Sometimes being a comics fan is about branching out.
As I have documented in the past, I started reading comics with Marvel’s X-Men #3 in 1991. At the time I had no aspirations of reading other titles or publishers – I just wanted to know what these mutants were all about. However, once I visited a comic store, the purchase pattern started expanding. All the X-Men. Then a bit of Image. Oh, and Wonder Woman of course. Hey, these new Dark Horse superheroes look cool!
That’s part of why I like putting together this list. I’m a complete Marvel Zombie, a phrase historically indicating someone who reads the entire Marvel line. However, I’m not just a Marvel fan – I’m a fan of the comic medium. That means sometimes I need to just see what’s out there to break out of my normal fan comfort zone.
Hopefully this list helps you with that, too!
Crush of the Week: Heart In a Box OGN
Buy this comic. Buy it. Buy it!
Kelly Thompson is the brilliant author of the CBR “She Has No Head” column and the books The Girl Who Would Be King and Storykiller who finally exploded as a comic author in 2015 with Jem from IDW and Captain Marvel and the Carole Corps from Marvel. She is the real deal when it comes to amazing characters, and she also weaves in a thick vein of feminism (i.e., everyone has an equal opportunity) into all of her work. This is her first original graphic novel, paired with artist Meredith McClaren, about a girl who needs to literally put her heart back together after a breakup. You need it.
Interesting Unknown: Universal War One
From writer/artist Denis Bajram, the solicit: The whole world is at war. And it’s about to get worse. 2058. Humanity has colonized our entire solar system. In the middle of a civil war between the core planets and distant outlying planetary settlements, an immense black wall appears, cutting our solar system in two.”
This is a French comic translated and released by a Marvel imprint. The confusing thing is that it’s hit hardcover before – once for the original series, and once for the follow-up Revelations. This is longer than each of those , but not long enough to be both of them in one book(the original series were 64pg issues, the follow-up 48 – we’d have to assume 20% ads to fit into this sub-300pg book, which is high). I’m not sure what to tell you, but it looks cool!
Now, on to Marvel and the rest of the publishers!
A-Force Presents, Vol 01 TP – Collects Black Widow (2014) #1, Captain Marvel (2014) #1, Ms. Marvel (2014) #1, She-hulk (2014) #1, Thor (2014) #1 And Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1.
Marvel shoe-horns a ton of not-strictly-standalone number one issues from female heroes into one TPB. While I’m pro trying to capitalize on Marvel’s sustained surge of female leading characters, a $15 sampler of incomplete stories feels like an odd way to do it. Still, these are all great comics – all are amongst my favorite series of the past year. If you can get it cheap, sample it! If not, start with Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1.
Marvel Masterworks Daredevil Vol. 09 HC – Collects Daredevil (1964) #85-96.
Marvel Masterworks are the most premium format Marvel collects in – hardbound with a handsome silver cover, supply paper stock, and carefully restored art. This edition is more amazing Gerry Conway / Gene Colan early 1970s Daredevil starring Black Widow (plus, Karen Page from the TV show)! This is Matt Murdock’s original San Francisco era and the first time Black Widow stepped into a co-starring role. Colan is one of Marvel’s all-time best artists, and this run overlaps the beginning of his career-defining work on Tomb of Dracula, which is nothing short of breathtaking. If you love Daredevil and Silver-Age comics, this should be an auto-buy for you.
Incredible Hulk Epic Collection Ghost Of The Past TP (Epic Vol. 19) – Collects Incredible Hulk (1968) #397-406 And Annual #18-19; And Material From Namor The Sub-mariner Annual #2, Silver Surfer Annual #5, Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme Annual #2 And Marvel Holiday Special #2.0.
It’s the Hulk’s first official Epic collection, and it drops you directly into the middle of a classic and well-regarded long run by writer Peter David plus the Return of the Defenders summer annual arc, which has never before been collected in full. Remember, the point of the Epics is to tidily collect hefty runs that are fun to read and not necessarily Omnibus-worthy. Want to get more collected Hulk? Check out my complete Hulk Reading Guide.
Butterfly HC – Collects #1-4
Angela co-author Marguerite Bennett is behind this story of an agent so secret she no longer has a real identity. When she’s burned by a set-up where can she turn? Only to the one other agent whose identity she is sure of – her father! I’ve enjoyed Bennett’s contributions to Marvel so far, so this is worth a look for me.
I’ve been wanting to pick up this un-princess-like princess book from writer/artist Rod Espinosa, and this final chapter means you can grab the entire set all at once … which I just might. Check out Volume 1 and Volume 2.
Creepy Comics, Vol. 4 TP – Collects #14-19
Creepy Comics is a modern revival of the 1950s-60s horror anthology magazine that flouted its avoidance of the comics code.
Heart In a Box TP – See above for the write-up and then buy it!
