Archive for Avengers Academy

Hey Sailor

Popeye #1

Long, long years ago, I went through a period where I was really, really into Popeye — and not the familiar Popeye cartoons, but the very old “Thimble Theatre” comic strip by E.C. Segar, the one that included characters that rarely made it into the animated cartoons, like Castor Oyl, Ham Gravy, the Sea Hag, Alice the Goon, and others. So a Popeye comic by IDW that features a ton of old characters, written by Roger Langridge? Yeah, I’m all over that.

First things first: That cover? That cover is pure win.

The story focuses on Castor Oyl, Olive’s brother, hitting on a scheme to find a mate for Eugene the Jeep, a small highly magical creature, so they can sell baby Jeeps to solve the family’s money troubles. Of course, they hire Popeye to take them to the semi-mythical Land of the Jeeps, and Wimpy tags along to keep from having to pay his debts to Rough House, the owner of the diner. They are pursued, of course, by Bluto, who tries to stop them by various dastardly schemes. And when they finally make it to the Land of the Jeeps, what they find is not what they expected.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is so blasted much like reading old Thimble Theatre comics. It doesn’t hurt that artist Bruce Ozella does a great job of replicating the look of Segar’s cartoons, but Langridge in particular seems to be channeling the style of those old comics.

Popeye #2

And the second issue has Popeye butting heads with Olive’s new beau, the famous actor Willy Wormwood. Popeye can’t match Wormwood for sophistication, style, or brains. Wormwood is obviously a villain — how can Popeye and Wimpy get Olive to see the truth? Plus a backup feature about Professor O.G. Wotasnozzle, brilliant scientist and inventor, as he pursues his twin quests of inventing a pill to make your feet two sizes larger and getting a little peace and quiet.

Verdict: Thumbs up. All the stuff I said before still applies. If you haven’t been getting these yet, give them a try. They’re good fun.

Avengers Academy #31

The X-Kids and the Avengers Academy kids finally figure out that Sebastian Shaw isn’t trying to kill anyone — he just wants to escape and to help the X-Kids escape. And the Academy students are really mostly okay with that — they don’t see the value in forcing the mutant students to stay as prisoners. So while Tigra and Hercules are generally in agreement, the campus is wired with cameras, and they can’t just let them walk away, so there has to be a fake fight for the cameras.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I really don’t get the necessity for a fake fight at all. It was pretty obvious everyone was pulling their punches, and everyone got up afterwards and waved bye-bye. So anyone watching certainly wasn’t fooled. I liked the camaraderie between the students and Hercules’ hammy over-acting, but the complete silliness of the fake fight ruined it all for me.

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The Science of Awesomeness

Atomic Robo Presents: Real Science Adventures #2

I got the first issue of this soooo late I didn’t even figure it was worth reviewing, but the second issue got here on time, so here ’tis. It’s a bunch of different stories about Atomic Robo, all written by Brian Clevinger, with art by different creators. Most of them are pretty short, and several are multi-parters, with a chapter each issue. We’ve got one story starring the Sparrow, British secret agent, during WWII; another with Robo in 1924 fighting off the ghost of Rasputin; another with Robo learning martial arts from Bruce Lee, and one more with Robo teaming up with, of all things, the characters from the “Team Fortress 2” computer game to capture the legendary Yonkers Devil.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I enjoyed everything — and got a nice surprise from the Team Fortress cameos. My only disappointment here was that there wasn’t another Dr. Dinosaur story, like there was in the first issue. Dr. Dinosaur is the greatest comic character ever.

Avengers Academy #30

During the “Avengers vs. X-Men” crossover, a lot of the X-students are rooming at Avengers Academy — supposedly to keep them safe, but the X-kids have strong suspicions that they’re actually prisoners at the school. Adding to the stress is the fact that Sebastian Shaw — longtime X-Men foe who has now been mindwiped — has escaped from custody and is likely to come gunning for everyone to get revenge on Emma Frost, the woman who he’s just recently learned is responsible for his amnesia. The teachers decide not to tell the students about Shaw’s escape, partly to avoid a panic and partly because they’re worried the X-students will side with him. While X-23 bonds with Hazmat and Finesse, Shaw is busy taking down all of the teachers. How will the tensions between the groups play out, and how will Shaw use those tensions to his advantage?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, good action, good dialogue. Great characterization for everyone, but particularly X-23, Hazmat, and Finesse. This is definitely one of my favorite team comics — hope you’re buying it, ’cause we want to make sure good stories get fan support.

