REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy #5 pays off a plot point from the first issue

By Zack Quaintance — It’s official, Guardians of the Galaxy has now reached that rare stratosphere of superhero comicbook, wherein I end up reading it in the front seat of my car before even leaving my local shop’s lot. If you’re reading this book, you’re likely nodding in agreement right now. This story has just been so rich with twists and turns and break-neck pacing that it demands that kind of urgency. It’s the type of book that pushes you to pick up your pull list just a little bit earlier that day, because…

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REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy #4 is, for lack of a better word, a slobberknocker

By Zack Quaintance — To use the parlance of writer Donny Cates’ native Texas, boy howdy did the #$@^ really hit the fan in Guardians of the Galaxy #4. I won’t reveal much more than that, however, just noting that a conflict I thought we were on pace for a few issues down the line, really kicked off in a big way right here in these…

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REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy #3, balancing character with the grandiose

Guardians of the Galaxy #3 is out 3/20/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — With the third issue in their run of Guardians of the Galaxy, writer Donny Cates, artist Geoff Shaw, colorist Marte Garcia, and letterer Cory Petit have come pretty close to cementing this as my second favorite comic at Marvel (Immortal Hulk being first, and Thor being the main contender for second). As I noted in my review of Guardians of the Galaxy #1, this comic felt like an extension of two recent comics I’d enjoyed quite a bit, both of which were by Cates and Shaw. The first was their absolutely fantastic Thanos Wins story, and the second was their earlier creator-owned collaboration, God Country.

That first issue of Guardians of the Galaxy had all the outsized cosmic moralizing that had built such a rewarding emotional foundation for God Country, along with the same bombastic pacing and unflinching overturning of the status quo from Thanos. I loved it. I also liked Guardians of the Galaxy #2 quite a bit, albeit for different reasons. The second chapter of this book felt like a stepback, a quieter issue aimed at fostering relationships between the members of the all new all different Guardians team. It came as a surprise to me following the tone set by the debut, but it was a great read nonetheless.

In Guardians of the Galaxy #3, the creative team seems to have struck an absolutely perfect balance between those two tones and approaches. The epic plotting and rapid pace of revelation is there, especially as it applies to the larger galactical happenings not taking place on Peter Quill’s ship, The Ryder. We see Thanos scarred brother StarFox grappling with his own new status quo (and some familial baggage) in the wake of his more famous and more feared brothers death, and we see Hela sowing death and discord among Annihilus and his minions, in a segment that gives Shaw and Garcia a chance to really impress with their linework and colors, respectively. Most interestingly, though, we see the newly-dubbed Dark Guardians (see the end of last issue) on the hunt for the whereabouts of Gamora, chasing Richard Rider Nova at a breakneck speed across the cosmos.

Then when we snap back to the ship, Cates picks up right where he left off last issue building team dynamics and giving our protagonists and authentic and believable sense of urgency for their mission. They are the good guys and—while obviously imperfect and in some cases (Peter) massively reluctant—they are going to spend this run guarding the damned galaxy. That’s all just good comic book-ing, generally speaking. What really makes this run feel compelling to me is the idea of a new Thanos rising. In the hands of a lesser writer, I’d be relatively ambivalent to this development, withholding judgement to see what they do with what’s mostly a solid idea. Cates, however, has proven himself to be a master of surprise twists during his short-time at Marvel, generally landing bits of misdirection that feel organic, earned, and impossible to predict. There’s every reason to believe he’ll do the same, which in addition to the stellar storytelling is all the reason I need to have this book near the top of my stack every month.  

Overall: This third chapter of our story blends the grandiosity from the debut issue with the character-driven storytelling of the second to elevate this run to absolute must-read status. One of the best books at Marvel this side of Immortal Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy is a must-read. 9.5/10

Guardians of the Galaxy #3
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

Read our reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy #1 and Guardians of the Galaxy #2!

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.

REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy #2 slows things down but still contains a MAJOR development

Guardians of the Galaxy #2 is out 2/20/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — As I wrote last month, Guardians of the Galaxy #1 was a natural extension of its creative team’s past work, first of the creator-owned God Country and then more directly of the subsequent Thanos Wins story for Marvel. That debut issue was fast-paced, grandiose, and packed with big moments, while at the same time managing to set up a new concept for this run—Thanos is, indeed, dead, and now he will be reincarnated after his consciousness enters someone new. A team of good guys coalesce around mitigating the threat to the universe that so clearly stems from that.

Guardians of the Galaxy #2 is a much slower affair, especially in its first half. The book seems to collectively take a breath, get itself together, and center itself for a long journey to come, rather than the relatively contained story arcs that marked the aforementioned God Country and Thanos Wins. It’s not boring by any means. Cates is such a good writer that he turns the team’s leader, Peter Quill, drunkenly bemoaning his plight into a really funny interaction with Kitty Pryde, whom Quill has recently had a romantic relationship with (Quill says he has trauma from having been dead and come back to life, and Kitty retorts, You’d hate the X-Men...very funny stuff).

These type of character moments and slower bits of development are key facets of long-form team-based superhero comics, and I almost always welcome them. This one caught me a bit off guard with how soon in the run it came, but, also, this wasn’t entirely a stepback and breath issue. No, the second half of the book sees a major development that will have major ramifications throughout the rest of the run. If the first issue brought our good guy team together, well, this second issue gives them a foil, and in a pretty brilliant bit of narrative plotting, Cates makes it so their goals might even overlap.

Indeed, both the good guys and the bad in this new Guardians book are invested in stopping Thanos from again terrorizing the universe. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just note that the tension between them is likely to arise from their very different ideas on the best way to accomplish this. All the setup then culminates in a grandiose (that word again!) last page cliffhanger, the sort of textbook ending for an entertaining superhero comic that Cates and artist Geoff Shaw all but perfected during their run on Thanos. SPOILER: a team of Dark Guardians comes together and sets out to find Richard Rider in order to murder Gamora…thus giving us the characters and the goals that will be at odds with our heroes.

All in all, while I didn’t white knuckle my way through this comic with a huge grin on my face the way I did the debut issue, I still came away from Guardians of the Galaxy #2 basically certain that this will be a major run with these characters. There’s clearly a huge scale and a big plan at work here, and I’ll be happy to follow it through to completion, enjoying Shaw’s outsized artistry and Cates’ clever dialogue throughout.

Overall: A quieter step-back issue that invests in character moments and funny exchanges while still pushing the grandiose plot from Guardians of the Galaxy #1 forward. There’s clearly a huge scale and big plan at work here, and I’m excited to follow it through to its ending. 8.5/10

Guardians of the Galaxy #2
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

Check out some of other thoughts about this comic from both this week and the past in our reviews archive.

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

REVIEW: Relay #4, an unsurprisingly mind-bending return with a new artist

Relay #4 is out 2/20/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Relay has been on a break, presumably due to the departure of Andy Clarke, who drew the first three issues of the series. In fact, the last issue—Relay #3—came out on Sept. 5, just over four months ago. In just three issues, this comic has amassed a steady set of rabid fans, folks who were respectful-yet-forceful with me on Twitter in recent weeks, asking when they should expect a new issue (I’m not any sort of official representative friends, just an appreciator of this comic).

Anyway, the point is that all seems to be behind us now, with Clarke leaving the book in favor of another uber-talented imaginative artist, Dalibor Talajic, who is fresh off drawing Relay publisher AfterShock Comics’ first-ever original graphic novel, Witch Hammer (a book we liked quite a bit). Before we delve into the individuality of this specific issue, let me just say this about the art shift: 1. Clarke was doing singular and nigh-visionary work on this comic, and it is regretful that he has now seemingly departed; 2. Talajic is a more-than capable replacement and will also do strong work. These two thoughts can and do exist. They’re not bad or good as they apply to Relay (more discussion of that in a moment), they just are.

