Comic of the Week: Self/Made #6 is a layered and complex finale

By d. emerson eddy — Since the first issue, Self/Made has been about change. Unexpected change and strange revelations, but change nonetheless, going from one state of being to the next. A large part of that has been rooted in playing with genre conventions and upending the status quo from issue to issue, so I don't want to go into detail about the plot so much, but I will say that the structure of revealing layers upon layers as the story progresses, like an onion, is one of the freshest narrative methods I've seen in some time. It's not so much an “everything you know is wrong” type of shock, but a continuous evolution of perspective. There is always…

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Top Comics to Buy for May 1, 2019: The Green Lantern #7, Paper Girls #28, and more

By Zack Quaintance — This was a big weekend for pop culture, with Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones: The Battle of Winterfell marking a massive concentrated culmination of the zeitgeist's ongoing concerns for the past decade. This is all a fancy way to note that this Monday morning I am very tired. Yet, here we are as always just two days away from new comics. Commerce must go on, even more so than Thanos or…

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The Saga Re-Read: Saga #34, who can you trust? Nobody...but maybe this teacher

By Zack Quaintance — The closer we get to the end of this re-read, the more I remember actually reading these past issues. With this one, for example, I can remember the very day and conversation at the cash register I had while purchasing this comic. I know it’s not that interesting...but also I’ve mentioned it twice later in this piece!

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Top Comics to Buy for March 27, 2019: Detective Comics #1000, Wasted Space, and more!

By Zack Quaintance — Here’s something crazy: it’s almost April. Spring is here and the first three months of this year have really just flown by. In fact, we’re now at one of those Wednesdays that was earmarked at the start of the year by many fans as one to watch out for, what with the release of this week’s headliner, Detective Comics #1000.

Issues like this don’t come along, obviously. We had Action Comics #1000 last year, but, looking ahead, there’s not another #1000 issue anywhere on the near horizon. With the Wonder Woman-starring Sensation Comics sidelined, the next title to reach such an august threshold will likely by Amazing Spider-Man, and we’re still more than a hundred issues and a few years off from that milestone. So enjoy this week while it lasts superhero fans. This hobby is nothing if not a celebration of long-standing characters, and a #1000 issue is a pretty good excuse to do that.

Now, on to the rest of the books!

Top Comics to Buy for March 27, 2019

Detective Comics #1000.jpg

Detective Comics #1000
(check out our review!)
Scott Snyder, Kevin Smith, Paul Dini, Warren Ellis, Denny O’Neil, Christopher Priest, Brian Michael Bendis, Geoff Johns, James Tynion IV, Tom King, and Peter J. Tomasi.
Artists: Greg Capullo, Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, Becky Cloonan, Steve Epting, Neal Adams, Alex Maleev, Kelley Jones, Alvaro Martinez-Bueno, Tony S. Daniel, Joelle Jones, and Doug Mahnke.
Inkers: Jonathan Glapion, Scott Williams, Derek Fridolfs, Raul Fernandez, and Jamie Mendoza.
Colorists: FCO Plascencia, Alex Sinclair, John Kalisz, Jordie Bellaire, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Dave Stewart, Michelle Madsen, Brad Anderson, Tomeu Morey, and David Baron.
Letterers: Tom Napolitano, Todd Klein, Steve Wands, Simon Bowland, Andworld Design, Willie Schubert, Josh Reed, Rob Leigh, Sal Cipriano, and Clayton Cowles.
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $9.99
Check out our picks for the best Detective Comics #1000 variants!
After 80 years, it's here-the 1,000th issue of DETECTIVE COMICS, the title that literally defines DC! This 96-page issue is stacked with an unbelievable lineup of talent that will take you on a journey through Batman's past, present and a sensational epilogue that features the first-ever DC Universe appearance of the deadly Arkham Knight! But who is under the mask? And why do they want Batman dead? The incredible future of Batman adventures begins here! Will have decade appropriate trade dress. After 80 years, it's here-the 1,000th issue of DETECTIVE COMICS, the title that literally defines DC! This 96-page issue is stacked with an unbelievable lineup of talent that will take you on a journey through Batman's past, present and a sensational epilogue that features the first-ever DC Universe appearance of the deadly Arkham Knight! But who is under the mask? And why do they want Batman dead? The incredible future of Batman adventures begins here!
Why It’s Cool: Folks in the U.K. may have this experience all the time, but here in the States it’s a pretty rare thing for a major comics series to hit four digits. Last year we got it with Action Comics #1000, which gave publisher DC Comics a chance to celebrate one of the longest-standing characters in all of American fiction. Now it’s Batman’s turn. This issue serves as a celebration of all things Batman, past, present, and maybe even future. Like Action Comics #1000 before it, this individual issue is an anthology that serves as a checklist of great Bat creators and concepts. It is, simply put, a rare thing that should not be missed.

