Thanks to decompression, cinematic storytelling or whatever you want to call it, I’m probably going to read about 4,000 comics this year. Here’s this month’s tally.
Action Comics (New 52) #1-18, 0
There are a few flaws with Morrison’s Superman Year One story. It’s a complicated enough narrative, but then you have various interludes, retcons and fill-in artists which make it even tougher to follow. And in the first few issues, he repeats elements from earlier retellings of Superman’s origin, a few of which were quite recent. It’s Grant Morrison on Superman, so there’s a lot to like, but it could have been better. The working class Superman hook is woefully underused.
The Phantom Zone #1-4/ DC Comics Presents #87, 97
Probably Steve Gerber’s most notable comics work outside of Howard the Duck, this mini-series could have functioned just as well as a regular Superman arc, as the evil Kryptionians of the Phantom Zone launch a new plan against the man of steel. DC Comics Presents Issue 97 functioned as a sequel, prequel and Crisis on Infinite Earths tie-in. Issue 87 introduced the Earth Prime Superman. All solid adventures of Pre-Crisis Supes.
Superman Birthright #1-12
I’m conflicted on this take of Superman’s early years. There’s a lot to like, with Clark Kent starting out as an international reporter, and some good moments with his family. Lex Luthor’s history in Smallville was quickly ignored, and the story is sometimes padded. Although the TPB has a $20 cover price, so it’s unlikely to cost less if it were an eight-parter.
Action Comics #844-846, 851, Annual 11, 866-870
Geoff Johns’s Superman stories differ from his other runs. It’s not the best the character has ever been, or that Johns has ever been, but he offers accessible takes on some of the best Superman concepts, with TPB length battles against Zod and Brainiac. That was an invaluable service to provide DC.
Comic Book Comics #1-6
This was a fantastic idea by Fred Van Lente, using the comics medium to reveal the history of the form, at least in the United States. And since Jack Kirby was involved in all corners of the business, and went to some extremes as a teenager using first-hand experience to learn what fighting looks like, he’s the de facto lead.
Batman/ Doc Savage, First Wave #1-6
Phil Noto and Rags Morales deliver some excellent art in a mini that was part of an aborted attempt to launch a new line of books with pulp heroes like Doc Savage and the Spirit. The heroes are interesting, and I like their interactions with one another, but aside from some scary if generic robots, the antagonist isn’t all that worthwhile.
X-Factor #71-83, 87-89, Incredible Hulk #391-393, Madrox #1-5, Wolverine: Rahne of Terra
Peter David’s X-Factor is probably just be the most acclaimed run on any of the X-Men spinoff teams. The villains weren’t all that impressive, but it was a memorably dysfunctional team. The Madrox mini-series used a generic mutant to explore fascinating questions about free will and individuality in a noir in the backdrop of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men.
Uncanny X-Force #31-35
Rick Remender’s X-Force is the other of the acclaimed X-Men spinoff runs. He brings it to a solid conclusion, with some dramatic moments for Wolverine that overshadow everything else.
The Clock Maker #1-4
This series by Jim Kreuger was an interesting experiment, although there was sometimes the sense that each issue was just twelve pages of content. I liked the reluctant lead, but there was often too much set-up and too little visually interesting payoff.
In Hulk Smash #1-2, Garth Ennis combines his take on the military with the absurdity of the Marvel Universe focusing on a soldier who turns yellow at the sight of the big green giant with impressive art by John McCrea. Startling Stories: Banner #1-4 takes that one step further, in a world in which the military has done their best to keep the Hulk a secret. The Savage Hulk one-shot is a solid anthology, as top creative teams give their take on one of the most iconic Marvel characters.
Batman #1-11, 19-21
Still my favorite New 52 title. The first 11 issues manage to introduce some new elements to Gotham City that are sure that to stick around in some form or another for years to come. What elevates it is the little details, like how the gangs that rule Gotham’s metros. The later issues feature an excellent Clayface two-parter, with a memorable plot combined with Bruce Wayne in a nasty place after recent events in Batman Inc. and a solid take on Bruce Wayne’s first year in Gotham. Superman Unchained #1 was also quite good. Easily the best characterization of Supes and his supporting cast in the new 52.
Gates of Gotham #1-5
With “The Court of Owls” this story of an ancient Gotham legend seeking revenge is a bit redundant, although it is fun to see Dick Grayson’s Batman come in conflict with Gotham City’s history, and the payoff is satisfying.
Fury MAX #1-13
I’ve seen the argument that this is the best Marvel comic in decades. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is quite special, combining Ennis’s mastery of history and war comics with a great lead. It’s well worth reading for anyone unfamiliar with Ennis’s other Marvel MAX work. But it’s essential for fans of his other series, much of which gets referenced.
Beautiful art by Tony Harris. Great sense of history for a hero who was rather obscure until then. This Starman may just be the best superhero of the 1990s.
Captain America: Man Out of Time #1-5
Waid returns to Cap for what’s likely his best work on the character, showing what it was like for a man who fought in World War 2 to deal with the modern world and the Avengers. And things take a brilliant twist when the Avengers’ time-travelling enemy shows up.
Batwoman #1-21, 0
The issues by JH Williams are among the most gorgeously drawn in the medium. The rest don’t quite live up to that. It’s a solid series, with a memorable lead, who has personality beyond the milestone, as well as an interesting batch of enemies, allies and family. Sometimes, there is the sense that a few issues were left out, due to some major developments that are skipped, although that’s one way to avoid cliches.
Wonder Woman #12-21
Brian Azzarello writes a Wonder Woman for the Game of Thrones set, navigating infighting among the Gods of Olympus and wherever the hell Orion came from.
Ten Grand #1-2 is a solid horror title by JMS and Ben Templesmith. Iron Man (Now!) #11 takes some risks with the origin of one of Marvel’s top heroes. The Movement #1-2 is topical, but hardly memorable, although I did like how in the first issue, an honest cop who though the kids were misguided, was essentially the protagonist.
Thor God of Thunder (Now!) #6-9 continues the saga of the Godkiller, a solid enough foe, even if some of the questions on religion were cliched. Thrillkillers #1-3 and Thrillkillers ‘62 offer an interesting Elseworlds reimagining of Batman’s world. Captain America (NOW!) #4-8 takes a while to reach a tragic conclusion. Brother Lobo #1 lives up to the promise of 100 Bullets.
Total: 1835 Comics recorded so far.
Best Comic of the Month: X-Factor #87’s psychiatrist issue or Startling Stories: Banner.