12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now

By Evan Narcisse on at

You want to explore other universes? Get under the skin of some weird, complicated, are-we-even-sure-they're-human people? Rekindle the love you once had for word balloons and illustrated drama? The comic books being published nowadays are a great place to do that. Here are twelve sequential series that will open you up to all sorts of awesome.

There are thousands of comic books coming out in digital and print form every week. People coming to the land of words-and-pictures-together might need help figuring out what they'd like. Even if you've been an ardent reader for decades, the thrill of a great new taste remains intoxicating. So, the staff at Kotaku have come up with a handful of ongoing comics series and miniseries that we think comics-curious folks would enjoy. Like the rest of the lists that we tag as "Bests," this will be a living, mutating compilation. And this particular dozen picks comes after much internal debate and soul-searching, just as we've done with our other Bests. Think we've done a grave injustice to a favourite series by leaving it off the list? Let us know—politely—in the comments below.

12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now

Ms. Marvel

Who it's about: Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teenager who sneaks out one night, inhales a weird mist and wakes up with superpowers that let her change shape and size. After years of playing video games and writing superhero fan fiction, she decides to put on a costume herself.

Why we like it: Marvel Comics have a long, beloved tradition of speaking to the times in which they're created, with characters shot through foibles of all sorts. The newest heroine in the publisher's fictional universe continues that trend for the 21st century. She looks and sounds a teenager of the now: a child of immigrants and a fan of the fantastic fictions borne of nerd culture. For all her nerd savvy, she's still awed by the world-saving action she just become a part of, which lends Ms. Marvel much of its charm.

Start with this issue: Ms. Marvel #1. Ms. Marvel sits solidly in the superhero origin story template so readers should begin with the very first moments of Kamala's funny, bittersweet adventures.

Don't read it if you want: Cosmic spaceship battles or melodramatic space opera. So far, Kamala's battles have been grounded in a down-to-earth version of Jersey City. She might get to space one day, though.

12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now

Saga

Who it's about: Beautiful space humanoids Alana and Marko, who fell in love while fighting for opposite sides of long-running galactic war. They've given birth to a little girl and are trying to be the best parents they can be while on the run from bounty hunters and political operatives who want to capture or kill them.

Why we like it: Saga's biggest appeal is a prickly, temperamental cast of characters that each have fears, flaws and doubts a mile long. They're neurotic, hardheaded and horny, like people in the real world, but have magic spaceships, robot royal families and

Start with this issue: Saga #1. Everyone grows and changes in Saga and watching how the unpredictable spacewinds toss characters like Lying Cat, The Will and Hazel around is definitely part of the fun.

Don't read it if you want: Grandiloquent bombast. Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples' craftmanship have created an understated universe and the naturalistic tone of the proceedings makes the sharp spikes of dramatic climax a guilty pleasure for everyone who reads Saga.

12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now

Black Science

Who it's about: An fractious team of rogue scientists assembled by anarchist Grant McKay, caught in the blast of a malfunctioning construct that teleports them into foreign, hostile dimensions.

Why we like it: Each new world that Black Science's motley crew jumps to is a sharp little slice of Twilight Zone-style imagining. And the new journeys offer flashback insights into the personal failures fuelling McKay's reality-piercing breakthrough, making writer Rick Remender's inversion of the familiar benevolent super-scientist archetype more compelling.

Start with this issue: Black Science #1. The series' first story arc starts right in the middle of things having gone wrong and ensuing issues let readers get to know the characters before and after their fateful first trip.

Don't read it if you want: Intricately explicated super-science. So far, Black Science hasn't gone that deep into the quantum physics undergirding its dimension-hopping, preferring to focus instead on the clashing personalities of the wayward crew.

The 12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now

Thor

Who it’s about: The person wielding the magical hammer Mjolnir. For most of Marvel Comics’ real and fictional history, it’s been Thor Odinson, prince of Asgard. Right now, it’s a human woman whose identity remains a secret to everyone except the people reading her comic.

Why we like it: Though it’s featuring a new female lead character, the newest Thor series is actually a continuation of three years’ worth of excellent storytelling. Writer Jason Aaron has delivered a great mix of politics, Norse mythology soap opera and cosmic-scale heroism for a good while now and it feels like that’s just going to continue.

