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Comics Picks of The Week 29.01.2014

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.

Anyway, 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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Witchblade #172 (Comics Review)

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.

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Best of 2013 Part 2b: Graphic Novels

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!

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Comics Picks of The Week 18.12.2013

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.

Anyway, 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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12 Days of Best Covers of 2013: Day #10

The tenth pick for the “12 Days of Best Covers of 2013″ list is the cover for Wesley Chu’s The Deaths of Tao, the sequel to his 2013 debut from Angry Robot Books, The Lives of Tao by Argh! Oxford. The Lives of Tao is one of the best debut books I’ve read this year, largely because how approachable and… normal its protagonist, Roen Tan, is. The Deaths of Tao lives up to the promise of its predecessor and its a book that’s an adventure from start to finish and I couldn’t get enough of it. The launch of The Lives of Tao was so successful that Angry Robot pushed the release of the sequel up several months and The Deaths of Tao was released quite recently. Which is pretty frikkin’ great actually. I’m hoping that the third novel is release soon as well.

The tenth comic cover that I pick is Marc Silvestri and Sunny Gho’s jaw-dropping cover for Ron Marz and Laura Braga’s Witchblade #170, which sees Ron Marz return to the series after a long hiatus and newcomer Laura Braga join in as the artist. I’ve read a fair few Witchblade comics prior to this and I have to say that Witchblade #170 is definitely among the best by quite a margin. Now that I’m following this series regularly, I’m very excited where things are going, especially given how Witchblade #171 ended. Can’t wait for Witchblade #172, which will be coming in about 4 weeks or so. Long wait.

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.

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Witchblade #171 (Comics Review)

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.

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Aphrodite IX #6 by Matt Hawkins (Comics Review)

Earlier this year Top Cow relaunched its Aphrodite series, giving the character a new spin by putting her in a post-apocalyptic future where mankind has mostly destroyed itself and is now divided into two factions, one that holds genetic engineering supreme and the other that holds machines supreme. The first arc was an absolute cracker and as a fan of the character from her appearances in Ron Marz’s Artifacts series, I thoroughly enjoyed the new take.

With the newly-released #6, Matt Hawkins and artist Stjepan Sejic begin a new arc that picks up some time after the end of #5. The lead-up to this has been quite good and Matt doesn’t disappoint with the story. Aphrodite has been targeted by both sides of the ongoing conflict and a new faction has entered the mix, someone familiar and yet very different. The fun is in finding out how all the characters are continuing to develop and where they are all headed, as well as all the revelations about who and what Aphrodite really is.

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Bushido #5 by Rob Levin (Comics Review)

And finally this mini-series is at an end. Its a been a long road, all five weeks of October to be precise, but the story is done and dusted and there have been some important changes in the status quo of Feudal Japan, changes that have rocked the island nation and its foundations. And there have been heroes here, and villains aplenty as Rob Levin brought this screenplay to life as a comic.

When I first picked up this mini-series, I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it turned out. Not really. I thought it’d be decent fun and that was that at the time. But then I began reading it, tuning in each week for the next installment, and finally we are here as Rob Levin closes out the story of Kichiro and Orochi, of a Vampire invasion of Nippon. This week’s final issue turned out to be fairly good, but it was still plagued by all the deficiencies of the previous issue unfortunately.

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Witchblade #170 by Ron Marz (Comics Review)

More than a year on since I first read a Witchblade comic, and I’m still in love with the character of Sara Pezzini and the entire setting that has grown up around her and the other Artifact-bearers in the Top Cow Universe. While initially it all comes across as very superheroish, its all just the surface details really since none of these characters are what I’d typically call superheroes. They are quite different, and Sara Pezzini/the Witchblade show that off quite handsomely.

I haven’t actually read all that many Witchblade comics, which is why this week’s Witchblade #170 is so significant a read for me. Ron Marz is returning to the title after a long hiatus, replacing Tim Seeley as the series writer and Laura Braga is coming on as the artist, replacing Diego Bernard. As such, this is meant to be a jumping-on point for readers and it starts off a whole new arc.

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Bushido #3-4 by Rob Levin (Comics Review)

As we move into the final days of the month, Rob Levin’s comics adaptation of the “Rising Sun” screenplay by Shahin Chandrasoma also draws to a close. Today sees the release of the fourth issue, and then there is one more left till this mini-series completes up and we get the full story of Kichiro’s coming of age from a gaijin to a samurai.

By injecting vampires and their brutality into this story of feudal japan and a denied romance between Kichiro and the Shogun’s daughter, Mitsuko, Levin and Chandrasoma have done much to create their own (inspired) setting. Its certainly been a fun ride this far but the cracks are somewhat showing now. This remains a pretty fun mini-series, but I’m still waiting for it to really step up.

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Bushido #2 by Rob Levin (Comics Review)

Like I said last time, the fertility of vampires in fiction is at an all-time high these days. Novels or comics, movies or TV shows, they are everywhere, and the horror/urban fantasy genre is doing really well as a result. Frankly, there couldn’t be a better time really if you wanted to write vampires because now is the time to truly differentiate your work from the rest.

And this is what Rob Levin has done with Bushido. Vampires and samurai are a fairly interesting mix to throw together for a story, more so when it is in the medium of comics. Rob Levin presented a fairly interesting take in the first issue of his new mini-series for Top Cow and it proved to be a delightful read. Keeping up the momentum isn’t always easy for a mini-series but Levin looks to be set to do just that with his second issue.

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Bushido #1 by Rob Levin (Comics Review)

Given the success enjoyed by certain franchises of late (like in the last five years or so), Vampires are everywhere these days. Whether it is in movies or books or TV shows or whatever, there’s at least something going on with them at any given time. Of course, comics have long been a fertile ground for this horror subgenre, particularly if you look at the Vampirella pulp comic that is still alive and kicking today or the various current ongoing comics such as Scott Snyder’s American Vampire.

Joining all these titles is Rob Levin’s latest, an adaptation of a screenplay as it turns out. Levin, who has worked on various Top Cow/Image properties before, is back with a story involving vampires and samurai in feudal Japan, a setting that I really enjoy in any medium, and with the type of characters that I love reading about.

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