It’s New Comic Book Day, and so, once again, we break out the rankings! As always, these are the review copies I’ve gotten and new books debuting this week, ranked on accessibility first, so you know whether a new book or new arc to a book is worth picking up, and then by quality and the deeply objective criteria of how much I personally liked it. So, what took No. 1 this week?
1. Harrow County #1
Cullen Bunn explores his literary side with a horror tale set in the Depression that follows a young girl who may have incredible power… which may be used for evil ends. What stands out most here is Bunn, freed from having to write supervillains, delivers a far more tender and complex story than you might expect from the creepy cover or his other horror work. Tyler Crook happily backs it up with some great watercolor and character work; the art is rich and detailed, but Crook never wanders away from the story, and he delivers some great, subtle chills. This is up to Dark Horse’s incredibly high standard for horror, to say the least, and definitely worth the read.
2. Astro City #23
Sticks has the same story a lot of us do: Authoritative upbringing, strict military discipline, and an escape, first figurative into music he never thought was possible, and then literal, as he heads to the big city to chase his dream.
Okay, so he’s also a talking, military-trained gorilla. There’s that detail. What makes this issue work is that Sticks is just so damn relatable: He’s a decent guy who does the right thing and really just wants to play music… but life keeps getting in his way. It’s a lovely, funny, low-key, heartwarming and even heartbreaking story, perfect for jumping onto if you’ve been curious about this book.
3. Rebels #2
Brian Wood and Andrea Mutti’s gritty, ugly ground war gets a tense second chapter. What’s great about this book is that Seth, little more than a teenager, is already waging war, and with little preaching and more violence than you’d expect. It’s a surprisingly hard-edged book and a nice piece of historical fiction. It’s also a bit more accessible than the first issue, so grab it for a change of pace.
4. Howard The Duck #3
Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones once again bring their cockeyed sense of humor to the Marvel Universe, complete with Aunt May robbing convenience stores and Howard discovering that no matter what obstacles he puts in its way, the universe will find a way to rob him of still more of his dignity. Admittedly, a book for Marvel nerds to some degree, but really, isn’t a book about being nearly killed by the elderly universal?
5. The Injection #1
Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey are working together again, after their superb run on Moon Knight, and it’s about a team of… not quite paranormal investigators. They’re emotional and physical train wrecks, but unfortunately eldritch horrors don’t wait for you to get a sandwich. The series is to some degree Ellis up to his usual tricks, but the dry humor and grounded sensibility make it engaging, and overall it’s well worth picking up.
6. Ms. Marvel #15
Kamala discovers, among many other things, that her crush is a jerk. G. Willow Wilson rather cleverly uses the supervillainy on display here to parallel how people can selfishly jerk each other around and then insist it’s someone else’s fault. And, of course, she delivers an extremely fun superhero book into the bargain. As always, worth buying.
7. The Mantle #1
Ed Brisson, Jordan Boyd, and Brian Level have put together what might be the most smartassed superhero book in recent memory… and I mean that as a compliment. Brisson rather gleefully mocks the cliches he’s using, even as he delivers a pretty fun superhero book with… well, let’s say there’s a twist to it that might surprise you. Definitely worth a read, albeit I’m not sure where else they can take this.
8. Convergence: Supergirl Matrix #2
Keith Giffen is allowed to run roughshod all over Convergence, and boy howdy does he deliver, including a gag at the end that I have been waiting for, literally, decades to see. Helpfully, though, the book is so goofy and so self-aware that it’s a lot easier to follow; you don’t need to be familiar with Giffen’s dense wackiness to enjoy it. Worth picking up for a laugh at crossovers and their inherent silliness.
9. Mythic #1
Phil Hester and John McCrea put on their best Grant Morrison impersonation, and while it’s not exactly the real article, it’s dryly funny enough, and the situations in question just absurd enough, to be a fun, silly read. A bit slight, but considering the cover price, it’s worth throwing them the cost of two MP3s to see if Mythic is your jam.
