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.

  • THE WILD STORM #2

    Writer: Warren Ellis

    Artists: Jon Davis Hunt, Ivan Plascencia, Steve Buccellato

    Publisher: DC Comics

    DC's trick of bringing in a writer to curate a line of comics saw Gerard Way race in, house on fire, crashing into every wall in sight as he barrelled his way through a series of high-energy, silly, fun comic stories. By comparison, the first issue of Warren Ellis' big restoration of Wildstorm saw him take an approach so relaxed it near-bordered on the soporific. That it kept people interested is testament firstly to the character study from Hunt, who composed each page so carefully that you could feel the subtle sense of purpose which vibrated through the opening issue. With the second issue out this week, I imagine once more the careful tone of the series will continue, as more of the well-known characters re-enter the storyline and circle the vague, quiet mystery which centers the entire piece. The Wild Storm is intriguing  this second issue is where we'll find out just how interesting it's going to be going forward. [Steve Morris]

  • DIVINITY III: ESCAPE FROM GULAG 396 #1

    Writer: Eliot Rahal

    Artist: Francis Portela

    Publisher: Valiant Comics

    The best thing about a story like Divinity III, in which the main Valiant timeline has been overwritten by a world where the Soviet Union conquered the world with the help of superheroes, is seeing familiar characters put into new context. Actually no, wait, the best thing about it is that Ninjak is the only one who remembers the old timeline, but the second-best thing is definitely that other thing I just said.

    And that’s what makes Gulag 396 so interesting. In the regular Valiant universe, Obadiah Archer was raised by right-wing evangelical Christian extremists before eventually defecting and becoming the first half of “& Armstrong.” In this universe, though, he’s a political prisoner, and recasting him as someone jailed for his

    religious beliefs (and who meets up with Armstrong in a gulag) is actually a really interesting twist. Plus, Rahal’s work on The Doorman last year was incredibly clever. If you’re not keeping up with Divinity III, give this one a shot. It might just intrigue you enough to keep going. [Chris Sims]

  • BATWOMAN #1

    Writers: Marguerite Bennett & James Tynion IV

    Artists: Steve Epting & Jeremy Cox

    Publisher: DC Comics

    Considering how stellar Tynion’s Detective Comics is, and how good the issue of Batwoman Rebirth was, I feel like I should less be trying to sell you on this comic and more just remind you that it’s out this week. If you still need convincing though, Kate Kane has become one of the most interesting characters at DC Comics in the past decade and one of her greatest strengths is how much space Greg Rucka and JH Williams III left in her backstory for other creators to fill in the gaps, which seems to be an aspect of what the new Batwoman creative team is doing.

    Batwoman shares Batman’s greatest skill, which isn’t detective work, crime-fighting or adopting orphans like its a fire-sale; they’re both super adaptable. You can put Batwoman in a gritty noir or a high-action superhero blockbuster and she excels. Heck, she even went to space with Ragman one time. You know those comics that blow up and you wish you got in on the ground floor? This is one of them, you’re going to want to get involved. [Kieran Shiach]

  • COADY AND THE CREEPIES #1

    Writer: Liz Prince

    Artist: Amanda Kirk

    Publisher: Boom Studios

    From the first time I heard about this book, I’ve been looking forward to it. I’m always up for another female-led comic about a band on tour, having enjoyed Jem, Black Canary, and now Josie and the Pussycats. This one has a supernatural twist, with the eponymous Coady trying to conceal the fact that she’s a ghost even as the band gains popularity. It’s an interesting idea, and I’m curious to see where it goes, and also what other supernatural plot elements come up along the way. Plus Liz Prince is a promising writer, and Amanda Kirk’s artwork looks super cute. [Elle Collins]

  • AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #25

    Writers: Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Hannah Blumenreich, Cale Atkinson, Jacob Chabot & James Asmus

    Artists: Stuart Immonen, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Todd Nauck, Hannah Blumenreich, Cale Atkinson, Ray Anthony Height and Tana Ford

    Publisher: Marvel Comics

    There’s a lot of reasons to get excited about Amazing Spider-Man #25. Stuart Immonen drawing Amazing Spider-Man is phenomenal news that honestly Marvel should have hyped up more than it did. Cale Atkinson, Jacob Chabot and James Asmus all providing bonus stories is also fantastic news, but I’d be lying if I said I was buying Amazing Spider-Man #25 for any reason other than Hannah Blumenreich’s Marvel debut.

