In a tight economy, it's not always clear where you should spend your hard-earned money. With comic books getting more and more expensive, your dollar doesn’t go as far at the comic shop as it did in the past. We here at Complex feel your pain, so we're providing you with a rundown of the best comics coming out on December 19, 2012.
What it’s about: Saga is Brian K. Vaughan’s return to monthly comics, and since its debut earlier this year, the series has become one of the must-read books of 2012. The story is about two lovers, Alan and Marko, who come from opposite sides of an interplanetary war that has been going on for ages. Together they have a child and officials on both sides of the conflict are enraged. As a result, all three of them are in the sights of every bounty hunter in the galaxy.
What to expect this month: This issue begins with a brief flashback to show how Alana and Marko met and fell in love. Their introduction happened to involve a prison, the butt-end of a rifle, and a few of Marko’s teeth on the floor. From there, it's back into the present as we see Alana and the baby alone on the ship with Marko’s father, while Marko and his mother deal with a big naked giant on the planet below.
By perfectly balancing humor, heart, and a surprising amount of troll genitalia, Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples yet again bring us an issue of Saga that makes us salivate for next month’s chapter. The relationship between Alana and Marko still feels real, mostly due to Vaughan’s ability to craft dialogue that sounds natural in today’s world.
The real highlight, though, comes in the last few pages as we see the customer service wing of the bounty hunter hot line field a few calls dealing with Marko and Alana’s situation. The deadpan humor perfectly sums up the whole series, while also setting up a very interesting wrinkle for next issue.
Where is Jake Ellis? #2
What it’s about: Who is Jake Ellis? was one of the best and most underrated comics of 2011. It focused on a career criminal named Jon Moore who had a guardian angel named Jake Ellis guiding him through his exploits at all times. Only he could see and hear Ellis, and as the mystery behind their relationship was revealed, so were some unsavory details about their past.
This sequel series picks up where that left off, with Moore and Ellis separated. However, as a shadow agency sets out to capture Moore, they decide to use Ellis and his psychic link with Moore to lure him to them.
What to expect this month: If you’re a fan of the Jason Bourne stories, this issue of Where is Jake Ellis? should appeal to your inner espionage lover. Writer Nathan Edmondson crafts this issue with the deft touch of a big screen veteran by mixing action, character, and exposition into a breakneck package that never lets its foot off the gas. As Jon Moore tries to protect the embassy worker he met last issue, Mollie, from the men who are trying to kill the both of them, he begins to hear from Jake Ellis, who once again guides him through a violent shoot-out at an airport.
Though this issue focuses heavily on the action, Edmondson manages to carefully set up the main conflict involving Moore, Ellis, and the men out to get them. There is still a mystery surrounding much of the book’s plot at this point, but Edmondson brings so much adrenaline and energy to the book that none of the unanswered questions ever become frustrating.
The real star of this book, however, is artist Tonci Zonjic. He has improved his style dramatically from the original miniseries, and his ability to blend emotion and kinetic energy helps make this book flow. Along with colorist Joseph Frazzetta, Zonjic brings cinematic composition to every scene, which helps the scripts come alive and makes the action feel like it has real stakes. This is simply an action-packed read that, while quick to flip through, still has enough meat on the bone to be a worthy purchase.
X-O Manowar #8
What it’s about: After the heir to the Visigoth throne escapes from alien captivity at the hands of a mysterious alien race known as the Vine in 402 A.D., he finds himself on Earth in the modern day and in possession of an advanced battle armor. The aliens that abducted him have also placed agents in the role of high-ranking government officials on our planet, so the escapee teams up with a mercenary and a traitorous member of the alien race in order to stop an impending invasion.
What to expect this month: Robert Venditti wraps up X-O Manowar's current story arc in this issue as Manowar and Ninjak bring the battle to MI-6, in order to take down a high-ranking member of the Vine. It’s almost all action and explosions as the duo form a tenuous bond to take down their extraterrestrial threat. Thankfully, Venditti pulls off the action well.
What’s even better is that Venditti, despite wrapping up a major storyline here, also sets up conflicts for the next arc. There are still plenty of enticing plot threads left dangling, and this issue only serves to make them even more interesting. This is where Lee Garbett is so important because whether he’s handling action or dialogue, he compliments Venditti’s scripts well.
However, the issue does feel a bit on the rushed side at times, which causes Garbett to approach the story in cluttered panels, instead of pulling back a bit for a nice splash page or two. But with so much ground to cover, it makes sense why Venditti and Garbett had to pack so much into one issue. X-O Manowar is still a solid read, despite that small nitpick, and it continues to be a superhero book that is easy to just pick up and enjoy.
The Black Beetle #0
What it’s about: If there's one comic book that we’re most excited for in 2013, it’s Francesco Francavilla’s The Black Beetle. So far, it looks to be a throwback to the serials and film noir of the late ‘30s and early ‘40s. And now Dark Horse Comics has provided a taste of what to expect with this prologue issue.
In terms of story, this issue basically just deals with a vigilante called The Black Beetle, who shows up to a museum where a Nazi cult is planning on steal an amulet that would prove deadly in the hands of anyone with a knowledge of black magic. However, this simple plot is done with such passion by Francavilla that it feels completely fresh. It has a real old school feel as The Black Beetle reads like an Golden Age issue of The Spider, The Shadow, or even an original Bob Kane Batman story.
Even more impressive than how Francavilla’s plot reads is how stunning his artwork is. Using heavy inks, deep colors, and powerful composition, Francavilla brings the fictional world of Colt City to life in style. We’re not advocates of picking a book up solely for the art, but if grim, vigilantes aren’t your thing, we still think you’ll find something worthwhile about Francavilla’s illustrations. But if you have even the slightest bit of love for old school comics, or street-level crime fighting stories, you should love every aspect of this prologue. We’re just hoping the main series can be even better when it launches next year.
Written by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)