What’s Up With Batman’s Knightmares Story Arc?

By Alex Batts — Before we dive into the recent arc of Batman that just wrapped yesterday, I’d like to review the basic info to make sure we’re all up to speed. Also, this serves as a SPOILER WARNING. I will be discussing events from Tom King’s Batman run leading up to issue 61 as well as the events of this story arc, issues 61-69. I’ll avoid divulging everything that happens in these issues, mainly because…

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REVIEW: Tom King’s Batman #69 is a gorgeous ending to an audacious story arc

By Zack Quaintance — This is it, everyone, the six-part largely separate Knightmares story arc has now come to an end. This has been an audacious set of stories, each illustrated by a different artist and designed to explore a different part of Batman’s psyche, revealing as they did that our hero was suffering some form of torture. Remember those old campy and elaborate death traps Batman always got stuck in back in Batman ‘66? Well, this arc has been like that, but the booby trap is Batman’s own…

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A Batman Comics Reading Guide

By Alex Batts — I consider myself a die-hard Batman fan. Lucky for me there are a ton (to put it mildly) of Batman stories out there to read. Unlucky for me, however, it’s a bit difficult to find one easy-to-digest checklist of Batman comics to read. Which made me wonder, how great would it be to have one comprehensive and organized reading guide for the Caped Crusader? What if I could find the magical list I was looking for? Well, folks, I stopped wondering and went out and made the thing myself.

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REVIEW: The Detective Comics #1000 stories ranked

By Zack Quaintance — Well, here we are, the second GIANT-SIZED celebration of a seminal DC Comics character in as many years, commemorated once again by a set of vignettes that clearly aimed at capturing 80 years of fictional superhero history via narrative. Detective Comics #1000 has arrived, bringing with it a set of creators old—Denny O’Neal, Neal Adams, Paul Dini, Jim Lee, Kevin Smith—and new—Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Priest, James Tynion, Tom King.

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The Best Detective Comics #1000 Variants (and Why They’re Cool)

By Zack Quaintance — The release of Detective Comics #1000 is upon us (coming next Wednesday). It’s a landmark issue (obviously), and, as such, it gets the whole giant wave of variants treatment. There hasn’t been as much ballyhoo (that’s right ballyhoo) around this one as there was for Action Comics #1000 last year. I attribute that to a phenomenon called hey, didn’t we just do this? As well as to Superman being a less tragic and more celebratory figure in general.

But I digress, we’re here to talk about variant covers! Specifically, we’re here to ogle our favorites from next week’s releases as well as share a few quick words about why we find the best Detective Comics #1000 variants so great, great enough to potentially drop an extra $9.99 (plus shipping on many cases) to add them to our collections alongside the standard cover (I clearly have OCD...at least about that).

With all that said, let’s take a look at our 10 favorites! In no particular order...

The Best Detective Comics #1000 Variants

Brian Bolland - Forbidden Planet Detective Comics #1000 Variant

Brian Bolland is one of the best cover artists of all-time, with notable runs such as Geoff Johns’ The Flash. Here on this Detective Comics variant, Bolland leans into something that has made Batman one of the longest-tenured and most-popular characters in all of American fiction: his rogue’s gallery. Bolland renders them all in his clean and colorful style here, putting the nonplussed Dark Knight himself right at the center. Fantastic stuff.

You can get it now through Forbidden Planet.

Michael Cho - Detective Comics #1000 1950s Variant

As with the Action Comics #1000 release, Detective Comics is getting a themed variant for each of its eight decades of life. Our favorite of the bunch (and the only one to make this list) is Michael Cho’s 1950s cover, which embraces the way that decade (with its prurient anti comic book campaigning) forced creators to move away from violence and into wackiness. Cho captures it well.

Patrick Gleason - Newbury Comics Detective Comics #1000 Variant

As noted at this time last year, Gleason drew one of our favorite Action Comics #1000 variants...and now he’s back with a similar piece for Batman. Indeed, this cover mirrors his last one, substituting Batman, his wards and his pooch for Superman, his wife, child and pooch. Add to that Gleason being one of our favorite artists in all of comics, and you get another really memorable piece.

You can get it now through Newbury Comics.

Nicola Scott - Kings Comics Detective Comics #1000 Variant

Another familiar cover would be Nicola Scott’s Detective Comics #1000 variant, which like Gleason’s mirrors the work she did last year for Action Comics #1000. What Scott has done has drawn the various iterations of Batman’s look throughout the years, all lined up chronologically as if they were in the same room together. It’s a great concept and (as always) her execution is flawless. Now here’s hoping the Wonder Woman cover she’s teased in the same format one day becomes a reality…

You can get it now through Kings Comics.

