It's now September, so it's time to quietly reflect on the past month and determine which books made us smile, which books had us on the edge of our seats, and which books made us cry. It's time for Top of the Pile, where we discuss our top 5 favorite issues from the month prior. This week is special because it was typed by the tears of infinite sadness. Ok, let's get down to business.
This issue marked the end of the first arc and the end of Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s run on the series. They had always intended on just doing the one arc and many of us cried upon hearing the news.
For a final issue, they really went out with a bang. Each issue in the series has been self-contained. The story here had a bit of a connection to the first issue. A character seen is fleshed out and transformed in a way we don’t often get to see. We don’t usually witness the affect super-heroes have on the average citizen. It was both fascinating and disturbing at the same time. As you become mesmerized by the story, art, and colors (by Jordie Bellaire), you can’t help but feel some of the despair as the story is a bit of a downer. It just has incredible visuals to pump it up.
I felt a little silly when writing the review for this issue. It’s by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Based on their track record, that’s reason enough to pick up a new series. Having color by Elizabeth Breitweiser made a great thing even greater.
THE FADE OUT takes us to Hollywood in the late 1940s. There’s the expected noir feel as we see the day after a murder has occurred. Through flashbacks, we see some of the events leading up to the event. The storytelling is fantastic. We are introduced to a different set of characters and the mystery and intrigue will suck you in.
Grant Morrison what are you up to? The long-awaited story begins here. Morrison starts off the story in a way only he can. With the idea of the DC Multiverse and all the unknown aspects of it, we get to see some different parts along with characters you wouldn’t normally expect to see. It’s a crazy adventure and you won’t have any idea what’s coming next. That’s just part of the fun.
It was another sad day when it came time to read the final Jonah Hex story from Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. They’ve had an incredible 100+ issue run with the character but now it’s time to say farewell to the gunslinger.
Joined by Darwyn Cooke, this last issue gives some closure to recent events and the series. When Jonah traveled to modern day Gotham City, he discovered some facts about his death. With the idea of someone using his name and reputation for their own gain, the question was, would Jonah use it as a chance to ride off into the sunset with Tallula Black or risk fate and confront the impostor? Palmiotti, Gray, and Cooke have delivered a great ending. I feel like my pull list will definitely feel a little emptier now.
Scott Snyder, Gerry Duggan, and Matteo Scalera deliver an interesting one-shot story that allows readers to catch their breath after Zero Year. Oddly set after the events of BATMAN ETERNAL, we get a tiny glimpse at the state Gotham City is left it. More importantly, we get some good old fashion Batman action. There’s a killer on the loose hunting and killing the meek of Gotham. It’s time for Batman to hit the streets and find the killer that no one has really noticed. It’s an interesting side story and the art by Matteo Scalera is just right for the story. Scalera is doing a great job on his Image book but it’d be nice to see him return to Gotham every now and then.
It's the start of a brand new arc in the life of Jackson Winters: that guy who always happens to be around ghosts. Ok, there's actually more to it than just that, which was suggested in issue #11, and you can even go back earlier to see some other hidden gems in opening issues.
I was super happy to see Oliver King return to the book, even though he's a bit of a jerk in this issue. We do get a really nice set-up for the next arc, which features the son of a well-known character causing a bit of chaos in the world. The best part of this issue was the concept of a "death wish." Writer Joshua Williamson has me completely hooked. Then again, I've been like that since issue one. Davide Gianfelice rejoins the book on color with Miroslav Mrva on colors. The book looks great and this is a series you'd be silly not to read.
My heart is still broken upon hearing the news that SUPERIOR FOES had been cancelled. It's easy to call this series not only my favorite team book at Marvel, but one of my overall favorite on-going books in general. However, we only have a couple issues left, but luckily, issue #14 was the "jam."
Did you ever want to know Overdrive's secret origin? No? Too bad! This one was fantastic read. Not only is Overdrive's origin extremely underwhelming, it's actually an incredibly fun read. Spencer and Lieber take the reader on a journey through mediocrity which is a blast to read.
I had to play a game of catch-up in order to get on board with the third arc of THE STRAIN, but I was sure glad I did. I'm only reading the comic, so I don't know how everything plays out yet, but since I was enjoying the show so much, I'd like to see where everything is headed.
This first issue gives us a look into who is The Master and where he comes from.It's weird that it took this long for the reader to find this information out, but it ends up being incredibly exciting to read and executed extremely well. The story continues for Ephraim and company and it's pretty dang grim. If you're loving the show, you really need to check out the Dark Horse book. It's pretty rad.
