Some could say we’re living in the golden age of comic book creation. DC vs Marvel, Image vs IDW, Boom vs Bad Idea. But if you’re not already reading comic books regularly, it can be a bit daunting if you’re looking for a place to start. There are dozens of new comics released into the world every week featuring everything from true crime and superhero sagas to horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, so sorting through them to find something worth your $5 can be tricky. Add that on to the fact that most comic books are serialized, expanding their lore over time, and new readers can easily feel lost when picking up something that looks good on the comic rack.
To help new readers jump in, we here at Paste have assembled a list of books released in the last few months that we’ve really enjoyed. Some have started in 2022, many were launched in 2021 with issues continuing this year, and a few are continuing years of great storylines.
From: Image Comics
Writers: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
After an extended multi-year hiatus, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples are back with the new volume of Saga. In Book 1, readers were introduced to Alana and Marko, lovers from long-warring extraterrestrial races, fleeing authorities from both sides of a galactic war with their ‘mixed’ daughter Hazel.
It’s been just under four years since issue #54 was released by Image Comics. With #55, Hazel is front and center as she tries to avoid attention at all costs. Now 10, she’s got her mother’s fiery spirit combined with her father’s wit, magic, and unfortunately, penchant for trouble.
The first few issues of Saga were enough to capture my rapt attention when they came out a decade ago and the newest Chapter doesn’t disappoint in the least. While it draws comparisons to Star Wars for its expansive universe, Saga feels more fantastical, heartfelt, funny, brutal, and devastating than that. It remains one of the best ongoing comic books on the market.
Staples’ art seamlessly mixes fantasy and high-tech concepts, beautifully illustrating the massive war between Landfall and Wreath, and the many lives caught in-between. Saga is a fantastic read and an even better-looking book.
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Marco Checchetto
Chip Zdarksy’s Daredevil run has been one for the books. Combined with the incredible art from Marco Checcetto, Zdarsky has taken Matt Murdock back to basics, even handing over the mantle of Daredevil to his on-again, off-again love interest Elektra.
Devil’s Reign is the Daredevil-centric Marvel event of the year and serves to bookend Zdarksy’s run, which started in 2020. The author does a great job of showing the ripple effects across the Marvel universe after New York City Mayor Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin, declares war on the superhero community. That includes calling in a new team of Thunderbolts and putting some of the city’s biggest villains in charge. Checcetto’s art, like always, is action-packed, emotive, and really captures the street side of NYC.
Big 2 crossover events can be hit or miss, depending on your taste and your personal breadth of superhero knowledge. Since they often rely on past storylines and involve multiple books, they can be an awkward place to jump in, but if you find the right one, you can get up to speed rather quickly. Devil’s Reign is one of those stories.
Although he’s managing a lot of moving parts, Zdarsky does a great job juggling a hefty cast of heroes and villains all while ramping up tensions between Kingpin and Daredevil. The story has a timely hook and provides an easy entry point to the current Marvel Universe lineup, legacy characters and all. No spoilers here, but it’s always fun when supervillains team up and with Devil’s Reign, there is no shortage of bad guys.
From: Image Comics
Writers: Nadia Shammas and Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Ziyed Yusuf Ayoub and Jacob Phillips
A gripping snapshot of organized crime in New York City wrapped in a detective thriller, Newburn is a joint effort between the ever-prolific Chip Zdarsky and artist Jacob Phillips.
Released late last year by Image, Newburn focuses on Easton Newburn, a private detective on call who walks a shaky line between crime families and corruption in New York. A charmless, Colombo-esque private dick, Newburn teams up with would-be-crook Emily to uncover the truth about the city’s most ruthless families The book has a modern noir look to it and Zdarsky shines as he incorporates little tidbits about New York’s real-life seedy side into the story’s backdrop.
Only five issues deep so far, Newburn has a lot of promise and room to grow if you’re looking for something intriguing, ongoing, and easy to jump into. As somehow who also writes both Daredevil at Marvel and Batman at DC Comics, it’s impressive that Zdarsky continues to churn out compelling indie stories like this on the side.
