Top Comics to Buy for April 24, 2019: The Replacer, Criminal #4, and more

By Zack Quaintance — One of the things I’ve pushed against since creating this site is recency bias. All of us—fans and critics—have a shared tendency to praise and promote new #1 comics above mid-run installments or even finales. While there is a certain and acute level of brilliance required to create a strong debut, I think we as an industry tend to lose site of just how impressive and also difficult it is to sustain an interesting graphic sequential story for five, 10, or—as is the case with one of our...     

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Top Comics to Buy for April 3, 2019: The Green Lantern #6, Die #5, and more

By Zack Quaintance — What a weekend. I spent it at WonderCon down in Anaheim (I’m a NorCal resident), soaking in my first show of the new con season. I’m a big fan of WonderCon, which is well organized but far more casual than San Diego, which is…

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REVIEW: Die #4, a high point for a classic in the making

Die #4  is out 3/6/2019.

Die #4 is out 3/6/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Well folks, it happened. Die landed an issue that knocked me out, blew me away, floored me, thrilled me, you name it. Whatever cliche you want to go with for being impressed, that’s how I felt about Die #4. That’s not to say I didn’t like the previous issues. Hell, I gave very high marks to both Die #1 and Die #2, going so far as to write full reviews about them (which is something I generally only do for debut issues, prominent Big 2 titles, and creator-owned books I really like). In addition, the book is basically always one of our 5 Top Comics to Buy selections, and Die #1 was one of our best new comics the month it debuted.

So yes, I like Die quite a bit. I liked the dark tone it struck from the start, a tone I’ve long thought has been lacking from the wave of popcorn nostalgia-driven lookbacks at role playing games from the ‘80s. I liked how the real villain of this story seemed likely to become the lives we lived after being teens as well as the lessons we didn’t learn, and I loved how the book harkened back to Tolkien with its third issue, portraying the horrors of WWI he is likely to have experienced en route to creating this whole damn genre.

So, with all that praise heaped upon it, how then did Die #4 exceed my expectations even further to knock me out, floor me, thrill me...again, pick your cliche? This is maybe a cardinal sin as a reviewer, but I’m going to have to say I’m not quite sure. My best theory, however, is that through the first three issues, I become much more familiar with the backstories and desires of the lead characters, enough that in this issue when we get complicated stories for basically all of them, I found myself as thoroughly invested as I do in much longer running creator-owned books like Monstress, Saga, or Die writer Kieron Gillen’s The Wicked + The Divine.

My other theory is that the creators themselves become more comfortable with the world, premise, and characters here, so much so that they were able to shift in this fourth issue to another gear. I certainly think Stephanie Hans’ stunning artwork achieves of level of clarity in this issue among the top tier of graphic sequential storytelling being done right now. Hans leaves us with a number of incredibly memorable visuals, starting at the very beginning with what is so far the book’s best cover. From there the list expands rapildy, with my personal favorite artwork including the establishing shot of the glass city, the characters being celebrated in its streets, wounded Isabelle in conversation with deities in the temple, the stories within the stories, and the list goes on. The year is young, but I think this issue is so far its most gorgeous fantasy book (although, I suppose Isola #6 may take issue with that).

As far as the story, Die #4 is the type of comic that’s told so well it seems like it must have been easy to write, like it all came together by some divine magic into one complete whole. This is a massive feat with an ensemble cast, one that the aforementioned best issues of Wic + Div have accomplished as have some of the best story arcs of B.P.R.D. Those are classic comics, to be sure, and if Die continues to put out out issues like this in the coming years, it will be right in the conversation with them.

Overall: Die #4 is a high-mark for a young series that has classic written all over it. This is the best type of new comic, one that tells a long story comprised of several disparate and wholly memorable chapters. Make space up there with Saga and Monstress, Die is quickly becoming one of Image’s best. 9.6/10

Die #4
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 March 6, 2019 - Die #4, The Green Lantern #5, and more

By Zack Quaintance — At the risk of sounding repetitive, this first Wednesday of the month has really morphed into a monstrosity of great new comics. So much so that I’ve once again extended our usual top five picks to six. Hey, more content’s a good thing, right? Anyway, I could have also easily extended it to seven or eight or nine. It really pained me to cut great titles for this upcoming Wednesday like Doomsday Clock #9, Immortal Hulk #14, and Justice League #19.

