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Logan’s Favorite Comics of 2019

2019 was an interesting year for me comics-wise as I did not get to read as widely or deeply as I liked because of a variety of factors, including my final two semesters of graduate school, working two library jobs (Where ordering and promoting comics were part of my duties.), and an impending move. Also, I decided to catch up on some “classic” comics like Miracleman, Ghost in the Shell, Junji Ito‘s Tomie, and most of Brian Michael Bendis‘ and Michael Oeming‘s Powers, and Gail Simone‘s run on Secret Six.

However, I did have the opportunity to read some fantastic comics in 2019 as two of my favorite series of all time reached their conclusion. I also branched out a little bit, and this is the first time my year-end list has featured books from Ahoy and Harper Collins as well as a self-published comic.

Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion

10. Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion (Dark Horse)

Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá, and Nick Filardi‘s Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion is as wild and anarchic as the Netflix show was tame and Muggle-friendly. Hotel Oblivion is a love letter to Silver Age supervillains while actually taking time to deal with the relationships between the Hargreaves siblings. Bá and Filardi’s visuals are a chaos magic-shaped bullet to the head and especially sings in the world and city-rending set pieces towards the end of the miniseries that I read in trade paperback format.

Dreamers of the Day

9. Dreamers of the Day (Self-published)

Ned Barnett‘s self-published graphic memoir-meets-historical biography Dreamers of the Day is one of the most unique comics I’ve read in recent years. It chronicles the author’s trip to England as he conducts research on a graphic biography about T.E. Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia and is educational while being emotionally compelling. If there’s one word to describe this comic, it is “enthusiastic” as Barnett’s passion for making art, studying history, and making it relevant to contemporary readers shines through in his iconic, Herge-esque art style and accessible prose.

Winter Soldier

8. Winter Soldier #2-5 (Marvel)

Kyle Higgins and Rod Reis create a redemptive narrative for the sidekick-turned assassin-turned superhero and occasional black ops agent, Bucky Barnes in their Winter Soldier miniseries. The comic’s beating heart is the flawed relationship between Bucky and RJ, a child assassin, that Bucky sees a lot of himself in. There is both humor and tragedy in their interactions. Reis’ lush pencils to color art style works for both the emotional breakdowns and action beatdowns.

Steeple

7. Steeple #1-4 (Dark Horse)

The fantastic John Allison (Giant Days) both writes and draws this miniseries about an Anglican priest in training named Billie, who is assigned to a parish in the kooky village of Tredregyn, Cornwall. Steeple has an “anything but the kitchen sink” tone as its plots include fights against sea monsters, a charismatic Christian cult connected to windmills, and an ongoing conflict against the Church of Satan. (Billie also strikes up an unlikely friendship with the Satanic priestess, Maggie.) Allison mines a lot of humor out of the idiosyncrasies of different religions and small town life as well as the melodrama of good versus evil, and his art is expressive as always with the help of colorist Sarah Stern.

Second Coming

6. Second Coming #1-5 (Ahoy)

Speaking of religious satire, Mark Russell, Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Troy do an excellent job of showing how the historical figure Jesus would be received in the modern world with the twist of having an “edgy” superhero named Sunstar as a roommate. Beginning with a retelling of the creation of the world, Russell and Pace walk a tightrope between reverence and irreverence touching on a variety of issues, including megachurches, homophobia, and Pauline theology. Another enjoyable part of Second Coming is Leonard Kirk’s inking when the story decides to be a traditional superhero comic for a second, or there’s a flashback to Satan tempting Jesus as he plays a complex role in the narrative.

Once and Future

5. Once and Future #1-5 (BOOM! Studios)

I knew Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain‘s Once and Future would be my cup of tea when it featured Arthurian legends and the town of Bath where I studied abroad in summer 2014 as plot points as well as having a complicated relationship between a grandmother and grandson at its core. Once and Future is action-packed read steeped in Arthurian lore with dynamic art from Mora and a mystical color palette from Bonvillain. It’s a straightforward adventure/dysfunctional family/romance comic that also plays with the symbols (Excalibur, Holy Grail etc.) and tropes of these kinds of stories, and I’m glad that it’s an ongoing and not just a mini.

