Desiato’s Top Ten Single Issues of 2008

I did this last year (obviously before the blog existed), and even though I’ve got a pretty durned big DCBS box coming next week (25 books. Yay!), I don’t necessarily expect them to crack this top ten, so I’m just going to jump the gun and publish my list now. Ha ha! It begins…

Going to skip putting the cover images on here because I am lazy and it takes up too much space.

10. Fables #75
Writer: Bill Willingham
Penciller: Mark Buckingham
DC’s Vertigo Imprint

Ah, Fables. If there’s one thing you do well (and believe me, it’s a lot more than one thing), it’s big milestone anniversary issues. You could argue that this book had a lot to live up to considering the quality of issue 50 and its positioning as the climax of the War and Pieces arc. I love the way Willingham and Buckingham depict war (the March of the Wooden Soldiers trade pretty much assured that I’d be reading this book until it ends), and this issue caps off the arc while giving us a window into what else we get to look forward to.

9. Kick-Ass #3
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Marvel’s Icon Imprint

Is it late as hell? Yup. Is Millar more interested in the movie than the comic? Probably. Doesn’t change my opinion of this issue. This book revels in being over the top, and does not pull any punches in the violence and blood department. There’s more to it than that crazy final battle sequence, but we shouldn’t exactly be looking for a lot of depth in a book like this. Review is here.

8. Thunderbolts #121
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Mike Deodato, Jr.
Marvel Comics

Ah, watching the Green Goblin go nuts. Who hasn’t seen that before? Well, me, honestly. Never really read much Spider-Man, mostly due to lack of time. This issue is the last of Ellis’ run, and it delivers on what we’ve been wanting to see since he started writing the book post Civil War. And that’s not all of course. You’ve got Bullseye with one of the best lines of the year, and the rest of the inmates attempting to run the asylum while Norman flies all over the place and just throws pumpkin bombs indiscriminately. Fantastic stuff.

7. Terry Moore’s Echo #3
Writer: Terry Moore
Artist: Terry Moore
Abstract Studio

Most of the awesome in this issue came from the last page reveal, which is that kind of true holy crap moment that gives you a little glimpse of what could be coming over the months as this series continued. We have a new character introduced out of the blue, all kinds of craziness and over the top dialogue. It forces you to pause and try to cope with what you just read, and the only words you can think of are “Damn. Didn’t see that coming.” Contrast that with a crushing interaction between the main character and her sister, and you have a wonderful issue of a wonderful book. Review is here.

6. Nova #15
Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Penciller: Wellington Alves

Yes, I love Galactus. Yes, this was one of the better Galactus stories I’ve read in recent history. Any of the three issues of the story arc could have been on this list, but I think the way that the Harrow B plot was resolved was a great moment. Wellington Alves did a great job with the big G, and the way he was used as this disinterested party hovering in the background of panels was excellent. Review is here.

5. Superman/Batman #51
Writers: Michael Green and Mike Johnson
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
DC Comics

You can only read so many depressing ass comics (and considering my top four could all easily fit in that category except Iron Fist) before you need a break. And what works better as a break than the madcap fun of the two issue “Little Leaguers” arc from Superman/Batman? Not much at all, really. Super fun silliness that just makes you feel good inside. Sure, either issue could have been put here, but I went for the first because I flipped a coin. These things need to happen sometimes. Review can be found here.

4. The Twelve #6
Writer: J Michael Straczynski
Artist: Chris Weston
Marvel Comics

This is probably the best issue of this series so far (and this is pound for pound the best mini series that has come out this year, despite delays), mostly because JMS really poured on the despair in a way we hadn’t seen yet or since. That’s really what this series is about: despair. It’s another very quiet book similar in style and scope to Thor (and really, this is where JMS seems to be most at home). This issue features the actual fate of Rockman, and dear lord is it heart-wrenching. Check out my previous review for some more insight.

3. Thor #11
Writer: J Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Olivier Coipel
Marvel Comics

More JMS love here. This is a recent one (and oddly enough, takes the same place on the list as Thor #3 last year), and I might be high on this one because it’s fresh in my mind, but the quality is there nonetheless. I LOVE what JMS is doing with this book. It is nothing like what someone would necessarily expect from a character like Thor, but it perfectly fits into his world. Gods with flaws as an interesting literary device dates back to the tragic plays of Ancient Greece to me, and that’s the same kind of feel that I get from this Thor run. It’s such a quiet, slow burn. This issue is similar to that third chapter that I loved so much, in this case we’ve got Thor getting some closure concerning the death of Steve Rogers. He wasn’t around when it happened, so in this book he manages to contact Steve’s spirit and just talk to him for a bit. Coipel’s art in these pages is gorgeous, and he really makes such a simple story device sing. You’ve also got the continuation of Loki’s manipulation of Balder, as well as a callback to the fate of Lady Sif. Fantastic storytelling in every way.

