Search Results for 'James Jean' ↓

Superficial Saturdays #1 – FABLES #71 by James Jean

I decided to start a new feature here on Five With Flores, dedicated to cool / beautiful / paper-pushing comic book covers.

Most of the discussion you’ll hear from me RE: comics is from the Alan Moore / Brian K. Vaughan / Jonathan Hickman side, but comics is more than just engaging stories, clever puns, and slavish devotion to the history of the genre… What makes comics such a unique art form is the combination of great stories and great art… And lots of that art is devoted to — you guessed it — the cover.

I decided to start this feature off with my all-time favorite piece of comics art, the cover to FABLES #71 by James Jean:

Fables 71
Comic: FABLES #71
Artist: James Jean

The subject of this piece is glass slipper princess Cinderella (though if you are not a regular FABLES reader you probably never would have guessed that). Bill Willingham’s re-imagination of popular storybook characters like Snow White and The Big Bad Wolf in the modern era has some of them taking on vastly different roles than you might be familiar with. Cindy in FABLES is a secret agent.

Rockwell-level draftsmanship aside, there is basically one thing that I love about this piece above all others, and that is the detail to Cindy’s right garter. All the details in the outfit, the smoke spiraling up, the feathering on her hood are great, but artists have so much opportunity to phone it in around the edges — literally a spot that, with the right cropping, could get covered up with a bar code — but Jean’s implementation here, the sliver of skin, the lighting, shows you how much effort he must put into basically everything.

I love essentially every choice Jean makes on this one; like I said, it is probably my all-time favorite piece of comics art.

I would guess that FABLES #71 holds a special place in the artist’s heart as well. He dedicated a blog post to its conception and development over on his blog: FABLES 71.

If you ever want to gun me a lavish present, if there is one high-end print or piece of original art I would ever want, it’s this one. You know, if you are ever in the market for that sort of thing ๐Ÿ™‚

LOVE
MIKE

P.S. If you have any comics covers you love, please share them in the comments; I am going to make a super duper long-term effort to keep this a weekly feature indefinitely. Love to hear all of your input!

Glacial Fortress & Deck Design

In case you hadn’t yet seen it, I did a review on Top 8 Magic about Glacial Fortress, the U/W M10 dual land that was recently spoiled on the mother ship.

To wit:

Glacial Fortress
Glacial Fortress enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Plains or an Island.
T: Add W or U to your mana pool.

We can safely assume (even without using spoiler sites, which I don’t typically reference, ever) that Glacial Fortress is the first in a new line of M10 dual lands… though whether we have five dual lands or the full ten dual lands (including enemy colors on the order of Sacred Foundry, Breeding Pool, or Godless Shrine) is a mystery at present.

What interests me is the potential Constructed — specifically Standard — impact of this cycle. I actually wish I could write about a B/R or G/R version, but I don’t know the names (at least not officially) at this point ๐Ÿ™‚

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been fooling around with ye olde Cascade decks recently, pushing Bloodbraid Elf and Bituminous Blast into more (and less) interesting molds, going for more consistency or — surprisingly — less speed as the case may be with the Rhox Meditant deck. One of the things that I have found to be less satisfying with the decks is their mana consistency. The attack-oriented build, for example, often has strange — if recoverable — draws due to the conflicting tension of being a three- and four-mana haste aggro deck… that has a Reflecting Pool Control-reminiscent mana base with a ton of comes into play tapped Vivid lands.

One idea for a new build would be to try to take advantage of Ball Lightning (which has also been confirmed) as Bloodbraid Elf’s new best friend. I won’t speculate a full listing at this point (because I don’t really want to talk about Lightning Bolt), but there is ample design space to go with a much more concentrated Mountains mana base, touching the Black and/or Green equivalents of Glacial Fortress, reaping considerable speed, if spending a bit of flexibility.

You would of course have to give up Steward of Valeron, but might end up with a much more consistent package. For example shifting to a B/R build you could bias for Sygg, River Cutthroat* as the two drop over Steward of Valeron, run Blightning, Boggart Ram-Gang, and Ball Lightning in a jazzed three spot, still pack Bituminous Blast, with just the mildest Bloodbraid Elf splash out of Green. That is, if you were willing to invest the same twenty-six slots on lands that we did in the Primal Command deck, you would easily have space for ten or even twelve basic Mountains, along with the B/R or G/R equivalents of Glacial Fortress, with Savage Lands as the lonesome land that is guaranteed to come into play tapped. If you don’t get lucky on Mountains pulls in your opening hand, you are really not that much worse off than with a double-digit Vivid count… Because you have structured your spell selection differently, it’s not like you are shut out of a color you actually have to have under pressure (probably).

