Thirsty Thursdays: December's Hottest Comic Book Art

By Allison Senecal — Superhero comic art has evolved at a really impressive rate in recent years...so much so that sometimes it can be a lot to handle. First there’s excitement, obviously, but then that excitement turns into something else...which is why each month we’re running our Thirsty Thursday rankings, a new and different way to look at our favorite comic art. Welcome to a sporadic examination of (as the kids say) the month’s thirstiest comics.

Enjoy!

Martian Manhunter #1
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
I would be remiss as a noted alien…enthusiast to not mention this sinuously-sensual scene at the very top of this month’s column. Deep Space Sixty-Nine anyone?
????? out of ?????

In space, no one can hear you scream.

Shatterstar #3
Artist:
Carlos Villa
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colorist: Carlos Lopez
I’ll be sad when this series ends next month, but at least it’ll clear up a monthly thirst spot for someone else. Who doesn’t want a slice of Shatterstar…
💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Not today, fine. What about tomorrow?

Marvel Knights 20th #4
Artist:
Joshua Cassara
Colorist: Matt Milla
This issue really got to me emotionally, and I think that amplified everything. T’Challa absolutely ROCKING those street clothes, too. Any man who does that double hand clasp. Phew.
💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

When he apologized to Ms. Cruz? I felt that.

When he apologized to Ms. Cruz? I felt that.

Namor: The Best Defense #1
Artist:
Carlos Magno
Colorist: Ian Herring
FINALLY I remember to put Namor where he belongs: on a thirst list. It’s ok, we’ll go in-depth with more Namor later this month for the first *Thirst Spotlight* (not the official title, don’t quote me).
💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Namor… sigh .

Namor…sigh.

Die #1
Artist:
Stephanie Hans
It’s Stephanie Hans, so you automatically know you’re getting gorgeous art and beautiful people, but this literally hits every single one of my favorite fantasy character aesthetics in one go. *weep*
💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

This comic had me at  fantasy role-playing.

This comic had me at fantasy role-playing.

Thor #8
Artist:
Mike Del Mundo
AngelaaaaaAAAAAAAAAA. I would pre-order the Heven out of a Del Mundo Angela mini, but I’m sure the man has other things to do besides draw my favorite Marvel ladies. (See: his Elektra series.)
💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

Who said anything about worthy? The word is thirsty.

Livewire #1
Artists:
Raul Allen and Patricia Martin
The only other Valiant series I’ve read in its entirety is Secret Weapons, so I was more or less prepared for Amanda McKee being one of my favorite ladies again. Especially pleased to have her back in the hands of Allén and Martín, one of my favorite art teams going into 2019.  
💦💦💦💦💦 out of 5

I, for one, am absolutely electrified.

Coming later in January: NAMOR. Some Namor. More Namor. Followed by oh so much Namor.

Check out The Thirstiest Comics of November.

Allison buys books professionally and comics unprofessionally. You can find her chaotic neutral Twitter feed at @maliciousglee.

Best New #1 Comics of December 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This month naturally brings a deluge of year-end lists that can be fairly distracting when it comes to looking athe comics that actually come out in December. That’s why today we want to stick our usual practice of rehashing the Best New #1 Comics of December, because you know what? The last month of the year was actually a really great one for new series.

From new Big 2 superhero books to smaller creator-owned titles about wizards lounging in the sand and D&D, there was a great variety of new #1 comics in December. In fact, there were so many great new series this month that we had to extend our second section to include six choices rather than the usual five (it’s my site, after all, and if I don’t feel like narrowing down my selections, I can do that...this is one of the perks of having a site).

Anyway, let’s get to the new #1 comics!

Quick Hits

As the Stewart Bros. wrote in their Freeze #1 review, this new creator-owned comic has one hell of a central concept.

As I wrote in my Hardcore #1 review, this new creator-owned comic has a decent concept but impeccable execution from its creative team.

Kyle Higgins, arguably the reigning best espionage writer today, teams with Rod Reis on a new Bucky Barnes series in Winter Soldier #1, and the results are predictably great.

Wizard Beach #1 by writer Shaun Simon and artist Conor Nolan subverted expectations so well that it netted d. emerson eddy’s Comic of the Week.

Bryan Edward Hill did a great job grounding Killmonger #1 in the comic book Marvel Universe rather than the world of the movie, the real star of that show, however, was artist Juan Ferraya, one of our Top 2018 Comic Creators.

There was a lot to unpack in Batman Who Laughs #1 from writer Scott Snyder and artist Jock, but we can’t wait to see where the seemingly-madcap plot points are going.

Writer Ed Brisson is essentially the elder statesman of the current crop of X-writers, teaming with Dylan Burnett on the excellent new X-Force title (which you may have missed over the holidays).

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1 from writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Javi Garron is a thing of beauty: an exceedingly well-done comic that hits just as this character is making waves in the wider world with a new movie, (the brilliant) Into the Spider-Verse.

The Stewart Bros. also reviewed Prodigy #1, describing it as a ‘blockbuster comic, pure and simple.’ It’s a good one, to be sure, loaded with writer Mark Millar’s fantastic sense of what makes a great comics concept and artist Rafa Albuquerque’s kinetic style.

And finally, Snap Flash Hustle #1 from writer Pat Shand and artist Emily Pearson is another great comic from Black Mask Studios, featuring a great combination of creators who have separately been doing excellent work for a while now. The story they’re telling here is about a secret society of models in NYC that sells drugs. It’s very good and very stylish stuff.

Top 5 Best New #1 Comics of December 2018

Die #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
REVIEW: Die #1

We recently wrapped up our Best Comics of 2018 list, which takes into account how many issues a given title released last year. Die, of course, released only one, making its debut in December, and so given that sparsity, it was left off our list. I for one, however, would be utterly shocked if this was the case next year once this series really gets going. Simply put, Die #1 is the start of the next big Image Comic.

I’ve used that phrase before, just once, in my review of Gideon Falls #1. And you know what? I think I was right about that one—Gideon Falls took off last year, growing into (arguably) the biggest new Image comic to hit in 2018. With writer Kieron Gillen and artist Stephanie Hans, Die has the same quality hybrid of super-talented creative team. It also has a concept that plays into the current zeitgeist by exploring tabletop role playing games...and it does it with a darker, more adult tinge, taking the idea perhaps more seriously than others who have attempted to tread similar thematic territory.  

STL102782.jpg

LaGuardia #1
Writer:
Nnedi Okorafor
Artist: Tana Ford
Colorist: James Devlin
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Writer Nnedi Okorafor is an award-winning sci-fi novelist who, to my knowledge, made her first forrays into comics writing last year, doing so with Shuri at Marvel Comics and LaGuardia #1 for the Berger Books imprint at Dark Horse. It’s the latter I’d like to spotlight this month, combining as it does Okorafor’s seasoned sci-fi chops with a poignant satire of current events and the incredible and vibrant artwork of artist Tana Ford and James Devlin.

LaGuardia #1 is one of those debut comics that’s so well-built and polished, that you can feel the creators powerful inspiration at work as you read it. There’s a romance angle, a familial angle, and an angle aimed at societal commentary, all working harmoniously within brisk pacing and a compelling plot. There’s also a delightfully-absurd alien race of plant lifeforms that gives Ford a chance to really show off her design chops, even in subtle moments where a certain character appears. Basically, I liked this first issue quite a bit, and I’ve marked the release date of #2 (which happens to be next week). I suggest you do the same.

Livewire #1
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Raul Allen
Colorist: Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Comics
REVIEW: Livewire #1
To be blunt, it is about frigging time that a character as great as Valiant’s Livewire got a proper ongoing series. Livewire has been kicking around Valiant’s line of comics for some time, stealing entire series where she appears as one of many characters. Now, she’s not only getting the solo series treatment, but she’s getting it from one of the best creative teams in all of comics: rising star writer Vita Ayala and the absolutely stunning artist team of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin.

As contributing writer Toren Chenault wrote in his Livewire #1 review, this book stands apart from other superhero comics by putting front and center a rare thing in the genre: a character that has been under-explored. Ayala writes that character with a stunning level of depth, giving the book a moving emotional core to accompany its concept. This is the most-exciting new Valiant series in some time, and we can’t wait to see where it goes.

Martian Manhunter #1
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC Comics
REVIEW: Martian Manhunter #1
Martian Manhunter was the first of two new major DC Comics to debut in December (the other being Shazam! #1...more on that in a second), with Steve Orlando writing and Riley Rossmo providing the madcap martian artwork. Powered by a murder mystery set in the present and an exploration of J’onn J’onzz’ hitherto unknown past pre-martian catastrophe as a corrupt police officer, the story aspires to be an introspective take on what makes J’onn...well, J’onn.

This is a comic that feels like a necessary experimental take on a classic superhero character. Based on the debut, this 12-part maxi-series seems bent on giving J’onn the Mister Miracle treatment, exploring the interiority of an often inscrutable character with unspeakable trauma in his past. Orlando is a writer incapable of half-efforts and Rossmo is the perfect pairing to really give this book a unique aesthetic. This is, simply put, a DC comic to watch in 2019.

Self / Made #1
Writer:
Mat Groom
Artist: Eduardo Ferigato
Colorist: Marcelo Costa
Letterer: A Larger World Studios’ Troy Peteri
Self / Made #1 surprised me in the best possible way. Despite the presence of Kyle Higgins (espionage and action comics writer extraordinaire), I was unfamiliar with the creative team and adjusted my expectations accordingly. What I found when I picked up this book was an absolutely gorgeous comic that knows exactly where it’s going and is determined to be entertaining as it works its way there.

In spite of the aforementioned relatively novice creative team, this is a polished comic and a great debut issue. It orients the reader right away by establishing a sci-fi/fantasy war premise, atop layers of entitlement and classism. This would be all well and good on its own, but Self/Made also has a compelling twist it alludes to without being too blatant, leading to a powerful ending cliffhanger that simultaneously brings this story into focus and gives readers a reason to come back. I really can’t think of much else I would want from a new #1 issue.

Shazam! #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Dale Eaglesham & Mayo “Sen” Naito (backup story)
Colorist: Mike Atiyeh
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
REVIEW: Shazam! #1
DC’s other big debut in December was Shazam! #1. This comic, however, is a different deal than the other DC December debut, Martian Manhunter. Whereas Manhunter aspires to be an illustrative re-invention of a character readers could stand to know more about, Shazam! Seeks to tease out the core essence of these characters, re-enforcing what made Billy Batson and the rest of the Shazam family so compelling in the first place.

As I wrote in my Shazam! #1 review, writer Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham certainly accomplish this in adorable fashion. This is a character who needs to be equal part childish enthusiasm and super-powered mystical adventuring to function property. Johns and Eaglesham go all in on the latter in the main story of this issue, with Johns then doubling down on the former with an ultra cute back-up story drawn by Mayo “Sen” Naito. With bleak stories like Heroes in Crisis agitating large portions of the DC fanbase, this comic comes across as a welcome palliative.

Check out more of our many monthly lists here.

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

REVIEW: Die #1 is a MAJOR debut Image Comic

Die #1 is out 12/5.

By Zack Quaintance — Many comics—often comics I like—start with explosions or death or some kind of absolutely nuts narrative hook...often before we know anything at all about the characters. I understand wanting to open with excitement, like most films or TV shows, but the thing about a comic is the engagement comes slower. There is room, in my opinion, to be both intriguing and smart.

Readers (obviously) must turn the pages, making time pass as they process what’s happening in a deliberate way, deciding for themselves whether protagonists deserve interest or sympathy. With TV or movies, time passes irrepressibly, automatically engendering interest in whatever character an audience sees most (usually). Anyway, my point is that Die #1 is slow and patient at its start, giving us brief quiet time to meet our characters—and, more importantly—to like our characters before the stakes and action and magic begins. It does this, and does it well, and the effect is very engrossing, a comic that reads like a smart fantasy story for adults interested in thorough self-reflection (more on that later).

Die #1 is an all around patient and assured debut, often feeling as if Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans (what a combo, btw!) know just how good their comic is, how well-realized their characters, and how interested readers will be in their story. These creators, of course, do the narrative work necessary for fostering reasons to care, and they do it in a way that completely negates any sort of need for flashy trickery. There’s a pleasant lack of insecurity throughout this comic, a sense of freedom that shows through in the work.   

At the start, we’re given just enough info to know who our characters are and what they care about. When action does arrive, we’re in suspense, enthralled by the story’s mystery. There’s also an in-story reason some info is withheld. Basically, we know what that the characters’ know...until the characters don’t want us to (or, more accurately in this case, can no longer reveal certain things). The inherent mystery lends these proceedings a sense of grandiosity, doing wonders for Gillen’s writerly voice, which is generally quite strong (see another favorite of mine, The Wicked + The Divine).

The artwork is also absolutely wonderful. Hans excels at facial expressions, and she uses that gift to convey extra layers of meaning here. It’s one thing to draw a superhero wincing from an impact. Even without a clenched face, we get it—being blown up hurts. Hans uses expressions in Die for subtle inflections and added meaning, showing characters who may be saying one thing while feeling another. The conflict between the dialogue and appearances is both telling and true to life. Really, Hans attention to detail is just all around fantastic, applied to everything from shoes and to backgrounds, adding realism and making this story all the more absorbing.

Die #1 feels like a book its team has been thinking about for some time. It’s a fantasy story to be sure, delving into some familiar tropes (in the preview text, Gillen calls it goth Jumanji, which, perfect), but it’s also literary and smart. It’s not quite a deconstruction (not yet, anyway), yet it still seeks to approach the genre it operates withnin from a more intellectual place than is typical. Die #1 also incorporates RPGs directly into its plot in ways Stranger Things doesn’t. There’s a tendency in 2018 pop culture to fetishize D&D and the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. I haven’t seen another property do so as effectively as Die, though, which I think bodes well for its long-term viability. What also bodes well for this book is the complexity of its themes. A character says at one point: You have no idea how good this will be. This is fantasy for grown-ups. By the end of the issue, that quote sure does ring true.

Overall: One of the best debut Image Comics this year, which is saying a lot. Die #1 sees veteran writer Gillen operating in a story that demands to be told and also plays to the ample strengths of rising star artist Stephanie Hans. This book features nostalgia that fosters engagement without ever becoming a crutch. Read this comic, and enjoy. 9.5/10

Die #1
Writer
: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
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.

Top Comics to Buy for December 5, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This week is brimming with tough choice, so many that we actually ended up including a whopping seven total books in our top comics section, where I don’t think we’ve ever previously exceeded six. Most weeks, in fact, we keep it to five, and that’s plenty. So, what exactly happened this week?

Well, for starters DC Comics had one of its best weeks all year, with a pair of great new series launching, Doomsday Clock making its scope clearer, Deathstroke returning to form, and continued solid performers like Justice League, Batman, The Green Lantern, and Border Town all taking huge leaps forward with their plots. On top of that Marvel was no slouch and Image also launched some great new series. Simply put, this week is an embarrassment of riches, one likely to complicate holiday budgets for many comics fans.

What are we waiting for? Let’s get to the books!

Top Comics to Buy for December 5, 2018

*PICK OF THE WEEK*

Doomsday Clock #8
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
The critical and commercial hit series by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank continues following the shocking revelations of last issue. As the truth behind Dr. Manhattan's actions against the DC Universe are revealed, Ozymandias turns to the only being who can stop him: Superman.
Why It’s Cool: Before the first issue of Doomsday Clock hit, writer Geoff Johns made some oblique comments in interviews about the story being inspired by the 2016 presidential election. The unprecedented and chaotic nature of that election, and the sheer volume of societal corners it touched, made it hard to understand what he could possibly mean by that. This issue makes it a bit clearer, while still leaving the full ambitions of this story obscured in an intriguing way. It’s also a compelling comic book with clear and consequential stakes. Recommended.

Deathstroke #38
Writer:
Priest
Artist: Fernando Pasarin
Inker: Jason Paz
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Willie Schubert
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Deathstroke finally meets his match: Arkham Asylum?! Now an inmate, Slade Wilson must prove his sanity so he can stop an alien invasion (what?). Before he can even attempt a breakout, he's got to face off against angry Arkham inmates out to get him. And what's Two-Face's role in all this mayhem? He keeps showing up in two places at once! Meanwhile, Deathstroke's daughter, Rose Wilson, is kidnapped! Can Jericho save his sister?  
Why It’s Cool: For my money, Deathstroke has easily been one of the best shared universe corporate superhero comics in the past two and a half years, telling a story wherein the seeds of seemingly inconsequential moments continue to flower into consequential plot points, essentially using the long-form periodical medium’s unique strengths. The recent Batman crossover now feels like a bit of a detour, but after Deathstroke #38 I’m happy to say this book is back on its excellent track. Artist Fernando Pasarin is also doing career best work here, making this comic worth buying for the art alone.

Die #1
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE writer KIERON GILLEN teams up with artist supernova STEPHANIE HANS (THE WICKED + THE DIVINE 1831, Journey Into Mystery) for her first ongoing comic! DIE is a pitch-black fantasy where a group of forty-something adults have to deal with the returning unearthly horror they barely survived as teenage role-players. If Kieron's in a rush, he describes it as "Goth Jumanji." That only captures a sliver of what you'll find in oversized debut issue-where fantasy gets all too real.
Why It’s Cool: I’m tempted to just put Because it’s a Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans ongoing...Nuff said! here, but that’s probably a bit of a disservice and also I’m more verbose than that, although the fantastic creative team is a big part of the reason Die lands here. What’s more is that this title has a really interesting concept: it’s a black fantasy that sees grown-ass adults returning to close the loop on some magical horror they barely survived as teens, a horror they awoke essentially by playing Dungeons and Dragons. Basically, Die is just a great mix of creators, concept, and things fans will be interested in. It could very well be Image Comics next big book.

