“You know, the generic, samey origin stories are definitely my favorite part about superheroes,” said no comic book reader ever, and yet, this week in comics sees DC’s questionable Zero Issue month begin. So, yay for that.
This week in comics, DC’s attempt to cash-in on Watchmen 25 years too late (and a few years too late for the film) begins with Before Watchmen: Minutemen, Boom! launches some a pair of new ongoings, and Morrison kills Clark Kent, that bastard!
Action Comics #1 gave us rowdy, unruly teenage Superman, a crusader for Truth, Justice and the American Way who hadn’t yet managed to learn how to temper his passions with diplomacy. And it was fascinating. Six issues into the series, and Morrison and his creative team are still finding new ways to look at the younger Superman, whether its in the simple, touching back-up feature by Sholly Fisch or in the main adventure, which finds us following an older, wiser Superman as he faces a threat to his past selves. And while neither story is perfect in this particularly-weak issue of Action Comics, I still find myself enjoying and even recommending t he book for its shameless sense of fun and the rock-solid grasp it has of its main character.
So, I’m soldiering on with my One Sentence Reviews, in which I read every DC New 52 comic for the week and sum each of them up in badly constructed single sentence reviews. Despite the arrival of a new baby and the fact that some titles are a real chore to get through, I’m too hard-headed to quit at this stage and will keep it up as long as I can. I can’t promise, however, that sleep deprivation hasn’t affected my ability to be fair or rational in my reviews.
Each comic is scored out of five and at the end I have a cumulative leader board (averaging the scores of each title) to show which are consistently excellent, which are on the rise, and which are circling the drain.
I have also reviewed the mini-series issues from the week but, as usual, they aren’t included in the leaderboard.
Warning, there could be spoilers ahead (although I try to avoid them).
Superman is an old character, and one that some people have often had trouble relating to. Seen as the ultimate boy scout, as a man in a stable marriage who works a 9-to-5 job, teens in particular often reject him. And while other writers have played up Superman’s genuine outsider status (most brilliantly in recent years, Kurt Busiek in the fantastic and melancholy Superman: Secret Identity), few have aligned it so thoroughly with the spirit of teenage rebellion than Grant Morrison is doing in Action Comics right now. I don’t know if the audience will bite, but Morrison has envisioned a thoroughly youthful Superman, a self-righteous warrior for truth with a black-and-white view of right and wrong and the power to try and enforce change. But like we all discover eventually, change is really, really, really, really hard – even for Superman – and pushing against the status quo is a great way to make enemies.
Once of the most difficult things to accept about this relaunch is the same problem I had (and, in part, still have) with Marvel’s Ultimate Universe: why reboot things if you’re just going to keep telling the same story? Particularly in the beginning of Ultimate Spider-Man, each arc introduced and discarded a classic Spider-Man villain – where’s the fun in that? But, after going on a run through the first five or six arcs, I started to get it. It was a chance to revamp and update classic characters for a new audience, and slowly slide things in a direction we never would have predicted. Rather than jumping in blind with ideas that will be (inevitably) compared to their classic counterparts, the Ultimate Universe started slow and built up a following all its own, a rhythm unique to itself.
One week in, and I have to say: I’m impressed. It’s not that all of the books are winners. They aren’t. There’s a fair bit of mediocrity here. But it’s the sort of mediocrity that SELLS. It’s the kind many people like. While I found the Batbooks lacking the ambition of Morrison’s run or the strong characterization and storytelling of Snyder’s run, the fact is that all of them are solid executions on a formula that works. Outside of maybe Hawk and Dove (the only book I put down without having a solid grasp on what it wanted to do or say), every book on here stands a fair chance of finding a loyal audience – and what’s more, there’s an awful lot of ambition on display.
But what has really impressed me is the variety of stories on display. Whether it’s the way Morrison and Morales have shaken up the way Superman is ‘supposed to’ look, act and sound, the way Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder are effortlessly blending superheroes with horror or the way Ivan Brandon gives war a terrifying new dimension in a world full of superhumans, the New DCU seems to have something to offer everyone! Continue reading
While lebeau continues to give you a fantastic title-by-title breakdown of the upcoming relaunch, I’m going to take a slightly different take on things. With the full solicits revealed, release dates included, we now have a slightly better idea of what to expect come September. So I’m going to break down the solicits by release date, talk a little bit about what I’m going to get – and what I’m going to skip – and why, so you’ll have an idea of what some of the books that will definitely see coverage here will be… and which of your favorites you can heartily mock me for skipping.
So, with that brief introduction, on to week one of the solicits, otherwise known as… September 7th.
Some Spoilers Continue reading
I think that, in my last few reviews, I’ve made my feelings about Rucka’s run on Action Comics fairly well-known. I’ve always (and still do) consider Greg Rucka to be one of the top talents working in mainstream comics today, but thus far his Action has been bland, dealing largely with a conflict that was old before it started.
With so many Kryptonians, General Lane has decided that he really, really doesn’t like them. Yes, by being on Earth, they’re breaking the law – I hate comic book laws, by the way, and this one ranks right up there with the SHRA for nonsensicality – but also, he just really hates them. General Lane really doesn’t like them. In fact, he has a number of rants torn straight from the pages of 40 years of X-Men comics letting us know just how much he doesn’t like them, especially Thara Ak’Var and Chris, despite all evidence that suggests that they are, indeed, on the side of angels.
