I read 21 comics in April, and these were the best.
I read 21 comics in April, and these were the best.
I read 20 comics in February, and these were the best.
I read 26 comics in October, and these were the best.
I read 28 comics in September, and these were the best.
Damn it. I’m late again. I read 27 comics in August, and these were the best.
So incredibly late on these, but I will catch up soon. Never fear! I read 27 comics in May, and these were the best.
I read 20 comics in December, and these were the best.
5. Hellboy: Bride of Hell
Another classic Hellboy one-shot. Richard Corben, showing the whippersnappers how terrible they are, produces wonderful work that surpasses his Eisner-winning accomplishment on Hellboy: The Crooked Man. That alone makes this comic special. But, Mignola’s there too, providing a riveting, tragic tale.
4. Captain America: Reborn #5
This might as well be the conclusion of Reborn. We all know how it’s going to end. Even before Marvel ruined it, we knew. I’d rather have it end here. Sharon Carter in the hands of Red Skull. Sin destroying Vision with an Arnim Zola contraption. Crossbones, and his army of robotic killing machines, shooting the heroes. Red Skull, in the body of Steve Rogers, battling Bucky on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, while the Red Skull duels Steve in his own brain. This, rendered by Bryan Hitch and written by Ed Brubaker, is good stuff.
3. Astonishing X-Men #33
Ellis & Jimenez make larger-than-life superheroics look easy, when few books actually do it well. Fraction may be writing a great, diplomatic Cyclops over in Uncanny X-Men, but Ellis’ Cyclops is a bitter, war-forged mutant with the power of a nuke in his eyeballs. He cuts through a Brood-fused Krakoa like butter. Ellis provides humor, entertainment, and enough X-history to make the fanboys squeal, and Jimenez makes it all look pretty.
2. Irredeemable #9
Nine issues in and Waid continues to keep things fresh. This is extremism at its finest. Demons crawling out of mouths, villains hiding in friends, and “upgrading” used for torture, are just a few of this issue’s memorable moments. If Waid’s not commenting on Internet trolls, he’s commenting on the corruption of power. But, have no fear, there’s plenty of entertainment to be found. The subtext is just the icing on the cake.
1. Detective Comics #860
The final part of Kate’s origin feels more than a little Year One-esque, and Williams continues to give his best rendition of Mazzucchelli. We see the natural progression of Kate’s vigilantism evolving into so much more. Kate and the Colonel bond over the experience, which makes the issue’s Shakespearean conclusion all the more painful. Of course, Williams and Stewart, the best art team around, are the stars of the show, but Rucka pulls his weight and then some. With Batwoman at the helm, Detective Comics is, once again, the best comic of the month.
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.
I’m down, but not out!
Blackest Night #2
I was right there with Lebeau on the first issue, and you can find a bigger, better review of this issue from him. Johns definitely decreased the needless exposition this time around, but it’s not enough. This event is still moving at a dead snail’s pace. He spends too much time relishing in ghastly, deceased heroes terrorizing live ones. However, you can still find scenes to enjoy here, especially if you’re already fond of Johns’ particular brand of fun. Nightmarish sharks devouring Atlanteans here, a two-page, vertical splash of a resurrected Spectre there. The most impressive element of Blackest Night so far has been the images rendered by Ivan Reis. He’s officially a superstar.
The Boys #33
Why is John McCrea drawing this? Shouldn’t he be drawing Herogasm? I’m not complaining. Carlos Ezquerra’s art has been sloppy the last few issues, and while McCrea is no Darick Robertson, his work here, and especially on Herogasm, is more than satisfying. Although, he’s still not the right artist for the job. This is a dark, violent arc of The Boys, and McCrea’s images are too cartoony. Ennis’ writing, however, is still top-notch. This issue was a blast. Watching Butcher systematically take down the Boys-filtered Avengers was very entertaining. The fact that this arc is so action-heavy makes it all the more upsetting that Robertson is absent.
Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #5
It’s nice to have Hellboy back. The reason for the delay was Duncan Fegredo’s, and the wait paid off. I re-read the previous four installments before this one, and Fegredo’s work is simply stunning. The Wild Hunt has featured a fight in just about every issue. It makes each chapter stand on its own as an episodic action series. Fegredo draws the hell out of the battle scenes, while Mignola crafts a menacing threat for Hellboy in the background.
Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1
Off the heels of the biggest event in the Ultimate Universe’s history, at the start of a brand new status quo, is this issue exposition-heavy? @*&# NO!!! In true, Millar style, he kicks this series off in summer blockbuster fashion, featuring an extended fight scene, and a last-page shock to punch you in the face! As I mentioned with The Boys, if a comic is action-heavy, you have to provide pretty pictures. Well, Carlos Pacheco, in his glorious return to Marvel interiors, is just the man to provide such pictures. He handles all of the action, including some tricky helicopter scenes, with professional ease. Looking for pure, pop bliss? You got it!
The Walking Dead #64
Dale’s situation provides a wickedly funny beginning. Then we get a typical and sentimental revelation from Dale’s lover, Andrea. I say typical because we’ve seen a lot of it in The Walking Dead, but it is a natural reaction to grief, and we’ve sure seen plenty of that in this series. The rest of the issue is mostly spent planting seeds for future events that culminate in a tremendously badass moment for Rick. Another enjoyable issue, for sure, but this is mid-arc. So, it does suffer from the necessary plot-building.
Uncanny X-Men #514
We’re two issues away from this crossover’s conclusion, and I don’t think it’s the event anyone was really expecting. This isn’t mindless Dark Avenger-on-X-Men action. No, with Matt Fraction at the helm, we’re getting a highly developed and well thought-out story that presents realistic situations for these characters to deal with. The downside to all that is that we’ve had more set-up than payoff, but with an oversized, Mike Deodato-drawn conclusion in the near future, I’m sure we’ll get the carnage that we crave soon enough.
This is my review of the second issue. I was much more enchanted then, and less lazy. Though this was another good issue, it was one of those setup type chapters. The wheels are turning, things are in motion, but there wasn’t as much to love as there was in the last issue. Still, this series appears to be another fantastic installment of Hellboy goodness. Oh and there’s another Guy Davis backup as well.
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.
2008 wasn’t that great of a year. We lost some fantastic people. Heath Ledger, Sydney Pollack, Charlton Heston, Bernie Mac, Paul Newman, Bettie Page, Michael Turner, Steve Gerber, Isaac Hayes, and George Carlin. Wow, I was going to do one of those “2008 was bad, but not for Hellboy” things, but now I’m just sad. We really did lose a lot of cool people this year. I didn’t even mention the guys and gals you may not know, Vampira (You watch Ed Wood movies, right?), Gary Gygax (Creator of D&D), Eartha Kitt (The Adam West Catwoman who was black), Roy Scheider (Jaws), and Dave Stevens (Creator of the Rocketeer). Man, Bettie Page and Dave Stevens died in the same year? At least I have this. Yeah, I’m totally sad now. Maybe I just love too many people.
Anyway, 2008 was a good year for Hellboy. Most importantly, it began the longest Hellboy epic yet! It’s Hellboy: The Wild Hunt! This is the second issue and it’s marvelous. It’s hard to talk about how great it is without spoiling things, but I’ll do my best. If you’ve ever been turned off by Hellboy because it esoterically wove fetishized tales of mythical creatures or artifacts, you may want to give Big Red another try. It’s quite a simple story on the surface, but like most Hellboy yarns of this nature, the magic lies in the details.
Hellboy: The Wild Hunt can fit into almost any category with this issue alone. There’s drama, action, comedy, romance and horror. Ok, I don’t think I saw anything sci-fi, but after unfortunately viewing the fourth Indiana Jones movie, that seems like a good thing. We’re even treated to an additional adventure featuring Koshchei the Deathless from Hellboy: Darkness Calls. Don’t worry new readers. I’m sure you’ll still find it entertaining. It’s sad that it takes pages away from the main event, but I’m glad Guy Davis (You may know his art from B.P.R.D.) let Duncan Fegredo take a break.
Speaking of Fegredo, if you weren’t sure he was a suitable substitute after the aforementioned Darkness Calls, I’m sure he will change your mind now. Duncan is a tremendous artist and although this may be some form of blasphemy, I have to say that his art may even work better than Mignola’s at times. Fegredo can achieve the epic scope that Mignola often lacks. Think about it, if Mignola were to draw an army, you would only see a few warriors and the rest would be shrouded in mist. However, with Duncan you’ll get the whole army. Wherever your allegiance may lie, it’s safe to say that the art looks fantastic in this series.
