Hey there everyone! Have you read any good comics lately? Watched any good comic-based movies or series? So have I, and quite a few bad ones too. You can read my comics pull list every Wednesday on my Instagram and Facebook, but in case you have been off, here’s my roundup of the last six months on the comics I follow.
This last June the Rebirth initiative turned one year old, and after a year of following many of the series, I can safely say this one was a huge success. They got me interested in characters I had not cared about for many months, and got me engaged with new ones I wouldn’t have expected. Who would’ve thought I year ago that the simplest idea of going back to basics would be what the publisher needed in that specific moment. It hasn’t been all successful, but when it comes to superheroes and mainstream comics, they’re my favorite reading every week.
Wonder Woman: Greg Rucka just wrapped up his run after 25 issues, right on time for the movie (more on that later). It was an amazing ride, I loved especially the odd issues with the storylines The Lies and The Truth drawn by Liam Sharp (arguably some of the most gorgeous art we’ve seen in comic books this year). Bilquis Evely replacing Nicola Scott on the even numbers didn’t make it for me, and I’ll probably drop the book off my pull list, unless the incoming creative team of Shea Fontana and Mirka Andolfo gets me as excited as Rucka did.
Batman / Detective Comics / All-Star Batman: All three Batman titles remain among my favorites, although the League of Shadows arc in Detective Comics was lacking on the art side for me. Scott Snyder continued to bring all the big guns on All-Star Batman (which it’s been announced to finish this summer, whaaat) but the highlight has been the start of the War of Jokes and Riddles storyline on the main Batman book, with Tom King giving Mikel Janin the chance to prove himself possibly the best artist now working for DC. There, I said it.
Young Animal (minus Mother Panic): I was reluctant to see the Doom Patrol and Shade brought back to life (especially with the kind of changes being announced) and I had no idea who Cave Carson was. Now I do, and the Young Animal imprint under the editorial supervision of Gerard Way is proving one month after another to be a worthy heir to the works of Peter Milligan and Grant Morrison for Vertigo in the 90s. Sadly, Mother Panic was a disappointment and I dropped it after a few issues of going nowhere, and Bug is still tickling me but it’s only been two issues, let’s see where this goes.
Other books I read in bulk and were really fun to follow were: Green Arrow, consistent and unexpected on the story, still surprising in the art choices; Suicide Squad, much better after Jim Lee left it alone and the weird story-with-backup structure was discontinued; and Aquaman, which is really making a case for itself, and it’s now recruited artist extraordinaire Stjepan Sejic for the current arc, which is enough for me to be interested.
Justice League vs Suicide Squad - I wasn’t a big fan of either the Justice League or Suicide Squad series when this crossover series hit in November (but the latter has consistently improved, as I mentioned above), and even though it was fun to see the two teams fighting and then teaming up in this 6-issue miniseries, it was definitely a waste of everyone’s time. The tie-ins from both series were seriously bad, and the quality of the main event itself, which started off high with Jason Fabok at the pencils, took a dive in quality after the first issue and went down from there. But the worst consequences from this even were yet to come...
Justice League of America (Steve Orlando in general) - …because out of the previous event came this absurdity of a book, which not only features the most bizarre combination of characters in any superhero team ever, but is also indescribably bad. Steve Orlando (whose graphic novel Virgil I deplored in a previous review) got himself some reputation with the Midnighter series, and is now writing a (mediocre) Supergirl book. But this JLA series is seriously hurting the brand by its only existence, to the point that not even Ivan Reis (who pencilled only the first three issues) could get it off the ground.
The Button - speaking of disappointments, you probably have heard the controversial idea that Watchmen was going to be integrated into the DC continuity? Well, this Batman/Flash 4-issue crossover was supposed to shed some light on that whole concept, and even thought it got off to a good start and brought back (for a short time) some unexpected characters from a previous era, in the end it was a publicity stunt that delivered very little. It wasn’t terrible, but certainly disappointing - hoping the announced miniseries The Doomsday Clock helmed by Geoff Johns lives up to its promise. And speaking of disappointments...
The Lazarus Contract (and Titans in general) - being a fan of the (Teen) Titans from back in the Wolfman / Pérez era (probably my favorite comic book from the 80s) the idea of a throwback to those stories and the reference to the cult storyline The Judas Contract couldn’t have been more underwhelming, just as the two Titans series, probably two of the weakest Rebirth titles. Even the Deathstroke part of the crossover was pretty average, and it’s usually my favorite series in the writing department. Unfortunately, the Titans remain unlucky with their creative choices.
