Archive for American Vampire

The Hero Sandwich List of Favorite Comics for 2012

Well, 2012 is almost over, and I’m absolutely delighted to see it go. This has been, without a single doubt, the absolute worst year of my life.

My grandmother died in January — she was 100 years old, but nope, you’re never prepared for that, never, never. Three friends died of cancer. We lost Ray Bradbury. I was diagnosed with diabetes. “City of Heroes” was shut down.

Oh, I know, there are lots of ways it could’ve been worse. Lots of people have gone through more horrible things this year, and I’ve got it relatively good. My family is healthy and happy. I have a job that keeps a roof over my head, food on the table, and comics in the longboxes. I’ve lost about 45 pounds since July, and my health is overall pretty good.

Nevertheless. It’s been a deeply unpleasant, depressing, sorrowful year, and I won’t be at all sad to see it end.

And ya know, this hasn’t been a very good year for comics, either.

We’ve had to sit through DC firing Gail Simone from “Batgirl” for no apparent reason (and then hiring her back when they realized that she was much more popular than anyone else at the company); DC shutting down “Hellblazer” so they can try to turn John Constantine into a superhero; fans responding to the (truly awful sounding) Amazing Spider-Man #700 by making serious death threats against writer Dan Slott (Pff, like Slott came up with that? Joe Quesada and Alex Alonso probably thought that one up, then assigned him to work on it.); DC just straight up being a dick to Alan Moore almost all year long with the (mostly ignored by readers) “Before Watchmen” comics.

And dominating geek news for the entire year has been the bizarre hostility in comics and gaming toward anyone who isn’t a straight white male. In a lot of ways, the gaming industry has been far worse with the hating-on-everyone problem, but the new obsession with Fake Geek Girls is largely focused on the comics fan community, especially cosplayers. Tony Harris’s bizarre misogyny helped play it up, but DC and Marvel have had more than their fair share of He Man Woman Hater moments, too. Really, would you be particularly surprised if Dan DiDio announced he was firing all the female creators at DC?

I’m probably forgetting some really important awful moments for comics, too, but there have just been so dang many of them…

Even the year’s major successes — the films of “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises” — were really to be attributed more to the skill, talent, and imagination of movie studios than to comics publishers.

DC, of course, has been the leader in bad comics and bad decisions. Marvel’s been a bit better, but has still shown too much enthusiasm for dull crossover events and poor judgement. The independents have been better than both of the Big Two — and yet I’ve still felt mostly bored with the comics that’ve been released this year.

I went through my pull-list earlier this year and stripped a lot of it out. I was tired of spending so much money on comics, of having to find storage space for all my books. And a lot of what I got rid of was actually pretty good. Scott Snyder’s Batman comic, for example, got pulled off my list. It was just fine, Snyder’s still a fantastic writer, and his work on the Dark Knight is just plain some of the best work anyone’s done with him for years. But I still took it off my list because I wasn’t excited about it. It wasn’t a book I looked forward to getting anymore. There were lots of comics like that — The Massive, Dark Horse Presents, Dial H, Demon Knights, Fatale, Frankenstein, Morning Glories, Popeye, Saucer Country, Unwritten, even B.P.R.D. — and I don’t really regret taking any of them off the list.

So what are my picks for my favorite comics of 2012? Here they are, in alphabetical order…


American Vampire

Still the best and most gloriously visceral horror comic we’ve got. Great characterization, art, and plotting make it a winner every issue.


Atomic Robo

Possibly the most consistently fun and entertaining comic out there. Any comic fan who isn’t reading this is utterly, utterly mad.


Avengers Academy

Cancelled long before its time, I loved this one for the great characterization and for its refusal to fall into the same boring traps as other teen-oriented comics. Random, shock-value deaths were avoided, and the heroes got out of plenty of problems by talking instead of fighting.


Axe Cop

This remains one of the best humor comics you’ll find — the Nicolle brothers are still hugely imaginative, funny, and audacious, even years after they started their comic.



Month after month, the best art you’re going to find in any comic book on the stands.



Probably the best pure superhero comic out there. Mark Waid’s Daredevil is fun, charismatic, clever, action-packed, and just all-around fantastic. And the art is usually pretty darn good, too.


The Goon

Rude? Yes. Hilarious? Yes. Unexpectedly emotional? Yes, yes, yes. Eric Powell would probably kick my ass for saying it, but he’s got more heart than any other comic book creator.


Love and Capes

This superhero sitcom is light on the action, but heavy on the humor, awesome characterization, and brainy storytelling. I would like more of you to read this, please.