Giant Days

4. Giant Days #46-54, As Time Goes By (BOOM! Studios)

Esther, Daisy, and Susan finally go their separate ways in the final issues of John Allison, Max Sarin, and Whitney Cogar‘s Giant Days plus a reunion one-shot where Daisy and Susan tag-team and rescue Esther from the clutches of Type A London publishing types. The final year of Giant Days had a lot of pathos to go with its usual comedy with several issues focusing on the strained relationship between Susan’s boyfriend McGraw and his father and his reaction to his sudden death. There is also all the usual college shenanigans with moments of reflection to show that these women have come a long way from randomly sharing a room back in far off 2015.

House of X and Powers of X

3. House of X #1-6, Powers of X #1-6 (Marvel)

In their ambitious twelve-issue House of X/Powers of X “event”, Jonathan Hickman, R.B. Silva, and Pepe Larraz made the X-Men relevant again thanks to a heavy dose of speculative fiction, geopolitics, and good old fashioned superhero soap opera. Hickman gave B-list characters like Goldballs, Doug Ramsey, and of course, Moira MacTaggert and the sentient island of Krakoa pivotal roles in his story of a rise of a mutant nation as well as the usual suspects like Magneto, Professor X, the Summers family, Jean Grey, and Emma Frost. He created a fantastic sandbox for these fan-favorite characters to play in as well as leaving some intrigue open for the spinoff stories. (The whole Moira X thing, Kitty Pryde being unable to enter Krakoa, Apocalypse and Sinister’s intentions.) I haven’t been this excited to read the X-Books as a line since Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen were writing Wolverine and the X-Men and Uncanny X-Men respectively. Plus the Hickman designed diagrams add great depth to the story and area visual treat.

New Kid

2. New Kid (HarperCollins)

New Kid is a middle-grade graphic novel by cartoonist Jerry Craft that was recommended to me by my supervisor at the public library I worked at. Itis about an African-American teenager named Jordan, who transfers from a diverse public middle school to a less diverse private one. Over the course of the book, Craft fleshes out Jordan and his relationships with his old friends from his neighborhood to his new ones at the private school as he navigates playing soccer, racial microaggressions, crushes, and bonding over art and video games. The comic deftly navigates race and class issues while being an enjoyable slice of life story with Craft adding some fun visual flourishes like making the title page of each chapter a pop culture homage. New Kid‘s clear storytelling and a relatable storyline about not fitting in at a new school make it a book that I would recommend to kids and adults, comics and non-comics readers.

The Wicked + The Divine

1. The Wicked + the Divine #41-45 (Image)

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson really stuck the landing in the final arc of The Wicked + the Divine, which was titled “Okay” and followed the surviving Pantheon members as they gave up divinity and lived normal lives. Basically, they grew up, and so did I. The last issues of WicDiv are peppered with powerful moments as Gillen and McKelvie connect flashbacks of the millennia past to the Pantheon’s reality and let Ananke/Minerva be a manipulator, Luci be wicked, Baal be a protector, and Laura be human one last time. The final issue is an epilogue set in the future and filled with love and emotion with McKelvie and Wilson nailing the look of the elderly, former Pantheon members. It’s sad to see WicDiv go, but it had a beautiful ending and was my favorite comic, both of 2019 and of the decade as a whole.

Star Wars #1 Takes the Series to a New Era in January

STAR WARS #1

Written by CHARLES SOULE
Art by JESÚS SAIZ
Cover by RB SILVA

“No…I am your father.”

In the wake of the events following The Empire Strikes Back, it is a dark time for the heroes of the Rebellion. The Rebel fleet…scattered following a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Hoth. Han Solo…lost to the bounty hunter, Boba Fett, after being frozen in carbonite. And after being lured into a trap on Cloud City and bested in a vicious lightsaber duel against the evil Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker…learned the horrible truth about his past. Vader did not kill Luke’s father Anakin–Vader is Luke’s father! Now, after narrowly escaping the dark lord’s clutches, and wounded and reeling from the revelation, Luke, Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, the Wookiee Chewbacca and the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 must fight their way back to the Rebel Alliance—for the fate of the entire galaxy is at stake! After so many losses is victory still possible?  But, what Leia, Luke and their ragtag band of freedom fighters do not realize is that they have only traded one Imperial trap for another! Enter the cunning and vengeful Imperial Commander Zahra, at the helm of the Tarkin’s Will!

Writer Charles Soule (DARTH VADER) and artist Jesús Saiz (DOCTOR STRANGE) are taking us all to the galaxy far, far away next year! With covers by RB Silva (POWERS OF X)! 

