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!

Advertisements

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.

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 (Dec. 24th): Cyclops #8

After a few strong weeks of comics in a row, this week was kind of a let down. A bright spot this week was Cycops #8. Layman (Chew, Detective Comics) continues his strong start on Cyclops in issue 8. The story picks up with the starjammers adrift in  space and Scott being accepted as a member of the rival pirate ship Desolation under the ruthless captain Valesh Malafect. Scott is ordered to board and take all they can from a medical transport ship. His conscious is torn as he doesn’t want to hurt anyone but he has to maintain his cover because his dad is Malafects prisoner. It turns out that there’s more to this “medical transport” ship than meets the eye. The art by Garron holds it’s own with the highlight of his work this issue being the space scenes. The coloring work by Sotomayor is a bit obnoxious and at times can distract away from the story. Overall this issue is solid, although it could have been improved with better coloring choices. I give this comic a 5/10

-Andrew Horton