Top 5 Best Comics of April 2011


I read 21 comics in April, and these were the best.

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Top 5 Best Comics of February 2011


I read 20 comics in February, and these were the best.

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Top 5 Best Comics of January 2011


I read 12 comics in January, and these were the best.

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Top Ten Best Comics of 2010


I’m actually getting this thing out on time? It’s a Kwanzaa miracle! This is my list for the top ten stories of 2010! 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 2010. They could begin at any time, but as long as they concluded in 2010, 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 Ennis books, etc. So, a writer/artist will only appear once on the list. I tried to spread the love evenly. You will see Marvel, DC, and even Indies on this list.

Wow, with all those rules, how did I come up with a great top ten? Well, I hope I did. Anyway, let’s begin the fun!

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Top 5 Best Comics of October 2010


I read 26 comics in October, and these were the best.

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Top 5 Comics of August 2010


Damn it. I’m late again. I read 27 comics in August, and these were the best.
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Review: Scarlet #1

By now, a small contingent of readers have been prefacing anti-Bendis rants with “While I loved Alias” or “Besides Powers” or “Torso excluded” for so long it’s almost absurd.  Brian Michael Bendis made his name writing dark crime stories, gritty, witty books about murder and betrayal, and even Bendis’ latter-day detractors (including the fine folks here at read/RANT) were forced to admit that the man had a damnably impressive back-catalog.  Do you miss that writer?  Well, then, you owe it to yourself to pick up Scarlet.

Scarlet is a woman with a purpose, though that purpose unfolds very slowly over the course of the issue.  Broken (or at least beat up) by tragedy, Scarlet is an interestingly damaged woman, and to help introduce her to us, Bendis jumps around freely in her timeline.  We see her, in one pretty damn fantastic three page sequence, from birth through college.  We see her murder a police officer in the issue’s opening pages, and we see her get ready to kill more people as it closes.  And, perhaps most importantly, we see the tragic incident that made her the woman with whom we start and end the book.

Maleev’s art is spectacular and underwhelming in almost equal measure, though his work here is never bad.  Given how much of the book is dedicated to either Scarlet’s monologue or to conversation, I might have hoped for an artist with a stronger handle on conveying emotion through body language and facial expressions, but Maleev’s command of the atmosphere and colors often makes up for it.  Meanwhile, it’s impossible to look at those first three pages, Scarlet ensconced in shadow after an act of shocking violence, and not be impressed, or that final, haunting image of Scarlet standing above a shadowy, eerie cityscape of Portland, looking out at us.  Maleev’s art helps sell the atmosphere of the book, even when the sometimes-repetitive monologue threatens to undermine it.

Most of the tricks have been tried before, particularly the fourth-wall breaking narration, but Bendis wields them here with an unusually deft hand, giving me a great deal of hope for the future of the book.  It isn’t without flaws, of course.  The clumsiest use of the narration comes at the beginning of the issue, when Scarlet says, “I’m sorry to be right in your face like this.  I know you were looking for a little diversionary fun. I know you were subconsciously hoping you could just watching without any of it actually directly involving you,” a statement that seems faux-edgy, a betrayal of the fourth-wall breaking narration.  It is particularly out of place given the issue’s conclusion, which makes the same point, but far more subtly… and to far greater effect.  The frequency with which Scarlet reminds us that the world is broken and horrible, in case we didn’t pick up on that from the actual content of the issue, is another problem.  Both suggest a lack of trust in his audience, and one that I hope he gets over soon, because, at its core, Scarlet is the most promising project I’ve seen from Bendis in a long, long time, and one of the most promising #1’s I’ve read this year.

This is how you do a set-up issue well: keep us engaged, keep us on our feet, keep us informed, and keep us guessing.  At the end of the issue, we’ve still only met one, maybe two, major players.  That’s it.  We have no idea what the issue-to-issue reality of the book will be, not really.  But we want to know.  Divorced from the guaranteed selling power of Marvel’s biggest names, Bendis and Maleev rise to the challenge and deliver a powerful introductory issue.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary


Top 5 Best Comics of January 2010

I read 17 comics in January, and these were the best.

