Top Comics to Buy for January 9, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — Ah, after a few weeks with a lesser volume of new comics releases, it’s nice to get back to full strength. Yes, this week’s Top Comics to Buy for January 9, 2019 involves a far higher volume of books than the last two weekly installments, once of which fell the day after Christmas and the other a day after New Years (side note: already shaking my head about next year, when both Christmas and New Years will actually be on a Wednesday, leading to a rough two-week new comics hiatus, I reckon).

Anyway, this week was great for quality as well as quantity, especially as it pertained to creator-owned comics. I think I read more Image review previews this week than I did in the past three weeks combined. So many of the series from that publisher that launched late last year continued this week, and you’ll see many of them present on our list below, along with some of the usual mainstays.

So with all that in mind, let’s get to that list of Top Comics to Buy for January 9, 2019!

Top Comics to Buy for January 9, 2019

Batman #62
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Now features the Story solicited for #61 written by Tom King with art by Mitch Gerads. The Eisner-winning creative team behind MISTER MIRACLE is back together as artist Mitch Gerads rejoins the Bat team for a special issue! Professor Pyg is loose in Gotham, and you know that means things are going to get weird... and bloody!
Why It’s Cool: When this run is on, it’s one of the best long-form superhero stories in comics. This week, regular series writer Tom King is joined by his Mister Miracle/Sheriff of Babylon collaborator Mitch Gerads (one of comics biggest artistic talents right now), and you know what the result is? That’s right: this run is on. Since really catching the broader industry’s attention with a 12-issue Vision maxi-series for Marvel Comics in 2015, King has had a fast rise, powered in part by his fearlessness when it comes to experimenting with comics form. This issue sees him back at it, trying a new device (second person) that to my knowledge shows up for the first time in his work here. This Batman run aspires to humanize one of the most inscrutable characters in comics, and King’s use of second person here creates an interior familiarity that is often elusive in comics. Up there with the Cold Days arc and Batman #54, this is one of the best issues of this run.

Bitter Root #3
Writers:
David F. Walker & Chuck Brown
Artist: Sanford Greene
Colorists: Rico Renzi & Sanford Greene
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
With violence erupting on the streets of Harlem and his cousin possessed by a demonic force, Cullen Sangerye reaches out for help from an estranged family member. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, Ford Sangerye fights for his life at the gateway to Hell.
Why It’s Cool: Holy cow, this is the issue where all hell breaks loose, almost literally. As we noted in our Bitter Root #1 review, this is a well-constructed comic that looks amazing. It’s also moving at a brisk pace, with this being only the third issue and so many of the conflicts that were foreshadowed early on coming to a head. It really speaks to the confidence the creative team has in this story. They know they’ve built it well, that they have the audience hooked, and so it’s time to deliver on early promises. We’ll have a Best New Image Comics of 2018 piece coming later this week, and you can damn sure expect Bitter Root to be on it.

Euthanauts #5
Writer:
Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Colorist: Eva De La Cruz
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Publisher: IDW - Black Crown
Price: $3.99
Thalia has learned that you don't get to the afterlife without breaking a few eggs and planting a few seeds. In this issue-people die. Some of them stay quiet about it. When the ego is destroyed, what remains? Find out in the final issue of our first arc, Ground Control.
Why It’s Cool: This comic has just been such a gorgeous tryst through blurred lines of life and death, and with a solicitation that promises characters will die (duh), we expect big things from the finale of this first arc. There’s been an ominous morbidity hanging over every last issue of this comic (it is called Euthanauts, after all), and if fourth issue is any indication, it’s in this chapter that the creative team will likely deliver the demise that has been foreshadowed. The only question is which member of the cast is likely to go. One last point: writer Tini Howard and artist Nick Robles both landed in our Top Comic Book Creators of 2018, and we highly recommend getting on board with their work now. There’s still time (just barely) to say you were here before they blew up.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1
Writer:
Tom Taylor
Artist: Juan Cabal
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99
Spider-Man is the worst neighbor EVER! There are always crazy villains and property damage and drama and...and he CATCHES the villains. And he tries to fix the damage and he helps carry your groceries and actually that property damage keeps the rents down. You know what? Spider-Man is the best neighbor ever and this book will give you a closer look at Spider-Man's (and Peter Parker's) neighborhood than any book ever. Also, it wouldn't be a Spider-Man adventure without a threat that could destroy not only Spider-Man, but all his neighbors.
Why It’s Cool: Writer Tom Taylor keeps getting comics that are adjacent to Big 2 flagship titles (the third X-Men book, an alternate reality Superman/Batman comic, etc.), and he in turn keeps absolutely crushing them. I fully expect his localized Spider-Man comic to be yet another example of this. I also continue to call for Taylor to get a chance to write a more prominent Marvel or DC comic, bordering on outright begging at this point.

