It’s Wednesday, and that means new comic books! What’s the best of this week’s new releases? Here are the top 30, starting with…
1) Sex Criminals #12
Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky somehow manage to top the absolute insanity that was last issue with… well, there’s nothing in this book I can describe that won’t get me banned from Google. But it’s absolutely hilarious, and yes, absolutely for adults. Go buy it, provided you’re an adult.
2) Martian Manhunter #4
The Martian Manhunter is dead, by his own hand. But his id, his ego, and his superego, in the form of a hobo, a thief, and an FBI agent who are all moles for a coming Martian invasion his mind hijacked? They’re still around, and they’re not happy. This bizarre mashup of superheroics and The Manchurian Candidate, courtesy of Rob Williams, Eddy Barrows, and Eber Ferreira, is a brilliantly clever twist on a hero who never quite made it to the first tier, packing it with action and subtly worrying imagery. Give it a read, it’s decidedly a change in pace.
3) Star Wars: Lando #4
Lando has stolen the Emperor’s private yacht, which is bad enough, but it turns out it’s full of Sith artifacts, and those aren’t noted for having positive effects on your psyche. Charles Soule and Alex Maleev are doing a great job here, not least because Lando is front and center, and hilariously characterized. A must-read for Star Wars fans.
4) The Paybacks #1
What happens when a bunch of superheroes are charged with… repossessing the Batmobile? Donny Cates, Eliot Rahal, and Geoff Shaw get pretty wacky in this book, best described as Silver Age technology meets Dark Age cynicism, and honestly, what carries it is how funny it is. The inherent concept is hilarious, but Cates and Rahal pay it off in a few unique ways that make this worth reading.
5) Constantine: The Hellblazer #4
What happens when John Constantine, the rake himself, the complete bastard of a sorcerer… just gives up? This issue explores both the first person Constantine screwed over and how he takes his modern failures. Hint: Not well. It’s a surprisingly compelling read from a book bringing him back to his Vertigo roots, and definitely a must read.
6) Ivar, Timewalker #9
Finally, comic books bring us clown vikings. Also, Fred Van Lente and Pere Perez dial back the time travel hilarity to instead bring us alternate reality hilarity as they start a new arc and a perfect jumping-on point. If you like SF, comedy, and/or ridiculous mashups, really you should have bought this book already. If not, go do that.
7) Secret Six #6
Gail Simone and Tom Derenick deliver the climax to this first arc. What’s great about the Secret Six is that they’re a mess, more of a dysfunctional family than a team of superheroes, and that actually gives the book some real energy. Also, Derenick makes superb use of Big Shot’s powers; suffice to say there’s one panel in particular that will stick with you. Highly recommended.
8) Star Wars #9
Luke is trapped in the biggest hellhole in the galaxy, while Han is currently trying to explain to his wife that he’s actually a good guy now. Jason Aaron and Stuart Immonen pull off the rare feat of having their book feel like the movies its based on, both in style and tone. Definitely a must read for Star Wars fans.
9) Bloodshot Reborn #6
Jeff Lemire adds Butch Guice to the team and together they up the ante on Bloodshot’s current predicament. The ultimate killing machine is tracking down his nanites, which were scattered to the four winds. The problem is… whoever has the nanites becomes Bloodshot, and those infected want more. It’s a predictable turn, perhaps, but a fun idea and a great way to kick off a new arc.
10) Jem and The Holograms #7
Emma Vieceli subs in on art for this book, and does quite well by Kelly Thompson’s script. One of the more engaging aspects of this book is that it explores the creative process in a way that’s interesting to read, and it consistently refuses to make its characters flat or uninteresting; everybody has their own motives and feelings, sometimes conflicting. In short, it’s a great book, and worth picking up if you need a break from superheroes.
11) Big Trouble in Little China #16
Fred Van Lente and Joe Eisma wrap up their tribute to/mockery of ’80s pop culture in style as Jack Burton finds his one true love and defeats the bad guys with the help of the Gipper. It is surprisingly gory considering what it’s based on, but it’s still a fun read.
