With the summer just a few page turns of the calendar away, comic book publishers are starting to preview their upcoming events and high-profile launches. And while variant covers and overpaid pencillers might trick you into forking over some of those hard-earned dollars, sometimes it’s hard to find that particular diamond in the rough.
Luckily, there are some great comics that caught our eye — and that you should jump on and be the first of your friends to read. Then you can be the enlightened one when your friends complain that Captain SuperBat died again, and show them some entertaining comics. And it’s all because your ass paid attention when you were taken to school.
4 Kids Walk Into A Bank
By Tyler Boss, Matthew Rosenberg, Thomas Mauer
Black Mask Studios
Release Date: April 27
Black Mask made waves in 2015 when it published Space Riders and We Can Never Go Home. After some strange troubles that saw a disrupted publishing schedule earlier this year, the publisher looks to capitalize on that buzz and success with its newest book.
With artwork by Tyler Boss from a plot by Matthew Rosenberg and letters from Thomas Mauer, the team describes their project as a mix of coming-of-age drama, dark comedy, and crime caper.
When a young girl named Paige finds out her father is mixed up with a bunch of nitwits attempting a bank robbery, she realizes the only way to save her pops is to pull off the job herself. Paige enlists her D&D-playing, punk-rocking friends to help out.
Rosenberg co-wrote the aforementioned We Can Never Go Home, one of the few comics that became a collector’s item highly sought on the aftermarket. If his involvement with this comic is any indication, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank has all of the makings of this year’s next underground success story.
By Arielle Jovellanos, Trungles, Kate Leth, Sara Vaughn, Sarah Searle, and more
Rosy Press and Oni Press
Release Date: August 10
Rosy Press’ Kickstarted romance anthology makes its print debut thanks to its latest crowdfunded campaign and a partnership with Scott Pilgrim series publisher Oni Press.
Publisher Janelle Asselin selected some amazing creators for the initial offering of Fresh Romance, including Kate Leth (Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat, Bravest Warriors), Sara Vaughn (Alex + Ada), and Arielle Jovellanos (Jem and the Holograms), with a beautiful cover from Marguerite Sauvage.
Vaughn collaborates with Sarah Winifred Searle for the first chapter of a period piece about a failed marriage called “Ruined.” Leth, Jovellanos, and Amanda Scurti team for a queer-led high school rom-com story called “School Spirit.” And there’s also a variation of Beauty and the Beast from Marguerite Bennett called “Trungles.”
By Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber, Nic Shaw, Ryan Hill
Release Date: Out Now
A few years ago, Marvel concocted a sales stunt storyline that saw Doctor Octopus kill Peter Parker and take over his body, rebranding his main comic book as Superior Spider-Man and dragging the rest of the line down with it. Superior Foes of Spider-Man came in the wake, a book with Spidey in the title that never really featured him much and was better for it.
Instead, the book focused on Boomerang, the Beetle, Shocker, and other Z-List Spider-Man villains and their pathetic exploits, such as stealing a (fake) painting of Doctor Doom’s revealed face and seeking a severed head taped to an RC car.
The cult response saw that book’s writer and artist, Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber, try their hand at creator-owned work with Image Comics and The Fix.
The Fix is about two bag men — thugs, criminals, you get it — who seem to have lost their place in the newly digital age of crime. So what do they do? They become police officers to make their crooked lives a little bit easier.
The visual comedy and perfect pacing that made Lieber and Spencer’s Superior Foes a cult classic is turned up a notch as both creators are firing on all cylinders. With a final-page-in-issue-1 twist that will leave sides splitting and minds wandering, you’ll be pissed when you find out that this book was snubbed for an Eisner next year.
By Kwanza Osajyefo, Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph, and Tim Smith 3
Release Date: mid summer
Another Kickstarter success, Black seeks to address the issue of race head on in a genre-busting superhero epic.
Black is the collaboration of a few veterans in the industry, including Jamal Igle on art, Kwanza Osajyefo writing, Tim Smith 3 doing design work, and Khary Randolph providing the covers.
In a world where only black people get superheroes, a character named Kareem Jenkins survives a gunshot sustained in an altercation with police, only to find out he is part of a cover up.
Igle is the creator of the all-ages hit Molly Danger from Action Lab, and has found recent success with creator-owned comics. He’s teaming up with some other talented industry people who clearly feel the story and its message are important to tell.
There are few comics with this much buzz being offered from any comics publisher — diversity is an issue that continues to plague the industry — but the pedigree from this team alone means the book is worth a read.
By Michel Fiffe
Release Date: Sometime in May
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You probably haven’t heard of Michel Fiffe’s revenge-fueled pastiche of the Suicide Squad, a near-perfect love letter to the comic’s heyday under John Ostrander and Kim Yale.
Comic books’ best-kept secret is exclusive in single issues to Fiffe’s own Etsy storefront, but you can find digital copies on Comixology or the trade paperbacks in your local comic store. So go get caught up, and then subscribe for the next six issues of his superhero epic.
The comic’s visual aesthetic can be described as Jack Kirby channeling Ralph Steadman by way of LSD and a geometry textbook, with an ironic dose of Frank Miller’s machismo coated in subdued colors that maintain a frenetic vibrancy. Even still, such high praise remains a little insulting. COPRA is its own machine, and it will garble you up and leave you in many little satisfied pieces.
Fiffe’s little comic that could has earned him enough notoriety that he’s received work from Marvel and Valiant writing characters such as Spider-Man, Bloodshot, and Daredevil. Why DC Comics hasn’t tapped him to do something with Suicide Squad is a mystery that would leave the ghost of Robert Stack begging for information.