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.

  • TET #1

    Writer: Paul Allor

    Artist: Paul Tucker

    Publisher: IDW

    Billed as a combination of war, crime, and romance genres, Tet begins in Hue City just before the Tet Offensive and the so-called Massacre at Hue, so you know nothing good is going to happen to any of its characters. In case you didn't know by now, terrible things happening to characters is the mark of any good war, crime, or romance comic, and Tet looks set to deliver a lot of misery. An American soldier wants to marry his Vietnamese girlfriend, take her back to the States, and leave the war behind. When his friend is murdered just before the Tet Offensive, Eugene Smith abandons everything to find those responsible, beginning a story that traverses decades and continents. After reading a great-looking preview with simple, striking art from Paul Tucker and an arresting script from Allor, this is the one comic I'm most excited to pick up this week. [John Parker]

  • BITCH PLANET #5

    Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick

    Artists: Valentine DeLandro, Cris Peter, Clayton Cowles

    Publisher: Image Comics

    Yes! Finally! It's here! We had a bit of a wait for this one, because the team wanted to get some elements just right when it came to writing some potentially problematic scenes — and that in itself kind of points to the spirit behind this series. Because, in the end, what's so blessedly brilliant about reading Bitch Planet is that you — yes, you, female reader — are being spoken to directly. This team is on your level, this team is strumming your pain with their fingers, and they are singing your heart with their words. The words "too real" come to mind with every issue, but in the best way possible. I'm incredibly hyped about this series' return to the stands, and you should be too. [JA Micheline]

  • LETTER 44 #20

    Writer: Charles Soule

    Artists: Alberto Alburquerque, Dan Jackson

    Publisher: Oni Press

    Last time we gathered to have a chat about Letter 44, things were slowly but surely building to... well, there was clearly something going on out in space. Things were really heating back at home as well. But Charles Soule was telling such a precise, careful story that these things weren't quite explained, and there was a worry the series might not actually build up to anything huge. Well, here we are with issue #20, and everything's completely gone to pot. So kudos, Letter 44 creative team! There's a world war, there's aliens showing up, there's world-ending threat, it's all going on. Given that Soule kept a hold of this series even when signing a Marvel contract, it was clear that this was a story he wanted to finish — and now we're really starting to see that story rev up, kick into gear, and fly off towards whatever maniac endgame the team have planned. This issue sees the end of the third arc, and I have absolutely no idea what to expect from it. [Steve Morris]

  • INJECTION #5

    Writer: Warren Ellis

    Artists: Jordie Bellaire, Declan Shalvey, Fonografiks

    Publisher: Image

    The first arc is coming to close for the Bellaire-Ellis-Shalvey team up and, given the four issues previous, this week's isn't likely to disappoint. There's a lot to love here, but what appeals to me most — even beyond the essentially perfect mix of the supernatural and the scientific — is the story's roots in old British and Irish folklore, something you don't see very often, and also a clear effort to present a diverse cast. There are few other places in the mainstream where you can find a Black Irishwoman, an Indian Sherlock Holmes archetype, and a woman who echoes my own frustrations with the unabashed worship of the male genius. I really don't know what else I could ask for. [JAM]

  • HEAD LOPPER #1

    Writer/Artist: Andrew MacLean

    Publisher: Image

    Andrew MacLean has been having a pretty good year. The release of Apocalyptigirl was met with some pretty high praise — including from me right here at CA — and now, Head Lopper is decapitating its way into a quarterly ongoing series with a first issue that strikes me as one of the best bargains in quite a while. For a cover price of six bucks, you can get a new, expanded collection of MacLean's first two fantastic self-published issues to get all caught up before the new stuff kicks in. As for what it's about; the first issue involves the title character — the Head Lopper — fighting an army of monsters and trying to figure out if it's possible to decapitate something that has already been decapitated once before, which might be the most exciting premise it is possible to have for a comic about swords. [Chris Sims]

