The Second Annual Vulcan Quiche Awards: Part 4

Screen shot 2013-08-30 at 10.39.32 PMI know this is (holy shit) three months into 2014 but at long last, here’s the top 20 series of 2013. This was an intensely contested category and I really had to whittle the list down to the very best of the best of the best. Let’s get into it.

The Next Generations – Awarded to the finest series of pictorials of the year.

Runners UpANXMEN2012013_int_LR-2-3
This was tough. All New X-Men somehow overcame a limited premise, several overly complicated story arcs, a tie-in to the underwhelming “Battle of the Atom” and some rickety character work to be a fantastic look at the X-Men through the ages and a reflection on how the series has changed. The Allred family overcame some rocky plotting by Matt Fraction and fixed FF, making it one of Marvel’s most unique and recognizable books on the market. Bringing Rafael Albuquerque onto Animal Man took it from an impressive title to one of DC’s finest off-key horror books and a consistent source of nightmare imagery and heartwarming scenes of characters fighting for what’s important.

Twentieth PlaceBruce-Banner-in-Indestructible-Hulk-2Indestructible Hulk

Mark Waid is a man who can redefine a character. Focusing on Banner, the jealous, hopelessly petty, intrinsically flawed monster underneath another monster is the focus and like in Waid’s Daredevil, he’s a character who finally wants to change his place in the world. While stories like “Agents of TIME” dragged along, Waid positioned Banner and Hulk as separate, albeit linked, characters looking to change, even when the world and the people they surround themselves with aren’t so sure they’re ready.

Nineteenth PlaceuxmUncanny Avengers

Uncanny Avengers isn’t a perfect book. It’s often barely a good one. What makes this story unique is that it’s always bold, always pushing the envelope, always relentlessly putting the characters in the worst possible position and watching them hopelessly crawl back from the brink. It’s a technique Rick Remender perfected on Uncanny X-Force but it’s given new weight in Uncanny Avengers with a team who can’t afford to let its secrets stay locked away. Each issue is an event, a talking point, an upcoming Twitter firestorm and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Eighteenth PlaceScreen-Shot-2013-10-05-at-8.33.07-PMStar Wars

If there’s a better introduction to the Expanded Universe than Brian Wood’s Star Wars, I don’t know what it is. Taking the familiar bits of the canon and slowly bringing in the looser character relationships, motivations and world building, Star Wars is a master class in how to make a licensed book work for diehard fans and newcomers alike. Evocative, recognizable and classically nostalgic, it’s a book that makes a galaxy far far away feel never more reachable.

Seventeenth Placehooded-figure-green-lanternGreen Lantern

After years of guidance and hundreds of issues of wonderfully realized worlds, Geoff Johns handed over the franchise he resurrected in a single issue of Green Lantern. While Robert Venditti has done a commendable job moving the series forward and keeping the book a must-read, Johns’ deliberate, wonderfully realized moments between Hal Jordan and Sinestro in Green Lantern #20 made this book an instant classic and cemented his place in the Corps’ history.

Sixteenth PlaceNova's_lifeNova

Casting off years of complicated backstories and Marvel’s often arcane space baggage paid off by bringing Sam Alexander home in Nova. A wonderfully realized, empathetic and true portrait of growing up young, poor and without much guidance, Sam is the perfect character to try to fight for what he believes is a galaxy worth saving and his attempts to right intergalactic wrongs are touching, bold, attention grabbing and often hilarious. Nova often achieves the impossible, being a well written, fun and passionate book, as well suited for first time readers as Marvel junkies alike.

Fifteenth PlaceScreen Shot 2013-08-23 at 12.41.31 PMWonder Woman

A rare example of a writer and artists’ voices defining a DC character, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s take on Wonder Woman is the boldest book by a traditionally conservative publisher and the results are often stunning. Focusing on Diana’s twisted family dynamics and her attempts at creating a more stable home, Wonder Woman is a deeply human story on the way we reflect and deny the families who define us.

