Sunday, May 02, 2010

The List - April 2010

I think there are two factors, aside from quality, that are influencing my choices in what goes to the top of the list. One is that some of my favorites come out at the end of the month, so they're fresh in my mind. For instance, this month the top 5 all came out the last week of the month.

The other factor is my inclination for noir. It's why Batman is often near the top of the costumed contingent of the List. This month was a little different in the super hero section because the two issues of Action Comics were ahead of the Batman titles, but the Flamebird and Nightwing story's conclusion was really quite good.

Anyway, off we go.

1. Stumptown 3 - Really missed not having an issue of this last month, but in a sign of the quality of the project, I had no problem picking up where we left off two months ago. Falls in line with my predeliction for noir, of course, but it's the quiet threats involved in the story, along with excellent character development that keep the interest piqued. As many times as people talk about a book, comic or movie being "real world", this one captures that feeling as much or more than anything I've seen. The added bonus of artist Matthew Southworth's commentary and sketches at the end is like manna.

2. Scalped 37 - Shunka is one bad mother... Ok, in his case it's more likely a father, but same idea. Loved this two part story of the previously undeveloped character who's Red Crow's right hand and enforcer. The machinations of the man who was Shunka's one night stand are slightly contrived, the faked death having been done a little too often over the years, but at least it was not a super hero return from the dead.

3. Madame Xanadu 22 - The Morgan le Fey of Arthurian legend is just bat shit crazy now. Kind of like Wagner and Rucka got together on a theme for Action and Madame, villains in both working on the same sort of plan of world destruction. No hunt for power in Morgan. She just wants glorious destruction. Beautifully rendered by Amy Reeder Hadley, of course. I like that Martian Manhunter is such a mysterious character in this setting, too.

4. Northlanders 27 - Now that's a fight. Boris versus Gunborg is just brutal. Like Stumptown, realistically so, though far more brutal than Stumptown, as is fitting of the differing mores of the eras involved. Hilda versus Jens wasn't so much of a fight, but it too was a brutal confrontation. Leandro Fernandez's art employs a simple style that is very much in keeping with the tenor of Wood's story.

5. Invincible 71 - The Viltrumite War is here! Hooray! Conquest is back! Hooray! Death and destruction on a cosmic scale in the offing! Hooray! Great Kirkman character development! Hooray! I really should stop cheering for a war, but this one has been coming since the first issue. Much like Willingham's Fables reaching the fall of the Empire after many years of great stories, I'm looking forward to not just the resolution of what's been building all this time but also to seeing how Kirkman moves forward from there.

6. Secret Six 20 - Simone looked to have written herself into a corner at the end of last issue, but the harsh "reality" that this team inhabits perfectly allowed her to write Catman out of the dilema that would have confronted an upstanding super hero. Violently, of course. Easily and consistently my favorite super powered team.

7. Fables 94 - Although titled Rose Red Part One, this issue is more eclectic. We have stories involving Pinocchio's much sought for revenge on the Blue Fairy, Beast's deal with said Fairy, Totenkinder's search for ways to defeat the Dark Man, and the really, really scary Dark Man himself. Of course, we also have Rose Red, still looking haggard, as well as a tete a tete with Beauty, Beast, Snow and Bigby. The setting for the eventual fight against the Dark Man moves forward. I don't feel like it's going to take as long to get to this battle as the war with the Empire did.

8. daytripper 5 - This month's story of a life and death of Bras de Oliva Domingos was set in his childhood. I'm still amazed how one consistent character is shaped by a series of vignettes that each end in his death by some new method and during some varying point in his life. It's one of the most creative means of telling a story I've ever seen. Gabriel Ba continually captures the feeling of both Brazil and the appropriate stage of life that's being told in a given issue. Always touching, each issue.

9. Atomic Robo and the Revenge of the Vampire Dimension 2 - Fun. Just plain fun. Even though I was never into the Japanese animation super hero stories that took off in the '80s, I like the homage in this issue. Consistently clever dialog and outright obfuscatory psuedo science are al part of the fun.

10. The Walking Dead 71 - For some reason the stories that heavily feature Carl are always my favorites. Maybe it's because I find the child's perspective, with its momentary awareness encapsulated within an overall situational lack of awareness, a fascinating one. Not that the other characters are less interesting, but they're all adults. Carl's a child with adult problems. As always, there are numerous undercurrents in the story. Another fine addition to the Kirkman pantheon.