I suppose the chief question is whether this is still the book we remember from last fall. And yes, it absolutely is. Pretty much everything that made Relay such a mind-bending and intriguing sci-fi trip is back, as are the deep thematic interests and the always-earned and never-obvious plot twists. This is still a very, very good comic that I can endorse resolutely without any sort of hesitation.

The one visual change I noticed most was that Talajic’s work lends the proceedings a grittier feel than we had under Clarke. The way Clarke drew the sci-fi worlds in Relay, they felt like a false utopia, a world that’s surface was gleaming and enlightened but its deeper reaches were a maze of psychological misgivings. Much of that remains with Talajic, yet the danger seems a bit more present, just a bit more looming. This is also perhaps by design, as the danger has become more blatant as our story has gone on. I don’t prefer either rendering—they both work and work well. Although I will note that this issue feels like a bit of a come down from the absurdly trippy heights we hit in #3.

Now comes the hard part for me as a reviewer: parsing through one of the most complex stories in comics to tell you all what to expect in terms of quality and also maybe help you to understand what might be going on. Our main characters perceptions feel as muddled as they have from the start, his ideas about what might be true and false, and who might be pushing forward misleading information and why. There is mystery around all that, but—and this is massively to writer Zac Thompson’s credit—there is never disorientation. We have a close perspective with our protagonist that allows us to experience a clear story with him, knowing what he does while wondering all his same questions. It’s a great way to take an audience through such an intellectually-ambitious science fiction story, and Thompson nails it (yet again).

The way the Relay is depicted is a perfect example of this. We as an audience don’t really know what it’s for or why...but neither does our hero. He knows it’s always been apart of the world he’s lived on (Earth), and he knows that he’s always been told it is crucial to civilization, a benefit to any and all systems. He continues to doubt whether any (or all) of that is true, while searching for the answers. I don’t know what he’s going to find, but I continue to love being part of this journey.  

Overall: With artist Dalibor Talajic now on board for at least the next two issues, Relay returns and loses very little. This issue features all the deeply-smart sci-fi themes and perfectly-executed plot twists that made the first three chapters so exciting. 9.2/10

Relay #4
Story:
Zac Thompson, Eric Bromberg, & Donny Cates
Writer: Zac Thompson
Artist: Dalibor Talajic
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Charles Pritchett
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Price: $3.99

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

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

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.

REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw is Marvel’s best new #1 in recent memory

Guardians of the Galaxy #1 is out 1/23/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — There is a special alchemy in (semi-) monthly comics between certain writers and certain artists, a working relationship that takes hold and helps the members of a team feed off each other’s work, rising through the industry and earning new fans together. I could list examples, but you probably have your own favorites in mind as you read this. I know I’m thinking of mine, and rarely have I seen a team entrench itself as quickly among my personal favorites as Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw.

I know they’d worked together previously on The Paybacks (a well-regarded comic that I’ve been meaning to read for a while now but just haven’t...sorry), but my own first exposure to both of them was God Country #1. Released in January 2017, the creator-owned book through Image Comics was a tour de force of good vs. evil, inter-dimensional sword fighting, and Texas braggadocio and swagger. The book found an audience, quickly, setting both of its creators on the path that has lead them to us today, two years later, doing Guardians of the Galaxy #1 for Marvel (in between, they also made one of my personal favorite recent Marvel runs, Thanos WIns).

If ever there were a franchise in need of some new excitement, it’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s been a few years since the team had a memorable comics run, owing to some chaos in the Marvel line (they’ve gotten a new E-I-C) and a sort of backseat for the company’s cosmic properties. The Guardians of the Galaxy physical comics have also suffered a bit from being too-specifically tailored to match the lineup in the movie.