Fourteenth PlacesagaSaga

Last year’s winner, Saga continues to be one of the biggest success stories in independent comics and one of the best examples of the diversity of stories the medium can tell. A “Pulp Fiction”-esque storytelling device brought all the characters together in 2013, letting them bounce off each other and haunt their actions until only love can define them. Saga continues to be an electrifying read and the wait for the next issue is always far too painful.

Thirteenth Placebatman-242Batman

In 2013’s Batman #21, an unmasked Bruce Wayne raises a youthful middle finger to the man who will one day be his archenemy. It’s a defiant wonderful moment but it might as well be Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo flipping off the established canon. “Year Zero” has been a wonderfully realized, exuberant and fresh take on the early days of Batman, both respectful to Frank Miller’s “Year One,” and willing to critique, prod and kill its idols. Snyder’s Batman is everything the New 52 should be: fresh, respectful, modern, hip and unbelievably ready to slash and burn.

Twelfth Placeku-xlargeHawkeye

Matt Fraction and his stable of artists went bigger, more ambitious and infinitely more complicated in their second year of Hawkeye and that’s why it’s on the list but also why it’s not higher up. While the investigation into Gil’s death, Kate’s trip to California and the return of Barney were all great character driven beats, an inconsistent shipping schedule, missed deadlines and switching publication orders left fans wanting more and not in the most friendly way imaginable.

Eleventh Placegg1Guardians of the Galaxy

Brian Michael Bendis skills are all in display in his revamp of Guardians of the Galaxy, his whip smart dialogue, wonderful characterizations, fight choreography and gripping story telling. Like Nova, Bendis built on the past without being enslaved by it and made the Guardians more than just a team of space pirates but a group of heroes like no one else in the Marvel Universe.

Tenth Placeaaron-02Wolverine and the X-Men

What defines the X-Men? Is it their deep history, their very recognizable and personal struggles, their complicated romantic lives or the ongoing stories which define a race and people? Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men takes all of those disparate bits and brings them together into a single cohesive package. Wolverine and the X-Men is the perfect look at why the X-Men work as a franchise and despite some missteps (I don’t think anyone will look back favorably on the Frankenstein’s Murder Circus arc), it’s a stunning, beautiful book, always ready to surprise and remind readers why they’ve invested so much in these characters and this world.

Ninth PlaceAstro-City_1_PanelAstro City

The return of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City is more than just the return of a series which redefined comics. It’s the culmination of all the ways the medium has grown and changed since the series went on hiatus in 2009. Astro City is a wonderful reminder of how a deconstruction of  comics can work, not stripping down and destroying the characters and world but celebrating the way the medium works and how people exist within it.

Eighth Placetumblr_mtyn4dOw4m1qj97xmo1_1280Fatale
In the wake of murder and madness at the end of Fatale #10, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips had a chance to go bigger and broader with their tale of Jo and the monsters who pursue and they made a splash in a huge way. Going back through the past and ending the year in the ’90s Seattle Grunge scene gave the title the same amount of freedom and energy Jo has found. It’s a book mercilessly in command of the story and characters it slowly unravels, pushing Jo and the Bishop closer and closer together into what is sure to be an Earth shaking conclusion in the final year of Fatale.

Seventh Placenew-avengers4-strangeNew Avengers

One of the masterstrokes of Marvel’s soft relaunch has been the company’s decision to pay attention to the past without being beholden to it. In New Avengers, past relationships haunt a team of Earth’s most brilliant minds and the odds the group is up against weigh heavy on their hearts. While dealing with the extraplanar incursions is the narrative thrust of the series, Jonathan Hickman’s writing is sharpest when delving into the minds and motives of his characters. Black Panther and Namor’s tense declaration of war, Reed Richards tentative, inquisitive interrogations of the unknowable Black Swan and Stephen Strange’s slow descent into a power he doesn’t know if he can control create a perfect mix of internal and external tension. These are characters with a history and presence in the Marvel Universe and by pushing them against a threat they don’t understand and have never faced has let all of what makes them icons shine.

