Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for July 20 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: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Artist: Leslie Hung
Publisher: Image Comics
Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim was such a big deal for so many readers for so long that pretty much anything he does is always going to be a big deal, at least in terms of, "Hey, what's the guy who did Scott Pilgrim's new project?" This is the guy who did Scott Pilgrim's new project: An ongoing monthly comic book-format series about a green-haired social media star and a not terribly attractive invitation to readers to "enter a world of snot, blood and tears."
This is not only O'Malley's first serially-published, comic book-comic book (like, held together with staples rather than a spine) work — Scott Pilgrim being preceded and followed by original graphic novels — but it's also his first time as a just the writer, as the only art he's contributing is one of the two covers. The interior artist (and artist of the other cover) is Leslie Hung, an up-and-comer with a slick, gorgeous art style that looks pretty much nothing at all like O'Malley. I can't remember the last time I have heard of a book that I was simultaneously so interested in and repelled by. [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writer: Jody Houser
Artists: Pere Perez and Marguerite Sauvage
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Complaining about not being able to keep up with great comics because there’s just too much to read might be the single most annoying thing someone with this job can do, but folks, we are currently experiencing an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great comics. Because of that, I only recently caught up on Jody Houser, Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage’s Faith miniseries from earlier this year.
Now that I have, though, it’s easy to see why they landed an ongoing series. Not only did it have one of the best examples of a book rescuing what seems like a well-worn cliché of a title — the driving force of the series ended up being an invasion of the motion picture industry by the evil forces of the Vine, the bad guys from X-O Manowar — but it packed its story full of action, thrills, and a character who’s likable even if you can’t relate to her job as a professional blogger working in the daily grind of pop culture criticism. It’s a great book, and with so much to do with the character — including a burgeoning relationship with Archer (of “& Armstrong” fame) that’s also being explored this week, it’s a great time to jump on. [Chris Sims]
Writer/Artist: Adam Hughes, José Villarrubia, Jack Morelli
Publisher: Archie Comics
With something like 700,000,000 variant covers out this week, it'll likely be hard to find anything other than Betty & Veronica #1 on the shelf this week. Adam Hughes steps in for an ongoing series which will set the two at each other once more, but you know that beneath it all — beneath even the gloss of Hughes' glamor and pin-up style — there's genuine respect and admiration between the two. They'll never admit it, but that's more than half their charm. And you know what isn't being discussed through all this? That the masterful José Villarubia is going to be on coloring duties for this one. I think we could all use a little pep, a little zest — with Betty and Veronica, you're pretty much guaranteed both. (And just FYI? #TeamBetty) [Steve Morris]
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Dean Ormston and Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse
I shouldn't even have to convince anybody that Black Hammer will be interesting. This is one of the most buzzed-about new books of the year. Jeff Lemire sneezes out great comics, Dearn Ormston overcame a brain hemorrhage to keep working on it, and it's got a character named Colonel Weird. All systems go, right?
In Black Hammer, a group of superheroes are wiped from continuity and relocated to an old farm, where they're coming up on ten years of banishment. Lemire has largely played it straight in his superhero work, but in Black Hammer he lets his indie flag fly, exploring the history of superheroes, and diving into the dynamics of a group of people mysteriously forced together by fate. And besides being glad that Ormston is alive and well because he's a human being and everything, I'm especially happy that he's recovered enough to continue on the book. His work is like what Jimmy Page called "heavy, but with light and shade" — art that's dark and textured and jagged, but still cartoony, simple, and lively. He's a unique bird, that Ormston boy, and he and Lemire are making a hell of a match in Black Hammer. [Jeff Parker]
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
This month's Astro City promises to delve into the background of the Broken Man, the metafictional shaman who has been part of the series since its return and who echoes, strongly, characters from metafictional superhero comics such as Grant Morrison, Chas Truos, Doug Hazlewood and Brian Bolland's Animal Man. He's tied in deeply to the overarching plot of the series for the last three years, which promises to be the most ambitious Astro City story yet. The series is famous for its one-shots, but its arcs, both big and small, also rank amongst the best superhero comics ever published, and I am very curious to see how this one gets resolved considering how tied in it is to an aspect of the genre I've always dug. [Charlotte Finn]
Writer: Simon Oliver
Publisher: DC Comics
The Rebirth issue of the new Hellblazer series is a great reintroduction to Constantine as he returns home from exile to his homeland of England and has to deal with the literal demons he left behind when he was forced to flee to America. Oliver sets up a great con for John Constantine to pull while potentially putting millions at risk, and Mortiat’s grounded and gritty art is a perfect match for a book which feels more like a Vertigo book than it has in several years. [Kieran Shiach]
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Ben Caldwell
Publisher: Marvel Comics
I’m going to be completely honest with you — I’m worried about this book. As of this issue, it hasn’t caught up with Civil War II yet, and that event definitely has major repercussions for at least two of the main characters. Also, while we don’t know everything that’s to come yet, I’ve seen no sign so far of an A-Force book in the upcoming Marvel Now relaunch (although we are getting Kelly Thompson’s Kate Bishop Hawkeye book, which ought to appeal to A-Force fans).
