Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Best Comic Books of 2010: Part 2

15. Batgirl
Issues: 6-16
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
ArtistLee Garbett (6-7, 9-12, 14), Talent Caldwell (8), Pere Perez (10, 12-13) and Dustin Nguyen (15-16)

Batgirl started out 2010 with a team-up with Damian Wayne before moving into a crossover with Red Robin and the final arc of her first year as she faced off against the Calculator, who was trying his best to destroy the life of Barbara Gordon. To fill in the interim between arcs, two one-shots were released, one dealing with an encounter between Batgirl and Clayface, and the other featuring a fun tale as Batgirl and Supergirl faced off against an army of Draculas who’d escaped from the world of their movies. As the Bat books moved into the Batman Inc era, Stephenie found herself framed for murder and managed to resolve this problem before the year was over.

14. Justice League: Generation Lost
Issues: 1-16
Writer: Judd Winick (1-16) and Keith Giffen (1-6)
Artist: Aaron Lopresti (1, 5, 8, 11, 14), Joe Bennett (2-4, 7, 10, 13, 15), Fernando Dagnino (6, 9, 12, 16)
The surprise hit of the year has been Justice League: Generation Lost, a series that has surpassed the more likely hit, Brightest Day, in nearly every way. It focuses on the Justice League International, the only people who remember Maxwell Lord, who was resurrected at the end of Blackest Night and has erased his existence from the face of the Earth. It’s a genius concept and every issue of this series feels like it should be the regular Justice League book.

13. Power Girl
Issues: 9-19
Writer: Justin Gray (9-12), Jimmy Palmiotti (9-12) and Judd Winick (13-19)
ArtistAmanda Conner (9-12) and Sami Basri (13-19)
Nothing says ‘awesome’ quite like Amanda Conner artwork, and for the first chunk of 2010, that was the reason to be reading Power Girl. The stories were fun and entertaining, sure enough, completely different in tone to Jonah Hex from the same writing team, but the art was the main draw. As this first epoch of Power Girl came to an end, we saw her face off against Satanna, help out a nerdy kid, battle a possessed Terra and resolve any dangling threads from the first year of her book. Then, Judd Winick and Sami Basri took over, and the book found its way into continuity; everything remained brilliant as we got a game-changing first issue, an intense action-packed two-part follow-up and a story arc tying into Justice League: Generation Lost as we dealt with the reality of Maxwell Lord’s return and the fact that Power Girl, and the majority of the world, don’t remember who he is.

12. The Walking Dead
Issues: 71-79
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
The world of the Walking Dead has changed in the last twelve months; not only is there now a TV show, but the status quo has once more transformed completely from what it was. The characters are now convinced they are safe, until the face-off against the sadist hunters, that is. And then as the year came to a close the survivors dealt with the start of the epic ‘No Way Out’ storyline. Plus, in issue 75, we got a fantastic look at what would happen if the zombie attack turned out to be the result of an alien invasion.

11. PunisherMAX
Issues: 3-9
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Steve Dillon
Yes, this series has been woefully delayed, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less spectacular when it does come out. The grittier version of the Punisher, as written by the true master of grit himself, Jason Aaron is one of the most consistently fun books on the market. The first arc deals with the MAX introduction of the Kingpin into the realistic and violent world of the Punisher, while the second deals with the Kingpin hiring Bullseye to kill Frank Castle. It’s horribly violent throughout, which suits the tone of the book, while some of the moments are absolutely fantastically hilarious. This is the Punisher series everyone’s been waiting for since Garth Ennis left the books a few years ago.

10. Amazing Spider-Man
Issues: 617-650
WriterJoe Kelly (617, 625, 634-637, 647), Dan Slott (618-621, 647-650), Fred Van Lente (622, 626, 647), Greg Weisman (622), Mark Waid (623-624, 642-647), Roger Stern (627-629), Zeb Wells (630-633, 647), Joe Quesada (638-641) and Bob Gale (647)
ArtistMax Fiumara (617, 625,647), Marcos Martin (618-620), Javier Pulido (620), Michael Lark (621, 634-637), Luke Ross (622), Paul Azaceta (623-624, 642-647), Michael Gaydos (626), Lee Weeks (627-629), Chris Bachalo (630-633), Emma Rios (631-633), Stefano Guadiano (634-637), Marco Checchetto (636-637), Matthew Southworth (637), Paolo Rivera (638-641), Joe Quesada (638-641), Karl Kesel (647), JM Ken Nimura (647) and Humberto Ramos (648-650)
Spider-Man’s Brand New Day era ends with this year, and so ends the TV show style shuffle of creative teams. This year we’ve had: The introduction of a new Rhino, a gritty battle with Mysterio, a confrontation with Mr. Negative, the return of Morbius, the return of the new Vulture, a battle between the old Rhino and the new Rhino, a sequel to “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut,” the devolution of the Lizard, the resurrection of Kraven the Hunter, the revelation of what happened in this new timeline to break up Peter and Mary Jane, the birth of a Goblin child and Spider-Man battling an army of his enemies to protect it. By the time Dan Slott took over as the permanent writer and began the new Big Time arc, Spider-Man was ready to get his life together, get a new job, get a girlfriend and face off against the new Hobgoblin.