Wonder Woman #9

Diana is trapped in Hell, because she agreed to stay if Hades would let Zola go free. Hermes, Hephaestus, Eros, Lennox, and Zola make plans to return to Hell to rescue her, while Wonder Woman prepares for her wedding to Hades. But does Wonder Woman really love Hades, even after getting shot by Eros’ (ahem) love guns? Or is she faking it for Zola’s sake? And what test will Hades and Strife devise to determine her feelings?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This issue really shines in the small details and surprises: elderly, blood-splattered War; the revelation of Persephone; the introduction of Aphrodite; Hades’ bloody throne; and especially Wonder Woman’s wedding dress, part beautiful, part superheroic, part fetishistic, part gory.

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Welcome to the Second Wave

Worlds’ Finest #1

Well, the second wave of the DC Reboot starts with this title (I’m not counting “Earth 2,” which looks awful, is written by James Robinson, who seemingly gets hackier with every word he writes. “Earth 2” was apparently designed to turn DC’s awesome Golden Age heroes into grim-and-gritty 1990s douchecanoes). Most of what we get is backstory — Power Girl and the Huntress were originally the Supergirl and Robin of Earth 2. While trying to fight off a worldwide attack by Darkseid’s minions, the heroines fell into a Boom Tube and wound up on the world of the DC Reboot.

Now, five years after they got stuck here, they’re visiting Tokyo and toasting their successes — Karen Starr has become a wealthy entrepreneur, specializing in high-tech research and development, while Helena Wayne has adapted into a new costumed crimefighting persona. But there’s been an arson at one of Karen’s labs, and among the sabotaged equipment was a device that Karen hoped would return them to Earth 2. But who was the arsonist, and is he tougher than either Power Girl or the Huntress can handle?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good art, decent action, decent dialogue. I do have some quibbles. First is that Huntress’s Helena Bertinelli secret identity ends up getting unceremoniously dumped — which is really too bad, because I always liked the idea that a former mob princess could end up becoming a schoolteacher who moonlighted as a superhero. Seems like everything DC does these days is focused on making their universe smaller and less awesome, instead of larger and more fun. Second quibble? The new Power Girl costume is a complete disaster. It’s not like they gave Huntress a complete redesign — and there are plenty of amateur and semi-pro artists who’ve done cool redesigns of Power Girl’s costume while still making it look classic. But the new costume is really just embarrassingly bad.

Avengers Academy #29

Okay, Marvel’s new thing is the “Avengers vs. X-Men” crossover, which I’ve been able to mostly ignore. Basically, the Phoenix Force is coming to Earth and likely gunning for Hope, one of the younger members of the X-Men. Cyclops thinks the Phoenix will revitalize the mutant population because — I don’t know, it makes no sense. And the Avengers think they can take Hope into custody and keep the Phoenix Force from getting to her because — I don’t know, that makes no sense either. Essentially, the whole point of the crossover is “OMG WE GOTTA HAVE A CROSSOVER, QUICK THINK OF SOMETHING RANDOM WE CAN FOIST ON READORZ”

Aaaaanyway, in an attempt to keep the young students from Utopia and the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning safe from the ongoing war, Captain America and Wolverine agree to let the folks at Avengers Academy take care of them for the time being. They say it’s not a matter of keeping the students prisoner… but it’s mostly about keeping the students prisoner. In addition to a vast number of mutants students, we’ve also got a mind-wiped Sebastian Shaw and a couple X-affiliated scientists. After Hercules proposes some athletics competitions to get the various students acquainted, X-23 gets to chat with Dust. Lightspeed has a race against Transonic, but the surfing competition between Finesse and Loa gets pre-empted when Loa uses her powers to let former surfer Mettle enjoy some earth-surfing. But the good feelings don’t last — most of the X-students can’t bring themselves to trust the kids from Avengers Academy — and Sebastian Shaw has some dire plans of his own.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Once again, this comic goes for a nonviolent method of storytelling. There’s plenty of conflict, but no one goes for random pointless fisticuffs. Most comics would have these kids tearing each other apart by the mid-point of the story — so this is a great, refreshing change. My lone complaint about this story is that, while we get complete introductions to the students and teachers at Avengers Academy on the first page, we’re largely expected to be familiar with the X-kids already, and that just ain’t so.