Self / Made #2
Writer:
Mat Groom
Artist: Eduardo Ferigato
Colorist: Marcelo Costa
Letterer: A Larger World Studios’ Troy Peteri
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
With Amala's true nature revealed, her creator has just one night to figure out how and why this miracle occurred... before Amala is lost forever.
Why It’s Cool: Even though the debut issue came out at the end of last year, Self / Made by newcomers Mat Groom and Eduardo Ferigato (edited by Kyle Higgins) is my pick for best new title of early 2019. This book is just so good. The first issue was entertaining and high-concept, reeling readers in with a standard high fantasy war scenario that quickly gave way to something more complex: the characters were actually—hey! No spoilers! Anyway, this issue extends the surprise twist of the debut further, pushing it to a place where it questions the very nature of existence without sacrificing any forward plot momentum to do so. Yes, it’s only two issues old, but this book is rapidly becoming something special.  

Gunning for Hits #1.jpg

Top New #1 Comics

  • Barbarella / Dejah Thoris #1

  • Captain Marvel #1

  • Criminal #1

  • Gunning for Hits #1

  • Turok #1

  • Young Justice #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Avengers #12

  • Cemetery Beach #5

  • Deathstroke #39

  • Die #2

  • Dreaming #5

  • Freeze #2

  • The Green Lantern #3

  • House Amok #4

  • Justice League #15

  • LaGuardia #2

  • Martian Manhunter #2

  • Outer Darkness #3

  • Prodigy #2

  • Thor #9

  • Unexpected #8 (final issue)

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.

Top Comics to Buy for December 12, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — Despite the name of this website (which is ironic!), I’m prone to Batman fatigue. It’s not that I don’t like the character. No, I think it’s pretty easy to make a case for Batman being one of the most compelling characters to ever grow from American fiction. It’s just that I don’t often see much new ground for stories about Batman to cover, so prolific are DC’s Batman releases. That said, I still fairly regularly find myself drawn into and torn up by well-done Batman stories.

This week ambushed me in that way. As you’ll notice shortly, two of our Top Comics to Buy for December 12 star the Dark Knight, while a third gets a recommendation in our new #1 comics section. So yes, this is a great week for all things Batman. It’s also a great week for Marvel’s (arguable) flagship character, Spider-Man, as Amazing Spider-Man hums right along and Miles Morales returns to Marvel’s pages just in time for his big screen review. Coincidence? Hardly. This is Marvel, and synergy is what’s for sale.

Now on to this week’s comics!

Top Comics to Buy for December 12, 2018

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Batman Annual #3
Writer:
Tom Taylor
Artist: Otto Schmidt
Letterer: A Larger World’s Troy Peteri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
"THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PENNY!" Alfred Pennyworth has been Batman's most trusted ally and confidant since the Dark Knight first hit the streets of Gotham City. Now, witness Batman's battle for justice from Alfred's perspective and learn how harrowing that journey has been as Batman experiences one of the worst nights Gotham City has ever seen-a night that will push Alfred to the breaking point! Best-selling writer Tom Taylor presents an epic tale that promises to be one of the most Alfred stories ever told!
Why It’s Cool: This is an emotional and well-told Batman story that may have you tearing up within the first three pages. Taylor and Schmidt are a pair of creators deserving of much bigger stages, and hopefully incredible work like this will help them get there. This is also a self-contained story, so even readers who have been off Batman proper for a while, can still pop into buy this comic.

Amazing Spider-Man #11
Writer:
Nick Spencer
Artist: Ryan Ottley
Inker: Cliff Rathburn
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
J. JONAH JAMESON has a new job as a shock jock, but is the world ready for a pro-Spider-Man JJJ? More importantly, is Spider-Man ready? His post-secret-identity relationship with Jonah was already complicated, but this very public embrace may put him over the edge! Spidey's definitely not ready for the Enforcers to come at him harder than ever!
Why It’s Cool: If it weren’t for Immortal Hulk, Amazing Spider-Man might be our favorite book at Marvel right now (with apologies to Black Panther and Captain America). It’s just been so good since launching with a new #1 issue in July, and now it has artist Ryan Ottley rejoining writer Nick Spencer to presumably replicate the creative alchemy that made the first arc so special. It also has some momentum, with last month’s Amazing Spider-Man #10 ranking as one of our favorite issues of Marvel’s flagship Spidey title in many, many years.