But I figure pretty close to most everyone has their mind made up about those comics at this point, so why not shed some light on lesser-known books that are still in their early stages? I’m thinking specifically here of the creator-owned comic Self/Made, which continues to shock me with the high quality of both the its stories and ideas. It’s really turning into something special, the type of book I find myself reading toward the top of the stack each week and coming away shocked at where the story seems to be headed.

Anyway, on to the comics!

Top Comics to Buy for March 6, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Die #4 (
read our full review!)
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"FANTASY HEARTBREAKER," Part Four-Our heroes reach the civilization of Glass Town and do what heroes have always done upon reaching civilization. As in, go to the pub. As it's DIE, you can guess people don't exactly get happy drunk.
Why It’s Cool: We’ll have a more detailed and thoughtful review of this comic later this week, but let me just say here that this is the best issue yet of a series that has been fantastic from its start. This is the smoothest and most immersive issue of Die so far, which I attribute to the previous three issues having done such great work toward familiarizing us with these well-realized characters. With so much of that work behind the story now, the creators are free in this comic to really hit some deep (and troublesome in the best way) emotional beats. Don’t miss this issue; don’t miss this book.

Age of X-Man: Prisoner X #1 (of 5)
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: German Peralta
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
ENTER THE AGE OF X-MAN!
In the Age of X-Man, when you break the law, you aren't sent to just any prison. You're sent to the Danger Room...a penitentiary filled with the roughest and meanest mutants that don't fit into X-Man's utopia. They each have a reason for being there. And they're all ready to kill each other.  But that's about to change, because the newest prisoner just arrived...Lucas Bishop!
Why It’s Cool: It’s a great combination of concept, creators, and character, with those respectively being the well-conceived and intricate Age of X-Man alternate universe, writer Vita Ayala (one of our favorite rising stars within the industry), and Bishop, always an underrated (if convoluted) X-Man. Seriously, Ayala has just been doing fantastic work lately, be it their superhero book for Valiant Livewire, the creator-owned Submerged, or the installment of the recent Marvel Knights mini-series that focused on T’Challa. These have all just been stunning comics, and we’re expecting nothing less from the Prisoner X miniseries, which follows Bishop into the underbelly of what is shaping up to be an Orwellian faux-utopia of an alternate universe.

Green Arrow #50
Writers:
Collin Kelly & Jackson Lanzing
Artist: Javier Fernandez
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Andworld Design
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
Spinning out of the events of JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE and HEROES IN CRISIS! When a black ops organization discovers Green Arrow's long-held secret-a mysterious weapon in the form of a box, given to him by the Justice League-they'll deploy their top undercover agent: Black Canary! On opposite sides of this festering secret, Green Arrow and Black Canary will clash as only two lovers can-by aiming straight for the heart! A mystery six months in the making, the box that can destroy the Justice League will be opened...and the Emerald Archer's world will be forever changed. This extra-sized anniversary issue of Green Arrow's life isn't just ending...it's burning to the ground!
Why It’s Cool: This if the finale of one of the quintessential Rebirth books, and it’s also what is quite possibly the last book headlined by the Emerald Archer that we’re likely to get in sometime, what with DC Comics very public intent to keep its publishing line at the slightly reduced level we’ve seen in recent months. The writing team of Kelly and Lanzing are perhaps the best choice for this job too. As I believe Kelly outlined fairly recently online, the duo had a fairly elaborate plan for a 50 issue run that would get to the core of one my personal favorite characters. We’re obviously not getting that, but look for them to give us a truly epic send off that packs in as much action and as many of their ideas from that outline as is feasible. Savor it, too, I know I will. Also, we’ll (sort of) get an answer to the question from No Justice, the natural one that came up when J’onn gave Ollie a box he said was capable of stopping the entire league...

