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The Best Comics in October Part 1: Harley Quinn Makes a Friend

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Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Check out Part 1 here.

Axis #3: Yet another X-Men/Avengers mega-event? It always seems weird to me that Marvel spends so much of its time making great personal stories but just can't seem to not have some mighty universe-wide arc going on every five minutes. It's literally like watching a Bryan Fuller drama and the third installment of a Michael Bay action franchise at the same time.

Where we are now in Axis is that the Red Skull has taken over the brain of Charles Xavier and has now unleashed Professor X's near-limitless psychic power to become Red Onslaught and start his Eternal Reich. In this he is aided by Iron Man's adamantium sentinels, designed as fail-safes against the world's heroes should they go rogue. The combined force of the X-Men and the Avengers is quickly decimated.

In a tremendous fight scene, Magneto leads an army of villains into the fray, including Carnage, Doctor Doom and the Absorbing Man. The huge battle is easily the best part of the book and a big reason why Marvel manages to keep pulling off the crossover events. Carnage alone is worth the cover price, as is Doom and Loki's bickering. This is supposed to be a series that shakes the Marvel universe to its core, and as annoying as that often is, it is also pretty fun.

Rating: 7 of 10

God Hates Astronauts #2: There's probably no comic that people have been insisting I try out more than Ryan Browne's God Hates Astronauts. It's out there! It's insane! It's like nothing you've ever seen!

I'm not sure that's accurate.

Granted, it is one long, bizarre non sequitur of strange superheroics. Every page is covered with satirized tropes committing carnal blasphemies with animal-headed support characters. It is definitely among the most "What the fuck did I just read?" titles I've ever fallen into.

But in the end it's still largely a collection of puns and oddities that feels forced. There's nothing wrong with oddball comics. I still really like Axe Cop, and cut my comic teeth on Sam Keith.

God Hates Astronauts just doesn't seem to go out of its way to make you feel enough for the freaks, though. It aims more for the disgust seen in something like Brickleberry. The only real saving grace is the three-armed Anti-Mugger, who as far as I'm concerned needs his own spin-off book posthaste. He alone really offers a twisted hero figure that harnesses the book's strangeness for good.

Rating: 5 of 10

This story continues on the next page.

Harley Quinn #11: Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti continue to do things with Harley Quinn that make it one of the best books in the current DC line. It's easy to overlook because it's usually just off doing its own, insane thing, but the two writers have really crafted a superb world for Harley to rule over that's outfitted with a cast of believable support characters.

In this issue, Harley stumbles across an unconscious and amnesiac Power Girl, and hatches the brilliant plan of bringing her home and convincing her that they are a superhero team. Now, I admit that most of the book is a long, drawn-out joke about getting Power Girl's costume off, and if foreground-censored nudity is your thing, then prepare for perfection, but aside from the jokes and silliness, there's still that one-of-a-kind life Harley is living right now surrounded by thugs and weirdoes who aren't all that bad.

Harley's story has always been one of someone desperate to love what cannot really be loved. Free of Joker, it's actually turned her into something between an antihero and a modern-day folk legend. She almost embodies the trickster better than her old flame, and her new rooming with Power Girl looks like it will show off her best side.

Oh, and the Clock King is back. He's my favorite villain because he has to be somebody's.

Rating: 8 of 10

The Wicked and the Divine #5: I know I talk about this series a lot, but it remains one of the best books on the market right now. I just can't get enough of it, and we'll probably be talking about it ten years from now.

If you need a brief recap, The Wicked and the Divine is about how the gods take over human lives every century or so and give those humans their vast, godly powers. Unfortunately, that also shortens their lifespans to two years. This time 'round, they have come to be rock stars and media personalities, but then things got kind of headsplodey.

It's essentially Lucifer's book at this point in the game. Luci's dry wit, melancholy nature and at times childish vulnerability make for the perfect flawed heroine. Amid the other gods, she alone appears to really possess the mind-set of the immortals, and that's put her in direct opposition to her peers. It all comes down to a twist I doubt anyone will see coming, and with hope that something greater may be on its way thanks to one final swerve.

Rating: 9 of 10

A Town Called Dragon #2: Sometimes all you want is a good old-fashioned monster story, and Judd Winick is putting one out there that is wonderful. It's got the perfect set-up. Our small town is poor and provincial, but not archaic or frightening. You've got firebug teens, jilted metal sculptors, your average crazy drunks, and a patient small top police force trying to keep it all together.

There's also the dragon.

Oh, it's just a little one. No bigger than a horse, really. It does, however, breathe fire and can kill an entire herd of cattle in a matter of minutes. The approach is all pretty standard small-town monster-movie stuff, but that's a genre so overblown with parody and self-reverential annoyances that a true grit title gets easily lost. It's nice to see Legendary Comics putting out quality pulse-pounding material instead of rabidly racist Frank Miller dreck.

Rating: 8 of 10

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2.

Jef has a new story, a tale about mad robot nurses and a man of miracles called "Sleepers, Wake!" available now. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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