9. American Vampire
Issues: 1-10
Writer: Scott Snyder (1-10) and Stephen King (1-5)
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque (1-10)
The latest Vertigo series to engage completely has been American Vampire, a series so good that even Stephen King wanted to get involved and write the first back-up. The first stories are a duel tale; Snyder’s first arc involves vampires controlling Broadway in the 1920s, while King’s deals with the origins of sorta-protagonist, Skinner Sweet, in the Wild West. The second arc expands on both these stories as vampires travel to Las Vegas and get involved in the casino business, and then Skinner turns up and things start getting eerie. The third arc rounds out the year as we move into the next stage of the series, ready for 2011, which should be an awesome year for the series as it hits its sophomore stride.

8. Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine
Issues: 1-4
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Adam Kubert
Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert unite for one of the most inventive and fun mini-series of the year, as Spider-Man and Wolverine team-up and are propelled backwards and forwards through time facing off against insane foes and illogical events. There’s not much else to say, except that it’s absolutely fantastic.

7. Fantastic Four
Issues: 575-586
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Dale Eaglesham (575-578), Neil Edwards (579-582) and Steve Epting (583-586)
2010 started with a slight slump for the Fantastic Four, as good as the first arc of one-shots was, it wasn’t nearly as good as the first arc by Hickman and Eaglesham from 2009. The second arc, consisting of more one-shots and expanded information on all of the eccentricities of Hickman’s run so far. The main draw of 2010 was the “Three” arc which promises the death of one of the titular heroes by the end, in 2011; so far, it’s been the best Fantastic Four story in years.

6. The Flash
Issues: 1-8
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Francis Manapul (1-6) and Scott Kolins (7-8)
A new series started for the Flash in 2010, and it came with the return of Barry Allen and a story arc involving the Rogues of the Future attempting to capture the Flash for a crime he committed due to the Rogues of the Past. It’s a unique and brilliant idea from Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul’s art was absolutely astounding in every issue. The last two issues of the year were one-shots focusing on individual villains, building them up in preparation for 2011’s Flashpoint event.

Next Time: 5 to 1

The Best Comic Books of 2010: Part 1

25. Red Robin
Issues: 8-18

Writer: Chris Yost (8-12) and Fabian Nicieza (13-18)
Artist: Marcus To (8, 10-18) and Ramon Bachs (9)
The year’s been a tough one for Tim Drake; he started 2010 in the middle of his war against the Council of Spiders, as he’d infiltrated Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins. The following arc saw Ra’s attempt to get revenge on his traitorous young crimefighter by launching an assault on Gotham City which led to a brutal confrontation between the two, ending Red Robin’s first year. Moving into the Batman Inc era of the Bat-Family, Red Robin arranged a hit list of individuals who needed to be removed from the equation to maintain order within the chaos; as well as this, the culmination of his search for Bruce Wayne led to an emotional reunion between the pair following Bruce’s return. The final issue of the year started the next story arc as Red Robin headed to Russia.

24. Sweet Tooth
Issues: 5-16
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Jeff Lemire
His first full year has been a tough one for Gus (the titular ‘Sweet Tooth’). In the first issue, concluding the initial story arc, he was handed over to the shady military camp leaders by the mysterious Jeppard and apparently left to die. The second story arc explored Gus’ imprisonment and the lone scientist’s discovery about his origins, as well as exploring Jeppard’s past and revealing him to be much nicer than we’d given him credit for. In the third arc, which closed out the year, the military went looking for the cabin Gus and his father lived in at the start of the series, saw Jeppard join forces with a sadistic group to attack the military base, and saw Gus launch an escape from the camp. The arc won’t wrap up until January 2011, but already it’s proving to be stunning stuff.

23. Wolverine: Weapon X/Wolverine
Issues: 9-16 (WWX)/1-4 (W)
Writer: Jason Aaron
ArtistYanick Paquette (WWX 9), CP Smith (WWX 10), Ron Garney (WWX 11-15), Davide Gianfelice (WWX 16) and Renato Guedes (W 1-4)
Wolverine’s had a pretty turbulent 2010; he started with the concluding chapter to his mental asylum story, ‘Insane in the Brain,’ and continued with a one-shot about his relationships with women. The final arc of his Weapon X series saw him face-off against Deathlok, and the final issue featured his dealing with the death of his best friend, Nightcrawler. Then, he was graced with his own titular series once more, and immediately went to Hell to battle the hordes of foes he’d sent into the pit, while a demon paraded around in his body, murdering all his closest associates.

