This post is coming in at a slightly later time than I’d prefer, about two weeks late at least, but I guess I can’t really “complain” when the lateness is due to my own wedding which took place exactly two weeks ago on the 5th. It has certainly been a very busy and intense time, what with being engrossed in all the marriage stuff and then even after that there’s been one thing after another. Reading time has definitely suffered greatly, which makes me a little sad considering how much I love reading, but eh, all for a good cause really.
With half the year now over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st January to 30th June. There’s been a ton of books that I’ve read in this period as usual, and I made a very strong effort to read more tie-in fiction than I usually do, so the list is most assuredly going to reflect that. Tie-in fiction is a very important part of the publishing industry I feel and it always deserves some recognition. Now if we could only get an award started that celebrated tie-in fiction and all would be alright with the world. Or so my thinking goes.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
In the short time that it has been operating, Ragnarok Publications has been doing some great work by all accounts. Their kaiju anthology that was released early this year, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters was an awesome piece of kaiju fiction that covered all different sorts of genres and styles and what not, and the men behind the publisher have been going full at it for a good long while now. A few months ago Tim Marquitz, Joe Martin and Kenny Soward launched a new series for Ragnarok, called Dead West, and it was promoted quite heavily as a new spin on an old and popular genre.
Those Poor, Poor Bastards is set in the American Mid-West during the mid-1800s and it features zombies and holy magic and the American Frontier and everything else that goes with all of that. Having read some of Tim’s fiction previously, I was expecting the story to be quite bold and brash, with some rough humour thrown in for good measure, and I wasn’t disappointed in that at all. Tim collaborates on this with his Ragnarok co-publisher Joe Martin and with author Kenny Soward, with the three of them turning out quite an interesting zombie western that unfortunately does have a few flaws.
Time travel. Dimensional War. Death. Betrayal. Aliens. Superheropocalypse. DC’s Future’s End weekly comic has done it all in its two and a half months so far. What started off as a really dark title with superheroes dying left and right has matured into something a little light-hearted, something that has become a superhero mystery and an action-packed tale of “two minutes to midnight” rather than superhero horror. It started off really good, and thought it has wobbled a bit in the middle, it is still one of the best books that DC is putting out right now.
This week’s Future’s End #11 sees the continuation of several plots and the introduction of yet new players as the world moves towards an inevitability. No Grifter and Fifty Sue this time, but we get to see a fair bit of the Justice League of the future, as well as get some bonding time between Amethyst and Frankenstein, along with a really startling development from Mr. Terrific. In spite of all the changes that have happened in this series of late, it looks like there are many more yet to come and I loved that this issue acted as a launch-point for yet more stories, though I’m slightly concerned by how convoluted it is all getting.
I’ve said this many a times before, and I say this again: Image has really been outdoing itself since last year. It has launched so many new and different series that I’ve lost count and many of the ones that I’ve read have been absolutely fantastic. I mean, for me, I either love an Image book or hate it, and the best part is that I love more than three-quarters of what I read from the publisher. And when the talent involved is as good as it has been on some of these titles, then that is even more cause for joy, for favourite writers/artists combined with a great product really mean a solid product long-term.
Death Vigil #1 is the first in a new series that Image launched last Wednesday and it features story and art both by Stjepan Sejic, one of my absolute favourite artists in the industry and a man who delivers on the most gorgeous visuals ever, no matter what character or setting or what have you he works on. I’ve loved almost all his work that I’ve seen to date and with Death Vigil he turns writer yet again after doing a collaboration with Ron Marz last year, and I have to say that I like this more than his other series. It features some great characters and some great art and some great story, even though it is almost twice the length of a regular comic!
It has been a good long while since I’ve read a Forgotten Realms novel. The last one was in December of last year, Elfshadow by Elaine Cunningham. It was a fairly good read, but I’ve definitely read better, from the works of Erin M. Evans and Paul S. Kemp and Richard Baker and all. It is definitely a setting that I love exploring and the more I read in it, the more excited I get about it. Forgotten Realms fully explores the multiverse side of things for a fantasy setting, and that is part of the charm, in addition to the utter abundance and wonder of its many different races and cultures and what not.
And in that respect, Richard Baker’s first novel in the Last Mythal Saga, Forsaken House, is really good. It presents many different facets of Elf life in the Forgotten Realms and it also presents a really fast-paced, excitable and intriguing premise paired with some really interesting characters. The only other novel of Richard’s I’ve read before this is his Condemnation, the third novel in the 6-part War of the Spider Queen multi-author extravaganza and that too was a damn fine read. It is great to see Richard’s best replicated here, and the Last Mythal Saga is definitely a tale that I want to read in full now.
