Coloring Between The Lines: Mat Lopes

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Hello Revuers! It’s time for another exciting segment of Coloring Between the Lines. Where we interview a Color Artist who is making an impact in the industry today. This time we have the fantastic Mat Lopes with us. Mat was gracious enough to answer some of the burning questions we here at Deja.Revue had for him. Mat is among the elite in the game today working on such titles as Star-Lord annual and Batgirl. So without further ado.

 

  • How long have you been a colorist?

Well, if you mean as a professional, the first time I published was in December of 2011, but my first paid, regular job was only in July of 2012, so I guess that makes a five years old career now. However, I think I’m coloring on my own since 2009.

 

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

No, I wanted to be soccer player, hahaha! As a Brazilian guy, I can say we’re not all soccer fanatics around here, but I most definitely am. Art came a little later in my life and for a long time I just thought of it as a hobby. I didn’t even know my job existed until I was 17 or so!

 

 

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

You know, I started reading comic books later than usual for a comic professional. I’m a 90’s kid and, in my childhood, mangá was so much popular and easier to find here that I only discovered comics as a teenager. I can’t remember exactly which series I got into, I just remember being blown away by a whole new universe and all those colors, so I just started read everything I could. But if I have to name some titles, definitely Spider-Man, X-Men, Batman and such.

 

  • Do you prefer superhero comics or other genres?

Hard to say. I think right now I’m reading more other genres than superhero, but I love them both!

 

  • Who is your favorite superhero?

Batman.

 

  • Who is your favorite non superhero character?

That’s a tough one! I actually don’t think I have one.

 

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

Hahah, that’s a little lame, but I gotta go with a comedy mangá called Love Hina. So funny!

 

  • What is your process like for coloring?

First I get everything I have available and take a really good look at it. And by that I mean script, notes, concepts, references, pages etc.

After that, it depends. If we are starting something new, I really like to talk to the writer and artist and discuss about the book itself and everything that goes in it. It’s great to chat about the story, the genre, the rhythm, the approach of the art. I really try to understand what the artists and writers will be trying to say and find out how can I help to make it even clearer. That way I start to build my palette , my style of render and my whole approach in my head.

Once everything is clear to the whole team and me, I’ll send the pages to my flatters and after they’re done I start to work on the pages.

Of course many times we can’t have this whole process because of the deadline, or because it’s a fill in or just a one shot. In that case I’ll just see some references and go with my feeling.

 

  • How do you choose a color palette?

Complementing last answer, I’ll have to consider the specificities of the scene: If it’s day or night, if it’s natural or artificial light, what’s the mood of the whole scene, what’s important to emphasize, the planes I have to separate. After figuring this all out, I have my palette!

 

 

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

Hahaha, I can’t choose that! One of the great things about being a colorist is to work with so many artists with different styles on different projects! So for me often is apples and oranges, and I love all of them.

 

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

Wow, there are so many great people out there, but I think some of my favorites today would be Dave Stewart, Justin Ponsor, Matt Wilson, Nathan Fairbarn and Elizabeth Breitweiser, not in any particular order!

 

  • Is there anyone you draw inspiration from?

Of course! But not just one person or even one medium. I get inspired by a lot of things, such films, paintings and illustrations of any kind or style. And of course, comics as well.

 

  • I’ve personally really enjoyed your work on Batgirl. Color plays an important role in that book. How did you build the aesthetic for that book?

Thank you!

I tried to match Chris Wildgoose’s style for the render, so nothing too detailed. And since it’s a light, teen kinda of book, I keep a light and colorful palette for the most part of the story.

 

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

I don’t see much difference, to be honest. I mean, the editors who contact me know what kind of styles I usually do, and after we sort which directions we’re going, I have a lot of freedom on the book. Of course sometimes they ask for changes on certain things here and there, but I’d say that in 90% of the times their suggestions works very well and make my work look better!

 

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

I don’t know. I never tried to cultivate one style specifically; I always trained and studied very hard to match my colors with as many different art styles as possible. First because of the necessity: since I was trying to be a professional, in my head my chances would be better if I could color “everyone” in the industry. So while I practiced over artists like Ivan Reis and Eddy Barrows, I also tried to be a good match for guys like Rafael Albuquerque, Matteo Scalera and others. I think I learned a lot from never repeating the same style over the same artists. “My style” definitely came after I started to work regularly. With the experience I was acquiring I started to discover more about me as an artist, which things I was better at, what I liked doing the most, and that kind of thing. After that I think I just focused more on my “interest area”.

But you know, I still love coloring a lot of different styles! It’s like ice cream: my favorite may be chocolate, but that’s no reason not to taste all the other flavors! Hahah.

 

Next I’m going to ask you a series of Either Or questions. Ready? Ok, go!

 

  • Star Wars or Star Trek

Star Wars.

 

  • Coffee or Tea

Coffee every day.

 

  • Batman or Superman

Bats!

 

  • Wolverine of spider-man?

Our Friendly Neighborhood Spidey.

 

  • Noir or Horror comics?

Horror

 

  • Burritos or coneys?

Burritos

 

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

I’ve never been on a US convention, so I can’t really tell! Hahah. In here they don’t usually have them.

 

  • What’s your favorite convention?

Comic Con Experience, which happens in Brazil and it’s amazing!

 

  • What would be your dream collaboration?

I have some artist’s I’d love to work with, like Sean Murphy, Chris Samnee, Rafael Albuquerque, Olivier Coipel and Bilquis Evely. These last two I already worked with, but only on small stuff! I want to color so much more of them, hahaha.

 

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

I would probably work with technology, since that was what I was studying before my career on comics started to get on tracks. Programming, most likely.

