Welcome to my Top 10 Comics of the week. Where I count down what I think were the best comics to come out. After doing this for nearly two months this was easily the deepest week of great books. It was really hard to narrow this down to just ten comics. Have to especially call out Marvel that had one of the best weeks in years.
Also, check out the other articles about this week’s comics:
Now onto the pics…
10. Penultiman #5,
Writer: Tom Peyer
Artist: Alan Robinson
Description: Final issue! Penultiman’s artificial understudy, Antepenultiman, has patiently tried to repair the superhero’s self-loathing attitude – but now the android’s patience is gone! Can a sidekick force a hero to heal? Also: bonus illustrated prose stories!
Why it Made the List: So far this year we have gotten some really solid endings to stories. Something this is not easy to do. Every time I discuss Penultiman I mention how underrated it is and that is not going to end here. Part of it is this examination of the classic superhero tropes. Basically what if Superman had the self-loathing of Spider-Man but it digs much deeper. I think we have all had those moments where we feel rejected and long to be accepted. Giving this a narrative anyone can relate to in a meaningful way. This became the perfect superhero story for those that do not like superhero stories. Not where might makes right. Penultiman and Antepenultiman’s showdown was not a punchfest. In fact little punching was involved. It was about getting to the heart of the issue and how to get Penultiman the closure he needs.
9. Batman / Catwoman #3
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Publisher: DC Comics
Description: THE BAT & THE CAT, CHAPTER III: GOD REST YE MERRY, GENTLEMEN
Selina Kyle knows this. Early in her career as Catwoman, he was there to mess things up for her. Same with later, when she and Batman were finally getting together…for the third time, but still. That time stuck. No thanks to The Joker. Or to Phantasm, who now has her sights set on Catwoman because she thinks that will be her in to get after The Joker herself. And she has to do it before Batman gets to him first.
Why it Made the List: I try to avoid most reviews prior to doing this list but could not avoid people discussing this comic. For some reason when a comic book is told in non-linear fashion people give up and write it off as a bad comic. Clearly based on its placement on this list I disagree. Yes, it can require a lot from the reader, but what I found compelling is this relationship between Batman, Catwoman, and The Joker. How each has a very distinctive and different relationship from the other. Catwoman has her feet in two worlds making the dynamic between all three ever-changing. By playing with the timeline that becomes apparent. To further complicate matters you have Batman and Catwoman’s daughter who clearly is just as distant as her father. Lastly, Clay Mann is doing some work in this book. Meshing the more gothic horror of The Phantasm with some of the sleeker and sexualized moments. Do all the pieces make sense yet? Not necessarily but it is always engrossing.
8. Haha #2
Writer: W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Zoe Thorogood
Publisher: Image Comics
Description: “RUDOLPH ON THE ROAD TO FUNVILLE”-Every boy and girl needs a momma, like a puppy needs a bowl. The funny-sad clown series for a funny-sad clown world continues with a mother-daughter road trip illustrated by ZOE THOROGOOD (The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott).
Why it Made the List: Those who have gotten into this series because of Ice Cream Man may be disappointed. This does not fit into the horror genre quite as easily. Instead, this is much more engrained to tell stories about human drama. When you have a story that is so dripping in a tragedy like this issue the question is what is the purpose? Why read something that will undoubtedly depress you? On the more general side, it is because art would be rather boring if art only elicited a few select emotions. Besides that this issue showcases the complications of things like mental health and how it impacts people internally and externally. Here we have an oddly sweet mother and daughter story with a dark undertone that grows more and more as the story progresses. By the end, we see that you never know someone’s story, and that is a lesson always worth learning.
7. The Picture of Everything Else #2
Writer: Dan Watters
Artist: Kishore Mohan
Publisher: Vault Comics
Description: Marcel has abandoned painting for the glamorous world of criticism. But a monster has returned to Paris with a Faustian offer he cannot refuse. Old wounds will be opened. New wounds will be formed with paintbrush and gun smoke.
Why it Made the List: What a fascinating comic book this is becoming. As someone who cannot tell stories but enjoys discussing other people’s work, I appreciate the way this is approaching the topic of art vs the critic. How they can breed bitterness and division between both parties despite being in a symbiotic relationship. That is just an aside to the major dilemma that is just coming into play at the end of this issue. Fantasy stories are at their best when they have a foundation of human drama that makes the mystic aspects have relatable stakes. This issue was all about showcasing that human element.
6. Black Widow #5
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Elena Casagrande
Description: THE END IS ALSO THE BEGINNING… As Natasha finally begins to escape her paradise and takes aim on her enemies, she can’t ignore that her freedom comes at a devastating cost. Is this what finally breaks The BLACK WIDOW? Winning the day will change Natasha forever and set her on a bold new path. Losing…is no longer an option.
Why it Made the List: Elena Casagrande has become an all-star artist with this series. Obviously, her action scenes have been incredible in both their creative design and execution. Beyond that, she showed how well she is at rendering human emotion. Seeing Black Widow deal with the fallout of last issue’s deadly explosion was a gut punch. Despite her past life being a lie she still felt something real and worth saving. Quickly though this issue turned into the heroes punching back. Where the frustration and anger built since the first issue was unleashed, and we were reminded why characters like Hawkeye, Winter Soldier, and Black Widow are the badasses they are. Happy to see this is only the beginning of this series with more stories yet to come.
5. Shadow Doctor #1
Writer: Peter Calloway
Artist: Georges Jeanty
Description: Years in the making, this is the true story of writer Peter Calloway’s grandfather, Nathaniel Calloway, a Black man who graduated from medical school in the early 1930’s. Unable to get work at any Chicago hospitals because he was Black, and unable to secure a loan from a bank to start his own practice because he was Black, he turned to another source of money in Prohibition-era Chicago: the Mafia, run by none other than Al Capone.
