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The Master

Every comic you've read in 2016

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The Fantastic Four Omnibus, Vol. 3: collects Fantastic Four #61-93, the non-reprint material from Fantastic Four Annual #3-5, and material from Not Brand Echh #5-7.

While it's not the unrelenting burst of creativity that Volume 2 had been (which saw among other things the creation of the Inhumans, the Black Panther, Galactus, and the Silver Surfer and has to be on the EXTREMELY short list of Greatest Comics Run of All Time), this is a pile of roughly three years of really good comics. The stories themselves are not hugely memorable for the most part, where either Reed discovers a thing and the FF get drawn into battle over it, or someone attacks the FF at home. Sue is either pregnant or a new mom (to a kid that goes unnamed for over a year), and therefore is essentially shoved aside and we read the adventures of the Fantastic Three, until such time as Crystal joins the team... although she's not given much to do, as it's very clear that she's actually quite a bit more powerful than anyone else on the team. There's a multi-issue Doctor Doom story which is a lot of fun, and we meet Annihilus for the first time, but the plots aren't why anyone is here.

Jack Kirby is on fire here. Everything just looks amazing. The storytelling is fast-paced and truly exciting, the design work is unparalleled, and the action just kicks all the ass. Here's the thing, though... after decades of Stan Lee receiving all the credit for everything that worked in the Silver Age, the pendulum has swung hard in the other direction. But as central as Kirby's storytelling is, this wouldn't work nearly so well without Lee's dialogue. Everyone feels like a real character, and the best thing here is the emergence of Ben Grimm as the most ridiculously entertaining character in all of comics. Kirby's style is loosening up and becoming a bit on the cartoony side, and this, along with the fact that Joe Sinnott's inks haven't quite coalesced into his signature style, mean that the Thing is prone to humorous overexaggeration and just general goofiness. At the same time, Lee is giving him truly hilarious dialogue that literally had me laugh out loud more than once. He's been getting there, but this is the Ben Grimm I grew up loving.

The nine-year run as Marvel's flagship title is winding down (Kirby will be gone in a few months, and the FF will really never be at the top ever again), and the best years are in the past, but things are still very entertaining at this point.

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Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #3: Boring

All Star Batman #3: I like this story, but it's a bit needlessly violent IMO. Romita Jr. still seems to be in his Kick-Ass phase.

Wonder Woman #8 (2016):  I liked this issue more than I thought I would, and the art was solid.

Action Comics #965:  Excellent. This book is the best Post-Rebirth comic to engage with the time shift and different versions of the characters. The Superman books are on fire now.

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All-Star Barman #3: I can't stand this book. It's overly violent, and the story is actively going nowhere.

Batman #7-8, Nightwing #5-6, Detective Comics #941-942: This is the Night of the Monster Men crossover, and I don't know what to make of it. While it has fun ideas and I love the Nightwing bits, the level of destruction Gotham City suffers comes under Elseworlds territory; they're not rebuilding from this in a week, a month, or even a year. This is decades of rebuilding. Also, Bruce doesn't have unlimited funds, so where are all of these mega-weapons coming from? And how many people know he's Bruce Wayne? I mean, nearly everyone calls him Bruce while he's under the mask; when did his identity become less secret? These are minor things, but add them together and they take away from what could -- and should -- have been a fun crossover.

Comics: 442

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^Co-sign on all of that, and additional thoughts on Detective, they gotta come up with a new story for Hugo Strange. I love Hugo Strange, he's one of Batman's best villains. But the whole "I'm going to become you!" angle has been told much better more than once. It's quickly become his only story, and to do it again screams a lack of imagination.

I basically waited this crossover out. Batman fighting monsters is only fun half of the time. Glad it's over.

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Action Comics #963: This, i've realized, is so old-world DC Comics (with various characters from various realities) that I'm not even sure modern DC is capable of pulling it off without dissolving into a total shitshow, and I kind of love it for that.

All-New X-Men #13: baby Apocalypse and girl I don't know take Iceman from the past to a gay bar to get him laid. That's pretty much all I need to say.

Briggs Land #1,2: this is a failed TV show pitch, right? It feels like it. I mean, it's good, but I don't feel like comics is the right medium for it.

Civil War II Amazing Spider-Man #3,4: devolves into not goodness.

