REVIEW: War of the Realms #1 is a packed and ambitious comic

By Zack Quaintance — Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman and the rest of the War of the Realms main series creative team have a huge job in front of them. Aaron has spent nearly (but not quite) a decade building to this throughout a number of different Thor comics. Now, the writer must…

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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.

Top Comics to Buy for March 20, 2019 - Lazarus, Criminal, Wild Storm, and more

By Zack Quaintance — Someone pinch me, I must be dreaming...this week’s comics seem like they were precisely custom-tailored to my tastes. Indeed, many of the books that I gush about on the regular (which is admittedly a long wish) have new issues coming this week. That includes a long-awaited return of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s Lazarus Risen, the steady drumbeat of horrifying excellence that is Immortal Hulk, and top-tier creator-owned books from Image, be it Monstress or Criminal.

There’s a lot of my old favorites among the Top Comics to Buy for March 20. There are also some notable new books arriving too. I’m thinking specifically here of Dark Red #1 from AfterShock Comics (a rapidly rising indie publisher) and Invisible Kingdom #1 from Dark Horse. The latter is a trippy visual tour de force laced with complex ideas about everything from commerce to religion (see our Invisible Kingdom #1 review) while the former follows a vampire who works at a rural gas station in Trump’s red state America (see our Dark Red #1 review too). It’s all good stuff.

So, without further adieu, on to this week’s comics!

Top Comics to Buy for March 20, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Lazarus Risen #1
(read our review!)
Writer:
Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark w/Tyler Boss
Colorist: Santi Arcas
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $7.99
NEW STORY ARC! "FRACTURE I," Part One LAZARUS returns in an all-new prestige format! New series, new story arc, new size, and a new quarterly schedule!
Introducing a new ongoing LAZARUS series-at 64 pages, perfect bound, LAZARUS: RISEN continues the story of Forever and the Carlyle Family... featuring an oversized, 44-page story by Eisner winners GREG RUCKA and MICHAEL LARK, an all-new short story exploring the larger world of LAZARUS by Eisner-nominated writer LILAH STURGES, an all-new supplement to the Modern Age: World of Lazarus Roleplaying Game by Green Ronin, original design artifacts and art supplements, and more! Two years have passed since the Carlyle Family was betrayed in battle, and the Conclave War encroaches on every side. As a new era dawns, Johanna Carlyle goes on the attack to ensure the survival of her Family, relying on the loyalty and support of the Carlyle Lazarus-her sister, Forever-remaining at her side. And while their united front may be enough to turn the tide, the cracks are beginning to show…
Why It’s Cool: Lazarus is one of the best creator-owned comics of the modern era. It’s complex, suspenseful, immersive, and compulsively readable. Now, the book is transitioning to a prestige quarterly format, which means fewer issues per year but just as much content (hopefully). In this first issue back, the comic hasn’t lost a step at all. In fact, I’d argue that it’s actually better than it used to be in monthly installments. Rucka and Lark are veteran creators who make compressed comics that are rewarding to read both in installments and trade. As such, this book hits certain story beats within each issue. Having the extra pages of the quarterly format allows them to do much more, like a TV show expanding from 30 minutes to an hour. It’s really something, and this series gets my full recommendation. Simply put, if you love comics you really ought to be reading Lazarus.
Read our Lazarus Retrospective!

Criminal #3 (read our review!)
Writer:
Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE LONGEST WEEKEND," Part Two-Jacob's weekend taking care of his old mentor takes a turn for the worse.  As always, CRIMINAL contains back page art and articles only found in the single issues.
Why It’s Cool: In this new volume of Criminal, you can practically feel writer Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips fighting to change the narrative that monthly comics are dead. They do so in a couple of ways in this issue. First of all, they wrap up an incredible two-part story that they started last month, making it so it fits into the larger arc of this comic while also standing on its own as a satisfying bit of graphic sequential storytelling. Second, they make it a meta story in the best way, one steeped in comics history and culture that literally reminds the reader that comics have been dying since 1954. In the hands of lesser creators, this could feel preachy, forced, or even self-indulgent. But a master team like Brubaker and Phillips pulls it off flawlessly.
Read about Criminal’s previous volumes!

