I read 12 comics in January, and these were the best.
I read 12 comics in January, and these were the best.
10. Illustrated by Steve Epting
Ah! A man on fire is running at me!
9. Illustrated by Yanick Paquette
“My teeth are whiter!”
“No, my teeth are whiter!”
7. Illustrated by Mike Choi
This cover will stand out on the shelves. Why is X-23 in pieces?
6. Illustrated by Rafael Alberquerque
Mrs. Robinson, are you showing me your blue snatch?
5. Illustrated by Alan Davis
What is Reed Richards doing with the Infinity Gauntlet? And while Galactus is asleep? Eww…
4. Illustrated by Dave Johnson
Unique, striking, and well-drawn.
3. Illustrated by David Lafuente
So, this one time I got high while watching Spider-Man…
2. Illustrated by Skottie Young
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!
Skottie Young is a comedy genius.
1. Illustrated by Chris Bachalo
Poor Venom. It’s unique, funny, and wonderfully rendered. It reminds me of the end of “Grindhouse: Death Proof.” This is the end of the series. Will it end with Venom getting his ass thoroughly kicked? I kind of want to know. What a brilliant cover.
I ranked the DC covers last month. So, this was a nice change of pace. Who knows? I might even do the DC covers this month too.
That was my list. What’s yours?
Ah, it’s nice to see Epting back on this book. I know there’ve been several (Four?) artists on this series, but Epting feels like the best fit for Captain America. I’m also happy to see the Invaders get some more focus. Just take a look at that cover. Though it looks like Namor and Cap are fighting (Is Bucky walking on water?), we comic book fans know how deceptive a cover can be. Yep, they team up in this issue.
Captain America is always a fine book. You all know that. If there’s ever a dip in quality, it’s usually minor. However, I can’t help but feel a little burnt out on this series. Yes, it’s always a good read, but this book has been near the bottom of my stack for months now. I don’t want a gimmick every month of course, but something has to be said about the lack of excitement. A great monthly should always leave you eager for the next issue. I’m not feeling that right now, but with issue fifty coming up, that will surely change.
Captain America #43 (****)
Jeez, Brubaker is already referencing that fight in Secret Invasion #7? It just came out this week and that battle isn’t even over yet! It’s always a bit hard to review this book because how many times can I say it’s a solid series? It’s boring! So I’ll just talk about some random observations. We have a new penciler this time, Luke Ross. His work is okay, but thankfully the colorist, Frank D’Armata, is still on the book, so all the art on this book still looks the same. There’s an interesting scene in here when Black Widow is nude. Her bed sheet does weird things to cover her butt the entire time. It almost looks like Luke Ross drew Natalia’s ass and then Marvel covered it up. Seriously Marvel?! This is a teen book and you can’t show a bare butt?! That’s BS and to hell with Janet Jackson for making America even more sensitive to nudity. Am I forgetting something? Oh yeah, Batroc, Captain America’s greatest villain shows up! Screw that Nazi Skull! Bring on the cheese-eating surrender monkey!
Daredevil #112 (****1/2)
The whole Elektra Skrull situation is in this issue. Does that explain my title? Can we move on? Good. Man, I think Rucka slapped some sense into Brubaker. Two issues in and this is already Brubaker’s best solo arc. There are so many loveable characters written well here. Daredevil (obviously), Dakota North (so awesome), Black Tarantula (remember how awesome that Blood of the Tarantula one-shot was?), and Iron Fist (um, yay)! You even have ninjas too! Oh, and Lady Bullseye is so much better than it sounds. She may even be respectable soon. If you bailed on DD, now is definitely the time to get back on the trolley!
Recently in the comments section of this post, I brazenly asserted that Batman, by Grant Morrison & Tony Daniel, fails as a monthly comic reading experience. Basically, I feel the plot is too convoluted or complex for easy monthly digestion, although I’m sure it’ll go down very easy in trade.
So, what makes a good monthly comic? A couple of things:
Comics that put “character” first!
Comics that tend to focus more on character than plot are inherently more readable as monthlies. When jumping into the middle of a six issue arc, its character that pulls you in and fills in the holes. With the exception of Fantastic Four, every comic on my list stars a single character.
