Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for July 7 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: Becky Cloonan
Artist: Steve Dillon
You know those “Want To Know What Happens Next?” teasers Marvel has been using in the back of their comics? After the spine-crinkling cliffhanger that concluded Punisher #2, I raised my hands to the skies in exaltation, filled my lungs with air, and bellowed “Yes! I do! I Want To Know What Happens Next!”
Well, that’s what I would have done if I were able to live my life without fear. The point is, the last page of Punisher #2 was boss as hell, and so far Cloonan and Dillon are living up to my ridiculously high expectations. Their take on Frank Castle bridges the gap between his portrayal in the mainstream and the Marvel MAX versions — again, it helps that Dillon is on the boards — for a Punisher that fits squarely in the superhero world of the Marvel Universe while retaining the vicious edge in the darkest readings of the character. This is the new Punisher, and you’d best get used to it. It’s bleak, it’s ultra-violent, and it’s got super-soldier drugs that you snort off a key. Damn you to hell if you don’t already love it. [John Parker]
FUTURE QUEST #2
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Evan “Doc” Shaner
Publisher: DC Comics
Jeff Parker and Doc Shaner do old-school adventure comics like nobody else. Future Quest is in a very similar vein to their run on Flash Gordon at Dynamite, which was literally my favorite post-Alex Raymond take on that character. This comic is also doing new things with classic heroes, this time the 1960s Hanna Barbera characters like Jonny Quest, Birdman, Space Ghost, and the Herculoids. We’ve already begun to see how they’re going to fit together into one big story, and it’s only beginning. This issue’s cover features a veritable Legion of Super-Pets, with Blip from Space Ghost, Bandit from Jonny Quest, and Gloop, Gleep, Zok, and Igoo from The Herculoids. I don’t know if this delightful team-up actually happens in the issue, but I’m totally down to find out. [Elle Collins]
JUSTICE LEAGUE REBIRTH #1
Writer: Bryan Hitch
Artist: Tony S. Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics
One of the biggest surprises for me with last year’s DC You initiative wasn’t Midnighter, or Prez, or The Omega Men, I was pretty confidently they’d all be great. It was Bryan Hitch’s JLA series which he wrote and drew. I had no experience with Hitch as a writer, and my affinity with his art ended ’round about the first volume of The Ultimates. However, in JLA, he told a grand story with an interesting villain and real stakes. The heroes of the Justice League didn’t snipe at each other, or fight each other, they worked together as superheroes.
Sadly, JLA is perpetually delayed and we’re still waiting for it to finish, but Hitch is taking over Justice League as part of DC Rebirth, and with Tony Daniel on art, we shouldn’t have anymore of the delays that plagued JLA. After five years of Geoff Johns’ catty, dour Justice League title, I’m ready for some big adventure and teamwork, and this looks like the book for it.
I don’t understand why Batman is on the same team as a man with a gun, but hopefully it gets addressed. [Kieran Shiach]
TRANSFORMERS: TILL ALL ARE ONE #2
Writer: Mairghread Scott
Artist: Sara Pire-Durocher
Publisher: IDW Publishing
“Swindle is the most sought-after Decepticon on Cybertron” aren’t words you’d expect to read on any day besides whatever robot equivalent of Opposite Day exists, but there you have it: the sleaziest Decepticon, supposedly dead, is rumored to live. Just the rumors themselves are causing fraught tensions to boil over on a Cybertron that seems ready to descend into anarchy at a moment’s notice. It’s robot politics made as entertaining as IDW in general and Scott and Pire-Durocher in particular have made them! Maybe this time they’ll finally punch President Starscream so hard he gets impeached. [Charlotte Finn]
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Steve Pugh
Publisher: DC Comics
I’ve written about my intense and almost disbelieving fascination with DC’s Hanna-Barbera relaunch before but the Flintstones might be the weirdest one of the bunch. I know that seems counter-intuitive — the weird one should be the post-apocalyptic Wacky Races where the cars talk to and attempt to have sex with each other — but given the nature of the other books, Flintstones is the odd one out.
Everything else has a gimmick. Scooby Apocalypse and Wacky Raceland have that (surprisingly slow-moving) post-apocalyptic hook, and Future Quest, while a little more straightforward, has the appeal of being a big crossover between the disparate franchises. But Flintstones? As near as I can tell, it’s just Flintstones. The only thing really setting it apart is the solicitation’s promise that we’ll be seeing a class struggle in Bedrock, but even that’s not too far afield from the standard premise of the cartoon. But with that misfit premise comes curiosity, and once again, I have got to see if something happens to push it over the top into that same “I cannot believe this is actually happening” realm with all the others. [Chris Sims]
SILVER SURFER #5
Writer: Dan Slott
Arists: Mike Allred and Laura Allred
In all my years of reading comics, I’ve never once felt any kind of a connection to Silver Surfer. I’ve liked several comics he appeared in, but despite recognizing the pathos and respecting him as a tragic figure, especially in the early stories, I just never really… cared. Norrin Radd is an off-putting, alien character, and I’ve spent most of my comics-reading life being put-off and alienated by him, and I fully expected that trend to continue until my eventual death by auto-erotic asphyxiation. (I don’t know much, but I know myself.) Then Dan Slott and the Allreds took over, transformed Silver Surfer into one of the most fun comics on the stands, and made the character not just likable, but freaking lovable.