Start with this issue: Thor: God of Thunder #1. The sagas in this series will show you the Odinson facing up against epic challenges throughout space and time, and also returning to Earth to remind himself of the lives that stretch on for millenia. Don’t worry: when the new Thor appears, the Prince of Asgard is very much a part of all the drama that follows.

Don’t read it if you want: to see Thor rolling with his/her Avengers teammates. These adventures primarily take place in realms mere mortals can’t access easily, despite the presence of a few human cast members.

The 12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now

Darth Vader

Who it’s about: The Dark Lord of the Sith. This Marvel Comics series happens between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes and shows Vader grappling with the internal political fallout after his defeat at the hands of the Rebel Alliance.

Why we like it: Darth Vader is essentially a workplace drama, showing the man once known as Anakin Skywalker trying to appease his evil boss while furthering his own secret agenda. Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larocca deliver a Vader who’s sympathetic but still evil, along with offering a fascinating view of the constant rivalries that make up the Empire’s inner workings.

Start with this issue: Darth Vader #1. The series’ biggest strength is that it manages to let readers in on the tortured emotional churn happening underneath the black armor. But the book also keeps in line with the clipped, terse characterisation that made Vader one of the most ominous fictional villains ever created.

Don’t read it if you want: to see anything from past Star Wars continuities. While some archetypes may be intentionally familiar, this series is introducing new characters and events into Force lore.

12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now

Sex Criminals

Who it's about: Jon and Suzie, two lovelorn singles who hook up to suddenly find out that they have the same weird superpower: freezing time after they orgasm.

Why we like it: Because it pokes fun at how twisted society's messages about sex and relationships have become (and probably have always been), painting people into ridiculous corners. For every adolescent horndog moment that Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky splatter onto the page, they offer heartfelt counterpoints about how rare and fragile it feels to find completion in another person.

Start with this issue: Sex Criminals #1. Things feel like an Apatow-esque romantic comedy at first, complete with toilet humour and randy outsiders. But it feels increasingly raw and real as the story goes on, exposing the characters in ways that are more meaningful than just getting them naked.

Don't read it if you want: Porn. This comic has sex in it and can feel sexy. But it's not exploitative, objectifying titillation. The appeal here is not just physical; it's also in seeing how if Jon and Suzie will be able to reconcile their different needs with each other.

12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now

The Wicked + The Divine

Who it's about: a pantheon of 12 pop stars who are reincarnated gods, all young adults fated to live only two years after the musical magic hits them. The chart-toppers become engulfed by drama after a mysterious conspiracy frames one of their own for murder.

Why we like it: It winks at the way the gap between celebrity adulation and religious worship has shrunk in our modern world, while giving us an alluring celestial reasoning for the recycling of pop-star archetypes.

Start with this issue: The Wicked + The Divine #1. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie hook the reader with just a few intriguing musical deities at first but, with each new persona introduced, the gossipy, seductive feel of the pop/rock opera grows even stronger.

Don't read it if you want: Neatly scheduled plot payoffs. The Wicked + The Divine is more of a long-playing concept album than a collection of radio-ready singles. Things are developing slowly here, building to a crescendo that will probably be deafening.

12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now

Action Comics

Who it's about: Superman, along with Superman's childhood friend Lana Lang and superhero Steel as the main supporting cast. The series is mostly self-contained with only occasional crossovers to DC's other super-books.

Why we like it: DC's New 52 Superman launched well three years ago with the Grant Morrison-written Action Comics, but Morrison's departure and some poor work in the main Superman comic made the Kryptonian corner of the DC universe skippable. That changed when writer Greg Pak and artist Aaron Kuder took over Action for a run of freshly-told stories, including a rare-for-Superman horror arc that may be heavy on action but hit the character beats well. Kuder is an artist to watch. Many New 52 books are dreary. This one's fun and just about the line's best.

Start with this issue: Action Comics #25, the first of Pak and Kuder's run (or 26 to avoid the Batman crossover). Morrison's run from 1-18 is a great read, too.

Don't read if you want: a super-hero comic with quirk. This is a classic superhero comic, not a tonal experiment like the acclaimed New 52 Wonder Woman run by Azzarello and Chiang of Marvel's slew of offbeat darlings such as Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye and Daredevil.

