SeventhSoldier’s Top Five for June

There were a lot of honorable mentions this month – June 2009 was one of the best months for comics in a good long while.  From Gail Simone’s always fun Secret Six to the sleeper hit of the month for me, Rucka’s Action Comics Annual #12 – and, spoiler alert, tomorrow’s review of Kathryn Immonen rock-solid first issue on Marvel’s Runaways – June made this a pretty damn hard call to make.  I’ve given out a few pretty bad grades this month, but for the most part, the average was high – there were more A-‘s than B’s for the first time in my reviewing history on the site!

To my surprise, as someone who doesn’t particularly care for Batman as a character or as a mythos terribly much, three of the best books I read this month were newly-launched Bat-books/arcs.  Also a first?  Two different Marvel books were edging in on the top 5.  Any other month, Runaways #11 or Captain Britain and MI:13 #14 would’ve had a strong shot at prime placement.

Edit: Since I hadn’t put the review up yet, I forgot, but a Marvel title actually did make the Top 5.  Sorry, Paul Dini.

#5 Incognito #4

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There hasn’t been a bad issue yet of the Brubaker/Phillips collaboration Incognito.  I don’t yet know if it’ll be able to match Sleeper or Criminal – two absolutely stellar works in a similar vein… and yes, they have one or two other things in common with this book – but this issue kept the story moving along faster than I could believe and with a great deal of style and a sense of pulp adventure.  Incognito is a blast to read, without a doubt.

#4 Batman and Robin #1

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Splashy, gorgeous art?  Check.  Interesting new villain?  Check.  Rousing adventure?  Check.  Batman and Robin #1 has all that along with great panelling and the coolest sound effects you can imagine.  Morrison and Quitely make quite a team, as they’ve illustrated numerous times in the past, and this looks to be no exception.

#3 The Unwritten #2

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Carey and Gross continue on with a second issue every bit as good as their first in one of the strongest Vertigo launches I’ve seen in awhile.  There are so many small touches that go into making this book great that I can hardly list them, but this is definitely a title to be on the lookout for.  If you aren’t picking it up monthly, be sure to be on the lookout for the trades.

#2: Detective Comics #854

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Together, J.H. Williams III and Greg Rucka delivered a stellar opening issue to Batwoman’s stint on Detective Comics… and that’s before you add the talented Cully Hamner into the mix with his and Rucka’s The Question backup.  The book was fast-paced and exciting while still introducing a supporting cast, a new villain, and a personality in the formerly personalitiless Kate Kane.  It did a whole lot in a tiny space, and left me eagerly awaiting more.

#1: Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #3

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God, what a strange, strange book.  Wonderful, though.  As a surreal adventure books, Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye is a satisfying book with a sharp edge of humor and a knack for innovation.  As a meta-commentary on super-hero comics, it was cutting, clever and fun.  As the finale of a threeissue mini that wrapped up the middle-child of Morrison’s planned three-volume Seaguy trilogy, it was pretty nearly perfect.

– Cal Cleary

May

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Review: Batman: Streets of Gotham #1

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With Batman R.I.P. selling a bajillion copies and generally being a big (if controversial) hit so soon after The Dark Knight was an even huger hit with even more people, DC seems to have decided to cash in on the Batman brand, launching eight or nine new Batman-themed books of varying quality.  As you all may recall, Batman & Robin #1 (Morrison/Quitely) was a huge hit with us and many others, while Batman #687 (Winnick/Benes) and Red Robin #1 (Yost/Bachs) were a little more mixed, here and in other places.  Today saw the beginning of yet another: Batman: Streets of Gotham #1, the first of two books by excellent Bat-scribe Paul Dini.

This particular book deals with the supporting cast of Gotham City, at least for the most part.  Though this gives the book a slightly schizophrenic feel at first – and Dini sometimes does an absolutely terrible job at introducing us to some of the lesser-known members of the cast – for the most part it works out quite well, feeling in a lot of ways like the pilot to a great ensemble TV show like Freaks and Geeks in the way it jumps from characters to character, plot to plot, while maintaining an overarching theme.  In this single issue we see Jim Gordon, Harley Quinn, Batman, Robin, Huge Guy I’ve Never Seen Before, Hush, and, finally, the villain of the first arc: Firefly.  Many of these character narrate brief segments of the book, a standard writing device that somehow manages not to feel cluttered at all in Dini’s hands.

Nguyen does an excellent job on art, his slightly cartoony style adapting well to both the book’s darkest moments and its lightest.  While there’s nothing revolutionary about the art, it’s fun, and flows just as naturally as the narration along the many winding paths the book takes, a task I would imagine to be more difficult than it sounds.

Along for the ride, for those that didn’t know, is the return of Marc Andreyko’s critically-respected Manhunter.  Kate Spencer is the new D.A. of Gotham City.  Her first task: tracking down who murdered the last D.A.!  Andreyko is joined here by Georges Jeanty who does an excellent job (and whose art seems to fit quite well in the book with Nguyen’s) despite the extremely muted, slightly off-putting coloring.  

Andreyko doesn’t have a whole lot of space here, but he makes the most of it – in a small amount of pages, he manages to explain why Kate made the decision to move to Gotham, dealt with her leaving her son, Ramsey, she met a few of Gotham’s major players, shook down a snitch, beat someone up, etc….  If all the back-ups are written so concisely and so well, this should be an immensely successful move for DC.

Despite the raised price tag, this is Dini, Nguyen, Andreyko and Jeanty doing some great work, and it’s worth every penny.  

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

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