Friendo #5 (check out our review!)
Alex Paknadel
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Colorist: Dee Cunniffe
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
The epic conclusion! Having barely survived their confrontation with the unstoppable Zaj ?ek the Cremator-who remains determined to leave their $#!t in ruins-Jerry and Leo are off-camera and off-the-grid. But where to go now that Leo's stolen pretty much everything he ever wanted? Only one item remains: the Action Joe action figure Leo lost as a kid. An epic showdown in the desert ensues, and a surprising hero rises...
Why It’s Cool: Alex Paknadel, Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe, and Taylor Esposito have spent four issues building a late-model capitalism fevered nightmare...and now it all comes to a head in this finale issue. Friendo has been startlingly twisted throughout, taking familiar ideas and extrapolating them to horrifying extremes. It was never going to end happily for those involved. What’s for sale with this conclusion is seeing just how absolutely off the $^#*@*ing rails things go. Like the rest of this series, it all adds up to one great read.

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #3
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Caspar Wijngaard
Colorist: Mary Safro
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Price: $3.99
A thousand dimensions from ours. All Earths' best hopes, resting on our heroes' fight. They've got everything... except a chance.
Why It’s Cool: Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt so far has been a delightful Watchmen sequel/homage, which goes in a totally different direction than DC Comics’ ongoing (and oft-delayed) Watchmen sequel/homage, Doomsday Clock. This is a book well aware of the impact that Watchmen had on the comicbook medium, and, as such, it is making form a key part of its plot. We saw hints of this showing up in a big big way in Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #2. Now, in Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #3, we get even more. It’s really strong stuff, and I can’t wait to see where the creative team ultimately takes it.

Snotgirl #13
Bryan Lee O’Malley
Artist: Leslie Hung
Colorist: Rachel Cohen
Letterer: Maré Odomo
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
The big day is finally here-Lottie and Esther are launching their fashion line! But why is everyone being so annoying? Today of all days! Don't they know how important this is to her?!
Why It’s Cool: Snotgirl from the start has been one of the most vicious, funny, and good-looking satires of online Instagram culture. And what, prey tell, adjacent idea within that culture is more ripe for satire than the pop-up shopping event? That’s what this issue essentially asks, and that question results in what I think is the funniest (and possibly best) issue of Snotgirl to date. I chuckled to myself quite a bit while reading this one; there are just so many great one-liners. This book is also benefiting right now from having established a great level of familiarity with its many great characters. Now starting its second full year of issues (despite being around longer than that), Snotgirl is a comic that knows what it is and what it’s trying to do, and it’s absolutely nailing it. This is a must-read series.

Wasted Space #8 (check out our review!)
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
Dust needs an arm; Billy needs redemption. Only one of these quests goes well.
Why It’s Cool: Speaking of books that know what they are and what they’re trying to do, Wasted Space has really found an amazing groove in its second arc, to the point where I think this is the book’s best issue yet. It’s just so smart, so funny, and so utterly confident in everything from its artwork to its characterization to the philosophical ideas that Michael Moreci has laced throughout this run. It’s not often that a comic comes along that feels this clever and this important/smart. I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: do not miss out on Wasted Space.

Top New #1 Comics and One-Shots

  • Bad Luck Chuck #1

  • Dial H For Hero #1

  • Femme Magnifique: 10 Magnificent Women Who Changed the World

  • GLOW #1

  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch #1

  • Star Bastard #1

Others Receiving Votes

Ironheart #4.jpg
  • Action Comics #1009

  • Age of X-Man: X-Tremists #2

  • Black Hammer: Age of Doom #9

  • Black Panther #10

  • Forgotten Queen #2

  • G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte #2

  • Ice Cream Man #11

  • Ironheart #4

  • Isola #7

  • Martian Manhunter #4

  • Punks Not Dead: London Calling #2

  • Shazam! #4

  • Skyward #11

  • The Terrifics #14

  • Wonder Woman #67

Check back to the site later this week for reviews of Friendo #5 and Wasted Space #8, plus a run-down of the stories in Detective Comics #1000!

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.

The Saga Re-Read: Saga #33 is an Upsher and Doff journalism procedural

Saga #33 first debuted on Jan. 27, 2016.

By Zack Quaintance — Hey hey, friends! Here we are back again with the Saga Re-Read, which if I’m being honest is one of my favorite features on the site, albeit not one of the more popular. And I get it! Following this takes a lot of time and also a lot of tolerance for my personal reaction to this comic. Still! I’ve had so much fun doing it, that once we wrap up Saga in 20 weeks or so, we’re going to start another comic!

