This week: Avenging Spider-Man #6 kicks off a mini-crossover in Marvel, Dark Horse brings us a post-apocalyptic Western with Alabaster Wolves #1, and much more!
By the time you read this, there’s a good chance I’ll be a dad for the second time … but I still found some time to read some DC comics and write some one sentence 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 but they aren’t included in the leaderboard.
Warning, there could be spoilers ahead (although I try to avoid them).
This is where I serve up one sentence reviews of each ongoing title released this week. They are 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 also review limited series, like The Shade and My Greatest Adventure minis, but these are not included in the leader board.
Fair warning, there could be spoilers ahead (although I try to avoid them).
Time poor? Hate long reviews? Love lists? If yes, this article series is for you.
I provide one sentence reviews of each of the New 52 titles. Each is scored out of five and at the end I’m going to 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.
In Part 2, I take a look at the batch of DC comics that became available on 14 September.
Obligatory spoiler warning. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Just like last week, I’m going to provide a plot synopsis and review for each issue that came out this week. I’ll talk a little bit about my general feelings about the relaunch thus far, and how week two did overall. Finally, for those who like awards, I’ll give out awards to The Must Read Book of the Week, to The Most Pleasant Surprise and, finally, to The Biggest Disappointment.
Click through to find out more!
Better late than never, eh? This is my list for the top ten stories of 2009! Woo hoo! Now, before we get to all the fun of me voicing my opinions and you disagreeing with them, I have to get a few rules out of the way.
1. These are the top ten stories/arcs/whatever. Not comic in general, not trade, but best stories (What can I say, I’m trying to be somewhat unique).
2. These are stories that ended in 2009. They could begin at any time, but as long as they concluded in 2009, they’re eligible.
3. I tried to keep the list as diverse and reader-friendly as possible. I love certain writers, but it would be boring if it was three Morrison books, two Kirkman books, etc. So, a writer/artist will only appear once on the list. I tried to spread the love evenly. You will see Marvel, DC, and even indies on this list.
Wow, with all those rules, how did I come up with a great top ten? Well, I hope I did. Anyway, let’s begin the fun!
Well, any of you who read Read/RANT with any semblance of frequency have probably noticed, but we like Greg Rucka. Not everything he does – Action Comics of a particular was deeply flawed, in my own humble opinion – but he can be relied on to turn in some damn fine work, and rarely was it finer than his too-brief run on Detective Comics, during which he managed to turn Batwoman into an interesting, lively character.
Unfortunately, due to something internal at DC, Batwoman isn’t headlining Detective Comics for the full length that Rucka and Williams had hoped she would be. What’s more, from the sound of it, Batwoman isn’t even getting the solo series Rucka and Williams had suggested they wanted to work on earlier in the year… or, if she is, it’s not with them.
Definitely sad news for comics fans.
Read more at Comics Alliance.
Batman and Robin #9 marks the conclusion of the book’s third arc. With this, only a single arc remains of the pop action book before “The Return of Bruce Wayne” takes over, and the book will be missed. “Darkest Knight” has been an action-packed arc featuring excellent moments not only from the usual suspects – Batman and Batwoman – but also a few lesser knows who’ve long deserved more time in the spotlight – Knight and Squire – as well as a confrontation between the crazed, fearless Batman clone raised in a Lazarus Pit and Alfred and a wheelchair-bound Damian. The pacing is well-handled and the tone is spot-on, making Batman and Robin #9 an undeniably read.
Stewart continues to work quite well with Morrison, providing crisp action segments – of which this issue has a number – and excellent physical presence to his characters. Morrison and Stewart work well together here, and it’ll be a shame to see Stewart replaced next issue by Andy Clarke and Scott Hanna, but it’s always interesting to see how the tone of the book changes with new creative talent. Still, Stewart helped revitalize the book after a lagging second arc, and “Blackest Knight” was a clever use of left-over plot threads from Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P. that also managed to set up The Return of Bruce Wayne and validate Tim Drake’s assumptions in Red Robin. All this was accomplished with minimal handholding, and though none of it was necessary to the story itself, it was a good Easter Egg for those keeping up with DC’s continuity. Quick, clever and ceaselessly fun, Batman and Robin may exhibit more sheer joy per page than any other Batman story in recent memory.
