Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for December 14 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: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Leonardo Romero
Thank god there’s finally a Hawkeye book focusing on the best Hawkeye, Kate Bishop. She’s always been great, but it was the stories Matt Fraction and Annie Wu told two Hawkeye runs back that really established her a protagonist in her own right. And the great thing about Kate as Hawkeye is that we don’t have that same tension that books like All-New Wolverine and The Mighty Thor have engendered, where we’re always wondering how long these women get to be legacy heroes before the status quo reasserts itself. Kate Bishop has been Hawkeye for a long time, and we can rest easy that she’ll be Hawkeye for a long time to come. Sure, there’s another Hawkeye over in Occupy Avengers, but at this point he’s sharing her name as much as she’s sharing his. So with that concern off the table, we can relax and enjoy some fun Hawkeye L.A. adventures. Because Kate Bishop is the best. [Elle Collins]
SHADOWS ON THE GRAVE #1
Writer/Artist: Richard Corben
Publisher: Dark Horse
Like black licorice and IPAs, the art of Richard Corben is probably an acquired taste, especially for younger generations of comics fans who didn’t grow up with slick, air-brushed van murals and the ear-teasing guitar riffs of Bad Company. Even when I was a pubescent boy I wasn’t a huge fan of the pubescent boy fantasies that typified Corben’s most popular work, but there’s just no denying the artistic virtuosity that has ingratiated him with scores of Dungeons & Dragons players everywhere. His work is powerfully raw but with crafted with a brilliantly refined technique; muscular and sensual; over-the-top and yet still capable evoking nuance and subtlety; and most importantly, just plain weird. Fantasy and horror would not be the same without the contributions of Richard Corben, and it’s nice to see new work bearing the old master’s name. [John Parker]
TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #1
Writer: James Roberts
Artist: Jack Lawrence
Publisher: IDW Publishing
What even is there to say about More Than Meets the Eye, the comic about queer toy robots in space who need massive amounts of therapy to get over the four million years they’ve been at war, trying to find their heritage and come to terms with their past? Well, there is one thing to say: it’s been relaunched as Lost Light, a different name for the same book, and is now joined by Jack Lawrence who will alternate arcs with Alex Milne. It’s still the same book as More Than Meets the Eye — think of Lost Light as the series’ alt mode. (In this metaphor, the comic is a robot and can turn into a comic and a different comic. Look, this’ll make sense to you if you read it — and you really should.) [Charlotte Finn]
NEW SUPER-MAN #6
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Artist: Viktor Bogdanovic
Publisher: DC COmics
As someone who might just be ComicsAlliance’s biggest Gene Yang fan, I’ve been in the tank for New Super-Man ever since it was announced, and the series has not disappointed. This week, though, DC has given us yet another reason to love it.
I mean, we already have Kenan Kong as that rare, difficult balance between “kinda terrible teen jerk” and “superhero that you really do like and want to root for,” and we’ve already got a complicated plot involving the Chinese government, a secret agency that’s building superheroes, and resistance cell, all of which are arranged in a precarious web that Kenan has found himself at the center of, and that’s great. This time, though, all of those perilous plot threads are manifesting themselves in a story where he’ll be fighting a villain called the Human Firecracker in order to save the Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman of China. And that’s the kind of Silver Agey adventure that I can get behind. [Chris Sims]
UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #15
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl isn’t just Doreen’s book. It’s about Nancy, Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi too. However, there’s one supporting character that’s yet to get the spotlight in the way they so truly deserve, and that’s Nancy’s pet cat Mew! While Squirrel Girl fights the skull-faced pirate supervillain Taskmaster in the background, Mew’s going to kind of just, be a cat, I guess. It’s a risky proposition for a comic, but something that the Squirrel Girl team can doubt pull off and there’s a chance this might slip in under the wire as one of the best single issues of the year! [Kieran Shiach]
DETECTIVE COMICS #946
Writer: James TynionIV
Artist: Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira
You’ve probably already heard, from me or others, how great this Detective Comics run has been since DC Rebirth. But this Victims Syndicate story is taking things to a new level. The Syndicate are a brand new team of villains, but they’re built on existing foundations. They’re all people who were somehow damaged by battles between Batman and his enemies, and that’s what led them down this dark path. They’re terrifying both individually and as a group, but it’s also hard not to sympathize with where they’re coming from to some degree. And despite how dark and scary they are, they always feel like Batman villains. In short, I’m totally engaged in this story, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. [EC]
GWENPOOL HOLIDAY SPECIAL MERRY MIX-UP
Writers: Christopher Hastings, Ryan North, Nick Kocher, Karla Pacheco, Chynna Clugston-Flores
Artists: Chynna Clugston-Flores, Myisha Haynes, Nathan Stockman & More
Publisher: Marvel Comics
DC aren’t the only publisher with a Holiday Special out this week, and Marvel are countering with the second Gwenpool Holiday Special, after last year’s enjoyable one-shot which centered around everyone trying to get to She-Hulk’s holiday party. This year, Gwenpool is even more of the star now she’s firmly cemented in the Marvel Universe and she’s bringing Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Punisher and… The Red Skull, along? Okay, I dunno about that last one, personally.
