REVIEW: Life and Death of Toyo Harada #5 works toward a thoughtful ending

By Nick Couture - Writer and Godfather of the Valiant revival, Joshua Dysart, along with Cafu and Kano on art, Andrew Dalhouse on colors, and Dave Sharpe on letters, continue to reach for a crescendo with Life and Death of Toyo Harada #5. It’s an issue that lets the story breath a bit while revealing key moments from Toyo’s past. Over several years of development, Dysart has written a character that fits in perfectly with the likes of Magneto or Vader, and that is no small feat. All that’s missing is an iconic costume, though that black suit is killer.

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Why Matt Kindt’s XO Manowar is Valiant’s Best Run Ever

By Toren Chenault — When I started reading Valiant Comics, my first title was XO Manowar by Robert Venditti and Cary Nord, launched in 2013. It follows a Visigoth prince named Aric of Dacia, who is as headstrong and stubborn as a hero can get. But he’s also got a lot of heart. When his people are captured by an alien race, Aric steals a sentient alien suit on their ship, becoming a superhero. Yes, this comic is exactly as cool and crazy as it sounds. Since that issue…

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ADVANCED REVIEW: The Fallen World #1 is a welcome return to Valiant’s 4001 AD world

I’m a big fan of Valiant’s comics, rarely missing an issue that the publisher with the other other superhero universe puts out. I find their characters have a freedom of consequence a bit grander than the larger corporate-owned superheroes. By that I mean they have freedom to suffer real consequences, freedom to evolve and change, freedom to experience new status quos with the potential to last longer than a big line-wide event cycle or two with impacting sales.

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Top Comics to Buy for March 13, 2019 - Catwoman, House Amok, Little Bird, and more

By Zack Quaintance — Phew, I just flew home from SXSW and boy are my arms exhausted! Kidding. That was incredibly lame and also I’m still physically at SXSW for one more day, but, you know, you can use the Internet from anywhere, so let nothing get in the way of our comics recommendations. How are the comics this week? Well, we’ve got a good mix of solid beginnings and exciting endings.

In the finale column, we have Cover and House Amok, which regular readers will likely recognize as two of our favorites around these part, with the former being an intimate and gorgeous meta take on the industry and the latter an unnerving dive into shared familial psychosis. Most notably in the debuts column we have Little Bird, which is quite possibly poised to be the best new comic of the year (stay tuned for an interview with the book’s creators later this week). So there, stage set for another great week.

Now, let’s take a look at the comics!

Top Comics to Buy for March 13, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Little Bird #1 (
read our full review!)
Writer:
Darcy Van Poelgeest
Artist: Ian Bertram
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
MINISERIES PREMIERE!
Director/screenwriter DARCY VAN POELGEEST boasts a long list of awards and accolades for his storytelling prowess and brings the same writing finesse to IAN BERTRAM's breathtakingly detailed artwork in the gorgeous, hyper-detailed miniseries LITTLE BIRD.
Why It’s Cool: Is it enough to just say that this debut issue absolutely rules and these creators are destined to be stars? Because that’s first and foremost why this book is cool, but if you need more (and still haven’t read our Little Bird #1 review), I can also go on to tell you that this is a new #1 that absolutely brims with electric story, as ambitious as it is tense and beautiful, this is as imaginative as a comic as we’ve seen all year. It’s very very good, and you’ll want to get a copy now before it sells out and starts going for major bucks on eBay.

Catwoman #9
Writer:
Ram V.
Artist: John Timms
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
When crooks break into the pawn shop where Catwoman has set up her secret headquarters, they make off with a personal item that she has to get back. The trail of loot leads her to the Broker, the man who moves all illicit merchandise in Villa Hermosa. Now, Catwoman could just walk in and ask for her property back, but that's never been Catwoman's style. Instead, she's going to pull off a heist that will teach her foe a lesson, making sure the Broker never crosses the Cat ever again. This special one-off issue is written by acclaimed writer Ram V. (BATMAN: SECRET FILES) and artist John Timms (HARLEY QUINN).
Why It’s Cool: We’ve been calling this run of Catwoman underrated for weeks, and we’d like to reiterate that again here before moving on to discussing this individual issue. Catwoman #9 is essentially a break issue for the normal creative team of Joelle Jones (singular...although she’s been spelled lately by Elena Casagrande and Fernando Blanco), presumably so she can write and draw forthcoming issues. What’s nice is DC has brought in rising star writer Ram V., fresh off a fantastic Batman one shot story in the recent Secret Files one-shot. Ram V. is a favorite of ours from his creator-owned work, and this one-off issue is a great example of why. Highly recommended!