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For Those about to Rock

iZombie #24

Our focus in this issue is on Kennedy, the field leader of the Dead Presidents, a bunch of government monsters who go out to fight other monsters. Everyone in Eugene, Oregon is dealing with the problem of an elder god called Xitalu, who is about to come to Earth and kill everyone, and Kennedy notices a new player on the scene — a green-skinned, green-haired combat monster who looks just like Gwen’s boyfriend, Horatio. And Kennedy realizes that this reminds her of something from her past — after a short origin story, the flashback reveals that a mission a few decades ago had her meeting up with a rock band called Ghost Dance that, thanks to lyrics assistance from a trippy novelist named Adam Morlock, was performing concerts where the band and everyone in the audience had mass hallucinations. What’s the connection between an old rock band and the end of the world?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice to see a little background on the Dead Presidents’ leader. Great character work, too, particularly for the band members. And a really nice cliffhanger. It’s depressing that this title will be ending in another four issues, though…

Fatale #4

The supernatural gangsters are running amok. They’ve already butchered the wife of reporter Hank Raines and have now turned their evil attentions on a mob boss named “Mayday” Luccarelli and his stooges. Hank Raines has gone a little bit crazy after being accused of killing his wife — especially after he sees the gory crime scene photos. Corrupt cop Walt Booker and his partner insist they had nothing to do with the murder, though their superiors still suspect them. Josephine catches up with Booker, and she convinces him that he should help her escape from the demon mobsters. We also learn that Booker has been able to see through the world’s mundane veil to the otherworldly horrors that actually run things. And Hank, released from jail because the cops don’t believe he really committed the murder, gets trailed by Booker’s partner, and they both land in a world of trouble.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Super-stylish noir-horror. Great atmosphere, killer art, everything else about it rocks. Don’t know what else I can tell you about it — it’s grand fun to read.

Avengers Academy #28

The Runaways have got Old Lace back, but they’ve learned that Giant-Man and Tigra plan to betray them so they can get Molly Hayes and Klara Prast into normal families and normal schools. This leads to a fight… but not a very long fight — most of the Avengers Academy kids are entirely sympathetic to the Runaways. They all realize that part of the problem is that none of them understand the other side’s point-of-view, but Nico Minoru can cast a spell that will make that possible. So everyone gets a peek into the brains of someone else on the other squad so they can get some perspective on their lives. Will that be enough to clear up the two teams’ disagreements?

Verdict: Thumbs up. So amazing to have a comic where problems are solved through brainpower instead of a bunch of people slugging each other.

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Skull and Bones

iZombie #23

Xitalu, an ancient evil god, is coming, and he’s going to wipe the planet clean. Amon was able to help stop him the last time he showed up a few centuries ago, but one complication this time is that Galatea is actually trying to speed up Xitalu’s arrival, hoping that she and her allies will be able to harness his power. The Dead Presidents and the Fossor Corporation team up to try to stop her. Amon, meanwhile, has his own plan to stop Xitalu — and it involves sacrificing Spot! Even if those plots can be foiled, is there any way to prevent Xitalu from destroying everything?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of action — and it all works with the series’ ongoing soap opera surprisingly well. And hopefully, Gwen will have something to do other than talk to her boyfriend and get ordered around by other characters — I like her a lot, but she needs to be less passive if she’s going to the lead character.

Avengers Academy #27

While Lightspeed worries about whether Striker is adjusting well to his homosexuality, he surprises everyone by holding a press conference to come out. Turns out he thinks it’ll be great publicity. Meanwhile, the Runaways have come to the Academy hoping that they have a way to retrieve the team’s pet dinosaur, Old Lace. After an unusually brief fight, the two teams agree to work together and even get along. Unfortunately, Giant-Man and Tigra have decided that, though the rest of the Runaways can go their own way, Molly and Klara are too young to be out adventuring, so they plan to take them away and put them in foster homes. Everyone soon ends up traveling to a prehistoric world to find Old Lace — but some of them may not be coming back when the Runaways find out what Giant-Man and Tigra have in mind for them.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice to see the Runaways, even if it’s been so long since I read the book, I don’t recognize all the characters. It’s also nice that their “We’re All Superheroes So Let’s Fight” routine was blissfully short. And it’s great to see Old Lace again — the world needs more dinosaurs in comics. If I’ve got a complaint, it’s that Giant-Man and Tigra are carrying the Idiot Ball this issue, thinking they can do something as shady and underhanded as breaking up the Runaways without facing some serious consequences.