On the upside, the issue does reveal why the arc is called ‘The Sleepers’. Not, as we were lead to believe, because there are undercover Kryptonians fomenting hate among the populace, as the first issue lead us to believe. The next Kryptonians are, in fact, anything but undercover, acting instead like two carefree sociopaths with the powers of Superman and absolutely no sense of creativity. For such a major threat, the pair do little damage before they are handily defeated.
Diego Olmos, the third artist on Rucka’s run thus far, opts for a slightly more cartoony style than either of the previous artists. While at least a little interesting, and effective during some of the fight sequences, it really doesn’t fit the tone of the book to date at all. Aside from that, the issue offers some of Rucka’s most utterly average work in a long time. It’s not bad – the plot is coherent, moves along nicely, the issue sets things up, characterization is consistent – but it’s not up to the quality that Rucka is capable of.
(as a note: unless there is only a single issue left in this arc, this will be my last Action Comics review for some time.)
Rucka’s run on Action Comics began with a simple premise – with the Kryptonians leaving Earth for their own planet, what if Zod installed a series of Kryptonian ‘sleepers’ on Earth, meant to stir up anti-Kryptonian sentiment and start the war Zod badly wants. It was an idea that offered both action and espionage, that would allow us to see the new Nightwing and Flamebird as both clever and powerful. Unfortunately, after a great first issue, the arc has almost completely forgotten its premise, instead becoming muddled down in the pasts of Christ Kent and Thara Ak-Var.
Even more unfortunately is the vehicle Rucka chose to reintroduce these angsts – Ursa, a companion of Zod. Ursa is written here as a complete psycho, which is almost always comics shorthand for ‘bad villain’. The conflict between Ursa and the Kryptonian duo may one day become compelling once it is given room to breathe and grow, but right now it feels forced into the middle of a more interesting story. Three issues into the ‘Sleeper’ arc, and we’ve had precisely one issue dealing with the ‘Sleeper’ arc.
New artist Sidney Teles replaces Barrows, though the change is barely noticeable, having a similarly bland-but-efficient style, and so while Teles does fine work, he does little to save the issue itself. Once again, Action Comics does little to speak to the positives of a book without Superman, something the Superman title seems to be having little issue with. Though the issue isn’t necessarily bad, offering plenty of setup for the conclusion of this arc and for future threats, there are more missteps than I’ve come to expect from Rucka in this purely mediocre offering.
Greg Rucka and Eddy Barrows team up to bring us an Action Comics without Superman, a risky move that, last month, offered us an excellent issue of comics as we were introduced to the concept of deadly sleeper-Kryptonians spreading xenophobic sentiment amongst humanity in an effort to start a war. We also met Thara Ak-Var and Chris Kent, the new Flamebird and Nightwing pair who are protecting Earth from Kryptonian abuse in Superman’s absence.
Yes, last issue spoke volumes for a world without Superman, but this issue falls back on weak cliche and so-so action to fill its 22-pages. Ursa, mother of Chris and one of the masterminds behind the sleepers, comes to Earth to destroy Nightwing and Flamebird before they can cause any more damage than they already have. Ursa’s internal monologue is compelling, a tightly-wound madwoman with intelligence and skill, but the conflict of the issue – Ursa beating the tar out of Thara for her betrayal until Chris shows up to save her and defeat his mother – is trite and cliche. There is some genuine emotion there, especially in the tormented Thara Ak-Var, but not enough to save the lackluster action, and not enough to redeem the issue for abandoning an interesting arc so quickly.
Eddy Barrows continues to improve. His art in Teen Titans was fairly generic, and though he has yet to come truly into a style all his own, he is certainly getting better. He illustrates the action competently and offers a few particularly lovely panels, but ultimately, like the rest of the story, fails to distinguish in any meaningful way. I hardly noticed on first read-through that multiple artists worked on the book – the blend is well-handled and does not distract.
Invincible Iron Man #6 (****1/2)
After only the first arc, Fraction has proved himself to be a fantastic Iron Man writer. He has a great feel for the character. He shows just the right amount of love without detracting from a major part of Tony’s character, he is flawed. I’ve complained about Larroca’s art several times, but he does a fine job here. Just like last issue, there is a lot of fighting going on and so Larroca’s weaknesses are not as easily seen. This was a strong opening arc, so strong in fact that Fraction has already helped out with the Iron Man 2 film. If you’ve ever thought about reading Iron Man, now is the time. It looks like we’re in for a few fun issues and then Fraction supposedly has a big “Born Again” arc for us. I can’t wait.
Action Comics #870 (*****)
I think we all knew how this was going to end. The covers gave it away, the little moments with Ma and Pa gave it away and even the media gave it away, but that doesn’t detract from the arc’s power. This Brainiac story has been fantastic and this was a hell of an issue. You will experience such a wide range of emotions within these pages. I believe I’ve praised his work in every review but I’ll do it again, Gary Frank’s art is amazing. He hits all the right notes whether the scene calls for humor, fear, or sadness. Johns’ writing is fantastic as well, but he seems to get more love than Frank. I think one of my favorite things about this issue is what causes the death. Brainiac’s motivations are so human and primitive. Gary Frank won’t be on this new Krypton arc but I hope he comes back. With this and All-Star Superman, 2008 is a great year for Superman.
