Avengers vs. X-Men: so far part 3

I was starting to plan an update every other week for AvX stuff, but the Gambit vs. Captain America fight was too good to leave for a week before it got a review!  Plus, it did help my pull list had a rather large stack this week.
SPOILER WARNING!
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Top 5 Best Comics of May 2011

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I read 24 comics in May, and these were the best.

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Top 5 Best Comics of September 2010

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

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Review: Free Comic Book Day 2010

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Well, I could pretty much copy my intro from last year’s FCBD coverage. I did pretty much the same thing. I didn’t go to the comic book store, instead spending my time with boxing, beer, and babes. I got my free comics early, so I can still review these things.

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Review: Thor #600

(****)

The best issue of Straczynski’s Thor is here! But, I haven’t been a fan of his run at all, so that’s not saying much. Kudos to Marvel for offering an anniversary issue that is near irresistible. You get a double-sized issue of your scheduled programming, plus a ten or so page tale by Stan Lee and David Aja. Some humorous Mini Marvel action and about twenty pages of Lee and Kirby reprints round out one hell of a package. Though tossing a fin will be troubling, you do get 104 pages for your cash.

Straczynski’s Thor has been meandering and depressing. When Thor re-launched, I gave the first three issues a shot. The first issue was decent, but the second and third were incredibly awful. I later borrowed the first trade and still found it to be bad. Fortunately, the last six issues have been better, but Straczynski’s Thor has got to be one of the most overrated runs that I know of.

The issue begins with a resurrected Bor, Odin’s father. He’s wreaking havoc on New York due to a distortion spell from Loki-Sif. Basically, Loki puts Thor in an unwinnable situation and the rest of the issue is smashing, bashing, and thunder. That makes for a nice jumping-on point as well, since this issue is mostly action. The story, what little there is, is pretty good. It sets up a new status quo for Thor firmly based in Marvel’s Dark Reign for better or for worse. This title has struggled between Straczynski going off on his own, and the fact that Asgard is in Oklahoma. Whether it was Straczynski’s decision or Quesada’s, the future for Thor lies in continuity.

The battle itself is mostly spectacular. Coipel makes this book his own and begs even those most disenchanted with what Straczynski’s doing, like yours truly, to purchase this book solely for the art. Marko Djurdjevic joins Coipel this time, but the two don’t perform randomly like Land and Dodson did on Uncanny X-Men #50o. Coipel handles the normal stuff while Djurdjevic renders Bor’s spell-induced nightmare. Both artists did a remarkable job. Coipel shows the action, emotion, and even an “Avengers Assemble!” masterfully. And Djurdjevic has a lot of fun demonstrating Bor’s distortion, like when Spider-Man appears to be Venom in Bor’s lens.

My main complaint with Straczynski’s tale is perhaps the direction it’s taking. The Dark Reign moments were my least favorite parts. When Thor cries “Avengers Assemble!”, only a few jokers show up. I won’t spoil it, but why would only those guys appear? There must be close to a hundred heroes, and villains actually, that could’ve answered the call. It’s a ridiculously contrived moment. The status quo change is interesting, but the guest appearance on the last page is not. You can count him on your “most appearances in Dark Reign list” along with Osborn.

The bonus material is fun. The Lee/Aja tale is much like the main one; you can ignore the words and just gaze at the art. Aja produced some amazing work and Lee’s “story”… is pedantic to say the least. Thankfully, we’re also treated to some classic Thor stories as well where Lee redeems his good name. Stan Lee is in top form in these reprints and Kirby is, as always, the king, though these are some of the Vince Colletta-inked issues that are very controversial among Kirby fans. The last addition, by Chris Giarrusso, is hilarious. It pokes fun at Straczynski’s run so as you can guess, I had a blast.

The love outweighs the hate here. Marvel offers quite a hefty tome filled with glorious art that makes up for a bit of lackluster story. Good anniversary issues are rare, but you can count Thor #600 among them.

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.

Bruce Castle Presents: Matt Fraction Books Unite!

Large Cover of Uncanny X-Men #505 (Villain Variant)

Uncanny X-Men #505 (***)

Do we really want this man writing the X-Men?

I think it’s official, Brubaker has left the building. Did Fracker break up? I don’t know, but that picture is awesome. And Tony was right. Anyway, I feel sorry for this book. It’s become Marvel’s answer to JLA. One of the terrible things about the current JLA is that the book has to keep servicing other books. It spends too much time talking about events that it can’t tell its own stories. That’s exactly what Uncanny X-Men is. This issue spends so much time talking about X-Force, and M-Day, and Astonishing X-Men and now Dark Reign. Fraction only gets a few pages to tell the stories he wants to tell, but it has little impact. It barely makes sense! The Dodson’s continue to impress and the fact that this book isn’t terrible demonstrates Fraction’s ability as a writer. Please Marvel, give the man some freedom!

Large Cover of The Invincible Iron Man #8 (Villain Variant)

Invincible Iron Man #8 (****1/2)

Everything about this book is perfect. Except the art of course, Larroca can’t draw people. I know I know it’s Iron Man, but this book is about the characters. It’s not about the iron. Although the few panels involving technology do look sweet. It’s still amazing how Fraction manages to write this cast so well. Tony, Maria and Pepper are so lovable even though they’re definitely human and flawed. You know what else is in this issue? Comedy! I’ve said a thousand times but I’ll say it again, if you liked the movie you’ll enjoy this. Last thing, Osborn is the new Skrull. It’s only been two weeks and already I realize how much I’ll type the name Osborn in the coming months.

