His work is a Monday staple. We’re proud of him for this achievement and for his continued writing excellence in spotlighting comic book gems from across the industry that may not get the profile they deserve. James produces an eclectic weekly column that keeps true comic fans in the know about what’s worth reading.
Thank you James and happy birthday! – John
The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #4 – This issue is a perfect example of why this is my favourite Marvel comic (unless Young Avengers is – I can’t usually decide between the two). Boomerang’s been kicked out of the gang, although after a visit from Power Man and Iron Fist, followed by a total “Heisenberg moment”, fortunes change for him yet again. And he meets a very rude girl. Nick Spencer is making this one of the funniest books on the stand, but also does some truly terrific character work throughout. The way he builds to the last page of the issue is perfect. Steve Lieber is terrific in this book. He shows the superhero fight perfectly, but is even better at capturing the smaller character moments that make this book so terrific.
The Activity #15 – This book is at its best when the members of Team Omaha are on mission, and this issue splits the team in two. Weatherman and Bookstore are scouting a location in Afghanistan while Switchfoot and Fiddler (who don’t really get along) are searching for a downed satellite in Siberia. Very good character interactions by Nathan Edmondson and great art by Mitch Gerads. Apparently these two are going to be doing some work for Marvel soon, which is exciting, but I hope they are a little better at meeting deadlines than they are with this book, and that this title doesn’t suffer because of their new work; I’d rather keep reading this than a Marvel book.
All-New X-Men #17 – So Magik, Past Beast, and Past Iceman have gone into the future to find out what’s going on with the Future X-Men, only to discover that at some point in the future, after Dazzler’s bid to become President of the United States goes wrong, the Future X-Men have a Future Schism of some sort. If that sentence doesn’t confuse you, then you are the right kind of person to read this book. Not a whole lot is explained, because you aren’t supposed to know your future, but we do confirm that the Future X-Men that are in the present are not to be trusted, which is why it’s time to bring the other Future X-Men into the present to figure out once and for all what should be done about the Past X-Men who are in the present. Luckily, Magik has always had the ability to travel through time, and has just never used it before Brian Michael Bendis started writing the X-Men, or all of this time travel would have needed some sort of explanation, or a scientific device, or something.
Batman Black and White #2 – Mark Chiarello continues to do an amazing job of curating the list of contributors to this anthology series, bringing in such talented people as JG Jones, Rafael Grampá, Rafael Albuquerque, Jeff Lemire, Alex Nino, Michael Uslan, and Dave Bullock to write and/or draw 8-page Batman stories. Of course, because he’s the boss, Dan Didio is also included in here, writing the only piece that can’t be saved by the quality of the art. The big thrill for me was seeing Grampá playing with Batman; this guy is one of the best artists in the business right now. There’s not much new that can be done with Batman in such a short space, but these are almost all successful stories (and really, JG Jones deserves a better writer).
Bedlam #9 – This book has been faltering a little lately, especially in its timeliness, but Nick Spencer and new artist Nick Browne are putting out a very interesting comic. Fillmore suspects that the recent terrorist attacks are the work of a single hypnotist, and The First, who is basically Bedlam’s Batman, is going about his own investigation. There are some very good ideas at play in this comic.
Catalyst Comix #4 – The lead story shifts to Amazing Grace, who is being romanced by an alien being. The Agents of Change go out for a night of clubbing, and Frank Wells continues his mission to address injustice around the world. Joe Casey’s stories don’t feel as connected right now, but they are all entertaining, and with art from Paul Maybury, Ulises Farinas, and Dan McDaid, this book is gorgeous.
The CBLDF Liberty Annual 2013 – No anthology that opens with a one-page strip by Fábio Moon can be all bad, and this annual fundraiser does have some very good stuff in it. There’s a nice bit by Richard Corben about a District Attorney who goes to great length to silence a cartoonist he doesn’t like. There’s also a good story by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman about the patent men who tried to strangle the film industry. Leah Sottile and Emi Lenox have a good piece about the band Pussy Riot in Russia, and what their story says about all of us, and Josh Williamson and Ron Chan have put together a great story that shows answers the question, “What if Wertham was right?” Usually these annuals include some creator-owned characters that have on-going series, but they were generally the least impressive parts of this book – this year Hoax Hunters, Captain Midnight, and Hack/Slash were the titles; maybe it’s just because I don’t read any of those books that I didn’t care. Still, I’m always happy to buy this comic and support a great cause.
