Mage: The Hero Denied #4 (Image Comics)

Runners Up: Bloodshot Salvation #3 (Valiant Comics), Dark Nights: Batman Who Laughs (DC Comics)

As I’ve mentioned before, this final volume of Mage has been a long time coming. Seriously, The Hero Defined started 20 years before The Hero Denied. In past years, I joked about the final volume never coming out and never getting my nice hardcover to match the other two. They better come out with that matching hardcover. Anyway, Matt Wagner’s now concluding epic is one of the biggest names of the late 1980s-early 1990s indie comic boom to not get any major release in other media. Mage is tailor-made for film and it is somewhat mind-boggling that past attempts to adapt it have stalled out. Perhaps with this final chapter playing out, interest from Hollywood will pique. This issue of the series was especially interesting, Wagner has shown his writing prowess through the other 4 issues, but this is the most impressive. Wagner’s art has not deteriorated over the last 30 years, in fact, it has improved. As a fan of Wagner’s through many of his projects, I can’t think of a single better looking issue that he has produced, even within the excellent Batman: Dark Moon Rising projects. I also appreciate Wagner’s ability to write a great issue. That sounds odd, but I mean that Wagner doesn’t forget his format, and plots the story accordingly. Over in Bloodshot Salvation, Lewis LaRosa and Mico Suayan continue to provide some of the coolest art in the business. Jeff Lemire continues his time-bending adventure and one of the best current runs in comics. Lemire is on a roll and I’m chomping at the bit for his upcoming book, The Terrifics, for DC. For our seemingly obligatory Bat-Book for the week (they’ve just been so damned good recently), we have Metal Tie-In Dark Nights: Batman Who Laughs. This book already had an advantage, finally telling the origin of the Dark Nights’ ringleader, but luckily it is a lot more than that. Detective Comics‘ James Tynion IV and Batman/The Shadow‘s Riley Rossmo tell a tale of a Batman obviously influenced by The Joker. The specifics of that aren’t mind-blowing in comic book terms, but the presentation is. This story is brutal, a distinctly adult level of violence. This totally fits the story, Metal and makes me wonder if that coming Vertigo re-launch might include a Tynion led Mature Readers Batman. That’s just wild speculation, but if I got it right, YOU READ IT HERE FIRST!