This is all intensely speculative, of course.

With the mana really and truly awesome there is just no incentive to playing mana-consistently whatsoever. You just end up with a worse, weaker, deck if the baseline is multicolored Bloodbraid Elf any- and everywhere, presuming passable mana (as opposed to stumbling mana, as in Block, where G/W was able to prevail on greater consistency and brutal speed).

Which actually brings us to a different point… If that is the case (and it just might be), the Glacial Fortress cycle of dual lands might be next to unplayable in Standard!

That’s right! If we continue to play decks with 1-5 basic lands (and even then only because we think someone might be playing Path to Exile) — especially when we don’t even play a second copy of any given basic land — Glacial Fortress and its buddies really aren’t much better than Coastal Tower… In fact, in-format, they are just worse than Arcane Sanctum. Surprising, no? Again, very speculative ๐Ÿ™‚

Two interesting points arise from this line of thinking:

1) There is actually an interesting [deck] design space here. Do you ignore Glacial Fortress and continue to play with crazy Arcane Sanctum / Vivid land-based mana instead of going for “more consistency” which might mean less power?
2) It’s rare that cards are kind of crappy in Standard but are quite good in Extended. Glacial Fortress seems like an awesome brother to Hallowed Fountain (or any of several Plains- or Island-based dual lands from Ravnica Block).

… Just my next few semi-spontaneous thoughts on Glacial Fortress ๐Ÿ™‚

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: Fables Covers: The Art of James Jean Vol. 1 (actually not reading at all… but looking at the awfully pretty pictures)


* No, I didn’t miss the potential of Lightning Bolt (still don’t believe it) and Sygg as a kind of punishing Impulse.

Five [Reasons to be Grateful] (with Flores)

I recently did an interview. Don’t worry! I’ll link to that when it goes live. But anyway, one of the questions in the interview got me thinking, and I have been thinking about this thing very intently for the past couple of days; that is, the prevailing, motivating, emotion that I have when I think about Magic. Once upon a time I mostly cared about winning; so I would say that my prevailing emotion was drive. Today, I am just very grateful to have had Magic touch me. Following are five reasons why…

  1. New York. I love New York. Which is strange because one of the most horrifying ideas to me is that LeBron James might leave the Cavaliers to come play up here. My wife sometimes asks me what I would do. The answer is that I would probably hole up and not watch basketball for a few years; she was equally horrified that I would not take the kids to see LeBron play at the Garden (both kids love LeBron James). So of course the first and greatest thing I am grateful for is being in New York.

    For those of you who don’t know, I moved to New York in 1999 — ten years ago now — to hang out and work at The Dojo for a summer. I was on scholarship in law school at the time. But I ended up liking New York, and I stayed on to become the Editor-in-Chief of The Dojo, then Editorial Director at Psylum, Inc. (the company that owned The Dojo and that was eventually bought by USA Networks). Being in New York was the springboard to my career, where otherwise I would probably have ended up being some Cleveland-based attorney, and I wasn’t really built for that life. But more importantly, I met my wife here in New York, and I have two wonderful children by her, whom, again, I would not have met had I not been in New York… And I only live in New York because of Magic.

    In a not-that-indirect way, I owe my family to Magic; my family, one of the only things I love more than Magic. So thanks.

  2. Notoriety. I enjoy a level of notoriety that probably would never have come to me but for Magic. When I last interviewed for a job, my eventual employers were tickled at the fact that I have my own Wikipedia entry. I have been lucky enough to receive a platform — series of platforms, actually, which includes this blog — that have given me the opportunity to express myself, and to express myself to a great many people. I have lived this way for so many years that I almost don’t know any other way to live my life but out in the open, warts and all, for the most part.

    Not everyone has that chance — that freedom — to connect with the rest of the world, especially at scale, and I owe that in large part to Magic. Would I have been able to generate a similar following, or become some kind of expert, publisher, or media figure somewhere else? The answer is probably. I am actually much better at marketing strategy than I am at Magic strategy and I am co-writing a book on advertising and marketing for a major nonfiction publisher right now… But the fact that I might have been able to do something somewhere else does not in any way, shape, or form detract from the fact that the notoriety I do have, I got thanks to Magic. And for that I am incredibly grateful.