Punk Rock Jesus

An amazing story combining religion, punk rock, politics of all stripes, science fiction, and our global obsessions with pop culture and entertainment. Sean Murphy deserves to win all kinds of awards for this.



A very fun modernized re-telling of Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark.” Great characters, dialogue, humor, and action, all wrapped up in a very friendly all-ages bow. I want Roger Langridge to make more and more comics, that’s all there is to it.


Wonder Woman

This isn’t really a superhero book at all — it’s part horror comic, part urban fantasy, part reboot of the ancient Greek myths. Half the fun of this is seeing what bizarre new forms the Greek gods and monsters will take.

So that’s what I’ve got for this year. I left off a lot of good comics — books that debuted in only the last few months, books that were cancelled in the first month or two of the year, books that were of unquestionably high-quality but which were nevertheless boring me when I finally dropped them.

What can we hope for in the future? I’m sure not dumb enough to try to make predictions, but I’d like to think that, after a year this bad, there’s nowhere the comics industry can go but up. Unfortunately, my optimism bone done got snapped off, and it wouldn’t shock me a bit to see things get even worse in 2013.

Hold on to your hats, and pray for miracles.

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Ghosts and Vampires

Halloween’s over, but we’ve got two more horror-themed comics to review…

Ghosts #1

This year’s Halloween one-shot from Vertigo features comics from some big names, some not-so-big names, and one really, really big name.

The star of the show is the late Joe Kubert’s final comic art — “The Boy and the Old Man,” which Kubert had finished penciling but not inking or coloring. It’s printed here with only Kubert’s rough pencils and computer lettering to make it readable. Besides that, we’ve got a story about a kid who meets his own ghost — or at least the ghost of the life he could have been leading. We get a story of the Dead Boy Detectives from “Sandman” (but not written by Neil Gaiman), a story about a couple who become ghosts to each other, a tale of Satanic chili, a science fiction tale from Paul Pope, Gilbert Hernandez’s story about “The Dark Lady,” and Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire writing about some brothers who hire themselves out haunting homes.

Verdict: I think, on the whole, thumbs down. Some of this was quite good — Kubert’s story is worth reading just to see how good he still was so late in life. Al Ewing and Rufus Dayglo’s “The Night After I Took the Data Entry Job I Was Visited by my Own Ghost” was clever and amusing, Cecil Castellucci and Amy Reeder’s “Wallflower” was entirely beautiful, and Neil Kleid and John McCrea’s “A Bowl of Red” is designed to make you want to eat more chili. But the rest were either completely forgettable, nonsensical, or criminally dull.

American Vampire #32

Pearl has been captured by her old friend Hattie Hargrove, who’s now running the Hollywood vampire covens. And she and Skinner Sweet plan to invade the headquarters of the Vassals of the Morning Star and kill everyone inside, including Pearl’s husband Henry. Is there any chance for Pearl to escape and save the day?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Hopeless situations abound, betrayals, violence, trauma, and bright, sunlit horror. It’s a great read. If you love horror and you aren’t reading “American Vampire,” you’re outta yer fool mind.

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Written in Blood

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #5

With a small number of vampire allies, Agent Hobbes, Felicia Book, and her son Gus are tracking Dracula, the most powerful vampire on Earth, as he sets sail for a device that will allow him to mentally command every vampire in the world. Since he’s in a ship, and Carpathian vampires are notoriously incapable of swimming, the plan is simple: get a raft in close, attach some dynamite, and blow a hole in the hull. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work, forcing them to board the ship to blow it up from inside. Can young Gus handle himself alone when Dracula’s servant, Tommy Glass, attacks? Can Agent Hobbes survive Dracula’s mental attacks?

Verdict: Thumbs up. High intensity suspense, a suitable ending for one character, and some interesting changes put in place for the rest of the American Vampire series. This has bee, like all of Scott Snyder’s American Vampire books, absolutely excellent. More’s the pity that he’ll be putting it on hiatus to work on Superman comics.

Daredevil #19

Has Matt Murdock gone insane? He’s seeing people who aren’t there, he seemingly graverobbed his father’s bones, he thinks he’s in one place, then finds himself somewhere else. Is Foggy Nelson going to betray Matt to the authorities? Can Daredevil solve the mystery of what’s happening to him? Or is he literally going to lose his head?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art and writing, a fun mystery, creepy situations, and an excellent old/new villain.

Batwoman #13

On the trail of Medusa — and fearful that it may not be a mere criminal organization but the actual mythical gorgon herself, Batwoman teams up with Wonder Woman to track her down. They travel to a dungeon/labyrinth designed to hold horrific monsters, but find that the creatures and their guards have all been destroyed — and soon, they’re attacked by Nyx, goddess of night, and her bleak minions. Meanwhile, the DEO continues their various plots, while Joseph Kane starts training Bette Kane for a new crimefighting career.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good gravy, the art in here is just stunning. Just about every page of this is shockingly beautiful. I don’t know what else to say about it — sometimes this stuff just blows my feeble brain into orbit.

