Top Comics to Buy for September 19, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This was an especially strong week, with the penultimate issue of Mister Miracle sort of headlining the books I’m looking forward to. It kind of seems like that book has been going on for years (even though it launched in August 2017) and like we’ll have it for the rest of our days (the last issue is currently due out on Oct. 24...although if recent issues are an indication it's probably likely to slip).

The book has just been so so good, and we will most definitely be sad to see it go. That said, we’re also enjoying the heck out of these final few issues. Tom King is one of the best and most introspective superhero writers, and what he’s done first with The Vision and now with Mister Miracle is work that seems likely to find a wide audience for a good long while. It’s been really rewarding to follow it in monthly issues, even with these minor delays.

Oh hey, and also there’s a lot of other good stuff, too! Let’s take a look...

Top Comics to Buy for September 19, 2018

Crude #6
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Garry Brown
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Publisher: Image Comics
Price:
$3.99
Piotr has fought his way across Blackstone to avenge his son's death. Now he faces off against the biggest bastard of them all, and only one will walk away.
Why It’s Cool: This is the finale of a fantastic book about closure, violence, secrets, acceptance, and fathers and sons. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. Creators Steve Orlando and Garry Brown, however, streamline their many powerful themes into a cathartic and powerful story.

Harley Quinn #50
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artists (In Order of Appearance): John Timms, Whilce Portacio, Agnes Garbowska, John McCrea, Kelley Jones, Jon Davis-Hunt, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Scott Kolins, Dan Jurgens, Guillem March, Mirka Andolfo, Babs Tarr, Tom Grummett, Cam Smith
Colorists (In Order of Appearance): Alex Sinclair, Gabe Eltaeb, John Kalisz, Michelle Madsen, Andrew Dalhouse, Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
In a special anniversary story, "Harley Saves the Universe!"-no kidding! While reading a mysterious Harley Quinn comic book, H.Q. accidentally breaks all of reality. And you know the saying: if you break it, you bought it! Now it's up to Harley to travel through both time and space to fix all the continuity errors she created. Luckily, she'll have a little help, 'cuz riding shotgun is none other than special guest star Jonni DC, Continuity Cop! Good thing, too, because if Harley fails, it means her own mom will be lost forever. Gulp! That doesn't sound very funny!
Why It’s Cool: Listen, I’m not a big fan of Harley Quinn stories. The zany superhero books (ie Deadpool) don’t usually do it for me, but this one takes a gigantic and meta idea, using it to tell a poignant story about the nature of superhero franchises, sprinkled liberally with fun deep cut nods to DC continuity. It’s a must-buy for long-time DC readers.

Ice Cream Man #7
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99
"MY LITTLE POLTERGEIST"
Another sullen, sequential short! Here, a little girl's best friend comes back from the dead. Or does she? It's hard to say, ghosts being an unreliable sort.
Why It’s Cool: Ice Cream Man #6 was one of my favorite books of 2018 so far, accomplishing some really impressive feats of comic-making craft. It did, however, leaving me wondering if this book was becoming a bit nihilistic...until this issue put that question at rest. This is the most heartfelt issue yet of one of the best comics on the stands, and I highly recommend picking it up.

Immortal Hulk #6
Writer:
Al Ewing
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE GREEN DOOR" STARTS HERE! Bruce Banner is alive - and everyone knows it. Now he's hunted by the government, Alpha Flight, the mysterious Shadow Base...and the Avengers. And someone's going to find him first. But Bruce has bigger problems. Something terrible has infected him. Something with unspeakable plans for humanity. And the only one who knows about it...is the IMMORTAL HULK.
Why It’s Cool: I’ve liked Immortal Hulk quite a bit from its first disturbing issue, but last month’s Immortal Hulk #5 introduced a new villian that in my opinion gives this story a chilling new sense of direction, one that stands to make it an even more powerful book. This is, quite simply, my favorite comic at Marvel right now.

