Best Comic Books Ever (This Week) – New Releases For March 18, 2015
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.
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artists: Ben Stenbeck and Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse
Mike Mignola has carved himself a comfortably bizarre corner of the comic-book industry with his Hellboy family of titles from Dark Horse, and this new series is a perfect encapsulation of his all-in aesthetic: mythology, spooky atmospherics, great giant beasties, beautifully evocative visuals (courtesy of artist Ben Stenbeck and colorist Dave Stewart), and just a touch of the absurd. Plus, it's Frankenstein's Monster on an adventure beneath the earth's surface, and I don't know about you, but I certainly can't find anything to argue with in that concept.
The Frankenstein creature is alone, abandoned, and wandering underground, where he will discover other strange creatures—and dark secrets to the universe.
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Artists: Stacey Lee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It might seem weird to refer to a comic that debuted at the #9 spot on sales charts as "overlooked", but that's exactly what Silk is so far – a greatly enjoyable book starring an exciting new heroine with close ties to Spider-Man, that's been somewhat overshadowed by the rapturous critical acclaim and blockbuster sales of its (equally wonderful) Spider-Gwen sister title.
All this is to say, you should be reading Spider-Gwen… But the latest issue of that title came out last week, and presumably you followed our advice and bought it then.
This week, it's Silk's turn to wow you, and the mix of adventure, humor, and personal drama that Robbie Thompson and Stacy Lee brought to issue #1 is sure to be every bit as much in evidence this time around… Plus, it looks like she's gonna be battling Hydra, which means things are bound to get crazy!
• Silk fights a familiar foe with metal tentacles!
• And there's much you still don't know about Silk!
Writer: John Allison
Artist: Lissa Trelman
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
I'm a sucker for a crazy coming-of-age story, and from the looks of it, Giant Days is going to be a straight-down-the-middle-pitch for those sensibilities – writer John Allison has taken his self-produced webcomic and expanded the template, bringing animation artist Lissa Trelman onboard to handle the visuals, and teaming with Boom for the release of this new series: a book that mixes collegiate comedy with bizarre and mystical elements, to marvelously entertaining effect. Check our our recent e-mail with Treiman.
Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends because their dorm rooms were next to each other. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of handwringing boys, 'personal experimentation,' influenza, mysterymold, nuchauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of 'academia,' they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive.
Writers: Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon
Artists: Josh Hood and Amanda Scurti
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
This new title from Black Mask Studios is an edge-of-your-seat blast of punk rock, a series that both plays into and against classic "young couple gone bad" tropes… Think They Live By Night, True Romance, Bonnie & Clyde, Natural Born Killers, and so on – a pair of teenagers caught in a bad situation, who see no other solution than to steal a car and hit the road. It's a common theme in film and prose, and Chuck Forsman's "TEOTFW" and Grant Morrison and Philip Bond's Kill Your Boyfriend (as well as Raymond Pettibon's iconic cover for Sonic Youth's "Goo") have also given the subgenre a foothold in the comics medium.
So it's left to writers Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon, artist Josh Hood, and colorist Amanda Scurti to pit a new spin on the formula, and they do so admirably, setting up an immediately relatable high school world, weaving in cultural checkpoints like classic '80s hardcore and college rock songs, then pulling the rug out from beneath the reader the moment we begin to feel comfortable.
It's still a story of two kids on the run, but this team manages to turn the expected set-up on its head by mixing in some quintessentially comic-book elements: these kids have superpowers and a killer soundtrack, and what happens next is anyone's guess.
(Note: Thanks to shipping issues, WCNGH #1 will be in limited release this week, and in comic shops nationwide next Wednesday, 3/25)
A well worn mixtape, a stolen convertible, a duffel bag full of cash, a fully loaded .45, and super-powers. Seventeen and on the run is the only way to see America right. Teenage outcast Duncan and popular girl Madison share a secret - they can do things other people can't. But their abilities take them down a dangerous path. After a deadly accident they are left with no choice: leave home and never come back. We Can Never Go Home is a new chance to fall in love with the doomed misfits who need to run away to find themselves.