22. Stumptown
Issues: 2-4
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Matthew Southworth
It’s a sad thing that Greg Rucka’s first series after leaving DC has been so delayed, but Stumptown has still managed to be a compelling mystery and the start of something which, once collected, will be an exceptional series. This first arc, or the latter parts of it, deals with a case for Private Investigator, Dex Parios, as she searches for a missing girl and uncovers all the conspiracies surrounding her disappearance. It’s an original character from Rucka and the opportunity for something fascinating to evolve in 2011 when the series gets back on track.

21. Jonah Hex
Issues: 51-62
Writer: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Dick Giordano (51), Jordi Bernet (52, 54, 57, 59, 61), Billy Tucci (53), Vicente Alcazar (55), Phil Winslade (56), Giancarlo Caracuzzo (58), Brian Stelfreeze (60) and Eduardo Risso (62)
Jonah Hex is always an enjoyable mish-mash of a series, showcasing the very best artwork modern comic books have to offer. Each issue is a one-and-done, which means there’s a lot of story within; Hex started the year with Dick Giordano’s final comic work prior to his death, before continuing with a tale of Hex on the run, a mysterious connection between Hex, a train robbery, a double-crossing, a dancer and a coffin, the return of Star Man, the tale of Billy Dynamite, and a movie tie-in. And that was before things got series as Hex rounded out the year with: some Western heroes, a significant bullet, the Gray Ghost, a gambling brawl, a wife and a gang of freaks.

20. Daytripper
Issues: 2-10
Writer: Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon
Artist: Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon
The tale of Bras de Oliva Domingos was a sad one; each issue of his series told a different set of events all leading to his inevitable death. But each tale dealt with human nature and the subjects of life, love, death and happiness. At the age of 21, Bras has his first fling while on holiday. At the age of 28, Bras catches a glimpse of true love. At the age of 41, Bras’ father dies. At the age of 11, Bras experiences his first kiss. At the age of 33, Bras comprehends death following a plane crash. At the age of 38, Bras tests the limits of friendship. At the age of 47, Bras’ absence unites his wife and child. In a dream world, Bras examines the connections of all his various deaths as he draws closer to death. And in the final issue, aged 76, Bras dies of cancer, having accepted his fate and passes on valuable life lessons to his son.

19. Uncanny X-Force
Issues: 1-3
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Jerome Opena
One of the best new series of 2010 was Rick Remender and Jerome Opena’s epic tale of an X-Men strike force comprising of Wolverine, Deadpool, Fantomex, Psylocke and Angel. It never should have worked, and in lesser hands, it probably wouldn’t work. The premise of this first arc is the Uncanny X-Force’s mission to hunt down and kill Apocalypse, who’s been transformed into a child. It’s a great premise and when it wraps up in 2011, it’ll surely be a fantastic trade.

18. Action Comics
Issues: 885-896
Writer: Greg Rucka (885-889), Eric Trautmann (885-889) and Paul Cornell (890-896)
Artist: Pere Perez (885-889) and Pete Woods (890-896)
The year for Action Comics began with the conclusion to Greg Rucka’s Nightwing and Flamebird storyline following the resolution of the New Krypton event within the Superman books. When Paul Cornell took over, the book shifted focus to Lex Luthor, following his misadventures as he searched for a Black Lantern Ring in the aftermath of Final Crisis; along the way he faces off against numerous DC villains including: Mr. Mind, Deathstroke, Gorilla Grodd, Vandal Savage and the Secret Six. As well as this, Luthor died and encountered Death, one of the Endless from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, finally bringing that series into continuity.

17. Morning Glories
Issues: 1-5
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Joe Eisma
So far, this new series from Image Comics has had everything going for it; a great premise, interesting characters and enough action and laughs to keep appetites whetted for the duration. The first arc deals with a group of children shipped off to boarding school, all of whom were born on the same day, and all of whom are subject to conspiracy, danger and violence. As the issues continued, the realities of the world they’d entered became more apparent and the series found itself becoming more and more unnerving with every plot development and twist.

16. New Avengers/The New Avengers
Issues: 61-64 (NA)/1-7 (TNA)
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen (NA 61-62, TNA 1-7), Daniel Acuna (NA 61-62), Mike McKone (NA 63-64)
New Avengers started the year in the midst of the ‘Siege’ event with the team taking on the Hood and his group of super criminals, all of whom were under the thrall of Norman Osborn. Post-Siege, the series rebooted to coincide with the three other ‘just okay’ Avengers books: Avengers, Thunderbolts and Avengers Prime. The first arc of this second New Avengers series saw the team deal with the problems arising from the fallout of their magic arc from the first volume; everything got serious and a major character died. Then, the status quo was altered slightly in the final issue of the year as Dr. Strange officially joined the team.

