Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases For December 30 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: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Corin Howell
Given that the cartoon it's based on frequently cut to commercial on scenes of its protagonists in danger of being literally murdered by, say, a volcano or a runaway cruise ship — something that the Jem Jam podcast identified as a smart strategy to get kids to buy the dolls, because you don't know how long Aja or Kimber are going to be alive — the shock ending of Jem #9 probably shouldn't have been that shocking. Unfortunately, due to an unavoidable mix-up in scheduling, the Jem Holiday Special already revealed what's going on in the upcoming arc, but in a testament to how good this series is, that doesn't change the emotional impact of this issue. Plus, for longtime fans, there's one important element that we've been missing for all these months that shows up here: Finally, Rio will kick a potted plant. [Chris Sims]
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark
Publisher: Image Comics
The most depressing thing about Lazarus is also its most realistic; it brings current trends about technology, climate, and class inequalities forward to a point that feels reachable within living memory, and the world it arrives at is horrifying. The Carlyle family, even when it’s at its most sympathetic, is still unflinchingly portrayed as tyrants, and Forever Carlyle’s only point of true emotional connection is with the Lazaruses of the other families she may have to someday kill. Lazarus is the best kind of science fiction, balancing swordfights and gunslinging with politics and a warning about the trends and anxieties of the era it’s produced in. I miss Queen & Country a lot — but in the Rucka oeuvre, this may be its equal. [Charlotte Finn]
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Simon Coleby
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
If you're not already reading every war comic that Garth Ennis writes, picking up a copy of Dreaming Eagles #1 might be the first and most-important step on the road to rectification. Ennis and artist Simon Coleby — who previously worked with Ennis on a few Judge Dredd stories — delve into the history of 332nd Fighter Group in WWII, now more famously known as the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black squadron deemed good enough to fight the enemy, but not good enough to share a water fountain with an ally. Expect an intelligent, emotional, and thought-provoking story about valor, responsibility, American hypocrisy, and the racial divide, highlighted by Coleby's scenes of tense, chaotic aerial combat, which in previews look like they were spat out by a buzzsaw. In a good way. I'm really excited about this comic. [John Parker]
Writer: Kurtis J. Weibe
Artists: Tess Fowler, Tamra Bonvillain, Ed Brisson
Publisher: Image Comics
Rat Queens ends 2015 with the arrival of Hannah's father to the story. Now, having met Hannah at the start of the series, I think most of us had a few questions about what her upbringing was like. But having met her mother earlier this year — and having collectively realized that her mother is absolutely amazing — the current arc of Rat Queens has been focused on showing us more of Hannah's earlier years. Despite the feeling that the series sometimes wants Betty to be the breakout character, it's been Hannah who has caught on most powerfully with readers — she's the most fun of the four, the most honest and open of a clan made up solely of blunt and passionate characters. Hannah's the core of the series, and the creative team has very carefully managed to open her up without breaking what makes her so enjoyable and entertaining. With Tess Fowler now firmly installed as part of the ongoing creative team, it feels like this arc (and the next one) will be the ones that reaffirm Rat Queens as one of Image's most absorbing comics. [Steve Morris]
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Barnaby Bagenda
Publisher: DC Comics
A few months ago, DC announced that Omega Men was, like a few of their other, more experimental titles of the "DC You" initiative, getting the axe with this issue, halfway through its planned first arc. This was pretty upsetting news for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that Omega Men was one of the most engaging, thrilling and expertly crafted stories DC was putting out, filling a need for politically charged sci-fi that I didn't know we were missing until it came out. In a great example of the good guys winning, though, the cancellation was reversed and we were promised that the title would at least finish out its promised year-long run. The result: this issue's not just the start of the second half of a great comic, but a good one to pick up if you're the kind of person who thinks this was a pretty good decision — or if you just want to see what happens when the '90s Green Lantern is abducted by space terrorists. That works too. [CS]
Writer/Artist: Nick Roche
Publisher: IDW Publishing
The first issue of Sins of the Wreckers actually left me a little cold, because “what if children’s toys, but real dark” feels like a movie I’ve seen before with the mid-1980’s superhero genre and it doesn’t have a happy ending. But the original Last Stand of the Wreckers starts off dark as well, and it’s fantastic. The fact that no one in this series is safe, just as no one in Last Stand was safe, works to its advantage, as does setting it in the hostile Alaskan wilderness, where even the weather tries to kill you. There’s actual drama around these characters, and I care about them, even if I wish there were fewer threats of torture from a pink toy robot. [CF]
Writer: Felipe Smith
Artist: Juan Gedeon
Publisher: Marvel Comics
One of the many, many Secret Wars tie-ins that just used the temporarily remixed, anything-goes Marvel Universe of "Battleworld" as an excuse to go nuts for the length of a story arc, the premise of Ghost Racers was basically "What If All of The Competitors in a NASCAR Event Were Ghost Riders?" Smith, the creator of Peepo Choo and the writer of the excellent but short-lived All-New Ghost Rider, wrote the mini-series, and naturally he included his own, car-driving Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes among new Riders and familiar faces — er, flaming skulls. In addition to the four-issue miniseries, this collection will also include a 1979 issue of Ghost Rider by Jim Starlin, Al Milgrom and Steve Leialoha as a bonus/price-tag justifier. In it, Ghostie races "Death Ryder" in the appropriately titled "Deathrace!" [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth, Richard Starkings
Publisher: Marvel Comics
And so here we are, following the conclusion of Marvel's Jessica Jones, with the publisher having completed its project to collect together all the trades of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos' Alias run. This is the one that people remember most, and served as the plot for the Netflix series — it's the Purple Man story. It's harsh and horrible to work through at times, but the creative team tells the origin of Jessica Jones in compelling fashion, unraveling hints and suggestions to explore why she become the investigator we first met when the series began. It's storytelling of a style that became common under Joe Quesada's editorial hand, and has mostly vanished from Marvel in recent years. Sometimes things go overboard and get a little wearing, but that all seems to add to the rough hand that Jessica Jones is dealt in the story. From here onwards, Jessica Jones lost her edge somewhat — but this story remains some of Bendis' most involving work to date. [SM]
Writer/artist: Gahan WIlson
One might be forgiven for thinking Fantagraphics had already collected all of legendary cartoonist Gahan Wilson's work, given how much of it they've reprinted and rereleased already, including the massive. 1,000+ page Gahan WIlson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons. Well, they haven't, which just goes to show how prolific Wilson was. This latest, originating publication-specific collection compiles WIlson's contributions to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which he began making in 1964. The lion's share of his contributions were, naturally, cartoons, but he also contributed a couple of covers, as well as short stories and reviews of books and films, which are also collected in Out There. It should provide another welcome chunk of Wilson's work to willing and waiting fans of his, as well as provide one more installment in Fantagraphics' mega-library of the work of the world's greatest cartoonists. [CM]