Flashpoint: Lois Lane and the Resistance has a fun, ridiculous premise that never QUITE lives up to its promise. Unfortunately, Abnett and Lanning rush through Lois’ first meeting with the Resistance, how she got behind enemy lines, her escape – after a solid opening and a surprising death, most of the rest of the issue is exposition. Lois is no figurehead of the resistance, not yet, nor is she an intrepid investigator behind enemy lines; instead, she’s a frightened young journalist in well over her head. I have a feeling we’re in for some surprising transformations, but Abnett and Lanning rush so quickly through the beginning of the story that the book feels, overall, fairly poorly paced.
I feel weird saying this, but here goes: Flashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies #1 is good. It’s very good. It’s more than just the best spin-off to Flashpoint; it is better than Flashpoint itself. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning successfully turn one of the most hilariously out-of-place characters in Flashpoint into one of the title’s most interesting in the first issue of their three issue mini.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Secret Invasion: Inhumans (****1/2)
I must say that Pokaski has a very good feel for these characters. Crystal making a gigantic stone Black Bolt golem to fight the Skrulls? Fantastic. All the Inhumans are written well in a believable fashion, and you still get the different sense of how this royal family acts in comparison to a standard superhero team. Loyalty above all else is the name of the game. So it’s not even a question that Gorgon would protect Maximus despite his hatred for the man. I should also mention that the Inhumans’ methods for torturing a captive Skrull in attempts to discern the location of Black Bolt was a perfectly ingenius way to go about their business. We’re continuing to learn of the overall plans of the Skrulls as relates to Mr. Boltagon, and it’s not going to be pretty. This is a great series so far, and Joe Pokaski eally does seem to have a future in print media.
Nova #17 (****1/2)
Nova has returned home. Most of the events of this issue take place at the home base of Project PEGASUS, wherein Richard Rider, his brother Robbie and Darkhawk try to beat back the Skrulls from intercepting some seriously dangerous tech. The three characters engage in quite a lot of wisecracking (including a nice shot at the cliche of heroes attacking each other before realizing they’re on the same side) and we’ve got the return (in a way) of the Xandarian Worldmind. But the best moment of the entire issues comes on the last page, where we have a big (from my perspective) return that makes perfect sense, considering that character originally met his end early on in the Nova book (hint, hint…It’s Quasar!). Great reveal that was truly well executed and logical, and it sets up a lot of interest for the rest of the arc and potentially beyond, provided that he’s going to stick around. I love this book. But you already knew that.
Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (***1/2)
Drax gets his Wolverine in the sewers of the Hellfire Club moment here, as he skulks around eviscerating Luminals for a good portion of the book. This issue has a bit of middle chapter syndrome going on; things happen and the story continues to move, but not a lot of it grabbed me. The Drax stuff was fun, but as I mentioned, we’ve seen it before. A lot. There is a big reveal involving Cosmo that was a nice moment, and I did enjoy the way Adam Warlock discovered the traitorous dog with a nice continuation of the work being done in the Marvel Universe with the Eternals and the Celestials. I am also looking forward to the litany of “I told you sos” and overall smugness of Rocket Raccoon over the next couple issues once he finds out about Cosmo. This was a good issue, but nothing special.
Black Panther #41 (*****)
Well, there was certainly an unholy amount of badass in this three issue run. There are so many great moments in this issue, from the reveal of what was actually going on with Black Panther and Storm to the final fate of the Skrulls. But like the rest of the issues, the real star of the book is Commander K’vv, the man that is running the Wakandan portion of the invasion. There is a running theme in the book of K’vvr struggling to figure out how to write a letter to his wife, and the final portion of the book is set to the narrative of the letter itself (this is, of course, going on after his bloody and violent end at the hands of the protagonists) with these stark pages of dead Skrulls and blood alongside the cheering Wakandans. The way Aaron wrote these issues is very sympathetic to the Skrulls, despite the fact that they are the invading force and should really be the villains of the piece. It’s that little extra oomph that pushes this book over the top. The characterization of K’vvr is excellent, and the final letter is a very sobering series of panels. These are overall probably the best issues to come out of the Secret Invasion event. I probably liked the Hercules issues more, but they were not as accessible as what we have her. I recommend that everyone out there read these books. You will not be disappointed.
