By Zack Quaintance — This was a great month for #1 comics, and not just in quantity but in variety too. The summer superhero relaunches carried on, while what seems like an increasingly strong wave of new indie books continued to arrive rapidfire.
And that’s fine by me. If there’s a time I associate with reading comics en masse, it’s summer. I remember being a kid in a humid part of the Midwest, camped under a fan because my folks had some kind of deep-seeded lower middle class aversion to running their AC, and reading stacks of comics over and over. Thunderbolts, Warren Ellis’ The Authority, Greg Rucka’s Detective Comics, and Kurt Busiek’s Astro City/Avengers/Thunderbolts among them.
For whatever reason, to this day I’m more likely to carve out excessive comic reading time in the hot summer months. Luckily, I’m doing well enough these days to run my AC (just barely), and so things are generally more comfortable.
Anyway, you aren’t here to read about me! You’re here about new comics, and we’ve got plenty of those. So, let’s move on to that...
Justice League #1 by Scott Snyder and Jim Cheung felt like the DC equivalent of the start of Jonathan Hickman’s run on Avengers, which spanned years and eventually ended the Marvel Universe. Seeds were planted, many seeds, and Snyder’s vision seems as all-encompassing as Hickman’s. Exciting stuff. I’m especially a fan of his Lex Luthor, a favorite villain of mine.
In a month of cool new indie comics, one that stood out was Lost City Explorers #1 by Zack Kaplan and Alvaro Sarraseca, which blends the harsh realities of 2018 with fantastic adventure stories of bygone eras.
Shanghai Red #1 by Christopher Sebela and Joshua Hixson throws readers into some of the best action in comics all year. Gritty and sharp, this a good debut that lays solid groundwork for the future, and I love that I don’t have a guess at where it's going.
As a fan of Dan Slott on Amazing Spider-Man, Tony Stark: Iron Man #1 didn’t disappoint me. Slott did as I expected, writing with lots of voice, looking back while looking forward, going big but relatable, etc. What caught me by surprise, however, was how well Valerio Schiti’s art fit the character. Very nice.
Last, I’m still catching up with Jason Aaron’s excellent Thor, currently reading the last Jane trade, so I’ll just say that barring a steep and unlikely drop in quality, Thor #1 by Aaron and Mike del Mundo would have made my list had I caught up in time to read it.
Best Debut Comics of June 2018
Hawkman by Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch
Hawkman #1 is an accessible Hawkman book. Let that sink in. It’s true, the creative team of Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch have reinvented a character with one of the most convoluted histories of any Big 2 hero, making him something akin to Indiana Jones with wings and a mace. The sticking point for me with Hawkman has always been the whole ancient reincarnated legend guy versus alien conundrum thing.
Now, I know if you’re a DC continuity expert you understand it all and are thinking, What a dunce, but that’s just where I’m at. This book, however, cleared that up! In the story! Also, Hitch’s signature splashy panels are a great fit for a hero who soars. Moreover, I’m just excited to see DC playing with its many, many toys, especially after Rebirth, which strong as it was felt intentionally limited to the publisher’s most popular heroes.
Plastic Man by Gail Simone and Adriana Melo
Speaking of relatively obscure DC heroes, the next book on our list is Plastic Man #1 by Gail Simone and newcomer (to me, anyway) Adriana Melo. The first of a six-part mini-series, this book blew us away. It had Plastic Man’s signature zaniness, but it also had a layer of depth that we wrote about at length in our review.
To sum up our feelings: this could be one of the best superhero comics about trauma in ages, but if that sounds tiresome, no worries! The creators are well aware a significant part of their audience is here for an exciting crime story about a super stretchy man, and they are determined to do a great job telling that as well.
The Unexpected by Steve Orlando, Ryan Sook, & Cary Nord
Next is another book we lavished praise upon in a review: The Unexpected #1 by Steve Orlando with character designs by Ryan Sook and interior art by Cary Nord (it’s weird, I know, New Age of DC Heroes reasons). This is the final (and best) book in that line, and it’s incredibly well-done, from the characters to the swagger in the dialogue.
The only thing that gives us pause about this title is it’s association with the clumsy New Age of Heroes line, which some fans have criticized for being marketed as artist-centric before then dumping said artists after an average of roughly three issues. Odd branding aside, this is still a great comic.
The Weatherman #1 by Jody LeHeup and Nathan Fox
After I wrote about the Top New Image Comics of 2018, one of my Twitter friends interjected that he had enjoyed The Weatherman #1 quite a bit. The Weatherman had gotten lost amid the weekly new comics deluge for me, likely because I was unfamiliar with its creative team.
I took this advice, caught up, and absolutely loved The Weatherman. It has a high-minded sci-fi concept (something destroyed Earth and now humans live on Mars) but is self-aware in a way hard sci-fi rarely manages. Really, this is a tough book to confine to one genre, showing shades of sci-fi, action, espionage, and humor. In its third act, the creative team also makes some choices to show just how much they are not—ahem—$@%*ing around. And the last page is a stunner.
Immortal Hulk #1 by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett
I’ve been a fan of Al Ewing’s since his Contest of Champions book during All New, All Different Marvel. Ewing is my favorite type of comic writer: one who gives every script a vast significance, as if it’s the most important thing ever to happen in the Marvel Universe. I followed Ewing to The Ultimates and New/U.S. Avengers.
All the while, I kept thinking, If Al Ewing gets the right book, he’s a breakout star waiting to happen. Well friends, that time has come. Ewing has taken the newly-resurrected Hulk (he died during Civil War II, I know, nobody liked it), and written a horror comic for the ages. In the back matter, Ewing discusses having loved The Hulk since he was a child. This shows. His new book has a deep understanding and appreciation for the character, a well-worn contemplation of Hulk that has led to him crafting one of the best #1 superhero issues of the year. Fantastic stuff.