Ravingnerd’s Best of 2017: Best Reads

My nightly festivities got in the way of me getting this post out Yesterday, so you’ll have to figure out the best reads of 2017 today instead. I will be focused on individual series’ and not characters nor specific issues. Some have performed so well they have landed on the list with just a few issues. I have already spoken about several of these series’ in recent posts, so several of these should not be a surprise. So here we go!

There will be mild spoilers sprinkled throughout, so Black Alert is up!

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10. Super Sons was one of the longest awaited books of Rebirth. We sadly had to wait more than 6 months after Rebirth’s launch, until just after the first of the year, to get this book. Needless to say, this book has been every bit as good as we thought it would be. What isn’t to love? A team up with the lovable Jonathan Kent and almost as lovable Damian Wayne. What could go wrong? Well nothing really. Jonathan has the powers of Superman while Damian is a little jerk who is up for anything. This book is very similar to Tomasi’s Superman story. It features the perfect balance of light hearted humor and fun to add into the action. It helps that Damian and Jonathan balance each other out very well. Jorge Jimenez’ art is perfect for capturing the raw energy that both Sons’ have and it often feels like they could burst off the page.

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9. Grass Kings was Matt Kindt’s latest attempt to prove to the comic industry that he is one of the best writers in comics. Period. Together, with fantastic water colors from Tyler Jenkins, Matt is able to do what he does best. Write a compelling and fascinating mystery. Kindt’s name needs to be up there with Brubaker as one of the greatest mystery writers in all of comics. Books like Super Spy and Red Handed are some of the most brilliant reads out there. This time around, we get a newer kind of mystery from him. The Grass Kingdom is a land unto itself. It appears to exist outside of Federal jurisdiction, or at least that is how they operate. This, of course, hasn’t gone over with others. Including the villainous sheriff of the next county. The mystery in this book is three fold. What is the mystery behind the Grass Kingdom, why does it feel off? Who is responsible for the string of murders that have plagued the land for a decade? Biggest of all, who are we supposed to really trust? If you are looking for a thrilling and beautiful read, this is the perfect book for you.

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8. Star Trek: Mirror Broken is an odd duck as far as Star Wars comics goes. I generally shy away from IDW’s Trek line, as it normally bothers me more than anything else. This book, however, does not. Mirror Broken, as the name suggests, is set in Star Trek’s Mirror Universe. Seen in the shows throughout the series in TOS, DS9, and Enterprise. There is an established time line that details the fall of the Terran Empire (it’s fine, they were pretty terrible). Mirror Broken shows us the TNG crew for the first time in the Mirror Universe. Believe it or not, none of them are particularly likable. Noticeable differences include Borg augmented Data, Barkley with a spine, and a psychotic Wesley Crusher (no he still isn’t likable. Scott and David Tipton helm the book better than they have some of their previous Trek books, and the interiors by JK Woodward are nothing to scoff at. This is absolutely worth the read for Trek fan out there. We also get to see Captain Jellico, and even in the Mirror Universe, I just love him.

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7. X-O Manowar is easily the best book that you are not reading. Matt Kindt has taken the flagship Valiant property and turned it into a space opera epic for the generation. It Aric, Vandal with alien super armor. Has turned his back on Earth and his suit. Instead leading a simple life as a farmer on a foreign planet. When war comes, he is conscripted to fight. Yet he quickly realizes that he is in an army of ‘undesirables’ and that his unit is designed to fight until they die. The higher ups have no interest in their survival. It is up to Aric to not only win the day for his squad, but save as many people as he can. Heroes never seem to be able to escape being heroes, do they? The art by Tomas Giorello is also stunningly perfect. It is dynamic, and his wide shots of the alien landscapes range from beautiful to terrifying. This book should have made a lot more waves than it did, but you are hearing it from me. It is awesome. Valiant has also followed this up with Ninja K, another spin on one of their classic super heroes. With their feature film debut close at hand, these books should be must reads for anyone who is excited to see Valiant in film.

