I've thought about writing a Month in Review for quite a while now. When we first stopped highlights on our old website, I began to cut back on some of the titles I was reading each week and attempted to catch up on the endless stream of superhero movies and television shows. In many way, the act of trying to watch everything "based on the graphic novel by ___" feels much more like work than my actual work. Comics will always offer more diversity in writing style and artistic approach than movies or television, regardless of how many Marvel movies they can fit into a calendar year.
I don't have any interest in origin stories anymore. Radioactive spiders, decades of training, aliens from other planets, genetic mutations. It doesn't really matter to me how you got the powers; it only matter how you use them. So I'm back to reading a fat stack of comics each week and I couldn't be happier.
It was The Mighty Thor #701 that made me decide to highlight individual issues, as opposed to new trade paperbacks or series I liked as a whole. Still written by Jason Aaron, Thor #701 featured an artist that wasn't Russell Dauterman and didn't focus on either Jane Foster or Odinson. Yet, it was perfect. It reminded me of the comics that I used to read over and over as a kid, and when thumbing through back issues 30 years from now I'll still have to flip it open to see the Mangog again. You'll find I tend to enjoy the superhero books the most. I like big fights and I like splash pages. That's not to say I don't read and enjoy Walking Dead, but I'd imagine that the majority of my picks each month involve some spangly do-gooder.
I hope you enjoy what I write and I hope you find new things you enjoy as well. I left the comments open so that you can share what you enjoyed the past month... or at least comment on all my grammatical errors. So without further ado here are my picks for January 2018. Of course there are...
Week 1: Wednesday January 3
Astonishing X-Men #7
With the release of the new CCX What if? Subscription Lists, it has come to our attention that not nearly enough of you are reading the best X-Men book currently being published! I’ll begin this list with Astonishing X-Men, too, not only, because it is a truly fantastic read but also because I like things in alphabetical order.
While this month’s main X-travaganza has built up all the hype surrounding Jean Grey’s return, Marvel has somehow masked the return of the true leader of the X-Men. No, not Cyclops or Wolverine but it appears that Professor X is back and possibly stronger than ever.
Why you should read it: Whether or not this really is Charles Xavier has yet to be seen but Astonishing X-Men’s story feels like it carries more weight that what X-Men Blue and Gold are currently offering. The first six issues of the series focused on the Shadow King and now in issue #7 we are given a new artist (Phil “It’s All In the Eyes” Noto) and a new villain which X-Men die-hards will know but I won’t spoil. However the real draw is the mystery behind the new “X”. His gifts seem nice now but each time he says it, it makes him seem creepier than the last. Oh and… “The Shadow King set that loose. He was… well, He was awful, honestly. But I killed him dead. That’s my thing, really.” Really? That’s your thing? Good to know “Charles”.
Batman White Knight #4
Yes, we are already halfway through Sean Murphy’s hit series but it seems to be getting better with each installment. Issue #4 features Jack Napier’s (Joker's) rally for Councilman and the subsequent unrest between his constituents and the GCPD. Napier is not only able to avoid any violence but is also able to strengthen his case against the city when Batman shows up and begins unjustly kicking ass and taking names. Not only that but evil Harley and the rest of the Gotham rogues attack the GCPD and make their play for Gotham. All setting up an interesting three-way showdown between Batman, Joker, and Harley Quinn that you have never seen before.
Why you should read it: It all starts with Sean Murphy’s art style. The best there is at a classic chase scene with more Batmobiles on the way. Add in not one but TWO incredibly attractive Harley Quinns and just about all of the classic Gotham villains for an absolutely beautiful comic. Plus I’m still not entirely sure who I’m supposed to be rooting for. Sure Batman is pretty much the same brooding butt-kicker as always but The Joker is actually making some sense…
Captain America #697
Looking for get back to the good old days? Heroes fighting villains? Or self-contained stories that can be read in not only one title but one comic? Then you need to check out Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Cap.
Why you should read it: Captain America #697 reminds me of the comics I used to read that never got old. It’s got everything. Great art with plenty of action, a simple story that offers a concise plot and some wonderful one-liners, twists, turns, and of course a villain you’ve heard of doesn’t hurt. You would also be remiss if you didn’t read Captain America’s showdown against a Jaguar, that ends with Cap tossing the Jag into a pit of misery with a suplex that would make Brock Lesner blush. Dilly Dilly.
Walking Dead #175
Every once in a while Robert Kirkman reasserts why the Walking Dead is the BEST comic book of the past decade and a half. Each and every time Rick and the gang manage to defeat an enemy they are entrusted to lead a new and bigger group of people against a new and bigger threat. Well a “New World Order” has begun and Kirkman has expanded the Universe again and just when you think he couldn’t surprise you he does. A well-regulated militia? Check. A stadium used for sporting events and concerts? Check. Almost 50 THOUSAND people? Check. The only question remaining… What does Kirkman have up his sleeve that can one up the Governor, Negan, and the Whisperers?