Sixth Placemanhattanproj-13-review-9_copyManhattan Projects

In Manhattan Projects, absolute power doesn’t corrupt absolutely, the illusion of absolute power corrupts everyone absolutely. As the team secures its place as the defacto leaders of Earth’s future by killing, bribing and dominating anyone who stands against them, their reach finally extends their grasp. It’s just a matter of time until every unleashed horror collapses in on this team of opportunistic scientific schemers and their grand plans and grander delusions make every issue a tragic, stunning, revolting must-read.

Fifth PlaceincBatman Incorporated

Everything ends and everything begins again. It’s a maxim Grant Morrison has often repeated in his mainstream comics but it’s never been so vivid, so dark and so wonderfully daring than in the conclusion of Batman Incorporated. It takes a ruined Gotham, the death of his son and a final battle with the only woman who could have stopped him to take Batman and Bruce Wayne from a child fighting for the wrongs his parents suffered to a father fighting for the children he’s losing and it’s pulled off with aplomb. Morrison’s operatic conclusion to his years of Batman stories is a perfect end to one of the best DC stories of all time and like the ever-present serpent eating its own tale, the last moments of Batman Incorporated show a future for Bruce Wayne that will only begin again, eternally and forever.

Fourth PlaceScreen-Shot-2014-01-26-at-2.52.42-PMEast of West

Every issue of Jonathan Hickman’s masterpiece in progress, East of West, contains the same line: “We did this to ourselves.” East of West is singularly focused on an apocalypse of our own making, a far flung, splintered dystopia not so different from the world we live in. The end of the world isn’t an act of God, despite the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, it’s an act of very mortal hubris, of greed, blind faith, betrayal and xenophobia and between layers of post-modern myth, biblical apocrypha and buckets of blood, it’s a strangely prescient warning of the doom and divisions we still blindly build for ourselves.

Third PlaceBoomerang07The Superior Foes of Spider-Man

Failure is very, very funny. I guess let’s back up from there. Failure is only funny if it’s backed with delusion, if a person only believes they can’t possibly fail or doesn’t even recognize their failures as such. Fred Meyers doesn’t think he can fail. He’s created a new Sinister Six (with only five members), broken his friends out of police custody (which he put them in), killed the traitor in his organization (actually, that didn’t really work out) and planned a daring heist against one of the most dangerous men in New York (under false pretenses). He’s falling apart at the seams and doesn’t even seem to realize it and the rest of his team of narcissists, functioning alcoholics and has-beens are always taking falls and hits they don’t quite deserve. It’s a series which could fall into tragic melodrama just as easily as it lands its humor and that’s what makes The Superior Foes of Spider-Man so special.

Second PlaceXML2X-Men Legacy

X-Men Legacy is indefinable. It’s neither superhero comic nor deconstruction, neither celebration nor character study. It’s something in between but also separated from. Through David Haller, the man once known as Legion, Si Spurrier and a host of artists have examined the nature of heroism with a character who would reject that label. X-Men Legacy is supremely confident in the story it’s telling, one with both world spanning and very personal consequences and stakes and that care shows in every moment. This is an opening statement from Spurrier and a cult classic in waiting, a wonderful story about what being a hero means and the sacrifices and choices that need to be made to get there.

First Placedaredevil_30_panelDaredevil

“Try the red one.” Spoken by the super-sensitive ninja, Ikari in Daredevil #25, it’s a line that walks the balance of horror and humor, of weakness and strength, desperation and victory. It’s the line that made me fall hard for Mark Waid’s Daredevil. Focused on giving Matt Murdock a chance to escape the sadness, death and desperation which has embodied the character since Frank Miller’s turn at the helm, Waid gave his characters a chance to be more than the sum of their parts. Murdock isn’t just a hero when he puts on the suit. He’s a hero when he sits in a cancer ward, a hero when he tries to rebuild his personal life, a hero everytime he reaches out to someone in need. No longer is Matt Murdock defined by tragedy, he’s defined by how he averts it, how he shapes his life and the lives around him with passion, zeal and a never-say-die attitude. Neither indebted to the past nor embarrassed by it, Daredevil soars by letting a character take control and make a difference, or at least let him try. 

