Just about every issue of Morrison’s All-Star Superman would probably be a good fit for this column. With the exception of the Bizarro Earth two-parter and the two issue conclusion, every issue could stand alone as a fantastic single serving Superman story. There are two stories in the book’s 12-issue run, however, that deserve special attention in this regard: “Neverending” and “Funeral in Smallville”. For now, I’ll be focusing on All-Star Superman #10, “Neverending”, but believe me, I’ll come back for the other.
Still incredibly late, but I will catch up soon. I read 30 comics in June, and these were the best.
There hasn’t been much chatter about this series on this site, but I’m here to remedy that.
Spoiler warning for Batman and Robin 12!
In such a great decade for comics, you always hear an awful lot of praise for the writers. When you hear people talk about Watchmen, a great deal of attention is paid to Alan Moore; when you hear people talk about Wanted, lovers and haters all talk about Mark Millar. But a comic book is primarily a visual medium, and a talented artist can make a so-so book better, a good book great… or a great book only average. Witness the art problems that plagued, for example, Grant Morrison’s ground-breaking run on New X-Men.
But this decade had its fair number of stars, art-wise, artists whose style and intensity nearly defined the titles they worked on. These are our picks for the Top 10 interior artists of the 2000’s.
And the Summer’s over! Really? That…went fast. I had fun, though. Hope you all did, too. Back to school, kiddies! I read 20 comics in August, and these were the best.
5. Invincible Iron Man #16
Matt Fraction’s writing is absolutely top-notch. Yes, this story will read better as a whole, but our connection to Tony, Pepper, and Maria is so strong, it hardly matters. The only thing that brings this issue, and the entire series, down, is Salvador Larroca’s Greg Land-esque art.
4. Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1
Speaking of Summer, you like those blockbusters that accompany the season, right? Well then, this is the comic for you! Just some awesome-kickass, supercool fun! Mark Millar gives it to ya, and Carlos Pacheco makes it look pretty. This opening salvo features a bombastic helicopter fight and a terrifying new villain.
3. Secret Six #12
Like my previous selection, this too is filled with action and good times, only with more twisted villainy. But this comic also has character and soul, and that counts for a lot. This is Jeannette’s issue to shine, and I think she blinded me. Carlos Pacheco’s beautiful interiors certainly contribute to UCA’s placement, but you know what? I’d put Nicola Scott up against Carlos Pacheco any day. Yeah, you read that right.
2. Batman and Robin #3
Holy hell, Batman! This series just gets better and better! The first and second issue topped my list in their respective months, and it’s only by some Marvel miracle that this one didn’t. Since I don’t have a proper review of this issue, I want to go over a few things:
Professor Pyg’s “sexy disco hot.” Who else had this song in their head?
Any guesses on who was watching Alfred? Could it be the same person who spied on Bruce & Jezebel all those issues ago?
Awhile ago, DC said, “Scarlet isn’t who you think she is.” That was a damn lie, and I’m pretty sure Red Hood is who you think he is too.
1. Daredevil #500
A phenomenal conclusion to what turned out to be a great run. Brubaker did DD proud, and definitely cast away Bendis’ shadow. On top of that, you get a great short story and a reprint of possibly the best Daredevil comic ever! Yeah, I’m pretty sure that this isn’t just the best comic in August, it’s the best Marvel comic of the year.
And so concludes the first arc of Morrison’s Batman and Robin – and, at least for now, Frank Quitely’s involvement. Throughout their arc, Morrison and Quitely have introduced the Circus of the Strange with their bizarre ringleader, Professor Pyg, a demented villain turning the citizens of Gotham into ‘Dollotrons’ through disfigurement and potent narcotics. And if that isn’t horrific enough for you, this issue sees Pyg dance as he imagines a sexy woman would before tearing off his shirt. Now that’s a creepy Batman villain.
The first arc concludes rather suddenly as Dick and Damian confronts Pyg in his lair. We get the origins of Pyg, learn more about his plans for Gotham, watch a few extremely well-illustrated action bits, and see how Dick and Damian make up after their split last issue. It’s a lot to handle in a single issue, and despite Morrison’s best efforts it still feels rushed in places, especially given that the issue ends with an epilogue introducing Scarlett to the Red Hood to set up the next arc. Even the ‘character’ after which the issue is titled (Mommy Made of Nails) receives only a single panel and, despite inspiring an excellent line from Pyg, is too heavily linked to the issue’s weakest moments – Pyg’s insane rants as he prepares to turn Damian.
Regardless, Batman and Robin #3 is an exciting read from start to finish. Quitely’s unique style makes the brief action sequences thrilling and dynamic, while also contributing a fairly monstrous look to the Dollotrons and their creator. His visual sensibilities will be sorely missed next issue, but he’s only half the team – despite the book’s first missteps this issue, Morrison continues to make the book a fun, action-packed exploration of Dick and Damian’s dynamic. If it’s DC’s objective to make us miss Bruce Wayne, they’re failing miserably – this is some of the most fun Batman’s been in awhile.
