The fifth book cover I pick for the 2014 edition of “12 Days of Best Covers of…” is for Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising by Sarah Cawkwell. Published by Abaddon Books, this was Sarah’s first full-length non-Black Library work, and it proved to be even better than some of her Black Library work, which is saying something since I’ve always held her BL fiction in high regard. She was one of the first authors I started reading back when I was returning to BL fiction some years back, and she has never disappointed. An historical fiction novel about an alternate English history, mixed in with some great fantastical concepts, Uprising was one of my top books for the first half of the year.
The fifth set of comic covers I pick this year are for Batgirl #31 by Gail Simone, Fernando Pasarin, Jonathan Glapion, Blond and Dezi Sienty, with cover by Alex Garner, and Robyn Hood: Legend #1 by Pat Shand, Larry Watts, Slamet Mujiono and Jim Campbell, with the cover by Nei Ruffino. Alex Garner’s work on Batgirl has always been impresive since he stepped on to the title last year, and the one for Batgirl #31 is among my favourites, especially since it has one of my favourite Secret Six characters, Ragdoll. With Robyn Hood: Legend, I have less of a history since I only got into the whole Robyn Hood thing this year, but writer Pat Shand certainly made it a grand experience and Nei Ruffino’s cover, while a variant, is the best of all the covers commissioned for the first issue of the third Robyn Hood mini-series.
So without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.
The second book cover I pick for the 2014 edition of “12 Days of Best Covers of…” is for Michael J. Martinez’s The Enceladus Crisis which is the second novel in his Daedalus series. Michael debuted last year on a very strong note with The Daedalus Incident and he carries forward almost all of the same energy and excitement of the debut, telling a new story with characters I’ve come to really care about, in a setting that is wildly creative unlike any space opera I’ve read before.
And the second set of comic covers I pick this year are for Tomb Raider #1 by Gail Simone and Nicolás Daniel Selma, with the cover done by Dan Dos Santos, and the second one is for Harley Quinn #3 by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Chad Hardin, with the cover done by Amanda Conner and Dave Johnson (corrected!). With Gail on Tomb Raider, it was an instant pick for me as part of my reading for the month and since I loved the direction that Amanda and Jimmy were going with on their brand-new top-selling title, that too was pretty automatic, especially given how they twist the concept of Valentine’s Day for their titular character.
So without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.
A third straight week this time without me hitting my magic 40 number, which I really regret since a ton of comics have been coming out these last two weeks, but no matter.
Anyway, My top picks for the surprise hits of the week would be Battlestar Galactica: The Death of Apollo #1 from Dynamite Entertainment, Dredd Uprise #1 from 200AD, and Swamp Thing #35-37 from DC Comics. The most disappointing comics of this week were Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 and Hulk #9 from Marvel Comics. Comics which continued on with a good run yet again were Alien vs. Predator: Fire and Stone #3 , Aliens: Fire and Stone #3, Grimm Fairy Tales: Realm War #5 , Death of Wolverine: The Weapon X Program #3, Inhuman #9, Gotham Academy #3 and Vampirella v2 #7 among others.
No graphic novels this past week unfortunately.
Gail Simone’s run on Secret Six prior to the New 52 launch three years ago isn’t something that I’ve had much experience with. In fact, the only such experience is a read of the first volume of the series that I did last year and the story and art were pretty decent. Though I suppose that I should give that more credit since I came to really like the characters of Catman and Ragdoll in particular, thanks to some of their cameos in other Gail Simone titles, like the pre-52 Birds of Prey or the New 52 Batgirl, respectively for both characters.
This week saw the release of the New 52 Secret Six with a debut issue that sees Gail introduce us to this new and revamped team that still seems to be headed by none other than Thomas Blake, Catman himself. The issue has a very strong sense of direction and also a certain menace to it that I found very compelling and it also happens to be quite unlike Gail’s usual stories, though that’s not a point against it. And the art by Ken Lashley, Drew Geraci and Jason Wright also stands out as something impressive, more since it is very different from the typical New 52 style.