Vertigo - the imprint for adult and author-owned titles has been in a constant state of flux for two years now, losing momentum after the initial push from back in 2015. And the sad thing is, it’s not a low about the quality of those titles, but about the constant cancellations of titles, with only a handful remaining. I followed Clean Room and Unfollow until their 18th and final issue, and now Everafter is going the same route. And with Savage Things and American Way being limited series, only Astro City will apparently remain… although it seems DC is preparing a Rebirth for the Vertigo imprint this next year, so let’s maintain our hopes.
What’s next? Metal has me excited, with the first two prologues already released and I’m all in for the whole event starting this August. I’m also excited about the Mr. Miracle limited series by Tom King and Mitch Gerads (whose Sheriff of Babylon was one of my highlights last year) and I’m keeping my hopes up for The Doomsday Clock, let’s see how the whole Watchmen thing ends up - even though at this point DC has me hooked again, I personally didn’t need Dr. Manhattan to get involved, but I guess you need the headlines to sell comics these days, don’t you?
It’s a relatively bad time to be a Marvel fan these days, what with all the fuzz regarding Secret Empire, a most underwhelming relaunch of the X-Men and Inhumans lines, and a general sense of lack of direction. Still, enough good things happened this past few months, so let’s see them.
Hail Hydra! - Starting at the obvious, Secret Empire finally launched after almost a year of slow build up in the pages of Captain America: Steve Rogers. And I honestly don’t care about anyone’s opinion on the whole idea, there should no off-limits topics when it comes to making up stories, if it offends you somehow, that’s your problem. And most importantly, contrary to other terrible comic book events of recent history, this one is actually pretty good. The Captain America series itself hit some really low points in the art department (with Jesús Saiz drawing only one of every 3 or 4 episodes) but story-wise, this was one of the well-thought and best-executed events, and at 7 issues so far, I can only recommend it. The tie-ins and miniseries, just like it happened with Civil War II (and I’m guessing other similar events) are worse than horrendous, and mostly pointless.
Moon Knight, Black Widow - one area where Marvel really shines is in author-driven books, with clear plans and seemingly no editorial interference. The Moon Knight run by Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood wrapped up on a really high note and it was one of my favorite readings, same as the end of the 12-issue run of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Black Widow. Both highly recommended, almost to the level of Vision last year, and already looking forward to Waid and Samnee taking over Captain America after Secret Empire and the whole Legacy relaunch.
The Mighty Thor - I finally caught up with the Thor series by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman, and even though I’m not fully on board with the art, Aaron’s story was one of the superhero books I ended up most eagerly anticipating every month. I can’t wait for it wrapping up in (apparently) a sad note with the end of the road for Jane Foster as Thor, but it’s been a hell of a ride, with the Asgard/Shi’ar war earning itself a place among the classic Thor stories. Can’t wait to see Aaron helming the Legacy relaunch.
Honorary mention here for The Clone Conspiracy, a solid Amazing Spider-Man event, although in the end it was less relevant than I was expecting, but was refreshing and fun to read in the middle of a general sense of mediocrity.
ResurreXion - after the epic fail that was Death of X, Inhumans vs X-Men started off so bad that I couldn’t even finish it, so I couldn’t care less about the 9-book (9!!!) relaunch of the whole Mutants and Inhumans line (including several bi-weekly titles!!) but just reading the free previews I can tell you this: they looked as bad, and were as painful to read, as the X-titles in the early 90s that made me leave superheroes alone for the better part of two decades. I can’t imagine less appealing titles or creative teams, so let’s not even talk about them.
Marvel Now - the whole relaunch started in November by the publisher after the major events of Civil War II was a general disaster. Many books were plain terrible (including emblematic titles such as Venom and Ghost Rider) to the point of being cancelled after just a few issues. Then there was the blatant exploitation of characters popular from the recent Marvel movies and TV shows (Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, Defenders, Spider-Man) that are only making the whole thing worse for the fans, with an explosion of less-than-decent books. And when there was some title that actually deserved some attention (in my case, Foolkiller) it went the same road as the rest of the crap. Not only it all makes the whole thing sad, but also keeps the expectation for the Legacy relaunch to a minimum.
Diversity - And then there was the whole controversy sparked by the declarations of Marvel executives regarding diversity and new versions of old characters, that only shows how blind are the Marvel bosses to the market. Remember that we have two Iron Man titles and two Hulk titles, but none of those feature the original character (at least some of the Spider-Man books have Peter Parker in them) and now tell me that diversity is the problem (after the vast popularity of the female Thor and the Muslim Ms Marvel).