– 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?
Writing: Morrison delivers another outstanding adventure comic. If any of you were displeased with the symbols, hallucinations, and 50’s Batman references that plagued Morrison’s earlier Batman issues, have no fear! Morrison is just trying to entertain here, while Quitely does his thing. The Dick/Damian relationship is handled particularly well. Morrison has a good handle on both characters, especially Dick, for those of you who were worried, since Dick spent most of “Batman: RIP” drugged. Also, the Circus of Strange is a welcome addition to the Batman rogues gallery. It’s no accident that Dick’s first foes are circus-folk, and Dick even gets to show off his circus slang.
Art: Frank Quitely is arguably the star of the show. He’s already adapted his style to better fit the Batman universe, providing looser and scratchier pencils, as opposed to the cleaner, cinematic style of All Star Superman. This new style works particularly well for the fight scenes. Batman and Robin’s battle with the new villain, Siam, who is basically three men fused together, is especially memorable. I also have to mention the fine coloring of Alex Sinclair, who captures the funhouse vibe perfectly.
Final Word: This is a crowd-pleasing, extremely enjoyable comic that you’re almost sure to like. Though it may not be as deep as Morrison’s earlier Batman work, with all of the crazy villains, and a new, likable Dynamic Duo, you’re sure to find plenty to like here.
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!
The Quitely cover is the main one and the Tan cover is the variant. Quitely covers can be hit or miss, but I like that one. It got me excited. The Tan one? Not so much. I’m glad Quitely will do some covers, even on the issues he’s not drawing.
The Read/RANT team assembled together for this one! Out of curiosity of Morrison and Quitely’s new project, we opted to forego our traditional system of reviews in favor of something a little more dynamic for Batman: Reborn, part 1.
SEVENTHSOLDIER: Once again, expectations are the enemy for me. Morrison provided a perfectly good issue, setting up the new status quo, introducing some new villains, giving us a preview of what we can expect, and more, but coming off of a stellar multi-year epic on Batman, this felt slight for me. Not bad, just less than what I’d hoped for. That said, I don’t think that I was alone in half-seriously expecting the book to reinvent the wheel, at least when it came to Batman comics.
Instead, Morrison gave us what, in all fairness, he promised to give us – a rousing, fun adventure story about a new Batman and new Robin bonding.
DCLebeau: I guess I had the opposite experience. I realized going in that there was no way this issue could meet people’s sky-high expectations. I was fully prepared to be disappointed. I was expecting a disjointed assault on the senses, and instead I got a very solid Batman and Robin story with a few Morrision touches. I was pleasantly surprised!
Bruce Castle: I knew the expectations were going to get me, too. Luckily, I came to terms with that last night. All of those agonizing months, with only the lackluster-at-best Battle for the Cowl to satisfy my Batman tooth, really built this comic up to deliver. But, thankfully, I was able to open up the first page, knowing that I was in for nothing but fun, and that’s what I got.
SEVENTHSOLDIER: The part that shined, for me, was the art. Quitely is a rather divisive artist, but I think he was on his A-game here. I doubt he’s the first artist to incorporate sound effects into the art itself, but the effect here is nonetheless stellar here, noticeable without being distracting. Further, Morrison seems to have crafted Pyg and his Dolls specifically to Quitely’s admittedly chunky style, and the effect, for me, was rather mesmerizingly creepy.
DCLebeau: I couldn’t agree more. Quitley’s art has never looked better. Usually Morrison is the star of any book he’s on. Even the characters sometimes take a backseat to Morrison’s rock star persona. But on this book, Quitley stole the spotlight. Although, as you say, clearly Morrison was helping to turn the spotlight on his collaborator.
Bruce Castle: I’ll also play the part of the Morrison historian here. Did you all remember to reread Batman #666 last night? Well, if you had, you’d know the grizzly fate of the monstrous Professor Pyg. You’d also know a good deal more about his Dollotrons. Both of those characters first appeared in that numericly satanic Batman issue. Also, since the Batcave was compromised during “Batman RIP,” everybody has set up shop in Wayne Tower. This also ties into Batman #666, since Damian’s headquarters were still in Wayne Tower in that future. Could this be a permanent move? No. I’m sure everything will be back to normal, once that pesky Morrison is off of the title.
SeventhSoldier: True enough, true enough, though the nice part of setting #666 so far in the future was that it’s hard to mess up. Not even killing Damian can stop it, because… well, comics.
DCLebeau: Wow, BC, you are truly amazing. I barely had time to squeeze in reading B&R #1. Now, you’ve gone and done it. I’m going to have to go through my back issues. Thanks a lot! 🙂
As a side note, the book is remarkably new reader friendly. Considering all of the Batlore that has been heaped on us lately, this could have been a nightmare. But it’s not. You can come into this book having never read a Batman story before. RIP, Battle for the Cowl, Final Crisis… you can skip them all. Everything you need to know is right here.
