1. Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dexter Soy, Emma Rios, and Filipe Andrade
On this list of superhero comics, very few of these entries can be defined as “conventional.” Childcare, turkey soldiers, and a golden retriever with a taste for pizza are just a few elements to the more “unconventional” cape stories. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel stands out from this oddball group because it is definitely the most conventional, but don’t for one moment think that it’s anything but refreshingly original.
The series, which just recently hit its twelfth issue, is bold, brash, brave, and bombastic. The opening arc, illustrated by Dexter Soy’s water colors (1-4) and Emma Rios’ emotive pencils (5-6), dives into Carol Danvers’ history, psyche, and new identity as Captain Marvel. Not only does the arc accessibly takes readers through “Carol Danvers 101,” but it also acts as a love letter from Carol to the people who’ve inspired her. Subsequent arcs focus further on Carol’s brilliant supporting cast and her love of flight. DeConnick negotiates impressive character work all while giving Carol some gigantic robots and city-stomping dinosaurs to punch. Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick is all about flash, substance, and a little bit zest too.
Captain Marvel’s first volume, In Pursuit of Flight, is available in stores or on Amazon for under $10. The next Captain Marvel arc, the five-part Enemy Within, begins in May with a non-Captain Marvel one-shot—Avengers: The Enemy Within #1. It will then traverse through June and July’s issues of Captain Marvel and the DeConnick-penned Avengers Assemble.
2. Batman and… by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
With the death of Batman’s son and sidekick, Damian Wayne, comes the birth of a sort of new series. Now lacking in the “Robin” department, the Batman and Robin title no longer makes much sense as named. For the past month and the next four months, Batman has been and will be accompanying his batty allies down psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief. Transitioning from March’s Batman and Robin #18, April saw Batman deal with “Denial” in Batman and Red Robin #19. Subsequent issues will be May’s Batman and Red Hood #20 (“Anger”), June’s Batman and Batgirl #21 (“Bargaining”), July’s Batman and Catwoman #22 (“Depression”), and August’s Batman and Nightwing #23 (“Acceptance”).
Since the arc has just begun, I cannot vouch for the quality of future issues, but I can speak for the deeply emotional artwork by Patrick Gleason and the nuanced writing of Peter Tomasi. These five issues should act as a novice-ready tour around Batman and his Batfamily. Never read a Batman comic and want to get to know his allies? In just five issues, the Batman and… series will introduce old and new readers alike to Batman’s world. Even if Batman’s world is a little darker than usual after the death of his son.
Batman and… began earlier this month with Batman and Red Robin #19. You can follow the series fresh as of next month!
3. Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja
One of Hawkeye’s (few) distinctly memorable moments in The Avengers movie is the scene in which he falls off a building (in slow-motion, of course), shoots a grappling arrow, and maneuvers his way quasi-safely into the solid ground of a building.
In the first issue of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye series, Clint Barton (Hawkeye) takes a similar shot. The grapple hits and he swings right into a building wall. He then tumbles down, falling ass backwards onto the roof of a car. The opening line? “Okay, this looks bad.”
The series is one that focuses entirely on Clint’s life outside of the Avengers. He mingles with his neighbors, befriends “pizza dogs,” and gets into all sorts of shenanigans with younger Hawkeye Kate Bishop.
The title shines brightly against other cape comics because it is fearlessly original. The gorgeous aesthetic, breathed to life by David Aja (and sometimes Javier Pulido), evokes the style of an indie book. Amidst all the style and swag the book has to offer, however, is a genuine amount of heart. The core of it is a guy, and sometimes a gal, constantly trying to do the right thing. Even if that means braving Hurricane Katrina.
Hawkeye’s first volume (#1-5), My Life as a Weapon, came out in March. Although there are loosely-defined themes and sometimes arcs, the book’s format makes each single issue extraordinarily new reader accessible (really), so feel free to hop right in May!
4. FF by Matt Fraction and Michael Allred
It’s really hard to follow up this review after Hawkeye, because so much of what makes Hawkeye great also makes FF great: Matt Fraction, niche art style, incredible character work, and a sterling sense of humor.