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6. Superman has been one of the best books on the shelf period. Peter J Tomasi is the hero we need, not the one we deserve. Having written almost 2 and a half years of the best Superman you could ever imagine. His secret? Having fun! Sure things can get dark, but he is always able to bring things back. Case in point with his “Road Trip” arc from early in the year. After dealing with Manchester Black in a very dark and serious arc before, the Kent family could really use a rest. And that is exactly what they got. Yet instead of flying, Clark decided to do things a little more by the book. He rented an RV. The 3 issue story arc features the Kent’s going to various different monuments and historical markers, and interacting with people along the way. Central to the story is Clark teaching Jonathan to be a good, kind person. It may sound odd to say, but I think the best Superman stories are the ones that don’t feature big, all out brawls. It is the ones that focus on the underlying humanity Clark has. It is why stories like Injustice and Batman VS Superman are so hard for me to get behind.

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5. Doomsday Clock. Do I really need to say more? The long awaited resolution to the Rebirth premise is finally at hand. Only 2 issues in, the story is more glorious than anyone could have imagined. Rather than deep diving into the Watchmen/DC Crossover, we take things a step back and find out how things have been going in the Watchmen universe. Not well. Rorschach’s journal told the world the truth of Ozymandias’ deeds, and united the world against him. Sadly, this also brought back the animosity between nations that Adrian had desperately been trying to avoid. We get a chance to see several fan favorite characters again plus the addition of a few new ones. The story has yet to really get going, but Geoff Johns knows what he is doing. What makes this series exceptional is Gary Frank’s art. Instead of relying on modern comic art methods, Frank is doing things differently. Gone are the overdone splash pages, or large comic images, and in its place are traditional 9 panels. This does not diminish Frank’s gorgeous art at all, it instills it. Every single frame can be poured over, and new readings will find new insights. Plus the classic feel to the book, is the perfect presentation for the Watchmen event we have all been waiting for. I know there are several people out there burned out on Watchmen due either to the film, Before Watchmen, or any number of other things. If you are one of those people, I get it. I was too. But the opening of this series should have everything you need to get you hooked in seconds. Trust me, and take the plunge.

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4. Batman by Tom King has been an interesting book to figure out. At the start of its launch, it just seemed off. While everyone was positively abuzz about King taking over the title. Yet the book released to an underwhelming presence. In comparison to the other fantastic launches the rest of the Rebirth line had, Batman got lost. Yet 2017 is truly the year of Tom King. With his story arc “The War of Jokes and Riddles” and “Super Friends”, King has successfully made Batman one of the hottest books on he shelf again. Featuring the brilliance Mikel Janin on art, the War of Jokes and Riddles was the Batman epic of the year. Focusing on an untold story from early in Batman’s tenure, similar to Scott Snyder’s year zero. Joker, who is unable to laugh, is desperately trying to find something ‘funny’. On the other side is the Riddler, who’s motives are to kill Batman, thus answering the ultimate Riddle. In the process the villains of Gotham draw a line down the middle, and enter into a messy and bloody conflict. The messy conflict sees Batman do something we don’t normally see him do. There are a number of surprises and fantastic moments sprinkled in across the way that I won’t spoil. Tom King follows this dramatic and dark story arc with one of the most fun two part stories I have ever read. In “Superfriends” Clark, Lois, Bruce, and Selina go on a double date. The issue is to delightful to spoil, so go get on it.

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3. Archie’s “Over the Edge” and “Heart of Riverdale” broke my heart this year, and deserves a high spot on this list. Mark Waid has a way of weaving comedy and tragedy into the same book, and has never shied away from pulling any emotion punches with this book. These arcs cranked those emotions up to a ten. I after nearly every issue I was left devastated and near tears. Yet this wasn’t due just to the darkness and tragedy that Waid just threw in my face. It was also due to how well he was writing the characters. They were as devastated as I. Yet how did they handle these dilemma’s? They bought guns to appease their vengeance. Just kidding! If you wanted that, go watch Riverdale. As for me, I will stick to the heartwarming melancholy that I get on a monthly basis from this book. Pete Woods’ art highlighted the energy and emotion of the Over the Edge arc. Audrey Mok took over for the Heart of Riverdale arc, and here sweet and personal style is perfectly suited for the subject material. Warning before you read, not everyone makes it out of this one alright. So bring tissues.