Granted, if you’ve been reading Morisson’s run on Batman, you’re going to get more out of this issue. But it can be read either way. And that’s high praise!
Bruce Castle: Did you just tell people to skip RIP and Final Crisis? People, don’t listen to this man! He’s crazy!
DCLebeau: If you haven’t read them by now, you’re probably not a Morrison fan. and if you’re not a Morrsion fan, you’re not going to like them. Anyway, my point was that none of that stuff is required reading to enjoy Batman and Robin #1. The book is surprisingly accessible. I imagine a lot of people who hated Final Crisis and RIP will still enjoy Batman and Robin.
SeventhSoldier: I’ve seen a number of people say that they felt it was over too soon and that that’s a good sign. I understand the logic of it – that it makes you desperately wish there was more there is certainly a sign that you enjoyed the read – but in a medium this expensive, this is a persistent problem I have with the Big Action comics. Still, the amount of joy packed into this issue means that I’m kind of morally obliged to keep reading.
DCLebeau: Don’t even get me started on the economics of comic books these days! I could launch into a rant that would completely derail this article, but I won’t. I will say that compared to other comics, I think B&R provided a pretty good bang for the buck. Quitely’s art alone was worth the price of admission. The fact that the story was good too was almost gravy.
Bruce Castle: At least Batman and Robin doesn’t cost four dollars. Oh, and it has words too. Sorry, I just read the wordless, four-dollar Ultimate Spider-Man #133.
SeventhSoldier: Man, that sounds downright painful. I just feel bad for you, honestly.
With Morrison and Quitely working together again, I can’t help but feel like I’m reading a companion piece to ALL-STAR SUPERMAN in some ways. It has the same sense of fun, the same potential for tragedy or emotional climax, etc… that a lot of mainstream books don’t necessarily have for me. It’s hard to blend the darkness with the light, as many popular comics writers demonstrate, but I think that A-SS did it quite well, and this first issue suggests that B&R might as well.
Obviously, with Morrison, you can’t avoid comparisons and interconnections with the rest of his work. I’m curious – does anything stand out to any of you?
DCLebeau: One minor quibble that I had was that Pyg seemed familiar. (And not just because we’d seen the character in a previous issue of Batman.) The fact that he controlled his minions with disfiguring masks reminded me of Darkseid’s M.O. in Final Crisis. The pig-face reminded me of the particular look Morrison inflicted on Wonder Woman in that series. Like I said, it was a minor complaint. I just couldn’t help thinking that as creepy as Pyg was, he didn’t feel especially fresh.
Bruce Castle: Well, one thing that did bother me was that Morrison is the king of first issues. I mean, think of his first Batman issue. Commissioner Gordon falling to his death, infected with Joker’s gas. The Joker, standing triumphantly over a dead Batman with a bloody crowbar in his stand, screaming “I finally killed Batman!” Oh, and just the small reveal that Batman has a kid!
So, compared to that, this issue was extremely tame. But we must remember, this isn’t really a true beginning. This should have been Batman #687. So, thinking that way, it doesn’t really bug me. And hey, Morrison did have to single-handedly introduce the new Dynamic Duo. Tony Daniel didn’t do anything. In addition to that, Morrison established Professor Pyg, and introduced the Toad, which, by the way, is brilliant. If Batman is already fighting one literary icon, why can’t he fight another?
DCLebeau: I was impressed by just how much I liked the new Batman and Robin. I was pretty ambivalent at the idea of Dick as Batman. I saw it after Nightfall. It was okay then. I expected it to be okay now. But Morrison does more with it. His Dick Grayson as Batman is a completely different animal that Bruce. And Morrison achieves this by having dick behave differently, not just having Dick tell us how different he is from Bruce in internal monologue.
The real surprise for me was how much I liked Damian as Robin. How awesome was he? After the unreadable Resurrection of Ra’s al Guhl storyline, I didn’t really have any burning desire to read about the son of Batman again. But I just loved the grim little Robin snapping at “Pennyworth”.
Bruce Castle: Yes. Anyone who thinks Morrison can just do crazy spectacle should read this issue. Characterization up to your ears. Damian being a good mechanic was also seen in Batman #666. Remember that sweet Batmobile?
Oh, and just what the heck is up with those dominoes?
SeventhSoldier: I have no idea what’s up with the dominoes, honestly. It’s a strange, strange touch. Obviously, it’s going to come back up – there’s too many mentions for it not to – but I couldn’t really say in what capacity. I like that Dick’s first foe as Batman is an evil circus, though. Domino tiles and bones, with, according to the previews, just a smidge of blood.
Well, my interest is piqued, though I don’t necessarily know what to think of it yet.
Bruce Castle:Yeah, Dick fighting a circus is pretty sweet. Speaking of the preview of the blood on the domino, we couldn’t possibly get through this without talking about the previews for the next year. Let’s see, we have:
Damian quitting Robin.
A new Red Hood, with a shadowed character behind him.
Perhaps his version of Harley?
Dick fighting Batwoman, with Batman coming out of lava?
