The Irredeemable Ant-Man: Small-Minded (Kirkman / Hester): The second (and final) collection of Kirkman's mature Ant-Man retelling does its best to bring the saga of Marvel's most unlikable superhero to a successful conclusion. Without using a single zombie, Kirkman continues to showcase an encyclopedic (the Black Fox!) and tongue-in-cheek approach to the Marvel Universe.
Ant-Man provided a much-needed counterpoint to the oh-so-serious struggles of the mainstream titles, and I'm sorry it is gone. Hester's art wouldn't work in many comics, but here it does a good job complementing the (dark) humor of Kirkman's script.
Superman: Secret Identity (Busiek / Immonen): I never would have known this was illustrated by Stuart Immonen if the cover hadn't told me. Acclimatized to Immonen's streamlined, cartoony images, the unique, rotoscoped style of Secret Identity came as a shock. Busiek has definitely buttered his bread with stories about the real-life burdens of being a superhero (see: Astro City), and, in Secret Identity, he's proven that he's up to the task of giving a bit of emotional gravitas to the two-dimensional Superman. In fact, he occasionally skids dangerously close to making the World's Greatest Superhero too whiny. Although each chapter is good, the whole package feels a bit jumpy - I'm not sure it could have been fleshed out more without becoming boring, but the transitions through Superman's life felt a bit abrupt.
Kingdom Come (Waid / Ross): Every time I read Kingdom Come, the divide between the art and the script becomes more and more painfully apparent. There's nothing good about the plot of Kingdom Come. It took the idea of 'superpowers go out of control' and set it back fifteen years. Every hero in it (and there's quite the list) is portrayed in a singularly unremarkable way. If it weren't for the Biblical-looking Todd Klein lettering, I'd suggest ignoring the words entirely. No barriers are even gently pushed - much less broken. Alex Ross, however, saves the story from someone's dumpster by painting every panel with the sort of reverence and luxurious detail that is normally reserved for chapel ceilings. Although Ross (deservedly) gets most of the credit for Kingdom Come, somehow Mark Waid has managed to parlay this into a career of doing REALLY EPIC THINGS.
Ultimate Fantastic Four: Volume 3 (Carey / Ferry / Immonen): This collection includes 'God War', 'Devils', an annual and a cross-over with the X-Men. I had just about given up on this title after the last story arc ('Frightful') proved so exasperatingly bad, but finding a half-price copy is always a good omen. 'God War' was surprisingly good. Carey had the chutzpah to be the first writer to approach Thanos in the Ultimate universe and does a very good job of it. My sole complaint would be that his completely re-imagined approach - other than Thanos and Ronan (of a sort) - completely ignores the existing Marvel mythos in his retelling. Ferry's futuristic art was a good fit, giving the story a science-fiction feel. 'Devils' was atrocious - a conventional time-hopping story with art too dull to be called traditional. Time travel is a hard topic with which to do something new or interesting, and it feels like Carey gave up very early on. The Annual deserves brief mention - goofy Immonen art and an equally silly storyline. The X-Men crossover is unremarkable in every way.
Conluvio (Templesmith): This entertaining volume isn't a graphic novel (despite the quirky framing device) - and is rightfully subtitled as 'The Art of Ben Templesmith'. The book's 96 pages showcase the members of IPAG (Interdimensional Part-Time Assassins Guild), and it rapidly becomes clear that Ben Templesmith is one very twisted, very funny man. Although a few of the cast are 'legitimate' characters, most are quirky Templesmith takes on comic book, film and science fiction archetypes. Even the most serious and dramatic picture has a slightly cocked eyebrow in the caption. Very good fun.