Major Spoilers Year in Review: Five Star Books for 2012 – Part 4

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After looking at the nine months of 2012, it’s finally time to take a look a the last quarter of the year and see what books received the Major Spoilers Five Star designation.

OCTOBER

All-Star-Western_0ALL-STAR WESTERN #0 (Reviewer: Thomas)
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Artist: Moritat
Colorist: Mike Atiyeh
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Kate Stewart
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
• How did Hex get his scar?
• Jonah Hex’s early life is accounted for…and it’s plenty ugly!

BOTTOM LINE: A MUST HAVE FOR WESTERN FANS, A MUST READ FOR EVERYONE ELSE

As mentioned before, All-Star Western is a book I have really come to love. So far there has not been a single issue released that I haven’t enjoyed thoroughly. Western fans must pick up this book. If you’re not a Western fan, you should still give this book a read, especially if you’re growing weary of the standard superhero fare. This book has action, tragedy, revenge and moxy to spare. All-Star Western #0 hits the target right between the eyes and earns a perfect five out of five stars.

ANMAN_Cv131ANIMAL MAN #13 (Reviewer: Brandon)
WRITER: JEFF LEMIRE
ARTIST: STEVE PUGH
COLORIST: LOVERN KINDZIERSKI
LETTERS: JARED K. FLETCHER
EDITOR: JOEY GAVALIERI
PUBLISHER: DC COMICS
COVER PRICE: $2.99
• It’s the story you’ve been waiting for: “ROTWORLD: THE RED KINGDOM”!
• Part one of a four-part epic in which the Earth has fallen to the Rot!
• Guest-starring Justice League Dark, Beast Boy and many other heroes and villains from the DC Universe!

BOTTOM LINE: THERE ARE ONLY SO MANY WAYS TO SAY AWESOME

I give Jeff Lemire a lot of credit for a lot of things and issues like this are why. He’s telling an engrossing superhero crossover story with tons of characters without losing focus on the driving dynamic of “Animal Man,” namely the Baker family. That’s what sets this book apart and will keep me coming back to it even though I’ve kicked to the curb most other cape books—buy this book. Five stars.

Batman13BATMAN #13 (Reviewer: Stephen)
Writers: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
Artists: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: FCO Plasencia
Lettering: Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancout, Katie Kubert
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
• The Joker returns in “DEATH OF THE FAMILY”!
• He crippled Batgirl. He killed Robin. What will The Joker do now that he’s returned to Gotham City?
• What must Batman do to protect his secret identity and that of those who fight alongside him?

BOTTOM LINE: BATMAN AT ITS BEST

I’m going to go on record and say the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo run on Batman is the best Batman since Mr. Miller deconstructed the hero in The Dark Knight Returns. The writing remains fresh – or at least Mr. Snyder has convinced us it is – and the art duties result in imagery that tell us more about characters and their motives than an actor on the stage. I had fears that Mr. Snyder would not be able continue his winning streak once Court of Owls concluded, but if the rest of the issues in this arc are as solid as the opening chapter, I expect this series to receive a lot more 5 Stars in the coming months.

chew29CHEW #29 (Reviewer: Zach)
Writer: John Layman

Artist: Rob Guillory

Publisher: Image Comics

Cover Price: $2.99
“SPACE CAKES,” Part Four
On the trail of the vampire!

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

 

Hawkeye3CoverHAWKEYE #3 (Reviewer: Matthew)
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

  • What is the Vagabond Code?
  • Barton and Bishop mean Double the Hawkeye…and Double the trouble.
  • Fraction and Aja are back with a chase that will blow not only your mind, but several your ancestors’ minds as well.

THE BOTTOM LINE: WORTH THE PRICE FOR THE FAUX-CENSORSHIP ALONE.

This issue is a love-letter to the kind of movies they don’t make any longer, the gritty 70s film-noir influenced flicks that Quentin Tarentino and I love.  This issue’s use of color is also fabulous, retaining the limited color palette, but using red as an accent color for the car and the hot mysterious girl’s hair, and the brilliant defense of trick arrows is particularly timely to me, given recent discussions of the new ‘Arrow’ series.  There’s nothing wrong with a rocket, net, or boomerang arrow, and Aja even goes back to the old Marvel Universe books of my youth for reference on the various trick arrowheads (so much so that the issue is dedicated to Eliot Brown, the technical guru who created most of the specifications and designs seen in that book.)  Hawkeye #3 is a home run, a hole-in-one, a sports metaphor #3, and it makes me not only LIKE the character of Hawkeye, but want to live through one of his adventures, earning 5 out of 5 stars overall.  If you’re not reading this, you’re missing one of the best on-goings Marvel has to offer, bar none.