Daredevil: Dark Nights #5 – The second half of David Lapham’s two-part story is just as good as the first. DD has been chasing a ten-inch man named Buggit who was trying to help his cousin beat a criminal charge. Because of Buggit’s actions, the cousin is now dead, and the little man is looking for revenge. This is a very unusual story, as DD has to make his way through a New York filled with other superheroics goings-on, and it has one of the best endings I’ve seen to a story like this. I wish Lapham did more superhero books; he has a unique approach.
Elephantmen #51 – Richard Starkings and Axel Medellin start a new arc in this issue, and it feels a lot more self-contained that is typical for this series. This arc pairs Hip Flask with Jack Farrell, who I assume is a detective, although it’s not clear with which agency. The two are investigating a double suicide, a murder suicide, or a double homicide, depending on your theory, that involves two scientists found dead in their apartment. Farrell doesn’t much like Elephantmen, and has a habit of talking to a woman that no one else can see (think of Gaius Baltar and Caprica Six in Battlestar Galactica). He narrates the story, which gives it a very different feel from any previous arcs. I like the way this story is switching things up here, and appreciate the way in which Hip goes through the evidence in the apartment. This is always a great series, largely because Starkings is always stretching himself as a writer.
God is Dead #2 – I suppose there’s nothing really wrong with Jonathan Hickman’s debut Avatar series, except that it doesn’t really feel like a Hickman comic. The various pantheons of mythology have arrived in the present day, carving up the world into regions of believers, while the US military tries to take them out. It’s a good idea, but really, this book should be examining the reaction of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish believers to what’s happening, instead of a small group of scientists hanging out underground in an abandoned subway tunnel. Maybe if Hickman were actually writing this, instead of just plotting it, there’d be a lot more to sink my teeth into.
Green Arrow #24 – Jeff Lemire gets to temporarily return to his series (between September’s Villains Month, and November’s Zero Year tie-ins) to show us what happens when Count Vertigo shows up in Seattle looking for Ollie. The cast of this book keeps expanding, with Shado facing off against Richard Dragon, and a familiar face from the TV show Arrow appearing on the last page of this comic. Lemire manages all these outside distractions well, and continues to build an interesting series. Of course, this book owes much of its force to the wonderful art of Andrea Sorrentino, who is perfect for showing how Vertigo’s powers work. This is one of the best remaining books at DC.
Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight #1 – I couldn’t resist checking out this new series written by Alex De Campi, which serves as a love letter to the cheesy and exploitative horror films of the 1970s. The first arc, ‘Bee Vixens From Mars’ is about the way that a strange beehive, dripping honey onto a grave, affects people in a small American town. There’s some girl-on-girl action, a castrated and decapitated teenager, killer bees, and a one-eyed superstitious female deputy. This is a fun comic, with nice art by Chris Peterson, but I’m not sure there’s enough to bring me back for another issue. Maybe if it were a $3 comic. Definitely worth checking out in trade though.
Hinterkind #1 – I have high hopes for the revitalization of Vertigo, and this new series, by Ian Edginton and Francesco Trifogli seems to be off to a good start. The book is set in the future, where most people have died out, and nature has reclaimed the world’s cities. Prosper, our main character, is a teenage girl living in a village in the middle of Central Park. The area surrounding the park has reverted mostly to forest (jungle might be more apt), and lions and zebra run wild. I suppose it’s a global warming thing. Anyway, the people of Central Park have been in touch with other people in Albany, but now they are not returning their radio signals. Prosper’s grandfather, a doctor, decides to make the journey to visit them, leaving Prosper to stay with her best friend, who she discovers has gone through a bit of a strange physical change. He wants to leave the village, so she accompanies him, when they are attacked by lions, and saved by a giant. It seems that a number of storybook-style creatures are now populating the world, a fact that none of the people are aware of yet. I guess this book is going to be about the conflicts between these groups – it’s not too clear yet. What I do know is that Edginton has done a good job of establishing these characters and making them interesting, and that Trifogli has lovely artwork. I intend to pick up the next issue for sure.
Lazarus #4 – The traitors in her family attack Forever, as this series moves from its establishing mode and into the meat of the story. Greg Rucka and Michael Lark always work well together, but the extra effort and pride being taken in this comic really shows. One of the best of Images already impressive stable.
Mara #6 – Brian Wood and Ming Doyle took their mini-series about the nature of sports celebrity to unexpected heights, as this final issue has Mara judging humanity from outer space. It’s a poetic and lovely comic, and it ended up being nothing like what I’d expected from this series.
Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #1 – I’ve been looking forward to this mini-series for a while now, because I firmly believe that Marco Rudy is the most under-appreciated artist in the business. He’s done some low-profile work at DC, and worked his way up to being the alternate artist on Swamp Thing for a while, but he hasn’t really been given the opportunity to show his best work until now. In this Matt Kindt-written series, Spider-Man (Peter Parker!) gets caught up in some kind of mind-altering gas/pill/explosion scenario, where he’s going to have to fight his way through 99 of his villains. The story doesn’t have to make sense, because it’s really just been designed to give Rudy plenty of opportunity to show off. There are some stunning images here, in the JH Williams III style, and I can’t wait for the next issue.
Mighty Avengers #2 – This issue read a lot quicker than the last one, which was a little disappointing, and I still hate Greg Land’s art, but I do like some of the stuff that Al Ewing is doing in writing this comic. Blue Marvel gets introduced to the book this month. I’d skipped the Blue Marvel mini-series a while back, and so don’t know the character at all, but he seems to fall into the Superman variety, complete with his own Fortress of Solitude under the ocean. The rest of the issue is taken up with the team fighting against one of Thanos’s henchmen, so the book can qualify as an Infinity tie-in. I’m curious to see who ‘Spider-Hero’ really is, and I like the way Ewing is writing Spectrum (Monica Rambeau). Enough to come back next month? I’ll have to see…
Mind the Gap #15 – This comic has been coming out a lot lately (the last issue was released only two weeks ago), but is now going on a short hiatus until December, and the beginning of its second act. That gives people who haven’t been reading this the perfect opportunity to get caught up, as Jim McCann’s story about a young woman who falls into a coma after being attacked on a subway platform is really very gripping. You see, everything that readers of the earliest issues of this series believed has been systematically attacked and destroyed by the last few issues, as truth after truth has been revealed. Yet, even with all this truth, McCann has closed off this act with another great mystery. Rodin Esquejo has been doing great work on this series, and his art just keeps improving. This is a great book for anyone who likes medical mysteries, conspiracies, or dysfunctional family dramas.
Morning Glories #32 – This series is becoming increasingly convoluted, and I’m starting to think that I should dig out all the back issues and read through them again before reading each new issue (a prospect made even more daunting by the book’s recent bi-weekly schedule). I’m thankful for the explanatory notes in the back of the book, otherwise I’m not sure I’d be able to keep up at all. This issue focuses on Vanessa, who I’ll admit I’d completely forgotten about. What I love most about this series, though, is that it’s perfectly possible to read each issue on its own merits, and try to place it in the puzzle that the series has become, and still enjoy it as a fine piece of comics craftsmanship. I don’t like the fact that the nested references to earlier events make me question the strength of my memory, but I do love how complicated Nick Spencer has made this series. And, as always, I’m in awe of Joe Eisma’s art on this book (and the fact that he’s pumping out a new issue every two weeks, with no dip in quality).
Savage Wolverine #9 – I like the idea of there being a Wolverine series like this, where various writers and artists can come on-board for a few issues, do their thing, and move on. Now Jock, who first caught my eye with his work on Vertigo’s The Losers, and later impressed with Green Arrow Year One and Detective Comics drawing for Scott Snyder, comes over to Marvel to write and draw a three-part Wolverine story. And I have to tell you, it’s kind of weird. The story is set somewhere in the far future (I assume), and Logan is dumped on some kind of planet for reasons we don’t really understand, and is expected to kill a giant mite. After that, a small child is sent to track him down. That’s about all that happens in this comic, but with Jock’s minimalist and kind of dirty art, the whole thing looks amazing. I doubt this will ever be considered a classic, but it’s nice to see someone trying something new with Logan.
Shadowman #11 – Shadowman has been my least favourite of Valiant’s titles (except for the months when that’s been Bloodshot), but I’m pleased to see that the company is working to fix it, bringing on Peter Milligan as writer in a couple of months. I was interested in this one-off issue though, because it’s written by Jim Zub(kavich), who makes Skullkickers such an entertaining read. This story is not as Skullkicker-y as I would have liked, but it’s an entertaining Halloween story, so there is that.
Swamp Thing #24 – Charles Soule continues to impress on this title, as Swamp Thing finally confronts Seeder, only to discover that he’s a character from the old DCU, and an old friend. The art this month is by Andrei Bressan, and he does a fine job of keeping the look consistent with the work that Kano has been doing.
