Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for April 20 2016
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: Greg Rucka, David Brothers, Robert Mackenzie, David J. Walker and Eric Trautmann
Artist: Michael Lark with Brian Level, Tyler Boss, Santi Arcas, and Owen Freeman
Publisher: Image Comics
Last week, I spoke to Greg Rucka and Michael Lark about Lazarus, and when I brought up the upcoming sourcebook, Greg mentioned the idea of being a gamer and how that process folds into his world building. It stuck with me, because it reminded me that there’s a certain kind of reader that obsesses over the details of a setting, whether it’s poring over a Monster Manual or digging through Official Handbooks and Who’s Whos. And that, friends and neighbors, is a demographic that I am definitely a part of. I mean, I even read and re-read the WildC.A.T.s Sourcebook a hundred times when I was a kid, and that cartoon only lasted for thirteen episodes. I am a detail-oriented reader.
And with Lazarus, it’s been pretty easy to obsess. If you’ve read the series before, you know how well Rucka and Lark have managed to integrate the details of their dystopian future into the story. They’ve created a world that seems real in a way that you can only really do if you know details that might never make it onto the page, and the way they’ve bee doling them out has always left me wanting to know more. Now, we’re getting our chance. In the first of what I hope are many volumes, Rucka and Lark are giving us all the details about the Carlyle Family and their territory — with hints of how it weaves into the world beyond their borders, and how they came to dominate the West Coast.
If you’re new to Lazarus, I don’t think this is the place to start — and with the storytelling that’s going on in the main title, I don’t think it’s strictly necessary — but if you’re the kind of person who’s been wondering about what kind of television shows they watch and the dirty details of how their economy works, you’re absolutely going to want to pick this one up. [Chris Sims]
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
Most normal noir stories don’t feature 3D specs that let you see Death coming before it wraps its icy fingers around your throat, but most noir comics aren’t Astro City. Most noir protagonists aren’t Steeljack, either — tracing a path through an underworld plot of stolen supervillain technology — but Steeljack is cast from the classic noir mold, armed not with brilliant deductive powers so much as just enough cynicism to navigate the seedier side of the world, and enough idealism to try and do the right thing despite it all. Astro City the series and Astro City the setting — and its creators, Brent Anderson and Kurt Busiek — continues to showcase versatility, switching from space adventures to love triangles to a hard-boiled noir tale, showing everyone just how much the genre has to offer, if only we let it grow outwards a little. I never seem to run out of ways to say, “It’s Astro City and it’s still fantastic,” and I hopefully never will. [Charlotte Finn]
Writer/Artist: Matt Kindt
Colors: Sharlene Kindt
Publisher: Dark Horse
While writing what seems like fourteen ongoing series, Matt Kindt has somehow found the time to write and draw another of his original creations, and that's where you're getting the best Kindt-value for your Kindt-dollar. And with Matt's wife Sharlene Kindt providing all the watercolors for this book, you'd actually be getting a two-for-one, you thrifty SOB (or non-gender-specific variation thereof).
Set in a deep-sea research station, Dept H involves spies (natch), sabotage, flooding, a locked-room murder mystery, and assuredly all kinds of Kindty goodness — strong characters, unconventional formalistic tricks, unexpected twists, and quirky marginalia — will be found inside. If all you know of Matt Kindt are the comics he writes for others, you owe it to yourself to discover the weird worlds he creates in Dept H. [John Parker]
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweister
Publisher: Image Comics
The Lawless family represent what Criminal is about more than any of the other protagonist in the series’ history, with father Teeg’s actions in the seventies reverberating throughout the series. This special anniversary issues, celebrating 10 years of Criminal, stars Teeg and his son Tracy as they go on the run in a father-son bonding story that only Criminal could do.
