By Zack Quaintance — Someone pinch me, I must be dreaming...this week’s comics seem like they were precisely custom-tailored to my tastes. Indeed, many of the books that I gush about on the regular (which is admittedly a long wish) have new issues coming this week. That includes a long-awaited return of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s Lazarus Risen, the steady drumbeat of horrifying excellence that is Immortal Hulk, and top-tier creator-owned books from Image, be it Monstress or Criminal.
There’s a lot of my old favorites among the Top Comics to Buy for March 20. There are also some notable new books arriving too. I’m thinking specifically here of Dark Red #1 from AfterShock Comics (a rapidly rising indie publisher) and Invisible Kingdom #1 from Dark Horse. The latter is a trippy visual tour de force laced with complex ideas about everything from commerce to religion (see our Invisible Kingdom #1 review) while the former follows a vampire who works at a rural gas station in Trump’s red state America (see our Dark Red #1 review too). It’s all good stuff.
So, without further adieu, on to this week’s comics!
Top Comics to Buy for March 20, 2019
*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Lazarus Risen #1 (read our review!)
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark w/Tyler Boss
Colorist: Santi Arcas
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
NEW STORY ARC! "FRACTURE I," Part One LAZARUS returns in an all-new prestige format! New series, new story arc, new size, and a new quarterly schedule!
Introducing a new ongoing LAZARUS series-at 64 pages, perfect bound, LAZARUS: RISEN continues the story of Forever and the Carlyle Family... featuring an oversized, 44-page story by Eisner winners GREG RUCKA and MICHAEL LARK, an all-new short story exploring the larger world of LAZARUS by Eisner-nominated writer LILAH STURGES, an all-new supplement to the Modern Age: World of Lazarus Roleplaying Game by Green Ronin, original design artifacts and art supplements, and more! Two years have passed since the Carlyle Family was betrayed in battle, and the Conclave War encroaches on every side. As a new era dawns, Johanna Carlyle goes on the attack to ensure the survival of her Family, relying on the loyalty and support of the Carlyle Lazarus-her sister, Forever-remaining at her side. And while their united front may be enough to turn the tide, the cracks are beginning to show…
Why It’s Cool: Lazarus is one of the best creator-owned comics of the modern era. It’s complex, suspenseful, immersive, and compulsively readable. Now, the book is transitioning to a prestige quarterly format, which means fewer issues per year but just as much content (hopefully). In this first issue back, the comic hasn’t lost a step at all. In fact, I’d argue that it’s actually better than it used to be in monthly installments. Rucka and Lark are veteran creators who make compressed comics that are rewarding to read both in installments and trade. As such, this book hits certain story beats within each issue. Having the extra pages of the quarterly format allows them to do much more, like a TV show expanding from 30 minutes to an hour. It’s really something, and this series gets my full recommendation. Simply put, if you love comics you really ought to be reading Lazarus.
Read our Lazarus Retrospective!
Criminal #3 (read our review!)
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
"THE LONGEST WEEKEND," Part Two-Jacob's weekend taking care of his old mentor takes a turn for the worse. As always, CRIMINAL contains back page art and articles only found in the single issues.
Why It’s Cool: In this new volume of Criminal, you can practically feel writer Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips fighting to change the narrative that monthly comics are dead. They do so in a couple of ways in this issue. First of all, they wrap up an incredible two-part story that they started last month, making it so it fits into the larger arc of this comic while also standing on its own as a satisfying bit of graphic sequential storytelling. Second, they make it a meta story in the best way, one steeped in comics history and culture that literally reminds the reader that comics have been dying since 1954. In the hands of lesser creators, this could feel preachy, forced, or even self-indulgent. But a master team like Brubaker and Phillips pulls it off flawlessly.
Read about Criminal’s previous volumes!
Immortal Hulk #15
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Joe Bennett
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Dr. Leonard Samson is a gamma mutate and part-time superhero who recently came back from the dead. He's been wanting to discuss that with an old patient of his... But he's not here to see Bruce Banner. Take a seat on the couch, IMMORTAL HULK. It's going to be quite a session.
Why It’s Cool: Phew, that last issue of Immortal Hulk was a doozy. But, really, I could probably say that after every issue of Immortal Hulk. This is, simply put, Marvel’s best comic in years. The concept and creative team from the start have been sound, but you can say that about a lot of Marvel’s books. What really sets Immortal Hulk apart is that it hasn’t ceeded any quality in the service of deadlines or events or anything. It’s been as unmovable in that regard as the Hulk himself. At the same time, it’s pushed into increasingly new and horrifying plot territories, keeping the feeling of unpredictable storytelling tension that powered its earliest issues. One way the story has done that is withholding much of the Hulk’s ample supporting cast before bringing them in slowly one by one. This issue looks to be the one in which Doc Sampson enters the fray. So, hurray for that. One last note: I only read this book after dark and strongly suggest you do the same.
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
It's a turning point in Maika's life when she comes face-to-face with a stranger from her deep past.
Why It’s Cool: Love! War! Family! It’s all here in the latest issue of what has fast-become the most grandiose arc of Monstress to date, which is really saying something when you think back to the opener. Monstress #21 really has an overload of the things that make a single installment of a long-running story pop: new revelations, new characters, the promise of action to come soon, a clear push toward the climax, and a set of artwork as varied as it is stunning. I’m constantly impressed with the work Sana Takeda has done with this book, yet I’ve rarely seen her hit such a versatile range of visuals as she does in this issue, be it the adorable renderings of Maika as a child to the intricate character and equipment designs we get in the modern day. Writer Marjorie Liu also writes some of the best and pithiest dialogue for her heroine yet, bantering as she does with a key figure in her life (no spoilers). From start to finish, just a stunning issue.
The Wild Storm #21
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics - WildStorm
The experimental subjects code-named Apollo and Midnighter have broken cover. Combat-optimized superhumans are now loose on the Earth.
Why It’s Cool: Last month’s The Wild Storm #20 was the best issue of this series to date. After 19 issues of slow burn, the creators finally unleashed Apollo and The Midnighter, giving nearly the entire issue to a prolonged action sequence followed by a bit of romance. Was it fan service? Perhaps a little, but it was earned and also executed in the best possible way. This issue brings the focus back to some of the other characters, but make no mistake—the march to the assembling of The Authority continues, and oh what a thing that will be when it happens. There’s only three issues left. Two years ago I’d have guaranteed that this was building into the launch of a new The Authority comic, but with DC scaling back publishing plans under its new corporate owners, I’m inclined to estimate these three issues will be the last we see of these characters for some time. But, hell if I’m not going to savor every page of it. With a writer like Warren Ellis collaborating with an artist like Jon Davis-Hunt, this comic is just too good.
Bitter Root #5
Black Badge #8
Electric Warriors #5
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #4
Guardians of the Galaxy #3
Justice League #20
Uncanny X-Men #14
Check back to the site later this week for reviews of Lazarus Risen #1, Criminal #3, and more!
Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.