Since that film came out in 2014, we’ve basically been getting lineups that feature all the characters from the movie...plus Venom; or all the characters from the movie...plus The Thing, etc. It was a way to try and offer comics fans something new without really deviating to an unfamiliar place for the presumed new fans of the movie, who could be seeking the comic. The result was a book that felt hamstrung by its own status quo, which is never a good thing but is especially bad for cosmic-set comics where exploration, discovery, and literally out-of-this-world surprises are a currency.

Today’s Guardians of the Galaxy #1, however, is just about as good of an injection of new excitement as I can imagine for this team. As we’ve come to expect from the duo, it’s a fantastically-executed comic, one that uses Shaw’s propensity for big moments of chaos and destruction to great effect. Cates is also evolving as a writer here, with nary a sign of the omniscient Texas-voiced narrator that has driven much of his best work. It’s a great thing to see, two young rising creators at the tops of their game relaxing into a story.

The concept for this new run is also strong, in that it grows directly from my personal favorite Cates story, Thanos Wins. It’s very much a Guardians of the Galaxy book (the presence of Peter Quill and Groot sees to that), but the problems the new team seems destined to face stem from the events of the earlier story, creating multiple mysteries (always a good thing) as well as fearsome inter-galactic threats. Simply put, this is the type of streamlining that justifies a Big 2 superhero #1 issue and reboot, and I can’t wait to see where the creators take it.

Overall: The first exciting new chapter for the Guardians in I don’t know how long, Guardians of the Galaxy #1 sees two of Marvel’s best young creators operating with giant ambitions, and they absolutely deliver. This is a big story, one worthy of involving the entire galaxy. 9.5/10

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

Check out some of other thoughts about this comic from both this week and the past in our reviews archive.

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


REVIEW: Babyteeth #14 is contemplative AND hilarious

Babyteeth #14 is out 1/16/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Babyteeth #14 marks the return of one of AfterShock’s best comics. This series wasn’t on a hiatus. No, it’s last issue came out in late October. Factor in the crowded holiday season (those dreaded times when commitments other than comics rear their heads), and the book’s short break felt more like an extended skip month. Either way, the book is back now, and you know what? It’s as sharp as it's ever been.

What’s perhaps most noticeable is the humor in this issue’s script. Basically, after a two-month hiatus, Babyteeth is back, and so is writer Donny Cates, at his most hilarious and absurd. This is the clever, pithy scripting that Cates used to announce his arrival at Marvel so emphatically in late 2017 with his work on Doctor Strange and Thanos Wins. It’s the dialogue that sounds like a mix of films by Richard Linklater and Adam McKay, conversational in a lazy Texas sort of way but never far from a slapstick and hilarious one-liner.

And Cates puts that humor to great effect here as we finally meet the McGuffin of this story, satan, giving him a number of one liners that made me chuckle aloud, which is pretty rare for me to do when I’m reading a comic. He’s not the only one being funny here, though. Artists Garry Brown and Mark Englert get called on to draw a very late painting by Vincent Van Gogh, and they come back with an image that’s just perfect...disturbing in an absurd way, like something from a raunchier version of Beetlejuice.

All the jokes, however, are sort of a trojan horse for something much deeper: a contemplation of mankind’s perceptions of satan and god, which is then extended into a look at the very nature of good and evil, and how from a certain point of view it’s nigh impossible to tell which is which. And look...I know, I know...my hackles are up just writing that, but it’s not some kind of veiled diatribe about the media or fake news or something hackneyed like that.

Cates and the Babyteeth team have a deep biblical interest. They aren’t saying anything here about how the last Tweet you sent could be construed as both supportive and critical of whatever issue of the hour. This is a comic that after 14 issues is finding new thematic ground exploring the validity of some of society’s deep abiding perceptions about morality as shaped by our ideas of the being that created us.

And look, I know what we’re talking about here: a comic called Babyteeth that in the first issue probably (I forget) had a scene where the baby spit up and it caused an earthquake, or locust to fall from the sky or something. This isn’t Chaucer. It’s more fun than all that, and Cates know it. That doesn’t mean he’s not going to try to find some truth during the big goofy party. He is, after all, pretty great at that: see Thanos Wins and the Cosmic Ghost Rider character everyone loves so much, and see God Country, another comic in which his main writerly interests—Texas, theology, and badassery—work well in (very awesome) concert.   

