Break from Batman: Saga, Vol. 1 Review, Marvel Now, & best November comics list

Let’s go on vacation. Come on, we’ll all leave Gotham for a bit. How about we go into outer space and sprinkle in a little magic while we’re at it with Saga, Vol. 1!

Saga, Vol. 1

It’s been called STAR WARS meets Game of Thrones meets Romeo & Juliet. Personally I wouldn’t go that far. Jesus. But it is a damn good comic and after Sweet Tooth wraps up in December, it’ll likely be my #1 favorite comic. It’s smart, funny, emotional, and action packed. Every issue shows me something I’ve never seen before. Whether it’s a giant cat who knows a lie when he hears it or a planet devoted to the galaxy’s more carnal urges, Saga always surprises.

The story is indeed about star-crossed lovers. The girl from a planet and the boy from its moon are soldiers in a war that’s been waging for centuries. Somewhere in the conflict the two meet, fall in love, and conceive a child and it is there that the book begins. Like Star Wars and any other Sci-Fantasy story you’ll see your fair share of monsters, aliens, magic spells, robots, and, of course, really cool bounty hunters. Both sides of this great war want the child of this so-called unholy union and so the the story follows this unconventional family who are constantly on the run from planet to planet.

It’s adventure at its very finest and artist Fiona Staples brings it all to life. There’s a rich level of detail here and there has to be to make a world as strange and downright fun as this believable. The architecture, the clothing, the technology, the flora and fauna, nothing is taken for granted. Fiona is the perfect fit for this material as her style never becomes too dark and gritty nor does it veer too far into the cartoony. However, I really can’t stress enough that this is not a comic for kids. There is quite a lot of nudity and graphic violence here that really isn’t suitable for the under 13 crowd. Unless you’re fine with your kid looking at images of a two people with Televisions for heads banging doggystyle, in which case– happy parenting.

Other than its striking originality, sweeping epic story, and beautiful artwork the other stand-out characteristic of Saga is its dialogue. Anyone who has read Brian K. Vaughn’s previous work knows that he writes great dialogue. No two characters ever sound alike, it flows out naturally and most importantly it’s fun to read. There’s just the right amount of humor without taking away from the seriousness of the situation these people find themselves in.

If giant spiders and robot royalty strike your fancy then Saga, Vol. 1 is an absolute must-read. And you would have to be quite stubborn to not give this book a chance because it’s only $9.99. It’s so cheap that even Amazon won’t lower the price any further. $9.99 for 6 issues of what is one of the very best comics of the year. Read it now and you’ll only be a single issue behind in what is sure to be an incredible journey.

SCORE: 10/10

 

MARVEL NOW

Obviously I can’t read every comic that comes out but I tried damn hard to read as many as I could in November. Why? Because it was Marvel’s big MARVEL NOW reboot/relaunch/whateveryouwannacallit and I wanted to give all the new #1 issues a chance since I’ve never been much of a Marvel guy. So here’s a list of the best comics I had a chance to read along with my first impressions of Marvel’s latest titles.

First up is Uncanny Avengers. This one started in October, but I missed it. So this month I got to read it and issue #2 and I have to say that it’s…it’s alright. I didn’t like how Captain America was drawn, but there’s some interesting things going on in it although it’s coming together slowly. After the whole Avengers vs. X-Men summer crossover event (which I didn’t read) Uncanny Avengers sees the Uncanny X-Men joining with the Avengers to become “Uncanny Avengers” — or that’s the plan anyway. After 2 issues they’ve yet to really be shown as a fully functioning team. Everyone is still reeling from what happened at the end of “AvsX” so there’s no time for ceremony. If you’re like me and your familiarity with the Marvel universe doesn’t really stretch too far beyond what you’ve seen in the movies, you should be pretty comfortable checking this one out. SHOW SPOILER ▼

 There was also another Avengers and X-Men book that came out called “A + X” but I didn’t read that one. I glossed over it in the comic shop assuming it was still an Avengers vs. X-Men thing and not part of Marvel Now! As it turns out it’s like a Brave & the Bold or Avenging Spider-Man comic that teams up 2 different characters each month. I imagine if you’re a much, much bigger Marvel fan something like this might sound appealing but I’m a novice at this universe and I doubt I’d get much out of team ups just yet.