The Green Lantern #5
Writer:
Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
"Blackstar at Zenith!" Hal Jordan has abandoned the Green Lantern Corps to join the Blackstars! But to do so, he'll need to convince their leader, Countess Belzebeth, and pass an initiation test. Which means he must survive a series of trials on the vampire planet Vorr, whose entire population wants to feast upon him! It's cosmic goth at its bloodiest...with a cliffhanger that's even bloodier!
Why It’s Cool: This run has been fantastic from start to finish, and this issue keeps it going. As promised by the creative team before the book even launched, The Green Lantern has been a series of quisi self-contained space cop procedurals. This issue builds on all that has come before while telling yet another compelling story built upon some of the key qualities and continuity bits that define Green Lantern. Also, as anyone who follows artist Liam Sharp will surely attest, the detail and imagination in the artwork he’s previewed for this comic has just been astounding, somehow even better than the tremendous heights he’s reached in earlier chapters. Think about it too long, and it will blow your mind as thoroughly as Morrison and Sharp seem hell-bent on doing.

Self/Made #4
Writer:
Mathew Groom
Artist: Eduardo Ferigato
Colorist: Marcelo Costa
Color Flats:
Mariana Cali
Letterer: A Larger World Studios’ Troy Peteri
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE 'TA-DA' MOMENT": Amala has made it to our world-and she is distinctly unimpressed. What's a girl with a new robot body and some pent-up rage to do? Paint the town red.
Why It’s Cool: Simply put, because this is the best comic I’ve read in I don’t know how long that rushes head first at the central questions of life itself. That’s maybe being a little dramatic, but this really has quickly turned into a story with a lot to say about creation. In this issue, we also get some really clever interplay between characters that’s analogous to that between child and parents, plus a tour de force visual journey through a near-future version of Sydney, Australia, along with the now-standard breakneck plotting that’s come to define the book. This is yet another major surprise from Image Comics in the past year or so that more readers should be talking about. I get that you might not be familiar with these creators, but you’re doing yourself a disservice by sleeping on this book.

Top New #1 Comics

Others Receiving Votes

  • A Walk Through Hell #8

  • Batman #66 (read our full review!)

  • Blossoms 666 #2

  • Cemetary Beach #7

  • Doomsday Clock #9

  • The Dreaming #7

  • Eclipse #13

  • Giant Days #48

  • Immortal Hulk #14

  • Justice League #19

  • Killmonger #5

  • Paper Girls #26

  • Red Sonja #2

  • Uncanny X-Men #13

  • Vindication #2

  • Young Justice #3


Check back to the site later this week for reviews of Astro Hustle #1, Batman #66, Uncanny X-Men #13, 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.

Top Comics to Buy for February 6, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — This is pretty much a perfect week for new comics, featuring as it does the launch of multiple exciting new #1 series (the bright shiny new toy to the long-time comics fan) as well as the return of some of the best books on the market right now, including a new arc for Wasted Space and the conclusion of the phenomenal Archie 1941. Plus, books like Die continue to establish themselves as wonderful new comics.

There is, simply put, a lot going on this week, and so here we are as always with a brief guide: Top Comics to buy for February 6, 2019. As is standard protocol, we’ve selected our top 5 (plus a pick of the week), listed the most-exciting new #1 issues, and thrown-in for good measures the others that received votes. The top 5 are more heavily weighted toward books that have already established them, but rest assured, you can’t go wrong this week checking out anything from Female Furies to G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte. Just choose wisely, there are a ton of stellar comics to pick from.

And now, on to the actual comics!

Top Comics to Buy for February 6, 2019

Archie 1941 #5.jpg

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Archie 1941 #5
Writers:
Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid
Artist: Peter Krause
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Publisher: Archie Comics
Price: $3.99
Archie Andrews-MIA and presumed dead! His friends and family-devastated! Don't miss out on the conclusion of this headline-making comic event!
Why It’s Cool: It’s a young year, but this is easily a front-runner for the best single issue of 2019 at this point. This entire series—which re-imagines Archie set in 1941 (incidentally the year he was created) during WWII—has been something truly special. With a different sort of fandom than superhero comics but no less an iconic history, Archie Comics as a publisher is generally freer to use its characters for alternate takes, or at least such has been the case in recent years. While the horror comics and Life With Archie have all been interesting, this is the prestige picture in the bunch, a comic with impeccable historical research, a deep emotional core, and unbelievable artwork courtesy of Peter Krause. This is not to be missed.