The Amazing Spider-Man #681

Spider-Man, the Human Torch, and astronaut John Jameson (son of NYC Mayor J. Jonah Jameson) are trapped on a space station, surrounded by crewmen who’ve been taken over by Dr. Octopus’ Octobots, with no escape shuttles to let anyone back down to earth safely. And Doc Ock is remotely setting the space station to crash. So why does the plan to save everyone involve flushing all the station’s oxygen into space? Is there any way for Spidey and the Torch to save everyone?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very nicely done. Lots and lots of action, fantastic dialogue, great suspense, humor, drama, you name it. Definitely worth reading — this title is hitting on all cylinders.

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Avengers and More Avengers

Secret Avengers #23

Yalda, a Pakistani woman who has unexpectedly exhibited the ability to absorb and redirect massive amounts of energy, has been abducted, along with her son, by a group of unusual Adaptoids, androids able to mimic superpowers. Though the Secret Avengers were unable to stop them, Ant-Man is able to hitch a ride with them and soon discovers a large underground city full of Adaptoids. Meanwhile, we get plenty of team moments — Beast tells Hank Pym that he’s going to do everything he can to make sure Pym never creates another artificial intelligence again, because all of his robots tend to turn out to be evil. Captain America and Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch from World War II, meet with Peter Parker’s old nemesis Flash Thompson, who’s lost his legs in the war and now serves as the part-time host to the Venom symbiote so he can use it for special ops missions. Hawkeye is dead set against having Venom as a team member, however, and kicks him and Cap off the team’s satellite.

Back in the Adaptoid city, their leader realizes that Yalda will never agree to join them, so he orders her killed. Ant-Man springs into action, but he’s no match for all of them. Yalda is killed, but Ant-Man is able to escape into the city with her child, despite his damaged helmet. The rest of the Secret Avengers finally make it into the city, but will they be in time to save Ant-Man?

Verdict: Thumbs down. So much stuff wrong with this. First, there’s a serious problem with Hawkeye being in charge of the team. As Snell points out, Hawkeye is the last person around who should be complaining about former villains like Venom joining the Avengers. Plus kicking Captain America — Captain Freakin’ America! — out of an Avengers HQ! And just generally complaining and bitching at everyone. Dude just doesn’t have what it takes. Second, I’m really not a fan of creating fairly interesting characters like Yalda just to have her stupidly killed. And the art is just not something I’m having an easy time getting adjusted to. And I am fairly bugged that, despite that awesome Art Adams cover, Venom doesn’t ever really show up in the story. Having said all that, I did like this issue’s treatment of Ant-Man and his completely outmatched struggle against the Adaptoids — very action-packed and desperate in all the right ways.

Avengers Academy #26

Jocasta and Veil are back — and they want Avengers Academy shut down permanently. Jocasta insists that it’s too dangerous, and teenaged superheroes are too likely to be killed. The rest of the Avengers object strongly, and Jocasta calls in backup — corporate supervillain Jeremy Briggs and a bunch of kids from the Initiative who they’ve recruited. They’re all set to have a typical superhero-vs.-superhero fight — and Reptil hits everyone with his tail and tells ’em to settle the heck down and quit acting like idiots. And it works! Everyone basically sits down and debates the pros and cons of teen superheroes vs. teen corporate metahumans. And they do that for almost the entire issue!

Verdict: Thumbs up. I never would’ve imagined that a superhero comic this wordy would work so well — but it does work excellently. There’s no significant shift in the cast of the comic, but all the issues are addressed fairly honestly — and it’s just a good, fun comic to read. Try doing this with a normal Avengers comic and it’d fall to pieces…

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Swamped Out

Swamp Thing #6

Things have gone worse than normal for Alec Holland. Abby Arkane has been captured and coccooned by the Rot, her corrupted brother William is in full control of millions of twisted zombies, and the Parliament of Trees has been destroyed. Is there any chance for the Swamp Thing to save the day before Alec gets a chainsaw through the chest?

