09th Apr2018

Panel Discussion #50: March 2018′s Top 30 Comics (Part 1)

by Dan Clark

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Welcome back to another installment of Panel Discussion – this time featuring a rundown of my picks of the Top 30 comics released in March 2018. This is part one, a countdown of books 30-16… But first the caveats:

First and foremost this is simply my list and with that comes a great deal of subjectivity. Any art form is a subjective medium and taste plays a major role. So if you feel my rankings are way off you probably have a legitimate point. My hope is to simply to highlight great books that deserve attention. We too often focus on the negative so why not take some time to celebrate the positive.

Since this is my list that also means I can only rank issues I have actually read. There may be a book that is in your top five that does not make the cut. Please let me know. I try to read as much as I could but I do not read everything. I am open though to learn about titles I am missing out on reading.

In order to be eligible for this list an issue simply needs to be a single issue that was released in the month of March. Reprints do not count. Also for series that had more than one issue that came out this past month I tried to only pick the best one for diversity purposes. With that said now onto the list

Warning: I did touch on some plot details so if you prefer knowing nothing about an issue you may not want to read the finer details. I do try to stay away from the major surprises.

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30. Deathbed #2

Writer: Joshua Williamson | Artist: Riley Rossmo | Publisher: Vertigo
Last Month Rank: Not Ranked

Vertigo may not have the name recognition it once did during its height, yet every so often they put out some great content like Unfollow or The Sheriff of Babylon. At this point I would not put Deathbed to their level, but it does show Vertigo still has some life in it despite past failings. Joshua Williamson has constructed this larger than life character that resembles ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World’ seen through the lens of a comic book. What is displayed in this specific issue is how much ego can detach you from actual reality, and how a person with that moniker may not be nearly as important as he assumes he is to others. Riley Rossmo’s cartooning is also fantastic to look at and it is great to see him able to use a style like this that may not work for a traditional comic book.

29. Infinity 8 #1

Creator: Lewis Trondheim | Publisher: Lion Forge Comics
Last Month’s Rank: No Issue

One of the best things about comics is when you take a chance on a first issue just out of random curiosity and the hope you can find something new that is worth getting excited about. Something about Infinity 8 #1 intrigued me and walked away excited to have a new book to add to my ever-growing pile. Why it works is how it establishes so much intrigue. On a plot or character standpoint, there is not a huge amount offered, but the world looks fascinating. Most of the plot revolves around the main character investigating this destroyed civilization that raises so many key questions. Many of the designs look like they have heavily influenced by things like H.P. Lovecraft so that just raises the eyebrow more. If you are looking for a new series to get into that has not gotten a lot of attention Infinity 8 looks like it deserves a look.

28. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #25

Writer: Kyle Higgins | Artist: Daniele Di Nicuolo |Publisher: Boom! Studios
Last Month’s Rank: Not Listed

I have to sit back and applaud Kyle Higgins, Boom!, and the entire Power Rangers team for what they are doing with the property. Issue #25 was the biggest for the series so far and it is no surprise it is selling out everywhere and going for obscene prices on eBay currently. They have built the hype of for this Shattered Grid storyline to the highest level. Going as far as making a live-action trailer starring everyone’s favorite Power Ranger Jason David Frank. All that is well and good but at the end of the day, all that hype can be undone if the comic is not any good. As someone who is not as up on the lore of the Rangers I am sure I missed some things fans will love. Consider that I never felt lost or like I was reading a glorified fan service. The villain of Darkon is fantastic in any setting and some of the major twists that occur have me excited to where this will go next. If this series ever interested you this issue is a must-read.

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27. X-O Manowar #13

Writer: Matt Kindt | Artist: Ryan Bodenheim | Publisher: Valiant
Last Month’s Rank: #23

Now thirteen issues into this relaunch of X-O Manowar Matt Kindt has finished this massive story arc that saw its titular character undergo some major growth. As often with the case of comics typically growth means coming full circle from where you began and that is somewhat the case here. What this issue revealed was how we got to where we now are and what exactly drove Aric to flee the life he once knew. With this overarching arc, Aric has gone from the farmer who wants to get away from violence to the leader of the entire planet. Along the way seeing many of his strengths and weaknesses highlighted. It all comes together with this final issue as his work yields some positive results although not through expected means. It is rare a storyline will provide this level of closure while at the same time opening the door for major arcs to follow. Kindt may not have been the obvious choice to write an X-O Manowar book but his run so far has proven sometimes the unexpected is exactly what a character needs.

