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.

  • SECRET SIX #6

    Writer: Gail Simone

    Artists: Dale Eaglesham, Jason Wright, Travis Lanham

    Publisher: DC

    It's been bumpy for Secret Six since Gail Simone brought the concept back to DC Comics, but that rough patch has slowly begun to smooth out as the fourth and fifth issues explained just what's going on, and revealed some of the mysteries that have been in place for the last half year or so. We've now got Mockingbird's identity confirmed, the reveal of where the previous Secret Six characters have gone, and the return of the best married couple in all of comics — and things are really rumbling along now. Eaglesham fits the tone of the book perfectly, offering knockabout madness that feels half realistic even as people are turning into giant rage machines while a puppet heckles from the sidelines. The creative team has found its groove, and this issue could be the turning point that elevates Secret Six to new highs. [Steve Morris]

  • USAGI YOJIMBO #148

    Writer/Artist: Stan Sakai

    Publisher: Dark Horse

    I realize that I talk about Usagi Yojimbo a lot, and ComicsAlliance readers might be getting tired of me constantly beating them over the head with the need to read a 30-year ongoing epic about a bunny rabbit wandering around Feudal Japan as a masterless samurai, but let's make a deal here: I'll stop telling you to read Usagi Yojimbo when it stops being literally the best thing in comics. For right now, though, you really need to read this one. All the usual reasons apply, like Stan Sakai's unparalleled craftsmanship and storytelling, and the fact that its long-awaited return a few months ago took it right back to the top, but the big seller here is that we have been promised that Usagi is going to duel a one-armed swordsman who wears a necklace of bones that he has taken from samurai he has dueled before. There is nothing about that which doesn't sound amazing, if only because Sakai's duels are always some of the best and most evocative battles on the stands. [Chris Sims]

  • THE SIMPSONS: TREEHOUSE OF HORROR #21

    Writers: Ian Boothby and others

    Artists: Tone Rodriguez and others

    Publisher: Bongo

    Just as the annual Treehouse of Horror episodes tend to be the best of each season of the immortal Simpsons television show, so the Treehouse of Horror annuals tend to be the best issues of the Simpsons comic —though the characters-specific one-shots Bongo has been doing starring secondary, tertiary and even more minor characters from the show’s sprawling casts have been pretty rad. This issue promises horror parodies riffing on Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Gremlins and the Evangelical Christian conception of The Rapture, starring Mr. Burns and Marge Simpson, Apu and Ned Flanders, respectively. [Caleb Mozzocco]

  • MEGA MAN #53

    Writer: Ian Flynn

    Artist: Ryan Jampole

    Pubisher: Archie

    It's been a long while since I've been as heartbroken by the announcement of a series ending as I am with Archie's Mega Man. For almost five years, it's been one of the most exciting and engaging superhero comics out there — not just for all ages books, but for superhero books period. The stories in these books took a simple video game premise (mostly built around running left-to-right and shooting things) and turned them into thrilling, character-driven action that not only asked questions about morality, kindness, artificial intelligence and war, but also treated them with a sophistication that's hard to find anywhere in mass media. Plus, y'know, robots riding around on jet-powered skateboard dogs. That's nothing to sneeze at either. With this issue, Mega Man embarks on its final story, "Blue Shift," and while the continuity of the comic has only made it to the fourth of the ten main video games, I imagine that Flynn and Jampole are going to treat it like it's the climax that a series this good deserves. Here's hoping that the end is only a hiatus, and that they'll be back for more soon. [CS]

  • JEM & THE HOLOGRAMS #7

    Writer: Kelly Thompson

    Artists: Emma Vieceli, M. Victoria Robado, Tom B. Long

    Publisher: IDW

    Wait, didn't we just have issue #6 a week ago? Well... yes, because it's a good month for comics, folks. With the first arc out the way, the glitteringest title at IDW races on to the next storyline — which, based on the preview we ran on this very website only a few days ago, is going to be just as fun as the first. Kelly Thompson's playing a long game here, so while you've got yourselves a pop extravaganza taking center stage in each issue, there have been heaps of hints and teases for character arcs and twists coming down the line. For a series that goes big and bouncy at every turn, Thompson's been able to deftly hide away a staggering number of surprises. Some more look set to come into play with this next issue, illustrated by Emma Vieceli. Coloring from M. Victoria Robado keeps the look tonally consistent with the last arc, but immediately you can see Vieceli bringing a whole new style to the comic. There isn't another artist better at romantic and personal drama than Vieceli, and her turn on the series should be memorable. [SM]