Creator Matt Kindt has advanced to auto-buy status for me after his masterful Mind MGMT and some strong Marvel work. However, I’ve got some caveats for you. This is older work from him – the original TPB was published in 2004!. And remember: his sketchy watercolor art may not be what you’re used to in a comic, nor are his low-fantasy real world settings. That said, given his track record and Dark Horse’s gorgeous HC books, this could still be a good one to sample.
X Vol. 06 Marked For Death – Enter The Mark TP – Collects #21-24
One of Dark Horse’s smattering of classic 90s heroes, X has found a tremendous match in crime-writer Duane Swierczynski. You don’t need to dig back to the 90s to enjoy this one, just start from Volume 1!
DC / Vertigo
100 Bullets, Book 3 TP – Collects #37-57 or 58 (solicits unclear)
Brian Azzarello doesn’t spend much time in superhero land other than his recently-concluded run on Wonder Woman, so I don’t have a lot to say about him. However, this Vertigo series with Eduardo Risso sounds pretty damned interesting – a noir tale about a mysterious agent who offers revenged to the wrong in the form of a suitcase with 100 untraceable bullets. This book is the third paperback in a five-book sequence collecting the entire series (it mirrors a previous Deluxe HC sequence). Here are Volume 1 and Volume 2.
Batman (2011) Vol 07 Endgame HC – Collects Batman #35-40
Watch the initial portion of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on Batman come to a sickening explosion of a conclusion, but know that this has been building for quite some time and you probably ought to start at the beginning of with either the first part of the run or Death of the Family.
Batman: Hush Noir HC – Collects Batman #608-619 as well as the 6-page chapter from Wizard #0 and a 2-page origin story
How many times can we re-package this admittedly brilliant, all-time best Batman story by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams. Let us count the ways. TPB. Pencils-only “Unwrapped” version sans Scott Williams’s inks. Massive Absolute. Now this “Noir” nonsense, which is pencils and inks. I don’t think you’re going to get significantly more thrill out of this than any of the other versions – it’s the “Unwrapped” pencils version that has the most revelatory insight into Lee’s pencil work. Here, black will just be black with no shades of gray.
Flash Season Zero TP – #1-12
Collecting a series set alongside the TV Flash universe rather than in DC proper.
New Teen Titans Vol 03 TP – Collects #17-20 & Tales Of The New Teen Titans #1-4
One of the rare 1980s reprint lines that’s alive and well at DC, partially because this run was considered neck-and-neck with Uncanny X-Men as the best team book on the stands in the early 80s. This is the first time these issues from the post-Crisis reboot are seeing reprint! Pick up Vol. 1 collecting ## and Vol. 2 collecting ##.
Swamp Thing (2011) By Scott Snyder Deluxe Edition HC – Collects Swamp Thing #0-18, Annual #1 And Animal Man #12 And 17
A premium collection of the ponderous, sleepy Scott Snyder run of Swamp Thing mostly notable for its ultra-weird full-page layouts that pulsed like living things from Yanick Paquette And Francesco Francavilla. This run was totally flat for me, and I’m more than a little annoyed it’s hitting HC before the vastly superior Lemire Animal Man.
Battlestar Galactica: Death Of Apollo TP – Collects Battlestar Galactica: The Death of Apollo issues #1-6
This is Dan Abnett of “making Guardians of the Galaxy cool and movie-worthy” fame tackling the original flavor Battlestar Galactica continuity. Abnett knows his way around round, tortured characters – it’s rare to read a bad book by him. If you dig the original BG, give it a shot.
Yes, really! Tarantino himself crosses swords with Dynamite property Zorro for this fiesty crossover.
Lone Ranger: Vindicated TP – Collects #1-4
GI Joe: A Real American Hero Vol. 12 TP – Collects #211-215.
IDW still has the GI Joe ball rolling with original writer Larry Hama, here paired with artist S. L. Gallant, and an extension of the original numbering. This collection brings back Serpentor! You have no idea how hard it is for me to resist buying IDW’s hardcover GI Joe complete collections. I have to keep telling myself, “The stories in these books are not the same as the ones your toys encountered.” Still, knowing Hama – who wrote all of the original card backs – is still at the helm makes it pretty damn tempting. I should probably make a collection guide to clear up how to read it all.
IDW: Godzilla Rulers of the Earth Vol. 6 TP – Collects #21-25
Just to be clear: Yes, Godzilla is the protagonist of this book.
Technically, this January’s revival will mark Season 10 of The X-Files, and don’t think for a minute it’s going to obey the continuity of this comic. And yet: Chris Carter, when pressed, said that this would be considered canon during Comic con in 2013. Given what we saw in I Want To Believe, maybe Scully and Mulder did have some more in-canon cases after Season 9 but before the present day. Anyway, who cares – new X-Files stories! You shoud sample Vol. 1.
