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Ravnica: City of Guilds by Cory J. Herndon (Book Review)

My first substantial introduction to the world of Magic the Gathering was through the comics written by Matt Forbeck for IDW Publishing. They introduced me to the planeswalker thief Dack Fayden through some really fun adventures across the Multiverse. Since then, I’ve taken up the game itself, and now I play fairly regularly and follow tournament coverage as well. Naturally, my interests would also lead me to other Magic fiction, specifically the novels, and I’ve read a few of them in the last couple of years, the most recent being Cory J. Herndon’s Ravnica: City of Guilds.

The first of the Ravnica Cycle trilogy, this novel follows a lieutenant of the League of Wojek, Agrus Kos, as he undertakes a murder investigation that draws him into a conspiracy that will shake up the entire world of Ravnica. As a fan of the setting, I really appreciated Herndon’s detailed descriptions of Ravnica and its many citizens, which really helped to bring the world alive in my mind. I’m not familiar with any of the characters here, but that’s the thing about Ravnica: City of Guilds, you don’t have to know anything about Magic the Gathering to enjoy it, though that does help.

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Best of 2014: New Comics Series

Last year I did a small roundup over at The Founding Fields with fellow reviewer Bane of Kings which contained a list of the best new comics to have come out in 2013. It was a rather small list with only 10 entries each from the two of us, reflecting our reading for the year and the consequent small pool to pick from. But in 2014, I greatly expanded my weekly reading, and so for the round-up of the best new comics to have come out in 2014, whether as mini-series or ongoings, I have decided to go much bigger.

There were a ton of new comics to come out last year and many of them started off well enough but unfortunately well by wayside since subsequent issues were nowhere near as good. That however, is a call to make on any new comic and you have to have a wait-and-see attitude for the most part. For this embiggened round-up, I have some mini-series here and some ongoing titles. Some have had multiple issues come out in 2014, while some have had less than three.

Irrespective of that, these are all the most promising new series of 2014, and I think that they are all well worth the read in 2015.

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!

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Best of 2014 Part 2b: Monthly Comics

A few days ago I did my best of 2014 list for the comics I read in the second half of 2014. And back in July of 2014, I did the first “best comics of 2014” post. The reason I mention that is because of the changes I’ve made for this list. While previously I used to do it so that I put up my top 6 comics, in July’14 I did a top 12 on account of the increased number of comics I was reading at the time. And that same holds true for this list as well since I’ve gone up on the number yet again, and this list has the top 20 and then 20 honourable mentions.

More comics, yay!

So, with the books of the second half of 2014 already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite monthly comics of the same period. The next post will be a list of the top graphic novels I read in all of 2014.

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!

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Comics Picks For 19.11.2014

No “Magic 40” this week since I wasn’t able to get around to a lot of the comics I wanted to get through this week, largely because I am traveling and in India for a cousin’s marriage. These things always take up a lot of time. I haven’t even had a chance to work on my NaNo novel these past two days!

Anyway, My top picks for the surprise hits of the week would be Batman ’66: The Lost Episode #1 and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Volume 2 from DC Comics. The most disappointing comics of this week were  Amazing Spider-Man #10 and Spider-Woman #1 from Marvel Comics. Other than that, the regularly great titles like Black Widow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 , Future’s End, Predator: Fire and Stone and Witchblade all proved to be immensely fun.

The graphic novels for this week were Aphrodite IX v2 Volume 2 by Matt Hawkins, Stjepan Sejic and Troy Peteri, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Volume 2 by Dan Abnett, Rafael Kayanan, Kathryn Layno, Deron Bennett, Yildiray Cinar, Randy Mayor, Michael S. O’Hare, Frazer Irving, Pop Mhan, Tom Derenick, Tony Avina, Ken Lashley and Ryan Sook.

Anyway, here’s another edition of “Comics Picks For…”. Full reading list, as always, is available here and all my comics reviews are available here.

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Fantastic Four #13 (Comics Review)

Just about three weeks ago, we got to see something amazing happen in James Robinson and Leonard Kirk’s Fantastic Four, when we finally got to learn who was orchestrating the team’s grandiose downfall, chipping away them one by one. We still don’t have all the answers, but damn, it was a huge issue, a major turning point. With everything that was happening, things seemed to be moving towards a conclusion finally, and I reveled in that since it was something I’ve been wanting to see from the series for a couple months now. The wait is now over.

Fantastic Four #13 is yet another turning point for the series, and the cover is pretty much a dead-giveaway for what is going to happen here. Last time, we saw that Ben was planning a break-out with the Sandman, and we see that happen in glorious detail in this issue. After all the misery of the previous issues, there’s finally some hope for the team, even though they are all still caught in a dark circle that is going to take some time for them to break out of. The issue is a bit too fast-paced for my tastes, but the story and art are both as excellent as they could have been.

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Fantastic Four #12 (Comics Review)

Things are really beginning to heat up in James Robinson’s run on Fantastic Four. We’ve seen Marvel’s first family broken apart as a schism forms between Ben and Johnny, the team loses its home in the Baxter Building, and the children of the Future Foundation are taken away by SHIELD, and more. It is some really rough stuff and James has certainly not skimped on the whole doom and gloom though he has thankfully restrained from making it out-and-out grimdark. Which is where Peter Parker comes in at the tail-end of Fantastic Four #11, providing a ray of hope for the team.

Fantastic Four #12 is a huge turning point in the series. Ever since the title’s debut a few months ago, we’ve seen Marvel’s first family only react to the events unfolding around them. They’ve never really been in charge of things. Sue attempted to take back control when she briefly fought against the Avengers a while back and when she went to Latveria to get Valeria back, but by and large, the team has only fallen into a sorrier state. But now things are different. Now the team’s allies, the real allies I’d say, are gathering, and for the first time there is some real hope here for everyone.