Month after month, year after year, Mignola and company (Who could forget Dave Stewart, the best colorist in the biz) consistently produce gold. Just when you think you’ve seen everything Hellboy has to offer, you’ll get another wonderful surprise. Honestly, who was not moved by Gruagach’s origin? Have you ever felt so bad for a pig-monster? I didn’t think so.
Batman #682 (****1/2)
So how do you know if you’ll like this issue? One question. Do you like Morrison’s previous Batman issues? Once you answer that, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how much you’ll enjoy this tie-in. And it is, as you can see in that creepy cover, a Final Crisis tie-in. Is it an important tie-in? It’s hard to say. I don’t think we’ll know until Final Crisis #6, the “Final Fate of the Dark Knight”. It definitely references Final Crisis. In the most non spoilery way, what happened to Batman in Final Crisis? If you know that, you can guess what this issue is about. Wow, I asked you a lot of questions, didn’t I? I really enjoyed this issue. It’s another zany tale involving symbolism and Morrison’s retelling of some classic Batman stories. The opening page is darkness followed by a close up of Bruce’s face and it is scarred. He’s in a military uniform as well. Isn’t that a cool first image after RIP? Alfred picks up the classic bat that flew in through the window when it’s small. By the time he throws it in the trash, it is huge. That’s Bob Kane’s Batman transforming into Frank Miller’s Batman in three panels. I don’t want to spoil anything, but hopefully you have enough information to decide to buy this or not. That’s what I’m here for.
Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #1 (****1/2)
This is the beginning of the longest Hellboy story ever. Well, maybe not. I just found out that the next few issues (Maybe all of them except this one) will contain back-up stories that will shorten the length of the main story. A bit of a bummer, but oh well. 2008 was (That’s right, it’s over) a great year for Hellboy. A new movie (I really enjoyed it, didn’t you?), a new three issue series, a new Mignola drawn one-shot, and the start of an eight issue series. I’m a happy man. This was a fantastic start. I should probably rate it higher, oh well. Unlike this year’s earlier Hellboy tale, The Crooked Man, Wild Hunt should move Hellboy’s journey forward. This is a first issue, so we get kind of a crash course on Hellboy’s history and that’s fine. The conclusion was the best part. A premise is established and then things turn upside down. I want to know where this is going. I have no idea and that’s a very good thing.
Ah, Halloween. A time when comic fans reread Batman: The Long Halloween. Or maybe the entire trilogy! Read my reviews for those books here, here and here. No I’m not Jeph Loeb, but I am going as Jeph Loeb for Halloween. Hey, his writing is terrifying. Terrifyingly terrible! See, I praise them and then I make fun of them. That’s how I role. Anyway, instead of going out and being social at parties (Who wants to do that?), why don’t you kick back and get your scare on comics style!
“EEEK! Red Lanterns!” Final Crisis: Rage Of The Red Lanterns (*****)
So many awesome covers this week! But I don’t think this one is my favorite (More on that in another post. Stay Tuned!). Yes, the art is a big part of this issue. I was originally going to praise Shane Davis, but I don’t think he’s the artistic star. Sure his character designs for the RL’s (Including one of the funniest most awesome lanterns ever!) are amazing and he does help make this comic epic, but I think his inker (Sandra Hope, the sexiest inker in the biz) and his colorist (Nei Ruffing) save his ass. Davis’ art is just a bit too inconsistent. The awkward faces don’t help either. Still, due to the aforementioned ass savers, this book still looks fantastic. Johns brings the goods as expected, but I have to criticize (as I must in all of Johns’ Final Crisis tie-ins) him for this issues’ lack of relevance to Final Crisis. But besides that, this comic is creepy, funny, bloody (So much red!) and entertaining!
“What The Hell Is That!?” Hellboy: In The Chapel Of Moloch (****1/2)
Ah, the good old days. A Done-In-One Hellboy story written and drawn by Mike Mignola. Yeah, I said “drawn by Mike Mignola”. What’s it been? Three years since he’s done interiors? I’d pretty much love this just for that even if the writing was terrible, but it’s not. I’m talking 24 pages of advertisement-free Hellboy awesomeness. All the classic Hellboy elements are present. This means it’s not quite as unique as this years Hellboy: The Crooked Man, but it’s just as fun. Throw the Mignola art into the mix and you definitely have a winner.