26. Vampironica #1

Writer: Megan Smallwood, Greg Smallwood | Artist: Greg Smallwood | Publisher: Archie Comics
Last Month’s Rank: No Issue Released

Archie comics have had a lot of success making their properties relevant to a new generation with recent relaunches and especially their horror line of books like Afterlife with Archie and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Some major delays have plagued those books and others like Jughead the Hunger have attempted to fill the void. That series has not been able to reach the level of quality of the others, but Vampironica #1 appears poised to do just that. Storywise this issue does give you a great deal outside of the initial setup. There is enough there to get an understanding of the general premise and tone we can expect moving forward. So far much of the promise comes from the art of Greg Smallwood. Coming off his fantastic work on Moon Knight whatever major book he did next was deserving of major attention. I did not expect that book to be Vampironica mind you. Considering he gets to work on this book with his sister Meg Smallwood one can understand why they would both take on this project. The only concern is this series would suffer a similar fate of the other high profile Archie books.

25. Quantum & Woody #4

Writer: Daniel Kibblesmith | Artist: Kano | Publisher: Valiant
Last Month’s Rank: #14

Daniel Kibblesmith is quickly becoming one of my favorite new voices in the world of comics. He has been writing for the last few years but with his current work with Lockjaw and especially his run on Quantum & Woody he has hit a new stride. His wit and sense of humor are being used in full force, and with Quantum & Woody, he provided a number of sweet moments as well amongst all of the craziness.
The biggest standout moment of this issue was the showdown between Woody and his biological father. A meeting that had been building for the last few issues and it paid off in a big way. Kano’s paneling was a big reason for that. Each issue has found some inventive ways to utilize the traditional panel design. Here he was able to give this holistic perspective that captures the purse insanity of the moment. Highly recommend picking up this series even if you never read a Quantum & Woody book before.

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24. Mech Cadet Yu #7

Writer: Greg Pak | Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa | Publisher: Boom! Studios
Last Month’s Rank: 19

It is easy to look at a series like Mech Cadet Yu and compare it to other properties it is reminiscent of or influenced by. In March we also saw the release of the sequel to Pacific Rim that comes from a similar cloth. Where Mech Cadet Yu succeeds at a high level than Pacific Rim and even some of those properties like Voltron is by building a solid story with well-rounded characters and not just speed through things in order to just get to more massive robot action. It is a series centered on kids and their relationships with giant robots, and this issue it gives those kids quite the decision to make as they have to decide to follow orders or do what they think is right. With this series nearing its end much of the development that began since the onset is beginning to take shape. Also, the stakes have raised this issue as we saw not everyone will be making it out of this book unscathed.

23. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #3

In the world of comics, anything is possible. Do not believe me? Well the fact you can take the character of Snagglepuss place him during the early stages of the Red Scare era of the 1950’s, make him into a Tennessee Williams style playwright, and make it one of the most enthralling pieces of entertainment today is evidence that comics can open the door to unique types of storytelling. Add to that premise that Snagglepuss is also a homosexual living during a time that was beyond taboo and there is a lot to take from this on a social-political level as well. Coming from Mark Russell who also gave us the recent Flintstones it is not too surprising. One specific piece of dialogue that stood out in this issue was when Snagglepuss indicated the difference between actors and stars. How stars show us who we want to be while actors show us who we are. To my recollection have not seen it plainly stated like that but there is a lot of truth to that sentiment as this issue demonstrates using real-life figures like Marilyn Monroe and Clint Eastwood. There is such a large collection of ideas you can delve into and it feels like it is only getting started.

22. Captain America #699

Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Chris Samnee | Publisher: Marvel Comics
Last Month’s Rank: Not Ranked

Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have brought the character of Captain America exactly what he needs–a fresh start. Shortly he is getting another one with a new creative team but for now, I am just going to enjoy the ride they have put together. This started as a series of one-shot stories that had Captain America reminding us of what he represents. This current arc has been their most prolonged. One that saw Cap frozen once again and sent to a future full of nuclear fallout and ruled by a very powerful few while the rest of the population greatly suffered. People can often confuse sophistication with tone and assume a book with a lighter execution like this is lacking in complexity. While on the surface this current run ma7 seem like overly simplified storytelling, there are a lot of great character moments that offer a lot to chew on. The Thing makes an appearance in this issue and when we learn of his plight there is a large sense of tragedy to what has happened to him, but it is never overtly stated. It demonstrates the character of Ben Grimm and why someone of his ilk can be manipulated in the direst of times.

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21. Incognegro: Renaissance #2

Writer: Mat Johnson | Artist: Warren Pleece | Publisher: Berger Books
Last Month’s Rank: #30

Why I love about Incognegro: Renaissance is how it is an old-school style mystery with little bells or whistles. There are no robots, no horror elements, or any superheroes in site. Just a human drama placed within a very specific time and place that utilizes its concept with full effect. This issue got more into the mystery aspect of the narrative and touch more on the race issues of the time.
1920’s Harlem offers so much lavish culture I am surprised we see so little of it in our media. With this being a prequel comic to the previous series it is a great jumping on point for those looking for something out of the norm of the typical comic story. This issue also shows the meaning behind the name as the main character has to go “incognegro’ by sneaking into the local jazz club by pretending to be white. An idea that could easily go wrong but so far provides a fascinating look into what happens when you enter a world that does not want you there.

20. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #41

Writer: Robert Venditti | Artist: Brandon Peterson | Publisher: DC Comics
Last Month’s Rank: #29

Comic book fans have had a long tradition of debating who would win in a fight. Superman vs Hulk, Batman vs Punisher, and many other classic debates have led friendships ending and unnecessary threats being made. Rarely do those types of matchups actually make it to the pages of comics but Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #41 brought us an intriguing one as Hal Jordan faced off against Zod.
Those who treat comic characters like RPG character by comparing stat categories may take issue with how this played out. For those who can enjoy the story being told it was a great display of how Jordan’s fighter pilot background can be utilized as a Green Lantern. This arc of the Lanterns going toe to toe with Zod and his family has been one of the best arcs of this Rebirth launch. Glad to see this story has not come to a complete end.

19. The Despicable Deadpool #296

Writer: Gerry Duggan | Artist: Matteo Lolli | Publisher: Marvel Comics
Last Month’s Rank: Not Ranked

Gerry Dugan’s current run on Deadpool is one of the most underrated in current comics. Deadpool has a lot of fans no doubt. Some though tend to dismiss him as a one-note joke that got overblown due to underserved popularity. Surely there was a time when there were far too many Deadpool comics and that might explain why Duggan’s run is not getting lotted like it should. The preconceived notion of the character is causing it to be overlooked. Since Secret Empire Duggan has added a level of gravitas to the character that has rarely been seen and it all came to a boiling point in this issue. Deadpool is still dealing with the ramifications of following the orders of Hydra Steve Rogers during Secret Empire. To be fair to Waid, he assumed at the time he was the real deal. Now that Captain America is no longer a Nazi he is out to bring in Deadpool to right the wrongs of his evil self. It is this great look into the dangers of idolizing people, and how Wade Wilson has been used by others to do things they wouldn’t then judge him for it. How some are willing to use him for their benefit but still hold him at a far enough distance to still not get dirty. As someone who has been a Deadpool fan since the beginning, this is the most dynamic he has ever been as a character.

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18. East of West #36

Writer: Jonathan Hickman | Artist: Nick Dragotta | Publisher: Image Comics
Last Month’s Rank: No Issue Released

There is no one who can build worlds quite like Jonathan Hickman. The man is a thread maker as he throws out a wide net filled with great characters. Each of those characters has an arc worthy of its own solo comic. Considering that East of West does at times come off as a series that is in a massive hurry but ultimately does not go anywhere. When you take a step back and look at it from a broader perspective you can see just how much has changed in the overall narrative. With the series rounding the corner to its eventual end in issue #45 much has happened these last few issues. In this book, the Endless Nation made their powerplay that greatly reshaped the board. For those that enjoy massive epics like Game of Thrones that see storylines gradually come together this series offers that same type of satisfaction. As a consumer, you feel like you earned something when things finally come to fruition. It is bittersweet knowing we are nearing the end of this journey.

17. Infidel #1

Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote | Artist: Aaron Campbell | Publisher: Image Comics
Last Month’s Rank: No Issue Released

The month of March had a number of high profile series debuts with some major creators and some of those will later appear on this list. Infidel #1 may not have the name recognition of a Robert Kirkman or a Jeff Lemire but it does provide a lot of promise for those who are fans of the horror genre. Especially those that like stories that can exist within the confines of the horror genre while providing much more than your typical scares. If you remove ANY element of the supernatural you still have a book worth reading. This story of a Muslim family living in New York and a son dealing with the fact his mother does not approve of his and his family’s lifestyle. It is outside the norm of your typical horror backdrop with characters that are surprisingly well defined for only having one issue to work with so far.

16. Abbott #3

Writer: Saladin Ahmed | Artist: Sami Kivela | Publisher: Boom! Studios
Last Month’s Rank: #10

Only three issues in and Abbott is becoming one of my favorite current comic book characters. There are many elements that make her stand out but the biggest one is how she approaches all of the supernatural complications that come her way. Being a veteran journalist she does not forget everything that got her where she was despite the fact she is seeing things she cannot fully explain. Instead, she is doing the same thing she would if investigating any other story. Looking at the facts, finding avenues to the underlying truth of what is happening, and ultimately going places she shouldn’t in order to find the answers no one wants to give her. The style of this series continues to be next level. Each page and panel presents an authentic representation of this specific time and place. Even the small details in the backgrounds in office buildings are designed in a way to keep the aesthetic consistent. This issue provides some of the biggest plot developments of the series thus far giving the next issue a lot to live up to.
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Well that’s 30-16 done, join me next time for part two of this list and the final 15…

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