God-Sized

Thor: God-Sized #1 (****)

The writing is great. The art is great. There are four art teams working on this thing and yet they’re all pretty cool. I enjoyed the part three artist the most. It was very old-school, cartoony, and fun. So this is a quality issue, but I’m sure a lot of you will ask, “What’s the point?” It’s a tribute. Along with the 38 new pages, you’ll also receive a reprint of the classic Thor #362. Walt Simonson had one of the best runs on Thor ever. It easily rivals the Lee/Kirby era. But you know what? You can’t even get a trade that contains Thor #362. They were reprinted in trades but they’re sold out now. That’s why this issue is important. If you haven’t read Walt’s run, it’ll let you know what you’re missing. If you have read his run, you’ll quickly be reminded how great it was. The reason why I loved part three so much was because you got to see all the classic Simonson costumes, Balder in his armor, Thor with his beard, and so on. Of course this issue isn’t all about Simonson, it’s also about Skurge. He was a tragic and important part of the Thor mythos. I highly recommend this issue.

Desiato’s Top Ten Single Issues of 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Castle Presents: Thor Declares War on the Kingdom!

Thor Man Of War

Thor Man of War (*****)

Ok, if you love Thor or fun comics you should definitely pick this up! Matt Fraction is in top form! Forget Punisher War Journal, forget Uncanny X-Men (This was the best selling comic at my LCS last week. Really? People love that book? Why?), this is Matt Fraction writing at its best! Well, Casanova when it comes back and Iron Man are great too, but the point is this comic kicks ass! And with your ass kicking you need some pretty art right? Well, Patrick Zircher is back and if you’ve read the previous two issues you know he’s awesome. The guest artist this time is Clay Mann. I’m not too familiar with his work, but he does a good job. I think he tried to channel Oliver Coipel, it may not be the real thing but it’s an acceptable substitute. So what can you expect in Thor Man of War? I’ll tell you. I guess these are spoilers, but I don’t think it will detract from your enjoyment if you know these.

Thor fights Brunnhilda!

Thor, Brunnhilda, Balder, the Warriors Three and some other Asgardians team up to fight a Storm Giant!

Odin in the Destroyer armor with the Odinsword fights Thor!

Go buy now!

JSA Kingdom Come Special The Kingdom #1

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

Everybody who’s reading JSA is reading this right? I hope so because these (This one especially, this is Day Five and Day Six) specials are important. Kudos to Pasarin and Eaglesham for creating one of the creepiest looking characters, Gog. I’d credit Johns too, but he gets enough praise, and Gog’s facial expressions are so unsettling. The story is the same Gog stuff. The subplots are still there with a KC Superman and Wonder Woman scene. We also check up on Starman (We still don’t know what he’s up to do we?) and the last page of the issue really speeds our story along. Hopefully those mislead members will see the error of their ways. Last thing, I also enjoyed the Damage (Who is such a jerky pretty boy!) and Atom Smasher exchange.

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.

Bruce Castle Presents: Hulk vs. Thor!

Hulk #7 (Cover B - Frank Cho Variant)

Hulk #7 (****1/2)

We get two stories!

What Happens in Vegas: Art Adams! Multiple Wendigo! Joe Fixit! Moon Knight! Ms. Marvel (hubba-hubba)! Sentry!

Hell Hath No Fury…: Frank Cho! She-Hulk! Valkyrie! Thundra! Maria Hill! Rulk!

Jeph Loeb still continues to write for his artists. What can Art Adams draw well? Monsters! So we get multiple Wendigo and Joe Fixit (Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, and Sentry are a bonus)! What can Frank Cho draw well? Women! Particularly strong muscular women with tree trunk thighs and that’s exactly what we get. Oh, and of course there is a changing scene as well. So, this book looks amazing! It’s also funny and entertaining. That makes me happy.

Thor Truth Of History #1

Thor: The Truth of History (***)

There’s no school like the old school. This is written and drawn by Alan Davis. Davis has a very Silver Age style of both drawing and writing. If you’re looking for some classic Thor that’s new, this is it. Davis provides superb art and the story is fun enough. Oh, the Warriors Three are in here too. Something that did infuriate me is that in the description of this issue, Marvel promises that this will change things forever or some damn thing. Unless I missed something, I’m going to call BS on that. And that’s the main problem with this book, who cares? It doesn’t really matter and I’ll probably never read it again. It’s good, but at 4 bucks in this economy, you can probably pass.

Secret Invasion 12B: The Rest!