11. Cinderella From Fabletown with Love 3 - Where I had problems with another writing Kirkman's characters in Atome Eve & Rex Splode, I don't have problems with Chris Robinson writing Willingham's Fables characters. The development is spot on to the personalities Willingham had brought forth, and really just a lot of fun. Very nice conclusion that should have some broader repurcussions in the Fables world that can be developed in future stories.

12. Incorruptible 5 - Max Damage really is a far more interesting character than the Plutonian at this point. His efforts to protect Jailbait from retaliation by his many enemies, though a bit questionable, involving kidnapping as they do, show how much he's changed from the amoral villain he'd been previously.

13. The Astounding Wolf-Man 22 - A werewolf/robot romance. How often have you seen that? I have to re-read earlier issues because, for the life of me, I can't recall when or how that happened. A shame this series is ending at 25.

14. The Green Hornet Year One 2 - Does anyone do non powered super heroes better than Wagner? I don't think so. Not even Frank Miller, in my opinion. My dad was a fan of the Green Hornet when I was a kid, but I have never seen or read a single thing with the character until now. Loving every minute of it.

15. The Unwritten 12 - Leaving aside the story of Tom, we're in a single issue that, based on Carey's prior writings, is almost certainly going to play an important part in the larger story later. Pauly Bruckner is not a happy person, and his efforts to escape his prison end very badly for him. All told within the confines of a treacly children's story. Not at all in subject matter similar to Carey and Gross's Lucifer series, but in tenor there's a certain bleakness to this that does remind me of that great series.

16. American Vampire 2 - Vertigo keeps on bringing out great new series. Snyder and Albuquerque's front half of the book is still the more interesting of the two tales, but King's Skinner Sweet origin story is very good, too. Being a vampire is teaching Skinner some patience, that's for sure. Unlike any number of Dracula stories over the years, he won't be the vampire who's been around for a much longer time than his pupil. With his time at the bottom of the lake, he'll really not been a vampire much longer than Pearl.

17. Unknown Soldier 19 - Why does Moses keep surviving? Simply amazing. Not unrealistic, but at some point one of these uber violent confrontations has to mean his end. His accumulated enemies list just keeps getting longer. Dysart's commentary is a nice plus, too, even if it was supposed to be in the previous issue. In this book, a discussion of witchcraft persecution in primitive versus developed societies is always germane.

18. Proof 26 - A whole lot of interlude stories. I'm not as harsh on the long story of Spring Heel Jack as some other writers, but I do like these small scale stories more than the big stories in a book like this where there are so many good characters to follow.

19. Daredevil Hell to Pay TPB - Half price sale on a large shipment of Marvel trades at Cards, Comics and Collectibles lead me to this purchase. I'd seen several positive comments about Brubaker's writing on Daredevil, and truth be told, there's really not much Marvel in which I'm interested these days, so here we are. It was certainly worth the price. Lark's are was great, setting the appropriate mood and moving the story along, but ever since Miller's run on Daredevil it seems every story I read about Matt Murdock is hugely depressing. The man's life has just taken on Jobian proportions. Someone give the man a break.

20. Invincible Returns 1 - Although published as a starting point for new readers to get in before the Viltrumite War launches in the regular series, and also full of a lot of exposition, there was some good new stuff in here, too. The exploration of why super heroes should or shouldn't kill villains was worth the buying of the issue all by itself. Add in Eve's continuing withholding of her pregnancy from Mark and the return to a costume similar to Invincible's original costume and you've got something easily worth the $4.

21 & 22 Action Comics 888, 889 - It's interchangeable as to which issue comes first on the List. The love triangle of cosmic proportions comes to an end here, quite nicely. I felt sorry for the Breaker, much more so than Morgan le Fay in Madame Xanadu, even if they're both trying to destroy the world. At least the Breaker has a deep emotional basis for his desire to see everything destroyed. Morgan's just selfish. I never did get into the back up story of Captain Atom, a character of little interest but whose now moving on to the Justice League, apparently.

23. Superman Secret Origins 5 - I don't care at all if this is in continuity. It's just a joy to read. I like these smaller scale efforts by Johns more than the grand epic like Blackest Night. Probably true for just about any writer, I suppose. With the exception of 52, I haven't been particularly impressed with the grand epics of late. I would like to see some members of the military who aren't just xenophobic and power mad. These guys don't resemble the US military that I know.