House Amok #5
Writer:
Christopher Sebela
Artist: Shawn McManus
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Publisher: IDW - Black Crown
Price: $3.99
Read our review of House Amok #1
Ten-year-old twin Dylan Sandifer is now in the driver's seat of more than the converted old school bus her family called home for a summer murder spree. Will she turn on her family and the sacred bond between twins and break free from the shared madness? Conspiracy theories, organ thieves, and secret histories collide in the explosive final issue!
Why It’s Cool: This second wave of IDW - Black Crown titles—Euthanauts, Lodger, and House Amok—can do no wrong, as far as we’re concerned. They’ve all been consistently excellent while also bringing something new to the imprint. In the case of House Amok, that something has been nuanced and complex psychological drama, centered on an actual affliction that has to do with shared psychosis...and then filtered back by a little girl protagonist who breaks free and recognizes something is wrong. It’s a lot, and it’s all written and drawn to nigh-perfection by Christopher Sebela and Shawn McManus, respectively. This issue marks the House Amok finale, and we are as delighted as we are scared to find out what it holds.  

Livewire #4
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artists: Raul Allen with Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Price: $3.99
Read our review of Livewire #3!
Once, Livewire dreamed of devoting herself to the betterment of humankind. Now, her most steadfastly held ideals are about to be tested like never before as she struggles to stay alive in the clutches of a fearsome new foe! But who is the mysterious psiot mercenary hunting her...and more importantly, who do they work for?
Why It’s Cool: The summary text really nails it when it says, Livewire’s “most steadfastly held ideals are about to be tested like never before as she struggles to stay alive…”...which could really be a tagline for this entire run to date. Last summer during Valiant’s Harbinger Wars 2 event, protagonist Livewire took some drastic (and violent) measures to protect those close to her, and now this creative team is hellbent on simultaneously making her earn redemption while not backing down from the injustices that forced her hand in the slightest. It’s a tour de force in powerful storytelling, and it’s making Livewire one of our favorite superhero comics, month in and month out.

Superman #9
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Ivan Reis, Brandon Peterson
Inker: Joe Prado
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
The secrets of the house of El are revealed as the Unity Saga continues! Traveling through space, young Jon Kent has faced everything the universe could throw at him, but after an accident sends him and his grandfather Jor-El across dimensions, the new Superboy comes face to face with a terrifyingly evil version of his own father: Ultraman and his horrible version of the Justice League, the Crime Syndicate! Find out what happened to Superman's father and how Jon made it back home from this strange and crime-ridden alternate world.
Why It’s Cool: There is just no upper limit on the grandiosity of this run. In fact, the regular creative team of Brian Bendis and Ivan Reis have been upping the scale of this ongoing Unity Saga every issue, introducing more (and more bonkers) ideas into the plot, be it an out-of-his-mind Jor-El, a newly-powerful (and controversially older) Jon Kent, or the evil alternate reality Justice League known as the Crime Syndicate. They’re all coming together here as we get more of the backstory about what transpired in deep space between the three of them. This outsized Superman comic is a nice compliment to the more character-heavy and grounded Action Comics, another current favorite around these parts.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Age of Conan: Belit #1

  • Age of X-Man: Apocalypse and the X-Tracts #1

  • Assassin Nation #1

  • Batman Who Laughs: Grim Knight #1

  • Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1

  • Uncanny X-Men: Winters End #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #2

  • Amazing Spider-Man #17

  • By Night #9

  • Cover #6

  • Hawkman #10

  • Laguardia #4

  • Long Con #7

  • Murder Falcon #6

  • Oblivion Song #13

  • Prodigy #4

  • Shuri #6

  • Supergirl #28

  • Tony Stark: Iron Man #9

  • Wonder Twins #2

  • Wonder Woman #66

Check back to the site later this week for reviews of Assassin Nation #1 (which has a character named F*ck Tarkington), House Amok #5, Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1, 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 Comic Book Previews for the Week of July 30

By Zack Quaintance — Our previews feature is back after a week hiatus during our trip to San Diego. Last week we did, however, roundup our picks for SDCC 2018’s 10 Coolest Comics Announcements...so check that out if you haven’t already.

Anyway, no use in belaboring it...on to the previews!

