Best Comics of January 2019: A disparate bunch

By Zack Quaintance — There was a weird start to the year, what with the first Wednesday of 2019 coming the day after a holiday. There was also this thing going on in January, wherein DC Comics had more books than usual due to not shipping any at all on the fourth Wednesday of December, which was itself the day after Christmas. So yeah, it felt like it took a week or two for the comics-availability world to sort of jog back into its normal form.

With that in mind, I—as usual—still struggled a bit with narrowing my sections down to their usual number of selections: 10 for Shout Outs and 5 for the Best Comics of January 2019. I won’t go into the gruesome details, but I without question had to get rid of some books that it absolutely hurt me to cut. Thus is the life of a volunteer comic book website editor, though. All in all, I’m super happy with the books that landed on our list, and I hope you find some of your favorites here too.

So then, what are we waiting for? Let’s get to the comics!

Shout Outs

I’m stealing this from my friend Kirk on Twitter, but with Saga on hiatus, Monstress is my Saga. This is true first in how much I look forward to/enjoy the comics, and in how well-done and immersive they are. Monstress launched a new arc this month with Monstress #19.

Speaking of well-done and immersive, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Robson Rocha’s burgeoning Aquaman run continued this month with Aquaman #44, which was even better than the previous issue. This feels like superhero comics by way of DeConnick’s creator-owned opus with Emma Rios, Pretty Deadly. That’s a very good thing.

Meanwhile at Marvel, shout out to Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo’s Thor #9, which got me excited as all get out for the upcoming War of the Realms. More on all of this in the next section (oooo, cryptic!)...

And now back to DC! One of my favorite comics from that publisher is The Terrifics, which has really taken a major step forward in recent issues. The Terrifics #12 from Jeff Lemire and Viktor Bogdanovic was the book’s best yet, featuring several all-time great modern Plastic Man moments.

On the indie tip, I’m absolutely loving the Kyle Starks and Chris Schweizer collaboration Mars Attacks, which is using a touching father-son relationship and a classic hero’s journey structure to breath life into this licensed franchise I know little to nothing about.

On to properties I do know something about (aren’t you just living the segueys today?). Archie 1941 #4 was just as fantastic as the rest of this series (I have a feeling you’ll see this book back here next month—ahem), feeling both true to history and its iconic characters.

Are you looking for low-key the most disturbing series in comics? Well then, let me just point you to Black Crown’s, The Lodger, which had its best issue yet with this month’s The Lodger #3. Black Crown editor Shelly Bond said this at SDCC when announcing the title, but in crime comics one name is above the rest: the Laphams.

Another sublimely-disturbing comic (a seguey again!) is Immortal Hulk. This month saw the release of Immortal Hulk #11 and #12, a storyline in which the Hulk goes to hell and the book remains utterly alone as Marvel Comics’ current best.

I’ve made it no secret for a while that Mark Russell is one of my favorite new comic writers, and he’s most-certainly doing his thing this month with Lone Ranger #4. This book has the complex societal commentary that has long-defined Russell’s work, with a better sense of suspense than any of his previous comics.

Warren Ellis continues to re-imagine characters he’s been writing for years in the context of 2019. In The Wild Storm #19, this story introduces the group of these characters with the widest appeal: The Authority. Even if you don’t care about/like that group, though, this is just a straight-up great comic that begs to be read.

Best Comics of January 2019

Walk Through Hell #7.jpg

5. A Walk Through Hell #7
Writer:
Garth Ennis
Artist: Goran Sudzuka
Colorist: Ive Svorcina
Letterer: Rob Steen
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Garth Ennis is as consistent a writer as we have in comics and has been for many years. While his new WWII story with TKO Studio, Sara, is grabbing the most attention from comics fans, readers would do well not to sleep on his AfterShock Comics title, A Walk Through Hell. This is a scary book with a patient storytelling tact and a lot to say about our times. What else do you want?

In this issue, the full scope of Ennis and co-creator Goran Sudzuka’s ambitions continue to become clearer. This has been a disturbing mystery story from the start (albeit one that seemed like it might tip into overly grim territory). And that has all continued, but now we’re seeing more commentary about our times. What I continue to find most impressive about this series, however, is the way it somehow manages to both make ample use of flashbacks while also remaining rooted in the present. It’s great stuff, from both a reader’s and craft student’s perspective.