And I’ve already taken to Twitter a couple times to solicit suggestions for what that comic should be. No final decisions have been made as of yet, but I should not that it is very likely to be another creator-owned Image Comics title from roughly the same era. Books like Wicked + Divine or East of West have been bandied about, and I will say that I find both of those to be very intriguing suggestions. I just haven’t finalized my pick as of yet.

But enough talk of other comics! Let’s get on to Saga, specifically to issue #33...

Saga #33

Here it is, the official preview text for Saga #33, which was first released back on January 27, cold a day in this world as there ever was (I don’t really remember, to be honest, and I was living in Austin then which meant less than 50 degrees would quality). Let’s get right to it…

Upsher and Doff are back on the case.

Hey! My guys are back. I’ve made no secret in these pieces that I really really like these characters. I went to journalism school, spent several years doing real news writing for newspapers, and still work as a staff writer for a trade journal today—I have a soft spot for the chase the story at all costs journalists type of character, even if I’m skeptical about any continuing to exist in the real world today.  

The Cover: This cover is a simple one, which is a trend I’ve noticed in this most recent arc, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. My favorite Saga covers are generally those that start with a simple, relatable concept and extrapolate it just a bit to the point it finds a new space that’s both poignant and weird. This one is basically just two reporters going to work, hand in hand...except underwater. It doesn’t quite hit the rarefied satirical air that some of the later media commentary covers in this series do, but it’s nice to look at and a great glimpse into this chapter’s story all the same.

The First Page: This is a solid first page on a broader story level, reminding us in one fast and good-looking stroke of who Upsher and Doff are and what their function is within this story. I should note, however, that having worked in a number of newsrooms, I found a photographer staring at a developing photo and saying out loud Goddamn did I luck into a golden triangle be absolutely absurd. I like that Vaughan was going that extra mile to show that he has a nuanced understanding of how photography and photojournalism works, but it’s like having a chef say, Holy hell did I salt this brisket to the ideal taste level...if someone said complimented themselves on the basics of their job aloud like this in real life, you might wonder if they were having a stroke. Nit-picky esoteric professional qualms aside though, I think this is a solid starter for the reasons I mentioned at the start.

The Summary: The story opens with Upsher rushing into the dark room and disrupting Doff, so as to break the news that The Brand—who dosed them with something that would kill them if they ever broke the Marko-Alana story—was dead, thereby freeing them from their professional constriction. After some really well-done office hi-jinx about meal reimbursement and frequent flyer miles, our intrepid duo is off in search of the galaxy’s biggest story again. They pick up right where they left off, following a (valid) lead that Alana is working on the Open Circuit...I’d say this lead is years old by now, but chances are this is all happening during the time jump.

We learn that Upsher has not stopped investigating this story, to the point that he found a lovelorn classified ad that Ginny (remember Hazel’s dance instructor?) had placed in a paper for Marko to find. As with all things Ginny-Marko, it’s unclear whether she’s interested in him or simply concerned about the well-being of him and Hazel. They go to Ginny’s house, where they find her surprisingly gruff and brawny husband, and this hilarious line when they cold call her at the door, Oh, you must be here about the trampoline. Ginny doles out a bunch of almost-truths, and the journalists are off to chase them.

The trail takes them to an icy meteorite on which they find—The Will! Who has packed on quite a few pounds since the last time we’ve seen him. The Will wounds Doff in the shoulder, reveals that he knows who they are and all about his sister’s past interactions with them, and ultimately takes the pair prisoner.  

The Subtext: This issue is absolutely loaded with media, to the point it’s almost a paean to print media. The golden triangle line aside, there are some great subtle touches in here...including the way Upsher has done his work, the editor pouring coffee and grumbling about reimbursement for travel, all the way down to how Ginny sought to find out about Marko with a paper classified ad. I know newspapers are a going concern of Vaughan’s (see Paper Girls, which would have launched a few months before the release of this issue), and it’s nice to see him play out that interest here in a future setting, seemingly making an argument that society (even a sci-fi one set among the extended cosmos) is always better with newspapers.

There’s even a bit of philosophical banter about the well-being of one’s subjects versus the way the larger world would be served by breaking a story, which in my experience is a conversation at the heart of every last decision made in journalism (or at least it should be). I also particularly enjoyed the confrontation late in the issue between The Will and Upsher and Doff, in which they get ennobled about their profession and he cops to being out only for himself and his own motives. It’s a nice way to get at something I also firmly believe about the profession: the overwhelming and vast majority of reporters (especially in today’s diminished market) are mostly doing this damn job because they think it’ll make a difference (and if they get a little money or some validation along the way, even better).

The Art: This story is essentially a journalism procedural, which let’s face it, is a pretty boring sort of narrative (I know, I’ve lived it), but Fiona Staples does a great job finding interesting visual touches to include between scenes of slow investigation. All of that leads up to a little bit of a scuffle at the end and a really interesting (and telling) reveal about The Will’s physical state.