And of course, Dr. freaking Hurt, holding the keys to Wayne Manor.
What do we think?
SeventhSoldier: Hurt with the keys to Wayne Manor really got me – that was just a solid image, and I couldn’t for the life of me say why. Bruce is gone for now, etcetera, but that was just a great way to build off of RIP without directly following it. Even if you never read a page of RIP, Wayne Manor just isn’t something a bad guy should have the keys to.
And was that Batman coming out of the lava… or out of a Lazarus Pit? ‘Cuz I thought it was a Pit. I don’t think that’s Bruce – I think there’s something else going on – but I definitely think it was a Lazarus Pit.
As for Damian quitting as Robin, well, I suspect he’ll do that more than once. He’s an insecure kid, and I don’t know if he’ll work out in the long run or be able to stay redeemed… but I think it definitely fits with Alfred and Dick to try and reform him… especially if he’s the last real piece of Bruce they have left. There’s a lot going on with that obnoxious little kid, and I’m looking forward to it.
Red Hood was the image that didn’t do it for me, ‘cuz I had absolutely no idea who it was. I thought it was a ‘fire’ version of Mr. Freeze, honestly – which just goes to show you how long I’ve been reading Batman comics.
So, yeah – the issue is a solid bit of action storytelling, that much we can all agree on, though how much we necessarily were looking for a solid bit of action storytelling is up for debate. Nonetheless, I think we’re all excited for what’s to come, at least here.
How about you, faithful readers – what did you think about the issue? We all enjoyed it, the other two more so than my self, but we want to hear what you have to say!
Illustrated by Ed Benes
No, this isn’t my number ten. I thought we’d kick things off with the worst cover. Oh, Benes. Must we have a zombie ass shot? Really? Yeah, DC, get that man on the Blackest Night: Titans series and he’ll draw all the dead Titans in one big zombie orgy. Terrific.
10. Illustrated by Fabrizio Fiorentino
Whose hand is that? Will the JLA DIE??? No, but is that Plastic Man as the King? That’s cool. I kind of want to read this. Oh wait, this book is terrible. Nevermind.
9. Illustrated by Andy Kubert
Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s a striking image. It’s not every day that someone has a hand in Batman. Will DC kill off their new Batman already?
8. Illustrated by Amanda Conner
That’s an interesting cover. I wish it had a background, but it’s been awhile since I saw Power Girl in a monster’s paw. And PG’s expression is awesome! Well done, Conner!
7. Illustrated by Frank Quitely
As much as I love Quitely, his covers aren’t always the best, but I like this. It’s like we’re in the POV of some giant. Look at our huge hands, and our minions are beating up the heroes way off in the distance. The pencils are unusually loose for Quitely, and I dig the coloring.
6. Illustrated by J. Bone
Take note, Benes. That’s how you do ass shots! It’s the generic JLA cover backwards! Sweet!
5. Illustrated by Simon Bisley
Who hurt you, Constantine? Who hurt you?
4. Illustrated by Dave Johnson
“I killed him, Horatio.”
3. Illustrated by David Lapham
The last Young Liars issue. Too bad. Great cover, though. Sad, absurd, and tells you something about the comic. It involves Mars.
2. Illustrated by Brian Bolland
Brian Bolland back on Animal Man covers, everything is right in the world. How amazing is that? Wonderfully drawn, striking, who’s pointing at Animal Man? What’s happening to Animal Man? The only downside is Starfire. She just radiates “skank” doesn’t she? Oh, well. At least Bolland didn’t draw Starfire naked.
1. Illustrated by JH Williams III
Williams is amazing. This cover isn’t as spellbinding as last month’s, it’s a bit more conventional. But this is a cover you will notice. That wolf makes it look like Coppola’s Dracula is involved. I have no idea who that guy embracing Batwoman is, and I love the way Batwoman’s blood blends with her red hair. I am so looking forward to this comic!
So, that’s my list. What’s yours?
Well, I’ve been taking a bit of a break lately. And by that, I mean I’ve been busy, so you’ve only seen a couple of posts in the last month. But thanks to Seventh’s triumphant return, I too will do my best to post some new reviews. I’ve wanted to post more, and nothing motivates you like a friend to help out. So with this boring news comes the inked Frank Quitely cover to Batman and Robin #2! Are Seventh and I the dynamic duo of Read/RANT? You could say that, he does wear the green hot pants.
P.S. Here’s the colored cover:
Why this list? I don’t know; I like lists! This is something I’ve thought about for awhile, but I’ve never had the organization skills to execute this idea. Well, I stopped bothering with some things (Sure, the west half of my house is on fire, but who cares?!?) so I could finally create the awesome list you’re about to experience.
Just to be clear, these are my top ten working artists. All ten of them produced interior work on at least one comic last year. Enjoy!
