Marvel NOW! – Review Post 6

Author's Note: I lost account access awhile back and just recently managed to get back on Comicvine. Apologies for these late reviews but I am back now, and hopefully should manage to keep up to date from now on.

Fearless Defenders

“Couldn’t you just go knock on their door instead of digging around in the dirt and chasing down smugglers?”

“That wouldn’t be much fun, would it?”

An all female cast taking on the Defenders name and with no big names starring in the series. This is a unique little series, unusual even, and it is refreshing seeing Marvel taking these kinds of risky choices.

To be completely frank, not much happens in this first issue and you can really sum it up with one sentence: Valkyrie and Misty Knight team up to fight the undead. This is not a bad thing as it can be really good to have a single premise for a first issue and just build off of that… unfortunately other things do happen here, they just have no weight. Misty Knight fights some henchmen on freighter, Valkyrie stands on a cliff as blood rains on her… This issue could have really used a revision to be tightened up. That being said, the dialogue is good with all of our characters having clearly defined voices. Hell, it was a stroke of genius to team these two up because they are so different and speak so completely differently, the comedy is inherent and the author realized this… Still the overall story is stumbling out the gate.

The artwork is a mixed bag. The colors are wonderful, both bright and vibrant. However the proportions for our female cast can be a bit ridiculous, with really bizarre mouths and eyes at times. One panel that stood out as particularly heinous is one of Misty Knight fighting on the ship, posing with her ass sticking out at the audience while she is dripping wet from the rain. It is not Marvel Divas bad, but it is really hard to take your female-focused series seriously when the artist obviously doesn’t offer correct respect to the female form. Oh well, I still have X-Men to look forward to I suppose.

Not a bad issue, and overall a solid premise for a series, however it needs to pick up the pace if it wants to keep the audience’s attention.

Guardians of the Galaxy

“Imagine what you could accomplish i

f you were doing what you were supposed to be doing instead of cavorting around the galaxy with your broken friends.”

I am a huge Guardians fan, so I have been impatiently waiting for this one ever since it was announced. One of the thing that makes me so excited about Marvel NOW is how it is not disregarding continuity, and in this first issue we have some niggling mysteries that are mentioned, so we can definitely hope to see how Starlord escaped the Cancerverse. While a strong first issue though, this book does have some problems.

The story is actually perfectly fine for a first issue, it quickly establishes the main conflict, the fact that Earth has been declared a cosmic No Man’s Land. Earth has reached a critical point and the other alien races it needs to stand on its own if it is to ever stand beside them… however this does leave it vulnerable to other threats, thus the Guardians are stepping in to protect her border. Our team is already assembled here(thank god) with only one new member with Iron Man. I am not incredibly opposed to Tony on the team as a matter of principle, he is a science fiction hero and the lure of space makes a great reason for him to sign up… on the other hand I don’t think you can rationally quantify his time in space with his time on Earth… but then again neither can Captain America or Wolverine, so I guess that is just a curse of comic books.

The artwork is very well done throughout, with strong pencils and good color that works well for a space series… the main problems coming in with design. The Guardians are wielding new weapons and armor, which isn’t bad, however the new style seems to be there more because it looks cool than functionality. The Guardian’s tech was always very mechanical and solid, Rocket used big guns, Starlord’s helmet looked like a modded gas-mask, Drax used whatever big ass weapon he could get his hands on… Now everything looks extra shiny and well… like Mass Effect. Our team is wearing clear visors, with shiny led lights everywhere, and wielding laser axes. I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but with the older styles is grounded things in a way that made things more real and believable… and now it creates a disconnect and the action becomes unrelatable.

Overall I enjoyed this issues and would recommend the series. If you are an older Guardians fan you will want to jump on board, however expect to be a bit perplexed by artistic choices.

Nova

“The universe has a sense of humor and I don’t get the joke…”

Sigh.. okay let’s shoot the elephant in the room before we move on. Nova is a hero best known as Richard Rider. A member of the Nova Corps., an intergalactic peace keeping group, he was a popular character, especially in recent years. A few years back, Richard was the only surviving member of the Nova Corps. After an attack and he absorbed the entirety of the Nova Force, the battery that powers their abilities, making him one of the most powerful cosmic superheroes in the Marvel Universe. This was a huge turning point and made the character even more popular. The last anyone saw of Richard, he was trapped in the Cancerverse with Starlord. Now Starlord is back and Richard isn’t, with a new teen hero taking the Nova mantle… a lot of fans are very upset over this and feel cheated. The feel cheated that Starlord somehow escaped and Richard didn’t… they think it makes no sense for there to suddenly be a new Nova as the Corps were wiped out. I acknowledge these concerns, however I think if people give this one a chance they will find a really fun series.

Nova stars Sam Alexander, a teenager whose father is an alcoholic janitor and ex-Nova. Sam naturally doesn’t believe this last part, but his sister and he had been raised on the cosmic adventures their father had told them. Sam’s father still has his old helmet and is waiting for the Corps. to call him back to the stars. In the meantime Sam is stuck cleaning up his father’s messes, literally, cleaning the bathrooms while his dad is drunk so that he can get paychecks. The resentment is obvious, and feels earned, you get the feeling that Sam doesn’t hate his father yet, but its headed there.

I also like how they address the issue of his father’s place in the Nova Corps. as he belonged to a different division, marked by their black helmets(normally Nova’s have gold helms). So it is currently a mystery if these Black-Helmed Novas are still out there or if this is the last helmet, but it does create a plausible reason for the helmet to be there as Sam’s father has been on Earth for the past fifteen years raising a family.

The series is really great looking, incredibly vivid colors and this hyper-ness to the battles that makes it fun to read. While I can understand some fans trepidation about this series, it is very solid and enjoyable. Also you are going to end up reading it when Richard finally reappears in the series, so you may as well just start reading now.

Secret Avengers

“Reverie”

Wow… this may very well be the darkest thing to come out of NOW.

The Secret Avengers stars a black ops team of superheroes used by SHIELD. The roster will apparently change from mission to mission depending on needs. The first issue revolves around the recruitment of Black Widow and Hawkeye, and their first mission. The story takes its dark turn when the crux of the series is introduced, mental implants. They will have their minds wiped after every mission, never knowing what they were did, or that the team even exists. Anyone who knows even a little bit about Natasha knows that she would kill someone for even suggesting mind controlling her, however she and Hawkeye agree to join the team in order to REDACTED.

This series is something I see as being very confusing to both new readers and readers who have been out of the game for a bit, as this is the series most affected by the Avengers film. Both Agent Coulson and Nick Fury Jr are present in this series and are very well utilized, I personally like them, but I know plenty of people who feel like they are shoehorned into the comics. Still both those characters get their moments to shine with Coulson both recruiting and outmaneuvering Clint and Natasha, and Nick’s conversation about James Bond with Clint had me cracking up.

This series is very science fiction, in a good way, there are healing factor bullets and truth-telling demon squids. However the biggest factor is the dark nature of the premise, this shows our heroes doing very dark things and having their minds fucked with in the name of the greater good. This is not your standard superhero romp and I am certain we will see some despicable things happen, if you are up for that, then I can safely recommend checking out the first issue.

Also, I really want that Pineapple Coconut Scone recipe…

Uncanny X-Men

“He is talking freedom and revolution at any cost, and people are listening.”

The Marvel Universe has become a much more interesting place, and we have Cyclops to thank for that. Now, for those who have talked with me before, I have made it clear that I fall into the camp that views Scott as a villain now. However do not mistake that for disliking the character, he has been on a slope for awhile and even though I view him as having finally crossed the line, I am really enjoying him as a believable, conflicted, and fascinating character. A recent poll placed the fans at about half and half, 60% supporting Cyclops and viewing him as a hero, the other 40 viewing him as a villain now. Can we just take a moment and realize how amazing this all is? We have a complex character like this changing the landscape, who is not easily quantifiable, and we are not being lead by the nose on how to look at him.

Now we have Cyclops and his new team of X-Men, who have made their base at the old Weapon X facility. I do love the use of the place… but Scott does realize that this is just going egg on Logan even more right? Then again that’s probably the point. The X-Men are teleporting around the globe and snatching up new mutants left and right as the emerge, as sentinels are hunting down mutants once more. By the end of the issue, we have three new mutants on the team: Tempus, an Aussie with the power to stop time and the uncanny knack for not flashing her panties in the world’s shortest skirt. Christopher, a young man who can heal and has yet to pick out a codename. Finally there is Fabio… who can make golden balls that go POINK! He is the Jubilee or Dazzler of the team it appears.

This is a great first issue, starting off with SHIELD speaking to a mysterious mutant(whose identity you can guess by page 3) and the mutant expositing Scott’s current position. The X-Men then go and rescue Fabio from Sentinels, which is all awesome because the artwork was done by Bachalo who kicks all kinds of ass, especially with huge splash page brawls. The team started out together and we get to see them move forward and the plot immediately starts rolling. This is an exemplary first issue.

If you are at all interested in the Marvel Mutants, you should be reading this series.

Wolverine

“SNIKT”

Wow, I feel really bad for Wolverine lately… Currently headlining in three series, and none of them are currently as of writing. Look this issue was a boring disappointment, so I will keep it quick. This issue revolves around a naked Wolverine fighting a man with a ray gun. That is pretty much it. Wolverine gets blasted, he heals, he attacks the guy. We see Wolverine comforting the man’s son… who has been freaking out about how his dad was action and once Wolverine kills his dad, he starts acting strangely… obviously they are somehow possessed, and the kid takes the gun and runs off. Wolverine then takes off, not allowing the police to call in help or the Avengers because this is his responsibility… its not like there is an otherworldly force possessing a kid who is killing people with a disintegration beam. Seriously, man! Call in Dr. Strange or Reed Richards to figure out some way to pull this thing out… get a mutant who could contain this thing’s power so that it can’t hurt anyone.

So yeah, we have this fight which if it was going to be anything should have maybe been an in media res opening of Logan fighting some guy with a raygun in the mall, lasting two pages and we all have a laugh… its not interesting enough to be the first arc and it has nothing to do with a hero like Wolverine. Hell, he just lost Xavier, his best friend stabbed him in the back and half the world loves him, he just DROWNED HIS OWN SON! There is so much compelling stuff in his life right now but instead they are ignoring everything to tell a very dry, dull story that may as well take place in a bottle.

Finally there is the art… its pretty damn bad, not Thunderbolts bad, but right behind that. Anatomy and facial expressions are all over the place, and the colors are so desaturated and uninteresting that I don’t care what’s happening on the page. This type of art was acceptable in the late 80s but nowadays it just looks uninspired… which is the best word I can think of to describe this whole mess. It is uninspired. They realized they didn’t have a Wolverine main series and I guess they must have drawn straws because no on wanted to write it because this does not come across as someone who enjoys writing the character, it comes across as minimum effort, and that is just unacceptable.

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Marvel NOW! – Review Post 5

Savage Wolverine

“Humid, tropical pollen, volcanic ash, polar breeze… smells like the Savage Land.”

Okay, this is a weird series, and not in a good way. The basic setup is that we will have Wolverine killing dinosaurs in the Savage Land, which has happened so often it may as well be a trope, hell, Wolverine’s other series’ arc involves him in the Savage Land. Okay, now my first impression of this book was that it was trying to be a horror movie… which is stupid for a Wolverine book, and not an entirely correct analysis but it does reek from certain horror cliches. First off the opening pages involve a science team from SHIELD investigating, and I am not shitting you here, The Forbidden Island….. which quite naturally is located just beyond Terror Bay. Seriously, who writes like that? Oh, and what does the Forbidden Island look like? IT IS A MOUNTAIN CARVED TO RESEMBLE CTHULHU! You don’t go up to investigate places like that! Shanna the She-Devil is accompanying SHIELD and providing her knowledge of the area where we then get the single dumbest line of Marvel NOW:

SHIELD Agent: Black Magic, huh?… You’re not superstitious are you, Shanna?