Trillium #3 – Jeff Lemire’s excellent time travel series continues to be an exciting and interesting read. In the future, Nika is being blocked from continuing in her work, upon which the future of mankind balances, while in the past, Billy’s friend wants to plunder the temple. Lemire continues to use aspects of the flip book style from the first issue, but just has the pages set in the past placed upside down in the comic; it makes reading this book a little more athletic than most comics.
Detective Comics #24
Fantomex MAX #1
Infinity Hunt #2
Iron Man #16
The Star Wars #2
Suicide Risk #6
Cable and X-Force #13 – I’m not really sure what’s going on with this title. Regular writer Dennis Hopeless is joined by Cullen Bunn, who gets a scripting credit, while regular artist Salvador Larroca is joined by Gerardo Sandoval, who looks to have drawn almost the entire book (and in a 90s Joe Madueira style that has Havok looking a lot more like Cannonball). Basically, the plot echoes what’s going on in Battle of the Atom, but a lot more disjointedly. It feels like this title is getting away from itself.
Hunger #2 – So if the upcoming Cataclysm event is going to be about Galactus consuming (or being stopped from consuming) the Ultimate Universe, there’s no real threat from Galactus in this series, which is a prelude to that. Rick Jones and Ultimate Silver Surfer fly around and exclaim a lot while Galactus does his thing. Really, none of it matters until Cataclysm.
Indestructible Hulk #11-13 – Apparently Mark Waid’s the only person that remembers that the end of Age of Ultron was supposed to have big ramifications for the Marvel Universe, and so he has Banner and his other half seconded to TIME, a secret SHIELD project that deals with the timestream. This new status quo has Banner’s consciousness downloaded into one of the Quislet robots that have been knocking around, so he can lead Hulk through some time encounters that involve fighting dinosaurs in the Old West, and helping the Black Knight retake Camelot. Matteo Scalera’s art is great for this run, and Waid excels at making silly comic book set-ups work.
Iron Man #14&15 – Recorder 451’s plan is not working the way he wanted, which means that the Godkiller armor is hurtling towards the Earth. Kieron Gillen ratchets up the tension in these two issues, and in the first, Greg Land makes everything look static and dull, but Carlo Pagulayan comes on for the second comic and fixes things. Were it not for Land, I would totally be buying this book at full price.
Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #2 – When the Scarlet Spider swings by New York to say hi to Peter Parker, the Superior Spider-Man reacts very badly to his presence. It’s the usual ‘superheroes fight before they team up’ story, but it’s done well by Chris Yost and Marco Checchetto.
Thanos Rising #5 – Reading the end of this Thanos origin story has me wanting to do some digging in my longboxes, because I’m not sure what was retconned and what was originally part of this story. Did Thanos always kill everyone on Titan? What happened to Starfox? And why does Thanos have a gigantic dorsal fin on his outfit that keeps disappearing (especially when he needs to be shown sitting down)? With a little more editing, this could have been a much better mini-series.
Tags: Al Ewing, All-New X-Men, Andrea Sorrentino, Avatar Press, Axel Medellin, Battle of the Atom, Bedlam, Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Wood, Cable and X-Force, Catalyst Comix, Charles Soule, chris yost, Corinna Bechko, Cullen Bunn, Dan DiDio, Dan McDaid, Daredevil: Dark Nights, Dark Horse, David Lapham, DC, Dennis Hopeless, Elephantmen, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Hardman, Green Arrow, Greg Land, Greg Rucka, Hinterkind, Hunger, Image, Indestructible Hulk, Infinity, Iron Man, Jeff Lemire, Jim McCann, Jim Zubkavich, Jock, Joe Casey, Joe Eisma, Jonathan Hickman, Joshua Williamson, kieron gillen, Lazarus, Mara, Marco Checchetto, Marco Rudy, Mark Waid, Marvel, Marvel NOW! (All-New Marvel Now!), Matt Kindt, Matteo Scalera, Michael Lark, Mighty Avengers, Mind the Gap, Ming Doyle, Mitch Gerads, Morning Glories, Nathan Edmondson, New 52 (DC Comics), Nick Spencer, Rafael albuquerque, Richard Corben, Richard Starkings, Rodin Esquejo, Salvador Larroca, Savage Wolverine, Shadowman, Steve Lieber, Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Swamp Thing, The Activity, Trillium, Ulises Farinas, Valiant, Vertigo