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Earth 2: World’s End #2 (Comics Review)

Each of DC’s new range of weekly comics does something different from the norm. Batman: Eternal has a rotating crew of writers and artists. Future’s End does several parallel stories together. And the new Earth 2: World’s End mixes in several different artists together each week. Launched last week, Earth 2: World’s End is what I would hardly call a good comic, because it seems to retcon a lot of things and confuses the entire timeline of the series. But there is something here that’s interesting, since this is also a prequel to a series I do like, Future’s End.

After what was a massive recap issue last week, this week’s installment of the new weekly series continues the story of Apokolips resurgent on Earth 2, as the fire pits open again and new champions of Darkseid, working under the master orders of the supervillain Bedlam emerge and lay waste to the world’s heroes. I thought last week’s issue was disappointing, turns out that the entire team was just getting started, because this is another disappointing issue. It replicates much of what Future’s End does with the parallel stories, but with a lack of distinct progression in the story and confusing artwork all throughout.

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Earth 2: World’s End #1 (Comics Review)

Earlier this year, DC started putting out weekly comics once again, with Batman: Eternal being the first, and then in May followed the second one, Future’s End. While the former takes place in the current DC timeline, at least for the Gotham-centric characters, the latter takes place five years from the present timeline and is a full-on superhero/supervillain epic. A third weekly was also set to come out however, and tie-in a little bit to Future’s End. Called World’s End, this new weekly series had a really weird premise at first, and was one of the reasons why I passed on it initially.

But now it is here. Earth 2: World’s End #1 is basically a giant recap of 2 years of Earth 2 and World’s Finest, an effort to catch up readers on what has happened on those titles and how all of that is just a setup for this new series. I had low expectations of this series to start with, but given that I felt the same for Future’s End at first but came to really love it, I was willing to give World’s End a chance. And by the first issue at least, it is a big disappointment. There are retcons aplenty and the tie-in with Future’s End is basically non-existent and is essentially retconned.  The art is decent though, and that’s kind of enough to bring me back for a second issue, although I’m not sure if I really should.

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Black Science #6 (Comics Review)

Five issues so far and Black Science from Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera hasn’t disappointed me yet. Each issue has been a visual masterpiece and a great example of a well-written comic. My past experience with some of Remender’s writing wasn’t all that positive really, so to read something so different and so much better is quite a thrill. In the last few issues we’ve seen how Grant McKay and his team have been going haphazardly through various dimensions, trying to get back to their own, and what kind of unique challenges they’ve been facing, whether it is betrayal or deja vu or alien hostiles.

Black Science #6, out this week, goes a bit further in that it shows another possible dimensional where a Pillar was built and where the creators employed the same symbol for their project as our protagonists did. Another fantastically rendered alien environment, and another example of how Remender can really twist an ending to give readers a shock-jolt. He doesn’t play it safe, not at all, and it is quite fun to follow along all these characters and see where their adventures take them next. Read the rest of this entry

Black Science #4-5 (Comics Review)

When any comic book tries to do something different, there’s always a chance that it is not going to work out, and the result might be extreme. In the case of one of Image Comics’ recent Fall’13 launches, Black Science, that chance has swung fully towards the positive. It combined pulp science fiction with modern aesthetics and some really gorgeous art, becoming one of my favourite new series of 2013. Time travel. Dimensional travel. Intense character drama. Betrayal. Treachery. Aliens. This series has it all in spades and it is the better for it. All of it combines to form a really solid title.

Last month’s Black Science #4 and this past week’s Black Science #5 are the perfect examples of that. In the first three issues, Remender took things very fast, and he blitzed the reader through the characters and events, as Grant McKay and his group dimension-hopped through several different worlds. But now, even as #4 continues things in the same vein, #5 takes a step back and really focuses on the characters as the story slows down a little bit to allow Remender to develop the characters. And as ever, the art continues to be magnificent. The alien locales, the characterwork, it is all top-notch, with the entire team chipping in to deliver one of the best looking comic on the shelves right now.

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Magic the Gathering: Theros #2 (Comics Review)

After the success of Matt Forbeck’s 12-issue run on the title, IDW launched a new phase of Magic the Gathering comics in October with Planeswalker Dack Fayden under the pen of new writer Jason Ciaramella and series veteran Martin Coccolo. The first issue was quite a fun read, largely in part because it kept the same tone and momentum as Matt’s own issues, which I loved, and I was quite looking forward to the second installment last month. But, for whatever reason the issue was delayed and it comes out today (still a few hours to go for US readers).

The second issue unfortunately suffers from a sophomore slump. Where the first issue was planes-jumping high adventure and Dack’s typical madcap heist story, the second issue doesn’t really offer anything interesting. There is a distinct lack of story progression here and I found that I didn’t like it as much as I liked the first issue. The artwork is still brilliant but the writing definitely lets it down.

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Comics Picks of The Week 06.11.2013

Zero Year has finally kicked off for the non-Batman titles for DC and its been pretty good so far. Lots of interesting stories to say the least and this coming week promises to be even better with Batman #25 and Batgirl #25 hitting the stands as well, so good times to be had. Didn’t read too much outside of DC this time around, which is fine with me since I like my superheroes a particular way and other comics don’t interest me all that much really.

Read another graphic novel this week, mostly to catch up with a series I’m following right now, so that’s a bonus for the most part. I’d say I have a good thing going here if I can scrape in a graphic novel a week. Could be more, depending on certain things, but I’m fine I suppose.

In the meantime, here’s another edition of this new feature. Full reading list, as always, is available here and all my comics reviews are available here.

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