NOVEMBER

Ghosts1CoverGHOSTS #1 (Reviewer: Matthew)
Writer(s): Al Ewing/Toby Litt/Cecil Castelluci/Joe Kubert/Neil Kleid/Mary H.K. Choi/Paul Pope/Gilbert Hernandez/Geoff Johns
Artist(s): Rufus Dayglo/Mark Buckingham/Victor Santos/Amy Reeder/Joe Kubert/John McCrea/Phil Jiminez/David Lapham/Gilbert Hernandez/Jeff Lemire
Letterer: Sal Cipriano/Clem Robins/Pete Carlson/Pat Brosseau/Travis Lanham/Jared K. Fletcher/Carlos M. Mangual
Colorist: Chris Chuckry/Andre Elder/Andrew Dalhouse/Lovern Kindzierski/Jose Villarrubia
Editor: Shelly Bond/Will Dennis/Gregory Lockard/Mark Doyle
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Cover Price: $7.99

Check out this all-new anthology from some of the biggest talents in the industry! Stories spotlight a space heist on a ghost ship, a spirit who wants to play synthesizer in a techno band, a ghost-for-hire haunting agency and others dark, twisted tales.

THE BOTTOM LINE: MICAH WOULD HAVE TURNED OFF HIS DAMN CAMERA FOR THIS.

There isn’t a single page of this issue that isn’t at least visually fascinating, and the stories on tap are all lovely little bits, like a Whitman’s chocolate sampler filled with poisons, dead things and the occasional razor-blade.  It’s rare that a horror book never makes an old-school Rod Serling aficionado like me roll his eyes or predict what’s coming, and even the weakest story in this issue is still damn fine work.  The Kubert piece is beautiful, and I was moved, entertained, disgusted and frightened by this issue, the mark of a comic that is more than just your average fare.  Ghosts #1 keeps up a long tradition of scary DC (which, though similar phonetically, is not the same as scary EC), smacking me in the head for missing it in the Previews catalog, earning an overwhelming 5 out of 5 stars overall.  Don’t let the price tag scare you, this book is worth every penny, and it more than triple-sized in terms of reading pleasure.

47ronin47 RONIN #1 (Reviewers: Stephen and Matthew)
Writer: Mike Richardson
Artist: Stan Sakai
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Among the best-known tales in Japanese history, the legend of the 47 Ronin and their epic mission to avenge their disgraced master epitomizes the samurai code of honor. It has been said, “To know the story of the 47 Ronin is to know Japan.” Retold through the ages, the legend at last comes to comics in a meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated miniseries from Mike Richardson, Stan Sakai, and editorial consultant Kazuo Koike! Recounting this sweeping tale of honor and violence in all its grandeur, chapter one details the tragic incident that would seal the fate of Lord Asano and set forty-seven of his vassals on a years-long path of vengeance!

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

Saga7-COVER1SAGA #7 (Reviewer: Zach)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letters and Design: Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ smash-hit ongoing series returns! An all-new adventure begins, as new parents Marko and Alana make an unexpected discovery in the vast emptiness of outer space.

BOTTOM LINE: THIS IS THE BOOK YOU ARE LOOKING FOR

If you are to ever come across a person that exclaims, “Comics are only for little kids!” proceed to immediately throw the collected first volume and this issue at them. Saga #7 continues on as a testament to the type of stories that are possible and even better in a paneled-paged format. Vaughan’s words intertwine with Staples’ art to deliver a narrative that is worthy of many awards. The introduction of Marko’s parents has already proved to be an interesting addition to the story that will develop, especially with the ending cliffhanger, in the issues to come. Saga #7 is a must pick up next Wednesday and earns 5 out of 5 stars.

FantasticFour1CoverFANTASTIC FOUR #1 (Reviewer: Matthew)
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Mark Farmer
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letter: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Four adults. Two kids. One “car.” NOW! begins a journey through all of infinite time and space.

THE BOTTOM LINE: AN AUSPICIOUS BEGINNING

This one’s easy:  It’s good, go get it.  Fraction’s magic (as seen in ‘Immortal Iron Fist’ and ‘Hawkeye’) is still working, and Bagley has brought his A-game (and a skilled inker in Mark Farmer) for an excellent 20-odd pages of art.  Heck, the book even costs $2.99!  Fantastic Four #1 probably wouldn’t have been a number one if Marvel wasn’t intent on rebranding with ‘Marvel NOW!’ to keep up with DC, but it picks up right where Jonathan Hickman left off, giving us strong characterization and new twists in the life of the first denizens of the Marvel Universe, earning 5 out of 5 stars overall.  There’s still plenty of life in these characters, and this issue is a perfect kick-off to a new era for the team.