The Green Lantern #2
Writer:
Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Someone is transporting a mysterious cargo out of the Great Void, and it spells trouble for the universe at large! Hal Jordan interrogates a member of the Spider Guild for answers and uses his pheremones as an interrogation tool, but can he extract the info in time?! Meanwhile, Volgar Ro makes a play for Earth while its emerald protector is off-world!
Why It’s Cool: The Green Lantern #1 had all the trappings of a new landmark run on a long-time character (which Grant Morrison has done in the past, see Batman, specifically), and now The Green Lantern #2 keeps it going. This series is a hard-boiled psychedelic tropey police procedural in space, and so far we absolutely love it.

Immortal Hulk #10
Writer:
Al Ewing
Artist: Joe Bennett
Inker: Ruy Jose
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
Gamma Flight was too late. Shadow Base is infiltrated. Crusher Creel is damned. And the One Below All walks upon Earth. Now, in the place he was born, the Immortal Hulk is the last thing standing between the world of the living...and the GREEN DOOR.
Why It’s Cool: Immortal Hulk is, simply put, the best superhero comic coming out right now. It makes our top comics to buy every time it comes out, and it will continue to do so barring a major and surprising shift in quality. This comic is great. It’s the combination of The Incredible Hulk, Twin Peaks, and old school horror filmmaking we didn’t know we’d been missing, and you should without question be reading it.

Martian Manhunter #1
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
No matter what you know about J'onn J'onnz, you're not prepared for this! The acclaimed team of writer Steve Orlando and artist Riley Rossmo (BATMAN/ THE SHADOW, BATMAN: NIGHT OF THE MONSTER MEN) reteam for a reinvention of the Manhunter from Mars in this twisted, unexpected series. Back on Mars, J'onn was about as corrupt as a law officer can be, and when a reckoning comes for his entire society, he'll get a second chance he doesn't want or deserve! One shocking murder, and an unexpected fragment of the Mars he lost, will change his life-and the course of the Earth-forever!
Why It’s Cool: Steve Orlando doesn’t write bad debut issues, and his newest comic is no exception. He does a great job with the basics here, introducing us to our cast, clueing us in on his protagonist’s deepest desires and most pressing concerns, and laying track for the mystery that will presumably move this book forward through the next 11 chapters. Oh, and Riley Rossmo’s pliant martian artwork is fittingly of another world.

Shazam #1
Writer:
Geoff Johns
Artist: Dale Eaglesham & Mayo “Sen” Naito (backup story)
Colorist: Mike Atiyeh
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
The superstar team of writer Geoff Johns and artist Dale Eaglesham reunite to launch the first all-new SHAZAM! monthly title set in the DC Universe in almost 20 years! (What took you guys so long?!) Teenager turned super-hero Billy Batson struggles to balance school and superheroics! (Guess which one is more fun?) But when Shazam unlocks a shocking secret deep within the Rock of Eternity, it challenges everything he knows about the worlds of magic and his family's future as its champions! Also, witness the bizarre team-up of Dr. Sivana and Mr. Mind as they set off to build a society all their own! Don't miss the start of an epic run in the making as "Shazam and the Seven Realms" begins!
Why It’s Cool: This is an absolutely adorable comic that captures the elements of this character and his wider family that make it so special. It’s a great debut in that it seems built to appeal to both long-time fans of the character and those reading a Shazam! comic for the first time. There’s even a fun nod to the characters bygone (and rightful) name.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Black [AF] Devils Dye #1

  • Defenders: Immortal Hulk #1

  • Defenders: Namor #1

  • The Freeze #1

  • Hack/Slash vs. Chaos #1

  • Killmonger #1

  • La Guardia #1

  • Prodigy #1

  • Self/Made #1

  • Snap Flash Hustle #1

  • Winter Soldier #1

  • Wizard Beach #1

  • X-Men: The Exterminated #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Batman #60

  • Border Town #4

  • Crowded #5

  • The Dreaming #4

  • Her Infernal Descent #5

  • Justice League #13

  • Lodger #2

  • Low Road West #4

  • Marvel Knights 20th #3

  • Snotgirl #12

  • Unnatural #5

  • Venom #9

  • The Walking Dead #186

  • The Wicked + The Divine #40

  • Wrong Earth #4

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.