Cal Cleary's Comic Reviews

Reviewer For: Comics Crux, Comic Booked Reviews: 65
7.0Avg. Review Rating

3.0
Abe Sapien #1

Apr 3, 2013

Theres a good book buried somewhere in here, somewhere near the top. The scenes of a devastated countryside, monster corpses laying around, homeless people trading legends of close encounters and conspiracy theories that are all too true theres some really cool stuff going on at the world-building level, stuff that makes me want to push Hellboy way up my reading list (hopefully, the Hellboy Library Editions will go back in print; those looked gorgeous). But character, pacing, atmosphere? This feels like a first draft.

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6.0
Action Comics (2011) #18

May 10, 2013

Did Morrisons Action Comics run live up to All-Star Superman? No, probably not. It wasnt trying to. In very broad strokes, All-Star Superman was about the super, Action Comics was about the man. Theyre companion pieces that answer the question, Does Superman still matter? with a thunderous, joyful, YES!

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3.0
Age of Ultron #1

Jun 3, 2013

Age of Ultron may one day make an enjoyable trade paperback. It may have an amazing, shocking ending; it may have a really bad-ass tie-in somewhere down the line. I dont know. All I have is whats on the page, and Age of Ultron #1 is a bit of a mess. The pacing is extremely off, much more so than in many of Bendis other books. Its possible that Bendis was more interested in setting a tone than in telling a story. But even if thats the case, the tone is too one-note, the atmosphere too staid to really stand out. Outside of a few very promising moments the opening spread, Hawkeyes reunion with the heroes theres little to recommend this issue.

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6.0
Alpha: Big Time #1

May 10, 2013

Alpha: Big Time #1 is hardly essential, but it is surprisingly fun. Fialkov and Plati work well together, and actually manage to make Andy seem relatable and human even when hes making the most horrific mistakes possible. The book sets up two major conflicts to play out over the course of the mini-series, and thankfully theyre both fairly compelling, while focusing on the difficult task of making us give a crap about Andy Maguire. They dont fundamentally change the character in any way the sense of entitlement is still there in full force but they make it work, and they make you want to read more.

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9.0
Animal Man Annual #2

Aug 1, 2013

It's tough to regain faith in a book that goes off the rails as hard asAnimal Man did, but if there's anything that can draw its faltering fanbase back into the fold, it's an issue like this. Simple, powerful, and beautiful to look at,Animal Man Annual #2 returns to the themes and visual language that helped make the book's opening issues so memorable. Family has always been vital to Animal Man's adventures, and while I disagree with some of Lemire's decisions during his run, I cannot fault the way he's handling the fallout of Cliff's death. Lemire, Foreman and Kindzierski do a fantastic job at bringing Buddy's very human grief into the larger-than-life realm of super heroics and spider-women, grounding the fantastic in the everyday. Moreso than almost any other superhero, Buddy Baker is an everyman, a common guy. That just makes it hurt all the more.

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3.0
Aquaman And The Others #1

Apr 3, 2014

There's nothing particularly egregious about Aquaman and The Others #1, but there's nothing in it that stands out as worth your time, money, or attention, either. Well, let me amend that: There's almost nothing egregious about it. Ending on an advertisement for another book entirely was tacky in the extreme. Everything else about this issue, from the art to the cover to the plot, screams 'practiced inoffensiveness', and while the setup provided could one day provide for some compelling stories, Jurgens does little to sell that potential in this particular issue. Anyone looking for something with a semblance of humanity is advised to look elsewhere.

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8.0
Archer & Armstrong #11

Jul 19, 2013

So, yeah: Archer & Armstrong remains unimpeachably fun, and while Archer & Armstrong #11 is the second part of an arc, it's also a pretty solid place for new readers to jump on. Van Lente has a talent for making most issues new-reader friendly, with a quick, witty tone that builds on what came before without wallowing in it. Solid action, great characters, quotable dialogue – Archer & Armstrong is the perfect ‘hangout' book, a title I'd read even if nothing were really happening except for its leads hanging around a bar goofing off. The fact that it manages to excel, not just as a hangout comedy but also as an action comic, speaks to the talents of Van Lente, Perez, Baron and Bowland. I'm serious: You should probably be reading this book.

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5.0
Batman (2011) #21

Jun 13, 2013

Look, I understand the need to update Frank Miller's iconic, much-lovedBatman: Year One for the modern age, especially with the New 52 explicitly changing pretty much everything about the DCU. It's a good idea. What's more,"Zero Year" has some promise " again, those opening 5 pages herald some awesome stuff to come. But this was a flabby first issue from a storyteller who already has severe pacing issues when he's given too much space to sprawl. I'm not saying that "Zero Year" is going to be a bad story " I suspect this will be a very enjoyable graphic novel one day " but, as an issue of comics,Batman #21 fails to excite.

