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.

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Desiato Returns for the End of Secret Invasion

Currently writing this from back home in Pennsylvania. I finally acquired myself a job, and even though I don’t start until January 5th, things have been quite hectic. Even still, I’ve got some free time right now so I wanted to throw out some reviews before I return to Boston.

Mighty Avengers #20 (****)


This is Bendis’ last issue of Mighty Avengers, and is really the true “requiem” issue for the Wasp (as opposed to Secret Invasion: Requiem, which will primarily be reprints of important Wasp issues). This issue features the Wasp’s funeral, and primarily deals with Hank Pym’s attempts to reintegrate into society after escaping from the Skrulls and discovering the death of the love of his life. We’ve got three artists on this book, with Lee Weeks covering the opening couple of flashback pages, and Jim Cheung and Carlo Pagulayan drawing the rest of the issue. It’s a funny thing, because one of the annoying things about this issue was the device that Bendis used to catch Hank Pym up on the goings on of the world using five silent full page splash collages of House of M, Civil War, Cap’s death, World War Hulk, and Secret Invasion. It’s a waste of pages, but the work Jim Cheung did on these was fantastic. It reminded me a lot of the Young Avengers Presents covers, as well as that double page spread from the first Secret Invasion New Avengers book featuring Spider-Woman’s history. So I didn’t like the pages being there, but they were beautiful to look at. Ambivalence. I loved the funeral scene, and while it’s another example of everyone piling on Tony Stark post Secret Invasion, I think it fits here because of the emotionally charged nature of the scene, and the way Hank didn’t necessarily get the full story of the events he missed when Carol Danvers caught him up. This book did give us a much more appropriate send-off to the Wasp that we didn’t see in SI 8. It’s a strong way to leave the book for Bendis, and I’m looking forward to what Dan Slott plans to do with the book from this point on, because this team seems to be the odd one out.

Secret Invasion: Front Line #5 (****)


Front Line #5 is structured in a very similar way to issue eight of the main series. The title of this issue is “Dark Reign,” and it basically follows the end of the Central Park fight (starting with the Wasp’s doomsday device whatever thingie being activated), quickly finishes that plot thread and moves on to confronting the idea of a world led by Norman Osborne. You can definitely understand why Ben Urich being the main character of the book was done, because it pays off in spades due to Urich’s long personal history as a man from the Spider-Man family with a long history with Norman. The scene where Ben confronts him and both he and the crowd completely blow him off is great. It also does a nice (if perfunctory) job of wrapping up the other characters we saw throughout the five issues. I still like the premise and import of the Front Line idea, and this was a worthy companion to the Secret Invasion event.

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign (***1/2)


Okay, so we all know that Maleev messed up Namor something fierce. Crazy homeless Bendis isn’t exactly what you would expect from the long faced, regal king of the seas. However, I do think Maleev did an excellent job with the rest of the characters in the book (Norman’s hair notwithstanding), and the art in a book like this isn’t as important as the writing. It’s a bit easier to ignore the art in a board room book compared to something that’s heavier on action. And I think that the board room scene itself was well done. The goals for this book are simple. You’ve got six people in a room with explosive personalities and different agendas. You have to find out why they’re all agreeing to work together and how Norman Osborne could keep these people in line. So obviously this is designed from the perspective as a callback to the original New Avengers: Illuminati and Road to Civil War books, and I think Bendis pulls this off creating a twisted mirror of craziness where the trust is completely nonexistent, and no one is looking out for anyone other than themselves. Really, Emma is the only one here who’s acting from the angle of potential altruism, as she seems to be willing to partially compromise her beliefs in order to make absolutely sure that the mutants will be kept safe. I’m not exactly sure what made Bendis decide to bring in the two vingettes about Kitty Pryde and Swordsman, as they could probably be better served in the X-Men and Thunderbolts books, but at the same time, I do also see them as quick little hooks that might make you want to pick up some X-Men or Thunderbolts issues, so maybe that’s why we saw those framing scenes. I think the characters were written well, and I’m looking forward to the other shoe dropping for Doom and Namor, as well as where we’re going to see the continuing story of The Hood. I liked the book for the most part, but it was generally inconsistent in both the writing and art categories.

