The Best Comics We Read in April 2016
Black Panther #1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Laura Martin & Joe Sabino (Brian McNamara)
It’s fair to say that Black Panther was the most anticipated new book of early 2016. And the book delivers on that anticipation. From Coates’ well wrought prose, to Stelfreeze’s timeless pencils, to Laura Martin’s vivid colors the book shines off each page. There’s just something special about this book. Following on from Black Panther’s rather convoluted recent status quo, we find our erstwhile King of Wakanda returning to his country, troubled by the loss of his sister and the subversion of his populace brought on as much by an opposing fringe force as his own lack of presence. While “Heavy is the head that wears the crown” is a stock trope for these type of stories, it feels fresh with these characters, these crowns. You’d be hard pressed to guess this was Coates first comics script. Stelfreeze’s art really stands out in this issue as well. It simultaneously harks back to Jack Kirby’s lines and patterns, while taking on a feel reminiscent to classic 70s and 80s comics and a flair that reminds one of Marx Texeria’s pencils on the late 90s/early 00s Black Panther. It’s quintessentially comic book-y while still feeling fresh and separating itself from other books on the stands. I also really love the effortless world building done for Wakanda. A city of the future, but grounded in the past. The cityscape reflects that. The subtle introduction of “smart beads” – a bracelet with touch computing powers – works really well, across a few panels, to show us the technological achievement of Wakanda. It’s topical, it’s authentic, it’s just good comics.
Jem & the Holograms, Vol. 1: Showtime by Kelly Thompson, Sophie Campbell, M. Victoria Robado, Shawn Lee, Tom Long, and Robbie Robbins (Melody Schreiber)
I have a habit of reading #1s and, if they’re good, trade-waiting. It’s not just that I prefer the format of a trade paperback, which I do. It’s also exciting to anticipate reading something, and then just go all the way through. Jem and the Holograms was certainly worth the wait! I love the bright colors contrasted against stark white backgrounds, and I particularly liked how music is depicted–differing depending on the style of the musician. I want to copy every style choice the characters make, and I can’t decide which character resonates the most with me–I love them all!
Heartthrob #1 by Christopher Sebela, Robert Wilson IV, Nick Filardi (Katie Schenkel)
Back in August, I chose Sebela’s Welcome Back #1 as the best comic I read that month because it was one of the best first issues I had ever read, period. Months later, Sebela knocks another first issue out of the park with Heartthrob. Heartthrob is Sex Criminals meets Fight Club with a 70s soundtrack. Wilson’s lineart keys in on the 70s esthetic while Filardi’s color work perfectly captures the tone of each scene (the differences between the dull grays, khakis, and browns of the protagonist’s office and the dirty oranges and reds of her favorite bar are especially effective). Oni Press has a winner with this one.
Peritale by Mari Costa (Priya Sridhar)
A good comic will have a gripping tale, memorable character designs, and a good balance of moods. Peritale has all three; fairy student Periwinkle desires to be a godparent, like her parents and siblings before her, except Periwinkle can’t do magic. This doesn’t deter Peri; she just decides to work harder than her classmates to pass the basic exams and prove herself. The allegory about ableism blends perfectly with the lighthearted approach and Peri’s bubbly persistence. I adore the color palette, the varying character designs and showing fairies and people of different shades. Plus, we have a cat lady living in a tower!
Star Wars #8 by Jason Aaron, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Justin Ponsor, and Chris Eliopoulos (Kay Taylor Rea)
It’s surprising to exactly nobody that I’ve been enjoying Marvel’s recent deluge of Star Wars titles, but this is the first issue I read with artist Stuart Immonen, colorist Justin Ponsor, and inker Wade Von Grawbadger. It is absolutely stunning. Jason Aaron’s writing is typically superb and Eliopoulos continues to do a great job with the lettering, but Issue #8 has me falling in love with the art for the first time in this run. Check out that cover! I want that on a poster. Plus, this issue features Han Solo being failtastic with women (because of course) and Luke getting into a cantina brawl. What more could I ask for?
Sun Bakery #1 by Corey Lewis (Jake Shapiro)
Corey Lewis has a very easy-to-love Bryan Lee O’Malley-esque art style full of vibrant purples and golds, and his “one-man Shonen Jump” anthology comic Sun Bakery is one of the most fun comics I’ve read in awhile. It’s three different ongoing stories, each with a different look and vibe–the first issue gives us a skateboarding story, a swordfighting story… and a Metroid story. Well, basically Metroid. It’s Metroid if Samus used her scan visor entirely for Instagram. I tend to be super skeptical of “here’s this pop culture thing you like, but goofy” sort of stories, but Lewis’ love for Metroid shines through while still standing on its own. I love it so much.
