Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for January 18 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: Sean Lewis
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Although it will be released a couple of days before the inauguration of the odious and illegitimate President-Elect Donald J. Trump, I'm going to give The Few the distinction of being the first of what I assume will be many tales of dystopian America to come in the next four years. In Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman's The Few, two brothers fight to survive in an America overrun by militias and extremists before coming across Hale, a mysterious woman with a past, fighting to protect a baby from the dangers of the world. Sherman's scratchy, minimalist style is perfect for conveying the wreckage and waste of a tribal nation that has been mostly abandoned to the badlands. A stark and prescient book that's coming at just the right time. Don't even think of it as a comic; it's a survival guide for the future. [John Parker]
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Stephen Byrne
Publisher: DC Comics
I was a fan of the Ray Terrill version of the Ray back when I was a kid and his original book launched. And of course I’ve also been a fan of Steve Orlando for a while now, so I’m curious to see what he does with the character, both here and in the Justice League of America ongoing. I love that this new Ray is gay, and that he has the same origin as the ‘90s version, of having been literally kept in the dark his whole life to protect him from his own powers. That idea of being hidden in the darkness and then discovered that the light gives you strength is such a potent queer metaphor that I’m kind of astounded it wasn’t meant as one all along. [Elle Collins]
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Ryan Browne and Jordan Boyd
Publisher: Image Comics
Hey, does anyone else ever do that thing where they hear about a new comic and start shaking with jealousy that they didn’t come up with that perfect, simple premise first, and then have to go lay down in the dark for a while when that gives way to the realization that the people who are actually doing it are going to be way better at it than they could ever be? ‘Cause I’m really hoping it’s not just me.
Anyway, that’s exactly what happened when I heard about Curse Words. From the brilliant title to the high concept of a fantasy wizard named Wizord comes to earth and uses his magical powers for personal gain, only to open the door for his enemies to follow him to Earth, it’s got an immediate appeal, and combining Soule’s unfailingly clever writing with Browne’s over-the-top aesthetic and storytelling? It might already be my favorite comic of the year, and I haven’t even read it yet. [Chris Sims]
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Dustin Nguyen, Emi Lenox, Nate Powell, Matt Kindt and Ray Fawkes
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
I haven’t had much occasion to write about Black Hammer since binging on the first handful of issues a month ago, so I’m going to gush a bit here. It’s a phenomenally great superhero book, but so much more besides. There’s mystery, romance, horror and more as the trapped heroes resign themselves to their lives in small town America. I’m captivated by the struggles and sorrows of these former heroes, and I can’t wait for the next issue every month just hoping for a chance at some answers.
Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston have built an increasingly clever and interesting world in the ongoing series, but this Giant-Sized Annual looks to be a great excuse to really cut loose with the characters and show them in a variety of new scenarios with guest artists leading the way. Most, if not all, of the guest artists are past or present collaborators with Lemire but all have their own unique voice to their art which should provide a whole new perspective into the world of Black Hammer. [Kieran Shiach]
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Steve McNiven
Where the original Monsters Unleashed was a dark, macabre horror title, this new incarnation promises to be what all big comics events should strive to be: crazy and colossal; replete with fantastic creators, team-ups, giant fights, and what the hell, a bunch of monsters. While it's a little disappointing that a potentially unifying event comes so quickly on the heels of Civil War II tearing the alliances of the Marvel Universe asunder, the sheer sensationalistic glory of every hero fighting every monster is worth it. After the opening installment from Steve McNiven, the following bi-weekly issues will be illustrated by superstar artists Orrgo, Goom, Googam, and Mangog, featuring appearances from classic Marvel monsters like Leinil Yu, Greg Land, Andy Kubert, and Salvador Larroca. Or something like that. [JP]
Writer/Artist: Mark Stack and Jean Pe
Publisher: Self (Gumroad)
As a child, your home can seem suffocating and the world outside the front door can be enticing. After all, all you have to do is step outside. Sail withholds the specifics of why Carrie leaves home and takes to the sea and is the wiser for it, instead focusing its short length on what she sees on the ocean. Her encounter with Kahley the mermaid, beautifully illustrated by Jean Pe, changes her perspective about her own home, and sets up the thoughtful finale. Stack and Pe use the 10 pages of Sail with a skill and economy that knows exactly when to pause and take in a quiet or powerful moment. I look forward to seeing what they do next, but in the meantime, I’m glad to have Sail. [James Leask]
Writer: Jack Kirby
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publisher: DC Comics
Unless the inevitable DCU/Watchmen crossover somehow manages to swerve us all and lean into Rorschach and Nite Owl suddenly existing in the same continuity as Super-Gorilla Grodd and Orca the Whale Woman, I think it’s safe to say that the Kamandi Challenge is going to be the weirdest DC Comic of the year. It’s an incredible example of taking an idea that didn’t necessarily work the first time around — the original DC Challenge, a mystifying game of Exquisite Corpse that only people who write about comics for a living remember — and figuring out a way to make it interesting. It’s one thing to have a different creative team in each issue continuing an overarching story, but the added gimmick of dividing up Kamandi’s “After Disaster” future and building the stories around locations like the Kanga-Rat Murder Society and the “MAD-HOLE”? I am all in.
But before that gets there, here’s an easy way to get some context with a reprint of some original Kamandi stories. I’ve often said that it’s one of Jack Kirby’s most accessible and entertaining stories, and if you don’t already have ‘em handy, I can pretty much guarantee that they’ll be the best thing you can pick up this week. [CS]
Writer: Margaret Stohl
Artist: Ramon Rosanas
I’ve been a Carol Danvers fan for a long time, but she doesn’t tend to fare well in events. I mean sure, she had a central role in Civil War II, but it felt very out of character and didn’t exactly make her sympathetic or likeable, what with the whole locking people up for things they haven’t done yet deal. But now she’s back in her own book, and the PR copy implies that she feels some degree of regret, even as the public regards her as a hero. So while I haven’t liked what Captain Marvel has been up to lately, I’m interested in how this new creative team will go about redeeming her. Because when she’s at her best she’s one of my favorite characters, and I hope she can find her way back to that status. [EC]
Writer: Ollie Masters
Artists: Tyler Jenkins, Colin Bell
Publisher: Boom Studios
I love a mystery that works itself out properly, without excess teasing, and without slowing down a story just for the sake of withholding the big surprises. In Snow Blind, the creative team manage to come up with a smart premise which they unfold at just the right pace, extending the mystery just long enough to make it hit with maximum impact. This is a gorgeous crime story, stunningly put together by artist Tyler Jenkins with an eye towards showing off a slew of lovely, lush landscapes which box in the characters and hold them trapped inside a rapidly escalating situation. I don't want to give away much about this, but writer Ollie Masters shows off an adept hand for crime (as he did in The Kitchen) which should hopefully see him at the starting stages of a lengthy comics career. The entire creative team are on top form for this one — it's highly recommended. [Steve Morris]
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Publisher: Image Comics
Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser are perhaps the most dependable creative team in comics now, not to mention prolific. There’s no time off for the trio as on the heels of the excellent The Fade Out comes Kill or Be Killed, which is another crime comic, but this is one of the team’s most interesting takes on the subject.
After a botched suicide attempt, a young man is haunted by a demon who demands that he must kill wicked individuals in exchange for his own continued life, but our “hero” can’t be sure that this demon and this threat is real. Kill or Be Killed brings a whole new meaning to the words “morality play” as it asks how far are you willing to go to survive, and how much can you trust what you see with your eyes. It’s a killer hook, and the resulting story more than matches and surpasses it, making it some of the team’s best work in a long time. [KS]