Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases For December 23 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: Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Mirka Andolfo
Publisher: DC Comics
One of Ant Lucia's most inspired "Bombshells" redesigns of a DC superheroine was to give Batwoman a League Of Their Own-esque costume to wear when she fought crime with a baseball bat — she was therefore a Batwoman in more than one sense of the word. In this issue, the kick-off of a new story arc entitled "Allies," we meet the young people Batwoman inspired, who have decided to fill-in for her as she fights Nazis an the occult overseas; they fight crime on the homefront as the Batgirls. Lead by Harper Row, the team keeps growing throughout the issue-length adventure, until by book's end they've added two Batboys (Tim Drake and Cullen Row) and enough girls that they have a line-up that's eight kids strong. So when Batwoman returns to the states, she should have a sufficient number of allies to field an actual baseball team. [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham & Nathan Fairbairn
Publisher: Image Comics
Just in time for Christmas is the conclusion to a six issue miniseries about grinding horror in outer space, with the future of humanity being psychically tortured to death. It’s all gorgeous, of course, thanks to Burnham and Fairbairn, but it is dark. If Grant Morrison concludes this one with a “well, it all worked out” happy ending, I’d be very surprised, because every once in a while, he lets his demons run free, and the result is fascinating to watch. There is a saying about Terry Pratchett, that no one can make you cry as much as the writer who made you laugh. I’d add the addendum, inspired by Nameless: no one can terrify you quite like the writer who’s always inspired you. [Charlotte Finn]
Writer: Kate Leth
Artist: Brittney Williams
Full disclosure: Kate Leth is a regular contributor to ComicsAlliance, which means she's intelligent, talented, insightful, attractive, and destined for a greater glory, all requirements to work for CA. On Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat, Leth teams with Brittney Williams for a new take on Hellcat that ups the human drama and reconnects the character with her romance comic roots. Leth's comics are genuinely clever, quirky, and subversive, with a real grasp of character and relational dynamics. Williams, also the artist for Dark Horse's upcoming Legend of Korra series, possesses a clean, highly animated style that zings with energy and imbues her characters with real personalities, and the pairing of her skills with Leth's looks like a solid one. Look, if I'm #keepingit100 (hopefully my use will kill it), I'm probably not going to read a ton of Patsy Walker for the same reason I don't really follow Ms. Marvel or Jem and the Holograms: I'm an angry old man, and those comics belong in my hands about as much as FUBU shoes on a Klansman. Even if a comic book isn't necessarily for me, though, I can still tell whether or not it's good, and I've got a feeling about Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat. If this is your thing, it's really going to be your thing. [John Parker]
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: David Hahn
Publisher: DC Comics
Despite growing up as a kid obsessed with '60s TV and stuff like Get Smart, I have absolutely no familiarity with The Man From UNCLE. Well, no, that's not true — I know the acronym, but that's less because of the show itself and more because I love ridiculously complicated acronyms, and there aren't many more complicated than UNCLE. That said, there was no way I wasn't going to show up for this. With the main series ending last month and proving that we do in fact live in a fallen world, I'm desperate for any Batman '66 comics I can get. Fortunately, this series picks up with all the fun and excitement of that book, but mixed with some swinging spy-fi action that brings in the perfect Batman villain for a Soviet and American espionage duo to take on. If you haven't been reading digitally already and you've been missing the West/Ward era as much as I have, it's well worth picking up in print. [Chris Sims]
Writer: John Barber, among others
Artists: Josh Burcham, among others
There are so many questions about the notion of a Transformers version of Christmas. Does Transformers Christmas include appropriated traditions stolen shamelessly from the GoBots? Could the twelve disciples of Transformers Jesus combine into a giant super-robot? Does the notion of a redemptive savior mean that Transformers have souls and are people, in contrast to the godless, soulless automatons I’ve been thinking of them as? The Transformers Holiday Special will probably not answer any of these, but it does promise a version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas featuring Starscream, and if that’s not all that you want out of a holiday comic, you live a life of avarice and greed. [CF]
Writer: Jen Van Meter
Artists: Roberto de la Torre, David Baron, Dave Lanphear
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Jen Van Meter chooses her projects very carefully indeed, to the extent that everything she makes seems to be an event in and of itself. That was certainly the case for the first Dr. Mirage miniseries from Valiant last year, which was probably the best thing the company have put out to date. The concept is immediately involving: an occultist who can talk to spirits of the dead, but with only one exception — her husband, Hwen. After going after him and recovering him in spirit — but not in body — this second miniseries sees her try to complete the job. With the entire team returning for this one, it's going to look pretty fantastic. Baron's colors are moody and atmospheric, and de la Torre throws shadows across the page with an incredible handle on the tone it'll produce. Shan Mirage is one of Valiant's best characters, backed by one of their best creative teams, and this should be a supernatural treat. [Steve Morris]
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: John McCrea
Publisher: DC Comics
I'll go to bat for Ennis and McCrea's Hitman as being the single best comic Garth Ennis has ever written and a high point of the '90s for DC as a whole, but one of the things that often gets lost in that conversation is how good its predecessor is. The Demon was always a weird book, but under Ennis and McCrea, it got to new heights of fun and enjoyment with rip-roaring bizarre adventures that go way beyond aliens coming down to give random people super-powers and giving us the first appearance of Tommy Monaghan. This volume collects those, and it's got one of my favorite collaborations between those two creators, the three-part story that finds a villain resurrecting an army of Nazi Zombies and not only getting into it with Etrigan, but bringing World War II's own Haunted Tank out of retirement for one last ride. It's an underrated (and under-read) collaboration between those two creators that stacks up against anything they'd do later, and while it has all the earmarks of Ennis's favorite story elements (military history, Nazis getting killed, old men proving they're still tough, dudes bein' bros, Satan), McCrea is the one who shines. His exaggerated, energetic forms led themselves perfectly to stories about a fire-breathing demon in a tattered cloak. Make no mistake, it's a very different book from Hitman and ends up with a very different tone, but if you like one, you owe it to yourself to give the other a read. [CS]