Top 5 Best Comics of November 2009

I read 19 comics in November, and these were the best.

5. Astonishing X-Men #32

Yeah, that’s a badass sentinel, a badass, brood-shooting-from-fingertips sentinel, the bastardization of Beast’s theoretical research. It’s Ellis being Ellis, writing pitch-perfect X-Men. Each issue is episodic, building a plot as it goes. This chapter involves the aforementioned sentinel, with lines like, “We don’t need weapons. We have science!” It’s glorious fun.

4. Fantastic Four #573

Hickman’s Fantastic Four is even better than his Secret Warriors? How’d that happen? But it’s true, even when Dale Eaglesham takes a break, and we’re left with a “filler” issue. Neil Edwards fills Dale’s shoes, and it’s a fine fit, with Edwards’ post-Bryan Hitch style and Paul Mounts’ colors, you’ll hardly notice the difference. But Hickman’s distinguished voice is the star here, penning a done-in-one adventure that could’ve easily sustained a four-issue arc. Hickman plays with, and adds to, Millar’s toys, exploring a black hole-ravaged Nu-World. This is a dense, grand adventure, and the new letters page, hosted by Franklin and Val? Absolutely adorable.

3. Invincible #68

The regular art team is back with a vengeance, allowed the opportunity to create Kirkman’s zany, new Dinosaur villain. This is about as playful and unique as villain dialogue gets. Kirkman then continues to show off his dialogue skills when he gives Atom Eve’s father the scariest monologue Mark could ever imagine, concluding with one hell of a funny sight gag. The issue concludes with a few classic Kirkman twists. All in all, this is one hell of an Invincible issue.

2. Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #8

Another Hellboy chapter concludes, and Alice sums it up best, “Well, I didn’t see that coming.” Mignola embraces Hellboy’s entire mythology here, Alice herself being the baby from the beloved “Hellboy: The Corpse.” What occurs within these pages has been a long time coming, and it unfolds unpredictably, yet resolves with the doomed conclusion we all knew was coming. Every major Hellboy player progresses, even poor Gruagach, who’s almost as tragic a character as “Big Red” himself. A stunning effort from Mignola and Fegredo.

1. Detective Comics #859

Since Rucka & Williams’ run began, almost every issue of Detective Comics has made my “Best of the Month” list. This issue is the best of the run, so it’s only natural that Detective finally tops my list. We’re still taking a trip down Kate’s memory lane, this issue containing another episode of her life. We learn of Kate’s rise and fall at West Point, her utter loss of purpose, how that leads to trouble with the love of her life, and what finally makes Kate’s life whole again. And there, making it all epic poetry, is Williams and Stewart. And as you can see in the above scan, when Kate’s Mazzucchelli-styled life clashes with Batman’s rich, painted aura, it’s beautiful and profound.

-Bruce Castle

Review: Invincible #65

Writing: The Conquest commotion has calmed down. This is, as it says on the cover, an aftermath issue. There is absolutely no action to be found here, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. Kirkman takes a minute to check in on the building threats, and remind us that Cecil is still a bit of a bastard. At its core, this issue is about Mark and Eve’s relationship. What are the ramifications of the event taking place on the cover? And what effect does the Conquest-inflicted trauma have?

Art: Ottley has been bringing us the gore and partial nudity in the last few issues. The former is absent, but there’s still a bit of the latter here. Ottley also gets to render some welcomed comedic moments. Just check out the preview. That bit of saliva flying from Mark and Eve’s mouths is classic.

Final Word: This is a transitional issue, for sure. It lays the groundwork for future events, and leaves us wanting more. It’ll be very interesting to see Mark’s actions after his epiphany on the last page.

Grade: B+

For more comic goodness, go here.

Everyone Likes Sketches

You may have liked my recent Comic Con 2009 post. Well, I recently had to upload some more sketches for reasons that may or may not involve money. So, I thought, since I went through the trouble of uploading them, I may as well post them here. So, enjoy!

Charlie Adlard’s Rick Grimes!

Darick Robertson’s Annie! NSFW

David Mack’s Echo!

Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon!

Ethan Van Sciver’s Barry Allen!

Ethan Van Sciver’s Hal Jordan! Word balloon provided by Geoff Johns!

Joe Linsner’s Dark Ivory!

Philip Tan’s Dr. Light!

Ryan Ottley’s Atom Eve!

