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.

  • JACKED #1

    Writer: Eric Kripke

    Artist: John Higgins

    Covers: Glenn Fabry

    Publisher: DC/Vertigo

    Jacked sounds like a comic book you'd have to pass through a curtain to buy, but it's actually a new Vertigo series by Eric Kripke and John Higgins about mid-life crises and better living through chemistry. In Jacked, middle-aged schlub Josh Jaffe takes so many pills to maintain his disappointing life, he stumbles upon one that gives his superpowers. The catch? It's highly addictive. It's a fairly familiar setup, but the idea of confronting the mid-life crisis is fascinating, especially when yours is steadily encroaching over the horizon (brrr). Kripke is the creator of Supernatural, a show with a small but loyal following that includes a strong number of women and my dad, and this is his first comic. John Higgins, however, is a veteran who provided colors to both Watchmen and The Killing Joke, and full art to two of the best Hellblazer stories ever told, and he does far less work than he should. An underrated stylist who brings an everyday grotesqueness to his comics, he provides both art and color to Jacked, and I'm looking forward to gorging on all six issues. [John Parker]

  • TRANSFORMERS: SINS OF THE WRECKERS #1

    Writer, Artist: Nick Roche

    Publisher: IDW

    One of the pull quotes on the back cover of Last Stand of the Wreckers is, “This is TransformersWatchmen,” which: nooooooot quite. But like Watchmen, it’s a great comic, and like Watchmen, it’s getting a sequel – though unlike Watchmen, Sins of the Wreckers is bringing back the original co-writer and artist, and stands a good chance of being a worthy sequel on those merits. Prowl, the Autobot war strategist who finds himself increasingly unwanted in peacetime, has gone missing, and it’s up to the Autobot high-risk-low-reward missions squad, the Wreckers, to track him down and make sure that all of his secrets stay buried. It’s a noir mystery starring giant pink robots, and if the original story is any indication, stands a good chance of being a great example of that highly specific subgenre. [Charlotte Finn]

  • EMPOWERED SPECIAL #7: PEW PEW PEW

    Writer/Artist: Adam Warren

    Publisher: Dark Horse

    The wait between volumes of Empowered, Adam Warren's series of original graphic novels that has spent years managing the neat trick of being one of the best superhero comics and the best superhero parodies available, can be interminable. Since the ninth volume just dropped recently, we could be in for a long wait until the tenth volume. Which is exactly why Warren and Dark Horse publish these comic book-sized one-shot specials. In addition to providing readers something to tide them over between volumes, the specials often offer two more virtues: They are usually drawn by another artist, with Warren writing and providing covers and framing sequences, and they are usually in color. This issue will vary from most of the previous six (which were all collected under the title Empowered Unchained, if you missed them), as Warren will himself be drawing the whole thing, which he hasn't done since the first of the specials. I'm not sure if that makes this special more or less special, as Warren's collaborators have all been off-the-charts excellent ones, but it's new Empowered, so it's going to be pretty special either way. [Caleb Mozzocco]

  • MOON GIRL & DEVIL DINOSAUR #1

    Writers: Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare

    Artist: Natacha Bustos

    Publisher: Marvel

    In what can only be described as an ignorant blow against yourselves, the ComicsAlliance readers, I have to say I have no idea what Devil Dinosaur or Moon Boy are, having not grown up reading any Jack Kirby comics whatsoever. I come to this series with fresh eyes, and no idea of what's gone on before — and so what I see here is a killer creative team telling a new story about a hyperintelligent young girl who decides to team up with a dinosaur to save the world. And that's sold me. Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare love a giant hook, as proven in their previous works like Halloween Eve and Rocket Girl, while it looks as though artist Natacha Bustos is having an absolute ball with each new page, backed ably by the colors of Tamra Bonvillain. Marvel could use a few books that are happily disconnected from the rest of their universe, and this seems like it'll do for telepathic dinosaurs what Prez did for American politics. I mean... the main character is called Lunella Lafayette; what more do you want? [Steve Morris]

  • RINGSIDE #1

    Writer: Joe Keatinge

    Artists: Nick Barber and Simon Gough

    Publisher: Image

    If you were to print out a list of words I like, throw them in a bag and then pull them out at random to create a comic that I'd be super into, then I'm pretty sure you might end up with something like "a crime noir action comic set in the world of pro wrestling written by Joe Keatinge." That's a premise that hits a whole bunch of my buttons, and as someone who got an early copy of the book to check out, I can confirm that it's as good as you want it to be — and a whole lot more surprising than you might expect. I mean, I was hooked just from the title, but even if you're not the kind of person with a deep and abiding love of seeing pro wrestling in comics, there's still going to be something here that grabs you - and just wait'll you get to that last page. [Chris Sims]