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2. Batman: White Knight by Sean Murphy is easily the second best book of the year. Originally slated as the 4th arc of Scott Snyder’s All Star Batman, DC wisely gave Murphy free reign of this book. Set in an alternate universe, where the Joker eventually goes sane. As Jack Napier, he not only sees the lunacy of his actions, but the havoc that Batman has reeked across Gotham. He sets out trying to not only fix the broken and corrupt political system of the city, but to stop Batman himself. With Alfred clinging for life with an illness that Bruce cannot cure, he has gotten more and more savage. This story helps beg the question, what is Batman without Alfred? If the death of his parents broke an 8 year old Bruce, what would the death of his caretaker, friend, mentor, and surrogate parent do to him? The answer is nothing good. On top of this brilliant premise is the twist that has propelled the 3 issues of the series out so far so high up this list. There are two Harley Quinn’s. The original Harley is Harleen Qunizell, who legitimately fell in love with Jack (Joker) and was driven away at the height of his madness. Taking his place is a manic woman obsessed with Joker’s madness. The original wears her jumpsuit she debuted in, while the new favors a look more like her appearance in Suicide Squad. As a reader the devolution of Harley in comics has long been a point of contention with me. Seeing my issues with the character addressed so quickly and effortlessly was not something I had expected, but I loved it. This book still has another 5 issues to go, and Sean Murphy has barely cracked the surface of what he is going to do.

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1.  Mister Miracle is without a doubt, the best series of the year, and is Tom King and Mitch Gerads at their finest. This series clocks in at just 5 issues of its 12 issue run, and has been a smash hit since day one. The story so far sees the titular hero thrust into a war between the New Gods and the forces of Darkseid. While it is made clear early on that absolutely nothing is at it seems, the curtain has yet to be pulled back to reveal the full extent of what is happening. The war has taken several turns so far, including the death of High Father. This has led to Orion becoming the new leader of New Genesis. Most recently he ordered the death of Mister Miracle under the accusation that he was corrupted by the Anti Life Equation (he may be, we don’t know). The book has managed to nail down a very dramatic and action packed story, and sneak in brilliant moments of comedy and heartwarming tenderness as well. Something Tom King has proven very deft at. Gerads art is a credit to this book. Able to pull off a captivating and brilliant read every issue, while also making things fuzzy enough to make the reader confused an unnerved. This is well worth a pick up if you haven’t gotten to read it yet.

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The Old 52

With the most recent announcement that 4 original DC titles are getting the ax (Superboy, Birds of Prey, Batwing, and All-Star Western) in August, the remains of the “New” 52 are all but gone. Of all the books DC publishes now, only 21 original titles remain. That’s less than half of the books that were launched. While their are exceptions (Suicide Squad and Teen Titans are getting relaunched, JLI was scrubbed for story purposes, etc) it is still rather alarming to think that the original New 52 has dwindled this far. While DC has added solid replacements such as Earth 2 and Harley Quinn, those serve as the exceptions to DC’s line. The ongoing series’ and the once that have survived are the 21 I have noted above. Of all the books launched to replace books, very few of them exist. Of the Second Wave only Earth 2 survives, with Worlds Finest now joining Batman Inc, Dial H, The Ravagers, and GI Combat. Of the Third Wave, we Phantom Stranger is joining Talon, Sword of Sorcery, and Team 7. The next few launched were JLA and Katana, also now gone.

While I will give DC credit for trying new things, with only 23 books on the shelf that have proved to be tried and true, a problem has emerged. Only time can tell if some of DC’s more recent gambits such as JLU, Infinity Man, Constantine, JL 300, and the Superman-Batman/Wonder Woman books will test as well as Earth 2 and Harley Quinn have thus far. To truly succeed and gain back market share, DC is going to need to be bold, but also smart. I posted previously how I felt Marvel’s Hawkeye strategy was effective, and should be emulated. DC needs some help adding titles that can survive in the long run. And with characters like Cyborg, Captain Marvel, and even Lex Luthor gaining increased popularity, DC has the characters to do it. Once again, I’m all for them trying new and bold things, but they need to balance that with books that can and will sell. I may not know exactly what those books look like, but I’m pretty sure all of us out there have many ideas that DC could utilize. For that we’ll have to wait and see what we get to replace these books come October.