Advertisements

“It’s time to come back” – DC and Marvel end events by looking forward

Justice-League-23-Trinity-War-Finale-Forever-Evil-Earth-3-Crime-Syndicate-DebutWith the New 52 entering it’s second year and the newfound status quo of Marvel Now having enough time to settle in, both DC and Marvel are trying to find ways to up the stakes in their respective universes. The problem with both is trying to find a way to respect the past while looking forward. Marvel has had a much easier time with the balance, namely because the timeline hasn’t been reset but has made a concentrated effort to make their books friendly to new readers but DC’s slightly unexplained past continuity allows them to play fast and loose with the rules of the timeline.

The conclusion of Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and The X-Men #35 is in a difficult place. One of the few Marvel series to survive the Marvel Now relaunch, the series has always thrived on the company’s rich mutant history. Going back to the idea of a school and safe haven for the mutant population. The now concluded Hellfire Saga has paid off storylines from the last year, even going back as far as the first issue and Kade Killgore’s threat to destroy the Jean Grey School.

WOLVXMEN2011035-int-LR-2-0f635There’s a satisfying sense of completion to The Hellfire Saga, with the return of Brood’s intelligence, Quentin Quire’s longstanding struggle between heroism and rebellion and the slow dissatisfaction of many of the teen members of the Hellfire Club. Some of these characterizations date back to 2011’s Schism event and others go as far as Kurt’s death in Messiah Complex. It’s nice to see a book that pays so much attention to a franchise’s past in this day and age but what’s more important is how much attention is paid to the book’s internal continuity. The emotional payoff of Broo’s return is a moment which only has so much impact because of the way the last 17 issues of the book have featured characters struggling with their companions status.

Wolverine and the X-Men #35 is all about creating an ending and, in some ways, a new start. The appearance of Kurt at two points in the book is a tease for Aaron’s upcoming Amazing X-Men but the issue itself is mostly focusing on tying up a variety of story threads. The only noticeable loose end is the revolt of the White Queen and Kade Kilgore’s entrapment in the Siege Perilous. It’s an interesting move to create an issue which feels like a finale, particularly with the rest of Marvel’s line seemingly setting up more with each consecutive issue.

Justice-League-23-spoiler-preview-how-The-Outsider-came-to-Prime-Earth-from-Earth-3Geoff Johns has struggled to set up some consistency within the DC universe in some of the company’s biggest books, namely Green Lantern, Justice League and Justice League of America. The New 52 hasn’t given a lot of time to longstanding character interactions and storylines, which is a double edged sword. In one way, there’s room to overlook or acknowledge past stories without addressing them and, in others, it forces readers to struggle to deal with the variety of continuity complications intrinsic to the revamp.

Justice League #23 is clearly an issue long in the making and very aware of the universe’s age. From the opening pages, Johns sets up the League’s backstory, including their battle with Darkseid in the series’ first 6 issues as well as their battle with Starro in The Brave and The Bold #28 in 1960. It’s a canny piece of establishing the team’s shared universe and goes a long way in showing the tragedy the teams befalls after interacting with Pandora’s Box.

Justice-League-23-Trinity-War-Finale-Forever-Evil-Earth-3-Crime-Syndicate-AtomicaJohns does a great job in letting the teams’ short histories speak for themselves, with the mutual suspicion between Superman and Batman paying off, Kal’s tenuous relationship with Wonder Woman, the relative short tenure of Simon as a Green Lantern, Constantine’s dangerous work on both sides of ARGUS and the Atom’s mysterious allegiances. It’s smart work for a series which hasn’t gotten enough credit for the way it tries to link a large series of characters.

Johns’ attention to character details leaves all of the Leagues broken and battered by issues end and makes the reveal of the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 into a truly dangerous, powerful moment. There’s real promise sense of dread, like the heroes have truly failed to stop evil at issue’s end and using the potential of characters and a fresh, still relatively uncharted universe elicits a sense of danger and fear of the unknown that would have been difficult in the Pre-New-52 timeline. It’s an impressive feat and the only thing holding the book back is a somewhat unfinished plot made necessary by the continued need for cliffhangers.

tumblr_mpp2yjJtT21qjzyxso1_1280Justice League #23 and Wolverine and the X-Men #35 both build endings out of potent beginnings, drawing characters’ histories, regardless of how long or brief, into focus to cause the most potent dangers and the most powerful denouements. It’s a sight mostly unseen in mainstream super-hero comics and the power heroes can have, whether or not they stop evil or are destroyed by it.

