Coloring Between the Lines: Matthew Wilson

Hello Revuers! Sorry for the absences a of late, but we are officially back. What better way to return than with an interview with one of the top colorists in the game today: Matthew Wilson! We appreciate Matthew for his time and are grateful to him for answering our questions. We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we do!

 

Hello Matt, Thanks for agreeing to this interview!

 

  • How long have you been a colorist?

I started coloring for Lee Loughridge’s coloring studio, Zylonol Studios in 2003. I first colored books under my own name, and colored less for Zylonol between 2007-2009.

 

  • Was it what you wanted to be when you were a kid?

No, not really. I liked to draw, paint, and sculpt as a kid and wanted to do any of those things when I grew up. I read comics as a kid, but never thought of coloring as a career I might have one day. I took a class on digital coloring for comics in college, and enjoyed it. I only began coloring comics as a job because Zylonol was located in the same town as my college and I applied to work there after I graduated. It was one of the only places locally that I thought I might like to work. One thing led to another and now it’s 13 years later and I’ve colored a lot of comic books.

 

  • What’s the first comic book series you really got into?

Hm. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles collections they put out in the early 90’s. The colored collections, not the original black and white comics. I wasn’t aware of them until I saw the collections in a bookstore. Then, around the same time was the death of Superman, and then the creation of Image comics by a bunch of creators that I already liked from reading their previous work. Another early influence was Marvel and DC trading cards, because there was a card shop near my house that I could ride my bike to after school, and buy cards. Also, Batman The Animated Series was something else I was really in to as a kid.

 

  • Do you prefer superhero comics or other genres?

If I had to pick, I guess I’d pick other genres, but I like reading both superhero books and non-superhero books.

 

  • Who is your favorite superhero?

Hm, that’s a tough one. Probably Batman if I’m picking just one. Or maybe Spider-Man.

 

  • Who is your favorite non superhero character?

Hellboy, maybe? Or maybe John Constantine. Again, that’s tough.

 

  • What’s your favorite series that’s not a superhero series?

Hellboy or Hellblazer in terms of all-time favorite. More recently I’ve really enjoyed East of West, Lazarus, The Autumnlands, and Southern Bastards.

 

  • What is your process like for coloring?

Black and white pages come from the publisher, I give them to my flatter. He puts in flat colors so it’s easier for me to select areas to color. I then read the script and look over the pages to get an idea of how I want to color the issue. I tend to work on an entire scene at one time, if I can. I’ll set the palette for the scene. Then, I’ll color the backgrounds in all the pages, then go back and color all the characters in the pages.. Lastly I’ll do any of the glows or coloring of the lines for things like powers or explosions. I tend to spend about 1 to 2 hours on a page on average.

 

  • How do you choose a color palette?

I usually look for a story reason first. For example, is there an emotion I can help bring out in the color that will help better tell the story? Or do I need to indicate a particular time of day or a specific kind of lighting? I want to make sure the colors are servicing the story. Then I look at what the artist has given me to work with. Have they set up an interesting light source? Is there a clear indication of the time of day, or something in the environment that might suggest a certain color? Then I’ll also take other scenes in to consideration when picking the palette for the scene I’m working on. Like, what came before? What’s happening in the next scene? I like to have an obvious change in palette when the story changes scenes. So, for example, if we’re inside a laboratory in one scene, then we exit the lab to find it’s in the middle of a desert I want to make sure the lab and the desert don’t use similar palettes. And my choice for the lab palette will be very different if the story shows the next scene to be in the middle of the arctic or something, rather than a desert. So I like to know the context around each scene before deciding on a palette.

 

  • What’s your favorite project you’ve ever worked on?

That’s a tough question to answer because I work on so many that I’m probably forgetting an older one that I really enjoyed. And also, as I try to get better at coloring all the time, I tend to like my current projects more because I feel like I’m doing better work now than I did in the past. For example, I worked with Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman for 3 years, and after that we moved to working on Paper Girls for the last 2 years. I like our work on Paper Girls much more than what I did on Wonder Woman, but that’s because it’s more current, and I believe I’ve gotten better at coloring. But yeah, some of my favorite projects recently are certainly Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing at DC. Daredevil and Black Widow, both with Chris Samnee at Marvel. The last few years of Thor with Russell Dauterman at Marvel. And many of my collaborations with Jamie McKelvie, including Phonogram, The Wicked + The Divine, and Young Avengers.

 

  • Do you have anything coming out soon that we should keep an eye out for?

There’s a series coming out at Image called Black Cloud that I think will be interesting. It’s written by Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon, with art by Greg Hinkle and colors by me. The premise of the story is allowing for some wildly varying visuals, and really pushing me in different directions depending on the scene.

 

  • Who are some of your favorite colorists in the industry today?

Probably my all time favorite is Dave Stewart. His work is what inspired me to keep getting better when I was first starting out. Currently, I’m always amazed when I see something colored by Bettie Breitweiser, Jordie Bellaire, Tamra Bonvillain, Nathan Fairbairn, Jordan Boyd, Nolan Woodard, Frank Martin, Dave McCaig, Nick Filardi, Kelly Fitzpatrick…. And probably just as many names that I’m forgetting. Honestly, there’s SO many good colorists doing interesting work now. Not to mention artists that are fantastic at coloring themselves like Jen Bartel and Kris Anka and Ryan Browne.

 

  • Is there anyone you draw inspiration from?

Just about everyone I mentioned in the last answer, for sure. In terms of art history, or more historical influences, I’ve always been partial to impressionist painters. My earliest influence on how powerful of a tool that color palettes could be was the Rouen Cathedral series of paintings by Claude Monet. Another artist I like to cite in these kinds of answers is Japanese artist Hiroshi Yoshida. He was a 20th century painter and printmaker. His prints were amazing.

 

  • I’ve personally really enjoyed your work on The Wicked and the Divine, especially how your color art is an intricate part of the story telling. How did you build the aesthetic for that book?

A lot of discussion with the rest of the creative team, building on work we had done together as a team on previous works, and trial and error with different ideas for depicting the god’s abilities and performances. We set out knowing we wanted it to look like something “more” than a typical depiction of superhero powers. So pushing things further than I might go on a superhero book was important. We passed a lot of inspiration images back and forth from things like fashion photography and music videos. The fact that the gods are pop stars meant we took a lot of influence from pop culture. Overall, I’m still using the same framework of how I approach coloring a book, but for this book the pieces I bolt on to that framework just happen to be a bit more neon and glow-y.

 

  • In issue 8 of the wicked and the divine your color work is used as a visual aide for the reader, how did you come up with that idea?

That was one of the hardest issues of coloring I’ve ever done. Not because the technical aspects of coloring took me any longer than other books. But the conceptual part was very time consuming. I came up with new palettes on every page, and sometimes in every panel of the page. Trying to figure out how to convey the experience Laura was going through while being influenced by Dio’s powers was a big challenge. One of the biggest ways we could help the reader “feel” what Laura was feeling was how the pages are colored. Things like the tempo of the party and her experience were noted in the script, and I had to try and make sure the colors matched that tempo. Higher contrast, more saturated when the tempo sped up. And then less saturated and intense when the tempo slowed down. This was another instance of using contrasting palettes to really sell each scene. The pages before and after the party are intentionally less saturated and a bit duller in terms of color. That way, when the party scene starts and I use a bunch of saturated colors, they seem even more saturated and brighter because the previous scenes were so dull.

 

 

  • You have worked with the team of Gillen and McKelvie and with Waid and Samnee on a couple of series’ now, what’s it like to have that level of understanding built with the other members of a creative team?

Long term collaborations are great, because we’re able to really understand each other. Kieron can write to Jamie or my strengths and know we’ll pull off the idea he’s trying to convey. For my part, it means the artist and I can work out exactly how to set up the files to get the best result. Like, any time Jamie draws a god’s crazy power it’s usually on a separate layer so I can easily experiment with it in color. The same goes for Russell’s art on Thor. Each issue we learn something, and as you do dozens of issues together all that accumulated knowledge builds up and makes the process easier and gives us great opportunities to experiment. Working with the same artists for so long also lets us grow and evolve as artists, because we can try different things based on what we liked or didn’t like in our past work. How Jamie or Russell or Samnee are drawing the current issues of our projects has evolved from how they drew earlier issues. And I’ve subtly changed how I color them too. From issue to issue it may be hard to spot, but over time we’re always changing our approach in little ways.

 

  • You have a very distinctive visual style, how did you cultivate that aesthetic?

I have no idea, honestly! I did not set out to cultivate this style. And I’m not even sure I could telly what my “style” is. I kind of feel like I don’t have one, but I hear people say they recognize my colors, so I must have something people identify. But, like most artists, the style is probably a result of the influences I consume and how those influences get pieced together in to the art that I make.

 

  • Burritos or coneys?