“AAAHHH! Wolf-Man!” Astounding Wolf-Man #9 (****)
This comic isn’t usually scary and…I guess this issue isn’t any different, but it’s definitely shocking! I’ve written about it a lot in my recent Invincible reviews, but I don’t think I’ve covered it in my Wolf-Man posts. FCO Plascencia is the man! Sure, Jason Howard does do a great job, but FCO makes it magic with his spectacular colors. I’ve noticed lately that Invincible has been more violent and FCO achieves that here as well. Kirkman is great at reveals, but never before have the reveals been so devastating or plentiful. There are like 4 times in here when I yelled “Whoa!” or “Jebus!” or whatever popped into my shocked brain. After the slow pace in last issue, things seem to be moving at lightning speed. This book is worth reading!
“Oh My God! It’s The…” Joker (*****)
To hell with Scarecrow! The Joker is Batman’s scariest villain. This is the highly anticipated graphic novel by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. Most people are excited about this because of the new Batman movie and because this Joker looks so similar to Heath Ledger’s version. Take a look.
Just in case you haven’t heard it elsewhere, THIS IS NOT A SEQUEL TO THE DARK KNIGHT! Azzarello and Bermejo have been working on this for years. Bermejo talks about it here. Apparently, Bermejo has been working on this for two years (Wow!) which was before Ledger was even cast. The similarities are purely coincidental which is perfect for this book. Everyone will be thinking of Ledger and hear his voice when they read this. It sort of adds an element of madness, eh?
Madness is the name of the game here. This is a character study of the Joker and a new henchman, Johnny Frost. This graphic novel is heavily influenced by noir and everything is more realistic, or is it? What is reality when you deal with the Joker? But what I meant was there are very few costumes in here. Sure Harley, Croc, Penguin and Two-Face are included, but they have a different look. This isn’t what’s most unique about the comic though. I’ll get to that later.
I haven’t seen much of Bermejo’s art, but it’s very impressive in these pages. Especially considering the two years he put into this, if you’re a Bermejo fan, you need to pick this up because of the art alone. Besides looking pretty, the book’s look serves another purpose. There are two different styles in here. One is when Bermejo inks himself that adds a painted look in addition to being featured in the “important” scenes. The second look is when Mike Gray inks. This has a much more traditional feel to it. The original reason was to speed up the artistic process (Two years wasn’t enough) and to supposedly control the speed of the reader’s eyes. The idea was to have people slow down and look at the glorious Bermejo inked pages. Whatever the reason, this worked in favor of Joker. It adds another level of insanity and obscurity.
My main criticism of Bermejo’s art and probably of the entire book is the inability or choice to censor certain things while pushing almost too far in other areas. I’m sure you can guess what I’m referring too. The violence is very hard core and the language, nudity and even a damn middle finger is played down. Bermejo, in that aforementioned interview, takes the blame for it, but it could have very easily been DC’s decision. Though this “decision” isn’t too off-putting, nor does it detract from the overall quality of the book, it’s still annoying. If I didn’t see it all the time in comics (I just brought this up in a recent Daredevil review) I probably wouldn’t be as bothered.
Anyway, what impressed me the most about this book was its tone and dialogue. It’s so incredibly intriguing. This is one of those stories you can read over and over again. You’ll notice new things or react differently making each read something special. I hate to make assumptions, but I think the people who will dislike this story will be those who don’t absorb the subtleties. This isn’t a straightforward book. It’s bizarre, it’s realistic, it’s disturbingly humorous and disturbingly violent. I knew there was a reason why this book was called Joker.
Whew! That was exhausting! Oh well, it only comes once a year. I hope you all enjoyed reading this stuff and I’m sure you’re all scared now. I’m off to continue my horror movie marathon, up next? The Shinning!
Yeah it’s not comic related, so what? You enjoy your Blade while I enjoy my favorite horror film. Happy Halloween!
