I believe I'm going to change the format of this reading log a bit. Last month's reading log took way to long to put together for the amount of traffic these get (you can see it here). This could change again in the future, being a new feature, I'm trying to get a good feel for how best to put this together every month.
Last month's reading log may have been too lengthy for people to absorb in one read for comics, so here I plan to break them down in a sort of good, better, best fashion, and having quicker highlights on the issues. If you're a book reader and you've ever thought about giving comics a try, check out some of the indy work I mention and if you are a comic reader, feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments, or even suggest books I didn't cover. We've recently added Disqus commenting to the blog, so it's easy to join in...
Top recommendation: Lazarus #1
New series kickoff from Greg Rucka & Michael Lark
Lazarus is set in the near future and society has turned toward a nearly feudal system. Wealthy families control the world instead of politics and citizens are divided up into classes: Family, Surfs, and the Waste. Each family has a Lazarus - a "sword and shield" - given all the biological advantages the future can offer and tasked with protecting the Family. This is the story of the Lazarus: Forever Carlyle.
From the beginning, the reader gets a look at just how powerful the Lazarus can be as Forever deals with intruders at one of her family's facilities. But from her visit to the Family doctor afterward, we find a person much more conflicted with her role than the cold hearted warrior she's expected to be. The doctor, speaking with one of her family members, suggest that to help her emotionally, they must show her the love she needs in addition to simply prescribing meds. A superficial attempt is made, which seems more odd than caring to Forever, and in no time she is once again being treated as little more than a tool.
Rucka does a fine job setting up the world and introducing the players. He leaves you with a solid understanding of how the different classes of society view one another as well as a glimpse of Forever's internal moral dilemma that looks to drive the story. Lark's artwork is dynamic, handling both action and calm with equal skill. Forever stands as an imposing figure in her scenes, appearing taller, stronger and calmer than those around here. Arcas' colors add to the atmosphere with each scene receiving its own color pallet. My one complaint about art would fall to a series of narration boxes from two different people both colored the same. I would have preferred a hint of color showing two different people were having a discussion, but in the end it wasn't terribly distracting.
I definitely recommend picking this issue up and seeing where the series takes you. It looks to be an amazing ride with one of the more badass protagonists I've seen in recent years. If you are a fan of Rucka's work, or just a fan of realistically approached sci-fi, you'll enjoy it.
The rundown continues after the break.
Mind MGMT #12 by Matt Kindt
All books should be this good and I wonder where Kindt plans to go from here. Not just in quality, but in the story - not even half way through the series and major plots seemed to be wrapping up and the characters splitting up. But that's also what's great about the series. The first trade is out, and I would recommend picking it up at the book store and giving this series a try. It avoids the typical comic book art, with Matt's watercolor like sketch work offering a great atmosphere to this trippy tale.
Suicide Risk #2 by Mike Carey & Elena Casgrande
A bit more typical superhero comic flair, but also quite non-typical. Novelist Mike Carey is offering his take of what the world might be like with actual super powered people suddenly thrust upon it. Most of the heroes end up either dying or turning to evil themselves. The cops don't stand a chance until one of them decides to give being 'super' a try. Most of this issue is our protagonist, Leo, trying to get a handle on his powers and then going after one of the villains responsible for putting his partner in the hospital. But, as the book wraps, we see Leo still doesn't quite have a handle on his power.
Ten Grand #2 by J. Michael Straczynski & Ben Templesmith
Diving deeper into the creepy world of demons and angels, Joe works to find answers about why a man he killed is still alive. An interesting side character shows up to help him, giving us a peek at how horrific the powers Joe works for and against can be. You see, his friend can see into the next world to see things about people and places that no one else can. I won't spoil the story (or the details on Joe's friend), but Templesmith's (30 Days of Night) art creates a creepy den of demons as Joe digs for answers. In the end, the demons get the better of Joe, but from the first issue, we know he can't die - he simply gets to spend a moment with his true love and then is sent back to earth to work off his past evil. The demons didn't plan to just kill Joe however, they wanted to track where his spirit went.
