Wednesday, January 28, 2015

1/21/15

BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN AND ROBIN #38 — Well, this was perfect again. Those first two pages alone. These guys are just so inspired and inspiring, collectively firing at the top of their game and boosting one another to loftier creative heights. I’m insane about that cover, and then the splash/titles page is almost just as great. And you’ve got to love the following page of Damian just walking up while the dude is unloading his machine gun into the Boy Wonder’s bulletproof chest. Damian trying to assert himself by flying back home is yet another masterstroke of characterization from Tomasi. And then that dream is truly horrifying! And what beating heart amongst us doesn’t quicken at that majestic shot of Damian hovering far above Gotham and then having a brief encounter with that firefly? Just gorgeous. And then, wow, a terrific exchange with Aquaman leading to a sweet and sad coda to the issue. I was expecting nothing but absolute greatness, and these guys knocked it out of the park once again. This is, hands down, the best book in The New 52 and a master class on writing, penciling, inking, coloring, and lettering a mainstream superhero serial. Breathtaking, and they really have me believing that the best is somehow yet to come.

BATMAN ETERNAL #42 — It’s time to give the female teenage sidekicks a turn as this issue focuses on both Harper and Stephanie. The former’s trial by fire alone against The Mad Hatter leads to a terrific and very stylish splash of her declaring victory while the latter finds herself in still more trouble by issue’s end. The Sudzuka pages are terrific, wish he could be queued up for two or three issues at a time in the home-stretch, here.

FUTURES END #38 — And speaking of giving the women equal time, it’s nice to see Madison finally assert herself a little bit more, but it’s kind of ridiculous for Shazam/Superman and that new guy to make such a deal out of the fact that she is a girl/woman, kind of insulting. The Fifty-Sue/Lana/Grifter plot is running out of steam and needs some kind of momentum injection. I will be interested to see what’s going on in Castle Frankenstein next week, maybe we can make a whole issue out of that action.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #7 — Well, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about this one, but this issue did it for me in a way that the series hasn’t so far. I would almost recommend just starting with this issue. The tone between character interactions clicked better for me in a way that I’ve tried to define but am having trouble parsing. McKelvie worked in that two-page graphic design map monstrosity and, more audaciously, set out to educate Frank Quitely on how to draw a scene of two people walking down some stairs, upping the ante to five damn stories while evoking a side-scrolling 8-bit video game by way of Chris Ware. And there were Tron costumes. Or cosplay. I’m not sure there’s a difference in this universe. At any rate, terrific fun, this.

FANTASTIC FOUR #642 — We’re ramping up another beginning of the end, it looks like. Valeria coming back was played with as much gravitas and emotional weight as the moment deserved. Robinson manages to up the ante on what an evil dick The Quiet Man is by working in the bit about him destroying the cure for cancer. And that’s before giving him the Ozymandias moment. That evil little Bentley-23 gets a terrific payoff before that final scene that sent me bug-eyed with shock. It is a truly bold choice to bring in a character who is so associated with the overall dip in quality that hit mainstream superhero comics by the mid-nineties. This art team can certainly carry the load, though.

BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #004 — I had a serious back-and-forth about this book before even getting started: Oh good, another issue of this great title! Oh no, Rudy is relegated to only four pages. Oh good, Langdon Foss is terrific, at least, so we’re in good hands. Huh, why is this coming out only two weeks later, I had really hoped that Rudy would get more issues before he needed a fill-in. Maybe we need to burn through a certain amount of material before SECRET WARS rampages in and destroys this status quo? Leave our Bucky and Daisy alone! Well, obviously that’s not going to be the case. There is, at least, a solid in-story narrative reason for the change in art style as Foss illustrates the tale of Future Bucky. And I’m not hip to Jordan Boyd on colors, but those were some interesting palette choices that set the mood very well in a drastically different manner than what we’ve seen thus far from Rudy, who returns with more absolute devastation on Page 17. Yes, Bucky, this is beautiful indeed. The Polarity Paradox Engine is out of control. And, um, that is a pretty rough last page there, yes.