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Review: Criminal: The Sinners #1


After taking a number of months off to collaborate on their recent hit series Incognito, Brubaker and Phillips return to their critically acclaimed Criminal with “The Sinners”, their first arc to revisit a protagonist.  After the events of the stellar “Lawless” from a couple years back, Tracy Lawless finds himself in deep with the wrong kind of people.  Working as a hitman for a major criminal, Tracy quickly begins to outweigh his usefulness, insistent on investigating his targets to ensure that only the bad men die, so when his boss offers him an out – find out who’s been knocking off the town’s major players – he jumps at the chance.

And so begins the next chapter of the Brubaker/Phillips noir masterpiece.  Despite being a direct sequel to “Lawless”, the book stands easily on its own, what meager exposition is necessary quickly given in a few terse sentences.  Lawless remains a compelling character, and a good choice on which to hang a sequel, and it only takes a couple pages to get back into the rhythms of Brubaker’s brief, dark dialogue.

Phillips fares better here than he did on the nonetheless-excellent Incognito.  While he is talented enough to have adapted to the superheroic style there, his dark, static images function much better in the shadowy world of these particular lowlifes.

Criminal: The Sinners #1 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to.  Brubaker and Phillips made crime comics cool again, and the effortless ease with which the pair slides us into their world makes it easy to see how.  Fans of the series are sure to embrace this latest entry, while new readers don’t need to worry about alienation.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary


Catch-Up Mini-Reviews

Detective Comics #856


Greg Rucka’s story in Detective Comics isn’t particular deep.  It’s a relatively simple story, in fact: Batwoman learns that the new leader of the Religion of Crime is coming to Gotham, goes, confronts her.  It’s a pretty standard adventure comic, with Rucka’s usual capable plotting and dialogue.  In fact, the more concise, fun Question back-up in the book features slightly sharper writing thus far… but no one will confuse that for the better read.  Hamner continues to turn in clean, dynamic work on the Question back-up, while J.H. Williams III’s work on the main feature remains stellar.  The book is gorgeous and well-written, and consistently worth your time.

Grade: B+

Wonder Woman #35

Wonder Woman

Gail Simone finishes up this brief arc with a few revelations and a lot of aftermath left over from “Rise of the Olympian”, including some dark promises and new powers.  All of it sets up the next big story, but it’s done in one of the book’s most engaging, fun arcs Simone’s run has produced.  She goes a way too heavy on the fan-worship of Black Canary in a number of awkward, uncomfortable internal monologues from Wonder Woman, but the arc otherwise offers action with gorgeous, fluid art from Lopresti paired with a simple story setting up another major new chapter in Diana’s life.

Grade: A-

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #4


Ink continues to be a pleasant surprise for me.  Fiorentino’s art, while occasionally muddy, is improving, and he’s demonstrated himself to be an apt choice to illustrate just how formidable the Tattooed Man can be.  Wallace’s story, meanwhile, generally maintains its pleasant mix of urban crime drama and superheroics, though the more action-oriented approach to this issue meant that it sacrificed a little bit of the drama in favor of the superheroics.  A late game plot twist took that shift a little too far, however, and the issue ends somewhere between the ridiculous and the parodic.

Grade: B+

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #4


Dance finally pulls itself out of the slump the mini had been in and starts moving forward.  Though the last issue was of a high quality, the mini really wasn’t going much of anywhere.  With the team broken up, however, and the media blitz that had blinded them for the first few issues fading, Most Excellent Superbat finally has time to check up on his home country.  Not all is right in Japan, however, and he’s forced to get the team back together again.  Casey’s writing of these new teen heroes remains relatively sharp, while Chriscross’ cartoony art more than keeps up with the book’s humor and energy.  If only DC’s other teen heroes were even half so interesting right now…

Grade: B+

Incognito #6


Brubaker and Phillips complete the first arc with the strongest, most exciting issue yet.  We learn even more about the origins of the Overkill brothers, learn about why Yuri was created, and see a massive showdown between Zack and his old allies.  All the action is well-illustrated by Sean Phillips in some of his most exciting fights yet.  The book is undeniably over the top, but it loves living up its pulp roots.  Though it’ll be quite some time before we get the next issue, the news isn’t all bad – the reason for the long delay is because Brubaker and Phillips will be returning to do a new arc on Criminal.

Grade: A

Runaways #13


Immonen was responsible for last year’s manic, excellent Patsy Walker: Hellcat.  Unfortunately her Runaways, which finds her teamed with Sara Pichelli, lacks both the momentum and the cleverness of her debut work. Pichelli’s art is clean and cartoonish, giving the book a sense of energy, but it isn’t enough.  It isn’t enough, however.  After subpar runs from Whedon and Moore, Immonen and Pichelli needed to start their run off with a bang.  Unless the end of the arc offers up some pretty massive surprises, it’s safe to say that she’s failed to do so.