Bitter Root #2
Writers:
David F. Walker & Chuck Brown
Artist: Sanford Greene
Colorists: Rico Renzi & Sanford Greene
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
An evil force stalks the streets of Harlem as Berg and Cullen face off against a deadly creature that may be more than they can handle. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, a mysterious stranger unleashes furious retribution in the name of justice.
Why It’s Cool: The work of building this world and the way it works was set into motion so wonderfully by Bitter Root #1. Now, the creators are free to let us know more about their story and its characters. This is a visually lush and intellectually complex book, one that doesn’t flinch as it depicts monster hunters confronting ghoulish members of the KKK. In this second issue we learn more about the long-standing family dynamics at the heart of the relationships between our character. This book, simply put, continues to be an utter joy to read.

Detective Comics #994
Writer:
Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Jaime Mendoza
Colorist: David Baron
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Batman's strangest case begins as the new creative team of writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Doug Mahnke take over DETECTIVE COMICS! Commissioner Gordon calls in the Dark Knight Detective when there's a murder at the Gotham City Aquarium-staged to look exactly like Thomas and Martha Wayne's crime scene, right down to the Playbill and pearls. How does this bizarre homicide tie into the shadowy monster that attacks Dr. Leslie Thompkins? This creature looks to wage a war on Batman-and it's using Joker Gas to do it!
Why It’s Cool: There’s so much Batman goodness packed into this first issue of the countdown to Detective Comics #1000, the comic that launched the character. It starts with a bizarre mystery and just gleefully builds from there. I didn’t quite know what to expect from this Tomasi/Mahnke run and hadn’t heard the kind of buzz one might expect for something like this, but this first issue is poised to build that excitement right back up.

Fearscape #3
Writer:
Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Colorist: Vladimir Popov
Letterer: Andworld Design
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
Having escaped the clutches of the Fearscape, Henry Henry tries to... Aha! You'll use my name, I see, but won't let me speak! That you would require solicitation copy for the third issue, after the genre-redefining brilliance of the first two, is nothing short of a personal insult. The work speaks for itself. Any tale of my exploits should not be hawked to those asleep at the wheel.
Why It’s Cool: This meta story of literary writers’ doubt barrels forward, with protagonist Henry Henry returning from the mythical storytelling Fearscape realm to the real world. This is a singular comic unlike anything else coming out today, and every issue is one to be poured over. This story brims in equal parts with braggadocio and imposter syndrome. For serious patrons of the art and would-be creators, this series continues to be a must.

Check out our reviews of Fearscape #1 and Fearscape #2.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Batman Who Laughs #1

  • Defenders: Doctor Strange #1

  • Defenders: Silver Surfer #1

  • Fantastic Four: Wedding Special #1

  • Goddess Mode #1

  • Magic the Gathering: Chandra #1

  • Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1

  • New Talent Showcase 2018 #1

  • Planet of the Apes: Simian Age #1

  • Sasquatch Detective #1

  • Spawn Kills Everyone Too #1

  • Vampirella vs. Reanimator #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Avengers #11

  • Black Panther #7

  • Cemetery Beach #4

  • Dead Kings #2

  • Electric Warriors #2

  • Hawkman #7

  • Lone Ranger #3

  • Murder Falcon #3

  • Oblivion Song #10

  • Outer Darkness #2

  • Redlands #9

  • Skyward #9

  • Supergirl #25

  • Superman #6

  • X-Men Red #11

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. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.

REVIEW: Bitter Root #1 is a complex and fearless debut

Bitter Root #1 is out 11/14.

By Zack Quaintance — There’s a roadmap for success in creator-owned comics that’s becoming standard: a writer and artist collaborate at Marvel or DC, they build a fanbase, and they go on to drop a new series at Image, one that as a result of their past work together arrives fully-formed. It’s happened this year with Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Gideon Falls, and it’s happening again this week with David F. Walker, Chuck Brown, and Sanford Greene’s Bitter Root #1.

Walker and Greene last teamed on 2016’s Power Man and Iron Fist, which despite being one of the major highlights of Marvel’s All New, All Different publishing initiative, was tragically cancelled before reaching 20 issues, apparently because higher ups at the company decided Luke and Danny needed to be separated. To me this remains a silly move, but I digress...

