Four Letter Nerd

Tag - Archie

4LN’s Favorite Comics of 2015

Cam Clark

Star Wars (all of them)
My pull list is relatively simple – all the Star Wars titles mixed in with most of the Valiant titles, and very little else (What can I say, I have a comic budget and it isn’t all that large due to other things like mortgages and diapers).  When it came time to choose my favorite comics of the year, I had a hard time deciding which book in the Star Wars line I should pick.  I mean, Jason Aaron’s work on Star Wars is brilliant, but so is Gillen’s work on Darth VaderKanan was surprisingly good and made me a fan of the show Rebels, while Lando, Chewbacca and Princess Leia were also very well done.  Shattered Empire shows the aftermath of Return of the Jedi and also showed Luke Skywalker really grasping what he could do with the Force.  Additionally, the Vader Down event is shaping up to be an incredibly successful event.  If I HAD to choose, I might select the main Star Wars title… but I don’t have to choose, so I choose all of the titles.  If you aren’t reading them and are a fan of the Star Wars you are missing out on some great stories.

Ninjak
Although Valiant Entertainment is a small publisher, they are putting out some magnificent work.  Now that we are a few years in to the shared universe of Valiant, it can be kind of intimidating trying to test the waters for a newcomer (although they have great prices on their trade paperback collections so you have little excuse).  Luckily Ninjak by Matt Kindt is a great jumping on point.  The story is mostly a standalone story that follows Britain’s number one super-spy/master assassin, Colin King (think British Batman with a sprinkle of 007-particularly the “license to kill” part).  During the main story of each issue, there are a few pages of flashbacks that give you backstory into his childhood, and each issue ends with a couple page story of his previous exploits prior to becoming the badass that is Ninjak.  So in essence you get two awesome comics for the price of one.  The first volume is already available in trade paperback, and you can find it available on Amazon and in most local comic shops.

The Punisher
I have a confession to make, I used to dislike the Punisher.  His anti-hero antics involving merciless retribution on the criminal underworld rubbed me the wrong way.  It all changed when I read Nathan Edmondson’s Punisher. Holy crap is it good.  Edmondson really focuses on Frank’s military background and expert tactical skills as he deals with Cartels, the Howling Commandos, and – the most dangerous of all – Los Angeles.  While he is still merciless, Edmondson’s writing and Mitch Gerad’s art made me a believer.

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Bill Clark

Marvel
Very similar to Cameron, I have been pulling every Star Wars book. But, out of all the books, I had a favorite. I personally like the Darth Vader solo book the most. I think Kieron Gillen does a fantastic job capturing the spirit of everyone’s favorite Sith lord. From the first issue, this book had my full attention. Now, I am slightly biased. I love Gillen as a writer, and I have a Darth Vader tattoo, so of course I’m going to love a comic solely about Vader. And, this book has two of the greatest assassin droids in Star Wars history, BT-1 and 0-0-0. If you haven’t read this book, you are really missing out. Go pick up some issues and fall in love with it like I did.

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DC
If you have ever read any of my reviews, you know how I feel about Scott Snyder and Batman… I F**KING LOVE THEM. And, because of my love, I am unabashedly biased about that book. When the Robot-Bat-Bunny Batman was announced Cameron dropped the book and Stephen Andrew eventually lost interest in it. But, here is the thing: it was awesome. The book had been in such a dark and serious place for so long that the creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo decided to have some fun with the book. They introduced a super dark villain, but were still able to make the book fun and a bit lighter. Since I wouldn’t stop talking about the book, Cam and Stephen decided to give it a shot again, and wouldn’t you know, they loved it. Stephen even wrote an apology. Batman was seriously the best book DC was putting out all year.
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Archie Comics
When the all new Archie was announced I was pretty excited. I had never read an Archie comic before, but man was I hyped AF for this new book. Mark Waid and Fiona f**king Staples? How could one not love that? It would be the greatest sin. Now, I typically stay away from teen centered books. It’s just not my cup of tea, but this book changed that. From the very first issue I was instantly drawn into the lives of Archie, Veronica, Jughead and Betty. Mark Waid is able to strip everything down, give us raw real people, and make us extremely interested in the break up of Betty and Archie, and how that affects the entire town of Riverdale. Everyone knew Archie and Betty as “Archie and Betty,” so what does their identity look like without each other? Well, that’s what Mark Waid is trying to explore, and he’s doing a fantastic job at it.

