REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy #5 pays off a plot point from the first issue

By Zack Quaintance — It’s official, Guardians of the Galaxy has now reached that rare stratosphere of superhero comicbook, wherein I end up reading it in the front seat of my car before even leaving my local shop’s lot. If you’re reading this book, you’re likely nodding in agreement right now. This story has just been so rich with twists and turns and break-neck pacing that it demands that kind of urgency. It’s the type of book that pushes you to pick up your pull list just a little bit earlier that day, because…

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REVIEW: War of the Realms #3 remains strong at its halfway point

By Zack Quaintance — With this issue, Marvel’s massive War of the Realms event hits its halfway point, which is as good a time as any to discuss how it’s been so far. I’d like to focus primarily here on the main series of this event. The tie-ins are another thing, and we don’t have space for them here, so let’s instead take this comic as the third in a six-part series, independent from the auxiliary titles. In that context, it’s been very good, especially for any readers (like myself) who have followed Jason Aaron’s long Thor run…

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REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy #4 is, for lack of a better word, a slobberknocker

By Zack Quaintance — To use the parlance of writer Donny Cates’ native Texas, boy howdy did the #$@^ really hit the fan in Guardians of the Galaxy #4. I won’t reveal much more than that, however, just noting that a conflict I thought we were on pace for a few issues down the line, really kicked off in a big way right here in these…

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Comic of the Week: Invaders #4 and Namor’s secret history

By d. emerson eddy — Since his surprise heel turn in the most recent volume of The Avengers, Namor has been a difficult character to pin down. This has been true of his motivations and actions lately through the stories in that series, as well as in the Defenders: The Best Defense crossover, and here in the new Invaders series, too. His erratic mood swings, as he went back and forth seemingly indiscriminately between hero and villain, were once explained by an “oxygen imbalance” in his blood, but we were told earlier in this series that this isn't the case now. With all that in mind, this issue begins to explain Namor's hidden history and how it might feed into why…

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REVIEW: War of the Realms #1 is a packed and ambitious comic

By Zack Quaintance — Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman and the rest of the War of the Realms main series creative team have a huge job in front of them. Aaron has spent nearly (but not quite) a decade building to this throughout a number of different Thor comics. Now, the writer must…

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REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy #3, balancing character with the grandiose

Guardians of the Galaxy #3 is out 3/20/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — With the third issue in their run of Guardians of the Galaxy, writer Donny Cates, artist Geoff Shaw, colorist Marte Garcia, and letterer Cory Petit have come pretty close to cementing this as my second favorite comic at Marvel (Immortal Hulk being first, and Thor being the main contender for second). As I noted in my review of Guardians of the Galaxy #1, this comic felt like an extension of two recent comics I’d enjoyed quite a bit, both of which were by Cates and Shaw. The first was their absolutely fantastic Thanos Wins story, and the second was their earlier creator-owned collaboration, God Country.

That first issue of Guardians of the Galaxy had all the outsized cosmic moralizing that had built such a rewarding emotional foundation for God Country, along with the same bombastic pacing and unflinching overturning of the status quo from Thanos. I loved it. I also liked Guardians of the Galaxy #2 quite a bit, albeit for different reasons. The second chapter of this book felt like a stepback, a quieter issue aimed at fostering relationships between the members of the all new all different Guardians team. It came as a surprise to me following the tone set by the debut, but it was a great read nonetheless.

In Guardians of the Galaxy #3, the creative team seems to have struck an absolutely perfect balance between those two tones and approaches. The epic plotting and rapid pace of revelation is there, especially as it applies to the larger galactical happenings not taking place on Peter Quill’s ship, The Ryder. We see Thanos scarred brother StarFox grappling with his own new status quo (and some familial baggage) in the wake of his more famous and more feared brothers death, and we see Hela sowing death and discord among Annihilus and his minions, in a segment that gives Shaw and Garcia a chance to really impress with their linework and colors, respectively. Most interestingly, though, we see the newly-dubbed Dark Guardians (see the end of last issue) on the hunt for the whereabouts of Gamora, chasing Richard Rider Nova at a breakneck speed across the cosmos.

Then when we snap back to the ship, Cates picks up right where he left off last issue building team dynamics and giving our protagonists and authentic and believable sense of urgency for their mission. They are the good guys and—while obviously imperfect and in some cases (Peter) massively reluctant—they are going to spend this run guarding the damned galaxy. That’s all just good comic book-ing, generally speaking. What really makes this run feel compelling to me is the idea of a new Thanos rising. In the hands of a lesser writer, I’d be relatively ambivalent to this development, withholding judgement to see what they do with what’s mostly a solid idea. Cates, however, has proven himself to be a master of surprise twists during his short-time at Marvel, generally landing bits of misdirection that feel organic, earned, and impossible to predict. There’s every reason to believe he’ll do the same, which in addition to the stellar storytelling is all the reason I need to have this book near the top of my stack every month.  