Die #3.jpg

Die #3
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"FANTASY HEARTBREAKER," Part Three: One of the saddest comics in Kieron's career. One of Stephanie's prettiest. Clayton's lettering, of course, remains impeccable.
Why It’s Cool: As we wrote in our reviews of Die #1 and Die #2, this comic is one of the most-exciting new creator-owned books in some years, combining as it does the recent trend of teen D&D nostalgia with the dark lessons of life's hard-lived. Well, this third issue to the book feels like a bit of a thematic pivot. Fantasy has always been inherent to this title (the basic premise is that years ago six friends went into a realized fantasy realm via a role-playing game and only five came out—and now those five have been pulled back in), and this comic looks at some of the real-life inspiration for fantasy as we know it: WWI, which Lord of the Rings progenitor J.R.R. Tolkien himself was a veteran of. Essentially, this is a gorgeous and sadly poetic comic that draws a shattering parallel between fantasy games and stories we enjoy, and the real-life strife that helped to create them.

Justice League #17
Writer:
Scott Snyder
Artist: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Cheung with Mark Morales and Walden Wong
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
After the disastrous events of the Justice League Annual, Martian Manhunter decides to take matters into his own hands and negotiate a peace with Legion of Doom leader Lex Luthor. Traveling to a distant moon, the two enemies face their intertwined pasts in a showdown for the fate of the Multiverse. However, before either of them can lay claim to the power of the Source Wall once and for all, an unexpected threat forces them to unite...or risk death at the ends of the cosmos.
Why It’s Cool: Last week’s Justice League Annual #1 was my favorite issue of the Snyder/Tynion/Cheung/Jimenez Justice League era to date, but it won’t reign long—this one is even better. Since No Justice ended, my favorite element to this complex and grandiose run has been the idea of Martian Manhunter and Lex Luthor essentially captaining their opposing teams in a conflict of ideology wherein both thinks they are doing what’s best to save the multiverse or at least the Earth. This story takes that concept to another level. I won’t go into how, but it’s a sight to behold. Highly recommend this.

These Savage Shores #3
Writer:
Ram V.
Artist: Sumit Kumar
Colorist: Vittorio Astone
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
The stench of war clings to the air as Hyder Ali of Mysore comes calling for the levy. Good men and demons alike are set to march, even as lovers part with the promise of a safe return. But in these troubling times the promise of a hunt brings the devil himself to this faraway coast. Along These Savage Shores where blood begets blood and dawn-light shimmers over a land soaked in betrayal.
Why It’s Cool: Way way too many disparate properties these days are getting compared to Game of Thrones. In fact, I feel like it’s become reductive pop culture short-hand for something I like that’s slightly beyond average scope. But! Try as I might, I can’t help but describe this third excellent issue of These Savage Shores as feeling in scope a bit like Game of Thrones. It just has so many of the elements: large-scale political machinations, alliance building, betrayals, and seemingly inconsequential deaths having ripple effects that seemed destined to have retribution due. These Savage Shores also remains a gorgeous comic, as lush with its artwork as it is lyrical in its dialogue and narrative prose. If you’re not reading this comic, I don’t know what to tell you at this point.

Wasted Space #6
Writer:
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
Now officially an ongoing! The whole fam damily is back! Billy visits a crooked politician. Dust and Fury make sweet bot-love in unsanitary locations. A ghost haunts Molly's visions of Rex. And Legion pets a dog. The galaxy is still totally borked, but maybe together they can un-bork it... oh, probably not.
Why It’s Cool: One of my absolute favorite comics of 2018 is back, and it’s at the same high (sorry) level it was when we last saw it. This issue has all the hallmarks of this series: the humor, the high-minded philosophical contemplations, the subtextual commentary on the modern world, and the ever-looming threat of even more space nukes that might destroy the world. It is, in other words, a very very good comic. We’ll have a review of this book later in the week, but know now that each and every one of you should be reading this.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Battlestar Galactica: Twilight Command #1

  • Daredevil #1

  • Female Furies #1

  • G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte #1

  • Girl in the Bay #1

  • Gunhawks One-Shot

  • Man and Superman 100-Page Super-Spectacular #1

  • Oberon #1

  • Red Sonja #1

  • Vindication #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #1

  • Archie #702

  • Avengers #14

  • Batman #64

  • Conan the Barbarian #3

  • Deathstroke #40

  • Dreaming #6

  • Giant Days #47

  • The Green Lantern #4

  • Immortal Hulk #14

  • Killmonger #4

  • Prodigy #3

  • Self/Made #3

  • Tony Stark: Iron Man #8

  • Wrong Earth #6

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 Comics January 2019 - Naomi, Guardians, and Young Justice

By Zack Quaintance — Regular readers will know this is the column wherein we look at the best new comics from January 2019, specifically one-shots and new #1 issues. They may also notice that I’ve cheated this month, selecting six comics for my usual top 5. First of all, I set the rule so I’m kind of like, oh well. Second, I expanded that section this month so that it wouldn’t be pretty much all Big 2 superhero comics, and I don’t think that’s ever a bad thing.

