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Hugh Likes Comics: 2018 Top 5

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Eternity Girl

Eternity Girl
Written by Magdalene Visaggio
Drawn by Sonny Liew
Published by DC/Young Animal

After losing control of her powers and being suspended, superhero Caroline Sharp, A. K. A. Chrysalis, has become suicidally depressed. Unfortunately, her powers make her functionally immortal. But the shade of her greatest nemesis appears with a solution: If she destroys all of reality, Caroline can finally be at peace. Eternity Girl starts out as a meditation on classic trope but quickly blossoms into something much more extraordinary. The surreal, shifting story is both personal and grand in a way few comics manage to pull off, and Liew’s art steals the show, including a breathtaking sequence in which reimagines the characters in a multitude of comic styles, from Peanuts to Watchmen. If you liked Into the Spider-Verse but wished it was more philosophically meaty, this is the comic for you.

Immortal Hulk

Immortal Hulk
Written by Al Ewing
Drawn by Joe Bennett
Published by Marvel Comics

Superheroes get reinvented all the time, but this new take on Marvel’s Angry Green Giant is the most impressive I’ve seen in a long time. By day, Bruce Banner wanders the back roads of America, hitching his way across the country. But night belongs to The Hulk. Ewing uses Marvel’s latest death and resurrection of the character to tell a clever horror stories about guilt, secrets, and self-delusion.

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The Long Con
Written by Ben Coleman and Dylan Mecconis
Drawn by E. A. Denich
Colored by M. Victoria Robado
Published by Oni Press

Five years ago, a disaster convinces the attendees the world’s biggest comic convention that the world had ended, and the world thought the convention center had met the same fate as Los Spinoza, CA. But the Long Con is still going. When proof of survivors surfaces, reporter Victor Lai, one of the last reporters to escape the city, is sent back in. But without protection, and more importantly, without a badge, how long will he survive? This comic is a delightful skewering of post-apocalyptic, nerd culture, and sci-fi tropes.

Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk
Written by Delilah Dawson
Drawn by Matias Basla
Colored by Rebecca Nalty
Published by Boom! Studios

Art, the illegitimate daughter of an English lord, has always lived at odds with the world she was raised in. But when the Faerie Queen switches places with her in a plot to take over the human world, she’ll have to try and save it anyway. But little does she understand what that will cost her, and every choice has devastating consequences in Faerie. Gorgeously illustrated and dream-like, Sparrowhawk is a Victorian portal fantasy with modern sensibilities.

WCA

West Coast Avengers
Written by Kelly Thompson
Drawn by Stefano Caselli and Daniele Di Nicuolo
Published by Marvel Comics

Sometimes you just need to read something unabashedly fun! This relaunch feels less like The Avengers than a new take on the themes of classic Excalibur. As the title suggests, the series is set in Southern California, far away from Marvel’s NYC, and is more than willing to embrace sillinessess. The first volume stars best Hawkeye Kate Bishop and friends as they form a team to save Los Angeles from B.R.O.D.O.K. and his army of 200-foot tall monster women.

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Hugh Likes Comics: 2016 Top 5

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Hugh Likes Comics Top 5 of 2016

The year is finally over, so here is my top comics picks for this year, in no particular order.  Not all of these comics started their runs in 2016, but all of them were read and enjoyed by me in the last twelve months.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
W-Ryan North
A-Erika Henderson
P-Marvel Comics
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Ryan North and Erika Henderson continue to kill it with their solo series focused on Marvel’s favorite C-List powerhouse.  In addition to the stand alone “Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe,” they also continued to do outstanding work in her ongoing series.  Flouting Super-Hero comics conventions, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a rich blend of smarts, silliness, and action that casts a satyrical lens on The Marvel Universe.  Squirrel Girl beats her foes with a combination of empathy, inner strength, and even her computer science knowledge. Plus, they did a crossover with Howard The Duck that included Kraven the Hunter driving around in a panel van with a picture of himself on the side. So there’s that.

New Super-Man
W-Gene Luan Yang
A-Viktor Bogdanovic
P-DC Comics
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Set in Shanghai with an all-Chinese cast, this book is something truly new from DC. Yang is taking a risk and delving deep into the superhero genre. By taking traditionally American iconography and placing it in modern China, he brings a freshness to plot elements which can feel a bit stale elsewhere. Young Kong Kenan’s struggle with heroism and authority follows familiar beats, but has new life. Bogdanovic’s art and designs are likewise familiar and new in ways that invite the reader. The first arc just finished, and I can’t wait to see where they go next.

The Wicked + The Divine
W-Kieren Gillen
A-Jamie McKelvie
P-Image Comics
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The Wicked + The Divine also didn’t begin its run in 2016, but that is the year I finally picked it up. I am a huge fan of Gillen and McKelvie, so this was a no-brainer.  The story of twelve teenagers elevated to godhood for two years, it explores the dynamics of youth, pop culture, and religion in intriguing ways that only these two could come up with. This book is an emotional roller-coaster; by turns shocking, funny, and heart-breaking. Gillen and McKelvie continue to work in perfect harmony as they discuss the dynamics of power, celebrity, and exploitation.