THE GREATEST SPACE ADVENTURE OF ALL TIME…BEGINS THIS JANUARY!!!

Star Wars #1

Preview: X-Men: Blue #36

X-Men: Blue #36

(W) Cullen Bunn (A) Marcus To (CA) R. B. Silva
Rated T+
In Shops: Sep 26, 2018
SRP: $3.99

• Are the young X-Men’s destinies set in stone? Are they only fighting the inevitable? Only their modern-day counterparts can answer that!

Preview: X-Men: Blue #35

X-Men: Blue #35

(W) Cullen Bunn (A) Marcus To (CA) R. B. Silva
Rated T+
In Shops: Sep 12, 2018
SRP: $3.99

• Knowing that their time is limited, the original X-Men must face uncomfortable realities about their future…

Preview: X-Men: Blue #34

X-Men: Blue #34

(W) Cullen Bunn (A) Marcus To (CA) R. B. Silva
Rated T+
In Shops: Aug 29, 2018
SRP: $3.99

• Time-traveling Magneto must team up with the future counterpart X-Men in order to save mutantkind from extinction.
• But in order to do so, will Magneto submit to his darker instincts?
• Don’t miss a major turning point for the Master of Magnetism!

Review: X-Men: Blue #18

Nothing that Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Jimmy Hudson, Iceman, Bloodstorm, or Beast have done has cured the timestream, causing bits and pieces of history to blink out of existence. Luckily, the original Generation X crew is here to help! Or fight?

For three issues “Cross Time Capers” has felt more like a “this is your life” than anything else. But, with X-Men: Blue #18 writer Cullen Bunn finally gives us an idea as to what’s going on. With this issue’s reveal, I’m actually digging the storyline more.

Initially, we were sent to the future meeting the X-Men of 2099 and a world that felt familiar but a bit off. Now, it’s Generation X and while things also feel familiar eventually the charade is lifted and we see things have changed, a lot. This isn’t the timeline we expected, it’s another totally different one but what happened? We get a glimpse but no full explanation but we have an idea. And, what went from “meh” is now bordering “cool.”

The art by R. B. Silva is good too. The Generation X kids look great and the battle (because of course there’s a battle) packs a lot in and makes things clear. These last three issues have been good when it comes to the art and up to this point, the series has felt shaky in that department.

Bunn has shaken things a bit with this issue and in doing so also delivers some great moments (Jubilee with Bloodstorm for instance). Where’s this going? Can’t say for sure but I want to find out. What was an interesting if forgettable storyline is shaping up to be something that just might stand out from the bunch. And what’s even better, no idea where it’s all going.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: R. B. Silva Cover Art: Arthur Adams
Story: 7.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: X-Men: Blue #17

Lost in time, Jean Grey and her team of X-Men must survive long enough to fix what is wrong with the timestream… which isn’t easy with the teens stranded in the not-too-far future. If only there were a similar group of mutant heroes to help them out. Oh, wait! There totally is, the X-Men of 2099!

I generally enjoyed the last issue, the first part of “Cross Time Capers,” but something is off with X-Men: Blue #17 in both story and dialogue. Writer Cullen Bunn has brought back the X-Men of 2099 in an unexpected twist that had me excited as the last issue ended. I remember loving that series back in the day (and the entire 2099 line) though I’m sure if I revisited it I’d be a little let down. So, X-Men 2099, cool. The story that’s presented a bit also cool. There’s something with Alchemex which was taken over the X-Men at some point and honestly I don’t remember much of the original run so it all feels like a new and interesting concept that has me wanting to dare and go back and read the original material. The concepts thrown out there are really neat, but how they’re presented feel a bit choppy with dialogue that is beyond stilted at times.

Bunn has the two teams regroup to asses things and then they’re attacked and there’s a battle with Alchemex but all of it has a flow of an ADD kid who’s missing just enough detail to make things a bit clearer and enjoyable. That isn’t helped by the fact there’s panels of dialogue that feel like they come out of nowhere and just doesn’t fit with what’s going on. The last issue flowed well and this has just way too many bumps on the road to make it as enjoyable and too much thrown out there without enough explanation to really appreciate anything. A dialed back issue with less conflict might have been a better way to go.

The art by R.B. Silva is good but again is missing something compared to last issue. There’s at times too much going on with the scenes too panned out to get a good amount of detail or much emotional oomph from anyone talking or even some of the action.

