Comics Of Note, Ranked, August 19

This week, we’ve got 48 new comic books for your ranking pleasure, off of this week’s full retail list. Which made the top and which should stay on the rack? Let’s get into it!

A reminder: These books are ranked on both quality and accessibility, so a decent book that’s easy for casual readers to get into will rank higher than a really great book that appeals to five nerds. Even if I’m one of those five nerds. To wit, what’s our No. 1?

1) Wolf #2

Ales Kot and Matt Taylor continue their nose-to-the-ground look at LA, city of magic, and Wolf, the man who keeps the boogies in line. The energy from the first issue carries over quite well; Taylor’s flat effect in the art gives the book a baked-in-the-sun feel, and Kot’s dialogue reveals a lot of character without telling us facts. It’s a comic that feels like a great show on cable, and it’s definitely a must-read.

2) Secret Six #5

Gail Simone and Dale Eaglesham deliver one messed up quasi-family of supervillains, and it’s a truly wonderful thing. Not least because Simone gleefully packs the book with penis jokes and awkward flirting: Black Alice flirting with Catman and failing miserably is simultaneously adorable and hilarious. Really, do you need anything more?

3) Archie #2

Mark Waid and Fiona Staples reinvent Archie in some ways… but not in others, as this issue focuses on said ginger’s tendency to risk severe injury while doing anything resembling work. The physical comedy is funny, but the best bits here are how they make Betty a more complicated character; her struggles with being stereotypically “girly” are just as entertaining, and it’s really the tension between what’s expected of her and who she really is that gives this book its heart. It’s an all-ages book in the best sense; anybody can read it and enjoy it. Highly recommended.

4) Astro City #26

For its 20th anniversary, Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson return to the beginning, with Samaritan and his dream of flight. But, of course, things have changed in twenty years, and a lot of care and toil is on Samaritan’s shoulders. Hidden among this, though, is a subtle morale about taking on too much and not trusting others, a gentle reminder that we’re important, but others can help. Once again, it’s a beautiful book, and one worth reading.

5) Giant Days #6

The story of three college buddies trying to understand school, drama, and guys continues, with John Allison’s gentle humor and Lissa Treiman’s hilarious art. There’s one sequence in particular, involving a “drama field,” that’s a brilliant bit of physical comedy. Giant Days is becoming one of the best comedies on the stands, and if you want a change in pace, or just a book that makes you laugh, it’s perfect.

6) Martian Manhunter #3

So, last issue, the Martian Manhunter killed himself rather than become a weapon for Mars to invade Earth. But of course that’s just a dodge, right? No way he actually blew himself up and died!

Nope. He’s dead. Well, as dead as a superhero can get, anyway. And this book immediately becomes a welcomely bizarre mashup of body horror, ghost story, and invasion paranoia story. Rob Williams’ script manages to keep things weird while also keeping things coherent, and Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira and Gabe Eltaeb deliver some killer art, going from abstract to psychedelic to grounded and back again in one page.

In other words, it’s the good kind of weird; give it a shot.

7) Howard The Human #1

Skottie Young and Jim Mahfood trap Howard in a battleworld he never made. Okay, so this is really just an excuse to reimagine the entire Marvel Universe as anthropomorphic animals in a noir. But it’s really, really funny, and a not-half-bad noir into the bargain, so that’s a great excuse.

8) Ivar, Timewalker #8

Ivar finally brings an end to his future girlfriend’s alternate self’s attempts to collapse the multiverse and end time so she’s no longer the alternate self of… look, explaining this book’s plot is more or less impossible, unless you just sit down and read it. Fred Van Lente and Francis Portela deliver a joyous, twisty, ridiculous yarn and end it damn near perfectly. I’ve been talking this book up for a while, and if you haven’t been reading it, you really should.

9) Secret Wars: Secret Love #1

This anthology one-shot, riffing on Marvel’s romance comic past, is a hoot not least for all the in-jokes, and it’s surprisingly accessible for something that’s basically a litany of gags about Marvel’s tortured soap opera subplots. Worth a read for a change of pace.

10) The Mantle #4

The basic concept of this book, which is essentially like Captain Universe from the ’70s, but with a supervillain bumping off anybody who gets the Mantle. But Ed Brisson adds a bit more to it than that; everyone’s a little messier and more human than a typical superhero comic book. That makes it well worth a read, especially if you want something different from your heroes.

