Friday, March 27, 2015

3/04/15

MIRACLEMAN #16 — Okay, a kind of funny deal happened with this issue. I have always thought that #15 of the original series was the final issue of Moore’s run. And last issue certainly reinforced that as Moore brought the narrative to a satisfying, though terribly graphic, resolution. So, all month long, I’ve been really looking forward to see what the first issue of Gaiman/Buckingham looks like. And, boy howdy! This one knocked me out. I hadn’t realized, but the luster of Moore’s prose had faded a bit from those first issues as he had become more and more disenchanted with Dez Skinn and his own work on this series. But here was Our Neil, just knocking the lights out, wow! What a goddamn tour de force out of the gate, man. I was immediately so excited to read the rest of this run. The student is now the master, How embarrassing for Alan, etc, etc. So but, of course, I made it to the last page and saw the credits and, of course, this was actually Moore’s final issue, and I had a laugh at myself. Suffice it to say, he really cranked it up here at the end, and John Totelben again turns in magnificent work, particularly those first couple of double-splash pages. But just that opening text piece will almost make you weep with admiration. Really staggering material. That hyper-dimensional warpsmith orgy, man, I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around that. This whole thing, it’s really a montage with Moore’s rhapsodic first-person Michael Moran captions narrating the entire thing and only a very few scenes of dialogue scattered throughout and Totelben throwing down remarkable double-page vistas of impossible majestic architecture or superhumans making love through the sky like he can draw anything in the world or beyond. What makes this such an incomparable piece of sequential literature is how far they take it. Moore’s primary strength, beyond his stunning command of language itself, has always been the detail of his imagination, his ability to conceptualize exactly what should follow from a given twist or certain series of circumstances. Here, he basically gives us the last Superman story, the final superhero issue, the capstone of the entire genre taken to its logical conclusion. It’s a little stunning that he still had so much left to say in his SUPREME run the following decade. This is one of the most definitive and satisfying endings to a narrative that I have ever encountered. Simply a beautiful piece of literature. I have no idea how poor Neil and Buckingham ever followed it, but that’s next month, next month, still.

AVENGERS #042 — Hickman is really swinging for it now, man. Skinning the goddamn Living Tribunal. He also makes Cyclops seem like much more of an early Magneto than Bendis does. You’ve got to dig Reed & T’Challa scheming to build the lifeboat. Though I’m now so conditioned against that EAST OF WEST emboldening that just T’Challa doing it one time on “HOW NOT TO LOSE” made me flinch like hell.  Though of course I’ll forgive everything for some Hickman Reed/Valeria action. She eats ice cream! And I still can’t believe Sam Guthrie has a kid. I mean, it’s way past time, but still. That is some heavy shit about Gladiator calling the Smasher clan off-planet. You could mine such a great title or even back-up feature off of just that one little family caught in the middle. And after checking in with the Shi’ar Empire, why not throw the Guardians of the Galaxy into the mix? The scale and scope of what Hickman’s built up is staggering. And it just keeps escalating.

GUARDIANS TEAM-UP #001 — When I saw this cover a month or two ago in the form of an ad, I rolled my eyes because of course they’re going to get Bendis to write a sixth-or-however-many-there-are-now Guardians-related series, but then when I noticed that they had Art Adams on interiors, I said, “Well, dammit” because of course I’m not going to let that slide by. And a damn good thing, too. This is nothing but good fun. Total naked cross-media promotion, certainly, but an entertaining read on its own merits, and that is all that really matters. The opening page is funny because it sandwiches non-movie team members Angela, Venom, and Captain Marvel in between those irregulars we all know and love from a motion picture brought to you by James Gunn, but then those folks are nowhere to be seen for the duration of the issue. As usual, Bendis does a terrific job handling rapid-fire dialogue exchanges between this very crowded cast of characters, nailing the beats of just the eponymous team first before opening it up when the All-New Avengers show up. Spider-Woman drawing the line and flying away is laugh-out-loud funny. Hawkeye blowing up the space invader with three arrows is cool all on its own but is a whole different level of funny if you picked up Bendis’s third-ever issue of AVENGERS #502 off the rack and were privy to the collective fanboy howls of consternation over what happened to HAWKEYE that month. Art Adams’s work is as dynamic and exciting as ever, and Paul Mounts goes over and above to really make every single page pop.

BEST OF WEEK: ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #001 — Like most “Americans in the Know,” (and more than a few Europeans, I guess it must be said), I have found Fraction/Aja/Wu/Hollingsworth/Eliopoulos’s HAWKEYE to be one of the very best things to come out of The House of Ideas in years and was pretty much ready to extend a middle finger to just about anybody with enough hubris to even suggest following up on such a glorious thing. However. I am a huge fan of both Jeff Lemire’s work and thought that that JIM HENSON’S TALE OF SAND that Ramón Pérez put out was, seems like, the best graphic novel of whatever year that was. 2011? It was one of those grudging acceptance deals, like, “All riiiiiiight, let’s see what they show up with.” The answer is basically a best-case scenario. Pérez drops the full shifting chameleon style, so that the beautiful opening flashback scene basically feels exactly like THE ESSEX TRILOGY by way of TALE OF SAND before we barrel into a present-day sequence starring Clint & Kate that feels as much like a cover version of standard Fraction/Aja as it possibly could, which might be almost offensive if they just opened up with such a hard clone of this vibe, but comes across as really pretty breathtaking after the shift from that opening, in which these guys nail the dynamic so brilliantly with nothing more than a three-panel one-page set-up paid off by a single-panel punchline on the next page. I love how the light-hearted tone shifts right at the end when they get separated, and he involuntarily calls her Katie while hammering on the door. And then the final three pages do a masterful job of blending the two timelines together. This is a hell of a first issue, easily Best of Week (since I don't think we can really in all fairness give it to Moore/Totelben for a book that's almost thirty years old). These guys, and Ian Herring, show up already at the top of their game and apparently ready to unleash a hell of a HAWKEYE story. I just hope Aja can get #022 out before the end of this first arc . . .

DESCENDER #1 — And Lemire just keeps on murdering it. I have been a Dustin Nguyen fan for over a decade now, ever since he drew that Batman run that Winick wrote not-as-well all the way through his work on the title today and the glory of LI’L GOTHAM, so when this was announced, I was certainly expecting thunder. But, holy shit. These guys hurdle right past the world-building all the way to universe-building and –destroying here right up front. What a terrific set-up. Of course, Tim-21 is going to recall little Haley Joel from A.I., but it’s been long enough and Nguyen varies the design up enough that it’s no problem. The dynamic that Lemire sets up between Tim-21 and Bandit works immediately. I can’t decide if it’s the backwards barking or shorthand by cribbing the name from Jonny Quest’s dog, but whatever it is, we’re good to go. The only slight bone I have to pick is that it looked like the robotics doctor guy got white-blasted to oblivion in the opening scene, and it felt like a little bit of a cheat when he was still in the picture ten years later. Wonderful premise, though, you can envision Lemire rubbing his hands together while all of this comes pouring out from his head, Nguyen is a goddamn terrifying force, and I can’t wait to see what this looks like when all is said and done. That TRILLIUM was pretty okay, after all.

STAR WARS: PRINCESS LEIA #1 — Well, I certainly had no doubts about Waid and the Dodsons knocking this one out of the park, but that is certainly exactly what happens. Waid makes the kind of brilliant call to script a page of the Dodsons giving us the final thirty seconds of EPISODE IV but instead of cutting to those blue closing credits, we are at long last privy to the speech that Leia gave after she put the medals on those boys and that Wookie. And of course, it’s powerful. It’s pretty crazy, I thought Brian Wood did a solid to terrific job scripting exactly this situation, the aftermath of The Battle of Yavin, but Waid brings a nuance here that was lacking before now. The introduction of Evaan provides a nice foil to Leia. We need some kind of conflict for this book that doesn’t involve Han Solo, and Evaan’s lack of awe or subservience to her princess creates a solid interpersonal dynamic. Pretty much just add R2, and we’re good to go. Colorist Jordie Bellaire delivers top-notch work, as ever, and letterer Joe Caramagna’s work stands out in just the right ways, with his choices of font for R2-D2 and Chewbacca perfectly complementing Waid’s phonetic spellings of these sounds we know so well. This is a terrific opening and completes Marvel’s hat trick of introducing three titles with the A-list talent that this property deserves.

NAMELESS #2 — Well, they really rev it up here as the entire issue takes place on a moonbase hidden on the dark side of the moon, and our occult protagonist leads the reader to the unfortunate sight of a brilliant scientist covering her padded cell with a bunch of Enochian language written in her feces. How unfortunate. The horror element of this series ramps up quite a bit, particularly the Mr. Darius reveal, which I found particularly chilling. Burnham & Fairbairn turn in more beautiful work, particularly that shot of the war in heaven that drops in from out of nowhere. I’m a little bit nervous about where this one is heading, given the massive escalation from the first issue, here.

SUPREME: BLUE ROSE #7 — So, it all comes down to this. Tula Lotay continues to absolutely bring the thunder as our story winds its way up into itself. We fiiiiiiiinally see old Ethan Crane and have a lovely conversation meta-conversation with him. The “white guy with glasses” line is a classic. Professor Night to save the day is the most I have enjoyed a cavalry charge in I-don’t-know-how-long. What a resolution to all of that. PROFESSOR NIGHT really was the best show ever. And then what an odd climax. So, that was a revision gun Dax fired, perhaps? This is certainly the next cycle, I think, it’s not like we just looped back to a point prior to #1. I suspect that this will make for a very gratifying single-sitting read. Finally, someone managed to conceive of a SUPREME run that can stand with the madcap firework genius that Moore conjured all those years ago.

BLACK SCIENCE #12 — Remender & Scalera come roaring back great guns with new colorist Moreno Dinisio, who manages to mitigate the loss of Dean White to tremendous effect. The pace of this new arc has accelerated past what we’ve grown accustomed to, which is really saying something. Clearly, now that the fellas have laid the groundwork, we are off to the races. They’re doing a good job of mining the premise of this thing and not resting on their laurels for a single issue. Breakneck momentum, full ahead!

SAGA #26 — I don’t know. I just don’t care about these people. Fiona Staples has a wonderful sensibility and has created a very distinctive look for this series, but BKV has maybe evolved into a style that I just don’t care for. The tone of the whole thing really isn’t working for me. I keep buying this out of a sense of wanting to know what’s going on with it just because everyone in the industry can’t stop falling all over how wonderful it is, and it is nice of them to keep that cover price down, but I’m just not really feeling it, man.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #6 — Adding a recap page up top actually makes these first four pages even more batshit mental. I just want to walk around handing this thing out to people in the street, spreading the disease of its madness before it devours me whole. There’s a two-page flashback to a five-year-old meeting with the Power Persons Five that is chock full of winking asides to events that we as loyal readers already know are inevitable, but that last panel before the opening titles that quotes SUPERMAN #75 is just about the funniest thing, hilarious shorthand for those of us “in the know.” Time Giraffe dropping the ALIENS quote a few pages later is also much appreciated, as well as the T2 classic. My main concern is that future societies, alien or otherwise will have so much digging to do through the detritus of late 20th/early 21st century pop culture that wonderful little tricks like quoting Ripley or the T-1000 or Darth Vader in these pages will not be understood, and thus all hope will be lost.