Kaare Andrews - Third Eye Comics Detective Comics #1000 Variant

Kaare Andrews has the third (and final) Detective Comics #1000 variant that stands as a callback to a piece done last year for Action Comics #1000. Whereas the Andrews cover last year was Lois and Clark kissing amid the clouds of a sunset sky, this version features a corresponding moment of intimacy between Batman and Catwoman, in all their sado-fatastacistic (sorry) glory. Phew.

You can get it now through Third Eye Comics.

Alex Ross - Detective Comics #1000 Variant

When it comes to photorealistic renderings of comicbook characters and scenes, no one is better than Alex Ross. No one. What he’s done for his Detective Comics #1000 variant cover is an homage to the Batman’s first appearance way back in Detective Comics #27. The result is gorgeous. Unfortunately, the cover has sold out via Alex Ross’ website, but you can still signup for a waiting list (not sure how that works) by clicking here.

Stanley ‘Artgerm’ Lau - Retro Detective Comics #1000 Variant

Batman and his passionate fandom just wouldn’t be the same without Catwoman, Poison Ivy, or Harley Quinn. As such, this list isn’t complete without a selection honoring their contributions. We’ve gone with this retro Detective Comics #1000 variant by Artgerm, and just look at how fantastic it is. Like the Alex Ross cover, sadly, this one is also sold out. But you can check out other options (including a different modern rendering of this same concept) on Artgerm’s website by clicking here.

Bill Sienkiewicz - Detective Comics #1000 Variant

Another key facet of Batman’s character has been his outsider status as a frightening creature to the night, a figure of vengeance that appeals to the deeply human suspicion that it sometimes takes harsh actions to defend against those who would harm us (incidentally, this is maybe where I point out that I’m personally more of a Superman guy myself…). Sienkiewicz cover is perhaps the best and purest interpretation of Batman as a scary defender lurking in the night over the shoulders of criminals.

You can order it now by clicking here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Tom King’s Batman #63 enlists Mikal Janin for Bat-Cat wedding redux

Batman #63 is out 1/23/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — There’s a very familiar feeling to the start of Tom King’s Batman #63. Mikel Janin, King’s primary collaborator from July’s infamous Batman #50 Bat-Cat wedding issue, is back providing the artwork. Moreover, what’s actually happening on the page is familiar too. Bruce is on a rooftop in a tuxedo as the sun comes up, just as he was during the wedding, flanked by Alfred and a tipsy officiant. There’s a quick cut to the goodbye letter Catwoman left on his pillow, and then our hero steps to the edge of the building prepared to jump off...we’ve seen all this before.

Before he can go fully over this time, things begin to change. This time Catwoman is there, telling him to wait. This time things are different, better—until they suddenly aren’t. Thus is the premise of Batman #63, the third part of the ongoing Knightmares story arc for this title (and before you protest about spoilers, everything I just described happens on the first page of this very compressed issue, which is an idea we’ll return to a bit later...).   

Knighmares continues to be an arc of unreality. Readers don’t know what’s real and what’s not. The last issue saw Batman battling Professor Pyg, who at the very end removed his mask to reveal himself as Damian Wayne, Bruce’s estranged son and Robin. Essentially, Batman #61 planted the seeds that Batman was trapped in some sort of hallucination via the Bruce Wayne murder kid character (which I’m pretty ambivalent about, but that’s another thing all together…), Batman #62 confirmed it, and now Batman #63 builds on the concept further, doing so by replaying what so far has been the headling moment of Tom King’s Batman run—the wedding.

I won’t go too far into specifics, but this issue uses John Constantine as a mechanism for both tormenting Bruce (telling him this happiness is fleeting) and giving some narrative clarity to the reader. Constantine (whose own reality we are left to wonder about for most of the proceedings) keeps telling Bruce what we pretty much know, that this is all fake and will end badly. This is all setup in the start, and I don’t want to go too far into the plot what happens. What I do want to talk about, however, is whether this issue and this larger arc is good.

Let’s look at where the arc started, or, to be more precise, what it started after. In Batman #60 Alfred is assaulted in the Batcave by Thomas Wayne, Flashpoint Batman, who we knew was in this reality and assisting Bane from the last panel of Batman #50. He also gets the jump on Bruce, leaving us to wonder what happens next. What does happen next? Well, we’re plunged into the fakery of Batman #60. In some ways, this arc is one meant to stall, to keep us wondering what’s up with the Flashpoint Batman without giving us too many answers.

In other ways, it’s meant to give the creators a chance to delve further into the psyche and humanity of Batman, which is what this run has been about from its very first issue. King knows that cliffhanger has fans on the hook, and now he’s basically saying let’s slow down (in entertaining and relevant ways) to look at the emotional effect on our hero. King has done this previously with other lesser-known superhero characters, mainly Mister Miracle and The Vision. Mister Miracle in particular played with perceptions of reality, with a case to be made that any action in any of was happening entirely in Scott Free’s head.