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6.0
Batman/Superman (2013) #1

Jun 27, 2013

Without Lee's art, it would be just about the most average debut I can imagine. If you like Batman and Superman, you'll probably enjoy this – particularly with the implication that it's going to be the very first team-ups between the two characters, before Bruce even suspected Superman's identity. Perhaps the best comparison possible would be to Batwoman, another book in which spectacular panel lay-outs and startling, evocative splashes of color and darkness so vastly outstrip the writing that it's difficult to figure out how much I enjoyed reading the book vs. how much I just want to blow up certain panels/pages into posters. I can see how this could grow into a thoroughly enjoyable book in the months to come from the seeds planted here – Pak has shown a lot of talent at combining larger-than-life action with strong character work in things like Planet Hulk -but as a debut,Batman/Superman #1 fails to excite.

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5.0
Batman/Superman (2013) #3.1

Sep 26, 2013

Batman/Superman #3.1 was fine. It was pretty much exactly what you'd expect. While it does have some ramifications for the upcoming crossover that will be ravaging the Superman-family titles, fans looking for an interesting standalone story will be disappointing. Hardcore readers may appreciate the tiny hints of world-building in service of whatever world-shattering event is coming up for Krypton, but everyone else can safely avoid this.

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6.0
Black Widow (2014) #2

Jan 27, 2014

While there's a lot to like here,Black Widowstill just isn't coming together. The second issue was stronger than the series' debut, which was fine but largely uninspired, but I'm still having trouble getting too excited for more. While I tend to like Nathan Edmondson's work, Phil Noto's art is currently the series' biggest draw, and there are times when it feels like Noto and Edmondson are working at cross purposes. I still think this can be a very solid title, and seeing the improvement in Black Widow #2 gives me hope that it's moving in that direction, but it still has plenty of hurdles to clear.

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5.0
Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem #1

Jun 17, 2013

Breath of Bones #1 is just way too insubstantial for my tastes, but I'd still highly recommend keeping an eye on the series as a whole. It isn't breaking any new ground, but Niles and Santoro have found the perfect artist for their story, and that counts for a lot. IfBreath of Bonescan figure out exactly what it's trying to say and not get dragged down in details, this could turn into a a very good short series. As is, this is an incredible showcase for Wachter's talents, but the writing lacks a strong voice and the pacing leaves a lot to be desired.

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7.0
Coffin Hill #1

Oct 11, 2013

Coffin Hill is a promising horror debut. It's always difficult to predict if a book will be able to maintain its momentum, especially with a book like Coffin Hill #1, which spends more time setting up Eve and her world than it does the actual story. But that's okay " sometimes, that's enough. Writer Caitlin Kittredge does solid work setting up a number of mysteries, tying them to her central character and (most importantly) making that heroine someone you'd want to follow. She found a heart beneath Eve's tougher, more muted adult persona, and having that point of view, that core personality to build off, is absolutely vital. Combine Kittredge's solid writing with some outstanding art from Miranda and de la Cruz and you've got a winner.

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5.0
Coffin Hill #4

Jan 18, 2014

The characters are solid " Eve is a good, grounding presence, familiar to readers (who are well-acquainted with cops in our fiction) but with a distinctly supernatural twist that works well, and Eve's mother, Nate, and Mel all show some promise. And the setting of Coffin Hill is similarly pretty solid, an old New England ambiance living in the oppressive shadow of something just a little bit off. But none of it is quite cohering just yet, and the issue is compounded by the pacing issues of the series as a whole. Coffin Hill isn't a bad book, but I think it's probably meant to be read as a trade.

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2.0
Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1

May 18, 2014

Maybe The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu will grow into a stronger book " as a mini-series, it should have significantly more focus, though the story as laid-out here isn't terribly exciting " but this was still a disappointing debut issue for a series based on one of Marvel's most underserved heroes.

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7.0
Doctor Spektor: Master Of The Occult #1

May 29, 2014

Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1 isn't a perfect debut by any means, but it's still another feather in the cap of Dynamite's increasingly interesting Gold Key line of comics. I'm a bit nervous about a mid-issue twist that implies crossover coming to the line and I haven't quite made up my mind just yet on artist Neil Edwards, but Waid's script is lively, and he manages to make his asshole protagonist not just relatable in a single issue, but bordering on soulful. And that, to me, is the real strength of the comic. It's easy to give us an exciting adventure in 20 pages, and even easier to just set up an exciting adventure in that time. Getting us to care about a character most of us have never heard of? That's harder, but Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1 rises to that challenge.

