By Zack Quaintance — This month naturally brings a deluge of year-end lists that can be fairly distracting when it comes to looking athe comics that actually come out in December. That’s why today we want to stick our usual practice of rehashing the Best New #1 Comics of December, because you know what? The last month of the year was actually a really great one for new series.
From new Big 2 superhero books to smaller creator-owned titles about wizards lounging in the sand and D&D, there was a great variety of new #1 comics in December. In fact, there were so many great new series this month that we had to extend our second section to include six choices rather than the usual five (it’s my site, after all, and if I don’t feel like narrowing down my selections, I can do that...this is one of the perks of having a site).
Anyway, let’s get to the new #1 comics!
Kyle Higgins, arguably the reigning best espionage writer today, teams with Rod Reis on a new Bucky Barnes series in Winter Soldier #1, and the results are predictably great.
Wizard Beach #1 by writer Shaun Simon and artist Conor Nolan subverted expectations so well that it netted d. emerson eddy’s Comic of the Week.
Bryan Edward Hill did a great job grounding Killmonger #1 in the comic book Marvel Universe rather than the world of the movie, the real star of that show, however, was artist Juan Ferraya, one of our Top 2018 Comic Creators.
There was a lot to unpack in Batman Who Laughs #1 from writer Scott Snyder and artist Jock, but we can’t wait to see where the seemingly-madcap plot points are going.
Writer Ed Brisson is essentially the elder statesman of the current crop of X-writers, teaming with Dylan Burnett on the excellent new X-Force title (which you may have missed over the holidays).
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1 from writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Javi Garron is a thing of beauty: an exceedingly well-done comic that hits just as this character is making waves in the wider world with a new movie, (the brilliant) Into the Spider-Verse.
The Stewart Bros. also reviewed Prodigy #1, describing it as a ‘blockbuster comic, pure and simple.’ It’s a good one, to be sure, loaded with writer Mark Millar’s fantastic sense of what makes a great comics concept and artist Rafa Albuquerque’s kinetic style.
And finally, Snap Flash Hustle #1 from writer Pat Shand and artist Emily Pearson is another great comic from Black Mask Studios, featuring a great combination of creators who have separately been doing excellent work for a while now. The story they’re telling here is about a secret society of models in NYC that sells drugs. It’s very good and very stylish stuff.
Top 5 Best New #1 Comics of December 2018
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
REVIEW: Die #1
We recently wrapped up our Best Comics of 2018 list, which takes into account how many issues a given title released last year. Die, of course, released only one, making its debut in December, and so given that sparsity, it was left off our list. I for one, however, would be utterly shocked if this was the case next year once this series really gets going. Simply put, Die #1 is the start of the next big Image Comic.
I’ve used that phrase before, just once, in my review of Gideon Falls #1. And you know what? I think I was right about that one—Gideon Falls took off last year, growing into (arguably) the biggest new Image comic to hit in 2018. With writer Kieron Gillen and artist Stephanie Hans, Die has the same quality hybrid of super-talented creative team. It also has a concept that plays into the current zeitgeist by exploring tabletop role playing games...and it does it with a darker, more adult tinge, taking the idea perhaps more seriously than others who have attempted to tread similar thematic territory.
Writer: Nnedi Okorafor
Artist: Tana Ford
Colorist: James Devlin
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Writer Nnedi Okorafor is an award-winning sci-fi novelist who, to my knowledge, made her first forrays into comics writing last year, doing so with Shuri at Marvel Comics and LaGuardia #1 for the Berger Books imprint at Dark Horse. It’s the latter I’d like to spotlight this month, combining as it does Okorafor’s seasoned sci-fi chops with a poignant satire of current events and the incredible and vibrant artwork of artist Tana Ford and James Devlin.