The Wake #2 by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy
Another second issue, and one of the first of the 'big two' publishers. Though Vertigo is an imprint of DC Comics, and often a completely different beast. I was happy to see them announce several new titles for the Vertigo line, it's really the best thing about DC. You can read a bigger review of Wake #2 here.
As the mini-series plays out, prologues and epilogues offer clues to the larger story, with the main story following Dr. Archer as she digs for answers. The readers, and experts gathered in the story, finally get a little taste of the truth from the suit that dragged them all together. We find out about the mysterious creature that was captured in the ocean's depths and get some interesting pseudo-science for it's origin. Murphy's art is a great fit, his use of blank space and shadow creates a very lonely atmosphere at the bottom of the ocean.
Thor, God of Thunder #9 by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic
One of the only typical superhero titles to make it into the top five, the reason being this has been anything but typical. Throughout the series so far, my rating has fluctuated a bit on this title, but with the finale coming together it's definitely among the best books of the month. I'm not a Thor fan, never have been, but Aaron and Ribic have made me one. Nearly every page of this issue is dedicated to the epic battle between the Thors (past, present and future) and the Godkiller and even that's not enough to contain it all. Aaron and Ribic do a great job at putting together a battle fitting of gods and I can't say enough how perfect a fit Ribic is for a character like Thor. If you haven't kept up with this book, keep an eye out for the trades as the finale wraps.
Hawkeye #11 by Matt Fraction & David Aja
Hawkeye #11 offered something different this month. This issue is told from the point of view of 'Lucky, the Pizza Dog' and it's beautifully done. Hopefully the next issue fills in some of the details we missed, as a dog only picks up some bits and pieces of dialogue between characters before heading off on his own adventure. The art is amazing, aside from Aja's normally amazing use of panel layouts and Matt Hollingsworth's colors, I love the various diagrams of what the dog sees in relation to people and places. If you haven't tried Hawkeye yet, pick up this issue, you'll be no more lost than anyone else and you won't need to know what's been going on to enjoy the entertaining way the story stays focused on a dog.
Superman Unchained #1 by Scott Snyder & Jim Lee
The much hyped new series from Snyder and Lee lives up to the hype with what is probably the best Superman story written since the "new52" DC relaunch almost two years ago. Snyder handles the various players of a Superman book well, giving time to Clark Kent, Jimmy, Lois, and others and tying it into the work Superman is doing naturally, while introducing a new super-character into the DC world. Jim Lee's art is... well, Jim Lee's art. If you are a fan, you'll like it, if not, then you probably won't. I am, but did find a couple of scenes where I felt Superman was drawn a bit oddly proportioned with an overly big chest and small waste. I guess if the comic book women must suffer from that, it's only fair it infect the men as well.
Daredevil: Dark Nights #1 by Lee Weeks
The beginning of an eight issue anthology mini-series, with the first arc from writer/artist Lee Weeks. With the work Waid is putting out on the regular Daredevil series has plenty to live up to. Weeks delivers, however, on both fronts, with a slightly different tone than Waid's work. The art is spectacular and the story has a strong start with this first issue. Matt Murdock is in the hospital and spends much of the issue trying to get his head on straight as he comes to and has trouble remembering what happened or even who is it at first. But the needs of a little girl in the hospital push him to put on his costume and venture out into the storm, despite the own vulnerabilities from his injuries. As much as I love Waid's work on Daredevil right now, something about Weeks' work feels more "Daredevil," but expect the tone to change a bit as creators shift for the anthology.
Batman #21 by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo
Batman has always been a character I loved, but never could quite get into his monthly series. Snyder changed all that, but lately it was starting to feel like the book had shifted back to "villain of the month" flair and I was starting to lose interest again.
