Comic of the Week: Event Leviathan #1, a gateway to an intriguing superhero espionage story

By d. emerson eddy — The “Leviathan” crossover has been building at DC Comics for a while now, starting with the “Leviathan Rising” storyline in Action Comics and then coming to a head two weeks ago in the Superman: Leviathan Rising Special. We've seen the intelligence community in the DC Universe shaken to its core, with entire organizations obliterated, seemingly, by Leviathan. Even that organization itself has seen a kind of upheaval, as Talia al Ghul no longer seems to be its head, and a new unknown character calling himself (or herself, who knows?) “Leviathan” has taken over the reins. To what end no one knows yet.

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TRADE RATING: Brian Michael Bendis' Fortune and Glory is a masterfully-paced true Hollywood story

By Hussein Wasiti — This is the second of Brian Michael Bendis’ early creator-owned work that I’ve read, the first being his true-crime epic Torso. Like Torso, this book also happens to be a  true story. Fortune and Glory details Bendis’ personal experience trying to adapt his comic Goldfish for the big screen. In it, he depicts Hollywood as this strange other land, one which constantly surprises while also living up to every stereotype we’ve all heard about it. Bendis also provides the artwork for the comic, a dramatic deviation from Torso while also feels…

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Top Comics to Buy for April 10, 2019: Detective Comics #1001, Livewire #5, Infinite Dark #5, and more

By Zack Quaintance — A very tardy set of Top Comics to Buy for April 10, 2019 this week, but what can I say? There were a lot of great books, and I wanted to make sure I’d read as many of them as possible before settling on my recommendations. It’s called due dilligence, and I’ll be damned if I don’t...um, do it. Yeah.

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Top Comics to Buy for April 3, 2019: The Green Lantern #6, Die #5, and more

By Zack Quaintance — What a weekend. I spent it at WonderCon down in Anaheim (I’m a NorCal resident), soaking in my first show of the new con season. I’m a big fan of WonderCon, which is well organized but far more casual than San Diego, which is…

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TRADE RATING: Torso - A True Crime Graphic Novel by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko

The latest edition of Torso: A True Crime Story is available now.

By Hussein Wasiti — I’m not terribly familiar with Brian Michael Bendis’ creator-owned work. I’ve read most of what he’s done under his new Jinxworld imprint since moving to DC, so my foray into this re-printed edition of Torso is my first exposure to Bendis’ and collaborator Marc Andreyko’s early work. My major takeaway from this book was that this felt very consistent with not only his indie books, but with his superhero romps too. The style of dialogue and the occasional bold storytelling choices in this comic are still very much present in his output today at DC.

Torso delves into a basically unexplored period of the prohibition cop Elliot Ness’ life. Ness was the man who, along with his team of Untouchables, took down Al Capone, the famous Chicago gangster. Following this massive and famous victory, he moves to Cleveland for a new position as the safety director of that city. It’s definitely an antiquated position by today’s standards, and there is an undertone of futility to this job since Cleveland at the time was notoriously corrupt, with a lax police force and an equally ineffective mayor who limited Ness’ actions as safety director. In this environment a serial killer stalks the streets of the city Ness has come to protect, preying on innocent victims—decapitating and dismembering them—leaving only a torso for the authorities to find (thus the name).

The plot here is a fairly traditional affair, since we’ve all seen these kinds of stories before. A character is connected to a crime, in this case the Torso Killer is actively sending Ness postcards throughout the comic, and any attempt at catching the killer is undermined by either corruption or an incompetent bureaucratic system. What makes this particular story come to life, however, are the interesting and wide ranging historical details, which I’m not going to spoil here. Ness makes interesting choices over the course of the narrative and the reveal in the supplemental material that this was indeed all true was quite mind-blowing. Many of these historical details come across very well in Bendis’ artwork, which I’ll be discussing in great depth later.