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Stephen Andrew

Unlike Cam and Bill, I’m terribly irresponsible and have like 87 books on my pull-list. Obviously that’s an exaggeration, but in all honesty it’s not by much. I read a lot of comics, and that makes compiling this list much more difficult for me. I can’t just pick like 3 or 4 books so I’m gonna try to break it down by publishers, and attempt to keep it brief. I said ATTEMPT. I make no guarantees…

DC
I’m starting here because it’s the easiest one. Harley Quinn still is, and will remain my favorite DC title. In fact, it’s the only one I still currently read. The work that Amanda Connor & Jimmy Palmiotti have been doing on that series is unprecedented. They get away with jokes that probably no other mainstream comic ever would. Even though Harley is my maniacal mistress, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the new Deathstroke run and might pick that back up because it was pretty intense and brutal. But, for now, I remain wholly committed to that adorable minx in red and blue clown paint. *swoon*

 

Marvel
Being that I’be always been a Marvel Guy, this section could potentially be more difficult to narrow down. But while thinking about it, It actually became pretty easy. The Marvel comics that stood out most in my mind as I thought about the year are Howard the Duck, from the creative team of Chip Zdarsky & Joe Quinones, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, from Ryan North and Erica Henderson. Both series has been consistently well written, and I laugh out loud every single time I read a new issue. I already love Chip as a writer so I anticipated that I would love Howard, but I was honestly surprised at how much I ended up loving Squirrel Girl. Ryan North is an endless well of funny, and I’m gonna keep on drinking from his bucket. (Did that sound weird? I feel like it sounded weird…)

Valiant
I only read about 4 Valiant series. Bloodshot, Ninjak, Rai, and now the new Wrath of the Eternal Warrior. I just picked up Rai this year and I’m really glad I did because it’s great. Eternal Warrior is off to a solid start, and Bloodshot always delivers. I have to agree with my good pal Cam though, that Ninjak is by far the the best series being published over at Valiant right now. The writing is A-game material, and the artwork is always high grade, professional quality. It’s like they said, “How do we make the best comic?” and then just made it.

Image
Image Comics is my jam. I’d say that it at least ties with Marvel making up like 45% of my weekly pull list. All of my favorite comics are from Image. Outcast, Southern Bastards, Black Science, Deadly Class, East of West, Spread, Bitch Planet, etc. I could go on an on about the Image series’ that I love but I’d like to put the spotlight on two limited series they published this year. Airboy, from James Robinson & Greg Hinkle, and Big Man Plans, from Eric Powell & Tim Wiesch. Big Man Plans I chose becasue it was the most brutal and fearless series I read all year. Literally nothing was off limits. It reads like the storyboard for a Quentin Tarantino movie. If you can stomach the relentless ferocity of it all, then you should definitely pick up the trade.

Airboy really had a big impact on me. It’s essentially a parody of Robinson’s semi-autobiographical, debauched story of self-destruction that spirals him into a drug & alcohol induced fever dream into the world of the title golden age comic book character, Airboy. Among other things, he deals with things like his crumbling marriage, extreme substance abuse, and his insecurities and perceived failures as a writer. It’s all wrapped up in a brilliant and hilarious story of two guys just trying to motivate themselves to write and draw a comic book but falling into a shared hallucination… or dream… or f***ing nightmare. If you’re familiar with Robinson’s career then you owe it to yourself to read this series, but also if you just like comic book stores that aren’t afraid to be mercilessly honest and transparent.

4LN Comic Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #4

Series: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artwork: Robert Hack
Page Count: 35
Price: $3.99

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Summary from Comixology: “There are some things in this world that mortal eyes should never witness — that’s a lesson poor HARVEY KINKLE will learn the hard way, when he makes the unfortunate mistake of intruding on the darkest of ceremonies — an offense that the witches’ coven takes very seriously… Though HARVEY’s life hangs in the balance, it is the SPELLMAN family that will come face-to-face with TRUE EVIL. Indeed, the choices made by teen-witch-in-training SABRINA on this dread night will determine the fate of every living soul in Greendale…”

Whenever this book is in my box, I become extremely excited, and I never thought I would ever say that about a Sabrina book. But this is, hands down, one of the best books coming out. My pull consists of Marvel, DC, Image, and Archie. Out of all four publications, this book is easily my second favorite being published (Batman has the first spot). What’s great about this series is, the first issue came out last October, and each issue has been just as good (if not better than) the previous issues. We are only four issue into the series, and it’s been longer than four months, so the release schedule is a little wack. (But, luckily, it’s not as bad as Hawkeye was, and hopefully it never will be.) The writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, is the Chief Creative Officer at Archie Comics, so that explains why the book comes out so sporadically. I can imagine being the CCO for Archie Comics doesn’t leave a lot of time to write. But, when he does find the time, he knocks it out of the park and every issue feels like a grand slam.