I probably like burritos more but I definitely eat more hotdogs.

 

  • Where’s your favorite place to pick up a burrito or a coney when you’re at cons?

JJ’s Red Hots in Charlotte, North Carolina is my favorite hotdog place.

 

  • What’s your favorite convention?

Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina.

 

  • What would be your dream collaboration?

I don’t really have one, I don’t think. I get to work on so many different projects every year, with so many different collaborators that I’m kept busy and fulfilled, which doesn’t leave me much time to dream about future collaborations.

 

  • If you weren’t a comic book artist what would be your career?

A park ranger!

 

  • What’s the biggest difference between working for the big two and on your indie titles?

Some small technical things on certain books, but creatively I’m given a lot of freedom regardless of if the book is work for hire for the big 2 or a creator owned book.

 

  • Who are some of your favorite artists to work with?

All of my regular collaborators like Jamie McKelvie, Cliff Chiang, Chris Samnee, Russell Dauterman, and Kris Anka. I did a bunch of Secret Avengers issues with Michael Walsh and they were a ton of fun to do. Greg Hinkle, who I’m coloring on the upcoming Black Cloud is an amazing artist that’s incredibly fun to color.

 

  • Who are some of your favorite writers to work with?

Again, my regulars are great: Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron, Brian K Vaughan, Mark Waid. Coloring Star-Lord is the first time I’ve worked with Chip Zdarsky, and he’s been really enjoyable to work with. I only worked with Matt Fraction once, on a Mandarin annual, but he put a lot of thought in to the color when writing that story and that was an enjoyable assignment.

 

  • Who’s your favorite character to color?

Hard to say, as I’m more in to storytelling with palettes than I am in to coloring a specific character. Thor has been fun because it’s been pretty much a straight up fantasy book with some sci-fi visuals. So that’s allowed me to do some really fun and wildly varied palettes. I can say for sure that I often hate coloring red costumes, and I usually don’t like coloring shiny metal. So, I guess it’s good I don’t work on Iron Man!

 

  • What would be a dream series for you to work on?

Black Widow, and I already did it! I enjoy spy stories, so that was a lot of fun to help create the look of one in the latest run of Black Widow. I’ve never worked on a Batman book, and would like to do that one day. But I’d probably want to do some kind of stand alone Elseworlds type story where it’s Batman in the 1920’s or something. And another answer I could give would be anything Hellboy. But I’d never want to try and fill Dave Stewart’s shoes.

 

  • As the comic book industry moves more digital do you feel like there’s been a shift in the industry to recognize the importance of Color Artist?

Yes, but not really because of the trends toward digital. I think the art of coloring is becoming more appreciated as it matures. Digital coloring isn’t that old, it’s only been around a few decades at this point. And the tools we’re using to color have really only become widely accessible even more recently than that. So you’ve got the tools getting better together with the colorists, and artist that color themselves, getting better at using those tools and the result is coloring is getting better and better. A lot of the traditional inking techniques were developed to convey information that older coloring methods could not. Hatching for shading and showing volume in a shape, things like that. Now, there isn’t anything that color can’t convey, and artists have responded to that by sometimes making less marks in black and white and leaving it up to the color to convey those elements of the art. So the role of the colorist has grown more important as their ability to bring substantive additions to the page and the story has grown.

 

Thank you for your time Matt, I’ve enjoyed talking to you. Looking forward to your great work in the future.

 

 

Coloring Between the Lines: Michael Garland

It’s my opinion that great color work goes unappreciated in the comic community. Often times Color Artists names are left off the covers of trades (such as Rico Renzi being left off of the cover of the Spider-gwen trade), while art can be great on it’s own, color adds such a depth and pleasing aesthetic if done correctly. It was out of my passion for color that I decided to feature a color artist every now and again on my blog so that hopefully I could give others the same appreciation for the art form as I have. A few months ago I attended Cincinnati Comic Con. While there I had the please of meeting Colorist extraordinaire Michael Garland. You’ve seen his fantastic work in The Dying and the Dead,  Secret, The Fiction, Big trouble in Little China, Cluster, and most recently The Violent. I was familiar with his work on The Fiction (a great indie book with a clever story and fantastic art all around). Graciously Michael agreed to have an interview with me about his process, his favorite superheros, and his inspirations.

Hey Michael, Thanks for agreeing to this interview!

Sure thing! Thanks for asking.

 

So How long have you been a colorist?


2010 was my first professional gig – a friend brought me on to do colors for the web comic tie in to AMC’s (thankfully forgotten) remake of The Prisoner, which he was editing.

I’ve been coloring on a consistent basis since 2012, when I started doing Secret at Image and working for Boom! Studios.

 

Was it what you wanted to be when you were a kid?

No. I mean… maybe there’s somebody out there who said “I want to color comic books!” as a kid, but he/she was probably a weirdo. I didn’t really know what coloring was until college, which was when I got back into comics in a major way.

I’ve always drawn, though. When I was a kid, I was notorious for always carrying a sketchbook around with me. But I was actually a Writing major in college. I decided I wanted to write comics — and realizing how impossible finding an artist is — I started drawing my stories. I was also getting into both traditional and digital painting at the time, so I figured I should learn to color them as well. Eventually, somebody paid me to do that part. And, miraculously, they still are.

 

What’s the first comic book series you really got into?

Originally it was Cone Saga era Spider-Man. I will forever ❤ Ben Reilly.

When I eventually acquired taste, it was probably Ultimate Marvel. I had read a number of “grown up” books in high school – DKR, V for Vendetta, Whedon’s X-Men – but I was handed a huge chunk of the Ultimate U in college and that was when I got sucked into the drama of the superhero soap opera and, by association, comics fandom.

 

Do you prefer superhero comics or other genres?

I’m an equal opportunity reader. But recently my pull list has shrunk mostly to Image titles. Which I think is due both to the quality of Image — many of my favorite creators have defected there in recent years — and my exhaustion with the perpetual second act storytelling of the Marvel/DC Universes.

I will always love Marvel and DC, and there are a ton of great books they’re putting out. But If you read them long enough, I think the fact that nothing ever really changes wears you down. And you can either diversify or become one of those people who complains that John Byrne was the last guy to get those characters “right.” Which I guess would make you John Byrne.

 

Whose your favorite superhero?

It’s a toss up between Batman and Spider-Man. Depends on what day you catch me on. On this day, I’ll give the nod to Spidey.

 

What’s your favorite series that’s not a superhero series?

Of all time? Planetary and Casanova. Though those are both arguably super hero books.

 

Whats your process like for coloring?


A poor one, probably. I love what I do before I start and after I finish, but there’s a whole middle part where I hate everything I’m putting down until it finally feels “right.” But I think that’s true of most artists. When people say “your job must be so fun!” I shake my head. But at the same time, it’s comics. And comics are awesome.

To be less existential and more technical, the first thing I do is sit down with the pages and the script. I go through that to get a sense of the tone of each scene, as well as specific beats within it. Stories are about emotional crescendos – be it an action sequence or a conversation – and that impacts the storytelling choices I’ll make with color. Through that I’ll usually get a general idea of what kind of palette I want to bring to each scene.

Once I figure that out, I’ll lay in in basic flat colors on all of the pages. (Either myself, or I’ll pay somebody – called a flatter – to do this for me to save time.) Then I tweak those colors until I’m happy with them. This where I’m really building the palette. If I have time, I might paint a quick color rough on a separate layer that I can refer back to while I’m coloring. From there, I render everything out, depending on what is required. I’ll usually save lighting effects or textures for the end, if the page requires it. And I’ll often go back and tweak various elements to make sure the color is properly balanced.

 

How do you choose a color palette?


Like I was saying above, a lot of it is reading the feel of a scene and applying color theory. I start with the setting and local color, which is to say, the color things are. A red firetruck is red for instance. Or if it’s night, you usually want a bluish over tone because that’s how light works in nature. Those things are locked in to an extent, but they can be interpreted very differently. Mainly, you’re building off the scene as written. An action sequence or an argument works best with hot colors, like reds and yellows. A moment of loneliness or desolation works best with blue or desaturated colors. And then you sort of play those off each other. Warm vs cool color, saturated vs desaturated color, and using various established color schemes can all bring contrast, focus and a sense of emotion in different ways, both within a scene and between them. And the job of a colorist really does boil down to those three things I think: contrast, focus and emotion.

The Dying and the Dead is an exception, as those palettes we worked out ahead of time. But the thought process is similar. I’m just using a rigid set of colors.

If you’re interested, I recommend picking up COLOR AND LIGHT by James Gurney for an excellent overview of color technique.

 

What’s your favorite project you’ve ever worked on?

Secret and The Dying and the Dead – the books I’ve done with Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim. Those books have been some of my closest, and therefore most fulfilling, collaborations.

 

Do you have anything coming out soon that we should keep an eye out for?

