Archive for Xombi

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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The Xombi Process

Xombi #6

And almost without me noticing, here’s the final review I’ll get to write of what I’m already considering the lost classic DC Universe. Odd that it’s for such an unusual off-the-beaten-path series as “Xombi,” though…

Roland Finch has taken over the Ninth Stronghold, a giant floating city made out of the skull of a Biblical giant, and David Kim, the immortal xombi, and his religious-oriented magic-wielding friends have stormed the city in an attempt to take it back. While Finch sends his minions (like the Dental Phantoms and the horrific Sisterhood of the Blood Mummies, infested with spiders and armed with  knives that have different powers depending on the phase of the moon), the good guys work to shut down the Stronghold’s power so Finch can’t use it to wage war on other cities. Can David figure out how to stop Finch, defeat his monstrous allies, and still restore the Stronghold to its former glory?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Beautiful writing and artwork by John Rozum and Frazer Irving. Such brilliant, gloriously off-kilter ideas for such a short-lived series. Will there be room in the new DC for anything so wild or fun?

Dark Horse Presents #3

A new oversized issue of this anthology series. The eight-dollar cover price should be offset a bit by the fact that this issue has quite a few good stories in it.

We get “Treatment” by Dave Gibbons, a futuristic story about a world that combines law enforcement with reality TV. There’s the odd but wonderful “Finder: Third World” by Carla Speed McNeil. There’s Robert Love and David Walker’s “Number 13” which is strange and off-kilter and still kinda heartwarming. There’s Jim Steranko’s fantastic hard-boiled private-eye tale “Red Tide,” along with a lengthy interview with Steranko. Howard Chaykin brings in a new chapter of his offbeat “Marked Man” crime thriller, and Richard Corben contributes his weird fantasy “Murky World: The Sleepers.” We also get the last chapter of David Chelsea’s awesome “Snow Angel” serial. And as always, there’s a new “Concrete” story by Paul Chadwick, in which Concrete, disturbed by the high kill-rate of the supposedly non-lethal taser weapons, begins working with the police to try make arrests a bit more humane using… hugs?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots and lots of stories here. A few dogs, but most of these are good, fun reading, especially the stories by Chadwick, Steranko, Gibbons, McNeil, Chelsea, and Chaykin. If you don’t mind the high price tag, it’s definitely worth picking up.

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No Fear

Daredevil #1

And that right there is the dadgum prettiest cover I’ve seen in a couple weeks. If you can’t see it clearly enough, the entire background is made up entirely of sound effects — the skyscrapers and streets are made of “HONK”s and “SKREEE”s and “WHOOSH”es, the water tower is made of “GLUG”s and “DRIP”s, and the pigeons are made of “FLAP”s and “COO”s. It’s an outstanding piece of work.

Inside, we get a new introduction to the Man Without Fear, as he prepares to crash a Mafia wedding. He’s heard a rumor that someone is planning a hit on someone in the wedding party, and Daredevil’s enhanced senses allow him to track the supervillain named Spot as he gets ready to kidnap the don’s granddaughter. Daredevil is able to keep the little girl out of the teleporter’s grasp, but the mobsters think DD is the kidnapper. Of course, he eventually stops the bad guys (and lays a killer liplock on the bride), and then has to face the major struggle — everyone in New York knows that Matt Murdock is really Daredevil, and it’s making it impossible for him to keep any courtroom clients.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is a seriously brilliant comic. We get new insights into what it’s like to live with Daredevil’s vastly enhanced senses, particularly his radar sense. We get jaw-dropping action, outstanding dialogue and characterization, clever humor, you name it. Writer Mark Waid completely kills both stories in this issue, and artists Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin may be even better — the artwork is simply amazing. Better start picking this one up now — we may be seeing the beginning of one of the greats.

