Welcome to a new feature here at WCBR, which will hopefully resurface periodically.
Here we highlight series that we reviewers feel are not getting the readers, or the attention, that they deserve. These are books that we’ve been particularly enjoying. These are DC/Marvel books that should be in the top ten, or at least the top 20, in the monthly sales figures, or indie titles that, qualitatively, should be mentioned alongside blockbusters like the Walking Dead, Chew, or Morning Glories.
So, with the intro out of the way, let’s get started!
American Vampire (DC/Vertigo)
Written by Scott Snyder (who is taking over Detective Comics) and with art by the incredible Rafael Albuquerque, American Vampire is the story of a new breed of vampires who arise in the United States in the late 18th century. They can go outside and don’t have much use for old-fashioned, Euro-vampires and their sissified clothes. The story is also a bit of a bonus for history buffs as we have so far touched on the Old West of the 1880′s, Hollywood of the 1920′s and Las Vegas of the 1930′s. Did I mention how awesome the art is?
Fantastic Four (Marvel)
Before Hickman’s run, I hadn’t had any love whatsoever for the Fantastic Four since childhood. Now FF is my favourite Marvel book and Reed Richards right up there with my favourite characters. This alone should be testament to how good this book is. It’s a book where anything is possible, one that challenges, and shatters, limitations of scope and structure. This is a big book chocked full of big ideas and massive, cosmic hullabaloo. Every issue of Hickman’s Fantastic Four feels like it’s charting new ground with every month’s offering feeling bold, adventurous, and full of life. To top it all off, Hickman also writes all of the characters, especially the kids, fantastically and in a manner that makes them impossible not to love.
Kill Shakespeare (IDW)
This is a fantastic series, regardless of how you feel about the Great Bard himself. While it does have plenty of references and in-jokes for people familiar with Shakespeare’s work, knowing the plays is not at all a requirement for enjoying the fantastic dialogue, wonderful characters, and constantly twisting plot. The quality of both the writing and the art make this one a no-brainer for anyone’s pull list, and will have a place on my shelf both in single issue and trade form. Well worth taking the time to seek out and sample.
Orc Stain (Image)
This is one of the whackiest series out there on the stands right now. The story is pretty basic: The various fractious races of orcs have finally been united under one, all-powerful Orctzar. All that stands between the Orctzar and absolute power are the services of a one-eyed orc who has the ability to crack open anything with his little hammer. But, the story is merely a frame for James Stokoe’s wicked sense of humor and art design. Starting with the art, everything in the Orc Stain world is an animal. The orcs don’t just wear armor…it is all various hard-shelled animals fitted all over their bodies. Ditto for the swords and everything else. The visual look is like nothing else. And the humor is something else. Much of this humor revolves around orcs losing their gronch (with is orcish for “junk”). The comic makes me laugh and admire the art design.
Action Comics (DC)
Don’t be put off by the lack of Superman; this is quite possibly the best, and smartest, book DC is putting out. Razor sharp wit, a hilarious supporting cast, and super-polished Pete Woods artwork make this book a must-read. Best of all is the fact that the title is very much a “Paul Cornell” book. It’s funny, it’s action packed, and Cornell writes a fantastic Lex Luthor. Then there’s robot Lois, possibly my favourite new character of the year and the sort of zany, smart-mouthed creation that Cornell excels at. Top this off with a really cool “villain of the month” format that often looks to highlight some of DC’s underused baddies, and you’ve got something that is made out of win… and just a little bit of insanity.
Artifacts (Image/Top Cow)
This is an extended 13-issue event that promises to change the face of the Top Cow (Witchblade, The Darkness, Magdalena) universe. While it’s still in its infancy as an event (issue #2 was just released), that’s an advantage for a new reader who wants to jump onboard to this epic story of mystical artifacts and those who which to defend—or claim—them. Ron Marz is doing excellent job of bringing non-Top Cow readers up to speed on all of the players, powers and forces involved in the saga, so not being familiar with the source material shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Pick up issues #1 and #2 now, and save yourself the trouble of tracking them down when everyone is raving about this series in the next couple months.
28 Days Later (BOOM!)
Do you love The Walking Dead? Then you should also be reading 28 Days Later (based on the movie of the same name). It is just that simple. Lots of zombie comics think that zombies (or infected in the case of 28 Days Later) are the main attraction. Smart post-apocalypse stories like TWD and 28 Days (or The Stand, The Road, etc.) know that the true star of these stories is the breakdown of human society and whether decent people have any hope in a land where ruthlessness is a true advantage. Although it is similar to TWD, it has enough differences to make sure that it has original concepts. This is a comic that I’m excited to read every month and it never disappoints.
Part science fiction, part fantasy, part history, all awesome. S.H.I.E.L.D. is a mind bending, time-traveling adventure in which many of the great minds of the Western world—and some great minds who aren’t from the West at all—come together to form the beginning of the S.H.I.E.L.D. that guards the current Marvel Universe. Think a history-based League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with a bit of Marvel lore (and some absolutely gorgeous artwork) thrown in, and you’ll quickly see why, barring something absolutely incredible happening between now and January, this is my choice for best new book of the year.
40 issues in with no passable jumping on point save issue one, this isn’t the most new-reader friendly book. But I’m listing it anyway, because Scalped is just that damned good. Scalped has consistently been among the very best comics on the stands since it debuted in 2007 and yet, since 2007, it has flown under the radar, in spite of an Eisner nomination and a (now) big name writer in Jason Aaron. This book is grim, dark, gritty, unrelenting, uncompromising, and so real that it hurts. It’s an ugly and dirty book but also one that’s very real and human and even after forty issues, the idea of an American crime story on an Indian reservation is as fresh as ever. It’s a compelling, and ingenious, mix of noir and social commentary, both sides balancing the other but both also being equally brutal.
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