Immortal Hulk #15
Writer:
Al Ewing
Artist: Joe Bennett
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
Dr. Leonard Samson is a gamma mutate and part-time superhero who recently came back from the dead. He's been wanting to discuss that with an old patient of his... But he's not here to see Bruce Banner. Take a seat on the couch, IMMORTAL HULK. It's going to be quite a session.
Why It’s Cool: Phew, that last issue of Immortal Hulk was a doozy. But, really, I could probably say that after every issue of Immortal Hulk. This is, simply put, Marvel’s best comic in years. The concept and creative team from the start have been sound, but you can say that about a lot of Marvel’s books. What really sets Immortal Hulk apart is that it hasn’t ceeded any quality in the service of deadlines or events or anything. It’s been as unmovable in that regard as the Hulk himself. At the same time, it’s pushed into increasingly new and horrifying plot territories, keeping the feeling of unpredictable storytelling tension that powered its earliest issues. One way the story has done that is withholding much of the Hulk’s ample supporting cast before bringing them in slowly one by one. This issue looks to be the one in which Doc Sampson enters the fray. So, hurray for that. One last note: I only read this book after dark and strongly suggest you do the same.

Monstress #21
Writer:
Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
It's a turning point in Maika's life when she comes face-to-face with a stranger from her deep past.
Why It’s Cool: Love! War! Family! It’s all here in the latest issue of what has fast-become the most grandiose arc of Monstress to date, which is really saying something when you think back to the opener. Monstress #21 really has an overload of the things that make a single installment of a long-running story pop: new revelations, new characters, the promise of action to come soon, a clear push toward the climax, and a set of artwork as varied as it is stunning. I’m constantly impressed with the work Sana Takeda has done with this book, yet I’ve rarely seen her hit such a versatile range of visuals as she does in this issue, be it the adorable renderings of Maika as a child to the intricate character and equipment designs we get in the modern day. Writer Marjorie Liu also writes some of the best and pithiest dialogue for her heroine yet, bantering as she does with a key figure in her life (no spoilers). From start to finish, just a stunning issue.

The Wild Storm #21
Writer:
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics - WildStorm
Price: $3.99
The experimental subjects code-named Apollo and Midnighter have broken cover. Combat-optimized superhumans are now loose on the Earth.
Why It’s Cool: Last month’s The Wild Storm #20 was the best issue of this series to date. After 19 issues of slow burn, the creators finally unleashed Apollo and The Midnighter, giving nearly the entire issue to a prolonged action sequence followed by a bit of romance. Was it fan service? Perhaps a little, but it was earned and also executed in the best possible way. This issue brings the focus back to some of the other characters, but make no mistake—the march to the assembling of The Authority continues, and oh what a thing that will be when it happens. There’s only three issues left. Two years ago I’d have guaranteed that this was building into the launch of a new The Authority comic, but with DC scaling back publishing plans under its new corporate owners, I’m inclined to estimate these three issues will be the last we see of these characters for some time. But, hell if I’m not going to savor every page of it. With a writer like Warren Ellis collaborating with an artist like Jon Davis-Hunt, this comic is just too good.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Dark Red #1 (read our review!)

  • Dungeons and Dragons: A Darkened Wish #1

  • Invisible Kingdom #1 (read our review!)

  • Life and Death of Toyo Harada #1

  • Monstrous European Getaway #1

  • Rise #1

  • Spider-Man: City at War #1

  • Spider-Man: Life Story #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Aquaman #46

  • Archie #703

  • Avengers #17

  • Batman #67

  • Bitter Root #5

  • Black Badge #8

  • Electric Warriors #5

  • Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #4

  • Guardians of the Galaxy #3

  • Justice League #20

  • Middlewest #5

  • Naomi #3

  • Stronghold #2

  • Thor #11

  • Uncanny X-Men #14

Check back to the site later this week for reviews of Lazarus Risen #1, Criminal #3, 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.

REVIEW: Age of Conan - Belit, Queen of the Black Coast #1

Belit, Queen of the Black Coast #1 is due out 3/13/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — I was into this book from the moment Marvel unveiled the creative team. I’ve written a lot on here about how much I enjoy Tini Howard’s work, be it in creator-owned series like Euthanauts or work-for-hire gigs like the recent Captain America Annual. So, having Howard’s name on a book—even for a franchise like Conan that, to be perfectly frank, I have a baseline of disinterest in—makes me pay attention. With this new Age of Conan: Belit, Queen of the Black Coast miniseries, however, it was artist Kate Niemcyzk’s name that pushed my interest to the next level.