Seriously? What the hell! That is the kind of stupid ass line you expect from the dumb jock before reading from the Necronomicon. Not from a SHIELD agent in the Marvel Universe. SHIELD who works with the Avengers! You know like Doctor Strange and Thor? Magic is a fact of life in this universe, and this kind of ignorance is beyond baffling because it just seems impossible that in this stage of the Marvel Universe you could have trained SHIELD Agents, Agents who are leading missions into a region of Earth where dinosaurs still roam, who do not know about magic existing. Its just shit writing!

So that gets us up to page two… dear god. Is it any wonder why it took me so long to review this?

Anyway, I was wrong about this being a horror film, because once Wolverine shows up it becomes evident what the author is going for… this is a Conan story. Its Wolverine trapped in the Savage Land with a scantily clad bombshell, fighting cultists and monsters. Hell, I could enjoy that if it was done competently… this is not. I have read through the issue a number of times but honestly I could not tell you what really happens beyond SHIELD agents crash, Wolverine wakes up mysteriously in the Savage Land, Wolverine kills dudes, Wolverine meets up with Shanna, Wolverine kills dudes…. Its just… filler.

The art in this book is actually really nice. Shanna is drawn scantily and sexy as hell… which while normally would be complaints? It is kind of her thing. I actually was fine with her here and really appreciated her strong musculature that made her actually appear like a warrior woman. However what kills the art completely for me is the lack of continuity. Wolverine’s costume should be sufficiently battle damaged over this first issue: He wakes up on the ground, possibly having fallen from a great height, his hand and glove are bitten through by a dinosaur, he takes an axe in the shoulder, a spear through his stomach(which is the most grievous omission as the spear piercing him is the focus of an entire page), he is then carried through the air via talons in his shoulders and dropped… the last panel is of Logan falling after being released from the talons… and his suit is in perfect condition?! Seriously, it just bugs the crap out of me. I mean yes, if they wanted to they could easily say that Wolverine has a new suit that patches itself, that would be fine, the FF could have totally set him up with that… but it would need to be explained, a single panel showing the suit healing would have done it! Hell, it makes even less sense as this is Logan in the jungle fighting dinosuars, like I said its a Conan story, you would expect his suit to get as battle damaged as possible over the course of this! At the end of the arc he should be fighting Lovecraftian cultists in the shredded rags that remain of his uniform.

I love Wolverine when he is done well, which unfortunately isn’t often. Oddly enough I find that he is at his best when he is not the main character, a story arc here and there are great, but he works best as part of a team. Slipping in the one-liners, occasionally showing the heart of gold, fighting alongside people he is willing to die for… these are all things he excels at, however once you put him as the focal point and get inside his head, you have Logan constantly talking to the audience and you can get sick of him really damn quickly.

The Superior Spider-Man

“Farewell Otto Octavius. From now on my name is Peter Parker”

I don’t really like Spider-Man comics. I really enjoy Peter Parker and have really loved him in certain books, hell even his spin-off Avenging Spider-Man is great, and Spectacular Spider-Man is one of the very best cartoons ever made…. that being said, I have never enjoyed the main comic series. It is just… ridiculous I think is the word I want. Spider-Man suffers from years and years of really bad continuity and hell, he is still dealing with fallout from the Clone Saga! When this series was announced, it hands-down got the biggest buzz by announcing that Peter Parker would not be Spider-Man. This definitely grabbed my attention. Personally I felt like they had done so much to Peter over the years, and driven off so many fans that maybe be laying him to rest and having someone carry on the mantle it would allow many people to enjoy the title again. Hell, that’s what happened with Miles Morales, I despise the Ultimate Universe but I still love that particular title.

So I did something I hadn’t done in awhile and actually read the Amazing Spider-Man issues leading up this this title and was reading along with everyone else when it was revealed that the new Spider-Man would be Dr. Octopus in Peter’s body. With Peter’s memories, he saw Peter’s life and realized what a hero Peter was, and that with great power comes great responsibility. Otto was genuinely mournful when Peter then died in his arms, and he swore to become the Superior Spider-Man. With that I was pretty much sold on this title. It was a completely unique setup for a book, and the audience always loves a good redemption story. That being said… this first issue was both a lot of fun and disappointing.

Seeing Otto in his new life was fantastic. He is now handsome, has a great job where he is paid to create and advance scientifically, and he is dating Mary Jane. All the while his arrogance is shining through and while everyone can tell something is up… it honestly just comes across that Peter has finally gained some confidence. Seeing Otto take charge of Peter’s life is thrilling for me because I always hated seeing how much Peter got in his own way, whereas Otto came from nothing and thus realizes all the gifts he has been given and begins to thrive. As Spider-Man he fights the new Sinister Six… which outrages Otto that someone would have the gall to call themselves that after his death. Otto does take them down, but in a completely different way. Otto bugs them and instead of charging into their lair, he finds out where their next crime will be, and sets up the area so he can control the battle. All the while he is fighting them, the scene becomes surrounded by press and police that Otto called before hand, everyone sees Spider-Man being a hero not a menace and with the police called in and present they are able to assist. I was really enjoying this book until the last page reveal… Otto is about to kill one of the villains and is stopped by a ghostly hand…. it is then revealed that Peter Parker is still present in his body, however he is unable to take control. The issue ends with Peter swearing he will find a way back.

Personally, I am almost always in the favor of change with comics so long as the are moving things forward. Characters can die, relationships can end, people can graduate from high school… So this was a pretty big blow for my overall enjoyment of the issue. I actually really loved Peter’s death, because it ended with him redeeming one of his greatest foes, saving one last person. This last, unwelcome development simply means that this storyline is not the start of something new… its just an interesting detour before everything goes back to normal… and I stop reading the series again.

Uncanny X-Force

“The drug is called TAO… the bad news is that it makes you susceptible to some sort of hive mind mentality(it also seems to make you dance like a complete jackass)”

Reminder’s run on Uncanny X-Force is tied for my favorite overall X-book alongside Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, so I was thrilled when this book was announced. Wolverine is completely done with the squad after he killed his son on their last mission, and Psylocke is seemingly lost in the world and without purpose. After living in this dark part of the world, where she lost the love of her life, she simply couldn’t return to normal life. Logan eventually sends her out on “not-a-mission” to go investigate some things. Storm tags along to talk to Psylocke as she is worried about her. Storm is… well Storm is great. She too, is rather lost in the world after her divorce and she is still figuring things out after AvX it feels, but she seems much more in control than Betsy and it shows. They fly off and meet up with their contact, Puck. I know nothing about Puck… but so far the little dude is pretty damn awesome.

They wind up at a rave where they encounter Spiral, the multi-armed mutant warrior who I vaguely remember from the animated series… She and Psylocke have a past… not a good one.

And it turned into a ballroom blitz.

Besides that we have Bishop show up, happy to be back in our timeline and then he roars at some cops. Okay….

This is by no means a bad comic, but it does fall short of what it could have been. The first issue of the last series was action filled with the team on a mission to kill Apocalypse now reborn, the last page shockingly revealing that their target was a young boy. This issue is very dialogue laden and the last page while certainly a shock…. is more squicky than anything else.

Overall this is a good first issue with some pretty fantastic art at points, especially great are the black, white, and pink panels which represent flashbacks… but this issue is still simply good when I feel it could have easily been great. This book is still fun and I feel pretty confident that the author will find their legs soon enough… and then take off running.

Young Avengers

“I have no powers and not nearly enough training, but I’m doing this anyway. Being a super hero is amazing, everyone should try it.”

FUCK YEAH! Seriously, I can’t even begin to explain how pumped I was for this series. They combined one of my all time favorite super hero teams with Kid Loki from Journey into Mystery, I swear this kind of series is the sort of thing one normally needs to make a crossroads deal to get made, but here I stand with my mortal soul intact(mostly) and a copy of Young Avengers.

One of the things I really, REALLY love about this issue is that it doesn’t fall into the biggest pitfall of a first issue. This is dragging along showing out heroes being recruited, and it just become a slog of getting the band together during the first issue. Here, however, we have our heroes all doing there own things and are split nicely into pairs. Hawkeye and Marvel Boy wake up in space after a one night stand and then end up fighting Skrull… its a completely awesome scene and they have yet to even meet up with the rest of the group. Wiccan and Hulkling are still together and the main focus is on them, their relationship, and how they are dealing with their grief. Loki is stalking them and is keeping an eye on Wiccan for some purpose… Miss America in turn is keeping and eye on Loki as she knows he is up to no good. Our players are all there and on the paths of intersecting… but they are allowed to breathe and be themselves and do their own things, which is really damn refreshing. They aren’t all suddenly called in and forced to be a team.

The biggest development in this issue comes at the hands of Wiccan, who saves Hulkling’s dead mother via chaos magic and alternate realities. It is super complicated but luckily Teddy doesn’t care and just is so happy to have his mother back… it is a really great, strong panel of him embracing her. No question, no screaming of “How could you do this, you aren’t god!”, just a boy who is happy to see his mom again. Of course Wiccan is an idiot however because well.. he pulled her from an alternate reality and by the end of the issue things take a dark turn and it is apparent that she will be the teams first villain to vanquish.

This series is exciting and bold. The artwork throughout is great and the layouts are daring. This is a series that you need to be reading, and I am already waiting impatiently for the next issue!

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Best/Worst Marvel Covers – June 2013

Judging comics by their cover because its the only way to save Mary Jane!

Five Worst Covers

A+X- From the expressions to Jessica’s absurd proportions and pose, this cover unfortunately falls past cartoonish and into ugly.

Savage Wolverine- What the hell?! Seriously, what is going on with Logan’s face here? Did he get further mutated like Beast? Coupled that with the fact that the artist screwed up the Superior Spider-Man Costume? Yeah this is a really crappy cover.

Secret Avengers- This one reminds me of the Fearless Defenders’ cover from last month… in that these characters all look like paper cutouts. I get no feeling that this was drawn as a cohesive whole, instead it looks like our characters were just pasted together in a semblance of action posing. Natasha looks so similar to her appearance on cover one that its distracting and Hulk looks really, really crappy.

Thanos Rising- Okay lets get it out of the way before the more serious issues, Thanos’s crotch is the foreground of this due to the position and layout. I would normally take that as an unfortunate side effect of bad layout, but I can’t help but see it as on purpose due to the loving detail put into the Mad Titan’s codpiece. Okay, now the big problem here is that this piece doesn’t flow at all. There are elements all over the place that could have been unified into a cover but are just shoved onto there and it makes the entire thing chaotic and unappealing.

Wolverine & The X-Men- Logan has a teenage girl on his shoulders and has the creepiest expression…. Okay So there are a lot of problems here, but I am going to keep this simple… LOOK AT JUBILEE’S FEET!

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Ten Best Covers

Fearless Defenders- This is so clever that I kind of hate it. Seriously, this is the kind of thing that makes me want to punch myself for not coming up with it myself. The artwork itself is gorgeous and even our floating heads in the character select look amazing. Couple that with showcasing female heroes that aren’t obvious choices? This one is a winner.

Captain America- Even with myself not being a JRJR hater, his covers for this series have been hit and miss. This cover however looks like something iconic. The composition is simple but very strong and this is a really great image that sums up the entire arc of Captain America.

Cable and The X-Force- This one surprised me with how effective I found it. I really like the simple choices made here that seem like a throwback to older comic covers. The Uncanny Avengers look incredibly foreboding with their silhouettes despite being heroes. Hope running away with what I assume is the Phoenix icon below her feet is very cool and this reminds me I would see as a cover during The Days of Future Past run. This one definitely loses points on the artist’s signatures… I realize that its a necessary evil but come on, blank ink on the brightest spot just makes it glaring and they mar an otherwise solid cover.

Age of Ultron- HOLY SHIT! This is an awesome cover and the best Pym image I have seen in years. I would be questioning why he looks human as last time I saw him he was turned into a Dethlok… but then again Age of Ultron is severely messing with the timestream so I will just have to see what happens.

