The New and Improved Comics (with Spoilers!)
The Top Spot (Part One): My LCS's manager handed me a copy of Optic Nerve #12 and told me that it was one of the top comics of 2011. He was right. I've never heard of Adrian Tomine before last week but I'll be sure to hunt down the rest of his work in the coming weeks. Optic Nerve is simply unlike anything I've ever read before. His writing is simple and deep at the same time and his stories are both absurd and filled with genuine human emotion. If you're looking to expand your horizons, check out Optic Nerve.
The Top Spot (from Last Week): Casanova Avaritia was pretty phenomenal too. It's been over three years since the last time we saw Casanova Quinn swashbuckle his way through the multiverse. In the first chapter of Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba's newest miniseries, readers see a Casanova unlike any we've ever seen before. It appears that Casanova's actions in the first two miniseries have finally caught up to him as he's been relegated to a miserable existence of wiping out multiverses that have been infected with a dimensional cancer. Ba's art takes on a depressed hue as Casanova falls deeper into a pit of self-loathing. Like the rest of the Casanova series, Avaritia #1 is deserving of multiple re-reads.
DCnU: The Keepers
Animal Man: Animal Man is probably my favorite series thus far. Jeff Lemire often fills his series with an underlying creepiness to give his various titles an extra edge. Animal Man is filled with that same creepiness but also showcases strong characterization in both Buddy Baker and his family. While Lemire's work in Superboy felt stiff and lacking substance, Animal Man is chock full of layers upon layers of intrigue and characterization. Travel Foreman's art, while a bit rough, matches the dark tone of Lemire's writing perfectly. All in all, Animal Man showcases why sometimes restarting an entire line is a good thing.
Demon Knights: I'm convinced that there are two writers named Paul Cornell working for DC. There's the smart, witty writer who can effortlessly add a dearth of characterization in a few panels and then there's the sloppy, rushed writer whose stories leave one's mouth gaping searching for answers. Luckily for readers, the superior Paul Cornell showed up to write Demon Knights. It's a strong first issue that introduces a vaguely noble Vandal Savage, a young and rebellious Madam Xanadu and a fun twist on the classic "Girl falls in love with superhero and his alter-ego" love triangle that DC seems to revel in. It's a great read and leaves you wanting more and more.
Batman and Robin: Having missed the first part of Grant Morrison's Batman saga, I've never read a story about Bruce Wayne coping with his sadistic adolescent son Damien. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason deliver a strong first issue that demonstrates why many considered their Green Lantern Corps to be the stronger Green Lantern book for the better part of 2009. The plot focuses on Batman's attempt to move his life forward in an attempt to be a role model to his son while protecting his Jason Todd like behavior. Meanwhile, a new villain seeks to rid the world of its surplus of Batmen with deadly results. Overall, Batman and Robin is a fun, if slightly superfluous, read.
Green Lantern: Ever since Blackest Night, Geoff Johns spun the wheels on Green Lantern waiting for the DC Relaunch to start. Long storylines that relied on all flash and little substance plagued DC's flagship series for over a year. Thankfully, Green Lantern's new status quo has corrected these problems. Sinestro is appropriately evil with a dash of misplaced nobility and arrogance while Hal Jordan proves that he really is the most worthless being in the universe. Seeing the Green Lantern universe that Johns' so carefully built over the last seven years turned on its head is a blast to read and Doug Mahnke's art is amazing as always. Haters be damned, this is a good book.
Superboy: I will admit that I've never read a single book with Scott Lobdell's name on it. This was my first experience with his writing and I simply don't see what the negative buzz surrounding the writer is about. Lobdell sets up Superboy's new origin and supporting cast deftly and prevents the first issue from falling into ho-hum origin territory. While it's evident Lobdell used the Young Justice cartoon as a reference to how to make Superboy different and interesting, he still pulled off a fun first issue that has me intrigued about how this series and Teen Titans will play off each other. Also, R.B Silva might be DC's most underrated artist on staff. He's simply an amazing artist who compliments Lobdell's sardonic lightheartedness.
Other Keepers: OMAC, Resurrection Man, Legion Lost, Frankenstein, Action Comics, Swamp Thing, Batwing
On the Marvel Side of Things: Daredevil #3 provided another gorgeous chapter into Mark Waid's reinvention of Matt Murdoch. Between Waid's new status quo and Paolo Rivera's amazing art, this book has consistently sat on the top of my comic pile every month. Frankly, I'll be stunned if this book isn't at least nominated for an Eisner next year.
X-Factor 224.1 reminded me why I keep picking up Peter David's long running X-title. David is by no means a perfect writer but he really gets this team of mutants and isn't afraid to throw some shock and gore to prove his point. I'm almost dreading the book's involvement in the idiotic Regenesis. I guess Madrox and Wolverine do have something in common: they've both killed off their children in a shocking fashion.
What's in an Event?: I don't know if it's deliberate or not, but Captain America feels out of his depth in Fear Itself. Between jumping out of Quincarriers for no particular reason to attempting to convince a bunch of yokels to engage in a shootout with evil Asgardians who've leveled half the planet, it seems that something has snapped in Steve Rogers' head. I certainly hope someone looks at the psychological toll losing Bucky a second time has on the Sentinel of Liberty.
Second Verse, Same as the First: I'll admit that I read the first issue of the new Ultimate Spider-Man series with a certain layer of skepticism. Ultimate Peter Parker is a character I've grown up with over the last decade and no one was more pissed when Marvel editorial deemed that it was time for the character to go. However, Brian Bendis and Sara Pichelli have earned at least a few more months to see where the story goes. Miles Morales is definitely different than Peter Parker. But how it'll affect the Ultimate Spider-Man book is yet to be seen.
Last Words: What a shitty couple of weeks it was to take off from talking about comics. The last few weeks have been both exciting and filled with great comics. In addition to all the other great comics mentioned above (and Fear Itself), some other books that shone were Mystery Men #5, American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #4, Mystic #2, 27: Second Set #1 (reviewed by yours truly), Amazing Spider-Man #669, and The Sixth Gun #14.
Sorry for the break last week. My cat fell ill two weeks ago and I've been spending the bulk of my time nursing her back to health and dealing with a seemingly neverending litany of real life crap. Luckily, my cat is better now and I'm back to producing 3,000 word columns for shits and giggles.
Are you attending NYCC? Would you like to draw undue amounts of attention to yourself and your half-cocked opinions? The Outhouse is looking for a comic book fan to dress up as Amanda Waller and confront DC about the lack of overweight characters and writers hired by the company. In exchange for making a scene, we promise to grant you constant media coverage throughout the next two weeks and blindly defend your opinions from fans who point out the holes in your argument.
A column focusing on digital comics is in the works. Sadly, I suppose this means I'll actually have to buy a digital comic.
Written or Contributed by: Christian Hoffer