Friday, September 26, 2014

9/3/14

ACTION COMICS: FUTURE’S END #1 — Well, this was really a very strange call. For four months, they’ve had that weird deal going on in the main FUTURE’S END series where Superman was wearing a helmet and we couldn’t see his face and he was acting a bit unlike himself, then last week, they dropped the big KINGDOM COME reveal that it was really Billy Batson all along, which of course begged the immediate question, “So, where’s the big guy?” Cue the perfect timing for this issue to come out. Well done, Editorial. So, for your next trick? A fill-in issue. In every sense of the word. Now, I dug Sholly Fisch’s back-ups in this title during the Morrison run. They had a lot of heart and served as compelling contrast to the madness that was going on in the headlining story. But the big idea for this issue that’s supposed to be showing what the greatest superhero of all time is doing with himself five years later is to introduce a group of new characters and show what they do when temporarily gifted with Superman’s powers. This isn’t ASTRO CITY. I can maybe see giving this story a pass if it was the SUPERMAN title and we’d already gotten the serious business from this flagship offering, but as the first issue of this latest month-long event, this is incredibly limp. A few pages of our guy being bearded and trying to solve famine in Africa. Like he does. Pretty disappointing.

DETECTIVE COMICS: FUTURE’S END #1 — This one’s a bit better. Of course, we’ve got to go with Calendar Man for a flash-forward antagonist. Amazing Infantino homage cover from Fabok. Riddler makes for an interesting foil. The change in art halfway through is not as jarring as it might otherwise be, falling where it does right when they make it into Arkham. I saw the twist at the end coming but was hoping that’s not how it would go. It feels a little too close to that “I don’t have to save you,” nonsense Goyer had Bale drop at the end of the first Nolan flick. I feel like I might not have dug this that much on any given day but coming after ACTION, was just grateful that Batman was even a lead character in his own series.

BEST OF WEEK: GRAYSON: FUTURE’S END #1 — And then there’s this. Wow. I am ignorant of Tom King, but he absolutely blew it up. This one runs a MEMENTO-style backwards chronology that has Helena hanging Dick in a noose on the first page and him appearing to die before we flashback to an EARLIER . . . on the following page. However, unlike that overused trope where we just open with some crazy thing and then build up to it, this issue never ever changes direction, just keeps going further and further back every single page with each scene providing new context and informing everything that we’ve already read. It is a hell of a trick to pull off just right there on its own, but then they bring the Cluemaster’s code into it. I loved the hell out of this thing before I figured out how entirely badass the first page is. The art from Stephen Mooney is serviceable, nothing that blew me away, but it does its job. This script, however, is so razor-sharp that it will cut you. One of the better single issues starring Dick Grayson that I have ever read and certainly the horse to beat this month in all the other FUTURE’S END titles.

FUTURE’S END #18 — Old Jeanty sure has some flat composition angles. I mean, I’m not sure that I could do better but it just seems like lazy camera placement. That three-panel beat with Constantine hitting the flask is where it really jumped out at me. Or failed to, ha. But that’s all right because BARDA ON THE ISLAND! I love how ARROW’s mythology is so badass, it’s invaded the comics and now Diggle is a real deal. How has Felicity not shown up yet?

BATMAN ETERNAL #22 — Mmmm, this isn’t offensive, Jorge Lucas is terrific on art, but I just don’t care about Hush. I want to give these guys the chance to remedy that, but it hasn’t happened yet. This series is a strange duck, very much with the ebb and flow, capable of hitting and missing multiple times in the same month. It’s batting about 50/50 for me at this point, here’s hoping that ratio improves.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #1 — Ryan Browne is obviously fucking mental. A very talented fellow, clearly, but no one you want to be alone in a room with. In the first four pages of this alone, we are introduced to Admiral Tiger Eating A Cheeseburger and his first mate, Mr. Crabtree, before they are killed when their crab spaceship gets hit by a rocket full of astro-farmers, then we are exposed to only the horrifying beginning of the expository origin of Lord Astro-Farmer who meets his one true love in the form of a chicken called Hennifer at a farmer’s market. He promptly buys his one true love and takes her home to have sex with her. That’s the first four pages. Terrific art. But fucking mental.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #4 — Wow. Talk about not padding out your story. The Jasons bring the first arc of this angry beast to a close and it is a fearsome thing with a one-two narrative punch at the end that can only be described as jaw-dropping. I’ve been enjoying the hell out of the ride thus far, just digging the tone and pacing of the narrative, but now these boys done flipped over all the tables and’re running rampaging hell, smashing the room all up with these bats they don’t seem to know how to stop swinging. Aaron and Latour already have a deep chemistry feedback-looping between them, to the point that you really have to work to even parse who’s doing what as far as the craft that goes into a particular issue, it’s so hard not to just fall all the way in. This is a damn fine way to end a first arc, and anyone reading these words who cares about supporting independent comics or loved SCALPED and hasn’t already checked this out would be a damn fool not to throw down $9.99 for that first trade the first chance they get. Amen.

ORIGINAL SIN #8 — Well, it all came down. As soon as the issue began, I felt like an asshole for not seeing the final twist coming from a mile away. This one isn’t a perfect tapestry for me, I still don’t get Uatu’s motivation in the first place. It’s not enough that he saw something coming and so brought it into being, that’s just lazy writing, but I feel like I should credit Aaron for putting something in here that’s getting by me, so far. All of the action scenes and resolution are staged very well, of course Deodato/Martin continue to kill it on sequentials. The Thor thing is totally dropped in, I feel like I can see the stitching on that way too easily. Really really wish they wouldn’t have announced that ahead of time, no reason they couldn’t have waited until now to do it and actually had a bit of a surprising moment for those of us who are good enough to still be picking up these things. I do love the choice of Fury’s replacement, that’s perfect, and am glad that the announcement of at least that series didn’t spoil the surprise for at least me. That one is going to be The Business, I am sure.

UNCANNY X-MEN #25 — I really dig Bachalo’s cover. It’s got that photographic quality to it that hearkens back to the glory days when Sienkiewicz did those fourteen issues of NEW MUTANTS. This is another solid single from X-Bendis, right here. I was giving him a bit of The Business last issue about still introducing new mutants, but he’s certainly putting enough into this Matthew Malloy backstory to give the whole thing enough weight and high stakes. Most of this issue is exposition, recorded Xavier telling the story (it is Bendis, after all; why show when you can have someone tell you the story in crackling BendisMamet-speak?), which is entertaining enough throughout, but Bendis wisely has Scott call for a mid-issue timeout so that we can get a break and have some actual present-tense interaction between the mutants. Which is, of course, all that any of us really want from these folks, mutants just sitting around being family and shit, and this pretty much makes the issue. Really just the page of Kitty and Kurt reuniting. Really just that one panel when they call each other “Katya” and “Elf.” That simple interaction sends all those years tumbling down and makes me feel exactly like an eleven-year-old falling into this world for the first time, wishing so badly that I could have a mutant power and be hated and feared by a world that doesn’t understand me and have to go live at 1407 Greymalkin Lane where I’d be sure to meet the best friends and greatest loves of my life.


