Yes, it’s New Comic Book Day, and we’ve once again whittled down the full retail list to the top 30. But, of course, the question is who takes the No. 1 slot?
1) Harrow County #5
Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook have delivered a horror book that shouldn’t work on paper; equal parts American folk horror and Faulkner. But Bunn’s literary sensibilities and Crook’s imaginative monster work paired with his art makes for some of the best horror on the stands. This new arc is a perfect place to pick it up, and you really should.
2) Tet #1
This murder mystery set on the eve of the Tet Offensive is compelling not least because in Paul Allor’s script, the history is just background, and it’s more about the Vietnamese than the war. Paul Tucker’s art is oddly evocative of late-period war comics, and overall, it’s a clever take on war comics, a genre too often ignored these days. A great change of pace and well worth reading.
3) Lantern City #5
This steampunk book has made a lot of smart choices and layered on a lot of plot twists in just four issues… but issue five might just be the most intense of all of them. Matthew Daley and Mairghread Scott really lay down some tough turns of the plot here, shifting loyalties under our hero’s feet and making a seemingly typical story of fighting the Man a much more emotionally and politically complicated one that a lot of similar books on the stands should take notes on. Paired with Carlos Magno’s lovely art, it’s easily one of the best books on the stands right now, and a must-read.
4) Batman #44
Scott Snyder, Brian Azzarello, and Jock flash back to Batman’s past to untangle a mystery that turns out to be less of a mystery and more of a tragedy, exploring all the ways a community can fail one of its own, until they’re driven to drastic measures. It’s only lightly tied to the current goings-on, but it’s a hell of a book on its own, and one of the more thoughtful Bat-comics in a while. Highly recommended.
5) Starve #4
I confess, I am skeptical of Brian Wood’s statement that back in the ’70s, roving gangs of chefs fought each other in kitchens to blow off steam. But hell, it makes for a good comic, especially with Danijel Zezelj’s thick, moody inking and line work. If you haven’t been reading this clever satire of food shows and celebrity culture, this new arc is the perfect starting point.
6) Darth Vader #9
Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca continue their noirish take on the most famous of Sith Lords. This book got off to something of a slow start, but with the twist of Vader heisting an Imperial convoy while simultaneously investigating his own crime, it’s really gotten some momentum and become one of the more fun, if surprisingly dark, crime comics on the stands. Highly recommended for Star Wars fans and noir fans looking for a twist on their usual genre.
7) Rebels #6
Seth Abbott has survived the Revolutionary War, but can he survive the end of it? That’s the question Brian Wood and Andrea Mutti ask to wrap up their first arc of this book. It’s not one with an easy answer, but it’s one worth asking.
8) Ms. Marvel #18
Marvel’s best superhero book once again delivers action, comedy, and heartwarming moments in equal measure. The focus shifts slightly here to Aamir, the victim of Kamala’s douchebag ex Kamran. I won’t spoil the twists here, but suffice to say, things do not go according to Kamran’s plan, and there’s more to the book, especially the last page, than you might expect. One of the best books on the stands, as usual, and a must-read.
9) Star Trek/Green Lantern #3
This crossover between Star Trek and DC’s space cops is great, if following the most conventional route. But Mike Johnson and Angel Hernandez are having too much fun not to read this book, to be honest.
10) Gotham Academy #10
Yeah, stage Macbeth at Gotham Academy, Simon Trent. That’ll end well. This particular mystery is pretty easy to figure out if you know your Bat-lore, but it’s a hilarious all-ages read, and once again smartly uses Batman villains and ideas to deliver a Gothic story unlike anything else on the stands.
11) Sleepy Hollow: Providence #2
Eric Carrasco captures the show at its best quite well in his script, but it’s Victor Santos’ J. Bone-styled art that really makes this book move and gives it a sense of fun. If you’re a fan of the show, this will tide you over well until the third season debuts.
12) Giant-Size Little Marvel
Yes, even Skottie Young’s parody of Marvel has been sucked into Battleworld. But Young’s goofs on Marvel continuity (and plot holes) are always worth a read, so it’s a welcome return. Especially for the bit about Wolverine’s, ah, split alliances.
13) Head Lopper #1
Andrew MacLean and Mike Spicer live up to their book’s title; Norgal, our hero, lops off a lot of heads. But while MacLean’s woodcut-esque art is well suited to the story, you kind of have to wonder what the point of all this is; it seems mostly about the violence as opposed to any larger point, and seventy pages of that can get a little repetitive. Still, a fun read, and a change of pace for high fantasy fans.
14) King Tiger #2
Randy Strandley and Doug Wheatley take more than a few cues from Hellboy as this issue proves, but the B-movie tone and Wheatley’s detail-rich art makes it too fun to resist.
15) Action Comics #44 and Batman/Superman #24
I’m putting these together because they both revolve around the same theme, really: Superman is not only not capable of solving all the world’s problems, sometimes he really is better off stepping back and letting others help themselves. It’s a smart idea, especially in the wake of Supes losing his powers, and Pak explores it well here both in the smaller scale of Action Comics and the larger, seemingly more pulpy Batman/Superman. Both are worth a read, especially since you actually see Superman experience some character growth.
16) Insufferable #5
Mark Waid and Peter Krause continue their take on Batman and Robin as a contentious duo, and it’s hilarious. Not least because Waid riffs on Batman-like deathtraps in a hilarious way, and the interplay between the spoiled, angry sidekick and his not-entirely-great father is equally funny. A treat for Batman fans.
