Welcome back to another edition of Top of the Pile where the staff of Comic Vine discusses some of their favorite books from the past month. In April, we saw a lot of new series, new stories, and books we couldn't put down. It was the end of SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN and the start for SINESTRO. Let's see what books grabbed the staff and wouldn't let go.
I can’t get enough of Zero Year. I know some are ready for the story to be over but with so many other Batman titles, including the new (and good) weekly series, I have no problem with one series focusing on the early days of Batman’s career. The fact that it’s written by Scott Snyder doesn’t hurt either. Snyder is taking everything we thought we knew about those early days and turning it all on its side. This is such a grand and funky adventure. It feels a little over-the-top but also has a pretty epic feel. Greg Capullo’s art is phenomenal, as usual. Brilliant inks and colors as well. It’s all a crazy good time. That’s what I want in a Batman comic. I want to have a good time while reading.
This was a fun ride. While the book came out when SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN was just wrapping up, there was a strange feeling seeing Peter Parker back. This was a story that could happen pretty much at anytime. Written by Mark Waid and James Robinson, we had an exciting and high-flying spy action thriller with Spider-Man involved. We’ve seen him hover in this area a little when working with Silver Sable in the past but this was a different kind of Spider-Man story. And I want more. The idea of Peter having a sister completely worked. I was extremely reluctant at first but Waid and Robinson told a convincing story. If all that wasn’t enough, the art is mind-blowing. This was a hardcover worthy of being added to the personal collection.
We had a lot of gorgeous books this month. The first thing that stands out is the Michael Del Mundo’s art. We’ve been used to seeing him do covers lately and getting full interiors was something else. Elektra is a character that has had many different interpretations. The idea of a someone that’s been turned into a cold-blooded assassin as the lead character of a series might not be the easiest thing to pull off. But Haden Blackman nails it. Having an acknowledgement to past events and characterizations, you get a feel that he understands the character. And that last page! I was excited before and during reading this comic but what the heck can we expect in issue #2? It’s gonna be insane.
Iron Fist is a cool character. He’s been missing for too long. Marvel’s been doing a great job in bringing back the focus on individual characters over team books. Having an Iron Fist series again lets us see more about this character many take for granted. From the previous IMMORTAL IRON FIST, we know there are different layers to the character. Right now, Danny is in a dark place. While sometimes seen as a little on the bright and chipper side, that’s not necessarily who is always is. Kaare Andrews takes us down a dark journey as Danny fights a horde of ninja. This may be just the first issue but with the flashbacks and the cliffhanger at the end, I can’t wait for more.
I have a new favorite Avengers series. I love Ales Kot’s writing. (ZERO #7 came super-close to making this list). I do dig the other Avengers titles but there’s almost too much going on. This is far from a typical Avengers series. With a bridge and connection to SHIELD, there definitely is a nice and different flavor. I’ve always been lukewarm to Maria Hill’s character. I really like her here. The idea of Coulson and Nick Fury Jr in comics was one that made me roll my eyes, but again, Kot sells it completely. Also having Black Widow, Spider-Woman, and Hawkeye (who isn’t part of the team!) is great and of course…MODOK. All of this is wrapped beautifully by Michael Walsh. I love his art and am thrilled he’s on board.
Well, this issue doesn't really have anything to do with the upcoming Original Sin storyline, but it was a ton of fun. It's a great introduction to the characters and their missions in the Marvel Universe, so it is the PERFECT place for a new reader to jump on before the event starts.
This issue was just a ton of fun and really gave us insight into the new Nova and a ton of insight into Uatu. If you ever had any questions about who Uatu is or why he's on the moon, it's all answered here. This was an amazingly satisfying issue.
Normally, I have a bit of a problem with books that just jump from event to event. I like books to have a bit of breathing room; however, what Robert Venditti is doing with X-O MANOWAR is utterly brilliant. Things flow and transition into each other very well, and this is an issue that will read even better in trade.
This issue really expands on X-O Manowar's universe as the reader learns that there's more than one armor in the universe and there's a whole team of beings hunting down those who wear the armor. This leads right into "Armor Hunters." It may not be a good jumping on point, but it was an awesome issue.