  • DARTH VADER #13

    Writer: Kieron Gillen

    Artist: Salvador Larrocca

    Publisher: Marvel

    Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larrocca's Darth Vader has consistently delivered the unexpected at every juncture. In this heist story, Vader is given new motivations and vulnerabilities, bringing more shading to a character normally painted in flat black or white. You see the Dark Lord as you've never seen him before: with his back to the wall; trying to hold everything together in a dangerous game of Dejarik against the Emperor; tempted by the good that clearly resides somewhere behind that mechanical shell. Gillen and Larrocca present Vader as a complete character here, with complex motivations and an emotional depth not seen before, and they've accomplished it very subtly, using charged dialogue, pregnant pause, and nuanced body language to etch new detail into that expressionless mask. Around Vader, they've assembled the strongest supporting cast of new Star Wars characters this side of universe, with the perspicacious Imperial Inspector Thanoth as his pursuer, the cagey Doctor Aphra as his accomplice, and her sociopathic droids Triple Zero and BT-1, who really are the breakout stars of the book, the best of Marvel's Star Wars bunch. [JP]

  • OMEGA MEN #6

    Writer: Tom King

    Artist: Barnaby Bagenda

    Publisher: DC

    One thing that sadly went away with the new 52 reboot of the DC Universe is the sense of bigness that the universe had; with a new universe, you inevitably had to start building from the ground up, and it’s hard to stand on the top floor of a skyscraper when they’re still pouring the concrete. Helping restore this sense that there is more out there, that there are small corners of the universe that contain vastness enough to power an entire story, is one of the many appealing things about Omega Men. Others include gorgeous art by Barnaby Bagenda, who will be an artist to watch once this series concludes, and tight scripting by Tom King that depicts an alien dystopia that feels just culturally alien enough to communicate its distance from us, without being so alien as to be incomprehensible. This series earned a reprieve from the cancellation axe, and earned that passion from its readership for a reason. [CF]

  • TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #47

    Writer: James Roberts

    Artist: Brendan Cahill

    Publisher: IDW

    Back when I was making my way through IDW's Transformers comics as a project here at ComicsAlliance — something that I think officially qualifies as an odyssey at this point — the one thing that hooked me more than anything else was the relationship between Tailgate and Cyclonus. Seriously, I don't know how it happened, but I am more invested in whether these two robots who turn into cars kiss each other than literally anything else in comics right now, and this month, that relationship is being threatened. See, a while back, Getaway — a robot that is also a car that is also an escape artist that also speaks with a New Zealand Accent, because sure, why not — struck up a friendship with Tailgate and dropped hints that Cyclonus was a terrible boyfriend. He's not wrong, of course, because Cyclonus actually is a terrible boyfriend, but he also literally cured Tailgate of robot cancer and that's not the kind of thing you forget no matter what kind of handsome Kiwi racecar shows up and starts bomping you on the chin. Now, we've got this issue, where Getaway and Cyclonus are literally tearing Tailgate apart on the cover, and I don't know if my heart can stand the result. [CS]

  • SAGA #31

    Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

    Artist: Fiona Staples

    Publisher: Image Comics

    We've all quietly forgotten to admire Saga, it feels like, which is surely a huge mistake we should all regret. Not seen since July, the series returns for a new arc this week with Staples and Vaughan still plugging away at the life and times of Hazel, squish-loving baby turned hypergalactic toddler. As the issue starts we've hit another time jump, as Hazel makes the move into school. In space. So it's a space-school. While Saga can sometimes dawdle off into subplots which don't pay off, or traipse for months with characters who have passed their best use, the series remains a constantly imaginative world where the creative team can — but don't always — change the entire fabric of their story at any point. Nobody knows how fast Saga is planning to travel, or even where the destination is... but the journey remains worth following. [SM]

  • ARCHIE #4

    Writer: Mark Waid

    Artist: Annie Wu

    Publisher: Archie

    In terms of strong storytelling techniques, “hint at an unspoken person, place, thing or event and then explicitly state that it’s not what you think it is” is right up there, and may — after this run of comics — have a new shorthand example. The hinted-at, never-explained “lipstick incident” is revealed in this issue, as Mark Waid forges ahead on a reboot that has gotten just about everything right, taking timeless characters, but injecting in more modern, episodic storytelling. Waid is joined by artist Annie Wu, who is a perfect fit for the book, as the focus shifts to Dilton and Moose, the best of the B-list Archie cast. This book is a textbook example of how much raw craft matters, because all the characters are still fully familiar Archie characters — everything that Waid and Wu (and before Wu, Fiona Staples) brings to the table is all technique, and sometimes, technique is enough. [CF]

  • DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE #1

    Writers: Frank Miller and Brian Azzarrello

    Artists: Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson

    If a bookie set the odds on DKIII being a good at fifty-fifty, most of us would probably bet the under, right? I probably would, as I believe Miller has pretty much lost it. A few years ago, I even wrote that The Dark Knight Strikes Again was one of the worst comics of the 2000s; but my opinion on DKII has softened as of late. Despite its obvious flaws and unevenness, I can see qualities to recommend it now, but still; Miller just seems to get more bizarre — and not the good kind of bizarre — with each passing year. Perhaps it's good, then, that Miller has intermediaries this time, with Brian Azzarrello and Andy Kubert doing the heavy lifting on The Master Race. Can they smooth out Miller's rough edges and mine the same allegorical wonderland that he did in The Dark Knight Returns? I honestly don't think so, but it's certainly possible, and the prospects are interesting enough to justify a little gambling. I'm already a little disappointed they didn't keep the quasi-inverse Star Wars pattern that was already established by the first two books. If there were any order to his hodgepodge existence, this book would be called Dark Knight III: A New Hope. Ooh, better yet!: DKIII: The Knighty Ducks. [JP]

  • MAGIC WHISTLE #1

    Writer/Artist: Various

    Publisher: Alternative Comics

    As Sam Henderson himself will tell you in the introduction to this issue, he's been doing comics a long time, and his work has mostly appeared under this title, which he gave his own, personal anthology. His brand of one-man-show comics have been on the wane for a while now, to the point that it can be remarkable when one finds one on the new racks at the comics shop, and Henderson says he was unhappy with his last attempt to face that trend: Publishing little, spine-bearing, graphic novel-looking collections of his own work. He's got a new strategy, which he shows off in this first issue of "Magic Whistle 3.0"–an anthology with plenty of other artists contributing. There's still plenty of that old Magic Whistle magic, with Henderson's one-panel gags, funny charts and one long-winded silly story, but there is also work by John Brodowski, Manuel Gomez Burns, Jesse McManus, Ansis Purins, and Leah Wishnia and reprints of comics by the late Doug Bagge, brother of Peter Bagge (the latter of whom provides an introduction to his brother and his brother's work). Personally, I've never had a problem with too much Sam Henderson in my Sam Henderson comics, but Henderson paired with a bunch of other cartoonists with similarly warped sense of humor? Well, that's nothing to complain about either. [CM]

  • KRAMPUS: THE SHADOW OF ST. NICHOLAS

    Writer: Michael Dougherty

    Artist: Michael Montenant

    Publisher: Legendary

    When I first saw the trailer for the upcoming horror movie Krampus, my first thought was: "What took them so long?" The hairy, horned holiday character has been around for centuries in European folklore, but has been increasingly creeping into 21st century American pop culture, from TV shows as varied as American Dad, Grimm, Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated and The Venture Bros. to a fantasy novel by one-name author Brom, and from an Image-published 2013 comic book series to a handful of low-budget, direct-to-DVD films. For many of us though, our first introduction to The Krampus came courtesy of Monte Beauchamp's book Krampus!: The Devil of Christmas, from long-time underground publisher Last Gasp, and its companion book, the Beauchamp-edited, Fantagraphics-published The Devil In Design: The Krampus Postcards. Given that a couple of comics and graphic novel publishers helped import the character into modern pop consciousness, it's fitting then that the Krampus' feature film debut be accompanied by a tie-in graphic novel. While Legendary's film tie-in offerings have rarely been great comics, this one has the benefit of being written by the film's director. Whatever medium the folkloric holiday monster may conquer next, it's nice to know he will always have a home in comic shops. [CM]

  • FLASH BY GEOFF JOHNS BOOK 1

    Writer: Geoff Johns

    Artists: Angel Unzueta et al

    Publisher: DC

    There are a lot of gaps in DC's back-catalogue, where some of their most well known runs of ten years ago or more simply aren't collected properly in trade. The last year has seen the publisher attempt to cover some of these gaps, with books like Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman finally picking back up and getting collected - and now, finally, we've reached The Flash. With the TV show basically the best thing going if you enjoy concepts like "charm", "joy" and "heroism", it's about time DC jumped in for either of the two most well-known runs with the character. Thusly are we here, then, with the first of the iconic runs on Flash finally seeing print once more. Geoff Johns took on Wally West with a sense of fly-by fun that slowly ebbed away in some of his subsequent efforts as writer. This is a series that focuses on the villains just as much as the main hero, but worked as an ensemble piece. If you want to try some Flash but aren't keen on the slightly stale ongoing series currently available — this is a run that anyone should be able to pick up and have fun with. Just pretend they're saying "Barry" rather than "Wally". [SM]