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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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“All Hope Lies in Doom” — Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four Epic Part IV

I’ve been having a fantastic time (pun definitely intended!) reading Jonathan Hickman’s epic run on The Fantastic Four.  Click here for part one, click here for part two, and click here for part three.

Now, at last, we come to the final issues of Mr. Hickman’s massive story-line.  Everything came to a head in Forever, the story-line in Fantastic Four #600-604 (collected in Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four volume 5) and it felt in some ways, like the end of the story.

FF Volume 3 — All Hope Lies in Doom — FF # 12-16 — But, in fact, Mr. Hickman’s story was not yet over.  Opening the pages of this collection, I realized that I had forgotten about a huge story-line left hanging by the events of Forever — what the heck had happened to Dr. Doom??  Young Valeria, Franklin, and the other kids of the Future Foundation find themselves trapped in Latveria, along with Nathaniel Richards, Doom, and Kristoff, who are under the sway of the last surviving evil Reed.  Together they journey back to the between-universes realm of the destroyed Council of Reeds, where a number of very angry Celestials await them.  It is in these issues that Nathaniel’s plan lies revealed — to find a way to change the past and delay the Celestials by just a few minutes from their arrival at Earth (where they will battle Galactus as seen in the pages of Forever).  Those few minutes will, Nathaniel & Future Franklin and Val believe, be enough to change a key event and give our heroes a chance for victory.  The events in this collection at first feel like a side-bar from the main story, but I love how quickly we understand that these are critical events indeed.  I love the multi-sided battle-of-wits between Nathaniel, Doom, the evil Reed, and Valeria, with each character plotting and scheming against the others and the reader rushing to keep up with what is going on.  I adore the version of Doom we see in these stories — he’s evil and arrogant, but incredibly smart, a powerful enemy and ally.   Sometimes I feel writers write Doom as too much of an egotistical idiot, but this Doom is clearly clever and dangerous.  But he’s also noble in a way, and I love the bizarre almost-friendship that we see formed between Doom and young Valeria.  I also love the connection we see in these issues between Franklin and Galactus (I LOVE that Future Franklin calls Galactus “Galen”).  Great stuff!  Reading these issues sheds new light on many of the events of Forever, helping to flesh out the story and to address story-threads I hadn’t even realized had been … [continued]

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“Forever” — Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four Epic Part III

I have been having a blast reading Jonathan Hickman’s recent run on the Fantastic Four.  Click here for my thoughts on the beginning of Mr. Hickman’s run, and click here for part II of my reading of his saga.

Following the death of the Human Torch in Fantastic Four # 587, the series was re-launched with a new number one, now titled just FF.  FF of course was an acronym not only for Fantastic Four, but also for the Future Foundation (a creation of Mr. Hickman’s), the organization of brilliant young-people started by Reed Richards.  With a new name, a new series, new all-white costumes for the heroes (designs which I quite like — this is one of the bolder re-imaginings of the classic FF costumes that I can recall), and a new member of the team (Spider-Man, replacing the Human Torch), this was a big turning point for the characters and the story-line.  FF #1 felt like the series had become what Mr. Hickman had been driving towards all along.  It was almost as if the entire first year-plus of his run on the title had all been about putting the pieces in place to create this re-imagining of the FF.

One note to the fine folks at Marvel putting together these trade paperbacks.  You guys need to include some sort of guide, in these editions, indicating the order in which this story is supposed to be read!  Mr. Hickman’s run is collected in six Fantastic Four collections, numbered volume 1 through volume 6.  Except that after volume 4, you’re NOT supposed to move on to volume 5!  At that point you’re supposed to read the first twelve issues of FF, in the collections labeled FF volume 1 and FF volume 2.  That was not at all obvious to me at first!  After finishing Fantastic Four volume 4 I moved right on to volume 5.  A few pages in I realized something was wrong, and only then did I remember that the title of the comic had changed from Fantastic Four to FF mid-way through Mr. Hickman’s run.  Things only get more complicated later, when after FF #11 the regular Fantastic Four series returned, with Fantastic Four #600.  BUT the FF series continued, with the two series (Fantastic Four and FF) telling connected stories for the final year of Mr. Hickman’s run.  I had a real devil of a time figuring out what order to read the collections in at that point!  Sheesh!  But I digress…

FF Volume 1 — Tomorrow — FF #1-5 – Valeria’s secret deal with Doom is revealed — she and her father will help restore Doom’s mind, and in return, … [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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Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four Epic Part II

Writer Jonathan Hickman recently wrapped up a very well-received run on the Fantastic Four, which I am reading in collected editions.  Click here for my thoughts on the beginning of Mr. Hickman’s run.

