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.

ORIGIN STORIES: Marvel Evolution – Mr. Sinister and His Marauding Marauders! Special Guest Stars, The X-Force!

*****START GENERIC, YET HEARTFELT APOLOGY*****

Well, so, um, uh… I was moving last week! Does that excuse me? Probably not, but I’m hoping the content of this article will make up for any sad bear feelings I may have unintentionally caused last week. DI apologies!

*****END GENERIC, YET HEARTFELT APOLOGY *****

TBS Wants To Date Me!

TBS: “Nice job with last week’s article, bra’.”
Billy: “I didn’t do one—oh, I see what you did there.”
TBS: “BWAHAHA! I am king!”
Billy: “Yeah? Nice Facebook, Douchey Mcdoucherson.”
TBS: “I do what I can.”
Billy: “Dude, I never see you anymore. Very sad.”
TBS: “Let’s have a date! I’ll drive up and you can make me dinner, and then we can see a movie at the local cinema, and then maybe, if you’re lucky, we can retire to the boudoir for a nightcap?”
Andrew: “Ah my gawd, SHUT UP!”

More Than You Ever Needed To Know About The Way I Think!

Let’s talk about the Marauders AND X-Force, shall we?

• Cable, Temporal Traveler – Yes, he’s got flight and range because he’s from some future alternate dimension, so no, he’s not the “616” Cable. Also, we loves the Highfather style beard.
• Domino, Probability Manipulator – Finding art for this card was super-duper hard, hence the Deadpool fist in the lower left corner of the frame. Ugly!
• Born To Run – I have a whole spiel about those stupid “Baby on Board” signs people put on their car windows, but I won’t bore you with it here.
• Techno-Organic Virus – Thank God for Patrick Zircher. What a master.
• X-23, Genetic Miracle – She’s slicing bullets—in half!
• In The Crossfire – This is a cover from like 15 years ago that I picked up in a dollar bin earlier this year. No-Prize to the first person to properly identify it.
• Rapid Strike – The art for this card changed a bunch, not because the previous art was bad, we just had too many good pieces to choose from.
• Endangered Species – Despite its back-up story nature, I rather liked this story.
• Psimitar – Rob Liefeld art for those Rob Liefeld lovers. Don’t be ashamed, you know who you are.
• Providence – Very happy with every aspect of this card. Good show.
• RL-9000 – Not sure if anyone got this, but the “RL” stands for Rob Liefeld and the “9000” is an allusion to the BFG-9000 from the Doom series. Also, if you don’t know what “defenestrate” means, for the love of God, look it up!
• Moonstar, Danielle Moonstar – Squeezing in that S.H.I.E.L.D. legacy, baby.
• Doop, Extra-Dimensional Void – I love me some Doop. Does this mean you’ll see more X-Statix characters in MEV?
• Cable, Mutant Messiah – Yeah, hindsight correctly perceives the art on this card as rather lame. Sorry.
• Bosom Buddies – Not much to say here, this card’s awesomeness is readily apparent.

Random, Alex – The flavor explains everything you need to know about this guy. He’s so ridiculous! This is definitely one of those cards that I feel was an epic design FAIL. I mean, is that ability random in any sense of the word?
• Gambit, Le Diable Blanc – Hey! It’s another alternate art card!
• Identity Theft – A late addition, suggested by the great Dave Humpherys, and we couldn’t be happier. That’s why Da’ Hump gets paid the big bucks. DING.
• Mr. Sinister, Robert Windsor – That flavor is pretty ribald, but I guess the editors thought it was cool, so…
• Gambit, Traitor – For the record, I hate Gambit, but I love you guys… dilemma!
Sabretooth, Wounded Animal – An X-Men affiliated Sabretooth… finally.
• Mr. Sinister, Molecular Manipulator – I love the look on his face, he’s like, “Huh? Yeah? I’m awesome, right?”
• Cajun Charm – Again, HATE Gambit, but man he’s got some good looking cards.
• Mystique, Raven – Now, Mystique? Love ‘er!
• Master Thief – Another great Gambit card. You’re welcome.
• X-Gene Decoded – Seriously, the art on this card is disturbing. Out of context, anyway. But still. What’s he been doing to baby Cable?
• Sinister Disciples – “Look at all our faces… we are so evil.”
• Mystique, Foxx – The Captain into Mystique? Janky-janks.
Three-Card Monte – Is this card any good? I don’t know, you decide… but either way, it looks damn cool. DAMN YOU, GAMBIT! Damn you for looking so good!

Who The Heck Are The Marauders?

If you’re clever and found the “hidden” spoiler, you know all about what’s going on with X-Force, so let’s not dwell on that. Let’s move straight to the Marauders.

