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Top of the Pile: October 2013

The Comic Vine staff picks out their favorite books from a very spooktacular October.

It's the end of the month, so most of you know what that means. It's time, again, for another edition of Top of the Pile. At the end of each month, the Comic Vine staff picks out their five favorite books and let's you know what made them the issues that sit on the top of their pile of books. Enough of the chit-chat. Let's get down to these picks!

Tony's picks

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Everyone loves SANDMAN. Or at least everyone that's read it. It's hard to believe how many years it's been since the series ended or even how many years back it all started. This issue reminded me just how much I enjoyed it all. Neil Gaiman seamlessly brings us back to the beginning. As the issue progressed, it felt like it was just the other day I was reading about Morpheus and the other characters. I never realized how much I wanted to know about the events that occurred right before the first issue. Now, more than ever, I am on the edge of my seat.J.H. Williams III's art is amazing. The amount of detail he puts in each panel is something worth seeing. The variety from scene to scene, or even within a single panel at times, is extraordinary. It's a bummer to have to wait until December for the second issue but it will definitely be worth the wait.


Oversized BATMAN for oversized fun. We are getting a different kind of Batman story. Seeing Bruce first become Batman allows for a new take on the Dark Knight. We've seen some flashback stories before but this feels like it's allowed to go on a bigger scale. Greg Capullo's art is as ferocious as ever. With the final confrontation to this encounter with the Red Hood and the Red Hood Gang, Snyder gives an ending that does justice to what we know from before and what we've been getting in this first arc of Zero Year. With a nice tease that sets up the second act, it's a great time to visit the past of Gotham City.


Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting and Elizabeth Breitweiser. That's plenty reason to check out this series. With a slightly different take on the spy genre, Brubaker establishes the world of Velvet Templeton. We get to find out what the agency she works for is like while the mystery of the story kicks the action into high gear. Brubaker has proven he can write a strong female character and having Velvet as the lead brings a fresh and excitement change of pace. This title shows that it is still possible to see the creation of new series that don't have be tied to an existing franchise with years and years of story. We may have only gotten a taste of this new comic world but it's enough to make us want to come back for more.


Archie characters and zombies felt like it would be a joke. We've seen the zombie craze a few years back and this appeared to be a few years too late. When you read it, you'll be surprised in a way you wouldn't have thought possible. While I was reading, I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. This felt so wrong but that's what makes it work. We have become numb to horror and suspense stories. It becomes hard to get invested in the fictional characters. If you ever read or had the slightest interest in ARCHIE comics, you'll experience the crushing feeling of the doom and gloom being unleashed on Archie and the gang. This sick sort of feeling is what's been missing from this genre. It's not just a matter of trying to exploit the characters to create a shock. We get an interesting story with some amazing art. What more could you ask for?


It makes sense that two of DC's biggest characters would work so well in the same title. Greg Pak has shown us how these two characters can work and clash with each other. It was a smart move to have this story take place in the past. It gives us a chance to see these characters in an early point in their careers as well. Of course Pak also gives us the opportunity to visit the Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Catwoman and Lois Lane from EARTH 2 before they all met their final fates. With Jae Lee's art, we get an incredibly journey that almost feels surreal. You might scratch your head a tiny bit at the end of the big adventure but I'm glad this title has made me overcome my feeling of indifference after getting burnt out on the previous SUPERMAN/BATMAN series.

Mat's picks

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Hands down, this was my favorite issue of this volume of AQUAMAN. Heck, it was my favorite issue of any issue of AQUAMAN, even moreso than the Sub-Diego arc. AQUAMAN #24 delivers almost all the answers fans have had since the beginning of this series. We learn the history of Atlantis and the Dead King, why Atlantis sank, what happened to its people, and the most important question "When will Aquaman get a sweet looking beard?" It's an incredibly satisfying read.

Writer Geoff Johns has been setting up all of these stories since the opening of this series and it all really comes together here. He, artist Paul Pelletier, inker Sean Parsons and colorist Rod Reis create one hell of a story that will have you dying for more. As someone who has been an Aquaman fan since a kid, this is the series and the issue this character deserves.


One pretty large arc has finished up and now it's the start to a new one. CLONE has done some really cool things in the past issue with expanding its world that continue to make this book feel like it can have a long run.

