Best Comic Books Ever (This Week) – New Releases Guide For February 25, 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?"
Indeed, the Wednesday deluge of new comic books, graphic novels and collected editions can be daunting even for the longtime reader, much less the comics-curious totally unfamiliar with the creators, characters and publishers the industry has to offer, or the sometimes confusing system of periodicals, trades, crossovers, pre-ordering, variants, reprints, and all the other dark mysteries of comic book shopping.
It's with these challenges in mind that we've created Best Comic Books Ever (This Week), an ongoing guide curated by rotating members of the ComicsAlliance staff. This is where new comics readers will find the easiest access to the best variety of cool books our storytelling medium has to offer, and where seasoned Wednesday shoppers can find recommendations for new titles to try out.
NEW SINGLE ISSUES
Comic book periodicals, usually around 20 pages in length and priced from $2.99- -$4.99. Issues are typically published monthly, but some titles ship twice a month or even weekly. Also published digitally, single issues are the preferred format for many longtime comic book readers and ideal if you enjoy serialized stories with cliffhangers.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, FCO Plascencia
Publisher: DC Comics
If you're a regular CA reader, then you already know that I have read a lot of Batman comics. I've read Batman comics where Batman fights a luchador on super-steroids who breaks his back with actual wrestling moves. I've read Batman comics where he got shot by a god-bullet and went back in time to caveman days. Heck, last year I read a comic about Batman's origin where he fought a bone monster on a weather balloon during a hurricane! But I have never in my life read an event comic that is quite as bonkers as "Endgame." Seriously, it started with Batman fighting a Justice League that had been dosed with Joker Toxin and just got more bananas from there, and now it's all about a city full of Joker zombies and the revelation that maybe the Joker is a) immortal and b) the devil. There's a lot going on, is what I'm getting at, and I can't think of any other comic that moves quite as fast and gives you quite as much for your buck as Batman has for the past few years.
Publisher's Description: 'Endgame' part 5. The Joker is back! The penultimate issue of the Clown Prince of Crime's horrifying return! Plus, in the backup story, the inmates and Mahreen finally learn the truth about The Joker!
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Philips
Publisher: Image Comics
All right, let's be real with each other: I have no idea what I could say that would make you want this comic more than just the simple facts that it's a brand new Criminal story by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, printed at magazine size with a Savage Sword of Conan homage cover, where a magazine-sized comic about a barbarian is actually an element of the story and it shifts back and forth between the comic and the comic within the comic, both of which are done by Phillips. Like, every single thing about that sounds amazing. And on top of that, it's a self-contained one-shot, so if you haven't been following Criminal already - or if, like me, you've managed to fall behind on the series - it makes a perfect jumping on point to sample the series. Which, by the way, you're probably going to love.
Publisher Description: It's 1976, and Teeg Lawless is doing 30 days in county jail with a price on his head, his only safe company from the savagery a beat-up old comic magazine his dead cellmate left behind. It's CRIMINAL like you've never seen it before, with a comic within the comic and all those slick '70s thrills!
Writer: Quentin Tarantino and Matt Wagner
Artist: Esteve Polls
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
On one level, a crossover between Dynamite's Zorro comic and Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained seems like a pretty unlikely project. I don't think any of us expected there to be a comic book sequel to Django, after all, let alone one where the most modern Western ever put on film would be teaming up with a pulp hero created in 1919. On another level, though, it makes perfect sense, especially since the timelines match up just perfectly enough that Don Diego can slide into a similar dynamic that Django had with Schutlz, and it has been a pretty incredible reading experience. Wagner's script is fantastic, going amazingly over-the-top in giving the two heroes a villain to take on (in this case, the conniving Archduke of Arizona) and tying it into both heroes' stories.
Wagner is one of my all-time favorites --- as is Tarantino, now that I think of it --- and while his take on Zorro was one that I fell off of after he launched it at Dynamite, this series got its hooks into me good, and it's been incredibly compelling.
Publisher Description: Diego de la Vega and his bodyguard, Django Freeman, get a firsthand look at the brutal tyranny wielded by the Archduke of Arizona in his drive to construct a railroad line across the length of his realm. Django is still trying to reconcile his first sighting of the masked and mysterious avenger known as El Zorro. Could this strange, black-clad apparition really be the proper and elderly gentleman who has hired him as a bodyguard?