Verdict: Thumbs down. And I’m done with this one. I don’t care if the art is nice. I don’t care if the writing is nice. It’s six months in on this title, and Alec Holland still isn’t the Swamp Thing. Oh, of course we know that on the last page of the next issue, he’ll finally become Swamp Thing, and in the issue after that, he’ll finally get to the conclusion of this story. But honestly, I’m tired of being jerked around by this ultimately dull and dishonest comic.

Avengers Academy #25

It’s now an all-out battle, with half the students and teachers at Avengers Academy vs. Hybrid, half-human, half-Dire Wraith, and his mentally enslaved student minions. Reptil is the only student who manages to throw off the mental domination, and that’s just because he’s been mindswitched with his future self. Meanwhile, in the future, the present version of Reptil, in his own future body, escapes from captivity just in time to learn that he had a child with Finesse and may have a chance to help his teammates in the past. Hybrid shuts down Hank Pym’s powers — but that leaves his scientific mind intact, which means he can figure out a way to stop the monster. But can he do it before it’s too late?

Verdict: Thumbs up. We go from present to future to present, we go from huge fight scenes to intimate family moments and back to fight scenes. All that plus a big plot twist. And it all works just fine. Impressive work from Christos Gage and Tom Grummett.

Static Shock #6

There’s a lot of stuff happening, and I couldn’t really keep track of it all. Hardware and Technique from the classic Milestone Media comics get to make an appearance, there’s a interdimensional portal, or maybe a time-travel portal, I couldn’t really tell. There’s some guy who cloned Static’s sister for some reason and now wants to throw her through the portal for some reason. There’s a second version of Static who shows up to save the day, then disappears between pages. And Static’s cloned sisters, who previously hated each other with absolute burning fury, decide they really love each other because they’re siiiiiisters.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Trying to make sense of the plot here was like sustaining brain damage. I don’t know whether to drop this one because it’s awful, or stick with it because it’s about to get cancelled and I may as well have the complete run.

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Nobody Tosses a Dwarf!

Dungeons & Dragons #14

Khal the dwarven paladin has been accidentally struck down by his girlfriend Danni’s crossbow in the midst of an attack by the monstrously creepy foulspawn. But never fear — once the foulspawn are repelled, it’s revealed that a few crossbow bolts are no match for good dwarven armor. Danni has been stuck down here with a small group of dwarf explorers, thanks to the foulspawn, the kruthiks, and other monsters. Adric Fell and the rest of the adventurers check out the temple and find a clock — a very, very large clock, counting down to some sort of probably awful cosmic event. Further exploration reveals some Escher stairs and a possible way out. Unfortunately, they also discover that most of the dwarves are actually already dead, and Danni’s companions are… something else. And when they reveal to Danni that they know this, Danni goes a leeeetle bit berserk. Could things get worse? Yeah, once the foulspawns’ master finally shows up, things can get worse.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Outstanding stuff — amazing suspense, revelations, and cliffhangers, great dialogue, and a few really hilarious situations. This is really good stuff — I hope more of you are reading this.

Avengers Academy #24

Reptil has been mindswapped with his future self, who’s working against the best interests of the Academy because he’s trying to preserve his version of the future. And he’s willing to help Hybrid, an alien monster who’s part mutant, part Dire Wraith, and all evil. Reptil’s future can only happen if Hybrid kills half the students, and Reptil gets busy sending students and teachers into Hybrid’s room at the Academy. Will White Tiger be able to resist Hybrid’s mental powers, or are all the students doomed?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’d never heard of Hybrid before, which seems a bit strange ’cause he seems like a really excellent villain. What I really like about this issue is that, even as the main storyline is going on, we still get some character details on White Tiger and even a couple of the background characters.

iZombie #21

Gwen has been captured — if captured is really the right word — by the Dead Presidents, a bunch of monsters who work for the government. Agent Kennedy — a zombie like Gwen — gives Gwen a brain smoothie ’cause it’d been a while since she had gotten to eat any brains. Galatea — half Dr. Frankenstein, half Frankenstein’s monster — conspires with Kovsky, a disembodied brain in a coffee maker, and his zombie servant. Spot finds himself captured by a leopard woman — who is actually Amon’s shapeshifted leopard — and he discovers that they have some really bad plans for him. As the Dead Presidents prepare to move against Galatea, they get an offer of assistance from the normally hostile Fossor Corporation. Can they be trusted?