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Last Week’s Comics

Yeah, I’m super-late with reviews, and I just don’t care. After cutting my pull-list in more than half, I ended up getting just four comics — the fewest I’ve picked up in months. And they were all pretty darn good. So, very quickly, let’s look at what we got.

Axe Cop: President of the World #2

It would be impossible for me to describe what goes on here. But there are giant robots, a giant gorilla, an attempt to stab God in the heart with Seattle’s Space Needle, a robot mustache, and a chee-rex, which is a cross between a cheetah and a T-rex.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wonderfully mad, as expected. And by all means, let’s take a moment to praise the artwork by Ethan Nicolle (That’s the older brother in the team) — everything he does always looks awesome, and I can’t imagine anyone else who could draw a chee-rex so completely perfectly.

The Goon #41

Most of the story focuses on the disgraced Zombie Priest, trying to build himself back up to a position of power by doing magic for others — always supposedly in their favor, but it always turns out bad for everyone. And the second part of the story features a deranged bog lurk with a mad-on for knocking the Goon’s head off.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice to see the Zombie Priest returning to become a major threat. And the seriousness of the first story is nicely offset by the wonderful goofiness of the second one.

Captain Marvel #3

Carol Danvers is stuck on an island near Peru during World War II, defending a small all-female squad of Allied saboteurs against Japanese soldiers armed with Kree war machines. And while she can handle one of the alien mega-tanks, is she going to be able to survive a horde of them?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good fun, nice art, and a few extras that help make it a really entertaining story.

American Vampire #30

Henry Preston is still gravely injured after an attack by vampires, and his wife Pearl and Skinner Sweet hunt the vampires hiding out in Hollywood. They get ambushed by a bunch of vamps just as Henry starts to recover — and just as another terrible twist drives itself into Henry’s and Pearl’s lives.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The action is pretty good, but the emotional whammy of the story, from the beginning all the way to the end, is what really sells this one. It’s an incredible piece of storytelling.

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Jesus Camp

Punk Rock Jesus #2

Chris, the supposed clone of Jesus, is the focus of a monumentally successful reality TV show — and also a figure of great controversy, with scientists denying his divinity and Christian fundamentalists demanding either his release from the island where he and his mother Gwen are kept — or his death. Slate, the slimeball who runs the show, sets out faking some miracles on Chris’ behalf, while Gwen starts to drift into depression and alcoholism. Dr. Epstein announces that she’s conveniently pregnant with a girl — she claims she’s used her cloning expertise to get around her inability to have children. Gwen wants to see her parents again and persuades Thomas McKael, the show’s taciturn Irish security chief, to take her on a secret field trip. But there’s no way to take one of the stars of the most popular TV show in history out into the world without attracting a lot of attention.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Sean Murphy’s art is just fantastic, and the characterization he’s doing is also great fun. Slate is turning into a wonderfully despicable villain, and even minor characters, like the hacker, Tim, are given good personalities. This is great fun, so far — hope it continues being so enjoyable.

The Massive #3

The Kapital repels some pirates trying to board the ship, we get a quick flashback of how Callum Israel and his crew decided whether to stick to nonviolence after the global disasters destroyed the environment and the economy, and everyone docks back at one of their secret bases, a small town called Unalaska. Plus we get more details about some of the catastrophes that have befallen Earth’s populace in the last few years.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent storytelling, good development of characters, strong mood and worldbuilding. I know, that’s all kinda dispassionate, but I feel like I have to say more about this than just “Me like comic, it am fun.”

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #3

Dracula — who may not be the historical Dracula, but is at least the leader of all of the Carpathian vampires — has been awakened and is able to control the mind of Gus, Felicia Book’s son. Agent Hobbes believes he’s trying to turn Gus into his new Renfield — a human servant who is utterly dominated by the vampire’s will. The Soviets think they can contain Dracula, but they don’t know how much danger they’re in. And Felicia and Hobbes run into a vampire organization called “The Firsts” which consists mainly of the last surviving members of vampire clans killed off by the Carpathians.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not bad — lots of vampires, lots of mystery, good action. The only problem has gotta be that the Carpathian vamps just aren’t as charismatic and fun as the American ones…

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Vampire State

American Vampire #29

Pearl Preston and Skinner Sweet are tracking vampires in ’50s Hollywood, hiding out in the mansions of directors and stars. Claiming to be investigators for the House Un-American Activities Committee, they pay a visit to producer Wells White, who shows off his pet lions before Pearl and Skinner catch sight of his vampire guest. While Pearl takes care of the vampire, White turns his lions loose on Skinner — not that a bunch of lions have much of a chance. But who’s behind the sniper who kills White? And what kind of hold do the Vassals of the Morning Star have over Skinner Sweet?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Just a good issue. I like the vamps’ cover of “Oh, hey, we’re with HUAC — you got any shady connections we need to know about?” Makes it a perfect fit for the paranoid ’50s.