 

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

Luckly I already worked with a lot of great guys like Bilquis Evely, Felipe Watanabe, Martín Morazzo, Chris Wildgoose, Olivier Coipel, Leonardo Romero, Niko Walter, Vic Malhotra…

 

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

William Prince , Hope Larson, Sean Mackiewicz, Matthew Rosenberg, …

 

  • Who’s your favorite character to color?

Probably Robin (Damian) or Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), they have such cool costumes!

 

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

I think the creative team speaks louder to me than the series itself, but it would be really cool to work on Batman.

 

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

I think that more than tools for coloring, our digital age has given voice to the professionals behind a comic book. Suddenly  it’s a lot easier to hear from creators so it’s easier to follow them and their work, especially if they are united for a cause, like cover credits and royalties . I think it’s only natural to recognize and respect someone once they are not in the shadows anymore. But yeah, I’m not doing this for that long, but I can already tell the difference from when I started coloring, from fans to editors and even reviewers. Things are not perfect, but there is definitely an improvement regarding color artists (look, we are artists too, now!).

 

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

Yes! In fact, the only thing I’m working regularly that you can read right now is Batgirl, from DC. But a new series for Skybound just got announced, it’s called Gasolina and it’s written by Sean Mackiewicz with Niko Walter on the art duty and it will be coming out in Setember ! Also, I’m working on new project with the creators of The Electric Sublime, William Prince and Martín Morazzo. Finally, I’m also coloring a book for Marval that I cannot talk about it, but keep your eyes open, you’ll hear all about it very soon.

 

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

Thank you very much!

 

 

New Comic book Day Top 5: Sept 21st

Hello Revuers! Another great comic book day is upon us! Which means it’s time to take a look at my top 5 most anticipated comic coming out tomorrow. This week there was, once again, some stiff competition. But in the end there could be only 1…..er I mean 5! Tell me what you think of my picks in the comment section below, and let me know what’s on your pull list or what you are most looking forward to.

 

5: Horizon #3

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Horizon from Writer Brandon Thomas and artist Juan Gedeon has been a fun and often surprising comic so far. It takes a very common place idea and puts a unique and fresh spin on it. The first two issues were very solid with great world building from Thomas and Gedeon. The third issue has promised to show us our first glimpse at a villain so I am excited for that. If you haven’t had this series on your pull list you may want to rethink your priorities.

 

4: Mighty Thor #11

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This series from the acclaimed team of Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson continues with what is being billed as the Team up no one expected. I have been following Thor since Jane Foster first took over the mantle after the events of Original Sin. Before that I had never been much of a Thor guy as I always found him to be sort of one note. This new Thor is an evolving, relateable character with a ton of nuance. We can thank Jason Aaron for that. This series is one of few that has always been on my pull list for the last two years and it’s looking like it’s place is firmly cemented there.

 

3: Batman #7

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This issue starts a new arc for Tom King and sees a new artist, Riley Rossmo, take over art duties. The title of this arc is called NIGHT OF THE MONSTER MEN, and is a continuing story over all of the Batman titles. I don’t know much about this story arc other than it involves mad science monster. Really though, do I need to know any more than that? I love the writings of Tom King and the art of Riley Rossmo, so you know that I’m in 100%

 

2: Patsy Walker: AKA Hellcat #10

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I have loved this series from the very first issue. Kate Leth, Brittany Williams and Megan Wilson have crafted a world that is so fun to explore each and every month. This issue sees the end of the series’ second arc! It has been an excellent series for the first 9 issues and I expect no different from this issue. I’m excited for the future of the series and saddened by the departure of Megan Wilson (if you would like to read the interview we did with her then click here)

 

1: Wicked & Divine 1831 (one shot)

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I love this series. Thecreative team of Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson and Clayton Cawles can do no wrong in my mind. This issue looks interesting as it i a one shot set in the past. 1831 to be exact. I like the idea of a sort of anthology of the Pantheon, and looking at them in the past. I think that’s an interesting concept. The art in this issue is by Stephanie Hans (Journey Into Mystery, Angela), who I really enjoy. Should be a great issue!

 

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

 

-Andrew

 

 

 

 

 

Covers of the Week: Aug. 17

Hello Revuers! This weeks race for covers of the week was a close one. In a week that saw a ton of releases it was hard to narrow it down to just two. Yours truly put in the work and whittled it down for you. Without further delay here are my picks for Regular cover of the week and Variant cover of the week.

 

My favorite Regular cover of the week is for Horizon #2 by Josh Howard

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You mat recognize his style from the fantastic covers he did for the “Trees” series last year. I love his highly graphic style. His almost abstract way that he pulls shapes out of his covers is truly unique and striking. The series it’s self is written by Brandon Thomas with interior art by Juan Gedeon. The series is a surprise twist on a played out trope that makes it fun and intriguing. I would recommend picking this title up if it’s not already on your pull list.

 

My pick for Variant cover of the week is The Wicked and Divine #22 Cover B by Olly Moss

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This cover continues in the tradition of the Bust series of cover by Jamie Mckelvie that was the calling card of the first story arc of this series. Olly takes the “bust” idea and runs with it, creating a cover that is an actual bust that has the appearance of something that would be in an art museum. Not only is this my favorite cover of the week, but it probably is my favorite cover of the month. As for the series, The Wicked and the Divine is my favorite series of the year. They are currently on issue 22, and I would recommend that you start with the first Trade. It is a sort of confusing series if you don’t know what happened at the beginning.

 

Was your favorite cover on the list? If not tell me what your favorite of the week was in the comment section below!

