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This was the toughest Top 5 list we’ve had to put together yet: ol’ reliables like Saga and Manhattan Projects didn’t put out an issue in May. And other stalwarts like Fatale and Nowhere Men, while solid, weren’t quite their usual, exemplary selves (hmm, looking at the above titles it seems we’re really putting the Image in images and Nerds). All these open spots generated much discussion from your intrepid reviewers about who should fill them. Change, of course, can be a good thing. Shake things up! Diversify! In the end, we’re pleased by the inclusion of three brand new #1’s on the list below, with all the promise they imply, even as we bid a fond adieu to one excellent title that seems to be ending its run.

5. Dream Thief #1 (Dark Horse): An undeserving lowlife is possessed by a mystical power that places him in hairy situations, seemingly in the name of justice. Jai Nitz’s tightly-structured occult noir hums like clockwork thanks in large part to Greg Smallwood’s beautifully designed graphic fireworks. After one issue, both of these gentlemen feel like creators to watch. And Dark Horse, with titles like this, Brian Wood’s The Massive, and Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT (not to mention our #1 title below) is positioning itself to give Image a run for its money as the most exciting publisher around. (DM)

4. Battlefields: The Fall and Rise of Anna Kharkova #6 (Dynamite): It’s a birdIn a plane!  It’s Anna Kharkova!  Garth Ennis and Russ Braun set the irrepressible Night Witch free with a Yeatsian final stanza that celebrates the unconquerable human spirit. (SC)

3. Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake #5 (kaboom!): The only regular on this month’s list, Natasha Allegri’s gender-switching fairy tale pulls off the neat trick of subtly subverting story-time expectations while also thrillingly living up to them. Truly a comic for “all-ages”. (DM)

2. Adventures of Superman #1 (DC): So what if this trio of short stories first appeared digitally? We first read them the old fashioned way – holding them in our grubby little hands as an actual comic book! Whatever the format, this is the best Superman title we’ve read in a while. Jeff Parker pens a classic story about an early Luthor encounter, made even more so by Chris Samnee’s utterly gorgeous art. We’re convinced: Samnee should draw Superman regularly. And every other superhero title. Justin Jordan and Riley Rossmo close the book with a fun Bizarro tale. But the star here is Jeff Lemire. Set in the vast expanses of rural Kansas, Lemire’s story and art are given the room to breathe that has been sorely lacking in some of his other superhero books. That may seem an odd comment for a story that’s all of ten pages, but Lemire fills them with the sense of imagination and wonder that are the essence of Superman. In the process, Lemire also reminds us what we love about him. This wonderful book has the cumulative, perhaps unintended, effect of making us long for the pre-New 52 Man of Steel. Long live the Red Trunks! (DM)

1. Mister X: Eviction #1 (Dark Horse): Amongst the standout books for the month, Dean Motter’s urbane banquet of urban anxiety stands out the most; in fact, it towers above the rest!  Mr. Motter is in complete control of the pagescape: he wields images and words with an imaginative precision that makes a penthouse reality out of street-level dreams.  All hyperbole aside, this, folks, is why we make our weekly pilgrimage to the comic shop. (SC)

The Biggest Dis(appointment): The Bounce #1 (Image):  If Joe Casey’s Sex is a tired, syphilitic muse, then his latest, The Bounce, is an adopted crack baby.  From the opening toke–a decision more desperate than daring–Casey wields his great power irresponsibly: he lazily and preposterously offers up a seemingly incorrigible pothead, one agonizingly alliterative Jasper Jenkins–an obvious Peter Parker analog–and then oddly recalls an irrelevant hero, Speedball–no, really, Speedball!–who himself was misguidedly modeled after Spider-Man, for goodness sake, all the while sticking too closely to the all-too-familiar amazing spiderweb, you know, because why futz around with a tried and true formula that’s caught villains and readers alike for fifty-plus years.  Speaking of villains: in the grandiloquent antagonist The Darling, Casey conjures his inner Mark Millar yet again (see Sex for more evidence of Casey’s indisputable infatuation with the obnoxious Scotsman); and in the Grand Design, he shows that he’s embarrassingly “behind the curve”–certainly behind Jonathan Hickman, whose The Manhattan Projects sports a curiously similar device.  Yeah: surprise.  If I’m being fair, The Fog, injected into the end of the book, does bring a tablespoon of originality to the flame; but whatever taste I’ve gotten is a bizarre, almost indescribable feeling that smacks of questionable calls–including having The Crush inexplicably use “tenacious” to describe the “pigs” that he assumes one sentence later will be “pissed” once they find out what he’s done–and tone deaf pseudo-intellectualism.  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?  Really?  So, while I did say yes to the first issue, going forward, I’m going to listen to the small voice in my head, that of the former first lady who famously said that, when facing a choice such as this, I should just say no. (SC)

Turning pages,

Derek & Scott