A Walk Through Hell (Aftershock)
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)
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).
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)
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)
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.
The 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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.