 

 

-Andrew

Tales From the Pull List (07/14/2016): Here in a Flash

Hello Revuers it’s time for another edition of Tales From the Pull List. This week I’m posting a day late because I was not able to pic up my books until today. Overall a solid week with Rebirth continuing to impress over at DC. I currently have 5 titles on pre-order from DC comics, which is way higher than I have ever had on a pull list from them before. Another oddity about this weeks pull is I had no Marvel titles on my list. Usually my list is dominated by Marvel titles but this week they are completely absent. Looking ahead that changes next week. Enough about next week though, let’s take a look at this weeks pull list.

 

Pick of the Week

The Flash #2: This weeks continuation of The Flash by Joshua Williamson (writer), Carmine Di Giandomenico (artist), and Ivan Plascencia (Colorist) gives us our first glimpse of Central City’s newest speedster. In the last issue we were reintroduced to Detective August Heart, a friend of Barry’s, who at the end of the issue was struck by lightening (much like a certain Scarlet Speedster). In this issue we see Detective Heart learning how to use his powers with help from Barry. This also serves as a way to familiarize new Flash readers to some of Barry’s powers without having to slow the story down by going through a list of his powers (remember this is technically a reboot so being only the second issue they needed a way to showcase some of Barry’s powers). We see Wind Vortexes, Phasing, creating a tornado, and of course running. After the training montage we get our first glimpse of our new Kid Flash, young Wally West (not to be confused with old Wally West). We also get introduced to Iris in this issue. The middle of the issue serves as a philosophical debate with the morality of what the speedster can do and what they should do being questioned. Barry begins to wonder why the speed force chose to make more speedsters and what it means for his future. At the end of the issue there’s a surprise that I won’t ruin for you. Just go buy the book! The story by Williamson is fast paced and intriguing. The premise of what speedsters can do versus what they should do is also an interesting concept to explore. The art team of Giandomenico and Plascencia deliver a beautiful issue full of lightening and burst of color. If you only buy one book this week, this should be it. Rating: 9/10

 

Buy

The Wicked + The Divine #21: This third story arc continues with a bang. Finally the lines are crossed between the “good” Gods and the “bad” Gods (good being relative). The good Gods with Persephone to lead them charge into Ananke’s fortress to save a fellow God from being a sacrificial lamb. The excellent story telling continues fueled by the best creative team in the business: Kieron Gillen (writer), Jamie McKelvie (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Clayton Cowles (letterer). Plus this issues features Woden using his Valkyries to create a giant energy sword wielding robot. Rating: 8/10

Horizon #1: A story about an alien crash landing on earth paves the way for a story that is unpredictable and exciting. The team of writer Brandon Thomas, Artist Juan Gedeon, and Colorist Frank Martin deliver an interesting and unique story of alien invasion of earth. Or is that what it really is?  Rating 7/10

Batman Detective Comics #936: How exciting is it to be back to the original lettering for Detective Comics? With a release date of twice a month, they could presumably reach issue 1000 by 2019. This issue focuses on Batwoman, and Batwoman fighting her inner demons in order to lead the team. We discover who is behind the new team hunting the bat team, and learn some of Batwoman’s backstory. All in all a solid issue. Rating 7/10

 

-Andrew

 

Tales From the Pull List (04/06/2016): A Widows Peak

Hello Revuers! Its time for another edition of Tales From the Pull List. After several quiet weeks in a row, this NCBD turned into an embarrassment of riches. In fact of the last three years of religiously participating in NCBD this may have been my favorite week ever. Such tremendous talent and titles! So who won this week?  Well it was super close but in in the end only one title can be chosen as Pick of the Week. Read on to find out which one it was!

 

Pick of The Week

Black Widow #2: In what many might call an upset, this weeks Pick of the Week is Black Widow #2 by Matk Waid, Chris Samnee, and Matthew Wilson. Issue number two flashes back to one week prior to the last issue. Here we are given a funeral scene of an unnamed agent with Maria Hill and Agent Elder discussing the circumstances of the agents death. We find out that the Black Widow is at least party responsible. Then in a breath taking succession of pages and panels we see the Black Widow protecting Hill and Elder from a would be assassin team. In the end it’s Widow vs. a lone assassin. It’s then that she discovers the assassins true purpose at the funeral. No spoilers though so go out and get your own issue (if you haven’t done so already). This series is the creative team of Waid, Samnee, and Wilson’s second series together after a legendary run on Daredevil. I can honestly say that I can’t think of a better book for them to be on (Ok maybe Amazing Spider-Man, but I’m probably biased because Spider-Man is my favorite). The artwork by Samnee perfectly captures the feel and aesthetic of the world Waid has created for the Black Widow. The color work done by Matthew Wilson is spectacular, like it would be anything else, as it always is. Wilson is perhaps the greatest, most prolific color artist I have ever seen. Just this week alone I bought two titles colored by him (both were fantastic). All in all a great issue that builds suspense, reveals some of the Black Widows motivations for doing what she did last issue, introduces a new villain, and lets us watch the Black Widow single handedly take out a team of assassins. A very good issue indeed. Rating: 9.5/10

 

Buy

Black Panther #1: A great first issue on a much hyped debut. Ta-Nehisi Coates was under heavy pressure to perform and I must say he slayed it. If it hadn’t been for such an amazing issue of the Black Widow, Black Panther would have been my Pick of the Week. The artwork by Brian Stelfreeze is breathtaking. The color work by Laura Martin does a fantastic job of accenting and world building. Black Panther truly delivers this week and I can’t wait for issue 2. Rating: 9/10

The Wicked + The Divine #18: It’s back! And so is someone else. A great return for my favorite creative team in the business. Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson, and Cowles deliver a unforgettable issue full of action and destruction. In the letter at the end Gillen described this arc as “Taylor Swift’s Bad blood video for 6 issues”. I can’t wait for more of that. Rating 8/10