THE VIOLENT is a new crime series I’m doing at Image with Ed Brisson and Adam Gorham. The first issue is just came out (call your retailer!) and I think we’re all leveling up with this one. I’m really excited for it.

 

Who are some of your favorite colorists in the industry today?

Dean White, Bettie Breitweiser and Matt Wilson are probably my holy trinity. But there are so many great ones out there. We live in a golden age of comic coloring. Which is not intimidating at all. He said sarcastically.

 

Is there anyone you draw inspiration from?

All of the above people for sure. Not counting other colorists, iconic illustrators like Maxfield Parrish, NC Wyeth and a bunch of others. Paperback illustrators, Robert McGuinness being chief among them. Lots of directors/DPs/all the other people who help construct a shot in a movie. Observation is a big one too, just paying attention to how light and color happen out in the real world and filing it away for future use.

 

I’ve personally really enjoyed your work on The Fiction. How did you pick out the palette for that book?

The Fiction was an interesting (and very fun) exercise. The world being primarily set in unreality gave me permission to kind of go bananas. Again, the thought process is no different – I’m trying to accomplish the same things as any other book. But I tried to push it in hyper bold and saturated directions.

 

Thank you for your time Michael, I’ve enjoyed talking to you. Looking forward to your great work in the future.

 

If you are interested in checking out some of Michaels work you can hit up his website:

http://michaelcgarland.com/

Or check out his online portfolio:

http://www.coroflot.com/michaelgarland

If you are interested in picking up some of his previous work buy it on comiXology:

https://www.comixology.com/Michael-Garland/comics-creator/6882?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC9jcmVhdG9yU2xpZGV

Also, don’t forget to ask your local retailer about The Violent!

Pick of the Week

Secret Wars #8

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Art: Esad Ribic

Color Artist: Ive Svorcina

Marvel’s collossol main event of the year rumbles on in this action packed installment. This issue is another solid addition to Hickman’s grandiose universe panning opra, that started way back with his run on Avengers and New Avengers. Now we are starting to see the fruits of this 2 plus year labor.  The story picks up where the last issue left off with an all out asault on Doom and Dooms castle. We see Star Lord and Reed Richards infiltrate Dooms layer in the hopes of bringing the God Doom down once and for all.  We get a glimpse of the newly freed Ben Grimm (who also apparently is a giant in this reality). Ben quickly make an impact with the killing of a major player (no spoilers), and with his lazer focus on killing Doom. Ben is impeded on this task by none other than a Franklin Richard’s (in this world Franklin Von Doom) controlled Galactus. The two exchange blows before……Well I’ll let you read what happens next. The following pages bring back a surprise character, and a bone chilling confrontation between Thanos and the God Doom himself. All leading up to the final page which show the one thing that in this reality that Doom is afraid of. The story is most excellently layed out for the reader. In the end I am glad they added on the extra issue, so that we can have a better sense of what is happening. This issue is just the right amount of chaos and action, a formula that would have been thrown out of whack by piling more into this issue than there already was. The art by Ribic continues to be spectacular. He has a way coaxing out the best facial expressions on his characters. The only down side to this issue is that the 9th installment has been delayed (again) until January. Making this the most delayed and drawn out event in recent memory. But hey at least the story is entertaining.

Rating: 8/10

Awakening from hibernation

Hello faithful Revuers! Sorry it’s been so long. I am happy to announce that Deja.Revue will once again be up and running after a three month hiatus. We had some staffing issues combined with just lack of time. I am proud to say that starting Wednesday we will have fresh new content. So stay tuned. We will be bringing back the ever popular “Tales from the pull list” segment, as well as our fan favorite top “Ten 10 Lists”, and my personal favorite “Savings Bin Sundays”.  Plus we will be adding a few other new and exciting segments.

We are also interested in what you, or readers, want. Have an idea for a segment or a topic you would like us to cover? Then leave a comment and let us know!

Diversity in Comics

So I have felt some rumblings for awhile about the addition of diversity in comics. This includes any change in a persons race, gender, or sexuality. For this rant I’ll focus on Captain America being black, and Thor being a woman. Comics are an ever evolving and changing medium. Often the trends in society affect comics (and trends in comics affect society), the effect of this has led to a more diverse cast of characters. To this I say good. Before female Thor I had no interest in reading Thor. He came across as a hulking brute (admittedly with beautiful hair), who liked to smash things with a hammer…..bor-ing. The addition of a now female Thor has led to a more nuanced character with several levels of personality. Shes funny, witty, intriguing, and still kicks butt. Overall a large improvement on old Odinson. As for Captain America, Steve Rogers is like a billion years old and he decided to retire and pass his mantle on to some one else. That someone happened to be Sam Wilson (formerly the Falcon), who also just happens to be black. Whats the big deal!? Sam was a sidekick of Caps and a close friend. It makes perfect sense for him to step into that role. So I have no problems with it.

black-captain-america

The second thing that makes me mad is when people say “You have to uphold the integrity of the creators characters”. When utilizing this argument you have to realize the context in which the characters were created. The two listed up above were created between the 40s’60s. That era in Americas history was much more close minded about diversity than we are today. So even if the creators had wanted to put a black person as, say, Captain America, there’s no way that would have been published. Society then was going through such a shake up, and the powers at be would never have let that happen. We are in a much better place now, for comics to more properly reflect the true diversity of America than we were then.

Another argument people use (which usually is a thinly veiled attempt to not appear racist) is “Why don’t they just make new ethnic characters?” The answer is they are. You can look to the big two and see some expanding of diversity in new characters (Ms. Marvel, Silk, etc.). Where the big explosion really is is in the indie market. Companies such as Image, Boom!, and Dark Horse just to name a few, really put out great works with a large amount of diversity. Often these series are creator owned (meaning the are created by the writers and artist, and they maintain the rights to the characters). This lends some credibility to the idea that when given the opportunity to work with a more diverse palette, creators often will. Which would seem to validate my last point

I guess to sum it up: Stop complaining and enjoy this era of comics we are in. There’s much more diversity, which leads to more interesting and layered story telling, and fresh new and exciting characters. Society, like comics, is not static. Its dynamic. Ever evolving ever changing. I think our comics should be the same.

Tales from the pull list June 10th: It’s a Weirdworld

Hello Revuers! This week I am trying out something new. I am going to list all of the comics I bought or read and place them into three categories: Pick(s) of the week, Buy, or Pass. Let me know what you think of this new article and if you like, it or if I should go back to pick of the week, in the comment section below. Your feedback is appreciated. With out further delay here we go:

Pick of the week:

Weirdworld #1

Weirdworld #1 is a tale of a king stranded on a, well weird, world looking for a way back home. The antagonist Akron is the ruler of the kingdom Polemachus, who due to the events of Secret Wars has been stranded on a floating island. Which he then names Weirdworld, due to all the strange and impossible dangers he has had to face, These include: Squidsharks, dragons,  fire rain, hawk-squatch hybrid, etc. etc. This issue really serves as an introduction to Weirdworld and our protagonist, although plenty of action is offered in the second half of the issue. I wont spoil it, go read it. What drew (all puns intended) to this issue was the art. The series features the artistic talents of the art team behind the latest volume of Elektra: Mike Del Mundo, and Marco D’Alfonso. This fantastic duo draw and color a world beyond our imagination. Where hard neon colors stab through soft pastels, where blood flows green and grass grows red. All in all this artistic team delivers on what were high expectations (by me at least).

Rating: 8.5/10

Buy:

Gotham Academy #7: The gang is back! Well some of them. A new character emerges, and joins Maps in a quest to discover the secret of the (magic?) quill.

Rating: 7/10

Decscender #4: Excellent character development this issue, with still fantastic art. I am excited to see if robots really do dream.

rating: 6/10

Injection #2: This series has started off to a slow start for me. I was very excited to pick it up, since it features the creative team behind the first arc of Moon Knight. So far it has left me a little disappointed. However it did just enough to keep me interested in purchasing issue 3.

Rating 4/10

Silk #5 Another solid issue and return of artist Stacey Lee. There was a heartwarming moment in the middle of the issue that I wont give away, but lets just say it was from a character you wouldn’t expect.

Rating: 6.5/10

Spider-Gwen #5: Interesting work with the black cat. Also having Matt as a villain is an interesting twist. The art was fantastic, and it really got a lift from the outstanding coloring job by Rico Renzi. Seriously, is there a colorist better right now?

Rating: 7.5/10

Silver Surfer #12: This issue felt a little stale, with similar themes and plot ideas as the last issue, however, Michael and Laura Allreds art saves it for me.

Rating: 5.5/10

Pass:

Starfire #1: Really didn’t do it for me. Also, all the “wow, starfire is hot” moments felt weird to me. Some of the thought bubble pictures were funny though.

Rating: 4/10

Ultimate end #2: Maybe I just didn’t get into the Ultimate universe enough to care, but I just can’t get into this series.