Next: 15 to 6

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Pull-List - 09/12/2010

The Essential Comic

Thor: The Mighty Avenger #7

By Roger Landridge and Chris Samnee

This was my favourite issue of Thor: The Mighty Avenger. Partly because it was the first part of what will be the final story of this magnificent series; partly, because it was an absolutely fantastic tale of Thor taking on giant robots and starting to lose the trust of the people he’s sworn to protect. It feels like a fall from grace for the character and Roger Landridge pens one of the single issues about the character I’ve read in a long time; there are even some references to Landridge’s work on The Muppets comic book via the unwitting villains. Then there’s the implied night of passion between Thor and Jane, something I never thought I’d see in an all ages book, but it works perfectly with the world Landridge has built up in this book. Now, the artwork: Chris Samnee is my favourite artist working in comics right now, and this series has been the best example of his work; every page is vibrant and alive and the characters are perfectly realised. It makes me sad that the next issue is the last as this has certainly been the most fun I’ve had reading a comic book in 2010, and it darkens the doorway into 2011 by having it taken away from me.

Rating: 10/10

And the Rest

27 #1 (of 4)

By Charles Soule and Renzo Podesta

The fact that nobody has thought of this idea before is an example of its simplistic genius. Take the concept of the 27 club of musicians who died before their time and put a twist on it; introduce a guitarist who’s suffering from an affliction that prevents him from playing and watch his journey to recovery. But then you add the weird supernatural elements and you have yourself one of the most intriguing books of the year. This should be one hell of a mini-series. Is there a flaw, you ask? Only one: The art isn’t great.

Rating: 8/10

Batgirl #16

By Bryan Q. Miller and Dustin Nguyen

The thing Batgirl is doing best right now is the short stories; the one-and-done issues, or the quick two/three parters that tell a story as quickly as possible. It makes the series feel more like a fun, drop-in than a meaty, complex continuing series. This most recent two-parter has seen Stephanie become a murder suspect, and go on the run as she attempts to discover the true culprit. It’s great stuff and Bryan Q. Miller is demonstrating his absolutely incomparable skill at crafting a character from an individual who’s been screwed over by editorial more times than I can count. As the new artist on the series, Dustin Nguyen is handling his art chores magnificently; everything feels slightly cartoonier than before, but it works with the book as a whole and helps to develop the world of Batgirl, on the fringes of the other Bat-Books. This book is constantly a must read, and if you haven’t dipped in, this most recent story and the Dracula one-shot that preceded it might be the best place to start.

Rating: 10/10

Booster Gold #39

By Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis and Chris Batista

A lot of what I’m told about Booster Gold’s series involves the death of the Blue Beetle way back in Infinite Crisis. That event had such a profound impact on Booster and has made him a more compelling character for the most part. This issue deals with Booster’s mourning process, and also how the death of Ted Kord has been changed by Maxwell Lord’s actions in Generation Lost. Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis are two writers who understand characters like Booster Gold, and this issue is powerful, engaging and emotionally poignant.

Rating: 9/10

Captain America and the Korvac Saga #1 (of 4)

By Ben McCool and Craig Rousseau

This was a lot of fun. There’s something about Marvel’s All Ages books right now that just seems appealing; maybe it’s the fact that they don’t tie themselves down to continuity and anyone who seems out of character gets the benefit of the doubt approach of “well, it’s not in continuity.” That sums up the experience of reading this Captain America story – a new interpretation of an ancient story arc – it’s just a lot of fun; Ben McCool maintains his great sense of drama and quirky style from Choker and the art by Craig Rousseau while overly scratchy in places, isn’t too shabby either. There are a couple of moments where Cap feels woefully out of character, though, but again, this is a completely new continuity and Cap can be written any way McCool feels like writing him. But I’ll say it again: This was a lot of fun!

Rating: 7/10

DCU Holiday Special 2010 #1

By Various Creators

This is the worst holiday special DC has put out in years; out of all the stories, only the Jonah Hex one was even slightly entertaining or engaging. The rest were simple run-of-the-mill stories that just seemed to pad out the whole book. None of DC’s big hitters, save Superman, appear much at all (if at all) and it just feels like a poorly thought-out cash-grab. I’m all for them trying to promote second tier characters with a book that’s guaranteed to sell relatively well, but the least they could do is make then effort and not hand us a collection that’s filled with weak writing and ugly artwork.