    If you’re unfamiliar with Blumenreich, her Spidey Zine is available on Gumroad for pay-what-you-want and it’s the most nuanced and human take on Peter Parker in a long, long time. The fact that Marvel chose to bring her on board instead of sending a cease-and-desist is astonishing and laudable, and her story in ASM #25 is no doubt going to be a stone-cold killer like the rest of her self-published Spider-Man stuff which preceded it. [KS]

  • CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #6

    Writer: Jonathan Rivera

    Artist: Michael Avon Oeming

    Publisher: DC

    I’ve talked before about how much fun Cave Carson is, and it continues to be. At its heart it’s a father-daughter story with some real emotional heft, but layered on top of that are underground kingdoms, Lovecraftian fungus-cults, and of course Wild Dog. The storytelling here is has been big and mile-a-minute, so I’m really curious just how escalated things get here the conclusion of the first story arc. Either Cave will save the day, or a monster will be unleashed that may well destroy the Earth. And however things go, Wild Dog will almost certainly shoot some people (and some monsters) along the way. [EC]

  • MR PUNCH 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION TP

    Writer: Neil Gaiman

    Artist: Dave McKean

    Publisher: DC/VERTIGO

    All of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's collaborations are tinged with the darkness traditionally associated with two guys who wear that much black, but Mr. Punch is eldritch and discomfiting unlike anything else they've produced. Rendered by McKean with the consistency of half-forgotten memories, Mr. Punch is a recollection of seedy family history, a decrepit seaside carnival town all wonder and magic is tarnished with muck, and a ruddy-faced Mr. Punch puppet so disturbing that you'll claw your own eyes out rather than suffer whatever nightmares it might inspire.

    Although this is billed as the 20th Anniversary Edition and it does include a few pages of bonus material, it's not the 20th anniversary of a book that originally published in 1994, because that's not how math works. This is actually the trade paperback of the 20th Anniversary Edition printed in 2014, which was in hardcover. See how good this book is? You've already stepped into a murky world of half-truths and absurdities, and you haven't even opened it yet. [John Parker]

  • BAD MACHINERY POCKET EDITION, VOL 1

    Writer/Artist: John Allison

    Publisher: Oni Press

    I've said time and time again that Bad Machinery is one of the most true comics being put out on a regular basis. The story about a group of schoolchildren who solve mysteries partially by accident (and partially by being incredibly curious) and prone to poking a finger into the cyclops' eye, mixes fantasy and reality in wonderful, intelligent ways. Allison has a knack for creating young voices which feel real and if not perhaps always accurate to the way kids speak in modern-day Britain (although I feel that they are), the voices are at least consistent within one another and the universe they cause chaos in. The specific lexicon of the series makes it unique to anything else you can find online or in print within comics the only comics which come close, understandably, would be the work of Allison's contemporaries Kate Beaton or Meredith Gran.

    The only problem with Bad Machinery? That the trade editions didn't fit on any known human bookcase but with these pocket editions? Everything's changed, see. Grab it now and get some top-notch flight of fancy thrown straight through yer winders. [SM]

  • BATMAN: EGO AND OTHER TAILS HC

    Writer: Darwyn Cooke

    Artist: Darwyn Cooke

    Publisher: DC Comics

    I remember walking into a comic book store 17 years ago and seeing Batman: Ego on the shelf, and immediately being drawn to the original cover, in which a hulking, art deco Batman was incorporated into the looming, gothic architecture of Gotham City. I didn’t know anything

    about Darwyn Cooke at the time, but when I asked about him, I heard that he’d worked on Batman: The Animated Series, and that was pretty much all I needed to know to give his psychologically driven sequel to Year One a shot.

    In the years since, of course, Cooke became one of the most well-regarded creators in comics through titles like New Frontier and the Parker adaptations, but that first Batman story — and some of the other work he did in those early days — is always overshadowed by what

    came later. The thing is, it holds up. It’s not just a good story that represents a side of Cooke’s art that doesn’t come around too often, it’s also paired up in this collection with Selina’s Big Score, one of the best Catwoman stories ever told, and also a sort of spiritual predecessor to what Cooke would do with Parker a few years later.

    These stories have been around a while, but if you don’t have any of them, every single comic in this collection is well worth a read. [CS]