Favorite Comics 2019

The DCN's Favorite Comics of 2019

It is time for the second annual "Top Comics" from everyone's favorite Driving Creators Network!
All kidding aside this is a fun endeavor to tackle because it provides an opportunity for so many doors to be opened and so much more joy to be had from the comics we read. Multiple readings upon multiple readings bring more and more life from the pages. It does get tough when whittling down the stack and you're left with two handfuls that have to fit into one. That though, is where the books begin to pick themselves for inclusion on this list. It is when the "feel" starts to set in about titles and the "it" that keeps making you put your eyes back on a book starts to grab hold of you. You rediscover the beauty of these titles and gain more appreciation for a slew of books along the way. It's extremely difficult but the enrichment gained is beyond any difficulty incurred.

I mean seriously ... "oh no, I have to re-read these glorious books, AGAIN" isn't exactly a disaster movie in the making.

There are two categories here at the DCN.

The first is the "published" for books from publishers you know/see on the shelves at your LCS regularly.  As a quick reminder, a book had to have at least two issues published in the calendar year to be on the "published" list and, if a debut title, had to have had three issues or more published in the year.

The second is "creator owned/self published" books that are crowdfunded, or from creators that either do their own publishing or have labels not considered "main" lines.  For the creator owned/self-published category the book had to have debuted during the year or had one new issue put out.

OF NOTE ...

Before we get to the first list there were several excellent titles considered before making the final decisions.

A Walk Through Hell, Superior Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Friendo, Fearscape, Evolution, Criminal, Little Bird, Invaders, Transformers, Infinite Dark, DIE, Category Zero, Goodnight Paradise, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, Ax-Man, Infinity Agents, The Resurrected, and Miskatonic High are just some of the titles that were fighting for inclusion on the year end lists.  I could very easily make cases for them but ultimately tough decisions had to be made.  For instance from last year's list (and here) Black Badge, Spectacular Spider-Man, These Savage Shores, Dark Ark, Evolution, Bone Parish, Megatomic Battle Rabbit, and Captain Cosmic all carried over into 2019.  All of these titles made this year's list incredibly difficult to finalize.  Some of them were cannibalized by other works from either the creative team or about the characters (Friendo, Friendly Neighborhood SM for instance).  Some titles suffered from going toe to toe with other titles from the same publisher (DIE, Infinite Dark, Fearscape, Transformers for example).  Others ended which ultimately cost them (Black Badge, Dark Ark, Evolution fit this bill).      

That said, there's three titles that have come back this year after being named to our Top Comics of 2018. Continued excellence seems harder and harder to spot on the shelves in today's comic world for a myriad of reasons. One of the biggest faults in having long(er) running books of high quality is that we, as fans don't allow for it anymore. We always look for something new and shiny instead of allowing a book to grow and explore. Many of the highly revered classic books and stories simply wouldn't be possible today because fans won't stick with a book for more than 6-12 issues and are highly reluctant to jump into one at an arbitrary numbered issue that has 'insert amount of history' before it.  For creator owned/published titles you're essentially playing the lottery in hopes of hitting a jackpot book.  This comes on two fronts; does the book end up being any good and is the creative team able to produce more than one issue (if not a one-shot)?  Things have simply changed, though it can be argued if it is for the better or not.

Enough of my rambling let's get to it eh?  SAVE FOR THE FAVORITE COMIC IN EACH CATEGORY here's the Driving Creators Network's FAVORITE COMICS 2019 presented in alphabetical order!  And I'll get by with a little help from my friends ...

Atlantis Wasn't Built for Tourists
(Creator/Self Published)

We kick off our list with a 96 page graphic novel that mixes Lovecraft inspiration with rural reality in a tale of dark truths.  Some bad guys are supernatural and others are all to real.  Whether they wear a badge or brandish blood sucking teeth, the evils revealed in AWBfT all combine for an excellent self cointained tale of things not being what they seem.  Secrets are buried everywhere and within everyone.  Though it is stand alone the story is left open for further exploration of our main character.  

Circle Pit Press
Erick Palicki, Wendell Cavalcanti, Mark Dale, Shawn Lee
With Natasha Alterici and Caspar Wijngaard

The Baboon
(Creator/Self Published)

A tribute to the timeless pulp classics of yesteryear, the Baboon is an all ages fun fest.  Treacherous villainy and golden age do-goodery gets an infusion of slapstick banter that'll put you in a Dick Tracy-esque mood.  Word is there are plans for more and hopefully so.  The cast of characters is in place, the relationships are set, and the atmosphere is there for a good old fashioned comic book series.  The Baboon doesn't just fit into the pulp mold of the books it pays tribute too.  It is right at home among them. 

Bow Tie Press
Jamie Jones

Canto
(Published)

This is a brilliant piece of work.  As time is literally running out for the one he loves, a valiant little robot must embark on an epic quest to save her.  Fantasy driven and real world emotionally grounded Canto is a beautiful read for both younger readers and the young at heart.  The creative team's love for their creation shines through and is mirrored in this all new timeless tale of the conquering power of love.  This is the book you give to people to show them how powerfully a concept can come across through comics.

IDW
David Booher, Drew Zucker, Vittorio Astone, Deron Bennett

Captain Cosmic
(Creators/Self Published)
2018 Top Comic

The Silver Age is alive and well in modern comics.  Thanks to Captain (and Kid) Cosmic sailing the star ways taking care of any dasterdly evil doers and lendign their helping hands to those in need.  In the latest issue we are introduced to the Phantom Spaceman and are taught a valuable lesson as the story unfolds.  Everyone will love these adventures and characters.  This is the comic we all need.

Frontier Comics
Andy W Clift

Death Sentence
(Creator/Self Published)

Originally published by Titan, this truly unique book does what comics are supposed to do ... it dares.  Crude, rude, gory, political and brimming with social commentary are just the start of the descriptors for this story.  Now on its third volume and with a massive cult following Death Sentence is a poster book for what's possible with indie comics.  Politics and deconstructing humanity around a plague of an STD that grants you superpowers but kills you in six months ... Yup, phenomenal.

Titan Comics (Vol 1-2)
Monty Nero, Martin Simmonds

@Quetzelish
"Lawrence of Arabia is a figure who most americans know by virtue of the movie about his time in, well, "Arabia" but few know anything more than that. The same was true for me and, while I don’t necessarily know MORE about him, though I do, after reading “Dreamers of the Day,” I sure as hell want to. More than that, I want to know more about Beth’s intertwining journey into the research and I want to see her tell his story in the way she begins to here.

It is a simple book but often the best books are."
@ComicBookYeti
“Part travelogue, part biography, part auto-biography, yet more than the sum of its parts. Dreamers of the Day has heart and authenticity like no other.  This comic made me care more about T. E. Lawrence than Lawrence of Arabia ever did.

This is why I love indie comics.”
Dreamers of the Day
(Creator/Self Published)
This labor of love is part history lesson, travel log, diary, and comic rolled into one.  We are taken on a journey of discovery about TE Lawrence and what the comic medium can do.  Taking in this experience will enrich your understanding of the world and educate you in ways you’re not expecting.  Yes, DotD is an experience in understanding, self, and the comic telling form.  These are the types of projects that articulate the intelligence that resides in comic creators.

We search for more constantly and this is what Dreamers of the Day gives us.  The freedom to explore, literally, is at our finger tips.  Projects like this are a celebration of the entirety of the creative process.

