Recommended Reading: From Hell

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Welcome to October here at Deja.Revue. If you have not noticed already, I tend to be a fan of the creepy, the weird, and the left-field in comics. So I though October would be a perfect time to indulge those predilections even more than I already have. Horror, as a genre in comics, has always been just off to the side. Less flashy than superheroes, and something of a mutant child of crime comics, the genre has a breadth and depth which is, in my opinion, almost unmatched. I do not hope to cover the whole diverse range of the genre in the coming month, but I do hope to give you a survey of some of my favorite works on page and screen. If you would like to read further, Paste has an excellent list of horror comics you should read. For further reading on the history of horror comics, check out Mike Howlett’s essay in the back of this excellent horror anthology that I will not have the time or space to write about this month. If all goes according to plan, I will have a column each Monday for you, culminating, fittingly, with Halloween at the end of the month. Don’t forget to turn off the lights.

It has been three or four weeks since I put down the heavy copy of Alan Moore’s From Hell that I borrowed from the library. It was nearing 2 AM, and while the tome sits silently on a shelf in my house currently, the real weight of the book has pressed on my mind almost constantly since I finished reading it.

Moore is a giant of comics who also has no trouble voicing his skepticism and impatience with the direction of the medium. He has essentially disowned his two best-known works, V for Vendetta and Watchmen, over the cash-grab way in which the film adaptions of each were brought to theaters (it is also important to note that Moore sees his work as fundamentally unadaptable, that is, he made them comics for a reason and comics they should stay – but that is a topic for another time). Lately, he has moved away from comics altogether. In a recent interview with Vulture promoting his new novel Jerusalem – a nearly 1200-page post-post modern novel that seems to share more than a little DNA with From Hell – he said, when asked about the influence of his superhero work:

I am really in a bad mood about superheroes. I’m not the best person to ask about this. What are these movies doing other than entertaining us with stories and characters that were meant to entertain the 12-year-old boys of 50 years ago? Are we supposed to somehow embody these characters? That’s ridiculous. They are not characters that can possibly exist in the real world. Yes, I did Watchmen. Yes, I did Marvelman. These are two big seminal superhero works, I guess. But remember: Both of them are critical of the idea of superheroes. They weren’t meant to be a reinvigoration of the genre.

The irony of much the current superhero-saturated climate is that it ostensibly owes a great debt to the aesthetics and moral weight of Moore’s work, yet it misunderstands and misinterprets that work – much as if one had taken the wallpaper from a house, pasted it on a billboard, and claimed to have reproduced the house.

One need only to read Moore’s other work to recognize that his interests and fascinations lie almost entirely outside of the (to him) childish realm of caped heroes. From Hell is the ur-text for understanding where Moore is coming from. The book mixes deeply researched history with conspiracy, the occult, penny-dreadfuls, architecture, Nietzsche’s theory of eternal return, melodrama, freemasonry, and the poetry of William Blake (to name only a few touchstones from which the book takes its flight). One of the great pleasures of reading the work is pouring over the dense endnotes after finishing each chapter to discover what Moore made up, what he speculated on, and what is cold fact. In the endnotes we find Moore the scholar as well as Moore the author. These notes are casual, even conversational, in tone and they are bunched at the back of the volume that I read. However, they served as a much needed breather after the densely packed pages of each of the 16 chapters.

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Not only is each chapter dense with detail, but most are terrifying in an apocalyptic sense. The book, on its surface, is about the Jack the Ripper murders which plagued London toward the end of the Victorian era. To this day, the murders remain unsolved and, as a result, an entire culture of amateur investigation and conspiracy has grown concurrently with the Ripper legend. While Moore cobbles some of these theories together in order to form the central plot of the book, this is the opposite of a whodunit. Moore does not hide the murderer or his work from the eyes of the reader. The killings are depicted in harrowing detail as the work of William Gull – royal physician to Queen Victoria – who, on the one hand, carries out the murders to cover up an embarrassing royal family secret while, on the other, turning this bit of dirty work into a grand pagan sacrificial ceremony with the city of London serving as the altar. The book explores Gull’s life, showing the events that lead to his rise in social standing and seeing him through to the murders and on to his ultimate fate. Moore also follows the victims, investigators, and various accomplices (both witting and unwitting) who are all tied intricately and disastrously with the bloody business. Gull (through Moore) sees himself as a prophet of the century to come – the chosen one tasked with the business of birthing the 20th century with all of its wars, its famines, its depressions, its industries, and its revolutions.

This is where Moore expands the scope of the whole enterprise. The book is grotesque, yes (and though Moore is notoriously heavy-handed when it comes to working with artists, Eddie Campbell draws the book with the kind of ugly beauty it requires, making every panel seem as if it were illustrated using soot from a cobbled London street), but this is not what makes the book terrifying – and it is terrifying, being among the very few books I have read which left me wary of the dark corners and late-night creakings of my own home – what makes the book utterly terrifying is the universe-size canvas on which Moore projects his story. The sense that this is all happening now – that it all has happened – that it all will happen again – turns the book into a deeply personal, though still cosmic, kind of horror. It is a book with a bleak view of humanity. Its dark energy saps the hope from your body – the horror is bone deep.

From Hell is not a story of good vs. evil. The book never even whiffs at the illusion that good has any chance of prevailing. We watch, helplessly, as mundane, political evil opens the door for darker, more sinister kinds of evil. We watch as the “good” characters, compromised as they are, grasp at straws in order to stop the murders only to find that, once the crimes have been solved, the few people who care are helpless to do anything to stop Gull. And we watch as Gull’s obsessions grow and, eventually, utterly consume him. This consuming obsession spirals out from the book (there is something of “The Tell-Tale Heart” in this) to engulf Moore’s obsession, as documented in the copious endnotes, and the macabre obsession of Ripper enthusiasts, salivating over a string of murders that terrorized a city and took the real lives of real people and turning them into a hobby. Perhaps this is why the book is so horrifying, because, by the end of From Hell, haven’t we, the readers, become one of them?

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Bedtime Stories That Keep You Awake: On Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

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Welcome to October here at Deja.Revue. If you have not noticed already, I tend to be a fan of the creepy, the weird, and the left-field in comics. So I though October would be a perfect time to indulge those predilections even more than I already have. Horror, as a genre in comics, has always been just off to the side. Less flashy than superheroes, and something of a mutant child of crime comics, the genre has a breadth and depth which is, in my opinion, almost unmatched. I do not hope to cover the whole diverse range of the genre in the coming month, but I do hope to give you a survey of some of my favorite works on page and screen. If you would like to read further, Paste has an excellent list of horror comics you should read. For further reading on the history of horror comics, check out Mike Howlett’s essay in the back of this excellent horror anthology that I will not have the time or space to write about this month. If all goes according to plan, I will have a column each Monday for you, culminating, fittingly, with Halloween at the end of the month. Don’t forget to turn off the lights.