Recently in the comments section of this post, I brazenly asserted that Batman, by Grant Morrison & Tony Daniel, fails as a monthly comic reading experience. Basically, I feel the plot is too convoluted or complex for easy monthly digestion, although I’m sure it’ll go down very easy in trade.
So, what makes a good monthly comic? A couple of things:
Comics that put “character” first!
Comics that tend to focus more on character than plot are inherently more readable as monthlies. When jumping into the middle of a six issue arc, its character that pulls you in and fills in the holes. With the exception of Fantastic Four, every comic on my list stars a single character.
“Done-in-One (or two)” Stories!
There’s no need to wait for the trade if each arc is only 1-2 issues long, right? Again, this type of story goes well with character writing. Since the plot isn’t required to sustain itself for 3-6 issues, it can be pared down and used primarily as a vehicle to reveal the titular hero’s character. Batman and Zatanna team up to stop the Joker!?! Reading that story you find that it’s not really about catching the Joker as much as it’s about developing Bruce and Zatanna’s relationship. Also, without really sacrificing the overall plot, these “done-in-one” stories can be framed like TV episodes that when viewed over an entire season combine to reveal a hidden master plot. Think Buffy, Heroes, etc… As many of us know, it can be very intimidating for a new reader to jump onto a book with a long running story, so hiding the plot in this manner is a great way to eliminate that intimidation factor. It also allows the writer to integrate sub-plots with clearly defined conflicts into the background that can be slowly developed and brought to the forefront at a later date, as Mark Millar does in Fantastic Four.
Cliffhangers that punch you in the face!
I mean, does this one really need explanation? There are quite a few comics (many on this list) that use the “final page splash” to great effect in almost every single issue. The rush you get from experiencing these in a floppy is much different than when experiencing them in a trade. Actually, it doesn’t even come close.
Getting that “OMG I can’t wait for next month!” Soap Opera feeling!
Of the four I’ve listed here, I think this last one is probably the most important (although it is very closely related to the Cliffhanger thing). For me, it’s the most important factor in deciding whether or not to wait for the trade. I ask myself, as many of you probably do, “Can I go more than a month without reading about BLANK?!?” If you answer “NO!”, then you obviously have a great monthly in your hands!
With the pretentious explanations out of the way I present to you, in no particular order, my “Top Ten Comics That Work Best as Monthlies”:
ACTION COMICS by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank
I could NEVER read this comic in trade; I just love the characters too much! And the cliffhangers are the epitome of punch you in the face. There haven’t been many done-in-ones in the Johns run, but that’s okay, since at least half the comics on this list barely utilize that comic book storytelling device. But Johns does love the sub-plots, wherein he writes some of the best (or, THE best) character moments in comics. CONS: More done-in-ones would be nice.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN by “The Spidey Brain Trust”
With the exception of the current arc, “New Ways To Die”, Brand New Day has been nothing but 1-, 2-, and 3-issue arcs filled with character, character, character… the Soap Opera mojo has been strong. Because of the weekly shipping schedule, the Spidey team has been using the last page splash to great effect. CONS: Actually, maybe there are too many characters? Sometimes it gets confusing.
CAPTAIN AMERICA by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting & Luke Ross
All of the above? Without all the little Bucky character stuff, I would not be enjoying this book as much as I am. It’s funny, but to me, most issues of Captain America feel like single issue stories set in an epic tapestry whose true significance won’t be seen ‘til Brubaker ends his run. It’s one long, ongoing story that excites me month in and month out.
DEADPOOL by Daniel Way & Paco Medina
We’re two issues in and I’m in love. For now. Plot? What plot? If you’re looking for a story, you’re in the wrong place, duder. This is all about Deadpool. That’s it. Do you need to read issue one to understand issue two? Hell no! Enjoy the funny!
DETECTIVE COMICS by Paul Dini & Dustin Nguyen
Current master of the 1- or 2-part story (yeah, yeah, I know the RIP tie-in breaks the rules). Reading Detective for the last two years I remember more about Bruce sex life (obv lack thereof) than I do the details of any of the stories. And to me, that’s awesome writing. Dini has made Bruce likable. This is new, folks. Bruce Wayne as an actual character in comics? Not since pre-DKR, I would think, have we seen the identity of Bruce Wayne written as a real character. Ah no, I disagree with you, Morrison’s Wayne is a flimsy piece of cardboard. Maybe he had something at the beginning of his run, but fleshing out Batman’s alter ego took a back seat to RIP setup long ago, maybe around the time Adam Kubert left the book. Anyway, yes, Dini isn’t writing Batman, he’s writing Bruce Wayne as Batman. And there is a difference, and that difference is quite refreshing.
FANTASTIC FOUR by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch
The character stuff is lacking, but the sub-plots, cliffhangers and OMG moments make this a top of the stack must-read. Here’s a recent review that reads more negative than it actually is.
GRAVEL by Warren Ellis, Mike Wolfer & Raulo Caceres
The way the current arc is framed, it works wonderfully as a series of single issue stories filled with scenes exploring the character of William Gravel. Oh, you know what? Thank God Ellis finally got around to fleshing this guy out. Gravel started life as a boringly hollow SAS thug who starred in a series of idea-driven minis. In those minis, there was never anything particularly exciting or compelling about the Gravel character and the fact of the matter is, I probably only read them because they were written by Ellis. Now, under the watchful eye of Mike Wolfer, I really grown to like this guy and each month I can’t wait to read Gravel’s next adventure. Shocking. That’s good stuff, brother.
