Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for May 11 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: Mark Waid
Artist: Veronica Fish
Publisher: Archie Comics
You know, in the classic Archie universe, Hiram Lodge always seemed like he was overreacting a little bit. I mean, yes, Archie is a klutz who often knocks over vases and other objets d’art that they have sitting out on pedestals in the middle of a room — who does that? — but really, if someone’s just hanging out with your daughter, that isn’t much of a reason to have your butler physically pick them up and throw them out of the house onto the concrete.
In the rebooted Archieverse, though, there’s a bit more of a reason for that level of antipathy — namely that their first interaction involved Archie literally destroying the Lodge household while it was under construction. Since then, the enmity between the two characters has been growing, and seeing it come to a fever pitch in this issue is going to be pretty fun — even if Waid and Fish are moving away from the time-honored art of the Butler Toss. [Chris Sims]
Writers: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Elsa Charretier
Here we are at the end of another DC You book. Maybe not as beloved as some of the others, but I’ve really enjoyed it. This was the Starfire we’d been waiting for. The warmth and heart of the classic version of Koriand’r, filtered through a little bit of what makes her a favorite in the Teen Titans cartoons, with a costume that looks like clothes a (very confident) person could actually wear. Now that the book is drawing to its close, it becomes a perfectly measured little collectible. A complete story in twelve issues, that will stand forever as a testament to how good a Starfire comic can be, on the off chance anyone decides to try another one in the future. [Elle Collins]
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve Lieber
Publisher: Image Comics
The first issue of The Fix was one of the most gleefully decadent reads of 2016 so far, and the series looks set to continue that trend quite nicely. Everyone in the book is kinda terrible, and things look set to only get worse from there. While there are big heists and set-pieces, the book really excels when it examines the small idiosyncrasies of its characters, and if you thought Hammerhead in Superior Foe of Spider-Man was an oddball, wait until you find out what one of these characters likes on a burger.
The Fix feels like the best Judd Apatow movie never made and instead brought to comics, and just like any good R-rated comedy, it’s all about the characters. The creative team have once again managed to toe the line between “likable” and “scumbag” and I may not like the protagonists in The Fix, but I gotta see what they’re going to do next. [Kieran Shiach]
Writer/Artist: Xander Cannon
Publisher: Oni Press
This came out of nowhere last year and dazzled me. The storytelling was poignant and unpredictable, as Cannon mixed the prison camp experience story with giant monsters, feckless guards, and page upon page of excellently executed character choices. The ridiculous high-concept is that Kaijumax is a high-security prison for Godzilla-style giant monsters — and yet time and time again the story hinged upon believable, careful character work above all else. It's a book where the high concept feels street-level sensible, and every character you see is working through their situation in an emotional, appropriate, and understandable manner. It's all superbly funny, though, and this new season seems to be following several of our beloved monsters as they head out of chokey and back into the real world. It's going to get real hard, real fast, and I'm dead excited for whatever comes next. [Steve Morris]
Writer: Brenden Fletcher, Faith Erin Hicks, Natasha Alterici
Artist: Adam Archer, Faith Erin Hicks, Moritat, Natasha Alterici and Annie Wu
Publisher: DC Comics
Unless I’ve missed something in the solicitations, this marks the last issue of Gotham Academy before it’s rebooted with a new #1 as Gotham Academy: Second Semester as part of DC’s big Rebirth event. It makes sense, then, that the “Yearbook” storyline has that air of being a final issue, a grand clearing house of ideas and adventures for the kids that have been crammed into six pages each. It’s the kind of rapid-fire finale that you sometimes see when a series ends before its time and there’s just too much left to do to wrap things up neatly.
This time, though, we’re getting the best of both worlds, and the first volume of Gotham Academy is going out on a high note. As great as it’s been to see different creators offer up their takes on Olive, Maps, and Pommeline, I don’t think I’ve been as excited in the entire story as when I saw Faith Erin Hicks and Annie Wu showing up in the solicitations. Here’s to reading another round of great short stories — and getting the book back in a few months, too! [CS]
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Brian Stelfreeze
Like a lot of other people, I bought Black Panther #1 out of curiosity. I figured it would probably be good, but I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from a massively talented essayist writing his very first comic book. I’m buying Black Panther #2 because Black Panther #1 was a fantastic comic, and I want to know what happens next. Coates is weaving a massive multi-layered story about Wakanda falling apart at the seams, in which T’Challa is only one of the protagonists. And of course Stelfreeze remains a comics master. This is not the first time that a famous writer from outside of comics has been brought in and given a plum assignment, but I think it’s probably the first time that’s happened and the result has been absolutely perfect. [EC]
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Alex Ross
Does Kingdom Come work as well today as it did twenty years ago? Likely not. As I run through my memories of the book that re-sparked my interest in superheroes, a good amount seems like it probably wouldn't hold up. Alex Ross is an undeniably great painter and superhero stylist, but he's not exactly a high-level sequential artist, and I'm not into reading 200 pages of covers anymore. Also, the arc of the main protagonist, faithless preacher Norman McCay, works as a metaphor, but his whole plot and all of the biblical connotations are ultimately unnecessary to the story. In today's superhero comics environment, the whole thing might come across as too pompous and serious.
Despite that, Kingdom Come is still undeniably great, and deserves inclusion on this week's list because today's superhero environment probably wouldn't exist without it. Throughout the nineties, mainstream superhero comics were so dark and gritty that most were straight-up unreadable, and Kingdom Come was one of a few books that helped turn that tide. Some shine may have come off it in the last two decades, but that's just because it helped superhero comics reclaim the brightness they deserve. Somebody should give Zack Snyder a copy. [John Parker]
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: David Lopez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
I was, quite frankly, blown away by how much I enjoyed this comic. I’ve never been super into Wolverine, that went doubly-so for X-23 and I only knew Tom Taylor from the dubious Injustice: Gods Among Us comic that people seem to really like for some reason. I definitely had low expectations going into this series but I was blown away by how much fun it is! The main plot centers around Laura Kinney — the All-New Wolverine — taking responsibility for four of her own clones engineered to be killing machines, just as she was, and while that could be so very dour and serious, it’s actually a heartfelt hoot.
There are ace cameos from characters you wouldn’t expect in a Wolverine book like Doctor Strange and The Wasp, and little nods to the wider Marvel Universe make everything feel more important. Everyone in the book treats Laura as Wolverine, so in no time at all, so do you. All-New Wolverine is my favorite X-Men comic being published right now, and one of the best superhero comics period. Trust me, take this opportunity to catch up, then grab that issue where Laura teams up with Squirrel Girl, that’s great too. [KS]