The comics industry really kicks into gear today after a quiet January, with everything from boundary-pushing books to gleeful fun hitting the stands today. But what was in the top twenty?
1) Omega Men #8
From the start, Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda have explored what takes an otherwise rational person into terrorism with this series, and this brutal gut punch of an issue pays off those themes as we learn why Kyle Rayner — the White Lantern, the avatar of life — might join a terrorist cause and why he might genuinely believe that murder and assassination are the only option for him. It’s not subtle, but the issues this book wrestles with are complex and ugly, even through a space opera filter. Not just a great comic book, a genuinely thoughtful and important one.
2) Jupiter’s Circle Vol. 2 #3
Mark Millar smartly focuses this book on a very real downside of superheroes: The ensuing arms race. As his Lex Luthor manqué puts it, you can’t just carry a gun, anymore, with Superman in town. You need a nuke. Millar actually lingers intelligently on this theme, pointing out that a superhuman can be seen as both a hero and an oppressor in some very grounded and funny ways. Chris Sprouse and Karl Story keep the art clean and Silver Age, and in all, it’s an intelligent take on the real consequences of superheroes.
3) Negative Space #3
Owen Gieni and Ryan Lindsay have, in the last two issues, revealed a vast world conspiracy run by goopy tentacle aliens that feed on depression, and the unlikely hero who will save us all. Think that description is weird? Wait until you read the actual comic! Lindsay’s inventive and hilariously gross at times art perfectly compliments Gieni’s script, which stays just on this side of coherent to make sense. Put it to you this way: Never has a story with the moral “think positive” been so outright disturbing, and it’s to Gieni and Lindsay’s credit that it’s funny instead of weird. A must-read.
4) Spider-Woman #3
Javier Rodriguez gets to be even more wittily inventive with Dennis Hopeless’ funny, thrilling script, and the results are a smart must-read. Hopeless and Rodriguez together have a hilarious sensibility that keeps the pace clicking and the book a hoot, and easily one of Marvel’s best right now.
5) Venus #2
Rick Loverd and Huang Danlan’s hard-sci-fi take on colonizing Venus has… let’s say it’s got a heck of a twist in the final pages. Suffice to say that like it or not, the colonists are very much on their own, and that’s not a good place to be. Venus is becoming one of the best hard SF books on the stands, and well worth picking up.
6) Faith #1
Valiant’s most adorable character finally gets her own mini. Jody Houser’s plot isn’t any great shakes; it’s a fairly typical solo hero story in the vein of many, many X-Men books. But, the plot isn’t the point; Houser does a great job of balancing Faith’s cheery nature with the hard problems superheroes have to deal with, and Franchis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage deliver some wonderfully clean and funny art to go with the story. It’s a great read and proves Faith can carry a solo book worth reading.
7) Ringside #3
Joe Keatinge and Nick Barber started with a comic about wrestling and, over three issues, have made it a comic about masculinity. How much of it is performance? How much of it is moral? How much of it is sh*t-talking you’re afraid you’ll have to back up? It’s a brilliant theme to wrap this book around, although Keatinge could stand to tie his disparate plot threads a little closer together, and a surprisingly thoughtful book worth reading.
8) Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur #3
This story of a girl and her dinosaur is surprisingly tender in how it depicts the pitfalls of high school and being the smartest person in the room. Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder strike a good balance with this all ages book, and Natacha Bustos ties it all together with clean, expressive art.
9) Past Aways #8
Matt Kindt and Scott Kolins’ utterly bonkers parody/tribute to the Silver Age genre of two-fisted explorers of the unknown books ends with, of all things, some genuine character development. This book is wrapping up with the next issue, but hopefully, Kolins and Kindt have more in them: A book this funny and inventive shouldn’t lay fallow for long.
10) Wild’s End: The Enemy Within #5
Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard start paying off their cross between The War of the Worlds and The Wind in the Willows with some major character twists and staggering moments. Essentially the whole situation is slipping out of the Army’s control, and it’s going to take a lot more than a few bullets to save the world. At this point, this is one of the best thrillers on the stands, which finds a lot of fresh material in some old, old stories and styles. A must-read.
11) The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4
Doreen Green’s trip to the ’60s is becoming my favorite Marvel arc right now. Erica Henderson, in particular, fills the panels with subtle gags and her reinvention of Earth as Doomworld makes this issue worth buying on its own. But Ryan North also resolutely sticks to his theme, of Doreen being a negotiator, not a punching bag, and it has some clever twists as a result.
12) Cry Havoc #1
Simon Spurrier and Ryan Kelly aren’t reinventing the wheel here with a team of supernatural black ops types, but it’s putting the character we follow, Louise, first, that makes it work so well. Louise is eminently relatable, even though she’s a werewolf, and the book’s snappy pace and tight focus, not to mention Kelly’s moody, versatile art, keep it a compelling read.
13) Jem And The Holograms #11
Jill Thompson and Sophie Campbell are back to form with a new arc and it deals with the inevitable consequences of replacing a friend in a band. Of course, when the band in question is the Misfits, nobody’s leaving easily. As always, this is a fun, well-written all-ages book that is as fun for kids as it is for adults.
14) Art Ops #4
This book has been talked about largely in terms of the Allred art team and its undeniably impressive visual fireworks. And it’s true that this is a stunningly beautiful book. But it’s also a surprisingly thoughtful one that asks us about the nature of art and whether art thinks of us, and uses us, the way we think of and use it. Yeah, it’s trippy, but it’s amazing, and comics at its best.