Rating: 4/10

Constantine the Hellblazer #1: Bogged down by dialogue in my opinion. Some interesting and striking art choices though.

Rating: 4/10

All in all this week was pretty good. As I stated before let me know what you think of the new format in the comments section.

-Andrew Horton

Savings Bin Sunday: The Silver Surfer vs. Dracula #1

The Silver Surfer Vs. Dracula #1

Story: Marv Wolfman

Art: Gene Colan, Tom Palmer

This weeks trip to the savings bin brought me The Silver Surfer vs. Dracula (SSvD). First published in 1993, SSvD is a tale that is as convoluted as it is unnecessary. The first five pages feature Dracula deciding that cretins aren’t worth his time, appearances by Blade and Deacon Frost (who have a fight and then are never mentioned or shown again), and a summoning of a very angst-y Silver Surfer. We learn that a mysterious group of five want Dracula dead because there is “no need of him anymore”. The only problem is that they need someone mighty enough to challenge him, so logically they draft the first person anyone would think of…The Silver Surfer. Upon summoning him they knock him out with “a mystic force” and then brain wash him, while he is unconscious, into thinking that Dracula is the greatest evil of all time. When the Surfer awakes he feels compelled to find this “Dracula” and dispose of this evil. Conveniently, and unexplained, The Surfer knows exactly Where Dracula is and confronts him. In the ensuing battle we learn that Dracula can control weather (ok that’s new), and animlas (what?). Both of these forces he uses against the Surfer in an attempt to appear like a foe that could potentially harm him (which he’s not). All of this torrid action culminates in a physics defying punch by Dracula that knocks The Surfer to the ground.

How could you hope to hear the mist in the breeze

“How could you hope to hear the mist in the breeze”

At this point I was thinking “alright, time to use some of that power cosmic and send a power blast into his chest”. Instead The Surfer and Dracula decide it’s a tie and Dracula Bat-forms and fly’s away. Wait, what? The Surfer is endowed with the power cosmic, he was the herald of Galactus, he held his own against the entirety of the Fantastic Four. He once stood eye to eye with Thanos, and yet one gust of wind, an attack by a small clan of rats, and one punch from Dracula is enough for The Surfer to call a truce? Yeah, I’m not buying it. They tried to explain it by saying that he was “sluggish” from the brain washing of the mysterious five, but even still he should have been powerful enough to finish off Dracula. C’mon. Throw in uninspired art, dialogue such as “Dracula needs sustenance this night, and you shall supply it”, and several glaring grammatical issues and you have what may be the worst comic I have ever read.The best part of this comic was the Howard the Duck short story in the back. Perhaps in the early 90s Dracula was more popular than he is today. Maybe this was just an attempt for a cash grab. It sure feels like one. There’s no way I would have ever payed the original $1.75 cover price. I paid $0.50 and I still feel robbed.

Rating: 2/10

-Andrew Horton

Pick of the Week (Jan. 14th): Star Wars #1

Before we begin I must confess that I love Star Wars. I watched the original trilogy when I was 12 and I have been hooked ever since. That being said, going into this week I really didn’t want to pick this as my pick of the week. I had read the hype, I had heard the rumbles that this comic was great. Heck, I am also a huge Jason Aaron fan (love his work on Thor, and now subsequently Lady Thor), however I thought this comic was going to stink. Going in I thought there is no way they could capture the essence of the films and the characters. I am happy to report that I was wrong. The setting is after the events of “New Hope” and before the events of “Empire Strikes Back”. The scene opens up with (what else?) a ship descending onto a planet to meet for some trade negotiations. If you want to know more of the story buy the comic. The script is excellently done by Aaron, the characters felt like the characters from the film. It was a comfortable feeling, like being reunited with long lost best friends. The art by John Cassaday was passable, although it was my least favorite thing from the issue. I found it bland and dull with not much pop. The best artwork came with the handling of the lightsaber sequences which I thought was innovative and interesting. Overall this is a great start to Star Wars returning home to Marvel and I can’t wait for the 2nd issue! I give this comic a 7.5/10

-Andrew Horton

End of the year top 10 list from the writers here at deja.revue + friends!

Hello friends! We here at deja.revue have complied our end of the year list for best comic series’ of 2014. In addition to us we have a a couple of  guest contributors. The first is  from The Burning Blogger of Bedlam blog. He is a friend who runs an excellent blog at: https://theburningbloggerofbedlam.wordpress.com be sure to check it out! The second is a friend of Mine named Jerry, who is basically my twin (in likes and hobbies, not resemblance)  who I hope will write some more contributions to this blog.

Without further delay. here we go!

Top 10 series of 2014 from Andrew Horton

10. Bee and Puppycat (Writer: various Art: various)

This series is a fun, magic filled rump through several mini series an issue. A light hearted enjoyable adventure

9. Elektra (Company: Marvel, Writer: Blackman, Art: Del Mundo)

The strength of this series is in the incredible art work by del mundo. I recommend it for the art alone. There were a few issues without the original creative team that are skippable.

8. Silver Surfer (Company: Marvel, Writer: Slott, Art: Redman)

Slott gives us a fresh take on the Silver Surfer. His story telling is whimsical and adventurous. This is complimented by Redmans cartoonish and old school looking art.

7. Cyclops (Company: Marvel, Writer: Rucka, Layman Art: Daughterman, Garron)

The creative team for this series changed 6 issues in. I preferred the original team of Rucka and Daughterman. The story was more about complicated emotions and suffering loss.

6. Thor (Company: Marvel, Writer: Aaron, Art: Daughterman)

Great fresh start on the God of Thunder. I personally have really enjoyed Lady Thor. We aren’t enough issues in for it to be warranted a higher placing on this list. My only real complaint about this series is that daughtermans art can get a bit busy at times.

5. Amazing Spider-Man (Company: Marvel, Writer: Slott, Art: Coipel)

Peter Parker is back! And in a big way. Most of the past 6 months has been dedicated to setting up for Spider-Verse, which I must confess has been a pleasant surprise. Slott has been consistent and entertaining on this run.

4. Gotham Academy (Company: DC, Writer: Cloonan, Art: Fletcher)

This series has surprised me. It really wasn’t on my radar and I just picked it up on a whim, but it has been great! I love the art style, and the good old “who-donnit” writing style. It is also one of the few DC titles I have read that doesn’t suffer from the crushing weight that is the New 52.

3. The Wicked + The Divine (Company: Image, Writer: Gillen, Art: McKelvie)

When I first started this series I didn’t know what to expect, and after the first two issues I still didn’t know what to expect. Then the crap hit the proverbial fan and now I count down the days until the next issue. I love this series. The art is a perfect compliment to the story telling, and the portrait covers are unique enough to be interesting even to those who don’t read the comic. The series has gotten stronger with each comic and I can’t wait to see where this one ends.

2. Southern Bastards (Company: Image, Writer: Aaron, Art: Latour)

Writer Aaron crafts a interesting and compelling tale of loss, justice, and football (not necessarily in that order). My family is from the south and we used to go down to visit my grandparents every year and I can confess to having seen at least one person that fit every character in the series. Aaron and Latour got it right. To be honest I wasn’t even going to read this series but my roommate (and co-founder of this blog) convinced me to and I am glad he did. I developed a strong emotional attachment to the characters and wanted nothing more than for the ending of the first arch to be different (even though the ending was perfect).

1. Moon Knight (Company: Marvel, Writer: Ellis, Art: Shavley)

Moon Knight earned it’s place here from the first arc by Ellis and Shavley alone. In what truly was a fresh start for a old character, Moon Knight stood head and shoulders above the competition. The story telling was often interconnected one-and-done stories crafted deftly by the capable Eliis. With jaw dropping complimenting art by Shavley. Overall I loved this series. It blended several genres together, constantly reinventing, and shape shifting its self. The new arc with the new creative team is also good, but wouldn’t make it on this top 10 list. Out of all the other series’ I read I truly enjoyed this one the most.

BONUS: Favorite new character:

Spider-Gwen (created by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez)

Spider-gwen lept out of Spider-verse and into out hearts, and in doing so is getting her own series. She is the best thing to come out of spider-verse and I cannot wait to read her series! Great work guys.