Beth Barnett

@_kellie_k
Contributor at Driving Creators and youdontreadcomics.com

Toward the end of the year we were lucky to have Kellie come on board as a contributor.  She immediately jumped in ready to take on projects.  Along with her own approach is willing and open to trying new books, creators, and publishers.  We look forward to continuing our relationship with Kellie.  As for her picks: 

CEMETERY BEACH 
(Published)

Soldier Mike Blackburn is sent from Earth to an offworld colony to do reconnaissance work because they haven’t heard from the colony since it was founded. Unfortunately he gets captured by soldiers, lead by the corrupt President Barrow, and has to escape with colony native Grace Moody. During their desperate attempt to return to Cemetery Beach, where Mike’s return ship is stationed, Mike learns more about the horrific secrets the colony has been hiding. Cemetery Beach is a seven issue mini series that’s perfectly paced from start to finish with nonstop action and plot points that keep you guessing until the very end. And the art style, with it’s intentionally rough linework and hatching, perfectly fits the wasteland dystopian setting. This is a great story to sit down and binge from start to finish.

Image Comics
Warren Ellis, Jason Howard, Fonografiks

MOTH & WHISPER
(Published)

Before they disappeared, The Moth and The Whisper were the greatest thieves of all time; no one could capture them, and no one knew their real identities. But then they disappeared, leaving behind their only child Niki. Desperate to find their parents, Niki takes on the identities of both The Moth and The Whisper in an attempt to take down crime boss Ambrose Wolfe, the man they’re sure was behind the disappearance. Niki finds help from unlikely allies, including the son of another crime lord, as they try to solve the multilayered mystery their parents left behind, and discover Wolfe’s true intentions. The character design is amazing and it’s exciting to see which disguise Niki will wear next, and the colors are rich and saturated. Moth & Whisper is an exciting futuristic mystery/heist story that can appeal to a wide audience.

Aftershock Comics
Ted Anderson, Jen Hickman, Marshall Dillon

Elk Mountain
(Creators/Self Published)

Representative of the superhero story that society needs, being a true alternative to traditional takes is what makes Elk Mountain a must have. Without being preachy social reality (not commentary) is put forth to help build the world in which this book operates. It hits close to home, and for some at the doorstep, with the troubles and violence of merely existing that portions of our country live with every day. The superhero feel isn't lost in that though and that's the real prize. An aware book that uses classic tropes and archetypes to bring about resonating issues our world faces is exactly what we need more of, and exactly what Elk Mountain is.

Jordan Clark, Vince Underwood, Brittany Peer, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

The Fearsome Dr Fang
(Published)

TKO burst onto the scene with a new publishing model, top notch production and four outstanding debut entries. Of the group the golden age pulp entry that harkens back to no nonsense thrills takes the cake. Driven point to point and not mussing about is what this book's purpose is and it does the straight line perfectly. It is fast paced and makes you keep turning the pages for more. Everything about it feels like it came out of a magazine from the drug store shelves. While it does play at some of the dated approaches to characters (racial) it is clearly distinct in tone that it is homaging the storytelling and not the portrayal of persons. Pulp done right is always a win.

TKO Studios
Tze Chun, Mike Weiss, Dan McDaid, Daniela Miwa, Steve Wands

God Puncher
(Creator/Self Published)

Unconventional, cartoony, mesmerizing, off-kilter, and an absolute breath of fresh air to take in, God Puncher is like nothing you've ever come across in comics. This is a truly unique approach and the ballad of Tim Finnly turns the comic medium on its head. By using the primal thought that resides deep inside all of us (who we are and what our place in existence is) as a guiding tone Lane lays out a slapstick adventure that is full of heart and raw emotion. The seriousness of the thought and emotion is juxtaposed perfectly by the zany art style. A perfect combination of its elements, God Puncher is a book you absolutely need to experience for yourself.

Lane Lloyd

Immortal Hulk
(Published)
2018 Top Comic

Has completely rewritten how a "superhero" book can be done and how we as fans can and should think about the characters we read. Going back to the origins of the Hulk character has opened up a door way (figuratively and literally) of mythos and recreation for arguably the most difficult to present, but most endearing when done right, character in the Marvel Universe. Each issue is an event and making the kind of impact that each one does is something that hasn't been on comic shelves in a long, long time. There is no better illustration as to why I love ongoing series and giving a book the ability to be what it is. The Hulk is a monster. There's no spin. There is however, an exploring of just how complex being a monster truly is and how love, fear, pride and a host of other human emotions are just as powerful as any gamma given strength.

Marvel Comics
Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Paul Mounts, Cory Petit

Incursion
(Published)

Valiant will gets press for several books but this book is the pick for me. Why? It captures so many singular aspects of good books and marries them together to create a great one. The weight carried by this four issue mini series is astounding. Both universal and personal levels are hit head on and executed brilliantly. There's a major threat introduced, but as with the recurring Valiant characters in play, it's just an additional part that makes the sum of the book that much better. There is a certain feel to the original Valiant books that set them apart. Incursion channels that original feeling and brings it forward in using one of the strongest recurring themes in the Valiant universe. Everything is bigger than us and there's always something even bigger than everything else. Powerful and relevant themes drive this book and it delivers.

Valiant
Alex Paknadel, Andy Diggle, Doug Braithwaite, Diego Rodriguez, Marshall Dillon
With Jose Villarrubia, Leonardo Paciarotti

Killtopia
(Creator/Self Published)

Cyberpunk battle royale goodness and plight that tugs at the heart aren't usually two things that are found on the same page. Killtopia delivers both in grand fashion. Set on the backdrop of a dystopian future from where we currently exist we're given a point blank representation of the over corporatization we're quickly falling into. As much as things have changed, they've stayed the same. Most people are facing the same issues we try to manage in our lives. This is the heart of Killtopia. Just as the true story being told juxtaposes the thrill kill adventurous surface of the book the colors and presentation juxtapose the brutal realities that confront readers in each volume. Inspired many greats that came before it Killtopia does very well when held up side by side with 2000AD types of series. You'll get your glitzy neon glamour, cyber infused wrecking ball but you'll also get true depth in storytelling.

BHP Comics
Dave Cook, Craig Paton, Robin Jones (VOL 1), Micah Myers (VOL 2)

Mister Miracle
(Published)

Just, holy shit. It's very hard to find truly elite books at the Big 2 in today's comic world. It isn't their fault and it isn't to say that really good books aren't being produced. They are. When you're dealing with characters and stories that have fifty to going on a hundred years of history the deck is stacked against you in finding a way to create a book that truly drives itself and breaks out from already built in aspects of the characters.  Acceptance of what is, can be, isn't, and can't be already in place makes it near impossible to create something truly unique. How do you do that? You take the most precious of characters (King Kirby's creations) from the most mythologicaly heralded sect (Kirby's 4th World) and you deliver arguably the greatest human story in modern comic history. What makes superheroes truly great is what's left after the super part is removed. Here everything is stripped down and what's left can't be touched by any superpower. Wow and damn.