4. Action Comics #1007
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Steve Epting
Colorist: Brad Walker
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Earlier this week, site contributor (and all around great guy) d. emerson eddy choose Action Comics #1007 as his pick for Comic of the Week, noting as he did that Brian Michael Bendis’ ongoing Superman saga was one of his favorite things at DC Comics. I absolutely 100 percent agree with this. As eddy notes, it often feels like a light shining from their superhero offerings. This is even true of this individual issue, which launches a new storyline that presumably involves conspiracy.

Moreover, this issue is a must-read for any long-time superhero fan because of a landmark conversation that takes place between Lois Lane and her father. All of it is illustrated by espionage comics master Steve Epting, with Brad Anderson colors. Simply put, this is just all-around strong comic book-making.

3. Avengers #12
Writer:
Jason Aaron
Penciler: Ed McGuinness, Cory Smith
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Hoo man did this comic ever spark a lot of conversation on comics Twitter. On the surface, it sounds like a real chore: Black Panther, the Avengers current chairman, sets about shoring up the team’s new headquarters and its support staff. It’s procedural stuff, but writer Jason Aaron uses it to launch a new concept within the Marvel Universe, which can perhaps best be summed up with Hello Agents of Wakanda, Good Bye Agents of SHIELD!

A central theme to Aaron’s Avengers run has become the transition of America-centric heroes to a more global network of planetary protectors (or at least this stands to become a central theme very soon). As such, the transition from SHIELD, which almost always read as a more fantastical depiction of a combined FBI and CIA, with the Agents of Wakanda is basically perfect, as the latter group culls its membership from all across Marvel continuity, from Gorilla Man to Ka-Zar to some great surprises. Like all Aaron books this one is a slow-burn, well worth it to those willing to invest the time. This one is made even better by the entire Marvel line seeming to acknowledge that yes, this comic is the company’s flagship.

2. Livewire #2
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artists: Raul Allen and Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
As I wrote on Twitter immediately after putting this comic down, this young Livewire comic feels like the best X-Men series in years. Valiant’s psiots have long-cribbed parts of the X-Men’s central metaphor, but this is perhaps the purest exploration of it. And writer Vita Ayala with the art team of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin (one of my favorites in the industry) are more than doing it justice.

I often use this column to award long-tenured runs versus the hot new thing. Livewire #2, however, was so good that I threw all of that out the window. It’s a tense, well-told story that really tests its central protagonist. It’s the type of comic that has me eagerly checking the calendar in anticipation of Livewire #3.

1. Ice Cream Man #9
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
We’re getting tight on space here (damn my self-imposed 1,500-word limit!), so I’ll keep this brief. Ice Cream Man #9 massively expanded the scope of this series, simultaneously re-contextualizing everything I thought I knew about this book. I thought this was an anthology series, with a few somewhat random appearances of the titular Ice Cream Man thrown in to heighten the sinister ambiance.

And it is some of that. I’ve read Ice Cream Man #10, and the horror anthology construction continues. This issue, however, adds a layer of multiversal, almost biblical consequence to the book that owes more than a little to the works of David Lynch and Stephen King’s Dark Tower. There are three issues left in this series, and I have a feeling Ice Cream Man #9 is not the last time our perceptions of what this comic really is will be upended.

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.

Thirsty Thursdays January 2019: A Thirsty New Year

By Allison Senecal — Superhero comic art has evolved at a really impressive rate in recent years...so much so that sometimes it can be a lot to handle. First there’s excitement, obviously, but then that excitement turns into something else...which is why each month we’re running our Thirsty Thursday rankings, a new and different way to look at our favorite comic art. Welcome to a sporadic examination of (as the kids say) the month’s thirstiest comics.

Enjoy!

Artist: Mahmud Asrar       
Colorist: Matt Wilson
Conan the Barbarian #1 - I came into 2019 praying that the new Conan line from Marvel would deliver the goods every month, and so far it’s batting a thousand. It’s sexyyyyyyyyyyy. Here’s hoping Asrar and Wilson get to give us their take on Bêlit before they’re done. 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Conan, what is best in life?

Conan, what is best in life?

Artist: German García
Colorist: Addison Duke
Barbarella/Dejah Thoris #1 - It’s been weeks and I still can’t shut up about how gorgeous and charming this damn opening issue was. García and Duke’s Dejah Thoris is the best iteration of the character I’ve ever seen, and they aced Barb’s whole vibe as well. The ideal blend of cute and sexy, with pitch perfect banter from Williams that I assume will only get better in future issues. 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

I hope someone brought water to this team-up because a thirst warning is in full effect!