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #2: In this issue we learn more of the Rita’s grand scheme with the green power ranger. We also get more action that was lacking from the last issue. The page art of the dinozord underwater was some of the coolest art I saw this week. Fantastic! A great installment in this series that keeps me wanting for more. Rating: 7/10

Spider-Women Alpha: The first issue in this summers Spider family event. It sees Spider-Woman, Spider-Gwen, and Silk team up to take on crepes, Er I mean creeps, brunch, ball pits, clowns, o yeah and villains. We see them travel through inter dimensional space, fight adaptoid robots, and wind a sitter! This issue was a fun beginning for this cross over event and for the first time in recent memory actually has me interested in a cross over event. Rating: 7/10

 

 

End of the Year Top 10 List from Deja.Revue and Friends

Hello Revuers! Hard to believe it’s that time of the year again. 2015 has just flown by! It proved to be a fantastic year for comics. With so many great series it was hard to limit it to just 5 or 10. So I asked some of our friends of Deja.Revue to help me, by picking their favorite series’ as well. The contributors names will be centered and emboldened. When applicable it will also be a hyperlink so that you can check out their blog. I highly recommend that you do as the contributors to this article are all top notch. So with out further ado, here are the top comics of 2015.

Andrew Horton

Head Writer: Deja.Revue

10. Spider-Gwen, Publisher: Marvel, Writer Jason Latour Art: Robbi Rodriguez, Color Art: Rico Renzi.

Spider-Gwen suffered from to many reboots in to short of time. First they had their first issue then less that a year later it was back to a new issue one. This wasn’t the creative teams fault and they did the best they could to salvage what they could from the situation. The post Secret Wars have been great so far and I think that next year this title could be much higher on this list.

9. Dr. Strange, Publisher: Marvel, Writer Jason Aaron, Art: Chris Bachalo

With Dr Strange coming to cinemas next fall a post Secret Wars universe seemed like a great opportunity to launch a new solo series for our Sorcerer Supreme. Luckily for Marvel they hired writer supreme Jason Aaron, who can do almost no wrong. I picked up the first issue and feel completely under it’s spell (to much? Okay okay no more terrible puns).  The art by Chris Bachelo really gives us a glimpse of the oddness and absurdity of the world in which Dr. Strange lives. Overall a spectacular job!

8. Invincible Iron Man, Publisher: Marvel, Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Art: David Marquez

The creative team behind Ultimate Spider-Man team up again to bring a normal Iron Man back to a solo adventure (by normal I mean not a “Superior” Axis influenced Iron Man, He’s still a billionaire playboy). This series sees an exciting shift of the status quo for one of Marvel’s biggest villains (no spoilers) and a quite compelling story line. O also a night beach fight with sword wielding ninjas (yeah, it’s as awesome as it sounds). The writing is the nest by Bendis in quite awhile and the art is amazingly well done.

7. Silver Surfer, Publisher: Marvel, Writer: Dan Slott, Artist: Michael and Laura Allred.

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 I was happy to see how the events of this series influenced Secret Wars.  Made the series fun to read as a companion piece to Hickman’s saga. I can’t wait until it starts back up!

6. Thor/The Mighty Thor, Publisher: Marvel, Writer: Jason Aaron Art: Russel Daughterman, Color Art: Matthew Wilson

The first volume of a Female Thor was cut short by Secret Wars. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. In fact it was spectacular. Jane Foster added a depth to the character of Thor that was so fun to read. Now that we can focus our main attention on the story and less on who is Thor I feel like the title will get even stronger. If the first two issues are anything to go by I might be correct. Now that the story tellers can do some character building with Jane they are taking full advantage. The opening scene of issue one was a tear jerking emotional roller coaster. The play between the power of a God and the frailty of the human condition is really what makes this series so compelling.

5. Injection, Publisher: Image, Writer: Warren Ellis, Art Declan Shalvey, Color Art: Jordie Bellaire

The creative team behind the magnificent first volume of last years Moon Knight returns. This time with a slow burning supernatural drama that left the readers with more questions than answers for much of the first arc. This lead to a fantastic payoff that was a thrill ride in of itself. The writing is solid, but really the art is the stand out. The team of Shalvey and Bellaire work so well together and really compliment each others style. I hope they work on more books together in the future.

4. Gotham Academy, Publisher: DC, Writer: Brenden Fletcher and Becky Cloonan, Art: Karl Kerschl

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.

3. Tokyo Ghost, Publisher: Image, Writer: Rick Remender, Art: Sean Murphy, Color Art: Matt Hollingsworth

Tokyo Ghost is a hauntingly gruesome look into (possibly our) the future. It asks the question what happens if we never have to look away from our screens? It questions society’s reliance on technology and what the repercussions of that reliance may be. Especially in relation to the children who grow up in this society. Tokyo Ghost has the most eerie and haunting line I have read this year (heck maybe ever) at the end of issue one.

2. The Wicked + The Divine, Publisher: Image, Writer: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie, Color Art: Matthew Wilson

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, Publisher: Image, Writer: Jason Aaron + Jason Latour, Art: Jason Latour

Southern Bastards was my pick at six months and it is still my pick at the end of the year. Such fantastic story telling and art. Rough and tumble pages spilling forth gritty takes on a (slightly) exaggerated South. 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. Ribs are simple.