Todd Nauck’s Emma Frost!

Top 5 Best Comics of July 2009!

June was a quick month, but July? July took forever, in a good way. Extremely eventful month for me. Hope you all had fun. Anyway, I read 22 comics in July, and these were the best. Oh, and, sorry, I haven’t written proper reviews for some of these because I was at Comic Con.

 

5. Secret Warriors #6

This ended a little more conventionally than I would’ve hoped, but it’s still a fitting conclusion to Hickman’s first arc. The characters are clearly defined, and, so, we actually care how this big battle plays out. Throughout this arc, this issue included, we’ve been treated to several twists & turns that really elevates this material. This is Hickman’s first foray into the world of super-heroics and he’s already delivered the Nick Fury series we’ve all been waiting for.

4. Detective Comics #855

Only two issues in and Rucka & Williams are collaborating brilliantly. The art services the story and vice versa. What we’re left with is one gorgeous, kick-ass comic! The only problem is that we still don’t have much connection with Kate, but, with this issue and the last, we’re getting glimpses of Kate’s origins. So, until that story is eventually told, we might as well enjoy the beautiful ride.

Seventh Soldier’s Review

3. Invincible #64

Well, essentially, this was just a gory, knock-down-drag-out fight to the death. However, since we’ve had over sixty issues with Mark & friends, there was a large amount of emotion in this fight, both for the characters and the reader. And, credit to Kirkman, this was a pretty fun fight.

2. Ultimatum #5

I probably have a “Why Ultimatum Works” article in me somewhere, but I won’t write it. There’s no point. People are extremely prejudiced when it comes to Loeb’s recent work, and if I were to write such an article, it would be met with outcries about how stupid I am. Ultimatum was a necessary evil. The Ultimate Universe had grown too dull, too watered down, too similar to 616. If you aren’t going to give the Universe a proper reboot, presenting an Ultimate Universe in the style of Morrison’s Marvel Boy, isn’t this the next best thing? Oh, sure, it reminds us of the issue of Radioactive Man when he and Fallout Boy get killed on every page, but have we ever seen anything like this before? The tragedy is quick and brutal. The genuine shocks are plentiful. And, really, this comic is packed with the imaginative stunts that couldn’t be seen in a movie. Whether you love it or hate it, Ultimatum #5 one of the most memorable comics in years.

1. Batman and Robin #2

In two issues, Morrison has established a new Batman, a new Robin, new villains, even a new, more colorful Gotham, and he’s done so with professional ease. You’ll find no lengthy exposition here, just fresh and exciting adventure. And, of course, Morrison’s longtime collaborator, Frank Quitely, has helped tremendously in breathing new life into this franchise. His style is already radically different from what you saw in All Star Superman. It’s looser and more energetic, which has helped in rendering some incredible fight scenes in this second issue. This is one of the most likable comics on the stands, and the best comic in July.

My Review

That’s my list. What’s yours? Oh, and let’s keep that Ultimatum feedback to a minimum, shall we?

For more comic goodness, go here.

Top 5 Best Comics of June 2009!

It’s that time again! Boy, June went quick. We’re halfway through 2009? Wow. Anyway, I read 19 comics in June, and these were the best.

5. Invincible #63

I hate putting this at number five, but this comic is hindered in a monthly format. There is no good jumping-on point. You have to read the whole thing, and rating one issue is like judging twenty minutes of a movie. That said, this is an emotional issue. I’m sure it’s no secret by now that a major character dies. Hell, it was already pretty obvious if you looked at the cover of Invincible #64, but even so, this is one of the best Invincible issues. And that’s saying something.

My Review

 

4. Detective Comics #854

Even if this issue would’ve been terrible, I would’ve forced my brain to like it. Thankfully, to preserve what little respect I have as a comic critic, this actually is a great issue. Greg Rucka finally gets a chance to define his Batwoman, and he doesn’t waste a panel. We’re not going to get the official origin until the next arc, but even after one issue, I know a good deal about what makes Kate tic. But what really makes this comic special is the pure brilliance of Williams’ art. The co-feature is the icing on the cake.

Seventh Soldier’s Review

 

 

3. Batman and Robin #1

June was a great month for comics. Want proof? The new Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely comic wasn’t the best of the month. How the hell did that happen? Ok, I do wish this comic had more depth and weight, like Morrison’s earlier Batman work, but other than that, this issue is near-flawless.

