Top Comics to Buy for March 6, 2019 - Die #4, The Green Lantern #5, and more

By Zack Quaintance — At the risk of sounding repetitive, this first Wednesday of the month has really morphed into a monstrosity of great new comics. So much so that I’ve once again extended our usual top five picks to six. Hey, more content’s a good thing, right? Anyway, I could have also easily extended it to seven or eight or nine. It really pained me to cut great titles for this upcoming Wednesday like Doomsday Clock #9, Immortal Hulk #14, and Justice League #19.

But I figure pretty close to most everyone has their mind made up about those comics at this point, so why not shed some light on lesser-known books that are still in their early stages? I’m thinking specifically here of the creator-owned comic Self/Made, which continues to shock me with the high quality of both the its stories and ideas. It’s really turning into something special, the type of book I find myself reading toward the top of the stack each week and coming away shocked at where the story seems to be headed.

Anyway, on to the comics!

Top Comics to Buy for March 6, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Die #4 (
read our full review!)
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"FANTASY HEARTBREAKER," Part Four-Our heroes reach the civilization of Glass Town and do what heroes have always done upon reaching civilization. As in, go to the pub. As it's DIE, you can guess people don't exactly get happy drunk.
Why It’s Cool: We’ll have a more detailed and thoughtful review of this comic later this week, but let me just say here that this is the best issue yet of a series that has been fantastic from its start. This is the smoothest and most immersive issue of Die so far, which I attribute to the previous three issues having done such great work toward familiarizing us with these well-realized characters. With so much of that work behind the story now, the creators are free in this comic to really hit some deep (and troublesome in the best way) emotional beats. Don’t miss this issue; don’t miss this book.

Age of X-Man: Prisoner X #1 (of 5)
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: German Peralta
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
ENTER THE AGE OF X-MAN!
In the Age of X-Man, when you break the law, you aren't sent to just any prison. You're sent to the Danger Room...a penitentiary filled with the roughest and meanest mutants that don't fit into X-Man's utopia. They each have a reason for being there. And they're all ready to kill each other.  But that's about to change, because the newest prisoner just arrived...Lucas Bishop!
Why It’s Cool: It’s a great combination of concept, creators, and character, with those respectively being the well-conceived and intricate Age of X-Man alternate universe, writer Vita Ayala (one of our favorite rising stars within the industry), and Bishop, always an underrated (if convoluted) X-Man. Seriously, Ayala has just been doing fantastic work lately, be it their superhero book for Valiant Livewire, the creator-owned Submerged, or the installment of the recent Marvel Knights mini-series that focused on T’Challa. These have all just been stunning comics, and we’re expecting nothing less from the Prisoner X miniseries, which follows Bishop into the underbelly of what is shaping up to be an Orwellian faux-utopia of an alternate universe.

Green Arrow #50
Writers:
Collin Kelly & Jackson Lanzing
Artist: Javier Fernandez
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Andworld Design
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
Spinning out of the events of JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE and HEROES IN CRISIS! When a black ops organization discovers Green Arrow's long-held secret-a mysterious weapon in the form of a box, given to him by the Justice League-they'll deploy their top undercover agent: Black Canary! On opposite sides of this festering secret, Green Arrow and Black Canary will clash as only two lovers can-by aiming straight for the heart! A mystery six months in the making, the box that can destroy the Justice League will be opened...and the Emerald Archer's world will be forever changed. This extra-sized anniversary issue of Green Arrow's life isn't just ending...it's burning to the ground!
Why It’s Cool: This if the finale of one of the quintessential Rebirth books, and it’s also what is quite possibly the last book headlined by the Emerald Archer that we’re likely to get in sometime, what with DC Comics very public intent to keep its publishing line at the slightly reduced level we’ve seen in recent months. The writing team of Kelly and Lanzing are perhaps the best choice for this job too. As I believe Kelly outlined fairly recently online, the duo had a fairly elaborate plan for a 50 issue run that would get to the core of one my personal favorite characters. We’re obviously not getting that, but look for them to give us a truly epic send off that packs in as much action and as many of their ideas from that outline as is feasible. Savor it, too, I know I will. Also, we’ll (sort of) get an answer to the question from No Justice, the natural one that came up when J’onn gave Ollie a box he said was capable of stopping the entire league...

The Green Lantern #5
Writer:
Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
"Blackstar at Zenith!" Hal Jordan has abandoned the Green Lantern Corps to join the Blackstars! But to do so, he'll need to convince their leader, Countess Belzebeth, and pass an initiation test. Which means he must survive a series of trials on the vampire planet Vorr, whose entire population wants to feast upon him! It's cosmic goth at its bloodiest...with a cliffhanger that's even bloodier!
Why It’s Cool: This run has been fantastic from start to finish, and this issue keeps it going. As promised by the creative team before the book even launched, The Green Lantern has been a series of quisi self-contained space cop procedurals. This issue builds on all that has come before while telling yet another compelling story built upon some of the key qualities and continuity bits that define Green Lantern. Also, as anyone who follows artist Liam Sharp will surely attest, the detail and imagination in the artwork he’s previewed for this comic has just been astounding, somehow even better than the tremendous heights he’s reached in earlier chapters. Think about it too long, and it will blow your mind as thoroughly as Morrison and Sharp seem hell-bent on doing.

Self/Made #4
Writer:
Mathew Groom
Artist: Eduardo Ferigato
Colorist: Marcelo Costa
Color Flats:
Mariana Cali
Letterer: A Larger World Studios’ Troy Peteri
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE 'TA-DA' MOMENT": Amala has made it to our world-and she is distinctly unimpressed. What's a girl with a new robot body and some pent-up rage to do? Paint the town red.
Why It’s Cool: Simply put, because this is the best comic I’ve read in I don’t know how long that rushes head first at the central questions of life itself. That’s maybe being a little dramatic, but this really has quickly turned into a story with a lot to say about creation. In this issue, we also get some really clever interplay between characters that’s analogous to that between child and parents, plus a tour de force visual journey through a near-future version of Sydney, Australia, along with the now-standard breakneck plotting that’s come to define the book. This is yet another major surprise from Image Comics in the past year or so that more readers should be talking about. I get that you might not be familiar with these creators, but you’re doing yourself a disservice by sleeping on this book.

