This has been an incredible summer in comics and, dear lord, what a scary one too as horror comics have reached new levels with Winnebago Graveyard, The Unsound, and Redlands fighting for control of my dreams. Southern Bastards returned, Shade: The Changing Girl continues to be one of the most original voices in comics, and Clue (yes, THAT Clue) surprises and delights as one of the best series.
As with every power report, let me know if there's any we missed in the comics!
Here are the best comic writers on the shelves today as we commence with September 2017.
Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa
For those that loved the Iron Giant growing up like I did, Greg Pak looks like he might be able to tug at your heart strings with the beautifully written Mech Cadet Yu. This is the underdog coming of age science fiction story you've been waiting for. As with the The Iron Giant, the chemistry between the person and machine works wonderful here, forging a bond that I’m looking forward to becoming stronger in the upcoming issues. Anyone who loved stories like Ready Player One and The Last Starfighter, in which a lowly worker proves that he can rise up to be greater than what is expected of him, will flip for this. It's a wondrous beginning to a story with a lot of potential.
Artist: Irene Flores
I have a feeling that Carly Usdin must have liked Empire Records as much as I did growing up. Her new comic at BOOM! Studios, Hi-Fi Fight Club, is a mix between Empire Records and a mystery, even taking place in the '90s. This is one of my favorite debut issues thus far, in part becaus Usdin has created such likable, fun characters. This is an all-ages comic that is one of the best debuts of the year.
Kelly Sue Deconnick, Valentine De Landro and all the women and men of Bitch Planet: Triple Feature including Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Andrew Aydin, Conley Lyons, Che Grayson, Danielle Henderson, Jordan Clark, Alissa Sallah, Dylan Meconis and Kit Cox
Art: Joanna Estep and Maria Fröhlich
I know it's a little much to include each and every writer of the Bitch Planet Triple Feature but I felt leaving even one out would do a disservice to this incredible and expansive series. It's an excellent idea by Kelly Sue and Valentine to expand the Bitch Planet universe by showcasing different stories of rebellion against the New Protectorate. Each issue has three stories by different writers; I thought originally that I would find favorites between them but actually I think they work surprisingly well together as a whole, explaining different parts of a world that frighteningly mirrors our own.
Artist: Kate Leth, Shae Beagle
It makes complete sense that the writer of Lumberjanes would create a story with so much heart and appeal. It's so easy to get lost in Moonstruck's fantastic world of centaurs and skeletons, each with their own personality and fashion sense. It's one of those comics that are a little left of center, but it has such relatable, human characters ... even the characters that aren't human. It's playful in the same way as Kelly Thompson's Jem and the Misfits … and just as smart and engaging. This is another wonderful world that Ellis has made, this time combined with the wonderful artwork by Kath Leth and Shae Beagle, and one that should be included in all pulls.
Artist: Alison Sampson, Stephane Paitreau, Jordie Bellaire, Aditya Bidikar
Winnebago Graveyard is one of the surprise hits of the summer, as Steve Niles has proved he can make a horror series with some serious teeth to it. There's a lot of homages to great horror films of the past in these pages as demonic groups unleash horrors upon characters that unwittingly happen to stumble into town. The best part of Winnebago Graveyard is that Niles and Alison Sampson really know how to isolate the viewer, giving them a sense of entrapment with the characters. Much like horror VR games, we're walking with the characters, exploring as they are, our eyes widening as theirs do. This series is not for the faint of heart.
Artist: Stephen Segovia
Confession time: I have a major soft spot for really good Lana Lang Smallville stories. This last issue has dealt with a new villain named Red Son and a hero named Lex Luthor. It's an interesting reversal that plays with the reader while also teasing elements of Lana's relationship with Clark as well as showing how Lana got her powers to become Superwoman. The comic jumps back in forth in time to show Lana making Clark jealous to her present day being manipulated by Red Son. It's an exciting book that comes through at the end with an extra twist.
Artist: Travel Foreman
The Ultimates vs. The Ultimates. Al Ewing has created a series that just has so much in it. It's a series for those that love comics as the Ultimates (modern) face off against the Ultimates (of the Ultimate Universe). How does this happen? Reed Richards, of course. This explosive series contains all the white-knuckle action you'd expect, but also focuses on character growth and the very idea of what exactly a superhero is supposed to be. There's a lot of interesting philosophy here surrounding nostalgia and comics, as well as where comics are going. Ewing has created a masterclass on superheroes and the comic book medium and a must-read for 2017.
