Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases For January 13 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.
Writers: Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Hope Larson, Katie Cook, Ken Niimura, Zac Gorman and Adam Archer
Artists: Dustin Nguyen, Katie Cook, Ken Niimura, Zac Gorman and Adam Archer
Publisher: DC Comics
I love Gotham Academy, but I'll admit that I spent most of last year convinced that it was too good, too pure for this fallen world, and that there was no way that it was going to survive to see 2016. I was, in the kind of cheerful and pleasant surprise that we just don't get enough from comic books, wrong. Not only did Gotham Academy survive, but it's starting the year by kicking off a new story about the yearbook that's bringing in a ton of amazing creators to do the job. It's the kind of thing that feels like it should be an annual or a big oversized special, but with Gotham Academy, it's just this month's issue. Still, it's a showcase, not just for the creators involved but for the characters that Cloonan, Fletcher and Kerschl have been spending the past year crafting in a strange corner of Gotham City that's every bit as concerned with prom dates and teenage crushes as it is with whether or not Olive's mother is a supervillain who is literally made of fire, which turns out to be exactly what I want from comic books. And if you haven't been reading it, it feels like a pretty good place to start. [Chris Sims]
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charles Adlard & Various
Publisher: Image Comics
In the very first trade paperback of The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman commented that the series would be “a zombie story that never ends.” He couldn’t have known how right he’d one day be. With two TV shows, two critically acclaimed video games, and a series hitting its 150th issue in a marketplace where getting to #25 is a minor miracle, The Walking Dead is synonymous with the zombie genre in the year 2016 — with all that that implies, for better or for worse. There are arguments to be made in how it fits into the history of the zombie movie, whether it’s too nihilistic, whether zombies have supplanted superheroes as the one genre that is a little too dominant. But at the end of the day, The Walking Dead is a phenomenon birthed from an independent passion project, and that so much grew from such humble roots is heartening all on its own. Anyways, Rick is upset about something in this issue. Some things never do end, do they? [Charlotte Finn]
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artists: Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire
The weirdness of the world has been a favorite topic of Ellis's for a while now — in Planetary, "It's a strange world, let's keep it that way" was practically a refrain — but with Injection he's coming at it from a different angle, to the point where I get the impression he's commenting on the role of a creator. In an effort to make the world a more interesting place, a team of five esoteric specialists link an artificial intelligence with a creature from folklore — connecting the future with the past — and ending up with a world that's a little too interesting. It's a reminder that a creator is unable to control his/her creation once it's transitioned from idea to object, and as soon as it's out there, it takes on a life of its own. The moment that sealed it for me was the conclusion of the first arc, in which Ellis leaned harder toward self-commentary than ever before. When Wayland the Smith (a figure from Nordic mythology with a hairstyle strikingly similar to Ellis's) tells Robin Morel, "You hold that working for the rulers is the same as working at all. I was happiest when I was working for myself [...] Decide what you want, cunning-man. And do it on your own," he's clearly remarking upon the fulfillment of creator-owned work. I don't expect it to venture into Morrison-esque metafiction anytime soon, but Ellis is making a statement with Injection, and it's the most fascinating comic he's written in a while. [John Parker]
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Freddie E. Williams II
Publisher: DC Comics/IDW
There were a lot of great things about the first issue of Batman/TMNT, but I think the best was the panel where Batman, having just been confronted with threats from the Shredder, a small army of Foot Clan ninjas, and the knowledge that he's dealing with four man-sized turtles who wear domino masks and fight with nunchucks, just narrows his eyes and grumpily mutters "turtles." This is a dude who has seen some things, and that's great. While a lot of crossovers operate on the premise that this is the characters' first experience with dealing with, well, a crossover, Tynion and Williams are right up front with the fact that Batman's pretty familiar with the problems inherent with his genre, and the Turtles are no stranger to dimension hopping themselves — heck, they met the Ghostbusters last year, and once you've done that, Batman's pretty easy to to get your head around. Dude would probably have a hard time adjusting to a giant rat that teaches karate, though. [CS]
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Tomas Aria & others
Publisher: Avatar Press
As endlessly fascinating the various aspects of the second World War were — a campaign of bottomless violence on all fronts, with competing advantages in industrialized warfare pressing against each other and the blood of a generation oiling the gears — having them be the subject of all of the stories touched on by Garth Ennis’ ongoing series of war comics could get a little familiar. But while this volume is bookended by World War II aerial combat and refugees in eastern Germany during the end of the war, the middle story is what interests me: a story of a tank commander in the 1970s, with the nation of Israel versus the forces of Syria, two names more relevant than ever to geopolitics. Seeing how similar (and different) the struggle of that conflict brings home the tragedy of war, in that it stubbornly refuses to leave us — but it also highlights the range of Ennis and his collaborators, as they effortlessly shift their sights to a different war and a different generation of soldier. It’s bad luck to ever sleep on a Garth Ennis comic. When he’s passionate, he’s untouchable — and the history of war, and its horrors, makes him passionate indeed. [CF]
Writers: Ann Nocenti et al
Artists: John Romita Jr. et al
That's right, Ron Lim, Mike Baron, and Fabian Nicieza: you guys get the et al treatment for this one. Collecting about twenty issues' worth of material, the thirteenth volume in the Daredevil Epic Collection includes contributions from a few, but this is definitively Ann Nocenti's and John Romita Jr.'s book, and I feel the same way about it now as I did then: it's very underappreciated, and in general Nocenti doesn't get the credit she deserves. She assumed writing duties just after the conclusion of "Born Again," and pretty much everybody I knew just complained that she wasn't Frank Miller, completely missing out on four years of intelligent and audacious comics. Nocenti's Daredevil is full of violence, corruption, sexism, and entropy, and there were times I felt like the only one appreciating how vicious it really was. My best friend even told me he had to read it before bed because it bored him to sleep; I couldn't get my brain to shut off after an issue. Midway through Nocenti's tenure, JRjr brought his strung-out energy to the book, and together the two of them unnerved the hell out of me with their stories of mental illness and torment for a couple of years, beginning with the introduction of Typhoid Mary, the centerpiece of this collection. Harsh, probing, and confrontational, Nocenti and JRjr's run is an important chapter in the history of Daredevil, and too many people have skimmed over it. [JP]
Writer/artist: Matt Wagner
Publisher: DC Comics
Perhaps anticipating a surge of interest in stories in which Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman team-up for sometime between the debut of the latest Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer and the opening of the actual movie in March, DC is re-releasing Matt Wagner's cumbersomely titled Trinity. Originally published in 2003 as a three-part miniseries, Wagner's epic purported to tell of the very first meeting between all three of the heroes. They were brought together by Ra's al Ghul's machinations, which included using muscle in the form of Bizarro and a renegade Amazon named Artemis. Whatever DC's motivation for re-releasing a collection of the series now, there's never a bad time to take in some 200 pages of Matt Wagner's incredible cartooning and crystal-clear storytelling. That the Mage and Grendel cartoonist is here drawing three of the most iconic characters in the history of comics is, of course, serves to further the sense of occasion. [Caleb Mozzocco]