Regarding everything else, I finally caught up with the (the first 12 issues of) Black Panther, and I must say I’m not impressed, although I appreciate the effort to create a different series for a different audience, maybe the whole African theme was too far away from my interests. It wasn’t bad, just not up to all the good things I’d heard about it. Next on my catch-up list: Daredevil by Charles Soule and Ron Garney (which already finished), and Doctor Strange by Aaron and Bachalo (which definitely interests me after reading Thor).
And The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl remains my favorite Marvel comic, and now it has yet another Eisner to back it up. And with a TV Squirrel Girl-lead team in the future, I can’t be more excited about this book. Do yourself a favor and read it.
And regarding Generations and Legacy, I can only say, the jury’s still out. The whole Legacy things sounds a lot like Rebirth to me, which wasn’t so bad after all when DC did it right, so let’s see what they have in store. But seeing how there are not many new titles and the creative teams are pretty much the same, I honestly don’t expect anything great coming from Marvel after Secret Empire. I’ll stick to Thor and Squirrel Girl until the end of their runs, and see what Aaron does with Legacy - other than that, chances are I’m going to drop all other Marvel series.
Since I don’t follow Conan, Aliens or other such franchises, I’m mostly into three titles, which I highly recommend:
Black Hammer - I told you last Christmas, and now time and the Eisner awards are saying the same thing, this is one of the best comic series you can be reading right now, and it’s only getting better.
Harrow County - forget about what Cullen Bunn has been doing at Marvel, it’s mostly crap. This, plus his Sixth Gun for Oni, is probably Bunn at his best, and you’d do well to take a look
Groo - I have been following Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier’s work on Groo for more than 30 years and I can’t get enough of it. I’m still catching up with Friends and Foes, but the Fray of the Gods (and the just started Play of the Gods) storylines are still to the level of genius I’ve come to expect of the creative team.
So much goodness from Image in its 25th anniversary I don’t even know where to start. So in no specific order,
The Wicked + The Divine wrapped up its fifth arc and started off the sixth, and it remains one of my most anticipated each month.
Saga wrapped it’s 7th arc, published their second deluxe book, and gathered a few more Eisner awards for its already impressive collection. And the 8th arc looks like they’re not slowing down any soon.
Lazarus wrapped its 5th volume to a very high note, they announced a much needed hiatus for Michael Lark before starting the next volume. In the meantime, they’ve just launched the X+66 series (the first number has been honestly weak, I don’t think I’ll be following it any longer).
Deadly Class wrapped its 5th arc, and its 6th already started, and not only the story and art remain at the same expected extraordinary level of quality, it makes every issue a pleasure on itself, while building up the story in new and exciting directions.
Speaking of Rick Remender, I’m finally caught up with Low, which is good but for me at least not Deadly Class-level good. The art is stunning, but the story lacks a bit. Same can be said of Seven to Eternity, which features the impressive art of Jerome Opeña but the story moves a bit too slow and it’s taking me a bit of effort to get on board.
I finally read all first 3 volumes of Southern Bastards, and I must say Jason Aaron is quickly becoming one of the most interesting and versatile writers around, with this being probably him at his most personal. And I need to read Scalped as soon as I finish 100 Bullets.
Outcast is now in its 5th arc and all I can say is, it’s a shame the TV show is so slow and boring, because the comic itself is a pleasure to read, with Paul Azaceta’s art being a constant reminder of how you don’t need to be detailed to have strong characterizations or create believable settings.
Kill or be Killed just finished volume 2, and this is shaping up to be one of the noir classics of the decade. I’m a sucker for everything Brubaker and Phillips have created since Sleeper (and I’m still getting caught up on Incognito and Criminal) but this is simply stunning work.
Wayward just started its 5th arc, the story itself is ok, but the art remains the highlight, this is a book I could buy just to enjoy the beautiful settings and gruesome creatures.
And Black Magick! After spending a year at DC working on the Wonder Woman relaunch, the beautiful black and white horror noir by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott is back
IDW, BOOM, ONI
I decided to give independent publishers a try and found there were some really interesting titles there. It also helped IDW and Boom had each a Humble Bundle with a bunch of author-owned titles that allowed to do so at a very reasonable cost. It’ll take me a while to finish reading it all, but so far it’s looking good.
From Oni, I still have to read The Sixth Gun but I’m hooked on Heartthrob, currently at its second season, which is an unexpected and refreshing take on the criminal genre with a surreal twist.
When it comes to TV shows, there such a diversity of options that it’s even more difficult to stay up to date with everything. Still, I think I have a pretty good selection covered.