When this book originally came out, I couldn't help but wonder "how is this going to work?" While the first issue was great, this second issue was a real "Ahh-ha" moment for me as a reader. Secretly, I call this book "The Magneto Murder Mystery Hour." Aside from sounding like a radio show from the 40s, this really is a detective book with an extremely violent flare to it. Cullen Bunn has crafted a story, starring a villain, that really keeps the reader invested. This past issue jumps back and forth between Magneto's past in WWII and present day, which gave this a giant emotional impact.
I knew little to nothing about Rai. I didn't read Valiant books back in the day, and this is a character that hasn't been introduced into the modern-day Valiant universe. However, I really jumped on board with this book when I saw Clayton Crain was doing the art. His work, mainly on Carnage-related books, in the past, really impressed me, and not to take anything away from RAI writer Matt Kindt, but Crain was my draw and he doesn't disappoint. Writer Matt Kindt sets this book up nicely and really does a great job at fleshing out this futuristic world. It didn't have the same impact on me as the opening to X-O MANOWAR or ARCHER & ARMSTRONG, but I can't wait to keep reading this series.
I've been a big fan of this series since the digital days, way back when. I love the concept and I love how writer Josh Fialkov has been building up these characters and really developing them. This issue in particular was a bit depressing, but it's a bit more character development as it deals with Grady stepping up to be the hero, but also cuts back to the past where Grady met Heidi and Billy. During those scenes, though, artist Joe Infurnari's colors really pop and give the impression their future was bright. This is one fantastic issue and series.
There's a lot of Marvel characters I love and honestly, the Son of Odin has never been one of them. Well, this series has changed that. Jason Aaron has turned me into a Thor fan. Aaron's writing has remained consistently strong throughout his run and this latest story is immensely entertaining. From an epic clash between old Galactus and King Thor (with equally epic banter) to Thor tackling a whole new kind of threat, this latest story has been nothing short of excellent. I'm seriously loving every page this guy writes for this series and, to top it all off, Esad Ribic is providing the art for the latest story. Ribic's grand work is the perfect compliment to Aaron's insanely engrossing script. THOR: GOD OF THUNDER is without questions one of the best comic books currently out there. Do yourself a favor and give it a shot.
Ghostbusters is just one of the many franchises that brought an immense amount of happiness into my childhood. I loved the cartoon, the movies, the toys, etc. So when I found out Erik Burnham, the co-writer of TMNT: SECRET HISTORY OF THE FOOT CLAN, was writing a new volume for the iconic team, I couldn't help but check it out. I enjoyed what he was doing, but with all that's on my pull list, I'll shamefully admit that I fell behind. However, issue #13 marked the start of a story called Mass Hysteria! Why does that matter, you ask? Because it's essentially a follow-up to the first two films -- two projects that I obviously love and hold close to my heart. And let me tell you, Burnham's doing a fantastic job crafting a story that feels like a 3rd film. He not only delivers on nostalgia, but the characters are spot on, there's so much joy in the character interactions, and the overall narrative is legitimately fun. Throw in Dan Schoening's energetic and animated visuals and you've got a story that has my undivided attention. Seriously, if you dug the original movies, you need to read Mass Hysteria!
Leo's leading the team once again and they're back in the city. All is right in the world. Oh, except for the fact that Shredder and his forces have taken control of the Big Apple. This 33rd chapter kicked off a whole new story arc, so if you've been looking for a jumping on spot, this is it (though I do recommend eventually picking up City Fall/Northampton trades). Tom Waltz and the other creative minds at IDW use this issue to establish the latest story arc's big challenge, but they also use it to hone in on a very complex relationship: Casey Jones and his father, Hun. It may not get the waterworks going, but it's a surprisingly gripping and emotional exchange and, by the time it's over, you'll definitely be left wondering what this will mean for both of them as the story progresses. Oh, and how could I forget to mention this is also Mateus Santolouco's return to the series! Don't miss out on this, TMNT fans.
"Valiant released another quality title? I'm shocked!" said no one ever. Matt Kindt is doing something truly special with this book: he's creating a whole new vision of the future. Seeing as it's just the first issue, there's a lot to take in as new elements of this world are put front and center, but it's full of intrigue and leaves you on a note that's sure to make you pick up the next chapter. Plus, Clayton Crain is stunning. There's some brilliant pages here and your eyes will thank you for the experience.