Top New #1 Comics

Others Receiving Votes

  • A Walk Through Hell #8

  • Batman #66 (read our full review!)

  • Blossoms 666 #2

  • Cemetary Beach #7

  • Doomsday Clock #9

  • The Dreaming #7

  • Eclipse #13

  • Giant Days #48

  • Immortal Hulk #14

  • Justice League #19

  • Killmonger #5

  • Paper Girls #26

  • Red Sonja #2

  • Uncanny X-Men #13

  • Vindication #2

  • Young Justice #3


Check back to the site later this week for reviews of Astro Hustle #1, Batman #66, Uncanny X-Men #13, and more!

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.

ADVANCED REVIEW: Black Hammer ‘45 #1 expands this growing universe into a new genre

Black Hammer ‘45 #1 is out 3/6/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Black Hammer ‘45 is something wholly new for the burgeoning Black Hammer Universe at Dark Horse Comics, created slowly over the course of the last few years by writer/artist Jeff Lemire and a host of talented collaborators. Indeed, this is the first comic in a stable that now numbers roughly half a dozen, including the ongoing main story, a host of minis, a one-shot, and Quantum Age, which I don’t even know the scope of—ask me, it can and should run two dozen issues.

Black Hammer ‘45, however, marks the first of these comics that (at least in its first issue) has very little to do with superheroes. It is also the first of these books in which Jeff Lemire is not named as the lone writer, having only a story by credit instead. The actual writing of the comic falls to Lemire’s good friend Ray Fawkes. The art, meanwhile, is provided by another of his friends, Matt Kindt, who like Lemire is a writer slash artist of considerable talent and renown. This comic, in other words, has a mightily talented—if a bit insular—pedigree to its creative team, and that much is evident in its pages. Readers will find no shortage of craft nor ideas in this book. It looks and reads as wonderfully as one has come to expect.

The genre, meanwhile, is a step outside the superhero fare that has largely marked the Black Hammer Universe to date. See, Black Hammer is an extended homage as filtered through Lemire and his collaborators’ sensibilities. We get characters that are at once recognizable and novel, reminding of us old favorites while simultaneously pushing into new (and often more somber) territories, be it an approximation of James Robinson’s Starman or a facsimile for the Legion of Superheroes.

Black Hammer ‘45 is that same sort of homage, yet it pushes outward from the superhero genre, instead drawing its inspiration from Golden Age World War II comics, perhaps most specifically from The Blackhawks. Although, like all of the Black Hammer books, other influences find a way of creeping in. Those range from the real-life story of the Tuskegee Air Men to stories about steampunk mechs. There’s a lot, and it’s all good, and like the rest of these books, it all coalesces into something fresh and unique.

This debut issue itself is also well-crafted, everything from Matt and Sharlene Kindt’s artwork to the way flashback pages looked yellowed and old (even in the advance review PDF...I imagine in the physical copy the effect will be even more noticeable). Fawkes rights it well, too, doing a nice balancing act between action in the past and present, and also finding interesting ways (ways that I won’t spoil) to connect to other parts of the ongoing Black Hammer narrative.

Overall: Fans of the main Black Hammer series will be thrilled the book is branching off into new and interesting territory. Jeff Lemire has said he loves his Black Hammer books because they allow him to do pretty much any kind of comic he wants. This book is proof positive of that. 8.8/10

Black Hammer ‘45 #1
Story By:
Jeff Lemire & Ray Fawkes
Writer: Ray Fawkes
Artist: Matt Kindt
Colorist: Sharlene Kindt
Letterer: Marie Enger
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99
Release Date: March 6, 2019

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.

Top Comics of 2018, #1 - #5

By Zack Quaintance —  A difficult thing about a strong year for comics (like this one) is doing a retrospective Best Of list. Now, to be sure, no one mandates websites do rankings. That would be a clear violation of civil liberties. There is, however, a part of the pop culture blogger brain that goes wild for it, whispering all year long...where does this one rank...and if you don’t satisfy that beast—well, bad things happen.

So, here we our with ours, freshly formulated for 2018 by our committee of one. Before we dive into the third and final and (let’s face it) best part, which features in descending order selections #5 to #1 (Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25 and Top Comics #6 - #15 are also up now, btw), let’s rehash our ground rules:

  • No trades or OGNs: Building out our OGN coverage is a priority for 2019. We’re just not there yet. So, while I absolutely loved work like Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, Box Brown’s Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, and Ryan Lindsay and Eric Zawadzki’s Eternal, you won’t find them here. Ideally, next year’s we’ll have an entire post dedicated to OGNs.

  • No webcomics, manga, or newspaper strips: Again, our site is a bit deficient covering these (if you are into these things, we’d love to chat about you writing for us!). I should, of course, mention that in 2018 someone under the pen name Olivia James took over the long-running Nancy strip and did amazing things with it (Sluggo is lit), but, again, you won’t find it on our list.

  • Longevity matters: New this year, you will find what I consider a key stat—how many issues were published this year. Late debut series like Die, Electric Warriors, and Bitter Root have tons of promise. They just haven’t been around enough to be a definitive comic of 2018. Ditto for comics that ended in April or earlier.

There you have it: guiding principles of our Top Comics of 2018. Now, without further adieu, let’s finish this bad hombre!

Top Comics of 2018

The Immortal Hulk by Alex Ross.

5. Immortal Hulk
Writer:
Al Ewing
Artists: Joe Bennett
Inker: Ruy Jose
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 10

The first of the Big 2 titles to make my Top 5 Comics of 2018 is the Al Ewing and Joe Bennett-driven Immortal Hulk, a startlingly-blunt take on a long-time hero that reads more like a creator-owned book than a shared universe corporate story. We’re late in the superhero trajectory, with comics having constructed, deconstructed, and exported the concept to other mediums plenty. Our best modern stories are those that get closest to capturing a character’s core, and rarely has a title done this as well as Immortal Hulk.

