1. Edge of Spider-Verse (No. 2, Nov 2014, Marvel) – Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez & Rico Renzi
What if Peter Parker had never been bitten by a genetically engineered spider? Rather, what if Gwen Stacy had been bitten, leaving Peter to die by the fickle finger of fate? This, to the glee of so many Spidey fans, was precisely the premise of last month’s Gwen Stacy: Spider-Woman. By far and away the most wish-listy reads out of all the current parallel universe Spider-Verse titles, Jason Latour’s take on Gwen Stacy finally does something interesting with the boring, two-dimensional blonde that died all the way back in Amazing Spider-Man #121. Fans are already crossing their fingers and hoping Marvel does a regular series, and it’s to Latour and company’s credit that the story itself is self-contained and ripe for new readers without any prior assembly. In fact, non-comic book readers who are only familiar with the Gwen Stacy character through Emma Stone’s portrayal will have the advantage of reaping a certain emotional payoff from the father-daughter exchange that the comic-exclusive reader may be somewhat inured to. An excerpt of Gwen’s monologue when it is discovered in the big reveal by her dad Captain Stacy that she is indeed the criminally negligent Spider-Woman:
You’re a good cop, dad. You put on that badge and carry that gun because you know if you don’t, someone who shouldn’t will. When I put on this mask, I only did it — / –because it freed me from responsibility. I thought I was special. And Peter Parker died because he tried to follow my example. / I have to take responsibility for that. To make his death mean something. / But I can’t do it in a jail cell. / This mask is my badge now. If I don’t define what it means . . . / . . . monsters like this will. / This is where I’m needed most.
2. Batgirl: Futures End (No. 1, Nov 2014, DC) – Gail Simone, Javier Garron & Romulo Fajardo Jr.
“Awesome” has to be one of the most overused adjectives in comic fandom; as such it’s very often just a lazy shorthand for knee-jerk fan approval. However sometimes the well-worn honorific is merited, and last month’s Futures End Batgirl one-shot was one of those times. All kinds of awesome, Gail Simone’s farewell issue to the character of Batgirl not only surpassed longtime fan expectations, but made off-again on-again readers, like myself, a little misty-eyed. Though I’m excited about the new direction that Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart are taking Barbara Gordon, Our Lady of the Red has been with the character since 2011. If there’s one thing we’ll miss, it’s just the sheer level of depth and humanity that Gail Simone brought to the character; it’s what makes Barbara Gordon arguably much more interesting in many ways than Bruce Wayne or any of his foes. While the trend lately has been to make Batman appear even more vulnerable than in prior iterations, Gail Simone has to be applauded for consciously going the opposite way to present a heroine that never defined herself as a victim. All kudos to Gail for crafting a female protagonist that only got stronger with time.
3. Daredevil (No. 8, Nov 2014, Marvel) – Mark Waid, Chris Samnee & Matthew Wilson
In Mark Waid’s own words, “Behold the Purple Children.” By far and away the most fucked up Daredevil story in recent memory, this issue is a great jumping on point if you’ve never given Matt Murdock a try. Self-contained and beautifully written, the current run of Daredevil will pleasantly surprise new readers who may have very little expectations of the character after Ben Affleck’s live-action portrayal in 2003. Unmasked and no longer residing in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, our favorite man without fear finds himself a recent resident of San Francisco where a sociopath with psychic powers kidnaps his many offspring in a desperate effort to know unconditional love. Notable in this issue is Matt Wilson’s moody depiction of San Francisco, it plays a remarkable role in ratcheting up the creep factor.
4. Supreme Blue Rose (No. 3, Sept 2014, Image) – Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay
Why comics? Sometimes it’s just the sheer whimsy of an impossible idea, or daydream, captured on one or two panels that will make you fall in love again with the medium. Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay’s newest venture into the veiled unknown was one of those rare instances. Wrap your head around this: Picture a bridge, an actual physical bridge, from the Earth to another planet. “The bridge has been here since Neolithic times. / The bridge holds an atmosphere, but no soil or water. And it is, of course, a quarter of a million miles long. / Traversing the bridge became the defining goal of the human race for some twelve thousand years. We fought for each slow long mile. It was the supreme totality of our desire. Entire technologies were iterated for the sole purpose of moving further up the bridge. / Imagine that. Imagine how long it would have taken to conquer even twenty miles of this bridge. Imagine a bridge that bent the whole of history to its destination. / A creeping wave of obsessed humanity. Hammering dirt into the cracks between flagstones. Solving irrigation. Raised beds for settlement crops. Trying to understand and harness the weather of the bridge. Storms inside an envelope of air around a bridge to the moon. / Generations upon generations of people living and dying on the bridge, perhaps only seeing the edge of colonisation increase by a single mile in their lifetimes. / Twelve thousand years to see the other side of the road.”
5. The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World (No. 1, Nov 2014, DC) – Grant Morrison, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Walden Wong & Dave McCaig
Can’t really say that I recommend this title. But if you’re at all curious about phase two of the Multiversity series, the book with the infuriating long title may just satiate your craving for Grant Morrison gnarliness. If you’re at all confused by the drawn out title and the quirky numbering system, you’re not alone. I too initially ignored it on the rack, because it didn’t say The Multiversity #2. But evidently each consecutive issue of the series will be a #1. Prepare to be narratively confused yet again as Morrison tests your ability to keep track of all the parallel universes and multiple character arcs from bleeding into each other. Beyond the density of the parallel worlds, Green Lantern fans are certain to get a kick out of seeing Abin Sur, a Lantern that bears a striking resemblance to the devil incarnate.