1. Rot & Ruin (No. 1, Sept 2014, IDW) – Jonathan Maberry, Tony Vargas & Oliver Lee Arce
Just when you thought the zombie horror genre was waning, IDW piques yet again with a comic book continuation of the young adult series Rot & Ruin. Economically written and adeptly paced, Maberry’s illustrated adaptation readily takes advantage of the fact that audiences are by and large inured to the prospects of a zombie apocalypse. Raising the ante is a sympathetic protagonist named Benny Imura, a fifteen-year-old Asian American bladesmith who has survived the worldwide nuclear Armageddon, and the threat of seven billion zoms, with little more than friendship and well-honed swordsmanship. An excerpt of Benny’s interior monologue:
Back then-on first night-it was fight, run, or die. / Everything fell apart really fast. Every choice was a hard choice. / Most of the choices people made were the wrong ones. / Until it all fell apart. . . . We’re camped in Yosemite. I came out to do some searching. Pick up some stuff. / The wildlife is crazy. All the animals that escaped from zoos and circuses on first night are breeding out here. / We even saw a rhino once. Weird. / Last year I lived in a town. Last year I didn’t know how to fight. Last year I hadn’t ever killed a zom. Or a person. / Last year we hadn’t seen the plane. / Last year Tom was alive. / I never knew so much could change in a year.
2. Hawkeye (No. 20, Nov 2014, Marvel) – Matt Fraction, Annie Wu & Matt Hollingsworth
Perenially starting over and cash-strapped, my favorite unlicensed private eye finds out that nothing in Los Angeles is as it seems as she is beaten up, tossed around, and falsely incarcerated by the LAPD. No worse for wear. Kate Bishop is on a mission: Find her dad and make him pay. “And pay and pay and pay.” Can’t let a little thing like jail or LA craziness get in the way of poetic justice. If you haven’t read Matt Fraction and Annie Wu’s Hawkeye, I’d advise not picking up this particular issue. Wait for the trade Hawkeye Volume 3: L.A. Woman (Marvel Now), available in October. To avoid any confusion, there is a boy Hawkeye and a girl Hawkeye. Avoid Volumes 1 and 2 if you’re just looking for the pathos and playful humor of Kate Bishop. Issue 14 L.A. Woman, Annie Wu’s debut issue, is still by far and away one of the most satisfying reads of 2014.
3. Ms. Marvel (No. 8, Nov 2014, Marvel) – G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona & Ian Herring
The newest issue of Ms. Marvel marks Kamala Khan’s growing realization that it may not be possible to fully compartmentalize home/school life from her new responsibilities as a budding superheroine. Reminiscent of the challenges of a younger Spider-Man, this issue also marks the welcome return of artist Adrian Alphona to the series. And none too soon: Alphona’s attention to subtle, wistful facial expressions serves to heighten the tension of the classroom scene in the last few panels where Kamala’s teacher questions the usefulness of the post-millennial generation. Kamala’s response: “Well . . . giving up on the next generation is like giving up on the future, right? And . . . and sometimes the next generation has to deal with all the problems the last generation left for it to fix, and that means getting up . . .” Read Molly Jane Kremer’s extended review of Ms. Marvel #8 here.
4. Captain Marvel (No. 7, Nov 2014, Marvel) – Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marcio Takara & Lee Loughridge
There’s a reason why Kelly Sue DeConnick’s current run of Captain Marvel is a fan favorite. Quincy Rhoads said it best: “De[C]onnick is deconstructing tropes of superhero masculinity and gender disparity in a way that I haven’t seen in a Big Publisher comic book in quite a while.” Couple the latent feminism with DeConnick’s uncanny knack for dropping Carol Danvers into impossible cosmic situations, and you have what makes for an ideal contemporary interpretation of the space opera. This issue in particular is helped by the arrival of artist Marcio Takara who does a brilliant job of delivering the comedic timing between Captain Marvel and Rocket Raccoon.
5. The Amazing Spider-Man (No. 6, Nov 2014, Marvel) – Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba & Edgar Delgado
Last we left off J. Jonah Jameson and the Black Cat were about to reveal the true identity of Spider-Man on live TV. Issue #6 opens with the ego-maniacal Jameson unknowingly blocking the shot and in the direct sight line of the camera and the unmasked Spider-Man. Slott continues to imbue the world of Spider-Man with humor and absurdity as Peter Parker once again attempts to juggle the pressures of his work life, his personal life, and his increasingly dangerous crime fighting life.