Artist: Jack Cole
Cullen Bunn seems to be on the shelves all the time, and the focus here is on his incredible series from Boom! Studios, The Unsound. In this series Cullen and artist Jack Cole take you into an underfunded asylum with a story that plays with perception, authority, trust and definitions of insanity. For those that loved the recent run of Moon Knight -- and for all that love psychological horror, for that matter -- The Unsound is a creepy and brilliantly crafted horror book that will continue to make you quiver long after you close it.
Artist: Jason Latour
Southern Bastards returns with a gritty new story arc as Coach Boss' enemies are circling overhead. For those that don't remember, Boss used his muscle to cheat in the last issue, showing that his will to win was more than his love of competition. It's sad to see the tragic fall of Coach Boss, even if he's a character that's extremely hard to like.
Artist: Vanesa R Del Rey
Possibly the most exciting debut of the summer is Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa R Del Rey's nightmare-inducing Redlands. You probably recognize Bellaire as doing the colors on basically all our favorite comics (Injection, The Vision, etc.) but in this incredible debut Jordie is playing double duty with both the script and the coloring. It's really dark and full of a small-town southern gothic sensibility. But the brutality in these pages is jarring, and I mean that with the highest compliment. Too many times in stories like this the reader is led in one direction and told what to think; this story is bold enough to let the reader do the thinking. There's times when the reader will applaud punishment until it turns too grim and it feels like the blood is staining our hands as well. It's this ambiguity that makes this debut so special and I hope the horror continues in this way. It’s an affecting debut.
Artist: Joe Quinones
America Chavez is quickly becoming a household name thanks to the spectacular new series by Gabby Rivera and Joe Quinones. The great thing about this comic is that it's so damn smart. America not only celebrates the character's queer Latina attributes but also creates a society that celebrates it (she goes to Sottomayor University, named after Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor). The latest arc pairs America with Kate Bishop, who also appeared in the America debut issue, in a fun superhero road trip storyline that teams up Rivera with Hawkeye writer Kelly Thompson.
Artist: Amancay Nahuelpan
It was only a matter of time before comics went directly to the country's state of political turmoil. You could probably gather what Calexit is from the title, but just in case, it’s about the secession of California, a state that voted 3 to 1 for Hillary Clinton. But the situations that Pizzolo creates are real and affective and more than a few times I read conversations I've overheard in restaurants and bars. Also, Pizzolo wisely uses the book as a form of resistance, a call to action away from apathy and to a better tomorrow. It's a smart political book.
Artist: Leonardo Romero
Superhero steel cage death match! One of my favorite things about Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero's excellent Hawkeye is that they blend the humor with the action so dang well. For those that love Kelly Thompson, you know that she excels at back-and-forth banter, using it for great comic effect. The latest issue is heavy on the action as Kate wakes up in a steel cage fight club match with a guy that can 'human torch' himself. This series continues to be one of the best on the shelves.
Artists: Barry Kitson and Stephen Segovia
It's exciting when a comic book writer starts with an incredible series and continues into other areas with wonderful success. Jody Houser has taken her explosive Faith series and expanded to working on Star Wars: Rogue One and Mother Panic, both fantastic series in their own right. It's hard not to always go back to Faith, though, as she's consistently is one of the best characters on the shelves today. In the newest arc, Faith and the Future Force, time travel is a main element with dramatic irony playing a main role. This four-part mini-series joins Faith with a timewalker named Neela and Ank, but the Faith tropes we all love (ridiculous and hilarious villains and excellent chemistry with dialogue) are there, making this still one of the best series to pull.
Artist: Rafael de Latorre
When I first heard of the premise of Animosity, I thought that there was a lot that could go wrong and I approached with caution. Now, at issue nine, I find this is one of the best books out there. With the concept that animals have the same intelligence and emotional range of humans as well as the ability to speak, there's a lot of potential for preachiness or obvious satire, yet Marguerite Bennett is not only engaging and fresh with how she deals with the material but also astoundingly clever in how she approaches the characters. The story follows a girl who must navigate through a jungle of different animals with her dog at her side, yet the humanity doesn't end with them; there's a lot of heart in these stories amid all the danger and action and Bennett does an excellent job of creating different voices for different species.
