Desiato’s Top Ten Single Issues of 2008

December 17, 2008

I did this last year (obviously before the blog existed), and even though I’ve got a pretty durned big DCBS box coming next week (25 books. Yay!), I don’t necessarily expect them to crack this top ten, so I’m just going to jump the gun and publish my list now. Ha ha! It begins…

Going to skip putting the cover images on here because I am lazy and it takes up too much space.

10. Fables #75
Writer: Bill Willingham
Penciller: Mark Buckingham
DC’s Vertigo Imprint

Ah, Fables. If there’s one thing you do well (and believe me, it’s a lot more than one thing), it’s big milestone anniversary issues. You could argue that this book had a lot to live up to considering the quality of issue 50 and its positioning as the climax of the War and Pieces arc. I love the way Willingham and Buckingham depict war (the March of the Wooden Soldiers trade pretty much assured that I’d be reading this book until it ends), and this issue caps off the arc while giving us a window into what else we get to look forward to.

9. Kick-Ass #3
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Marvel’s Icon Imprint

Is it late as hell? Yup. Is Millar more interested in the movie than the comic? Probably. Doesn’t change my opinion of this issue. This book revels in being over the top, and does not pull any punches in the violence and blood department. There’s more to it than that crazy final battle sequence, but we shouldn’t exactly be looking for a lot of depth in a book like this. Review is here.

8. Thunderbolts #121
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Mike Deodato, Jr.
Marvel Comics

Ah, watching the Green Goblin go nuts. Who hasn’t seen that before? Well, me, honestly. Never really read much Spider-Man, mostly due to lack of time. This issue is the last of Ellis’ run, and it delivers on what we’ve been wanting to see since he started writing the book post Civil War. And that’s not all of course. You’ve got Bullseye with one of the best lines of the year, and the rest of the inmates attempting to run the asylum while Norman flies all over the place and just throws pumpkin bombs indiscriminately. Fantastic stuff.

7. Terry Moore’s Echo #3
Writer: Terry Moore
Artist: Terry Moore
Abstract Studio

Most of the awesome in this issue came from the last page reveal, which is that kind of true holy crap moment that gives you a little glimpse of what could be coming over the months as this series continued. We have a new character introduced out of the blue, all kinds of craziness and over the top dialogue. It forces you to pause and try to cope with what you just read, and the only words you can think of are “Damn. Didn’t see that coming.” Contrast that with a crushing interaction between the main character and her sister, and you have a wonderful issue of a wonderful book. Review is here.

6. Nova #15
Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Penciller: Wellington Alves

Yes, I love Galactus. Yes, this was one of the better Galactus stories I’ve read in recent history. Any of the three issues of the story arc could have been on this list, but I think the way that the Harrow B plot was resolved was a great moment. Wellington Alves did a great job with the big G, and the way he was used as this disinterested party hovering in the background of panels was excellent. Review is here.

5. Superman/Batman #51
Writers: Michael Green and Mike Johnson
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
DC Comics

You can only read so many depressing ass comics (and considering my top four could all easily fit in that category except Iron Fist) before you need a break. And what works better as a break than the madcap fun of the two issue “Little Leaguers” arc from Superman/Batman? Not much at all, really. Super fun silliness that just makes you feel good inside. Sure, either issue could have been put here, but I went for the first because I flipped a coin. These things need to happen sometimes. Review can be found here.

4. The Twelve #6
Writer: J Michael Straczynski
Artist: Chris Weston
Marvel Comics

This is probably the best issue of this series so far (and this is pound for pound the best mini series that has come out this year, despite delays), mostly because JMS really poured on the despair in a way we hadn’t seen yet or since. That’s really what this series is about: despair. It’s another very quiet book similar in style and scope to Thor (and really, this is where JMS seems to be most at home). This issue features the actual fate of Rockman, and dear lord is it heart-wrenching. Check out my previous review for some more insight.