Mister Miracle #11
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher:
DC Comics
Price: $3.99
If there's one thing popular fiction has taught us by now, it's: never make a deal with the devil! And yet Mister Miracle is still listening when Darkseid approaches him with just such a devilish proposition-if Scott sends his newborn son to Apokolips, there will be peace on New Genesis. Since when has Darkseid been famous for his honesty?! It'll be a miracle if this doesn't blow up in Scott's face.
Why It’s Cool: Our site and many others have spent the past year or so heaping praise upon Tom King and Mitch Gerads Mister Miracle, and that’s not going to stop now that we’ve reached the penultimate issue. This is a series filled with equal parts introspection and misdirection. Expect some answers here, but also expect to wait for Mister Miracle #12 to really get a clear idea of what’s been going on.

Recommended New #1 Comics for September 19, 2018

  • Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

  • Batman: Damned #1

  • Burnouts #1

  • Captain America Annual #1

  • Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #1

  • Gideon Falls: Directors Cut #1

  • Return of Wolverine #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Avengers #8

  • Batman #55

  • Black Badge #2

  • Black Hammer: Age of Doom #5

  • Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #3

  • Ether Copper Golems #5

  • Justice League #8

  • Lost City Explorers #4

  • Pearl #2

  • Skyward #6

  • Teen Titans #22

  • Thor #5

  • Usagi Yojimbo The Hidden #6

  • Venom #6

  • The Wild Storm #17

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

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

Top Modern Superhero Artists: The Sultans of Style at Marvel and DC

By Taylor Pechter — In comics, there’s always debate over what is more important: writing or art. These discussions can go either way, but they almost always conclude that both are equally important in different ways. Writers give characters their personalities, desires, and struggles, while the artists give motion and create a flow to the story. Artists also give characters different body types, faces, and ticks that writers can’t show with words alone. They are, simply put, storytellers in their own right.

Through the many decades of comics history individual artists have helped inform the style of the time. From legends like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby in the Golden and Silver Ages, to the sleek photorealism of Neal Adams in the Bronze Age, to the incomparable detail of George Perez that helped usher in the Modern Age of comic art. However, in the past 20 years, a handful of artists have helped push the medium forward, while defining the company they belong to. This has been dubbed house style.

Exactly what is considered house style has changed during the past few years, but, even so, what I’d like to look at today are the artists who who have helped define their respective superhero universes.

DC

1. Jim Lee — Arguably the most popular artist of the 1990s, Jim Lee rose to fame drawing the X-Men for Marvel in the early years of the decade before breaking away to form Image and his company, WildStorm Productions. In the late 90s, he sold his company to DC, bringing his signature style over to the brand. Lee’s style contains heavy linework, chiseled jawlines, extreme detail, and dynamic action. This style has helped define the look of the modern DCU by making it grander and more epic in scale. Currently, Lee serves as Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment.

Notable Works:

  • Batman: Hush

  • All-Star Batman and Robin: The Boy Wonder

  • Justice League: Origin

  • Superman: Unchained

2. Ivan Reis — Coming to American comics all the way from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ivan Reis has quickly become the go to event artist for DC of the past decade. Combining the sleekness of Neal Adams, the cinematic flair of Bryan Hitch, and the sheer scale of George Perez, Reis is a defining artist of the current generation. He’s also a notable collaborator with modern DC architect Geoff Johns, and his delicate-yet-cinematic style has helped bring new prominence to characters like Green Lantern and the Teen Titans. He’s currently drawing Superman, which is written by Brian Michael Bendis.

  • Infinite Crisis (With Phil Jimenez, George Perez, and Jerry Ordway)

  • Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War

  • Blackest Night

  • Teen Titans: Titans of Tomorrow

3. Gary Frank — English superstar Gary Frank is a roughly 23-year veteran of the business. Frank got his start at DC helping co-create the Birds of Prey team with legendary Bat-scribe Chuck Dixon. He later honed his craft at Marvel, drawing the Incredible Hulk and also collaborating with J. Michael Straczynski, but he eventually returned to DC to become one of, if not the defining Superman artists. With his keen eye for detail, simple-but-effective panel layouts, deep shadows, and expressive faces, Frank has become a favorite of mine and of many others.

