The world is utter chaos. The American government is in complete disarray- seeds of corruption being uncovered on a daily basis as predators of a sexual and financial nature prowl about freely. Tensions with enemies to the east are at an all time high, the Koreans to the North stand ready to unleash hellfire at any moment- or at least when they finally figure out physics- and the Ruski’s operate in a shadow so close to the light we wonder why they even bother hiding anymore. The United States has never been so divided, each citizen firmly entrenched in opposing states of chaos without any sign of empathy nor compromise.
Is this the plot to DC’s Doomsday Clock? Is this the real world? It’s both!
Up until now I haven’t lived in a time that was so unwavering in disarray, which makes escapist entertainment like comic books more important in my life than ever before. I am not saying it’s good to stick your head in the sand- it’s not and you should stay involved in the world around you- but goddamn sometimes you need to leave the world of incomprehensible tweets and sexual deviancy for superheroes standing up to such depravities or to a galaxy far, far away where there are those who actually do something to inflict change rather than fire-off an angry tweet.
Luckily, November was an incredible month for comics. Outside the panels, Thor: Ragnarok hit theaters and blew everyone away as Marvel’s God of Perfect Hair traded in Nordic melodramatics for a downright hilarious two hour adventure through space. The Punisher landed on Netflix with a perfectly binge-worthy first season that may have missed the mark on a few occasions, but brought to life the brutality of Frank Castle in a way we’d never seen before.
DC, however, apparently learned nothing from Wonder Woman or lives to let us down because Justice League was barely watchable- but at least it was better than Batman v. Superman, and we all know my feelings on that heap of shit.
Inside the panels, the two super-power publishers continued to build off their respectful relaunches with wonderful titles that simultaneously hearken back to the glory days their characters while examining those heroes in a 2017 contextual lense. Although Marvel has yet to address any of the major reveals from Legacy #1 the series themselves continue to be incredibly enjoyable reads as more mainstay series hit their Legacy runs in November.
On the flipside of the comic book world, DC took a slight break from their Batman-centric Metal to launch the looooong awaited Doomsday Clock- which finally finishes the story of how the Wathcmen will fold into the DC Universe, a story that began in 2015 with the launch of Rebirth.
My stack of must buy books was smaller this month, from 17 to 12, however the competition was much tighter. Choosing just five to feature forced me to re-read all 12 comics multiple times to really pin down the best. If you think I overlooked a great book or I am too much of a Marvel fanboy, feel free to chirp me on twitter! (Where I will inevitably dismantle you in 140 characters, no need for the full 280).
Must-Buy Comics from November:
5. The Despicable Deadpool #289
Written by Gerry Duggan
Art by Scott Koblish
Colors by Nick Filardi
Letters by VC’s Joe Sabino
I think it’s more than simple coincidence that Marvel Legacy has reunited Cable and Deadpool just as the hype-train for Deadpool 2- featuring the merc with a mouth and the time traveling mutant on screen together for the first time- hits warp speed. Whether truly a coincidence or a sly attempt at building excitement for the movie, Deadpool and Cable’s recent adventure is a laugh-out-loud, insanity riddled fair that stands among Fabian Niecza’s classic 2004 run with the two characters.
Fans of Niecza’s books will surely enjoy this run as Brian Duggan masterfully blends Deadpool’s un-ending hilarious chatter with Cable’s dead serious demeanor to heighten the comedy of each scene- especially as this issue concludes. #289 has it all- lava fueled interrogations, mexican standoffs with clones from the future, nuclear bombs leveling New York City, dinosaurs, vampires, vampire-dinosaurs, and even a vampire Deadpool, all of which play out with bellowing laughs thanks to killer one-liners written by Duggan and the over-the-top gore illustrated by Scott Koblish and Nick Filardi.
Seeing Deadpool with his intestines falling out while riding a velociraptor wielding a severed raptor leg (or has he deems it a “knife foot”) as he shouts out his best Mighty Mouse impression is one of the best pieces of visual comedy I’ve seen in a comic this year.
Not only is this issue comedic gold, it develops Stryfe, Cable’s evil clone from the future, further as a villain- specifically one who stays one step ahead of the duo in an ever changing timescape. While he has yet to reach the level of villainy that Duggan established with Madcap in early issues, this horribly failed first attempt at taking Stryfe down leads me to believe Duggan is going to unveil some seriously heinous events in future issues.
