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.

  • BUYING GUIDE

    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.

  • LUCIFER #1

    Writer: Holly Black

    Artist: Lee Garbett

    Publisher: DC/Vertigo

    The old me would have balked at the audacity of a new Lucifer series, especially one made to coincide with what looks like maybe the worst television adaptation of all time. The current me misses John Constantine and Swamp Thing and is totally cool with it. After God is murdered (give yourself a second to read that twice, if need be), Lucifer and Gabriel form an alliance to find the perpetrator, with absolution as the prize. Not bad, right? Reminds you of everything that defined late-90s Vertigo, maybe even a little too self-consciously, but it's just ballsy and weird enough to be enticing. I've never read any of Holly Black's Spiderwick Chronicles, but if she's got the guts to kill God in a comic in this climate, she's officially got my attention. She's paired with Lee Garbett, who has experience drawing lithe, sinister leads in Loki, and Lucifer Vol. 2 actually looks pretty cool. In contrast, the upcoming Fox series looks like a bloody tangle of hair and teeth. But maybe that's your thing. [John Parker]

  • DRAGON AGE: MAGEKILLER #1

    Writer: Greg Rucka

    Artist: Carmen Nune Carnero & Terry Pallot

    Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

    In Dragon Age, mages exist at the nexus of a host of dilemmas. What does it mean for a mage to be free, when they could become unwitting portals to demonic realms and shoot fire out of their fingers at ordinary people? What price are those ordinary people willing to exact for their safety, when ripping out a mage’s ability to feel anything is the accepted treatment for out of control spellcasters? Greg Rucka has made a career out of feeling around the edges of difficult political and cultural situations, and he’s found robust material in the Dragon Age setting that Bioware uses as the basis for fantasy video games. There’s swords, there’s sorcery, and hopefully there will be Varric. [Charlotte Finn]

  • JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS HOLIDAY SPECIAL

    Writer: Kelly Thompson

    Artist: Amy Mebberson

    Publisher: IDW

    One of the biggest missed opportunities on the Jem and the Holograms cartoon was that there was never a Christmas episode. Seriously, they did a Halloween special — they even went to the mythical city of Shangri-La in the third season! — but never got around to even a mention of the winter holidays. And friends, that we never once got Glam Santa out of that deal is a shame. But fortunately, the Jem comic book has a solid track record of fixing the show's shortcomings, and this week we're finally getting the Holiday Special that we've been waiting for. Sure, it's not Jem using the power of glam rock to save St. Nick or anything, but the idea of the Misfits and the Holograms having to buy presents for each other thanks to a random draw in their Record Label's Secret Santa is one of the best possible premises for these characters, and it's the kind of recipe for Christmas comedy that this book has done so well with so far. [Chris Sims]

  • BOOM! BOX 2015 MIX TAPE #1

    Writers: Various

    Artists: Various

    Publisher: Boom Studios

    Headed up by John Allison, this is an anthology of stories told by people who you may have seen on various Boom Box comics over the last year or so — Boom Box being the Boom Studios imprint that puts out left-of-center comics by people perhaps best known for their webcomics work. This latest collection will have a new Lumberjanes story as well as work from the Cyanide & Happiness team, as well as something from the Power Up folks. Really, it's here to throw a bunch of incredibly colorful short bits and pieces at your eyes at random, hurling ideas and concepts and thoughts and jokes all around the room until some of them slam straight into the back of your head and never leave ever again. This has been a great year for Boom creatively, and this feels like it'll cap things off nicely for the publisher. [Steve Morris]

  • I HATE FAIRYLAND #3

    Writer/Artist: Skottie Young

    Publisher: Image Comics

    There’s a dark underbelly to everything, and the dark side of a world where no one ages is that if you stay there long enough, you’ll wind up a 33 year old in the body of a six year old girl. Which doesn’t mean that the best course of action is to take a battleaxe to everything around you and eat mushroom men for dinner, but no one ever accused this book of being too saintly to be interesting. Gorgeously illustrated as ever, and unafraid to confront just how screwed up fairytale logic can get, I Hate Fairyland is a delight every time it comes out. [CF]

