Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Comic Book Update: September 2013

It’s been a little too long since my last Comic Book Update, but I’ve had a lot going on. I’ve actually been wanting to write this for about a month now, and if I had done it back when I first wanted to it would have fallen in line with the time between the others – about three months. But here it is now – wedged in between my Dragon Con-nery and 31 Days of Halloween.
I am sensing another big drop coming up. There are quite a few titles that I think I might be buying out of habit now, or picking up because they’re not bad enough to drop immediately. As I’ve explained before, this is kind of the main impetus of the comic book collector. You’re afraid that book you’re buying is going to get better as soon as you drop it or you’re just too lazy to tell the store to stop pulling it for you.
As always, what follows is a list of what I’ve been buying for the past few months, along with commentary about each title.
A+X
This book is still a ton of fun thanks to the rotating creative teams and characters. Each issue features two stories about different combinations of X-Men and Avengers. They’re all quick one-shots and so far have been hugely entertaining. The last issue featured art by both Ron Lim and Mark Teixeira, so that was pretty mind-blowing.
Verdict - KEEPER
ALL-STAR WESTERN
Not only is this easily the best book DC is putting out right now, it is also one of the best comic books I buy, period. The current storyline features a time-displaced Jonah Hex in modern day Gotham City. Unfortunately for Hex, he’s finding himself in almost the exact same relationship with Jeremiah Arkham that he had with his ancestor, Amadeus. Hilarity and action ensues.
If all of that isn’t enough for you, Bruce Wayne shows up on the final page of the last issue.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
ANGEL & FAITH
Season 9 just wrapped up and I’m not sure when the next one starts. Angel & Faith has been far and away the best of the Buffyverse books thanks to the outstanding and consistent creative team of Rebekah Isaacs and Christos Gage. The art is beautiful and the stories have felt very much like episodes of Buffy. Even if you don’t follow the main Buffy series, I would say pick up one of the trades of this one. It’s great stuff.
Verdict – KEEPER
BATMAN
The current “Year Zero” storyline has been pretty good so far. Not as impactful as Earth One, but still solid and acceptable within the confines of what I expect out of Batman. Right now, though, the DC books are all experiencing a bit of “narratus interruptus” with the “Forever Evil” thing. I’ll discuss that a bit more below.
Issue 23.1 is a Joker story. The main narrative is about Joker adopting a gorilla. It is pure Silver Age awesomeness and could go alongside any of the Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told. I was very impressed with this one, which is good for DC because it was my gauge as to whether or not I was going to pick up any other of the villain one-shots. The only problem I could see with this story is the portion that seems to be a flashback to Joker’s childhood. Personally, I just took that as the same sort of thing Heath Ledger was doing in The Dark Knight. Either made up or pure delusion. With Joker, pretty much everything can be discounted. I don’t honestly believe this was an attempt to nail down an origin.
Verdict - KEEPER
BATMAN AND______
The last issue dealt with Alfred’s reaction to Damian’s death and was pure genius. Tomasi and Gleason are producing some of the best Bat Family stories I’ve seen in years.
Verdict - KEEPER
BATMAN INCORPORATED
I feel like the last six or so issues of this title could have been compressed into two issues. I was so ready for this book to end. Part of it was the drawn-out narrative, part of it was the fact that I can’t stand Chris Burnham’s art. I don’t think he’s bad at all, I just really dislike his style. A lot. I’ve known it since before the New 52 started, but it was never clearer than when it was necessary for Gleason to re-draw some of Burnham’s panels for the above issue of Batman and ______. I enjoyed reading the new version so much more. I specifically remember disliking those exact panels quite a bit.
Verdict – GLAD IT’S OVER
BATMAN SUPERMAN
This is an interesting book from Greg Pak and Jae Lee. I don’t love it, but I am enjoying it. I have been a huge fan of Jae Lee’s art for years, but as I get older I find I want more storytelling out of artwork. While Lee’s art is awesome to look at, it isn’t the most expressive and linear in the world.