DC Comics
Tom King, Mitch Gerards

@Quetzelish

King is. I need to re-read the series lest I be swayed by his other writings. King is. A haunting and tense story about depression, escape and family. King is. I felt empty at the end, but not in the ways I did while reading the earlier issues. King is. There is so much to love about this book. King is. But there is an undercurrent of dismissal of the reader that makes it hard to connect. Gerards is. This book is a masterclass in repetition and non-sequitur done right. Cowles is. The team is impeccable and there’s a reason it has earned as many awards as it has. King isn’t. It’s a shame I feel like I have to escape the praise to express my conflicted feelings about the book.

“Mister Miracle” is.

Prey For Us
(Creator/Self Published)

Having fun with a comic while still delivering a tense and dreadful plot isn't the easiest thing to do. In Prey for Us it is done effortlessly. Presented in a very tv-eque fashion, this sci-fi terror delivers very quickly on several fronts. There's some chills, dread, panic and even an 'awwww shit' moment at the end. With minimal dialogue and ample visual cues you are engulfed in a struggle that very rapidly descends into its many layers. The usage of everything about a comic book to tell a story is on display in this book and shows just how fantastic the creative team is. It's refreshing to find a book that purposefully makes use of the medium to enhance what's being read.

LabRat Comics
Matt Garvey, J Francis Totti

The Plot
(Published)

This book forced its inclusion on this list. The debut issue of Vault's Nightfall Line exploded it's horror all over the scene when issue one landed. We graded it a 10 because it demanded such recognition. Pacing, imagery, feel and ... well everything about it is exactly right. This one is a deep and the slow burn keeps the icky feeling on your skin simmering. Like the dark force that has compelled so many to open the door, walk down the dark hallway, or look outside when they all knew they shouldn't there's something within the pages of The Plot that compels you to keep turning the page. Character driven horror is the best when the team behind it can make the characters more than just props. The premise of the book instantly sets up layer upon layer of terror for both characters and the reader. The visceral emotionally driven dread have charted a bold course for Vault's new imprint.

It's deeply personal which makes the whole of it that much more intense.  The premise of the book instantly sets up layer upon layer of terror for both the characters and the reader. The visceral feel and emotionally driven dread have charted a bold course for the new imprint at Vault. It's deeply personal which makes the whole of it that much more intense.

Vault Comics
Michael Moreci, Joshua Hixon, Jordan Boyd, Jim Campbell

@CabbageComics
"I'm a huge mark for psychological horror, and it's hard to pull off. Moreci and the team are doing a good job so far in blending the right balance of Gothic and gross. The house as physical edifice and metaphorical mind is a good conceit, and the family dynamics are melodramatic and ragged at the edges (aka, they're real.) The team's good at maintaining tension throughout each issue, and this is a book I look forward to each month."

Road of Bones
(Published)

Horror comes in many forms. Here we're forced to deal with several. Most vividly on display is the absolute worst in the horror of the depths of man. What is usually tucked away and hidden until a gruesome final reveal is on full display in Road of Bones. The entirety of the book travels from one horrid display of what man is capable of to the next. Some is implied, some is shown, and some is directly moving the story. However, when you’ve got a story like this to tell setting is paramount. In this case the physical setting immediately sets the bleak and unforgiving tone that this story is dropped into. It’s perfect. It not only enhances but makes the horror of Road of Bones shine through. There are elements for every fan of the terror thrill and each one is expertly included to help make the others that much more effective. This one, when you're done, you don't feel good in the best possible way.

IDW
Rich Douek, Alex Cormack, Justin Birch

@Quetzelish

In Soviet Russia, you don’t eat people, people eat you. That’s how the joke goes, yes? Well, after reading “Road of Bones,” you won’t be laughing much. . .or, maybe you will. This dark mini will grab you by the shirt collar, dragging you into the frigid outdoors with a vice-like grip, refusing to let you go as the world darkens and the wind begins to howl and your teeth start to chatter and your stomach begins to gnaw and the hand that drags you starts to look just the teensiest bit like chicken until, suddenly, you’re alone and warm and covered in red, red, red, like the flag you’re escaping from. Dare you take the plunge?

Spencer & Locke 2
(Published)

I'm so glad that David Pepose reached out to get this book reviewed. It was on my "read it at some point" list as several friends had mentioned the first series. Getting to it eventually would have been a mistake and out right robbing myself of pure comic brilliance. As innovative as the original series was the second amplifies the stakes ten fold. In comparison the first volume now seems like a gentle exploration of a mind fractured by intense trauma. Volume two is a much darker extrapolation of just what the fact of Spencer's existence means. Adding to the broken psyche relation and main tone of the book, the new antagonist represents one of the biggest mental health issues facing society currently. Continuing the the style and presentation that the first volume used once again helps relay both a wonderful comic and extremely important touching upon real world problems.

Action Lab (Danger Zone)
David Pepose, Jorge Santiago Jr, Jasen Smith, Colin Bell

Tomb of the White Horse
(Creator/Self Published)

People always want to be scared. Fear "sells" as they say. What separates good horror from the pack and great horror from the good is the ability to use all of the elements of the genre to enhance the overall piece. We've got that here. In what is intended to be a multi-part tale the opening of this story uses pacing and atmosphere to create a very wound ball of tension. Taking influence and inspiration from classics such as The Thing has clearly helped the team make the uneasy feelings come about without a visual reveal. Getting a horror story to come across properly in a literary medium is not the easiest thing to do. The actual tragedy one of the characters suffers in his life helps set the mood and make the setting that much more soul devouring. It's a great mix of the demons we all hide, those that lurk in the closet, and those that are waiting to be unleashed on us all.

Ian Mondrick, Benjamin AE Filby, Lesley Atlansky, Zaak Sam
With Kim Myatt and Danny Lore

Wailing Blade
(Published)

This was an immediate smash success that has created instant classic imagery with the Blade itself and the Executioner (and hell, the Hammer too). Yes, ComixTribe pushed this first issue of this book through Kickstarter. Regardless, this book belongs. The choice to Kickstart the first issue is more due to their guerrilla approach and the "in hand with fans" take that ComixTribe has as a publisher. I'm calling this a cult hit right now. Iconic imagery dazzles in this post apocalyptic mash up of every punk-mecha sci-fi piece you loved growing up. Full metal to the floor, Wailing Blade is a fantastical ride on its surface but also holds a solid story underneath. There's immense world building being done and the universe of the Blade is just getting started.

ComixTribe
Rich Douek, Joe Mulvey, Chris Sotomayor, Jules Rivera, Taylor Esposito

Wasted Space
(Published)
2018 Top Comic

It is so damn good it was named the first series ongoing series from Vault Comics. This book is the perfect example of the growth that the current comic fandom as a whole is so begrudging to allow. Wasted Space tackles high concepts, uses low brow comedy, and finds the perfect in between to deliver arguably the best all around comic being printed right now. While one of the best aspects of the book is that it doesn't take itself too seriously, it is the fact that it doesn't do so that opens up just how good the creative team is with the big picture that Wasted Space frames. The book never gives a sermon to the reader even though it is heavily dosed with social commentary. The intellectual sparring both between the characters in play as well as the book and the reader is second to none. It's bold in its aggressiveness with the issues but the execution of the story on all fronts makes the translation from the page effortless and down right beautiful.