From: DC Comics
Writer: Ram V.
Artist: Mike Perkins
Although the new Swamp Thing series technically debuted in 2021, it was extended by DC Comics late last year to include a “second season” in 2022, so it’s a great time to jump on board.
Written by Ram V and illustrated by Mike Perkins, the new Swamp Thing follows newcomer Levi Kamei as the new supernatural hero as he investigates a set of grisly murders and comes to terms with his inner ‘green’. Originally set for 10 issues, the series is extending to 16, with Issue #11 just released a few weeks back and #12 due on Apr. 26.
DC’s Swamp Thing has historically featured some of the best comic book writers in the game including Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and Len Wein all taking on scribe duties in the past and Ram V continues the tradition with this new take on a very old character. Perkins does an incredible job here as well, harkening back to masters like Bernie Wrightson and John Totleben who were also great at showing the sweeping beauty of the ‘green’ as well as its grisly underbelly.
From: Image Comics
Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote
Artist: Alexandre Tefenkgi
It’s been about a year since The Good Asian debuted to well-earned praise. And while the series has started off incredibly well, it’s somehow gotten even better with time. Though it has reached its conclusion with the newly-released issue #10, it successfully wraps up the story of Edison Hark, a self-loathing Chinese-American detective on the trail of a killer in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1936.
Good Asian author Pornsak Pichetshote has said he took inspiration from fictional characters like Mr. Moto and Charlie Chan as well as real-world history including Chinese-Hawaiian detective Chang Apana and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which attempted to stop all Chinese immigration into the United States. Co-creator Alex Tefenkgi does a great job of placing the reader in pre-war San Francisco and the pages are chock full of drama, intrigue, and noir. As Pornsak told the SF Chronicle last year, “we want the story to have the potential to live alongside the facts.”
From: DC Comics
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg and James Tynion IV
Artist: Otto Schmidt
In 2019, we got a glimpse at what the DC Universe might look like if a zombie apocalypse hit. After the major success of that run, DC has tapped Matthew Rosenberg and James Tynion IV to pen the spiritual follow-up, DC vs. Vampires, which was released late last year. With 12 issues planned for the series, it’s a great time to jump in as it just hit its halfway mark last month.
Otto Schmidt’s art on this book is excellent as he bounces back and forth between gruesome action and murder mystery-tinged panels. Over the last few issues, the book has been split highlighting the struggles of the Suicide Squad and the Bat-family as they try to find and hunt the King Vampire. This book is pure fun as readers get to see some of their favorite heroes become diabolical villains, lusting for blood.
Writer: Victor LaValle
Artist: Leonard Kirk
With the introduction of House of X/Powers of X in 2019, the entire X-Men line at Marvel got a reboot, thanks to Jonathan Hickman, R.B. Silva, and Pepe Larrazz.
Thanks to that retcon/reboot, every X-title from Marauders, to X-Force, X-Calibur and the main X-Men title has seen a seismic shift in how mutantdom functions and is represented across Marvel comics. The X-men and mutantdom at large are currently “immortal” and have made a home of Krakoa, the island-sized mutant from Giant Sized X-Men #1. Former villains like Mr. Sinister and Magneto now sit side by side with Storm, Professor X and Cyclops as they try to steer mutants at large towards a new future.
If you’ve never read an X-Men comic or just remember them from the cartoons in the 1990s, the HoX/PoX era is a great time to jump in. While many of the new X-books are incredible, Sabretooth caught our eye for its examination of one of the most feral and brutal villains the X-Men have to face.
With mutants enjoying immortality, the Quiet Council ruling over decisions must decide how to punish the “bad ones.” Sabretooth not only examines the bloody history of the character, it’s also a look into how prisoners are treated and the mechanisms used to rehabilitate them. Writer Victor LaValle asks ‘who are prisons for’ while Leonard Kirk’s art paints a genuinely horrific picture of the murderous side of Sabretooth.
b> From: AWA
Writer: Michael Moreci
Artist: Alessandro Vitti
Released just a few weeks ago on AWA Upshot, The Joneses looks at a secretive suburban family that survived a global pandemic to become superhuman.