12) Rai #10
Matt Kindt and Clayton Crain’s cyberpunk odyssey takes some unusual turns this go-round, as Rai discovers Earth is more than a blasted wasteland, and its people more than just angry Warboys. For a small publisher like Valiant to put out a comic this outright weird is a bold choice, but one that usually works, and this issue demonstrates why.
13) The Spirit #3
Matt Wagner and Dan Schkade finally manage to make this feel like the strip they’ve been aiming for. Wagner could stand to dial back the dialogue a little bit; Eisner’s comics weren’t quite so… flamboyant. But this is feeling like both a tribute to the past and its own thing, which is a good place to be.
14) The Beauty #2
Unfortunately, this book doesn’t really pay off its concept as well as it could. When you’ve got an STD that makes people young and beautiful, you’ve got to ask why Jeremy Haun and Jason Hurley feel the need to stuff it into a conventional conspiracy thriller. There’s enough here it’s worth sticking with the book, but hopefully the book explores its ideas in more detail.
15) Ufology #5
A lot comes together at once in this penultimate issue, but James Tynion IV and Noah Yuenkel keep the focus squarely on our teenage heroes and the messy past with aliens that, whether they realize it or not, has defined them. And Matthew Fox’s ability to draw goopy aliens doesn’t hurt.
16) Agent Carter #1
Kathryn Immonen turns what could have been a slight, cheesy tie-in to plug TV shows and gives it a sense of fun, and Rich Ellis is thoroughly enjoying himself showing the Lady Sif and Carter fleeing an exploding helicarrier. Why aren’t they doing a Cap origin story?
17) Doomed #4
Scott Lobdell and Javier Fernandez manage to give this book a little depth without losing the goofy, frantic tone that makes it such a fun read. Fernandez in particular really delivers in this book; there’s one panel, early on, with our hero agonizing over his monster form while holding a small connection to his humanity, that really resonates, and when he delves into Reiser’s fantasy life, trying to imagine working and dating as a big red energy monster, it’s simultaneously touching and hilarious. It’s a little cult gem from DC, and definitely worth a read.
18) Island #3
This anthology comic is uneven as usual, but Malachi Ward and Matt Sheehan’s uneasy technothriller Ancestor alone makes it worth buying.
19) Bizarro #4
Heath Corson and Gustavo Duarte up their game with this particular issue of what has, up to now, mostly been a book aimed at kids. Bizarro’s mastery of magic (which makes sense if you know your Superman rules, a nice touch) leads to a whole set of frantic hijinks, and an appropriately awkward moment I won’t spoil here. It’s good to see this book take a step up, and I’m looking forward to how it finishes off.
20) All-New Hawkeye #5
Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez pit Hawkeye against Hawkeye as they try to decide what to do with HYDRA’s most dangerous children. While it feels a bit generic in the plot, Lemire and Perez dig into Hawkeye as a character, and end on an incredibly promising hook to finish out this series before, well, Marvel reboots everything.
21) Southern Cross #5
This combination of ghost story and space travel from Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger starts paying off plot points. Granted, it’s not really clear what’s actually going on, but hey, it’s a fun read.
22) Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #11
This issue puts a nice bow on the past ten issues as Bucky finds a measure of peace in a lifetime filled with war. Despite the art team going pretty much completely bonkers, it’s actually a surprisingly sweet, gentle book, especially considering who the star is.
23) Midnight Society: The Black Lake #3
I confess, I did not see the central plot twist of this particular book coming, and kudos to Drew Edward Johnson for not giving it away until the plot required it. He also happens to deliver a well-drawn action book that has fun with layouts while still being clear and easy to follow. If you like supernatural action, this is your book.
24) Captain America: White #1
Jeph Loeb’s formula of [HERO] + [COLOR] = “sulking” doesn’t quite fit Captain America. That said, it’s mostly retelling Cap’s WWII days, so if you ignore the captions and enjoy Tim Sale’s art, it’s a pretty solid book.