Why you should read it: Many people seem to have issues with the current quality of the show and I know I ditched it long ago because of how much better the comic is. Jump aboard now while a definitive jumping on point exists because Kirkman isn’t waiting for anyone. Issue #175 shows why you don’t always need a Star Spangled man fighting a giant cat to make a good comic. Plus the new “Princess” character is absolutely fantastic. “Just look at yourselves… Are there dead ones out here who go straight for the Ding-Dongs?” – Princess 2018
Week 2: Wednesday January 10
Mister Miracle #6
Is it too late to call Mister Miracle the best comic of 2017? Too early to be the best of 2018? Either way Mister Miracle deserves all of the hype it receives and then some. Issue #6 focused on Scott Free and Big Barda’s attempt to break into the throne room of New Genesis to take on Orion before Orion can sentence and kill Scott. Of course they must navigate lasers, acid gas, a deadly tidedragon, the forever void, a shrinking room, countess guards, and of course the Gods themselves.
Why you should read it: Because nothing I stated above matters much at all… Don’t forget these are superhero Gods, to them Tidedragon’s are nothing compared to the difficulties of everyday life. Mister Miracle #6 is much more about the relationship between Scott and Barda. Equal parts slice of life and superhero excellence all wrapped up into one and the pay off at the end is FANTASTIC!
Old Man Hawkeye #1
Welcome back to the Wastelands. A future where inbred, hillbilly villains have taken over the planet and no one is left to stop them. Well except for Clint Barton (and Wolverine but his story comes later), who once again is the last man standing even though his weapon of choice is a bow and arrow.
Why you should read it: Because you want to. Is the reason you haven’t tried it because you’re wondering if the writer you’ve never heard of can live up to the original Old Man Logan story? Well his name is Ethan Sacks and he’s going to try. He’s got a good chance too if he continues to lean on the fantastic work of Marco Checchetto. The team has racked up a pretty impressive head count already with a series of “THOK” headshots to the Madrox Gang and by the end of issue #1 we are gifted villains that I personally love. Read it. Love it. Thank me later. I live for that kind of stuff.
Week #3: Wednesday January 17
Doctor Strange #384
Before Marvel Legacy began, Doctor Strange had undergone some drastic changes. He lost his ties to magic and it was revealed that there is a cost to every spell cast. No longer the Sorcerer Supreme, Strange’s future in the Marvel Universe was in limbo as was the future of Magic as a whole. Enter the hottest comic writer outside of Tom King to come in and right the ship; Donny Cates. Cates’ past work includes God Country, Babyteeth, Redneck, and Buzzkill but Doctor Strange (and the current Thanos title) is his first time writing for either of the big two.
Why you should read it: Loki is the current Sorcerer Supreme, The Sentry made his triumphant return, and Donny Cates’ has really thought outside of the box to bring Doctor Strange back to the forefront of Marvel Comics. Within four issues Strange has gone from a veterinarian to a stronger force than he’s been for quite some time. Now in issue #384, he’s found an answer to the cost of Magic, plus the personality that Strange had been lacking and Jason Aaron had tried to build has been expanded. I’d also be willing to bet that out of all the books I’m highlighting this month that Doctor Strange is the one you haven’t given much of a chance. Magic's back baby and it’s here to stay.
Kill or Be Killed #15
Everything was just starting to go right for Dylan. Or at least as well as they could be for a guy who’s seeing demons and has a compulsive urge to kill anyone he comes across. In fact the first three volumes of Kill or Be Killed focus on pretty much the same Mob problem and only until issue #14 does it finally seem resolved. Issue #15 begins a new problem for Dylan and puts him in a place that makes killing people to appease a demon very problematic.
Why you should read it: Already grappling with his potential insanity vs the reality of his murderous demon friend, Dylan finally snaps. The reader gets the confrontation between Dylan and his roommate Mason that we’ve been waiting for and more of the Demon then the other fourteen issues combined. “Was the demon a curse… or was it a sign [Dylan] was farther gone than anyone in this place even suspected?” Either way the demon has come calling and this time he isn’t leaving until he gets the deaths he has been asking for.