Bruce Castle Presents: Secret Dark Reign – Spoilers!

Secret Six #4

Secret Six #4 (****1/2)

You know I love this book right? Well, I do. Please buy this book! Isn’t that cover awesome? I’ve said this before too, but Nicola Scott kicks ass! Our awesome villains start going crazy about this “Get out of Hell free” card. And why wouldn’t they? They’re dysfunctional enough without this. We still don’t know what terrible thing happened to Catman do we? Something about the cats, but this really screwed him up! Well, I guess he was already screwed up but you know. Junior rides around in a potato sack? What the hell is this thing?  Oh and he’s Catholic too, great. My father is Catholic so I’m well aware of all the Catholic bashing in entertainment. Ow dude! Junior beats the hell out of Bane! Will he die? Probably not. Remember in the first issue when that guy answered “They die” and then got killed? Well this new reformed Bane will probably answer “I die” so he might live? A lot of crazy fighting and arms getting ripped off at the end. Oh and Cheshire makes her poisonous return! This book is so fun!

Secret Invasion Dark Reign

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1 (*1/2)

Look at that cover. Loki’s boobs are as big as or bigger than Emma Frost’s now? Fucking Straczynski! Well, I guess that’s Maleev, but I stand by my Straczynski hate. Ok, since I’m on the subject of the art, let’s talk about it. I think Alex Maleev is a lot like Steve Dillon. I consider myself a fan of Dillon as I do of Maleev, but sometimes their art just does not work. Dillon should stay away from superhero books and so should and Maleev. Ok, Daredevil and Punisher could be called superheroes, but you know what I mean. Maleev’s art is borderline ugly here. Osborn’s hair is screwed up and Emma just looks like some blonde. She doesn’t even look that pretty. These are defining characteristics of these characters. Oh and Namor looks like Bendis. Sorry Maleev, but you should probably stick to noir. Ok, art is out of the way. What about the story? Well, this is Bendis’ classic “Talky Room”. A bunch of costumed characters get together and talk. So is this supervillains ruling the world? Not really, which is probably a good thing. It’s basically a crazy man trying to keep a leash on some villains and that man will most likely implode because of it. But as the comic itself asks, “but if he doesn’t?” And Doom answers, “Then we’ll have a battle on our hands the likes of which this dimension has never seen.” So will this be Marvel’s big new summer event of 2009? I don’t know, but if it is, can someone other than Bendis write it? Please? But that’s not the only thing in this issue. One of the framing stories involves Emma crying for Kitty. Ok, Emma is wracked with grief. That makes sense, but shouldn’t this be in an X-book? The other story involves Norman killing Swordsman. This DEFINITELY should have been in the Thunderbolts book. I get that Bendis wanted to show Norman’s madness, but that could have easily been solved by a Goblin freakout. This is just Bendis stealing all the Marvel thunder. “No we have to have a death in this book to make it important”, fuck you Bendis! Wow, I started this review at three stars but I got increasingly more upset. I really didn’t like this issue.

Review: Secret Invasion #8 – Spoilers!

It’s finally over. Ok, so I could just bash the hell out of this, but I don’t want to. I’ve been doing that since about issue two when everyone loved this book. Now it seems most people are on the same page as I am. Dclebeau just wrote a pretty good lengthy review that points out a lot of the faults that I would have. So if you want his negativity, go here. If you want my negativity on previous issues, go here, here, or here. But as for this issue, I’m going to keep it positive.

