Comics Of Note, Ranked, For August 12

It’s Wednesday, and that means that it’s everybody’s favorite weekly holiday, New Comic Book Day. As always, these rankings are based on accessibility and quality, so a good book that’s only for fans will rank lower than a great book anybody can read. So, who took No. 1?

1) Arcadia #4

Alex Paknadel and Eric Scott Pfiffer have delivered one hell of a series so far, and this issue in particular takes off the brakes. Tensions between the real world ravaged by a virus, and Arcadia, the virtual world where billions of humans live, have come to a boiling point. And there are some more twists that I won’t reveal here. Suffice to say, it’s action-packed, it uses its concept in clever ways, and it’s an absolute must-read.

2) Harrow County #4

Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook’s folktale-esque story of Emmy, a reincarnated witch who everyone, even her own father, is out to kill, comes to an incredibly satisfying finale in its first arc. It’s hard to think of a better writer/artist team on the stands right now: Crook’s art has a perfect watercolor-and-charcoal feel that enhances the dark fairy story mood of Bunn’s script. Easily one of the best books on the stands right now, and a must read.

3) Velvet #11

Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s lush, brilliant espionage story kicks off its third act in style. Velvet, our heroine, is untangling just what got her framed and put a bunch of angry spies on her tail, and she’s using every spy trick in the book to do it. It’s a complicated, but easy to follow, story of espionage and betrayal, and if you love Bond, you’ll love this.

4) Star Wars: Lando #2

This issue is all about demonstrating just how good a pilot Lando really is, and just how scary the Emperor is… and it’s a blast. Last issue, Lando stole Emperor Palpatine’s pleasure yacht, and this issue… well, that’d be telling. If you’re looking for a great Star Wars story, Charles Soule and Alex Maleev are delivering.

5) Unity #21

The War-Monger meets her match, in the form of the Eternal Warrior. This clever supervillain arc just keeps getting more fun, and surprisingly playful as well. Definitely a hoot and highly recommended.

6) Howard The Duck #5

Wrapping up the first arc of this book before, uh, Secret Wars forces them to “reboot,” Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones go all out. Quinones delivers some beautiful, funny art here, with clean superheroes and clever riffs on classic Marvel, while Zdarsky not only delivers his trademark loving satire of Marvel, he comes up with a way to make the idea of a Howard the duck who saves the day seem actually credible. Easily the funniest book you’ll read this week.

7) The Beauty #1

This book has one hell of a hook: There’s an STD that makes you beautiful. Brings back your hair, slims you down, the whole bit… but nobody knows how it works, or what the long-term consequences might be. Needless to say, that’s what this book gets into. Admittedly, you’ll see the ending of this first issue coming a mile away, and honestly, Jeremy Haun and Jason Hurley could stand to think through the idea a bit more. The first issue is pretty shallow, although there’s a great bit with a Beauty “sufferer” dealing with the idea that the disease is terminal. But overall, it’s a solid setup and it should be interesting to see where it goes next.

8) Constantine: The Hellblazer #3

Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV, and Vanessa Del Rey bring John Constantine back to Vertigo form. Honestly, the flashback to young, punk John (as opposed to the old punk he is now) helps anchor the issue; it drives home just how much he’s lost and how many bridges his mistakes have burned. It’s a thoughtful and well-done return to form for Constantine, and not a moment too soon.

9) Americatown #1

Climate change leads to social change in this comic from Bradford Winters & Larry J. Cohen, where Americans have to emigrate south from a ravaged U.S. It’s blatantly a TV pitch retooled to a comic book, but it’s been rewritten well, and Daniel Irizarri handles both the drama and action scenes quite well, even if his style can feel a bit too cartoony in places. A solid setup and a very promising launch.

10) Batman #43

Bruce Wayne, it turns out, is very much alive. But the man he was? Not so much. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo pull off a very clever magic trick here, explaining why Bruce Wayne isn’t dead but the Batman we know very, very much is. Oh, and if you thought they weren’t going to get up to their horror tricks? Well, suffice to say Mr. Bloom is a lot more dangerous than a guy with a sunflower mask should be.