24. Batman and Robin 11 - Oberon Sexton is just one of the coolest looking characters ever designed. That I don't know jack about him actually helps keep my interest in the story, too. Damian is easily my favorite Robin at this point. Who'd have thunk Robin would be the more dangerous half of the titular duo? The off panel action involving Batman was done perfectly, too. We may see it later, but I don't need to in order to know what's happened to Dick was not good.

25. The Great Ten 6 - Can DC turn this into a regular series? I'd like that. These are some really interesting characters. There's no uniform reason for them to be working for the Chinese Communist Party. Some are believers in the cause, but others are doing it because it was the only or least bad choice they had. I haven't found a one of the characters to be stale or uninteresting. The story that encapsulates the character development isn't bad either. Who are these Chinese "deities"?

26. Batman: Streets of Gotham 11 - I keep thinking I might drop this title, but I like the Dini stories too much. Consistent with Morrison's Batman and Robin, Damien is the dangerous character. Even a more or less nothing villain like Zsasz is put to good use here.

27 Gotham City Sirens 11 - More Dini goodness. Combining Batman related mythos, Dini and elements of Secret Six's anti-hero stories is a sure winner for me. Selena and Harley seem to be making more effort at staying out of trouble than Pam, but I suppose it's all relative. Love the hyena's dietary choices.

28. Justice Society of America 38 - What better team for fighting super Nazis? Willingham's offhand reference to Mr Terrific's make up as minstrel related was excellently done. The beginning of the fight to change this future and the background stories of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Aquaman in this Nazi future are quite good. Timely telling of this story, too. The allegory between the propaganda of the Nazis that the super heroes were keeping non-powered people under the heel of their authority and the Tea Party propaganda that the US government is doing the same today is subtle and spot on.

29. Spaghetti Brothers Volume 2 - The Martin Public Library sent me this one in March, but I didn't get to read it until this month. It still reminds me a lot of Will Eisner's Spirit work, but the archetypes represented by the 5 siblings is just a little too pat sometimes.

30. The Warlord 13 - This book was near being dropped at one time but it really is much better. It hasn't moved up to the top half of the list, but the new direction it's taking with Tinder as the Warlord has my interest again. Can someone portray a US general as something other than snarling, though? Snarling guys don't really rise far in the military, as a rule. Not just today, but guys like Eisenhower and Marshall were as much politicians and strategists as blood and guts fighters. Probably more so. Patton was the exception, not the rule.

31. Jonah Hex 36 - More free stuff from Cards, Comics and Collectibles. This time I actually did get a single issue story. A great story of tragic misunderstanding and the why of Jonah's confederate jacket being worn so long after the war.

32. Detective Comics 864 - Maybe it's just that I really liked Rucka's Batwoman stories, but this Jeremy Arkham story wasn't very interesting. It's Psycho inflected twist wasn't much of a twist as much as a curious moment of dumbfoundedness at the stupidity of the people running this institution. If not for the back up story of The Question, I might consider skipping Detective if Rucka's not writing.

33. Irredeemable Special 1 - Mostly filler. The background stories on the Hornet (who's been dead since the first issue of the series), Kaidan, and Max Damage aren't bad. It's just that I don't see where they needed this issue to do it. The first two stories could have been told in the regular series and the last could have been told in Max Damage's own book.

34. Dazzler 1 - Yes, this is the book from 1981 that was spun out of the Uncanny X-Men. I had this back in those days and got rid of it some time ago, but it came with the free Jonah Hex issue. It's still as bad as I remembered. I think I have TPB of a Dazzler story on the shelf somewhere. I think I'll re-read that and post on it some time in the near future.

35. Fist of Justice 4 - Another one in the free pack. It's cute enough. I want it to be set in Baltimore, what with the banner above the title saying it's Charm City's Greatest Defender, but it doesn't look like Baltimore on the inside. It's not bad. It's just not worth the regular price of $4, at least to me.

36. Outsiders 29 - Well, it's better than the crazy Geo-Force story that was going on previously, but it's still not good. I missed the whole Looker turned into a vampire bit, but it doesn't hold an appeal for me. The subtitle's a bit odd, too. True Vampire Romance? There's not even a hint of vampire romance in the story. The closest thing to romance is the wet one Katana plants on Owl Man. Gotta remember to tell the shop to stop holding this one for me.


  1. Always a favorite column. Nice short to the point views, good stuff!

  2. And yet it takes forever to write. 'Course, it makes a good incentive to keep my buying limited, as if the money wasn't enough.