– Cal Cleary
For those that hadn’t heard the news: Detective Comics #860, the final, fabulous issue of Batwoman’s origins, was also the final issue of collaboration between Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III. In fact, Batwoman herself only has a few short months remaining, with David Hine launching a two-part arc continuing his story about the rebuilding of Arkham Asylum with #864. And while Rucka and Williams III have stated that they are interested in and are fighting for a Batwoman ongoing, for now, it seems like the character’s brief, critically acclaimed time in the spotlight may be coming to a close as DC attempts to wrap up its surprisingly bold moves on their flagship titles. This issue, launching an arc titled “Cutter”, sees Williams replaced by the talented Jock and Batman largely taking over from Batwoman, though Rucka remains as writer, and Hamner stays on art duties for Renee Montoya’s back-up feature.
Jock occasionally tries a little too hard to mimic Williams’ style, and while he achieves a surprising amount of success, he just doesn’t have Williams’ eye for memorable, creative scene and structure. He does seem, however, to have inherited Williams’ rather stiff action segments. Still, he proves a surprisingly apt replacement for Williams. While he doesn’t help raise the quality of one of Rucka’s more mundane scripts up, the pair nonetheless work well together, and suggest that Detective Comics is in good hands for now.
The back-up continues to run along the same, lengthy story as we continue to deal with the fall-out of Renee’s recent attacks on the mob. With Tot and the Huntress at her back, the Question deals with the assassin who trailed them, leading to some questionable decision-making (and characterization). Rucka and Hamner both display confidence, here, though the need to set-up the next part of the conflict and the cramped environment play to neither creator’s strengths. Like the main feature, the work is quality, just not up to the level to book has led us to expect.
– Cal Cleary
Detective Comics #859
I read 19 comics in November, and these were the best.
5. Astonishing X-Men #32
Yeah, that’s a badass sentinel, a badass, brood-shooting-from-fingertips sentinel, the bastardization of Beast’s theoretical research. It’s Ellis being Ellis, writing pitch-perfect X-Men. Each issue is episodic, building a plot as it goes. This chapter involves the aforementioned sentinel, with lines like, “We don’t need weapons. We have science!” It’s glorious fun.
4. Fantastic Four #573
Hickman’s Fantastic Four is even better than his Secret Warriors? How’d that happen? But it’s true, even when Dale Eaglesham takes a break, and we’re left with a “filler” issue. Neil Edwards fills Dale’s shoes, and it’s a fine fit, with Edwards’ post-Bryan Hitch style and Paul Mounts’ colors, you’ll hardly notice the difference. But Hickman’s distinguished voice is the star here, penning a done-in-one adventure that could’ve easily sustained a four-issue arc. Hickman plays with, and adds to, Millar’s toys, exploring a black hole-ravaged Nu-World. This is a dense, grand adventure, and the new letters page, hosted by Franklin and Val? Absolutely adorable.
3. Invincible #68
The regular art team is back with a vengeance, allowed the opportunity to create Kirkman’s zany, new Dinosaur villain. This is about as playful and unique as villain dialogue gets. Kirkman then continues to show off his dialogue skills when he gives Atom Eve’s father the scariest monologue Mark could ever imagine, concluding with one hell of a funny sight gag. The issue concludes with a few classic Kirkman twists. All in all, this is one hell of an Invincible issue.
2. Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #8
Another Hellboy chapter concludes, and Alice sums it up best, “Well, I didn’t see that coming.” Mignola embraces Hellboy’s entire mythology here, Alice herself being the baby from the beloved “Hellboy: The Corpse.” What occurs within these pages has been a long time coming, and it unfolds unpredictably, yet resolves with the doomed conclusion we all knew was coming. Every major Hellboy player progresses, even poor Gruagach, who’s almost as tragic a character as “Big Red” himself. A stunning effort from Mignola and Fegredo.
1. Detective Comics #859
Since Rucka & Williams’ run began, almost every issue of Detective Comics has made my “Best of the Month” list. This issue is the best of the run, so it’s only natural that Detective finally tops my list. We’re still taking a trip down Kate’s memory lane, this issue containing another episode of her life. We learn of Kate’s rise and fall at West Point, her utter loss of purpose, how that leads to trouble with the love of her life, and what finally makes Kate’s life whole again. And there, making it all epic poetry, is Williams and Stewart. And as you can see in the above scan, when Kate’s Mazzucchelli-styled life clashes with Batman’s rich, painted aura, it’s beautiful and profound.
