Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for November 2 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: Steve Orlando
Artist: Fernando Blanco
Publisher: DC Comics
Midnighter and Apollo #1 gave me everything I want from a superhero comic in the space of 20 pages, there was action, romance, peril, two references to Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers and a heap of other deep dive DC Universe cameos. However, the thing that makes this comic such a standout is its heart.
More than anything else coming out from the publisher, Midnighter and Apollo is thrilled that it is a DC Comics, it revels in it and as a reader it’s a joy to behold. Orlando loves all the same weird DC nooks and crannies that I do, and Blanco’s art is the perfect companion. I can’t wait to see what 21st century Neron is going to look like, it’s going to be great. [Kieran Shiach]
Writers: Brandon Graham and Simon Roy
Artists: Grim Wilkins, Simon Roy, and Giannis Milonogiannis
With the final issue of "Earth War" the Prophet saga concludes, bringing to an end one of the most engrossing comics of its era. A fantastic re-imagining of a handful of Rob Liefeld properties, Prophet brought Eastern and European space opera influences to bear in consistently fascinating fashion with an inventive story, rich characters, and style to spare. What I really, really loved about the book, though, was its devotion to experimentation. The idiosyncratic talents of all its contributors — Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Giannis Milonogiannis and an army of guest artists — always seemed to combine into something new and obscure in every defiantly unconventional issue. In the largely moribund world of mainstream comics, Prophet was a reliable source of epic weirdness, and I'm going to miss it. [John Parker]
Writers: Meredith Finch, Mark Russel
Artist: Shane Davis, Ben Caldwell
Publisher: DC Comics
"This will be the last comic book day before the election is over," she announced, with a great flourish of trumpets and a sigh of relief so audible entire buildings shuddered slightly. This story features two election-themed storylines, one with Catwoman as political spoiler in the Metropolis mayoral race, and the second a return — and farewell to — the revival of Prez, the political comic that, being completely absurd, couldn't have been more at home in 2016. [Charlotte Finn]
Writer/artist: Terry Moore
Publisher: Abstract Studios
A brand-new, self-published series written and drawn by the prolific Terry Moore of Strangers In Paradise, Echo and Rachel Rising fame is always worth note. His latest effort stars Samantha, whose junkyard is visited by a flying saucer looking for parts. She does the strange visitors a solid, and before she knows it she's catering to a clientele that is out of this world. Meaning they are aliens. From outer space. Did you guys get that? [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writer: Marguerite Bennett, Cameron Deordio
Artist: Audrey Mok
Publisher: Archie Comics
One thing that I really appreciated about the first issue of the new Josie series, aside from the fact that it involved Alexandra Cabot and therefore presumably will eventually involve the magic powers that she gets from holding her cat, was how quickly it got through the origin story. In 20 pages, the characters met each other, formed a band, played their first gig, and even presumably got signed to a recording contract by Alan M. The thing is, that’s a whole lot to get through.
Now, with the second issue, we get to see what happens now that all of that setup has been dealt with and cleared away to make room for musical adventure. The band’s still in its early days — this week finds them playing their first gig outside of Riverdale — but getting so much done in the first issue can give the characters a lot of time to breathe, and considering how much potential Bennett, Deordio, and Mok have shown us already, I can’t wait to see what they do with it.
I mean, I’m guessing they won’t go to space just yet, but if they do, it’d definitely be the most surprising second issue of the year, right? Right. [Chris Sims]
Writer: Cecil Castellucci
Artists: Marley Zarcone, Ande Parks, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Saida Temofonte
Publisher: DC Comics
I find this book fascinating. The second issue of Shade the Changing Girl continues in the considered footsteps of the first, a sober and calm wandering into the essence of madness. There are so many elements of the book which help make it feel unique among its peers — punctuation being one of them. The characters, despite what they see or experience, never raise their voices. There's only one exclamation mark in the entire issue, and it's coming out of a TV. That slow tone means that the book doesn't throw madness at the readers, or make it an unusual, surprising jump; no, no.
Instead, madness seeps into the panels at an even keel, slowly taking over the story so by the time you close the book, you have to pause to realize just what an insane piece of work you've just read. And that's what interests me so much about the book — it's a clear statement of intent, a matter-of-fact approach to a very strange character study. The creative team never take an easy way out, but instead continue to build up a world which feels fairly authentic and understandable. Then they warp it, twisting the edges of reality without ripping the carefully-woven fabric of sanity. There's method in this madness. [Steve Morris]
Writer: Jeff Parker and Jesse Hamm
Artist: Jesse Hamm and Grace Allison
Jeff Parker is back on Flash Gordon, and that’s huge. I’ve been a Flash Gordon fan since childhood, which has given me plenty of time to catch up on stuff from before I was born. And if I were to rank comics creators based on their work on the character, Parker would probably come in at number two, after original cartoonist Alex Raymond. Although to be fair, he’d be neck in neck with Russ Manning who drew the strip for a while after Raymond, and Doc Shaner, who drew the book Parker wrote. That’s how good their last Flash Gordon run was. It stands up to everything that’s ever been done with the character, including the original comic strip and the 1980 movie that everyone (including me) loves. So even without Shaner, it’s incredibly exciting to see Parker returning to bring more of his pitch-perfect distillation to Flash and his friends. [Elle Collins]
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Kevin Wada, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson
This is possibly going to be more one of the most experimental and interesting single issues of the year. WicDiv #23 is eschewing the traditional sequential narrative storytelling and instead will present itself as an in-universe magazine about the Pantheon, with interviews by a a number of prominent journalists and critics including Leigh Alexander and Laurie Penny.
