1 – Amazing Spiderman (Marvel)
I admit it. I’m a little biased. I’m a web-head and always have been. Even in it’s darkest days (which I apparently missed thankfully) I’d still probably perch ASM on the top. With Spidey, I’m willing to sit through quite a bit (like, and I apologize, Ramos’ art). At the moment though I truly am enjoying things. Doc Ock is back and is actually a sinister villain again. Double crossing Hydra, or at the very least blatantly using them as well as going straight for the throat is exactly the main bad guy that Spidey needs. He’s got it again. But wait! There’s more! The Green Goblin is also returning and he too appears to be the Goblin that Spidey needs. There’s also the returning ‘street level’ characters such as the Prowler and Silver Sable. Even though Parker is all grown up and is finally acting as such, the good ‘ol Parker luck is still there and making his life a hell on Earth.
Bottom line, there’s finally things going right with Spidey even though so much is going so wrong.
2 – Astro City (Vertigo)
This anthology series captivated me from the get go … the very first get go, back in 1995. In my opinion the cover that launched the series is an all time classic cover. It perfectly illustrates what the book is about. We see the CITY and PEOPLE looking upward at Samaritan. It is clearly him yet his face is obscured by the sun … or you know, one of the universal signs of hope. While he’s center on the cover the prevailing sight is the citizens looking upward. The vantage point seems to be from a child. The entire theme of trust is wrapped up perfectly with the image. For 22 years the trust I put into Busiek has been returned hand over first. Through its many iterations the book has remained fundamental to its premise. The CITY and the PEOPLE are the point. Even with characters that could rival those of ‘major’ status, the superhero element is just that … an element.
Bottom line, this book tells wonderful superhero tales through the HUMAN element.
3 – Heathen (Vault)
A fantasy world filled with classical mythology and societal issues relevant today have helped create a fantastic new addition to the comic world. Being cast out because of who she is (a lesbian) makes being a Viking warrior woman all the more tricky. It doesn’t help that Odin is playing the part of oppressor. While she’s found making a go of it in the world in order to go after Odin to end his oppression, Aydis has had her eyes opened to much of what lies out there … both good and bad. She is not the only one facing prejudice and is also not the only one with a heart that desires to be free.
Bottom line, we’re seeing a classically woven tale spiked with relevant social dichotomies rewrite what you can do on the pages of the comic book medium.
4 – Black Eyed Kids (Aftershock)
It’s creepy, it’s crawly, it’s all together gnarly. It’s the urban legend ramped up to 11. Immediately Francesco Francavilla’s covers set a dark and terrifying tone for a book that is absolutely both and then some. Just like FF’s art, the book itself strikes a tone from the get go as the B.E.K. literally tear a family apart. There are several avenues through which the “people are cattle” motif is played out but none are as skin crawling as this one. So many beliefs exist about unnatural forces and spirits. B.E.K. takes both the cattle/dark forces mythos and pieces together a very unnerving roller coaster of suspense.
Bottom line, it’ll get under your skin and wiggle around as well as make you uneasy about a knock on the door after dark.
5 – XO Manowar (Valiant)
Ever since Valiant relaunched the publisher has been writing circles around everyone else on a consistent basis. X-O has been at the forefront of the Valiant assault. The second series since the Valiant relaunch has seen Aric with a chance at normalcy only for the true nature of his existence to catch up to him again. As the Eternal Warrior is made to protect the Earth, Aric is seemingly made to protect the right and uphold the just … no matter where or when he finds himself. Not that he hadn’t before, but this new series has firmly planted XO as the single biggest, best, and rightfully recognized “superhero” not in the Marvel or DC Universe.
Bottom line, you get a fantastic HERO and HUMAN story in XO with all of the ass kicking of a superhero book.
6 TIE – Sabrina/Afterlife with Archie (Archie Horror)
Ok, so it’s a bit of a cheat but it’s my list. The new direction that the Archie comics have taken is phenomenal. They re-invented themselves and found a way to stay relevant. That’s good news for comic fans because this is an imprint that NEEDS to stay alive. They’ve got smash hits on their hands with these two books. We see Francavilla reappear as he does the artwork for Afterlife. It’s perfect. His style captures the landscape perfectly. Seeing the classic characters in a Night of the Living Dead world is just aces. Then you’ve got Robert Hack illustrating Sabrina and there may not be a more perfect match for artist to book on the shelf today. This book has all of the gory, nasty, wretched, and wonderful horror goodies you’d expect from a true horror title. It is wonderfully written and looks just as good.
Bottom line, you’ve got two fantastic throwback horror titles that you absolutely need to be reading.
7 – 7 to Eternity (IMAGE)
I love Jerome Opena’s art. I also love the bonus of getting a great story to fill the word bubbles in his drawings … but Rick Remender is pretty good at doing that. 7toE takes the everyday guy and slaps him in a world of magic, mysticism, and straight fantasy. The common theme of self virtue clashing with understanding but not agreeing with one’s inherited legacy is front and center. It doesn’t help that even in the midst of all the magic, yet another common theme runs rampant. Paranoia is at the core of what drives seemingly everyone no matter whom they are or where they come from. In order to save his family and his name, Adam must work with the very King of Whispers that is behind the wide spread paranoia. Of course that’s what has to happen.
Bottom line, this is a beautifully crafted and drawn story that puts easily relatable themes into a far flung magical world.
8 – Black Monday Murders (IMAGE)
The occult takes center stage as the root of all evil, power, and desire (money) is reflected in an all new light. All sorts of magic and takes on it are thrust into a central theme … the big banks are cartels that are all keeping everyone where they should be. Apparently we all have a place and ‘they’ take turns running our world while engaging in a deadly game of musical chairs. There is a line to walk and an order to be kept no matter the cost.
Bottom line, several genres and themes are tossed together and blended perfectly into one hell of a dark tale.
9 – Black Bolt (Marvel)
First off, I LOVE the Inhumans and Black Bolt is one of my favorite characters ever. Finally getting him in a solo ongoing just makes me happy, period. For it to be ridiculously well executed is a cherry on the top. The trippy art work only intensifies the underlying question of … what in the blue perfect hell is going on? He’s in a super secret maximum Inhuman prison and stripped of his power …. and dies? The Absorbing Man is actually a decent guy? The Jailer is a rogue …. yeah the whole thing is fantastic.
Bottom line, the complex history of the Inhumans gets more exploration through the trials and learning of their once King, and it is wonderful.