Hi folks, it's been a nice little while since I've put anything up here, so I've had a lot more time to get to work on reading comics. And reading comics is indeed my favorite pastime. Over a year ago, I posted an article listing my favorite comics publishing at that time and while they were all great, every single one of them has since ended, been cancelled, or gone on indefinite hiatus. Except one, which will probably be on this list also. But coming out of DC's rebirth and Marvel's fresh start initiative, as well as the always impressive Image Comics pool of talent, we have a whole slate of awesome comics to discuss and recommend. I can't call these the definitive 15 greatest comic books of the current day because I'm not reading everything but I can promise that everything contained herein absolutely rules.
Jason Aaron's Thor run is a thing of beauty. Running across four titles, from Thor: God of Thunder to the Jane Foster starring Thor, to the Mighty Thor, and finally back to the Odinson with Thor, Aaron has truly made a legacy of the god of thunder. And seeing how it's wrapping up soon, I wanted to draw attention to his most recent series. Thor and his good Pup Thori have hammered their way across the cosmos, facing Thanos, Hela, and Malekith along the way and dear lord is it satisfying to watch. Especially with the way Aaron has blended it into his Avengers run. War of the Realms is a perfect example, being the payoff to six years of buildup. In all, it's one hell of a run and one hell of a comic book.
14. Guardians of the Galaxy
Donny Cates is the kind of guy I came to way after the party had started. I was late to Venom so my major exposure came from his fairly new run on the Guardians of the Galaxy and it gave me exactly the vibes I was hoping for. As much as I enjoy the MCU versions of these characters, I really missed the original Abnett and Lanning versions of this Guardians lineup and thought we'd never get them back. But from issue one, I knew my dreams had come true. Cates's version of Star-Lord specifically keeps a flavor of the MCU but has the grizzle and competence of the version I missed most and the other characters brought along for the ride share that classic feel. Plus, it has Cosmic Ghost Rider in there, and he rules. This one is still fairly new, but it has all the hallmarks of the kind of series that fans of the pre-movie Guardians will absolutely love.
13. Black Monday Murders
Technically this is on hiatus right now but I don't care, it's incredible. Jonathan Hickman and Tom Coker's Black Monday Murders is a conspiracy horror story about the banking industry. And that may sound not that scary but the Lovecraftian way it twists and turns and the haunting demonic imagery turns my blood cold. Everything from the credits to the last panel bleeds fear, and it being grounded in the very real fear of the excesses of capitalism makes it relatable to anyone. Really, it's the kind of comic I've been desperate for and Hickman has always been good at medium length indie books, usually pacing them expertly. Seeing as how he's about to take over Marvel's X-Line, it might be on hiatus for a while, but whenever it comes back, you should be waiting for it.
12. Young Justice
If you asked me what Brian Michael Bendis would be writing for DC, never in a million years would I have guessed that he would be the man bringing Young Justice back from non-existence. Basically telling the New 52 continuity to go to hell, Young Justice has brought back the legacy kids of the DC Universe and paired them with a new crew of awesome heroes. Big fan of Jinny Hex already, right here. But getting Impulse, Kon-El Superboy, Cassie Sandsmark Wonder Girl, and Tim Drake Robin all back together being best friends is heart warming. I love seeing these characters together and the way they talk to each other just makes them all feel so real. Also, Bendis writes maybe the best Bart Allen of the last 20 years. So deeply lovable and fun.
Chip Zdarsky is coming up as Marvel's greatest new talent. The writer-artist had been working away in Marvel's stable of excellent but never-lasting humor books but after the success of Marvel 2-in-1, it seems he's getting shots at bigger titles and I'm really happy about it. He's maybe the nicest man in comics I've ever met. And pairing him with Marco Checchetto on Daredevil has resulted in something incredible I'd been watching Checchetto since Old Man Hawkeye and his style turns Daredevil into a totally unique experience. Daredevil has frequently gotten dark but this newest story, revolving around Matt Murdock accidently killing a man while stopping a robbery and falling apart over it, feels like an all time classic. Zdarsky weaves in guest stars in ways that feel not just natural but necessary and the story is constant twists and turns that all feel justified. We may be early in this series but I have no reservations recommending it.