ALL-NEW X-MEN #035 — Wow, Asrar/Gracia going for it on that opening splash. That is incredible. I am so so tired of the old convention of dropping the reader/viewer in medias res in the middle of something crazy and then flashing back to How We Got Here, but it works quite well in this instance. I got so caught up in the beats of the issue, I completely forgot that I had already seen the battle that they were flying off to have. I really love Bendis’s interaction between the two Jeans, but the best exchange of the book has to be that static shot on Page Ten of Miles and Teen Warren and Ultimate Kitty. Miles slapping his face is just the best. And then Hank gives us another Geoff Johns Chalkboard of Future Plot Developments. The only new thing I think I see on here is “Avengers Disappear.” But the last page provides no advancement on the Page Four cliffhanger except an exterior shot of part of Castle Doom blowing up. CAN THIS BE THE END FOR MILES MORALES?!?!?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

1/14/15


BEST OF WEEK: STAR WARS #1 — I was fully expecting this to be a couple notches up the ladder from Wood/D’Anda’s recent excellent Dark Horse run that’s basically the exact same concept as this, but man, this is so much better, it’s embarrassing. First of all, those first four pages. HOW has no one ever thought to open a STAR WARS comic that way in the past four decades? Just Death-Star-lasering everything to bits from the get-go. If you’re ever about to spring this issue on someone, it’s a great idea to have Williams’s opening fanfare queued up on your phone or a nearby “CD player” and then when the new reader turns that first page and sees the title, blast that shit in their ear at the exact same instant. I pulled that one on the little girl to tremendous and emphatic success.

But the success of this book of course goes a lot deeper than burning the first four pages to cop the movies’ opening titles. Jason Aaron’s authorial voice disappears in these characters’ dialogue. The 1977 version of the actors all deliver terrific performances in your head. There aren’t really any surprises in terms of plot twists; it’s pretty immediately obvious who’s on that first ship and who the Imperial negotiator is going to be, but that’s just fine. There’s plenty of enjoyment to be had in the execution of the narrative. John Cassaday & Laura Martin, no surprise, deliver astounding sequentials throughout, from that first tracking shot from the crawl to gripping action scenes to jawdropping photo-realistic likenesses of the actors that border on the uncanny. I love that by his third page, Darth Vader is levitating Stormtroopers to shield himself from being assassinated by Chewbacca. The body language that Cassaday gives him is ridiculously dynamic and a pleasure to behold.

This first issue does every single thing that it ought to and then some. It’s pretty much perfect; I cannot conceive of a single way in which it is deficient or needs to be improved. I do hope Cassaday/Martin can hang out for longer than three issues this time before taking off like they did on UNCANNY AVENGERS but am of course delighted to get as many pages from them as possible.

JUPITER’S LEGACY #5 — Always worth the wait, this issue continues the trend of being better than what’s come before. Terrific opening scene introducing Major Wolfe and poor doomed Skyscraper. Everything’s tense enough that we’re completely invested in the outcome even though we’ve never seen these people before. It also raises the stakes right away by setting Wolfe up as an adversary who is worthy of our heroes. The deal about the kid tripping up by getting his reflection caught in a raindrop is a smart little detail. Him asking for his mommy to help him really cuts right into you. And what a terrific resolution to the fight. Obviously, Quitely stages the shit out of it. There’s really no one like him, the very best that the industry has to offer. This was a hell of an ending to Book One, and I am certainly looking forward to finding out what happens next. In a couple of years! It’s almost reassuring to know that there’s an in-progress mini-series that’s going to take longer than SANDMAN: OVERTURE to finish up.  

SUPREME: BLUE ROSE #6 — Well, this gorgeously mental thing continues. It’s certainly going to make a fever-dream read in a single sitting. Ellis/Lotay are synergizing to really do a good job of putting the readers in the protagonist’s headspace and making us all feel like we’re slipping over the edge into the shores of madness. I never would have thought that another run could ever step to Moore’s seminal charge through the previous volume of this character’s series almost twenty years ago now, but this not only occupies the same delirious headspace, it challenges what has gone before and attempts to advance the concepts. No small feat. That “Shall we dance?” panel is absolutely gorgeous. And . . . was that Professor Night (or his alter ego) crossing over into the woods where Diana Dane winds up? Is Professor Night the most “Sensational Character Find of 2014?” Or any other year? This series makes my retinas bleed and say thank you.

SAVAGE DRAGON #201 — I dig how Larsen is giving us a frank and even graphic depiction of how much and often teenagers discuss and engage in sexual activity. Rampant! It rings true and is not the kind of thing you see in comics that often, certainly not in the superhero genre. But, he’s listening to his characters. This is exactly how they should be acting. And it’s very impressive how steadily he keeps the ship going, one month after another. That #199 was staggeringly impressive, and he just rolled it into the big anniversary issue, and here we are again, another twenty ad-free pages to the good. Here’s to breaking the all-time record with another hundred issues and then beyond!