4. Moon Knight #188
Written by Max Bemis
Art by Jacen Burrows
Colors by Mat Lopes
Letters by VC’s Cory Petit
My first experience with Moon Knight came in the form of Jeff Lemiere’s recent run and the psychotic anti-hero immediately skyrocketed to the top of my favorite super heroes. In a nutshell, Moon Knight follows the story of a mercenary who died at the feet of a statue of an ancient Egyptian deity only to be resurrected in that deity's likeness, a protector of those who travel at night. The twist? This mercenary is a diagnosed schizophrenic.
Lemiere’s run so beautifully illustrated the mind of a broken man as he fights inner demons as well as physical foes- however neither the reader nor Moon Knight know what is real or what is fake. I was vocally distraught when Lemiere announced issue #14 would end his Moon Knight story, luckily Max Bemis (mastermind behind Say Anything) picks up right where Lemiere left off with a story that focuses heavily on the literal insanity that makes Moon Knight’s story so impactful in the first place.
The psychiatric is not only featured in Bemis’s new arc, it’s at the very front of the story, focusing on Marc Spector’s (the dominant personality behind Moon Knight) former psychiatrist Dr. Emmett’s new patient who strikes an eerily similar undoing to Spector- an inexplicable tragedy in the Middle East drove this man to insanity. As Emmett attempts to treat this new patient, she re-examines her efforts with Spector and how she could possibly replicate that success.
In the process she provides insight into the context of insanity and how being deemed legally insane doesn’t necessarily make you crazy- invoking priests who claimed to hear their lord speak to them or the founding fathers creating laws based on their god as examples of people who in today’s standards would be deemed insane yet still influenced change for the better. Bemis clearly understands that Moon Knight is a perfect vehicle to discuss the perception of mental health and he pushes the pedal right through the floor in his first issue.
This issue is a great start for the reintroduction of Moon Knight despite the fact that Moon Knight never actually shows up in the panels. Instead, Bemis spends all 32 pages building up a mysterious, troubled, and ruthless antagonist who stands simultaneously as Moon Knight’s opposite and peer.
Known simply as patient 86, this villain claims he found God in the desert as a means to cope with the constant torment he was put under by his squadmates. This newfound religion caused 86 to burn his squadmates alive, saying it was the only way to show them his lord. As I mentioned, Emmett uses Spector’s dedication to the Egyptian God Khonshu to help 86, accidentally creating a monster. 86 reveals himself to actually be a God, specifically Amun-Ra the father of Khonshu and master of the sun.
Like Lemiere’s run, this story blends the mythical with reality leaving it up to the reader to decide what is real and what is fake. Tie that into the fact that Emmett herself obviously struggles with her own mental health and you’re left with an unreliable narrator trying to tell you what is real and what isn’t. Make sure to stretch before picking this book up- it will leave your brain in a pretzel.
3. Royals #11
Written by Al Ewing
Pencils by Javier Rodriguez with Kevin Libranda
Inks by Alvardo Lopez with Kevin Libranda
Colors by Jordie Bellaire with Jose Villarrubia
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Inhuman’s have a turbulent history under the Marvel tutelage. Created by the legendary Jack Kirby, Inhumans have always played second to mutants in the majority of Marvel’s Universe (save for the events of Civil War 2.) This year has been particularly bad for the space faring super-heroes, as they finally landed a Marvel Cinematic Universe adaptation on ABC… only for that series to be absolutely horrendous, seemingly spending almost all it’s multi-million dollar budget on marketing rather than actually making a watchable show.
A few months before the on-screen abomination stumbled into the world, the Inhumans and their royal family made a resurgence into Marvel comics as well, with a wide line relaunch alongside the X-Men’s own reshaping. The main title, Royals, has never been bad, but has yet to have a run-defining issue- until number 11.
The story sends the Royal Inhumans on a galaxy-wide adventure to find the Progenitors, the architects of the Kree who created the Inhumans, and the mysteriously powerful primagen- the substance used to create the Kree that the Kree manipulated to create terrigen which makes Inhumans. For some reason, I feel like creation is a key theme here.