I had a tough debate this week. Do I want X-O MANOWAR #28 on this list or ARMOR HUNTERS #3? When it really came down it to, while they were both great issues, X-O MANOWAR ended up being a bit more well-rounded in terms of pacing and storytelling over ARMOR HUNTERS.
This is the third and final part of the story of where the Armor Hunters came from. If you've been reading X-O, then you know that earlier on Aric ran into Malgam, who was wearing an armor. The story here is all about Reebo doing what he can to save Malgam's life, when they were both hunters. It's a fantastic conclusion to this story and writer Robert Venditti nails it out of the park again.
THE LIFE AFTER hits me in this weird place. As I've mentioned on the podcast before, I've had some pretty rough battles with depression, and somehow, a book about a purgatory-like place for suicides sits really well with me. Well, now you know too much about me... Anyway, we're still discovering a lot about the world and the main character Jude, who is paired up with Ernest Hemingway.
Conceptually, writing Joshua Fialkov is doing some amazing things in comics right now, between this and THE BUNKER. This book is so cool and engaging. He and artist Gabo really have e hooked. THE LIFE AFTER isn't the happiest of books, but it's done in an incredibly entertaining way and has a great sense of humor about something pretty dark.
This series has been consistently good, but man, this issue was really good! The premise is simple: Shredder reaches out to General Krang and offers a truce. Fans have been waiting to see more interaction between the universe's two big bads and this issue delivered the goods and then some. Writer Tom Waltz's script was full of intensity and the dialogue between the two had me anxious to see what would happen. Then boom, it goes above and beyond and turns into an issue full of hugely entertaining action. Not only do we get a brand new mutant, but we see a proper showdown between the two fiends and it ends on a note that leaves me feeling bad for the Ninja Turtles. They thought they had it rough enough already? Imagine how crazy things are going to get now that Shredder and Krang are at war!
Artist Cory Smith was a totally welcome addition to the book and made these scenes every bit as gripping and exciting as they should be. You all know I'm a big TMNT fan, but this was a seriously good issue that built the hype for what's to come and delivered some major fan service. And yes, it's a jumping on spot, so go get it!
Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. finally say goodbye to Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl. The series has its fair share of over-the-top violence and a steady stream of colorful dialogue, but Millar switched things up and ended the series on a note very few of you will see coming. It's a pretty simple message yet it's one that's sure to really resonate with the reader -- it was a great way to close to the series. Sure, there's still plenty of graphic content that you've come to expect from this one, but it goes for a surprisingly warm and emotional ending. It works well and feels like a really appropriate way to say goodbye. You'll be missed, KICK-ASS.
Marvel's publishing some mighty fine comics, but ELEKTRA is without question one of my favorites. It's character-driven, loaded with thrilling and visceral action, and has some of the best and most mind-blowing artwork that is 100% guaranteed to keep you staring at each and every panel. While this chapter technically does end the first arc, it also does a more than promising job teasing what comes next and gives us a smooth transition into it. It's not just "Hey, this story is over, so check back next month to see where we take Elektra next!" Elements of this narrative are moving forward and I'm legitimately excited to see what'll happen with these characters. Simply put, ELEKTRA is awesome.
Stjepan Šejić's DEATH VIGIL is ridiculously charming and wonderful. I'm not even that fond of the fantasy genre and I adore this book. Basically, you have the Death Vigil, a.k.a. the forces of good, trying to protect the land of the living from dark forces. Yeah, you've heard that premise a gazillion times before, but DEATH VIGIL leaves an impression because it's pure fun. Okay, it's not all fun and games, but these characters are so likable, there's plenty of dialogue that'll make you smile or laugh, and the artwork is every bit as charming and amazing as the script. Go into this one with an open mind and it's very likely you'll fall in love with it -- I sure did.
I know Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino still have a FUTURES END issue with Oliver Queen, but man, it's such a bummer knowing this was their last issue with the current Green Arrow. However, they ended the Broken story like champions and did a terrific job departing the book. Yes, I was disappointed by how the conflict with Richard Dragon was resolved, but it was still a gorgeous and dramatic conclusion overall and the final scene felt like their way of leaving Oliver with a bright and promising future. I sincerely hope the next team keeps Emiko around; it would be really, really unfortunate if they just write this lovable character out of the picture. Those last few pages made me really bummed out that this creative team is leaving, but it is what it is and now I can only hope that the book continues to rock. On the bright side, at least Lemire and Sorrentino left us with some great stories, right? I know I'll definitely collect The Outsiders War and Broken when they're released as trades. Thanks for the memories, GREEN ARROW.
