James’ Top Five - February (2014)

I had a hellaciously good month of comic reading in February. I read a whole lot of good this past month and very little bad. Even the bad ones had some good qualities to them. It made it real tough to narrow the list to just five series. But after a re-review, I think I was able to get everything sorted. These five titles that I read in February are the ones that I would recommend to the laymen new to the medium as well as the comics god who has an encyclopedic knowledge of everything.

5 - Judge Dredd


Judge Dredd has always been one of my favorites and I have really enjoyed Duane Swierczynski's take on this iconic character of a dystopian future. The clincher for me has been Swierczynski's commitment to Dredd's past continuum of a long and storied history spanning decades of literature. He has done well, but he has upped the intensity level by a million in this issue which wraps up the 13 Badges story arc. The bomb dropped at the end of this one will make any fan of Judge Dredd happy, as a return of an old nemesis occurs that promises to make this title wide open for future issues. This is a gateway issue to an awesome future of storytelling.

It feels like Swierczynski has really channeled John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra in his writing style with Nelson Daniel providing superior artistic support filling every frame with intensity and energy. Dredd is taking a very dark turn and these two guys are more than ready for the challenge. Can't wait to see it.

4 - Red Sonja


Gail Simone and Walter Geovani blew up the first six issues of this title with the Queen of the Plagues story arc. After that one though, would there be anything left in the tank for a new story? After reading number seven, my answer is a resounding "Hell Yes!!!"

On a bet with a pharaoh type king, Sonja is on the search for six of the world's greatest artisans that will be used for the king's "deathday" party. A party that promises to be the greatest one of all time, should Sonja be successful in her task. On the line is the freedom (or death) of 1000 slaves. #7 begins with Red Sonja in the muck, searching for artisan number one, a chef who is under the employ of a group of cannibalistic, inbreeding swamp people with amazing palates of taste. What happens next is action, violence, humor, and even some mutant gatorhuman types.

Simone is in top writing form right now and Geovani has switched from the open steppes of the Queen of the Plagues story to the nasty swamplands with just the greatest of ease. He is really becoming a favorite artist of mine and is drawing Red Sonja with absolute confidence and conviction.

3 - Ms. Marvel


I can't speak for everyone, but I was so sick of seeing promotions for this issue month after month after month...after month. It must have worked though. That or Marvel's persuasion has a strong power over my weak mind because I was the first in line to pick it up. I did go in with lots of trepidation however, as I had no idea of what to expect.  I read it and realized that liked it, a lot. G. Willow Wilson's script is well done, never stereotypical, capturing our characters in the here and the now with Adrian Alphona's art really capturing the essence of this superhero.

Ms. Kamala Khan is a cool girl who is displayed as awkward and confident at the same time with a "reality" feeling to it. It's not afterschool special stuff here, but a true and honest depiction. I think Wilson and Alphona nailed it and I am looking forward to seeing Khan reach her full potential as a hero. Go girl Go!

2 - Protocol Orphans


I'm really going to miss this mini. Little Orphan Annie (all grown up) meets the Bourne spy novels in this tale of high speed action, political intrigue, and yes, parental issues. Our story follows the tale of the Orphans, an elite force of actual orphans adopted by the government and trained to be 100% lethal in all of their specialties. Every issue has been totally white knuckle and this finale puts a perfect wrap to an amazing story.

Everything about this issue is perfect...From Michael Alan Nelson's rapid fire writing exchanges, to Mariano Navarro's beautiful but deadly art form, to Gabriel Cassata's exciting and impressive use of coloring. It is all masterful work for a masterful issue. I am really hoping to see more of the Orphans in the future.

1 - The Wake


I think that I have had almost a heroin type addiction to this wonderful mini written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Sean Murphy. It was one of my best for last year and while waiting for this one to come out, I went through some withdrawal symptoms. I was unsure how I would feel when I started back as it felt like forever since I returned. But this "Part 2" opening salvo that takes place 200 years later from the events of Issues #1-5 drew me right back in. We are introduced formally to the character of Leeward who will be featured prominently the rest of the way (see My Top Rack). As to how past and future meet to tie things in here, it is anybody's guess. Gonna be a fun ride finding out though. --- Happy reading all!