Major Spoilers Year in Review: Five Star Books for 2012 – Part 3

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You’ve already read part one and part two, that takes a look at the books that received the Major Spoilers Five Star Rating, and we continue today with the two very big months of August and September.

AUGUST

HawkeyeCoverHAWKEYE #1 (Reviewer: Matthew)
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja
Cover Artist(s): David Aja & Matt Hollingworth/Adi Granov/Pasqual Ferry & Matt Hollingsworth
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

  • The breakout star of this summer’s blockbuster AVENGERS film and self-made hero Hawkeye fights for justice!
  • With ex-Young Avenger Kate Bishop by his side, he’s out to prove himself as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!
  • Matt Fraction & David Aja (IMMORTAL IRON FIST) reunite to tell the on-going tales of the Arrow-Avenger!

THE BOTTOM LINE: HOLY CRAP, THIS IS A FUN ISSUE.

This book is good.  That’s really all you need to know.  Hawkeye #1 nails the execution, and hits the metaphorical bullseye (I’m sure I’m the only reviewer to think of THAT clever bon mot) for 5 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s a good looking comic, a great read, and there’s not a giant cosmic war nor an epic standoff to be found, just a well-written character doing the right thing for the right reasons, and fighting the good fight.  You won’t regret reading this…

Spider-Men-4-CoverSPIDER-MEN #4 (Reviewer: Jimmy)
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Cory Petit
Cover Artists: Jimmy Cheung & Justin Ponsor
Assistant Editor: Jon Moisan
Associate Editor: Sana Amanat
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

• Can the Spider-Men stop Mysterio?

• Peter Parker comes face-to-face with the family he never had!

• ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL MOMENTS IN THE LIVES OF BOTH SPIDER-MEN!!!

BOTTOM LINE: PURE JOY FOR ANY ULTIMATE SPIDER-FAN

The conclusion to the Death of Spider-Man arc brought tears to my eyes, and I wasn’t sure if Bendis could ever top that. Then he went straight back to the roots of what made Spider-Man a compelling character and introduced us to Miles Morales, and I was able to push aside my sadness and embrace the sheer joy of the new character. Now he’s simultaneously giving the Death of Spider-Man a more complete conclusion for Aunt May and Gwen, as well as using the opportunity to bring growth to Miles. Additionally the continuity between this title and Ultimate Comics Spider-Man has been a true joy to watch, as Bendis nimbly dances the stories around each other without explicitly telling us where the timeline of each one falls. This is by far the best issue of the Spider-Men mini so far, and one of the best Spider-Man stories I’ve read in a long time, earning it my highest praise and a full five out of five stars.

fatale_007FATALE #7
 (Reviewer: Stephen)
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.50
BRUBAKER and PHILLIPS best-selling occult noir series continues its second arc, as the dark secrets of mid-70s Los Angeles begin to creep into Josephine’s new life. Drugs, sex, cults, fame, and murder, all walk hand in hand in the shadow of demonic forces.

BOTTOM LINE: WHY ARE YOU NOT READING THIS?

There are few books that capture my attention from the get go. Atomic Robo, Locke and Key, and Fatale are books that I love to talk up, and am amazed when people say they don’t know what I’m talking about. Granted I’m usually hyped up on sugar at the time, and jumping out from the shadows jabbering non-stop does tend to put people off, but still…  Fatale is a must read series, and Fatale #7 hits all the right notes, earning 5 out of 5 Stars.

68scars-2cover’68 Scars #2 (of 4) (Reviewer: Jake)
Writer: Mark Kidwell
Artist: Nat Jones
Letterer: Jason Arthur
Colorist: Jay Fotos
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
In the heart of war-torn Saigon, a handful of battered survivors hold Tan Son Nhat Airport against an endless army of Viet Cong and the shambling dead. Crumbling bunkers defend the outer perimeter as inside… a seething hatred builds. And in the jungle, the desperate remainders of a deep recon SEAL team meet their luckless rescuers in the dripping shadows of a tropical slaughterhouse.

As old wounds heal, new ones open… and souls are laid bare.

BOTTOM LINE: MUST READ!

Believable characters, non-formulaic storyline, and lots of zombie action make this book a must read. This series definitely stands out as a refreshing, original take on the zombie apocalypse. If you’re a fan of monsters and war stories, I highly suggest you pick this up!
5 out of 5 Stars!

underwaterwelder72dpi_lgTHE UNDERWATER WELDER (Reviewer: Jake)
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Top Shelf
Cover Price: $19.95 ($9.99 Digital)
As an underwater welder on an oilrig off the coast of Nova Scotia, Jack Joseph is used to the immense pressures of deep-sea work. Nothing, however, could prepare him for the pressures of impending fatherhood. As Jack dives deeper and deeper, he seems to pull further and further away from his young wife and their unborn son. Then one night, deep in the icy solitude of the ocean floor, something unexplainable happens. Jack has a mysterious and supernatural encounter that will change the course of his life forever.

