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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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Advent Review #15: The Flash Vol.4 (Graphic Novel Review)

Much as with John Layman and Jason Fabok’s run on Detective Comics, I started reading Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul’s run on The Flash due to fellow TFF reviewer Bane of Kings’ recommendation. This is something that I’ve mentioned before, and the reason I repeat is because I consider The Flash to be one of DC’s best titles right now. Again, this is also something that I’ve mentioned before, and the reason I repeat is because I truly am in love in with this series. Its not as intense a series as some of the other DC titles like Batman, Batgirl or Justice League. Its very down to earth and it always knows how to have fun with itself.

Writers and artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have had an incredible run on the series in recent months and I’m really glad that I gave the series a chance after not liking the first three issues last year. This fourth volume collects together the six issues of the Reverse arc, which features Flash’s antithesis, the Reverse-Flash, and his killing spree which targets Barry’s closest friends. These issues, and the Annual (review) issue this August made me fall in love with both the character and the series, giving me another Flash to care about besides Barry Allen.

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Comics Picks of The Week 16.10.2013

This was another week with me reading far more non-DC comics than DC comics, as was the case in September. Lots of great variety in the comics this week, especially a lot of exciting new series with their first issues. There are a few other series that I’m looking forward to reading in the next few days, particularly catching up with some favourites like Bill Willingham’s Fables, of which I’ve read the first two volumes, and some Top Cow books.

Which brings me to the my usual complaint with my comics reading: the lack of being able to read any graphic novels. I fully expected to be able to move through at least two this week but I got caught up reading a really big fantasy novel that proved to be a tough slog, not to mention a sudden fascination with the Candy Crush game on my iPad and my smartphone, so I’ve been whiling away a lot of time. No idea what’s gonna happen this week, but as always, I’m hopeful!

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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Justice League #23.4 by Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates (Comics Review)

The Justice League family of books have had some really disappointing one-shots for Villain’s Month, whether we talk about Justice League, Justice League Dark or Justice League of America. I haven’t read all the issues for these titles for this month of course, but I’ve read most of them by now, and only two have managed to stand out, Matt Kindt’s Justice League of America #7.1: Deadshot and Justice League #23.2 by Lobo, and for them, only the former has actually been a memorable one.

With this issue, supposed to feature the New 52 version of the Secret Society of Supervillains, I had some high expectations from it. The Secret Society was built up through all two years of the New 52 DCU so far, and the mystery has been a big part of their draw for me. But with the revelations of Trinity War last month, I finally wanted to see the Secret Society explored in full. This issue would have been the perfect place to explore that, but sadly it falls far from the mark.

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Batman/Superman #3.1 by Greg Pak (Comics Review)

I’ve said before that my initial excitement for Greg Pak’s Batman/Superman was greatly tempered by the actual issues themselves. There’ve been three issues in the main series so far, and then there’s this Villain’s Month tie-in issue, which gives us an origin story for one of Superman’s greatest villains. Across all four issues, I’ve faced one disappointment after another. And its been a case of disappointment in all respects.

Greg Pak has written three Villain’s Month issues: Darkseid, Zod and now Doomsday. The first of these was extremely disappointing, largely because of the story execution. The way it set things up, things looked promising but then it all fell flat. And I haven’t yet read the second issue. Probably for the best if I don’t go ahead and read it now, at this point.

Note: Spoilers follow.

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Detective Comics #23.4 by Frank Tieri (Comics Review)

At this point, I think its quite safe to say that Frank Tieri is another of my favourite comic writers working in the industry right now. Before DC’s Villain’s Month, I’d never heard of him, which is not surprising since I wasn’t really reading comics until last year and even then I was pretty limited in my reading. However, with last week’s Penguin issue, and this week’s Man-Bat issue, not to mention his Infinity: Heist #1 (review tonight!), Frank keeps impressing me.

I remember coming across the Man-Bat for the first time in Batman: The Animated Series, and then, just last month as I began to read the current arc of John Layman’s Detective Comics, which features backups that go into some depth with the character. Suffice to say, I think Man-Bat is a fun supervillain for Gotham, thematically and otherwise, and I’ve definitely enjoyed all the outings of the character that I have come across. Frank’s Detective Comics #23.4 is no different in that regard.

