Top 5 Best Comics of September 2010

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I read 28 comics in September, and these were the best.

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Top 5 Best Comics of January 2010

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

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Top 5 Best Comics of December 2009

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.

-Bruce Castle

Review: Irredeemable #9

Irredeemable’s focus has shifted. The Plutonian isn’t the star anymore. In fact, he spends the bulk of this issue in the fetal position. I’m not even sure he’s a threat anymore. Try telling that to Charybdis or the military. They’re still taking things seriously, summoning all their power. Speaking of power, with Plutonian out of the spotlight, Waid’s not commenting on Internet trolls anymore. No, he’s more concerned with the corruption of power. One of this issue’s patented two cliffhangers shows just how bad power can be, even in the hands of the good guys.

But, forget about the subtext, and Waid still entertains you. He finds a comfortable blend of the thought-provoking and the fun. What can be more fun than villains making cosmic deals, the military using demons, and the heroes beginning to fight amongst themselves. Oh, and Waid still manages to feed us some more backstory on the Plutonian, and all of Paradigm.

Waid’s firing on all cylinders, and Krause is rendering his writer’s madness with ease. Irredeemable continues to be one of the best superhero comics around.

Grade: A-

-Bruce Castle

Advanced Review: Irredeemable #7

Note: Irredeemable #7 will be in stores on October 7.

Writing: Mark Waid continues to produce some of his best work. I’m not sure what enlightening writer-pilgrimage he went on, but he’s returned in top-form. This issue, he resolves last issue’s two cliffhangers, which leads to another shocking dual-cliffhanger. Could this be the start of some startling trend?  Waid continues to terrorize and shock us, while throwing in a few hilarious one-liners that prove he’s a master of this spandex-clad medium. Earlier, I had trouble distinguishing the different members of Irredeemable’s superhero team, Paradigm, but this issue sees Volt and Charybdis, fully-developed and fully-badass.

Art: Apparently, a lot of readers have complained about Peter Krause’s art, even finding it repulsive. Yes, it lacks some of the picture-perfect quality of mainstream art, but Krause’s art isn’t about the grandstanding splash-page. His work is clear and detailed. Krause favors storytelling, and he captures Waid’s radical ideas better than most.

Final Word: Waid has total freedom here, but unlike many mainstream writers who venture into the Indie market (I’m looking at you, Millar), Waid manages to keep his ideas in check. This issue does juggle a lot: A confrontation between the Plutonian and Charybdis, the disturbing discoveries of the other Paradigm members, and a pretty lengthy flashback. Thankfully, Waid manages to execute these ideas fairly coherently. This series is a fantastic example of stellar superhero comics, filled with respect and love for the old, while adding and enriching the medium. This issue is no exception.

Grade: A-

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Advanced Review: Irredeemable #6

Note: Irredeemable #6 will be in stores on September 2.

Writing: Six issues in and Mark Waid is still full of ideas. He’s created an amalgam that blends Silver Age concepts with contemporary storytelling. It makes for a highly appealing product. I always enjoy comics with madly creative ideas that can’t easily be seen in film. Unfortunately, Waid spends a little too much time being clever, and the characters are thinner than I’d like. The only one that’s fully developed is the Plutonian. However, the flash more than makes up for the lack of substance.

Art: Peter Krause is right there with Waid, every inspired step of the way. Whether it’s vast, apocalyptic landscapes or horrifying, skeletal people, Krause renders everything Waid throws at him.

Final Word: Waid & Krause produce another thrilling issue. So thrilling, in fact, that it contains not one, but two cliffhangers. Now, I really want to know what happens next issue!

Grade: B+

Irredeemable #6 PREVIEW

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Advanced Review: Irredeemable #5

 

Note: Irredeemable #5 will be in stores on August 5.

Writing: Waid continues to brilliantly execute psychotic twist after psychotic twist with sinister timing. Most of those in this issue involve the way Waid juxtaposes the past and the present. It’s a brilliant technique. Also, this is a jumping-on point for new readers, more on that in a moment. So, things did slow down a bit, but that actually worked in the book’s favor. We’ve taken a minute to finally slow down, and flesh out the characters a little more.