This issue finally sees the Royal family- comprised of Medusa, Maximus the Mad, Crystal, Gorgon, Swain, Marvel Boy and Flint- confront the Progenitors in an emotion laden epic-issue that reads almost like a heist gone wrong. Among the frenetic action and escapes are beautifully illustrated moments of both love and loss.
After coming into contact with primagen, Swain’s already heightened empathetic powers are boosted to the point that she connects emotionally with her girlfriend Ash back on Earth- who coincidentally is incapable of feeling any emotion (a super power I'd sell my soul for). The contradictory nature of their relationship is put on full display in a gorgeous two-page spread, as the two debate whether or not they can truly be in love. What ensues is a poetic yet simple explanation of what love really is that struck a chord with the hibernating romantic inside of me.
The tender moment is disrupted as dozens of towering, robotic Progenitors descend upon the seemingly doomed Royals. It’s been foretold since the very first issue that one of the seven Inhumans will not return and it’s finally revealed who that poor soul is. Gorgon- who has been the strongest character of Ewing’s series, who recently professed his love for the Queen Medusa, who recently saw that love requited from the Queen, who still feels guilty for leaving his motherless son behind on Earth- places duty over love and life as stays behind to fight off the Progenitors so the Royals can make their getaway.
Gorgon’s sacrifice is easily the most memorable and gut-wrenching moment of this series thus far. The Royals finally found their creators and the Primagen meaning they can now save Medusa’s life (she’s dying because of terrigen and primagen will save her even though primagen is just super strong terrigen. Don’t worry, Flint points out how ridiculous this is in issue 10). Sadly it comes at the cost of their greatest warrior and the series best character.
2. Daredevil #595
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Stefano Landini
Color Art by Matt Milla
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Charles Soule’s Daredevil run has been a classic, which should come as no surprise due to Soule’s passion for the character, deep understanding of the comic book medium, and his law degree that makes him a perfect fit to write stories about a blind lawyer who fights crime. The first issue of the Legacy relaunch for this series see’s Daredevil’s, aka Matt Murdock, deepest fear realized- Wilson Fisk has attained complete control of New York City and he seems to have done it legally.
New Yorkers were fed up with the same-old-same-old politicians. They became enamored with a man who didn’t hide behind formalities and made his opinions clear no matter the repercussions. They elected a charismatic egomaniac to take the reins from politicians and solve all their problems. The real world similarities are too big to ignore in this issue no matter how fed up you are with politics.
What makes this allegory to our own real election so poignant is the way that Soule portrays New Yorkers and their motives for choosing a man like Fisk. First there is Matt’s best friend Foggy’s explanation of how it all went down- that Fisk never confirmed or denied anything against him, he simply told New Yorkers they knew who he was for better or worse and they knew what he was promising: a more peaceful city free of daily super hero battle-royales.
Then there’s Matt assistant’s heartfelt story about her car, how despite earning a lowly paralegal’s salary she was able to purchase a car- a luxury in NYC. She loved the car and it gave her freedom, until Spider-Man hurled it at a nemesis and suddenly she was trapped in subways again.
Comic writers tend to be extremely critical liberals, so it’s refreshing to read a book with obvious real world allegories that doesn’t shit on people for voting for a bad man, but instead paints those who may have voted for a monstrous man in a more empathetic light. At the very least, this issue asks the readers to put themselves in another’s mindset before criticizing what they perceive as a poor vote.
Aside from insightful allegories to the real world, this issue has a very Born Again vibe to it. Born Again is the ultimate Daredevil story where the Kingpin absolutely dismantles Matt Murdock’s life, and this issue plants the seeds for such an unraveling.
Kingpin pulls the strings of Matt and Daredevil’s (unaware they’re one and the same) relationship by specifically instructing the NYC District Attorney to put Murdock on the case of indicting the city’s heroes. Fisk’s mayoral directive to take down superheroes completely undermines Murdock’s greatest achievement that readers witnessed in Daredevil #25, where Murdock successfully argued to the Supreme Court that vigilante’s should be allowed to participate in the legal process through testimony or admittance of evidence. There’s strike one, against Murdock’s career.