Guardians of the Galaxy- This picture really made me want to start a caption contest in the comments, “What is Gamora yelling?” Anyway, this is again a really damn cool GotG cover coming off of Rocket last month. Gamora is looking badass and the warm background offsets her skin tone really well. I also really like her new suit as opposed to her old stripperific uniform, I however do really dislike the change of her makeup from red to yellow as its too faint and just makes her look almost sickly.

Hawkeye- Oh, look, Hawkeye has an amazing cover! I am shocked. Okay, this is really cool and while more complex than most Hawkguy covers it really sticks with iconography in a cool way, I especially like the two longbows making a window through which we see Clint, very subtle.

The Indestructible Hulk- This one made me laugh. I really like the Hulk’s body here, the proportions are very well done. Matt Murdock and Daredevil is a fun twist on the angel and devil on shoulders symbolism. Simple concept, solid execution, other artists should be taking notes.

Thor: God of Thunder- Seriously, did they somehow resurrect Frank Frazetta to draw Thor covers?! This is incredible work and although I realize the word is terribly overused I feel it is appropriate here. This image is epic. It also is another cover which sums up what is going on in the story arc quite nicely. You have Thor from different points in his life fighting side by side. It’s Dr. Who by way of a heavy metal album, and that is just groovy with me.

Uncanny X-Men- Giving Thor a run for its money for “Most Metal Marvel Cover” We have Magik, I believe, standing here amongst Limbo…. I have no idea what the hell is going on but I sure as hell going to read it and find out. This thing drips menace while also being a just ridiculously impressive piece of art. Bravo.

X-Factor- I have not read this series and I have no idea what is going on here but damn does it look cool. It can be really hard to make a one-man portrait into an effective cover but this is just perfect. The red background pops, and the figure with his hunched stance and spike creates a well balanced but interesting negative space. Really cool looking character, really cool looking cover.

X-Men Legacy- I almost didn’t pick this one because at first glance it seems too simple. However that is when comparing it to other Legacy covers, whereas it still shines bright enough compared to the rest of the Marvel solicits, to earn a spot here. The main gimmick here is the X from the logo instead of a swastika which in turn, turns into the logo. It is a very simple idea but is really well done here, besides that Red Skull himself is really creepily done and I love the little details and nuance in the jacket and face.

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Best/Worst DC Covers – June 2013

Judging comics by their covers because a masked man has a gun to my head.

A Quick Complaint

While I was looking through this month’s solicitations, a realization struck that left me feeling sick. Damn, Batgirl is presented as a victim way too often! With female heroines one has to be careful when presenting them in peril, keeping a solid balance of strength. In terms of awareness, I would say that Batgirl is DC’s best known heroine besides Wonder Woman, yet look at some of these covers:

Bloody and knocked to the ground, drowning and panicked, electrocuted, openly weeping, and stabbed. Yay!

This is not saying I am against showing our heroine in danger, hell that is what we are here for. My problem is making her appear as a victim, especially on the covers. For contrast look at these Wonder Woman covers for comparison:

These three covers all show Wonder Woman in peril, however only one shows her not in a position of strength. The second cover could be particularly squicky with her in bondage about to be hanged, but her strong posture tells us that she is not worried, she is not a victim, she is in danger. Hell the only one where she looks freaked out is by a swarm of flies, which is fine, its a nonhuman threat, there isn’t a man standing over her bleeding body holding a knife like in the Batgirl cover. Anyway I can understand that I may be reading too much into this, but it is happening enough that its becoming a trend and it should be stopped now before it goes too damn far.

Five Worst Covers

TIE: Talon/Vibe – Okay these two are tied for both having really bad female proportions. Strix on the Talon cover is getting to Power Girl-tit status where I swear they balloon every issue she is drawn in, which is super bizarre for a Japanese Zombie. However its her face that is incomprehensible, looking at where her mouth is while screaming and where her nose and eyes are supposed to be… That coupled with the fact that it looks like neck is just far too long.. yeah horrible female anatomy. Then there is the Vibe cover which unfortunately features Slut-Harley… Guess what? SPINES DON’T WORK LIKE THAT!

Superboy – First Impression: Oh they decided to bring in Wolf from Young Justice? Cool. Second Impression: The artist had no idea what kind of animal they were drawing at all.

Legion of Super-Heroes- While I am not a fan of this artwork in general, the main problem of this piece is the distance. The villain is so far away that we can barely make out any details in our hero, not giving them a chance to look heroic or even clearly defined. It also takes away and drama that could be had because with the villain lunging at them and this far away in mid-air it seems like they have plenty of time to either blast him or you know.. move out of the way? The cover is busy and while not incomprehensible, it needed a better layout. Put the main characters closer with their back turned? Conveys threatening menace. Right now our foreground villain looks like a mook who is one Wilhelm Scream away from being forgotten by our readers.

Batman, Incorporated- What the hell? Okay this is the Batman, Inc. Damian just died so obviously Bruce is spiraling here, depressed, angry, sad… I get that. That is not conveyed here, with that face and stance it looks like he just got hit with joker venom. Seriously just imagine if the cover had some green HA HA HA on it and it would be perfect. Oh and then there are the bats… seriously their faces are ridiculous.

Stormwatch- Lazy.

Ten Best Covers

Action Comics- I really dislike Action Comics but this is a really solid cover. The colors and the lighting are great and if this was a good issue it could even become something Iconic… however I feel like we have seen this particular fight too many times, to be too high on my list.

Teen Titans- This is the first appearance of these Titans that I have ever liked. I read this comic for awhile because I love Tim and the Titans and really wanted to like it but couldn’t help but hate it. This is great however, everyone has their own identity, its clear and not too busy which is so rare for this series. The only problem with it? SUPERBOY AND WONDER GIRL HAVE THE SAME FACE!

Green Arrow- Holy Hell, Green Arrow has gotten good. I would say that I am shocked but I guess that is what happens when you butcher one of your best series and put the team on a failing one. Still this is great, it oozes menace and ever since the new team came on they have had a lot of fun playing green against other colors, very smart, very slick.

The Movement- I am still surprised how much I like this cover. I know nothing about this team, I do not recognize a single person but I already like them more than the Titans. Why? Well, everyone looks different, they all are wearing different styles of costumes and everyone has their own color scheme. The linework is clear and the colors are great and my favorite detail is the moevement, everyone is headed in the same but looking back. Just that little thing tells you so much about the team already. Also the fact that they had such strong movement on a title called the Movement? Clever. I hope they continue that in the future.

Green Lantern Corps- This is a simple concept done well. The colors they chose work great and it is impressive enough to attract someone new to picking it up whilst informing fans what is going on.

Batman/Superman- I am looking forward to this series so damn much and the artwork is a huge factor in that. I love this artist and the cover here is beautiful. Showing the difference in Clark’s hopefule pose and Bruce’s intimidating demeanor but both showing strength. A great contrast while showing them both united.

Swamp Thing- Okay I guess we are going to have to get used to Swamp Thing showing up on these lists. This is amazing, the way Swamp Thing is shown here as almost a collage of various leaves and greenery is awesome and the praying woman in negative space is mysterious and makes me want to read to find out what is happening.

Batgirl- I almost didn’t pick this one as I was worried about mixed signals with my complaint at the top. However this is a great cover, the artist here is to be commended. It is creepy, it is menacing, and you get the feeling Barbara is in danger but you don’t feel like she can’t act, more like she just doesn’t want to touch the creepy ass dolls. Which I totally understand.

Batwing- So is Batwing turning into Black Panther? Becuase I am totally down with that! Look I have no idea what is going on in this cover, but it is so damn cool. Batwing’s armor is kick ass and he is fighting a giant lightning lion! This is why I read comics! Seriously, this cover is so cool that it made me start reading Batwing again just so I can read this issue, now THAT is a good cover.

Wonder Woman- So long as Cliff Chiang is drawing Wonder Woman covers, they will be in my top ten. The color, the movement, the expressions… seriously. Chiang is my favorite artist working at DC and I discovered him via this series, and he is, in my opinion, the best artist Diana has ever had. Another great cover for a great series.

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Best/Worst DC Covers – May 2013

Judging books by their covers because they get paid to do it and I am bitter as hell!

Dishonorable Mention

World’s Finest: Oh hey look, Huntress hurt on a WF cover, that’s totally new! Okay, the main reason this gets on here is the return of the Power Girl Boob-Window costume. While I hate the current Power Girl costume because it does not flow in anyway and the nipple circle that is sometimes going on(because the art is way inconsistent on her P). The answer is NOT to return to the Boob Window… hell you could easily have returned to this and had that part filled in! Hell you could just fill it in with a circle and her current P logo, it would have been fine. The only reason this stayed off the list proper is because the art itself is gorgeous.

 

Five Worst Covers

Nightwing: Help! Someone put masking tape X’s over my mask and I can’t see!

Phantom Stranger: Not a single facial expression works here… not one.

Batman: The Dark Knight: This is just bad art. I feel like a more competent artist could have made this idea work with a more interesting composition, but this falls flat… actually it falls further than flat into the mirror-verse and becomes talf… that is how bad it is.

Justice League of America: I AM GONNA SMOOSH YOU TWO INTO THE SAVAGE MANHUNTER! Okay I really hate the generic photoshop clouds with filters for the background(its unforgivable with professional artwork)… This one  gets this spot for the amount Selina’s suit is unzipped. It is literally at her navel. I have seen parodies of her zipper troubles that were more zipped up and exposed less tits. Seriously, don’t they have editors for this? Or did they want one of their premiere female characters unconscious on the ground with her top mostly off… god I hate DC somedays…

 

Legends of the Dark Knight: Look I generally give the online comics a pass as they are almost always less refined than the stuff that goes to stores… but come on WHAT THE HELL ARE UP WITH HIS LEGS! Seriously, even with the more cartoonish style the proportions are so off that it hurts me deep inside. Its like Batman tripped onto a wormhole to the Uncally Valley so hard that lightning shot out and all the bones in his lower half liquidated. When Mr. Fantastic shows more restrained proportions and realism its time to scrap the sketch and start the hell over.

 

Ten Best Covers

Catwoman Annual: An interesting, well composed cover from Catwoman. I am pleasantly surprised! It is dropped down to number ten due to its zipper fail… but still a good cover overall.

Batman: The Dark Knight: As much as I hate this series(its a lot. it is like flames on the side of my face), I really enjoy this cover. Batman perched on the side of Arkham and the inmates inside are all really well drawn. Kudos.

Batman and Robin: At first I was shocked that Red Hood managed to get such an amazing cover drawn… then I noticed it was for Batman and Robin, so the world still makes sense. This is just great, the simple colors of Batman, the reds of  the hood standing out but still desaturated enough to not pull away all the attention, the detailing on the mask’s little pieces. Really, really strong cover.

Animal Man: Hell Yeah, Buddy Baker! I am totally digging the new Animal Man cover artist and this one is great. It really does a good job of illustrating the disconnect of Buddy between superheroics and the real world that is present in his life. Huge points for him mirroring the movie poster without using the same pose cut and pasted. Also points for the Man of Steel easter egg!

Wonder Woman: Cliff Chiang I would totally give you my baby but you already have one. This is great, actually all the Wonder Woman covers have knocked it out of the park and this one is as strong as its protagonist.

Batman: Capullo… Seriously I could nearly forgive all the bad DC has down with the 52 because of Snyder/Capullo on Batman. This is a gorgeous cover with a simple composition yet a lot of detail.

Batwoman: Batwoman has amazing covers… always. It is her superpower. This one is actually one of my least favorites as I feel her hair is a bit off and overall it may be trying to have too many things happening. However it is still a really gorgeous piece.