Top 10 series of 2014 from John Small

10.Elektra (Marvel)

9. The Life After (Oni Press)

8. A Waste of Time (Northwest Press

7. The Woods (BOOM!)

6. Low (Image)

5. Lumberjanes (BOOM!/Boombox)

4. Rocket Raccoon (Marvel

3. Chew (Image)

2. The Bunker (ONI Press)

1. Southern Bastards (Image)

Top 10 issues of 2014 according to The Burning Blogger of Bedlam

Next we have a contribution from a friend over at http://theburningbloggerofbedlam.wordpress.com/. I had asked several people and he was the only one to not flake out on us. If you have the time you should really check the blog out. There’s all kinds of fascinating reviews and current issues related articles. Everything on the blog is well written and well layed out. I highly reccommend you check it out. So Now For The Burning Blogger of Bedlams top 10 list:

When Andrew invited me to contribute a post of my top 10 favorite comic series’ of 2014 to this site, I was of course more than happy to be involved; though also a little embarassed that I would only be able to pick Marvel titles. Yes, my comic-reading has been mostly limited to Marvel in 2014, due both to time-constraints and also the fact that I’ve only relatively recently come back to proper, dedicated comic-book reading after a long spell away. I’ll do better next year (if you ask me again).

As Marvel goes, it has however been a very interesting year, with numerous new series’ launched or existing titles rebooted, several of which are highlighted in this post. I am, I have to admit, a sucker for #1’s, so it was an opportune time for me to be coming back into the fold, able to peruse #1’s from Daredevil and Magneto to Inhuman and (the new) X-Force. Andrew initially suggested I pick my top 10 series; I chose instead to pick my ten favorite individual issues (though I’ve cheated in one or two entries), this being because I’ve mostly been dipping in and out of various titles like a whore recently and the only series’ I’ve followed fully and properly have been Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Nightcrawler and Daredevil. Here then are my 10 top picks from 2014.

Captain Marvel #1
The entire current run of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel series has been a joy to me personally and probably my favorite series of 2014. There’s a simple charm to the book in its straightforward, uncomplicated approach, sense of humour and sense of adventure. Kelly Sue DeConnick has such an addictive handle on Carol Danvers that it’s hard to imagine anyone else ever writing her again, while the David Lopez/Lee Loughbridge art and colour combination is effortlessly attractive, easy on the eye, and allows the stories to flow fluidly from panel to panel and issue to issue. Part of the joy of the series is how easily it flows, how uncomplicated it is, how unladen with continuity overload it is and how unaffected by other titles or events.

The story occupying most of the series in 2014 has been interconnected/ongoing, the various issues somewhat blurring together and with the quality being pretty much at the same high level throughout, making it difficult to pick out a single individual issue for praise: I’ve chosen therefore to pick #1, which is where things of course begin.

The opening sequence in the alien marketplace on Planet Ursa 4 with all its Mos Espa-esque Star Wars evocations is immediately comfortable and familiar. The Star Wars reference is something that occurs to you frequently over the course of the series, the worlds and backdrops Carol finds herself in often having that iconic Star Wars feel to them. This actually becomes an active homage at times, from Carol’s cat being named ‘Chewie’ to other scattered Star Wars references; but that opening sequence in #1 felt wholly inviting and comfortable for someone like me, being a long-time fan of science-fiction in general and Star Wars in particular. That opening sequence also showed us four visually engaging characters we weren’t familiar with yet (but would come to know over the next few months) in a terrific Resevoir Dogs type image with Carol at its centre.

Those first few pages of Captain Marvel #1 were instantly engaging, endearing and perfectly set the stage for the tone and quality of the series to follow; clearly telling us that we were in for an exotic, swashbuckling cosmic adventure with Marvel’s premier and most endearing super-heroine at its core. Sending Carol into space as a long-term ‘cosmic avenger’ was, as a concept, always a winning idea and a fantastic basis for a monthly series. There were a lot of #1’s on the shelves this year, some of them better than others, but Captain Marvel #1 really demonstrates how to do a #1 most effectively; I was in no doubt that I’d be reading every issue after that. Needless to say then, Captain Marvel #1 acts as a suitably entertaining entry-point into the Carol Danvers mythology for newcomers while also catering just as much to longer-standing fans.

Having the narrative begin with a sequence chronologically set six months further ahead in the series and then snapping back to the ‘present’ was also an effective way to begin things, giving us a glimpse of things to come and making us wonder how we’ll get there. Meanwhile the Carol Danvers we’re reintroduced to in Captain Marvel #1 is immediately fun, endearing and engaging. I could take or leave the James Rhodes angle, but the sequence of Carol and Iron Man casually dealing with two street thugs while Stark pitches her bold new outer space mission to her is fun, offering one last Earth-bound bit of Avengers-ing for Carol before her epic sojourn into the stars. And long may that sojourn continue. Captain Marvel, aka the one-time Ms Marvel, has been a personal favorite of mine for a long time and it is notable how long the character was in the wildnerness of the Marvel Comics world following controversies in the eighties (which I covered in this post link: http://theburningbloggerofbedlam.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/five-controversial-moments-in-marvel-comic-history/); and yet having been brought back to the fore in more recent times she now finds herself one of the company’s primary faces, most popular icons and soon-to-be cinematic hero too. It’s been a hell of a comeback, and this current Captain Marvel series demonstrates what a continuing loss to Marvel she would’ve been had she been kept in limbo.

Uncanny Avengers #25 (March to Axis)
With all the big-scale confrontations and concepts, overpopulated sequences and character-laden scenes that define this year’s major Marvel event, it is notable that the absolute high point of the entire Avengers/X-Men: Axis saga didn’t occur in the main Axis series, but in Uncanny Avengers #25 and specifically the confrontation between the Red Skull and Magneto. Away from all the overblown superhero versus supervillain or tag-team silliness that populates most of the rest of Axis, Uncanny Avengers #25 centers on a confrontation brimming with atmosphere, idealogy, history and gets to the very core of both the Red Skull and Magneto as characters.

For starters, this issue’s depiction of the Skull’s Mutant concentration camps really visually and tonally brings home what the nature of the Red Skull’s evil is. And what Schmidt is doing plays right into the very core of who Magneto is and always has been as a character and right to the heart of Magneto’s worst longstanding fears: that humans would eventually do to Mutants what the Nazis did to Jews in the nineteen-thirties, which was something Magneto had to experience first-hand and is now having to experience again. The fact that all of this unfolds in the rain also helps to impart it a bleak atmosphere throughout, the grim surroundings almost certainly bringing to the fore old memories of the Holocaust for both characters – one as a perpetrator and the other a victim. But the real fascination is in the Red Skull deliberately and callously taunting Magneto, knowing full well what drives the Master of Magnetism and everything that forged him in his tragic past as a victim-child of Nazi Germany. Schmidt revels in this, utterly remorseless. As he taunts Magnus more and more with each measured word and callous look, we can see Magneto’s blank, almost numb-looking face and we know the rage – a rage coloured by so much traumatic life experience – is building within him.

When Schmidt demands Magneto kneels – bows – to him and when Magneto complies, we know this is the lowest the once proud Erik Lensherr could possibly get: literally bowing to a monster of the Third Reich who is now intent on visiting a Holocaust upon Mutantkind. As a longstanding X-Men and Magneto enthusiast and natural sympathiser to the Mutant cause, something in my gut reacted, having to watch Magneto doing that. But of course moments later Magneto, with his powers newly restored to him, assaults the Red Skull mercilessly. The big “I am MAGNETO!” declaration on page 12 might look silly out of context, but in the context of the story works as a fairly meaningful moment. Magneto then proceeding to coldly and calmly murder the Red Skull is probably the highlight of this entire Axis business. The fact that he consciously chooses to do so without using his ‘filthy’ mutant powers, but by simply pounding Schmidt’s face repeatedly with his fist, is also a meaningful thematic touch.

Whatever the prevailing view is of the Axis event as a (vastly over-extended) whole, it has given us one of the classic Magneto moments in the character’s history (in my opinion), which isn’t something I’ve been expecting lately. That sight of the apparently dead Red Skull laying there in the rain with Magneto, Havok and Wanda standing over him is an effective image, while Rogue’s disapproving assessment that he (Magneto) is no different to Schmidt sets the guilt-ridden, self-doubting course of the rest of Magneto’s key part in the Axis saga. Magnus’s slaughter of Schmidt may be, on a visceral level, up there with him ripping the adamantium from Wolverine‘s body in 1993’s classic X-Men #25; that’s not to compare the Fatal Attractions storyline with today’s Axis event, of course (Fatal Attractions was something substantially better and altogether different), but is just a comment on that kind of violent, evocative, defining moment that an important character maybe has only two or three times in their comic-book history. I haven’t been an avid follower of the Uncanny Avengers series, nor particularly a fan of Rick Remender’s work, but this particular lead-in issue to the main Axis event was as good as the entire business got.
Daredevil #1
One of the eternal cornerstones of Marvel Comics, Daredevil, relaunched early in the year too, picking up where the last run ended. I didn’t read any of that previous arc, but yet was able to get straight into the flow with the opening issues of the new Daredevil series. That’s in part a testament to Mark Waid and Chris Samnee making it very easy to do that, Daredevil #1 being a very accessible jumping-on point and yet without being patronisingly simplistic. It offered a winning mix of dynamic artwork, lively, well-paced storytelling, an uncomplicated refresher course of Matt Murdock’s life story, and one simple and engaging action sequence that reminds us of Daredevil’s heroics and capabilities without trying to be too overblown or attention-seeking.