LaGuardia #1 is one of those debut comics that’s so well-built and polished, that you can feel the creators powerful inspiration at work as you read it. There’s a romance angle, a familial angle, and an angle aimed at societal commentary, all working harmoniously within brisk pacing and a compelling plot. There’s also a delightfully-absurd alien race of plant lifeforms that gives Ford a chance to really show off her design chops, even in subtle moments where a certain character appears. Basically, I liked this first issue quite a bit, and I’ve marked the release date of #2 (which happens to be next week). I suggest you do the same.
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Raul Allen
Colorist: Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Comics
REVIEW: Livewire #1
To be blunt, it is about frigging time that a character as great as Valiant’s Livewire got a proper ongoing series. Livewire has been kicking around Valiant’s line of comics for some time, stealing entire series where she appears as one of many characters. Now, she’s not only getting the solo series treatment, but she’s getting it from one of the best creative teams in all of comics: rising star writer Vita Ayala and the absolutely stunning artist team of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin.
As contributing writer Toren Chenault wrote in his Livewire #1 review, this book stands apart from other superhero comics by putting front and center a rare thing in the genre: a character that has been under-explored. Ayala writes that character with a stunning level of depth, giving the book a moving emotional core to accompany its concept. This is the most-exciting new Valiant series in some time, and we can’t wait to see where it goes.
Martian Manhunter #1
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC Comics
REVIEW: Martian Manhunter #1
Martian Manhunter was the first of two new major DC Comics to debut in December (the other being Shazam! #1...more on that in a second), with Steve Orlando writing and Riley Rossmo providing the madcap martian artwork. Powered by a murder mystery set in the present and an exploration of J’onn J’onzz’ hitherto unknown past pre-martian catastrophe as a corrupt police officer, the story aspires to be an introspective take on what makes J’onn...well, J’onn.
This is a comic that feels like a necessary experimental take on a classic superhero character. Based on the debut, this 12-part maxi-series seems bent on giving J’onn the Mister Miracle treatment, exploring the interiority of an often inscrutable character with unspeakable trauma in his past. Orlando is a writer incapable of half-efforts and Rossmo is the perfect pairing to really give this book a unique aesthetic. This is, simply put, a DC comic to watch in 2019.
Self / Made #1
Writer: Mat Groom
Artist: Eduardo Ferigato
Colorist: Marcelo Costa
Letterer: A Larger World Studios’ Troy Peteri
Self / Made #1 surprised me in the best possible way. Despite the presence of Kyle Higgins (espionage and action comics writer extraordinaire), I was unfamiliar with the creative team and adjusted my expectations accordingly. What I found when I picked up this book was an absolutely gorgeous comic that knows exactly where it’s going and is determined to be entertaining as it works its way there.
In spite of the aforementioned relatively novice creative team, this is a polished comic and a great debut issue. It orients the reader right away by establishing a sci-fi/fantasy war premise, atop layers of entitlement and classism. This would be all well and good on its own, but Self/Made also has a compelling twist it alludes to without being too blatant, leading to a powerful ending cliffhanger that simultaneously brings this story into focus and gives readers a reason to come back. I really can’t think of much else I would want from a new #1 issue.
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Dale Eaglesham & Mayo “Sen” Naito (backup story)
Colorist: Mike Atiyeh
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
REVIEW: Shazam! #1
DC’s other big debut in December was Shazam! #1. This comic, however, is a different deal than the other DC December debut, Martian Manhunter. Whereas Manhunter aspires to be an illustrative re-invention of a character readers could stand to know more about, Shazam! Seeks to tease out the core essence of these characters, re-enforcing what made Billy Batson and the rest of the Shazam family so compelling in the first place.
As I wrote in my Shazam! #1 review, writer Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham certainly accomplish this in adorable fashion. This is a character who needs to be equal part childish enthusiasm and super-powered mystical adventuring to function property. Johns and Eaglesham go all in on the latter in the main story of this issue, with Johns then doubling down on the former with an ultra cute back-up story drawn by Mayo “Sen” Naito. With bleak stories like Heroes in Crisis agitating large portions of the DC fanbase, this comic comes across as a welcome palliative.
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.