10. Ed McGuinness
McGuinness is the Wolverine of comic artists. He’s the best there is at what he does. And what he does is draw big muscular cartoony fun! Hulk is the PERFECT book for him. The man was born to draw it. Throw in an extensive Superman (And later Batman) run and you’ve got plenty of pretty beefy heroes to look at. Did I mention that his art is a fantastic model for toys as well? Check it out! Sure, he doesn’t have much range and he’s a bit lazy, but if I ever need anyone to find a vein on my arm, I’ll go to him!
9. Frank Cho
After criticizing EM’s range, I put Frank Cho? Am I crazy? Maybe, but Cho does actually have some range. Go check out his Spider-Man issues with Mark Millar. Sure MJ had big boobs, but his Venom was badass. He also renders some fantastic animals. Who draws Dinosaurs and monkeys better than Frank Cho? And yes, he draws some bodacious babes, but is that really such a bad thing? Yes they’re a bit crude, but it works with an American audience. We’re a bit too uptight when it comes to the female form. Cho just puts it out there. Too preachy? I like big boobs. Better? The fact is his women are tough, sexy, and usually pretty muscular. They can kick the shit out of the men. That’s a kind of female power, right?
8. Steve McNiven
Good, we’re away from the cartoons. Steve McNiven is pretty new to the art scene. Ok, he’s been in the biz for about eight years, but I can count his projects with my fingers. I’ve always considered myself a fan of the man’s work, but his most recent project, Old Man Logan, is what got him on the list. Have you seen that stuff? It’s fucking epic! He’s created an entire future Marvel Universe, aged character designs, and zany stuff like a Venom T-Rex. He’s nailed them all. There’s no doubt in my mind that in ten years when fans discuss the best Wolverine artists, McNiven will be mentioned in the same sentence as Frank Miller and Barry Windsor-Smith. As if that weren’t enough, he also did a stellar job on Civil War, and whether you enjoyed that event or not, at least you were treated to some gorgeous images.
7. Tim Sale
Say what you want about Jeph Loeb, but when he and Sale get together, you get magic. I just picked up that new Daredevil Yellow hardcover a few weeks ago and Sale’s art was absolutely mystifying. His Daredevil is poetic. Sale captured the fallen hero, Battlin’ Jack Murdock, perfectly. Don’t even get me started on his Karen Page. Lois Lane, Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, Selina Kyle, Tim Sale has rendered some of the most iconic women in comics and yet he always brings something new to the table. Sale is an expert at taking old characters, blowing off the dust, and making them look all shiny and new again.
6. JH Williams III
Whoa! JH Williams III is number six? How the hell did that happen? Because Williams is awesome, that’s why. He’s an artistic chameleon. If you read his three-issue arc in Batman recently, you’ll know that every member of the Club of Heroes had a different art style. El Gaucho is Howard Chaykin, The Knight and the Squire are Ed McGuinness, and so on. On top of that, Williams has some of the most interesting layouts in comic history. If you want to see some expert graphic design, Williams is your man. How he presents his art is almost as intriguing as the art itself. Heck, the only reason why Williams isn’t higher on the list is his lack of content (Or perhaps my lack of reading his content), but with an absolute Promethea volume and his long-awaited Batwoman run coming up, Williams is sure to make my top five soon.
5. John Romita Jr.
And speaking of Williams’ lack of content, here’s a man who has too much content. Romita has been in the biz for nearly three decades. That’s awesome, but what usually happens to artists over time is that their style gets boring. Not so with Romita, his style has evolved. Going from the traditional look of his Iron Man days, to the Kirby/Miller amalgam, Romita has proved that he’s still one of the best. Want proof? While some of the artists on this list (Even those ahead of him, sadly) produce only a few issues a year, Romita is the opposite. In just two years, he worked on a Neil Gaiman project for seven issues, a mega Marvel event for five, a six-issue return to Spider-Man, and an entirely new property with Mark Millar. Throw in directing part of a movie (An illustrated Kick-Ass segment) and you have one fabulous work ethic!
4. Joseph Michael Linsner
This is where you can stop calling my list predictable. What can I say? I feel a deep connection with Linsner’s work. There are times when I think he’s my favorite artist. His style is Cartoony yet realistic. Linsner’s women are cheesecake, yet independent and strong. The man’s work is truly transcendent. I can just stare at for days and days. The Hulk is probably a poor example (Though funny), but please go check out his work. If you feel half the connection with it that I do, it’ll be a wondrous experience.
3. Alex Ross
What’s a “best comic artists” list without Alex Ross? Actually, when I was compiling this list, his name slipped my mind. Terry Dodson was on for quite a while, but eventually (Sorry Terry), an image of Kingdom Come Superman blazed across my mind. How is it, that a character that said so little and was part of so few stories can be as incredibly inspirational as Kingdom Come Superman? I blame Alex Ross. He brings such power and solitude to the grey-haired Man of Steel. It was hammered home this year; KC Superman is the symbol for the man who has unimaginable power, and yet he can’t save the ones he loves. A much bleaker ending than the one Jeph Loeb gave him in Absolute Power, but it’s still undeniably moving. Though Ross spends a little too much time rendering covers and writing nostalgic tales for my taste, Justice, Marvels and Kingdom Come are so well-crafted that he easily earns a spot on the list.
