BEST OF WEEK: SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #9 — Snyder/Lee/Williams/Sinclair finally bring this bad boy in. It does what it’s supposed to, veering a little on the side of overly talky with Luthor monologing (sp?) most of the first half of the issue. But this is of course offset by all the heavy lifting that that art team does. It pretty much doesn’t get more A-list than these guys, and there are plenty of iconic shots sprinkled throughout the issue. My favorite page is before the big guy flies off for the final battle and he says goodbye to Lois, and I swear to God, Lee does this Gabriel Rodriguez homage, this same little trick that was in LOCKE & KEY: OMEGA #’s 1 and I want to say 3, where the last shot of the page is nothing but two hands, formerly clasped but now parting. Another standout is when Luthor finally shuts up just as the art team gives us their rendition of Warren Ellis’s favorite script prompt to Bryan Hitch: “The ships engage.” And there’s even a nod to that iconic shot of Superman getting struck by lightning in the last issue of Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT FALLS. Snyder does a pretty good job sticking the landing on Luthor’s rant about Superman. It’s no ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, but I guess nothing else will be ever. The deal with Wraith swooping in and sacrificing himself was not set up at all in any way? Has there just been too long in between issues? I need to go back and check, but it seems like that came out of nowhere. And the Nguyen flashbacks came off as complete filler, as well drawn as they were. All in all, though, this was a pretty great ride. Not Snyder’s best effort but reasonably coherent, and of course Lee and the crew just drew the hell out of it.
ACTION COMICS #36 — Well, it looks like Smallville has a bit of a Halloween hangover. And I’ve missed some chapters? Did I skip last month because it was a fill-in? Or has a bunch of stuff happened elsewhere? Lana’s in bed with John? And Clark has a beard in the present, too? It really really is flattering that the architects behind “The New 52” are going to such lengths to make the big guy closer to my physical likeness, but it’s kind of taking me out of the story a little bit! I can’t fly, and Lana Lang is not my best friend, you know? Love getting Kuder back on the entire issue’s worth of interiors, in all seriousness.
GRAYSON #4 — This one is a little bit more of a romp than we’re used to, but after the heavy business that has frontloaded this series, it was honestly nice to just frolic around with our boy getting chased by some young killers-in-training at glorious old St. Hadrian’s. This book continues to do a nice job balancing out the character work with compact blasts of espionage and the requisite scrambled signal to Mister Malone hanging out in his cave fourteen miles out of Gotham, there. And the Mikel Janin pages are nothing less than exquisite. I love that Quitelyesque splash of how the mission got accomplished before Dick could even finish his sentence.
GOTHAM ACADEMY #2 — This one is a little bit more angsty in tone than I would prefer, but I guess that’s kind of what you get with the demographic of this ensemble. It does an interesting thing for a second issue, substantially raising the mystery quotient on Olive, particularly with regard to how she spent her summer and whatever the deal with her mom is. At first, it felt like an odd bit of pacing, but I’ve decided that I like it. It would have come on a little bit strong and maybe been doing to much heavy lifting last issue to introduce us to all these new characters and also throwing that in our face first thing. It was good to just meet everyone and now dig in a bit deeper. Kerschl’s art is again stunning, and the three colorists do a pretty good job of blending their styles so that the reader doesn’t get thrown when there’s a switch. All in all, a slight dip from the excellent first issue, but still really good material to be found here.
BATMAN ETERNAL #31 — When I saw this cover, my brain wouldn’t let me understand that it was Alfred standing on the left. This is a hilarious team-up. Julia Pennyworth on the threshold of not being able to hang on tech support is a pretty solid running C-plot. I am a fan of Fernando Pasarin on these interiors, this guy really showed up. Terrific splash page with Mr. Freeze, but the three-panel run a few pages later with Thunderclap Auriga is a very nice piece of work. Just a killer ending, though. It couldn’t have happened any other way. Very good, sir, indeed.
FUTURES END #27 — Once again, lots of plots clipping forward here. We are standing on the verge of getting it on, as the song goes. I’m still digging on Barda teaming up with the Green Arrow crew (can’t believe that show has made the first word in the dude’s name sound weird to me). Scott comes face to I guess eye with Brother Eye, but of course the big deal is Terry and Bruce are finally on-panel together, which should make for the series bat-slugfest next issue. Aaron Lopresti’s sequentials are looking a bit more rushed than they did when he first showed up, but this is a weekly! These Ryan Sook covers, though, man. Wow.