Notable Works:

  • Superman: Brainiac

  • Superman: Secret Origin

  • Batman: Earth One

  • Doomsday Clock (currently ongoing)

4. Alex Ross — Arguably the most recognizable artist of this bunch, Chicago-based painter Alex Ross combines the photorealism of Norman Rockwell with the grandeur of the DCU. Ross depicts superheroes the way they were always meant to be seen: standing taller than life in the face of adversity. Using vast landscapes, strong postures, and smiles galore, Ross has become a multimedia sensation, not only drawing comics but also creating posters for film and video games.

  • Kingdom Come

  • The World’s Greatest Super Heroes

  • Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come

5. Jason Fabok — The newest artist on the DC block, Canadian Jason Fabok rose to prominence during DC’s New 52. While starting on smaller stories in Detective Comics, he later became popular via the mega Bat-event Batman Eternal followed by a run on Justice League with Geoff Johns. With his blend of realism, glossy texture, cinematic layouts, and brutal action, Fabok has fast-become one of the most acclaimed DC artists of the decade.

  • Batman Eternal

  • Justice League Darkseid War

  • Batman/Flash: The Button

  • Three Jokers (upcoming)

Marvel

1. Joe Quesada —  Coming from New York City, Joe Quesada, much like his contemporary at DC Jim Lee, had a hand in crafting Marvel’s signature style coming out of the 90’. With inker Jimmy Palmiotti, Quesada redefined what street-level Marvel meant, fueling the creation of Marvel Knights. Quesada’s use of overly exaggerated proportions, dense and heavy shadows, and cartoony-yet-expressive faces is part of the blueprint for Marvel to this day. He now acts as Chief Creative Officer for Marvel Entertainment.

  • Daredevil: Guardian Devil

  • Spider-Man: One More Day

2. David Finch —  Another comics superstar hailing from the Great White North, David Finch started drawing in the late 1990s for Marc Silvestri’s company Top Cow before moving to the House of Ideas in the 2000s. An early collaborator with a young Brian Michael Bendis, Finch’s heavy shadows, musclebound heroes, and cinematic action helped Marvel craft a denser and darker universe. He now works as a freelance artist and is husband to writer Meredith Finch. Most recently he has drawn issues of Tom King’s ongoing run on DC’s Batman.

  • Avengers Disassembled

  • New Avengers: Breakout

  • Moon Knight: The Bottom

  • Ultimatum

3. Steve McNiven — This is the last Canadian artist on this list, I promise. McNiven has been a Marvel mainstay since the early 2000s, when he did many covers for the publisher. His big break, however, came in 2006, when he was tapped for Marvel’s biggest event of the decade, Civil War. After that, McNiven started a partnership with Mark Millar. He is a king of rendering, using different styles of fabric and metal to do so. He adds many layers of texture that help lend to his somewhat stylized photorealism. His explosive panel layouts and eye for epic moments have led him to become one of Marvel’s blockbuster exclusive artists.

  • Civil War

  • Wolverine: Old Man Logan

  • Death of Wolverine

  • New Avengers: The Sentry

4. Olivier Coipel —  Magical, mythical, grandiose...these are all words that have been used to describe French artist Olivier Coipel’s work. Rising to prominence as a frequent collaborator of Brian Bendis, Coipel helped tear down and rebuild the Marvel Universe many times over. With his delicate linework, his characters move with a certain grace along with detailed architecture and lush landscapes that help create truly stunning comics.

  • House of M

  • Thor (2007)

  • Siege

  • Unworthy Thor

5. Leinil Francis Yu —  Last but not least we come to Filipino artist Leinil Francis Yu, who got his start his start in the late 90’s, his claim to fame being a major stint on Wolverine and other X-Men titles. His style is much looser than the others on this list. Yu uses many different lines to add intricacies. During Marvel’s big resurgence in the 2000’s, he became, much like Coipel and McNiven, a go to artist for the blockbuster events and headlining books. His action is frenetic and that helps greatly set the pace for the books that he draws.

