It’s a light week this last New Comic Book Day of March, but there’s plenty to read for fans. What made this week’s top ten?
1) Faith #3
Jody Houser, Francis Portela, and Marguerite Sauvage are reinventing the workaday superhero comic, and it’s possibly one of the best superhero comics on the shelves. Houser is more or less modeling the book on the classic Spider-Man style of working-class superhero, but Faith’s anxieties and needs are very different and even touching, at points. For example, Spidey’s ex is not part of a reality show that he can’t stand, yet lacks the emotional tools to get out of. People are often grumpy that superhero comics are too dark, but Faith balances the need for more realistic stories against the need for escapism brilliantly, and the result is compulsively readable.
2) Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire #3
Joe Kelly and Rafael Ortiz have been writing a story that’s nominally about a young boy and his pet dragon, but just under the surface, there’s a story about power and abuse here. Enrico has an abusive stepfather he’s struggling with, and his inability to fight back bleeds into his relationships with his friends, with his mentor, with his dragon, and with his self-respect. There are sections of this book that Kelly and Ortiz have made it brutally hard to read; Enrico is just a kid, and kids don’t understand abuse, and watching it spill over into the things he loves most can be heart-breaking. Ortiz’s exaggerated, spiky linework give this book a sometimes cartoonish feel that oddly only exaggerates the impact of some of the bad decisions. This book is an achievement, and if you’re not reading, it’s time to pick it up.
3) Omega Men #10
Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda put you in the perspective of freedom fighters/terrorists, sometimes literally, in this intense issue. The crux of Omega Men has always been about understanding why terrorists do what they do, and while the book has a moment of victory, it’s underscored by the fact that more war is coming. There’s one sequence in particular that teeters on the unsubtle, but really says it all about this book: As brutal and dictatorial as the Citadel is, it has people to answer to as well. And just like the Citadel doesn’t care about the lives at stake for its actions, its patrons couldn’t care less how it gets a valuable resource, as long as it gets the resource. Comic books are rarely this dense and thoughtful, and this is one series that will stick with you for a long time.
4) Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #5
It’s tough to be smarter than everybody thinks you are, or even worse, wants you to be. That struggle is at the heart of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, and Amy Reeder captures Lunella’s frustrations beautifully while refusing to demonize anybody doing it. She’s still in elementary school, after all, and grade schoolers aren’t noted for their smart decision-making. Lunella is the smartest person in most rooms, but like any smart kid, she doesn’t realize her limits yet. Natacha Bustos continues giving this book gorgeous, cartoony art, and that makes this a smartly realized all-ages book.
5) Power Lines #1
Jimmie Robinson, of Bomb Queen and Five Weapons fame, is not playing this one subtle; if the cover isn’t a hint as to where Robinson is going with this, wait until you get to the racist lady. The thing is, though, Robinson knows his way around a character and puts even the more tiresome and reprehensible of his characters into the proper context. Said racist lady spouts off the same crap you see on Twitter every day, but Robinson has a contrasting white guy struggling just with what the hell you say to your mother when she goes full dolt. That keeps him from teetering over the edge into stereotype, albeit his depiction of Native peoples is probably going to get him in a little hot water. That said, though, it’s refreshing that Robinson isn’t pulling any punches here about a comic book that features superheroes and racial politics, and if he can make it work, he’ll have something that the comic industry desperately needs more of on the stands.