Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for August 31 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: Roberto Aguirre Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Publisher: Archie Comics
There are more popular zombie comics, there are more intense zombie comics, and Lord knows there are more punctual zombie comics — the previous issue of this series was published in May, and the issue before that in May of 2015 — but there is no zombie comic more subversive than Afterlife With Archie. It's not just Francavilla's Halloween-colored impressionistic-by way of-realistic artwork (which no longer seems as unusual in the era of the "New Look" Archie) or that the story involves undead residents of Riverdale trying to eat their still-living friends and neighbors. Rather, Aguirre Sacasa has the squeaky-clean teens engaging in some decidedly un-Archie-like behavior, including masturbation, sex, animal abuse, incest, murder and I'm pretty sure Midge asked Reggie for a loan so she could an abortion during a flashback last issue.
In this interlude from the "Betty R.I.P." story arc, in which the evil dead found their most natural champion among the Riverdale refugees, we see what Josie and The Pussycats have been up to during the zombie apocalypse. The solicitation copy promises "the tragic and terrifying origin story" of the band, and given what Aguirre Sacasa and Francavilla have shown us in the previous nine issues, I'm going to assume it's going to be shocking, in addition to tragic and terrifying. [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writer: John Ostrander
Artist: Gus Vasquez
Publisher: DC Comics
For a lot of creators, the idea of returning to a book that they defined is a mine field. When you’ve had the kind of creative success that influenced everyone who came after you, whether they’re building on the foundation you laid down or doing their best to escape from your shadow, the sheer weight of expectations usually means that going home again is a no-win situation. For John Ostrander and Suicide Squad, though, it seems like it always works.
Maybe it’s because War Crimes isn’t the first time Ostrander has returned to the book that he, Kim Yale, and Luke McDonnell defined in the late ‘80s. Ten years ago, when he returned with “From The Ashes” to wrap up a few plot threads and bring Rick Flag back from the dead, it was like he’d never left. War Crimes might not have quite that compelling hook — and it shouldn’t, since it’s a one-shot rather than a full-on miniseries that went everywhere from Skartaris to a gang of thinly veiled war profiteers called Haake-Bruton — but it does serve as a perfect crash course in how Ostrander’s squad works. It mirrors their first adventure from ’87, and if you’ve ever been curious about jumping onto classic Squad but didn’t want to make the commitment of getting the whole run, this is exactly the issue you need to see if you’re going to like it. And spoiler warning, you will. [Chris Sims]
Writer: Grek Rucka
Aritst: Michael Lark
Publisher: Image Comics
There's a lot to love about Lazarus, even if there's not a lot to enjoy per se about a world wracked by economic inequality, the security state, post-human assassins and climate disaster. But one of the main things I love the most is that in some ways it's a modern successor to OMAC: One Man Army Corps (One Woman Army Corps, in this case.)
There's the obvious comparison of a superhuman running around in... The World That's Coming!! But more than that, it's everything that fascinates and terrifies Rucka and Lark, extrapolated out to a future time they have free reign in. And it's not a Kirby pastiche, but done entirely in Lark and Rucka's own style — and the best way to pay homage to the King of Comics is to establish a kingdom of your own. [Charlotte Finn]
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Marcio Takara
Publisher: Marvel Comics
All-New Wolverine has been a consistent delight to the point that I don’t want Logan to ever come back. Laura Kinney is Wolverine, and she’s there best there is at what she does. This annual seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun because it’s bringing in Spider-Gwen for a team-up, which should be an absolute hoot. I always love it when people pair up Logan and Peter Parker, so I’m really interested to see the dynamic between Laura and Gwen in this issue. [Kieran Shiach]
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Carlos Ezquerra
Publisher: Dark Horse
I'm aware that it's hack to just name the creators and the subject matter and throw out a little catch-phrase that indicates approval, but give me a pass on this one: Garth Ennis, Carlos Ezquerra, and tanks. Check, please!