“You need never pray again” – A god becomes so much more in Thor: God of Thunder #11

3240960-thor+-+god+of+thunder+011-009In terms of getting a character to connect to an audience, only Thor has a harder time than Superman. Thor’s near invulnerability, his many resurrections and his nearly unlimited fighting ability makes him a hard character to humanize and a difficult one to serialize and that’s ignoring the character’s godhood. The general way to connect Thor to readers have been to overplay his viking roots or to push him over the top in a way which often feels hacky. The best creators have realized that and refused to let the Odinson be a man. He’s an epic hero, one who is at his best when he’s doing the impossibly, becoming the legend he’s always wanted to be.

Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic have focused on that theme alone in the exceptional Thor: God of Thunder, teaming the hero with a past and future version of himself and facing him against Gorr, The God Butcher, a seemingly immortal killing machine focused on removing divinity from existence. Gorr has been around since the series’ first issue and Aaron has done the seemingly impossible, creating a new character I want to see become a permanent part of the Marvel Universe. He’s a driven, sinister villain, one who thinks he’s working for the greater good and he has the power to impose his will. His battles with the three Thors are the stuff that splash pages are made for and he earns every one of them.

thor_-_god_of_thunder_009-005Thor’s struggle against Gorr has allowed the sort of mythic storytelling the character deserves. Giving Thor an enemy he can’t possibly defeat, backing him into the corner and giving only the most dangerous out against the Godbomb lets the character go beyond being a God and an Avenger but gives the story an epic, mythic vibe so rarely seen in superhero comics.

In the final pages of the issue, the surviving gods return to Asgard, hoping to find a home now that worshippers and worlds have been destroyed but godhood isn’t what’s important anymore. As Thor returns to speak with a girl who once needed him, he gives her hope that people will always be looking over her, protecting the world from what’s coming. It’s a wonderfully understated moment, one which speaks to the power myths have over the way we view our lives. In the end, Thor is about inspiration, heroism and the way we define our lives with stories, whether they be holy or secular.

Stray ObservationsWOLVXMEN2011034-int-LR-2-8efa7This was a pretty anticipated week for comics fans with one of the best books on the market returning from hiatus and Marvel’s newest event starting up. Let’s jump in.

  • Jason Aaron’s other big book this week was Wolverine and the X-Men, my favorite Marvel book and maybe my favorite comic on shelves today. This week’s #34 is a hell of an issue, between Iceman as an anime inspired mecha, Doop’s home movies and Kade’s staunch refusal to accept defeat. It’s going to be interesting to see what the young king’s plans were in the Hellfire Saga’s final part at the end of the month.
  • In the hiatus, I’d forgotten how much I missed Saga but issue #13 reminded me instantly what makes this book so special. The ghostly return of The Stalk just helped matters.
  • I think I’ve been pretty clear about my dislike of Nick Spencer’s Secret Avengers but #7 finally used the series’ mind erasing premise to it’s advantage, with Maria Hill making a dangerous judgement call on AIM Island.
  • It’s been less than two months since Age of Ultron so I guess it’s high time for the next massive event. Despite much of Infinity #1 having already been revealed in previews, interviews and this year’s FCBD issue, it’s still a fun promising issue. I’m looking forward to what’s coming.
  • It took everything I had not to write about East of West again this week and #5 is really great. The revelation about The Message, Death and Xiaolian’s child and Chamberlain’s indifference to the oncoming Apocalypse cements why this is the best new series of the year.

The Year’s Best Comics (So Far…)

Daredevil_26-001Despite weird editorial decisions from both of the Big Two, comic creators have had plenty of room to create some excellent stuff so far in 2013. With the year half over, let’s check in on some of my favorite issues so far, in no particular order.

