Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases For January 27 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: Erik Burnham
Artist: Dan Schoening
Burnham and Schoening's Ghostbusters comics have been pretty fantastic ever since they got on the book a few years back, but let's be honest here. As much as I love it, there are only so many times that you can see the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man terrorizing New York City. At the very least, you're going to want to get out to a new location every now and then, and while they've teased that in previous stories like "Road Trip," where the Ghostbusters fought haunts all over America, taking it International gives the book a whole new scale.
More than that, though, this gives Burnham and Schoening the opportunity to continue developing the familiar characters in the way that they have been so far. That's the real key to the series, that they're adding to the Ghostbusters in new and interesting ways that go beyond just what we've seen in the movies. Plus, the idea of an International team means that they can dredge up all kinds of foreign hauntings that New York City just doesn't provide. [Chris Sims]
Writer: Jody Houser
Artists: Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage, Andrew Dalhouse, Dave Sharpe
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Here we go! Up and away one of the most exciting releases of the week, courtesy of Valiant Comics. Faith is the real-life alias of everybody's favourite Valiant superhero Zephyr, swooping into her own four-part miniseries, which will surely get extended into an ongoing series before it reaches an end. This has been the most talked-about Valiant series since their last miniseries with a female lead and a woman writer, which hopefully might prompt the editorial team to realize what fans really want from their universe. But I digress. Written by Jody Houser, this is a story about the aspiring superhero who wants to be inspiring in the way that the heroes of television, film and comics inspired her as a child. There's an innocence, and yet a certain resilience within Faith, which has made her one of the most enjoyable characters in comics over the last few years. You can't help but root for her, as she adopts a secret identity, gets a job at a local newspaper, and.... hopefully becomes the world's most popular and awesome superhero somehow? She has faith, and I have faith, and your local shop will have Faith on the shelf later today — so go pick it up! [Steve Morris]
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Nicola Scott
Publisher: Image Comics
When two creators I admire come together to work on an original story, you have my attention. When that story also happens to be set in a police station, I'm subscribed for life. Police procedurals are my jam, and they have been for as long as I can remember. There's not a whole lot of new ground to cover in that arena, but Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott have managed to spin the genre to suit their whims. All it took was a little witchcraft. Black Magick is more than just a standard police story. While Detective Rowan Black's day-to-day, working the beat, should look familiar to anyone that's watched a single episode of Homicide, the incredible amount of depth and nuance Rucka and Scott have added regarding Ro's life as a witch create an air of unfamiliarity and unease that keeps readers on their toes. A violent attack takes new meaning when Rowan reads what it portends. Ro's badge isn't just to show she protects and serves, it also serves to protect her as a mystic icon of her craft.
The story is only part of the experience though, and the way Nicola Scott brings this world to life invokes the great supernatural thrillers and noir tales of the black and white era. It's moody, it's dark, and there's danger and excitement of the unknown lurking in every page. Pardon the pun, but every panel is bewitching, and I hope the spell this book has cast is one I never break. [Luke Brown]
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Ryan Kelly, Matt Wilson, Lee Loughridge, Nick Filardi
There are so many reasons to have high hopes for Cry Havoc. There's the ascending Simon Spurrier, the motion and character dynamics of Ryan Kelly's pencils, the flirtatious ad copy — "This is not the tale of a lesbian werewolf who goes to war. Except it kind of is" — and even an improbable recommendation from comics' grand master. Endorsements from Alan Moore are incredibly difficult to come by, especially if one is working in a field that the shaggy old wizard particularly despises (i.e. comic books), but apparently Cry Havoc is impressive enough to elicit a grumble of approval from He on High. That's all great, but you know what should really get you jacked-up for this? Multiple colorists, dog! Colors-by-committee are typically a result of necessity, but when it's by design, you know they're planning something interesting. Nick Filardi, Matt Wilson, and Lee Loughridge are three of the best in comics when it comes to laying down tones, and each takes a separate thread in this intriguing new series about lycanthropy, folklore, warfare and womanhood. [John Parker]