The issue is built around Kevin Wada’s interior comics debut, as he provides the “photography” to complement the articles. With McKelvie and Wilson providing the advertisement pages, this is going to be one of the best looking books of the week, hands down. [KS]
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Veronica Fish, Rachel Rosenberg, Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Spider-Woman swings under the radar, which is perhaps just what you'd expect from the character. Since the decision to have her carry and deliver a baby, we've seen her personality develop and solidify in unexpected ways, which have helped strengthen the character and push her into an individualistic role within the greater Marvel Universe. It's certainly helped that Dennis Hopeless is clearly striking a personal nerve when he writes each issue, and that he's been joined by a number of different artists who have been able to offer something new to the character.
Veronica Fish's stellar year continues here with her jump into work at Marvel, and her storytelling continues to leap forward. When given an action sequences, she pauses the story into panels which are different and unexpected to those you might think you'd see — and it creates a clear, precise snapshot of where the momentum lies. Adding her to Spider-Woman is an inspired move, and one which helps continue to set the book apart from the rest of the Spider-titles. This is a different perspective on superhero life, and it's one of the most consistently enjoyable comics being put out anywhere right now. [SM]
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Publisher: Image Comics
On the more serious end of the political spectrum, Bitch Planet is here to remind us of just what a monumental occasion the first woman President really is — with a reminder, in the form of the currently-fictional, very much not-white Eleanor Doane, how uneven the footsteps of women's progress often are. Bitch Planet's delays are frustrating but I have to believe that this time it's on purpose, because the cover image of anonymous, numerous grasping hands trying to stop a black woman from voting has to be meant to be as politically charged as it is. And indeed, as this series always is. [CF]
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Tony Parker, Blond
Publisher: Image Comics
Hey, here’s a fun historical fact for the next time you’re partying with people who enjoy hearing the etymologies of military terms: “Mayday,” as a distress signal, has nothing to do with the early summer holiday of the same name. It’s actually derived from the French “venez m’aider,” which means “come and help me,” and it’s always repeated three times, to distinguish it from any similar-sounding phrases. So now you know how to signal for help if you’re ever on a capsizing boat.
Which, incidentally, is not entirely out of the question if you find yourself in a comic book written by Alex de Campi. Over the past few years, she’s proven that she excels at putting her characters through horrific situations, and while maritime disaster doesn’t seem too terribly likely for a pair of Soviet spies trapped in California in the ‘70s, that just means that there’s going to be something even more terrible in store for them as they try to decide whether it’s worth it to return to their home country, or whether they should give in and attempt to defect — if their American enemies will even let them.
Between Archie vs. Predator, Grindhouse, No Mercy, and Semiautomagic, Alex de Campi might be having the single best hot streak of anyone writing comics, and with her words and fantastic art from Parker and Blond, I don’t think Mayday is going to the book that breaks it. [CS]
Writer: Douglas Rushkoff
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Publisher: Dark Horse
There's a lot of information out there about supposed connections between Aleister Crowley and Adolf Hitler, but the theory with the most circumstantial evidence and biggest amount of inherent awesomeness is that the Great Beast 666 was actually an English spy. Crowley even claimed to have been the one to come up with the V-for-Victory sign to unite the world in symbolic opposition to Hitler's Swastika. Regardless of how true or untrue the whole thing is it's a great story, and in this new original graphic novel, media theorist/essayist Douglas Rushkoff and artist Michael Avon Oeming take the idea and run with it. In Aleister and Adolf, the Axis and Allies do battle on the fields and in the skies, but in secret a full-scale magical war of sigils is waged by Crowley against the Reich, with nothing less than the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Comics, everybody. Aren't they great? [JP]
Writer/artist: Julia Gfrörer
Gifted and/or cursed by a supernatural strength and resiliency to death, Agnes is one of the dwindling number of survivors of the plague killing the inhabitants of a medieval city where death isn't just a fact of life, it's a part of daily life in Laid Waste.
Gfrörer's delicate line-work and detailed, representational black-and-white designs once more set the artist's dark, stark fantasy in an uncomfortably real reality that, even separated from a reader's own life by centuries of time, still feels disturbingly close. [CM]
Writer/Artist: Dave McKean
Publisher: Dark Horse
If it’s been 25 years since Cages was first published, it’s probably only been 15 since I last read it. The hardback copy I once owned was so big that it collapsed under its own weight, which makes revisiting the story in paperback form that much more appealing. I imagine Cages is pretty dated now, with its Salman-Rushdie-in-hiding references and middle-aged-white-British-guy handling of race. But what I loved about Cages when I was young, and what makes me want to revisit it, is its handling of art, and of loneliness. I’d like to think that stuff has stood the test of time. Also the weird stuff with the cat is great. [EC]