Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for December 7 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: Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr
Artist: Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart
Publisher: Image Comics
I’m not sure there’s anyone out there who needs me to tell them to pick up Motor Crush this week, because judging by the people I’ve been talking to, it’s probably the single most anticipated comic of the year. Beyond seeing the team that revitalized Batgirl take on their own thing, and beyond that “own thing” being futuristic, hyper-violent, super-stylized motorcycle action, there’s an idea of circular creation here that I find really appealing.
See, back before Batgirl, one of the first things that put Tarr on the map for a lot of people — myself included — was a piece of art she did that recast Sailor Moon and her Sailor Senshi teammates as a stylish bosozoku (literally “Violent Running Tribe”) motorcycle gang. Seeing her return to that aesthetic here, after a few years of refining her already incredible art on one of the best books going, is something that’s genuinely exciting, even if the chances of the cast turning out to be magical girls with talking cats is relatively low. [Chris Sims]
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Daniel Gete
Publisher: Avatar Press
Kieron Gillen and Daniel Gete's WW2 era series about how the Axis gains the upper hand through superhumanity gets a relaunch that I'll be watching with interest. Many of these kinds of stories assume equal footing, with superhumans cancelling each other out in the long run, but this series assumes that the Axis makes the breakthrough and gains the momentum in the war, which is an interesting — if tough to read — twist. It'll be a difficult few years for stories about fascism, but at least our world doesn't have superhuman stormtroopers. Yet. [Charlotte Finn]
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Edgar Delgado
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So okay, I've not been reading The Champions, and I don't know whether it's a good series and the interior pages of this comic offer you something worth your time. But... have you seen that variant cover by John Tyler Christopher?? It's one of many 'action figure' covers he's done over the years, which turns a cover so it looks like the packaging for a Kenner toy, rather than a comic itself. And finally, after years and years of waiting, the thousands of thousands of Soviet Super-Soldier fans can finally embrace one another in relief, their dreams realized in glorious color. For today marks the arrival of Laynia Petrovna — the hero known as Darkstar — to the ranks of those legendary characters to have been paid tribute to in this way. Darkstar, of course, was the breakout star of the original Champions comic, created by Tony Isabella and George Tuska, who has gone on to a... varied career as a fictional character, appearing only intermittently to steal the show in comics like The Incredible Hulk and New X-Men. She also had her own miniseries, Darkstar and The Winter Guard, which showed the world just why she has such a loyal and presumably wonderful fan base. So yes, The Champions #3 is out today, and Darkstar's on the cover. A glorious redemption for 2016. (Oh, and just by the way I should probably mention that Darkstar is my favorite Marvel character). [Steve Morris]
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Kev Walker
Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca's run on Darth Vader was appropriately acclaimed its handling of extant Star Wars universe characters, but it will likely be best-remembered for all the new ones it introduced — Black Krrsantan, Triple-Zero, BeeTee, and Doctor Aphra, each of them cunning, dastardly, dangerous, and eminently likeable. In this new ongoing, Gillen teams with Kev Walker — one of the best sci-fi artists in comics, and author of one of the best versions of Judge Dredd ever — to follow the adventures archeologist/thief Doctor Aphra and her gang of scoundrels and psychopaths on their noble quest to scour the universe for cash, profit, and perhaps a little mayhem. Admit it: sometimes it's fun to root for the bad guys. [John Parker]
Writers: James Roberts & Nick Roche
Artists: Alex Milne and Joana Lafuente
Publisher: IDW Comics
I’m real excited for this comic, because it’s not only the first issue of Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye to come out since I caught up on the best ongoing comic right now, it’s also the last issue under the name More Than Meets The Eye. Later this month, the title relaunches as Transformers: Lost Light, but before then we’ve got a foray into IDW’s current Hasbro-centric crossover with everyone’s favorite D-List Decepticons, The Scavengers.
I haven’t been following Revolution at all, but I love MTMTE and The Scavengers so much that I’m excited for this issue regardless. It’s the bad bots that always heck up plus their Dinobot buddy Grimlock, gatecrashing the biggest toy crossover ever. What could go right?! I’m not sure how much of a jumping on point this might be, but as a send off to the original series, a reunion between the original MTMTE creative team for one fun story featuring beloved side-characters is all I could ask for. [Kieran Shiach]
Writer: Sarah Vaughn
Artist: Lan Medina
This was easily my most anticipated comic of 2016, and somehow it completely lived up to my expectations. It’s not quite like anything DC has ever published, and doesn’t even resemble anything they’ve come close to since at least the 1970s. A genre-bending Gothic horror romance comic with good old Boston Brand at the center of it (though thankfully not at the center of the central romance plot), it’s also a comic with a bisexual lead character (who’s also a medium) and a prominent non-binary trans supporting character. All that plus gorgeous art, a spooking haunted house setting, and a fun retro feel, add up to a book that makes me really happy. Let’s have more comics like this in 2017. [Elle Collins]
Writer: Ben Percy
Artist: Otto Schmidt
Publisher: DC Comics
Of all the characters who have benefited from the breath of fresh air that came from Rebirth restoring a few of their classic elements, I don’t know that anyone has gotten the upgrade that Green Arrow has. Since its relaunch, the book has been stealthily becoming one of the most interesting books on DC’s roster — and considering it’s up against the one where the KGBeast came back, that’s saying something.