2. Frank Quitely
Remember what I said about Sale and Loeb being magic? Well, that goes triple for Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. See that picture above? Why did I choose that instead of something like New X-Men and All Star Superman? Because you already know those are great, but you may have never heard of We3. You should definitely read it because it’s fantastic, and that’s what every project is that Quitely works on. His art is truly unique and I mean that in the best possible way. Quitely handles everything, action, facial expressions, and emotion, all of it, like the master he is. The only reason Quitely isn’t number one is because his art has greatly evolved into marvelous beauty within the last five years. My number one, however, has always been at the top of his game.
1. Jim Lee
I never thought Jim Lee would be my number one. It makes sense; Batman is my favorite hero, so it’s only natural that the quintessential Batman artist is my favorite. Lee has always demonstrated greatness. Whether your first experience was X-Men, WildC.A.T.s, Batman, or even way back to Punisher War Journal, you were probably impressed. He’s worked on a few bad projects, sure. That won’t stop you from gazing at his beautiful interiors though. Why do you think All Star Batman and Robin is a best-seller? Its gloriously groundbreaking dialogue? I think not. Whether the words accompanying his art were good or not, I’ve always enjoyed Lee’s renderings immensely.
So there’s the list. I doubt you’ll agree completely. “Good art” is purely opinionated. I only wish that if you haven’t heard of one of these talented men (Why isn’t Amanda Conner on the list?), you’ll go check them out. Hopefully, you’re in for a treat.
Better late than never, eh? This is my list for the top ten stories of 2008! 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 2008. They could begin at any time, but as long as they concluded in 2008, 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 Fraction books, etc. So a writer/artist will only appear once on the list. Same thing goes for characters. I’m not going to have a list made up of a bunch of X-Men comics or in the case of 2008, Superman books. Lastly (Sorry, #3 is a long rule), I tried to spread the love even when it came to companies. You will see Marvel, DC, and even indies on this list.
Wow, with all those rules, how did I come up with a great list? Well, I hope I did. Anyway, let us begin the fun!
10. Hellboy: The Crooked Man (Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1-3)
Written by Mike Mignola
Illustrated by Richard Corben
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
I sound like a broken record. I’ve written for this site for about seven months now. In that time I have reviewed nearly every Hellboy comic. And over and over again I have to point out how wonderful Mike Mignola really is. It’s not just his art. He’s a terrific artist. What fascinates me more are his words. Though Mignola’s obsessed with the past, his comics constantly evolve. 2008 was a fantastic year for Big Red. A new movie that not only didn’t disappoint, it was better than its predecessor. A new comic actually drawn by Mignola himself, the start of the longest Hellboy journey yet and of course this little gem that I’m here to talk about. The Crooked Man, like most Hellboy stories, is deceptively simple. It’s difficult to express one’s love for Hellboy comics because they all have similar beats. Hellboy goes to some marvelous landscape. He encounters a mystical problem. He then beats the crap out of everybody until they fall down. But unlike most Hellboy yarns, The Crooked Man doesn’t take place in some faraway land. It’s set in deep Deliverance hick hell. It’s not about old artifacts or odd Guillermo Del Torro creatures. This is about the classic struggle between man and the devil. It’s about facing your fears and temptations. Hellboy is almost a supporting character for God’s sake! And of course who better to bring this horrifying masterpiece to life than Richard Corben. He’s a perfect fit for this book. The man is 68 years old and he’s still pouring his soul into his projects. This Hellboy tale is not to be missed.
9. Joker (Original GN)
Written by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Lee Bermejo
Publisher: DC Comics
Available here. Do you want to see the bloodiest and most brutal Joker story ever? This is it. Joker is a gritty crime graphic novel that’s all about the titular character through the lens of sanity, Jonny Frost. Lee Bermejo spent two years working on this project. This book looks perfect. And in a Joker comic that means the book looks like hell. Bermejo and Mick Gray share the inking duties. Gray has a softer look while Bermejo has a terrifying painted effect. I began to dread Bermejo’s inks as it meant something gruesome was ahead. Azzarello throws us into a mad dark world with realistic versions of classic Batman rogues. The Dark Knight does appear but he only says three words. This is a fascinating yarn and the fact that Bermejo’s Joker mirrors Ledger’s makes it all the more creepy.
8. The Walking Dead: Made to Suffer (The Walking Dead Forty-Three through Forty-Eight)
Written by Robert Kirkman
Illustrated by Charlie Adlard
Publisher: Image Comics
Collected here. The Walking Dead is a comic that suffers in this format. In fact, I even feel uneasy putting it here because it doesn’t really have arcs. Walking Dead is one giant story, but it deserves to be on this list. For several years it’s been one of my favorite comics for its character exploration in a brutal and harsh situation. Though this story does contain one of this series’ few blunders (The return of the character you see on that cover), it was undeniably excellent. Testing these poor characters once again, Kirkman created the most suspenseful story of the year. The amount of hell inflicted on these men, women, and children was unsettling and powerful. Clearly, this is a landmark in a fantastic monthly book.