At the same time, this book has found a darker place that was always there, taking existing elements and extrapolating them so thoroughly they feel novel. It’s found ground not possible for the sensibilities of the 1960s, Hulk’s heyday. Both artwork and audience have evolved, becoming more sophisticated and thereby allowing Ewing, Bennett, and others to push Hulk further into monster territory while at the same time making Banner the emotional blank slate he was perhaps always meant to be. In this book, Banner is backgrounded, standing in for humanity at large as darker base impulses drag him places no one wants to go (ahem, hell). The Hulk is not the hero—that honor goes to anyone who can live a contented and peaceful life.

On the surface, this comic has also benefited from consistent artwork from Bennett who has needed few guest replacements, plus early chapters that provide satisfying narratives independent of what came before or will come after. This is a bit of a lost art, but still very much welcome, and it’s something that Immortal Hulk did expertly.

This gem by Ryan Sook and Brad Anderson from Action Comics #1006 is quite possibly the comic book page of the year.

4. Action Comics / Man of Steel / Superman
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Patrick Gleason, Yanick Paquette, Ryan Sook, Ivan Reis, w/Doc Shaner, Steve Rude, Jay Fabok, Kevin Maguire, & Adam Hughes
Inkers: Wade Von Grawbadger, Joe Prado, & Oclair Albert
Colorists: Alejandro Sanchez, Nathan Fairbairn, Brad Anderson
Letterers: Josh Reed
Issues in 2018: 5 / 6 / 6

In 2017, Brian Michael Bendis—a leading voice at Marvel Comics for almost 20 years—announced a jump to the distinguished competition, leaving fans with questions that ranged from whether Bendis could thrive there to which titles he would take over. Some suggested this would spark a creative rejuvenation for Bendis, a chance to recapture energy from bygone days. Here’s the thing, though: Bendis had quietly been doing some of his best work at Marvel. Following the stumble that was Civil War II, his Infamous Iron Man, Jessica Jones, and Defenders titles were all excellent.

This is my way of saying I predicted Bendis at DC would be successful. He’s generally praised most for early work on Daredevil, as well as for creating Jessica Jones and Miles Morales (who’s having a moment with new film Into the Spider-Verse). What gets lost is that Bendis is likely the most prolific comic writer of a generation, consistently producing three to five monthly titles and rarely (if ever) suffering delays. As I’ve written, part of what I love about comics is the deadline-driven schedules force creators to just do the damn work, to put forth ideas without belaboring them as one must in film or prose writing. When it comes to embracing child-like excitement, love of comics history, and just doing the damn thing—Bendis is the best.

Still, even I didn’t predict what he’s doing with DC’s Superman titles. Flanked by the best artists to work on the character in decades, Bendis is telling a story that breaks this hero and his mythos down to its core before (seemingly) building it back up with slight tweaks for 2018. His Action Comics, Superman, and Man of Steel miniseries have all felt both classic and progressive as he revels in iconic stature while viscerally having a blast using the DC Universe that’s been off limits for so long. The end result is that both Action and Superman continue to rise, as satisfying as they are epic.

From Monstress #18. Artwork by Sana Takeda.

3. Monstress
Writer:
Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

This was the year of Monstress, with Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s expansive creator-owned fantasy hitting big at the Eisner’s and (presumably) finding a much larger audience. For fans of the book from the start, it was incredibly rewarding to see this story get its due. Liu’s world-building is phenomenal, drawing loosely from traditions while first and foremost exploring original elements. Takeda’s artwork, meanwhile, is second to no artist keeping as regular a release schedule (save for possibly the great Fiona Staples), with an intricate manga-influenced look that makes every panel of Monstress feel like the product of months of design work.

This year saw Monstress play out its third arc, a grandiose story heavy with confidence. The world-building continues, but it’s not as noticeable as it was in earlier arcs (both of which were also phenomenal, btw). The real focus of the story now is the journey of the main character. Given this is a fantasy comic (the fantasy comic of the decade), we wouldn’t have it any other way.

What started as a revenge story in 2015, has grown into a powerful young woman reckoning with a range of life: her relationship with her history, with her mother, with the mysterious power inside her, with the most responsible way to use it, and with the repercussions for noble actions that grew out of a simple desire to escape oppression and survive.

Black Hammer: Age of Doom, Quantum Age, Doctor Star, and Chtu-Louise.

2. Black Hammer
Black Hammer: Age of Doom / Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows /  Quantum Age: From the World of Black Hammer / Black Hammer: Cthu-Louise
Writer:
Jeff Lemire
Artists: Dean Ormston, Rich Tommaso, Max Fiumara, Wilfredo Torres, Emi Lenox
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Issues in 2018: 7 / 4 / 5 / 1

This past year also saw the establishing of a new superhero universe: Black Hammer. Technically, this homage-heavy universe was created back in 2016 with the advent of Black Hammer #1 from writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dean Ormston. That issue was the start of a specific story. The wider universe grew later, doing so with an adjacent miniseries that broadened the plot in 2016 (Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil from Lemire and artist extraordinaire David Rubin).

In 2018, however, we got an even broader expansion. This past year, the Black Hammer universe continued with its main title, while adding two more miniseries and a one-shot. Add to that all kinds of rumors about what’s coming in 2019—from Lemire himself writing/drawing a 12-issue series, to a crossover between Black Hammer and DC Comics—and all signs point to this universe being here to stay. I had a chance to interview Jeff Lemire at San Diego Comic Con, and he agreed, saying as much.

I point this out as a way to note Black Hammer is so well-done that it has found a strong foothold in a market over-saturated by superhero concepts since basically 1970 (if not sooner). This is Lemire in all his brilliant Lemire-ness, following his deepest ideas and tragic lonesome sensibilities. He’s created a tone that allows him to write a few pages of funny before lapsing into full-blown meditations on the nature of generational comic book stories. Shared superhero universes function best with a strong guiding voice or perspective (see Marvel in the ‘60s). Black Hammer is doing just that, and I for one feel lucky to experience it in real time.

