It’s New Comic Book Day, and we’ve got an overview of the 30 best books on the stands this week. Remember, we rank on accessibility and quality, so a low ranking doesn’t necessarily make for a bad book. With that in mind, what’s No. 1 this week?
1) They’re Not Like Us #7
This book has taken a fascinating turn, wherein it’s subtly about breaking free from a cult. It just so happens the cult in question was a group of psychics being molded into supervillains by their leader. It’s a compelling idea, and it takes a few twists and turns in this new arc. It’s one of the better takes on the idea of superpowered teenagers out there right now, and highly recommended.
2) Hellboy in Hell #7
Mike Mignola’s exploration of hell takes a dryly funny, literary turn, riffing on the tales of E.T.A. Hoffman. It’s a surprisingly affecting story exploring both the costs Hellboy has faced in his life and death, and one of the best dark comedies on the stands.
3) Ninjak #6
The biggest, most powerful, most secretive, most amoral weapons manufacturer in the world has just been taken over by… uh, well, by our hero! Matt Kindt and Raul Allen deliver an unusually tight espionage book, more John le Carré than Ian Flaming, despite the name in the title.
Allen’s bold line and use of shadow in particular really stand out here, as Kindt delivers a script about why Ninjak is dangerous even with an empty hand as his only weapon. The clean layouts also help, giving the book a very unique feeling. This is the start of a new arc, so if you’ve been debating picking up this book, now’s the time to do it.
4) Past Aways #6
Matt Kindt and Scott Kolins take their loving teasing of two-fisted time-traveling adventurers to a surprising place in this issue, upping the stakes while simultaneously throwing the loyalty of a major player into question. It’s just too damn fun not to read, so pick it up.
5) Star Wars: Lando #3
Lando has successfully stolen Palpatine’s personal yacht. Now he just needs to not get killed by Palpatine… or whatever the Emperor is hiding, which might be a hell of a lot worse. Charles Soule and Alex Maleev are clearly enjoying the heck out of making this book… and that pleasure is infectious.
6) Dead Drop #4
Ales Kot and Adam Gorham wrap up their absolutely electric miniseries set in the Valiant universe. The chase for an alien virus throughout New York City has had quite a few twists and turns, all of them memorable, and this ends on a fascinating note you won’t expect. Pick up all four issues, or the collection; it’s just too fun to miss.
7) Hank Johnson, Agent of HYDRA
HYDRA agents have lives, too, as this one-shot points out. This oddball domestic comedy one-shot gets much of its humor from the put-upon Hank, a punch-clock villain who hangs out with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at Little League games and argues with his wife about money. David Mandel and Michael Walsh have some hilarious moments here, and if you’re looking for a good comedy one-shot, this will be well worth your money.
8) Gotham By Midnight #8
Ray Fawkes’ script, riffing on cable talk shows, isn’t terribly subtle, but it is vivid, and paired with Juan Ferreyra’s art, this is a slick, clever horror book that makes good use of being in Gotham City without using Batman. Check it out if you haven’t already.
9) Over the Garden Wall #1
This is the ideal kids’ comic, really: The art from Jim Campbell and writing from Pat McHale are deceptively simple on the surface, but pleasingly complex underneath. It reads less like a “children’s story” and more like an oddball, adorable fairy tale. If you want to turn kids onto comics, this is a good start.
10) Batgirl #43
Brendan Fletcher and Cameron Stewart rather cleverly deliver a look at how a superhero juggles planning her friend’s wedding, her sidekick getting ambitious, her job, her love life, and, uh, tigers eating software developers. The short answer? Not well! Still, the book is funny and has a nice Silver Age vibe to it without stumbling into camp, helped considerably by Babs Tarr’s breezy artwork.
11) New MGMT #1
Don’t be fooled; this is the final issue of Mind MGMT. But the title is meaningful in ways it may not fully seem at first. It’s a quiet and surprisingly affecting finale about the hope one finds in endings, and a great finale to a superbly done book.
12) Ant-Man: Last Days #1
Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas deliver a surprisingly touching look at how the superheroes who aren’t the Avengers deal with the end of the world. Scott Lang’s struggling with a lot, and this book explores what he faces: An ex-wife who can’t stand him, a daughter he rarely sees, a job that barely comes together. It’s a unique take, and one worth reading.
13) Grayson #11
Dick Grayson goes toe-to-toe with… himself. Tim Seeley and Tom King execute their idea, which plays on Nightwing’s insecurities, in a much more clever way than you might be used to seeing. And besides, this espionage book is building up to even more twists.
14) Godzilla in Hell #2
Beloved Kaiju artist Bob Eggleton writes and paints a riff on the idea of the Big G going into the Great Abyss. Is the concept ridiculous? Oh my yes. But Eggleton can sure paint a beautiful Godzilla, and he writes a story not unlike Moses depicting a Godzilla movie. Yeah, it’s short on plot and makes no sense, but it’s too pretty for that to fully register.
15) Fight Club 2 #4
Chuck Palahniuk finally gives this sequel a genuine edge as “Sebastian’s” sins come back to haunt him, and he puts fans of his original book on the chopping block. From a weak first issue, this has really come back to earn both being a genuine sequel to a book and the switch in mediums. Definitely worth picking up if you’re a fan of the original.
16) Big Trouble in Little China #15
Fred Van Lente and Joe Eisma put the 1980s through a deserved grinder, but beyond that, they also manage to deliver a credible riff on a classic buddy comedy. If you love the movie, this book is a must-buy… especially for the ending gag.
17) Conan the Avenger #17
Fred Van Lente’s light touch and Brian Ching’s angular artwork paired with his dynamic, stylish layouts make for a breezy, often hilarious take on the iron-thewed Cimmerian. If you want some humor with your bloody action, it’s a great choice.
18) Low #9
Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini deliver an amusing and oddly earnest pastiche of European comics in this series. It’s not subtle, but then, neither were all those old Heavy Metal comics. Worth picking up for pulp SF fans and anybody who wants to drool over Tocchini’s elaborate, gorgeous art.
19) Zodiac Star Force #1
Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau start a new series about magical girls who defeated the vast evil and… turned back into normal teenagers. Some of them are over it, some long for the good old days, and others… suffice to say things aren’t as finished as they think. It’s a solid concept, executed well, but it could stand to push itself a little further with books like Lumberjanes on the market.
20) Book of Death: The Fall of Ninjak
Matt Kindt, Trevor Hairsine, and Ryan Winn tell the story of the death of a very old, very zen Ninjak. After the beautiful, heartbreaking one-shot this team deliver with Bloodshot, this is… not quite as powerful. But it’s still a lot of fun to read, especially as it draws subtle connections between this and Valiant’s cyberpunk book Rai. If you’re a Valiant fan, it’s a must-read.
21) Lumberjanes #17
Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Waters, and Brooke Allen continue to deliver a great book about a group of preteen and teen girls discovering that the woods… well, the woods aren’t what they seem. A fun mashup of teen friendship fiction and fantasy, and definitely one of the better all-ages reads on the stands.
22) Cyborg #2
David F. Walker and Ivan Reis are slowly bringing this book into focus. Walker’s basic idea is quite brilliant: if there’s all this awesome technology around, how would normal people use it? It’s not fully fleshed out here, but it is a good idea, and I’m looking forward to how it might be built out.
23) Spider-Woman: Last Days
I’m sorry to see this book go; it was a clever, funny idea that was done well, and this final issue from Dennis Hopeless and Natacha Bustos pays off the concept in some smart ways. Worth picking up if you like your superheroics light and goofy.
24) East of West #20
Jonathan Hickman’s elaborate space fantasy continues. This issue is mostly plot setup, but one funny sequence in particular and an oddly touching twist at the end keeps it compelling.
25) Magneto: Last Days
Magneto tries to stop the seemingly inevitable as two worlds collide. Meanwhile, he reflects on what he’s done and the legacy he leaves behind. It’s a pretty good way to wrap up Cullen Bunn’s dark, introspective look at a morally complicated character, and a nice bow to tie on this series.
26) Rasputin #8
Alex Grecian’s script oddly cuts off at a strange place, here, but the issue itself, laying out just how the Mad Monk has come to be alive in the modern day, is fairly interesting. Riley Rossmo’s fluid art helps matters considerably, and overall, makes for an interesting book.
27) Swords of Sorrow: Pantha/Jane Porter
Yes, as in “Me Tarzan, You Jane” Jane Porter. Emma Beeby and Rod Rodolfo, though, deftly handle a seemingly oddball crossover with ease, charm, and wit to spare. Beeby finds clever ways to have them mesh as a team both in personality and skill-set, and Roldolfo’s crisp art and facility with action moves the book along briskly. The result is a hell of a good pulp yarn, and definitely worth a read.