Verdict – KEEPER
BATWOMAN
The narrative has gotten a bit more straightforward, but I get the sense that Trevor McCarthy might be having trouble keeping up. His work seems to be suffering a bit from being on a regular title. I’m actually going to stick around and give this one a chance after Williams III and Blackman leave. Their run has been a bit unfocused and I think that a new creative team could be a good thing.
Which brings me to the recent business about DC not allowing Kate Kane to get married. Or as most media outlets would put it, not allowing Kate to get Gay Married.
I don’t think that’s the point. I think that DC just doesn’t want Batwoman married. Whether or not that in and of itself is a good or reasonable decision I don’t know. But DC owns Batwoman so they get to make the call. But since Gay is a Hot Topic and gets all kinds of media attention right now, the headlines were about that. And DC being DC they handled it absolutely dreadfully and made all of the media and the people who believe the media feel totally justified in their assumption of bigotry.
Verdict - PROBATION
THE BLACK BEETLE
Francesco Francavilla crafted an excellent and simple story about a crime fighter. The art is beautiful and the narrative is quick and engaging. I highly recommend this one. A collected edition should be available soon, as the four-issue miniseries just wrapped up. I believe a new miniseries is starting within the next couple of months. You should add it to your pull.
Verdict – BUY THE TRADE
BREATH OF BONES
I have always been a fan of the golem. It’s the primarily Jewish concept of a clay giant brought to life – usually to protect but sometimes for revenge. This is the Hollywood-ready story of a golem protecting a village during the second World War. It’s three issues and it is fantastic. Guillermo del Toro should direct.
Verdict – BUY THE TRADE
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 9
The season just wrapped and while it had a satisfying conclusion, I’m getting a little tired of the old “bad guy that turns out okay in the end” thing. Granted, we had the evil Slayer that didn’t turn out okay in any way, shape, or form; but there’s a whole other recurring theme there that I am also tired of – lots of bad guys. I feel like the creators don’t have enough faith in their creations to allow for a true Big Bad. Since the Dark Horse comics started as direct continuations of the TV show we haven’t had a single true villain. It’s been these groups or armies of people with bad intentions (many of whom later turn out to be misguided or whatever). I’m really hoping for something fresh for Season 10.
Verdict – GLAD FOR THE BREAK
CABLE AND X-FORCE
Dennis Hopeless is creating an exciting tale that draws on a lot of Marvel Mutant lore but that manages to take place outside of the main drama of the current X-books. There is a great balancing act between the characters in the book – Cable, Domino, Colossus, Boom Boom, Forge, Doctor Nemesis, and now Hope. I feel like I get just enough of everybody in each issue, but always want more. The narrative is moving right along and Salvador Larocca’s art is lovely as always. There was an artistic bump in last month’s issue that bothered me quite a bit, though. Somebody else took over halfway through and it simply didn’t work. Not only was there a severe stylistic change, the artist was seemingly unaware of the condition of Cable’s left arm – it is shrunken and crippled under his bionic arm – and editorial let the mistake through. The book is still great, but that was very distracting. The newest issue was all Larocca, so things were back to normal.
Verdict – KEEPER
CHIN MUSIC
Steve Niles and Tony Harris. That should be all you need to know.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
DANGER GIRL: TRINITY
Trinity wrapped last month. I can’t call it a must-have, but if you like fun comics and Danger Girl in particular this one was a total success and you should probably pick up the trade. These are popcorn comics and I love them for that. No long-running series to keep up with, no angst. The new miniseries, The Chase, just started this month and it’s more of the same. And I mean that in the best way possible.
Verdict – FUN BOOK
DOCTOR WHO
I have thoroughly enjoyed this title. I hate to see IDW lose the license for Doctor Who comics to the publisher that brought us WWE Heroes – the single worst comic book I have ever read.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
DOCTOR WHO: PRISONERS OF TIME
This continues to be a fantastic title with a brilliant narrative that shows a deep understanding of and love for Doctor Who. Issue #8 gave us a very enjoyable look at Paul McGann’s Doctor, along with a much more interesting and fun characterization of Grace. My only problem here is that I didn’t care for the artwork in this issue at all. I am a big fan of Roger Langridge’s work on the Muppet titles, but his style is not what I want on Doctor Who. I’m just not a fan of cartoony Who, which has been a problem from time to time for the duration of IDW’s deal to publish the comics. They have had nothing but top-notch writers on the books, but there have been many instances where I disagreed with their choice of artists.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
FOREVER EVIL
First of all, that is a terrible title. It sounds like a goth version of legendary tween store Forever 21. Which I guess would pretty much be Hot Topic, but whatever. “Whatever Evil” would be a much better title because that’s kind of how I feel about everything that happens in the New 52 – “whatever”. We’re two years in and I still don’t feel like this is the real DCU or that anything that happens really matters.