The issue had so much potential with the re-introduction of X-Men 2099 but things feel squandered and rushed. It’s clearer at the end of the issue that we shouldn’t expect depth instead we’re sort of getting a “this is your life” tour of X moments throughout the decades. That could work as a whole but as individual pieces it misses something until the end is near. Not enough focus creates an issue that’s more nostalgia than anything interesting.

Story: Cullen Bunn Art: R.B. Silva
Story: 6.5 Art: 7.4 Overall: 6.75 Recommendation: Read

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: X-Men: Blue #17

X-Men: Blue #17

(W) Cullen Bunn (A) R. B. Silva (CA) Arthur Adams
Rated T+
In Shops: Dec 13, 2017
SRP: $3.99

CROSS-TIME CAPERS Part 2
• Lost in time, JEAN GREY and her team of X-MEN must survive long enough to fix what is wrong with the timestream…
• …which isn’t easy with the teens stranded in the not-too-far future. If only there were a similar group of mutant heroes to help them out.
• Oh, wait! There totally is! GUEST-STARRING X-MEN 2099!

Ardian Syaf Off of X-Men Gold

Marvel has terminated their contract with artist Ardian Syaf after the artist placed hidden messages within X-Men Gold #1.

The artist’s work will still be seen in X-Men Gold #2 and X-Men Gold #3 as both issues have gone to the printer. RB Silva will take over with X-Men Gold #4 and continue on art through X-Men Gold #6. Ken Lashley will then take on the art duties with X-Men Gold #7-9.

A permanent artist will be announced in the future.

Here’s Marvel’s full statement.

Marvel has terminated Ardian Syaf’s contract effective immediately. ‘X-Men Gold’ #2 and #3 featuring his work have already been sent to the printer and will continue to ship bi-weekly. Issues #4, #5, and #6 will be drawn by R. B. Silva and issues #7, #8, and #9 will be drawn by Ken Lashley. A permanent replacement artist will be assigned to ‘X-Men Gold’ in the coming weeks.

Below is some of the “hidden” messages Syaf included in the issue which are interpreted as being anti-Christian and antiSemitic.

Review – Action Comics #900


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Action Comics #900Much has been said in the last few days of this monumental nine hundredth issue of one of the most pivotal comics in history, Action ComicsAction Comics #900 is a huge leap and massive comic, boasting 96 pages and a cover price of $5.99.  I won’t delve into the controversy for now, expect that in an hour, instead how is the comic?

Paul Cornell, Damon Lindelof, David Goyer, Geoff Johns, Paul Dini and Richard Donner are just some of the names that make this a pretty solid issue, if not a bit uneven.

Paul Cornell, Pete Woods and Jesus Merino (and a few others) continue the main story running through the series, The Black Ring.  Basically, Lex is now God and Superman confronts him.  It’s very much Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and the story is about as good as the movie.  As a whole, there’s a lot of plot points that either don’t make sense or belittles Lex Luthor as a villain and character.  It could also be the fact that I haven’t read the lead up.  I’m sure that didn’t help.

The short stories that followed are a mix bag.  Each has a point and attempts to analyze a different facet of the Superman character and mythos in a different way.

Damon Lindelof and Ryan Sook‘s entry gives us a few days before the end of Krypton.  It’s the highlight of the issue with just a touching simple story.  One that makes you think, and gives you a moment of pause.

Geoff Johns and Gary Frank is the weakest of stories featuring the Legion of Super Heroes.  If you don’t know these characters, like me, this will go over your head.

Paul Dini and RB Silva’s story is the one that gets you to think about an alien who’s the last of it’s kind and must keep what it’s scene going.  A nice reflection to Superman.

David Goyer and Miguel Speulveda bring us the news worthy story that has Superman heading to Tehran and partaking in a rally in Iran.  This causes controversy and an international incident as it looks like the US is interfering with their internal affairs.  It results in Superman making a bold statement about his citizenship.  The story is one of the two stand out as it features real world locations, unlike previous stories which usually feature an echo.

Finally Richard Donner, Derek Hoffman and Matt Camp present a Superman story in screenplay format, which is always neat to see.

Overall the issue is mixed.  The main story I could do without, but the rest, minus Johns’, are pretty solid stuff.  If nothing else, grab it to see what the controversy is about.

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