A stable week for a change and this meant that I was able to read some more comics this time. Didn’t get through quite as many as I wanted to, and I certainly didn’t get around to reviewing as many as I wanted to, but that’s fine really. Gotta take a bit of an occasional lighter load I think. Most of the Marvel books I read this week weren’t all that impressive (as the top picks at the end will show), but DC was better. And Vertigo’s newest series looks to be damn good too, can’t wait to check out the second issue of that next month.
And I did manage to begin my Flash New 52 read-through finally with volume 1 last night, so that’s something there. Planning to read a lot of graphic novels this year, mostly in terms of catching up with series I’ve missed out on, so we shall see how it all pans out.
If you’ve been following Top Cow news in the last couple of months or so, then you know that writer Ron Marz is back in the saddle for Witchblade, this time with artists Laura Braga and Betsy Gonia. Working in a world set after the events of Tim Seeley’s run with the Rebirth mega-arc, the new run is a great place for new readers to get into the series, especially for someone like me who kind of just tapered off with the title and has only read a few issues here and there. The new creative team has started off fairly strong and the Borne Again arc looks set to be a really good one.
The previous two issues were slow-burners, but not this one, for this one has much more action this time and it is paced well along with the backstory reveals, not to mention a guest appearance by someone unexpected! What I liked about this issue was that it really opened up the world of Witchblade lore for readers, whether new or old, and Laura’s art continues to be good, despite a few problematic areas here and there.
And so we finally come to it. This week, Fox’s Sleepy Hollow ended its first season with a special two-hour episode. As I’ve said in my previous reviews, this is a show that I’ve really come to enjoy and the previous two episodes have been some of the best work on the show yet. Sure, some subplots have been sort of ignored and so have certain characters, but overall, I can definitely say that each and every episode has been a joy to watch. It avoided many of the pitfalls of a team-up show in its first season, or just first season blues in general, and that’s been the best thing about it, among others.
There have been a damn load of revelations in all the previous episodes. In episodes 10-12, all the revelations finally begin to make sense and they come together to deliver more revelations on top of all that. Another thing is that these three episodes allowed the full cast to get their day in the sun. The writers touched on pretty much every subplot here, although I think that the finale could have done with a lot more, but still, the finale mostly left me with my jaw hanging open all the time. It also helps that the acting has been great, with Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie being the breakout actors of television in 2013 for me.
Note: This review contains spoilers about these three episodes.
Sleepy Hollow is one of those shows that kind of slips under the radar for a while before quickly coming out explosively. The first six episodes, while really good in almost all respects, still skirted with some expected stuff. The stakes were high, the tension was always high, but still the show felt somewhat limited in scope. As you’ve no doubt seen from my previous reviews, I really enjoyed the six episodes, in particular the chemistry between the two leads Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison, who might as well be the 2013-2014 television programming season’s breakout stars for me.
Episodes seven to nine did much to up the tension even more, and increased the scope of everything, whether we talk about character backstory, or the stakes involved, or just the character drama involved. Additionally, episode eight in particular hinted in a big way that there is a very big story arc involved for the first season. Additionally, episodes seven and eight marked the return of the Horseman to the show and that in itself is worth every single second of those episodes. And episode nine really did a number with giving us more of Katrina’s backstory and had a huge reveal for Ichabod. Suffice to say, I really enjoyed these three episodes.
The new year might have come but comics are still dealing with ongoing events that began last year, and one of these events is Forever Evil by DC in which the world has been taken over by the supervillains and evil is everywhere. Tying into this larger event is an 18-part mini-event Forever Evil: Blight which deals with the goings on in the supernatural world and concerns the remnants of the Justice League Dark as per their reformation since October last year and DC’s mythological (New 52) heavyweights Pandora and the Phantom Stranger. Till now, I’ve read only the Phantom Stranger and Justice League Dark issues of the crossover, both written by J. M. Dematteis but I have to say its been quite a fun time and Phantom Stranger #14 ended in a really good place.
