End of the year reviews (Clearing off the desk)

I have to say that I really enjoyed reading comics this year. There were tons of great books, both new and old. The same can be said of creators. Some people I’ve loved for years and a bunch of people that are new to me.
Before I take off for the holidays I wanted to get a last blast of reviews up and try to make my desk a workspace I can use again.

EX-MACHINA DELUXE EDITIONS Volumes 1 and 2
Wildstorm

Brian K. Vaughan has become a staple in the comics world and is a truly gifted writer with a vision and execution of vision that is both unique and refreshing. EX-MACHINA, originally in out in 2004. Vaughan introduces us to a modern but different Earth where the first superhero is a man named Mitchell Hundred. Hundred was a civil engineer until a strange occurrence left him with the ability to communicate and even influence machines and all thing mechanical. Being a boy who grew up reading comics he eventually decides to become a hero. He eventually gives up heroics for politics after an attack on New York devastates the city and he feels that he can do more as mayor.
The tale is told in a combination of flashbacks retelling his hero days and the present with Hundred dealing with all the thing that go along with being Mayor of the coolest city in the world.
The series deals with things that should be on everyone’s minds. The nature of sacrifice, being true to one’s self, the reality of politics and the way the world is and why.
Smart, funny and thought provoking this is no typical men in tights book. Vaughan is working wonders here, Tony Harris is spectacular on both the covers and interiors. It’s actually worth going through without reading just to take the art in.
This collection is wonderful in the Deluxe Format and I love the extras, which include sketches and scripts.
Buy Ex Machina, Vol. 1 (Deluxe Edition)
Buy Ex Machina Deluxe Edition Book Two

FLASH VS. THE ROGUES
DC Comics

This is a collection of the first encounter between Flash and his rogues gallery members. A great book back and some stories that are hard to find. The best rogues gallery of any superhero these bad guys really do deserve a book of their own. With stories from John Broome (Writer) and Carmine Infantino (art) this is a group of ten stories every Flash fan needs to won. I really liked the Captain Boomerang origin and that alone made this worthwhile as far as I’m concerned.
Classic Flash at it’s best.
Buy Flash vs. The Rogues

GREEN LANTERN: AGENT ORANGE
GREEN LANTERN CORPS: EMERALD ECLIPSE
DC Comics

DC is blasting the DC universe wide open with Blackest Night and these tow trade collections are a part of the lead up to the main event.
Agent Orange gives us the story of the Orange rings, the rings powered by Avarice (Greed). Larfleeze is really the only one, but he makes avatars of ring energy of the foes that he has killed so his army varies in size and power. Larfleeze is deep in the Vegan system and the guardians had promised to leave the sector off limits and leave him alone. But with war coming, treaties are void and the Lanterns enter the Vegan system and encounter yet another color of lantern and rings.
Geoff Johns is once again writing some really exceptional tales here and when it’s all said and one I think this whole saga will become a legend in comics.

Peter Tomasi adds to the saga with Green Lantern Corps and more of the prelude to Blackest Night. Mogul has taken over the Sinestro Corps and is on Daxam.
By the time this is done the Guardians have crossed a line they can’t justify to at least some of the green lanterns. Sinestro has confronted his daughter and the natives of Daxam have become super powered. Non of this bodes well for what is coming….

if you are following Blackest Night, you need these book.
Buy Green Lantern: Agent Orange
Buy Green Lantern Corps: Emerald Eclipse

JLA: DELUXE EDITIONS (Vols 1 and 2)
DC COMICS

DC has re-issued JLA in Deluxe Editions featuring the Grant Morrison stories that brought the JLA back to being the super-team it was meant to be. I’ve read the Justice League in one form or another as long as I can remember. My favorite memories of being a kid were coming home from the drug store on Saturdays with a 100 page spectacular for 60 cents with a pile of candy bars and getting lost for a few hours. The only run I really didn’t like was the whole Detroit thing. I felt like I was being force fed too many minor players. While some grew on me i didn’t like that period and it’s ending was too long in coming. The Giffin years were fun and I love the reprints.

That said, I love the way Morrison brought the League back to being the major power house it was meant to be. Better organized, fighting more major threats and operating more openly. The concept of the big seven, reinforced by extra heroes was spot on. At its core the JLA was always most fun to read when it included Wonder Woman and Batman and Superman. Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter always made it feel like a legacy group.
The restart incorporated the end of the previous incarnation with Metamorpho getting pretty screwed up. It also had Superman in his energy being form which I never quite got, though Morrison took the players he had to work with the way they were and really ran with it. He also had a Batman at the end of his Urban legend phase. Batman being more Earth bound worked for the book, it brought to the surface just what a great strategist he is and really shows off why he’s involved.

Volume One sees the JLA facing off against a group of aliens who claim to want to make the Earth all it can be, though at what cost is the question of course. The twist at the end was great fun and reared it’s head again later on. This is followed by war among angels on Earth which gives us Zauriel. The League are soon looking for new members and just as the new Green Arrow comes on board they are attacked by a more crazy more powerful Key. We end Volume 1 with a battle against the menace of Starro in a telling of the new JLA’s origin.