Thunderbolts #124 (*****)
I love what Christos Gage is doing with these characters. I should have started reading this book earlier. How long has it been this good? Every single person in this book and on this team is certifiably insane. And all of it is tempered by the strange sense of twisted honor that many of these characters feel. Many of them are legitimately trying to do good works, but have to deal with what simply boils down to mental illness, and at the same time, you’ve got characters like Bullseye and Venom right next to them that only care about killing and survival. The interactions between Norman Osborne and Moonstone are awesome. Songbird, Radioactive Man, the Swordsman duo, Penance, it’s all great. I don’t know if I have more fun reading any Marvel book other than Thunderbolts right now. Awesome stuff.
WAY too many books to review from this last shipment, so I’m going to split this up into three installments. After this one will come the Avengers books, followed by whatever’s left over.
Incredible Hercules #120 (*****)
I love the way that everything going on with the Eternals matters. The Dreaming Celestial is standing in the outskirts of San Francisco, and every book I’ve read that has involved San Francisco in some way have either explicitly mentioned his presence or at least shown him in the background of a panel (we’ve seen this in both Uncanny X-Men and this very book). Hell, the Eternals are all up in Hercules’ bidness, and I’m not just talking about Ajak being a member of the God Squad. Let’s put it this way: HE is not the Beyonder. HE is not anyone we’ve ever seen before. But the concept behind HE and who HE is caught me completely by surprise, but makes a whole lot of sense in a super awesome way. It’s not hard to make the claim that the Eternals are the true movers and shakers of the Marvel Universe right now. Not the Illuminati. Not Tony Stark. Not SHIELD or the Red Skull or any of these people. It’s groovy. And as a whole five issue arc that starts with the Eternals thinking Hercules is Gilgamesh and ends the way it does, this will stand as masterful comic work regardless of its affiliation with a major event going on at the same time.
This is a book that shows the true potential of a shared universe, because it brings in ideas completely alien to its original concept borrowed from other books that allow new avenues of storytelling to unite and divide. Stories like this are why we NEED these big earth shattering crossover events, whether we like them or not. Because it’s all about potential. And I’m not the type of person that’s just going to assume that it’s going to fail or not sync up because there’s no specific reason for it to do that. I don’t need these books to be validated by having their story threads show up in the main Secret Invasion title. Because I know there’s no room for it, and I’d rather Bendis focus on the story he wants to tell and pace it the way he wants to without having to worry about the added pressure of filling in the gaps or making sure everything gets mentioned. After reading this issue, I’m going to know exactly whom the Skrulls are referring to when they say “He loves you.” Do I care whether it’s mentioned there or not? Hell no! Because I have the information. I’ve been saying this from the beginning, but Secret Invasion as an event is too big not to have this many crossovers. Does it suck for those who don’t have the time or resources to read it all? Maybe. But I’ve read 67 Secret Invasion books (counting the Infiltration prologues), and all of them but one have been solid to great reads (sorry, X-Factor #33. Even though the rest of the arc was good, you still sucked). So what’s to complain about? Not a thing.
X-Factor #34 (***)
Does the art still suck? Pretty much. I know some people enjoy this Larry Stroman art because he’s basically the diametric opposite of the Greg Lands and Salvador Laroccas of the world, but I think there’s a breaking point when you can’t actually recognize characters easily. And when it gets in the way of actually being able to easily follow and enjoy the story, you’ve got a problem. But as for the book itself, we have the continuation of the X-Factor/She-Hulk/Secret Invasion Detroit series (which Nova actually gets sucked into a bit, but more on that later) with Jazinda and Nogor’s dealings with Darwin (the Talisman of the Skrull gods introduced in She-Hulk 31) at its center. We also get a little more of the new “Embrace Change” aspect of the series, as Nogor is convinced that Darwin is the evolutionary missing link between humans and Skrulls (the idea being that Darwin’s ability to adapt to any situation on the fly is not far removed from the Skrulls’ ability to shape shift to fit any situation), and he could be the one to unite them all. Of course, it doesn’t take, and Nogor is tied up and taken away (where is he taken? Why, She-Hulk #32, of course). I think Nogor is a wonderful premise and a fantastic character, and for that reason and that reason alone, I think these issues are well worth reading (though you can probably just skip X-Factor 33. You might be a little lost, but that issue is pretty painful).