The Foreshadowing: There really isn’t too much here, although I suppose you can make the case that because the entire issue is centered on Upsher and Doff, the creators are tipping their hand a bit that these two are going to be a continued and important part of the story moving forward.

Join us next week as we officially hit the only 20 issues to go mark—ahhhhhh!

Saga #33
Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics

Check out previous installments of our Saga Re-Read.

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

REVIEW: Monstress #21 is the best issue yet of one of comics’ top series

Monstress #21 is out 3/20/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Since it first launched in the fall of 2015, Monstress has established itself as one of the best and most interesting things happening in American monthly comics. The book’s debut issue—Monstress #1—was a fully-realized and extended affair that seemed to promise complex thematic interests and vast storytelling potential. It delivered to us an angry and compelling protagonist, a world in which nearly everything works against her, and a hybrid of science-fiction/fantasy/mythological potpourri rendered in exquisite detail by Sana Takeda.

Monstress #1 played like an action movie, a revenge story in which the oppressed discovers a deep and violent power within her and wields it in the service of violent and angry survival. It could have maybe been a one-shot and still left a major impression. It, of course, wasn’t, and the story went on to plunge protagonist Maika Halfwolf into a traditional fantasy journey, replete with challenges, new friends that might also be enemies, triumphs, setbacks, revelations, and more.

The book has been a powerhouse ever since, going on to win industry-wide recognition at this past year’s Eisner Awards held at San Diego Comic Con. What I, for one, didn’t realize when I watched it finally get part of its due was that this comic was yet to peak, that the narrative was, perhaps, just then preparing to ramp up into its endgame and take readers to a more dramatic, entertaining and immersive place than any of its nearly 20 issues had in the past. What we get in Monstress #21, essentially, is a clear statement that we as an audience—to be a bit crass—haven’t seen shit yet.

Simply put, this most recent issue of Monstress is absolutely packed with graphic sequential storytelling goodness. It starts on the first page with a steamy dream-like sequence in a decadent bed chamber that segues into a frenemy’s machinations against our hero. It’s a tantalizing scene in more ways than one that seems to promise future interesting complications. From there I could single out any number of other scenes to praise and describe, but instead I’ll focus on some of the broader strokes that make this issue feel so packed and consequential.

From the start of this story Maika’s relationship to her deceased mother has loomed large, influencing her actions as well as the world around her. What we get in this chapter now is the arrival of her other parent, her father, whom she doubts and questions from the start. The man is steeped in shades of gray, which serves the plot and the character’s feelings toward him quite well. He works to exert control over her while acting crass and a bit removed throughout. Writer Marjorie Liu absolutely nails this sequence, writing some of the best dialogue in comics all year, dialogue that hints at a well of complexity behind all that’s happening.

The comic then bounces to the grandiose, giving Takeda the chance to render a vast force making preparations for way, as well as a host of new characters that show up fully-formed, at once giving Maika an opportunity to learn more about her father and his forces, while also laying down a swaggering display of her own knowledge and power. I am absolutely in awe of the narrative structure of this comic, the way it packs so many high quality and disparate beats into these 20 or so pages. It’s really stunning stuff, a nice reminder of why we read monthly comics.   

Overall: One of the best issues of Monstress yet, this is the type of comic that at once reminds why you fell in love with this series while also stoking excitement for events that are to come. Just fantastic work all around. 9.8/10

Monstress #21
Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letterer: Rus Wooton
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 asBatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Criminal #3, a comic for people really into comics

Criminal #3 is out 3/20/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — This new run of Criminal is, without question, a comics fan’s comic. The book’s writer, Ed Brubaker, was recently on John Siuntres Word Balloon podcast discussing how part of his goal with it is to create a series that begs to be read monthly. Through three issues, Brubaker and long-time collaborator artist Sean Phillips have certainly done that. Criminal #1 was a tour de force in graphic serial storytelling, with an extended length that enabled the team to tell a rewarding and complete story, while at the same time seeding ideas for subsequent issues to follow up.

Criminal #2 subsequently saw an abrupt shift to a different time and a different set of characters than the first issue (though the protagonist should be well familiar to readers of previous volumes of this anthology comic). Criminal #3 is now the second part of an arc started in the preceding issue. This structure for the trio of opening issues firmly bucks the recent trend throughout comics of writing distinct four-five-six-issue arcs that are perfectly suited to be compiled in a trade paperback. Bucking that trend does exactly what Brubaker discussed on that podcast: it gives comics buyers a pressing reason to pick up the book each month. I know I have been.