At one point or another in your life it is likely that you have crawled into your bed, or crawled out of it, and thought you heard something. Maybe it was down the hall. Maybe it was on the roof. Or maybe, just maybe, it was under your bed. Your ears begin to ring. Your pupils dilate. You concentrate on the darkness and the silence. Your feet stiffen on the cold floor or your body tightens under the warm covers. You recede into the blankets, blocking out the world – a cotton fortress of your own making. It is absurd. Whatever that something is, it can get through. It will not be fooled by your disguise. It knows you are awake. In fact, it prefers you to be awake. It prefers that you wait in the silence, in the stillness, contemplating your immanent fate.

But there is not anything there. Not really. This absence is the source of terror, for it creates a gaping vacuum which our minds set quickly to populating with all sorts of morbid, grotesque, and devilish boogeymen. For some, this wild speculation, this endless suspension in the realm of horror, can create a kind of high – one you keep chasing. This helps explains the popularity of horror films, but more elementally it explains the enduring tradition of the campfire story, the legend, the myth, of which film is merely one of the most recent modes of delivery.

Enter Emily Carroll’s beguiling graphic novel Through the Woods. Each of its brief, gothic-inflected tales is meant to put you right back in bed, under the covers, afraid to peak over the edge and see the hand reaching out from underneath. It begins much the same way I have begun this article. By remembering the bed, the darkness, and the hand creeping out, Carroll prepares the reader for what is to come and also reminds us why we get into this stuff in the first place: we are all just chasing after that same, perfect moment of childhood fear over and over.

Carroll’s tales are, I think purposefully, transitional ones. They float in that space between childhood and adulthood (the library from which I checked out the book had it filed in the Teen section): evoking nursery rhymes even as they delve into more sinister territory. Because of this, she introduces some twists and turns which, for more seasoned readers, will feel less surprising. However, the collection also drifts towards a more uncertain, unsteady version of horror. The best of the stories (“Our Neighbor’s House,” “His Face All Red”) provide no answers, and in fact, no conclusions at all. The resulting effect runs much closer to one’s core than stories that end on dramatic revelations or twists (I can almost hear the violins exploding at the end of “My Friend Janna”). None of these stories overstays their welcome. They are gothic folktales, moving at a quick clip, lingering just long enough to send a chill down your spine, or to make the hairs on your neck stand at attention.

Though these nightmares are brief, that does not mean they are unmemorable. Carroll’s art is mostly to thank for that. It is bright and blocky. It channels folk art even as it disintegrates its own borders, dripping over the edges of the loosely defined frames. It is much less a traditional comic book than it is a series of narrative paintings whose accompanying text is incorporated as completely and artfully as the characters and settings. Reds and blues are cut through with inky black and shocks of white. Everything is angled like the set of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Imagine that film bursting in mad Technicolor and you will have an idea of what Carroll’s book looks like.

Like that film, Through the Woods suggests that monsters are real, but that they are often found just behind the eyes of the person sitting across from you, or just beneath the surface of the mirror you are staring into. This is how the monsters hide. And this is why we must, in the dark, when we are alone and we hear that sound again, fill the world with ugly daemons waiting just around the corner: because it keeps us from seeing the real and mundane ones.

New Comic Book Day Top 5: October 5th

Hello Revuers! It’s time for another edition of #NCBD Top 5! This week represents a very special week for me as it’s my birthday! Not only that, but this week sees a ton of fantastic comics drop, including the start of several series. Marvel starts their NOW! initiative (again?), and we see new series’ from Black Mask and Aftershock comics as well. So without any further delay let’s jump right in!

 

5: Jessica Jones #1

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Following the success of Jessica Jones on Netflix, Marvel has decided to relaunch Jessica with her own series again. Bringing back original creators Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos. As an added bonus they have David Mack back on covers (Though not the one featured above, that’s a variant cover by David Aja). I enjoyed the Netflix series and I am excited for this rebirth and interested in Jessica Jones. The old volume of Jessica Jones was released on the MAX imprint of Marvel which featured more mature content. This imprint no longer exists, so it’s safe to assume this volume with have much tamer content. Though I’m sure they will push the envelope when possible.

 

4: Moonshine #1

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Monnshine is a new series from Image comics, featuring the creative talents of Brian Azzarello and  Eduardo Risso. The series is set in the U.S during the time of prohibition. It centers around a group of gangsters from New York trying to embargo illegal alcohol from Virginia back to NYC. But, there is a twist. There’s always a twist. I don’t know very much about this title other than the premise and that is enough to make me want to purchase it. Add in it’s from the creative talent behind 100 Bullets, and I’m sold.

 

3: Shipwreck #1

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Shipwreck is the latest title to come out of Aftershock Comics. Having already scored some major talent for their other titles, they now bring in Warren Ellis on writing duties and the wonderful Phil Hester on art. The synopsis of the story is that the main character is a survivor of a “mysterious” shipwreck. The catch is he can’t remember what happened and he seems to be stuck on a road that never ends, with a companion that may not have his best interest in mind. The creative team is top notch, Warren Ellis is one of my favorite writers since his stints on Moon Knight and Trees. Phil Hester’s art is always phenomenal on any book that he contributes to. Aftershock has been bringing it lately, and this series appears to be another win for them.

 

2: Justice League #6

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DC Comics has seen a revitalization since Rebirth that is nothing short of astounding. Their sales are up and their stories are better. Even at the frantic shipping twice monthly pace they are on. Justice League by Bryan Hitch, Tony S. Daniel and for this issue on art Matthew Clark has been no exception. The story telling of the first arc was fast paced and intriguing. The art by Tony S. Daniel was some of the finest of his storied career. Issue 6 sees the start of a new arc titles “State of Fear” in which it looks like the Justice League will have to face their fears…..starting with Jessica Cruz. Every week when I see this on my pull list my heart starts beating faster as I know it’s going to be incredible. The connecting variants by Yanick Paquette have been astounding and fun to collect as well.

 

1: Black #1

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Coming from Black Mask Studios, the company not afraid of anything, comes Black #1. Black #1 is set in a world where only black people have super powers. After being shot by the police, a young man learns a secret about himself and his community. The creative team on this book includes Kwanza Osajyefo, Jamal Igle, Tim Smith 3 and Khary Randolph. With our reality teaming with political, racial and violent unrest this could be the comic that creates real change. It will definitely be the comic that asks hard questions. I can’t wait to read it and see what it makes me question about myself.

 

So there you have it! Did your most anticipated books make the cut? Tell us in the comments below. We would also love to see you list of most anticipated comics!

 

-Andrew

 

Recommended Reading: Harrow County

Recommended Reading: Harrow County Vol. 1: Countless Haints

Recommended Reading is an ongoing feature where we will take a brief look at currently running series worth checking out and catching up with.

 

I spent much of my weekend riding through the hills and mountains of West Virginia and southwest Virginia. I watched one evening as a storm crashed over a mountain, clutching at the valley like a great black hand. On a morning, driving back north, the fog and clouds became indistinguishable – twisting around the highway and switchbacks, rising from the trees like smoke from invisible fires, obscuring the deer lingering on the edge of the pavement only well enough to see, flitting, a bright flash disappearing into the deep, unknown woods.