New Avengers #45 (**)

House of M was the first Marvel book I ever read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s safe to say that I was looking forward to this one, especially the way that the last three or four issues of New Avengers had the little “Next! House of M!” icon at the bottom of the last page. Well, we finally got it. However, I was kinda let down by this one. There was a moment earlier in the Avengers Secret Invasion tie-ins that mentioned three things the Skrulls needed to happen to ease the pressure on their invasion. They needed Nick Fury gone, they needed the mutants in check, and they needed the heroes not to trust each other. Of course, these three necessary components take the form of Secret War, House of M, and Civil War. So you have the presupposition that the Skrulls had something to do with these events. But really, they just got lucky. These events all happened in rapid succession and as far as we can tell, the advance scouts and sleeper agents just happened to be there when they happened. I know this does sorta feed into the notion that this does reinforce to the Skrulls that the invasion was in fact prophesized, and I know that retcons are a bit of a taboo for fans these days, especially when they’re done to events that happened so recently, but Bendis wrote Secret War and House of M. He’s been planning Secret Invasion since Avengers: Disassembled. So why not take the plunge and make the Skrulls more than bystanders? It’s his story! He can make it work. This book just seemed like a great missed opportunity. I find that saddening especially since Jim Cheung was on the art for this book and his gorgeous work was wasted on a middling book. This one was a misfire.

Mighty Avengers #18 (****)

I don’t have a lot to say about this one (you’ll notice a bit of a theme for that, but I’ll discuss that at the end of this article). I do love the way Bendis writes Nick Fury. Mighty Avengers 12 and 13 were really fun, and I’m glad they went back to this portion of the back story. Sure, it’s designed to further flesh out the characters before the launch of Secret Warriors, but it’s a good little one off story that also builds up Maria Hill a little further, which I always appreciate. All the Secret Warriors are fun characters. Bick Fury is the badass he should be. It’s just a great book, and it makes me excited for Secret Warriors, so it was a success from that perspective.

Avengers: The Initiative #17 (***1/2)

I like Eric O’Grady. I should probably read the Kirkman issues. I don’t really have a whole lot to say about this one either. The overt actions of the Skrulls were a little sill, but I like the way they’re smart enough to realize that they need to mkake sure Spider-Woman is protected. It’s also possible that the use of Jessica Drew dupes came as a response to Maria Hill’s little LMD ambush on the Helicarrier, which is a nice touch (if one that may be completely fabricated in my own mind). Plus you’ve got that little Mutant X semi reveal that was a bit weird. Sure seems to me that they’re trying to intimate that Mutant X is Jean Grey. Which means it’s probably Madelyn Pryor. Or someone else that has long, flowing red hair. That was a bit strange. This was a good, if middling, read.

Secret Invasion: Thor #2 (***)

I don’t get the same sense of energy in this book compared to the Fraction one shots. Obviously, it’s not going to read like the JMS book, and the Thor that we see in the JMS book is different from the Thor that we saw in those first two one shots, but that’s not the problem. Even still, this book just doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s Beta Ray Bill, but I don’t have a problem with the character or particularly how he’s written. I guess it might be the way Fraction cuts between the battle at Asgard and the child birth scenes in nearby Broxton, Oklahoma, but I don’t necessarily hate the device. Perhaps it’s the execution. I also wonder if I would like this more had the two Fraction/Zircher one shots not come out yet. They created a quality expectation for any Fraction penned Thor book, and these first two issues haven’t lived up to that. The third issue shows some potential promise with some possible Thor/Beta Ray Bill team-up action. Hoping this will pick up and turn into something worthwhile.

Deadpool #2 (****1/2)

Complete madness. Deadpool training Super Skrulls is a recipe for disaster. HILARIOUS disaster! We’ve got a lot of nice moments in the course of this book, including the realization that Deadpool’s DNA replication not only grants his impressive healing factor on these new Super Skrulls, but also his complete mental imbalance (and presumably his penchant for breaking the fourth wall). Deadpool wreaks havoc on the Skrulls and basically ruins an entire batch of Super Skrulls (who had already killed a completely separate batch of Super Skrulls as a “training exercise”) singlehandedly. Of course, we find out at the end that this was planned by Nick Fury from the beginning, and all is right with the world. The humor is still there and solidly done. Personally, I still prefer Nicieza’s humor over Way’s thus far, but he still brings the funny well enough. And it’s perfect acceptable for a Deadpool book. It’s a positive start to the series and I’m looking forward to the continuation of the book.

War Machine: Weapon of SHIELD #33 (***)

I’ve gotten a bunch of the Iron Man: Director of SHIELD issues, mostly for 25-50 cents apiece at various cons or Wild Pig sdales. Haven’t actually read any of them yet, but this one is a Secret Invasion book and War Machine has officially taken the title over, so it’s as good a time as any to start reading the book, especially considering the book is ending in a few scant months to be replaced b a Greg Pak War Machine book. So was it good? I guess. Christos Gage wrote this one, and it doesn’t exactly have the same flair that he puts into, oh…I don’t know…let’s say THUNDERBOLTS (Woo! Thunderbolts!). It’s a pretty good book; nothing about it is bad or painful, but it’s just okay. I didn’t get much out of this, and it’s one of the few tie-ins that didn’t add too much to the worldwide scope of Secret Invasion. Not necessary to be read, but it’s okay.

——-

So here’s the deal. I’m getting really burned out by the whole capsule review thing. Not really sure how to fix that, but I think I’m going to take some time to try and find a topic I can write about that isn’t a review or tied to any specific book. It’s been too long since the whole aborted look at the nature of various event structures to go back to that one (yeah, I know. Lame), so I’m really looking for something along the lines of the “In Defense of Civil War 7” article I wrote about six months back. Hopefully, the inspiration will strike me soon enough.