Given the prominence of the character, King doesn’t seem to have (or maybe want) that same luxury with The Bat. As such, he ends up giving us more compress Knightmares (as it were) and tipping his hand sooner. Does it work? I absolutely think it does, and on the whole I enjoyed this issue and its functions within both the longer story arc and run. Basically, a little bit a clarity about what’s actually happen goes a long way, bringing what the writer is trying to do into focus and engendering us with the trust and patience we need to stick with it. This lack of clarity, in my opinion, has hurt portions of a couple of other recent Tom King comics: the ending of Mister Miracle and the beginning of Heroes in Crisis.

Someone like David Lynch might get all the rope in the world to confuse the daylights out of us, but David Lynch is making arthouse cinema. In superhero comics, it’s almost always the case that writers most artful form-bending inclinations are best served by being reduced just a bit in the service of accessibility. It’s like if you were baking a cake—experiment with ingredients all you want, but you’re still going to need the sponge and taste and texture that make what you set out to do recognizable. I think Batman #63 most certainly delivers in that regard.

One last note: I think Tom King’s voice and stylistic flourishes work better with some characters than with others...Constantine is without question a good fit for King, and I’m suddenly intrigued to read more of his work featuring this character, even if it’s just a cameo here or there.

Overall: A little bit of clarity about what’s really happening goes a long way in Batman #63 mixing with the Bat-Cat wedding redux motif to result in the strongest issue of this arc so far. Also, Mikel Janin’s impeccably-clean linework is always welcome on this title. 8.5/10

Batman #63
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as
BatmansBookcase.

Tom King's Batman: Should We Keep Reading?

By Zack Quaintance — I got a call the other day from a friend, asking if I planned to keep reading Tom King’s current run on Batman. The series is currently on #58 (out this week) of what King has said will be 104 total issues. To be quite frank, before that call I hadn’t even considered quitting. So, the question caught me off guard. My friend had also previously written about King’s work, heaping praise upon it. Yet, there he was, ambivalent about continuing.

But you know what? By the end of our conversation, I could see his point. The shine has indeed faded just a little bit from this Batman series, which is why today I’d like to talk about the big question—Tom King’s Batman, should we keep reading? I think there are valid cases to be made either way, and so I’d like to look now at both sides, starting with…

The Case Against Tom King’s Batman

Something has changed with this Batman comic.

Maybe it was the wedding, hyped by many (from DC marketing to the creators) as a pivotal moment in the long history of a classic character, until...it wasn’t. But no, that’s not it, The Cold Days arc that followed (in which Bruce Wayne finagles his way onto a jury to successfully make a case that his alter ego is flawed) was one of the best Batman stories in many, many years.

Well then, maybe it was that recent KGBeast arc? After all, Nightwing was shot in the head for some reason, which I guess was maybe kind of justified by Bruce and the aforementioned Beast having liked the same gross children’s book as kids? I don’t know. The whole thing felt a little disturbing, mostly based on (excuse the pun) the execution (although I did love Batman #54, which preceded it). This shot in the head thing, however, has been worse for the current Nightwing comic (they ran off Ben Percy!), than it has been for Batman.

The gritty themes in Heroes in Crisis have some readers wondering if DC has given up on the hope that made Rebirth popular.

Or maybe the reason was and continues to be Heroes in Crisis? The mini-series has, after all, upset many fans (perhaps purposefully), brutally murdering beloved and long-tenured characters in swift and unceremonious fashion, one of which (Wally West) was a pretty literal embodiment of the hope that defined the publisher’s most recent line-wide shakeup, Rebirth.

I think that last one is having a bit of an impact on readers, so let’s talk about it. Heroes in Crisis is a 9-part series purported to be a combination of commentary on an American PTSD epidemic resulting from the war on terror, plus also a murder mystery starring superheroes. Two issues in, it’s been utterly grim and fairly cold, literally slaughtering and autopsy-ing several young characters. It also seems to be indicative of a larger grim turn for a publisher that had its biggest success this decade with Rebirth, which, again, was built on hope.

Heroes in Crisis, in other words, hasn’t been a crowd pleaser, and Tom King is the one behind it. I’m still hearing the majority of readers (both online and off) say things like This is Tom freaking King, he knows what he’s doing, but for others, confidence in King’s ability to deliver has been slightly rattled. Meanwhile, King is also a writer whose style often feels non-conventional, relying as it does on voice-heavy tricks such as repetition of key words or phrases to re-enforce meaning, novel uses of form and structure, and quotations from poems and literature. These are all things that really standout in today’s corporate superhero comics malaise, which is part of what helped King so quickly rise to prominence. The flip-side to all of that, however, is that stylistic flourishes tend to yield diminishing returns. The poetic quotations in King’s breakout 2015 series The Vision, for example, landed much harder for me than those in this week’s Batman #58. Batman, it should be noted, is a twice monthly title on a white-knuckle creative schedule, and so, really, it’s hard to fault King for going back to some of his most trusted tools here and there.

