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The Master

Every comic you've read in 2014

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Free Comic Book Day comics being new reader friendly is more of a guideline than an actual rule.

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Dan the Unharmable #1-12: an insane story that is a shitload like something I was working on...hrrrmmm...it's good though, so there's that.

Caliban #1: "I have a great idea for a sci fi series at a publisher that will allow me to do anything I want. Have three people talking constantly through the entire first issue about bullshit that's difficult to understand and nothing actually happens, only it's sci fi because it takes place on a space ship." Garth Ennis probably.

Original Sin #0: I don't have a clue who this Nova is. I don't really care at the end of this issue, but I suppose that's not the intent. There's some interesting stuff about Watcher here, but it doesn't look like it will really pan out. Another Marvel event without teeth? Probably.

Rai #1: There has yet to be a decent Valiant #1 issue. Sad.

Rem-8 #1: Pure cheesecake and it's awful.

Solar: Man of the Atom #1: This isn't great, but if the price is right and it's a slow month, I could be tempted to grab the trade.

Southern Bastards #1: DEFINITELY picking this up in trade. An exciting revenge tale. Beautiful art too. Recommended.

Justice League United #0: I read this last night and remember absolutely nothing from it. Ugh.

Trades: 16

Comics: 315
Omnibus: 5
Graphic Novels: 10

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I suppose they kind of hung out together a little bit, but I suspect that the uniting will not be complete until the end of the second arc, which, judging by the pacing and excitement of this first issue, should be some time 2062.

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Foolkiller #1-5: Foolkiller and Punisher versus white supremacists.

Arizona #1-3: A terrible miniseries from London Night publications in the early 90s.

A Little Temptation: A great French GN with Manga-styled art about two teenagers who try to seduce the father of a girl they babysit in order to have a better life.

Lola XOXO #1: The second Aspen comic I've read because I'm pretty sure Mike and I reviewed a shitty issue of Soulfire (also known as an issue of Soulfire) waaaayyyyback in the day. This was the least Michael Tuernery of the Aspen stuff I've seen and for that it gets points, because Michael Turner sucked. But it still wasn't great. I'll check out issue two.

Southern Cumfort #1-4: A weird Civil War era erotic comic where all four issues essentially happen at the same time and interweave. There was a lot of fucking going on in the 1800s.

Killogy #1-4: Goddam...so bonkers.

Trades: 16

Comics: 332
Omnibus: 5
Graphic Novels: 11

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Oddly, I too ordered Lola XOXO. Not sure why, though. I think I wanted to try something new, and female-led. Sadly, I wasn't impressed. Every last bit of it is cliched, from her having never seen the outside world to the thugs in the bar to the dialog. I'll give it a few more issues, 'cause I ordered them from DCBS, but I'm not hopeful.

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Rat Queens Vol 1 + #6: Okay, seriously, go and read this already. It's basically like if all of us, drunk at C2E2, played a D+D game, complete with wonderful characters and hella lamp shading of tropes. The new arc just started, and I am seriously interested to see where they go with it. And Gary too. Fucking Gary.

Nextwave 1-12: I reread this at least once a year. Never fails to make me choke laughing, and I manage to catch something new each time.

Ink and Thunder (Demeter, the Mire, Wolves): Worth if if only for Becky Cloonan's art. Demeter is probably the best of these. Can't tell you too much about these, except that they're atmospheric short stories, with wonderful twists on the tropes they present. They're $.99 each on Comixology, go for it.

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I have the last volume of the Marvel Two-In One Essentials and The Pak/Ven Lente Hercules run coming from InStockTrades. Fanboygasm forthcoming.

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Oddly, I too ordered Lola XOXO. Not sure why, though. I think I wanted to try something new, and female-led. Sadly, I wasn't impressed. Every last bit of it is cliched, from her having never seen the outside world to the thugs in the bar to the dialog. I'll give it a few more issues, 'cause I ordered them from DCBS, but I'm not hopeful.

I know. I love the art though.