MIRACLEMAN #10 — Well, hell, still haven’t made it happen. Ha! Allllllll these years waiting and now I can’t just sit down and read up to this point. Soon!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

8/27/14

BEST OF WEEK: TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #2 — Well, this one’s better than the first two somehow. I really can’t believe I’m living in this time where this is just the hot new young thing. I could really go on about every single page in this thing. Scioli is firing on all levels and gives no indication of even decreasing the angle of his ascendancy. I mean, I’m trying to pick my favorite scene, but it probably starts on the first page and the very soonest I could cut it off is Page Eight when the Joes all fall out of the ripped up Defiant base. But then the next page has Scarlett daredevil-landing her motorcycle on Devastator’s gun, so. I really dig the sine-wave dialogue for the robots on Cybertron. Also, I count a scant four pages that don’t have any Kirby Krackle on them. Which is a good ratio. It seems like maybe Scioli could get that number down a little bit, but certainly not if the plot would suffer. Usually during those Ultimate New 52 reboots, when we’re supposed to pretend that this is the first time that Superman fought Batman or whatever and we haven’t all read half a dozen other versions already, that drives me crazy, but here, I’m loving that this is a reboot where nobody knows anything and everyone really is meeting for the first time. It’s a very cool gradual build that I believe will pay off in the long run. Man. I can’t wait to see where this book is by the time #12 comes out. Tom Scioli is a terrifying monster, co-writing with careful and deliberate consideration while producing all art, on a thirty-day schedule, no less. This might already be my favorite book that comes out every month.

SUPERMAN #33&34 —  VERY embarrassing, my folks didn’t pull #33 for me last month and I didn’t see it and I guess I’ve been so distracted that it never even occurred to me to wonder how this story was going even though I was looking forward to #32 quite a bit and thought it pretty much delivered. But what a night for me, I never get to double-read new titles. The first issue was solid juxtaposition between Ulysses and Clark’s family lives. I love that Johns isn’t manufacturing conflict for them but having them pretty much just get along. Great damn last page. #34, more solid work. I really dug Mrs. Quinn telling him that he’s family, too. THAT’S my Superman, right there. Just a good guy. Oh, but ha, uh oh! I also didn’t make it to the DC weeklies last week, so I had to double down on them as well, meaning I woke up the next day from reading this thinking that the big Braniac reveal over in FUTURE’S END #16 was in this book. All my continuities are bleeding together!

JONAH HEX #34 — Well, I’m the asshole who only drops in from time to time, when Cooke does a one-shot or the one time that J.H. Williams III did an issue or seems like Jordi Bernet was on for a little while, and I got the first few Moritat issues of this volume. But, I wasn’t a regular and now this title is cancelled. And so, I’m sorry for not always being here. But what a hell of a book this is! Darwyn Cooke returns to help Palmiotti/Gray and Dave Stewart send the character off in style, accompanied by none other than Tallulah Black, of course. This is the end of the character’s adventures, for all intents and purposes, and it is a perfect fit while being entertaining all on its own. Palmiotti/Gray did a special thing during their 106-issue run with this character. Highly recommended!

BATMAN ETERNAL #21 — Oh man, I knew if Fabok was on the gig, this was going to be the serious business. Alfred is certainly no joke calling out smacktalk while walking through the mansion and holding out his pistol. I could care less about the villain who comes back this time, but maybe Snyder/Tynion will find something interesting to do with him. And that last page, of course of course of COURSE!

FUTURE’S END #17 — I love that this cover is just total bullshit. Great work by Sook, regardless. Zircher is back to kill it on interiors. Solid jailbreak “survivor horror” and then, DID BARDA JUST JOIN THE CAST OF “ARROW FIVE YEARS LATER?” Sign me up for that business! And a pretty cool double-reveal here at the end of this one. I’m even okay with them mostly cribbing one of them from KINGDOM COME, I guess it’s been close to twenty years. But yeah, very much on the hook to see where this one goes next week!

SAGA #22 — Well, King Robot was certainly impressive enough when we finally got to see him. Marko & Alanna are falling apart far too quickly for my taste! How many pages have they even shared since we came back from the break? Vaughan & Staples seem to still be having fun and not letting running the board at the Eisners go to their heads. Or, wait, how far out do they do these things? Maybe that’s next month.

MANHATTAN PROJECTS #23 — Now this, I found terribly engaging. Does Hickman just have a thing for making everyone from Texas a badass? I guess I can go with that one. The opening scene in the Oval Office was horrifying enough (I loved Kennedy’s girl’s translation of “zeitgeist”), but when Che & Fidel showed up, it actually didn’t occur to me how far they would take it. But that’s brilliant. And of course LBJ is completely onboard with Groves and the whole deal. Are these guys going to take Kennedy out here in the next little bit? If so, that set-up certainly begins this issue.

BLACK SCIENCE #8 — Here comes a Remender hat-trick! But the real star of this particular show, I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you, is Matteo Scalera. Can I get a “Goddamn! Goddamn, Goddamn . . .” on that two-page two-panel zoom-out across Pages 8 and 9?!? And we’ve certainly got to bring Dean White into to take a bow, that’s the best painted work of his career that I’ve ever laid eyes on. These guys are doing a slambang job of building alien worlds one brushstroke at a time. And Remender is doing solid work building up the characters who are still alive after the calamitous events of the first arc. I’m liking this series more and more with each passing issue.

LOW #2 — Tocchini goes hard for Frazetta with that cover! The palette is of course totally different, but still, it’s a hell of a thing. This series is an interesting piece of work. It’s taking its time, but I find myself falling into the languid pace. And maybe that’s got everything to do with the art. You just want to sit and stare at it, and this tendency is reflected in the story beats. It also makes it kind of hard to really judge each issue on its own individual merit, just like you can’t really make a fully-formed critical assessment of a movie or a novel after only making it through the first twenty-five percent. It’s gorgeous, though, and I am hanging out for more.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #023 — Well, I’m afraid that this issue is not a great argument that the series shouldn’t have just shut down once that first mega-arc finally at long last came to an end. Part of that is just the natural ebb that has to result any time you come off a monster story like that, but this one suffers from the one-two punch of Remender not really filling enough in the narrative to make us care and drive the plot forward (I mean, we’re all really sad about the loss of Katie Summers, but as stated previously, he never gave us anywhere near enough on-panel time with her to really make us care) and then also the art by Sanford Greene, while perfectly serviceable in and unto itself, is a serious drop from the ridiculous quality that this title has been pumping out ever since Cassaday showed up on #1. This is not a terrible issue, but it’s a pretty serious dip from what’s come before. Here’s hoping they get it back on track next time out.

SILVER SURFER #005 — Slott is really a master of pacing. Every one of these issues has been completely satisfied in and of itself, in no way decompressed, but then clearly, here we are at the end of the fifth issue, and it turns out this whole thing was the pilot episode. We’ve finally got our premise set, going forward. Now, that is “writing for the trade” that I can get behind. Having Dr. Strange and Hulk guest-star is a solid shot in the arm since we’re not soaring the spaceways, and of course sets up our antagonist for this last little bit. It’s very cool that Slott is making Dawn be such a worthy foil to the Surfer, gender equality in comics, etc, but he’s almost swinging it too hard the other way. Old Norrin is going to have to level-up to hang with Miz Greenwood, it’s seeming like! And of course, the Allreds continue to knock it out of the park on every page. Very much looking forward to seeing how this crew handles the next issue, now that we’re all set up. Not unlike anticipating the second episode of any given DOCTOR WHO series.

ALL-NEW X-MEN #031 — Mahmud Asrar is a beast. Once again, this issue shows how dense an ensemble Bendis is working with here. The teachers all take off to go to the Xavier will thing and after one page’s worth of cursory comments from the new kids, the rest of the issue is nothing but the titular characters going to help another new mutant who is apparently popping up in Austin again. That Austin, am I right? It’s interesting and cool to see Jean kind of take center stage both in the narrative and the leadership role in the group dynamic in Scott’s absence. A year and a half into the run and Bendis is still going strong.