Luke Taylor is trying his darndest to rustle up all the clones he can since Vice President Davis took the cloning project public and now the country is after anything that even looks remotely like a clone. Once again, Jose Juan Ryp does a great job on the art, and it's great to see this world slowly build-up. CLONE is a series I'd highly recommend for those looking to jump into something a bit more realistic.


This month's issue of GHOSTED took a step away from the Ocean's Eleven type storytelling and jumped right into the horror. We finally got to see what the Trask mansion is like after the sun goes down. Things get really crazy when one of the team becomes possessed, in a way to try and trap one of the ghosts. The bar keeps raising for this book, and each issue is better than the last.

Artist Goran Sudzuka does a phenomenal job with drawing this book as well as the ghosts within it. He gives them this cool, wispy feel. Writer Josh Williamson really has something special here and he's been really stellar with giving each of these characters a strong voice and personality. This truly is a fantastic ensemble book where each individual character stands out on their own. One of Image's best on-goings currently.


It's pretty weird, for me, to be throwing the start of an event onto this list. Major events haven't really won me over the past few years. I get an overwhelming sense of "meh" when I'm finished reading them. This start to CATACLYSM was extremely emotional and an excellent bridge between this new event and HUNGER. Josh Fialkov really hits a homer here with this story. He made me care about an Ultimate character I had little to no interest in.

If this doesn't get you excited for CATACLYSM, then nothing will. It's a fantastic issue that says a lot about the differences between the 616 and Ultimate universes. For Ultimate fans, there's a feeling of hope coming through the clouds in this issue. You may feel like Galactus can be defeated. For sure, pick this one up. It's a fantastic start to something that we all hope will be awesome.


I really didn't like this issue the first time I read it. Great way to start, right? I quickly found that my problem with the book wasn't that I hated it. It was that is was so different from every ARCHIE book I've read. It's extremely out-there, and quite frankly, it was a bit of a shock, so much so that it rubbed me the wrong way. An Archie book that's serious, horrific, and not funny?

Here's the thing. The fact AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE is so far out there, morbid, and so contrary to what we know and love as the world of Archie is what makes this such a good read. Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has put together a story that is reminiscent of older horror films, and with the art of Francesco Francavilla, this is truly a wonderful and beautiful comic. What's the most insane thing about this series is that it's an on-going. How can this keep going on? I'm intrigued and can't wait to find out what's going to happen next.


Gregg's picks

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Have you ever asked yourself, "Why is Katzman always praising GREEN ARROW?" If so, read this issue right now. The latest effort by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo is designed as the perfect jumping on spot, and man, it's full of greatness. Being a jumping on point doesn't equate to an info-dump and loads of exposition, though! Lemire's able to craft an incredibly well-paced script as he wraps up Count Vertigo's story in a very awesome way while also introducing us to the war that's about to hit Seattle. While Lemire kills it on the script, Sorrentino and Maiolo once again prove they're a ridiculously good fit for the book and there's plenty of panels worthy of examining. Simply put: it's a superb book and without question one of the best things DC is putting out there. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.


Wow. Just... wow. 'The Good, The Bad & The Ugly' has taken Deadpool to an overwhelmingly dark and emotional place. There's some truly heart-breaking material in this one, but before you'll need a tissue, co-writers Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn also hit us with a fair amount of laughs and some crazy good action. It certainly doesn't hurt that Declan Shalvey is illustrating and his rougher style is the perfect match for this story's atmosphere. This isn't just a good Deadpool story, people... it's definitely going to go down as one of the best Deadpool stories ever. Yeah, it's that good. If you've been missing out, go pick up #15 and play catch up.


The dim-witted duo is back and better than ever. You may know them as goofy fools -- and they definitely still are -- but their return to the IDW universe is jaw-droppingly badass, too! This issue makes the wise decision to spend a minimal amount of time with the two when they'e humans, providing us with the basics of these not complex characters before thrusting us into their mutated status. And yes, they're still rocking the dated attire, something which is humorously addressed early on. Oh, and did I mention it has the two versus a swarm of ninjas? Because that happens and yes, it's every bit as great as you'd want it to be. Ultimately, this comic's a great blend of over the top action and silliness. And who doesn't love those two things?