3. Thor #11
Writer: J Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Olivier Coipel
Marvel Comics

More JMS love here. This is a recent one (and oddly enough, takes the same place on the list as Thor #3 last year), and I might be high on this one because it’s fresh in my mind, but the quality is there nonetheless. I LOVE what JMS is doing with this book. It is nothing like what someone would necessarily expect from a character like Thor, but it perfectly fits into his world. Gods with flaws as an interesting literary device dates back to the tragic plays of Ancient Greece to me, and that’s the same kind of feel that I get from this Thor run. It’s such a quiet, slow burn. This issue is similar to that third chapter that I loved so much, in this case we’ve got Thor getting some closure concerning the death of Steve Rogers. He wasn’t around when it happened, so in this book he manages to contact Steve’s spirit and just talk to him for a bit. Coipel’s art in these pages is gorgeous, and he really makes such a simple story device sing. You’ve also got the continuation of Loki’s manipulation of Balder, as well as a callback to the fate of Lady Sif. Fantastic storytelling in every way.

2. The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California (One-Shot)
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Guiseppe Camuncoli
Marvel Comics

This to me was just a beautiful throwback to the 1920’s noir style starring a character I’ve enjoyed quite immensely since his creation by Fraction and Brubaker. Swierczynski had written some Iron Fist work prior to this, but I think this issue is what really made me believe that he would be a worthy replacement for the original creative team. I think this ended up being better than Fraction’s Green Mist of Death one shot simply due to the layered references to Pygmalion and Metropolis, as well as the general feel of the book being more akin to what I look for in an Orson Randall tale. Here’s the review.

1. Casanova #14
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Fabio Moon
Image Comics

If anyone read my ridiculously over the top review gushing like crazy about this book back when it came out, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is my top choice of the year. I’ve gone back and read it probably 15 to 20 times, and it never ceases being absolutely and totally incredible in every possible way. It’s the perfect ending to a story arc. It’s the perfect twist that completely changes (without being cheap) everything that came before it. I think I wrote enough in my review to justify my feelings, so I’ll just point you there. This book is covered in the combined souls of Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Transcendent.


Desiato’s Top Ten Monthlies!

August 19, 2008

From the perspective of purely focusing on ongoing titles, this list was surprisingly more difficult than I thought it would be. I read a lot of minis. So books like Atomic Robo or Comic Book Comics or the Inhumans stuff are not going to be on this list. I’ve done my best, and here’s what I came up with.

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8

It’s enjoyable. It’s not necessarily deep in the way I think of other comics I enjoy, but a lot of that comes from it being adaptation material, and for whatever reason I have a lot of trouble thinking of these books as comics as such so much as they are simply vehicles to continue a story from a different medium. It doesn’t really affect my enjoyment of the series (to my knowledge), but it basically creates a bit of a mental block that stops it from transcending a certain sense of mediocrity of vision.

9. Captain Britain and MI:13

It’s at number nine because we’ve only got four issues and it’s been a Secret Invasion book first and foremost, so we’re going to have to see what this series is capable of when it’s put out on its own and not piggybacking off a big event. I love it so far, and I haven’t had a single complaint, and I’m hoping the quality continues when the book strikes out on its own.

8. Avengers: The Initiative

This would be The Order. Hell, this should be The Order. They should have let Fraction keep going and then he would have been forced to drop Punisher to make room for Invincible Iron Man and everything would have been groovy. Avengers: Initiative isn’t as good or interesting or risky as The Order was, but it’s still an excellent book, and it’s the only place you can really get that sense of the post Civil War status quo (and I LOVE the post Civil War status quo). It’s still good stuff and it’s still got some interesting new characters, and it’s an important piece of the Marvel Universe.

7. Terry Moore’s Echo

I’ve never read Strangers in Paradise, so I started reading Echo more off the name recognition of Terry Moore than actually knowing or liking his work. Good decision for me. It’s a very good book, and we’ve got a ton of different angles from which to approach it. It’s a government conspiracy book. It’s a science fiction book. It’s a relationship book. It’s a fugitive chase scene book. It’s all of these things rolled into one. And it’s very good.

6. Green Lantern Corps

Since I started reading the GL books, I’ve enjoyed Green Lantern Corps demonstrably more than its single minded ongoing brother. I love the Green Lantern Corps as a concept, which is part of the reason why the solo title can wear a little thin on me from time to time. I’m not really interested in the one man so much as the sea of thousands.

