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.