By Chaos Agent Comments
The other day I was thinking how much I loved titles like Blackest Night and what's going on with both the Superman and Batman books, I also thought that I missed quite a few of the comic I used to read which featured some of the lesser known characters and that even though they were really great, quality hadn't been enough to support the series when facing series that featured (no matter how bad) popular characters and teams. So I decided to rank the top 10 comics of DC and Marvel in recent years that in my opinion deserved a better audience that they had been given. At first I was also gonna throw titles from Indy comics, but comming with a list would have been absolutely impossible, as most indy books are often ignored.
In advance I apologize because there are barely Marvel comics on this list, reason behind is that I am more of a DC guy so I've read more DC stuff, the other one being that since Marvel has better sales (as far as individual comics are concerned) there are way lesser titles that I think didn't have the audience they deserved. Now again this is a personal opinion and I'm sure I didn't put more than 10 titles who were equally or more deserving of being here, bare with me I can't read all comics, especially in this economy.
#10 The All new Atom
Writers: Gail Simone (Secret Six, Wonder Woman), Roger Stern (Avengers, Action Comics), Keith Champagne and Rick Remender (Fear Agent, Punisher)
Pencillers: John Byrne (Uncanny X-en, Fantastic Four), Ariel Olivetti (Cable, Space Ghost), Eddy Barrows (Teen Titans, Terror Titans), Mike Norton (Green Arrow & Black Canary, Gravity), Jerry Ordway (Adventures of Superman, Power of Shazam) and Pat Olliffe (Spider-girl, Untold tales of Spider-man).
Total issues: 25
Believe it or not, ever since I entered the reading comics’ hobby two years ago and even with the lack of exposure that he has, I’ve always been an Atom fan, more especially a Ray Palmer fan. There has always been something about the tiny titan that unexpectedly makes me like him, maybe because Ray Paler is one of the most underrated characters in comics because of his powers (which actually make him a powerhouse and he is stated as such.)
So when I had just finished reading Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer and Rag Morales I was interested in knowing where Ray Palmer had gone next, maybe that’s why I remained reading countdown so long, because of the search for Ray Palmer.
Interested in Ray Palmer (before the announcement of Countdown) I rushed to catch up with a new Atom ongoing series that had been launched, funny as it is, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t Ray on the cover until the moment I opened the comics for the first time, let me tell you that the All New Atom wasn’t the item I had thought I would get without the character I was interested in, and yet it’s one of my favorite ongoing series published by DC Comics up to date and one of the ones I really miss even though I know it helps my wallet.
Ryan Choi is a new character just as interesting as Ray Palmer, and worthy of the name of the Atom even if he doesn’t believe it himself. Ivy Town feels like a real city with the need of a great hero to protect them, the supporting cast is diverse and entertaining and the stories are great both for the fans of the Atom to the many that have never pick a book featuring him.
The writing by Gail Simone is superb and has no imaginative limits as always and Rick Remender does a great job in putting the two atoms together to give a final farewell to a character that because of sales couldn’t support his ongoing series for a little bit more than two years.
With appearances by the likes of Wonder Woman and Ray Palmer between others, this book strongly supports both the self-contained story status and still interacts with the rest of the DCU. Check why Entertainment weekly called this “A mind-blower. Best new ongoing series of the year”
#9 Next Wave: Agents of Hate
Writer: Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Planetary)
Penciller: Stuart Immonen (Ultimate Spider-man, Ultimate X-men)
Total issues: 12
There are two things that one can’t deny about Warren Ellis: First one is that he is not afraid to be controversial with any of the characters he works with or that he creates, the second one is that he is one of the absolute best writers in comic books. Those two things are brought into this comic and with the help of the fluid and great art by Stuart Immonen we get one of the funniest (in some parts in a dark way of speaking, but that doesn’t come to surprise) and most original comics in a long time. This comic doesn’t have the big stars like Captain America, Iron man and Thor, but what it offers is an alternative door in which earth-shaping comic events and editorial interference isn’t welcome.
