Years ago, there used to be this little animated series called Defenders of the Earth. To a young kid growing up in the 90s, the show was one of the most memorable ones at the time, in part because it featured The Phantom, a comics character from my childhood that I had a ton of fun reading about in the Hindi-version comics that were released in India. I don’t remember the show all that much, but I do remember that Phantom, Flash Gordon and Mandrake pretty much kicked ass every time and that Ming the Merciless was utterly despicable, a true villain.
Fast forward to now, when Dynamite has begun releasing Kings Watch, a mini-series that focuses on the adventures of this trio and goes to some new places. The original animated series was set in 2015. It is now 2014 (the series started in September last year). Funny how that works out, huh? Reconnecting with these characters after all this time has been quite a thrill, and this first issue has been very entertaining. The story isn’t quite as put together as I would like it to be, but the art is pretty top notch and this is definitely a really good issue. One that makes me want to pick up the others immediately.
Gail Simone and Walter Geovani’s Red Sonja, launched last year in July, has proven to be one of the best new comics of recent months. It even made my “Top 5 New Comics of 2013” list. For a fan of the character and the setting, Gail and Walter have done some incredible work with the series and their first arc of six issues was always fun and enjoyable without fail. Now, they are launching into their second arc after a 2-month break and it looks like they have both upped their game significantly. Which is all that I wanted really.
As said, this issue starts off a new arc. After defeating Dark Anisia in the previous arc and freeing the populace of an usurper king, now Sonja is headed all over Hyrkania and beyond to round-up the six greatest artisans of the age for an immense banquet being held in a month’s time by Samala, the Emperor of a pseudo-Egyptian kingdom. Gail’s writing is as top-notch as ever this time around and even the art clicks together very well. This might just be my favourite issue of the series thus far.
Not as busy a week as the last but fairly busy nonetheless. The new creative teams on various ongoing titles continue to go strong, particularly Justice League Dark and Witchblade while some of the newer titles like Black Science continue to be exception, so that’s one thing that I really liked about this past week. January in particular has been a really excellent month of comics what with Marvel’s full-on All-New Marvel NOW! launch and some really good issues for DC’s Forever Evil event.
Just one graphic novel again this week, the Lee/Buscema magnificence that is Silver Surfer: Judgement. I was meaning to read at least one more, but time wasn’t on my side and I missed out. Hopefully the new month gets off to a good start.
As you might well know from the reviews I’ve been posting in the last few months, Red Sonja is one of my favourite female characters in comics and with Gail Simone on writing duties for her with Dynamite’s latest relaunch, things are on the up and up for her. She’s always been a character that I enjoy reading about, and this past week Dynamite released a one-shot called Li’l Sonja which reimagines the fiery redhead as an all-ages kids character, very much in the same vein as, say, Powerpuff Girls or Li’l Gotham or Itty Bitty Hellboy.
I just read the issue a few minutes ago and I got to say that it was a lot of fun. Knowing that it is all-ages and being a little familiar with Jim Zub’s writing style from his Samurai Jack comics with Andy Suriano and Josh Burcham for IDW, I knew that I would be in for a treat here and I wasn’t disappointed. Honestly, if Li’l Sonja was a cartoon being aired in the mid-90s, I would have totally been watching it. Honest truth! Jim’s writing is great and the art team has done a great job as well.
A few days ago I did my best of 2013 list for the books I had read in the second half of the year. In a departure from previous such lists I divided the books and the comics into separate posts so that I didn’t have one massive post up. Massive posts are a bit tough to handle, especially when you are promoting them on social media. And with the split posts, the directions are different and there’s no unnecessary crossover.
So, with the books already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite graphic novels of the year. A post with the best single issues will follow on later.
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!
Well, here we are. This will be the final CPoTW post of the year, even though today is the last new comic book day of 2013. Just the way these schedules all work out and all.
Moving on, this was a somewhat light week in some respects since I didn’t get around to as many comics as I wanted to. Quite a few titles slipped through the cracks, which is happening more and more given the sheer volume of how many comics are (generally) released each and every week. Still, one bright ray of sunshine in all of this was that I managed to read three entire graphic novels this week, all of them for Batgirl, with one featuring Cassandra Cain and the other two featuring Stephanie Brown, both characters who are much in demand among several outspoken communities of fans to be revived in the New 52. Having read these graphic novels, I certainly agree with that!