Rating: 4/10

Detective Comics Annual #12

By David Hine and Agustin Padilla

With the recent slew of Batman Incorporated titles, this Detective Comics Annual was a surprisingly entertaining read; normally these annuals are reserved for bland storytelling and mediocre artwork, and while this issue isn’t anything special it does continue the status quo established by Grant Morrison to great effect. Bruce and Dick are in Paris, both parading about as Batman, which is nice to see as this strange scenario is reflected in their dialogue and attitude to one another. David Hine has proved himself to be a decent writer when it comes to Batman, and while his work on Azrael has been less than readable, this annual was a lot of fun. The back-up stories, meanwhile, were pale in comparison.

Rating: 7/10

Doc Savage #9

By Ivan Brandon, Brian Azzarello, Jason Starr, Nic Klein and Scott Hampton

Doc Savage is slowly becoming a sleeper hero for me; the series started out with a whimper and over the last few months it’s got better and better – almost the opposite of First Wave, the book that spawned it. This issue sees Doc in a sort of hostage situation; there’s action, humour and thrills as we learn the circumstances of his predicament and the eventual repercussions of it. The story by Ivan Brandon and Brian Azzarello has been tailored specifically to maintain the pulpy feel of the character and his origins, but has been updated enough that everything feels fresh and original. The art by Nic Klein is decent throughout, merging cartoony line art with muted colours and simplistic choreography. This series can only get better, it seems; despite the waning interest in the Justice Inc back-up which is becoming a chore to read.

Rating: 8/10

Fables #100

By Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and Various Others

Fables has never been my favourite series, but I’ve stuck with it for almost 100 issues now. Yes, almost; I haven’t quite caught up with it in trade yet, but as I bought this and wanted to give it the chance to be a highlight of the week I gave it a read. The story was great fun in this issue and although some things didn’t make total sense, I looked past them and just enjoyed myself reading it. The back-ups were great, too, particularly the prose section written by Mark Buckingham and drawn by Bill Willingham. The art throughout was a fantastic thing to behold: Buckingham is on form as ever, Willingham does some nice illustrations and the all-star cast of the back-up section deserve a round of applause. I’ll look back at this when I catch up in trade and re-evaluate, but as a single issue it was well worth the price tag.

Rating: 9/10

First Wave #5 (of 6)

By Brian Azzarello and Rags Morales

The train wreck of First Wave comes to a crashing halt in this penultimate chapter to the mini-series that spawned pulp resurgence. Considering how well this all started it seems almost ironic that it’s ending on such a down-note. The charm and integrity of the story is gone replaced by some wacky, nonsensical action and characters who feel like nothing more than cardboard representations of their source material. Brian Azzarello has proven before that he is a genius, but somehow he’s managed to fail dismally when it comes to this series; unless the final issue of this is spectacular then only a third of it will have been entertaining. It’s upsetting to think that the first two issues of this series were so spectacular and powerful. The art by Rags Morales is the one saving grace of this issue; Morales can’t draw anything that isn’t amazing to look at, but even he has started to slump over the course of this series. It’s not bad, it’s just less spectacular now than earlier in the series, which is surprising as this penultimate instalment was an action-packed piece that should have been marvellous fun.

Rating: 6/10

Flash #7

By Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins

At last, we get a Rogue spotlight; the highlight of Geoff Johns’ previous run on The Flash makes a return as we delve into the origins of Digger Harkness, the original Captain Boomerang. The majority of the issue is told in flashbacks, with the present day showing his infiltration of Iron Heights Prison to confront Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash, and learn of his true purpose following the Brightest Day resurrections. It’s great stuff and Johns clearly has a big plan for the Rogues, particularly Boomerang and Professor Zoom. The art is by Scott Kolins this month, the primary artist from Johns’ previous run; it’s more in-line with Francis Manapul’s style of art this time around, but that’s more down to Kolins’ change in art style. It’s not bad at all, but it’s different if you go in expecting old school Scott Kolins art. Regardless, the Flash is clearly going to become a book you need to be reading in the run-up to Flashpoint in 2011; this is the same quality we were getting from the Green Lantern books pre-Blackest Night. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take a dramatic drop after the event, like the GL books have done.

Rating: 10/10

G. I. Joe Origins #22

By David Lapham and Werther Dell'Edera

Alongside G. I. Joe Cobra, G. I. Joe Origins is arguably the most enjoyable comic book IDW puts out. The fact that G. I. Joe characters can be portrayed in such a dark light is astounding to me; the art is sketchy and brutal, and the writing is absolutely perfect. If you haven’t been reading any of these books then you’re missing out; but this most recent arc is probably a great place to start.

Rating: 10/10

Halcyon #2

By Marc Guggenheim, Tara Butters and Ryan Bodenheim

It seems like a tacky idea, right? What if the super villain saved the world? But in this series that idea works wonderfully. Marc Guggenheim and Tara Butters have done a great job of crafting a world where things aren’t quite what they seem and the villain has become the hero. The art by Ryan Bodenheim is wonderfully representative of this strange world; it looks like standard superhero fare, but looking deeper it shows layers of intricacy and brilliance that feels almost unfathomable. It’s not the best book out there, but you need to give it a try, because it’s certainly one of the most interesting.