Volume 2 — Prime Elements — FF #575-578 — This story collects four stand-alone issues, each of which focus on a different city, clearly picking up onthe mysterious reference to a coming War of Four Cities in volume one (specifically, FF #574).  In FF #575, the Mole Man returns and, in classic Mole Man fashion, smashes into the Baxter Building with his weird, huge, subterranean beasts, only to ask the FF for help against another adversary: in this case, the High Evolutionary.  Seems that machines left over in an abandoned former base of the High Evolutionary are having a mutating effect on some of the Mole Man’s moloids (the creatures that serve him).  There are some extraordinary images in this issue, wonderfully illustrated by Dale Eaglesham.  The full-page image of the Mole Man after he emerges in the Baxter Building, bowing down before the FF while standing on the tongue of a huge creature, is worthy of being made into a poster.  And the full-page spread of the corpse of Galactus from the future is also a stunning, haunting image.  (Though also one that caused me some confusion.  That corpse plays a big part in volume 3’s story.  I assumed, when reading this originally, that this was the corpse of the huge Galactus that we saw the Council of Reeds fighting in another universe, in volume 1.  But I later figured out that in fact this is the Galactus from the future that we saw in Mark Millar’s run, that the super-team from the future used to power their time-machine.  That wasn’t at all clear to me at first, and since we saw an alternate-universe Galactus right at the beginning of Mr. Hickman’s run, I think it was a reasonable assumption that it was THAT Galactus whose corpse we were seeing here.)

In FF #576, the team discovers a lost city of Atlantis.  This kingdom is different from the under-water realm ruled by Namor, the Sub-Mariner, and has apparently been hidden for countless years.  In FF #577, an enormous alien city-spaceship lands on the moon, in response to a summoning by Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans.  We, along with the FF, learn that the Inhumans (who have been recurring FF characters since Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s original run) are but one group of a larger circle of Inhumans, all genetically altered by the alien Kree millennia ago.  Finally, in FF #578, we see our fourth and final new city.  Johnny Storm stumbles into the … [continued]

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“Solve Everything” — Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four Epic Part I

I’ve been a huge fan of the Fantastic Four since I was a little kid.  One of the first comic books I ever read was John Byrne’s FF # 277, published in 1985.  I read it in a doctor’s office, and since I wasn’t finished reading the issue by the time I was called in, my mom — in an extraordinarily rare example of my mom breaking a rule — allowed me to swipe the comic and take it home.  The comic blew my mind.  Each page of the issue was divided in half, with one story running through the issue on the top of each page, and a separate story running through the issue on the bottom.  Both stories were crazy.  In the top-of-the-page story, Ben Grimm returns to Earth to find Johnny Storm  shacked up with his girlfriend.  This personal crisis is happening in the shadow of some sort of apocalyptic alien invasion that threatens to destroy the planet, with all sorts of craziness erupting all over New York City.  Meanwhile, on the bottom half of each page, we see that Reed and Sue have apparently died, and are in hell being tortured by the devil (or at least Marvel Comics’ version of the devil, Mephisto).  I’d never read anything like this before.  The story was incredibly mature and sophisticated, and I was hooked.  I read that issue over and over again for years.

But at the time I was too young to buy comics or even to really understand that I could nudge my parents into buying them for me.  So it was several years before I started reading comics regularly.  When that started to happen, Fantastic Four was one of the first comics that I ever followed monthly.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, I started reading about a year after the end of John Byrne’s lengthy run (which I have come to consider the greatest run on FF since Stan and Jack’s original 106 issues).  In that first issue I read (issue #307, published in 1987), Reed and Sue had left the team to raise their son, Franklin, and Ben and Johnny were left to form a new FF.  I was hugely taken by the series right away, and I continued to read the series every month for years and years.  I followed FF right up until the series was cancelled and rebooted by Jim Lee & co. under the “Heroes Reborn” banner in the nineties.  I read Heroes Reborn, but my enthusiasm for the FF had dimmed by several years of weaker stories, and though Heroes Reborn started out with great promise, I ultimately found it to be a huge disappointment.

After … [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 Two!