All that said, I’m not personally at the point where I’m ready to even consider dropping this title, which brings us to our other section…

The Case for Tom King’s Batman

Overall, I’ve liked King’s run, with the highlights for me being the double date issue (Clark/Lois, Bruce/Selena), the much-loved and Eisner Award-winning Batman Annual #2 (Rooftops), and the recent Cold Days arc, wherein Bruce Wayne finagles his way onto a jury and makes a case that his own alter ego is flawed (a premise so nice I rehashed it twice…sorry). And on the whole, I’m still enjoying this comic’s writing. I have a bit of Batman fatigue, but I’ve had that for at least a decade and yet still I soldier on.

Could Tom King’s Batman run be a direct play on the classic Knightfall storyline?

To me, King is engaged in a deep character study, taking apart and rebuilding Batman in an in-depth way not attempted since Knightfall. In fact, my deep suspicion here is actually that what King is trying to do with his 104-issue run is craft Knightfall for a new generation, creating a sequel of sorts in which primary villain Bane takes a less-overt and more-cerebral approach to breaking The Bat. And if that’s the case, I’m there for it.

In the original early ‘90s Knightfall, Bane weaponizes Batman’s rogues gallery against him by freeing them all from Arkham and laying back as they exhaust the Cape Crusader, pushing Bruce to place of shaken weakness after he spends several sleepless days rounding them all up. Afterwards, Bane storms Wayne Manor/The Bat Cave, and literally breaks Bruce’s back over his knee. Why? Because he wanted to prove that he could and because, of course, he’s evil.

After the failed wedding, we learn Bane has returned to his old tricks and is trying to once again break The Bat, perhaps as revenge for an earlier story arc and all the other indiginities he’s suffered through the years at the hands of Batman. Here’s where this sequel idea really becomes interesting to me. Bane’s efforts are evolved, more subtle and more cerebral than the last time he gave it his all. He’s now manipulating Bat foes into having direct incentives to complicate and terrorize Batman, be it KGBeast’s assassination attempt of Nightwing, or Catwoman being guilted into leaving Bruce at the altar. My guess is that this all could lead up to another (or different) broken back scene soon.

I find this intriguing because it strikes me as an essential update on the Knightfall story for our times. Knightfall was published in the early ‘90s, when real world foes, like Bane, were more overt. The Soviet Union had just fallen, but for years prior we’d known them as our rival, our enemy. We’d watched out for their machinations. These days, however, we seem to be involved in a Cold War sequel, rife with speculation about what Russia may or may not be doing to move against us, as well as tertiary and internal actors seemingly being motivated to aid their cause. Casting Bane as a similarly-improved tactician is sharp and heady stuff.

If that kind of metaphor is what King’s engaged in here—phew, count me in, I’d like to see where it’s all going, even if Heroes in Crisis continues to land with a thud (although I’m still hopeful that there’s something larger in play there than the first two issues would suggest…). Moreover, even with King’s style becoming more familiar, it continues to stand out as a smarter approach to the work. The meaning isn’t always as powerful as it was in his early superhero books, but King is still on a marquee title and trying something new, an increasing rarity in this age of editorial oversight and careful guarding of would-be billion dollar movie franchises. I think that entitles him to a slightly longer rope, one I’m still personally happy to afford him.

Check out more of our analytical writing on comics.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.

Top Comics of September 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This month is one that has the potential to be infamous, in that it ended with an event—Heroes in Crisis—that saw one of the Big 2 (DC) embrace a sort of grit and darkness that feels outdated. Word is now coming out that in addition to being a viscerally uncomfortable book, Heroes in Crisis also undersold expectations. Really, it almost feels to me as if the larger line itself is working like an antibody to reject Heroes in Crisis, purging its anachronistic themes from a shared superhero universe that is now bent on being brighter.

But, hey, this isn’t a piece about Heroes in Crisis! This is, instead, a piece about the comics from last month that I really liked, and within it you will find talk of some of my usual favorites—Wasted Space and Immortal Hulk—as well as some discussion of comics I haven’t written as much about, including The Seeds and Supergirl. And because I can’t help myself: yes! Okay, fine. I found Heroes in Crisis disappointing, but I still enjoyed September holistically as another great month for comics.

Let’s take a look at why!

Shout Outs

Snotgirl #11. I’m just so happy this book is back. The art is phenomenal, even if the story has seemed to search for direction. Still, there’s nothing else quite like this comic, one of the most singular today. It’s like reading a guilty pleasure Instagram feed.

While I thought the opening arc of Jason Aaron’s Avengers run was maybe two issues longer than it needed to be, Avengers #7 & #8 are two of my favorite standalone Avengers stories in years, Avengers #7 for its biblical qualities and #8 because of its deep focus on team dynamics.

Relay #3. I’ve been enthralled by this book from its start. It’s, to be reductive, mind-expanding sci-fi brought to life with illustrations that oscillate from detailed and realistic to totally psychedelic. It’s a complex read, one I’m doing my damndest to analyze via reviews.

I’m all in on the SuperBendis run these days, and I liked Superman #3 and Action Comics #1003 quite a bit. Supergirl #22, however, was a fantastic surprise. This is a smaller title, but it’s bringing a welcome additional depth to Bendis’ larger aspirations.

September’s Wonder Woman #54 & #55 teamed one of my favorite rising comics writers, Steve Orlando, with one of my favorite underrated art teams, Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. The results were (unsurprisingly) to my liking.

DC Comics is in a bit of holding pattern in a couple places, waiting for new superstar runs to start (Aquaman, The Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, etc.), but Justice League #8 & Justice League Dark #3 continue to establish its team-up book as a true flagship.

In Black Hammer: Age of Doom #5, some of this series’ mysteries become clear, and the team of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormstron have more than built a satisfying resolution.

I continue to be impressed with the world-building going on in Skyward, a charming comic that’s clearly lasting for a long haul. Check out our review of Skyward #6.

Not to give too much away, but the last panel in The Wild Storm #17 is well worth your time, provided you’ve read The Authority...

Tom King and Mitch Gerads work in Mister Miracle #11 is once again excellent, featuring action, a future classic nine-panel grid of Darkseid double-dipping a carrot, and a promise that mysteries will be unraveled next month (maybe).

Top Comics of September 2018

5. Wasted Space #5 by Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman, Jason Wordie, & Jim Campbell

This month saw the conclusion of Wasted Space’s first arc, and what a doozy. What I find most compelling about Wasted Space is that it lives a double life, both as a slapstick space opera and as a deep ideological exploration of culture and society. I’ve said this before but it’s worth reiterating: there’s a David Foster Wallace-esque quality to the ideas and concerns in this book, one that is especially evident in some of the lengthiest bits of dialogue as well as in the intelligence woven throughout.

Aesthetically, it’s a bright and vibrant comic with a quick plot and jokes that feel surprising yet never inappropriate. I’m a vocal proponent of Vault Comics, and, as such, I’m often asked where new readers should start. After this issue (and arc), my answer is now Wasted Space.

4. Doomsday Clock #7 by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

This issue caught me off guard. In Doomsday Clock #7, there is more plot and action than in the first half of this maxi-series combined. Indeed, the first six issues here were almost introspective in nature, carefully building the individual concerns of different Watchmen characters as they moved from their world into the proper DCU.

In Doomsday Clock #7, our principals start to slam together, with a good deal of direct involvement from usual DC heroes as well. The result is a comic that almost serves as a mission statement for this entire event. It’s an entertaining read that has me more excited for the final five issues. There is a little bit of a bittersweet tinge to it, in that one can only imagine what it would have been like had this book kept to a monthly schedule, as well as what it would have meant for the larger DCU, too. Sigh.

3. Immortal Hulk #5 & #6 by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett

September brought us two new issues of my favorite Marvel comic, Immortal Hulk, and so I’m including them here together. It seems to me like these two books together took a deeper turn into the supernatural, opening the door for the titular undead Hulk to explore some darker, perhaps even supernatural spaces.

The glowing red visage of Banner’s demon father is the MVP of this new scary turn. Designed to horrific perfection by usual series artist Joe Bennett, the face is memorable and terrifying, a fitting personification of this book’s ambition to be a different, unnerving sort of Hulk story. I also like that this book is seemingly separate from the usual cash-grabby fray of crossing over Marvel titles. Indeed, it’s starting to feel like the publisher is actively separating prestige titles from gimmicky cash grabs, and discerning readers are better for it.

2. Batman #54 by Tom King, Matt Wagner, Tomeu Morey, & Clayton Cowles

Batman #54 was a comic that made me emotional. As I wrote in my Batman #54 review, I found this issue to be an all-time great Batman story, a father-son take on one of the most famous duos not only in comics but in the entire world. It’s also largely indicative of what I’ve liked most about King’s run so far: its humanity.

I think I’m far from alone in saying King’s Batman has been one of peaks and valleys, and I attribute this to a two steps forward, one step back journey he has Bruce on. King is trying to slowly humanize and grow a character whose owners have everything to gain by keeping him static. His solution seems to be a series of small pushes in lieu of any major leaps. This issue is one of the most blissful small pushes forward so far.

1. Seeds #2 by Ann Nocenti & David Aja (read our review of Seeds #1)

I didn’t know what to make of Seeds’ first issue. It was a blatantly creative comic, one that intrigued me and seemed to have something much deeper to say beneath the compelling visuals that made up its veneer. The first issue, though, withheld much about what the book intended to be about, and, as such, I withheld a bit of enthusiasm. After reading the second issue this has changed. I’m all in on The Seeds, to the point I now suspect that when the four-issue series concludes, it is likely to be praised as one of the best comics of the decade, if not longer.

