Gauntlet of the Geek: Are Licensed Comic Books Good for the Industry?

“Gauntlet of the Geek” is a new featured article where two of our writers debate on hot button issues in today’s nerd industry. We’re not paid to kiss ass, so see what happens when the white gloves come off and we let you all know how we really feel. Let us know whom you agree with.

Sherif’s opinion:

For the last 30-40 years in pop culture, one thing has remained constant – franchises survive. Think of your favorite fandoms – how many of them are new to the last twenty years? Star Wars, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Doctor Who, Disney…all of them have survived generations because of the way they replicate onto different mediums of consumption. Sure, tribal upbringing accounts for a fair amount of the influence, but these franchises, now corporations built off the blood money of thousands of parents desperate to immerse their offspring in the same stuff. And those blessed corporations care enough about we the consumer to keep putting out fresh material to relate one generation to the next, keeping these beloved fandoms alive. Where would TMNT be without the new Nickelodeon series? I’ll tell you where. In the retro section of a fucking Hot Topic, that’s where. Let’s not forget that the stuff kids find cool is only cool because television, movies, and toy stores tell them it’s cool. We’re just more accepting of it because we find it cool, too.

This is the price we have to pay to keep TMNT relevant.
This is the blood price we have to pay to keep TMNT relevant.

One of the best side effects of licensed comic books is the amount of pull and resources that it gives the creators. For example, the mountains of merchandising money that Disney and WB give Marvel and DC, respectively, have opened up the doors for them to take chances on titles for the lesser-known titles (like Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel – both of which have had HUGE success). It’s not so much making people who watch Iron Man want to pick up Extremis, but using the resources that the Iron Man movie’s exposure brings in to reallocate and try something new (which I admit is a doey-eyed way to look at the world. We all know these corporations don’t give a crap about us). Think of it as drug dealers buying winter clothing for local school children with their drug money.

I look at licensed comic books the same way I look at the honorary torch carrier at the Olympics. They shouldn’t be regarded with the elite status they once were. X-Files and Star Trek comic books should not be competing with Saga and D4VE, nor should they be marketed as such. Licensed comic books should be designed to engage readers to narrow the gaps between fandoms. One fan who loves comics but doesn’t know anything about Ghostbusters now has input to a conversation about those who love the movies but aren’t into comic books. It’s a beautiful thing when it happens.

How can you not be excited for this?? And how is Batman not impressed??
How can you not be excited for this?? And how is Batman not impressed??

However, the key is knowing when and how to bring some of the lesser-known books back into the spotlight. Unfortunately for us, there are some publishers out there who are filling nearly their entire catalog with 80’s franchises that just don’t fit in today, let alone in the comic book format. If you’re immediately thinking of IDW Publishing and Dynamite Entertainment, you’d be correct. A Django/Zorro crossover? A Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure 3? Escape From New York? Angry Birds?? You get the point. Since Image’s recent explosion of actual content in creator-owned titles, the smaller guys (BOOM!, IDW, Dynamite, Titan) have all resorted to making these kind of unnecessary branded titles part of their flagship titles, which can only end up giving the industry creative constipation.

Was it popular once? IDW will give it a miniseries!
Was it popular once? IDW will give it a miniseries!

With the successful integration of comic books into mainstream media, it’s only natural that these corporations would try to capitalize on the success of these franchises. Each of your favorite franchises began as a lowly “hopeful,” and while some of the crappier ones might be here for now, only the great ones remain. It’s how Buffyverse is still running. It’s how A Song of Ice and Fire will likely continue after George R. R. Martin ends the saga. Licensed comic books let creators continue telling stories even when they think nobody is listening anymore.

by Sherif Elkhatib

Montgomery’s opinion:
Let me get this out in the open right off the bat: licensed comics are terrible. It’s hard to pin down exactly why, but I’m going to see if I can narrow it down to a few easily observed facts. And before you get all uppity with me and shriek in your halting bat language, “But Montgomery! Don’t you semi-regularly gush about one or more Transformers comics?” I do. But that doesn’t mean the genre is redeemed, and it doesn’t make me a hero: it just means I’m weak, along with everyone else who bought Super Pro.
super pro
The Properties
Perhaps the most glaring issue right from the start is the properties they insist on convincing us are worth reading. I referenced Super Pro, but have you ever actually seen it? This is taking up space on Marvel’s hard drives as we speak.I mean, as someone who takes football very seriously (read: I don’t take it seriously at all), this is the thing I buy to reassure myself that I can be taken seriously as a human who breathes air on this planet. I mean, check out those cute Puritan-influenced cleats he’s wearing. This is a man’s comic, no doubt. But seriously folks, more often than not, a licensed comic is nothing but a cynical cash grab from one giant corporation to another. There’s no love of either art going into it, and then you’re forced to ask: “Who’s supposed to want to buy this?” I mean, the love fans of football have for comics is legendary, and the stereotype of the football playing comic nerd is so old it’s almost worn out (not to editor: forgot my sarcasm tags). But it doesn’t stop there. Love the music of Kiss? Well now you can enjoy their nuanced aesthetic with none of their complicated rhyme scheme.
kiss comics
The Writing
A misguided relative actually bought me Super Pro #1. I read it because what, am I actually going to play football? Hell to the no. It’s a story that’s nearly impossible to resurrect from the graveyard of my prepubescent memory, but one thing was painfully clear even to my eight year-old brain: this was a comic written neither for fans of football, nor fans of comics. And that’s a problem deeply inherent to the genre. Because, more often than not, the cross polinization of properties is just an attempt to capitalize on something that’s already profitable, the resultant product cannot be something the violates the spirit of either thing. It cannot offend the sensibilities of either fan base, but that almost curses it to appealing to neither fan base. Super Pro, if you care (which you almost certainly don’t) is the tragic story of a football player who gets injured nearly to death. He’s brought back from the brink courtesy of a mechanical football uniform so that he can continue… to… play football? But then realizes he’s more than just feetsballs throw man, and fights… crime? I mean, apart from about fifteen moments where I have to stop and ask, “Uh, why?”, that premise sounds like it comes straight from the mouth of that uncle we all have who hates comics and doesn’t respect us for our love. Because the end result shits on the heads of anyone who might possibly want it, every step toward that end result is just as insulting and just as steamy.Oh so, I guess I’ll just buy an adaptation of the thing I already have?!transformers the movie the comic book
Perhaps the most prevalent reason for licensed comics is the disease like pervasive presence of the “based on the hit movie” comic.Oh good, now I can be irritated, frustrated, and repulsed by one thing in two mediums.This is the point where I also have to stipulate that just because something sells, it does not mean it’s qualitatively good. I mean, everyone’s mom has a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey stashed under their mattress, but it’s not winning any awards any time soon. Right? God I hope not. I have to make that clear because comics are experiencing a sort of rebirth thanks to the herpes-like proliferation of comic book movies.