11) Lantern City #4

I know if I write the words “steampunk thriller,” a lot of eyes will roll. But don’t miss out on this book. Matthew Daley & Mairghread Scott are making a series of careful, smart choices that build the plot while upping the stakes, and despite introducing plot complications with every issue, it’s a focused and fluid book. Carlos Magno’s detail-heavy, slick art is just as great. Ignore the seemingly faddish idea: This is a damn good book that more people need to be reading.

12) Gotham Academy #9

DC’s teenage gothic continues apace, with Olive uncovering some more of the mysterious past of the school… and just who her mother is. This riff on Batman mythology is a hell of a lot of fun, whether you’re a nerd spotting all the obscure jokes or completely new to comics, and this issue in particular underlines what Becky Cloonan, Brendan Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl do so well. A nice change of pace for DC fans, and DC itself.

13) King Tiger #1

Randy Stradley and Doug Wheatley combine kung-fu movies and Lovecraft in some funny, effective ways in this fantasy comic. King Tiger is essentially every Shaolin monk stereotype in one, or he would be if Stradley weren’t busy zig-zagging those clichés. Wheatley, meanwhile, combines grounded realism and excellent draftsmanship with some entertainingly outre-fantasy art. It’s just the right mix of clever and cheese to be a fun read worth picking up.

14) Catwoman #43

After a lot of slow burn, this issue from Genevieve Valentine and David Messina pays off quite a few plotlines in quick succession. Unfortunately, there are some distracting issues with this book; the first half looks like it was inked with a Sharpie in a lot of places and the second half is clearly not Messina at all. It’s a good story, but these distractions are a bit unfortunate, to say the least. Still solid, thankfully, and worth a read.

15) Mandrake The Magician #3

If anybody can elevate a hoary old comic strip, it’s Roger Langridge. And, as usual, his deft characterization and dialogue are truly a joy, although Felipe Cunha and Ivan Rodriguez do an excellent job themselves with the art. It’s not quite reinventing the King Features strip, but it’s definitely a pleasure to read.

16) Justice League United #12

This retooling by Jeff Parker and Travel Foreman is a clever idea; sort of a riff on the idea of the Defenders, where the various team members are recruited for an issue, and then the next arc has a new team. It is, it must be said, a fairly conventional team action book, so far, but still quite a bit of fun.

17) X-O Manowar #39

Aric’s former owners/worshipers of Shanhara, the Vine, show up for a visit. Completely unexpected. Out of nowhere. Right after an alien invasion. And yes, it gets worse from there. This is a pretty smart take on X-O Manowar’s story; Aric can handle the Visigoths, but what about his former slavemasters? And what will the US military do about it?

18) Starve #3

I wish this book would do more with its setting; supposedly we’re on the brink of apocalypse here, and this issue is entirely about the reality show in the title. It’s a great read; Brian Wood renders the characters vividly and Danijel Zezejl draws some gorgeous art, my only criticism is the food reads better than it looks. All in all, a fascinating change of pace and worth your time, but a book I hope the creative team pushes itself further with.

19) Red Hood/Arsenal #3

Scott Lobdell and Denis Medri deliver a snappy, funny superhero buddy comedy in fine Lethal Weapon tradition. Medri is particularly good at gooey disgusting villains, which helps for reasons I won’t get into, and overall this book has a wonderful breezy feel to it. If you want light, funny action, it’s a winner.

20) Sleepy Hollow: Providence #1

The Sleepy Hollow comics continue the tradition of being better than the source material. Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills are chasing The Spike, an ancient artifact of unfathomable power. They’re also fighting a biker gang of Japanese demons for it. Eric Carrasco’s script is tight and packed with action and Victor Santos is more than up to the job of setting the mood and blowing out the action scenes. In all, great fun.

21) Batman/Superman #23

After a fairly conventional start, Greg Pak, Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes give this “team up” a twist; Superman goes down among the subterranean peoples and finds… they’re actually pretty OK guys! They’re just also somebody he kinda sorta had to screw over, and he finds himself debating what doing the right thing here actually is. It’s a smart musing on whether it’s the “super” or the “man” that defines Superman, and this book makes the case it’s the latter that’s the most important. Worth reading, especially for Superman fans.

