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February's a short month, but that didn't stop the comics releases from being both plentiful and very enjoyable. At both DC and Marvel, we got remarkable solo outings for heroes new and old, while Oni Press closed the book on an excellent fantasy miniseries, IDW gave us a throwback to our favorite Saturday morning cartoons, and Image delivered perhaps the most beautifully realized debut of the year so far.
So, from indie hits to superhero favorites, here are the best comics we read in February.
The Thing #4
There are few things I love more in superhero comics than watching Ben Grimm make his way through a frustrating universe, and that's exactly what The Thing series from writer Walter Moseley and artist Tom Reilly has given us so far. In past issues we've seen him battle everything from his own jealousy issues to the Champion of the Universe, and now in the fourth installment he's out in the cosmos, exploring the Blue Area of the Moon and still trying to figure out what's up with that creepy figure from issue #1. Featuring extraordinarily great characterization from Reilly and a script that plumbs the depths of The Thing's curiosity and determined spirit, The Thing is easily one of my favorite Marvel solo hero books in years, and it just keeps getting better.
Monkey Prince #1
After introducing their new Asian hero with a short story in a DC anthology last year, writer Gene Luen Yang and artist Bernard Chang have stepped up to deliver a full-scale Monkey Prince adventure beginning this month, and the results are satisfying both for teen hero fans and fans of the larger DC Universe. Yang's goal was always to create a new hero who carries his own aesthetic while also fitting seamlessly into DC continuity, and that goal remains intact here, as we learn how Monkey Prince came to embrace his heroic heritage, and how it factors into his previous life as a seemingly ordinary teenager with some very unusual fears. It's an ambitious, fast-paced, and fun debut, and it ends with a jaw-dropping cliffhanger to set up what comes next.
Step by Bloody Step #1
The art of the silent comic is tricky to execute, particularly in a full single issue, but when it's done right it can have staggeringly good results. Step by Bloody Step, from writer Si Spurrier and artist Matias Bergara, is indeed a staggeringly good comic, a beautifully paced journey through a dark fantasy world with art that will take your breath away and emotional stakes that keep you glued to the page. The story is, on the surface, very simple: A young child and their robot companion have to cross a vast landscape, and no matter what, they have to keep going. Why? They don't know. Their memories seem to be lost, but the drive to keep moving is not. It's that drive, and what it does to the two main characters, that keeps you hooked to this book page after page, panel after panel. It's something special, and I'm very eager to check out future issues.
Radio Apocalypse #2
Speaking of special comics I'm eager to keep reading, there's Radio Apocalypse from the always-great team of writer Ram V and artist Anand Rk. Anchored by the title radio station -- basically one guy in a little room in an outpost at the end of the world -- the series has so far documented the lives of several characters as they fight for several in and around the few settlements that seem to be left in the world. This time out, the book takes the tone of a kind of wasteland road trip, and it's just as gorgeous and emotionally weighty as what came before. Ram and Anand are building a gorgeous, deeply detailed world here, and it feels like the kind of place we'll want to keep getting lost in month after month.
Dirtbag Rapture #5
If you're looking for a comic that will genuinely surprise you from page to page, and sometimes from panel to panel, look no further than Dirtbag Rapture, which wrapped up its initial five-issue run this month. Written by Christopher Sebela with art by Kendall Goode, it begins as the story of a young woman who has the unique job of transporting ghosts from place to place, sometimes by storing them in her own head. That alone seems like a meaty enough concept for a book, but then things take a turn when it becomes not just a supernatural comedy, but a battle for the fate of the entire world, full of angels, demons, and one very strange conception of God. This book was funny, clever, ambitious, and emotionally hefty to the last, and if you missed it, now's the time to go back and catch up.
Bylines in Blood #2
With Bylines in Blood, writers Erica Schultz and Van Jensen and artist Aneke have given me something I never knew I wanted: A fascinating hybrid of Blade Runner and All the President's Men that's as visually inventive as it is narratively satisfying. The story follows a former journalist who's turned to private detective work in a future where truth as a firm concept basically no longer exists, unless you're willing to go hunting for it yourself. By the time issue #2 rolls around, she's on the trail of a killer who targeted one of her mentors, and while just managing to catch up with the assassin was hard enough, figuring out what's behind him is going to be even harder. I love the atmosphere of this book, I love the driving plot, I love the design, and I can't wait to read more.
G.I. Joe: Saturday Morning Adventures #1
The folks over at IDW have a pretty lengthy history with new G.I. Joe comics at this point, from complete reinventions to Transformers crossovers and everything in between. Then there's Saturday Morning Adventures from writer Erik Burnham and artist Dan Schoening. If you're thinking the title means you're in for a print version of an episode of the cartoon, you're absolutely right, but what makes it work is that Burnham and Schoening aren't out to clone the animated series. They've captured the tone, and the look, but they're also eager to tell a new story, and that makes the book both nostalgic and fresh. It's a blast from cover to cover.