Best New #1 Comics of July 2018

The new comics fireworks started July 4th and just kept coming. Groan, I know. But anyway, the most impressive thing about this month’s new #1 was the wide variety of stories they told. So many boxes got checked by these books: New Orleans plus horror and drugs? CHECK. Encouraging new direction for Amazing Spider-Man? CHECK. Ethereal exploration of death that reads like literary magical realism in graphic format? Somehow also CHECK.

July’s variety of #1 comics speaks to a major change in the industry: a broader and expanding audience is fostering broader and expanding demand. You know what that means? That’s right—broader and expanding supply. Or, more and weirder comics. With this in mind, it’s easy to be bullish on comics right now, and the entries on our list today re-enforce why.

Let’s do it!

Quick Hits

The Long Con #1 came out the Wednesday after SDCC, telling a story about a never-ending apocalyptic con. Its timing was perfect and its concept sharp. Read our full review.

Cliche alert! Catwoman #1 was a (fancy?) feast for the eyes. The story and art—both by Joelle Jones—were phenomenal. Most importantly, though, Jones gets Selina...the aesthetic, narration, villain...nigh-perfect.

I saw Donny Cates at SDCC on a panel about Image Comics. Someone was late...so Cates, obviously, put Pantera on his phone and growled into his mic, WELCOME TO IMAGE. This is also the aesthetic of his latest Marvel #1s: Cosmic Ghost Rider and Death of Inhumans, which are both madcap and grandiose.

Mariko Tamaki and Juan Cabal had to follow Tom Taylor’s excellent 3-year run on All New Wolverine. Tough challenge. In X-23 #1, however, the team meets it, preserving the best of Taylor’s work (the heart) while also heading in a horror-tinged new direction.

Everyone said read Bone Parish #1 by Cullen Bunn Jonas Sharf. They said it was excellent, frightening in a way I wouldn’t expect. Everyone was right. Bunn’s latest horror book (of an estimated 19) is frightening in a way you won’t expect, either. Now I’m the one urging you to read it.

Speaking of horror, check out Clankillers #1, a gritty story about gaelic mythology. Read our full review.

Ever think to yourself: I’d love to read Miami Vice meets Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Of course not, few probably have, but someone is writing it as a comic and it’s a winner. The Mall by Don Handfield, James Haick, and Rafael Loureiro is a solid debut, rich with ‘80s camp. Recommended.

James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez nailed Justice League Dark #1. In a summer of strong new directions for DC, this is one of the strongest, with stellar art and gleeful depictions of the publishers oft-underused bench.

Vault Comics (one of our favorites) has had a great year, and Submerged #1 is the latest book to become a part of it. Vita Ayala and Lisa Sterle craft a story with intriguing family dynamics, a natural disaster, and a potpourri of mythos. 

It’s tough to evaluate Brian Michael Bendis’ debuts via Superman #1 and Action Comics #1001. Bendis is a prolific and veteran writer, a student of superhero history who thinks in eras, not in single issues. So far, he’s established tones and started unveiling his the vanguard of his plans. The full scope of his aspirations, however, largely remain to be seen.

Top Five Best #1 Comics of July 2018

Unnatural #1 by Mirka Andolfo

This book lives in an intriguing world of dystopian reproductive laws, one that has enabled Italian comic auteur Mirka Andolfo to craft a story that is at once poignant, tantalizing, and horrific. This issue is the first of 12 parts, and I knew about halfway through reading it that I was onboard for the long haul.

To quote our Unnatural #1 Review: Andolfo clearly has strong thoughts about the intersection of sex and government, but she is also well-aware that those thoughts are best served by first and foremost telling an entertaining story. As a result, Unnatural #1 is not to be missed. And we very much stand by that.

Captain America #1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates & Leinil Francis Yu

Early indications are strong for Ta-Nehisi Coates & Leinil Yu on Cap.

This debut fittingly dropped on July 4, and it’s the best single-issue Captain America story I’ve read since Ed Brubaker’s all-time great run ended. Ta-Nehisi Coates is a writer I first became aware of via his articles in The Atlantic, before then reading his non-fiction works, specifically Between the World and Me. When he came to comics in the spring of 2016 to write Black Panther, I enthusiastically added the comic to my pulllist.

And Black Panther has been decent enough, a little wordy and dull in parts as Coates struggled to reconcile the new medium with his writerly instincts. With Captain America #1, any and all growing pains are clearly behind him. Coates and collaborator Leinil Francis Yu have made a declarative statement with this book...this is going to be a dark and action-heavy take on Cap, one that will test Steve Rogers with problems that grow out of his past continuity as well as the modern state of the U.S. It won’t be heavy handed, no, on the contrary the book seems bent on making its thematic intent slow-burning and subtle. Come along if you dare. Read our full review.

Amazing Spider-Man #1 by Nick Spencer & Ryan Ottley

I think it was in one of those retailer columns on Bleeding Cool that I read about someone saying a back-to-basics well-done Amazing Spider-Man book could be the industry’s top seller. Well, we’re about to find out if that’s true. Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s debut on Marvel’s flagship title is almost indisputably those two things: well-done and back-to-basics.