Launching off from J.M. Stracynski and Mike Deodato’s ‘The Resistance’, The Joneses follows the events of the “Great Death,” as a mother, father, sister and brother were all transformed into ‘Reborns’. While the world embraces fascism born of fear in the wake of the pandemic and the rise of superheroes, the Joneses must figure out whether they’ll stand up to injustice or remain hidden.
While it sometimes shares the same plot elements as The Incredibles movie, the Joneses isn’t for kids. Writer Michael Moreci and artist Alessandro Vitti deliver a sleek modern comic that’s intriguing, timely, and dark. The Joneses is a five-book miniseries and issue #2 is expected to drop soon.
From: Darkhorse Comics
Writer: Zack Kaplan,
Artist: Wilton Santos
Darkhorse’s Break Out, from writer Zack Kaplan and artist Adam Gothma and William Santos, is a sci-fi mystery that starts soon after gigantic cubic spaceships land on Earth. After a futile resistance, the planet quickly succumbs to occupation and now, every few days, aliens come down to abduct dozens of young people around the world. But after a while, governments and adults across the world accept this loss as inevitable. They start to live like it’s just the way it has to be.
When Liam Watt’s younger brother, Tommy, is abducted and shuttled off to a floating alien prison, he assembles a skilled team of ordinary high school students to risk it all on an out-of-this-world prison break.
From: Image Comics
Writer: Si Spurrier
Artists: Matheus Lopes, Matias Bergara
While noted author Si Spurrier penned this year’s Step by Bloody Step, it’s a credit to artists Matheus Lopes and Matias Bergara that it works so well. This story silently follows the adventures of a massive iron behemoth and the small child it protects as they venture through a strange, alien-like world. The young girl has no memories of what’s come before, no language, only this hulking giant who acts as shelter as well as a sort of strange knight in service.
Talking too much about what happens would spoil the book, but it’s a pleasure to explore the strange world and piece together clues of what’s come before and what kind of society now stands with no words to guide you. Stylistically and tonally it reminded me of the excellent Little Bird, but the two stories are completely different subject matter.
Step by Bloody Step was released in late February and will run four issues before it concludes in May.
From: Image Comics
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Little Monsters was an easy sell for me because I loved the story Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen told with Descender and then with Ascender. In the first issue, a small group of bored adolescents play among the seeming ruin of humanity but after a while, and a few games of capture the flag later, they announce they’re ‘bored’ again. As they gather one reminds the group, they better get home soon, “it’s almost morning.”
Whether it’s robots or vampires in this case, Lemire is adept at making people care about his characters immediately and the cast of Little Monsters is no different.
Following a cadre of adolescent vampires as they discover their origin story, Little Monsters is a hauntingly gorgeous book that puts the reader in a post-apocalyptic vampire wasteland.
From: Image Comics
Writers: Joe Hill, David M. Booher,
Artist: Zoe Thorogood
Predicting when it’s going to rain, and especially where, can be tough, even with today’s technology. But what if it meant the difference between life and death?
That’s the main idea behind Rain, a horror story by Joe Hill, written with David M. Booher and featuring art by Zoe Thorogood and colors by Chris O’Halloran. When razor-sharp crystalline nails replace wet water falling out of the sky, Honeysuckle and her girlfriend Yolanda have their lives turned upside down.
But what does it mean for the rest of the planet? As theories swirl on who’s at fault, Honeysuckle must navigate a rapidly deteriorating world with little hope in sight. Thorogood’s art and O’Halloran’s colors feel comfortable, like home, and stand in stark contrast to the gruesome tale they tell.
Runners Up: Eat the Rich, Nice House on the Lake, Darth Vader (Vol. 3), Captain Marvel, Robin, X-Lives of Wolverine
Dana Forsythe is based in Boston and is a longtime reporter covering art, comic books and culture.
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