It’s a quiet week in comics, so we just ranked every review copy we got. What made No. 1?
1) Archie #3
The miracle of this book is that Mark Waid and Fiona Staples keep everything that makes Archie the fodder of double digests in grocery racks across the country while simultaneously updating it and giving it a depth and style it needs. Staples shows a facility for physical comedy you wouldn’t expect from her previous work, and Waid does a great job of making Veronica sympathetic while also terrible. If you’re looking for a laugh, this is the book.
2) Colder: Toss The Bones #1
Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra are back with the third, and seemingly final, Colder miniseries. Essentially this first issue just reintroduces Nimble Jack, a man who farms, and eats, madness. It also reminds you that Juan Ferreyra is one of the best horror artists in the business, a master at getting in your head through your eyes and creeping you out, and that Tobin is perfect at writing creepy, surreal horror. An absolute treat of a book is back, and a must-read.
3) From Under Mountains #1
Marian Churchland, Claire Gibson, and Sloane Leong give a high fantasy story a few clever twists. Churchland’s art, all hard lines and cinema-minded panels, particularly helps set the tone, but it’s the characterization packed into the book that makes it stand out. A must-read.
4) Grayson Annual #2
Superman’s lost his secret identity and a fair chunk of his powers. Dick Grayson’s lost his identity, alienated his family, and is generally down on himself. And they’ve both lost somebody close to them: Bruce Wayne. So the time is good for some male bonding… oh, and assassin fights, in this surprisingly touching and thoughtful annual that’s worth picking up, even if you’re not following either series.
5) Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #8
Betrayal is the worst feeling. We’ve all had that feeling. We all hate that feeling. David Lapham is particularly good at showing, both in his careful writing and detailed black-and-white artwork, what happens when you betray somebody close to you… especially if that somebody is, well, nuts. Highly recommended for noir fans.
6) S.H.I.E.L.D. #10
Behold the heroism of… Howard the Duck? Mark Waid and Evan Shaner write a book that feels a lot like Joe Quinones and Chip Zdarsky’s Howard, and that’s a compliment: That they can play with one of Marvel’s best books shows how skilled both are. The story itself is a satire of Marvel’s recent alternate heroes obsession, but while it’s funny, it ends on a painfully bittersweet note. Howard can save the universe, sure… but who’s going to save Howard?
7) Book of Death: Fall of Harbinger
Valiant has been writing some fascinating takes on just where their stable of heroes winds up as the world “ends,” and this is no exception. Joshua Dysart and Kano more or less wrap up their run on Harbinger with a look at the regrets that come with ruling the world. Kano in particular stands out here with some vivid, trippy art that manages to re-appropriate ’60s cliches and make them work again. Well worth picking up, especially as it’s a one-shot.
8) Batman Annual #4
Bruce Wayne is no longer Batman. He doesn’t even remember who he was as Bruce Wayne, really. Unfortunately, that’s not going to help him when some old “friends” visit Arkham Manor to take him to task. James Tynion IV has quite a good standalone story here, not least because the bad guys… sort of have a point, here. Roge Antonio’s art sets the mood well, if it’s a little thick with the inks, and Dave McGaig’s brownish palette helps set the mood. In all, a well done Bruce Wayne story, which is rare in Batbooks.
9) Zodiac Starforce #2
The magical girl genre gets a mild reinvention. Paulina Ganucheau does an excellent job, especially considering she’s doing the work of three people as penciller, inker, and letterer, with clean, cartoony, funny art, but Kevin Panetta’s script is a little too conventional. Still an excellent all-ages read; give it to a girl who wants to read comics, along with a few issues of Lumberjanes and Jem and the Holograms.
10) Superman #44
Superman’s secret identity has been revealed and… well, pretty much everything he feared would happen actually does. Villains attack his friends, but the real payoff here is how his friends take it. Not well, of course. A smart read that takes this change on Supes in an interesting direction.
11) Godzilla in Hell #3
This series remains an excuse to draw Godzilla wrecking hell and eating little angels with Mothra wings, this time with Buster Moody at the wheel. It makes no sense… but it doesn’t have to, really. Perfect for Godzilla fans.
12) Sandman Overture #6
J.H. Williams III deserves every art award there is for this book, as he drafts clever circular layouts and packs them with details, riffs, and jokes. But he can’t get past Neil Gaiman’s somewhat pompous and self-involved script.