Part of the charm of this book, both in #1 and beyond, is it’s simplicity and lack of pretension; there’s a feeling when you read this series that you’re reading writers who feel they don’t have anything to prove with Daredevil and don’t need to compete with anything else going on in the Marvel roster, but can just simply tell a story. Daredevil as a title feels refreshingly lightweight and unencumbered, particularly at a time when many other titles are drowning in ‘events’, crossovers and tie-ins or otherwise just vastly complicated chronologies and inter-connectedness.

Daredevil #1 really captures the sense of Murdock’s heightened senses and the city (San Fransisco) through his unique perspective; Samnee gives us a vividly visualised depiction of superhero life for a protaganist unable to use sight. The multiple panels of images accompanying Murdock’s monologue on pages 6 and 7, for example, are richly dynamic; in theory it’s a complicated visual, but in effect it’s both easy on the eye and information-dense at the same time. It’s a highly visual book, but more cartoon-like than realist in effect; for some books that would be a criticism, but for this incarnation of Daredevil it seems to work. Than in itself is somewhat surprising, as I would’ve thought Daredevil would be better served by a darker, more noir-ish dynamic, as he has been in some of his best past stories. But what’s being done with the Daredevil mythology now is working well; though it doesn’t yet have that same classic feel of some of the past eras, it has its own integrity and appeal and its own singular style, at times even feeling like part Golden Age homage.

In fact there’s a friend of mine who has never read comics but has often had the desire to; frequently intimidated by how complicated Marvel comics are and how much reading material seems necessary in order to merely get started, he asked me earlier in the year what comic or series he should start with. I told him to start with the new Daredevil #1: simple, largely self-contained, reader-friendly, but thoroughly enjoyable, it’s the same answer I would give any other Marvel Comics virgin looking for their first read.
Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude #1
“My name is Nebula and I am falling…” Those are the enticing words we begin with. What follows is an engaging and enjoyable backstory for the newly reimagined Nebula; a character that has been around for a long time, but has had some major makeover work and is now more of a Darth Maul type figure than she ever was in the old days. The re-styled Nebula in truth is probably a more interesting character, certainly a more visually arresting one, so I guess sometimes change is good.

Disconnected from the main Guardians of the Galaxy series (which aside from Captain Marvel has probably been my favorite ongoing monthly), this was the first of two comics released as direct lead-ins to the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. As a matter somewhat of principle I generally don’t read film tie-ins when it comes to comics, but I made the exception this time on account of being really excited about that movie. The second offering, centering on Groot and Rocket Raccoon, was nowhere near as engaging or interesting, but this fairly simple Nebula tale by Andy Lanning and Dan Ablett works surprisingly nicely even as just a standalone comic. It explores the backstory of the grim Nebula/Gamora relationship and rivalry as they both spur each other on and at the same time compete with another for the approval of their bleak task-master Thanos. The book is visually engaging, with exotic, mythic-feeling backdrops and evocative images. Wellington Alves’s art is lucid and striking, making immediate impressions, while Manny Clark’s colours give a pleasant, lustrous veneer to the compelling character study.

Not especially important reading, but a compelling diversion for those interested enough, particularly if you’re a Nebula fan.

Magneto #10

Clive Bunn’s Magneto monthly series has been decidedly bleak in both tone and content from the very beginning, but the ‘March to Axis’ and Magneto #10 was a particularly grim affair. Any interaction between Magneto and the Red Skull is automatically fascinating to me, due to the inherent, deep-seated dynamics of Schmidt, the real-life German Nazi supervillain taunting and provoking Magneto, the forever embittered Holocaust survivor and one-time ‘Saviour of Mutantkind’. This dynamic reached its height in Uncanny Avengers #25, but it was building from earlier ‘March to Axis’ releases, particularly Magneto #10.

There’s an early page in #10 featuring Quicksilver, Crystal and Luna Maximoff along with Wanda and Vision in Magneto’s memories played to the nostalgist in me (as does the prominence of Rogue in the story), sending me back to my formative era of reading X-Men and Avengers comics (Blood Ties in particular). That whole issue, with its subjective nightmare torture for Magneto, proves to be a timely and fascinating exploration of Magneto’s long-damaged psyche, reminding us of how complex and engaging a character he once was and can still be, with his own rich mythology. For a long-time Magneto fan who’s been struggling to enjoy the character in recent years, #10 was something of a refreshing experience. This entire issue, all taking place inside Magneto’s tortured mind and memories is genuinely nightmarish and unsettling, from reliving the death of his daughter Anya to being chased by Nazi dinosaurs – I know that sounds ridiculous, but in the context of the nightmare it genuinely is unsettling. Literally monstrous Nazi soldiers and palpable anguish throughout on Magnus’s part make this a darkly compelling read and a timely insight into one of Marvel’s tortured, complex characters.

Again it also plays to the nostalgist in me, as we also get to see the old Magneto in his classic purple/red colours (I wish they’d bring that classic look back) and the inner Magnus we explore in #10 feels much closer to the classic Magneto of old than anything else to be found in what the Magneto title has otherwise offered so far. Havok, Rogue and Wanda come to rescue Magnus from his torture at the end, leading us directly into the climatic events of Uncanny Avengers #25. I haven’t been particularly enamoured with the Magneto title in general, but here it hit its peak.
Nightcrawler #7
Coming into 2014 one of the most exciting prospects for me personally was the promise of not only Nightcrawler’s return to the land of the living but the promise of a solo title to be written by none other than the great Chris Claremont, the godfather of the X-Men’s greatest era and moulder of such X-Men luminaries as Nightcrawler and Wolverine. Unlike the first few issues of the Magneto solo series (which I was also excited about), Nightcrawler wasn’t disappointing. It hasn’t been a spectacular series by any means, but has trickled along in an understated, non-attention-seeking manner, giving a regular showcase for one of my all-time favorite comic-book characters.

Nightcrawler #1 provided a tasteful, endearing start-point for Kurt Wagner’s new life. Most of the issues that followed were a mixed bag, but with enough enjoyable elements to keep some momentum going. Of the lot, Nightcrawler #7 stands out for me when I glance back over the sequence, this being centered on Wagner’s reaction to the Death of Wolverine event that dominated September and October. Of all the many tie-ins and off-shoots to the Death of Wolverine busniness, including the main four-part event itself, it was Nightcrawler #7 in all its simplicity that actually made for the best read.

The simple, poignant cover of Kurt lighting a candle beneath an old photo of him and Logan was in itself more resonant than the pages and pages of coverage the Death of Wolverine got elsewhere, and Nightcrawler #7 as an issue continued that theme. It helps that Kurt and Logan have a particularly strong, historic friendship, that they both came into the X-Men mythology together at the same time all those decades ago and that Chris Claremont more than anyone has a handle on that history and is able to tap into that rich well and bring past and present together in a meaningful way. The way Kurt Wagner’s inner monologue frames the narrative all the way through the Nightcrawler series was an effective tool from #1 ownards, but in Nightcrawler #7 it is especially effective, able to really get to the heart of Wagner’s response to his friend’s death. There is something particularly poignant in the reference to how mankind builds not just tombs but monuments to the dead, with visual references to the Holocaust Museum and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier among others.

There is moving nostalgia value in Kurt’s private trip down memory lane, with strong visual recollections of his colorful past, from the events of 1975’s Giant-Sized X-Men #1 in which Nightcrawler and Wolverine both debuted, through those early adventures that followed, the Dark Phoenix Saga and beyond, to the Excalibur days, right through to Wagner’s heroic death protecting Hope Summers in the truly superb X-Men: Second Coming storyline. It’s a massively abbreviated history, of course, but it does the job of being suitably nostalgic and framing the passing of Wolverine in a much broader, generation-spanning narrative. Meanwhile a simulated farewell party for Logan seems to feature half the Marvel Universe in attendance; but as it happens Kurt has been the only real, non-simulated character in the narrative all along. The only other character to really appear is Rachel Summers once Kurt gets fed up of the overly idealised illusion he’s creating and angrily does away with it all. The issue’s brief Kurt/Rachel encounter and embrace is an endearing, poignant end to the matter and demonstrates how smaller, focused character moments are almost always more effective than over-populated cameo-fests.

