Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for February 15 2017
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: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Jorge Jiminez
Publisher: DC Comics
The original run of Super-Sons comics — written by Bob Haney with art by Dick Dillin and a few others — are some of my favorite weird old back issues. It’s exactly what it says on the box, the story of Clark Kent Jr. and Bruce Wayne Jr. riding around the country and getting into teenage misadventures, and it’s a great little time capsule of how offbeat DC’s Bronze Age could be — until they were retconned into being an elaborate computer simulation, I mean.
But here’s the thing: The premise for this set of Super Sons might actually be even weirder than that.
I mean, you’ve got Superboy in the form of Jon Kent, the son of Post-Crisis/Pre-Flashpoint Clark Kent and Lois Lane, who somehow escaped the reboot of their universe, lived in a Bottle City for a year until Convergence, and then somehow managed to just chill out unseen in the background of the New 52 until that world’s Superman was turned to dust. Then you’ve got Damian Wayne, the son of Batman and Talia, except not really, who was raised in a tube that accelerated his aging until he could become Robin, then die, then be resurrected after Batman had a nice long chat with Frankenstein. Seriously: That’s your backstory here. Now they’re going to hang out and be friends. It’s gonna be weird. [Chris Sims]
Writers: Dave Sim and Sandeep Atwal
Artists: Dave Sim with Gustave Dore
Publisher: Aardvark Vanaheim
These certainly are strange times. It's weird enough that Dave Sim's Cerebus has returned in 2017, 13 years after the completion of a 300-issue comic that was equal parts brilliant and controversial. The fact that it's in a series of four-panel gag cartoons with the Earth-born pig superimposed onto Gustave Dore's woodcuts for Dante Alligheri's Inferno... well, it essentially confirms my fear that we are hurtling at breakneck speed towards total global absurdity.
Fortunately Dave Sim and Cerebus do absurd well. Whatever your feelings on Sim — and my own are conflicted — he is without a doubt a master of the comics form. And even with a non-working wrist, using funky collage techniques, and trapping his character in the two-up-two-down hegemony of Garfield, Sim's skills for timing, dialogue and comedy are still on display in this series of goofy comics industry in-jokes, ruminations on eternal suffering, and Guns N' Roses lyrics. [John Parker]
Mother Panic #3
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Tommy Lee Edwards
Imagine, a DC superhero comic set in Gotham City, and it’s about an all-new character with no connection to Batman. That’s exactly what Mother Panic is, except that as a Young Animal comic, it doesn’t fit comfortably within the superhero genre so much as push against it in unexpected ways. And it’s that genre-bending aspect that makes it all the more interesting that Mother Panic is now crossing over directly with DC’s other Gotham-based comics, with Batwoman confronting Mother Panic in this issue, and a Batman appearance as well. I don’t know where this conflict will lead, but these are all characters I like, and wherever it goes will at least be interesting. [Elle Collins]
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Publisher: DC Comics
DC is obviously onto a good thing with its pop-up imprint initiative, and the fact that it managed to snag Warren Ellis back not only to revist the world of WildStorm, but to completely reinvent it from the ground up like only he can. If you’ve read the backmatter of the past two weeks of DC Comics, you’ll know some of the stuff Ellis has planned for this series, but as someone with slightly more of than a passing knowledge of the WildStorm Universe, it sounds nuts and amazing.
Jon Davis-Hunt is someone that’s really impressed me on Clean Room, and while this is a completely different genre for him it seems to suit him to a tee. DC have been pumping out process art and character sketches, so they’re obvious very happy with the work he’s put in, and I think The Wild Storm has the potential to revitalize these characters in a way they haven’t been since Ellis last got his hands on them eighteen years ago. [Kieran Shiach]
Writer: Jon Rivera, Tom Scioli
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming, Tom Scioli
Publisher: DC Comics/Young Animal
You ever have one of those comic book panels where you can’t stop thinking about it, and every time it pops in your head, the world seems a little brighter, the air tastes a little sweeter, and you can’t help but give a little chuckle and think that everything might just work out after all? For me, it’s that one panel from Cave Carson #2 where Wild Dog shows up, unloading a machine gun, and just drops a calm “What’s up, s***heads?” It is a beautiful thing.
