Big changes this week to the comic-book power report, as we're having our first installment without Brian K Vaughan, as well as the addition of many new creators from Valiant, Image and the very popular Aftershock Comics. There's a lot to be excited about, though, as Max Landis and Scott Snyder's Superman: American Alien and Batman head up the field of some of the best comics we've had on the power report, along with a return of the beloved Sex Criminals and Rat Queens to the pulls. And, with April right around the corner and a new, highly anticipated story arc for Wicked + The Divine, there's a lot to get excited about. As always, tell me what you think in the comments!
30. Kurtis J Wiebe
Holy twists, Batman, Rat Queens really knows how to throw you. This month everyone’s four favorite foul-mouthed girls came back to the stores with a Rat Queens that, well, surprised everyone. Not including any of the spoilers, Wiebe recognizes that we’re at a place with Rat Queens where the reader is emotionally attached to the characters. They’re a team and they love each other deeply, so when one character gets labeled a demon, well, that’s gonna shake a few things up. It’s going to be interesting to see where Wiebe, who has built such a strong following on the chemistry between the characters, shakes things up in this manner, but it’s a risky move that is definitely to be admired.
29. G. Willow Wilson
If only Kamala Khan has grown up in the generation that saw Multiplicity she would know that creating multiple versions of yourself for the sake of time just doesn't work. While Kamala Khan still proves to me as charming and delightful as always, her entry into the Avengers has been a little....underwhelming. Take the comparison to when Khan first met Captain Marvel and how she tried to stay professional but ended up idolizing her. Also look at how Captain Marvel treated Khan as both a contemporary and a mentee in what may be one of the most touching issues of the series. Yet, her inclusion as an Avenger sadly feels like she's not part of the team and the lack of understanding by her fellow Avengers is both frustrating and disappointing. That said, Khan's character is strong enough to carry the lift of a sub-optimal plot and still provide an entertaining story. This series has so much potential, it's hard to witness it on a low point.
28. Robert Kirkman
As the rest of the community are united in fear against The Whisperers, Eugene finally gets a response on the radio (it was just a matter of time). While it looks like Kirkman is, of course, in set up mode over action, we’re learning that Rick must have to take a step back against this threat. He’s still the figure of the community, being the only one that can bring everyone together for a common cause, but the role in training has been surpassed by Dwight, who is taking a lead in training the townspeople. While Kirkman is definitely building to a confrontation as the townspeople prepare, the sense is the payoff is coming pretty soon and, with Kirkman, there’s no telling how it’ll turn out.
It’s always sad when an artist that so compliments a series ends their run but Frank Cho, who has brought an amazing amount of life into the Totally Awesome Hulk series with beautiful art that is sexy, cartoony at times, and beautiful will be leaving after the most recent issue. Greg Pak though has made excellent use of his abilities as Amadeus has always brought a sense of excitement and danger to the Hulk. Lady Hellbender has also proven a fun opponent but the real challenge for Amadeus lies in the drama of keeping the Hulk firmly in control. Also, the inclusion of Miles Morales and She-Hulk have provided a totally awesome team to add to a story that is wonderfully fun in each issue.
26. Andrew MacLean
Part action, part Adventure Time kookiness, Head Lopper is an adventure story that is plain fun. It's a series in which you'll smile your way through and probably chuckle a little as well. Perfect for the audience that likes Adventure Time or Gravity Falls, Head Lopper succeeds in its simplicity. It doesn’t try to be overtly smart, like say Kaptara, or pop culture heavy, like Wicked + The Divine, but instead is a straight telling of a story that happens to have pretty weird elements to it. And there’s a beauty to that which makes this quarterly adventure comic one that’s fun to look forward to.
25. Simon Spurrier
In the third issue of Cry Havoc, Spurrier goes into the backstory of Lou’s character as well as delves into the opposition’s philosophy in what kind of felt like a villain monologue. Already in three issues in, Spurrier has taught us a lot about the military’s role with utilizing people as weapons, the use of mythology in context to Afghanistan, and the mystery of the Red Place. Much like Heart of Darkness, Spurrier is creating two separate timelines as places of darkness with a philosophical shift and the result is a dark and desolate story that is definitely worth reading.
24. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Have you been reading Aftershock Comics? While it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the big two as well as the incredible amount of talent coming out of Image and Valiant, Aftershock is breaking through with wonderful storylines that have generated some excellent word of mouth praise. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Super Zero is one of Aftershock’s best (Conner and Palmiotti previously worked on Harley Quinn and Starfire at DC). The hero, Dru Dragowski, wants desperately to be a superhero and have powers and much of the fun of the book is her trying to figure out how to turn her dreams into a reality. It’s an interesting beginning to a compelling character from a new publisher fans should keep their eye on.
23. Grant Morrison
Like a Christmas present that keeps on giving, Klaus continues to provide a fun, entertaining look at the not-so-portly guy that’s usually seen at your neighborhood department store. It’s an origin tale, but one that has a Grant Morrison flair to it that will remind fans why Morrison is frequently named as one of the best creators in the industry. While the comic isn’t new ground, it’s showing how effective Morrison can be at basically doing any type of story he pleases. We learn about the iconic figures motivations in what is essentially a year one tale that works well.
22. Warren Ellis
Do you remember months ago that Warren Ellis started Karnac? Yes back in October! Well we finally get a second issue and after all that time, it would have been better to forget it was even published. But, Ellis’s excellent ending to James Bond's story arc as well as the new ultra-weird and enigmatic Injection, shows that maybe Ellis’s time has been best spent elsewhere. Ellis’s injection has been a combination of wit and science fiction that continues a solid pacing. While this latest issue might not be the best for a younger audience (we’re talking more sex than Sex Criminals), it keeps striding along as one of Ellis’s best and a worthy pull.
21. Mark Millar
Learning about Huck’s backstory provides some well needed information and depth but ultimately takes the audience away from the small town that made it so easy to fall in love with in the debut issue. What we have instead are mad scientists, robots, and a family gathering. Now while all that is good, and Millar knows how to weave these effectively within the story and the character, it’s sad that we didn’t get more time in the small town. Yet the character of Huck himself, the good-natured honest blue collar man, is such a great hero that the issue is still effective and the series may be one of the best in Millar’s incredible illustrious career.
20. Jody Houser
What happens when a superhero doesn’t get there in time. That is the starting idea of the second issue of Faith, a woman who loves being a superhero and tries to figure out a balance of how to be a superhero as well as work effectively. As the first issue set the stage on Faith's surroundings, this is the issue where Houser really put the plot pedal down as the reader gets to see how this will be as much a journalistic story as it will focus on how Faith is really learning how to juggle two careers. Also, aside from Squirrel Girl, there might not be a character as optimistic and forward thinking as Faith. Houser keeps her optimism from her Harbinger days but also creates a voice that is appealing and enjoyable. Faith is a character you just want to be around and that says a lot.
19. Brian K Vaughan
As the essay says at the end of the latest Saga, a literal cliffhanger! Saga continues to be one of the best series of all time but having only Saga and not the wondering Paper Girls or We Stand On Guard makes me miss the months when Vaughan was continuing to pour out great issues and issues. Is it that bad to condemn one of the best writers in comics for having a month when he only releases one comic? Who knows but this month, we're putting him at 19.
With Apocalypse soon making his big screen debut, Lemire is building the four horsemen within his X-Men structure in what looks to be a more compelling arc than simply, they were young or villains and didn’t know exactly what they were doing (which has been done before). You can see how Lemire is setting the stage by explaining more about Sapna and expanding upon the Apocalypse Wars. Also, on the other side of the fence, Descender ends another compelling arc and, with Rick Remender’s Black Science continues to be the best published work in the science fiction genre. The Robot City and TIM-21’s dreams continue to not only be compelling in story but breathtaking beautiful in the artwork by Dustin Nguyen.
17. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee
There’s a funny SNL parady of what would happen if Black Widow got her own series, changing the target demographic to a romantic comedy crowd. Black Widow has frequently been named a B-list character in the Marvel Universe, which is a shame since her powers of persuasion and compelling backstory seems to have great material for any writer willing to take a risk. Enter Chris Samnee and Mark Waid. From the cover, featuring Black Widow smashing through glass on her motorcycle and running from S.H.I.E.L.D., this high-octane debut is not going to be a romantic comedy at all (it’s not even going to be Batgirl). After previously joining forces on Daredevil, the two should receive a good response from Black Widow as well as it’s nice to see that Marvel isn’t going to downplay or shy away from Widow’s hard nature. But moreover it’s nice to see the two back together doing something different (Daredevil seems a lot lighter in comparison) and doing it really well. Black Widow is of the most exciting debuts and series to look out for.
16. Kyle Higgins
Let me start by saying I’m not a fan of the power rangers but a close friend of mine forced me to purchase #0 and, well, I now might be a fan of the power rangers. The story revolves around the Green Ranger and, while heavy on the action-adventure fantasy that I kindof remember as a kid, it’s a compelling story that provides an excellent set up for a story arc as the Green Ranger must decide if his presence is more harmful to his team that helpful. There is an element of manipulation you see from writers like Kieron Gillen, and it will be interesting to see how Higgins will bring everything together but as the evil presence of Repulsa seems in control of the ranger team, the story is engaging and worth reading.
15. Rafer Roberts
It’s been too long old friends. Archer and Armstrong, perhaps one of the best comic book buddy stories of all time, are back as the Rafer Roberts is definitely having fun with the characters personalities and quirks to the story. Armstrong has disappeared inside his endless satchel to find a bottle of whiskey while Archer tries to find him before any of the crazy monsters in the bag get out. The leader of the monsters, Bacchus, does not really enjoy satchel living that much (which isn’t surprising cause that satchel is a mess) and that’s where the mayhem begins. Typical Archer and Armstrong romp that has never got tiresome and is always a pleasure to see on the shelves (and in my pull list).
14. Brian Michael Bendis
Paired with the beautiful artwork of Alex Maleev, International Iron Man seems like another interesting development in the Iron Man series. While the quest to find Tony Stark’s true parents seems like it’s been done before in super hero lore, with the recent excellent Iron Man and Doom adventures plus the new Miles Morales Spider-Man, Bendis is on such a roll right now that I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Talking about Miles, for those who haven’t yet bought the new series it’s a perfect time to jump on one of the best beginnings of Spider-Man from a writer that knows and loves the character. With all the Avengers down, Miles Morales finally has the chance to show how much of a super hero he could be. Get on the Miles Morales train now, he’s a character that’s here to stay.
13. David Walker
Ok quick confession: there’s not much I like more than a fun buddy story. Heath Corson’s wonderful Bizzaro and the latest Archer and Armstrong were my last guilty pleasures with this genre but David Walker’s Power Man and Iron Fist, showcasing Luke Cage and Danny Rand, is again my type of candy. It’s just so much fun watching them interact and Walker combines the chemistry of these two (somewhat B-list) superheroes in a way that’s more fun than the Netflix or Kaare Andrews’ Danny Rand. If there was one new series to jump on now, this is it.
12. Jason Aaron
Have you ever been so in love with a writer that when a month comes around that the issue isn’t completely up to what you’ve been expecting. This has been my latest issues with both Thor and Doctor Strange, which, to this point, I’ve been all for. But the insistence on Aaron focusing on Loki and the storyline of the “False Thor” vs the internal conflict with Jane Foster’s cancer is surprising, especially after such a strong debut issue. Also with Doctor Strange, from a comic that infused humor while so brilliantly making a world with magic that explains mood shifts and life in the everyday, Aaron uses the latest issue to simply be a fight issue, where all the creativity and cleverness of a Doctor who conquers and then makes out within a child’s head, is relegated to a fight scene that seems beneath his storyline. Aaron is too much of a talent to coast and, while I know these characters will definitely bounce back, these past issues have been a disappointment.