Under Percy and Schmidt, Green Arrow has been pulling off one of the most difficult tricks in comics: Telling superhero stories rooted in current political and social issues that don’t come off as hamfisted and insulting to the real world issues or counter to the thrilling action that we expect from the genre. With the start of “Emerald Outlaw” (and plenty to work with here in the real world), it looks like that’s only going to continue, setting Green Arrow up as what might end up being 2017’s most interesting superhero comic. [CS]
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Fernando Blanco
The first two issues of this comic have been super-great, which isn’t surprising since Orlando’s previous Midnighter series was great as well. But here in the third issue, things are really escalating as Midnighter journeys to Hell to rescue Apollo’s soul. It’s a bit of an Orpheus story, to be sure (although here’s hoping it will have a happier ending), but it also brings to mind Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, which featured the original journey to the DCU’s Hell to rescue Swamp Thing’s love Abby Arcane. With appearances by Neron and, believe it or not, Extraño, Midnighter and Apollo is shaping up to be even more of an exploration of the weird corners of the DCU than Midnighter was, and that book had Freedom Beast in it. [EC]
Writer/artist: Sophie Campbell
Publisher: Iron Circus Comics
Shadoweyes is a particularly unique comic from a particularly unique comics talent, a semi-sci-fi story with a 1970s Marvel monster-as-superhero premise and 1980s black-and-white boom aesthetic that directly calls to mind the earlier Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles work of creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.
It's also a pretty ideal Sophie Campbell comic, demonstrating some of the most likable parts of some of her better-known work, including the diverse cast of cool teens and long-term plotting of Wet Moon, the outrageous character designs of Jem and The Holograms and action and mutant vigilante of her IDW TMNT work.
Shadoweyes is the superheroic persona of Scout Montana, an aspiring vigilante crime-fighter who, on her very first mission, gets blessed with the power to turn into the kinda scary, kinda cute super-monster Shadoweyes, and, gradually, cursed with the inability to return to her normal form. When I first read this volume in its original printing, my initial assessment was that it was Spider-Man for the 21st century. I think that description still holds up pretty well, a few more years into the 21st century. [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writer/Artist: Tyson Hesse
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
ComicsAlliance have been able to follow Diesel Ignition from the initial announcement right through to today, with the trade collection of Tyson Hesse's fantastical journey-comic now finally coming to print through Boom Studios. It's a lovely premise for a story, following the young Dee Diesel as she aspires to live up to the reputation of her legendary pilot father — but loses her ships to her greatest rival, leaving her with two feet planted firmly to the floor. All is lost for her, until a last-chance to take to the skies once more literally lands at her feet. From there, it's on with a wonderful series which floats through on a gust of charm, heart, and some absolutely lovely coloring work.
The series feels dreamlike, an all-ages odyssey through the air which brings in a succession of brilliantly-realized and engaging characters who sidle on up to Dee and bring all kinds of chaos and fun into the narrative. And Dee herself is a great, stroppy, scrappy lead character, annoying at times but always filled with a bright spark of energy which fuels the series. I absolutely loved this series, and I'm so glad to see it find its way to collection this week. [SM]
Writers: Steven Grant and Ed Brisson
Artists: Juan Jose Ryp and Korkut Oztekin
Publisher: Boom Studios
Frank Miller has had very successful film adaptations of his Sin City and 300 comics (plus less successful sequels to each) and had the opportunity to direct an adaptation of Will Eisner's The Spirit, reception of which is perhaps best described as... mixed. Miller wasn't always quite so hot a Hollywood commodity, however. He wrote a script for RoboCop 2, plus some notes for a RoboCop 3, although producers ultimately passed on Miller's vision and version of the film. Writer Steven Grant and artist Juan Jose Ryp adapted it into a nine-issue miniseries for Avatar Press between 2003 and 2006, and what would have been Miller's RoboCop 3 eventually became the comic book RoboCop: Last Stand, published by Boom Studios between 2013 and 2014. Once again Steven Grant handled the bulk of the scripting, with artist Korkut Oztekin drawing. Miller handled some of the covers, like the black-and-white version that adorns the cover of this collection.
Regardless of the merits of the RoboCop multi-media franchise and Miller and company's contributions to it, which are more or less apparent to differing readers, depending a great deal on their affection for the original film and the era of genre film-making it exemplified, these comics are undoubtedly an interesting pop culture artifact, and it's nice know they can all be found so easily between a single set of covers now. [CM]
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Greg LaRocque
Publisher: DC Comics
You love The Flash, right? He’s on TV every week, runs real fast, you know the guy? Well, if you do love the Flash, you’ll need this collection of Mark Waid and Greg LaRocque’s run from the nineties, which collects just a bit more than the first story arc, which is essentially Kid Flash: Year One for Wally West. I’m not going to go out of my way and say I’m the internet’s foremost Flashologist, but the history of the Scarlet Speedster is a specialist subject, and you just can’t beat Waid’s run on The Flash when it comes to superhero stories.
Also, if you get the first volume, that means you can get the second volume next year which features “The Return of Barry Allen” AKA the best Flash story of all time. [KS]
Writer/Artist: Luke Howard
Publisher: Big Planet
Maybe this it too broad a statement, but I think that portrayals of mental illness and neurological disorders in comics typically makes for some damn fine reading. There's Justin Green's revelatory Binky Brown Meets The Holy Virgin Mary, David B.'s Epileptic, Ellen Forney's Marbles and now we can include Our Mother by Luke Howard on that list. An autobiographical story about the anxiety disorder experienced by Howard's mother and himself told through a series of vignettes, Our Mother is alternatively frantic and serene, straightforward and fragmented, funny, nervous, and confusing. Unique and sincere from beginning to end, it deserves a place in the libraries of adventurous readers everywhere. [JP]