Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for June 8 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.
KINGS QUEST #2
Writers: Ben Acker & Heath Corson
Artist: Dan McDaid
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Last issue featured a man who had the power to turn into a giant sentient ecosystem, named Jungle Jim. That’s half of a good comic right there. But a great visual gag is nothing without a great illustrator, and last issue also had that in the form of the artistic stylings of Dan McDaid. McDaid brings a sense of gritty joy to everything he renders in this cracking crossover fable featuring Ming the Merciless, no fewer than two Phantoms, and in this issue, the classic “split up and handle multiple problems” storytelling approach. Team books and crossovers never get old, and Kings Quest is a joy to read. [Charlotte Finn]
SECRET VOICE #1
Writer/Artist: Zack Soto
Publisher: Alternative Press
Zack Soto's webcomic returns to print this week thanks to Alternative Comics, who appear to be printing all three issues in the same month. Secret Voice was and is part of Study Group Comics, and is a take on the epic fantasy/adventure story, with monsters and wars and all else that genre would entail. In addition, Soto throws in liberal amounts of romance, kung-fu and trolls in addition to the above mentioned glories of the comic, creating a cluttered but oddly structured and smart comic which races through each page with verve and adrenaline.
Soto's artistic style clearly grows and develops as the comic pushes onward, creating a story which improves as it goes along, and grows into something single-minded and thoroughly impressive. It's good fun, and something hugely different from the other comics on the shelves today. Let me quote a sentence from the solicitation to give you the gist: "The warrior-monk Dr. Galapagos enters the Troll Kingdom to win their help against the forces of the Smog Emperor, but things go horribly wrong and a heated battle ensues".
Best gist ever, right? [Steve Morris]
WACKY RACELAND #1
Writer: Ken Pontac
Artist: Leonardo Manco
Publisher: DC Comics
Okay, I’ve mentioned my all-consuming fascination with DC’s Hanna-Barbera reboot before, but here’s the thing about Wacky Raceland: “It’s Mad Max meets Wacky Races” is the way that you should describe some kind of pastiche, a project that takes elements from those two franchises, file off the serial numbers, and do your own bizarre thing. It’s shorthand for an elevator pitch, not the kind of thing that should exist in a literal sense. And yet, here we are, with an official Wacky Races comic that features a leather-clad Penelope Pitstop riding historic, shiny and chrome against Dick Dastardly and a cybernetic Muttley. It’s real. It’s actually happening. And honestly, I’m pretty excited.
I think this is the classic example of a premise that could go either way. It all comes down to execution, whether it goes as over-the-top as it needs to. If it does, if it hits that magic sweet spot, it’s going to be great, but if it falters even a little bit, it’ll crash under its own weight and feel terrible. I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot of middle ground here, which makes it the kind of all-or-nothing proposition that you don’t really see a whole lot in comics — even if it’s just okay, it’ll read like the kind of mediocre that kills the premise. But I’ve got hope. With Future Quest being as straight-up great as it was and Scooby Apocalypse taking that turn into being exactly as weird as I wanted it to be, Wacky Raceland has the potential to be my favorite new comic of the year. Here’s hoping they remember the title! [Chris Sims]
WONDER WOMAN REBIRTH #1
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Matthew Clark and Liam Sharp
Publisher: DC Comics
Any Wonder Woman fan will tell you that Greg Rucka is one of the best writers ever to handle the character. His run a decade or so ago set a new standard for Wonder Woman comics that few have lived up to since. And then that run had an abrupt and ignoble ending, to the dismay of those of us avidly following it at the time. Now, years later, Rucka’s back on the book. Thanks to the New 52, this is a somewhat different Diana, but thanks to DC Universe Rebirth, maybe not as different as we thought. Either way, I can’t wait to see what this creative team has up its sleeves. And it all starts here. [Elle Collins]
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The first arc of King and Walta’s critically acclaimed Vision series was tense and intimate, but the new (and final) arc starts with this week’s issue and promises to bring the Marvel Universe crashing down around The Visions. The revelations of the previous issue about The Vision’s wife still have me reeling, and I need to know what happens next.
King’s character work is second to none, and Walta’s down to earth take on superhero weirdness is the perfect for a left of centre comic like this. The Vision has been one of the most consistently gripping superhero tales of the past decade, and if for some reason you’re not reading it, now’s the time to jump on and see what the fuss is about. [Kieran Shiach]
MIDNIGHT OF THE SOUL #1
Writer/Artist: Howard Chaykin
I've heard the opinion that Howard Chaykin is repetitive, and it's not exactly something you can argue with. Pick up a random Chaykin comic and it's likely to include some combination of noir, jazz, sex, science fiction, '50s America, and cynicism, and Midnight of the Soul, a project he's been working on for at least the last 10 years, features more of the same. But don't mistake a familiar style for a lack of substance. Chaykin certainly has his way of doing things — the femme fatale, the bile, the lantern-jawed alcoholic antihero who looks a lot like all his other lantern-jawed alcoholic antiheroes — and he has tread the same thematic territory as Midnight of the Soul before, but based off the impact of the preview pages, I'd say it's still ground worth covering. Despite his predilections — you could even call them clichés — you'd be hard-pressed to find another artist who has so passionately scrutinized the reality of the American dream. [John Parker]
Writer: Markisan Naso
Artist: Jason Muhr
Publisher: Action Lab
Every once in a while, a comic strolls onto the shelves with a perfect premise. In this comic’s case, that premise is “what if time travel was used to cook dinosaurs?” That premise is a gem, and the execution delivers, giving us a side of the world that’s not often shown — in the form of an indigenous protagonist and the travails of a chef, which is an occupation just as stressful as punching out the Joker. All this and it promises recipes, and on top of that, all the dinosaur meat can be swapped out for meats that you don’t have to break the laws of space and time to obtain. What more could you ask for in a comic?, short of an actual time machine to travel back in time and tell everyone "hey, maybe don't bother buying five copies of X-Force #1?" [CF]
LUMBERJANES/GOTHAM ACADEMY #1
Writer: Chynna Clugston-Flores
Artist: Rosemary Valero-O'Connell
Publisher: Boom Studios
This book is simultaneously a natural crossover that anyone who’s a fan of both properties has probably imagined, and a comic I don’t think any of us ever thought would ever actually be published until it was announced. But here we are: Olive, Maps and the Gotham Academy gang are coming face to face with Jo, Ripley, and the rest of the Lumberjanes. We know there’s a mysterious building deep in the woods, and I for one will not be surprised if there are monsters in it. Or at least something that gives the appearance of monsters at first glance. There’s bound to be adventure, mystery, and friendship. I’m all in. [EC]
FLASH REBIRTH #1
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Publisher: DC Comics
You may or may not know, but I have a deep and enduring love of The Flash. I started reading DC Comics around the time Wally West came back the first time, and for a while I prided myself on an unbroken run of The Flash (even the really bad arc about the bees that was the last of Wally’s solo title) but The New 52 really killed my interest on the franchise for a while, and that unbroken run became broken, and I haven’t read a new Flash comic in about three or four years.