CHEW #44 — The Mighty Layman is still having fun toying with our hearts, delivering the near-mortal wound that was already given away on the final page of last issue but then only offering a scant four panels of development past that point. There’s a bit more no-holds-barred action in this one with Guillory delivering quite the kinetic fight sequence. The Babycakes fakeout on Poyo is only surpassed by the inevitable double-page splash showing where our boy really was. You get the sense that when this book is done, Layman’s still going to have a list of thirty-five more batshit ideas that are just as much fun as this one.
VELVET #8 — This is another meat-and-potatoes issue with Velvet executing her plan to storm HQ and running afoul of Roberts, who it looks like is getting set up as nemesis/antagonist. This entire issue is basically just a single action scene followed by a cliffhanger, but it does its job well and is very satisfying. It’s cool to see Brubaker not just drowning in noir (not that I ever have any problem with that), but the real draw here has got to be Epting/Breitweiser crushing it on art. Sorry that this one beat ZERO to the rack, as those make a charming double-feature, but so it goes.
PUNKS: THE COMIC #2 — Wow, the Skywalker/Adama/Fellowship of the Ring shout-out before the end of the first page. That is some hustle. That Page Three sequence of SuperDog flying in from the sky is maybe my favorite thing I’ve seen from this series. Until that panel of them all hugging him and telling him they love him. I hope to see more of SuperDog in the future. The Halloween masks are also a very nice touch. Reading this comic is like taking drugs, only it never lets you come down.
GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #03 — A relatively rational opening four pages this month. Or I’m just getting more acclimated to the madness? Sir Hippothesis brings those murderous scamps Seal Armstrong and Buzz Owldrin to Planet Crabulon, where they apologize to King Tiger Eating A Cheeseburger for killing all of those crab people. King Tiger Eating A Cheeseburger accepts their apology by killing them both with an enormous battle-axe. But then cut to Doctor Rhinoceros (not real name) waking up, only it wasn’t all a dream, and then he runs into a messy room where someone called Dave is crashed out in bondage gear. Dave has a muscular green arm attached to his chest that might as well be the Hulk’s right arm. That’s the first four pages. I can’t believe that they seemed kind of average to me, in terms of weirdness, but there you go. Ryan Browne ruins everything.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #009 — Well, I was enough of a fool for Spider-Gwen that I had to pick this one up. And it is pretty great work. Every time I check in with Slott’s run, he is making it happen on every level, truly a worthy custodian of this flagship character. That was a perfect opening scene, timeless and iconic and all, a perfect set-up for the lunar twist and surprise death. Coipel predictably knocks the interiors out of the park in his own inimitable A-list fashion. It is funny that with Hickman dragging all the Avengers through the multiverse and then of course with Morrison doing what he’s doing across the street that we’ve got enough multiverse for a Spidey-based spin on things. But, of course. I’m not sure how frequently this is coming out, but if I’ve got room, this is definitely worth staying with.
AVENGERS·X-MEN: AXIS #4 — Remender really hit a masterstroke giving Charles Xavier’s brain to the Red Skull. I defy anybody to engineer a superior way to slam together the X-Men and Avengers franchises in a manner that has more tension hard-wired into the premise. As soon as you beat the bad guy, all of the good guys can fight over who gets to keep him. But, damn! Did Captain Falcon just deck young Sam Jackson Fury? But man, why this compulsive return to our friendly neighborhood Carnage? I’m just not finding it compelling as of yet. I hope Remender proves me wrong. And then Tony sees U2’s free new album and raises the stakes pretty considerably! I guess that’s some kind of bad deal that he’s just swigging champagne there at home plate of Giants Stadium? But then Apocalypse onstage with the X-Men? Have I missed a crucial tie-in issue? And but then that goes double for all that business with the Avengers. And Kluh, the backwards Hulk’s Hulk. All of this characterization just took a bunch of LSD, man. Like, it’s kind of fun, you can’t say that nothing’s really at all happening early on, which has been the deal for the last couple of these, but there appears to be no in-book justification. Red Onslaught Xavier’s just making everyone do craaaaaaazy things to advance the plot? Strange times but good fun from your mainly mindless mighty Marvel superhero slugfest big event!