5. The Immortal Iron Fist

I’ve only gotten one issue of the post Brubaker Fraction run, and it’s still good, so the title is still up here on the list of things I look forward to every month. It’s got a solid cast of characters and a good foundation of the Iron Fist mythology to use, and the writers have done an excellent job of making Danny Rand someone to care about. It’s good chop socky fun, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

4. New Avengers

Marvel’s flagship. With Bendis all in the mix of the big events since Secret War, everything of importance has a tendency to be seen through the lens of the New Avengers. That’s obviously quite the case now with Secret Invasion, but this has been an excellent book for pretty much the entirety of its run.

3. Thor

Straczynski’s book is huge and sprawling and yet focused and insular at the same time. I just reviewed issue ten, and I put most of my thoughts for the series as a whole into that review, so you can just go read that to see just why I love this book as much as I do.

2. The Incredible Hercules

So this is certainly the little book that could. Remember the cynicism and incredulity that came with the announcement that Hercules was replacing Hulk in this title? The assumptions that Hercules can’t sustain an ongoing and it would be cancelled in three months or revert back to a Hulk book faster than the blink of an eye. But it persists. And the reason it persists (other than getting the sales bump from tying into Secret Invasion and launching in the aftermath of World War Hulk) is that it’s REALLY DAMNED GOOD. This is the type of book that could legitimately hold on to the readers it gains from the event bumps because it’s so charming and well written and FUNNY and light and breezy goodness. Hercules and Amadeus Cho working your standard odd couple angle may not sound like the stuff of kings, but it is.

1. Nova/Guardians of the Galaxy

Is it a cheat? Probably. Don’t care. You know the implicit trust everyone has in Geoff Johns and all of his books? That’s how I feel about Abnett and Lanning. These guys have been working with Marvel cosmic since its grand rebirth during Annihilation (they wrote the Nova lead in mini) and through the Nova ongoing, Conquest and Guardians of the Galaxy, they have steered the ship of the new look Marvel cosmic. And it’s awesome. And they’re obviously doing well enough that they’ve been rewarded with exclusive contracts and the next World War Hulk sized event with War of Kings. My favorite writers taking on Black Bolt and the Inhumans? And possibly finding a way to make Vulcan interesting? Awesome. But let’s leave that on the side for now. Since I started collecting monthlies, I have not gotten more enjoyment out of any single series than Nova. And Guardians of the Galaxy is certainly no slouch either. So I’m combining number one to basically cover the DnAverse.


Laziness Breeds a LIGHTNING ROUND!

July 30, 2008

But first…

Sky Doll #3 (****)

It’s not a full review, but I am not resizing a cover that is that gorgeous.

So we’ve reached the end of the first Marvel/Soleil reprint mini series. You know, I’m still not sure why I ordered the series in the first place. Maybe it was a light month, maybe it was the cover, but I’m glad I did (and my worries were allayed when I finally got the Soleil sampler and really dug the style and what they were showing in the preview). I think I do need to go back and reread this thing at some point. CB Cebulski adapted this from the original script written by Barbucci and Canepa, and as with all translations, it’s not perfect and can get a little clunky at times. It doesn’t help Mr. Cebulski’s task that this is a seriously complex story about religion, sexual politics, regular politics class stratification and censorship. It’s pretty heady stuff. I think Cebulski does more than an adequate job of translating despite a couple of moments here or there where the dialogue or word choice might read a little off or hollow. It certainly doesn’t ruin the story, but I think this issue is a bit harder to read than the first two, which makes sense considering how everything comes to a head. The art is still undeniably fantastic and expressive and imaginative in every way possible. This thing is worth a read simply for the art’s sake, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the story behind it. Not going into plot details because it’s going to be completely indecipherable for anyone that didn’t read the first two issues, but it all comes together in a very interesting and unexpected way. Some questions are raised and answered in cryptic ways, and the tension and mystery surrounding some of the set pieces is very engaging. I highly recommend that folks pick this up in the trade format.

AND NOW…THE LIGHTNING ROUND!!!!!

