Welcome back to Top of the Pile! It's a brand new year, and it'll take some of us at least six months to adapt to writing "2014" on our checks. Every single month, the Comic Vine staff reflects on some of their favorite books and let's you know why those issues made it to the top of their piles. Let's get this party started and find out what was the top of the pile!
A lot of times when we see a final issue, you almost get a sense of the series fizzling out. It's hard to accept the end of a series and often, loose ends don't get a chance to get tied up. FF managed to go out with a bang. It was said before that it was always intended to be a 16 issue arc.
Each issue was a joy to read and the final captured the essence of them all. With the wacky and quirky moments courtesy of Matt Fraction and Lee Allred plus Mike and Laura Allred's art and colors, this was a fun and light hearted series with a deep and dark undertone that really came to the surface here.
This series will be missed. Good news for other comics, looks like a slot has just opened in my Top of the Pile picks.
Have I mentioned how much I'm enjoying Zero Year? I can't get enough of it. It's amazing how fascinating it can be to see such a raw Batman getting pretty beat up while trying to figure out his place and way of doing things.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo keep making this a comic to look forward to every single month. If that cover doesn't blow you away, wait until you see what's inside. This isn't just another Batman story, we're finding out more about Batman and other related characters.
This is the sort of comic that makes you want to personally thank the creators. Rick Remender sets up the story for a new set of characters. part of the fun will be discovering who everyone is in this time period.
As if the premise wasn't interesting enough, we also get some great art by Wes Craig and Lee Loughridge's colors add an incredible kick to it. You can bet that this will easily become a fan-favorite series.
If you've never experienced an Infinite comic, this is a great example in how comics can be enhanced in a fun way. Not only does it add comic panels and slightly simulates some of the action, we're seeing more than you would in a typical comic. The action scenes are allowed to get amped up and there's plenty of moments for humor, which Duggan and Posehn take full advantage of. This series will also play a big role in Deadpool's main series.
And of course Reilly Brown's art makes you wonder what you did to deserve this weekly series.
This series shows us that we can get a kick ass female character that doesn't have to rely on having a sexual angle to it. We're seeing Natasha trying to atone for her past deeds. That means getting knee deep into the action, bringing the bad guys to justice.
Making this a series easily accessible to new readers was a great move as well. There are a lot of [great] Avengers series but it can be daunting to try to keep up with all of them and take on a new series along with everything else you're reading. This one is definitely a keeper.
It's pretty obvious that I've been hooked on CLONE since day one, but this last issue really kicked some major butt. It seems this book is going to get a big change of scenery and it feels incredibly natural and a smooth transition from where these characters are currently at. I couldn't be happier with how this book is progressing. It seems as though the clones may be heading to Japan, and there's some fantastic moments here that get very emotional and really impact the community. On top of it all, Jose Juan Ryp does some amazing things with art, and month after month, I keep coming back for more.
It's only five issues into this new series, but we're already 2000 years into the future, and Gilad is still kicking some major butt. This is one hell of a start to a new, amazing story line as we seem a much more humbled Eternal Warrior, protecting his clan, in a more dystopian future.
While the first arc of this series was great, it gets even better here and this is a fantastic place for new readers to jump on. What's extremely cool about this is that there's so much going on with Gilad and his connection to UNITY, that this story, set far in the future, gives the reader something new and awesome, without having to be tied into a major event.
This is how an event tie-in should work. This three-part Cataclysm story works better than the main event itself. It sets up a lot of really cool stuff for the future of the Ultimate Universe, including the introduction to the Ultimate version of Machine Man. This last issue has a very thrilling conclusion has one of the Ultimates sacrificing himself for the greater good. Writer Josh Fialkov crafted a brilliant story that stands alone well, but helped build on the main story. Carmine Di Giandomenico's art was fantastic and the action sequences looked great.
The first arc of this series was phenomenal, so I was pretty dang pumped to continue on with this newest issue. Jackson finds himself back in Vegas and having to help out someone from his past, and... more ghosts! Josh Williamson has a solid set-up to a new arc that has the potential to be really amazing, and if it's anything like the first arc, it's going to be a blast. New artist Davide Gianfelice took over with Miroslav Mrva on colors and artwise, this book is looking amazing. I can't wait to see where this is next arc is going.
When a new series can come along and get you not only interested in a new character, but completely pumped for the rest of the series, that's a big win for the creative team. Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto did that here for BLACK WIDOW. This first issue is filled with action, intrigue, and is extremely friendly to new readers. If you're only familiar with this character through the Avengers film, then you'll feel completely at home reading this book. Noto's art truly shines, and it's a book I'd buy for the art alone; however, Edmondson is one amazing writer, especially when it comes to anything covert-op related, so you can be sure this book will be one of my top picks for the foreseeable future.
Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino continue to prove they're miracle workers. What was once a widely ignored book is now easily one of the best in DC's catalog. Don't believe me? Read this issue and then get back to me. The Outsiders War has finally kicked-off and Lemire did a beyond superb job giving this issue plenty of cinematic action as well as character depth. Just like over in Arrow, this story is diving into Oliver's time on the island and showing how it transformed him into the man he is today. Except it's not just a fight for survival in this story. No, there's something much more elaborate going on here and it's a fantastic display of world building. Thrown in Andrea Sorrentino's absolutely stunning artwork -- seriously, it needs to be seen to be believed -- and you have yet another phenomenal issue of GREEN ARROW.
Wow, talk about a heartfelt issue. City Fall was epic and beyond fun for us readers, but for the team, it was a massive test, both physically and emotionally. Now they're trying to recuperate after all of the chaos in their own ways and we get to chime in on each one. What makes this whole ordeal standout are two things: Tom Waltz's solid script and Ross Campbell's touching artwork. It's a legitimately moving read and having it all narrated by Michelangelo compliments the tone really well. Then there's Campbell's illustrations and he just nails it with the character work. His take on the turtles is perfect for this kind of story and there's even two key scenes which drastically switch up the visuals. Best part of it all? It's handled as a jumping on point, so go get it, potential new readers.
If you've been wondering why everyone praises Jason Aaron's THOR: GOD OF THUNDER, pick this issue up and you'll see why. This standalone story starts off as a hilarious and charming tale and then switches into an epic and even moving experience. The only real downside with this one is some of the artwork -- most notably some faces -- is a mixed bag, but that's countered by how many glorious panels there are in this one. You don't need to like Thor to appreciate this one. Hell, you don't even need to like fantasy to dig this issue. It's just a superbly written standalone story and I recommend it to quite literally everyone. Yes, even you.
Deadpool + zombies = yes, please. Cullen Bunn's second chapter in this mini-series is all kinds of wild and even ridiculous at times. The gloves are off and the humor is cranked all the way up. There's so many laughs to enjoy in this issue. Be it Deadpool's banter or blatant references to THE WALKING DEAD and even Michael Jackson, I found myself having a blast with this issue. The artwork remains a big selling point, too. It honestly feels like Deadpool's wandering around in Robert Kirkman's famous franchise and everything from the varied locations to the horrific violence impresses. Then there's the ending which is totally out of left field and will leaving you wondering just what we're going to see next. Love Deadpool? Love zombies? Yeah, this is for you.
Greg Pak throws us two-thousand years into the future and spends a whole issue creating a new and honestly interesting world. All of the major fantasy elements are swept aside and Gilad finally realizes something important: Gods aren't the problem, people are. So, he's off to slay all that's wrong with man. Yup, it's pretty much going to be the Eternal Emperor versus an entire city from here on out. If that doesn't hook you, I don't know what will. But the thing is action isn't even the big selling point of this book. In fact, there was barely any action in this jumping on point. Sure, the issue opens with a big, bladed bantha robot trying to kill everyone, but what makes this read so compelling is Pak's ability to fascinate us with this new mythos and how he handles the two leads. An immortal warrior is nothing new, but what makes this book shine is a talented creative team. This is a jumping on point, so have at it.
Honorable: DEADPOOL #22
There was never any question that this was going to make the list. Between the consistently incredible art and the culmination of of an absolutely incredible storyline (that can trace its roots all the way back to the book's third arc when the issues were in the 20s), this might not be the best issue to jump on, but as a longtime reader, it's one of the most rewarding I've ever read. The action is balanced perfectly with some incredible dialog and character moments are some of the best-earned and economically developed of an title across Image or, dare I say, comics in general. Invincible might take awhile to get there, but the destination is always worth the journey.
Guy Gardner's Five Star Mustache. What his new look represents actually shouldn't be understated, it's an absolutely perfect look for him that captures his personality without him needing to open his mouth. This is really the first issue to dive into the Red Lanterns as the protectors of Earth and so far...well they haven't done much protecting, but they've done some exploring (for the aliens) and some reconnecting (for Guy), but the seeds are all there to make this an incredible storyline. Particularly with artists Alessandro Vitti and J. Calafiore (though I DO wish they'd settle on one) who've definitely come into their own and shown a great mastery of the title's louder moments, of which there are plenty. And let's not forget Rankorr and Bleez and who they've stumbled upon, which will hopefully bring the two storylines together without sacrificing what I feel will be a great opportunity for some new storytelling.
IT'S CANON!! The ending of one of my favorite final issues of Peter David's X-Factor run has been integrated into this issue of Thunderbolts, which means it really happened, which is AWESOME. I won't spoil what it is for those who weren't reading X-Factor (for shaaaaaaaame), but there's a lot more to love about this issue than just that. Between veiled references to a pair of Ghost Rider movies that starred the ACTUAL Ghost Rider and a lot of great, naturalistic dialog surrounding the analysis of the team's makeup, Charles Soule shows a real flair for recognizing the inherent absurdity of a team of killers of vastly different power sets and types all trying to work toward the same goal. Carlo Barberi's art remains amazingly dynamic and kinetic, showcasing what little action there is, but making the conversations fluid and stylized.
After an absolutely stellar debut, Peter David actually brings his introductory storyline to a neat, organized close. The core team is assembled and they've even been on a mission together, showing their complimentary powers and personas (though the times when those clash are, as always, much MORE entertaining. I'm not sure if it's going to be a recurring motif, but I liked Gambit in this title a great deal more than I usually do. Don't get me wrong, I'm almost always glad to see the Ragin' Cajun in team books, but he's rarely a good focal point as his character doesn't have much depth. David gives him a surprising amount in a very small amount of time. Speaking of stand-outs, the way that Carmine Di Giandomenico draws Quicksilver's bizarrely lit costume gives him a tremendous illusion of movement and speed without resorting to drawing the character either blurred or multiple times. And, of course, his facial expressions are absolutely top-notch.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #30
One of the most emotionally touching and resonant issues of the month comes from...TMNT??? It's always amazing to me how well this book manages to thread the needle on maintaining the personalities of the mercantile-driven '80s/'90s cartoon and the gritty, darkly comedic tone of the original Eastman comics, and it probably helps that Eastman is one of the writers on the book alongside Tom Waltz. Ross Campbell brings his unusual style to the book's art, but in this case, after the hard-edged visuals of the last arc, this has the perfect mellow, even cute, look for the book. It's even easier to sympathize with our boys' plight when they're looking THIS adorable and sad, and the book has one of the most legitimately uplifting endings of any issue I've read in a very long time, but it avoids feeling schmaltzy or overly-sentimental by doing a very organic build-up to the precise moment. Overall a great book and an amazing jumping-on point for anyone who hasn't yet given it a try.
That's it for another Top of the Pile! Make sure to leave us a comment to let us know what series you loved this past month, and as always follow all of us on Twitter (Comic Vine, Tony, Mat, Gregg, Jen, and Corey). See you guys next month!