It's a new month, so that means it's time to take a look at the month prior as the staff of Comic Vine picks out their top books of the month. This past March, we saw some incredibly brilliant books get launched onto store shelves. New series popped up and favorite series came to an end. Let's get right down to business and see what was our Top of the Pile!
I've probably mentioned once or twice how much I've been digging Zero Year. For me, there's the charm of seeing a younger and rawer Batman that can't simply solve everything right away. Scott Snyder's been taking the fight to different areas and the battle in the skies was a sight to see. We do get some answers here but the stage is set for the final arc, Savage City.
There may be some that want Zero Year to end but I've been loving having this more isolated feel from the rest of the DCU. With the way the New 52 started off and the changes it's forced upon Batman's continuity, there's so much we can still see for the first time.
Hello, my old friend. I feel like this is the Moon Knight comic I've been waiting for. There was something that immediately attracted me to the character when I first came across his original series. He's far from your typical superhero and despite comparisons to a certain other character from people that don't really know who Moon Knight is, he's always held a special place in my list of favorite characters.
Warren Ellis unleashes his brilliance in this issue and while Moon Knight makes a pretty subdued entrance, it's an extremely powerful one. The art by Declan Shalvey and colors by Jordie Bellaire is the icing on the cake.
I get both sad and happy when I think about people not reading this series. It's sad because this is such a great series, issue after issue. The only reason there is to be happy is because someday they'll realize what they're missing and they'll have a bunch of "new" issues to catch up on.
This isn't your typical Archie story. This is pretty much as far as you can get. The idea of these innocent character thrusted into a horrific setting is part of makes this so endearing. Even if you don't have a connection to the characters, there is so much emotion poured into issue. This one was especially heart-breaking.
Ales Kot and Michael Walsh are back together. This is what I want in an Avengers title. I'm digging the others but this one is definitely more self-contained. That's what I want. We have a great set up with the crossover between the Avengers and SHIELD. Throw in characters like Black Widow, Spider-Woman, Hawkeye and friggin' MODOK, how can you not like this series?
I'm also a big fan of Michael Walsh's art. Happy to see him on a regular book and can't wait to see what happens next.
I thought long and hard for my fifth choice. It's a two-way tie between THE WAKE #7 by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy and THE BUNKER #2 by Josh Fialkov and Joe Infurnari. I'm a big sucker for superhero comics but these two series have been blowing me away.
Honorable Mention: DAREDEVIL #1
"Parting is such sweet sorrow." That's a classic quote from something I've probably never read. This was an extremely tough issue of NIGHTWING to read, knowing that it was Kyle Higgins' last issue, which has been a ton of fun. What Higgins does better than anyone else is tie up a series and put a pretty bow on it. This whole issue reads like a love letter to the character and to its fans. It's a gigantic thank you to those who have supported the book. On top of all that, we get some beautiful art from Russel Dauterman, who just kills it on this issue. While this is a very emotional issue, we couldn't pick a better way for it to go out.
Speaking of books chalk full of emotion, March's saddest moment goes to AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #4. This is a series everyone should be reading. This incredibly emotional issue also had some huge shocking moments in it. AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE has life and death and self-sacrifice. I never thought I'd be this in love with an Archie book that didn't feature members of the band KISS. The art of Francesco Francavilla really puts this book over the edge, month after month, but what makes this issue one of my top picks was the scene between Hot Dog and Vegas. It was bone chilling and tragic. I cannot wait to read the next issue.
Is it bad that I had really low expectations for this book? It's not because of the creative team. It's because mutant solo books that don't rhyme with "Schmulverine" tend to be cash grabs and/or just plain suck. However, MAGNETO #1 was a different kind of book. It was more of a detective book than anything else, and one that was incredibly dark and gritty. Cullen Bunn has something special here, and by special, I mean incredibly awesome. On top of that, Gabriel Walta's art fits this tone of the book perfectly and Jordie Bellaire (who at this point is the queen of colors) does a killer job here too. All-in-all, this first issue blew me away.