HULK by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness
INVINCIBLE by Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker
Ever since the #51 reboot, this book has been one of the most anticipated monthlies in my stack. LOVING IT… happy now, Bruce?
JACK OF FABLES by Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham
Awesome title character? CHECK!
Outstanding sub-plots? CHECK!
SOAP OPERA?!? TRIPLE CHECK!!!
Action Comics #869 (*****): Another solid chapter in the reinvention of Brainiac arc.
All-Star Superman #12 (*****): So much needs to be said about this book, and I plan to, just as soon as I get my copies of the rest of the series back from Mandy. Expect a Series Review of this masterpiece by the end of the month.
The Amazing Spider-Man #572 (****): On par with the rest of the arc, but not even close to the ultimate Bullseye vs Spider-Man fight that Slott promised us. Too much hype, dude.
Bruce Castle (****1/2)
Birds of Prey #122 (**): I didn’t read it so much as look at the pretty pictures… and vomit.
DC Lebeau (Hated it!)
Captain Britain and MI:13 #5 (****): Blade, you son of a bitch!
Seventh Soldier (B+)
Daredevil #111 (****): I like her. And I definitely liked this. Matt Murdock. What a bastard.
Fables #76 (***): Holy Lord, how much did I hate reading this issue of Fables? Sure, I know Willingham is a hardcore Republican, but some of the dialogue in this issue almost made my head explode. Really, Snow White? Is that how you justify all this death? And this cliché anti-tech speech? LAME. Also, no one talks like this on their cell phone. Can we stop writing crap like this? Please? Question: what does it say about me that I agree with Geppetto?
Hulk #6 (****1/2): AWESOME!!!
Bruce Castle (*****)
The Punisher #62 (***): Even without comparing this to Ennis’ take on the character, I would still hate it. And it’s not that I hate all other versions of the Punisher, because I think Fraction’s version is great (until the plot started to suck ass).
Bruce Castle (****)
Robin #178 (***1/2): Okay. Fine. Meh. BLAH. It wasn’t bad, how about that?
DC Lebeau (Liked it!)
DC Lebeau (Liked it!)
Ultimate Fantastic Four/Ultimate X-Men Annual #1 (**): Way worse than the last issue. UGH.
Bruce Castle (****)
Ultimate Spider-Man #126 (****): I liked it. Plus, it made me nostalgic for a time when Nick Fury ran S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Ultimates were badass.
Bruce Castle (***)
Uncanny X-Men #502 (**): STAB MY EYES!!!
Bruce Castle (**)
The Walking Dead #52 (***1/2): Okay, with a side of losing interest fast.
Bruce Castle (****)
War Heroes #2 (**): I thought about scanning the penis page… but that would be crude. Get it?
Bruce Castle (***1/2)
All Star Superman #12 (*****)
It’s hard to review this comic without gushing about it for several paragraphs. I think we all knew three years ago that Grant Morrison and Frank Quietely on a Superman series sans continuity would be good, but did anyone think it would be this good? This is the best Superman comic I’ve ever read. Everything that Superman is has been conveyed in this series. This is why I love Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly. No matter how good their previous work has been, they always raise the bar. It’s hard to believe that’s possible I know, but I think it’s true. This may be Morrison’s best comic. This is Quietly’s best comic. I can’t recommend this comic enough.
Action Comics #869 (*****)
Take a look at that cover. Superman and his father drinking beer while leaning on a gate. Superman’s wife and mother watching from the porch. America’s heartland in the background. How much more American can you get? But this isn’t the cover of the comic I’m holding. Something’s changed. The beer brand has been altered to a dismal label that reads “SODA POP”. Really?! I’ve talked about this enough, but I just wanted to let you all know that this comic was delayed a week because of this. I think the main reason why is because of All Star Batman and Robin’s faux pas, but I’ll talk more about that later. This was another great issue. I’ve always liked Supergirl. She’s one of the most poorly handled characters in comics, but she’s written brilliantly here. This issue is particularly remarkable because a few of our questions are answered. Why is Supergirl in this comic? Find out in this issue. Why have the Daily Planet employees been getting a lot of screen time lately? Find out in this issue. Why are there about to be a lot more Kryptonians running around? Find out in this issue. In addition to all of that, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank still bring their A-game. Johns’ writing is wonderful and Frank’s art is superb.
Action Comics #868 (*****)
This arc continues to amaze me. After only two pages I was laughing my head off. Then things got serious. Geoff Johns makes both work superbly. Like All Star Superman, this book is a perfect example of how a Superman book should be. It’s so well put together. Both Johns and Gary Frank are at the top of their game. There is a lot of fighting, but the action sequences never get tiring. This isn’t intricate or particularly original, but every month it’s incredibly entertaining and a hell of a good read. I love this book.