We’re here to talk about Bitter Root #1, a debut comic that, simply put, knows exactly how good it is. It’s a confident book built for a lengthy run, and, as such, its first issue is mostly interested in orienting readers within its world (the Harlem Renaissance era), introducing them to characters (a family of monster hunters with rigidly-defined roles), hinting at a central conflict (a rift in said monster-hunting family), and planting seeds for future developments. First issues can sometimes fall into a sensationalistic trap wherein the creators push copious or excessive twists into the story, coming off as a bit desperate to bring readers back for #2.

Not so with Bitter Root, an immersive comic that relies on strong art and storytelling more than narrative tricks. It’s also as thoughtful a new title as we’ve seen this year (and it’s been a strong year for thoughtful titles). Like Walker’s work on books like Nighthawk, oppression and abuse of power loom large in Bitter Root. WARNING POTENTIAL SPOILERS: The story being historical lets this issue draw a connection between institutionalized racism and injustices that continue today. In one scene, a jumpy police officer opens fire on black characters in a park (having his bullets deflected by the story’s imaginative steampunk monster-hunting tech) before a monster rips him to pieces. In the next, we cut to Mississippi the same night...where another character is saved by similar tech from a lynching by the KKK.

The placement of these scenes in Bitter Root’s first issue to me seems to hint at the story’s aspirations: to interweave family, duty, monsters, and systemic racism, thereby creating an imaginative and complex narrative, as rich with character growth as it is with elements of the fantastical. Phew. It’s a lot, but these creators are up for the challenge.

Greene is a phenomenal artist with a style entirely his own. I knew from his work on Power Man and Iron Fist he was capable of kinetic sequential storytelling, but working in creator-owned comics affords him increased flexibility here, the luxury of flexing his sizable and eclectic design skills on everything from the monster hunting technology to the aesthetic of the monsters themselves. His work is versatile, as interesting when applied to the fantastic as it is to the everyday scene of weekend dancing that opens our story. Colorist Rico Renzi’s palettes also do the always-important work of tone-setting, of lending mood and ambiance to book with horror themes. A story as well written as this one deserves singular art to match, and Greene and Renzi certainly deliver.

I’ve been looking forward to Bitter Root since it was first mentioned after the unceremonious end to Power Man and Iron Fist. It took awhile to get here and it sounds cliche to say, but if this debut issue is any indication, Bitter Root is well worth the wait.

Overall: There have been plenty of monster hunting comics launched this year, but none have been as confident as Bitter Root #1. This story is complex and fearless, steeped in fantastical monster hunting, family dynamics, and systemic injustices. Combine that with the stylishly singular aesthetic of the artwork, and this book is a must-read. 9.5/10

Bitter Root #1
Writers:
David F. Walker and Chuck Brown
Artist: Sanford Greene
Colorist: Rico Renzi and Sanford Greene
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.

The Most Tragic Comic Cancellations of Recent Years

New Super-Man  ended last Wednesday after 24 issues.

New Super-Man ended last Wednesday after 24 issues.

By Zack Quaintance — Last week marked the 24th and final issue of Gene Luen Yang’s New Super-Man. The book was a standout of DC Rebirth, a publishing initiative that returned most of the company’s superheroes to familiar status quos. New Super-Man, however, was an exception, featuring an entirely new cast and situation.

Put simply, the comic was a story of a Chinese teenager indoctrinated into a government-run superhero program. It dealt with teen superhero tropes (while also subverting them—our hero actually starts out as the bully) as well as with current Chinese politics and ancient mythology, telling stories at the intersection of all three. Add Luen Yang’s writing—moving from poignant to funny from panel-to-panel—and the result was both unique and refreshing.

This is, of course, coming from me, a seasoned superhero fan, and when writers like me call Big 2 books unique or refreshing, they’re often bound for poor sales and swift cancellations. New Super-Man was certainly no commercial hit. Launching a new character, even one blatantly capitalizing on the popularity of Old Superman, is difficult. Volunteer critics react positively but the comic-buying public is generally unaware or, even worse, unimpressed.

With that in mind, it’s amazing New Super-Man lasted long as it did, especially since it was slated to end at #18 before getting a generous extension. This, sadly, is rare. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today: recently cancelled books that ended too soon. Ranging from gritty to whimsical, these books date back to 2015 and share one thing in common: they were all—to borrow from Twin Peaks’ Special Agent Dale Cooper—damned good comics.

Let’s do this!

Unfollow  seemed to rush its narrative, presumably because its run was cut short.

Unfollow seemed to rush its narrative, presumably because its run was cut short.