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The feel of the book is very much classic horror, with a bit of disturbing content thrown in for fun. I am not a fan of horror but I’ve been on a witches kick lately (Salem, Wytches, and Sabrina), so who knows, maybe witches will become the new vampires. (I for one welcome our new witch overlords.) I mention “classic horror” because Robert Hack does an AMAZING job capturing the feel of the 1960’s and giving it a solid horror twist. The book opens with Sabrina’s love Harvey Kinkle running in the woods, as he is chased by the Coven. There were a few really eerie moments in this book that left me a little uncomfortable. Besides the momentary discomfort cause by general creepiness, we also get a glimpse into what could have been, which makes the story even more painful. It’s not all bad however. We get a guess appearance from Riverdale High School, which includes Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead. Although, Betty and Veronica are the only ones who the issue focuses in on. We also get a nice throwback to issue #1, that answers a couple questions.

If you haven’t been reading Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, you’re really missing out. If you are a fan of horror, this is a book you MUST read. It will not let you down, and it will leave you on the edge of your seat. Sabrina faces some of the most challenging moments during her ceremony with the Dark Lord, she witnesses scenes that will haunt her to the core, and she will have to lie for the rest of her life to protect the ones she loves. The outcome of said events will determine the fate of every living soul in Greendale, so this is not a comic you want to sit on. Hurry and run to your local comic shop and get all four issues of Sabrina before it’s too late!

Music Paring:
For this issue, I can’t think of anyone better than Alkaline Trio to completely capture the feel and tone of this book. Pop-Punk with a dash of emo, and horror themes makes them perfect for the soundtrack to this book. Jam the song You’re Dead while you read.

4LN Comic Review: Archie #1

Series: Archie
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Fiona Staples
Coloring: Andre Szymanowicz
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Summary from Archie Comics: COMIC SUPERSTARS MARK WAID AND FIONA STAPLES REIMAGINE AN ICON! Change is coming to Riverdale in this can’t-miss kick-off to Archie’s new ongoing series! Familiar faces return in new and unexpected ways in this must-have #1 issue! As the new school year approaches, you’d think Archie Andrews would be looking forward to classes and fun–but nothing is as it seems in the little town of Riverdale. But is this a one-off or a sign of bigger changes awaiting for America’s favorite teens–and the entire town? Find out in this exciting and remarkable first issue!

 

Overview:
I want to begin this review by saying that I have NEVER read an Archie comics before this issue. I have been reading Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which might be my favorite indie comic being published, but this is a first for reading the character of Archie. And, I’ll be honest, I only got this book because my LCS had the Chip Zdarsky variant (cover U). I love Fiona Staples (Saga) and I enjoy Mark Waid (Daredevil), but I wasn’t looking to add more books to my list. But, with the mental odds stacked against this book, I throughly enjoyed the book.

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Said Chip Zdarsky cover

Onward with the review!
I have seen people commenting that they really dislike the new Archie look. I have heard people mention that he’s too “Jockish” or he looks too much like a “Hipster,” but yet again, I won’t lie. The new look sold me on the book. I like the fact that Archie and I kinda have the same haircut, and dress somewhat alike (Does this make me a jockish hipster? You decide). I appreciate the effort to bring Archie into the 21st Century and if I was still in high school, I think this would seriously be a contender for one of my favorite comic books.

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When it comes to the team behind this book, I can’t think of anyone better for it. I’m not a huge Mark Waid fan, but that’s just because I haven’t read enough of his work. I loved his Daredevil comics and  even though I wasn’t the target demographic, I really enjoyed Princess Leia. Now, when it comes to the art work in this book… it is absolutely beautiful, vibrant, and crisp. Fiona Staples works with Brian K. Vaughan on the incredible Image Comics book Saga (Which is practically the Star Wars Mos Eisley Cantina weirdness meets Romeo and Juliet). Seeing Fiona Staples do art work for a “normal” book is great, because it has the look of Saga, but without the weirdness, which I can understand it being a turnoff for some people, but Archie #1 in grounded in beautiful art. As long as Fiona Staples is on this book, I can promise you, I’ll be reading it.

