Top Comics to Buy for April 24, 2019: The Replacer, Criminal #4, and more

By Zack Quaintance — One of the things I’ve pushed against since creating this site is recency bias. All of us—fans and critics—have a shared tendency to praise and promote new #1 comics above mid-run installments or even finales. While there is a certain and acute level of brilliance required to create a strong debut, I think we as an industry tend to lose site of just how impressive and also difficult it is to sustain an interesting graphic sequential story for five, 10, or—as is the case with one of our Top Comics to Buy for April 24—45 total issues.     

As a result, this site and it’s many many lists have long rewarded deeper runs versus debuts and first story arcs. You can see that played out acutely here. Sure, our pick of the week is a self-contained graphic novella (more on what that is below), but the rest of the list is filled out by a stand-alone installment of a series now on its eighth volume, the conclusion of a meta book that has played with form, and a pair of third-to-last issues for runs that will span 24 and 45 total chapters. It is, in short, a great week to appreciate long-form skilled narratives in comics.

Let’s check it out!

Top Comics to Buy for April 24, 2019

The Replacer
Zac Thompson (read our interview!)
Artist: Arjuna Susini
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Price: $7.99
Check out our Trade Rating review of The Replacer!
The 1990's. Tragedy strikes the Beharrell family in the form of a debilitating stroke. Now the youngest child in the family is convinced his paralyzed father didn't truly fall ill but is pos-sessed by something sinister. He believes a demon, THE REPLACER, has come to take away his jolly, agreeable, tech-obsessed Dad. But no one seems to see the monster - and with every passing day, his father falls deeper into the clutches of evil. Based on Zac Thompson's true story of coming to terms with a disabled parent, THE RE-PLACER is a complete 64-page graphic meditation on loss, tragedy and fear told through the eyes of a nine-year-old - a horror tale about learning to walk again, even if a demon has to teach you how to do it. A bizarre mashup of IT, The Exorcist and The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, with stunning visuals by Arjuna Susini (Made Men), THE REPLACER is not for the faint of heart.
Why It’s Cool: I wrote about this graphic novella at length late last month, but The Replacer is one of the most personal comics I’ve read in some time, based on real events from writer Zac Thompson’s childhood. Being honest and personal in a story is an achievement in and of itself, but what Thompson also does here is use the storytelling chops he’s honed in recent years to tell a truly compelling tale that can also stand on its own merits, even if you don’t have any inkling at all that he’s spun out of real life. I wrote quite a bit more about why I loved this so much in my Trade Rating review, so check that out if you’re so inclined. If you want the abbreviated version, here it is: you will find no better way to spend $7.99 this year than The Replacer.

Criminal #4.jpg

Criminal #4
Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
A breathtaking single-issue story finds Ricky Lawless caught in the grip of violence and double cross after a robbery. As always, CRIMINAL contains back page art and articles only found in the single issues.
Why It’s Cool: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ newest volume of Criminal, the eighth total, is turning into a very rare thing in comics: a book that the creators promise will deliver value on a monthly basis...which actually does. This is, simply put, as unpredictable a periodical story as is being told within the industry, and I don’t just mean unpredictable in terms of plot twists. I mean unpredictable in that it’s nigh impossible to anticipate what each issue will be about from month to month. When this book was announced, Brubaker told us it wouldn’t be something that would be easy to just sit back and wait for in a collected trade. And it hasn’t been, like, at all. Criminal #1 seemed to set the table for another classic Teeg Lawless story, one that would maybe fill in all of the details that have long been alluded to in other volumes. Issues #2 and #3, however, entirely swerved, giving us a largely contained story about a classic comics figure whose career of curmudgeonly behavior in a thankless industry had pushed him into more unsavory pursuits as he fought to right perceived wrongs. It was a wonderfully meta story that turned its lead into a pastiche of esoterically famous figures from comics’ past. And now this fourth issue jumps in time again to give us an early ‘90s contained story about Ricky Lawless, one that feels as frantic and exhausting as the piece’s lead. We now know that Criminal #2 and Criminal #3 will be collected in a sort of director’s cut hardcover due in July, but there’s no telling when or if the other stores will see publication in trade. See what I mean? This really is a book you need to be reading monthly, lest you miss out on the excellence they’re bringing with each new installment.