Vault Comics
Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman, Jason Wordie, Jim Campbell

Wrong Earth
(Published)

"Ahoy Comics stepped up to the plate in 2018 and, for my money, immediately started pushing the envelope of the kind of quality you can fit on the shelves. The best of the bunch is Wrong Earth. A 60's campy comic classic mixed with a 90's violent vision created what just may have been the most entertaining read of the last couple of years. It debuted in SEP 2018 and finished up in FEB 2019. Perfectly encapsulating the fun side of comics while representing the edgier trends that the medium has seen, Wrong Earth proved so successful that it is being followed up with Dragonfly and Dragonfly Man (the two opposite "heroes" that were victim of an accidental switcharoo in Wrong Earth). As with comics that stand the test of time it is more than the window dressing. It delivers the fun that comics can but gives the reader a tale that deals with one of the most age old questions about what makes us who we are. The ending of this first volume went against the grain just like the entirety of the series did and has set up much more fun." 

Ahoy Comics
Tom Peyer, Jamal Igle, Andy Troy, Rob Steen
With Paul Constant, Grant Morrison, Juan Castro, Frank Cammuso, Tom Feister, Bryce Ingman, Mark Russell, Carol Lay, Alan Robinson, Kek-W, Matt Brady, Rob Staeger, Joe Orsak, Elliot Mattice, Gary Erskine, Robert Jeschonek, Steffie De Vaan, Cayetano Valenzuela

THE DCN's FAVORITE COMICS OF 2019

These Savage Shores (Published) - White Ash (Creator/Self Published)

@cabbagecomics

These Savage Shores" proves that you can marry epistolary devices, intricate histories of global colonialism and throat-ripping vampires in one book.
Ram V, Kumar, Astone and Bidikar nail this book top to bottom. There's nary a hair out of place, and Bishan and Kori's story will thrill a wide range of comics readers, and this may be one of those books that entices new fans into the fold."

@Quetzelish

"Vampires are boring, you say. Vampires have lost their monstrous nature. Vampires are a metaphor that’s old hat and done to undeath. Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vitorio Astone, and Aditya Bidikar are here to prove you wrong while also shoving the words back down your throat by providing a layered, textural and fucking gorgeous mini-series that demands to be read and re-read. One panel in and you will be hooked, suddenly finding yourself along These Savage Shores, where the days are scorched and the nights are full of teeth."

@ComicBookYeti

“If you’ve never seen a perfectly executed comic before, you haven’t read These Savage Shores. Easily one of the best comics of the year, and arguably one of the best 5-issue miniseries of all time. Deep. Meaningful. Soulful. Comic book perfection in five issues.”

It's almost impossible to think a title can put out monumental issue after monumental issue but that's exactly what this book did.  I’m crushed, in awe, and in love. Those were my immediate feelings upon closing out this magnificent book. The lines drawn in this epic saga and the journeys we’ve traveled are nothing short of brilliant. The overtones and bigger pictures that played the nuance during the start of the series have gave way to the very up close and personal theme of choice. The whittling away of the larger scopes to reveal the singular driving force behind it all was masterful.  This book visually invokes the beauty of tragedy. The paleness of the somehow still vibrant colors mirror the acceptance of the realization that one way or another we will always be what we are despite what we may want. The harsh but fine lines remind us that even the most beautiful things are capable of being the most deadly. All throughout the design choices display the wonder and hope that we all feel and so desperately want to have shine through and win the day. Combined with the harsh reality of the narrative these elements have created one of the best pieces of art that has been produced in the last five years.

These Savage Shores gives us our own choice. We can choose to see the beauty in tragedy or the horror in reality. Or, we can choose to accept it all and realize a tale that is beautiful, horrific, fulfilling, gut wrenching, and everything in between. The one piece we don’t have a choice in is the truth that monsters reside everywhere. However, the takeaway from that is our choice. That is perhaps the enduring beauty in truth that These Savage Shores will have. Monsters DO reside everywhere both real and imagined. Their purposes and designations are as varied as their real and imagined states.  You will be hard pressed to find a piece of art that is perfectly executed across as many levels as this book is. The marriage of history and myth is flawless. The literal and figurative representation is expertly done. The tale itself is horrifically beautiful and tragically elegant. Even though it rips your heart out you can’t help but love it. You’ll feel compassion while detesting the hate you can’t help but have. Even the character that is cruelest and most devoid of redeeming qualities will pull out understanding from you. Reflecting upon the totality of the circumstances will only deepen the heartbreak while sparking new flames of disgust for those you felt sympathy for.

While monsters are everywhere and heartache lies at the end of everything … choice is always ours, even when it isn’t. These Savage Shores is brilliant. I’m enriched and better for having chosen to trust this creative team.

Vault Comics
Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vitorio Astone, Aditya Bidikar

@COMICBOOKYETI

"Finally, a new spin on the Fantasy genre!

Everything I want to say about this is a spoiler, but trust this Yeti, it’s great!”

White Ash is an absolute breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre.  Mixing paranormal elements into a fantasy tale has helped create a truly unique world.  Ripe with mythology and mystery, White Ash envelops you in a brand new coming together of age old tropes, a take on Norse mythology, fantasy, love, coming of age, and mystery.  For a small town the secrets are pretty big.

It is insanely easy to get caught up in White Ash.  The characters, setting, and blending of the familiar draw you in and welcome you with open arms.  The mystery hints a bit towards the likes of a Twin Peaks while the mythology and fantasy is akin to Lord of the Rings.  The mix and balance of these elements is done seamlessly in this wholly new aesthetic.  Diving beyond the catchy surface elements reveals several issues that plague society.  Racism and classism are very real and run rampant across every day life.  White Ash doesn't hide from the very real effects of these within its pages.  There are other aspects of life (such as the awkward realization of romance) sprinkled in that help convey a very relatable atmoshpere despite the fantasy and mythological inspirations.  White Ash keeps the characters grounded in who they are while using the larger elements to illustrate what they are.  This approach makes it virtually impossible for readers to not identify with what's going on and to whom the events are happening.  

The following this book has already is immense.  The popularity has given rise to the series being picked up by Scout Comics.  Its beyond deserved as the quality of White Ash is second to none.  There's no detail left untouched.  The world building is on par with and even surpasses many "big" books you'll find at your LCS.  Soon enough you'll be able to see for yourself just how fantastic of a book this is.  Even though there is a complete HC edition available (and it is gorgeous) capturing the first four (oversized) issues of the series, this story is just getting started.  Even with the reveals we've had thus far there is clearly much more to this little town, the people, and the mystery that runs through it all.

Comic readers are always looking for enthralling new worlds, stories, and characters.  White Ash delivers on all of these fronts.  This book is hands down one of the best comics being made today, period.

Charlie Stickney, Conor Hughes, Fin Cramb With Nick Robles, Romina Moranelli,  Joe Quinones

Top Ten Writers

Vita Ayala
The Wilds (one of our Top Comics for 2018) – Submerged –  Livewire

It has been an absolute pleasure reading more and more work coming from Vita.  From the fresh take that is THE WILDS to reinvigorating a decades old character in LIVEWIRE, Vita has trail-blazed a path cutting right through the heart of the comic industry.  It isn’t just the quality with which the stories are written but the range of issues that are tackled with which readers can relate.  Everything from self and mob mentality, social interactions, abuse, and abandonment are just a few of the real world aspects of life that are contained in Vita’s writings.  I’m very excited about what is coming and what will be told. 