ASTRO CITY #19 — The multi-part Quarrel arc continues and keeps delivering in every way we’ve come to expect from this volume of the title. Busiek imbues Jess with a lot of heart, a complex character with ambition and drive while still retaining vulnerability due to the inevitable progression of time. Once again, you kind of wish this could just be the status quo, a book about Quarrel & Crackerjack instead of them just taking centerstage before the spotlight moves on to other players. Brent Anderson delivers perfect sequential work that Alex Sinclair makes pop without calling attention to what an excellent colorist he is. Just another day at the office for these guys.

ALSO BEST OF WEEK: AVENGERS #040 — As much as that crew up top nailed it with our friends from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, it’s impossible not to heap accolades on Hickman and former SECRET WARRIORS collaborator Caselli for the thunder that they drop here, paying off nearly two years of tension that has been masterfully simmered into this world-shattering confrontation. The third flashback scene from months ago with the knife confirms what we’re already pretty much positive, Chekov’s gun and all that, this is definitely going to be used as a murder weapon before we get to the end of this particular $3.99 installment. The only question is whether or not the victim is going to be the intended individual or will that rather resourceful and indeed savage fellow find a way to turn it back on his attacker, which almost seemed more obvious to me. Hickman has so many moving parts and wheels spinning at this point, it would be easy but momentum-killing to fall into the trap of letting the various three Avengers factions square against one another for at least a couple more issues (instead, we get like one page of comic relief, included here because just every other shot worth sharing is a massive spoiler) (Hickman really seems to dig on Bobby & Sam goofing around), but instead, he throttles all the action forward with a plot to strand and murder The Cabal while they save our universe yet again from another incursion. So many heroes betraying that absolute confederation of villains who are doing good. Which is twisted enough before Sue’s “Where’s T’Challa?” Her facial expression during the delivery of that line is perfection. And then that last scene, which I’m not even going to talk about except to say that it was played to perfection and shocking and perfectly timed within the overall span of the series. This moment had to be earned, and it very much was. It was a tremendous surprise to see play out but completely in keeping with all the character motivation and story beats that came before. I kind of wish that first panel on the last page could have gotten its own splash, but even that decision makes sense. The button had already been pushed. This makes my heart heavy and twists up the horrific morally gray space that Hickman has been exploring since the very first issues of his run. A very thought-provoking and intelligent blast of superhero fisticuffs, indeed.

SILVER SURFER #008 — Well, it’s pretty sweet how Slott is developing the relationship between Dawn & Norrin. They’re just a fun couple. And the board figures in there somehow, I guess. The Allreds continue to absolutely burn it down. That first splash of Dawn taking a nap is happening (no mean feat!) and then I really dig it a couple pages later the way that the board’s trail bleeds into the panel borders. Comics are fun! I love Norrin’s, “You people,” that one’s an instant classic. All of that is only preamble, though, for the massive development that fills up the back half of this issue. Slott has done a really good job pacing this thing out, giving us a few early adventures and establishing the status quo before dropping the hammer here with this. This title has only begun to soar through the spaceways.

DAREDEVIL #011 — Another case open and shut. Waid once again keeps it drum-tight, internally consistent with what has gone before while still surprising. Samnee & Wilson keep drawing the hell out of everything. Who doesn’t want to see Matt drive a convertible with his cane in a chase scene with a stunt bike? And, aw. What a sweet last page. Which is probably horrible news for poor Kirsten, if the past thirty-five years have been any indication.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #002 — Ramos brings the heat. I haven’t actually picked up that new MS. MARVEL yet (I know, I know! I don’t like hitting 9/10 on all those Best of Year lists any more than you like seeing it happen), so I didn’t know her power set and found that first super-stretchy shot of her running away delightfully stylistic. And admittedly, I could have paid more attention to the cover. But Waid has this all intelligently constructed. Naturally, the trio of Coulson, Jemma, and Kamala plays very well off each other. So, I guess this is going to be more of a done-in-one anthology type thing pulling different agents and guest starts off the bench at any given time with various A-list artists dropping by? I can hang with that.