"Marvel: the herpes of comic books, but for movies."
“Marvel: the herpes of comic books, but for movies.”

I guess on one hand I have to be thankful for terrible ideas like the Avengers movie tie-in comic, but why does such a thing exist in the first place? “Duh, Montgomery,” you might start, “because people who saw the movie might want to get into comics, and this is their way in, you dumb sack of crap,” you might finish. And very rudely, I might add. And in your very rude retort (seriously, guy), you’ve proven my point: they’ve already seen the movie. Who needs to buy this comic? Apart from the compulsive collector, is there really an audience of people who like the idea of an Avengers movie enough to buy a comic based on the movie, but not enough to buy the actual comics that have been running for 50 years or to spend the $10 to see the movie in the theater? It’s a bizarre monster we’ve lived with all our lives but haven’t really noticed.

There are other reasons why licensed comics are terrible. The fact that tie-ins are often made before the movie knows what they’re doing, so you wind up with weird anachronisms; the art is just the worst, like really, do they even care; the fact that the licensed property is fenced-in so fiercely that even if it were a good idea in the first place, they don’t have much space to play around in. Really, we could talk until all the oxygen is gone, but just these three reasons should be enough to convince you to put down that comic book prequel to Transformers 5: Planet of The Earth and invest in some stocks. Or something.

by JH Montgomery

Comic Book Power Rankings – August 2015

Nobody here at Hush Comics loves sports metrics more than I do. A die-hard NBA fan, I frequently rank players, teams and track stats every night to see who I should be picking up on the waiver wire (a term I know, but still do not understand at all) in our fantasy basketball league. It’s not really to be the best, but largely because I love the processes behind it; I love spreadsheets and systemic processes in how I arrive at these decisions. I even made a House of Quality together in order to break down which qualities I value in comic book series. This was all inspired by the creation of our Best of 2014 Comic Books collection of articles (which you should check out! A lot of hard work from our team went into those articles), when I realized that we had not been keeping track of which books were the best throughout the year.

Below is a list of what I consider the Top 20 comic books of the previous month. The opinions of these rankings is solely mine (unless noted), although they are influenced by the weekly review grades that our team doles out. I’m no expert on the ins and outs of the comic book industry, and I admittedly can’t read every book out there, but as long as I have this awesome platform to force my opinion on readers, why not use it? As always, we LOVE sparking conversations about the things we love, or even the things we don’t, so commentary is encouraged!

