By Zack Quaintance — There were so many great comics in June that I cheated in the shoutouts section—where I limit myself to ten picks—by lumping several books together. I tried, really, but I just enjoyed this month’s comics way too much to put myself through some kind of self-imposed Sophie’s Choice.
In fact, there are so many comics this month I’ll cut my usual preamble short and get right to them. Tragic! I know. But worry not! This website is roughly 75 percent rambling (see Analysis or Reviews), so you can easily get a rambling fix elsewhere.
Ready? Let’s do this!
Against all odds, I liked The Batman Wedding Preludes. They seemed like a blatant cash grab (which, they were…), but Tim Seeley and crew still told nice character-driven stories with them.
Since Benjamin Percy and Chris Mooneyham took over, Nightwing has rocketed up my list of best DC books. In fact, I even wrote a piece called Why Nightwing’s New Run is Working: A Five-Panel Explainer.
Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s existential sci-fi epic Descender is ending after 30-plus issues, but as it does, the creators are using deep familiarity between readers and the book’s well-developed characters to hit truly moving emotional beats, all amid a high-action finale.
Flash #49 continued Flash War with consequential stakes for its lead—Barry Allen—and for his once-forgotten former protege, red-headed Wally West. This is the first story in years to use this much of the Flash family, and we love it.
A pair of our favorites ended in June: New Super-Man and the Justice League of China and Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles. That’s bad news. The good news, however, is both series had wonderful conclusions that reminded us of why we loved them.
I became a nightmare. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have them...Bryan Hill hooked us with those opening lines of his five-issue run on Detective Comics. What followed was fantastic, too. We’re total marks for stories like this that question the state of modern fandom. Plus, Cassandra Cain!
Another month, another pair of top-notch comics from the Warren Ellis-masterminded re-imagining of WildStorm. Simply put, Wild Storm #14 and Wildstorm: Michael Cray #8 were June’s two best comics that not enough fans talked about.
Last but not least, there’s ol’ reliable Valiant, who despite recent ownership changes continues producing awesome comics, with highlights including Harbinger Wars 2 #2 and Quantum and Woody! #7 (also, checkout our friends WMQ Comics preview of Harbinger Wars 2 #3!).
Top Comics of May 2018
5. Amazing Spider-Man #801 by Dan Slott & Marcos Martin
Amazing Spider-Man #801 was the final issue of Dan Slott’s epic, decade-long run on Marvel’s flagship title. Slott has said he conceptualized this issue long ago and got Marcos Martin (who has essentially left superhero comics for creator-owned work via Panel Syndicate) to draw it, and it’s a good thing he did.
Slott’s plotting is sweet and poignant, examining how Peter Parker’s With great power comes great responsibility ethos changes lives. It’s a nice capper to a run with more highs than lows. What really makes #801 shine, however, is Martin’s art, which harkens back to the less-muscular Spider-Man as drawn by the character’s creator Steve Ditko, while giving the hero and the world a relatable, modern look. This comic, simply put, is a blissful pleasure to look at and a wonderful palette cleanser between Spider-Man eras.
4. Venom #3 by Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman
Donny Cates only has one mode: #@$%ING INTENSE, which is something I’d come to suspect via his creator-owned work throughout 2017 before having my theory verified recently by Death of the Inhumans #1. His work on Venom has been a slightly slower burn, by Cates standards, which still makes it one of the most recklessly intense books on the stands (seriously, do comic shops have stands? is racks a better word? gah!)
Venom #3 had all the hallmarks I’ve now come to expect from Cates’ best issues: a little terror, a lot of grandiose plotting, confident and clever guiding narration, and a steady expanding of character mythos and status quo. That’s all in here, of course, but what I found most compelling here was the terror of the villain, which all but cows Venom (who, we are reminded by a few panels of trauma via Miles Morales, is a terrifying villain in his own right). Ryan Stegman’s artwork is also a perfect fit for the otherworldly and upsetting rainy ambience in this issue. Basically, I can’t believe I’m saying this but a comic about Venom (Venom!) is one of my favorite books right now, and I can’t wait to see where this is all heading.
3. Black Hammer Age of Doom #3 by Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston
What Jeff Lemire is doing with Black Hammer and its auxiliary books is one of the most exciting things in comics. It feels like superhero deconstructions 2.0 have finally arrived. Since the 1-2 combo of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns in the ‘80s, grim and gritty realism has ruled as the most popular way to take an analytical lens to superheroes. This book is far from sunny, but what Lemire seems to be doing is superhero deconstruction via a mystery of anachronism and nostalgia, while paying gleeful homage to his favorite comics and creators.
This issue continues to push the unraveling of the plot that contains all these ideas while also sending our protagonist through a set of Ormston artwork that nods to such a cool range of comics, I couldn’t help but smile like an idiot as I read. Oh, and the story also incorporated capital B Big ideas about why stories matter so much. This book is getting closer to being one I send to non-comics readers in trade, kind of like Saga, speaking of which...
2. Saga #53 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
I knew we were in for it when the preview text for this issue read simply: uh oh. And man, did it go down in Saga #53. This was possibly the single most action-heavy episode of the best ongoing series in comics, both in terms of the sequences on the page and the lasting impact for its characters.
I’m not in the business of giving plot details away, but this issue felt to me like the penultimate episode of a good season of Game of Thrones, wherein a number of shocking moments of consequence take place to reshape and redirect the story. Brian K. Vaughan paces the action expertly, and Fiona Staples work is, as always, an absolute joy to behold, with the final panel in particular etching itself into my brain, possibly forever.
1. Marvel 2-in-1 Annual #1 by Chip Zdarsky & Declan Shalvey
Marvel 2-in-1 seemed odd when it launched. It was part of Marvel’s Legacy publishing line, which returned many titles to original numbering. It’s name nodded to the original Marvel 2-in-1 book from 1974 that ran for a decade, teaming The Thing with different Marvel heroes. This new book, however, was a story about The Thing and his former Fantastic Four teammate The Human Torch, making it seem like a stopgap before the publisher launched a new Fantastic Four title proper.
What has emerged is one of Marvel’s best comics right now, and issues like the Marvel 2-and-1 Annual are why. At the heart of Marvel 2-in-1 are the oldest relationships in the Marvel Universe, specifically those between Thing, Torch, Doctor Doom (trying to be better), and the absent Richards family. This annual looks at the dynamic between Doom and Richards in a way that (no spoilers) creates tension and has readers begging for Victor to please, please, please do what’s right. It’s an incredible bit of storytelling for this surprising and excellent title. It’s almost a shame the full team is returning, presumably shaking up the magic found in this book.