Yesterday I posted the first part of my list of my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2010!  Click that link to read numbers 15-6, now here we go with the final five (yes, I am a Battlestar Galactica fan):

5. Incognito: Bad Influences Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ sequel to their terrific series, Incognito, has only just begun but I’m already deeply hooked again on the story of former super-villain Zack Overkill.  At the end of the last series, Zack had thrown in with the S.O.S. (the agency that tries to hold the line against the super-villain crime gangs).  Now they’ve sent him back undercover into the criminal world, in an attempt to contact another S.O.S. undercover agent who has apparently gone rogue.  There’s no way this is going to end well.  Mr. Brubaker’s fusion of super-hero and crime stories is as engagingly clever as ever, and Mr. Phillips gritty, evocative art (aided by Val Staples’ gorgeous colors) makes each page a real work of art.  Phenomenal stuff.

4. Baltimore: The Plague Ships — Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden bring their vampire-hunter character, Baltimore, from the pages of their novel (Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire) into the comic-book world, and the result is a wonderfully creepy mini-series.  In France in 1916, Lord Baltimore hunts the vampire, Haigus, who destroyed his family.  But when he and the Gypsy young woman traveling with him find themselves shipwrecked, they discover a graveyard of German submarines and an even more terrible threat.  Ben Stenbeck’s illustration work and Dave Stewart’s colors work together beautifully to bring this dark, suspenseful tale to life.  It’s a compelling horror story that has really stuck with me since I finished reading the series.  I am very excited for the next Baltimore mini-series, coming this year!

3. S.H.I.E.L.D. This series took me completely by surprise.  I almost didn’t buy the first issue, but thank goodness that I did!  Jonathan Hickman’s story about the secret origins of the Marvel Universe — from Leonardo DaVinci’s encounter with a Celestial to Galileo’s fight with Galactus to the secret work that Anthony Stark and Nathaniel Richards (the parents of Tony Stark — Iron Man — and Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four) did together, this series is stuffed to the gills with interweaving characters and story-lines that span centuries, and a heck of a lot of BIG ideas.  Mr. Hickman’s story is complex, inventive and unique, and the artwork by Dustin Weaver and Christina Strain is absolutely gorgeous.

2. Serenity: Float Out and The Shepherd’s Tale — Dark Horse Comics only released two short stories, this year, set in the universe of Joss Whedon’s … [continued]

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I’ve written a few pieces, recently, about some of the great comic books that I’ve been reading lately.  (Click here for my thoughts on 100 Bullets, and here for my reviews of three recent graphic novels adapted from the short stories of Alan Moore.)  What else have I been reading lately that has tickled my fancy?  I’m glad you asked!

Filthy Rich, by Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos — After finishing 100 Bullets, I was eager to check out some more work by Brian Azzarello.  Luckily, this original graphic novel had just been published, so I snapped it up.  Richard “Junk” Junkin used to be a football star.  Now he sells cars.  Not very well.  When Junk’s boss asks him to work as the bodyguard for his spoiled, party-going daughter, Junk find himself swept up in the world of the young and the rich that he is at once envious of and disdainful of.  Not surprisingly, things don’t go well.  Mr. Santos’s black-and-white artwork has a bit of a cartoony, Bruce Tim bent which one might think incongruous with a gritty crime story, but I quickly found myself loving his detailed, quirky illustrations.  There are a lot of characters in this story, but under Mr. Santos’ sure hand I never found myself confused as to who-was-who.  This is a great, street-level gritty story (an Azzarello specialty), and if you’re looking for a break from comic book super-heroics, this is worth a shot.

Frankenstein’s Womb, by Warren Ellis and Marek Oleksicki — As noted above, last week I wrote about three Alan Moore graphic novels published by Avatar Press.  But that’s not all that Avatar has to offer.  Last month I had the pleasure of reading this recent graphic novel (or “graphic novella,” as it is labelled on its cover) written by the enormously talented Warren Ellis.  The year is 1816.  Mary Wollestonecraft Goodwin, her husband-to-be Percy Bysshe Shelley, and her stepsister Claire Clairmont are traveling across Europe.  In Germany, they come across a strange and deserted castle.  Castle Frankenstein.  This wonderfully weird and quite haunting tale of where Mary Shelley REALLY got the idea for her famous novel is one of my favorite things I’ve read this year.  Mr. Ellis’ clever (and quite grim!) script is perfectly supplemented by Mr. Oleksicki’s incredibly detailed, evocative black-and-white linework.  Absolutely wonderful.

Incognito, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips — Taking a break from their stellar crime series Criminal, Brubaker and Phillips bring us the story (told in six issues) of former super-hero Zack Overkill.  After his twin brother (and fellow super-villain) was killed, Zack served as a secret witness against the head of his criminal organization, … [continued]