By Zack Quaintance — I have a tendency to say this a lot...but the Best New #1 Comics of September 2019 sure were exciting. There’s just a level of craftmanship involved here that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Take a book like Harleen #1. Nothing about the concept really did much for me, not the main character, nor the premise, nor the fact that it was on DC’s increasingly murky Black Label branding. But writer/artist Stejpan Sejic’s execution and craft elevated it to one of the best new comics in ages.
The other really really REALLY exciting comic from this month’s bunch is The Plot #1, from writers Michael Moreci & Tim Daniel, artist Joshua Hixson, and team. This is, to my mind, a flawless debut. As good as Vault Comics has been, books like this have me excited not only for the future of this series, but also for the rest of the publisher’s growing line. In other words, I was happy with the new #1 comics this month.
So, let’s check them out!
SFSX (Safe Sex) #1 was originally supposed to be part of the now-defunct Vertigo imprint at DC. It found a new home at Image, and we sure are glad it did. Read my full review here.
Ether: The Disappearance of Violet Bell #1 is an angry sort of return to Matt Kindt and David Rubin’s imaginative masterpiece.
There was a bit of grumbling online about Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1, and, look, I get it — this was a comic that had The Legion in its name but not in its story. Still, this was an interesting (and beautifully-illustrated) trip into DC’s future. I liked it well enough.
Strikeforce #1 was a very pretty comic book, one that (in recent Marvel fashion) makes wide use of the publisher’s many characters.
Trees: Three Fates #1, from the seasoned creative team of Warren Ellis and Jason Howard, is as polished and intriguing of a sci-fi story as I can remember in recent months.
Rejoice, for Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios have brought back their story of death and westerns and apparently now also the Golden Age of Hollywood with Pretty Deadly Rat #1.
Vault Comics is trying something new with the YA-leaning Relics of Youth #1, which you can read more about in Jarred A. Luján’s full review.
Going to the Chapel #1, which was co-created by writer David Pepose of Spencer and Locke fame, was an absolute blast.
Midnight Vista #1 is a freaky story of alien abduction, informed by a real experience writer Eliot Rahal had as a child.
Finally, of all these books, Something is Killing the Children #1 was closest to cracking our Top 5. It’s as intriguing and eerie horror comic debut as we’ve seen of late, this side of The Plot #1 (more on that in a minute).
Best New #1 Comics September 2019
An alphabetical listing of our favorite new #1 comics (and occasionally one-shots) that hit this month.
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Artist: I.N.J. Culbard
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics - Berger Books
With as apt a title as I’ve seen lately, Everything #1 is a debut comic that packs in a ton of ideas and dares readers to try and put it in a box. It’s a story about a new department story that sells everything arriving in the town of Holland, Michigan. At first blush, the audience might assume, okay, so this is a story about dehumanization and extreme, rampant capitalism. Which it kind of is...but then all of a sudden it also involves psychic disturbance, mysterious fires, and mysterious fires that may be connected to the psychic disturbances.
There is, in other words, no box that Everything could possibly go in, because we haven’t yet seen a comic with this sort of intent. High concept in comics these days are quite common, though, so what really lands Everything on this list is its polished and nigh-perfect exectution. Writer Christopher Cantwell, who has a background in TV, gets better with every comic, and this one is no exception, powered as it is by the crisp and bright linework of I.N.J. Culbard and the guidance of veteran editor Karen Berger. This really stands to be a surprising and essential comic.
Writer/Artist: Stjepan Šejić
Letterer: Gabriela Downie
Publisher: DC Comics - Black Label
As my very smart collaborator at Comics Beat, Louie Hlad, wrote in the DC Round-Up the week Harleen #1 came out, “I’m tired of Harley Quinn. There, I said it.” Louie then went on to praise the heck out of this complex and immersive comic. And I’m right there with all of that. This book really just caught me off guard with how fantastic it is.
I knew it would look good — I’m a fan of Stjepan Šejić’s artwork from such comics as Swing as well as the first couple of issues of Justice League Odyssey, which he was to draw the first 12 of before replotting forced them to be scraped and he was shuffled to this project instead — but it’s never a given that a talented artist will prove to be a talented scripter as well. That’s certainly the case here, though. The dialogue is solid. More impressive, however, is the attention of detail paid to Harley’s complex emotional life and interiority. This is as fully-realized a character as I’ve seen anywhere in superhero comics as of late. I consider this title a must-read for anyone vaguely interested in DC Comics.
Inferior Five #1
Plot and Pencils: Keith Giffen
Plot and Script: Jeff Lemire
Inker: Michelle Delecki
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Inferior Five #1 is the most singular comic DC has released in some time. It’s a collaboration between the massive and interesting talent that is Keith Giffen (himself responsible for some of DC’s classic stories), and Jeff Lemire, a master of forlorn and emotionally-stark graphic sequential storytelling. It takes place in an almost meta-reality, wherein DC’s Invasion story happened on an Earth that also has comic books about DC’s Invasion storyline. It’s unclear how much damage was done to Earth in this world, and, oh, Superman might also be dead. It’s all very interesting.
Giffen’s artwork is stellar and interesting, too, tapered as it is by the pitch-perfect lonely Lemire sensibilities that have made his past works feel so honest, works like Essex County, Roughneck, Royal City, Black Hammer, and I don’t know how many others. A friend of mine described this as the ideal book for Generation X DC fans, but speaking as a millenial (albeit an older one), I found a lot to love here too. I may not remember reading the Invasion as it came out when I was little, but I remember reading vague references to it within the continuity years down the line. And that’s part of this story too.
King Thor #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic
Colorist: Ive Sorcina
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jason Aaron’s Thor run looks to be wrapping up, powering as it did this spring/summer it’s first linewide mega event, War of the Realms (and no significant Marvel book can wrap up these days without first powering a linewide mega event). And it’s going to end with King Thor, which sees Aaron re-teaming with his collaborator from the start of the run (all of those long years and issues ago), Esad Ribic, on a story that will involve many of the threads running through this narrative, which spans basically the entire lifetime of the Marvel Universe.
It’s big big stuff, and while War of the Realms felt a little over-stuffed at times (and its ending was obvious and inevitable), this series feels muscular and slim, as if the creator is ending his time on the book 100 percent on his own terms. It also feels hard to predict. This is superhero comics, so obviously Thor will go back to a somewhat recognizable status quo one way or another. I, however, have little idea what all that will entail, and that’s how I like it. Really looking forward to this one.
The Plot #1
Writers: Tim Daniel and Michael Moreci
Artist: Joshua Hixson
Colorist: Jordan Boyd
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
And last but not least, we have The Plot #1. This is the best new creator-owned comic of the year, and one of the most memorable first issues I’ve read in I don’t know how long. This is a comic that does everything right. The artwork is clear and sinister, the creators are confident in their story, and the rate of revelation is perfectly attuned with reader interest, giving us just enough to feel oriented while hardly tipping the creators’ plans.
Following monthly comics through the direct market can be a bit of a grind. For every Wednesday that feels perked up by the blast of new stories, there’s that occasional thought that jumping to trades would be easier (and more cost effective). Debut comics like this, however, remind me why I love being on the front line of this urgent monthly medium...The Plot #1 is engaging, well-told, and a reminder of how to do comics right. Read this book.
Read more great comics best of lists here!
Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as Comics Bookcase.