Civill War II Gods of War #3,4: fucking amazing. So goddamned good.

Deathstroke #1, 2: this jumped around a lot in time, but most of it I liked. 

The X-Files #5: solid.

Throwaways #2: no more thanks.

Uncanny X-Men #12: it's a lull, for sure.

Unfollow #11: so great.

Vision #10: solid again.

Weird Detective #3: so fucking good.

Witchfinder City of the Dead #1: I just got through mentioning that I didn't like the Rise of the Black Flame because it's too Witchfindery. This is the first time I've liked Witchfinder.

Wonder Woman #4-6: ok, I wasn't feeling the flashback stuff, but I kind of am now. Kind of. The modern stuff is still way better.

Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #10,11: the end of The Labyrinth and the beginning of the next arc. It's fucking superb. This is definitely still the best thing Valiant's ever done.

Comics: 1027
Trades: 40

Graphic Novels: 34

Omnibuses: 13

Edited by Dread

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Batman #181: DC's recently put out these decently sized collections of various Bat-Villains and notable stories with them, all called "Arkahm [insert character name here]". I bought the Poison Ivy one and started with the first story being her first appearance. It sucks. This was 1966 so at no point did the ridiculous sexism surprise me, but Poison Ivy is a particularly weakly written villain. She just wants to be know as the no.1 Woman Public Enemy of the world, and hatches paper thin schemes to make it happen by getting three other women career criminals (Tiger Lily, Silken Spider and Dragonfly) to fight each other. Throughout all of this she pines for both Bruce Wayne and Batman. The only thing that's recognizable here from later incarnations is her costume and pheromones, but those are mostly unmentioned. There is a line about her ensnaring Batman through the use of pheromones under his spell, but by and large the comic plays it straight that she's so beautiful and men will do anything for her. There's not even a hint of anything to do with plants or flora. Thing is, Ivy's one of my favorite villains due to how totally self-interested and viciously cruel she can be. This was Mudd's Women levels of embarrassing. There's no need for any writer to reference this story again, beyond a later Neil Gaiman story from the 80s that had a callback to it.

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Scarlet Volume 1 - Not as clever or earth-shattering as the writing would have you think it is, but damn is it entertaining, and I feel for the characters. Maleev's doing outstanding work with this book.

Blue Beetle #1 - Decent. I like the dialogue and the art (distracting facial redesign of the costume aside) a whole lot.

Champions #1 - I'm with Don, this is more what I expect from a team with these characters. And Ramos is doing some great work here.

Jessica Jones #1 - Mainly setup, but it's great to have Jessica back in her own book. And Gaydos has really cleaned up his art, which is colored well as always by Matt Hollingsworth. 

Spider-Woman #11 - Great character drama. The art by Veronica Fish isn't as inventive as when Rodriguez was penciling but it fits right in.

Star Wars #23 - Fun issue that develops the attraction between Han and Leia well. The art is good but kinda goofy with some faces.

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The Doctor Strange Omnibus vol. 1 - collects the Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #110-111 and 114-146, and Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 (the complete Steve Ditko run).

This is a weird one. The artwork is generally really good; the early stuff is dark and sinister and atmospheric, and it gets more psychedelic and colorful and interesting as it goes. The actual stories, however, are very formulaic. The first few (which tend to be very short, some as few as four pages) are generally "I'm in trouble! How will I ever defeat this foe? Oh! Right! I have an amulet which can do literally anything! Why do I always forget that?" Soon, though, things settle into a groove where either someone attacks Strange or Strange finds himself in another dimension, where either way he and another sorcerer or demon throw spells at each other for five pages until Strange wins. There's an ongoing storyline where Dormammu and Mordo team up to first chase Strange around the world and then just generally attack him, but each chapter is really one fight after another. (Even the letters pages eventually reflect a weariness of this story. "Guys, it's been something like eight months, maybe we can move on?") I can't stress enough, though, it's all pretty as hell.

What's interesting is how little Marvel seemed to actually think of the character. He doesn't get so much as a mention on the cover until his sixth appearance, a floating head until his seventh, doesn't actually merit the main cover image until his nineteenth, and then it's back to the Torch or Nick Fury until he finally gets the cover to himself in the very last issue collected here (the thirty-fifth). Also, because the stories tend to be so short, this is a very slim volume (about half the size of most Omnibuses) and it's a very quick, breezy read as a result.