7. Northlanders: Sven the Returned (Northlanders One through Eight)
Written by Brian Wood
Illustrated by Davide Gianfelice
Collected here. On the back of the trade (That’s only ten dollars! Eight issues for ten bucks is so awesome) there are quotes comparing this tale to Conan and 300. If that’s what you need to hear then I’ll agree with that comparison and even throw Braveheart into the mix. But really, this is the classic tale of the man born in the wrong time. It’s more than the modern language (You like the F-word right?) and evil uncle (That brings Hamlet to mind). Sven is a modern man trapped in a society based on dying with honor. Would you charge an army of one thousand if you were alone? I don’t think so. Yes, on the surface this is an enthralling adventure with Vikings, boobs and blood by the barrel full. But beneath the flare is a classic tale with a fantastic and unexpected conclusion.
6. Scalped: Dead Mothers (Scalped #13-17)
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by R.M. Guera
Collected here. Dash Bad Horse and Chief Red Crow are incredibly intriguing characters even though they don’t have a lot to say. That’s one of Aaron’s strengths as a writer, he knows when to shut up and let his artist shine. Guera provides the usual rough style of art you’re used to seeing in these types of comics, but with a twist. It’s hard to put into words. You’ll just have to see it for yourself. Scalped, like Walking Dead, is an ongoing epic that’s hard to judge from arc to arc. But Dead Mothers is particularly amazing. And by amazing I mean heartbreaking. It’s hard not to spoil things, but Dead Mothers is about well, what do you think? Two people have lost their mothers and their murderers need to be brought to justice. But it’s so much more than that. Scalped is a crime western history epic filled with shocking twists and turns.
Written by Warren Ellis
Illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp
Publisher: Avatar Press
Collected here. I dare everyone to read issue #0 (It’s one freaking dollar) of this series and not pick up the trade. It will pique your interest. Heck, you may have even seen this comic on the news if your town is small enough. Though it may be deemed by some to be liberal propaganda, you must remember this is written by Warren Ellis. It’s much more complex than that. This series is also enriched by the amazing and detailed visuals of Juan Jose Ryp. Though the story may devolve into a big action blockbuster (It does have summer in the title after all), I doubt you’ll find another blockbuster more thought provoking than this.
4. Criminal: Bad Night (Criminal Vol 2 #4-7)
Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Sean Phillips
Collected here. I got into this book late, very late. I wouldn’t have believed it, but Criminal really is Brubaker and Phillips’ best work. I’m sure you’ve heard of this book’s general accomplishments, so that gives me the opportunity to talk about Bad Night specifically. The first volume (Coward and Lawless) offered crime stories that seemed familiar but were told well. Brubaker provided lovable baddies and established the mood and tone wonderfully. And as for Sean Phillips, there’s a difference between pretty art and art that belongs. One can be replaced and one can’t. Phillips belongs in the latter category. I can’t imagine anyone else on this book. Phillips’ quality continued in the second volume, but Brubaker stepped it up a notch. He began to tell more unconventional crime stories. Bad Night was his most experimental and his best to date. He demonstrated true noir. I’m not talking about the watered down crap you’ve seen in the last few decades. I’m talking about the gritty old-school, where every character is scummy. Bad Night is about lust, creativity, and obsession. Its finale packs quite a punch.
3. Punisher: Long Cold Dark (Punisher #50-54)
Written by Garth Ennis
Illustrated by Goran Parlov, Howard Chaykin
Publisher: MAX Comics
Collected here. This is the year that made all Punisher fans (And anyone who appreciates great comics) cry. Garth Ennis left the big scary skull dude. But still, even in the winter of Ennis’ Punisher years, he managed to produce some damn fine comics. In fact, Long Cold Dark and Valley Forge, Valley Forge are two of his best. Now, Valley may be a better story for those who read the whole series, but Long Cold is for everyone (Except maybe children, old people and the squeamish). The first issue is drawn by the legendary Howard Chaykin and the rest of the arc is cinematically rendered by Goran Parlov. This is fun, twisted, and full of no holds barred action. And I really do mean that. Barracuda (The big black guy, not the Heart song) returns and has a piece of Frank’s past with him. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s a hell of a plot device. Possibly the Punisher’s best villain finds a way to get under Frank’s skin. It’s a terrific and bloody ride.
2. All Star Superman (All Star Superman #1-12)
Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Frank Quitely
Publisher: DC Comics
Collected here and here. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely are phenomenal. These two Scots collaborate again and again and every time they produce pure magic. All Star Superman is the best Superman story. Some would say that this is the only Superman comic one would ever need. To me, every Superman tale actually improves because of this. All Star Superman breathes new life into a seventy year old character. But this is more than nostalgia or a Silver Age throwback. It’s a unique and fascinating tale that’s extraordinarily memorable. Superman and Lois kissing on the moon. A man playing cosmic fetch with his dog. Superman saving that kid from suicide. Earth Q, the world without Superman. It’s all so beautiful. So if this is my #2, what the heck is my #1?
