Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for December 28 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: Mariko Tamaki
Artists: Joëlle Jones, Kelly Fitzpatrick
Publisher: DC Comics
This is the first issue of a new miniseries for Supergirl, and a long overdue one. The character has had a year of increasing popularity, but that excitement didn't lead DC to push her in the way you'd think — she wasn't the star of a big event crossover, or join the Justice League, or do any of the things characters usually do when their alt-media appearances give them name recognition. Instead, DC spent the year putting quality talents on her stories, with everyone from Cat Staggs, Emma Vieceli, Emanuela Lupacchino and more getting a chance to draw her.
That mindset now moves on into this series as well, with a series of incredible talents gathered together here for the four-issue mini — we have Mariko Tamaki writing the story; fresh off This One Summer which proved there was no peak for her talent; we have Joëlle Jones, whose defining cover for Mockingbird somehow managed to create a lasting impact with only six words; and we have Kelly Fitzpatrick, a real-world activist and campaigner whose comics work has stretched across publishers as widely-styled as Oni Press, DC's Young Animal, and Archie. Supergirl, the fictional character, has had a brilliant year... but Supergirl the comic, as a place for brilliant women to tell brilliant stories, has had a redefining year. [Steve Morris]
Writers: Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh
Artist: Carey Pietsch
Publisher: Boom! Studios
There is Something Of a Transgender Subtext to Barney, the Scouting Lad who wants to become a Lumberjane, especially given Barney's friendship with Jo. It's been a while in coming but this looks to be the official crossing over/coming out story. While I'm sometimes hesitant about cis writers tackling trans subjects, this book has handled such characters well before — along with all of its characters, since Lumberjanes is consistently one of the most entertaining and delightful books on the stands. My mind is at ease and I'm looking forward to it. [Charlotte Finn]
Writers and Artists: Various
Publisher: IDW and DC
When a horrible tragedy like the Pulse nightclub slaughter occurs, it's easy to feel like nothing we do is counted. You pour all this love and hope and good will into the world, and it keeps spinning, oblivious; it has no idea how things are "supposed to be." And no matter how idealistic you may be, there will be times when you question the relevance of every positive action you take, because it seems as though your efforts don't matter.
It matters. At times like these, when hate and viciousness and cancerous ideas threaten to spread and destroy more lives, it's up to us to respond, to rise up together and shout "No!" at the top of our lungs. They come at us with hate and violence; we respond with love and art and charity. In this anthology, over 200 creators come together to donate over 100 stories, including contributions from Matt Wagner, Phil Jimenez, Rafael Albuquerque, Mark Millar, J.K. Rowling, Tom King, Steve Orlando, Jason Aaron, Jason Latour, Patton Oswalt, Matt Bomer, Taran Killam, Brian Michael Bendis, Scott Snyder, Gail Simone, Kieron Gillen, Paul Dini, and many more. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to Equality Florida and its fund for victims, family members, and survivors. This one actually matters. [John Parker]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Can you believe Civil War II is coming to a close. It feels like just yesterday that we were all so excited about Ulysses and his surely lasting impact on the Marvel Universe, and now here we are at the end of the series as the final clash between Iron Man and Captain Marvel is about to begin. A lot of the whos, hows and whys of Civil War II have been somewhat spoiled in the books that have launched during its delays, but there’s likely a few surprises still left to discover.
The big star of the series has of course been David Marquez, who has gone from great artist to genuine superstar over the course of these eight issues, and wherever he ends up next at Marvel it will surely be a comic to pay attention to. As an event, Civil War II might have been very hit and miss, but his art has been a hit every single time and with the biggest super-brawl of the year about to take place, it’s worth giving the final issue a look just to see Marquez’s stunning pages. [Kieran Shiach]
Writer: Hope Larson
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
“Beyond Burnside” was a great story arc, and I know it convinced me that Batgirl’s in great hands with Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque on the book. But now it’s time to go home, and as a huge fan of the previous Batgirl run, that’s something I’m really excited about. This is the first part of “Back to Burnside,” in which Barbara heads back to the Gotham borough where she’s made her home. That means the return of her previous supporting cast, and probably some recognizable villains. And speaking of the latter, this issue is a Poison Ivy story, and that’s a character I’m always up for seeing more of. [Elle Collins]
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez
Publisher: DC Comics
When Detective relaunched with a focus on the Batman Family, that first arc did a pretty elegant job of taking Batman himself out of the story and and then building a villain for future stories that was tied most directly to Batwoman. That gave the book a lot of space to play in that was related to Batman that could still let those sidekicks and associates take center stage.