Xombi #5

The villainous Roland Finch has taken over the Ninth Stronghold, a giant floating city made out of the skull of a Biblical giant, and he plans to either take over the other floating strongholds or destroy them. David Kim and his allies must prepare to chase down Finch, lay siege to the Ninth Stronghold, and somehow oust him before he causes more destruction. Can they do it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Frazer Irving’s art continues to wildly impress, and John Rozum’s writing continues to blow minds. This is a story with a wealth of wild ideas, from the immense Nephilim, the giants of the Old Testament, whose bones are used to build the Skull Stronghold, to the brief hints of the magical wonders common to all of the strongholds, to David’s struggles with his own immortality and the knowledge that his girlfriend may reject him for it. It’s deeply disappointing that this series will be cancelled after the next issue, because weirdness this wonderful is certainly something that only comics really do well…

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The Return of the Goon!

The Goon #34

After much, much too long, Eric Powell brings the Goon back for some more fun. And who’s his opponent this issue? Vampires. And what kind of vampires?

Sparkly vampires. With jazz hands and everything.

Luckily, that particular challenge doesn’t take too long, and then it’s on to the real story — there’s a new kid at the amazingly awful orphanage, and it turns out she’s actually a horrible, horrible monster. The orphans are plenty tough, but not quite tough enough to deal with a shapeshifting horror all by themselves. So they head down to Norton’s pub to enlist the Goon’s aid. But he’s too busy watching football, so the kids get him good and drunk, then drag him back to the orphanage. But can even the Goon stop a monster when he’s had that much to drink. Wait, that’s a silly question, isn’t it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Thank you, Eric Powell, for making this world a little more awesome every time you publish a comic book.

Detective Comics #878

Batman has been captured by Tiger Shark, a pirate based in an underwater hideout with a collection of starved killer whales that he sics on his enemies. Can Dick Grayson evade a bunch of crazed orcas, trained mercenaries, and an undersea detonation to discover who’s the mastermind behind the entire scheme? All that, plus it turns out Commissioner Gordon’s son James isn’t crazy after all. That’s great news, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Hey, most of it was just alright, but that last page is disturbing and freaky enough to push it higher than I was expecting.

Xombi #4

David Kim is a xombi, blessed by a combination of magic and high technology to live forever. He and the other members of Dakota’s magical/religious crimefighting community (Rabbi Sinnowitz, Nun of the Above, Nun the Less, and Catholic Girl) question Annie Palmer, a woman rescued last issue from the Maranatha and a man named Roland Finch. Annie reveals that she was actually born in 1871 and has spent nearly all her life in a magical floating stronghold. She was seduced by Roland Finch and betrayed after she’d been duped into helping him take over the stronghold. She managed to escape to our world, bringing a map to other floating strongholds, but now Finch has stolen the map, too. Can the group of heroes figure out how to keep Finch from destroying all the other strongholds?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great dialogue from John Rozum and lots of weird stuff all over the place. I like Frazer Irving’s art, but sometimes, David Kim’s helmet of hair kinda freaks me out…

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Chris Sims wants to know why DC chickened out on a story about another Muslim superhero.
  • Snell has some questions about why DC’s letters pages haven’t been edited to acknowledge the upcoming reboot.
  • And speaking of the reboot — for a company that trumpeted their dedication to diversity, DC’s new Justice League sure is stuffed full of white dudes
  • Here’s a cool short film about a simple plot device and how it changes the world — repeatedly — for one film fan.

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In High Dungeon

Dungeons & Dragons #7

We’re still in flashback mode, discovering how Adric Fell and his band of adventurers originally got together. Hired on to guard some wizards traveling to a magically lost city, their band is ambushed by a bunch of elves and eladrin. When the head eladrin (for those not up on their D&D knowledge, eladrin are basically elf nobles, while regular elves are, well, just regular elves) reveals that he’s willing to kill other elves and eladrin to protect the city’s magic, Varis turns on him. But there’s another ambush in the making, as they are all attacked by the Drow (again, for the D&D avoiders, those are dark elves). A small group of adventurers survives, but they won’t last long with all the Drow trying to bust into the small room they’re holed up in. Do they have a chance to escape certain doom?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nicely tense storyline, lots of claustrophobic, tense scenes, outstanding dialogue, and a picture-perfect Desperate Last Stand.

