Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases For February 17 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: Mariko Tamaki
Artists: Philip Sevy, Michael Atiyeh
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
With Lara Croft, Dark Horse seem to have realized that it has a hugely popular character in its pocket, as the last few years have been dedicated to putting big-name writers onTomb Raider comics for a succession of pretty decent miniseries. Mariko Tamaki is the latest, fresh off her Eisner win and interview with our own Claire Napier (equally big accolades, in my opinion) and paired up with artist Philip Sevy. Looking at the preview for this one, it seems Tamaki is interested on Lara as the professional; who has complete awareness of her surroundings and is always planning her second, third, and fourth escape routes. This will build on the last two miniseries, but Tamaki has a tendency to take the familiar and slowly wave it off into an unusual direction, moving around a familiar-feeling story until it becomes hazy, unclear, unpredictable. She says in her interview that she's looking to tap into Douglas Adams and Margaret Atwood as influences on this miniseries, so I get the feeling some weird stuff's going to be happening here! [Steve Morris]
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
Of all the great things about Astro City — and let's be real here, there are enough great things about Astro City that we could just while away the afternoon listing them off — one of the absolute best is the way that Busiek and Anderson have created a world that feels like it's alive. Part of that is just the longevity of the series — it is, after all, pretty easy to feel like there's a history to what you're doing when you've been doing it for a solid twenty years — but the other part of it is that stories build on each other, with characters interweaving, stepping in and out of the spotlight in a way that mirrors real life. So while a new issue of Astro City pretty much guarantees a great story, this one, which kicks off a three-part sequel to 1998's "Tarnished Angel," is exactly the kind of thing that builds the series up into something better. As for the story itself, it seems that Steeljack is back as a very shiny private eye, with Busiek and Anderson doing a superheroic take on detective noir — and there's nothing about that that doesn't sound awesome. [Chris Sims]
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Veronica Fish
Publisher: Archie Comics
The revamped (I have decided to stop calling things ‘rebooted’ unless they’re a computer) Archie series has been everything everyone says it is: refreshing, funny, dramatic, and gorgeous. What it also is, is a testament to just how much a change in storytelling technique — a shift in art and writing style — can be all the change a series needs. Everyone in Riverdale still looks the same, just not filtered exclusively through the stylings of Dan DeCarlo; everyone still acts the same, but with a shift to serialized storytelling, the classic comedy of errors leaves each issue with a different status quo than the previous one. The last issue had the debut of Reggie Mantle, the man with a soul made out of garbage; now we get Hiram Lodge, whose hatred for Archie Andrews could snuff out a star. Watching the pieces all move around, jockeying for position but refusing to settle entirely into their familiar roles, has made Archie a series I talk up to unbelieving ears whenever it comes time to discuss comics. [Charlotte Finn]
Writer: David F. Walker
Artists: Sanford Greene, Lee Loughridge, Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It's nice to have a bit of confidence back in the Marvel Universe. At a time with multiple creative teams going off-kilter and trying new things with some of Marvel's biggest characters — Steve Rogers is gone, Spider-Woman is pregnant, X-23 is Wolverine — the fact that Power Man and Iron Fist are getting the gang back together is quietly reassuring in some way. From the first few pages of this new #1, David Walker's scripting puts you at ease, offering two old friends in the lead who put a hand on your shoulder and guide you straight back to their buddy dynamic without missing a beat. Sanford Greene gets a great showcase not just for his obvious ability to conduct a fight scene, but also his conversational and emotive scene-building. Lee Loughridge is the one who sets the tenor of the series, though, framing the comic with a familiar, nostalgic light touch that focuses you in on the characters. I'm all-in on this one; it looks brilliant. [SM]
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Publisher: Image Comics
Nothing about Bitch Planet is safe. Not just the titular extra-planetary penal colony for women who wound up transgressing against a society that did them wrong; the series itself feels like forceps working around in a wound you didn’t even know was there. The series is unclean, wearing the bloody shirt of grindhouse entertainment; it’s unsettling, as non-compliance takes a hundred different forms, all boiling down to "not being what you were told you had to be." And as stated in the backmatter of issue #6, it doesn’t have any easy answers. It’s no polemic with a clearly stated point of view and an easy villain with a clearly defined crime. The crime in Bitch Planet is society itself, and it’s so big it won’t fit in any jail. And that’s why it’s so compelling, because with no way for the crime to be punished, I have no idea how this series will end. Honestly? Probably not well. [CF]
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Jock and Francesco Francavilla
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman has gone to some pretty dark territories, but it pales in comparison to Snyder's run on Detective Comics with artists Jock and Francesco Francavilla. "The Black Mirror" is a fraught and epic mystery that provides Dick Grayson his most difficult challenge as Batman, when a string of grisly murders sucks him back into the churning psychological terror of Gotham City. The artists' approaches are completely contrary, with Jock offering vicious, angular pen-stabs versus Francavilla's flowing retro lines and whole-page layouts, but they work surprisingly well together for this bleak and frightening story about fatherhood, corruption, weakness and morality. One of the best Batman stories of the last ten years and a must-read for lovers of the acid-dosed weirdness of the current Batman title, "The Black Mirror" also features the return of the long-forgotten James Gordon Jr. from Batman: Year One! (Spoiler: That's not a good thing. It's an incredibly bad, super-creepy, skin-crawling, absolutely terrifying thing.) [John Parker]
Writer: Chuck Forsman
Artist: Chuck Forsman
Publisher: Bergen Street Press
I'll tell you right up front that Chuck Forsman's Revenger isn't for everyone. I mean, even the official solicitation refers to it as a "blood-soaked nightmare" and a "self-published abattoir," so if ultraviolent hammer murders are not your thing, you should pass. If, however, you're the kind of person who loves Ben Marra's Traditional Comics, or who digs through back issue bins looking for the weirdest and most violent excesses of the '80s black-and-white boom, this is the book for you. Forsman is riffing on the same VHS aesthetic that made Mike Baron's run on the Punisher so great back in the day — there was even a minicomic called Revenger Armory to seal the comparison — and the end result is exactly the kind of comic that feels like something you found at the back of a dusty record store, and one that you definitely should not be reading. If that's what you're into — and believe me when I say that I am — then Revenger is well worth picking up. [CS]
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artists: ACO, Stephen Mooney, et al
Publisher: DC Comics
Right! Time to jump on Midnighter, everyone! You've heard how much everyone at ComicsAlliance likes the title, written with flair by Steve Orlando and drawn by an assortment of artists from the wild and unpredictable ACO through to the more considered approach of Stephen Mooney. You've likely seen the book get praise all across the internet, with critics and readers and fellow creatives all united in their support for what's genuinely been an unruly comics series. Midnighter was a character whose momentum had completely floundered, and whose best days were behind him — until the new team came in and turned him into one of the most startlingly modern leads in comics today. He's hyper-aware, smart, and confident, also totally gay, and in the book you get to see him manage every side of his life with the same head-on self-awareness that made him such a breakout character when he appeared in The Authority all those years ago. You know, and I know, that this is a great series: so really, this whole paragraph is just a reminder to go out and buy the book we all know you want to read. [SM]