INFINITY MAN AND THE FOREVER PEOPLE #8 — I want Keith Giffen to be drawing this book. That’s kind of the point, seems like. Is this some meta-commentary Didio’s sneaking in here, though? “The ways of the new are more corrupt than the ways of old, all their promises of change and glory are empty and worthless.” If he’d made it “all-new,” I guess that would have been too on-the-nose. Terrific brawl at the end. Once again, I missed Giffen a lot. All told, though, plenty happens in this one. I think we’re just one more and done? Alas.

DETECTIVE COMICS #40 — Once again, these pages are absolute gorgeous masterpieces of sequential panelwork. Manapul/Buccellato have incredible synergy and are peaking at a level that can only be achieved through years of regular collaboration. The art is a feast for the eyes. It’s too bad that folks like Greg Rucka or Ed Brubaker have fled these Gotham shores, though, because there is no character depth, just a series of events pushing the reader’s eye to the next glorious splash page of our hero soaring through the air or punching out the bad guy. There’s no narrative hook to be found here, as pretty as it all looks.

GRAYSON #8 — Jeez! People throw the term “game-changer” around all the time these days, but this issue is nothing short of that. These boys have no problem upsetting the entire apple cart just any old time. They didn’t even let the first full year of issues play out! Janin/Cox continue to absolutely knock every page out of the park. I’m not sure how I feel about the massive objectification of Dick Grayson in this title. We have graduated from the decades-old dick jokes to having a gaggle of his female students actually name both cheeks of his backside. On the one hand, that’s kind of funny in and of itself, and I get that this is like a drop in the bucket on the opposite end of the insane sexual objectification of women that’s been going on in this industry since William Moulton Marston’s mistress first started tying him and his wife up, I’m just not sure that the antidote is to do the same thing to the boys. It’s certainly a conversation.

BATMAN ETERNAL #48 — I know I shouldn’t let other media creep in, but now I can’t read about what Falcone stole from Cobblepot and not think about GOTHAM. You know? Of course, there’s another charming riot in Blackgate to clear out my head. This one’s moving along nicely now as we round the stretch to the big finish.


FUTURES END #44 — We welcome Zircher back to give us resolution to the Brainiac arc, which is overall reasonably satisfying but just seems a little bit limp in terms of delivering on the dread of this title’s opening issues. I guess the ominous deal is packed right in there with the resolution. How can Batman be so smart and still use Brother Eye to save the day? One thousand thank yous to regular cover artist Ryan Sook for that killer shot of me pulling an Atlas with New York City, though he overdid it on the biceps just the least bit, I’ve got to say in the interest of full disclosure.

Monday, March 9, 2015

2/25/14

BATMAN #39 — Jill Thompson supplies a truly ominous Harley Quinn variant this month. Okay, I’m sorry, but reading the phrase “AND THE DOCTOR WHO” in the fourth panel of the second page triggered an idea for the best mash-up ever, the Dark Knight as the ultimate Companion for The Doctor. I mean, think about it. In comic form, it would be swell, but what if they could get an anthology mini-series of that thing on the picture show tube? Any living Doctor or Batman. Kilmer & Tennant. Keaton & Eccleston. It almost doesn’t even matter what any other aspect of the conflict or show is, just putting those people together in that context would be fucking thunder. So, I spent like twenty minutes just staring off into space before finishing that fourth panel. So, why should this write-up be any different? But, well then! I love Batman’s resolution to the Court of Owls guy launching off on a monologue/tirade. And but doesn’t that Talon he meets on the next page just look like the bad guy out of BATTLING BOY. Definitely some Pope flavor on that business, there. Batman’s retort to his death sentence struck me kind of funny. “Dude, we’re all going to die. I know that. But not today.” (ß not an actual quote, but still). I love the anecdote about teenage Dick Grayson joking about it not being a weekend until his mentor’s heart stopped at least twice. Terrific bit. And I’m sorry to sound like an old guy, but I really hate the retcon that compresses the whole 75-year timeline and suddenly Bruce was thirteen when he fell down the cave instead of having already been an orphan for five years. Thas not cool, man. The attempted Mooresque juxtaposition of Bruce’s caption to Julia that it keeps getting worse opposite Joker saying it keeps getting better and better is forced and quite a dip from what I expect from Snyder on this book. As opposed to Joker’s wordplay with lumber/lumbar and chords/cord. Even though that seems more Eddie Nygma’s purview. This is a terrific set-up, though, all hands on deck vs the Joker with the big conclusion looming. Linguistic quibbles notwithstanding, this is another beautifully staged issue of a run by creators who are still finding a way to escalate the stakes and quality three and a half years in. Very impressive.

And wow, that backup is certainly one way to pay off a long-simmering sub-plot. Very EC Comics. Quality work.

SECRET ORIGINS #10 — That . . . did not clear up a great deal where Barbara Gordon is concerned. Which I’m all right with. I wasn’t looking for all the answers just doled out. The answer is in that deal about the last recorded memory being the second brain scan. I suspect that the whole “Oracle is back” deal is just a red herring and all we’re dealing with is a sentient algorithm that Barbara wrote that now thinks it actually is its creator and is going to be a really terrific nemesis just any minute now. Solid art from Irene Koh just even barely hanging with the greatness we’ve come to expect from Stewart doing layouts for Tarr.

So, of course I bought this one just for the Batgirl story, but the Jurgens/Chen Firestorm was solid, even though I’ve never really cared that much about the character and just got hammered with some strong work featuring him over on that new THE FLASH show. I have been wondering about old Sean Chen; it’s been years now since he showed up to help Hickman knock that DARK REIGN mini out of the park at the start of his FF run. Same deal with Christy Marx and Stjepan Seijic on that Poison Ivy origin. Never even heard of those two, but they did a good job. I definitely flinched at the $4.99 cover price but feel all right about the purchase, even though it will definitely take a name creator I care about to bring me back. Solid work, SECRET ORIGINS.

GOTHAM ACADEMY #5 — Oh wow, I absolutely did not get that that loveable blue monster who showed up at the end of last issue was Croc. Killer no more! What a sweet Gotham Academy filter we have here. And but that’s a pretty intriguing first-page fact about Olive’s mom being in Arkham. Though it certainly is about to time to start dropping this sort of thing. You’ve got to love Maps wrecking it for the final beat on that first page. And we get Maps’s real name a few pages later. Revelations abound. And her happy little face when Olive asks Kyle to the dance! This book really knocks out all the beats one by one. Even before mentioning the basilisk. That’s almost like bringing up a patronus, man. And but what a hell of a last page, man. This book is really up and firing on all cylinders now.

BATMAN ETERNAL #47 — More terrific art, this time from Juan Ferreyra. That first double-page spread is a hell of a layout. On the dialogue front, I don’t care what the context is, Alfred saying, “Yes. I heard as much before I fell asleep,” just scans wrong. I do dig that cross-section show of whatever Batplane he’s got up in the air there on Page 7, panel 4. It’s cool to see the sidekick montage, but I question the usage of the old amusement park for Batgirl. I mean, how many times since September 2011 have we brought up THE KILLING JOKE on-panel? More than since the turn of the century at least, right? Let’s move on. And Hush has some new ally who’s still off-panel and let him back out again. I’m certainly sorry that happened. It is about time to put this one to bed.

FUTURES END #43 — Andy McDonald? Seems like he’s been all right on interiors a time or two before now. His style in this opening scene skews a bit too indie for my tastes to depict a big Superman-fighting-giant-Brainiac-in-New-York situation. And New York?!? That’s just confusing. Shouldn’t the FF or Avengers be all over that? I had to chuckle at Azzarello’s trademark wordplay on that first page with Tim and Plastique, the “ass--” “hol’ up” thing. That is the first time I’ve seen in this one so far that some straight 100-BULLETS-type dialogue showed up. The Lois/Superman interaction is pretty damn boilerplate, particularly given what should be the collective firepower of this writing crew. And then, wow, we’re going to waste half a page with more Dick (Grayson) jokes? That is some pretty weak shit. I will say that old Andy McDonald did a good job with that one page where Terry and Plastique kiss. Other than that, man, this was a pretty serious dip all around, exactly what you don’t want to see as we ramp up into the home stretch.

CHEW #46—Well, if that isn’t the most precious little gummy D-Bag on the cover, then I don’t know what my name is. Layman/Guillory are kind enough to give us at least four more pages of greatness with that opening scene before reality has to set in. Which I understand is a pretty relative term where this book is concerned, but you take my meaning. This issue manages to tell another entertaining done-in-one case and still push everything forward with that huge moment at the end that then just totally doesn’t happen. Which just makes a guy heartsick. Layman is such a bastard. He’s laughing at all of us. He wants to drink our tears.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #8 — This one holds up the momentum from last month and ups the ante by having our girl trip balls for most of the issue, which looked like a pretty solid representation to me. Better than I can convey, at any rate! Gillen’s still doing all right with it, but it’s McKelvie/Wilson who are carrying this thing on their shoulder, particularly the acid portion of the program, naturally. I tell you what, though, that PHONOGRAM on the inside back cover straight up gave me goosebumps. Hopefully, August will roll around soonish so that I can just give this book a fair shake on its own merits and quit bitching that it’s keeping McKelvie from drawing the book that God put him on the Earth to draw.

ODY-C #3 — The captions and art blend together in this one more effectively than what’s gone before. Not that it needed help, but the language here flows together with the images in a more seamless manner. Was Fraction using second person before now? That decision recalls seventies Goodwin and O’Neil Batman comics as much as Homer and really just works. This issue also does a little bit better job of wedding science fiction to Greek myth. That is one fearsome Cyclops of Kylos. I was already hoping this would be the call, but I’m pleased that Fraction decided not to fully resolve this in a single issue. I mean, the Cyclops just needs more time on-panel, right? Pretty clever inversion of the old “no man” gag, too. The deal with this issue is that they’re already really hitting their groove and settling in, here. You can’t see all the heavy lifting going on, which wasn’t necessarily the case when we were getting blasted in the face with all that insanity of the first two issues. Christian Ward’s art, those colors, you can’t really call them understated by they’re a little bit dialed down this time? Not so bombastic as what we’ve seen. This issue, at least. It’s nice to see them find their stride and start to pace it out a little bit, here. It’s going to be a pretty long trip, I betcha.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CRIMINAL — I’m such a zombie for everything that Brubaker/Phillips put out that it took me a couple of pages to get into the jailhouse section of this issue before realizing, Oh fuck, this is CRIMINAL, not INCOGNITO or FATALE or THE FADE OUT or whatever the hell else they made up to do last week, this is the original shit, man. I didn’t read SLEEPER when it was coming out, so this was my introduction to all things Brubaker/Phillips. And this one is still just the absolute best, man. This is a tantalizing glimpse into the life of Teeg Lawless, who did a short stretch of time in ’76, managing not to get shanked while also bringing us along on the sequential adventures of a Conan analogue. You can tell that everybody involved is just having a ball; the creators’ passion for the project is readily apparent. Nothing monumental happens, this one is just another tale of someone trying to get by the best he can with all of his wits deployed to help him through. The Phillips painted cover a la Frazetta on the oversized edition is the only version of this that you need in your life. Good fun, all around. Hope we don’t have to wait this many years again before the next installment of this excellent series.