Marguerite Bennett
Bombshells – Animosity – Angela Marvel books

I absolutely loved Bombshells.  It was a breath of pure, fresh air.  It isn’t all that easy to create stories with alternate versions of characters that aren’t just “different” because “different.”  The entirety of the ‘Bombshell-verse’ was down right enjoyable on every level.  It was Animosity though that showed the creative depth Marguerite possesses.  The critical and fan acclaim for the book speaks volumes and says it all.  I’m itching to get my hands on the HC collected editions so I can go back and sit with this book.  When they originally hit I was just happy to have some spotlight shown on Angela with her own dedicated stories.  Looking back at them and putting them together with Marguerite’s other writings and I’m loving the themes contained in her stories.

Cullen Bunn
Bone Parish (one of our Top Comics for 2018) – Dark Ark (one of our Top Comics for 2018) – Shadow Roads

The absolute modern master of horror is who we’re dealing with here.  For me the diversity he brings to the horror genre is without parallel.  Two books he’s got on the shelves right now are a prime example of this.  Religious tones in Dark Ark give way to beasts and happenings that scare even the monsters of the old world while Bone Parish brings psychological and physical horror to the drug trade trope.  Cullen isn’t all horror though.  Taking the supernatural cue from his mega hit The Sixth Gun, he’s spun off an equally impressive story in Shadow Roads.  Honestly I don’t think there’s a character type or story direction that he can’t tackle and make his own with top tier results.  Cullen needs to be on more books, in my opinion.

Tini Howard
Euthanauts – Assassinistas – The Skeptics

I love Cold War ere stories and takes.  This was my introduction to Tini.  For me it was brilliant (Cold War and potential WWIII as the backdrop for a super power story that wasn’t at all) little tale exposing the brains over brawn process with a new little twist.  My biggest take from the book was “personality” and that is a constant in Tini written books.  From the characters to the scope of the books (seriously, dive into Euthanauts) Tini excels at both creating AND drawing out the personality of the characters and stories within the pages of the books.  It’s uncanny.  You certainly will not be wishing there was ‘more’ contained within the pages Tini writes.

Michael Moreci
Wasted Space (one of our Top Comics for 2018) – Roche Limit – ReincarNATE

Michael has exploded onto the scene (for me) by being able to take classic genre points and making them seem brand freaking new.  The latest from him, Wasted Space, is THE poster for creating a brand new epic saga.  It isn’t just all fun, bad assery, and fuq-bots though as Michael deals with rather heavy themes.  He’s used to that though as he’s penned a deep thought sci-fi book before in Roche Limit.  My first exposure to his work though was with ReincarNATE.  This is a wonderful crime-noir entry that uses sci-fi as a backdrop but offers up so much more to both genres.  Moreci already has a bona-fide super hit on his hands and appears to be just getting started.  

Alex Paknadel
Friendo (top comics of 2018 mention) – Turncoat – Arcadia

So Alex is riding a rocket straight into the stratosphere of comic writing.  His first entry to writing is the overbearing concept of humanity, morality, and pretty much everything in between.  Arcadia is as ambitious of a concept as any seasoned writer has attempted and Paknadel knocked it out of the park as his opening salvo to the comic world.  Currently he’s about to wrap up a literal throat punch of the corporatism and superficial greed infecting human kind in Friendo.  He’s also managed to weave an excellent noir cop tale using the setting of a failed alien occupation of Earth.  Yeah.  Oh, and he was given the reigns to THE keystone book in Catalyst Prime’s heroic universe (as it’s being built).  Take notice folks.

Eliot Rahal
Hot Lunch Special (top comics of 2018 mention) – The Paybacks – Quantum & Woody

Gritty, dirty, and humorous.  Kind of an odd combination but perfectly fitting for Eliot.  The stories he creates clearly have some personal strings woven in and it is that extra layer that makes his writing so enjoyable.  Hot Lunch Special (a favorite book of mine from 2018) exemplifies this.  Being just as effective and skilled with dark and seedy along with funny and care free is really hard to do.  There’s not even so much as a hiccup when going from HLS to either The Paybacks or Q&W.  It all feels genuine when Eliot is writing and that endears the reader to his writings.  It’s what hooked me.

Matthew Rosenberg 
Astonishing XMen – Kingpin – Multiple Man

It’s really just the overall talent that draws me to Rosenberg’s books.  Taking over from Soule on an Xbook was a hard ask but not here.  Rosenberg elevated what was built and delivered such a wonderful Xtale that he was given the reigns to the new Uncanny.  That’s good because the Xcharacters need to go back to what makes them tick and THAT is exactly what Rosenberg nails with his work.  He did it with Kingpin and was able to draw it out of a ‘insert letter of the alphabet here’ character in Multiple Man.  Building the stories OUT OF, not around, the characters is the heart of comic writing and I’m not sure there’s anyone better currently. 

Christopher Sebela
Evolution (one of our Top Comics for 2018) – Shanghai Red – High Crimes

Reading Sebela’s work brings the world REAL to mind.  Sitting there turning page after page and I’m not so sure I’m reading a story but an account of events.  Evolution strikes that chord through Dr Hurley’s plight.  Sebela has also given us a fallen hero caught up in government cover ops (High Crimes) who’s plight is painstakingly familiar.  Smash hit Shanghai Red delivers a reality that the world we live in today isn’t all that far removed from in the grand scheme of things.  The approach is visceral and it resonates.  The stories from Sebela stick with you long after you’ve set the book down.

Ram V
These Savage Shores (top comics of 2018 mention) – Paradiso – Grafity’s Wall

Utter brilliance in writing is what comes to mind with Ram.  His ability to craft worlds of rich and deep beauty are in a category to itself.  The difference in scope couldn’t be further away than These Savage Shores is to Paradiso, but the breadth and scope of these worlds are equally as rich.  I’m amazed at the detail and how grand the presentation is in Ram’s writing.  He’s also done it with taking his own experiences and presenting the universal struggle all young people face in Grafity’s Wall.  I cannot help but feel enriched after taking in pages written by Ram.





TOP COMICS – 2018

To close out 2018 we’d like to list our “top comics” of the year.  This has been a fantastic year for the comic community in terms of the breadth and depth of the books coming out.  The last quarter of the year exploded with prime examples of this.  There are a few books that would have made this list MUCH MUCH harder to dwindle to 10 if they’d have come out earlier in the year.  I’ve even got one in that section that was majorily a 2017 book but did have 4 issues this year to conclude the series.