I'm just as surprised by this as you are but Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman's Venom book is incredibly good. Eddie Brock's story is as huge as it is small. From Symbiote Dragons and gods to Eddie's guilt over the worst action of his life. And with the Absolute Carnage event on the horizon, there's never been a better time to get into Venom. I was a big fan of the Flash Thompson: Agent Venom run and this feels completely different while also being perfectly in keeping with Venom's long history. The second arc, The Abyss, is among the darker mainstream superhero comics I've ever read and pulls a move that legitimately shocked me that Cates and Stegman would not have been able to get away with on any other book. Speaking of Stegman, this thing is gorgeous. You've never seen monsters look so good.
9. The Green Lantern
Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp are turning in the weirdest, most magical comic book anywhere near the stands. Morrison's triumphant return to the world of monthly DC comics is not just an attempt to repeat what he did on Batman, it's much weirder and far more fun. Hal Jordan has often been a pretty boring character and Morrison is using that to positive effect. Because Hal doesn't have a real defined character, he's unpredictable. The third issue turns this fact into the setup for an insane twist and that issue also has Green lantern arrest God and put all of Earth into protective custody. The book has a wacky sense of humor under all that weirdness and often blends the two in beautiful ways. There is a Green Lantern whose head is an erupting Volcano and I would die for him.
8. Wonder Twins
I've been following Mark Russell's work since his under-read but personally beloved Prez series for DC and Stephen Byrne's art was a favorite since I randomly stumbled upon it on twitter. So when I heard they were launching a book as part of DC's Wonder Comics imprint and that said book was going to star the Wonder Twins, I yelped in excitement. And the resulting book was better than I could have dreamed. Mark Russell's specialty is folding politics and complex societal concepts into gut busting-ly funny humor stories and that trend continues here with stories about recidivism and the fallacy of the friend-zone that also include a traumatized blue circus monkey. Byrne's characters can "act" like no other and his facial expressions feel like a modern day Kevin Maguire in terms of comedic acting ability. I have laughed out loud at Wonder Twins more than any other current comic and I feel that says a heck of a lot. If you are avoiding it because of the goofy main characters, just know Zan and Jayna, Justice League Interns are the main reasons you SHOULD be reading it.
7. Sex Criminals
Also on hiatus but with a definite finish in sight, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's Sex Criminals is one of the most personal and heartfelt comics I've ever read, and one of the most personally important as well. The series is on break right now while the final arc gets finished but to be honest, every issue of this series is a year's worth of content on its own. The premise is pretty simple: Jon meets Suzie, they have sex, they discover that when they have sex, time stops. So they use this power to rob a bank. But wrapped up in that is a bleedingly personal story of love and human failings that brims over with kindness and heartbreak. It's incredibly meaningful that this book exists and I hope Matt and Chip take as much time in finishing it as they want.
6. Captain America
It is shocking to me that this comic isn't being discussed breathlessly every week. In fact, I haven't seen any discussion of what Ta-Nehisi Coates has been doing with Captain America and that is a crime. My first exposure to Coates came from the start of his Black Panther run, which I wasn't super hot on. I have since gone back to it and I really like it but at the time it had the obvious growing pains of a first comic. A good first comic, but still. But I gave him another shot with his Captain America run, assisted by Leniel Yu who's been around and been great for forever. And from the first issue, I've been blown away. From the opening Nuke story to the current Prison Break arc, Coates found a way to incorporate personal politics and serious themes into a fun and tense superhero story. It reminds me of the Englehart run, which is about as high praise as you can give a Captain America story. If you aren't reading it, you're missing out on a gem hidden in the rough.
