Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases For March 16 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: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
It's not truly a Brian Bendis run on a Marvel franchise these days until he's working on two books within the same property, so of course here comes International Iron Man #1, the sister book to Bendis and Mike Deodato's Invincible Iron Man. This new volume promises to get to the bottom of the question of Tony Stark's true parentage, since he discovered he was adopted in Kieron Gillen's run and sees Tony Stark team-up with his new bestie Victor Von Doom in a new globetrotting adventure. The real selling point here is the reunion of the Daredevil team of Bendis & Alex Maleev, who have so far failed to recapture that spark with runs on Spider-Woman and Moon Knight. Maleev's best known for those sorts of grounded, street level heroes, so it's exciting to see what he'll do with the high-tech world of Tony Stark, and keep in mind, Civil War II is only around the corner, and Bendis has promised that the seeds for his next event series are already being sown. [Kieran Shiach]
Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artists: David Lafuente, Ryan Wynn, Brian Reber
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Here we go! Now we're back on track. Since the first volume of Archer & Armstrong wrapped up, and the duo were packed away on a train to go be hobos for a few months, we've seen very little of the mismatched and yet strangely perfect pair. That thankfully ends this week though, as a new creative team bring the characters back for a second volume. I believe this is actually the first time Valiant have given characters a second ongoing series of their own (putting Imperium to one side, which is its own thing), and this first issue is a delight.
As Elle Collins wrote in her review of the issue earlier this week, this is a funny, off-kilter opening to a series, as Rafer Roberts literally puts two on the bag characters... into a bag. The draw here, aside from the buddy-comedy between a well-balanced pair of deeper and more thoughtful characters than you'd originally think, though? It's David Lafuente coming in as artist for the series, changing his style yet again (as a David Lafuente is sometimes wont to do) and trying another, more broadly cartoonish, approach. This should be fun, and Lafuente's wonderfully madcap storytelling syncs perfectly to Roberts' scripting. [Steve Morris]
Writers: Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Aaron Lopresti, and Keith Giffen
Artists: Eduardo Pansica, Rob Hunter, Yildiray Cinar, Trevor Scott, Aaron Lopresti, Matt Banning, and Bilquis Eveley
Pubilsher: DC Comics
Okay, so first things first: Despite the name, this is not a tie-in to the truly amazing Legends of Tomorrow TV show, which is a shame, because I would love to see how comic book artists interpret the human kitty-cat that is Wentworth Miller. The weird thing is, it's also not a comic focusing on the characters appearing in the show — at least, not exclusively. Firestorm's in there, and judging by his prominence on the cover, his TV success is probably a pretty big selling point, but unless the cast is going to go through the most unexpected shakeup of all time, that's not what we're getting.
Instead, Legends of Tomorrow: The Comic Book is an anthology featuring DC characters that are united only by the fact that I am personally super into all of them. Firestorm gets a new story written by the character's co-creator, Gerry Conway; Wein and Cinar tackle the Metal Men; Aaron Lopresti is taking on Metamorpho, the fab freak of 1,001 changes; and in the most unexpected return of all time, Keith Giffen and Shaft's Bilquis Eveley are reviving Sugar and Spike. And if that wasn't weird enough, Giffen and Eveley's Sugar and Spike are not the gag-comic toddlers of their previous appearances, they're grown-up private detectives in Gotham City fighting Killer Moth to recover Batman costumes.
As is the case with many anthologies, and with all due respect to the creators, it's difficult to tell whether this one is going to be good all the way through, especially since, other than Conway, I'm pretty sure that everyone else on the book is brand new to these characters. That said, there is little doubt in my mind that this will definitely be the weirdest comic of the week. And possibly ever. [Chris Sims]
Writers: Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh
Artist: Carey Pietsch
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Last issue, the Lumberjanes confronted selkies, a shapeshifting guidance counselor, holes to a parallel universe outside of time, and whirlpools, and all of this would be terrifying if the right tone wasn't precisely struck by the deft words of Watters and Leyh, and the whimsical artwork of Pietsch. But it is struck, so it all comes off as a blown-up version of that time at summer camp you caught a really big fish, or when you fell out of the boat, or the first time you held hands with a cutie. Lumberjanes stays fresh because its easily relatable premise — summer camp in the Twilight Zone — stays relatable even as the weirdness allows for as many new stories crossing paths with ancient myths as there are ancient myths to cross paths with. This is the conclusion to a storyline so it might no be the best time to hop on the Jane Train™ (Jane Train™ copyright ComicsAlliance Industries) but remember it for next time. Lumberjanes is awesome. [Charlotte Finn]
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Mark Bagley
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Despite how terrible things are for mutants right now, All-New has managed to be a really fun comic about teenage superheroes on the road in Hank McCoy’s tricked out TARDIS camper. It looks like young Scott Summers’ fears of becoming like his late, lamented older self are about to come to a head, which to be honest is some drama I’m much more interested in than “Oh no the Terrigen Mists!” Plus they’re fighting the Blob, and a whole bunch of small people fighting the Blob is always a fun time. All this and Wolverine and Angel’s relationship drama too? I could not be more on board. [Elle Collins]
Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Artists: Tess Fowler, Tamra Bonvillain, Ed Brisson
Publisher: Image Comics
