Wow, what a month for comics. Gertrude from I Hate Fairyland is trying to go good, Sex Criminals is back with a vengeance, Reverse Flash can, well, punch a lot in a small amount of time.
The artistry this month be the best of the entire year with such haunting visuals on display in Sean Phillips' Kill or Be Killed and Greg Smallwood's Moon Knight. The year's far from over, though, so we've compiled the best comic artists for the month of May and listed them below.
We might not have gotten them all, so let us know in the comments.
When Gertrude goes to a convention and mentors a fan, she sees a reflection of herself and knows she needs to change (after killing the fan, of course). Pledging to be on the path of goodness and righteousness, she takes the role of a samurai with the hope of rescuing a baby from a village of, well, mushroom people. But as with everything in Fairyland, this does not go as expected and Gertrude learns, once again, that Skottie Young's I Hate Fairyland is not as straightforward as one would hope.
Young's art and Jean-Francois Beaulieu's colors create jaw-dropping, spectacular fight scenes and are full of cartoony blood and mushroom guts. It's the type of ridiculousness that makes I Hate Fairyland such a hit; crazy characters and enough violence to scar an eight-year-old for life.
There’s an ongoing argument I have with my local comic book store. I believe that Detective Comics is the best of the Batmans around right now and I will fight to the death for that argument. While I win some arguments and lose others, everyone always agrees that Marcio Takara's artwork is particularly amazing and worthy of mention. Detective Comics #955 is a great example of how to make a fight scene and turn violence into a bloody choreography of punches and reactions. There's a lovely grittiness in these pages that serves as an excellent example of why Detective Comics stands out as one of DC's best books (and, if you ask me, the best Batman book on the shelves).
Daniel Warren Johnson
Taking place in a time of clans, castles and space ships, Extremity takes place in a Mad Max-style environment where Thea, the protagonist, is an artist that got her right arm chopped off. She's a part of a peaceful clan that is held down by the Paznina, run by a draconian-style ruler. Yet there's a lot more punch in this than in a typical series as gigantic monsters, robotic warriors and wise women fill a universe that continues to astound with each issue. Johnson does double duty, acting as writer and artist, with Mike Spicer creating eye-popping colors that intensify the fast-paced action.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur continues to be one of the most enjoyable comics in the Marvel line with the most recent story arc of battling Dr. Doom and teaming up with the X-Men really putting a spotlight on the beauty of Natacha Bustos' artwork. It's plain hilarious to see this little girl as the smartest person in the room while the older, more experienced X-Men need her help ... and Bustos illustrates this beautifully. Also, the interior artwork and use of space in each frame is particularly incredible as Bustos has a keen eye for design and fully uses the whole page to create her scene. This is one of the best examples of an all-ages superhero book and a pleasure to pick up each month.
A serial killer is on the loose and the target is those infected with the Beauty virus, a sexual transmitted disease that turns people beautiful (amid slightly painful side effects). The victims are placed on wooden poles with mirrors circling them, drained of their blood in a horrific display and left in homes, waiting to be found. It's a great beginning of a story arc similar to the first in the Beauty series and one that Haun has shown he can do well, focusing on the division between the Beauties and the ones that don't have the virus.
Bilquis Evely, Liam Sharp
While Greg Rucka is getting a lot of applause for his work on Wonder Woman, the all-too-often unsung hero of this series is the classic, spectacular artwork of Bilquis Evely and Liam Sharp. While the artists take turns with each issue (Evely does the even-numbered issues while Sharp does the odd), Evely had the difficult job of substituting for master artist Nicola Scott. Bilquis has put her stamp on the series in the best possible way, with dynamic, detailed pages that fit the character and the 'Godwatch' story well, swapping Liam Sharp’s muscular, action-filled panels with a more classic agility. This continues to be one of the best series DC is publishing and showcases two of the best artists they have.