Batman Incorporated: Wow. Normally I really dislike Batman Inc.’s covers (the squareness of Batman’s jaw is ridiculous) This however is just great. I love the woodcut Paradise Lost-esque backdrop. Talia looks amazing and powerful… however my only nitpick is just how utterly shear that fabric is… Honestly I can forgive it due to the statuesque form she is given here, but it still bothers me.

Suicide Squad: I had two thoughts upon seeing this: Wow I can’t believe we got such a powerful yet simple cover from Suicide Squad! and Wow! I can’t believe we are getting a cover without shoving Harley’s tits in our face! Seriously, if that is her blowing up on the cover and she is dead forever I would be fine with it… fucking 52 and its universal slut mandate.

Swamp Thing: Yes, this… all of this. Swamp Thing is losing Snyder and gaining some of the best cover illustrations at DC. I love the detail in Swamp Thing. The contrast between colors and the playfull-ness of the reds? Its brilliant. The whole bloody thing is brilliant.

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Be sure to leave a comment if you would like to see more cover commentary next month.

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Best/Worst Marvel Covers – May 2013

Judging comics by their covers because its an easy target and I am too lazy to be nuanced.

Notes and Nitpicks-

Nova – Okay first off this is not a bad cover. I simply thought it was interesting to note that the main Marvel Universe is bringing in the Chitauri from the Avengers Movie… with their very Egyptian aesthetic I really hope they wind up serving Kang. Also do me a favor everyone… yes I mentioned Nova but please don’t take that as a cue to bitch about Sam and how much you miss Richard… He is dead. Let it go. Move on.

Avengers: The Enemy Within: Okay I love that DeConnick’s series are colliding here… but seriously if this is a lead-in for a Captain Marvel cancellation I am going to SCREAM. Okay the nitpick here is Carol’s hair…. I do not understand what artist’s problem is with her new haircut, she got it cropped on the sides and has the top slicked back. It looks good, it’s a unique hairstyle that only she has… however so many people who draw just flat out cannot draw her without flowing long locks! They can do her costume right, but god forbid they draw a woman with a non-traditional hairstyle!!

Carol’s hair on a good cover for reference.

 
Wolverine Max: Nope. Wolverine has lost the privilege to have covers that just slash marks… it is the bare minimum of what you can do for his covers. Shame on you.

Winter Soldier: Aww, man I forgot to delete the lines I had before I decided to draw her with a hood! Okay lets just delete those… oh shit that made them white… meh whatever. PRINT!

Five Worst Covers

Uncanny Avengers: Oh no! An evil, airbender is spewing out poorly illustrated Avengers! RUN FOR COVER! Also, Sunfire? Your mask is bad… it is worst than the entirety of Avengers vs X-Men. That bad.

Captain America: I am in the minority of people that actually enjoys Jon Romita Jr’s art most of the time. But this cover blows. Cap’s shield is TINY… and well everything’s proportion looks really damn off. While I wouldn’t call it lazy as there is definite effort in this cover… I would say that effort was misplaced.

 
Iron Man: This is, I believe, a reprint of an older cover for a collection of older comics. That said.. I still hate it. From invisible bike Iron Man on the right to pissed of center Iron Man who is upset because someone drew squigglies on his face. This cover has all these armors just slapped on here in a random pose and its just lazy and uninteresting.

Captain Universe: The Hero That Could Be You: Another reprinting. Yes, I realize that I am putting a Steve Ditko drawn cover on my list and that means I am going to comic-reader hell where I only get to read All Star Batman and Robin for the rest of eternity. Seriously though? I don’t care, I really dislike this cover… a LOT.

Wolverine and the X-Men: I despise this artist.. DESPISE. I fell in love with this series when Bachalo was the artist and then when they switched to this guy… it felt like the biggest bait and switch. From the horrifically drawn New Beast in his weird float-y ass, awkward pose. To the second cover shown where not a single person’s face looks remotely human. Seriously! The best you have there is Quentin.. but I have no idea what is going on with Evan, who started out with a clean cut quarterback look, then moved onto a Gerard Way look-a-like, and now he just looks like Seance smeared his lipstick. Oh and fucking Wolverine.. did he suffer brain damage or something? He doesn’t look like he is drooling from being feral… he looks like he has suffered muscle damage… its like if Wolverine had a baby with Arseface from Preacher… shudder

Ten Best Covers

Deadpool: This is a great, actually understated Deadpool cover. The underwater shark sequence is beautifully conceived and brought to life… and then you just have Wade there pointing and going Oh Shit… Also they resisted the urge to throw in a dialogue baloon with him quipping… very restrained for Deadpool and it really works well.

Guardians of the Galaxy: ROCKET FUCKING RACOON! This is a really beautifully drawn piece, however I can’t help but think this cover got made just because Marvel thought they needed an image to update Rocket’s wiki with… and I am cool with that.

Avengers: The Anime nerd in me just adores this cover. I am also quickly becoming a Shang-Chi fan so its great seeing an issue dedicated to him. But the japan-influenced cover is really clever, with the speed-lines as the background and all the tropes they playing with here. It is just really damn clever… however I have to say that it was Sailor Spider-Woman that sealed this cover onto my list.

Daredevil: End of Days: The Rising Son iconography gets played to death on comic covers(hell its where Bloodshot’s whole design comes from… However I think this works really well. Matt looks very strong yet subtly in his design and I adore the writer’s signature done in a kanji-like aesthetic. Really cool piece.

Thunderbolts: Ah, Thunderbolts.. I will never stop hating you for your squandered potential and nothing shows that as much as your covers. This series has great dynamic covers with really strong use of the color red that could have given this series an iconic look… however this is probably going to be the first thing to hit the NOW! chopping block. Still its a good cover however it may actually still be too red for my tastes… still it is a damn good cover.

Fearless Defenders: This series has had great covers so far. The first issue was the simplest but then with issue 2 having the action figure cover and 3 having the title tattoed on Hippolyta’s back? Awesome. The paper doll Valkyrie is also just a stunner… my only disappointment is that I can’t actually cut the pieces out without ruining the book… BTW Marvel? if you don’t do paper doll variants of the rest of the team, then you are just throwing money away.

Age of Ultron: HOLY SHIT ITS ULTRON! This is so damn awesome. Seriously this is now tied for my favorite Ultron image along with his iconic Annihilation cover. You really get the menace from him and can tell what a threat he is from a single image… My only problem is that the piece may be too busy with the lightning and the lighting and all the damn debris… so yes, its a busy illustration, but damnit, its one that works!

Thor: God of Thunder: Forgive them Odin, they knows not what they do! Okay, this series is just gorgeous and every cover looks like it belongs on a metal album, which is kind of the perfect thing for Thor’s series. Gorr is dripping menace in the background and Thor looks absolutely stunning… and also like he is super dead.

 
X-Men: Legacy: I love this series so hard. It is hands down the biggest surprise from Marvel NOW! and its covers are always a treat. Well thought out, cleverly design, and beautifully rendered. This cover made laugh and and I am going to be super pissed off if the covers for this series aren’t collected in the trade.

The Superior Spider-Man: Holy shit do I love this covers. The first one is great, using the title as a maze and anyone reading the series knows exactly what is signified by the cover and will want to pick it up… The second cover… is my favorite spider-man drawing ever. Just hand’s down. I can’t even explain it but the colors work beautifully and the line work is immaculate. Everything just comes together with that something extra that makes you want to get a cover turned into a poster. Also I love the title there, it looks great and helps tie the whole thing together as opposed to being obtrusive… I seriously hate that this artwork will be marred by credentials and pricing when it hits stores. My personal favorite Marvel cover of May.

Hope you enjoyed and see you next month!

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Counting to Midnight- Best Comics of 2012 Part 2

Author's Note: I apologize for the vast delay on this post. My family has been dealing with some medical emergencies that took priority. Thank you for your understanding, and let me say that it is good to be back.

VI

Harbinger

Harbinger instantly became a favorite of mine, as soon as I read it I got the same feeling I get when I revisit some of my favorite books from my childhood, this comfortable sense of joy when catching up with an old friend. Its a rather shocking accomplishment for such a modern book.

Peter Stanchek is a young man with psychic powers, constantly bombarded with the thoughts of everyone around him. He is currently attempting to keep ahead of the police and is on the run with his psychotic best friend. Peter slips up when he decides to go back to his hometown and lay low for there for a bit. When he runs into a childhood friend/crush and she doesn’t remember him he uses his abilities to make her love him. What I really loved about the book was how they used this plot. Using powers to change someone’s perception of you or make someone you long for love you is a fairly common wish, everyone has felt that way. There is no denying that doing this is plan wrong, and it quickly goes into a rape situation where you lose any empathy for the characters. Peter however very quickly realizes that he has done the wrong thing here but doesn’t release her from these feelings immediately, partly because he is scared for how she will react towards him and also because… he just needs someone right now. Its a very dark situation that is handled well by making the main character very human and understandable. Things quickly spin further out of control when the people hunting him find him and send in an assault team.

This is the moment where we get to see Peter unleash and show us why they are so scared of him and yeah we can see why… he rips them to shreds. Surrounded by fire and chaos he is approached by Toyo Harada of Harbinger. Harada is like him, a psiot, and he has been gathering them together to keep them safe from themselves and others. Peter agrees to go with them on the condition that his friends are taken care of, and off he goes. It is during this time that we get to know Harada more, and I really like this guy. Harada’s powers activated to protect him from the nuclear attacks on Japan and he is the oldest known psiot. The reason for grabbing Peter is that a prophetic vision has been shown to Harada that Peter will one day destroy civilization, and while many urged him just to kill Peter, he decided to bring him in and try and ensure that he didn’t go down such a dark path. During this time Peter begins to feel more alienated around the other psiots due to his insane power level, constantly hearing their thoughts against him and regularly trouncing them in training, he is outside everyone. Harada continues to advise him and eventually discovers Peter’s greatest ability, that he can awaken latent psiots. Usually accomplished with a surgical procedure that kills a quarter of patients, Peter is asked to try this again so that hopefully they can do this without killing any others in the future. However after almost killing the girl brought in for activation, he flees Harbinger to find his best friend again. And in a heroin den in the city he find him, laying dead from an overdose. When Harbinger comes to collect him, he begins to follow until he realizes that everyone in the building has been mind-wiped. His best friend’s murder was all to manipulate him into falling in line. Peter rages and attacks the Harbinger building directly until he is taken down by Harada and is thrown from the building… only to be caught by the girl he had tried to activate, who flies him to safety.

The story since has introduced new cast members as Peter has begun building up of psiots that he has activated himself, so that they can take down Harbinger and Harada. I enthralled monthly by this series and have enjoyed every character who has been brought in, each of them reminding me of actual people. The series just seems so open that things could go anywhere and I am really excited to see where things go.

V

Journey Into Mystery

I will admit that I scoffed at the idea of turning Loki into a teenager. At first it sounded like a gimmick forced on the character due to unimaginative writers, much like the idea of giving Loki tits( yes that happened). However I was pleasantly surprised by this series and I adored Loki’s new direction. After sacrificing himself for Asgard, Loki had manipulated things so he would be reborn younger without his past experiences. This is a Loki who looks up to his older brother and wants to be a hero like him, but is unable to and so has to solve things by being well… Loki. He has no magic, no strength, he must rely entirely on his ability to talk himself out of and into increasingly worse trouble. They make it very clear early on in the run that Kid Loki is his own entity, the mind of the old villain had been placed into a magpie named Ikol who serves Kid Loki as an advisor of sorts and who is manipulating events from his own end. What makes this series heartbreaking throughout is how Loki, this child, is so universally hated in his home. Everyone knows Loki is a trickster and trying to earn their trust so he can hurt them again, so everywhere he goes he is met with hatred, all towards this child who has never done anything to them. For a long time it was this treatment that I feared would cause Loki to turn back to a villain, but Thor’s compassion gave him quite a lot of strength… even if Kid Loki did arrange his death.

