Okay. Number 2 through 5 on the Top 5 this week are fantastic comics, I love them and I talk a lot about them. Though this comic for me, the number 1 pick gave me so much joy when I was reading it and I hope that if you read this column you’ll give it a chance because it is totally worth your time. The reason that I loved this book so much was because it combined so many aspects of comics and storytelling that make me feel like a little kid filled with joy. First off, The Black Beetle is a hero who protects the city of Colt City, which will probably become a character in and of itself, he dresses in black, and carries guns, and has a bunch of devices that he uses that help him fight crime. It’s a combination of Dick Tracy, Batman, The Shadow, pulp fiction, noir fiction, a dash of Indiana Jones, and some of those radio serials from the past that I am too young for. The star of the book though is the artwork by Francesco Francavilla, he’s the writer too. This book is the most gorgeous book that I’ve had the pleasure of looking at this year so far and I’ll tell you right now I’ll be remembering this come end of the year awards time. There is so much style in this comic you feel like you are reading a movie. Francavilla is a master storyteller being able to get across some great action panel by panel. He also is able to turn a splash page into a painting and get across information in a great way that is both easy to read and eye pleasuring. They feel like a newsreel from WWII era. What makes this comic really pop though is the use of coloring, it’s amazing. Francavilla knows exactly how to use the black and give the comic the noir feel and in contrast he uses bright colors like yellow, red, orange, and shades of blue to make the art pop and to set a mood to remind you of pulp adventures. The story itself is really good too. The Black Beetle is looking to take down two mobsters and some henchmen but a bomb goes off killing them all and Black Beetle doesn’t know why, his only lead is in jail, reminiscent to Alcatraz, but he’s too scared to talk and gets killed and leave The Beetle at gunpoint by other guards. It’s a great set up for a mystery story that can go anywhere and also take turns and twists which will make this fun as hell to read, and that’s what this comic is, it’s fun as hell and something that I miss sometimes when I read comics.
2. New Avengers #2 by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting [Marvel]
A few weeks ago I said that I enjoyed New Avengers #1 and that I saw a lot of potential for the series as it went further. What I didn’t know was that Hickman was going to up his game tenfold in the second issue. To say that this issue was good is an understatement. Hickman threw a lot of cards on the table, along with some dice, science, and some infinity gems. There were a lot of great character moments in this comic. I loved Reed talking to the Black Swan as it shows the actions in the first issue wasn’t one of a villain or a bad guy trying to take over the world but rather someone desperate who was trying to do anything they could to save the world. I also like this scene because you know as soon as we were told some of the reasons for her actions that perhaps in the future our heroes will be put in the same position and where in the Black Swan’s position we only saw one person taking charge we know that there are other people besides Reed that get a say in what happens and that they won’t all agree. I think that this is where Captain America in the Illuminati might become a problem because as much as Tony or Reed or Namor are willing to sacrifice for the greater good I think that Captain America will be less likely to do some sacrificing. I think this especially evident where he takes charge of the room and tells everyone what they are going to do and also where everyone is talking about what they are willing to do, what they are willing to sacrifice, in other words the necessary evil that might come into play, Captain America shoves that line of talk to the side, one, because he refuses to entertain the idea, and second, because they’ll have the infinity gauntlet. And though I may agree with him to a certain extent I know that everyone else will do what they have to do to keep the Earth from being destroyed, even if they have to go against Cap. And we also don’t know how the infinity gems are going to be used in this story, if at all, because they still need to get Xavier’s gem. Cap ends the meeting with an inspirational speech of trusting and believing in each other and that everything is going to work out, but of course that might not be the way of things because as he recites this speech we gets scenes of the future or a possible future where things are going to get dark and desperate. I’d like to think that the team is hopeful and I know they are but I also know that they are realist, especially Reed and Tony, they are the smartest men in the Marvel Universe and they know how to interpret information which is why it’s a little disconcerting when Reed is talking to T’Challa and he gets a flashback to the Black Sawn telling him he has no idea what is coming and he says, “Then we teach ourselves to do the unthinkable…we have to learn how to destroy a world.” Chilling.
