Best Comic Books Ever (This Week): New Releases for June 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: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Derek Charm
Publisher: Archie Comics
Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson’s consistently excellent Jughead comic has thus far been every bit as good as Mark Waid and company’s rebooted Archie comic, only wilder and funnier, as befits a comic starring Archie’s comedic sidekick character. Their first story arc concluded with the sixth issue, and now Zdarsky is paired with a new, non-Erica Henderson collaborator, Derek Charm. Will this negatively effect the book? Considering what an excellent artist Charm is — check out his Tumblr and see for yourself! — probably not. In fact, as much as I’ll miss Henderson’s take on the Riverdale gang, I think it’s safe to say that the comic will remain in good hands, and should be perfectly Charm-ing. Get it? Charming? Because his name is — Okay, I might not be able to write good jokes, but I can appreciate them, I swear. And Zdarsky’s comics? They are full of good jokes. With the first story arc just concluded, this is a perfect opportunity to give Jughead a try, if you haven’t been faithfully reading since issue #1. [Caleb Mozzocco]
Writer: Tom King
Artist: David Finch
Publisher: DC Comics
I have to imagine that when you’re doing a book called “Batman #1,” there’s an awful lot of pressure. This is, after all, something that’s only happened twice before, and even though the second one of those was only five years ago, it was also the start of what might be the single most critically acclaimed run of the New 52. No matter how you look at it, those are big boots to fill, but I’ll admit that I’m not apprehensive at all.
With Detective Comics focusing on the Batman Family and All Star Batman waiting in the wings to serve as the book that’s less tied to the main continuity and driven instead by the vision of the creative team, Tom King, David Finch and Mikel Janin have the chance to re-establish a direction for their Batman title, and from the looks of things, they’re doing it by leaning into the idea that it’s the superhero book. It makes sense that they would — not only did Snyder and Capullo do the same thing with their neon-soaked take on Gotham City, but King and Janin have a history of playing up the bizarre bleeding edge of superheroics over in Grayson — but what’s really interesting is that they’re doing it in a completely different way than their predecessors. The idea here is that they’re just going to put more superheroes into it and give us the chance to see what happens when Batman comes up against a threat that’s at least nominally on the same side of the war on crime. It’s exactly what they need to do to put their own stamp on the character in the Rebirth era, and with this team behind it, I’m excited to see what happens. [Chris Sims]
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Dan Mora
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Trust Grant Morrison to inject a lot of black magic and horrible demonic rituals into a Santa Claus origin that already is filled to bursting with a sense of edginess that, against all odds, works — mostly because the optimism at the heart of the myth of Santa Claus isn’t forgotten. Not enough is said about the fantastic art of Dan Mora, however, who is one to watch out for — and this issue promises some outstanding work from him choreographing the fight between Klaus and his opposite number. It’s Krampus v Santa: Dawn of Christmas and I have a feeling it is going to be amazing. [Charlotte Finn]
THE SPIRE #8
Writer: Si Spurrier
Artist: Jeff Stokely, Andre May, Steve Wands
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Last weekend I read the whole of Six Gun Gorilla, the previous Spurrier/Stokely Boom mini-series, for the first time. It’s a book about so many things, half of them oblique and suggested but the other half viscerally splashed across the page as glorious anarchy — but the most striking thing was how it used story to tell a story. Given a very simple revival of a ridiculous pulp gorilla cowboy, the creative team built themselves a real-feeling world, which has traditions and structure and a sense it had political topic it wanted to showcase. They raised an entire planet from just a concept — and with The Spire, the duo have given themselves even less to work from.
It’s a book which exists completely through their own creation, with the eponymous tower standing haughty as a symbol of a new societal structure which influences every single character living at its apex or within its shadow. Given that Six Gun Gorilla could very much be seen as both the best comic of the year and a warm-up for this project? You should surely want to pick up this, the finale, today. Along with the other seven. [Steve Morris]
GREEN ARROW #1
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Otto Schmidt
Publisher: DC Comics
We’re only a few weeks into DC Rebirth, but so far Green Arrow has far and away stolen the show as the standout book of the relaunch. The Rebirth #1 from two weeks ago perfectly managed to juggle the table setting necessary from what are essentially zero issues, with the reader’s desire for a strong self-contained story, and the art from Schmidt was off the change.