Zero Year takes us back to the beginning of Batman's career, one we got a preview of in Batman #0 earlier this year. Bruce has just returned to Gotham, he hasn't established himself as Batman, hasn't announced his return as Bruce Wayne, nor has he returned to the mansion. At this point he's just a well trained man trying to make a difference and the inexperience really shows through. The only bad thing is that it's a story we've seen before. Not that it's a simple retelling of a Batman origin story, it's definitely a new take as the origin for new52 Batman, but the similarities are there, the beats are the same. This is exactly the type of story we knew DC would be diving into when they relaunched the universe and it's telling about the quality of Snyder's writing and Capullo's art that the book still stands strong despite that.
The Sixth Gun #32 by Collen Bunn & Brian Hurt
Becky Montcrief continues here journey through the spirit world in this supernatural western. There really isn't any hook to sell you on this series, other than it's just entertaining. Bunn has created a rich history behind six mystical weapons currently playing their part in his version of the old west. The characters are all well fleshed out and Hurt's art is a good match for both the fun spirit and variety needed for a book like this. The only bad part is that right now, the book is half way through an arc, so it would be hard to jump into this month.
Jupiter's Legacy #2 by Mark Millar & Frank Quitely
Everything I said last month still stands strong here. A solid story that we've seen tackled before, but with a Mark Millar twist. Quitely's art is amazing, as usually is the case when he's working on original stuff. In a world where the heroes have tackled most of the villains, their biggest problems are the world itself and each other, and with the next generation of heroes in all their emo glory rebelling against their parents, things are bound to get rough for the heroes. It's been a great book so far, but the same Millar vibe that you get from some of his other books overshadows the storytelling a bit and keeps it from being better.
X-Men #2 by Brian Wood & Olivier Coipel
Probably the easiest X-Book to jump into right now since it just started last month, it's also one of the best. An all female team has come together to deal with the once-lost sister of the villain Sublime, Arkea, and this issue mostly focuses on action as Arkea breaks free. Wood stays out of the way as Coipel puts together some gorgeous action scenes as Rogue and the others attempt to beat Arkea into submission. When Wood does step up, it's to show off strong dialogue and character work, even making Jubilee interesting as she cares for the baby she brought in last issue. Who would have thought we needed another X-Book on the stands, but so far it's the one I most look forward to.
Harbinger Wars #3 *by Joshua Dysart & Duane Swierczynski
This issue really represents *Harbinger #13 and *Bloodshot #12 as well. Harbinger is always a top notch series and Bloodshot a close second. During this crossover, the two comics dive into the action from Harbinger Wars with more detail. Where it got close to repetative last month for Bloodshot, this month more than made up for it with most of the story barely hinted at in HW.
In Harbinger Wars, another Valiant property from the past has entered into the fray as H.A.R.D. Corps is sent in to deal with all the escaped Psiots. The only drawback is that it seems like the battle is just getting started by the end, which is because it is. Much of the book is spent getting the pieces into place and introducing us to H.A.R.D. Corps, who have a very interesting approach to their powers. It doesn't help that the two groups of psiots don't realize they are on the same side yet either and with H.A.R.D. Corps entering the picture and Harada set to return, it looks like they better figure it out fast if they want to survive. If you are reading comics and not trying out Valiant right now, you're doing yourself a disservice.
Batman Superman #1 by Greg Pak, Jae Lee & Ben Oliver
The new book from Greg Pak on Superman and Batman together in the new52. Most of the issue is setup, but beautifully handled. Jae Lee's art is usually a fan favorite, and for good reason. His framing, silhouette use, and panel layouts are one of the more distinctive in comics. Ben Oliver takes over for the last seven pages and though he isn't as stylistic as Lee, the fact that they handle the art switch with a shift in the story helps soften the change. As for the story, it begins with an early look at Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne before they knew each other, as Clark has come to Gotham looking for Wayne for a story he is working on. It offers a good contrast between the two men's mindsets as we see Clark rush to break up a fight between kids while Wayne was content to sit back and let it play out. When they clash later in costume, it gives an even better look at the difference between the two heroes. Hopefully Jae Lee can keep up with this book, because I'm very interested in seeing where it goes now that the two men are at each other's throats.