Equal parts blue-collar character study and mind-bending mystery, The Underwater Welder is a graphic novel about fathers and sons, birth and death, memory and reality, and the treasures we all bury deep below the surface.

BOTTOM LINE: A MUST READ!

Lemire weaves a beautiful tale forcing our protagonist to confront his past and learn the truth about that night his father disappeared. Lemire’s story never loses composure and never lags as our character is swept through a non-linear tale of self-discovery. If you are a fan of the Twilight Zone or Lost there is no reason for you not to pick up this awesome book!

19681Lobster Johnson Prayer of Neferu One Shot (Reviewer: Stephen)
Writer: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi
Artist: Wilfredo Torres
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
The Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra hold a Victorian themed party complete with the unrolling of a mummy, with decidedly unexpected results, including a gun-blazing vigilante promising justice!

BOTTOM LINE: Listen to the podcast to hear why this book received 5 Stars.

GRINDHOUSELOCKE & KEY: GRINDHOUSE (Reviewer: Stephen)
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Colorist: Jay Fotos
Letterer: Robbie Robbins
Editor: Chris Ryall
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99
THIS is the blood-splashed, bare-knuckled Locke & Key standalone story you’ve been waiting for! In the glare of a Depression-era summer, three Canuck gangsters pull the heist of their dreams and take off for the perfect hiding spot… an isolated mansion on the tip of Lovecraft Island known locally as Keyhouse. Locke & Key: Grindhouse includes an expanded “Guide to Keyhouse,” revealing every dark corner and secret room in America’s most frightening mansion!

BOTTOM LINE: OH. MY. GOD!

This was not a story I was expecting, but it was certainly the story I needed to learn more about the Locke family history, a few new keys, and a reminder that Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez tell some of the best stories I’ve ever read. From the opening page to the final clanging of the Keyhouse gates, this issue is a page turner. It’s graphic and unpleasant in places, but it is used to enhance the story, not simply to shock the reader. Locke & Key: Grindhouse is a must buy book for fans of the series, and earns 5 out of 5 Stars from me.

Skullkickers17-COVERSkullkickers #17 (Reviewer: Zach)
Writer: Jim Zub
Pencils: Edwin Huang
Inks: Edwin Huang, Kevin Raganit
Colors: Misty Coats, Mike Luckas, Ross Campbell
Letters: Marshall Dillon
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.50
“SIX SHOOTER ON THE SEVEN SEAS,” Conclusion
Somebody DIES! Or, everyone DIES! There’s lots of DYING! Oh man, it’s some kind of DEATH-fest goin’ around. It’s all epic and brutal and a major character DIES so you better order a ho-jillion copies. No, seriously, someone DIES. Big DEADING in the house. Also: The end of our incredible third story arc. Sweet.

BOTTOM LINE: JOIN THE RIDE

The bottom line is that Skullkickers was a great book just when the violence and crazy antics drove the book, but now that we are getting that on top of a deep back-story with a complex storyline, Skullkickers has entered the realm of “must-buy”. If you haven’t ever read Skullkickers go pick up the first issue, if you like that go read the trades. Once you have fallen in love and make it to this issue hopefully it will strike you as the masterpiece it did me. Skullkickers #17 receives a much-deserved 5 out of 5 stars.

SEPTEMBER

Snake-of-Iron-2-CoverTHE LONE RANGER SNAKE OF IRON #2 (Reviewer: Brandon)
WRITER: Chuck Dixon
ARTIST: Esteve Pills
COVER ARTIST: Dennis Calero
LETTERER: Simon Bowland
COLORIST: Marcelo Pinto
COVER: Dennis Calero
EDITOR: Joe Rybandt
PUBLISHER: Dynamite Entertainment
COVER PRICE: $3.99
The Ranger and Tonto face long odds on the lawless badlands of the Texas panhandle. The Masked Rider of the plains outnumbered by dangerous

Comancheros on his way to stop a Kiowa uprising. At the same time, Tonto finds himself in the middle of a hostage situation aboard a train stranded in a raging blizzard. Chuck Dixon and Esteve Polls re-unite to bring you more blistering frontier action hotter than a prairie fire!

BOTTOM LINE: THANK YOU, SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER?