     First up is the “I wish there was more but holy hell are these fantabulous already” section (to include that one that ended this year).  The White Noise 4 Horsemen (Dan Watters, Ryan O’Sullivan, Alex Paknadel and Ram V) have put out absolutely stellar books for Vault Comics that are pushing the boundaries, and rewriting some, of the comic book medium.  Fearscape, Friendo, and These Savage Shores have shot out of the gate and blown our collective minds.  Fearscape (O’Sullivan) flexes the literary muscle and manages to make a comic book feel like so much more.  The power in its prose is unrelenting and oh by the way we’ve got one hell of a story on our hands.  Friendo (Paknadel) isn’t to be out done though.  This is the horrific tale of the all too real barrel we’re staring down and how we lose ourselves before the trigger is even pulled.  We literally sell ourselves, souls and any shred of who we are for the next shiny thing.  This one’s scary because it’s true.  Of course These Savage Shores (Ram V) brings the traditional horror characters but a completely unconventional script to lay them out.  Right as you get the feeling you know what’s going on you’re shown that the horrors have horrors greater then them.
     Vault isn’t the only one having fun however.  Infinite Dark is showing off Ryan Cady’s writing prowess with a tale of dread and woe.  Hopelessness and dread fill the minds of everyone at times and what could be more hopeless or dreadful than being on a “malfunctioning” space arc holding the last remnants of the human race after the heat death of the universe … YEAH.  This one is fantabulous, dark and full of icky that makes you want more.  Keeping in vein of that icky but wanting more, Hot Lunch Special from Eliot Rahal has its icky in an outlet much closer to home.  We all know that small town with big secrets.  Here we’re being given a big time mafioso war playing out through a family tale.  The heart chords he’s plucking are very clearly personal.  It makes for damn fine reading.  Damn fine reading is exactly what Saladin Ahmed gave us with Black Bolt.  The tale of the ‘Midnight’ King wrapped up this year and it was one of the best ever expositions of a character.  We got a bare bones stripped down to the core story of one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe.  For all his power he’s never been more powerful than he was in these 12 issues.  The thought and care put into this story was superb.

So now we head over to what we feel are the TOP COMICS of 2018!


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Immortal Hulk
Al Ewing – Joe Bennett – Ruy Jose – Paul Mounts
Everything you know and love about the Hulk … isn’t here.  This is a return to the roots of the character and what the Hulk is.  A monster.  The outward rage machine driven by the inward hate machine is front and center.  Even more appealing is that the mythos is being built upon and there is so much more to the Hulk and the gamma radiation, than we ever knew or dreamed.  Both his friends and his enemies are after him and “sightings” have started spotting the map in the vein of the serial killer hunts.  This is a down right excellent book.  You know nothing about the Hulk.  Read this book.

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Spectacular Spider-man
Chip Zdarsky – Adam Kubert – Juan Frigeri – Jordie Bellaire
If you had to describe the essence of what makes Spider-Man, and more so Peter Parker, such a perfect ideal of a super-hero character this book would be a great way to capture that description.  It’s a little over the top here and there, is way more involved than you’d ever feel you could believe Spidey could be and features classic characters and issues from the way back days of Spideydom.  It’s a nice package of everything that is Spidey and what makes Parker so endearing.

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Black Badge
Matt Kindt – Tyler Jenkins – Hilary Jenkins 
This feels like an old book in all the right ways.  Page worn looking art really brings about the espionage tale of the boy scouts!  Yes, that’s right.  An elite ops group that navigates by way of the good ‘ol boy scouts?  Too good.  But wait, there’s more!  It ain’t just the Black Badge … there’s a few others as well.  But who can be trusted?  Expert espionage under the guise of wholesome America is a sure fire winner.  Expertly done and a fresh take on the genre.


Evolution
James Asmus – Joseph Keatinge – Christopher Sebela – Joshua Williamson – Joe Infurnari – Jordan Boyd 
A big team but this is a book with a big scope.  Horror comes in all shapes, sizes and forms.  Here we’re dealing with the horror of human evolution.  At least, that’s what it seems is going on, but is there something else at play?  A doc that caught on quick is now considered a crazy outsider but of course he’s uncovered the truth.  There’s familiar set ups but this is a book that is delivering a different type of approach to the potential end of the world.  Consistently good and engrossing.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, truly.

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Dark Ark
Cullen Bunn – Juan Doe
We all know the story, but in the immortal words of Paul Harvey, this is “the rest of the story.”  Everything has another side and the good in the world is no exception.  This is the story of the OTHER ark built to withstand the flood.  The unnatural, evil and monstrous creations and beings inhabit this and it’s as bad of an idea as you’d think.  Treachery, deceit and of course murder are all on tap in this twisted tale of salvation from the flood.

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Bone Parish
Cullen Bunn – Jonas Scharf – Alex Guimaraes
It’s as if Cullen has felt his ‘horror kingpin’ title is being challenged.  With Dark Ark (and Cold Spots) and this book he’s FIRMLY reminding people that he’s THE horror author in comics today.  This book is showing just how wide of a net he casts over the genre.  This book brings normal disputes (drugs, territory, opposing families/groups) into his dimly lit cave of storytelling.  This book is haunting as well as out right scary.  If you want a combination of some of the darkest corners of self-inflicted horror and tangible terror, then look no further.

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Wasted Space
Michael Moreci – Hayden Sherman – Jason Wordie
The galaxy, well, sucks at this point.  There’s a literal rag tag group here that can save it, or … well do something about it at least.  It isn’t often that something comes along and immediately grabs you and TELLS YOU that it is going to be special.  This book does that and lets you know that you’re going to forget all about those Space Opera Epic type stories because THIS one is where it’s at.  While managing to be fun, funny, functional and forward with the narratives Wasted Space is a finely woven piece that is far more complex than the fuqbot facade implies.  You want epicness?  Here you are.

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Deep Roots
Dan Watters – Val Rodrigues – Triona Farrell
A lesson in expertly laid out duality, Deep Roots was actually the first salvo in the afore  mentioned White Noise 4 Horsemen.  This book landed as the announcement was being made and it set a tone that was completely unreal.  Current political/social realities are merged with a fantasy realm to paint a disturbing yet beautiful picture of not only our current state, but our potential future.  The commentary runs layers deep and touches on very real issues.  Though, this does not keep the book from being an utterly fantastic fantasy tale.


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Long Lost
Matthew Erman – Lisa Sterle
There’s truth in “you can never go home again” and with Long Lost we get an absolute brilliantly laid out dreadful reckoning of two sisters that make the attempt to do so.  People change, places change and so does everything else.  When you hear “it’s worth it” this is a book that is absolutely that, worth it.  A slow burn but only because there are layers of metaphors and symbolism that are peeled back to make the payoff that much more impactful.  It is all but wrapped up and the ending to this book will be tragic in several meanings of the word … but in the best possible way.  This is easily the sleeper hit of the comic year.

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The Wilds
Vita Ayala – Emily Pearson
A zombie book that is anything but a zombie book was my most pleasant surprise of the year.  In an overstuffed genre we got a team that took it and made something else out of it entirely.  This book is beautiful in both exposition and visuals.  Several ideals are visited (mob mentality, self identity, social identity) as the odd and disturbing events unfold.  Of course, the secret of it all reveals the true horror of things and how it relates to us.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but found an absolute gem.

TOP 10 – Debut Review

Our Run Down of Recent Comic Book Debuts!
We’ll leave the time on this open as sometimes recent for someone can mean three months ago.  Our reading schedule gets pushed constantly and there’s usually a good 15 or more books in our “to read” stack at any given time.  So take the ‘recent’ with a little bit of salt and hopefully enjoy our take on debut issues that we felt really worked, and launched titles in a manner that sets them up for success.  We’ll try to hit these books before they’ve had more than 3 issues hit the stands.

-Bone Parish (Cullen Bunn – Boom!)
This is a novel take.  Turf wars among drug gangs is a tried and true methodology, sure.  However, Cullen does what he does best and introduces that supernatural/horror element and twists the narrative.  In Bone Parish we get this by way of a new drug … the bone powder of the deceased.  Yup, snorting dead folks is the new high.  Now, there’s PLENTY to explore with this and in the first couple of issues we’ve got several threads running.  Excellent start to an excellent new approach to something we thought we knew.