X-Men Legacy #1 was a book that I couldn’t even finish. I made it about halfway through before I had enough of the erratic artwork and aliens and characters who never seemed to explain where they were, what they were doing, or (more importantly) who they are. I imagine if you really know your X-Men you would get a lot more out of this one but as someone who hasn’t followed the mutants much outside of the 90’s cartoon and recent film series I didn’t find this very accessible. I tried to read-up on it afterwards to see if I could educate myself with a bit of Wikipedia research and then giving the book another go, but it looked like way too much information to consume to give a single issue a chance so I bailed.

Fantastic Four #1 was a book that I recall enjoying and I know that I liked it enough that I was curious to see where they would go with it in issue #2, but I can’t for the life of me remember what exactly happened in it as I sit here writing this article just a couple weeks after the fact. I know that the Fantastic Four might be dying from the mutation that gave them their powers in the first place and that they plan to travel through space and time to find a cure. That should be fun. And interestingly enough it will only feel like 4 minutes has passed here on Earth (if everything goes according to plan, which it surely won’t). So it was okay with a neat concept, but not exactly one of the best comics I read from this month or even the Marvel NOW launch.

Indestructible Hulk #1 written by one of my favorite writers, Mark Waid, was definitely one of the highlights. I’ve flipped through a handful of X-Men, Fantastic Four, or Avengers Comics in my life but the only Hulk Comic I’ve ever read before was Planet Hulk so this was a brand new experience for me. The artwork was very impressive and Bruce Banner actually seems to have a goal in life now besides finding a cure for becoming the Hulk and it’s about damned time if you ask me. Rather than trying to cure the incurable he’s focusing now on rectifying his legacy. He doesn’t want Bruce Banner to be remembered only as the guy who turned into the Hulk. He’s a brilliant scientist, a fact often overlooked in favor of his contemporaries Tony Stark and Mr. Fantastic, and he wants to do as much good in this world as he can to counteract the destruction caused by the Hulk. This was one of the best books I read this month.

When I saw FF #1 I immediately thought “But didn’t I just read Fantastic Four #1?” well it turns out that FF doesn’t stand for Fantastic Four it stands for Future Foundation. The Future Foundation is…well, I don’t really know how to describe it quite yet but it seems like it’s a foundation dedicated to educating various children in the ways of science so that they can one day create a better future for the planet (correct me if I’m wrong, please). The comic itself even has various characters trying to explain what the foundation is but every scene in which they did so was a far better illustration of what their personalities are like and what exactly they’ll be bringing to this series in the future. It’s a colorful cast and the grieving protagonist Ant-Man is being set up to have a very emotional arc that I’m interested to see play out. I’ll be back for #2 of this comic but I’m concerned that it might be too closely tied to the Fantastic Four series. The whole reason Ant-Man and other characters like She-Hulk (who is a character I’ve never understood…why isn’t she mindless and crushing things like Hulk? And why doesn’t she have a better name for herself? Why isn’t she called Hulk  and Banner called He-Hulk? Sexist…) are in this book is because of the trip the Fantastic Four are taking to find their cure. They need someone to fill in for them in case they don’t make it back from their voyage. I’m not totally sold on this comic yet but I definitely think it has potential so I’ll be back for #2.

Iron Man #1 was terrible in my opinion and I couldn’t finish it. The artwork was awful. Really bad. A lot of the work was traced and Tony Stark looked Asian…it was a mess and the story didn’t hook me at all. Is this how Iron Man comics always are? I expected it to be sort of, ya know, fun. Like the movies are. And I know that Tony Stark has had the armor in his body or as a putty or something for a while now, but do the fans actually like that? I’m pretty ignorant about Iron Man besides what I’ve seen in the films, but there’s something very satisfying about the loud CLANK of armor plating getting pieced together around Stark before he heads into battle. The squishy “fisting a jar of mayonnaise” sound effect that would accompany the glopping on of putty or sweating the armor through his pours just isn’t very cool in my opinion. And I’m not a fan of the new black and yellow look. Why would they change his colors right when the character is at the height of his popularity? Ya know who else changed their colors when they were on top? The St. Louis Rams after winning the Superbowl. You know what happened next year? They lost the Superbowl.

Deadpool #1 is pretty funny. I liked the first issue but when it came time to read the 2nd issue (it double shipped this month. Marvel does this a lot apparently) I couldn’t really get into it. Too many one-liners and gags for me to really enjoy it. I wanted more substance than that. However, it’s highly likely that I was just getting burned out on reading so many comic books in order to do this article at the end of the month. If you’re just looking for some good ol’ escapism that’ll give you a chuckle then I would definitely recommend this. Especially if you’re a Marvel fan because it does a fine job of lampooning many of the other heroes in that universe and the artwork was also quite good and fit the tone of the series perfectly. Great covers. I may or may not give issue #3 a chance. I’m on the fence about this one.