Already hailed as an instant classic, God Country has been compared to both Game of Thrones and Cormac McCarthy's The Road. This is not an easy feat in comics as both the writing and artwork must blend extraordinarily well, as this one definitely does, to create something both original and compelling. With God's Country, Geoff Shaw's subtle approach is on display as characters eyes speak volumes in small moments of expression amidst blinding displays of light. Shaw's use of space, creating a desolate West Texas, draws on a barren place covered overhead by arthritic tree branches, closing down upon the characters. It's breathtaking, cinematic and worthy of all the acclaim it's been getting as one of the best comics in Image's line.
While the Champions vs. the Freelancer story has had its ups and downs, the artwork, especially in the powers and emotions of Ms. Marvel, has been especially stellar. Ramos' images of the team (as well as some hilarious moments between Hulk and Viv) create poster-quality scenes that display why Ramos is consistently the person with the longest lines at every convention. Also, his style blends effortlessly with Mark Waid's script for the characters, highlighting their youth and bond as they form their new team.
If there's one comic I could compel you to pick up by reading this article, it would be Eric Zawadzki's mesmerizing series, The Dregs. It's a mystery story with a homeless junkie for a detective that combines psychological elements with a gritty story. It's a completely original series and one that's based in the real world in a way that makes the reader look twice as they walk the streets of a city. Get it! It's good!
If there's one thing I'm a complete sucker for it's a treasure map, and when you flip the story of The Goonies on its head ... well, you've got me. Misfit City is the debut issue from BOOM! Studios that gathers a group of women in the tourist town that was the setting for The Goonies. True, there are some really annoying tourists that come into this 'burg, but this debut issue reminds me of the camaraderie shown in The Lumberjanes and Naomi Franquiz's jovial style creates a mood that's so much fun.
Brittany Williams does an excellent job of instilling excitement and fun into her artistry and there's no better series that highlights that jovial mood than Patsy Walker aka Hellcat. This is the only series that can go to both hell and the mall and have the same kind of mood permeate. It's a comic that loves being about friendship and loyalty and rewards readers with smiles every week. This is not a roller-coaster comic full of twists and nail-biting action sequences; it’s a comic that has the reader love the characters and care about how they interact with each other. You pull this comic because of the relationships, and the cartoony, hyperbolic style of Williams makes it a pleasure every month.
The most exciting thing about the new Jean Grey is that it mixes the classic Jean character with one the reader just wants to grab ramen with. Victor Ibanez is a standout in this debut issue, from the scenes of hanging out in Kyoto to the fun pics that Grey has on her smartphone. It's difficult to build a character out of the past and make something totally your own but Ibanez and Dennis Hopeless do just that as Jay David Ramos' bright colors jump right off the page. All too often, Jean is sexualized with her outfits, but Victor Ibanez has created a teenager that's really a kid and that's refreshing to see.
Each issue of the post-apocalyptic Spread tests the extent of survival in showing how the characters react to a little baby called Hope. In the latest issue we learn the real name of the character No and the origin of the baby's ability to kill the Spread, a red, fleshy monster that can talk and consume humans. Bivens' art continues from a previous story arc by Kyle Strahm, where the world is a cold wasteland, full of small trees and strained faces. It's a series that continues to fascinate me, as many Justin Jordan books do, but this particular story arc sends a chill down my spine with each issue.
Jenn St Onge
One of the biggest highlights of IDW is the current Jem: The Misfits series, a clever look at a band that, after losing a Battle of the Bands against Jem and the Holograms, must now take part in a reality show to make ends meet. The stress of the show takes its toll on each of the characters, forcing them to confront issues that they've long been suppressing. For Roxy, the Misfits' drummer, it's that she doesn’t know how to read. This is an emotional issue for her and it shows how hard life can be on people who unfortunately got left behind. The handling of issues like this has to be done carefully, especially in the cartoony version that fits with the Jem theme and Jenn St Onge chronicles both Roxy’s current situation and her backstory with empathy.