But my point is, I’m determined to enjoy every moment of this beautiful run while I can. Caldwell’s art is gorgeous and unlike anything else at Marvel. Thompson’s take on the characters and their group dynamic is perfect. This is easily my favorite team book on the shelves right now, and if I had my way it would last forever. [Elle Collins]
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Omar Dogan
Publisher: UDON Entertainment
Back before we had stuff like 50 amazing issues of Mega Man and an Assassin’s Creed comic that’s actually well worth checking out, I once wrote that Udon Entertainment’s Street Fighter comics were the only good video game tie-ins to ever be published. It was a bold statement — so bold, in fact, that in the interest of full disclosure, I need to point out that they once let me write six pages ‘em five or six years ago — but I still point to them as my all-time favorite version of the Street Fighter Franchise. And the best installments came under the Legends banner, where they put the spotlight onto characters like Chun-Li, Sakura, and Ibuki.
Now, Zub and Dogan are back once again, putting the spotlight onto Cammy White, throwing her into a story alongside her military special ops team, Delta Blue. For me, as someone who has loved every other Legends series — and who still holds out hope for Zub’s long-promised Street Fighter Losers: Dan Hibiki — it’s an easy purchase. I just hope that somewhere along the way, we get an origin story for that weird pointy hair fender she has on the front of her head. [CS]
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Craig Cermak
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Well the title sucks, so let's just get that out of the way. Garth Ennis and Craig Cermak's Red Team is one of my favorite cop dramas of all time, but for the follow-up they've created the clunkiest title in the west. Red Team: Double Tap, Center Mass sounds like your dumbest cousin's favorite video game. Who's gonna be in the movie adaptation, ICP and Tone Loc? I bet you a thousand dollars right now somebody's doing a nickel for armed robbery that has Red Team: Double Tap, Center Mass tattooed across his chest in blotchy prison ink gangster-clown Gothic.
Now I'm not saying the title doesn't make sense. The term "double tap, center mass" of course refers to two gunshots in close proximity, center of the chest. But Red Team: Double Tap, Center Mass is definitely not what you call the sequel to such an intense story of police power gone wrong.
That said, I really can't think of a better title than Red Team 2, so maybe I just shouldn't second-guess good creators. The first Red Team really was fantastic, and I have no doubt Red Team: Double Tap, Center Mass will be great no matter how much warm Mountain Dew comes with the purchase of every issue. [JP]
Writer/Artist: Skottie Young
Publisher: Image Comics
The last comic had Gertrude abdicate her throne out of a combination of malevolence and boredom, and Skottie Young was upfront about an interesting part of the creative process; that he decided that ultimately Gertrude wasn't the type of character to rule over anything except maybe a big pile of skulls and any arc with her dealing with actual responsibility would go all the character stood for, as well as everyone she stood on. So he decided to return her to her murder-hobo lifestyle, and it's part of why the series has so much energy to me; the characters have a life of their own (or lack thereof) and the creator is letting them dictate the story instead of shoving them into a plot that won't work. It's why I keep coming back, even though its main character may actually be the worst person in the world. [CF]
Writer: David Walker
Artist: Ramon Villalobos
Publisher: Marvel Comic
When I first heard there was a Nighthawk series coming out, I couldn’t have been less interested. I was baffled by the appearance of yet another Squadron Supreme-related book. But then I heard that Ramon Villalobos was drawing it, and I got way more interested. He’s one of the most exciting and dynamic artists working in superhero comics today.
