It’s a busy New Comic Book Day, so what’s best? We’ve got everything from superhero noir to goofy Sherlock Holmes parodies for kids, but only one book could be #1, and that’s…
1) Harrow County #10
Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook start a new arc in their literary horror story. This time, though, Emmy takes a back seat to the Black population of Harrow County, and someone who may potentially be either a great friend or a terrible foe. It’s a great place to pick up this brilliant series, delivering its uneasy folktales with panache.
2) Vision #5
Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta are making their suburban noir ever richer and more complex. The threads of the Vision’s seemingly idyllic suburban life are beginning to unravel, and they’re not falling apart in the way that superhero family lives generally do, but are being undone by the flaws in himself and this newly built family the Vision refuses to see. It’s a thrilling, unnerving noir; make a point of reading it.
3) Shaft: Imitation of Life #2
David Walker and Dietrich Smith continue reinventing the iconic ’70s private detective, and it just keeps getting better. Shaft is slowly being drawn into a case he doesn’t want any part of, finding a young gay kid being eaten alive by the city, largely because as much as he puts up a tough guy front, underneath it all, he’s a decent human being. Smith’s layout work and vivid art stand out especially here, as Shaft starts working on a parody of, well, ‘Shaft.’ Still, it’s the soul of Shaft that makes this a great book, and a must-read.
4) The Dark And Bloody #2
Shawn Aldridge and Scott Godlewski continue their interesting riff on a backwoods tale of ghosts, black magic, and bad things coming back to haunt you. It works so well because it’s so grounded; while there are demons and wizards, just as important are the struggles that Iris, our protagonist, has with his past and trying to do the right thing by his family. It’s smart character drama well-paired with just the right touch of horror, and an excellent read.
5) Descender #11
Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen end their second volume of their space opera about Tim-21, the robot boy who just wants a safe place in a galaxy that dreads robots, with a pile of twists. Probably the best compliment you can give a comic book is that you wish the next issue was sitting right next to you to read, and Descender does exactly that.
6) Mockingbird #1
It’s a common question: Where do superheroes go when they need medical treatment. It turns out SHIELD runs clinics. Obnoxious, invasive clinics, unsurprisingly. Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk deliver a smart issue riffing on that theme as Bobbi slowly runs out of patients and it slowly dawns on her that something is very, very wrong. Plus there’s a corgi!
7) Constantine: The Hellblazer #10
Alberto Ponticelli takes over for art, here, and he delivers one doozy of an issue. Let’s just say you’ll never look at unicorns quite the same way. But Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV’s script does far more than just bump off fantasy creatures. At its deepest heart, it explores the conflicting nature of John Constantine, total bastard with a heart of gold, and illustrates why a guy like him just can’t win.
8) Kennel Block Blues #2
Daniel Bayliss is the unquestioned MVP of this book, as he uses everything from trippy children’s show imagery to complex layouts to deliver one of the most unique and visually dynamic books on the stands. Not that Ryan Ferrier is chopped liver; his endlessly witty reinvention of the local animal shelter as a hard-edged prison is hilarious. If you want something very, very different, this book will more than fit the bill.
9) Howard The Duck #5
Howard is finally going to try and put the Collector down for good. Keep in mind we’re emphasizing “try,” here. He’s going to need a lot of help. What’s most surprising about this issue is the final twist at the end; Howard tries to find his way home and, rather touchingly, it turns out to be a place, or rather a person, he can’t go back to. Funny beyond all belief, as always, but spare a thought for this poor fowl while you read.
10) No Mercy #8
What started as a rather direct thriller about Princeton freshmen discovering nobody cares about their GPAs in Central America has become a much more complex look at the geopolitical realities and budding consciousness (or lack thereof) of these kids. Carla Speed McNeil delivers possibly her best issue in the entire series, swinging from mocking celebrity culture to evoking Tex Avery and Disney to scenes of dark menace, handling everything Alex DiCampi can throw at her with ease. It’s a truly great comic that if you’re not already reading, you need to start.