The second reason that Criminal #3 firmly entrenches this book as a comics fan’s comic is that it occupies the same thematic ground as Criminal #2. In this two-part arc, a surly and deeply unpleasant veteran/semi-legendary comicbook artist is bent on recovering some artwork he tells his apprentice has wrongly been taken from him. There are twists, to be sure, and I won’t go into them here, but I will say that there are a plentiful number of nods to industry insiders, long-time fans, and comicbook historians. It all adds up to an immersive and quisi meta reading experience.

This issue is also a bold one. Brubaker and Phillips have an all-time great writer-artist alchemy, and they’ve had it for years. They don’t rock that boat here by trying anything structurally experimental or thematically edgy. What they do, however, is take a read of the current comics landscape and come back with somewhat of a defiant statement within the context of an expertly-told and very organic story. What I mean is that like all of us who way way waaaay into the world of comics, they’ve been hearing the gloom and doom of mercurial sales numbers and voices predicting the end of everything from paper comics to the direct market to superhero stories that span eight continuous decades.

They’ve clearly heard it all, and rather than writing an opinion column or going on a podcast—things we’ve seen and heard veteran creators, retailers and industry watchers do ad nauseum—they have an actual story stand as a refutation. Hell, at one point the curmudgeonly artist who’s seen it all even comes out and says Comics have been dying since 1954, kid...don’t let that stop you...  

Hearing that reassurance related to the medium I love in the context of a story that shows what it’s capable of had a different and much more poignant impact on me. It seemed to be encouraging, not only for me as a review/aspiring creator, but for the continuing existence of stories of any type in the face of a changing economic reality. It seemed to say that the security in exchange for stories has never been a given, has never been an easy thing to achieve, and yet art has been made anway. If you want to do this, do it. The rest will figure itself out, for better or worse.

Overall: Criminal #3, like the rest of Brubaker and Phillips’ latest series, is a real comics fan’s comic, filled with insider touches and meta commentary, all encased within the duo’s all-time great creative chemistry. This book is a must-read, every damn month. 9.6/10

Criminal #3
Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99

Get a refresher on the other volumes of Criminal!

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.  

REVIEW: Lazarus Risen #1, same fantastic comic, new deeper format

Lazarus Risen #1 is out 3/20/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — I really don’t think it’s possible to heap enough praise atop writer Greg Rucka and artist Michael Lark’s immersive dystopian near-future comic epic, Lazarus. I recently re-read the entire series, and once I got about mid-way through the second volume, I almost literally could not put it down. The world is so well-built, the characters compelling and complex, the dilemmas they face suspenseful. All in all, this is one of the smartest and most compulsively readable comics on the market, a must-read for any fan of the medium.

To date, there have been 28 issues of Lazarus in the main series, plus a six-issue auxiliary series titled Lazarus: X+66, which fills in the gaps of side characters and the story’s broader world over the course of a 12-month period. All told, that’s about 34 incredible issues of content, plus some other supplemental material with more information that help support a Lazarus RPG. This is all a means of saying that even though Lazarus: Risen #1 is a a new #1 issue, it’s set in a thoroughly explored world during what seems like not-quite the midway point of a long story.

The reason this issue gets the new #1 treatment is that the book is back with a new format: quarterly releases that clock in at an extended length. Let me start this review (three paragraphs in, streamlined I am not) by noting that the story, artwork, plot, and characters are just as strong as ever. The quality in Lazarus never wavers, not even a little bit. Rucka and Lark are a skilled and veteran team that have worked together for years, and it shows. This is the most fully-formed comic on the market—bar none—and as a result it often feels like the creative team is a conduit for the truth of this plot. Nothing is ever contrived, not even a bit, and Lazarus Risen #1 is no exception. It’s as compulsive readable and utterly immersive as all that’s come before it.

So, what then of the new format? Surely, it must have changed something. I suppose it did. Rucka and Lark being such a veteran creative team means each issue of Lazarus to date has tread that rarefied ground in which the individual chapters feel both episodic and part of a larger narrative. Each issue has story beats and damn near close to a three-act structure. Extending the length allows the team to pace the story just a tiny bit differently, opening up a few pages for quieter and more subtle character work and plotting. Rucka points this out in publication, but in this issue that means we get a very telling moment between Bethany Carlyle and and her husband. It’s the type of scene that maybe didn’t fit into any of the tighter issues of the past.

This issue hums along, and Lazarus remains the type of comic you start, blink, and realize you’ve devoured...before going back to pour over every page again. Few comics feel as real as this one, and Lazarus Risen #1 does a number of interesting things with the ongoing plot and characters, moving pieces into place that speak of a larger coming battle, at home and with the forces abroad. It’s not really a jumping on point for new readers—indeed, the previous five volumes at minimum are necessary here—before for those who have followed this journey in recent time or come to it lately, this comic is everything they could hope for from a return.   