Full disclosure: I've never watched an episode of Samurai Jack before. I dig the style, I've just never had the motivation to really check it out. However, the debut issue was recommended for that week's edition of "Best Battles," so I gave it a read. Well, all I can say is a thousand thank yous to the people who recommended this issue! The energy in the opening chapter is great and it doesn't leave new fans in the dark at all. It quickly goes over the basics of the Samurai Jack mythos and then throws us into a super-fun adventure which is filled with some amazingly enjoyable action and laughs. I'm definitely sticking around for the next issue and if Samurai Jack is even remotely interesting to you, I'd strongly recommend giving it a shot.


I love what co-writers Christos Gage and Joshua Dysart are doing with Valiant's super-soldier. Instead of focusing solely on Bloodshot's action/suspense struggle to find out who he is, he's now working with the former organization who manipulated him. The people calling the shots claimed they've changed their ways and the people Bloodshot has to interact with are simply doing the job for their own reasons. The creative team's debut issue on the title (#14) spent time telling us who and what the H.A.R.D. Corps is, and #15 goes ahead at a gazillion miles per hour and the result is massively enthralling. There's plenty of hectic action and it only gets worse when they're back at the base. The two are doing an excellent job breathing life and intrigue into all of the parties involved and it ends on a note which leaves me wanting to see what happens next.

Honorable Mentions: Larfleeze #4, Eternal Warrior #2

Corey's picks

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Bittersweet is the only way to describe this issue as we bid a tearful farewell to J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, but both of them went out as well as they possibly could: Batwoman written as razor-sharp on the attack and witty in her own internal monologue. While I may have been underwhelmed by the B-plot, the battle between Batwoman and Batman was every bit as intense with unexpected twists and turns as well as an amazingly executed plan that we've been waiting months to see executed, which brings me to the art. The art, by Trevor McCarthy, is graceful in its sheer brutality. It leaves just enough to user's imagination while keeping everything fluid and dynamic.

EARTH 2 #16

THAT REVEAL! James Robinson is another creator who decided to leave on a jaw-dropping, eye-bugging moment as the identity of Brutaal is revealed. While this issue had an absolutely incredible reveal at the end, the tale throughout was just as fantastic, giving us (like another title I'll get to in a moment) a documentary-style look across a major superhero battle, giving it a level of gravitas and weight that many of them lack. This definitely feels like a war that's been raging across all of Earth-2 even though it has, in fact, only been a few short issues, and that sense of pacing is one of the book's other greatest strengths. Nicola Scott's art has also got to go up there as an incredible asset, the characters all look distinct and emotional, and the action is like a highlight reel of superhero battles.


WHO IS BRAVE ENOUGH TO READ BATTLE BEAST?! Kirkman and Ottley have truly created something special in a character who so embodies the wandering warmaster trope, but is still SO entertaining. Possibly because, unlike Worf of 90s Cartoon Wolverine, Battle Beast actually WINS the fights he gets into, but that's another rant for another time. We also get lots more of the interpersonal dynamic between Invincible and Atom Eve as well as Mark's parents and, as promised on the cover, the greatest arm-wrestling match since the climax of Over the Top.


It's rare that a title can pull off a mid-arc tone shift, but that's exactly what the team of Brian Bendis and Francesco Francavilla have pulled off, taking Guardians of the Galaxy from a far-out blasters-blazing action title to a concise, tight story of stealth, sabotage and darkness. The use of light and shadows in this issue really does have to be seen to be believed and while I'm not sure how it'll fit into the greater narrative of either the title or of Infinity, it stands on its own as being not only extremely entertaining, but for plunging ahead with such a grand risk and pulling it off with gusto.


Speaking of people who should be commended (and wartime photography superhero style), Jonathan Hickman has done something truly great in his epic, sprawling space opera: given us a major comics event with character and legitimate twists. This issue answered a couple of my most burning questions, and gave us more of the newest addition to Marvel's cosmic universe in Thane, a character I'm legitimately curious about. Add onto that Jerome Opena's consistently stellar (see what I did there?) visuals, and you've got an event that need do no more than stick the landing to be one of the best Marvel's put out in many years.

Well, that's it for this month! Make sure to check back next month to see what we picked. Let us know what your favorite books of October were in the comment section below!

Follow the Top of the Pile gentlemen on Twitter (Tony, Mat, Gregg, and Corey) and remember, Mat is a cohost of a podcast he wants you to check out and belittle.