BATGIRL #38 — Another just terrific-looking issue with Tarr once again knocking it out over Stewart’s layouts. Cloonan & Fletcher do a nice job pushing several plot elements forward with Dinah condemning Barbara’s newly heightened social media presence, moving out, and singing in a band being just basically background for the tension of the age-old trope of our heroine dating someone on the side of law and order who she really likes but who has got it in for her alter ego. Almost an Anti-Lois Syndrome, really. It’s also a good idea to show that our heroine is fallible and, in fact, really screws up quite badly here. There was never any doubt in my mind, but this run is turning out to definitely have some legs. (ßnot a misogynistic pun)

GRAYSON #6 — And but speaking of legs, dat ass! It’s almost funny how little these guys care about just straight-up objectifying Dick issue after issue. The regular creative team continues to just crush it on this series, which is already racing up near the top of the list of the most reliable top-quality reads of The New 52. Setting Midnighter as the series antagonist is, of course, both a logical and inspired choice that continues to yield terrific fight sequences, but just when we’re getting comfortable with all of that, it’s into shiftship bleedspace? That’s a massive expansion of scope and scale for this series. Our man Agent 37 has come a long way from Bludhaven.

BATMAN ETERNAL #41 — Now, I think Joe Quinones is a hell of an artist. His Green Lantern really stood out of a crowded pack in WEDNESDAY COMICS a few years back. However, he seems to have veered in an even cartoonier direction, and it was an odd fit for this title after all the scratchy gothic linework courtesy of South America that we’ve been getting lately. I adjusted, but it took a bit of time. The sidekicks charging was a good fit in the crowded ensemble for Quinones to tackle. And Harper fiiiiiinally puts on that costume that she had in BATMAN #28. Hey, it only took 41 issues!


FUTURES END #37 — Ha, Amethyst calling Constantine out for being duplicitous and sending an astral projection is a bit hypocritical right after she stabs him. And but Christ, the new Firestorm is just tedious. They cannot have a first page together without expositing the fact that neither one of them is enjoying the current status quo. How many people’s first issue do the writers think this is, at this point? Seems like you should service the folks who are here every week rather than the random people who might pick this up and be the least bit confused by Firestorm being a woman. Otherwise, this one moves along all right. An average issue. So ends the night.

Friday, January 23, 2015

1/07/15

MIRACLEMAN #14 — Happy New Year! I spent the break finally catching up with the Marvel rereleases of this thing. Just in time for Moore to almost be done. It was quite a ride, and I certainly enjoyed it, but all along the way after that first arc, I kept waiting for the medium-defining thunder to crash in and deliver on the massive hype that has accumulated around this thing over the years. And this issue really, finally, does the trick. John Totleben’s work capturing emotions as expressed through the body language of dance coupled with Moore’s always-rhapsodic prose captions do indeed create a work of art far greater than the sum of its parts, beauty for its own sake all while delivering five-year-old exposition, for God’s sake. This is beautiful visual and narrative poetry quite unlike anything that I’ve ever seen before. That two-page spread of Liz and Winter saying their farewells is an aching piece of tragedy. And it only takes three pages for a nightmare held too long at bay to finally inevitably reassert himself just in time for Moore’s last cliffhanger. It’s going to be a long long wait until February 4th, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

ACTION COMICS #38 — I had not heard that Jae Lee was going to be contributing but was staring at that first page kind of confused for probably a full thirty seconds before checking out the credits at the top of the page and having one of those “Ah, no shit” moments. He certainly has a distinctive style. It’s too bad that this one couldn’t have come out in October because it was definitely one of the more chilling reads I’ve had lately. Kuder/Quintana really ratchet up their game here, which it didn’t seem like it was still possible to do, but as we head into this team’s second year on the title, everybody seems to be a little bit more relaxed and at ease, nailing every beat with that much more precision. Probably the most distinctive element of this issue is the haunted facial expressions. Even the big guy looks scared as shit half of the time, which of course goes a long way toward instantly conveying that emotion to the reader. Terrific work, all around. And you’ve got to love the next issue teaser. Of course INTO THE PHANTOM ZONE!

DETECTIVE COMICS #38 — Man, this is a good-looking book. I really enjoyed every page these guys did over on FLASH, but they’ve taken it to a new level here. Buccellato’s colors, in particular, are a singular delight, some gorgeous hues that you’re not used to seeing in Gotham or really in a monthly book at all, for that matter. The wash of pink sirens bleeding through the windows in the final scene is masterful. And I quite dig Anarky’s plot. It might even be the best use of the character since his first appearance waaaay back in #608 of the dearly departed first volume of this very title. It’s funny how quickly Donal Logue has claimed the character of Bullock for me, I read every one of his lines with that cadence and delivery now, at least as best as I can imagine it. And it’s always nice to see Matches Malone out on the town. Manapul brings some serious justice on that double-page spread of the Batmobile crashing in. And, of course, that last line is kind of regrettable, but nothing more than a sign of the times, I’m afraid. Overall, these guys are doing terrific work, and I’m digging this arc much more than the first one. Here’s to many more.

