Darkness Falls was meant to be one of the big moments for the Top Cow universe a while back, given everything that was going on in David Hine and Jeremy Haun’s The Darkness: Rebirth at the time, just about a little over 2 years ago. The build-up was definitely fantastic, but then plans got delayed for some reason, and so we never really got the follow-up to Hine and Haun’s big-moment finale of the second volume of the series, up until now, and in the pages of Witchblade no less.
White writer Ron Marz began a new arc on Witchblade with its #179th issue, issues #180 and #181 are devoted to the re-energized Darkness Falls: The Death of Jackie Estacado storyline. A confrontation between Sara and Jackie had been signposted for a good while in the pages of The Darkness: Rebirth so it was rather rewarding to see it all come about finally, even though it kind of felt as if the story didn’t get the execution it deserved and kind of fell a little flat as well. But things heated up rather nicely with the recent #182nd issue, which reverts back to the new arc that Ron Marz had started, and presents a few answers to a few mysteries already introduced.
Matt Hawkins and Stjepan Sejic’s IXth Generation, the next phase in the future-set Aphrodite IX storyline, finally kicked off last month and proved to be one hell of a comic. In retrospect and time-context, it definitely beat most of my expectation. Which I’m honestly quite happy for, since I wanted this book to be good and the first issue did not disappoint me.Weaving in a story with the IXs and their fight against The Darkness with Aphrodite IX and Hephaestus IX leading the way, the first issue was an intense story about fighting ancient monsters and confronting your own weaknesses. Great concept that.
In this past week’s IXth Generation #2, we follow on from the events of the first issue as Aph and Heph break out from Sanctuary XIII to get back to Earth, while at the same time we also see the flashbacks that portray the life of the IXs following the Ascension, when they all took control of the Earth from the two warring states of Speros City and Genesis, establishing their own dominance over the world. The story here is much more intense this time and on several different levels too, and that makes for one hell of a read. Not to mention Stjepan’s amazing visuals as usual.
No “Magic 40” in the first week of the new year, but the second week definitely sees me hit that landmark number, and with graphic novels mixed in to boot!
This week’s surprise hits were Angry Birds/Transformers #2 from IDW Publishing, Ares & Aphrodite #1 from Oni Press, Operation: S.I.N. #1 and Wolverines #1 from Marvel. The disappointments of the week were Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #2 and Ant-Man #1 from Marvel and Future’s End #36 from DC. Ongoing greats like Swamp Thing #38 and Detective Comics #38 from DC, Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #3 from Marvel, and John Carter: Warlord of Mars #3 from Dynamite to name a few were just as I expected them to be: superb.
As mentioned above, the graphic novels for the week were Legends of Red Sonja Volume 1 from Dynamite and Quest: Age of Darkness Volume 1 from Zenescope. The former was a fun book where Gail Simone brought together several different female prose writers, paired them with different artists, and wrote a grand, sweeping Red Sonja story. The latter was part of the publisher’s Age of Darkness event and was more a prequel story.
If you’ve been following Top Cow’s various books for about a couple years now, then you know that IXth Generation has been a long time coming and that it has been setup for an equally long time. Of course, the origins are humble, spread out across books like The Darkness and Witchblade and CyberForce and Aphrodite IX among others, but then that’s the fun thing about Top Cow’s books: they are all clearly about superhero-like character, but are also so much more than just that. They are vibrant unlike what you find at the Big 2, competing only with the sterling work that Valiant Comics is doing of late.
In last week’s IXth Generation, we see what has happened to the world in the 25 years since the end of the recent Aphrodite IX series. At the end of that, there was a sort of global genocide by the IXs and now they are the undisputed masters of everything before them. And they’ve since fallen into infighting. Nothing serious of course, but when you have access to unlimited cloned cyborg bodies, conflict takes on a new dimension. And this is the setting for a major crossover between the various different franchises of Top Cow, leading to the eventual Darkness Falls crossover I believe. And it is off to a grand start too!
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!
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.
Ron Marz and Laura Braga’s soft reboot of Witchblade last year made it one of my absolute must-read titles each month and the two creators continued along that path with their following issues, each of which did something different and ended up being really good for the most part. In recent weeks however, we have seen the beginning of something different as matters seem to ramp up for the protagonist Sara Pezzini, who is working hard at being the kind of Sheriff that the people of Saratoga County need her to be with all the strange goings-on.
