Welcome, then, to the Panel Discussion Dozen. This week's shorter on quantity, but not on quality. Chime in with what you think everybody needs to be reading in the comments below .
I, Vampire #7 It just hit me that Joshua Hale Fialkov's vampire drama can be read as a sort of weird inverse version of Joss Whedon's Buffyverse. You've got the vampire who's also a slayer, his evil ex-girlfriend that he turned into a bloodsucker and a crew of human vamp fighters that help him out while being scared to death of him. There's not been any singing yet, though. If you're a fan of post-modern nightstalker fiction in the Buffy vein, go on and get this book.
Justice League Dark #7 You might not the characters in the occult adventure title superheroes, but they are a team however unlikely as that may be. In the last story arc, Peter Milligan does a great job of showing how magic gone awry turns the world to crap. And when it's a place that's pretty crappy to begin with—like a Gotham City taken over by vampires—the best parts of Deadman, John Constantine and Zatanna's chemistry with comes to the fore. I'm hoping we get more gross-out magical perversions as this series goes on.
Avengers vs. X-Men
This single issue preview the conflict between Marvel's two biggest hero factions, focusing on the women at the center of the cosmic drama. I've always been a fan of the Scarlet Witch and am glad that she's back as a major player in Marvel events. Her one-time android husband The Vision makes a return, too, and it'll be interesting to see just how digestible Marvel editorial tries to make the last few years of plots for this mega-event.
FF# 16 I'd been skeptical of Jonathan Hickman's tenure on the Fantastic Four at first, getting annoyed at what felt like a stunt death for the Human Torch more than a year ago. But his run on the main Fantastic Four book and this spinoff have proven to be an intricate clockwork design that brings the focus back on to family dynamics and cosmic happenings. It's been a beautiful, incredibly heartfelt ride so far.
Ultimate Comics Ultimates #8 After telling readers that everything they thought they knew about mutants was a lie, the reboot of Marvel's Ultimates imprint has re-invented the concept of homo superior. Several sovereign nations of secretive superhumans now threaten global security. Jonathan Hickman's been delivering not just a great superhero team story in these pages, but also a crackling geopolitical thriller, too. Highly recommended.
Rachel Rising #6 Terry Moore's been quietly building awesome runs of creator-owned comics for more than a decade now. His long-running Strangers in Paradise told an unlikely love story that endured absurd amounts of craziness, earning him a loyal fanbase won over by his goofy yet insightful cartooning. Rachel Rising rotates around a much darker premise. The title character emerges from a shallow grave after being murdered, with no idea how or why she was killed. You might've seen similar plots elsewhere but what makes this version work is the slow burn Moore applies to the proceedings. There's a sense of dread and menace that finds a complement in the artist's loose pencilwork. Don't let the cute noses of Moore's art style fool you: there's powerful mojo in this book.