I’ve been on a bit of a comics jag lately, and the other day I picked up my semi-monthly haul of new comics. After reading them (Friday night and Saturday) I decided to share some of my favorites of the month, since there were some pretty darn good ones in the mix. It also showed me that I come firmly down on the DC side for the most part, with 7 of my top 10 coming from that company, and the other 3 coming from Marvel. While I like some of the obscure Marvel heroines more than I like the DC characters, it’s clear that the writing and the stories that they’re producing are far superior (or at least more to my liking) than Marvel. Anyway, here they are, my Top 10 comics of August.
- Secret Six #12 written by Gail Simone, art by Nicola Scott. Both of Gail’s titles made the Top 2 this week, but I have to say, Secret Six #12 makes it to the top with the artistic aid of Nicola Scott. The premise of Secret Six is this: six villains (or at best, anti-heroes) band together originally to survive, and eventually because they enjoy working together. In recent issues they got involved with a slavery ring, and discovered that Artemis, one of the Amazons, was a captive of the slavers. This issues the ultimate Amazon shows up… yeah, that’s Wonder Woman. She has an awesome smackdown with Jeannette, one of the more mysterious members of the Six, whose secret is finally revealed in this issue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Diana captured as perfectly both in script or in image as this issues of Secret Six. She is truly chilling and awesome to behold in this issue. Take a look on the right. DC Comics
- Detective Comics #856 featuring Batwoman written by Greg Rucka, art by J.H. Williams III. I spoke a lot about Batwoman in my previous post so it’s really no surprise that she shows up so prominently in this list. Again, the gorgeous art helps quite a bit, but Rucka’s writing is top notch. Williams layouts take a little getting used to, but they sure are breathtaking. You need to know a little bit of Batwoman’s brief history to follow this issue, but it also features a nifty meeting of Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer who share a spin on the dance floor. The Question back-up story is a little lackluster, mainly due to Cully Hamner’s artwork. It’s not bad, by any means, but it sure pales in comparison to Williams. Rucka’s story is still compelling. DC Comics
- Wonder Woman #35 written by Gail Simone, art by Aaron Lopresti. Gail really knows how to write characters, and it’s such a thrill to see women characters in comics get such great treatment. This arc is basically a Wonder Woman/Black Canary team up, and Gail really characterizes these two women wonderfully. Now, if we could only get Nicola Scott to draw this title as well? Awesome. Anyway, this issue ties together a couple of storylines very nicely. Diana and Dinah (Black Canary) are in Tokyo posing as underground wrestlers, in order to find one of Diana’s colleagues, Sarge Steel, who has been captured by one of her nemeses, Dr. Psycho. Along comes the Pacific Islander goddess Pele, seeking revenge on Diana for her father’s death at the hands of Zeus. Yeah, it probably sounds confusing to a non-comic reader, but this comic has it all. Great characterization, kick-ass action, and an emotional wallop right at the end. DC Comics
- Guardians of the Galaxy #17 written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, art by Brad Walker. Marvel comes in with one of their cosmic titles, which is also the single most enjoyable title they are putting out right now. Two of my favorite Marvel heroines are featured regularly, Moondragon (who only has a small part in this issue) and Mantis (who is absent from this issue), but this issue does guest star my second favorite Marvel heroine, Medusa along with the rest of the Inhumans Royal Family in this War of Kings follow-up. The Inhumans have gone and detonated a deadly bomb to end the Kree/Shair War, and the result is a massive rift in time and space that threatens to destroy the cosmos. The Guardians of the Galaxy go to confront the Inhumans for their actions, and to see if they can do something about the unravelling of the galaxy. Naturally Medusa is a bit consumed by grief as it looks like her husband, and King of the Inhuamns, Black Bolt, has been obliterated. As you can see in the image on the right, she doesn’t have much patience for Martyr’s “I told you so’s.” Fortunately for the cosmos, Adam Warlock manages to stop the rift’s growth. Unfortunately for the cosmos, the resulting timeshift causes him to become the villainous Magus. It’s a pretty shocking ending, and great cosmic space opera. Marvel comics
- X-Factor #47 written by Peter David, art by Valentine De Landro. Pretty much the only X-title worth reading right now (except perhaps New Mutants, in my opinion) and that’s because of Peter David’s writing. Humor, adventure, twists, emotional swings… Peter does it all, imbuing life and interest even into such cardboard characters as Longshot, Shatterstar, Strong Guy and his masterwork, Madrox the Multiple Man. This issue is in the middle of a multi-part storyline, so it’s pretty darn confusing. I’m not even going to try to summarize it. Suffice it to say, Madrox, X-Factor’s leader, is trapped in the future with Layla Miller, trying to figure out a way to keep a nasty future from coming to past for mutantkind. Meanwhile back in the present, a couple of Omega level sentinels are after Siryn and M, while Longshot confronts the apparent mastermind of the whole thing… who is shockingly revealed in the final panel. Marvel comics
- Madame Xanadu #14 written by Matt Wagner, art by Michael Wm. Kaluta. DC’s fantasy/horror/crime imprint, Vertigo, spawned the likes of such popular titles as The Sandman and Fables. Now they have scored again with one of DC’s b-list mystics, the mysterious Madame Xanadu. Issue #14 is part four of a storyline with art by original Madame Xanadu artist Michael Kaluta, and while it’s beautiful, it doesn’t have the appeal for me as Amy Reeder Hadley’s fine line work, and I look forward to her return in a few issues. This storyline is set alternately in 1940s New York, where Madame Xanadu must solve a mystical serial killing, and 1493 when the Spanish Inquisition was at the height of its powers. This issue also features a great encounter between Madame Xanadu and the Golden Age Sandman, aka Wesley Dodds, who is trying to solve the crimes in his own way. There’s a dramatic cliffhanger where it looks like things are about to go terribly wrong for Xanadu in the 1493. Wagner has turned a stock character into something magical and wondrous, and whose adventures each month I look forward to eagerly. DC Comics/Vertigo