This is a story that feels both impossible and real, that feels of our moment and also forward-looking. It’s thematic interests are disparate at first glance, ranging from sex between humans and aliens, the environmental death of the earth, and the bludgeoning impact of human reliance on technology. Look closer, though, and you’ll find a creative team that is almost unnervingly prescient. This is a comic book story that in my opinion is clearly laying out what should (or soon will be) easily the most pressing concerns of our time, and doing it with some of the finest art in the industry. Simply put, if you’re not reading this comic, you are making a mistake.

Check out our Best New #1 Comics of September 2018 plus more of our monthly lists here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Best New #1 Comics of September 2018

By Zack Quaintance — Some of our favorite newly-launched books this month have been a long time coming, including new titles from Vault Comics and the Vertigo Rebirth-leading Border Town, among others. The important thing, though, is that they’re here now and the response has been fantastic. As you’ll also see in a second (I’ll wrap this up quick, promise), September also brought us some interesting repurposings of old and celebrated franchises, specifically Archie and Sandman. I (obviously) don’t know what the future holds, but this to me is starting to seem like an era we’ll all look back on one day, shaking our heads at how good we had it with so many good ideas coursing through comics. It’s almost overwhelming.

Anyway, enough chatter...let’s do this!

Quick Hits

Faith: Dreamside #1 cover by Sibylline Meynet.

I thought Batman: Damned #1 was...fine. Obviously, the actual comic got lost in all the hoopla over Batman’s gear gear, but this comic was...fine. I’m not always into excessively dark Bat-takes, but this one’s supernatural angle is...fine.

Heroes in Crisis #1 was also…fine. It was well-done, both in art and scripting, if a little thin. I’m in favor of starting major events with double or oversized debuts (or quick second issues) to give monthly readers extra substance and clarity, fully acknowledging that stories these days demand to be written for trade.

Jody Houser writing Faith continues to be an absolute delight with Faith: Dreamside #1, drawn by M.J. Kim. Every iteration of this book has just been so optimistic without ever feeling saccharine. It’s also as a whip-smart pop/geek culture satire, with jokes grown from an endearingly deep love and understanding of this space.

I liked Mark Waid’s Archie reboot a few years back, especially the insight into Archie history he gave us via back matter in early issues. Archie 1941 #1 has some of that in its DNA, as it uses the WWII time period for a well-done and serious take on these characters.

Vertigo Rebirth kicked off in September with the release of writer Eric M. Esquivel and artist Ramon Villalobos’ Border Town #1, a story about monsters, teens, and the complex politics of the U.S.-Mexico Border. A promising start. Read our full Border Town #1 review!

Another debut off to a promising start, Man-Eaters #1 from Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk is a satirical take on gender politics told with incredible wit and detail. As I wrote in my Man-Eaters #1 review, this is a great setup for a book with important things to say.

DC’s Sandman revival launched in earnest this month. Confession time: I skipped Dreaming #1 because its so directly tied to the classic series, which I’m reading now for the first time. Basically, I don’t want to spoil anything. House of Whispers #1, however, was intriguing and fresh, a perfect entrance point, I’d wager, for readers old and new.

Competition is fierce, but I think Phillip Kennedy Johnson writes the best dystopian America in all of comics. His Warlords of Appalachia was an August 2018 New Discovery, and now he’s joined here by artist Flaviano for Low Road West #1, treading similar America is hella broken territory in all new ways.

Top 5 Best Comics of September 2018

Cemetery Beach #1 by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard

As I wrote in my review for Cemetery Beach #1, I was a big fan of Warren Ellis and Jason Howard’s previous collaboration, Trees, and I’m pretty comfortable in saying that if you dug that book, you’ll likely dig this one too. I also think that if you didn’t quite connect with Trees, you might still find a lot to like about Cemetery Beach, which has all the deeply high-minded sci-fi supposing their first book did, with breakneck other-world action and a bit of a wink—or at least characters who are kind of funny.

This book reads to me like Warren Ellis writing a summer blockbuster, and I mean that as the highest of compliments. It’s a seven-part story, and my impression is that this narrative will largely be driven by twists. It’s also the type of comic that I’ve thought about often since finishing it early on in the month, doing that old-school periodical reader thing where I anxiously await the next installment. How quaint.

Cover #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack,

I’ve been enjoying the craft-heavy creator-owned books Brian Michael Bendis and his talented collaborators are putting out on his revived Jinxworld imprint, which is now at DC. Cover #1 by Bendis and David Mack, however, has easily been my favorite. As Bendis noted at Rose City Comic Con, there are plenty of movies about making movies or about rock music or about whatever other field of creativity. Comics, however, have largely not had the meta stories about what it’s like making comics.