In retrospect, it was fitting that I had read, and had been thinking about, Harrow County for this column right before descending into the south myself. Harrow County is scripted by Cullen Bunn. The art and lettering are by Tyler Crook. It is published by Dark Horse. You should be reading it. It is still a pretty young series, only the first two volumes are out in trade, with the third arriving next month. You’ve plenty of time to catch up.

The first arc centers on a young girl named Emmy who lives in southern, rural Harrow County with her father. A prologue offers us an immediate look at the darker side of life there. At some point, the residents had turned on a local witch – hanging and burning her. But not before she could offer one last warning: she’ll be back. After an absolutely beautiful two page spread of a gnarled tree in the night, a quiet farmhouse in the background, the book’s title vaporous in the night sky (more on the art in a moment), we are introduced to Emmy. She’s having trouble sleeping. Nightmares in which the tree far outside her window comes alive in flames, opens wide its toothed mouth, and screams “lies.”

Emmy’s 18th birthday is coming, but strange things have been happening. The dreams, for one. A dying calf brought back to life. A complete human skin stretched across the bramble in the woods, moaning and groaning for Emmy to reach out to it. It’s clear from the outset that Emmy and the witch have some kind of connection and as the townspeople become worried, Emmy takes for the woods.

The book examines the burden of inheritance. That is, that where we come from can sometimes determine who we are. Or can it? As Emmy puts the pieces together, she openly wonders what it all means, and whether or not she can be the one who determines her own fate. And this is just the starting place for the series, which also takes a look at the ghouls and haints and townspeople of Harrow County and asks what it means to be a family, a community.

Countless Haints collects the first four single issues of the comic and can feel maddeningly episodic at times. However, the arc mostly holds, even if it is rushed slightly by the end. One of the great things about this comic is how its world offers the capacity for infinite expansion. While there are merits to bringing us into this world with a compact identity drama, what excites me about this comic, and what causes me to recommend it, is the possibility and promise it offers.

The world and characters of Harrow County are rich. And in this first volume, much of what makes them so rich, what makes me want more, are Tyler Crook’s illustrations. The book is stunningly beautiful. Don’t believe me? Take a look:

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Crook’s art is that rare, perfect thing in comics: a choice that is truly bold and daring. There is a great deal of talk these days about doing new and daring things, but Crook doesn’t need to talk, because he’s doing them. As he points out in a brief interview collected in the back of the volume, illustrating with watercolors means no do-overs. What is put on the page stays on the page. As a result, the world feels organic – texture is huge here, the roughness of tree bark, the softness of hay, the slickness of blood-drenched skin. The colors pop when they need to (autumn has rarely been rendered so beautifully in a comic) and the blacks are inky and deep and mix with murky greys and blues to give nighttime its particular mix of darkness and light.

This series is absolutely worth catching up on, particularly if you like the unusual, the peculiar, the beautiful, and the profane.

 

-Ian

Half Year Top 10 List

Hello Revuers! It’s hard to believe that June is upon us! With that the first six months of 2015 are behind us. So now its time to take a look back at our favorite series’ so far. To do so I have once again enlisted the aide of some of my friends! Some headings are clickable so feel free to check out the contributors blogs, they all do an excellent job.

Andrew Horton

The last 6 months have brought a plethora of exciting changes in the big two, and some interesting new series from the Indie side of things. In this list I’ll be breaking down my ten favorite so far:

10. Spidergwen (Marvel)

This would have made it higher on the list if it weren’t for Secret Wars. The first two issues were great, and then it felt like they had to rush what they wanted to do and cut things out. Leaving the last few issues feeling a little hollow. I do love the creative team on this (Jason Latour is a fantastic writer and a true professional, Robbi and Rico combine to make beautiful art), and I am excited for what they have in store for post Secret Wars Gwen.

9. Groot (Marvel)

Fantastic start to a series that has great promise. I am glad it exists in a bubble outside of the events of Secret Wars. Groot is down right adorable, and his (her?) facial expressions really steal the show. I cant wait to see what new hi-jinx will befall Groot in the future.

8. Silver Surfer (Marvel)

Enough can never be said about the fantastic art by the Allreds on this series. They truly take it from being a good comic to being a great comic. That being said this series is also suffering from the events of Secret Wars. The last two or three issues have felt a bit stagnate as if they are just filling time until Hickmans saga comes to a close. It still makes it to this spot on the list, but only because its so dang pretty to look at.

7. Thor (Marvel)

When I first heard there was going to be a female Thor I was excited! I had never been able to get into Thor before because it felt (either justly or unjustly on my part) to me like he was a big brute with a hammer that liked to smash things. Having a change really felt fresh and seemed to open up a whole other dimension for the character. I am happy to report that I was correct. female Thor is one of my favorite major changes to the status quo of all time! Jason Aaron also did a great job of completing a whole arc before Secret Wars began, managing to avoid the pit fall of a couple sires before this one on this list. The art has improved from the first few issues, making this title one of the most well rounded on this list.

6. Secret Wars (Marvel)

Hickmans Avengers and New Avengers saga finally comes to a head. The multiverse is dead and now all that remains is batteworld!!! At the helm is the Lord God Doom. Overall this is a fun event with interesting religious themes peppered through out. Its fun to see different heroes in new ways. The premise is exciting and it feels very well planned out. I am convinces Hickman is a mad genius or exists in a higher plane of sentience than I do.

5. Descender (Image)

Finally we move away from Marvel for number five on this list. Descender is a tale of a futuristic society that has sustained an attack by giant androids. It then scrambles to figure out where they came from and how to defend themselves. The answers lie with a rejected scientist and a small Android boy named Tim. This title feels much like a book that could have been written by Phillip Dick, or George Orwell, or some combination of the two. Its exciting and I cant wait to see what Lemire thinks Androids dream of.

4. Southern Cross (Image)

This is the first title on this list to feature the word Southern in it. This is another Sci-fi adventure, set on a ship. Southern Cross is a bit of a genre blender melding some horror aspects in to the sci-fi story. Personally I love it. I think the setting of a ship in transit lends itself well to a horror element. Through the first 5 issues we are left with more questions than answered questions, with each new issue opening it’s own can of worms. The art is phenomenal and adds a whole other element the the book.

3. Gotham Academy (DC)

The first and only DC title to make my list. It had a bit of a break during DCs Convergence event and just started up again. Still the story telling alone is worthy of the number 3 spot on this list. Cloonan and Fletcher take a rag tag group of kids and turn them into lovable characters that you genuinely feel a connection to (esp. maps). The art is excellent as well, with a heavy digital design and a slight manga influence. the next arc looks to be just as good if not better than the last.