I strongly believe that the best works that some writers put in their entire life is when editorial takes a step back and lets them leave their imaginative mind in free control of the story and characters in it. No “Character A has to go to point B because writer C wants to use him in event D” just writers with complete control over the characters that either they single handily picked or the ones that they created.
Next wave is the living example of such theory and makes one of the best Marvel comics I’ve read up to date. Forget Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign and all the dozens of tie-ins that come with it, Next Wave from beginning to end is more interesting and fun to read than any comic I’m currently reading of Marvel, with the only exceptions being Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and J. Michael Straczynski’s Thor.
Writers: Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Gotham Central), Scott Morse (Case Files: Sam & Twitch, Elektra: Glimpse and Echo), Andersen Gabrych (Batgirl, Detective Comics), Will Pfeifer (Aquaman, Captain Atom: Armageddon)
Pencillers: Darwin Crooke (Justice League: The new Frontier, The Spirit),Michael Allred (Madman, X-Statix), Paul Pope (100%, Batman: Year 100), Cameron Stewart (The Vinyl Underground, The other side), Javier Pulido (Human Target, Robin: Year one), Paul Gulacy (Action Force, Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu), Diego Olmos (Action Comics, Majestic), Pete Woods (Action Comics, Superman: World of New Krypton), David Lopez (New Avengers: The reunion, Fallen Angel)
Total issues: 82
Everyone knows that I’m a big Batman fan, more than that I’m also a big fan of almost all batman characters related. I love the sidekicks and partners like Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, Alfred (too awesome for words), Damian, Bat-mite (yeah I said it), Ace, etc. and the great villains that gives Batman (in my humble opinion) the best rogues gallery in comics. I love the Joker, Ra’s al Ghul, Two-face, Penguin, Riddler, Hush, etc. and there’s always been one character that was always my least favorite and funny enough belonged to both the Batman allies and enemies.
That character is Catwoman, who for some reason has had quite the success in having her own ongoings when relatively speaking. The first one being one ongoing series launched in 1993 that has 95 issues before being cancelled and the second one being the one I’m talking about.
I started catching up with Catwoman just one month before the title was cancelled, the reason being two: First I was curious as of why she was so relatively speaking successful, trying to find the obvious thing that I had missed when reading about her in other batman related stories, the second one was when I saw that the series had been launched and maintained as a writer for almost 40 issues by the master of street level characters, Ed Brubaker himself. Now blame me but when I see my favorite writers attached to a project I always check it out knowing that it’s almost impossible to be disappointed. And indeed I wasn’t, Catwoman through it's 82 issues had a diverse cast of writers (with Ed Brubaker and Will Pfeifer the ones that had an actual long run) and a great rotating group of artists in which some of them are without a doubt some of the best in the business. Pete Woods and Darwin Crooke being my favorite two out of those.
I came to the world skeptical of if I could come to like Catwoman like so many had in the past, the comic not only transcends my expectations with great ease but shows exactly why he was worthy of being called for a long time “The best comic DC is publishing right now”.
#7 The Mighty
Writers: Peter J. Tomasi (Nightwing, Green Lantern Corps) and Keith Champagne (JSA, Firestorm)
Artist: Peter Snejbjerg (The books of magic, Starman)
Total issues: 12 (Not finished)
I posted in Comic Vine a few months ago a report made by Newsarama about the newest ongoing series of DC which would be completely self-contained. I remember that most people (including me) thought that Alpha one (the guy with the big A on his chest) would be a lot like Captain America because of the way that it was described, when I read the first issue I thought that it was basically a combination of Superman and Captain America with a great creative team behind it so I had big hopes for it.
However as later issues were published I soon realized that Alpha One was more than just a combination of Superman and Captain America but that he also had enough changes to stand as his own character, I also realized to contrary to what could be expected, Alpha One isn’t the main character of the story but the director of the organization for which Alpha One works for. Every issue we learn more about Alpha one and Gabriel Cole (the person I just mentioned), how their relationship keeps changing as dark secrets start to become known and as Gabriel Cole embarks on a quest to learn what every director of Section Omega has come to learn and why not many of them are still alive.