I know what you’re thinking. What nice thing can I say other than I like the art? Well, I do like the art, but everyone has said that already, including me. Um, Tony went old school. That was cool. That can’t be all I liked, right? Let me flip through my book here. Wasp dies? Don’t care. Norman kills the Skrull Queen? Um, yeah that’s kind of…uh, I liked Ellis’ Thunderbolts? Iron Man finds all the people who were captured (And doesn’t get credit for it). Well, I guess I’m glad they’re alive. So, yay? Luke Cage’s baby is missing and that isn’t resolved? That’s kind of…lame? Don’t care. Don’t care. Thor gives Tony more shit and Bucky gives him the dreaded silent treatment. Why Marvel why? Can’t they all just get along? I have to live with their ten panel team-up in a book I didn’t like? Damn you! Shit this is getting negative, isn’t it? Ok here we go. They kick Tony, a hero, out and bring Osborn, a pumpkin bomb throwing monster, in? You suck, faceless Marvel president! I like that though. It shows the crazy things people do when they’re scared. Well, I already knew that, I’ve lived in America for the last eight years, but kids may not know that. But I do like the idea of villains in control. So maybe Marvel comics will be cool if you can get past their new 3.99 price tag? Maybe, I guess I’m done talking about this issue, but while you’re here, I’ll talk about those new Dark Reign books I’m interested in.

Dark Reign

How can I not buy this? So what do you guys think of this Evil Illuminati or Evilnati as I’m sure it will soon be called? Or if you take the Illumin as illuminate, would you then use the antonym? Would that be darken? Darkenati? Whatever floats your boat I guess. So what do you think of the members? Loki? I liked him before Stracynski gave him an operation. The Hood? Yeah, I do like him and hey I like Dormammu as well. Emma Frost? Love her, but I guess I am one of the many who hopes she isn’t evil. She’s had to fight that lack of trust for eight years! Give the lady a break Bendis! Namor? So he continues to go both ways? Way to be a turncoat fish boy. And what evil alliance would be complete without Doom and Stormin’ Norman? I approve of these baddies.

Large Cover of New Avengers #48

I wish I could quit this book, but I’m too far down the rabbit hole. So Spider-Man is back in the old blue and red. That’s fine. Wolverine is back. I see they still have to make this team as popular as possible. Captain America? More popularity? That’s ok. Bucky on a team will be interesting. Will he have to lead? Luke Cage? Cage on a Bendis team? No way! And Ronin? Will this still be Clint or will he be too busy lovin’ his girl now that she’s back? I still think Daredevil will be on a Bendis team at some point. So what do you think of this new team? It’s even more street than before! At least the last team had magic. Can these guys handle a cosmic baddie? Or even a flying one?

I heard Fraction talk about this a long time ago. Iron Man’s “Born Again” arc. It’s eight issues I believe. The first seven issues of this series have been pretty fantastic. I hope that will continue. Maybe after this, Tony will at long last cease to be Marvel’s whipping boy. It could happen. Please?

Large Cover of Punisher #1 (50/50 Variant)

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull be back in”. I love Frank, but I was just about to break up with him. Ennis and Fraction left the building. Punisher MAX not only decreased in quality but will also cost 3.99 soon. So I was just about to leave until I saw this cover. The villains control everything? Bring in the Punisher! And hey, this book isn’t 3.99! Yet.

Large Cover of Dark Avengers #2

Damn it! I can’t find a good picture of New Avengers #50, but you all saw it, right? Plus it would be weird to put a New Avengers cover for Dark Avengers. I only bring it up because you can really get a good idea of what the line-ups will be. Oh, first I should add that it looks like Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman will be on the New Avengers. So they do have some women and one member that can deal with flying or cosmic threats. That’s a little better. For the Dark Avengers you have Iron Patriot (Osborn?), Marvel Boy (Yay!), Ares (Yay!), Sentry (So once again, the New Avengers should totally get their asses kicked when they face this team), Black Suit (Venom, but no teeth and less bulky. New host?), Hawkeye (Should be Bullseye which would be cool), Daken (If you’ve seen the cover of NA #50 and you know what Daken’s claws look like, you could confirm this too. That middle claw is clearly below his knuckles), Ms. Marvel classic suit (Moonstone probably). So what do you think of this team? I’m a big fan. Again, I love villain books, so this should be a blast. Oh and I also loved Ellis’ Thunderbolts run and we have Deodato back. Can Bendis fill Ellis’ shoes? Probably not, but it’s still worth a look.