Fearscape #5
Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Colorist: Vladimir Popov
Letterer: Andworld Design
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
In the final issue, Henry Henry shows his true colours as he-I promised myself I would not interject again, but alas I must: "True colours"?! Really?! I appreciate it is only marketing copy, but must the closing chapter of my opus be marred with such overwrought cliche? At least pretend to care. -HH
Why It’s Cool: This is, simply put, the best issue of Fearscape since the series’ debut. It’s the one that gives the rest of the well-done chapters meaning, the one that brings it all into focus. And, while I don’t want to spoil any of this payoff issue even a little bit, I will say that in order to tell this story, the creators had to make some really tough choices with their characters, choices that I imagine were very very hard to make with their characters. They did, however, go all in, telling this story in a way that earns every last reveal in this finale. In the end, what we get from Fearscape is a meta trek through the darkest aspects of literary ambition, one that shows us an unexpected and horrifying side to what the storytellers’ inherent and mysterious need for validation can ultimately cost him or her. I have recommended this book without reservation throughout its run, and I’m happy to report that the payoff—while disturbing—is worth the journey.  

The Wicked + The Divine #43
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Jamie McKelvie
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"OKAY," Part Four
Jamie, this is the last time we have to do big crowd and fight scenes. I swear, we can get through this. Two more issues after this, and then we can have a sleep.
Why It’s Cool: This is the third to last issue of the brilliant creator-owned Image comic, The Wicked + The Divine, which I’ve long associated with the publisher’s ongoing renaissance of imagination that first began in the early 2000s. While I’m sad to see this book about fame and desire and the sacrificing of oneself go, I’m absolutely loving every last issue taking us to its end. This one is one of the best issues in the entire run. In the past, we’ve gotten issues heavy with action and we’ve gotten issues heavy with reveals and we’ve gotten issues heavy with meaning that relates to the concept’s central themes. This issue, however, blends all three seamlessly, making it perhaps the most tangible realization of the vast potential that has coursed throughout this title since its beginning. Read and savor and enjoy. It should also be noted that due to health problems, artist Jamie McKelvie is on a slow pace to finish the final two issues, or so writer Kieron Gillen reports in this issue’s back matter.

The Wild Storm #22
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics - The Wild Storm
Price: $3.99
"The Sparks has the authority." Jenny Mei Sparks has assembled a group of misfits and exiles, to stand against a corruption that covers the world and orbits above it. The problem? She's probably too late. The endgame for a free Earth is in motion.
Why It’s Cool: Like The Wild Storm #20 before it, this issue gives us an explosive battle following nearly two dozen issues of expert build up. It’s going to really be something to behold. Also, as one can tell from the cover, the plot of this entire run has been about the re-emergence of a familiar team from the publisher’s past. You can easily guess, but I’ll go ahead and lay it out here all the same because I never get tired of typing it—Warren Ellis endgame (heh) here is to bring back The Authority. I have no doubt that the final two issues of this run will be fantastic. Now, the only question remaining is whether the new paired back monthly publishing line at DC will allot a space to continue making these comics. Here’s hoping they do.

Queen of Bad Dreams #1.jpg

Top New #1 Comics and One-Shots

  • Aberrant Season 2 #1

  • Achilles Inc. #1

  • Ascender #1

  • Avengers: Age of Infinity #1

  • Dick Tracy Forever #1

  • Electric Black #1

  • Ghost Tree #1

  • I Think Our Friend Dan Might Be a Dolphin One-Shot

  • Jughead: The Hunger vs. Vampironica #1

  • Princeless Princesses #1

  • Punk Mambo #1

  • Queen of Bad Dreams #1

  • Star Trek Year Five #1

  • Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge #1

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder in Hell Director’s Cut #1

  • Thanos #1

  • War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • A Walk Through Hell #9

  • Action Comics #1010

  • Age of X-Man: X-Tremists #3

  • Avengers #18

  • Detective Comics #1002

  • Dial H For HERO #2

  • Forgotten Queen #3

  • Honor and Curse #3

  • Invisible Kingdom #2

  • Marvel Comics Presents #4

  • Maxwell’s Demons #4 & #5 (Combined Finale)

  • Punks Not Dead: London Calling #3

  • Redneck #19

  • Terrifics #15

  • Wizard Beach #5

Check back to the site later this week for reviews of Fearscape #5, Queen of Bad Dreams a question and answer with Queen of Bad Dreams’ writer, Danny Lore!

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.