Each issue is full of entertaining moments and shocking twists that help build and solve the mystery that Gabriel Cole is trying to pitch. The writing is incredible and really helps build a brand new universe without it looking forced or slow, the art of Peter Snejbjerg fits perfectly for a comic book with a cartoonish style but still is quite detailed, not only on the environments and characters but also the small details that most readers don’t notice when reading.
The Mighty is one of the only three titles that I put in my list that haven’t finished/been cancelled because of sales and it’s simply because it’s a great read that unfortunately not many people seem to give it a try yet it’s a comic that from the beginning I wait for all month to read and that every issue becomes even more interesting and entertaining.
#6 Richard Dragon
Writer: Chuck Dixon (Nightwing, Robin)
Penciller: Scott Mcdaniel (Nightwing, Green Arrow)
Total issues: 12
Chuck Dixon is better known for his incredibly vast work on the bat-family, having worked in Detective Comics, Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, Catwoman (not the one I mentioned above) and Batman and the outsiders. However for me his best work up to date (or at least the best I’ve read so far) is the Richard Dragon 12 issue maxiseries. Sales may have not be there for the best fighter of DC but the quality was surely present in every single page.
The dynamic duo of Dixon and Mcdaniel (famous for their long run on the Nightwing series) is at his best here, this has all the action and badass fights that one would expect from a martial arts comic but at the same time carries a strong story of redemption and a search for honor and vengeance. With appearances of Lady Shiva, Bronze Tiger, Nightwing and Connor Hawke the good fights never stop in this series.
The fact that Dixon and Mcdaniel are the creative team behind this series should be enough to tell you of how great and diverse the action scenes take place, worth the mention even though it is an action comic the action doesn’t become the story, it’s just a compelling way of making the story go forwards in a great way.
The way in which Dixon uses narration and the jump between various flashbacks to the present time and vice versa not only is a great way to explain the origins and motivation of Richard Dragon without making the current events lose steam, but it also helps make the story all the more compelling. Richard Dragon is (at least before Karate Kid is born) the ultimate fighter of the DCU and this comic brilliantly shows why not only by beating some of the best hand to hand fighters DC has to offer but also with showing briefly all of the various students that the Dragon has had over the years.
#5 The Incredible Hercules
Writers: Greg Pak (Planet Hulk, War Machine) and Fred Van Lente (Marvel Presents: Iron man, Power Pack)
Pencillers: Arthur Adam (Longshot, Tom Strong: Terrific Tales), Khoi Pham (The Mighty Avengers, X-factor), Rafa Sandoval (Young X-men, World War Hulk: Warbound), Clayton Henry (Exiles, Alpha Flight), Salva Espin (Wolverine: First Class, WWH Aftersmash: Damage Control), Takeshi Miyazawa (Spider-man loves Mary Jane, Secret Invasion: Young Avengers/Runaways), Greg Adams (Thunderbolts, Excalibur), Dietrich Smith (Tincan Man, Outsiders) and Ryan Stegman (Magician: Aprentice, Riftwar)
Total issues: So far 19, no cancellation announced yet.
Count me among the many that were confused and surprised because Hulk lost the “incredible” title star status, count me also as the ones that were even more surprised that it was Hercules of all characters that did such feat. I always wondered why not just continue the Jeph Loeb/Ed McGuinness over the Incredible Hulk series and launch a new Hercules series with the same creative team attached instead of giving the Incredible comic to Hercules and launch a new Hulk series, confusing decisions aside, this book has never been (forget the bad puns) incredible.
