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.
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.
I usually prefer the comics and novels I read to be fast-paced and with lots of action as well. Sure, I like having the character moments sprinkled here and there, but overall I like something that keeps moving and that keeps throwing things at me to sink my teeth into, to latch on to (if that makes sense). This is one of the reasons why I generally don’t read horror because its almost always slow-paced and I have trouble connecting. But, Vertigo’s Coffin Hill series has changed that around, and this is a series that I’m definitely enjoying, largely because its an excellent slow-burn story.
Writer Caitlin Kittredge with artists Inaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz have created a really great setting in this series that has seen some spectacular moments in the first three issues. Month after month, this has been a series to read and I haven’t really been disappointed with it. With the new issue I was expecting more of the same, but the creative team still managed to come up with quite a few surprises and finally delivered on the identity of the big bad of the story, and gave us a tiny glimpse into the objective of this big bad.
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.
Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda’s Coffin Hill #1 set a wonderful tone for the new horror series from Vertigo when it came out in the month of horror. We got a good dose of supernatural mysteries and met some interesting characters, including the protagonist Eve Coffin. Last month, Coffin Hill #2 continued to build on that foundation and further both the story and the characters themselves so that by the end of it we had the beginnings of a really nice, multi-layered story involving characters who weren’t cardboard cut-outs but did have some depth to them.
The two creators go that extra mile with the third issue, released this past week, and it is definitely quite a fun issue. Some ten years ago something dreadful and horrific happened in the woods near the Coffin mansion, and that began a series of really gruesome events in the town that have now led to Eve returning after years of being away and history repeating itself. Sort of. The most fun part of the comic is still the interactions between the characters, and Caitlin does not disappoint in that regard. Nor does Inaki disappoint with the artwork, which is pretty damn good.
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.
By now this month, its absolutely not a secret what’s going on in Gotham. In last month’s Batman #24, the Riddler turned off the city’s main power supply and with a mother-of-all-storms coming to the city, people are in desperate need of the most basic things. Like batteries, batteries are worth more than expensive mountain climbing gear right now in fact! And that’s where this (one of) latest tie-ins to Scott Snyder’s Zero Year comes in. This is almost an origin story for Selina Kyle, Gotham’s master thief, and it is pretty damn good.
I’ve never read a Catwoman issue before, whether in the New 52 or before that, so this was very much my first solo introduction to the character. She’s popped in a few times in other books, like Geoff Johns’ Justice League of America in which she was a part of the team that ARGUS Director Amanda Waller put together, but other than that I know her only through the movies (Anne Hathaway’s portrayal rocked) and whatever animated stuff I’ve come across. As a first issue, this was a great issue and if the rest of the series is this good, both in terms of the art and the story, then I’d love to read more.
Vertigo took some (further?) forays into the horror genre last month, the month of horror, by bringing out a new series called Coffin Hill, written by Caitlin Kittredge and drawn by Inaki Miranda. With a story revolving around your heiress Eve Coffin, Kittredge created a dramatic world with all the typical horror elements, but none of the cheesiness and very little of the cliches. Her world was full of interesting characters, and interesting events, which made the first issue a great experience, not to mention Miranda’s spectacular artwork.
With the second issue, we see the world developing, and so do the characters, as more mysteries are introduced while some are answered. Where the first issue could be called a bold but hesitant step forward into the genre, the second issue is the opposite. It feels as if an experienced writer is at the helm of the series. Sure, there are a few flaws, but the second issue proves to be a much more satisfying read, which is what I wanted and what I got.
Part of DC’s third wave of launch titles for its New 52 reboot from 2011 was The Phantom Stranger, written by DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio and drawn by Brett Anderson. I picked up the zero issue (which was the first of the new ongoing) in September last year but I wasn’t too taken with it. The story just didn’t work for me, and I ended up ignoring the title altogether. But then came the Trinity War event this year and since a different writer was on the series at the time, I decided to read the tie-in issues and see if things had gotten better. They had.
I’ve been reading The Phantom Stranger since issue #10 (July), and I have to say that I’m really enjoying. There’s something about DeMatteis’ writing that really draws you in, presents a compelling character that you can really follow, with some great premises in each issue and a great build-up of all the mysteries in Phantom Stranger’s life. It also helps that Fernando Blanco is an excellent artist. All of which means that, first with Trinity War and now with the Forever Evil: Blight arcs, I’m really enjoying this series.
Note: This review contains spoilers for Trinity War and possibly the Forever Evil story so far.
Following the recent news that Aquaman scribe Geoff Johns is stepping off the title, starting with issue #25 next month, I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that this issue has been wr itten by (thus far) guest writer John Ostrander, who previously penned issue #20. Much as with that issue, this too is a story about The Others, the team of heroes that Aquaman used to be a part of before he stuck in with the Justice League. And once again, this issue is one that lacks excitement and a certain finality, unlike all the issues penned by Johns himself.
This issue introduces a new foe for Aquaman and The Others, someone who has been a part of the DC universe for a long time, and its great to see her make her New 52 debut. Least, I’m assuming its her debut since I’m haven’t seen her in any of the books I’ve read or seen her name come up anywhere, not even in Paul Cornell’s Demon Knights Volume 1. But the issue isn’t just about her of course, its about The Others themselves, the team that Aquaman brought together years ago, and the one that he still nominally leads.
Its October, so its pretty much a given that this is the month for reading horror stuff, especially in comics since the format lends itself very well to horror stories I find. Of course, that works much better if you have a bunch of comics in the same series to plow through back-to-back rather than reading one-offs, but sometimes that can work just fine. Which was the case for me this week with one of Vertigo’s latest series, launching with an (appropriately) extra-sized issue.
Coffin Hill seems to be a good comic to add to my monthly piles, and I have to say that it continues the Vertigo tradition of telling stories that are completely separate from the rest of the industry (for the most part). This is something I’ve remarked on before, and its really great to see all these new titles that Vertigo is putting out. Lots of diversity, lots of fun. No duds.
Its no secret that I love Geoff Johns’ run on Aquaman in the New 52, which was my first time reading anything directly related to the character. The series really came out of nowhere and it has impressed me month after month as the storytelling and the art keep getting better, with some minor stumbles here and there. For me, this is the series that got me to really like, and even respect, Aquaman as a character, and for that alone, this series rates highly in my list of favourites.
Going into Villain’s Month, the coverage that Aquaman villains get wasn’t all that spectacular, focusing as it did on two characters we’ve already seen a fair bit of in the main series, but I was excited for them nonetheless. Aquaman #23.1 which Black Manta was good, but it fell short of my expectations. With the new issue, it is better, but it still fails to meet those same expectations, and that is largely due to the narrative decisions made by Geoff Johns and Tony Bedard.