Getting on a roll again, this week I managed to repeat the “Magic 40″ with 2 graphic novels and 38 singles, with many of the latter being absolutely new series, so that was a lot of fun for the most part.
My top picks for the surprise hits of the week would be Archer & Armstrong: One Percent #1 from Valiant Comics, Deep State #1 from Boom Studios, Django/Zorro #1 from Dynamite Entertainment and Vertigo Comics, and The Kitchen #1 from Vertigo Comics also. The most disappointing comics of this week were Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #1 and Death of Wolverine: Logan Legacy #4 both from Marvel Comics, New 52 – Batman #36 from DC Comics and Grimm Fairy Tales: Cfinderella #1 from Zenescope Entertainment. Other than that, the regularly great titles like Hexed, Fables, New Suicide Squad, Red Sonja and Unity all proved to be immensely fun.
The graphic novels for this week were King Conan: The Hour of The Dragon by Timothy Truman, Tomás Giorello and Jose Villarrubia, and Fables Volume 5 by Bill Willingham, Tony Akins, Jimmy Palmiotti, Daniel Vozzo, Todd Klein, James Jean, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha.
It has been an excellent year and a half for fans of Red Sonja, the She-Devil With A Sword. With Gail Simone and Walter Geovani’s reboot of one of Dynamite’s most enduring and consistently successful titles, Red Sonja has seen a huge upsurge in popularity and interest and there have even been quite a few mini-series and one-shots that have been released in this time. Gail and Walter closed out their highly excellent second arc a few weeks back, and the wait ever since has been quite torturous. Red Sonja is a title that I want more of every month and temporarily, the wait is over!
A new arc started on Red Sonja this past week and it brings a fantastic new story from the pen of Gail Simone as she delves into another facet of the She-Devil With A Sword. While bringing to justice a villainous sorcerer who has been killing several innocents in a nearby village, Sonja is cursed that she will never be able to forgive anyone ever again, and this is where the fun really kicks off and where Gail brings out the best in her protagonist. Walter and Adriano’s artwork is top-notch as always and I really loved all the artistic twists here.
Slight lows on the reading this past week since I didn’t manage to finish either of the graphic novels I started this week, and generally didn’t read as many singles either, but I did manage to get through 35 of them, so that’s something, yeah?
For this week, I’d say that the surprise hits are Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1 from IDW Publishing, Catwoman #35 and Secret Origins #6 from DC Comics and Predator: Fire and Stone #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The comics that win the “disappointment of the week award” are Grimm Fairy Tales: Dark Shaman #1 from Zenescope, Arkham Manor #1 and Sensation Comics #11 both from DC Comics. Ongoings like Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #8, Aquaman #35, Tomb Raider #9 and Nancy A. Collins’ prelude Vampirella: Prelude To The Shadows #1 were all first-rate comics this week, and quite satisfactory as well.
The graphic novels I’m in the middle of at the moment are Supergirl Vol.4 by Michael Alan Nelson and Diogenes Neves, and The Flash Vol.2 by Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul.
Lightning strikes in the same place for a third time. I mentioned last week that I read 38 singles and 2 graphic novels for that release week, and that holds true for this week as well. I had a chance to read a bit more, but I chose to use that time to get done with some of my novel reading and also catch up with some of my reviews. 15 titles out of 40 read were reviewed by me this week. I feel good!
The surprise hits of this week were Aliens: Fire and Stone #1 and Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1, both from Dark Horse Comics, Pathfinder: City of Secrets #5 from Dynamite Entertainment, Catwoman: Future’s End #1 from DC Comics, Hack-Slash: Son of Samhain #2 and Chew Volume 1 both from Image Comics. Comics which disappointed me this week were Edge of Spider-Verse #3 from Marvel Comics, Sensation Comics #7 from DC Comics, and… that’s it thankfully! The graphic novels of this week were Chew Volume 1 and Thor: God of Thunder Volume 3.