Artists: Carlos Magno and Butch Guice
Colorist: Alex Guimarães
Invaders #1 - NAMOR! So much Namor! And Steve in a military jacket! NAMOR IN A SUIT! Bet y’all didn’t think Invaders could be a sleeper thirst series of 2019, but this art team is here to prove you wrong. 💦💦💦💦 out of 5

This guy on the left?…SAME.

Artist: Iban Coello
Colorist: Andres Mossa
Man Without Fear #3 - Tough to pick one issue of this series to highlight, and the whole thing was a Sad Matt™ thirst trap, but Coello and Mossa served up the saddest, sweatiest Matt so #3 it is. 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Oh my dear dear Sad Matt™…so sad, so sweaty.

Artist: Juann Cabal
Colorist: Nathan Woodard
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #2 - I know this series is about SPIDER-MAN, but Johnny Storm is babysitting in this issue! I don’t even like kids, but every time Johnny is adorable with them I feel that cynical void inside me whisper “oh %$#&”. 💦💦💦💦 out of 5

I think we all need a lot of things, Johnny.

Artist: Sana Takeda
Monstress #19 - A new crossbow wife???! I keep thinking Sana Takeda is done giving me MORE women with the best designs to swoon over but...Yafaela! 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Is this a type? Can this be a type? I think this is my type…

Artist: Ramon Rosanas
Colorist: Tríona Farrell
Age of X-Man Alpha #1 - Rosanas and Farrell absolutely killed it on this. The character designs (largely courtesy of Mike Hawthorne) are all super swoony and it took me about 40 minutes to read because I kept lingering on every page. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about Nightcrawler, the X-Tremists squad, and Prisoner X here at some point (okay, many points). 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Clearly, this is the thirstiest timeline.

Artist: Adam Kubert
Colorist: Frank Martin
Captain America #7 - *drags hand down face* Steven Grant Rogers. I just want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for the cute sweater. That is all. 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

The right of people to choose… how hard they totally flip for freaking CAP IN A SWEATER.

The right of people to choose…how hard they totally flip for freaking CAP IN A SWEATER.

Artist: Caspar Wijngaard
Colorist: Mary Safro
Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 - I admit — and maybe this hurts my journalistic integrity in regards to this column about thirsty comics art — this is the first comic in a long time I purchased purely as a thirst read. Gillen knows it!! He compared it to Dream Daddies in a solicit, for God’s sake. I don’t know #$%& about the Thunderbolt property but 1. this was a fantastic first issue, and 2. Peter and Tabu (and Nucleon???!!) are hot. 💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

I’ll have a glass of that too because this book is seriously thirsty.

I’ll have a glass of that too because this book is seriously thirsty.

Sorry ahead of time for the panel by panel breakdowns of Daredevil #1-2 next month. You may think I’m kidding, but am I?

Check out The Thirstiest Comics of December.

Allison buys books professionally and comics unprofessionally. You can find her chaotic neutral Twitter feed at @maliciousglee.

Top Comics to Buy for January 23, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — This is a rare week, possible one-of-a-kind in the history of this website: all five of our top picks of the week are from totally different publishers. That’s right, in our Top Comics to Buy for January 23, 2019, we have comics from DC, Image, Marvel, Scout, and Valiant Entertainment. Let’s just take a moment here to savor the diversity of excellent books currently being released.

Okay, there. Back with us now? Good. This isn’t maybe the most bountiful new week for monthly comics, but it’s definitely one of those weeks wherein the quality of the releases outweighs the quantity. It’s one of those weeks where I really had to fight to limit the number of picks for the top 5 to five, thereby not compromising the very concept this weekly piece is built upon (which, admittedly, I’ve done in the past). Comics like Avengers #13, Cover #5, and Naomi #1 all missed out by just a hair. I mean, there was even a moment I considered Aquaman #44 for inclusion.

But enough about the books I didn’t end up choosing, and let’s plunge onward to the ones I did! Here they are...