*Preview of the Week*
The Sons of El Topo Volume One: Cain OGN
Writer: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Artist: José Ladrönn
Publisher: Boom! Studios
More Info: December 2018
This is a hardcover original graphic novel from legendary filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (Dune) and virtuosic illustrator José Ladrönn (Incredible Hulk) that continues the 1970 Mexican Acid Western film written, scored, directed by and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky himself. This sequel, arriving in stores December 2018, tells the story of El Topo—a bandit without limits and a man with no moral compass. But when his journey through the arid west brought him face to face with a series of rogue outcasts, he found enlightenment in the unlikeliest place and was forever transformed, becoming a holy vessel imbued with the power to perform miracles. This was a journey that took him far from his first born son, Cain, and brought about the birth of Abel.
Our Take: We love Jodorwsky (as much for his films as for his candid appearance in the all-time great art documentary Jodorwsky’s Dune), and while this presumably means an end to any chance of Jodo making a cinematic sequel to the first film, his comics are always imaginative and worthwhile. Oh, and the Ladrönn art is is just stellar.

Blackbird #1
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Jen Bartel
Publisher: Image Comics
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Oct. 3
An all-new ongoing series from fan-favorite writer SAM HUMPHRIES (Harley Quinn, Nightwing) and red-hot artist JEN BARTEL! In this neo-noir fantasy, Nina Rodriguez is positive that a secret magic world ruled by ruthless cabals is hiding just beneath the veneer of Los Angeles. The problem: everyone thinks she’s crazy. The bigger problem: she’s not crazy—she’s right. Can she unravel the mystery before the Great Beast catches up with her?
Our Take: Oooooo, shiny. Sam Humphries sensibilities and Jen Bartel’s art are such a wonderful fit, and look how nice it is washed over with all that neon. We’re not entirely sure what neo-noir fantasy means, but it looks like we’re in for some big magic fight in hella trendy LA. So, that’s cool.

Bone Parish #2
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Jonas Scharf
Publisher: Boom! Studios
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Aug. 29
As a drug made from the ashes of the dead continues to spread across New Orleans, the Winters family is forced to defend their turf from the encroaching drug cartels. But some mysterious deaths could threaten everyone in New Orleans...
Our Take: Cards on the table...we haven’t read Bone Parish #1 just yet, but it was one of those books that half our Twitter feed (roughly) turned out to tell us to read. So, we’re on board with that and we’ll get to it when we have chance, plus also this second issue, too.

Harbinger Wars 2 Aftermath #1
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Adam Polina
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Sept. 26
The power's back online and the fighting is over... but who are the real victors of HARBINGER WARS 2, and what was truly lost in the carnage? For those who survived the terrible onslaught - and who must now witness the devastating aftereffects of their actions - will there ever be peace again? As the seismic summer event of 2018 comes to a close, Eisner Award-nominated writer Matt Kindt (X-O MANOWAR, ETERNITY) sorts through the rubble of the most brutal confrontation ever felt in the Valiant Universe - and discover what lies beyond the bloodshed!
Our Take: It’s all in the solicit, isn’t it? Who ARE the real victors? We’ve enjoyed this event quite a bit (more than most Big 2 Events, incidentally), and what kind of savage would read and like an entire event and bail for the aftermath? Not us….not us.

Valiant High #4
Writer: Daniel Kibblesmith
Artist: Derek Charm
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Aug. 1
Save the last dance! Homecoming is here! For the students of Valiant High - the super-powered preparatory academy where tomorrow's heroes learn what it takes to save the world - that means that the biggest night of their young lives is almost upon them...and that the Immortal Enemy is finally ready to make his move! But as Faith, Colin "Ninjak" King, Peter Stanchek, and Amanda "Livewire" McKee try to stir unity amongst their classmates, can teamwork triumph over ancient evil? From rising star Daniel Kibblesmith (Lockjaw) and Eisner Award winner Derek Charm (Jughead), this side-splitting, all-ages reimagining of Valiant's greatest heroes is going out in style!
Our Take: Save the last dance, indeed! Like the Harbinger Wars 2 event serving as a refreshing alternative to Big 2 events, this 4-part series has been a refreshing proximation of Big 2 fun and irreverent character takes. Kibblesmith is pretty funny guy, both in terms of writing comics and on Twitter, too.

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

REVIEW: Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #1 by Peter Milligan, Robert Gill, Jose Villarrubia, Diego Rodriguez, & Dave Sharpe

Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #1 is out July 25.

By Zack Quaintance — Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #1 marks the first issue of the third volume of this series. I liked the last two volumes, but I’d somewhat forgotten just how good this book is. The answer, incidentally, is very very good.

Britannia is such an interesting conflux of two genres that don’t often meet: historical fiction and police procedurals. That setup is one of its strengths. Another arguably bigger strength is the attentions to both ambiance and character paid by writer Peter Milligan, obviously a student of mythology, the occult, and ancient Rome. 