Grade: C

Doktor Sleepless #13


After a lengthy delay, the good Doktor returns.  Things are heating up in Heavenside, mostly according to the Doktor’s plans.  The issue reads like a montage of the city going to hell, and while it isn’t the most creative or compelling issue Ellis has turned in thus far, it is nonetheless immensely satisfying to see everything come to a head like this.  Rodriguez continues to improve as his design becomes more confident and his figures become less stiff.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary


Detective Comics #855

Doktor Sleepless #11

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #3

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #3

Incognito #6

Runaways #12

Wonder Woman #34

Review: Incognito #5

I want to apologize for the tardy reviews this week.  Over the past month or so, my graduate program has been winding down, culminating in today.  I finished writing a grant proposal and a few other assignments, and have now finished all my coursework for my Master’s degree.  Though it’ll be a little bit longer before I officially graduate, it’s almost assured that I will, at which point I will be unemployed and unable to afford comics.  So let’s hope the next couple weeks brings us some good stuff!


I have been lax, very lax indeed, in my reviews of the new collaboration between Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.  Though #4 made last month’s Top 5 list for me, there was no review, and hasn’t been one for a number of issues.  Now, I remedy that.

Incognito #5 picks up pretty much right where the last issue left off, with rogue supervillain Ava Destruction finding Zack Overkill, taking out his protection and joining him on the run.  The issue is fairly light on the action compared to some past installments, but it’s still one of the best to date: it gives us some much needed backstory, both on the world and on Zack Overkill’s place in it.  The book gives us a number of origin stories in broad strokes, introduces a number of new conflicts, and generally just keeps the book moving at a breakneck pace.

Phillips is as good as ever, jumping seamlessly from flying cars and mad-science labs to rustic inns and dive bars.  His shadowy, angular art, always a perfect fit for Brubaker’s noir-tinged worlds, is a surprisingly excellent feel for the sci-fi superhuman parts, too.

Incognito is a book that isn’t afraid to shake up the status quo.  It seems like almost every issue features a fairly drastic change to Zack’s life.  Somehow, though, the tone of the series has remained remarkably consistent, each issue satisfying in and of itself while still feeling as though they are all building towards something greater.  Incognito remains one of Marvel’s most satisfying reads, a great addition to their Icon imprint, and definitely worth a look for those of you not yet read.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary


SeventhSoldier’s Top Five for June

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

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

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

#5 Incognito #4


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 threeissue mini that wrapped up the middle-child of Morrison’s planned three-volume Seaguy trilogy, it was pretty nearly perfect.

– Cal Cleary



Review: Kick-Ass #6

Kick Ass #6


I like this comic. I know it’s gotten a lot of flak, most of that is probably due to Millar’s hype. Oh, and it’s already becoming a movie, which is also lame. Now, whenever Big Daddy talks, I can’t get Nicholas Cage’s voice out of my head, and that’s a bad thing. Still, I actually do care about the characters. Yes, it’s not high-brow entertainment, but it is entertainment. It brings out the fifteen-year-old in me. The part that wants to bitch about movies and comics (What adult would do that?). The part that can relate to doing anything to get a cute girl. The part that wants to go out, dressed in all black and wearing a hockey mask, and beat the shit out of some assholes.

As you can tell from the cover, this issue features the origin of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. It’s all pretty standard stuff, with Millar himself admitting as much through his character: “This guy was Frank fucking Castle.” Millar also makes this gruesome duo extreme conservatives, spouting lines like: “The dictionary definition of a Democrat? A fucked-up prick who will march for the right to murder babies, but hold candlelight vigils for serial killers.” This issue also contains a classic Millar cliffhanger. It’s a bit predictable if you’ve been paying attention to solicitations, but still appreciated. So, I’m a fan of Millar. I enjoy the fact that he points out his own unoriginality. I enjoy the pop culture references and the realistic touches. Hell, I even enjoy little things, such as Hit-Girl setting up name tags for Kick-Ass and Red Mist. And don’t forget, folks. John Romita Jr. kicks ass!