Incredible Hercules #119 (****1/2) – Still great. So many enjoyable moments in this series. I seem to say this every time a new issue comes out, but I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW GOOD THIS SERIES IS. Hercules is a hilarious and fantastically written character. His interactions with the rest of the God Squad are AWESOME. The art is AWESOME (especially the facial expressions). Hell, even the recap page is AWESOME. Woo hoo!

Captain Britain and MI:13 (*****) – This is now the best Secret Invasion book. Soooooooooo good. I love the way Captain Britain came back with a sort of Bucky Cap version of his costume. Awesome awesome awesome.

X-Factor #33 (*1/2) – This is certainly not the right issue to use as a starting point for X-Factor . The only X-Factor characters I’m truly familiar with (Quicksilver and Layla Miller) aren’t in the book right now, and Larry Stroman’s art does not help me from the perspective of a new book with characters I don’t know. Bad fit for me. Hoping the She Hulk issue will be an improvement.

Secret Invasion: Front Line #1 (***1/2) – Good start. I like the idea behind the Front Line books. Still haven’t read Civil War Front Line, but I enjoyed World War Hulk Front Line well enough, and this is pretty good time. No Sally Floyd though, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. Cover’s pretty neat too.

Mighty Avengers #16 (***1/2) – I dug it. Weakest of the Mighty Avengers issues, but I still like the slowly unfolding Skrull mythos that we’re seeing.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #16 (****) – This is a solid Buffy issue. I should probably read Fray.

Terry Moore’s Echo #4 (*****) – Awesome. I love the little world that Moore’s putting together around this story. This thing is big, and it’s just going to get bigger.

Invincible Iron Man #3 (****) – Another solid issue. I REALLY like Ezekiel Stane as a character. I love the way that he’s pissed off he has to make a suit for himself because he had to lower himself to Tony’s level.

Angel After the Fall #10 (**1/2) – If I weren’t getting this for a discount, there’s no way in hell I’d still be reading it. I think it’s going places, and I generally like it okay, and having Franco Urru off the book helps, but it’s still not worth four bucks.

Spike After the Fall #1 (**) – See my review for Angel. Except Urru’s on this one now. Lop off a half star for that.


Some Mini Review Stragglers

July 8, 2008

Final Crisis #2 (***1/2)

This was a good issue, but more importantly, my enjoyment of the issue definitely ramped up compared to issue one. Whereas all these crazy story threads and obscure characters from the first issue generally left me cold despite how well written everything was, this time I was caught. And I wanted to know more about the New Gods (and as such, I will be accepting any and all kind donations of Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibuses and Seven Soldiers trades). As opposed to the first issue, where I didn’t care about these characters I at first didn’t recognize (although some background on Turpin was oddly filled in by watching Superman the Animated Series), I now have that hook that makes me actively want to seek out trades or back issues or wikipedia entries and so on. But it’s not perfect. Morrison spent way too much time on the Japanese superheroes, much in the same way that I think he spent way too much time on the Anthro scenes in issue one. The time traveling bullet to me sounds like the type of idea a couple of stoners thought up one night because it sounded “cool.” I could be completely wrong, and much of it might have to do with my reticence concerning time travel in general (it’s FANTASTIC when pulled off correctly. But that doesn’t happen too often), but I hope that when Grant really parses everything out that it doesn’t get too muddy. The fallen Monitor? Don’t care. So he’s basically Black Adam. Good for him. Morrison is not making me care. And for whatever reason, I’m not fully into the art. The backgrounds and settings are gorgeous, but something about his faces just seems a little off to me. Not enough to be completely distracting or anything, but it’s there. It’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t think twice about if I were completely entrenched in the book, but these little difficulties I’m having are making it stand out a bit more than it usually would. I liked the issue, and I really enjoy the general tone of dread that is permeating through every page of this book. I don’t know yet if I’m still fully on board, and it’s going to take A LOT for issue three to keep me interested in picking up the singles considering the month break that will be coming after its release. I think it’s a testament to Morrison’s writing style that he can keep me intrigued despite my misgivings concerning the plot. Oddly enough, I think this mini could be served better by having more tie ins, where we can get some outside information and back story concerning some of these slowly developing plot threads. Obviously, the in depth analysis has already been handled by my cohorts, so I think I’ll leave it at that.