2. The Wicked and the Divine

I really struggled with the top two. Which is funny because the couldn’t be less similar. TWTD is, on the surface, a story of Gods and men and the interactions between them. Beneath the surface it is a cunning social commentary of the way people treat Pop Stars and the emotional repercussions the “Gods” and the “common folk” alike. The art is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. The team of McKelvie and Wilson consistently bring innovative designs and fresh panel work. The coloring is an art in and of it’s self. If you took any of the elements by themselves (story telling, art, colors) they would be fantastic, but this is one case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

1. Southern Bastards

Jason Aaron and Jason Latour have crafted a masterpiece. Its that simple. They consistently toy with the emotions of the reader and in that regard show us that living is a messy thing and hardly anything is as simple as it appears. Except Ribs.

Again, Jason Aaron and Jason Latour have created a masterpiece.

Jaythreadbear

Hasty scribbler on comics and culture // My top ten of the year so far:

Batgirl

The reinvention of Barbara Gordon by the creative team of Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr, is one of the real success stories at DC in recent years. The setting, character, and stories have all been revamped, replaced, or refined and it is much the better for it. Barbara now operates in a world of apps, social media, and public perception, areas that the rest of the Bat-family (and most superhero books) have yet to engage with, and the smart takes on contemporary culture mesh perfectly with the witty and aware writing that permeates the book. Plus Tarr’s art is wonderful.

Bitch Planet

Kelly Sue DeConnick has been writing many great titles recently, but perhaps the best is Bitch Planet. Taking sexploitation and pulp scifi B-movie tropes and reworking them into a powerful feminist message this book is intensely character driven at the same time as developing an intriguing and sophisticated setting and ever so compelling plot.

Elektra

This globe-trotting martial arts extravaganza from writer Hayden Blackman and artist Mike Del Mundo came to a close earlier this year, but it warrants a mention here due to its genuine brilliance. The writing was tight and inventive, the characterisation was rich and deep, and the art was truly sublime. If you didn’t have a chance to read this when it was coming out then it is well worth picking up in trade; if you like ninjas, beautiful page layouts, ninjas, creative storytelling, or ninjas then you won’t be disappointed.

Gotham Academy

The ‘young Gotham’ sub-brand at DC (that also includes Batgirl and the newly launched Black Canary) is where the best DC titles are coming from right now. Inventing a Hogwarts-esque prep school for the children of Gotham’s high society has paid off with spooky stories, exciting mysteries, and teen drama. This book may be aimed at the YA audience, but the knowing writing from Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher, and the lovely art from Karl Kerschl, make this a rewarding read for everyone else too. It’s fresh and fun and different.

Secret Wars

Several years in the making and coming after a fatiguing run of self-destructive Marvel summer event books it has been a very pleasant surprise to find that this mini-series is actually really good. The Marvel multi-verse has been reshaped with different versions of many classic heroes and stories all existing together on a single patchwork planet under the rule of god himself, Victor Von Doom. As the tie in books (many of which are also great) continue to explore the alternate versions of our heroes the core book has been expertly telling a character driven drama about an impending political upheaval. If you want bombastic universe wide storytelling with every Marvel hero in the mix then this is a very good option.

Silk

Much like Batgirl this book has a playful contemporary tone, a kick-ass yet nuanced leading woman, and accessibly delightful art from Stacey Lee. Cindy Moon is an interesting new character in the Spider-family having arrived on the scene in the Spider-Verse event, and she is characterised in the sassy yet vulnerable mold of classic Peter Parker. The core narrative has played with deep issues like abandonment and post-traumatic stress whilst keeping the fast paced hi-jinks coming. There have been a few bumps in the road (including some underwhelming fill-in art) but the central mystery of the book and Cindy herself keep this a compelling read.

Silver Surfer

It feels like I’m constantly talking up how surprising this book has been, but it is worthy of the praise. The pitch, and indeed opening arc, was one of goofy inconsequential science fiction fun with the Surfer and his new pal Dawn, and whilst this book has certainly delivered on the goofy and the fun it has been anything but inconsequential. The story has taken on a wonderfully romantic slant as the Surfer and Dawn have grown to know each other, and this has been followed by some tender, tragic, and touching stuff as the Surfer’s past has caught up with him. The art is tremendous and the story telling is top notch – this is an inventive and rewarding book that I never expected.

Spider-Gwen

This book started strong, very strong, and although the art and colouring remains stunning the central arc has become a little bit directionless. That’s not to say this isn’t worth picking up, in fact it remains a brilliant reinvention of the Spider-Man universe with some great characters in play; Gwen in particular (unsurprisingly) is an exciting and refreshing lead.

They’re Not Like Us

This indie title takes the cliche of many superhero origin stories and uses it to delve into the darker corners of human insecurity. Syd discovers, in the middle of a suicide attempt, that her mental condition is actually a powerful gift, and that there are others like her with whom she can be safe, train, and take action in the world. But rather than use their powers to protect the people that hate and fear them this group are intent on taking what they want and punishing anyone they thing deserves it. This is such an intense, thoughtful, and beautifully drawn book that it might be my favourite of the year; the questions it raises are universal, and the rare answers it offers are ambiguous, complex, and challenging.

All-New X-Men #37

And I’ll finish with a contentious possibly rule breaking choice – I’m not that interested in Brian Michael Bendis’ lukewarm All-New X-Men run, but this one issue was simply so sublime that it stands alone as one of the best books of the year to date. Featuring stunning art and page layouts from Mike Del Mundo, perfect colour work again from Del Mundo working with Marco D’Alfonso, and some career high writing from Bendis this issue tells a very small story exceptionally well. Featuring a cast stripped back to essentially just young Jean Grey and Emma Frost Bendis is still able to work in witty dialogue, subtle character development, intense action, and a positive moral message. This issue does everything right, and for my money it is easily worth 6 issues of many other books

The Burning Blogger of Bedlam

Spiderwoman

As a long-time Jessica Drew fan (she’s one of my favorite characters),

I was excited as hell for her to have her own, fresh solo title. I

haven’t been disappointed. The first few issues of the Spiderwoman

series have been highly enjoyable, packed with humour and that famous

Jessica Drew wit, good character dynamics, some really well written

cameos (Carol Danvers, Steve Rogers, Silk, Spiderman, Spider-Gwen),

and particularly in Spiderwoman #1 some fascinating settings brought

to life by terrific art and absorbing colours.

Silk

In Cindy Moon we have a really rich new character with a substantial

backstory, a well-developed emotional core and a witty repetoire, all

of which makes her both interesting enough and likeable enough to

carry her own series. The first couple of issues of this series, while

not overly elaborate (I’m guessing after ‘Spider-Verse’, no one really

wants ‘overly elaborate’ anyway), do a nice, neat job of establishing

her on her own and getting us into her head-space. This series has a

really vintage sort of feel to it, in the art and in the internal

monologue among other thigs, and Silk comes across as the real female

Spiderman. Addictive.