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Absolution #0-6: Read this right after Dan the Unharmable and forgot to mention it. Weirdly, this combined with DtU makes for almost the entire story of something I was working on. It has since been turned into prose, and many changes are being made. My writing bears the Avatar stamp of approval, I see.

Trades: 16

Comics: 339
Omnibus: 5
Graphic Novels: 11

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Glory v1 The Once and Future Destroyer: I love the story. This, to me, is the only Extreme relaunch book that's worth a damn. The Prophet reboot was awful, but managed to get all the press. This is way better. The art, on the other hand, is something I'm having trouble reconciling. The storytelling is fine. In fact, it's great in some places. But the style is very much not what I like. Weird.

Helheim Book 1: The Witch War: A black magic revenant viking. Pretty sweet. A reminder of The Anchor a little bit, but it's its own thing. Not sure if I'll come back for volume 2, but I did like it.

Saga Volume 3: This book felt like it had lost me in the middle. It took a very long time to get through, but it came around at the end. The characters are pretty powerful and the art is beautiful. I just feel like the story is lacking pretty heavily in a lot of areas. I'll get another volume before dropping it.

Avengers v1 Avengers World: Not the greatest, but I have to say that Ex Nihilo and his kin are the most exciting new villains I've seen in the big 2 in a long time. I can't think of another since The Elite for me. I think I'll introduce them into the Marvel Omega universe.

Vengeance #1-6: This is pretty awful. I liked the conceit of creating two rival groups of young heroes to play within the Steve Rogers Super Soldier/Bucky Cap era o the Marvel U. But it is relentlessly boring.

Trades: 20

Comics: 345
Omnibus: 5
Graphic Novels: 11

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Bone: Out of Boneville: A first time read, and wow. I'm blown away. Not since Locke and Key have I immediately fallen in love with a world. Smith's art is phenomenal, feeling like the lovechild of Bill Waterson and Neal Adams. I'm really, really excited to read more.

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Gladstone's School for World Conquerors #1-5: I LOVE the premise. It's really cool. I'm not sure what went wrong with the script but it feels like they meander away form the plot of the story a lot early on and then rush to it at the end. Weird for a five issue miniseries. The art is spectacular though. I'm glad I read it.

Nancy In Hell #1-4: What if Nancy from A Nightmare on Elm Street died and went to hell where she had to fight Freddy and all of his friends is basically the premise of this one. And she's blonde with huge boobs and not a lot of clothing. That too. It's fun. A real Army of Darkness vibe.

Nancy In Hell: A Dragon in Hell #1: a oneshot featuring Dragon. Yup. Funny because he has a walk-on cameo in Gladstone's too.

Trades: 20

Comics: 355
Omnibus: 5
Graphic Novels: 11

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Defenders #1-12: This is Matt Fraction's run. Really, this is a Dr. Strange story with a large supporting cast of random heroes. And like every Dr. Strange series in recent memory, it was doomed to failure. However, lasting twelve issues is probably a testament to Fraction's name more than anything else. Though, I have to say that this is a really fun book that captures a bit of what gerber was doing. This is weird. Beautifully weird. The artist changed more than I would like in the twelve issues (6 art teams? 7?), but almost all of them were great.

Trades: 20

Comics: 367
Omnibus: 5
Graphic Novels: 11

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Grifter/Midnighter #1-3 (of 6): I put aside my hatred and distrust of Chuck Dixon's writing in order to research some of the tiny corners of Wildstorm I haven't read for DC Omega research. I only made it through three issues. This is a fucking mess. Terrible.

Rocket Raccoon #1: This is the FCBD issue that I read with my sons. They preferred the Ultimate Spider-Man back-up (based on the cartoon). I thought they were both just okay.

Trades: 20

Comics: 371
Omnibus: 5
Graphic Novels: 11

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Walking Dead #116-25: Parts 2-11 of a 12 part story. Not much to say here. It is equal parts regular boredom with the series and exciting storytelling. This series is a really mixed bag.