Top Comics to Buy for January 23, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
The Wild Storm #19
Writer:
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Beginning the fourth story arc of THE WILD STORM. Jenny Mei Sparks has been around for over a century. She's seen a lot of things. Enough bad stuff that she took 20 years off to get drunk. And now she's back, and she has a plan. The problem is that other people have plans, too, and one of them is about reducing the population of Earth by around 90 percent.
Why It’s Cool: When The Wild Storm launched however many months ago, I was right away enthralled. It was Warren Ellis (a long-time favorite writer of mine) doing an entirely new modern take on characters he’d been writing for years, characters he understood better than anybody on the planet. I knew then if he had a new story to tell with them, it would very well be worth reading. Pair him with one of my favorite artists—Jon Davis-Hunt of Clean Room—and the book was already made for me. What made it all the more enticing, though, was that Ellis was hinting in interviews that a bigger (perhaps more familiar) team comic would spin out of this first 24-issue run. I knew right then it would be The Authority. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, this issue and the rest of this run is very much a must read comic.  

Immortal Hulk #12
Writer:
Al Ewing
Artist: Joe Bennett
Inker: Ruy Jose
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
"HULK IN HELL" PART TWO! It whispers through many mouths. It destroys with many hands. Its only weapon is hate. It wears human souls like masks on a stage to work its will on the world - but in the lowest hell, underneath all others, all the masks come off......and THE ONE BELOW ALL is revealed.
Why It’s Cool: It’s a week with a new issue of Immortal Hulk, and, as such, that means it’s a week wherein we include Immortal Hulk in our Top Comics to Buy. It’s pretty simple really—this comic came out the gate as a fantastic extrapolation of the Hulk concept that’s been present since essentially the start of the Marvel Universe, taking it to logically extremes that have enabled some truly chilling storytelling. The story has gone in unexpected directions without dipping at all in quality, and, as a result, this is a comic not to be missed.

Livewire #2
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artists: Raul Allen and Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Price: $3.99
POWERLESS! When the super-powered psiot codenamed Livewire plunged the entire country into a nationwide power outage, she made more than a few enemies - and now she's about to meet them face to face! But these mysterious foes aren't simply interested in bringing her to justice...no, they have other far more nefarious plans for the most wanted woman in the world...
Why It’s Cool: Collectively here at Batman’s Bookcase, Vita Ayala is one of our favorite rising writers. Meanwhile, the comic art team of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin regularly create some of our favorite visuals in the industry. It’s pretty much an ideal comics alchemy scenario to now have all of them collaborating on a book like Valiant’s Livewire, which features a fantastic character that until lately had been kept in the background or on the sidelines for far too long. To top that all off, we absolutely loved Livewire #1 and the follow-up issue is not a drop in quality at all. Put simply, you should all be reading this fantastic comic.

Long Lost Book 2 #6
Writer:
Matthew Erman
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Publisher: Scout Comics
Price: $3.99
The series finale of Scout Comics' critically acclaimed bizarre horror story that has been called "quite possibly the best Southern Gothic comic" about two sisters, Piper and Frances Laurent, and their horrific adventure through their disintegrating hometown, a shared traumatic history, as well as space and time. Everything has been leading up to this. The end is here!
Why It’s Cool: Look, I don’t know how many more nice things I have to say about Long Lost. As I’ve written in reviews as well as in our Best of 2018 lists, this comic is quiet and special. A slow-burning literary story that speaks to the existential dread found in the left-behind hometowns of a generation of people who’ve started new (sometimes lonely) lives in bigger cities. This ending is exactly what I personally wanted, although I won’t reveal anything else about it so as to avoid spoilers.

Monstress #19
Writer:
Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
As Maika and Corvin search for Kippa through a warped and lethal land, Kippa herself will face her own terrible monsters…
Why It’s Cool: It says it right there on the cover of Monstress #19—this is a five-time Eisner Award-winning comic. Part of the reason I volunteer my time to edit and coordinate this website is to help get the word out about my favorite comics, with a special emphasis on those I feel have flown a bit too under the radar. Until Monstress went to the Eisner Awards in San Diego last July and won basically everything, this book was at the top of my list. In the critical sense, I suppose I could be content about that. While reading this issue, however, it occured to me that I’m still not hearing enough about this amazing comic. Get the trades, savor them, and then please rejoin me for reading this comic in monthly format. It continues to be absolutely worth the investment.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Blossoms 666 #1

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1

  • Crypt of Shadows One Shot

  • Guardians of the Galaxy #1

  • Naomi #1

  • Oliver #1

  • Shuri #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Aquaman #44

  • Avengers #13

  • Batman #63

  • Cover #5

  • Die Die Die #7

  • Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #2

  • Go-Bots #3

  • Hardcore #2

  • Hellboy and the BPRD 1956 #3

  • Justice League #16

  • Low Road West #5

  • Mars Attacks #4

  • Pearl #6

  • Shazam #2

  • X-O Manowar #23

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.