  • WEIRDWORLD #1

    Writer: Sam Humphries

    Artist: Mike Del Mundo

    Publisher: Marvel

    Read anything illustrated by Mike Del Mundo, especially if it's got "weird" or "world" in the title. The first volume of Weirdworld with Jason Aaron was easily the best Secret Wars tie-in, a confounding black light poster of a comicbook that remixed bits and pieces from old Marvel fantasy books into a trek through the bizarre. In this volume, Del Mundo teams with Sam Humphries for an adventure starring two new characters: Becca, a regular teenager from Earth lost on Weirdworld, and Goleta the Wizardslayer, a native who loves herself some wizard-slayin'. Let's not pretend like it wouldn't be awesome if Aaron was back, but Humphries is pretty fantastic in his own right, and frankly, it doesn't matter who writes it. In this game of D&D it ain't about the players, it's about that DM (Del Mun--you got it), and I wouldn't care if this was farted out by a swamp troll drunk on blackbark wine. It would still be worth reading when illustrated by the magnificent Mike Del Mundo, or as I like to call him, Frazetta Disney Shrooms. [JP]

  • AUTUMNLANDS #8

    Writer: Kurt Busiek

    Artist: Ben Dewey

    Publisher: Image Comics

    At the conclusion of the first volume of Autumnlands, I knew that this wasn’t going to be heroic fantasy, since the prophesized great hero does something that’s tactically sound and morally dubious. Between hints at a coming shift in the environment that will lead to social collapse, the large cast of characters, and the moral ambiguities and refusal to let the good side win because they’re the good side, this series is hewing closer to Game of Thrones. Of course, Game of Thrones doesn’t have a coyote lady riding a giant cockroach, so shots fired, George R.R. Martin. Kurt Busiek and Ben Dewey are crafting a fascinating tale of a world that’s set so far after one apocalypse that it’s staring down a whole new one, and I can’t wait to see where it is headed. [CF]

  • DC COMICS PRESENTS DARKSEID WAR 100-PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR #1

    Writer/Artist: Jack Kirby

    Publisher: DC Comics

    For a company that's been defined over the past thirty years by occasionally just deciding to throw its continuity out of the nearest available window and start things over, DC is surprisingly good about making their considerable back catalog available to readers. It's one of the benefits of being a company with a long history of some of the world's most well-known superheroes, and while there are pretty big gaps in that history, there's a whole lot out there available to read. There is, however, one big problem: the unfortunate tendency for some of the best stuff to go out of print and become increasingly hard to find.

    For the past couple of years, that's been the case with DC's otherwise fantastic Jack Kirby Omnibus collections. The volumes covering the Fourth World, which are downright essential reading from the greatest comic book creator who ever lived, aren't currently available in print unless you're willing to shell out three or four times the cover price on Amazon, and if you're just coming around to Kirby, that can be a pretty big obstacle. With that in mind, the "Darkseid War" crossover has given DC a nice excuse to get at least a few Kirby stories back in print with this, a primer to Darkseid's earliest appearances. It's a good introduction to the Fourth World saga, and if you haven't read it, it's well worth picking up. [CS]

  • NIGHT POST HC

    Writer: Benjamin Read

    Artist: Laura Trinder

    Publisher: Improper Books

    Night Post gets a full release this week, and just in time for Christmas! If I'd known the book was going to be out this week, I would've included it in my list of all-ages comics recommendations — but I'll happily settle to recommend it here instead! This is a gorgeous thing, a silent issue that follows a postman as he goes about his rounds... on the midnight circuit. Cycling through the air and delivering letters, circulars and gifts to all manner of goblins and monsters, this is a bizarre and engaging story that's perfect for reading and re-reading under the covers late at night when your parents think you're asleep. Ahem. It's basically an opportunity for artist Laura Trinder to have a whale of a time with her artwork, and she creates monstrously enchanting worlds and villages for our hero to pedal his way through, each as interesting and strange as the last. It's properly good fun, in other words. [SM]

  • NEXUS: INTO THE PAST AND OTHER STORIES TP

    Writer: Mike Baron

    Artist: Steve Rude

    Publisher: Dark Horse

    The lack of Steve Rude comics in the world is truly a little tragic. Arguably one of the finest artists to have ever worked in the medium, for most of his career he was on the periphery, only popping into the mainstream incrementally, and devoting most of his time to the independent Nexus with Mike Baron. As a result, he's never gotten the acclaim he's truly deserved, and the amount of new comics have gotten especially scarce, as he's focused mostly on fine art and commissions. It's unfortunate, but there's something about the endangered nature of his comics that gives them extra zing, and reading a new Nexus story is like tongue-kissing a battery. This collection of stories from the current volume of Dark Horse Presents is a welcome one, and hopefully not the last we'll see from the Dude, but that seems like a distinct possibility. If you've never read a Steve Rude comic, pick it up and play seven minutes in heaven with a generator. [JP]