Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for December 21 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: Grant Morrison
Artist: Dan Mora
Publisher: Boom Studios
The only thing surprising about me saying that Grant Morrison and Dan Mora’s Santa Claus origin story was my absolute favorite comic of the year is that it’s not the comic that brought us the shocking return of KGBeast. So before we move on, please understand that I am just straight up one thousand percent in the tank for the guy who wrote Batman RIP doing stories about Santa Claus adventuring across time and space in a sleigh pulled by wolves, delivering presents made by the fifth-dimensional hyperbeings who live in the Aurora Borealis. It’s exactly my jam.
But as great as that origin story was, talking to Morrison about his plans for Klaus going forward was a revelation. The idea that he wants to do a new story every year that treats Santa Claus like his own personal gift-giving version of Doctor Who is pretty intriguing to begin with, and that his first shot at that involves Santa Claus being imprisoned on the moon and returning to Earth in the modern day, and also founding a Justice League of Santas from around the world?! Y’all, I don’t know why we’re even bothering to make other comics when we have this to read. [Chris Sims]
Writers: Gerard Way & Jon Rivera
Artists: Michael Avon Oeming & Nick Filardi
Publisher: DC Comics
It might be the D-List DC Universe fanboy in me, but Cave Carson has be my favorite of the four Young Animal launch titles. There’s something about mixing together the Silver Age nutso of Cave, The Metal Men and The Challengers of the Unknown in a contemporary sci-fi setting — and then throwing Wild Dog of all characters into the mix — that really, really works.
That’s not to mention that Michael Avon Oeming is doing the work of an already stellar career, and his layouts and characters are full-on dynamism and energy. Nick Filardi on colors is bringing the perfect compliments to Oeming’s pages, making Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye look like no other title on the stands, and it’s all the better for it. [Kieran Shiach]
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Jenn St Onge
Pizzazz would be so mad that Jem’s name is in the title of this comic. But I can see how it helps with branding, and the logo makes it work. Anyway, the Misfits are the best, and their lead singer Pizzazz has been my favorite character in Jem and the Holograms for a while now, so I’m really excited about this spin-off. Plus the reality show plot sounds like a perfect fit for the misfits, and I love when comics aren’t afraid to embrace the actual world we live in today. And on that note we also get more of Blaze, one of the best trans characters in comics. For that matter, I’m definitely up for getting to know Roxy, Jetta, and Stormer better too. [Elle Collins]
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Trevor Hairsine
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
I’ll admit to being way behind on Valiant’s Divinity series, but that’s not so much a knock on the comics themselves as it is a function of there only being so many hours in the day that I can comfortably allot to reading comic books without Ninjak in them. Now, though, they have given me the best possible reason to catch up.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but the premise of Divinity III asks the question of what would happen if the Soviet Union had control of the most powerful superheroes in the world. The difference is, it’s not taking place in an alternate reality. Instead, the Stalinverse is overwriting the regular valiant timeline, recasting characters like Bloodshot and X-O Manowar as heroes of the revolution and giving others, like Archer & Armstrong, a much more ignoble fate of being sentenced to life in a gulag. The only one who remains unchanged? The only one who remembers things as they’re supposed to be? It’s Ninjak. Of course it’s Ninjak. And I’m all in. [CS]
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Jason Fabok
Publisher: DC Comics
I haven’t enjoyed — or even looked forward to — a DC Comics event since Final Crisis, and the ones before that are pretty lackluster too. However, there’s something about the upcoming bonkers brawl that is Justice League vs Suicide Squad that I am very here for. Joshua Williamson is a big sell for me, his indie work made me a fan and then his half a year on The Flash has absolutely sold me on him as the future of the DC Universe.
Then there’s the weird and wonderful villains team which includes Legion baddie Emerald Empress, JSA villain Johnny Sorrow and old-school Suicide Squad foe Rustam all working together. I love the DC Universe when it gets as weird as it can, and for a big fight book, it looks like Justice League vs Suicide Squad is going to go heavy on the weird, which has me excited to see what the creative team can throw at me. [KS]
Writer: Nicole Perlman
Artist: Marco Checchetto
Of the five Guardians of the Galaxy who made up the team in the movie, it’s taken Gamora the longest to get a solo comic, which I only wish was more surprising. But now it’s here, and it’s written by the original screenwriter of that movie, which should be interesting. I know this series deals with Gamora’s past, but I’m not quite sure if it’s entirely set there, or if there’s a present-day story that ties it together. Honestly, I’m on board either way. Gamora’s history as Thanos’s adopted daughter/custom-built weapon is always a rich vein for storytelling, and I’m looking forward to knowing her better. [EC]
Writer/artist: Masume Yoshimoto
Publisher: One Peace Books
This is the story of Machi, a teenage shrine maiden who lives a temple in a remote mountain village, and Natsu, the talking bear that raised her and now shares the temple with her. As she looks forward to adulthood, Machi can't wait to leave her temple-life and join modern, urban Japanese society, but Natsu doesn't think she's ready — and he's right. So he attempts to prepare her through a variety of tests.
The first volume was a particularly charming coming-of-age story that shades into a would-be fish-out-of-water comedy. Machi made some progress in that first installment, but precious little, as befits an ongoing, situational comedy of this kind. I'm looking forward to watching her and Natsu's tug-of-war in this and future installments. [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writer/artist: Shigeru Mizuki
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
This is the second installment from Drawn and Quarterly's new collection program of Shigeru Mizuki's signature Kitaro comic, but one of the many pleasures of these comics is how friendly they are to casual readers. That is, one need not read the volumes in order, or even the individual stories within each volume in order, as they all stand alone and adhere to a fairly basic formula
All one really needs to know is that there is a little yokai boy named Kitaro who uses his weird supernatural powers and the aid of his weird allies, like his father who is also his own detachable eyeball with its own little body, to battle various wicked yokai on behalf of humanity. Among the most exciting here is probably Kitaro tackling a mad scientist who turned himself into a yokai by accident, and a final story that pits Dracula against a Japanese yokai, the blood of a manga artist being the prize.
Just as the art can include highly cartoonish characters and beautifully, elaborately rendered environments and monsters, the content similarly balances comedy with horror and the exploration and enumeration of Japan's folk monsters and spirits. Highly recommended, as is just about anything with the name "Shigeru Mizuki" on the cover. [CM]