Red Sonja is one of the greatest and, dare I say, none of the most well-known, heroines in fantasy fiction. She is brave, courageous, compassionate, fearless, daring, aggressive, dominant and much more. Under the pen of Gail Simone, we’ve seen some really great things with the character in the rebooted Red Sonja. And her current arc has only heightened all these aspects of the She-Devil With A Sword, as she is often known. Tasked to find six of the greatest artisans in the world for a dying king’s death-feast, we’ve seen some great adventures with Red Sonja and now it all comes to a close.
Red Sonja #12 sees Sonja and her friends Rat, Aneva, Osric, Gribaldi, Plaitius and newcomer Rakaua return to Emperor Samala for his death-feast. Sonja’s reward for spending an entire month gathering these artisans is that once they are presented to Samala, he will free a thousand slaves as her reward. Bu Emperors rarely keep their promises and Samala planned to betray Sonja from the get-go, so the direction of this issue is no surprise. Not really sure what I can say, other than that Gail Simone and Walter Geovani delivered one of their best issues to date.
After handily wrapping up the first arc on Tomb Raider, Gail Simone teamed up with Rhianna Pratchett for the second arc that, last issue, took her to Chernobyl to help Alex’s sister Kaz with whatever trouble she is having. It was a slightly confusing issue to be true, but it was also quite fun since the creative team was intent on keeping things fresh and presenting Lara with new challenges and new direction. The art also seemed to improve, so that isn’t something that I’m going to complain about. Yeah, I liked the previous art as well, but the new style is definitely cooler.
In Tomb Raider #8, we see more of Kaz’s backstory and learn a lot of things about her that we didn’t know before. In the previous issue, it was all about getting Lara to witness Alex’s ghost rise up and warn her about Kaz and then Lara getting all the way up to Chernobyl before things really went south for her. Now, we see the beginnings of some real meat of the story, and that was most welcome. The action overall is rather static, in that everything takes place in a very narrow location and that was a slight shock but still, I liked the story here well enough and the art was great as before.
With everything going on right now, I had doubts whether I’d be able to get through many comics this week but it seems that this was indeed the week where I surprised myself in a big way. Not only did I catch up on quite a few new titles, but I also managed to read two graphic novels this week, one of them at almost 300 pages no less!
The surprise hits of this week were Doctor Who: Eleventh Doctor #2 from Titan Comics, Judge Dredd: Anderson, Psi-Division #2 from IDW Publishing and Inhuman #5 from Marvel Comics. This week’s surprise flops were Caliban #6 from Avatar Press, Grim Tales of Terror #3 from Zenescope, and Superman Unchained #8 from DC Comics. Of the others, they were mostly great, and I loved that both G.I. Joe Volume 1 and Witchblade Volume 3 are among my absolute favourite graphic novel reads of the year!
As I’ve mentioned previously, Gail Simone is leaving Batgirl for other projects, one of which involves her recently-announced reboot of Secret Six for DC, a Suicide Squad-style supervillain team book but with a different focus and outlook on the characters. Gail’s run on Batgirl made me fall in love with the character and with her leaving, I feel as if it is the passing of an era. On the other hand, Scott Snyderhas been running the showboat for Batman since the New 52 relaunch and he has been killing it, except on the recent Zero Year arc which ended up being nowhere near as good as it started.
Both Batgirl: Future’s End #1 and Batman: Future’s End #1 are really dire stories. In the former, we see how Barbara’s brother James Jr. crashes her wedding party and kills her husband, setting her off on the path of darkness once again. But in all of it, we also see how Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain and a young girl named Tiffany take up the fight to maintain the legacy of Batgirl and it is not as bleak as it may sound! In the latter, we see how an aging and troubled Bruce is fighting to maintain his own legacy in his own image, not in the image of young men and women he has inspired over the years, for Gotham must always have a Batman. Ray Fawkes has written this issue instead of Scott, and while I generally don’t like Ray’s writing, this issue was actually quite good in places.