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9.0
Elektra (2014) #1

Apr 23, 2014

In cutting all the chaff away from the character and giving us the basis of a solid adventure story, Blackman and Del Mundo finally create a reason to get excited to follow Elektra month in and month out.

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5.0
Fantastic Four (2014) #1

Mar 3, 2014

Fantastic Four#1isn't a bad issue of comics. It's fine. It's got good art, but Kirk isn't exactly a revolutionary talent, and he can't particularly turn a mundane story into something memorable. Robinson hints at exciting things to come " big sweeping character changes, a new status quo, tragedy. It all sounds really interesting. But, if I'm being honest, I'd much read an interestingFantastic Four #1 than an advertisement promising thatFantastic Four#5 is going to be off the hook. Maybe it will be. Robinson was once an exceptional long-form storyteller. That doesn't make me more impressed about this one, though.

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3.0
Forever Evil #1

Sep 11, 2013

Forever Evil #1 just doesn't work. It skips over every interesting, dramatic moment that might give us a little context or character in favor of setting up a plot we've seen a thousand times, often better. An example: Owlman says that, when Earth 3 rebelled against the rule of the Crime Syndicate, they responded by destroying the universe. It's a powerful idea, but just having him say it robs it of almost every bit of drama. Either it isn't true, in which case, who case, or it is true, and we were robbed of the surprise and grandeur of the moment, of a scene that would legitimately define the scale and identity of our villains. That moment, unfortunately, defines the issue, which is more content to tell us about the threats rather than show us what they mean.

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6.0
Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1

Oct 17, 2013

There's considerably more charm present in Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion than in the parent title, I think because (at least so far), Rogues Rebellion has characters, while Forever Evil merely has events. It has a point of view, while Forever Evil has a plot. And while Buccellato doesn't really do anything particularly new with the Rogues in this issue, who have been trapped in the same basic formula since Johns established it, this may be an instance where the reason they aren't being fixed is because they aren't broken. Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1 is slight, but it gives the fans what they want, and does so with relative style.

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5.0
Green Lantern: New Guardians #24

Oct 18, 2013

I'm not really sure what to think about "Lights Out" thus far, which still seems to be trying to sell me the core idea of the series. The basic premise is solid. Relic is a villain with some potential. And yet, thus far "Lights Out" has managed to feel both staggeringly padded and weirdly bloated, its massive scope masking the fact that not much has really happened. That would be forgivable if we got a stronger sense of character than we have so far, or a little more thematic heft, but neither is really occurring. Green Lantern: New Guardians #24 is a small step up from last week'sGreen Lantern Corps and a sizable leap ahead ofGreen Lantern, but "Lights Out" just is not coming together in any meaningful way.

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9.0
Hawkeye Vol. 2 #9

Apr 10, 2013

Flawlessly paced, expertly illustrated, and thrilling to boot, Hawkeye finds Matt Fraction having a blast while David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth are doing career-defining hell, in a just world, genre-defining work together. Hawkeye #9 has the series take a turn for the grim, but even here, the pair understands how to put on a great show. Theres a manic energy to this book, a liveliness that few other mainstream comics can match. Is this the best place to jump on the series? No. But you could, and you should. Hawkeye #9 largely sidelines Clint Barton, and in doing so it finds a way to widen what it can do and say as a series, which, given the sort of fall Fraction seems to be setting Hawkeye up for, might just become necessary.

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10
Hawkeye Vol. 2 #11

Jun 28, 2013

Look, if you read my reviews here regularly, you know I can be a pretty tough reviewer. So I'll let this sentence sum up my opinion: I'm going to stop writing now because I'm embarrassed at how much I'm gushing over this issue.

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6.0
I, Vampire #19

Apr 24, 2013

This isn't the best issue of the series, though it's the first one since the cancellation was announced that actually feels like an issue of I, Vampire, rather than something smaller and simpler. At its best, the book combined super-heroic action with gothic romance in some of the most exciting monthly comics I've read in some time, layering thorough characterization and shocking plot twists with fun, larger than life stories. And while it's sad that I, Vampire's closing arc was so rushed and undercooked, this issue at least manages to achieve some of the wry wit and action that made the series such a pleasure to read.