Then, Fisk entraps Daredevil with a fake mugging that ends in Daredevil’s arrest, however the NYPD takes the hero straight to Fisk rather than throw him behind bars. Fisk immediately reminds Daredevil that he was chosen by New Yorkers to save them from the costumed people wreaking havoc across the city. Fisk essentially tells Daredevils “I am their elected hero to defeat the villain, you.”
This completely subverts Daredevil’s perception of his role in the city, which I assume will be brought up in depth in narration in coming issues. So there’s strike two, against Murdock’s personal life.
Soule has set up an intense story that, if it goes where I think it’s going, will absolutely wreck Matt Murdock’s world. Fisk has attacked his professional life and personal life, which leave’s Matt’s social life- which is virtually non-existent. Except for Foggy. I am guessing we will see Fisk turn Foggy against Murdock in heartbreaking fashion in coming issues.
1. Doomsday Clock #1
Written by Geoff Johns
Illustrated by Gary Frank
Colors by Brad Anderson
Letters by Rob Leigh
Two events in one year is risky business in the 2017 comic book landscape. Two events running simultaneously is absolute insanity. Somehow, DC Comics has pulled it off, releasing Doomsday Clock smack-dab in the middle of Metal without exhausting readers. Fans of Alan Moore’s masterpiece Watchmen have been weary of DC’s plans to bring the Watchmen into the DC Universe, but Geoff Johns and company are off to a great start with this first issue in what is sure to be a monumental series.
Despite being set in 1992 instead of 2017, Doomsday Clock mirrors Watchmen in the way that it immediately thrust real world problems into play. Americans are rioting in the streets as they’re sick of the chaos that has overtaken the country all while the President plays golf. Meanwhile, Russia continually infringes on the sovereignty of it’s neighbors while North Korea builds a powerful nuclear arsenal.
Doomsday Clock’s 1992 masterfully mirrors 2017 while also incorporating the events of Watchmen, especially once it is revealed that Ozymandius and Dr. Manhattan’s attempt to bring peace to the world has been revealed to the public as a lie in the seven years between the 1985 limited series and Doomsday Clock. Hell, John’s and illustrator Gary Frank even mirror the classic nine panel style of Watchmen throughout the majority of this first issue.
With the peace brought about by Ozymandius and Dr. Manhattan shattered, Doomsday Clock kicks off with the Cold War turning into a nuclear war. Russia invades Poland, a hot-headed US president decides to launch the “full military might” of the country, and Russia retaliates with nukes of their own. Four pages in, nukes are in the air and titular clock is almost at midnight. The end-of-world chaos that consumed the original series is dialed up even more in this issue to great effect.
This first issue is not jam packed with action nor does it immediately reveal it’s connection to the greater DC universe. Actually, the only connection to continuity comes in the last three pages- and it is a very vague connection at that. Doomsday Clock lands the top spot from November because it is a gamble for DC that pays off royally.
Like many, I was filled with nerves at the thought of DC botching an attempt to make an unnecessary sequel to what I regard as the greatest comic book ever written. Thankfully, Johns and Franks completely nail the dread an despair that lingers throughout the original series while planting the seeds of a new series that promises to shake the core of the DC Universe.
Feel like I missed a book from this month that is a must buy? Let me know so I can add it to my pull!
Books You Should Buy if You’re Not on a Five Book Budget:
Doctor Aphra #14 launches a new story arc for everyone’s favorite rogue archaeologist that is as charming and quirky as ever with a crazy twist ending.
A new writer takes over Star Wars #39 and takes Han, Luke, and Leia back to Jedha where they stumble upon some familiar faces. A must read for die hard fans of the saga.
Tim Drake’s return to the DC Universe wraps up in a poignant Detective Comics #968 as he confronts a future version of himself who has taken up the cowl.
The real conclusion to the Weapons of Mutant Destruction storyline, Weapon X #11 builds the new Wolverine-Hulk hybrid known as Weapon H into a sympathetic character before his solo series comes out next year.
The Batman Who Laughs is the most unnerving Metal one-shot yet that imagines a world where Batman finally kills the Joker. Spoiler alert: it’s very, very dark.
Continuing the streak of amazing books in the series, The Wild Storm #9 features an incredible nine-page fight scene that is so perfectly illustrated you’ll find yourself flipping through each page multiple times.