The Mighty Thor #703
As I said before, the idea to finally make a monthly review came back in November when I read Thor #701. One issue after the gigantic jumping on point that was issue #700, issue #701 had the book’s back up artist and didn’t feature either Odinson or Jane Foster. And yet it would have been my pick for the best book in all of November. Why? Because it was everything I enjoy about comics. I like big scary monsters. I like big splash pages. I like onomatopoeia’s that say KRAKOOM! Basically I like big superhero slug fests and issue #701 had an all-time great one. A good comic should be able to be enjoyed regardless of whether or not you’ve read all 700 issues that have come before it. A good comic should make you want to read it again and share it among all your friends. That’s the whole point of these reviews. I want to share what my favorite comics, not series, were for the past month.
Why you should read it: Well I’ve rambled on about a book that came out two months ago instead of the book I actually picked but Thor #703, just like pretty much every Thor I read, was one of my favorites this week. It’s got all the action that you can expect from Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman. But it also has enough dialogue to sum up everything that has been going on in the lives of Jane Foster and Odinson. The Mangog is the real draw though. Fury incarnate with a mouth to match has come for the gods of Asgard and they stand no chance.
Week #4: Wednesday January 24
Finally gracing my list of the month’s best is Part Three of Avengers No Surrender. While parts one and two didn’t make the cut, Avengers #677 begins to answer some of the questions posed with the first two issues. The Grandmaster has come for another round of games that pit Earth’s Mightest Heroes against two of the mightiest Evil League of Evils that the galaxy has to offer. And while that may explain how and why the Earth has been captured it doesn’t quite explain who Voyager is (Although I’m still holding out hope for Valeria Richards).
Why you should read it: It’s Avengering done right. The cast of heroes may not be what you’re used to but that gives the book an added dimension of uncertainty. Who’s to say Red Hulk, Synapse, or Wonder Man is making it out of this alive? It also looks like heroes are going to be added and subtracted at will due to the Blue Statue Syndrome so who knows which Avenger is going to be throw into the fray next? It all sets up a pretty fun Battle Royale that will, hopefully, have repercussions that extend well past the end of No Surrender.
Doomsday Clock #3
It sure didn’t take long for the Watchmen characters to start causing trouble in the DC Universe. Ozmandias promptly got Lex Luthor shot by the Comedian (yes he’s back) and the new Rorschach was able to break into the Batcave within an hour or so of getting to the DCU. By the end I looked at my pile of comics I had yet to read, sighed, and immediately re-read this issue. Somehow Geoff Johns and Gary Frank have managed to craft a comic that feels like the old Watchmen story and yet also something fresh and new. It has new entertaining characters, absolutely beautiful pages, and four to five stories going at once. Plus with all these stories going on we have barely scratched the surface of what’s to come. Keep in mind we have yet to see either Dr. Manhattan or Superman.
Why you should read it: What I just wrote wasn’t convincing enough? Fine I’ll leave two fantastic pages here and let the book speak for itself.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #37
Sometimes a big fight scene and some good art is all you need in a comic. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps has delivered that in spades. Issue #37 lands Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner squarely in the sights of General Zod and the rest of his deranged family. While Hal and Kyle put up a good fight, in the end the House of Zod prevails as four Kryptonians against two Green Lanterns probably should.
Why you should read it: Rafa Sandoval. His art makes a butt kicking look pretty. Throw some nice reds to pair with the vivid greens and you just might forget Hal Jordan got beat up so bad his pureed brain is leaking out of his nose. You may, however, be disappointed that Kyle’s masterful giant green samurai is obliterated on the very next page. Either way I’m not giving you peak at what’s inside this book because it deserves to be in your hand by the time you glimpse its awesomeness.
Marvel 2-In-One #2
The Thing and the Human Torch back together again. No longer part of the Uncanny Avengers, or the Inhumans, or the Guardians of the Galaxy, or SHIELD; the dynamic duo has re-united in search of their remaining members. Whether or not they’ll succeed is still up in the air but at least they’re starting in the right direction. Marvel 2-in-One #2 had the famous two-some back in familiar territory against the MIGHTY MOLE MAN and TERRIBLE GOOGAM (Son of Goom for those unaware). Of course Dr. Doom shows up to make life just a little bit more difficult and a heartfelt flashback ties the “Thing” up.
Why you should read it: Chip Zdarsky is a pretty funny guy. The banter between the Thing and Human Torch is excellent and the series is setting up a great buddy flick adventure story. The added dimension of Dr. Doof showing up randomly to receive some much needed button pushing is just the icing on the cake. “I gotta admit… It feels good!”
Well there you have it. January summed up in 3000 words or less. Again I encourage you to comment below on some of the books you enjoyed and to try some of the books I mentioned above.
* Full Disclosure * January had five Wednesday's. I didn't write up my picks for the final week so that I could get this post on the website on February 1. However, my picks would have been
- Jessica Jones #16
- The Realm #4
- Tales of Suspense #101