Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases For February 24 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.
ANGELA: QUEEN OF HEL #5
Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Aaron Kim Jacinto & Stephanie Hans
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The dialogue may be a little overly quippy and wink-wink, and the main character may be a tough one to love, but in the end, the Angela series is one I’m glad I finally heard about and started reading. It’s a love fable told across time and space, through Heven and Hel, featuring mystical trials, prophecies, swordfights and magic. And at the heart of it all is a love story between two angelic women — one of whom came to womanhood later in life — who, when standing side by side, make demons pause in consideration. Last issue, they fought a self-admitted redpill MRA. I’m curious how the heck Marguerite Bennett, Aaron Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans are going to top that. [Charlotte Finn]
STREET FIGHTER X GI JOE #1
Writer: Aubrey Sitterson
Artist: Emilio Laslo
If you’re not already sold on this comic just based on the title and its promise that America’s Daring, Highly Trained Special Missions Force will be taking on the World Warriors of Street Figher, then I honestly don’t know what I could say to change that, but I’ll give it a shot. Here goes: This issue is 100% fights.
Seriously, there are maybe two or three panels in here where people actually speak to each other while they aren’t throwing punches or fireballs, but the 20 pages of this comic book are pretty much entirely taken up with four knock-down, drag-out fights between Joes (and Cobras) and Street Fighters. Aside from page one, which gives you the very basic setup of Destro sponsoring the Street Fighter tournament through MARS industries, every other piece of the story is conveyed by people shouting at each other while also doing karate, thus proving that comic books are the greatest of all media. [Chris Sims]
SUPERMAN: THE COMING OF THE SUPERMEN #1
Writer/Artist: Neal Adams
Age gets to everybody, and watching a truly great comic creator venture into increasingly muddled territory can be like witnessing a legendary athlete fade into a shadow of his/her former self, or a band continue to produce unaware of their own decline. It’s a little depressing, really, to watch Muhammad Ali lose to Trevor Berbick, to listen to the Rolling Stones’ Dirty Work, or to read Neal Adams’ Batman: Odyssey. The last major comic by Adams (also the artist of Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali, coincidentally enough) definitely wasn’t his best, being very messy, odd, divisive, and kind of bizarre. Still, this is Neal Adams we’re talking about, and even if he’s channeling transmissions from Xenu, his art is something to behold.
The preview images of Superman: The Coming of the Superman make it seem like it’s going to suffer from the same lack of cohesion as Batman: Odyssey, but they also look like they were drawn by Neal Adams, and even if the icon is rolling off the rails, his anatomy, dynamics, page composition and his passion remain undeniable. And who knows? Maybe The Coming of the Supermen will be just the right kind of bizarre anyway. [Steve Morris]
BLACK MAGICK #5
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Nicola Scott
Publisher: Image Comics
If you’re still sleeping on this book, it’s time to wake up, America. Supernatural crime thrillers just got real — real good. Technically, Black Magick has been good for four months already, but you get what I’m trying to say. I used to think of this genre as something exclusive to those weird romance novels in the fantasy fiction section of the bookstore. Cop by day, werewolf by night, and he just can’t seem to arrest the medusa he fell in love with. You’ve seen it. You may have even flipped through one on occasion. No crime in that.
There is crime in continuing to miss out on what Greg Rucka, Nicola Scott and the rest of the creative team are doing with Black Magick. The way they’ve been able to ground the supernatural elements in reality has made it feel that much more authentic. Scott’s ink-washed pages, which use color just for the more “magical” moments, give the world of Black Magick a true-to-life and eerie vibe.
There’s an unease brimming at the border of every panel, and it helps keep you off balance. In either a crime story or a supernatural story alone, that would make for good reading. By combining both with nerve-wracking pacing and outstanding art, Black Magick becomes a great comic. [Luke Brown]
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #12
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Sophie Campbell
At this point, I think we should all know that IDW’s Jem comic is pretty much the platonic ideal of the franchise. Yes, it exists in a medium that’s completely devoid of sound, which leaves a little something to be desired when the entire point of the comic is that it’s a long-running battle between two glam rock bands, but what it lacks in audio, it more than makes up for in the visuals. Sophie Campbell’s designs for the characters have always been great, going back to when she did a bunch of them for fun as a fan, years before the comic started, but here, as the “Dark Jem” storyline finds the Holograms going goth, they’re taking things to a new level of being visually fascinating.
Beyond that, though, this issue marks something very interesting. There have been a couple of original characters introduced to the series, and the most prominent by far is Blaze, who — thanks to Pizzazz’s injury — has just become the fifth Misfit. Starting the book’s second year by putting a trans character into the (literal) spotlight while building a conflict that turns the established Holograms Good/Misfits Bad dynamic on its ear means that this book isn’t just staying good, it’s getting its second wind as one of the most engaging and compelling books on the stands. [CS]
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: AMAZING ADVENTURES VOL 1
Writers: Landry Quinn Walker, Matthew K. Manning and others
Artists: Chad Thomas and others
I’m a big fan of the current Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, which I think manages to remix elements of the original Mirage comics and the late-80s/early-90s cartoons and toys into something new and at least original-ish much more successfully than either the 2007 TMNT feature film or the current IDW series, which both attempted the same trick. This newer Turtles series, also from IDW, is based on the Nickelodeon show, but that alone isn’t what makes this a comic well worth your attention.