Saga #50 (cover by Fiona Staples) finds the family in happier times.

1. Saga
Writer:
Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

I’ve written about this often, but it’s easy to take long-running creator-owned comics for granted, forgetting what a rare thing it is to have talented writers and artists string together wholly original stories with only their keyboards and pencils. For many of us, our lifetimes have been marked with a mainstream comic selection dictated by corporations and distributors, plus whatever experimental work was on the fringes. In recent years, this has changed, and, leading that change, has been Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ familial sci-fi epic, Saga.

This year, however, was one in which we were all but forced to stop taking Saga for granted. The first reason for this was Saga’s latest story arc (which ran in issues #49 - #54, and wrapped up in July) was obscenely consequential. I don’t want to give anything away, but $@#% goes down and it’s bad, so bad I wrote about why it hurts, partially to make sense of why I was so devastated. It’s a testament to this story that it can hit such intense emotional beats so far into its run.

Second, the book announced it would be going on a year-long (minimum) hiatus. Obviously, you can’t take something for granted once it leaves you. Kind of bummer (we’re compensating with a year-long Saga re-read), made all the more bumming (is that a word? ah well) by how good the comic got before the announcement. There really is, quite simply, nothing else like Saga, not in terms of the scope of the story, the artful thematic explorations undertaken within, or the industry-best action and design graphics generated a whopping six times a year (or more!) by the massive talent that is Fiona Staples.

This site is dedicated to discussing comic books in thoughtful and analytical ways as the medium enjoys a new golden age. To us, Saga remains the leader of an ongoing renaissance, and a big part of the reason we think it’s so important to volunteer time to cover the artform. It is an absolute honor to give the book and its devastating 2018 story (kind of fitting, in sooooo many ways) our Top Comic of 2018 honor.

Check out Best Comics of 2018, #16 - #25 and Best Comics of 2018, #6 - #15! And check back later in the week for more year-end lists, including our Best Single Issues and our Top Creators of 2018!

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

Comic of the Week: Black Hammer Cthu-Louise, an Original Idea in a World of Homage

Black Hammer: Cthu-Louise is out now.

By d. emerson eddy — For a few years now Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston, along with a host of other talented collaborators, have been building a universe at Dark Horse in Black Hammer, founded on a deep love for Silver Age comics, paying homage to many of the characters and characteristics of that era. The series began as a kind of mystery about the disappearance of a Justice League analogue, but quickly spiralled out into spin-off series, including a far-flung future with teen heroes and a focus on one of Black Hammer's arch-enemies and his legion of villains. It was in this spin-off, Sherlock Frankenstein & The Legion of Evil, that we first met Chtu-Lou, and his cute little daughter, Cthu-Louise.

While the homages to the Silver Age Justice League, Legion of Super-Heroes, Legion of Doom, Vertigo, and beyond are wonderful, reading through The Quantum Age #5 this week as well got me wondering if the Black Hammer universe would work as well without the pastiches and homages to DC Comics. For my money, yes. I actually find that the non-homage, original characters and story elements are even more impressive. Such is Black Hammer: Cthu-Louise, a one-shot from Jeff Lemire, Emi Lennox, Dave Stewart, and Todd Klein.

This story plays hard into one of Lemire's favorite themes, the importance of family, but it does so from a unique perspective. Louise doesn't have a loving family. Her father, Lou, was a super-villain, and now is just a lazy, abusive father taking out his frustration on his relatively innocent daughter, who is only looking for love and acceptance. Her mother is absent most of the time, working, but is equally emotionally abusive to Louise. When you add the problems she has at school due to her monstrous appearance, Cthu-Louise doesn't have an easy life. But she does have her “grandfather”, the elder god who granted her father his powers and thereby hers, and it's interesting how Lemire massages this into an “Eye of the Beholder”-type story.

Lemire's Plutona collaborator, Emi Lenox, handles the line art for this story and, combined with the greens and purples of Dave Stewart's colors, presents a fairly light-hearted, cartoon-like style. It works well for Louise's age, giving it a colorful, deceptively-simple appearance, covering the darkness beneath the surface.

On top of that, the lettering from the legendary Todd Klein adds overall to the feel of the story, giving us some unique fonts and word balloons for Cthu-Louise, Cthu-Lou, and her grandfather. It's particularly interesting the gradation of the word balloons that the style of Cthu-Louise and Cthu-Lou's is about halfway between the normal human balloons and that used by her grandfather. It's a subtle way of showing that Cthu-Louise is an intermediary between normal and the beyond.

Overall, this is an excellent comic that shows the possibilities of the Black Hammer world outside of the main narrative, that the universe itself has legs of its own, and that the characters within it can carry a story without necessarily working within the meta-narrative of Silver Age homage and nostalgia (even if Cthu-Louise herself is a twist on a Lovecraftian pastiche). Lemire, Lenox, Stewart, and Klein give us a story that stands on its own tentacles.

Black Hammer: Cthu-Louise
Writer:
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Emi Lenox
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letters: Todd Klein
Publisher: Dark Horse
Price: $3.99

Check out past Comic of the Week selections on the list page.

d. emerson eddy is a student and writer of things. He fell in love with comics during Moore, Bissette, & Totleben's run on Swamp Thing and it has been a torrid affair ever since. His madness typically manifests itself on twitter @93418.

Top Comics to Buy for October 17, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — It’s a rare week that has a hands down winner for our most exciting book. We are, admittedly, quite pleased with what’s happening in comics right now, and that tends to show via indecision over which series ranks as a weekly favorite. This Wednesday, however, our choice is clearly Black Hammer: Age of Doom #6, which pairs writer Jeff Lemire and his frazzled, acid flashback of a character Colonel Weird with artist Rich Tommaso, who has been teasing some of the artwork from the comic for months. It looks—in a word—fantastic.  