Three separate arcs run this year with Journey into Mystery, and to be honest none of them were personal favorites of mine with Kid Loki. The first arc dealt with the Fear Lord Nightmare seeking to claim the fear of humanity as a weapon, eventually weaponizing the fear of Loki into a crown. This was an insanely powerful artifact tied directly into Kid Loki, powered by the fear of God. Most comics would have had the simple out of having our hero overcome his fears and making the crown shatter or some such tripe… Loki on the other hand calls in the rest of the Fear Lords, all of whom desire the Crown for themselves, thus creating a never-ending skirmish between them for the crown and ensuring its non-use. The next arc dealt with new gods emerging in Britain and Loki being sent in as a spy for the Asgardian guards(he is the perfect spy because everyone already suspects him!). The final arc is a tie in with Thor called Everything Burns. Dealing with the return of Surtur and his attack on the Nine Realms. This is very bad news for Loki seeing as how he is the one who freed Surtur in one of his earlier dealings. However due to a team up of Loki’s treachery and Thor’s brawn they manage to deliver to Surtur a most mighty smackdown.

So why is this series placed so highly if I wasn’t that big of a fan of this year’s books? Yes I was a fan of previous issues, most of which were fantastic with Loki’s quest in Fear Itself to kill Thor to save everyone, or the single issue of Mephistopheles in a bar(this series has done more to explore Marvel’s underworld than any other I feel). The reason why the series ranks so highly is due to its ending. The end of Kid Loki’s saga is a heart-wrenching thing to endure, but at the same time… it couldn’t have ended in any other way. Loki is informed by Ikol(old Loki in bird form) of what is coming due to both of their machinations, the end of everything good. The next day, Mephistopheles will take the Fear Crown from the Fear Lords and with its power, unite all the underworlds underneath him. “It wouldn’t be Hell on Earth, it would be Hell Everywhere” Ikol informs him that it is too late to stop this from happening, and that there is only one way left to save the realms from this fate. Kid Loki must give up himself to Ikol, everything he is will die and be replaced will Old Loki in his body, his fear will be erased and the crown will shatter. As a gift, Kid Loki is allowed to speak to three people and say goodbye, but is not allowed to mention anything of the plight. Loki’s first action is the most telling and sets out for the Underworld to see Hela. There he asks Hela for one last favor, to send his only friend Leah far, far away from him. Leah has been Loki’s companion for most of the series and you could see there was a great caring that had developed… many thinking their relationship had turned romantic towards the end. This is the first thing Loki sets out to do, save his friend, because he knows once Ikol takes him over he will manipulate and use her. So Leah is sent away, and Loki is unable to even say goodbye or explain himself to her because there are others he needs to speak to more. On the way he encounters on of the Disir(fallen valkyries once cursed with hunger and the ability to destroy both mind, body, and soul) and asks if they still could destroy him, for if they could then he would save everyone without returning as a villain… but due to his own heroic actions in the past, the Disir are no longer cursed. The last person Loki speaks to is Thor.. and this scene always makes me cry. Loki approaches his brother and asks him to promise “that if he ever goes evil again, to kill him” Thor however is appalled at this, Loki has become a hero in the eyes of Asgard and has Thor’s trust and he tells him that he is a good person. He knows that if Loki turned to the wrong side that he would help him find his away again because he is a better man now, he will never kill him. It is everything Loki ever wanted, he is redeemed, he has the love and respect of his brother… but he completely misses the point of his warning and through his own actions he has paved the way for the return of his old self.

So resigned to his fate, Kid Loki returns to Ikol. Ikol says that he tried his best but the game was stacked against him and he never could win this… Loki’s last words are that, in the end he had won. Ikol had set this entire thing up in order to earn everyone’s trust, to change and be unexpected. But Ikol had never changed, he was the same old villain, Loki had made done those things, he had become the man they both wanted to be, he could change while Ikol never could. And as Loki kills himself to save everyone he spits that venom at Ikol “I WIN” And all that is left is Loki, in a younger body… grieving for a part of him that would never be again.

The series was a tragedy that played out in a perfect ending. Kid Loki will not soon be forgotten, and the fans have been given all new reasons to despise Loki. While some of the stories this year of Journey into Mystery may have been lacking in my eyes, the ending was so complete and awesome that it shakes me up even on a re-read. Kid Loki’s saga is one of the most epic stories ever told in the Marvel Universe, and he will be missed dearly by those that know he his gone.

IV

Uncanny X-Force

This is the series that got me into the modern day antics of the Marvel mutants. The Uncanny X-Force is the darker side of the X-Men, going out and assassinating the threats to mutantkind. This book has been incredibly written and beautifully illustrated throughout and is now a personal favorite comic run.

The main drawback from this year’s run comes at the beginning with the Otherworld Arc. Fantomex is captured by the Captain Britain Corps. and put on trial for his crimes. The story is strange and off the wall which usually works, but with the series coming straight off the Dark Angel Saga, the series strongest storyline, Otherworld felt rather boring at times, especially if you don’t know or care who Captain Britain is… The series then kicks it into high gear again for its Final Execution arc, where X-Force is set upon by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Everything comes to a head here, and the series does a fantastic job of tying up all its plot threads together while delivering massive action. We see a destopian future where the X-Force took control, with Psylocke ruling with an iron fist and where the Punisher serves as their top enforcer. The Brotherhood however brings things back to square one by kidnapping Evan, a teenage Apocalypse who was raised by Fantomex to be a good man. The brotherhood intends to get Evan to accept his future as Apocalypse and wipe out humanity. You really can feel the tension as things continue as Evan is subjected to the truths that his whole past was just a lie engineered by Fantomex to ensure that he didn’t wind up a monster, his parents never existed, and he has been manipulated. The final battle to recapture Evan is insane and continues for many books, however there are two moments that people still are talking about. One is Nightcrawler killing the Blob by teleporting himself past his invulnerable skin, and leaving a live shark inside of him, trying to eat its way out. It is an insanely brutal way to see someone go and it serves as the perfect companion for the other huge moment. Wolverine kills his son. Remender sets the rule down that people like Wolverine, Daken, and Deadpool can be killed by drowning, it takes much longer but eventually their brain cells all dye of oxygen starvation and there aren’t able to regenerate. Daken nearly kills his father with this method earlier on, and during their last fight Wolverine drowns his son with his own hands. It is strange in how… non violent the whole thing is, with the amount of blood throughout the fights, Wolverine doesn’t even pop his claws. He simply holds his son’s head under water until he is dead. It is such an uncharacteristic fight for him, not flashy, no blood, no snarling or screaming… just silence.

This series had my favorite characterizations of its cast. My personal favorite being Deadpool, Rememder gave my favorite interpretation of the character ever. The tragedy, humor, and badass-ery of the character are all intact and he DEVELOPS AS A CHARACTER… that is so insanely rare for Deadpool its not even funny. Wolverine is done well, and is written competently without overshadowing the other characters. Psylocke is a complete badass who is thrown through the ringer here, she gets broken mentally and is still picking up the pieces which is why it makes so much sense for her to pick things back up in the next series. Fantomex is just… Fantomex is just cool man, he is the epitome of cool, and a lot of people picking up this series had no clue who he was but they love the guy now.

One of the things brought up throughout the series is whether what they are doing is right or merely necessary, it haunts the characters in their own way. Everyone has to deal with the fact that they are assassins and have entered a darker world. Eventually it is revealed that they can’t all continue this way, doing the hard thing for as long as they could survive it because they thought it was right…but they all have their breaking point. The series ends with X-Force disbanded, and they have all had their losses but they are not broken, there is still hope and the world is still spinning… and that is thanks to the hard decisions they made yesterday.

III

Hawkeye

You should totally be reading this comic, bro(Something I went into depth on in my Marvel Now .1 post, more Hawkeye coverage there!) I say this without hesitation, Hawkeye will remembered as one of the most important comicbooks of this generation. Following the exploits of Hawkeyes, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, when they are not being Avengers and just running around being awesome while getting beat up by tracksuit draculas.

The single fault with the series is that its length, there isn’t enough and when a new issue does emerge it is immediately devoured by adoring masses. The film may have made Hawkeye a household name, but this series is making him an icon. What I truly love though is how much time is devoted to Kate Bishop, a character who could have easily been forgotten but who was brought in as Hawkeye’s partner Hawkeye in what I still consider to be the smartest thing done in the series so far. Their relationship just works, they click and have great chemistry in a way that is entirely non-romantic and beyond that of mentor and apprentice. They are friends and partners, they give each other shit all the time, and I also love that there is never, EVER a discussion about changing Kate’s name, they are both Hawkeye.

The best comics are always a union of story and art, Hawkeye is no exception. David Aja’s art is exciting, using a minimalist style and making brilliant use of purples, the style is quickly becoming iconic. Marvel has started a trend of switching out artists during arcs that can lead to some visual whiplash but the replacement artist’s so far have done a great job of keeping the style of Hawkeye the same while allowing for their own embellishments. While Avengers or All-New X-Men may be the most technically arresting comics that Marvel has… Hawkeye is hands down its most stylish.

Allow me to sum up this series as simply as I can: Hawkeye is the Cowboy Bebop of comics. If it had ran the entirety of this year, it would be taking the top spot. Unfortunately we have reached the point where we must judge the “quantity of quality” when it comes to our final three.

Officially the best arrow in Marvel’s quiver. The best arrow of course being a boomerang arrow.

Because boomerangs.

II

Saga

*Fan-Girl Squealing*

Ahem… okay, now that is out of the way. I need to explain a little bit about my own preferences before I get into this review. When I first started reading comics it was only stuff from Japan, hell I was reading Korean comics before I was reading stateside. Eventually I decided to give American comics a shot but I was intimidated about Marvel and DC as their continuity had grown so large, two series however did grab my attention and bring me into the fold of American superheroics. The first was Image’s Invincible, and the second was called Runaways. While the series’ run was woefully short, the author Brian K. Vaughan had immediately captured my attention and I would continue following his work, to Y: The Last Man, then Ex Machina, and now to Saga. With my personal experiences with the author and my views of him as one of modern comic’s greatest writers, I can honestly state from Saga’s strong start and imaginative landscape that this may well be his magnum opus.

Landfall is the largest planet in its galaxy and is at war with its moon Wreath. The people of Landfall are a winged race using technological weaponry whereas Wreath is the home to horned individuals capable of wielding magic. Their war had reached the point where it would have destroyed one of the them, and with the destruction of either planet or moon, would have destroyed the other in its wake. Now the war is fought amongst proxy planets amidst the cosmos, becoming something that is touching everywhere except the planets on which it started, no one remembers why the bloodshed started and no end is ever in sight, the war simply is. This story is not about the war, it is not about heroes trying to save the galaxy or trying reach a common ground. This is the saga of two parents trying to protect and raise their child. Marko and Alana were both soldiers who abandoned the fighting and ran away together, getting married and giving birth to their daughter Hazel. The problem begins and ends with the fact that they were fighting on opposite sides of the war. Seen as traitors by both sides, they are now being hunted down. One of the fascinating facts is that many people who hear about them simply cannot comprehend that these two are two people in love, the notion of members of these two species being in the same room together without killing each other is so alien that the idea of them falling for one another is beyond understanding. The high commands of both worlds realize how things could look if these two were discovered in any sort of public fashion and must be taken care of, both sides hiring someone to deal with their problem.

One of my favorite aspects of this story is how well the characters are developed as even the assassins sent after them are fully realized people. Landfall assigns a powerful robot prince to track them down, Prince Robot is a recent veteran of a horrific battle and is still suffering the mental trauma of it however he is hellbent to finish this assignment so he can be done with this war and start a family. The Wreath powers hire two freelancers to take on the contract, The Will and the Stalk. The Will is still a rather enigmatic character whose personality reminds me of a gunslinger from an old western, he is partnered with a Lying Cat… which is cat that can tell when you are lying(duh). The Will is fantastic and halfway through the series so far says “fuck it” and just buggers off the spend his employer’s money at a sex planet. However he is now set deep in this entire ordeal by a personal vendetta.