  3. Friends. It was Dave Price (Pro Tour Champion and King of Beatdown Dave Price) who, about ten years ago, first introduced me to the idea that the line was blurring between my “Magic friends” and my “friends” … At some point that line evaporated completely. Every man who stood next to me at my wedding, including Jeff Wu (my oldest and dearest friend), John Shuler, and Tuna Hwa, is or was a Magic friend. None of them really play that much any more, but with the exception of Jeff (who was instrumental in getting me into Magic), I knew them from Magic. Ditto with Jon Becker, the godfather (that is, my son’s godfather), who read at my wedding. Ditto to Matt Wang and Brian David-Marshall, who published my first book, Deckade (buy Deckade at Top 8 Magic!). “Magic” friends any and all. I would hazard that most of my friends are Magic friends, which is largely a function of spending so much time with specific people for specific reasons. For example riding up and down the East Coast with Paul Jordan (I was Paul’s best man at his wedding) and Josh Ravitz (Josh has been one of the most influential people, ever, in my life… I only listen to Rilo Kiley — today my favorite band — because of Josh). I have so many dear Magic friends I don’t mean to exclude any of them by not talking about them in this section. Instead, I just want to reiterate how grateful I am to have them.
  4. Career. Many people assume I do Magic professionally. I’d say “I wish” … but I don’t really wish that. There are many days that I would rather just do my job than play Magic, which is a rare and wonderful thing that I think most people never get to say (you can substitute their job for my job and whatever they like to do for example sitting around watching teevee and drinking cheap beer for playing Magic). Today I am a Vice President at a great marketing and media company in New York. I think of myself as really good at what I do, and I often get asked to speak about what I do, which I do quite well; I may have already mentioned that I am co-writing another book, this time on advertsing. In a way I feel much more “lucky” than I do grateful, at least with regards to the intersection of my career and Magic. But like just being in New York, I don’t think that I would have been put on the path that I eventually was, you know, put on but for the game.

    So instead, I will just rattle off the names of a bunch of my friends, and how Magic may have influenced their careers…

    Like Worth Wollpert, my first Pro Tour roommate, now boss daddy of Magic Online. To Worth I say two words: Well, duh.

    Or Matt Wang, who used to be one of those buttoned up investment banker / MBA types. Now he basically rocks and rolls with Brian David-Marshall, doing incredibly interesting and impressive things (such as publishing Deckade, which you should buy from Top 8 Magic to show your gratitude)… Matt and Brian met via Magic, honed their eventual professional skills playing Magic, and have a staff of mostly all Magic players!

    Or Dave Williams, millionaire poker superstar… Where do you think Dave learned how to play cards?

    Or Jon Finkel, now the supreme overlord of a hedge fund. Jon was an English major. Where do you think he got his head for numbers and trading for value?

    I can’t be the only one who is this grateful that Magic touched my life and had a hand in my career path.

  5. Helping Others. I often get asked the same question. A lot. If you’re so good at thinking about Magic, why is it that Jon Finkel can win with your deck and you have never made a Pro Tour Top 8?

    Yes, as you can imagine, it can get old, that question (or variations thereof).

    Today the prevailing emotion I feel about Magic is gratitude. But once upon a time it was purely compeition, and the idea that I had to prove myself (to whom I am not sure). I was obsessed with “being good” and being clever and being qualified for the Pro Tour.

    Somewhere along the line, I think due to my relationships with players like Josh Ravitz, Julian Levin, Matt Boccio, Steve Sadin, Asher Hecht, and Will Price that I simply developed a different criteria for success. It was no longer about my individual performance, but about how I could influence and improve “the world” … even if the world manifested itself most directly through my Apprentice program. I think that some people probably misunderstand what this was or is about… At some point it was definitely about me just being the best deck designer on the planet, and that I could point at Apprentices’ success to prove that. But eventually it became about collaboration, seeing multiple viewpoints and really just making the best decisions for the collective.

    Maybe it was about the time I started to become more active with Top 8 Magic. Brian often talks about how the audio format softened a lot of my critics, because that richer format — especially when you have the ability to hear someone’s tone and how they articulate themselves — can help clue a reader or listener in on the intent, or lack thereof… Something that is impossible in print (even when the writer is the world’s most talented deck designer / blogger / video producer / marketer / et cetera). But I realized through collaborations that came out of Top 8 Magic that I could be of more help — more value really — when helping a friend to develop his ideas than simply by hammering my own idea down someone else’s throat (even if it was good). That’s something that manifested most concretely working with Andre Coimbra, but overall it was something that came about over the years thanks to being with everyone from Apprentices long past to Will today.

    It’s cool to write “helping others” as a bullet, in italics, but what I am really trying to get at, I think, is that I am grateful for personal change and growth, going beyond the idea that I am the center of the universe, to really serve by delivering good content however I can, whether that is by personal interaction, rich media that mimics that interaction, awesome deck design, collaboration, or the ongoing life storytelling that began over ten years ago and continues on Top 8 Magic and Five With Flores today. Obviously grateful. Again.