Niemczyk, to my mind, is a really underrated visual storyteller, bringing clean linework, a pleasant density of visual gags and other touches, and ability to handle complex concepts as they apply to page composition. I’ve enjoyed her style quite a bit on past work, especially Marvel’s Mockingbird comic from a few years back (talk about underrated). With this Belit book, I was curious to see how artwork so clean and energetic would apply to the inherent savagery of the Conan the Barbarian world.

Indeed, of the three titles to launch in this line so far, this comic is the least photorealistic and most cartoony, which is not a bad thing. It really serves the main character well: a young girl whose father’s past sins cause him to be beaten and marooned on a sandbar right in front of her. There is an innocence and idealism at the start of this tale that both the writer and artist (colored here by the absolutely essential Jason Keith) convey perfectly...right up to the point where the plot forces Belit to take action in a way that loses a bit of her innocence with sacrificing any of her determination or power.

Following this action (you’ll have to read to learn the exact nature), the artwork seems to shift ever so slightly, especially the colors, taking our story to a bit darker place as the action on the page accelerates to accompany the journey. This is not a dark comic though, even with some of the early travails the protagonist goes through. It’s actually probably the ray of light in the new Conan line.

What emerges through the course of this debut issue is a picture of a series that aspires to be a pure high seas adventure in bygone times, one with a strong (and young) female protagonist. This is a fun read for season comics fans, but, more importantly, I think it’s a comic that once collected has a real potential to extend the Conan line to younger readers. It strikes a balance between immersive realism and out-sized fantasy that I think the best comics of the All New, All Different Marvel relaunch also found a few years back. It’s tricky ground to tread, and I’m excited to follow this series from start to finish as the creators pull it off.

Overall: The most vibrant and kinetic book of the new Conan the Barbarian line, Belit, Queen of the Black Coast #1 does a great job creating high stakes that feel serious while also building a tone perfect for pirate adventure. 8.5/10

Age of Conan: Belit, Queen of the Black Coast #1 (of 5)
Writer:
Tini Howard
Artist: Kate Niemczyk
Colorist: Jason Keith
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel 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 asBatmansBookcase.

Best Comics of February 2019: Thor #10, The Wild Storm #20, and more

By Zack Quaintance — Holy cow, the debate over the final selections for the Best Comics of February 2019 got pretty heated within the committee (of one), raging for what felt like days. Some of our usual superhero favorites—Action Comics/Superman, Immortal Hulk, etc.—have maybe hit places in their runs where we take them just a tiny bit for granted. By the same token though, some of our other favorite long-form superhero narratives are hitting some pretty resonant emotional crescendos (see The Wild Storm, see Thor). But more on that below.

Let me just use this second paragraph of an intro most people scroll right past to address an ongoing narrative that comics are bad now and the industry is dying: stop it. I could go into the business (which is something that myself and roughly 99.9 percent of readers as well as most creators know absolutely squat about), but that’s been done ad nauseam. So instead I’ll point out how little we as fans of stories know about the economics that make them feasible, and wonder (not for the first time) why we waste mental energy on something we don’t understand.

Why did I waste such a long paragraph on it? Who knows! Onto the comics...

Shout Outs

The level of melancholic beauty Die #3 achieves is absurd. It’s just a beautifully-told graphic sequential story that uses the comic’s fantasy setting to tell a tale about WWI that speaks on a deeper level to the creation of the genre by J.R.R. Tolkien. It juuuuust missed this month’s top 5.

I’ll say this about Teen Titans #27: I can’t believe this, but I’ve found myself increasingly interested in the current run on this book by Adam Glass and Bernard Chang. Both creators are wildly exceeding my expectations at the moment.

Also surprising was The Terrifics #13. I’d left this book for dead somewhere around The Terrifics #7. The artists were inconsistent, and the initiative it led—the New Age of DC Heroes—died out of the gate. Yet, the creators have quietly put together one of DC’s best comics, ricocheting around the multiverse and hitting big emotional beats through Plastic Man and his son,. Read this!  