Supergirl, Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow shows - apparently this last season all four of the are CW/DC shows decided to change their places in the favor of the public: Arrow is back on track after two honestly bad seasons, Legends of Tomorrow really caught me by surprise with an unexpected sense of adventure and humor, Supergirl was able to recover from its terrible first season despite the cut in budget thanks to some interesting story choices, and Flash was the most depressing superhero show of the season, after being the funniest and smartest in the past two seasons.
Riverdale - as a fan of the Afterlife with Archie comic, I had to see what writer Aguirre-Sacasa had done with the Archie characters as showrunner of this strange mix of teenage angst and rural crime drama. I for one am more than satisfied, and think the translation worked really well (except for the Archie character itself, which is as unlikable as it comes). Still missing Sabrina in the mix, but really hyped for the next season.
The Walking Dead - finally was able to catch up on the AMC zombie show, which I liked despite all the criticism it got from reviews and social media. The last season was really a change of direction and tone for the whole series, which could have made it unwatchable if they didn’t backtrack a bit after the harsh beginning, but overall I had no significant problems, even though things felt pretty rushed at the end.
Agents of Shield - if you’re in the majority that dropped this show after one or two seasons, you just missed their best season so far, clearly divided in three parts, each with a clear focus, and the last with a strong parallel with the Secret Empire storyline from the comics. Loved it.
Gotham - again, if you’re one of those who decided a Gotham show with no Batman, or not based on Gotham Central, or some other idiotic excuse, you’re missing out. Admittedly the show is uneven, but it slowly found its footing, and I at least enjoyed the whole creation of Gotham as a believable setting. The whole Court of Owls story kept me hooked and the 3-episode Joker arc was really special.
Lucifer - when you can get over the fact that this show has nothing to do with the (brilliant) Vertigo comic by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, it’s actually pretty fun. A sort of Castle or Bones, standard procedural crime thriller, only with angels and demons that only aims at being fun without taking itself seriously. And, at least for me, it succeeded.
On the side of the lows:
Iron Fist - according to almost everyone’s opinion, the biggest dip in quality of this last TV season was for the fourth Marvel’s Netflix show, which gathered a general level of disapproval - which was enough to discourage me to bother. I haven’t even finished season 2 of Daredevil yet, so I think I’ll put it on hold for now.
Outcast - I was able to watch the entire first season purely out of admiration for the comic, but in the end it was so boring I decided to give up on it.
Preacher - I left the AMC show even earlier than that, after only 4 episodes trying to get caught on the very loose adaptation of one of my favorite Vertigo comics from the 90s. I couldn’t stand it. I keep hearing that season 2 is so much better so maybe I’ll give it a try later this year, but for now I’m out.
Next on my list of comic-book adaptations: iZombie (I only checked the pilot and looked ok).
I didn’t want to end without a few words about the most relevant movies based on comics (or comic book characters). After an interesting but uneven 2016, this year has been so far so great:
Logan - possibly my favorite X-Men movie since First Class, and the proof that not everything is already said and done for the Fox-owned franchise. If Deadpool and this are proof of the kind of R-rated movies Fox is able to produce, count me in.
Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 - Marvel keeps shining bright, and James Gunn has crafted yet another amazing multimedia show which at the same time is fun and has heart. And thanks to Kurt Russell’s character, they may have unlocked the recipe to having a villain just as good as the titular heroes in their movies, arguably their weakest department so far.
Kong Skull Island - included here not because it’s based on a comic but because it’s obviously an attempt to imitate the Marvel / DC approach at a shared universe, and because it’s basically a pulp adventure comic in movie format. Sure, it’s not Shakespeare, but it has a B-movie flavor that at least in my case got me loving it for what it was.
Wonder Woman - I have to admit, as the only person I know who actually loved Batman v Superman (despite its best efforts for the opposite) I really expected this to be good, but still got me by surprise. Admittedly a much brighter, joyful and more innocent approach to the superhero genre than the three previous DCEU movies, it hopefully sets a precedent for what DC movies should be, following the success of the Rebirth initiative in comics. Mixing action, adventure, fantasy, war and a lot of unexpected but respectful comedy, it was an unexpected success for me, and regardless of the inevitable comparisons with the Marvel movies (which at this point are the gold standard of superhero fiction) it found its own voice. Loved all the movies in this list to some extent, but this one was the one that left me with a sweeter taste in my mouth.
Next comic book movies: Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League
That’s all for me, I’ll be back reviewing the best (and worst) comics, movies and TV shows I follow in a few months, for the final roundup of the year.
Leave your opinion in the comments!