Rank Book Title Publisher Issues In Previous Movement
1 Hank Johnson: Agent of Hydra Marvel 1
  He’s just a normal family guy, trying to cut it in the blue collar goon industry. Trying to place the normal within the insanity that is Battle World creates comedy gold.
2 Prez DC 3
  As far as political satires go, Prez is hands down the funniest, and is so hyperbolic that the fact that it’s relatable at all is appalling. Root for the little guy in one of DC’s rare non-cape books.
3 Rasputin Image 8
  Rasputin is my favorite comic at the moment. So far it’s the only book that’s compelled me to send fan mail. It’s a well written narrative, beautifully drawn, and spectacularly colored. I get something out if every issue I read and feel satisfied. Totally in love with this series. – Jené
4 Ms. Marvel Marvel 17
  Although Kamala briefly got caught in the web that is Secret Wars, her last issue, a heart-warming team up with Captain Marvel herself gave this book a special place on my shelf.
5 The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Marvel 8
  Three of the top five books are led by young women. Coincidence? Hell no! Squirrel Girl is hilarious and relatable – which says a lot since… ya know, she’s a squirrel.
6 TMNT IDW 49
  Not even shell-shock could stop Donnie! Things are getting heavy as a battle royale contest between the turtles and Foot knock down the door of the upcoming #50 spectacular.
7 Justice League DC 43 5 -2
  This is the best JL story since Forever Evil, and the most desparate time we’ve seen the team in of all New52. Geoff Johns continues to write an amazing book.
8 Batman DC 43 2 -6
  This is not the same book we read with Endgame. Bruce is in identity crisis mode and Gordon has taken over as Batman. Wacky story aside, Snyder/Capullo produce.
9 We Stand On Guard Image 3
  With the right creative team, even Canadians can be interesting. Brian K Vaughan’s new title makes you hate America more effectively than Donald Trump’s presidential run.
10 Bizarro DC 3
  Bizarro no am good book. Bizarro am very bad book. Book no am funny. Art is very ugly. Bizarro very normal, and Jimmy Olson (Bizarro’s worstest enemy) never wear disguises. Bizarro no am have hijinks. – Montgomery
11 Superman DC 43 8 -3
  We finally learned how Lois spilled the beans about Superman’s identity, and it’s refreshing to see Superman fight an enemy he can’t defeat by punching.
12 Old Man Logan Marvel 4
  While I love seeing an out-of-place Wolverine wander around Battle World in a confused rage, it’s Andrea Sorrentino’s panel layout that really keeps me engaged.
13 Groot Marvel 3
  As much as I loved the recently-retired Skottie Young Rocket Raccoon book, Groot is just as adorable. It’s good for all ages, with feel-good lessons in friendship and kindness. Aww.
14 Deadly Class Image 15 5 -9
  While the Remender/Craig tag-team reigns champion, I can’t get over just how scathingly manic-depressive this book got this month. It’s a downer for sure.
15 Nailbiter Image 15 16 +1
  The deeper we keep falling into the mystery, the further the bottom seems to be. It’s a phenomenal book, but I feel just as lost now as I did at square one.
16 The Walking Dead Image 145 4 -12
  I still look forward to this book every month, but the more I read it, the more I realize that Robert Kirkman is becoming George Lucas 2.0. There’s just too much TWD in the world for me right now. That being said, this new threat is gonna bring back the funk.
17 E is for Extinction Marvel 3
  Thank you, Chris Burnham, for making unsexy comic books cool. His raw art is perfect for this post-Morrison, Morrison-style book, which is as awesome as it is awkward.
18 Giant Sized Little Marvel AvX Marvel 3
  This book makes me feel like vomitting rainbows with each issue. It can be formulaic, but it’s just so darn cute – how could anybody not love this??
19 Postal Image 19 11 -8
  Mark, the autistic one-man Scooby gang, is tearing this conspiracy wide open. Although, just because it’s getting bigger doesn’t mean it’s getting better…
20 Batgirl DC 43
  It can be silly at times, but that’s part of the charm. Babs Tarr’s art has definitely grown on me. I’m fully on-board after some post-Gail Simone withdrawals.

 

Notably absent:

Most of the Secret Wars: I’m burnt out on Secret Wars. Marvel must be murdering DC in sales as of late, but their long game is tiring fans out.

Shutter and Birthright: For books that started as two of my favorite Image titles, the convoluted stories in both books have derailed their momentum significantly. I don’t expect that too last, though, as both books have the creative teams to handle it.

Wonder Woman: David and Meredith Finch have been a refreshing addition to the book, but the last couple issues have been noticeably lacking in substance or style. Plus, Donna Troy is completely one-dimensional and incapable of independent thought.

Retired books/ Hiatuses (Hawkeye, Saga, Bitch Planet, Sex Criminals): Some of the best books in the biz took the month off, making way for some newcomers to really shine this month!

Stephen Amell Reveals that Casey Jones Will Have a New Origin Story in ‘TMNT 2’

Stephen Amell as Casey-Jones
Stephen Amell as Casey-Jones
As if the Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies didn’t have enough fans angry at them, Stephen Amell announced in an interview that there will be another change to the series.

Casey Jones, fan favorite from the comics, cartoons, and late 80’s/early 90’s films will not have the same origin story he had in the comics. Amell attributes that to this movie introducing him at a different point in his life and development. He says Jones is a normal, law abiding man with a job, who loves hockey, and after being laughed off by law enforcement, he decides to take things into his own hands.

Hopefully the change won’t make audiences too angry, although it seems people are just looking for reasons to hate these movies. Michael Bay is the worst, but if you love TMNT it’s still best to give them a chance right?

Image via Screen Rant

 

 

SDCC 2015 – Batman/TMNT Crossover Coming November 2015

Holy cowabunga, Batman! It looks like the Dark Knight and the Heroes in a Half-Shell will be teaming up this fall in a six-issue mini-series run, announced yesterday at IDW’s San Diego Comic Con panel.

Let’s forget for a second that this is every fanboy’s fantasy. Or that it will be written by bonafide Batman writer James Tynion IV (Batman Eternal, Talon) and drawn by Freddie Williams II (Robin, Flash). Or that Kevin Eastman will be doing mother effing variant covers. This is the convergence of two of the biggest and most loved fandoms ever.

This is the second DC-IDW crossover to be announced, just days after the first issue of Stark Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War launched into stores. Hint: it was great. Thanks to IDW’s wide breadth of publishing rights, new doors are opening in the crossover world. Think about what this could mean going forward. Cyborg meets Transformers? Deathstroke takes on the G.I. Joe? Jonah Hex tries to tame My Little Pony??

Lucky for us, TMNT is a franchise with a track record proving that they play well with others (GhostbustersX-Files), so the ninja beat em up style will be a natural fit for the two to work in tandem. Below is the official synopsis from DC of the upcoming mini-series:

In the ongoing power struggle between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, General Krang, and the Foot Clan, allegiances have shifted and the battle lines have been drawn. Krang concocts a plan to rid himself of both the Turtles and Shredder by transporting them to another dimension, where they land in the dark and dangerous streets of Gotham City. It isn’t long before they encounter Gotham’s most famous resident, Batman.  The Caped Crusader may be their only hope of overcoming their enemies and getting back home. But not before they encounter a whole cast of Gotham’s most infamous rogues.