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5.0
Iron Man (2012) #10

May 18, 2013

Ultimately, Im just not really sure what to make of The Secret Origin of Tony Stark on almost any level. I was a big fan of Iron Man: Believe, the first collection of Gillens run, which combined extremely well-executed plotting and pacing with creative, exciting adventures. It was simple, sure, but it also worked perfectly as an introduction to who Stark is and how he works. Secret Origin is more ambitious I would not be shocked to pick up a trade next year and find that I enjoyed it much more but that ambition came at the cost of clarity. I liked spending time with these characters Rollo and the Bear especially but Iron Man #10 fails to get me invested in Tony Starks origin, no matter how secret it is.

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7.0
Justice League of America (2013) #7.4

Sep 26, 2013

For the most part, however, Johns and Gates nail what works most about Black Adam and his little corner of the world. I've read better issues of comics. I've read better issues this month. But, for just a few pages, Johns and Gates managed to recapture the fading magic of the old DC Universe. Despite its problems " and they aren't small -Justice League of America #7.4is well worth reading.

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9.0
Lazarus #2

Jul 26, 2013

Lazarus #2 manages the difficult task of reiterating the central ideas behind the series – an ultra-wealthy elite split into warring families controls the world, they are protected by seemingly-immortal ‘family' members who may not be exactly what they appear, and tensions are running very high for the Carlyle family – without feeling repetitive. Indeed,Lazarus #2 feels deeper, more complete, on almost every level. While its core theme is nothing particularly new in today's fiction (just about everyone is acknowledging that the rich are getting richer and taking us to hell in a handbasket while they do so), it's still a fairly savvy take on the issues that so dominate the day, told from the point of view of the victors, sitting just high enough above hell that they seemingly don't realize what they've done. Lazarus #1 gave us an interesting premise; Lazarus #2 gave us characters worth following into whatever comes next.

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7.0
Loki: Agent of Asgard #1

Feb 11, 2014

Ultimately,Loki: Agent of Asgard #1 has a ramshackle charm that fits the character well. Despite a few small reservations, this was a good direction to take the book, and if Ewing can stay focused, this could grow into another real winner for one of Marvel's most reliably interesting characters.

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9.0
Magnus: Robot Fighter #3

May 22, 2014

Magnus: Robot Fighter #3 is another step on the smart, modern recontextualization of the character, and when you toss in Smith's excellent art in this issue and some quick, clever background worldbuilding, you've got a winner. This issue may have been primarily a single extended action sequence, but it was still one of the week's smartest comics.

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10
Ms. Marvel (2014) #1

Feb 6, 2014

With Ms. Marvel#1, G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona have created quite possibly the most relatable super-hero origin story since Spider-Man first swung onto the scene in the 1960s.

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7.0
Pretty Deadly #1

Oct 28, 2013

DeConnick has created an interesting world, and she's found the perfect art team to bring that world to life. And, as I say above, the art team manages to create a lot of character through visual cues, which is both difficult and rewarding " it's not like there are no recognizable characters here. But in the long run I think we'll need a little more than that. Still, for a debut, DeConnick's grim Western fairy tail offers readers a lyrical, memorable introduction to what looks like a fascinating world.

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9.0
Pretty Deadly #4

Jan 26, 2014

Pretty Deadly is just flat-out good comics. Given time, it could easily become great comics. Kelly Sue DeConnick has always been a talented writer, butPretty Deadly is like nothing else she's done, and along with excellent work from Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire, she's making something special here. Pretty Deadly#4 lacks the gutpunch originality of the series' debut and the surprising, sure-footed clarity of the third issue, but don't let that fool you: This is yet another excellent issue of a series you should absolutely be reading.

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4.0
Punisher (2014) #2

Feb 21, 2014

Which is not to say that it could never be done! Five years ago, I'd bet dollars to donuts most of us thought a lighter Daredevil book would never work; ten years ago, I suspect few of us thought a noir epic Captain America was possible. Is that what Edmondson's attempting here? If so, I haven't yet been convinced that the Friendly Neighborhood Punisher is quite as coherent or grounded as Waid's Daredevil or Brubaker's Captain America were in both a coherent worldview and the character's own history. Edmondson's take on The Punisher doesn't have that, yet. Outside of some excellent work from Mitch Gerads and a major brand name on the cover, it doesn't have much of anything yet.

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7.0
Quantum and Woody #7

Jan 9, 2014

While Quantum and Woody #7 never quite reaches the manic high of the series' best issues, it continues to build towards what is almost certainly going to be an absolutely insane climax. But it also goes even further in establishing Eric " Quantum " as the heart of the series.