Apparently World of Tanks is a kind of video game that offers historically accurate tank warfare simulations with over 100,000,000 players worldwide, and its makers have determined that a comic book cross-promotion is what will really put them over the top. Whatever Wargaming's motivation, I applaud their commitment to quality, because for a historically accurate comic about tanks, you literally cannot do any better than Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra. A five-issue series that follows an inexperienced crew in the pivotal weeks after D-Day, World of Tanks: Roll Out is probably the only game-based comic this week that will teach you, move you, and illustrate the great and terrible things mankind is capable of. [John Parker]
Writers: Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher
Artists: Various (unlisted)
Publisher: DC Comics
Gotham Academy is a refuge. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying a lot of DC comics right now. But they’re all part of this Rebirth thing, which I have mixed feelings about even as I enjoy the comics themselves. Meanwhile Gotham Academy, although it takes place in the DC Universe, gets to do its own thing. Olive Silverlock’s parentage will never change because of a continuity tweak. Maps Mizoguchi isn’t going to suddenly be a different age because a crossover demanded it. While the rest of the DC Universe titles are to some degree about continuity, Gotham Academy continues to be about story and character, and it excels at both of those things. [Elle Collins]
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Jen Bartel
Publisher: IDW Publishing
The last arc of Jem might’ve been the most gloriously superheroic that the franchise has ever been, up to and including the time that Jerrica had to rescue the President from being kidnapped by a literal domino-masked supervillain named the Washington Marauder. If you somehow missed it, “Dark Jem” told the story of Silica, an AI that spun out of Synergy but, rather than helping our favorite band achieve their goals of glamour and glitter, fashion and fame, was more bent on world domination through mind-control glam rock. With that finally passed, Kelly Thompson and incoming artist Jen Bartel had a pretty tough task to figure out how to top it.
Thus: “Ch-Ch-Changes,” a storyline where everything’s up for grabs and nothing is quite certain, from the lineups of the Misfits and the Holograms to Jerrica’s relationship with Rio and all the way down to the uneasy tension between the two bands. With the Stingers arriving as a wrecking ball, this feels like the true start of a “second season” for Jem, and this second issue is going right into it.
And also, there’s a bear. [CS]
Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Elsa Charretier
Publisher: DC Comics
Batwoman Kate Kane has been the main bat-person in DC's unlikely alternate history story, an unlikely ongoing series that boils down to "What If...World War II was fought mainly by scantily-clad super-ladies, many of whom were romantically entangled with one another?" On the home front, Gotham City is protected by a veritable bat-talion of baseball bat-wielding "Batgirls," many of them with familiar names like Harper Row, Alysia Yeoh and Tim Drake. Notably missing? Barbara Gordon, who has her own statuette in the Bombshells line of collectibles which was the original inspiration for this comic book series.
Regular series writer Marguerite Bennett addresses the absent Babs in this annual, which reveals that she's MIA in WWII because she was the first Bombshell, having fought in the first world war. Bennett will be joined by artist Elsa Charretier of The Infinite Loop, who Janelle Asselin interviewed here a few years ago. [CM]
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jason Masters
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
James Bond in the comics has historically been an also-ran, but Ellis and Masters are determined to be the exception with their own take on Bond. It's fannish in that it has intimate familiarity with the character, but puts a stamp on the proceedings that is unmistakably the product of Ellis and Masters.
This world carries the "a little too real" tone of modern takes on the spy genre that wouldn't be out of place i seminal works like Queen & Country, except Queen & Country never had the main character fight cyborgs right out of the Roger Moore low-key superheroic days of the character. This isn't just a James Bond comic, this is a James Bond for comics, and a great series for fans of the character who'll appreciate a different take. [CF]
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
Man, there’s nothing quite like the week when Saga comes back from hiatus. The sun shines a little brighter, the sky looks a little clearer and people seem to smile to you on your way to the comic shop. This new arc, titled “The War For Phang” looks set to be the biggest story yet for Saga (partly because I don’t think any of the other arcs had actually titles, so you know it must be important).
Vaughan and Staples are masters at moving their chess pieces into position and it looks like everything is set to collide in what is being described by the creators as an “event” which I don’t think any of us ever expected from Saga. Wreath and Landfall have been fighting over the comet Phang for decades, but the arrival of Hazel could change the tide of the war that has engulfed the galaxy for as long as anyone can remember. I’m hype, are you? [KS]
Writers: Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson
Artist: Ben Stenbeck
Publisher: Dark Horse
Sir Edward Grey is an adventurer into the weird and creepy. In this story, set in 1882, something strange is uncovered in the construction of the London Underground, and it’s up to Grey to investigate. Maybe it’s that I grew up watching Universal Horror movies, but I have a soft spot for this kind of old-fashioned Victorian creepiness. Edward Grey started out as a Hellboy supporting character, but his own books have a slightly different tone. They’re full of ghosts and mysteries and secret societies, but the one who must stand against these supernatural threats is no demon. He’s just a man, but a man who’s seen too much and is haunted by it. It’s a simple premise, as horror comics go, but it’s one that works. [EC]
Writer/Artist: Lucas Varela
I've only seen a few preview pages, but the first English edition of Lucas Varela's wordless sci-fi The Longest Day of the Future looks like a pretty interesting book. In a future controlled by two warring super-corporations, an alien spaceship crash-lands in the middle of the conflict, bringing new technologies and possibilities both wonderful and frightening. Varela's rebuke of consumerism and its destruction of the individual is drafted in traditional ligne claire cartooning with soft, pleasant colors, flat planes, and an effortless balance between the dreamy and the creepy. Kafkaesque horror has never looked so pretty. [JP]