2. The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California (One-Shot)
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Guiseppe Camuncoli
Marvel Comics

This to me was just a beautiful throwback to the 1920’s noir style starring a character I’ve enjoyed quite immensely since his creation by Fraction and Brubaker. Swierczynski had written some Iron Fist work prior to this, but I think this issue is what really made me believe that he would be a worthy replacement for the original creative team. I think this ended up being better than Fraction’s Green Mist of Death one shot simply due to the layered references to Pygmalion and Metropolis, as well as the general feel of the book being more akin to what I look for in an Orson Randall tale. Here’s the review.

1. Casanova #14
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Fabio Moon
Image Comics

If anyone read my ridiculously over the top review gushing like crazy about this book back when it came out, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is my top choice of the year. I’ve gone back and read it probably 15 to 20 times, and it never ceases being absolutely and totally incredible in every possible way. It’s the perfect ending to a story arc. It’s the perfect twist that completely changes (without being cheap) everything that came before it. I think I wrote enough in my review to justify my feelings, so I’ll just point you there. This book is covered in the combined souls of Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Transcendent.

Secret Invasion Part 12A

Secret Invasion: Inhumans (****1/2)

I must say that Pokaski has a very good feel for these characters. Crystal making a gigantic stone Black Bolt golem to fight the Skrulls? Fantastic. All the Inhumans are written well in a believable fashion, and you still get the different sense of how this royal family acts in comparison to a standard superhero team. Loyalty above all else is the name of the game. So it’s not even a question that Gorgon would protect Maximus despite his hatred for the man. I should also mention that the Inhumans’ methods for torturing a captive Skrull in attempts to discern the location of Black Bolt was a perfectly ingenius way to go about their business. We’re continuing to learn of the overall plans of the Skrulls as relates to Mr. Boltagon, and it’s not going to be pretty. This is a great series so far, and Joe Pokaski eally does seem to have a future in print media.

Nova #17 (****1/2)

Nova has returned home. Most of the events of this issue take place at the home base of Project PEGASUS, wherein Richard Rider, his brother Robbie and Darkhawk try to beat back the Skrulls from intercepting some seriously dangerous tech. The three characters engage in quite a lot of wisecracking (including a nice shot at the cliche of heroes attacking each other before realizing they’re on the same side) and we’ve got the return (in a way) of the Xandarian Worldmind. But the best moment of the entire issues comes on the last page, where we have a big (from my perspective) return that makes perfect sense, considering that character originally met his end early on in the Nova book (hint, hint…It’s Quasar!). Great reveal that was truly well executed and logical, and it sets up a lot of interest for the rest of the arc and potentially beyond, provided that he’s going to stick around. I love this book. But you already knew that.

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (***1/2)

Drax gets his Wolverine in the sewers of the Hellfire Club moment here, as he skulks around eviscerating Luminals for a good portion of the book. This issue has a bit of middle chapter syndrome going on; things happen and the story continues to move, but not a lot of it grabbed me. The Drax stuff was fun, but as I mentioned, we’ve seen it before. A lot. There is a big reveal involving Cosmo that was a nice moment, and I did enjoy the way Adam Warlock discovered the traitorous dog with a nice continuation of the work being done in the Marvel Universe with the Eternals and the Celestials. I am also looking forward to the litany of “I told you sos” and overall smugness of Rocket Raccoon over the next couple issues once he finds out about Cosmo. This was a good issue, but nothing special.

Black Panther #41 (*****)

Well, there was certainly an unholy amount of badass in this three issue run. There are so many great moments in this issue, from the reveal of what was actually going on with Black Panther and Storm to the final fate of the Skrulls. But like the rest of the issues, the real star of the book is Commander K’vv, the man that is running the Wakandan portion of the invasion. There is a running theme in the book of K’vvr struggling to figure out how to write a letter to his wife, and the final portion of the book is set to the narrative of the letter itself (this is, of course, going on after his bloody and violent end at the hands of the protagonists) with these stark pages of dead Skrulls and blood alongside the cheering Wakandans. The way Aaron wrote these issues is very sympathetic to the Skrulls, despite the fact that they are the invading force and should really be the villains of the piece. It’s that little extra oomph that pushes this book over the top. The characterization of K’vvr is excellent, and the final letter is a very sobering series of panels. These are overall probably the best issues to come out of the Secret Invasion event. I probably liked the Hercules issues more, but they were not as accessible as what we have her. I recommend that everyone out there read these books. You will not be disappointed.

