Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases For March 23 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: Al Ewing
Artist: Kenneth Rocafort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Ultimates has been firing on all cylinders from the get-go, ably integrating a host of new ideas while mining the history of the Marvel Universe for precious nuggets of continuity. Ewing and Rocafort have built an amazing cast including Monica Rambeau, Adam Brashear and America Chavez. Whether it’s taking on Galactus in their first mission, or tussling with the abstract concept of Eternity as was hinted at recently, no comic currently has the universal stakes that Ultimates has, and few look as pretty as Ultimates does while doing it. [Kieran Shiach]
STRAY BULLETS: SUNSHINE AND ROSES #13
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
One of the many great things about Stray Bullets is that new readers can jump in at pretty much any time and white-knuckle it as it whips around like rollercoaster about to go off its track. Noted for its expansive cast of characters and the ways in which their paths intersect through the years, it’s nonetheless easily accessible because of its structure. Each arc is essentially a standalone story within a non-linear narrative, and new readers don’t need the complete picture to get into it because even longtime readers don’t have the complete picture, and we’re pretty gosh-dern into it.
For veterans, Sunshine and Roses is backstory crack. (crackstory) Events that were alluded to years ago — years ago, I say — are finally coming to pass, and the tale of the big score that sent Beth, Orson and Nina “Somewhere Out West” has been more chaotic and hilarious and satisfying than I imagined. But for neophytes looking for an opening, start with this title because it’s now, it’s happening, and it’s as good as any other story arc by its design. Just lock the safety bar, keep your hands and feet inside the car, and enjoy the mayhem as it comes to you: out of order, functionally discrete, crazy as hell, and just about perfect. [John Parker]
GI JOE: DEVIATIONS #1
Writer: Paul Allor
Artist: Corey Lewis
My love of the villainous organization known as Cobra is so deep and abiding that I’ve used a screenshot of a hot-pink laughing Destro as my face on social media for the past decade, so a “What If”-style one shot about what would happen if Cobra Commander actually won is something that would be right up my alley even if it wasn’t being done by one of the most interesting creative teams I’ve seen in a while.
Paul Allor is, and I mean this in the best way possible, one of the best-kept secrets of the comics industry. His scripts are unfailingly clever and put together with a seamlessness that can blend intrigue and comedy into something amazing, and every time he gets the chance to take a shot at a book like GI Joe or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he knocks it out of the park by embracing the weirdness that’s inherent in the franchise. This one, where Cobra Commander — the same shrieking, puppy-kicking madman who once tried to steal Alaska and vaporize the world’s supply of paper money — has to deal with the headache of actually building a bureaucracy to run the world and keep people fed, educated and docile, is the perfect story for him.
As for Corey Lewis, between this and the upcoming Sun Bakery, he’s setting up for a pretty major comeback this year, and a take on the Joes that includes an Evangelion-inspired Cobra Commander and references to the infamously overdubbed GI Joe PSAs — viral videos from before that term existed — makes a great reintroduction before you dive into that book. Get this one, folks. It’s great. [Chris Sims]
DOCTOR WHO: THE FOURTH DOCTOR #1
Writers: Gordon Rennie, Emma Beeby
Artists: Brian Williamson, Hi-Fi, Richard Starkings
Publisher: Titan Comics
Everybody shut up for a moment, because I have an important question: would anybody care for a jellybaby? Who knows what kind of world we’re about to step into this week, companions, because Titan’s next Doctor Who miniseries looks upon the most be-scarfed of all Doctors: Tom Baker’s ominously voiced, portentously-eyed take. He’s not alone, though, as Sarah-Jane will be his accomplice through this most starling journey through time and space. Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie are the writing team for this one, which may well mark the first time a Doctor Who comic has been written by a woman? Certainly the first time being written by Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie, though, who seem to be leaning thoroughly into the weird and off-kilter vibe of the era for their storyline – which is set in Victorian England, and sees the heroes going after monsters called ‘Scryclops’. The Fourth Doctor is one of the most loved ones ever, and if this miniseries comes anywhere close to matching the heights of Baker’s tenure on the television show? This’ll be an impressive and silly story indeed. [Steve Morris]
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
In what is surely an astounding coincidence, Bruce Wayne returns to once again don the mantle of Batman the same week that Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice hits the movie theaters. Ah, serendipity. With or without the giant movie that’s probably going to make zero Batman or Superman fans happy, it was time for Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo to bring back the real Batman. Jim Gordon’s run as the hero hasn’t failed to deliver fun moments, and with the development of Mister Bloom, Capullo and Snyder once again proved that they have a better handle on damaged Gotham funhouse villains than anybody else. But ever since the conclusion of “Zero Year,” the title has felt a little uneven. They jumped right from a masterful reimagining of Batman only to “kill” him in the next storyline, and the details of Bruce Wayne’s re-assumption of the role were unnecessarily convoluted.
That said, Snyder and Capullo’s run on Batman has still been the most consistent part of the soon-to-be-dead-maybe New 52, and even in its rare flat moments their unique vision of the character and his world was never less than weird, violent, and remarkably unique. Hopefully Batman #50 will mark a return to form, and more opportunities for the creative duo continue to make their twisted magic. Whatever happens with “Rebirth,” Snyder and Capullo should still have something to do with Batman, because over four-plus years they’ve truly redefined the character for the twenty-first century. Just imagine what they could do if they didn’t even have to worry about that? [JP]
CIRCUIT BREAKER #1
Writer: Kevin McCarthy
Artist: Kyle Baker
Way back in 2014, Kevin McCarthy and Kyle Baker announced Circuit Breaker as “coming soon,” but it seems that their definition of “soon” was a little different from ours. On the other hand, this feels like a book that’s worth waiting for, as I can’t imagine a premise that would be more exciting than Kyle Baker drawing a Tezuka-inspired manga-style series set in a post-World War IV Tokyo where robots have been outlawed about a teenage robot fighting vending machines.
Between Nat Turner, Why I Hate Saturn, The Cowboy Wally Show and the rest of his pretty amazing work over the past 30 years, Baker is one of the few creators with a track record strong enough that I’ll read literally anything he wants to try, and he’s never more interesting than when he’s experimenting with something new. His take on Hawkman was the standout of Wednesday Comics — and, let’s be real here, of Hawkman in general — largely because it felt like he was jumping into something new with the oversized format that was serialized weekly, and while I’m not sure Circuit Breaker is going to be quite the departure that that was, seeing him take on the big eyes and speed lines of manga is weird enough to be worth jumping onto. [CS]
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Shawn Crystal
Publisher: Marvel Comics
When Superior Foes of Spider-Man ended, I was heartbroken and waiting for that next villain-centric book to fill that very specific hole in my heart. Illuminati is not Superior Foes, but it does have a cast of eclectic B-list villains stuck together planning one big heist while dodging the best and worst the Marvel Universe has to throw at them. I always love when third-stringers like Titania or Thunderball get a chance to shine, and Crystal’s art is the perfect accompaniment, breathing so much life and character into the lowliest of Marvel’s villains. [KS]