When many of us think of comic books, our mind will usually go straight to super heroes. We all know Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men, even before we started reading comics. They’re in the movies, they’re on TV, and they were often part of our childhood.Those of us interested in picking up a comic book will often head straight toward our favorite hero or heroine at our local comic shop or book store. But on our way there we will pass a large quantity of comics we have never heard of before. Comics that don’t feature a man in tights. Comics featuring obscure people in obscure situation. Comics that will all look the same to us as we browse the book stands, and will usually get passed over. I’m here to tell you that, although you may have come to comics because of the heroes, there are some incredible series running that you have probably never heard of. And I’m going to try to guide you to what you should pick up, and steer clear of, as a new reader.
August was a big month for comics. We had so many #1 issues come to us this month. Archer and Armstrong #1, Gambit #1, Hawkeye #1, Think Tank #1, Infected #1, Harvest #1, and a few weekly series that took advantage of the five new comic book Wednesdays in August. Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #1 through #4, and Deadworld: War of the Dead #1 though #5. So where should you have started reading comics in August? Let’s take a look.
The First X-Men #1 Published by Marvel comics
I can’t speak for everyone, but the X-Men is where I started reading comics. I always loved the movies, video games, and TV series, so I thought in turn I would also love the comics. I was right, although I came to an abrupt realization that the X-Movies were not the same as the X-Comics. I have come to terms with that fact, understanding that it’s okay for comic based movies to be their own stories. What does confuse me is when new comic books are written to coincide with movies that were loosely based on that comic franchise. And that is what brings us to the series at hand, The First X-Men.
You may or may not know that there is an X-Men movie coming to theaters called The First X-Men. This new X-Movie is a sequel to last year’s X-Men: First Class. Well this comic book takes place before the events of First Class, which were very very loosely based on the comic series. And this is also where new readers need to be careful with any issue #1. The book is a mediocre read, putting any sort of personal problems I have with how it fits with X-Continuity aside. The art is okay, but it really is nothing outstanding. Neither is the script, or the story line in general. Marvel and writers Neal Adams and Christos Gage really took a pretty mediocre stance on this whole comic if you ask me. But, if you like X-Men and you are fresh off the new X-Men movies, this series is a decent place to start reading. What scares me is that it is only 5 issues long, and may have no impact in the X-Men universe after it is finished. I suggest reading #1, and deciding whether or not to continue reading the series from there.
Art: 7/10 Script: 7/10 Parental concern: Moderate. Violence.
Dead World: War of the Dead #1-#5 Published by IDW comics
This time in comics and popular culture in general there are two big phenomenons in the mystical creatures genre: vampires, and zombies. Here we have another zombie comic. But unlike other zombie comics, the way this one is drawn and colored really reminds me of horror movies. It has a unique unpolished sketch aspect to the drawings. And the coloring has that eerie, green, red and black blotchiness to it. The art itself was the main reason I decided to read this series. But I also feel the need to warn you that the characters can be hard to follow because they are very unpolished, alongside the messy (yet unique) sketch and color style.
The story is compelling to new readers because it starts off with action and makes introductions throughout the remainder of the series. But, it doesn’t take long to realize you’re now part of a universe that’s been established already. And that’s where you can start to feel lost. But, I do think the narrator of the story leads you through explanations of what brought zombies to the world this time around. The amount of information used from previous series of Deadworld in War of the Dead isn’t quite enough for me to tell you not to give it a try. It is a unique take on the zombie horror genre. But, I can’t shake the feeling that I still can’t put a face to most of the names in the series. That’s the only problem with the art style with a story of depth like this. Not being able to tell who you’re looking at causes disconnection from the characters. All of that aside, If you like The Walking Dead, zombies, and horror movies in general, you will most likely enjoy this series.
Art: 7/10 Script: 6/10 Parental concern: High. Blood, gore, violence, language.
Hawkeye #1 Published by Marvel comics
Fresh off the Avengers movie, a character who had a rich history needed his own series. He gained a brand new following with the movie, and brought new life for return readers. This comic is exactly what he needed. I for one don’t know a whole lot about Hawkeye, so I was especially intrigued by this story.
The first page is thrilling, a ton of action right off the bat, with a touching story of a man with a heart of gold and no super powers. We finally get to delve a bit deeper into who Hawkeye really is, what really bothers him, and how he feels for his fellow man, and dog. The art is a beautiful almost throwback style, and flowed well with the tone of the story. There is very little for me to say about this comic. If you enjoyed the Avengers movie, or any other Avengers comics, or are still fairly new to all of this, you must read this comic now! That’s right, I’m giving Hawkeye #1 a must read!
Art: 8.5/10 Script: 9.5/10 Parental concern: Moderate. Violence.
Gambit #1 Published by Marvel comics
There are a few Marvel characters who are in for some well deserved, solo attention. Hawkeye was one, and Gambit is another. If you know X-Men, you know Remy Lebeau is Gambit, the mutant with the ability to charge objects with explosive energy. His signature weapon of choice is a stack of playing cards he throws after charging. Although he didn’t appear in the X-Men trilogy, he did appear in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He has been around in X-Men: Legacy, but after a while he started to lose more and more of the spotlight. He is a beloved character with rich history. He’s a woman charmer and an expert thief. This new series is indeed, well deserved.