The good problem that I had this month was that both Marvel and DC launched a pair of super high-quality comics that I couldn’t leave out of my top five, with Guardians of the Galaxy and Invaders coming from Marvel, and Naomi and Young Justice from the Distinguished Competition. So yes, it was a great start to the year for fans of superhero storytelling. In fact, I may write a full piece about this sometime soon, but I think we’re in one of those rare periods where both of those publishers are putting out generally stellar work. But that’s a topic for another time.

Today, let’s get on with our look at the best new comics of January 2019!

Quick Hits

As d. emerson eddy noted in his Comic of the Week feature, Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 is accessible and entertaining even to readers who may not have seen the old show...a group that embarrassingly includes me. That said, I thought this book was fantastic.

Another TV-based book I thought was fantastic? Adventure Time: Marcy and Simon #1 by Olivia Olson and Slimm Fabert. I’m a huge Adventure Time fan, and thought this book—which is set after the TV show ends—more than did the source material justice.

Let’s keep the transitions rolling and note that another book that more than did its source material justice was the new Conan the Barbarian #1, from Marvel, which was also a Comic of the Week pick this month.    

A little less exciting (at least for me) was Marvel Comics Presents #1. I still like this format—prestige creators telling short, one-off stories about the Marvel Universe—but other than the fantastic Namor story, this first installment was pretty average.  

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1.jpg

There were a couple nominative #1 issues this month with the Uncanny X-Men and Justice League annuals. The former was a character-driven story that minimized the weirdness of Cyclops coming back, and the latter a grandiose space opera epic that clarified some points about what’s happening in Justice League and why.

Another great Big 2 #1 was Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, which got even better with its second issue. Full review of the debut here.

Another comic I wrote a full review of was Oliver #1 by Gary Whitta and Darick Robertson. It’s a post-apocalyptic story with only a loose connection to Oliver Twist. I recommend it.

And one more review comic, Wyrd #1! You can read my full thoughts via the link, but this is a book that has all the hallmarks of the start of a special run.

Finally, I liked Barbarella / Dejah Thoris #1 well enough, but I overall recommend paying attention because the series’ writer, Leah Williams, is on the rise and it’ll be interesting to see how earlier work like this compares to later stuff.

Top 5 Best New Comics January 2019

Criminal #1.jpg

Criminal #1
Writer:
Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Read our full review of Criminal #1!

Ho man, what have we as contemporary comics fan done to deserve a team as talented as Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (joined here with colors by his son Jacob Phillips)? Seriously, the comics these guys make are almost too good. I read Criminal #1, which was an over-sized issue, with such an intense focus that I don’t think I liked up once until I was entirely through out. It’s that immersive.

Contributing writer Bo Stewart really summed up why it works so well in his review, but I’ll just reiterate again in brief: these are two masters of the craft working in tandem with a level of alchemy that is perhaps unprecedented. Do yourself a favor and read this comic.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1.jpg

Guardians of the Galaxy #1
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99
Read our full review of Guardians of the Galaxy #1!

As regular readers of the site may be aware, Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw’s Thanos Wins was one of our top comics of 2018, and now it’s essentially being continued in Guardians of the Galaxy. Of all the writers at Marvel—even the long-tenured vets—Cates arguably writes the best new #1 issues, and this one is no exception. It establishes a killer premise, gleefully speeds through it in grandiose fashion, and leaves the reader fondly looking for the release date of the second issue.  

As with Criminal, we also ran a full review that elaborates in greater depth on this comic, so I will again keep it brief and just note that I’m not even all that big a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy, and yet the continuation of this series just became one of my most-highly anticipated comics of 2019. So, yeah.