So please let me know what you guys think! And again, doesn’t that new four buck price suck?!

Secret Invasion #8, and the Event as a Whole

Spoilers, natch, for all of Secret Invasion, as well as the Dark Reign solicitation freebie.

I’m not even going to attempt to look at this from the perspective of just the mini. We’ve got the DC boys to do that. First, some comments on issue eight, followed by my thoughts on the total package.

So really, issue seven was the end of the series. The first third to half of the book basically consisted of Norman Osborne telling the President (as well as television reports) what happened at the end of the battle that led to the Skrulls retreating. Their big gambit with Janet Van Dyne failed thanks to the efforts of Thor. Norman Osborne used the tech/information he stole from Deadpool to kill the queen. Issue seven already proved that in a fair fight, the Skrulls have no chance against the combined power of the heroes of Earth (and why would they? They never have before), so when their bomb didn’t work and their queen was killed, they came to the decision that they would be better off running and attempting to find somewhere else to live. Works for me. I especially liked the quick shout out to Annihilation, where Teddy and Xavin had to let the heroes know that Earth really was a last ditch effort, and they have no planet to call their own. Janet’s death galvanized the right people (Thor, Iron Man, and Ms. Marvel, all of whom have been very close to Janet for years and decades), and the invasion was thwarted. We then see Iron Man discover the ship full of all the heroes that were replaced (something that was earned in a tie in issue, and as such I didn’t have a problem with it). Mockingbird is there, which is…well…kinda weird. It’ll be interesting to see just what that means in the grand scheme of things. We then get to probably the best part of the book, when Jessica Jones sees Jarvis on the ship and realizes that she left her baby with a Skrull. Kudos to both Bendis and Yu for making that moment have some true emotional depth to it. We get some tie ups and some reunions, followed by the second half of the book basically being devoted to the fall of Tony Stark and the rise of Norman Osborne.

Tony really gets beaten down here. The world sees him as the reason the Skrulls were able to get a foothold on Earth. Everything the Skrulls were able to do was made possible because Jarvis uploaded the virus to Starktech and single handedly shut down SHIELD, SWORD, The Raft, and countless other defensive measures. Tony’s bravado and his decision to put all his eggs in one basket ended up nearly dooming the planet. Then, in the middle of the climactic battle with all the media attention swirling around it, Tony was forced to flee the scene and fix his armor. So all the media sees is a coward who can’t clean up his own mess. Sure, he gets back to the battle in time to pitch in at the end in an older suit of armor, but Norman Osborne takes out Queen Veranke. Adding to that, the heroes still haven’t exactly forgiven him for his role in Civil War as architect of the Superhuman Registration Act. Thor hates him. Bucky hates him. The media is attacking him from all sides and both Osborne and the President want him to answer for his actions. He is a broken man.

And on the other side of the coin is Norman Osborne. A man that has been working tirelessly to sieze power ever since he was put into the position of Director of the Thunderbolts. We all know he’s an evil, evil man, but the world sees him as a reformed and conquering hero. He led his team in the battle that saved Washington DC from the Skrulls (Thunderbolts 124 and 125). He secretly stole the information that contained the way to kill the Skrull Queen (Deadpool 3). He then fought on the front lines (where the media would certainly see him there) and killed the Queen in front of everyone. The grand hero rising from the ashes of his former misdeeds. He is rewarded for his heroism (which truly is heroism. Let’s not discount that. It’s just done from a place of less than moral motives), and takes the place of Tony Stark as the man with the keys to the Marvel Universe. SHIELD is disbanded. Stark is on the run. Fury has to go back underground. Both the Superhuman Registration Act and the Fifty States Initiative are still in effect, now under the control of a crazy bastard. And of course, we’ve got that last double page spread with the new faces of the Marvel Universe sitting around the table while Norman tells them the score.

