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Josh Reviews Powers: Volume Five!

I am having a great time re-reading Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s wonderful comic book series: Powers!   Click here for my first overview of Powers, from back in 2010.  Click here for my review of Powers volumes 1 & 2, here for my review of Powers volume 3, and here for my review of Powers volume 4, Powers: Bureau. 

After the twelve-issue Powers: Bureau series, the series relaunched again with a new #1, beginning a fifth volume.  Powers volume five was great, and I enjoyed those issues thoroughly.  I look back fondly on the first two volumes of Powers, and perhaps the series no longer has the same spark of originality and surprise that those early runs did.  But the seven issues of Powers volume five were as much fun to read as ever.  Unfortunately, the series ran into publication problems with this volume, which was produced during the life and death of the Powers TV show.  After issue #8, the series vanished, right smack in the middle of a story.  I trust that Powers is not dead, and that Mr. Bendis & Mr. Oeming will return to Powers eventually, but this long wait is really trying my patience.

The new #1 kicked off with yet another new status quo for the series.  (I love how the series continually shifts and changes, as the characters live their lives and go through different shit.)  Deena is rich after writing a tell-all book (presumably exposing the secrets she learned at the end of Powers: Bureau — though wasn’t Deena already rich from the police settlement she received at the end of vol. 2?), while Walker is in hiding.

This new #1 also kicks off with another great Powers murder case: a new Power has murdered a famous billionaire along with everyone else on his yacht.  Who is this new Power, and why/how did s/he kill everyone on board that boat?  This is a great set-up for a new Powers story.

Mr. Oeming’s artwork is, again fantastic,  I’m running out of superlatives to use in praising his work.  Right away in issue #1 he’s dazzling, with his gorgeous rendition of the catastrophe on the yacht… and then an amazing double-page spread off the new Police HQ and all the crazy goings-on within.  And, wow, all eight issues of volume five boasted a spectacular cover.  Mr. Oeming has cemented himself as one of the best cover artists in the business.

I liked the new characters, such as the giddy female medical examiner and the stern new Police Chief, Conway.  I also enjoyed seeing familiar faces like Enki Sunrise and Captain Cross back in the story.  I really liked seeing Sunrise and … [continued]

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Catching Up With Powers: Bureau

Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s comic book series Powers has been, since it’s inception way back in 2000, one of my very favorite comics.  The series’ hook is fiendishly simple: it’s the story of cops in a world of superheroes.  Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim are homicide detectives who investigate murders that are connected to Powers — that is, super-powered people — either the death of a Power, or the death of a normal human being at the hands of a Power.

Mr. Bendis’ mastery of dialogue combined with Mr. Oeming’s gorgeously stylized artwork caught any interest immediately from issue #1, and I have loved the series ever since.  It’s helped that, ever few years, Mr. Bendis and Mr. Oeming like to turn over the applecart of their series and transform the status quo.  This keeps the book feeling alive and vibrant, as opposed to so many other major long-running comic book series, where the characters can feel as if they’re treading water.

I’ve written about Powers before.  My first look at the series was here, back in 2010.  My review of the first two runs of Powers can be found here.  My review of Powers volume three, which ran from 2009 to 2011, is here.  Powers also was adapted for TV, running for two seasons on the Sony Playstation Network.  I eagerly watched the first season, but was a bit let down.  Nevertheless, I wanted to watch season two, but somehow I never quite got around to it.  I still very much intend to watch those episodes someday.

Powers was unfortunately not included in the recent launch and re-launch of several creator-owned books by Mr. Bendis after his move from Marvel to DC.  This is particularly a shame because the previous run of Powers, published by Marvel’s Icon imprint, cut off in the middle of a story.  I really hope this gets finished someday!

After reading these new series Mr. Bendis has recently launched at DC (Pearl and Cover, as well as continuations of Scarlet and The United States of Murder, Inc. — all four of which, by the way, are terrific and well worth your time), I decided to dig back into Powers and reread the series from the beginning.  I was blown away all over again.  I love this series.

Since I’d previously written about Powers volumes 1-3, I thought I’d pick things up with my thoughts on Powers volume four — Powers: Bureau.  These 12 issues were published from 2013-2014.

As I wrote in my previous review, I thought Powers volume 3 was the weakest point of the series so far.  Mr. Oeming’s usually spectacular artwork seemed rushed … [continued]

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The Top Fifteen Comic Book Series of 2015 — Part One!

I’m excited to wrap up by Best of 2015 lists with my look back at my Fifteen Favorite Comic Book Series of 2015!

There were a TON of amazing comic books that I read in 2015 that didn’t make this list.  Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming.  Trees by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard, and Injection by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey.  Nameless by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham.  Chrononauts by Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy, Huck by Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque, MPH by Mark Millar and Duncan Fegredo, and Starlight by Mark Millar and Goran Parlov.  Guardians of the Galaxy by Brian Michael Bendis and Valerio Schiti.  Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok.  Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.  Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, and We Stand on Guard by Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce.  Black Magic by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott.  And so many more.

