April had one landmark issue—Action Comics #1000—and what felt like some place-holding between new initiatives for both Marvel and DC. Creator-owned books were strong, especially in terms of debut issues, but mostly April was a month of looking toward the future, toward flashier summer happenings like Marvel’s Fresh Start, and DC’s No Justice, New Justice, Man of Steel, and Bat-Cat Wedding.
Even so, there were still a strong crop of books to be consumed. So what are we waiting for? Nothing. Let’s do this!
...Brave and the Bold #3 had me really hoping Batman and Wonder Woman can escape from the metal album cover art they’ve somehow gotten trapped in...
...Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s run together culminated with this month’s Captain America #700, and it was unsurprisingly a joy, given how adept both men are as graphic storytellers. The future for Cap fans now belongs to Ta-Nehisi Coates, who takes over the title with a new No. 1 in July. Here’s hoping he pushes the character to headier, more analytical spaces, as his interviews and Free Comic Book Day short suggest...
...Champions #19 featured a new creative team of writer Jim Zub and artist Sean Izaaske. Zub’s script is as big-hearted as the Champions themselves, but I was most impressed by Izaaske’s phenomenal artwork, which gave me early Jorge Jimenez vibes, high praise given I currently consider him one of the best monthly superhero artists...
...Huckleberry Hound’s relationship with the cop in Exit Stage Left: Snagglepuss Chronicles #4 put tears in my eyes. Just tragic. I’m loving this satirical book, which goes to some very poignant places but thankfully has the Sasquatch shorts at the end serving as an emotional palate cleanser...
...New Super Man and the Justice League of China #22 is yet another stellar entry in one of my favorite in-continuity DC runs in many years. With this book, Gene Luen Yang has created a layered and believable superhero story for a country outside the United States. It’s an odd comparison (and we’re getting off track) but the only other time I remember half as much thought going into non-American heroes is Alpha Flight. Anyway, this book is ending soon, but what a treat it has been…
...Mister Miracle #8 is yet another installment in an ongoing modern classic maxi-series from Tom King and Mitch Gerads. I don’t have anything to add to the discourse, other than I could easily put this book in the Top 5 every month but am holding back because of how frequently we’ve featured it...
...Finally, R.I.P. to a pair of too-short Justice League runs by Christopher Priest and Steve Orlando, both of which concluded in April with Justice League #43 and Justice League of America #29, respectively. Priest’s was a brief teaser that re-enforced him as one of our best superhero writers, able to work magic with seemingly any character. Justice League of America, meanwhile, was a dense and rewarding treat throughout its life, one I may write about it at length sometime in the near future, schedule permitting.
Top Comics of April 2018
5. Grass Kings #14 by Matt Kindt & Tyler Jenkins
This book has been rich and engaging from its start, driven in equal parts by character, mystery, and Jenkins wispy, ethereal artwork. Every arc has been deliberate, a slow burn, but things are entirely ablaze now. No. 14 really snuck up on readers (or at least on me, anyway), and now all of a sudden we’re in the middle of a tense, life and death situation.
One of the highest compliments I can pay a piece of narrative art is that it made me feel intense and surprising emotions. This issue’s ending did that, making me really feel the danger for the characters. This is the penultimate issue. But! Kindt and Jenkins already have a follow up work on the way in August, Black Badge.
4. Action Comics #1000 by Various
A comics Twitter friend of mine—Dan Grote of WMQ Comics—pointed out that many of the stories in Action Comics #1000 feel like fodder for a forgotten annual, and I can’t entirely argue with that. Minus the context of this being a landmark 1000th issue, many (but not all) of the vignettes here fall flat. These stories, however, do have that benefit, and it’s impossible to evaluate them without contextualizing them within the legacy they honor—which is why I wrote so glowingly about this book in a recent review.
I should note, however, this review was written the day of release, and I’ve since had time to meditate on my rankings. The only change I would make would be bumping The Car by Geoff Johns/Richard Donner, Olivier Coipel, and Alejandro Sanchez to No. 2. I continue to standby my list of favorite variants, though.
3. Thanos #18 by Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, & Antonio Fabela; Thanos Annual #1 by Various
With the release of Avengers: Infinity War, April was a huge month for Thanos, as his appearance in that movie essentially made him a household name, even inspiring some to start writing/Tweeting about how thirsty they are for him because that dude is so thicc (I just found out what that means because I’m old or uncool or both...probably both). The world is a strange and wonderful place. Anyway, April was also a big month for Thanos in comics, thanks to the double dose of Thanos #18 and Thanos Annual #1.
The former was a killer ending to one of Marvel’s most memorable runs in years, aptly titled Thanos Wins (read more about How Thanos Won here). It was a six issue bout of epic imagination and even more epic silliness from the red hot team of writer Donny Cates and artist Geoff Shaw. The Annual, meanwhile, was a nice chance for some other major industry talents—Ryan North, Kieron Gillen, Andre Arujo, Al Ewing, and Frazer Irving, among others—to do their own quick hit stories about Thanos, Marvel’s biggest bad (I tacked on my favorite panels from that book to my Infinity War review, fyi).
2. Saga #51 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Saga lands on our Top Comics list for the second consecutive month. I try to account for how I’ve over-exposed my interest in the book. Still, No. 51 was so good I had to. There are no bad arcs in Saga, but some arcs are more engaging than others. Right now, our story is hitting pretty high notes, as some of our principal characters wrap up quests and start to knock around with each other, resulting in all kinds of narrative tension, some of it with pretty severe consequences.
This issue gives Fiona Staples another chance to show off her imaginative design skills by creating a new creature, one who like most of Saga’s other creations is memorable and interesting. Staples’ design work on Saga is as strong as that of any fictional universe, giving Saga a distinct feel generally only found in much older sci-fi properties, specifically the Stars, both Trek and Wars (I stole that from the character on 30 Rock played by Alec Baldwin, btw). There is a certain look to a Saga creature, a Saga character, a Saga ship, and that was again made evident in this issue.
1. Batman: Creature of the Night #3 by Kurt Busiek and John Paul Leon
This series is a spiritual and conceptual successor to Busiek’s 2004 mini Superman: Secret Identity, in that Batman: Creature of the Night essentially tells the Batman story on our Earth, where Batman is a ubiquitous comic book character.
Plot-wise, Creature of the Night is a bit trickier than Secret Identity. Superman was easy to get going, because Supes got his powers inadvertently and surprisingly. Batman’s heroics, however, were born of tragedy and an obsessive, steely response. Creature of the Night got the tragedy aspect right from its start, as well as things like the protagonist’s personality and his supporting cast, or at least Alfred.
What was missing until now was a believable way to have a Batman as a crime fighter. This book gives us that, dark and surprisingly, as it should be. Overall, Creature of the Night is one of the best Batman stories in years. Busiek is a veteran writer, one who has long been a storyteller communicating in a language of huge ideas. This book is turning out to be a pure distillation of the lessons he learned throughout his august career, plus his penchant for layered and complex stories, the sort more common in award-winning novels.
Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at@zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.