AVENGERS #034 — I just realized that not only is Hickman doing such an intimidatingly formidable job of sinking his teeth into some very solid premises that Bendis banged out a few years ago but never hung around to develop more fully (SEE: the Illuminati, the Cabal), but the payoff of this whole massive set-up is turning out to revisit Millar’s old CIVIL WAR in a much more intellectual and morally driven conflict than the classic “Who would win in a Kirby slugfest, Cap or Iron Man?” It’s a fascinating long game that’s taken over a year to put into place, but it’s resulting in a conflict that has the potential to be one of the most riveting head-to-head matchups that the Marvel Universe has ever seen. This issue is the conclusion of what has been a really impressive millennia-spanning arc that Yu has been ripping up right and left, but, as ever, it’s only the beginning of something much bigger.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

8/20/14

BEST OF WEEK (just barely): MULTIVERSITY #1 — I have been looking forward to this series ever since it was announced four years ago, and of course even more so when I saw some pages a couple years ago at MorrisonCon. Lots of anticipation and expectation built up for this series. This first issue dropkicked those hopes and dreams over the horizon. This is an incredible audacious ambitious and bold slice of sequential entertainment that revels in both the medium and itself. The one thing I wasn’t expecting was for it to be a spiritual sequel to not just SEVEN SOLDIERS (the format is a bit of a tip-off to that) but also FINAL CRISIS itself. But the protagonist appears to be The Reader yourself, who is then invited into the pages to become alter ego Superjudge, our own Nix Uotan, the final Monitor from good old FINAL CRISIS. Our hero is summoned to hold off The Gentry, a horrifying extra-dimensional threat that wants to consume all of existence. But the fun only begins there because then we’re off to Earth-23 and Calvin Steel, one of my favorite of the dozens of great ideas in FINAL CRISIS, President Superman. But that’s only a short status quo set-up before our guy gets pulled in to the Ultima Thule, the multiverse-traversing shiftship, where we meet none other than Captain Carrot, who is played completely straight, in addition to an entire gang alternate versions of DC heroes, including the cute li’l kid versions from #51 and 52 or so of that last volume of SUPERMAN/BATMAN. And you can’t do one of these things without Harbinger in the mix. No more summary, but it’s very clear that Morrison & friends have only begun to open the box of absolutely crazy shit that they are about to drop on us. The art team of Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Nei Ruffino turns in A-list pages all the way, depicting every single one of these momentous events with the staggering grandeur and gravitas that they deserve. Stunning work throughout.

LITTLE NEMO FROM SLUMBERLAND #1 — I heard that IDW were starting a new series of this and was duly horrified. How DARE they? Then I heard that Eric Shanower was writing and Gabriel Rodriguez was the artist. How could I NOT check it out?!? These guys, along with colorist Nelson Daniel and letterer Robbie Robbins, completely knock it out of the park, every page, every single panel, is a love-letter to Winsor McCay and the medium itself. This is a complete and utter delight, Rodriguez tackles the challenging and trailblazing source material with aplomb and sheer mastery of his craft while Shanower has done just as much of a wonderful job capturing and honoring what has gone before while using it to weave a new story. I could not be more thrilled with how immaculately conceived and executed this title is on every level. My favorite part is how they kept the little bottom-right corner panel for every time Nemo wakes up. “I was only dreaming, Mama!” Utter perfection. This is another really big deal right here, and also only just getting started.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #1 — This week is truly an embarrassment of riches. Geof Darrow returns to THE BIG GUY AND RUSTY THE BOY ROBOT and David Mack finally at long last gives us new KABUKI pages. That’s more than enough the $4.99 sticker-price right there, never even mind Brendan McCarthy showing up with the first part of a new serial. This is Darrow’s first time writing this strip, taking over from Frank “Craaaazy Eyes” Miller. The pages are, of course, gorgeous and immaculate, and the writing is solid enough. However, I wish that he would dig a little bit deeper in terms of narrative content. As brilliantly rendered as every single page is, this is basically a gag strip. People are lackadaisical drunk assholes and don’t give a shit. The Big Guy is an awesome kaiju-fightin’ robot. Rusty has spunk and spark and is so darn cute. Is it too much to wish that there was some pathos to be found here? Darrow is a draftsman of the very highest order, and I wish he would dig a little bit deeper in terms of narrative content.

Mack brings us back into his magnum opus with the rush of suspense. Our girl is getting her palm read, but all is not as it seems and The Noh is closing in, as ever. It’s hard to put into words the sense of peaceful calm that enveloped me as I fell into these pages. Reading this work is an immersive experience that bypasses my typical plot-devouring character-empathizing set-up and heads straight for the gut, really hitting hard on an emotional level. I certainly hope he’s gearing up Vol. 8 and we won’t have to wait a few more years to find out What Happens Next.

McCarthy’s DREAM GANG is typical McCarthy: mind-expanding, senses-shattering, colors-bleeding-out-of-your-eyes type business. You can certainly take a bath in all of that.

The other stories were fine, no real hits or misses for me. I am very grateful to Editorial for curating such a strong lineup of talent for this relaunch. Yow!

BATMAN AND ROBIN #34 — Bruce clears the air and hopefully puts the fallout from all that nasty “Death of the Family” business to rest once and for all. Tomasi once again does a terrific job mining the emotional content of the relationships and giving them some real heft on a page-by-page basis.

INFINITY MAN AND THE FOREVER PEOPLE #3 — Didio does a cool thing here, shoring up the mythology of the book’s central concept in a way that really makes sense. And Giffen needing a fill-in would normally be catastrophic news, but I guess we can make do with some Jim Starlin pencils in the meantime. A couple of serious plot twists at the end, it’s going to be a long wait until #4. And that last page brought the cliffhanger from PSI-FORCE #17 to mind, now that’s digging deep!

BATMAN ETERNAL #20 — The writers are once again keeping this one clipping along at a nice little place. Stephanie Brown fans had to be completely delighted about this last page. It only took twenty issues, folks!

FUTURE’S END #16 — I found Fifty Sue quite annoying initially, but she’s becoming one of my favorite characters of this ensemble. I have to say, I did start guessing this week’s Big Last Page Reveal as soon as Mr. Terrific’s off-panel benefactor mentioned being off-planet but en route. That whole deal has been orchestrated pretty well from the first issue on, though, and it’s still a very powerful reveal while still being forehead-slappingly obvious in hindsight.

FABLES #143 — Well, it all keeps heading toward that final THE END, which is not looking too HAPPILY EVER AFTER thus far. Glad to see Ozma’s superhero duds brought back into play. And Beast gets some steampunk Iron Man armor even! This is nothing but more of the quality to which we have all grown accustomed and will miss dearly when it is gone.

THE UNWRITTEN: APOCALYPSE #8 — Tommy’s reputation as a stalwart is restored but not in time to keep Lizzie and friends from having to spend the Grail’s energies on bringing him back to life. Or, the cup’s energies, I think? Because there’s still a quill ex machina thing happening here. Naturally. Carey continues to prove a master of straddling the line between elevated antiquated English and its more vulgar modern cousin, and that goes double for Gross & Chuckry on the art.

TREES #4 — Man, again, I just can’t give Jason Howard enough praise. His work on this series is stunning. I completely didn’t get that Zhen is transgendered, that didn’t present itself to me at all, but as soon as she said something, I looked closer at her face, the sharp angle of her nose, and it’s clearly there. But not obvious, a really impressive subtle and nuanced thing. This is going to read as much more unified in a single volume, but I kind of like the fragmented structure of it in singles, we never know who we’re going to spend time with or for how long. I could walk around Shu with Tien & Zhen all day long.

SUPREME: BLUE ROSE #2 — Yeah, all the seriously weird Lynch shit is now officially kicking in here. I’m curious to see if people are digging this and where they fall in the demographic of digging Moore’s run on this character (or the character SUPREME, this book isn’t really about any of that as of yet) or Ellis’s greatest hits, be they creator-owned or even the work-for-hire stuff that he put his own indelible stamp upon. PROFESSOR NIGHT is still the absolute best thing ever. That’s never going to change. Tula Lotay continues to be a revelation. Space is the place!