Birthright Vol. 02 TP – Collects #6-10
As I highlighted on Sunday, the first volume of Birthright was close to flawless and a major favorite. I heartily suggest you pick it up. Here’s where we get to see if creators Joshua Williamson, Andrei Bressan, and Adriano Lucas are able to keep up the quality and energy of that first arc as they settle in for the long run. I’m hoping they can!
The Fade Out Vol. 2 TP – Collects #5-8 USE COVER
Admission time: I still haven’t made it to the first volume of this series, despite it sitting in my stack for months now. Ed Brubaker is never less than brillaint and the same can be said for illustrator Sean Phillips, so what are you waiting for to jump onto this noir creator-owned tale from them both? (Perhaps we should be asking me that question.) Grab the $10 initial TPB from Image and get to reading! There’s only one more volume left after this.
No Mercy, Vol. 1 TP – Collects #1-4
From the solicit, “A group of US teenagers on a pre-college service trip are stranded in a remote part of Central America after a horrible accident. Things get worse from there.” I’m a little burnt on group-of-young-teens indie comics after I found The Woods to be such a snooze, but how can you turn down one of Image’s $10 starter volumes?
Universal War One – See above!
From writer/artist Denis Bajram, the solicit: The whole world is at war. And it’s about to get worse. 2058. Humanity has colonized our entire solar system. In the middle of a civil war between the core planets and distant outlying planetary settlements, an immense black wall appears, cutting our solar system in two.” This is a French comic translated and released by a Marvel imprint. The confusing thing is that it’s hit hardcover before – once for the original series, and once for the follow-up Revelations. This is longer than each of those , but not long enough to be both of them in one book(the original series were 64pg issues, the follow-up 48 – we’d have to assume 20% ads to fit into this sub-300pg book, which is high). I’m not sure what to tell you, but it looks cool!
Archer & Armstrong, Vol 07 – The One Percent & Other Tales TP – Collects Archer & Armstrong #24, Archer & Armstrong: The One Percent #1, And Stories From The Oversized Archer & Armstrong #25 Anniversary Spectacular, Alongside The Never-before-seen Archer & Armstrong #0: Director’s Cut!
Well, that was a mouthful! This collection wraps up the initial run of Valiant’s Archer & Armstrong before the characters split into The Delinquents and then The Valiant. Van Lente does a good job with this unlikely buddy comic – if a centuries old warrior and a just-converted former Christian cultist sounds like an awesome heroic duo to you then by all means start with the brisk Volume 1! Otherwise, check out my newly published Valiant guide for how to best follow this series.
2000 AD: Judge Dredd: Day Of Chaos: Fourth Faction TP – Collects material from 2000 AD (1977) #1700-04, 1740-50, 1751, & 1753, plus Judge Dredd Megazine (vol. 5) (2003) #307-308 and #310
This collects a major Dredd story by co-creator John Wagner that began in 2010 and continues through several more TPBs. I know this because this TPB was already issued in 2013, and I’m not entirely certain if this is a straight reprint. Sorry! Either way, the next one is “Day of Chaos: Endgame.”
Dial Books: I am Helen Keller (Ordinary People Change World)
This is fascinating – a cartoonish kids book by major comic pros Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos that’s part of a series called “Ordinary People Change The World.” What I found interesting is that this and other editions are the typical heroes you might expect – Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, for example. And then randomly one of them is Lucile Ball! I’ll be buying that one to sample.
Dover Publications: The BOZZ Chronicles TP – Collects #1-6
Here’s a seriously weird one – David Michelinie pens this six-issue limited series for Marvel’s Epic After his Iron Man success but before his Amazing Spider-Man run with MacFarlane. It’s about “a suicidal alien, plucky prostitute, and a raucous American cowboy” who form a Victorian-era detective agency. It’s described as a steampunk X-Files precursor. Brett Blevins’ art was strong enough to lift this beyond other forgettable creator-owned series of the time. For $20, it’s tempting to give this a try.
Drawn & Quarterly: Hark A Vagrant: Step Aside Pops HC
From the solicit: “Ida B. Wells, the Black Prince, and Benito Juárez burst off the pages of Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection, armed with modern-sounding quips and amusingly on-point repartee. Kate Beaton’s second D+Q book brings her hysterically funny gaze to bear on these and even more historical, literary, and contemporary figures.”
Archie Comics: Mega Man, Vol. 10: Legends of the Blue Bomber – Collects #41-44
This cartoonish Mega Man series is perfect for fans both young and old, so start at the start with the well-liked Volume 1 from 2011.
Fantagraphics: Nijigahara Holograph HC
A new printing of the apparently really-good book (all I can find are stellar reviews) from writer/artist Inio Asano, the solict: “A complex, unnerving, obliquely told horror story that begins with a plague of butterflies and the rumor of a mysterious creature lurking in a tunnel behind a school, and unfolds on two separate storylines.” I’m not picking it up this instant, but it’s on my wishlist for sure.