Uncanny Avengers

Rebooted somewhat after the ‘Axis’ event, I’ve been surprised by how

awesoem this series is so far. For starters, the art is fantastic,

feeling somewhat unique among Marvel titles in its style. But the

character dynamics are interesting too; Rogue is still by far the best

thing in it (making up somewhat for the majorly dull Sam Wilson), but

the still ‘inverted’ (as in good) Sabertooth adds something new to the

mix (even if he is being turned into essentially the new Wolverine),

and Vision is always a top-draw character to focus page-space on. On

top of that, Counter-Earth and the High Evolutionary are more than

adequate settings and themes to return to. Hell, it’s even made Wanda

and Pietro Maximoff enjoyable to read again.

Darth Vader

As psychological subjects for a comic-book go, they don’t come much

richer than the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader… or the Artist

Formerly Known as Anakin Skywalker. While other characters might be

the most loveable, the coolest, the funniest or the niftiest, Vader is

undeniably the most psychologically complex. He is therefore almsot

the perfect fictional legend to base a comic-book series around, and

this series so far has been suitably compelling.

Star Wars

I told myself that I wasn’t even going to read any of these Star Wars

comics, as I didn’t want to mix two of my loves – Star Wars and Marvel

Comics. But I was kidding myself, because once I saw those covers, I

was drawn like a moth to the light. Set immediately after A New Hope,

this main Star Wars series is just impossible not to get addicted to.

While it offers nothing revelatory, the style and tone is just spot-on

and the story is filling in the gap between A New Hope and the Empire

Strikes Back nicely.

Andy Eschenbach

It’s been an awesome year for Comics so far. The past six months have shown an abundance of creative excellence, wrought with action, change, and intelligence. Even so, it wasn’t hard to pick what I believe to have been the ten best things to have happened in Comics in 2015. What I couldn’t do was narrow it down to single-issues in every case. Most comics just aren’t written that way, so you’ll just have to deal with my favorite runs being listed. Call me what ever you want over it. I’ll still love you.

10. Black Canary

Yes, I’m a grown-ass white dude. Yes, I bought Black Canary. What an exciting and stylish start to a potentially awesome book! Great command of voice and characterization out of Brenden Fletcher, and the fittingly rocky art of Annie Wu becomes a full-on sock to the jaw when combined with Lee Loughridge’s colors. I love that the title character is actually the whole band as much as I love the forming dynamics between them. My only complaint is a common one: DC’s ad placement- particularly the double Twix ad mid-story— is piss poor, and breaks the otherwise great pacing. Still, more issues could only move this title up on my favorites list, as far as I can tell after the first.

9. Silver Surfer 8-12

I imagine books from this run will be all over other people’s lists as well. Particularly issue 11 for it’s great feat of moebius madness. Even beyond that, this tale combines popfantasy strangeness with a love story so honestly human that I can’t help but concur with fellow fans. Slott and the Allreds make a great team, returning to the hidden romance of early Marvel superhero books without fumbling over predictable cliches or sloppy regurgitation. Plus, it’s funny. I’d like to see some longer arcs come from this formula if the title survives the big rebirth and all- but even if it’s left as it stands, it’s been a great run.

8. Uncanny X-Men 28-32

I feel like I’d spoil the story if I really said what I like most about this run. Bendis’s Cyclops- his choices, and the subsequent reactions of his teammates and peers- has me really excited. You won’t see me waving any “Not My Scott Summers” flags. In fact, I think it makes sense that after all this time the guy finally slips up and breaks down, and the looming concern of whether he’ll pull through is what makes this story compelling. You can see the classic X-Dysfunction playing catalyst to Slim’s conflicted state from a multitude of directions as this series nears it’s end. I do wish Bachalo’s action-abilities were more utilized by Bendis- but once that does happen, all the talking heads make perfect sense. There. Spoilers averted.

7. Weirdworld

Being an Extradimensional Barbarian myself, it’s great to finally see representation within the realm of comic books! And who better to pull it off than Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo?! This was the book I was most charged up about after the Secret Wars announcement, and the first issue exceeded my expectations. It’s gnarly, action-packed, insane, and gorgeous. The more I write about it, the less I do it any justice. Just great.

6. The Mantle 1 and 2

It’s not the fact that I’ve watched this book come to fruition at semi-close range that makes me love it. It’s the Villain. The Plague is horrifying. Ed Brisson’s treatment of such a juggernaut alone keeps me in waiting, puzzling over his true motivations. Brian Level’s art is as strong as it is adaptable, showing prowess just as readily in scenes of raw violence as in portraits of the mundane. He’s popping heads like grapes on one page, while super-types stop for a burger on another, and in each case there’s just the right energy for believability and effect. Jordan Boyd’s palette follows suit, both subtle and vibrant, giving each page it’s life or death, respectively. I can honestly say that even if I weren’t present for some of the process on this book, I’d be just as ready to read more about the multiple incarnations of The Mantle, and why they’re so viciously hunted by their nemesis. Comics needs more strange Super Hero books like this one. Take note.

5. Daredevil 11 and 12

If the covers from this mini-arc don’t immediately grab you, the content will. It’s going to be sad to see the Waid/Samnee duo off Daredevil soon, and it’s stories like these that kept me engrossed through their awesome run. Within these two particular issues you can find some of the coolest action and cleanest plot twists out of Waid- including a really great car chase(infamous for being difficult to write). I also have to applaud the overall treatment of depression and friendship throughout the entire run. Really well done- and it couldn’t have come across the same way without Samnee’s clarity and finesse. Everything is there that needs to be, nothing is there that doesn’t, and as big as my soft spot for post-modernism is, it’s been refreshing to see a new angle on old school Matt Murdock. Even if it’s a set up for another dive in to darkness for Daredevil, it will make the impact that much more intense.

4. Secret Wars

It’s been called the “Marvel Game of Thrones”, in both critical and praising voices, but even with it’s obvious parallels to the “Song of Ice and Fire” books, this story is strong and envelopingand original. Hickman’s ability to weave arcs is perfectly matched by Ribic’s capacity for drama. Once again, I find myself wanting to spoil everything for the potential new reader in praise of each character and their situation, but I won’t. Just read Secret Wars. God Doom requires it of you.

3. Invisible Republic 1-3

Please, Corrina Bechko and Gabriel Hardaman, show me how a regime will conveniently rewrite history for it’s own benefit! You’re the perfect pair to do it! And once again, Jordan Boyd’s mastery of color drives the mood home on each gritty page. I loved breaking Bad and Blade Runner, but comparing them to this book doesn’t really do it justice. Brave in it’s criticism, excellent in it’s execution, and undeniable in it’s pertinence- I can’t wait to find out where this tale ultimately leads. An exemplary Comics Magazine.

2. Rage of Ultron

Rick Remender successfully ties up his outstanding Superhero epic that started way back in Uncanny X-Force, supplying all the action and drama you need from an Avengers story, while tactfully tackling issues of life and death, creation and responsibility, and ultimately, love. Don’t get me wrong- his punk-rock angle keeps it gnarly and insane at each beat, but this is some real-life shit in fantasy format, given energy and breath by Jerome Opena’s command over the human form- a testament to knowledge and beauty. But don’t read it. Not until you’ve read Remender’s runs on Uncanny X-Force, Secret Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, and the Axis series. Then read it, and try not to cry when you realize that Marvel characters won’t be getting this kind of treatment anymore. You can always pick up a copy of The Black Science or Low if you’re left in wanting.

