By Zack Quaintance — You know it’s a good month when only one of our Best New #1 Comics of April 2019 has anything to do with superheroes. Why? Because this indicates that there has been a surfeit of great ideas for new creator-owned books, so many in fact that publishers like IDW landed multiple books in our quick hits section.
Yes indeed, in April 2019 the creativity was flowing, bringing us new stories throughout a wide variety of interests and themes and genres. So, let’s all be very grateful for that. As I’m fond of saying, this continues to be a fortunate time to be reading new comics as they come out.
Now let’s look at the books!
Section Zero #1 felt like a fun throwback to early 2000s, global order-heavy, pre-Sept. 11 comics. I dug it.
Earlier this month, Ghost Tree #1 was one of our Comic of the Week picks, with shades of Locke & Key to be found.
Maybe it’s the movies, but Thanos is slowly becoming the Daredevil of villains, becoming a comic that teases out the best in writers and artists, as evidenced in April by Thanos #1.
The Archie Comics horror books have been a nice window into how versatile those classic characters really are, and this month we got two of them combined, with the campy and excellent Jughead Hunger Vs. Vampironica #1.
I love an emotionally complex and heady comic, and this month we got one coming back in She Could Fly: Lost Pilot #1. I really feel like more people should be reading and talking about this book. It’s so good.
Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter #1 sort of surprised me with how well-executed it was. Given the name, I expected some schlock, but the book delivered some great comics craft with wonderful plot twists.
I thought Amber Blake #1 was an intriguing start. The creators here are clearly thinking franchise character, and while some of the trappings are there, it still feels like they need to show more to really give Amber Black some longevity.
What a stylish and good-looking curiosity Faithless #1 turned out to be. I also really liked the cutting, acerbic dialogue throughout. This comic reads like a slap to the face you didn’t know you’d enjoy.
Bronze Age Boogie #1 was another smart blast from Ahoy Comics. Everything that publisher does is just so likable, or maybe it’s aimed directly at my tastes.
Finally, move over every piece of fine art ever made through the years the world over, Major X #1 is here—ah, who am I kidding. I couldn’t even finish typing that sentence.
Best New #1 Comics April 2019
Ascender is a funny sort of new #1 issue. It’s definitely a continuation of Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s Descender, which ran for 30-some issues before wrapping up last year. Same artist, same world, and even some of the same characters. There is, however, something entirely new about this book, too. Something that makes it feel like a fresh comic.
The world of Descender was rooted heavily in nigh-realistic sci-fi, in a natural extension of AI and robotic technologies, tossed with tentative political status quos between disparate planets, and characters that felt full-realized. Ascender does not have roots in this sort of realism. It is, conversely, a fantastical fantasy story. What happened between the name change and renumbering is that the vast majority of hard sci-fi material in this world was swapped out for high fantasy touches like magic and dragons.
The result is a viscerally reinvigorated creative team and one of the best new #1 comics of April.
In all honesty, Fairlady #1 caught me off guard. Coming into this book, I was largely unfamiliar with the creators. I’m always game for a new high fantasy take in comics, but the cover was...not one of my favorites. It had a giant anthropomorphic cat character of the sort that has maybe been over-exploited for safe cutesy panels and laughs in our post-Internet cat video culture. I also was unclear on why a creator-owned book of this sort homaged a Frank Quitely cover for a recent run of Batman and Robin.
All of this is a means of saying I came into this book sort of skeptical...but by the time I’d put down Fairlady #1, I was a total believer. Hell, I’d even say Fairlady is among the books I’m most excited to follow into this summer. It’s just such a smart and rewarding fantasy take, set in a world of vast possibility with moving characters and a welcome attention to story details. I found the first issue to be immensely satisfying in all of its stand-alone glory, and I am excited for the future of this comic. Highly recommend picking this series up.
Speaking of expectations, I had an opposite thing from Fairlady going on when I opened Queen of Bad Dreams #1. This book comes from publisher Vault Comics, whose storytelling sensibilities over the past 18 months or so have consistently aligned directly with my own, using more literary trappings to find new ground with the graphic sequential medium. This sort of high expectations, however, can be a curse, making it more difficult for a comic to satisfy. I’m happy to report that I had a great reading experience with Queen of Bad Dreams #1, coming away thoroughly impressed with everything from the concept to the execution.
This book is, perhaps first and foremost, incredibly good-looking, rendered through powerful bursts of imagination from artist Jordi Pérez and colorist Dearbhla Kelly. Given the somnolent concept of the comic, the artists have the difficult task of illustrating dreams, in all their amorphous glory. They do so in a way here that just works, making it clear which parts of the world are real, and which dreamed, and even at some turns the type of person who is dreaming them. What also makes this comic work especially well is writer Danny Lore’s fantastic narration, which pulls no punches and gives it all an immersive, real feeling. If you’re looking for Vault Comics next buzz-heavy hit, look no further.
Ah, the massive linewide Marvel event, that allow annual (or bi-annual or sometimes even tri-annual) tradition in which superheroes often fight each other, at least one main character dies for like four months, and ongoing runs at all corners of the Marvel Universe are turned on their heads so they can fit into a concept that may or may not apply to them but lends itself to a COLLECT THEM ALL checklist. Sorry. If I sound bitter, it’s because I’ve had some bad experiences with all this in the recent past (see Civil War II, see also Secret Empire). I’m glad to say, however, that while War of the Realms is guilty of some of the blatant profiteering I smarmily groused about above, it is also in more important ways a different and better kind of Marvel event.
War of the Realms is a storyline that has been brewing in Jason Aaron’s seminal Thor run going back roughly half a dozen years. In the pages of those comics (drawn my multiple artists), Aaron has steadily built a threat that pretty much merits universe-wide participation from the hordes of Marvel heroes. What makes it even more exciting, however, is that the main book is being illustrated by one of the best art teams in all of superhero comics—Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson. Basically, when a story feels this well-seeded while also looking this good, some (if not all) of the associated latent cash grabbery can be tolerated.
Xena Warrior Princess #1
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Olympia Sweetman
Colorist: Rebecca Nalty
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Read our full is, perhaps, no better rising writer in comics right now than Vita Ayala. They have written some of our favorite single issues within novelty superhero events (see Marvel Knights 20, see Age of X-Man), and they continue to make great choices of new properties to work on (see Livewire). Xena Warrior Princess joins that list.
In this first issue, the creative team does an excellent job of finding the heart of the character and the world she inhabits, and building it into a tone and aesthetic that really takes advantage of the comicbook medium. I don’t personally have an experience with Xena, but I felt like I got a great primer as to what she’s all about here, as well as plenty of compelling expectations set for what’s to come later. Really, I think this book is more than worth checking out to watch a writer who is decidedly on the rise—and fast.
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.