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_698_TextlessAMAZING SPIDER-MAN #698 (Reviewer: Stephen)
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Richard Elson
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel
Cover Price: $3.99
The end of Spider-Man’s world begins when Doctor Octopus discovers who Peter Parker really is.

BOTTOM LINE: MUST BUY!

While many are anticipating the final issue of Amazing Spider-Man, this issue is the must buy issue you will need to pick up today before all of the copies are gone. Dan Slott delivers a story that reads really well, with art from Richard Elson that compliments the shocking moments of the issue. This is a must read book for anyone even remotely familiar with Spider-Man. I was not expecting the big reveal, which really was shocking, and I’m sure readers will be talking about this moment for years to come. All I can say is, “Well done, Marvel. Well done. I hope you have a writer protection program in place for Dan Slott.”

Captain-America-1CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 (Reviewer: Elijah)
Story: Rick Remender
Art: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson
Colors: Dean White
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Thrust into a bizarre, inhospitable world far from home, the all-new, high-adventure, mind-melting, tough-as-nails, sci-fi, pulp-fantasy era of Captain America is NOW! With no country and no allies, what’s left for the Sentinel of Liberty to protect? The Saga of Dimension Z begins here!

BOTTOM LINE:  PICK IT UP LIKE AN AMERICAN FLAG

So far Marvel NOW has give a good share of fantastic comics, and Captain America #1 is among them. If you have any love for Captain America or superhero comics as a genre, then you are doing yourself a disservice by not picking this comic up.

DECEMBER

DS11-Cov-Francavilla1DARK SHADOWS #11 (Reviewer: Brandon)
WRITER: MIKE RAIGHT
ARTIST: GUIU VILANOVA
COLORS: CARLOS LOPEZ
LETTERS: TROY PETERU
EDITOR: JOE RYBANDT
PUBLISHER: DYNAMITE
COVER PRICE: $3.99
As if things couldn’t get any worse, satanic forces are closing in on Collinswood. This time, however, they are not hunting for Barnabas Collins. Who are they coming for and what do they want with the Collins’ bloodline? Only Barnabas’ darkest abilities and urges may give him the strength to save his family. But have those gifts left him as well? Is Barnabas truly not evil enough to prevail?

BOTTOM LINE: YES, ALWAYS!

I seriously considered dropping the book hafted last issue’s art debacle, but I’m all about second chances these days, so I gave this one a whirl and I’m glad I did. After this installment I’m in for a pound on this murder cult story line and eager to see where it goes. It’s one of the laws of the Dark Shadows universe that Barnabas always happens to be cured of vampirism when it’s most inconvenient for him to be a normal human and I really want to see how this one gets resolved. Jump on board the Dark Shadows love train with me and pick up this issue. 5 stars.

Saga8CoverSAGA #8 (Reviewer: Matthew)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letters & Design: Fonografiks
Editor: Eric Stephenson
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Former soldier and new mom Alana has already survived lethal assassins, rampaging armies and alien monstrosities, but now she faces her greatest challenge yet: the in-laws.

THE BOTTOM LINE: GO.  BUY THIS.  GET THE OTHER ISSUES, TOO.

It’s a rare story that manages to be completely unique and utterly familiar at the same time, but this (and frankly, EVERY) issue of Saga pulls off the trick.  There’s even a perfectly rational explanation for a costume change in this issue that works wonderfully and helps to define two of the main characters.  I am flat-out jealous of how effortless this comic book seems, and how excellent the reader experience has been so far.  Saga #8 continues its hitting streak, earning a well-deserve 5 out of 5 stars overall.  I might lose my fanboy card for saying this, but this is a series that might even be better than the Star Wars tales that helped to inspire it.

Hawkeye6CoverHAWKEYE #6 (Reviewer: Matthew)
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
• David Aja returns to the most critically acclaimed comic of 2012!
• The Ace Archer Clint Barton faces DVR-MAGEDDON!

THE BOTTOM LINE: WORTH IT FOR THE DOCTOR DRUID CAMEO ALONE…

Seriously, if you dig a story about a cool guy, you should read this book.  The story of Hawkeye trying to be as awesome in his home life as he is at “work” is a compelling one, and its fascinating to see a superhero who really IS just a regular guy.  (Batman, being a genius hyper-millionaire ninja, probably doesn’t count.)  Hawkeye #6 is another in a series of issues that are on-target, hitting the bullseye and other archery cliches as well, earning 5 out of 5 stars overall.  This is the kind of series that will be remembered years from now as a game-changer…

There you go, Dear Reader, a rundown of the books that received Major Spoilers highest rating for 2012.  It’s a super long list – not quite as long as the entire review list for 2012 – but what does it all mean?  In our final installment, we’ll break the year down by the numbers, and reveal the Major Spoilers Best Comic Book for 2012.