Also, there are several series that I have fallen way behind on, and so I am waiting to find the time to go back and do a major re-read to catch up on these titles.  These series include Stray Bullets by David Lapham, Astro City by Kurt Busiek and Brent Eric Anderson and Jesus Merino and others.  The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra and Ryan Browne, and East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta.  Had I been up-to-date on these titles, I have no doubt that they would all be on this list, and probably very high on it.

OK, onward!

15.  Groo and Friends (by Mark Evanier & Sergio Aragones) — I’ve been reading Groo since I was a kid, when the series was published for a long run under Marvel’s Epic imprint.  Somehow, Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones are able to keep making the continuing adventures of the witless barbarian and his faithful dog companion thoroughly entertaining, even after all these years.  There aren’t too many truly great humor comics out there, but Groo is always dependable, and the dazzlingly intricate illustrations by Sergio Aragones are always a feast for my eyes.  This twelve-issue miniseries (a very long run for a Groo tale these days) was great fun.

14. The X-Files Season 10/Season 11 (by Joe Harris and Matthew Dow Smith and others) — I have always considered The X-Files to be one of the great unfinished stories in the modern entertainment landscape, and so I was excited for this series which was designed to be a tenth season for the show.  About mid-way through this year that tenth season concluded and an eleventh season began.  The series has been fun, though … [continued]

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Powers is a TV Show At Last! So is it Any Good…?

I’m a huge, huge fan of Powers, the self-published comic book series written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming.  I bought the very first issue back in 2000, and I have been following it monthly (or as near-to-monthly as the series gets) ever since.  (I wrote about Powers here and here!)  While I think the series has dipped in quality a little bit in recent years, it’s still a terrific book and one of the more brilliant premises for a series that I have ever come across.  Detective Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim are homicide detectives.  But they live in a world of super-heroes and super-villains, and they investigate Powers-related homicides.  That is a genius-level idea (one that has been imitated in the years since).  Combine that great hook with Bendis’ incredible gift for dialogue and Oeming’s wonderful stylized artwork and you have the recipe for a classic comic book series.

Hollywood clearly thought so too, because Powers has famously been in development ever since the second issue was published.  For years and years it was being developed as a new TV series by FX, and in 2011 they actually filmed a pilot episode.  But I guess it wasn’t that successful, because FX declined to continue on to make a series.  At first they announced that they’d be re-working that pilot, but then the project was dropped.  (I would LOVE to see that original Powers pilot someday!!)  But in a crazy twist, Powers wasn’t dead.  Instead, it was picked up to become the first show for the newly developed Playstation Network.  A new cast was brought in and new writers were hired, and, after 15 years of “development hell,” Powers actually existed as a 10-episode TV series.  The first three episodes were released last week, and a new one will be released every Tuesday (starting tonight!) for the next seven weeks.

So, after this crazy fifteen years of development (and boy, I really hope this means Bendis will get around to writing a sequel to Fortune and Glory some-time soon!!), is Powers the Playstation Network TV show any good?

Powers.cropped

Well, the jury is still out.  It is good, but it is not the home-run I had been hoping for.  There are a lot of aspects of these first three episodes that are a lot weaker than I’d expected.  However, by the end of the third episode, I could see the potential in this series, and I can envision a scenario in which I will be very, very satisfied by the end of the ten episode first season.  I can also see a scenario in which I will be very, very let down!  We’ll see … [continued]

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The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2013 — Part Two!

We are nearing the end of my Best of 2013 lists!  I hope you enjoyed my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013 (click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three) and my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013 (click here for part one and here for part two).

Yesterday I began my third Best of 2013 list — The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2013!  Click here for part one, numbers 15-6.  Here now are the top five:

5. Velvet What if Moneypenny had actually once been a double-oh agent?  That’s an overly simplistic summation of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s magnificent new spy series, but I think it conveys the series’ extremely clever hook.  Set in 1973, Velvet Templeton is the secretary for the Director of Arc-7, an organization of British spies.  When several of the very best Arc-7 agents wind up dead, Velvet finds herself framed as the prime suspect.  Of course, she resists arrest, and the story takes off from there.  Every frame of this comic book is absolute perfection.  I adore the world of James Bond, and Velvet taps right into that golden age of classic Bond stories.  But don’t mistake this book as something derivative.  With only two issues having been published so far, I am already hugely hooked into this world and these characters.  The combination of Mr. Brubaker and Mr. Epting is a match made in heaven.  (Oh man can Mr. Epting draw.  Each panel is a work of gorgeous art.)  These two men did extraordinary work together several years ago with their “Winter Soldier” arc on Captain America (a story-line that is, apparently, being heavily mined for this year’s Captain America sequel film), and seeing them reunited on an original, creator-owned project is heaven.