3. Batman #16 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo [DC]
So where so I start with this comic? It’s hard because with every issue of the Death of the Family story arc I think Snyder outdoes himself when writing the Joker and how fucked up he can get and he does it again here. Batman gets to Arkham Asylum and as he’s trying to get to the Joker he goes through a gauntlet that involves guards dressed as Batman and Joker dancing in cells, a horse on fire, inmates in riot gear wanting to bash in Batman’s brains, a tapestry made out of corpses depicting Batman’s history with the Joker, attacks from Mr. Freeze, Clayface, and Scarecrow. When Batman finally gets to the Joker, the Joker forces Batman to sit in an electric chair or else he’ll never see Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin, The Red Hood and Red Robin ever again. This Joker that Snyder has written has to be my favorite version of him, which started in his Detective Comics run, now I don’t know if they’re the same character but the creepiness is there. Snyder’s Joker is fucking scary, and dangerous, and violent, and pretty smart and that makes a really bad combination for Batman. So much so that I don’t know how’s he’s going to come away from this, how anyone is going to come away from this story as a whole person. Joker is scary and his depiction by both artists Greg Capullo and Jock add to that scariness. We all know that the Joker’s face was skinned and that he wears that skin over his skinless face. I like how over the issues the face has been rotting and getting dirtier. The coloring works well in this issue as it shows the skin starting to yellow and brown. The skin is also being held together by not the belt anymore but by what looks to be either staples or fish hooks. I especially like the nice touch by Greg Capullo to show that the hooks gripped on the corners of the rotting flesh to show the Joker smiling. Bonus points for adding flies on The Jokers face and flying around him to show us the extent of the rotting on The Jokers face. The next issue is the last of the arc and I really have no idea how it’s going to end but Snyder hasn’t disappointed on Batman yet, so I know it’s going to be insane.
4. Saga #9 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples [Image]
At first reading this issue seems like it might not belong in this current story arc. The current story arc revolving around Marko’s parents coming to find out why he has ‘betrayed’ his people and why he has run off with Alana. But this month their story doesn’t continue, instead we get a story about The Will that teams him up with the famous Gwendolyn mentioned in the first arc, where they go to the planet Sextillion so that he can rescue a little girl that The Will tried to rescue in the first arc of the series. What follows is a small con played on one of the people in charge of Sextillion named Mama Sun. She gives up the girl but when the trade is going to happen she sends minions to double cross but The Will makes fast work of them. What this issue provided for the reader was the continuation of The Will’s story line and perhaps a glimpse at how he’s going to be fitting into the overall story of Saga, because I think as of this issue it is going past bounty hunter looking for his bounty. We also learn more about Gwendolyn and who she works for and from her looks and the dialogue we, the reader, find out that she is in politics, comes from a rich family, and that she follows orders, but that she’s also a good liar but that she also keeps her words when he helps out The Will. The Will and Gwendolyn rescue the little girl and after sleeping for a little while the girl says that she can hear Gwendolyn’s necklace and that it’s sad and it longs for its partner, the partner being the ring that Gwen gave to Marko before all of this happened. The girl can hear the ring calling out and tells The Will to go thataway. So it looks that this story arc is going to bring some of our major characters together pretty soon and it’ll be interesting to see how things play out and how thing will be going into the future.
5. All New X-Men #6 by Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez [Marvel]
This comic has rejuvenated my love for Bendis comics and makes me more excited to read them when they come out. That’s not to say I didn’t like Bendis, he’s what got me to keep reading comics once I started and he’s had a great 2012 on titles like Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, All of his Avenger books, and Spider-Men. But working on a new book with characters that he hasn’t had the time to spend with is just fantastic to read and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does in Uncanny X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy later this year, but for now, let’s talk about All New X-Men. I have to start off with the fantastic cover by Stuart Immonen. I like it a lot because it tells us right off the bat that Kitty Pryde is going to be the one in charge, in this book at least, she looks strong and ready. What I didn’t notice on the cover until later was the shadow of Professor Xavier on the wall, that makes the cover so much more meaningful. She is going to be the new Prof. X which is a huge job to take on, one which she starts doing as soon as the issue opens by helping Jean calm herself and focus her psychic powers so she doesn’t hear everyone’s thoughts all the time. But I think the character that is struggling with being in the future the most is Cyclops, and I’m not taking away from the others but when you come to the future and you see yourself as the kind of person Cyclops is right now and also having killed someone that was like a father to you, it’s going to be rough to deal with. I like that Past Cyclops ignores everyone, he goes into the world and of course is confused by everything, I like that he fights Wolverine. I like that he’s rebellious against what is happening to him because essentially it’s what Present Cyclops has done, he’s rebelled and gone out on his own, just not on the same level. I just appreciate the nods to Cyclops personality there. Also, the book ends with a classic X-Men villain finding out that the past X-Men are in the future. Now this makes me very excited because that particular X-Men villain is not only one of my favorites but also one of my favorite comic book characters.