Rating: 9/10

Incredible Hulks #618

By Greg Pak and Paul Pelletier

I’ve not been reading Chaos War, so I was hesitant when I picked up this issue due to its tie-in factor. As I soon learned, though, this is how you do a tie-in issue to an event that most people won’t be reading. The Hulks’ involvement in the story was perfectly explained and made sense on the page; Greg Pak is surprising me consistently with how well he writes these characters and Paul Pelletier is blowing me away with this art. That said, it’s starting to grate me, already, that there are so many different Hulk characters around, which is the point of the book; but it just feels wrong. The return of the Abomination for a brief fight was fun and held my interest, but I just want this to go back to being a book about Bruce Banner, because even the normal Hulk book isn’t about him anymore. That aside, this was a lot of fun; you don’t have to be reading Chaos War to enjoy this, but it was good enough that I now have an interest in that event.

Rating: 9/10

Justice League: Generation Lost #15

By Judd Winick and Joe Bennett

Why is Generation Lost not the main Justice League book? The main JLA book is an abysmal waste of paper, while this series focusing on the Justice League International and their search for Maxwell Lord is easily the most fun team book being put out by DC right now. This issue primarily focuses on Max himself as he realises that somehow Wonder Woman has been erased from existence thanks to JMS’ run on her solo book, which is establishing her in a world of her own. It’s weird to comprehend that no one has realised Diana is gone, but this book hits the nail on the head when it comes to the harsh reality of hopelessness. There’s also some nice character development between Booster Gold and Captain Atom as the latter finds himself labelled as public enemy number one following Max’s latest scheme to ruin the JLI’s lives. This is absolutely fantastic stuff and if you’ve missed out, I strongly recommend picking up the trade early next year.

Rating: 10/10

Knight and Squire #3 (of 6)

By Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton

Maybe it’s the fact I’m English, but Knight and Squire is just a lot of fun. When Grant Morrison penned the characters throughout his run on the regular Batman book, and even when they popped up in Batman and Robin, they weren’t very likeable. In fact, they offended me. But Paul Cornell has turned them into charming and engaging characters; they are fully rounded and their adventures speak to me as someone who appreciates our culture here in England. The fact that Richard III returns as a psychotic super villain is just one example of Cornell's growing genius; the man may not be great when it comes to British television (say what you will, his Doctor Who episodes are awful), he knows comic books! This is a fascinatingly great read and maybe that’s only because I see it as the DC equivalent of Captain Britain.

Rating: 10/10

Let Me In: Crossroads #1 (of 4)

By Marc Andreyko and Patric Reynolds

Let the Right One In is one of my favourite novels of the last few years and both film adaptations are spectacular, so obviously, this comic book was a no-brainer purchase, but was almost certainly going to be disappointing. Surprisingly, though, it wasn’t disappointing; this is a great representation of the characters from the Americanised version of the story, portrayed through the comic book format. They look like the actors who play them, but in that Buffy style where they also look different enough to not be jarring constantly. Marc Andreyko is clearly a fan of the material, and of horror in general, penning a tale that is deeply disturbing and gritty while grounded in reality and the reality of the story. The art by Patric Reynolds is wonderful, too; it’s a scratchy, crime-noir style with just enough edge to achieve originality and flair. This is a must-read if you’re a fun of the novel or the films; a frightening and poetic look at the world of vampires.

Rating: 10/10

Muppet Sherlock Holmes #4 (of 4)

By Patrick Storck and Amy Mebberson

The Muppets and Sherlock Holmes are not a combination which comes to mind immediately, but they are undoubtedly a combination that warrants abundant praise. This mini-series recounting Sherlock Holmes adventures with Muppet characters and their general style of humour has been an absolute joy to read. Yes, it’s not always funny; some of the jokes are so clearly aimed at children that no adult could find them amusing, but that’s part of the charm of the Muppets. This final issue incorporated elements from The Final Problem, Holmes’ epic duel with Moriarty and managed to make it wonderfully silly and slapstick. If you didn’t read this series pick it up in trade; it’s great fun.

Rating: 8/10

New Avengers #7

By Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen

Following the last issue’s action-packed resolution, this epilogue feels like this team of Avengers finally coming into their own. It’s an extremely talky issue, dealing with the characters more than anything else; Spider-Man is picked out as the only Avenger not to receive a paycheck because of his identity being a secret from the team and his realisation that Victoria Hand worked for Norman Osborn was handled well. There’s also some great Luke Cage stuff here that shows how far Brian Michael Bendis has come as a writer; no longer is Cage a stereotypical thug, now he’s a true leader of heroes, a man of principle more than anything else. The art by Stuart Immonen continues to dominate, however, and serves as the primary reason for buying this series; it’s such a shame he’s leaving in a couple of issues to be replaced by Mike Deodato. Sigh.