Look for the Batman/TMNT six-part series to hit stores this November.

Source: DC Comics

Comic Book Power Rankings – February 2015

Nobody here at Hush Comics loves sports metrics more than I do. A die-hard NBA fan, I frequently rank players, teams and track stats every night to see who I should be picking up on the waiver wire (a term I know, but still do not understand at all) in our fantasy basketball league. It’s not really to be the best, but largely because I love the processes behind it; I love spreadsheets and systemic processes in how I arrive at these decisions. I even made a House of Quality together in order to break down which qualities I value in comic book series. This was all inspired by the creation of our Best of 2014 Comic Books collection of articles (which you should check out! A lot of hard work from our team went into those articles), when I realized that we had not been keeping track of which books were the best throughout the year.

Below is a list of what I consider the Top 20 comic books of the previous month. The opinions of these rankings is solely mine, although it is influenced by the weekly review grades that our team doles out. I’m no expert on the ins and outs of the comic book industry, and I admittedly can’t read every book out there, but as long as I have this awesome platform to force my opinion on readers, why not use it? As always, we LOVE sparking conversations about the things we love, or even the things we don’t, so commentary is encouraged!

Rank Book Title Publisher Issues In Previous Movement
1 Saga Image 25
  There is a whole new danger afoot. I like the direction that this already-stellar series is taking our protagonists, even if it is head-first into danger.
2 Batman DC 39 1 -1
  Joker has been playing with his food up to this point. With Batman up against the ropes, the Caped Crusader is getting desperate, and the Clown Prince of Crime is getting brutal.
3 Spider-Gwen Marvel 1
  Who would have thought that one issue of a mini-series would launch such a cult following? Marvel really Hit the Jackpot with this one.
4 The Walking Dead Image 137 4
  I’m as enthralled as I am disgusting with the eyeball-licking love session at the end of the last issue. I’m excited to see Carl grow, no matter the nasty cost.
5 Deadly Class Image 11 6 +1
  Marcus isn’t out of the doghouse just yet. The last thrill-ride of an issue keeps the adrenaline flowing.
6 Suiciders Vertigo 1
  There’s no better way to spend your time in a post-apocalyptic world than to see drugged up gladiators with cybernetic enhancements pummel each other to death.
7 Batman and Robin DC 39 5 -2
  While it wasn’t as emotionally pleasing as the last issue, Robin getting a spot at the table with Batman and Superman is a big deal.
8 Superman DC 38 16 +8
  The end of the last issue was so explosive that I’m surprised I was able to hold onto the page. In just six issues, Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr created history.
9 Amazing Spider-Man Marvel 15
  Even though Spider-Verse winded down this month, Spider-Man has left behind a wake of Spider-lore that will continue to effect the Marvel U… until they reboot it all, anyway.
10 Bitch Planet Image 3
  This book is extremely polarizing, but it has resonated with women in ways that no super-powered chick has. It’s very real and very original.
11 Postal Top Cow 1
  I’ve got a fever for creepy mystery books, and this Norman Bates-ish post boy is the cowbell of creepers. After one issue, this is already among my favorites.
12 Detective Comics DC 39 14 +2
  Anarky is afoot in Gotham, bringing an aspect to Bat-books that has been sorely missing. Add in amazing artwork and a Harvey Bullock back-story, and I’m sold.
13 Mortal Kombat X DC 3 10 -3
  MKX is trying to build a cohesive backstory to the upcoming video game, and its doing a commendable job. Due to it being a digital first, the issues are a bit short, though.
14 TMNT: Mutanimals IDW 1
  How can one mutant be on the same level of wicked awesomeness as Mikey? Mondo Gecko, along with Hob and the gang, are just as interesting as the TMNT – if not more.
15 Wonder Woman DC 39
  David and Meredith Finch have done a fine job with Wonder Woman since taking over, but what has me geeked out is an inevitable showdown between Diana and Donna Troy.
16 Nailbiter Image 10 18 +2
  Like this series could get any creepier… Finch is done doing the Hannibal Lecter dance with Nailbiter, and we are going to have quite an interesting arc coming up.
17 EI8HT Dark Horse 1
  Time travel and dinosaurs have never NOT been a winning combination, and this new series is no exception. I haven’t enjoyed a new sci-fi series this much since Black Science.
18 TMNT IDW 43 8 -10
  Everything is coming to a head with Shredder and Krang, but the confrontation between the two factions left more to be desired. A great book, but I wish it would stop teasing us.
19 Shutter Image 10 17 -2
  Kate’s world has practically exploded in the last few episodes, and the epiphanies just keep on coming. I could do with some more Alarm Cat, but I’m still enjoying the ride.
20 Magneto Marvel 15
  The Master of Magnetism got his mojo back, and he has a new scary focus that is all about his business. I bet Sabretooth is wishing he got the memo earlier.

 

Notably absent:

Birthright: Daaad! There’s something weird going on with Mikey! This fantasy book about a long-lost brother is really just now getting juicy, but there’s a dark secret lurking in here somewhere, and I’m not sure I like the path that Birthright is taking just yet.

Nameless: This book almost made the list this month if not just for the fact that two of my favorite creators are working on it (Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham). That being said, I have no idea what the hell is going on. Not even a little bit

Hawkeye: Bittersweet that one of the most underrated books in the whole industry is moving on after this month, but Matt Fraction and David Aja had such great chemistry. I can only hope we will be that lucky again.