5. Unfollow (2015) by Rob Williams & Michael Dowling

Unfollow, which was part of a wave of new Vertigo titles in fall 2015, reminded me of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets, with its modern noir concept built to span triple digit issues. In Unfollow, an eccentric tech billionaire dies and picks 140 users of his social media network to compete for his fortune. The last alive wins. The book started out methodical, removing a competitor or two per issue and tracking how many remained with a counter on its cover.

It became apparent (to me, at least) the narrative was being rushed when competitors started dying en mass or off panel. It’s a shame. There was a sharp literary quality to both the ideas and writing in Unfollow, especially the character that was so clearly a re-imagined Murakami. I’d have liked to have seen more of this vision. Ran For: 18 Issues

 

4. Spider-Woman (2015) by Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez, & Alvaro Lopez

As usual, the team of  Javier Rodriguez  and  Alvaro Lopez  did incredible work on Spider-Woman.

As usual, the team of Javier Rodriguez and Alvaro Lopez did incredible work on Spider-Woman.

I suppose technically this book dates back to before Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic’s reality-ending Secret Wars (2015) event to when Dennis Hopeless started writing the character, but the incarnation I’m bemoaning began when it welcomed the incredibly versatile, frenetic art team of Javier Rodriguez and Alvaro Lopez (and later Veronica Fish). Together, they told a wonderful story about a superhero who decided to have a baby on her own.

In Marvel’s All New, All Different (2015) line (which followed Secret Wars), the publisher tried many slice-of-life comics, combining everyday problems and superheroics, ala Matt Fraction and David Aja’s all-time run on Hawkeye. Spider-Woman was the best of the bunch, and it’s a shame it ended with 17 issues. Although, unlike others on our list, it did get a neat and satisfying ending. Ran For: 17 Issues

3. Clean Room (2015) by Gail Simone & Jon Davis-Hunt

Clean Room was another title launched on Vertigo in fall 2015, and it was absolutely killer, with writer Gail Simone laying down an incredible depth of original ideas and Jon Davis-Hunt establishing himself as a Frank Quietly-esque star artist. This book had so much going for it. The one thing it lacked, however, was timing.

After this book ended (Gail Simone has said on Twitter she’ll do more someday), I read a rumor that DC had come to view its once-vaunted Vertigo imprint as a sales liability. This has maybe changed, with an even newer wave of Vertigo titles announced this week. Even so, Clean Room was a nigh-perfect body horror book that explored saviors, trauma, and belonging. If it had come during Vertigo’s heyday, it would have run 50 issues, easy. It was that good. Ran For: 18 Issues

2. The Ultimates (2015) & The Ultimates 2 (2016) by Al Ewing, Kenneth Rocafort, & Travel Foreman

Al Ewing's  Ultimates  came together to proactively solve the biggest problems in the universe.

Al Ewing's Ultimates came together to proactively solve the biggest problems in the universe.

The Ultimates showed up in the wake of Secret Wars (2015) and did my favorite thing comics teams can do: state a mission and work toward it. The team was America Chavez, Black Panther, Blue Marvel, Captain Marvel, and Monica Rambeau; and their mission was to solve the biggest problems in the universe—starting with Galactus in #1.

Ewing is a writer who for some reason (low sales) can’t seem to sustain a title, despite having done strong work on books like Contest of ChampionsNew Avengers, and the Inhumans book Royals. Sigh. In a different world, this could have been the flagship title of All New, All Different Marvel, but it got lost in the shuffle and ended up doing 22 issues (just shy of New Super-Man) over two volumes. Ran For: 22 Issues

1. Nighthawk by David F. Walker, Ramon Villalobos, & Tamra Bonvillain

Nighthawk  was a Batman, analog, a wealthy black man who fought corporate explotation, corrupt police, and racism in Chicago.

Nighthawk was a Batman, analog, a wealthy black man who fought corporate explotation, corrupt police, and racism in Chicago.

Nighthawk isn't just one of the best cancelled titles in recent years, but one of the best period. It’s a seeringly-relevant story starring a Batman analog who is a black magnate in Chicago. Racial politics factor heavily into it, but the book also contextualizes race with how society is under assault by corporate agendas, corruption, and segments of the public acting against their interests because change is scary.

Also, Villalobos and Bonvillain's art is incredible (side note, they’re re-teaming on the first of the aforementioned new Vertigo titles this fall, Border Town), and Walker’s script is just as good, with expert pacing, character motives, and straight-up action. As someone on Twitter said, this loss would be harder to bear if it wasn’t for the perfect final panel. No spoilers, though...go read this trade for yourself! Ran For: 6 Issues

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.