11) 1872 #2

I’m a sucker for both alternate realities with superheroes and gritty Western comics, so I’m all in on this book. Especially since Gerry Duggan and Nicole Virella don’t pull any punches here; the book goes to some surprising places. Definitely a cult read, definitely worth picking up.

12) Birthright #10

Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan continue their story of a little boy abducted into a fantasy realm… and who comes back a grown Conan-like warrior. With a demon inside him, no less. Williamson and Bressan play with fantasy tropes in clever ways, and it really makes the book click. If you want some high fantasy with some smart twists, this is the book to read.

13) Rai #9

Matt Kindt and Clayton Crain return to their far-flung cyberpunk future, and it’s as much of a joy as ever. “Father,” the all-seeing AI that controls the space station of New Japan, has seemingly won and kept control. But he doesn’t know what’s happening on Earth, he doesn’t realize that three teenage girls are much smarter than he gives them credit for… and Rai is far from dead. If you’re a fan of SF and cyberpunk, this is a definite winner.

14) Weirdworld #3

Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo add even more weirdness to their ’70s and ’80s throwback. The good news is you don’t have to be familiar with all those old, goofy comics to enjoy the book, but it can sure help. A great book for fans and those who just want to drool over Del Mundo’s glorious art.

15) Star Wars #8

We get to know more about Han Solo’s wife in this. Well, maybe she’s his wife. It’s a bit vague. Either way, though, Han’s probably not getting out of this one unscathed, especially not when he underestimates Leia. Jason Aaron’s plotting and Stuart Immonen’s art pair well, and make for a great book for Star Wars fans.

16) House of M #1

Yep, the beloved/reviled crossover has returned and it’s… well, Dennis Hopeless and Marco Failla have captured what made it fun, but it’s more for those who like reinterpreted superheroes and Marvel zombies than casual fans. Still, if you fall into either category, pick this up.

17) Midnight Society: The Black Lake #2

Drew Edward Johnson isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, here. But he is having a heck of a lot of fun putting his characters underwater and having everything go wrong at Loch Ness. A quicker, smarter issue than the first one, and far more fun.

18) Superman/Wonder Woman #20

Pete Tomasi and Doug Mahnke have a pretty good rumination on the fallout of Superman losing his secret identity. To be honest, Tomasi explains better than most why Superman being outed has invoked such paranoia and suspicion; what else is the guy lying about, if he lied about who he was all those years? That said, the issue’s ending hook feels a little obvious and out-of-character for both of the people involved, even if it promises one juicy, juicy issue next month.

19) Guardians Team-Up #10

Deadpool and Rocket Raccoon team up and… honestly, it’s kind of a wasted opportunity. The ultimate planner teamed with the ultimate nut should pay off a lot more than it does here with Tim Seeley and Mike Norton at the helm. A fun book for fans, but hopefully this team-up gets another shot.

20) Doomed #3

Scott Lobdell and Javier Fernandez deliver a book about a man who occasionally turns into a monster that’s the right kind of goofy, bar a few moments of shtick here and there. If you’re a fan of funny superhero books, this is one worth getting.

21) Trees #12

Aliens have landed on Earth… and they don’t give a crap about us. That’s the basic thrust of Warren Ellis and Jason Howard’s sprawling story of mankind in eclipse, but it’s about a lot more, including ugly politics and science being hidden for the public’s own good. It’s an interesting book, and there’s not a SF book on the stands quite like it. Worth reading from the beginning, but don’t start with this issue; pick up the collections and go from there.

22) Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #4

This book is worth reading just for May Parker finally using her powers. But Dan Slott and Adam Kubert do tell a fun, straight-ahead story that really gets at the root of what Peter is and why he does what he does, as well as just why MJ is such a beloved character.

23) Power Up #2

Kate Leth and Matt Cummings continue their story of three ordinary people, and one goldfish that becomes a tiny laser whale, getting Sailor Moon-esque powers. To be honest, Cummings’ art is a little kawaii for my taste, but it does suit the story quite well, and this issue actually shows off the potential of the concept. That said, the pacing does feel a bit off in places, but it’s still a fun read.