Batman #679 (****1/2)
First off, I want to commend DC and Grant Morrison for being so brave. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about The Dark Knight’s popularity. I’m sure that popularity is leading several people to wander into their local comic shop and while they’re there, I’m sure several of them are purchasing this comic. I was originally going to write “if they’re 12” but really, all of those people who read this book will be disappointed. This is a terrible “jumping on point”. I also admire Grant Morrison for having the cojones to write this, especially given the time of release. Having said all that, I really like this story. Batman RIP is very demanding. It requires much patience and an open mind. If you’re looking for a standard Batman tale look elsewhere, but if you can deal with the aforementioned demands, you will be rewarded with a great story.
Hey, Bruce Castle came up with a good idea! Let’s steal it… but, with a slight modification. Whereas his list was culled from everything he’s currently reading I’m going to limit mine by spotlighting only those that fall under the heading of “ongoing series”. So, that means no minis (Final Crisis, Secret Invasion) or maxis (The Twelve, All-Star Superman). With that in mind, let’s move into the list… the Top 10 ongoings I can’t wait to read each month!
#10 – X-FORCE by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost & Clayton Crain
“FUN! FUN! FUN!” That is exactly what this book is to me. It’s old school X-Men (to me, “old school” means late 80’s/early 90’s) with a modern edge. I don’t remember my X-Men having so much blood and gore, but I like it! Now, I have to be honest, when I first heard mention of this series, I was not at all impressed. The “bloody” variants reminded me painfully of that X-Force clone from the mid-nineties “Bloodstrike” (by Rob Liefeld and Dan Fraga)… or maybe it was “Bloodstryke” with a “y”? Anyway, by issue 2, I was all in, baby! As I said, the book is just fun, and with every issue the plot gets more and more interesting. Surprise, Bastion! Nimrod! Archangel! Every X-Villain Ever! Purifier Civil War! It’s a throwback without being regressive. Sure the old villains are back, but they’re fricking techno-organic zombies! Yes, Archangel is back, but it’s not because we or the writers missed him, it fits the story. It SERVES the story and not the fanboys. And that, I guess, makes all the difference. Maybe…
You can check out a review of this book here…
#9 – ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN by Brian Micheal Bendis & Stuart Immonen
This has been in my mental Top Ten since it first came out, and it’ll probably stay there for as long as Bendis remains on the book… which could easily be for another hundred issues. There’s not much to say as to why I love this book so much, it’s just a solid, thoroughly enjoyable read every month. It’s Spider-Man at his purest, unencumbered by 50 years of continuity (although, at the rate at which Bendis is reintroducing 616 ideas, we’re getting there). I like that when someone asks me about super hero comics I can grab a copy of the first volume of this series, hand it to them, and let Bendis’ Spider-Man seduce them into out world. More than any other title in the Marvel catalogue, this book is completely new reader friendly. And, it’s infinitely relatable. It’s got drama (High School!!!) and it’s got action (best Spidey action in comics thanks to Bagley and Immonen), and it’s got heart. I love Ultimate Peter Parker and I love Ultimate Mary Jane. In fact, I love the entire “Bendis” Ultimate universe! I kind of wish Ultimate Spider-Man could be its own separate thing, like if the editors could somehow cut it away from the rest of the Ultimate books that would be amazing! Maybe that’s what the Ultimatum event is all about? Or, if we just replaced the 616 title with the Ultimate one? Wait, hold that thought—
#8 – THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN by “The Spidey Brain Trust”
It took me a while to warm up to it, but eventually, I got there. This book is good. Damn good. So good, it may finally live up to its hype as THE Marvel flagship title. So, the book survived One More Day. Actually, it not only survived it, it’s downright thriving. Why? How can this be despite all the haters? Because it’s damn good comic book writing, that’s why. I’m tired of the whining. I’m tired of the complaints. OMD is over, dudes. Move on. I did, so can you. If you’re not reading BND because of OMD, then you’re only hurting yourself, brother. The party train has left the station and all you OMD whiners can suck it!
You can check out a review of this book here…
#7 –DETECTIVE COMICS by Paul Dini & Dustin Nguyen
Yes, Paul Dini’s underrated run on Detective is in my Top Ten. Surprised? If you’ve been reading my Round-Ups, you shouldn’t be. I don’t think I’ve ever given this book less than three stars. I love it! It’s fun, damnit! It feels like the old Batman cartoon! Yay for fun! It’s filled with crazy shit like: “Celebrity Detective” Riddler, Zatanna/Catwoman/Batman love triangles and wacky adventure after wacky adventure! And last year’s Joker/Robin story was one of the best Joker/Robin tales I’ve ever read, and Dini did it all in one fricking issue! I know Countdown sucked… BOO HOO! But this book is INSANE NUTS AWESOME!! While what Morrison is doing over on “Batman” may turn out to be the greatest run of all-time, I’m content to read Dini’s one and two issue arcs ‘til the end of time.
You can check out a review of this book here…
#6 – THOR by J. Michael Straczynski & Oliver Copiel
Recently, Desiato articulated all the reasons he loves Thor in this post. I totally agree with him. Go read that post.
#5 – JACK OF FABLES by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges
Fables can suck my hairy sack… Jack is where it’s at, man! It’s just funnier. I pick up a Jack comic and I know I’m going to laugh. I pick up a Fables comic and I know there’s an outside chance I may lose consciousness. I still like Fables, but it’s been on the “phoning it in” train for well over a year, while Jack just keeps getting better. I’ve been saying that a lot, but I guess that’s what all these books have in common. They’re well-plotted. But the thing about Jack is you never know quite what to expect from the title character or where the story is headed. Jack is the ultimate suspenseful character. He’s just as likely to befriend or betray someone. I also love that the writers aren’t telling his story in chronological order. Every few arcs, we jump back into his fabled past and we get to see one of his many adventures re-imagined in such a way that almost always makes Jack look like a total asshole. And we love it. We love to hate this moron.