The only discernible change from the first two volumes here (aside from plot, obviously) is artist Robert Gill has replaced Juan Jose Ryp. Ryp is one of the most intricate and detailed artists in comics, but Gill does his own thing here and does it well. It also helps the transition that it’s been more than a year since the end of the last volume. If you’re a returning reader just relax and enjoy...the book is as good as ever. If you’re a new reader, you can start with issue worry-free.

In fact, for Britannia newbies I’m fairly certain each volume stands just fine on its own. It’s been many months since the second Britannia book, and I’ve forgotten a lot that happened. Still, the creative team lies all the essential exposition out in a way that oriented me, and my sense is you’ll also be just fine if you’re totally new.

Britannia also stands apart from the rest of the Valiant Universe (no matter how badly I want the Eternal Warrior to show up). In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t set in it at all, although, admittedly, I may have missed an acknowledgment somewhere that it is. The reason I say this is because Britannia is grounded and realistic, mostly hinting at the occult and supernatural while leaving doubt as to whether it's entirely real. A good comparison might be Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s phenomenal Black Magick, which is set in the present day but uses mysticism sparingly as well.

The last thing it’s important to note is that while knowledge of ancient Rome perhaps enhances this book slightly, it’s not vital. Admittedly, my own knowledge of the Roman Empire is scant, and the only effect this has had on me is that when I finished the other volumes of this series, I went to Wikipedia to fill in gaps, which was kind of a bonus, one I hope will be useful for bar trivia someday.

Overall: I forgot how psychologically-complex and engrossing Britannia was until I started this new volume. This is a supremely well-executed comic, one I highly recommend to fans of both historical fiction and police procedurals. One issue in, it's just as good as its predecessors. 9.0/10

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

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

REVIEW: Quantum and Woody! #8 by Eliot Rahal, Joe Eisma, Andrew Dalhouse, & Dave Sharpe

Quantum and Woody! #8 is available July 18.

By Zack Quaintance — Eliot Rahal took this book over starting with Quantum and Woody! #6, following a five-issue run by writer Daniel Kibblesmith, who is (objectively) one of the funniest writers in all of comics. Basically, to use a cliche, Rahal had HUGE shoes to fill, humor-wise...which is why what he did with the first two issues of this run was so surprising and impressive.

Rahal didn’t try to match or outdo Kibblesmith’s jokes, or even to maintain a similar tone, really. There were hints of the goofy character dynamic that drives this franchise, but Rahal largely pushed it in new directions, writing a first issue that stripped the titular characters of their powers and made them prove themselves as heroes anyway, which they did in poignant fashion. Rahal then followed that excellent story up with a fever dream of an issue that delved deeply into our characters’ psyches.

Now, in Quantum and Woody! #8 he gets to the business of re-grounding the book a bit in this franchise’s signature tone—its humor—but because of the hard work he did as a storyteller in his first two installments, it's easy to be vested in the goofy moments. I’m not tearing up at Woody’s pithy one-liners (of which there are many), but I do care a little bit more about both of these heroes after what Rahal has put them through (and continues to put them through). I also really like how he continues to build on his first issues. This is a new arc and jumping on point, to be sure, but there’s a lot here for readers who are already on the book.

Joe Eisma’s artwork (with colors by the always-great Andrew Dalhouse) is also a great fit. For readers of his recent run on Archie with all-time great comic writer Mark Waid, this hardly comes as a surprise. Eisma is able to oscillate without strain between moments of heavy character reactions and action sequences or site gags—whatever the script calls for, he nails it. His work isn’t as intricate as some other Valiant artists, but Quantum and Woody! is a unique corner of the Valiant Universe, and Eisma expertly draws it that way.    

Overall: All three issues of the Eliot Rahal run on Quantum and Woody! so far have been vastly different yet equally as interesting and great. Rahal and his collaborators are doing a really impressive job drilling into these characters to find new ground for fresh stories. 8.5/10

For more about this Quantum and Woody! run, read our reviews of Quantum and Woody! #6 & Quantum and Woody #7.

Hear Quantum and Woody! artist Joe Eisma's recent appearance on the WMQ&A Podcast!

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

Top Previews for the Week of July 16

By Zack Quaintance — This is an odd week for previews, with publishers and publicists focused on the upcoming San Diego Comic Con, which starts Thursday. News, of course, has begun to leak with the event's schedule and panel announcements, but deliberate releases of interior art (the back bone of this got-danged feature) have been greatly reduced.