1. East of West 16-20

EASTOFWEHEHESSSSSST! I though it was over at issue fifteen, and am glad to have been wrong. Never before have I read such a masterful combination of social critique, cultural portrait, and pop-culture madness. It’s illusion and politics, sorcery and tech, cowboys and indians- it’s serious drama and manga at the same time, somehow- all the while unforgivingly shying away from dead tropes in exchange for new and intriguing characterization! Art and writing combine, unabashedly, to both question and promote everything you thought about everything. Hooray for Hickman and Dragotta! And now I’m left in that awkward state, like some skinflint in his underpants, having shown my true feelings for comics this year-so-far. I feel it necessary to further reveal myself by expressing enthusiasm for the rest of the year-to-come. I can’t wait to read more, and with books like Sebela’s “We(l)come back”, Mignola’s “Joe Golem, Occult Detective”, and Burnham’s “E is for Extinction” (featuring the gnarlyness that is Ramon Villalobos’s art), it looks like I’ll be well supplied. I’ll put my pants back on now.

Alright and that does it for this installment. A BIG thank you to the contributors on a job well done.

What’s your top 10 (or 5)? Let us know in the comments!

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

End of the first quarter top 5 list from the writers at deja.revue + friends!

Hello Revuers! Hard to believe that it’s April already. That means that the first quarter for comics this year has drawn (all puns intended, as per usual) to an end. With that we are proud to bring you a top 5 list of our favorite comics, and we invited some friends to do the same.The headers are clickable and lead to that persons blog. I strongly recommend that you check out each and every one of our contributors blogs, they are all fantastic. This article can be your one stop destination for the top comics of the year so far. If you are new and looking for a place to start in comics or a seasoned vet interested in branching,out this article has something for everyone. The big two, Image, indie start-ups, we have it all! So buckle your seat belts and get ready for a XXXXL pizza size worth of information given to you in manageable bite size pieces.

Andrew Horton 

5. Silver Surfer (Writer: Dan Slott, Art: Michael Allred & Laura Allred, Publisher: Marvel)

Silver Surfer is a fun tale that sets to humanize the ex-herald of Galactus. The story telling by Slott is fun and there is a nice dynamic between the Surfer and his human companion Dawn. Dawn really humanizes the surfer in ways I had never seen before and makes the series fun to read. The art by Allred is fantastic. An homage to the more cartoonish art of a by gone era. Together Slott and Allred have put together an intriguing and entertaining series.

4. Spider-Gwen (Writer: Jason Latour, Art: Robbi Rodriguez & Rico Renzi, Publisher: Marvel)

Spider-Gwen was my favorite new character from last year (you can read about that here), so I was excited to here she was getting her own series. I was even more excited when I learned that the same stellar creative team that was behind her 1st appearance would be in charge of her ongoing series. Despite the hype that I had built up in the months between November and its eventual release in February Spider-Gwen did not disappoint. Latour, Rodriguez, and Renzi give us a spider hero that we can relate to and feel for, and I can’t get enough.

3. Southern Bastards (Writer: Jason Aaron, Art: Jason Latour, Publisher: Image)

What.The.Heck. But he is/was the bad guy? Aaron and Latour craft an emotional roller coaster of a ride in this series. The whole second arc has left me unsure of who I should root for, and who I feel for. I am seriously loving the real life narrative and feel of this book. “Bad” guys have a story too, and I am glad that Aaron and Latour have decided to explore it.

2. Gotham Academy (Writer: Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher, Art:Karl Kercshl)

Cloonan, Fletcher, and Kerschl have brought together a rag-tag group of teenagers (and one preteen) and turned them into the most interesting and lovable group in comics. The dynamic that they have created between the characters just works and I look forward to each and every issue that comes out. The art work is fantastic as well with Kerchl creating a world that is both realistic and surreal all at once. The lighting and shading choices really make the scenes pop and gives the reader a sense of time passing in the book. Overall an amazing series.

1. The Wicked + The Divine (Writer: Kieron Gillen, Art: Jamie McKelvie & Matthew Wilson)

The first arc of this book was superb. The second act though? Has been on another level. The subtle (and at times not so subtle) social commentary layered with teen angst and hero-worship really works for me. The art choices By McKelvie and Wilson really make Gillens story stand out. I cannot speak enough about the coloring job that Wilson does on this book. In fact I’ll call it, Wilson is one of the top three colorists in comics today (If you twisted my arm I would also name Bellaire and Renzi). This series is really creative and finds new ways to reinvent its self. For those reasons I feel like this series could be around a long, long time.

Girl-On-Comicbook-World

Girl-on-Comicbook-World is all about discussion, opinion and analysis on everything comic book related from movies to TV to actual comic books. Come have a conversation with me and others in the comments, even if we agree to disagree (don’t worry the conversation is always civil!)

We’re only a few months in and already we’ve had so many amazing comics come out, it’s been hard to choose what the top 5 are. But here we go, here’s my top 5 comics of the year so far:

5. The Wicked + The Divine- The state of society is pretty funny. The way we completely glorify our musicians, and act as if they are our gods is a little ridiculous. And that is exactly what The Wicked + The Divine explores. It’s about a bunch of gods, from different mythologies, who resurrect every 90 years, to live for 2 years on Earth. So when they come back after 90 years, what do they decide to do? Become music sensations of course, makes sense! This comic has continued to be a great little read every month. Especially because it’s through the perspective of this teenage fangirl. Her responses to this insane world full of real life gods, is exactly the response a teenage girl would make to One Direction, because that is the world we’re living in. The writing by Kieron Gillen is funny, quirky and flows perfectly with the great art by Jamie Mckelvie in the series.

4.The Multiversity- Grant Morrison’s brain is insane, I love it! The Multiversity is the perfect concept for Grant Morrison to take on board. Exploring the different worlds of the DC universe, Morrison has done a phenomenal job fleshing out the different Earths and their connection to the larger DC universe. The recent issues of Multiversity have been amazing including the Multiversity Guidebook, Mastermen and Ultra Comics. Obviously this series isn’t for everyone, especially those that don’t enjoy Morrison’s Meta style. Some people have been calling the series pretentious, for its overt Meta criticisms on the superhero genre. But the fact that Morrison can express his opinions on the genre, and what it means to him, in such an imaginative and insane way, makes it worth the read.

3. Saga- Brian K. Vaughn is the man. Y: The Last Man is my favourite non-superhero comic series, and it’s mostly because Brian knows how to write characters. Vaughn is able to make a loveable character, out of even the most morally flawed. Saga has some of the most human characters, which is obviously ironic. Saga, even in its quieter issues, is still some of the best comic work coming out right now. The story itself is great, but what makes Saga so great for me is the way Vaughn writes his characters. Female characters are often a point of criticism when it comes to comic books, but Vaughn is able to realise fully fleshed out, interesting and complex female characters. And not just female characters, all the characters, from the TV-headed Prince to their ghost companion are really well-developed. I’m definitely looking forward to where this series is going in the future, and if the ending will be as depressing as the ending to Y: The Last Man.