Going into this issue and the one before it, I was largely unfamiliar with the modern comic incarnation of The Lone Ranger, so I didn’t know what to expect. Was it going to be dark and dramatic or mid-century hokey? After finishing the issue, I think I’ve finally learned to trust Dynamite to make the right decisions when it comes to resurrecting classic characters like The Ranger and Tonto. Chuck Dixon’s writing should have been enough to convince me, but despite his excellence with IDW’s “G.I. Joe,” I wasn’t yet ready to give him the benefit of the doubt and that was foolish of me. “The Lone Ranger: Snake of Iron” No. 2 is an extremely well-done book with beautiful panels, fantastic writing and an engrossing setting. The only drawback I can think of is that the first two issues of this four-issue limited are a little slow to get the plot rolling, but I think we’ve reached a tipping point and, come next issue, the action is going to start rolling faster than a steam locomotive. Five stars.

Hawkeye2CoverHAWKEYE #2 (Reviewer: Matthew)
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Steve Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
• What you need to know: Fraction. Aja. Hawkeye. Kate Bishop. Cars. Guns.
• Stealing from the rich never looked so good.
• Get. Now.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  TWO WORDS – PHUH.  NOMINAL.

Hawkeye #2 does what I thought was impossible, improving on #1 and deepening my fascination with the character and his new life, earning a full-on 5 out of 5 stars overall.  There may be hope for mainstream Big Two superhero comics after all, if this series is any indication…

MAY120459SMOKE & MIRRORS #5 (Reviewer: Jake)
Writer: Mike Costa
Artist: Ryan Browne & Jon Armstrong
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Editor: John Barber
Publisher: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99
This is it—the issue you’ve been waiting for! Stage magician Terry Ward is going to need every trick, every sleight-of-hand, every illusion he knows if he’s going to overcome the conjuring powers of a world where spells are real and magic–not technology–rules. Everything comes down to this climactic confrontation!

THE BOTTOM LINE: Needs More Issues

Don’t get me wrong, this book is awesome, but as a series finale it really felt unfinished. I’d love to see IDW bring this back with another five or ten issues, not an ongoing series, but I’d really like to see Terry get some answers and try find his way home.

FRSH_Cv0Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #0 (Reviewer: Chris)
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Alberto Ponticelli
Inker: Wayne Faucher
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
• Frankenstein meets his maker…literally! • Learn how Frankenstein was recruited by S.H.A.D.E. • What does the future hold for S.H.A.D.E.?

BOTTOM LINE: DON’T LET THIS TITLE FAIL

I can’t say enough good things about this book. A great jumping on point and introduction to the character, wonderful art, everything is a win. It’s an unusual concept, but everything works in my opinion and I’ll be tracking down past issues to give them a look. I hope DC keeps this book going (I’m unaware of how sales are) because it would be a shame to see it cancelled. If everything remains this high quality for future issues I’ll be adding it to my pull list. This outstanding zero issue of Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. earns 5 out of 5 stars.

IMG120388HARVEST #2 (of 5) (Reviewer: Jake)
Writer: A.J. Lieberman
Artist: Colin Lorimer
Letterer: Brandon DeStefano
Editor: Laura Tavishati
Publisher: Image
Cover Price: $3.50
As Dr. Benjamin Dane continues his plunge down the rabbit hole that is the black market for human organs, he signs a deal with a devil named Craven which Dane signs in blood with an alcohol level of about 22.  His only help? The kid on the cover.  Harvest: Medical Grade Revenge.

BOTTOM LINE: BUY! BUY! BUY!

As long as the five-part series keeps up its momentum, it will be a homerun. I cannot wait to pick up issue 3!

Spider-Men_5SPIDER-MEN #5 (Reviewer: Thomas)
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Cory Petit
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
The shocking conclusion! How will the amazing Spider-Man get back to his own reality? What will both Spider-Men do now that they know they’re not alone in the universe? Will Peter Parker give Miles Morales his blessing?

BOTTOM LINE: A MODERN DAY CLASSIC

The first four issues of the Spider-Men miniseries have not disappointed, and neither does the strong conclusion found in this issue. To me, Miles Morales has become the most interesting part of the Ultimate Universe. In such a short existence, the character has really found his footing and connected with me in a way I didn’t expect. His encounters with 616 Peter Parker (and Parker’s perspective of the Ultimate U.) have been emotionally resonant and extremely satisfying reading. As a result of this story, Miles Morales has made huge bounds into becoming a hero and Peter Parker has seen what a world affected by his death would resemble. These are extremely powerful plot points and they fit together seamlessly. This series is hands-down the best story to come out of the Ultimate Universe in a long time. It is essential reading for any fan of Peter Parker, Miles Morales, or excellent comics.