Overall: Lazarus Risen #1 with its new extended format feels like a natural evolution of one of the best comics on the market today. At this point, the world is so well-realized and the plot so compelling, nothing is lost with a longer wait and much is gained with more space for additional complexity. 9.8/10

Lazarus Risen #1
Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark w/Tyler Boss
Colorist: Santi Arcas
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $7.99

Get caught up on the book with our Lazarus Retrospective!

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 March 20, 2019 - Lazarus, Criminal, Wild Storm, and more

By Zack Quaintance — Someone pinch me, I must be dreaming...this week’s comics seem like they were precisely custom-tailored to my tastes. Indeed, many of the books that I gush about on the regular (which is admittedly a long wish) have new issues coming this week. That includes a long-awaited return of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s Lazarus Risen, the steady drumbeat of horrifying excellence that is Immortal Hulk, and top-tier creator-owned books from Image, be it Monstress or Criminal.

There’s a lot of my old favorites among the Top Comics to Buy for March 20. There are also some notable new books arriving too. I’m thinking specifically here of Dark Red #1 from AfterShock Comics (a rapidly rising indie publisher) and Invisible Kingdom #1 from Dark Horse. The latter is a trippy visual tour de force laced with complex ideas about everything from commerce to religion (see our Invisible Kingdom #1 review) while the former follows a vampire who works at a rural gas station in Trump’s red state America (see our Dark Red #1 review too). It’s all good stuff.

So, without further adieu, on to this week’s comics!

Top Comics to Buy for March 20, 2019

Lazarus Risen #1
(read our review!)
Greg Rucka
Artist: Michael Lark w/Tyler Boss
Colorist: Santi Arcas
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $7.99
NEW STORY ARC! "FRACTURE I," Part One LAZARUS returns in an all-new prestige format! New series, new story arc, new size, and a new quarterly schedule!
Introducing a new ongoing LAZARUS series-at 64 pages, perfect bound, LAZARUS: RISEN continues the story of Forever and the Carlyle Family... featuring an oversized, 44-page story by Eisner winners GREG RUCKA and MICHAEL LARK, an all-new short story exploring the larger world of LAZARUS by Eisner-nominated writer LILAH STURGES, an all-new supplement to the Modern Age: World of Lazarus Roleplaying Game by Green Ronin, original design artifacts and art supplements, and more! Two years have passed since the Carlyle Family was betrayed in battle, and the Conclave War encroaches on every side. As a new era dawns, Johanna Carlyle goes on the attack to ensure the survival of her Family, relying on the loyalty and support of the Carlyle Lazarus-her sister, Forever-remaining at her side. And while their united front may be enough to turn the tide, the cracks are beginning to show…
Why It’s Cool: Lazarus is one of the best creator-owned comics of the modern era. It’s complex, suspenseful, immersive, and compulsively readable. Now, the book is transitioning to a prestige quarterly format, which means fewer issues per year but just as much content (hopefully). In this first issue back, the comic hasn’t lost a step at all. In fact, I’d argue that it’s actually better than it used to be in monthly installments. Rucka and Lark are veteran creators who make compressed comics that are rewarding to read both in installments and trade. As such, this book hits certain story beats within each issue. Having the extra pages of the quarterly format allows them to do much more, like a TV show expanding from 30 minutes to an hour. It’s really something, and this series gets my full recommendation. Simply put, if you love comics you really ought to be reading Lazarus.
Read our Lazarus Retrospective!

Criminal #3 (read our review!)
Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE LONGEST WEEKEND," Part Two-Jacob's weekend taking care of his old mentor takes a turn for the worse.  As always, CRIMINAL contains back page art and articles only found in the single issues.
Why It’s Cool: In this new volume of Criminal, you can practically feel writer Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips fighting to change the narrative that monthly comics are dead. They do so in a couple of ways in this issue. First of all, they wrap up an incredible two-part story that they started last month, making it so it fits into the larger arc of this comic while also standing on its own as a satisfying bit of graphic sequential storytelling. Second, they make it a meta story in the best way, one steeped in comics history and culture that literally reminds the reader that comics have been dying since 1954. In the hands of lesser creators, this could feel preachy, forced, or even self-indulgent. But a master team like Brubaker and Phillips pulls it off flawlessly.
Read about Criminal’s previous volumes!