Deathstroke: The Expendables of comic books, right here. I mean, maybe not really at all. The explosions and punny retorts are there, but this isn’t your father’s Slade Wilson. Beautiful panels by Tony Daniels don’t hurt, either.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: The first book swallowed me up so wholly that I was feeling let down by the second book. There weren’t nearly as many jokes, and the set-up for the next arc felt kind of boring. I don’t expect that to last.

 

 

Comic Book Power Rankings – January 2015

Nobody here at Hush Comics loves sports metrics more than I do. A die-hard NBA fan, I frequently rank players, teams and track stats every night to see who I should be picking up on the waiver wire (a term I know, but still do not understand at all) in our fantasy basketball league. It’s not really to be the best, but largely because I love the processes behind it; I love spreadsheets and systemic processes in how I arrive at these decisions. I even made a House of Quality together in order to break down which qualities I value in comic book series. This was all inspired by the creation of our Best of 2014 Comic Books collection of articles (which you should check out! A lot of hard work from our team went into those articles), when I realized that we had not been keeping track of which books were the best throughout the year.

Below is a list of what I consider the Top 20 comic books of the previous month. The opinions of these rankings is solely mine, although it is influenced by the weekly review grades that our team doles out. I’m no expert on the ins and outs of the comic book industry, and I admittedly can’t read every book out there, but as long as I have this awesome platform to force my opinion on readers, why not use it? As always, we LOVE sparking conversations about the things we love, or even the things we don’t, so commentary is encouraged!

Rank Book Title Publisher Issues In Previous Movement
1 Batman DC 38
  There just isn’t a better book out there, and starting off Joker’s 75th birthday with Endgame is a great way to ensure the top spot.
2 Sex Criminals Image 10
  Unabashed sexuality and humor make this the most honest book on the shelves. And the freezing time with orgasms thing is great, too.
3 Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Marvel 1
  Plenty of silly to go around, Squirrel Girl isn’t just a great new book, but has potential to bridge gaps between comic book readers of all creeds.
4 The Walking Dead Image 136
  Carl is both a lover AND a fighter, as new dangers loom on the horizon (as always). Kudos for making this small world into a bigger, scarier place.
5 Batman and Robin DC 38
  Damian is back from the dead – with superpowers; he may be bulletproof, but he is not immune to the human condition as he deals with his own mortality. Beautifully done.
6 Deadly Class Image 10
  Sure, there’s the teenage angst of the 80’s, the murder, drug trips and the love triangles. But really, “That was no fart” is why this book is so high on the list.
7 Justice League DC 38
  How could Lex Luthor create more havoc as a good guy than as a villain… In any case, a zombie Batman JL vs. Supes and WW? Get the popcorn.
8 TMNT IDW 42
  Mutanimals attack! There is so much going on in TMNT right now, but the mounting war with Hob and Splinter interests me most.
9 Superior Iron Man Marvel 4
  Ever think to yourself, “self, Tony Stark sure straddles the line between good guy a-hole and bad guy a-hole.” Well, self, you’re right, and this book is why.
10 Mortal Kombat DC 4
  I’ve been waiting for a legitimate MK comic book for years. This is just as bloody and fun as the game, and will get me over til its April release.
11 SHIELD Marvel 2
  It’s like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but worth the time investment. We still get the strategic genius of Agent Coulson, now with superheroes!
12 Star Wars Marvel 1
  Who would I be if this on the list? In what was the most anticipated book this month, I’m already more into this run than I ever was with Dark Horse’s.
13 Multiversity DC ?
  Seemlessly poking fun at the Multiverse while creating a cohesive story, Grant Morrison does what Grant Morrison wants. Good for us.
14 Detective Comics DC 38
  I would never have guessed that Anarky would be the next great Batman villain. This book puts the “detective” back in Detective Comics.
15 Birthright Image 4
  What child doesn’t wish they could go on a Jumanji-style demon-slaying adventure with their family? A really lame one, that’s for sure.
16 Superman DC 38
  A new creative team introduced a new character, and really revived a series which has since been oerwhemingly underwhelming.
17 Shutter Image 8
  Shutter has been suffering recently from the necessary lull of storytelling, but it’s so unique and gorgeous that I won’t dare remove it from the Top 20.
18 Nailbiter Image 9
  Each issue has increasingly given me the heeby-jeebies. In a good way. I am not a horror comic fan but I am most definitely a fan of this book.
19 Moon Knight Marvel 11
  Shuffle around the creative team, take away his armor, Mark Spector is still one BAMF. Moon Knight is my new underground favorite at Marvel.
20 Tooth and Claw Image 3
  Making the list solely on the principle of curiosity, Tooth & Claw is a fantastical book of magic, anthropomorphic animals, and other ill s***.

 

Notably absent:

Saga: “What have you done for me lately” is the name of the game here. Expect Saga to knock one of these series off its high horse when the series returns from its three-month hiatus this week.

Wonder Woman: Barely missed the cut. Great panels and intriguing characters keep me coming back each month.

Spider-Verse: Another Marvel “event” has worn out its welcome and left me pining for the end. I’m done buying six books to understand one story.

Powers: Brian Michael Bendis’ soon-to-be streaming series is a whole new world (to me), but I think I need to learn more before I can really dive in.

Shaft: I expected this to read more like the comic book embodiment of Public Enemy, but it’s got more bark than bite at this point.

Injustice: Gods Among Us: I love this book, even more so since Brian Buccaletto took over, but there is just too much emphasis on “The Dark” recently for my taste.

 

 

Comic Book Reviews 01-28-15

Review Scale:

The mythical A+: Classic comic book material. Belongs next to your copy of The Notebook and The Joy of Cooking.

