Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for August 3 2016
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: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Publisher: Image Comics
Kill Or Be Killed (aka Karate Killers) was a 1976 South African martial arts film about a fighting tournament organized by two surviving officers of the Axis powers. While not exactly a great success, it did spawn a sequel called Kill And Kill Again, in which the protagonist, Steve Hunt (James Ryan) assembled a team of special operatives, including a man named Hot Dog, to take down a cult led by the guy who played Little Ricky on I Love Lucy.
Sadly, this comic book is not an adaptation of that film.
Instead, it’s the latest project from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, a team that has produced such a consistent level of high quality crime comics in the 17 years that they’ve been working together — the past few with colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser — that when they do something new, I can spend an entire paragraph talking about an obscure karate movie and still be pretty confident that everyone’s as excited about the new comic as I am. This time, their focus is on a young vigilante struggling to keep his secret as he takes out “bad people” and “slowly ruins his life.” With a premise like that, this might end up being the Brubaker/Phillips/Breitweiser-est comic of all time, even if they don’t get around to having Hot Dog show up. [Chris Sims]
Writer: Antony Johnston
Artist: Justin Greenwood
I feel like The Fuse is one of the most underexposed books on the market today, but maybe that's because I haven't used my massive media presence to promote it. Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood's jury-rigged space station epic is consistently one of the best reads of the month, and at twenty issues it's starting to feel like one of those books that will always have another trick up its sleeve. In each arc The Fuse reveals brilliant new possibilities to their meticulously-crafted world, like maglev bike races through the station's solar arrays, or "Parahelion," which is about the chaos that ensues on the day the Fuse orbits closest to the sun. But it's in the history of the station and its inhabitants where The Fuse finds its best surprises, and that's a history that Ristovych and Dietrich are delving into in "Constant Orbital Revolutions." Johnston and Greenwood consider this to be the first major turning point in the series, and given all the crazy stuff that's already happened, it's probably going to pretty nutty in space-town. [John Parker]
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Philip Tan
Publisher: DC Comics
As a fan of the classic John Ostrander/Luke McDonnell run, there’s always been something missing from the more recent Suicide Squad incarnations that made them fall mighty short from the greatness of the '80s classic.
I’ve got high hopes for this new volume though. Rob Williams is a writer that I’m paying more and more attention to, especially after the likes of Martian Manhunter and his 2000 AD sensibilities should transfer to Suicide Squad really nicely. I’ve never been a fan of Philip Tan to be honest, but DC Rebirth has had a few moments were artists I’d previously written off had surprised me.
I’m hoping for the twenty-first century update to the Suicide Squad that we’ve needed for the past decade, and this creative team seems the best suited to give me that take I’ve been craving for oh so long. [Kieran Shiach]
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Tomás Giorello
Publisher: Valiant Comics
This one's getting a shout-out because it seems like a concerted effort by Valiant to offer some range in its roster. Part of the current 4001AD event storyline, this tie-in features a new character, War Mother, who appears to be someone the company has big plans for. In the distant dystopian future where technology runs rampant through the skies and the world is a desolate wasteland of rag-tag survivors, the war that comes about in 4001AD hits War Mother and her people particularly hard. Here she is forced by the events of the crossover to head out into the open and confront a few home truths about the situation.
Seems interesting, but what's definitely part of the deal here is that War Mother is a black woman — and potentially the star of a future solo series, given the press she's been getting and the hype we've seen surrounding the book. If this is indeed the precursor to Valiant giving the character a book of her own, then that makes this one-shot very interesting indeed. However, it should be noted that War Mother's first comic is not one written or drawn by a person of color. Or, indeed, by a woman. [Steve Morris]
Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Rafael de Latorre
Publisher: After-Shock Comics
It’s hard to find a new kind of apocalypse. Zombies, disease, natural disasters, political collapse and war: they’ve all been done to death. But Animosity has found a new apocalypse, and while it’s self-consciously absurd it’s also pretty terrifying.
What if one day all animals gained human-level intelligence and the ability to speak? Well to start with, they wouldn’t put with humankind’s crap any longer. After millennia of being hunted, caged, farmed, and eaten, they’re going to want revenge. And that’s the world where we find ourselves in this comic. The focus is on a young girl and the intelligent dog who has become her father figure, as they make their way across a decimated North America. It’s a pretty wild premise, and it comes from Marguerite Bennett, one of the most exciting young writers working right now. And with the added incentive of great art by Rafael de Latorre, this is a book I can’t wait to read. [Elle Collins]
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Derek Charm
Publisher: Archie Comics
This issue marks the end of Chip Zdarsky’s run on Jughead, which means that it’s time once again for all of us to think about how five or six years ago, the phrase “Chip Zdarsky’s run on Jughead” would’ve sounded like something out of a fever dream. And yet, here we are, at the end of eight issues that involved the shocking return of the Time Police, Riverdale High being transformed into a secret military training camp, and — perhaps the single most terrifying image I’ve ever seen in comic books — Reggie Mantle’s family reunion.
With this issue, though, Zdarsky and artist Derek Charm — who’s sticking around for when Ryan North comes on next month — are doing a story about Archie, Jughead, and Mr. Weatherbee in the woods being menaced by a bear. So, one more time, that’s Chip Zdarsky and Derek Charm doing JUGHEAD VERSUS BEAR. Unless there’s a comic out this week that comes polybagged with a check made out to you specifically, I cannot imagine there being a more appealing book on the stands. [CS]
Writers: Chuck Dixon, Dan Jurgens and Mike Allred
Artists: Kevin Nowlan, Jon Bogdanove, Carlos Meglia and Mike Allred
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Okay, I think I'm just going to go ahead and give up on trying to make sense of how these collections of Dark Horse and DC crossovers are organized, as each new one that sees release only baffles me further. For example, why are the two Superman/Aliens crossovers collected here, rather than in the previously published DC/Dark Horse Comics: Aliens, or a second volume of DC Superheroes vs. Aliens comics?