If Hawkeye oozes style, FF explodes with it. The expressive, retro-style pencils by Michael Allred and high-octane colors by Laura Allred are reason enough to pick up this series alone. Scratch that, the way they illustrate the appropriately muscular She-Hulk is reason alone to buy FF.
The basic plot of FF? Team Fantastic Four needed a vacation in outer space, and they chose Ant-Man, She-Hulk, Medusa, and pop star Darla Deering to take their place for a measly four minutes. Except it’s not four minutes. So the new Future Foundation (FF) is left in charge to save the world (on occasion) and manage, teach, and care for the rascally kids of the FF.
Much like Hawkeye (again), the series manages to pack a boatload of fun into each issue, all whilst sneaking in a larger, more serious arc in under the readers’ noses. It’s a refreshing break from the predominantly “grim and gritty” landscape of superhero comics today.
The first three issues of FF are included in the trade Fantastic Four vol. 1, and individual issues of FF #4-6 should still be in stores.
5. The Movement by Gail Simone and Freddie Williams II
In order to give a full, ringing endorsement of this series, I would probably need a crystal ball. You see, The Movement hasn’t actually come out yet.
However, there is no better place for a new or lapsed reader to start than at a #1 issue!
Based on research and numerous interviews, however, there are many reasons to believe The Movement will be worth checking out.
- When Gail Simone is given a playground of her own, magic happens. Her critically acclaimed pre-New 52 Secret Six series is a testament to this.
- The hook: a bunch of poor, marginalized teen metahumans are pissed and striking out against authority. Fight the power!
- This looks to function like an indie book. All of the currently revealed cast appears to be of Simone’s own creation, and there has yet to be an issue solicited where Batman makes an appearance.
- Hate DC’s lack of diversity? Confirmed members of The Movement are a black female, a Laotian female, a Bengali asexual female, and likely even more varied characters that have yet to be revealed.
- The released preview art by Freddie Williams II looks both gritty and gorgeous. Possibly the perfect fit for this book?
- One of my personal pet peeves in “young hero” books are some writers’ total inability to write young characters. In DC continuity, there are young heroes in the 31st century with winning names such as “Lightning Lass” and “Element Lad.” Whenever I’m having a rough day, I think of that and start laughing. I don’t want to imagine a future in which teens are called “lads” and “lasses.” It’s pretty evident the legion characters were created 70 years ago.
- Simone’s recent ComicBookResources reveals that she intends to write her modern characters as if they are actually modern characters. “Again, my thinking is, what would happen if a group like the Teen Titans or the X-Men were created today? These groups were created for the kids of fifty years ago. Most of the readership wasn’t even alive then, and as much as I love both those groups, I think a teen hero book today should look and feel different, should feel like something from today’s world.”
The Movement’s first issue comes out May 1st!
BONUS: Batman: Li’l Gotham by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs
Some of the aforementioned comics are new and others are…less new. Batman: Li’l Gotham is both! Commemorating a holiday once a month with a quasi-chibi-style art style and “Back to Basics Gotham” continuity, this series has been a digital one since October 2012. The success of the series has doubled its installments to twice a month, and, as of last month, there’s a monthly floppy copy reprinting the initially digital series.
What’s so great about this out-of-continuity story? Well, one part is the “out-of-continuity” part!
Want Damian Wayne alive? Miss Harley Quinn’s old outfit and personality? Want to maybe (depending on editorial requests) catch a glimpse of the New 52 benched characters Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain (only on a printed cover, though)? Or maybe even obscure characters from Batman: The Animated Series? Then Li’l Gotham is home for you!
It’s also one of the very few Batman universes where there’s more joy than darkness. On Thanksgiving, Penguin leads a turkey revolt. For Christmas, Mr. Freeze attempts to “rescue” orphans. And on New Years’, the Gotham City Sirens (Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and Catwoman) take a “girls’ night out” romp across the city. More than any other cape comic on the stands, Li’l Gotham captures the unbridled joy of the Batman animated television universe that no doubt drew many comic readers to their first actual comic book.
To read Batman: Li’l Gotham, either pick up the individual digital issues for $0.99 on Comixology.com, or starting picking up the monthly two-story floppy series, which debuted in April!
You can follow Jon on Twitter