You can check out a review of this book here…
#4 – YOUNG LIARS by David Lapham
Young Liars would describe my life if an angry midget cut my dick off and threw it in the ocean. I know these characters. I’ve met them. They are real. I pre-ordered the first issue not really knowing what to expect, only knowing that I really liked David Lapham’s stuff, he of “Stray Bullets” fame. Once I finally got my hands on it, and read it, I couldn’t believe how fucking good it was. And then I read issue 2 and I got that same feeling, but more. And then issue 3. Again, same feeling, but more. And now, whenever I read it, I’m always left with the question, “How can this book keep on this way? It’s too good!” I don’t really know how well this book is doing, if it’s breaking even, selling gangbusters or close to cancellation. If I had to guess, I’d say the latter, and that’s a shame. We need to get the word out on this book… don’t wait for the trade! The series could be gone by then, and that would be a damn shame.
You can check out a review of this book here…
#3 – THE INCREDIBLE HERCULES by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente & Khoi Pham
One of those rare books that gets better with age. I’m constantly surprised at how exciting and well-written this comic is each and every month. Its brilliant mix of mythology and modern day hijinks is what keeps me coming back every month. Hmm, it’s kind of like Jack of Fables in that way. Actually, I’d never drawn that parallel before, but The Incredible Hercules and Jack of Fables are exactly the same book! Cool. The odd couple of Hercules (super strong) and Amadeus Cho (super smart) is what really makes this engine hum. Their interplay is brilliant and hilarious.
You can check out a review of this book here…
#2 – ACTION COMICS by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank
I wasn’t “all in” ‘til Gary Frank joined the book. Johns had been rubbing me the wrong way for years, and with the lateness that plagued the start of his run I almost considered dropping the title. Boy am I glad I didn’t! The Legion arc was satisfyingly epic and the currently running Brainiac arc promises to outdo it. The art is phenomenal in its simplicity. Frank’s expressive faces and realistic style combine with Johns’ nostalgic flair to give us a decidedly modern take on Superman that isn’t afraid to indulge in sentimentality once in a while. I know we’ve been talking about the annoyingly regressive nature of this current generation of “fan-boy writers”, but here… in THIS book… it kind of works for me. Action Comics is the exception to the rule.
You can check out a review of this book here…
#1 – CAPTAIN AMERICA (OBV!) by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting & Luke Ross
It’s the only monthly I buy from my local comic shop because I can’t wait the two weeks for DCBS to deliver it to my door. That’s how ####ing excited I get the day this comic comes out. I make a special trip just to buy it! And then I go home and scan the hell out of it and toss up a spoiler-riddled review on the blog. Not because anyone really cares anymore, no, because after reading it I become insane from JOY! Oh, how I love you Captain America… don’t ever change, guy.
You can check out reviews of this book here…
So, that’s my list. Disagree much? Let me know. Let’s fight!! WOOOOOO!!!
Now that we took care of that, I want to quickly list off the runner-ups in alphabetical order:
Buffy: The Vampire Slayer: I want to love this book, I want to love it every month, but it too often lets me down. We had two great arcs in a row (Vaughn and Goddard) and then Whedon returns to fuck it all up with fan-favorite Fray in tow. Ugh. Close, but not close enough.
Captain Britain and MI13: Although I loved all the Secret Invasion issues, this book hasn’t been out long enough to earn its place in the Top 10… and, I’m not sure what the drop off in quality is going to be after SI concludes. For now, it gets to hover around the 11th place spot.
DMZ: I’m sure that if I wasn’t reading this in trade, I’d be on the list… and very near the top.
Green Lantern: Action Comics is just an order of magnitude better than this book. Period. I love GL, I love the new direction, but I can’t in good conscience put two Geoff Johns titles in my Top Ten. Sorry.
Invincible Iron Man: It’s too soon to tell, and as much shit as I give Fraction, he was born to write this book. As I related in my review of issue #4, Fraction’s take on the character is thrilling! Now, if Fraction would only stop writing anything other than Iron Man, Thor and Casanova I’d be a happy man.
Justice Society of America: What I said about Green Lantern goes double for JSA.
The Punisher: This book fell out of the Top Ten this month. Sad times. 😦
Ok, I still have a lot more reviews to complete but I felt the urge to do this first. I picked up that second Ellis Thunderbolt HC this week and so I’ve been reading both of those in my spare time. I thought about how much I loved that run and that got me thinking about my favorite books on the shelves right now. So I thought I’d have some fun and put together this list. This is my top 10 current comics list. These are in alphabetical order.