Overall: This third chapter of our story blends the grandiosity from the debut issue with the character-driven storytelling of the second to elevate this run to absolute must-read status. One of the best books at Marvel this side of Immortal Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy is a must-read. 9.5/10

Guardians of the Galaxy #3
Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

Read our reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy #1 and Guardians of the Galaxy #2!

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.

REVIEW: Age of Conan - Belit, Queen of the Black Coast #1

Belit, Queen of the Black Coast #1 is due out 3/13/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — I was into this book from the moment Marvel unveiled the creative team. I’ve written a lot on here about how much I enjoy Tini Howard’s work, be it in creator-owned series like Euthanauts or work-for-hire gigs like the recent Captain America Annual. So, having Howard’s name on a book—even for a franchise like Conan that, to be perfectly frank, I have a baseline of disinterest in—makes me pay attention. With this new Age of Conan: Belit, Queen of the Black Coast miniseries, however, it was artist Kate Niemcyzk’s name that pushed my interest to the next level.

Niemczyk, to my mind, is a really underrated visual storyteller, bringing clean linework, a pleasant density of visual gags and other touches, and ability to handle complex concepts as they apply to page composition. I’ve enjoyed her style quite a bit on past work, especially Marvel’s Mockingbird comic from a few years back (talk about underrated). With this Belit book, I was curious to see how artwork so clean and energetic would apply to the inherent savagery of the Conan the Barbarian world.

Indeed, of the three titles to launch in this line so far, this comic is the least photorealistic and most cartoony, which is not a bad thing. It really serves the main character well: a young girl whose father’s past sins cause him to be beaten and marooned on a sandbar right in front of her. There is an innocence and idealism at the start of this tale that both the writer and artist (colored here by the absolutely essential Jason Keith) convey perfectly...right up to the point where the plot forces Belit to take action in a way that loses a bit of her innocence with sacrificing any of her determination or power.

Following this action (you’ll have to read to learn the exact nature), the artwork seems to shift ever so slightly, especially the colors, taking our story to a bit darker place as the action on the page accelerates to accompany the journey. This is not a dark comic though, even with some of the early travails the protagonist goes through. It’s actually probably the ray of light in the new Conan line.

What emerges through the course of this debut issue is a picture of a series that aspires to be a pure high seas adventure in bygone times, one with a strong (and young) female protagonist. This is a fun read for season comics fans, but, more importantly, I think it’s a comic that once collected has a real potential to extend the Conan line to younger readers. It strikes a balance between immersive realism and out-sized fantasy that I think the best comics of the All New, All Different Marvel relaunch also found a few years back. It’s tricky ground to tread, and I’m excited to follow this series from start to finish as the creators pull it off.

Overall: The most vibrant and kinetic book of the new Conan the Barbarian line, Belit, Queen of the Black Coast #1 does a great job creating high stakes that feel serious while also building a tone perfect for pirate adventure. 8.5/10

Age of Conan: Belit, Queen of the Black Coast #1 (of 5)
Tini Howard
Artist: Kate Niemczyk
Colorist: Jason Keith
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel 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: The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1 hints at new mythos for Kamala Khan’s story

The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1 is out 3/13/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — For the first time in the character’s young life, Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel has a new writer. Indeed, since the new Ms. Marvel’s solo series launched back in February 14, writer G. Willow Wilson has been a constant in her adventures. Under Wilson’s creative guidance, Ms. Marvel has run for nearly five years and many issues, earning critical acclaim and racking up tons of sales, especially in the bookstore and book fair market with young readers.

I’ve been there all the way, because to my mind Kamala Khan is the purest update on the concept of the teen superhero first pioneered by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in Amazing Fantasy #15 with the creation of Peter Parker, essentially the first kid superhero that wasn’t a sidekick, or at least the first that captivated fans and became successful (the Billy Batson Captain Marvel/Shazam! aside). Kamala Khan’s adventures as Ms. Marvel to me in the Wilson era always felt like the first millennial superhero, essentially written for us and by us with a nuanced understanding of the world we lived in and the challenges we faced.

In his first issue as Ms. Marvel’s new writer, Saladin Ahmed essentially commits to maintaining that status for Kamala while at the same time building in an evolved sense of scale, mythos and grandiosity. This issue has an interesting framing structure, in which a pair of alien beings—identified only as being from another world somewhere in the far future—are discussing Kamala, with a little girl in bed listening as a father tells her stories of the Destined One. What Ahmed does right from the start of this new book—facilitated with detailed and vibrant artwork from the team of artist Minkyu Jung, inker Juan Vlasco, and colorist Ian Herring—is give Kamala and increased sense of relevance, not just to the folks near her in Jersey City but to the entire world, potentially even the entire galaxy.