Andy Eschenbach

Comic Book Author and Tattoo Specialist

Top 10 comics of 2015 by Andy Eschenbach Wow! Twenty-Fifteen! Nice job, everybody! Except you. Yeah, you:) Comics is in such a great state right now. That said, it wasn’t hard to figure out which ten books I was most excited to pick up and read each beautiful Wednesday. And so it goes:

10. Joe Golem: Occult Detective (Dark Horse) – Mignola and Golden give us an intriguing combination of pulpy crime and Hebrew mythos. The environment, a sunken Manhattan, is appropriately depicted by the tough-looking art of Patric Reynolds, and stylish palette of Dave Stewart. Palumbo’s pulp-novel covers drive it right off the rack, too. This mini-series makes me want to dive right into it’s predecessor- a graphic novel unknown to me prior- just as much as I anticipate it’s next few issues. I WAS highly offended at the treatment of Witches throughout the story so far, as I personally practice Wizardry on a daily basis. HAHA! No I wasn’t! Less Witches= more magical power all for me! HAHAHAA! Kill ‘em, Golem!

9. Island Magazine (Image): Go ahead and get mad that I’m not going to mention every person involved in this book- but your time would be better spent reading. Any one of the creators in the past four issues of Island has made something strange and awesome, and more than worth your time. It’s also great to see a regularly-scheduled anthologystyle book on the shelves! What a great way to showcase talented folks and their work! More of this, please!

8. Tet (IDW): A dark human drama/mystery surrounding a group of people bound by events taking place during the Vietnam War, brought to us by Paul Allor and Paul Tucker, that is most certainly worth your attention. Not many stories that share setting or subject deal with it in such a smart or emotional way. It’s compelling and heartfelt, realistic to motives as much as to history, and supported by simplychiseled art. Really good. Really hard. Real.

7. Mythic (Image):  Phil Hester is my new hero. What a gift to Comics: a book that combines an American sense of humor to a theme of Myth and Magic- something more often tackled, with such a skill level, by European writers. Duly brought to life by the sharp, intense art of John McCrea and refreshingly simple-yet-poppy colors of Michael Spicer, this book simultaneously brings back everything good about old-school Vertigo-style stuff, with none of the garbage, while presenting characters and jokes you have never seen or heard before. The funny thing is, they’ve been here all along, in our own histories and fables.

6. Invisible Republic (Image): Gabriel Hardman. Corrina Bechko. Jordan Boyd. Perfect. Gritty and grim, immersive and convincing, politically
poignant, and beautifully executed. Give this first arc a read, and find out about the lies people perpetuate- the truths they inhibit- to reach or maintain power. In space. Stories like these help remind us  that true history isn’t always the commonly accepted one.

5. We Can Never Go Home (Black Mask Studios): Punkrock runaway story? With Super-Powers?! Fuck yes! 🙂 I mean… whatever, man 😐 Great characterization by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon- the kind that really captures those moments, from awkward to awesome, that defined us in our salad days- as they weave us through an explosive gauntlet of violent reaction, tense uncertainty, and knee-jerk decision making in true Comic Book fashion. Josh Hood’s illustrations are just the right thing, too, along with Tyler Boss’s colors, providing the action and clarity to move the story forward in a smooth and exciting way. And there’s a bonus hit from Brian Level in the back five pages of the fifth issue! I’m stoked to see this continue! Good stuff, Black Mask Studios!

4. The Violent (Image): “Whut?! He put a book with only one issue out in his Top 4?!” Yeah. It’s that good. Perfect Crime by Ed Brisson, Adam Gorham, and Michael Garland. It’s moody and raw, and it’ll get your gut more than once in the first 22 pages. Don’t read any spoilers. Just go buy it.

3. Paper Girls (Image): It’s refreshing to read a book that seems to have no overt intentions of becoming a movie, as far as approach goes, but still imbues the qualities of those great pre-teen adventure films from the 80’s. Vaughn serves up all the delicious fun and excitement from the Goonies or Stand By Me rolled around in a mysterious sci-fi breading, beautifully presented by Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson with bold and simple excellence. For all it’s movie-like charm, it presents outlandish events in a way that seems fluidly plausible, due to the perfect capturing of the feel of the era. Grab your Walkman, get on your bike, ride to the Comics Shop, pick up Paper Girls, and sneak a smoke in the back alley with your angsty friends while you read it.

2. The Vision (Marvel): I was massively excited to find out that my favorite Avenger was getting a solo book, and, although I was unfamiliar with the team’s work prior, I will now be finding more things to read by Tom King, and look at by Gabriel Hernandez Walta. The Vision is an eerie tale designed with plenty of social critique and suburban strangeness. Kings writing has a unique way of forging gut-wrenching emotional sympathy towards replicant human characters. Walta’s art is beautiful, and follows suit with King’s style by perfectly presenting the Vision family over a homogenized landscape, with moments of action and excitement sprinkled in. Jordie Bellaire’s colors are the icing, lending picture perfect hues and gorgeous rendering to each scene. I heard a critique that a story like this couldn’t last for more than a handful of issues. Who cares?! If
Marvels’s going to put out mini-series of this caliber, then so be it! I’d lay wages on a bet that this team could deliver for as long as necessary, though- and have high hopes that they will be given the chance.

1. Tokyo Ghost (Image): With Tokyo Ghost, Rick Remender hits me in all the same soft spots he did with his famed Uncanny X-force run, but from all different angles. Sci-Fi Action and Ultra Violence, Love, Hate, Sex, Depression, Addiction- all properly tailored in to the story with pertinence and excitement. Sean Murphy’s art is the best possible thing for this “tech-addicted dystopian” society, edgy and clear, with just enough manga influence to bring out the neo-japanese aspects of the world. It’s great to see that Matt Hollingsworth can truly do Murphy justice with his colors, as well. The overall effect is a presentation of human motives and drives so true that it hurts, amazingly believable considering the fantastical setting their pitted against. I can’t wait to read more!  It would be wrong not to mention (although I’m not sure if they technically happened this year or last) “Rasputin” by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo, and “Blast Furnace” by Ryan Browne. The first run on both were new to me in 2015, and both have continued into this year in work that I have yet to read, but would unabashedly force into anyone’s hands given proper opportunity. Oh yeah- and I don’t care what anyone says- the Amazing Spider-Man is still super-cool! On that note, here’s to a new year, and even better Comics! HOORAY!!