Savage Dragon #192-4: The last issue of "the bold old direction" as Larsen puts it and the first two of a bold new direction. I'm interested to see where this gos. The treatment of Malcolm Dragon is already new and interesting. I don't like Malcolm as much as I do Dragon, but I've had more than 20 years to get to know Dragon. So, I imagine I'll be okay with this eventually.

Stormwatch PHD #1-12: I reread this series every so often and always love it. Great story featuring peripheral characters form the Wildstorm U drawn by Doug Mahnke (for the most part). Then Andy Smith takes over and his style is like Alan Davis crossed with Bart Sears. Kind of amazing. I love it.

The Shadow vol 3: The Light of the World-The Shadow and team versus a religious themed vigilante. Kind of cool little story. Feels a little inconsequential, though. Great art.

Hellraiser: The Dark Watch vol 2: A step up from the last trade. Pretty good. I like the cast of characters for the most part, and it started to lose me near the end, but then BOOM! There it is. I'm sucked in for the next trade.

Ultrasylvania vol 3 The Book of the Dead: the third and final volume in a series I kickstarted that has Frankenstein;s Monster and Dracula as heads of state in a world where monsters exist. It's an amazing conceit that is at times hampered by uneven art. There is a new artist every few pages. Some are great. Some are ho-hum. Some aren't so great. It makes for an uneven read. Still. I kind of love this book.

Glory Vol 2 War Torn: I felt like the appearance of the entire Extreme universe was totally wasted. Entirely unneeded. The art still irks me. At times amazing, but others, it's an ugly style. I suppose it kind of works for an Extreme book, but it certainly doesn't have the regular Extreme Studio feel.

Daredevil by Mark Waid vol 5: The best superhero comic in as long as I can remember. I can't think of one to beat it. One that's lasted this long anyway. This has consistently been amazing for 27 issues, and doesn't show a sign of stopping. This volume had me in tears.

Trades: 24

Comics: 396
Omnibus: 5
Graphic Novels: 12

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The Crimson Avenger 1-4 (1988): Fairly bog standard "Roy Thomas writes a Golden Age character from the 1930s no one really remembers very well" from the period when he was doing that a lot. It's a solid enough mini that captures the flavor of the era pretty well, and the art is decent.

However, I was stunned at how it took me this long to realize just what a wholesale ripoff the character was of the Green Hornet. I mean, obviously. The names are changed but otherwise it's the exact same character. I seriously have never connected the two "guys in masks who own newspapers and fight crime while pretending to be criminals who they denounce in their own papers and are driven around by Asian chauffeurs". The Golden Age was full of that shit - Batman is a pretty blatant Shadow lift with a little Zorro sprinkled in, Gladiator + Doc Savage = Superman - but it's astounding to me that I never picked up on something that obvious.

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Ghost #0-4: It's been Dark Horse Heroes revival week. This is really a great story. I initially put off reading this because I was never a huge fan of the original run. I always saw it as cheesecake (ironically, I read Barb Wire) and the premise of this doesn't light me on fire. A team of ghost hunters trying to get a TV pilot together end up running into Ghost and trying to figure out who she is for her. It's pretty great though. And the art is fantastic. Solid.

X Volume 2: Dogs of War: I was a little bit in love with the last volume and a little bit meh. I said it would take the second volume for me to decide. So here it is. I loved the original run of X. The first volume didn't live up to it so much. This is better. A really great streamlined tale of corrupt cops. That's it. Simple, badass and violent. Perfect.

Indestructible Hulk: Gods and Monster: Hey! Mark Waid is writing a comic! Hey! Walt Simonson is drawing a comic! These are two statements that get me to buy things. Waid writing a story drawn by Simonson? Yes please! This is a fun three issue tale where Banner and his SHIELD science team transport to Jotunheim and are rescued by Thor. Thor before the Marvel U. He does not know Banner, which may be a good thing. They fight frost giants and everything is fun. A pet peeve I have is when we have hand lettered computer screens these days. I'm not sure if it's something Simonson drew onto the page that the inker was too scared not to ink, but it looks awful. Especially in this age of digital lettering. But, it's a fun little romp. The 2 issue arc after this is what makes this a must read. Banner is working for SHIELD, but his insurance is that once a month he has to meet up with his lawyer to prove that everything is going okay. Because if SHIELD decides to throw him into the sun, Banner has written a deposition his lawyer will leak to the public that will bring America to its knees. It's mentioned in the first volume but I thought the secret was that Hulk's working for SHIELD. It's not. Oh yeah, and his lawyer is Matt Murdock. It's fucking great. It's maybe the best thing comics wise I've read all year.