- War of Kings #6 of 6 written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, art by Paul Pelletier. As mentioned above, Medusa is one of my all-time favorite heroines from Marvel, and she and the rest of the Royal Family of the Inhumans is featured prominently in the War of Kings miniseries which reached its conclusion this month. It comes down to an epic personal battle between Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans, and Vulcan, man Emperor of the Shiar. Black Bolt intends to detonate a T-bomb, powered by his deadly voice, that will have deadly repercussions to the galaxy. Vulcan intends to stop him. Medusa comes to realize that Black Bolt will perish in the explosion as this epic war comes to a close. Abnett and Lanning do cosmic storylines with finesse, action, political intrigue and great characterization. Unfortunately, they tend to paint their characters in fairly broad strokes: Crystal and Ronan are our heroes, and seem to make no errors in judgment, while the rest of the Inhumans Royal Family are nearly reduced to cardboard villains. I would have rather seen more layers. The miniseries was elevated by the fabulous artwork of Paul Pelletier though, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the next chapter in this saga. Marvel Comics
- Justice Society of America #30 written by Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham, art by Jesus Merino. The new writing team of Sturges and Willingham (of Fables fame) has breathed much needed new life into the Justice Society of America; enough to propel it back into the Top 1o of my monthly reads. It’s not easy to handle the writing chores of a team of superheroes that features over 20 members, but this kick-off storyline does the job, and even adds another member (bringing in the new Dr. Fate in a very dramatic fashion.) The JSA is nearly defeated by a horde of Super-villains, leaving only the Flash and Stargirl standing. While Stargirl holds her own, Flash recruits the new Dr. Fate and the three manage to stall long enough for the rest of the team to recover. When the villains flee, a rift forms in the team of heroes, with some wanting to pursue the villains and find out the reason for the attack, and the rest feeling it important to return to headquarters to see why Mr. Terrific doesn’t answer their call. It turns out that there is a larger plot at work against the team and it threatens to tear the JSA apart. Oh, Merino’s art really adds a lot to the book. I’m looking forward to seeing this new creative team’s work. DC Comics
- Batgirl #1 written by Bryan Q. Miller, art by Lee Garbett. I wasn’t going to read the new Batgirl series, as I wasn’t all that interested in the last young lady who wore the costume. For some reason, when I found out who was going to be wearing the costume, I was intrigued, so I decided to pick up issues #1. I’m going to spoil you about the new Batgirl’s identity, because it’s revealed very early on in the issue. Stephanie Brown, formerly Spoiler, is our new Batgirl, and while I don’t really know all that much about Ms. Brown, I thought I’d see how she handles the role. The art is terrific, and Brown’s Batgirl is a little uncertain of herself and makes some mistakes. Clearly she is in need of a mentor, and she is apparently going to get one in the form of Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, and now the uber-information broker, Oracle. Miller writes Barbara with a lot of pent up anger, which I’m not sure I buy, but I’m going to wait and see where that anger is coming from and see how the story develops. In the meantime, I’m in. DC Comics
- Power Girl #4 written by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmotti, art by Amanda Conner. DC is sure showing the ladies some love with all these female-led titles! Power Girl is a great character… originally Earth 2′s answer to Supergirl. She devolved into a large pair of breasts and an attitude in the 90′s, but her regular strong appearances in the Justice Society of America over the last several years have done a lot to propel her back to serious status. Gray and Pamottie are taking a slightly humorous approach to Power Girl (there’s a joke about her breasts in just about every issue) but they’re also doing a good job establishing her as an entertaining and strong character. Amanda Conner’s art is a little cartoony, but it fits thebig adventures well, and she captures facial expressions really well. I’m enjoying this title much more than I thought I would. DC Comics
I wanted to mention a few other titles for various reasons, starting with Blackest Night #2. I’m not as over the moon about this event as most of fandom. Never been much of a Green Lantern fan, and Geoff Johns stories are wildly uneven for me, some being outstanding, others being overhyped. But the big surprise in this issue was the awesome return of Mera in a big way (take a gander at left). Mera is the long-suffering wife of Aquaman, who has basically been the ultimate expression of the wife/girlfriend character in comics. Now that Aquaman is dead (and returned in Blackest Night) it appears that Johns is going to shine a little spotlight on Mera, and for that I must thank him. She’s got tons of potential, great powers, and an outstanding visual. She’s the Queen of Atlantis, and as you know from Marvel’s Medusa, I’ve got a thing for Queens!
Other mentions this month include a new creative team over in Fantastic Four, thank god. I loathed what Millar and Hitch were doing to this title, and things look promising in the hands of new scribe Jonathan Hickman. Vertigo’s Air continues to confound and to please. It’s some pretty heady stuff, but nothing less than I’d expect from Peter Milligan. Terry Moore’s Echo is moving along nicely and Streets of Gotham has me following yet another Batman title; but this time for the back-up story featuring Manhunter. This month’s addition of The Huntress piques my interest even more. Other titles I enjoyed this month include Nova, Justice League of America, Marvel Divas, New Mutants, R.E.B.E.L.S., Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers, Fables, The Unwritten, Greek Street, JSA vs. Kobra, and The Last Days of Animal Man. Other titles that I have mixed feelings about include Justice League: Cry for Justice, Adventure Comics, The Mighty Avengers, Fallen Angel, and Avengers: The Initiative. And two titles that I was enjoying before,but seem to have taken missteps this month are Gotham City Sirens and Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter.