Top Comics of October 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This month there are quite a few titles from spring and summer appearing for the first time, books that launched with promise, settled in, and just now landed really memorable issues. I’d certainly put Action Comics #1004 and Submerged #3 in that category, both of which come from series I’ve liked from the start and was just waiting for a marquee issue to celebrate.

Meanwhile, our Shout Outs for October is heavily weighted toward superheroes. I’m not sure how this happens (or why), but I will note our Best New #1 Comics of 2018 had more creator-owned books. This could all, of course, be happenstance. I should also note this wasn’t one of the stronger months for individual issues in recent memory, but a quick glance at November indicates that is soon to change.

And now! On to the comics!

Shout Outs

I pointed this out recently on Twitter, but we are, indeed, lucky to have National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates writing comics. His work on both Black Panther #5 and Captain America #4 was outstanding, continuing to establish him as a massive talent increasingly confident within this medium. Shout outs as well to artists Daniel Acuna and Leinil Francis Yu.

Coates, however, isn’t the only massive talent with two killer books in October. Jeff Lemire had Gideon Falls #7 and Black Hammer: Age of Doom #6, stellar works from great series. Props to Black Hammer guest artist Rich Tommaso and Gideon Falls’ Andrea Sorrentino for their contributions.

Tony Stark: Iron Man #5 was a pleasant surprise in a series that is consistently fits that description. Writer Dan Slott and artist Gang Hyuk Lim incorporate (heh) Tony’s ethically gray younger brother in a one-off that foreshadows repercussions for the main plot as well. I’ve just found the futurism and corporate politicking angles in this run intriguing, so far.

Shout out to Bryan Edward Hill and N. Steve Harris for concluding their run with Wildstorm: Michael Cray #12, which ends the story of the titular character, murdering his way (sympathetically!) through evil versions of the Justice League within Warren Ellis’ new Wildstorm Universe.

Mark Russell is at it again in Green Lantern/Huckleberry Hound Special #1, which is set in the Vietnam Era, and told in a way that draws comparisons to now and leaves one feeling wistful for the integrity of Nixon and Watergate.

Not much to say about Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch’s Hawkman #5, other than carry on boys, what you’re doing with this character and book is refreshing and excellent.

Meanwhile, Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis’ Superman #6 was good, but Action Comics #1004 was better. Bendis’ dueling Man of Steel series are two of our favorite things at DC right now. More on that below.

Our other favorite thing at DC? Scott Snyder, James Tynion, and some of the best artists in the business ongoing Justice League epic, which reads like a really smart big budget epic touching every corner of the DCU. This month we get Atlantis, spread through a bevy of titles, including Justice League #9 and #10, Aquaman #41, and the Justice League Aquaman Drowned Earth #1 special.

Top Comics October 2018

5. Hot Lunch Special #3
Eliot Rahal
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Price: $3.99
After Hot Lunch Specials’ first issue, I pegged it as a generational, Fargo-esque Midwestern noir, a comic that planned to deal in equal parts with a modern American immigration story and the sort of organized crime retribution that would be more at home in The Godfather. There is, to be sure, a fair amount of that stuff in this comic. Hot Lunch Special #3, however, serves up notice to readers that this book is headed for places they never expected.

Every issue of this comic so far has been great, but this issue pushes the book to a new level, one of organic storytelling (not a food pun) that has me excited to see how this all ends up. I don’t know how to explain it that much better without revealing the twists. So, I’ll just say that Hot Lunch Special is a must-read comic, last month and from here until its end.

4. Redneck #16
Donny Cates
Artist: Lisandro Estherren
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
From its start, Donny Cates and Lisandro Estherren’s Redneck has been a neatly-constructed vampire romp, filled with Robert Kirkman-esque twists and a down home Texan accessibility Cates has honed. This issue, however, does something I wasn’t sure Redneck could: it goes to emotional places that are welcome and justified.

In fact, in the parlance of this title, I’ll say I reckon’ Redneck #16 is a great representation of Cates’ biggest strengths as a writer. It has a scene in which Nazis are outlandishly thrashed in a prison (so cathartic) and another later on in which a son inadvertently/reluctantly comes out to his father, who meets the news with easy acceptance. I never get tired of that scene, and Redneck #16 nails it. There’s been a whole lot of blood in this book, but this is the first issue with a massive amount of heart (in retrospect that sentence was gross and I’m sorry).

3. Submerged #3
Vita Ayala
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Colorist: Stelladia
Letterer: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
We wrote a Submerged #3 review, so we won’t rehash the many reasons we love this book too much, but we will note this issue made us even more interested in a title that has hooked us from the start. Simply put, Submerged #3 simultaneously takes us to the most fantastical places this story has gone while also rooting its stakes deeply in character. It’s a great mix for a wonderfully scary and introspective book steeped in personal experiences.

Like many of Vault Comics other books coming out right now, this one is very much a must-read title.

2. Immortal Hulk #7
Al Ewing
Artist: Joe Bennett
Inker: Ruy Jose
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
Simply put, Immortal Hulk #7 is the best superhero comic right now. I am far from the only comic critic to say this. Hell, it’s probably comic book critic Twitter’s favorite title so effusive have we been with our praise. Not that that means a book is unimpeachable, but what writer Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett are doing here is truly special.

They’ve taken a horror-laden approach to Hulk stories, which has been done before just not with this level of detail, imagination, and willingness to go to truly disturbing places. In this issue, the undead Hulk gets his comeuppance at the hands of the Avengers, who use a satellite from space to blast him into pieces somewhere in rural Iowa. Except, comeuppance is the wrong word. This title does a great job of making you feel sorry for everyone involved, which is perhaps the only correct way to handle stories about such a brutal, rage-driven figure.

1. Action Comics #1004
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook
Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Josh Reed
DC Comics
Price: $3.99
This issue hit me right in my personal life. In Action Comics #1004, Clark and Lois reunite after life has forced them apart. Now, my wife spent this summer in Washington D.C., covering federal immigration policy for the LA Times. Meanwhile, I was in California, working my own job, etc. In this issue, Lois and Clark pick up where they left off sweetly, almost as if nothing has changed, acknowledging that while neither can predict the future, their love is strong, even if their proximity must occasionally be distant.

I found it true to my own experiences with such reunions, especially in tone. I’ve also been a reporter for a decade, and I like Lois quitting the newsroom. I’m not advocating for superhero stories going too far into media industry weeds, but having the most-celebrated journalist on the planet give up the lousy daily newspaper grind to write books is a logical move. Books are, quite frankly, what everyone I know at daily papers now aspires to write. Mileage will (and should) vary based on your own connections with these classic characters; I only speak for my experience with the material.

Check out our Best New #1 Comics of October 2018 plus more of our 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.

Top Comics to Buy for October 10, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This week is one of those recovery weeks, wherein the vast majority of the comics world was at a massive con (in this case NYCC), and many of us are still dazed and catching up on sleep (not me, I stayed home in California and slept like a baby, but I digress…). The scheduled books from the Big 2 roll on, though, while the indie offerings are strong too. It is, as has become normal for 2018, another strong week for comics.

Yes even with the NYCC hangover, there’s still quite a bit going on this week, ranging from new title debuts—Devil Within, Infinite Dark, and Murder Falcon are all well worth your time and money—to the continuations of two of my favorite superhero books right now—Hawkman and Immortal Hulk. Oh, and about NYCC: I have a separate piece coming later today about the top new comic announcements. So keep an eye out for that! But for now let’s narrow down the comics you plan to buy for this coming Wednesday.

Let’s do it!

Top Comics to Buy for October 10, 2018

Crowded #3 (Read our review of Crowded #1)
Christopher Sebela
Peniciler: Ro Stein
Inker: Ted Brandt
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: Cardinal Rae
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Circe and Trotter, two of the heaviest hitters in the private murder industry, have just landed in Los Angeles, looking for Charlie and eager to collect the almost two million dollar Reapr campaign on her life. Charlie, oblivious to the growing danger, tries to carry on her freewheeling lifestyle while under Vita's lock and key. But even their safest safehouse can't keep the fame-and-fortune-driven killers off their trail for too long.
Why It’s Cool: Through three issues, Crowded continues to be a perfect amalgamation of suspenseful plotting, clear and clever visual storytelling, and a high-concept that extrapolates our present into a logical and terrifying future. This issue continues to entertain as it builds the near-future world out and introduces some intimidating new villains that are sure to complicate our heroes’ fight for survival amid the crowd-sourced bounty on one of their heads that continues to grow.