Overall: An alternately hilarious and deep comic, Babyteeth #14 makes the best use of this comic’s concept yet. It’s filled with self-aware horror tropes that dance around real pathos and theology, and everyone involved is clearly having a blast with all of it. 8.5/10

Babyteeth #14
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Garry Brown
Colorist: Mark Englert
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Price: $3.99

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

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

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, #6 - #15

By Zack Quaintance —  The most difficult thing about a strong year for comics (like this one) is doing a year-end 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 part 2, which features in descending order selections #15 to #6 (Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25 is up now, with the Top 5 due later today), 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 keep this bad hombre going!

15. Seeds
Writer:
Ann Nocenti
Artist, Letterer: David Aja
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Issues in 2018: 2

The second issue of this series absolutely blew my mind. So much so it was enough to land this comic in our list, and at no. 15 too! I’m going to struggle to articulate why this is not only one of the best comics out today, but also the comic with the most potential to be an all-time great series. But here goes…

Writer Ann Nocenti and artist David Aja have clearly thought hard about the state of the world, dwelling on current trends, struggles, challenges, \and even a few victories to extrapolate a future the likes of which we’ve never seen. There are (as noted in yesterday’s list) many near-future disaster stories running through comics. Many of them do admirable jobs extending a fear or concern to logical places. Seeds encompasses much more with its predictions, in a way that feels impossibly novel yet so obvious you wonder why its ideas hadn’t previously occurred to you. If you start listing story elements—failing planet, media corruption, alien love story/menace—they sound a little rote, but the way these talented creators bring them together is nothing short of remarkable. Now, if only they could get a handle on the delays...  

14. Doomsday Clock
Writer:
Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Speaking of delays (hey! would you look at that transition), next we have Doomsday Clock. Writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank were as good as their word this year, mostly sticking to the every-other-month schedule they promised following Doomsday Clock #3. We got six new issues in 2018, and the last three were straight up killer comics. This series has, to be blunt, massive ambitions.

Indeed, the intentions of this comic are starting to crystalize, and if Johns and Frank can pull this off, they could end up with a story that speaks to the current rise of authoritarian governments across the globe, the reactions of the media and the populous, and what it means to be a public hero today, to take a strong position. It’s heady stuff, with potential to shape DC’s line and maybe even the stories the aging company does for the next decade.

13. Ice Cream Man
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 8

As I’ve noted throughout, ranking the many many many excellent comics this year has been no easy feat. There were a ton of tough choices, but as my friend Rob from Panel Patter noted, at a certain point you have to choose, otherwise there’s no purpose to the endeavor. For me, placing Ice Cream Man was the most difficult decision. An anthology horror comic linked only by the titular (and hella creepy) ice cream man, this book has been a tour de force.

The reason it lands at #13 is twofold. No. 1, 13 is creepy and it seemed fitting, because aside from one other selection (we’ll get into that later), this is the highest-ranking horror comic on our list. No. 2, I’m trying to rank series for holistic reading experience. Ice Cream Man being made of vignettes makes that trickier. This book is easily one of the best comics of 2018, and we’ll heap more praise on it in future posts, specifically the Best Single Issues of 2018, coming later this week. For now, I’ll just note everyone should read this comic, just pick up random issues (they’re all self-contained) and go. The rate of success is high enough I’m confident you’ll all find flavors (sorry) you like.

12. The Wild Storm
Writer:
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 8

It’s pretty amazing this far into a celebrated career, Warren Elllis is doing his best work, writing a slow-burning epic that strips down characters he’s handled for years before building them back into something searingly-relevant for 2018. This new The Wild Storm has a few familiar names, while remaining entirely accessible for first-time readers of this universe. And what Ellis is doing here is exploring the vast influence wielded by long-standing (and hard to comprehend) power structures.