Say it ain't so! This is the last issue of Brian Buccellato writing the Rogues. By far, this was the best of all the tie-ins to FOREVER EVIL because it focused on this team that are consider villains, but they walk a thin line and they stand for something. Buccellato really understood these characters and how they think, which was what made this book so damn good. He and artist Scott Hepburn made this last issue a home run, but sadly, no more books centered completely on the rogues. If you missed out on this one, check it out in trade a couple months down the road.
What a polarizing issue. Reviews for this book are all over the place, from perfect scores to people calling it under-developed. They must have read something else because this issue was a blast. Now, this book was super-depressing, but it really worked for the better here. Felipe Smith really nails home the fact that this kid's life is not going very well and he's a bit down on his luck; however, he does his best to help others. That mixed with the very stylized art of Tradd Moore created a Ghost Rider book that truly stands on its own for the first time in years. It's only one issue in, but it's already made a huge impact on me.
Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic continue to make a book that's worthy of the Gods. I've never been much of a Thor fan, but these two make the book impossible to resist. With this story, Aaron's doing an awesome job connecting the present and future timelines while also filling the pages with a tremendous sense of wonder and charm. The dialogue between King Thor and "Old Galactus" was a priceless exchange and most definitely makes me want to pick up the next issue right now. Throw in Ribic's gorgeous artwork and you have a book that's just too good and cannot be missed.
Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino jumped on the title with issue 17 and they've yet to disappoint. In fact, they've transformed one of DC's most "meh" titles into one of its strongest. Lemire's creating a whole new mythos for Oliver and, with this chapter, he continues to add even more intrigue for both the heroes and villains. Not only is he doing a thoroughly excellent job with the current story, but he's doing a more than able job teasing the next one that'll take place in Seattle. Plus, there's the ending. I'm pretty sure I know how it'll be explained, but you're a total liar if you say it didn't immediately shock you. And then there's the artwork by Andrea Sorrentino and colorist Marcelo Maiolo. I seriously feel like a broken record talking about their work because, simply put, it's always so damn good and filled with creativity. That's definitely on full display with this issue. GREEN ARROW continues to prove why it's currently my favorite DC book.
Northampton ends on a note that's full of cheer-worthy action and beautiful artwork. The issue is essentially one big brawl with Koyo, Shredder's latest mutant, and a group of Foot Clan assassins. It's beyond fun watching the team work together and having Leo leap back into action is a truly joyous moment. It's certainly well-earned, too, since the last few issues have focused on calmer and more character-driven moments. Meanwhile, Ross Campbell's character work remains praiseworthy and full of vitality. All in all, it's an issue that's sure to please any Turtles fan and has me excited to see what comes next.
Time-traveling Hitler vs. Nick Fury and Deadpool. Do I really need to say anything else? If you've read the other "lost" issues in this volume, then you know they're a chance for co-writers Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn to unleash their more ridiculous and random material. It pays off big time with this chapter and I can't even recall the amount of times I began to laugh hysterically. There's just so many good lines, hilariously used references, and Scott Koblish always manages to deliver some very satisfying visuals. There's so much I want to promote about this book, but I honestly don't want to ruin any of the hilarity for you. Sure, I loved the brutal and funny street fight between Wade and Crossbones in #25, but this was just too entertaining not to include on the list.
There are been countless times I've raved about Matteo Scalera's artwork... and this issue proves why. The guy has an unparalleled ability to make us experience motion and force. Clearly, writer Justin Jordan is aware of this because he made an issue that's essentially one extended chase sequence and, as expected, Scalera absolutely kills it. Every panel is overflowing with energy and feels amazingly cinematic. Pulling off something like this in the pages of a comic is a commendable feat and Jordan knows how to compliment the pacing with the layouts. To top it all off, the writer still manages to toss in a pretty solid narrative-driven moment. Love R-rated action movies? Then you need to check out DEAD BODY ROAD. It's really that simple.