As Calloway himself says, “On the one hand, his story represents the promise of Ameri-ca. On the other hand, it shows the worst of it.”
Why it Made the List: I usually try to stay away from saying I would love to see a comic as a TV show or movie, because I feel it is a backhanded compliment. I love this story so much I would like to see other people do it. However, I am changing my stance for this series. As many people as possible need to know this story. Being a good story does not automatically equal being a good comic. This was of course both. You have solid staging as this is being told through a conversation between Peter Calloway’s father and his grandfather. So you are able to move throughout time and focus on the most important elements. Now that the stage is set the upcoming issues will be able to delve deeper into what really happened. I would also highly recommend checking out the backmatter of this issue as well. It is packed with fascinating information and personal details that explain where this story comes from.
4. Thor #12
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Nic Klein
Description: DOCTORS FOSTER & BLAKE, READY YOUR SCALPELS! Once upon a time, Jane Foster and Donald Blake were more than friends. With Blake at her side, Jane could’ve shared the very throne of Asgard. Now…they are about to become the bitterest of enemies. And if Valkyrie falls, she’ll have lost more than a crown. All of the Ten Realms are at stake—not to mention the life of All-Father Thor!
Why it Made the List: When you read a comic you can often tell when the creators are having fun. The opening of this issue with Throg and Lockjaw fighting Donald Blake was like reading a comic book dream come through. I can imagine the joy between Donny Cates and Nic Klein when they talked about creating this issue. We need a Throg and Lockjaw spinoff yesterday. That alone would make it a top issue but we then go more. Including an ending that was unexpected but makes perfect sense. Thor is by far the best thing Donny Cates has done for Marvel, and Nic Klein is pushing his name further and further up the list of great Thor artists.
3. Future State: Superman: Worlds of War #2
Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Becky Cloonan, Brandon Easton, Michael Conrad
Artist: Mikel Janin, Gleb Melnikov, Siya Oum
Publisher: DC Comics
Description: Meet the rising champion of the gladiatorial pits of Warworld: Superman! The Man of Steel is still down in the pits duking it out with Mongul’s hordes and working his way up to the big boss himself. But since it’s Superman, there has to be more to this than a simple determination to win the title belt, right? Yes, because he’s also got Midnighter out there on a mission to chase down a dangerous new power source…but the man standing in his way is all too familiar. Plus, the Black Racer smashes her way to freedom, and Mister Miracle, now trapped on Warworld himself, has to find his way back to the bottle city of Metropolis—and his only mode of transportation is a busted Boom Tube!
Why it Made the List: What a beautifully written comic. Instead of just being about Superman being stuck on another planet it was so much more. If Future State did anything it got me excited to read Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s Superman run. Based on these two issues of Future State: Superman: Worlds of War he has a strong take on both Superman and Clark Kent. Here using Clark Kent’s words to overlay Superman’s actions. How great leadership and heroism also include seeing it and identifying it in others. Mikel Janin drawing Superman fits like a gladiator glove. Also, have to give credit to the additional stories as they were quality as well. One of the best put-together issues of Future State.
2. Second Coming: Only Begotten Son #2
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Leonard Kirk, Richard Pace
Description: Chaos, weirdness, and corndogs reign when Jesus innocently stumbles into Bible Safari, a profit-squeezing amusement park that trades in his image. Meanwhile, Sunstar gets some disturbing news about his earthly foster-grandmother. Later, Jesus stands to recruit a new disciple – if he can inspire said disciple to keep on living! Also featuring illustrated bonus stories in the AHOY tradition.
Why it Made the List: In a way, this was the issue Second Coming was leading towards. A massive and well-executed critique of the capitalistic tendencies of a lot of organized religions. As someone who grew up going to church three times a week I see a lot of truth in the points brought up in this series. Considering the subject matter I am sure some will disagree. Either way you cannot deny it is both smart and full of great jokes. Where it all comes together though is an emotional ending that gets to the central theme of this entire series. Richard Pace’s art is fantastic as well. If you ever wondered how much an inker can change the look of something read this series. The superhero stories look sleek and clean where Jesus-focused scenes have a far more sketchy look. One of my favorite moments of the week involved Jesus showing true joy when he finally got to spread his message. Unforutintkly it does not go as he expected.
1. Barbalien: Red Planet #4
Writer: Jeff Lemire, Tate Brombal
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Publisher: Dark Horse
Description: Shapeshifting hero Barbalien has found happiness in the company of a young gay activist, but discrimination, his own split identity as a cop and vigilante, and the continued rampage of the martian bounty hunter Boa Boaz all threaten to unravel his life.
Why it Made the List: A lot of the books on this week’s list could have been number one on a normal week. However, after I read Barbalien: Red Planet #4 I knew I experienced something that was on another level. If you checked out the Best Comic Panel article you saw an example of Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s use of the nine-panel grid. One of the best uses of the technique in quite some time. It was less about controlling the pacing of the story and more about enhancing the thematic resonance. This was the issue where everything fell apart leaving a cavalcade of chaos and death. Everything in Barbalien’s life was hanging on by an extremely loose thread and now it has completely unraveled. You had this snowball of chaos that grew and grew setting everything up for the final issue.
Honorable Mentions: Iron Man #6, Future State: Catwoman #2, Stillwater #6, The Immortal Hulk: Flatline #1, King in Black #4, Hollow Heart #1, Black Friday #1, The Recount #2, Black Cotton #1, Snow Angels #1, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #2, Waluk #2,