Weekly Reading Round-Up : 06/17/2018 – 06/23/2018, The Horror — The Horror —

I guess I’ve been at this long enough to see when de facto themes generally, if inadvertently, present themselves within the “framework” of any given week’s releases, and when Image Comics has four horror books (all priced at $3.99 each, so keep that in mind as you evaluate whether or not these are worth the dent to your wallet) come out on the same Wednesday, well shit, it’s pretty obvious what we should be talking about, isn’t it? Doesn’t really take a “veteran” critic at all, as a matter of fact —

I had been cool to Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Gideon Falls to this point — so much so that I had been intending, most likely, to drop it after the conclusion of its first “arc” — but with issue number four, now I’m no so sure. Lemire is (painfully) obviously going for some sort of low-rent Twin Peaks rip-off here, albeit with a smaller, more insular cast and a “Black Barn” instead of a “Black Lodge,” and things had been coming together frustratingly slowly up to now. A switch really seems to have been flipped this time, though, as a rough outline of where the story is headed is finally coming into view, and Sorrentino’s inventive page and panel layouts, which had delivered more intriguing “misses” than direct “hits” previously, are now much more “in synch” with the narrative flow. In fact, there’s a double-page spread in this issue that will absolutely knock your sock off.  So — I’m intrigued enough to give this book a little more rope.

The fourth installment of Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell’s Infidel pulls a pretty gutsy move by essentially sidelining the protagonist we’ve come to know and at least like over the course of the first three issues and shift the focus squarely onto her best friend, but it works : the horror they’re all facing hasn’t “moved” (hell, that’s everyone’s problem), but seeing it through another pair of eyes makes it seem even creepier. Pichetshote’s dialogue is generally fairly authentic although it can veer into wooden territory at times, but any occasional deficiencies in the writing are more than compensated for by Cambell’s stunningly creepy and evocative art. This issue, as you can clearly see, also has the added bonus of featuring one of the year’s most jaw-droppingly awesome covers.

Don’t ask me why Evolution works, because it probably shouldn’t given its “assembly-line” production, but it does. The series returned this week with issue number seven, which kicks off a new “arc,” and while Joshua Williamson appears to have departed from the stable of writers (honestly, not a tremendous loss), James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, and Christopher Sebela are more than capable of picking up the slack, and do so here admirably. Who are we kidding, though? Much as the various subplots are barreling ahead full-steam and moving into some truly cringe-worthy (and I mean that in the best possible sense) territory, it’s Joe Infurnari’s exquisite, harrowing, Euro-influenced art that is the star of the show here, and is so well-suited to the Cronenbergian body-horror that is this book’s stock in trade that it’s damn near painful (again with the “best possible sense” here) to behold. Probably the best-looking comic coming out under the Image banner these days, but also, surprisingly, one of the best-written. Grab the volume one trade if you haven’t and start following this in singles now.

Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso have been, to their credit, trying something enitrely different with Moonshine than the crime-noir they had going with 100 Bullets — and it’s probably just as well given how that series went pretty well off the rails after about issue 30 or so — but with 11 down and only one to go, it’s becoming apparent that whatever magic this team once had is well and truly lost, and that the blame for that lies squarely on the shoulders of only one of the, to wit : Risso’s art is better than ever — sleek, stylish, fluid, and eminently well-suited to this tale of Prohibition-era lycanthropy — but Azzarello’s script takes an intriguing premise and makes almost nothing out of it. His characters are caricatures, his dialogue cliched, his story “beats” poorly-timed and often just plain flat. He’s a writer that’s been “trending down” for a solid decade or so at this point, and while this isn’t “rock bottom” for him by any means (we’re talking about a guy who participated in both the Before Watchmen and Dark Knight III debacles, after all), the sheer laziness of his approach in recent years gives every indication of a dude who’s simply “mailing it in.” There’s little drama or intrigue on offer here, and when you’re ramping up to your big finale, shit — don’t you want (hell, need) plenty of both?