Secret Invasion Part 9

Captain Britain should be coming in my shipment tomorrow, so that’ll have to be in my next set of reviews (I’m getting ELEVEN Secret Invasion books in my box tomorrow).

Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers #2 (***1/2)

It’s the little things in life you treasure, and that’s a lot of what I enjoy about the Secret Invasion books. No stone is left unturned. This book continues the thread of Hulkling and Xavin’s attempts to reconcile themselves with the invading Super Skrull forces in New York City. We don’t see a whole lot of new, so this book is mostly focused on character development with that bit of flavor tying into one of the main themes of the tension between the Skrull monarchy and the religious sect that is leading the invasion. It’s standard fare, but it’s still good.

Secret Invasion: Front Line #2 (****)

Front Line is such a fun idea. It’s almost a microcosm of what worked with Marvels. The Marvel Universe has always been a street level universe, so why wouldn’t they make a book like this for every event? It makes perfect sense. And considering the change in direction toward “Embrace Change” and the ads we’ve been seeing post issue five of SI, I can see this book becoming VERY important for the rest of the run. Brian Reed is writing it more than competently, and this feels like an essential component of the story to show us all sides of what’s going on here.

Secret Invasion: Thor #1 (***)

It was okay. But I do agree with Billy that this doesn’t jive enough with the JMS stuff. I’m glad they’re putting it here in a separate mini instead of crowbarring it into the actual Thor ongoing. So we’ve got a Thor series that’s about Beta Ray Bill with Donald Blake sans hammer helping out the people of the local town. There’s some nice narrative work, but it doesn’t have the same pop to it that Fraction’s one shots have had. There’s potential there, especially with the Stormbreaker wrinkle, and I hope it picks up a bit.

Secret Invasion: X-Men #1 (****1/2)

Now this was surprising to me. Very similar to Black Panther from the perspective that we’re jumping back and forth between the Skrull invasion forces and the X-Men. It furthers what I like about these books, giving the Skrulls more depth than simply being a faceless marauding force. It’s the difference between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Battlestar Galactica. We need those three dimension villains to allow us to latch onto something and not blindly root for the good guys. We’ve seen this here. We’ve seen it in Black Panther. We saw it in Secret Invasion 4. And it’s what makes the entire story compelling, just like with Front Line. I do like the way the X-Men caught the Skrulls by surprise due to some older intel and got the quick upper hand. But that’s not the end of the story. This book is much more about the Skrull invaders than the X-Men so far, which seems to be a smart move considering how muddy the X Continuity is right now. Solid read with some different art that catches the eye.

Desiato’s Top Ten Monthlies!

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

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8

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

9. Captain Britain and MI:13

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

8. Avengers: The Initiative

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

7. Terry Moore’s Echo

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

6. Green Lantern Corps

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

5. The Immortal Iron Fist

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

4. New Avengers

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

3. Thor

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

2. The Incredible Hercules

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

1. Nova/Guardians of the Galaxy

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

Billy Z’s Top 10 Monthlies!

Hey, Bruce Castle came up with a good idea! Let’s steal it… but, with a slight modification. Whereas his list was culled from everything he’s currently reading I’m going to limit mine by spotlighting only those that fall under the heading of “ongoing series”. So, that means no minis (Final Crisis, Secret Invasion) or maxis (The Twelve, All-Star Superman). With that in mind, let’s move into the list… the Top 10 ongoings I can’t wait to read each month!

#10 – X-FORCE by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost & Clayton Crain

“FUN! FUN! FUN!” That is exactly what this book is to me. It’s old school X-Men (to me, “old school” means late 80’s/early 90’s) with a modern edge. I don’t remember my X-Men having so much blood and gore, but I like it! Now, I have to be honest, when I first heard mention of this series, I was not at all impressed. The “bloody” variants reminded me painfully of that X-Force clone from the mid-nineties “Bloodstrike” (by Rob Liefeld and Dan Fraga)… or maybe it was “Bloodstryke” with a “y”? Anyway, by issue 2, I was all in, baby! As I said, the book is just fun, and with every issue the plot gets more and more interesting. Surprise, Bastion! Nimrod! Archangel! Every X-Villain Ever! Purifier Civil War! It’s a throwback without being regressive. Sure the old villains are back, but they’re fricking techno-organic zombies! Yes, Archangel is back, but it’s not because we or the writers missed him, it fits the story. It SERVES the story and not the fanboys. And that, I guess, makes all the difference. Maybe…

You can check out a review of this book here

#9 – ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN by Brian Micheal Bendis & Stuart Immonen

This has been in my mental Top Ten since it first came out, and it’ll probably stay there for as long as Bendis remains on the book… which could easily be for another hundred issues. There’s not much to say as to why I love this book so much, it’s just a solid, thoroughly enjoyable read every month. It’s Spider-Man at his purest, unencumbered by 50 years of continuity (although, at the rate at which Bendis is reintroducing 616 ideas, we’re getting there). I like that when someone asks me about super hero comics I can grab a copy of the first volume of this series, hand it to them, and let Bendis’ Spider-Man seduce them into out world. More than any other title in the Marvel catalogue, this book is completely new reader friendly. And, it’s infinitely relatable. It’s got drama (High School!!!) and it’s got action (best Spidey action in comics thanks to Bagley and Immonen), and it’s got heart. I love Ultimate Peter Parker and I love Ultimate Mary Jane. In fact, I love the entire “Bendis” Ultimate universe! I kind of wish Ultimate Spider-Man could be its own separate thing, like if the editors could somehow cut it away from the rest of the Ultimate books that would be amazing! Maybe that’s what the Ultimatum event is all about? Or, if we just replaced the 616 title with the Ultimate one? Wait, hold that thought—

