by Benn Ray
Benn Ray is editor of the Mobtown Shank, he is a Signal (WYPR) contributor, he runs a daily comics tumblr called Mutant Funnies, and he has a weekly comic strip called Said What? which appears in the Baltimore Sun's B Paper.
So I've actually come back around on comic books. It used to be that I'd wait for them to be collected into trades, and then I'd read them, but I've found that there were so many titles that I would lose track of while waiting - or if they were new the idea of committing to 200 pages of something I may not like versus 32 pages seemed off-putting, or some titles I found myself just not being able to wait for, or... well, to be perfectly honest - there are SO many decent mainstream comics coming out that aren't just superhero fare that, well, I find my weekly stack of comics growing again. It's also interesting that alternative publishers like Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly, who have traditionally published the stuff I'm most interested in have all but officially given up on the format - which I think is a mistake.
Here are my favorite series that I read in comic book format as they came out, with a few of my favorite zines (which also seem to be on an uptick) thrown in.
(in alphabetical order)
Afterlife With Archie
by Roberto Aguirre Sacasa / Francesco Francavilla
So Archie Comics had a great thing with this Afterlife With Archie. Taking the gang from Riverdale and exposing them to a Walking Dead scenario was inspired. However, they seem to have actively tried to fuck this title up by only releasing a few issues in 2014 instead of putting it out on a regular basis.
by Scott Snyder / Greg Capullo
I've said this before, but I'm happy to repeat myself, Scott Snyder has been writing some of the best Batman comics in decades. Not only is he capable of creating massive, overarching conspiracies that you have just as hard a time unraveling as Batman, but he also brings in a wonderful horror element to the comics. I mean, it takes a great writer to make the Riddler seem like a badass, right? If you're not reading Snyder/Capullo Batman comics, you're missing out.
by Scott Snyder & various
We are currently living in a modern golden era of Batman comics. Scott Snyder's run on the regular Batman monthly series has been great. There have been a number of interesting, new spin-off series like Gotham Academy, Arkham Manor and Gotham By Midnight. And there has been the super-fun weekly Batman Eternal. This reads like an all-hands on-deck Bat-family TV show, with delightful cliffhanger after cliffhanger.
by Kelly Sue DeConnick / Valentine De Landro
This new series by DeConnick and De Landro is a comic version of a feminist, sci-fi, women in prison, sexploitation flick. Think Orange Is The New Black meets Barbarella starring Pam Grier while competing in The Hunger Games. So far, there's been an awesome feminist essay in the back of each issue, and the back cover is loaded with ads for patriarchy. It's a fascinating vision, one I'm very curious to see developed.
by Rachel Hastings / Frank Forte
If you just can't get enough of the excellent cartoon Bob's Burgers, this comic limited-series (kinda bummed that it wasn't an ongoing monthly) really helps. The presentation is pretty clever - each issue is actually an anthology of ongoing stories from different characters from the show - about a family who owns a burger joint (but is actually just an extension of the Archer universe - what, you didn't see that episode of Archer?). And one-pagers like "Burger of the Day Ideas" and "Letters from Linda" are inspired interludes. Bob's Burgers was a lot of fun.
Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina #1
by Roberto Aguirre Sacasa / Robert Hack
This was another potential hit for Archie Comics, but although it was announced as an ongoing series, they've managed to only turn out one issue so far.
The Archie Adult Horror universe expands with this stylish revamping of Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Sabrina lives in what some would rightfully argue is a pretty unhealthy family environment (a cousin who's a bad influence, over-protective guardians). Meanwhile, at school she struggles to fit in as the new kid. Should she use witchcraft to woo a boy she likes? While these story elements come straight from the original, kid-friendly version of Sabrina The Teenage With, in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, they are far more sinister. Plus, there's a larger evil lurking on the horizon that makes you anxious as you read. Another great reboot for Team Archie Comics. What's next? Josie and The Pussycats? Please?
Cream City Maryland #1
by Andre Novak / Grace Slit
This new zine looks at the sleazy underbelly of Maryland. Cream City includes reviews of Ladies Night at a strip club, a playlist of Baltimore music to have sex to, a survey of Baltimore glory holes, and an overview of the sexy art from Baltimore's Club music scene. This zine provides a unique and fascinating look at the sexlife of folks in the "Land of Pleasant Living."
Crossed Plus 100
by Alan Moore / Gabriel Andrade
Alan Moore is a rather unpredictable fellow. Arguably he could write for any comic series he wanted, but given his understandable feelings toward the big, corporate publishers, this limits him to the smaller presses and the indie comics realm. But even considering that, his choice of titles to return to regular monthly comics publishing is rather surprising - Avatar's gruesome post-Apocalyptic Crossed series. Moore's story takes place 100 years after the epidemic destroyed the Earth. The remainder of humanity might just start to put itself back together again if harsh weather, packs of wolves, and remaining bands of the infected don't get them first. Oh yeah, and evidently, after 100 years without society, the English language seems to break down a bit too which can make for some more cautious reading. But hey, it's Alan Moore - I trust he knows what he's doing.