As millennials begin to inherit the world in the wake of mass baby boomer retirement, it’s a fitting development for this now five-year-old arc. Kamala will, of course, remain young in the comics (these heroes always should and do) even as her position within the broader zeitgeist ages, and Ahmed understands this as well. Even as she becomes the Destined One to some folks far away and well in the future, her exploits at home remain mostly driven by her interpersonal relationships with her parents and best friends.   

In the end, what we get from The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1 is a new run that feels both familiar and novel. The interactions between Kamala and her parents feel as if they’ve been culled directly from Wilson’s now-ended run, while the framing device is Ahmed signaling an intent to also try something wholly new. It is, as far as I’m concerned, exactly what this character needed as she ages a little and presumably takes another step toward her inevitable destiny as a character in big budget Marvel Studios filmed. It’s no coincidence this book is coming out now, just days after Carol Danvers and Captain Marvel stormed the box office.

Overall: The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1 is a new run that feels both familiar and novel. The interactions between Kamala and her parents feel as if they’ve been culled directly from Wilson’s now-ended run, while the framing device is Ahmed signaling an intent to also try something wholly new. 9.0/10

The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1
Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Minkyu Jung
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colorist: Ian Herring
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel 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.

Best Comics of February 2019: Thor #10, The Wild Storm #20, and more

By Zack Quaintance — Holy cow, the debate over the final selections for the Best Comics of February 2019 got pretty heated within the committee (of one), raging for what felt like days. Some of our usual superhero favorites—Action Comics/Superman, Immortal Hulk, etc.—have maybe hit places in their runs where we take them just a tiny bit for granted. By the same token though, some of our other favorite long-form superhero narratives are hitting some pretty resonant emotional crescendos (see The Wild Storm, see Thor). But more on that below.

Let me just use this second paragraph of an intro most people scroll right past to address an ongoing narrative that comics are bad now and the industry is dying: stop it. I could go into the business (which is something that myself and roughly 99.9 percent of readers as well as most creators know absolutely squat about), but that’s been done ad nauseam. So instead I’ll point out how little we as fans of stories know about the economics that make them feasible, and wonder (not for the first time) why we waste mental energy on something we don’t understand.

Why did I waste such a long paragraph on it? Who knows! Onto the comics...

Shout Outs

The level of melancholic beauty Die #3 achieves is absurd. It’s just a beautifully-told graphic sequential story that uses the comic’s fantasy setting to tell a tale about WWI that speaks on a deeper level to the creation of the genre by J.R.R. Tolkien. It juuuuust missed this month’s top 5.

I’ll say this about Teen Titans #27: I can’t believe this, but I’ve found myself increasingly interested in the current run on this book by Adam Glass and Bernard Chang. Both creators are wildly exceeding my expectations at the moment.

Also surprising was The Terrifics #13. I’d left this book for dead somewhere around The Terrifics #7. The artists were inconsistent, and the initiative it led—the New Age of DC Heroes—died out of the gate. Yet, the creators have quietly put together one of DC’s best comics, ricocheting around the multiverse and hitting big emotional beats through Plastic Man and his son,. Read this!  

One more superhero surprise, and we’ll continue! Uncanny X-Men #11 caught me off guard. I didn’t like the bloated (and frankly lazy) X-Men: Disassembled that re-launched Uncanny X-Men. This comic, however, was the opposite of that: compressed and consequential, it now feels like a new era for the X-Men has started. I’m (cautiously) in.

I still maintain, however, that the best X-Men comic on the market is Livewire #3. Free of the bonds of corporate comics, it can up the stakes for its title character the ways the Big 2 can’t, and the creative team on this book is doing so monthly in such brilliant ways. Read this!

Another book I love for its mix of commentary with a sense of anything can happen is Vault Comics’ Wasted Space. We fortunately got both Wasted Space #6 and Wasted Space #7 this month, and I’m happy to say this comic remains amazing.Staying on the Vault Comics train, These Savage Shores #3 really stood out to me this month, so much so that I almost considered adding a sixth slot to our top 5 (but then, is it really a top 5 still?). Gorgeous and literary, These Savage Shores is a must-read.

This next comic on our list is here because it’s become underrated, which is maybe an odd thing to say about something written by Robert Kirkman of The Walking Dead. Oblivion Song #12, however, was a very good comic with an ending cliffhanger that seems likely to extend our story for years to come. I’m in on it.