#8 – THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN by “The Spidey Brain Trust”

It took me a while to warm up to it, but eventually, I got there. This book is good. Damn good. So good, it may finally live up to its hype as THE Marvel flagship title. So, the book survived One More Day. Actually, it not only survived it, it’s downright thriving. Why? How can this be despite all the haters? Because it’s damn good comic book writing, that’s why. I’m tired of the whining. I’m tired of the complaints. OMD is over, dudes. Move on. I did, so can you. If you’re not reading BND because of OMD, then you’re only hurting yourself, brother. The party train has left the station and all you OMD whiners can suck it!

You can check out a review of this book here

#7 –DETECTIVE COMICS by Paul Dini & Dustin Nguyen

Yes, Paul Dini’s underrated run on Detective is in my Top Ten. Surprised? If you’ve been reading my Round-Ups, you shouldn’t be. I don’t think I’ve ever given this book less than three stars. I love it! It’s fun, damnit! It feels like the old Batman cartoon! Yay for fun! It’s filled with crazy shit like: “Celebrity Detective” Riddler, Zatanna/Catwoman/Batman love triangles and wacky adventure after wacky adventure! And last year’s Joker/Robin story was one of the best Joker/Robin tales I’ve ever read, and Dini did it all in one fricking issue! I know Countdown sucked… BOO HOO! But this book is INSANE NUTS AWESOME!! While what Morrison is doing over on “Batman” may turn out to be the greatest run of all-time, I’m content to read Dini’s one and two issue arcs ‘til the end of time.

You can check out a review of this book here

#6 – THOR by J. Michael Straczynski & Oliver Copiel

Recently, Desiato articulated all the reasons he loves Thor in this post. I totally agree with him. Go read that post.

#5 – JACK OF FABLES by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges

Fables can suck my hairy sack… Jack is where it’s at, man! It’s just funnier. I pick up a Jack comic and I know I’m going to laugh. I pick up a Fables comic and I know there’s an outside chance I may lose consciousness. I still like Fables, but it’s been on the “phoning it in” train for well over a year, while Jack just keeps getting better. I’ve been saying that a lot, but I guess that’s what all these books have in common. They’re well-plotted. But the thing about Jack is you never know quite what to expect from the title character or where the story is headed. Jack is the ultimate suspenseful character. He’s just as likely to befriend or betray someone. I also love that the writers aren’t telling his story in chronological order. Every few arcs, we jump back into his fabled past and we get to see one of his many adventures re-imagined in such a way that almost always makes Jack look like a total asshole. And we love it. We love to hate this moron.

You can check out a review of this book here

#4 – YOUNG LIARS by David Lapham

Young Liars would describe my life if an angry midget cut my dick off and threw it in the ocean. I know these characters. I’ve met them. They are real. I pre-ordered the first issue not really knowing what to expect, only knowing that I really liked David Lapham’s stuff, he of “Stray Bullets” fame. Once I finally got my hands on it, and read it, I couldn’t believe how fucking good it was. And then I read issue 2 and I got that same feeling, but more. And then issue 3. Again, same feeling, but more. And now, whenever I read it, I’m always left with the question, “How can this book keep on this way? It’s too good!” I don’t really know how well this book is doing, if it’s breaking even, selling gangbusters or close to cancellation. If I had to guess, I’d say the latter, and that’s a shame. We need to get the word out on this book… don’t wait for the trade! The series could be gone by then, and that would be a damn shame.

You can check out a review of this book here

#3 – THE INCREDIBLE HERCULES by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente & Khoi Pham

One of those rare books that gets better with age. I’m constantly surprised at how exciting and well-written this comic is each and every month. Its brilliant mix of mythology and modern day hijinks is what keeps me coming back every month. Hmm, it’s kind of like Jack of Fables in that way. Actually, I’d never drawn that parallel before, but The Incredible Hercules and Jack of Fables are exactly the same book! Cool. The odd couple of Hercules (super strong) and Amadeus Cho (super smart) is what really makes this engine hum. Their interplay is brilliant and hilarious.

You can check out a review of this book here

#2 – ACTION COMICS by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

I wasn’t “all in” ‘til Gary Frank joined the book. Johns had been rubbing me the wrong way for years, and with the lateness that plagued the start of his run I almost considered dropping the title. Boy am I glad I didn’t! The Legion arc was satisfyingly epic and the currently running Brainiac arc promises to outdo it. The art is phenomenal in its simplicity. Frank’s expressive faces and realistic style combine with Johns’ nostalgic flair to give us a decidedly modern take on Superman that isn’t afraid to indulge in sentimentality once in a while. I know we’ve been talking about the annoyingly regressive nature of this current generation of “fan-boy writers”, but here… in THIS book… it kind of works for me. Action Comics is the exception to the rule.