Group Review

 

2. Astonishing X-Men #30

Ellis’ first Astonishing X-Men arc finally concludes. Was it good? You bet your ass it was. I can almost guarantee you I’ll think of it in January, when I post the best stories of the year list. Ellis, in just one arc, has already done a few things. First and foremost, he’s provided possibly the greatest characterization of the X-Men ever. They’re all real characters. They all have their own unique voice. Second, Ellis has taken the X-Men to the perfect genre, sci-fi. I want my X-Men to occupy the realm of science, instead of the done-to-death, political commentary genre. And this first arc was not only sci-fi, it was a mystery too!

DC Lebeau’s Review

 

1. Uncanny X-Men #512

This issue is a done-in-one. So, yes, it does have an advantage in this format, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t deserve this spot.  This issue is a done-in-one, time-travel adventure, filled with science, mutant history, originality, and humor. It’s also wonderfully rendered by the great Yanick Paquette. Is that not enough? Well, then I’ll also mention that this is one of the few comics that nearly brought me to tears. It’s good readin’.

My Review

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

May’s List

April’s List

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Invincible #63

This is a huge week for comics, but forget about that Captain America hype, this comic contains the real, mind-blowing event. Robert Kirkman even said so. You trust him, right?

This issue was brutal. Yes, I knew what was coming. For some reason, the covers already spoiled things, but that didn’t make the event any less harrowing. This issue, like the last, went by very quickly. However, it wasn’t due to lack of dialogue; it was because I’m so deeply invested in these characters. I was completely sucked in, right there with Mark as he watched the unthinkable happen.

The entire art crew, Ryan Ottely, Cliff Rathburn, and FCO Plascencia, produce a beautiful book. Every bit of blood, bone, and terror is captured wonderfully. My one minor complaint is that I wish I knew more about Conquest. It’s one thing when a hero’s nemesis does something terrible, like the Red Skull killing Captain America, and quite another when some powerful jerk falls out of the sky, like Doomsday. Conquest falls into the latter category, which disappoints me. Although, I know a lot of people like Doomsday, so perhaps I’m in the minority. Either way, Invincible #63 is as good as this series gets. I’m utterly heartbroken, and I can’t wait to see Conquest get his face smashed in.

Grade: A

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Invincible #59

Invincible #59

(****)

Now that Invincible’s 50’s have concluded, it’s time to evaluate. This was perhaps the best “decade” in the series. I’ve already mentioned several times how much I adore Plascencia’s coloring. The book looks sharper. As a friend put it, “Whoa! It looks like it’s in high-def.” Kirkman has further developed his writing. There was a time when he would’ve been incapable of producing an issue like #59. Kirkman has finally embraced compressed storytelling and I couldn’t be happier.

As I reflect on the 50’s, I realize just how much has been accomplished. The status quo was changed, Mark and Eve’s relationship has flourished (Rock the Casbah!), Kid Omni-Man may be evil, the Mauler Twins are dead, Nolan and Allen are free, and Angstrom Levy is about to return in a big way. All that and more, way to go Kirkman!

This issue is a done-in-one from a villain’s perspective. We’ve seen this story before, but that doesn’t soften the emotional gut-punch. The aforementioned stupendous coloring increases the tear-inducing finale. With the upcoming Image crossover next issue and the Conquest storyline, this is the best time to be an Invincible fan.

Bruce Castle Presents: The Invincible Detective

Invincible #56

Invincible #56 (***1/2)

The…art…is…so…pretty. Sorry I had to wipe the drool from my mouth. We get to see Eve naked in this issue. Well, comic book naked, which of course means all the good parts are conveniently covered. This is probably the worst issue since the revamp, but the new colors are so beautiful I hardly cared. Simply put, Mark finds Amber with a messed up face and he gets mad. That’s pretty much all the new info we get in this issue. Besides the art, I’m also not too bumbed because I just heard that Kirkman is going to cram an entire crossover into Invincible #60. Cool, right

 Detective Comics #851 (Variant Cover Edition)

Detective Comics #851 (***)

Dennis O’Neil on Batman? Check. Last Rites tag? Check. The story is called “Last Days of Gotham”? Check. This has to be awesome, right? Wrong, it’s just mediocre. That’s sad, isn’t it? Do we need another Nightwing and Two-Face story? A new character is introduced, that’s cool. But it’s some lame female Two-Face character. She is pretty though, which leads me to the art. Guillem March is a newcomer who I guess drew some Poison Ivy thing. That makes perfect sense because he draws the female form the best. Sure this new character looks like Charlize Theron at times, but she is pretty. March’s style looks very cartoony, kind of like Anime. I liked it well enough. But the main problem here is still the story. Did anyone think this would just be usual filler? Gaiman’s issues can’t be like this too, can they? Nah.

