It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these, so here’s how it works: we read pretty much every comic that was released this past month, then made a bunch of arbitrary decisions to put the ten best books together, in order from excellent to most excellent. And yes, we left off whatever your pick was for the best book of the month, because we’re idiots. SORRY. Here’s the ten best comics released in September, 2012:
10. Avengers Academy #36
The whole “Final Exam” arc in this book was excellence across the board, but this issue was elevated by one beautiful, classic sequence. Stripped of their powers, Hazmat and Mettle finally got to spend an hour together as humans… Then took their powers back to stop big bad guy Jeremy Briggs. As the radioactive Hazmat tells Mettle – who is human looking – to stay away, he reminds her that he became a skeletal metal man through intense pain and torture… So one last time, the two kiss as his skin is stripped away, in a beautiful, heartbreaking splash that stands with the romantic pages ever committed to superhero comics.
9. Dancer #5
Another brilliant spy series with scifi overtones from Nathan Edmondson, Dance wrapped up neatly with a few shocking sequences, and a finale that paid off the themes of the book beautifully.
8. Talon #0
It’s tough to create a new character, let alone work them into an established mythos, yet writer James Tynion IV nails it with this issue. Not only does Calvin Rose have a unique identity simply laid out in one page, not only does he have connections to the evil Court of Owls without reducing their menace, but he’s also an intrinsic part of the Bat-mythos, weaving into Nightwing’s origin… Again, without ending up cheapening anything through retro-association. Plus, this issue looks damn good thanks to Guillem March. If this is the Zero issue, we can’t wait for issue one.
7. Mind Mgmt #5
Matt Kindt’s psychic warfare book has been a triumph of character, idea, design, and plot throughout, but this issue takes the cake. Telling the latter half of rogue agent Henry Lyme’s life story, we get a number of anguish-inducing sequences where Lyme can’t tell whether his wife loves him for him, or because he’s accidentally pushing her psychically to love him. And even though we’ve just met Lyme one issue back? It hurts. A lot.
6. Wolverine and the X-Men #17
We’ve already expended a fair amount of ink on this comic, but suffice to say this is the funniest book released this month, if not all year. Spoiler: there’s a sequence where green glob Doop challenges the Devil to a rock guitar championship for the souls of everyone in the Jean Grey School. It’s two panels long, and we could NOT STOP LAUGHING FOREVER.
5. Wonder Woman #0
The Zero Issues DC Comics released this month went a number of different directions, but only this comic went so Zero, it flashed back to the Silver Age. Complete with thought bubbles – oh, how we’ve missed you – clunky introductions, and some beautiful pencils from Cliff Chiang, this may have been the best of the especially strong Zero Issue bunch. Where’s our ongoing Teen Wonder Woman series, DC? WHERE IS IT?
4. Near Death #11
Jay Faerber’s great, pulpy crime series only got better every issue… Until it suddenly ended with this one. The premise – criminal almost dies, comes back to life with a mission to save as many people as he can to balance the scales – is TV ready, but this always felt essentially like a comic book. And the last arc was a brilliant tease, introducing a diametric opposite to our anti-hero, before wrapping things up… And setting them up for a Season Two that may never come. Here’s hoping that even if comics don’t come calling again, some smart production company picks this up, asap.
3. Angel & Faith #14
When we were at the Harvey Awards in Baltimore, the applause for each title nominated for best ongoing series was loud and prolonged, until the list got to Dark Horse’s Angel & Faith… When the clapping could be described as confused, at best. We don’t blame people: why would you think the spin-off of a spin-off, based on a licensed property would stand up with the best comics released all year. Spoiler: it does. Even if you’ve never read a Buffy comic, or watched a single Joss Whedon show, Angel & Faith is easy to jump right into, and emotionally rich. Christos Gage is doing the work of his career with this book, effortlessly balancing character dynamics, plot, and magic in a way that’s fun, funny and heartfelt. This issue in particular shows off everything good about the book, and also Rebekah Isaacs' insanely confident grasp on the comic book form and structure. This series is superb, and we won’t shut up until the polite clapping becomes sustained applause.
2. Journey Into Mystery #644
Everything Burns is almost over, but it’s quite easily the best Loki story Marvel has ever told, moving from exciting to gut-wrenching, often in a single issue. This is one of those issues, with multiple stand-out sequences: Hel-puppy Thori’s simple, heart-stomping betrayal; a mostly silent sequence set during Fear Itself, with Loki trying to save the world with a pen; and two friends, reunited. We have to imagine a lot of this is impenetrable for new readers, but as a third act for the story Kieron Gillen started in Journey Into Mystery, this has been without peer.
1. Roger Langridge's Snarked #12
Speaking of conclusions, Snarked ended its mostly hilarious, sometimes tear inducing run with an issue that brings to the fore everything that was wonderful about Langridge’s writing and art. The Walrus and the Carpenter’s journey with Scarlet ends in a satisfying, heartfelt way – and the last page pokes fun at everything the creator has done so far with a wink and a smile. Unlike the sadly truncated Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Langridge got to finish this series, and in the process created a comic book classic. You now have another title to add to the “what comics are good for new readers?” pile, and that’s a reason to celebrate.
Honorable Mentions: Batman #0, Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #2, Justice League #0, Fables #121