Amazingly I have gotten through five reasons to be grateful for Magic… without even once talking about playing Magic. Amazingly!

The fact is, Magic is about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

I would never have had any deck design success or Apprentice program if I didn’t love playing Magic, even for hours on end. I would never have become a prolific writer if I didn’t have a passion for Magic that I could exercise with words. And I would never have moved to New York — even for a summer — if I didn’t like Magic enough that I wanted to surround myself with a bunch of gamer nerds so I could play it 24/7 (which, incidentally didn’t occur). Magic is such a fun, enriching, way to spend your time that it is almost too obvious to be grateful for that. Anyway, we pay the manufacturers for the fun, along the way.

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Outrageously Grateful for: Fables Covers: The Art of James Jean Vol. 1

Rhox Meditant Again

Believe it or not, “Primal Command I Guess?” was supposed to be part of “The Return of Chameleon Colossus!” but “Primal Command I Guess” got really long, and “The Return of Chameleon Colossus!” … um… also long-ish!

And then there was that whole thing about the fight scene on 8th Avenue ๐Ÿ™‚

Long story short, I actually made a Rhox Meditant-based deck the same night that I started working on the Cascade deck from “Primal Command I Guess?” … It was weird. I won the first ten-ish matches and got bored already; plus there were all those Bloodbraid Elf mirrors. So I decided to borrow a feather from Saito’s cap and go with Rhox Meditant for additional card advantages / Bloodbraid Elf trumping.

Rhox Meditant falls kind-of in the Civic Wayfinder camp. One of the reasons that Civic Wayfinger decks like Jund Mana Ramp are so effective against Five-color Blood et al is that Civic Wayfinder pre-empts and profitably matches a Bloodbraid Elf. The Civic Wayfinder has superior speed to the Bloodbraid Elf and trades with it heads-up. The Civic Wayfinder goes and gets a card; the Bloodbraid Elf goes and gets a card. Which card is superior? It’s hard to say. Sometimes a Boggart Ram-Gang is better than a basic Swamp. Usually the basic whatever the Civic Wayfinder gets is 100x better than whatever the Bloodbraid Elf gets (this is in-matchup we are talking about). A Boggart Ram-Gang is a real threat, but a Putrid Leech might or might not be. A Maelstrom Pulse might be relevant, then again might not be.

Rhox Meditant is very similar to a Civic Wayfinder. It is not of superior speed to a Bloodbraid Elf; it is of equal speed (which is kind of superior speed when you go first). It is, however, of superior size. Yes, six is bigger than five. But more importantly, it has exactly enough power to down a Bloodbraid Elf and exactly enough toughness to weather a Bloodbraid Elf. Therefore it counteracts the Bloodbraid Elf’s body, and more; as for the bonus cards? Usually the Bloodbraid Elf will have the upper hand; a Rhox Meditant is not a Civic Wayfinder: There is absolutely no “aim” to it. But then again, when you topdeck a Rhox Meditant under pressure, you are probably happier to see it late in a game than a Civic Wayfinder.

That said, as an anti-Bloodbraid Elf deck, this one plays both ๐Ÿ™‚

Rhox Meditant Deck aka Slow Cascade version 1.2

4 Bituminous Blast
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Captured Sunlight
4 Enlisted Wurm
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Rhox Meditant

4 Civic Wayfinder
2 Primal Command

4 Exotic Orchard
1 Fire-Lit Thicket
4 Forest
4 Jungle Shrine
1 Mountain
2 Plains
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Savage Lands
1 Swamp
1 Wooded Bastion

sb:
4 Anathemancer
4 Cloudthresher
2 Primal Command
4 Aura of Silence
1 Volcanic Fallout

Why is it version 1.2? The original version had main deck Behemoth Sledge over Primal Command. I was seeing the efficacy of Primal Command in the other deck, and was playing it in the sideboard of this one. However Behemoth Sledge seemed like a good addition to the strategy based on wanting to ramp up bodies of Civic Wayfinder or Rhox Meditant (not huge), or giving Enlisted Wurm trample (double huge).

This was changed from version 1.0 for the following reason…

You know how we guru masterminds always say to make the tightest play, you know, while rubbing our fictitious beards? Well in at least one case I didn’t do so and it cost me.

I won about ten matches with this version, against a variety of decks, and only lost one. This is how I lost it:

I am playing against a Five-color Bloodbraid Elf variant. His fifth color comes out the very last turn of the first game, where he Counterspells my game-winning Enlisted Wurm, taps my team, and kills me. “Game winning” is kind of in quotes because it could have been Naya Charm and it would have done the same thing. Anyway his super cool innovation was Blightning. Blightning is really impressive with Sygg, River Cutthroat (turn two Sygg, turn three Blightning is a kick in the jones), and Blightning is superb off of the Bloodbraid Elf.