THE FADE OUT #1 — All right, I liked this one just fine. I brought some baggage to it for not just falling out of my seat over the FATALE finale, which is the first time since SLEEPER that these guys ever actually brought one of their great ideas to a THE END, so I was kind of peeking out with one eye at this one wondering how it was going to go, and then it opens with that cast of characters page that begged the immediate question, “These guys know about SATELLITE SAM, right?” But then once I forgot about all of that context and let myself fall into the story without worrying about anything else, I enjoyed it just fine. This is kind of nineteenth-verse-same-as-the-first. Brubaker had the gripping noir first-person present-tense narrative voice down to perfection a few years ago and has just been honing it ever since. Sean Phillips is the other half of his heartbeat, a master draftsman, and in Elizabeth Breitweiser (whose name belongs on the cover), they’ve found their missing voice to make lush narrative harmonies that you really happen to open your eyes wide and hold the pages right up next to your face to even be able to distinguish where one ends and the next begins. The couple of plot twists in this one are pretty much standard tropes, but we don’t care, everything’s executed with such a degree of confidence and skill that we’re just lucky to be along for the ride.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #4 — All right, I guess I officially don’t care about these people. Four issues is long enough for them to get the hooks in, but the flippant snark that didn’t bother me at all on PHONOGRAM is tedious and annoying here. The art is still stunning and always will be, and I’ll keep picking it up to see if Gillen’s got something waiting to kick in and change my mind, but every single cliffhanger is limp and reads like Gillen’s almost a victim of his success, he doesn’t come across as hungry and bleeding on these pages the way he used to on PHONOGRAM or YOUNG AVENGERS, it’s just another script to knock off and back to IRON MAN or PRINCESS LEIA or what have you.

SAVAGE DRAGON #197 — Larsen consistently produces some of the most exciting and dynamic splash pages on the rack. And he is not afraid to maim or kill his characters at the drop of a hat! Or mess with their status quo. Too bad about the electric powers. It’s nice to see Maxine & Malcolm’s relationship build organically and not have Larsen throw up petty roadblocks to their happiness, such as Maxine getting jealous of Zelda showing up on the last page, which a lesser writer would have totally done to manufacture conflict. Much respect to Mr. Larsen on keeping this epic serial going, month after month, year after year.

DAREDEVIL #7 — Never one to pad things out, Waid brings this whole Maggie-abducted-by-Wakandans arc to a close here in the second part. Finally addressing the reason that Matt’s mom left him only to return when Frank Miller needed some Catholic imagery for David Mazzucchelli to draw in the second-act wherever Matt was holing up and recovering for the big finale in a twenty-seven year old story, this was a pretty big answer to finally supply and it completely works, Waid sells it. I am sorry to see that this is Javier Rodriguez’s last issue. His colors have been an integral part of this glorious title since the relaunch and he has also contributed excellent interiors. Best of luck to him on his new gig!


NEW AVENGERS #023 — Man, another seriously high-quality issue that’s tremendously satisfying as a single (even though it’s pretty decompressed) while doing a hell of a job pushing forward the mega-narrative that Hickman’s been building up since the beginning. This is the story of how each member of the Illuminati spends his last six hours on Earth, knowing that it’s all about to end, and it’s a pretty pitch-perfect breakdown. Banner drinks a six-pack while getting ready to toast the end and final triumph over his alter ego. Hank searches for absolution from his younger self, who of course is not on board. Then Stephen Strange and Wong do that too. Tony lines up two dozen shots of his favorite brown liquor. T’Challa heads to the Jean Grey Institute for Higher Learning for some of that good Ororo loving. Reed of course doesn’t tell Sue a damn thing but drags her across the world so that he can check in on Franklin, the FF, and Valeria in Latveria, a final three-page scene that is a thing of absolute beauty. Oh, and Black Bolt lets it rip. But then, there’s a plot twist! And it’s the only way that it could have happened. In the last scene of this issue, Hickman does the same deal as before, where he took the solid groundwork that Bendis laid with the Illuminati and just launched it into the stratosphere? It’s the Cabal’s turn. And, oh my goodness.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

8/13/14

BATMAN #34 — Mmmm, Snyder only offers co-plotting, Capullo’s nowhere to be seen? So, this is the first all-the-way fill-in issue of this series since the relaunch. I was a bit nervous opening it up, but Matteo Scalera has been ripping it apart over on BLACK SCIENCE, so I was cautiously optimistic. And it’s solid. A well-paced done-in-one introducing a new villain. I kept waiting for Scalera to cut loose while admiring his restraint but then was really happy to see that last page. Bro is going for it! This one didn’t blow me away, but the bar for this title is so high, just a solid thumbs-up means the fellas did fine work.

BATMAN ETERNAL #19 — Strong work from Emanuel SImeoni as the two teams close in on their various objectives while Gordon goes all Rorschach in the middle of a riot, as is his wont. I have to say, though, did anyone turn the page from that last shot and think that Batman was straight diving out of this book and back into multiversal Morrisonian insanity when the house ads kicked in on the next page? That was a beautiful moment for me.

FUTURE’S END #15 — What an unfortunate opening page. I really hope it turns out to be Guy Gardner or someone in there and our boy has just been off planet searching for the detritus of Krypton for the past five years. Wait, that would make no sense because we know all of that’s kryptonite. WTF, Bryan Singer, that shit didn’t make even the slightest bit of SENSE! At any rate. This Superimposter and Lois take up the first third of the issue with their weird Chemistry’s End, then Hawkeye is awesome for a few pages, then Slade presses Grifter up against the wall and still refuses to call him “kid,” then Mr. Miracle gets a scene! Then a Kirby Celestial shows up? But maybe he’s not giant? Whaaaaaaat?

BEST OF WEEK: SEX CRIMINALS #7 — More greatness from Fraction/Zdarsky. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned before how well the fourth-wall-breaking expositional narration works for this book. It totally suits both characters’ voices and makes them come even more alive for the reader than if they were merely participating in their on-panel adventures and ignoring the reader like everybody else. And thanks for the “Small Wonder” reference, I did actually need that. Jon’s tenth grade odyssey through his school paused in Cumworld was a beautiful sequence. Wow, the sentences this book makes you type. You’ve got to love the combat shot of Jon attacking the dude in the basement with the dildo. This continues to be one of the best books on the rack and easily the best letters column, sorry, SAGA.

ZERO #10 — Another really impressive achingly slow burn, here. Man, the difference of powering through Volume 1 in one sitting and picking up these next five in singles is much more pronounced than I even suspected. Michael Gaydos is on deck this month, a very good stylistic fit. It’s certainly an eyebrow-raising first page, after waiting this entire time since the end of #5, we’re back to the UK in 2038 with the kid still holding a gun to the back of Edward’s head, but then right away we get the nugget of trivia that there was a “The Switch” that happened when Edward was 32. Which I think puts it in 2022 when this one takes place? I don’t have dude’s birth-year committed to memory but sounds good to me. At any rate, our boy is retired in this 2022 flashback and seems to be living a good enough working-man’s life in Iceland when he encounters a girl (a girl with two arms, unfortunately) who informs him that the bum he just tried to give money to is an actor in a currently in-production play, only the actual village is the setting, and it all gets pretty SYNECDOCHE, NY really quick, though with maybe the Lynch meter dialed up a couple of ticks on what Kaufman had going there, but I actually started losing focus on the pages in front of me at this point because I apparently still have some unresolved grief about Phillip Seymour Hoffman overdosing, isn’t that just always the way?

STAR WARS #20 — It sure is a shame to see this one go. Terrific to get D’Anda back on interiors for the last two-parter to complete the circle at any rate. This is a sweet way to go out, even though the story doesn’t really dive as deeply as I’d prefer to cap off this run. Page Seven, I guess Seren mitigates it a little bit later when she says that her R4-unit was the only one she could talk to for all of these years, but that entire Page Seven is just straight exposition, her narrating the deal to this droid while failing to directly address. It reads pretty clunky while simultaneously looking so purty. I guess we could chalk it up to aping the archetypal Lucasian “wooden dialogue” and go from there. I love that when Luke takes the controls and closes his eyes, my brain involuntarily starts playing the swells of Williams’s “use the force” music. That is a real nice little sequence to have here at the end, a perfect little microcosm of how great this entire book has been, which actually runs all the way through to the last panel. Well, I enjoyed the hell out of this series. The art was almost always breathtaking, and while Wood fumbled the ball with twenty-first century slang much more often than I would have ever guessed, the characterization and plots split the difference between feeling both captivatingly new and tonally consistent with all that has come before, how much each one of these characters has found their way into our imaginations and into our hearts.

STARLIGHT #5 — Ha ha, okay, things go from desperate to worse, all the chips are done, only Duke can save us! Can’t believe Millar didn’t just straight rip off the Wolverine ending from the Hellfire Club sewer in UNCANNY #132, “Now, it’s my turn.” Parlov/Svorcina knock it out of the park again, the deceptively simple art style is doing most of the heavy lifting of making this book the fun ride that it is.

ASTRO CITY #14 — Another quality issue from the usual suspects. This one introduces an older lady who scavenges the robotic detritus from various giant robot battles and repairs the parts until they can join her robot museum/junkyard. Which is, of course, a perfect premise to hang a couple issues of this series on. There are a couple of times when she’s remembering the good old days and then she stops her own internal monologue, referring to herself in the second person before she can go too far, remember too much. It had me wondering if she was actually a robot herself? That’s certainly a twist I could see popping out at the end of next issue. If that dang greedy nephew doesn’t ruin everything first!

FANTASTIC FOUR #8 — OH! Okay, it was totally worth waiting a couple of issues for Sue VS. The Avengers just as long as we made it here eventually. Really wanted to see Leonard Kirk draw that, so, very fortunate. Kirk/Hanna/Aburtov really seem to step it up this issue. The art has been exceptional since this volume debuted, but the lines in this one just seem a little bit cleaner, the colors pop that much more. And it looks like the kids are finally going to do something! Yes! Go in there and save that Dragon Man.

ORIGINAL SIN #7 — Marvel writers have seriously got to stop using “literally.” Just stop 86 it altogether. Otherwise, this is another pretty solid affair. Everything’s coming to a head. Deodato/Martin blow it up yet again. I didn’t realize there were variant Art Adams covers until this issue, though! A pity. It’s too bad that Marvel feels the need to break stories in the modern news cycle so far ahead of them actually starting to happen in the issues themselves, rather than be shocked or surprised or however I might otherwise have been affected, when Fury whispered to Thor, all I could think was, “Oh, get out of the way for Lady Thor.” Giving the story away that early makes it too easy to see the strings.


ALL-NEW X-MEN #030 — Bendis weathers the loss of his artistic A-team well by bringing in frequent collaborator Sara Pichelli, who of course knocks it out of the park and Gracia is good enough to stick around to at least provide the continuity of some of the best coloring in the business. A full third of this issue is devoted to Warren & Laura going out, starting shit, and then having post-coital talk, which doesn’t sound that great, but Bendis delivers. The deal with Jean & Emma this issue is PERfect, and what fanboy in this day and age doesn’t think Kitty/Star-Lord is the greatest new couple this decade? Keep hustlin’, Bendis.

8/06/14

ACTION COMICS #34 — Lois! Did you end your recap article with “enemies” instead of the possessive “enemy’s?” 404 Error indeed, Ms. Lane, they’re going to make you give back your Pulitzer. Scott Kolins might not have been the call to double up on interiors with Kuder here, their styles are pretty distinct from one another. Diana’s two-beat greeting to Lois & Clark is an instant classic. This is an entertaining enough issue, but I’m not picking up all of the other titles that this has been crossing over into for the past couple of months, so I’m starting to feel disconnected to the plot, and it’s hard to invest in whatever happens to be the new situation each month out. Hoping that this flagship title starts being an entity unto itself pretty soon now.

DETECTIVE COMICS #34 — Once again, terrific art. I like how Manapul is rocking pretty much double-page panel spreads all the way through so that the only ads that can interrupt this production have to be two-pagers as well. I first noticed that trick with J.H. Williams III over on BATWOMAN (R.I.P.) a couple years back, not sure if it originated with him or what. So, slamming art as usual. And the plot wraps up just fine. But they buggered it up for me with just a couple of bits of dialogue that drive me insane. Bruce tells Alfred that he “literally” had the killer wrapped up in Chinatown, and while sure, that’s arguably being used correctly because that is usually a figurative expression, so soooo many people fuck up “literally” now that I just don’t want to hear it come out from behind that cowl ever. They get a pass on that one, but then a few pages later, at some big climactic moment when our hero soars in from above and decks the bad guy, he says, “I got this.” And that is some bullshit godawful twenty-first century slang that should never ever be uttered in this book. Even by some dopey asshole fresh out of Arkham who we’re supposed to hate. Find another way to make us hate him. I didn’t think it could get more awful than a few months ago when Brian Wood had Conan say, “I got you,” but this does the trick. Batman is certainly one of, if not the most, resilient elastic character in fiction today. He can do hard boiled detective noir, supervillains by the numbers, lead the Justice League against the hordes of Apokolips, have a perilous ninja adventure on the slopes of Tibet, crush on Wonder Woman, open up the science fiction closet and boom tube to a secret stash on Pluto, hearken back to the zeitgeist of years gone by even in brand-new stories as seen recently in the animated THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD and the terrific new BATMAN ’66 title, or all that other shit Morrison put him through in THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE. You can do just about anything with him. You can’t have him say, “I got this.” Or at least, really really shouldn’t.

BATMAN ETERNAL #18 — This is more like it. Andy Clarke subs in to continue with the strong visuals, but I’m much more in to a Batman/Bard team-up opposite the Barbara/Jason/Kate team-up any week of the month versus what we had going on last issue. That’s just common sense, right? Glad and hopeful that last week’s misfire will remain in the singular.

FUTURE’S END #14 — This one, too, is slamming! They’re really picking up the pace, here. Barda and her sidekick pull off the unlikely trick of whooping up on Slade & Elsie Dee in Montreal, and then Terry gets in with the crew of Terrifitech Break-in Irregulars (probably not a name that’s going to catch on, no). Fifty Sue has never been more endearing than when telling Grifter that she needs a battle cry. And then a very interesting vision of the future for Lois that doesn’t even involve a chalkboard. WTF, Azzarello/Giffen/Lemire/Jurgens?

GRAYSON #2 — A strong second issue. With status quo established, Dick & Helena go to work and wind up recruiting a superspeed bionic cannibal who must consume to keep moving. Like you do. This is a really tight well-constructed issue, does everything it’s supposed to, wonderful dynamic of tension between our two leads, and we’re not sure who’s got the upper hand on whom. Janin/Ortego/Castro deliver some really gorgeous pages. Very encouraging.

TINY TITANS: RETURN TO THE TREEHOUSE #3 — I have no problem with a Shazam! issue. Though, it was a little bit confusing when Robin was mystified about the bunny. Not to get all continuity-heavy, but I did think the fellas said that they were definitely building this series on the backs of the original TINY TITANS series as well as SUPERMAN FAMILY ADVENTURES, even. At any rate, there’s an extended trip to meet Shazam’s wizard at The Rock of Eternity, so of course Terra has to come along, and now that I think about it, old Beast Boy might not have even gotten hit in the head this time out. She’s slipping!