MOON KNIGHT #6
Of course the only issue of Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire's masterpiece that contains internal continuity not only ties all the way back to the first issue, not only closes the creators' run out, but refers back to a background character. That sums up this strange, wonderful journey we've been on for the last half-year as we take one of Marvel's most beloved B-list (and that may be being generous) for some of his best stories ever published. It's also appropriate that this last issue should put a solid bit of punctuation on the character's thesis and gives the new team a solid jumping-off point. The visuals are stunning as well, the action at the end of the issue flowing with a kind of brutal beauty from one panel to the next and the increasing madness of the issue's protagonist subtly becoming worse and worse from page to page. Altogether, this issue even more than the last ones was something that could have ONLY been done with this character, and that's a wonderful thing to achieve.
Grant Morrison has apparently been talking about Multiversity off and on for close to a decade and, going off of this first issue, the wait may very well wind up being worth it. Not only is this issue particularly easy-to-follow, an important qualifier to make as anyone who's read THE FILTH or THE INVISIBLES can attest to, but the concept alone is worth exploring. This is a strange, wonderful issue that wastes absolutely no time in developing its core cast and making them compelling right out of the gate. There are a lot of big ideas on display here, but they're well-explained and thought out without descending into ponderousness but simultaneously some of the strangest stuff I've seen in comics. Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Nei Ruffino handle, somehow, this book's bizarre visual language and make everything look sharp (except where it needs to look unclear) and make sure the reader's eye stays on-course. This book has an absolutely wild level of visual diversity, but it never looks out of place or clashes with one another. And the fact that it takes place outside of the New-52 means that readers won't have to contend with whether or not they know exactly when and where this is happening and who it relates to. And that, alone, is reason enough to celebrate it.
I seriously grappled with putting both issues #22 and #23 on this list, but ultimately decided to stick with the most recent one. The cascade of incredible, insane reveals in this title is nothing short of astounding, and this issue ends with the most jaw-dropping one yet (give our weekly podcast a listen to hear a real-time reaction to it!). But any great reveal, no matter how great, does not a highlight make and it's a good thing this issue is strong and solid from beginning to end. Jonathan Hickman left us off on a huge cliffhanger, another Incursion coming and no one in the Illuminati with any particular desire to annihilate yet another planet to stop it. This issue follows the various members on their proverbial "last day on Earth." Jonathan Hickman continues to demonstrate an absolute mastery of a cast of characters that includes some of the most difficult to write for across Marvel's history. The emotional resonance of this title is carried, as well, by Kev Walker and Frank Martin's hard-lined, jagged visual style. This is a small, intimate issue, and their visual style is perfectly well-suited to that, giving a surprising diversity to the actions, and reactions, of all the characters as they contemplate the ultimate form of mortality.
We are FINALLY back to what originally got me so fascinated in this series: analysis of whatever strange, horrid creatures populate this bizarre, mythical North American wilderness. From the hideous, giant toads dwelling in the river to the massive mosquitoes that have an even darker characteristic than being...well massive mosquitoes. Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni have created a story that has massive potential for longterm plots and endless storytelling opportunities. I've always had a soft spot for alternate history stories and this is one of the most unique ones out there while also being one of the most obvious. And that's not a criticism, I just honestly can't believe no one made a well-known story out of the concept of Lewis and Clarke's notes all actually being true. The characters may behave somewhat historically inaccurately at times, but they're interesting and unique enough that it's easy to look past those minor flaws.
MS. MARVEL has a beautiful, bright sense of whimsy and wonder so all-encompassing that it infects even the most curmudgeonly and grouchy characters that stumble into the title. On an unrelated note: this issue continues Kamala Khan's team-up with Wolverine and it continues to be one of the most consistently hilarious adventures I've read in years. G. Willow Wilson writes charm, comedy and a sense of bouncy wonder and manages to balance it against enough action that the book, while completely appropriate for all ages, never feels childish. This issue also brings us more, though not enough, of the clone of Thomas Edison crossed with a cockatiel. I can't emphasize enough that that is a real character in this issue. Jake Wyatt and Ian Herring's visuals compliment Wilson's writing style, infusing the book with a manga-inspired style that never becomes as cloying as that style has a tendency to do. It's downplayed, which isn't to say the visuals are subtle, but they don't need to be in an issue like this and they make it a joy to read.
That's it for our wrap-up of our favorite books from August! Let us know i the comment section what your favorite books of last month were. See you guys next month!