Close behind Black Hammer: Age of Doom, however, are a number of other enticing books, including the Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack creator-owned collaboration, Cover, which is quickly rising to the ranks of our favorite titles, as well. This is also just two Wednesdays out from Halloween, a holiday comics folk tend to bring their A games for, and this year that’s taken the form of some really great novelty comics, including this week’s Marvel Zombie one-shot from sinister Ice Cream Man mastermind creator W. Maxwell Prince. There is, of course, more info on all these books below.

Let’s take a look!

Top Comics to Buy for October 17, 2018

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #6
Writer:
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Rich Tommaso
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99
After the shocking revelations in the last issue, Colonel Weird finds himself as a stranger in a strange land, where reality is ever changing!
Why It’s Cool: Black Hammer is easily one of our favorite ongoing things in comics, and recent issues have really pushed its plot forward, bringing some new light to some of the series long-running mysteries. This book features a guest artist as well as a plot that’s presumably a bit of a diversion. Still, with artist Rich Tommaso coming aboard for a quick arc, we’re super excited to see the results.

Cover #2
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist:
David Mack
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Nazi-hunters? Escape artists? Some M.I.A. for decades? Exactly how long have comics creators been part of the intelligence community? Follow the latest recruit from the Comic-Con circuit as he falls in with this mysterious crowd. The secrets he uncovers about its legacy will shock and delight, well, just about everyone.
Why It’s Cool: The books in Brian Michael Bendis’ creator-owned Jinxworld imprint are all love letters to craft that pair the veteran writers with uber talented artists he’s been collaborating with for years. The standout of the bunch so far, however, has been Cover, which sees an A List comics pro being recruited as a cultural attache for the CIA, which turns out to be a bit more dangerous than he expected. There have, of course, been comics about making comics in the past, but this one seems to have the greatest potential to become an iconic work. The second issue makes good on the promise of the debut, too.

Gideon Falls #7
Writer:
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"ORIGINAL SINS," Part One...After the mind-blowing events of the first arc, Norton digs deeper into the mystery of the Black Barn, and secrets of his past begin to come to light. Meanwhile, Father Fred does some digging of his own and learns the hard way that some secrets should just stay buried.
Why It’s Cool: Of all the top-tier new horror comics launched in 2018—and, indeed, there have been more than a few—Gideon Falls is easily the most fully-formed. Credit that to Lemire and Sorrentino having worked together so well on past projects with the Big 2, including Green Arrow and Old Man Logan. Anyway, the point is this book is back for a second arc, and you better believe we’re excited about it.  

Marvel Zombie #1
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Stefano Raffaele
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99
Years after an incurable zombie virus ravaged the world, a small colony of survivors is protected by the Marvel U's few remaining heroes, including Spider-Man, Daredevil and the Falcon. But when their last chance at salvation arrives, will they be willing to sacrifice their own humanity in the process? From the twisted minds of ICE CREAM MAN writer W. Maxwell Prince and Stefano Raffaele (Generations: Hawkeye) comes the next macabre obsession for fans of The Walking Dead and The Road!
Why It’s Cool: W. Maxwell Prince has been writing one of our favorite creator-owned comics for some time, that being Ice Cream Man over at Image. Ice Cream Man is a varied and excellent horror anthology, one just as adept at focusing one month on body horror as it is on existential crisis the next. As such, it seems like this one-shot return of Marvel Zombie will most certainly be something to pick up.

Skyward #7
Writer:
Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"HERE THERE BE DRAGONFLIES," Part Two...Willa's alone in the middle of the forest, surrounded by giant insects that want to make her dinner. But here to the rescue comes a badass group of sword-wielding... farmers?
Why It’s Cool: Come to watch humans in a minimal gravity world do battle with giant over-evolved insects, stay to enjoy the world-building and the slow evolution of this story into an odyssey that also looks at issues of extreme capitalism and inequality. This is a seriously great book, one I can’t keep recommending highly enough.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Captain Ginger #1

  • Exorsisters #1

  • Lucifer #1

  • Shuri #1

  • Venom Annual #1

  • What If? Ghost Rider #1

  • X-Men: Black - Mystique #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Archie 1941 #2

  • Aquaman #41

  • Batman #57

  • Black Badge #3

  • Cemetery Beach #2

  • Daredevil #609

  • Justice League #10

  • Justice League Dark #4

  • Low Road West #2

  • New World #4

  • Patience Conviction Revenge #2

  • Pearl #3

  • Quantum and Woody! #11

  • Submerged #3

  • Thor #6

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.

Top Comics of August 2018

By Zack Quaintance — August 2018 was the month of Jeff Lemire, who wrapped up the 14th and final issue of Royal City, the first arc of creator-owned hit Gideon Falls, a multi-year run on Valiant’s Bloodshot, and a big reveal in mysterious superhero nostalgia trip Black Hammer (which, by the way, he’s using to build a generational superhero universe from scratch). Oh, and Lemire did all this while also writing Sentry, The Terrifics, and probably more books I’m forgetting.

That’s not all. Just when Lemire was cresting on the strength multiple impressive and prolific comics runs, he used the platform his profile affords him to castigate a rage movement that bullies and harrasses creators from marginalized groups, an action for which he’s surely gotten blowback. Still, that kind of speaking out sparked the most wide-spanning conversation yet about why it’s important to denounce such tactics and such groups.

So yeah, item of business no. 1: hats off to Lemire. Item no. 2? A look at this month’s top comics, which, unsurprisingly, will also merit further discussion of Lemire. Now that I’ve set a new record for mentions of one creator during my intro...let’s do this!

Shout Outs

Shanghai Red #3 continues Christopher Sebela and Josh Hixson’s searing pioneer revenge epic. The colors in Hixson’s artwork are especially revelatory.

The penultimate issue of Steve Orlando and Garry Brown’s six-part father-son Russian revenge epic Crude took the book to new heights in both physical and emotional stakes.