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7.0
Red Sonja (2013) #1

Jul 18, 2013

Simone'sRed Sonja still has a few growing pains to go through, but it's also the writer's best work in some time. Her wry tone fits Sonja's world well, and she displayed a really solid grasp of the setting's particular brand of overwrought speechifying. There's a sense of sheerfun that's been missing from a lot of her work lately, andRed Sonja's blend of dark comedy and brutal violence shows that Simone really was the perfect choice for this book. Red Sonja has always been a character I've felt rather distant from, in all her various incarnations. Whatever problems I have with the issue are dwarfed by the simple fact that Simone has found a beating human heart beneath fantasy's toughest heroine. This is a character I want to follow.

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9.0
Red Sonja (2013) #7

Feb 25, 2014

The sturm und drang of the book's opening arc failed to connect with me on a core emotional level for a variety of reasons, but the biggest was this: Sonja was a hero, rather than a character. Here, Simone and Geovani have found a way to make her both. Indeed, it tookSimone just two or three pages to win me over here. Red Sonja #7 finds Sonja trapped in a job she hates for a man she doesn't respect. She's wants a drink and a fuck and she wants to get paid.

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8.0
Scatterlands #1

Jul 4, 2013

Building and populating these fantastical science fiction settings is one of Ellis' greatest strengths, so a $0.99 ongoing series that promises adventure in a dense, weird alien world is an ongoing series that I'm going to want to follow. Scatterlands #1 isn't deep. It isn't heavy on plot or character. It doesn't have any of the traditional hooks for a modern comic book. But it's still a book you should absolutely try out. Moody, atmospheric science fiction is pretty rare in mainstream comics; moody, atmospheric science fiction done this well is considerably harder to find. Ellis and Howard knew exactly what they wanted to do here, and every element – the colors, the inks, the captions – is geared towards doing that one thing and doing it well.

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8.0
Sex Criminals #4

Jan 15, 2014

This is one book you don't want to trade-wait on. Fraction and Zdarsky hold court on what is easily the best letters column in the industry, where readers share stories about their own ridiculous sexual experiences while Chip and Matt poke fun at them, each other, and the world. Sex Criminals isn't the best book on the shelves, but it is almost certainly the most fun.

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9.0
Shadowman #0

May 1, 2013

I talked earlier about the combination of need, ego and tragedy that forges so many supervillains, and while Shadowman #0 sticks shockingly close to the established formula, they handle it with skill and a creeping sense of dread that fits well with the title. Shadowman is a solid series, especially for those who miss the mystic horror books of old, where men and women dove headfirst into the unknown and paid for their arrogance with blood, and while Shadowman #0 features nearly none of the books recurring cast or plots, its still a great place for new readers to start. Honestly, my biggest complaint is that it was too short I would happily have seen this issue turn into an entire arc, an entire title in and of itself. Heres to hoping Jordan can keep the interest of fans Shadowman #0 surely picks up.

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9.0
She-Hulk (2014) #1

Feb 13, 2014

Often, our comics can fall into repetitious patterns. How many books out of your pull are 1) sci-fi action epics, or 2) grim crime comics with borrowed noir style? I'd be willing to bet it's a considerable amount, particularly if you read Marvel and DC exclusively. But comics can " and should " be much more than that, because one of the best things about superheroes is that they fit in literally any genre, and typically serve to heighten many of the tropes (for better or for worse) already present. I tend to appreciate it when a creative team finds a novel way to approach a potentially staid genre, and Soule does that and does it well. She-Hulk #1 is quick and witty. It's a blast to read. It looks gorgeous. And it's like nothing else you'll read this month.

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9.0
She-Hulk (2014) #2

Mar 6, 2014

This is just good comics, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Soule's scripts are sharp; he's a practicing lawyer, which gives the legal plots more heft than they normally might, but he's also typically a very character-driven writer, which grounds the legalese in relatable (super)human conflicts. Which is good! In many comics, plot is something that happens to the characters. The heroes are almost the antagonists of the story, since they are trying to stop the plot from moving forward. Soule is making sure the action ofShe-Hulk #2 stays focused on She-Hulk and her supporting cast, and stems from who they are and what they want. Like the first issue, She-Hulk #2 is snappy, character-driven, smart, and a joy to read. And it's making a strong case for itself as Marvel's best new ongoing series.