A: Would definitely recommend to all comic book readers. Even more so to fans of the genre or characters

B: Enjoyable read. Fans of the genre or characters will especially like.

C: Non-essential read. Can be enjoyable for fans of the genre or characters, but likely for only one or two events in the books.

D: Unenjoyable book. Read at your own risk. Might find satisfaction if major flaws are overlooked.

F: Please don’t buy this book. Donate your money to a local comic book writer’s workshop instead to inspire future generations to write something better than this trash.

Pick of the Week:

Batman 38 POTW 1.28.15

Batman #38 – A+

(A+) Snyder and Capullo do it again. I could just gush and gush, the thing is, is that no review I could ever write would be with your time to read as much as actually going and picking up a copy of Batman #38 and reading it yourself. Batman must go down in history for the sheer literary genius it is. This particular issue is packed with so much history, Gotham, Batman, Greek Mythology and word origins. Here’s what I can say: any book, comic or not, that schools me on Dionysus and the meaning of the word “tragedy” is absolute perfection. – Adrian

(A+) Beating a dead horse here, but reading Batman: Endgame is one of the smartest investments of your time you can make. You don’t need much background knowledge, and you know why that is? Because your whole world will be flipped upside down with this issue! Nothing you have ever known about the Joker is true. It’s such insanity that not even Batman has a plan for what to do about this revelation. There’s a reason that nobody has ever given Joker’s origin, and that was revealed with this issue. DC must have a lot of trust in Snyder and Capullo to allow them to cement their legacy here. Some teams make great comic books, but this team makes history. – Sherif

Other Reviews: 

DC/Vertigo Comics: 

Multiversity Guidebook #1 – A+

Holy crap, you guys. I was excited at the notion that this book would just be some nerd-style manual circa 1995 that would explore each of the 52 worlds – a simple guidebook like you might find in the lobby of a Holiday Inn. Not only is it that, but it still has a story. In fact, it has guidebook in story, in story (…in story). It starts with adorable little mini Justice League getting super-duper murdered by robots created by the legion of evil Sivanas, and mini Batman as the only survivor fleeing to a neighboring universe where he teams up with a Batman who looks like Buzz Lightyear, except Batman colors (later we find out that because of space reasons, ALL the super heroes look like Buzz). That kind of Never-ending Story whatthefuckery is enough to total overload every nerd bone in my body. Knowing one story entirely fills out everything Multiversity is, but in addition to that story, Morrison has figured out how to weave every single incarnation of DC Comics into one whole narrative. So far the only thing disappointing about this mega meta arc is that there aren’t 52 issues of it. – Montgomery

Gotham Academy #4 – B+

Can I have a Maps? Please. The kid sidekick, who is actually the smart one, is just so cute. As usual, Gotham Academy knocks it out of the park with art and coloring. I am continuously finding myself lost in the art. This issue had a panel with a ghost that had me entranced. Olive found herself encountering many aspects of her life she has been avoiding, but in the process, she found a secret passageway in the Academy where she found a very special guest star living behind the walls. Many things were answered this week, but many doors were also answered. Get into this book before it gets too far ahead of you! – Adrian

Batman Eternal #43 – C

I love Harper Row, er… I mean Bluebird. I do wonder how an outspoken teenage can hide her secret identity when her signature purple and bright-blue Mohawk are completely visible, but I can get over that. Either way, it looks like we’ve found Batman’s next ward. That was almost the only highlight of the issue, though. We do close some gaps on a scene that’s nearly a year old, but there still aren’t any hard-pressed issues addressed. We know something big and bad is coming, but we’ve also known that for 43 issues. Big win for Harper Row, though. – Sherif

Effigy #1 – C

I had a big time love affair with 90’s Vertigo (with the exception of Constantine, regardless of how hard I try…). I love the super-weird, the super-witchy, the mystical and occult: if it has curses and multiple dimensions, count me in. At some point, though, Vertigo shifted to a focus on more violent books (LeMire’s stuff being a very noteworthy exception). Reading the press materials for Effigy, it sounds like my jam: vapid Hollywood crossed with ritual murder and maybe multi-dimensional mish-mash. This first issue, though, it focuses on a former child actress as she tries to move on with her life and move into being a detective, but struggles against her glory hound mother who wants to move her back into the limelight. Which is all stuff I don’t really care about. The really interesting stuff was the space gods we just glossed over (literally two panels. They get two panels). The art is another sore spot; maybe I’m just a big dumb dinosaur that needs to lay down in a tar pit and accept my place in the world, but I loved the gritty haphazard horrific art styles of the old Vertigo. This book has that art style that looks like maybe it’s some kind of very design heavy flash sidebar ad that’s become really popular with high-concept indie books recently. It’s not that it’s bad, but when it’s, like, the third book this week you’ve seen with that art style, it gets hard to tell them apart. – Montgomery

Arkham Manor #4 – C

Alright, so I may have over-reacted when I got to the conclusion of the last issue of Arkham Manor, when it seemed like the Joker was the big bad in this mini-series. Arkham Manor holds its own just fine, and so very little of that has to do with Batman. Victor Fries takes center stage here, and wouldn’t ya know, he is the funniest person in a Bat-book not named Dick Grayson. This book won’t revolutionize anything, but it’s an interesting departure from the status quo for books focusing on the Dark Knight. – Sherif

IDW Comics:

