Let’s take a break from Batman to talk about the best comics everyone read throughout the month of October. Obviously, I couldn’t have read everything so I’m sure there’s plenty that you all could recommend that I check out in the comments section at the bottom of the page. It’s because of readers like you that I ever gave books like Punk Rock Jesus and Godzilla: Half-Century War a chance and those are two books I absolutely adore now. But before we get to the best of the floppy comics I read this month, here are a few graphic novel recommendations for you…
Green Lantern, Vol. 1: Sinestro
I’m not that versed in Green Lantern lore so if you’re a longtime Green Lantern fan, I apologize for my ignorance. But if you’re someone looking to break into Green Lantern for the first time, this might be the perfect review for you. Now, my knowledge of Green Lantern based off of what I’ve seen in the DC animated material, the Ryan Reynolds movie (which I saw once and probably will never watch again), and what I remember from Green Lantern: Rebirth (which a friend made me read a few years ago). I don’t quite understand what his weaknesses are, how a construct can “break”, why he would need to wear a domino mask, etc. But even though I only have a rather weak grasp on what Green Lantern is all about and this New 52 take on Green Lantern wasn’t much of a reboot and essentially continued on business as usual from its Pre-New 52 counterpart, I was able to follow along and thoroughly enjoy myself while reading this book. In fact, I had trouble putting it down. I intended to read one chapter before bed but ended up reading 3 before I could force myself to retire for the evening and when I woke up in the morning I finished the book immediately before starting my day. It’s a quick read, but it’s a very entertaining read. I very much enjoyed Doug Mahnke’s artwork, the bizarre alien designs, the attention to detail and depth to the backgrounds, and most impressively how easy to follow the action was. In a book where laser beams and transparent green constructs are popping up in every direction it would’ve been all too easy for the fight scenes to turn into a chaotic mess, but it all look beautiful and vibrantly colored.
Sinestro is a great character and I honestly much prefer seeing him find redemption as opposed to seeing Hal Jordan. I could’ve done without him entirely to be honest, he kind of annoys me both here and in Justice League, but not so much that it harmed my enjoyment of the book. In fact, sometimes its kind of refreshing to see Hal because he’s not so smart and after reading so much Batman it’s quite unique to see a hero who isn’t a genius. So he and Sinestro, who is a brilliant strategist and stoic, together was cool because the two characters complement one another very well–sort of a buddy-cop-movie thing.
The story itself revolves around Sinestro somehow being selected as a new Green Lantern when Hal Jordan has been stripped of his title. I don’t know the specifics of how all of this went down but the book offers enough exposition that I got the gist and was able to press on. Sinestro discovers that his home world is in danger, enslaved by the yellow corps which he started in his evil days. Apparently there’s a whole plethora of lanterns out there now for every emotion, like Care Bears. In order to bring this army of evil lanterns down, Sinestro enlists the aid of Hal Jordan who Sinestro may despise, but he respects for his natural ability to wield the ring. Five of the book’s six issues are devoted to this campaign of gaining Hal’s trust and defeating the yellow army and all of that had me absolutely riveted. It’s the book’s sixth issue that made things fall apart. Sometimes less is more and that was definitely the case here. It felt like I had gone to see a great action movie and right when I thought it was over the first 20 minutes of a crappy sequel with different actors started playing and then was cut off abruptly. What was that all about? Those first 5 chapter encapsulated a great opening arc– there’s no reason to squeeze in the first chapter of an entirely different arc in the same book, especially when it’s illustrated by a drastically different artist. Choi’s light pencils and far more youthful and somewhat Asian looking characters did not mesh well with everything Mahnke had established before. The sixth issue didn’t feel like it belonged here and it was totally not new-reader friendly. I found myself on Wikipedia immediately after finishing just so I could understand who some of these people were. I didn’t care about the character who Sinestro was seeking out, I didn’t understand how the villain could use a yellow power ring since that conflicts with what I saw at the end of chapter 5, and when it cuts off without any conclusion I was totally unsatisfied, which is a shame because the first 5-part arc left me fulfilled.