So then I actually read the first could of issues, and now I’m all in on Nighthawk. Not just because of Villalobos, although his work is as spectacular as always, but because what David Walker is doing with this book is downright amazing. Nighthawk is engaged with up-to-the-minute real-world issues on a level I didn’t even know was possible at Marvel Comics. This hero isn’t just taking on criminals, he’s taking on the institutional racism of a police force that executes black men without trial. And it doesn’t feel clumsy or forced, the way that this ongoing tragedy is woven into a superhero saga.
And beyond all that, it’s a great, engaging read. The Tilda Johnson is the perfect balance for the taciturn Nighthawk, and the mysteries that have been set up are genuinely intriguing. I never thought I’d say it, but Nighthawk is one of the very best things happening at Marvel right now. [EC]
Writer/Artist: Peter Ricq
Publisher: Scout Comics
Originally a crowdfunded comic by a musician, filmmaker, and cartoonist named Peter Ricq, Once Our Land is about an old man and a young girl surviving 1830's Germany after an invasion by Lovecraftian monsters. Aaand... that's all I know. I didn't contribute to the crowdfunding, I haven't read the book, I know nothing about Peter Ricq, and I honestly just wasn't in the mood for his plucky-as-hell Kickstarter video. But the artwork and especially the coloring look pretty scrumptious, and you so rarely go wrong with a grizzled old man/fearless young girl adventure, a la your Wolverines and Kitty Prydes, your Cables and Hopes, et cetera. And 1830's Germany post-Dark Ones? Righteous. [JP]
Writers: Dan Slott, Fabian Nicieza and more
Artists: Paul Pelletier, Kieron Dwyer, Ty Templeton and more
Ryan North and Erica Henderson's Unbeatable Squirrel Girl series is apparently popular enough that Marvel has gone and collected just about every Squirrel Girl appearance prior to the launch of their series, going back to her first, Steve Ditko-plotted and drawn story to a "Heroic Age" era short. As the title of this 260-page collection intimates, many of those appearances are alongside The Great Lakes Avengers, the first Avengers team — if one uses the term "Avengers team" rather loosely — Doreen Green was a part of. There are also multiple Deadpool appearances, thanks to the inclusion of an issue of Cable & Deadpool and the Deadpool/GLI Summer Fun Spectacular; the kids sure like that Deadpool guy!
For fans of the current series, these stories will likely read and look quite jarring, given how different North's sense of humor is from that of Dan Slott and Fabian Nicieza, who write the bulk of the stories in this book,and none of the artists draw Squirrel Girl much of anything like Henderson does, but then, that's a large part of the appeal of the book: Seeing the break-out star of the Great Lakes Avengers' various adventures through the prism of different writers and artists as varied as Matt Haley, Georges Jeanty, Paco Medina and the late, great Mike Wieringo. [CM]
Writer/Artist: André Lima Araújo
Publisher: Titan Comics
Anybody for some cyberpunk? Last year I spoke to André Araújo about Man Plus, a new series he would both write and draw for Titan Comics. You could tell at the time that this was something he was passionate about — a chance to marry his interests and influences with a look at a future world where cyborgs are real and tension ratchets up in jolts. A story set in a "shimmering metropolis" of the future, this is a comic where each new page shows off Araújo's peerless understanding of architecture and scale as a new, consummate craftsman. His artwork is fantastic here, a developing, rising thing which casts an eerie mechanical sheen across proceedings. This isn't just a lovely thing to look at, though — Araújo has studied his genre, and he knows how to set up a story.
Man Plus starts off with a freewheeling sense of dystopia, but fairly quickly races into a thriller which actually develops a more European style of adventure than you might expect. The comic draws as much from Moebius, or the comics of Portugal as a whole, than you might expect. It's a complete mix of these disparate elements, which somehow draw into a sharp, cohesive form as the story moves forward. Like a cyborg itself, this is a patchwork creation which blends human elements into a futuristic shell — and it's fantastic for it. [SM]
Story: Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox
Script: Jeff Lemire
Art: Emi Lenox and Jeff Lemire
Plutona is a one-of-a-kind superhero comic that’s as much Stand By Me as it is Captain Marvel. When a group of teenagers find the city’s greatest hero dead in the forest, it affects them all in different ways and threatens to change their lives forever. Lemire and Lenox are pitch perfect collaborators in a way that you’d think they’d been working together for years, and Plutona is a short but affecting story in a way most superhero comics struggle to be. [KS]