2. Ms. Marvel- Getting younger female readers into comics has seemed like a challenge over the last few years. Thankfully Ms. Marvel is doing everything right to not only create a comic that younger female readers can enjoy and relate to, but also creating a comic that everyone can enjoy. From exploring cultural and adolescent issues, to questioning the nature of the hero, Ms. Marvel has really excelled in creating a likeable, fully fleshed out lead. And I have to say, I feel a little inspired every time I read Ms. Marvel, there’s some really great messages in the comic. It’s great that the comic plays off the youth of these characters, giving us a different perspective on what it’s like to be a superhero.

1. Batman- Brian K. Vaughn is the man, but so is Scott Snyder. Snyder and Capullo haven’t released a bad Batman comic yet during their run. Snyder’s mind is nearly as insane as Morrison’s mind, and that’s saying something. Court of Owls, Death of a family, Zero Year, all have been incredible arcs, and with those incredible arcs comes Endgame. Marketed as the Joker story to end all Joker stories, you can see why. The recent issues have sparked quite the conversation online about the Joker’s supposed origin story, and I love that. Everyone’s speculating and discussing this run, and it’s something not many comics are able to do. Snyder’s done some pretty crazy things during his Batman run, and this might be the craziest yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how things conclude. And now that we’ve seen the Robo-Bat-Bunny costume, I’m really curious to find out what Snyder does to get there. Although Endgame may seem a little whacky right now, and so does the Robo-Bat-Bunny, Snyder has done no wrong in my eyes so far, so I’m trusting that whatever he has come up with, it’s going to be good.

Noisy Geek blog

The term geek has never been a shameful label to me. I have always been geeky, the only problem I’ve had is finding people who are passionate about the same things I am. That’s one of the reasons I started NoisyGeek. I wanted to connect with people and discuss the things I enjoy, whether its books, movies, games or comics. I’m lucky enough to have followers who give me recommendations which has helped me expand my collections and has kept me updating the blog

For me comics are adventures – There is so much variety in the comic verse that I’m never stuck for something new to read. Picking my top 5 was definitely hard but the ones I’ve chosen are comics that I’ve recommended to my friends, colleagues and even strangers I’ve met in comic shops

1. Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky

I love this series. The main characters Suzie and Jon discover they share the ability to freeze time when they orgasm. In a nutshell they decide to use these powers to rob the bank where Jon works in order to save Suzie’s endangered library.

I’ve seen a couple of pieces by Matt Fraction but Sex Criminals is definitely my favourite so far – from the initial dedication to the end of each issue this had me laughing out loud. The artwork by Zdarsky is beautiful, the colours used really bring the story to life and the “quiet” scenes have been drawn perfectly. It’s not a series for kids but it’s perfect for people who love a good laugh

2. Zombies Hi by Uproar Comics

Uproar Comics have a lot of passion for their work. Zombies Hi is one of my favourites – it’s based in Northern Ireland and is about a community struggling through the Zombie Apocalypse while fighting sectarian division.

There are currently 12 issues available and it clear that the team are going to continue improving with future issues. Although still a relatively indie company they are becoming known for their clever ideas, the way they introduced the colour pages in Zombies Hi was genius. Zombies Hi is definitely unique when compared to other horror series’, an impressive quality in today’s comic verse.

3. Saltire by Diamond Steel Comics

This was the first (and so far only) comic book I’ve come across which focuses on myths and landscapes entirely from Scotland. Saltire is an impressive superhero. He’s big, he’s blue and he’s ginger. Saltire’s sole purpose is to defend the freedom of Scotland and its people and he takes that very seriously.

Although this series is from a small publisher the overall quality is outstanding. The artwork is stunning and the issues themselves have been beautifully created. This is simply an amazing series and one of the finest modern mythology series I’ve read recently

4. Suicide Squad (New 52)

This series has been a firm favourite of mine since I started catching up on issues. Suicide Squad always give plenty of action and general chaos. Harley Quinn is one of my favourite batman characters, it was nice to see her become associated with this. The romantic in me enjoyed the Harley/Deadshot flavour while the gamer in me loved the chaos in each issue.

5. Origin II

Although this is only a 5 parter, it’s one of my favourite Logan comic series. The artwork has been really well done and although the storyline is quite brutal it gives a good insight into Logan’s past.

Reading Origin II has reaffirmed Logan as one of my favourite characters

Jay Threadbear

Jay Threadbear writes hasty scribbles about comic books, films, and television. There’s the occasional think-piece about robots, cybercrime or ninjas, but mostly it’s just about that most important of subjects – superheroes!

Batgirl – Last year’s soft-reboot has really borne fruit this quarter as the opening story arc has come to a smart and exciting resolution. On the surface this book is simply the adventures of a young, hip superhero in a trendy part of Gotham, and that is true, but beneath that the complex plot and sophisticated character work really take this book to the next level. As well as Barbara Gordon making new friends and getting a new costume she is dealing with emotional trauma that defines her as a woman and a hero. And if you want it this book has a wealth of meta-textual elements that speak to the evolution of comic books and the handing over of writing duties between creators. The writing is inventive and the storytelling innovative, and then there is the great art from Babs Tarr.

Gotham Academy – The creative team on this book truly deserve the term ‘creative’ as they continue to write and illustrate a fun, thoughtful, and intriguing teen mystery against the backdrop of Gotham’s fanciest prep-school. The art is simply sublime and the characters are by turns witty, adorable, and defiant. There is an interesting puzzle at the heart of the Academy, but this book is also a great exploration of what it means to be young in the DC universe. As a gateway book from YA fiction to comics this is perfect reading, and as a fun book in general it is equally worthwhile for any reader.

Silk – I read very little of the Spider-Verse event in recent Spider-Man comics (checking in only with the excellent Spider-Gwen and SP//dr) so Cindy Moon was completely new to me when I picked up the first issue of Silk primarily on the quality of the art. I’m glad I did, as this is already a great book. The fact that Cindy brings welcome diversity to the Marvel Universe as a female Asian-American hero is a great thing, and the wonderful part is that this book is funny and compelling in almost every way. Cindy is Peter Parker for the modern age and her charming awkwardness as she grows as a hero is delightful to follow.

Silver Surfer – Mike Allred’s art and the promise of goofy intergalactic hijinks were enough to get me to pick this up when it first started, and initially that pretty much summed up this book – it was fun. In more recent issues though the story from Dan Slott has turned to the Surfer’s dark past, and the narrative focus has progressively shifted to the Surfer’s companion Dawn Greenwood. What started out as a meaningless bit of fun, somehow became one of the most powerful love stories in superhero comics, and it just keeps getting better.

