Archive for Strange Science Fantasy

The Hero Sandwich List of Favorite Comics for 2010

I don’t think I’ve ever tried to do a year-end retrospective list — it’s always too difficult for me to pick out a list of things I enjoyed the most out of 12 whole months. But what the heck, I’m gonna try it today.

This list is strictly listed in alphabetical order. I can’t claim it’s a list of the best comics — I haven’t read all the comics, after all — but it’s the list of the 15 comics that I enjoyed the most.

American Vampire

Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, and Stephen King came together to re-invent the vampire for the rough-and-tumble American West. Outstanding characters, close attention to setting, and rip-snorting horror make this a must-read for anyone who loves non-sparkly bloodsuckers.


The adventures of Stephanie Brown as the newest Batgirl are full of great humor, great action, great dialogue, and great characterizations. This is one of the best superhero comics around.

Batman and Robin

Grant Morrison’s triumphant run of Batman comics had its most epic stretch in these stories of Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne, as well as Alfred, Dr. Hurt, and the Joker. The scale of Morrison’s storytelling here was breathtaking.

Blackest Night

Possibly the most successful crossover storyarc in years, this grabbed readers’ imaginations and didn’t let go for months. Even better than its commercial successes were the overall excellence of the plotline. At its height, there was nothing as good as this story about zombies, power rings, and emotions.


I’m not a fan of the new series, but Garth Ennis’ original Crossed miniseries was the most harrowing, brutal, relentless, depressing, and terrifying horror comic to hit the stands in a long, long time.


This was, without a single doubt, the best comic series of the entire year. Nothing else came close. Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon deserve to win so many awards for this one. If you missed this series in the original run, you should definitely keep your eyes open in the next few months for the trade paperback.

Detective Comics starring Batwoman

Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III didn’t create the character, but they crafted her best stories. While Rucka brilliantly fleshed out her backstory, personality, and supporting cast, Williams took the stories and created some of the year’s most beautiful artwork and design.

Hellboy in Mexico

This story of, well, Hellboy in Mexico was my favorite, but I also loved all of the other collaborations between Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and fantasy artist Richard Corben. These two meshed together creatively in ways that very few creators are able to do, and all of us readers were the beneficiaries.

Joe the Barbarian

Grant Morrison’s fantasy story is both epic and mundane in scale, which is really quite a trick — Joe is in diabetic shock, and he’s hallucinating that his home and toys have turned into a fantasy kingdom. But what if he’s not really hallucinating?

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit

The second chapter of Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Donald Westlake’s crime fiction is a beautiful tribute to Cooke’s retro-cool art sensibilities and the pure fun of good pulp crime novels.

Power Girl

Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner created the best version of Power Girl ever for a year’s worth of funny, smart, sexy, exciting superhero stories. These creators loved this character, and you can tell that in every story they published about her. I still hope they’ll be able to come back to this title eventually.

Secret Six

Far and away DC’s best team book, Gail Simone has hooked us a bunch of people who are extremely likeable and also completely crazy and prone to trying to kill each other from moment to moment. This shouldn’t work as well as it does, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s colossal fun to read every single month.

Strange Science Fantasy

Scott Morse’s retro-pulp series packed a heck of a lot of audacious fun into six short issues. This was a treat visually, emotionally, intellectually — even on a tactile level, what with the heavy, rough paper it was printed on.

Thor and the Warriors Four

The Power Pack go to Asgard. I didn’t really expect much of it, to be honest, but readers were treated to godlike quantities of humor, excitement, whimsey, and awesomeness, thanks to writer Alex Zalben and artists Gurihiru, and to Colleen Coover’s excellent backup stories.

Tiny Titans

Probably the best all-ages comic out there right now. These comics are smart and funny and cute and just plain fun to read.

Aaaaand that’s what I got. There were plenty of other comics that just barely missed the cut, but these were nevertheless the ones that gave me the most joy when I was reading them.

So farewell, 2010. And hello, rapidly onrushing 2011. Hope you’re a better year for all of us, and I hope we can all look forward to plenty more great comics to come.

Now y’all be safe and have a good time tonight, but call a cab if you need it — I want to make sure all of y’all are here to read me in 2011.

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Have a Bite

iZombie #8

Gwen’s latest brain dinner was from the mother of one of her childhood friends, and the dead woman’s only wish is that Gwen tell her estranged daughter that she loves her. Of course, that would leave Gwen’s secret unlife as a zombie in jeopardy, since her friend knows that she’s dead. Meanwhile, Horatio and Diogenes fight off the vampire babes from the paintgun park, and Amon remembers his entanglements with Galatea, a beautiful mad scientist and Frankensteinesque reanimated corpse. Speaking of Galatea, she’s also in town, having just resurrected one of the vampires to use as a servant. And Scott the wereterrier has to deal with his late grandfather, now reborn into the body of a deeply resentful chimpanzee.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Looks like we’re still in a position of ramping up new storylines, but good grief, there’s a lot of cool stuff in this issue. Galatea is beyond awesome, and I’m loving the way Gwen gets nagged by her newest brain tenant.

Strange Science Fantasy #6

The final issue of Scott Morse‘s outstanding series focuses on two men exploring a forgotten jungle valley in the 1930s. They discover dinosaurs and other wonders, apparently all fueled by the power of human imagination. How is this possible? The explorers soon meet a tribe that reveals the jungle’s secret — an ancient city hidden beneath an inland sea — the “Manga-Ka,” the birthplace of all stories! But will destruction and betrayal doom mankind’s birthright of imagination?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Love the way the previous issues in this series are referenced within the stories told in Manga-Ka. And as always, this is really great, audacious pulp storytelling. If you haven’t read this series yet — well, pity upon you, folks, but at least keep your eyes open for the eventual trade paperback.

American Vampire #9

Chief McCogan is still pretty gobsmacked that his own adopted father turned out to be a vampire — Agents Straw and Book from the Vassals of the Morning Star tell him that his father’s species of vampire was thought wiped out centuries ago by other vampires — they needed little blood and specialized in shapeshifting, but they just couldn’t hold out against the more prolific Carpathian vampires. McCogan demands that they let him speak to his father one last time before they kill him. But the Carpathians come looking for them — can Skinner Sweet help even the odds? And even if he can, can anyone keep him from betraying everyone?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story flips from heartwarming to brutal, and it’s all pretty good.

Secret Six #28

Two different teams of the Secret Six are hanging out in the fantasy world of Skartaris, fighting a war against each other and the people who live there. Black Alice is feeling useless, since she can’t access any magic powers here. Deadshot has run out of bullets, and the rest of them are fairly gleefully slicing other people up with swords. But then Skartaris’ current leaders gets possessed by the spirit of a demon called Deimos, turns into a snake-dragon, and starts whuppin’ up on everyone. How will they manage to defeat the monster and extract themselves from Skartaris? Once they’ve returned home, Amanda Waller offers them a deal — work for her as a new Task Force X — though some choose to leave the group willingly (or in the case of one, very unwillingly and painfully).

Verdict: Thumbs up. I can’t believe King Shark was so much fun in this series. I do hope they’re going to keep him around. We get a nice closer for Black Alice’s story, and Dwarfstar gets exactly the ending he deserved.

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Bat Family Reunion

Batman and Robin #16

Barring the off-schedule ending of “Return of Bruce Wayne,” this comic is the final chapter of Grant Morrison’s long-running Batman epic — heck, come to think of it, it’s basically the secret last chapter of “Final Crisis.” How’s it turn out?

After a short visit to colonial times to see the evil Thomas Wayne make his bargain for immortality with the demon Barbatos, the rest of the issue focuses on the returned Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, and Damian Wayne taking on Thomas Wayne as Dr. Hurt, Professor Pyg, and the 99 Fiends. Bruce gets trapped in a deathtrap by Hurt — but of course he escapes, and he has to choose between aprehending Hurt or saving Alfred. All that plus the Joker! All that plus Bruce Wayne spills the beans to the press!

Verdict: Thumbs up. All the attention is going to Bruce’s announcement at the end (that he is Batman’s corporate funder) — I think it’s a pretty decent idea, though probably not absolutely necessary. But Morrison’s final issue here is a pretty rollicking story all on its own. It was grand fun, and I’m glad I got to read along with it.

Mystery Society #4

Nick Hammond lets himself get captured by the government so he can look for evidence that he and his wife Anastasia Collins have been framed. Meanwhile, the Secret Skull and Jules Verne (in his awesome steampunk robot body) chase down the man who stole Edgar Allan Poe’s skull. Can everyone get back together and figure out a way to rescue Nick?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of fun stuff going on here, particularly anything having to do with the Secret Skull and Jules Verne (and his awesome steampunk robot body) (and its amazing butt rocket). The story’s fun, the art is fun, it’s all worth picking up.

Strange Science Fantasy #5

Rusty Irons is a palooka boxer with a heart of gold. He falls in love with a girl named Suzie, helps take care of her senile mother, and dreams of being able to buy her a ring. He finally agrees to throw a fight to get the money, but he gets double-crossed and sent to the hospital. Suzie shells out the dough for an experimental treatment — and Rusty is transformed into a hyper-elastic man. Can Rusty get over the birth pangs of his new existence and make it up to Suzie and her mother?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great fun — Scott Morse channels Jack Cole in this great pulpish Plastic Man story.


Zodon, Guardian Angel, 84, and USA Patriot Act have traveled to an alternate dimension to prevent Victor Von Fogg from destroying it to power his reality-altering machine. Will the kids be able to fight off a squad of agents from the Trans Dimensional Defense Division? Why is Zodon so interested in keeping this superhero-less world safe? Will Forak be able to keep the dimensional gateway safe? Will Moon Shadow and Captain Clarinet be able to keep from killing each other while they’re lost in deep space?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s going to be fun to find out more about Zodon’s past in the next few issues. As always, Aaron Williams’ great storytelling and artwork make this comic a must-read.

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The Awesomeness of the First Amendment

Liberty Annual 2010

Here’s one of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s periodic fundraiser comics, designed to both raise some money for the organization and educate readers about the continuing need to support the CBLDF and oppose censorship of comics.

We get a big variety of comics by a whole lot of creators — a Conan story from Darick Robertson, a story from Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, a Milk and Cheese comic from Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer, a Megaton Man story from Don Simpson, and other stories from Garth Ennis, Scott Morse, Geoff Johns, Scott Kolins, Gail Simone, Larry Marder, and a ton of pinups from Jill Thompson, Frank Miller, Terry Moore, Jeff Smith, Skottie Young, Colleen Doran, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and more.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Anything to support the CBLDF, man. It’s five dollars, but it goes to a worthy cause. Pick it up.

Strange Science Fantasy #4

Scott Morse’s pulp-inspired series continues with a look at the life of Private Charlie Gantic, who gets thrust from the Pacific Theater to a global war against invading aliens. A scientific experiment gives him the ability to grow to immense size, and he takes the fight to the aliens as G.I. Gantic — but is he prepared for the mind-blowing secret the aliens have been hiding?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Beautifully illustrated and a great story that effortlessly jumps from one genre to the next. This entire series has been a ton of fun — we’re lucky to be getting the chance to read it.

American Vampire #7

Chief McCogan and his two fed sidekicks, Agents Straw and Book, confront Mr. Smoke — better known to us as Skinner Sweet — but they get booted out of his HQ when Book can’t control her dislike for the vampire crime lord. We learn that Book and Straw both belong to a vampire-hunting organization that’s promised not to touch Sweet, and McCogan’s investigation into the grisly murder of a Vegas businessman leads to the grisly death of another Vegas businessman.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great storytelling, great characters, and lots of great stuff with rotten, loveable Skinner Sweet.

iZombie #6

Most of this story is Spot’s origin — how he lost his parents, lived with his retired-voice-actor grandfather, became a were-terrier, and met up with Gwen and Ellie. His grandfather finally dies after he and Spot (barely) reconcile — and Spot meets a new old friend at the zoo.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a good story, excellent art, but what I think I enjoyed most was Spot’s pop-culture daydreams where he imagines himself as a superhero, in the “Scooby-Doo” cartoon, and in “Star Wars.” It says a lot about what kind of guy Spot is, underneath all that hair.

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Teacher’s Pets

Morning Glories #1

I originally skipped this one because the initial buzz involved a lot of comparisons to Joe Casey’s superteens-at-evil-school comic series “The Intimates,” which I still think is one of the worst and most pointless comics of the past decade. But I got persuaded to give it a shot when they reprinted the first issue, so here we go.

The setting is indeed a spectacularly evil private boarding school, hidden from the public, housing intangible assassins, and keeping a bunch of super-genius students imprisoned for some unknown purpose. We follow a group of new students — pretty whiz kid Casey, rich sociopath Ike, golddigger Zoe, neglected geek Hunter, goth poet Jade, and exchange student Jun. They sit through a weird orientation video that features images of goat sacrifice, meet the hyperactive R.A.s, and barely missing seeing one of the recently executed upperclassmen. Jade learns that her father no longer remembers her, Casey learns that they all have the same birthday, and then finds out something much, much worse.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a large cast, but they’re all nicely distinct from each other, both visually and emotionally. The backstory — scant though it is for now — is also plenty interesting, and I’m sure it’ll be interesting to see how everything develops.

Strange Science Fantasy #3

Scott Morse’s retro storytelling platform continues with a weird film noir set in the early days of Hollywood. Our lead character is the Projectionist — because he has a projection camera for a head. Other projectionists in the city are being killed off by someone who wants to eliminate the movie industry in its infancy. The suspects include the Key Grip, who has keys for hands, the typewriter-headed Script Girl, the Prop Master, the Location Scout, and the deadly Silent Scream. Will the Projectionist be able to track down the Director before everything fades to black?

Verdict: Thumbs up, but you really gotta get yourself into a film noir mood to enjoy this one. Might not hurt to watch a few old detective movies — or heck, just go for the big one and watch “Sunset Boulevard.” On the other hand, I may just be encouraging you to watch “Sunset Boulevard” ’cause it’s really worth watching…

JSA All-Stars #10

The gods of Parador have returned to life, but they’re not content to remain in South America — they want to start over in Los Angeles. But they’re not fans of the current landscape, so they’re gonna knock the whole place down and build new temples. Can Power Girl and Stargirl hold out long enough for the rest of the team to arrive?