Pretty Deadly volume 1: This is a close second. Jodowrosky in comic form...but not his comic stuff. This feels like Holy Mountain or something. Beautiful,. horrific and haunting. Recommend.

Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem: a wonderful hardcover written by Steve Niles and drawn by Wachter. It's gorgeous.

Trades: 28

Comics: 401
Omnibus: 5
Graphic Novels: 12

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Batman, vol. 1 #426-429 (1988): The "A Death in the Family" storyline, in which Denny O'Neil turned a generation of 14-year-olds into murderers, and made their parents pay for it. Jason Todd goes looking for his real mom, which puts him in the path of the Joker trying to sell a nuclear missile to Lebanese terrorists. Joker kills Jason, gets made the Iranian ambassador to the UN because of reasons, the CIA forbids Batman from going after the Joker due to his diplomatic immunity, hilarity ensues.

I read this when it first came out; in fact, it was the start of me buying Batman regularly for a couple of years. Written by Jim Starlin with pencils by Jim Aparo, this is a much better story then I quite frankly anticipated it would be upon reflection. Starlin writes in a first-person, very hard-boiled style, which frankly suits Batman down to the ground. I don't often get to hear Batman's inner monologue and it's a really cool look at the character that's not all "grrr I'm Batman". The art is hampered a little by Mike DeCarlo's inks; there are pages where it looks positively Janson-esque. But still, Aparo on Batman, so, you know.

The story is very much a product of its time. I had forgotten how prevalent the Iran stuff was, and as this was a time when the US was pretty angry at Iran all the goddamn time, there's not a lot of subtlety happening here. Starlin writes an absolutely terrific Joker, though, who is both fun and threatening.

This came out less than two years since the post-Crisis/Man of Steel/Year One state of affairs started, and I remember it still feeling really weird when Batman was such a fucking dick to Superman. He's angry and grieving, so it's in character and understandable, especially since Superman is expressly there to prevent Batman from doing anything to the Joker (he doesn't like it, but believes that the US needs to respect the Joker's position to keep American interests in the Middle East safe). But this is still a point when they respect each other but clearly are not huge fans of each other, less than two years since they were still best friends in World's Finest Comics.

The death of Robin occurs halfway through the story, and as such means that the second half is draggy and not as eventful as the first half. Some interesting things that do occur include the fact that Batman is ready and willing to straight up murder the Joker. He has finally reached the point where keeping the Joker alive is not worth the thousands of people he's killed. He still has moments of remembering that the Joker is insane and not 100% responsible for his actions, but he has every intention of ending this here; the story finds a way from making that choice actually happen, which is cheap. Also, its hinted more than once that the Joker absolutely knows who Batman is and completely and utterly does not care. The events of The Killing Joke (only released a few months earlier) are also touched on here, as the Joker's initial escape from Arkham occurs after his attack on Barbara, and it's mentioned that this attack is more than enough to get the entire Justice League and Teen Titans motivated to take him down immediately.

All in all, a pretty good example of late 1980s DC Comics work, far less clumsy than I anticipated.

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A Death in the Family and A Lonely Place of Dying back to back are some of the best comics of the 80s, hands down. Love them.

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I haven't read "A Lonely Place of Dying" since it came out. I should fix that. Those two stories, and the year or so between them of a solo Batman slowly losing his shit, was a very good era for Batman comics.

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*Batman rant; TLDR*

Jim Starlin's one of my all time favorite Batman writers. I totally love his voice for the character, as he's dark and grim but highly intelligent and not a douchebag like he has been in the past half decade. Batman's inner monologue in that run feels so perfect to me, I'm hard pressed to think of whose interpretation I like more.