  • Wolverine

  • Secret Invasion

  • Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk

  • Captain America (currently ongoing)

In the end, these artists have all been mainstays of certain universes with styles that while influenced by many great artists before them, are still uniquely their own. They have all played significant roles in creating the house styles that differentiate the two superhero universes, with DC having a more detailed, almost photorealistic look, while Marvel features a more exaggerated, cartoony, and fantastical aesthetic. These artists have helped redefine their universes; they are true sultans of superhero style.

Taylor Pechter is a passionate comic book fan and nerd. Find him on Twitter @TheInspecter.

The Punisher’s Code: A Look at Frank Castle’s First Appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #129

By Theron Couch — Unlike Marvel’s other vigilante heroes, the Punisher has always used lethal means to accomplish his goals. Whether in his own series, a guest appearance in another character’s book, or even during an extended alternate future tale like the one in this week’s Old Man Logan Annual, Punisher always carries the chance for serious casualties. Frank Castle’s history of lethal justice dates all the way back to his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #129, wherein Spider-Man was his target and readers could be forgiven for not being able to tell whether Punisher was good or bad...despite who he was aiming his gun at.

Spider-Man vs. The Punisher

Through a lie that Spider-Man had murdered Norman Osborne, the Punisher was manipulated by The Jackal into trying to kill the wall crawler. Much of the issue focused on Peter Parker, yet I’d still call it action packed, since we are talking about a battle between Spider-Man and The Punisher, after all. And that fight started off decidedly in The Punisher’s favor, at least before Spider-Man summoned the strength to break the titanium bonds Punisher put on him.

Even after getting free, Spider-Man still wasn’t a match for the combined forces of Punisher and Jackal, the latter of which scratched him with electric claws and sent him off the side of a building. Of course, Spider-Man survived, eventually finding a clue planted by The Jackal that leads to a dead friend of the Punisher’s. The Punisher and Spider-Man arrive in the same place, and Spider-Man explains the frame job to Punisher—only Jackal could have planted the clue leading to the body, clearly killed by Jackal’s claws, but it’s Punisher who would have taken the fall. Spider-Man and the Punisher depart tolerably, if not amicably.

The Punisher’s Code

Old Man Logan Annual #1 is now available.

Even in this first appearance, Gerry Conway establishes a code of conduct for The Punisher that puts him closer to the side of the angels than the devils. The Punisher will only kill murderers. Indeed, his justification for killing Spider-Man was the supposed murder of Norman Osborne. The Punisher’s code is so rigid, in fact, he believes he must kill a target rather than allow that target to die in an accident—such as when Spider-Man falls off the roof following Jackal’s attack. Siding with Jackal may be a stain on Punisher’s shield, but Punisher remarks that he believed they were teaming up to rid New York of a criminal element.

The thing that ultimately lands Punisher in the villain column, however, comes at the end of this issue. Once Spider-Man has revealed the frame job and exposed Jackal, Punisher calls him a hero and leaves him alone, instead vowing to get revenge on Jackal. Unfortunately this set of circumstances does nothing to absolve Spider-Man of the Normal Osborne murder—the reason Punisher was hunting Spider-Man in the first place. To stay loyal to his code, the fight against Spider-Man should have continued.

The Punisher is often likened to a simple villain in Amazing Spider-Man #129, and maybe that’s the case, but I think there’s more to it than that. The Punisher follows his code of conduct throughout the issue, acting in a consistent way with a clear and avowed goal to end crime. If there is a villainous moment, it’s when he decides to stop fight against Spider-Man—abandoning his code—in favor of the pettiness of revenge.

Theron Couch is a writer, blogger, and comic book reviewer. His first novel, The Loyalty of Pawns, is available on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter at @theroncouch.

Five Questions With Creators: Ryan Cady

Infinite Dark is slated for release Oct. 10.

By Zack Quaintance — Ryan Cady will make his Marvel debut this coming Wednesday, writing a backup story drawn by Hayden Sherman for the Old Man Logan Annual. The month after that, he’s launching one of the darker creator-owned books to be solicited all year. How dark? Infinitely so (the book’s title is Infinite Dark).