Thunderbolts #124 (*****)

I love what Christos Gage is doing with these characters. I should have started reading this book earlier. How long has it been this good? Every single person in this book and on this team is certifiably insane. And all of it is tempered by the strange sense of twisted honor that many of these characters feel. Many of them are legitimately trying to do good works, but have to deal with what simply boils down to mental illness, and at the same time, you’ve got characters like Bullseye and Venom right next to them that only care about killing and survival. The interactions between Norman Osborne and Moonstone are awesome. Songbird, Radioactive Man, the Swordsman duo, Penance, it’s all great. I don’t know if I have more fun reading any Marvel book other than Thunderbolts right now. Awesome stuff.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #55 – A Secret Invasion in September

The New Avengers # 45 (****): The art plus explanations (can’t really say answers as I do not believe anyone was even asking these questions) makes this a solid read. Yes, “wasting” a page on the Queen vomiting in the toilet may have turned off some people, but I loved it. Vulnerability is always cool. I mean, this panel did wonders for Tony Stark.

The Mighty Avengers #18 (***): More Secret Warriors!!! I feel like I’ve read this story already, yeah? And the whole V for Vendetta/Alias/Every spy fiction fake torture sequence EV-VAR! thing was more than a lot a bit unnecessary in my not so humble opinion. Unlike the clone Reed Richards torture scene, I don’t think the scene in this book fooled anybody. Truth.

Avengers: The Initiative #17 (**): WOO! Wait, what am I so excited about? This was awful. The Queen doing her best “twirling moustache” routine at the end had me gagging on my own tongue, and then there’s that tossed in Star Wars reference… to one of the BAD ones? BLAH.

Black Panther #41 (*****): EPIC. And final. I’m glad we ended our relationship on a high note, T’challa. I would’ve been truly sad if your last arc had been balls. Although, I do wish the payoff for this arc had been that Storm was a Skrull the whole time. That may have saved the book for me.

Deadpool #2 (****1/2): Even better than the first issue, even with the predictable ending. BOOYA! Good Deadpool writing is back, baby!

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (****1/2): GARSH! When did this comic get so good? Out of all the anti-Skrull plans, I think I like Drax’s the best: ‘Kill ‘em all.’ Perfection. OH, NOES! Cosmo… a Skrull agent? Say it ain’t so, dawg!

Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #33 (***): ‘War Machine: Weapon of S.H.I.E.L.D.’? ALL IN, DUDERS! I even like the Transformers ending. DING. This first story was mediocre, but I’m looking forward to this new direction.

Ms. Marvel #31 (****1/2): Technically no longer tying in with Secret Invasion, instead dealing with the post-SI aftermath, the “Dark Reign”, whatever that is. Man, where has Reed been hiding this story? It was so good! Character building moments! Good times! No fight scenes! So, questions: Why does Carol want to kill Norman Osborn? Could he be responsible for this “Dark Reign”? Is it related to what’s happening over in Thunderbolts right now?

Nova # 17 (*): UGH, this was the opposite of awesome. DnA are really letting me down on this title. To be frank, it sucks. It’s boring. I’m bored. Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. is boring. Quasar is boring. Dick Ryder’s family life is boring. Darkhawk is boring. BORED FOREVER!!! The most interesting stuff in this issue deals with the Super Skrull fake betrayal, but that’s over by the first couple of pages and then the book quickly reverts back to its natural state: boringtowne.

She-Hulk #33 (****): What a difference the art makes. Same writer. Same shitty story. But somehow the fabulous art makes everything more interesting.

Secret Invasion: Inhumans #2 (****1/2): finally got my hands on this and I was not disappointed. Tom Raney rules.

Secret Invasion: The Amazing Spider-Man #2 (***): Better than the first issue? I don’t know. It was still UGH-inducing.

Secret Invasion: Thor #2 (**): UGH. This book is FAIL. Why even make this a mini? There were absolutely ZERO interesting plot turns before Thor shows up at the end. Just skip the two filler issues and make this a one-shot where Thor beats the shit out of a legion of Skrulls. DING.

Skrulls vs. Power Pack #3 (-): This books makes me cry.

Thunderbolts #124 (*****): …and THIS book makes me giggle like your little sister on weed. WHEEE!!!!

Foilball’s Review Roundup #50 – My Late Secret Invasion Reviews

The New Avengers #44 (****1/2): This was the much needed issue to explain how the Skrulls did what they did. But here’s the thing, I think it makes the Skrulls look too smart. Like, these guys got cloning down to a perfected science? Shapeshifters, genetic manipulators, interstellar space travel? Dude, how the hell can Earth win? They can’t. They really can’t. So now, after reading this issue, if Secret Invasion ends in any way that isn’t total victory for the Skrulls then it’ll just ring false to me.