I’m excited to see what happens now that Percy, Schmidt and Juan Ferreyra have the room to breathe in the ongoing series. I really think this book is going to be a big hit, and one of the most visually gorgeous books of the relaunch, so if you missed out on the Rebirth issue, get caught up so you can say you were there from the start. [Kieran Shiach]
DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: THE LAST CRUSADE #1
Writers: Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello
Artist: John Romita Jr.
So I haven’t hated DKIII: The Master Race so far. Does that make me weird? Despite everything going against the title, Azzarello and Kubert have managed to find a way to play in Frank Miller’s world, achieve satisfactory levels of insanity, and turn out something that’s actually kind of, what’s the term, anti-fascist. Crazy, right? In The Last Crusade, Azzarello and John Romita Jr. build out more of that world by depicting the final days of Jason Todd, an event that took place 10 years before the original Dark Knight Returns and had a major impact on the Batman portrayed in its pages. I am genuinely curious to know how the DKR version differs from the DCU; if it’s the same thing we’ll be seeing in the theaters for the next 10 years; and why Frank Miller thinks Jason Todd is so much better than Dick Grayson. It makes absolutely no sense. “Yeah, the Beatles are okay, but you know who’s really great, man? McCartney and Wings.” [John Parker]
PATSY WALKER, AKA HELLCAT #7
Writer: Kate Leth
Artist: Brittney Williams
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Hey everybody, this is really important: Jessica Jones is going to be in a comic book! More than that, Jessica Jones, is going to be in a comic book where she gets to be a superhero detective, instead of a nagging wife. She gets to have an adventure, with the always-delightful Patsy Walker no less, instead of just staying home with the kid while her husband gallivants around with his buddy. Jessica Jones, star of a hugely popular TV show and the lead character of Alias, one of the best Marvel comics of the last 20 years, is actually being treated like the headlining hero she is instead of just the background cast of a man’s story. This is so exciting that it makes me angry how exciting it is. [Elle Collins]
TRANSFORMERS: TIL ALL ARE ONE #1
Writer: Mairghread Scott
Artist: Sara Pitre-Durocher
A few months ago, I read an interview with Mairghread Scott where she talked about how her previous series, Windblade, wasn’t really coming to an end, it had just outgrown its title. It’s easy to see why, too: With so much going on in that comic and so many characters to draw from that were leading increasingly to an ensemble cast, it just didn’t make sense to keep only one character’s name in the title.
And so, it’s being relaunched this week as Til All Are One, which promises to keep Windblade herself in the spotlight while allowing it to expand out even further, dealing with Starscream as the conniving leader of Cybertron and the formation of the new Council formed from the previously lost Cybertronian colonies — a development that drastically changes the scale of what they’re working with. In other words, it’s a new direction that really just allows more of what already works about Windblade, which is pretty much everything. [CS]
I HATE FAIRYLAND #6
Writer/Artist: Skottie Young
Publisher: Image Comics
At the end of the previous issue, Gertrude had killed off the queen of Fairyland in a fit of pique, as she got ready to leave to go home. It turns out that if you kill the Queen of Fairyland, however, you take her place, leaving her in this issue’s present pickle. It’s unheard of for a ruler of a medieval-styled kingdom to start beheading their subjects, so I’m not sure if this issue will have any of the cartoonish hyperviolence the series is known for — but I trust in Skottie Young to find a way to put it in there regardless. [CF]
VOTE LOKI #1
Writer: Christopher Hastings
Artist: Langdon Foss
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Loki has become one of my absolute favorite characters over the past five years, thanks to the work of Kieron Gillen and Al Ewing on titles like Journey Into Mystery and Loki: Agent of Asgard. He’s almost unrecognizable from his Jack Kirby/Walt Simonson roots, but he’s become a compellingly tragic character that remains fun and flighty, and easy to root for despite being the Prince of Lies.