All-Star Superman & Action Comics (tie)
I know I’m cheating already. Don’t worry. This is the only tie on the list. I only did this because All Star is ending in one issue and so after that finishes you can head on over to Action Comics. All Star Superman is one of the best Superman comics I’ve ever read. For those of you who think that Grant Morrison is too dark or too complicated or maybe even a bad writer, you really need to check this book out. It’s a silver age throwback, it’s creative, it’s funny, and it has a heart of gold. Action Comics also features some great Superman stories. Did you like the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies? If so, you should really check this book out. It really does capture a lot of the fun and spirit of those movies. Much like All Star Superman, this book is just plain good storytelling that’s always a pleasure to read. Both of these books treat the man of steel the way he should be treated.
I’m sure I don’t even have to mention this book. Everyone seems to love it and with good cause. It’s been a hell of a ride. You can definitely tell that this title is handled with care. Brubaker has a plan and he sticks to it. That’s what has been so fascinating is that everything has a purpose and a reason. He ties things together that occurred thirty issues before. Brubaker brought back a character that had been dead for 60 years and then killed a character that had been loved for 60 years and wasn’t hated for it. Now that is talent.
This book floored me. To me, it usually seems that almost every major event disappoints, but in only three issues this one has blown me away. It’s intriguing that even with the most veteran of comic readers, their vision always seems hindered while reading a comic. There are a lot of people who will just flip through a comic, admire the art, and briefly scan the dialogue. Things that would be obvious if seen on a screen come off as much more subtle in a comic. I myself have been guilty of this on occasion, but with Final Crisis it feels like my eyes are wide open. I love to just read this book over and over and notice little things here or there or to analyze a certain panels meaning. I’m sure most of you have already had this feeling with a comic before, but this was my comic that made me see the medium in a new and better light. But besides my personal rapport with this comic, I just feel that it’s really good. This is, in my opinion, the way an event comic should be.
I originally wrote a long Wikipedia type write up about why I love this series. But you can read about that stuff from someone who knows about it more than I do, plus it’s kind of boring. Hal Jordan was a mistreated character. Sure he was an original member of the JLA and had a cool ring, but who cares he had no personality. But Geoff Johns has taken Hal to new heights. He made Hal a character you could actually care about. On top of that, he made the GL mythos more interesting than ever by introducing a new creative concept about multi-colored lantern rings. That and the Sinestro Corps War was a hell of a great event. Now, thanks to Geoff Johns, Hal Jordan is a true A-list hero and this is a top tier book.
This is a book that made Robert Kirkman one of my favorite writers and it’s still running strong. This is always an enjoyable read. It blends familiar superhero ingredients together into a fresh and entertaining comic. So if you’re looking for a fun comic, give this one a try.
Invincible Iron Man
This is still a fairly new book, but I’m putting it on the list anyway. I’ve always been a fan of Iron Man. Sadly, if you’ve been following the Marvel universe for the last few years, you may know the kind of crap I’ve had to deal with. Iron Man has been treated like a villain for what seems like an eternity. Thankfully, Iron Man fans caught a brake this year with the release of the new Iron Man movie. Finally, the golden avenger got some love. In addition to that, he got a new title written by the very talented Matt Fraction. Much like the aforementioned Action Comics captures the spirit of the Superman movies, Invincible Iron Man is definately the book that has the same feel as the Iron Man movie. This is a great Iron Man book and a great comic in general and I hope that continues.
Justice Society of America
Unless you’ve been reading this comic, you’re probably questioning my reasons for putting this on the list. Who cares about the JSA? But that’s the magic of Geoff Johns. Just like he did with Hal Jordan, he makes you care about the JSA. The roster is fairly large right now, and yet Johns makes sure that every character gets some time in each issue. He does this in such a way that it doesn’t seem needless. You can tell there is a purpose. Along with the old members, new characters are also introduced. Some of these characters would be disastrous if handled improperly. Geoff Johns makes everything work in this comic, it’s truly amazing.
Secret Invasion: Thor
This is a bit of an odd pick. Especially considering only one issue has been released, but there is method to my madness. I wanted to give some kind of recommendation to Marvel’s current event, but sadly I haven’t been too impressed with it. The best thing to come out of Secret Invasion is the tie-ins. Some other good SI tie-ins include: Captain Britain and MI13, SI Inhumans, and SI X-Men. Also, I’m a big Thor fan and Matt Fraction has done a fantastic job writing the character with both this series and the Ages of Thunder one-shots. So basically this is kind of a shout out pick, shameful I know. But I really did enjoy this first issue and it promises to be pretty great.
The Walking Dead
This would be the other book that made Robert Kirkman one of my favorite writers. It’s always impressive when a book can still be so good after over 50 issues. But that’s what this is supposed to be, the zombie movie that doesn’t end. If you loved those old George Romero zombie movies, this is a must read. What’s also fascinating though, is that you don’t even have to love zombies to like this book. There are times when the zombies are nothing more than background. It’s about people dealing with a really horrible situation. The first trade is only ten bucks. You really should give it a try.
This is another odd pick. Again it’s fairly new, but that isn’t a bad thing. Young Liars is about as close to a roller coaster ride in comics form as you can get. It’s just so wild and thrilling. It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen next and something crazy happens in just about every issue. The only downside, and this is why I say it’s an odd pick, is because 6 issues have been released and already I’m amazed at how David Lapham can keep this pace up. I’m just worried he’ll make a false step, but until then I’m going to enjoy the incredible ride.
Wow! That took a lot longer than I thought and I wrote a lot more than I expected, but I love comics. I tried to keep a balance between Marvel, DC, and indie titles while still making sure these were books I love. Hopefully I’ll get someone to pick up one of these books. I also hope that I’ll inspire some people to give their own top lists. Thanks as always for reading!