So that covers issue 8. What about the event as a whole? I just combed through my comic database, and as of today I own 87 comics that are branded as either lead ins or tie ins to the Secret Invasion event. That doesn’t include the Spider-Man Brand New Day mini or the New Warriors issues, all of which I plan to pick up in bargain bins at cons next year. That’s a lot of comics and a lot of money spent over the past year. So was it worth it? Was it worth $300 plus (cover price wise) of comics to tell this one story? Yes. I think that when you take all of this together, you have a massive, sweeping epic that touched nearly every corner of the Marvel Universe (except that wacky Daredevil) in some way. You see the ambition of the Skrulls. You see a race that has been the butt of everyone’s jokes. They’ve been decimated by Galactus and the Annihilation Wave. They’ve been played for fools by the Illuminati and the Kree. They’re the whipping boys of the universe. So they took one last shot. They made it a grand scheme. They planned for decades. They took the necessary precautions to make things go as smoothly as possible. They started replacing people slowly to allow for attacks from both inside and out. Then they attacked everywhere and everyone all at once. And at the beginning, it was looking pretty good. We saw heroes being beaten down in the US and Britain. In Wakanda and on the moon. The Skrulls were winning; they had finally done it. But then you started to see the cracks form. Brian Braddock returning to stop them from taking control of the world’s magic. A sneak attack in San Francisco from the X-Men. Hercules and his God Squad taking out their god. Black Panther and Storm sending them a deadly message. The Inhumans taking their revenge. It all unraveled in the way the Roman Empire did. The Skrulls spread themselves too thin and didn’t have the requisite forces to take everything down individually. Of course, this was their only real choice in the matter, because if everyone had banded together to take them out, they knew they couldn’t win (and indeed, they didn’t when it came down to that). This was the story of a last ditch effort from a broken down and endangered race biting off more than it could chew.

I read so many great books in the last year that came out of Secret Invasion. I was introduced to Norman Osborne’s crazy and dysfunctional Thunderbolts (which led me to pick up the Ellis run in back issues). I saw Black Panther kick unholy amounts of ass. I saw Hercules and Amadeus Cho put together a kind of dirty dozen team of gods. I saw the Inhumans band together and reinforce their familial bonds in the face of grave and total danger. I saw a new team take shape in Britain. I saw the history of the Invasion and just how deep the beliefs of the Skrulls ran.  Some of it was fantastic. Very little of it was bad (thanks, Larry Stroman). But most of it was great. These were such good books. They all had their stories to tell, and they told them in engaging and fascinating ways. There is SO MUCH to this event that most people won’t see. And hell, I can’t blame them. It was an extreme monetary investment. And I can also see how your average comic fan that just read the eight issue mini would be let down. Bendis just scratched the surface. It was really all he could do with the pages with which he had to work. Nobody’s wrong here. And as I said before, I have difficulty commenting on just the main mini, because when I read an issue, I have all the tie ins in the back of my head. So I see the fall of Tony Stark and the rise and Norman Osborne as the culmination of months of Thunderbolts issues instead of a few pages in Secret Invasion. I know what everyone outside of New York and the Savage Land put on the line to give Earth a chance against the invading horde.

And I know that I’m super excited for the potential of what could happen in Dark Reign. Paging through the little Previews booklet, all I could see was stories that I wanted to read. I don’t want to buy these things because I’m a fevered collector and I have to get everything. I want to buy these books because the stories look extremely interesting to me. Who are the Dark Avengers? What the hell is Scarlet Witch doing in those Mighty Avengers issues? Who is the new lineup of the Thunderbolts? Just what is Emma Frost’s part in the “Evil Illuminati” going to be? I’ll give you a hint: SHE’S NOT EVIL. Where’s Marvel Boy going to end up? This event did not play out in a way that I think anyone was expecting. But I made sure to keep an open mind and go with the flow, and I got a truly enjoyable and epic story that I will revisit time and time again.

So yeah. 1700 words later, it worked for me. Good show, Marvel.