But! We have still managed to find five solid choices that are worth including in our weekly roundup, as well as several others that warranted consideration but fell slightly short. This week we have a triple blast from one of this site's favorite indie publishers, Valiant Entertainment, as well as a look at new forthcoming book from another publisher this is quickly rising in the industry, AfterShock Comics.

Oh yes, and we will be in attendance this coming week at San Diego Comic Con...so look for Tweets/maybe even a site update about all of that!

In the meantime, our regular content will continue as scheduled!

*Preview of the Week*
Black Badge #1
Writer: 
Matt Kindt
Artist: Tyler Jenkins
Publisher: Boom! Studios
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Aug. 8, 2018
Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins, the team behind Grass Kings, reunite for a new ongoing series about a top-secret, elite branch of boy scouts tasked by the government to take on covert missions. Among their organization, the Black Badges are the elite; the best of the best. They are feared even by the other badges. The missions they take are dangerous, and they will only get worse as their leader's attention is split between their mission objectives and tracking down a lost team member. A team member who disappeared years ago, presumed dead. A haunting look at foreign policy, culture wars and isolationism through the lens of kids who know they must fix the worlds that adults have broken.
Our Take: Holy cow, we were on board with this as soon as we heard it was the same creative team from the recently-ended book Grass Kings, but a haunting look at foreign policy, culture wards and isolationism through the lens fo kids who know they must fix what adults have broken...? And written by Matt Kindt? This is one of our most hotly-anticipated books of the summer. 

THE LAST SPACE RACE #1
Writer: Peter Calloway
Artist: Alex Shibao
Colorist: Natalia Marques
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Oct. 09, 2019
It started as an anomaly. An outlier in the noise that’s so common in astronomical data. But the truth sends the United States—and the world—careening into what will become humanity’s LAST SPACE RACE. Leading the effort for the United States is one man, Sasha Balodis. A fun-loving tech billionaire turned aerospace titan, Sasha’s seemingly perfect life has been gripped by recent tragedy. Building and launching the most expensive, most ambitious and most important project in history—well, it gives him something to live for again. There’s only one thing standing in his way: his arch-rival and chief aerospace competitor, Roger Freeman.
Our Take: This book wonders what would happen if an extinction level threat started flying our way through space and the government was unprepared...and then it answers that by suggesting tech billionaires would have to step up. It's a frighteningly real premise, one that is being executed by TV veteran Petter Calloway (Legion, Cloak & Dagger, Under the Dome). Basically, we wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being one of those comics fast-tracked for TV adaptation.

Ninja-K #9
Writer: 
Christos Gage
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / July 18, 2018
It all comes down to this! Ninjak – plus his black-ops backup squad of Livewire, Punk Mambo, Doctor Mirage, and GIN-GR – have been sent into Mexico City to destroy an indestructible target! But their quarry – The Jonin, the Ninja Programme’s seemingly ageless former sensei – has assembled his own strike force of improbable powers to meet them head on! Now, the biggest hero-versus-villain showdown of 2018 is about to reach a fever pitch in the stunning finale to “THE COALITION” from renowned writer Christos Gage (Netflix’s Daredevil) and incendiary artist Juan José Ryp (BRITANNIA)!
Our Take: Ah, compared to the full-on mayhem about to break out in the next issue of Harbinger Wars 2, this book seems like it will be a nice reminder of a simpler time when sometimes Valiant characters got along. Also, we are straight-up there for it any time Juan Jose Ryp draws the Eternal Warrior, or really any Valiant characters, come to think of it...

Quantum and Woody! #8
Writer: 
Eliot Rahal
Artist: Joe Eisma
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / July 18, 2018
Quantum and Woody just barely escaped from a surreal atomic realm…and, unfortunately, they’ve brought some pieces of it back with them! As dangerous new threats plunge their city even deeper into chaos, they’ll soon realize that they have bigger problems and bigger grudges than ever before – now if the brothers are anywhere near one another, their powers stop working! The world’s worst superhero team is going to have to go it alone as “SEPARATION ANXIETY” presents a super-powered stress test, courtesy of rising star Eliot Rahal (The Paybacks) and Eisner Award-nominated artist Joe Eisma (Morning Glories, Archie)!
Our Take: Quantum and Woody! is currently one of our favorite things happening at Valiant, as we've detailed in our reviews of Quantum and Woody! #6 and Quantum and Woody! #7, and now the book comes to a full-stop jumping on point with a great new artist, Joe Eisma. In his first two issues, writer Eliot Rahal has shown he can put these character through a wide-range of ordeals. Now, he seems to be returning them back a bit to their status quo, having expanded what's possible within this book beforehand.