Michael Moreci and Hayden Sherman’s Wasted Space is now ongoing, which is very cool because every issue has been stellar, including this month’s Wasted Space #4.

Action Comics #1002 was the most complete Bendis Superman issue since Man of Steel #1. Bendis is slowly building his Superman status quo, pulling in vital elements and reconstructing Clark’s life with updates for 2018. Plus, art by Pat Gleason!

Meanwhile in Supergirl #21, Bendis passes a cosmic story thread left dangling in Man of Steel to the creative team of Marc Andreyko and Kevin Maguire. Excited to see where in the galaxy it goes.

I liked The Euthanuats #1, with its poeticism and blurry line between life and death, but I loved The Euthanauts #2, which declared that this comic is primed and ready for a lengthy run.

Batgirl has a new creative team: writer Mairghread Scott and artists Elena Casagrande and Paul Pelletier. So far I’ve liked all of their work, which this month alone included half of Batgirl #25, all of Batgirl #26, and Batgirl Annual #2.

Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman are doing fantastic things in Venom, expanding their vision for a character that previously seemed outdated. Hell of a run taking shape here.

Another issue of Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, another spot on our monthly best of list. This book is just so good.

Finally, we got a two-issue Wonder Woman arc from Steve Orlando and Aco, high adventure that teamed Diana with Artemis and the new Aztek for mythology-meets-multiverse fun.

Top 5 Comics of August 2018

5. The Wild Storm #16 by Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt, & Brian Buccellato

The Wild Storm continues to be a wonderfully-complex slow burn of a comic, one with much to say about power structures, corporations, government, and the role of individuals within it all. Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt (with excellent Brian Buccellato colors) are really taking their time here, giving this comic a more weighty and realistic feel than past iterations of this universe.

It won’t be entirely clear until we get the final eight issues of this story, but I’m starting to suspect this book will land among Warren Ellis’ best work. In many ways, it’s the final form of so many ideas that he’s played with throughout his career, ideas that he’s able to explain through familiar character in a totally new universe that’s unburdened by past or present continuity. DC essentially told Ellis, You know those characters you’ve written on and off throughout your career...would you like to start from scratch and do whatever you want with them? He (obviously) said yes, and the end result is awesome comics.

4. Amazing Spider-Man #4 by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, Laura Martin & Joe Caramagna

Cards on the table: Along with Uncanny X-Men, Amazing Spider-Man is the first comic I subscribed to as a kid. I’ll always and forever have it on a pull list. That is to say, I was always giving Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s run on this book a shot, and, through the first three issues, I thought it was amusing, a light romp through all the qualities that make Spider-Man a beloved character, albeit a bit light on his central conflict: his guilt over passively enabling the death of his uncle.

Amazing Spider-Man #4, however, was the first issue to break through the shiny veneer of Ottley art and Spencer quips, showing that this creative team is interested in the core of the character and determined to get it right. This book broached Peter Parker’s central conflict and guiding philosophy in intriguing ways, while also continuing to double down on the strengths of earlier issues. As a result, I am one supremely satisfied long-time reader.

3. Batman #52 and #53 by Tom King, Lee Weeks, & Elizabeth Breitwesier

Batman #52 and #53 were part of the recently-concluded Cold Days arc, which is my favorite multi-part story that Tom King has told with Batman (I still like Batman Annual #2, Batman/Elmer Fudd, and Batman #37’s double date better as single issues, but I digress). The arc was drawn by Lee Weeks, who has emerged as maybe Tom King’s best collaborator on this run as well.

What makes the story work so well is how it speaks to comics collective obsession with Batman. In Cold Days, Bruce Wayne manipulates his way onto a jury of a Mr. Freeze murder trial because he worries he made a mistake as Batman, so shook was he after being left at the altar by Catwoman. He gives a 12 Angry Bat-Men kind of speech, wherein he questions the fallibility of his alter ego. Intentional or not, that speech had a meta context, raising questions about the way fandom venerates the character. Fantastic stuff.

2. Ice Cream Man #6 by W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Morazzo, Chris O’Halloran, & Good Old Neon

This comic somehow tells three self-contained stories in a single issue, doing so with little to no dialogue in a way that not only makes sense but will almost certainly haunt the vast majority of readers for weeks (at least, that’s been my experience). Really, if it wasn’t for the monster month of the creator who took the no. 1 spot, Ice Cream Man #6 would have been an easy choice for August’s best.

This comic is one of my favorite single issues of 2018 so far. The craft here is so impressive that I don’t want to think about it too hard, lest I lose motivation to ever attempt anything creative of my own again. Moreover, I have a pretty strong predisposition against stories steeped in cynicism or bleakness—and this issue is most certainly that—yet this book is so well-done I was able to overlook all that. Ice Cream Man holistically is one of the best horror books today, as well as one of the best explorations of what’s possible with the medium, in terms of form and structure. I can’t recommend it enough.  

1. Jeff Lemire

Jeff Lemire landed in the top spot for a few different reasons, many of which we touched on earlier: the conclusion of his Bloodshot epic, the quiet way Royal City’s ending issue made my eyes well, the outstanding reveal on the last panel of Black Hammer: Age of Doom #4, and, of course, the way he stood up to Comicsgate, contributing in no small part to a roiling wave of similarly-prominent creators who did the same.

We should also note that Gideon Falls first arc ended in August (in excellent fashion), and that that book’s entire first storyline has been extremely well-done. So yeah, most months are solid for Lemire output, but August felt like a statement on his part about who he is and what he wants his impact on the industry to be: a disciplined and prolific creator with no tolerance for harassment, rage, bullying, bigotry, or dumbassitude of all kinds. Not bad...not bad in the slightest.

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

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, CA.

Top Comics of June 2018

By Zack Quaintance — There were so many great comics in June that I cheated in the shoutouts section—where I limit myself to ten picks—by lumping several books together. I tried, really, but I just enjoyed this month’s comics way too much to put myself through some kind of self-imposed Sophie’s Choice.