“Done-in-One (or two)” Stories!
There’s no need to wait for the trade if each arc is only 1-2 issues long, right? Again, this type of story goes well with character writing. Since the plot isn’t required to sustain itself for 3-6 issues, it can be pared down and used primarily as a vehicle to reveal the titular hero’s character. Batman and Zatanna team up to stop the Joker!?! Reading that story you find that it’s not really about catching the Joker as much as it’s about developing Bruce and Zatanna’s relationship. Also, without really sacrificing the overall plot, these “done-in-one” stories can be framed like TV episodes that when viewed over an entire season combine to reveal a hidden master plot. Think Buffy, Heroes, etc… As many of us know, it can be very intimidating for a new reader to jump onto a book with a long running story, so hiding the plot in this manner is a great way to eliminate that intimidation factor. It also allows the writer to integrate sub-plots with clearly defined conflicts into the background that can be slowly developed and brought to the forefront at a later date, as Mark Millar does in Fantastic Four.
Cliffhangers that punch you in the face!
I mean, does this one really need explanation? There are quite a few comics (many on this list) that use the “final page splash” to great effect in almost every single issue. The rush you get from experiencing these in a floppy is much different than when experiencing them in a trade. Actually, it doesn’t even come close.
Getting that “OMG I can’t wait for next month!” Soap Opera feeling!
Of the four I’ve listed here, I think this last one is probably the most important (although it is very closely related to the Cliffhanger thing). For me, it’s the most important factor in deciding whether or not to wait for the trade. I ask myself, as many of you probably do, “Can I go more than a month without reading about BLANK?!?” If you answer “NO!”, then you obviously have a great monthly in your hands!
With the pretentious explanations out of the way I present to you, in no particular order, my “Top Ten Comics That Work Best as Monthlies”:
ACTION COMICS by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank
I could NEVER read this comic in trade; I just love the characters too much! And the cliffhangers are the epitome of punch you in the face. There haven’t been many done-in-ones in the Johns run, but that’s okay, since at least half the comics on this list barely utilize that comic book storytelling device. But Johns does love the sub-plots, wherein he writes some of the best (or, THE best) character moments in comics. CONS: More done-in-ones would be nice.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN by “The Spidey Brain Trust”
With the exception of the current arc, “New Ways To Die”, Brand New Day has been nothing but 1-, 2-, and 3-issue arcs filled with character, character, character… the Soap Opera mojo has been strong. Because of the weekly shipping schedule, the Spidey team has been using the last page splash to great effect. CONS: Actually, maybe there are too many characters? Sometimes it gets confusing.
CAPTAIN AMERICA by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting & Luke Ross
All of the above? Without all the little Bucky character stuff, I would not be enjoying this book as much as I am. It’s funny, but to me, most issues of Captain America feel like single issue stories set in an epic tapestry whose true significance won’t be seen ‘til Brubaker ends his run. It’s one long, ongoing story that excites me month in and month out.
DEADPOOL by Daniel Way & Paco Medina
We’re two issues in and I’m in love. For now. Plot? What plot? If you’re looking for a story, you’re in the wrong place, duder. This is all about Deadpool. That’s it. Do you need to read issue one to understand issue two? Hell no! Enjoy the funny!
DETECTIVE COMICS by Paul Dini & Dustin Nguyen
Current master of the 1- or 2-part story (yeah, yeah, I know the RIP tie-in breaks the rules). Reading Detective for the last two years I remember more about Bruce sex life (obv lack thereof) than I do the details of any of the stories. And to me, that’s awesome writing. Dini has made Bruce likable. This is new, folks. Bruce Wayne as an actual character in comics? Not since pre-DKR, I would think, have we seen the identity of Bruce Wayne written as a real character. Ah no, I disagree with you, Morrison’s Wayne is a flimsy piece of cardboard. Maybe he had something at the beginning of his run, but fleshing out Batman’s alter ego took a back seat to RIP setup long ago, maybe around the time Adam Kubert left the book. Anyway, yes, Dini isn’t writing Batman, he’s writing Bruce Wayne as Batman. And there is a difference, and that difference is quite refreshing.