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8.0
Sheltered #1

Jul 11, 2013

Despite a few missteps, Sheltered is a strong debut for a book with a killer premise. Normally, I like a new #1 that gives me some idea as to what the book will be about in a fairly concrete sense – Who are the protagonists? What do they want? What's standing in their way? – but, as I discussed last week, sometimes it's enough to create aworld, and that's something Brisson, Christmas and Chankhamma do incredibly well here. Sure, underfunded survivalist compound Safe Haven doesn't have the immediate hook of Ellis' shattered alien world, but in many ways it's just as broken – and, by the issue's final pages, it's thrown into such chaos that the series has an immediate, gripping hook. I don't know what Sheltered #2 looks like, orSheltered #5, but I do know that, by the end of this issue, I absolutely and unquestionably want to know what's in store for Safe Haven and its surviving residents.

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7.0
Shutter #1

Apr 9, 2014

When Keatinge and Del Duca finally get to the plot in the book's closing pages, Shutter #1 falters a bit. Falters considerably, if I'm being honest. But those first eight pages or so are sheer pulp perfection, a flawless introduction to a character and her world, and the book stays strong for the bulk of the issue. If Keatinge and Del Duca can rediscover that initial energy (or dig deeper into the malaise of the present day) and refocus the book away from stereotypical adventure plotting, Shutter could become something truly special. As is, it's a mostly enjoyable first issue with an incredible amount of potential and a few flaws that could easily send the book careening down a disappointing path.

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10
Silver Surfer (2014) #1

Mar 26, 2014

Silver Surfer #1 is about dualities colliding. The Allreds' bright pop-art depicting a lonely character attempting to prevent genocide; the woman who has done nothing paired with the man who's done too much; the sister who constantly seeks and the sister trying to find contentment; the adventure and the mystery of two very different covers. The way its cartoonish exterior masks a mournful interior lets both aspects inform how we view the other. And while the issue is relatively light on plot, strong thematic work, deep characterization, and an incredible sense of design make Silver Surfer a must-read book.

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5.0
Sinestro #1

Apr 16, 2014

While Sinestro #1 is a stronger debut than the recent Aquaman and the Others #1, it's still only roughly on par with the interesting-but-deeply flawed Batman Eternal #1. Which is to say, there are good ideas here, despite its problems. Bunn's best decision was the give Sinestro a noble goal and set him in opposition to the madness of Lyssa, the unthinking brutality of Arkillo, and the mysterious cruelty of the Pale Vicars. It makes his struggle relatable without dulling the edge that made him interesting in the first place. But the issue itself is too slack, too simple, too small. Bunn, Eaglesham, and Wright have a lot of potential to grow as a team, but Sinestro #1 only sporadically plays to their strengths. Still, like Batman Eternal, it's a book that stands a fair chance of overcoming its flaws with a little time, and it should satisfy Green Lantern fans looking for a little edge.

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9.0
Southern Bastards #1

Apr 30, 2014

There are a number of different things a good first issue can do to really sell the series. The most common (and easiest) are to just dive right into the story or main character, introducing the premise or taking us deep inside the head of someone interesting. While Aaron teases us with both, neither gets very fleshed out in this particular issue. Ultimately, Southern Bastards #1 creates a world worth exploring, regardless of anything else. It is through a strong evocation of place that we can see what kind of book we'll be reading, common themes that will likely pop up. Aaron does a great job at bringing us to the edge there, but a series like this lives and dies on its artist's ability to craft a place that feels real and lived-in, and Jason Latour absolutely knocks it out of the park. Southern Bastards is one to watch.

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7.0
Suicide Squad (2011) #20

May 8, 2013

Suicide Squad is still trashy, but its definitely a step up from the rest of its New 52 run. As a jumping on point, this isnt perfect one fantastic twist with Deadshot definitely loses some of its impact if you havent been reading, and this is a team where the dynamics between members are vital and explosive but Kot does make an attempt to catch new readers up, and hes smart enough to mostly replace flat exposition with character-building dialogue and scenarios. Longtime fans should be reassured: Suicide Squad remains a grim, violent comic. But Kot and Zircher have a talent for mining that darkness for surprising comic effect and excellent twists that suggest that Suicide Squad is heading in some interesting directions.

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9.0
Superman (2011) #23.4

Sep 27, 2013

There's not that much to Kuder's script" and I'm actually okay with that. Unlike many of the Villain's Month issues, Kuder never wallows in despair or violence or horror " this is a straight-up character study. Who was the Parasite before he was the Parasite? I never particularly cared before, but Kuder digs deep to find a wretched knot beneath the character's prickly exterior. For that reason, and for many others, I have to give Kuder a hand. He didn't just make Parasite good; he made it one of THE essential Villain Month issues.