They’re Not Like Us – Writer Eric Stephenson, artist Simon Gane, and colourist Jordie Bellaire have been producing consistently phenomenal work with this series that tells the story of a young woman discovering she has special powers, and the shadowy group that takes her in. With thematic elements from sources as diverse as the X-Men and Girl, Interrupted this is a nuanced character study that matches dark questions about civilisation with a backdrop of subtle demonstrations of other-wordly power. They’re Not Like Us is a rich and mature drama that also features gorgeous visuals from a brilliant art team, and although it may prove a little too pessimistic for some I think it is one of the best books out there right now.

Jerry Caskey

Afterlife with Archie

This one threw me off. I saw Archie (Which I admittedly have never read, so I was working with prejudice) with zombies? Witches? Undead dogs? Have I been so wrong about this series? Well, I can only speak for the Afterlife arc, so that’s what I’ll work with.

This is 100% horror. There is no comfort to be found here. Dead dogs, zombies, pissed off witches, it has everything. I will get the big thing out-of-the-way first: Francavilla is a god among men. His work on this series is nothing short of phenomenal. It is grotesque, but not indulgent. It’s easy to splatter blood everywhere but it takes a real artist to wrench terror from floorboards, hills, trees, handrails… That is not to say that Aguirre-Sacasa is any less important. His writing binds these horrific events together and keeps us moving forward, always wary, always terrified. Together they have designed perhaps the most unexpected hit (personally) I have ever stumbled upon in comics.

The Sandman: Overture

In The Sandman: Overture Neil Gaiman keeps the pace decidedly rubato. This forces the reader to question what curve the story may take next, to rely solely on the comic itself as a guide. Through this, J.H. Williams III depicts a world where everything is new, unknown, yet uncomfortably familiar. Not to leave out Dave Stewart’s brilliant colors, and Tod Klein’s lettering.

My favorite in Overture is issue 4. It seems—even more now than in previous issues—that Gaiman and Williams are challenging each other. Gaiman leaves huge gaps for Williams to carry the story on art alone, and Williams gives Gaiman just enough boxes to fit some traditional dialog, even if those boxes may find themselves upside down or tumbling down the page.

Princess Leia

Princess Leia has always been badass. A princess in title only, this is a woman who craves adventure and takes orders only from herself. Waid and Bellaire band together to bring the story of the most independent character in existence. The most remarkable feature of this series is Mark Waid’s ability to weave a story that lacks nothing in power, and Bellaire’s ability to keep the art personal. Facial features are not defined by rigid black lines, but by variation in color and tone. Backdrops exist to bring the characters closer to the reader. The entire work works towards one goal, to give us a glimpse into what makes the amazing princess operate as she does.

Spider Gwen

Okay, I know. This is probably on every other list here, but this one deserves it. There is so much more to Spider Gwen than Rodriguez’s design for Gwen’s outfit (Which is nothing short of brilliant) and some compelling writing.

Confident, steady, independent, casual. These are not words I would use to describe Gwen Stacy. But she is working on it. Seeking to validate herself as a hero to a city, a girl to her friends, and a woman to her father. As if it isn’t enough pressure to make one’s self legitimate in a world that seems to live in delusion, perpetuated by preconceptions, she must reignite the flame for masked heroes everywhere. Latour, Rodriguez, and Renzi bring together a concise yet fulfilling work that will resonate for years.

Buccaneer Book Reviews

Shiver me e-timbers! Billions o’ blue-blisterin’ digi-barnacles in a thunderin’ typhoon!

Welcome t’ th’ Buccaneer! An imaginary ship that sails yon interwebs as it see’s fit and whose crew explores everythin’ they c’n find, reviewin’ t’all with no fear in their geeky black hearts!

  1. Howard the Duck #1 (Marvel Comics)

Nearly three decades after a disastrous attempt at a big screen blockbuster, the wise-cracking, foul tempered duck is back! With no friends, but lots of Marvel drop-ins and shout-outs, this very first issue proved that Howard may have been down all this time, but he definitely isn’t out!

Dragged into this world through a ‘Nexus of Realities’ Howard must make his way through life in a world he didn’t choose, comprised of ‘hairless apes’, of whom he is not particularly fond. He does so as a Private Duck (ha!) using his uncanny power of common sense and, well, the fact that he is a talking, walking, human sized (if slightly short) duck. Wicked humour, hilariously meta dialogue, exciting hints at future issues and vibrant artwork reminiscent of Warhol and Lichtenstein’s pop art –You know what Lucas, THIS is the duck you were looking for!

 

  1. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1

A truly nutty treat. This was one of the nicest things I read in a long time. Squirrel Girl has been a seriously under rated and under appreciated character in the Marvel universe. Which is kind of strange seeing that she has beaten the holy hell out of some of the toughest and scariest folks in the MU, including Doctor Doom! It’s great to see her get what she deserves – her own issue.

North, Henderson and Renzi have put together an issue, no a series, that exceeds all expectation. Squirrel Girl is off to college, she’s smart, she’s spunky, she’s not all there. It’s the kind of book that anyone, old or young, can enjoy with the utmost delight. It’s something I look forward to having as an entire collection on my shelf.

  1. Return of the Living Deadpool (Marvel Comics)

A series that was so popular, it warranted a sequel… and thus Return of the Living Deadpool was born. Using their ultra zombie powers – Cullen Bunn and Nik Virella have created a b-e-a-utiful sequel of great proportions. The initial run i.e. Night of the living Deadpool was a great series and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It pays homage to classic zombie films and I think it’s a must read.

While I recommend reading Night of the living Deadpool first, you don’t really need to. This is pretty reader friendly and lets you start right here not having to worry too much about reading the original story. This is a lovely blend of horror, drama and comedy. So if you like Wade Wilson or zombies or both…this one is a definite must read.

  1. Multiversity: Slendour Falls (DC Comics)

It’s always great to see a story that spans the multiverse. With Grant Morrison at the reins, it can only have the potential to be great.

With some excellent artwork from the great Jim Lee and Scott Williams, not to mention a storyline that involves Nazis.

Morrisson’s work on delving into the multiverse is fascinating, it really lures the reader in and makes sure you never want to leave. My only problem, and it’s a teeny tiny one, is that there is too much information packed into one issue. These need to be longer. That aside, this is just a great bit of visual candy with an enticing storyline.

  1. The Dying and the Dead #1 (Image comics)

A massacre at a wedding, the theft of ancient artifact, a cult of clones, a people old as time and conspiracies of world domination – while elements of this comic might seem like old news, they combine sublimely in Jonathan Hickman’s masterfully crafted The Dying and the Dead #1. The haggard old war hero may seem like a hackneyed protagonist, but just a few panels with him and I was ready to throw my hat into the ring alongside him, taking up arms once more, to save the woman he loves.

The beautifully complex storyline is cradled in pages full of both hauntingly minimal and breathtakingly intricate artwork – adding further to the dramatic overtones of this hush-hush first issue. Sharp contrasts and sepia tones serve to highlight the tempo and depth of the story, without distracting too far from it. I doubt I’m being overly generous when I say that this comic book is a prime example of the medium being its own art form.