FANTASTIC FOUR by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch
The character stuff is lacking, but the sub-plots, cliffhangers and OMG moments make this a top of the stack must-read. Here’s a recent review that reads more negative than it actually is.
GRAVEL by Warren Ellis, Mike Wolfer & Raulo Caceres
The way the current arc is framed, it works wonderfully as a series of single issue stories filled with scenes exploring the character of William Gravel. Oh, you know what? Thank God Ellis finally got around to fleshing this guy out. Gravel started life as a boringly hollow SAS thug who starred in a series of idea-driven minis. In those minis, there was never anything particularly exciting or compelling about the Gravel character and the fact of the matter is, I probably only read them because they were written by Ellis. Now, under the watchful eye of Mike Wolfer, I really grown to like this guy and each month I can’t wait to read Gravel’s next adventure. Shocking. That’s good stuff, brother.
HULK by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness
Heh. I really do love this book. Honest. HA!
INVINCIBLE by Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker
Ever since the #51 reboot, this book has been one of the most anticipated monthlies in my stack. LOVING IT… happy now, Bruce?
JACK OF FABLES by Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham
Awesome title character? CHECK!
Outstanding sub-plots? CHECK!
SOAP OPERA?!? TRIPLE CHECK!!!
Daredevil #111 (****)
I surprisingly enjoyed this issue. I still think Brubaker’s run is overrated, but there’s a lot to love here. How cool is Dakota North? She’s prominently featured within these pages and it seems she’ll be in DD’s life for awhile. Looking through the issue, the thing I enjoyed most were the supporting characters. Iron Fist is in here and Bullseye is too. It’s just a flashback, but I miss Bullseye in Daredevil comics. I don’t think this new Lady Bullseye will be a good substitute, but she’s not as dreadful as she could be. This issue was very enjoyable and I hope Brubaker will keep it up. It seems like this will be an intriguing arc. Plus Dakota North is in here. Did I mention my Dakota North love?
Captain America #42 (****1/2)
Billy’s on the money with this one. In fact, I think he stole my thoughts, knocked me out, and then wrote his review first. I didn’t even realize this was the end of the arc until all the crazy stuff started happening. But really, Brubaker should have revealed a little more. It’s been 42 issues and we’re still in the dark. The sad part is I don’t think anything will be revealed anytime soon. At least Batroc will be in the next few issues. Any true Captain America fan knows that Batroc is Captain America’s true archenemy. I don’t care that Red Skull is a Nazi! I should read this series in trade, but sadly I’m too invested after 42 issues. Oh, something that will distinguish my review from Billy’s? I don’t like Bucky. Screw Bucky! Everyone else is cool, but to hell with him. The reason why this is in the “badass women” category is because of Sharon Carter and actually Sin too. Also, how cool are the villains in this book? You actually want them to win! Anyway, this was an awesome issue and if you’re not reading this series, pick it up in trade. If you are reading this series, stay strong.
Usually, I post the Captain America reviews the day a new issue releases, sometimes literally hours after it hits on the West Coast. But yesterday, after I finished the final part of “The Death of Captain America” epic, I kind of didn’t feel like writing anything. I didn’t want to say anything too negative about it. To say I was disappointed with the ending doesn’t come close to describing my feelings on the matter. So, I thought it best to wait and let the events of #42 sink in before putting anything to paper. Now, it’s been almost a day, and I think enough time has passed that I can finally throw down an objective review of this book. Or, I can at least try really super extra hard.
Alright, so many extraordinary/awesome/hilarious/spectacular moments this issue!!! Let’s run ‘em down!!!
The book opens with… Bucky doing what Captain America should be doing. Great, great, and great.
More zany dialogue between Zola and Red Skull.
Is that my baby? (Seriously, what the hell is she talking about?)
Sharon Carter summons the strength of ten Amazons to break free!
BLAM. You’re dead, dude.
Um… Crazy Cap freaks out! Murders Nazi-Bot!
