CBFU: From the Belgian Shop – Marvel Special

Usually, I do reviews of the weekly comics every Wednesday. Starting this week and continuing the following two weeks, I’m going to focus on something different. Namely the best books out there at the moment. This week I’m focusing on the best series Marvel is publishing right now, next week it’ll be DC and the week after I’m going to focus on the creator owned series of the moment.

So if you’re late to the party and want to know what the best titles of the All-New, All-Different Marvel universe are, or if you just want to know if there’s stuff you missed, this is the place to come.

For reviews of this week’s issues, go to CBFU: From the Shop where Sam and Isaac tell you what the good books of this week are.

So without further ado, here’s my list!

5. Doctor Strange by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo.

As most people probably know, Jason Aaron is one of the best writers at the moment. With books like Mighty Thor, Southern Bastards and the main Star Wars title currently, he sure deserves the Eisner award he recently won for best writer. Doctor Strange is no exception to this list of great comics.

Currently this series is 10 issues in and we already got treated with two completed storylines. The first one was actually a prelude to the second one, Last Days of Magic, but it wasn’t just that. It was a great introduction to Doctor Strange as a character and what he does, for people who aren’t familiar with him. And there are many, because he hasn’t been given a lot of spotlight in the Marvel NOW! Universe before Secret Wars. The only place he was really active was in Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers run, where he was also more missing than present.

The first arc introduces a new character to the series and we follow the Doctor’s practices through her eyes. We learn that every spell has its price and that the Doctor suffers from many different weird ailments. We learn that there are monsters everywhere but we just can’t see them. We learn that the Doctor’s house is even more magical than we presumed and most of all, we learn to never open his fridge. It introduces a lot of new elements to his mythology, which are all fundamental layers that Aaron builds upon to create his second arc, Last Days of Magic.

This second arc deals with the fact that a group of alternate dimension scientists are trying to kill all the magic in the world and the universe. Doctor Strange has to go through all of his known dimensions to try and gather all the magical remnants he can find that aren’t destroyed yet. It is a blockbuster arc that will forever be remembered as one of the best Doctor Strange stories ever told.

Chris Bachalo’s artwork is amazing. It is very detailed, he has really great monster designs and his panels aren’t just the ordinary rectangles. He uses magical trees and plants to separate the panels and his splash pages are just amazing. There is so much detail in every panel that it is beyond me how he can keep up with a monthly schedule without flaw.

Why it’s one of the best series at the moment:
It acknowledges all of Stephen Strange’s mythos, while adding a whole new part to it. It takes a character that was almost forgotten and it brings it back to one of the most interesting heroes of the Marvel universe. It starts from scratch and builds a world where magic is an everyday thing and where even a Sorcerer Supreme finds time to go to a bar. And the Last Days of Magic storyline is a serious summer blockbuster and delves into a part of the Marvel universe that hasn’t been explored all that much.

4. Black Widow by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee.

Mark Waid, arguably one of the best comic book writers ever, teams up once again with Chris Samnee to deliver another stunning comic. Their previous run together was with Daredevil, which was so great it got an Eisner award for best continuing series in 2012. To me, this Black Widow book seems like it’s going to be even better than that.

Last month’s issue #5 finished off the first arc in this series, but just like Doctor Strange it just feels like the beginning. It’s a long introduction to the main storyline that is going to follow starting next week with issue #6. I can’t really tell much about the storyline if I want to stay spoiler free, since it’s riddled with twists and turns along the way. Basically, Natasha is running from S.H.I.E.L.D, where she stole something. In order to accomplish her mission, she has to delve back into her own history and reunite with people she promised herself to never talk to anymore. The series acknowledges her past and brings it into the present.

Chris Samnee’s artwork is beautiful. It is clear that he co-wrote the book, since it has very little narration, dialogue and words overall. At times it feels like a silent comic, with just page after page with beautiful artwork and no words to spoil any of it. It is mainly driven by the artwork and not that much by the words.

Why it’s one of the best series at the moment:
With little to no words, this series feels like a fresh breath in an industry that sometimes focuses too much on exposition and dialogue. It takes a rather uninteresting solo character to a new level of excitement. It throws back to the past, while also staying in the present. It’s a great series for beginners with the character, while it also refers to some easter eggs only long term fans would understand.

3. Old Man Logan by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino.

Old Man Logan has been treated so incredibly in all of his series. The original Old Man Logan storyline by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven is a classic banger. The Secret Wars tie-in by Brian Michael Bendis and Andrea Sorrentino was one of the best tie-ins of the whole bunch. And this continuation by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino is the best of these three.

