I've done one of these in one form or another every 6 months this past year, and I think it's valuable. These are my recommendations for comics series (not minis) that are no farther along than their 5th issue (so it's still easy to catch up). Other rule: No licensed properties or Marvel/DC titles (they don't need me to shill for them). I hope you'll consider trying out the following books, they come with my full backing.
Creative team: Art Baltazar and Franco
Currently on: Issue 5
If you liked Tiny Titans and Superman Family Adventures, you'll find the same charm in the stories of Action Cat and Adventure Bug, and Baltazar & Franco don't waste any time giving their new characters a mythology. Villains, bizarro selves, female copycats, secret identities, supporting cast members and superheroic allies were populating this world even by its third issue, and now when they show up, they have the same effect DC properties did when they appeared in B&F's previous work. Each issue features extra pages of pin-ups and shorter strips by other artists (much as Adventure Time does) making each issue well worth its 2$ price point.
Creative team: Greg Rucka and Michael Lark
Currently on: Issue 4
On the other end of the stylistic scale is Lazarus, a gritty post-99% thriller that envisages a future divided along financial lines and ruled by small, wealthy families. They care for their servants/employees, but you and me? We're "Waste". That's chillingly close to the truth. The comic's focus is Forever, the Carlysle Family's "Lazarus", a genetically-engineered protector / assassin. As you might expect of a "Lazarus", she can die and be brought to life. Rucka has already shown he can do female characters justice (Wonder Woman) and construct effective spy/special ops thrillers (Checkmate), so we're in good hands, and that's obvious from the first issue. Only 4 in, and the questions are piling up. Could Forever NOT be related to her brothers and sisters after all? What are the Carlysles' hidden agendas? And should she be asking questions? Gripping stuff.
Creative team: James Asmus and Tom Fowler
Currently on: Issue 4
The resurrected Valiant line of books features some of the best super/action titles currently being published. The newest - and consequently the only one eligible for an entry - is Quantum & Woody, but thankfully, it's one of the best. It might even dethrone Archer & Armstrong one day. The two leads are brothers, one of them adopted (which explains why one is black and the other white), and given powers in an accident, become an unlikely crime-fighting duo and more likely comedy double act. Quantum is the competent, valorous one. Woody, the ne'er-do-well who wears his flaws on his sleeve. Raucously funny and kind of edgy, the book focuses mostly on the brotherly relationship (and there's love there despite all the resentment over childhood feuds), but when bad guys show up, they're pleasantly ridiculous. Great, expressive art that falls right where it needs to to work as superhero action AND black comedy, too.
Creative team: Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder
Currently on: Issue 1
Ok, let's talk REAL ground floor for a couple of entries. Rocket Girl #1 just came out and I'm already calling it a winner. The premise is insane. In a year 2013 with flying cars, we meet Dayoung Johansson, a member of the Teen Police who patrols the skies with her rocket pack. Suspecting the world's biggest conglomerate of wrongdoing, she goes back in time to 1986 (yep, this one is recognizable) to investigate its beginnings, where she's obviously a fish out of water. A very fun book right out of the gate, Reeder's manga style is perfect for the hi-tech and cute girl elements, and I fight the teen cop with the crustache hilarious. Can't wait to read the next issue and whether Rocket Girl ever gets back to the future.
Creative team: Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Currently on: Issue 1
Matt Fraction's newest project is another female-led book (that seems to be big right now judging from the above and I'm not complaining) that shouldn't be confused with the book called Sex, also new to the stands. The title is a bit misleading. It's not some grim procedural about sex crimes. The first issue is really a well-observed comedy about a girl's sexual awakening, where the only sexual crime is exploring her own sexuality. Then the book takes a strange, wonderful, high-concept turn (though the orgasmic truth was always there in the story telling) and... and I can't quite tell you where this book will go from issue 2 onwards, but I can't wait to find out. And if you're worried about smut content, it's there, but not offensive or over the line. It's either played real and almost PG-13, or it's played for laughs with X-rated doodles. Adult content that's actually adult and not ironically juvenile.
I just couldn't decide which of the many MonkeyBrain offerings I read was going to be included in this post, so I'm including them all. The site has comic for everyone and though I haven't tried them all (yet), I've never been disappointed. Will you try the textured Everest thriller High Crimes? Or perhaps the charming and intriguing doggie drama Kinski? Real West just started and presents strong western tales. Anti-Hero takes place in the world of Dynamo 5. Detectobot is a fun detective mash-up. Captain Ultimate offers charming all-ages superhero fare. Subatomic Party Girls mixes rock and roll and space opera. Theremin is a strange time travel epic. Bandette is crazy good gentle(wo)man strip set in frou-frou France. All of them 5 issues in or less. The future of indie comics is right there on that site, trust me.
So get reading! If YOU have recommendations for new series I should check out, I'd love to hear them as well.