Bucky blocks an RPG with his… SHIELD?!? WHOA. If that doesn’t make you Captain America, I don’t know what will.
Bucky takes the media stage as Captain America. Finally.
I’ll take care of Sharon, Steve would have wanted it that way… this, to me, is the start of the Sam/Sharon love affair. I feel like Brubaker has been hinting at this for years. No, I’m not crazy. The clues are there, people!!!
Bucky and Natasha… happy endings!!!
Okay first, to the matter of the Red Skull’s fate. Is he stuck in that body for good, or will Zola show up soon to help him out of it? Ambiguous much?!? Yes, but a little logic will see us through. I believe that the Red Skull is indeed stuck in that robot body for the foreseeable future, and here’s why: Arnim Zola is truly dead (as dead as one can be in comics). Wait, you say? Doesn’t Zola always do that thing where he can jump into another robot body? What stopped him from doing that this time? Well, a very simple thing. Time. He didn’t have the time to transfer bodies. The “Crazy” Captain America got the drop on him, so Zola didn’t have the time to initiate the transfer… as established in an earlier issue (#38), Zola needs to manually initiate his transfers. So, Zola being dead means that there is no one to transfer the Red Skull’s consciousness out of his robot placeholder. Hence, the Red Skull is screwed in the most literal sense of the word.
…but what about Zola appearing on all those monitors at the end, talking to the Skull? A recording, obviously.
Now, here’s what upset me about this otherwise exciting and awesome issue: The “Lost” Syndrome. Seriously, it’s been almost two years since Cap died and over two years since the Red Skull’s plan was put into place… where the #### are my answers? Where the #### is the ####ing resolution? What was he trying to do with that time machine? Seriously!?! What the ###??? The issue was totally still a fun and well written read, and of course the art was amazing, but #### man, give us some answers Brubaker!!! And another thing, if this issue hadn’t been billed as the ultimate chapter in the “Death of Captain America” saga, I don’t think I would be as upset as I am right now. The quality of this comic ranks up there with the best issue of this series, but it’s the hype that kills it.
I’ve resigned myself to the obvious fact that Steve Rogers likely won’t make his return for another 20-30 issues, or near the end of Brubaker’s run. That’s fine. I can deal with that. It’s the biggest payoff of the series and it’s only right that it comes near or at the end. But at this point, halfway through (supposedly), it’s time for Brubaker to start answering some of those questions he’s posed over the last 41 issues. It’s ####ing time, man. Give us something! Anything! Don’t “Lost” us. Tell me about the baby! Tell me what that damn time machine was supposed to do! Tell me what the Skull’s endgame was!!! Seriously, if you wait too much longer, your loyal readers will stop caring. Sure, that will never happen to me, because I’m crazy, but not everyone is like me. Not every Cap reader has a Captain America shrine in their room.
BLAH. I hate being a fanboy, but sometimes it can’t be helped.
All bitching aside, I’m glad this chapter of the story is over and although it wasn’t completely satisfying I’m very much looking forward to the further adventures of Bucky Barnes as Captain America. Something tells me Brubaker has only just scracthed “the surface of awesome.”
Captain America #41 (****1/2)
I’m happy to report that this issue delivers the same excellence I’ve come to expect from Brubaker’s Captain America. As you may know if you visit this site often, my fellow reviewer Billy really loves this book. He already wrote a review of this issue complete with cool scans the day it came out. So, I don’t have too much to offer. All I’ll say is that I really enjoyed this issue. If you aren’t reading this series, you owe it to yourself to pick up the first trade. Be prepared, you may get hooked.
Conan #2 (****)
It’s a little funny that the first story from this new Conan series isn’t about Conan. It’s about Conan’s grandfather, Connacht. You may remember him from Conan Vol. 0: Born on the Battlefield. If not, then I recommend you read it. Not to understand this issue, but because I liked that story. In addition to Conan, the regular artist, Tomas Giorello, takes a backseat to give Richard Corben a moment to shine. If you’re familiar with Heavy Metal at all, you may know Corben’s work. Corben’s simplistic and gory style fits the tale of Connocht incredibly well. This issue was very good and it’s nice to read about Conan’s relatives. It looks like Corben will be involved with the next three Conan issues at least. Are they building to something? Will Conan meet the present Connacht? I don’t know, but I’m eager to find out!