Dial H #13c6KAC2kIn a cast full of bizarre heroes, Openwindow Man is probably one of China Mielville’s oddest characters. When the entire interdimensional team is stuck in a dimension of chalkboards, the heroes struggle to procure a new dial and the conversation forces all of the heroes to deal with the stakes saving the universe brings with it.

Mielville has done a great job incorporating character specific voices to his work and the chalky, visible lettering and visible thought bubbles give the book a unique, homemade look that perfectly fits his storytelling bent.

Batman and Robin #18street-lamp
Batman is defined by tragedy but his early attempts to come to terms with Damian’s death offers a look at the way the loss of a child ruins more than the Wayne family, consuming the way a hero wages his war on crime.

In a silent issue, Bruce and Alfred try to deal with the loss of a family member. For an issue without dialogue, it’s a strikingly loud one. Alfred’s tears, Batman’s unleashed rage and a primal scream to close the issue make Batman and Robin #18 one of the New 52’s most memorable issues.

New Avengers #7New-Avengers-7-p7-ft-bannerA cold war between Namor and Black Panther has been brewing since the second issue of New Avengers and Namor offers an olive branch in New Avengers #7 but the runaway train to war has already left.

The power of Jonathan Hickman’s work on the title has been the inner conflicts becoming external ones. These are characters who have no reason to work together if it weren’t for saving the world and the tension has shown but here, it boils over, threatening to destroy everything the team has worked for.

East of West #4east_of_west_004-024I’ve already written about this excellent issue but the main point is the way in which Hickman continues to usurp reader expectations of who Death is and what the motives of the people he associates with could possibly be.

Wolverine and the X-Men #24tumblr_mh3fdcXzRF1rlcw3po2_1280Wolverine and the X-Men works best as a hangout comic. We know and presumably like these characters and seeing them try to live their lives, connect with one another and find a way to be more than just a hero is a great way to focus on the fact that these are kids, teachers and killers who still have lives.

Wolverine and the X-Men #24 takes much of the simpering romantic tension of the team and give the characters a chance to act on Valentine’s Day. Kitty and Bobby struggle with separating super-heroism from love, Jean and Quentin get honest about power, legacies and sex, Storm deals with her lingering feelings about T’Challa and her new ones for Logan and Toad gets sick of all these damn lovesick kids. It’s low key, promising and achingly sweet.

Daredevil #26originalThe best thing about Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Daredevil works because it constantly feels as if anything could happen. From Foggy’s diagnosis to Bullseye’s insane, web-like plots to bring down the Man Without Fear, the sense of constant danger reminds readers that Matt Murdock is the unluckiest man in the world.

The exceptional Daredevil #26 achieves a laser focus by putting Matt on the run. With Ikari’s death threat still hanging over his head, the assassin makes good on his threat, showing Matt that the whole city can and will destroy him. While the proper story is fantastic, the backup, where Foggy goes into a children’s cancer ward and sees how the kids deal with their mortality is a great reminder of what comics can and do mean to all of us.

Manhattan Projects #120b6fd9b29e25be39c830aa1d992df4a4Secret motives run deep in Hickman’s Manhattan Projects and Fermi’s otherness has always been a recurring motif. Since the first reveal the scientist was more than human, Fermi’s real motivation for joining the team has been in question. Now, he strikes back, hurting the one person he has grown close to and losing his sense of agency. Daghalin’s defeated questions at the issue’s end turn a violent bug hunt into a near tragedy and a psychotic Einstein dispatches another threat by issue’s end, moving the imperialistic Manhattan Projects deeper into unexplored space.

Hawkeye #11HAWKEYE01105_d7c8eThere’s a real focus on the senses running throughout Hawkeye. Whether it’s the washed out colors or the slowed down moments of Kate and Clint shooting, there’s a focus on how we view and experience the world around us, the mundane, the heart breaking and the heroic.

Hawkeye #11 takes that feeling into a new direction as Pizza Dog investigates Gil’s death. Readers are brought into an approximation of how the animal feels, filtered through a noir kaleidoscope. It’s a fun, ambitious issue and makes more of a case for the cult appeal of the series.