The Mighty Avengers #17 (***1/2): This was an okay issue, but in no way a must-read. Hank Pym is hard to mimic… who cares? Unless… unless this means that the Skrull Pym over in the main title plans to betray his people. Interesting…

Avengers: The Initiative #16 (*****): OMG! This book was sweet! The Skrull Kill Krew was never this awesome! The art! The dialogue! This book was just too much fun! Can you guys imagine an event book written by Dan Slott? Poor Robert Kirkman, now I understand his bitterness. Marvel replaced him with Slott!

Black Panther #40 (*****): You know what this arc reminds me of? It reminds me of the very first arc of the series; the arc that made me love the Black Panther. It’s as if Aaron went back and read those first six issues, and nothing else, and then sat down and wrote this wonderful tie-in. It’s sad that it’s taken 30 odd issues to get the Panther title back to this level of good.

Captain Britain and MI13 #4 (*****): Finally got a copy… wow, this was good. Should I be watching Dr. Who? Also, I’m glad I read the Wisdom trade before picking up this series. Continuity is great when it works!

Guardians of the Galaxy #4 (*****): It took four issues, but they got me. I’m hooked. Something about the character dynamics this issue makes me feel like this is a book worth reading.

The Incredible Hercules #120 (*****): Herc rises to the occasion and beats up a god. Not much more to say than that. Also, it was brilliant!

Nova #16 (****): Indeed, this was one of the better issues of Nova, and I like how it tie-ins with Secret Invasion, but what bugs me is how horribly it seems to sync up with…

She-Hulk #32 (****): … so I guess Nova gets away then? As for She-Hulk, I’m still enjoying the new artist but as for the story, I’m kind of wishing this Skrull Pope guy would just go away. He’s annoying. And unnecessary.

Secret Invasion: The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (***): Meh, why did this even need to get published? And the title is total lies. It’s a story about Jackpot (jack-who?), not a story about Spider-Man. Waste.

Thunderbolts #123 (*****): Christos Gage, you are a master.

X-Factor #34 (*): Larry Stroman, you are not.

Reviews: Secret Invasion Part 10A: The Secondary Characters

WAY too many books to review from this last shipment, so I’m going to split this up into three installments. After this one will come the Avengers books, followed by whatever’s left over.

Incredible Hercules #120 (*****)

I love the way that everything going on with the Eternals matters. The Dreaming Celestial is standing in the outskirts of San Francisco, and every book I’ve read that has involved San Francisco in some way have either explicitly mentioned his presence or at least shown him in the background of a panel (we’ve seen this in both Uncanny X-Men and this very book). Hell, the Eternals are all up in Hercules’ bidness, and I’m not just talking about Ajak being a member of the God Squad. Let’s put it this way: HE is not the Beyonder. HE is not anyone we’ve ever seen before. But the concept behind HE and who HE is caught me completely by surprise, but makes a whole lot of sense in a super awesome way. It’s not hard to make the claim that the Eternals are the true movers and shakers of the Marvel Universe right now. Not the Illuminati. Not Tony Stark. Not SHIELD or the Red Skull or any of these people. It’s groovy. And as a whole five issue arc that starts with the Eternals thinking Hercules is Gilgamesh and ends the way it does, this will stand as masterful comic work regardless of its affiliation with a major event going on at the same time.

This is a book that shows the true potential of a shared universe, because it brings in ideas completely alien to its original concept borrowed from other books that allow new avenues of storytelling to unite and divide. Stories like this are why we NEED these big earth shattering crossover events, whether we like them or not. Because it’s all about potential. And I’m not the type of person that’s just going to assume that it’s going to fail or not sync up because there’s no specific reason for it to do that. I don’t need these books to be validated by having their story threads show up in the main Secret Invasion title. Because I know there’s no room for it, and I’d rather Bendis focus on the story he wants to tell and pace it the way he wants to without having to worry about the added pressure of filling in the gaps or making sure everything gets mentioned. After reading this issue, I’m going to know exactly whom the Skrulls are referring to when they say “He loves you.” Do I care whether it’s mentioned there or not? Hell no! Because I have the information. I’ve been saying this from the beginning, but Secret Invasion as an event is too big not to have this many crossovers. Does it suck for those who don’t have the time or resources to read it all? Maybe. But I’ve read 67 Secret Invasion books (counting the Infiltration prologues), and all of them but one have been solid to great reads (sorry, X-Factor #33. Even though the rest of the arc was good, you still sucked). So what’s to complain about? Not a thing.