Writer: Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Karl Kerschl
Publisher: DC Comics
In case you've missed out on my strongly worded reviews of the series, Gotham Academy is 1,000% my jam. The combination of boarding school teen drama and a world where Batman is just off panel hunting down criminals is, unsurprisingly, exactly what I want out of a brand new comic, and after the amazing way the last issue ended --- with Olive Silverlock discovering that Killer Croc had been living in the secret passages of the school, in one of Kerschl's all-time best pages --- there's no reason to think that it's not going to just keep getting better. I'm especially stoked about this issue's promise of a school dance, mainly because I really want to see what that looks like when it happens in Gotham City. So excited, in fact, that I'm willing to go all-in even though the cover promises that we're going to see Man-Bat, my all-time least favorite Batman villain.
Publisher Description: This month's assignment: Uncover the hideous secrets of Gotham Academy's North Hall! Also: smooching?!
Writer: Mike Costa
Artist: Paolo Villanelli
If Gotham Academy is my jam, then Snake Eyes: Agent of Cobra is like something that sprung forth fully formed from the inside of my head: A book entirely built around Snake Eyes and Destro teaming up as a third faction in Cobra's war on the Joes, drawn by Paolo Villanelli and written by Mike Costa, the best GI Joe writer not named Larry Hama to ever work on those books. Seriously, go track down anything that Costa has written over the years in Cobra or Cobra files --- especially that one story where Clockspring goes to Reddit, becomes an MRA and immediately gets his entire team murdered as a result --- and you'll be amazed at just what a GI Joe comic can be. For this series, things are shifting around in a way that has put the focus on my two favorite characters in the franchise, and it's been every bit as immediately compelling as everything he's done, especially with the added twist of Snake Eyes hunting down the son of the former Cobra Commander.
Publisher's Description: SNAKE EYES begins his mission for COBRA: tracking down the former COBRA COMMANDER's son and bringing him in. But SNAKE EYES is not the only COBRA agent on the hunt as Storm Shadow enters the fray, looking for revenge!
Writer: Nate Cosby
Artist: Ron Salas
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Hal Foster's Prince Valiant has always been one of those things that I can appreciate whenever I see bits and pieces of it, but have never actually had any desire to read. This, though, is pretty intriguing. Dynamite's "King" line launched back in 2013 with Kings Watch, a big Phantom/Flash Gordon/Mandrake crossover, and while Flash Gordon continued and was totally awesome, it seems to have taken a while to get to the second phase. So far, though, it's been worth the wait. Last week's Mandrake was the first new adventure comic in a while from Roger Langridge (you know, from Thor: The Mighty Avenger), and Phantom had a great first issue from Atomic Robo's Brian Clevinger and Brent Schoonover.
For Prince Valiant, the team is Nate Cosby and Ron Salas, and while I'm wondering how (and if) it's going to tie into the rest of the books, I'm excited to jump in regardless. You're probably mostly familiar with Cosby as an editor (he previously worked for Marvel and has been "packaging" this line of books since Kings Watch), but he's a pretty phenomenal writer, too, as evidenced by Cow Boy with Chris Eliopoulos, and Salas is an incredibly underrated talent. It might seem weird as I am not ninety years old, but we're in a time when I am really excited about Mandrake the Magician and Prince Valiant. I just hope nobody realizes King Features are also the people who put out Funky Winkerbean.
Publisher's Description: Welcome to the KING, full of BRAWLING KNIGHTS and ARTHURIAN ADVERSARIES and MYSTICAL MEDDLING and COURAGEOUS CHIVALRY and SERPENTINE SORCERY and WITHERING VALOR and TIME-SHIFTING ADVENTURERS and CATASTROPHIC CONFIDENCE! BRAVE THE BATTLES courtesy of NATE COSBY (Cow Boy) and RON SALAS (Spider-Man) with a connecting King cover by comic legend DARWYN COOKE!
Writer: Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Caitlin Kittredge
Artist: Irene Koh and Stjepan Sejic
Publisher: DC Comics
Secret Origins has been a pretty mixed bag since it returned last year --- and if you want to see how mixed, just go find the issue that shows you what Dick Grayson's Robin costume looked like in the New 52 timeline --- but it's also a book that I'm really glad to see on the stands. The big reboot three years ago gave DC the chance to restructure their universe, and while most of that is obviously done in the ongoing series, Secret Origins has always been a great place to fit those stories that help smooth things out, just like it did last time Secret Origins was a regular on the shelves, back in the late '80s.
In any case, it's a great way to get more stories from great creators, which is exactly what this issue's doing. We here at ComicsAlliance are pretty firmly behind Batgirl, and given how much of a departure her new direction was from the previous stories, I'm really interested to see how Stewart, Fletcher and Koh try to fit it all together. The real hidden gem, though, is Caitlin Kittredge and Stjepan Sejic taking on Poison Ivy. Kittredge is someone I've known and followed for years, and after seeing how smooth she was at moving into comics with Coffin Hill, I'm really excited about getting a sample of her taking on the larger DCU. Either way, it's a good place to start if you're curious.