25) The Fade Out #9
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips can deliver a conventional noir in their collective sleep… and that’s the whole problem, really. It fills out the contours of the form just perfectly, but after what these two did in, say, Criminal or Incognito, it feels like coasting. Still a great read, but still also coasting.
26) Black Canary #4
Brendan Fletcher and Annie Wu deliver a pretty good villain origin story here, but I do want them to return to the basic concept of the book. Black Canary has ditched her band a little too quickly and I’d like to see more of that angle.
27) Ody-C #7
Really, Matt Fraction takes a backseat to Christian Ward here, who delivers some of the most elaborate art you’ll find in a comic this week. Yeah, it’s weird for the sake of being weird, but with art this good, it almost doesn’t matter.
28) Superman/Wonder Woman #21
The last issue of this book, Peter Tomasi ended in on a blatant fan-teasing hook. How he pays it off, and gives Doug Mahnke something fun to draw, is actually fairly clever in that it’s about how Superman and Wonder Woman solve problems in different ways… and neither of them stop to think about how the other might react. It’s a bit cheesy in spots, but a fun read regardless.
29) ’68: Last Rites #2
The first issue didn’t do much for me, I confess, but the second has an amusingly gory, shticky B-movie vibe that oddly suits this book well. Definitely worth reading for zombie or grindhouse fans.
30) Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians #4
Ricardo Delgado’s dinos are just too pretty for me not to at least give this book a token recommendation. Not much to it in terms of plot, but a beautiful read.
And The Others:
Rat Queens #12: The fantasy comedy actually gets a little heavy in this issue, as secrets are revealed… at least to the reader.
Robin: Son Of Batman #4: Robin fighting Deathstroke in a tomb full of traps straight out of Indiana Jones is slight stuff, but fun stuff.
Manifest Destiny #17: This cross of American history and gory fantasy is quite amusing, if a bit slight considering what it’s tackling.
Escape From New York #10: This comic is finally getting into a straight sequel to the cult classic it’s based on, and it’s a lot of fun, at least for fans of the movie.
Death Vigil #8: Stjepan Sejic’s book is pretty, but I’m not sure anybody other than him knows what’s happening in it.
Green Lantern: Lost Army #4: Why is it Green Lanterns generally only start being interesting without their rings?
Secret Identities #7: This superhero book has gotten a little too generic to stand out.
Voltron: From The Ashes #1: Cullen Bunn’s script is oddly stiff, but it’s got a hell of a hook: Voltron’s been shut down for two centuries, but it’ll need to get back into shape, fast.
Doctor Fate #4: Sonny Liew’s loose, detailed art continues to be the highlight of a fairly conventional superhero book.
Shutter #15: This book is trippy… but it doesn’t seem to be for any particular reason.
Looking For Group #6: I know it’s a webcomic, but some amusing creature design aside, this book really needs a bit more professionalism in the inking and coloring if it’s going to be in print.
D4VE 2 #1: The previous mini had swearing robots as its sole selling point, and so it is with this one, right down to the rather predictable plot twist in the final pages.
The Fiction #4: Dave Rubin’s trippy art can’t save a thuddingly obvious and uncreative script.
Tokyo Ghost #1: For all the hype surrounding this book, it feels like a throwback to early ’90s “edgy” Euro comics, and not in a good way. It’s basically every cliche from that time in a blender, and it just doesn’t work well.
Prez #4: The satire in this book would work a lot better if it weren’t so broad and painfully obvious.
Harley Quinn #20: Ha, ha, Harley murdered some airline lady for doing her job! This book’s success continues to baffle me, even if John Timms delivers some lovely fluid art it doesn’t deserve.
Wonder Woman #44: This book continues to be painfully generic and the London setting isn’t used to any advantage… or, for that matter, even written to seem particularly British.