This title – and related crossovers; all 2,139 of them – are about the Crime Syndicate invading the New 52 Universe. In this first issue a bunch of stuff happened that I didn’t really care about and then Ultraman crushed up Kryptonite and snorted it like cocaine. It came off exactly as stupid as it sounds.
Verdict – DROPPED IT
THE EXTINCTION PARADE
Max Brooks has created a very interesting story about what happens to vampires after the zombie apocalypse. Yeah – think about that for a minute.
Verdict – STILL READING
HACK/SLASH VS. ARMY OF DARKNESS
Somebody has the Necronomicon and is selling the pages. Obviously this is bad. So retired Slasher hunter Cassie Hack and S-Mart employee Ashley J. Williams have to team up to stop all of the resulting chaos and evil.
So far this book has done an amazing job of not only combining the two franchises involved, but also of giving equal time and quality characterization to Ash and Cassie. Crossovers often feel somewhat slanted toward one property or the other, but this one truly feels natural and balanced. The thing you have to remember going in is that this is Ash in this book and not Bruce Campbell, so the age difference is probably less than ten years and him hitting on Cassie isn’t as creepy as it might seem.
Verdict – KEEPER
INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK
The new story arc is about time travel, which made me a little nervous. I fucking love this book, but time travel stories can be very tricky when they’re part of a narrative that is not specifically about time travel. The problem is creating believable drama in what is almost certainly a set timeline. Thankfully, Mark Waid is a very clever man and is telling a fun time travel story. The best part is that for the purposes of the mission, Hulk has to stay Hulk. This means that Banner’s consciousness has been duplicated into a flying robot drone and has the task of keeping Hulk angry enough to not transform. The interaction between the two entities is priceless.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
IRON MAN
Speaking of stories I was concerned about, I honestly feel like Mark Waid and Kieron Gillen – the current Iron Man writer – are basing their current narratives off of dares.
Gillen – “I bet you can’t write a good Hulk time travels tory.”
Waid – “Oh yeah, well I dare you to retcon Tony Stark’s origin and have him take on a Marvel Universe crossover-worthy event single-handed.”
Both challenges were accepted and both have – so far – been met one hundred percent. “The Secret Origin of Tony Stark” had the potential to both suck and be a colossal downer. It has done neither.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK
As soon as DC announced that I was going to have to buy Justice League to complete the next story arc I dropped this one. It was really good and I might go back to it, but I refuse to buy a title that produced the single worst comic book arc I have ever read as long as the creative team responsible is still there.
Verdict – DROPPED IT
NIGHTWING
It's entirely possible that I've missed an issue because the last thing I remember is Dick tracking down an old mob boss from Gotham. I feel like it was a while ago. But the book is awesome.
Verdict – KEEPER
RED SONJA
This book had so much going for it – swords, sorcery, a scantily-clad redhead, Gail Simone – but it just did not click for me. I buy too many comics as it is, so when I pick up something new it really needs to wow me. Red Sonja was solid, but I just wasn’t excited enough to keep buying it.