The issue also features a special comic-within-a-comic similar to last years The Savage Sword of Criminal, Brubaker, Phillips and Breitweiser bring you the sensational character find of 2016 in Fang, The Kung Fu Werewolf! Make sure to get the special Deadly Hands version that is magazine sized for the full pulp effect! [Kieran Shiach]
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Sophie Campbell
The Holograms have to stop Synergy! And if you know your Jem, you know that Synergy is a sentient computer with holographic technology that can do just about anything, so that’s going to be a challenge. But she’s been infected by a mysterious and malevolent presence, which is using sound to infect humans in turn. The Holograms have just recovered from that infection themselves, and they know the only option is to stop the problem at its source. But how do they do that? And if Synergy is permanently damaged in the process, how can Jem go on being Jem? There are a lot of questions going into this issue, and the answers promise to be interesting. [Elle Collins]
Writer: Kieth Giffen, Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Aaron Lopresti
Artist: Bilquis Evely, Eduardo Pansica and Rob Hunter, Yildray Cinar and Trevor Scott, Aaron Lopresti and Matt Banningm
Publisher: DC Comics
Okay, so y’all remember how completely bananas that Sugar & Spike story was in the first issue, right? The one where Giffen and Evely took the two toddlers from Sheldon Mayer’s long-running humor comic and recast them as hard-boiled, star-crossed troubleshooters for the superhero community? You should, because it was one of this year’s most bizarre and entertaining debuts, and exactly the kind of comic where you read it, and then wake up the next morning convinced that it was just part of a really weird dream.
Point being, this week marks the release of the second part, and since they’ve already helped Batman recover his rainbow costumes from Killer Moth, this story finds them dropping into a Superman story, specifically heading off to “a tropical resort shaped like the Man of Steel.” And honestly? I don’t know for sure that this is the Superman-shaped island from 1957’s Action Comics #224, but I’m also not willing to take the chance that it isn’t. [CS]
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Eric Canete
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
A lot of hay has been made about Clean Room being Gail Simone’s first Vertigo series, but not enough is said about the look of the series, which finds the disturbing in the clinical. The art of regular series artist Jon Davis-Hunt, with color assists by Lee Loughridge and Quinton Winter, create a world that looks like a hospital. Clean Room is full of white spaces and clinical panels and bright colors the cult even wears superhero-like uniforms in the Clean Room that still come off as disturbing once you start to see the germs that evolved to survive, like superbugs, in this antiseptic world, and start to smear blood around and break panel barriers apart. Clean Room #7 continues Davis-Hunt's artistic exploration of this disquieting world, and thanks to his work and the great writing by Gail Simone, the book has become the horror comic that has stuck with me the most since I started reading it. [CF]
Writer: B. Clay Moore
Artist: Jacob Wyatt
Hard to believe it's already been eight years since the last installment, but according to the internet time is rapidly passing us by, and we've been Hawaiian Dick-less for almost a decade. (I really tried to avoid that, but I'm a hack and you are right to hate me.) One of the my favorite comics of the 2000s, Hawaiian Dick is a cocktail of detective noir, Tiki culture, supernatural horror and post-World War II contradictions of optimism and regret. B. Clay Moore and his collaborators consistently tell stories that are frightening but funny, with all manner of dark things happening out in the bright and sunny environs of 1950s Hawaii, and on Aloha, Hawaiian Dick, Jacob Wyatt (Necroplolis, Ms. Marvel) steps in as the best artist to have worked on the title since Steven Griffin. Charming, thrilling, and unpredictable, it's about time we got more Hawaiian Dick. [JP]
Writers: Kat Leyh, Shannon Watters, and Chynna Clugston-Flores
Artists: Brooke A. Allen and Laura Lewis
Lumberjanes has been the Best Thing for more than two years now, and this is an oversized anniversary issue to celebrate. The main story features the return of original Lumberjanes artist Brook A. Allen, plus there’s a backup story written by Blue Monday’s Chynna Clugston-Flores, with art by Laura Lewis. The previous storyline ended last issue, and the solicit doesn’t reveal anything about the plot of this issue, but to be honest it doesn’t even matter. We can bet there’s going to be cool monsters, awesome adventures, and girls being friends. And this month, there’s going to be more of it than usual! [EC]
Writers: Grant Morrison & Mark Millar
Artists: Paul Ryan & John Ryberg
Publisher: DC Comics
In the middle of Mark Waid’s character defining run on The Flash in the mid-to-late nineties, he took a twelve issue break which was filled in by Grant Morrison and his then-protege Mark Millar for one of the strangest runs of the late-twentieth century. Along with the late Paul Ryan, Morrison and Millar had Wally West race the Sonic The Hedgehog analogue Krakkl and had his legs broken by the terrifying Suit.
The highlight of their twelve issue run was the introduction of the instantly iconic Black Flash, the physical embodiment of death that comes for all speedsters. In many ways, their brief run was a precursor to the “season” model comics have adopted over recent years, and is as strong a collection of superhero stories as you’re going to find. [KS]