It’s hard to talk about Elliot Ness without mentioning Brian De Palma’s 1987 film The Untouchables, arguably the most famous work about Ness’ life and one that provides a backbone for this story. Ness’ takedown of Al Capone acts as a specter hanging over Torso’s narrative; he’s frequently poked and prodded about his method of victory, which was busting Capone on tax evasion. This informs a lot of Ness’ arc throughout the comic: does he deserve the praise he’s received? Is he really the hero the public thinks he is?

Ness’ focus on taking down the Torso Killer stems from resultant insecurities, and his separate marriage issues stoke the flame of frustration he’s experiencing while working for the city. The outcome of this entire story is the perfect encapsulation of Ness’ character, in that he was too focused on what was in front of him instead of paying attention to the things that mattered, like his wife or his campaign to rid Cleveland of corruption. This is all so deftly handled by Bendis and Andreyko, whose depiction of side characters keeps the story from being an overly dark affair. Walter Myrlo and Sam Simon are the two detectives on the case, and their friendship is more or less the heart of this story. Their conversations together are trademark Bendis dialogue—snappy and witty—which works very well here.

The artwork by Bendis himself, however, is what really made this book stand out to me. Bendis handled every aspect of the art, from the pencils to the lettering. With Bendis in total control of the way the story unfolds, there are some impressively unconventional pages to be found here. Most of the time he operates with a basic double page structure, but he goes on to leave much of the top half of the right page completely dark while the final series of panels on the left page continues onto the next. One page early in the comic operated like this, and I found that to be such a bold and inventive way of highlighting tension and drama. This style of page layout achieves an intensive focus on the moment.

I mentioned earlier that the historical detail of the story lent itself to this art, and I attribute this to Bendis including real, historical images in the comic. City blocks to shantytowns to crime scene photos are all interwoven, another bold choice that cemented the realism on display. In filmic terms I’d consider it to be “cinema verité,” French for “real,” or “truthful” cinema. This technique also felt reminiscent of what famed comics artist Jack Kirby did with photo collages later in his life. The first few pages of the comic feature these images, and at first brush I found it to be a bit bizarre, but as I encountered them more I began to appreciate them.

Bendis also employs a lot of shadows, half-shrouding characters in ink. Bendis lettered the comic himself too, which was maybe my least favourite aspect of the book, or at least something I questioned while reading. I’m not an aficionado on lettering and what I know is primarily based on the standard of today’s lettering techniques. Overall, the lettering seemed thick and clunky. Bendis uses long and wide tracks to connect balloons, the size of which was rarely consistent. The placement of the balloons could have been better too, since there are some pages with absolutely insane layouts where I really needed the lettering to guide me through the sequence. Instead I was confused and sometimes read pages in odd orders. These issues were few and far between, however, and for the most part I was a fan of the general unevenness since it contributed to the indie aesthetic of the book.

Whether or not you’re familiar with the story of Elliot Ness, I’d recommend Torso wholeheartedly. The edition I read is part of a new line of republished Jinxworld material by Bendis, and I’m excited to read more of his early work. Bendis and Andreyko provide a full and real glimpse into the fascinating life of Ness here and into the brutal history of Depression-era Cleveland. The way the team told this story is both inventive and unique. Pair this some weekend afternoon with a viewing of De Palma’s The Untouchables and you’ve got yourself one strange prohibition era double feature.

Torso: A True Crime Graphic Novel
Writers:
Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko
Artist: Brian Michael Bendis
Publisher: DC - Jinxworld
Release Date: Feb. 19, 2019

Check out more collected comics reviews on Trade Rating!

Hussein Wasiti is a history undergraduate with an intense passion for comics. You can find his weekly writings over at comicsthegathering.com, and periodically on Weird Science. He is on Twitter as bullthesis, and he lives in Toronto with his hordes of comics.