X-Factor #34 (***)

Does the art still suck? Pretty much. I know some people enjoy this Larry Stroman art because he’s basically the diametric opposite of the Greg Lands and Salvador Laroccas of the world, but I think there’s a breaking point when you can’t actually recognize characters easily. And when it gets in the way of actually being able to easily follow and enjoy the story, you’ve got a problem. But as for the book itself, we have the continuation of the X-Factor/She-Hulk/Secret Invasion Detroit series (which Nova actually gets sucked into a bit, but more on that later) with Jazinda and Nogor’s dealings with Darwin (the Talisman of the Skrull gods introduced in She-Hulk 31) at its center. We also get a little more of the new “Embrace Change” aspect of the series, as Nogor is convinced that Darwin is the evolutionary missing link between humans and Skrulls (the idea being that Darwin’s ability to adapt to any situation on the fly is not far removed from the Skrulls’ ability to shape shift to fit any situation), and he could be the one to unite them all. Of course, it doesn’t take, and Nogor is tied up and taken away (where is he taken? Why, She-Hulk #32, of course). I think Nogor is a wonderful premise and a fantastic character, and for that reason and that reason alone, I think these issues are well worth reading (though you can probably just skip X-Factor 33. You might be a little lost, but that issue is pretty painful).

Nova #16 (****)

Not as good as our Galactus storyline, but that’s a pretty high water mark to deal with, and a bit of a recession should be expected. Kl’rt enters the Secret Invasion scene here (took him long enough, eh?) and the results are not exactly what Nova would expect. There are some great moments afoot, however. I particularly enjoyed a little interaction where Nova is shocked and dismayed that the Skrulls disguise themselves as children in order to set a trap, and Kl’rt points out that when you’re a shapeshifter, subterfuge is really your only option. We also deal with the continuation of Nova coping without the Worldmind and how difficult it has become for him to do even the most mundane things due to his internal suit mechanics being the equivalent of a prerecorded customer service phone chain. There’s a lot of good here, and most of it comes from Kl’rt’s characterization as the grizzled veteran that’s been forgotten by the Skrull invasion forces, partly because he’s been busy with all these Annihilations that keep popping up and partly because he can’t win a fight to save his life. He’s the outmoded old tech that sits in a corner and rots. He’s the old Pentium 1 PC that’s been in your garage for fifteen years. But he still wants to be part of the action, and he needs to find his daughter. And that leads us to…

She-Hulk #32 (****)

Woo! Shared universes! Kl’rt shows up fresh from Nova to confront Jazinda in this issue, as we have more interactions with Nogor the Talisman, who is still written very well by Peter David. I just really like this character and the tension between his fate and the fate of the Skrull invaders. You threaten him and the Skrulls just might relent, thinking their plans are not ordained by the gods, but if you kill him, they’ll launch into such a religious fervor that they’d probably completely exterminate the human race. So She Hulk and Jazinda are stuck with this guy, and they can’t trust Tony Stark enough to let him deal with the problem. Kl’rt’s arrival really mucks up the works as well. These She Hulk issues have really shown the strength of a lot of these crossovers, in that we’re getting all kinds of ancillary benefits that there would never be room for in the main mini.

Desiato’s Top Ten Monthlies!

From the perspective of purely focusing on ongoing titles, this list was surprisingly more difficult than I thought it would be. I read a lot of minis. So books like Atomic Robo or Comic Book Comics or the Inhumans stuff are not going to be on this list. I’ve done my best, and here’s what I came up with.

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8

It’s enjoyable. It’s not necessarily deep in the way I think of other comics I enjoy, but a lot of that comes from it being adaptation material, and for whatever reason I have a lot of trouble thinking of these books as comics as such so much as they are simply vehicles to continue a story from a different medium. It doesn’t really affect my enjoyment of the series (to my knowledge), but it basically creates a bit of a mental block that stops it from transcending a certain sense of mediocrity of vision.

9. Captain Britain and MI:13

It’s at number nine because we’ve only got four issues and it’s been a Secret Invasion book first and foremost, so we’re going to have to see what this series is capable of when it’s put out on its own and not piggybacking off a big event. I love it so far, and I haven’t had a single complaint, and I’m hoping the quality continues when the book strikes out on its own.

8. Avengers: The Initiative

This would be The Order. Hell, this should be The Order. They should have let Fraction keep going and then he would have been forced to drop Punisher to make room for Invincible Iron Man and everything would have been groovy. Avengers: Initiative isn’t as good or interesting or risky as The Order was, but it’s still an excellent book, and it’s the only place you can really get that sense of the post Civil War status quo (and I LOVE the post Civil War status quo). It’s still good stuff and it’s still got some interesting new characters, and it’s an important piece of the Marvel Universe.

7. Terry Moore’s Echo

I’ve never read Strangers in Paradise, so I started reading Echo more off the name recognition of Terry Moore than actually knowing or liking his work. Good decision for me. It’s a very good book, and we’ve got a ton of different angles from which to approach it. It’s a government conspiracy book. It’s a science fiction book. It’s a relationship book. It’s a fugitive chase scene book. It’s all of these things rolled into one. And it’s very good.

