Here's our next "Top Five" comics from writer Jeff Butler!
5 - Batman
Recently Scott Snyder's run, which started to enormous hype and critical acclaim, has begun to absorb flak at an increasingly aggressive rate. Frankly, quite a bit of that flak is earned, Snyder began the run on the very cool and well characterized 'Court of Owls', that added new villains to the DC canon, but has since tried his hand at familiar and well-worn subjects like the Joker and the origin of the Caped Crusader with mixed results. Despite this however, Snyder has enough personality and intelligence to make otherwise flawed arcs like 'Death of the Family' enjoyable and even incisive in places. While not holding up under great criticism as full story arcs, individual issues have many moments I remember distinctly, and while not totally reinvigorating the subjects his personal choices often add remarkable new nuances to the character of Bruce. Disappointing? Perhaps. But Snyder is a pretty terrifying writer if his 'disappointing' is still this memorable and engaging.
4 - Satellite Sam
Back to the subject of noir, Matt Fraction's 'Satellite Sam' is more traditional in approach, a sweaty, smokey, regret laced comic about the fast and nasty world of the 1950's entertainment business. While I have yet to get a real taste for the somewhat thin mystery at the center of the book, the world around it is always fascinating, written with an authentic graphic meanness. Comic legend Howard Chaykin contributes greatly to the comic's personality, his style having gotten comfortably looser, full of visible charcoal strokes and left in striking black-and-white. Many have criticized it's slow pace, but the way I see it it's like a long dark novel whose chapters I have to get one month at a time.
3 - New Avengers
I'm not a big fan of Jonathan Hickman, but boy can he destroy the universe. He does something I wish we'd see more in “Big Two” comic books, attempting to really take responsibility for what it would mean to be someone who lives at the top of these comic book worlds. Centered around The Illuminati (a better title for a nonsensically titled book in fact), Reed Richards and the rest of Earth's secret defense council are faced with the terrifying knowledge that someone or something is trying to end everything by slowly colliding parts of the multiverse. Faced with unspeakably huge and terrible decisions, the true weight of power and the responsibility attached to it are brought down in full force on the members of the team. Somehow Hickman gives the series a real sense of epic terror, and is matched with the academic talent of Mike Deodato, who I loved on 'Dark Avengers'. While not rich in characterization, per Hickman's slight Achilles Heel in the realm of personality, it is a pretty necessary addition into the modern Marvel canon and one of the few books from the publisher worth reading.
2 - Saga
The staple on everyone's list, and for good reason. 'Saga' continues Vaughn's seeming interest in the 'journey-to-nowhere' as a structure for storytelling that gave such a realistic feel to his epic 'Y: The Last Man'. Like with 'Y' and 'The Private Eye', Vaughn tackles major themes like pacifism, racism, sexual slavery, and the living toll of violence but does so through his characters rather than with prepared sermons. There's an intimacy to the characters, one that sort of reminds me of what made 'Firefly' so special, and makes the often vicious trials of our main characters that much more harrowing to ordeal, knowing the conflicting needs, wants, and loves behind their actions. Fiona Staples grants the comic incredible character, with a simple painterly style full of humor and beauty. Vaughn has hinted at long term plans for the series, and one can only try and dream how big he can imagine his pocket universe; all I know is we're lucky to have it as long as we can.
1 - The Private Eye
Not sure if it actually counts as a monthly book, since the publishing schedule seems to be 'when-it's-done' rather some sort of regimented release date. However, it's the best thing I'm reading right now. Noir, as a cliché, is easy to write. It's romantic, has a familiar structure, and comes pre-packed with style. However, Brian K. Vaughn took that structure and used it to craft this incredibly intelligent neo-noir story that comments on a very difficult subject to tack down: our era of self-surveillance. Science fiction is common in comics, but true speculative fiction is largely rare, and here Vaughn does his now signature feat of balancing entertainment and commentary in a way that sacrifices neither. Of course he's partnered with Marcos Martin and colorist Muntsa Vicente, whose richly colorful artwork is fused inseparably to Vaughn's script, pop art bright with stunning animation and violence. 'The Private Eye' is both a must-read commentary on a very immediate subject, and the ultimate expression of what can be accomplished when truly liberated from traditional publishing. -- What are your Top Five comics of the month? Let us know in the comments!