Top Comics to Buy for March 13, 2019 - Catwoman, House Amok, Little Bird, and more

By Zack Quaintance — Phew, I just flew home from SXSW and boy are my arms exhausted! Kidding. That was incredibly lame and also I’m still physically at SXSW for one more day, but, you know, you can use the Internet from anywhere, so let nothing get in the way of our comics recommendations. How are the comics this week? Well, we’ve got a good mix of solid beginnings and exciting endings.

In the finale column, we have Cover and House Amok, which regular readers will likely recognize as two of our favorites around these part, with the former being an intimate and gorgeous meta take on the industry and the latter an unnerving dive into shared familial psychosis. Most notably in the debuts column we have Little Bird, which is quite possibly poised to be the best new comic of the year (stay tuned for an interview with the book’s creators later this week). So there, stage set for another great week.

Now, let’s take a look at the comics!

Top Comics to Buy for March 13, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Little Bird #1 (
read our full review!)
Writer:
Darcy Van Poelgeest
Artist: Ian Bertram
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
MINISERIES PREMIERE!
Director/screenwriter DARCY VAN POELGEEST boasts a long list of awards and accolades for his storytelling prowess and brings the same writing finesse to IAN BERTRAM's breathtakingly detailed artwork in the gorgeous, hyper-detailed miniseries LITTLE BIRD.
Why It’s Cool: Is it enough to just say that this debut issue absolutely rules and these creators are destined to be stars? Because that’s first and foremost why this book is cool, but if you need more (and still haven’t read our Little Bird #1 review), I can also go on to tell you that this is a new #1 that absolutely brims with electric story, as ambitious as it is tense and beautiful, this is as imaginative as a comic as we’ve seen all year. It’s very very good, and you’ll want to get a copy now before it sells out and starts going for major bucks on eBay.

Catwoman #9
Writer:
Ram V.
Artist: John Timms
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
When crooks break into the pawn shop where Catwoman has set up her secret headquarters, they make off with a personal item that she has to get back. The trail of loot leads her to the Broker, the man who moves all illicit merchandise in Villa Hermosa. Now, Catwoman could just walk in and ask for her property back, but that's never been Catwoman's style. Instead, she's going to pull off a heist that will teach her foe a lesson, making sure the Broker never crosses the Cat ever again. This special one-off issue is written by acclaimed writer Ram V. (BATMAN: SECRET FILES) and artist John Timms (HARLEY QUINN).
Why It’s Cool: We’ve been calling this run of Catwoman underrated for weeks, and we’d like to reiterate that again here before moving on to discussing this individual issue. Catwoman #9 is essentially a break issue for the normal creative team of Joelle Jones (singular...although she’s been spelled lately by Elena Casagrande and Fernando Blanco), presumably so she can write and draw forthcoming issues. What’s nice is DC has brought in rising star writer Ram V., fresh off a fantastic Batman one shot story in the recent Secret Files one-shot. Ram V. is a favorite of ours from his creator-owned work, and this one-off issue is a great example of why. Highly recommended!

House Amok #5
Writer:
Christopher Sebela
Artist: Shawn McManus
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Publisher: IDW - Black Crown
Price: $3.99
Read our review of House Amok #1
Ten-year-old twin Dylan Sandifer is now in the driver's seat of more than the converted old school bus her family called home for a summer murder spree. Will she turn on her family and the sacred bond between twins and break free from the shared madness? Conspiracy theories, organ thieves, and secret histories collide in the explosive final issue!
Why It’s Cool: This second wave of IDW - Black Crown titles—Euthanauts, Lodger, and House Amok—can do no wrong, as far as we’re concerned. They’ve all been consistently excellent while also bringing something new to the imprint. In the case of House Amok, that something has been nuanced and complex psychological drama, centered on an actual affliction that has to do with shared psychosis...and then filtered back by a little girl protagonist who breaks free and recognizes something is wrong. It’s a lot, and it’s all written and drawn to nigh-perfection by Christopher Sebela and Shawn McManus, respectively. This issue marks the House Amok finale, and we are as delighted as we are scared to find out what it holds.  