If, like me, you once found the Silver Surfer stodgy, melodramatic, and just plain unlikable, give the current series a chance to change your mind. If you could synthesize joy into something tangible and print four colors on it, it would probably look a lot like Silver Surfer, and you just can’t help but love the earnest, befuddled, heart-on-his-sleeve version of the character that zooms through these ebullient pages. [JP]
Writer: Tom King
Artist: David Finch
Publisher: DC Comics
If there was one problem with the first issue of the Rebirth-era Batman, it was the melodrama. Batman is, after all, a superhero who accomplishes the impossible on a daily (or at least nightly) basis, so having him give a lip-quivering goodbye to Alfred while saving Gotham City felt a little bit over the top. The longer we get from that issue, however, and the more I think about it, the more I end up liking it.
The second volume of Batman opened up with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo reminding readers of how great Batman is, kicking off the new 52 era with pages that showed him as hyper-competent and able to conquer impossible odds, only to pull the rug out from under his feet with the arrival of the Court of Owls and the reveal that there are things about Gotham that he doesn’t know — and might never know. Here, King and Finch and reminding us of Batman’s limitations and his humanity, setting up the conflict with his new “competition,” the hilariously named Gotham and Gotham Girl.
With all that in play, the story is ready to move that conflict to the next step as we get into the second issue, and while there’s nothing I’m more tired of than seeing Batman fight the real Superman, throwing him against a similar character who might have secrets of his own is a pretty solid recipe for a good time. [CS]
KINGS QUEST #3
Writer: Ben Acker & Heath Corson
Artist: Dan McDaid
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Last issue featured a battle through a fortress shaped like Ming the Merciless’s head, that went up the page instead of down — and thanks to Dan McDaid’s storytelling, was perfectly easy to follow. Last issue, Mandrake the Magician banished an army with a card trick and Jungle Jim saved the day with coffee beans. Last issue, Jen the Phantom finally reunited with her on-again, off-again space princess girlfriend Dale, and all were betrayed on the very next page. Kings Quest doesn’t waste any space or miss any trick, and is gorgeous, breakneck pulpy fun. [CF]
CIVIL WAR II: KINGPIN #1
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Ricardo Lopez Ortiz
Publisher: Marvel Comics
If you follow my work here at ComicsAlliance, you’ll know that I am a sucker for a comic that features obscure supervillains, and the more you can pack onto one page the better. That’s why I’m so excited for this new series that could be the sleeper hit of the Civil War II event as Wilson Fisk aims to turn the conflict between heroes to his advantage.
Rosenberg and Ortiz are both ones to watch in terms of upcoming artists, and armed with a great hook like they have for this series, Civil War II: Kingpin promises to be a treat. Now, if I can some sort of guarantee that Marvel’s greatest villain The Spot shows up, then you can pretty much guarantee I’ll love it. Until then, I can still confidently say without any bias that this mini looks great. [KS]
ABSOLUTE PREACHER, VOL 1 HC
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Steve Dillon,
Publisher: DC Comics
It’s unclear if feature films and, increasingly, televisions shows based on comic books drive much in the way of interest or sales towards the source material. It seems that adaptations of standalone works, like, say, 300, Watchmen or Walking Dead do get sizable bumps, while movies and series based on a character or franchise in general, like, say, Batman, Spider-Man or The X-Men, do not.
One definite benefit of this multi-media synergy, however, is that the appearance of a new movie or show generally gooses publishers to make as much of the source material available as possible, just in case viewers are converted into comics readers, and thus AMC’s recently-launched Preacher series no doubt had a little something to do with Vertigo releasing this massive 740-page hardcover “Absolute” collection of the first 26 issues of the Garth Ennis-written, Steve Dillon-drawn 1995-2000 series (It ran for 66 issues in total, with some one-shots and miniseries, so I would expect another, or perhaps two more, volumes in this series).
I don’t have a TV (yeah, I’m one of those people), so I can’t tell you if the show is any good (although I know some people who could!) or how it compares to the comic. I can tell you that Preacher remains the very best long-form work from one of the better writers of mainstream comics, and while this version will cost you a pretty big chunk of change, it’s worth every cent. [Caleb Mozzocco]
A-FORCE, VOL 1: HYPERTIME TP
Writers: G. Willow Wilson and Kelly Thompson
Artist: Jorge Molina
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Maybe you stayed off the Secret Wars tie-in train and didn’t read the original A-Force mini. Or maybe you read it, but the weird Battleworld continuity wasn’t your cup of tea. Maybe you’re brand new to Marvel Comics, and nothing I’m saying makes any sense to you. No matter which it is, you should start reading A-Force with this collection, which contains the first four issues of the current ongoing series as well as some bonus material. A-Force, if you don’t know, is an all-woman team that consists of She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Dazzler, Medusa, Nico Minoru and a new character named Singularity. This is the story of how the team gets together. It relates to stuff from Secret Wars, but you don’t need to have read that to understand this. All you need to know is that this is a fun story about women coming together to be friends and kick butt. And I don’t know about you, but I always want as much of that as I can get from comics. [EC]
ADVENTURES IN THE RIFLE BRIGADE TP
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Carlos Ezquerra
Publisher: Image Comics
In sharp contrast to the other big collection of Ennis-written material, Adventures in the Rifle Brigade doesn’t haven’t a lick of seriousness to it, although, like Preacher and Hitman, it offers Ennis an opportunity to indulge in some of his favorite subject matter: World War II, over-the-top parodic comedy and making fun of — or should I say “taking the piss out of?” — certain UK stereotypes. The concept? A special forces team composed by deviant and dysfunctional characters take on missions too dangerous (and/or too silly) for anyone else, as in “Operation: Bollock,” where they must secure the missing testicle of Adolph Hitler, said to be imbued with occult powers.
The two, three-issue mini-series were originally published in 2000 and 2001 by DC’s Vertigo imprint, and were collected together. This edition new edition comes courtesy of Image, and appears to have a new cover by Ezquerra (Brian Bolland drew the original covers for the first series, and it was one of his covers that was used for the DC collection). [CM]