So who are they? The Marauders are a team of mutant mercenaries hired by Mr. Sinister to do his dirty work when he’s just too busy torturing babies, like Cable. They can also be described as a bunch of clones of aforementioned mutant mercenaries… and also clones of those clones… and so on, and on… OH! And recently, during the Messiah Complex event, the Marauders teamed up with the Acolytes (you know, those dudes that used to follow Magneto, but now follow Exodus? SEE: Brotherhood from the Marvel X-Men set), so you can surely expect to see both teams appear in Marvel Evolution. Together. On the same team. Expect to see the following characters and non-character cards:

• Acolyte Protection!
• Malleable DNA!
• Neverland!
• 4xMystique!
• 4xMr. Sinister!
• All the Marauders!
• All the Acolytes!

Heh, it kind of just designs itself at some point, don’t it?

All Killer, No Filler

You want another actual spoiler? Check out this baby:

…so, wait, this affects ALL of your attackers? For real? Hey, TBS…

TBS: “Sup, dawg?”
Billy: “Dude, didn’t that card used to say something like ‘target attacker’, as in it only worked on one guy at a time?”
TBS: “Oh, I went in and changed a bunch of cards after Hump soft-locked. Beefed ‘em up. You like?”
Billy: “And no one notioced?”
TBS: “I’m a computer whiz, dude, of course they didn’t notice!”*

Recommended Reading:
• Cable Volume 1: Messiah War
• X-Force Volume 1: Angels and Demons
• X-Force Volume 1: New Beginning
• X-Force Volume 2: Final Chapter
• X-Men: Blinded by the Light
• X-Men: Endangered Species
• X-Men: Messiah Complex
• X-Men: Supernovas
• X-Statix, Vol. 1: Good Omens

Again, Wiki, Wiki, Wiki!

Whew, we got there. Happy? Did I make up for missing last week? Are we friends again? If yes, tune in next week for more random happenings as I take a hard look at Weapon X, or as I like to think of them, my favorite team.

Call your mom!

*This is a lie. TBS gets derf’d on a weekly basis. For the definition of “derf’d”, please direct your e-mails to TBS. Thanks.

Bruce Castle Presents: Wolverine Goes Beserk!

X-Force #6 (****)

If you’ve read one issue of X-Force, you can probably tell if it’s for you or not. Every single issue has been either crappy or really good depending on your opinion. I happen to fall into the really good category. I enjoy the fun and the gore along with the continuity junk. I’m conflicted when it comes to Crain’s art. He does a pretty good job here though. There are even a few moments of (dark) greatness. Overall, this was a promising first arc. I’m pleased that Mike Choi (I really dug his Uncanny X-Men work) will handle the art chores in the upcoming issues and it looks like Kyle and Yost will provide many dark, violent, continuity-filled stories for years to come.

Ultimate X-Men #97 (****)

This is the end of Heroes writer Aron Coleite’s first arc on Ultimate X-Men. I was quite pleased with it. I really enjoyed Coleite’s jam-packed storytelling. There is still some room for improvement, but he’s still adjusting. Like the rest of this arc, this issue contains some pretty crazy stuff. I also enjoyed seeing Mark Brooks’ art. Oh, I just have to write about this: SLIGHT SPOILER!!! Colossus lifts Wolverine over his head and rips off his leg! Does that remind you of a certain unfinished Ultimate mini-series? In fact, listen to what Wolverine says about it, “The Hulk tore me in half once. You shoulda seen what I did to him. It was epic.” END SPOILER!!!! How can you not laugh at that? Anyway, if this title continues after Ultimatum, it looks like Coleite could have a pretty impressive run.

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: X-Force! And Something Crappy….

X-Force #5 (****): This is still the continuance of well-written gore, which is not really much of a bad thing. I remember when I read issue 1 that it almost felt like a MAX book. But, as it has been mentioned before, it’s not all about the blood. It’s a genuinely well-crafted action adventure with many shocks, oohs, and awes. I was a bit disappointed in this issue, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Still, I meant my aforementioned compliments and very much like the book is steady, so is my feeling of satisfaction while reading it.

 

Ultimate Fantastic Four #56 (-): As you may have noticed… you know what? I was about to write a lenghty response to this deplorable book, but it’s not deserving of one. I’ve had it with Ultimate FF! For too long it’s been below average or worse and I’m fed up! I like to think of myself as an optimist. I like to look for the good in things. I can’t anymore when it comes to this book. Please Marvel, either relaunch this with a good team or kill it, I can’t take anymore!

