By Zack Quaintance — This was a tough month for our committee of one. As I’ll mention later, it’s hard to remember a more hotly contested battle for the top spot. In addition to that, I also struggled harder in this Best Comics of September 2019 piece to narrow down the quick hits section to 10.
Why’s that? Well, the answer is simple enough — the direct market was a pretty interesting place for serialized comics last month. You can see it in the diversity of these selections. While the Top 5 is perhaps a bit over-saturated with superhero concepts, the Quick Hits section hardly has any, with Wonder Woman #79 ranking as our sole traditional superhero story. I like months like that. Variety is a wonderful thing.
And with that, let’s get on to our varied picks!\
Criminal #8 got edged out of our Top 5 by some big big endings, but it’s every bit as good as the rest of this series has been to date. Which is to say very good.
I could pretty much copy and paste that last sentiment for Die #7 as well. People wonder if Image is struggling of late (no more Walking Dead, Saga on a loooong hiatus). Books like this, however, suggest otherwise, at least in terms of craftsmanship.
Another bright spot for Image last month was Coffin Bound #2. You can read about why in my full review.
One high quality book flying under the radar is Lois Lane, and Lois Lane #3 was maybe under-discussed because of it. This title is maybe one we’re destined to not hear much about, but maybe it’s also not that kind of comic. I’m certain it will absolutely shine when we can take it as a whole.
Collapser #3 and Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds #3 were both brilliant. This entire Young Animal redux has been awesome, raising my expectations even higher for the forthcoming Far Sector.
You can read about why Alex Batts liked Tommy Gun Wizards #2 in his full review. I just want to say, WOW, that artwork is amazing.
G. Willow Wilson’s run took a while to click (and then it was announced as ending soon after it had). Recent issues, however, have just been so good, and Wonder Woman #79 is a great example of why.
Wyrd from Curt Pires, Antonio Fuso, and team is another book that really really clicked lately, and Wyrd #4 was fantastic. This is one of those series I think will have a healthy, beloved life in trade, if there’s any justice in the marketplace (a big if).
Immortal Hulk #23...this series is still all kinds of excellent.
And Second Coming #3 continues one of the best commentaries on societal values and the co-opting/misinterpreting of religion in any medium
Oh, and outside the other 10 in this section, I also want to give a quick shout-out to the last page in Event Leviathan #4. This has been an odd book (the word event in the title set an expectation for a certain type of story, and we’ve gotten another), but that last page drives home how wild this story really is, and raises expectations much higher for its ending
Best Comics of September 2019
5. Invaders #9
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Carlos Magino & Butch Guice
Color Artist: Alex Giumaraes
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Invaders #9 is one of those individual chapters of a larger story that makes you suddenly realize how good this comic really is. It’s hard to really articulate why, without seemingly pointing out many strengths that have been with this book since it’s start. I guess the big part of it is that within this chapter, it becomes clear that not only is this creative team making good on its ambitious intentions from the start (which it is), but also that it’s doing so in a way that’s incredibly heavy on craftmanship and entertainment.
There’s a lot to like about this comic — the use of the Marvel Universe’s history, the heavy focus on Namor and why he is what he is, and writer Zdarsky’s deft handling of subject matter that gets close to but never succumbs to being convoluted. The standout in this issue for me, however, was the giant action panels but out with regularity by artist Carlos Magino. Check them out in this Tweet, but holy wow, are they a thing of intricate beauty. More please. Can’t wait to see where this epic takes us next.
4. Black Hammer Age of Doom #12
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dean Ormston
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
It’s been a long and mysterious journey — one that also spawned a new superhero universe — and now its central narrative is coming to an end. Yes, the farm story that launched Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer Universe in 2016 is ending with this issue (which is not to say that Black Hammer is ending, there are more stories coming within that, perhaps most excitingly a new one to be drawn by Tonci Zonjic, a personal favorite of mine).
It remains to be seen where the Black Hammer universe can go without its central mystery. I for one, however, sure enjoyed the ending of it. There were some wistful touches, some solemn touches, and some that were so perfect they brought a quick tear to my eye (the gift of an ending for Golden Gail and Sherlock Frankenstein, ahem). It all made me realize how much I’d maybe taken these excellent characters and this singular homage for granted the past few years. What a work. I hope the creators involved find a new central mystery to set within this world, and I also hope it finds a new life in another medium via adaptation. Great stuff.
3. Wicked + Divine #45
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Jamie McKelvie
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
I love love love stories that end with a time jump and a glance at what’s become of a large cast of characters years after an adventure, crisis, or point of major consequence. And that’s exactly what we get here from the final issue of writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie’s phenomenal series, The Wicked + The Divine. It’s a perfect coda for what has been a foundational book for creator-owned independent direct market comics in recent years.
And it’s all kinds of satisfying to read for anyone who (like myself) has spent so much time with these characters, that they’ve come to feel as if they know them, flaws and all. Indeed, in classic Wic + Div style this is not an epilogue to shy away whatsoever from the warts and flaws. Instead, it runs right for them, and the end result is an ending that never feels saccharine or contrived. There’s happiness here (quite a bit of it), but it grows out the organic and tentative peace found by our heroes, rather than creator need to send it all away on a happy note. It’s fantastic, just like the entirety of this series has been over the years.
2. House of X #4 / House of X #5
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Colorist: Marte Garcia
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer Jonathan Hickman’s weekly reorientation/reinvigoration of Marvel’s X-Men franchise is, quite simply, the most exciting thing happening in superhero comics right now. Every issue has been stellar, but the House of X branded books have especially excelled, doling out as they have vital chunks of the new X-Men status quo in beautiful and entertaining narratives. These two issues when taken together perfectly exemplify pretty much all of that.
This may be construed as spoiler-y for those who haven’t read the books yet, so proceed with caution if you’re in that group — but what House of X #4 does is give us a taught and entertaining (and high stakes) X-Men adventure story that seems to end in massive catastrophe. Then, two weeks later House of X #5 recontextualizes that adventure in a way that also explains complex and foundational big ideas for the X-Men moving forward, informing and entertaining and striving to be high concept sci-fi all at once. It’s wonderful, and I absolutely love it.
1. Superman #15
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ivan Reis (w/Brandon Peterson and Doc Shaner)
Inker: Joe Prado & Oclair Albert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics
This is the closest month ever in terms of competition for the top spot (at least as far can be remembered by our committee of one). In the end, like many of the earlier entries on this list, Superman #15 earns extra points because it’s an ending. This issue does a couple of important things, but first and foremost, it pays off 18 freaking months of slow-burning DC cosmic storylines as filtered through the Superman family, the overwhelming and vast majority of which were drawn by the same art team (Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, and Alex Sinclair). You just don’t get that kind of patient and consistent run in superhero comics these days.
That was all great and emotionally rewarding for fans of the Superman family and Krypton mythos, and it really would have been enough to make for a high quality issue. Yet, at the same time, this comic also effectively introduces the Legion of Super-Heroes and United Planets back into DC mythos, after they’ve been missing or under-utilized for I don’t know how many years. The end result is something rare in superhero comics: an individual chapter that both rewards followers of a long-time narrative while giving a clear and exciting vision for what a large DC Universe story this will be moving forward. Kudos to all involved.
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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 Comics Bookcase.