Invaders #1.jpg

Invaders #1
Writer:
Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Carlos Magno with Butch Guice
Colorist: Alex Guimaraes
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99

I’ve always liked Invaders more as a concept—the team of Golden Age Marvel characters that fought for the allies in WWII—more than I have in modern execution. Their stories have always felt like nostalgic throwbacks, inherently dated. This new comic, however, essentially flies in the face of that, with a first issue that seems to promise an exploration of the old times that will take us to modern places that are new.

How, you may wonder, does it do that? Well, if you’re so curious you really ought to read the actual comic, which, believe me, is very good. Chip Zdarsky is Marvel’s most nuanced writer. He may not write the flashiest stories (ahem, Donny Cates) or the best long-form narratives (Jason Aaron), but he’s the most likely writer in the Marvel stable to surprise and to land big emotional moments. This issue, which ends with a cliffhanger rooted in the past, gives every indication Invaders will be well worth readers’ time.

Naomi #1
Writers:
Brian Michael Bendis & David F. Walker
Artist: Jamal Campbell
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

We don’t play favorites in this section, but, truth be told, Naomi #1 just might be our favorite new comic of the month. It takes a new approach to DC Comics most iconic heroes in a few ways. It takes us to a new town we’ve never seen (a hip, semi-rural enclave in Oregon), it gives us a young girl we don’t know (yet), and it dives deep into her point of view, how she sees Superman and what as an adoptee herself she sees to relate to, as well as why.

There’s a mystery that seems destined to end with Naomi growing into a superhero, maybe even a Kryptonian or Superman analog herself, but moreover, there’s just a really solid human story here. Whereas Marvel has basically an entire universe of everymen and everwomen, that has never been DC’s strength. Naomi is looking to fix that, and I for one am hella excited to see where this comic is headed. Oh, and Jamal Campbell’s artwork is absolutely stunning.

Peter+Cannon+Thunderbolt+#1.jpg

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Casper Wijngaard
Colorist: Mary Safro
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Dynamie
Price: $3.99
Read our full review of Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1!

Wowzer, did this comic catch me by surprise! I—embarrassingly—had no familiarity with Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt as a property. I did not realize he was one of the original characters from Charleston Comics that the Watchmen characters were later based on, and I certainly didn’t know the rights had gone up for grabs and become property of Dynamite. That said, I love what Kieron Gillen and Casper Wijngaard seemed to be engaged in after this first issue.

You know the drill—more thoughts in our review—but this has a last page that all Watchmen fans will be interested to read. It could ultimately end up being a very nice counterpoint to Doomsday Clock.  

Young Justice #1.jpg

Young Justice #1
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: DC Lettering
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99

The Brian Michael Bendis-curated Wonder Comics imprint has arrived, and it is...well, wonderful. Young Justice #1 was the inaugural issue for the new imprint, and if this is the tone these books are looking to strike, well done. It’s fast, funny, and bent on being very tongue-and-cheek with DC continuity. It’s exactly the sort of in-universe lighter imprint DC needs, what with the other parts of the line seeming to perpetually bend back toward dark and gritty.

The most interesting thing about this individual story though, is the way it plays with continuity. It seems to know that readers have questions about the current status quos of characters like Impulse, Connor Kent, and Cassie Sandsmark, which by extension plays to more questions about what from the New 52 counted and what is wiped away. This is the central mystery the comic is built around, and it’s a really intriguing one, to be sure.

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: Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1 is a superhero romp with a provocative end

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 is out 1/30/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — If you do not follow my instructions precisely, this planet will be dead before the day is out...but the task is not impossible. This is a mission statement for the comic and also a telling look into the personality and capabilities of the the protagonist—Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. Which is all well and good for a reader like me, who is only vaguely aware that the character has a long history (dating back to 1966, turns out), created by legendary comic book writer/artist Pete Morisi for oddball Charlton Comics. Incidentally, as interested as I am in the history of DC Comics, I did not know the character had ever cropped up there, but he has. I did know he was the inspiration for Watchmen’s Ozymandias, which will come into conversation later, but I digress...

So, what’s up with this new Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt comic book then? Well, it certainly has the right creative team, or at least one that I’d deemed A List. Kieron Gillen is one of the bigger names in monthly comic book writing, having worked on a number of beloved runs at Marvel Comics as well as notable creator-owned books liked The Wicked + The Divine and, most recently, Die (which rules, btw). Providing the art is Casper Wijngaard of the severely under-appreciated creator-owned comic, Limbo, and his work is brought to such vivid life here by colorist Mary Safro.