Hercules shows exactly why he is one of the most popular characters in pop culture and why he should have gotten an ongoing a long time ago. Hercules among his sidekick Amadeus Cho have adventures that touch basically any realm of the Marvel Universe making it a hidden gem that has an incredible reach of genres and shows exactly why the Marvel’s take on the classical demi-god is considered by many the definite reimagining take on the character as far as comic books are concerned.
From the beginning this book has been put in the sidelines of every single event and the results couldn’t be better. The aftermath of World War Hulk, Secret Invasion and Dark Reign are only part of it, the adventures of Hercules both in the present time and the stuff of legends told to us as we were children take all part in a series that combines the best out of epic storylines, great battles, a great take on basic mythology and senseless humor.
Writer: Marc Andreyko (Case Files: Sam & Twitch, Castlevania: The Belmont Legacy)
Artists: Jesus Saiz (Checkmate, The OMAC Project) , Javier Pina (Suicide Squad: From the ashes, Vampirella), Brad Walker (Secret Six miniseries, Guardians of the Galaxy) and Michael Gaydos (Alias, Raven Chronicles)
Number of issues: 38
I’ve always been a big fan of street levels stories and truth be told also been a great fan of legacy characters. The Manhunter ongoing features Kate Spencer, the eight (I have to admit I had never heard of the name before hearing of this title) Manhunter. Usually superheroes are presented to us as conflicted people that still are good role models, Manhunter easily breaks that rule while still maintaining a strong feeling that the criminals must be taken care of.
Like I said, Kate Spencer isn’t a role model in any way, she is a divorced, rude, single mother who smokes a lot and has anger problems, especially when facing the legal structure that she is supposed to defend as District Attorney, the fact that she is so different from the regular hero is probably what makes her the most interesting.
She isn’t like Superman or Batman that always do the right thing and have a line they won’t dare to cross, she also isn’t like the Punisher who just goes on a rampage to kill any criminal super powered or not. Manhunter as her alter ego gives the chance to any villain to be judged just like their rights say and leaves them alone if she wins the case, however if they are freed because of any kind of corruption or she thinks that they are a real danger for her city she takes immediate and final action against them.
Highly loved by all kinds of critics and with a really loyal fanbase that can be found in readers, writers, artists and even Editor in Chief of DC Comics Dan Didio, Manhunter is a highly recommended comic by any of the very few that have decided to try this comic. One of the things I love most about this comic is the fact that just like the Incredible Hercules, Manhunter is a book that puts herself in the sidelines of any comic event so that it is important to what’s happening in the overall picture while still remaining far enough to give space for Marc Andreyko’s awesome self-contained stories.
The book has a great supporting cast full of interesting personalities while at the same time, it’s full of guest-stars like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hawkmanand others that make it a place where you can also find your favorite superheroes. The comic has been cancelled about 12 times because of low sales but it comes back months later because the quality it has makes fans to not be willing to give up with this great series.
“Manhunter is a monthly dose of crafty, nasty, thrilling, fun, subversive super-heroics. A new hero for a new age, Kate Spences takes it right to the villains-and we're lucky enough to be watching over her shoulder. Go read it."-Brad Meltzer (Identity Crisis, Justice League of America)
“There is no reason in the world that you should not be buying, reading, cherishing, and celebrating this book! Manhunter is the best of what modern super-hero comics should be-virtuoso storytelling, fantastic art, a bad-ass hot chick in the lead, and a hefty dose of just plain smarts thrown into the action”-Greg Rucka (Gotham Central, Checkmate)
“Andreyko's Manhunter continues to be one of the most engaging and innovative superhero books on the market, quietly pushing the boundaries of the genre in all the right ways.”-Ed Brubaker (Gotham Central, Captain America)
You can follow the adventures of Kate Spencer in the new ongoing series “Batman: Streets of Gotham” as a co-feature in which Marc Andreyko takes his biggest creation as the new DA of Gotham City.