BATMAN ETERNAL #40 — That was some pretty unexpected business there on the bottom of Page Five and into Page Six! Fair play, writers. Not as much so the deal with Vicki. That wasn’t supposed to be Bard who got the drop on her at the end of last issue? It seems like there are three maybe-to-definitely bad guys with brown hair all running around wearing glasses, and I keep getting them all mixed up. Selina going after Stephanie certainly has interesting possibilities in terms of character interaction. But, oh, Jim Corrigan, couldn’t you have stayed gone from this series? It’s pretty crowded as is, and I don’t care about you at all.

FUTURES END #36 — The House of Mystery! I miss that latest relaunch so much. All well and good, but this neutered Constantine is kind of painful to encounter at this point. I suppose Lady Amethyst concurs. Funny to see him on an ad for his show two pages later. I really need to catch up with that, only ever hit the pilot. He does have a pretty solid rejoinder for Bearded Kal a couple of scenes later, I will give him that. And all right, I like Terry & Plastique now, the “Yer awesome” seals the deal. While creepy voyeuristic mentor-figure looks on through his binoculars, though? Not cool, Bruce! That secret origin of Darius certainly came out of left field. Respect once again to Ryan Sook for crushing another cover, not since J.G. Jones back on 52 has someone showed up with so much consistent weekly thunder.

BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #003 — Good Lord, is this a good-looking book. Brother Marco Rudy has managed to take it to his own next level, a truly fearsome thing to behold. Just look at that opening spread, land sakes. I love how cavalier Bucky is about this whole deal, just basically decides to go with the strategy of dating the queen almost on a lark but then seems to actually fall for her. Time will tell? The last four pages might be the most beautiful of Rudy’s career thus far. Those sunset colors beneath the expanding cosmos just about make you ache with beauty, just haunting. This one reads pretty fast, but you can stare at this art for hours, just about.

THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL-GIRL #001 — At long last! I didn’t actually pick this one up on New Comic Day but had to snag it the following week after all of the love that it got. This was indeed a lot of fun. The writing was amusing and casts our protagonist as goofy but still likeable enough to become invested in, and the cartoonish art style is a great fit for the material. Kraven the Hunter is also a solid choice for an initial antagonist, though it’s still a bit relatively close to that GREAT LAKES AVENGERS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL from a few yeas back to be already throwing Galactus in the mix, seems like. Wait! Unless this is like an Ambush Bug thing and every issue is going to end with this horrifying Galactus cliffhanger that never pays off. Though I guess they’d be going with Thanos to make it a more perfect analogue, were that the case. Anyway, good clean fun to be had here. A solid read with your kid(s) if you don’t mind the lead character saying the word “butt” about a dozen times in twenty pages.

TREES #8 — Wow. Well, the folks who were complaining that there was too much character work and not enough happening can come on back now. That was rough. I could have even used a little bit more character work before the carnage. Just heartbreaking all around. I’m a little surprised by how sad these resolutions made me. Ellis did tremendous work making me care about these characters with Howard of course bringing it all home to tremendous effect. I guess this is the end of the first volume? This reminds me of when my little brother and I used to spend hours and hours playing action figures, setting up layers and layers of backstories before finally dropping the hammer and just laying waste to the entire damn ensemble. That Ellis is a cold evil bastard.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #5 — Just when shit couldn’t get more out, here comes a Kirby homage in the form of The Whizzard. Horrifying. That one guy speaking only in Vader quotes was hilarious. Rest in peace. This book is a dizzying and horrifying look into one man’s mind as it unravels and pulls us all toward the event horizon with it, circling round and round before surely inexorably taking us down the drain with it to at last be bathed in naked singularity.

THE FADE OUT #4 — Yet another installment of the goodness that Brubaker/Phillips have been spoiling us with for years, most recently complemented to maximum effect by the beautiful tones of Mrs. Breitweiser. I enjoyed the cameos in here, which is a good trick. When a famous old movie star comes in, it can sink the ship under the weight of the guest’s star power but Brubaker does a fine job here using it to enhance his character’s credibility and standing in the already ridiculous network of power players driving Hollywood. Of course, I’ll buy anything that these creators put out, but it is certainly nice to see it maintain such a consistently high level of quality.