So yeah, one publisher, four horror comics, three solid buys, one solid pass. I’m no math expert by any means, but that seems like a pretty good batting average. Next week we’ll be taking a look at — I dunno what, I’m gonna let my shop, as well as the USPS, surprise me. Hope to see you back here in seven days, when I’ll hold forth on whatever the hell it is that I ended up liking. Or not liking. Whatever the case may be.

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 04/15/2018 – 04/21/2018

One book understandably sucked all the oxygen out of the room this week, and we’ll dive right into it first, but fear not, there are a few others worth talking about, as well —

So, look, let’s just call it like it is : Action Comics  #1000 is an eight-dollar victory lap. A “double milestone” book celebrating both the fact that it’s the first American comic to hit the four-digit-issue-number mark, as well as the 80th anniversary of Superman’s first appearance, you go in figuring you’re in for plenty of self-congratulation here, and yeah, it’s essentially 80 pages of DC’s top creators, past and present, paying tribute to the company’s number one character (sorry, Bat-fans). Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster get the “80-Page Giant” dedicated to them, as well they should, but don’t come in for much mention anywhere else within its pages, which feels like a bit of a slight — although not nearly as big a one as when they were swindled out of any claim of ownership to their creation in exchange for the princely sum of $130. And yeah, as DC’s defenders are always quick to point out, the company did attempt to “make good” with the two guys from Cleveland in their dotage , but they were certainly owed a lot more than they ever got. Hell, their heirs are probably still owed a lot more than they ever got. But we’re not here to focus on that issue too specifically, we’re here talk about what we got in this comic —

“What Superman Means To Us All” is the connective tissue holding all the short-form strips in here together, and some address the subject more successfully than others — there’s a veritable “murder’s row” of talent on hand, with Dan Jurgens, Peter J. Tomasi, Paul Levitz, Marv Wolfman, Tom King, Brad Meltzer, Paul Dini, Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Scott Snyder, Louise Simonson, and Brian Michael Bendis on script duties and Jurgens, Patrick Gleason, Neal Adams, Curt Swan, Butch Guice, Jim Lee, Clay Mann, Rafael Albuquerque, John Cassaday, Olivier Coipel, John Romita Jr., Jerry Ordway, Jorge Jimenez, Doug Mahnke, and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez on art, and while it’s nice to see that Jurgens, Tomasi, and Gleason were all allowed to say good-bye to the character before Bendis’ much-ballyhooed arrival next month (the Tomasi/Gleason story being a particularly effective “Superman Through The Years” yarn told entirely in single-panel “splash” pages), it’s really the “guest” creators who do the best job here, particularly Tom King and Clay Mann, who capture the essence of all that is special about the Man of Steel in just a handful of gorgeously-drawn, sparsely-worded pages.

Of the other offerings, I had a lot of fun with the “retro”-style Supes/Luthor confrontation by Levitz and Adams (available only in the digital preview copy I got and not the print edition, fair warning), and the Johns/Donner/Coipel “Golden Age” story is a blast, as well, but really the overall quality of everything is pretty consistent, barring one curious misfire, that being the Wolfman/Swan/Guice strip that takes a previously-extant story originally written by Cindy Goff and simply swaps out her original dialogue and captions for new stuff. Not sure what the point of that was, other than to make sure the greatest Superman artist of all time was represented in the book.

As for covers — there were nine to choose from, one for each decade Action Comics has been around in addition to the “main” one,  and I opted for the Dave Gibbons/Angus McKie 1950s variant, so that’s what’s atop the column here. All in all I felt like I got my money’s worth and then some out of this book, and while the intro to the new Bendis “era” that wraps things up was nowhere near interesting enough to convince me to give his forthcoming Man Of Steel mini-series a try (much less to continue on into the two monthly titles after that’s done), I’m glad to have bought this comic and recommend that anyone with even a passing interest in Superman —whether as a character, as a cultural icon, or both — do the same.