11. Tom King
This recent Vision focused on two opposing ideas, juxtaposed with the reading of Shylock’s speech in the Merchant of Venice and the Vision recounting the times in which he saved humanity. These ideas, ones of inclusion and exclusion, really propel the characters in the Vision. While the family looks at the difficulty of being included into the community, the Vision ponders if he should be excluded based on his previous achievements. It’s this argument that is at the heart of the Vision story and while this particular month’s issue didn’t as much progress the story as it pondered over the ideas brought forth by the changes by the characters it is a reminder of the breadth at which King’s ideas are for this character’s family. Perhaps the most thought-provoking and conversation-starting comic being published, Vision should be on everyone’s pull list.
10. Ryan North
I talked to a friend of mine that I’ve been trying to convince to read Ryan North’s excellent Squirrel Girl for quite a while. He kept saying that isn’t it just kinda meta and whimsical and doesn’t that just get boring? To me, yes, of course it could. But it’s the clever ways in which an artist and comic book writer infuse creativity and whimsy into the storyline that delivers on a fun and enjoyable story arc. Other creators have definitely done this including Nick Spencer, Charles Soule, and, of course, Matt and Chip. With the latest Squirrel Girl story arc Dr. Doom changes the timeline, causing spiders to avoid Peter Parker and Reed Richards to be banned from space, Ryan North adds Squirrel Girls from different time periods to put his jokes to the extreme (a frequently indulgence of North). For me, I read comics all the time, but there’s no comic book super hero that I would like to be friends with more than Squirrel Girl. Maybe whimsy and meta will get boring in the future, but currently this is one of the stronger Marvel series and a well-needed break away from all the heroes that continually try to be Batman.
9. Scott Snyder
The Scott Snyder/Greg Capello era will be known as one of the best in Batman’s history with such great epic storylines as Endgame and Death in the Family as well as villains as Mr. Bloom and the new iconic Court of Owls. Their latest issue, which puts the cowl back where it belongs, should be forever seen as the penultimate of the series and the moment where we realize that, yes, maybe Batman is the greatest super hero of all time. The fight with Bloom, Jim' Gordon's refusal to go to the hospital, and Bruce Wayne forever choosing Batman over his enjoyable life is a monumental acheivement of Snyder in bringing new ideas to a character we all know and revere. It's a great ending to an incredible series.
8. Kieron Gillen
If we took a poll of the comic book loving population and asked them what story arc they’re most looking forward to in April, I would place my money on Gillen’s Wicked + The Divine having the biggest piece. The initial draw for many of us that read Wicked + The Divine was the relationship between Laura, the fan, and Lucifer, the rock star. We’ve all grown up idolizing symbols of pop culture and treating them like gods and the beauty of Gillen’s wonderful story is that it expanded on the god element with a complex storyline that mixed mythology and political manipulation. Yet, when the fan element left the storyline, there has been left a gap in the story that left the reader wanting more. In April, Persephone returns and, like an artist announcing a surprised show, the anticipation in the comic book community is at it's boiling point. There’s a lot on the line here but Gillen has proved before he’s up to the task and I can’t imagine an issue more highly anticipated.
7. Matt Fraction
Oh Sex Criminals how I’ve missed you. I understand that expanding the universe with new characters is needed to learn more about the scope of what is going on (see Kieron Gillen’s Wicked + The Divine’s Commercial Suicide) but we invest so much in the lead characters, especially Jon through his difficult bout with anti-depressants, that it’s difficult to see a Sex Criminals appear in a pull list without some good quality time with them (I mean, that’s what hooked us in the first place, right?). Finally, in issue 14, we return to Jon and Suzie (as well as Matt and Chip, in a way) and get inside their head. This comic highlights all the aspects of Sex Criminals the fan has fallen in love with: the inner workings of Suzie’s mind, the meta, sometimes masturbatory elements of the storytelling, and a solidly written plot that’s a plain good story. Plus on top of all that you get excellent new emojis to send to your loved ones.