“Go” continues with this issue, and it’s even better than the last. While it lacked the emotional gut-punch of Kate’s family’s fate, it in many ways surpasses the previous issue. Following Kate from college through her relationship with Renee Montoya, part two of “Go” briefly examines the very real preposterism of the army’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies and how easy it is to get lost after you leave school without knowing what to do, all while intermingling it with the continuing story of the Crime Bible, even introducing a nice twist in the proceedings.
After being kicked out of West Point when she’s revealed to be gay, Kate finds herself with nowhere to go. Rucka treats the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy seriously, as it deserves, and illustrates the bigotry of the policy. From there, the book moves quickly through Kate’s fall as, directionless, she becomes a wealthy layabout, a hedonist unable to stick with anything she does until a chance encounter in an alley suggests that she might have some way to use her skills after all.
It is hard to review this comic issue by issue, at least when it comes to the art – while the quality of Rucka’s story may vary from month to month, J.H. Williams III remains consistent as one of the industry’s strongest talents. Along with colorist Dave Stewart, Williams gives the book a unique, exciting visual style that never fails to please. This issue is no exception in that regard.
The back-up remains solid, introducing another supporting character for Renee to bounce off: the Huntress. Rucka smartly continues his first story, building his entire back-up run into a lengthy thriller and giving it the feel of a longer book. Hamner’s art is quite well, and while the issue doesn’t give him as much opportunity as normal to show Renee in motion, which has become a pleasure to watch under Hamner’s pen, he does an excellent job at the book’s longest action sequence.
– Cal Cleary
Detective Comics #858
Detective Comics #857
The end of the year is coming fast! I read 17 comics in October, and these were the best.
5. Detective Comics #858
JH Williams III, arguably the best artist in the biz, and Dave Stewart, arguably the best colorist in the biz, grace Detective Comics’ interiors. Those two are literally a dream team. Yes, Rucka can’t quite produce a script that can match their ability, but who can? Morrison can’t write everything. This issue dips a toe into Kate’s origin, building off of last arc’s twist. Kate’s story is simple and adorable, which spirals into terrible tragedy. Rucka’s writing is strong, reminiscent of his Queen & Country days, but it’s the aforementioned dream team that really gives this issue an emotional punch.
4. Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #7
After last issue’s startling revelations, The Wild Hunt is steamrolling towards its conclusion. This series has indeed changed Hellboy. Hopefully, this doesn’t mean the series is ending. Fegredo’s Hellboy is strong, as always. He’s with Mignola every step of the way, as this issue brilliantly illustrates the core nature of Hellboy’s character. He’s always trapped in a cyclone of destiny, fighting with every breath to do good.
3. Invincible Iron Man #19
As the solicitation reads, “Everything ends.” At last, Fraction’s year-long epic concludes. Unfortunately, Larroca is still around. So, this issue doesn’t look great, but only someone like Larroca could render a “year-long epic” in less than a year. With this oversized culmination, Tony’s heroism shines bright. He spends most of the issue lumbering around like the Hulk, with even less brainpower. And when he utters his last words of the story, we cheer.
2. The Walking Dead #66
The Walking Dead doesn’t have many two-page splashes, but when they’re used, they make for some of this great series’ best moments. Besides the general awe of Adlard’s work, and Rick’s terrifying words, “Hold him down.” What makes the image so effective is the shading of Rick’s left eye. Remember this guy? He’s the dark mirror of Rick. So, whenever Rick’s a bit of a bastard, I suspect we’ll see his left eye shaded a bit. Besides all that, this issue concludes the “Fear the Hunters” arc, Carl confesses, and another character dies. That all makes for one of the strongest Walking Dead issues of the year, if not the best.
1. Dark Reign: The List – Wolverine
Yeah, done-in-one stories rule this format, especially when they’re produced by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic. Aaron, who channels the humorous, kickass writing you can see in his Ghost Rider. And Ribic, who abandons his usual, painted style in favor of kinetic linework, which captures the insane energy of this story perfectly. Aaron loves Grant Morrison. So, when handling his characters, Fantomex and Noh-Varr, it’s a labor of love. Aaron insisted that he wasn’t attempting to write like Morrison, but this is the best treatment these characters have received, since Morrison first wrote them. This comic is tons of fun!