Livewire #4
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artists: Raul Allen with Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Price: $3.99
Read our review of Livewire #3!
Once, Livewire dreamed of devoting herself to the betterment of humankind. Now, her most steadfastly held ideals are about to be tested like never before as she struggles to stay alive in the clutches of a fearsome new foe! But who is the mysterious psiot mercenary hunting her...and more importantly, who do they work for?
Why It’s Cool: The summary text really nails it when it says, Livewire’s “most steadfastly held ideals are about to be tested like never before as she struggles to stay alive…”...which could really be a tagline for this entire run to date. Last summer during Valiant’s Harbinger Wars 2 event, protagonist Livewire took some drastic (and violent) measures to protect those close to her, and now this creative team is hellbent on simultaneously making her earn redemption while not backing down from the injustices that forced her hand in the slightest. It’s a tour de force in powerful storytelling, and it’s making Livewire one of our favorite superhero comics, month in and month out.

Superman #9
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Ivan Reis, Brandon Peterson
Inker: Joe Prado
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
The secrets of the house of El are revealed as the Unity Saga continues! Traveling through space, young Jon Kent has faced everything the universe could throw at him, but after an accident sends him and his grandfather Jor-El across dimensions, the new Superboy comes face to face with a terrifyingly evil version of his own father: Ultraman and his horrible version of the Justice League, the Crime Syndicate! Find out what happened to Superman's father and how Jon made it back home from this strange and crime-ridden alternate world.
Why It’s Cool: There is just no upper limit on the grandiosity of this run. In fact, the regular creative team of Brian Bendis and Ivan Reis have been upping the scale of this ongoing Unity Saga every issue, introducing more (and more bonkers) ideas into the plot, be it an out-of-his-mind Jor-El, a newly-powerful (and controversially older) Jon Kent, or the evil alternate reality Justice League known as the Crime Syndicate. They’re all coming together here as we get more of the backstory about what transpired in deep space between the three of them. This outsized Superman comic is a nice compliment to the more character-heavy and grounded Action Comics, another current favorite around these parts.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Age of Conan: Belit #1

  • Age of X-Man: Apocalypse and the X-Tracts #1

  • Assassin Nation #1

  • Batman Who Laughs: Grim Knight #1

  • Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1

  • Uncanny X-Men: Winters End #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #2

  • Amazing Spider-Man #17

  • By Night #9

  • Cover #6

  • Hawkman #10

  • Laguardia #4

  • Long Con #7

  • Murder Falcon #6

  • Oblivion Song #13

  • Prodigy #4

  • Shuri #6

  • Supergirl #28

  • Tony Stark: Iron Man #9

  • Wonder Twins #2

  • Wonder Woman #66

Check back to the site later this week for reviews of Assassin Nation #1 (which has a character named F*ck Tarkington), House Amok #5, Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1, 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.

Comic of the Week: Action Comics #1007 is a must-read chapter in the Bendis Superman run

Action Comics #1007 came out 1/30/2019.

By d. emerson eddy — Last year, Brian Michael Bendis walked across the aisle in terms of Big Two comics publishers. After nearly two decades of shaping the Marvel Universe, he hung up his Spider-tights and donned a pair of red underoos at DC. It was a pretty big deal, probably one of the biggest exclusivity changes we've seen in the past 10 years. Some people cheered, some jeered, some waited patiently to see what would occur. I shrugged, because I wasn't reading any DC Comics at the time of the announcement and wouldn't again until recently. I just knew I was going to miss Bendis' writing on Jessica Jones and Defenders.

Fast forward to late last year, when the temptation for The Sandman Universe and Jinxworld titles became too great. I started with those titles, before giving the broader DC Universe a chance again. Although I may have some trepidation at some bleaker corners of their publishing, I feel like Brian Michael Bendis has become like a shining light for them, a light in the darkness. With the Superman titles, Wonder Comics, and Jinxworld, I feel like he's been rejuvenated. Some of his familiar writing quirks are still there, but not to excess. The dialogue tics and decompressed storytelling approaches are present, but not at the point where they feel overboard. And Cover and Pearl (with the inimitable David Mack and Michael Gaydos respectively) feel like some of the freshest, most inventive work that he's written in years, possibly ever.