BEST OF WEEK: ODY-C #2 — The second issue can be a really tricky beast to wrangle if you knocked the first one out of the park. I can still remember being so let down by the #2s of CASANOVA and THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY just because I wanted that rush again, that same trapdoor mind-blowing feeling of all the rules being suddenly dropkicked out the window and anything being possible. Which isn’t quite fair or realistic, and I’ve come to accept that. So, I cracked the cover on this one a bit tentatively, not expecting but halfway hoping another crazy four-page timeline would be folded up in there waiting for me, only this time there would be five pages, the inevitable escalation! But it only took this single Page One splash to set any of that trepidation to rest and assure me that we were all going to get a hell of a ride here, no problem. It’s hard to parse exactly the manner in which his talents knock me out, but penciling, inking, coloring, Christian Ward is a force of nature, that much is certain. This first shot is nothing less than the retelling of Zeus killing Cronos and taking the throne for her own, and it’s certainly a grotesque, shocking, and beautiful image. But then you turn the page, and there’s this crazed double-almost-splash of all the young gods running just amok, liberated in an instant orgy of violence and slaughter. And Zeus is narrating the whole deal. And by page’s end, we get that first shot of Promethene, who was easily the most compelling aspect of last month’s insane opening timeline. And then you turn the page again, and . . . look, just buy this book. If you didn’t already, read the first one, and then go buy this one. It’s one of the best books on the rack already, the art is insanely brilliant, and it’s the first time that Fraction’s writing has, for me, even approached the genius of CASANOVA, damn near even swinging to surpass it through the audacity of ambition alone, never even mind the dactylic/dummy hexameter he’s invented/adapted for the script, a linguistic exercise that serves as a perfect microcosm of this entire endeavor. Ripping Homer forward through space/time all the way past the present into the far future with all the ferocity of the Furies and Scylla & Charybdis combined while at the same time treating the source material with such loving deference and informing it with so much white-hot new invention and craft that we can only blink in the steaming aftermath and, staggering, assure ourselves that it has not always been thus, these tales are new and not in actuality the original songs sung hundreds and hundreds of years ago that had almost been lost and of course utterly distorted until now when we are fortunate enough to behold them at last in the unvarnished light of their naked truth.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

12/31/14

BEST OF WEEK: MIRACLEMAN ANNUAL #1 — Well! This lays to rest any concern I had that there might not be room in the mythos for compelling new material. Or maybe that should be “new?” I know that it is an old Morrison script, and it definitely feels like unearthing a time capsule. I guess this thing must have been written close to thirty years ago? It very much scans like a cover version of what Moore was doing at the time, not quite achieving the stratospheric soar of the lofty oh-so-literary language that Moore was hitting at the time, but it comes close enough to at least not be offensive. Of course, the art by Quesada/Isanove is brand new, and that’s a bit strange, digital coloring, completely modern art style, low panel-per-page count, nothing at like what was going on in those old WARRIOR eight-pagers. This first story is basically just eleven pages of a teenaged Kid Miracleman being a right bastard to a terribly outclassed priest. It’s an entertaining diversion, but ultimately, it reads like more of an appetizer than a main course. Milligan and the Allreds provide the second story, a look back at the idyllic Silver Age days when the three Miracleman guys were just hanging out without any idea of their true origin or current actual situation. Of course, the Allreds’ patented neo-retro pop-art style is a slam-dunk perfect fit and makes me want them in regular rotation on something like this. If Dan Slott will ever untie them from that silver surfboard! Kudos to whomever worked on the backmatter. There’s normally not that much to it, but a Morrison script and notes on what Quesada did to amplify the material (including basing Johnny’s look on a young Morrison himself!) really goes a long way toward justifying the price point. Fine work, all around. It will be interesting to see if this is a one-off or if Marvel tries to produce more new material for this title after Our Neil finally brings the original run to its long-awaited conclusion.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 — I have a confession to make. I never really liked Coulson that much to begin with. I was actually surprised years later to learn that he had even been introduced all the way back in IRON MAN. I kind of only started retaining his presence around that first THOR, I guess. As much as I dig on Clark Gregg’s fine work now, it wasn’t until he stood out under the extra-quippy and grueling character beats of Whedon that he won me over. And now, of course, he’s had a season and a half, and I’m all onboard. And ready to dig on this comic. I mean, Waid & Pacheco. Editorial’s not exactly slumming as far as talent for this “adaptation.” It was certainly a dick move to hit the $4.99 price point for thirty pages, but I guess we expect nothing less from Mighty Marvel at this point. Only, the thing is, I had a hard time with this, and it kind of made me feel like those early days of Coulson, where there was this ostensibly badass agent getting shoved down our throats who didn’t seem badass in any way, shape, or form. His thing being that he’s a lifelong fanboy who’s leveraged that attention to detail to a ranking position at S.H.I.E.L.D. is not something you can hang a series on, or even a character, really. And I’ve been at this for enough decades to know that you’ve got to forget about continuity and just enjoy the ride you’re on that minute without worrying about where it fits in to all the other rides you’ve been on in the past, but I just couldn’t help it. So, this is 616? Meaning, this is an alternate continuity to the TV show? I guess I can wrap my brain around that, it just seems like a strange play. Like, all the things that happened on the show haven’t happened to these people? H.Y.D.R.A.’s not so much a problem for these folks, right? The Nick Fury who recruited Coulson does not in any way resemble Jules Winfield? Ultimately, the answer to these questions shouldn’t help or hinder enjoyment of the issue at hand, but I just couldn’t help it, and what was happening on-panel was not enough to make me care enough to suspend these nagging questions. It’s Waid, so it seems like I should give this one another couple issues at least to win me over, but we’ll see.