However, I’m constantly impressed by Joshua Williamson’s work and I’m excited to see what he’s going to do on The Flash, and Di Giandomenico’s art has the perfect sort of kineticism for speedsters. I always loved the expanded Flash family, and the hook of a Speed Force storm granting a bunch of ordinary citizens powers is a cool hook, and the new villain Godspeed sounds like the kinda new threat the franchise needs. This was the first Rebirth book that really piqued my interest, and I really hope it lives up to my expectations. [KS]
THE WICKED & THE DIVINE #20
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson
The Wicked + The Divine will never get boring because it will never, ever be predictable. It's not just that fantastic depths are applied to all of the characters and you keep finding yourself liking someone you once hated or vice versa, that the story's got more twists than Lombard Street (shout-out to all the Vermont Street posse who just scoffed "tourist"), and that seemingly nobody is safe from either death or life. On top of all that, every five or six issues it just seems to change into a completely different comic book. For a time it's a pop sci-fi story about fame and fandom, then a quiet, elegiac look at youth and death, then for a few issues a supernatural mystery, then it's an action-packed superhero movie featuring glittering teenage gods at war. It's thrilling and brilliant and ceaselessly capricious, and at this point I wouldn't even be surprised if it turned into a Western for an arc. [JP]
YOTSUBA, VOL 13
Writer/artist: Kiyohiko Azuma
Publisher: Yen Press
First, the bad news: It's been two and a half years since a new volume of manga-ka Kiyohiko Azuma's incomparable comedy about an enthusiastic little girl was released in the U.S. Now, the good news, and by "good news" I mean "the best news in the world": The wait for the next volume is finally over. In this 13th volume of the series, Yotsuba's grandmother comes to visit her and her father but, as always, it's not the what that happens in the pages of Yotsuba that make them among the most charming and hilarious comics in the world, it's how the precocious little girl perceives and processes those events.
There's a decent amount of great new comics in shops this week — I'm certainly excited about some of the other stuff on this list — but there's really only one book you have to buy this week, and that's Yotsuba. And if you've somehow resisted years' worth of recommendations and never read a volume before, I envy you. Because then not only do you have this new volume yet to read, you have a 12 previous ones to read as well. [Caleb Mozzocco]
BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT, VOL 1
Writer: Alan Grant
Artist: Norm Breyfogle
Publisher: DC Comics
When you’ve got a character who’s popular enough to support a whole rack of monthly titles, there’s always going to be The Weird One. In the ‘90s, for Batman, Shadow of the Bat was the weird one — and considering that Legends of the Dark Knight was also coming out at the same time, that’s saying something.
Even though it was derailed pretty hard by the events of Knightfall (and Knightquest,and Knightsend, and…), Shadow of the Bat provided a platform for Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle to dive into stories that were moody and stylized but still action-packed, and these first 12 issues are a prime example of that approach. Their first story, “The Last Arkham,” which opens with Batman locked up in Arkham Asylum, might actually be the most influential story of the Iron Age that’s never been reprinted. Unfortunately, I don’t think the paperback comes with the original pop-up blueprint/model of Arkham itself, but that’s the tradeoff that you get for picking it up in paperback a few decades later. [CS]
PRINCLESS, VOL 2: RAVEN THE PIRATE PRINCESS
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artists: Rosy Higgins,Ted Brandt
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
I confess that it's difficult sometimes to tell how many issues of Princeless are actually out there. It took a little time where I sat down with the issues I had and arranged them before I started to get an idea of which series was the current one, how all the books sit together, and what was coming next. If you've similarly been following along, you'll know that Raven is the best of the Princesses in the series — but if you're new and wondering where to start? You should start with Raven because she's the best of the Princesses.
Swashbuckling and excitable, Raven is the one who lives a life at sea, and in this second collected volume she hits the planks once more to guide a crew of swabs to try and find her homeland — the Island of the Free Women. Getting there isn't just half the battle, though, as Whitley sets her adrift in a wave of squabbling and in-fighting which promises to sink their hopes before they even raise the gangplank. This has been the best series of Princeless so far, with Whitley and the artistic team of Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt injecting merry life into a bunch of pirates and scurvy curs. It's brilliant, wonderful all-ages fun, and a book you should definitely think about picking up today. [SM]