Even as one of the biggest Grant Morrison fans on the planet, I'd be an idiot if I suggested he didn't often return to the same themes. The fact that he manages to do it in different ways every time is what makes it okay. Like The Invisibles, The Multiversity, Seven Soldiers, and Final Crisis, Nameless is about an unspeakable Other coming to take over the world. Unlike those other books, this one features billionauts, the Anti-Universe, arcane languages, and biblical myths translated into space battles. With clever layouts and muscular pencils from Chris Burnham, Nameless is John Constantine versus the Old Ones on the set of Armageddon, and if that doesn't sound like fun to you, you need to open yourself up to joy. [John Parker]
Publisher's description: As the exploration of vast structures on the surface of the asteroid Xibalba begins, more nightmarish secrets of a prehistoric cosmic war come crawling into the light. What soul-destroying truth lies buried in Xibalba's immense tunnel network? What malignancies lie dreaming there? What is human? And what is NOT?
Writer/Artist: Jake Lawrence
Publisher: Boom Studios
Teen Dog has been one of the most welcome surprises of the past year: it would've been easy to take the core concept (an awesome '90s-esque BMOC who happens to be a dog) and beat it into the ground, but creator Jake Lawrence never belabors his point, creating a wistful and off-kilter take on classic high-school soap opera that's constantly giggle-worthy, gently absurd, surprisingly heartfelt, and totally rad. [PR]
Publisher's description: Final issue! Appropriately, it's summer vacation time in this final issue! Man, this year has really flown by. Time to get together with your friends and enjoy the summer while it lasts, 'cause the future is always out there waiting for you.
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artists: Tradd Moore, Felipe Sobreiro
With their first two Luther Strode series, creators Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore managed to create a superpowered exploitation epic for the ages, so now, as the final act of their trilogy begins, all bets are off. We've seen Luther's story expand exponentially over the course of the last five years, moving from hyperviolent high-school hijinks to a blood-soaked tale of vengeance. As this issue opens, Luther and his girlfriend Petra have been lying low for five years, preparing themselves for the ultimate showdown, and in the pages that follow, Jordan and Moore let loose their wildest imaginations – pushing all limits of predictability, good taste, and common sense in a glorious explosion of action and excess. [PR]
Publisher's description: Luther Strode returns. For five years, Luther Strode and Petra have been on the run. Now the time for running is over, and the Murder Cult is going down. The road to Cain starts here. JUSTIN JORDAN (SPREAD) and TRADD MOORE (All-New Ghost Rider) bring back Luther and Petra for their final adventure. The last chapter in the hit trilogy begins NOW. Special double-sized issue!
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca
So far, Darth Vader has been everything you could have wanted it to be. Taking place right after The Battle of Yavin, Vader's status has been reduced, and his reputation as the baddest man in the universe tarnished. In short, he's never been more dangerous. Gillen is writing the ideal Darth Vader, a complete character with complex motivations, and not just an immaculately-conceived blot of evil. Salvador Larroca, a fan of using actors as models (see Invincible Iron Man for moving performances from Josh Holloway and Nicole Kidman) finally gets to go nuts on this movie comic, and his art has genuinely never looked better. An up-tempo and menacing book that does the character justice. [JP]
Publisher's description: Revenge of the Battle Droids??? Vader returns to Geonosis to build his army! The Dark Lord's ascension continues!
Writer: Scott Tipton, David Tipton
Artist: Rachael Stott
IDW have done well by the Star Trek license of late, and this improbable (and yet totally... logical) crossover series has been a really enjoyable voyage, boldly gone on by the creative team. Artist Rachael Stott, in particular, has been on sterling form here, making each issue into a terrifically fun piece of lightning-fast action-adventure. As we head into the final issue of the miniseries, Captain Kirk is up against the Klingons as they fight for control of the army of angry apes whilst a shirtless Charlton Heston rides around on a horse whilst carrying a shotgun. Are you… are you really still reading this, or have you gone to pick up this miniseries already? [Steve Morris]
Publisher's description: The battle for conquest of the Planet of the Apes comes to a climax! Can Captain Kirk wrest control of the Gorilla army from the Klingons?