With that in mind, it was a little surprising that the book’s second arc, “The Victim Syndicate,” was a story that focused so heavily on Batman himself, but the story that resulted was every bit as thrilling and compelling as the launch. It’s built on history but feels refreshing and new in the way that most of the great Batman stories do — and that we’re getting it every two weeks is pretty incredible. [Chris Sims]
Writers: Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder
Artists:Ray Anthony Height, Tamra Bonvillain, Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Whenever I write about this series on any of the various websites I'm a part of, people take it as an opportunity to blindly attack the character within the comments. There is no other book which attracts quite the vicious glee of Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, and the constant delight that people have when they think the series is about to be cancelled forever. Now, as we know this can't be about the actual quality of the book — the writing has been delightful, creating an entirely new character and bringing her to luminous life, with work from pencilers like Ray Anthony Height and Natasha Bustos casting an effervescence across the characters which subsequently flickered into radiant, dazzling light thanks to colorist Tamra Bonvillain — I guess we all know where the complaints really lie.
It's about a young black girl developing and progressing into the field of intelligence, which in the Marvel Universe is almost entirely dominated by long-lasted white male characters. It's one thing to have this happen in the real world; but another thing entirely to see that same irradiated mindset stumble gormlessly into the world of fiction. This series has been a beacon within Marvel for the last year, a shining, brilliant beam of joy which has blasted itself free of the depressing dirge many of their other comics have become. For that, I wanted to spend some time at the end of this year paying a bit of tribute: to Lunella LaFayette, the Brightest Bulb in the box. [SM]
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Dragotta
I love it when a plan comes together. Whenever a long-running series kicks into its third act I'm simultaneously a little saddened that I can feel it coming to an end, and thrilled that I get to watch all the various devices in the Rube Goldberg contraption actuate and fulfill their purpose. In well-constructed comics like Sandman, Lucifer, and The Sixth Gun, all the meticulous plotting and foreshadowing and symbolism really pays off in the last third of the series, and I just love watching all those gears fall into place, just like they were planned to do years ago. In East Of West #30, the final year of Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta's apocalypse begins. Hang on for dear life, everybody, because I have a feeling this is going to get nuts. [JP]
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: John Romita Jr, Danny Miki, Dean White, Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire
Publisher: DC Comics
This is a comic I can wholly recommend, because I got to read it last week and it’s super dope. The first four issues of All-Star Batman have been a non-stop breakneck ride with Batman, Two-Face, KGBeast and an entire county’s worth of civilians out for blood and this final installment does not disappoint. My preview copy did not feature the conclusion to Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire’s back-up story however, so I’ll be making sure to pick up my physical copy of this today to see how that ends.
Back on the main story, John Romita has been doing some of the best work of his legendary career on All-Star Batman, and his entire DC tenure so far has served as somewhat of an opportunity to recharge and prove he’s still got a lot left in the tank. Aided by the inks and colors of Danny Miki and Dean White, this is one of the best looking books out of DC Rebirth and makes you wonder what Romita could have done if he’d made the jump earlier in his career. [KS]
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Nico Leon
It’s a relief, despite Civil War II not being fully over yet, to know that Jennifer Walters, better known as She-Hulk, made it out alive after all. I would have been excited to see a new She-Hulk book, having enjoyed the last one a lot. This is not a She-Hulk book, however. She-Hulk is a glamorous green-skinned Amazonian attorney whose stories tend to have a lighthearted and upbeat tone. This, as the title makes clear, is a Hulk book: a book about a mild-mannered person who just wants to lead a quiet life, but can’t quite control the monster within them. This is a Hulk book starring Jennifer Walters, and that’s something new and exciting. [EC]
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mico Suayan
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
I know I’ve said this a couple hundred times, but "Bloodshot Island" was one of my favorite stories of the year, and one of the best things about it is that the high concept of “Predator But Everyone Is Bloodshot” is one of the easiest premises for a new reader to jump on. All you need to know going in is that Bloodshot is a super-soldier created by a sinister government project to be indestructible and unkillable, so when he wakes up on an island with the four previous models (and an indestructible nanite-infused dog named Bloodhound) and starts being hunted by something even they can’t kill, the details fall into place pretty easily.
I’ve sung the praises of the high concept storytelling going on over there for a while, but if you’ve been curious about where to start with Valiant and want a non-origin story that shows exactly what they’re great at, this is the one to get. And once it gets its hooks into you, you’ll want to read everything else. [CS]