24) Book of Death: Legends of The Geomancer #2

I’m still not sure why, precisely, Valiant decided to let Fred Van Lente and Juan Jose Ryp deliver a high fantasy miniseries to tie into their Book of Death crossover. But I’m not going to complain too hard when it’s this much fun. If you love iron-thewed fantasy, this is a book you need to pick up.

25) Green Lantern: Lost Army #3

Cullen Bunn, Jesus Saiz and Cliff Richards deliver a somewhat interesting take on the Green Lanterns, lost in what turns out to be the past, and what John Stewart is willing to do to save those under his command. It does feel a bit conventional, though, and one wonders how the book will work when the Lanterns inevitably return to their own time.

26) Robin: Son Of Batman #3

Damian’s quest for redemption crossed with a Heavy Metal cover continues, courtesy of Patrick Gleason. Gleason’s art is gorgeous as always, but the scripts have improved here, as Damien and Nobody have a bit more character development. I still think this book could do a bit more with its ideas, but it’s an offbeat action book that’s a fun read, at least.

27) Escape From New York #9

Snake Plissken wants revenge, and he can only find it back where it all started: New York. It’s a clever idea in some respects, and it brings this series back to the movie that spawned it. Still, the big plot twist is something you’ll see coming a mile away, and overall, this series is still trying to find a reason to exist other than being a recognizable license.

28) Welcome Back #1

Imagine two sides, locked in an endless battle. One soldier dies and is reincarnated, and the “winner” has to die too and wake up in the next life. And that’s what Mali has been dragged into. Christopher Sebela and Jonathan Brandon Sawyer honestly could have stood to avoid some clichés here; this is essentially just The Bourne Identity with some reincarnation slathered on it, which isn’t helped by the recent The Resurrectionists using the same concept. And the whole “punk rawk chick” protagonist thing is getting a little tired. It’s a fast-paced read, but you may feel more than a little deja vu flipping the pages.

29) Vampirella #13

Nancy A. Collins and Patrick Berkenkotter deliver a pretty straightforward monster-mash, with a little bit of court intrigue mixed in. It’s pretty standard stuff, to be honest, but it’s an entertaining read.

30) Blacklist #2

Similarly, it’s hard to see why we have this book. It’s a fun, silly thriller, of course, and much like the show largely thanks to using the writing staff. Still, it could stand to be a little more original, and Beni Lobel needs to be freed from drawing cast photos.

31) Revival #32

Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s story about a town where the dead mysteriously come back to life and act relatively normally focuses more on its noir edge this issue. It’s not entirely unwelcome, but it does feel a bit like the book needs to get back to its horror roots.

32) Justice League #43

Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok are having a lot of fun with the idea of two of DC’s worst going toe-to-toe while Metron plays both sides against the middle. Yeah, it’s strictly for DC nerds, but if you grew up reading this stuff, it’s a hoot to read.

33) Bizarro #3

Heath Corson and Gustavo Duarte continue a fairly lighthearted little take on Superman’s least intelligent foe. It’s aimed squarely at kids, really, and if you’ve got one you want to turn on to comics, this will be a good option.

34) Manifest Destiny #16

Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts continue their story of the Lewis and Clark expedition… if it were an ’80s creature feature. It’s a fun adventure, not least because Dingess balances history with comedy quite well. If you want a fantasy adventure with less sorcery and more history, this will be the place to look.

35) Postal #6

This book, focusing on a town of criminals living under the radar, is largely about the mayor, a complicated woman to say the least. That said, it does feel a bit like we go in a circle on this; the plot, which has its moments, doesn’t have much of a payoff. Solid, but more for those following the book than new readers.

36) Doctor Fate #3

This book still feels a little conventional, bar Sonny Liew’s anything-but-conventional art. Still, Paul Levitz delivers a solid story, and once again… man, that cover.

37) Book of Death #2

Unity goes up against their own… but the Eternal Warrior is not somebody you pick a fight with. Honestly, this crossover is solid superheroics, but more interesting for what’s around it than the crossover itself. Still, Robert Venditti plans an excellent beat down, and Robert Gill and Doug Braithwaite has a lot of fun drawing it. If you like superhero fights, this is the best book of them this week.

38) Black Canary #3

Annie Wu and Lee Loughridge work damn hard on this book, delivering a jarring experience not unlike looking at punk music turned into a superhero comic. Brendan Fletcher’s scripts, unfortunately, have become more and more conventional as the book goes along, and it’s straying further and further afield from the cool concept that the book delivers. Come on, more about Dinah and the band, less about shadow beasts and government black-ops troops!