Writers: Derek Drymon, Vincent DePorter and others
Artists: Vincent DePorter, Gregg Schigiel and others
Publisher: United Plankton Pictures
More than any other comic book available today, this is the one that I feel like I'm always trying to convince other people they need to check out. Maybe that says something about me, and that I have some deep need I barely understand to have my own likes validated by others. Maybe it says something about others, like that they have bad taste in comic books, and/or just aren't giving this book a chance because it's based on some dumb cartoon for kids. I prefer to think it says something about this comic book, that it is so good that it should be hyped up at every available opportunity. A good old-fashioned gag comic of the sort that have become incredibly rare, SpongeBob Comics regularly features many of the best and/or most unlikely comics creators you can find between a single set of covers every month, providing a mixture of straight comedic adventures of SpongeBob and his aquatic friends with often deeply weird, rather brilliant comic strips. I'm fairly certain this is the only comic book on the market that is geared toward both fans of SpongeBob SquarePants and those who could care less about SpongeBob SquarePants but just like really great, really funny comics. [Caleb Mozzoco]
Publisher's Description: When SpongeBob's most awesome feats of fry-cookery fail to impress Mr. Krabs, the desperate sponge resorts to forbidden experiments to push himself up the short-order evolutionary ladder. Behold the all-encompassing kitchen power of 'FryCook 2.0.' Then, in 'Mommie Drearest' the Flying Dutchman must beg SpongeBob to help him clean up his act before his ghostly, yet persnickety, mother visits. All this plus aquatic comics by Stephen DeStefano, Maris Wicks, Joey Weiser, and more!
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
That rare mainstream comic book where the release of each new issue is an event in and of itself, Saga has reached the point where Vaughan and Staples have created so many remarkable characters that the narrative could follow any one of them and remain an interesting, fun and funny read. But the Saga saga is a disciplined one, and the creators have kept the series tightly focused on the concept of family imperiled. Originally that family was just star-crossed lovers Marko and Alana and their baby, but as the issues have piled up, we've met members of their extended family, as well as the family members of their friends and foes. At present, the book is divided into roughly three different plotlines, each including a fairly large group of those many remarkable characters, all struggling to save the lives of various loved ones. When we left them at the end of last issue, things weren't looking so good for most of our protagonists. Maybe things will turn around for some of them this issue? Maybe not. At least, not according to the publisher's description... [CM]
Publisher's Description: Poor Marko.
Writers: Tom Scioli and John Barber
Artist: Tom Scioli
Publisher: IDW Publishing
The sheer hurricane-force insanity of this latest, greatest incarnation of the decades-old Transformers and G.I. Joe crossover concept is of the sort that it's extremely difficult to even put into words. Explaining Scioli and Barber's brilliant but bonkers comic is all but impossible; it's just easier to experience than it is to explain. Luckily, we have a preview of this latest issue of the series, so I don't have to try to explain it; I can just say point and say, "Check this out!" Even if you only skimmed those handful of pages, you will have seen 1) The climax of the story of Adam and Eve re-told with Transformers standing in for the angel with the flaming sword, 2) Snake Eyes starting a giant robot bar fight in what appears to be the Cybertronian equivalent of an Old West saloon, and 3) A fantastic but subtle redesign of Astrotrain, in which the Decepticon "Triple Changer" has a long, serpent-like tail of train cars. [CM]
Publisher's Description: THE SMASH HIT OF 2014 BECOMES THE GREATEST COMIC OF 2015! If you thought the war between G.I. JOE and the TRANSFORMERS was out of control before… well, brothers and sisters, wait'll you get a load of issue 6!
NEW COLLECTED EDITIONS AND 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.