Hulk #6 (*****)
Isn’t it funny that all of the “late books with great art that are hated by everyone” comics came out in the same week? Yes, I’m reading all of them. Again, this book is sooo fun and it’s sad that only me, Billy and like 10 other people know it. Last issue wasn’t quite as cool as usual but this one more than makes up for it. Like every issue of Hulk there’s humor, action, and gorgeous art! Oh, and all you fanboys who cried “Whaahhh! Rulk can’t beat Thor (even though I don’t know Rulk’s power level)”, you should be happy now. The art is beautiful. There are a lot of awesome guest appearances and sea monsters and they’re all drawn wonderfully. We even get the classic “duh duh duuuuuuuh (music)” ending. Did I mention Ed McGuinness rules? Hulk is entertainment, laugh-out-loud moments, and McGuinness drawing the hell out of this book. This is the series Ed was meant to draw and I hope he’ll come back on issue #10. Until then we can enjoy Art Adams and Frank Cho and they’re fantastic artists too. If you haven’t tried this series yet, pick this issue up. If you dislike it, don’t read it anymore. If you like it, join in on the marvelously drawn fun!
Hellboy: The Crooked Man #3 (*****)
Why is Mike Mignola so awesome? Hellboy has been around for over 15 years and he still manages to surprise me. Do you think of Hellboy adventures as European fetishistic tales about ancient legends or mysterious artifacts? How about a Hillbilly Gothic story that takes place in the Appalachian Mountains? Not only is this new territory for Hellboy, but the lovable demon is almost a supporting character. This is about willpower. It’s about corruption and the relationship between man, God, and Satan. Richard Corben has been around for a long time but he’s still producing marvelous work. If you think Hellboy can only be properly drawn by Mignola, this may change your mind. Corben manages to stay true to his own style as well as Mignola’s which creates a fantastic mixture. Have I mentioned this is the scariest Hellboy series yet? I have in my other reviews and I will now. It’s Deliverance with creepy religious undertones that will make your skin crawl. I love Hellboy and this is another example that explains why.
New Avengers #45 (***)
I read House of M, but it’s been a long time. It’d be hard to remember anyway, but it doesn’t help that I didn’t like House of M very much. Does this issue add to the SI story? Yes, but I wish it would’ve been more than it is. Bendis uses Cheung well and poorly at the same time. There are several wordless panels which look beautiful, but I wish there was more meat when it comes to a story this dense. There are questions that remain unanswered and the Skrulls are again portrayed as incredibly powerful. The green meanies winning seems to be almost a foregone conclusion at this point. If that is the case, am I the only one who wishes Marvel would have made it less predictable? All of these Embrace Change advertisements shoved brutally down our throats is not appreciated. I guess Bendis is trying to show why they can conquer us which is cool. But now, whether the Skrulls win or lose I won’t be surprised. How crazy would it have been if out of the blue the Skrulls won? It’d be like Cap dying at the end of Civil War. I don’t know if this an editorial decision or Bendis’, but considering how much power Bendis seems to have at Marvel, I’d guess the latter. Anyway, this issue isn’t bad. In fact, it’s more than passable. Cheung’s art is impressive and I’m sure if you’ve enjoyed the previous SI Avengers tie-ins, you’ll like this. I just can’t help letting my overall disappointment of this event seep into my opinions of these issues. Plus, there are a few things in this issue that I didn’t like.
Hellboy The Crooked Man #2 (****1/2)
I’m not easily scared. I can count the movies that have frightened me on one hand (Though I do have six fingers on that hand. Is that cheating?). I mentioned in my review of the first issue that this is the first Hellboy story that actually scared me. The terror factor continues in this issue to my surprise. Maybe it’s because Mignola’s art has such a sense of wonderment to it so the horror is deterred. This is drawn by Richard Corben and apparently he can draw some creepy stuff! Besides the terror, The Crooked Man is an incredibly entertaining tale. If the horror is the ketchup, Hellboy is the cheese, and the entertainment is the hamburger, Hellboy The Crooked Man is one tasty burger!