This creative team already proved themselves with a fantastic run on New 52’s Green Arrow title. Their run was by far the highlight of the whole series, and one of the highlights in the generally weak New 52. This series is the proof that they can keep up with the good work, and even improve on it.

Old Man Logan is thrown in the current Marvel universe, which is basically an alternative past to the universe where he comes from. At first, he tries to kill all the people that have done him wrong in his universe. He goes out of his way to catch villains and not-so-villains in order to redeem himself and build a “better future.” Along the way he meets people and witnesses events that didn’t happen in his past. So step by step the pieces begin to fit the puzzle until he realises that this universe isn’t his. He teams up with the X-Men, but mostly he’s just on his own. Much time is spent on the development of his character, and that’s for the better. Even though this series is action packed, the biggest part of the story is how Logan deals with this new world.

Andrea Sorrentino’s art is some of the best out there at the moment. It takes some time to get into (at first I didn’t really like it) but as the series progresses you get accustomed to it and you see the beauty of the artwork. Splash pages, homages to other series, focus on details, it has everything. It’s rough artwork, which fits perfectly for a rough character like Logan. This is the perfect art for this book.

Why it’s one of the best series at the moment:
It is a fantastic take on how Old Man Logan interacts with an alternative past, where all his friends are still alive, but so are his enemies. It focuses on how Logan handles with the slow realisation that this “past” is not his past. He meets people again who have never met him, he tries to kill villains who don’t know what he’s talking about, he tries to befriend people who fear him. It is an interesting take on what would happen if a character could go back and right all of his wrongs. How would he deal with it? Like this.

2. Moon Knight by Jeff Lemire & Greg Smallwood.

I already talked about Moon Knight in great lengths last week, when I reviewed #5 of the series and the complete first arc with that. So for a summary of the greatness of this book, I refer you to my reviews of last week.

Why it’s one of the best series at the moment:
Even thought it is a Marvel series, it doesn’t feel like one. It’s a series that completely neglects the fact that there’s a universe out there because it all plays out in the mind of Marc Spector. It keeps the reader confused and interested in ways that are original and compelling. It takes all his mythology and compiles it into one big, crazy idea that is either true or false and nobody knows. Not even Moon Knight himself. It takes the reader to a place that is beyond reality and dreams. It takes you into the rollercoaster that is the mind of Marc Spector. So just sit tight, buckle up, and let the craziness roll over you.

1. Vision by Tom King & Gabriel Hernandez Walta.

Tom King is a fantastic writer. Batman is one of the best titles over at DC at the moment, Grayson was one of the best series in the New 52 and Sheriff of Babylon is my personal favorite creator-owned series. But his Vision book beats everything.

This week 10 issues in, this series only has two more issues to come, sadly. Summary of the book: Vision tries to build an android family for himself, but it doesn’t really go like he planned it would go. I can’t really say much more, because as far as summarising goes, that’s it. You just have to read it to know what it’s about. It is just a fantastic take on how an emotionless character like the Vision can still have a family of his own, with equally as emotionless characters. However these last two issues play out, this is a series that will forever be remembered as one of the greatest Marvel publications ever.

The art on this book is actually pretty weak, though. It feels very sketchy. But the weird thing about it, is the fact that I can’t think of any other artist who could elevate this book more. The only way this book could be improved, is if it were drawn by Alex Ross. A frail story like this doesn’t need clean artwork. It needs frail, emotional artwork. Even though Walta’s art seems unfinished and sketchy, it suits the story perfectly and it couldn’t be improved by another artist (except, again, Alex Ross.)

Why it’s one of the best series at the moment:
Symbolism. Metaphors. Ominous narration. It has it all. It takes an “ordinary” concept like an android building a family, and it makes it into a drama like you have never seen before. It doesn’t try to lift Vision from the shadows he lives in, it embraces the shadows. It embraces his cold, emotionless life and it accentuates his lack of feelings. It takes drama to the next level. It takes superhero stories to the next level. It takes comics to the next level. It takes Marvel to the next level. You can agree on my list or you can’t, but if you don’t think Vision should be on the first spot, you’re wrong.

So this is my list of favorite Marvel publications. What are yours? Leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Google+ or on your fridge. I don’t recommend the latter, but who am I to tell you what to do?

Up for next week is a list of DC Rebirth, so be sure to come back for that one.