The comics format doesn’t always work so well for developing mysteries and thrillers. A large portion of this is dependent of course on the quality of the writing but the format still makes a difference, because you can’t let the mysteries stew for too long or develop too quickly. This is where the weekly format appears to have a bit of a leg-up. And DC’s Future’s End has done a fairly good job of it so far I think, even though the four writers on this weekly have been intermingling several different plot threads together. The issue we come back to is that of quality and Future’s End has been fairly satisfactory in that regard..
Once again we have two of my favourite artists, Aaron Lopresti and Art Thibert on this weekly series, with this week’s Future’s End #10 and they both do a superb job as penciller and inker respectively, as they’ve done previously. With all the different plotlines going on presently, the variety is all up for grabs and I think that Future’s End #10 is one of my favourite issues of the series, partly because it features a really awesome scene where Amethyst smacks down Hawkman. And a lot of the other plotlines are also moving towards a resolution, so I can’t wait to see what happens next week.
Undeniably, DC’s Future’s End weekly comic series has dealt with some huge events in its first two months. We’ve seen several heroes murdered in cold blood by vicious alien intelligences. We’ve seen friendships and relationships sundered by petty egos and a refusal to accept compromise. In the midst of all that the series has dealt with so far, it hasn’t lost sight of its primary objective, the story of Terry McGinnis stepping back in time to prevent a most horrible future, a future which hinges on a very basic element. All very Terminator-esque.
Today’s Future’s End #9 finally gets around to making some important revelations that are capstones for a lot of the different arcs that have been going on in this series of late, especially in the last four weeks. We see just what is going on at Cadmus Island with Deathstroke and Grifter, while Terry McGinnis makes some solid inroads into breaking back into Michael Holt’s base of operations, even as his target studies the alien lifeform that Terry brought back with him, and the story of Lois Lane being ever on the hunt of a story continues as ever.
A couple weeks or so back I read a really wonderful graphic novel about Conan, The Phantoms of The Black Coast, and that one really impressed me. As someone who has really been getting into Dark Horse’s various Conan comics of late, that one proved to be a highlight, on the same level as one of the publisher’s current ongoings, King Conan: The Conqueror, which has proven to be one of the best new comics of the year, in terms of both the story and the art, and which has instilled a more intense fascination in me of all things Conan.
With everything going on currently with respect to my upcoming marriage (just four days left!!), I didn’t get a chance to read last week’s King Conan: The Conqueror #5, one of my most anticipated reads until a few hours ago, but as expected, it wowed me with every page. Writer Timothy Truman put a capstone on Conan’s adventures in Stygia and then he went big and epic with the story in a way that I didn’t think was possible and the artwork by both Tomás Giorello and José Villarrubia proved a match for Truman’s intensity and scope.
When J. M. DeMatteis came onboard Justice League Dark last year with Forever Evil: Blight, he brought several new characters to the team roster, characters like Nightmare Nurse and Swamp Thing. It was a really interesting time and after about two years of the same team as brought together by Peter Milligan and Jeff Lemire, DeMatteis really shook things up. And what really got to me was the character of Nightmare Nurse. With Forever Evil: Blight now over, he’s been delving a bit into Nightmare Nurse’s past and it has been a most diverting tale.
This week’s Justice League Dark #32 sees the splintered JLD team try to get Asa (Nightmare Nurse) out of Zatanna’s body after their attempt to get her out of the body of Alice Winters failed and her soul ended up in Zatanna’s body. But it is not going to be such an easy thing this time since Zatanna is a font of incredible magical power, most well-suited to Asa’s own brand of magic and mayhem. DeMatteis writes an absolutely cracking script here this time though the art by Andres Guinaldo and Co. wasn’t always to my liking, it must be said.
After a two-parter focusing on gender-bending Jack and the Samurai Jack stalwart the Scotsman, Jim Zub and Andy Suriano got back together to tell a really amazing silent issue. I haven’t really read silent issues before, and I think this one was my first, and I was blown away. A lot of the legwork was done by Andy Suriano and Josh Burcham, but the story was still Jim’s and he knocked it out of the park quite handsomely. And what I loved was that the threat of Aku being everywhere and doing his best to throw Jack off his scent was ever-present in this issue in a great way.
This week’s Samurai Jack #9 isn’t a silent issue per se, but it comes quite close indeed and I have to say that it is a pretty daring piece of storytelling daring, to have two silent issues back to back like this. Letterer Shawn Lee gets to do some good work this time and he doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. But really, at its heart, this is a true Samurai Jack story and it is also refreshing to see another guest artist here, Ethen Beavers as penciller, so we get to see yet another fresh take on the whole Samurai Jack craze.