Shadowman #5
Writer: 
Andy Diggle
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / July 18, 2018
As roving gangs ravage the landscape of post-Civil War America, there’s little hope and even fewer chances of escape for those caught in their clutches…except in the shadows! Enter: Marius Boniface – first bearer of the Shadowman loa and Jack Boniface’s own great-great-great grandfather! But as the sun sets, the Shadowman’s coming will lead to more than just a rebellion… Unstuck in time, Jack is about to come face-to-face with the first to bear his curse, and will finally learn the truth about the Shadowman legacy’s connection to his family’s doomed bloodline!
Our Take: Valiant is our favorite underrated publisher, and Shadowman is our favorite underrated character within that underrated publisher. It's all subjective, of course, but damned if that's not how we feel about all of this. Andy Diggle's run on this book has been perfectly morbid and steeped in the occult, and Doug Braithwaite art is always impressive.

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

Top Previews for the Week of July 9

By Zack Quaintance — With nearly every publisher in comics readying for San Diego Comic Con (which is now less than two weeks away), the release of new interior art previews was slow this past week. Boom! Studios shared a new wrestling book that we were surprised to find ourselves so interested in, and Valiant Entertainment was as conscientious to show off its work as always.

In other words...we still cobbled together five comics previews for this section! Oh, plus we dug back a few months to look at one of August's most exciting comics.

Which brings us now to our...

*Preview of the Week*
The Seeds #1 (of 4)
Writer:
Ann Nocenti
Artist: David Aja
Publisher: Dark Horse’s Burger Books
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Aug. 1, 2018
The bees are swarming. What do they know that we don't? The rich have built walls around their wealth and scramble into escape rockets. The romantic and the ruthless cross over into the lawless wilds of Zone-B. A few cantankerous aliens have come to collect the last dregs of humanity's essence for the celestial embryo bank. One of them falls in love.

Astra is an idealistic journalist who stumbles into the story of a lifetime, only to realize that if she reports it, she'll destroy the last hope of a dying world. How far will she go to get her story? An eco-fiction tech-thriller where flora and fauna have begun to mutate, The Seeds is also a story of love beyond race and gender, and of the resilience of both human and animal kind. A new four-issue series, by award-winning artist David Aja (Hawkeye, Immortal Iron Fist) and filmmaker, journalist, and comics writer Ann Nocenti (Daredevil, Catwoman). For mature readers.
Our Take: This was the comic we weren’t most excited about when former Vertigo heyday editor Karan Berger first announced this imprint, and that hasn’t changed. David Aja is an all-time great comic artist based on his run with Matt Faction on Hawkeye from a few years back, and we love that he’s teaming with writer/filmmaker/journalist Ann Nocenti. This will be a very good comic.

Bloodshot Salvation #11
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / July 11, 2018
To save his daughter’s life, Bloodshot brokered an unthinkable bargain…and has been thrown forward two thousand years in the future to 4002 A.D.! But preserving life requires a sacrifice…and now, he’s on the hunt to take out the one man standing between him and the safe return of his family! Too bad the only thing standing in his way is…Bloodshot? When the 41st century’s Bloodshot finds out Ray Garrison has come to town, all hell is bound to break loose! Eisner Award winner Jeff Lemire (Black Hammer) and master storyteller Doug Braithwaite (X-O MANOWAR) are about to pull the pin on the next explosive chapter of “THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS” with a centuries-spanning gunfight for the ages!
Our Take: This is the penultimate issue of Jeff Lemire’s years-long Bloodshot sage. You better believe we’ll be there for this (just like we will next month’s finale and the relaunch in the fall with the stellar, Lemire-endorsed rising team of Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler at the helm).

Ninja-K #10
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Larry Stroman
Inks: Ryan Winn
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / Aug. 15, 2018
From the encrypted files of The Ninja Programme, another secret chapter is revealed! The Cold War is in full swing and the United Kingdom’s top-secret intelligence unit has come to a crossroads. As their once-elite collection of secret agents finds itself outmatched by the escalation of the United States’ H.A.R.D. Corps division, the spymasters of MI6 are about to develop a new kind of soldier for their never-ending war of global gamesmanship and international intrigue. Part man, part machine, and bound together with the most extreme technological enhancements that the 1980s have to offer, NINJA-H is faster, stronger, and deadlier than any who have come before…
Our Take: This one-shot looks like a fantastic jumping on point, and we like to review those (as well as read them, though we've been up on this Ninja-K run from the start). With a new set of creative teams coming in the fall, there could be a wave of fans heading toward Valiant. We've always found Ninjak to be Valiant's most accessible character, which is enough for this book to get our endorsement. 