In fact, there are so many comics this month I’ll cut my usual preamble short and get right to them. Tragic! I know. But worry not! This website is roughly 75 percent rambling (see Analysis or Reviews), so you can easily get a rambling fix elsewhere.

Ready? Let’s do this!

Shout Outs

Immortal Hulk #1 was one of many fantastic debut comics in June 2018.

There were A TON of great debut comics, all of which you can read about in our Best Debut Comics of June 2018, including books like Immortal Hulk, The Weatherman, and The Unexpected.

Against all odds, I liked The Batman Wedding Preludes. They seemed like a blatant cash grab (which, they were…), but Tim Seeley and crew still told nice character-driven stories with them.

Since Benjamin Percy and Chris Mooneyham took over, Nightwing has rocketed up my list of best DC books. In fact, I even wrote a piece called Why Nightwing’s New Run is Working: A Five-Panel Explainer.

Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s existential sci-fi epic Descender is ending after 30-plus issues, but as it does, the creators are using deep familiarity between readers and the book’s well-developed characters to hit truly moving emotional beats, all amid a high-action finale.

Flash #49 continued Flash War with consequential stakes for its lead—Barry Allen—and for his once-forgotten former protege, red-headed Wally West. This is the first story in years to use this much of the Flash family, and we love it.

New Super-Man, one of the best comics of DC's Rebirth era, came to an end this month after 24 issues.

A pair of our favorites ended in June: New Super-Man and the Justice League of China and Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles. That’s bad news. The good news, however, is both series had wonderful conclusions that reminded us of why we loved them.

I became a nightmare. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have them...Bryan Hill hooked us with those opening lines of his five-issue run on Detective Comics. What followed was fantastic, too. We’re total marks for stories like this that question the state of modern fandom. Plus, Cassandra Cain!

A pair of new books hit their strides in June: Crude and Skyward, both of which are on #3. These books are very different, but they are unquestionably two of Image’s best new comics of 2018.

Another month, another pair of top-notch comics from the Warren Ellis-masterminded re-imagining of WildStorm. Simply put, Wild Storm #14 and Wildstorm: Michael Cray #8 were June’s two best comics that not enough fans talked about.

Last but not least, there’s ol’ reliable Valiant, who despite recent ownership changes continues producing awesome comics, with highlights including Harbinger Wars 2 #2 and Quantum and Woody! #7 (also, checkout our friends WMQ Comics preview of Harbinger Wars 2 #3!).

Top Comics of May 2018

Marcos Martin's work on Spider-Man has been described by better websites than this one as "ultra-modern nostalgia."

5. Amazing Spider-Man #801 by Dan Slott & Marcos Martin

Amazing Spider-Man #801 was the final issue of Dan Slott’s epic, decade-long run on Marvel’s flagship title. Slott has said he conceptualized this issue long ago and got Marcos Martin (who has essentially left superhero comics for creator-owned work via Panel Syndicate) to draw it, and it’s a good thing he did.

Slott’s plotting is sweet and poignant, examining how Peter Parker’s With great power comes great responsibility ethos changes lives. It’s a nice capper to a run with more highs than lows. What really makes #801 shine, however, is Martin’s art, which harkens back to the less-muscular Spider-Man as drawn by the character’s creator Steve Ditko, while giving the hero and the world a relatable, modern look. This comic, simply put, is a blissful pleasure to look at and a wonderful palette cleanser between Spider-Man eras.

4. Venom #3 by Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman

Donny Cates only has one mode: #@$%ING INTENSE, which is something I’d come to suspect via his creator-owned work throughout 2017 before having my theory verified recently by Death of the Inhumans #1. His work on Venom has been a slightly slower burn, by Cates standards, which still makes it one of the most recklessly intense books on the stands (seriously, do comic shops have stands? is racks a better word? gah!)

Venom #3 had all the hallmarks I’ve now come to expect from Cates’ best issues: a little terror, a lot of grandiose plotting, confident and clever guiding narration, and a steady expanding of character mythos and status quo. That’s all in here, of course, but what I found most compelling here was the terror of the villain, which all but cows Venom (who, we are reminded by a few panels of trauma via Miles Morales, is a terrifying villain in his own right). Ryan Stegman’s artwork is also a perfect fit for the otherworldly and upsetting rainy ambience in this issue. Basically, I can’t believe I’m saying this but a comic about Venom (Venom!) is one of my favorite books right now, and I can’t wait to see where this is all heading.

Jeff Lemire's Black Hammer is a rare superhero deconstruction steeped in homage and fantastic mystery.

3. Black Hammer Age of Doom #3 by Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston

What Jeff Lemire is doing with Black Hammer and its auxiliary books is one of the most exciting things in comics. It feels like superhero deconstructions 2.0 have finally arrived. Since the 1-2 combo of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns in the ‘80s, grim and gritty realism has ruled as the most popular way to take an analytical lens to superheroes. This book is far from sunny, but what Lemire seems to be doing is superhero deconstruction via a mystery of anachronism and nostalgia, while paying gleeful homage to his favorite comics and creators.

This issue continues to push the unraveling of the plot that contains all these ideas while also sending our protagonist through a set of Ormston artwork that nods to such a cool range of comics, I couldn’t help but smile like an idiot as I read. Oh, and the story also incorporated capital B Big ideas about why stories matter so much. This book is getting closer to being one I send to non-comics readers in trade, kind of like Saga, speaking of which...

2. Saga #53 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

I knew we were in for it when the preview text for this issue read simply: uh oh. And man, did it go down in Saga #53. This was possibly the single most action-heavy episode of the best ongoing series in comics, both in terms of the sequences on the page and the lasting impact for its characters.

I’m not in the business of giving plot details away, but this issue felt to me like the penultimate episode of a good season of Game of Thrones, wherein a number of shocking moments of consequence take place to reshape and redirect the story. Brian K. Vaughan paces the action expertly, and Fiona Staples work is, as always, an absolute joy to behold, with the final panel in particular etching itself into my brain, possibly forever.