Jerry Caskey

Associate Writer: Deja.Revue

 1. Providence

Alan Moore takes the original stories of Lovecraft, digests them, and skillfully transplants them into the framework of American history. Told as a series of segmented encounters, Moore skillfully glides through horror after horror to produce a canon of terror matched by none but Lovecraft himself. Moore is relentless in his quest to push the limits of his protagonist and to see how far the human mind will go to explain away what it can’t understand.

For an artist to stay out of writer Alan Moore’s way and let him narrate this story would have been sufficient. But that is not what Jacen Burrows does. The art throughout Providence is done with enough realism to create a sympathetic universe, but not so real that the supernatural cannot be accepted. In some cases Burrows’ art actually conveys critical information to the story (note the progression of the moon throughout issue #6) that would otherwise bog down the dialog.

Contrary perhaps to many other titles, or even comics in general, the coloring in Providence plays an important role in maintaining some semblance of sanity for the reader. The colors begin as one would expect for life in New York, but quickly deteriorate into drab almost sepia tones that convey the deteriorating mental state of Mr. Black. Through issues #5 and #6, the coloring of a panel also indicates whether some situation is reality or some perverted perception of reality. While less attentive coloring wouldn’t break this series, Juan Rodriguez does not let the opportunity pass to polish up an already gleaming work

2. Injection

Warren Ellis, Jordie Bellaire, and Declan Shalvey are quickly becoming a favorite of mine. The three riff off each other to create this story as a series of flashbacks mixed in with current events. As the story unfolds it is narrated by an enigmatic figure in the form of bright yellow boxes that starkly contrast the otherwise subdued pages. Ellis does not immediately reveal the identity of this mysterious narrator, which makes the moment of understanding that much more rewarding. In this Ellis ensures that the narrative is vibrant and never stays in one place for too long. This vibrant narrative is admittedly confusing at times and, without the colorful guidance of Bellaire, could quickly lose the reader. Shalvey comes in to create a sense of physical movement in each character as they move through breathtaking environments

3. Descender

To those familiar with Jeff Lemire’s previous independent works need no other reason to read Descender. Lemire presents TIM-21 as a relic of a time before the outlaw and subsequent holocaust of androids. The narrative strolls through uncertainty and self-reflection in the mind of an android who may hold the key to understanding these recent activities. Dustin Nguyen presents this odyssey in a watercolor fashion that truly conveys a sense of wonder. For a series so focused on introspection, Nguyen conveys emotion masterfully through movement and facial expressions. This may be the best true Sci-Fi series for a while.

4. Radioactive Spider-Gwen

Due to the unexpected success of 2015’s Spider-Gwen series, our spider clad heroine gets her third introduction of the year. Radioactive Spider-Gwen reiterates some of what we already know about Gwen to bring new readers up to speed. Some would say that an entire issue is too much recap, but Jason Latour drives the story along at a comfortable pace such that the slow start can be forgiven.

As usual, the art continues to awe and inspire. Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi continue to leave their colorful mark on every page. Keeping up with the (surprising) amount of action Latour throws at them, Rodriguez and Renzi still invent new ways to present the story. We get a POV look at Gwen slinging her way through the city among smaller images of the same event to convey movement. Together they highlight small details that make re-reading this series as rewarding as ever.

5. They’re Not Like Us

In a world of worry, planning, and lies that exist only as thoughts in the minds of stranger, the curse of hearing these thoughts would get the best of most people. How can you silence the thoughts of everyone in the world? Eric Stephenson introduces us to Syd, a girl who has determined that the only way to make it stop is to kill herself. Simon Gane presents this world with dramatic and impactful art that enhances the narrative in some clever and unique ways that would be best un-spoiled. Bellaire follows up and gives a familiar feel to an otherwise unfamiliar world.

6. UFOlogy

Beneath it’s symbols and bright hues of pink and orange on faded blue and green backdrops, UFOlogy is a coming of age story with aliens. A genre that has established itself as legitimate since the days of E.T. and persisted through the likes of Super 8, Earth to Echo, etc. In spite of this, James Tynion and Matt Fox have managed to keep UFOlogy fresh and entertaining.

7. Divinity

Divinity is the third title in Valiant Entertainment’s “Valiant Next” series. Matt Kindt keeps a straight face for the first third of issue #1 as he tells a down to earth story of Cosmonaut Abram Adams’ progress through the Soviet space program. After this slow start, the story is moved forward very quickly, skipping years and continents to continually astonish the reader. The art team, Trevor Hairsine, Ryan Winn, and David Baron give the story a timeless quality. The shuttles and space suits are vaguely historical but heavily imagined. Although Hairsine seems to be a master of establishing shots, sometimes the expressions and close ups can fall flat. Do not let those moments deter you though. This is an entertaining and rewarding read.

8. No Mercy

 

Alex de Campi fully understands the idea of looming dread. He also has completely digested the idea of a “teenager”. To use almost every stereotype of teenager as one’s prtagonists is a bold move, but to do so without seeming pandering or tongue-in-cheek is amazing. De Campi utilizes the technique of cluing in the audience without making the characters aware of some looming demise to instill dread. Throughout the series, Carla Speed McNeil is one of the best artists I had never heard of. She presents characters who are full of live and expression, truly one of the best aspects of No Mercy.

9. Age of Reptiles

Ricardo Delgado is back! Age of Reptiles returns as a shining light for the (criminally underpopulated) genre of wordless storytelling. Needless to say, the art surrounding the journey of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus is awesome. The scenery is full of life and no space is wasted. The vibrant colors pop. The Dinosaurs are unique and barbaric. It’s easy to get lost in this rich world in an age long past our own, the age of reptiles!