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7.0
Superman/Wonder Woman #1

Oct 10, 2013

Superman/Wonder Woman still has its fair share of problems to overcome; even just one issue in, we end on a cliffhanger of Wonder Woman 'in peril' against Superman's beefy, bone-headed nemesis. But, despite my misgivings, Soule and Daniel turn in legitimately solid work here, putting together a series that I would actually happily check out again. Despite its problems and almost against my better judgment, I have to say: Superman/Wonder Woman #1 is a good start to what could be an excellent new adventure. It still doesn't sell Superman and Wonder Woman as a romantic pairing that makes any sense outside of a WB exec's head, of course, but" y'know, baby steps.

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8.0
Supurbia Vol. 2 #9

Jul 11, 2013

With an elevator pitch like “Desperate Housewives:Justice League Edition”, it's easy to dismissSupurbia. I'd urge you not to. There aren't many comic writers working right now who are quite as good as Ms. Randolph at building and sustaining high-stakes, character-driven drama – and make no mistake about it, high-stakes, character-driven drama is at the very heart of what most superhero comics do. Supurbia is a well made, thoroughly enjoyable superhero comic that found a novel way to approach old struggles. This is one of the very rare books that I feel comfortable recommending to pretty much everyone, a smart, well-written comic that knows how to ground story in powerful, interesting characters.

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9.0
Swamp Thing (2011) #23.1

Sep 25, 2013

I admit to some trepidation when I checked this issue out. Early issues ofSwamp Thingrevealed Arcane to be such a bland baddie that the thought of yet another issue following him filled me with a not inconsiderable amount of premature boredom. But, as I read, I found myself genuinely disturbed, genuinely shocked, genuinely enthralled. This is exactly whatSwamp Thing needed to be relevant again " a must-read for lapsed fans or interested newcomers.

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5.0
The Fearless Defenders #2

Mar 13, 2013

To get back to my initial question one last time, what do you look for in a second issue? Fearless Defenders #2 reinforces the strongest aspects of the first issue and improves on the weakest. Its reiterates all the important information from #1 without beating us over the head with it. I still dont love it, but I cant dismiss it. After the first issue, I was resigned; after this one, Im eager for more. Which, really, is the best thing a second issue can possibly do.

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7.0
The Green Hornet (2013) #1

Mar 27, 2013

The Green Hornet #1 is a very solid gateway to the character. If this exact book was published by Marvel or DC, Id be willing to bet that it would quickly become the next big thing. The noir-tinged art, the fantastic gimmick that lets the character walk a narrow line between hero and anti-hero this has everything it needs to become a big success for Dynamite. Its a bit rushed, sure, just a little too cluttered, but its still an extremely well-crafted, enjoyable launch for a title that every Batman fan should check out.

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6.0
The Movement #1

May 1, 2013

Its a killer premise. The Movement #1 is a rare, cant-miss book, the kind of ambitious, realistic storytelling you almost never see from Marvel or DC. Now, it just needs to become a good one, too.

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5.0
The Movement #5

Oct 7, 2013

For what it's worth, that remains true. There's an incredible amount of potential still present, but I become less convinced with each passing issue that that potential will ever be truly explored " and less patient about waiting for it. I respect what Simone and Williams are trying to do here, but it just isn't working. It's still ambitious. It's still fascinating. It's still just not very good.

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4.0
The New 52: Futures End #1

May 8, 2014

Ultimately, Futures End is tough to judge. By most standards, the series is opening far stronger than DC's other big weekly, the surprisingly clumsy Batman Eternal. Zircher is an excellent artist, and the series has a deep bench of talented writers. But Batman Eternal has, if nothing else, a strong thematic hook that makes it feel vital even when the writing is off, and an expansive cast that gives it a suitably epic feel. Futures End " at least as I can see thus far " is about as bog-standard as can be, saying little and saying it with a minimum of style.

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10
The Wake #1

May 30, 2013

The Wake #1 is an excellent little mood piece that sets up an epic, century-spanning story. I genuinely dont know how the brief bookends will come into play, but Im definitely interesting in finding out. This is just good, smart, solid storytelling, giving us characters we care about and a weird, surprising, creepy situation. I have my problems with Snyders work, but The Wake is just good, period, nothing else to say. Snyder wants to make you afraid of the deep waters, where the weird things live and the light doesnt reach. If this is any indication, hell be incredibly successful.