LOW #6 — Jesus, Remender! You just don’t care, do you? Fella is making a hard charge for that hill that Whedon and Martin have claimed and that Kirkman keeps trying for every few years. The result, though, is genuinely shocking material. I certainly didn’t see that one coming. Greg Tocchini continues to turn in absolute painted glory. Glad I hung with this one for the first arc and will certainly be picking it back up in June when the next one gets going.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #002 — I cared a liiiiiittle bit more about this one? I don’t know. I’m going to hang with it for a little while longer, but I don’t care about too much of the ensemble, really for none of the new additions (why the fuck does everyone keep trying to make Brother Voodoo a thing? If it isn’t Fred Hembeck doing it, let’s leave the Drumm brothers back in the seventies where they belong). And it’s not like I’m not picking up enough Marvels. This one’s right on the line for me. 

NEW AVENGERS #030 — Um. This one is kind of a downer. I used to rag on Bendis as much as anybody when he would just drop an issue of straight talking-head exposition, but Hickman substantially mitigates that tactic here by having good old Hank Pym narrate the death of All the Fucking Celestials with all the Kirby-level insanity that such a thing implies, both artistically and conceptually. I wasn’t that onboard with Dalibor Talajic initially. He comes across as a bit rougher and flatter than even Kev Walker, who I did not find to be a suitable alternate to Deodato’s insane and almost painterly photo-realism. But dude opens up the can of crackle when it counts, man. Dear Lord. This issue is basically nothing but exposition set-up for all the crazy shit Hickman is about to ramp it all up to yet again in a couple of months, and yet by the end, when Hank says, “I went mad. Lost in the fireworks of universal genocide,” we’re all like, “Well, of course you did. That’s the only reaction that even makes sense after all of that.” Good hustle, everybody. Even with that major downer ending.

ALL-NEW X-MEN #038 — I completely ignored all of the other Black Vortex tie-ins and just went in to this cold as a regular reader of nothing but this title, and let me tell you, that recap page made for some entertaining reading. Glad to have Sorrentino still in the mix with Bendis here, this is singular artistic work. Given the cliffhanger, I’m a little bit tempted to jump on board with all of the other tie-ins, but I think it will be just as much fun to let everybody run around and keep fucking shit up for another little while, and I’ll just check back in next month.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #003 — I’m still issue-by-issue with this, but if you pass up a book with Davis/Farmer/Wilson on interiors, you’re just a damn fool, never even mind that you were even considering giving Waid a miss in the first place. No surprise, Spidey is Coulson’s best wingman yet, and this romp through Stephen Strange’s Village manse is great fun from the get-go. Between the art, setting, and characterization, there’s a kind of timeless quality to these pages. The coloring obviously brands it as modern, but if these were newsprint pages with nothing but flats, this could easily be a product of the eighties or late seventies, even. Given the subject matter, it feels the least bit odd to say, but yeah, again, this one’s just nothing but good fun.

DAREDEVIL #013 — More quality from the Waid/Samnee/Wilson machine. That’s one hell of a cover. A diverting done-in-one conflict with a twist that was not difficult to anticipate but Kirsten pumping her fist at getting her own arch-enemy was charming and worth the cover price all on its own. Also, the Page Six and Twenty splashes in this issue were particularly good, though I’m not sure anything tops that first page. Beautiful rendering, Kirby panel layout, nothing can go wrong.

FANTASTIC FOUR #543 — The around-the-world hijinx keep raining down, it’s basically all hands on deck even if they might be off-panel, and our first family is finally gloriously reunited now that Reed’s got his pluck back. Kirk/Kesel/Aburtov continue to throw down complete A-list game, capturing basically everybody in the Marvel Universe who isn’t an X-Man (or I guess we have to count the Guardians now, too, suddenly). I mean, Alpha Flight gets a shot in the montage before we head over to Rick “Sleepwalker” Sheridan to save the day, leading up to the Heroes Reborn Avengers assembling, with that A still missing from Cap’s head, even, no doubt infuriating true patriots from coast to coast. Bentley-23 and his daddy steal the show in terms of emotional content this time out, though; this was a relationship that Hickman set into play but didn’t have time to pay off before concluding his run, but Robinson does very nice work with them here. I’m all strapped in and ready for two more issues of Clobberin’ Time.

DARTH VADER #002 — Oh dear, someone misspelled Kieron Gillen’s name in the opening crawl credits. He probably doesn’t mind that much. The dynamic between Vader and Tagge is an interesting one and solid casting on Gillen’s part. I really dig the Death Star being called Tarkin’s Folly after the fact, not sure if that’s a new thing, but I’ve never heard it before. [Sidenote: does Darth Vader benefit more than any other character in comic book form from another media? Meaning, when I’ve got James Earl Jones delivering these lines in my head, is there any other character who gets more of a bump from a non-comic-book source? Hearing Kevin Conroy deliver Batman’s lines might be the only thing that comes close.] Oh man, though, Grand General Tagge, do not cast yourself as the wielder of Vader as lightsaber in your metaphor. That line immediately cuts Tagge’s life expectancy to whatever issue ends this arc, #4, #5, whenever. Remember when trades used to always be six issues long, for the most part? Oh, Marvel. Funny how even the Rebel station has that vertical ring around it when it blows up. Maybe that should just be a Death Star thing, kind of a special deal? I found this one a little bit more compelling than last issue. Vader certainly makes one hell of a protagonist. It’s kind of fun to root against those Rebel scum.


SPIDER-GWEN #001 — A pretty solid first issue after the glorious perfection of her debut a few months ago. Hard times have naturally already fallen upon Gwen and The Mary Janes (and pretty much every other secret identity analogue, what an ignominious fate for the ever-lovin’ Ben Grimm; though it is somehow gratifying to see old Frank Castle still punishing). Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi provide more dynamic interiors, dialing up the Ditko while still evoking enough Pope to keep the kinetic energy flowing. Jason Latour hits the right beats. The Heisen-bird pun took me out of it, but then the Marlo quote with all the graffiti won me back over (especially that “turrble comics” one). And then the ANCHORMAN quote. I don’t know, I can see the argument that in this information-saturated society, any plugged-in teenager is going to be thinking in pop-culture quotes. That’s inherently logical, but the effect is that they take me out of the story and reduce my role as a reader from being actively engaged in what’s happening on-panel to instead just playing spot-the-reference. Maybe I’ll get the hang of the rhythm. Overall, this was a terrific first outing. It really almost suffers from that sophomore slump of most #2s after their first issue left us breathless and jaw-dropped. It didn’t quiiiiiite capture the magic lightning in a bottle just the same that second time, but that might not even be possible. I’m certainly glad and grateful that this book exists and wish it a long life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

2/18/15

BEST OF WEEK: THE MULTIVERSITY: MASTERMEN #1 — Wow. If you’re going to bang out a Nazi Justice League comic, I guess opening with Hitler taking a shit while reading a comic book with Superman punching him out on the cover is totally the way to go. And I mean, the deal with those alternate Ratzis peppering baby Kal-El with machine-gun fire is totally evil business. They knew what was going to happen when we first see it happen, meaning they had already done it while Hitler was on the pot. That is some next-level type material. Those Nazis were so evil!

Lee’s interiors are overall a bit rawer than what we’ve grown accustomed to. They look a little rushed in places, but really, as much as I’ve seen some folks just tearing him up for it, I almost prefer it. Instead of his usual hyper-cross-hatched anatomical perfection, these pages are a bit more stylized and have slightly more, I don’t know, vitality to them? It’s the sequential equivalent of realizing that Ivan Drago is just a man, after all. And that’s a reassuring thing. Even though of course the “seventeen years later” flash-forward double-splash is as technically horrifying as ever, and Lee can’t resist reprising his iconic standing-with-left-knee bent shot of the big guy on the next page. But that scratchier style suits the image of Uncle Sam slinking away from the Fall of Washington, sliding a contraband Superman comic into his coat while Nazis empty mugs of beer onto the decapitated head of the Lincoln Memorial. That shot kind of says it all even before you get to the swastikas on the Washington Monument in the next panel.

Now, Overgirl died in FINAL CRISIS, right? Or, I mean, in the backstory to the Overman who showed up in SUPERMAN BEYOND 3-D? I think I have that right, but my eyes are starting to bleed, lining all of this up. Total comprehension of Morrison Multiverse leads to absolute aneurysm. But holy shit, that Human Bomb guy who drops in to wreck Overgirl’s memorial, that’s Lee doing like a straight Liefeld homage. Worlds will live and worlds will die! And I love that the Aquaman analogue here is just Underwaterman, that’s got a really funny undertone of the literalness of the German language tucked in there. Casting the Freedom Fighters as persecuted minorities who survived Nazi purges is a strong choice. Morrison also sidesteps the tricky issue of making our hero complicit in the Holocaust with a three-panel flashback revealing that he was apparently off-planet for three years of the genocide. I understand that there’s only so much you can work in to a forty-page book, but that’s quite a little hop to make. Hey kids, it’s okay, our guy didn’t do any of that oven or shower stuff!

Overman bringing up the annual performance of The Ring Cycle to his presumed best friend Jurgen Olsen is an Easter egg that lends this installment of THE MULTIVERSITY a frankly massive amount of subtext that I didn’t dredge up all by myself with just Brunhilde’s name to go on. Okay. So, Jurgen the Olsen analogue was the traitor, yes? But he died with Brunhilde and everyone else when the Eagle’s Nest crashed into the concert hall? And he was narrating from beyond the grave? Or. What if Overman himself is the mole? I mean, he really doesn’t do anything for most of the issue except express regret over the Holocaust. In order to be truly heroic, he would have to take action against that, right that injustice somehow. Now, check out that panel last panel of the interview between Jurgen and the big guy. Overman says, and I quote, “MR. OLSEN, WE HAVE ONE OF THE TERRORISTS IN CUSTODY, AND I HAVE NO DOUBT THE OTHERS WILL JOIN HIM SHORTLY. THIS YEAR’S PERFORMANCE OF THE RING CYCLE WILL GO AHEAD AS IT HAS EVERY YEAR SINCE 1876. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.” Nothing has changed? As in, “All systems are still go, proceed”? If we entertain the notion that Overman is himself the mole and in cahoots with Uncle Sam, it’s no jump at all to consider that those lines are instructions addressed directly to the American terrorists, confirming the time and location for the strike. Of course, he still tries to stop it in the end. But he fails. Due to internal conflict? I’m still not sure. It seems like this installment might be second only to PAX AMERICANA as one to reward intense engagement and scrutiny with a great deal of the narrative/opera buried in subtext and Wagnerian references.