Guardians of the Galaxy #2 (****1/2) (Spoilers in this one)

This book is some breezy, kick-ass fun. I’m liking the fact that the Universal Church of Truth is not going to be a one off thing, adding this extra layer of political intrigue that is bubbling underneath the surface. It somewhat reminds me of the way they’ve set up the Skrulls in Secret Invasion, in that these guys were wronged, and they’re going to hold a grudge. I also love the way that they’ve basically mirrored the early Avengers books with the reintroduction of Vance Astrovik. This is a perfect mirror to the resurfacing of Steve Rogers in Avengers #4. I mean, they thaw him out of ice with the shield and everything. So this is truly the cosmic Avengers. The wit from issue one is still there (“What does that taste like?” “Regret”), and they’re sticking with the interview debriefs, which I personally enjoy as a fan of the similar concept from The Order. And I love the way that they continued to play with the supposedly extraordinary importance of finding a name for their team, which is of course epitomized by who else but Rocket Raccoon, as he constantly needles the other team members on confirming that they were going with Guardians of the Galaxy as their name. No complaints here. This is some great cosmic goodness. And Vance Astrovik is probably a Skrull.

Wait, what?

Thor: Reign of Blood (****1/2)

Here’s one of the things I really like about the two Thor one shots we’ve seen so far. In a way, it’s a kind of retconned characterization. We’ve got established characters in this Asgardian universe like Thor and Loki and Enchantress and so on, and what we’re getting here is the background for why these characters act the way they do in the present day. We know why Odin eventually felt the need to bind the soul (or whatever) of Thor to a human host, as the completely unchecked Thor is pretty darned selfish and generally dickish in his mannerisms. Ever wonder why Loki keeps trying to mess with the Asgardians? Sure, he’s the trickster god, but he’s constantly treated like garbage by everyone and everything in Asgard, so it follows that he would hold a bit of a grudge after eons of putting up with their shit. How did Enchantress go from a sweet and innocent Asgardian goddess whose main task was to pick golden apples to a Master of Evil? Well, the Asgardians don’t treat her very well either. It all comes back in the end, and that’s what I dig about this. You’ve got rock solid characterization, myth building and the added bonus of some frost giants getting cut in half and a giant monstrous blood golem thingie. Zircher’s been doing very good work in his two sections of the one shots so far, and you can tell that Fraction really enjoys playing the role of myth builder. I’ve always liked the notion of the pantheon of gods as opposed to the more monotheistic religions, because it’s somewhat difficult to build up a system of mythology around a single deity. It’s that otherworldly feel combined with the fact that these gods are flawed too and they can be jerks and very human in their overwhelming power. I guess that goes a long way to explain why Incredible Hercules and Thor are two of my favorite ongoings at the moment. This is a solid book. It’s certainly not required reading for most of the world, but for fans of Thor and the Asgardians, it’s a well designed piece of back story.

Echo #3 (*****)

I’m mostly doing this because Billy blames ME for forgetting to pick this up because I didn’t review it. Then I went back and reread the damn thing, and remembered why it’s easily the best issue of the very short run thus far, and the type of book that just takes a concept and blows it outward in multiple directions all at once. We begin with a pretty goddamned depressing scene of our heroine Julie visiting her sister in a mental institution. They have a conversation that is heartbreaking, frustrating and strangely foreboding at the same time. Good work with the lettering here to convey the different emotions involved in the scene, which is backed up by some solid expression work. We’ve also got some more fleshing out on the government and just what they’ve created, what it means and what they’re willing to do to get their property back. And some more character building scenes with Julie and her soon to be ex husband as we get another of the slightest glimpses of what the hell happened to Julie’s family that landed her sister in the looney bin and her husband in divorce court. It’s rough stuff, and you can tell it isn’t going to get any easier. Because Terry Moore gives us this ending that is absolutely batshit INSANE that kicks the door of possibility off its damned hinges and completely changes what little status quo we may or may not have managed to establish. I have NO CLUE where this book is going. And I love it. Must buy.


Review: Echo #1

March 16, 2008

Echo #1 Cover

Read the rest of this entry »


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