6. Green Lantern Corps

Since I started reading the GL books, I’ve enjoyed Green Lantern Corps demonstrably more than its single minded ongoing brother. I love the Green Lantern Corps as a concept, which is part of the reason why the solo title can wear a little thin on me from time to time. I’m not really interested in the one man so much as the sea of thousands.

5. The Immortal Iron Fist

I’ve only gotten one issue of the post Brubaker Fraction run, and it’s still good, so the title is still up here on the list of things I look forward to every month. It’s got a solid cast of characters and a good foundation of the Iron Fist mythology to use, and the writers have done an excellent job of making Danny Rand someone to care about. It’s good chop socky fun, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

4. New Avengers

Marvel’s flagship. With Bendis all in the mix of the big events since Secret War, everything of importance has a tendency to be seen through the lens of the New Avengers. That’s obviously quite the case now with Secret Invasion, but this has been an excellent book for pretty much the entirety of its run.

3. Thor

Straczynski’s book is huge and sprawling and yet focused and insular at the same time. I just reviewed issue ten, and I put most of my thoughts for the series as a whole into that review, so you can just go read that to see just why I love this book as much as I do.

2. The Incredible Hercules

So this is certainly the little book that could. Remember the cynicism and incredulity that came with the announcement that Hercules was replacing Hulk in this title? The assumptions that Hercules can’t sustain an ongoing and it would be cancelled in three months or revert back to a Hulk book faster than the blink of an eye. But it persists. And the reason it persists (other than getting the sales bump from tying into Secret Invasion and launching in the aftermath of World War Hulk) is that it’s REALLY DAMNED GOOD. This is the type of book that could legitimately hold on to the readers it gains from the event bumps because it’s so charming and well written and FUNNY and light and breezy goodness. Hercules and Amadeus Cho working your standard odd couple angle may not sound like the stuff of kings, but it is.

1. Nova/Guardians of the Galaxy

Is it a cheat? Probably. Don’t care. You know the implicit trust everyone has in Geoff Johns and all of his books? That’s how I feel about Abnett and Lanning. These guys have been working with Marvel cosmic since its grand rebirth during Annihilation (they wrote the Nova lead in mini) and through the Nova ongoing, Conquest and Guardians of the Galaxy, they have steered the ship of the new look Marvel cosmic. And it’s awesome. And they’re obviously doing well enough that they’ve been rewarded with exclusive contracts and the next World War Hulk sized event with War of Kings. My favorite writers taking on Black Bolt and the Inhumans? And possibly finding a way to make Vulcan interesting? Awesome. But let’s leave that on the side for now. Since I started collecting monthlies, I have not gotten more enjoyment out of any single series than Nova. And Guardians of the Galaxy is certainly no slouch either. So I’m combining number one to basically cover the DnAverse.

Reviews: Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy and Young Avengers Presents

Only three reviews for the immediate time being (one of which is lazily short) because I’m a bit behind on my reading. I’ll be finishing the tenth Fables trade tonight or tomorrow, and I’ve read the Secret Invasion tie ins (natch), so I’ll eventually get to the rest of the books I got on Friday.

Nova #15 (*****)

What a shock. Desiato gives an issue of Nova involving Galactus five stars. I know, I know. Sometimes you just have to step out on a ledge. And by ledge I mean not a ledge. Because as I’ve been saying for the rest of this arc, this is just some solid gold damn good comics. And once again, Abnett and Lanning give Galactus the due diligence he deserves. Galactus does not speak once throughout all three issues of the arc. It was never in doubt that the planet he chose to assume would die. This is Galactus. He’s not going to be stopped by a little Green Lantern wannabe. All is as it should be. DnA also wrap up the side story of Harrow in a pretty neat way which further continues the recharacterization of Galactus as the ultimate badass. Plus, those silly Brits decided to throw in an old school Get Smart reference (“Cone of Psilence”? AWESOME!). It’s like they jacked into my brain and figured out exactly what kind of cosmic Marvel story I would want and then put pen to paper based on exactly what I need. Loved it. Loved it loved it loved it. Great little lead in for the upcoming Secret Invasion tie in(s) too. Don’t know what to make of it all yet, but it’s certainly something that could shake up Nova’s status quo if it hasn’t already.

Guardians of the Galaxy #3 (****)

Still really good. It’s a bit of a step down from the first two issues, and we’re getting even more of the original Guardians popping up in a VERY SKRULLY FASHION (cough cough), but not so much in a way that it completely takes away from the rest of the book. I do think it was a good choice to keep all the Vance Astro business back at the HEADquarters (not going to refer to Knowhere in any other fashion) and not have him go out with the rest of the team. And I definitely enjoy the continuation of the Universal Church of Truth storyline. I’m really starting to enjoy those characters as villains. So glad that they didn’t make the UCT a one off little thing in order to start off the series. They’re giving these characters some depth beyond the black hats. They have a purposes and motivations. And it’s creating a nice contrast to the silly fun that the Guardians revel in. We’ve also got an intriguing hook to segue into Secret Invasion, and it’s safe to say that a lot of havoc is about to unfurl.