One more superhero surprise, and we’ll continue! Uncanny X-Men #11 caught me off guard. I didn’t like the bloated (and frankly lazy) X-Men: Disassembled that re-launched Uncanny X-Men. This comic, however, was the opposite of that: compressed and consequential, it now feels like a new era for the X-Men has started. I’m (cautiously) in.

I still maintain, however, that the best X-Men comic on the market is Livewire #3. Free of the bonds of corporate comics, it can up the stakes for its title character the ways the Big 2 can’t, and the creative team on this book is doing so monthly in such brilliant ways. Read this!

Another book I love for its mix of commentary with a sense of anything can happen is Vault Comics’ Wasted Space. We fortunately got both Wasted Space #6 and Wasted Space #7 this month, and I’m happy to say this comic remains amazing.Staying on the Vault Comics train, These Savage Shores #3 really stood out to me this month, so much so that I almost considered adding a sixth slot to our top 5 (but then, is it really a top 5 still?). Gorgeous and literary, These Savage Shores is a must-read.

This next comic on our list is here because it’s become underrated, which is maybe an odd thing to say about something written by Robert Kirkman of The Walking Dead. Oblivion Song #12, however, was a very good comic with an ending cliffhanger that seems likely to extend our story for years to come. I’m in on it.

Ice Cream Man #10 returned the best horror story in comics to its core concept a bit this month while pushing the background (foreground now?) narrative to new places. This is a must-read creator-owned book if ever there was one.

I really struggled with the last of our customary 10 shoutouts, so let me just note that this final spot could have gone to any of the following: Action Comics #1008, The Green Lantern #4, Guardians of the Galaxy #2, Hot Lunch Special #5, Naomi #2, the entire Batman/Flash crossover, Magic Order #6, or Tony Stark: Iron Man #8.

Best Comics of February 2019

5. Mars Attacks #5
Writer:
Kyle Starks
Artist: Chris Schweizer
Colorist: Liz Trice Schweizer
Publisher: Dynamite Comics

There’s just something about a perfectly-told five-issue miniseries that makes it in many ways the idea way to do a comicbook story. If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say that, I’d highly recommend checking out Kyle Starks and Chris Schweizer’s Mars Attacks. This could be the most emotionally-honest and overall satisfying contained comicbook story I’ve read in years.

It’s also wickedly funny, combining as it does a heartrending father-son survival story with the trademark mostly-irreverent humor that has made Starks such a fun creator to follow through past works such as Sex Castle or Rock Candy Mountain. I didn’t really know anything about the Mars Attacks franchise coming into this and mostly still don’t care, but this book is well worth reading.

4. Archie 1941 #5
Writers:
Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid
Artist: Peter Krause (read our interview!)
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Publisher: Archie Comics

As friend of the site the great Will Nevin pointed out on Twitter as I was praising the bejeezus out of this book, the world could use more period comics in general, please. If those comics are anywhere near as good as this one, I’m all for it. In recent years, Archie Comics has experimented quite a bit with its classic characters, doing so in alternate reality scenarios and genres such as horror.

In the context of that experimentation, Archie 1945 comes across as a prestige title, a more dramatic and emotionally-taut story with the same sensibilities and dynamics that have helped the Riverdale gang endure for years. Our committee (of one) has picked Archie 1945 for a spot on this month’s list as a merit award for the entire series as a whole. It’s incredibly deserving, and I sincerely recommend picking it all up now in trade. I’m planning to for my bookshelf.

3. Criminal #2
Writer:
Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics

Our committee (of one) doesn’t often like to put comics this close to the debut of a run in our list, but Criminal #2 is more of a fresh vignette in a long-running story than it is an entirely new comic. This is, of course, now Criminal Vol. 8, and as good as the debut issue of this one was, the follow-up was even better.

This was, simply put, an incredibly well-done comic for people who love to read comics. It’s essentially set at San Diego Comic Con, following as it does an older celebrated artist who has turned to less savory ways of making money (see the title, please) and his former protege who gets swept up into whatever it is the aforementioned artist is tangled up in now. It’s a tense and well-told story (it’s Brubaker and Phillips, would you expect any less), and it works well both as a stand-alone issue and as a continuation of events in Criminal #1. Highly recommended.  