Uncanny #1 by Andy Diggle & Aaron Campbell
Diggle (The Losers) is back where he belongs, on a book of his own creation, where his own storytelling beats aren't hampered by serialized storytelling. Uncanny kicks off a new story about a man whose power is to absorb the memories of anyone he touches for a short time. He's used this ability a bit unscrupulously, becoming a bit of a con-man and when he runs into someone who can block his ability, things get interesting. If you enjoy great characters and dialogue, give Uncanny a try.
All-New X-Men #12 & 13 by Brian Bendis & Stuart Immonen
One of the titles Marvel is double shipping each month, All-New X-Men has been one of the biggest surprises for me this year. It's been a long time, like Claremont in the 1980's on X-Men long, since I've been really enjoying an X-Book and both this and Bendis' Uncanny X-Men run have been fantastic. This issue in particular stands out because it addresses the stupidity going on in Uncanny Avengers where some mutants have begun to refer to "mutant" as "the M-word" and have spent the last couple issues trying to justify the ridiculous stance, digging themselves deeper into a hole by referring to Romani as a religion. In one page, Bendis has Kitty Pryde shoot the entire ridiculous notion from the Avengers book down. Oh yea -- the story is great too. I never would have believed I'd be enjoying a story about the original x-men being pulled from the past into today's Marvel world, but it's been really fun so far.
Superior Spider-Man #11 & 12 by Dan Slott & Christos Gage
As much as I felt like spidey had fallen into the trap of serialized comics, dishing out a villain of the month and boring me, I was just as mad at how Slott shook the book up. If you ask for something, don't be mad when you get it, right? Doc Ock has mentally taken over Peter Parker and become Spider-Man (and Peter), and recently driven what was left of Peter's psyche as well. He's on his own now, taking a whole new approach to heroism. Despite my worry, the book has been really fun and just what Spider-man has needed. I'm curious to see how they bring it back around, surely Peter Parker isn't gone for good, but until then it is turning Spider-Man into a different sort of hero, for good and bad, to the world.
Captain Midnight #0 by Joshua Williamson & Victor Ibanez
Another launch for Dark Horse's new superhero initiative. Last month I tried out X and didn't care for it much at all, but Captain Midnight added some hope for the new initiative. A classic hero from World War II, pulled from his time into the present thanks to the Bermuda Triangle. For all the Captain America feel from the comic, Captain Midnight seems his own character and I'm interested to see where they take the series. With the zero issue, the pieces are already in place for an interesting story to come. The one complaint I had was the ridiculous scene where Captain Midnight ejects from his old plane and glides onto the front of a jet, but perhaps there is more to Midnight than just a soldier in a costume.
The Black Beetle #4 by Francesco Francavilla
I've always enjoyed pulp characters, but rarely does someone create a comic that pulls off what you expect from pulp this well. The art does more of the job than I normally expect from comics, between the panel layouts, color use, style, it's simply a beautiful experience. The story is well handled, with good dialogue and an interesting, if somewhat basic, mystery overall. It will be much more interesting to see the larger plot that is hinted at in each epilogue and to see how all the Black Beetle mini-series eventually link together. Now that this series is wrapping, keep an eye out for the trade.
The Massive #13 by Brian Wood & Garry Brown
Last month I complained that the story felt like it was getting a bit stale to me and this month they change it up. Now the crew finds themselves in what used to be New York City, coming face to face with the US Navy as they stick their noses in where the government doesn't want them. Hopefully this is a sign for things to come as the book builds on the story of the search for The Massive and gives us more than just a ship constantly following a signal they just can't catch up to.
The X-Files Season Ten #1 by Joe Harris, Chris Carter & Michael Walsh
As a big X-Files fan from back in the day, I was pretty excited when I heard Chris Carter was working with IDW on a new comic that would pick up at "season ten." I have to say, they did a pretty good job with the looks and personalities of the characters and don't waste anytime sucking us into a new story. It definitely has my attention now, but does kind of make me miss the show.