28) Sons of the Devil #4
Brian Buccellato’s thriller about a warped commune and the fallout its collapse causes decades later is interesting, but it’s also starting to spin its wheels a little bit. The character drama carries this issue, but the larger plot needs to kick in.
29) Sherlock Holmes: The Seven-Percent Solution #1
If you’re a Sherlockian, the title will catch your attention immediately; yes, David and Scott Tipton are adapting Nicholas Meyer’s beloved pastiche (Sherlock nerd-ese for “fanfic”), with art by Ron Joseph.
“Adapting” is the wrong word; this is less a comic book than an illuminated manuscript of the novel. But while Joseph’s art is exquisite in its detail, it can’t overcome the Tiptons burying it in words, often copied and pasted directly from the book. IDW has shown a troubling desire lately to bring classic novels to comics without trying anything new on them; I seriously doubt Nicholas Meyer, an Oscar-winning screenwriter and writer and director of Star Trek II, would have objected terribly if the Tiptons had stayed true to the spirit instead of the letter. That said, they’re well written words, surrounded by pretty art, so I’d say it’s still worth a read, especially for Sherlock fans.
30) James Sallis’ Drive #1
Drive, the movie, is a fascinating, subtle character drama lingering on violence and loss. Drive, the book by James Sallis, is a noirish tone poem of a novel, a brief, vivid read from a crime novelist and SF writer about a Zen-like criminal. The comic book is basically the version of the movie everybody whined about not getting from the trailer. Michael Benedetto’s script hits all the same beats, but none of the same notes, and it feels a bit conventional as a result.
Antonio Fuso and Emilio Lecce deliver a hard angular style that fits the tone, at least, although they’re a bit excessive with the sound effects. Overall, it’s a solid crime book, but it’s probably the lesser of the two adaptations.
And the rest:
- He-Man: The Eternity War #9: Dan Abnett and Pop Mhan hand in a delightful slice of pulp fantasy.
- Justice League 3001 #3: I can’t justify recommending this to anybody who doesn’t unconditionally love the old Justice League International books. But if you do, like I do, buy this so hard it makes Keith Giffen join Twitter.
- Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #4: Similarly, this is a huge pile o’ nerd, but it has a heartwarming ending in its own way.
- Captain Marvel and The Carol Corps #3: While I like this book’s gimmick, it doesn’t really do anything new with it.
- Teen Titans #11: A fun team book, now with more prison breaks and Manchester Black being a douchebag.
- We Are Robin #3: This book has some interesting ideas, following a huge network of teenagers playing at Robin, but it needs to stay paying them off and developing more characters.
- Aquaman #43: A solid little mix of Lovecraft and superheroes from Cullen Bunn and Trevor McCarthy.
- John Carter, Warlord of Mars #10: A solid little fantasy book, worth picking up for a bit of action.
- Flash #43: A fun take on the current Flash, but needs a bit more than conventional superheroics to stand out. What’s this book’s hook, beyond Barry being fast?
- Valhalla Mad #4: Joe Casey and Paul Maybury’s attempt to cross Thor and an introspective indie bar crawl movie doesn’t quite work, partially because it’s overwritten… but at least it’s something different.
- Swords of Sorrow: Red Sonja/Jungle Girl #2: Marguerite Bennett’s sense of humor salvages this fairly conventional book.
- Deathstroke #9: Superhero fights galore, if that’s what you want, but not much else.
- Sinestro #14: An unlikely new Corps member is recruited, but unfortunately this issue is mostly stuck setting up the plot of future stories.
- The Covenant #3: Rob Liefield writes a Biblical epic. No, seriously.
- Prez #3: Broad satire does this well-meaning book no favors.
- Superman #43: Lois blows it, big time, in a twist Gene Luen Yang can’t quite sell, alas.
- Mulan Revelations #3: Spectacular art can’t salvage a painfully conventional cyberpunk book.
- JLA #3: I have no idea what the heck’s actually going on in this book, but hey, it’s pretty!
- Hacktivist Vol. 2 #2: Clumsy politicking drags down an otherwise amusing hacker fantasy.
- Harley Quinn #19: At least this book has diversified. Now it has Italian mom shtick and Jewish borscht belt shtick in addition to ditz jokes and toilet humor. Yay.
- The Tomorrows #2: There has never been a comic book trying harder to be punk rock, nor has there been one that has missed the mark so completely.
- Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out #8: Alex de Campi ends her exploitation anthology series on an absurdly depressing note that feels out of step with the rest of the series.