Punisher #61 (***1/2)
No more Tim Bradstreet covers. I forgot to mention that in my review of the last issue. Bradstreet’s covers were the unsung hero of Ennis’ run. Trying to move on was the definite theme in my feelings for this issue. I tried very hard not to compare this issue to Ennis’ work. I tried to keep an open mind, but it was hard. Still, even with that hindrance, I enjoyed this issue. The art in this series was always overshadowed by the writing, but it really was quite good. This issue’s artist, Laurence Campbell, continues to give the book that cinematic feeling. His widescreen panels were very impressive. That, coupled with Hurwitz’ western styled story, made me feel like I was watching a Clint Eastwood movie. My main complaint is that Hurwitz doesn’t seem to know how to handle Frank yet. Punisher’s narrative seemed a bit off. Hurwitz is still new to the character though. I’m confident that in time, he may write some great Punisher stories. It looks like the future of this series won’t be as bleak as I once thought.
EXCITING STUFFS THAT EXISTED THIS WEEK IN CAPTAIN AMERICA!!!
Actually, you should be investing in the Amero.
Red Skull is running out of “time”…
As your doctor, I suggest you take the blue pill. It has a powerful antihistamine.
…but, how about a shiny new SHIELD tracking device as a consolation prize?
…AND, some much needed therapy.
Faustus shaves… NO, DON’T DO IT!
Well, the Magnum look does make him sexier, I guess.
The BEST Arnim Zola panel EVER! OMG, look at his big-stupid-disappointed face! LOVE IT!
And last, but not least, the final page splash. Gotta be honest, I yelped for joy on this one.
So, it’s confirmed. Arnim Zola, using reverse engineered Doom tech, has created a Time Platform, and next issue, Red Skull plans to use it to—this is awesome. To some people, time travel is one of the biggest cheats in the metaphorical book, but in this case, I would say that Brubaker and crew have sufficiently paid for it. It’s been almost two years since Dr. Doom gave the Red Skull that mysterious cylindrical mechanism, and it’s high time Brubaker collected on that particular plot device. So, what is the plan? Bring back the real Steve Rogers only to torture him? This has been done before, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t still work in the context of this story. The jury-rigged time machine ain’t the only thing Red Skull had Zola build. Apparently he also designed some kind of machine to pull the Red Skull’s mind out of Lukin’s brain. If that is true, then where, pray tell, is Red Skull going? Perhaps into the body of a time displaced Steve Rogers? Again, this has happened before, in a way. Red Skull inhabited a clone of Steve for a time, way back in the day. Ah, but here’s a thought. In this issue, Faustus tells Sharon that she’s lost her baby… what if this is a lie? What if, and this is weird, what if Red Skull plans to take the fetus and accelerate its age (much like he did for his daughter, Sin) and then transfer his mind into the baby? WHAT!?!? Yeah, I know. Ridiculous! But, still interesting…
Next issue promises to be the conclusion of the Death of The Dream story, 42 issues in the making. I’m sure it’ll be fantastic. What’s Brubaker got in store for the next 42 issues? Even greater hotness, no doubt.
Conan The Cimmerian #1– Man this book is great! It even has awesome covers from Joe Kubert and Frank Cho! I like the pretty woman on Cho’s cover, but Conan is holding an axe so I had to show the titular sword in Kubert’s cover. This again features the creative team of Timothy Truman and Tomas Giorello with some Richard Corben thrown in! This issue isn’t as cheap as issue 0, but we still get 40 pages for 3 bucks which is awesome. Oh and just some more props to the issue 0, the events in that issue actually gets mentioned in here! This issue includes some bloody action, humor, and an intriguing tale that left me pumped up and wanting more!
Captain America #40– I’ve heard some people trash Steve Epting’s art before, but it really shines here. There is a lot of fighting in this issue and it is drawn in dynamic and engaging fashion with a wonderfully written ongoing narrative accompanying the art. The characters are again written with much care and the dialogue between the villains is especially astounding. The last page reveal was both startling and unpredictable. This issue was remarkable!