Loki: Agent of Asgard #6 and #7
OK, I’m cheating here, but they’re bascially the same story so I’m counting them as one entry in this top ten. Loki: Agent of Asgard, yet another newly launched title this year, was something I had only vaguely paid attention to for the most part. I read the first issue, quite enjoyed it, but then drifted off to other things. It was the presence of one of my favorite characters, the one and only Victor Von Doom, that drew me in for Loki: Agent of Asgard #6 and 7, part of the ‘March to Axis’ lead-in. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Doom just might be the coolest villain there is in the Marvel Universe and everything that makes him so compelling was displayed across these two issues. Loki writer Al Ewing seems to have a really good handle on Doctor Doom and might even be a natural candidate for chief steersman of any prospective Doom solo title (which I seriously hope is something being discussed). I was also easily won over by the Jorge Coelho/Lee Loughbridge art style for the books and am tempted to commit to this title beyond Axis, despite never having been particularly interested in Loki as a character. The ‘magical duel’ between Doom and Loki in #6 is entertaining, though understated; it isn’t about spectacle, but more about dialgoue and theme. Doom’s talk of ‘magical thinking’ and magic being ‘the imposition of a narrative upon reality’ is genuinely fascinating. It ends with Doom rather deliciously trapping Loki, keeping him prisoner.

Everything about Loki: Agent of Asgard #6 and #7 is superb, from the art and the tone of everything to the themes, the dialogue, the humour and the character dynamics. Most of all, it proves to be a fascinating character study of Doom himself, showing him in all his complex, poetic glory. In #6 this is primarily in terms of his way of thinking, his belief in magical thinking and his own narrative, his own story – the “story of Doom”. Then in #7 this expands into an exploration of his role as Latveria’s dictator and figurehead. The influence of the Red Skull’s hate-wave on Latveria’s citizens in #7 causes mass riots and violence as the people begin to turn against their master. The Coelho/Loughbridge art for these scenes is mesmerising, really capturing the sense of chaos and breakdown in order, as well as Doom’s own outrage. Reading this, I became utterly convinced that this particular depiction of Doom and his Latverian kingdom was a deliberatele analogy for the fall of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya in 2011; I won’t go into all of that here, but I covered it at length in this post (link: http://theburningbloggerofbedlam.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/colonel-gadaffi-comparisons-agents-of-asgard-and-why-doctor-doom-should-have-his-own-series/ ).

If I wanted to petition Marvel to commission a Doctor Doom solo title, I would use these two comics as the bait. They exhibit everything that makes Doom so fascinating. And it isn’t just the brooding, introspective monologues or poetic flourishes; the Latverian setting and Doom’s lair itself (particularly the way Coelho draws those Gothic interiors) are a rich backdrop to the drama and suggest that if a Doom movie was ever made it should be by Tim Burton. The odd relationship between Doom and little Valeria Richards also provides both a fascinating and likeable dynamic with rich potential, allowing for Victor’s ‘softer side’ to occasionally peek out from the grim demeanour. And believe it or not, there is also terrific, scattered humour, with Doom having become the new king of deadpan; his response to little Valeria Richards’ “can we have ice-cream?” is priceless – “Doom will consider your request”. Gotta love this guy.
Silver Surfer #2 and #3
I was excited about the news of a new Silver Surfer monthly title when it was first announced, being a long-time enthusiast of Norrin Radd, the Power Cosmic and the whole, rich Silver Surfer mythology. The Surfer was one of the primary heroes of my formative comic-book reading years back in the early nineties and a Marvel Universe without a regular Silver Surfer book in it had seemed like an emptier place.

The Silver Surfer is essentially a more difficult character to sell in the contemporary Marvel set-up than he was in the past; he can easily come off feeling quaint by today’s expectations, which was no doubt part of the reason why he was in the wilderness for a number of years. There are still traces of that diffculty in these first few issues of the 2014 resurrection, but the presence of key new character, the young Ms Dawn Greenwood, counteracts that problem significantly, providing a fresher, more down-to-earth ingredient to what might otherwise be an aloof-feeling, otherwordly affair. The humour and sarcasm scattered across the dialogue, primarily through Dawn, is generally not something we’d usually associate with Silver Surfer comics, but serves to bring the Surfer’s tale more into keeping with current comic-book trends and characteristics, such as typifies the Captain Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy titles for example.

The cover to #1, with the earth-dwelling Ms Greenwood reaching out and grasping the hand of the space-faring Silver Surfer, felt iconic as soon as I saw it. #2’s cover, with the Surfer facing a page-filling Never Queen has the aura of the iconic to it too, seeming and feeling like one of the classic Silver Surfer covers of old. The story told in these first few issues isn’t quite as memorable as those covers suggested, but were nevertheless entertaining and felt like something fairly fresh and new. The first three issues of the new series saw the Surfer encountering the previously unheard-of Impericon; an extraordinary, “impossible palace” spanning the size of whole worlds and acting as a major attraction for visitors from all over the galaxy. Called upon to defend the the attraction from the ‘Never Queen’, the Surfer soon discovers in classic Silver Surfer fashion that this immensely powerful and metaphysical Never Queen isn’t the big bad monster after all but the wronged party in need of saving. The Never Queen herself is an evocative and visually engaging presence with a distinct aesthetic in the way many of the classic cosmic figures in the Marvel Universe always were. The way she is rendered in #2 and #3 are one of the most compelling elements.

More importantly the relationship established in these opening issues between the Surfer and “earth-girl” Dawn Greenwood has immediate likeability factor, beginning a new take on an old legend. Dawn, who is a touch reminiscent of old-school Jubilee from the X-Men world, is an instantly adorable character able to add something fresh to the Silver Surfer mythology, giving things a more ‘street’ feel than Silver Surfer fans are used to. Yet there’s also the more familiar, classic elements of the mythology present in the mix, particularly with the familiar and highly visual presence of Eternity. Dawn Greenwood’s look is immediately both sweet and striking. It’s always good for our first glimpse of a character to be one that asserts itself on the senses, and the sight of Greenwood in her polka-dot dress and sneakers, with her cropped blue hair makes a substantial impression. That she also proves to be a highly readable character makes it a winning marriage of image and substance.

On the other hand, the Silver Surfer’s look is a little flat in these issues, coming off as more cartoonish than imposing. To be fair, the look and feel of the comic overall seems decidedly cartoon-like in style, from Laura and Mike Allred’s illustrations to Clayton Cowles’ lettering, and that style seems to work in its own right, particularly when it’s centered on the Dawn Greenwood character. In my opinion it doesn’t translate so well for the Surfer himself, who loses some of his visual potency as it was in the old days; but it understandably puts Allred in a difficult bind, as you can’t really illustrate the Surfer in one style and the rest of the comic in another. The art style is something you have to simply get used to; it certainly isn’t without its charms.

In general, these opening issues of the series were very enjoyable reads, managing to be both very new and yet also somewhat in keeping with the mythology of old at the same time. #2 and #3 were the highlights for me, particularly seeing Dawn and the Surfer come together for what we can assume is the beginning of a very important relationship.

Ms Marvel #2
The launch of the new Ms Marvel title early in the year caused some degree of controversy due to its heroine being a Muslim teenager; this being of course in an era where Muslims are still stigmatised and villified in the media and moveover in much of the popular mindset. The debuting of the series in March garnered coverage in media all over the world, from American press to newspapers and websites in the Middle East and Asia.

What’s most commendable to me about the Ms Marvel series is how non-cynical and non-tokenistic it felt right from the start. In Kamala Khan, writer G. Willow Wilson and editor Sana Amanat created a character that was both likeable and relatable. She isn’t larger-than-life, isn’t any spectacular hero, but an understated, unassuming character who often comes across like she could easily be one of the X-Men younglings or some unassuming sidekick for Spiderman. Fittingly, Kamala is as uncomfortable with her situation and transformation as some readers or comic-book enthusiasts may or may not have been about the idea of the character in the first instance. The Pakistani/Muslim cultrual issues are a permanent presence and reality but are never over or under emphasised, never shoved down anyone’s throat; Kamala’s family and cultural background are there as simple, unobtrusive matter-of-fact. The pressures faced by young people from highly conservative family backgrounds searching for personal identity in broader American (or Western) society is a modern condition familiar to many (including many who read comics); G. Willow Wilson’s Kamala Khan embodies that struggle in a manner that is both engaging and very timely.

I covered this subject at length in this post (link: http://theburningbloggerofbedlam.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/the-new-muslim-ms-marvel-and-the-cultural-controversies-in-comics/ ) and in it made this point: People who object to such things may have no notion of how many people, especially young people, from minority communities and not just in America but all over the world, are loyal, dedicated comic-book readers. So much so, in fact, that I’d argue that such readers shouldn’t even be considered a ‘minority’ to be pandered to, but actually the majority audience of numerous comic-book franchises. Just as many would’ve been unaware not too long ago of how many young gay readers or young people struggling with issues of sexuality were a significant part of comic-book fandom and in many cases were taking solace from certain comic characters or stories, particularly in X-Men books. You can find numerous moving testimonies too to how the presence of black characters like the Black Panther in mainstream comic books in the late sixties and early seventies really meant something to young black teenagers and readers at the time, who may have had other characters they liked, but none they could relate to at that level.