Star Wars #6 by Brian Wood & Carlos D'anda
Set between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, it's been interesting to revisit the old characters. This issue stretched my love a little however, with the continuing Leia as a hotshot pilot -- I get wanting to make Leia into more than she was, but in the movies she was never a Wedge level expert pilot -- and then the MacGyver together some sort of bomb that destroys a Star Destroyer no problem. That would have been nice to have a bunch of those later when they have to fight a fleet of them in the movies. Other than my little fanboy complaints there, the run has been fun and enjoyable so far.
The Blade Itself #3 by Abercrombie, Chuck Dixon & Andie Tong
The comic adaptation of Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy: The Blade Itself, and so far they've done a great job. It's been a while since I've read the novel, but as I read the comic, they certainly don't seem to be missing any of the major beats of the story. I am wondering if the story needs to be compressed at all, wondering how long it will take to play out, but as long as it stays interesting I suppose it matters little. The art is still the one drawback, looking a bit too "comic booky" for Abercrombie's world, but the scenes with heavier shadows definitely play better to the story than the bright colorful ones.
Age of Ultron: AI by Mark Waid & Andre Lima Araujo
God help me, I'm actually saying an Age of Ultron book was decent. Granted, this is the epilogue, written by Mark Waid and simply focuses on Hank Pym (Ant-man) who briefly appeared in the Age of Ultron story. It focuses on Pym dealing with his feelings about the whole situation he caused with Ultron and dealing with believing he could be a hero again. It's worth a read if you suffered through the AoU story, or if you are a Pym or Avengers fan. Not sure what to make of the epilogue, but it continues into Avengers AI next month.
NOT SO GOOD
The Walking Dead #111 by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard
This series used to be one of my favorites and with the TV show it's gotten even more popular. Unfortunately it's also gotten very repetitive. Change out the crazy badguy and it could just as well be every story arc so far in The Walking Dead. In the past I read much more the story in trade form than monthly and I wonder if it reads stronger as one large arc you can absorb at once instead of a decompressed monthly series. Here's hoping that either with the finale or the next arc, things turn around.
Avengers #13 & 14 by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spender & Stefano Caselli
Well, I've complained about Hickman's Avengers the last couple months, citing that his stories seem like they have several beginnings and never any ends. Well, now that the pieces are finally coming together, the story feels like it's moving coherently forward, unfortunately it now makes that many more things from the beginning not make much sense. The Avengers are now dealing with these "origin bombs" they've let hit and grow on Earth that were shot from a villain on Mars in the first arc. Hard to believe those would cause problems and might need to be taken care of a dozen issues before. I know Hickman has his fans, but this series isn't making much sense to me.
Uncanny Avengers #9 by Rick Remender & Daniel Acuna
I swear I said I was dropping this book last month, I should have listened to myself. Between the stupid "m-word" angle Remender is working and the ongoing love affair with Apocalypse that one would have thought he labored on long enough on Uncanny X-Force, this book is tired. The art isn't that great either, there really isn't much going for it and you won't see my whining about it next month, I assure you.
Age of Ultron #9 & 10 by Brian Bendis & Various Artists
If I didn't write for The Outhousers I probably wouldn't have bothered with this series. It was a mess -- an Avengers storyline from in series that was due to be told over a year ago and instead pulled out and turned into an "event" a year later. The first half of the series was simply disaster porn showing heroes dying in all the various ways they never will because it's an alternate timeline. The second half was another alternate timeline with more of the same, just different. And finally, Ultron actually appears in some confusing fight scenes and is defeated, but time is shattered because Wolverine went through time one time too many. So like every marvel event of the last few years, this had little to do with producing a good story and everything to do with producing an end result in the marvel U to give them something else to write about until the next event. I wish they would get a new formula, one focused on simply writing quality stories.
Unfortunately with a tall stack of books in my too-read pile and almost a hundred comics a month to read, I don't get to everything, or cover everything I read. I still have some books that are always top quality to tackle, like Daredevil #27, The Private Eye #3, Fatale #15, Conan #17, and more. Perhaps I'll come up with a different way of handling the reading log in the future, it's a work in progress and if you have any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment or contact me.