#3 Blue Beetle
Writers: Keith Giffen (Justice League International, Legion of Superheroes), John Rogers (Flash, Zombie Tales), J. Torres (Teen Titans: Go, Legion of Superheroes in the 31 century), Jai Nitz (El Diablo, Season of the Witch) Will Pfeifer (Aquaman, Catwoman) and Matthew Sturges (Jack of Fables, Shadowpact)
Pencillers: Cully Hamner (Black Lightning: Year one, The secret history of the Authority: Jack Hawksmoor), Cynthia Martin (Star Wars, Wonder Woman), Duncan Rouleau (Action Comics, Metal Men), Kevin West (original Guardians of the Galaxy series, The Comet), Casey Jones (Excalibur, Jubilee), Rafael Albuquerque (Cover Girl, Two guns), Freddie E. Williams (Robin, Flash), Andy Kuhn (Brit, Easy Way), Mike Norton (Green Arrow & Black Canary, Micronauts), Andre Coelho (Ms. Marvel, Bloodrayne: Automaton), David Baldeon (Robin, Doctor Doom and the Masters of Evil) and Carlo Barberi (Impulse, Gen 13)
Total issues: 38
The latest Blue Beetle ongoing was launched as an aftermath of Infinite Crisis when we were introduced to Jaime Reyes; the third Blue Beetle after Ted Kord was murdered by Maxwell Lord in the pages of project OMAC. Jaime Reyes is from El Paso, Texas and is the first Blue Beetle that is completely fused with the blue scarab. There’s something really appealing about Jaime as a character and I think that it is a fact that even if I’ll sound as an hypocrite considering how well known I’ve made my hate for Spider-man known. Jaime Reyes is the man Peter Parker always wanted to be. He has a great and supporting family, he is loved by the city he has sworn to protect, he is a teenage hero but isn’t anyone’s sidekick (just like Spider-man started), his best friends know his secret and accept him just like that. If you take all the unnecessary drama from the equation you get a fun character who has one of the best supporting characters in comics. This is a great, epic and fun comic that takes you the way as Blue Beetle quickly evolves from rookie to one really experienced hero.
With special appearances by the Justice League International members (what is left anyway) and recurring supporting characters like Danny Garret (Granddaughter of Dan Garret, the original Blue Beetle) and Traci Thirteen who was raised by the Dibneys and a diverse and the simply awesome Peace Keeper among others this comic should make both fans of Dan Garret and Ted Kord alike be willing to try this comic and let me say not be disappointed, the art is great and although it could give the impression that it is a childish comic that impression couldn’t be more wrong, this is a comic fun for all ages that shows exactly why teen superheroes are so popular. You’ll end loving every single member of the supporting cast, especially Jaime’s father and his best friend Paco, which I guaranty.
Even though his series has been cancelled, Blue Beetle is a strong and recurring member of the Teen Titans comic (the only character that McKeever seemed to get right) and as a co-feature of the Booster Gold comic which is written by the exact same team that wrote the series before it’s cancellation and that follows just after the series was finished.
Writters: Greg Rucka (Gotham Central, Action Comics), Nunzio DeFilippis (New X-men, New Mutants), Christina Weir (New X-men, New Mutants), Judd Winnick (Exiles, Outsiders), Eric Trautmann (JSA vs Kobra, Crime Bible: The five lessons of blood) and Bruce Jones (The incredible Hulk, The war that time forgot)
Pencillers: Jesus Saiz (Manhunter, The OMAC Project), Cliff Richards (Buffy: The vampire slayer, Huntress: Year one), Steve Scott (Indiana Jones and the tomb of the gods, New Warriors), Eddie Barrows (Teen Titans, Terror Titans), Joe Bennett (Hawkman, X-51), Chris Samnee (Dead of Night: Featuring Devil Slayer, Queen & Country) and Manuel Garcia (Mystique, Strange Adventures)
Number of issues: 31
I’ve always been a big Greg Rucka fan, I consider him one of the single best writers in the business and one of DC’s current top writers. Now before someone gets scared as how many writers are attached, except for Bruce Jones, in every issue that you find another time than Rucka’s he wasn’t abscent but worked as a co-writer. I don’t know if it’s because of Rucka or not as I wasn’t working with them behind the scenes, but no matter what writer worked with him, the book remained month after month the best thing I read from DC and every single character was unique and potrayed extremely well. I have to say that the best moments were when the Greg Rucka & Eric Trutmann came together as the combination of the two excellent writers couldn’t be better.