RAMPANT SPECULATION: Dark Reign

Haven’t done much on this blog for a long time. Blame Rock Band 2 and Fallout 3.

So we’re about a month and a half away from Dark Reign kicking off. And with the help of this week’s DCBS shipment, I’m not only fairly confident about what it’s going to be, I’m also SUPER EXCITED about it. Let’s dig deep into what led me to the conclusions I’ve reached, and why they’ve got me so jazzed about the post Secret Invasion Marvel Universe. For a while now, an image has existed (I believe it was shown at one of the Marvel panels during con season) that consisted of a picture of six characters that Brian Michael Bendis (through various interviews/podcasts) referred to as the “Evil Illuminati.” About a month or so ago, a website (I believe it was IGN) confirmed that the image in question was going to be a cover for one of the kick off Dark Reign books (it was either Secret Invasion: Dark Reign or Dark Reign: New Nation). The image itself is a play on the cover of New Avengers: Illuminati #1, featuring six characters of less than perfect morals. Four of them (Dr. Doom, Namor, the female incarnation of Loki, and The Hood) are clearly defined and easy to recognize. The other two are a bit more vague. They seem to be Emma Frost and Norman Osborne. Reasons for this speculation will be forthcoming. These six characters were obviously chosen for a reason, and I’m quite confident that we’re looking at the new leadership of the Marvel Universe. But this won’t be like the Illuminati, as there will be no hiding or subterfuge with these folks. They’re going to be out in the open, and they’re going to have all the power. Let’s look at where these “villains” are at this time, and find out what they have been doing and where they’ll be after the Skrulls are kicked off the planet (and they will be kicked off the planet).

Dr. Doom – Last seen being captured by the Mighty Avengers and escaping from The Raft during the attack on Starktech by the Skrulls, Dr. Doom is the King of Latveria and one of the most intelligent humans in the universe. I would not be surprised if the devastation of the invasion leads to Doom expanding his territory to much of Eastern Europe.

Namor – Currently running around in The Incredible Hercules’ Love and War arc, Namor recently once again aligned himself with Dr. Doom after an attack on Atlantis that left much of the city-state devastated. He is lord of the seas, and sovereign over 70% of the world.

Loki – Since being reborn in female form by Thor, Loki has been slowly gathering power in Asgard through manipulation of Balder, who has been recently revealed to be Odin’s son, Thor’s brother and rightful equal heir of Asgard. She will soon completely seize power over Asgard, and will rule some of the most powerful gods on Earth.

The Hood – He’s taken his merry band of villains straight to the front line of the battle at Central Park, but the big piece of the puzzle for The Hood was revealed in New Avengers #46. The oft manifested demon entity has turned out to be the Dread Dormammu, who has pledged to unlock the secrets of the Dark Dimension. Dark Reign. Dark Avengers. The Hood and his gang are going to be the Dark Avengers. A twisted conception of The Thunderbolts. He will control the streets, and he (alongside Dormammu) will rule the mystical realms.

Emma Frost – I thought for a while that this person could have been Courtney Ross of the Hellfire Club, but I’m pretty sure there’s an X on her chest (although Miss Ross was a member of Excalibur, so it doesn’t completely preclude her), so I’m going with Emma. Emma’s importance to the X-Men has been steadily growing since Morrison’s New X-Men, to the point that she is basically on the same level as Cyclops as co-leader of the X-Men. I stopped reading Uncanny, so I’m not completely up to date with what Emma is doing right now. I think this is an example of a character that is not currently evil being grouped in with the rest of the evil folks due to her reputation back from the Hellfire Club days. I think she’ll become the true power/leader of the X-Men, but not necessarily turn evil. She will be the leader of the mutants.