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Aquaman #23.2 by Geoff Johns and Tony Bedard (Comics Review)

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.

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Justice League of America #7.4 by Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates (Comics Review)

As of writing this review, I’ve read 6 of the new Villain’s Month releases for this week and of all of them, only Justice League of America #7.4 has been any good. This is an issue I’ve been waiting for a long time and for some several damn good reasons. In Geoff’s backups for the Justice League comics, Black Adam came to be a villain that I really enjoyed reading about and he had a great outing in Justice League #21, which was very much a premier issue for both Shazam and Black Adam.

The Justice League and Justice League of America Villain’s Month titles have been mostly lackluster so far, either due to a lack of good writing or because they featured non-major characters such as Dial E and Killer Frost and Shadowthief. Only Matt Kindt’s Deadshot and now Geoff and Sterling’s Black Adam have made any kind of an impression on me.

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Batman: The Dark Knight #23.3 by John Layman (Comics Review)

Its the third week of DC’s Villain’s Month and alongside The Flash, Batman: The Dark Knight is the only series so far that has had three consistent villainous one-shots. Gail Simone’s Ventriloquist was the first, followed by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Mr. Freeze. And now we have John Layman’s Clayface. Fantastic stuff all around. Not all of Batman’s various villains have come out on top so far, especially not the ones I really expected to. So its a surprise for me when I ended up loving all these three issues so much.

I’ve recently started reading John’s run on Detective Comics, with the current arc that focuses on the villain Wrath, and I’ve been enjoying all these issues. He definitely gets the dark, moody tone of Batman comics and the setting, Gotham itself. He really excels at it. While Clayface is more of a humor piece, it is still quite dark and gothic. Interesting dichotomy right there.

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The Flash #23.3 by Brian Buccellato (Comics Review)

Three weeks into DC’s Villain’s Month and I have to say that The Flash has come out on top so far with the best-written and best-drawn titles so far. Grodd was a fantastic issue that made me want to go back and read up on the Gorilla Warfare arc. Reverse-Flash was another oustanding issue that carried on the current arc, which I’m following, really, really well and ended on an awesome cliffhanger. And this week’s Rogues was a yet another excellent entry.

With each of these issues, writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have given me innumerable reasons to catch-up on their entire arc for the New 52 version of the Scarlet Speedster. I’ve mentioned before that the first three issues of the run, which I read last year, didn’t hook me but that all the recent issues have and I really want to go back and read ’em all. Which would be a perfect thing to do since the second arc of the series deals with the Rogues and should prove to be excellent reading material.

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Wonder Woman #23.1 by John Ostrander (Comics Review)

So here we are. When I reviewed Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman #13-15 earlier this year, I’d said that I couldn’t justify picking up the book anymore or recommending it for that matter. The plot was stuck in limbo, the characters were doing the same thing over and over again, and the process in which Azzarello was introducing new characters to the series was just getting frantic. Pointless things were happenning and my interest in the series was waning.

Fast forward to eight months later, now, and I’ve picked up my first issue of Wonder Woman since then. Thankfully, Brian Azzarello is nowhere in sight, which is just perfect for me. This issue here is written by John Ostrander and is part of the ongoing Villain’s Month line-up as the writer deals with one of Wonder Woman’s more iconic and recognisable villains, someone that we’ve briefly seen before in the pages of Geoff Johns’ Justice League.

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Batman #23.3 by Frank Tieri (Comics Review)

There have been two rather lackluster Batman Villain’s Month issues so far, Joker by Andy Kubert and Riddler by Scott Snyder (plot) and Ray Fawkes (script). They were also two of most highly anticipated issues for this month, so it kind of stings a little bit. The Riddler issue I’m still on the fence about, mostly because it seems to be a very low-key story for the character involved, but that doesn’t change my opinion on it all that much. Which is why when I read the new issue today, I was ecstatic.

I’ve never read any Frank Tieri comic before, to my knowledge, but after reading Batman #23.3, I certainly want to correct that oversight. While I don’t necessarily agree with how Penguin is portrayed, mucho serious and no comic-ishness, it was still a great issue and now I want to also go back to read Detective Comics Volume 3: Emperor Penguin, by John Layman. I’ve read some of the newer issues of that series and I love them, so that’s another motivation right there.

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