Venom #1 (Marvel Comics)
Runners Up: The Flash #46 (DC Comics), Batman: White Knight #8 (DC Comics)
In an earlier column, I mentioned that I would be buying Venom because Donny Cates had impressed me so much on Thanos, and not out of any admiration for recent interpretations of the character. While I certainly think that Venom’s origin and early outings are both a lot of fun and important moments in Spider-Man’s history, as a child of the Nineties, his role seemed to constantly inflate. By the time I got to late high school, I was pretty underwhelmed with what Venom had become. While the symbiote’s transference to Mac Gargan piqued my interest briefly, I basically lost track of the character for over a decade, outside of some appearances in The Amazing Spider-Man. I didn’t even know Lee Price existed until doing some research for this article. Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s Venom #1 brings all of the character’s history forward, while leaving Eddie Brock with the symbiote and inviting fans like myself to jump back in. Cates’ plotting is reminiscent of Geoff Johns’ turn of the millennium work. While not changing or disregarding the character’s past, he finds ways to enrich it and still maintain a classic feel. Cates’ story even made me more interested in the Flash Thompson version of the character, but I won’t give away why. Ryan Stegman provides some masterful panels, with nods to the character’s most beloved looks. There’s an especially McFarlane-looking one that appears early, and makes a clear thematic connection to the characters now 30 year history. I never thought I’d be gushing over a new Venom #1, but two rising stars in the industry have changed that.
Joshua Williamson and veteran The Flash penciller Scott Kolins finally set Flash War in motion with yet another excellent Wally West-centric issue. As the timeline continues to unravel across the DCU ( check out Detective Comics this week for even more), the man at the center of it all has begun too as well. Though this hadn’t occurred to me until I sat down to write this, Williamson also shows shades of early Johns, not just because Kolins is on art, but by acknowledging the past and effectively moving into the future. That said, this issue is a blatant nod to the post-Crisis/pre-Flashpoint fans, and as one of them, I’d like to thank the creative team for making it so. The issue also establishes what Flash War is to be, and it is a doozy.
Rounding out the list is Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth’s Batman: White Knight. I think this series was something very special, both in design and narrative. With Murphy on board, we knew it would be pretty but his work here is even more exceptional than expected. Pair that with an intriguing alternate universe, one that I can’t help but see as The Dark Knight Returns for the Batman: The Animated Series generation, and I think the Hardcovers and Trade Paperbacks will be generating sales for years to come. It may be a bit pricey to track down the issues, but make sure you check this out however you can afford to.