Power Man and Iron Fist
W-David Walker
A-Sanford Greene
P-Marvel Comics
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This is a truly great, modern street-level superhero comic. Power Man and Iron Fist threads that tiny needle of including years of backstory without getting bogged down in little details. It manages to include a cast of D-list bronze age gangsters and not only keeps modern readers interested, but evokes empathy. It examines what it would really be like to struggle at the bottom in a world like Marvel’s New York, where aliens and magic are commonplace. Walker’s exploration of the idea of street-level magic is both charming and chilling. Greene’s art is well-matched, and he even turns Luke Cage into a fashion plate.

Lake of Fire
W-Nathan Fairbairn
A-Matt Smith
P-Image Comics
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Something a bit different to close out this list, “Lake of Fire” is one of those pure, elegant speculative fiction stories that I love. Set during the Crusades, it focuses on how pre-enlightenment Europeans might react to an alien invasion. It is essential knights vs. zenomorphs, but the execution is well-thought out and historically detailed. Fairbairn and Smith take an action-movie concept and expand it into a living, breathing world.

Hugh Likes Comics: Gotham Academy

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Gotham Academy Vol. 1
Written by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher
Drawn by Karl Kerschl
Published by DC Comics
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“Gotham Academy” is a boarding school mystery set in the DC Universe, and with Batman appearing in atmospheric, gothic offerings like Scott Snyder’s run on the book and the Arkham Asylum video game franchise, it feels like a perfect fit for his world.  Much like the well-beloved “Gotham City Central,” this comic rarely features the Dark Knight, but his shadow falls heavily over the book.  And while a YA take on the gritty police drama seems bizarre at first blush, it works very well.
Sophmore Olive Silverlock is returning to Gotham Academy with some problems.  The first is a mysterious incident over the summer that left Olive with a spotty memory and unfocussed anger at Gotham’s resident superhero.  The other is her freshman mentee ‘Maps’ Mizoguchi.  Maps is inquisitive, obsessed with gaming, and the kid sister of her boyfriend Kyle, who would likely be her ex if she could work up the nerve to speak with him.  When Olive gets caught in the middle of a ghost-hunting mania sweeping campus, will she find answers to her own mysteries, or just more trouble?
“Gotham Academy” is a great comic for new readers and hardcore Batman fans.  An original story that needs no prior knowledge, it is also littered with tantalizing easter eggs for observant fans.  Such as 60’s villain Bookwork working as school Librarian.  Fletcher’s art, and the lush, shadowy coloring seal the deal.  This is an all-ages mystery filled with likable characters and believable high school drama.  Of course, it can’t fully escape the towering fantastical elements of Gotham City, but it arrives as a refreshing antidote to DC’s ‘New 52’ sturm and drang.  You can pick up Gotham Academy digitally from Comixology, or in trade paperback and single issues from your local comics shop.

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed this article, please share it, or support my Patreon for more content!

Bang! Biff! Pow! Justice League: War isn’t just for um, well, actually, who is this movie for? (Review)

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Let me begin by confessing that I have not read a single page of Justice League comics in the DC New 52. So I have no idea how accurate or off base “Justice League: War,” the new animated adaptation of the first arc is. Initial previews and reviews led me to believe that DC’s new direction just wasn’t my thing, and this movie did nothing to convince me to give them a second look.

The plot is rather thin and familiar. A group of well-known superheroes who don’t know each other discover something bad is about to happen. They slowly begin to gather to address the threat and do so just in time for an unstoppable alien army to jump through some portals in an American city. Towards the end of the film, their big bad leader shows up and they gang up on him. They find a way to close the portals and then the threat is suddenly over. The end.

It may not be fair to compare the film to the blockbuster live-action “Avengers,” since the comic “War” is based on appeared close to a year before that film was released, but the similarities are unavoidable. I just wish that “War” had borrowed a little bit of “Avengers” wit and charm.

The movie’s not all bad. The action is well animated, and although it can’t fully carry the ball, there are plenty of neat super-powered displays. I was actually shocked by the level of violence and profanity in this cartoon. The Justice League prevents Darkseid from using his Omega Beams by literally stabbing out his eyes. ‘Just like Oedipus!’ Wonder Woman exclaims when they hatch the plan. It’s the one smart bit of dialogue in a film that portrays these iconic characters as vulgar, petty jerks.

The depiction of characters is where this movie really falls flat. This movie has a cynical edge that it perhaps shares with ‘Man of Steel,’ portraying the public as distrustful ingrates and the heroes as the worst versions of themselves. The writers were going for more extreme, gritty versions, but unheroic, downright stupid, superheroes just leave a bad taste in my mouth. The dialog eschews cleverness for playground vulgarity, but if you really wanted to hear Green Lantern call Batman a douche bag, this is the animated film for you.

The film ends with the characters not having really learned anything, just left a pile of destruction in their wake. It left me with the question of who this adaptation was for? Fans of the New 52, presumably, but with such a high level of violence and vulgarity, it seems inappropriate for younger fans. Older fans like myself will find the thin story and unpleasant characterizations a pale shadow of the Bruce Timm and Dwayne McDuffie eras of DC Animation. I can’t recommend this movie.