1. Casanova: Gula (Casanova #8-14)
Written by Matt Fraction
Illustrated by Fabio Moon
Publisher: Image Comics
Casanova, that’s what. I do not put Casanova ahead of Morrison’s Superman lightly. I put much thought into this decision and in the end, Casanova’s (Or is it Zephyr’s?) charm won me over. This book is purely transcendent. From its cost of two dollars to the fact that every issue is packed with more information, emotion, etc. than most mainstream six-issue arcs (And I’m just talking about Gula. The first arc, Luxuria, was even denser). Casanova is genuinely groundbreaking. It won’t be as easy to recreate as something like The Dark Knight Returns which is why it will probably never receive the credit it deserves. And speaking of the Dark Knight, what sets Casanova apart from its genre defining (Or redefining) counterparts is its undeniable sense of fun. Casanova, on top of everything else, is funny! So please, each issue is only two bucks if you want the floppies (Which you probably should since each issue is filled with wonderful back matter from Fraction himself) and the first trade is a little more than ten dollars. Casanova is worth your time.
Incredible Hercules: Sacred Invasion (Incredible Hercules #117-120)
This was the best thing to come out of Secret Invasion. Well, it wasn’t a great new series, that was Captain Britain. But it was the best story with the words “Secret Invasion” on the cover. Incredible Hercules is a fun, humorous and refreshing comic. Sacred Invasion features the awesome God Squad! It also contains the most shocking Skrull reveal ever (That was ruined on the cover of the trade)!
Superman: Brainiac (Action Comics #866-870)
Superman had a fantastic year. Along with All Star Superman, Geoff Johns wrote three wonderful Superman tales. Superman: Brainiac was my favorite. Gary Frank’s art is worth the price alone. He captures all the sci-fi, horror, and emotion perfectly. Superman’s ensemble cast also shines here. And those last few pages are heartbreaking. It’s too bad I couldn’t get Geoff Johns on the list this year, but with Blackest Night coming up, it’s a safe bet he’ll make the list for 2009.
Thor: Ages of Thunder (Thor: Ages of Thunder, Thor: Circle of Blood, Thor: Man of War)
The best Thor story in years, it explores the Thunder God’s early years. Fraction delivers some giant-slaying fun. If you’re looking for a good time with Gods, Monsters, and lascivious Odin, this book is for you!
Thunderbolts: Caged Angels (Thunderbolts #116-121)
I love this run so much. Why did I put Black Summer on my list instead of this? Black Summer isn’t well-known, Caged Angels is only half of the story, and Black Summer has complete creative freedom.
X-Force: Angels & Demons (X-Force #1-6)
This was on my list for so long. I do love it and isn’t that cover awesome? I figured I could only use one for the honorable mentions and that is by far the best. This is the dark and bloody version of the X-Men. X-Force also gives us a few continuity surprises. Clayton Crain renders some stunning images.
So there it is. That took a lot of time, so much so that we’re already in the second month of the new year (Time flies). I think it’s a pretty good list. I’m sorry Marvel fans. There aren’t any traditional Marvel comics on my main list (Though Punisher and Criminal kind of count), but at least you have my honorable mentions. Other than that, I think I spread the love, right? 2008 wasn’t that great for the real world (In fact, it was pretty horrible), but at least the comics were good.
I love Final Crisis, but this issue demonstrates my biggest problem with the whole thing. Well, it’s more of a fear. What if this isn’t Morrison’s vision? I don’t want to go too much into it so I’ll just focus on this issue. Check out the solicitation. Grant Morrison didn’t write this issue. Peter J. Tomasi didn’t write this issue. Frank Quitely, other than the cover, did not draw this issue. Instead, we get a mediocre Libra tale that’s mostly been told before. It’s from Len Wein and Tony Shasteen and it should have come out after Final Crisis #2. The big kick in the pants? SPOILER Libra is just Libra END SPOILER. So, that’s a bumber. Anyway, this is important stuff people. It gives some Libra back-story. Len Wein provides a decent story and Shasteen’s art is…frankly, pretty ugly. But the last six pages are pure gold. We get some more Crime Bible from Mr. Rucka himself. This is about all that Revelations nonsense. Then we get a page from Morrison that explains in detail about the Anti-Life Equation. If I had a dollar for everyone who asked me about the Anti-Life Equation I’d be…well, not rich, but I’d have about thirteen dollars! See what I mean about the “this should have come out a long time ago” thing? We then get four pages from Morrison and JG Jones that explain all those Nix Uotan drawings. I hope we get to see more of these creations. Morrison has invented elaborate histories like he’s J. R. R. Tolkien. Again, Superman Beyond #2, Final Crisis #6 and 7 should blow some damn minds. This, not so much, but it’s still worth your time and money.