This is, essentially, what Cover is setting out to do—along with telling a normal guy-becomes-a-spy story, based on experiences Bendis and Mack have had as attaches with the U.S. State Department. It’s a simple-yet-ambitious book, one that Mack brings to life with a beautiful watercolor palette that moves in and out of hazy focus as serves the clarity of the story. If this first issue is any indication, this is a series not to be missed. (Oh, and another Jinxworld debut, United States of Murder Inc. #1 by Bendis and Michael Oeming, is real strong, too).

Fearscape #1 by Ryan O’Sullivan and Andrea Mutti

It’s been a few years now since I’ve been a comic book fan whose reading choices are dictated by allegiance to character (okay, more than a few). I think this is a natural transition for readers who stick with comics into adulthood: we’re drawn in at young ages by appealing heroes who represent our aspirations, and we stay for love of the craft, paying more attention to the writers and artists than the long-standing often corporate-owned characters on the pages. I think this compulsive love of storytelling is a big part of what made Fearscape #1 resonate so strongly with me.

To put it in inelegant terms, Fearscape #1 is a writerly book about writing, about wanting to write, trying to write, failing to write...WRITING. It’s a send up of literary pretension that’s tonally-laden with that intangible drive that pushes artists to create. It’s a fantasy story with a beating heart rooted in a blowhard whose artistic skills are massively dwarfed by his need for validation. It’s deep and nuanced and unlike anything else in the industry. As I wrote in my Fearscape #1 review...I can’t recommend this book enough.

Friendo #1 by Alex Paknadel, Martin Simmonds

Like Fearscape #1, Friendo #1 is a new comic from Vault Comics, one of my personal favorite publishers in the indie game right now, and also like Fearscape, this is a comic bent on exploring nuanced ideas. Rather than the plight of the frustrated (and disingenuous) artist, Friendo immerses itself in larger ideas about the intersections of commerce, government, society, technology, and daily life.

This is somehow a comic that feels at once prescient and very much of this scary moment, told with great expertise by writer Alex Paknadel and artist Martin Simmonds. The debut issue does a fantastic job of laying track (presumably) for twists to come, and I can’t wait to see where they take this story. The solicit copy, for example, promises heavily involvement by a personalized marketing VR (the titular Friendo, I’m guessing), and so far we’ve only gotten the tip of it. Check out our Friendo #1 review here!

Ahoy Comics’ High Heaven #1 & Wrong Earth #1

Wrong Earth #1 asks: what if a dark and gritty ‘80s/‘90s portrayal of a hero (think Batman in The Dark Knight Returns) swapped earths with a campy Silver Age equivalent (think Batman in ‘60s TV show, Batman). In Wrong Earth #1—debut of new publisher, Ahoy Comics—this concept is executed to clever perfection by veteran creators writer Tom Peyer and artist Jamal Igle. Wrong Earth is, simply put, superhero satire at its finest. There’s a bit of Venture Bros. and a bit of Grant Morrison (who provides related prose for the book’s back matter), and the result is an absolute treat for savvy fans, folks who enjoy heroes but can get far enough outside to appreciate the inherent absurdity of continuity-beholden corporate comics.

High Heaven #1, meanwhile, is the second Ahoy launch title, and it’s a book that basically depicts the afterlife as an institution as broken as everything is in real life. Food is free but awful, everyone gets a mansion...or rather a dorm room with a fancy name, and life is dictated by attitude. The premise isn’t as intriguing as Wrong Earth but the deeper literary aspirations at the heart of the company are once again present. This one is again written by Peyer with art by Greg Scott, plus another host of back matter contributors.

Overall, these are dense and fascinating comics for folks drawn to strong and experimental stories. It’s fascinating (and quite welcome) to me that three of Vertigo’s defining editors now preside over eclectic new lines: Karen Berger with Dark Horse’s Berger Books, Shelly Bond with IDW’s Black Crown, and now Peyer with Ahoy Comics. As I say often, we’re in a second golden age...and as fans we can sit back and enjoy the output while the finances sort themselves out.

Check out more of our monthly lists here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics to Buy for October 3, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — Fall has always been the time of year that I most closely associate with reading comic books. I’m from the Midwest (Chicago suburbs, to be exact), and the weather in that part of the country turns windy and chilled in October, with the leaves changing colors and falling from the trees as winter bears down upon us. Furnaces go on, jackets and sweaters come out, and time for reading, writing, and introspection goes way up. It’s great.

It’s also (obviously) Halloween month, and it’s always fun to see what comics publishers do around that. This week, our Top Comics to Buy for October 3, 2018 certainly has some scary stuff in store for readers, from ongoing fantastic work out of IDW’s Black Crown imprint to a weekly month-long crossover that takes Wonder Woman into some of the scarier spaces in the DCU. The end result is another very strong week for comics readers in a year that’s been full of those.

Let’s check it out!