Art: Peter Krause’s art may not be as stylistically memorable as I’d like it to be, but it certainly gets the job done. It’s consistent, and almost certain to appeal to everyone’s taste. Believe it or not, there is a wide variety of emotions in this comic, and that’s where Krause’s strength comes in. He can handle just about anything, from the quiet to the earth-shattering loud.

Final Word: As I said, this is a good place for new readers to come in. BOOM has kindly offered this fifth issue at only a buck, and the first trade, which contains the previous four, for ten dollars. This is a series worth reading. One last thing: I really loved the humor in this issue. There’s a wickedly funny line in the beginning from the Plutonian, and there’s also a moment when Waid pokes fun at himself for the similarities between these characters and some comic icons.

Grade: B+

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Advanced Review: Irredeemable #4

Note: Irredeemable #4 arrives in stores Wednesday, July 1.

Writing: Mark Waid is Evil.” That was the teaser for this series. Of course, I never actually thought of Mark Waid as evil, until now. This issue plays out like the first three have. A flashback here. Some Plutonian hints there. And then there’s the usual, mind-melting massacre! What set this issue’s WTF moment apart from the rest? Because this one is on a much more global scale, and that’s all I’ll say about it.

Art: I don’t think enough has been said about Krause’s art. The man never misses a beat. Alien worlds, people exploding, disintegrating babies, Waid has thrown a lot of crazy stuff at Krause and he’s always captured the right image. Even though Waid is still having fun being cruel, there are plenty of character-driven scenes that require the right pose, facial expression, etc. And Krause renders those well too.

Final Word: Waid, or the Plutonian, (They’re both evil) is still on a rampage. We’re getting to know the characters, but it’s hard to connect because they keep dying. Besides the superhero-caused-carnage, Irredeemable is also at its best when we catch a glimpse of the Plutonian’s motive or the reason behind his newfound evil. Thankfully, both are in this issue.

Grade: B+

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Review: Irredeemable #3

Irredeem

Mark Waid and Peter Krause return with BOOM!’s Irredeemable, a dark book that essentially asks, “What if Superman snapped?”  At least, that’s how the book is often pitched.  In reality, while the comparison to Superman snapping is fitting, the book sometimes feels more about the question “Why would Superman snap?” as it looks at the constant, thankless stresses that people who should be our heroes feel every day when we take them for granted.

#3 focuses largely on the small-time villains of the Plutonian as they gather in the abandoned hideout of a murdered superhero.  The book, fairly action-lite this time, though Waid makes up for it by having the beginning and, subsequently, the ending scenes be about as creepy as they can be, with a few nice character moments in between, all ably illustrated by Krause.

Irredeemable seems to be moving at a snails pace and confounding expectations at every turn.  Despite that, however, the book remains a consistently enjoyable read.  I still have, quite honestly, no idea where the book is going, and I mean that in a good way – despite being one continuous arc, it would be hard to call it predictable – and as we see the whys and wherefores slowly being answered along with the ‘what nexts’, the series just keeps getting better.

Grade: B+

– Cal J Cleary

Read/RANT

Advanced Review: Irredeemable #3

Note: Irredeemable #3 will be in stores on June 3, 2009.

The beginning of this issue is so unsettling. It’s a full-page splash about love and tenderness. I thought it was a flashback of the Plutonian’s Halycon days. Of course, on the next page, I get a punch in the gut and a large dose of creepiness. And that’s just one of the many examples in this book that proves: Mark Waid and Peter Krause are on the top of their game.

Irredeemable, if you don’t know, is about a Superman-esque character, the Plutonian, who’s gone bad. Well, if this was Superman, we may have a good idea why he turned bad, but Mark Waid is using completely new characters in a completely new world. So, Irredeemable has surprisingly become a mystery. Mark Waid wants us to ask: Why did the best of us go bad? And what’s his plan?

Well, like every issue, we get a few more clues. In fact, this issue gives us the deepest insight into the Plutonian. But this issue is mostly about the villains of the Irredeemable universe. On top of that, Waid gets another Superman relation out of the way. Just like last issue dealt with the Clark Kent/Lois Lane/Superman love triangle, this issue mentions the Superman/Batman dynamic. Again, Waid is wise to get these similarities out of the way quick. Oh, and can you guess what Superman would do to Batman if Superman stopped acting like a Boy Scout?