4. Powers: Bureau I can’t believe how long I’ve been following Brian Michael Bendis’ Powers.  I bought that very first issue, right off the stands, back in 2000.  It was my first introduction to Mr. Bendis’ work, and I have followed him through countless issues of many, many different comic book series (both creator-owned stuff as well as a LOT of work for Marvel Comics).  But Powers will always remain my favorite.  The series has had quite a sporadic publishing schedule these past few years, but this fourth volume of the series, titled Powers: Bureau, has not only come out on a decently regular schedule this year, but it’s also represented a nice return to form for the series, with Deena and Christian once again paired up to investigate the deaths of superhumans.  Except now they … [continued]

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The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2013 — Part One!

My Best of 2013 lists roll on!  I hope you enjoyed my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013 (click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three) and my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013 (click here for part one and here for part two).

Today we begin my third Best of 2013 list — The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2013!  Onward:

Honorable Mentions: Series I loved but that didn’t make this list include: Secret, The Manhattan Projects, The Massive, Peter David’s X-Factor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Batman Beyond Unlimited, Mark Millar & Frank Quitely’s Jupiter’s Legacy, IDW’s X-Files re-launch, Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo’s Batman, Jason Aaron & Nick Bradshaw’s Wolverine & The X-Men, and Brian & Olivia Bendis’ Takio.  I also thoroughly enjoyed Grant Morrison’s DC work, including his run on Action Comics which wrapped up earlier this year (click here for my detailed thoughts on Mr. Morrison’s Superman saga) and his work on Batman Incorporated, which concluded Mr. Morrison’s years-long run on Batman (click here for my in-depth comments on Mr. Morrison’s Batman saga).

Here now is my main list:

15. America’s Got Powers I loved this seven-issue mini-series (the final three issues of which were published in 2013) by superstar artist Bryan Hitch and writer Jonathan Ross, about a brutal reality TV show in which super-powered kids are forced to compete.  The concept is a delicious melding of super-hero action and social commentary, but what most surprised me about the series was by how hooked in I was by the series’ main character, Tommy Watts, and his struggle to somehow find his way through and survive the competing interests operating all around him.  I was sorry when this mini-series ended.  I hope that someday Mr. Ross and Mr. Hitch return to this world.

14. Wonder Woman Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang (along with Goran Sudzuka and Tony Akins)’s reinvention of Wonder Woman continues, and it has been just as thrilling in its second year as it was in its first.  I can’t believe I am actually purchasing a Wonder Woman comic book every month, let alone enjoying it so much.  Mr. Azzarello has, on the one hand, connected the Wonder Woman mythos far more strongly to Greek mythology than has ever been done before (with the series’ main cast now consisting of various Greek mythological figures, each brought to unique life by Mr. Azzarello’s writing), while also (in an even more surprising move) beginning to tie the series into Jack Kirby’s New Gods concepts (with Orion becoming a major player … [continued]

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This is fantastic: The Seinfeld reunion episode from Curb Your Enthusiasm season #7, edited together.  Enjoy!

This is a great site that lists the various actors and actresses who played multiple characters in different Bond films.  Great fun for the Bond fans out there!

Speaking of Bond, there was BIG NEWS last month that the James Bond movie producers and MGM have finally ended the nearly fifty-year-long legal battle with Kevin McClory, the co-writer of Thunderball.  I’ve known about this rights conflict before, of course (it’s what led to another studio being able to make the competing Bond film, Never Say Never Again, that was released the same year as Octopussy), but what I didn’t realize was that this rights situation was what was preventing MGMN’s bond films from using Bloefeld or SPECTRE.  My reviews of the Daniel Craig Bond films have been lamenting the absence of those two classic villains, and I am overjoyed at the idea that now the way is open for Bloefeld to be revealed as the head of Quantum, and/or for Quantum to be revealed as a branch of SPECTRE.  I desperately hope the next Bond film walks through this now-open door!!

Hey, comic book fans: I’ve recently discovered two comic-book-related tumblrs that I am now obsessed with.  First is John Byrne Draws, which is chock-full of absolutely gorgeous scans of Mr. Byrne’s original art from the decades that he has been working in the industry.  There was a long, long time during which John Byrne was my very favorite comic book artist (and writer!), so this was a real treat.  Then there is comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis’ tumblr, which is a showcase for two things: 1) amazing, extraordinary scans of classic comic book art from across the decades — work by many different artists from many different eras, being linked only by being some of the finest comic book art ever drawn, and 2) Bendis’ incredibly open, honest, funny and insightful Q & As with his fans.  Both aspects of the tumblr are equally valuable — together, they’re an irresistible time-suck for me.

This is a fun article on 10 parts of the Indiana Jones films that bother the writer.  I hugely agree with numbers 4 and 5.  (Don’t worry, the article only focuses on the original Indy trilogy, rightly ignoring The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)

This Star Trek reference-laden conversation between a Netflix employee and a customer is apparently real, and it is amazing.