How to improve this series: Well, I enjoyed this flashback storyarc, but I’m fairly glad it’s over now, ’cause I really want to see more stuff with my two favorite characters, Bree the greedy sociopath halfling and Tisha the brooding but dishy tiefling.

Detective Comics #877

Batman escapes from a deathtrap set by Bixby Rhodes, a gunrunner/car dealer, and snags the crook even though he tries to escape on high-tech titanium super-legs. Dick learns from Sonia Branch, non-criminal daughter of the gangster who killed his parents, that her bank has had to deal with criminals wanting to launder money for years, but while the Mob usually respected her wishes not to cater to criminals (after all, they had plenty of other banks to turn to for dirty dealings), other crooks, including Rhodes and a smuggler named Tiger Shark, have refused to take no for an answer. Dick tracks Tiger Shark to his secret underwater lair, but what sort of dangers are lurking in the depths?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very, very nice mystery storytelling. Love the dialogue and characterization by Scott Snyder. (There’s a great bit at the beginning where Dick Grayson talks about what he likes to do after dealing with human criminals all night — he loves nature documentaries, just because they don’t have any humans in them. That’s a great piece of character work.) And I love Jock’s artwork, too. Really, I’m loving the whole series.

How to improve this series: For starters, don’t get rid of Scott Snyder. The guy really is very good with mysteries. Other than that, I can’t think of a lot that would need to be fixed — this is one of DC’s best series.

Xombi #3

The Maranatha is a giant fiery monster of pure anger and hatred, and it’s whuppin’ the tar out of David Kim. Nun of the Above, Catholic Girl, and Rabbi Sinnowitz try to help out, but things look pretty grim once the monster bites David in half — and he doesn’t start regenerating. Well, not for a while. Eventually, he does recover, all while a ghost has this great monologue about what it’s like to be dead and to miss being alive. Will they be able to destroy the Maranatha? Will David be able to maintain his connections to the normal people while living forever? And where’s the mastermind behind this whole thing?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I had my doubts for a while, ’cause it was a lot of hitting and biting for a while, but once the ghost starts that great monologue while David slowly stitches himself back together, it’s pure magic clear to the end.

How to improve this series: Hey, I know you gotta have some hitting in superhero comics, but why don’t we let John Rozum spend more time writing awesome dialogue and characters, okay? That’s a ton of fun.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • All anyone is talking about today is DC’s decision to reboot all their comics and republish everything from #1. I think this sounds like an utter disaster, and a great opportunity for me to read a lot fewer DC comic books — but let’s watch as Siskoid and MightyGodKing break it all down for us.

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Save the Whale


Detective Comics #876

This one starts with one of the best opening mysteries I’ve ever seen — a bank in Gotham City opens its doors in the morning and finds a full-grown killer whale dead on the floor. Obviously, no one has a clue how it got there. All the bank’s cameras blanked out for an hour during the night. The bank is owned by the daughter of the gangster who killed Dick Grayson’s parents, but there’s absolutely no evidence that she’s anything but a law-abiding citizen. And there’s a dead body in the whale’s stomach. What can it all mean?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Outstanding beginning for this mystery — the entire thing is tantalizing and bizarre, and I really want to see how it all turns out.

Xombi #2

David Kim is pumped full of nanites that heal him of any injury and make him immortal, but he doesn’t feel too healthy when this comic opens. He’s just been attacked by a magical being called a snow angel that’s tearing his arm off. And once Catholic Girl has used her holy powers to stop it, they’re all getting attacked by a bunch of zombie kids in Halloween costumes. Clearly, these monsters aren’t who broke a mystical Mr.-Hyde-transforming prisoner out of prison. They find the transportational portal that the escapees used, leaving David to pursue, accompanied by a guardian golem called a rustling husk — a creature formed out of the discarded husks of millions of insects that died while trapped inside windows. But once David catches up to  the escapees, is he going to find something even more awful to worry about?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Holy bananas, this one is just so relentlessly weird, from the clerical superheroes like Catholic Girl and Nun of the Above to the talking pocket change to the Maranatha, part lion, part demon, part King Kong, who ends up being the main villain in this piece. And if there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s a weird, weird comic book.