This is, indeed, a very visual comic book, which sounds odd to say about a medium that’s always very visual, but it’s true: this book brims with gorgeous splash panels, drawn by Wijngaard and Safro. In fact, more than any of Gillen’s other recent new books—his work on Star Wars, Die—it feels like he spends much of this comic trying to get out of the way here, letting the visuals carry readers through the rudimentary stuff, the introductions to the world, the people, the threat it faces, and the way Cannon is almost immediately able to concoct a solution.

Gillen really makes his presence felt at the end, however, when he shows his hand and unveils the conceit of this comic: this book borrows pretty directly from the plot of Watchmen in some really crucial ways. Not to go too far into spoiler territory, but both the reason the threat has come to Earth and the person who sent are essentially right out of the pages of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal comic. This has been a controversial artistic move in the past when done by the property’s actual corporate owners, DC Comics, but I imagine (relatively) small fry dynamite and indie comics good will hoarders like Gillen and Wijngaard will be given the leeway to tell an intriguing story with this concept. Besides, Ozymandias himself was essentially borrowed IP from the original Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt, which sends my mind down an infinite rabbit hole just thinking about it.

Overall: A pithy and entertaining read with some nice throwaway commentary for much of its duration, the real promise and potential of this comic becomes clear in its final pages. For long-time students of comics as well as recent die hards who’ve looked back even a bit, I highly recommend giving this debut issue a shot. 9.2/10

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Casper Wijngaard
Colorist: Mary Safro
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

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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 #2 subverts D&D nostalgia trend by charging headlong into darkness

Die #2 is out 1/9.

By Zack Quaintance — In the first issue of Die, a group of six young friends disappears into a fantasy world, returning after time has lapsed, beaten up with one of them missing and another missing an arm. In a pop culture moment laced with relatively bright (Stranger Things may as well be Disney compared to Die) nostalgia-laden D&D remembrances, the first issue of Die set itself apart, staking its claim as a darker, more serious alternative.

And now Die #2 is somehow even darker.

I suppose it’s a little bit on me and my expectations. This additional darkness is not a bad thing, quite the contrary (we’ll get to that), but I certainly expected this book to set up maybe some darkness when the characters were middle-aged and dealing with trauma in the real world, before plunging them back into youthful, likely cathartic fantasy adventure. That may still come, but based on Die #2, things have to get worse before they can start to get better.

Fair warning...this next part may contain spoilers. There’s a scene in this comic wherein the character who’s been lost in the fantasy world all these years (and as a result is presumably a bit stunted) models a villian off a shared middle school or high school crush...and another character gleefully destroys here. It’s a very real scene, real and adult and sensical. But holy hell is it dark. The creators know this, though, and it’s certainly not played for sensationalism (often an issue in lesser comics). I think one of the other characters even remarks at how twisted the whole episode felt.

So yes, that’s the one we’re dealing with here. With that established, the larger question becomes does it function well in the service of the story. I was going to write entertaining story there but at this point that doesn’t quite feel apt, at least not yet. There will likely be a victorious counterbalance to the challenges at some point (that’s how stories work), but it’s early in the proceedings here and we’re not ready yet. I think it functions quite well. As I wrote in my Die #1 review this is a patient and assured book. Gillen believes in his story, and Hans...well, Hans is a towering talent of an artist and everything she does on the page here is nothing short of a joy. It’s a great combo for a story that I expect to keep ramping up like the most memorable role playing campaigns.

And really that is this comic’s aesthetic: it’s the most memorable role playing game you’ve ever played (complete with Gillen penning engaging back matter about dice and characters and classes...like the sterling GM he is) mashed up with what I think is a creator’s interest in examining the lives of his characters over time, the ways that they’ve aged and why, and, perhaps, whether they can recapture how it felt to be young, or, on a darker note, whether they can avoid habitual pitfalls that sowed some of their lives’ disappointments.

Overall: Die #2 continues to embrace realism and darkness within the context of a mystical and immersive life-altering role playing game. Just as the debut before it, this sophomore issue is a thrilling slowburn that sets itself aside from the current wave of D&D pop culture nostalgia by doubling as an uncut look at the disappointments of middle age. 8.5/10

Die #2
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99

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

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.