This is a great article on two of my very favorite novels: Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun.  Oh man do I love those two … [continued]

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Holy cow, this sneak peek (first shown at Wondercon) of Guillermo del Toro’s new film Pacific Rim is spectacular:

AAAARGH — Futurama has been cancelled AGAIN??  Sad news.  I definitely consider myself blessed that Matt Groening’s show has risen from cancellation not once but twice already, but that’s not stopping me from hoping that the still-fantastic sci-fi comedy will somehow resurrect itself yet again.

I was also bummed by the news that Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been cancelled.  Not a shocker that the show was a casualty of Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, but still a disappointment.  I haven’t been a die-hard fan of the show, but I have watched quite a few episodes, particularly of the later seasons.  The show came a LONG way from the embarrassingly terrible animated film released a few years back.  The animation has become quite spectacular — the action scenes are out of this world amazing, and even the character animation has become really quite good.  I have enjoyed the show’s explorations of the sci-fi universe, and it’s been a pretty adult, action-packed show.  Not GREAT Star Wars, but very very good Star Wars.  I can understand Disney’s wanting to start fresh, but it seems like a huge wasted opportunity to not allow the show to finish its run and wrap up its stories.  After five seasons, it really felt to me that The Clone Wars was building to something — and that the series was cut off mid-stream, with story-lines and character arcs unresolved, means that the show won’t have much of a future life.  Who’d want to start watching the show’s hundred-some odd episodes, now, knowing that the show ends unfinished?  It seems crazy to me that Disney didn’t allow the show to have at least one more season to complete its story.  It’s a shame and a waste, both creatively (because the story is left incomplete) and financially (because wouldn’t Disney be able to make a lot more money off of the show in future years, through syndication, DVD/blu-ray sales, etc., if it had been completed??).

This is a fantastic, well-reasoned article comparing Marvel’s currently-running big crossover series, Age of Ultron, very favorably with what is happening these days with DC’s “New 52.”  I agree wholeheartedly.

I also agree wholeheartedly with this piece by Devin Faraci, arguing how wrong-headed the depiction of James T. Kirk’s taking of the Kobayashi Maru test was in 2009’s Star Trek.  That film showed Kirk brazenly cheating on the test, which Devin argues is a complete misunderstanding of what was suggested in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  I think Devin is 100% correct, and that Kobayashi Maru scene is one of … [continued]

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“It’s a God Serial Killer” — Powers Volume III

In Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s phenomenal comic book series, Powers, homicide detectives Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim investigate murder cases involving super-heroes and super-villains.  That simple hook — of what it would be like to be a homicide detective in a world with super-powers — has provided the juice for well over a decade’s worth of phenomenal comic book story-telling.  A few years back, when Volume III of the series launched, I decided to go back and re-read the entire series from the beginning.  Click here for my overview of Powers, and click here for my comments on Volume I and Volume II of the series.

Powers Volume III lasted eleven issues, published between 2009 and 2011.  Unfortunately, Volume III was plagued by the same publication delays that Volume II suffered from during the later part of its run.  That made it hard for the stories of Volume III to gain momentum, at least for me, though in re-reading the issues all together now I found myself looking back far more favorably at Powers Volume III.  Over-all, Volume III has a lot of great story-telling, though at such a short length (just eleven issues) it winds up feeling less complete than the previous two volumes.

At the start of Volume III, Detective Walker’s long-time partner, Deena Pilgrim, has left the police force and vanished to parts unknown.  Walker has been paired up with a new partner, Detective Enki Sunrise.  Detective Sunrise had previously investigated Walker for Internal Affairs, under the suspicion that he secretly had powers.  Indeed, Walker once was the super-hero known as Diamond, though he lost his powers before the events at the start of the series.  However, unbeknownst to anyone (but, to borrow a Mel Brooksian phrase, knownst to us), Walker once again has powers, having been given the mantle of the Millennium Guard at the end of Volume II, the secret cosmic protector of the entire planet.

The first story-line in volume III, “Z,” runs from issues #1-4.  As I wrote in my closing comments upon re-reading the series a few years ago, those early issues of Volume III don’t click for me.  The story-line focuses on Walker’s adventures as a super-hero in WWII, and then the “Rat Pack” type of gang that he and a bunch of other WWII super-heroes formed.  The idea is that, feeling pretty high on what they had accomplished in winning the war, this super-hero Rat Pack became quite a bunch of punks in the ’50s, arrogantly feeling like the world should be their oyster.  It’s hard not to love the Walker-versus-giant-Nazi-robot sequence in issue #2, and the idea of a super-hero Rat Pack is … [continued]

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The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012 — Part Two!

Yesterday I published part one of my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012.  You can also check out my Top 15 Movies of 2012: click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.

And now, on to the conclusion of my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012!