Verdict: Thumbs up. What did I love the most about this? J. Bone takes over art chores for one issue and produces something that looks like a more cartoonish Darwyn Cooke. It’s an amazing change of pace for this comic, even if it’s just temporary, and it makes me wish Bone got more comics work.

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The Hero Sandwich List of Favorite Comics for 2011

Well, everyone else is doing end-of-year best-of lists, so I reckon I will, too. What’s Newsweek magazine got that I ain’t got, right? I mean, the way magazine readership has been falling, there’s a decent chance that I’ve got more readers now. ZING! Oh, Newsweek, you know I kid ’cause I love.

Anyway, this is not a list of the very best of all comics. I haven’t read all comics. I haven’t even gotten close. This is my list of the comics I read that I enjoyed the most.

Also, I don’t think I could manage to say which of these is the best — so I’d rather just arrange them in alphabetical order.

So here we go: The 16 comics I enjoyed reading the most in 2011.

American Vampire

This series by Scott Snyder is still carrying the torch for serious vampiric horror with great characterization, boundless imagination, and really awesome bloodsuckers.

Atomic Robo

One of the best comics out there — this one packs in action, humor, and mindblowing science into something that is always fun. Fun cameos by the famous and infamous, and an incredibly cool lead character.

Avengers Academy

Thank goodness someone still remembers how to do a good teen comic. You can do teen angst without it turning into a bloodbath. This series combines a great concept with outstanding characterization.

Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth

The most audaciously imaginative comic of the year, thanks to its seven-year-old writer. Loved the drama, loved the action, and laughed out loud at the humor.

Batgirl (pre-Reboot)

Stephanie Brown’s tenure as Batgirl was marked by great writing, excellent action, and a very strong sense of humor. Stephanie is still MIA in the new DC, unfortunately.

Batman comics by Scott Snyder

Whether it was on Detective Comics prior to the Reboot or on Batman afterwards, Snyder wrote some of the most engrossing tales of the Dark Knight.

Batman Inc.

Reading Grant Morrison’s Batman has been a treat for years, and it was fun to watch him create the new Batman megacorp.


J.H. Williams III’s writing has been fine, but his art is simply breathtaking. This was absolutely the most beautiful comic book on the stands in 2011.


Daredevil? I’ve never cared for Daredevil in my life. But this one is a blast. Writing and art are incredible. Humor, action, characterization — and again, fun. You can make a pretty good comic if you make it fun, ya know?

Dungeons & Dragons

Did anyone ever expect a D&D comic to be this good? Excellent dialogue, humor, action, drama, suspense — all while doing a pretty good job spotlighting the RPG it’s based on. Best fantasy comic of the year, right here.

Hellboy: The Fury

Mike Mignola has enjoyed another excellent year of comics, and I could’ve put almost any of his B.P.R.D. comics in here, but this one — Hellboy’s last hurrah — was really something special.

Knight and Squire

Paul Cornell’s miniseries focusing on London’s version of Batman and Robin was fun storytelling, along with a quick course in British pop culture. Excellent characters and adventures, and a wonderfully created setting.

Secret Six

Gail Simone’s awesomely epic series of supervillains occasionally doing the right thing had some of the funniest, saddest, most dramatic, most astounding moments in the comics world. Absolutely grand characters, too. Losing this series was one of DC’s biggest mistakes of the Reboot.

Supergirl (pre-Reboot)

After years of being the DC Universe’s version of the useless mallrat in a belly shirt, several creators finally realized they could make the character awesome by treating her more like a real person instead of an MTV stereotype. Yes, DC, character is everything!

Tiny Titans

The best all-ages comic on the market. Still can’t believe they’re going to let something this awesome go.


One of the weirdest comics to come out this year. There was usually at least one really mind-blowingly weird thing in every single issue. Beautiful art, too, along with great writing and dialogue. It was a joy to read.