Sticking with DC, this week saw the release of the sixth and I-thought-final issue of Neal Adams’ Deadman mini-series, and if you thought things were incoherent before — you ain’t seen nothing yet. I swear that Adams is just making this shit up as he goes along and that no one’s really bothering to edit what he turns in — and that’s what makes his latter-period work so jaw-droppingly, singularly bizarre and interesting. Batman is on the cover here but isn’t in the book — the multitude of supernatural guest stars who are in the book aren’t on the cover — and everyone is shouting all the damn time, even when there’s no reason to. I’m certainly game for more of this kind of utterly alien type of storytelling, where the normal rules of what’s “good” and “bad,” what “works” and what “doesn’t,” simply do not apply — and whaddya know, as this issue comes to an end the story doesn’t, and it looks like a second six-part “arc” is in the offing for later this year. Yeah, at four bucks a pop buying all twelve is going to get pricey, but I have no complaints. Adams’ work may be an acquired taste at this point —but once you have acquired it, there’s nothing else remotely like it.

I was a little rough on Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson’s Come Into Me #1 a few weeks back (although I gave well-deserved “props” to artist Piotr Kowalsi), but I’m still down to give any of their creator-owned stuff a try, and the first issue of their new Aftershock series Her Infernal Descent is all the proof I need that sticking with these guys was the right call. An elderly woman who’s lost her family in an apparent (though, as yet, undefined) tragedy is escorted through Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell — by William Blake? This is the sort of brash, ballsy mash-up that’s either going to really work or really miss the mark, and so far it’s really working.

I’ll grant you that some of Blake’s rhyming iambic pentameter dialogue seems both forced and far less intelligent than anything you’d expect him to actually say, but the overwhelming majority of it is highly successful, the sheer bravado of the imagination on display here is a sight to behold — and speaking of sights to behold, Kyle Charles’ rich, sumptuous, evocative artwork is worth the $3.99 price of admission on its own, and his page layouts are astonishingly imaginative. I think this one is slated to run six issues, although I could be wrong about that — one thing I’m not wrong about, though, is that you need to jump on this book now.

One more debut issue to wrap things up, even if it’s not a real debut issue, so to speak : Black Hammer : Age Of Doom #1 kicks off the second “arc” of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s revisionist super-hero series, and shows that my concerns about this “universe” being spread kinda thin through franchising and whatnot (see Sherlock Frankenstein And The Legion Of Evil and Doctor Star And The Kingdom Of Lost Tomorrows — with, apparently, more on the way) were ill-founded indeed. I know, I know — Dark Horse has always milked Hellboy for everything it’s worth and then some, and they seem to think they have a big enough hit on their hands to do the same here, but who can argue with results? I’ve enjoyed both spin-off series to date, and Lemire and Ormston haven’t missed a beat during the brief hiatus on the “main” title, either — this issue sees the new Black Hammer promise to reveal all, only to be whisked away to another kind of limbo that causes her to re-think all that she thought she had figured out, while the rest of our cast finally manage to get all their ships sailing in the same direction, and that direction is right the hell out of their own private Idaho and back to the “real” world. Somehow. Lemire’s script is fast-paced and bursting at the seams with energy and ideas, Ormston’s art is atmospheric, emotive, and creepy when it needs to be — and no less than the goddamn fucking Ramones themselves put in a guest appearance. What’s not to love? You need this comic more than you need four dollars.

Okay, that’s good enough for another column. I don’t see a whole lot in next week’s solicits that turns my crank, but I’m really looking forward to Michelle Perez and Remy Boydell’s The Pervert, so we’ll have that to talk about, plus whatever else strikes my fancy, when next we meet here in seven days.

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 03/04/2018 – 03/10/2018

What did I learn this week? I learned that Vertigo-style comics are still alive and well, they’re just not being made by Vertigo anymore —

Case in point : The Highest House #1 re-unites the team of Mike Carey and Peter Gross from The Unwritten at IDW, and their new publisher is clearly pulling out all the stops, publishing this in an oversized magazine-style format with heavy, glossy covers and slick, high-quality paper. The art is certainly worthy of the presentation — Gross’ detailed, intricate illustrations positively sing from the pages, aided and abetted in no small part by the lush, gorgeous color palette of Fabien Alquier, and the story, centered around a slave boy named Moth who works in a Gormenghast-style eccentric magical castle is old-school Vertigo “high fantasy” all the way. The set-up is fairly simple : Moth makes a deal with a potential devil named Obsidian who promises freedom and advancement, but what price he’ll have to pay remains to be seen — and until we figure that out, Carey’s gonna go heavy on the world-building and character development in equal measure.