If you hadn’t notice, this series adores taking advantage of the fantastic, giving the entire story the feel of a child’s bedtime story created by Jim Henson studios and directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Hell, Marko and Alana’s first goal is to get off the planet they are stuck on, so naturally they seek out a rocketship forest with the aid of their spectral babysitter! As for our protagonists, I find its actually hard to describe them. Its like describing a friend you have known for a long time, you can give some basic adjectives about them but you can’t fully explain your own comprehension. Marko is a noble and peaceful soul, Alana is fierce and dependable, both are caring and try their hardest with Hazel. But they are so much more than that. More than many other characters they truly feel like real people and we are still getting to know them. All I really want to say is that they are good people to know, and I recommend meeting them.

Now I have gone on and on about Vaughan’s writing and characters, however its only with the help of Fiona Staples that this world is giving its living vibrancy. I had never read a single issue of her work before, but I have fallen head over heels for her detailed, yet simple style. The lines are vibrant and her faces are filled with emotion, the colors are understated giving credence to the preceding that lends a believability to everything. No matter how strange things get, you never question the fact that what you are seeing does not fit into this universe.Much like the pages she creates, Fiona Staples is a wonder, and I can’t wait to see how she continues to improve and shine throughout this series run.

I adore Saga and I would recommend it to anyone I met, whether or not they read comics. Saga had eight absolutely perfect issues this year, and would have taken my top ranking if another series hadn’t beaten it out by five awesome issue…

I

Batman

Let me start off this with a disclaimer in full honesty: I love Batman. I love the character to a frankly unhealthy degree; my apartment door plague proclaims the residence as ‘The Batcave’, I have oodles of DVDs of both animated series and live action exploits, I even have an Arkham City t-shirt signed by Kevin Conroy. Hell, I am the proud creator of the Batmania drinking game(which will never be described here for fear of a lawsuit from grieving loved ones). This all needs to be said because I am well aware of my Bat-bias, I honestly don’t feel it pushed affected the outcome of this ranking. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo were unstoppable and gave Batman a perfect year with twelve fantastic issues.

While the newest issues were fresh in my mind, the main thought as I began double checking 2012′s issues was “if the labyrinth issue was released this year than that is going to lock this for the number one spot”, and it was. The issue in question was the first release of 2012 and features Batman at the mercy of the Court of Owls, trapped in their underground labyrinth. Bruce has already been trapped down there for quite some time, injured, delirious, and walking in circles. Every room he reaches tells him a bit more about his foes and how powerful they are, that this is their city and that they will be here long after he dies. All the while you get glimpses of the Talon, their court assassin, ghosting Batman in the background, and you know he could kill him at any time but is simply giving the Court their show. The pages start inverting and flipping as Bruce falls further into madness and breaks… finally the issue ends with the order being given and the Talon stabbing Bruce through the chest. Bruce manages to take control of his rage long enough to fight off the Court of Owls descending upon him, the art style mutating into delusions as Bruce sees himself as a hulking Bat-beast attacking these owls, he has been broken but is still thrashing. I love this whole sequence, its great and Capullo has a lot of fun with the Bat-beast while keeping the Court of Owls super creepy in both the delusions and in reality. Batman being Batman, defeats the Talon and escapes the labyrinth, staggering back to the Cave. It is at this point that the Court of Owls awakens their army of Talons, with all their previous assassins having been stowed away and preserved, the sends their newly awakened army of zombie assassins into the Gotham night to kill those who stand in the way of the Court’s agenda and to bring back the Bat’s head.

This leads into the next arc, The Night of Owls. This event crossed into all the other Bat comics series which.. was a mistake. I love these characters but DC has overplayed Batman and has his symbol everywhere, with 4 Batman titles (Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batman and Robin) and 5 series starring his supporting characters(Teen Titans, Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Birds of Prey) which is now 5 with a Talon series spinning off of this event. It becomes a massive problem with events revolving around Gotham because with that many writers and issues in play it leads to messiness and makes the story bloated. Night of the Owls suffered from it and the current Death of the Family is as well. However that said, the main series is not hindered by it. You do not have to read through any of the other stories to get what is going on in the Batman series and so I don’t hinder the ranking of this series for being shackled down by so many other characters.

During the finale of the arc we see the reinterpretation of the character Owlman. For the uninitiated, Owlman was Thomas Wayne Jr. and served Batman’s role in the Justice League of a parallel dimension(The storyline was adapted into the film Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths). Bringing in Owlman as the final villain of this arc was a brilliant move as its an intelligent way to use the New 52′s continuity shift to bring in a villain that no one expected but that we knew. Hell, there have been Owls everywhere throughout the series and we were all shocked when Owlman showed up, THAT is a good author.

We then have what I consider to be the strangest issue in the year, fittingly issue 13. Focusing on a new character named Harper Row, it is a good issue and gives us a much needed breather between dark storylines… it just is strange because we have no idea yet why this character is important but she hovers in the background of the series, daring the audience to figure out what the hell her deal is… Again, not a bad issue, I simply want to know how she will become important in the future. My two thoughts being either a. She will become a new Batgirl… which I hate the idea of because we have two utterly fantastic Batgirls waiting in comic limbo to be called into the action. My other thought is that she will become the new Oracle, fulfilling the role that Barbara Gordon vacated once she started wearing the cowl again.

Now we have reached our current event, The Death of the Family. Quickly becoming one of the definitive Joker stories, its focus is on the Joker returning after a year of plotting in order to tear apart Batman’s little team. To kill the family. As it is still ongoing I will refrain from delving too deeply but I will say this is the most menacing Joker you will ever read, and this is the first comic I ever read that has ever scared me. I have a fair amount of disconnect between psyche and page, but Joker’s attack on the Gotham Police Department drew me in and scared the hell out of me. Blackness everywhere as Gordon hears Joker killing his men… its brilliantly executed. Capullo has made Batman his character, and years from now will be remembered for this run more than he will be for Spawn. Ruling from the shadows in this series, he uses the dark shadows of Gotham as his blank page, drawing them back to reveal our characters and surroundings, but they are always present.

Honestly, any single one of my top 3 series could have ranked highest. They are all a perfect union of artist and author and flow seemlessly. However one of this is one of those times where the quantity outweighs, because even though they are all of the highest quality, Batman published more than either Saga or Hawkeye, and in this case more is a very, very good thing.

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The Return of the New Universe

Today's release of the Avengers had a character who was speaking in code and he gave a prophecy, here is the translation.

The White Event refers to the New Universe series. It was an event where the Universe granted power sets to certain individuals in order to protect the planet due to oncoming events. The New Universe series took place in a separate universe than the standard Marvel Universe(it was supposed to be ours actually but take that with a grain of salt). The most recent solicits of Marvel revealed that the character Starbrand of the New Universe would be returning but apparently he will not be coming from the dimension the original title took place in but from the core marvel universe. This begs the question of what event could possibly be on the horizon that would cause the Universe to cause this now as it had not done so before thanks to our world's already stellar defense... who knows? But you have my attention Hickman.

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Counting to Midnight- Best Comics of 2012 Part 1

Welcome to a new segment of Sparrows With Machineguns that I like to call Counting to Midnight!

Okay, its a pretentious name for my top twelve lists, I admit that. But anyone who has read anything I have written prior has knowledge of my love for elaboration. My coverage of Marvel NOW! has been nigh all-consuming, so I decided to shake things up with this segment. For our first Counting to Midnight, I am going to cover my top 12 favorite comic book series of 2012. A bit of explanation on this topic: these are my personal favorite and sorted by my own preferences. While I consider myself a reader of quality, some titles may have ranked a higher slot than others by virtue of simply being more entertaining. Once I had the list of candidates I had an extremely difficult time ranking them. Some I was able to say "Did I really enjoy X more than Z?" however with other titles I had to look at them by their length. If a comic had more issues than others and had a bad issue that was fine, however a smaller series would rank higher than a series that I felt had a boring story arc. Another very important aspect was only judging a comic by issues released this year, something I feel that many other reviewers neglect and allow continuing favorites to be elevated by some residual nostalgia.

Without further ado- My personal favorite comic series of 2012:

XII

Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing is a storm of contradictions. He is a large brutish character but one of the most soulful characters in DC's stable of characters. Swamp Thing is a character that most people actually have heard of due to his uncanny media saturation: 2 films, a surprisingly long running TV show, and an animated series, however few people would be able to tell you there character's name or any details than "Uh, he was the plant guy right?". Many comic fans know the character when through a renaissance under the pen of Alan Moore and became something great and wondrous... However I like many other comic fans have not read Moore's Saga. Yes I know, I am a terrible person. Focusing on the matter at hand though, this current incarnation may well end up being the new definitive telling of the Swamp Thing.

At the start of this year, Alec Holland was still on the run from the Rot, the forces of decay and death that had sent horrific creatures after him and his lover Abby Arcane. Alec had yet to take up the mantle of Swamp Thing, denying the power in order to remain both a human and himself. As an audience it was hard not to root for Alec,we wanted him to manage to stay himself and win out against his fate. Just as much though we wanted to see him become the warrior-king he is destined to become. The issue where he finally is forced to kneel to his fate is my favorite of the series to this day. Abby is revealed to be the avatar of the Rot, just as Alec is to the Green, and she is captured and begins her transformation into an abomination. Meanwhile, the Rot has moved and set blaze to the Parliament of Trees, the place where the Green pulls its strength from... oh and Alec then takes a chainsaw to the chest. Finally willing to undergo the transformation in order to save his life and give him a chance to save Abby. With the Parliament burning, the Green lacks the strength to trigger the transformation and only has the power to slow Alec's death, drawing out his last moments with the realization that this could have all been avoided had he embraced his heritage earlier. Naturally our hero comes out of it, and I am happy to say that due to Alec's own ingenuity is he able to spark his transformation, becoming the Swamp Thing.

Taking a moment aside to talk about the art. This book is gorgeous, the colors are lustrous, the Rot-monsters are sickening and horrifying, and the designs throughout are spectacular. Of particular note is the design of the new Swamp Thing. Usually depicted as a being that expresses both horror and melancholy of Frankenstein's Monster, this new incarnation is the multiple time referred to as the Green's Warrior King, the design fits that perfectly. There is not sorrow in this design, it is glorious, fully elemental and powerful. The little touches such as moss growing on him and the branched crown on his brow really sell things, however it is at the end of his birth when he grows leafy wings and swears to the Rot that "he will show them war" that we realize how magnificent this creature truly is. The layouts in this book are great throughout this arc, showing brilliant creativity. The first time Swamp Thing takes flight we get to see through his eyes, the outline lines around the panels creating the lines of the Swamp Thing's face as we see the desert below us springing into green life.

The beginning arc that was finished this year was a personal favorite and turned me into a fan of this series and this would have ranked much higher if I enjoyed the later issues nearly as much. Eventually Swamp Thing would team up with Animal Man, the Knight of the Red, teaming up to fight the Heart of the Rot. They end up being tricked by the Rot's newest Avatar(the Rot is a cheater and has like three) and both the Green and Red's champions are thrown into the future where the Rot has already won. Which in itself is a good premise, hell I loved it on Samurai Jack. The problem being that these two are not the only heroes in the world and this would have made a GREAT event comic. Screw the upcoming Trinity War(hooray MORE superheroes fighting each other) lets have the heroes of our planet united underneath Swamp Thing and Animal Man fighting to save the world from the forces of death and decay! However I can understand why they wouldn't go that route with the similar event, Blackest Night, still being fresh in people's minds. The main problem here is that with the Rotworld arc, we see Swamp Thing in a post apocalyptic DC universe and fighting against corrupted heroes and villains who boil down to pretty bland cameos half the time. However this story is self contained between two books that are now set in the future where all the heroes are dead, so yeah guess what is going to happen? They are going to end up fixing things and winding back up in the past again. That is how this will end. We all know it, nothing will change and it will have zero impact on the other books. I know this fact shouldn't make me as angry as it does but the Rot was built to be such a huge threat that we want to see the fight between it and the rest of the world, that is the story we want to read... Instead the entire thing is hand-waved and instead we get to see our heroes fighting in order to retcon the enemies from winning. That coupled with the fact that later books just aren't as entertaining or engrossing as the earlier issues this year, regrettably drops Swamp Thing down to the number twelves spot on this year's list.