The Walking Dead #51 (*****)
Okay, things have finally calmed down. Kirkman is now free to take the book anywhere he wants to. His first act of freedom is to kind of take us back to the zombie basics. One of my favorite things about zombie tales is getting to see modern humans go caveman. They have to forage for food, find shelter, and deal with a world without the luxury of electricity. But the cast in The Walking Dead have been cooped up in that prison for so long that they haven’t had to do that in about 40 issues. So I’m pleased to see that we get to see a bit of the primitive man stuff in this issue. The event that takes place dealing with what’s occurring on the cover is handled well. So I was enjoying the top notch zombie style that I’ve come to expect from The Walking Dead when Kirkman throws a curve ball at me. Thankfully, it’s not as absurd as the issue #42 reveal, but it’s still something that caught me off guard. It was definitely unexpected and doesn’t go too well with the realistic feel of the book, but it did surprise me and overall I enjoyed it. Due to the superbly executed twist and some of the best zombie storytelling, I loved this issue.
Well, we’re finally at the end of our Hellboy journey. I pledged to have all the Hellboy trades read and reviewed before the movie and I have. It got me thinking a bit about the changes in Hellboy. This story continues Hellboy’s post-B.P.R.D. adventures and a lot has changed. No more Nazi machinations or Lovecraftian monsters, Hellboy has now become Mignola’s meditations on his intersts. This book focuses on folklore. Also, there was a time when everything Hellboy was drawn by Mignola. Sure he’d let other people pencil B.P.R.D., but never his demonic baby. That is no longer true. This tale is drawn by Duncan Fegredo and Richard Corben is doing the art on The Crooked Man.
In a way it’s sad to not see the lovable red demon pictured differently. But I suppose in another way it is liberating for Mignola and also gives us a chance to see Hellboy look pretty much the same but altered only slightly. Fegredo does the art in this book and his art is quite fitting because there are a few pages in this collection that call for a more dynamic touch than Mignola’s work might be comfortable or even capable of rendering.
Yes, this tale draws heavily on folklore and actually seems a bit more entertaining than the usual continuity progressing Hellboy story. Certainly more than the Island at least. This story again illustrates the point that Hellboy can be surrounded by all these monumental events and remain a regular guy who is genuinly pissed off at having to deal with all this crap. It is in that concept that this demon seems so utterly human.
So, as I pointed out earlier, a lot has changed since Hellboy’s inception, but thankfully Mignola has made sure the most important stuff doesn’t. This is still a tale rich with folklore, mystical creatures, old menacing villains, and a it is still a wild and great adventure with plenty of things for Hellboy to beat the snott out of. It’s been a pleasure reviewing these things for you and I hope we all enjoy the movie.
This is the seventh collection of Hellboy and again, it features some of those lovable short stories. I’m in a lazy mood, so I don’t feel like running through each one this time. I’ll just mention that these stories seemed even more esoteric than their predecessors. However, it was still a joy to read these because usually when you read a trade, it’s all old material, but to me, most of this stuff was new. There was only one truly new yarn, but a lot of these stories were collected in Dark Horse’s Book of… series. I didn’t even know there were Hellboy stories in those so I didn’t pick them up. Thankfully they’re all collected here.
The extras in this volume include an introduction by Walter Simonson and Mike Mignola personally introduces each story which is extremely cool. It helps give some history about these stories because a lot of these stories are taken from unique folklore that I’ve never heard of. We also get a few sketches as well. This volume is still beautifully drawn by Mike Mignola with the exception of two stories. One is drawn by P. Craig Russel and the other by Richard Corben. They both do a good enough job especially the latter who is also doing the latest Hellboy story that came out this week. No one can beat Mignola when it comes to Hellboy, but Corben is a fine substitute. This isn’t the best Hellboy trade, but its stories (especially Makoma) are still great.
The first story in this volume is The Third Wish. This is a fantastic tale that involves Hellboy trapped at the bottom of the ocean with a menacing villain. This story doesn’t have many characters in it, but that’s not a bad thing because the characters we do see are carefully examined and explored. Consequences are the main theme in this Hellboy yarn. It is explored brutally here. Hellboy’s ongoing conflict of fate versus free will is examined a little more closely here as well. We get a new view of how Hellboy’s purpose can be dealt with. This truly is a phenomenal story!