  • TOKYO GHOST #1

    Writer: Rick Remender

    Artists: Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth

    Publisher: Image

    Rick Remender is one of the smartest, weirdest writers in genre comics, Sean Murphy draws the future like he's actually from there, and Matt Hollingsworth makes everything he touches even more brilliant than it already is. In Tokyo Ghost, the three of them team up for an action-sci fi statement about technology, entertainment, and decay that looks like an inverted Judge Dredd on a cocktail of bath salts and Molly. So... we're done here, right? Read Tokyo Ghost. [John Parker]

  • HEART IN A BOX TP

    Writer: Kelly Thompson

    Artist: Meredith McClaren

    Publisher: Dark Horse

    If you're as big a fan of Kelly Thompson as I've become over the past year, then it's a pretty good week to be picking up comics. Not only is there a new issue of Jem (see above), but this week also marks the debut of Heart in a Box, the graphic novel that was serialized digitally before getting its big print release. If you didn't catch it online, the story follows Emma, a heartbroken young woman who wishes she didn't have a heart and suddenly finds her wish granted, only to regret it almost immediately. Story-wise, it's fantastic, a modern fairy-tale that still keeps its sharp, witty and edge, but for my money, the star turn here comes from McClaren. The art and coloring are perfect, from the simple trick of having Emma reduced to grayscale while she doesn't have her heart, to the way McLaren keeps up with the scarier bits of the story in a way that's genuinely harrowing. It's excellent stuff, and deserves a look in one format or another. [CS]

  • FRANK FRAZETTA’S THE ADVENTURES OF THE SNOWMAN

    Writer/Artist: Frank Frazetta

    Publisher: Dark Horse

    The legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta is now best-remembered and most associated with his painted covers for sword-and-sorcery and pulp adventure novels, to the point that his name is practically synonymous with powerful, menacing figures. His earliest work in comics could hardly be farther removed from the axe-wielding subject of his 1973 “Death Dealer” painting — used as an album cover by Molly Hatchet and popular enough to generate a 2007 Image comics miniseries. That early work would be on the character The Snow Man, a scrappy, cartoony-looking living snowman that a teenage Frazetta drew in 1944 for the first (and only) issue of Tally-Ho Comics. The character has made occasional appearances online over the years, but now Dark Horse is collecting Frazetta’s first complete comic book story in a 100-page, landscape-format hardcover. Check out the cover featuring a gingerbread man-shaped snowman trudging through the snow with a pipe clenched in his mouth… and an axe in his hand. Say, maybe the Snow Man and the Death Dealer aren’t so different after all... [CM]

  • 2 SISTERS: A SUPER-SPY GRAPHIC NOVEL HC

    Writer/Artist: Matt Kindt

    Publisher: Dark Horse

    Long before Matt Kindt was the busiest writer in comics, he was creating the kind of books that made it seem as though he'd never get anywhere near the mainstream, and there's probably no better example than 2004's 2 Sisters. The first major comic that Kindt wrote and drew himself, 2 Sisters displays a nascent version of all the predilections we've come to expect of the unconventional Kindt: experimental narratives, stories within stories, time shifts, puzzles hidden within page compositions, magical realism with a touch of Pynchon-esque maximalism, et cetera. On one level a World War II spy yarn, on another a spiraling and contemplative novel about secrets, isolation, and strength, 2 Sisters is complex in structure and spare in execution; an impressive first effort from the writer/artist responsible for a run of the most fascinating original comics in recent memory. [JP]

  • HIC & HOC ILLUSTRATED JOURNAL OF HUMOUR VOL 2

    Writers: Various

    Artists: Various

    Publisher: Alternative

    Great news, America! Here comes twenty-odd comics from a bevy of brilliant Brits including Joe List and Lizz Lunney (who both edited this collection), Dan Berry, Joe Decie, Luke Pearson, Stephen Collins, Phillippa Rice... if they're incredibly funny and from the Isle of Albion, they're here. I could just keep listing names like Donya Todd and Isaac Lenkiewicz, but instead let's focus on the idea of the anthology. First published in the UK in 2013, this second volume of Hic and Hoc's anthology not only features some of the finest small-press comics makers in the UK, it's also about the UK. And there's plenty to say about the UK right now. You may not know all these names, but pick up this anthology if you see it on the shelves this week, take a quick look through it, and I'm pretty certain you'll be sold. [SM]