2. The Wild Storm #20
Writer:
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccelatto
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics

The Wild Storm #20 is, in a word, @%$#-ing epic. Okay, that was two words, or, rather, one word and that weird set of characters people use to denote cussing (like you don’t know what I was trying to say). Anyway, our committee (of one) has loved The Wild Storm since it began, featuring as it does such a deliberate and smart narrative. This issue has a bit of that for the first two pages, and then it moves into all action.

What it also does is return one of the best couples in all of comics to our monthly pages: Midnighter and Apollo, appearing here in their most recent depictions. It’s incredibly satisfying, and it makes you realize just how great of a veteran writer Warren Ellis is and has been for a while (if you hadn’t already). He gives us big, fan-service moments within the context of a really smart long-form narrative. I think the biggest compliment I can pay this book is that issues like this one are what make me continue to love superhero comics.

1. Thor #10 (read our full review)
Writer:
Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike del Mundo
Colorists: Mike del Mundo & Marco D'Alfonso
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel

Speaking of long-form, there is no better (nor longer) story in superhero comics right now than Jason Aaron’s Thor, which has been literally happening for something wild like six years (probably longer). He’s done compact story arcs, big events, and largely contained stories. Thor #10 is maybe all of those things, or a little bit of each, anyway.

It definitely fits into the larger story arc right now, of everyone in the Thor world preparing for the upcoming War of the Realms, which is as big an event as Marvel has had in recent years (which is really saying something). Meanwhile, it’s also a largely self-contained story about a father (Odin) and a son (Thor), kept from being emotionally honest because of toxic masculinity...and the world is all the worse for it. I have a strong suspicion this comic will also end up on my Best Individual Issues of 2019 list. So stay tuned for that in 10 months, ahem.

Check out our monthly lists, plus all of our Best of 2018 coverage, 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 February 27, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — This week feels like a bit of break, in that there aren’t roughly 50 titles I want to read and another dozen I want to put in our five slots for the top comics to buy for February 27, 2019. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t good comics coming out this week. There are plenty of really great books, more than enough really, and we’ve done our best to highlight a diverse array of them as we do every Monday.

Leading the way is Ice Cream Man #10, which we’ve been waiting for anxiously since Ice Cream Man #9 blew our minds back whenever that first came out. We also have the sophomore issue of Invaders finally arriving after the debut seeded a mystery and then went away for six weeks, as well as the continuation of three runs we’ve without questioned mentioned in this space before. So, go forth and rejoice with these comics, as well as any of the other titles that strike your fancy on our Top #1 Comics this week or the Others Receiving Votes.

With all that out of the way, let’s take a closer look!

Top Comics to Buy for February 27, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Ice Cream Man #10
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Ice Cream Man #10 Review
"HOPSCOTCH MÉLANGE," Part Two: En este cap tulo, no existen las fronteras. El mundo está lleno de amor, pero el amor es peligroso.
Why It’s Cool: So yes, Ice Cream Man #9 blew our collective mind and expanded our perception of what this vignette horror series might ultimately prove to be. Ice Cream Man #10, meanwhile, is a bit of a return to this comic’s core concept: a mostly one-off comic in which the principal characters have horrifying things happen to them that speak to universal ideas of existential dread...with the titular Ice Cream Man and his own foil bouncing around the periphery. At least that’s how it used to seem, anyway. Knowing what we know from Ice Cream Man #9, they now feel like the center. Regardless, this is one great comic. Look for a full review later this week.

Invaders #2
Writer:
Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Carlos Magno with Butch Guice
Colorist: Alex Giumaraes
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
After the SHOCKING reveals about NAMOR last issue, THE HUMAN TORCH goes deeper into the Sub-Mariner's PAST, hoping to uncover his plan. But CAPTAIN AMERICA goes the direct route: TO ATLANTIS. Alone against THE MAD KING and his ARMIES in the exciting second chapter of WAR GHOSTS: THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR!
Why It’s Cool: The first issue of Invaders was a fantastic update of the WWII Invaders concept, essentially catching up with the core characters from that bygone book—Namor, Captain America, and Winter Soldier/Bucky plus a bit of Jim Hammond Human Torch—to give us an update on their statuses as it still pertains to the war. What does that mean? Well, something is off with Namor, and it’s fallen to his old war-time compatriots to address his behavior. I won’t spoil it, but the first issue ended with a mystery. We can’t wait to see where this second installment picks up.   