Even with the mighty A-list art team of Lee/Williams/Sinclair on the clock, this issue takes a bit of a dip after last month’s surprising escalation of the GUIDEBOOK following PAX AMERICANA. It has a ton of baggage to overcome due to its content and mostly does the job, but you can’t help feeling just a little bit fucked up and dirty finishing up the ballad of the Nazi Superman and how he was laid low by the terrorist Uncle Sam and/or the crushing weight of his own guilt.


BATMAN AND ROBIN #39 — That ACTION COMICS #1 homage is glorious. The further adventures of SuperDamian continue, and they are a beautiful thing to behold. You can understand his father’s concern, though. That line about the Karman Line being the “difference between being an earthling or an astronaut” is chilling enough without seeing the way he’s gritting his teeth in poor Penguin’s face. The double-page title spread is gorgeous, Bruce still doing his damnedest to regulate with the “Down. Now.” The following two-page fishing scene is a terrific piece of characterization even before that fantastic splash page to bring it all home. You’ve got to love Damian finally making it up on the Justice League’s satellite headquarters. The interaction with Superman is priceless. Does Shazam not have the secret-word transformation thing happening anymore? I thought that Damian was trying to trick him into saying his name and changing back to Billy, but then I turned the page and he was still “The Big Red Cheese.” I do love the panel with, “Yeah, so grateful he punched me in the jaw in front of everybody,” with Damian’s single raised eyebrow really selling the whole deal. Already can’t wait to see how it goes down next issue. This right here is twenty pages of perfection right up until the last word when the letterer forgets the apostrophe in “let’s,” but we’ll sure let that one slide.

BATGIRL #39 — Now, that Chiang variant cover is twisted and evil. Cameron Stewart continues to anchor this title, writing with Brendan Fletcher and providing breakdowns for Babs Tarr and Maris Wicks to work their magic on. This book really has some of the best-looking and most distinctive interiors on the rack today. I love that panel on Page Four with her hunched over up on the basketball goal. It’s a perfect microcosm of what this book does, embodying the Batman mythos while carving out its own unique place within them. And then on the next page, there’s terrific foreshadowing to the cliffhanger, that line of dialogue that Barbara walks in on about Riot Black getting rebooted and seeming like a totally different person. Hell, they even embolden “reboot.” Totally missed it the first time through, but it’s very catchable once you’ve seen how the issue ends. And I won’t spoil that last page, but that is certainly a hell of a way to get a bump on your SECRET ORIGINS sales. They’ve got my dollars, at least.

BATMAN ETERNAL #46 — Those Jae Lee covers are certainly distinctive! I usually hate it when anyone calls our hero “Bats,” but for some reason, it sounds totally appropriate coming out of Julia Pennyworth’s mouth. It must be her wonderful English accent. I love the page where Batman has visions of his potential successors. Good call, Tim Seeley and those four other writers, on nailing what makes that #666 Damian Batman the greatest to wear the cowl besides the original. “Is Batman eternal?” At last, we’re getting to it! I’m sorry to say that everyone on ARROW but the Asian couple mispronouncing Ra’s al-Ghul’s name is starting to infect me. Not cool. And Lord Death Man! Always a pleasure. It seems like we’ve had our last round of misdirection and will actually be gearing up to confront the Big Bad of this thing just any week now. Perhaps.

FUTURES END #42 — Oh good, I wasn’t ready for Ray Palmer to be toast, even five years from now. So, it appears that this version of Brainiac will have a great deal to do with dat old dang Convergence rearing its ugly head up from over yonder. I believe that we are going to see that cover of FLASH #123 and the JSA sitting around their table several times in the months to come. Some kind of happy resolution on that front. But I’m a little unclear on what Terry “did” to cause the deal with Brother Eye at the end. Possibly just fail in his mission, I guess? This issue was a bit of a bump up from what we’ve been getting lately, not so much water-treading.

FABLES #149 — All right, well yeah, I certainly had hopes, but Willingham was just fucking with us pretty hard, coasting for a few months and most of this issue, even, before hitting the gas right there in the final four pages. So, at long last, we’ve got our final bit of exposition flashed back, the full reason why it’s got to be Snow vs. Rose for all the power has been revealed and there’s nothing left but the making it to that final THE END. Which experience with this title suggests won’t be very final in any way, shape, or form. I like how Buckingham’s shot of Rose and Bigby making out in the forest on Page Thirteen is so evocative, Nimit Malavia pretty much exactly repaints that for the cover. Really going to miss this title. I wonder if I have time to power the whole thing through in the next month. Probably not if I’m going to rewatch all the MAD MEN as well, and that’s no choice at all.

BITCH PLANET #3 — This one is all right. A little boilerplate. I definitely feel like I know the character but didn’t find a reason to particularly care about her, which seems like kind of a waste of an issue, considering it’s a –centric devoted to her. Robert Wilson IV does fine work guesting on interiors. I found the backmatter more compelling than the issue itself, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Overall, this one isn’t that offensive but doesn’t really pull its weight for me in The Pull, pun honest-to-God not intended but left in for the sake of editorial integrity. Going to see if we can get something started next month when we return to the present, but this one is looming close to getting cut.

MPH #5 — A strong resolution to a mini-series that managed to remain compelling despite featuring characters that I never really managed to dial in to on any measureable level. I am a sucker for the superspeed, and that 11-page fight that took place in between the TICK and TOCK was a serious technical feat. Kudos to Duncan Fegredo for executing Millar’s inspired choreography. The twist at the end kind of borrows from the RED SON twist that Morrison gave Millar back when, but I didn’t mind. Overall, an entertaining read, though I would probably only roll in for the inevitable cinematic adaptation if Matthew Vaughan sees fit to stack it into his crowded slate.

SAVAGE DRAGON #202 — The sexual hijinx continue! And probably conclude for the most part, at least all the three-ways and the porn tape and that one four-way. College kids be crazy. Larsen escalates the deal substantially but then appears to most likely bring the arc to a close with a net-yield of would-be nemesis now waiting in the wings. This series continues to showcase strong narrative work by one-man-band Erik Larsen (aided and abetted by Chris Eliopolous on letters, but it’s Larsen’s show) and great fun all around.

SILVER SURFER #009 — The Galactus arc hits the turn here in its second act as our hero does his best to stop his former master from chowing down on the six billion souls on Newhaven, which is of course a pretty dicey endeavor considering the planet-devourer can take away the Power Cosmic as easily as he granted it to his first herald so long ago. Slott’s scripting remains pitch-perfect, and the Allreds continue to turn in beautiful pages. Norrin surfing the moon is a fantastic concept but Allred nails the imagery and staging to perfection.


UNCANNY X-MEN #031 — Well, huh. I can’t figure out what this cover has to do with anything at all, but other than that, this one right here is thunder. Bachalo is back going great guns with Antoino Fabela assisting him on color and, once again, no less than six inkers. I keep not being able to figure out how one guy can get so ahead of six. Maybe it would be one thing if he was doing loose loose work, but if that’s the case, these guys have done tremendous work tightening up the situation and making it look uniform. Massive resolution here as Bendis puts several genies back in the bottle, resurrecting a gang of beloved characters who of course had to come back but doing so in a way that didn’t feel like a cheat through the monumental circumstances that bring it about. Okay, and I’ve got to hit the SPOILER TAG here, but doesn’t this deal pretty much spell out how the whole run is going to end? Granted, I don’t recall the exact specifics of time travel rules that got laid out here when Beast tried to send the kids back early on, but what happens this issue proves that time is mutable and, at least via Eva Bell, events can be altered with no apparent consequence. So, can’t she just herd up all those teen X-Men and scoot them on back to #8 of the original run to fight Unus? No problem once we retrieve Teen Cyclops from making Star-Lord jealous by gallivanting through outer space with his not-dead daddy? It seems like kind of a simple fix to write in here near the very end, but I guess we’ll see how it all plays out. Bendis continues to do tremendous work with Eva Bell here. Rather than spread the love around the rest of the ensemble before he shuts it down, it looks like she’s just going to be the breakout star of his new roster, full stop. I was a fan of the backtalk she was giving Xavier last month and absolutely love the way that she dresses down Scott at the end of this issue. Terrific work, all around. Really going to miss this run when it’s over. This one and the guys on BATMAN AND ROBIN come really really close to the subtextual Nazis-vs-American-terrorist action that Morrison and the boys have going on.

Friday, February 20, 2015

2/11/15

BEST OF WEEK: TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #5 — Well, Scioli keeps the thunder crackling, picking up right where he left off with last arc’s final page of Optimus Prime, Duke, and Snake Eyes tumbling unprotected into the seething blast of space-time. Once again, every single page is a symphony of licensed characters and blinding mad ideas supercolliding in distinct snapshots suggesting raging quantum foam if motion was only added. This double-page spread on Pages Two and Three is another hearkening back to how Kirby would just hammer you with that first page turn on every issue of his Fourth World Saga, but Scioli ups the ante here to a ridiculous extent, providing no less than thirteen panels inset against the monster splash of Trypticon vs Fortress Maximus as they lumber toward the sprawl of Metroplex. Then, you turn that page and get nothing less than a blue-skinned Zartan-in-disguise reveal, the most I have enjoyed that trick since Miller’s third issue of (HUNT) THE DARK KNIGHT way back almost thirty years ago with Old Bruce hollering about the Sebbin-Lebbin. The alternating question with Tomax and Xamot is classic and ridiculous. That Page Six flash to the damn Cybertron Viking Kirby Norse Gods rowing is insane. I don’t even know what it means, but it’s like my mind won’t fully let me process it or the white-hot truth will be too much to bear. And then you’ve got the damn Fortress Maximus advent calendar. As much love as this book received last year, it’s still not getting nearly enough praise. I mean, I could go through every single page expressing something I love about it and how it continually ups the ante on all that has come before, a streak that Scioli has kept going since the first FCDB issue last May. All the way through to Optimus Prime using his energon sword to slice through Ace’s Skystriker and the Coltonbolt satellites as he plunges down from orbit. This comic is everything that I ever hoped it can be and so much more.

ASTRO CITY #20 — Is that opening splash dialogue meta-commentary on corporate work-for-hire superhero gigs or just dialogue uttered in good fun by a fish man? Busiek and all of the usual delinquents continue to stretch out on this multi-part Quarrel arc, deepening her characterization through contrasting the way she treats poor MPH in a relationship as opposed to that scalawag Crackerjack, all in service of her undying obsession to train. Without powers, you can’t let up! The twist at the end is deftly executed. It seems inevitable in hindsight, but I never saw it coming because the creative team makes all of their foreshadowing work seem not like setting up a twist but just more details that flesh out this nuanced world. Almost twenty years in, and this is still one of the best books on the stand.  