KICK-ASS 3 #8 — I don’t want to say much about this series finale because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but if you are a fan who has come this far, I think you will love it. The creators all show up and keep doing everything that made this book what it has always been. I was actually really concerned about the final fates of the main characters, and then Millar, the temerity of goddamn Mark Millar to actually have a character walking around straight up shilling for the other Millarworld titles, all but saying, “Hey kids, if you liked this wild ride, buy these other titles today!” and then right on the heels of that, like, the very next page, the creative team pulls off that same thing Millar did with the kid in JUPITER’S LEGACY #4 where there’s suddenly a note-perfect Absolutely Iconic Superman Moment that of course doesn’t involve explicitly involve Kal-El from Krypton at all but perfectly embodies and encapsulates the wonder and awe that we all felt when we believed in our first superhero. Just a hell of a piece of work. Honestly, if they hadn’t have announced all along that this was the last volume, I probably would have bailed out halfway through this volume, but I figured I’d stick it out a few more issues. And I’m really glad that I did. Kudos to all involved. The cast shots at the end are immortal and can only be improved be blasting the end of “Hot For Teacher” while reading them. “Oh, my Goooooooood!”

ROCKET RACOON #2 — The quotes on Page One were almost too much to take. Rustin Cohle Racoon, indeed! Interesting that Rocket is back in another prison here, recalling the extended sequence in the movie. The book really improves when Groot shows up to help balance the dynamic. Skottie Young continues to do nothing but top-notch work here.

MOON KNIGHT #006 — And so it comes to an end, too short and certainly not very sweet, but a hell of a ride, to be certain. Ellis makes the interesting call here to spend the first two-thirds of the book building up this issue’s antagonist, a street police who takes it into his head to become the next incarnation of Black Spectre. Of course that goes about as well as you’d expect. Once again, Ellis gives us minimalist brush-strokes of characterization leaving plenty of room for Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire to go absolutely apeshit amok throughout the issue. A description of this issue doesn’t sound like anything we haven’t seen before. Disgruntled cop goes rogue, interviews hero’s old acquaintances, assumes villainous identity, tries to blow up hero in the street. But it’s all in the execution. This was the most fun I’ve ever had with this character, every installment conceived of as a dose of hyperviolent three-minute brutal trashy pop, reclining down its streets and alleys before lashing out at all the bad men in the night and sometimes even the lunacy of the concept of urban vigilantes.

NEW AVENGERS #028 — Man. That look on their faces on the second page pretty much says it all. This is a pitch-perfect immediate aftermath. Namor’s “So I am owed your thanks,” could not be more in character. And the escalation of conflict between T’Challa and him is a very natural progression from all that has come before. I love Namor throwing the “mercy from me” line back in his face. And then that slow ending, paced out so well, the broken fellowship departing one by one. And then, just when it can’t get any worse . . .

BEST OF WEEK: CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #1 — Just Kirby as hell. Any rational fan of Kirby who isn’t quite an acolyte might have assumed that Casey & Scioli both got the seething crackle out of their system over the course of the insane thing that was GØDLAND, but as the latest IDW and now this title indicate, they were apparently barely getting started. Casey’s former Zodiac collaborator does the majority of the heavy lifting on this issue with many many frenetic insane panels comprising an opening scene that is one of the most thrilling in medias res spaceship combat action sequences that I have ever sat through. Jim Rugg shows up for a really beautiful little three-page flashback and Ulises Farinas is also on hand for almost two pages as well that are a step up from the final chunk of his own previous collaboration with Casey, AGENTS OF C.H.A.N.G.E.. I tell you what, between this book, the aforementioned Scioli murdering it monthly on G.I. JOE VS TRANSFORMERS, Simonson delivering a master class in RAGNAROK, and Larsen bumping up against SAVAGE DRAGON #200, The King’s spirit might never have surged forth so strongly and true from such a multitude of sources. Imagination fuel that we are all so lucky to be able to drink down.

MIRACLEMAN #9 — Okay, I’m a horrible person, I’ve only got up until #8 of the original series and was duly going to read these along as they were coming out so that I would be ready to jump back in, but that hasn’t happened, so I bought this but still have to do the big old reread. Soon! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

7/16/14 (SECRET LOST EPISODE!)

Wow, so, I wrote this last month and then just forgot to post it. I guess just getting the words out was reward enough. But, I cannot deprive my Wednesday Night Faithful! So, out of sequence, but just as true as it was six weeks ago, we present without further ado: 

THE LOST EPISODE OF WEDNESDAY NIGHT MASS! 

BEST OF WEEK: ROBIN RISES: OMEGA #1 — Pity Peter J. Tomasi. He has a story so big that it cannot be contained within the pages of his regular monthly that has been delivering the most consistent destruction since The New 52 began almost three years ago. So, he needs a 38-page special with art by none other than Andy Kubert, Jonathan Glapion, and Brad Anderson to kick the momentum into overdrive. Of course, Kubert’s participation gives anything involving poor deceased Damian Wayne as much validation as it’s going to get this side of Morrison himself returning to script the adventure, and Tomasi has more than earned his stripes. The seven-page recap was a pleasure to read, though I knew every beat, a seamless integration of the continuity beginning with the O’Neil/Adams run and threading all the way through the work that both Morrison and the regular BATMAN AND ROBIN team did in the back end of the former’s seven-year run. The remainder of this issue is a continuation of the battle begun of late in the latter title, picking up directly from last month’s #32, with Ra’s al-Ghul joining forces with Batman & Frankenstein against the hordes of Apokolips. The camaraderie between Batman & Frankenstein is brought into excellent relief through the simple device of having them toss Frank’s sword back and forth during the melee. The new Justice League showing up as cavalry provided just the escalation that the issue needed with Tomasi showing deft character work pertaining to the villains who have recently joined the team. And there’s a great set-up with Captain Marvel that pays off aces on the page turn. And of course, Luthor’s also got to get punched out as a lagniappe. Tomasi keeps shredding throughout, and the art team really does some heavy lifting during an exhilarating extended fight scene that manages to thrill while of course setting up the inevitable To Be Continued . . . Really fine work throughout.

BATMAN ETERNAL #15 — This one takes kind of an expected dip after last week’s mid-season finale (I can’t help thinking of these weeklies in serial live-action drama terms, what with the crowded ensembles). It is always a pleasure to see Nguyen/Fridolfs dropping in on art. I care a lot more about the Tim/Harper dynamic than I do Jim Corrigan and the new Batwing guy, that’s not exactly the most dynamic duo. It was cool to have Barbara and Jason run into Kate, there. Looking for things to build up more momentum next week.

FUTURE’S END #11 — Oh man, Georges Jeanty. I didn’t recognize him from his style alone, but when I read his name at the end, it definitely made sense why the art hadn’t been hitting for me for the first time in this series. He’s improved a lot since the early days of BUFFY SEASON 8, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop holding that series against him. The guy in the Superman mask is starting to annoy me. Nobody anywhere should say, “‘Fess up,” I don’t think, and certainly not someone wearing that insignia. This is the first issue of this title that let some of the air out. An unfortunate week for both weeklies to diminish in quality! We do hope they’ll be back next week with adventures that are a bit more scintillating to the soul.

TEEN TITANS #1 — As much shit rained down on this cover when it was solicited a few months back, I remained really interested to see what Teen Titans book would look like with Kenneth Rocafort on interiors. Because he’s a monster. And the pages are beautiful. Will Pfeifer’s story holds together well enough. It’s not spectacular, but it gets the job done. Every member of the team gets their moment this first time out. Though Bunker just about assaulting the anti-gay guy scans as pretty forced and probably much more aggressive than would be ideal here in the very first installment. I’m cool with all of the character designs like Cassie’s lasso that looks like some strange love child of barbed wire and McFarlane webbing, but I hate the Raven redesign. Which maybe just shows my age. My favorite thing about this group of kids is the continuity they used to share that has now been completely reset. I’ll probably pick up another issue or two for the art and see if the character dynamics can hook me a little bit better than they did this time out.

FABLES #142 — Well, everything is seeming pretty dire as we start ramping up into the home-stretch. The fact that Snow seems so unwilling to go to war does not seem like a good sign since we still have many many pages for some sort of motivation to evolve for her in that regard. There really wasn’t anything spectacular about this issue, just more of the rock-solid storytelling we’ve come to expect or even become dependent upon from Willingham/Buckingham/Leialoha/Loughridge. Don’t ever go nowhere, guys, okay?

ORIGINAL SIN #6 — So Midas & Oubliette did it, right? That doesn’t seem to be such a mysterious deal. Aaron does let us know that Fury just started getting old right before this series started, so, nice of him to clear that up for us folks who might be more concerned about continuity than we perhaps should be. I dig Gamora’s reaction to everybody throughout. Deodato & Martin once again deliver A-game material that makes this feel like a Big Event that might actually still matter twelve months from now when the next one is going on. And I dig how everyone was freaking out that that was Cable on the cover of #7 when we can clearly see that it isn’t.

UNCANNY X-MEN #23 — I was expecting a little bit more from this, but I’m not sure why? I guess all of the gravitas that that title is slinging combined by the fact that I have very positive associations with Kris Anka on art, but this is one of the first issues from either of these Bendis titles that I didn’t feel like was slinging fire. Certainly not terrible by any stretch, but the fellow has set himself a pretty high bar, even in terms of singles. Maybe I just don’t care about this new mutant.

SILVER SURFER #004 — Now that we made it through what was essentially the three-issue pilot episode, I was interested to see what would happen with the established Surfer/Companion dynamic up and running, but of course Dawn Greenwood does not want to soar the spaceways even for a minute longer than she has to, so it’s back to Cape Cod for some of Dad’s seafood bisque. Though, of course, this being July, there are some certain Guardians of the Galaxy waiting to check out anyone entering even the distant proximity of earthspace. Man, I remember a few years ago when Iron Man was suddenly everywhere and we were all laughing about how he was the new ubiquitous character i.e. Wolverine/Punisher in the early nineties, but what a world we live in when the damn Guardians are being shoehorned into every conceivable title. At any rate, this title still ticks right along, Slott keeps everything humming and of course the Allreds never fail to bring their own unique form of justice. Four issues in and still good fun!

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #2 — Straight talk. Of course, the art is magnificent, McKelvie & Wilson can do no wrong. We all know that. And judging this series strictly on its own merits, I might be more forgiving. But unfortunately, this poor thing has to live up to not only following up the gorgeousness of YOUNG AVENGERS but in all truth should function as at least methadone to the surging heroin rush that is the promise of PHONOGRAM Volume 3, and Mr. Gillen’s script is thus far hitting me as much too precious and impressed with itself and not actually going out and earning sort of slavish wristcutting devotion from the reader that dear Kieron has made no bones about yearning for. One could argue that this will read better in trade, but if there’s anyone who is creating for the single, it’s this bunch. This is by no means a bad comic, it just doesn’t up the ante from the first issue. Because if you’re going to show up on the last page with the decapitated head of a pop star, it’s not enough to just talk about her for five pages leading up to that, we ideally should have seen her on-panel and really actually fallen in love with her, if we’re shooting for ideal. Let’s either crank this one a bit higher or wrap it up and get on with the story of Immaterial Emily and her mirror self. Please, darlings.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

7/30/14

SANDMAN: OVERTURE #3 — Okay, this is the first one where the insane release schedule worked against the book for me. I mean, this was announced two years ago, right? And then JWIII had, what, fifteen months’ lead-time before #1 hit. And we’ve stiiiiiill got to take like four-month breaks between issues? I guess that’s just what it takes. And the pages are certainly worth it, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to rush the greatness. Just wishing the greatness operated at a slightly higher velocity now that the story’s finally started? But the deal with this particular installment is, of course it’s brilliant and terribly well written and every single two-page spread is more of the same rabid genius that we’ve all been routinely expecting of poor JWIII since around the second arc of PROMETHEA. Our Dream and Cat Dream run into three sisters and have a Very Important-Seeming Conversation, and it really has been too long for me because I actually needed Neil to insert the whole “kind” bit in-dialogue the full four times before I remembered who those ladies would go on to be, or already were. And then there’s the apparent innocent to be rescued and, Neil being Neil, Morpheus needs to tell A Story that necessitates an entirely new art style. This is all lovely and wonderful, but I felt like I burned through it too quickly when that last page showed up and the months ahead instantly yawned out before me. A madness of stars, indeed.

BEST OF WEEK: THE WAKE #10 — Well, they certainly landed this one. It’s one thing to capture the reader’s attention with the perfect synthesis of words and art alchemizing into an unforgettable story. That’s certainly a big deal, don’t get me wrong. But it’s something else entirely to be able to bring everything to a resolution, wrap up all the mysteries and lingering sub-plots, and have the reader feel satisfied when he or she reads the words THE END. There have certainly been those who sank their ship even within sight of their narrative destination, but I was never worried about these guys. They’ve never given us cause. From the first issue, this was a relentless thrilling ride that only escalated when it rounded the turn and shot two hundred years into an aquatic future. So much goes down in this final installment, it’s hard to believe that they get it all done in twenty pages. But every creator rises to the challenge and really puts forth his best work. Snyder ties the admittedly disparate elements of plot and genre together and makes it all fit, even working in a reference to Stephen King & Amy Tan’s rock band. Murphy continues his unbroken streak of throwing down a master clinic on composition with every single page: tight character work from body language to facial expressions/acting, breathtaking vistas, and intricate gear that never sacrifices coolness for the sake of realism. And Hollingsworth has stormed in and quietly done some of the best coloring in the business, pulling off the very tricky feat of substantially elevating the material through his craft while managing to call as little attention to it as possible. This is a prime example of what has made this one of the best mini-series that’s come out lately, the fact that you can’t tell where one man’s work ends and another begins. Oh, and Fletcher! I forgot to call out good job on the lettering, but especially great fun with the little fish-silhouette swear words in the future dialogue. Tremendous. Congratulations to all involved on a job very well done. Looking forward to a single-sitting no-ad read when the trade comes out.

BODIES #1 — This is a pretty cool concept. Four different artists draw six pages each that are chapters set in different times and revolving around a single dead body. The styles are all a great fit. Meghan Hetrick tears up the modern day with some fine linework that recalls Burnham. Dean Ormston is positively Victorian depicting the adventures during 1890, Tula Lotay’s washed-out palette has already been featured of late over in that new SUPREME book but is also a great fit for 2050, and then Phil Winslade nails the 1940 noir look. So, this thing looks great. I wouldn’t say that Si Spencer does a particularly good job at engaging the reader with a single one of these sequences. I mean, there needs to be more of a narrative hook than, Oh look, there’s that body again. Ideally, we should in some slight way, care about each one of these characters by the end of the first issue. I know that six pages isn’t a whole lot of space to do that, but it seems like something to shoot for. I’m thinking I’ll probably just tradewait this and be glad to stumble upon it at half price in a couple years, give old Spencer a single sitting to take care of however much heavy lifting he’s inclined to in a single go of it.

BATMAN ETERNAL #17 — All right, still thrilled to have Nguyen/Fridolfs on board, but I just don’t care much for this particular lurch in the narrative. Don’t care about Deacon Blackfire or the Joker’s Daughter or Batwing or Jim Corrigan. So, you see, have a pretty hard time investing in this issue. The first one that’s altogether misfired for me.

FUTURE’S END #13 — Patch Zircher tears it up. Brother-Eye’s dialogue to Mr. Terrific is pretty damn creepy. I did not know that Grifter was from Texas. That is some dirty pool showing Scott & Barda last week in the teaser images and then having that only be a flashback. Next week should certainly be interesting as these two thread converge.