Bruce Castle Presents: Kingdom Come Magog vs. Invincible Conan

JSA Kingdom Come Special Magog #1 (Variant Cover Edition)

JSA Kingdom Come Special: Magog (****1/2)

Ah villain comics, how I love you. This is the cool part too, before they become a villain. In fact, I’m pretty sure we witness Magog’s transformation here. “Once the course of a river’s changed, it’ll never be the same”, sounds like it, right? I think Tomasi is a pretty good writer. His heroes are mediocre but his villains are fantastic. He’s in his element here and he really delivers. Both of these Kingdom Come specials have punched me in the gut and I hope Johns can continue that next week.

Invincible #55

Invincible #55 (*****)

This issue opens with Mark and Eve having sex and so of course that means we check up on Allen the Alien. Am I the only one who wants Invincible to get laid more? First off, that expression on the bottom of the first page was hilarious when Eve warped off their clothes. Second, Allen the Alien is awesome! This issue’s events have been in the motion for a looong time, but I couldn’t be happier with the turnout. Actually, I’m glad that this took so long because now we have FCO (Yes I’m bringing it up again!) on board to really make things pretty. This is a prison breakout baby! A lot of fighting and awesomeness hooray! Oh and Battle Beast returned! Do people still remember him?

Conan the Cimmerian #5

Conan the Cimmerian #5 (****)

The enjoyment continues! “The Wolf’s Promise” is an apt title. This issue is all about promises. Truman not only provides entertainment, he also has me intrigued. Will Caollan join Conan’s adventures? That’d be awesome. I do love a badass chick, but what about the baby? Will Conan meet up with Connacht soon? See, it’s interesting. Oh and of course the art has to be good with all that action right? Well, Giorello and Corben definitely deliver. Man, this has been a great year for Corben. He did a fantastic Hellboy mini and some Conan interiors, how cool? Oh and I usually forget to mention it but these Frank Cho covers rock. How can you not read this book?

Bruce Castle Presents: Smells Like Teen Hero

 

Invincible #53 (*****)
Man, this stuff is still so good. Again, major props to the art crew. Ryan Ottley rocking the pencils, Cliff Rathburn tracing like there’s no tomorrow, and FCO Plascencia is owning the colors. This book looks gorgeous! Kirkman brings the goods too. After last issue’s shocking violence and ominous finale, we get some realistic teenage angst. Mark has to juggle with his brother being possibly evil, his mother spilling the beans about his identity to her new boyfriend and of course, keeping his new superhero girlfriend happy. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of action to accompany your soap opera. Some plot threads that were established several issues ago are dealt with, a new Fin Fang Foom-esque, sans purple pants, character is introduced, and Invincible pimp slaps a guy. I also have to commend Kirkman for providing endings different from his usual “OMG!!!” stuff. There’s still a little bit of that, but it’s much more subtle. If you’ve been thinking about picking this book up, read issues #51-53. Hopefully you’ll read the previous issues later, but this stuff really is a great “jumping on point”.

Supergirl #34 (****)

There’s about to be a Superman crossover story and this is the team that’s going to handle Supergirl. I have always liked Supergirl, but it’s hard to explain why. She is consistently written poorly. I was pleased to see she got some cool moments in Johns’ current Brainiac storyline and I’m happy to report she’s written well here too. This is more of the human angle for Supergirl. She asks questions that we all ask. Why am I here? Am I doing the right thing? There are plenty of strong character moments. Plus, we get some nice Silver Banshee action and how often do we see that? Also, the book looks pretty. It fits the tone extremely well and it manages to solve an important artistic problem, how do you make a girl with bare midriff and the world’s shortiest skirt not look trashy? My one complaint is why does Supergirl have to cry twice in one issue? It works fine the first time but it is completely pointless the second. Anyway, I’m glad Supergirl is finally getting the treatment she deserves.