Artist: Raul Allen
It makes sense that Eric Heisserer, the writer of the award-winning film Arrival, has found a home with Valiant with one of the most talked-about and astounding series of the summer. Secret Weapons follows Livewire, a fan favorite who has never been featured up until now. Similar to Marvel's X-Men, the story follows a young group of psiots, each with their own ability. One can speak to birds while another can summon objects. The powers, though, are less than compelling (nobody can shoot laser beams from their eyes or anything), but Livewire sees something much more than we do in this collection of misfits. This is a four-part miniseries that ends this month and has been one of the best-reviewed comics of the year. This is the book to read this summer and one to immediately start binging.
G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Marco Failla
I find that reading the absolutely wonderful Ms. Marvel each month not only reminds me why I love new characters so much in the Marvel universe (if she can be called "new" still) but also how I love stories that relate directly to the political climate that we live in. There's no better comic for this than Ms. Marvel that, regardless of your political views, makes the reader think about the world around them and how it gets built (one of the best storylines recently dealt with gerrymandering). Take, for example, this past issue where Ms. Marvel learns that her newest enemy is, in fact, a friend of hers that she’s known throughout her life and she realizes that the world’s philosophy is changing around her and she must engage with that world ... not through superpowers, but through conversation and dialogue. So many times in the history of comics do we see heroes fight villains with different political ideologies with fists that it’s refreshing to see the argument that sometimes words and an open ear can be a powerful approach. It’s a fantastic arc in a character that continues be one of Marvel’s best.
Artist: Mitch Geralds
While there’s been a general acceptance that Tom King’s takeover of Batman has been excellent, the buzz around his newest series from DC, Mister Miracle, is otherworldly. King, if you remember right, came from Marvel and Dark Horse, writing two of the best series of last year: The Vision and The Sheriff of Babylon. They were dark, beautiful and, most of all, existentially profound in their philosophy and subject matter. It’s this type of ominous storytelling that the reader witnesses again in the brilliantly personal story of Mister Miracle. It may be the beginning of something truly special. Do not miss it.
Artist: Alessandro Vitii
Sina Grace's beautiful Iceman comic combines action with teenage relationships and features the internal conflict of coming out to your parents as gay. It makes sense that the artist who drew the emotionally brilliant Li'l Depressed Boy can pack so many emotions into an issue while creating characters that thrive on excellently written dialogue. The great part of this series is that the action works with the character development and not around or inhibiting it, especially in the conversations between Daken and Bobby. This is a wonderful comic that continues to surprise me with each issue with how skillfully it navigates intimidating subject matter while peppering in action and engagement. It's one of the best of the summer and should be put on every pull list.
Jody LeHeup and Sebastian Girner
Artist: Nil Vendrell
Are you someone that loves flapjacks and hates bears? Well, there's a great new series for someone like you: Shirtless Bear Fighter. There’s a shirtless man fighting bears in a series that has joke after joke of insanely ridiculous and sometimes juvenile fashion that's smile-inducing all the way through. This undoubtedly is one of the most fun series of the summer as bears are invading the city and Homeland Security knows there's only one answer to this invasion: a man with no shirt (and sometimes no pants).
Artist: Chris Wildgoose
Superhero relationships are always sticky. When you wear a mask, you must be used to hiding things. And, in the latest Batgirl arc by Hope Larson, "Summer of Lies," we see how even though we may be done with the past, it sometimes lingers between us in the worst possible ways. Batgirl definitely has some unfinished business with Mr. Dick Grayson and Larson does a great job at showing how that past can both help them work together while still being emotionally difficult.
Artist: Nelson Daniel
I've always enjoyed playing Clue growing up but never did I think it would make a wonderfully funny mystery comic book series that played on tropes of both the game and the cult classic Tim Curry movie. Mr. Body invites a group of people (you know them: Miss Scarlet, Colonel Mustard, etc.) to a dinner party and, wouldn’t you know it, someone dies. Yet there’s an excellent, almost Deadpool-like tongue-in-cheek here with some great meta breaking of the fourth wall in these pages that make this one of the most fun issues in comics this summer. I know this is a hard sell, especially to a genre that loves superheroes and mysteries in the form of Paper Girls, but this series is excellent and, I promise, worthy of your pull.
Artist: Christian Ward
Marvel’s mind-mending Black Bolt is a great psychological head trip that reminds me of the fun that was recently Moon Knight (just less confusing and, well, less sand). In Saladin Ahmed's story, the characters are in a prison, held hostage by The Jailer. There's a beautiful backstory with Crusher Creel in the latest issue but Saladin Ahmed’s real talent is fleshing out the wonderful characters, placing the engagement of the story around character development over plot (at least in these beginning stages). It's an incredible Black Bolt story that never telegraphs its punches and continually keeps its readers guessing at what is coming next.