10. Kaijumax

For a story about a maximum-security prison for the world’s Kaiju, Kaijumax is surprisingly serious. Zander Cannon brings to life a world where even the largest monsters have personal problems. Kaijumax is a pleasant read filled with genuinely interesting characters and bright cartoonist artwork. A real treat!

 

Kuliebear

Writer: House Of Flying Scalpels

 

1. Low

Remender has had another good year but it is Greg Tocchini that has made this book shine so incredibly. The story does not play out as you would expect but more like chapters that barely follow on from one another. But as each comic forms a unit of an overall story, they each have well-structured ideas and a character that truly suffers and transitions from beginning to end. The art is so unique and beautiful that what seems a little obscure becomes very familiar very quickly: just wonderful each and every time.

 

2. Ms Marvel

As a man of Indian descent I am very akin to Kamala and her heritage. This is the first time that I felt like a book was intimately related to me, and it feels very odd but amazing at the same time. Having gone through similar family turmoil, I fully appreciate the back-story at hand. But G Willow Wilson is expert at having a hero being effective and fearful at the same time, but overcome those odds to become amazing. Whether it is Miyazawa or Alphona on the art, as long as Herring is colouring, it feels very homely.

 

3. The Wicked + The Divine

The end of the original arc was devastating and quite upsetting as we lose yet another character, but the specialist single issues featuring guest artists were also incredible. The Tara issue saw Tula Lotay being emotional in an issue that was truly disturbing but also befitting of the story. I very much look forward to the rest of the story, but with a touch of trepidation.

 

4. Invisible Republic

The political machinations of this book are very well described and subtly revealed. The first arc was brilliant in its ability to start with a simple murder cover up but lead onto a story about how a dictator came to lead. That level of powerful story telling required a solid story but also an impressive artist that was capable of the gravity of the task. Hardman and Boyd are up to that task and create a guttural and intense society in need of repair.

 

5. Southern Bastards

It used to all be about Earl Tubb but that was a long time ago. Now we have seen the second arc pass with the tragedy of Euless Boss’ origin and also snap issues of other members of the community. These were very compelling and also terrifying tales of prominent members of that community and indicated how enough was soon to be enough. Earl Tubb’s death will not be for nothing as the Jason’s make for unmissable reading.

 

6. Rasputin

Riley Rossmo has a beautiful ability to produce emotive responses from Rasputin that depicted the turmoil and weight of his past. Both of Grecian’s arcs were fantastic in their story and brining together of a true story and yet a modern twist to a character that died many years ago. Utterly fantastic to look at and a joy to read.

 

7. Gotham Academy

As Ms Marvel delivers in a naïve yet enthusiastic way, Academy delivers in an exuberant and adventurous one. The writing is quite sweet and very akin to teenage life but it is the sense of wonder and exploration that this book captures, that makes it so fun to read. Kerschl and Msassyk deliver a stunning cell shaded effect to their work but it is fun and caricaturist for a teenage book.

 

8. Daredevil

I said a fond farewell to this book because Waid and Samnee produced their final issue. And what a run it was, ending with a finale that changed all we knew about Daredevil but they took him to a place where he belonged and was happy to go to. It made sense because they made it make sense and I loved every issue of it. His relationship with Kirsten and with Foggy developed in tune and his own insecurities brought out into the open. I shall miss this book dearly.

 

9. Mind MGMT

Matt Kindt has never produced a comic as good as this one. That is not a surprise given that he had full control of it and produced it month in, month out for years. The story progressed to a fantastic finale that was befitting of all the mystery and magical powers that we have seen since issue one. Meru was a beautiful central character that was worthy of the weight placed on her, and Kindt’s imprecise watercolours became the only way to tell this story.

 

10. Secret Wars

It seems wrong that Hickman’s books don’t feature higher on this list but it has been a slow year. Secret Wars has come and not gone but the Marvel universe has moved on around it. This is a problem but despite the tie-ins and the delays, it has generally been wonderful. The story has taken its classic slow twists and turns but the art is stunning. Each Ribic page will blow your mind in its depth and dexterity. It is a befitting end to Hickman’s run but we are still waiting for it.

 

Jaythreadbear

Writer at: Jaythreadbear

 