XI

The Punisher

I loved this series so much and the fact that it was thrown to the side for Thunderbolts is a tragedy. Frank Castle, much like John Constantine, is a character that tends to suffer from something of a split characterization where you have the more serious, down-to-earth stories where they are grounded and age realistically and then others where they fall into the ageless category that most superheroes wind up. For years my favorite run of a Punisher series was Punisher MAX by Garth Ennis and it fell firmly into the former, with the key touchstone of Frank's age being that he served in the Vietnam War. This book falls into the latter category and does a magnificent job of fitting the Punisher into the Marvel Universe.

If they were ever to make a Punisher TV series, this series should be its template. Not so much starring The Punisher in many issues so much as the world he inhabits. The main characters are the victims, cops, and criminals and how they are affected by the Punisher. Frank Castle here isn't so much a character here, as he has already become something primal, he is Godzilla, this natural calamity that sweeps through and on its own its exciting, but the drama comes from how people react to its wake. Key among them is the character I would name the main character, Rachel Cole-Alves, a veteran whose circumstances mirror those of The Punisher's own. It is all a very intelligent way at viewing the Punisher mythos as very rarely are we ever seeing the book from Frank's point of view but almost always are seeing him while following others, whether its a cop describing a shooting he was involved in or a young boy who is sneaking food to the strange veteran who has taken residence nearby.

As I had stated earlier, this book is heavily engrossed in the Marvel Universe and it does this exceedingly well. Throughout most of this run Frank is heavily bandaged and healing from a run in with The Vulture. Soon he ends up going toe to toe with Megacrime, a collaboration between various supervillain organizations like A.I.M. and Black Spectre. This confrontation with Megacrime leads into the Omega Effect, a 3-way crossover between The Avenging Spider-Man, Daredevil, and The Punisher. I really, REALLY enjoyed most of this crossover, it made sense how they got these three working together, I loved how Spider-Man was written as unable to keep himself from joking even though he is scared shitless by Frank and how everyone is unsure what the hell to call Rachel(Punisher-ette?) However at the end of the arc, it ends with nothing having progressed and the arc would simply be wrapped up later in the Daredevil series, leaving a rather bland taste in everyone's mouths. The last portion of this series deals mostly with the Punisher helping Rachel, you can tell that he is seriously considering taking her on but still hoping that she isn't as broken as him and that she has a choice about not being... him. The last few issues are wonderful, with Frank and Rachel spending one issue simple pulling a heist on a Supervillain auction in order to get supplies they will need. You know you should be scared when the Punisher gets his hand on adamantium.

This series ends on a bittersweet note as far as Frank and Rachel go however I really liked how things end up shaking out. If you enjoyed this series then there is an ongoing epilogue called Punisher: War Zone which follows the aftermath of the main series that has created a situation where Frank is being hunted down by the Avengers. I really loved this series and it was killed off far too quickly in order to push Frank onto the Thunderbolts. We can only hope that someday soon Rucka and Castle will be reunited.

X

Aquaman

I never thought I would have Aquaman become one of my favorite comics but its hard to dislike such a quality series. Adhering to the mantra of "There are no bad characters...", Geoff Johns has turned Arthur into one of the premiere heroes of the New 52 and is quickly turning popular perception of Aquaman on its head. Arthur is a man struggling against how his homes view him. Atlantis wanting him as their king but not needing him, and the surface needing him but ridiculing him to his face. His perseverance throughout is one of his most admirable traits. His wife Mera is a full partner throughout the series, possibly even more powerful than he is, she is a character in her own right without having to rely on her husband. Every scene between these two is a joy and they are remain my favorite couple in the current DC universe.

This year in Aquaman was focused entirely on Atlantis. Arthur and Mera had just taken down the Trench, a race of powerful, cannibalistic monsters when Aquaman's past comes back to haunt him. Beginning with an Atlantean hit squad coming after Arthur and attacking him in the desert, things kick into high gear with the introduction of Arthur's old team, the Others and emergence of his nemesis, Black Manta. Manta is one of those characters who can be either horrifically goofy or incredibly imposing depending on the team behind him and he quickly establishes himself in the latter. Hunting down on of the Others, a woman with pre-cognitive abilities, he establishes himself as a cunning hunter who may just be a match for our Atlantean hero. The Others themselves are all varied and interesting, of particular note is The Operative who needs his own series right-the-hell now! Reuniting after years as Arthur's past is dredged up and we discover the reason for his fued with Black Manta. They killed each others' fathers. Manta had been going after Aquaman and discovered his dad instead who fought him off but died of a heart attack. In retaliation Aquaman kills Black Manta's father and scars Manta's face. It is a really dark turn but it irrevocably locks these two in a cycle of vengeance and it shows our hero in a more tragic light. Any flashback we see him amongst the Others, he is so full of rage that he could hardly be called a hero, it is wonderful to see how he came from that angry young man to one of the world's finest. I also really enjoyed the last moment's of Aquman and Black Manta's duel, with Aquaman sparing his life to be the better man that day but acknowledging the fact that he knows that he will have to kill him someday.

More recently we have been introduced to Orm the Ocean Master, current King of Atlantis. Again, Johns knocks the characterization out of the park. Orm does not in any way come across as a villain but as law-abiding monarch who truly does care about his older brother. The final issue of the year ends up placing the two at end with an event crossing over with the Justice League series. First off, how awesome is it that the first crossover event for the Justice League isn't with Batman or Superman but with Aquaman?!(Answer: Very) Atlantis is attacked by the surface world and war is declared with Aquaman caught in the middle between the two nations. It is building up to be a very cool event and hopefully it will a worthy addition to this series. One major gripe from me on that issue and its Justice League counterpart is that for some reason Mera decided to rip off a quarter of her costume to be more revealing. I adore Mera and she was already sexy with her skin-tight scalemail... the fact that she shows up wearing this outfit when they are at war is groan-inducing and really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

IX

Archer & Armstrong

Archer & Armstrong is so much fun that it every time you open a fresh issue it may as well play its own theme music and dispense candy. A long, long time ago, on a Tuesday, three princes changed the world. The youngest, Gilam, had died in battle and the eldest had decided to activate a strange device known as the Boon to save him. The middle child, Aram fought to stop its activation, scared of the price it would ask. Aram strikes too late and his older brother Ivar activates the boon. Their kingdom is wiped off the planet and only they remained.

Cut to modern day where we have a fundamentalist theme park in Middle America where there is a secret assassin training regime in the model of Noah's Arc.

Go ahead, feel free to read that again and let the happiness take over. Inside the arc our hero Archer is beginning his final exam, fighting off all his adopted brothers and sisters in a battle royale. Archer wins easily due to his super power, which may be one of the best abilities I have ever heard of in a comic. Archer can tap into humanity's racial muscle memories, essentially tapping into skills that people have used at different points in the past or present. Lockpicking, Karate, obscure Greek wrestling developed by Hercules, all are at his disposal. Given a golden artifact, he is sent to hunt down the anti-christ... who turns out to be Aram. Our ancient prince has put on many pounds over the years and is currently working as a bouncer in a biker bar under the name of Armstrong. The boon granted him with the 'gift' of immortality, which he has been using to drink, read, sleep, and be awesome. Both of our heroes are soon set upon by one of the many Sects who are out to reconstruct the Boon and gain immortality. It is during this time that Archer realizes that his parents don't care for him, that he is merely a pawn in their quest for power and so he and Armstrong set off to ensure the Boon is never re-assembled.

Since becoming partners their troubles have only increased and have since fought against Da Vinci's deathtraps, deadly nun-jas, and a Sect of Shaolin Nazis. This series specializes in its own brand of irreverent irrelevance that just makes it a true gem. The series has just started its second arc and is still going strong. This series had no bad issues or missteps in it, and if it had run all year it would have been a serious contender for the number one spot(we will see about 2013). For now though its five issues earn it the number 9 spot and a serious recommendation from myself.

VIII

Daredevil

It can be a slow and painful thing to watch a man who takes himself to seriously. Daredevil was in serious danger of falling into that chasm. Thank God for Mark Waid. Returning Matt Murdock to the happy swashbuckler from days past, our hero decided to stop being sad and be awesome instead.

Daredevil's year began with the Omega Drive, a strange device that was once a "4" badge from a Fantastic Four costume. As their costumes are made from unstable molecules and have been exposed to unknown radiations and energy from their travels, it had become something more, a data drive with unlimited capacity. It was in this unassuming vessel that Megacrime placed their secrets. During his first adventure of the year, Matt gets his hands on the Omega Drive and Megacrime begins hunting him down.

Daredevil soon enters the Omega Effect cross-over with Spider-Man and The Punisher. This event is covered in the Punisher review(entry 11) and my thoughts are expressed there. However I will say that I really loved Matt's arc in the story, as he attempts to talk Rachel out of becoming like the Punisher. Matthew believes that maybe he could have talked Frank out of being how he is if he had gotten the chance earlier and gets that chance here with Rachel. Its very telling seeing Matt attempting to save someone during all the chaos and even more so seeing him blame himself for Frank's own darkness which he has no control over.

Personally I felt that the Omega Drive storyline should have been wrapped up during the Omega Effect. The eventual ending felt like a wrap up as Daredevil turns to the Avengers to assist him. They could have done this at anytime but instead the storyline got carried on for a few issues too long. However two good story threads did come during this time, Matt's relationship with the new District Attorney and Daredevil's capture at the hands of Dr Doom. Daredevil is spirited away to Latveria, his senses destroyed by toxins, and he is left truly unable to comprehend his surroundings. Its a great arc and his escape is particularly thrilling.

Then comes Coyote, a new villain who uses his powers to destroy Matt's life and credibility. He does so through out this year, planting the seeds of doubt in his best friend's mind and even getting Matt to doubt himself. I am not going to reveal the who, why, or how Coyote does this but I will say that I really liked this villain and his storyline led to some of the creepiest imagery I saw all year.

Daredevil is in fine form this year and I am so very glad that Marvel decided to keep this series running rather than give it a relaunch in NOW! This series is still going strong and next issue we have Daredevil vs Spider-man and the return of Stilt-Man. Hell Yeah!

VII

Wonder Woman

This may well be the best thing to come of DC's New 52. One year later and I am being constantly shocked at the lack of cohesion, between time compression and retcons, the whole universe has become a minefield. Successful series generally exist because they did not have their continuity disturbed, Wonder Woman is the exception.

Years ago Wonder Woman had her origin retold and in that story she was formed by her mother from clay and had life breathed into her by the gods. It was a fitting origin that suited her mythological roots and was wholly original to her. At the beginning of the year, Diana has just learned that the story of her being formed from clay was a lie she had been told her entire life to conceal the truth, that she is a demigod and the child of Zeus. Hippolyta kept this fact from her to keep Diana safe from Hera's jealous wrath and when this fact becomes revealed, Hera strikes down all the Amazons. Diana is now on the run protecting Zola, a pregnant girl who is carrying another of Zeus' children and is accompanied by Hermes. This year is very dedicated to Diana learning more about her divine heritage as the supporting cast throughout the series is either a God, a demigod and sibling, or Zola who is carrying a new demigod. All this is happening while Zeus has disappeared and the gods begin warring over the Throne of Olympus.