15) Southern Bastards #13
Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s nasty Southern-fried noir remains one of the darkest books Image puts out. This issue finishes up the story of high school football coach/organized crime kingpin Euless Boss, and it’s a great read not least because it lays bare Boss’ flaws and why he can’t acknowledge them. That said, this book’s been hinting at a hell of a fight for a while, and one hopes they’re ready to pay that off.
16) Grayson #16
This espionage book chucks the somewhat serious tone and goes full Archer in this issue, and it’s absolutely spectacular. Mikel Janin and Tim Seeley go on a tear here in the middle of the book with a series of elaborate, hilarious splash pages themed around Dick’s imagining of his Bond song. If you want goofy spy action, you’ll find no better.
17) Venom: Space Knight #3
Robbie Thompson and Ariel Olivetti have so much fun riffing on space opera and Marvel “cosmic” tropes that it’s infectious. This lighthearted book takes the theme that being a knight in space would be a hell of a lot of fun. And you know what? It is.
18) Twilight Children #4
Jamie Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke bring their strange story of alien invasion and compassion towards strangers to a very magical realist close. This miniseries is pretty off-the-wall, one has to admit, but Cooke’s stylish retro art and Hernandez’s sharp characterization make it a book worth reading.
19) Daredevil #3
Daredevil struggling with being a prosecutor is almost as much fun as him fighting ninjas, and his fighting ninjas is plenty fun. Ron Garvey and Charles Soule make their story of warring gangs and street-level realities an engaging read, and if you liked the Netflix series, this will tide you over until March.
20) Colder: Toss The Bones #5
Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra bring their brilliant and unnerving horror book to an appropriately chilling ending. We’re sad to see Colder go, but this story of an insanity-eating hero and his worst enemy has been one of the best horror comics in recent years, and it’s great to see it go out on top.
This Week’s Other Books
Aquaman #48: Cullen Bunn’s neat arc comes to a satisfying end.
Batman and Robin Eternal #17: Week in and week out, some of the best straightforward superheroics on the stands.
Black Canary #7: This arc’s end is a bit out of nowhere and feels a bit sloppy, but it’s a fun read and Annie Wu’s art is great.
Cyborg #7: DC really needs to let David F. Walker cut loose.
Deathstroke #14: Deathstroke fights Luthor! That’s, uh, really the whole selling point.
He-Man: The Eternity War #14: A great little slice of space opera pulp.
Jacked #3: This book has a durable concept with a beaten-down nebbish turned superhero going horribly wrong and it has beautifully lurid art. It needs more twists to season the plot, however.
Justice League 3001 #8: DC’s spiritual successor to Justice League International takes a dark but endearing twist.
Justice League Of America #7: Great art, but the plot is dragging.
Last Gang In Town #2: Remember that Genesis video with the Reagan puppet? That’s more or less what this book turns into.
Suicide Squad: Most Wanted #1: Basically a movie tie-in without actually being a movie tie-in. Fun enough for what it is, but more for fans of the characters or those looking for an introduction to them.
Superman #48: Superman is now mortal. Yeah, his problems just multiply, huh?
Superman: Lois And Clark #4: It’s kind of nice to have ’90s Supes back, but new readers are going to be lost.
Teen Titans #16: A solid team book that needs something more.
Vertigo Quarterly SFX #4: Vertigo’s anthology books always have a ton of talent and varying levels of quality between stories, and this is no exception, although Jordie Bellaire, best known for her coloring, delivers a clever little EC Comics riff that makes you wish she’d write more as well as color.
All-New All-Different Avengers #4: A new romance can’t quite make this book stand out.
Carnage #4: Credit where it’s due, Lovecraftian horror is a great direction to take Carnage in.
Extraordinary X-Men #6: The classic ’70s team, mostly back together, is a fun read that more could be done with.
Howling Commandos Of SHIELD #3: Thankfully, this book doesn’t stretch out its evil bureaucrat plot.
Old Man Logan #1: Basically a sequel to the original miniseries, with all its attendant problems.
Black Magick #4: This story of witch cops and witch-hunting priests is finally picking up, but still needs to be written with a faster pace.
East Of West #24: You will have no idea what’s going on if you haven’t read the rest of this series, but man, it’s a hell of a read if you have.
Monstress #3: Beautiful book, but there’s little of consequence going on here.
Prophet: Earth War #1: Brandon Graham’s bizarre, brilliant reinvention of a goofy ’90s hero begins its final six-issue arc.
The Beauty #6: This book wraps its first arc with an interesting finale, but it still needs to do more with its concept than be yet another conspiracy thriller.
King Conan: Wolves Along The Border #2: While the Picts’ whole “savage tribe” routine could have been dialed back, it still a solid slice of barbarian pulp.
Conan The Avenger #22: A little too talky and exposition-heavy for the Cimmerian.
Hellboy Winter Special: A few fun stories to celebrate Hellboy’s 30th.
Escape From New York #14: This bank robbery fantasy would feel like it was a little more fun if there weren’t a lot of people who seriously think it’ll happen.
The Spire #6: Some heavy palace intrigue spices up a solid but undeveloped fantasy book.
Victorie City #1: A serial killer thriller that feels far too rote.
Bloodshot Reborn #10: OK, so this is a straight Mad Max ripoff. But that doesn’t make it any less fun to read.