Our slate of top-tier debut issues was brimming this month, so let’s go ahead and bypass our usual introduction, just stopping briefly to note that 1. YES! it was another great month for comics, and 2. We are indeed within a new modern golden age for the medium, sales figures be damned (since when is profit a measure of artistic quality anyway?). Onward!
Brave and the Bold #1 by Liam Sharp: I knew going into this book that Sharp’s artwork would blow my eyes out (it’s sooooo good), but I was not prepared for the poetic turns of phrase in his script, nor was I ready for the excellent Wonder Woman characterization. Overall: Kudos to DC for trusting Sharp to pull double duty. It may have seemed like a risk, but this debut suggests it’s one that will pay off quite well.
Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #1 by Jeff Lemire & Max Fiumara: Speaking of incredible comic book-ing I was wholly unprepared for, let’s talk Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #1. Regular readers know my Best of the Month rankings (which I’ll be posting later this week) take whole runs into account, so debut issues almost never make the jump from this list to that one, but I was extremely tempted by this book. Overall: This book is part of Lemire’s burgeoning Black Hammer mythos (which keeps getting richer with perfect choice after perfect choice), a forlorn and mysterious take on superhero tropes. What’s most remarkable to me about this book is that it’s also an incredible stand-alone read, one with a clear and rewarding arc for its protagonist, filled with growth, hubris, a fall, and an inkling at its end that our hero will become a better person. Bravo!
Sideways #1 by Dan DiDio / Justin Jordan & Kenneth Rocafort; The Terrifics #1 by Jeff Lemire & Ivan Reis: I think it’s fair to describe fandom's attitude toward the New Age of DC Heroes as largely curious and slightly ambivalent (I fall more toward curious), but the publishing initiative justified itself and then some this month with Sideways and The Terrifics. Sideways is an exquisitely drawn (Kenneth Rocafort is an all-time great in the making), and it’s also a modern take on the classic teen superhero origin. I’ve seen comparisons that call this DC’s Spider-Man, but I’d argue Ms. Marvel might be more apt, given how well the writing captures today’s teens. Either way, great stuff, and The Terrifics description basically tells you all you need to know about its quality: it’s a DC take on the Fantastic Four written by Jeff Lemire, you know, the guy putting on a masterclass in alternate superhero mythologies over at Dark Horse with Black Hammer. Overall: Launching as many new books driven by new or obscure characters as this initiative aims to do is risky, but so far the comics have justified it.
X-Men Red #1 by Tom Taylor & Mahmud Asrar: If I had written a proper intro this month, I’d probably have tied it to a theme of surprise!, since so many of these books subverted or exceeded my expectations. Surprise, however, wouldn’t cover my reaction to X-Men: Red, which is far closer to downright freaking shocked. Look, I was the perfect age (third grade) when X-Men: The Animated Series hit, and in many ways that show and the X-characters are responsible for drawing me into comics. I, however, have been less than thrilled with the quality of their books lately, which have sagged as Marvel and Fox have battled over their movie rights. I was an X-cynic, to put it mildly, and now after this book I’m an X-believer, or a Current-believer. This is getting confusing, anyway...Overall: Simply put, the best X-book I’ve read in many years. Tom Taylor is clearly establishing himself as a writer with a baseline of quality that is far higher than the mean, regardless of how flawed a project seems from the outside.
Honorable Mentions: Last (and I guess sort of least, within this group anyway) I’d like to mention some of the comics that came closest to qualifying, including Cold War #1 by Christopher Sebela & Hayden Sherman from Aftershock Comics; Cult Classic: Return to Whisper #1 by Eliot Rahal & Felipe Cunha from Vault Comics; Incognegro Renaissance #1 by Mat Johnson & Warren Pleece from Dark Horse Comics' Berger Books; and The Wilds #1 by Vita Ayala & Emily Pearson from Black Mask Comics.
That’s it for this month’s newbies! Make sure to come back later this week for our Top 5 Favorite Comics of February 2018, and, if you’re so inclined, feel free to check out last month’s Top Comics of January 2018. Cheers!
Zack Quaintance is a career journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.