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of comic book runs that I have had a hell of a lot of fun reading this year; these are the ones for which I counted down days, constantly re-read previous issues, and told everyone I know to go buy them immediately:
They’re Not Like Us
This truly has been an stand out book for me this year; a constant source of both amazing writing and beautiful artwork. It’s really a disservice to the book to describe it this way, but it is almost like a contemporary retelling of the X-Men, with Magneto taking the place of Professor X. The plight of ostracized minorities and those considered ‘different’ is still in there, but instead of costumed super heroics there is brutal vigilante justice, and in place of sage guidance from a wise mutant there is an insidiousness and paranoia at every turn. In a year when X-Men comics were really not very good it has been a great relief to find a book that takes a similar concept and then tells a fresh and compelling story with it. They’re Not Like Us is a brilliant, dark, and thrilling book, and that is even before you take into account the outstanding art and colouring in every panel on every page.
Batgirl
Despite faltering somewhat in it’s sophomore arc this book remains a pleasure to read, due largely to the ever joyous artwork from Babs Tarr (the colouring from Serge LaPointe has been consistently wonderful too). Tarr’s art continues to elevate the book, even as the story elements that made the first arc such a success have fallen by the wayside. The overarching mystery that underpinned the narrative, the establishment of Barbara Gordon’s new life & friends in Burnside, the integration of contemporary visual elements like phone screens and playlists, and even the complex layouts demonstrating Batgirl using her eidetic memory, have all been oddly sadly absent. Fortunately there’s still that art from Babs Tarr, and a winning supporting cast that still make the book a strong read.
Descender
Of all the great new indie scifi books this year Jeff Lemire’s futuristic fable is the one that has captured my imagination most utterly. Following a cataclysmic and unexplained event (featuring giant Galactus sized robots!) a futuristic inter-planetary society spends decades picking up the pieces and persecuting the few regular sized robots that remain. The discovery of a particular AI, in the form of a small boy, brings together a ragtag band of unlikely heroes on a quest that really isn’t clear yet, but damn do I want to know where it goes next. The art is stunning, the characters are broadly drawn but engaging, and the universe is magnificent – this is Star Wars meets AI meets Darren Aronofsky, and it is sublime.
Prez
On paper this book sounds awful; the zany adventures of the first teen President of the United States. On actual comic book paper it is awesome. Besides anything else the top-notch art is by Ben Caldwell, someone who I’ve been waiting for more work from ever since he blew me away with his Wonder Woman pages way back in Wednesday Comics. And alongside those excellent visuals is a wonderfully sharp and pointed political satire, tackling everything from lobbyists to corporations to healthcare policy. Against the backdrop of an exaggerated, explicitly corrupt, hyper-capitalist America, writer Mark Russell works wonders telling an interesting, personal story about Beth Rogers, aforementioned teen President, but also manages to weave some genuinely worthwhile political debate into the book too. The first volume wrapped up this year, with another 6 issues allegedly planned for 2016 (sales sadly haven’t been great) – quite frankly EVERYONE should buy this so that we definitely get more issues!
Silver Surfer
If there is a character whose comic I never thought I would be at all engrossed by, even more so than teen President Rogers, it was the Silver Surfer. And yet, every month the combined talents of storytellers Dan Slott and Mike Allred have come up with outlandish, inventive, heartwarming, heartbreaking, space adventures for Norrin and his companion Dawn Greenwood to go on. This book is like the best of Star Trek and Doctor Who and Red Dwarf rolled in to one, and for every imaginative plot there is an innovative artistic representation to go with it (the time loop issue that has to be read backwards and forwards in a physical loop is a particularly stunning example). And not only is it a fun book with goofy aliens and comedy and spectacular space encounters, but the relationship at it’s heart, the blossoming love between Norrin and Dawn, is genuinely the most engaging romance in contemporary comics – it is lovely and realistic (in space!) and believable. Silver Surfer is somehow both a madcap adventure through the galaxy and a wonderful drama, and every issue is a marvel.

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!

Pick of the week (Feb. 25th): The Wicked + The Divine #8

“Being happy for a night. That’s not a small thing” – Dionysus

At this point the creative team of writer Kieron Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson, are a well oiled machine. They crank out spectacular issues month after month after month. This issue of The Wicked + The Divine (TW+TD) is no exception. This issue focused on the god Dionysus, who you might remember as the Greek god of wine and crazy parties (more or less). Compared to the rest of the gods we have met in this series Dionysus is less about himself, and more about his fans. Dionysus seems to genuinely care if his fans are enjoying themselves and goes to painstaking measures to ensure they have an adventure they’ll never forget. This issue opens up with Laura entering the rave at Dionysus’ request. She is told that she can party for as long as she wants and to stop all she has to say is “enough”. Once inside Laura tries to uncover answers from the gods and mortals in attendance. While she gets some answers, she leaves the rave (two days later no less), with far more questions than answers.The clever paneling work by McKelvie makes the rave jump off the page. As you read you can almost hear the music playing and feel the bass rumble through your bones. The coloring choices by Wilson are bright and vibrant. They contribute to the rave scene laid out by McKelvie. Together McKelvie and Wilson create a party scene that is as wild as it is stunning. If you have yet to pick up this issue, or this series, I recommend you go to your local comic book store and pick it up as soon as you can. You won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 8/10

-Andrew Horton

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

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

Without further delay. here we go!

Top 10 series of 2014 from Andrew Horton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BONUS: Favorite new character:

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

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

Top 10 series of 2014 from John Small

10.Elektra (Marvel)

9. The Life After (Oni Press)

8. A Waste of Time (Northwest Press

7. The Woods (BOOM!)

6. Low (Image)

5. Lumberjanes (BOOM!/Boombox)

4. Rocket Raccoon (Marvel

3. Chew (Image)

2. The Bunker (ONI Press)

1. Southern Bastards (Image)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magneto #10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The top 5 series of 2014 from Jerry Caskey

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

1. Moon Knight

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

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

2. Ms. Marvel

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

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

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

3. Saga

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

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

4. Death of Wolverine

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

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

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

5. Batman: Zero Year

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

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

Pick of the Week (Dec. 17th): The Wicked + The Divine #6

“I’ve got no reason to be afraid anymore” – Inanna

The Wicked + The Divine (TW+TD) has returned, and with force. The first arc The Faust Act was going to be a tough performance to follow for the creative team of Gillen, McKevlie, and Wilson but they did it. After a one month hiatus TW+TD returns with issue #6. Things pick up right after a certain someone’s death (no spoilers) with Laura still trying to figure out what that lit cigarette in issue 5 means. She has found sudden stardom as her stint with the Gods has made her quasi-famous. Laura struggles with this new found fame, and the surprising loneliness it brings. Gillen shows us what character development should look like with his handling of Laura in this issue. The art by McKevlie and Wilson is intriguing with a interesting use of spacing, panel work, and digital design. I love the page that sums up the contents of Laura’s room. On the surface TW+TD asks the question what if the Gods walked among us, but the deeper question is what are the consequences of us treating our pop stars as Gods? I give this comic a 8/10

-Andrew Horton