Hot Lunch Special #3 (Read our review of Hot Lunch Special #1)
Eliot Rahal
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Price: $3.99
There are no secrets now. Only bodies. It's dinner time, and Dorothy and Jordan are competing to sit at the head of the table, both forcing their family members to make hard decisions. Do the Khorys go to the cops? Or do they go to war? The Khoury criminal legacy is fully revealed. Some choices have already been made-the Irish crime lord, Big Jim Moran, is getting anxious. He's left too many loose ends, and he's forced to cut strings. The order has been given. It's time for everyone to die.
Why It’s Cool: I’ve called this book Fargo-esque in the past, but I think after three issues that’s kind of a reductive description that does it a bit of a disservice. Sure, Hot Lunch Special has crime noir and an upper Midwestern setting in common with Fargo, but it also sets itself apart with its deep interest in family dynamics. This is a deliberate and nuanced book, grissly and compelling in equal parts, and I’m absolutely all in on following it to its finish.

Immortal Hulk #7
Al Ewing
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
They're the reason he died. They're the reason he came back. Now THE AVENGERS have to bring him in. But how far will even Earth's Mightiest Heroes go to cage...the IMMORTAL HULK?
Why It’s Cool: I’ve made no secret that I love Immortal Hulk, especially in my recent look at the Top 5 Marvel Comics Right Now. For me, this is squarely a MUST BUY comic until further notice. I love how writer Al Ewing has exercised restraint with incorporating pieces of the usual Hulk mythos, limiting appearances by Banner’s normally-robust supporting cast. That is slowly changing, though, and here we see Hulk poised to tangle with The Avengers, as Hulk has long been wont to do.

Murder Falcon #1
Daniel Warren Johnson
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
From DANIEL WARREN JOHNSON, the creator of the Eisner-nominated series EXTREMITY, comes MURDER FALCON! The world is under attack by monsters, and Jake's life is falling apart: no band, no girl, no future... until he meets Murder Falcon. He was sent from The Heavy to destroy all evil, but he can't do it without Jake shredding up a storm. Now, with every chord Jake plays on his guitar, the power of metal fuels Murder Falcon into all-out kung fu fury on those that seek to conquer Earth. It’s time to shred.
Why It’s Cool: Murder Falcon #1 is brimming with the sort of self-aware over-the-top comic book cheese I love: monsters, mayhem, kung-fu fighting falcons, and metal chords so savage they can alter the physical nature of the world around them. THere is, however, a surprising amount of heart to this book as well. As entertaining as its name and cover implies with a surprising amount of thought behind it all, Murder Falcon is the best comic out this week...a MUST BUY.

Supergirl #23
Marc Andreyko & Kevin Maguire
Artist: Kevin Maguire
Inkers: Sean Parsons & Wade Von Grawbadger
Colorist: FCO Plascencia & Chris Sotomayor
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Supergirl's cosmic quest continues as she searches the galaxy for the truth about Rogol Zaar's connection to Krypton's destruction-and if there are any other culprits to be brought to justice. The library police are hot on Kara's trail after she breaks into the Green Lantern database on Mogo, but she's short on credits to pay the fine.
Why It’s Cool: One of my favorite parts of Brian Michael Bendis’ Superman run to date is the idea that Krypton was not destroyed by a natural disaster but rather a concentrated act of bigoted hate. It’s a very 2018 idea, this notion that major power structures can be manipulated by playing on base fears of the other. Anyway, in Supergirl we have Kara adventuring through space with Krypto the dog, working to solve the mystery of whether the planet’s destruction was a hate crime, who perpetrated, and—most poignantly—what powerful group of people worked to cover it up. This is, simply put, one of DC’s best comics right now.  

Top New #1 Comics for October 10, 2018

Others Receiving Votes

  • Amazing Spider-Man #7

  • Avengers #9

  • Captain America #4

  • Crowded #3

  • Flash #56

  • Hawkman #5

  • Oblivion Song #8

  • She Could Fly #4

  • Suicide Squad #47

  • Titans #27

  • Unnatural #4

  • Venom #7

  • Weatherman #5

  • Wildstorm: Michael Cray #12

  • Wonder Woman #56

  • Wrong Earth #2

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.

Best New #1 Comics of August 2018

By Zack Quaintance — I love any month wherein indie publishers sweep our top five best new #1 comics list, and this is (obviously) one of those months. I’m not sure how often this happens, but it’s always a treat. This month, simply put, brought one of the best crops of new creator-owned debut issues I’ve ever seen...two of which were even by the same writer!