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #2
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Casper Wijngaard
Colorist: Mary Safro
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Price: $3.99
Humanity is at a crossroads, between life and annihilation. The threat comes not from space, but from a place absolutely inconceivable to anyone other than Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. Only he can take Earth's remaining heroes to confront that which threatens us all...but when he knows so much more than they do, should he? Also: strike a light, how hot is Tabu now? This is what happens when you give "DREAM DADDY" as the main artistic direction.
Why It’s Cool: Speaking of ending with a mystery and picking up somewhere fascinating, our next book is Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. This comic is about a character that one of the Watchmen characters—Ozymandias—himself was based on, and it’s using the homage as its central conceit. We discussed all of this in our review of Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1, but it’s worth revisiting because the second issue continues to build on the charater’s connection to Watchmen. I don’t want to tip any of the surprises, but this is one of the most metafictional comics I’ve ever read and I’m absolutely fascinated to see what a team of creators as collectively strong as writer Kieron Gillen and artists Casper Wijngaard and Mary Safro are ultimately aiming to do here.

The Terrifics #13
Writer:
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Joe Bennett
Inker: Dexter Vines
Colorist:
Mike Spicer
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
The Terrifics are back! And they're ready to enter the final battle with the Dreadfuls, Doc Dread's revenge squad that has systematically wiped out dozens of Mr. Terrifics from across the Multiverse. As the many Mr. and Mrs. Terrifics fight for their lives, the cavalry is on its way-but will Phantom Girl, Plastic Man and the repowered Metamorpho reach the battle in time? And how can the heroes possibly count this as a win with a mountain of bodies in Doc Dread's wake?
Why It’s Cool: It’s no secret that writer Jeff Lemire is winding down his time on The Terrifics (and if he is to be believed, on work-for-hire gigs in general), and while we’re excited to see what his replacement, the intriguing Gene Luen Yang, will do with this team, we’re currently enjoying the hell out of Lemire’s finale. This is some of the most character-driven emotional storytelling taking place in all of superhero comics, with multiple storylines so well-developed they threatened to make me cry during recent issues (I’m sentimental and don’t care who knows it). Lemire is also joined here by artist Joe Bennett (with Dexter Vines ink and Mike Spicer colors) who is one of my favorite prolific superhero artists, generally associated right now with Immortal Hulk. Anyway, The Terrifics continues to be a must-read comic and we’re excited for this issue.

Wasted Space #7
Writer:
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
Read our full Wasted Space #7 Review!
Reunions and betrayals! Our reckless heroes stage a rescue mission to save Rex-and secure the nuke still threatening to kill everyone. Along the way, Billy and Molly make a pit stop at a galactic gas station, where they discover brain-freezes and morality, and past demons catch up to Dust and Fury.
Why It’s Cool: Wasted Space is the best space opera in all of comics today. The first five issues of this book—all of which you can read more about on our reviews page—were pretty tightly plotted, orienting readers to this series’ versatile tone and characters. A TON happened in that arc. Toward the end of it, publisher Vault Comics announced that this series would become an ongoing, making issues like this one possible. Wasted Space #7 is loaded with character moments, rewarding progressions, and setup for the future. It’s an absolutely joy to spend time with this dysfunctional group that writer Michael Moreci and artists Hayden Sherman and Jason Wordie have brought together here. Check back later this week for our full review.   

Top New #1 Comics

  • Age of X-Man: The X-Tremists #1

  • Captain Marvel: Braver and Mightier #1

  • Emotional Data One-Shot from Silver Sprocket

  • Forgotten Queen #1

  • Honor and Curse #1

  • Punks Not Dead: London Calling #1

  • Sweetie #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Action Comics #1008

  • Amazing Spider-Man #16

  • Black Hammer: Age of Doom #8

  • Black Panther #9

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer #2

  • Captain America #8

  • Daredevil #2

  • Flash #65

  • Hellboy and the BPRD - 1956 #4

  • Martian Manhunter #3

  • Redlands #11

  • Shazam! #3

  • The Wicked + The Divine #42

  • Wonder Woman #65

  • Wyrd #2

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: Thor #10 is a masterful look at fathers, sons, and toxic masculinity

Thor #10 is out 2/13/2019.