So it is the deciding game. My mana has come out really strange. It’s like turn four and I am planning to play a Kitchen Finks to stabilize. My plan is Bituminous Blast into Enlisted Wurm based on the Finks stabilization. He has a lot of cards due to playing Sygg into Blightning, then Bloodbraid Elf into Boggart Ram-Gang. But I think that I can stabilize with a Finks, get some nice value on the Bituminous Blast, and then put the nail in his coffin with the Wurm.

But then I draw Captured Sunlight.

Why couldn’t it have been Bloodbraid Elf?

So I am thinking to myself… Kitchen Finks is an irrelevant blocker that gets me two-to-four, soaks up a little, buffers my life total, really just bridges me to turn five.

But Captured Sunlight? I get four life up-front and I am just going to flip a three anyway (probably). I have 13 cards I can flip (there is a Kitchen Finks in my hand). If I flip one of the three Kitchen Finks, I am way ahead on the Captured Sunlight. If I flip a Civic Wayfinder I am about even, at least if he doesn’t have a Bituminous Blast. If I flip a Maelstrom Pulse that would be pretty cool… Probably a little better than if I flipped a Civic Wayfinder, but not tremendously better. Because I was 11/13 likely to flip a non-Behemoth Sledge.

How likely am I to win if I play the Kitchen Finks?

It’s hard to say.

I have a plan.

I think I am going to win.

I have lands. I have multiple Cascade spells. He only has maybe four Counterspells in his deck. That said, he has really powerful cards. He has already gotten me for a three-for-one and an additional plus-one due to Sygg, Blightning, and his board. But I have a plan and I think that I can win this one… But it’s not certain. For sake of argument let’s say that I am dead even (I am probably a dog, to be honest). But for sake of argument say if I make the Kitchen Finks play I am in a position to dig in my heels and win half the time.

Let’s say if that’s true that Captured Sunlight into Kitchen Finks — which is a clearly superior play — puts me way more likely to win due to a bigger cushion in life total… 65% over 50%.

We agreed that a Civic Wayfinder (slightly worse on the board, but with an arguably more significant life delta, plus the obvious card advantage) is about even. So 50% again.

Captured Sunlight into Maelstrom Pulse is very similar to playing a Kitchen Finks. We gain life (twice as much initially) but we also get to point at the guy we want to kill, and kill him (I probably would have picked Boggart Ram-Gang). This removes the possibility of his getting short term Bituminous Blast advantage that also prevents us from making the block we want (he can attack with just Boggart Ram-Gang and Sygg the following turn and leave us with no blocks if we go Finks and he goes Blast). So it is 55% over 50%.

But what about Behemoth Sledge?

We never win if we flip Behemoth Sledge.

You know how this story ended up. Otherwise why would I have removed Behemoth Sledge, and with it, any chances of ever flipping a Behemoth Sledge?

Did I get unlucky?

Yeah, 2/13 is not particularly likely.

But how unlucky did I get?

People bet their mortgages on 15-16% every day… and sometimes it’s right (with the right amount of value on the line). How about in this case?

I laid out a table with the estimated percentages we discussed, the likelihood of play X or Y occurring, and then a point value based on the chance to win times the likelihood of occurring (so for example with Kitchen Finks I have a 50% chance of winning 100% of the time, so it gets a value of .5). Are you surprised to see this?

Ka-pow!

Even though 23% of the time I increase my chances of winning from 50% to 65%, my overall chances to win suffer when I go Captured Sunlight rather than Kitchen Finks. In fact, they suffer to the tune of 3%.

Just something to think about the next time you go for that “cool” play instead of the consistent, tight, one you were thinking about until it actualy came time to execute.

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading (actually an early Father’s Day Gift): Fables Covers: The Art of James Jean Vol. 1 <-- exactly what I wanted ๐Ÿ™‚ P.S. Imagine we didn't have Behemoth Sledge in our deck at all. This is what our table would look like instead:

About 1/3 of the time we end up about as good (Civic Wayfinder) and about 2/3 of the time we end up in better position than when we play Kitchen Finks. So if there is no Behemoth Sledge dramatically dragging us down with its 0% likelihood of winning, the right play changes quite clearly.

Teddy Card Game Asks About The New 52

Teddy Card Game asks…

Great question!