At the end of the last issue, we saw that there was some new unforeseen complication for Sara in the form of a couple new characters. In this past week’s Witchblade #179, we see a glimpse of what these plans entail, given that Sara and Kate’s new case has them investigating some horrific cattle mutilations in the backwaters of Saratoga. This is mostly an action issue with little in the way of character development, but that’s fine since this is just the opening spell of a brand-new arc and Ron does take a while to get going. The art is good too, as I expected it to be since I’m not pretty used to Laura Braga’s unique style and the monster introduced is pretty cool as well.
After two straight weeks of reading 38 singles and 2 graphic novels, this week saw me lagging behind, with only 36 singles read and no graphic novels at all. Makes me kind of sad since there were comics that I was really looking forward to reading in GN format, but I just couldn’t get the time, and I’m seriously behind on my novel reading as well.
The surprise hits of this week were Brides of Helheim #1 from Oni Press, The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood #1 from Dynamite Entertainment and Gotham Academy #1 from DC Comics. The disappointing comics of this week were Fantastic Four Annual #1 from Marvel Comics and Green Arrow #35 and Green Lantern & New Gods: Godhead #1 both from DC Comics. Titles like Death from Wolverine #3 from Marvel, Angel & Faith Season 10 #7 from Dark Horse Comics, and Grayson #3 from DC comics continued to rock it.
Thanks largely in part to Ron Marz and Laura Braga’s recent work on Witchblade, I’ve gotten into the groove of catching up on the back-issue trades of the series, from when Ron Marz started his run, and it has been a pretty damn good experience as well. But then, I expected that already since I’ve loved Ron’s recent work on Witchblade. Sara Pezzini is easily one of the best and most awesome female characters in comics, and while Laura’s art has been somewhat problematic, it has also been quite good, enough so that I keep coming back to the series for that.
After the end of the first arc, Ron Marz launched a brief interlude intended to catch up Rooney with Sara’s background, and also to tell some short stories such as the ones in Witchblade #175 which bring back characters like Patrick Gleason and also introduce new bearers of the Witchblade from years past. In Witchblade #176 Ron tells a straight-up horror story involving kidnapped children, and in Witchblade #177 he launches a new arc that sees Sara try to get some answers as to how Jackie Estacado’s wife came to be the current bearer of the Angelus. In both Witchblade #177 and #178, we see some of Ron’s best writing with his second run on the title, and also some great art by Laura Braga.
Witchblade is one of Top Cow’s biggest IPs, by far. Unless I am mistaken, it is one of the publisher’s only two titles to have made it past the landmark 100th issue, and the only one to have made it past the landmark 175th issue as well. And one writer who has shaped this incredible run, more than others I’d reckon, is Ron Marz, who enjoyed a seventy-plus issue tenure before he got back on the title with issue #170 last year. Of all the Witchblade stories I’ve read to date, Ron Marz’s scripts have been the most consistent and engaging and my current read-through of his run has been a very rewarding experience.
Witchblade Volume 2 continues everything that Ron Marz setup in Witchblade Volume 1, taking the Witchblade’s bearer Sara Pezzini into new environs and with new supporting cast members. Unlike the previous volume, this one contains many one-shots that slowly build-up a larger story continuing the plot threads that Ron introduced at the start of his run. If anything, I enjoyed this volume even more than the first, though it should be said that sometimes the stories can be a bit too much by-the-numbers. Like Phil Hester says in the introduction to this volume, Ron defies expectations and notions of genre limitations.
In the last couple years Top Cow’s Witchblade IP has become one of my favourite reads in comics. Whether it is Witchblade/Sara Pezzini in the pages of Artifacts or Witchblade or in any crossovers here and there, I’ve always loved her as a character. Sara Pezzini to me is one of the best female characters in comics, by far, easily a match for the greats such as Wonder Woman or Storm or Batgirl or Black Widow. And if there is one man out there who has shaped my experience of Sara Pezzini, it is Ron Marz, who has written more Witchblade than any other writer and has had a long run on the core title as well.
Witchblade Volume 1, from my understanding of things, marks a new phase in the life of the protagonist Sara Pezzini as she continues to bear the heavy burden of being the bearer of the Witchblade, a mysterious artifact that has bonded itself to her and has allowed her to face criminals of all stripes and even the more supernatural of individuals. This was Ron’s first arc on the title, and for me it proved to be some of his best work to date, not to mention that the artwork by Mike Choi and others was great as well, capturing the feel of the city and the dark tones of the story.