Looks like its going to be the month of busy weeks. The last two weeks I’ve read two graphic novels each along with all my regular monthlies and this past week proved to be no different. Both Detective Comics Volume 4 and The Flash Volume 4 proved to be exceedingly good and now I have two more series that I need to catch up on for the New 52. Tall order, but doable. And as regards the usual monthlies, there were comics across the board, in all sorts of ways: genres, publishers, characters, etc, etc. The year has slowly transformed over the months into a really solid year for comics overall.
I still haven’t made any dent in the pile of graphic novels I have to read, but I’m not too worried about any of it, to be honest. Already used to that phenomenon from my novel reading.
And so we come to it, the final issue of Gail Simone and Walter Geovani’s first arc on the new Red Sonja series. When the first issue came out in July, it seemed as if the road to the end of the first arc would be long. But here we are, and the journey to this issue has been a really fun and exciting one. The last issue promised one hell of a one-on-one clash between Dark Annisia and Red Sonja, but there was a gut-wrenching twist at the end, something that did leave me quite shocked. It was a cliffhanger which made me really anxious to get to this issue, and I’m quite elated that the finale lives up to its promise.
The final issue of the arc this may be, but it is still just as great an issue as any of the others. The Red Sonja who we saw in the first issue has grown quite a bit and the one we see at the end of this issue is a different person. Not too different, mind you, but the character has definitely been changed by her experiences fighting against her sister-from-the-pit and almost dying in the wilderness. If you were waiting for Red Sonja to truly be the hero of this story, then this is the issue that you have to read for that.
The sixth book cover that I pick for the “12 Days of Best Covers of 2013” list is Jon Sullivan’s superb illustration for Ari Marmell’s In Thunder Forged, the first Fall of Llael novel from Pyr Books, set in the Iron Kingdoms setting. I read the novel a few weeks ago and while its not among the best novels I’ve read this year, its certainly been one of the better ones and I definitely loved the setting and the characters book. It makes me wish that I knew more about Iron Kingdoms and that the next book in the series was already out. Now that would truly be amazing, especially if Jon draws the cover once again.
The sixth comic cover that I pick is the cover for writer Gail Simone and artist Walter Geovani’s first issue of the rebooted Red Sonja series from Dynamite Entertainment. The cover itself is courtesy of Nicola Scott, who is one of my absolute favourite comics artists. The first issue was rather remarkable in that Gail put together a team of seriously awesomely talented female artists and got them to do the cover and several variants, one each. The result was pretty fantastic, as was the rest of the issue itself. Gail and Walter have definitely put Red Sonja on the map for me, a dilettante with the character’s comics, and now I’m a full fan.
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.
Slightly slow comic-reading week again, but not by all that much since I got to read a graphic novel as well, so that balances things out a little bit. Really interesting week this one, particularly with the launch of a Harley Quinn ongoing from DC Comics and some really good second issues or the start of new arcs for some of the other regular books.
The month is closing out now though, not all that much time left, just a handful of days, and I’d like to end the month on a good high. TO that end, I might well be reading two graphic novels at least this weekend to catch up on things a little since that particular reading pile creeps higher every week or two weeks. Getting almost scary now!
One thing that I love about Gail Simone’s story arcs is that she writes strong, consistent stories regardless at what point they are set. Be it the beginning, or the middle, or the end, her writing always entertains in all sorts of different way. The Movement, Batgirl, Birds of Prey, she’s been excellent in all of them, and her revival of Red Sonja in collaboration with artist Walter Geovani is further proof that she is one of the best writers in the industry, no doubts about that.
As a fan of the character, I was immediately on board with this series even before the first issue had been released. After that, it was only a matter of form since Gail and Walter gave me a story and a character that I could really latch on to. They’ve put Sonja through some really tough moments in the previous four issues, and now she is on the mend, and spoiling for a fight, which she does get by the end, except for a slight unforeseen complication which was perfect.