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Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases For January 20 2016

BestComics_0120

 

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.


BUYING GUIDE

 

 

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

 

STK694134

I HATE FAIRYLAND #4

 

 

Writer & Artist: Skottie Young
Publisher: Image Comics

As of the last issue, Gertrude is dead. A lesser series would be stopped by this as surely as a clock next to an electromagnet, but this is comics, and specifically, this is a comic about a girl in a magical land where death is something you can probably make your way back from — or at least, figure out a way to live with. So yes, as of last issue Gertrude finally met her match in the form of another little girl summoned to Fairyland, who has yet to spend the decades that Gertrude has in Fairyland and is still sunbeams and happiness. This glimpse of a person that reflects who Gertrude used to be lends an odd pathos to a comic that is, at its core, about taking a battleaxe to everything sweet and whimsical about fairy tales. But not too much pathos, as I’m sure that — unless this series is about to take a swerve I’m not anticipating — Gertrude will be back to blowing the brains out of the Man in the Moon and tripping off of the flesh of mushroom men before too long. It’s all in good fun. [Charlotte Finn]

 

STK693844

BATMAN #48

 

 

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, FCO Plascencia
Publisher: DC Comics

I’ve been reading Batman comics longer than I’ve been doing just about anything else, so when “Endgame” ended with a cave-in that buried Batman and his arch-enemy under a million tons of Gotham City granite, it’s not like I really expected the Joker to be gone that long. What I didn’t expect is what we’re getting in this issue: The Joker returning not as his classic murder-clown self, but in the form of a man who has been cured of everything except his affection for purple neckties, sitting down on a park bench and having a debate with Bruce Wayne over whether it’s necessary for Batman to endure. In a book that’s been defined by going as far over the top as it can in every story, to the point where the nominal lead plot involves Jim Gordon running around with a mohawk driving a giant robot Bat-suit like he’s angling for a role in Bubblegum Crisis, fighting an evil flower-man, it’s astonishing that this book can still swerve and surprise you with something that you don’t expect. I never thought I’d be this excited to read a conversation on a park bench, but here it is, and here I am. [Chris Sims]

 

STK616683

NOWHERE MEN #7

 

 

Writer: Eric Stephenson
Artists: Dave Taylor, Emi Lenox, Jordie Bellaire, Fonografiks
Publisher: Image

Aawwww, freak out! Duk-uh-dukka-duk-duh “Le freak, c’est chic!” I love when great comic books come back from the abyss, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to happen with Nowhere Men. The first six issues of the book made it one of the best comics of 2013, but it took an entire year just for those to be released, and around the time two years had elapsed since the last installment, the internet seemed to be in consensus: it was dead. Well you can’t believe everything on the internet (lazy joke about Nigerian prince here), and Nowhere Men is very much alive, and very much worth everybody’s attention. In case you’ve forgotten the critical hubbub or haven’t picked up the first trade (perhaps on the strength of my quote on the back cover, maybe?), Nowhere Men is one of the most exciting comic series of the 2010s; brilliantly written and exquisitely packaged pop science fiction that will have you wishing for a world where science really was like rock n’ roll. The loss of Nate Bellegarde is a significant one, but even the Rolling Stones went on without Brian Jones, and Dave Taylor has exactly the right sensibilities to fit in with Stephenson, Bellaire, and Fonografiks. For more on the return of Nowhere Men, see my interview with Eric Stephenson, and read the first volume Fates Worse Than Death if you haven’t already. It’s got a really great quote on the back cover. [John Parker]

 

STK680302

LEGACY OF LUTHER STRODE #4

 

 

Writer: Justin Jordan, Tradd Moore
Artist: Tradd Moore, Stephen Green
Publisher: Image Comics

I’m a big fan of stories that explain the “real” history of human civilization. Same goes for stories that have amazing fight choreography. While the mythology at the core of Luther Strode‘s legacy (including a secret race of superhumans known as the Talented, whose members include Cain, Jack the Ripper and Samson to name a few) is fascinating to dig into and see unfold, it’s the outrageous action that keeps me coming back. Tradd Moore’s detailed and kinetic interiors capture Luther Strode’s adventures with the beauty of a high-speed camera. The carnage is rendered so gorgeously, you can almost feel every blow being struck deep in your bones. Yeah, there’s gore, but it’s merely there to provide a crescendo to the symphony of violence Moore and writer Justin Jordan are composing.  [Luke Brown]

 

STK692959

LUMBERJANES #22

 

 

Writers: Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh
Artist: Carey Pietsch
Publisher: Boom Studios