Green Lantern #20hal-jordan-vs-sinestroLike many readers, Geoff Johns was the name I associated with Green Lantern more than anything else and his final issue on the title proves why. The focus on bombastic action, foreshadowed plot twists, real heart and simmering conflicts gives a sense of finale to a landmark run on one of DC’s greatest characters. It’s the sort of epic, mythic issue that only DC can pull off, with characters who’ve gone beyond heroes and villains and become legends.

“Why the hell did he stop?” – Jo’s lost control as Fatale #15 goes modern

dn_cc71_fataleEd Brubaker and Sean Phillips have taken the old storytelling tip of “all you need is a girl and a gun” to its natural conclusion in Fatale and it has paid off big. The book that kicked off Image’s creative revolution, Fatale has always kept readers at arm’s length and it’s worked better for it. Jo and her forebears pasts and the nature of their powers has always been a mystery, Bishop’s motives and masters have been shrouded in murder and whispers of old gods and the episodic, highly cinematic style has kept readers on their toes.

For those reasons, taking the series closer to the modern, more familiar day is a dangerous game and in this week’s #15, Brubaker takes that gamble. Like all of the series arcs, it’s a little too early to tell where the story is going, but there’s so much promise here. Lash, just broken out of a courthouse by a man with a connection to Jo, has been driven even deeper into the madness that infected issues #6-10 and the desperation he finds himself in is as electric as Jo’s newest predicament.c01fbd77a936138f9c9206d220763e9cBrubaker admits in this week’s conclusion that Lance and his burnout collective draws somewhat heavily from his past and the familiar kinship shows. A collection of druggy post-fame rejects, the house, its residents and the still-clinging groupies feels lived-in and the touches of darkness that can be already be felt there point to the impending horrors an amnesiac Jo could bring, especially as one of her devotees finds his woman missing and a broken corpse in her place.

Even in an issue all about setting the stage for the chaos Jo brings, Brubaker and Phillips create such a lingering sense of corruption and dread to Fatale #15 that it’s impossible not to get wrapped up in their noir world. As Jo and her demons get closer and closer to the modern day, it’s clear this creative team can use characters and the looming threat of that which should not be to continue to fill in their twisted world.

Stray ObservationsHawkeye_11_Panel

  • Hawkeye #11. Wow, just wow. There’s nothing I can say about this issue Oliver Sava didn’t already say better.
  • Lots of people, myself included, weren’t wild about the book at launch, but Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan have written something damn close to the perfect Deadpool book. In this week’s #12, they wrapped a suburb arc which balanced the character’s trademark psychotic violence and goofy humor in a pitch perfect way.
  • Things are looking dark in Wolverine and the X-Men #32 and Wolverine and Quentin’s stoic resistance in the face of two very different forces is perfectly written by the always great Jason Aaron. Also, love the Iceman and Kitty attack/date.
  • As much as I love to see Jae Lee get to unleash his gorgeous art and innovative layouts, I can’t help but shake the feeling Batman/Superman #1 is little more than a cash-in by DC. Still, that art is well worth $3.99.
  • All of the moving character pieces in FF #8 are starting to lead to a more coherent whole. I’m glad to see the book finally raise the personal and external stakes.
  • My problems with Uncanny X-Force continue. While #7’s focus on two characters sharpens the book’s aimlessness, several points in the book, namely Fantomex’s loss of his reality altering powers undermines the beautiful ending of Rick Remender’s series. I’m a little disappointed.
  • Today is the three year anniversary of Breakfast With Spock’s first post. Thanks for occasionally reading and putting up with my thoughts. It means a lot.

The Vulcan Quiche Awards: The Grand Finale

BatmanRobin-Zone-017-e1344659731947This is it, the best single issue of the year. Who’s got it? I guess you should probably read on and validate my crippling lack of self worth.

The Sarek Scramble: Awarded to the single finest issue of the year.