I dunno, I should probably be more cynical about this sort of Gaiman-derivative (and his stuff was pretty derivative itself) storytelling at this point, but Carey’s undoubtedly a skilled, if decidedly unsubtle, technician, and what this comic lacks in terms of inspiration it more than makes up for in terms of execution. Certainly $4.99 is a more than fair price for a book this lavishly-formatted, and if you’re looking for a series that can still get some mileage out of a vaguely Sandman-esque lineage, odds are this one will end up doing a better job of it than the recently-announced Sandman Universe slew of titles will. Obviously, if you’re looking for something new under the sun you should be looking elsewhere, but if “formulaic” isn’t a dirty word in your vocabulary, then I think you’ll find a lot to like here. For the time being, I’m more than happy to see where Carey and Gross go with this.

The entire premise behind DC’s Young Animal imprint seems to be a sort of updating of “classic” Vertigo properties for the 21st century, but I’m thinking that Gerard Way’s four-color baby must be showing signs of being a problem child sales-wise because, apart from Doom Patrol, the various titles are all re-launching with new first issues coming out of the recent (and frankly pretty lame) Milk Wars cross-over event. Shade, The Changing Woman #1 is first out of the chute, and sees Steve Ditko’s character (or, more accurately, an extrapolation thereof) in a slightly older body than last time out, but with the same creative team of writer Cecil Castellucci and artist Marley Zarcone chronicling her exploits. I like Zarcone’s art quite a bit — she cleaves to the off-kilter temperament of Ditko while giving everyone/thing a look and personality all her own — but there’s not a tremendous amount happening here story-wise, with the same basic identity questions (how does an alien from Meta adjust to being a human on Earth?) that were reasonably intriguing at first now seeming, well, kinda old hat — and apparently there are no answers to these metaphysical queries forthcoming. The pages where Castellucci plays to her artist’s strengths and side-steps linear narrative altogether are the best things on offer here and maybe in future they should just say “fuck it” and go for the psychedelic trip-out vibe on a full-time basis with no real concern for a “story arc” that’s barely advancing in any appreciable way anyhow? I dunno, but at $3.99 a pop it’s probably not worth hanging around a whole lot longer to see whether or not they figure out what the hell they’re doing with this comic. Of all the DCYA titles, this seems to be the one that’s having the hardest time distinguishing between being nominally “experimental” and just plain “floundering.”

The last “might-have-been-a-Vertigo-comic-five-years-ago” book of the week is Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Gideon Falls #1, the opening salvo in what looks to be something of a slow-burn horror series. Certainly this creative team has cranked out some fan-favorite stuff in the past with their runs on Green Arrow at DC and Old Man Logan at Marvel, and given free reign to cut loose and do their own thing at Image, who knows? Maybe they’ll really pull out all the stops and craft a series for the ages — but it’s too soon to say whether or not this will be it. Lemire seems to be bobbing and weaving between two separate storylines — one focused on a Catholic priest whose career trajectory is headed straight down, the other on a disturbed young-ish recluse looking for clues to a city-wide conspiracy in its garbage — that will no doubt intersect sooner rather than later, but there aren’t enough “hooks” (either character- or situation-based) to really stir the interest at this early juncture. What’s perhaps most surprising, though, is that he doesn’t give you a very strong sense of place yet with this comic, and that’s been a Lemire staple going all the way back to Essex County, and continuing through subsequent works like Royal CityRoughneck, and Sweet Tooth, to name just a few. Certainly in a comic named after a fictitious locale you would expect said locale to play a major role — and no doubt it will in fairly short order — but it doesn’t in this debut. Kinda puzzling, that is.