It could be the excitement of playing in a new sandbox, but that joy, wonder, and freshness carries over into the Bendis-penned Superman titles as well. People may argue about Superman itself, but I feel like he's nailing Action Comics month in and month out. Action Comics #1007 begins “Leviathan Rises” (or “Leviathan Rising” if you go by the cover) that promises to unearth secrets of the DC Universe, and this is a promising start. There have been hints of things going on since #1001, but this issue starts with a bang when it comes to someone targeting other shadowy organizations. It's a decent hook, but what particularly puts the story over the top here is a personal moment between Lois Lane and her father. I won't spoil it, but it's a conversation that will have huge ramifications and is something that you probably don't want to miss.

Steve Epting joins the series to provide the line art for this arc, a perfect choice. Shadowy conspiracy and espionage-tinged stories are his forte, and he shines here. Despite the brightness of Superman's world, he brings a tinge of darkness from the corners in the attacks on the other secret societies and black ops organizations. Those attacks are also beautifully enhanced by the explosion effects provided by Brad Anderson. It's nice to see the contrast between Superman's bright, bold colors and the darkness of an organization like Kobra as well. I'd also go back to the conversation between Lois and her father, wherein Epting and Anderson play it out like a spy meeting her handler for the first time in years in its composition and coloring, adding a nice tension to the entire scene. And Josh Reed serves as the backbone again for the series with his lettering. There's a quite nice effect with the “Faith to Kali Yuga!” chants.

Overall, Bendis, Epting, Anderson, and Reed provide a good jumping-on point here with Action Comics #1007. Although it does build on what's come before, it's not absolutely necessary to have read since the run started with #1001, giving you more than enough to be hooked by this issue alone. The mystery of the attacks and the character work pretty much make this unmissable if you're a Superman fan. It's also laying some of the groundwork for the future of the DC Universe. I'd suggest getting in now.

Action Comics #1007
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Steve Epting
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

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.

Best New Comics January 2019 - Naomi, Guardians, and Young Justice

By Zack Quaintance — Regular readers will know this is the column wherein we look at the best new comics from January 2019, specifically one-shots and new #1 issues. They may also notice that I’ve cheated this month, selecting six comics for my usual top 5. First of all, I set the rule so I’m kind of like, oh well. Second, I expanded that section this month so that it wouldn’t be pretty much all Big 2 superhero comics, and I don’t think that’s ever a bad thing.

The good problem that I had this month was that both Marvel and DC launched a pair of super high-quality comics that I couldn’t leave out of my top five, with Guardians of the Galaxy and Invaders coming from Marvel, and Naomi and Young Justice from the Distinguished Competition. So yes, it was a great start to the year for fans of superhero storytelling. In fact, I may write a full piece about this sometime soon, but I think we’re in one of those rare periods where both of those publishers are putting out generally stellar work. But that’s a topic for another time.

Today, let’s get on with our look at the best new comics of January 2019!

Quick Hits

As d. emerson eddy noted in his Comic of the Week feature, Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 is accessible and entertaining even to readers who may not have seen the old show...a group that embarrassingly includes me. That said, I thought this book was fantastic.

Another TV-based book I thought was fantastic? Adventure Time: Marcy and Simon #1 by Olivia Olson and Slimm Fabert. I’m a huge Adventure Time fan, and thought this book—which is set after the TV show ends—more than did the source material justice.

Let’s keep the transitions rolling and note that another book that more than did its source material justice was the new Conan the Barbarian #1, from Marvel, which was also a Comic of the Week pick this month.    

A little less exciting (at least for me) was Marvel Comics Presents #1. I still like this format—prestige creators telling short, one-off stories about the Marvel Universe—but other than the fantastic Namor story, this first installment was pretty average.  