I almost put The Wicked + The Divine on this list before remembering that it's ending this month, but Kieron Gillen's follow-up comic with Stephanie Hans as his new collaborator is just as great. Die follows a group of friends who disappeared into a role playing game as kids, only to return two years later, irreparably scarred. Now as adults, they have to return to the world they left behind in search of the one friend who never made it back out. But once they get in, everything may not be as it seems. The painterly artwork that makes up the world of Die compliments Gillen's flowery style of prose, especially in issue 3, which tells the story of a Hobbit bound to a horrible vision of World War 1. Die has made me tear up, it's made me gasp, and its made me gag, and all of those reactions make it exactly the kind of story I come back to every month. The first volume, Fantasy Heartbreaker released a couple weeks ago and I highly recommend you jump on now because it seems to be just getting started.
This here is a blockbuster comic book. For the first time in what feels like forever, the main Avengers title feels like the most massive thing Marvel has going for it. From its first issue, Celestials were raining down in the streets while the Avengers re-assembled with the heaviest hitters at the forefront. Obvious choices like Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor reunited for the first time in years, backed by fan-favorites like Captain Marvel and Black Panther, changed for the better with the all-new all-different She-Hulk, and anchored by brand new addition Ghost Rider. After dealing with a gigantic Celestial grim reaper, the team fought Namor's Defenders of the Deep and Russia's re-armed Winter Guard. And then, when any other comic would slow down, we got the War of the Vampires that brought Blade onto the Avengers. And now War of the Realms. And this full speed ride shows no sign of stopping with the Challenge of the Ghost Riders and the payoff of the Squadron Supreme story coming over the next year. This book is exactly what the Avengers should be: stories no single hero should ever face alone.
3. Action Comics
Brian Michael Bendis hopping over to DC is one of the best moves of the decade. I've always loved Bendis's work but ever since he went to DC, he feels refreshed, and back to his heights. And I'd argue Action Comics is his best book. The fast paced political intrigue has been a staple of the book since the beginning and now that it's folding into the wonderful Event Leviathan, there's just so much to look forward to. Bendis writes Clark and Lois so charmingly and sweetly that they feel like a real couple for the first time in forever. His Superman is funny, but also earnest and caring. He feels like the character I've always loved. And putting Superman against large hidden threats is a great way to challenge the character without just creating ten more Doomsdays. Action Comics is the DC book I've been most excited to read every month and I don't know what else even comes close.
2. Gideon Falls
I really love horror comics. This is a thing you might have been able to pick up from the selections on this list. But as a recent convert to the world(s) of Gideon Falls, this is one of the best comics currently publishing. And maybe the best pure horror series. Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino had previously worked together on Green Arrow and Old Man Logan but this is where I feel their collaboration hits its stride. Sorrentino's mindbending imagery melds seamlessly with the dark atmosphere Lemire is building to create a story that is haunting as well as terrifying. Two men in two towns, tied together by a mysterious apparition known as the Black Barn. A story of obsession and utter destruction. Gideon Falls feels like what would happen if Twin Peaks had all its absurdity stripped out and replaced with the deeply unsettling. The first two trades are out and you cannot find a better use of your time.
1. Immortal Hulk
The. Best. Comic. On. Stands. Today. If you've been anywhere near comics criticism in the last year, odds are you've heard about Al Ewing and Joe Bennet's smash hit about the jade giant and his horrific inability to die. The perfect fusion of horror and superhero work, the series has completely reinvented Hulk mythology for the better. Bruce Banner travels the country by day, but by night the Hulk comes. And he comes whether Bruce is alive or not. And it's not just him. As it turns out, all gamma irradiated individuals have an unspeakable connection to death and rebirth, through the Green Door. Also the devil might be involved. If you wanted a comic where the Hulk goes to Hell and the Abomination looks like a Silent Hill monster, congratulations you have it. If you want a tense comic full of twists and turns and gruesome violence that will continually surprise you, you should really be dropping 4 bucks a month on thus masterpiece. I was going to call it one of the greatest Hulk runs of all time but that would be unfair. It's THE GREATEST Hulk run of all time.