by E. Branden Hart

Full disclosure: I am a comic book geek. Always have been. Always will be.

Sleeping baby wearing Superman onesie

James is clearly excited to attend his first comic convention.

Granted, I lapsed for awhile. My first stint as a comic book addict began when I was ten or eleven. My dad’s the one who hooked me. It was just like that commercial: “I learned by watching you!” Except instead of heroin, it was comic books.

I continued to consume comic books sporadically over the years, but recently, I’ve become obsessed. My buddy Jason Barron with Southtown Comics here in San Antonio keeps me in good supply and gives me the inside track on the top-tier stuff coming up (this is the same Jason Barron of The Unavoidable Drudge podcast who interviewed us a couple of years ago…).

There’s a reason Empty Sink publishes comics: we love them. Folks like N. Piatkoski and Aaron Farrell work hard to tell their stories, and so do the folks involved in the books I mention below. So do yourself a favor and find a comic book that speaks to you—you’d be amazed at the stories being told out there right now.

New to the Shelves:

Here are the newest titles that have my attention.

IHateFairyland-cover-164b1I Hate Fairyland, Image Comics, Story and Art by Skottie Young

  • In this relatively new series (only issue 2 is out by this writing) Marvel veteran Skottie Young tells the story of Gertrude, a thirty-year-old stuck in a nine-year-old body after being transported to the magical world of Fairyland. Gert can leave as soon as she finds the key to get her back home—which she’s been searching for since the day she arrived. The art in this book is incredible, with Young’s cartooning at it’s best. And the bloody path that Gert leaves in her wake makes you giggle with gleeful insanity. This is one of the best of the new books out right now.

Clean Room, Vertigo, story by Gail Simone, art by Jon Davis-Hunt

  • I’m not sure how to describe the sinister Clean Room. We’re only two issues in at this point, and what we know so far is that there is a self-help guru, Astrid Mueller, using something called the “Clean Room” to help her clients make peace with themselves—except many of them end up dead. The story follows a woman whose husband became a Mueller disciple, only to shoot himself in their brand new kitchen. Now, she’s looking for answers. And so are we—it’s very unclear what’s going on at this point in the story, but that’s perfectly fine. Simone is a strong enough storyteller that she strings us along, dropping delicious little breadcrumbs that hint at the ominous undercurrents driving this narrative. An engaging read, I’ll need to see the payoff of the first story arc before passing judgment on this one.

Saga, Image Comics, story by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples250px-Saga1coverByFionaStaples

  • Simply the best damn comic book out there right now. There’s so much going on in this epic sci-fi space opera that I don’t even know how to summarize it here. The sixth story arc just started, but there’s no other way to read this amazing story than from the beginning.

The Goddamned, Image Comics, story by Jason Aaron, art by r.m. Guéra

  • Jason Aaron first came to my attention with the astounding book, Southern Bastards. To understand The Goddamned, try to remember Bible studies: before The Flood, humanity was evil. Wretched. Primal. Aaron explores this stark world while drawing on Biblical references to Noah, Samson, and surely countless others to come. Quite frankly, Aaron is one of the best storytellers in the business right now, so I’m definitely subscribing to this one for the long haul.

Paper Girls, Image Comics, story by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang

  • Yup—yet another Vaughan title on this month’s list. Paper Girls takes place in the 80s, and in the first three issues, we’ve seen our eponymous heroines fight spacemen, giant pterodactyls, and a drunk stepmom. In typical Vaughan style, the story is so much larger than it seems on the surface. I’m hoping this series sees the same success as Saga—I want to see where Vaughan goes with this universe.

Starve, Image Comics, by Brian Wood, Danijel Zezelj, and Dave Stewart, with Steve Wands

  • Starve  is an example of the limitless creativity that can be expressed in comics. It tells the story of a disgraced chef in a dystopian future who participates in a televised cooking competition that requires him to complete bizarre tasks in order to win. It was just picked up for a second story arc in issue 6, so catch up on issues 1-5 now—they would be great for a comics binge.

CitizenJack01_Cvr_360_540Citizen Jack, Image Comics, story by Sam Humphries, art by Tommy Patterson

  • This is one of my favorite titles out there right now. Citizen Jack tells the story of a totally worthless snowblower salesman who happens to be friends with a demon named Marlinspike who wants to make him President. Jack’s okay with this, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of his drinking schedule… This is honestly a wonderful satirical send-up of the current political climate, and just in time for an upcoming election. Relevant, hilarious, and worth picking up—the first two issues are published as of this writing.

Stuff I Missed:

And here are some comics that have been circulating for a bit, but I am just now catching up on:

Morning Glories, Image Comics, story by Nick Spencer, art by Joe Eisma

  • Teenagers are plucked from their lives and taken to an exclusive boarding school. While their parents, friends, and everyone who knows them forget that they ever existed, the teens are trained by the staff of Morning Glory academy, who are hiding sinister secrets. I loved the first volume and can’t wait to sink my teeth into the next few, as this ongoing series is now running at over fifty issues.

The Manhattan Projects, Image Comics, story by Jonathan Hickman, art by Nick Pitarra

  • What—you think the atomic bomb was the only thing these folks were working on? The Manhattan Projects reimagines a world where Einstein crafts doors to other dimensions, Oppenheimer manages to break his personality into infinite variants, and, oh yeah, he eats brains, too. Wild, witty, and unpredictable, I love The Manhattan Projects and was thrilled to learn there are six more volumes currently collected. A must-have for any science geeks out there.

250px-CrossedCrossed, Avatar, story by Garth Ennis, art by Jacen Burrows

  • Full disclosure: Garth Ennis is a hero of mine. Preacher should be taught in English composition classes. Goddess should be standard reading for anyone who gives a shit about the environment but enjoys a little ultra-violence and mullets along the way. So when I picked up Crossed, I expected to be entertained. What happened, however, was that I got obsessed. Ennis has crafted such a tantalizing world that his humble first eight issues have spawned several spin-offs, one helmed by legendary writer Alan Moore. My 2015 Christmas list was primarily filled with Crossed trade paperbacks. And yeah, I do realize I haven’t told you what it’s about. This is one you need to find out about for yourself.

The Bunker, Oni Press, story by Joshua Hale Fialkov, art by Joe Infurnari

  • Ah, the hidden gems. The Bunker is one of those books that I noticed out of the corner of my eye at my local store. I picked it up, read the description on the back, and thought, “Oh, hell yeah.” The hook: a group of twenty-somethings discover a bunker full of information and communication from their future selves about how they completely destroy the world, and what they can do to save it. Please note: everything I just said happens in the first five pages of this book. The reason I love The Bunker is that it just drops you right into the action and never lets up. The series is ongoing and the fifteenth issue comes out in February. In the meantime, check out the first three trade paperbacks to catch up on the story.

Holy crap, that was a lot of writing about comics, and I loved every minute of it. There’s some fantastic storytelling going on in the comic book world right now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. So I plan to come back here with each issue and brief you on the latest books on my shelf. Together, we can make sure the good stuff gets the attention it deserves.

Branden is an editor and author living and working in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife, his son, a neurotic hound and an explosive terrier. He has published fiction in Sand Hill Review Press, Toasted Cheese Literary Magazine, and Crack the Spine, among others.