I have yet to see any interior work from this book, but the central conceit (reviving the '70s DC title that's often cited as one of the most hare-brained and bizarre comics ever) is enough to make me curious… Vertigo has been on a huge winning-streak of late, with a slate of titles that's rivaling their legendary early-2000s output in terms of quality and diversity, and for Strange Sports Stories the publisher has assembled a line-up of creators that's nothing short of jaw-dropping. Yes, the finished product runs the risk of being a disaster, but I'd always rather see a brilliantly ambitious trainwreck than a perfectly-calculated slice of commonplace.
Comics' top talents, including some making their Vertigo debut, take on the classic DC Comics anthology title for four issues of strange, scary, sexy and sensational sports stories. Featuring stories and art by Brian Azzarello, CM Punk, Paul Pope, Gilbert Hernandez, Lauren Beukes, Ben McCool, Ivan Brandon, Monica Gallagher, Lee Loughridge, Nick Dragotta, Christopher Mitten, Darick Robertson, Mark Finn, John Lucas, Gabe Soria, Ronald Wimberly, Michael DiMotta, Tim Fish, Rael Lyra, and many more!
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Let me say this up front: if you don't like fun, you won't like this comic. It's been three issues now, and Ryan North and Erica Henderson's Unbeatable Squirrel Girl continues to wow me with every issue, constantly upping the ante by reminding me how gleefully absurd the majority of superhero conventions are, and then reveling in every moment of that very absurdity.
This is a comic that recognizes the inherent silliness of comics, but that never scorns or talks down to the audience – instead, it celebrates the possibility, the craziness, the sheer glee of funnybooks, and manages to do so while also telling a compelling story.
(Oh yeah, and it's about a girl with squirrel-like powers who can talk to squirrels, in case you didn't get that from the name. How can you resist?)
Time is running out, and the only way for Squirrel Girl to stop Galactus is to get to the moon... you know, somehow??
See the unveiling of Squirrel Girl's new Flying Squirrel Suit... that she maaaaybe borrowed from Iron Man.
Also, the final face-off with Galactus! ON THE MOON.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Pitarra
Publisher: Image Comics
Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra's parallel history sci-fi epic has been one of my favorite books since it launched in 2012, and this relaunch should be the perfect jumping-on point for new readers, with a heaping helping of space-age shenanigans and sinister mad science conspiracies awaiting all who dare to flip through the pages.
Only when he's lost in space does the great Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, find his true calling. THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS is back with all new stories told in a brand-new format. The greatest FEEL GOOD, BAD SCIENCE book in the long history of man returns in THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS: THE SUN BEYOND THE STARS.
Writers: Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Babs Tarr
Publisher: DC Comics
Yes, it's latest issue of the new-look Stewart/Fletcher/Tarr Batgirl; yes, it's one of our favorite books here at ComicsAlliance; yes, we talk about it every chance we get. And yes, this issue promises to answer some of the questions previous issues have raised regarding Barbara Gordon's identity. All this is true.
But really, the thing that makes this irresistible is the glorious Cliff Chiang "Purple Rain" alternate cover, which is worth the price of admission all by itself.
A decision Barbara made during her darkest days in Gotham City returns to haunt her! What was it? And how does it tie into the evil impostor Batgirl? Find out here!
Writer: Mark Millar
Artists: Sean Gordon Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth
Publisher: Image Comics
Sean Gordon Murphy is one of my favorite artists working today. And with last year's Starlight, I was pleasantly reminded that, when he's not operating on misanthropic shock-a-minute autopilot, Mark Millar is still one of the best storytellers in comics. So I'm cautiously enthusiastic for this book, as it looks to revolve around an exciting core concept (NASA takes on time travel), and promises to allow both creators to play to their strengths: creating a world, building memorable characters, and throwing limitless mad ideas at the wall to see what sticks.
From MARK MILLAR (Kick-Ass) and SEAN GORDON MURPHY (Punk Rock Jesus) comes a bromance for the ages! Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly are two buddies who love to have fun. They're also scientific geniuses. When their research leads them to a time-traveling adventure, will they use their knowledge for the good of all mankind? Or use the space-time continuum for their own ends? This is the story of man's first, televised steps through the time-stream and everything going wrong in the process.