On the plus side, though, we’ve got Sorrentino’s darkly evocative and cinematic illustrations, which look like a million bucks when paired with the pitch-perfect hues of superstar colorist Dave Stewart. Visually, these guys knock it out of the park here and this extra-length issue is worth its $3.99 cover price for the art alone. At some point, though, the story’s gonna have to earn its keep, as well, so while I hesitate to have a quick trigger finger, I do find myself putting this series on a much shorter leash than, in all honesty, I was expecting to.

One more Image debut this week worthy of note, probably because it’s being optioned for TV as we speak, is Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici’s Oblivion Song #1, released under Kirkman’s own Skybound studio imprint. Not being a fan of Kirkman’s work in the least I wasn’t figuring to be impressed by this, but what the hell — to bizarrely paraphrase ESPN’s Chris Berman, that’s why we read the books, and I’m actually pretty glad I read this one. The quick plot hook — an extraterrestrial/interdimensional incursion of some sort resulted in a big chunk of Philadelphia being violently transported to a deadly, monster-filled realm known as Oblivion, the US government devised a barely-explained kind of sci-fi means of going there to rescue its people, but hey, that was ten years ago and no one gives a shit anymore apart from one lone scientist/adventurer who’s trying to find his disappeared brother — grabs you more or less instantly, the broad-stroke characterization gives you as much info as you need to know about these people and what’s happening with them, and De Felici’s art is an absolutely gorgeous blend of high-concept imagination and free-flowing, “cartoony,” batshit craziness. Think 2000AD with an underlying Euro-comics sensibility and you’ll be right in the ballpark in terms of trying to classify it. This first issue goes out with extra pages under a heavy cardstock cover and is well worth four of your dollars. I never thought I’d say this in my life — and who knows, I can certainly see myself eating these words if it all goes to hell in a handbasket — but as of this writing I’m all in on a fucking Robert Kirkman comic. Surely that has got to be a sign that the apocalypse is fast approaching.

And that’s enough, I should think, for this time out —looking through next week’s advance solicits there’s nothing that’s absolutely grabbing me by the throat and screaming “buy me!,” but who knows? I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked a couple of comics this week, and there’s no reason it can’t happen again — join me back here in seven days and I’ll let you know whether or not it did!

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 02/25/2018 – 03/03/2018

Looming nuclear war with North Korea! Looming cold war with Russia! Looming trade war with every other country on the planet! What have we got to take our minds off all this potential conflict? Why, comics, of course! And this week offered plenty of distraction — some good, some decidedly less so.

The Beef #1 is the opening salvo in a four-parter from Image that has apparently been in the works for quite some time. Co-writers Richard Starkings and Tyler Shainline, of Elephantmen and Liberty Justice, respectively, join forces with living legend (as far as I’m concerned) Shaky Kane to serve up this story that appears to be part character-study of a lonely middle-aged “nobody,” part examination of small-town generational entrapment, part super-hero parody, and part polemic on the merits of vegetarianism. Kane’s art and colors are, needless to say, absolutely magnificent — larger than life and twice as bold, he’s the nearest thing in style and spirit to Kirby these days — and I’ll be damned if the narrative isn’t instantly involving, as well. It’s all done up in OTT broad strokes — alienated protagonist trapped in the same cattle-slaughtering gig as his old man before him, still tormented by the same bullies (one of whom is the Mayberry equivalent of Donald Trump Jr., given that his daddy owns the meat-processing plant and the fast food joynt while he plays “dudebro” at age 40) that have been making his life hell since high school — and laced with plenty of entirely un-subtle commentary on the evils of anti-immigrant prejudice and carnivorous eating. Yes, they really did make a label out of Kane’s cover art and stick it on a can of SPAM-type meat “product;” yes, our ostensible “hero” appears to turn into a freaky super-human “meat man” at the end; yes, the asshole bad guys really do set a charging bull on a shapely young lady who wisely won’t give either of them the time of day; and yes, this book is every kind of awesomely deranged fun you can imagine. Highest possible recommendation ain’t high enough — buy this comic and remind yourself why you still, stubbornly, love this beleaguered medium.

