Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for January 4 2017
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: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Benjamin Dewey, Jordie Bellaire, Comicraft
Publisher: Image Comics
The latest arc of Autumnlands concludes with issue #14 this week, as the creative team literally blow up everything in their story. I'm caught up to the series as of the end of the first trade, which was a really strong tale that takes a lot of ideas, which on paper sound strange and disconnected, but in the series itself prove to be hugely compelling and rewarding. Obviously this isn't a point where you should jump onto the series for the first time, but it's always worth reminding that a good series like Autumnlands needs readers to keep up with it in order to help it survive and sustain.
Here it is, then: your reminder that here's a good point for you to catch up with the book, collect all the past issues together if you prefer binge-reading, or prepare for the upcoming second trade. Which, in a world now filled with four-issue trades that feel like rip-offs, is going to have seven issues in it; fantastic news. [Steve Morris]
Writer: Cary Bates
Artists: Will Conrad & Greg Weisman
Publisher: DC Comics
There is something about Captain Atom that brings out the contemplative side of a lot of writers, possibly due to his more famous analogue in the pages of Watchmen emphasizing the superhuman as fundamentally alien. The Breach series from a decade past was a highlight, as were the character's turns in Multiversity and the new 52 series. So I'm always interested in a new take on the character, and I'm definitely interested in what comics legend Cary Bates has to write about, so I'm definitely looking forward to this. [Charlotte Finn]
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Leonardo Romero
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Any comic titled Hawkeye is going to have a large shadow cast its way thanks to Matt Fraction, David Aja and Annie Wu but based on the first issue, Thompson, Romero and Bellaire are doing a cracking job establishing their own identity as Kate Bishop steps up to sole headline status. The first issue featured some really fun visual stuff to portray how Kate sees the world that I’m hoping sticks around, and it really seems like the creative team is having a lot of fun cutting loose and trying new things in the sort of book where you can cut loose and try new things. [Kieran Shiach]
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Marcus To
Publisher: DC Comics
As you can see from the cover, this issue features Nightwing in battle against one of the most-maligned of minor Batman villains, Dr. Grace Balin, AKA Orca, The Whale Woman. I always felt that Orca, who was created by Larry Hama and Scott McDaniel in 2000 during their run on Batman, got a bad rap. Her origin isn't that different from that of Man-Bat or Spider-Man foe The Lizard, and she's basically just like King Shark or Killer Croc, only the animal she half-turns into just so happens to be the biggest and deadliest predator on the planet.
For two issues now, Nightwing has been dealing with minor, mostly '90s and millennial villains — Stallion, Mouse, Giz, Thrill Devil — in a story that sends Dick to Bludhaven for the first time in current continuity, where apparently the bad guys who couldn't cut it in Gotham eventually all wash up. These old minor characters do offer a little extra incentive for certain fans to check out the new books they are appearing in though, and in the case of Nightwing, that's a good thing, as this current arc isn't only a good one, but it's the first time that Nightwing has felt like Nightwing since at least Flashpoint. [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writer/Artist: John Porcellino
Publisher: Alternative Comics
Nobody else makes comics like John Porcellino, and lots and lots of people try. As perhaps the most influential creator of autobiographical mini-comics, Porcellino's voice has been a source of inspiration for entire generations of cartoonists who have attempted to translate life into art. But turning the constant flow of life into coherent scenes and stories and great comics isn't actually easy; unless you're John Porcellino. With his bare, simplistic art and keen skills of observation, Porcellino consistently finds ways to capture the vagaries of his experiences in his art, in which a simple, introspective stroll through the woods can reveal wonders. [John Parker]
Writer: Cecil Castellucci
Artist: Marley Zarcone
I wouldn’t call Shade the Changing Girl a fast-paced comic, but honestly the gradual unspooling of its mysteries is a big part of what I like about it. After three issues, I’m not sure if the series is just settling into its status quo, or if a stable status quo is never going to be an element of this book. The thing that interests me most is the question of who Shade is. She mostly seems to think of herself as Loma inhabiting Megan’s body, but there’s definitely some Megan still in there, and the lessons of Megan’s short ruined life and waiting to be learned. Not to mention she still has to go to high school, which is its own sort of interdimensional torment. [Elle Collins]
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Meghan Hetrick and Marguerite Sauvage
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Fun fact #1: I met Jody Houser at a con back in November, and told her, verbatim, “Faith is… it’s really good. Like, it’s, just, it’s really really good.” Fun Fact #2: I am a professional writer and I make my living with words.
Still, I stand by that statement. Faith has been one of the best takes on superheroes — and, maybe even more importantly, superhero fandom — to come down the road in a long time. The stories are thrilling, Faith herself is an amazing character, and the art is consistently beautiful, particularly Sauvage’s “fantasy” sequences. With this story, where she’s tackling a new foe (and a new take on superhero resurrection stories), it’s a book everyone in comics ought to be reading.