Dark-Shadows-7-coverDARK SHADOWS #7 (Reviewer: Brandon)
WRITER: MIKE RAIGHT
ARTIST: GUIU VILANOVA
COLORIST: CARLOS LOPEZ
LETTERER: TROY PETERI
EDITOR: JOE RYBANDT
PUBLISHER: DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT
COVER PRICE: $3.99
A nearby town has endured a rash of suspicious murders. All of the victims? Children. Could Barnabas be indulging his darker side away from Collinwood and the eyes of the Collins family and Julia? Is his search for a cure driving him so mad that he is wandering the night fulfilling his blood lust on the innocent?

BOTTOM LINE: NEEDS MORE QUENTIN, BUT OTHERWISE FANTASTIC

A story told wonderfully. Because of my fondness for the property I read through the issue a few times looking for holes to poke in the story, but I couldn’t really find any. It hits all the beats and keeps me turning page after page to get to the source of this mystery. The cliffhangers are enticing enough to keep me coming back every month, but not so edge-of-my-seat frustrating that I’ve considered waiting for the trade to read a bunch in one go.

Wonder-Woman-0-CoverWONDER WOMAN #0 (Reviewer: Jimmy)
Story: Brian “Kiss My” Azzarello
Art: Cliff “Chump” Chiang
Coloring: “Muddy” Matt Wilson
Lettering: “Jittery” Jared Fletcher
Assists: “Corny” Chris Conroy
Editor: “Malignant” Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
• A facet of the past is revealed – and a foe is introduced! • How did Wonder Woman become a star pupil of Ares?

BOTTOM LINE: A WONDER-FUL ISSUE

DC’s grand experiment with the Zero Month has had some great hits and some serious misses, and Wonder Woman stands with the former. Azzarello and Chiang simultaneously make this issue feel 100% as if it’s “Before the New 52″ (well before) and add to Diana’s history, while also adding something that advances the overall story. While this is certainly a done in one issue, we’ll be seeing the ramifications of it in the Wonder Woman ongoing from here on out, I’m sure. Wonder Woman #0 does everything a zero issue should, and did it with flying colors, earning a full five out of five stars.

atomic-robo-she-devils-pacific-3-coverAtomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #3 (Reviewer: Stephen)
Writer: Brian Clevinger
Artist: Scott Wegener
Publisher: Red 5 Comics
Cover Price: $3.50
Flying airplanes! Robots in the sky! Monstrous things in the ocean deep!

BOTTOM LINE: Listen to the podcast to hear why this book received 5 Stars.

Revival3-COVERRevival #3 (Reviewer: Zach)
Writer: Tim Seeley
Art: Mike Norton
Letters: Crank!
Colors: Mark Englert
Editor: 4 Star Studios
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Ms. Vang is a little old lady who wants her piece of the pie. And the creature in her basement is how she plans to get it. Meanwhile, Dana and her new partner are on a case, Em has more secrets, and a walking corpse goes to her daughter’s funeral.

BOTTOM LINE: HERE COMES ANOTHER HIT

It’s no secret that Image has been pumping out outstanding titles for a long while now and I don’t think it’s too soon to add Revival to the list. With dynamic action and dialogue, a story that balances action and dialogue, and art that can hold its own against any Big Two title. Seeley and Norton have a book that should keep gathering fans every issue while picking up awards along the way. Revival #3 keeps this series going strong and earns all 5 of the stars.

tmnt14TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #14 (Reviewer: Tom)
Writer: Tom Waltz with Kevin Eastman
Artist: Andy Kuhn
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Bobby Curnow
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99
Splinter instructs Raphael in the true way of the ninja, and Casey’s life is irrevocably changed! The Turtles have a new mission, but Shredder’s ambitions could put an end to it before they begin. Plus, Krang unveils his master plan! This issue lays the groundwork for a thrilling new story arc that plunges the Turtles into two epic wars! Don’t miss it!

BOTTOM LINE: THE PERFECT TURTLE STORY FOR FANS OLD AND NEW

I was a young and impressionable lad while the TMNT were in the midst of their greatest popularity. For a few years, they had the United States held firmly in their three-fingered hands. Still, I grew away from the franchise as most fans do, moving on to other flights of fancy. I’ve picked up the remastered Mirage TMNT hardcovers, and I’ve watched the odd new TMNT cartoons here and there, but that magic was never really recaptured until this comic was released. If you’ve ever considered yourself a fan of the Ninja Turtles, you should be reading this book. If you consider yourself too mature for the turtles, give the series a try. You’ll be surprised by the depth of the themes in this book. IDW’s TMNT has moved to the top of my monthly most-wanted list, and issue #14 provides a fantastic entry point for those looking to give it a try.

It was a busy couple of months for comics, new reviewers, and Major Spoilers Five Star Reviews.  In our last installment, we’ll take a look at the last three months of the year, and see if opinions, and thoughts on comics deserving five stars shifted or not.