Writers: Brian Buccellato and Mike W. Barr
Artists: Viktor Bogdanovic, Richard Friend, Diogenes Neves
Publisher: DC Comics
Say what you will about the upcoming Suicide Squad movie, but if nothing else, DC is taking advantage of it in a pretty enjoyable way. They're set to line store shelves with books for moviegoers who want a little more out of their villains, and not only does that mean that we're finally getting the entirety of the classic John Ostrander/Kim Yale/Luke McDonnell series collected in paperback, we're also getting interesting new stuff like this. The highlight here is that Mike W. Barr is returning to Katana, a character he co-created with the late, great Jim Aparo in the pages of Batman and the Outsiders. In addition to tying her to the Suicide Squad, something that he never did in the previous incarnation of the DC Universe, he's telling a a story that sounds amazing. For one thing, it's got Kobra — billed on his short-lived solo series as "the deadliest man alive" — and for another, it's a story about Katana investigating the origins of her magic sword that eats people's souls. That, friends and neighbors, is the kind of comic I want to read about, and if it's what we're getting from this film-fueled Suicide Squad renaissance, then I'm all for it. [CS]
Writer: David Walker
Artists: Claude St Aubin, Andy Owens, Adriano Lucas, Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
And so Cyborg turns towards a second arc, hopefully with more focus on Victor himself and slightly less on those dull alien enemies who attacked him during the opening six issues or so. I want to check in on this series every so often because it's the newest of the solo titles for members of the Justice League, and I think a book with a huge amount of potential because of that. We haven't seen Cyborg away from the rest of his team, and it's good to see him getting built up — literally, if you want to make a dad joke about it - into a hero who has depth to match, at the very least, Hal Jordan or Barry Allen. A lot of comics seem to be obsessed with daddy issues, absentee fathers, and the likes, yet what we're getting from this new issue is something rather different — an issue about Victor Stone's mother. That's something I want to see more of, and signals that David Walker is going for something with more heart than might've been expected from this techno-tastic series. Also: Cyborg has a cat now! That's a step forward too. [SM]
Writer: Brandon Graham
Artist: Giannis Milonogiannis
In the time since Prophet #45, your excitement for Prophet: Earth War has probably subsided, maybe even to the point where you kind of forgot about it. If you need a refresher, Prophet is a botfly of a comic that burrows into your brain and incubates there. The most unpredictable and idiosyncratic Metal Hurlant-flavored reimagining of disregarded nineties properties ever, Prophet features the original John Prophet as the leader of a resistance against a vast Earth Empire armed with thousands of Prophet clones; Diehard as an immortal android warrior rediscovering his emotions; Badrock as a planet-sized being of universal awareness; mind-controlling Earth Mothers, living battlesuits that eat rocks, and fermentation-based caste societies. Through the stewardship of Brandon Graham, Giannis Milonogiannis, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple and other guest artists, Rob Liefeld's old characters were imbued with a kind of strangeness and impossibility rarely seen in comics — the medium that already does the strange and impossible better than any other — placed in a wild world equal parts space opera, far-future superhero story, and Conan adventure. After a gap of nearly two years, the best science fiction comic of the 2010s races towards its conclusion in the six-issue Prophet: Earth War. Excited again? [JP]
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Stuart Immonen
Publisher: DC Comics
Back when Secret Identity came out, it was a fruitful time for alternate takes on Superman, between Red Son, Birthright, and this four-issue deluxe miniseries. It's endured because it is beautiful — and an incredible demonstration of just how versatile an artist Stuart Immonen really is, because this work is not just gorgeous, but unrecognizable when compared to his work on books such as Nextwave. It's beautiful in more ways than just the artwork, though — this story is, plainly, soulful. It's the life of a man in a world much like our own, a boy who only shares a name in common with Superman, at first, until he wakes up one day with all the powers of the Man of Steel. And it is fully the life of that man. It covers his awkward first steps into adulthood, the flush of the first great love of his life, the compromises and risks he'll undertake for the sake of his children, and how well he'll handle slipping into his twilight years. It led, in so many ways, to Kurt Busiek's criminally underrated run on Superman, and is still considered top-ten Superman story material over a decade later. Not bad for what amounts to a revamp of Superboy Prime — and I'll sure take this version over the more arm-rippy version that DC was in love with for a few years there. [Charlotte Finn]