  • VIRGIL TP

    Writer: Steve Orlando

    Artists: JD Faith, Chris Beckett

    Publisher: Image

    A sunny slice of grim noir queerspoitation, as Steve Orlando and JD Faith bring their successfully crowdfunded comic across to Image. Orlando shot to comics fame over the last few months due to his brilliant work on Midnighter for DC, but this is a chance to see him working without any kind of filter. Virgil is a powerful piece of comics; a revenge thriller following a Jamaican private detective whose life is split apart when he is outed and his boyfriend is kidnapped. Orlando has been cited as one of the best new writers in comics, and Virgil is a brutally tense story that showcases his writing style at full-hilt. It's also a story that's dynamically conceived by artist Faith, with colors that are lurid pulp shooting straight through the veins of the story. If you've enjoyed Midnighter but wondered if things could somehow get even more nerve-fraying and sense-shattering, give Virgil a go. You'll see. [SM]

  • TERROR ASSAULTER: OMWOT (ONE MAN WAR ON TERROR) GN

    Writer/Artist: Ben Marra

    Publisher: Fantagraphics

    Every time we talk about Ben Marra here on ComicsAlliance, I make sure to mention that he's the only creator I've ever walked up to at a convention and just said, "Give me one of everything you have," but this time, it's actually relevant. Fantagraphics' new version of Terror Assaulter: OMWOT is actually a full-length graphic novel expanding on a 32-page mini-comic that Marra put out last year — and that minicomic might be my favorite thing that he's ever done. Like all of Marra's Traditional Comics, it's an over-the-top tribute to the black-and-white boom of the late '80s, but OMWOT takes it a step further. It's the comic that the weird kid in your class would draw after half-watching an "erotic thriller" on cable in 1992, in the absolute best way, and the single greatest gag in the whole thing is that everyone — everyone — is constantly just bluntly stating what they're doing, as they do it, with no inflection or emphasis. That's funny enough when they're fighting and you get dialogue like "ah he kicked our hands" or "you chopped my throat," but when it's the sex scene? That, friends, is worth the cover price all on its own. [CS]

  • ATOMIC ROBO: THE EVERYTHING EXPLODES EDITION TP

    Writer: Brian Clevinger

    Artist: Scott Wegener

    Publisher: IDW

    The Atomic Robo team went independent a short while back, putting their entire back-catalogue up as a free webcomic and taking their new material straight to digital. As with a number of webcomics, IDW have jumped on in to offer print publishing for the team, with the result being this collection of the first three trades of the series. Atomic Robo is a bit like Hellboy, only the main character is more earnest, and also a robot rather than a demon from Hell. He also tends to face a different kind of threat to Earth; mainly, science stuff. This is a series that really likes to show off its technical knowledge from time to time, mixing sound scientific progress with, well, dinosaurs. It's a work of clear passion that quickly builds a world — and chronology — that rewards re-reads and the detail-orientated reader. The book is also ridiculously funny at times. Like, suspiciously funny, considering it makes you learn stuff too. [SM]

  • EC ARCHIVES TWO-FISTED TALES VOL 1 HC

    Writers/Artists: Harvey Kurtzman et al

    Publisher: Dark Horse

    Under Harvey Kurtzman's editorial and creative guidance, EC's Two-Fisted Tales introduced a shocking new concept to war comics: realism. Prior to Two-Fisted Tales, the genre was thoroughly propagandized and fantasized, with glorification of war that ignored the grim realities of the front-lines. Kurtzman, who fought in World War II, strove for stories that conveyed more truth about combat, whether the stories were set in the Civil War or Korea, all imbued with a moral compass that imparted lessons in those clever little EC-style twist endings. Kurtzman drew quite a few stories himself, but also wrote, and penciled layouts for pretty much everything, even when artists the caliber of Alex Toth, Jack Davis, John Severin, and Johnny Craig were handling the finishes. Whether that was an expression of his sense of control or his attempt to assure accuracy is hard to say, but you can't argue with the results of Kurtzman's stewardship. Two-Fisted Tales is by no means a perfect anthology (sometimes, Kurtzman's messages were unclear or contradictory), but it's the first un-idealized portrayal of soldiers and war by the greatest roster of artists in comics history, so it comes pretty close. [JP]