Ahhhh, September – leaves turning, nights getting longer, air growing crisper. It’s a time of year where rumblings of a dark multiverse probably feel most prescient. “Dark Nights: Metal” cast a shadow over DC with its first wave of crossovers and evil batmen one-shots. Across the rack, Marvel’s “Legacy” cured the post event-hangover that had been looming since “Secret Empire” ended and Hydra-Cap got hammered with Worthy-Cap.
Not to feel left out, IDW continued mashing all their toys together as the second act of the Hasbro-verse melee “First Strike” came out swinging. Image treated the month like they were network television: their fall premiere season dropped a deluge of excellent #1s into our grubby little hands.
Newswise, DC announced they’re calling in a Priest to perform last writes on “Justice League”. And after Matthew Rosenberg’s four kids finally walked into that bank, he walked out with a Marvel exclusive deal (and a “Tales of Suspense” Clint-Bucky team-up book in tow).
And, look, I hate to sound like a DC shill. But their books were turning out highs on nearly all fronts. If you’re wondering if someone won the month, it was them hands down.
Best Issue: “4 Kids Walk Into A Bank” #5
While Black Mask served up the overall mini-series at a Hickman-esque pace, “4 Kids Walk Into a Bank” #5 closed things out with all the reckless abandon of a pre-teen posse trying to launch a panel van over a canal, The Man With the Golden Gun-style. Literally. Matthew Rosenberg and a small gang of creators blazed this one across the finish line with punk rock panache. It was funny, profane, heartfelt and surreal in all the right places. Rosenberg’s knack for dialog found the sweet spot of hyper-reality where voices are 100% authentic, yet sound twice as cool as they ever would in real life. And Tyler Boss twisted every wrench in his artistic tool box, from double-page action spreads to euphoric dream sequences to a 24-panel page of nothing more than talking heads.
Best Writer: Tom King (“Mister Miracle” #2)
“Mister Miracle” #2 very nearly ran away with the complete issue/writer/artist trifecta. But I decided to spread the wealth a bit. And if there’s something I really want to highlight from September, it’s just how fantastic Tom King’s writing was – he also gets bonus points for the mold-breaking “Kamandi Challenge” #10. There will always be a severity to his work. But here it’s focused at just the right angle. Scott Free’s righteous anger in the repetitious opening sequence seems directed less at his enemy than at Orion, who would use him as nothing more than a blunt instrument of war (and maybe a bit at himself too, for allowing this use). It’s pared-down and complex characterization. And what could come across as needlessly grim is balanced out by the mundanity of Scott and Barda’s domestic life (struggles with the shower, midnight visits from Metron). There’s a delightful absurdity layered between the darkness and suspense that harkens back to King’s nine-panel glory days on “The Omega Men.”
Best Artist: Riccardo Federici (“Batman: The Murder Machine” #1)
September spoiled us all with some truly fantastic art. Mitch Gerads was pure magic on “Mister Miracle”. Michael Avon Oeming, Tomm Coker and Jon Davis-Hunt continued with career highlights in “Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye,” “The Black Monday Murders,” and “The Wild Storm” respectively. In Tom Mandrake’s “Captain Kronos: Vampire Hutner” #1, Halloween came early with an eerily creepy stagger. So in keeping with that theme, props go to Riccardo Federici, who delivered a horrific tour-de-force in “Batman: The Murder Machine” #1. The Batman-Who-Laughs/Judge Death comparisons are one thing, but Federici drafted an issue that feels like Gary Gianni taking a crack at Kek-W and Dave Kendall’s “Deadworld” strip. The extensively textured cross-hatching and blended, chiaroscuro backgrounds set an unnerving atmosphere. And Fedrici’s figure work therein was nasty and vital, brutal yet fluid. DC’s books just don’t ever look like this, let alone tie-ins to their main event.Continued below
Best Debut: “Angelic” #1
Let it never be said that Simon Spurrier is in want of ideas. The elevator pitch for “Angelic” #1 would last roughly 24 pages or so. Then again, all you really need to know is cyborg dolphins with jetpacks hunting flying monkeys. But smart, you know. Insightful. Social commentary-y. In all seriousness though, this was another beautiful book to look at. Caspar Wijngaard’s take on this anthropomorphic future feels like manga filtered through graffiti tags drawn with really fat felt pens. The heavy washes of magenta and azure tone give the book a unique and otherworldly quality that makes a talking monkey book totally believable.