What’s also great is the diversity of publisher among our top 5 best new #1 comics of August 2018, with books coming from usual suspects like Dark Horse and Image, and from other sources too, including AfterShock Comics, Scout Comics, and IDW’s Black Crown imprint. Yes, not only do we have a top 5 consisting entirely of indie books, we also have a list that features five different indie comics publishers!

The state of comics is strong, friends, strong indeed. We are truly lucky to be fans of this storytelling medium in such exciting times. Now then, let’s get to the list!

Quick Hits

It's been a while since I've enjoyed a big Marvel event as much as the first two issues of Infinity Wars, both of which came out this month. I attribute this to killer Deodato art and an increasingly strong overall state of affairs within the Marvel Universe.

The DC/Looney Toons specials were a delight, yet again. The Lex Luthor/Porky Pig Special #1 and the Catwoman, Tweety, & Sylvester Special #1 don’t hit Batman/Elmer Fudd levels of greatness, but they’re both quite good.

In my Extermination #1 review, I wrote about liking it because it seemed like minor cleanup of X-continuity in preparation for November’s relaunch of Uncanny X-Men. If that’s what this series ends up being, count me in for all five issues.

After what he did with Mike Allred in Silver Surfer, Dan Slott has 100 percent of my trust when it comes to nailing the family dynamic at the heart of the Fantastic Four. The first issue did nothing to change that.

I’m currently working my way through the original Sandman for the first time (I know, I know), one issue per night, and the reason why is because I found the Sandman Universe #1 teaser issue so intriguing.  

I loved Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins’ recently-concluded series Grass Kings. They’re back now, with a completely new book, Black Badge, and I’m all in. Read my review of Black Badge #1.

I have a new rotating gig writing the DC Round-Up for my favorite comics website, The Beat, and I got Pearl #1 with my first crop of books...and I loved it! Read my first DC Round-Up, in which I discuss Pearl.

Cold Spots #1 was appropriately chilling, promising more horror to come and living up to its title.

Leviathan #1 is one of those new books that brings together a creative union so perfect it seems like it's been going on for years.

West Coast Avengers #1 is a perfect use of every character in it, and a natural evolution of this franchise. I’m glad it exists.

Top 5 Best #1 Comics of August 2018

Crowded #1 by Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, Triona Farrell, & Cardinal Rae

As someone currently working a full-time job, plus three other work-for-hire writing side gigs that involve logging keyboard time fairly regularly at all hours (nights, weekends, etc.)...this late capitalist horror story about a young woman targeted by a crowd-sourced assassination app who subsequently contracts a defender via another separate app...well, it hit close to home for me.

My own economic and professional perspectives aside, Crowded #1 is simply a well-done comic. The pacing spares no tension, giving us just the right amount of info before throwing us into rapid action, and the bits Sebela and team reveal about their two lead characters are equal parts relatable and fascinating. What this book excels at most, however, is emphasizing the absurdity of what it’s like to work in 2018, extending the gig economy to a logical-yet-horrific extreme that should make every reader afraid, or at least introspective the next time they call an Uber.

Hot Lunch Special #1 by Eliot Rahal, Jorge Fornes, & Taylor Esposito

Hot Lunch Special, as I’ve said on Twitter, blends a generational American immigrant story with Midwestern crime noir evocative of Fargo. The result is a comic unlike any other on the stands today. Essentially, you come to this book for the mafioso murder/extortion plot line, and you stay for the touches of sincere graphic memoir—or maybe vice versa.

Even with severed appendages inside sandwiches appearing pretty near the story’s start, it’s to Hot Lunch Special’s credit it feels understated, as a good Midwestern story should. This is due in large part to the impressive work Rahal and Fornes do building character, particularly with the younger members of the family. An organized crime story is just so much more compelling when you start to tangle up those who are born into it, who maybe don’t realize the extent of the dirt and certainly didn’t ask for it. Rahal and Fornes know this well, and it makes for a great comic.

House Amok #1 by Christopher Sebela, Shawn McManus, Lee Loughridge, & Aditya Bidikar

Annnnnd here we have another entry from writer Christopher Sebela, this time via IDW’s en fuego Black Crown imprint, which landed a book in last month’s Best New #1 Comics with another favorite of ours, The Euthanauts. The hits will likely keep coming for Black Crown too, what with the Laphams rolling out a crime noir book this fall about a nefarious shape-shifting travel blogger (I know, right?! sounds amazing). But I digress.