5. Batman: Earth One  A staggeringly entertaining ground-one reinvention of Batman, I can’t believe how much I loved this hardcover graphic novel by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.  I don’t have too much patience for creators reworking classic super-hero origins — do they think they know better than the original creators of these long-lived, much-beloved characters?  And if you’re going to re-tell Batman’s origin, how could anyone possibly do it better than Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s superlative Batman: Year One from the eighties?  While I wouldn’t consider this origin story to be superior to Batman’s established origin, it’s a marvelously entertaining what-if version in which all of the familiar beats play out differently.  (And it’s hugely superior to DC’s first “Earth One” graphic novel, J. Michael Straczynski’s woeful Superman: Earth One.)  Mr. John’s tweaks to the familiar characters (I particularly love Earth One’s versions of Alfred and Harvey Bullock) plus Mr. Frank’s exquisite art make this a knockout.  I hope they make lots more sequels so that I can return to this world for further adventures.

4. America’s Got Powers — This six-issue mini-series (of which four issues have been published so far) has been blowing my socks off.  Superstar artist Bryan Hitch (for my money, the very best illustrator of super-hero comic books working today) and Jonathan Ross have teamed up to create this original, powerhouse new series.  Something has gifted a whole generation of young people with super-powers.  A fearful government has rounded up anyone exhibiting special abilities, but to keep them (and the general population) from focusing on the hideous human rights abuses, they have created a super-powered reality TV show in which the super-powered kids compete for fame and glory.  No surprise, the behind-the-scenes reality is far different than the happy, televised spectacle.  This series is deft speculative fiction of the very best kind, crossed with a terrific super-hero adventure story.  I have loved every single page.  I hope this series continues beyond the scheduled six issues.

3. All-New X-Men The biggest surprise of the year for me has been Brian Michael Bendis’ new X-Men series.  The Beast, fearing that his life is nearly over and distraught at the state of the X-Men, the world, and the actions of his former best friend Scott … [continued]

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I hope you enjoyed my Top 15 Movies of 2012 list!  You can click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.

Now let’s jump into my second Best of 2012 list, my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012!

First up, some honorable mentions.  They didn’t make by best-of list, but I really enjoyed The Manhattan Projects, Secret, The Massive, the publication of Alan Moore’s last scripted issue of Supreme, the conclusion of RASL, Ultimate Spider-Man (dropping off my best-of list for the first time since I started doing this, but still a great comic book), Daredevil: End of Days, and Peter David’s X-Factor.

15. Batman Beyond: Unlimited I am loving this continuation of the world of Bruce Timm’s animated Batman Beyond series.  The comic has picked up on many terrific story-lines left hanging by the show’s conclusion, including Terry’s membership in the Justice League, Superman’s return to Metropolis, Terry’s relationship with Dana, the tragic events that befell former Robin Tim Drake (as depicted in the Return of the Joker DVD movie), and at last the introduction of Dick Grayson into Batman Beyond continuity.  With the Justice League and the New Gods front-and-center, as well as a revitalized Jokerz gang, the stories feel suitably big and epic.  I love that each issue is double-sized, with several serialized stories running concurrently.  The art is a little inconsistent on some of the features, but I love Dustin Nguyen’s work, and I am absolutely delighted to see the great Norm Breyfogle once again illustrating a Batman comic.

14. Winter SoldierEd Brubaker’s final Captain America story-line has been terrific, returning full-circle to where his Captain America epic began years ago, with a still-alive Bucky Barnes operating on the fringes of the Marvel Universe, trying his best to be a hero in the murky world of spies and shadows.  I love the relationship between Barnes and the Black Widow.  I love how heavily SHIELD and Nick Fury are involved in the story.  I love Butch Guice’s spectacular illustrations, at once retro and very modern.  This is a great noirish super-hero story, and I’m going to be sorry to see it end.

13. BatwomanJ.H. Williams III’s lavishly illustrated series continues to impress me.  Without question, the main draw is J.H. Williams III’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous art, so creative in terms of page and panel layout, and his use of different artistic styles for different characters/settings.  But Mr. Williams has also been doing fine work as the writer, spinning a great mystery yarn that is grounded but not afraid to embrace the supernatural or the super-heroic.  The latest story-line, featuring … [continued]

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The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011 — Part Two!

Welcome back to the conclusion of my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011!  Click here for part one.  (And click here for my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2011: part one, part two, and part three.)

5.  Moon Knight I really enjoyed Brian Michael Bendis’ years-long run on Daredevil with Alex Maleev, and their relaunch of Moon Knight has been pretty terrific so far.  I love the new conceit that the slightly unhinged Marc Spector is now hearing the voices of Spider-Man, Captain America, and Wolverine in his head.  The result is some great comedy as the three super-heroes banter back and forth in Moon Knight’s head.  (Comic banter is a Bendis specialty!)  Seeing Echo back in a lead role is just icing on the cake.  I never thought Moon Knight could be at all interesting, but I guess the character was just the right sort of tabula rasa for an exciting reinvention.  I hope this is the start of a long run for Mr. Bendis and Mr. Maleev on the character.