Still, the first 5 of the 6 chapters were good enough that I was willing to read-up on Green Lantern on Wikipedia afterward to learn more and that says a lot. I highly recommend everybody check out Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke’s Green Lantern: Sinestro, but you might want to hold off on reading chapter 6 until the next TPB comes out.
SCORE: 8/10 Green Lantern, Vol. 1: Sinestro is worth taking a break from Batman
Animal Man, Vol. 1: The Hunt
The first week of every month is one of my favorites but it’s not because of the new Batman comics that are hitting shelves, it’s because of Animal Man. This is one of the best books that the New 52 has to offer. A year ago, when the reboot first started, all I heard when walking into comic shops was “Have you read Animal Man? It’s Actually really good!”, “You haven’t read Animal Man, yet?”, “We’re sold out of Animal Man.”, “Animal Man is getting a second printing!”, etc. etc. And so I finally went to one of the overstocked and trendier comic shops in St. Louis and found a copy. I’m so glad that I did. It’s a series that’s more than lived up to the hype for me and at only $10.19 at Amazon.com, you don’t really have a reason to not give this series’ first six issues a chance! Now if you’re not very familiar with Animal Man Buddy Baker and what he’s all about, don’t worry. I didn’t know anything about the character either. I hadn’t even read Grant Morrison’s famous run. Thankfully, Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Justice League Dark, Underwater Welder) eases the reader into this world. In fact, the very first page of the entire book is a very creative way of introducing you to Buddy Baker because it isn’t even a comic, it’s a fictional magazine interview. You’ll learn that Buddy isn’t like other heroes. He has no secret identity, he’s a bit of a celebrity, and he even has a family to provide for. All of these elements make him one of the most unique superheroes in the DC universe. These are the details that give Animal Man the privilege of having stories that few other heroes are capable of and that’s a wonderful thing.
Yes, we get little nods to the rest of the DC Universe from time to time (which bogs the series down a bit. I think that Swamp Thing and Animal Man would work better in their own universe), but Animal Man is a surreal horror book at it’s core. You’re going to see some very disturbing stuff here. I’m talking weird mutations, bodies that are turned inside out, bloated corpses, etc. etc. It’s a good read for those of us still coming down from our spooky Halloween high. Although artist Travel Foreman doesn’t illustrate the series anymore, it was great flipping through this book again and checking out his disturbing pencils. He really nailed the ghastly gore that’s so prevalent in Animal Man and his sketchy and somewhat crude style is quite different from what you see in other superhero books as well. The only drawback with Animal Man, Vol. 1: The Hunt is that it doesn’t have a satisfying ending and TPB-Only readers will have to wait a good long while before they can continue the journey. Even when a Vol. 2 is finally released, the arc’s real ending will be nowhere in sight. Both Animal Man and Swamp Thing are interconnecting epics that have yet to see an end to their opening arcs which now span over 13 issues and although these two series hold up fine on their own, they are best read together. Both of them are fine reads, I just wish that DC would release their trades a lot faster because these 6 month to 1 year waiting periods they are putting graphic novel fans through are downright abusive.
SCORE: 8/10 Animal Man, Vol. 1 is worth taking a break from Batman
October Comics Worth Taking a Break From Batman
I can’t read everything out there but of all the comics that I did read, these were the very best. These are the ones that I feel are totally worth buying listed in no particular order…
Sweet Tooth #38
New Reader Friendliness: Low
Genre: I honesty don’t know how I’d describe it.
With only 2 issues left there’s really nothing I can say about this comic that isn’t a spoiler. Just know that it’s amazing and I’ll be very sad when it’s all over. Go pick up the TPBs!
Daredevil End of Days #1
New Reader Friendliness: High
This is the much anticipated, 5 years in the making, END OF DAREDEVIL mini-series. Now, I was never a big Daredevil fan until I started reading Mark Waid’s Daredevil last year. His take on the character is much more fun and lighthearted than the Batman-knockoff I always steered away from. I love the new Daredevil, it’s one of my favorite comics each and every month so I was a bit hesitant to pick up Brian Michael Bendis’ dark conclusion to Daredevil’s journey. Would I even know what was going on since it’s going to cover so much of the character’s history? With all the fun of Waid’s run sucked out of it, would I even enjoy it? Well, I went ahead and read it and I have to say this was quite good. The first of this 8-part mini-series models Daredevil’s end after the renowned film Citizen Kane by having the hero mutter an enigmatic word as he lay dying in the opening pages. A reporter, who many Marvel fans will be familiar with, hears the word and sets out on a campaign to track down answers as to what Matt Murdock’s version of “Rosebud” really means. Derivative? A bit, but Batman: The Long Halloween stole a lot from The Godfather and look how well that turned out.