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #7 — It keeps not going young Euless Boss’s way. He finally gets a season of Rebel football, and the damn Jasons blast through the whole blamed thing in a montage. He stands up to his no-good daddy, though. This issue doesn’t dig in quite as deeply as the past couple, but it still does what it’s supposed to. I wonder if this arc will end next issue, or if old Coach Boss will tip over into being our main character longer than that Earl Tubb. Latour’s red-dominated palette stands out this issue, a good fit, given this book’s content. It’s impressive that he’s cranking out full sequentials and color on a monthly gig, not even counting the fact that he’s cooking up the soon-to-be unmissable adventures of Spider-Gwen, the Sensational Character Find of 2014!

SATELLITE SAM #11 — Well, it’s back to business as usual here, so there’s a bit of coitus, a bit more drinking before noon, and a whole bunch of shit-talk, all delivered in glorious Chaykin black and white. I think there are four more of these left, which is probably a good thing. It almost feels like this one is overstaying its welcome already in terms of character development and plot advancement. But damn, is that uncolored Chaykin art beautiful.

MORNING GLORIES #43 — Why can’t this book just be THE ADVENTURES OF CASEY & IKE? I would be all over that. Not that the Abraham flashback isn’t riveting in its own nasty way. And of course Ike wrote the books. I really should have seen that coming at this point. Lots of callbacks here to #25, I bet an infographic that visually depicts the links and references between issues of this series would just blind you. It’s funny that Ike explicitly mentions a tesseract here, there is definitely an extra-dimensional component to this narrative that makes you feel like we’re just getting a glimpse at these little corners folding down where we can see them, but that the bulk of the narrative exists in a higher dimension that we can’t quite understand. At least until some issue in the late nineties, one hopes!

BATMAN ETERNAL #45 — This opening scene, man, I have no idea how last issue ended. Weekly series fatigue. And oh good, more Jim Corrigan and Batwing. Don’t care, bro! We can certainly do without such scathing commentary as, “Gotham’s getting weird,” Jim Corrigan. And having Stephanie say the same thing the very next scene is not exactly Alan-Moore-level business. I am a fan of further development of the Bruce/Julia relationship. That is worth pages any time. And I’m pleased about the new antagonist reveal on the final page. Hoping this ramps up into greatness as we hit the home stretch, here.

FUTURES END #41 — Ha, Adam West! If all of this upcoming convergence brings the ’66 business screaming into the multiverse, then it will be worth any amount of horror committed under the specter of red skies. But that is some cold-blooded sterilization type business with Katar! All those dead guys on the first page with Batman, Tim, and Plastique really look like S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (not the ones on TV, kids!). But Tim threatening to kill Plastique in the elevator if she calls him Robin again seems like a bit of an extreme reaction. And that is a grim last couple of pages. Futures end, y’all.  

STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #1—This team had some serious heavy lifting to do, coming up on the heels of Aaron/Cassaday/Martin’s near-flawless opening salvo from the flagship launch. They’re also a little bit hamstrung by the series conceit. Rather than have the full ensemble, the, ah, somewhat unsympathetic Dark Lord of the Sith is now our lead. And we’ve got to care about that. Which Gillen gets us to do for the most part. He’s got to lean on a lot of fanboy love to make it work, though. The first sequential page is an homage to the opening scene of JEDI, which is an element we’re seeing probably too much of already here in the first issues. These creators have got to shed their desire to take us to Cloud City so that we can see what a scoundrel Lando is again or back to the Mos Eisley cantina for just one more drink and dismemberment in favor of providing actual new material. The art is out-of-the-park terrific, though. Sal Larocca has come a very very long way since rolling with Fraction on the monthly IRON MAN gig. I mean, he almost outdoes Cassaday here, it’s not too controversial to say. However, ultimately, it’s hard to become too invested in the stakes of a scene in Jabba’s palace in which the three major players that we care about, Vader, Jabba, and Boba Fett, are in no danger whatsoever because they’ve still got beats in the original trilogy to hit. The latter two hadn’t even yet showed up on camera when this takes place! The flashback scene in the Emperor’s throne room on Coruscant does a nifty little job of connecting this one back up to REVENGE OF THE SITH in a way that’s organic and not as forced as the other references to the original trilogy. And Vader hiring Fett and a craaaazy Wookie bounty hunter to find Luke and get to the bottom of the deal with the Emperor’s new confidante sounds interesting enough, but that whole set-up feels like it’s going to once again be hamstrung by timeline. Can Luke even meet Fett this early, really? The week after it turns out that he first swung his dad’s old lightsaber at the big bad Darth Vader? We’ll see. Not completely sold on the long game with this script, but the art is stellar. That last shot is tons of payoff for folks who haven’t scoured all reference to Hayden Christiansen from their memories, but there probably should have been at least some barely-vague throwaway line in Jabba’s palace about how Vader doesn’t really like Sandpeople for some reason.


ALL-NEW X-MEN #036 — What a magnificent opening splash. Mahmud Asrur and Marte Gracia produce stunning work. After presumably a trade paperback’s worth of running around, all of our Teen X-Men are reunited and manage to hack their way back to good old 616, but not before Teen Jean plants a chaste kid of fan-favorite Miles Morales’s masked face. Oh, when are they going to do that on the big screen, everybody? Bendis once again milks the assorted doppelganger interaction for maximum comedy. But oh no, now even Teen Hank is growing disgruntled with his current situation. It is never never a good deal when one of those Beasts starts trying to fix things with science. That’s how we got here in the first place. This is the first issue that I’ve read since news broke that this monster Bendis run will be over soon, and I am already a little sad, knowing that events have just about stopped careening all around taking us who-knows-where and are instead gearing up for the grand finale, which should of course be one hell of a thing.

Friday, February 13, 2015

2/4/15

MIRACLEMAN #15 — And so at last we come to the end of Moore/Totelben’s storied run on this title. I expected Marvel’s reprint of this one to kick up a bit more of a fuss, presuming that this is lots of folks’ first time to read it like me, but maybe everyone who cares has already tracked it down over the years. This is the climax, bloody death and devastation on a scale and at such detail that it must have certainly been of a revelation in 1988, pun intended. Kid Miracleman returns and just absolutely wrecks anything and everyone in London in gratuitous and absolutely horrible ways. Totelben’s nightmarish depictions of graphic violence are unparalleled. The resolution to the ultimate conundrum of how to stop Kid Miracleman for good is completely expected but no less tragic, in large part due to Totelben’s staging. The last three panels of Page Eighteen are haunting, that smile on Johnny’s face. And then our hero crying his eyes out on the last page really just cuts it out of you. I’m not sure if Moore had already fallen out with DC by this point, but I suspect that he had, and this was him, deftly and quite dramatically slamming the door on all of the Silver Age wonder that had first fired his imagination as a boy. It is a haunting deconstruction of superheroes in the real world every bit as profound as WATCHMEN though lacking the latter’s sublime and elegant balance of form and content in the panelwork. This is a terribly sad place to leave off a run and laid me pretty low the first time through. I am very glad that we have Gaiman of all people in the queue for next month to steer us back in the direction of hope. Which, at this point, would really be any direction at all. We have bottomed out at the absolute South Pole of crippling sadness, is what I’m trying to say, and there is no direction to go but up.

ANNIHILATOR #5 — Morrison/Irving find a way to somehow ratchet up the manic madness of this thing a couple of notches higher. The in-script sections are certainly becoming more insane. This is veering into some heady hard science-fiction zones that Morrison hasn’t really explored since finally pulling that pin on THE INVISIBLES. Everybody’s in place, we’re back at the haunted house on the sinkhole, Max Nomax is on the verge of curing death, Ray Spass is having an aneurysm or some shit while on the cusp of finally finishing his grand and glorious screenplay. And Frazer Irving’s art has everyone looking absolutely terrifying, even the nice people. I’m just kidding, there are no nice people in Hollywood. Next month can’t come too soon.

NAMELESS #1 — Strong work from all parties. Burnham and Fairbairn actually do most of the heavy lifting here as Morrison doesn’t give us that much to dial into in terms of character hook here this first issue, but we’re happy to go along for the ride with such beautiful artwork. The last couple of pages just barely explain this cover image that we’ve been seeing for months; it looks like Brother Morrison is conjuring up the serious sigil-magic once again. If he ever really stopped. We’ve got our mysterious lead, we’ve got our extinction-level event to prevent, we’ve got out “Strawberry Fields Forever” quote to mull over for another month. Next issue should be roaring great guns from the get-go.

SAGA #25 — All right, dude calling out the number “twenty-five” here is some pretty weak-ass meta-sauce for the first-page gag. I have not gotten more acclimated nor appreciative of the modern-day slang, such as when our narrator says that everyone was “poor as shit” or “had skin in the game” or especially a fucking “spoiler alert.” Jesus wept. I don’t want it to, but that business just rips me up out of the story every single time. “They weren’t degenerates, they were actors,” is a terrific line, though. The old BKV can still get some in there! I just pine for the days of cross-country hijinx with that Yorick & Ampersand & 355.

VELVET #9 — This one’s solid enough but felt a bit like filler. At least David Carradine drops by to drink some liquor and throw in a John Thomas reference free of charge. The cliffhanger leaves a bit to be desired in terms of stakes. This one is not really keeping the momentum of the first arc in singles.

WYTCHES #4 — The noose tightens as Charlie struggles to help his daughter in multiple time-frames, and we get a little bit more explanation about the mechanics of the whole “pledged is pledged” deal. Probably enough explanation, for my money. A little bit goes a long way in matters such as these. Pretty solid escalation in the cliffhanger, as well. Jock & Hollingsworth continue to blow it up on the interiors, and Snyder takes us on a trip down memory lane to his first encounter with horror at a summer camp when he was nine, which of course involved EYES OF THE DRAGON as the gateway. Man, that was everybody’s first Stephen King book, seems like.

EAST OF WEST #17 — Oh, Mister President Samuel Clemens, it is your italicized and emboldened pontificating that I like the most. We jump around the ensemble here a little bit more than we have lately. A quick manga-fueled romp in Jordan before checking in with the genius and extremely socially awkward son of Death, winding up with the entity himself and his one true love, Xiaolin, climaxing with a beautiful 16-panel Dragotta/Martin page that juxtaposes love/lust and violence. And then Hickman slams the gate shut on all of that shut with an out-of-nowhere final caption that is more than a little heartbreaking. These characters still aren’t quite breathing with beating hearts for me quite yet, but I do care about them at least.  

AVENGERS #041—Now, I know some folks who were actually pissed off that they just recycled Hitch’s THE ULTIMATES #1 cover here, but I found it pretty funny. I dialed out of the Ultimate Universe after the tragic first issue of Loeb’s ULTIMATUM abortion, so I have no idea what the deal with this Reed is, but I assume the other three are dead and he’s just a super-villain-in-secret now, which works well enough for me, particularly if he’s been killing other worlds all clandestine-like. 67 is a lot. Oh, and what a turnaround on the fate of Namor. I have to say, I bought it last month. It’s a bit of a cheat, walking back something that we saw on-panel last issue. All of those images were just like in T’Challa’s head? I wish they just would have not shown us those three panels of Namor lying there all stabbed and pissed off with the T’Challa dialogue captions, just keep everything off-panel once T’Challa and Black Bolt bail, and that would have not been a cheat. I was able to read what Black Bolt said this time, so that was fun. It will definitely be an interesting dynamic to see what happens next with evil teen Reed and the not-so-ended Cabal.