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1.jpg

There were a couple nominative #1 issues this month with the Uncanny X-Men and Justice League annuals. The former was a character-driven story that minimized the weirdness of Cyclops coming back, and the latter a grandiose space opera epic that clarified some points about what’s happening in Justice League and why.

Another great Big 2 #1 was Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, which got even better with its second issue. Full review of the debut here.

Another comic I wrote a full review of was Oliver #1 by Gary Whitta and Darick Robertson. It’s a post-apocalyptic story with only a loose connection to Oliver Twist. I recommend it.

And one more review comic, Wyrd #1! You can read my full thoughts via the link, but this is a book that has all the hallmarks of the start of a special run.

Finally, I liked Barbarella / Dejah Thoris #1 well enough, but I overall recommend paying attention because the series’ writer, Leah Williams, is on the rise and it’ll be interesting to see how earlier work like this compares to later stuff.

Top 5 Best New Comics January 2019

Criminal #1.jpg

Criminal #1
Writer:
Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Read our full review of Criminal #1!

Ho man, what have we as contemporary comics fan done to deserve a team as talented as Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (joined here with colors by his son Jacob Phillips)? Seriously, the comics these guys make are almost too good. I read Criminal #1, which was an over-sized issue, with such an intense focus that I don’t think I liked up once until I was entirely through out. It’s that immersive.

Contributing writer Bo Stewart really summed up why it works so well in his review, but I’ll just reiterate again in brief: these are two masters of the craft working in tandem with a level of alchemy that is perhaps unprecedented. Do yourself a favor and read this comic.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1.jpg

Guardians of the Galaxy #1
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99
Read our full review of Guardians of the Galaxy #1!

As regular readers of the site may be aware, Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw’s Thanos Wins was one of our top comics of 2018, and now it’s essentially being continued in Guardians of the Galaxy. Of all the writers at Marvel—even the long-tenured vets—Cates arguably writes the best new #1 issues, and this one is no exception. It establishes a killer premise, gleefully speeds through it in grandiose fashion, and leaves the reader fondly looking for the release date of the second issue.  

As with Criminal, we also ran a full review that elaborates in greater depth on this comic, so I will again keep it brief and just note that I’m not even all that big a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy, and yet the continuation of this series just became one of my most-highly anticipated comics of 2019. So, yeah.

Invaders #1.jpg

Invaders #1
Writer:
Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Carlos Magno with Butch Guice
Colorist: Alex Guimaraes
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99

I’ve always liked Invaders more as a concept—the team of Golden Age Marvel characters that fought for the allies in WWII—more than I have in modern execution. Their stories have always felt like nostalgic throwbacks, inherently dated. This new comic, however, essentially flies in the face of that, with a first issue that seems to promise an exploration of the old times that will take us to modern places that are new.

How, you may wonder, does it do that? Well, if you’re so curious you really ought to read the actual comic, which, believe me, is very good. Chip Zdarsky is Marvel’s most nuanced writer. He may not write the flashiest stories (ahem, Donny Cates) or the best long-form narratives (Jason Aaron), but he’s the most likely writer in the Marvel stable to surprise and to land big emotional moments. This issue, which ends with a cliffhanger rooted in the past, gives every indication Invaders will be well worth readers’ time.

Naomi #1
Writers:
Brian Michael Bendis & David F. Walker
Artist: Jamal Campbell
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

We don’t play favorites in this section, but, truth be told, Naomi #1 just might be our favorite new comic of the month. It takes a new approach to DC Comics most iconic heroes in a few ways. It takes us to a new town we’ve never seen (a hip, semi-rural enclave in Oregon), it gives us a young girl we don’t know (yet), and it dives deep into her point of view, how she sees Superman and what as an adoptee herself she sees to relate to, as well as why.