What are your thoughts on the matter? What do you think DC has done right and how do you think they could improve for the future?

Until the next time, Rn

Greatest Hits- April 2013

Well hello there. Though you may have forgotten me, and my horrible syntax, I am back. I have to apologize to all of my former dedicated followers, my schedule has been in flux with a constant mix of both professional and personal troubles. While not an excuse, my blog got away from me, and honestly my interest in it waned. Thus I am treating 2013 as the first year of the nerd, even though my first year of blogging is about at an end. So hello everyone. I’m back, here to serenade you with the the mind of one of the greatest nerds you will have the pleasure of chatting with. A bit too arrogant for you? Well it’s my blog so, I’ll do what I want. With all that being said, let’s begin.

This post will be a two parter, I will discuss the much broader and far reaching hints impacts of April’s solicitations you may not have seen. The latter post will be out tonight. But as always I discuss what I we should look forward too most from the latest round of solicitations.

10. Superboy #19- Starting off the list is Superboy. While not a comic I follow, Superboy literally started at the beginning in issue 1. Meaning anything could be amended in his backstory. This personally left me wondering if Lex was indeed involved with his DNA, and in April we’ll get our answer. As all of the covers are designed to do for April, we only get half of the cover. This leaves a certain sense of suspense, as we wonder what the other half reveals. The cover does seem to indicate that it hides who Superboy’s other parent is. Though if you observe the DNA strand on the cover, as it spirals off the edge of the panel, the color seems to change form yellow to green. It would appear Lex’s involvement in Superboy is the same, regardless of universe.

9. Team 7 #7- Team 7 has had a long history on my list of Greatest Hits, only missing a month on my lists. This month is no different, the potential for Team 7 is unbridled, as April will not only see the addition of a new member to the team, but the introduction of a character not yet seen in the New 52. Who that will be is anyone’s guess, but counting out this comic would be a grave mistake. The first arc is over, and it appears Team 7 has finally found its place in the DCU.

8. Earth 2 #11- As Earth 2 closes in on a year long run, the second arc concludes with a fully realized Doctor Fate. Aside from re-introducing one of the most important heroes in DC’s history, it see’s some sort of team start to come together. As of April we will have a team of at least 4 members, and April’s solicit promises to introduce other heroes as well. Who else will be added into the fold? We’ll have to wait and see.

7. Green Arrow #19- Jeff Lemire continues his dissection and recreation of the beloved Emerald Archer. His third issue on the series see’s Lemire explore and recreate Arrow’s origins. Will his time from Year One be changed in the first real exploration of his New 52 origin, or will it stay true to the seminal work? Whatever the answer, this issue is can’t miss for fans of the character and the creator.

6. Justice League of America #3- While the starting goal of the JLA was unclear, the short term importance of the new team will be made abundantly clear in April. With the rise of a new Justice League, the rise of a new Secret Society will rise to oppose it. This is an idea that any fan can get behind, and makes the release of this series all the more anxious.

5. Swamp Thing #19- Scott Snyder made magic with his Swamp Thing relaunch, with his run over, April will see the rise of a new creative team. The new team of Charles Soule and Kano will send the series in a bold new direction, with the original Swamp Thing look returning in April. What else will change, and can current fans of the series cope with the loss of Snyder? All of that will be explored come April.

4. Detective Comics #19- The official 900th issue of Detective’s may not be billed as a milestone, but DC isn’t letting it go unnoticed. The second longest running comic still being published turns to the ripe old age of 900 in April, and John Layman and Jason Fabok get to helm this important celebration. In a giant sized issue worth $8 Batman will achieve new status as the second longest running super hero on the market. This issue will be fun for everyone, and shouldn’t be missed for anyone.

3. I, Vampire/ DC Universe Presents #19- It is always a sad day when DC announces its cancellations, and the latest round certainly hit much closer to home than anyone wanted. Though not the best seller, I, Vampire was one of the best received comics of the relaunch. It’s great run, with talented Joshua Fialkov sees its end in April. In addition to that the rotating series that has been used to explore multiple corners of the DCU has been retired as well. Despite this, both will leave off with a bang. Should Andrew Bennet escape the series’ conclusion alive, his presence in the greater DCU would be a boon to the entire line. Additionally, DCUP will see the return of a “time displaced hero” who apparently has a penchant for blue and gold…

2. Stormwatch #19- Though a decent series, issue #19 is extremely notable for two reasons. The first being the introduction of long time Marvel architect Jim Starlin, his presence on the title and in the DCU in general is an interesting spectacle  one that can only lead to amazing things. The second being that the solicit essentially gives us the answer to what will replace the two titles listed above. But more on that a little later.