Verdict – DROPPED IT
REVIVAL
It feels like something really big is getting ready to happen in this one. This has been a quality title from the start and I highly recommend you pick up the trades or back issues or whatever and catch up. If you like the Coen Brothers’ darker movies I think you’ll really dig Revival.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
SAGA
In the thrity or so years that I have been reading comic books, there is not one title I have read that I would recommend over Saga.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
STAR WARS
There has been a lot of praise heaped on this book. Not only for being a strong story, but for having the feel of the Original Trilogy. I’m enjoying it, but I don’t find it to be the revelation that others do. I’m actually finding the Leia-centric story to be almost contradictory to the rest of the Expanded Universe. Princess Leia has always been depicted as a strong character. I don’t think there was a need to retcon her into a pilot or the leader of a secret squadron. Like I said – the story is good, but it could have been told without altering the history of this great, established character.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
STAR WARS: DARK TIMES
This title has been producing miniseries that alternate between the characters that were established in the original Dark Times series. It’s a clever way of keeping things fresh while, still following a primary narrative and I am thoroughly enjoying it. There was a much shorter break between the last arc – (whatever) and the newest one – (whatever), and the momentum seems to have carried over. I feel like there might be a blending of the separate narratives soon. This, to me, is the best Star Wars story being produced right now. I love these characters and the post-Order 66 setting is exciting and interesting.
Side Note: I think it would be very smart of the Buffyverse to adopt this publishing style. Rather than trying to support two ongoing books and occasional miniseries, I think it would be smart to have an ongoing line of miniseries that alternated between the Scooby Gang and Angel and Faith or whoever else they might want to feature.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
UNCANNY AVENGERS
Rick Remender is continuing to build on the events he created in one of the best Marvel Mutant books ever, Uncanny X-Force. The book’s new artist is absolutely fantastic and I cannot get enough of his art. I was not familiar with (dude) before he took over duties here, but he reminds me a lot of Francesco Francavilla, which is one of the highest compliments I could give.
The last book that felt this epic and impactful to me was Joss Whedon and (dude)’s Astonishing X-Men. If you’re interested, the one before that was Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s New X-Men.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
UNCANNY X-FORCE
I don’t want to say too much about this book because it has some nifty surprises and I think you should just read it, but the way that (writer) is building the core team for the book is a lot of fun and something we don’t always see. More often than not the team that a comic book is built around is just the team and that’s that. Here we’re getting to see why.
Verdict – KEEPER
WALKING DEAD
The shit just won’t stop hitting the fan. This book is astonishingly consistent and good. If I could recommend two boos to people they would be Saga and The Walking Dead. The amazing thing about that statement is that neither of these is a superhero book and I am most definitely a superhero guy.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
THE WAKE
Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy are creating a Hollywood-ready tale that feels new and original, yet is reminiscent of ocean disaster movies like Leviathan and Deep Star Six. With a touch of HP Lovecraft thrown in (because pretty much everything gets a dollop of Cthulu now). I absolutely love this book. Snyder’s writing is tight as always and Sean Murphy’s art is beautiful and engrossing.
Verdict – TOP OF THE STACK
WOLVERINE
Paul Cornell. Alan Davis.
FUCK YES.
I can’t even tell you how happy I was when Alan Davis returned. (artist) took care of the second story arc and was great, but it was so special seeing Davis’ artwork on that first arc. I’m glad to see that he is apparently going to be alternating. This book feels like such a classic, but has the modern sensibilities that Cornell is so deft with.
Verdict – GREAT BOOK
WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN
The finale of the Hellfire Academy arc was awesome. I love this book. As long as Nick Bradshaw stays a regular artist I can deal with him taking a break from time to time.
Verdict – KEEPER
WONDER WOMAN
I don’t even know if I’m still getting this book. I can’t remember for the life of me what is going on.
Verdict – IF I HAVEN'T DROPPED IT I SHOULD
X-FACTOR
The last seven or eight issues of X-Factor have been like the last thirty minutes of Return of the King. Just sort of wrapping things up after the ending. I suppose things were resolved enough for me. In all honesty I didn’t enjoy the “Hell on Earth” story very much, so I haven’t been as invested in this book as I once was. But it’s all over now, and looking back I am very satisfied with Peter David’s legacy on the book. I just hope somebody at Marvel can find something interesting to do with these characters that I have come to love so much.
Verdict – HAPPY ENDING


Other Comic-Related News
I had planned to do a quick review of Agents of SHIELD here (which is why this is posting later than normal), but that turned into enough to warrant its own post. And I am not one to pass up the opportunity to pad out my posts. Five days a week gets a little tough sometimes.
So check back tomorrow for the full review, plus some words about Sleep Hollow is I still feel like it!
-Phantom

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