Captain America #1 is another book that I couldn’t finish. I don’t see the appeal of Captain America. He gets a lot of praise for how great of a leader he is and his determination, but if you ask me– if the guy was so determined why didn’t he ever work out? He had to take the super soldier serum to be worth a damn. Bruce Wayne worked out. He knew that if he wanted to help out and make a difference he should probably put in a little effort and get in shape. Not Captain America. The guy is given free steroids to turn buff overnight and then starts acting like he’s a self-made man. And his suit looks stupid too. Well, except for the one in his first movie. That was alright. If ya ask me, Shield should just give the shield to Thor and send Cap on his way. Anyway, I blacked out for a second. I went into an angry Batfanboy tirade against another hero who I know nothing about there didn’t I? Sorry. Back to this comic: Whenever Captain America went to another planet and started fighting aliens I switched off completely. I won’t be back to read more of this.

All-New X-Men has my interest. Cyclops has become a major villain in the Marvel universe and it’s proving impossible to get through to him. So what does Beast do? He hops in a time machine and gets in contact with the teenage Cyclops. The plan: bring the hopeful Cyclops of the past into the future and introduce him to today’s Cyclops. Perhaps this will shame the villain into seeing how far he’s gone from the righteous path. It’s a cool concept and it’s written by Brian Michael Bendis, who did House of M (a great read) and every issue of the ongoing Ultimate Spider-Man (which is a series I hold dear). My only reservation about this series and Uncanny Avengers is how dependent all of these Marvel books might be on one another. See, when I read Uncanny Avengers  #1 Cyclops was still in prison but later in the month when I picked up All-New X-Men #1 Cyclops was on the loose and causing havoc. I had to go on Wikipedia and read a few articles to figure out what exactly I had missed. Apparently the story is told throughout a number of different Marvel comic books and I found it rather annoying that I would have to buy several different series in order to get the full story on any given month.

I think my favorite Marvel NOW book would have to be The Mighty Thor. He’s a character I definitely know next to nothing about outside of the films but I was awestruck by this. It’s worth picking up for the artwork by Esad Ribic alone. It’s gorgeous, epic storytelling. Author Jason Aaron is telling three different stories at once that are all interconnected. The first takes place in the days of the Vikings, the second is our modern age Thor who is a member of the Avengers, and the third is in the future where an elderly Thor sits at the throne of Asgard. At each point in his life, Thor faces the same foe: the God Butcher (or Butcher of Gods). This series double shipped this month as well and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the covers, when placed together, form one glorious image. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Best November Comics

I’ll try and keep this brief since I’ve already wasted so much of your time talking about Marvel Now. Here are the best comics I read this month, but rather than give a full paragraph to each book I’ll cut short the books that I mention month after month. You’ll just have to trust me that they were extraordinary .

Sweet Tooth #39

New Reader Friendliness: Newbies steer clear. Far, far, far away.

It’s the penultimate issue of my favorite comic series. Once it’s gone I believe that Saga will overtake it as my new #1.

Saga #7

New Reader Friendliness:   Medium

As if my review of the TPB collecting issues #1-6 wasn’t enough, issue #7 also makes the list of best comics. This was not only a particularly funny issue, but it has one of the most disgusting monsters I’ve ever seen in a comic book.

Thor #1 & #2, Indestructible Hulk #1, and All-New X-Men #1 & #2

New Reader Friendliness:   High

I talked about these in the Marvel Now section above.

Daredevil #20

New Reader Friendliness:   Low

I’m beginning to think this series will never have a bad issue. Please, do yourself a favor and start reading Daredevil.

Punk Rock Jesus #5:   Low

When this comes out as a TPB I’m going to demand that everyone go out and buy it. This has been a great ride and it’ll all be over next month. Great art and great storytelling.

Think Tank #4

New Reader Friendliness:   Low

This has been a fun and thought-provoking series. If science and technology excite you then this is a must read. Each book ends with several pages of citations about the real-life inspirations for the comic’s top-secret military technology. These citations could be links to Youtube videos or news and academic articles about how these instruments operate in the real world. A TPB collecting the first 4 issues of this series is coming out this month. I suggest you get it.

Daredevil End of Days #2

New Reader Friendliness:   Medium

Daredevil meets Citizen Kane continues as we try and figure out what Matt Murdock’s final word means. You don’t have to be an expert in Daredevil or Marvel lore to enjoy this series. I’m not, and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.