NEW COLLECTED EDITIONS AND 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/Artist: Dave Stevens (and friends)
Dave Stevens' pulp-age adventure hero only starred in one adventure during his creator's lifetime, originally published in seven comics over the span of thirteen years. Stevens was a noted perfectionist who brought an illustrator's eye to every project, and despite his irregular output, his vision of a simpler time struck a chord in readers, and made his tales of 1930s adventure a true grassroots sensation. His high-flying hero became an icon of independent publishing, a lingering light of hope throughout an era where "grim and gritty" were the watchwords of a rapidly-shifting comic landscape, and in 1991, The Rocketeer became the star of a big-budget Hollywood movie (underperforming at the time, but now a well-regarded cult classic).
And though Stevens passed away in 2008, his signature character has lived on through a number of new projects from IDW. Now, at long last, we're getting an affordable mass-market reprinting of the original Rocketeer saga, with the complete story in one handy volume, collecting all the swashbuckling jetpack action one could ever hope to find between two covers.
Cliff Secord, a down-on-his-luck pilot, is always looking for ways to make a fast buck. Discovering a stolen rocket pack could be the one thing that will turn his fortunes around... but will it? What follows are government agents, German spies, deception, danger, and adventure. This is the world of... the Rocketeer! All of Dave Stevens' original comics collected in one book!
CATCH UP ON THE CLASSICS
Many of the best comic books ever have been released for quite some time. Every week we select one or two perennials that readers new and old should add to their collections.
Writer: Jim Steranko (with Stan Lee and others)
Artist: Jim Steranko
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jim Steranko is often hailed as one of the great innovators of the comic book medium, and this book collecting the entirety of his seminal '60s run on Nick Fury is the perfect one-stop introduction to his work. Admittedly, the first third of the book is filled with simple superspy-by-numbers plots, but even there, each page crackles with possibility, as Steranko pushes the boundaries of layout, storytelling, and graphic design – and once his epic "Yellow Claw Saga" kicks into gear, a few chapters in, all bets are off. Pop art, filmic techniques, Gothic horror, apocalyptic sci-fi, superheroic adventure, social commentary, pulse-pounding action, and a seemingly limitless imagination power these stories, and make for a reading experience that even today, forty-plus years on from their original publication, has yet to be equalled in terms of both visual impact and pure entertainment value.
Rarely before and rarely since has comics seen a talent as innovative as Steranko. Blending together influences from Pop art to Salvador Dali and Will Eisner to Wally Wood, Steranko's boundary-breaking style is an incomparable visual language that continues to influence and inspire storytellers decades later. Now, for the first time ever, Marvel is proud to offer the complete Steranko NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. in one volume! Collecting NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (1968) #1-3 and #5, and material from STRANGE TALES (1951) #151-168.
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Philip Bond
Publisher: DC Comics
Given that I mentioned it above as a great example of the "kids on the run" story, it seems only fitting to showcase Grant Morrison and Philip Bond's Kill Your Boyfriend as one of this week's classic selections. Originally released as a stand-alone single issue in 1995, and later reprinted in paperback, it's one of those books that never sold in great numbers, but set off a number of miniature revolutions: it laid the groundwork for Morrison's later Vertigo work (such as The Invisibles and The Filth) with its blend of surreal and true-to-life elements, captured a moment in time with visceral intensity, and in my eyes, marks the point where Morrison's unique brand of hopeful nihilism coalesced into an unmistakable and individual vision. It's been cited as an influence by many of today's foremost creators (including Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Fraction), and manages to blend violence, sex, dark humor, and cultural commentary in a way that few works ever have, before or since.
And while it's only currently in-print in digital formats (through Amazon and Comixology), used copies can be found cheaply on ebay or through your local comic shop.
KILL YOUR BOYFRIEND is an over-the-top black comedy of rebellion and teen romance topped with a heady mix of random violence and dark humor. A British schoolgirl yearning for excitement joins up with an angry rebel boy intent on tearing down middle-class England.