FUTURES END #35 — All the love triangling took a strange turn when Madison kissed an unconscious Tim with poor old Jason just hanging out learning what it feels like to liplock another dude. YES to Lana Lang and Fifty-Sue. That is a fantastic development. It’s terrific to see the Creature Commandos, but I don’t know how you bring them in and just use them for a one-page cameo. Maybe next week. I am all about Amethyst carrying Frank back to Earth on her back to save him from dying. They must have been high-fiving one another in the writers’ room when they were coming up with this stuff. I bet there was never really a “room,” per se. Oh, the existential longing and angst of an increasingly virtual/digital world! Plastique has absolutely got to stop calling Terry “McG,” that is fucking unacceptable, not even counting that douchebag who directed the CHARLIE’S ANGELS flicks. “McG, I ain’t playin’, yo!” Only one of those words did not actually appear in dialogue, it is my misfortune to report. Hell of a last scene to go out on, though. Most last pages of this series sneak right up on me, and I turn to the credits with a big, “Awwwww!”

BATMAN ETERNAL #39 — Ah, Felix Ruiz! This guy I dig. The rest of this issue hums along nicely in the snow. Not really anything else to say about it besides that was a pretty surprising and of course ominous last page.

BATMAN ANNUAL #3 — As solid as I find Tynion’s work, I was totally going to give this a skip on the basis that I don’t have much luck with random DC fill-in talent, especially on a $5 annual, but Brother Ben up at Capstone would not let me give it back on the basis of how good it was and I trust him, so here we are. He was right. Roge Antonio and Nick Filardi do terrific work throughout, but it’s Tynion’s gripping psychological portrayal of avowed Joker skeptic Thomas Blackcrow that gives this tale its weight. And everybody on this does such a great job with Joker, he’s a little bit more restrained than Snyder has had him of late, and less is always more with this guy. It’s much scarier when he’s biting his lower lip and just about to break out into laughter than when he’s already cackling madly. Of course, we can see the end coming a mile away, but as in all things Joker-related, the joy is not as much to be found in the inevitable destination as it is the execution of the thing.

GRAYSON ANNUAL #1 — On the other hand, I was in no way reticent to throw down $5 on this one based on the strength of the writers alone after the bulletproof track record from the main series so far. And I know I should probably judge this on its own merit, not compared to the previous annual I just read, but this one was just all right. It was solid but lacking in the twists and narrative surprises that you kind of need in an espionage caper like this. Stephen Mooney & Jeromy Cox provided capable art, the rain was a nice motif, and I will confess to a little surprise on the last page, but Tom King & Tim Seeley have already set such a high bar for themselves, they’ve got to swing a little bit harder than this to knock me out at this point. I mean, GRAYSON: FUTURES END, anyone?