Red Hood and the Outlaws #24
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Dexter Soy, Alisson Borges
Publisher: DC Comics
More Info: $3.99 / 32 pages / July 11, 2018
Bizarro is getting... worse. Worser? Worsest. The backward Superman's diminishing cognitive state is causing problems for the rest of the Outlaws. Complicating things is the Red Hood's vendetta against the Penguin-can the Outlaws stop Jason Todd from crossing a line he can't return from?
Our Take: We've really liked what Scott Lobdell has done since this book relaunched as part of Rebirth, and we've been following/enjoying the degenerating Bizarro storyline and we don't have plans to stop now!

WWE: Attitude Era #1
Writer: Various
Artist: Various
Publisher: Boom! Studios
More Info: ARE YOU READY? The most iconic time in Sports Entertainment history comes to life in untold stories of the WWE. This anthology includes stories looking at Stone Cold Steve Austin, the rivalry between the Brothers of Destruction, Undertaker and Kane, and DX's infamous invasion of a certain wrestling program "down South"...
Our Take: We know there's a lot of overlap between comics and wrestling fans, but we haven't really been part of it. In fact, the last time we were really into wrestling (not counting the Mickey Rourke movie, The Wrestler) was the WWE's attitude era. So, when we opened up this preview, we didn't expect much...and then it all came flooding back. This looks like a fun one-shot for wrestling fans in the late '90s. Very cool.

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

Top Comics of June 2018

By Zack Quaintance — There were so many great comics in June that I cheated in the shoutouts section—where I limit myself to ten picks—by lumping several books together. I tried, really, but I just enjoyed this month’s comics way too much to put myself through some kind of self-imposed Sophie’s Choice.

In fact, there are so many comics this month I’ll cut my usual preamble short and get right to them. Tragic! I know. But worry not! This website is roughly 75 percent rambling (see Analysis or Reviews), so you can easily get a rambling fix elsewhere.

Ready? Let’s do this!

Shout Outs

Immortal Hulk #1 was one of many fantastic debut comics in June 2018.

There were A TON of great debut comics, all of which you can read about in our Best Debut Comics of June 2018, including books like Immortal Hulk, The Weatherman, and The Unexpected.

Against all odds, I liked The Batman Wedding Preludes. They seemed like a blatant cash grab (which, they were…), but Tim Seeley and crew still told nice character-driven stories with them.

Since Benjamin Percy and Chris Mooneyham took over, Nightwing has rocketed up my list of best DC books. In fact, I even wrote a piece called Why Nightwing’s New Run is Working: A Five-Panel Explainer.

Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s existential sci-fi epic Descender is ending after 30-plus issues, but as it does, the creators are using deep familiarity between readers and the book’s well-developed characters to hit truly moving emotional beats, all amid a high-action finale.

Flash #49 continued Flash War with consequential stakes for its lead—Barry Allen—and for his once-forgotten former protege, red-headed Wally West. This is the first story in years to use this much of the Flash family, and we love it.

New Super-Man, one of the best comics of DC's Rebirth era, came to an end this month after 24 issues.

A pair of our favorites ended in June: New Super-Man and the Justice League of China and Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles. That’s bad news. The good news, however, is both series had wonderful conclusions that reminded us of why we loved them.

I became a nightmare. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have them...Bryan Hill hooked us with those opening lines of his five-issue run on Detective Comics. What followed was fantastic, too. We’re total marks for stories like this that question the state of modern fandom. Plus, Cassandra Cain!

A pair of new books hit their strides in June: Crude and Skyward, both of which are on #3. These books are very different, but they are unquestionably two of Image’s best new comics of 2018.

Another month, another pair of top-notch comics from the Warren Ellis-masterminded re-imagining of WildStorm. Simply put, Wild Storm #14 and Wildstorm: Michael Cray #8 were June’s two best comics that not enough fans talked about.

Last but not least, there’s ol’ reliable Valiant, who despite recent ownership changes continues producing awesome comics, with highlights including Harbinger Wars 2 #2 and Quantum and Woody! #7 (also, checkout our friends WMQ Comics preview of Harbinger Wars 2 #3!).

Top Comics of May 2018

Marcos Martin's work on Spider-Man has been described by better websites than this one as "ultra-modern nostalgia."