1. Marvel 2-in-1 Annual #1 by Chip Zdarsky & Declan Shalvey

Marvel 2-in-1 is one of the best superhero comics right now, and at its core are some of the oldest relationships in the Marvel Universe.

Marvel 2-in-1 seemed odd when it launched. It was part of Marvel’s Legacy publishing line, which returned many titles to original numbering. It’s name nodded to the original Marvel 2-in-1 book from 1974 that ran for a decade, teaming The Thing with different Marvel heroes. This new book, however, was a story about The Thing and his former Fantastic Four teammate The Human Torch, making it seem like a stopgap before the publisher launched a new Fantastic Four title proper.

What has emerged is one of Marvel’s best comics right now, and issues like the Marvel 2-and-1 Annual are why. At the heart of Marvel 2-in-1 are the oldest relationships in the Marvel Universe, specifically those between Thing, Torch, Doctor Doom (trying to be better), and the absent Richards family. This annual looks at the dynamic between Doom and Richards in a way that (no spoilers) creates tension and has readers begging for Victor to please, please, please do what’s right. It’s an incredible bit of storytelling for this surprising and excellent title. It’s almost a shame the full team is returning, presumably shaking up the magic found in this book.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

Dark Horse Comics’ Black Hammer and Ether: Two Beautiful Stories of Sacrifice

From  Ether  by Matt Kindt and David Rubin.

From Ether by Matt Kindt and David Rubin.

I recently read one of the best graphic stories to come my way in some time: Ether Vol. 1 by writer Matt Kindt and artist David Rubin. It was about a man who discovers a scientific realm beyond our own, seemingly inhabited by humanity’s notions of mythology. It is a land of living beings, all of whom firmly believe in magic. Our protagonist begins to visit the land and use his knowledge of science to debunk those beliefs and solve crimes there.

This land of mythology is so beautifully-rendered by Rubin. Many panels in this story could stand on their own as independent works of art. Ether, however, is not unique in this way, as many comics these days have a similarly-striking and imaginative visual quality (this is to take nothing away from Ether). Where Ether really stands apart is through the emotional depth Rubin and Kindt aspire to with its story.

That magical land—known to our characters as the titular Ether—moves through time differently, with months in the real world passing for every minute one spends there. When our protagonist first discovers it and begins to visit, he is happily married with a young family. Each of his visits, however, progresses the lives of his wife and daughters by several years past his own. He becomes addicted, their lives slip away from him—heartbreak.

I read this as a metaphor for the plight of anyone who is similarly driven, and as Kindt and Rubin are artists, I presume this metaphor was drawn through their own time lost at the keyboard or the drawing table, travelling through imaginative worlds grown from their own ideas as their families went on without them. As a writer myself, this gave the book—which stands on its own wonderfully as an engaging story rife with heroes and villains and mystery—a haunting undertow as I read, bringing me to tears somewhere during the fourth chapter.

That metaphor, while gorgeous, is not what this piece is about. I assume I’m far from the only one to pick up on it, as critically lauded as Ether has been in comics circles. What I want to unpack today is how another successful Dark Horse Comics property—Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, and Dave Stewart—could be looked at as a companion piece to Ether, another side of the same artistic sacrifice coin.

Black Hammer  by Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, and Dave Stewart. 

Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, and Dave Stewart. 

Whereas Ether examines the loss of one’s family as a price for spending life engrossed in work, Black Hammer depicts a different sort of creative sacrifice, one that has to do with being lost in the mystique of a craft, a professional culture, a niche artistic medium driven by nostalgia. Black Hammer is the story of a group of superheroes, all of whom are analogs for various characters from the Silver Age of comics. These heroes face down a global threat and find themselves confined to a mysterious farm for their troubles, lost to the world they were defending and stuck in a small rural area that doesn’t seem to be on any map.

It is, quite clearly, a paean by Lemire, Ormston, and Stewart to superhero comics, which all of them have spent parts of their careers within. It’s more than just a reimagining of a classic superhero mythos. See, there is sinister business afoot in Black Hammer, a mournfulness to the plight of the heroes on that farm, only one of whom seems satisfied with life there (and even then, who's to say he’s not deluding himself?).

Read a certain way it almost seems like the question underlying Black Hammer is what do we give up when we fall so fully into our nostalgia for superhero comics, how much of a risk are we at of being swallowed whole by it? It’s a poignant question in an era when vicious battles are waged online about the future of many pop culture properties, battles in which nostalgia is often held as a causation. I can only suppose the question is more poignant for the creators, whose lives work is being given over in part to these characters.

Lemire’s work is always somewhat obtuse in origin, difficult to figure out thematically (in the best possible way), but let's think about the timeline during which he may have conceptualized Black Hammer, which was in all probability near the tail end of his time writing exclusively for Marvel. When Marvel’s All New All Different initiative launched, Lemire was one of the central writers, taking on some of the publisher’s most prominent characters, including one of the central X-Men team books, Old Man Logan, and All New Hawkeye, which was a followup to the immensely successful run on that character by David Aja and Matt Fraction.

Throughout 2016, however, Lemire slowly began drifting off those titles, reducing his Big 2 superhero output to a mere two books today, one of which is yet to be released. It’s not a stretch, in my opinion, to suppose Black Hammer was a manifestation of Lemire feeling creatively trapped, a sense that maybe he was drawn into this work by nostalgia and had professionally been stuck on a farm. I’m not saying I know any of this to be a fact, but I think there’s a case to be made.

I’ll conclude by saying I find both Black Hammer and Ether to be among the most intriguing titles coming to comic book stores each month, and I find important questions for us all within them, specifically: what must aspiring creators be willing to sacrifice for our crafts?; and is there danger or risk of stagnation that could kneecap our futures buried within the warm fuzzy feelings of nostalgia?

I really doubt either book will provide clear or concrete answers for such tough questions—great art is rarely so neat—but I trust there will continue to be a beautiful journey in the asking.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

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