4.  RASL I wish Jeff Smith’s sci-fi opus would come out a little more frequently, but I can’t really fault creator/writer/artist/self-publisher Smith, seeing as how he’s pretty much doing everything himself on this comic.  It’s just that the series is so good!  I want more!!  This adventure/love story is just grounded enough in real scientific theories to anchor all of the fun flights of fancy involving parallel universes, lizard-men, and weird-looking little girls.  Jeff Smith’s art is perfection — with a cartoony stylization that is endearing, but also an extraordinary amount of detail to give all of the settings and characters a distinct, “real world” feel.  It feels like things are really starting to come together with the story, which is very exciting.  The wait between issues is BRUTAL!!  If you’re a comic book fan but you’re not reading this self-published gem, do yourself a favor and remedy that immediately.

3.  Criminal: The Last of the Innocent The work that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips do together just keeps getting better and better and better.  I love all of their projects, but the crime-comic Criminal has always been my favorite, and The Last of the Innocent might be the very best installment since the first story-line, “Coward.”  In this dark tale, we meet young man Riley Richards, who is married to a beautiful, wealthy woman.  But he’s tremendously unhappy, and when he returns home and reconnects with his old goof-ball friend and the blonde girl-next-door he used to have a crush on, he realizes that he just might have chosen the wrong girl.  … [continued]

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The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011 — Part One!

My Best of 2011 lists roll on!  Here are the links to my Top 15 Movies of 2011part one, part two, and part three.  Now on to my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011!

15.  John Byrne’s Next Men When Mr. Byrne’s Next Men series was originally released back in the 90’s, it was one of my very favorite comic book series.  Mr. Byrne’s illustration skills were at their peak, and the story was just “mature audiences” enough to peak my teenaged interest.  I was also very, very taken by the fiendishly clever circular narrative.  I was disappointed when the series ended, particularly since it was only supposed to have gone on hiatus for a few months, BUT I thought that, if it had to end, Mr. Byrne had wrapped things up beautifully.  I never imagined the series would ever return to the comic book stands, but lo and behold, IDW brought the series back for a nine issue run this year.  There were moments when the relaunch approached the greatness I had remembered (I enjoyed the twisted revelations about Bethany in issue 4), but for the most part, I wasn’t quite sure the point of this new story.  It sort of muddled the perfect ending of the series, without really enhancing what had gone before.  Ultimately, I didn’t quite understand the new time-travel machinations, and so was left a bit underwhelmed.  Still, new issues of John Byrne’s Next Men!! How cool is that??

14.  Ultimate Spider-Man I hated the whole Death of Peter Parker story-line, but I am very much enjoying the initial issues with the new Spidey.  The focus on this young kid and his classmates reminds me very much — without being derivative — of what attracted me so much to this series when it began, over a decade ago (wow).  Ultimate Spidey has been one of the most consistently enjoyable comic book series I have followed ever since it began.  Attentive readers will note it has slipped down in the rankings of my end-of-the-year list in the past few years, but it’s still on here as one of the stronger serialized super-hero comic books out there.  And god bless Mr. Bendis and his various artistic collaborators (including the very, very talented Sara Pichelli) for their consistency in getting this book out on a regular basis, month after month, year after year!

13.  Kick Ass 2 Mark Millar and John Romita’s sequel is just as gloriously profane and juvenile as the original.  Taking the concept of “escalation” (an idea explored in many comic books and also in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight film) to the extreme, the … [continued]

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Tale From the Longbox: Comics I’ve Been Reading!

Here are some of the comics I’ve been reading lately:

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis — It took such a long time for Warren Ellis and Kaare Andrew’s five-issue mini-series to come out, I decided to wait for all five issues to be published before reading it all in one go.  I’m not quite sure why this was a miniseries, as opposed to just being published as part of the regular Astonishing X-Men series, but whatever.  A decently entertaining story really rose in my interest mid-way through with a surprising twist that connected the narrative to a long-forgotten Captain Britain story-line: the Jaspers Warp.  I adore those old Captain Britain stories, and getting to see Warpies and the Fury again really tickled my fancy.  I do wish this story had lasted a few more issues — after a slow-burn build-up, everything got wrapped up surprisingly quickly.

Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever #1 — The first Witchfinder mini-series, about paranormal investigator Sir Edward Grey’s adventures in London in 1879, was phenomenal, so I was very excited to read the first issue of the follow-up.  The switch in art-styles and setting (this adventure is set in the Old West!) threw me for a bit of a loop, but by the end of the issue I was hooked on this new tale.  John Serverin is a comic-book master illustrator, and seeing him work in Mike Mignola’s world is a thrill.

Powers #7 — After a weird detour during the first few issues of this third volume (that Rat Pack stuff just did NOT do it for me), with this issue I felt we were finally back with the Powers series that I knew and loved.  I’m not sure where all of this Golden Ones stuff is going, but Christian Walker is back investigating the grisly death of a super-hero, and I couldn’t be happier.  Plus, this issue sported a gorgeous cover by Michael Avon Oeming. I wish this book came out more frequently, but I’ll happily take what I can get.  (And if the Powers TV series actually gets made, I will be super-excited!!)