The One #1 kicks off IDW’s year-long run of Rick Veitch reprints (Brat Pack will be following suit), and offers prima facie evidence that, once upon a time, super-hero deconstructionism wasn’t such a bad thing at all. Originally published under Marvel’s Epic Comics imprint, this has been (correctly, in my view) heralded as a thematic precursor of sorts to later, more-celebrated works such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight returns, but without the self-seriousness of either/both. Veitch is positively brimming over with ideas here, the comic is lavishly illustrated and beautifully colored, and consumer excess comes in for just as much scrutiny within its pages as does the notion of the super-powered vigilante. It’s been a hell of a long time since I read my B&W trade collection of this series, but I’m more than pleasantly surprised by how utterly relevant it remains — shit, I won’t even say that it’s “aged well,” as it’s more a case that the capes n’ tights scene is even more desperately in need of Veitch’s thorough-going, critical examination than it was 30-plus years ago. All the tropes that he wryly dissects are more entrenched — and frankly more nauseating — now than they were in the early 1980s, and even though “revisionism” has been done to death over the past few decades, this book still feels like a breath of unbelievably fresh air. $4.99 may be a little steep for what is essentially a standard-length comic, but for material this smart, incisive, and respectful of its own targets? Shit, it’s an absolute bargain. We’ve seen the problems inherent in this genre laid bare by any number of folks who have disdain for it — Veitch’s deconstruction comes from a place of, dare I say it, love, and he’s much more concerned with elevating costumed crime-fighters to where he thinks they should be rather than taking them down another peg or two. If you’re looking for a story with heart and humor that examines super-hero comics without making you feel like an asshole for still reading them, this is (insert audible groan here) the one.

Doom Patrol/Justice League Of America Special #1 wraps up Steve Orlando and Gerard Way’s “Milk Wars” DCU/Young Animal cross-over series in confusing and faux-“transgressive” fashion by turning the DP’s Rita Farr/Elasti-Girl into a kind of Christ-like figure who died for comics fans’ sins, only to be resurrected here as the very same sort of living plot device that the narrative ostensibly takes aim at. Orlando and Way more-than-imply that she’s a character who’s always deserved better than what she got — then cynically use her “rebirth” as a sort of deckchair-shuffling device to set the stage for the various soon-to-be-relaunched (just over a year into their existence) Young Animal titles. Some forced caption-box narration about the inherent value of being “weird” and “different” is apparently meant to make us forget what a naked cash-grab this entire venture was (seriously, the three “specials” in the middle of this series weren’t necessary to the proceedings at all — if you want to know what “Milk Wars” is all about, the first and final books are, strictly speaking, all you need) because we’ll all be too busy patting ourselves on our backs for our supposed “coolness.” I guess Dale Eaglesham’s art on the main story is okay if the standard “super-hero look” is your thing, and certainly Nick Derington’s work on the epilogue is every bit as fun and fantastic as his illustration in the main Doom Patrol series, but this whole friggin’ thing left me feeling decidedly unimpressed by the time it was over. Cliff Steele/Robotman is human again, Mother Panic has been thrust into the future, Shade’s got a new body, Cave Carson and crew are now in outer space, a character called Eternity Girl has something to do with something or other (we’ll find out in her own book, I guess) and Elasti-Girl is back. That’s where things stand now. Did it take five comics, each costing five bucks, to get us to this point? Not really, since all the events just mentioned take place on the final five or six pages of this one. Young Animal may pride itself on being some sort of “alternative” DC imprint, but the hustle is exactly the same. Oh, and is it just me, or is the stylized lettering on the Rita Farr “cosmic crucifixion” pages way too small? Mind you, I say this as a guy with 20/20 vision — I can only imagine the strain bespectacled readers went through trying to read that shit.