Punisher #59– This proves that an issue with no action can be more fascinating than a book that has a fight on every page. This also proves again why Ennis is the best Punisher writer. When Punisher is written poorly (as he often is), he is a Dirty Harry knockoff spouting one liners and shooting holes into bad guys, but when Ennis writes him, he can have an entire issue that is without action that leaves you astonished. Ennis is not just finishing an arc, he’s finishing his entire run on Punisher. He ties things together that were mentioned 40 issues ago. Planning is one of the most admirable qualities in a writer. Just as Brubaker mentioned that Dr. Doom device in the aforementioned Captain America issue, Ennis mentions something from the early stages of this series. This issue left me much sadder than that FC Requiem, not because of its subject matter, but because we only get one more phenomenal Ennis Punisher issue before he closes the curtain on a fantastic run.
Um… WOW! This is a mother of an issue! The fight scenes are BRUTAL!!! Yes, there is more than one fight.
Fight #1: Bucky vs. Cap
Fight #2: Sharon vs. Sin
Fight #2 contains the biggest spoilers, so I won’t really touch that one. So let’s skip right into Fight #1!
Man, and you thought you were gonna see some action? HAH! The art was too awesome to show you here! Go buy the issue yourself, loser!
Ah, one final note before I let you go: what ever happened to that “device” Red Skull got off of Doom way back in issue 23 or 24? Click here. Screw everything else that happened in this issue, what the EFF was Faustus about to say? “Re”–what? Rewind… time? Reverse… engineer? Reflect? Refract? Revolution? Remember? Re-ARGH!!!
…another final note: the banter between Red Skull, Faustus and Zola is the best it’s ever been. When they start blaming each other near the end? Priceless.
Final, final note: what the hell is this?
You are so cool. Don’t ever change.
YAUS!!! Not a clone! Not an imaginary tale! It’s that other Captain America from the 1950’s who set himself on fire as the Grand Director. This is why Brubaker kicks so much ass. Reading this issue reminded me that Brubaker has probably read ad re-read the entire Captain America run at least twice. He’s not creating a bunch of new characters and ideas, he’s mining the best bits of the Captain America mythology and weaving it all together into one of the most exciting narratives in recent memory. It kind of reminds me of what Krueger and Ross did in Earth X but on a smaller scale.
I wish I had more occasions to yell that in everyday life.
Dude, if you’re wearing Steve Rodgers’ face and you meet Sharon Carter in a dark room… for the love of God, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! She will shoot you!
Here, Falcon proves why he’s not as lame as Aquaman. He doesn’t TALK to his bird friends, he SEES through their eyes. Yeah, obv cooler than Aquaman.
…and here’s my favorite part of this issue. Why isn’t Bucky using his gun? I think going forward now, we’ll see Bucky using his gun less and less, now that he’s starting to realize that killing the bad guys would disgrace Cap’s legacy. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into this.
…wow. Well, you did it now, Brubaker. Arnim Zola has become irredeemably hateable. If someone says their favorite character is Arnim Zola, does that automatically make them a racist? Also, why they always trying to burn my man the Falcon? Not cool, yo’.
OH SNAP! It’s on! See ya’ in thirty!
Out today, Act III begins with part one of “The Man Who Bought America”. I’ve been a little harsh on the last few issues of Captain America, what can I say, I hold these guys to a high standard. Let’s just be clear right off the bat then: this is a 5 Star book, hands down. It’s exponentially better than #35 and #36 for a number of reasons. 1) Steve Epting is back. Man, did I miss you, Steve. 2) There’s more plot development here and less decompressed action scenes. Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing Bucky in action as Cap, seeing him make mistakes and pull off his killer moves (talking about you, Mr. Luger). But, the engine of this book runs on intrigue, not action. Of course, being the first part of this arc, it has more setup than usual… hopefully, that’s less the case this time and we get more plotty intrigue in the months to come. Because of sheer greatness, I’m going to go page by page with my review. Continue reading