Boring introduction! I read 21 comics in September, and these were the best.
5. Green Lantern #46
Hey, Green Lantern is great again! We know Mahnke’s art is going to blow our minds, but Johns pulled his weight too, delivering the gore he’s so fond of. There was a lot of progression here, featuring a fight that’s been brewing for a long time. Sinestro and Mongul’s conclusion is not only drawn well, Johns gives each baddie a fun monologue, dripping with a bit of truth. Indeed, for a brief time, Johns made me believe that Mongul could actually win. Loud, bloody, and just the kind of cosmic fun that Johns wants you to have.
4. Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant Size
It all ends. It was the worth the wait, but for Millar’s part of it, this issue played out exactly how you’d expect, which would’ve been a dull experience, except for the reason we’re all here: Steve McNiven. Just about every panel in here is iconic, ready to be framed on your wall. No matter what silly cliché Millar wrote, McNiven made it sing. However, the writing’s not all bad. This issue pays great tribute to Wolverine’s character as a whole, blending his Western and Eastern ways together. So, even on that corny, Lone Wolf & Cub-inspired last page, I smiled.
3. Detective Comics #857
Another conclusion, what can I say? Those are usually great issues. Alright, Rucka’s opening Batwoman arc hasn’t had as much substance as I’d like, but something we can all agree on is the talent of Williams. We haven’t seen Kate’s origin yet, but she’s already a fully-developed character, mostly due to Williams himself. That continues here, of course, as Williams gets to render some dazzling stunts, with Kate jumping from plane to plane, kicking her way to Alice. Speaking of Alice, this issue delivers a twist with her that I didn’t see coming at all, and it was telegraphed, even on the cover. The twist works, not only to shock us, but as a brilliant window into Kate’s past.
2. Dark Reign: The List – X-Men
I read most of these specials, and this is probably the only one that’s actually a one-shot. Fraction doesn’t conform. This isn’t about political nonsense or the status quo. Fraction gives us the simple tale of revenge, and it works very well. A great deal of that credit goes to Alan Davis. He makes this absurd, spandex-clad medium lyrical. Consider the scene at the end, with Namor, Osborn, and the Sentry. In Davis’ hands, this simple scene becomes a grand confrontation between legends. Superman and Luthor could easily replace Namor and Osborn, and Sentry’s inclusion is the icing on the cake.
1. Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus
I, like many of you, wasn’t very impressed with this crossover. Fraction’s characterizations were still superb, but the plot seemed to contain nothing but buildup. Well, that all culminated with Exodus, and what a culmination. The epic battle between teams is there, with almost every character utilized. Deals with the devil, an old New Avengers callback, and a new status quo makes this the most explosive comic of the month, and the best too.
It’s relatively rare that the paneling in a comic – not the pencils, not the colors, but the layout itself – can make me sit up and take notice. And yet, every month, J.H. Williams III uses the layout of Detective Comics in strange and interesting new ways to move the story along without letting it get bogged down by his somewhat stiff action sequences. Sequences like the fight between Alice and Batwoman that is paneled within the small confines of their flowing capes gives Detective Comics #857 a visual dynamic that more than makes up for whatever shortcomings the book may have.
Rucka doesn’t manage quite as well as an out-of-left-field late-game twist hurts the book a bit. While he continues to do fine work on the main feature, the brief Question back-up he does with Hamner generally features more focused writing. In this issue’s main story, Kate and Alice come head-to-head after the kidnapping of Colonel Kane. Master plans are revealed, secrets come out, and, unfortunately, there’s significantly more flash than substance to the conclusion of “Elegy”. Despite all that, however, Rucka’s work on the title is still more than competent. No matter how much the Alice story slipped by the end, Rucka still used the opportunity to begin fleshing out Kate’s backstory and supporting cast, two things the character desperately needed.
The issue was more than just a showcase for Williams, however, as Hamner steps up in the 8-page Question back-up feature and brings some of his best work to date. A pair of brief sequences in particular stand out, the first coming as Renee breaks into a well-guarded mansion and the second featuring her daring escape. The art is dark and slightly cartoonish, but it’s also fluid and lifelike in a way very few running scenes are in comics. Though there appears to be no thematic or literal crossover between the two parts of Detective Comics, the Question back-up has quickly become a worthy piece of one of DC’s most entertaining, visually dynamic packages.
