1. Paper Girls (No. 1, Oct 2015, Image) – Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang & Matt Wilson
All kinds of awesome, Paper Girls has quickly made it onto the top of virtually every fangirl’s pull list. Artist Cliff Chiang’s most impressive work to date, writer Brian K. Vaughan’s love letter to the late 80’s has already attracted Hollywood interest and fan clamorings for a J.J. Abrams’ adaptation or a Netflix series. Yes, it’s that good. Only three issues deep with all the principal characters depicted to look like actual pre-teens, Paper Girls is ideal for anyone who has been on the fence about getting back into comics. What is particularly lovely and remarkable about the book is its earnestness and attention to detail. Though the series certainly does have its nods to Steven Spielberg and 80’s era horror/sci-fi atmospherics, the world that Vaughan and Chiang have crafted clearly stands on its own. From the minute details of Cleveland’s suburbs to the character development of our four 12-year-old newspaper deliverers (i.e., Erin, the new girl; Mac, the vulnerable badass; KJ, the headstrong skeptic; and Tiffany, the science geek), each issue of Paper Girls is sure to surprise and entertain even the most ardent of non-comic book fans. An excerpt from the introductory panels of issue #1:
ERIN: Wait, you’re Mac? / As in, Mackenzie?
MAC: So what?
ERIN: You were the first. / The first paperboy around here who wasn’t a . . . you know.
TIFFANY: Hey, I was the first altar girl long before Mac took over her brother’s route.
KJ: Yeah, Tiffany’s like the Amelia Earhart of crap that doesn’t matter.
ERIN: You guys are both in private, too?
TIFFANY: Uh-huh. / I’m at St. Pete’s, but KJ goes to Buttonwood Academy with the rest of the heathens.
KJ: That is so anti-Semitic.
MAC: You rich girls want to compare report cards all night or can we get back to business?
2. Black Magick (No. 1, Oct 2015, Image) – Greg Rucka & Nicola Scott
Not unlike the readership of Paper Girls, fans of Black Magick are chomping at the bits for the comic book to be turned into a televised adaptation. Chris Carter’s Millennium meets Law & Order, Rucka & Scott’s procedural venture into the dark arts opens with one of the most striking ceremonial circles in recent memory (spoiler: expect equal-opportunity nudity). Only two issues deep, it’s not at all too late to hop on board. What is particularly exciting about the new series is Australian artist Nicola Scott’s exquisite black and white panels. I liked how Norwegian reader Karl Ruben Weseth put it, “the startlingly effective sepia/grey-tone look . . . a monochrome(ish) scheme . . . adds to the atmosphere.” Adds to the subconscious stakes as well. Given how viewers normally ascribe black and white with the distant past, Scott’s choice of using grey-tones subtly invites the reader into a world where the Salem witch trials are not just seventeenth century anachronisms.
3. Where Monsters Dwell (No. 5, Dec 2015, Marvel) – Garth Ennis, Russ Braun & Dono Sanchez Almara
An unapologetically feminist jewel of a comic book, the final issue of Where Monsters Dwell neatly tidies up what Garth Ennis & Russ Braun started so enthusiastically earlier this year. One of the most deliciously satisfying mini-series all year, the vintage throwback shouldn’t be confused with the hit and miss monster mag from the 1970s. To see the final fate of general jerk and misogynist Karl Kaufmann is alone worth the $3.99 price of admission.
4. Art Ops (No. 1, Dec 2015, Vertigo) – Shaun Simon, Michael Allred & Laura Allred
If you’re at all a fan of Michael Allred’s previous work, Art Ops certainly won’t disappoint. The debut issue opens with the Mona Lisa being revived and extracted from the Louvre to be placed into a witness protection program to temporarily take on the role of an unusually attractive Manhattan-ite; all to stay hidden from a malevolent art killing shadow entity. Crunchy and psychedelic in all the right ways, Allred’s newest foray into the weird is perhaps most notable for how it depicts an extra-dimensional reality inhabited by art figures such as Andy Warhol and Banksy.
5. Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D. (No. 1, Dec 2015, Marvel) – Frank J. Barbiere, Brent Schoonover & Nick Filardi
If the idea of Manphibian teaming up with Man-Thing to take on a horde of plant zombies appeals to you at all, Howling Commandos might just be your next jam. Cotton candy for the brain, Barbiere & Schoonover does a successful job of taking an intrinsically cheesy premise and running with it. An ideal gateway comic if you’re not at all familiar with the charms of B and C-list superheroes like Vampire by Night, a Werewolf-slash-vampire woman; Hit-Monkey, a gun-toting Japanese Macaque; and Orrgo, the 30-ft space god who wants nothing more than to conquer Earth.