Young Avengers Presents #6 (****1/2)

Yep. It’s as good as everyone said. Worth the extra three week wait to get it. Matt Fraction writing Clint Barton is SUPER FUN. Fuck, I need to buy the Young Avengers hardcover. Fuck, I can’t afford it. But you’ve already read Billy and BruceCastle talk about this bad boy. We all know it’s good. So let’s just move on.

Saturday Night’s Alright for Mini Reviews

There are few advantages to having a heavily sedated social life (which will gladly no longer be the case come September), but it does afford me the opportunity to read some books from Friday’s DCBS shipment and throw down some reviews. I’ve decided for consistency’s sake (between the work of Billy and Bruce Castle, as well as the format of the Pull List podcast that is new to Realms Radio) to switch from letter grades to a five star system. So let’s get this started.

Sky Doll #’s 1 and 2 (****1/2)

I can’t remember what exactly compelled me to order Sky Doll. It got an extra discount for the first issue, and was only a three issue mini, and despite the $6 cover price, the standard 40% off the second and third issues definitely made it seem a lot more affordable. I ordered these prior to seeing anything about them beyond the cover, and was heartened when I read the preview from the free Soleil Sampler that shipped a few months back. Well now we’re two issues in and I feel comfortable enough to take a look at what we’ve seen so far. Some background: this is the first of the books translated and reprinted by the partnership of Marvel and French comics publisher Soleil. It follows the story of Noa, one of the titular Sky Dolls (who are basically religion-based sex robots) who manages to escape her fate and go on an adventure with two emissaries of the Lodovica papal regime. Lodovica is the twin sister of Agape, who has her own set of followers and has thus let to unrest and full out religious Civil War. I am very surprised and enthused by this book. I wasn’t expecting this kind of story, rife with religious persecution and oppression framed by the desire for spiritual freedom for one that was not designed for anything of the sort. There’s a lot more going on here, but that main theme is certainly enough to keep me interested. The six dollar price tag hurts, but each book is 44 pages with no ads, so that certainly helps to cushion the financial blow. But the main reason to pick these books up is Alessandro Barbucci, the artist of the series. This is a book of ceaseless imagination, from wild cityscapes to wild characters, and Barbucci fits so much character and uniqueness to all of it that you’re seeing a world created in front of you eyes. The writing is much deeper than I was necessarily expecting, but the real draw is the art. The whole package is incredibly intriguing and imaginative, and were it not for the $6 price tag, this would be an easy five star review. Still, if you have any desire to read something entrenched far outside the box, get this. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Booster Gold #10 (**)

As this arc comes to a close, it really wasn’t handled well at all. This is not the case of Geoff Johns alienating me via esoteric characters and past DC events (there’s some of that in the reunion of the JLI, but I could work with it to the point of not being actively distracted), but rather the case of Johns and Katz just not writing very good comics. One of the big mysteries for this arc is why John Carter (Booster’s father and one of the two wearers of the Supernova outfit) is a member of the Time Stealers (alongside the Black Beetle, Per Degaton and Despero)) despite being a complete failure and inveterate gambler in Booster’s timeline. Well, we find out what’s going on. And it lands with the unmistakable thump of being both illogical and convenient without having the emotional weight that a reveal should have. I was surprised, but disappointed. And then things kept going aggressively downhill. There were hints along the way of this issue that led me down a path that would have blown my mind and redeemed this story arc. It would have been more logical and far more interesting than what they decided to go with. As such, I officially no longer care about this series. They had me for a while, but there was always a sense of apathy behind it all after those wonderful first issues. I would heartily recommend the first trade to any DC fan, but only the hardcore Booster Gold fans need stray any further beyond those first six issues.

Nova #14 (*****)

Yep. This arc still kicks ass. And Wellington Alves is a pretty big reason for that. I love the way that he frames the Nova/Surfer fight from the scale perspective of Galactus, so they look like insignificant flies buzzing around his massive head. And I love the way that Galactus doesn’t say a damned word to anyone because he’s GODDAMNED GALACTUS and an eternal and essential cosmic being that has no time or concern to listen to the pleas of a flea like Richard Rider. And the way that Surfer is still completely ambivalent about being a herald again as he tries to find ways to complete his task without too much collateral damage or loss of life. Or the way that the Harrow was not forgotten, as has put our boy Nova into quite a predicament for the final issue of this arc. Or the way that the central conceit of Nova and the Worldmind bickering back and forth like some deranged buddy cop movie still hasn’t gotten old after all this time. Abnett and Lanning are writing one of the best books on the shelves right now, and this arc has been masterfully executed. This is an epic scale, and that’s what is necessary. And I love every second of it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #15 (*****)