Writer: Marv Wolfman and Various
Artist: Steve Gan and Various
I have a particular fondness for ridiculous Bronze Age Marvel comics, and the Skull The Slayer series is certainly among the most bizarrely off-kilter productions from that era – the tale of James Scully, an ex-soldier and accused murderer who gets thrown through a time warp in the Bermuda Triangle and marooned in a far-away world. What follows is a perfect cross-section of '70s madness, filled with aliens, dinosaurs, cavemen, pharaohs, knights in armor, demons, and pretty much whatever the writers felt like including at any given moment; the sort of kookiness that can only happen when creators are cruising on divine inspiration and editors aren't paying the slightest bit of attention. [PR]
Publisher's description: It's Lost meets The Land That Time Forgot when an airplane and all its passengers are transported to a strange world inhabited by dinosaurs, primitives and aliens! But for one man, this journey into prehistory is a chance to seize his destiny - and become the hero he always wanted to be! In our world, Vietnam veteran Jim Scully is a wanted man, accused of his own brother's murder. But in this wild new land, he becomes - Skull the Slayer! With fellow passengers to protect, dinosaurs to hunt and alien mysteries to uncover, Skull finds himself on a voyage through the ages - courtesy of the mysterious Time Tower! Prepare for an epic tale of life and death, culminating in a titanic team-up with the Fantastic Four's Thing and Mr. Fantastic! Collecting SKULL THE SLAYER #1-8 and MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #35-36.
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Frank Quitely
After years of stories I don't care about, Mark Millar's been on something of a hot streak lately, with Starlight and Jupiter's Legacy being among the best things he's ever done. Jupiter's Legacy may even end up as his quintessential book, as it culls all of his favorite things into one: the generation gap, celebrity, tradition versus progression, liberalism gone wrong, and two-dimensional characters. Frank Quitely's characters are taut and weird, and his panoramic art zooms out further than ever before for this inventive and unforgiving look at heroes and their legacies. If you've been holding on to your Millar hate for a while, Jupiter's Legacy might be the book that reminds you what he does well. (Or at least that you like the stuff he does with Quitely.) [JP]
Publsher's description: The children of the world's greatest superheroes may never be able to fill their parents' shoes. When the family becomes embattled by infighting, one branch stages an uprising and another goes into hiding. How long can the world survive when one family's super-powered problems explode onto the global stage? Just in time for the launch of the prequel series JUPITER'S CIRCLE comes this collected edition from storytelling masters MILLAR and QUITELY. Collects JUPITER'S LEGACY #1-5
Writer/Artists: Bastien Vives, Michael Sanlaville, Balak
One of the most talked-about releases of the year, French series The Last Man finally arrives in print for English-speaking audiences this month. Part of a series of graphic novels that will be published by FirstSecond over the next few years, this has already been hugely acclaimed in France and among French-speaking fans. Authors Bastien Vivès, Balak and Michael Sanlaville weave their interest in shounen manga and American comics storytelling together for a book which centers around a magical, marvelous tournament. When newcomer Richard Aldana comes to town, he joins the tournament and yet refuses to use magic – instead sticking to martial arts, like the sneaky master sneak that he is. What brings him to the tournament, and will he win it? A masterclass in comics storytelling, this is a book you really can’t miss. [SM]
Publisher description: The Games are already underway when Richard Aldana arrives in town. This mysterious stranger seems to have more in common with our world than the world where the Games are held. He smokes cigarettes and wears a leather jacket while everyone else in this medieval realm is casting spells and weaving tapestries. Nobody knows what to make of him, but when Aldana enrolls in the games he quickly becomes a top contender. Eschewing magic and using only his martial arts prowess, Aldana also befriends and protects a small boy for reasons as mysterious as his origins. Who will win the games? Who is Richard Aldana, really? And what is the ultimate purpose of this gruelling gladiatorial contest? With its intricate fantasy setting and heart-pounding action sequences, Last Man has become the smash hit comics series in France. Combining compelling character-driven storytelling with fast-paced adventure, Last Man is an addictive series with a cliffhanger at the end of each volume that leaves readers panting for more.