– Cal Cleary
Detective Comics #856
Greg Rucka’s story in Detective Comics isn’t particular deep. It’s a relatively simple story, in fact: Batwoman learns that the new leader of the Religion of Crime is coming to Gotham, goes, confronts her. It’s a pretty standard adventure comic, with Rucka’s usual capable plotting and dialogue. In fact, the more concise, fun Question back-up in the book features slightly sharper writing thus far… but no one will confuse that for the better read. Hamner continues to turn in clean, dynamic work on the Question back-up, while J.H. Williams III’s work on the main feature remains stellar. The book is gorgeous and well-written, and consistently worth your time.
Wonder Woman #35
Gail Simone finishes up this brief arc with a few revelations and a lot of aftermath left over from “Rise of the Olympian”, including some dark promises and new powers. All of it sets up the next big story, but it’s done in one of the book’s most engaging, fun arcs Simone’s run has produced. She goes a way too heavy on the fan-worship of Black Canary in a number of awkward, uncomfortable internal monologues from Wonder Woman, but the arc otherwise offers action with gorgeous, fluid art from Lopresti paired with a simple story setting up another major new chapter in Diana’s life.
Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #4
Ink continues to be a pleasant surprise for me. Fiorentino’s art, while occasionally muddy, is improving, and he’s demonstrated himself to be an apt choice to illustrate just how formidable the Tattooed Man can be. Wallace’s story, meanwhile, generally maintains its pleasant mix of urban crime drama and superheroics, though the more action-oriented approach to this issue meant that it sacrificed a little bit of the drama in favor of the superheroics. A late game plot twist took that shift a little too far, however, and the issue ends somewhere between the ridiculous and the parodic.
Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #4
Dance finally pulls itself out of the slump the mini had been in and starts moving forward. Though the last issue was of a high quality, the mini really wasn’t going much of anywhere. With the team broken up, however, and the media blitz that had blinded them for the first few issues fading, Most Excellent Superbat finally has time to check up on his home country. Not all is right in Japan, however, and he’s forced to get the team back together again. Casey’s writing of these new teen heroes remains relatively sharp, while Chriscross’ cartoony art more than keeps up with the book’s humor and energy. If only DC’s other teen heroes were even half so interesting right now…
Brubaker and Phillips complete the first arc with the strongest, most exciting issue yet. We learn even more about the origins of the Overkill brothers, learn about why Yuri was created, and see a massive showdown between Zack and his old allies. All the action is well-illustrated by Sean Phillips in some of his most exciting fights yet. The book is undeniably over the top, but it loves living up its pulp roots. Though it’ll be quite some time before we get the next issue, the news isn’t all bad – the reason for the long delay is because Brubaker and Phillips will be returning to do a new arc on Criminal.
Immonen was responsible for last year’s manic, excellent Patsy Walker: Hellcat. Unfortunately her Runaways, which finds her teamed with Sara Pichelli, lacks both the momentum and the cleverness of her debut work. Pichelli’s art is clean and cartoonish, giving the book a sense of energy, but it isn’t enough. It isn’t enough, however. After subpar runs from Whedon and Moore, Immonen and Pichelli needed to start their run off with a bang. Unless the end of the arc offers up some pretty massive surprises, it’s safe to say that she’s failed to do so.
Doktor Sleepless #13
After a lengthy delay, the good Doktor returns. Things are heating up in Heavenside, mostly according to the Doktor’s plans. The issue reads like a montage of the city going to hell, and while it isn’t the most creative or compelling issue Ellis has turned in thus far, it is nonetheless immensely satisfying to see everything come to a head like this. Rodriguez continues to improve as his design becomes more confident and his figures become less stiff.
– Cal Cleary
June was a quick month, but July? July took forever, in a good way. Extremely eventful month for me. Hope you all had fun. Anyway, I read 22 comics in July, and these were the best. Oh, and, sorry, I haven’t written proper reviews for some of these because I was at Comic Con.
5. Secret Warriors #6
This ended a little more conventionally than I would’ve hoped, but it’s still a fitting conclusion to Hickman’s first arc. The characters are clearly defined, and, so, we actually care how this big battle plays out. Throughout this arc, this issue included, we’ve been treated to several twists & turns that really elevates this material. This is Hickman’s first foray into the world of super-heroics and he’s already delivered the Nick Fury series we’ve all been waiting for.