And one more little category? How ’bout Publisher of the Year? DC and Marvel are out — they’ve spent the past 12 months pandering to the worst in comics, cancelling great series, and randomly insulting their readers. IDW, Dark Horse, Red 5, Image, all the other independents came close, because they’re doing more of what good comics publishers should be doing — gunning for new readers, pushing the artistic and storytelling envelopes, making excellent comics.

But I think the Publisher of the Year is Archie Comics. What? But I don’t read any Archies! But Archie is doing even more than the other independents to push the creative and social envelope. They’ve gotten lots of publicity with their Archie marries Betty/Veronica comics, but they also had a great crossover with the Tiny Titans. And who would have ever imagined that staid, conservative Archie Comics would end up being the most progressive comics publisher — whitebread Archie Andrews has recently dated Valerie Brown, the African-American bass player from Josie and the Pussycats, and Kevin Keller, Archie’s first openly gay character, has become more popular and more prominent in the comics. Archie Comics is outpacing all the other independent publishers and rocketing past the Big Two in terms of how much they’re moving the comics industry forward.

So there we go — 16 grand, fun comics series. And I think I’d still have to declare 2011 one of the worst years for comics we’ve seen in a long time. Almost half my list is made up of comics that were cancelled, will be cancelled in the next few months, or are in continual danger of being cancelled. DC enjoyed a nice sales surge in the first few months of the Reboot, but the numbers on many of their series are already dropping back to more normal levels. And they spent months alienating and angering long-time fans in one public relations disaster after another. Not that Marvel has fared much better — they’ve been cancelling comics hand over fist. The independents have a better track record for producing good comics — but of course, they’ve also had more trouble getting those comics sold.

2011 has been an awful, terrifying, depressing year for comics fans. I’d like to tell you that I think 2012 is going to be better. But I don’t think I’d get my hopes up very high. No one’s learned any lessons from this year’s catastrophes, and I’m not even sure the Big Two are even capable of doing anything other than shooting themselves in the foot.

Let’s just hope the non-comics portions of 2012 will be better for all of us. Y’all stay safe, buckle up, call a cab if you need to.

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Claw Marks

Avengers Academy #23

There are a trio of events going on in this issue. First and most obviously, X-23, Wolverine’s gender-swapped teenaged clone, joins Avengers Academy. After initially freaking everyone out with what an utter badass she is, the rest of the students warm to her almost immediately afterwards. Second, the future version of Reptil is mentally possessing his younger self’s body and plotting against the team from within. And finally, Striker comes out as gay to Lightspeed, who is herself bisexual. And this is all in addition to another big super-battle that leads to an old X-Men villain worming his way into the Academy…

Verdict: Thumbs up. But I gotta say, the segment where Striker comes out? I really wasn’t fond of that. I got nothing against Striker being gay, but I don’t think he’d come out to Lightspeed, who he just barely knows. I don’t buy him being comfortable and accepting of his sexuality, especially the way he aggressively hits on every other female in the series. And I didn’t see the point of the big “Oh no, I was molested, I will cry on Julie Powers’ shoulder because OMG DRAMA” moment. But other than those five pages, the issue was just fine.

American Vampire #21

Again, we’ve flashed back to the days before Skinner Sweet was a vampire, and when he and Jim Book were best friends. They’re both members of the U.S. Cavalry, and their commanding officer would like them both dead for questioning his military decisions. The problem is that the Apaches they’re all hunting are out in vastly superior numbers — and even worse, Hole in the Sky, a renegade Apache leader, has gotten himself a powerful new vampiric form. Unfortunately for Hole in the Sky, the Indian maiden who he stole those powers from isn’t happy about getting attacked by him. So how are the soldiers going to deal with a hundred Apaches and two angry monster-vampires?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice conclusion to the storyarc. Not much else to say about it — I enjoyed it. Loved the art, loved the writing…

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #10

Steven Woods and Allie have gotten control of Mechagodzilla, just in time to stumble across Godzilla himself. The president wants them to get the giant robot somewhere safe so it can be refurbished and repaired, but Woods wants to try to take the Big G down. But can all his fighting skills and all the robot’s secret weapons allow him to defeat the King of Monsters — especially with King Ghidorah joining the battle — and Rodan and Battra, controlled by the evil French telepaths, on the horizon?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Exceptional action and very strong characterization. Gotta hand it to writer Jason Ciaramella and artist Victor Santos — this is very good work.

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