Secret Warriors #25 — Puzzle pieces are falling into place fast and furiously as Jonathan Hickman’s series rushes to its conclusion.  This issue was fun on every page as we learned a lot of key pieces of information about the linked histories of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra, and Leviathan, and the story finally connected with Mr. Hickman’s superlative millennia-spanning S.H.I.E.L.D. series.  I have no idea where any of this is going, but I’m enjoying the hell out of the ride and I’ll be sorry to see it end.

John  Byrne’s Next Men #4 — I found the first three issues of this … [continued]

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The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2010 — Part One!

I hope you all enjoyed my Top 10 Movies of 2010 list (click here for part one, and here for part two) and my Top 10 DVDs of 2010 list (click here for part one, and here for part two)!  Now on to my list of my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2010!

Honorable Mentions: Hoo boy, did I read a lot of really fantastic comic books this past year.  In addition to the titles listed in my Top 15 list (I couldn’t even keep this list contained to a Top 10), I also really enjoyed: The Marvels Project, X-Factor, X-Factor Forever, New Avengers, Avengers Prime, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Batman and Robin, The Stand, Astro City, RASL, Ultimate Thor, Ultimate Mystery, Ultimate Doom, and the final issues of Ex Machina.  I’m also pleased beyond words that John Byrne’s Next Men has finally returned to life (even though I don’t think the first two issues of the relaunch have come anywhere close to the greatness of the original Next Men series).

15. Superman/Batman Annual #4OK, this isn’t a series, but an incredible single issue.  The Batman Beyond mini-series that DC published this year was great, but this one-shot annual was absolutely phenomenal.  Set some-time after the conclusion of the Bruce Timm-masterminded TV series Batman Beyond, this issue picks up story-threads left dangling by the show’s Justice League two-parter “The Call.”  An older Superman comes out of the fog of years of mind-control to attempt to pick up the ruins of his shattered life, and Batman (Terry McGinnis) must confront the man who took over Metropolis in Superman’s absence: Lex Luthor.  A great story by Paul Levitz with gorgeous art by Renato Guedes and Jose Wilson, this was a real winner.

14. Nemesis This profane and extraordinarily violent four-issue series from Mark Millar and Steve McNiven was gloriously outrageous fun.  The premise is simple: what if Batman, instead of being a hero, had used his incredible mind and enormous fortune to become the world’s most dangerous super-villain?  Fourteen-year-old me would have thought this was the greatest comic book ever created, and the older, balder version of me also thought it was a heck of a lot of fun.  (It would have been higher on this list if not for the last few pages of the final issue which, to me, didn’t make any sense.)  They’re not on this list, but I also enjoyed Mark Millar’s series Superior and Kick-Ass 2 (of which one issue has been published so far).

13. Star Trek: Leonard McCoy: Frontier Doctor John Byrne was the first comic book artist/writer who I ever … [continued]

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The Top 10 Comic Books of 2009!

Time to wrap up my Best of 2009 lists!  I hope you all enjoyed my lists of the Top 10 TV Shows of 2009, the Top 10 DVDs of 2009, and the Top 10 Movies of 2009!

Now here we go with my list of the Top 10 Comic Book Series of 2009!

First, let’s start with some Honorable Mentions:  RASL, Ex Machina, Young Liars, Astonishing X-Men, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Superman: Secret Origins, Supergod, Aliens, The Dark Tower, and X-Factor.  All of those are series that I absolutely love — and if you’re not reading them, you should be! (I also have great affection for Powers, but since only one new issue saw the light of day in 2009, it was hard for me to justify including it on this list.)

OK, now here we go with the Top Ten:

10. Witchfinder: In The Service of Angels (issues #1-5 published in 2009) — I am an enormous fan of the Hellboy universe, and I’ve picked up every single Hellboy-related limited series or one-shot ever since Seed of Destruction way back when.  But somehow I almost missed this series about occult investigator Edward Grey, set in London in 1879.  Boy oh boy I’m glad I remedied my error and picked up all five issues.  Not only is it a terrific, creepy adventure tale, but issue #3 connects some ENORMOUS dots and basically gives us the secret history of the Hellboy universe.  This is a critical piece of the unfolding Hellboy saga, and not to be missed.

9.  Stephen King’s The Stand (issues #2-5 of Captain Trips, issues #1-5 of American Nightmares, and issues #1-2 of Soul Survivors published in 2009) — I’ve never read Stephen King’s epic novel The Stand, but I have been absolutely devouring the series of mini-series based on that work.  Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa deftly handles the enormous canvas, weaving multiple story-lines in and out of one another with ease, and Mike Perkins’ beautifully rendered artwork brings a devastated America to glorious, haunting life.  I am chomping at the bit to know what happens next — so much so that I went out and purchased Mr. King’s novel last month!   Now I just need to decide if I want to experience the story through the comic adaptations first, and THEN go read the novel… or dive into the novel right now.