Rating: 10/10

Northlanders #35

By Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan

It’s astounding that this series has passed me by, but the cover of this issue, the promise of a self-contained story unrelated to anything that’s come before and the guarantee of some Becky Cloonan art meant that I read it. And it’s warranted the purchase of all thirty-four issues prior in some form or other. This is an astounding piece of work; Brian Wood is a truly poetic writer – I wasn’t a huge fan of the first DMZ trade so that series hasn’t been pursued either, but this is just an incredibly emotional portrait of an old man looking for answers in the wilderness. Becky Cloonan’s art is as fantastic as ever, and the whole experience has rubbed me the right way so that now I feel obliged to have a look at the next issue of DMZ to see if I’m missing out on Wood’s work there.

Rating: 10/10

Project Superpowers Christmas Special #1

By Brandon Jerwa and Patrick Berkenkotter

Maybe it’s because I’ve never read Project Superpowers before and all I’ve heard is bad things that this book was something of a surprise to me when I sat down to read it. It wasn’t bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but it just didn’t capture me like I had anticipated it. I’m a sucker for Christmas specials, and this felt forced and contrived; but maybe, that’s because I don’t know the characters at all. This issue was essentially a riff on A Christmas Carol, one of my favourite stories of all time; that part, I liked – we get three separate stories that all relate to the grander scheme of things. But whereas the Batman Christmas Special from oh-so-many years ago covered the same ground fantastically well, this fell flat. Again, it might be my problem more than the book’s. The art in here was fairly decent throughout; there were some gorgeous images, but a lot of the time it felt fairly mundane and average. This special has intrigued me when it comes to Project Superpowers enough to constitute a look back at the first story, but if this was an example of what I’ll find there, I’ll be glad to have missed it.

Rating: 5/10

R.E.B.E.L.S. #23

By Tony Bedard and Claude St. Aubin

This arc has been my first exposure to R.E.B.E.L.S. and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’m still not completely certainly what that acronym stands for, or who this series is about, but so far what I’ve read has been a fun tale focusing on Adam Strange, John Stewart and two Green Lanterns with little-to-no skill or intellect. Tony Bedard isn’t my favourite writer by any stretch of the imagination, but here he’s penned a story that engages and manages to hold interest for the whole arc. There was a sub-plot here that caught my eye, too, involving the return of a sinister villain who’s been around for as long as there have been DC comic book team-ups. I’ve never seen any art by Claude St. Aubin, but it’s a decent style that captures the right mood throughout. This is definitely a series I’ll be checking out more thanks to this arc; hopefully the next will be just as good.

Rating: 9/10

Red Robin #18

By Fabian Nicieza and Marcus To

One of the most consistent Batman books of the last two years has been Red Robin (and Robin, before it). The adventures of Tim Drake have been the most serious outside of Grant Morrison’s work, focusing on the realities of being a crimefighter and maintaining a secret identity in the modern world. This issue sees Red Robin travel to Russia to investigate a connection between a businessman and a sinister criminal network. The story by Fabian Nicieza is a lot of fun, highlighting the heroism and power of Tim Drake as a character and also his strained relationship with fellow superheroes. The art by Marcus To is great, as ever, offering us a vibrant and energetic look into the world of teen superheroes and globetrotting adventure.

Rating: 8/10

Shadowland: After the Fall #1

By Anthony Johnston, Marco Checchetto and Roberto De La Torre

The aftermath of Shadowland, while certainly just as predictable as the event itself, has certainly been more fun to read; the progression of the Daredevil book into the new Black Panther series has been interesting, and this one-shot appears as a capper to the thing – one last epilogue. Antony Johnston has been one of my favourite under-the-radar creators since his work on Queen and Country with Greg Rucka – here he gives life and emotion to the entire Daredevil supporting cast and wraps up Andy Diggle’s tale neatly, while leaving the door open for the new status quo. The art by Robertyo De La Torre and Marco Checchetto evokes Michael Lark throughout and manages to carry on the style and image of Daredevil from the last few years. There’s only one problem with this, though; it’s almost identical to Daredevil #512, which was also an epilogue to Shadowland. This isn’t as a problem as that was the best issue of the event, but this does seem rehashed and plodding because of it. To someone who has only been reading the mini-series, though, this would be the perfect capper to Marvel’s turkey of the year.