You can check out a review of this book here

#1 – CAPTAIN AMERICA (OBV!) by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting & Luke Ross

It’s the only monthly I buy from my local comic shop because I can’t wait the two weeks for DCBS to deliver it to my door. That’s how ####ing excited I get the day this comic comes out. I make a special trip just to buy it! And then I go home and scan the hell out of it and toss up a spoiler-riddled review on the blog. Not because anyone really cares anymore, no, because after reading it I become insane from JOY! Oh, how I love you Captain America… don’t ever change, guy.

You can check out reviews of this book here

So, that’s my list. Disagree much? Let me know. Let’s fight!! WOOOOOO!!!

Now that we took care of that, I want to quickly list off the runner-ups in alphabetical order:

Buffy: The Vampire Slayer: I want to love this book, I want to love it every month, but it too often lets me down. We had two great arcs in a row (Vaughn and Goddard) and then Whedon returns to fuck it all up with fan-favorite Fray in tow. Ugh. Close, but not close enough.

Captain Britain and MI13: Although I loved all the Secret Invasion issues, this book hasn’t been out long enough to earn its place in the Top 10… and, I’m not sure what the drop off in quality is going to be after SI concludes. For now, it gets to hover around the 11th place spot.

DMZ: I’m sure that if I wasn’t reading this in trade, I’d be on the list… and very near the top.

Green Lantern: Action Comics is just an order of magnitude better than this book. Period. I love GL, I love the new direction, but I can’t in good conscience put two Geoff Johns titles in my Top Ten. Sorry.

Invincible Iron Man: It’s too soon to tell, and as much shit as I give Fraction, he was born to write this book. As I related in my review of issue #4, Fraction’s take on the character is thrilling! Now, if Fraction would only stop writing anything other than Iron Man, Thor and Casanova I’d be a happy man.

Justice Society of America: What I said about Green Lantern goes double for JSA.

The Punisher: This book fell out of the Top Ten this month. Sad times. 😦

Bruce Castle Presents: The Skrulls Get Around

Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1 (****)

This book should have come out a lot sooner. That’s really the only complaint I have about this. The two main things that a tie-in has to be concerned about is one: have something to do with the event it ties into and two: spend at least a little time introducing the characters because you want to bring new readers into your story. I know little about the Inhumans. I don’t think I’ve ever read any of their books before so all I know is their names and a little about their powers. Not only did this issue tell me who the Inhumans are, it did so in a very creative way through stain glass windows. This gave Tom Raney the opportunity to show his prowess as an artist. His Kirby-esque rendering in those windows is an artistic treat. The characters are written wonderfully and we get to know all of them quickly. But this is still a tie-in, and when the Skrulls do show up they kick some ass in cinematic fashion. Due to the great work from the creative team, SI Inhumans is worth the price of admission.

Secret Invasion: Thor #1 (****1/2)

If you haven’t been reading Thor Ages of Thunder from Matt Fraction, you really need to do yourself a favor and pick up those two issues. I have a friend who has been reading Thor for almost 30 years and he feels that Fraction has written the best Thor since Walt Simonson’s legendary run. So I was both excited and a bit nervous reading this because his other two issues of Thor were so good. But thankfully, this doesn’t disappoint. I’ll give a quick shout out to Doug Braithwaite who does the art on this fine issue. He brings us breathtaking images and genuinely godlike portrayals that leave you breathless. We get to see some cool things we rarely see like Donald Blake’s duties as a Doctor and of course the return of Beta Ray Bill which shows Fraction’s obvious affection towards the aforementioned Simonson run. The action was absent in this issue, but there was plenty of material to keep you entertained and the last page leaves you wanting more.

Secret Invasion: X-Men #1 (****)

This was a hell of a first issue. I’ll first mention what drew me to this issue was Nord’s art. I’m a big Conan fan and since he’s off that book I have to get his pretty art anyway I can. So when I saw this I thought: X-Men, Skrulls, Nord art, and a pretty Dodson cover, I’m there! In addition to the glorious Nord art, I had quite a lot of fun with this issue. So the Skrulls invade San Francisco because remember, California was near defenseless until recently. The Skrulls land and start slaughtering until the X-Men arrive!  A lot of action ensues. So this is fun and has stunning art. What was interesting though is how serious the Skrulls were. They acted like they came right out of some bloody war. They had Skrully priests blessing the troops with the commander saying “These soldiers are saints already”. Who is this Skrull commander? He’s a pretty crazy character. He even refers to the Skrull invasion as a crusade. Oh and he executes another Skrull for messing up. The only thing that keeps this issue from being the best out of these tie-ins is the absence of an aforementioned tie-in ingredient. This isn’t a book for new readers at all. But if you like the X-Men, gorgeous art, and some extremely intriguing Skrulls, pick this up!

Review: Thor #10

We’ve reached double digits for J Michael Straczynski’s Thor, and it’s taken a little more than a year to get there, so I found this to be a good time to sit down and really parse things out for what this series has been and where it’s going from the perspective of its tenth issue. Haven’t done a full review in a little while, so bear with me.