Immortal Hulk #15
Al Ewing
Artist: Joe Bennett
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
Dr. Leonard Samson is a gamma mutate and part-time superhero who recently came back from the dead. He's been wanting to discuss that with an old patient of his... But he's not here to see Bruce Banner. Take a seat on the couch, IMMORTAL HULK. It's going to be quite a session.
Why It’s Cool: Phew, that last issue of Immortal Hulk was a doozy. But, really, I could probably say that after every issue of Immortal Hulk. This is, simply put, Marvel’s best comic in years. The concept and creative team from the start have been sound, but you can say that about a lot of Marvel’s books. What really sets Immortal Hulk apart is that it hasn’t ceeded any quality in the service of deadlines or events or anything. It’s been as unmovable in that regard as the Hulk himself. At the same time, it’s pushed into increasingly new and horrifying plot territories, keeping the feeling of unpredictable storytelling tension that powered its earliest issues. One way the story has done that is withholding much of the Hulk’s ample supporting cast before bringing them in slowly one by one. This issue looks to be the one in which Doc Sampson enters the fray. So, hurray for that. One last note: I only read this book after dark and strongly suggest you do the same.

Monstress #21
Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
It's a turning point in Maika's life when she comes face-to-face with a stranger from her deep past.
Why It’s Cool: Love! War! Family! It’s all here in the latest issue of what has fast-become the most grandiose arc of Monstress to date, which is really saying something when you think back to the opener. Monstress #21 really has an overload of the things that make a single installment of a long-running story pop: new revelations, new characters, the promise of action to come soon, a clear push toward the climax, and a set of artwork as varied as it is stunning. I’m constantly impressed with the work Sana Takeda has done with this book, yet I’ve rarely seen her hit such a versatile range of visuals as she does in this issue, be it the adorable renderings of Maika as a child to the intricate character and equipment designs we get in the modern day. Writer Marjorie Liu also writes some of the best and pithiest dialogue for her heroine yet, bantering as she does with a key figure in her life (no spoilers). From start to finish, just a stunning issue.

The Wild Storm #21
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics - WildStorm
Price: $3.99
The experimental subjects code-named Apollo and Midnighter have broken cover. Combat-optimized superhumans are now loose on the Earth.
Why It’s Cool: Last month’s The Wild Storm #20 was the best issue of this series to date. After 19 issues of slow burn, the creators finally unleashed Apollo and The Midnighter, giving nearly the entire issue to a prolonged action sequence followed by a bit of romance. Was it fan service? Perhaps a little, but it was earned and also executed in the best possible way. This issue brings the focus back to some of the other characters, but make no mistake—the march to the assembling of The Authority continues, and oh what a thing that will be when it happens. There’s only three issues left. Two years ago I’d have guaranteed that this was building into the launch of a new The Authority comic, but with DC scaling back publishing plans under its new corporate owners, I’m inclined to estimate these three issues will be the last we see of these characters for some time. But, hell if I’m not going to savor every page of it. With a writer like Warren Ellis collaborating with an artist like Jon Davis-Hunt, this comic is just too good.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Dark Red #1 (read our review!)

  • Dungeons and Dragons: A Darkened Wish #1

  • Invisible Kingdom #1 (read our review!)

  • Life and Death of Toyo Harada #1

  • Monstrous European Getaway #1

  • Rise #1

  • Spider-Man: City at War #1

  • Spider-Man: Life Story #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Aquaman #46

  • Archie #703

  • Avengers #17

  • Batman #67

  • Bitter Root #5

  • Black Badge #8

  • Electric Warriors #5

  • Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #4

  • Guardians of the Galaxy #3

  • Justice League #20

  • Middlewest #5

  • Naomi #3

  • Stronghold #2

  • Thor #11

  • Uncanny X-Men #14

Check back to the site later this week for reviews of Lazarus Risen #1, Criminal #3, and more!

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.

A Lazarus Retrospective: Family Above All

Lazarus Risen #1— the launch of the series new, quarterly super-sized format—is out 3/20/2019.

Lazarus Risen #1—the launch of the series new, quarterly super-sized format—is out 3/20/2019.

By Taylor Pechter — What family truly means can be complicated. Is it just the people that are closest to you? Or is it something greater? It’s a complex question, and in many ways the answer is a core focus of Image Comics’ soon-to-return series, Lazarus. Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark (with inking assists from Tyler Boss), and colored by Santi Arcas, the world of Lazarus is one rooted in dystopia. After an economic collapse and a war that led to an event known as the Macau Accords, the globe has been sectioned off into regions run by certain wealthy and powerful families. Each family has a specially engineered being called a Lazarus, which acts as both a liaison and the leader of its military force. Forever Carlyle is the Carlyle family Lazarus. This comic is her story.

Who is Forever Carlyle?

Staring in the year X+64 (which means 64 years after the Macau Accords divided the planet), we are introduced to Forever. In this introductory scene, she is shot, killed and subsequently self-revived. She is being monitored from afar by her family members Johanna, James, and Bethany Carlyle, who watch everything from her actions to her vitals.