Hawkeye #4

New Reader Friendliness:   High

The artwork isn’t as good as usual since they needed a fill-in, but all the fun is still there. The great thing about this series is that it’s essentially a superhero on his day off. Hawkeye is always doing the most mundane things and then somehow it all just spirals out of control and we have ourselves an action scene. It’s one of the funniest and most unique superhero books I’ve read. Whereas The Mighty Thor is an epic, Hawkeye feels like a quirky indie comic.

X-O Manowar #7

New Reader Friendliness:   Medium

The great thing about Valiant’s comics is that they start them off with a recap page that’s even better than the one Marvel uses in their books. Even though I highly recommend you check this series out from the beginning, you can easily pick up any issue, read the recap, and hop on board. X-O Manowar is a must-read for fans of science fiction. Ninja fans as well.

Bedlam #2

New Reader Friendliness:   Low

I say “low” but really, you’re here because you’re a Batman fan first and foremost and any Batman fan should be able to figure out what’s going on in this comic pretty quickly. Imagine a What If story in which Hugo Strange captures the Joker, fakes his death, tinkers with his brain, and reforms him to be a functioning member of society. Joker still has a tendency to appreciate murder and crime but he doesn’t act on it. Instead he calls Renee Montoya and Harvey Bullock to give them anonymous tips to help them on their cases because he understands the mind of a psychopath so very well. That really is what Bedlam is like. Issue #1 even features its own take on the caped crusader. It’s the R rated Joker comic that DC won’t produce.

Masks #1

New Reader Friendliness:   Medium

A team-up book that features Green Hornet, The Shadow, The Spider (I’ve never heard of this guy before), and Zorro…why wasn’t it called “Hats”? Anyway, it’s illustrated by Alex Ross which is just about reason enough to give the series a try. It’s stunning to look at and very cool to see these characters all in one book. So far its more about the artwork than the story, but that should change once things really gain traction in future issues. I’m intrigued, but at the same time feel like I don’t have enough knowledge about all of these characters to really enjoy the book. It’s rather dependent on you already being familiar with everyone here. Batman fans should check it out. If it wasn’t for Zorro or the Shadow then there would be no Batman. And how could we forget the battle of Batman & Robin vs. Green Hornet & Kato? Still…who is The Spider? I’ve NEVER heard of this character before. Ever.

Shadowman #1

New Reader Friendliness:   High

Every book published by Valiant that I’ve read so far has been great. I still need to catch up on Bloodshot and Harbinger, but luckily I got in on the ground floor of this one. Not much happens just yet, but the character design of Shadowman is pretty cool and it looks like he’ll be facing a pretty gruesome enemy. If you like fantasy-oriented superheroes then this is worth a look.

Amazing Spider-Man #698

New Reader Friendliness:   Medium

I heard an awful lot of hype around this issue so I picked up a copy and all I have to say is “Wow.” I mean, this is something that’s got to infuriate Spider-Man fans, right? As a casual reader I was pretty impressed by it, but perhaps many fans are desensitized by earth shattering twists like this. Spider-Man’s had clones of himself, his aunt brought back from the dead, made deals with the devil (or something. I’m not THAT in the know about this series), and been through countless other trippy adventures involving aliens and magic so I can imagine folks might be used to this sort of thing by now. I wasn’t and was left stunned by the revelations on this book’s final pages. It also made me hungry to dig up some of the past issues of Amazing Spider-Man to find out more about what exactly is going on. See, from what I gather, Doctor Octopus was in a big fight with Spider-Man a while ago and the weapon/experiment/whatever he was working on went horribly wrong and the villain has been in a coma ever since. Now he’s this quivering husk of a man being kept alive inside an incubation chamber in some super prison monitored by Shield. After months of zero progress, Doctor Octopus wakes up and mutters “P-peter P-p-Parkerrr”. Shield and the Avengers go on high alert. Doc Ock’s vitals are dropping, he could die at any minute, Spider-Man has been called in to talk to Doc Ock and find out how he knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man, and…and…well, saying anymore would spoil it for you. As a casual fan who only really takes an interest in the Ultimate Universe, this caught my eye and I’ll be sticking with the series for a while now to see how it all plays out.

Whew! That’s all of them. Keep in mind that I also had to read plenty of bad comics to find these good ones. Don’t expect me to read this many comic books every month. But here are a few books I’ve not read but I definitely want to get caught up on because they look interesting to me.

Most Wanted:

Locke & Key

Chew (I’m on issue #13 of this right now)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Justice League Dark

Fatale

The Walking Dead

Mind MGMT

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