There’s some preview art by Ryan Dunlavey out there that shows Fin Fang Foom rampaging through Times Square, which is always a fun time and this marks the Marvel Comics debut of Inspector Pancakes Helps the President of France Solve the White Orchid Murders’s Karla Pacheco, all of which should make for a very merry Marvel holiday. [KS]
DC REBIRTH HOLIDAY SPECIAL
Writer: K. Perkins, Heath Corson, James Asmus, Tim Seeley, Cullen Bunn, Vita Ayala, Steve Orlando, James Tynion IV, Paul Dini
Artist: Robbi Rodriguez, Gustavo Duarte, Various
Publisher: DC Comics
As someone who spent years buying literally every holiday special he could find from digging through long boxes and combing through Previews with a fine-toothed comb, I can assure you that they are a mixed bag. But then again, that’s part of their charm — the Nintendo wouldn’t seem as awesome if you didn’t also get the socks, right?
Full disclosure: I love getting socks for Christmas.
Point is, while I’m don’t know if everything in this year’s DC Holiday Special to be a winner — especially since the creative teams weren’t announced along with it — I’ve got some pretty high hopes for it. They are, after all, working with some pretty incredible premises, including a Harley Quinn framing sequence written by Paul Dini, a dude who loves Christmas and has a pretty solid track record of holiday stories, and a Wonder Woman/Hellblazer team-up where John Constantine apparently throws a Saturnalia party so raucous that a Justice Leaguer has to intervene. Here’s hoping we get something merry and bright out of it! [CS]
THE SPIRE TP
Writer: Si Spurrier
Artists: Jeff Stokely, Steve Wands, Andre May
Publisher: Boom Studios
When Jeff Stokely sets out to create a world, he doesn’t draw a nice panorama and then go to bed early. When Jeff Stokely sets out to create a world, he truly creates a whole concept — he establishes class structure, societal rules, history and context within every structure that rises into the air. The characters have purpose in their clothing, and you can see the consideration which has gone into every aspect of both the people and their homes.
For his part, Si Spurrier brings a signature hyper-verbage which once more elevates and hides the purpose of the story: The Spire is a murder-mystery playing into a fantastical class war. That high-strung slurry of synonyms flings through the script with a drive and purpose which comes together only once you’ve grasped the scale of the eight-part story as a whole. When Stokely and Spurrier come together on a project like this, you’re in for an unpredictable piece of business, with only one guarantee — they both know exactly what they’re doing, and you’re heading into a world of only their making. [Steve Morris]
WE TOLD YOU SO
Writer/Artists: Tom Spurgeon and Mike Dean
There was a time when no one took comics seriously. Okay, no one takes comics that seriously still, but it’s a different kind of unseriousness now, and this biographical graphic novel looks back at a different time of unseriousness. Seriously though, biographical comics about comics are a favorite of mine, and this charts the rise of Fantagraphics during the ’70s and ’80s, with them still going strong today and being one of comics’ most important publishers. Spurgeon and Dean are good creators and this is an important moment in comics history, and I’m looking forward to reading more about it. [CF]
UNWRITTEN DELUXE EDITION, BOOK 1
Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: Peter Gross, Chris Chuckry, Jeanne McGee, Todd Klein
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
As the only Yorkshireman at ComicsAlliance, I can officially proclaim now that Winter has come. It’s cold outside, there’s no kind of atmosphere. You’re all alone, more or less. So you know what you need? You need something to sit down in front of, in the coziest, oldest chair of your home, whilst you wear your slippers and onesie, drink white wine, and toast yourself by the crackling light of the fireplace. I am, right now, making a lot of assumptions about how you choose to spend your Christmas, but here’s the thing: this time of year is the perfect time to read The Unwritten.
Mike Carey and Peter Gross’ series is an enthralling long read — perfect to read with a plate of chocolate biscuits and a cat sleeping in the corner of the room. The comic is best-read in a binge, which offers you more insight into the themes and motifs of the narrative, and you can tie the various minute connections together to find hidden meaning where you never expected. It’s literary and harsh, a dark tonic which will leave you dying to read more. It’s a consummately professional comics series, above all else, which knows exactly what it wants to do and writes the narrative around you. Curl up, and dive in. [SM]