Now that I’ve alienated the fans of four-to-five comic book series, let’s lighten the tone a bit. 2016 has had some fantastic comic book releases, and I think it’s important to praise success as much, if not more, than we condemn failure. Before we start, I want to pay some lip service to some series that I haven’t spotlighted enough this year.
If you haven’t read Death of Hawkman yet, read Death of Hawkman. Despite the implicated demise of one of my favorite superheroes, Andreyko and Lopresti have put together a fantastic story spotlighting the Winged Warrior and Adam Strange trying to halt all-out war between their cultures which has been made possible by none other than Despero. It’s a great story that delves into both title characters where the rising tension of each issue leaves you begging for more.
I fell out of love with Benjamin Percy’s Green Arrow after a rocky second issue. However, I have returned to the series recently to find that it has turned into an awesome series with the talkative and sanctimonious Emerald Archer returning to his liberal roots. Whatever your political alignment is, this is a worthwhile read.
I’ve talked up Dan Abnett a lot before, but you should definitely check out his Aquaman and Titans if you haven’t already. I’m just going to say it, his Aquaman is even better than Geoff Johns’ tenure on the series. His take on the Titans is the best I’ve seen in a very long time. Both are great books for the discerning DC fan, and I highly recommend them both.
Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the best comic book series I have ever read. I can say that in great confidence. This is a comic wrought with political intrigue on par with the best episodes of Game of Thrones and House of Cards, if not even better. It isn’t a conventional super hero title, especially considering calling T’Challa a morally right hero in this series is a great stretch. He’s fighting to prevent democracy in his country and has solicited the aid of dictators and warmongers to aid him. An incredible series through and through, it needs to be read.
Nick Spencer’s Sam Wilson: Captain America is the best Captain America series since Ed Brubaker put pen to paper to write about the Sentinel of Liberty. It’s an unforgiving series that puts its title character through great trial and tribulation. The support cast, Misty Knight, Demolition Man, the All-New Falcon, and Rage, add a lot to the comic and help keep the series light in its darker moments. This is another great series that needs to be checked out by all.
If you’re in the need of a dose of well-written weird Aaron and Bachallo’s Doctor Strange is a good follow-up to the recent film release of the same name. It’s a wildly odd series with a lot of fun and a good amount of humor. It has plenty of seriousness when it needs it, and it’s easily one of the more powerful Marvel titles coming out right now.
Jeff Lemire’s Extraordinary X-Men and Cullen Bunn’s Uncanny X-Men are keeping the spirit of Marvel’s oddest team. Lemire keeps the fun and heroics alive while Bunn brings the silent fury of Magneto to life with a team as gritty as Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force. Both are worth your time and money, especially if you want to spite Marvel’s Inhuman push.
All of this being said, Al Ewing’s Ultimates/Ultimates Squared is still my favorite comic being published right now. It’s a fantastic big-idea science book with a unique and varied team. It’s simply the best book on the stands at this point in time.
Now that this is out of the way, let’s start the list!
- Black Panther #1
Speaking of the King of Wakanda, I fell in love with his current series at the first issue. If it were a mission statement, it would have been to a billion-dollar company (which it arguably is). If it were a pilot episode, it would have been picked up immediately by HBO. It establishes the disastrous political state of Wakanda, and you get to see what the Panther is doing to keep it together. There is a good action sequence wherein T’Challa is forced to fight his own people, and you get to experience the pain this brings the king.
Stelfreeze’s art is unique and gorgeous. Shading is heavily relied upon to provide detail and tone. The comic is all-around fantastic, and if you haven’t jumped on the Black Panther train yet, you need to.
- Power Man and Iron Fist #9
The greatest duo in comic books has been honored with a great series by David Walker and Sanford Greene. I could not have asked for a better series for Luke Cage and Danny Rand. This is a book with teeth, personality, and energy.
This tie-in made Civil War II worthwhile just because it made this story happen. With a number of their former foes being assaulted and wrongly incarcerated, Luke and Danny tried to investigate, ending with Danny being imprisoned. Luke recruits former Thunderbolt comrades Songbird and Centurius to free his partner. Captain Marvel and some of her compatriots interfere due to a vision from Ulysses that predicts Luke Cage staging a jail break. This issue depicts the fight that ensues. The conflict is cathartic, intense, and just plain awesome.
As always, Luke is able to deliver some thoughtful lines on the state of things which leave you thinking. Sweet Christmas.
- Ultimates #7
Another Civil War II tie-in that dominates the main story, this provides a better prologue to the crossover than the #0 or the Free Comic Book Day issue. A slower tale that provides that contextualizes the fracturing of the team and how Thanos found his way to Earth in search of a Cosmic Cube held by Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S, Ultimates #7 also makes Civil War II worthwhile. Captain Marvel tries to shut down the Cube program to no avail, and you know how badly this is going to end thanks to Civil War II. It makes the story a little tragic.
A team of big ideas and big personalities, there is no way this team could have been conflict-free, especially with Black Panther and Captain Marvel. While the fight does not occur in this issue, it is built up to incredibly well here.
Sometimes a comic just works, and Al Ewing’s Ultimates has from the first issue through the present. It’s a book that shows an ability to work with the big ideas as well as human emotion with ease.
- DC Universe: Rebirth
Despite my continuing apprehension with how devoted DC is to the Rebirth initiative, while I was reading this issue, I was ecstatic for the future of the DC Universe. Bringing back a Flash that hasn’t been seen in far too long and spotlighting other long-lost favorites like Blue Beetle and Johnny Thunder, this comic was a jewel even in the storied career of Geoff Johns.
Bringing in the Watchmen seems like a fairly easy idea from the point of view of DC itself, but the manner in which its teased is actually kind of haunting and clever. Batman finding the Comedian’s button in his cave was pretty creepy.
The comic still stayed within the realm of the personal very well. You could feel for Wally West, and, when he and Barry Allen meet up again, my heart actually melted a bit. I love good brotherly and sisterly love like this, Power Man and Iron Fist, and Captain Marvel and Spider Woman. This comic was all-around phenomenal, and hopefully the promises it made will still be kept.
- Thunderbolts #5
In terms of a comic that accomplished everything it needed to in order to stick a near-perfect comic, nothing matched Thunderbolts #5 for me. For those who don’t remember, this was the issue in which the Winter Soldier hunted down the Ultimate Spider-Man to keep him from potentially causing the death of Steve Rogers as Ulysses foresaw.
It was a very emotional comic with a lot of heart and a lot of action. Steve is Bucky’s closest and only friend, and Bucky would do anything to not have to see his friend bleeding in the street like he did during the first Super Hero Civil War.
The fight between Bucky and Miles is well-depicted and, frankly, quite awesome. It was a heartfelt story about a man trying to save his closest friend, and I loved every second of it.
And that’s it. I hope you enjoy these comics as much as I did if you decide to or have already checked them out. If you want to check out my reviews of these comics, check out the lengths below.
There will be only one review this weekend since Christmas is Sunday. However, the review for Saturday will be particularly special though.