Writer: Gail Simone and Various
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver and Various
Publisher: DC Comics
DC’s digital-first comics have been some of the best they’ve put out over the last five years, and Sensation Comics steps in the footsteps of The Adventures of Superman and Legends of the Dark Knight as a real showcase for Wonder Woman. She’s not a character who has been best served over the decades, but here a variety of new, upcoming and established creators have all been jumping in to tell short, diverse, and excellent stories with her. This first print collection of the series alone has Gilbert Hernandez, Gail Simone, Marguerite Sauvage, Cat Staggs, Rob Williams, Phil Jimenez and Amy Mebberson amongst the talent, for a start. Unburdened by continuity and able to take Diana in any direction they want, the various creative teams have managed to achieve the impossible: make Wonder Woman into a multi-faceted, fun character, who can be taken into different genres and styles at whim without losing the core of her personality. If you’ve ever wanted to try Wonder Woman, this is the book to pick up. [SM]
Publisher description: This new Wonder Woman series begins when Oracle calls for help after the entire Bat-Family is sidelined. And when Wonder Woman steps into the breach, Gotham City's criminals get the surprise of their lives! Plus, Wonder Woman battles an otherdimensional science-villain, meets Ra's al Ghul, and accepts a covert mission from Queen Hippolyta that takes her to Apokolips. Collects Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman #1-5.
Writer/Artist: Sam Glanzman
Publisher: Dover Graphic Novels
Golden Age artist Sam Glanzman's wartime memoir comics recently resurfaced as part of DC's Joe Kubert Presents, in which the eminent — and, sadly, late — Kubert was given the opportunity to do pretty much whatever he wanted with an anthology miniseries of his own. One of the things he wanted to do was to put Glanzman's stories about serving on a naval destroyer during World War II in front of reader's again. That's some testimonial. And this new collection of Glanzman's A Sailor's Story and A Sailor's Story: Winds, Dreams and Dragons (along with other stories of his time aboard the USS Stevens) includes plenty of other testimonials as well. Max Brooks, Larry Hama and Chuck Dixon provide a foreword, an introduction and an afterword, respectively. Not that Glanzman needs testimonials, of course. The work speaks for itself, and rather eloquently at that. [CM]
Publisher's description: Legendary comic book artist Sam Glanzman draws upon his own experiences aboard a WWII destroyer in these gripping tales of Navy life, including a new 10-page story and a new foreword by New York Times-bestselling author of World War Z, Max Brooks. Recounted in graphic novel style, these dramatic adventures realistically depict a teenager's military career, from initiation and advancement through the ranks to tours of the Pacific and kamikaze attacks at the Battle of Okinawa.
CATCH UP ON THE CLASSICS
Many of the best comic books ever have been released for quite some time. Every week we select one or two perennials that readers new and old should add to their collections.
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson, Will Blyberg
As a wise man named Dom Toretto said at least seven or eight times, it's all about family, and in this reprint from the second volume of Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson's Astro City, the same can be said. The two big stories in this collection focus on two characters dealing with superheroism and its effects on family: Astra Furst, the youngest member of the First Family (analogues of the Fantastic Four) struggles to attain a sliver of normalcy in an abnormal world, while Jack-In-The-Box, a legacy hero with a pregnant wife, questions his future as a vigilante amid visions of what might come of his unborn son. The same type of quiet, human, and emotionally resonant stories that Busiek and Anderson have been creating for years now. [JP]
Publisher description: Every family has treasured memories... and isn't that what a family album is for? You're invited to share in some of Astro City's greatest memories - from the wonder and terror experienced by a family new in town, to a world-famous super hero's first day at school, to a crimefighter and his wife facing momentous decisions about the future. Don't miss this new edition of the classic ASTRO CITY collection, featuring a new cover by Alex Ross!