A few days ago I did my best of 2014 list for the novels I have read in the first half of this year. That list followed the same format that I have been using for 2 years now, but with this new list I decided to make a big departure, owing to how many comics I’ve been reading in recent months, often 80+ comics in a single month! That’s crazy.
So, with the books already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite monthly comics of the year. The next post will be at the end of the year for the second half of the year.
You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
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!
Well, it has been a couple weeks again since I did this feature. The week before, well, it was marriage week for me and I barely read 4 books, so it didn’t really make sense to do a post on just those four, so I skipped it. And it was a really slow week all in all, especially for blogging, so I just decided to let things rest for an entire week. But I’m back again this time!
The surprise hits of this week were Death Vigil #1 from Top Cow andGrayson #1 from DC Comics. The surprise flop of the week would be Spider-Man 2099 #1 from Marvel Comics. Expectedly great comics such as Fantastic Four #7 from Marvel Comics, Batgirl #3# from DC all delivered on their promises as well. Not a lot of comics this past week, certainly not as much as the week prior or my usual number of ~25/week, but definitely a good number at 21 issues. Might take a dive in the next week though!
Going into the finale, at only just eight episodes, one might wonder what it is exactly that Penny Dreadful has been building up to. Is it the story of Frankenstein’s Monster, Caliban, and his search for an immortal mate? Or is it the larger story of the hunt for the Master Vampire who has Sir Malcolm’s daughter Mina in his spell? Or could it be the mystery of the libertine Dorian Gray and his frivolities? Or perhaps the story of Ethan Chandler and the possibility that he is the Wolf Man after all, being one of the stellar crown jewels of penny dreadful stories that the show evokes? The answer, of course, is that it is all of it.
Aptly titled “Grand Guignol“, the entire main act of the finale takes place in the Grand Guignol theatre where Caliban works as a stage-hand and where he has some measure of contentment and peace, having experienced the charity and friendship of one of the actors, and perhaps something more from another one. All of the storylines come to a close in this finale, though some are frustrating dead ends, and that’s where the finale failed for me, though I enjoyed the resolutions to the Sir Malcolm/Vanessa/Mina arc and the reward at the end of the Brona/Ethan arc.
Note: There will be spoilers here.
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.
One thing that Showtime’s latest, Penny Dreadful, has been really good at is delivering on the scares and thrills and mysteries of a horror show steeped in the classics of the genre: Frankenstein and his monster, Dracula and Mina Murray, Dorian Gray and more besides. And when you mix in talent like Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton and Eva Green, excellence is what you expect, and thankfully the showrunners have maintained that from the very first episode through to the seven episodes to date. The characters, the actors, the story, everything has come together really well.
Titled “Possession“, this week’s episode is set some time after the events of the previous episode’s cliffhanger, where we saw Vanessa Ives return to Sir Malcolm’s estate and then put on a startling display of her powers. This week, we see how the devil who has been germinating inside her all these years (reference to the flashback fifth episode) begins to manifest itself ever more strongly and in doing so John Logan writes the most character-heavy episode of the show’s debut season, one where director James Hawes delivers an absolutely astounding horror experience that hearkens back to the best of the original The Exorcist.
With the return of magic to the world and Giles to the world of the living at the end of Season 9, there have been quite a few interesting things happening in good old Sunnyvale, not the least of which is that there are some powerful vampires out there right now, vampires who exhibit some powers similar to Dracula, one of the most powerful vampires to have ever lived, and indeed a master vampire himself. With their first three issues Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs have knocked the story out of the park and made Buffy the Vampire Slayer an absolute must-read series.
In the new issue released yesterday, the duo deal with the resulting consequences of Dracula coming to Sunnyvale with Xander and Dawn to help the team against the powerful newborn vampires and then absconding with the book that rewrite the rules of magic as the owner sees fit. There are some true-to-form hilarious moments in the issue that make all the doom and gloom worthwhile and we also see some great examples of solid chemistry between the different characters, as well as their inter-personal relationships. Oh and the art is gorgeous and awesome as always too.
With last week’s fifth episode, “Closer Than Sisters” Showtime’s latest show, Penny Dreadful, moved into its second phase since this is only an eight-episode debut season. The good thing is that the show has already been renewed for a second season, and well-deservedly so since it has been really great so far. It has taken some old penny dreadfuls, and spun a crossover tale that includes the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein, Abraham Van Helsing, Dorian Gray and many others. It has had a perfect intensity and mood, and it has delivered again and again.
While the last week’s episode was a singularly focused tale that dealt with the backstory between Vanessa Ives and Sir Malcolm Murray, and was utterly magnificent for that, this week’s “What Death Can Join Together” still somehow manages to top all of that. It moves the story forward significantly and throws several wrenches into the gears to really complicate things. And for the first time in this show, we do get the feeling that things are moving for a resolution and that the tension is really ramping up too, and this is a great feeling.
It isn’t often that a show fully steeped in horror and the dark supernatural can really grab you. Last year’s Sleepy Hollow did an amazing job in that regard, and this year the same can be said of Showtime’s surprise hit Penny Dreadful, which just last week was greenlighted for a second season. The first four episodes have been a tale unto themselves, telling a consecutive story that ran all the way through and introduced us to this world of horror, vampires, zombies, dark magic and perhaps werecreatures even. I’ve been a fan since the first episode.
One thing that has stood out for me in the previous episodes is that we got to see so little of the weird relationship between Sir Malcolm Murray and Vanessa Ives. The latter at first appeared to be a confidante and an ally but we’ve seen since that she used to be friends with Sir Murray’s daughter and that there is something dark in their shared history that has brought them to this point. I was hoping we’d get more flashbacks this past Sunday, but what we got instead was a mind-blowing episode that was all flashback and explained almost entirely this relationship between two of the show’s star characters.
Another week of heavy comics reading, and to think that just three days ago I was concerned whether or not I’d even be able to read 15 comics! How quickly things change, and for the better, in this case. It has been quite a good week this time with several new experimentations among other things.
The surprise hits of this week were Chew/Revival #1 from Image Comics, Doc Savage #1 and Vampirella #1, both from Dynamite Entertainment. The surprise flops would be Amazing X-Men Annual #1 and Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude #2, both from Marvel Comics, and Godstorm: Age of Darkness from Zenescope Entertainment. Comics that I expected to be great, such as Angel & Faith Season 10 #3 from Dark Horse Comics and Original Sin #3 from Marvel Comics, and Green Arrow #32 from DC Comics, were absolutely solid and continued a very strong run ever since I started reading the title last year.