For a book starring a guy who’s almost always had a shoot first, possibly forget to ask questions later mentality (that is, if by “shoot,” you mean “cave someone’s head in with a large hammer and electrocute his body”), there certainly isn’t a whole lot of action in this series. You’ve got a couple of action pieces, like Thor’s smacking Tony upside the head for all of that Clor business, or Odin and Thor tag teaming against Surtur in Valhalla, but it is quite plainly not the real focus of the series in this first series of stories. For the first time, Thor is legitimately the lord of Asgard. He’s in complete control. And the first couple arcs have been about the rebuilding of Asgard post Ragnarok. Thor begins by finding and waking up all the Asgardians sleeping in the bodies of normal humans, and follows with Thor confronting Odin in Valhalla, who basically gives Thor his blessing (as it were), so he can truly begin his rule of Asgard. And when he does…nothing really happens. But not in that bad way that everyone keeps throwing at Secret Invasion (FUCKERS! I mean…um…nice people that like this blog…erm…let’s just ignore that one). I mean, what would happen here? This is all taking place prior to Secret Invasion, so there are no Skrulls to fight (although it would seem pretty damned easy for the Skrulls to infiltrate Asgard, what with their ability to transform into both humans and Asgardians, but Matt Fraction’s going to have to let us know what’s going on with all that). They’re in the middle of Oklahma surrounded by bemused small town folks that only really bother them when a town meeting is afoot. But of course, there’s more to this than meets the eye. Because Loki’s around. And she’s got breasts.

There are a lot of reasons I could go into about the reasoning behind bringing Loki back as a female. I think it’s a stroke of genius not only from the original reveal (Thor is expecting to find Lady Sif standing in front of him…ah, fuck) but as a way of influencing the way the character works and the way others view her. Maternal figures are often innately trustworthy. It’s an instinctual mother/child thing. So why wouldn’t the ultimate deceiver disguise himself as a figure of ultimate trust? And this current arc is all about Loki’s slow infection of Asgard. This is the second issue of Loki’s assault on Asgard, and much like the past issue, she is using Balder as her proxy. You get these wonderful panels (good work, Mr. Coipel) of Loki skulking in the shadows above Balder’s shoulder whispering things into his ear (“Nah, you should totally do that. It would be awesome! Trust me on this one, nobody’ll notice” Not an actual quote, I just have that kind of voice in my head for Loki), manipulating his movements in classic Loki fashion. But what’s so great about this is the way that Loki doesn’t lie to Balder. He doesn’t need to. Because Balder legitimately is a son of Odin and prince of Asgard. And Thor and Odin didn’t tell him. And Loki knows this. Sure, there’s a reason why Balder wasn’t told he was the son of Odin (it has to do with Ragnarok and Balder’s heralding its beginning with his death). But it’s still kind of a dickish thing to do, especially after Thor brought everyone back, and disrupting Ragnarok was no longer a concern, and yet he still didn’t tell Balder of his true nature.

So we get the scene where Balder confronts Thor. And Thor can’t do anything other than tell him the truth, considering Loki is standing right behind him with that look in her eye. So Thor gives him the news and tries to get out of planning a coronation, and of course Loki demands that it happen as soon as possible, because this is a thing to celebrate! And all through this, you can see the look of anger and annoyance and disdain etched on Thor’s face. And none of it is directed at Balder. It’s all about Loki. And even during the coronation itself, where Balder comes out resplendent in fancy new duds and everyone is quite happy, Thor is still brooding in the shadows, because he knows that nothing good will come from this.

It’s a quiet series, and everything unfolds slowly and deliberately in a way that I don’t think anyone was expecting from this series. I mean, it’s Thor, so you can expect a lot of “thee”s and “thou”s and various people and creatures being hit in the face with a hammer. You don’t expect monarchical intrigue. But it works. There is this strange balance between the minutiae of back country folks dealing with a city of gods floating ten feet above their land (Asgard has a mail box. And it’s probably chock full of credit card applications. Which just got a story idea in my head of the Warriors Three getting their hands on a credit card…) and the sort of arch character moments that come from Thor trying to get used to ruling over Asgard for the first time with Loki skulking in the shadows, and being unable to find Lady Sif, and making the conscious decision to not look for Odin and the character questions that arise from that. It’s heavy storytelling, and it’s complex and deep and refuses to conform to the lowest common denominator of superhero books (YOU HEAR ME, JEPH LOEB?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?). And Coipel’s art (along with a couple fill ins by Marko Djurdjevik earlier in the series) has been up to the task from issue one, making sure that JMS doesn’t have to weigh down the dialogue with emotional exposition, because everything each character would ever think about is blatantly drawn out in the art. This is comics with a Shakespearian scope, and I’m eating up every second of it. I mean, between this and what Fraction’s done on the two one shots (and what I assume he’ll be doing with the Secret Invasion mini), it’s a good time to be a Thor fan (unless he’s written by Jeph Loeb. Seriously. Fuck that guy).