No doubt there are Muslim readers of comic books – I know a few myself – including girls, who might take something very personal, very encouraging in the presence of a Kamala Khan type character having her own solo series and in whatever stories and ideas that series might go on to explore. Relatability is a big deal; in comics, just as in novels or films. And for a community – and Muslim females are a subset even within that broader minority – that is currently so controversially regarded and so unfavorably portrayed in mainstream media and largely ostracized from mainstream popular culture not just in the US, but elsewhere too, something like this can be a fairly big deal.

The first several issues, without being at all spectacular, were fairly enjoyable to read, offering a cogent introduction to the character, her psychology, her cultural background and her personal struggles. Adrian Alphona’s highly stylised art is a touch difficult on the eye as far as my personal taste goes, but at the same time it seems to work for this series, seems to fit the slightly off-kilter vibe. In essence, I love that this character exists and is fronting a monthly title at Marvel and enjoying a loyal audience too; and the Jamie McKelvie/Matt Wilson cover of Ms Marvel #2 captures that vibe most potently, feeling like a highly welcome new presence in the Marvel family has arrived and is here for good.
Avengers/X-Men: Axis 3

Most big Marvel events have swathes of critics even within Marvel fandom; 2014’s Avengers/X-Men: Axis was no exception. While most of the best parts of the overall story occur in tie-ins and lead-ins, Axis #3 is as good as the central 9-part series seems to have gotten before taking a massive nose-dive in Axis #4.

If I had any major gripe with Axis #3, it would be that Mystique should’ve had far more coverage (how you can have Mystique in the mix and not give her more to do is beyond me); but that aside, having Magneto play team captain in taking the initiative to bring this pantheon of villains to the rescue of the heroes has its obvious charm. Magneto, Doom, Loki, Deadpool and Enchantress all get their page-time and their uneasy alliances make for fun reading (the Doom/Loki thing established in Agent of Asgard #6 could have a lot of long-term potential). It generally is the villains and not the ‘heroes’ who get the best lines and best interactions; any Doom/Loki dialogue is almost guaranteed to be more interesting than anything Sam Wilson, Wanda or Havok is saying at any given time. While we’re on that point, I don’t get the appeal of Sam Wilson at all, even as Falcon letalone as Captain America – he is one of the dullest characters in MU history.

At any rate, the eventual defeat of Red Onslaught is suitably dramatic and having Doom play a central role is almost as satisfying as seeing Magneto slay Red Skull in Uncanny Avengers #25. From this point in the saga, however, enjoyability starts to wane. The shift from The Red Supremacy half of the series (#1 – 3) to the Inversion part seems to have included a major quality shift too and goes on to be full of silly ideas, terrible characterisation and general childishness. From the very point in #3 where the Red Onslaught is defeated, the story starts to go awry, as if the Red Skull/Magneto dynamic was the principal nexus holding all the rest of it together. The fall out between Avengers and X-Men is pretty dull, a tired idea by now.

But again there’s more than enough to enjoy in Axis #3 to balance the equation at least as far as this individual comic is concerned; Deadpool gets his time, with suitable comedy asides. Evan Sabah Nur (Genesis) and Quentin Quire have a meaningful moment. Doom predictably gets the best dialogue; “Once again it falls to Doom to save the world”, while Evan/Genesis emerging as the full-blown Apocalypse makes for a quick thrill (even if it doesn’t go anywhere great in subsequent installments). There aren’t many great things to be said about Axis overall, but I stand by Axis #3 as a fun ride.

The top 5 series of 2014 from Jerry Caskey

Last but not least is a top 5 list from My friend Jerry!

1. Moon Knight

Where to start. Moon Knight is a strange character. A mercenary brought back to life by an Egyptian god? It already sounds cheesy. But cheesy was the Moon Knight from the good old days, now there is Warren Ellis. Featuring questionable mental states, three-piece suits, and a driverless limo, Moon Knight has gotten some upgrades. Perhaps the least tangible of these is the un-amused swagger with which he moves through adversity. In issue #5 Mr. Knight traverses through four floors of foes before one even deflects a blow. The entirety of Issue #6 is spent on another man, building himself up to exact revenge on Moon Knight, only to be taken down in a few panels. So the question is: what does it take to make Moon Knight flinch?

The most apparent change is visual. Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire work together to create some of the best art to be released last year. Moon Knight is stark white against the gritty drab world he has been sent back into. From apartment buildings, to sewers, to all-on dreamscapes, each issue is vibrant and original. Coupled with Warren Ellis’ unparalleled story telling abilities, Moon Knight towered over his counterparts last year.

2. Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan, dealing with issues of social, domestic, and ethnic solidarity, turns to The Avengers with one request, to be like them. When her request is granted, she discovers the truth. Being someone else isn’t liberating, it’s exhausting.

Willow Wilson paves the way with soul-searching dialog and characters diverse beyond any expectation. The commentary meanders through topics, pausing to address the horrors of ‘traditional’ heroine garb among sixteen year old self-discovery. The art (Adrian Alphona) maintains a delicate balance between necessarily realistic, and fantastically cartoon-ish. Illustrating both the underlying messages of Kamala Khan finding herself, and the literal overlay of Ms Marvel.

Bonus: If you pay particular attention to the scenery, you will be rewarded with some general silliness.

3. Saga

Image comics. Do not misunderstand me, Marvel can get dark. DC plays with heavy topics. Dark Horse flexes their violent muscles. But Image turns raw viscera into aesthetically pleasing, structured, palatable comics. Saga is no different. Touted as a ‘space opera’, Saga is the weaving together of many story lines into one spiraling adventure. Brian K. Vaughan keeps each thread alive, all working toward some unforeseeable resolve. 2014 was particularly intriguing as old characters were brought back, and the seemingly dispirit began to team up and fight.

Challenged with the task of visualizing this epic universe is Fiona Staples. Staples keeps the focus sharply on the characters. The surroundings stay soft and out of the way as the characters command attention with an expressive liveliness not present in many comics. With a project as huge as Saga it is a wonder that every issue feels original. Just when the art could become dry, or reused, Fiona moves up a notch to keep the universe pulsing on.

4. Death of Wolverine

I must admit. I like ’em dark. Something about the brooding vulnerability of hopelessness that humanizes even the toughest among us. And who is the toughest among us if not Wolverine. What is Wolverine faced with in this series? Two words: THE END.

Charles Soule keeps the conversations minimal, and the artists (Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, and Justin Ponsor) pick up the slack. The fundamental change to this comic is simple, Wolverine has no healing power. To ensure we remember this, small red boxes season the dismal landscape containing one piece of critical information: the cost of Wolverine’s previous attack. This keeps Wolverine’s mortality, rather than his general bad-assery, as our primary focus (The fact that he continues to lay waste in his mortal state does add credit to his already sterling reputation as a badass, however).

Logan is vagrant, degrading, falling apart. Damage is permanent and the word is out. Knowing that hiding will only result in innocent lives being lost, Logan chooses to literally provide a map to his exact location. Blood, grit, and headbutts. Death of Wolverine has managed to make me worry about a hero I never felt any concern over.

5. Batman: Zero Year

What is there to be said that has not been said already about Bats? What I can say is that Scott Snyder is doing some wonderful writing for the Zero Year story arc. He gives us a unique look into a time when Bruce was learning from mistakes, and how those mistakes led to his life as Batman. With the elusive Ed Nygma pulling strings, and the Red Hood as muscle, Bruce fights for his life as he struggles with internal crisis. There are three internal arcs: “Secret City” which deals with Bruce’s beginnings; “Dark City” which follows Batman’s first months; and “Savage City” in which Batman must wrest control of Arkham from Riddler.

Greg Capullo keeps the artwork just traditional enough without feeling worn-out or pandering. Throughout the series Batman maintains a more cartoonish effect than the troubled, anxious souls he is protecting. This allows the general outlook to be hopeless, without detracting from the underlying knowledge that Batman is going to prevail.

Pick of the week (Jan. 7th): Ant-Man #1

With the movie to look forward to Marvel has started an all out blitz to promote, and/or raise awareness of one of their original avengers. To be honest when I heard about the movie it seemed like a big risk, but guardians of the galaxy was also a risk and it turned out well. Part of this promotional blitz includes the relaunch of The Ant-Mans solo title. Things start out with Scott Lang having been revived from the dead and looking for a job. He seeks employment from Tony Stark only to be thrown into a test of skill with others half his age. The Writer on this series is Nick Spencer, and he does a fantastic job crafting a character that is easy to relate to, likable, and funny. For just the first issue Spencer is able to pack in quite a lot of substance. Giving us a brief origin story, and a quick what’s led up to this point. Also did I mention that this issue is funny? Well it is. The artwork by Ramon Rosanas is excellent as well. Complimenting the story telling while not being a distraction. This is a solid start for Ant-Man and I look forward to the next issue. I give this issue a 7/10

-Andrew Horton