STAR WARS #2 — This issue had quite a sophomore slump to overcome after that slam-dunk first blast, but I am thrilled to report that this is enough action, excitement, and wonder to do the job. We understandably skip the first three pages of titles from last issue and go straight to the crawl before picking up where we left off with Luke and Vader, whose lightsabers clash for the first time at the bottom of the first page of sequentials. Hardcore purists might balk at the retcon of placing this first encounter before EMPIRE, and they’ve got a point, but as long as such a thing is in service of a gripping story, then I’m okay with it, as is the case here. Vader just starting to recognize his old lightsaber is amazing. Of course, Vader is more than a match for Luke in these first weeks after The Battle of Yavin and is just on the verge of killing him before Han and the gang stomp through the roof with an AT-AT, naturally. All the characterization is perfect, Han & Leia bickering, Threepio’s absolute ineptitude, the whole deal. I can’t decide if Luke’s line about bull’s-eyeing womp rats is too precious for its own good, is almost my only hitch. Vader using the Force on the walker before Leia opens fire on him is lovely. This one rockets to a close fast, which is a good choice. It’s better not to string us along with some five-issue written-for-the-trade arc, just get the next thing going. Vader’s last line is also maybe a little bit too fanboyish for my taste. It would be better for Aaron to just write quality new dialogue rather than shoehorn in a bunch of favorite quotes from the original trilogy, particularly when these characters haven’t even uttered those famous lines yet in this timeline. Cassaday/Martin completely knock it out of the park once again. Hope they’re staying on for another issue or two. Minor dialogue quibbles aside, this one is still tremendous fun all around.

HAWKEYE #021 — First of all, actually, only of all, I must confess that for whatever misunderstanding and Internet-comprehension-related difficulties, I somehow thought that this was the final issue of the run, and so kept making excuses not to hit it until three in the morning of actually the Wednesday after it came out. Because I have so much trouble saying goodbye to things that I love and was just in denial? Active denial. But it seemed a blasphemy to hold it out past a whole entire other week. And so of course, every single Aja page assumed so much more weight and import, this was The Last Time and it almost didn’t even matter exactly how it all went down, I was just so grateful for the ride all this time, etc, etc. But this misconception elevated that final joyful Pizza Dog panel right up way past the sublime when I realized that apparently there’s one more of these things still on the way. I don’t care if it takes another year. I just hope Clint makes up with Kate. And maybe even kisses her. He’s such a doof.

(BEST OF WEEK: I kind of want to give it to HAWKEYE, but then there’s also STAR WARS hanging out, and it’s really about a tie for me between those two, but then you’ve got two Morrison originals plus that insane Moore swan song up top. Final verdict: this week is too close to call!)

ACTION COMICS #39 — I am really not getting tired of bearded Superman, but organic-steel-bearded Superman is even more fun. And then a line like, “We’re just MORTAL—eventually, you’re going to lose us all,” has to come along and wreck the good vibes. The one-page flashback to the aftermath of the Kents’ death at the Lang household was sweet too, and but then, there was nothing but wreckage as bleak and desolate as the day is long until the simplicity of the sweet syllables, “Ah, Lana,” save us all. Even from the sound-effect on that last panel, I hope.

DETECTIVE COMICS #39 — So, it’s Harley Quinn variant cover month, apparently? That really confused me at first. I got the ACTION, DETECTIVE, and GRAYSON ones and thought it was some sort of cross-over at first. People really like her! But the issue at hand. The art continues to be absolutely terrific. Buccellato’s work on colors, in particular, is soaring and has never looked better. Scriptwise, I am not a fan of Batman and Bullock just saying that the unfortunately named Yip did it on Page Two. That’s a pretty crucial plot-point to just exposit right away after last month’s cliffhanger. You know what, though? These guys can draw snow falling like nobody’s business.

GRAYSON #7 — It is always a little bit of a shame when we pull a fill-in for Brother Janin. I would not mind waiting for the great goods, DC Sales Force! This Mooney guy’s work here is a little bit stiffer than I remember seeing on ETERNAL a few weeks back. Which can be all right in other situations, but Janin has us conditioned to expect this living breathing hyper-fluid super-dynamic really badass photo-realistic kind of Neal Adams/Alan Davis type of thing. Oh, and Hitch. I wouldn’t mind so much if Midnighter would just quit asking for a Door to remind me how it can be. I kept thinking that this Clutch guy was supposed to embody the band Clutch and having to remind myself that this was not the case. Yes, I’m a New World Samurai. The page with the kiss is of course the most fun of the issue, but as great as the “clean thoughts” reference was probably intended to be, all I could think was, “Didn’t Alan Moore script that line for Jason?” Silly reboots! Probably hacking away at continuity is never the call. But what is Fleischer doing here at last? The Sensational Character Find of 2015 is here! And but that last page is the first serious misfire of this book. “A better world.” A better world?!? I’m pretty sure that directly referencing the initial Ellis/Hitch THE AUTHORITY arc is only going to make even this terrific series suffer by comparison, but for God’s sake, don’t half-ass it and tweak “finer” over to “better.” I’m all for spending a little bit more time with our antagonist to add character depth, but it’s been a long time since he was a member of one of the most influential teams of the modern age.

BATMAN ETERNAL #44 — That is one clean EVS cover! And solid art from Aco. Who- or whatever an Aco is. The names of people, these days. I love the map with the requisite creator love (SEE: Janson Building and K. Jones Convention Center), but I’m not sure what set of circumstances makes “th” acceptable to place after “433” instead of “rd.” Good call on punching Stephanie in the face, Harper. This is not what all the people who have been clamoring for her return have been pining for, I am certain. So, apparently Caracas is a real place in Venezuela. I had a series of synapse firings that caused me to initially read that as Carcosa, and I got all messed up again. “Expecting Gotham police to stop Batman”? You certainly should have known damn well better, Achilles Milo. Come on, now!

FUTURES END #40 — Wildfire’s “Humph!” is silly but great fun nonetheless. I also dig Bruce giving Tim shit about responsibility. Also, Katar calling Ray “Dr. Genius.” This one is really chock-full of the zingers. What a last page, though, man. Zircher tears it up once again.  

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SECOND CYCLE #6 — It’s been quite a little while since the first arc of this second volume. And there was a decent enough gap between that and the original run that I have forgotten most of the ancillary characters and their lineage. Like, I remember that Felicia Book maybe had a dad who was a big deal in an earlier arc? The only ones I still really know about are of course Skinner and I’m pretty sure that the female lead is Pearl/Dolly, our initial protagonist from the very first arc. Maybe I’ve been glamoured by one of these things? At any rate, there’s not just a lot of action in this issue, which is a bit of a risk returning from such a hiatus, but Snyder gives us enough big answers about overall mythology that it feels more like a creepy story at the campfire than the massive info-dump that it also is. And what a set-up! I am all in on “Vampires in Space.” Every time! Albuquerque’s work continues to be a thing of total sequential glory. Bring on #2 right away, please.

SUPERMAN #38 — Well, this was certainly explosive enough. Is this the first issue of The New 52 to actually slip through into the following month? A little bit embarrassing after that “January 2015” ad ran in all of the issues last month. Some folks might kvetch about how many pages are taken up with just exploding solar flare madness, but they made a big enough deal of the oh-my-gosh New Power that I would have been disappointed with anything less. I’m not as much a fan of the resolution to this arc’s climax as I am the epilogue. Of COURSE he wakes up in the Bat-Cave. Where else would be the default facility for recuperation? The absolute best part though is the hope that our hero inspires in Jimmy. In this day and age, I am totally okay with Johns just straight up spelling it out and telling us that the reason that our guy is the first and still-greatest hero is that he inspires. He creates hope. Give that to me every Wednesday night, man. We can all do good. We can all be better. We can all of us fly.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

1/28/15

BEST OF WEEK: THE MULTIVERSITY GUIDEBOOK #1 — This was devastating. I was expecting like a straight dossier-type book more in the vein of WHO’S WHO IN THE DC UNIVERSE but should have known better. Never mind what’s happening in a couple of months, the convergence is right here! We open with a shot of that scariest Lecter-type Sivana from THUNDERWORLD right before he turns his flamethrower on a cute li’l version of J’onn J’onzz from Earth-42. Nice touch for Morrison to have Li’l J’onn’s last word be calling out his wife’s name just the way he did way back in FINAL CRISIS #1. Still so cute, even in his death throes! There’s wonderful tension here with this li’l Batman’s cuteness thrown into stark juxtaposition with the mortal stakes that have suddenly erupted on his earth. I missed it on the first read-through, but that Lecter-Sivana has a copy of this very guidebook in his pocket rolled up in his pocket there on the first page. There’s a weird deal on the third page where Batman tells Li’l Hawkman and Green Arrow, who are all that’s left of this earth’s League, to retreat and then they just immediately disappear without comment, never to be seen on-panel again. And not like disappear-in-a-flash-of-light disappear, just suddenly gone. It’s a little abrupt. That’s all right, though, because we get the Atomic Knight Batman from Earth-17. I read his specialized dialect with a Scottish accent. Marcus To does really terrific sequential work in this sequence. He’s leveled up his situation a bit since doing fill-in work a couple years back over on THE FLASH. It isn’t long, though, before our heroes run across one of those picture books, and who amongst us wouldn’t crack open some random comic that we find strewn about a laboratory containing a word-controlled transmatter array? This leads, gloriously, into a tale of Earth-51, which is apparently just straight Earth-Kirby. Kamandi and Tuftan have a new friend who turns out to be a BiO.M.A.C., and the confederacy stumbles across the empty tomb of Darkseid, which is as grim of a deal as it sounds, footprints emerging from the grave and all. Paolo Siqueira absolutely murders the interiors on this section, to the point that I was positive that Ryan Sook was reprising his run on the character from WEDNESDAY COMICS. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Atomic Knight Batman says that he came from the Dark Tower of Luthex and then Kamandi is looking for a girl named Flower who apparently causes roses to grow in her wake. These are pretty much direct references to Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER cycle of stories that takes up around half of his total written output in the past forty years. An entirely different multiverse! But back to Kamandi, it looks like Highfather and the rest of the New Gods are watching his efforts and talking about how dire the situation is with multiple Darkseids rampaging throughout the multiverse. Barda’s comment about all of these worlds hosting multiple versions of the New Gods seems to indicate that these right here are the folks who are actually on New Genesis in the Map of the Multiverse, but that the crew who’s in the Didio/Giffen book FOREVER MAN AND THE INFINITY PEOPLE are just Earth-0 analogues? I think that’s what it means, anyway. Of course, Kamandi and his crew happen upon the equivalent of cave paintings, which takes us down another level of fiction into a six-page recap of all DC multiversal crossover crises ever, beginning, as it must, with good old Barry Allen. That first page that opens with AND THEN! and introducing Monitor-Mind the Over-Void is some pretty heady business. Morrison has done incredible work drawing a through-line through all of the multiversal DC insanity that has stacked up through the decades all the way back to the simple fact that Barry Allen took on the mantle of The Flash because he grew up reading Jay Garrick’s adventures. The simple conceit of comic books as not only idea-delivery mechanisms but portals between alternate universes is brilliant. It’s a hell of a montage with a narrative tone that doesn’t mind a couple of in-jokes. Labeling the 1986 post-Crisis DC Universe “post-traumatic” is just funny. And we follow that up with the nineties silliness. “And so it was reality changed AGAIN. And changed AGAIN.” And I love how Morrison slides Hypertime right back into the mythology in a manner that borders on sleight-of-hand with all of this other insane shit going on. “And The Flash--always there at the electric heart of EVERY momentous transformation,” is a really nice turn of phrase.

