Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mid-Year Report: Superhero Comics

It's over halfway through the year now, and I thought it appropriate to make a list of the books that I've been following and enjoying, starting with superhero comics. These are the ten titles that I'm enjoying the most right now.
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1. Incredible Hercules - Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente know how to write a great straight-forward superhero book. I never really expected to like a book like this, featuring a big oaf with brute strength on his side as a protagonist, with a smart nerdy sidekick and his baby coyote. Sure, there are some flaws in the storytelling, and it may be a little hard to put into words what I like about it, but I just love reading it. The stories are great: battles with Amazons, teaming up with Namora, going on an odyssey with other gods to take down a skrull god...they're just a lot of fun and I really look forward to the next collection the moment I've finished with one. If it weren't for the word-of-mouth this book has been getting, I probably never would have picked it up. I'm just happy that some others see it for what it is.
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2. Batman and Robin - Only a few issues in, and this new title is already one of my favorites on the shelves. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely have got it down to...well, an art. They execute really great ideas to spectacular results in stories that are both weird and classic at the same time. I love the dynamic between the new Batman and Robin, as they've really breathed a fresh of breath air into the tired relationship of student and mentor.
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3. Captain Britain and MI-13 - Paul Cornell's series just kept getting better as it chugged along, culminating in the fantastic "Vampire Nation" arc featuring Dracula on the Moon that would be its finale. There's an interesting feel to this book that you don't really get with other superhero comics. Must be the whole British thing it's got going on. Great cast, great villains.
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4. Echo - This book is created, written and illustrated by Terry Moore of Strangers In Paradise, taking place in a more realistic world than most superhero comics, with a girl who has some extraordinary events happen to her, where she basically becomes a superhero who doesn't really understand her powers, the source of which remains a plate on her chest. This is a fun "running from the authorities" sort of book, with a villain that has the same powers thrown in to the mix. And it certainly doesn't hurt that Terry Moore's art is just stunning. I stop and stare at the panels quite a bit, just to soak in his illustrations.
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5. Guardians of the Galaxy - I was a big fan of the Annihilation books, so this cosmic spin-off title written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning is right up my alley, carrying some of the characters from those events on in a team book. Space opera and a fun cast with a bunch of weird aliens and happenings make this a great read.
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6. Agents of Atlas - Jeff Parker's title is very retro with a gorilla man, a robot and flying saucers, but he uses these elements very well and has plenty of surprises up his sleeves. The premise to the new ongoing series is very Fifth Season Angel, as the agents run an evil corporation while trying to do good things with it, and presenting themselves as villains to the likes of Norman Osborn and even the "good" Avengers to keep up appearances. Namora is a particular favorite of mine, but really the whole team is great.
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7. Dark Avengers - Norman Osborn's team of Avengers are mostly villains, much like the Thunderbolts (many of them were Thunderbolts, in fact), but are dressed up like classic and current Avengers, taking on their codenames and being endorsed by Osborn as the "official" team. Hawkeye is actually Bullseye, Ms. Marvel is actually Moonstone, etc. It's great to watch the team bickering and doing villainous things when nobody's looking. And it's by Bendis and Deodato, for crying out loud!
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8. Dark Reign: Elektra - I didn't really expect this to be very good when I decided to give it a try, but I was pleasantly surprised by this mini-series from Zeb Wells and Clay Mann. This is very much a straight-up action comic featuring the assassin Elektra captured and studied by Osborn's H.A.M.M.E.R. following Secret Invasion to learn why the skrulls were interested in her, as she was the only superhero experimented on by the skrulls. One issue is seriously just Elektra held captive in a room, biding her time to escape, and since then, she's been running, even though she's sustained some debilitating injuries. This book has some utterly fantastic action sequences and panel arrangements - Wells and Mann really know how to craft suspense through the comics medium. I literally gasped aloud while reading one of the issues.
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9. The Sword - The Luna Brothers' tale follows a woman who seeks revenge on the three superpowered people who killed her family, armed only with a sword, the one object powerful enough to destroy them. This comic is gory and violent and makes no apologies. The Luna Brothers really come up with some innovative uses of the elements that the villains can control, and I don't think there's another book coming out right now with storytelling this smooth. Patrick just flipped through one issue and he could follow the action without even reading the words. Great action, and spectacular fights are what this book's all about.
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10. Uncanny X-Men - Despite some deficiencies with the art (Greg Land is the illustrator), Matt Fraction has really pieced together a great title here from the X-Men's move to the West Coast and the mutant's status as a minority group. There are some really cool ideas thrown in to the book like The Sisterhood of Evil Mutants and The Hellfire Cult that keep things exciting, despite the stiff photo-referenced artwork.

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