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World's Finest Comics #251-#252: Continuing the tour of Poison Ivy stories from the Batman-ARKHAM: Poison Ivy collection. This is WAY more like it. A 1978 two-parter by Gerry Conway and Jack Abel pits Ivy against Wonder Woman, and it is badass. In the twelve years since her first appearance, Ivy's pretty much everything she needs to be. In #251 she kills guys by kissing them, poisoning them with dangerous leaves that pass as edible parsley, and turns sics a giant tree man-monster (a guy that used to be a former boyfriend) on Wonder Woman. By the end of part one it's revealed she's assassinating these UN diplomats at the behest of an African nation in exchange for a rare herb which can perfect her pheromones so she can finally make Batman her slave. This is a pitch-perfect take on Poison Ivy, and Conway just nails it. 

#252 continues the story, and we get an entirely new origin for Ivy that I've previously been unaware of. Her real name is said to be Lilian Rose, and she was seduced by her Botanist professor in college to steal a rare Egyptian herb and synthesize it. The professor tried to kill her by poison, which turned her into Poison Ivy. The tree monster from part 1 is revealed to be the evil professor, and when Diana realizes this she turns the guy against Ivy and the two fall to their "deaths" over a waterfall. I'm more into the modern take on her origin with Jason Woodrue, but this version isn't a million miles away from the basic core of what makes her Poison Ivy. Highly entertaining read from who I think was the best superhero comics writer in the 1970s.

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Clara After Dark 5: Still good.

Eros Gone Wild-Christmas Stories: Funny, mostly, which is interesting. Top notch talent doing softcore, basically.

Action Comics #964: Solid. Still so weird.

All-New Wolverine #12, 13: Weird tonal shifts from issue to issue. Not sure hom much longer I'm going to read this.

Angel City #1: eh, not my thing so much.

Archie #12: So fucking good.

Army of Darkness/Xena #1: I can do without it.

Black #1: Nope. I'm out. Poorly written.

Batman #7: These Bat-stories really start to run together, even the giant monster ones apparently.

Nightwing #5: Still a bright spot.

Batman Beyond Rebirth #1: wow, I'd read this for the Sook art alone. Story's good.

Betty Boop #1: Ugh.

Doom Patrol #1: Hmm...not a putoff, but I need something substantial next issue.

Evil Ernie Godeater #2: Ok.

Faith #2,3: first issue here I was like "no, I'm out" but I had the next issue and it was good. Don't know where I stand with this series.

Comics: 1042
Trades: 40

Graphic Novels: 36

Omnibuses: 13

 

 

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Batman #339, #343-#344: #339 is in the Ivy collection and ends with a non-ending so surprising I had to find out where the story concluded. In a nutshell, Ivy hypnotizes members of the Wayne Foundation Board, Bruce Wayne included, to sign over all assets of the foundation to her which will make her rich. She gives them poisoned kisses so if any of them tries to tell someone about her scheme, they'll begin choking. Stunningly, the issue ends with her completely getting away with it and it carries on in #343, resolving in #344. She turns another devoted manservant into a tree monster, and with the help of Robin visiting from what I assume is the New Teen Titans, her plot is foiled. This was all during the Gerry Conway Batman run in the 80s, which is highly underrated. Conway told sequential, continuous stories with subplots such as Arthur Reeves and Hamilton Hill running for mayor, Gordon losing his job, and Bruce's eventual adoption of Jason Todd being put into legal question. The art is by Gene Colan with inks by Klaus Janson that art hit/miss for me.

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James Bond #1-6: this is the first arc (Vargr) of the Warren Ellis series. It's a Bond story. So, there's that. It' about that level of quality too. The art shockingly cannot stop reminding me of Archer and how much better this comic would be if it were an Archer comic instead.

Detective Comics #941: I like this team a lot. This story probably didn't need to be a crossover.

Batman #8: same.

Black hammer #3: ehh...not sure about this book.

Black-Eyed Kids #6: Ok, this is strangely intriguing.

Blood & Dust #3: Solid monster comics.

Comics: 1053
Trades: 40

Graphic Novels: 36

Omnibuses: 13

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2000 AD #1: As it is with any anthology series, this is a mixed bag.

