Better late than never, right? It may be closer to April than February, but here we are with our list of favorite comics from that month. Hey, we haven’t missed one since we launched way back in September, and we’re not about to start now!
Okay then, on to the comics…
Let’s start with the books that didn’t quite make the Top 5 but sure got close...Black Panther #170 was another excellent installment in Ta-Nehisi Coates run, made especially noteworthy by a transcript in the back of a conversation between Coates and Ryan Coogler, director of the Black Panther film...the Doom Patrol/JLA crossover books were an imaginative highlight of February, with Mother Panic/Batman standing out. This one featured Batman as a preacher holding forth for a congregation of pint-sized Robins armed with shotguns...Eternal was so good I gave it to my wife to read and she loved it as much (if not more) than I did...Joshua Williamson’s Flash has been fantastic throughout, but Grodd being portrayed as one of the most terrifying and powerful villains in the DCU (which he is) really impressed me. I suspect Flash will make a leap to the Top 5 proper soon, with how the current story seems to involve the vast range of the Flash mythos...finally, let's talk about Saga #49’s cover. Fiona Staples’ covers are always impressive, but this one was just so timely and topical. I mean, look!
This cover makes sense within Saga, of course, but even if it didn’t, it’d still be compelling, conveying that we (society) are falling deeper into a media that just reflects everything back at us while “We’re All Completely Fuc—” crawls across a ticker on bottom. Brilliant.
Top 5 Comics of February 2018
5. Black Monday Murders #8: This issue was not a dense read, as the rest of the book has been, but rather an action-packed one, surprisingly so. It hums along with developments and revelations, playing with power structures and systemic control, as this series has done from the start, while also refusing to sacrifice any of the power of its ideas in favor of accessibility. In other words, it’s definitely written by Jonathan Hickman.
Most importantly, though, Black Monday Murders #8 features a surprise, one that shows us our hard-boiled every man protagonist is just as flawed as the seemingly villainous elite he investigates. Within all of Hickman’s intricate world-building, this simple human fallibility turns out to be the most compelling quality within an excellent comic. Be forewarned, though, Black Monday Murders #9 is yet to be solicited, and given Jonathan Hickman’s working pace, it could be some time before it drops.
4. Thanos #16: This comic would be higher if we hadn’t given three Donny Cates books our top spot last month. As we’ve discussed in the past, these lists aim to support some of the best ongoing and sustained work, the stuff truly worthy of being kept on pull lists or purchased later in trade. So then, why are we praising Thanos again instead of giving some play to another deserving book? Simply put, this issue deserved it. It’s that good.
Thanos #16 is mainstream Big 2 adventure at its best. Cates is writing lately like a lifelong comic fan who dreamed of being a major Marvel voice as a kid, worked his fingers off at the keyboard to become one, and—guess what?—achieved it. There’s pure and undistilled joy in his work, nowhere more so than in Thanos. I mean, the first line in this issue is “When he was a younger man, and not yet a cosmic-fueled engine of time-traveling murder, Frank Castle’s wife and children were shot to death before his eyes.” Cates only ups the full-throttle comic book nonsensery from there.
3. New Super Man and the Justice League of China #20: While DC Rebirth on the whole took a back-to-basics approach, it was not without a few glorious steps into new territory, chief among them Gene Luen Yang’s excellent New Super Man. There’s a lot to like about that book, including the main character’s demonstrable growth, the humor (Bats and Robinbot, LOL), the re-imagined mythos, and the geo-political/cultural backdrop of modern China.
None of those qualities would matter, however, if Yang wasn’t such a compelling writer. This is reductive maybe, but New Super Man is straight up good comics. It’s also highly believable, as believable as a story about super powers can be, anyway, and none of the ways our heroes have come to mirror American counterparts feels gimmicky or forced. This series might wrap up in May, which is of course a bummer, but I feel lucky to have gotten as many issues as we did. Here’s hoping we see Kong Kenan and the crew in other books moving forward!
2. Jessica Jones #17: Brian Michael Bendis’ final scripts are publishing at Marvel as he prepares his first work for DC, and as they do, one of the ironies about Marvel losing its biggest gun (and arguably its signature voice) is that these books have quietly been some of Bendis’ best recent work for the publisher. He’s turned in fantastic runs on Jessica Jones, Spider-Man, Invincible Iron Man, Infamous Iron Man, and Defenders. It’s really been quite impressive.
Jessica Jones #17, however, is the best of Bendis’ farewell tour so far. Defenders was an action-heavy streetlevel romp, and without question an enjoyable read, but given the relatively simplicity of that story, I had the sense a few other writers could have pulled it off just as well. Jessica Jones #17, on the other hand, could only have been written by Bendis. It combined two of his defining strengths—dialogue and philosophy—for an enthralling end to the Purple Man redux story, creating a resolution that spoke to the core of both characters. This story also wouldn't have been the same (or anywhere close to it) without the artwork of longtime Bendis' collaborater Michael Gaydos, whose page layouts were also crucial, as was the pitch-perfect noir color work, too.
1. Detective Comics #975: Detective Comics has been a fixture for me since I was a kid riding my bike to the local comic shop (the now-shuddered Graham Crackers’ comics in Glendale Heights, Illinois—RIP). Basically, I’ve been reading this book for years and can confidently say James Tynion’s Rebirth run is among the best of this book in my lifetime.
This number one spot for #975 is also a nod to the installments that made the plot within possible. If you’ve been reading, you know Tynion has carefully built a story that visits complex corners of Batman’s mythos, including Bruce Wayne’s lingering familial concerns, villain rehabilitation (or the impossibility thereof), legacy, the net good of Batman for Gotham, child soldiers, and the natural extension of Batman’s war on crime, pushed to extreme efficiency here by Tim Drake.
This story—The Trial of Batwoman—is an epilogue for much of this run. I don’t want to give anything away, but this “trial” is rich with various character ticks of the Bat Family, some of which are surprising without straining credibility or defying logic. I loved it, and I can’t wait to see what major story beats Tynion has left to play out as his run draws to a close.
Zack Quaintance is a career journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.