Artist: Cat Staggs
While there are many superheroes flying around in comics there's also some superheroes of writing -- writers that turn heads in comic book stores when they are mentioned as they set the world ablaze with their words. Gail Simone is a leader among writers and an excellent example of her skill with the pen is the in the new Crosswind with Catt Staggs. On the surface, Crosswind is a Freaky Friday-ish body-switching drama, but Simone does it her way, switching a cocky Chicago hit man with an under-appreciated Seattle housewife. It's a compellingly dark series and one of the best in the Image line.
Artist: Lisandro Estherren
While most of the excitement around Donny Cates has been put towards his incredible break-out series God Country, his other series in the Image line, Redneck, is proving to be just as astounding. It tells of a story of two feuding families, the Bowmans and the Landrys, where one of the feuding families (the Bowmans), well, happen to be vampires. They’re not THAT bad, though, as they live off cow’s blood that they get from their BBQ joint. But with the murder of one Bowman family member, the armistice that they previously set up as gone up in flames and all hell is breaking loose. This isn’t a typical vampire story as it deals a lot more with the South and the relations between two warring families and seems to be more for the audience of Southern Bastards than it does American Vampire. It’s an excellent series by star writer Cates.
Artists: Daniel Sampere and Bruno Redondo
Writing a comic surrounding a video game is a difficult thing to do but Tom Taylor's ingenious Injustice 2 shows that it’s not only possible but one hell of a good time. In the latest installment, a bad Batman is ready to set off a brain bomb in Harley Quinn. Then, as with all the great episodes of Injustice 2, there’s an addition of excellent new characters to the fray, this time with Atom and Wildcat. Don't worry about the tie-in with the game; this is a series that works fine on its own and is one of the most fun in the DC line.
Artists: Doug Braithwaite and Tomas Giorello
X-O Manowar reminds me so much of what I enjoyed about The Godfather Part III, that when someone tries to get away from corruption, corruption always finds a way of pulling them back in. It's a harsh lesson in reality in that there are certain things that we cannot escape and that, within human nature, there are evils that one will confront wherever they go. Aric succumbs to this understanding within the new compelling arc of X-O Manowar as he tries to live out a life away from war. It’s a wonderfully complex story, full of clever political maneuvering and plot twists. Adding this to a brilliantly done backstory between the competitive friendship of Mia and Lily and Matt Kindt demonstrates once again why he’s one of the best comic book writers in the country.
Artist: Marley Zarcone
The best comics on the shelves stay with you after you've finished reading them. They linger as you lay in your bed. Shade is the story of an alien who inhabits the both of a young girl to learn how to "live like a poem." She is obsessed with Earth and in this latest issue she goes to Hollywood to find Honey, the I Love Lucy-style character in the TV show she loves. Since Shade is an alien, she doesn’t understand that Honey has aged, and when she finds her, Honey is all too ready for death. It’s a beautiful moment that includes aspects of both life, death, images of celebrity and how we view them, and what makes life living. This is one of the most unique and interesting comic books I've ever read.
Artist: Sean Phillips
If you go into a comic store and ask for the best book of 2017, there’s a great chance you're going to be walking away with Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' tour de force Kill or Be Killed. It's the story of a man that has to kill people in order to stay alive ... or so he thinks. But I can’t talk about the plot of this incredible series as the real star is the narrative, a playfully inventive non-linear storyline that tests as well as rewards its readership. It's one of the best Brubaker stories ... and that's saying something, as Brubaker is consistently named as one of the best writers alive today. A must-read for anyone who loves comics.
Artist: Greg Capullo
Scott Snyder, to my knowledge, doesn’t have a nickname, but for today, let’s call him The Professor. Why? Cause there’s not only a group of incredible writers, including James Tynion Jr and Marguerite Bennett, that come out of the Snyder school of writing, but each week he provides yet another lesson to readers everywhere of how to make an incredible comic. The month, we’re astounded yet again by the combination of Snyder and Steve Orlando in Batman/The Shadow as well as the reuniting with Greg Capullo to do Metal, a Batman-leading Justice League series about a dark multiverse. In Metal, The Professor shows up how to set up a story well, building on a mythology, this time around Hawkman, while establishing both a chemistry, and lack of chemistry, between the characters (oh and there’s a good amount of funny jokes thrown in there as well by The Flash). The highlight of the issue is the emergence of a surprise character at the end that made all comic book fans jump out of their seats. It’s everything you want from a debut issue and another reason why there’s no better writer out there than The Professor.