Bruce Castle’s August Previews Order

ACTION COMICS #870 JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #20
ANITA BLAKE, LAUGHING CORPSE #1 MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN #44
ASTONISHING X-MEN GHOST BOXES #1 MARVEL ZOMBIES 3 #1 (OF 4)
ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN #11  MIGHTY AVENGERS #19 
BACK TO BROOKLYN #2  NEW AVENGERS #46 
BATMAN #681  PUNISHER #63 
BOYS #23  PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #24 
CAPTAIN AMERICA #43 SECRET INVASION #7
CAPTAIN AMERICA WHITE #1 SECRET SIX #2
CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI13 #6 SI THOR #3 (OF 3)
CONAN THE CIMMERIAN #4 SI X-MEN #3(OF 4)
CROSSED #1  SUPERGIRL #34
DAREDEVIL #112  SUPERMAN #681 
FC LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #3 SUPERMAN NEW KRYPTON SPECIAL #1
FC RAGE OF THE RED LANTERNS #1 SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #1
FC RESIST #1 THOR THE TRUTH OF HISTORY #1
FC SUBMIT #1 ULTIMATE CAPTAIN AMERICA ANNUAL #1
FC REVELATIONS #3 ULTIMATE HULK ANNUAL #1
FINAL CRISIS #5 ULTIMATE ORIGINS #5 (OF 5)
GREEN LANTERN #36 ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #127 
HELLBOY: IN THE CHAPEL OF MOLOCH  ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #3
HULK #7 UNCANNY X-MEN #503 
INVINCIBLE #57 WALKING DEAD #56 
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #6  

Ouch! My…wallet…hurts…so…much! And this is me trying to cut back! Why are comics so good?! Well let’s see, I cancelled a couple books and I’m reading others in trade. All of the universes are getting more exciting! The Ultimate U has Origins ending plus three annuals. DC has Final Crisis running strong plus a gang of tie-ins written by Johns, Rucka and of course Morrison. And Marvel has SI ending soon.

Because Billy had kind of an under the radar highlight that neither Desiato or I will read 🙂 (Don’t worry Billy, if it’s good I’ll pick it up in trade), I’ll recommend this!

Script, Pencils and Cover by ALAN DAVIS
Legendary writer-artist Alan Davis (FANTASTIC FOUR: THE END) sends Thor on one of his most epic adventures in history! The God of Thunder and his fellow Asgardians visit Midgard’s ancient Egypt…and leave behind a startling legacy that will change our world forever in this one-shot!
48 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Will a one-shot really change our world forever? I don’t know, but what I do know is that not many people will read this. Try to give it a shot though. It’s written and drawn by Alan Davis. He has certainly proved himself to be a fantastic writer and artist. Walt Simonson was doing the writing and art on his legendary run too you know.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #35 – Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Jack of Fables #23 (****)

Again, not as funny as usual, but Willingham is telling some back story here so I guess I’ll allow it. Jack may not be as funny as usual, but he’s still the biggest asshole in the world. He kills the gun store clerk for selling all his silver bullets, threatens the sheriff, threatens to kill his own men… all that and he’s only in this issue for less than five pages. The majority of the plot deals with Bigby making a mess of the town saloon, killing five people and maiming half a dozen others. What the hell, dude. You call that keeping a low profile? At the end of the book, Bigby decides that in order to catch up to Jack, he’ll have to wolf-out and bark at the moon. That’s not very fair, especially since Jack only managed to get his hands on one silver bullet. Question: How many silver bullets does it take to kill a wolf-man? Second part: Is it okay that Willingham is mixing mythologies here, crossing the Big Bad Wolf with traditional werewolves?

Mythos: Captain America #1 (***)

I’m not even sure why this book exists beyond being a marketing tool for the main title. It doesn’t really tell a compelling origin story instead it acts as an illustrated Wikipedia entry. I had this weird feeling all throughout reading this, like I was waiting for the plot to start. It never did. There is no plot. Not to say it’s badly written because it’s not. Not for what it is anyway. I’m one of the biggest Cap fans you will ever find and even I didn’t think this was essential reading, so I don’t think I can really recommend this one to anybody. Hmm, yet I still give it three stars… probably because I liked this cover so much, we’re using it in Marvel Evolution. SPOILER!

Thor: Reign of Blood #1 (*****)

I stopped in the middle of writing this review to go for a walk around the old neighborhood. I haven’t done that in years, since High School maybe. Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because when I got back, I saw that Desiato had already posted everything I wanted to say about this book, but MORE and BETTER. So, I deleted what little I had written and wrote this stupid/lame paragraph of inner shame. However, I did save a little of what I wrote. For those interested, click below:

Asshole Thor, Whiny Loki, Lascivious Odin and Scorching Hot Frost Giant… file these under things I like…

Quick Hits:
Angel: After The Fall #9 (**): And we are back to suck. The art is just TOO bad. TOO TOO TOO bad. Distractingly bad. Didn’t I drop this POS?
The Man With No Name #2 (*): I was wondering what happened to this book. I reviewed the first issue and if I remember correctly, the review wasn’t that bad. But this issue? This issue is bad.
She-Hulk #30 (*): Peter David… why? Why do you hate?
Ultimate Fantastic Four #55 (*): Oh man, I feel like I just ate bad Chinese.
War Is Hell: The First Flight of The Phantom Eagle #4 (****): This books keeps getting better the longer it runs. Oh shit, only one issue to go.
Wolverine: Origins #26 (***1/2): Um, not much to say. Way reveals Daken’s origin story and we kind of feel bad. And then Logan tortures some American-Japanese. What a jerk.