'Charming' is a word that may not apply to all Marvel characters (looking at you, Logan) but there's no better adjective to describe the crew of the Unstoppable Wasp, a series that manages to improve with each issue and find a way to have you absolutely fall in love with the characters. And sometimes, in the creation of a comic series, you find that the artist has hit a wave that they're riding with the reader, a style that perfectly fits the mood of the series ... and the result is something, well, unstoppable. Elsa Charretier has found that wave and the latest Unstoppable Wasp, in which Nadia finds that Ying has implanted a bomb in her skull. The issue never gets away from the fun tone that has been set by Charretier and colorist Megan Wilson as they portray a band of characters that constantly warm the heart. There's a distinctive voice and style in this comic that's a welcome addition to the Marvel Universe and a worthy addition to any pull.
Camen Nunez Carnero
It's a hard time to be Kara Danvers. Easily one of the most exciting characters in the DC Universe (especially since The CW's Supergirl was released), Supergirl has been mourning the loss of a close friend in more than one comic series. Her character in DC Bombshells has always been a reader favorite and her re-appearance in the most recent issue showcases an excellent beginning to a new story arc. In this issue in particular, Camen Nunez Carnero's art is especially striking as Kara evades Lex Luthor's manipulation through a dance as notes are threading in and out of the page. This series has always been an art-focused project, with characters getting a new, engaging look to fit their strong personas and Carnero continues to utilize a striking signature style.
Each Monstress issue continues to boggle my mind with new characters, nekomancy (the magical art of creating cat girls) and a world that continues to get bigger and bigger (I would LOVE to see a map of where everything is actually located). The visual details are, of course, the most spellbinding in all of this as each issue Sana Takeda does a superb job of extrapolating the depths of Marjorie Liu's script. Consistently gorgeous, Monstress is a master class in how to create an astonishing fantasy book.
The most socially aware and downright clever comic book currently on the shelves is The Flintstones. This series continues to shine as Steve Pugh and Mark Russell have put together a comic that delights in the ridiculous (Fred and Barney go and see The Bridges of Madistone County), the wonderfully smart (they see it in a theater called Plato's Cave) and socially relevant (there's a moment where Fred announces that "racism is the most expensive luxury we have"). The long-ago characters reflect what is currently going on in the real world and Pugh expertly combines this with the spectacular images of majestic dinosaurs as well as the subtle background advertisements in stones stating "Eat the entire Python and your meal is free." The Flintstones is a surprise pleasure of a series and one of the most important comics of 2017.
Nobody can capture the breadth of an entire (and fully-realized) world quite like Matteo Scalera in Black Science. It's epic in a way that mirrors the science fiction of the '70s and '80s and encapsulates how escapism and sci-fi go beautifully hand-in-hand. Grant McKay's desperation as more people suddenly are taken over by parasitic forces make this one of the most jarring and panicked issues on the shelves this month -- it's sci-fi with bravado and swagger.
Oh man, is it a good time to be a Kara Danvers fan. Supergirl: Being Super is the Supergirl story that fans of the character have always wanted. Joelle Jones does such a wonderful job at conveying emotion in a scene of deep thought and anguish during Kara's time of mourning. There are beautiful, heartbreaking moments on display in one of the best comics published this month.
Motor Crush has been a breathtaking display of technology, racing, relationship drama and adrenaline but, at the heart of every issue, is the sexy, brilliant work of Babs Tar in fleshing out the characters and bringing together a race-obsessed world. The line that the Motor Crush crew walks is so thin, creating a compelling and fun (and even, at times, cartoony) romp mixed with hard relationship issues and themes of drug abuse, infidelity and divorce. Yet there's a unabashed pleasure within these pages that start with the drawings of Babs Tarr, which have proven to be addicting to both critics and audiences alike. It's an incredible comic and this first arc showcases one of the best comics of 2017 thus far.
While there are some comics that dive deep into the readers' souls, there are many others that prefer to buckle you up and take you on one hell of a ride. With Rachel Rosenberg (one of the best colorists working today), Aco is clearly having a ball with Nick Fury, creating an atmosphere of fast-paced action. The panels at times looks like a James Bond movie with Fury taking in the whole environment, creating a sense of awe and wonder. It's a gorgeous debut and one of the most exciting comics issues in a long time.