I could continue prattling about his credentials and how he’s basically the definition of an exciting creator to watch, but instead I’ll step aside now as Ryan answers our latest set of five questions with creators (plus one extra one about fast food)...

1. So, I had a chance to read the preview of Infinite Dark from SDCC. Really great stuff! Where did the idea for this story come from and what was your process like for taking it from idea to a fully-realized comic?

Thanks man! I’ve had the idea for quite awhile. It came out of some pretty rough, bleak times in my life, and I sort of hung onto this idea of “survival as a virtue.” Wanting to explore that, I turned toward this mishmash of horror ideas I’d had about the Heath Death of the Universe, listened to some really appropriate dark/emo music, and synthesized it all into a plot. It was just about bringing all those disparate kernels together under that theme, and getting it to be something Andrea wanted to create together.

2. The concept of the book and the preview left me feeling lonely and almost outside of myself…what sort of headspace did you have to get in while writing this story and developing these characters?

Like I said before, I was in a hard place. 2017 was the worst year of my life, personal-life wise. I moved across the country for a relationship that started crumbling, I lost of lot of support structures, some friendships collapsed, money was tight – I felt kind of lost out there. But coming out of that – surviving at any cost and finding a home even if it’s not who you were before…that’s sort of where I was when it finally became time to script. And even if the story starts off as bleak as can be, in pure empty oblivion, I promise there is hope for these characters. Even if they don’t have much yet, themselves.

3. Andrea Mutti’s art is so good, such an interesting hard sci-fi aesthetic. What is the collaboration process between the two of you like?

Andrea Mutti is one of the most enthusiastic people in comics. He’s always cheery, always excited, always pushing me. I have a lot of close character thoughts, but he’s always so good about making sure I remember the dynamism of comics, the big images and dramatic action that can precede or even help further convey those moments. Plus, he uses a lot of friendly emojis in his emails that just always make my day.

Hayden Sherman's art (via Twitter) for Cady's story in Old Man Logan Annual, out Sept. 5.

4. What can you tell us about the story you’re writing for next month’s Old Man Logan Annual, from what I understand it’s an excerpt from Frank Castle’s War Journal…

Oh man, I could not be more ecstatic about my Marvel debut, man. This story is…Well, it’s an examination of Frank Castle – one of the most nihilistic dudes in the Marvel Universe – traversing the Wastelands of the Old Man Logan timeline – easily the most nihilistic time period of the Marvel Universe. And while that sounds bleak and brutal and awful (and the story is, at times), where we’re taking Frank still gives him a leg to stand on. A crusade. He’s going to encounter some people who want to recreate the mistakes of the past, and he’s having none of it.

5. So, when you haven’t been mentally inhabiting post-heat death survivalist scenarios or alternate future stories about whatever-it-takes vigilantism…what comics, books, TV, movies, music, etc. have you been consuming lately?

Ha! Well, I’m a huge D&D fan, so I play in a couple campaigns and I’m a huge fan of the Adventure Zone podcast. I like podcasts and audiobooks cause I drive a lot and listen to ‘em when I do chores, etc. So I’m big on TAZ and the Magnus Archives, and I’m doing my best to work through a lot of the “Top Horror Novels of All Time,” and try to get back to my roots, as it were. Comics-wise, I’ve actually been trying to go back and read more formative, classic stuff – I just finished Transmetropolitan, some old X-Men runs, a few Ennis stories…Like I said, trying to shore up my roots.

The Beefy Crunch Burrito in all its...glory?

+1. As a noted fast food connoisseur, what if any fast food products are most likely to survive the heat death of the universe and why?

Taco Bell re-releases the Beefy Crunch Burrito once every couple years, and everyone loves it, but they never keep it around for long, even though demand is crazy high and it’s easy to make with ingredients they mostly keep on hand anyway. I imagine that somewhere on board the Orpheus there’s some kind of future Taco Bell, and even though all food is available with matter processors, even though there’s no actual time or seasons or anything, they STILL only release the fucking thing once a year, just to torture these poor people.

Check out our other Five Questions with Creators pieces and other Comics 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.

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.