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8 comics to read this May

From Secret Empire to Surgeon X, here’s what to keep an eye on this month

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Marvel (2); Image

May marks the traditional launching point for Marvel and DC’s big summertime crossovers, and both Secret Empire and The Lazarus Contract are set to follow that tradition. But this month also sees a wealth of other delights, such as the first collection of dystopian saga Surgeon X.

Below, check out EW’s recommendations for what comics to keep an eye on this month.

Secret Empire #1
Nick Spencer (writer), Steve McNiven (artist)

After a long build-up that began with EW’s reveal last year that Captain America was secretly a Hydra agent, Marvel’s biggest event of the year finally kicks off this month, boasting gorgeous artwork from the likes of Steve McNiven and Andrea Sorrentino. Turning one of Marvel’s flagship heroes into the agent of evil empire has caused quite a stir fans, but the scariest plot element of all might be how similar this evil Steve Rogers is to his classic incarnation. “I think villains with conviction are the best,” writer Nick Spencer told EW. “Steve is still Steve. If he was courageous and inspiring before the Cube did this to him, then all those things still apply. In the same way, Steve as a hero was nearly impossible to defeat and usually came out ahead; that same thing is true now.”

Black Bolt #1
Saladin Ahmed (writer), Christian Ward (artist)

Novelist Saladin Ahmed makes his comics debut with this solo series starring the missing Inhuman king. With a live-action Inhumans show finally on the horizon, there’s no better time to learn about their leader — even if he is currently imprisoned in a mysterious cosmic jail. Artist Christian Ward is also making his Marvel debut, and he provides appropriately trippy visuals for this mind-bending story.

American Gods #3
P. Craig Russell (writer), Scott Hampton (artist)

Starz’s acclaimed new show isn’t the only great American Gods adaptation going right now. The Neil Gaiman novel is also being translated into comic form by longtime Gaiman collaborators P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton, who offer a parallel take on the material. Russell told EW they’ve purposefully avoided watching the show so far: “There was no way I could look at it because I didn’t want that cross-pollination of ideas. If I arrived at the same solution to a storytelling problem or a design idea that they did, that would be okay. But if I saw something they did before I approached it, that would seal it off from me going in that direction. I just wanted to be pure.”

X-O Manowar #2
Matt Kindt (writer), Thomas Giorello (artist)

Valiant’s flagship superhero has found an epic story worthy of that designation. Aric was originally a 5th-century Visigoth warrior before he bonded with a high-tech suit of alien armor, and this new story brings him back to his roots from Valiant veteran Matt Kindt and new artist Thomas Giorello. Aric now lives on an alien planet far away from earth; though he hoped for a chance at peace, he finds himself sucked back into violence and war. Kindt told EW he’s had this saga planned out for at least a year, so now’s the time to check out this story before it really takes off.

Titans #11/Teen Titans #8/Deathstroke #19
Multiple writers/artists

Three great DC Rebirth titles collide in this month’s “Lazarus Contract” crossover. Deathstroke first came to prominence decades ago as a nemesis of the Teen Titans. He’s mostly been on his own path since Rebirth began, but now the quest to bring his son back to life will pit the ace assassin against two generations of Titans. Writer Christopher Priest has turned Deathstroke into a smartly plotted, action-packed thrill ride, and the creative teams of Dan Abnett/Brett Booth and Benjamin Percy/Khoi Pham have injected their respective Titans series with new energy, so this mash-up should be one to watch.

Surgeon X Vol. 1: The Path of Most Resistance (May 2)
Sara Kenney (writer), John Watkiss (artist)

Surgeon X has a lot of things going for it. It marked longtime Vertigo editor Karen Berger’s return to comics after some years away. It was artist John Watkiss’ last work before his death. It’s a dystopian portrait of a future with totalitarian politics and a medical antibiotic crisis that only seems to grow closer by the day. And it’s a tightly plotted story, a family drama, and a murder mystery to boot. New readers can catch up on it all with this first collection.