These have been rough times for fans of Rat Queens, as second ongoing artist Stjepan Šejić was unfortunately not well enough to continue on with interiors, and the schedule for the book slowed down exponentially. With a little time to recover, the series has brought in Tess Fowler — a great choice for ongoing artist on the series — and is now heading back to a monthly schedule, issue by issue. This one sees the end of the third arc (collected in trade next month) which forced the character out of their ramshackle home and off to places far beyond their comfort zone. Families are met, origins are deepened, swears are explored, and blood violence is meted out. Also... something really big happens. You like Rat Queens? Things will not be the same after this issue. It's big. Go pick it up before the internet spoils it for you. [SM]
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Annapaola Martello
Astonishing Ant-Man has been pretty much my favorite book every week it comes out, going back to the pre-Secret Wars volume which this has been a continuation of. It's packed full of great concepts, like Hench, the Uber for supervillains, and is the perfect spiritual sequel to Spencer and Steve Lieber's Superior Foes of Spider-Man. The current volume has Scott Lang back in jail for a yet to be revealed reason, and in flashbacks he's currently teaming-up with and training Raz Malhotra, the new Giant-Man, while Janet Van Dyne shouts at him over Skype for giving Hank Pym's legacy away to some dude. Astonishing Ant-Man knows that it's an Ant-Man book and makes no bones about it. It's hilarious, inventive, often touching, and you should be reading it. [KS]
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
I could go on for ages about Astro City — so I will! One of the more under-appreciated yet still precious types of Astro City story is the adventures of a superhero-adjacent person in an otherwise normal job, and how that adjacency is affected by the fact that Astro City is a world of talking tigers, telekinetic stunt coordinators, soap operas that add costumed vigilantes to "add realism" and now, a private eye who's made out of metal. This storyline is probably the most superhero-adjacent of all, with Steeljack (of "Tarnished Angels" fame, the now-classic noir detective story) now a private detective, a job that in reality means you eat takeout in front of the Motel 6 a lot, but in fiction means you're basically halfway to superheroism already. Coming up on three years since its revival and Astro City feels a lot like Achewood: it has remained so consistently good, and so consistently itself, that the times when it was gone feel like they never happened. [CF]
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Nelson Daniel
From what I've seen of IDW's "Deviations" titles — which admittedly is just this one and the GI Joe one-shot that Paul Allor and Corey Lewis are doing — they mostly seem to revolve around the simple question of what would happen if the bad guys won. For the Joe book, that means that Cobra Commander has taken over the world and now needs to deal with the headache of actually figuring out stuff like health care and education for his subjugated minions, but the Ghostbusters comic is giving us a much stranger scenario. When Thompson and Daniel open their story, it's 31 days after the battle on top of Dana Barrett's apartment building in a world where they never crossed the streams, and New York City is now ruled over by the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
I'm going to go ahead and guess that Stay-Puft isn't all that concerned with the ins and outs of municipal government — although I would honestly love to see him trying to squeeze himself into the Mayor's Office and everyone in Manhattan just sort of dealing with it because hey, that's New York for you — but getting to see the 'Busters fight back from that kind of apocalyptic deficit is a really fun premise, and it only gets better when you see who's doing it. Kelly Thompson's work on Jem and the Holograms and Nelson Daniel's art on Judge Dredd make them a pretty perfect team to tell this story. [CS]
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Caitlin Rose Boyle
The first issue of Jonesy was an incredibly fun high school story with one little fantasy element to add spice. Jonesy is a cynical teen with no apparent interest in romance, but she happens to have the magical ability to make people fall in love with anyone she tells them to, except herself. At the end of last issue, after a particularly bad Valentine’s Day, Jonesy swore to teach the whole world a lesson. I can’t wait to find out how that goes. Plus, more of Caitlin Rose Boyle’s adorable artwork is enough to brighten any Wednesday. [EC]
Writer/Artist: Guido Crepax
The art of Guido Crepax has always fascinated me, both because of its apparent beauty and its frustrating unavailability. Only a few stories have been translated into English through your stoner uncle's favorite magazine Heavy Metal, but there are mountains of comics from the Italian artist that have never, ever been translated. What little I have seen of Crepax's artwork defines beguiling: cinematically sophisticated, impeccably designed, and with an erotic energy that permeates each of his pouty lines. Many of the advancements that Jim Steranko made in American superhero comics in the '60s, Crepax seemed to have independently discovered as well: optical effects, modern fashion and pop stylings, psychedelia, and intricate layouts that play with time and space, all with the added benefit of lots and lots of nudity. The first of ten volumes from Fantagraphics that will translate the complete catalog of the legendary artist, it includes his adaptations of the titular horror classics and several stories featuring his own creation Valentina, the naked woman you just saw when you googled Guido Crepax. [John Parker]
Writers: Al Feldstein and Bill Gaines
Artists: Al Feldstein, Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Joe Orlando, Jack Kamen, Graham Ingels
Publisher: Dark Horse
I can't help but think of Shock SuspenStories as a kind of a proto-Twilight Zone. An anthology title that featured crime, science fiction, war, suburban horror, and anything else that would fit into the best "EC Tradition" of twist endings and moral didacticism, Shock SuspenStories questioned the flawed social constructs of the American 1950s with viciousness. Like a lot of EC books, the commitment to extreme responses in Shock SuspenStories could lead Gaines and Feldstein to abandon good storytelling for shock value, and several tales were "unofficially adapted" from popular fiction or written with pre-existing stories as "springboards." At their best, though, they crafted moving indictments of corruption, spousal abuse, racism and mob mentality, brought to life by perhaps the most talented roster of artists in comics history. This first collection includes Jack Davis's visceral work on "The Patriots!", Wally Wood's disturbing "Under Cover!" and "Hate!" and many, many more great comics with exclamation points in the titles. [JP]