Justice League Dark #11

Felix Faust is trying to get into the government’s vault that contains all of the most powerful magic items in the world, while the JLD struggle to contain him and his pet demons. Meanwhile, Madame Xanadu seeks out Timothy Hunter, a kid in London who may be the only magician in the world powerful enough to safely use the Books of Magic — but he insists there’s no way he can help them. Can John Constantine prevent the Books from falling into Felix’s hands?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Ehh, it’s alright. Mostly a big punch-up. Still not sure I’ll ever get used to the idea of John Constantine and Timothy Hunter running around on the superhero side of the DCU.

The Amazing Spider-Man #690

While Spider-Man tries to corral Morbius the Living Vampire, Dr. Curt Connors is back at Horizon Labs trying to turn himself back into the Lizard — and using the rest of Horizon’s staff as guinea pigs. Can Spidey capture Morbius and make it back to the lab before all of his coworkers are turned into giant lizards?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Worth it more for Connors’ internal monologue than for just about anything else.

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The Hypno-Hustler

Saucer Country #5

New Mexico Governor and presidential candidate Arcadia Alvarado pays a visit to shady hypnotherapist Dr. Glass with a specific plan — to let him hypnotize her so she can learn more about what happened when she was abducted by aliens, and at the same time, to lie to Glass — yes, even under hypnosis — to make sure that the revelations he got from her ex-husband’s hypnotherapy session are discredited. Glass is, of course, furious, but his conspiracy-theory co-conspirators seem to be happy with what little they’ve learned. Meanwhile, Gov. Alvarado and her staff begin making plans for how they can use the campaign as cover to investigate the aliens and find more evidence.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, interesting dialogue, nice characterization. Lots of interesting stuff happening here — just five issues in, and we’re already seeing the main characters taking control of their destinies, whereas in many other comics, they’ll spend at least six issues reacting to everything…

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #2

Agent Hobbes of the Vassals of the Morning Star reveals to former Agent Felicia Book that the secret that had previously been kept under the organization’s London headquarters was… Dracula. Well, maybe not the fictional character, but the first and most powerful of the Carpathian vampires, able to control the mind of almost any Carpathian, able to survive being staked through the heart and even able to control minds while dormant. The Russians are about to get their hands on him — they don’t want to revive him, they just don’t want the Brits to have him — but Tommy Glass, the bespectacled American Renfield, has a plan to help revive his master — and if he’s successful, the whole world is in danger…

Verdict: Thumbs up. A lot of exposition here, but it’s all really interesting exposition, and it’s balanced with plenty of plot movement, too. Wow, this Dracula vampire sounds like serious bad business, don’t he?

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Bloody Hollywood

American Vampire #28

Vampires have attacked and gravely injured Henry Preston, and his wife, the American vampire Pearl Preston, wants two things — revenge and to make sure Henry is cured. Calvin Poole, another American vampire, comes to Hollywood to help his friends, and the two of them fight off an attack from rival European vamps who want to finish all three of them off. Cal convinces her to go to the local office of the Vassals of the Morning Star for help, and Agent Bixby tells them that there’s a secret coven of vampires in L.A., hiding out in the homes of Hollywood’s elite. Pearl agrees to help hunt them down, but she’ll have an unexpected partner — Agent Skinner Sweet.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Action, great dialogue, Rafael Albuquerque’s art, and the return of Skinner Sweet? Come on, folks, if you’re not reading this yet, the first issue of a new storyarc is a great jumping-on point…

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – Exorcism #1

BPRD Agent Ashley Strode is on hand for an exorcism of a child in Indiana when everyone is surprised by the possessing demon speaking directly to her and telling her it will never let the child go free unless she sees to it that another demon trapped on Earth goes free. Additionally, if the demon is freed, the monsters and other horrors plaguing the world will be eliminated. The attending priest is furious at her for talking to the demon, but the Bureau thinks it might be worth it to send Agent Strode to Mexico to meet with Father Ota Benga, a priest that the demon had mentioned as “the keeper of the cage.” What Ashley finds is a 154-year-old African priest whose faith and willpower was so strong he willingly accepted possession by a demon over 100 years ago to save an innocent victim. Ota Benga himself is the demon’s prison, and that’s what’s allowed him to live so long. Can the demon be destroyed before Benga dies?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent story — scary and dramatic and funny. And combined with Cameron Stewart’s wonderful artwork, this is definitely something worth reading.