By d. emerson eddy — For more than six years now, Jason Aaron has been building an epic with Thor Odinson, weaving through god butchery, war with the Shi'ar, strife and upheaval throughout the realms, unworthiness, and flaming wolverines, collaborating with some of the best artists in the business. That list includes Esad Ribic, Russell Dauterman, Steve Epting, Frazer Irving, Christian Ward, and now Mike del Mundo. It has been a wild ride of ups and downs, victories and losses, all working towards the inevitable War of the Realms.

As this series has been counting down to the event, we've been getting one off tales taking stock of where the characters are, how they've been doing, and giving hints as to their preparedness for the oncoming war. This issue does so with Odin, who has essentially become a shell of himself, a drunkard and broken man sitting in the ruined halls of Asgard. This is an exterior state that mirrors his internal conflict. But this issue isn't necessarily a tale of woe and self-pity—though there is a measure of it in Aaron's internal narration for Odin—rather one of “tough love” from an overbearing parent.

A brief, one-page encapsulation of Thor-Odin’s complicated relationship over time.

This fractured father/son dynamic between Odin and Thor has a universal aspect to it of children brought up in homes where we were taught the rigors of what could be considered toxic masculinity, where men are stoic providers for the household, never showing the “weakness” of emotion. This is conveyed here via the juxtaposition of Odin's boorish actions, mocking Thor for crying as a child at thunder, while the narration has Odin searching for how he can simply tell Thor that he loves him, that he's proud of him, but he struggles.

It's heart-rending, but beautifully brought to life in the fluid and action-filled style of Mike del Mundo (along with additional colors from Marco D'Alfonso), who really seems to excel with the inebriated battle sequences between Odin and Thor. The almost shimmering liquidity of del Mundo's regular characters adds a kind of immersive feel to Odin, as though the audience is as well suffering from the effects of his drunkenness. Also, Thor #10 features some very nice page layouts particularly during Odin's visions. And Joe Sabino provides some interesting word balloon changes for the frost giants and Odin's narration boxes.

Overall, much of this volume of Thor has been a kind of heavy metal whirlwind through the Ten Realms and beyond as Thor Odinson returns into the series' focus. Here, we still get that in Thor vs. Odin, but Jason Aaron, Mike del Mundo, Marco D'Alfonso, and Joe Sabino go beyond in providing a familial aspect that may be all too familiar to many readers.

Thor #10
Writer:
Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike del Mundo
Colorists: Mike del Mundo & Marco D'Alfonso
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel
Price: $3.99

Check out more of d. emerson eddy’s Comic of the Week feature on our Lists Page.

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

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: In Amazing Spider-Man #14, Nick Spencer and Chris Bachalo payoff plots from the first issue

Amazing Spider-Man #14 is out 1/30/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — It is perhaps telling of exactly how old I am that to me Chris Bachalo is an artist that reminds me of how comics used to be, which is a phrase I think everyone uses to describe the time they first got into the hobbie. Simply put, Bachalo was huge when I was a new reader, helping to launch Generation X (the start of which was still a few years before my time), before moving over to help with some of the main X-titles, maybe even drawing Uncanny for a while as Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely did their thing on New X-Men.

Anyway, this is all a means to say that Bachalo is an absolutely perfect fit for a fill-in artist on Nick Spencer’s Amazing Spider-Man run, which is playing out holistically as a series as another example of how comics used to be, at least back in my day. This entire issue—from the art to the narrative construction to the use it makes of continuity—really feels like just a bit of a throwback to a different time, as has this run overall. The clearest example of this is that these Amazing Spider-Man comics are pretty clearly not written for trade compilations, not even a little bit.

You can really see it in this issue, which is 14 issues and six months into the run...and just now playing out pretty minor narrative threads that were dropped loosely into the background of Amazing Spider-Man #1, specifically thinking here of Peter’s offer from Conners. Now, not to sound like that old guy, but this is something that was once commonplace, back when stories weren’t conceived in six-issue bursts that should leave it all on the page lest the market dictate a sudden ending.