Second Best #2: “Redlands” #2
A stellar debut is one thing. But a solid and satisfying follow-up is generally how you can tell a book has staying power. We already discussed “Mister Miracle”, but “Redlands” #2 from Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa R. Del Ray was another highlight of the month. The second verse in this song of southern-fried witchcraft pricked the hairs on the back of my neck like hearing chants at midnight. Packed tightly with a swampy, sweaty atmosphere of encroaching doom, this issue showed a nastiness that will hit you blindside like a semi running a four-way stop.
Best Quarterly: “Head Lopper & the Crimson Tower” #3
Given the distance between issues, “The Black Monday Murders” could have been in contention. But let’s face, “Head Lopper” has carved out a niche all its own, with the extended page-count, pin-ups, etc. That it only comes out when the seasons change, makes it all the more epic. In “Head Lopper & the Crimson Tower” #3, Andrew McClean dives whole-heartedly into the sun-baked, psychedelic vibes that crept into the fringes of the first two issue. He has a taut command of battle pacing. And his placement of character beats in between bouts of gnarly action means there’s genuine heart being shown, even as heads are being lopped. There’s a legit master coming into his own in these pages.
Best Annual: “Annual”
A Joe Casey comix mixtape… A reunion with galactic rangers Nathan Fox and Jim Rugg… These things comes but once a year. It’s like it was meant specifically for this arbitrary and entirely made-up accolade.
Best Reason to Re-Evaluate DC’s Trinity: “Aquaman”, “Deathstroke”, and “Green Arrow”
Seriously, why can’t we have an all-new, all different DC Trinity. Slade Wilson, Oliver Queen, and Arthur Curry are all starring in the real titans of the line. And it feels like we might be glancing off the apex. While “Deathstroke” is the pinnacle of consistency and seems every bit capable of maintaining it indefinitely, the fantastic ‘Hard Traveling Hero’ team-up arc just came to a close. And it looks like “Aquaman” will be short Stjepan Sejic’s art after next month. This convergence might end up being as short-lived as it is unexpected But for right now, they’re all on top. Sometimes, there’s just so much beauty in the world.
Best Excuse for Following a Character in a Straight Line for Over 2000 Issues: 2000AD Prog 2045-2049 – “Judge Dredd: War Buds”
Sure it started in August, but it closed out in September. And John Wagner crafted a tragic, yet inevitable end to the “War Buds” arc. While it was by no means a game-changer, it still felt like something special. Picking up on relationships between Joe Dredd and characters who were literally left in narrative wastelands for 30-odd years was a biting commentary on how post-traumatic stress can be brushed aside and how easily those afflicted can be forgotten. Unfortunately, some scars never fade, and Dan Cornwell delivered Costa’s ultimate fate against a haunting backdrop of the screaming torment of long-dead victims who could never be silenced. It was a sobering moment in strip that still managed a playful veneer overtop the darkness.Continued below
Best Cure for Cat Scratch Fever: “Doom Patrol” #8
Lots of comics claim to have an anything-can-happen sensibility. They’re all bloody liars. In Gerard Way and Nick Derrington’s hands, however, I have total faith that “Doom Patrol” can and will go anywhere. And somehow, it’s still going to make perfectly slanted sense.
Best Throwaway Reference to Your Third Favorite R.E.M. Song: “Bug! The Adventures of Forager” #4
See above -the family Allred is on that same tip too.