So, did writer James Asmus and penciler Clay Mann do Gambit justice? I can say the story is incredibly investing. Asmus did a great job capturing the feel of Remy. At the very least, what a newbie like me believes is the feel of Remy. The artwork is very clean and consistent, easy on the eyes, just like our hero. Those aspects of the comic really leave nothing to be desired. But if you have not been following X-Men: Legacy, you might find yourself with a few head-scratchers. It doesn’t rely too much on back story, but there are a few references to current events in the X-Men universe. If you have been following X-Men in any of it’s many book forms, this should be a smooth ride for you. The hints to previous events are meant to invest existing fans. But the story is so well told, if you want to read about Gambit, this new series is a really great starting point for you.
Art: 8.5/10 Script: 8/10 Parental concern: Mild. Violence.
Archer & Armstrong #1 Published by Valiant Comics
Valiant Comics, a publisher from the 90’s that recently relaunched, has been abuzz since their first relaunch titled X-O Manowar. As I have strongly urged in last month’s Comics for Noobs, X-O Manowar, Harbinger, and Bloodshot are all perfect series for the new or returning comic reader. This month, though, Valiant has offered us their fourth relaunch title, Archer & Armstrong.
Archer & Armstrong was a fun yet serious comic about a young martial artist, raised to go on a “holy quest” to quell an unspeakably evil man. In his journey though New York to seek out this unspeakable evil force, he meets Armstrong, a 10,000 year old, boozing bar bouncer. It has action, suspense, intrigue and humor that are all very well placed. I had a great time reading this comic, the writing is great and the artwork is top notch. The only problem I had with it was it is a very rushed comic. We meet a slough of characters, see a ton of places, and are introduced to international conspiracy in a very small space. Not to say the comic was not enjoyable, but you may find your head spinning by the end. Besides that, this is a great comic for new readers!
Art: 9/10 Script: 7.5/10 Parental concern: Mild, Violence
Think Tank #1 Published by Image Comics
Science and comics have been a match made in heaven since the dawn of comics. There have been so many scientific minds in comics over the years. Now, Matt Hawkins (writer) and Image Comics are attempting to add another great scientific mind to the mix. In Think Tank our “hero” is a cocky, young genius working in a military think tank designing weapons of war. Only Dr. David Loren, doesn’t like the idea of making things that kill. But a new authority has stepped into the facility where he studies, or goofs off all day, rather. Colonel Mark Harrison gives David an ultimatum, get to work or get out. And Dr. Loren proves he’s got a few ideas up his sleeve, but achieving his goals will get him in a load of trouble.
Think Tank was really well written, funny and smart. Not too much mumbo-jumbo, not too little information. The artwork by Rahsan Ekedal is phenomenal, black and white, hard outlines and detailed shading. The story is very compelling to new readers, who will find themselves immediately invested in this character. If you like war and crime movies and TV, and probably even if you like the Iron Man movies, you will probably find yourself at home with Think Tank.
Script: 8/10 Art: 8/10 Parental concern: Moderate, Violence, Language
Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #1-#4 Published by Marvel Comics
Deadpool is an amazing character. He has the ability to heal any body part. He also seems to have unlimited access to guns and explosives. He’s a hilarious and brutally violent character. Interested? Well, maybe don’t start with the weekly series Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe.
The premise of the short weekly series is that, well, Deadpool kills every single super hero and super villain in the Marvel Universe. A pretty large feat for 4 issues. Unfortunately, I think that the series was much too short. Although Deadpool is pretty awesome, he mops the floor with every heavy-weight Marvel has, usually in one page or less. It’s a cool idea, and it was pretty upsetting to see him make mincemeat of my favorite heroes. But really, being so short the series comes across as fluff, it carries no weight. Not only that, but Cullen Bunn (writer) doesn’t catch the magic that is Wade Wilson. Not only that, but the art by Dalibor Talajic is decent, but pretty mediocre. If you are interested in Deadpool, this series does not portray him in the proper light.
Art: 7/10 Script: 6/10 Parental concern: High. Violence, blood and gore.
New story arcs in ongoing series:
Batman #12: Was a gorgeous comic that takes the series in a new direction, perfect place to jump on.
Amazing Spider-Man #692: Was a good place to start, but the story really wasn’t up to par with the rest of the series. Nonetheless, perfect for the new reader.
Fairest #6: The current arc of the Fables offshoot has finished, leaving #7 as a great place to start reading.
I have some honorable mentions! I covered Revival #1 in my last column, and I can say Revival #2 was even better! A great series for any reader! Hero Worship #1 from July was also a very cool comic, and #2 follows up with even less corny super hero stereotypes. On the note of Amazing Spider-Man, #692 was a great place to start, but the previous story arc starting at #688 was the perfect place to start. If you can get your hands on #688-#691, I highly recommend it! I hope this all helps you comic newbies out there. Just remember, we’re on this journey into comic-book-dom together, and I promise it’s going to be a great time! Come back here in two weeks for more reviews!