At the end of each month, the Comic Vine staff takes a look at their favorite books from the past month and lets you know what's at the Top of the Pile. Last month, we saw picks from all across the board from HAWKEYE to SHADOWMAN. This month was quite a bit tougher since there were so many awesome books to choose from.
Let's get right to it! Here are the staff picks for January, 2013!
Tony "G-Man" Guerrero
Matt Fraction and Mike Allred. That's all it takes to get me hooked. The fact that the two work together so perfectly makes the reading experience even better. FF was seen as an odd title when the roster was revealed. Fraction is taking that and is showing there was a reason behind his choice of characters. This isn't exactly a high-octane, full of action and adventure issue but still so much happens. From a mysterious stranger from the future, seeds of a plan to take out an enemy to the wacky chase involving the Yancy Street Gang. Fractions natural ability to sprinkle in humor at all the right places combined with Allred's perfectly timed visuals just brought a big smile to my face as I read this issue.
The end is near. We've been on Death of the Family overload due to all the various tie ins and appearances by the Joker. When you get to this, you almost forget all the others. This is what it's about, Joker vs. Batman. Having arrived at Arkham Asylum, Batman enters what has become Joker's dark and twisted lair. Joker has been busy setting up this portion of his plan against Batman. As he makes his way through the transformed Asylum, you can feel the tension in the air as well as Batman's lack of patience. Capullo knocks it out of the park with the visuals. The back up was a little strange but the issue overall had many great moments.
This is the issue where we got to see how the new direction works. Otto Octavius as Spider-Man is just wrong on so many levels. The twist at the end, which is brilliantly followed up in this month's second issue, adds a new level to the whole notion. People don't like Ock as Spider-Man and they're not supposed to. Ock was a villain. But this is a strange situation where we're potentially seeing a villain truly being influenced into doing some good deeds. The suspense of wondering what will happen to those close to Peter Parker hangs in the air and Ryan Stegman's art delivers a solid depiction of the action. Like others, I want my Spider-Man back but not knowing what to expect makes this a treat.
David Marquez steps in wonderfully to begin his three-issue run handling the art. The young X-Men are beginning to settle in with the notion of being in their future. With Kitty Pryde stepping on to guide them, I couldn't ask for more. The scene between Kitty and Jean was handled nicely and seeing young Cyclops step out into the world for a bit was humorous. I still think this is a strange concept, having the X-Men from the past in the present but they feel like a bunch of wildcards with Bendis' story unfolds.
I like Star Wars. I really really like Star Wars. Problem is, Star Wars comics aren't always that great. There have been some really good ones. There has also been some not so good ones. Most of the Star Wars comics we see these days are either way before or after the original trilogy timeline. That is not the case anymore. With Brian Wood's STAR WARS, we're getting a story that takes place shortly after Episode IV. It felt a little crazy to think about having comic stories from that period. Obviously some time has passed betweenEpisode IV and Episode V. The idea of the Empire's reaction to the loss of the Death Star or even Leia's loss of Alderaan. The first issue sets the series off to a great start.
Sara "Babs" Lima
The final issue of closes this series in a way that will leave you feeling a bit blindsided. Just when you thought that Darwyn Cooke had wrapped everything up in a cute, tiny little package, he delivers a whopping surprise. This is one of the most consistent mini-series I have read in the last year, and although I am a bit sad to see it go, it was a really well written and beautifully illustrated conclusion.
This issue dives deeper into Hyperion's origin and explores where he came from and what happened to his home planet. Not only that, but writer Jonathan Hickman launches a new story arc with this issue. Readers get a great idea of how these Avengers characters get along as a team and the result is pretty interesting. The issue features some pretty amazing art by Adam Kubert, too, which is amazing.
Things are getting heated between T'Challa and Namor, and that fact is made very clear in this month's issue of NEW AVENGERS. There is an amazing overview of the scope of this series and how the Illuminati will be involved. The story is exciting, different and will keep your attention. It was an accessible issue that proved interesting and accessible to new readers.
Reed Richards goes into the future with the Fantastic Four, but from what we see in this issue is that not everything goes according to the way he had initially planned. Johnny Storm returns, and a sweet moment is shared between Darla and Scott Lang. The gorgeous art by Mike Allred makes this a must read.
The Thing totally makes this issue. Not only is he fantastic in it (no pun intended), but the entire team puts on a great show. Matt Fraction is doing a great job writing both this series and FF in a way that is interesting and entertaining, and he definitely manages to pull on our heart strings a little bit with this issue. Reed Richards will have to cave in sooner than we think and reveal to his family the news of his debilitating disease; but how long can he string them along?