MOON KNIGHT #1
Warren Ellis is, without a doubt, my favorite comic book writer working today. And while it's mostly his independent stuff that receives not only the lion's share of accolades (deservedly so), when he really puts his mind to a superhero book, incredible things happen. Moon Knight #1 is a perfect example of him sinking his teeth (and claws) into a title and redefining its central character without completely forgetting the past. Yes, even the ultra-polarizing Bendis/Maleev run gets its due as an influence on the plot of this book and it works to great effect. We have a much more subdued, mellow Moon Knight, a Moon Knight that is much more studious, even detective-like in his approach. This is definitely the thinking man's Moon Knight, but that's not to say it's dull or boring. Declan Shalvey's visuals are alternately surreal, haunting and incredibly detailed, often all at once. This book has a visually arresting quality that demands the reader's attention.
Both the issue Kara Zor-El needs AND deserves, we finally get to see her breaking free from the multitude of directions she's been pulled in by various DCU power-players and Charles Soule winds up writing her rage as the fuel for her character rather than just having it be a plot contrivance. It would've been enough to have her as well-written as she is, but we also get Guy Gardner and the rest of the supporting cast with some of the best use of Superman in a non-Superman title I've seen in years. This book like few others strikes an amazing balance between uproarious humor and incredible action, the latter courtesy of Alessandro Vitti. Vitti's characters have such incredible body language that, as I mentioned in my review, one of them literally can't move his face except to talk and STILL manages to convey an impressive range of emotion.
Whew! Talk about an impressive follow-up to an incredible debut! Charles Soule (I feel like we've been here before, have we been here before?) gave us a first outing that did an incredible job of establishing Jenn Walters as a woman on a mission to find her own path and practice law on her own terms. Apparently those terms include a wild night out with D-list also-ran Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat, but Soule manages to capture the hilarity, action and even some incredible pathos (Oh my GOD, this IS happening again!) out of a very, very funny situation involving some A.I.M. agents in a warehouse and Walker trying to go shot-for-shot with a Hulk. Part of what makes the drama so enthralling is Javier Pulido's two-page spread of a close-up on Shulkie's eyes, but the rest of his art is just as fantastic and bizarre. It does a fantastic job of communicating the tone of the book from here on in, which is to say the strange will become the ordinary.
I know I mentioned being a pretty big Witcher fan, but all that means is that my standards for this book would be higher than most, and it managed to meet them handily. Paul Tobin has given us an introductory issue that feels like it's pulled straight out of one of the short-story novels the Witcher's saga began as. It may not be the MOST new-reader friendly, but neither is it impenetrable if you approach it as something you're not necessarily supposed to know about ahead of time. Tobin writes the characters well enough to stand on their own as compelling, interesting people, so previous knowledge is more of a bonus than a necessity. The art, from Joe Querio, perfectly encapsulates the dark, morose tone that the franchise is famous for, both in terms of its literal and figurative grays and the story goes just far enough to pique the interest of the reader for what happens next.
As bittersweet as the ending was, you could not have asked for a nicer one. We not only got a final battle from Brian Bendis that took place in the present, rather than being a recap from characters, but we got the emergence of a brand-new power to redefine a well-known character. And while some questions remain unanswered, the sheer amount and quality of the banter in this book (I would pay good money for an X-23/Drax roadtrip series) made it completely worthwhile and a joy to read. Sara Pichelli and Dave Marquez positively stun with their visuals on this one, and the two artists blend together seamlessly from page to page. The action is some of the best in comics, but the character designs are what really steal the show, particularly in how absolutely unique everyone looks down to very, very minute details. At the end of the day, this book is one of the most FUN on the shelf. It's not changing the face of comics, it's not doing that much that's particularly novel, but it is one of the most delightful books you can buy.
There you have it! Thanks for enjoying another edition of Top of the Pile with us. Make sure to let us know in the comment section, below, what you're top five books for March were. See you all next month!