What you'll find in this hefty collection are four stories of varying lengths published between 1995 and 2002. There's the aforementioned Aliens crossovers, from the creative teams of Dan Jurgens and Kevin Nowlan and Chuck Dixon and Jon Bogdanove. There's also the rather weird Superman/Tarzan: Sons of The Jungle by Dixon and Carlos Meglia and Mike Allred's Superman/Madman Hulabaloo, which is maybe one of the better Superman stories I've ever read, and definitely one of my favorite Superman stories.
However the collection editors determine which crossover goes in which collection, the fact remains that they make an ideal way to find and consume older oddities, which all run the gamut between really great and at-least-so-weird-they're-interesting. [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writers: John Barber & Tom Scioli
Artist: Tom Scioli
Publisher: IDW Publishing
I forgot to mention Transformers vs. G.I. Joe ending when it ended so I'll amend that now. There has never quite been another Transformers or G.I. Joe book like this one, determined to elevate itself beyond smashing action figures together and ascending into a realm where entire paragraphs could be written about minor details and homages, and a whole book could be written about the art itself.
This book is full of connections and ideas that seem so bluntly obvious in retrospect, and manages to become the Hasbro Expanded Universe ahead of the rest of IDW and in the most amazing way possible. Scioli is going to be taking on a Super Powers book at DC soon, possibly the single best pairing of property and creator seen in the year 2016, and if you want to say you were ahead of the game on his work then Transformers vs. G.I. Joe is an ideal place to start. [Charlotte Finn]
Writer: Joe Keatinge
Artist: Leila Del Duca
Publisher: Image Comics
When I was looking over the list of this week’s releases to choose what to cover for this week’s BCBE(TW), I got so over-excited when I saw there was a new volume of Shutter being released. This is without a doubt my favorite ongoing comic being published right now, and I can’t wait to catch up on it.
When I read comics, I want to see stuff that I’m only going to see in comics. I want unbridled imagination covering every single inch of the page, and Shutter provides that. Four volumes in, it can be a bit difficult to sum up, but the basic story follows a woman who discovers her adventurer father was hiding the truth about her family and background, and goes on a crazy journey to discover the truth.
There’s so much more though, there’s a sentient cat-shaped alarm clock that undergoes an existential crisis, there’s strange islands of cat people, there’s everything your mind can imagine and so much more. If you’re not reading Shutter, you’re not reading the best ongoing comic right now, in my opinion. [KS]
Writers: Andrew Aydin, John Lewis
Artist: Nate Powell
Publisher: Top Shelf
The closing chapter in this defining comic trilogy comes out this week, as Rep. John Lewis teams once more with writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell to complete a biography of his role within the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. These books have proven to be an exemplary look at how the comics medium itself can tell the most important stories in stunning, beautiful style. It helps that Lewis proves to be a storyteller of singular conviction, who tells his history with a simple wit and regular charm. He's non-assuming about some of the most important work ever done in American society, and Aydin takes his words and shapes them into a narrative which allows Powell to emphasize the iconic moments that helped define the peaceful movement for African-American protest. This final book finally reaches the "March" itself, in what promises to be a tense, grand gesture that remains a seminal moment in 21st century history. It's unmissable. [SM]
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Sophie Campbell
Let’s be real, you already know about Jem and the Holograms. You’ve heard how Kelly Thompson’s writing strikes the perfect balance between adapting the classic cartoon and doing something totally new. You’ve seen Sophie Campbell’s amazing character designs, that make the characters look like sci-fi pop starts of the 21st Century, while still being recognizable as takes on the ‘80s characters. You know about the racial, sexual, and body diversity that the cast contains. After all this time and all this buzz, if you’re still not interested in reading Jem and the Holograms, I don’t know how to convince you. But I have to tell you one thing about this collection, which includes the first ten regular issues as well as the Annual and the Holiday and Valentines specials. It has a cover that looks like a Trapper Keeper. It’s silly, sure, but it makes perfect sense for the series, and it’s definitely going to end up on my bookshelf. [EC]
Writer/Artist: Dash Shaw
It would be really easy to do a book called Cosplayers and just fill it with the usual crappy jokes about virginity, living in mom's basement, and everything else that The Big Bang Theory speciously considers comedy. But Dash Shaw never seems to do anything the easy way, and in Cosplayers he finds humanity, community, humor, and empathy in this unique subculture of costumed convention-goers and their unconventional relationships. Turns out those dorks and losers who spray-paint cardboard boxes in Iron Man colors are human beings with feelings, and instead of treating his subjects like punchlines, Shaw explores them as people. As he did in Bottomless Belly Button and New School, in Cosplayers Shaw once again creates something daring, tender, real, and totally unexpected. [JP]
Writer/artist: Joe Kubert
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
The late, great Joe Kubert's comics career was so long and so productive that he had several classic runs on several different characters and books — Hawkman, Sgt. Rock, etc — but among his most-loved are his 1970s Tarzan comics, which he himself initiated during his stint as DC's director of publications. This 600-page collection includes issues #207-#235 of the series, which accounts for all of those written and drawn by Kubert, plus collaborations with Russ Heath, Frank Thorne and some other material like lay-outs and essays.
Fans and aficionados can and do argue over who the best Tarzan artist during the character's long, long association with the comics medium has been. Me, I've always preferred Kubert, and his lean, sinewy jungle lord with the grim expression and haunted eyes. [CM]