Checkmate is set on the political and espionage corner of the DCU where we can find organizations like Checkmate (duh), the United Nations, the Department of Metahuman affairs, Kobra, etc. This often forgotten corner of the DCU is also home to characters like Amanda Waller, Sasha Bordeaux, between others and is perfect to spotlight characters and tell stories you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.
In some ways this is quite similar to Dan Scott &Christos Cage’s “Avengers: The Initiative” title, a place where the characters thateveryone forgets about like Sarge Steel and Mr. Terrific are put together with new characters to creat great dynamic while combined with Jonathan Hickman’s “Secret Warriors” to create an amazing political/espionage story featuring some of the best underused characters DC has to offer. You won’t see the Trinity, or the green lantern corps in here but you’ll find the rebirth of the Suicide Squad, you’ll see the attacks of Kobra against mankind and you’ll see a series that could only get better if Nick Fury and/or James Bond joined it, one can dream right?
Unfortunetly I can’t comment on the last arc of the book before it’s cancellation because I dropped the comic when Greg Rucka and Eric Trutmann left and Bruce Jones was announced the new writer. Being a hater of his brief run on Nightwing, I didn’t want to try Bruce Jones’ run on Checkmate and apparently after reading critics’ opinions I was right in following my gut.
Even so I have to say that this series was almost completely perfect from beginning to end (atleast until Rucka’s run end)
#1 Secret Six
Writer: Gail Simone (Wonder Woman, The all new Atom)
Penciller: Nicola Scott
Number of issues: So far 11, no cancellation announced yet.
What if I told you that one of the best writers in the industry had one of the best comics currently published? Sounds really likely right? What if I told you that it also had one of the best pencillers right now? Makes even more sense doesn’t it? What if I told you that comic featured only villains? Everyone loves villains having the spotlight. So what if I told you that the stars of that comic were Catman, Deadshot, Bane, Ragdoll, Scandal Savage and a new character named Janette? Come on, admit that you are saying bullsh!t to my comment right now.
Believe me I’m as surprised as you, fact is, that Secret Six is one of the darkest, most comical (in the way that you laugh then you feel like you are crazy for laughing at that), amazing, craziest, bizarre and entertaining reads in the comic market right now or any past years for that matter. The cast is diverse and entertaining and proves why there isn’t honor between thieves, introduced as the sole villains willing to stand against Lex Luthor’s Secret Society’s recruitment drive and after a vast change of line-up (a Parademon, Harley Queen, Cheshire, Knockout and Mad Hatter are all former members)
The reason why Secret Six employing a cast full of (with the exceptions of Deadshot and Bane) villains that no one cared about is that Gail Simone has free reigns to give personalities and count stories with these characters without having the fans claiming how bad written they are. This move is similar and can be compared with Alan Moore’s take on Swamp Thing, Grant Morrison’s take on Animal Man or James Robinson’s take on Starman.
Gail Simone is full aware that the characters she employs are for the most part nothing more than a group of nobodies that can’t really strike and win against the big guns, no matter if they are heroes or villains. Having stood against Lex Luthor and because of their fights with the superhero community creates the perfect opportunity for any fight. They can go against Superman or they can go against Darkseid, for all they care it’s everything about the money. They are put together because they trust each other and know that together they can get a lot of mercernary cash but at the same time they can (and have done it quite a few times) betray their best friends and comrades in order to get what they want. This book is full of twists and surprises that make the reader want to keep coming month after month and keeping him thrilled with the story.
By far the best ongoing series by either DC or Marvel in years, I’ll love it while it lasts.