13) Drive #2
This book has a perfect art team for the story: Antonio Fuso and Emilio Lecce deliver a moody, angular style somewhat reminiscent of Phil Hester, while Jason Lewis uses hard and bright color to set the atmosphere. But Michael Benedetto’s script takes such a conventional, uninteresting tack on a great book that the art’s the main draw here.
14) Aquaman #44
Aquaman finds out exactly why his wife is out for his head, and if that weren’t enough… well, let’s just say things can go wrong pretty badly when you’re Aquaman. Sadly, this slows the momentum from a smart take on the hero by Cullen Bunn, but it’s worth picking up if you’ve been reading this book.
15) Sons of the Devil #5
Brian Buccellato’s character drama/noir/horror mix comes to… not quite a head in this final issue of the first arc. While Toni Infante is quite good at bringing out the mood, especially with smart coloring choices, essentially this book is too much of a slow burn to work as well as it should. Bet it’ll make a heck of a trade, though.
16) American Vampire Second Cycle #10
This whole issue was blatantly engineered to have Rafael Albuquerque draw vampires fighting astronauts in space. That said, it’s a comic book featuring vampires fighting astronauts in space. Who wouldn’t buy that?
17) Justice League #44
Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok… let’s just say they shake things up and then some with this issue. Mostly for hardcore DC nerds, but a hoot to read if you are one.
18) Prince Valiant #4
While Ron Salas is having a ball drawing Prince Valiant fighting sentient lizards in the gulfs of space, Nate Cosby and Ben McCool can’t seem to find a plot for him to draw. This ends oddly abruptly and with zero context, and it kind of sucks the air out of the book. Still fun, but there’s other goofy action on the shelves today.
19) Batman: Arkham Knight Annual #1
I have one gripe with Peter Tomasi’s script: Nobody expects to be dosed by the Scarecrow? Ever? Come on. That’s his thing. It’s what he does. Anyway, we get a look inside the noggin of the Arkham Knight, and Stephen Segovia and Art Thibert have a little fun with the art. A solid story, but at five bucks, perhaps not the top of your sub list.
20) Swords of Sorrow: Red Sonja/Jungle Girl #3
Mirka Andolfo’s art is a little too cartoonish to really carry Marguerite Bennett’s amusing if slight script, but as crossovers go, this is pretty amusing, and it does have dinosaurs and barbarians. Really, that’s the pizza of comic books: any comic with barbarians and dinosaurs might be terrible, but it’s still kind of good.
21) Green Lantern Annual #4
I’m sorry, I can’t take grunge-hair Hal Jordan at all seriously, even if his current book is actually pretty good. And this story from Robert Venditti honestly doesn’t help, as Hal reveals he has to pretend he’s all grim n’ gritty to scare the scum of the universe. Honestly, the art from Pascal Alixe and Martin Coccolo doesn’t help; Hal has eight different faces in this issue. Fun for Lantern fans, but not much to it otherwise.
22) S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Cavalry
Melinda May gets her own one-shot… and honestly, Jody Houser and Luke Ross have no idea what to do with her. This one-shot is by no means an embarrassment, but if you were unfamiliar with the TV show, you’d be forgiven for wondering why such a generic character got an issue of her own. This really needed something to flesh out May beyond the legends about her, and it just doesn’t have that.
23) New Suicide Squad Annual #1
This is just a wrap-up for the book’s current plotline, which is fun, but isn’t really paid off effectively here.
24) Captain America: White #2
I’m not really clear why Marvel took this mini out of cold storage after nearly a decade, and reading it… doesn’t make it any more clear, to be honest. Tim Sale is having a complete blast and makes this book dynamic, fun, and readable: You wish he’d do more war comics. But Jeph Loeb’s script is, at best, sulky, and there’s one moment that’s embarrassing in how poorly written it is. Cap fans will love this, but everybody else should stay away.
25) Bloodthirsty #1
Mark Landry’s New Orleans-set story is kind of a mess: Things just sort of “happen,” with no real rhyme, reason, or mystery behind them as Virgil Lafleur unwraps the secret demonic conspiracy behind New Orleans post-Katrina. Ashley Marie Witter’s art is solid, although the coloring too often tries to fill in for the inking, but it just doesn’t do anything different enough to really catch the attention.