By Zack Quaintance — One fun thing about comics from year-to-year is that we really don’t have an accurate idea of what the next 12 months will bring in early weeks. We can see as far out as the solicits allow (which is currently May), but anticipating what new books will come in the months that follow is at best a lightly informed guessing game. At this time last year we knew scant details about some of 2018’s defining releases, from Benids’ work on Superman to Marvel’s entire slate of new books: Captain America, Immortal Hulk, Venom, you name it.
That’s all to say that these new series that have launched in January and now in February, are just the tip of 2019’s forthcoming new comics. There are, without question, GIGANTIC releases that will shift and reshape the comics landscape yet to be unveiled. All that said, I’m still impressed with the number of quality releases we’ve gotten in 2019 so far. Marvel’s return to broader quality continues this month with Daredevil while DC’s Wonder Comics imprint continues to be a welcome new tone for the 80-some-year-old publisher.
It’s all very exciting, and so let’s not dilly dally any further. Onto the books!
Let’s start with the most imaginative and welcoming new take on a long-standing property in year’s Michel Fiffe’s G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte #1. This book makes setting capital I Important, with the titular Sierra Muerte area disrupting the old fight between Joes and Cobras. I for one love it.
Another book in which setting is vital (this time it being a dystopian future) is High Level #1 from writer Rob Sheridan and artist Barnaby Bagenda. This is the best of the Vertigo: Rebirth books so far, and with Second Coming off to another publisher, it seems poised to stay that way.
Meanwhile staying at DC, Female Furies #1 is a book I’m kind of surprised to not hear more folks talking about. It really extrapolates Darkseid’s all-consuming universal darkness in a way that’s relevant and specific to our times.
Speaking of relevant things to say about our current tumultuous times, Vindication #1 was a complex and realistic take on race-based injustices within law enforcement. This is a fair book setting out to take an unflinching look at how shades of gray can creep into these situations, or at least at how perception can alter behavior. This is a very smart comic. Read our Vindication #1 review!
The new book that left the greatest impression on me last month, though, was Girl in the Bay #1, a haunting tail of family and murder and the concerns of the young in a bygone era. There is a long tradition of horror-tinged innocence lost stories in American fiction that this book seems poised to fit right into.
One of the most consistent publishers in all of comics, Valiant, had a rare month in which it launched not one but two new books, those being Forgotten Queen #1 and Incursion #1, the former featuring a brand new character and the latter using established characters in the service of a new idea. Both debuts were strong and I’m excited to see where the larger stories go.
Last but certainly not least are a trio of the new X-Men miniseries, showrun by Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler, that I’m considering in my head to be Age of Apocolypse 2.0 (side note: there were four, but I wasn’t all that interested in the Nightcrawler one). The books I want to shout out here are: Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #1, Age of X-Man: NextGen #1, Age of X-Man: X-Tremists #1. Contributing writer Allison Senecal will have more on each next week in her monthly Age of X-Man Round-Up, but I’d like to praise these books for the thoughtfulness of the alternate world they inhabit as well as the variety in the way they’re examining a flawed utopia. They all bring something different and welcome to a fascinating overall picture of the world. Kudos to the creative teams.
Top 5 Best New Comics February 2019
The transition to a brand new Daredevil creative team (which is what we got this month) is a long-standing and noteworthy event in comics, be it from Frank Miller to Annie Nocenti, Kevin Smith to Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee to Charles Soule, and so on. There’s just something about Daredevil—the Catholic guilt? the simultaneous aversion to/embrace of violence? the background that saw him become a hero because he already was one?—that consistently gives creators the fertile ground they need to do career best work.
I’m expecting no less, quite frankly, from Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto, and I’m also happy to say that I was encouraged by this opening chapter. In it, there are few flashy gimmicks, just solid comicbook storytelling and writerly impulse to put the protagonist up against great possible odds, thereby showing we the audience what our guy is made of. It’s an understated and appropriate debut for an often-understated character, and I highly recommend it.
Punks Not Dead: London Calling #1 (Read our review!)
Writer: David Barnett
Artist: Martin Simmonds w/flatting be Dee Cunniffe
Publisher: IDW - Black Crown
I was going to try and write this segment in a British accent filled with punk lingo...but I decided to save us all the indignity of that, banishing it instead to the deepest reaches of my mind where it will never be thought of again or uttered aloud. Anyway, Punks Not Dead: London Calling #1 is essentially the first issue of this book’s second season. It’s also my favorite issue of Punks Not Dead to date.
I loved the concept of this book from the time it launched last year—an angsty, lonely, and flailing kid gets linked to the ghost of Sid Vicious, annnnnd hi-jinx—but what I like about this new series is that the central duo now have a really well-built quest to go on. They are at once being chased by authorities while pursuing the true identity of the main character’s father. It’s such a solidly-written hero’s journey kind of deal. When paired with the book’s already-excellent premise, you get a really exciting new comic.
Red Sonja #1
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Mirko Colak
Colorist: Dearbhla Kelly
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
It’s a Mark Russell double whammy this week, with first Red Sonja #1 and later on Wonder Twins #1. Obviously, Russell is one of my favorite writers, but I think he did outstanding work on both of the new series he launched in February. I’ve never read a Red Sonja book, and, really, I’m not one to read comics simply because I love a character. In fact, at this point I’ve aggressively become one of those readers who reminds you that I never do that, preferring instead to follow the creative team.
So, what then did I find in this issue as someone brand new to Red Sonja but familiar with pretty much all of writer Mark Russell’s comicbook work? I found quite a bit to like. Russell, joined here by collaborators Mirko Colak and Dearbhla Kelly, does a great job orienting readers like myself to this world, before then applying his wry satirical storytelling sensibilities. It’s a smart and savage read, and I know Russell fans (and probably also Red Sonja fans) have a lot to look forward to here.
Stronghold is a new book from one of my favorite indie publishers, AfterShock Comics, and it’s about a man who maybe has the power to break the universe but doesn’t have any inkling he’s significant. He’s an insurance salesman in St. Louis, for pete’s sake. Meanwhile, a secret society/cult (take your pick) is monitoring him daily to ensure he never finds out the truth of his existence. That’s the status quo we find upon entering the book. The plot begins when a young woman who interacts with him daily (and was raised in the secret society/cult) falls in love with him. Hi-jinx ensue.
This is a really well-formed comicbook produced by a talented and veteran creative team. It has a high level of ideas and themes one might expect to find in a full-blown novel rather than a graphic sequential story. Most importantly, though, I found the execution in this first issue to be absolutely flawless. Every scene is perfectly paced and enthralling. The POV is chosen well throughout, and it all adds up to a new comic series I’d recommend to pretty much any reader.
Wonder Twins #1
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Stephen Byrne
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics - Wonder Comics
I don’t play favorites with this Best New Comics monthly piece, but—between you and me, shhh—this one was probably my favorite new book. It recasts the Wonder Twins from the old Super Friends show (and probably other things?) as alien new kids in a new earth high school, where they suffer the same bouts of hubris and insecurity I know I did. Humiliation and triumph and searching for ones place ensue, all set with a superheroic backdrop.
I’m not generally a fan of loquacious meta humor comics, your Deadpools and Harley Quinns, and while this is a funny book, it’s not really kin to any of that. It’s sensibility is smarter and quieter, more like Russell’s The Flintstones. It also has a big heart. So often, joke superhero comics fall back on making their heroes look dumb or madcap. This book is respectful and humanizing of the Wonder Twins, and it gives the creative team a much broader emotional canvas to work with. Well done, everyone involved.
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.