The dark mystery of Black Hammer keeps getting deeper as motives are being questioned through the strange actions of our heroes. As the characters try to leave a town that's turning more into a Twilight Zone with each episode, Dean Ormston's drawings continue to show understated emotions such as Gail's private anguish, the soft pain of Colonel Weird's eyes and the blank stare of Madame Dragonfly's gaze. It's one of the best series of 2017 and a breakout hit for Ormston.
As Moon Knight reaches its conclusion next month, Greg Smallwood and colorist Jordie Bellaire's work on creating this horrifying tale should be commended. Each issue is an impeccable display of horror, confusion and eeriness, highlighting the psychological through-line of Marvel's best title. Psychologically trippy in the best way possible, Moon Knight always leaves the audience off-balance, wondering what's coming next. This series is a hallmark to the psychological horror genre and, while I can't wait for the final issue to arrive this month, I'm going to miss this strange and wonderful trip Smallwood has taken the reader on.
If you publish a comic book where the character actually has a cockroach grab something out of the villain's ear and give me nightmares (I live in New York ... this is a possibility), then, yes, I will put you on this list. Erica Henderson's incredible work on the latest story arc of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl where Doreen Green must combat a woman who holds the power of suggestion over any animal is a criminally good time. Fighting bears, a side story involving a bear and chicken romance, and the criticism of putting dangerous animals in a city (even if it is a zoo) shows that Erica is still one of the funniest artists in the business. But the reason why Erica breaks the Top 10 this month is the out-of-control, wonderful Asskira cover on Sex Criminals that, well, has to be seen to be believed. Get both.
The hard thing about doing artwork for a hall-of-fame writer like Brian K. Vaughan is that a lot of reviews will focus on the writer. Paper Girls, though, is one of the best series of 2016-2017 and has some of the best art in the past decade. Praise should be given to artwork that not only brings out the characters but creates an ambiance and mood to the environment -- a hard thing to do with a story that, at times, leaves more questions on the table than answers. But each issue not only extrapolates on the characters but also stretches the amount of wonderment and all-out fun one could have reading a comic, making Paper Girls one of the best portal comics to get friends into comics.
The grittiness of the Eisner-nominated Kill or Be Killed continues to gnaw at me with each issue. It’s not a clean story. The characters, like the artwork itself, are messy, convoluted and surprising real. They have problems, both psychological and with the world around them, and their realistic portrayal heightens the accountability of their actions. These are not cartoons but flesh and blood, and when they kill, it is people that are shown and not caricatures, making this comic one of the most unsettling, and brilliant, in the Image line. Sean Phillips' images are beautiful in their telling of such a hauntingly real story.
There's been a lot of acclaim for Jason Fabok's revolutionary turn with Batman, a major feat since he took over for Greg Capullo, one of the greatest Batman artists of all time. Yet Fabok has developed his own style and, with the recent story arc where Flash and Batman are investigating The Comedian’s button, the results have been astounding. The panel arrangements in the fight between Reverse Flash and Batman are particularly spectacular as time crawls to show how Reverse Flash can punch multiple times within a few seconds. It's a magnificent example of how Fabok is making his mark on DC’s greatest character.
I have missed Head Lopper so much since it went on hiatus last June. There's nothing quite like this comic. It's a mix of action, ridiculous comedy and young adult cartoon featuring a warrior named Norgal and a witch head named Agatha. In this new story arc, Norgal must face riddles, an automaton and Ulrich the Twice Damned as the blood flows from severed limbs. Andrew MacLean's artistry creates an adventure with just enough cartoony appeal to allow for crazy violence while still inducing a smile at every page. It's been compared to Adult Swim shows like Samurai Jack and Adventure Time, though this series is creating something all its own and, with 50 pages for each issue, makes for one of the most rewarding series currently on the shelves.
There's no artist that does better Easter eggs that reward re-reading than Chip Zdarsky. Each issue of Sex Criminals is a masterwork of hilarious and engaging visuals, sometimes using a black frame, meta-storylines of Chip and Matt talking, or inhabiting the use of character perspective to get in the minds of those dealing with relationships, communication, being alone and, yes, sex. These last few issues centering on a pornography convention have been both moving and funny, a balance that Sex Criminals pulls off incredibly well.