-Dead Rabbit (Gerry Duggan – Image)
I picked it up on a whim.  Crime, beat ’em up, love story … all sorts of classic bullet points are sprinkled in the solicit.  In the vein of the anti-hero that has become a staple in comics, this book does a fantastic job of bringing across a very important point first and foremost.  Why?  Why should you care about our ‘hero’ and the motivations he’s got for doing what he’s doing.  It doesn’t break through all sorts of barriers and then go back and justify them or paint the picture differently.  Instead, the first issue makes everything real first while setting up the mask our ‘hero’ wears.  That is what makes the anti-hero work.  You’ve got to care and believe who the person behind the actions actually is.  We’ve been shown that first with this book.  That makes me care about where it goes.

-Death Orb (Ryan Ferrier – Dark Horse)
Yeah it’s a post-apocalyptic setting.  See though, we’re given frantic over the top action right from the get go as we learn that our main man is searching for his pregnant wife.  I mean I’d be a damned honey badger/tasmanian devil combo if something had happened to my pregnant wife.  What I love best is that the book has a style all its own while tipping a cap to the popular culture same settings that have come before.  This book takes off running and gives us what we need to follow along.  I love new within the old, and this book is primed to give me that.

-Euthanauts (Tini Howard – Black Crown)
What a wonderful premise.  This book takes a delicate and embracing approach to the finality we’ll all realize at some point.  Death.  It sucks, for the living, but the holding hands with it and ALL it is that this books is doing is almost refreshing.  It is unreal just how real everything about this book looks and feels.  If I didn’t know better I’d think I was engaging in both an inner question and answer session with my conscious as well as a conversation with someone that knows me as well as I do myself.  Right now it seems that the answers to the questions will work against each other.  I’m going to find out though.  

-Fearscape (Ryan O’Sullivan – Vault)
A slow burn is an effective device when done properly.  It’s even better when managed in a fashion not typical to what you expect from such an approach.  The exposition is heavy BUT it’s beyond effective as it grabs you and pulls you into the narrative.  Henry Henry is a dick.  He’s about to really screw things up for everyone too.  The opening salvo is a slow burn that burns brightly and manages to provide the eyebrow raising and inquisitive thoughts about everything that inhabits the Fearscape.  

-Friendo (Alex Paknadel – Vault)
It’s disturbing because quite honestly it’s damn near true.  Well, parts of it are true in terms of how we, as a society, have begun to think, act, and rely on artificial means of pretty much everything.  In a take on what very well could be our not so distant future we’re all having our value measured by metrics.  The AI’s of the world have begun to move on from a reliance we still control, to having turned the tables and in many forms controlling us.  Everything is a metric or statistic and now we’ve got Friendo who is a horrifically real mirror image of what we are as a society.  Naturally, shit hits the fan.

-Hot Lunch Special (Eliot Rahal – Aftershock) 
Old fashioned crime in a small town fused with today’s immigrant realities.  Attitudes, bad guys, good guys, and out right ugliness know no bounds and this book is bringing the harsh realities of it all in a rather brunt fashion.  Both INTER and INTRA personal interaction is wonderfully portrayed in a set up for a tale that undoubtedly will end up much, much bigger than the quaint little town we’ve begun things in.  Just how big are we going to get?  Who knows, but we’ll be captivated thanks to how we’re inserted into the family in a very personal manner.

-Relay (Zac Thompson – Aftershock) 
This is a big book.  I mean, not literally but in scope.  A very large scale sci-fi epic encompassing the vastness of both time and space is waiting for you.  There’s also the sense of connection by way of the (literal) big ass monoliths that dominate the skylines.  This book looks every bit as large as the story is and I felt it was a nice approach to have things be as they are while we learn what’s happening through the characters themselves.  The simple truth of humanity deciding the fate of itself.  There are choices everywhere and the intent of man, both good and ill, are everywhere.  What’s really best though?  Is controlled better than chaos?

-These Savage Shores (Ram V – Vault)
Just wow.  I was highly anticipating this book as it was the first real venture outside of the awesome bubble that Vault had built in their first year and a half or so as a publisher.  The setting, premise, and everything else was a real step outward.  It might just be their best book going forward (which is saying something given its debut partners and the already phenomenal Wasted Space).  A colonial setting we don’t normally see mixed with vampires and other unrevealed horrors?  Absolutely sold.  The pace, presentation, and last panel reveal have put this book at the top of my anticipated monthly reads.  You think you know where we’re going but it cuts all of that off and leaves the door wide open going forward into what this story will be.

-Wrong Earth (Tom Peyer – Ahoy Comics)
Campy old school superhero comicness is exactly what we’ve got here.  I loved this opening issue.  I felt like I was reading a book off the shelf from decades ago before too much of the realist, dark tinted glasses started to fill up the realm of comics.  We’ve got a lovely tale that shows the wholesome goodness of the age old hero and then it gets mixed with that realist, dark tint as our first issue ends.  I can’t help but feel that this has an underlying tone that is meant to mirror how things have evolved (or devolved in some cases) with our beloved comic books.  Brilliant book.

 

Attack of the B-BOTS! The Best Books On The Shelves!

A Walk Through Hell (Aftershock)
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Garth Ennis is one of the best at layered stories.  This effort certainly maintains that front but this book … this book is different.  No matter what you read beforehand or try to preview in order to pick it up, you just aren’t ready for what happens when you open this puppy up.  Using the cop drama backdrop for what is clearly a dread/horror story, Ennis has created a down right terror filled series.  What makes the overbearing terrible events that unfold all that more terrible is the realism with which everything unfolds.  Elements that infiltrate our actual world (like social media) are present and make the skin crawling feeling that much more intense. 
 
With a ‘hell’ of a lot more to unfold on this journey it’s going to be both exciting and horrifying to see where this book is heading.
Astonishing X-Men (Marvel)
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Charles Soule started this series off and immediately gave us a classic feeling book about X-Men characters.  The initial arc even presented a classic X-Villain and set up a very familiar “X vs everyone” feel.  It was all a mechanism to get us Charles? back … but what exactly is going on?  This is one of the main plot points going forward.  Clearly there’s SOMETHING about this Charles that fits, but there’s also a whole hell of a lot that doesn’t.  In ending his run Soule left a pretty big carrot dangling.  The new Charles (named X) gives all of the AXM a “gift” but wipes their mind of all that has happened to the point that the Shadow King arc ends.  Matthew Rosenberg has taken the reigns and has brought his own classic feel to the characters.  Constantly facing a mounting wall of, well, everything to climb Havoc has set out to rally the troops despite once again being outcasts.
 