For those of you who don’t know, The New 52 was fifty-two Number One comics releases that DC did last year, a sort of soft-reboot of the entire DC universe that incorporated elements of their Wildstorm and Vertigo imprints. Most or all of The New 52 #1s are priced at $.99 on Comixology (as a tool to attract new readers), and I for one found this an attractive way to become, you know, a new reader.

Originally I was going to write this blog post with titles in alphabetical order but then I realized that I am not a librarian and that doesn’t make for the most logical reading sense for our purposes. Instead I will break them up into these relatively unlike, but passably logical groups:

  1. Overpriced New 52 Books
  2. Stuff I More-Or-Less Never Miss
  3. Second Wave Titles
  4. Stuff I Like But Haven’t Really Gotten Around To
  5. Aquaman

Overpriced New 52 Books
Action Comics :: Batman :: Justice League

There are two main reasons I switched from almost 100% trade paperbacks for the last several years to mostly digital comics in the last year. The first is space: My wife originally had me switch from floppies to trade paperbacks so that I wouldn’t have hundreds of essentially disposable magazines coming in every month… That I refused to ever get rid of. So I amassed a pretty kick-ass trade paperback / graphic novel collection that lots of my friends take advantage of for the big borrows. But even trade paperbacks take ups space, and my wife is a minimalist in her soul. Cloud computing lets my buy lots and lots of comics and they all live on my iPad, so don’t take up any space.

The second reason is price. Again, Comixology charges only $.99 for most of The New 52 #1 issues, to help encourage people to try them (and presumably get them hooked). After 30 or so days, cover price on most books I buy — DC or not — to $1.99. However some super popular books like the ones in this section have stayed at $2.99. So it’s not like I don’t like some of these books; I can just get an extra half-Justice League Dark for the price of not buying an adjective-less Justice League instead.

Action Comics
Main Character(s): Superman
Notable Creator(s): Grant Morrison, Rags Morales

1 Issue (#1)

Action Comics is set in the recent past, before the massive proliferation of superheroes in the rebooted DC universe, so a young(er) Clark Kent has got a Superman-looking tee-shirt and farm boy blue jeans and work boots instead of his sleeker superhero-ing uniform. Morrison is telling the story of a Superman whose chosen sparring partners are greedy businessmen rather than alien green men.

Grant Morrison wrote my all-time favorite Superman Story All-Star Superman a few years ago; paired with the underrated former Valiant artist Rags Morales, this comic is squarely in my wheelhouse… Just haven’t caught up (note subsection).

Batman
Main Character(s): Batman, Alfred
Notable Creator(s): Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo

13 issues (#1-12, Annual #1)

One book in and we are already at the exception that proves the rule. Part of the bigger number is that Comixology / DC priced Batman reasonably for the first few months before deciding they could get away with the higher price point. The other, of course, is that Scott Snyder is more-or-less the hottest writer in comics, and his work on Batman is a good indication as to why. He is great on Batman and even better on American Vampire (not a New 52 book). The story is disorienting; Snyder has been planting Batman-seeds for years with Dick Grayson and some peripheral Bat-heroes… And they finally gave him the big boy title with The New 52 launch. This is a comic book about Gotham City. It is the secret origin of the Wayne family. It is action, horror, and the opportunity to see Batman do some cool stuff — all brought together with the kinetic pencils of Greg Capullo. I haven’t looked at any recent sales figures but it would not surprise me if this were DC’s top-selling book.

Justice League
Main Character(s): Aquaman, Batman, Cyborg, Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, Wonder Woman
Notable Creator(s): Geoff Johns, Jim Lee

6 issues (#1-6)

Justice League is DC’s veritable “put Mike Flores and Patrick Sullivan in Las Vegas and see what happens” cocktail. Basically they took the most sale-able artist in comics (Jim Lee) and paired him with the consistent hit-maker Johns… And give them Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to play with. So if Batman isn’t DC’s best selling book, my guess is that Justice League is.

I bought the first arc of six issues primarily at my kids’ insistence for bedtime reading. It is set about five years ago and tells the story of the dawn of superheroes in the rebooted DC Universe — the Justice League against Darkseid!

Stuff I More-Or-Less Never Miss
Animal Man :: Birds of Prey :: Stormwatch :: Swamp Thing

With the exception of Animal Man, this section is all stuff I buy because like the proto-fanboy, I am loyal to certain characters.

Animal Man
Main Character(s): Buddy Baker (Animal Man) and his family, Swamp Thing; various Animal- and Swamp-themed peripherals
Notable Creator(s): Jeff Lemire

15 issues (#1-13, #0, Annual #1)

Animal Man was one of the best-reviewed “surprise” hits of The New 52. Surprise! (none of you have ever heard of Animal Man, I’d guess) I gave it a try and liked it. It’s pretty weird / violent / offbeat funny. Animal Man ties in to some of the Vertigo Grant Morrison ideas of the last century but is one of several New 52 books that has a superhero-y sounding name but is kind of an off-kilter horror book, similar to Justice League Dark or I, Vampire. Substantial crossovers with Swamp Thing didn’t hurt my interest.