5. Amazing Spider-Man #801 by Dan Slott & Marcos Martin

Amazing Spider-Man #801 was the final issue of Dan Slott’s epic, decade-long run on Marvel’s flagship title. Slott has said he conceptualized this issue long ago and got Marcos Martin (who has essentially left superhero comics for creator-owned work via Panel Syndicate) to draw it, and it’s a good thing he did.

Slott’s plotting is sweet and poignant, examining how Peter Parker’s With great power comes great responsibility ethos changes lives. It’s a nice capper to a run with more highs than lows. What really makes #801 shine, however, is Martin’s art, which harkens back to the less-muscular Spider-Man as drawn by the character’s creator Steve Ditko, while giving the hero and the world a relatable, modern look. This comic, simply put, is a blissful pleasure to look at and a wonderful palette cleanser between Spider-Man eras.

4. Venom #3 by Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman

Donny Cates only has one mode: #@$%ING INTENSE, which is something I’d come to suspect via his creator-owned work throughout 2017 before having my theory verified recently by Death of the Inhumans #1. His work on Venom has been a slightly slower burn, by Cates standards, which still makes it one of the most recklessly intense books on the stands (seriously, do comic shops have stands? is racks a better word? gah!)

Venom #3 had all the hallmarks I’ve now come to expect from Cates’ best issues: a little terror, a lot of grandiose plotting, confident and clever guiding narration, and a steady expanding of character mythos and status quo. That’s all in here, of course, but what I found most compelling here was the terror of the villain, which all but cows Venom (who, we are reminded by a few panels of trauma via Miles Morales, is a terrifying villain in his own right). Ryan Stegman’s artwork is also a perfect fit for the otherworldly and upsetting rainy ambience in this issue. Basically, I can’t believe I’m saying this but a comic about Venom (Venom!) is one of my favorite books right now, and I can’t wait to see where this is all heading.

Jeff Lemire's Black Hammer is a rare superhero deconstruction steeped in homage and fantastic mystery.

3. Black Hammer Age of Doom #3 by Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston

What Jeff Lemire is doing with Black Hammer and its auxiliary books is one of the most exciting things in comics. It feels like superhero deconstructions 2.0 have finally arrived. Since the 1-2 combo of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns in the ‘80s, grim and gritty realism has ruled as the most popular way to take an analytical lens to superheroes. This book is far from sunny, but what Lemire seems to be doing is superhero deconstruction via a mystery of anachronism and nostalgia, while paying gleeful homage to his favorite comics and creators.

This issue continues to push the unraveling of the plot that contains all these ideas while also sending our protagonist through a set of Ormston artwork that nods to such a cool range of comics, I couldn’t help but smile like an idiot as I read. Oh, and the story also incorporated capital B Big ideas about why stories matter so much. This book is getting closer to being one I send to non-comics readers in trade, kind of like Saga, speaking of which...

2. Saga #53 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

I knew we were in for it when the preview text for this issue read simply: uh oh. And man, did it go down in Saga #53. This was possibly the single most action-heavy episode of the best ongoing series in comics, both in terms of the sequences on the page and the lasting impact for its characters.

I’m not in the business of giving plot details away, but this issue felt to me like the penultimate episode of a good season of Game of Thrones, wherein a number of shocking moments of consequence take place to reshape and redirect the story. Brian K. Vaughan paces the action expertly, and Fiona Staples work is, as always, an absolute joy to behold, with the final panel in particular etching itself into my brain, possibly forever.

1. Marvel 2-in-1 Annual #1 by Chip Zdarsky & Declan Shalvey

Marvel 2-in-1 is one of the best superhero comics right now, and at its core are some of the oldest relationships in the Marvel Universe.

Marvel 2-in-1 seemed odd when it launched. It was part of Marvel’s Legacy publishing line, which returned many titles to original numbering. It’s name nodded to the original Marvel 2-in-1 book from 1974 that ran for a decade, teaming The Thing with different Marvel heroes. This new book, however, was a story about The Thing and his former Fantastic Four teammate The Human Torch, making it seem like a stopgap before the publisher launched a new Fantastic Four title proper.

What has emerged is one of Marvel’s best comics right now, and issues like the Marvel 2-and-1 Annual are why. At the heart of Marvel 2-in-1 are the oldest relationships in the Marvel Universe, specifically those between Thing, Torch, Doctor Doom (trying to be better), and the absent Richards family. This annual looks at the dynamic between Doom and Richards in a way that (no spoilers) creates tension and has readers begging for Victor to please, please, please do what’s right. It’s an incredible bit of storytelling for this surprising and excellent title. It’s almost a shame the full team is returning, presumably shaking up the magic found in this book.

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