Norman Osborne – He’s the hardest to make out in the image (some have thought it could be the Purple Man), but it’s got to be Osborne. You read Thunderbolts #124 and #125, Deadpool #3, and Secret Invasion #7 (and from what I’ve heard, Spider-Man’s New Ways to Die arc), and the one thing you see is the rising importance of Norman Osborne. He’s hailed as the conquering hero when the Thunderbolts beat back the Skrulls in Washington DC. He’s praised for his courage when Iron Man flees the scene during the Central Park battle while he stands tall. He might have had something to do with the death of Queen Veranke due to the end of Deadpool #3. He’s everywhere, and everyone to a man in the US government is falling head over heels for him. Prepare yourselves for Norman Osborne, Director of SHIELD.

So here’s how I think it goes down. During the Invasion, Doom is working with Namor to secretly marshall forces in and around Latveria and Atlantis. Once the Skrulls retreat, he expands his sphere of influence outward. While the battle at Central Park rages on, Loki takes the opportunity to seize power over Asgard thanks to Thor’s absence. The Skrulls are defeated, and the American people are led to believe that the true heroes of the battle are two bands of reformed crooks, Norman Osborne’s Thunderbolts and The Hood’s gang (the soon to be christened Dark Avengers). Norman Osborne is named Director of SHIELD due to his valor, and Iron Man is forced to go on the run with the New Avengers. With SHIELD destabilized and Asgard under Loki’s sway, Captain America and Thor are also forced to go underground and join the New Avengers (alongside Nick Fury’s Secret Warriors), only to be dogged at every turn by The Hood’s mystically powered, cape killing Dark Avengers, who are being mandated by Norman Osborne. Doom and Namor throw the support of Latveria and Atlantis behind these new leaders, mostly in an attempt to gain their trust in order to take everything for himself further down the line. Loki makes a similar compact with similar aspirations for future conquest. Emma Frost sees the danger and power of this new ruling class, and decides to throw her support behind the regime in order to preserve the endangered mutant race. Suddenly, up is down, the villains are in complete control, and we have ourselves a Dark Reign.

Well, at least that’s what I’d do…

Bruce Castle Presents: Old Friends Fight Skrulls, Alternate Earths, and “Louie Louie”=Party Time!

Secret Invasion Thor #3 (of 3)

Secret Invasion: Thor #3 (***)

Misfire is a good word to describe this series. It was aimed correctly and it appeared to have the necessary ingredients to fire well, but could not. Fraction is an extremely capable writer and he’s proved himself with Thor in his fantastic one-shots released this year. But he just doesn’t deliver here. The series tries to be unique or exciting but it always seems to fail. Braithwaite is very capable as well. I was just reminded of that when I reread Justice. Sadly, I believe his art was hindered by Brian Reber’s colors. The book looks very muddled and at times it’s difficult to tell what’s going on and it seems to be because of the colors. This series is not terrible, but it’s not worth your money.

Astonishing X-Men Ghost Boxes #1 (of 2)

Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #1 (***1/2)

I wonder if this mini was planned or if this was a last minute development to deal with Bianchi’s delays. Judging by the incredibly small page count of 16, I’d say the latter. The lack of pages is the biggest problem here. The bright side is that Ellis’ entire script along with all the naked (Or penciled, I just like saying naked) pages of this issue are included. I don’t think I’ve ever read an Ellis script and the naked art comes from Alan Davis and Adi Granov so that was a treat. But if you don’t care about that stuff, this issue is a bit of a hard sell. This comic is written well and it looks great, but I’m not sure how important it is (The 4 bucks bothers me too). But I don’t know this could be imperative information.

Boys #24 (cover A)

Boys #24 (***1/2)

Talk about great covers, this one is amazing! The pic doesn’t do it justice, but you can still see all the detail Robertson put into this. If you like Animal House (If you don’t, what’s wrong with you?), you’ll appreciate all the visual references. That’s pretty much all this issue was, comedy. The plot moved along a bit, but it was overshadowed by all the laughs. So, I’d say this was a pretty average Boys issue. That’s good, but not great. Still, the cover alone may be worth the price of admission. But if you don’t like that cover (Again, what’s wrong with you?), you can still enjoy the fart, masturbation and X-Men jokes.