Ice Cream Man #10 returned the best horror story in comics to its core concept a bit this month while pushing the background (foreground now?) narrative to new places. This is a must-read creator-owned book if ever there was one.

I really struggled with the last of our customary 10 shoutouts, so let me just note that this final spot could have gone to any of the following: Action Comics #1008, The Green Lantern #4, Guardians of the Galaxy #2, Hot Lunch Special #5, Naomi #2, the entire Batman/Flash crossover, Magic Order #6, or Tony Stark: Iron Man #8.

Best Comics of February 2019

5. Mars Attacks #5
Kyle Starks
Artist: Chris Schweizer
Colorist: Liz Trice Schweizer
Publisher: Dynamite Comics

There’s just something about a perfectly-told five-issue miniseries that makes it in many ways the idea way to do a comicbook story. If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say that, I’d highly recommend checking out Kyle Starks and Chris Schweizer’s Mars Attacks. This could be the most emotionally-honest and overall satisfying contained comicbook story I’ve read in years.

It’s also wickedly funny, combining as it does a heartrending father-son survival story with the trademark mostly-irreverent humor that has made Starks such a fun creator to follow through past works such as Sex Castle or Rock Candy Mountain. I didn’t really know anything about the Mars Attacks franchise coming into this and mostly still don’t care, but this book is well worth reading.

4. Archie 1941 #5
Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid
Artist: Peter Krause (read our interview!)
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Publisher: Archie Comics

As friend of the site the great Will Nevin pointed out on Twitter as I was praising the bejeezus out of this book, the world could use more period comics in general, please. If those comics are anywhere near as good as this one, I’m all for it. In recent years, Archie Comics has experimented quite a bit with its classic characters, doing so in alternate reality scenarios and genres such as horror.

In the context of that experimentation, Archie 1945 comes across as a prestige title, a more dramatic and emotionally-taut story with the same sensibilities and dynamics that have helped the Riverdale gang endure for years. Our committee (of one) has picked Archie 1945 for a spot on this month’s list as a merit award for the entire series as a whole. It’s incredibly deserving, and I sincerely recommend picking it all up now in trade. I’m planning to for my bookshelf.

3. Criminal #2
Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics

Our committee (of one) doesn’t often like to put comics this close to the debut of a run in our list, but Criminal #2 is more of a fresh vignette in a long-running story than it is an entirely new comic. This is, of course, now Criminal Vol. 8, and as good as the debut issue of this one was, the follow-up was even better.

This was, simply put, an incredibly well-done comic for people who love to read comics. It’s essentially set at San Diego Comic Con, following as it does an older celebrated artist who has turned to less savory ways of making money (see the title, please) and his former protege who gets swept up into whatever it is the aforementioned artist is tangled up in now. It’s a tense and well-told story (it’s Brubaker and Phillips, would you expect any less), and it works well both as a stand-alone issue and as a continuation of events in Criminal #1. Highly recommended.  

2. The Wild Storm #20
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccelatto
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics

The Wild Storm #20 is, in a word, @%$#-ing epic. Okay, that was two words, or, rather, one word and that weird set of characters people use to denote cussing (like you don’t know what I was trying to say). Anyway, our committee (of one) has loved The Wild Storm since it began, featuring as it does such a deliberate and smart narrative. This issue has a bit of that for the first two pages, and then it moves into all action.

What it also does is return one of the best couples in all of comics to our monthly pages: Midnighter and Apollo, appearing here in their most recent depictions. It’s incredibly satisfying, and it makes you realize just how great of a veteran writer Warren Ellis is and has been for a while (if you hadn’t already). He gives us big, fan-service moments within the context of a really smart long-form narrative. I think the biggest compliment I can pay this book is that issues like this one are what make me continue to love superhero comics.

1. Thor #10 (read our full review)
Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike del Mundo
Colorists: Mike del Mundo & Marco D'Alfonso
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel

Speaking of long-form, there is no better (nor longer) story in superhero comics right now than Jason Aaron’s Thor, which has been literally happening for something wild like six years (probably longer). He’s done compact story arcs, big events, and largely contained stories. Thor #10 is maybe all of those things, or a little bit of each, anyway.

It definitely fits into the larger story arc right now, of everyone in the Thor world preparing for the upcoming War of the Realms, which is as big an event as Marvel has had in recent years (which is really saying something). Meanwhile, it’s also a largely self-contained story about a father (Odin) and a son (Thor), kept from being emotionally honest because of toxic masculinity...and the world is all the worse for it. I have a strong suspicion this comic will also end up on my Best Individual Issues of 2019 list. So stay tuned for that in 10 months, ahem.

Check out our monthly lists, plus all of our Best of 2018 coverage, here.

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