Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases For November 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.
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: Si Spurrier
Artist: Jeff Stokely
Publisher: Boom Studios
The Pen & Ink series sees Boom Studios re-releasing some of their more artistically-acclaimed titles on an irregular basis. An 11" by 17" prestige format, these reprintings are offered in stark black and white, all the better for you to get to see the artist's original pencils and inking. Six Gun Gorilla is the latest comic to be featured in the series, with artist Jeff Stokely (currently wowing the world on The Spire) the artistic focus of the release. This is a series which cemented Stokely and writer Si Spurrier as one of the best creative partnerships currently working in comics, dealing with human issues, drama and commentary whilst also offering a giant gorilla shooting people with pistols. This issue will not only feature the original inks from Stokely, but commentary from both himself and Spurrier — making this essentially a guide in 'how to make comics what are well good'. [Steve Morris]
Writer: Stan Sakai
Artist: Stan Sakai
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Usagi Yojimbo was great at #147, #148, #149 and I'm willing to bet it's going to be just as great at #151, so if you've been waiting for a special reason to jump on, I don't know if this issue's going to be any more worth checking out than the rest of the series. It's a thing that I've written about before, but Usagi is so consistently great in every single issue that those big round numbers on the cover that every other series looks forward to almost don't matter. The key word, though, is almost, because Sakai always adds something to make these issues just a little more interesting, and this time, it's Usagi's first encounter with a European swordsman. There have been references to Europeans for decades in the series, and they've never come off all that well — Usagi in particular always thinks of them as outsiders who bring guns, sickness and nothing good to Japan — and this issue looks like it's continuing that with an arrogant visitor demanding to see a ritual suicide for entertainment. It's the kind of conflict that the book excels at showing, with Usagi struggling with ideas about honor, and it's bound to be fascinating and thrilling. You know, just like the 149 issues before it. [Chris Sims]
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
"Charming" is not typically a word you'd use to describe a Mark Millar-penned comic, but after recent trends in his output, that might be changing. Starlight was one of the most delightful reads of the last year, and the second arc of Jupiter's Legacy shifted towards something dramatically more positive and life-affirming. Huck, with superstar talent Rafael Albuquerque, looks — dare I say it — wholesome? Heart-warming, even? In Huck, a special man performs good deeds in his small town simply because it's the right thing to do, and his community does everything to keep the secret of his existence from the rest of the world. (Though expect that to change quickly.) As usual, Millar lets the artist do the heavy lifting, and Albuquerque softens the edges around his lines, bringing a look to Huck that could best be described as windswept modern super-Americana, a perfect fit for a Superman story where Clark Kent never put on a cape, and just hung around Smallville saving kittens and changing tires. Yeah, "charming" will do. [John Parker]
Writer: Renae de Liz
Artists: Renae de Liz, Ray Dillon
Publisher: DC (Digital)
A little bit of a cheat as this came out on the 12th November, but this is a digital series and we all have to make our little adjustments. The idea of this series is basically that writer/artist wants Wonder Woman's origin story to start to feel as iconic as those of Batman and Superman. To that extent, this is a nine-part series which focuses on her life before she leaves Paradise Island — from birth, childhood and into the life of an Amazonian warrior — with an eye towards offering some distinct imagery which can help Wonder Woman live up to her reputation as the headline female superhero in comics. This is also the series which'll be replacing the much-acclaimed Sensation Comics anthology, coming from the same wing of DC to have produced both that and several other of the better comics put out by the company in general across the last two years or so. de Liz is joined by Ray Dillon on inks and colors, but this is primarily her show, and it's about time we got to have a headline gig for someone as talented as Renae de Liz. This should be a good one (and it'll come to print in January 2016). [SM]
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
For 20 years, Astro City has specialized in interesting new twists on superhero stories, and this week's issue is going with a classic: An alien invasion story where the invaders are humans. It's not a new idea — it is, in fact, the plot of Starship Troopers — but it is one that lends itself to the kind of fantastic story that Busiek and Anderson are known for, especially given that they're telling it from the perspective of an average suburbanite who just happens to live on the homeworld of an alien empire in conflict with the super-powered First Family. That familiarity has always been one of the things that makes Astro City work, and seeing how they give a human element to characters who aren't human (and who are dealing with a distinctly human menace) is a sure bet for something that's going to be worth reading. [CS]
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artists: Takeshi Miyazawa and Adrian Alphona
Ms. Marvel returns as part of the relaunch initiative this week, with a new number #1 following the end of the world in the not-entirely-concluded Secret Wars. While Hickman and Opena struggle on with their event, Kamala Khan sets up her new status quo regardless, with writer G. Willow Wilson and artists Takeshi Miyazawa all returning for the relaunch of the title. I believe there are two stories in this oversized first issue, which will hopefully have a better grip on "Kamala Khan: All-New Avenger" than the eponymous series had. This is a book which went from strength to strength across the first run, each subsequent arc typically building and helping grow the character into someone worth rooting for and admiring — so this soft relaunch now should also prove to continue Kamala's stories in interesting and entertaining ways. She's been built up smartly by the creative team over the last few years, not succumbing to their own hype and not setting up a new character who promptly fell apart in a wave of gimmick — Kamala feels honest, open, and real, and that's the reason the series has so connected with people. Whatever her second volume may bring, this is a series which has won the public attention. [SM]
Writer: Stephen Murphy
Artist: Michael Zulli
Puma Blues is an exceptionally unique comic from the black-and-white boom that seems to have never gotten the place in comics history it deserved. It was very well-regarded while it was around, but having been out of print since the days of the Bush administration — the first one — it seems to have been kind of forgotten. It certainly doesn't help that Murphy and Zulli never actually got to complete the book, ceasing publication just a few issues short of the finish line. In this long-overdue collection, that error is finally corrected, as the entirety of Puma Blues, including the final, unpublished issues, is gathered in one volume to bewilder and delight. A post-apocalyptic study of environmental decay that morphs into a free-form visual poem, Puma Blues is poignant and elegiac, held aloft by Zulli's transcendent wildlife artwork. It's a shame that the comics world had to wait so long for the complete story, but its message of environmental responsibility is likely to be more resonant and relevant today than ever before. [JP]