Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases For August 5 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: Jim Zub
Artists: Edwin Huang, Misty Coats
Publisher: Image Comics
It’s cheating, but the Skullkickers team have now made it into that most rarefied group of legends who took an Image series to issue #100. Sure, they did it by skipping straight from issue #34 to this giant finale issue, but all that really matters is what it’ll say on the Wikipedia page. This is the last issue of Skullkickers, the scrappy series that came from nowhere and somehow managed to become one of the longer-running titles at Image – primarily through the hard work and marketing graft of the creative team, headed by writer Jim Zub. Over the last years this series has renamed itself, taken a wink at sales gimmicks used by Distinguished Competition, and above all, remained funny. We're at victory road for Skullkickers, with Huang, Zub, Coats, Zub and Dillon all still in place for this oversized finale. Ten pieces of gold says there’ll be heavy violence. [Steve Morris]
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Tony Parker
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Satan used to be so cool. Between the sixties and the eighties, rumors of any supposed involvement with our dark lord and master only beefed up a band's reputation, even if it was totally unfounded. (And sometimes it wasn't.) Eventually, savvy musicians picked up on the correlation and embraced it, using Satanic imagery and claiming to worship the devil when nothing could be further from the truth. In This Damned Band, Paul Cornell and Tony Parker take a bizarre phenomenon of pop culture and give it a magnificent twist when a rock group from the 70s discovers that the whole time they were pretending to worship Satan, Satan was actually taking them seriously. Paul Cornell is one of the cleverest writers working in pop comics right now, but is he clever enough to make the devil cool again? I certainly hope so. Hail Satan, you guys. [John Parker]
Writer: Matt Wagner
Artist: Dan Schkade
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
There are a lot of ways to launch a new series, but doing an entire first issue where the title character doesn't appear is certainly a pretty bold choice — and usually, it's not something I like. With The Spirit, though, Wagner and Schkade did exactly that, using the mystery of the Spirit's disappearance as an opportunity to put the spotlight on his supporting cast, and it worked beautifully. The story was engaging, hilarious and had a great hook to keep it going over the rest of the first arc. Plus, while this might not tip your scales as much as a writer or artist when it comes to deciding to check something out, the lettering from A Larger World Studios was some of the best that I've seen in a while, juggling different typefaces and sizes in a way that gave the dialogue a ton of character without ever distracting from what's being said. It makes for a very slick package and a really fun comic, and it's definitely worth checking out! [Chris Sims]
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Kagan McLeod
Publisher: Image Comics
There are a lot of great things about Sex Criminals, but the best, without question, is that Chip Zdarsky is suddenly one of the year's most prolific creators. I mean, I don't want to go all hipster comics fan on you — lord knows I think about Batman too much to ever do that to anybody — but I've been wanting to see more of that dude since Monster Cops, the series of short stories about Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman becoming a small city's police force, so the Zdarsplosion is something I am 100% into. Kaptara might be the ultimate expression of that, a truly bizarre, genuinely hilarious take on '80s sci-fi/fantasy/action cartoons that gets weirder with every issue, drawn by the artist of one of my all-time favorite graphic novels, Infinite Kung Fu. Seriously, it's McLeod that really makes this work, loading things up with awkward poses, grotesque monsters and a wizard who wears nothing but a beard. If you've been sleeping on this one, go get it — and pick up Infinite Kung Fu while you're at it, that thing's like 400 pages and there's not a bad one in there. [CS]
Writer/Artist: Rich Tommaso
Publisher: Image Comics
I can't think of many cartoonists who deserve a wider audience more than Rich Tommaso. After being a ubiquitous presence around the alternative and small-press scenes since the 90s, Tommaso is an immensely clever storyteller with crisp page designs and articulate colors, equally at home with realistic human drama, quirky adventure comics, horror, and peculiar noir. Like Dry County and Clover Honey, Dark Corridor looks like it will fit into that category. In the mob-controlled city of Red Circle, a mysterious group of female assassins mounts an uprising, taking out several members of the all-male crime structure. A fascinating-looking crime comic with style to spare, from one of the craftiest creators on the periphery, Dark Corridor should be on everybody's pull list this week. [JP]
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Raul Allen
Publisher: Valiant Comics
The current run on Bloodshot: Reborn sees Ray no longer powered by the government-sponsored nanite program that made him into the assassin he once was. However, there’s certainly something still going on inside his head, because he’s started hallucinating a wee young nipper called ‘Bloodsquirt’, who keeps showing up at the weirdest times and acting like Bat-Mite. Having set up this freakish thing for a few issues now, issue #5 is a special ‘Squirtverse’ issue set entirely inside the warped world of Bloodsquirt and pals. It’s quirk that throws you off, and unnerves far more than anything else – each fresh appearance of the character suggests that Bloodshot has taken one step closer to complete madness. With Raul Allen stepping in to oversee the issue, this looks like it’ll be either the issue that sets up Bloodshot Reborn as one of Valiant’s best – or the one that breaks the character forever. Maybe both! [SM]
Writer: Marika McCoola
Artist: Emily Carroll
If you set down Through The Woods, Emily Carroll’s 2014 collection of devastatingly effective fairy tale-tinged horror stories, and thought the next place you would see her work would be in a kid-friendly, all-ages comic, then you are either a psychic or a liar. But if the audience is completely different, the subject matter isn’t that far removed: The title character is one of the scariest and best known witches in Western literary history, after all. In this re-telling of the classic Russian folk tale about the monster witch who lives in a house that stands on giant chicken legs and the little girl forced to match wits and wills with her, Carroll teams with first-time writer Marika McCoola. [CM]
Writer/Artist: Tom Scioli
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Tom Scioli and John Barber’s ongoing Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe series has brought a great deal of well-deserved attention to the book’s artist and co-writer Scioli, much of that attention coming from readers unfamiliar with his previous work. One example of that work? American Barbarian, which probably comes closer to demonstrating the techniques, energy, storytelling and, most importantly, spirit of Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe than anything else on Scioli's impressive bibliography. It’s the timeless tale of a red, white and blue-haired barbarian named Meric battling his way through the post-post-modern post-apocalypse with his star sword in order to defeat Two-Tank Omen, a giant mummy with tanks for feet. There are dinosaurs, superheroes, aliens, monsters and robots in an epic adventure that’s equally inspired by Jack Kirby comics and 1980s Saturday morning cartoons. Until the release of Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe, it was probably your best bet for a comic that balanced insanity with awesomeness in perfect proportion (The fact that Scioli’s current book is an officially-sanctioned comic starring Hasbro toy lines will always give it the edge in an insanity-off). American Barbarian was originally available as an online comic, then as a 2012 AdHouse Books hardcover, and is now back in print thanks to IDW. So if you missed it the first two times around, you're lucky enough to get a third chance. [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writer: Cory Levine
Artists: Ian Bertram and Brent McKee
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Artist Ian Bertram’s been an infrequent but welcome presence among the Big Two in the past year or so, drawing an issue of Batman Eternal here and a cover for E Is For Extinction there, but his highly idiosyncratic work for the superhero publishers has thus far come only in very small doses. That’s not the case here; Bowery Boys is a 200+-page collection of Bertram’s collaboration with writer Cory Levine and artist Brent McKee. This hardcover collects the webcomic of the same name, which is about a group of street kids in 19th century New York City. The setting is therefore edgy and colorful, perfectly suited to Bertram’s style. I’ve enjoyed the small tastes of his work I’ve seen in places like the short stories he drew for Detective Comics #27 and Secret Origins #4, so I’m really looking forward to the feast this book offers. [CM]