Power Man and Iron Fist #3 by David Walker, Sanford Greene, and Lee Loughridge (Dave Accampo)
My two favorite Marvel books right now may just be The Vision and Power Man and Iron Fist. Two totally different ends of the super-hero spectrum, but both are equally masterful in execution. In its third issue, PM&IF continues to exude fun. It’s a buddy caper book, and Walker’s comedic pacing and quick-witted dialogue is perfectly matched by Greene’s cartooning, which somehow manages to match comedy and action with a kung-fu-like prowess. Luke Cage driving that car. Señor Mágico, the street magician Cage and Rand turn to when they learn that Doctor Strange is too elitist to take the “super soulstone” seriously. And, yeah, that’s right. The Super Soulstone. My new favorite thing in all of comics. I giggle every time they say it. This book is too much fun.
DC Comics Bombshells, Vol. 1 by Marguerite Bennett, Marguerite Sauvage, Laura Braga, Bilquis Evely, Mirka Andolfo, Ming Doyle, et al. (Jon Erik Christianson)
Female characters deserve their chance to breathe and stretch and take up all the space they deserve. Too often, they’re cramped into male characters’ solo stories, hamstrung by husbands’ narratives, or stunted by male-driven editorial offices. DC Comics Bombshells bulldozes those bonds and frees iconic female characters into their own WWII-inspired stories: a Batwoman radio serial, Supergirl and Stargirl as Russian propaganda, Zatanna and Joker’s Daughter through cabaret. Art by Sauvage, Braga, Evely, Andolfo, and Doyle brings style and individuality to each story, while Bennett’s script brims with creativity and cleverness. Don’t miss some of these characters’ best stories.
Criminal: 10th Anniversary Special Edition by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser (Eric Margolis)
Brubaker, Phillips and Breitweiser knocked it out of the park once again with this special edition of Criminal. Anytime I see this crew’s name attached to a project, it’s almost a guaranteed that the book will be a masterpiece. It’s crazy to think that Criminal has been around for 10 years now. It doesn’t come out as regularly as I would like, but it’s always treat when one of these things pop up. While this one-shot benefits from having read the previous books, it most definitely stands up by itself, so I encourage fans of the crime genre to check this thing out. Also, if you’re picking up a print copy, try to snag the magazine sized edition, it’s absolutely gorgeous.
The Superior Foes of Spider-Man by Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber, Rachelle Rosenberg, Joe Caramagna, et al. (Jessica Plummer)
I’d been meaning to read this series for months, and finally got around to giving it a shot on Marvel Unlimited. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. Spencer and Lieber somehow manage to balance a perfectly structured series of endless triple crosses and secret agendas, all fed to us by a completely unreliable narrator, while also creating a book that’s laugh-out-loud funny on almost every page. I found myself simultaneously rooting for this loser cast while also wanting them to get their comeuppance. Just a completely enjoyable, totally satisfying romp. Read this book!
Doctor Who: The Four Doctors by Paul Cornell, Neil Edwards, Ivan Nunes, Richard Starkings, and Jimmy Benacourt (Latonya Pennington)
This comic was my very first Doctor Who comic ever. This comic features the 10th, 11th, and 12th Doctors meeting up with a bonus appearance by The War Doctor. The dialogue is so fantastic and hilarious that it’s like watching a Doctor Who episode. With the exception of the comic-book only companions Alice and Gabriella, none of the regular characters ever felt out-of-character. The storyline was engrossing, fun, and dark; the major villain was a great twist and very well done by Doctor Who standards. Artwork was almost life-like; the facial details in particular were exquisite. I loved this comic and will keep rereading it when I can’t watch Doctor Who.
Quilte by John Lees, Iain Laurie, Megan Wilson & Colin Bell (Alice W. Castle)
I am a huge fan of horror, especially horror comic which have seen a massive revival in recent years. A good horror comic can mix the slow, dreadful subtlety of a horror novel’s writing with the visceral grotesqueries of a horror film’s visuals. Quilte is a comic that perfectly captures that as the creators of the equally excellent And Then Emily Was Gone – John Lees, Iain Laurie, Megan Wilson and Colin Bell – return for a psychologically charged one-shot. Centering on the horrors of nightmares and dreamscapes, this is the perfect platform to showcase Iain Laurie’s otherworldly artwork. Quilte was available exclusively at the Edinburgh Comic Con this month, but will be seeing a wider release later in the year. If you’re a fan of horror please check it out, but be warned: this comic isn’t for the faint of heart.
Incognegro by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece (Gina Nicoll)
Zane Pinchback is a black reporter in 1930s Harlem who passes as white so he can go undercover in the South and investigate lynchings. His latest case? Tupelo, Mississippi, where his own brother is about to be lynched for allegedly killing a white woman. Incognegro is a perfect blend of gripping plot, compelling characters, and incisive social commentary. It was one of my favorite reads from Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, and I’ll definitely be checking out Mat Johnson’s other books.
Check, Please! – Ngozi Ukazu
I’ve been hearing great things about Ukazu’s Check, Please!, a comic starring a young former ice dancer named Eric Bittle who joined his college’s hockey team as a freshman. I’ve been wanting to read more webcomics, so I thought this was a great place to start. “A couple a day until I catch up,” I told myself. Well, that didn’t quite work out because I binged on the entire thing and fell in love with the incredible characters, vibrant art and colors, and rooting for Bittle to find his place. I’m clamoring for the next in the series—if you’re not reading this, you’re missing out.