This is how an X book is supposed to feel.  With Cullen Bunn’s XMen Blue ending this is the only mutant filled story that feels like it is supposed to (oh, and Greg Land’s art is bringing them to life in glorious fashion). 
Avengers (Marvel)
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Jason Aaron has given us a proper Avengers book.  The entire point of the team is “bigger” and for a while that hasn’t been what we’ve been getting in the scope of the team books.  It’s pretty damn hard to get bigger or more powerful than the freaking Celestials.  But let’s toss in that lovey dovey asshole Loki AND add on that he’s bringing in the FINAL HOST to wipe out Earth/humans because … wait for it … we’re a freaking accident.  Yup, humans are literally an OOPS.  As our history is revealed to us in this first arc it is refreshing that while we are now apparently just a mistake, there’s a cosmic karma that presents on a scale much grander than us.  Shit happens, and the consequences must be dealt with thusly.  That’s where we, as humans, do a collective “hello!” (at least as far as Loki is concerned).  There’s a new element to how Earth has remained guarded all this time and even a bit of a cosmic level love story.  This is a damned Avengers book.  EVERYTHING is bigger, as it should be.  
Dark Ark (Aftershock)
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Cullen Bunn brings a kick ass supernatural/horror story to life!  Also, oxygen and water are key elements to life.  Yeah this really shouldn’t be a surprise.  Cullen is the best writer of the ‘dark’ out there.  With Dark Ark he’s posed a simple yet terrifying question.  What if Noah’s Ark wasn’t the only Ark?  Just as God called on Noah, what if the Dark Lord called upon someone to save the monsters, creatures, and unnatural beings?  We’re given our Dark Noah and a whole host of uglies on the second ark.  As one would expect there’s plenty of nastiness and bad intent going around.  We get to see what happens to the Unicorns and also find out that evil has many faces.  There’s also questions raised about good itself and its definition.  Is evil any less deserving of life than good?  Is good actually so, or only by comparison?
 
The biblical tale of Noah is flipped on its head in order to present and then question several trains of thought we all take for granted every day in a nightmarish tale of, what if?
Death or Glory (Image)

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Rick Remender and Bengal have brought us an absolutely beautiful book.  Each page looks like a still frame from a movie.  Admittedly I bought this book simply due to the images.  It IS that gorgeous.  Digging in though and we find as much substance in the script as there is artistry in the images.  Poor Glory.  She’s our focus as Remender gives us a representation of a real life issue facing many facets of middle America.  Old ways are dying.  Some quickly, some slowly and painfully, and some even worse.  The convoy/trucking community is one that refuses to go quietly.  It is a time honored love story about what makes us, us.  For Glory it is her father who is dying.  The loss seems as though it will be so much more than just her father though.  Of course, there’s a whole host of shit hitting the fan.  Black market organ running and a whole lot of 80’s car chase shoot ’em up happening is just the tip of the iceberg.
This is a beautiful book and a fresh take on some age old tales. 
Evolution (Image)
Image result for evolution comic reviewThe writing team of James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson have brought a new spin on horror while taking on human evolution.  Up to this point everything has taken millions of years to evolve.  Well, now things are happening at (relatively) light speed.  The tale is unfolding piece by piece and uses some familiar tropes (Father’s love for his son or the perceived crazy scientist) to help along a skin crawling narrative.  Toss in the religious aspect and it all makes the skin crawl wonderfully.  Something has evolved and it is now ravenously spreading and gobbling us all up.  Just as eerily as the story is unraveling, the book feels like I’m watching a 70’s grind house flick.  The color moods, effects, styles, and showing all the gore yet still keeping something veiled ramps this up too 1000. It’s fresh, complicated, and even though you feel icky reading it you can’t wait to turn the page.
Immortal Hulk (Marvel)
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Al Ewing has created an insanely dark take on what, in its true form, is as horror filled of an idea as it gets.  The Hulk has always been a frighteningly real analog for the divide that lives in all of us.  Yeah, there’s that big huge (literally) monster that could devour all life itself but the horrible part is that that isn’t the scariest part of it all.  The inner struggle is as real as it gets and this book is bringing the divide between Hulk and Banner into entirely new and horrific territory.  I’ll just say that Hulk only comes out to play when Banner dies … yup.  This book is dark, very very dark.  This new take asks the reader internal questions and puts elements of self that we all have to either stare down or fall victim to.  This is a tortured soul book that makes you wonder whether it is your soul or Bruce’s that is on trial. There are blurred lines, real life horror, and an uneasy questioning of one’s own soul.  This is true horror and this is good.
                      
Mister Miracle (DC)
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Tom King has created an modern classic with this tale.  Fittingly it’s done with characters created by the king himself.  Kirby’s Fourth World/New Gods setting has given King a palette with which to paint the human story itself.  Love, fear, death, life, family, and of course the ever present and overbearing sense of dread we all live with.  For everyone it’s different but it exists.  The taking of the over-sized, larger than life characters and turning them into a mature tale of real life is beautiful in of itself.  The humanizing of these out of reach characters is a class in writing mastery.  It’s even more endearing because Scott has always been the more ‘human’ of the cosmic entities in DC and always seems to have a banana peel in his path.  After this series is done Big Bertha will be set up to do and handle virtually anything and Mr Miracle will have become a favorite for an entirely new set of fans. This is a modern classic.  Vision was just a primer for this hall of fame book. 
 
Spectacular Spider-man (Marvel)
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Chip Zdarsky is doing exactly what I loved about Spectacular growing up.  It’s wholly Spider-Man and exactly what you expect from the “Friendly neighborhood” take on the character.  Spidey is at his quipping best self in this new edition of Spec.  We’ve also got timeless villains (Vulture and Kingpin for instance) and the continued new dynamic between JJJ and Peter.  There’s the old school throwback with having the Human Torch involved (Amazing Friends everyone) and a return to the NORMAL hectic mounting tidal wave that is Spidey’s life.  Yeah, we’ve run into a literal save the world effort with some rather crazy visitors but the soul of the story is, of course, Spidey.  That is and always has been what Spectacular has centered around.  All of the lovable parts of Peter, Spidey, and the supporting cast has always been front and center with Spec.  We’re back to that. Spec is back to being the perfect capture of what makes Spidey so damn awesome.
                                                      
Wasted Space (Vault)
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Michael Moreci and Hayden Sherman are rocking the galaxy.  An absolute misfit, rag tag group is taking on everything.  Life, cults, a big ass robotic bounty hunter, family, and damn near anything else that could possibly try to hunt you down and kill you … or worse.  Yes there’s satire but that just adds to the complex nature with which Moreci is doling out the next great space saga.  Don’t believe me?  Well, then believe the publisher because Vault has announced that the book will go to at least 20 issues due to just how damn good it is.  Seeds have been planted all over the place that we will hopefully get to see explored in full.  I mean with just our main character we need to figure out where his powers come from and well, just what they actually are.  There’s a rather deep running family issue, the fuqbot saga, and that pesky robot God of the universe that only our main character can see.  Did I mention that the entire universe is at the risk of deletion?  This is being played close to the chest but that only adds to the overall experience this book is bringing. This is tracking to make people forget about SAGA.  It’s that good. 
HONORABLE MENTIONS:
Justice League (DC), Deep Roots (Vault), Shadow Roads (Oni)
It was a toss up for me between Avengers and Justice League. JL is doing what Avengers is and is finally getting back to being a proper book for the title on the cover.  Deep Roots was barely edged out.  Toughest call was between DR and Evolution.  If DR were as far into things as Evo is it might have gone the other way.  Shadow Roads stands alone but I can’t help feel that if I were more familiar with the 6th Gun universe (I’m catching up) this book was be even better.  It isn’t out of necessity but I can’t shake the feeling that there’s more nuance there and that the experience would be that much deeper.
WATCH LIST:
Black Badge (Boom), Bone Parish (Boom), Cold Spots (Image), Hot Lunch Special (Aftershock)
These books have started out white hot and are primed to take top shelf status.  In fact, they’re all going to be featured in the upcoming DEBUT REVIEW due to their immediate bang out of the gate.