X-Files: Season 10 #20 – B+

We continue the story of the experimental government manufactured marijuana called G-23. Now, Langly and Mulder are tripping out on the drug in the desert and neither is sure what is real and what is just a massive hallucination. In the issue, we find out the secret behind the drug, who is behind it, and become paranoid of government-regulated marijuana, but then again that is just the Mulder coming out in me. As far as art goes, I really enjoy having a different perspective, and Tom Mandrake’s style blows my mind when it comes Mulder’s hallucinations, really making you feel the effects and making me never want to take hallucinogenic drugs. I would say pick up this issue if you generally enjoy X-Files, or if you maybe want to see what X-Files could have been like if Vince Gilligan added more if his Breaking Bad ideas to the show, which I totally felt that vibe with the panic and struggle of using the drug at hand. – Jacob

TMNT/Ghostbusters #4 – B

This mini-series comes to a close this month leaving our 80’s hearts empty yet again to deal with the modern tells of both franchises. With TMNT already getting a sequel, and the all-female Ghostbusters on the horizon, it was nice to see this team-up while it was still relevant. This story in this series is much better than anything I came up with when I was five. Ultimately, the story is not integral to the main story line of each property, so despite this issue and the series as a whole being very enjoyable, it is not needed to understand anything but a small reference in the mains series. – Jacob

Powerpuff Girls Super Smash-Up #1 – B

Taking place after the events of the Cartoon Network Super Secret Crisis War, this new series focuses on Dexter and the Powerpuff Girls combining forces to traverse all the different worlds within the Cartoon Network brand to track down a mutated Dee Dee. We start with the intro and a short story of Courage the Cowardly Dog – setting up next month’s issue. We may get every issues like the one-shots having a prequel of sorts to the main CNSSCW story. The story so far definitely has some plot holes and things left unexplained, but then again, it is a cartoon book and anything is possible. I would say pick this book up if you are young as it is a blast and also for nostalgia reasons as one of your favorite cartoons is likely to show up at anytime and give you all sort of warm feelings as if you just ate some Oops All Berries and washed it down with some Ecto-Cooler. – Jacob

Image Comics:

Sex Criminals #10 – A

It almost feels dirty putting this book in the reviews, but I absolutely love this book. I decided to sit down in the hotel lobby I’m at, and read this book (of all books, right?) on my tablet. Of course, this had to be the issue with the most dicks and vaginas out of all of them. That experience would be equivalent to watching the salad-tossing scene in Girls, when all of a sudden your grandmother and five-year-old nephew walk in the room. To you, shirt-cocking. It’s that awkward, but I love it anyway. Sex Criminals takes the taboos of weird sex things and explains that it could get a whole lot weirder. – Sherif

Bitch Planet #2 – B+

(A) If you’re not reading Bitch Planet you are doing yourself a disservice. Kam is as badass and noncompliant as they come. She’s true to her beliefs and stands strong by them. It is only when she sees an opportunity for escape that she decides to accept the offer given to her by “the fathers.” There are still a lot of parts of this world falling into place, and we’re not 100% sure how everything operates in the Bitch Planet universe, but I am so excited that a comic like this exists. We need more of these stories and I can’t wait to see what comes next month in this story arc. Bonus: Don’t forget to read the essays at the end of these issues. This month’s was on how feminism is often misconstrued and I reread it aloud to my friend, it was so good. – Charlotte

(B) Orange is the New Black meets Hunger Games meets messed up dystopian future…and I love it! It’s raw, intense, and gritty and at time hard to read. Sure is a soccer punch to the gut. The covers art of the comic as a retro feel to it a comingling of time periods. The future is the past is definitely a theme to this book. Sexism is in its hyperbolic form and I think this does a lot to highlight how insidious, subtle, dangerous it’s become in our culture. In this book we get more info about the “male” Earth and its society and the politics of Bitch Planet. The inmates are thinking of using the brutal games to 1) let Earth think they are generating entertainment but 2) really they are going to use it to change the indoctrination of gender roles. Brilliant! Honestly, there is so much packed in visually and linguistically and I could write a paper on it. It’s a comic many will be talking about for year. Go read it! – Jené

Casanova Acedia #1 – B

So there’s a badass body guard with no memory of his past and he protects this other, old guy who also doesn’t have a memory of his past. There’s a fight scene that takes on a diving board with a hot naked girl. Uhh… there’s also bad guys that don’t have heads or faces. Oh! And the world is going to end in nine days for some reason. In much fewer words, issue #1 of Casanova Acedia is one healthy serving of “HUH?!?!” That being said – I didn’t hate it. In fact, I recommend you read it! It’s a simple and classic storyline with some really, really weird twists added in for what I assume is alluring intent. Whatever this is, I’m into it (I think…) and I plan to stick with it until the weirdness overwhelms. – Taylor

Rasputin #4 – B-

This series is hauntingly beautiful. I wish the books weren’t so short, but it seems like the art style probably takes a long time to finesse. Rasputin has finally made it to the winter palace and has healed Alexi of the bleeding disease.  What this book offers is insight into his powers and how they work. Being able to heal isn’t all fun and games. As always looking forward to the next one. – Jené

Graveyard Shift #2 – C+
 
This week, Hope, Liam’s girlfriend and now vampire, tried to kill him for 6 pages. Then it turned out she’s a good vampire and quit trying to kill him. Then for the rest of the comic, we found out she is just a classic vampire. Can’t touch crosses, or hit the sunlight. Also, she’s hungry … for blood. This book was forgettable, but the saving grace is when I flipped to the back and saw it was rated “T” for Teen. Now I realize that if this is a teen’s vampire book, they could be reading Twilight, and this is waaaaayy better than Twilight. – Adrian
They’re Not Like Us #2 – F
 
