In a tight economy, it's not always clear what you should spend your hard-earned money on, and with comic books getting more and more expensive, your dollar doesn’t go as far at the comic shop as it did in the past. We here at Complex feel your pain, so we're providing you with a rundown of the best comics coming out on July 4, 2012.

Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)

Follow @ComplexPopCult

Batman: Earth One

What it’s about: In 2010, DC launched Superman: Earth One, a self-contained graphic novel that reimagined the origins of the Man of Steel with a more cinematic eye. It was meant to appeal to a more modern generation of readers, and both the solid script and fluid art made it one of the highest selling comics of the past decade.

Now the company is following that up with the oft-delayed Batman: Earth One by writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank. This 140-plus-page book completely takes apart everything you thought you knew about the Caped Crusader and puts it back together again in a story that is familiar, yet entirely different from what Batman purists are accustomed to.

As in any Batman origin story, the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne is the focal point of the story. In Earth One, Thomas is a Mayoral candidate in Gotham who is brutally murdered along with his wife in front of their son, Bruce. But unlike most Batman origins, Johns focuses on a young Bruce both before and directly after the murders. He is a spoiled brat one minute, and a devastated, angry young man the next, which makes for a much more complex journey as the story moves on. 

Along with Alfred, who, here, is a Sam Elliot-esque ex-soldier and militaristic mentor to Bruce, Batman attempts to find out if his parents’ death had anything to do with Gotham’s corrupt Mayor, Oswald Cobblepot. Obviously, comic fans know Cobblepot as the Penguin, but Johns reinvents him as a sickeningly vial creature of loose morals and disturbingly violent tendencies for this story. Don't worry, though, his handy umbrellas still show up.

The most interesting part of the book is that when Batman finally does spring into action, he isn’t the well-oiled machine that we are used to. He bleeds, he makes mistakes, and you are left wondering at some points if he’ll ever pull it together and become the hero we know he can be. It paints the character in a completely different light. 

Along the way, we’re also introduced to GCPD officers James Gordon and Harvey Bullock, who have perhaps the most complex dynamic in the whole book. Gordon has been seemingly eaten alive by the crime and corruption of Gotham; meanwhile, Bullock is a naïve Hollywood big shot looking to make a name for himself. But by the end of the story, both men’s lives are completely deconstructed, courtesy of this foul city. Johns make sure that the supporting cast here is just as strong as Batman himself, which makes every page and every conversation in this book as compelling as any action scene.

Aiding Johns in this modern interpretation of the Bat is artist Gary Frank, who absolutely nails every panel of this book. His pencils are crisp, lifelike, and energetic, and it also begs the question of why DC never put him on a Batman book before. His mastery of facial expressions does wonders in telling a story without the need for superfluous dialogue and word balloons, even though Johns crams them in anyway. But he also pulls off the action flawlessly as well, with some scenes being so fluid that you can’t help but imagine them up on the big screen.

Batman: Earth One isn’t the defining origin of the Dark Knight, nor does it come close to the brilliance of Year One, but it’s a very worthy stab at the legend. Some parts seem a little too rushed and underdeveloped, but all of the major beats are here and presented in a way that makes them seem new again. If you want to check out a fresh take on Batman and his world, Earth One is a terrific break from the norm. There's a broad, cinematic flair in this book that should appeal to casual and hardcore fans of the character.

The Boys #68

What it’s about: You think you would feel safer in a world filled with superheroes? Well, if you’re familiar with Garth Ennis’ The Boys, then you’ll know that isn’t always the case.

The heroes in this world are the cape-and-tights equivalent of frat boys with an insatiable appetite for sex and destruction. The C.I.A. realized that these so-called “heroes” need some looking after, so they put together The Boys—a covert group tasked with keeping an eye on and engaging these demigods if they ever got out of hand.

What to expect this month: The countdown towards the finale of The Boys continues as the group comes to the realization that Butcher has been behind a rash of murders, and might be up to something much more terrifying if they don’t stop it. And in typical Boys fashion, Mother’s Milk doesn’t confront Butcher with harsh words, but rather with clenched fists. The blood-splattered art, illustrated by Russ Braun, really brings the physicality and finality home as these pages manage to strike a nice balance between violent and emotional.

This issue serves as a set-up for what's yet to come, but all of the exposition in this story is absolutely vital. And when the pot finally does boil over at the end, it’s as shocking and gruesome as you would expect from a Garth Ennis book. We won’t spoil the surprising last page for you, but it’s clear that when The Boys finally does wrap up in four issues, it won’t be with a nice bow on it. If you have been keeping up with the series up until this point, there is no reason to stop now because Ennis looks like he’s gearing up for one of the most brutal finales you can possibly imagine from a comic book.

Thief of Thieves #6

What it’s about: With The Walking Dead having evolved into a full-fledged phenomenon at this point, Robert Kirkman can pretty much get the green light on any project he wants over at Image Comics. And aside from his work on Invincible and Super Dinosaur, Kirkman recently launched Thief of Thieves, a title about the life of a career criminal named Conrad Paulson a.k.a. Redmond.

As Redmond tries to get out of the criminal game, he finds out that his son has been arrested for trying to walk a bit too closely in his old man’s footsteps. Now, he has to hatch a plan to get his son a plea deal by agreeing to set-up some of his closest friends in the criminal underworld.

What to expect this month: Thief of Thievesfinally hits its stride as writers Kirkman and Nick Spencer deliver a tale of intrigue that continues to twist and turn with the flip of every page.

In this issue, Redmond’s plan to offer up his criminal cohorts in exchange for his son’s freedom works, or so everybody thinks. The last four pages of the issue turns everything we thought we knew about the story completely upside down and we’re left with nothing to do now except wonder what the hell is going on. The fun Ocean's Eleven vibe from the first half of the book soon gives way to a much more tension-filled tone as Kirkman and Spencer set up big things for next issue in the last few pages of this one. 

With this latest issue, Thief of Thieves went from a title that seemed like it wasn’t living up to its potential to a book that is right there with Image’s best. And with Kirkman and AMC eyeing a small screen version of this comic in the near future, you can bet that this book will only continue to get better as it looks to pick up momentum before it hits the mainstream.

Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)

Follow @ComplexPopCult

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