4. Detective Comics #855
Only two issues in and Rucka & Williams are collaborating brilliantly. The art services the story and vice versa. What we’re left with is one gorgeous, kick-ass comic! The only problem is that we still don’t have much connection with Kate, but, with this issue and the last, we’re getting glimpses of Kate’s origins. So, until that story is eventually told, we might as well enjoy the beautiful ride.
3. Invincible #64
Well, essentially, this was just a gory, knock-down-drag-out fight to the death. However, since we’ve had over sixty issues with Mark & friends, there was a large amount of emotion in this fight, both for the characters and the reader. And, credit to Kirkman, this was a pretty fun fight.
2. Ultimatum #5
I probably have a “Why Ultimatum Works” article in me somewhere, but I won’t write it. There’s no point. People are extremely prejudiced when it comes to Loeb’s recent work, and if I were to write such an article, it would be met with outcries about how stupid I am. Ultimatum was a necessary evil. The Ultimate Universe had grown too dull, too watered down, too similar to 616. If you aren’t going to give the Universe a proper reboot, presenting an Ultimate Universe in the style of Morrison’s Marvel Boy, isn’t this the next best thing? Oh, sure, it reminds us of the issue of Radioactive Man when he and Fallout Boy get killed on every page, but have we ever seen anything like this before? The tragedy is quick and brutal. The genuine shocks are plentiful. And, really, this comic is packed with the imaginative stunts that couldn’t be seen in a movie. Whether you love it or hate it, Ultimatum #5 one of the most memorable comics in years.
1. Batman and Robin #2
In two issues, Morrison has established a new Batman, a new Robin, new villains, even a new, more colorful Gotham, and he’s done so with professional ease. You’ll find no lengthy exposition here, just fresh and exciting adventure. And, of course, Morrison’s longtime collaborator, Frank Quitely, has helped tremendously in breathing new life into this franchise. His style is already radically different from what you saw in All Star Superman. It’s looser and more energetic, which has helped in rendering some incredible fight scenes in this second issue. This is one of the most likable comics on the stands, and the best comic in July.
That’s my list. What’s yours? Oh, and let’s keep that Ultimatum feedback to a minimum, shall we?
It is a strength of Detective Comics that Greg Rucka’s writing manages to match the excellent art of J.H. Williams III every step of the way. The pair continue to flesh out Kate Kane, the myserious Batwoman, in small chunks amidst a rousing action story as she faces off against the Religion of Crime and their new leader, Alice. The story isn’t particularly complex, but it combines action and exposition better than any number of recent comics I’ve read.
It should come as no surprise that the art is fantastic: Williams remains one of the top talents working today. It isn’t just his art that works – alone, his figures can occasionally be too static, unable to come alive on the page the way a lot of the best comic art does. He combines solid artwork with excellent panelling and a gift few other artists share for crafting arresting images that work well . Working together with colorist Dave Stewart, Williams has hit the jack-pot on this book.
Meanwhile, despite following up in Williams’ wake, Hamner continues to bring a stark simplicity to Rucka’s Renee Montoya back-ups. The art is more traditional, and less memorable, in every way, but it plays to Hamner’s strengths and definitely shows some progress from his days on Blue Beetle. The action is well-handled and smooth, and his varied designs for Renee work perfectly.
Two issues in, and Detective Comics looks like it just might be DC’s strongest relaunch in quite some time. Though the focus will undoubtedly be drawn away in the coming months as “Blackest Night” chugs on, this is definitely a title everyone should try out. Clever, gorgeous and action-packed, Detective Comics #855 is a remarkably strong title. Not flawless, but Rucka and company have definitely breathed new life into one of DC’s flagship books.
– Cal Cleary
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
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
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
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
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
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 three–issue mini that wrapped up the middle-child of Morrison’s planned three-volume Seaguy trilogy, it was pretty nearly perfect.
– Cal Cleary
It’s that time again! Boy, June went quick. We’re halfway through 2009? Wow. Anyway, I read 19 comics in June, and these were the best.
5. Invincible #63
I hate putting this at number five, but this comic is hindered in a monthly format. There is no good jumping-on point. You have to read the whole thing, and rating one issue is like judging twenty minutes of a movie. That said, this is an emotional issue. I’m sure it’s no secret by now that a major character dies. Hell, it was already pretty obvious if you looked at the cover of Invincible #64, but even so, this is one of the best Invincible issues. And that’s saying something.