Last issue, it seemed like this book would be a little bit like an X-Men rip-off, which I was more ok with than the garbage that was this week’s issue. The specials, or whatever they are called, beat up a guy and steal all his stuff, all because he was going to graffiti, and they make it seem justified because tagging would bring the cops to the neighborhood. What the hell? Does tagging really deserve not only a whole story line that attempts to explain why they deserve what comes to them and an entire panel that says “F*ck Taggers?” I think its an abuse of power that comic writers have to convey a belief that is very closed-minded. And the main character questions the actions of the others, but then accepts it because she is “free?” This is not modern day The Awakening, this is badly written tripe. – Adrian

Marvel/Icon Comics:

Thor #4 – A

“Lady Hammer Pants.” Spider-Man FTW on picking out the Goddess of Thunder’s new name. That and an epic duel between “both” Thors made this a pretty great issue. My annoyance at not knowing the identity of lady-Thor has plateaued to the point of (nearly) no longer caring. I’m almost convinced that writer Jason Aaron doesn’t know the identity either. It’s been building up for so long now that when the reveal finally happens it will probably fizzle, like month-old Coke-a-Cola. I’ve come to accept (and expect) this reality and instead focus on the plot for primary value. The outlook is optimistic at the end of the issue. I’m very intrigued at how things were left off and I’m excited to see where it goes. That being said, Thor will have to significantly impress this critic if it want another “A” rating anytime soon. – Taylor

Uncanny Avengers #1 – A

I’m really liking the Avengers and X-Men mashups that are increasingly common these days.  My favorite musician-turned comic writer, Max Bemis, even had a hand in the AVX series, much to my delight.  The Avengers and X-Men are at it again in the newest volume of Uncanny Avengers.  In this new series, we join Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Rogue, Quicksilver, Vision, Sabretooth, and Brother Voodoo as they travel to Counter Earth.  This first issue left me with a lot of questions, but has enough action and plot to make me want to figure out what in the (Counter) world is going on.  How will the Avenger Unity Division get out of the hostile situation they have gotten themselves into?  Where are Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver?  So many questions, but I guess I’ll have to wait. – Jake

Spider-Man & The X-Men #2 – B+

Does it get much better than superheroes fighting dinosaurs?  Actually, in the case of another Avengers and X-Men team up, it does!  While this entire issue was packed full of action and awesomely lame one-liners, my favorite part was seeing our new X-Pal, Glob, transform into an adorable and transparent dinosaur.  Although the new batch of mutant heroes isn’t exactly my favorite team so far, the story-line has not been relying very heavily on the mutants, but instead seems to pave the way for a what feels like a new Spider-Man solo story.  The first two issues have been entertaining thus far, but I am eager to see the character progression of the X-Men as they begin to trust their impulsive new teacher.  On a side note, don’t fret, Shark-Girl, though you may have turned down love, there’s always other fish in the sea. – Jake

Deadpool #41 – B

Well after the events of AXIS have died down and our Roxxon flashback issue is behind us, we can get back to the regular Deadpool we all know and love. There is only one problem with that – Wade Wilson as we know him is a different man and his daughter, wife, friends and all he should hold dear are changing because of it. The main story for this series is really delving into Deadpool’s psyche. You actually sympathizing and caring more for Deadpool than you thought anyone could. I would say grab this issue to get ready for the new arc and the countdown to his inevitable death in April, as well as it has the best comic cover of the year so far in my opinion, done by Mark Brooks. – Jacob

Spider-Man 2099 #8 – B

If you haven’t heard it yet, I’ll say it for you now. I LOVE Lady Spider! This issue of Spider-Man 2099 is actually more about the sexy, female steampunk version of Spidey than it is about Miguel! I hope this attention to the character is foreshadowing and that fans (especially me) will get more of this captivating character in some other Spider-Man title following the conclusion of Spider-Verse. I’m also pumped that the Japanese Spider-Man Megazord has been re-commissioned and is geared up for the final battle. The atmosphere is critically electric leading into what will be THE final comic book issue of the Spider-Verse event. Everybody hold on tight and hope that the day will be saved!! – Taylor

Wolverines #4 – D-

I have had so much hope for things since I did really enjoy the actual Death of Wolverine story, but the changes it has made and the stories it has created have me to a point where I am very much at peace with Wolverine being dead forever, if it just meant his friends would shut up about it and stop trying to bring him back. The dynamic between the two teams of this series is pretty fun, only to see Sabretooth, Mystique, X-23, Daken, and Deathstrike working together. But in this we add Fantomelle who took the focus from last weeks issue become part of the team, and she is generally the first new character who holds any interest to me. The artwork for this issue is a little rough around the edges, but generally works for a weekly title, although the cover this month was definitely the worst cover to come from anything Death of Wolverine related. If you are the completest that I am of course you should pick up this issue, otherwise, please avoid Wolverine and most things associated with him from now until Earth 616 doesn’t exist anymore… – Jacob


Funniest Panel:

Batman Eternal 43 funny 1.28.15

Panel with the Most Awesomeness:

Thor 4 awesome panel 1.28.15

That about wraps it up for our reviews this week! Look for next week’s previews coming soon. Any comic books you didn’t see reviewed that you want reviewed? Any grades you didn’t agree on? Let us know in the comments!

All images taken from ComiXology app and the credit for them goes to the respective publishers; thanks to IDW Comics, image Comics, Dark Horse, Boom! Studios, Oni Press, Dynamite Entertainment, DC and Marvel for putting out great books.