Last story arc it was mermaids and this time around it’s selkies, so I suspect my brain patterns may have been duplicated and the braintape of me that’s in the possession of Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh is churning out story ideas for Lumberjanes. I can only suspect and not prove, however, so it’s still ethical for me to write about Lumberjanes, a series that we’re all running out words in the dictionary with which to describe its consistent quality. The series lore coming up on the two year mark is massive, yet never alienating; the characters are complex, but never so much so that they’re off-putting to new readers; the art is gorgeous and the writing snappy and witty. It’s a continued renewal of my faith in comics every month it comes out, so I can forgive a little potential exploitation of my digital ghost. Now, if the next story arc features a Superman analogue and an extended argument about what constitutes a sandwich, then I might have to talk to a lawyer who specializes in transhumanist issues. I’ll still be buying the book, of course. [CF]

 

STK692780

AMAZING FOREST #1

 

 

Writers: Erick Freitas, Ulises Farinas
Artists: Julien Dufour, Matt Rota, Melody Often, Yumi Sakugawa
Publisher: IDW

Another Monkeybrain series finds a home at IDW this week, with the anthology Amazing Forest setting up root with the publisher. This’d be the one written by Erick Freitas and Ulises Farinas, meaning lots of sci-fi and mystery, twists and sadness. The series isn’t afraid (in fact it appears to be delighted) of making your skin crawl, and of making your heart break wherever possible. It’s just one of the books, folks. There’s a bit of Vertigo and a lot of 2000 AD influence in the style of the stories, but at the essence this is something which only those two writers could come up with. They’re backed in this first issue by four different artists, each of whom bring a distinct style to the story they tell. Like… distinct. It’s the sort of comic that’s perfect as a counterbalance for whatever else you might buy on a Wednesday. Just don’t expect things to end happily. [SM]

 

STK693416

DRAGON AGE: MAGEKILLER #2

 

 

Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Carmen Carnero, Terry Pallot, Michael Atiyeh
Publisher: Dark Horse

Every time I get really caught up in a video game, I end up writing my own backstory for the main character in my head as I play. It’s one of the most fun things about it for me, trying to figure out how “my” Inquisitor (or my Sole Survivor in Fallout 4, or my Commander Shepard in Mass Effect) arrived at the decisions they choose every time a little dialogue option pops up in the game. For me, that’s just something rattling around my head. For Greg Rucka and Carmen Carnero, however, that’s something that they’re sharing with us in the pages of Magekiller, and it’s a testament to how well-crafted that source material is that they’re able to build something that’s already so fun on that foundation. Of course, the games (and their endless collectible books full of load-screen lore) only get partial credit. What we’re seeing from Marius and Tessa as they had to the Tevinter Imperium here is all down to the creative team, and with as instantly engaging as the first issue was, the second is not to be missed. [CS]

 

STK692133

PALEO: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION

 

 

Writers: Jim Lawson and Stephen R. Bissette
Artist: Jim Lawson
Publisher: Dover

It sounds like it can’t possibly true, at least not until you start counting up the pages, but artist Jim Lawson has drawn more of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than any other artist, including Eastman and Laird. He may be best known for drawing anthropomorphic turtle men, but some of his most accomplished work has focused on another group of reptiles: Dinosaurs. His Age of Reptiles-esque Paleo followed various dinosaur species through their day-to-day lives of struggle for survival, punctuated by surprisingly high saurian drama, all drawn in remarkably detailed and accomplished black and white art. As good as his Turtle art was, his Paleo is next level stuff. The entire series has been previously collected, but this new volume includes two additional issues of Paleo, plus three short stories written by Stephen R. Bissette, no stranger to dinosaur comics himself. Bissette, creator of the T-Rex comic Tyrant, provided a long and thorough history of dinosaur comics by way of introduction for the previous edition, which will also be included here. If you missed any previous iterations, don’t miss this one — it’s a must-read for fans of dinosaur comics or Jim Lawson art. [Caleb Mozzocco]

 

STK691767

PUNISHER MAX: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION VOL 1

 

 

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artists: Darick Robertson, Lewsis LaRosa, Leandro Fernandez
Publisher: Marvel

It was Punisher MAX that finally got me into Garth Ennis. I’d read Hellblazer when I was probably too young to really appreciate it, and Preacher when I probably thought I was too old for that many poop jokes. So I basically dismissed him for years no matter how much good stuff I heard, with handily-supplied justification in all the bad stuff I heard. It wasn’t until Punisher MAX, a book so dark and serious that rare moments of humor were a relief, that I finally found a doorway into Ennis’ work. Through that doorway I was able to see how great Preacher, The Boys, Hitman and so many other books are just because I knew there was a payoff, because Punisher MAX is just that painfully brilliant. I wrote a thingy about Ennis recently where I argued that no matter how much his work can turn you off, it’s worth sticking with, and I was essentially writing the piece to 17-year-old me and anyone else who has ignored Ennis for the same reasons I did. If you’re like I was and still need that entryway into his work, try Punisher MAX and see just how wholly it envelops you. [JP]

 

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