As James goes over her trauma report, the audience slowly becomes familiar with the unforgiving world of the series. This is a world where the ruling families are in constant conflict over land, where they preside too over civilians separated into a quasi-caste system. The civilians who work directly for the families are their Serfs. Everyone else is Waste, treated as second class. Occasionally, they have a chance to be Lifted to become Serfs. It’s all very frightening.

In the story of Lazarus, the two factions spearheading the conflict are the Carlyle Bloc and the Hock Coalition. Caryle rules most of the Western United States while Hock oversees the Eastern regions. Both of them have allies in conflict across the world. Forever is the pride of the Carlyle Family. She is the commander of their elite strike force called the Daggers. However, Forever gets a mysterious message in the middle of the night that sows seeds of doubt about her role in the family.

The message reads “He is not your father. This is not your family.” As Forever ponders her place in the world, Hock and his allies start to move on Carlyle territory while Carlyle moves on Hock. This conflict comes to a head at the Conclave, driving the plot forward.

The Conclave that Rules the World

Not all of Forever Carlyle’s battles in Lazarus are physical.

The Conclave is a meeting of the families where they discuss terms regarding territory, and—if worse comes to worse—war plans. The meeting takes place on Triton 1, the floating base of the Armitage family, who is officially neutral in the ongoing conflict but has heavy ties to Carlyle. As tensions rise, Forever confronts her brother, Jonah. Jonah was kidnapped by the Hock’s while planning treason to his family. This is the first betrayal that Forever is subjected to and it won’t be the last as she helps Jonah escape custody. She is then thrust into a fight with Sonja Bittner, Lazarus of the Bittner Family, which is then a member of the Hock Coalition. Forever fights to prove her family’s innocence. She prevails in the contest but her father and patriarch of the family, Malcolm Carlyle, is subsequently poisoned and left in a coma. Little does Forever know, Malcolm has been secretly training a younger version of her to possibly be a replacement should she falter.

As the Conclave War rages on, the forces of Carlyle, Hock, and their allied families are in all-out conflict. In the middle of this, Forever’s crisis of conscience reaches its zenith. Not only has Jonah’s betrayal hit her hard, she also starts to forgo her normal regimen of medication, which keeps her stamina in top condition and also allows her family to control her. This does not go over well with her sisters Johanna and Bethany. Johanna breaks and tells the truth to Forever, about her development and her potential replacement, thinking it would build trust with her again. It has an opposite effect.

Forever denounces Johanna, not only for her personal actions, but for the overall way the family has treated her. Forever has been betrayed by the people she holds closest to her. It is then she sets out with her allies on a final push. Along with the forces of Morray and Bittner, they start a Lazarus hunt, targeting first the Rausling family in Central Europe.

The Conclave War

The gritty, photo-realistic artwork in Lazarus makes for one of the most immersive reading experiences in comics.

After a decisive victory over the Rausling Lazarus, Sonja Bittner along with Forever and the Morray Lazarus Joaquim (who is romantically engaged with Forever), set their sights on the most dangerous and secretive Lazarus of them all, the Vassalovka Lazarus, simply known as the Zmey, or the Dragon. As the name implies, Vassalovka’s seat of power is in Russia, and they remain a question mark until at last entering the war against Caryle and its allies. The fight against the Vassalovka Lazarus is brutal, with yet another betrayal, with Forever’s paramour Joaquim being forced to turn on her by the chemical control maintained over him by his family.

Meanwhile, after his escape from the Conclave, Jonah Caryle washes up in the Danish town of Agger in disputed Bittner territory. It is there where he creates a new life and eventually falls in love with a local and have a baby. However, a tragic event cuts that relationship short as we move into the Fracture storyline in the upcoming Lazarus: Risen #1, which is due out next week (stay tuned for our review!).

With Lazarus, Greg Rucka weaves a tale of intrigue that is predicated on the concept of family. Forever is a woman trying to find her place. Who she really is as a person is tested not only through her psychological inwardness but also her interactions, not only with her immediate family, but also their allies and enemies. Joining Rucka is his collaborator from his classic work for DC Comics, Gotham Central, Michael Lark. Lark adds a layer of reality with his rough and textured style. The pages are perfectly paneled, whether they are dynamic action scenes or emotional character beats. Adding hues is colorist Santi Arcas whose colors are mood driven, including  moody blues, stingy greens, warm oranges, abrasive reds, or even drab tans and browns.

All together, these creators have made a lived-in world that has both its light and dark sides. Overall, Lazarus is an achievement in world building and storytelling with a deeply thought out setting and relatable characters with resonant themes. As a parting gift, I leave you with the Carlyle family motto: Oderint Dum Metuant...which means, Let them hate, so long as they fear.

Read more of Taylor’s writing on our comics analysis page.

Taylor Pechter is a passionate comic book fan and nerd. Find him on Twitter@TheInspecter.