Verdict: Thumbs down. Good grief, what an awful mess this is. The plot makes nearly no sense, the artwork is weird, and I’m just completely bored with the whole thing.

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Feet of Clay

Batgirl #13

Stephanie Brown is enjoying a normal collegiate life, if normal includes stuff like “epic ping-pong.” But she gets called out by Proxy, Steph’s new tech manager, to help take care of a shootout. Only thing is it ain’t just a common shootout — the shooter is actually Clayface in disguise. Clayface gets away, but Proxy traces him to a nearby bank, so Batgirl leads Det. Gage and the rest of the Gotham P.D. in, where Steph finds him trying to enter the bank vault in the guise of the bank manager. Of course, this leads to Batgirl fighting a shapeshifter who looks exactly like… Batgirl. Can Steph get out of this without the Gotham cops filling her full of lead?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice, self-contained story. Stephanie’s ping-pong battle is great fun, and as always, the dialogue and humor are fantastic. And it’s always fun to see Clayface in a story.

Strange Science Fantasy #2

Scott Morse‘s whacked-out pulp fiction series continues, this time with a story about mankind on the ropes from an invasion of deadly sea life. A Japanese warrior is inspired to forge an armored spacesuit and travels into space to consult with a being called the Cosmic Mind. He tells the Shogunaut that he must destroy a sea-going brute called the Knucklehead. But someone is hiding the true story from the combatants — can the Shogunaut and the Knucklehead find common ground?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Like the first issue, this one is a great experience. Wonderful artwork, wonderful paper, captions that demand the comic be read out loud, and a great one-page backup from Paul Pope.

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The Malign Murdersphere of Monsters, Madmen, and Motorcars!

Strange Science Fantasy #1

This was really, really nice, but I’m really not sure how to describe it. Think of it as a combination of a ’50s atomic horror movie and a ’70s teen rebellion drag race exploitation flick. It was written and illustrated by Scott Morse without anything like word balloons — just hyper-cool artwork and breathlessly excited captions.

Here’s the thing — I started reading this, couldn’t get into it, set it down, and moved on to another comic. After a few minutes, I realized what I was doing wrong. I picked it back up and started reading it out loud, with the voice of an announcer from a ’50s sci-fi movie trailer and with an internal soundtrack by Rob Zombie.

At that point, lines like “The time: Soon! The place: The asphalt! The world of speed-demons would complete their final lap on a crash-course… with destiny!” made perfect, flame-scorching, skin-flaying sense. It was the least passive comic I’d ever gotten to read, and it felt awesome.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not just for Scott Morse creating an epic, cinematic comic, either. The actual tactile feel of the book is great, too — not your usual glossy paper, it’s rougher and heavier, and it feels like a pulp novel in your hands. IDW Publishing did a great job with this one.

Somewhat off-topic, but big kudos to IDW, Dark Horse, and Boom — they’re the companies doing the best work to move comics forward as an art form and storytelling medium, not Marvel or DC.

The Unwritten #15

Lizzie Hexam has returned to her original home — which may be inside some Dickensian novel. Apparently, she was pulled out of it and offered a better life in the modern world as someone who would study and keep track of Tom Taylor. Now she briefly gets stalked by some London lowlifes, but she dispenses with them with some well-aimed shots from her very modern gun. Meanwhile, Tom and Savoy are being led around the city by a series of clues — each is a reference to a famous work of British literature that sends them to a new location in London. But eventually, the police catch up to them and realize they’re dealing with the infamous murderer Tom Taylor — and then the vampiric Count Ambrosio attacks. But they’re finally saved by Wilson Taylor himself, Tom’s long-missing father and the author of the world-famous Tommy Taylor novels. But isn’t evil literary assassin Pullman looking for a chance to rub Wilson Taylor out?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not the best issue of this series, but still pretty good. Good dialogue, decent action, fun clue-tracking, and it’s nice to finally get a glimpse of Wilson Taylor himself.

Chew #12

Tony Chu, cannibal for the FDA, is enjoying cohabitational bliss with his new girlfriend, Amelia Mintz, the world’s greatest and most vivid food reviewer. But he’s called away so he can help the FDA track down Poyo, a rooster in a luchador mask who is the most devastating cockfighter in history. (I can say “cockfight,” can’t I? Cockfight. There, I did it. HA HA.) Poyo has been stolen away by some crooks, so the FDA assigns Tony to go with one of their more rotten stool pigeons to try to buy the bird back. But the crooks have personal grudges against the stool pigeon, and they’re willing to let Tony get killed in the crossfire. Can Tony use a single bullet to get free?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very clever story, lots of amusing situations, and a great cliffhanger. And it’s nice to see Poyo again — can’t go wrong with a luchador chicken…

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