And the Connors thing isn’t the only bit in this issue drawn from #1. The conflict with Taskmaster and Black Ant was also seeded way back, possibly in the same scene with The Lizard (though I’d have to go back and verify to be certain). This is all well and good, and I like it because it scratches my long-form narrative itch as a reader. I think it’s an especially good thing for a book like Amazing Spider-Man, that publishes every other week. There really isn’t a need to so clearly define story arcs when the next chapter is generally 13 days away when you finish any given issue. The book should flow from plot to plot, carrying with it remnants as it moves into new territory. That’s certainly what Spencer and his artistic collaborators, whether it’s back in the day Chris Bachalo or regular series linework provider Ryan Ottley.

In terms of an individual read, this is a dense one, with multiple narrators, long conversations, and some pretty strong ideas jockeying for position, be it Aunt May’s disgust at her deceased husband’s sleazy accountant, or The Lizard’s son heartbreakingly wanting to just be a regular kid. There are so many emotional beats in this issue that it fades into a cacophony of feelings at times, making it hard for any one to move to the forefront and land with major resonance.

For me as a reader, that’s a great problem to have, especially for a comic I’m paying $8 a month to keep up with.

Overall: A dense issue of Amazing Spider-Man, packed with bits of continuity, big feelings, and payoffs to plot threads that have been dangling since the first issue. This series continues to have a narrative construction that calls back to times when stories weren’t written for trade, and it’s refreshing. 8.4/10

Amazing Spider-Man #14
Writer:
Nick Spencer
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel 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.

REVIEW: Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 is a quieter Spidey book with big implications for SPOILER

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 is out 1/9/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — I am generally opposed to comics like Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, a fourth Spidey title that takes its place in line behind the flagship Amazing Spider-Man, the rising and youthful Miles Morales: Spider-Man, the intriguing prestige Spider-Man: A Life Story (a six-issue mini about what it would have been like had Spider-Man aged from his creation in real-time), and the perpetual runner-up book, Spectacular Spider-Man. I know there are super fans out there who just can’t get enough of the character, but I find it all just a little much.

In fact, in all likelihood I’d have probably have skipped this book if it wasn’t written by Tom Taylor, who has a shining history of taking a little much ideas like this one and turning them into absolute gold (see Injustice, see X-Men: Red). The concept here is based around a hyper-local take on Peter Parker and his heroics, and the plot of this debut issue sees him literally tending to the troubles of his actual physical neighbors.

The main story in this comic (illustrated with clean adequacy by Juan Cabal) is totally fine. It’s not flashy and it’s mildly intriguing, featuring a nifty little mystery. There are some good jokes, and the book seems to go out of its way to let readers know its complimentary to Amazing Spider-Man, incorporating all the recent minor status quo shifts we’ve seen in that title. The latter is a really nice touch that a long-time superhero reader like myself appreciates. Nothing takes me out of a story more than when an auxiliary title for a Spider, Bat, X, or Superman title just outright ignores the status quo elsewhere in the line. It’s to Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man’s credit that it doesn’t do this.

WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS BELOW

There are also some nice character moments here, showcasing Peter Parker as a micro-scale humanitarian, but they are nothing we haven’t seen before and seen often. What is likely to really get fans talking is the backup story, which is focused on and narrated by Peter’s Aunt May, iconic Aunt May. I don’t typically make a practice of revealing plot points in these reviews, but it’s hard to discuss this comic without doing so here. The backup story exists pretty much entirely to reveal that Aunt May is suffering from cancer.

This narrative weight is a good case for the book to make for its very existence, if a little unconvincing. I could be wrong, but it seems doubtful to me that a character as iconic as Aunt May would face any real danger in the pages of the third (or arguably fourth or fifth) most prominent Spider-Man title. In fact, in this day and age, I’d only really be convinced if one of these books was headed for a line-wide event or a milestone issue. Still, Tom Taylor is a powerful writer with a big heart, and, while I doubt Aunt May is in any real danger, I trust him to tell stories with this point that intrigue and satisfy on an emotional level.

Overall: In a quiet and polished debut, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 does just enough to justify an addition to the Spidey line. A major development for a long-time character also happens in the backup story. It remains to be seen if this title will feel worthwhile moving forward, but Tom Taylor has done great things with lesser concepts, so for now I’m sticking with it. 7.0/10

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1
Writer:
Tom Taylor
Artist: Juan Cabal
Colorist: Nolan Woodward
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99
*Full credits aren’t clear for the backup, but the editor notes the team included Marcelo Ferreira, Robert Poggi, and Jim Campbell.

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.