Publisher Description: Get ready for The New 52 origins of Batgirl (written by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher with art by Irene Koh), Firestorm (courtesy of writer Dan Jurgens) and Poison Ivy (coming your way from writer Caitlin Kittredge and artist Stjepan Sejic)!
NEW COLLECTED EDITIONS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS
Trades: Colloquial term for paperback or hardcover compilations of comic book stories originally published as singles. Essentially, the DVD box set of the comic book world. Designed for bookshelves but also available digitally, trades are the preferred format for many readers who enjoy comic book narratives in easily digestible chunks. Similar to television's relationship with DVDs and Netflix, this comic book format has given rise to the phrase, "Wait for the trade."
Graphic Novels: A disputed term in the comic book industry, graphic novels are most simply described as any comic book that is a complete story in a more-or-less novel-length format. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with trades, as stories released as trades are often effectively graphic novels, and over time some titles, like The Sandman, are regarded as graphic novel series.
Writer: Matt Smith
Artist: Carl Critchlow
All they really needed to do to sell me on a new Judge Anderson solo story was have a scene where the title character went down to Texas City to have adventures in a post-nuclear swampland. Maybe it's just my Southern upbringing talking, but I'm always down for swamp adventures with my favorite heroes. If that's not enough to sway you, however, I'd probably mention that Judge Dredd's world is a pretty fascinating setting for stories, and if you've only ever seen it through the eyes of a single stone-faced character with a perpetually grumpy adherence to the law, then a solo adventure with Anderson --- who's about as different from Dredd as a character can be while still being on the same side --- is a really fun experience. Smith (who, incidentally, is also currently the editor of 2000 AD) and Critchlow produced something really fun here for the US Market, and it's definitely worth your time to check it out.
Publisher's Description: In an all-new adventure from Cassandra Anderson's early days in the Mega-City One Psi-Division, writer Matt Smith and artist Carl Critchlow present 'King of the Six Sectors.' It all starts with Anderson awaking from an unusually strong vision of an attack on the Megapolitan Museum showcasing Cursed Earth artifacts.
Writer: Sholly Fisch
Artist: Dario Brizuela
Publisher: DC Comics
Okay, so, this is a comic with Batman, Robin and Scooby-Doo on the cover, where Batman, Robin and Scooby-Doo team up to fight crime. It also includes a story where Scooby and the gang go to Paradise Island and all the boys have to stay in the van so it's up to Velma and Daphne to team up with the Amazons to solve additional crimes. If that doesn't sound like a comic that you want to at least check out, then folks, maybe just don't take any of the advice on this list, because you and I will not agree on much.
Seriously though, you might remember Sholly Fisch from his work on the comic tie-in to Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and if so, it won't surprise you that the digital-first Scooby-Doo Team-Up has quietly been one of the best and weirdest all-ages books around.
Publisher's Description: Scooby and the gang meet some of the DC Universe's greatest heroes in these stories from issues #1-6, including Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman and the Teen Titans, as they take on the monstrous threat of Man-Bat, explore a Titans Tower mystery, and meet the unpredictable imp known as… Scooby- Mite?!
CATCH UP ON THE CLASSICS
Naturally, many of the best comic books ever have been released for quite some time. Every week we select one or two perennials that readers new and old should add to their collections.
Writers: Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz
Artists: Kevin Eastman and Dan Duncan
This week sees the release of TMNT: Mutanimals #1, the latest miniseries expanding IDW's Ninja Turtles continuity, and considering that it's a first issue, it almost made my list of recommendations above. The thing is, though, if you're a new reader looking to get into things, that's not a great place to start. Not because it's not good --- Paul Allor and Andy Kuhn have both produced some real highlights for the TMNT in recent years --- but because the TMNT series is so tightly plotted, character-driven and rewarding that it's hard to jump on anywhere but the beginning.
Fortunately, that beginning is pretty easy to find, both in print and digital, and it's actually one of the best action-adventure comics going. I reviewed the first few storylines here --- and be careful, there are a bunch of spoilers in there if you haven't read it --- and every time I crack open a new volume, it's even more exciting and rewarding than I thought. They have the perfect blend of action, fantasy, drama, romance and nunchuks that I want in my life, and after waiting so long to try it out, it's quickly become one of the things I look forward to the most in the world of comics.
Publisher's Description: The very core of the Turtles family is at stake as the new origin of TMNT is revealed! It’s a different world for the Turtles… The group is broken as Raphael wanders the streets of NYC in search of food and shelter. His brothers and Master Splinter are on the search, but so far all they can find is trouble–in the form of mutant alley cat Old Hob and his gang of criminals! Join Tom Waltz, Dan Duncan, and TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman for the start of a wild ride!