Volume two keeps the pace moving fast as a newly formed group of super villains attack, headed by Luthor they are organized and more effective than they have ever been. This war includes some great time travel stuff, and a battle with a futuristic Darksied. Just as thing cool off and open the new Watchtower moonbase to reporters they are attacked by a new foe, Prometheus. Deadly and ready to rumble Prometheus starts out really kicking some ass, including new members Steel and Huntress and Plastic Man. Volume 2 sees the JLA beat the new villain and then ends with a WildC.A.T.S. crossover that is pretty fun.

Howard Porter did some great work here and with the scope of the series it really allowed him plenty of chances to show off.

If you didn’t get a chance to read these when they came out, or even if you did, these deluxe Editions are really nice. Compared with the cost of trade paperbacks the price is wonderful for these larger hardcover editions.
Buy JLA Deluxe Edition Vol. 1
Buy JLA Deluxe Edition Vol. 2

JUSTICE LEAGUE of AMERICA: WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
DC COMICS

I was never a fan of the Milestone characters and when DC announced they were bringing them back i was underwhelmed to say the least. Justice League books are always on my must read list and so i read this crossover with the Shadow Cabinet from Milestone with a bit of skepticism.
Well, as it turns out the right writer can work magic and Dwayne McDuffie did an awesome job of bringing these characters into the main DC Universe. The Milestone crew are on the JLA’s satellite to steal an artifact that will restore power to one of the members of their group. Naturally we get a huge battle royal which is totally riotous and fun. Soon after batman, Wonder Woman and Supes leave the group and we see some story line that will help lead to the new league. With Black Canary leading the troops there is a different vibe, but its interesting and the dynamics work for great story telling.
Ed Benes is, as always, terrific on the art. He does such a great job of making these heroes seem like the super beings they are without being ridiculous. And he has a great eye for detail that reminds me a bit of George Perez.
Buy Justice League of America: When World’s Collide

PUNISHER: DARK REIGN
Marvel

Punisher Max has always been a strong title with great writing and great art.
Punisher tales set in the proper Marvel Universe are hit or miss. Lately there have been more hits. Matt Fraction is great on Punisher. The latest run by Rick Remender with Jerome Opena has been loads of fun.
Remender has brought back some of the cool elements of the character and done it without it seeming redundant.
In Dark Reign Frank is going after Harry Osborne and the forces running the US these days. His first attempt almost kills him and he saved by a new ally, a computer hacker who manages to help Frank to really step up his game. he acquires tech cast off by heroes and villains and uses it to gain an advantage.
Ass kicking thorough out this is a really fun book and look forward to more Punisher by Remender.
Buy Punisher: Dark Reign TPB

SGT. ROCK, THE LOST BATTALION
DC Comics

I’m a huge fan of comics and movies that are about WWII. I can re-watch the DVDs over and over. Band Of brothers is one of my favorites. And that is what this reminded me of.
The LOST BATTALION is based on a true story and actual events. Billy Tucci, who did both the writing and art, uses Rock and Easy Company to tell the story. The 141st Infantry are trapped in the Vosges mountains and the Germans are quite enjoying having them trapped. What transpires is the things myths are made of as these men not only survive but eventually triumph. if you can consider surviving a triumph.
This works on a number of levels. The obvious thing to strike first is the sheer heroism of these men. It also goes to show just how brutal war is and ultimately futile it seems. And while these soldiers fought for the US, at that place and time they were most likely fighting to live through it and protect their comrades.

Tucci has done a beautiful job with this book and taken what could have been just another action book and made it a true heroic tale that will need to be read repeatedly.

TERROR INC.: APOCALYPSE SOON
Marvel Max

Terror was kind of a forgotten book from the eighties that was nothing really special. It’s been revamped and brought under the Max umbrella at Marvel which means more violence and “adult” situations. it also means that it’s a lot more fun.
Terror has been around for a long time, cursed/blessed with the ability to regenerate his body from the parts others. In his current incarnation he operates as a freelance agent, working for various people. In this run he is hired to go into a lab and get a virus, one that is ages old. It gives great chance to show flashback parts of his tale and the action is non stop though out. David Lapham really seems to be enjoying himself here, and I know I did.
Buy Terror, Inc.: Apocalypse Soon TPB

ULTIMATUM: X-Men and Fantastic Four
Marvel

When Marvel first brought out the Ultimate line I thought it was a gimmick to retell stories and make money. i did change my mind and I have enjoyed much of what has come in the line. I think part of it is my love of Alternate Earth stuff.

It looks like after more than a few years of the line they are revamping and this collection leads into that.
Magneto has screwed up Manhattan in a big way making Mutants outlaws big time. With members dead and people after them for vengeance the X-men are on the offensive evey page of this story. It’s written well enough though it doesn’t quite have the magic the series had when it started.
The Fantastic Four portion of this book was great. Reed is MIA as is Johnny. Sue is in a coma and not doing well after maxing her power to save New York. Ben does what he needs to do and helps to save Sue. This leads for the search for Johnny and Reed which is in part a wonderful adventure in Atlantis.
I don’t know why, but I really love the Ultimate Fantastic Four. I can’t quite put my finger on and I still love the original (usually). there is something about the writers working on this title that opens up a sense of fun and adventure that really translates well on the page. I liked both parts, but the Fantastic Four story is the standout here.
Buy Ultimatum: X-Men/Fantastic Four TPB