Best of 2017: Best Series

Series

We all love a good one-off or anthology, but it’s the thrill of a series that keeps us coming back to our comic shop week-in, week-out. Whether it’s a brand new creator-owned series or a staple of the big two, serialized storytelling allows for bigger casts, bigger worlds, and bigger adventures. That bigness was on full display this year, as series made grand statement after grand statement about what they were all about. These are our top 10 series of 2017.  Continue reading

Best of 2017: Best Issues

Best Issues of 2017

Episodic storytelling is the name of the game in monthly comics. Month- or even multi-year-long arcs are fine, but a series lives and dies by its individual chapters. From self-contained one-offs to issues that recontextualize their respective series, this year had a ton of great issues. Whittling down those issues to a list was no easy task (and we look forward to hearing how your lists differ in the comments), but we would gladly recommend any (and all) of these issues without hesitation. These are our top 10 issues of 2017. Continue reading

Secret Weapons 0: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

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Patrick: Discovering oneself is an inherently lonely pursuit. In high school, I was discovering my own sexuality, and had left my then-girlfriend to pursue a relationship with this dude from my theatre class. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I ending up nuking that relationship as well, effectively alienating everyone from all social groups I could have ever claimed to be a part of. Looking back on the events, I was surrounded by people who cared deeply about me, but I couldn’t really see them at the time. I saw me, and only me. This was a time that should have been social and should have been about finding my place in a much more interesting world. But that was so hard to see from the perspective of a 17 year old kid who couldn’t stop wrestling with the question “am I gay?” Secret Weapons 0 presents the intense loneliness of self-discovery as an origin story unlike any I’ve ever read. Nikki finds the answers to so many personal questions, but ends up losing just about everything outside of herself. Continue reading

Quantum and Woody 1 is an Assured First Chapter

by Drew Baumgartner

Quantum And Woody 1

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

…story is an apple and plot is the arrow through the apple.

Chuck Wendig, Damn Fine Story

It can be hard to know what a story is about based on its first chapter. Put in terms of the analogy quoted above, it can be hard to guess the shape of the apple when the arrow has only just started to pierce it. At least, assuming the path of the arrow is linear. If, instead, that first chapter jumps around the edges of a story enough, it might start to imply the shape that narrative will ultimately take. Such is the case with Quantum and Woody 1, which skips between various moments in the lives of its titular duo, but always keeps their relationship at its center. Continue reading

Fandom’s Power to Connect in Faith’s Winter Wonderland Special 1

by Spencer Irwin

Faith's Winter Wonderland Special

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Fandom can be a pretty horrifying thing sometimes. A shared passion is often an excuse to harass or belittle others fans, or sometimes even creators, over differences in taste, which is inexcusable, yet practically inescapable. This is far from the way things should be, and that’s something Marguerite Sauvage, Francis Portela, and MJ Kim reminded me of in Faith’s Winter Wonderland Special. Though it’s only a small thread in the issue, the ability of fandom and pop culture to help Faith make meaningful connections is by far the part of this story that resonated the strongest with me. Continue reading

Prologue Cons in Harbinger Renegade 0

by Drew Baumgartner

Harbinger Renegade 0

This article contains SPOILERS! If you haven’t read the issue, proceed at your own risk.

How do we feel about prologues? On the one hand, I can understand why the specific circumstances of the world the story takes place in might need to be laid out ahead of time. On the other, I think stories work best when they find a way to integrate that exposition into the narrative itself. I always feel like prologues take my interest in the story for granted, even though the story hasn’t even begun. It kind of flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that a writer must grab hold and retain the attention of the reader from the very first sentence. More than anything, I’m often frustrated at the fact that, because a prologue essentially exists outside of the narrative, it doesn’t have to play by the rules of good storytelling, drawing me into the world of he story through relatable characters, interesting circumstances, or some kind of clear-cut inciting incident. Or maybe I just encounter a lot of bad prologues (I’d love to hear some examples of good ones in the comments). Either way, Harbinger Renegade 0 definitely frustrated me in those same ways, effectively turning me off to a narrative that ostensibly hasn’t even started. Continue reading

Flipping the Revenge Narrative in Bloodshot Salvation 1

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

What would it take for Bloodshot to settle down? Easy answer, right? Wife and kids. Classic motivators for a cowboy to hang up his boots. We’ve all read enough genre fiction to know what happens next: the quiet of the Bloodshot/Magic Jessie household is violently shattered, sending the hero on a revenge rampage. Hold the phone — writer Jeff Lemire is flipping that trope on his head, instead killing off Bloodshot and making Magic and her daughter the heroes of our story. Continue reading

Secret Weapons 4: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Drew Baumgartner

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

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“There. There it is: too much iron in your blood…”

Magneto, X2

Patrick: Magneto controls magnetic fields. It’s an objectively cool super power, impossibly useful in every situation (and particularly useful against any otherwise unkillable enemy). In X2, Magneto uses this power rip microscopic particles of iron out of his prison guard’s bloodstream. He manipulates the magnetic fields around the resultant bloody cloud until he’s in control of free-flying bullets and hovering platforms. It’s an absurd demonstration of Magneto’s powers. There’s a lot to criticize in the logic of that scene, but it’s hard to fault the giddy enthusiasm. Writer Eric Heisserer and artists Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín show a similar enthusiasm for their characters’ powers. The difference is that they start from a ridiculous premise and work their way to exciting applications.

That’d be reason enough to love the conclusion of Secret Weapons, but Heisserer, Allén and Martín hold the comic book medium in the same high esteem as the goofy powers their characters posses. Just as Avi, Nikki and Owen apply their simple skills in ingenious ways, so too does the creative team master the page with mindblowingly intuitive art. Continue reading

Recursive Redundancy in Faith and the Future Force 2

by Drew Baumgartner

Faith and the Future Force 2

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Hey, how long do you think Bill Murray repeated that day in Groundhog Day? There have been a few attempts to estimate some approximate number, but the only answer that really matters is “a lot.” We don’t need to see every day, or even be told about every day, so long as we get the idea that he’s repeating the day a ton. I mean, can you imagine if even the second day was chronicled in as much detail as the first one? That sounds interminable, but is largely what we get in Faith and the Future Force 2, with the added monotony that the arc of the issue is also more or less identical to the first issue. Continue reading

Hacking a Path to Character in Secret Weapons 3

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS! If you haven’t read the issue, proceed at your own risk.

Short form and episodic storytelling often relies on character tropes – this is doubly true in genre stories, where the character types are so well established. Eric Heisserer, in an incredibly tight three issues (of four total), refuses such predictability, finding exciting, engaging and innovative ways to insist on the very real nature of his characters. Heisserer seemingly has shortcuts into the human psyche, hacking his way in through seldom-used sociological and emotional channels. The whole series premise is about not taking even the dumbest superpowers for granted, but this issue starts to turn to a much more simple mantra: don’t take these people for granted. Continue reading