He’s joined by Jon Davis-Hunt, one of (if not the) most underrated artists in comics. Davis-Hunt comes fresh from career work of his own on Gail Simone’s Clean Room, and as good as he was there, he’s hitting a new level, crafting graphic sequential storytelling both kinetic and real, capable of disrupting any visual laws of reality yet photorealistic and engrossing. As intellectual and nuanced a comic as we’ve seen, this is a must-read story.

11. The Mighty Thor / Thor
Writer:
Jason Aaron
Artists: Russell Dauterman, Mike del Mundo, Christian Ward, Jen Bartel, Various
Colorists: Matthew Wilson, Marco D’Alfonso
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 4 / 12

Jason Aaron’s ongoing run on Thor is the best long-form story happening in superhero comics, and it’s really not even close. Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder #1, which essentially marked the start of this current run, hit stands in November 2012, a vastly different time in the world and industry. Marvel has no other run close, with Hickman and Bendis gone from the company and Dan Slott off Amazing Spider-Man. Invincible has also ended, and DC’s main challengers—Batman and Deathstroke, for my money—date back to summer 2016, which is hardly a challenge at all.

Thor, however, keeps going strong, landing this year’s 16 issues (and a Jane Foster one-shot) at #11 overall on our list. Our committee of one suspects it will be higher next year, what with the War of the Realms coming. The Jane Foster finale was certainly a high point his year, but it felt like more of a pause than a proper finish, setting the table for what is sure to be some damn fine comics to come. In summation, 2018 was another great year for Aaron’s Thor run, but we all but guarantee 2019 will be even better, possibly the high water mark for this story.

10. X-Men Red
Writer:
Tom Taylor
Artists: Mahmud Asrar, Carmen Carnero, Roge Antonio
Colorists: Ive Svorcina, Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 11

What a surprise this comic was. I’d tapped out on X-Men: Blue and X-Men: Gold, deciding to wait for whatever next big X-thing. Then comes an announcement of a third color, part of the Marvel Legacy line, which, let’s face it, was dead on arrival. But here’s the thing: Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s X-Men: Red was good. Like, really really really good. Taylor’s scripting understood the franchise better than any writer I’ve read in I don’t know how long, casting the team as equal parts superhero high-flyers and common defenders of the oppressed, all with a geopolitical angle.

It made Jean Gray the face of Xavier’s continuing dream, a brilliant move given her legacy (ahem) and similar skill set, and it faced the X-Men against threats essentially derived from the messages of hate coursing through the modern media landscape, be it reportage or social posting. It was a brilliant stretch of 11 issues that ended way too soon, and, in my opinion, it was the first real hint how the X-Men can be made relevant for 2018, 2019, etc., taking them out of their long-standing continuity mire. It will be missed, and I hope this new generation of X-writers draw from its example.

9. Vault Comics: Fearscape / Friendo / These Savage Shores
Writers:
Ryan O’Sullivan / Alex Paknadel / Ram V.
Artists: Andrea Mutti / Martin Simmonds / Sumit Kumar
Colorists: Vladimir Popov / Dee Cunnife / Vittorio Astone
Letterers: Andworld Design / Taylor Esposito / Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 3 / 3 / 2

Okay, so this one is cheating, but of the three new Vault Comics launched by British writers with clear literary roots in the fall, I couldn’t pick any one to elevate above the others. They’re all incredible, and so I built myself a loophole (it’s my website, afterall), and included all three on the list. I heard Vault editor Adrian Wassel on a podcast earlier this year, saying comics could swing to a literary place that incorporates both recent cinematic storytelling trends and their unique ability to synthesize words and pictures. All three of these titles reflect that viewpoint.