CHEW: WARRIOR CHICKEN POYO — This was great fun but for some reason didn’t melt my heart to the degree that SECRET AGENT POYO did. Though of course you’ve got to love that last page, that’s all anybody’s going to be talking about. POYO WAS THERE!

EAST OF WEST #14 — The art on this thing continues to be smoking. Dragotta/Martin deliver drop-dead mind-blowing business every single time out. It’s just these characters, man. Maybe it’s the lettering, it could always be the lettering, but these aren’t people to me at all, just a gang of amalgamated stereotypes uttering badass overly italicized/emboldened dialogue, and as much as the art and plot make me want to dial in, these people, these words coming out of their mouths, they keep taking me out of it and I just find it so infuriating.

MANHATTAN PROJECTS #22 — All right, it’s official. Uncle, I give up. Rus Wooton’s italicized and emboldened lettering makes this book just about unreadable for me. Every damn word-balloon feels like a speech teacher guiding me toward a more refined understanding of syllabic emphasis. This is a cotton-pickin’ shame because Nick Pitarra’s pages have never looked better. As dynamic and intricate and crackling with Darrow/Quitely imagery as his work was when he exploded on the scene with THE RED WING, it’s very rewarding to see him refine the tools of his craft on more of an exponential than incremental level. There are so many lines in this book, but every single one carries its own narrative weight and deserves to be there.

LOW #1 — Can the day withstand the inherent density two hard science-fiction titles from Remender without super-collapsing into a black hole or white dwarf star or some such? The answer is, Certainly! The premise and characterization are all well and good, but the real star of the show here is Greg Tocchini, whose atmospheric illustration really puts this over the top. Which completely took me by surprise. His arc of UNCANNY X-FORCE was my least favorite solely based on the art, but I picked this up figuring he would crank his situation up on such a high-profile creator-owned deal with Remender. This certainly proved to be the case! I will pick up the second issue and see how Stel fares once she gets a little bit of momentum going on her narrative.

BLACK SCIENCE #7 — I’m still having trouble believing that the monumental events of last issue are going to stick, wasn’t even really entertaining that as a possibility, but Remender is certainly playing it that way here. I still figure every dead character is just one pillar-jump away, but Kadir as honorbound protagonist is certainly an interesting premise to fall into halfway into the first year of the book coming out. Scalera has managed to, if anything, up his game here. Really incredible spreads and images throughout. It’s not surprising that this book is a massive success. The only hitch is that the cliffhanger here (not so much with the hanging, but . . . ) is more than a bit reminiscent of where Remender just left us a minute ago at the end of LOW, but so it goes.

PROPHET #45 — Wow, man. It all comes down to this, the convergence of more John Prophets than you ever dared imagine in the halcyon daze of glorious nineties shoulder-pad rock! Series stalwarts Roy, Milonongiannis, Dalrymple, and Bergin are all on hand to help Graham bring it all crashing down. That opening four-page scene is about as in medias res as something is going to get. Always go for the oral neonaught birth on Page Two when you need to really shake the reader up! It’s satisfying when all of the various dudes come together, then Diehard gets to do something cool before being ripped in half, so I’d say that this issue definitely hits the beats that it needs to, though not such final ones as I’ve been dreading these past few months because this apparently just trapdoors into another series that might be twice as insane as this monster is, if that preview double-page spread is anything to go by. I’ll keep buying as many of these as they keep making. Who knew Liefeld was such a hell of a talent scout?

UNCANNY AVENGERS #022 — The mighty conclusion! You’ve got to love the Kirby homage on the cover. This is . . . a pretty dark way to go out. Of course, most of the folks got resurrected, but it looks like Alex’s face has gone the way of Harvey Dent and Rogue has somehow absorbed Simon. And Katie Summers, man. Rough. That Remender is so heartless with the kids this week! I mean, really No wonder the legions of fandom conspire against him. I have to say, though, this would have been an exponentially powerful ending if we had been given any opportunity whatsoever to invest in her as a character not just a concept. We’re all supposed to be upset because Alex & Jan lost their daughter, and of course that’s instant empathy shorthand for any parents (or most parents), but it would have been so much more crushing if we had been given just a two-page scene to fall in love with her ourselves. This was certainly a hell of an entertaining story, though. Not even counting Daken & The Grim Reaper quoting ANNIE on the way out, I certainly did not see that one coming.

UNCANNY X-MEN #24 — As great as Kris Anka is, Bachalo leaves shoes that are pretty impossible to fill. You’ve got to just get over that when anyone else is drawing this book.  I love that Bendis is still invested in devoting pages to introducing new mutants and trying to make us care about them, even though two issues in, he does not yet have me dialed in to this guy. Great twist there at the end, I love how both sides initially assume the same thing. Still really digging on this.

AVENGERS #33 — And then there was one. This arc has been heading more and more in the direction of science fiction (both dystopian and utopian versions) all along, but Hickman veers into hard sci-fi here with the revelation that the Star Brands are actually anachronauts created by an A.I. worldcore that fell away from the Ultron singularity. Heady business! Yu draws a pretty cool sequence of the Worldcore triggering the bomb that the Ultron Avenger doc hid inside Cap a couple of issues back, but then the issue just ends. This has all been pretty interesting but a bit decompressed for my taste, almost certainly a very compelling read in the trade, but spread a bit thin for $4 singles.

NEW AVENGERS #27 — Will they or won’t they? This title’s entire run has been heading to this moment. Does our team of self-appointed Illuminati have what it takes to destroy an alternate Earth in order to save their own dear and good 616? Valerio Schiti shows up and does good work with a drop-in from Sal Larocca bolstering his efforts. There’s a cool straight homage callback to that time in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS when the lightning bolt hits Superman and he’s all skeletal. They do that same thing for the thinly veiled analogue Sun God. But it finally comes down to who has the stones to push the button and nuke the DC analogues’ Earth? (I know they have it as like Earth 4-million and something, but it would have been funny if they had just straight up called it Earth-2) Without spoiling the last page, I will say that Hickman writes the ramp-up very well, every man’s decision to either detonate the deal or not is perfectly in character and feels like it’s been very well set up before now. This is really a legendary run, I can’t believe Hickman’s just over here relatively quietly dropping all of this sickness and more people aren’t freaking out about it.

HAWKEYE #019 — I don’t know. I love this book. Love love love it. But this was the first issue that I thought was too cute for its own good. Maybe it’s the schedule. The non-linear releases, the fact that we’ve been sitting on that cliffhanger to #015 for months, very well might have worked against it. Or the sign-language thing. I guess it’s groundbreaking and all. But it felt too much like they were trying to do another #011, only with a concept that’s a little half-baked. Or at least, a shift down from #011, so it just plays as considerably less impressive. It’s certainly a good-looking issue. Aja is a master of the craft of sequential storytelling and Hollingsworth continues to make the perfect choice to complement the situation every single time. I just wanted a little bit more from this issue, was looking forward to it for too long, I’m afraid.


FATALE #24 — All good things come to an end, ladies and gentlemen. And the team comes out swinging here with a six-page knight’s fable that Uncle Dominic of all people is reading to Nick when he’s a kid (and still has that shock of Rogue skunk-stripe hair, strangely). This ending is kind of an odd duck. It does what it’s supposed to do. It looks terrific. Phillips & Breitweiser bring the thunder, as ever. It’s just, when all is said and done, I don’t care that much about these characters. Brubaker didn’t do enough over the course of twenty-four issues to get me invested in their plight. I felt in no way cheated by the ending but just kind of made it to the last page with a shrug. “Oh, that’s nice, then.” I feel kind of weird about it because I’ve enjoyed this series throughout its run and am a bit disturbed by my ho-hum response. I do appreciate the inclusion of a final Jess Nevins essay, though, always a treasure trove of information.