Bruce Castle Quickies 3

4 stars = Stop reading review and go buy now!!!!
3 and a half stars = Great issue and make room on your trade shelf someday soon
3 stars = Recommended and maybe even trade worthy
2 and a half stars = Recommended
2 stars= Not the best, not the worst, not recommended
1 and a half star = Terrible issue and vocalize your disgust at your next social event
1 star = Awful awful awful and you may want to consider dropping this title
0 stars = Next con you attend where the writer and/or artist are present you should throw this issue in their face

Ultimate Fantastic Four #55– Please Marvel, please make this the Ultimate book that gets killed. I’m giving this issue one star for the art and the reveal. Everything else…. 1 star

Punisher #58– As soon as this arc finishes and the next hardcover comes out, that hardcover will probably be collect the two best Punisher stories. Ennis you will be missed. 4 stars

Wolverine 66– I had a lot of fun with this issue. It’s definitely a mixture of classic elements such as Frank Miller and Barry Windsor-Smith’s Wolverine, Unforgiven and Mad Max. I love all that stuff though, and I love this too! Steve Mcniven’s art makes this book! 4 stars

X-Factor #32– It still isn’t as good as the early issues of the book. What happened Peter David? What made you start writing worse? There is still some good stuff in this issue though. I hope that it’ll get better though. 2 and a half stars

X-Force #4– If I didn’t give this book 4 stars, Billy would kill me. I like life. Seriously though, this was a great issue. I don’t know much about X-23 but it was interesting to kind of understand where she is coming from. It’s also cool to see the evil villainous plots. And the gore, can’t forget the gore. This is practically a Max book. 4 stars

Foilball’s Review Roundup #28

Checkmate #26 (-)

Bruce Jones is a hack. A despicably vacant wreck of a talent. This issue was awful. And to be perfectly clear, I mistakenly pre-ordered this mess out of habit and boy did I pay the price for that one. In one swift stroke, Jones destroys any and all credibility earned by the Checkmate organization during the Greg Rucka run. What’s most appalling is that he sacrifices said credibility in order to give the world this monstrosity. What. The. Fuck. Hyperbole? I think not. I’m positive that anyone who’s actually read this issue knows exactly what I’m talking about. I’m burning this travesty, just as soon as I hit the publish button.

Fantastic Four #557 (***)

As far as opening arcs go, this one was an interesting choice. Millar stated that he wanted to get back to telling family oriented stories… doesn’t everyone say this about the Fantastic Four?… but I found these last four issues to be curiously devoid of any real depth. It’s not enough to say your plot is about Sue and Reed’s relationship, you actually have to write about said relationship. Maybe I just couldn’t handle all the subtext, but I just don’t see how this issue’s payoff scene was adequately built up in the preceding issues. Ok, that’s enough about what I didn’t like. Wait, this was stupid as well. The idea of the Anti-Galactus suit comes from a place in Millar’s head where he’s way too pleased with himself. Okay, okay, what I liked: Dangling subplots! This is something Lee and Kirby really excelled at in their legendary run and I’m glad Millar is tapping into this.

+Subplot #1: The fate of Nu-World!
+Subplot #2: Johnny and his new flame!

The Nu-World thing will most likely get addressed by the end of the run, but I’m not so sure about the “banging your villains” issue. Could this be just another one of Millar’s attention-grabbing ideas that go nowhere? Maybe. Oh, and with regards to that scene, couldn’t he still handcuff her after they finish? I’m sure I saw that in a movie once starring Joe Don Baker.

We’re still in the opening stages here, and I usually love the Millar/Hitch pairing, so I guess I can cut them some slack. And let’s be real, writing the FF is not the easiest assignment in history. Doing it right could be one of the toughest jobs in comics, second only to writing a good Superman book (Yay, Geoff Johns!). So, yes, I complain, but my heart is in the right place. Oh and… Enter: DOOM!

X-Force #4 (*****)

As each part of this story unfolds, the complex plot turns faster and thicker. In this issue, we focus on X-23. Now, I haven’t read much X-23, so I had no idea she was this emotionally damaged. And then she’s a cutter? Good, God! This happens after Wolverine just rips into here (not literally, at least not yet) about innocence and sacrifice. I love how violently Wolverine reacts, as if he feels personally indicted by X-23’s inhumanity. And rightly so, I would think. She is your clone, dude. Later, after the cutting, X-23 confronts a wolfed out Rahne Sinclair A.K.A. Wolfsbane. Just before going wild shit crazy on the drugged up lassie, X-23 hears Logan’s damning words in her head… and proceeds to drop her guard. Extreme violence and blood loss follows.