39) Rat Queens #11

Kurtis Wiebe does something you might think is impossible: He makes academic politics entertaining. Okay, so arguably he cheats by making it about wizards. But still. Tess Fowler’s breezy art and the comedic sensibilities make this an amusing, if lightweight, read.

40) Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #7

God help the new Stray Bullets reader. They will have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on in this book. Which is a shame, since David Lapham’s noir is a fascinating comic you should be reading. My advice? Pick up the issue and just try rolling with it… or start from the beginning instead.

41) Death Head #2

Zack and Nick Keller, writing with Joanna Estep handling the art, manage to get some more focus to this; at least now we’ve got all our characters in one place, even if their plotlines seem to have nothing to do with one another. That said, the book feels oddly stuck in place, more interested in telling us about things than showing us things, aside from an odd hallucination or two. Estep’s art is quite good, and has a sort of wispy quality to it, but it doesn’t really suit the tone. Overall, this book’s just kind of baffling; it’s not bad, but it could be a lot better with a little more effort.

42) Wonder Woman #43

It’s a little surprising how dull this book is. There’s a lot going on in Meredith Finch’s script, but none of it is particularly compelling, and Ian Churchill can only do so much. It’s okay, one supposes, but it’s not particularly memorable, and Diana deserves better.

43) The Fiction #3

David Rubin delivers some gorgeous, surreal, even witty art, but it can’t quite overwhelm Curt Pires stock script. Yeah, yeah, we get it, the power of imagination and words and all that. But does “it” have to be so damn obvious? Isn’t there anything else we can do with this idea?

44) Infinite Loop #5

Pierrick Colinet and Elsa Charretier seem to be working on a different comic book. This book, about a time traveler who finds her true love in the form of a “time anomaly,” has some very weird bits to it. Charretier’s character drawing and attention to detail are lovely and have a pleasant ’60s-esque tinge to them, like a cross between Jack Kirby and Darwyn Cooke, but her awkward layouts make the book’s pacing feel off. Not to mention a few random moments like, well, this. Why the hell is our villain in a fashion pose?

Similarly, Colinet rams in a lecture about gender binaries and there’s a scene where his heroine gets bitched out by Emmett Till that’s in spectacularly poor taste. Especially since his heroine is being lectured about how he didn’t save him. Uh, I’m a white dude, and I can spot about a dozen things really kinda wrong with that.

All this is supposed to be about how tough it is to be in a same-sex relationship, which is great, but that seems lost in the tumble of author appeal and lecturing. To be honest, the lesbian plot in Jem and the Holograms, an IDW stablemate, or Blue Is The Warmest Color is far more compelling. In the midst of some very noble ideas, this book forgot that you have to tell a story and have characters in it.

45) Oh, Killstrike #4

Logan Faeber deserves a gold medal and a beer for trying to salvage Max Bemis’ script, but there’s only so much he can do with this obvious a finale. At least we’re not being lectured about how the ’90s in comics both sucked and were totally awesome at the same time, but the finale of this book feels completely unearned. Great, our hero learned to not be such a dick, by… abandoning his pregnant wife to find himself. Uh, okay?

46) Empty Zone #3

Jason Shawn Alexander can sure draw cyberpunk, as this story of a discarded soldier discovering a coverup tells us. But this book just feels dated; its vision of the future is clichéd, its characters aren’t much to talk about, and overall, the book feels dictated by what Alexander wants to draw, namely robots, violence, and porn-esque lesbian sex, than by an overarching story.

47) Swords of Sorrow: Vampirella/Jennifer Blood #4

Nancy A. Collins and Dave Acosta hand in… well, to be honest, it’s a pretty sloppy issue. Acosta’s art feels rushed and stock, especially in the stiff action scenes, and the dialogue is straight out of the can in a lot of places. A shame, too, because both are capable of better; hopefully whatever went wrong here can be fixed and they can team up again.

Harley Quinn/Power Girl #3

This book has ditched cheap, dumb disco jokes for cheap, dumb stoner jokes. There’s a bong helmet. There’s a parody of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, because it’s still 2003. At least the dude in a Slave Leia knock-off outfit is funny, but 22 pages is a looooong time to be sustained by two jokes.