Top Comics to Buy for October 3, 201

Blackbird #1 (Read our review)
Writer:
Sam Humphries
Artist: Jen Bartel
Layout Artist: Paul Reinwand
Colorists: Nayoung Wilson, Jen Bartel
Letterer: Jodi Wynne
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
In this neo-noir fantasy, Nina Rodriguez is positive that a secret magic world ruled by ruthless cabals is hiding just beneath the veneer of Los Angeles. The problem: everyone thinks she's crazy. The bigger problem: she's not crazy - she's right. Can she unravel the mystery before the Great Beast catches up with her?
Why It’s Cool: This is a gorgeous book with an aesthetic that contrasts its tone in a way that does real work for the overall mood of the story, making it feel alternately vibrant and forlorn. There’s a grandiose vision at work here, and, after a great first issue, we’re super excited to see where it goes.

Euthanauts #3
Writer:
Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: IDW - Black Crown
Price: $3.99
There's nothing worse than someone coming into your life and solving all your problems. The mess of inheritance burdens Thalia with the ghosts of Mercy's past while Indigo presents the future. Saga meets The Sandman in a series that explores death, dynasties, and psychonautic mindspaces.
Why It’s Cool: The first two issues of Euthanuats were a fantastic 1-2 punch of intriguing premise and structural composition that seemed to set this book up for a lengthy run. With fantastic Nick Robles art and Tini Howard doing her best to find poignant space between life and death, we’re so happy this book seems poised to be around for a while to come.

House Amok #2
Writer:
Christopher Sebela
Artist: Shawn McManus
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: IDW - Black Crown
Price: $3.99
The Sandifers weren't always nuts. They were made that way, by stories, conspiracies and coincidence. As Dylan continues to recount how she spent her summer vacation full of murder, the truth behind how she and her family infected each other with madness come out. Secrets and blood run deep, but family is forever, no matter how deranged they might be.
Why It’s Cool: House Amok #1 was as dark a tale of childhood as we’ve come across in recent memory, using assured narration to examine ways that young realities are inherently shaped by parents, and what happens when those parents doing the shaping have unhinged and dangerous views. Simply put, House Amok seems to be a horror book wherein the main characters are the ones enacting the horrors, and what’s at stake is innocence.

Lone Ranger #1
Writer:
Mark Russell
Artist: Bob Q.
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Dynamite
Price: $3.99
A sparking new adventure from multiple Eisner Award nominee MARK RUSSELL (The Flintstones) and BOB Q (The Green Hornet '66 Meets The Spirit)! 1883. The advent of barbed wire is creating havoc in the Texas panhandle. A corrupted state senator conspires with dirty ranchers to make land unnavigable for open rangers and native tribes, passing new laws allowing cattlemen to kill anyone caught cutting the wire. Good people are getting hurt, and The Lone Ranger must act. But to truly stop this rampant villainy, he'll need to go all the way to the top, and rely on an old friend for help... Featuring a brilliant silver foil logo!
Why It’s Cool: Writer Mark Russell is easily one of the keenest satirists tell stories in any medium, and with his past fantastic work on licensed properties like The Flintstones and Snagglepuss, he’s shown a preternatural aptitude for taking old franchises or characters and finding new ground that’s searingly relevant for 2018. We expect no less from Lone Ranger, a franchise primed for that sort of handling if ever there was one.

Wonder Woman and Justice League Dark: Witching Hour #1
Writer:
James Tynion IV
Artist: Jesus Merino
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
Hecate, the witch-goddess of magic, always knew a day would come when the monsters she stole her magic from would return. Now she must activate the Witchmarked, humans within whom she secreted vast stores of power. And the most powerful of the Witchmarked? Wonder Woman!
Why It’s Cool: We’ve been loving all things Justice League since Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Josh Williamson redirected the line with the No Justice weekly event, spinning out a main Justice League title, a cosmic Justice League Odyssey book, and, our personal favorite, the mythic and magical Justice League Dark. This October, Justice League Dark and Wonder Woman will be telling a five-part Witching Hour story, and it starts here! We’re so there for this one...

Top New #1 Comics for October 3, 2018

  • Batman and The Maxx: Arkham Dreams #1

  • Dead Rabbit #1

  • Death Orb #1

  • Errand Boys #1

  • Jook Joint #1

  • Lollipop Kids #1

  • Shatterstar #1

  • Sparrowhawk #1

  • Umbrella Academy Hotel Oblivion #1

  • What If? Spider-Man #1

  • What If? X-Men #1

  • X-Men: Black - Magneto #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Batman #56

  • Border Town #2

  • Cosmic Ghost Rider #4

  • Death of the Inhumans #4

  • Deep Roots #4

  • Eclipse #11

  • Green Arrow #45

  • Justice League #9

  • Magic Order #4

  • Nightwing #50

  • Paper Girls #25

  • Tony Stark: Iron Man #4

  • The Unexpected #5

  • Walk Through Hell #5

  • Walking Dead #184

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by  night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.