  • Invasion! is beautifully illustrated, and I want more!
  • Flesh is the fever dream of a six-year-old. It's fun for what it is, and the dinosaurs look great, but I'm not sure where it will go or if it will hold my interest.
  • Dare Dare: So far it's generic space action. It could go either way.
  • MACH 1: An unapologetic Six Million Dollar Man clone with a decent cliffhanger.
  • Harlem Heroes: Sports rarely hold my interest, and, so far, this one is no different.

Comics: 443

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Continuing from the Poison Ivy Arkham Collection...

Secret Origins #36: Written by Neil Gaiman, this sees an employee of Task Force X trying to recruit Ivy for the Suicide Squad but getting completely obsessed with her in the process. It's the first of these stories where the "Poison" element in her name comes into play. She can burn people by the touch and her kiss leaves a scorched mark on your skin. Gaiman also addresses the previously mentioned Pre-Crisis origin story and has Ivy say she basically made that up before getting into the more familiar origin with Dr. Woodrue, making me wonder if he's the progenitor of that version. Pretty kewl.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #42-#43: By John Francis Moore, this was a very realistically written two-parter that portrayed Ivy's pheromones much more hypnotic and drug like than what had been done before. This was great, and really puts Ivy over as one of Batman's deadliest enemies to go up against each time. A consistent element in every Ivy story I've read so far is her attraction to Batman. In this, she mentions how she tried to get him out of her mind and talks like he hypnotized her into love. Good stuff.

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Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual #3: Basically the Post-Crisis first story of Poison Ivy taking place during Batman's first year, so he's drawn like Mazzucchelli drew him which is awesome. Written by Alan Grant who was always one of the more ostentatious Bat-writers of the 90s, Ivy came off too two-dimensional in this one after a series of increasingly strong stories in the collection. It's a decent story and honestly Brian Althorp's artwork has Ivy looking sexier than she ever has in the trade up to this point, but there's this lame misandrist take to her that doesn't come off well. I don't mind her being a misandrist, but it was very surface level, very "Men! Bah! How I hate them!". Not a bad story but a step down after a great series of issues.

Batman: Poison Ivy #1: By John Francis Moore and Brian Althorp, the best of both worlds. This is the first in the collection to really play up Ivy's devotion to plants to the point that the story is a revenge scheme against gun runners who blow up the island paradise she had been living at. She takes steps to murder most everyone in the food chain but in the end Batman convinces her to simply mind-control the guy into confessing his crimes to the police. I love whenever someone's under Ivy's kiss-spell the artwork gets all LSD-y. Not as great as Moore's previous story but a solid one with lovely artwork.

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Batman Chronicles #9: A short story by Devin K. Grayson about Ivy bribing Batman in Arkham for a kiss. It's alright. A little confusing due to the art by Cully Hamner

Joker's Asylum: Poison Ivy: One of my first viewings of Guillem March's artwork which I admit I like although it's definitely not consistent and in this issue it's not as good as it would be later on. Ivy's a leggy, kind of freakishly tall glamazon who's recounted origin story bends over backwards to have her naked but has that Godiva thing going on with her vines. If she's gonna be naked, let her be naked editors. Conveniently placed vines on her crotch and breasts just look silly to me. Kind of a pointless story seeing as how Batman fails to stop her from chopping a guy up, but there are a few really awesome panels of March's Ivy face.

Gotham City Sirens #8: I remember this series being fairly solid when it first started out, even though Paul Dini was flaky in his appearances from the get-go. March is back on art and co-writes this story of a man who copycats Ivy's MO in killing people, framing her and trying to kill her. Catwoman and Harley Quinn team up with the police to find Ivy and clear her name, which was nice to see. A better story than Joker's Asylum, Ivy was well written in this one (other co-writer was Marc Andreyko). A particular line I liked was "You seem to have confused me with a damsel in distress. I am not. I am Poison Ivy."