Honorable Mentions2292173-g8image1
There were so many truly incredible offerings this year that it was difficult to whittle them down. Grifter #8 made a case for Nathan Edmondson’s gritty, hyper-violent 90s style with plenty of heart as Cole faces off with his possessed brother and shows himself as the most dangerous man in the DCU. Batgirl #11 and Batman and Robin #12 both showed off what exactly makes the Bat-Family into a force to be reckoned with and showed the honor, compassion and skill of two of its most interesting members. Green Lantern Annual #1 crystalized the power of the unconventional pairing of Sinestro and Hal as they take on Black Hand with the highest of stakes. The Goon #39 nearly cracked the top 5 with a hysterical, biting take on crossovers, retcons, rebrandings and pretty much every comic book cardinal sin The Big Two have committed since the ’90s.

Fifth PlaceSAUCER6_1Saucer Country #6

What happens when fiction begins to determine how reality is viewed? What is the risk of building knowledge from constructed myth? Saucer Country’s expository issue on the nature of the UFO mythology and how popular culture such as “The X-Files” and competing tales of experiences with aliens has created a fiction that is believed and reported on so much that it has become the truth. Writer Paul Cornell masterfully weaves what could have been an expository bore into a conversation that doesn’t just make readers reconsider all they know about the series but everything we know about fiction.

Fourth Placebatman 10.1 - CopyBatman #10

The chant of the owls at the end of Scott Snyder’s epic is, appropriately, “who?” Who is behind the attack from the Court of Owls? Who is Lincoln March? Who knew Gotham better than Batman? In Snyder’s epic battle of wits between Bruce Wayne and his (maybe?) lost brother Lincoln, the answer is worth more than the fight. Snyder wove a tale of secrets, battles and vengeance into his impossibly brilliant Court of Owls that climaxes not with a fist fight but with a verbal jousting match between two forces battling for the soul of a tortured city.

Third PlaceManhattan-Projects-4-bannerManhattan Projects #3

The theme of Jonathan Hickman’s excellent Manhattan Projects has always been power and it’s in the exceptional third issue that power is seized by the cabal of narcissistic scientists. It’s a tense issue. As FDR dies, Truman is sworn in, only to face a decision he doesn’t have a say in. The nuke will drop, the war will end, the Manhattan Projects will seize power and become the main force in the future of Earth. As Truman becomes more and more frantic, the future is increasingly sealed in an issue that shows the power a single group of individuals can wield in the face of their last enemy.

Second Placetumblr_mbptso0lpg1qky2i3o1_1280Wolverine and the X-Men #18

Heroes fall. It’s a classic myth cycle. Innocents die in the face of overwhelming darkness. Weakness is punished. The best of us fall to inspire others. In the exemplary issue of Jason Aaron’s series, Broo is helpless to his feelings as Idie offers him a chance to escape the creature he struggles against being. While Wolverine makes his final struggle against a Phoenix-empowered Cyclops, the students of the Jean Grey Academy dance and surrender to impulses, leading Broo to an inevitable conflict with Kade Kilgore of the Hellfire Club. It’s a heartbreaking issue, one that makes readers reconsider the struggles of the alien who so desperately wants to be one of the rejects and the failures he faces. This is excellency in comic book storytelling and the power of the denouement gives the characters the honor and importance they deserve.

And the Scramble goes to…tumblr_mdbjg6Ke9M1qky2i3o1_1280Hawkeye #3

Things have gotten dark. DC has embraced arc based storytelling in an effort to sell more tie-in titles in an uncharacteristically dark style. Marvel hopes to recapture the sales they found during Avengers vs. X-Men with massive, universe spanning events. Comics weren’t fun in 2012. They were bleak affairs, filled alternatively with bad men doing bad things and heroes battling other heroes. What happened to the medium we loved, heroes being heroic, fighting for justice and goodness in a world that rejected such things? Matt Fraction’s exceptional Hawkeye dared to be that experimental. In the fantastic one-and-done, Clint Barton engages in a massive car chase throughout New York City, showing off all the goofy arrows that made his Silver Age representation a character to watch. What’s best is this is an issue that’s fun, one with humor and action, tension and characters we care about and want to succeed. In an industry that’d rather see its characters dragged through the mud in an attempt to find something unique about them, it’s revolutionary to see a hero show what it means to care about others and prove it.