Rather, it’s the back-ups that run in each issue, each created by the sorts of cartoonists one wouldn’t expect to find on a modern TMNT comic, particularly one based on a kids cartoon: Ben Costa, Sina Grace, James Kochalka and artist Noah Van Sciver, the latter of whom collaborates with some guy named Caleb Goellner (Now why does that name ring a bell…?).
This first volume will collect the entirety of the first four issues, and while I might personally prefer a collection focused on just the back-ups — which mirror the original Mirage series in pairing the Turtles with wide-ranging cartoonist doing the characters in their own styles and with their own sensibilities — no one asked me. Honestly, the whole dang thing is worth it just for the extremely silly Kochalka story, in which the Turtles try to combat a volcano. [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Filipe Andrade, Rachelle Rosenberg, Clayton Cowles, James Stokoe, Jorge Coehlo
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Kieron Gillen gets a bit of a swan-song to his time mucking around in the modern Marvel Universe in this one, as he takes the advantage of a Secret Wars tie-in to let him draft in a bunch of characters he likes and make them do whatever he wants. Already, you’ll probably have decided if this is something for you, or not. He’s joined by Filipe Andrade, who worked tirelessly to make Captain Marvel entertaining and here turns his charmed artwork to a more wild, open kind of storytelling style. With Rachelle Rosenberg assisting, the art team gracefully take over the story and turn it from being a contemporary Nextwave into something surprisingly elegant and intricate.
There are still puns, of course, but backed with grace — and artistic appearances from James Stokoe and Jorge Coehlo, out of seemingly nowhere. You’ve got an old-fashioned Kate Bishop paired with current day Ms America, Leah from Journey into Mystery, a small army of clones, and a probably hungover Abigail Brand standing astride it all. It’s essentially a distillation of everything Kieron Gillen’s ever worked on at Marvel, blended up with a bunch of hallucinogenic items leftover from the third volume of Phonogram. Sounds interesting, right? [Steve Morris]
OCTOPUS PIE, VOL 1
Writer/Artist: Meredith Gran
Publisher: Image Comics
When is the adventures of a bunch of post-college twentysomethings in Brooklyn, New York actually interesting to read about? When someone as talented as Meredith Gran is putting her heart and soul into every page, of course. Octopus Pie, serialized online and collected here at long last, regularly pulls storytelling tricks out of a hat that would shame thirty year veterans of comics storytelling, juggling a huge cast of interesting and creative characters, and making jokes land with the practiced skill of a basketball player raining three-point shots into the hoop. You can chart her growth as an artist here, and see how it all began. [CF]
FOUNDING FATHER FUNNIES
Writer/artist: Peter Bagge
Publisher: Dark Horse
America’s founding fathers may have missed The Renaissance by a century or two centuries, but they were the very definition of renaissance men: Writers, philosophers, politicians, inventors, architects, farmers and/or generals. And, at least according to Peter Bagge, they were also perfect readymade cartoon characters, a case he puts forth in his Founding Father Funnies, which is exactly what it sounds like. This new hardcover collects all of Bagge’s cartoons about these revered men from the pages of Apocalypse Nerd and Dark Horse Presents, plus plenty of new material. As we look at the current field of presidential candidates, and shake our head in bafflement that these are the clowns we’re even considering for the highest office in the land, Bagge provides a timely reminder that even our earliest and greatest presidents (and their peers) could have their clownish sides. [CM]
RUMBLE, VOL 2
Writer: John Arcudi
Artists: James Harren, Dave Stewart
Publisher: Image Comics
I hope you brought your wellies, because the second volume of Rumble invites you to wade deep into the thickest swamp imaginable, teeming with monsters, bugs, strange creatures and the occasional bemused human caught along in the undertow. John Arcudi and James Harren unapologetically hurl you straight back into the deep end with this next collection of issues, as the tangle gets tanglier, the mud gets deeper, and the unabashed adoration for pure fantasy rolls out as far as the eye can see.
Harren is having a ball, in particular, creating all manner of bizarre characters to either join up with the cast or die, or die after joining them. The scarecrow creature Rathraq remains the surly center of the series, but here we see the world he lives in open up wider, so you can start to feel more sympathy (and disgust) for his narrative. It’s a series unlike anything else, taking the dank depths of BPRD and stirring them up into an engagingly wonderful and mad morass which’ll pull you under. [JP]
KILL YOUR BOYFRIEND/VIMANARAMA DELUXE EDITION
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Philip Bond
This deluxe package pairs two of Grant Morrison’s most underrated books, each penciled by one of his most underrated collaborators, Philip Bond. The two have only teamed up a few times over the years, but each time they produced something memorable, and both Kill Your Boyfriend and Vimanarama are high-energy, funny, and compelling. As the first half of the hardcover, Kill Your Boyfriend is a Dionysian black comedy about young love and lust, random, meaningless violence, and anarchy. While Bond and Morrison seem to find a certain amount of glee in the story’s escalating brutality, they capture some very authentic emotional content and explore the concept of violence as a form of expression, a lashing-out against the dulling effects of society. Short, devilish, and insistent, it’s like the comicbook version of a punk rock anthem; a cherry bomb.
On the flipside of the collection is Vimanarama, a twenty-first century love story about British Muslims, ancient Hindu gods that appear as Kirby-esque superheroes, and Bollywood. Colorful and unpredictable, it’s one of the most joyful books in Morrison’s bibliography, thanks to Bond’s bright, personable cartooning. These stories will likely work brilliantly in contrast, and collecting them together was a stroke of genius. [SM]