Fashion Beast #2
New Reader Friendliness: Low…but it’s just as confusing as issue #1 was
Genre: ehh…I dunno
These next two comics I talk about are books I questioned even adding to the list. I wasn’t exactly thrilled by them, but days later I still found myself thinking about them and that says a hell of a lot. Fashion Beast is Alan Moore’s (Yeah, THAT Alan Moore. Batman: The Killing Joke, Watchmen, etc.) latest and it’s one of the finest structured comics I’ve read this week but also the weirdest. I didn’t like the first issue but I stuck with the series because it has Alan Moore’s name on it. In fact, if it wasn’t for his name being on the cover I doubt many folks would’ve given this book the time of day. It’s this weird, dystopian future in which fashion rules and there are cross-dressers everywhere and they’re all fighting for employment as models…it’s odd. It’s also about as old as Watchmen because it was around that same time that Moore and collaborator Malcolm McLaren first wrote this story as a screenplay that was never-to-be. The comic itself is adapted from that screenplay by Antony Johnston. I wouldn’t recommend buying Fashion Beast just yet, though. Hold off a little longer for a trade paper back or come back next month (or sooner, issue #3 came out on Halloween and I haven’t had time to read it) to see if everyone is still in love with it. This may be one of the most brilliant comics of the year or it could be one of those cases in which comic readers desperately want to like a thing because they like the creative team behind it so much. Speaking of which…
New Reader Friendliness: Medium
Genre: NC-17 farce
I feel that a lot of the hype around this book is simply because it’s Grant Morrison writing it. It ranges from “Okay” to downright off-putting, but that being said, even though I’m not totally hooked on this book yet it has stuck in my mind and I’m very curious to see where the story goes. I’ll likely read the entire 4-part series just to see how it all ends because it’s just so very different from everything else I’m reading. The story is about an ex-cop turned hitman who starts seeing the imaginary friend of a kidnapped girl. This imaginary friend, a flying blue horse, desperately wants the hitman to help him save the little girl from her abductor, but it’s going to take a lot of convincing. Pretty cool concept, right? To emphasize what a hilarious farce the whole thing is, Grant Morrison made the real world the darkest, most repugnant environment you could possibly imagine that way (and it’s brilliantly illustrated to reflect all of this) when you juxtapose that with the cartoonish horse it’s extra funny. However, the amped up vulgarity gets annoying. I don’t have a problem with foul language, I love Mamet and Milch (Deadwood is one of my favorite shows of all time) but the way its used here is just completely unnatural. And the overuse of urine, vomit, blood, and cum is well…the whole thing gets so hyper-vulgar (is that a real term or did I just invent something?) that it’s kind of a turnoff. Like it’s trying TOO hard. Anyway, it’s at least original and it’s got my curiosity peaked so I thought it deserved mention on this list.
New Reader Friendliness: High
Want to skip the higher concept works that might be trying a bit too hard? Check out Hawkeye. Even if you missed issues #1 and #2 you can pick up this comic and feel right at home. This is one of the most fun and most hilarious comics I read this month. It flew by and if you asked me which comic on this list I would most want to read again this very minute, it would be Hawkeye #3. The series so far seems to be all about Hawkeye trying to do everyday things only to find himself in extraordinary situations. He’s not out working with The Avengers right now so he just wants to hang out at his apartment and organize all these damn arrows that are strewn about the place. So he decides to go to the store and that’s where everything goes pear-shaped. Get ready for car chases, trick arrows, a sexy yet mysterious girl, loads of laughs, and more. It’s well drawn, well written, and damn near perfect. I’d give it a 10/10 if I scored these things– which I don’t.