House Amok is visually rich with the work of veteran artist Shawn McManus, colored so effectively here by Lee Loughridge, one of the industry’s best at using different tones to establish flashbacks and mood. In addition to the stellar art, Sebela deploys a precocious narrative voice, a child writing about her literally crazed family in an innocent diary, trying to parse her own little healthy reality amid the violence the older relatives she’s supposed to trust continue to justify are perpetrate. Lyrical and dark, I’m all in on this comic.

Long Lost Book 2 #1 by Matthew Erman & Lisa Sterle

Speaking of lyrical and dark, our next new #1 is more of a continuation than a pure debut, but we like it so much we had to include it. And, hey, isn’t more of a continuation than a pure debut an accurate summation for nearly every new superhero #1 of the past two or three decades? Anyway, Long Lost is everything that’s healthy about indie comics right now rolled into one brilliant sequential graphic story.

In this book, readers find experimentation with form, effective-yet-subtle visuals that convey mood, patient characterization, and ideas that are mysterious and haunting. By design, much of the nature of this book is still to be revealed, yet the ride we’ve been on now through seven total issues has been thoroughly engrossing, incorporating ideas about the past, moving on, and sisterhood. Do yourself a favor: find and binge every issue of this comic. And do it while spending a long and quiet weekend somewhere, nostalgic and alone.

Seeds #1 by Ann Nocenti & David Aja

Ann Nocenti and David Aja’s Seeds #1 is the type of comic that will bug your eyes, expanding your consciousness and giving you occasion to slow down and run your hand over its pages and pages of stunning and provocative visuals. This book is probably best classified as near-future science fiction, a genre thriving in comics right now. Something about Seeds, however, feels different; as if these creators were given an actual glimpse of a future, complete with logical societal changes that are as of now impossible to predict.

Maybe that’s what makes Seeds feel so obviously brilliant—its world feels realistic, yet very much the product of the creators’ minds, sharp and visionary as they are. This is a four-part series, and after one issue I’m unequivocally on board for all of it. Nocenti and Aja are both towering talents who’ve contributed seminal works to mainstream superhero comic books, and now they’ve gone off-map. Be excited and afraid.

Check out more of our monthly lists here.

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

ADVANCED REVIEW: Hot Lunch Special #1 by Eliot Rahal, Jorge Fornes, & Taylor Esposito

There is a very personal feel to this story about mafia debts and severed appendages.

By Zack Quaintance — To join in on the food motif of Hot Lunch Special #1, let me start by saying this comic book feels like a main course of generational immigrant success story with a healthy side of Fargo-esque Midwestern crime noir, plus just a taste of a cautionary mafia power struggle. That’s a big meal (end of the food references, I swear), but it’s one that writer Eliot Rahal and artist Jorge Fornes serve up (damn it) expertly.

I liked Hot Lunch Special #1 quite a bit, and the main reason why is that there was a compelling level of realism here, one that at times made it feel almost like a memoir, although not quite because readers are never that far removed from a cops or crooks scene, or gasp a severed finger in a sandwich (that’s page 1, actually). Credit for this realism is, of course, due in large part to Rahal’s script, which I’m fairly certain was heavily informed by his familial history, but it’s also due to Fornes artwork, which strives for and achieves an immersive and intricate level of detail in even the book’s quietest moments—especially in the book’s quietest moments.

Fornes also does some great work with his colors, using them as so many masters have to make clear which scenes were set in the distant past for an older generation (one word: sepia) and which are in modern times.

There’s certainly a lot to pack into this debut, yet the book doesn’t fall victim to a frequent first issue pet peeve of mine: over exposition. No, there are no lengthy exchanges between two talking heads filling in how grandma met grandpa or how the family business first became entangled with organized crime (not a spoiler...all of that was in the solicit). Instead, Rahal and Fornes expertly careen this story through space and time, sparing us any over-inflation and keeping the narrative tight. It works so effectively that I halfway wondered if this was an oversized issued as I read. Put simply, a lot goes down.

But it’s all manageable and the hands of the creators go largely unnoticed. By the time the third act here came to its excellent cliffhanger of a conclusion, I felt like I knew who our main stakeholders were (especially the fantastic antagonist) and, more importantly, I felt like I had a reason to care about the story’s central family. I am—groan—ready for a second helping.  

Overall: Hot Lunch Special #1 takes a very personal generational story and mashes it up with  Fargo-esque Midwestern crime noir. It’s a quiet and grounded comic mostly, one that also feels taut and dangerous by its end. This first issue is promising, an excellent start for what may prove to be a unique book. 9.0/10

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

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