Normally, February is a shorter month, right? Which means less comics? But because of the accursed Leap Year, we ended up with five Wednesdays in the normally shortened month, which lead to far too many good comics to choose from. Still, we did manage to narrow it down to ten that stood above the rest – because, you know, that’s our job. So without further ado, here are the ten best comics of February, 2012:
10. THE SHADE #5
We’ve talked before about how The Shade maxi-series hasn’t just brought James Robinson back to the side of the DC Universe that made his name, but also brought back the writer we know and love for the first time in a good long time. What we haven’t talked about quite as much is the quality of the artistic collaborators he brought with him. This issue, we have Javier Pulido on pencils, and his take on the title character, as well as his “daughter” La Sangre are superb. Unique layouts, exciting designs, and a conflicted morality make this one of the best reads on the stands.
9. ANGEL & FAITH #7
Is it possible that this spin-off title is even better than the main Buffy series? If issues keep coming like this one, the answer will be a definitive, “Yes.” Writer Christos Gage brings back fan favorite Drusilla with a new twist, and that would normally be enough to get us excited about the issue. But what really makes it is the scribe’s razor sharp focus on how we relate to our fathers… Whether that means Faith’s absent Dad looking to reconnect, Angel’s “siring” of Drusilla, or the pair’s relationship with the departed Giles, this is nuanced, textured writing that fully explores how we can never – even in death – escape the tightest of familial bonds.
8. WOLVERINE AND X-MEN #6
The genius of writer Jason Aaron’s unique take on the X-Men’s new school for mutants is how deftly he balances comedy and actual danger, sometimes in the same panel. That – take it from us – is not easy to do, and something creators have been trying to hit since, oh, say, Ghostbusters first premiered in theaters. This issue in particular is a prime example of the genius of the book, as Wolverine and Quentin Quire head to an intergalactic casino to win funds to support the school, while the rest of the class is shrunken, inside Kitty Pryde trying to stop microscopic Brood aliens from eating her alive. His amply aided by Nick Bradshaw, who’s slick, enjoyable art somehow improve on Chris Bachalo’s work in the first three issues, and that’s no small feat. This comic is everything fans say they want comics to be, and more.
7. JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #634
In this issue, during a dream sequence, Kid Loki rips a narration panel off the page and tells the narrator to shut up. And somehow, writer Kieron Gillen creates amazing, awesomely creative uses of the comic book form like this EVERY SINGLE ISSUE. We love the writer’s work on other titles, but Kid Loki is, quite simply, his muse. One of the most literate mainstream comics being published today.
6. THE TWELVE #9
It took a while to get this issue on stands, but the wait was worth it: The Twelve is as good today as it was when the series was first released. It’s certainly tough to separate the series from the events – and non-stop discussion – surrounding its mysterious absence, but if you can, what we first liked about the series is still there: excellently created throwback characters; superb pencils by Chris Weston; and a profound sense of loss from the out-of-time heroes at the center of the book. Happily, you can pick up this issue without missing a beat.
5. SEVERED #7
…And like that, writers Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft, along with soon-to-be-superstar artist Attila Futaki, put a capper on what is surely one of the mini-series of the year, as well as one of the greatest horror comics of all time. We hesitate to mention anything about plot, for fear of spoiling, but this last issue satisfyingly ends the series with some horrifically visceral images, a real sense of danger, and a desperate need for a sequel. If you didn’t pick up this book the first time, the trade is a must buy, both for fans of horror, and fans of Americana. Severed is what happens when The Grapes of Wrath meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre… And we love it.
4. BATMAN #6
It’s tough to follow up on a perfect issue of a comic book – that would be Batman #5 – but damned if writer Scott Snyder, and artist Greg Capullo didn’t stick the landing. Batman is trapped far below Gotham City in a labyrinth run by the evil Court of Owls. He’s insane, dehydrated, and as of last issue, impaled on a giant blade. But, hey, he’s still Batman; and everything that was neatly set up last issue pays off this issue, as he proves why, even when he’s at his lowest, you don’t screw with The Dark Knight.
3. DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES
What makes Mary Talbot’s graphic novel memoir so unique is that it doesn’t pull any punches in her portrayal of the complicated relationship with her James Joyce scholar father… But it doesn’t have to. This isn’t exactly a novel of abuse, and neither is the story that parallels Talbot’s experience: James Joyce’s relationship with his own daughter. It’s a novel of parental neglect, but also how those little moments we try to ignore and reject still end up forming who we are as daughters, or sons, or, you know, people. This is complicated, nuanced storytelling simply and plainly told… Whether you know anything about Joyce or not, anyway who’s ever had a father – absent or not – can take something away from this book. Plus, the multiple art styles used by artist Bryan Talbot are superb, clean, and evocative of several different time periods. Simply put, this is a perfect graphic memoir, that should be on the shelf right next to Maus, Blankets, Fun Home, and Persepolis.
2. ADVENTURE TIME #1
We feel silly following up a nuanced portrayal of family with a cartoon adaptation of a TV show, but no comic made us smile as goofily the entire way through as BOOM!’s Adevnture Time #1. We won’t repeat everything we said in our more extensive review of the book, but in essence, this comic did everything the show does well, and moreso. Beautiful, surreal art – both in the front story, and the excellently gross back-up by Aaron Renier – hilarious asides, and a brilliant use of the whole comic book page, this is a perfect comic for fans of all ages. Like they should be.
1. THE BULLETPROOF COFFIN: DISINTERRED #2
On the other hand, here’s a comic book decidedly not for the little ones in the audience. This issue – as it says on the back cover – is a tribute to William S. Burroughs, with all the post-modern invention that implies. Set entirely in a beat poetry/storytelling club, this issue only connects tangentially to the last (and probably not at all to the next issue of the series). But on its own, it’s a minor classic of surreal, horrific storytelling. Like an episode of Tales From The Crypt on LSD, this is the sort of book we haven’t seen on the comic book stands in a good long time, and true to the MO of creators David Hine and Shaky Kane, this issue uses the tropes of beat storytelling for all their worth. From a bald man vomiting endless amounts of hair, to a sex scene gone very, very wrong, there are images in this book that will crawl under your skin like nothing else you read all month. We’re both excited and terrified to see what the team dreams up for issue three, and isn’t that what comics used to impart? A feeling a danger? Excitement? The unknown? That’s what Bulletproof Coffin brings back, and in spades.