10. Imperium #4
Yeah, this issue is more or less straight nightmare fuel, no chaser, as Joshua Dysart and Doug Braithwaite reveal that, yes, Toyo Harada’s nemesis organization, Project Rising Spirit, is still awful. In short order, a scientist loses her eyes and gets possessed by a being from an alternate dimension… who builds… well, that’s a spoiler. But suffice to say, it builds something that will change everything, and Harada wants it. So, it’s bad guys vs. bad guys, with this issue serving as a heck of a build-up.
11. C.O.W.L. #10
We’re one issue short of C.O.W.L. ending, at least for now, and nobody’s pulling any punches. What’s particularly great here is how it’s all conversations, bar one back alley beating, but the book has built such tension and the politics are so complex, you can’t help but be fascinated. Granted, though, you should read the whole book to this point. Either way, give it a shot; it’s a clever take on superheroics.
12. Thor #8
The big hyping point of this issue is that Jason Aaron is finally revealing the secret identity of the new Thor. Honestly, that’s secondary to how she comports herself in battle in this issue, and it’s a pretty fun take on the sometimes absurd windings of Asgardian politics. Plus, you’ve got the former Thor hitting a giant robot with an axe and being dismissed as a sidekick. That’s always fun.
13. Lantern City #1
Paul Jenkins and Carlos Magno, late of the superb Deathmatch, have the usual story of an oppressive regime and those rebelling, but with a welcome characterization twist; the hero isn’t some young guy with nothing to lose, or a widower out for revenge, but a loving father scared out of his wits. It’s not quite enough of a twist get past the cliche setup, and the steampunkiness of the endeavor seems mostly so Magno can doodle, but it’s a welcome turn and worth a read as a result.
14. Secret Wars #2
Ironically, this second issue is a far better jumping-on point than the first one. The Marvel Universe has been destroyed, except… well, suffice to say, there’s always somebody using bad news to his advantage, and a certain supervillain has remade the universe in his image. It’s a bizarre book, but far more accessible… and certainly unique, if nothing else.
15. X-O Manowar #36
Aric and a bunch of aliens in power armor gear up to fight a planet with a face that wants to destroy Earth. Yes, it’s a little goofy, and owes more than a little debt to the Green Lantern books, but it’s invested with enough gravitas and style to make it worth reading.
16. Strange Sports Stories #3
This anthology series has been uneven during its entire run… so, why change tradition? On one end, you’ve got CM Punk’s ridiculous and funny short story about the single most cursed team in baseball, and on the other, you’ve got a tone deaf “satire” of sports fandom that features the team, fans, and announcers all throwing themselves into a fiery pit. At five bucks, I’m not sure this is worth picking up, but at least three out of four are worth reading.
17. Unity #18
A one-off issue wrapping up a set of four, this one asks a surprisingly affecting question; when you’re a space alien, who’s seen hell, stuck on Earth… what’s there worth living for? Yeah, it’s an extended fight, but it’s an interesting read, and those are always welcome.
18. Convergence #6
It’s the first law of DC multiverse-spanning crossovers… you gotta have a fight between the heroes and their alternate counterparts. And thus, that’s what this sets up, but it’s too darn fun to complain too much. I just feel bad for anybody jumping in feet first on this one; accessible it is not.
19. Convergence: Justice League International #2
So, it’s solely for fans. But, to be honest, if you’re a fan, this book is just plain wonderful, with a truly heartwarming ending. If you read JLI back in the day, you’ll want this book.
The Full Retail List, Courtesy Of Comiclist
SIP Kids #3, $4.99
ACTION LAB – DANGER ZONE
Puppet Master #3 (Leech Woman Photo Variant Cover), $4.99
Puppet Master #3 (Michela Da Sacco Leech Woman Sketch Variant Cover), $4.99
Puppet Master #3 (Michela Da Sacco Leech Woman Variant Cover), $4.99
Puppet Master #3 (Michela Da Sacco Regular Cover), $3.99
ACTION LAB ENTERTAINMENT
Gronk A Monster’s Story Volume 2 GN, $9.99
ARCHIE COMIC PUBLICATIONS
Betty And Veronica Friends Comics Double Digest #243, $4.99
Sonic The Hedgehog #272 (Edwin Huang Regular Cover), $3.99
Sonic The Hedgehog #272 (Sega Metal Sonic Game Art Variant Cover), $3.99