8.  Astro City: The Dark Age Book 3 (issues #1-4 published in 2009) — This four-book Astro City saga has been taking its sweet time to reach a conclusion, but boy is each installment worth the wait.  The Dark Age is the story of two brothers, Charles … [continued]

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Last week I wrote about some of the great comics I’ve read lately.  That list was just scratching the surface!  Here’s some more fantastic stuff that I’ve been enjoying recently:

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt and BPRD: 1947 – The Hellboy saga continues in these two new wonderful mini-series.  In Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, things are coming to a head for the big red guy.  Cut off from his old friends and comrades in the BPRD, and hunted by the newly-resurrected Queen of Blood, things are looking grim for our hero!  Last month’s issue (#6) was jam-packed with astonishing revelations about Hellboy’s origin that I never saw coming, but that I thought worked absolutely PERFECTLY.  Meanwhile, BPRD: 1947 takes us through a rollicking tale of the second year of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense as Professor Bruttenholm struggles against vampires and a lot of other weirdness.  The Hellboy universe has really richened and deepened over these last few years, and I am really excited to see where things go from here.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man — The relaunch of Brian Michael Bendis’ take on Spider-Man (three issues have been published as of this writing) continues just where the previous 133 issues (plus a handful of annuals and other specials) left off.  Young Peter Parker must juggle his, um, interesting love-life with a boring job at a fast-food joint (since he lost his job at the Daily Bugle following the devastation of NYC in the truly awful Ultimatum miniseries) with, oh yeah, his crime-fighting escapades as Spider-Man!  Mr. Bendis is well-known for his witty, true-to-teenaged-life dialogue, but I think his real strength is the depth of characterization he brings to Peter Parker and all the rest of the extraordinarily numerous cast of this comic.  Mary-Jane, Flash Thompson, Aunt May, “Kong,” Kitty Pryde from the X-Men, Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four (and it is almost embarrassing how much more interesting Kitty and Johnny are here than in their “home” comics) and many more characters are all brought to amazingly real life in these pages.  I’ve been following Bendis’ run on “Ultimate” Spider-Man and I’ll be with the series until he leaves.  Spider-Man has never been done better (in my comic-reading life-time, at least!).  My only small complaint: I’m not quite taken with the overly stylized work of new series artist David Lafuente.  Let’s see if it grows on me any more after a few more issues…

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower — I fell way behind on this series of mini-series, adapting and expanding upon the back story of Stephen King’s seven-book The Dark Tower opus, but I was finally able to catch up last month.  Breathtakingly gorgeous art by … [continued]

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Well, I hope you enjoyed my lists of the Top 10 TV Shows and the Top 10 Movies 0f 2008.

But, you know, EVERYONE writes those sorts of top 10 lists!  So today, I wanted to send some love in the direction of the best comic books that I read in 2008.  2008 was a PHENOMENAL year for comics, with a lot of great material out there.  Here’s what I felt was the best of the best.

15.  Top 10: Season 2 (issues #1-3 published in 2008) — One of Alan Moore (Watchmen, V For Vendetta)’s greatest works of the past decade was the first “season” of Top 10, published between 1999 and 2001.  It chronicled the efforts of a police force in a bizarre city that seemed to be a meeting point for all sorts of fantasy characters from comics, TV shows, and movies.  Although Mr. Moore has not returned for this second installment, talented writer Zander Cannon along with returning artist Gene Ha have crafted a story every bit as weird, complex, and compelling as Mr. Moore’s original.  Ha’s art remains staggeringly complex and detailed, filled with lots of fun surprises in the background for an attentive reader.

14.  Detective Comics #846-850, “Heart of Hush” — Although Grant Morrison’s “Batman: R.I.P.” storyline over in Batman got all the attention this year, it was writer Paul Dini (one of the guiding forces behind the amazing Batman: The Animated Series) who was behind my favorite Batman story of 2008.  Enigmatic villain Hush returns with a complex scheme to take down the Dark Kight, while in a series of flashbacks we learn how the friendship between young Bruce Wayne and Tommy Elliott went wrong.  Throw in Catwoman and gorgeous art by Dustin Nguyen, and you have a classic.  (Collected edition available here.)

13.  Ultimate Spider-Man (issues 116-128 published in 2008) — I cannot believe how much I continue to enjoy this Spider-Man book.  Guided by the incredible writing of Brian Michael Bendis, who has been writing this reinvention of Spider-Man since issue #1, this is everything a super-hero comic book should be.  It is filled with great action, terrific humor, and incredible continuity and character development.  I don’t know of any comic that is consistently more fun, and the fact that such a high standard of quality has been maintained for 128 issues and counting is amazing.  (The entire run of USM is available in collected editions.  Here is the latest.)

12.  Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (issues 1-5 of “The Long Road Home” and 1-4 of “Treachery” published in 2008) — A complex but coherent story and absolutely gorgeous art by Jae Lae and Richard … [continued]