Phantom Starnger #15 carries on directly from the ending of Justice League Dark #26 from the previous week, and its actually quite exciting to see this entire story develop. Having read the new issue, I do feel that I should really catch up on Ray Fawkes’ Pandora and Constantine since there is finally a lot of crossover between the books, with references being thrown back and forth, but still, I feel that if you are reading both Phantom Stranger and Justice League Dark then you are good. You’ll get the story here and you won’t be lost. Plus Fernando Blanco, Miguel Sepulveda, Brad Anderson and Travis Lanham’s art is pretty good too.
Note: This review contains some minor spoilers about the issue.
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!
After a slight bit of delay, Witchblade #171 is finally out. When Witchblade #170, marking the start of a new arc on the title with Ron Marz returning after a long time, came out in October, I was pretty damn excited for the issue, being a big fan of Witchblade and Sara Pezzini. Joining Ron on the title was artist Laura Braga, and together they turned out a fairly good issue that was better than I had expected. Not having kept up with the series for a while, I felt I would be lost, but with the new arc, Ron and Laura turned out a great jumping-on point.
Witchblade #171 continues the arc begin in the previous issue and it deepens the mystery surrounding the cliffhanger ending that we saw at the end of that issue. And the flashback scenes are perfectly placed to move along the overall narrative. The ending to this issue is just as damn awesome as the one for the previous issue, and given the flashback, it makes a strange kind of sense. The mysteries continue and everything looks pretty darn good for sure.
For this new seasonal end of year list, the fourth book cover that I pick is Brian McClellan’s debut novel for Orbit Books, Promise of Blood, the first novel in the Powder Mage gunpowder fantasy series that, for me, does some really new things with magic systems. Additionally, it describes a very rich and layered world that is driven by politics on all levels of culture and society. And finally, Brian writes some great action scenes that definitely make it easy to visualise in the mind what’s happening on the pages. That in itself is quite fantastic.
And the fourth comics cover that I pick is the seventh issue of writer Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder. This is the series that really got me to read Marvel comics since it was the only comic from the publisher for months that I was following regularly. The two creators together wove a wonderful space operatic tale with fantasy elements and the comic featured regularly on my end of month lists, which can be found here.
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.
After all the build-up in the previous issues of Justice League Dark and The Phantom Stranger, writer J. M. DeMatteis gets things into gear finally with this week’s issue of the latter series. We’ve seen how the manifestation of pure evil that crossed over from Earth 3 to Earth 1 with the Crime Syndicate has begun to effect the supernatural-oriented heroes of the DC Universe and we’ve seen how Constantine and his allies have tried to take the fight to this manifestation, Blight, and failed. Now, Constantine has rebounded from that defeat by doing the impossible: bringing the Trinity of Sin to his doorstep in chains in order to solicit their help, essentially at the point of a gun.
Ever since DeMatteis took over on the series he has been turning out one great issue after another and this new issue follows that trend. It is moody, it has character drama, it has tension, it has action. Its got everything, in short, and DeMatteis has been incredibly consistent with his writing along with Fernando Blanco and Brad Anderson on the artwork. Issue #14 is where the status quo for all these characters really shifts and where a new (temporary) Justice League Dark is born.
Last time I mentioned that Sleepy Hollow had become a surprise hit for me after watching the first few episodes. I’m not a big fan of the horror/supernatural genre, but I’ve seen a few shows and movies over the years that I’ve liked, and a few that I haven’t. If done right, they can be quite good. If handled badly, they can be really terrible. Sleepy Hollow is a straight up horror show that works because first and foremost the characters are excellent and second, the stories are all engaging and brilliantly told with a clear overall narrative. The last of those two is quite important for any show, more so for one that really depends so much on the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
The first three episodes of the show really hooked me in right from the start. I’d started watching the show on a whim because of a passing interest at best but after that pilot and then the next few episodes, I couldn’t get enough of the show. As of writing this review, I’ve caught up with all nine episodes of the show so far (the tenth airs tomorrow) and its great to see that the writers have kept the overall story on track despite taking an occasional detour to tell some side stories that build on the overall narrative. These three episodes, they did a great job of building on the overall mythology of Sleepy Hollow and giving some new perspectives on all the events that have been going on in the town.