22) Green Arrow #43

This book’s arc comes to a hurried resolution, but at least Benjamin Percy and Patrick Zircher wrap it up in a satisfying manner, and we’re rid of the black metal racist robot octopi. Also, a villain is fed to an orca. You have to love a comic where a villain gets fed to an orca.

23) String Divers #1

Yes, it’s a comic based on a toy line, in fact fairly blatantly a knock-off of the Micronauts, but it does actually have a fascinating premise; androids, created by CERN, investigating the nature of string theory. And somebody, somewhere, is out to undo the fundamental pieces of the universe. It could stand to be a little tighter; Chris Ryall’s plays the plot a little too in medias res to work as well as it should. But it’s still a fun, well-done idea.

24) Vampirella/Army Of Darkness #2

Yes, Ash meets the underwear model known as Vampirella… and the book almost immediately rips on expectations by turning her into a giant Deadite. That should give you an idea of the decidedly wacky tone this particular book takes. It’s not exactly subtle, but it’s in keeping with the movie, and hey, if you’re a lout like me, the slapstick works.

25) Adam.3 #1

Scott Kolins’ mix of Tarzan, Lensman, and Dr. Doolittle sure wins the award for weirdest comic this week, but beyond that, it’s also a solid little adventure/mystery book where some seemingly wildly different ideas gel pretty well. It’s not really clear exactly where it’s going, but it’s a fun read and definitely a little something different worth picking up.

26) Starfire #3

Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti are thankfully easing off with the ditz jokes… well, ditz joke, and in turn that’s giving this book a little more room to find itself. There are still a few of them here and there, but by and large this book finally gives Emanuela Lupacchino a chance to draw something other than Kori in a bikini, and even introduces a new superheroine in a way that makes sense. So, in all, quite an improvement!

27) Justice, Inc.: The Avenger #3

Mark Waid and Ronilson Freiere deliver a pretty straightforward slice of pulp. To be honest, Waid feels a bit wasted here: He’s more than capable of writing a pulp story and giving it the purple prose it needs, but he’s also good at taking characters further. Still, Freiere’s art is a lot of fun and the book itself is a propulsive good time. If that’s your bag, make this one you pick up.

28) New Suicide Squad #11

Sean Ryan and Philippe Briones deliver a pretty typical Suicide Squad story; the bad guys are bad, our heroes are worse and, of course, the plan goes completely and utterly off the rails. Really, would you have it any other way? If you’re a fan already, it’s a great read.

29) Boy.1 #1

A biologist is trying to alter DNA. He doesn’t know his father, who disappeared mysteriously. And he’s experimenting with advancing human DNA. Go ahead, guess where this is going. H.S. Tak doesn’t do much with the idea, and Amancay Nahuelpan’s art is solid and detailed, but a little too generic to quite carry this book. Still, it’s solid enough, and if you like thrillers, it might be worth picking up.

30) Action Comics #43

I get that Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder can’t make Superman the star of a social realist drama about police violence and the collapse of police/community relations. He’s a corporate mascot, and to be honest there’s only so far you can take Superman into the realm of politics before it starts getting either preachy, dumb, or both. That said, though, it would be nice if this issue didn’t backpedal last month’s rather blunt statement on police brutality so hard. This book still has things to say, and it’s still a fresh, welcome take on Superman, but it also could have stood a few more moral grays as a story.

31) Uncanny Season 2 #5

To be honest, this book has suffered a bit in comparison to the quite similar Mind MGMT, but Andy Diggle and Aaron Campbell have been delivering a solid and consistent action thriller, and riffing on the not-quite-superheroes in their cast in some clever ways. Worth a look, especially for fans of conspiracy thrillers.

32) 21st Century Tank Girl #3

This book goes back to its underground styling… which in the art, by the likes of Jim Mahfood, is great and in the writing gets a bit preachy. No points for guessing how the strip about the mall ends. It’s okay, as far as it goes, but it underlines how uneven this anthology book has been.

33) Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have a book about the power of music in the form of magic, a third entry in their series about “phonomancers,” essentially what happens when John Constantine decides to start writing a music blog. To be honest, your patience for this book will last exactly as long as your patience with talking pretentiously about music lasts; McKelvie is put to poor use here as aging hipsters whine at each other about albums and it’s not until the very end that this book comes to life with a profoundly witty sequence I won’t spoil here. Stick to The Wicked and The Divine, a much better exploration of the same concept.

34) Swords Of Sorrow #4

This crossover has been straining under the weight of its gimmick for a while, and unfortunately, that continues. The basic idea, uniting all of Dynamite’s female characters, is fun, but it can’t quite get past the sense of a crossover existing solely to mash the action figures together. That said, Gail Simone’s got a good sense of humor and characterization, and Sergio Davila’s art is quite polished, so at least it looks good and has a few chuckles.

35) Masks 2 #5

Speaking of mashing the action figures together, Cullen Bunn and Eman Casallos hand in a pretty conventional crossover featuring pulp heroes and public domain superheroes. It’s diverting enough, but if you’re not a huge comics nerd, you’re missing out on half the fun.

36) The Shrinking Man #2

This adaptation, as bizarre as this may sound, is a little too faithful to the story. Our hero has to say lines from the story even when it doesn’t quite make sense, and the story has a plot break where it doesn’t work. Let’s not even get into how the flamboyant pedophile of the original story comes off as utterly ridiculous. Ted Adams and Mark Torres can’t really make this relevant, and honestly, it needs a reason to exist beyond appealing to nerds.

37) Death Sentence 2 #3

This particular series is just spinning its wheels. Seriously, we’re at issue #3, and it’s still setting up plot points. I like the idea, of a venereal disease that gives you superpowers and kills you within a year, but really: Do something with it.

38) The Eltingville Club #2

Evan Dorkin’s poison pen letter to the dark side of being a nerd wraps up just where our band of jerks went after the events of the last issue. To be honest, although nerddom could use the hard shots Dorkin takes at our entitlement, our misogyny, and our rage issues as a subculture, it does get to be a bit of an emotional grind. Dorkin’s raging at nerd rage wears out its welcome a little too fast to recommend this book.

The Full Retail List, Courtesy Of Comiclist

Archon #1 (Of 5)(Erin Fusco Variant Cover), $4.99
Archon #1 (Of 5)(Marco Maccagni Regular Cover), $3.99
F1rst Hero Fight For Your Life #1 (Of 4)(Danny Zabbal Regular Cover), $3.99
F1rst Hero Fight For Your Life #1 (Of 4)(Jerry Gaylord Variant Cover), $4.99
Hero Cats #7, $3.99
Vamplets Nightmare Nursery #6 (Of 6), $3.99
Venture #2 (Of 4), $3.99

It Will All Hurt #3, $8.00
Yankee #1 (not verified by Diamond), $7.95

Creeps Volume 1 Night Of Frankenfrogs HC, $9.95
Creeps Volume 1 Night Of Frankenfrogs SC, $17.95

Authoritative Calvin And Hobbes HC, $29.99
Essential Calvin And Hobbes HC, $29.99
Indispensible Calvin And Hobbes HC, $29.99

Archie #1 (Fiona Staples 2nd Printing Variant Cover), $3.99
Archie 1000-Page Comics Jam TP, $14.99
Archie Comics Annual Digest #263, $5.99
Jughead And Archie Jumbo Comics Digest #15, $6.99
Sonic The Hedgehog #275 (Ben Bates Epic Connecting Poster Part 11 Variant Cover), $4.99
Sonic The Hedgehog #275 (Edwin Huang Wraparound Variant Cover), $4.99
Sonic The Hedgehog #275 (Lamar Wells Wraparound Variant Cover), $4.99
Sonic The Hedgehog #275 (Patrick Spaziante Regular Cover), $4.99
Sonic The Hedgehog #275 (Rafa Knight Wraparound Variant Cover), $4.99
Sonic The Hedgehog #275 (Tracy Yardley Wraparound Variant Cover), $4.99