His run was very much a product of its time. It came off of the Max Allen Collins run which, despite thinking that it'd be a cinch considering MAC work on Dick Tracy, never really gels. Beyond the initial story with the Post-Crisis Jason Todd origin flashback (Denny O'Neil remarks in the letters pages that those issues take place 3 years in the past, meaning Jason was Robin for that long, putting his age at the time of death at about 15), there's nothing great about it. Starlin comes around and gives it this intense 80s, political feel with the KGBeast storyline and turning Jason which at the end of the day I think was not a bad idea. I know people at the time and even now lament the fact that Jason was snotted up as a character, but considering how he was virtually a Dick clone in Pre-Crisis AND how Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis wrote him as Burt Ward in Detective Comics post-crisis, this was a refreshing change of pace. Change doesn't always equal good, but in the long run considering the personality types of all the Robins, having the second one be a marked step down from Dick Grayson is interesting to me.

People exaggerate it though. Geoff Johns would have you believe that Jason was a jerk every panel of every issue all the time. He's a street kid who smarts off to Batman when he first meets him. He disobeys him once he learns that Two-face killed his father and that Batman kept the info from him. He has scenes in 2 or 3 issues where he is definitely darker and there's the famous issue with the diplomat's son. Aside from that though, he was still Robin. He saved Bruce's ass in the SERIOUSLY JACKED UP Cult story, and had his back during the Ten Nights of the Beast arc. In my personal head canon, Mike Barr's Jason was who he was when he first started out, and Starlin's Jason was who he became as he got older, a lot like how it was illustrated in the Under the Red Hood movie.

I like Death in the Family. It's not a perfect story in that some of the coincidences are a bit nuts, but ultimately I enjoy it. Mainly due to Starlin's writing of Batman, especially after Jason dies. It's perfect. Bruce is in legit shock once he finds Jason, then after the authorities get his statement and leave the scene, he's all about the "THE JOKER MUST DIE" life. Yeah, the Superman/Batman scenes were definitely biting off of the Dark Knight Returns popularity (I know at the time Superman flat out told Reagan he disagreed with his policies about the Superhero Registration Act...or something), but I feel it's earned through the situation. Joker becoming the Ayatollah was insane and stupid, but I let it slide. This is also one of the first instances where Lady Shiva became as deadly and fearsome as she should be in the 90s. Batman writes her off at first, she she proceeds to whoop his ass. Had Jason not woken up from being clunked of the head, Batman could have potentially been beaten to death by her. The scene where Bruce reluctantly gives her sodium pentathol ends up being controversial because later on in Batgirl, when Cassandra directly questions if Shiva's her mother to Batman, Batman explains this scene where Shiva's said she's never had a child. Which doesn't work considering the timeline and Cass' age since she IS her mother, but nevermind...

I too like Lonely Place. Some people enjoy Year Three more, but I'm way more of an Aparo fan than I am a Pat Broderick fan. They do an admirable job arguing the need for a Robin, and while it may realistically not work, Tim Drake is so awesome of a character that time and goodwill forgive it.

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I distinctly remember reading Year Three and thinking I would have enjoyed it a ton more if Aparo had drawn it.

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I distinctly remember reading Year Three and thinking I would have enjoyed it a ton more if Aparo had drawn it.

Pretty sure I can say that about 93% of comics ever made.

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I'm in the process of minimalizing the amount of stuff I have, specifically reading and then getting rid of a bunch of books.

I'm re-reading J.M. Straczynski's run on Thor. I know this ends on a cliff-hanger, is stuff that comes after is worth reading? I've heard that Fraction, and Gillen have had decent runs, and I've heard great things about Gillen's Journey into Mystery.

After this, I'll probably re-read Fraction's Iron Man, which is a run I never finished because they never finished releasing it in large hardcover format (but the library has it in stock), Fraction's Iron Fist run followed by Duane, and Hickman's Secret Warriors and then get rid of all of it. Those are some nice full runs that should get a decent price. My cap run went for like $125.

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