November was a booming month for comics, if you ask me. Marvel NOW! kicked off in earnest and contained a bunch of stellar opening issues, with only 1-2 exceptions to that. Image did what they did and released a bunch of solid-to-great #1’s and DC Comics at least had some fine issues of their “Death of the Family” crossover. Twitter blew up with the announcement of 52 “Justice League of America” variant covers, many came to the defense of “fake” geek girls (give me a break, Tony Harris), and the digital sectors started selling day-and-date comics before shops.
But this here article is about the comics, dammit. And these, ladies and gentlemen, were the highs and lows:
Best Book of the Month: Thor: God of Thunder #2
Jason Aaron went outside the box to bring a new angle to Thor. By examining the immortal from 3 vastly different eras of his life, we’ve been given a rich and varied look at the character. Each character is distinct and shaped by their life events and it comes through in the writing. Esad Ribic and Dean White combine to craft a gorgeous, painterly version of Nordic history, modern Marvel, and post-apocalyptic Asgard. Each era is served well by the art and Ribic puts in visible effort to enhance the storytelling and thematic work that Aaron is doing. A perfect mix of character, voice, and vision makes “Thor: God of Thunder” the best book of November.
Runner-Up: Batman #14
Worst Book of the Month: Teen Titans #14
I read a lot of comics on a weekly basis. I pull more comic books than is probably healthy. So, I assure you that it’s purely coincidence that I reviewed what I ended up thinking were the best and worst comic books of the month. “Teen Titans” #14 was the latter. Somehow Teen Titans has been more about making sure everyone is in the right place in the New 52 rather than telling a compelling story, being true to its characters, or moving the story forward. This Wonder Girl “arc” was so clearly filler that I wonder if it was even written for these characters to begin with. A comparison to the Young Justice cartoon was made in the comments section of my review. Now there’s a sleek, smart, entertaining version of this same thing. DC would have been better off doing that sort of thing with their New 52.
It manages to somehow be more offending than the Liefeld Leftover Trio this month, which is quite a feat.
Runners-Up: Grifter #14, Deathstroke #14, Savage Hawkman #14
Best Writer: Kelly Sue Deconnick
How many books can this woman write in one month?! And how are they all so good?
“Avengers Assemble” #9 out-Bendis’d Bendis himself by parlaying downtime breakfast-table humor into a meaningful mission. Chuckle-worthy dialogue and a nice approximation of each characters’ “movie-verse” voice made this one of the most purely entertaining books of the month and an “oh shit” ending makes the stakes appropriate for a superhero team of such high caliber.
Never mind “Ghost” and “Captain Marvel” which were just as good as they have been from the start. If Kelly Sue doesn’t watch out, she might be a Marvel “architect” soon enough. I think those boys could use her.
Runner-Up: Jason Aaron
Most Disappointing Writer: Scott Lobdell
All of that stuff I said before about “Teen Titans” #14? Well, it’s mostly the fault of Scott Lobdell and his choke hold on certain areas of the New 52. As bad as “Teen Titans” was, it gets even worse when you throw in “Superboy” (which was not written by Lobdell, but has been – and is clearly still in line with his vision thanks to his buddy Tom DeFalco) and “Superman.” This whole section of DC Comics is being ruled by a vision that is making them feel redundant and separate from the rest of the New 52. Villains from shady organizations continue to appear, but give us no reason to care about them. By now, Lobdell has created so many new acronyms and codenames for evil operations that I can’t keep track of them.
It’s not worth it anyway.
Runner-Up: Whichever poor souls had to clean up Rob Liefeld’s leftovers
Best Artist: Esad Ribic – Thor: God of Thunder #2
I already mentioned earlier how Ribic’s art enhances Aaron’s storytelling beyond the script. He doesn’t merely deliver the story, but brings the subtext out. I guess all I want you to do is sit there for a second and think to yourself: “How many artists actually do that on a consistent basis?”
Runner-Up: Greg Capullo – Batman #14
Most Disappointing Artist: Brent Anderson & Philip Tan for “Phantom Stranger” #2
I’m convinced that they didn’t even finish this issue. Could it be a stylistic choice, if it doesn’t look stylish? Look at this screen cap and tell me that that is finished work that everyone was okay with:
Runner-Up: Tan Eng Huat – “X-Men Legacy”
Best Scene: Amazing Spider-Man #698
What more can I say about this one that Tumblr, Twitter, Dan Slott, Dan Slott fans, Dan Slott haters, etc, etc, etc – haven’t said already?
Well, I’ll tell you that switching Peter Parker and Doc Ock was a big, bold “Spidey” idea in the same spirit of the Lee/Ditko/Romita era of “Amazing Spider-Man.” It plays much the same way as the “6-armed Spidey” saga, in that it’s a seemingly impossible and wacky situation for our hero that we all can’t wait to see how he gets out of. Not only is it a great moment, but “the scene” is such a well-written scene on its own. Slott places it at the end and allows it to completely change the context of the entire issue you just thought you read. Moreover, it’s cackling, cocky supervillainy in the classic Marvel manner. Amazing stuff.
Slott has taken a lot of flack from fans, because half of fans take ownership of these characters and don’t ever want things to change. We all know this isn’t permanent. Let’s have fun with it while it’s here, yeah?
Best Collection of the Month: The Complete Calvin & Hobbes Softcover
A no-brainer. The Sunday funnies haven’t been the same since these two got on their sled and rode off into the sunset (spoiler alert for the last strip of Calvin & Hobbes). And while you could get this same collection in a hardcover edition previously, its massive size and questionable binding make this more practical softcover the edition of choice.
“Calvin & Hobbes” was an important work of art for my formative years. I learned a lot about life and gained perspective from their adventures, both zany and sobering. Most of all, I learned what was funny about life and developed my sense of humor. I’ll never forget what it was like to run around pretending to be Spaceman Spiff or trying (and failing miserably) to play Calvinball with my little brother. And now I’ll be able to revisit that whenever I want.
Runner Up: “Scene of the Crime” Deluxe Hardcover
Best New Series: Nowhere Men #1
A stylish new series from Image with a unique band of characters. It’s “Science as the new Rock ‘n’ Roll”, which the issue does tell you again and again. It also shows you, though, as these men are made to be larger than life and their actions are very clearly resulting in major consequences that are going to make this book one to watch.
Runner-Up: Thor: God of Thunder – I didn’t want to count this, because it’s really just “Thor Comic” volume whatever, so it’ll be our runner up. Okay? Okay.
Best Book You Probably Overlooked of the Month: Frankenstein Alive, Alive #2
Moody, eloquent, creepy, and surprising. Steve Niles and (the great) Bernie Wrightson are crafting a work of art that I cannot believe isn’t getting more press. This is beautiful work that treads wonderfully on the same creative and thematic path that Mary Shelley did all those years ago. Each issue looks beautiful on your coffee table and the contents inside are to be treasured – especially by horror fans. This book shows such an appreciation for that genre.
Best Reaction Face: The Phantom Stranger #2
Okay, so the issue was pretty bad. The book is basically plotless and the art was actually seemingly unfinished, however it did have the best reaction face of the month. Enjoy.