Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases For August 19 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.
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.
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
Astro City is a superhero comic that starts with a dream of a naked man flying, and somehow gets better from there. In its twenty years in existence, this series has been so consistently good that it's difficult to talk about, with much of our discussion oxygen consumed by deaths and costume changes and reboots that this series has lived through and outlasted. It has built its own homage to the vast ocean of superhero lore with the simple idea that a shift in perspective can lend any story fresh power, and has kept doing so for years. From doormen to super-celebrities, call center employees, stuntwomen, and reformed villains, Astro City tells the story of an entire genre, and always finds something interesting to say. Here's to twenty more years. [Charlotte Finn]
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist: Jonathan Brandon Sawyer
Publisher: Boom Studios
In Welcome Back, a pair of twenty-something young women discover that they're Sequels, the reincarnated spirits of two warriors fighting in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. When Mali and Tessa awaken, will they be able to break that cycle or at least find out why they're fighting? An incredibly clever, comic-booky, and ridiculously self-refreshing concept from Christopher Sebela, providing a lot of opportunities for Jonathan Brandon Sawyer to stretch his roller-coaster layouts into new areas. Sebela and Sawyer are both coming off some very good work, and Welcome Back is the most intriguing mini-series I think I've seen in a while. [John Parker]
Writers: Rodolfo Cimino and Joe Torcivia
Artist: Romano Scarpa
My single favorite thing about Donald Duck, other than the fact that he is a fashion pioneer who has dedicated his life to getting the shirt-and-hat-but-no-pants look off the ground, is that in the comics he is completely defined by losing his temper. It's his whole thing, to the point where there's a Don Rosa story where he's referred to as a "local top-blower," which might be my favorite turn of phrase in comics history. So needless to say, I'm excited about a getting a new story where that short fuse takes center stage, especially as it involves Donald attempting to achieve a zen calm by going to the Himalayas and fighting "duck-eating yetis." Duck-eating yetis, y'all. If that doesn't get you excited about a young Duck trying to find inner peace in a world without pants, then I don't know what will. [Chris Sims]
Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Artist: Tess Fowler
Publisher: Image Comics
If you've ever sat around a gaming table arguing about what specific bonus you need to add to a roll on a twenty sided die so that your disguise of a hollowed out dead elephant fools the bandits into dropping their guard, you'll be familiar with the wheelhouse of medieval fantasy adventurer mayhem Rat Queens plays in. If not, you can still enjoy the cast of colorful characters, the tight plotting, the sharp (if raunchy) humor, and – starting with this issue – the gorgeous art of new regular artist Tess Fowler, joined by colorist Tamra Bonvillain. In this issue it's mages gone wrong, cannibal goblins, and half-demons, which is all a perfectly normal day in the world of Rat Queens – and that sense of meeting the deranged with a blasé attitude is core to the series' charm. [CF]
Writer/Artist: Ed Piskor
So here's the way it usually works: There's a monthly comic book series, then a high-end collection that might include extra stuff like author commentary. That is what we have come to expect; it is The Order of Things. But apparently, someone at Fantagraphics has decided to upend our entire world view with this project, a monthly comic book series reprinting Ed Piskor's fantastic Hip Hop Family Tree — originally released as a set of high-end graphic novels — and throwing in a bunch of new extras for the monthly version. If you've already read HHFT, then that might seem like a bit of a cheat, but if you haven't, then getting it with Piskor's commentary and notes on process and research seems like it might be the best way to jump on. [CS]
The latest from Norwegian cartoonist Jason, If You Steal is over 200-page collection of 11 stories of an almost bewildering variety. Frida Kahlo, Mexican wrester/film star Santo, Chet Baker and Nostradamus make appearances, but not as you would expect (if you had expectations), and Jason’s sources of inspiration and the terminuses of his allusions include Van Morrison, Magritte, JFK conspiracy theories, vampire and horror comics, and 1950s B-movies about giant bugs. Despite how divergent the particular elements of his stories can be, there are a few things that never change, including his reliance on a cast of blank-eyed, anthropomorphic animal people and his unsurpassed deadpan delivery. [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writer/Artist: Ethan Young
Publisher: Dark Horse
An historical fiction set in the Second Sino-Japanese War, Ethan Young's Nanjing: The Burning City is about two soldiers stranded in the besieged city, and it looks like an absolute killer. I've never read Young's webcomic Tails, but Nanjing looks about as far away as you can get, both thematically and stylistically. Previews of Nanjing read like an installment of Two-Fisted Tales as illustrated by the bastard offspring of Kurtzman and Katsuhiro Otomo, with Young's textured inks dominating. Gorgeous and brimming with intensity, this book looks powerful and essential. [JP]
Publisher: TItan Comics
If you’re like me, then your main exposure to Betty Boop may have been her fleeting appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Poor old Betty was reduced to the catering shift while all eyes fixated on the raunchier stylings of Jessica Rabbit, who upstaged her in almost every way. That scene created a bit of empathy towards the character that I’ve held onto ever since, which is why she’s snuck her way onto this week’s list. Created by Max Fleischer, the character is a bit of a wide-eyed ingenue, an actress who wants to please everybody and comes up with fanciful ways of making life a bit sweeter. The cartoons are, well, from what I’ve read they’re a little bare, but there’s a sense of brightness within them that makes them worth a look, and of course the character remains an important cultural touchstone for comics in general. You don’t want Betty to spend the rest of her days grinding out a living in the service industry, do you? [Steve Morris]
Writers: George Perez et al
Artists: George Perez, Bruce D. Patterson et al
Publisher: DC Comics
Over in the UK, you can’t easily get hold of any Wonder Woman comics beyond the current New 52 Run and the J. Michael Straczynski run. Wonder Woman simply isn’t kept in print over here, meaning you can’t get hold of the comics by Rucka, Simone, Jimenez or even the master, George Perez. Thankfully that starts to change this week, as stores around the world will get a new print edition of George Perez’s acclaimed run as writer and artist. This hardcover picks up the first two years of the run, giving you 24 issues and an annual starring Wonder Woman in all her finest hours. This is the run that defines the character for most people, and inspired the most interest from readers. There is a tendency for readers to look at Wonder Woman and see an iconic figure without any real definition or acclaimed storylines. With this reprinting, readers may finally see what great Wonder Woman storytelling looks like. [SM]
Writer/Artist: Adam Warren
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
That Adam Warren’s art style is heavily inspired by manga is immediately apparent to anyone who’s glanced at his work. With Empowered, the sexy dramedy about a superheroine with super-low self-esteem that he's been creating since 2007, Warren seems to have also been somewhat inspired by the way Americans consume manga. Rather than serializing the book and then collecting the chapters in trades, Empowered has always been straight-to-trade, and these black-and-white, 6.5-by-9-inch books look and read a lot like the tankobon-style volumes that popular manga series appear in stateside a few times a year. One result of this publishing plane is that whenever a new installment of Warren’s Empowered arrives, it’s an occasion, and today is just such a day. The previous volume was released in 2013, so the wait can be a long one, but it’s always worthwhile and, if one forgets what happened in the previous volume, it never hurts to reread them. Empowered is so dense with gags that it rewards re-reading. [CM]