Detective Comics #23.1 (2013): Part of DC's Villains Month a few years back (I dropped the Bat-Books during this), this has Ivy going around Gotham during a riot basically leaving death in her wake while recounting her new 52 origin which includes an abusive father (because it's the new 52 and everyone had horrible parents) and a former occupation at Wayne Enterprises which was an interesting wrinkle. At the time I like Ivy's slight back-to-basics approach with her costume and her skin no longer being green, but I'm not a fan of the super over-powered Ivy who can level skyscrapers with her vines and trees. She's powerful in how toxic her biology is and how dangerous her pheromones are, giving her godlike plant powers is over the top to me. This was a decent read but just reminded me of the DC era we're all trying to forget.

With that ends the collection, which overall had a very strong list of Ivy appearances that really showcased why I like the character, with the best being the World's Finest two-parter with Wonder Woman, Secret Origins #36, the LOTDK two-parter, the Batman Poison Ivy one-shot by Moore and Althorp, and Gotham City Sirens #8.

Edited by Donomark

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Bloodshot Reborn #17, 18: solid ending to this series pushing into the next.

Blue Beetle #1: Garbage. I'm out.

Brittania #1: Very interesting. Didn't thin k it would take the turn it did, but I'm interested in more. The first new Valiant series that's really not part of the regular universe...or maybe it is, I don't know. I'll be looking for Eternal Warrior to pop in, if so.

Cage! #1: Oof. Ugly and dumb. I'm out.

Cannibal #1: Interesting modern take on horror.

Captain America Sam Wilson #13: Sam vs USAgent. Yes, please.

Captain America Seve Rogers #5: This was okay.

Captain Kid #2: Interesting, but nothing much happened.

Carnage #12: More of nothing much happened.

Civil War X-Men #4: Terrible ending.

Civil War II #5: It was ok.

Clean Room #12: also just ok.

Croak #2: three just ok's in a row.

Cyborg #1,2: The way Cyborg's introduced in issue one is brilliant. Second issue wasn't great, but I'll try another.

Comics: 1069
Trades: 40

Graphic Novels: 36

Omnibuses: 13

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Batman: The Long Halloween: I wanted to re-read Dark Victory, and took to re-reading this first. It's been several years since I last read them both.

I don't think this holds up very well. Honestly the way the mystery is done there's a lot of mis-direction and false leads, but there's also not too much to go on in terms of solving it yourself, I feel. I know the killer is at least two people and there are three suspects, but it almost reads as though Loeb was making this up as he went along. Moreover, I really disliked Loeb's writing style in this. As he's admitted in the past, he writes for his artists and this is a prime example. There are splash pages and double splash pages all over. But Batman's internal monologue is. So. REPETITIVE. Exposition reiterated again and again and again each and every issue. A lot of brain space is absorbed by regurgitating the exact same caption boxes, word balloons and dialogue, not to mention the useless rhyming he has Mad Hatter and Scarecrow spout for honestly no reason. Personally I don't agree with the usage of the rogues gallery basically thrown in for no reason other than the fact that they're the rogues gallery. It's presumed pretty hardcore that they would all agree to work for someone for money, and I think the characters are all far more interesting than that. Ultimately it just gets annoying reading these chapters and 50% of the dialogue isn't new, 25% of it is sparse and the other 25% are just lines to provoke a reaction from the reader. The comic is all about big moments and the actual craft of the writing suffers from it. Tim Sale's artwork, while far from my preferred take, is cool though. There are really cool pages and panels and I love his Selina Kyle (not the costume in these stories though, it's pretty ugly).

Batman: Dark Victory: I've always enjoyed this more than TLH, and I think it's better written but it still suffers from the same repetitive writing style. I do like his writing of Two-Face quite a bit though, it's spot on. As for the Dick Grayson origin, there are other versions I prefer like the original 'Tec #38 and the Year One one-shot by Chuck Dixon. This one's fine, but it's not sufficiently explored. Batman adopts Dick off-screen for no discernible reason and reveals his ID to him before abandoning him for most of the rest of the story. Robin's origin shouldn't be a subplot in a larger, less interesting murder mystery. It comes off obligatory, and doesn't seem as though Loeb has any sort of fresh take on Robin despite what Tim Sale says in the trade paperback's intro. I really don't like it when re-tellings of the Dick Grayson story play up how out of character it might seem to be for Batman to take him on as his partner, when it was basically his idea in the first place. It's the same thing for Batman Forever and the new 52, there's no attempt to explore or establish it. He's just there because.