Another weird deal with that first page back in the Batmen of Two Worlds story. The Li’l Batman busts out LI’L GOTHAM #12 and says that it “tried to warn us of an approaching cosmic invader.” However. I went back through the issue and could find no evidence of such a thing. But also, that blurb on the cover of the issue that he holds up isn’t on the comic published on our world here on Earth-33. The book that we got contains Thanksgiving and Christmas stories while the blurb is Halloween-themed, which more than implies alternate interior content. Also, Batman refers to the issue as “the latest” while in this world, it was also the final issue. And “local multiverse?!?” Does that imply an omniverse?



And but then the actual guidebook itself. A quick paragraph and team shot of 45 out of the 52 Earths. This is a lot to take in, of course. A few bullet-points:

-Not having Jim Lee do the Earth-0 art, or even re-purposing an old pin-up, seems ridiculous. The smirk that Brett Booth gives Superman, the current in-canon Man of Steel, for God’s sake, is wrong wrong wrong.
-Gary Frank & Nathan Fairbairn are monsters on that Earth-1 shot. Just perfect.
-The Earth-3 shot of the CSA looks nothing like any Finch/Oback art that I’ve ever seen.
-Juan Jose Ryp did a pretty good job copping a Quitely vibe for the crew of Earth-4. Though it really is a shame not to have Quitely, of all people. Calling The Question a “rogue crimebuster” is an amusing tip of the cap to the source material by The Original Writer.
-As much as I adore Cameron Stewart doing layouts on his new BATGIRL book, I would be more than happy for Babs Tarr to just provide full art and leave Stewart time to bang out that THUNDERWORLD series that everyone wants him and Morrison to get on. Please!
-The Just Imagine Stan Lee one-shots get Earth-6? That’s a bit surprising.
-Is that a typo in the Earth-7 write-up, saying that “the sole survivor of Earth-4 is THUNDERER, an incarnate storm god.”? Got to be a typo, that would be a really strange place to put that information, even for this series.
-That’s the Tangent Universe on Earth-9? My multiversal DC knowledge over the years is not as sharp as I might have thought.
-Earth-10, that’s the Jim Lee book for next month? But we saw this Overman guy bak in SUPERMAN BEYOND 3D, right? Having an Underwaterman is hilarious.
-Giving the Beyond universe its own Earth-12 instead of just stating that it’s in the future of Earth-0 is an interesting move. So, the past of Earth-12 is where all those fucking awesome Timm cartoons took place?
-And wow, that cosmic grail that Atomic Knight Batman’s mentioned is all that’s left of Earth-15 after Superboy-Prime’s rampage back in INFINITE CRISIS. Comics are crazy, y’all.
-Earth-16. While I enjoyed the hell out of that issue, these kids really do come off like the douchbags they are when cast in juxtaposition to all these other folks.
-Where’s the Earth-17 one-shot? Why can’t THE MULTIVERSITY be like an eight-year event?
-It’s a shame they’ll never be able to lure Mignola back for an Earth-19 one-shot.
-Of course Cooke’s THE NEW FRONTIER deserves its own Earth-21. Nice contrast to see that one hanging out next to Waid/Ross’s KINDGOM COME. I might have positioned those splitting the whole deal right down the middle at Earth-26 and -27.
-Is the Earth-23 Bruce Wayne’s identity Amazing Man? Why is he still white? I want an ongoing with this Earth more than most.
-Is Morrison going to pay off these “7 Unknown Worlds created by an Inner Chamber of Monitor Magi for a mysterious purpose” here in a just a couple months with the end of MULTIVERSITY, or is he seeding business for the rest of the decade and beyond?
-The Unjustice League of Unamerica are horrifying. Green Lantern’s slouch possibly most of all.
-This Ultra Comics character is a native of Earth-33, that’s an interesting new wrinkle, there.
-Earth-34, man, I’m familiar with most of these other ones but have no idea about these jokers.
-So, those comics that Barry Allen was reading back in 1956 were depicting adventures from Earth-38 instead of Earth-2 in this revised system of numerology? I think?
-“Repeated use of this technology might be addictive and ruinous,” is a terrific line from Earth-39.
-And wow, that Savage Dragon analogue rates an entire Earth-41? Morrison must be a fan. How could he not be?
-Could the great and terrible secret hidden on Earth-42 be that they are, in fact, robots created by The Gentry and controlled by The Empty Hand? And doesn’t The Empty Hand belong to Krona? I thought that was a well-established deal.
-Of course Kelley Jones had to draw Earth-43, but holy shit, screaming vampire Batman is terrifying. Pretty much one sentence is all you need to accompany that horror. It would have been funny if there was no copy at all, just that image. You can hear that vampire shriek all the way from three Earths over.  
-Bring Duncan Rouleau back for an Earth-44 series! I just finally made it to those eight issues of METAL MEN he did a few years back and they were stellar.
-Cool to see Superdoomsday positioned on Earth-45. I really did enjoy that ACTION COMICS #9.
-And wow, the alternate world from the Timm JUSTICE LEAGUE series when Superman avenged Flash’s murder by killing President Luthor even rates an Earth-50. That’s a deep cut, right there.
-And Earth-51 is indeed Earth-Kirby. Maybe Paolo Siqueira should start drawing a nothing-but-Kirby series set on this Earth. Didio can write it, even.

And we’re finally through all of that. Very comprehensive! I suspect that the first issue of THE MULTIVERSITY is going to make a whole gang more sense now, at least those crowd scenes. Of course the sky is red, Tuftan! “We all got drawn here, just like you,” is another classic line. The final couple of pages seem to confirm my suspicion about the cute little Earth-42 heroes. This was really such an incredible reading experience, the levels of fiction trapdooring down, us reading about Earth-42 Batman reading about Earth-51 Kamandi reading the cave paintings about the history of the multiverse. This issue is a hyperdense microcosm of everything that makes the DC Universe great. 

BATMAN #38 — Boy, that Scott Snyder likes him some mythology building around those old Gotham neighborhoods. It’s a cool element of a monster run like he’s embarked upon. The reader’s eyes are going to glaze over pretty quickly if you go on and on and on about all of this hundred-year-old architecture and dynastic history, but sprinkling in little bits here and there goes a really long way. And that is a stark way to kick things off here, Jim Gordon takes out the ax that the Joker buried in his chest and wields it at Batman while grinning manically. That is a terrific page with the five panels zooming in on Joker swimming through uncharted waters. Capullo/Miki/Plascencia continue to be basically unstoppable on this title. Oh, and on the previous page, it’s very cool to hear Bruce appropriate Clark’s “There’s always a way” catchphrase from ALL-STAR SUPERMAN and tag “out” onto the ending. Really nice little touch there. And then we just get plunged headfirst into this deal with the jellyfish guy, Paul Dekker, who isn’t afraid to get totally meta on his third page with the “doesn’t feel like a Batman story anymore” comment. Snyder does terrific work stitching Vandal Savage to Ra’s al-Ghul’s Lazarus Pits to The Demon to our own charming White Duke of Death. It’s starting to be a shame that this run is in monthly continuity, as this is really shaping up into a potentially very excellent Last Batman Story. And what a hell of a last page. It makes me afraid that Snyder/Capullo are going to bail pretty soon. The stakes have never been higher and they seem to be circling back around to where the run began. Crushing. As for the backup, it’s once again a bit anti-climactic after the main feature but perfectly respectable when taken on its own merits. You’ve got to love it any time that Sam Kieth is drawing some Batman.

GOTHAM ACADEMY #4 — Kerschl continues to blow it up on art. The acting with his characters’ facial expressions is, if anything, an improvement on his previous terrific work. The pages came through a bit dark overall for my taste. Of course, that’s a solid way to evoke the mood and atmosphere that this title is going for, but it was hard for me to make out the action on some of the pages. Cloonan & Fletcher continue to strike a great balance doling out hints on long-term mysteries like Olive’s lost summer while advancing the narrative in palpable ways every month. Though I have to say, I hope that that isn’t going to be the end of Millie Jane’s ghost. The interpersonal relationships drive this story, as they should, but big moments like the splash on the next to last page certainly don’t hurt. Recommended for Bat-fans of all ages.

BATMAN ETERNAL #43 — DC poached the LaFuente from the Marvel! It’s almost always the other way around. He sure does a terrific job throughout. Opening with the aftermath of rescuing Stephanie very much confused me, I was positive that I had just spaced on the rescue last week. Weekly series are hard! Where FUTURES END feels like it’s losing momentum, this one is picking up steam as our guy dumps Stephanie in Harper’s lap and they totally bond over the fact that Kingpin Selina doesn’t have buttons on her shirt. Which actually sounds awful but plays well.

FUTURES END #39 — Man, those first four pages with Firestorm aboard the satellite felt like eight. Rapidly running out of fucks to give for this storyline. “All eight-year-olds are vindictive” is a good line. I am okay with burning an entire page on the gin gag, that’s about right. But you can’t really use the phrase “take Manhattan” without evoking the Muppets, so that’s probably not how you want to set up a bad guy’s scary-evil plan. But good on Constantine for still smoking! I’ve never heard of this Stephen Thompson, but he turns in some decent pages. Nothing too flashy, and a couple of the Superman faces look pretty rushed (that’s like the last thing you ought to rush in a crowded ensemble like this, I would think), but overall, solid work.

INFINITY MAN AND THE FOREVER PEOPLE #7 — The Daniel Hdr draws pretty faces, but I sure do wish that Giffen was on interiors, given that our time with this book is far too short. I dig that opening splash of Sad Mark Moonrider on the beach in his New Year’s hat. Big Bear’s Kirby-inflected thoughts on vibrational alignment in the New Year are spot-on and a pleasure to read. Next issue is “Resolutions,” does that mean we’re one more and done? Man, I was hoping that O.M.A.C. would show up in these pages and then Scott Free & Barda could do a quick guest spot and spinoff into their own book, then maybe even Jimmy Olson could start cruising around in a hot new Miracle Machine or something. We need more Kirby in the world, not less! That is a universal axiomatic truth as old as the seething “Big Bang” itself!