I've already used the word "love" 3 times in my blurbs, but I have to use it again: I love FIVE WEAPONS. Jimmie Robinson's fictional world is simply a fun and character-driven adventure. It's a concept that has the potential to be dark, gritty, violent... you know, the usual, but he instead shapes it into a story that can be appreciated and enjoyed by readers of any age. It's consistently smart and every cliffhanger keeps you guessing what'll happen next. Clever, lighthearted and exciting, FIVE WEAPONS is a book that continues entertain.
Honorable Mentions: X-O MANOWAR #24, DEAD BODY ROAD #5
SOME might call this issue ham-fisted and "too meta for its own good." While I can't say these people are entirely WRONG, I will say that I can't bring myself to CARE whether or not it is. Remender commits an amazing swerve, taking us to the bizarre, entertainment-junkie Mojoverse, where a plan is hatched to assemble a crew of supernatural-hunting, monster defending Avengers...instead we got an incredible send-up of young, pretty supernatural people with young, pretty, supernatural problems (I cannot believe that's an accurate appraisal of a genre) and, from there, goes on to poke incredible fun at both the comic industry and pop entertainment in general. But it never crosses the line to being TOO mean-spirited, which really makes it work for me. We also get Paul Renaud handling all of the art for this larger-than-usual issue, which is an impressive feat in and of itself. This book was created to appeal to a very, very specific subset of fan, and I just happen to be in that subset. I consider myself lucky.
No one can escape the legend of the Five Star Mustache and no one leaves before they're improved. This issue gives us a look at Supergirl acclimating to her new Red Lantern role with an incredible quickness, even making a new friend in Bleez. The pleasantries are short-lived, however, as we get our most interesting new Red Lantern yet and a look at how the storyline of the Reds will proceed: two factions recruiting newcomers as fast as they can. I love that this story addressed something I hadn't thought of: Guy's deal with Hal means that ALL Reds have free access to Earth, not just pre-approved ones. Meaning that if Atrocitus builds his numbers, he'll be free to operate on Earth, and other worlds, as he sees fit. This is a storyline absolutely bursting with potential.
Wait, WHAT'S this book about, again? After issue 1 gave us a more dapper, crime-solving Moon Knight, this one takes us back to a more militaristic, costumed fighter, but Marc Spector is actually barely even in this story. The tale of a displaced sniper that was a part of Spector's mercenary group is just as compelling as last issue, and maintains many of themes and tone of a horror story. Warren Ellis seems content to write standalone issues that make use of Declan Shalvey's stellar art. The pacing on this book is absolutely immaculate, both in the lead up and the fight itself, and the story is told with a kind of surreal beauty. I can't tell if the book is going to be a series of disconnected issues or if they'll all unite at some point, and I can't see myself caring if they're all this good.
So...how 'bout that controversial subject matter, huh? It sure was...uncomfortable to read. Robert Kirkman doesn't shy away from unpleasant subjects in any of his books and Invincible has never been an exception, but I'm actually MORE interested in seeing how he handles the fallout. He's gone to a tragically common comic book trope, one that's been misused across the years, but I have faith that the King of the Nested Plot Point isn't just going to leave this to be a footnote in Invincible's history. Ryan Ottley continues to have some of the best linework in the business and this can't have been a comfortable issue to draw, but he never shies away from letting the reader know EXACTLY how disgusted they should feel, and disgusted I am, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Eliciting an emotional response should be the goal of all art, now let's see if they can capitalize on it in a psychologically realistic way.
I absolutely adore the transformation Thaal Sinestro has undergone in the last several years, from outright arch-villain to complex villain. It may not SEEM like a large transformation, but I'd say it's the key to doing something like maintaining your own series. Much is made about series that focus on villains and how hard they are to maintain because the reader is actively rooting against them, but when Sinestro is written right, he has a kind of twisted charisma AND he's trying to reign in a group that's much worse than him. All the ingredients are here, including Cullen Bunn and Dale Eaglesham bringing the character to entirely new places in the New-52. One of the best things about this series is that I have no idea where it's going, and that is often enough, but having such a strong character and creative team at its core definitely doesn't hurt.
That's it for another edition of Top of the Pile. Let us know what your five favorite books for April were in the comment section below!