Gotham By Midnight
by Ray Fawkes / Ben Templesmith
With art by Templesmith, Gotham By Midnight is a stylistic, supernatural/horror take on the Batman universe. Jason Blood (AKA The Spectre) has a special investigation unit inside the Gotham Police Department where they take serious looks at oddball cases.
by Keenan Marshall Keller / Tom Neely
This comic is a prelude to a much-anticipated new Image Comics series coming this fall, and it's chock full o' attitude and bad-assery. It's like The Wild One meets Planet of the Apes: motorcycle gangs of primates fighting amongst themselves.
by Ollie Masters / Ming Doyle
If you love 1970s, New York City crime stories, this new Vertigo mini-series is what you're looking for. When an Irish gang gets tossed in prison, it's up to their wives to keep running their rackets to keep the cash flowing. Masters delivers what looks to be a feminist take on the genre, and Ming Doyle delivers her signature stylized art that feels both retro-cinematic and freshly modern at the same time.
by Bob Fingerman
Back in the '90s I worked for a comics magazine, and Bob Fingerman's excellent Minimum Wage (published at the time by Fantagraphics Books) was a comic me and my colleague Joe Rybandt both championed. In the context of '90s alterna-comics, we didn't understand why more people didn't read the story of struggling smut cartoonist Rob, his bride Sylive (never really liked her) and his friends. Well, it's now almost 15 years later, (in the comic it's like 5 years later - although the characters look like it's 20 years later) and we rejoin Rob as he tries to pick up the shattered pieces of his life in a world that is rapidly changing around him. Fingerman's art is better than ever, and the return of Minimum Wage is like some friends who moved away years ago moving back to your neighborhood. I'm happy to have them around again.
by Grant Morrison / various
As mainstream comics companies like DC and Marvel continue to wrestle with a lack of diversity in their superheroes, Grant Morrison undertakes a project with a title that makes it exceedingly clear that DC Comics is aware of this problem. Here Morrison brings characters of multiple earths together, while creating a small army of new characters as well as diverse takes on existing superheroes in a very meta-comics way that appears to be a rather interesting "let's just try whatever and see if anything sticks" approach.
So far, I've enjoyed "Pax Americana" the best. If you ever wondered what The Watchmen would have been like if Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely did the story instead of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and DC let them use Charlton characters as originally planned, then Pax Americana clearly shows what those results would have been.
by J.C. Gabel (editor)
Pitchfork continues to pursue physicality with a new issue of its increasingly excellent quarterly publication. The Pitchfork Review begs to be read cover to cover then sat down on a coffee table to be easily picked back up for more thumbing through. Here's hoping it inspires a new era of music-zine publishing - something we could all benefit from. Even if it doesn't, you'll want to collect these.
by John Arcudi / James Harren
The first issue of a new horror series that reminds me a lot of Sam Kieth's The Maxx. A bartender gets sucked into mysterious supernatural events when a regular comes rushing into the bar, missing an arm and being chased by a hooded scarecrow with a sword. It's a brand-spankin' new series, so I'm reading with curiosity as to where it will take me.
by Will Laren
If you haven't come across any of Tumblr sensation Will Laren's hilarious, weird, and grotesque comics, you are in for a treat. In Slurricane, you'll find the greatest sheep actor of his generation, a bird blaster, pork partners, cowboy therapists and more. Hilarious and handmade.
by Jason Aaron / Jason Latour
While DC's Vertigo comics imprint continues to flounder from a lack of identity or direction, Image Comics continues to benefit from the talent it's shed and series it should be publishing. With a title like "Southern Bastards," how can you not want to pick up this book? So how is it? Based on the first issue, the formula is like this: Friday Night Lights + Justified x Sons Of Anarchy + Walking Tall = Southern Bastards. Aaron's story takes very unexpected turns and Latour's art completes an atmosphere every bit as thick, sticky and delicious as bbq sauce. We may be in a new Golden Age of television, but Image is in a new Golden Age of quality comics too - and so many of them, like Southern Bastards could be their own shows. Hmm... perhaps there should be an Image Comics cable network?
They're Not Like Us
by Eric Stephenson / Simon Gane
This new series is the story of a group of young telepaths coming together. There's a lot of potential for a fun story, with a large cast of distinctive personalities with different telepathic variations, and Gane's art is just plain charming.
by Warren Ellis / Jason Howard
A new Warren Ellis comic series is an ample-enough reason to get excited, but when it's one that starts as eerie and fascinating as this, all the more reason! These large, giant tree-like alien things came to Earth and just planted themselves - on cities, homes, farmland, etc. And then they did... well, nothing. For years. So now, the story picks up ten years later. And they still do nothing - well except for expel some gross waste from time to time. But it's really weird what WE have done. Some places have walled off the Trees. Some have built up strange new communities around them. Strange things have started to grow - much like this story itself.
by Scott Snyder / Jock
Superstar comics team Snyder and Jock introduce a new horror series about witches, and are off to a good start. Stemming out of teen angst and high school bullying in which some kind of "incident" occurs, Sailor's family moves her to a knew town in the hopes she can put what happened behind her and forget about it. But can that really work when what's happening is because of what our teen heroine is?