6. Charles Soule
Let’s not kid ourselves, Daredevil is not the easiest character to create. Both Frank Miller and Mark Waid have created two very separate, very iconic personalities that fans have adored and it’s incredibly brave of Soule to take over the series after such a successful run and and equally famous Netflix series. Soule effectively juggles the legal side of Murdock’s life with his superhero counterpart building an intriguing look into the Tenfingers cult and the master of the Hand. Also with Soule’s Poe Dameron coming on April 6th, Soule is in the spotlight with some of the highest profiles in Marvel/Disney entertainment. Personally, I believe they couldn’t have picked a greater writer to take the responsibility.
5. Marjorie Liu
The best single series that Image is publishing is Monstress; incredibly epic in its scope and marvelous in its fast pace. This has been one of the most rewarding books Image has published as the artwork from Sana Takeda and the complex storyline from Marjorie Liu have coalesced into a masterpiece that begs to be read multiple times (and sometimes need to be to be fully understood). The story is heavy on the political but this is not a short series, or should it be, asMarjorie Liu is drawing out a fantasy epic that is, in a word, dense. The plot tells of a divide between Man and Arcanics with, at the center, lilium, a powerful substance obtained by the Arcanics. Reading Monstress is more like immersing oneself in a novel than a comic book. There are no gigantic pieces of exposition that lead to a simple understanding of plot. Information must be earned through the characters interactions and the reward from that is a story that looks to be a masterpiece. A must read.
4. Dennis Hopeless
Ok let’s get this out of the way. I love Spider-Woman and out of the entire Marvel canon, Dennis Hopeless’s Spider-Woman is one of my favorites. Though many have considered it gimmicky, making Spider-Woman pregnant and forcing her to act as a superhero proved both suspenseful and fun while allowing some of the best conversations of friendship between her and Captain Marvel. The latest issue is all about being a mother, how it destroys your life (even though you try to tell your single friends it doesn’t), how when you go out other people think of having a good time while you think about your baby, and, lastly, how you reevaluate your own mortality (something superheroes typically don’t do on a frequent basis). It’s wonderful and everything about this comic, from Dennis Hopeless’s script to Javier Rodriguez’s art, is excellent. A wonderful comic to give to anyone who loves comics, especially those who recently had a child.
3. Max Landis
While some may succumbed to the hype and gone to the new Batman vs. Superman this past weekend the real Superman draw is in the comic shop as Max Landis has created one of the most enjoyable Superman series to date. The series focuses on monumental days in Superman’s (or Clark Kent’s) life and the evolution of a super hero. Landis has been well-known in the past for writing screenplays (including the excellent Chronicle) but his work in comics has shown that he has talent writing major characters as well. Here’s hoping that this story arc, which ends at seven issues, is a beginning for Landis to embark on a career in comics and not simply a tangent from his work in film.
2. Nick Spencer
Much like how Nick Spencer surprised and amazed the comic world with the highly original and completely charming Superior Foes of Spider-Man, he’s done it again with the Astonishing Ant-Man. It’s incredibly difficult to write a review about this comic without giving away some of the absolutely hilarious decisions that Spencer makes but the beauty of this comic, much like the beauty of Superior Foes before it, is that it comments on the nature of the comic book hero as well as on the whole around us (the new technolgy "Hench" and "Lackey" do this especially well). This is one of the most enjoyable comics being made right now.
1. Rick Remender
When Rick Remender left Marvel to pursue more creator-owned series, there were a lot of fans that lamented that they could have had a Remender-helmed X-Men (he was offered the series before Lemire). While fans will wonder what if, they must be happy with the decision that Remender made. Tokyo Ghost is a certified hit, Black Science had an incredible conclusion to its story arc that still makes my head spin, and Deadly Class has come back with a vengeance that acts like a Battle Royale. Also Remender came out with an excellent new issue of his under-appreciated Low this week and has started a wonderful new series in Devolution with Dynamite. There is no writer doing more today with as high of quality. Fans rejoice, this is a comic book artist at the height of his productivity and talent.