There’s a mystery that seems destined to end with Naomi growing into a superhero, maybe even a Kryptonian or Superman analog herself, but moreover, there’s just a really solid human story here. Whereas Marvel has basically an entire universe of everymen and everwomen, that has never been DC’s strength. Naomi is looking to fix that, and I for one am hella excited to see where this comic is headed. Oh, and Jamal Campbell’s artwork is absolutely stunning.

Peter+Cannon+Thunderbolt+#1.jpg

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Casper Wijngaard
Colorist: Mary Safro
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Dynamie
Price: $3.99
Read our full review of Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1!

Wowzer, did this comic catch me by surprise! I—embarrassingly—had no familiarity with Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt as a property. I did not realize he was one of the original characters from Charleston Comics that the Watchmen characters were later based on, and I certainly didn’t know the rights had gone up for grabs and become property of Dynamite. That said, I love what Kieron Gillen and Casper Wijngaard seemed to be engaged in after this first issue.

You know the drill—more thoughts in our review—but this has a last page that all Watchmen fans will be interested to read. It could ultimately end up being a very nice counterpoint to Doomsday Clock.  

Young Justice #1.jpg

Young Justice #1
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: DC Lettering
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99

The Brian Michael Bendis-curated Wonder Comics imprint has arrived, and it is...well, wonderful. Young Justice #1 was the inaugural issue for the new imprint, and if this is the tone these books are looking to strike, well done. It’s fast, funny, and bent on being very tongue-and-cheek with DC continuity. It’s exactly the sort of in-universe lighter imprint DC needs, what with the other parts of the line seeming to perpetually bend back toward dark and gritty.

The most interesting thing about this individual story though, is the way it plays with continuity. It seems to know that readers have questions about the current status quos of characters like Impulse, Connor Kent, and Cassie Sandsmark, which by extension plays to more questions about what from the New 52 counted and what is wiped away. This is the central mystery the comic is built around, and it’s a really intriguing one, to be sure.

Check out more of our many 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 January 16, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — This was an interesting week for comics, in that many of the best creator-owned books coming out were well into their runs or midway into their first arcs. There are, of course, some interesting new #1 titles (there always as are, as that’s where the money is at, and all), including Adventure Time: Simon and Marcy, Black Widow, and Invaders. There’s also Marvel Comics Presents #1, which is the one I’m personally most interested in.

Still, great creator-owned books like Black Badge, Gideon Falls, Lodger, and Wic + Div all seem to be caught mid-arc. So, we’ve done what any good comics recommender would...read the issues and sorted them out and come up with some recommendations—even if there aren’t any good jumping on points to be had, except for Isola (more on that in a moment). We hope you’ll find it all helpful!

And now, onward to the comics!

Top Comics to Buy for January 16, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Babyteeth #14
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Garry Brown
Colorist: Mark Englert
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Price: $3.99
So, hey, welcome back, folks. How about that issue 13, huh? I told you it was bananas. Anyway, look, I'd like to be able to tell you this one is easier or nicer somehow, but real-ly...have any issues of this book not been insane and weird? Would you even believe me If I said it was? No. You wouldn't. So, yeah, this issue is more of all that. Plus: BETRAYAL! (Dramatic music cue!)
Why It’s Cool: This issue really teases out writer Donny Cates’ abilities as a humor writer, which were last seen this directly during his first Marvel work on Doctor Strange and Thanos. Meanwhile, artist Garry Brown also gets some great chances to shine here in what is the first issue back after a bit of a break, using his design skills to also get in on the humor tip. It’s not all laughs though—this issue also raises some pretty stark questions about the devil and God, and, by extension, about our concepts of good and evil. Basically, this is the first issue in a while that really makes good on the immense promise Babyteeth had at launch way back when, so much so it makes me absolutely elated I stuck with this series.