4. Detective Comics #854
Even if this issue would’ve been terrible, I would’ve forced my brain to like it. Thankfully, to preserve what little respect I have as a comic critic, this actually is a great issue. Greg Rucka finally gets a chance to define his Batwoman, and he doesn’t waste a panel. We’re not going to get the official origin until the next arc, but even after one issue, I know a good deal about what makes Kate tic. But what really makes this comic special is the pure brilliance of Williams’ art. The co-feature is the icing on the cake.
3. Batman and Robin #1
June was a great month for comics. Want proof? The new Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely comic wasn’t the best of the month. How the hell did that happen? Ok, I do wish this comic had more depth and weight, like Morrison’s earlier Batman work, but other than that, this issue is near-flawless.
2. Astonishing X-Men #30
Ellis’ first Astonishing X-Men arc finally concludes. Was it good? You bet your ass it was. I can almost guarantee you I’ll think of it in January, when I post the best stories of the year list. Ellis, in just one arc, has already done a few things. First and foremost, he’s provided possibly the greatest characterization of the X-Men ever. They’re all real characters. They all have their own unique voice. Second, Ellis has taken the X-Men to the perfect genre, sci-fi. I want my X-Men to occupy the realm of science, instead of the done-to-death, political commentary genre. And this first arc was not only sci-fi, it was a mystery too!
1. Uncanny X-Men #512
This issue is a done-in-one. So, yes, it does have an advantage in this format, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t deserve this spot. This issue is a done-in-one, time-travel adventure, filled with science, mutant history, originality, and humor. It’s also wonderfully rendered by the great Yanick Paquette. Is that not enough? Well, then I’ll also mention that this is one of the few comics that nearly brought me to tears. It’s good readin’.
So there it is! Agree? Disagree? Please, let me know!
Detective Comics, the title for which DC Comics is actually named, is no longer headed by Batman, at least not for now. No, for the next few months, Detective Comics will be led by the mysterious Batwoman. It’s a risky move, but if Detective Comics #854 is any example of what we can expect from future issues, it’s one that should work very, very well.
Introduced in 52, Batwoman drew a lot of ire from a lot of fans as being just another token minority character (in this case, a lesbian). That said, her appearances as a supporting character in the interesting relationship between Vic Sage and Renee Montoya didn’t exactly give her too much screen time in which to flourish, and the complaint came at a time when DC was introducing a rush of new characters to the scene, almost every one of which was met with similar complains. Despite constant promises for the last three years that the character would be fleshed out in her own mini, DC (perhaps) smartly waited until now to do so. A mini starring a female character is a risky proposition at best in today’s market. But put that same character headlining in their oldest title in place of the missing Batman? Well, we’ll see how that works out… but it’s certainly brought the character back to the spotlight in a big way.
So, now that Kate Kane is there, how does she fare? Quite well! To no one’s surprise at all, Rucka delivers a quality opening issue working with J.H. Williams III, one of the most talented artists in comics. The pair offer up a tense, action packed issue that fulfills the promise to begin fleshing out Kate Kane as a character while continuing the ongoing saga of the Crime Bible. A new villain is introduced, and a supporting cast is started. Not a bad beginning for a character who was, coming into the issue, largely a blank slate. There is one worrying moment in the issue, dealing with a potential motivation for Kate, in which it is hinted that Kate has the most trite origin imaginable for a modern female hero, but the remainder of the issue is of such high quality that I am willing to wait and see where Rucka takes this.
The real star here, though, is Williams and colorist Dave Stewart, who’ve given the book a rather haunting look in its frequent contrasts of white, red and black and its absolutely stellar panelling. By now, you’ve likely all seen the preview pages that have been posted on every comics site in existence. Suffice to say, the entire issue lives up to that level of quality with ease. It’s very nearly worth the price of admission to see the art alone.
The second part of the book – and the reason for the dreaded $3.99 price tag – is the backup feature, this one also by Greg Rucka. Cully Hamner (Blue Beetle) is given the unenviable task of following up on the JH Williams III main feature, but he does an excellent job in giving Renee a physical personality and sense of style that easily could have gotten lost in the shortened page count. The story is brief and compelling, every bit as good as the excellent backup from Streets of Gotham. It’s a more-than-worthy addition to an excellent first issue.
– Cal Cleary