The Terrifics #1 is the latest book to launch as part of the self-described “New Age Of DC Heroes,” and it occcurs to me that, in addition to these titles being constructed according to the “Marvel Method” (writer hacks out a quick synopsis, artist then turns it into a 20-page story, writer comes back and fills in the word balloons and caption boxes), these are all Marvel comics. Which is fine, I suppose, since Marvel itself doesn’t seem interested in publishing them anymore, but seriously — Damage is pretty clearly DC’s take on the Hulk, The Silencer is a Punisher analogue, Sideways is Spider-Man with a different name and set of powers, and this new team consisting of Mister Terrific, Plastic Man, Metamorpho, and Phantom Girl doing the dimension-hopping bears more than a passing similarity, premise-wise, to the Fantastic Four. Jeff Lemire is scripting this one with Ivan Reis on art, and I was having a reasonably fun enough time shutting my brain off and going with the flow — until the last page, when Tom Strong shows up for the cliffhanger and DC proves, once again, that they’re more than happy to keep strip-mining Alan Moore’s imagination for all its (apostrophe omitted with specific intent) worth just to piss the guy off. Come on, any number of dormant space-faring adventurers would have worked just as well in Strong’s place — Adam Strange, anyone? — but it seems like the Dan DiDio/Jim Lee regime simply can’t resist rubbing The Bearded One’s face in their excrement. At first it was just sad and pathetic that they’d actually prove Moore’s points about how creatively and ethically bankrupt they are for him, but between this and Promethea’s recent appearance in Justice League Of America, it’s actually starting to feel more than a bit mean-spirited. I refuse to play along, and you should to. Drop this title from your pull now or suffer through the V/Batman and Top 10/Titans team-ups to follow. You’ve been warned.

And so we arrive at the end of yet another weekly wrap column, and reluctantly turn our attention back to the real world. At least until Wednesday, when a new batch of floppy, four-color escape valves arrives to take us away from the madness once again—

2017 Year In Review : Top 10 Series

Okay, let’s keep our best-of-2017 theme going here with a look at the Top 10 ongoing series of the year. A quick refresher on the rules : both ongoing and limited series are eligible in this category, as long as they meet a three-issue minimum. The idea here is to rank comics that are chained to a regular(-ish) production schedule, as opposed to those that come out whenever a cartoonist or creative team has the time and/or finances (in the case of self-publishers) to release them. Those books were all eligible (and, frankly, dominated) the “Top 10 Single Issues” list that I cranked out a couple days ago — and, as with that, this one won’t feature full reviews of each series, nor even ones that graduate to the “capsule” review level, just short summations of why I like ’em.

Sound good? I’m happy if you agree, and frankly could care less if you don’t. And so, with my “arrogant asshole” credentials out of the way, let’s get into it:

10. Doom Patrol (DC/Young Animal) – This book has seen numerous production delays, but whenever a new issue comes out, it’s worth it. Yeah, writer Gerard Way leans pretty heavily on Grant Morrison’s DP run for influence, but he’s not slavishly beholden to it, and Nick Derington’s art is equal parts classic and forward-thinking. The closest thing to an “art comic” you’re likely to get from either of the “Big Two” publishers.

9. Royal City (Image) – Jeff Lemire’s moody and slow-burning solo book is a little bit examination of a town that has seen better days, but mainly a compelling family drama about a dysfunctional clan that has definitely seen better days. A touch too mired in ’90s nostalgia for my tastes (news flash, that decade sucked — yes, even most of the music), but damn near pitch-perfect apart from that.

8. Dept. H (Dark Horse) – Matt Kindt’s underwater murder mystery is probably the most compulsively page-turning series going right now, and the watercolor-style hues provided by his wife Sharlene complement the atmosphere perfectly. I dunno how a book with a whole ocean to play in ends up being having such a claustrophobic feel, but damn if the walls don’t seem like they’re closing in on every member of the ensemble cast, all the time.

7. Black Magick (Image) – Writer Greg Rucka and artist extraordinaire Nicola Scott took a break from this one to work on Wonder Woman for awhile, but now they’re not only back, but back with a vengeance. Part police procedural, part Wiccan educational text (for the uninitiated, at any rate), this comic is like nothing else out there, and the rich, cinematic art will absolutely knock your socks off.