Mat "Inferiorego" Elfring
First off, I'm in love with the Charlie Adlard variant I picked up (pictured at the top). I was really surprised with how much fun this issue was. I don't want to spoil anything in this issue for you guys, but there were some great twists and turns here. This issue kept me on my toes. From the opening page, you'll be hooked into this issue, and it won't let you go the whole way through. Normally, I only read this book in trade, but I caught up for this issue and I don't regret it. Kirkman and Ottley are one of my favorite creative teams working today and this issue never disappoints.
Although I called this my least favorite issue of the series thus far, it's still amazing. I enjoyed the focus of the issue being on the Will and Gwendolyn saving the Slave Girl from Sextillion, and Lying Cat has become one of my favorite minor characters in this series. Even though it was a bit of a let down, we got to see a few moments of the Stalk again, which made me extremely happy. It seems as though the worlds of The Will and Gwendolyn and Marko, Alana, and family will be crossing paths soon. This has shaped up to become my favorite on-going series on the shelves. This is a must read for comic fans.
This issue has my favorite moment from the month. When Angel from the past meets Angel from the present, current Warren basically yells out "You wanna go flying?" It was this really cool, touching moment. Angel from the past was worried about where he was in the present, but he finds a best friend... with a torrid past he hasn't learned about yet. Marquez's work here is stellar, and there's a reason this book keeps popping up on this list. It's awesome.
PLANET DEATH! Well, it's the Prelude to Planet Death, but we're getting there. Valiant does some amazing work, and X-O MANOWAR is my favorite from everything they've been publishing. We get to learn a bit more about what the armor is capable of and we're treated to an amazing battle sequence. This issue got me so pumped for the rest of the story line.
I'm a huge fan of BATMAN #666. I love that story, and this issue ties into that, even if it just is the costume. This was a surprisingly heartwarming issue. Damian pieces together this scavenger hunt for Bruce across Europe, which has pictures and moments from Thomas & Martha Wayne's marriage and honeymoon. Back in Gotham, Damian suits up and punches criminals in the face. This issue adds a lot more depth to Damian, and it was quite the emotional piece. It's the best issue I've read in this volume so far.
Wow, this is quite possibly the best Turtles related comic I have ever read. It's an engrossing tale that will give your focus a bear hug and refuse to let go. From the first panel to the very last, this issue was simply phenomenal and was the perfect blend of amazing action and intriguing history.
This is without question the best issue in Peter J. Tomasi's run yet. If you're looking for something uplifting, this is your go-to comic this month. The story has plenty of lighthearted laughs, fun action, and an incredibly heartwarming story. It's a really nice change of pace for the Bat-family since everything else is currently so bleak.3)
This series is so good and can easily stand up to anything the Big Two dish out. This issue basically kicks off 'Planet Death' and it has compelling developments and a jaw-dropping battle. X-O MANOWAR, I think I'm in love with you.
YOOO BROOOO! Torque's introduction is awesome. It's filled with heart, big laughs and ends on a note that'll leave you counting down the days until the next issue. It's ridiculous how well these characters are written and how much you'll end up caring for them. Plus, they have crazy psionic powers, so there's that.
I have some minor issues with this one, but overall this was a stellar chapter of 'The Death of the Family.' This book is proof that if you're good, the world will reward you. In this case, the world has given us the perfect duo for a Batman book: Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo. Snyder's twisted mind meshed with Capullo's style is a match made in heaven for the Dark Knight.
Trade Recommendation of the Month
It's no secret that Gregg and I are SUPER into Valiant comics. That being said, HARBINGER is one dynamite book. I had read all of the single issues, as they came out, month-to-month, but I found myself enjoying reading this in trade a lot more. Yes, I own the single issues and the trades.
The easiest way to explain this to someone who has never read this before is that Harbinger is a lot like X-Men, but a lot more grounded in reality.
Drug addict and drifter, Peter Stanchek, who can hear people's thoughts, control their actions, and move things with his mind, wanders the world with his junkie friends, up until the Harbinger Foundation catches up with him and firgure-head Toyo Harada takes young Peter under his wing, to help Peter with controlling his powers.
The story and book are fantastic. It's an incredibly gripping and engaging read. You'll quickly develop a love/hate relationship with Peter here, as well as most of the characters in the book. What I personally enjoy most about this series is the fact that everyone has this selfish side to them which comes through in their character. No one is perfect. Everyone is flawed. Joshua Dysart has rebooted this series in an amazing way.
The trade came out at the beginning of the month, and it contains issues 1-5. In Febuary, issue 0 comes out, which goes over the origin/history of Harada. Find this trade and pick up 6-8 before issue 0 hits the shelves.
Well guys, there's our choices! We'll see you next month! What were your Top of the Pile picks for January?