17) Catwoman #44
Selina’s attempt to unite the mobs of Gotham is coming to an end… but will it be peaceful? Or violent? Well, she’s aiming for peace, at least. Genevieve Valentine is wrapping up her smart arc in style here, and it’s worth getting caught up if you’re a fan of mob movies.
18) Unity #22
Matt Kindt wraps up his clever supervillain arc by explaining Warmonger’s secret weakness… and what she gets wrong about people. Jose Luis pays it off quite well, and it comes together perfectly, both in its riffs on the themes of underestimating people and in how the team dynamics work. It’s what superhero team comics should be, and too often aren’t.
19) 1602: Witch Hunter Angela #3
Admittedly, the quasi-Elizabethan style and tone is over the top, but this mashup of Marvel and Shakespeare is a lot more fun than it has any right to be. Especially this issue, which asks just what Rogue would do without the advanced science and relatively open minds she enjoys in the 21st century. If you like alternate realities featuring superheroes, this is the book to pick up.
20) Red Hood/Arsenal #4
Scott Lobdell and Denis Medri dial back the comedy a little bit in this issue to explore what makes Jason Todd and Roy Harper tick, including a surprising cameo you’ll have to discover for yourself. It’s a solid action book, but the characterization is what lingers here.
21) Americatown #2
This thriller’s concept is interesting for how smartly it turns the U.S. immigration debate on its head; now it’s Americans seeking shelter, in this case in Buenos Aires, as climate change destroys the country. It does need to explore the world it creates in more detail, but for now, the concept is enough to make it work and have it stand out.
22) Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire #1
The big push to fill in the 30 years between the original trilogy and the upcoming one starts this week, and this book is part of it. Including, curiously, the return of Greg Rucka to the Big Two, years after he publicly stated he’d likely never work for them again. The real star here is Marco Checchetto’s art, which sits just this side of manga and oddly suits the tone; it’s an engaging book, but most of the plot points hinge on you having seen a trailer. Interesting for Star Wars fans, but Darth Vader is the better book this week.
23) Ninjak #7
Matt Kindt, it turns out, is really good at writing villain origins. But he’s also good at giving Juan Jose Ryp a lot to work with; this book centers around both a woman trying to take control of her reality, and a brawl in a punk club. Really. As usual, a fun read.
24) Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #5
Dan Slott and Adam Kubert wrap up their return of a married Spidey in arguably the perfect way. Yeah, this is entirely for hardcore fans still ticked over One More Day, but it’s a surprisingly heartwarming book, in the end, with a twist that’ll make old-time Spidey fans smile.
25) Mandrake the Magician #4
Roger Langridge’s script is as witty and intelligent as ever, but to be honest, Felipe Cunha feels a bit rushed here, especially in the last few pages. Still a great read, and a clever reinvention of a old comic strip hero.
26) Suiciders #6
Lee Bermejo’s art is gorgeous, as always, like sculpture on a page, but his writing is a little stock compared to the artwork he turns in. Still, this is worth picking up just to look at the pages; if nothing else, Bermejo’s world-building and artwork are beautiful.
27) Atomic Robo: The Ring of Fire #1
Yes, the lighthearted decade-spanning robot pulp story is back, and it’s just as funny as ever. Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener have a lot of fun, but it’s hard to follow for non-fans, so perhaps pick up a mini first.
28) Justice League United #13
This book is absolutely shameless DC fan bait. Hell, it literally opens with Sgt. Rock. But the concept of a team thrown together to solve one specific problem is a hoot, both for who it recruits and how it uses them. If you’re a DC fan, this is a book worth picking up.
29) Swords of Sorrow #5
This gimmicky series is finding its feet a little bit, or at least enough to be more fun as it goes along. That said, the swirl of fairy tales added to the mix does seem a bit out of place with the pulp heroes, Jennifer Blood, and Vampirella, but hey, at least it’s zippy.
30) Red Sonja/Conan #2
Victor Gischler and Roberto Castro set up a throwback to the ’70s Marvel comics of yore. It’s not terribly groundbreaking, as far barbarian books go, but it’s a fun read for fans of iron-thewed low fantasy.
And the rest:
Faster Than Light #1: Brian Haberlin’s SF story relies on you reading the back cover blurb to actually follow anything going on in the plot. It looks good, but come on, work your concept into your script.
Diesel #1: A cute and fun read, definitely a book worth giving to any kids interested in comics you know.
Quake #1: Continuing on the series of one-shots not-so-subtly promoting Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Patrick Kindlon and Matthew Rosenberg can’t quite make a case for Daisy Johnson standing as her own character.
Alice Cooper/Chaos! #1: Alice Cooper finally meets the entire lineup of ’90s boob books in a comic. Really, that sentence should tell you whether or not you’ll like it.
Army of Darkness/Vampirella #3: A great concept is wasted on a book that’s entirely padding and worse, not terribly funny.
Boy.1 #2: This technothriller is fun, but hits every cliche in the book.
Onyx #2: Psychics, alien armor, and so on is fun enough, but this book doesn’t do enough with its concept.
Mirror’s Edge: Exordium #1: Flat coloring does this somewhat generically-scripted book, and the game it’s based on, no favors.
Bloodstrike #2: Rob Liefeld believes he is writing a superhero comic for adults. He is deeply mistaken.