Irredeemable #3 is another solid issue from a fresh, new series that I’m already quite excited about. Actually, it’s more than solid. It’s exceptional. I’ve never considered myself a big Mark Waid fan, but honestly, his writing here is astonishing. Everything is so well-crafted. And that Peter Krause is no slouch, either.

Grade: A-

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Top 5 Best Comics of May 2009!

Continuing the feature I started last month, here’s my list! I read 17 comics in May, and these were the best.

 

5. Green Lantern #41

I’m sorry. I haven’t written a review for this comic, and two others on my list, but this was a great Green Lantern issue. This issue, like most of the Johns-penned Blackest Night preludes, is packed with interesting information. On top of that, Johns continues to make Larfleeze (Larfreeze sounds so much cooler) a really interesting villain. But the absolute awesomeness of this issue can be found on the last page. Oh, what a last page.

 

4. Irredeemable #2

Oh, I love this feeling in comics. The book is new, and it just feels like the best thing ever. Ok, so Irredeemable isn’t flawless, but it’s a damn fine book. When we reflect on the man’s career, this could be the best Mark Waid comic. He’s writing the hell out of this book.

Here’s my review.

 

3. Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk #6

It’s sad. I think a lot of people dismissed this after the delays. I can certainly understand their reason for doing so, but if you did drop this book early, you missed out on a great series. Lindelof, while being a bit too unchained, actually wrote Wolverine and Hulk as fully fleshed-out characters. You know where they stand. And it’s so refreshing that the real “Wolverine vs. Hulk” of this series was much more psychological, instead of just a flurry of punching. Yu’s art is easy on the eyes as well.

 

2. The Walking Dead #61

Often thought of as my favorite ongoing series, instead of thinking “Will this issue be good?” I wonder “Just how good will this issue be?” This is definitely in the top-tier of The Walking Dead issues. There’s some bad stuff that happens here. If you aren’t reading this series, you should be.

Here’s my review.

 

1. Wolverine #72

Wow! Two Wolverine books in one month? That never happens! That’s because, with so many damn Wolverine books, most of them are repetitive and/or mediocre at best. But that’s exactly why “Old Man Logan” is so good. Millar takes a character that has been severely overused, and breathes some new life into him. Ok, so his actual characterization of Wolverine is more like Clint Eastwood than anything else, but this is a Wolverine story that is actually innovative. This series is packed with off-beat, fresh ideas. Oh, and Steve McNiven’s art is GORGEOUS!

So there it is! Agree? Disagree? Please, let me know!

April’s list

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Review: Irredeemable #2

Irredeemable #2

(****)

Those who complained about the first issue having “too much action” and “not enough substance,” should be much happier with Irredeemable’s second issue, an issue that has almost no action and is all about substance. It’s only natural that a book supposedly all about Internet insults has already gotten quite a few. Really, why would you ever complain about lack of substance or too much action in an ongoing series’ first issue? Well, Mark Waid, determined to quickly deflect the Internet’s barrage, is already getting the Plutonian’s Superman connection out of the way. This issue pokes fun at the Clark Kent/Lois Lane/Superman love triangle. It’s very wise of Waid to get this stuff out of the way, quick.

Unfortunately, that means that Irredeemable still seems to be about “Superman Gone Bad,” but even if that’s all it is, what’s so bad about that? Waid loves Superman. He’s presenting Superman stories that only exist in the “What Should Have Been” file. I’ve wanted to see Superman tales like this. They’re about realistic consequences of fictional mistakes. Waid’s writing is flawless. He handles every character and situation with professional ease. Everything is executed perfectly.

Peter Krause continues to handle the art chores well. The bright, optimistic view of the past and the dark, apocalyptic view of the future both continue to add a nice touch to the book. Krause also renders the characters and storytelling wonderfully. Last issue was all about action and this issue was all about emotion. Krause hasn’t missed an artistic beat.

Though Waid’s still setting things up, I’m already excited about this book. The big twist at the end involves a character introduced in this very issue, and yet the impact is still powerful. Though not as heart-pounding as last issue, the second issue still manages to give you your money’s worth, and then some.

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