–which means, Billy is gonna be too busy enjoying the convention in San Diego to bother posting a new “Origin Stories” or “Planetary Series Review” this week, in fact, he’s almost too busy to write this Roundup! Not really, although UPS sure was cutting it close this time (stupid UPS always rescheduling my deliveries). Anyway, I got this, and then a Spoiler Review planned for tomorrow and then… I’ll see you again on Monday!
Action Comics #867 (*****)
I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!
THE ENTIRE ARC SHOULD BE FILLED WITH STUFF EXACTLY LIKE THIS.
Final Crisis: Requiem #1 (**)
The art is amazing, the story, not so much. First, let me explain that I’m not even looking at this as an FC tie-in, despite the cover treatment and what Dan Didio would have us believe. I think the only fair way to review this book is to judge it on its own merits since if we take into account the events of Final Crisis, this book is almost completely contradicted. Like I said, the art was phenomenal. LOVED IT. The story, on the other hand, was wordy and then boring as all hell. This book is really split into two chapters. The first chapter is corny/cheesy and borders on self-indulgent fan-fiction. The series of panels detailing the Martian Manhunter’s heroic efforts to thwart his death by manipulating the minds of the super-villains was silly and reeked of desperation on the writer’s part. “Oh man! How can I make Manhunter as cool as possible and satisfy the whiners?” Overwritten, overstated, overdone… my steak is burnt! If you can get past all that, and oh boy does the art help, you move into “Chapter 2” wherein the entire history of the Manhunter is read aloud by his closest friends. Um, is this what I paid for? An illustrated Wikipedia entry? No thanks. The only part of the book I liked came right at the end, what a surprise, when Batman places the choco on the Manhunter’s casket. It was an authentic moment in a book filled with posturing and simulated displays of grief. It made me smile. The rest of the book made me cringe.
The Walking Dead #50 (*****)
Five stars for Walking Dead? I must be losing my mind! Okay, allow me to ramble… so, this did not read like an issue 50, but I really, really liked it. Here’s why: Rick’s son Carl is finally, finally, finally a REAL boy! He’s got character! He’s interesting! All of a sudden! Out of the blue! But wait, not really. Kirkman’s been driving toward this all year. All that prison stuff, the carnage, death and destruction? It’s all been leading to this moment, the moment where Carl just loses his shit. Despite his gross lack of “character” talent, Kirkman manages to write a solid character piece. I know. You disagree. You think Kirkman’s strength has always been his character stuff. Well… you are wrong. His character writing has always been the weakest part of his writing. See Ultimate X-Men and previous issues of Walking Dead for ample examples. It’s in plot and storytelling that he truly excels. See final arc of Ultimate X-Men and previous issues of Walking Dead for ample examples. So, to me, this issue shows great promise for the rest of this series, or at least the next couple of issues. Kirkman has Carl react to the recent slaughter of his family in a very real/visceral/believable/relatable way. All the things that Carl expresses in this issue feels like what a kid in the real world would express if put in the exact same position. I love that Carl finally voices his doubts about his father. He doesn’t trust his father to protect him anymore. Hell, the guy’s missing a hand! And as Carl reflects, his father couldn’t protect his mother, his sister or the rest of the group since, you know, most of them are all dead now. I feel like Kirkman sat down with this script and really wrestled it into something powerful, something touching. I can imagine him agonizing over every line Carl utters, trying to figure out the best, least corny way to get across the feeling of total loss that the boy is experiencing. I loved it. It didn’t feel like an issue 50, but I still loved it. Bravo, Kirkman, but don’t get lazy. Don’t fall back into old habits. No more throwaway “hey-how-are-you’s” or runaway expository monologues. Write good dialogue and build good characters. Build on the fresh start you’ve carved out for yourself. Build the epic zombie story of awesome that you’ve always dreamed of. If you can do that, I can guarantee you at least one loyal reader for the next 50.
Oh, and not that I cared one way or the other, but the good men at DCBS thought enough of my massive ordering skills to toss me a copy of the Erik Larsen variant cover. Thanks, guys.
• Buffy the Vampire Slayer #16 (***): And then Joss Whedon returned and the book took a serious nose-dive in quality. Sad, sad times. I’m really excited about this “Fray” crossover, but after the awesomeness that was the Drew Goddard arc, the first part of this story left me cold. Like a dead body, or a recently turned suck-head. Yeah. Heh.
• Captain America: White #0 (***): I disagree with Bruce Castle’s review of this book. I thought the story provided was adequate and the extra pages, Cap sketches and an interview with the creators, were more than satisfactory. But, I’m the biggest Cap fan I know so I may be biased.
• Mighty Avengers #16 (***): This was fine, not the best SI tie-in, but fine. I have no idea what Bruce Castle was bitching about. Elektra doesn’t look old. There isn’t much dialogue, but hell, Elektra doesn’t normally say much, so, what the hell did you expect?
• Ultimate Origins #2 (***): Um, it was okay? Nothing truly memorable here, but I do think it’s one of the best retelling of the Captain America origin ever written, if that counts for anything.
• Young Liars #5 (*****): Um, Danny gets his dick sliced off?? NUFF SAID!!!