11) Gotham Academy #16
This series continues its anthology format from the last few issues with, among other things, a rather touching story about Maps and Batman. This is a perfect way to get on board with this book, one of the most creative takes on Batman’s mythology in a long while, and an adorable read to boot.
12) The Hangman #3
Minetta has taken over a job as the Hangman, the brutal killer who sends those unworthy of living to the hellish depths. At least, he thinks so, as nobody has bothered to explain anything to him! One of the nice touches of Frank Tieri’s noir/horror hybrid is that Minetta, scary though he is, is completely out of his depth here, and the waters are just getting higher. Paired with Felix Ruiz’s scratchy, moody artwork, it makes for an engagingly creepy read.
13) The Baker Street Peculiars #1
Roger Langridge and Andy Hirsch team up to deliver a very unusual team of kids assisting Sherlock Holmes. In theory, anyway; nobody is quite what they seem in this book, as goofy and kid-oriented as it is. Sherlockians will probably smash a Strad over the liberties this takes with the original stories, but it’s an adorable concept and Langridge works an enormous amount of both sarcasm and charm into one package.
14) Limbo #5
Dan Walters and Caspar Wijngaard are almost finished with their bizarre, abstract, netherworld noir, of a man who, it turns out, may or may not be trapped inside his own mind. Or perhaps in actual limbo. It’s a bit vague. One thing that it certainly is, though, is beautifully executed and a fun, scary read.
15) Slash And Burn #5
Si Spencer and Max Dunbar continue their creepy murder mystery about a reformed pyromaniac trying to solve a series of fiery murders seemingly picking off her group of friends from her orphanage days. The edge of obsession this book has is what makes the whodunit all the more compelling; is our heroine tracking down a dangerous spirit, or perhaps just losing her mind? Finding out makes for an engaging read, and if you’re looking for a good thriller, look no further.
16) Samurai #1
Jean-Francois Di Giorgio and Frederic Genet have returned with their Samurai series. As always, Genet’s artwork is the big draw here, as Gent and Di Giorgio wear the influence of Lone Wolf and Cub right on their sleeves. But there are few comics better to pay tribute to, and if you want some samurai action, this will be perfect.
17) The Haunted Mansion #1
Joshua Williamson and Jorge Coelho have the unenviable task of turning a Disney ride into a credible comic book and they pull it off with alacrity. Coelho, in particular, taps his inner EC artist to fill the pages with loads of gloom and atmosphere, although our hero smiles a little too often to credibly believe he’s in danger. Similarly, Williamson manages to give Danny, our hero, a reasonable backstory as he’s struggling not just with grief but his family’s inability to move on. If you’ve got a kid in your life who loves horror, or you want to introduce them to the creepy crawlies without dealing out too many nightmares, this is a good pick.
18) Jupiter’s Circle Vol. 2 #4
Mark Millar and Chris Sprouse sort of press pause on their mashup of Silver Age optimism tempered by the political failures and stresses of the actual ’60s to, well, more or less deliver a straight Silver Age story. And it’s a heck of a lot of fun! That said, this book is best when it’s exploring the tension between the moral absolutism of superheroic fantasy and the messy reality we actually live in, and hopefully we see that come back next issue.
19) Ninjak #13
Ninjak wraps up his time in the land of the dead pretty much how you’d expect: With violence. Matt Kindt and Doug Braithwaite have had a heck of a time mashing up their spy drama and the weird and wooly land of the dead, and this action-packed finale is great fun for fans looking for an old fashioned superhero brawl, especially since it’s tinged with hints that this fight isn’t quite over.
20) Ms. Marvel #5
Admittedly, this breather arc, riffing on Kamala having to do too many things at once and being unable to balance, is hardly original in the plot department, which is why I knocked it down a few notches in the rankings. But, as always, Kamala is too endearing and relatable to be out of the running, and this is easily one of Marvel’s best superhero stories, month in and month out.