6. Mister Miracle (DC) – Yeah, this thing has been over-hyped to the hilt, and won’t seem anywhere near as “revolutionary” as advertised to anyone who’s seen a few David Lynch flicks (particularly Mulholland Drive), but Tom King and Mitch Gerads nevertheless deliver a smarter, more confounding, more complex, and more conceptually spot-on take on a Jack Kirby concept than we’ve seen to date — heck, I daresay The King himself would probably be proud of this one.

5. The Wild Storm (DC/WildStorm) – Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt have done the unthinkable with this series : turned Jim Lee’s gone-and-largely-forgotten relic of ’90s comic book excess into a thought-provoking, Philip K. Dick-esque, paranoid sci-fi political thriller. Crisply scripted, lavishly illustrated, and overflowing with key visual information in every panel, this is borderline-brilliant stuff.

4. Violent Love (Image) – Nobody bought this just-wrapped series and even fewer people are talking about it, but fuck it, that’s their loss. Frank J. Barbiere’s Badlands/Natural Born Killers/Bonnie And Clyde -style “criminals on the road” script is as fast and furious as they come, and Victor Santos’ art is the most stylish thing going in any “major independent” book, brimming over with ’70s exploitation grit and film noir cool.

3. The Flintstones (DC) – Truth be told, all of DC’s licensed Hanna-Barbera comics have been far better than any rational reader had probably assumed they would be, but this recently-concluded revisionist take on life in Bedrock from writer Mark Russell and criminally-underappreciated veteran artist Steve Pugh is clearly the best of the bunch — and, obviously, one of the best comics of the year. Spot-on social and political commentary that spares no sacred cows matched with wit and whimsy that’s downright charming, this wasn’t so much a Fred, Wilma, Barney, and Betty “re-launch” as it was a thematic and spiritual successor to Howie Post’s legendary Anthro. Utterly sublime, and hopefully a second “season” will be in the offing sooner rather than later.

2. Love And Rockets (Fantagraphics) – Los Bros. Hernandez have brought their series back to its original magazine format, and whenever a new issue hits the racks, all is temporarily right with the world again. Beto’s stuff is arguably at its most deeply self-referential right now, but rest assured it’s still great, and Jaime’s strips are aging so gracefully it’s almost painful to take in — seriously, Maggie, Hopey and co. are even more compelling at mid-life than they were in their twenties. By all rights this comic should have devolved into nostalgia and stagnation by now, but not only has that not happened, there are no signs that it ever will. Who are we kidding? This is one of the greatest comics not only of the year, but of all time. Always has been, always will be.

1. Black Hammer (Dark Horse) – Just when you thought super-hero revisionism was finally dead and buried, along comes Jeff Lemire and a majestically resurgent Dean Ormston (who had to re-train himself to draw after suffering a stroke) to show that you can move the most tired sub-genre of the most tired genre in the medium forward while writing a love letter to its past at the same time. This book consistently hits every note that long-time comics readers could possibly ask for, and somehow does so without a hint of either cynicism or irony. Capes and tights haven’t been done this sincerely since Alan Moore’s run on Supreme, and who knows? By the time all is said and done, this just might — I say again, might — prove to be almost as good.

Like my list? Hate it? Somewhere in between? Let me know! Certainly I had to leave a few solid contenders off, but as with the single issues, I’m really comfortable with my rankings — in fact, I had no hesitation about any of them, nor where they should fall. It all came almost disturbingly easy. Which, in theory, means I’m probably missing something really obvious — but I don’t think so.

Up next : the Top 10 Collected Editions (Contemporary) list, which will rank the best books presenting material from the beginning of the so-called “Modern Age” right up to the present day. TPB collections, comic strip collections, anthologies, webcomics collections, and the like are all eligible in this category, as long as their contents appeared somewhere else, either physically or digitally, first. I’ll hope to see you back here in a handful of days for that one!