The next story in this collection is The Island. This is definitely the most epic Hellboy story we’ve seen so far. I could explain the plot to you, but I think Mike Mignola does it a bit better in his introduction of this story. “I’ve been keeping a lot of secrets. Then along comes this Hellboy movie, and suddenly we have the Ogdru Jahad popping out of their prisons and waggling their tentacles at the cameras. Hell, if you were going to see them, I figured I should show the real version of them in the comic first. And I’ll do one better. I’ll give their origin. And, while I’m at it, I might as well throw in the creation of the world, the rise and fall of angels, and the origin of mankind.”
And that’s what we get. It’s the most ambitious story yet. I’d like to say it’s the best story yet, but it isn’t. With all the things that Mike wants to tell, there is a lot of explaining going on. That takes away from some of the themes and character involvement that were present and at times the best part of earlier Hellboy stories. Oh well, this is “the end of the first chapter in Hellboy’s life”, and it’s certainly an important one that can’t be missed if you’re any kind of a Hellboy fan.
4 stars = Stop reading review and go buy now!!!!
3 and a half stars = Great issue and make room on your trade shelf someday soon
3 stars = Recommended and maybe even trade worthy
2 and a half stars = Recommended
2 stars= Not the best, not the worst, not recommended
1 and a half star = Terrible issue and vocalize your disgust at your next social event
1 star = Awful awful awful and you may want to consider dropping this title
0 stars = Next con you attend where the writer and/or artist are present you should throw this issue in their face
Astounding Wolf-Man #7– I’ll admit, I haven’t really been enjoying this series much. I love Kirkman, but this book has been very bland and has had a slow pace. On top of that, the issues took way too long to come out and I forgot nearly everything between issues. But finally, after 7 issues, the wait has paid off. Probably the best part about this book has been the exploration of family drama and it’s done well. The art has also been consistently impressive. Even though it is a bit cartoonish, there is a clean strong feel to it and the art conveys a lot of emotion in its simplicity and that shines here. I won’t spoil the end of the book, but here’s a quote from me while I was reading it “Shit. Oh shit! OH SHIT!” For those of you who either haven’t been picking it up or just dropped it after a few issues, there is a trade of the first 7 issues coming out that I highly recommend. It’s also going monthly now yay! Or as monthly as Kirkman can get.
3 and a half stars
Batman 678– This was a mind trip. I think it was supposed to be. I think I finally love this storyline. You get this sense of uncertainty and terror that you’re supposed to have. Morrison could have done the cliché hallucination issue, but he didn’t. He still keeps tabs on Batman’s allies. There’s still some action here and some big events. There’s also some comedy and certainly the feeling that you have no idea where this is going. All I know is Morrison has a plan. He has since the beginning. He’s also referencing concepts from old Batman stories that no one remembers. This gives you the feeling that Morrison has read every issue of Batman twice and is picking certain things from different stories to bring you the best issues possible. I can’t wait to find out what happens next and the month long wait is beginning to be cruel.
3 and a half stars
The Boys 20– This is the most important Boys arc yet. Not in the sense that the Boys world is drastically changing, but in the way that this storyline will gain and lose the most readers. In the past this book has been a brutal humorous character study with a foundation made out of a “Fuck Superheroes” theme. I know some have loved this concept and some who said “Ennis hates superheroes. I get it.” Now this book ties the world of this superhero satire to not only the superhero genre, but the history of comic book publishing and recent real world political events. I think that some will love this, and some will feel that it is a longwinded interruption of the ongoing drama. I however, feel that this book is a perfect marriage of the two concepts. I thoroughly enjoyed the Legend’s detailed and humorous tale, as well as the moment between The Homelander and Butcher. I suppose I enjoyed the latter more, but I still think this is an essential storyline that needed to be told. Hopefully, this arc will gain many more readers than it will lose. Garth, Darick, I’m enjoying the ride!
3 and a half stars
Hellboy The Crooked Man #1– You know, Hellboy is always filed under the horror genre. I love Hellboy books, but I have never found one scary, creepy maybe, but never really scary. This issue actually scared me. It’s too bad that Mike Mignola hasn’t done much art on Hellboy recently (he didn’t even do the cover of this issue), but Richard Corben is really doing a great job. This issue is set in Hellboy’s past, which is perfect because if people wander into their local comic shop on a high from the new Hellboy movie, they can pick this issue up without having to know any back story on the character. I’m not looking forward to the next issue because it will give me any new information on Hellboy, but simply because it will be a great story.