X-O Manowar #6
New Reader Friendliness: Medium
Would you like to watch a cyborg Visigoth fight the world’s most fearsome ninja? Of course you would. The great thing about these Valiant comics is that they all have a nice opening page that summarizes everything you’ve missed so far. That being said, I’d highly recommend you seek out issues 1-5 of this series. It’s been marvelous so far. Archer & Armstrong, another Valiant title, has been pretty good, too.
Think Tank #3
New Reader Friendliness: Medium
Genre: Comedic Techno-Thriller (trying to nail down these books in 3 words or less is kinda fun)
Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, science! If you love gadgets and citations to scientific articles and cool Youtube videos then you should do yourself a favor and check out this book. Also, if you love seeing a plan coming together this is a must read. The whole issue is one long escape scene where you see the protagonist carefully plot his flight from a military compound.
New Reader Friendliness: Low
Here’s a comic that never lets me down with 19 solid issues in a row (more if you count the .1 and crossover issues)! The thing that’s great about this series is that the plots are never simple “villain holding the city ransom/going on a killing spree” tales. It’s always so much more complex than that and it never feels the need to go dark, gritty, or gory to capture your attention. It doesn’t take the easy way out. It’s fun and lighthearted without ever seeming childish. Every character is 100% likeable and the threats Daredevil faces are never what they seem. Someone is destroying Matt Murdock’s life by making him appear insane. He’s losing his friends, he lost his job, and he may be beginning to question his own sanity as well. This is a must-read. Go out and buy the first volume. Now.
Half-Century War #3
New Reader Friendliness: High
Genre: It’s Godzilla, come on!
Behold the prettiest girl at the party. Godzilla: Half-Century War is the best looking comic book out there today and you’ll have a hell of a time convincing me otherwise. This thing is beautiful. Every other page looks like something I’d gladly frame on my wall. It’s awesome. I always thought a comic about Godzilla would be a waste of time because it’s just a monster knocking down buildings, but writer and artist James Stokoe found a way to make it interesting. What’s happening here is you’re following a Japanese soldier throughout the decades as he tries to bring down the monster in various military conflicts and historical events. Since we all know that there’s no way in hell that anybody is bringing down Godzilla, a more tangible villain has been added: a scientist who created a device that’s calling all the monsters. If this soldier and his team can track down the mad scientist, they can save the day and the comic can have a satisfying ending. Got it? Good. I love this book and don’t want it to end, but alas it’s only a mini-series.
Punk Rock Jesus #4
New Reader Friendliness: Really low
It’s still a great series but this was definitely the weakest issue so far. It’s getting a bit too preachy, but then again I am reading a book with “Jesus” in the title, so what was I expecting, eh? But seriously, several panels go on and on about Darwin, Carl Sagen,Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln’s views on Christianity and although I agree with everything that’s being said I found it to be way too heavy handed.The book had a strong enough message already without spoon feeding it to the reader like that. Anyway, the reality show aspect is gone, the pacing has been sped up drastically, some very important characters die early on, and writer and artist Sean Murphy finally injects the punk rock aspect that had been absent in the first 3 installments. I still think its one of the best comics to come out in 2012 but I’m very curious to see where exactly Murphy is going with it now that “Jesus” has become a punk rocker. Only 2 issues remain.
New Reader Friendliness: Really low
It’s a bit Kafka-esque in that the character wakes up one day realizing that he’s very, very different. Only instead of being turned into a beetle without explanation, this kid for some unknown reason now has the power to fly around and hear people’s thoughts while asleep– he has an out of body experience every night and can even influence people’s decision making. At least that’s what I remember from the first 3 issues. I both love and hate this series because it was supposed to be a bi-monthly comic but it went on a longer than 2-month break recently and I have trouble remembering exactly what happened in those other 3 issues. So what you have here is a great book with a horribly unreliable release schedule. It’s going to make one hell of a TPB though. Just know that it’s not a lighthearted romp as the kid flies about checking in on girls and listening for gossip. His new found power has a downside as well: He starts hearing things and seeing visions too horrible to ignore. I wish I could say more, but I don’t want to give anything away. Just trust me on this one, it’s absolutely terrifying and one of the best comics I’ve read this year. Whispers’ first issue is something I believe could hook just about anyone.
So there you have it. Those were the best comics I read this month. What did you read?