Black Panther #8
Writer:
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Kev Walker
Colorist: Stephane Paitreau
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE INTERGALACTIC EMPIRE OF WAKANDA: THE GATHERING OF MY NAME" Part 2 For years, the Maroons have lain dormant, planning the next stage of their rebellion. At last, it is time to strike - with a treasure hunt for unstable Vibranium! And with the Black Panther once again in their ranks, they're certain of victory. But what will victory cost? When the chips are down, will the Maroons rise to heroism, or are they doomed by the trauma of their past?
Why It’s Cool: Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates just keeps getting better and better at the comics game, and while his best work may be taking place over in Captain America, his current bonkers intergalactic arc on Black Panther is really no slouch. It’s a bit hard to make out what exactly is going on here—my guess is something funny with a wormhole...thank you to the Shuri title for the tip—but the imagination involved with the story is absolutely off the charts. Kev Walker also returns for another issue, which I’m all about because I thought Black Panther #7 was stunning.  

Electric Warriors #3
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Travel Foreman
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
The revolution starts now! Inceptor accidentally digs too far into the memories of the Electric Warrior from Gil'Dishpan and uncovers a conspiracy at the heart of the Covenant. The planet games are meant to bring profit and keep the various peoples across the galaxies in check, rather than encourage peace and cooperation. If Inceptor can convince the other Warriors of what he's learned, it might just spark the revolution that will free a galaxy.
Why It’s Cool: Simply put, Electric Warriors is the Big 2 comic right now that not enough people are talking about. It’s an impeccably-told future-set tale with a savage sci-fi concept. This issue pushes that concept a step further by—well, I won’t tip into spoiler territory but I will tell you that you should without question be reading this book. Especially if you fancy yourself any sort of DC Comics continuity buff, or even a hardcore DC fan.  

Isola #6
Writers:
Brendan Fletcher / Karl Kerschl
Artists: Karl Kerschl / Msassyk
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Olwyn has returned from the land of the dead, but did she return alone? The journey to Isola continues...NOW BI-MONTHLY!
Why It’s Cool: Isola is the best-looking comic coming out today (with apologies to The Dreaming), and this is the start of a new arc. The first trade is out there at the super reasonable $9.99 Image introductory price. It’s also a fairly decompressed comic, which means that with $10 and an afternoon, you can get caught up for this new jumping on point. And trust me when I tell you it’s very much worth. Not only is the art absolutely stunning, but the world is well-built and the characters compelling. The narrative is also paced with a rewarding rate of revelation, doling out enough to stay interesting without ever tipping into overly wordy dumping of exposition.

Superman #7
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Ivan Reis, Brandon Peterson, and Jason Fabok
Inker: Oclair Albert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
It's the moment you've been waiting for: the shocking return of the son of Superman! A year spent traveling the stars changed Jon Kent. Are parents Clark and Lois ready for the all-new, all-different Superboy? Secrets are revealed, a new look debuts and Superman's world is changed forever!
Why It’s Cool: There’s a reason that Brian Michael Bendis dueling runs on Action Comics and Superman made our Top 5 Comics of 2018: they’re both really really good. Action grabbed me right away, but I must admit it took just a tiny bit longer for Superman to really reel me in. Now that it has, however, I just can’t get enough of this book. Superman #7 is another fantastic installment with top-tier art and a plot that keeps the pages turning. It also has something that Bendis is proving himself impressively adept at: a new iconic moment largely shaped by logical ways in which the rest of the city, Earth, or galaxy would come to view someone as powerful and benevolent as our guy Clark Kent. These are exciting and special superhero comics, and I feel lucky to be reading them in real time as they come out.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Adventure Time: Simon and Marcy #1

  • Black Hammer Director’s Cut #1

  • Black Widow #1

  • Invaders #1

  • Marvel Comics Presents #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • A Walk Through Hell #7

  • Amazing Spider-Man #13

  • Black Badge #6

  • Catwoman #7

  • Conan the Barbarian #2

  • Detective Comics #996

  • Gideon Falls #10

  • Hawkman #8

  • Ironheart #2

  • Lodger #3

  • Middlewest #3

  • Supergirl #26

  • Venom #10

  • Warning #3

  • Wicked + Divine #41

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 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.