Birds of Prey
Main Character(s): Black Canary, Starling; with Katana, Poison Ivy, and Batgirl
Notable Creator(s): Duane Swierczynski

13 issues (#1-12, #0)

If you read my favorite Batman stories blog posts a few months back you know how I feel about Birds of Prey. I was initially a bit apprehensive about a Birds of Prey without Gail Simone at the helm, but Duane has done a more-than-passable job in the reboot universe, kind of flipping the power relationship between Black Canary and Batgirl (Oracle in the pre-reboot continuity). The book initially launched with the excellent Jesus Saiz, who I loved from his work on some of Greg Rucka’s titles last decade. I think that anyone can like Birds of Prey but you will particularly like it if you like girl power and / or butt-kicking.

Stormwatch
Main Character(s): Apollo, Midnighter, The Engineer Jack Hawksmoor, Jenny Quantum, Martian Manhunter
Notable Creator(s): Paul Cornell, Peter Milligan

14 issues (#1-13, #0)

Buying every issue of Stormwatch is Mike at his fanboy-est. The core cast here is from 1990s Stormwatch-spinoff The Authority by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch. The Authority and some of the other Wildstorm stuff Jim Lee was publishing himself were so popular that DC bought their company!

The best thing by far about Stormwatch is Midnighter and Apollo. Midnigher is Batman. Apollo is Superman. They are unapologetically derivative… and gay for each other. It was pretty groundbreaking when this super popular superhero book last century had their Bruce-and-Clark analogues kiss, get married, and adopt a super baby. It is just one of many conventions that this book (or at least the tradition through which this book reaches us in The New 52) sets on its ear.

Just because Midnigher is gay doesn’t mean he isn’t, you know, a merciless killing machine. Midnigher is the ultimate tactician, a platonic crystalization of Batman’s combat prowess (wearing essentially the movie version of Batman’s carbon fiber armor), and explained through a superhuman lens: Midnigher can see your every weakness consciously, therefore can plan and execute on how to execute any opponent.

My all-time favorite New 52 issue is Stormwatch #9, which is a Midnigher-centric story about him fantasizing about fighting Batman, but actually having to deal with an invading Red Lantern (Red Lanterns are like Green Lantern, but baaaaahd). How does a guy armed with a belt-knife and a karate chop beat a cosmically powered alien with a magic ring?

It’s just so darn appropriate.

As much as I will buy every issue of Stormwatch until they cancel it, I would be the first to acknowledge it is the most uneven of the books I am talking about today. There are well written ones and less well written. The art has been awesome with Miguel Sepulveda (who drew #9)… Weaker with other artists.

Especially if you don’t have the same kind of emotional attachment to these particular characters that I have… Take Stormwatch with a grain of salt.

Swamp Thing
Main Character(s): Swamp Thing, Abby Arcane, Animal Man; various Swamp- and Animal-themed peripherals
Notable Creator(s): Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette

14 issues (#1-13, #0)

Remember all that stuff I said about Scott Snyder in the Batman section?

Nothing is going to equal Alan Moore’s genre-defining run in the 1980s, but I am glad DC gave Scott Snyder the chance to try.

Second Wave Titles
Batman Incorporated :: Earth 2 :: World’s Finest

DC wound down a handful of the lower selling titles and replaced them with some of these. I split them out into their own section because I wanted to stave off the “if you like this so much how come you only have four copies of…” thoughts and reactions in advance.

Batman Incorporated
Main Character(s): Batman, Robin, various Batmen of various nations
Notable Creator(s): Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham

4 issues (#1-3, #0)

This is basically the same book that I said was one of my Top 10 favorite Batman stories last time… But with a new #1.

Typical Morrison big ideas, Batman executing on a global scale, Burnham bringing his A-game every issue, and goat-themed assassins.

Morrison also has some great nods to stories by creators like Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli, and Neal Adams as he re-envisions his Batman. Here is a young Talia al Ghul going all Year One as it were:

Earth 2
Main Character(s): Lots of big-name superheroes from Batman / Superman / Wonder Woman to Flash and Green Lantern
Notable Creator(s): James Robinson

6 issues (#1-5, #0)

James Robinson, progenitor of maybe my all-time favorite superhero comic Starman, pens the tale of a world that is a little bit different from the mainstream DCU. “Five years ago” … That time I talked about with the Darkseid conflict in Justice League? Well what happens to a planet if, instead of the Justice League coming together to beat Darkseid, um, something else interesting happens? That is the starting point of the Earth 2 narrative. In a sense it is post-apocalyptic; in another it is one of the most hopeful and uplifting (and brightly colored) of The New 52.