Which brings us to my one complaint about this entire series: the art, although wonderful, is sometimes so dark that it’s difficult to read the details. And maybe there’s too much blood? This is a nitpick, I admit. I am old and could probably do with some reading glasses. Anyway…

GAH! So much happened in this one issue! Why is Wolfsbane attacking her friends, specifically Angel? Oh, well because she’s under the control of Mathew Risman, of course. What a twist! And Bastion has no idea what Risman’s doing behind his back! Another cool twist! Shit! Those are Archangel’s old wings, right? A choir of Archangels?!? And speaking of Archangel, look who’s back… Archangel!!!

This is my book of the month. I had no idea how much I would enjoy reading it and it has completely surpassed all expectations. Consider me a believer. If you’re not reading this book, do yourself a favor and click the links. Gah, all I can say is that I wish I had access to this art a month ago. Sigh.

Quick Hits:
1985 #1 (**1/2): Meh, I think the solicitation was more interesting than the actual product being solicited.
Action Comics #865 (***): Well written, as always, but what was the point of retconning Toyman’s character history?
Fables #73 (**1/2): I wish the war was over already. I don’t think I care who wins. I don’t think I even like these fables anymore.
The Immortal Iron Fist #15 (***1/2): This was fun. Shockingly. I dread the day Brubaker and Fraction leave the book.
The Programme #11 (*): Oh, finally, time for the super soldiers to fight?
Spawn #178 (****): I really like what Hine has done with this book. And now… and NOW I read that McFarlane is coming back and he’s going to turn it back into a superhero comic? WTF? EFF YOU, TODD!!!
War is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle #3 (***1/2): Okay, I get it now. I think I like this book.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #16 – X-Men Edition!

X-Men: Free Comic Book Day (***1/2)

This comic kind of failed as far as FCBD goes. It had all the elements you need to hook new readers: young, tier 2 character to introduce us to the world of the X-men; Tier 1 X-Men in action; cool villains… wait, no it didn’t. The N’Garai? I know I put ‘em in MTU, but these guys are not cool or clever or anything. They just are. Which brings me to the biggest problem I had with this book: the tone. This book is not appropriate for kids. Super violence and demons… whose brilliant idea was this? Seriously, this is a dark fucking book. I guess Marvel has completely given up on marketing its main line to a young audience. I don’t know, maybe the kids line is selling really well? Sorry, this is a whole ‘nother rant. There’s one other tiny bit of continuity significance in this free comic: it spoils the end of the current Uncanny arc. Apparently, from this final splash page, one could infer that the X-Men will move their headquarters and school to the West Coast, specifically, San Francisco. This, I really liked. A sea change could do these characters a world of good. I wonder if the change in locale has anything to do with Ellis taking over Astonishing?

Uncanny X-Men #497 (****)

Still loving the art… someone please tell me Choi is on this book past 499? Also, is this the return of the Scarlet Witch? I heard tell they’ve been saving her return for an X-Men book and with #500 just around the corner, and with it featuring the return of Magneto, could this really be her? Emma’s comments about the “disturbances in the force” made my mind twist around the possibility that this rogue mutant is actually Scarlet Witch. Everything fits if it is… I can’t think of anything that would say it’s not Wanda. Man, I hope it is!

X-Men: Legacy #210 (****)

This trip down memory lane is just about the best X-Men stuff Carey has ever written. Where has he been keeping the good writerings? Why wait so long to bust out the hotness? So at the end of it, Charles Xavier’s physical mind is fully restored, but some of his key memories have been lost or remain locked inside his brain, as evidenced in this scene between Amelia and Charles. That was a little bit heartbreaking, especially since Amelia’s been hanging out on the fringes of the X-books since the beginning of Messiah Complex. I was hoping for a happy ending for these two. Anyway, this book is just another example of how much Messiah complex actually changed the world of the X-Men and provides further evidence that the promised changes to the Marvel Universe since House of M continue to make an impact. AND, even with all the changes, the creators are still making room for old continuity, again as seen throughout this story arc. Old and new ideas working together to make super aweomes… this makes me a very happy comic reader.

X-Force #3 (***1/2)

Issue #1 was “w/e”. Issue #2 WOW’d me with the re-introduction of Bastion. Issue #3 just turned up the mother-loving heat! The Purifiers are actual badasses now? Bastion is written perfectly. He’s a better character in Yost and Kyle’s hands than he has any right to be. The art is still too dark, but now that the story and characters are picking up the slack, it doesn’t bother me as much. I considered dropping the hammer on this series, now I can’t wait for the next issue. I feel like pretty soon we may have a 4 or 5 Star book on our hands.

So all in all it was a pretty great month for the X-Men and all things considered, it’s only going to get better.