Completely putting aside how utterly weird it is that a Cave Carson title featuring Wild Dog somehow ended up as one of DC’s most exciting titles in 2017, it’s been amazing to see the return of one of my favorite obscure DC Characters — a character who is also on TV and being seeded in Green Arrow! Now, in this issue, Jack Wheeler’s hyper-violent alter-ego has stepped into fully into the spotlight, and I could not be more excited to read it. [CS]
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Chip Zdarsky
Ten months between issues might seem like a long time, but think of it as "edging" and your reading pleasure will double. As this issue of Sex Criminals drops during ComicsAlliance's Love & Sex Week, it's actually perfect timing; not at all premature. Whatever the reason for the hiatus — recovery time, getting the juices flowing again — Sex Criminals could probably take a decade off between sessions without losing any fans. Okay, I'm done making stupid sex jokes, sorry. It's inventive, hilarious, feminist, raucous, zany, and for a series about folks who can stop time when they orgasm it treats relationships and sex with a kind of realism that you don't often find in comics. Suzie and Jon's relationship moves into its next phase, a crew has been assembled, and one of the best comics in the world returns with their plans coming together. Okay, one more sex joke. [JP]
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Diogenes Neves and Ruy Jose
In this era of constant relaunches and a new #1 issue for every creative team, the line often feels blurry between ongoing comics and miniseries. Raven, however, has been a perfectly structured miniseries that serves as a reminder of how well the format can work. Raven’s an interesting part of the Teen Titans, but she’s not a hero who necessarily needs an ongoing solo comic. But giving her just six issues provides the perfect amount of space for one solid novel-length story that has something to say about the character. If you haven’t been reading the series, I recommend catching up. And if you have been, you already know why I’m excited to read the final issue. [EC]
Writers: Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV
Artist: Steve Epting
Publisher: DC Comics
I can’t think of a single book in recent memory that has brought together more elements in one package that makes it as much as of a “can’t-miss” book than the new Batwoman title. James Tynion IV has been absolutely killing it on the Bat-books for years and finally getting the recognition he deserves with Detective Comics. Marguerite Bennett is a superstar in the making who already writes a stellar Kate Kane every week in DC Comics: Bombshells. Steve Epting is responsible for possibly the best run in superhero comics of the past decade with Captain America. Everything about this book screams quality.
Batwoman is a character I have a lot of affection for too, and I actually stopped reading DC Comics for a while year after the controversy that led to JH Williams and W. Haden Blackman leaving the previous volume. Thankfully, Kate Kane is back in a starring role where she belongs and I can’t wait to see where the next chapter of her story takes her. [KS]
Writer: Jeff Parker
Aritsts: Evan Shaner, Steve Rude and others
Publisher: DC Comics
Each of DC's Hanna-Barbereboot comics has had something of a high-concept hook. Scooby Apocalypse is Scooby-Doo-meets-Resident Evil; Wacky Raceland is Wacky Racers-meets-Fury Road; and The Flintstones is social commentary at its most acidic. For Future Quest, the high concept is a lot more simple, if two-fold. First, writer Jeff Parker and his collaborators imagine all of Hanna-Barbera's superhero and adventure characters sharing the same setting, ala superhero universes like the DCU or Marvel Universe; and second, their epic adventure is told in a completely straight-forward, serious, sophisticated manner for a mature, adult audience, rather than trying to match the made-for-kids vibe of the original source material from the 1960s. It benefits enormously from the presence of artist Evan Shaner and Steve Rude, both of whom are capable of producing classy, classic-looking artwork in a manner similar to that of Alex Toth, the comics great who designed many of the characters involved in the series (although Hanna-Barbera's notoriously cheap production values meant his slick designs lost a lot of their slickness by the time they made it onto TV screens.
I know opinions vary sharply on this line of books, but for my money, Future Quest is the all-around best of them, and stands up pretty good against most other superhero comics on the shelves today. [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writers: Gardner Fox, Chuck Dixon, Kelley Puckett, Gail Simone and others
Artists: Carmine Infantino,Marcos Martin, Damion Scott, Babs Tarr and others
Publisher: DC Comics
DC's big, fat A Celebration Of books are all pretty fascinating reads, being big, giant collections sampling the entire history of the title character via stories short enough to fit in an anthology. So far, they have all tended to be something of a cross between a "greatest hits" style collection and a historical overview. Aside from offering a prism into how drastically the publisher's long-lived characters have evolved over the years — most of the Celebration books have focused on characters who have been around 75 years, rather than relatively young characters like 50-year-old Batgirl (They are apparently not counting the 56-year-old Bat-Girl Bette Kane).
The collections also function as a window into how DC itself tends to view the characters featured, as the act of curating the book reveals what aspects of the characters, which particular creators who have worked on them and which particular iterations or takes over the decades are deemed worth celebrating in 2017. That can go double for legacy superhero characters like Green Lantern, Robin and now Batgirl, who has had an oddly circular legacy, with Barbara Gordon passing the cape and cowl down to two other characters before reclaiming it herself in DC's reboot.
Whether you're already a fan of Batgirl, or are looking for an introduction to her, or are looking at how DC looks at her, this book should be invaluable. [CM]