Review: Incognito #3


The team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips rarely disappoints.  Sleeper set the bar pretty high for superpowered noir, and Criminal maintained a consistently high caliber throughout its existing stories, easily becoming the best crime comic on the shelves.  Incognito is their most recent outing, and three issues in, it’s a doozy.

The story is simplicity.  A major supervillain goes into witness protection after a shocking betrayal, but finds that he just can’t quite cope with normal life.  The book maintains a darkly comedic tone throughout this issue as we meet a number of Zack’s old compatriots, criminals who now know where their snitch buddy is hiding, and see Zack’s already precarious cover story tumble into nonexistence.  It seems as though Incognito is moving far faster than it should, but that may be part of the charm – each issue, and this one more so than most, is packed with action, fresh faces, and new problems for out… hero?… and enough genuine emotion to keep us invested in Zack Overkill.

The art, by Phillips, is largely phenomenal, though it functions much better when he’s working in in a slightly dimmer, dirtier setting.  Compare the semi-cartoonish feel of the introduction of renegade criminal Ava Destruction at the book’s beginning as she stands in full daylight in the great outdoors, holding a futuristic laser pistol to the head of a former fed, to the book’s closing scene, featuring another new character met in a darkened apartment.  Nonetheless, it’s been quite a while since I last saw Phillips cut loose with some superpowered action scenes, and his work on this issue was top-notch.

Ultimately, despite the horrible things happening regularly in Incognito, the easy confidence of Phillips and Brubaker make it a pleasure to read, easy to enjoy and strangely easy to become invested in a man with very few redeeming qualities.

Grade: B+

Top Ten Best Comics Of 2008

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!

The Crooked Man #1

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.

Joker HC

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.

Made To Suffer

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.

Northlanders #5

7. Northlanders: Sven the Returned (Northlanders One through Eight)

Written by Brian Wood

Illustrated by Davide Gianfelice

Publisher: Vertigo

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.

Scalped #17

6. Scalped: Dead Mothers (Scalped #13-17)

Written by Jason Aaron

Illustrated by R.M. Guera

Publisher: Vertigo

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.

Black Summer Litho Juan Jose Ryp San Diego Ed #1

5. Black Summer (Black Summer #0-7)

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.

Criminal TPB Vol. 04 Bad Night

4. Criminal: Bad Night (Criminal Vol 2 #4-7)

Written by Ed Brubaker

Illustrated by Sean Phillips

Publisher: Icon

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.

Punisher #54

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. 

All Star Superman TPB Vol. 01

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?

Casanova #14

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.

Legacy of Vengeance (Marvel Must-Have)

Honorable Mentions

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.

Spoiler Review: Kick-Ass #3

Wait, doesn’t this come out tomorrow? Well, Mark Millar and Michael Horwitz, over at Marvel, were kind enough to provide PDF previews of Kick-Ass #3 to any review blogs that asked. Obviously, your man Billy Z. was all over that shit. Also, this book is apparently two months late? I don’t normally pay attention to releases schedules, since I pre-order from DCBS everything is late to me. Late or no, I’ll let the book stand on its own merits and judge it in that loose way you’ve come to expect.

This review is going to be filled with spoilers, so… click the links at your own risk!

10,000-ish views is a bit low, yeah?

Bad-ass version of the Star Wars kid? That pretty much describes anyone who isn’t the Star Wars kid. Poor bastard.

YES! Where are they?!?

Honestly, I did not see this coming. The bit right before this, where the girl of his dreams is nice to him all of a sudden was ten tons of conventional dreck. I’m glad Millar did something interesting with it.

A little peek into Millar’s early life?

This seems a little too “real”, but I’m willing to let it slide. I’m sure this is all part of the set-up for when, you know, Kick-Ass gets arrested and sent to County where some big bruiser of a man-queen pops his cherry.

See, I keep asking myself this same question. The answer is: “Get my ass kicked times infinity, unless…”

Kick-Ass gets his ass-kicked… times infinity.

WAS NOT EXPECTING THIS! Well, I was expecting that level of violence, the permanent kind, but not in that way! This is the only answer to the question that was raised earlier. This is the only way the plot will escalate.



Well, that was definitely worth the wait. This series continues to impress and surprise me. The specter of cliché looms large, but every time it appears as though Millar is about to lose that battle, he zigs instead of zagging and all is saved. If you can’t tell, yes, I love this book!

Thanks again to Millar and Horwitz for making this possible.