I haven’t really reviewed Buffy very often. Don’t really know why, but I guess it’s never really struck me as a book that requires reviewing. That’s all changed with the current arc. Drew Goddard wrote the hell out of the last fpur issues, and the climax we hit here is some whacked out crazy fun that brings me right back to the television series. This is easily the best arc of a series of good arcs from Buffy 8, and it’s amazing how much these last couple issues (more so even than the ones written by Joss) have felt like the TV show. That wonderful mix of action, ludicrous situations, drama, humor. It’s all back. And it might end up lessening my enjoyment of future issues, because I seriously doubt the quality is going to remain this high. Ah well, might as well enjoy it while I can.

More Cosmic Mini Reviews

Guardians of the Galaxy #1

Just about all of us that have been following Annihilation: Conquest have been very much looking forward to this book. This is especially true for those of us that read the Star-Lord mini that led into Annihilation, which gave us a glimpse of the way a Marvel cosmic team book could work in this day and age. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning decided to run with this, and thus we have Guardians of the Galaxy. DnA went with a framing device here that allowed for us as readers to immediately jump into the action while at the same time bridge the end of Annihilation: Conquest through the forming of the team through debriefing interviews. It’s a similar trope to Fraction’s framing device in The Order, and while I liked that quite a lot, I do think that it works better interspersed throughout the book like Guardians as opposed to clumped at the beginning and the end in The Order. We know the players, and as the book goes on we begin to know the game. There’s also a nice explanation that wraps up some of the more esoteric dialogue we got out of Adam Warlock in the last issue of Annihilation: Conquest. DnA continue their great cosmic writing streak, and Paul Pelletier is a very good choice for the art duties. We get some hints as to what’s going to happen in the future, and a hell of an interesting hook going into next issue. DnA know how to write these characters and the way they interact with each other, and they’re not afraid to use humor to lighten the mood. This is, of course, pretty much necessary when you’ve got Rocket Raccoon, Groot and Star-Lord running around with these three badasses that have a lot of history together through their travels in the Infinity Watch. It’s good stuff, and it’s a good way to jump into this crazy cosmic madness.


Nova #13

This is a great way to begin a Galactus arc. One of the things I have always loved about Galactus is the way that he creates this dichotomy between the omnipotent cosmic indifference of the Galactus character himself and the apocalyptic disaster planet side whenever he rears his necessary head. All we see is what happens when Galactus is prepping a planet meal. You’ve got crazy weather problems and people panicking in the streets, which is standard apocalypse stuff, but DnA pushes it beyond the normal. We’ve got political intrigue and class warfare. We’ve got some kind of disembodied agent of hate thingie that’s terrorizing the populous. And we’ve got Nova playing the hero card. Wellington Alves does a great job here, really putting into focus the destruction that Galactus causes, as well as the pure scale of the big man himself. And it’s only going to get better. It’s just like the end caption says: “Next Issue! Nova vs. Silver Surfer! Nuff Said!”


Green Lantern Corps #24

Why the fuck isn’t this happening in the main GL book? I refuse to stop harping on how much of a waste the Secret Origin arc is in Green Lantern (It’s going to take six issues! Six! That’s abominable!), and the work Tomasi and Gleason are doing here is putting the failings of Geoff Johns into sharp relief. This is some truly great writing. There’s an undercurrent here. You can feel the tension in all corners of the Green Lantern universe. You know shit is going to go down. And whether that’s Sinestro and the rest of his corps in the sciencells drawing the Yellow symbol in blood on their cell doors or Mongul doing something truly awful to the Black Mercy plant, you know things are coming. This is the way you build to an event. I don’t even care about the oontinued Thanosization (how’s that for turning a noun into a noun modifier noun? Ha!) of Mongul, because it’s working. It’s effective tension. Tomasi is writing a better book than Johns right now.


These are truly great times to be a fan of cosmic comics.

The Next Nova Arc

I’m a big fan of Marvel’s Nova series. The book itself has been pretty heavily tied in with the event structure of the Marvel Universe, moving from Annihilation through The Initiative and into Annihilation: Conquest. He’s covering the B story of Conquest in his own book, and the 12th issue, which will be arriving next Friday in my DCBS shipment, and it along with Annihilation Conquest #6 (due to ship next week) will be wrapping up that storyline. So what’s next for Nova? GALACTUS. The next three issues of the Nova book will be covering a run-in between Nova, Silver Surfer and Galactus. I saw the covers in Previews, and this is probably the best work Alex Maleev has ever done on a cover. Here’s a taste. Continue reading