The best comics to read which shipped 1/16/13!
Book of the Week: Saga #9
It should be no surprise by now how good "Saga" by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples is. It has made the "best of 2012" lists for many comic book critics online and in print (if any), including mine. Every issue continues to expand upon the unique (and fearlessly "adult") space universe which has been crafted last year, as well as continues to expand upon the characters therein. Regardless of the wild and bizarre designs for many of the aliens, Vaughan's script never gets lost in "techno-babble" for long and keeps dialogue down to earth and comprehensible. In fact, this issue shifts the focus away from the two lead characters (Marko and Alana) and still manages to succeed.
Picking up from the previous issue, readers were introduced to Gwendolyn, who was the women Marko was engaged to before he became a prisoner of war and ultimately fell for a woman of the warring class. She ends up forming an alliance of circumstance with The Will, who had been hired to assassinate Marko, Alana, and their half-breed daughter, Hazel. Things haven't gone well for Will; his lover The Stalk was murdered in the chase by a rival for the target, and he's currently obsessed with liberating a child sex slave from a porno planet. Aided by Will's "lying cat" (which does what the name suggests), the two wind up liberating the child before heading off on their quest together against the protagonists. The Will has quickly become a "dark horse" character in the series - an antagonist readers genuinely enjoy - and Gwendolyn seems to compliment him well. It may be predictable that the two may wind up as lovers themselves, but it wouldn't altogether be a bad thing.
As always, Fiona Staples' artwork is exceptional. While this is a series that is never shy about graphic violence and nudity (male or female), it isn't taken to extremes that it becomes uncomfortable. Many details may be familiar for us earthlings, but retain a new flair or twist to their design. Some many be delightfully bizarre (the Stalk) while others are simply crudely hilarious (the fetish guards on the sex planet). Too many comics seem to be uneasy about these things, either going to far or not far enough, while this series gets this detail properly in the middle.
The first issue of Saga for 2013 begins the same as the last issue of the series of 2012 ended -excellent. Is it any surprise that virtually every issue of this series has seen a reprint, and the $10 trade of the first six issues is selling like Italian ices during the summer? Anyone who hasn't given this great new series a try should make it a belated new year's resolution to do so.
Archer & Armstrong #6: Fred Van Lente's excellent reboot of an old Valiant Comics property continues along its course of high octane action and hilarious dialogue without missing a beat. New artist Emanuella Lupacchino joins him in introducing a new character to the fold in Kay McHenry, a spokeswoman for a nefarious corporation in Zorn Capital. She winds up making enemies of "The One Percent", who are murderous bankers in bear or bull masks, and may just end becoming the latest figure to embody the earth. This is perfect timing for Archer and Armstrong, as they're busy fleeing from Armstrong's immortal slayer of a brother for accidentally killing the last one. While most of the issue focuses on Kay, it still has the usual flair for crossing humor and mythology that Van Lenta honed during his many years co-writing INCREDIBLE HERCULES. While the $3.99 per issue price may be a turn off for some, the story itself is moving at a faster pace than many "big two" books so one really does get a bang for their four bucks.
Daredevil #22: Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee once again unite for another issue of this Eisner winning ongoing series. While this issue continues the long term subplot between Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson from previous issues, it is very much a loose crossover with "Superior Spider-Man". The wall-crawler has been sicced onto Daredevil's trail by the concerned D.A. Kristen McDuffie, only this isn't your father's Spider-Man; it is Dr. Octopus in Spidey's body. Thus, he almost blows his secret attacking Murdock in broad daylight and talking like a Republic Serial villain. Fortunately, the Stilt-Man turns up to help our heroes patch up. Samnee's art is as terrific as ever and as always, Waid's voice for Murdock practically writes itself. A major secret about Foggy is revealed at the end of the issue, and while it risks soap opera melodrama, it almost seems mundane compared to many comic book tropes. Daredevil continues to be one of the shining jewels of Marvel Comics' current collection; too few superhero comics are as smart and witty as well as beautifully drawn as this.
Also Good Reads: Dark Avengers #185, Indestructible Hulk #3 & Venom #30 (Marvel Comics)