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6.0
Thor: God of Thunder #18

Feb 3, 2014

After the lackluster year-long Godbutcher arc " kept aloft mostly by Esad Ribic's unambiguously excellent art " Thor: God of Thunder has settled down a bit. It's always been a well paced book, and a brief piece at the end of this particular issue highlights just how well Aaron has planned his arcs and suggests where the book will be going in the future. What's more, Thor: God of Thunder remains one of the most beautiful books on the shelves. While I still have reservations about the title overall, Thor: God of Thunder #18 is a fun issue. Even people who have given up on the series will probably enjoy this slight but likable fantasy.

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9.0
Uncanny Skullkickers #1

Feb 27, 2013

Making comics that are this much fun is surprisingly difficult. It requires everyone involved in the creation to be on roughly the same page, to have the same basic vision, something the Uncanny Skullkickers crew doesnt seem to have any trouble with at all. Anyone with a fondness for classic fantasy storytelling monster gods, talking swords and all owes it to themselves to check out this smart, savvy love letter to a genre that just doesnt get the recognition it deserves.

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7.0
Uncanny X-Men (2013) #1

May 10, 2013

So, a promising (if slightly flawed) debut. People who arent enjoying the current direction of the X-Men franchise or who find themselves frustrated by Bendis writing tics wont be won over by this issue, but it pulls off the difficult feat of complementing All-New X-Men without requiring it. Theres nothing new or novel about making the X-Men (ugh) a hated and feared minority group once more, but Bendis unique sensibility proves to be a good fit for the characters.

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9.0
Unity #1

Nov 14, 2013

Unity #1 does pretty much everything right. It manages to unite an incredibly disparate group of heroes and villains against another hero, all without betraying anything we know about them previously " and it does so in a surprisingly exciting first issue. I've seen, time and time again, so many 'team-up' books like this fall flat because they spent their entire first issue 'getting the gang together', a dramatically inert trope Kindt avoids by setting up an explosive situation and then forcing his characters (on all sides of the conflict) to react quickly and decisively. It checks off many of the plot points you'd expect to see in a book like this " with one darkly comic surprise excepted " but never feels rote. Indeed, Unity feels alive and vital in the best way possible.

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9.0
Unity #3

Jan 21, 2014

If you're only reading one Valiant book, Unity might be the one. A team-up book is a tough sell for new readers, in some ways, but Unity is, thus far, a tightly plotted, wonderfully paced adventure that will keep you guessing " and keep you intrigued, regardless of what other books you're reading. Add in Doug Braithwaite and Brian Reber contributing rock solid art (and putting forth a strong argument that Unity is Valiant's best-looking book), and you have a winner. I don't know if Kindt can maintain the strong combination of whiplash-inducing pace and evenhanded action, but as long as he keeps it up, Unity will be one of the best superhero books on the shelves.

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7.0
Wonder Woman (2011) #19

Apr 17, 2013

Over the last year, Brian Azzarellos Wonder Woman has quietly become DCs best title, a smart, ambitious action story thats built a fantastic new supporting cast for the Amazing Amazon and kept the character firmly entrenched in mythology both Greek and, in a brilliant twist, Kirbys epic Fourth World. Wonder Woman #19 isnt a particularly great issue of the series, but it does a fantastic job of showing us just how fragile Wonder Womans band of allies is and just how pronounced the forces arrayed against them are. To say that this issue, primarily set-up for the big conflicts to come, is akin to Azzarello moving pieces around on a chess board in preparation for a big move would be insulting; one of the primary charms of Wonder Woman (and of this issue in particular) is that it never feels like the plot is railroading the characters, but that the characters are so well-defined that everything that happens feels like a natural consequence of their personalities.

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8.0
Wonder Woman (2011) #23.1

Sep 19, 2013

Despite one or two missteps*, this is just a really solid issue of comics, and one that makes a compelling argument in favor of aManhunter series. The DCnU is a grim, violent place; watching a clever-but-unpowered U.S. Marshall try to navigate its darkest waters was, quite frankly, an absolute blast. This is exactly the sort of thing Ostrander does well, like a flip-side to his classicSuicide Squad run, and it was the first Villain's Month issue I've read that's left me clamoring for more.

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10
Young Avengers (2013) #4

Apr 24, 2013

Young Avengers #4 is a shot of adrenaline, exactly what the book needed to keep people coming back for more. Whip smart, gorgeously illustrated (McKelvie, Norton and Wilson make a fantastic team), and all-around bad ass, this is the Comics of Cool at its most breezy and fun. But dont mistake breezy and fun for low-stakes or light-hearted. The tension is rising. Thankfully, with the team all together well, almost; Speed wont return until #6 there are more personalities than ever for the characters to bounce off, and that gives the book a manic energy that makes Young Avengers #4 a must-read for anyone even remotely on the fence about the title.

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