Big things are happening in Riverdale, and changes are coming. Archie and Betty aren’t together at the moment, because of the “lipstick incident,” Archie has overcome some self fears, and a new company “Lodge Industries” are on their way into Riverdale to rebuild it from the ground up. Things are truly changing for Archie Andrews, and all of the Riverdale community. So, remember, this isn’t your parents Archie comic, and that’s exactly why you need to pick this book up. But, there is a cool 6 page flashback from the first issue of Archie released in 1941 in Pep Comics #22. It’s cool to see how far the character has come.

Music Paring:
I was talking with Stephen Andrew about what music a “Hipster Jock” would listen too. And we both agree that no such thing can exist, since the two are such opposing forces. But, a band in that middle ground would have to be X Ambassadors. I can see a jock-ish guy jamming this band because they are a bit cutting edge, but also a hipster could be a fan because, “I liked them before they were popular.” So, jam Renegades by X Ambassadors while you read the wonderful Archie #1.

4LN Comic Review – Sabrina #1

Book – Sabrina #1
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by Robert Hack & Jack Morelli

Summary from Comixology: “NEW ONGOING SERIES! Terror is born anew in this dark re-imagining of Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s origin. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the young sorceress finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family’s past has arrived in Greendale, Madame Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda. Archie Comic’s latest horror sensation starts here! For TEEN+ readers.”

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Overview –
I’m not what you would call an “Archie Reader”. The most Archie Comics have ever really been a part of my life are when I would watch the New Archies cartoon as a kid in the early 90’s. Archie was just never really my thing.

Last year, Archie Comics launched the new horror series “Afterlife  With Archie”, to much critical acclaim. The concept intrigued me, but I still just kind of blew it off because I was already reading so many other titles and I just wasn’t all that interested. I suppose I was thinking that it would be watered-down horror. Well, last week this Sabrina #1 dropped and my comic shop guy (Steve from Comic Collector Live: the store) tried to get me to pick it up. I resisted because again, I just didn’t care. Then Bill, from right here at 4LN, told me that it was really good. I finally tossed my skepticism aside and picked it up… and, wow, it’s fantastic!

click for super-sized previews of Sabrina #1

The Good –
The only other books by Sabrina writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who also writes “Afterlife  With Archie”, that I’ve read are his Dead of Night: Man-Thing (for Marvel’s MAX imprint), and his graphic novel adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand. Those are both great. But now I really want to go back and catch up on “Afterlife…” because *hot damn* Sabrina was good! Sabrina #1 is the best horror comic I’ve read in a while. I know a lot of people are raving about Wytches right now, and that book did have a great first issue, but Sabrina was just so surprisingly dark and bizarre. There were moments that I was genuinely creeped out and had goosebumps. I feel like Roberto must’ve done his homework too, because he uses so may legitimate occult references that there’s no way he was just making things up. To me, that is the mark of a great writer.

The art is also a big part of the creepiness. Hack & Morelli do a fantastic job of being visceral, and yet still very detailed. The colors are very autumn-like; there’s lots of orange shades and black. It definitely meshes perfectly with the tone of the comic to help maintain the eeriness.

click for super-sized previews of Sabrina #1

The Bad –
I didn’t feel like anything was bad in the book. This was a solid first issue. Sometimes I make up things to complain about in this section just so it’s not empty, so I’ll do that here.

This book came over to my house and accidentally let my dog out and then never even helped us look for him! We invited Sabrina #1 over for dinner, and when it walked in the door our dog ran out and took off up the street. My wife and I, and our three kids, took off after him in hot pursuit. Once we caught him, we returned home to discover Sabrina #1 was on it’s SECOND bowl of chili, and had eaten our entire bag of Fritos! Moral of the story: enjoy reading Sabrina #1, but DO NOT invite it over for chili.

click for super-sized previews of Sabrina #1

The Final Say –
For those if you who remember the “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” series… Even thought those weren’t comics, reading Sabrina #1 almost kind of made me feel like I did when I was a kid and would read those books with a flashlight in my bedroom on a dark and stormy night (I’m kind of a walking cliché). It is a legitimately frightening comic. I give it a 4 out of 4. If you like horror comics, you do not want to miss out on this book. If your local shop has a copy, take it from a former skeptic, BUY IT. It’s absolutely worth it.