World’s Finest
Main Character(s): Huntress, Power Girl (Robin, Supergirl)
Notable Creator(s): Paul Levitz, George Perez, Kevin Maguire

6 issues (#1-5, #0)

The character Huntress was originated in the 1970s by Levitz as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. Various continuity re-writes and universe consolidations changed her, over time, to a repentant mafia princess and the trigger-girl for Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey. A version of Huntress was, during the largely regrettable No Man’s Land storyline, one of the best — or at least cleverest — non-Bruce Wayne people ever to call [her]self Batman… But hadn’t been true to her identity as the true inheritor to the Batman in some years.

The reality created by Earth 2 (i.e “another” Batman) opened the door to bring Huntress as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman back with The New 52 reboot. Power Girl, a heroine who was originally Superman’s cousin from another world, became nothing more or less than a white singlet with peekaboo[b] cleavage. In World’s Finest, Power Girl is a mite more covered up and returns to her origin’s roots, as well.


Pre-New 52 Reboot of Power Girl, by Adam Hughes

This book is great fun, with Levitz doing his best to honor his characters, and an all-star lineup of Perez and Maguire half-drawing each issue.

Stuff I Like But Haven’t Really Gotten Into
Batgirl :: Batwoman :: I, Vampire :: Justice League Dark :: Wonder Woman

Batgirl
Main Character(s): Batgirl
Notable Creator(s): Gail Simone, covers by Adam Hughes

2 issues (#1, #0)

Birds of Prey under Gail Simone is one of your all-time favorite books?

Yes.

So you try Birds of Prey not with Gail Simone and hit more-or-less every issue?

Still yes.

But the actual Gail Simone book, featuring the main character of Birds of Prey… You haven’t gotten along to that one?

People are inexplicable.

Batwoman
Main Character(s): Batwoman
Notable Creator(s): JH Williams III

1 Issue (#1)

Not only was Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka one of my Top 10 favorite Batman stories ever, I even wrote a separate post about the trade itself!

Batwoman in The New 52 is the continuation of that story… But without Greg Rucka. JH Williams III is as beautiful as ever on the visuals but without the mastermind that wove together realistic, military, superheroics with a “real” lesbian protagonist. It’s just not at the top of my stack. Maybe someday.

I, Vampire
Main Character(s): some vampires; can’t remember any of their names; John Constantine maybe
Notable Creator(s): Joshua Hale Fialkov

4 issues (#1-4)

I really liked Joshua Hale Fialkov’s indie Image book The Last of the Greats, so I decided to give his more mainstream vampire-superhero title a swing. It’s no American Vampire, but I, Vampire is still quite good. If you like Jae Lee-esque art, it is also quite pretty. I plan to catch up more, especially given its Animal Man / Swamp Thing-like crossovers with Justice League Dark.

Justice League Dark
Main Character(s): Deadman, Dove, John Constantine, Shade the Changing Man, Zatanna, other magic-themed characters
Notable Creator(s): Peter Milligan

6 issues (#1-6)

Peter Milligan’s Shade the Changing Man with Chris Bachalo was my gateway to Vertigo-style comics back in the 1990s (thanks to my then-classmate Brian K. Vaughan). I was into Shade even before I was into the more recognizable Sandman, and certainly didn’t know what I had missed in terms of Swamp Thing. So… Milligan put Shade into this oddball group of magic-themed characters.

Both John Constantine (one of Alan Moore’s most masterful additions to the comics canon) and Zatanna are favorite characters.

The book is beautiful.

Most of these people are pretty much assholes.

I think I like it better than regular Justice League.

Wonder Woman
Main Character(s): Wonder Woman
Notable Creator(s): Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang

8 issues (#1-7, #0)

Outstanding!

One of the best rebooted concepts for a character! Great story! Cliff Chiang is even better on this book than Azz, which is saying something! More! Exclamation! Points!

Aquaman
Aquaman

Aquaman
Main Character(s): Aquaman
Notable Creator(s): Geoff Johns, Ivan Reiss

1 issue (#1)

Superstar Geoff Johns, superstar Ivan Reiss (ergo gorgeous), Aquaman is back in the League, great ratings on the book…

Nope, still about talking to fish.

Those, dear Teddy, are all The New 52 books I have read and kept up with.

LOVE
MIKE