It’s… it’s just, y’know, it’s like, really, just like really good. [Chris Sims]
Grant Morrison's tenure as Editor-in-Chief for Heavy Metal continues on, and I wanted to highlight this next issue just because it looks like there'll be some interesting stuff in there, starting with two stories written by Morrison himself. The first of those, "Mythopia," is the one which has caught my attention here, because not only is Morrison writing it — but Kevin Eastman is providing layouts for Bill Sienkiewicz to pencil. That's an unbelievably strong creative team, and one which (if they're all invested in the story) should make for something really exciting. We will, however, have to see on that front, because I'm not sure if the politics of Heavy Metal as a publication are quite in the right place, if their 'shocking' variant covers are anything to go by. On the other hand, I do see Alex de Campi and Andy Belanger among the other contributors, so we'll have to wait and see.
Also, am I right in thinking the front cover only credits the names of the writers, and none of the artists? What the frick is up with that, Heavy Metal? [SM]
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Carlos Ezquerra
Publisher: Dark Horse
Video game comics do not exactly have an outstanding pedigree, perhaps owing to the different ways we interact with a game versus a comic, or perhaps owing to the fact that a lot of video game stories kind of suck. But Dark Horse has figured out how to sell a comic based on a video game about tanks: hire war comics legends Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra to write about tanks, something they can probably do in their sleep by now. Any war comic by the pair is worth checking out, even if you've never played a minute of the game. [CF]
Writers: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Artists: Ivan Reis and Joe Prado
Having just finished a two-parter that teamed Superman and Lois Lane with Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke's recreations Frankenstein and The Bride (of Frankenstein), Tomasi and Gleason now turn to another set of Morrison re-creations, the President Superman-led Justice League Incarnate from the pages of Morrison and company's epic Multiversity. The writing team is joined here by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, who drew large chunks of Multiversity.
It seems someone is traveling the Multiverse abducting each dimension's Superman, and Red Son Superman stumbles into our current Superman while trying to flee. The so far faceless and motivation-less villains aren't here to collect the Superman who stars in Superman, though, as he's not really from this Earth and there's something off about him (according to one of the many dangling plot-lines left over from DC Universe: Rebirth, which Tomasi has been among the writers to tease at). No, they're here for Kenan Kong, the Super-Man from the pages of New Super-Man.
Superman has been one of the best (and, more importantly, most consistently so) titles of the Rebirth era, and it doesn't look like this new arc is in any danger of changing that. [CM]
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Greg Smallwood and Jordie Bellaire
My gut tells me there's a way to read Moon Knight that syncs up perfectly with Pink Floyd's Echoes. Hear me out! After establishing the opening theme in a fairly psychedelic first arc with Greg Smallwood, the title shifts to an even crazier middle section, with James Stokoe, Wilfredo Torres, and Francesco Francavilla joining in to explore the new themes, wherein Marc Spector is confronted with his array of other lives as a movie producer, street vigilante, and space warrior fighting wolf-men. Then, in a scene that would really take off with the sounds of sweeping wind from a VCS3 modular synthesizer, Greg Smallwood returns for the recitation of the main theme and Marc Spector's reconciliation of his personalities, stepping forward into the next phase of his life as Moon Knight to confront Khonshu.
I haven't tested this theory, but I'm convinced it's sound. [JP]
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Andrew T. McDonald
Publisher: DC Comics
I’ve been reading comics regularly for around 10 years now, so when I first tested my toes into the waters of DC one of the first characters I really gravitated to was Ryan Choi, The All-New Atom. Those early issues by Gail Simone and John Byrne were jam-packed with idea after idea after idea, and Ivy Town became one of my favorite places in the DC Universe because of how weird it was allowed to be.
Now, I know the Ryan Choi in this issue is going to be a different dude in some respects. He’s younger and he’s going to have to learn how to be The Atom all over again. However, there are few other creatives at DC Comics who quite understand exactly what I love about the DC Universe better than Steve Orlando, so if anyone’s going to bring back Ryan, I’m glad it’s him. [KS]
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Paco Medina
If USAvengers took itself seriously, it would almost certainly be unreadably jingoistic. And so far, I’m not sure Marvel’s exactly admitted that it’s meant to be satire. But it’s written by Al Ewing, who’s both very clever and not an American, so that’s a good sign. And it features Squirrel Girl, whose presence is usually an indication that something goofy is afoot. Also the Red Hulk has a Burt Reynolds mustache, which is a great look for him. Not to mention, the ultra-patriotic team at the center of the book is actually AIM, an organization that was led by MODOK until like two years ago. The book also features two queer women in robot armor, two former New Mutants, and a version of Danielle Cage from the future where she’s Captain America. In short, I don’t know what this book is going to be like, but it’s full of stuff I can’t say no to. [EC]
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Steve Pugh
Publisher: DC Comics
We’re over half a year into this thing, and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the undisputable fact that The Flintstones is the most interesting comic that exists right now. Even if you can get past the idea that it’s the spiritual successor to a short-lived reboot of Prez, it’s mystifying on every level, and it’s the sort of thing where we won’t need to look back and ask how it happened, because we’re also asking that right now. While its approach sometimes veers a little too far into satire as shotgun, blowing away everything in its way while it makes points, it’s consistently been one of the most rewarding comics on the stands, and is always worth picking up.
In this issue, though, it looks like Russell and Pugh are abandoning the idea of satire, and finally giving us the escapism we crave with a story where there’s a meteor heading towards Bedrock that will wipe out all of civilization. Finally, some hope. [CS]