Back in 2009, I started keeping track of who was drawing the comics I was buying, and how many pages they were doing. Maybe it was a way to get me to focus on the artist more, but knowing me, it's more likely I was trying to see who you couldn't count on to meet deadlines. I set a completely arbitrary line at 110 pages (5 22-page issues), and another at 154 (7 issues) for the folks who were really involved in the books I was buying. Since 2010, the number at the lower level has stayed between 7 and 9, with 8 artists this year. Alex Sanchez and Filipe Andrade just reached 110, Scott Wegener fell just short (100 pages, too bad the last issue of Savage Sword didn't ship when it was supposed to). J Bone reached 132 since he had to come in and do the last two issues of Pulp Friction.
In the previous years, it's been 2 or 3 artists who reached the second level, but this year it was 4, maybe 5. I say maybe because John Romita Jr.'s credited with breakdowns only on the last 2 issues of Captain America he drew, so I'm not sure how to count that. If I give him full credit, it's 160 and he makes it. If I go half, it's 140 and he doesn't. Beyond him, Rebekah Isaacs and Chris Samnee made it for the second year in a row, Alberto Ponticelli finished with 179 pages (ahead of Isaacs by 3, behind Samnee by 9), but the lead artist of the year was. . . Kev Walker, who drew 200 pages of Avengers Arena in 2013! It's nice when it's an artist whose work I consistently enjoyed. It means I wasn't buying the book in spite of them, but at least partially because of them. I know the fact Walker's working with Hopeless again on Avengers Undercover was one of the reasons I decided to give that a whirl.
Katana #1-10: This was the book Nocenti started up as she left green Arrow, and so I followed her. Sadly, the book didn't sell, and died quickly. Alex sanchez drew a little over half the series, ChrisCross drew #9, Fabrizio Florentino drew half of one issue, and Cliff Richards drew the rest. Richards was my personal favorite, though it may not have helped Sanchez' case that he was being inked by two or sometimes three different people in a given issue. Anyway, Katana set out to bring down those she held responsible for her husband's death. Her sword was broken, her goals and motives brought into question, even the truth of Maseo's death was shown to be not what she said. And so she had to sort her way through that, deal with threats physical and supernatural, with people pulling her this way and that. I wouldn't describe it as a cheerful book, but I loved reading it.
High Point: Nocenti's writing style isn't for everyone, but I tend to enjoy her work. There's always more than what's on the surface, but beyond that I enjoy her characters. When they make bad decisions, I can understand why. Their motives and obsessions are ones that seem real, even if the circumstances are unusual. And I like the whole theme of Tatsu struggling against everyone's expectations of her, including her own, to figure out who she really wants to be, and how she wants to live.
Low Point: I was not a fan of Sanchez' art. I thought the action sequences were awkward, but more critically, I felt Sanchez didn't lay out pages in a manner which conveyed important information well. On more than one occasion, it felt as though the page was set up primarily to show off something Sanchez felt was more impressive looking, and so that one panel took almost all of the page, but told the reader very little. Meanwhile, other panels with useful information where squeezed to edges and were difficult to read. This is the book I was talking about when I said reading a book in spite of the art.
Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe #1-4: Longshot's targeted as a threat to reality by the In-Betweener. Really, it's when Longshot and a Cosmic Cube get together that things go wrong, and Longshot has to push his luck to the limits to fix things. I'm not sure why Christopher Hastings wanted to write this story, but I'm glad he did, and Jacopo Camagni was a fine choice for artist.
High Point: The assault on the Helicarrier was entertaining, and Dazzler's annoyance at Longshot not remembering her - again - brought a chuckle. I like the idea that Longshot's luck reaches so much further than he expects, in ways he can barely realize. Camagni's version of the In-Betweener was pretty cool. Dapper, even.
Low Point: Nothing really jumps to mind. I could complain Spider-Ock felt largely superfluous, but he's not in there enough to really bother me. That would be a complaint on principle, rather than anything specific to the work.
Rocketeer - Hollywood Horror #1-4: Betty's roomie, enterprising reporter Dahlia Danvers, goes missing investigating a man promising enlightenment and safety in his religion. Betty opts to go snooping, and Cliff would love to help, but the rocket pack's inventor needs it back for some tests, and his boys took it by force. At least Betty has Nick and Nora Charles on his side.
High Point: I think J Bone's art was stronger here than on the next entry, either because he had more lead time, or perhaps because he colored it himself. I worried at times that Langridge was throwing too many celebrity guest stars in, but he used them well. Opinion on that might vary depending on your fondness for The Thin Man. The writing was very light and funny, with a good wit behind it. Important things to have, considering who was supposed to be narrating the whole thing.
Low Point: Again, nothing comes to mind.
Rocketeer/Spirit - Pulp Friction #1-4: This was supposed to be a Mark Waid/Paul Smith collaboration, but Smith bailed after the first issue. Loston wallace drew the second issue, then J Bone reappeared to handle the second half of the mini-series. A strange murder of a Central City councilman draws the Spirit to L.A., because Betty was the one who found the corpse. He and Cliff butt heads, kick butts, save FDR from Nazis. In retrospect, I could have done without the Spirit. I'm just not interested in him.
High Point: Though he was only on the book for an issue, I like Paul Smith's work. I thought he came pretty close to evoking Dave Stevens' style.
Low Point: Certain aspects of the plot didn't make a lot of sense, mostly related to the 11th hour arrival of a company of Nazis. More critically, this is the second time I haven't enjoyed Mark Waid's version of Betty. There's just something about her that's meaner, more fickle than seems right.
Secret Avengers #36, 37: With Matteo Scalera drawing, the tail end of Remender's run on the book. The original Human Torch saves the world from being turned into advanced techno-organic beings, or whatever it was that was going on. I haven't read the books since the story finished.
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #6, 7: Along with Deadpool, a recent addition to the pull list. I just reviewed these a couple of weeks ago, but like with Deadpool, I was encouraged by what I read. It's super-crooks working together to make some bank, stabbing each other in the back, and suffering for messing with people higher up the food chain.
X-Men #1-8: Can't pass up a chance to use an Amanda Conner cover. Brian Wood and Oliver Coipel's all-lady X-team lasted exactly three issues, before it became Wood and David Lopez' all lady X-team, which was promptly sucked into Battle of the Atom nonsense. Now Terry Dodson's drawing it, as the all-new Lady Deathstrike forms her Sisterhood. It hasn't really clicked like I hoped though, and I can't decide if Wood's purposefully leaving things unanswered because he's planning to get to it later
High Point: The bit in issue 4 with Wolverine and Jubilee visiting her old stomping grounds with Shogo. I find it kind of funny how the whole thing with Mercury and Bling keeps getting interrupted by explosions and invasions and stuff. David Lopez' art was lovely. That smirk he gave Evil Future Xavier was outstandingly hateable.
Low Point: The Battle of the Atom crossover. Did not care. The irregularity of the artists. The way Wood tries to be clever in how the characters use their powers, but it just comes off as being needlessly complicated.