Time sure flies, it’s almost the end of the year and I’m back from vacation so that means I got a whole stack of comic books to catch up on! From DC’s New 52 to Marvel’s unveiling of a black Spidey to the arrival of digital comics, there were a ton of events this year that shocked readers worldwide. And now that 2011 is almost over, I thought I’d share some quick thoughts on what I think are titles to look out for.
Animal Man #4 and Swamp Thing #4. Quite possibly the best horror titles on the shelf right now, these two titles are scaring up the sales charts. The latest issues confirm what fans have suspected. It’s the same villain, the Rot, that’s plaguing both heroes and hopefully that means a crossover real soon. Writers Jeff Lemire (Animal Man) and Scott Snyder (Swamp Thing) have turned up some really, really vile and creepy villains here. The idea is pretty simple. Swamp Thing represents the Green, which is plants and nature while Animal Man represents the Red, that’s us bloody living creatures. But somewhere on the fringe of all that lies the Rot, “a place of death and decay … the antidote to life.”
Snyder’s Swamp Thing is slowly but surely reaching that nasty, creepy genius level once held by Alan Moore. Abby’s back and she now has a younger brother who I think might just win Most Disturbing New Villain of the Year award. With Lemire’s Animal Man, we see family man and title hero Buddy Baker struggle with the realization that his little girl is the Red’s next Living Avatar, which also makes her a target of the Rot. Solid storytelling that will make you stay up at night and come back for more.
Invincible Iron Man #510. My interest in this title kinda peaked, went away and came back again. I’m picking it up now cos of what writer Matt Faction has in store in the current storyline. In a recent interview, Faction revealed that Iron Man’s number one arch-enemy The Mandarin (I can’t believe I still don’t have his action figure!) has rounded up Iron Man’s rogues’ gallery and being the huge sucker for armored villains that I am (Am still loving Armor Wars!), I decided to stick around for this storyline. Not really crazy about the current rehash of the Demon in The Bottle subplot (now with drunken dwarf sidekick!) but yeah, still worth picking up for sure.
Avengers: X-Sanction #1. This four-issue mini-series by the team that gave us Red Hulk is now setting us up for 2012’s big Marvel event which sees the Avengers going up against the X-Men. I think it’s safe to say that the first punch is thrown in this storyline. Cable returns and he’s gunning for the Avengers whom he believes will be responsible for …er… future nasty things that will be happening to mutants. Writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuinness have turned in a respectable first issue which I guess makes this a must-buy for diehard Marvel fans.
Uncanny X-Force #18. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only X-title worth following. The long Dark Angel saga hits its conclusion here at last. Love, death, rebirth, redemption and just about every other classic story element can be found in this epic tale by writer Rick Remender. Great storyline and non-stop action with Wolverine, Deadpool, Psylocke and team trying to stop Angel from becoming the new Apocalypse. The collected trade ought to be out in a month or two so go get that if you missed out on this. Plus the next issue should also be a good jumping on point for new readers.
The Shade #3. Finally after that forgettable Justice League of America series debacle, James Robinson is back writing the characters he was born to write. Spinning off from his best-selling Starman series, Robinson takes The Shade into new territories as we explore our favorite debonair anti-hero’s origins. There’s even a Times Past interlude coming up in issue #4, just like those previously seen in Starman. It’s a long overdue 12-issue mini-series with gorgeous art by Cully Hamner although I believe this is Hamner’s last issue and Darwyn Cooke will be filling in for issue #4, and Javier Pulido for the next few. Still a great buy if you are a fan of Robinson’s Starman series.
Batman #3 and Batwoman #4. Just like X-Force is the only X-title I feel everyone should get, Scott Snyder’s (there’s that name again!) Batman and J.H. Williams’ Batwoman are the only male and female Bat titles I think should be on your pull list (sorry Gail Simone but Batgirl just ain’t working for me). Every time I open a new issue of Batwoman, it’s like visiting an art gallery. Yes, the art by Williams is that damn good especially all them double page spreads. The murder mystery story also by Williams and Haden Blackman is starting to heat up. I’ll admit it was pretty slow at first but everything’s coming together just fine now.
Over at Batman, Synder is creating pure Bat magic with veteran Spawn artist Greg Capullo. The Parliament of Owls, a new or rather old group of evil Gotham architects, I know it sounds crazy but basically that’s what the bad guys started out as! For about a hundred years, these nefarious architects have been planning the downfall of Gotham City. I won’t spoil the fun but it’s a pretty ingenious plan.
Of course, there are still a whole bunch of other terrific titles worth picking up, including Daredevil by Mark Waid, Geoff Johns’ Aquaman and Green Lantern (forget Justice League!), Conan and B.P.R.D. from Dark Horse. I hope to get into them next year. Happy Holidays!