Morning Glories #9

Our focus in this issue is on Jun, the Academy’s resident badass — and on his mysteriously hostile twin brother Hisao. We see their childhood, when they were much friendlier to each other — and when the Morning Glory Academy first came after them. How did they come to be enemies? How were they separated? What happened to their families, and who rescued one of them? Only some of those questions get an answer, but it’s still a good ride.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m enjoying the focus on the individual students — something that was definitely missing from the first storyarc. The one thing that bugged me in this issue is that it spotlights Jun’s past, captioning it as “Five years ago,” while depicting him and his brother as, at the most 8-10 years old — that’s just much too young for a guy who is presented, in the present day, in his upper teens.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • This. That’s all. And I sure do wish some of the idiot scumbag birthers would move the heck out of my country.

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Xombi Uprising

Xombi #1

Here’s one of the few former Milestone comics to get a full revival at DC. Originally, this comic was created by John Rozum and Denys Cowan in 1994 — it starred David Kim, a researcher who got a dose of nanotechnology that made him immortal, and it featured levels of weirdness on the level of Grant Morrison’s “Invisibles” and “Doom Patrol.”

This new series has Rozum back on board as the writer, with Fraser Irving handling the art chores. David Kim’s backstory remains the same, and the depth of the weirdness seems even higher than ever. On the first three pages, you’ve got paintings eating each other, vampires stepping out of movies, chickens bearing live young, talking coins, and evil rod-puppets made out of religious tracts. Before long, David is sent to visit the Prison of Industry with his allies Catholic Girl, Nun of the Above, Nun the Less, and Father Maxwell. They find the Prison, a mystically shrunken jail for people possessed by outside forces. Nun the Less shrinks down and finds all the prisoners dead except for one, a man with a supernatural Jekyll-Hyde complex. And then there are they self-typing typewriters and evil snow angels and even more than that…

Verdict: Honestly, I think I’m going to withhold judgment for now. David Kim is an extremely personable character, and I’ve always loved the concept of characters like Catholic Girl and Nun of the Above. But I wonder whether this one is layering on the weirdness just too thick.

Knight and Squire #6

The final issue of this miniseries sees the Joker running amok in Great Britain, dragging Jarvis Poker the British Joker (unfortunately dying of cancer) as a hostage and trying to kill as many British superheroes as he can. And he’s got a bunch of Joker masks that allow him to mind-control people. The Knight and Squire have been distracted by several prominent deaths — can they get England’s heroes, vigilantes, and even villains to pull together to stop the Joker? And does Jarvis Poker have a chance to survive the final battle?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The whole blasted series has been wonderful fun. If you haven’t gotten any of these other issues, you’ll probably want to wait for the trade paperback, but you definitely will want to read this one.

Morning Glories #8

We get some background on a couple of the other students at Morning Glory Academy. Most of our emphasis is on geeky loser Hunter — he’s just asked Casey on a date, and she said yes, but Hunter has an extreme problem with lateness. In fact, for some strange reason, every clock he looks at always reads 8:13. He nearly never knows what time it is, so he asks his roommate Jun to tell him when it’s time to go to his date. But then Hunter gets attacked by some supposedly friendly classmates — and Jun shows up to help them beat him up. Hunter ends up tied up and blindfolded, with his captors planning on torturing and killing him. Is anyone going to show up to save him?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nicely weird issue. Hunter was probably the least interesting character before, but with the mystery behind his strange clock-reading problem, he’s leap-frogged into the most interesting spot.

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