THE UNWRITTEN: APOCALYPSE #12 — And so we come to another THE END of another beloved Vertigo series. I have enjoyed the ride along the way, and Carey/Gross/Chuckry do a very elegant job of sticking this landing, which had to be comparable to actually harpooning that white whale, as many rules and wrinkles as they have stacked up for themselves all along the way. Wilson retreating to write the entire finale is, of course, the only thing that makes sense, as is Tom’s final Jonahesque sacrifice down the gullet of that Moby Dick. The farewell between Lizzie and him carried as much poignance as it needed to, but it was the aftermath, the epilogues for each character, that really sold this ending for me. The agent not going for Wilson’s manuscript rings so true, and the misery on Wilson’s face is very deserved. No redemption for you, sir, certainly not. It is nice to see Savoy and Lizzie actually find their happy endings. Pauly “Mr. Bun” Bruckner, even more so. I appreciated the one-panel shots of various other members of the ensemble, but we had to go out with Wilson in what turns out to be this unresolved and actually really unsettling last shot that feels just perfect. There are many more stories left to be told, always, and that is the best truest ending that we will ever, or should ever, get.

FABLES #148 (one week late, thank you, Diamond) — Well, once again, this one’s not that satisfying of a read in singles. It’s apparent why we’re suddenly having an extended flashback to the tale of Snow & Rose’s Mother & All Her Sisters, but it’s more than a little late in the game to suddenly be taking up the majority of the issue with this business. I mean, this is the next-to-next-to-last issue, and most of this is dedicated to a character whose first appearance is in this very issue. That plays a little lopsided, no? Especially for someone like Willingham, who has demonstrated such a mastery of the form all along the way. So, we learn part of the story of the girls’ mother, but not even that gets resolved, we check in on Lancelot and Brandish for a page, that’s not resolved, then Snow has a bad dream and then flies away. Great art, as always, but kind of a frustrating issue again. Surely, the business will start smashing down next month. Surely.

UNCANNY X-MEN #030 — Well now, oh my stars and garters! Our Mr. Bendis is certainly hitting the acceleration at this point! That is a very tense conversation between the late Charles Xavier (c. vol. 1 #5, I believe I read somewhere?) and our Eva Bell. Xavier’s “I am so offended by you being here. You’ve ruined my life,” is so perfectly in character, it hurts. I love how Eva just drops it on him like a dime, the “this is the other Charles Xavier I’ve heard about.” And Matthew Malloy trying to resurrect Scott & Illyana from dusty skeletons is certainly a stark enough B-plot before he just takes out Emma, too? How is Bendis going to reset this business? Not much is crazier than that last page, though. I haven’t heard how much longer this run is supposed to go, but it can’t be much more. We’re running out of room to escalate.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #1 — I don’t knooooow, man, the first volume of this series started out slinging such dynamite with Cassaday/Martin and the Red Skull eating Charles Xavier’s brains or whatever, and then Remender managed to sustain it for all those issues and escalating arcs, and it was better than any proper Marvel event, only as soon as it bloomed into a proper Marvel event, that AXIS just wasn’t as much fun, and here we are in the afterflow of that, such as it is. It’s not offensive, but this feels like just a random grab-bag of more folks flying off to save Wanda yet again, and winding up on Counter-Earth is not that compelling of a deal. I’m not in the zone of considering dropping it yet, but I hope that Remender was being a scamp and holding back quite a bit in this issue that he’s going to lay on us ASAP. It’s certainly always a pleasure to hear Rogue call someone “Sugah,” I will say, but that’s not really enough to justify cover price.

NEW AVENGERS #029 — Huuuuh, I didn’t even realize that the cover contains a quasi-spoiler about not only the end of this issue but maybe potentially also what’s going on with the returning character’s true allegiance? Wacky times. There is a massive payoff in this one as a character last referenced in conversation waaaaaaay back in #008 finally shows up brings some friends. This is another issue of a lot of heroes and not-so-heroes-any-more standing around talking, but once again, Hickman’s done so much to set it up and has so many massive plot points knocking on the interdimensional wormhole that it’s all compelling as hell. The air of finality in Reed & T’Challa’s one-page conversation is chilling and really just quite sad. Crazy news about so many universes suddenly winking out of existence, but it does raise the stakes quite dramatically. This goes quite some way to potentially setting up SECRET WARS. We know that there needs to be a Battleworld on the horizon, and it’s getting closer every day. For all of his great work, Bendis’s greatest flaw is that he occasionally pushes things to a really interesting point and then the next month just knocks it out by flash-forwarding and giving us resolution via exposition. Here, Hickman drops the opposite of that with a two-page six-panel montage in which the Illuminati crew relates what could have been a year’s worth of stories just as fast as they can (okay, six months’ worth of stories at this publishing rate). Really. In two pages and six panels, we have (deep breath) T’Challa, Reed, Hank, and maybe Shuri using a cosmic cube to fucking create a new planet to use as an exodus world for the entire 616 Earth. Then, that goes south and they lose the cube. Then, Hulk and Reed and T’Challa parley with Galactus and a couple of Celestials to try and get some help. But those guys disappear. Then, they try “multiversal solutions” (which you just really keep wanting to involve all of the business that Morrison has cooking up across the street), but that goes south and is why Captain Britain got his arm jacked up, apparently. And so then, they strapped poor Franklin into some sort of Kirby engine and presumably got him to work with either the Heroes Reborn he’s got stashed in his closet or another one that he made from scratch (because why not?), and that went worst of all, and I hope the poor kid’s not dead from the way Reed was losing his shit hugging him in the final flashback panel. But, you see? That was two damn pages of shit that we had no idea happened that Reed and crew were just catching Steve and everybody else up on. Hypercompressed narrative glory. And then our mystery guest returns. This issue was really terrific and somehow manages to raise the bar on all of the madness that has already come before.

THE DYING AND THE DEAD #1 — But on the other hand. I don’t know, man, this has become the trend. I find Hickman’s balance of characterization and plot really compelling on his Marvel work-for-hire books. He’s probably my favorite modern-day Marvel writer overall, better than Fraction, Aaron, Remender, and even nudging Bendis out of the top spot for me. But then his creator-owned stuff, it all looks amazing, and the insane big ideas are certainly still there, but overall, it doesn’t move me nearly as much. You could argue that it’s of course because I know those Marvel characters so much better, but it’s what Hickman did with the FF that moved me, not how familiar I was with them. Because I wasn’t that dazzled by anything about Fraction’s immediately-following run except Allred’s art. But when that THE RED WING came out, I adored Pitarra’s interiors, but the characters’ story had no weight whatsoever for me. It was all Millenium Falcons and lightsabers but a little bit light on the Skywalker hero’s journey. SECRET, nothing to sink your teeth into. EAST OF WEST, some of the best art on the rack. But that ensemble’s all over the place, and my strongest feeling about this series is that everybody sure likes to talk in italics and emboldened words a lot. It’s a hell of a backstory, but I don’t care about those folks almost at all, even after all this time. Same deal, here. Bodenheim has never looked better. And RED MASS FOR MARS and SECRET weren’t exactly hurting. These pages are stunning. And there are 59 of them! You can’t fault these guys for the value. For just two quarters more than that Hickman AVENGERS book right up there, we get three times as many pages. That’s amazing. And it looks amazing. But once again, I don’t care about this guy. Oh, his wife’s dying, he’s got to go on a quest to save her. Boilerplate as far as character motivation goes, and he doesn’t do one thing to distinguish himself otherwise. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Millar did so much of a better job drawing us in and making us immediately invested in the set-up for STARLIGHT in that first issue. I’m going to keep picking this up for the art alone and hope that the story becomes more compelling.

ZERO #14 — Well, Marek Okeksicki certainly draws a hell of a fight scene that brings Geof Darrow and Juan Jose Ryp to mind in all the right ways. Unfortunately, there still wasn’t enough narrative content to this issue to fully satisfy. I haven’t spent enough time with Sarah Cooke for her blowing herself up to really affect me in any way. Usually, I jump from trades to singles, as I did with this very book, but I might have to go the other way this time, as I’m sure Volume 3 will be a gripping enough read all in one go, but piecemeal, this one’s not really knocking me out the way it was not that long ago.

BITCH PLANET #2 — And we have entered the Fraction/DeConnick portion of our program, delight! That Valentine de Landro is a force. Solid work overall, nothing too flashy, but then we erupt into that double-page splash for the titles. And the five pages with the ladies running on the treadmill are my favorite scene of the book. Our heroine’s body language provides a cool amount of non-verbal characterization, and I am a big fan of the fracas unfolding in the background, particularly the nonchalant manner in which Violet makes her proposal, sees her friend is in trouble and then is just like, I’m out. I’m not like ready to cut open my veins for this book or anything, but it has provided solid entertainment thus far.

SEX CRIMINALS #10 — “und zex und ZEX!” Well, that’s a really ominous first page that we don’t get any follow-up on, but there’s no way that it bodes well for our hero and heroines. It is nice to see Jon on an upswing, anyway. And hey, look at Rachelle and Robert more than holding down their own scene. That’s some pretty well-written chemistry, I could totally hang with an issue of just the two of them, even without the time-stopping orgasms or anything. Sometimes just a regular orgasm is enough, am I right? Jon & Suze’s reaction to Miz Kincaid’s bag of tricks is just about right, and you’ve got to dig the escalation of the weird sex ghost. Another wonderful issue, another incredible letters column. Such a good damn book, man.


CASANOVA: ACEDIA #1 — Well, after the bugfuck insanity that was such a hallmark of the last volume, this is really quite a rational and understandable piece of work, here. Almost a, dare I say, jumping-on point, even. I assumed that was Zephyr when she first showed up, but I’m a little bit less certain after our boy kills/almost drowns her. The “elephant/element of surprise” gag is terrific. I definitely shrugged when I read it the first time, but that’s a funny payoff on the following page. Oh, Fraction! Fabio Moon’s panel work is as glorious and delightful ever, there’s such a sense of play in his lines, regardless of the subject matter. Cris Peter continues to provide absolutely beautiful colors. The headlining twenty pages ended far too soon for my taste. And but how cool to get Chabon pages illustrated by Bá! It really makes me miss the old UMBRELLA ACADEMY, particularly that stack of horizontal shots introducing the non-Imago members of the group. So much detail and crackling energy in those lines. And these nine pages are far too tantalizing and not nearly enough. Brother Chabon’s plot races along at a delightful madcap pace. I am a little shocked that he of all people shorted us on Oxford commas not once but twice (The “Hype, Tits, Auto-tune, and Cheap Nihilism” on Page 7 and then in between the Adderall and the Black Mamba condom in that very last line there on Page 9). That is disheartening and makes me question my otherwise stable world-view. Otherwise, this entire electric b/w combo comes up aces and eights, great American times!