This is a great story. The author really gets Wonder Woman, she is a great and fierce woman but you never doubt for a second her love and compassion. I also love the way the Greek Gods are rendered. They are all very alien, Hermes being avian, Hephaestus is squat and volcanic, Poseidon is a grand leviathan. They also generally refer to each other by their function which makes an interesting amount of sense, with Poseidon being called 'Sea' or Hades 'Hell'. Hades is the only design which I simply don't understand... he is rendered as a child in armor whose head is covered in candles, the wax coating his face. Its a very interesting design I just don't really get why that is Hades, especially the reason he is drawn child-like. Still that is simply a personal preference.

I would say this series very much is the deconstruction of Wonder Woman and is done very well. One of the most controversial aspects of this has been the Amazons who have become more monstrous in their actions and it has been polarizing to some fans. It is now explained that the Amazons board ships that sail near their home, take the men by force and then kill them. This is how they are able to have daughters and continue their race of only women. Male children it is explained are given to Hephaestus to work his forges in exchange for the magical arms and armor the amazons bear. I personally really liked this explanation, as it answers a lot of questions about the Amazons that many would take for granted. Also the idea of a Amazons reaving and raping, to me at least, works with the old Greek Mythology... however I can understand how many, especially female readers, can take umbrage to this retcon. Many readers boycotted the series after this issue came to light, and that is why I felt it necessary to cover it here so you could make your decision fully informed on whether or not to read the series.

In more recent issues, the battle for Olympus has resolved(for now) and an Olympian has claimed the throne. Diana is now searching for Zola, who was kidnapped, and is turning to her other demigod brothers and sisters for help. However the biggest news of this arc is the re-introduction of another mythology, that of the New Gods. I am really excited to see more of Orion and Genesis in the future and this series has become a perfect place, I feel, to introduce the Fourth World.

This has been a fantastic series and is a personal favorite of mine. The best depiction I have read of Diana in years, you can tell the author really understands the character and how to write her. The return to a more mythological bent in the story is greatly appreciated and serves to set the series apart from the rest of the DC universe in an appreciable way. Lastly the art is just superb, it has a style all its own that is unlike any other series on the shelves right now. If you are at all intrigued by this series, then you owe it to yourself to check it out!

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I am cutting this particular post in half as the reviews have gotten very long-winded even for me. I really am wanting to keep posting as much as I can so I would rather give you all something to read now rather than make you wait till I can finish this.

Anyways feel free to give me feedback on these choices, your picks, or even try to guess what the next choices will be. Also as this is a new segment for me I would love any comments or criticism you may have on the format.

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Marvel NOW! – Review Post .1

HA! Take that Marvel! You aren’t the only one who can use the bullshit “.1″ numbering system!

Not all Marvel NOW! titles will be restarting with a #1, as some are new enough to not require the renumbering. These following titles are the continuing series that I feel are good enough to bring to your attention and should not be lost in the shuffle of new premiere comics.

Captain Marvel

“You all right?” 

“You kidding me? I’m the best.”

Ah, Carol Danvers, we love you. For years your fans have been saying you needed a series to show you the love you deserved and here it is, and it is breathtaking.

The series starts off with Captain America and Ms. Marvel fighting side by side and Captain America trying to convince her to take on the Captain Marvel name, as Mar-Vell is now gone and since she has always been the one to carry his legacy, she is the one who deserves to use the name. Carol has obviously been going through some changes with her new look and eventually decides to take on the name. She isn’t giving up her own identity as Ms. Marvel to take on a new name… she is stepping up to accept a legacy that has always been a part of her character in such a way that all the audience can say is, well, its about time!

This series is incredibly new reader friendly, if you have no idea who the hell Carol is, you will discover that quickly by her attitude and actions, her origins being revisited along the way. I am not going to say much for the story as I really don’t want anything to be spoiled, but it may just be the definitive Carol Danvers story.

As for the artwork. I really liked Carol’s new look from the get-go, even her weird new hairdo, but I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t sure what the fuss was about the interiors. When I first saw them they looked sloppy and slapdash. However I now realize how to describe it properly… the artwork is emotional. Captain Marvel more than any other series has artwork that makes me feel something, whether its beauty, joy, fury, or sorrow. Like its protagonist, this series is a wonder to behold.

Bottom Line:

If you want to read something that will make you feel something all while watching Marvel Comic’s premiere superheroine smash robots till they explode, this is the book for you. If you aren’t one of those people, I still recommend giving this one a shot.

Daredevil

“Turns out in the era of internet surveillance, Homeland security, and DNA evidence, secret identities are a BITCH to maintain.

Matt Murdock has had a life filled with regret, sorrow, betrayal, and darkness. This series takes the decidedly beautiful choice of saying, “Well, FUCK THAT” and had Daredevil cannonball into the deep end of the fun pool. Matt chose this himself after realizing that yeah, life sucked and he had made some bad choices, but he wants to be happy, so he is happy. To get people up to speed on DD; Daredevil was possessed by a demon or something and ruled a gang of ninjas(this is unimportant overall but yeah he just came away from some bad times), and more important to the series, is the fact that everyone knows that Daredevil is Matt Murdock. His face was plastered all over the tabloids, and he is currently trying to live this down by hiding in plain sight and simply denying it until people move past it. However this brings up some new issues in his life, like how it affects the courtroom when everyone there believes he is a law-breaking vigilante.

The stories are fun and definitely comic-book superhero faire. Daredevil so far in the series has fought a conglomeration of criminal organizations, a supervillain made of sound, the Mole Man, Dr. Doom, and STILT-MAN. It is glorious! Something else I have to say is that the art is good throughout but where it really shines is during the radar sections where you see everything through Matt’s eyes. This is my favorite interpretation of his radar sense that I have seen in comics so far, it also tickles me immensely that he sees in pink.

Bottom Line:

Daring, fun, and masterfully crafted. This is a series that shows in modern days, how you can have a relevant comic without turning to darkness and ultraviolence.

Hawkeye

“Okay… this looks bad”

The new Hawkeye series immediately reminded me of the Daredevil series above, and for all the right reasons. It is firmly entrenched in the Marvel Universe, brilliantly executed, and show our hero in a different light than we would normally see them. In opposition to my usual style, I am going to begin by talking about the art… Aja is a mastermind. This series is beautiful crafted in a  minimalist style that doesn’t have me comparing its art with comics, but its art with art. Special mention goes to issue 2, which takes place mostly at a circus and almost the entire issue is done in shades of purple. The covers also reflect the minimalist style and are always a favorite to see at comic stands. Less really is more here.

Now onto the show.

This series focuses on Clint’s time when he is not running around with the Avengers or saving the world. You would think that may sound boring, but you would be surprised how much shit one man can get into. The smartest move this series made though? Bringing in Kate Bishop. For those who don’t know, Kate Bishop is Hawkeye… okay let me re-explain. Kat Bishop was a member of the Young Avengers before they split(she will be a member when they reform later in NOW!), she loves purple and is an amazing fighter and archer, so she took the Hawkeye name while Clint was dead… only he wasn’t really dead… and then he was a ninja…. comics. The two of them have a good relationship and one of the things I love is that they have never fought over the name, they are both Hawkeye, a fact that amuses them greatly as they enjoy their call and response of it. “Good shot, Hawkeye.” “Why thank you, Hawkeye. Bad guy to you left” “I see him, Hawkeye”, etc. That and the overuse of “bro” are my favorite words gags in the series. Still the reason why bringing Kate in is so smart is because it gives us a character who belongs there and the Clint can trust, but without any sexual tension or angst(unless you are Hawkeye/Hawkeye shipper in which case FOR SHAME) Adding her to this series is the equivalent to teaming up Power Man and Iron Fist back in the day, its chocolate and peanut butter, bro. I really could just continue gushing about this series, hell, issue 3 is built on a single car chase and Clint using trick arrows, but I am going to let you guys experience this one for yourselves.

Bottom Line:

If you like comics then you should be reading this, bro!

Scarlet Spider

"All my life I was dying, I did terrible things. But now I have a second chance."
 
I find it really curious how many anti-heroes have spawned from the antics of Peter Parker. We have the new Venom, the Super Spider-Man, Morbius, and with this series, Kaine. For those uninformed few, Kaine is a clone of Peter Parker…

Wait! Where are you going?! Come on, it won’t be that bad…

Okay, welcome back. Kaine was a character introduced during the much reviled and editorially lengthened Clone Saga. It lasted forever and there were Spidey clones everywhere. Kaine was a failed clone whose body was scarred and so he decided to start killing people and angst… I really hated him. Kaine was trying so hard to get his own series back then, he really wanted to be Spawn…. but yeah, no dice. However he was recently brought back during a recent arc in Spider-Man and cured, he stole a Spidey suit, and decided to leave the country. Kaine makes it as far as Houston before his heroic heritage kicks in and he ends up becoming the guardian hero of the city. One of the most striking things in this series is its humor. I really expected this series to be an angst-fest but it has been really fun and amusing. Hell, the most recent issue had Kaine beating up burglars dressed like Santa Clause! Hell, the first time he stops an old lady crossing the street from getting run over he begins yelling out her for not looking both ways before crossing the fucking street!

Bottom Line

For everyone who is worried about the direction of The Superior Spider-Man, don’t worry, Marvel has your joyfully fun arachnid needs covered.

Venom

“We don’t have to run or be afraid of anything ever again. As long as we are together.”

In many ways I would consider Venom to be a sibling series to Scarlet Spider and vice versa, however while Scarlet Spider is rowdy and fun, Venom is dark and painful.

After high school, Flash Thompson joined the army and became a hero before losing both his legs. Flash was given a new chance to serve his country as Agent Venom, bonding to the symbiote for 48 hours at a time, the maximum time before the creature begins to invade Flash’s mind. Essentially he is forced to run all his missions on a timer less he releases a monster upon whatever populace he was deployed against. It’s a pretty damn cool premise and a really neat direction to take Venom.

One of the things I truly applaud here is how much we dive into Flash’s psyche. Flash is in no way a well adjusted person, with most of his issues stemming from an abusive, alcoholic father. We understand and empathize with this man who was a completely atrocious person in high school and became even worse after his injury and alcohol abuse. This series pulls no punches when it comes to the emotional situations. A few personal stand outs to me were: Flash’s conversation with a man who he had tormented in high school, to the point that they young man still has night terrors over the experiences, as well as Flash’s reaction to his father approaching his deathbed. The series really is as good as I am making it out, Remender’s hands are masterful at the helm here, and his final issue and its conclusion was one of the most satisfying comics I have ever read.

That is not to say the series is perfect. There are some really slow parts that don’t work well with the series(anything dealing with Hell and/or Mephisto). However I do like how entrenched the series is inside the Marvel Universe. Flash eventually goes on to join the Secret Avengers, The Thunderbolts, and even starts dating an Asgardian! Flash has come a long way since bullying Puny Peter at Midtown High.

Bottom Line

Recommended for everyone who likes their soul searching, intellectual series with a side order of alien goo and ultraviolence.

Wolverine and the X-Men

“Welcome to the Jean Grey School For Higher Learning. Welcome to the future.”

Oh, hell yes!

Love this series… oh damn do I love this series.

I know a lot of people who love Cyclops and Utopia and his Extinction Team, but for me THIS is where all the mutant action is at. After the Schism tore apart Wolverine and Cyclops, they went their own ways, with Wolverine shocking everyone by opening his own school for mutants. Now Headmaster Logan of the Jean Grey Institute, he is balancing being an Avenger and running the X-Force all while trying to keep the school from blowing up. This is seriously some of the most fun you will have outside of Nextwave people!

Look I could seriously gush about this series but honestly I would just go on and on and spoil things, so I am just going to name off some things I love about this series in no particular order:

Psychic shotguns, Steampunk Adventurer Beast, Extra-Dimensional Imps who steal your whiskey, Dr. Xantos Starblood- Action Zoologist, BROO, the Hellfire Babies, Beast and Sabretooth fighting IN SPACE, and KRAKOA!

Bottom Line

Go out and start reading this series. You WILL laugh!… or I will kick you and you will then explode.

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