Christopher Hastings is the absolute perfect choice for this book, coming off his 10 year Dr. McNinja epic. He’s got the humor and the heart to really dig into the character of modern Loki, and it’s great to see Marvel take its number of LGBT-led books up from zero to one! If the downward spiral of the current election process is getting you down, take your mind off it with something a bit more down to Earth and believable, like a God of Asgard running for office. [KS]
DARK NIGHT: A TRUE BATMAN STORY
Writer: Paul Dini
Aritst: Eduardo Risso
Publisher: DC Comics
This is a memoir written by a man who, when walking home one dark night, was attacked and savagely beaten within an inch of his life, detailing one of the worst nights of his life and the long and difficult recovery process. What goes through one’s mind during such trying events? Well, when the man is Paul Dini, who was writing Batman: The Animated Series at the time, thoughts of the superhero born of violent street crime and waging a never-ending war on crime, and the various colorful villains who perpetuate that crime, were Dini’s constant companions.
This unusual original graphic novel is Dini’s comic book format memoir of that time, evocative of Steven T. Seagle’s 2004 It’s a Bird… (another Vertigo original graphic novel in which a comic book writer contemplates a superhero he writes) and Dean Trippe’s just-published Something Terrible (a memoir in which Batman helped him deal with a trauma of his own).
Collaborating with Dini is artist Eduardo Risso, the 100 Bullets artist whose few but incredible Batman comics include the 2003-2004 Batman story arc “Broken City,” the Batman Wednesday Comics strip and Flashpoint: Batman–Knight of Vengeance. [CM]
JUDGE DREDD: TITAN
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Henry Flint
Titan is one of those storylines which breaks away from the traditional serialized feel of 2000AD’s long-running Judge Dredd strip and becomes something wholly its own. Titan literally pulls the Judge away from his home patrol on the streets and onto a new, intense mission which feels important and dangerous and fresh. He’s sent to the planet of Titan, used as a prison for ex-judges gone rogue, in order to investigate why comms have gone down — and soon finds out.
Rob Williams tells the story with an unnerving sense of grit within the teeth; like things have already gone wrong but not even Dredd can imagine just how deep and far the problem has taken root. It’s part Western, strangely, with Flint gleefully playing up the sense of the plains whilst closing up ranks on Dredd and bringing a growing sense of claustrophobia and, well, actual dread to proceedings. Along with Trifecta, this is a modern-day Judge Dredd story which broke out and grabbed everyone’s attention, and for good reason — it’s unnerving and unpredictable, and a welcome reminder that nothing in the world of 2000AD will live forever. [SM]
HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artists: Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba
Publisher: Dark Horse
I’m usually not crazy about comics adaptations of Neil Gaiman’s prose no matter who’s doing the drawing, because they don’t seem to actually add that much. Even when adapted by the likes of John Bolton, P. Craig Russell, or Michael Zulli, I’ve always found the original short story more interesting — maybe because that’s what it was originally intended to be — and lamented the loss of $12.50 on a 1/16″ hardback.
Maybe that will change with this one, and not just because it’s $17.99. How to Talk to Girls at Parties is one of Gaiman’s most entertaining short stories — a simple, funny, knowing, and ultimately creepy little sci-fi tale about growing up and the fear of the alien — and if it was ever going to be adapted into to comics, there’s no better choice(s) than twin sensations Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. Besides being two amazing cartoonists with uncanny nuance and style, Gaiman describes one of the titular girls as having huge, liquid eyes, and I can’t recall a Moon or Ba character that didn’t. Seems like a good match to me. [JP]
SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE, BOOK 1
Writer: Matt Wagner
Artists: Guy Davis, John Watkiss, and R.G. Taylor
Publisher: DC Comics
I mention Sandman Mystery Theatre all the time in discussions of overlooked comics classics, so I’m thrilled it’s getting a new collection, and the “Book 1” implies there’s plans to collect the whole series, which is even more exciting. SMT focuses on Wesley Dodds, the original Sandman who was one of DC’s first masked heroes, in the early days when the genre had barely differentiated itself from the pulps. This re-imagining by Matt Wagner leans hard into pulp and noir archetypes in the most enjoyable way. All of the artists (one for each story arch) are great, but Guy Davis, later best known for BPRD, does particularly amazing work here, and he’ll be back in future volumes of the series. If you like pulp heroes, ’90s Vertigo, or just really great comics, you absolutely must pick this book up. [EC]