Rating: 8/10

Stan Lee's Starborn #1

By Chris Roberson and Khary Randolph

None of the Stan Lee books released so far have grabbed my attention in any way, but Starborn intrigued me. I’m a big fan of space operas, and a hero in space is just what I need to fill the void left by Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy. This was not only a good choice on my part, but it was absolutely fantastic; Chris Roberson has taken Stan Lee’s idea and turned it into a fully realised, wonderfully presented world – and the craziest part? It’s not even a space opera...yet! The art by Khary Randolph works brilliantly with the story, complementing it throughout and it just intrigues on every conceivable level. If you aren’t planning on picking up Starborn, reconsider your decision – its well worth your time and effort.

Rating: 9/10

Superboy #2

By Jeff Lemire and Pier Gallo

This is my favourite Superman-related books, outside Action Comics. Jeff Lemire has made me care about a character who, prior to this series, I had little-to-no interest in whatsoever. Connor Kent is wonderfully engaging, though; his role as Superboy is powerful and his interactions with his own Lex Luthor and Poison Ivy throughout this issue are fantastic and demonstrate a man who will go on to rival the integrity of the big guy himself. The only problem with this issue, other than the slow pace, is the fact that Lemire isn’t drawing it; there’s nothing wrong with the art, but having Lemire on this book would be a fantastic thing to behold in every respect.

Rating: 8/10

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2

By Nick Spencer and Cafu

Nick Spencer just as a knack for penning amazing concepts; “Morning Glories” has been a spectacular series, and this new superhero book from DC sees him branching out and using the team dynamic to great effect. This issue focuses on a THUNDER Agents mission, featuring the new team and highlighting the speedster of the group and the arduous experience of using the superpower that makes him a member of the team. The art by Cafu is amazing; I don’t know where this guy came from but his style is wonderful to behold. Everything about this is great, and it can only get better!

Rating: 10/10

Terry Moore's Echo #26

By Terry Moore

Terry Moore got me. In this final run-up to the end of Echo, he’s managed to pull a fast-one and twist the story in a way I never expected. As we build towards what’s sure to be an epic climax, he offers us a last page reveal that could be the most important moment in Indie comics since he wrapped up Strangers in Paradise. Is the reveal really real? Or is this all some nasty trick? Are Echo and SiP in the same continuity? We’ll find out next issue, but for now it’s blown me away.

Rating: 10/10

Thor #618

By Matt Fraction and Pasqual Ferry

I’m starting to think that Matt Fraction’s work reads better in trade paperback. Invincible Iron Man is a tough nut to crack month-to-month, while Uncanny X-Men is fun but lifeless in small chunks. Thor manages to be the inbetweener; the one book that is constantly fun, but tough to get into every four or five weeks. This issue continues Fraction’s tale and brings Odin into the mix, something which I’ve been waiting for personally; and this was certainly the best issue of the run outside of the first instalment (which was the perfect first issue). The art by Pasqual Ferry is as gorgeous as it’s ever been, but I do worry that at times it can become lifeless and unengaging, but for the most part – and throughout this issue – it meshes perfectly with Fraction’s interpretation of Thor. If you’ve missed this so far, check out the trade; it’s worth a go, at least.

Rating: 8/10

Tiny Titans/Little Archie #3 (of 3)

By Art Baltazar and Franco

This was so awesome it can be summed up in one quote from a headless Batman: “Who are you? You have an R on your shirt but you’re not Robin! I’m a Detective, y’know. I can tell.” That made this book absolutely, hilariously perfect. That, and Batman's subsequent conversation with Joker about coming to pick up his daughter from the Bat Cave. There was no logic there, but it was wonderfully funny. If you don’t love Tiny Titans (and Little Archie), who stole your childhood?

Rating: 10/10

Uncle Scrooge #398

By Carl Barks and Haroldo Guimaraes

There are two stories in this issue of Uncle Scrooge, both of which manage to hark back to a time when Saturday morning characters were exceptionally fun. The first story involving a time travelling belt feels just like a DuckTales episode; the story is fun, but relatively simple and the art is absolutely gorgeous. The second is more like a classic Disney cartoon of days gone by – it’s just as wonderfully written, and the art is just as fabulous – but it feels like a completely different style. Both are perfect and demonstrate just why this book is such fun for kids (and big kids) of all ages.

Rating: 9/10

Widowmaker #1 (of 4)

By Jim McCann and David Lopez

For the first time in a while I’m glad to be reading a Hawkeye book. That’s not meant to be a slight against Jim McCann’s Hawkeye and Mockingbird series, but this book was such an enjoyable read that it made me reassess why I hadn’t loved that series completely. It’s because I like just seeing Hawkeye and Mockingbird taking on unimaginable odds and coming out on top; and for the first time ever I’m interested in the Ronin persona of Hawkeye’s life and the origins of it. Yes, this was meant to be the next issue of Hawkeye and Mockingbird, and yes it probably would have still been fantastic as that comic book, but as its own series it’s the perfect jumping on point for anyone who’s wanted a Hawkeye series that focuses on the things that make him such an enduring character.

Rating: 9/10