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Blood Pack

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #1

Huzzah, a new “American Vampire” miniseries, written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Dustin Nguyen. Somehow, I’d missed that this was coming out, so it ended up being a nice surprise on my pull-list last week.

It’s 1954, and Agent Hobbes of the vampire-hunting Vassals of the Morning Star meets up with an irritating American tourist named Tommy Glass, who actually knows a heck of a lot more about vampires than he should. In fact, he knows about something mysterious and terrible that the Vassals keep locked up somewhere very safe, and he has a well-thought-out plan to set it free. The resulting disaster forces Hobbes to travel to Paris to seek the assistance of former agent and half-vampire Felicia Book. What’s the new threat facing the world? And do Hobbes and Book have any chance of stopping it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wonderful writing and art, of course, with an interesting and off-kilter villain in Tommy Glass and an even more interesting one teased at the cliffhanger. I’m now looking forward to this one quite a bit…

Batgirl #10

Batgirl lays some smackdown on some low-rent car thieves targeting the parking garage in a building hosting a fancy black-tie society gathering. But the last thief ends up stepping in a bear trap someone left outside a doorway. The event security shows up and take the thief into custody. And what’s the black-tie event about? A wealthy debutante named Charise Carnes is hosting a fundraiser to help clean up Gotham, and Lois Lane is on hand to quiz her about her project — and about the rumors about her involvement in the deaths of her family years ago. Carnes was cleared of the crime, but one suspects she may be less than innocent, what with the man she has hidden away and chained in a cage, and what with Batgirl’s discovery that the bear-trap victim is still being held in the building, with his leg cut off, and what with the fact that her bodyguards are all costumed super-criminals. Can Batgirl face all of them down?

Verdict: Thumbs up. While the identities of the villains were pretty obvious from their first appearances — and who on earth has event security wear formal dresses to an event? — I really enjoyed this issue a lot. Batgirl was a lot more competent than she’s previously been depicted, and the villains, calling themselves the Disgraced, are all plenty fun, with interesting motivations.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #10

After an attack by giant insects, S.H.A.D.E. determines that one of its undercover agents — Crowly, stationed in Untropolis, a quasi-interdimensional, monster-filled sister-city of Metropolis — may have been responsible for the incident. Frankenstein and the Creature Commandos are dispatched through the deadly border between dimensions. Can they track Crowly, apprehend her, and find out what’s going on?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The action is pretty good, Frank’s dialogue is great (the rest of the characters are honestly a bit drab), and the graphics for Untropolis are quite fun, but what I really enjoyed this for was the mystery of what kind of strange visions Frankenstein is having. Are they about his past? Or is this something altogether different? I’m mystified by it, but still enjoying it.

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Freeze Frame

Batman Annual #1

While it may have the “Night of the Owls” banner on the cover, this comic has very little to do with that crossover. Most of our focus here is on Mr. Freeze, starting from his childhood and his mother’s accident on an icy lake, through his young adulthood as a cryo-scientist in the employ of Bruce Wayne, and through his most recent escape from Arkham Asylum as he makes his plans for revenge on Wayne for stealing his beloved Nora from him. And we get an unexpected twist on Freeze’s backstory before the end of the tale…

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is getting a little controversy because it futzes about a little with Freeze’s tragic origin created by Paul Dini in the Batman animated series. As good as that is, I still didn’t have a problem with the origin and backstory being altered, mainly because I didn’t feel like it was a bad alteration. As far as Freeze is concerned, his old origin is still true — the rest of us are the ones who now see him as a bit crazier than before. And it’s something that gives us a better reason why no one ever let Freeze revive Nora — something that always seemed needlessly cruel. So I enjoyed it, and it gets a thumbs-up, and that’s all there is to it.

American Vampire #27

Calvin Poole, one of the very small number of American vampires — and the only African-American — has stumbled into a small pack of werewolf-like vampires in a small town in the Deep South. He makes a very narrow escape when some sympathetic locals help him out, and the Vassals of the Morning Star give him some tips on how to wipe out this new crop of vamps. But does Calvin alone have any chance against an entrenched pack of powerful vampires?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice, short storyarc with excellent writing, good art, and some nice conflicts and mysteries. Hope we get to see plenty more of Calvin as the series goes on.

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