You can read more thoughts about each on our Reviews Page, but let me run through them quickly. Fearscape is a look at pretense, literary culture, and how the nature of creative writing often sees authors bouncing violently between bouts of outsized ego and crippling insecurity. The voice is pretentious and incredible. Friendo is a meditation on the decline of late-model capitalist countries, specifically the United States, casting apathy, ceiling-less corporate greed, and the marginalization of government checks as truly terrifying villains. These Savage Shores is a gorgeous and deep commentary on imperialism, using misdirection to to create an engaging and tone-heavy narrative. Basically, all three of these are well worth your time, and I highly recommend them all.

8. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles
Writer:
Mark Russell
Artist: Mike Feehan
Inker: Sean Parsons
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Speaking of literary comics, Mark Russell and Mike Feehan’s Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles (improbably) falls in that bin as well. Last year we highlighted Russell’s work on Flintstones. Another year and another smart take on a Hanna-Barbera property, and here we are again. In Russell’s re-imagining of this mythos, Snagglepuss is a basically closeted playwright during McCarthy-ism, trying to stay true to his values without running afoul of the federal government and staid societal interests.

Russell uses this premise to tell a sophisticated story that dances with ideas about life, art, politics, group think, and conservatism. The emotional core to this thing is the Huckleberry Hound character, whose tragic story beats brought tears to my eyes a couple of times. If reading a comic about Snagglepuss doesn’t sound appealing, don’t worry—you’re not alone in that thinking. But Russell also uses the legacy of the character to do work toward the satirical points he’s making, to help drive them home.  

7. Wasted Space
Writer:
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 6 (counting the holiday special)

Phew, now we’re getting into the comics that I can’t imagine my 2018 without, the first being Michael Moreci and Hayden Sherman’s Wasted Space. I have heaped my fair share of praise on this book over the past 12 months, and I’m not alone. In fact, Nerdist has called it “easily the best new series to hit comic shops so far this year.” For my money, it’s without question the best wholly new property of 2018, and I’m going to quote myself to elaborate on why...

Wasted Space to me feels like Star Wars by way of 2018, determined to honor the hi-jinx & high adventure of space opera while fearlessly exploring the central conflict of our times: where should one’s desire for comfort end and their obligation to combat oppression begin? I’ve compared Moreci’s absurdist, idea-heavy writing to the late David Foster Wallace and I stand by that, noting that Sherman’s chaotic high-energy art style brings the world to life in a special way. This is maybe the highest compliment I can give: in a day and age where i buy fewer paper comics than ever before, I still have a pull list and on it near the top is Wasted Space.

6. Thanos Wins
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Toward the end of 2017, Brian Michael Bendis left Marvel, dealing the publisher as significant of a writing void as I’ve seen in the past two decades, dating back to before Bendis established himself as the company’s prime writing voice. The thing about voids like that is they force publishers to take bigger risks and bring in younger, newer talent. For Marvel in 2018, that meant Donny Cates (among others).

One of Cates’ first charges at Marvel was to takeover Thanos in the wake of another essentially departing writer, Jeff Lemire, who seemed from the outside to be off to focus on the superhero universe he owned and created, Black Hammer. What Cates and past collaborator Geoff Shaw did with the final six issues of this run was absolutely remarkable, telling what is not only the best Thanos story of all-time, but the best end of the Marvel Universe tail this side of Jonathan Hickman. It’s called Thanos Wins, and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

Thanos Wins is as bold a statement as a young writer doing his first work at Marvel could have made. Aided by the out-of-this-world Geoff Shaw artwork and Antonio Fabela colors, Cates seemed to put all of comics on notice here, not being content to just decimate the very futures of these decades-old beloved characters, but insisting on doing so with wild grin viscerally affixed to his face. You might wonder, how do I know he was laughing and smiling as he wrote all of this. I think the better question, is how could anyone who’s read Thanos Wins doubt it?  

Read our analysis of Thanos Wins here!

Check back later today for our Best Comics of 2018, #1 - #5! Check out Best Comics of 2018, #16 - #25! And check back later in the week for more year-end lists, including our Best Single Issues and our Top Creators of 2018!

For the history-minded readers, you can find our Top Comics of 2017, Part 1, 2 and 3 online now!

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