We here at Batman’s Bookcase, however, have now written two full pieces about why we like it, so rather than trying to find a facet of the comic we haven’t explored, we’ll just wrap up quickly here by pointing you toward our Amazing Spider-Man #1 Review and our 5-Panel Amazing Spider-Man Explainer.

This is easily one of our favorite covers in recent memory.

Euthanauts #1 by Tini Howard & Nick Robles

Remember way back at the start of this piece when I mentioned an ethereal exploration of death that reads like literary magical realism in graphic format? Well, here we are. The Euthanauts #1 is a unique comic, as self-assured as any debut issue in recent memory. It does understated and deliberate work familiarizing you with a relatable character, one who is maybe even a bit on the mundane side, before fitfully plunging you into a world where life and death intermingle.

Someone on Twitter asked me recently if this comic was good, and I told them yes, very good, but pretty abstract and best consumed in a way where it just sort of washes over you—read twice for good measure. That’s how I read it, and it has been haunting me ever since. I can’t wait to see what this creative team has in store for this story. Oh, and I should also note that as mesmerizing as Tini Howard’s ideas are, this without question seems to be one of those ideal books wherein her and artist Nick Robles lift each other, both seemingly poised to do career best work. Read our full review.

Relay #1 by Zac Thompson, Eric Bromberg, Donny Cates, & Andy Clarke

While reading Relay #1, I got a feeling I’ve maybe only previously had while emerging from a classic sci-fi novel. Basically, this comic reads like layered and complex sci-fi being doled out by an engaging plot line, one with evident shades of the masters of its genre, namely Philip K. Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin.

I really dug Relay #1, to the point when someone recently asked me what books I was reading (always a difficult question to answer on the spot), I stumbled around for a moment before just blurting out: Relay. For more on why I enjoyed the first issue of this book so much...that’s right...read our full review here.

Thanks as always for reading, and make sure to come back this week for our Best Comics of July 2018, period.

Check out more of our monthly lists here.

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

ADVANCED REVIEW: Unnatural #1 by Mirka Andolfo

Look carefully and you may miss the pig features, likely a deliberate blurring of perception by artist/writer Mirka Andolfo.

Look carefully and you may miss the pig features, likely a deliberate blurring of perception by artist/writer Mirka Andolfo.

By Zack QuaintanceUnnatural #1 has intrigued me since it was announced. The first sentence of its summary reads: Leslie is a simple pig girl. She loves sushi, she's stuck with a job she hates, and she lives under a brutal totalitarian government—one that punishes transgressors for anything deemed "unnatural." Meanwhile, its cover features said pig girl in a state of undress. Look quickly, and you almost miss the pig, so faint are the animal touches. See what I mean? Intriguing.

That aside, I didn’t know what to expect from this, first of a 12-part story originally published in writer/artist Mirka Andolfo’s native Italy. It is, however, pretty straightforward. Unnatural #1 is essentially an exploration of government interfering with sex and freedom. Andolfo has cited George Orwell’s novels as inspiration, which certainly shows. Indeed, a simplistic and reductive pitch for this book could be: Animal Farm meets 1984 with a dose of 2018 sexual politics.

The result, though, is a comic of the highest order. I loved Unnatural #1, from the artwork to the capital B Big ideas beneath it. This first issue is a joy, both entertaining and filled with smart questions. There’s a central metaphor here conjures images of governmental decisions on birth control, abortion, same-sex marriage...all of which are recent or ongoing.

This is, perhaps, part of why Unnatural works so well on an intellectual level. There has been tension between government and its constituents in this area likely back to the dawn of civilization, and Unnatural extrapolates what could happen if that tension tipped too far toward one side (in this story it’s a prurient interest in further reproduction among the same species).

Unnatural #1  does a wonderful job using relatable character moments to deliver its complex questions and central metaphor.

Unnatural #1 does a wonderful job using relatable character moments to deliver its complex questions and central metaphor.

Past the Big ideas, however, the book is well-done and engaging, devoting time to relatable character moments—a love of sushi, a disdain for rain, banter between roommates—while checking standard first issue boxes: world-building, character names, cliffhanger ending, etc. As for the art, Andolfo’s work is sexy, reductive as that sounds. It isolates notions of beauty—steely blue eyes, voluptuousness, confident smirks—and telegraphs them onto anthropomorphic figures, giving the animals desirability, if only for a moment. Andolfo has said she doesn’t like drawing humans, and her choice to go anthropomorphic may be simple as that, but I suspect blurring lust lines between species was a deliberate means of depicting inherently fuzzy lines of sexual attraction.

I only took issue with one panel in this book. A lot of comics do a wonderful job of subtly building a central conceit without explicitly stating it—before going ahead and stating it anyway. One famous example is The Walking Dead, with a full-page early on wherein protagonist Rick Grimes yells something like, Don’t you see? WE are the walking dead? There’s a similar panel in Unnatural, though not as grievous. Really, it’s a small compliant in an otherwise stellar comic.

Overall: This is a captivating book, at once smart, poignant, and stylish. Andolfo clearly has strong thoughts about the intersection of sex and government, but she also knows well that those thoughts are best served by first and foremost telling an entertaining story. As a result, Unnatural #1 is not to be missed. 9.5/10

Unnatural #1 comes out July 4, 2018.

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