1. Batman and Robin #19- Damian’s absence form the solicitations has been quite disturbing for his fans thus far, and with Death of the Family about to wrap up Damian’s fate is up in the air. The most recent solicitation doesn’t seem to add any better news. In an homage to the Dark Knight Returns, a much darker and different Batman appears on the cover of the this comic. Just on the side is a yellow cape, symbolic of the original Robin. Whether the cape is that of a new Robin’s, or whether Damian has had a costume change has yet to be seen. But all fans will be biting their nails until at least next month, if not longer.

So there you have it. These comics are the comics that stand out the most form April’s solicitations. What are you looking forward too? And if you stay tuned, in just a bit I’ll post the follow up in which I reveal all of the juicy tidbits I deduced from these solicitations.

Until then, enjoy my terrible syntax

Rn

How to make the Super Family Super

I have made it clear just how disappointing the Superman title has been, I have also stated how tragic it is to lose Morrison on Action Comics (one it’s Morrison, and two it’s Morrison). That being said the future of Superman is currently up for grabs. I will address how I think DC can best solve this problem, and how a strong Superman could positively affect the line.

First, let’s look at each one of the titles.

Action Comics is by far the best-selling Superman title and is one of the best sold comics in the industry. I honestly can’t think of a future for the title without Grant Morrison. That doesn’t mean it has no hope. Let’s give Action Comics over to another character, I vote Steel. This will not only add diversity to DC’s line but will stream line Superman readership to their Superman title. It will also allow for the expansion of the Superman family which is desperately needed. The title doesn’t have to belong to Steel, but should be some other member of the Superman family that hasn’t had a lot (if any) air time in the New 52. Keeping things diverse and fresh is what the comic book industry is about, what better way of following up Morrison’s run then to do something different? Morrison is a god of the craft, and DC should not try to emulate his work without him.

Next, make Superman better. As I have stated before, Scott Lobdell has done great work so far in the New 52. He has proven that he has the skill to take on the Man of Steel. Superman has struggled with “monster of the week” plots for an entire year. Let’s change that. Supe’s has a pantheon of villains that have done nothing but gather dust for a year, why not give them a spin? 4-6 issue arcs dedicated to a struggle between Superman and a villain would be refreshing wouldn’t it? It doesn’t have to be that, but seriously. All year Superman has dealt with aliens. Let him do something else.

From what I hear, Supergirl is doing “alright” in the New 52. She now has a better character and look than the previous Supergirl, but has been stuck in neutral doing nothing of any significance. If she is to have a solo title, let her be doing something significant and different. Perhaps struggling with being a hero and a normal girl (except don’t do that, it’d be horrible). Make her get involved with a government organization or a secret society or something. Let her be a big girl and go off on her own adventures. She should be independent from the family, but be involved with the family when they need her help.

Superboy is doing fine. He’s off doing his own thing with the Titans and N.O.W.H.E.R.E, let him continue to do that. However, tie him in a bit more with the Superman mythos. Make Superman appear, or make him struggle a bit more with the symbol that he’s wearing. Do something with it tie it in more with the family.

So, Action should do something different. Superman should come down to Earth. DC should let Supergirl be a big girl. Superboy should acknowledge why he’s “super”. These are just some steps that I would suggest taking to revamp the Superman line. While I am not terribly excited about it, DC is heading in the right direction with H’el on Earth. Crossing the three titles over should help to establish a better sense of family. Then hit the ground running. Use that event as a jumping off point, to send each one of the characters in their own directions. Have a writer prepped for taking over Action and give them a different character and story to work with. Make all four of the titles tie in and fit as a family. So far it’s worked for Batman, it should work for Superman. I want to follow a Superman title, or even titles, but as of now the quality of the Super family isn’t so Super.

Until the next time, stay “super”.

Rn