Nova #16 (****)
Not as good as our Galactus storyline, but that’s a pretty high water mark to deal with, and a bit of a recession should be expected. Kl’rt enters the Secret Invasion scene here (took him long enough, eh?) and the results are not exactly what Nova would expect. There are some great moments afoot, however. I particularly enjoyed a little interaction where Nova is shocked and dismayed that the Skrulls disguise themselves as children in order to set a trap, and Kl’rt points out that when you’re a shapeshifter, subterfuge is really your only option. We also deal with the continuation of Nova coping without the Worldmind and how difficult it has become for him to do even the most mundane things due to his internal suit mechanics being the equivalent of a prerecorded customer service phone chain. There’s a lot of good here, and most of it comes from Kl’rt’s characterization as the grizzled veteran that’s been forgotten by the Skrull invasion forces, partly because he’s been busy with all these Annihilations that keep popping up and partly because he can’t win a fight to save his life. He’s the outmoded old tech that sits in a corner and rots. He’s the old Pentium 1 PC that’s been in your garage for fifteen years. But he still wants to be part of the action, and he needs to find his daughter. And that leads us to…
She-Hulk #32 (****)
Woo! Shared universes! Kl’rt shows up fresh from Nova to confront Jazinda in this issue, as we have more interactions with Nogor the Talisman, who is still written very well by Peter David. I just really like this character and the tension between his fate and the fate of the Skrull invaders. You threaten him and the Skrulls just might relent, thinking their plans are not ordained by the gods, but if you kill him, they’ll launch into such a religious fervor that they’d probably completely exterminate the human race. So She Hulk and Jazinda are stuck with this guy, and they can’t trust Tony Stark enough to let him deal with the problem. Kl’rt’s arrival really mucks up the works as well. These She Hulk issues have really shown the strength of a lot of these crossovers, in that we’re getting all kinds of ancillary benefits that there would never be room for in the main mini.
Only three reviews for the immediate time being (one of which is lazily short) because I’m a bit behind on my reading. I’ll be finishing the tenth Fables trade tonight or tomorrow, and I’ve read the Secret Invasion tie ins (natch), so I’ll eventually get to the rest of the books I got on Friday.
Nova #15 (*****)
What a shock. Desiato gives an issue of Nova involving Galactus five stars. I know, I know. Sometimes you just have to step out on a ledge. And by ledge I mean not a ledge. Because as I’ve been saying for the rest of this arc, this is just some solid gold damn good comics. And once again, Abnett and Lanning give Galactus the due diligence he deserves. Galactus does not speak once throughout all three issues of the arc. It was never in doubt that the planet he chose to assume would die. This is Galactus. He’s not going to be stopped by a little Green Lantern wannabe. All is as it should be. DnA also wrap up the side story of Harrow in a pretty neat way which further continues the recharacterization of Galactus as the ultimate badass. Plus, those silly Brits decided to throw in an old school Get Smart reference (“Cone of Psilence”? AWESOME!). It’s like they jacked into my brain and figured out exactly what kind of cosmic Marvel story I would want and then put pen to paper based on exactly what I need. Loved it. Loved it loved it loved it. Great little lead in for the upcoming Secret Invasion tie in(s) too. Don’t know what to make of it all yet, but it’s certainly something that could shake up Nova’s status quo if it hasn’t already.
Guardians of the Galaxy #3 (****)
Still really good. It’s a bit of a step down from the first two issues, and we’re getting even more of the original Guardians popping up in a VERY SKRULLY FASHION (cough cough), but not so much in a way that it completely takes away from the rest of the book. I do think it was a good choice to keep all the Vance Astro business back at the HEADquarters (not going to refer to Knowhere in any other fashion) and not have him go out with the rest of the team. And I definitely enjoy the continuation of the Universal Church of Truth storyline. I’m really starting to enjoy those characters as villains. So glad that they didn’t make the UCT a one off little thing in order to start off the series. They’re giving these characters some depth beyond the black hats. They have a purposes and motivations. And it’s creating a nice contrast to the silly fun that the Guardians revel in. We’ve also got an intriguing hook to segue into Secret Invasion, and it’s safe to say that a lot of havoc is about to unfurl.
Young Avengers Presents #6 (****1/2)
Yep. It’s as good as everyone said. Worth the extra three week wait to get it. Matt Fraction writing Clint Barton is SUPER FUN. Fuck, I need to buy the Young Avengers hardcover. Fuck, I can’t afford it. But you’ve already read Billy and BruceCastle talk about this bad boy. We all know it’s good. So let’s just move on.
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.
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.