The 12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Who it’s about: Doreen Green, a university student who can talk to squirrels. She’s been part of some wacky superteams and a babysitter for members of the Avengers but this series is all about her trying to live a normal life.

Why we like it: It doesn’t always feel like the main characters in superhero comics have the feelings that their word balloons say they do but that’s not the case with Squirrel Girl. Ryan North and Erica Henderson have made her into a character who’s able to communicate the wonder and whimsy of superhero escapism, with humor and friendliness that’s become increasingly rare on the mainstream comics landscape.

Start with this issue: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1. Doreen’s been a superhero for a while but never had any sort of civilian life to speak of. The stories in her series show her learning how to make friends (and enemies) for the first time.

Don’t read it if you want: to see universe-threatening action drama. Though she’s saved the earth from getting eaten by Galactus, the story arcs tend to focus on smaller, human (and squirrel)-sized conflicts.

 

12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now

Miracleman

Who it's about: Mick Moran, a shlumpy news photographer whose troubled dreams reveal that he's actually the secret identity of a decades-dormant hyper-powerful hero called Miracleman.

Why we like it: Miracleman is one of the founding texts of 1980s superhero comics, one that helped start the trend of deconstructing long-accepted elements of cape-and-tights mythologies. Like, "why ever go back to pretending to be human when you can be so much more?"

Start with this issue: Miracleman #1. It's been out of print for more than twenty years so you should really read Alan Moore's long-lost work from the beginning.

Don't read it if you want: A PG-13 version punching-and-flying metahuman battles. The physical and psychological ultraviolence in Miracleman tries to show what the damage of superhero existence would really wreak on ordinary peoples' lives. It's ugly to look at sometimes.

The 12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses

A collection of losers, wannabes, psychopaths and innocents who collide, ignite and veer off on serpentine paths in one of the best crime comics ever created. The newest installment revolves around an ice-cold interloper who has upset Baltimore's criminal ecosystem by headshotting a big-time mob boss. The girl he's just started hooking up with? Besties with the dead capo's enforcers, including series regulars Spanish Scott and Monster. Things start out spectacularly bad and will only get worse, which is 53% of the fun with Stray Bullets.

Why we like it: David Lapham's opus tends to happen in a chain of loosely connected series—each issue its own roller coaster—knotted together by nasty, stupid and naive recurring characters. The one introduced here

Start with this issue: Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #1. It's chock full of the series' signature formula: terrible people doing hurtful things and pulling in innocent civilians deep into their amoral singularity.

Don't read it if you want: A PG-13 version punching-and-flying metahuman battles. The physical and psychological ultraviolence in Miracleman tries to show what the damage of superhero existence would really wreak on ordinary peoples' lives. It's ugly to look at sometimes.

Don't read it if you want: Something quick. Individual issues stand out, but this is best taken in as a slow read, several issues at a time.

12 Best Comics Coming Out Right Now

Southern Bastards

Who it's about: Some pretty rough people in Craw County, Alabama where high school football is religion and the cops won't stop the guy with Rebel tattooed across his throat from beating someone to death.

Why we like it: Writer Jason Aaron may write good super-hero and Star Wars comics, but his grittier, more realistic tales are his best. What his dark, magnificent Scalped was for life on a Native American reservation, Southern Bastards is for the Deep South.

Start with issue: Southern Bastards #1. And don't peek ahead. Trust us.

Don't read it if you want: something cheerful. Aaron is telling some grimy, painful stories, drenched in blood and BBQ sauce.

How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

Update 2/18/2015:

Sadly, the powers-that-be at Marvel Comics are pulling the plug on X-Force and She-Hulk, so the morally ambiguous mutant strike team and gamma-irradiated lawyer are leaving this list. They're being replaced by Stray Bullets and Hellboy.

Update 5/15/2015:

Multiversity has run its course and its alternate-dimension cast of heroes are probably awaiting another crisis. It’s being replaced by Thor.

Update 09-11-15:

Daredevil exits our list because the excellent run of comics from recent years has come to a close. And the end of the Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1952miniseries means that it’s gone too. Those two books are being replaced by Darth Vader and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.