But I do enjoy this more than TLH. There are some really awesome moments as the story ramps up near the end liked the end of issue #12 where Batman gets hanged. I'm just over Loeb's style at this point in my life I guess.

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Totally Awesome Hulk #22: Solid

Action Comics #966: Solid

Detective Comics #943: Very solid. A good start to a new storyline, virtually ignoring the Monster Men arc and focusing on regaining strength after the first arc.

Batgirl #4 (2016): Better than the last few have been

Ms. Marvel (2016): T'was good

Teen Titans #1 (2016): Very entertaining read. This is going to be a fun book, but I'm so sorry Jonboy is leaving art duties so soon. Hope they have someone of his caliber to replace him.

 

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Catch up time!

Gotham by Midnight vol 1: Jim picked this up for cheap, and I read this on a train ride back to his place. Very atmospheric? Like, interesting look at supernatural ass shit in Gotham, adjacent to Batman, interesting art, but I can see why this didn't make it past two collected volumes. 

Polar vol 3: No Mercy for Sister Sarah: Part of the conceit of this series is that each volume is only done in one or two colors; this is the first volume where we actually get a fair amount of color, though the way it's introduced is stylized and amazing. Gun fu story focusing on the wife of a mobster who's hiding out in a nunnery, until her location is leaked and the bounty on her head draws a bunch of mercs, hit men, and mobsters. Fun as hell read. 

Crecy: Warren Ellis and Avatar joint, read this while getting drunk as hell at the second debate. It's a short graphic novel about the battle of Crecy, from the pov of a fictional longbowman. Crude and crass and bloody, not anything particularly spectacular, but still a fun read to distract from the shitshow that was the debate. Probably going to read this again while, y'know, soberish. 

Back for More: Three words: Bernie. Wrightson. Artbook. It sold for $3 back in the day, cheapest I can find now is $22. Again, beautiful, macabre, even more darkly humorous while drunk during the presidential debate. 

Dive in the Vampire Bund vols 1 and 2: The series that this is a spinoff of is one of those loli bait vampire series. Surprisingly, this manages to be a well paced, incredibly well plotted story about a half Japanese half Brazillian immigrant who gets swept up in his idiot friend's attempt at vampire tourism. Described by both me and Jim as "better than it has any right to be given the source material". 

Codename Baboushka: The Conclave of Death vol 1: Anthony Johnson's spy book that he did for Image last fall, with the Russian femme fatale as our lead. It's on pause for now, but the double crosses and banter and spy heists are fun enough, and for $15, you could do a lot worse. You can tell that the artist was rushed towards the end of the arc, because the art takes a hard nose dive in the last few issues. 

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service omnibus 1: Five students at a Buddhist university use their special talents to help the recently departed fulfill their last wishes. Switches between one off stories and longer arcs, like the Nire Ceremony arc, which is amazing in its fucked upness. (Basically: a company has a girl that allows them to bring the recently dead back to life. They use this service on criminals who are on death row and who have been executed, and for a fee, allows the families of the victims to take out their anger on the criminals. The Service intersects with them by chance through the mistaken possession of a criminal's corpse, and through one of their members being contacted for such a ceremony.) Dark Horse is releasing this in omnibus format, and it's definitely worth your time. 

Single Issues: 303
TPBs/Collections: 103
Digital First Issues: 11

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Hi. I'm Hannah's boyfriend. After lurking for years, I've finally joined.

Weirdworld v0, by Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo. Conan after two handfuls of LSD and somehow better. The concept lets Mike Del Mundo go monster mode on these pages and they're some of the wildest he's ever done. Weirdworld is berserk with ideas and reads like Mr. Aaron feeding Mr. Del Mundo craziness and Del Mundo matching and exceeding Mr. Aaron.

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Hi. I'm Hannah's boyfriend. After lurking for years, I've finally joined.

Weirdworld v0, by Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo. Conan after two handfuls of LSD and somehow better. The concept lets Mike Del Mundo go monster mode on these pages and they're some of the wildest he's ever done. Weirdworld is berserk with ideas and reads like Mr. Aaron feeding Mr. Del Mundo craziness and Del Mundo matching and exceeding Mr. Aaron.

Welcome, Jim. I feel like this will be better for us, you know, arguing in person instead of through Hannah.

:)

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