EAST OF WEST #16 — Well, I thought that little short that kicked off the sourcebook was like a prequel or something but obviously not. I have got to say that it was pretty . . . uncomfortable sitting in my relaxing living room in Austin, Texas reading those first few pages after the opening titles. So thrilled to see Bel escape a hangin’, ably abetted by that Ranger who showed up around #7. The Texans are the best characters in this whole post-apocalyptic disaster, no problem. Dragotta & Martin continue to illustrate some of the most dynamic action sequences in comics, just stunning breakneck work.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

12/24/14

ROBIN RISES: ALPHA #1 — The whole way they handled this confuses me. I get wanting to involve Kubert if we all just put that abortion SON OF BATMAN thing out of our minds and oh my God, I’m so sorry for even bringing it up, but it feels a little weird for ANYthing that’s a big deal with Damian at this point to be happening anywhere but in BATMAN AND ROBIN under the pristine stewardship of Gleason/Gray/Kalisz. Still, okay, Kubert. It’s Christmas Eve. Let’s check this out:

Well, huh. The first eleven pages appear to be a redux of the last scene of last week’s stellar BATMAN AND ROBIN #37. There are like three pages in there of what Alfred was doing before they all came back to the cave, but it no shit takes us eleven pages through this $5 comic book to arrive at the exact same cliffhanger where they left us last week. And Kubert redraws The Hug. And it’s nowhere near as good (how could it be?). I mean, it’s fine on its own, but it’s really strange to revisit this entire scene. If you skipped #37 and just picked this up, you’re an idiot and deserve to be on your own. They should structure this for the people who actually bother to show up for everything. And then the resolution to the cliffhanger is . . . Bruce is okay. That’s it. He passes out, Alfred takes his pulse, there are a couple of beats and then on the next page, Bruce is just okay. No explanation. All right, that’s fine, we’ll let it slide, here comes Kalibak. Terrific fight scene. Among other stellar moments, Jason Todd hits dude with a flamethrower while yelling, “BURN, YOU SON OF A BITCH!” I really do think that’s wonderful. Oh, but Damian’s got superpowers! What an incredible moment this would have been! If they hadn’t spoiled this fact all over the Internet three months ago. Or not run that terrific two-page splash at the back of Every Single DC Book last week. Who makes these decisions? Does the sales increase offset the frustration over spoilage for folks who are already all in? I guess it must.

To Tomasi’s credit, of course he lands the aftermath with the perfection to which we’ve grown accustomed. Tim, Barbara, and Jason handing over their R-insignias to Damian, who responds with his trademark “tt” is only trumped by the devastation of the newly resurrected little fella calling Alfred by his first name. I’m not kidding. That was fucking HUGE. And we do certainly have a very interesting dynamic for our duo going forward. The last page is perfect. Overall, this special fumbled the ball a lot more than it did things right and was a really disconcerting read after last week’s perfection, but I’m confident that #38 of the main series will once again be one of the very best reads of the month.

AVENGERS·X-MEN: AXIS #9 — And so, that’s that. Every time they get me. I say I’m probably not going to buy the next crossover but then they line up some enticing writer/artist combo who I’ve got to at least check out, and the first issue is solid enough, and then momentum builds in the middle, and then the last issue is always all, “Problem resolved, check out these three to five new books, coming next week from Marvel!” I mean, the last three pages of this thing are a montage of What’s Coming Next from Marvel narrated by captions from the diary of a still-benevolent Sabretooth who might or might not be writing a love letter to Logan, who Editorial recently killed elsewhere. That might read like a bit of a spoiler here after the fact, but I promise you, it was kind of a spoiler for me when it was happening the first time. A limp ending and nowhere near worthy of all the momentum that Remender had built up over two years in UNCANNY AVENGERS.

FUTURES END #34 — Santa Claus’s annual visit cannot stop the DC weeklies! It’s always a pleasure to get Zircher back on interiors. It seems like Madison would be a slightly quicker study while fighting for her/their lives. I can’t believe that the writers are actually making Fifty-Sue a sympathetic character, but it’s working so far. And I don’t care too much about that new version of Plastique but certainly wouldn’t wish the specter of that last page on anybody, oh no.

BATMAN ETERNAL #38 — I was more of a fan of Mutti’s lines this week out. Am also still digging the newly unfolding dynamic between Batman and Penny-Two. And credit where credit is due, the ad folks almost always find a way to fuck up the story flow as much as possible, but following up Gordon’s assertion on the bottom of Page Five that he still believes in Gotham with that Penguin ad for the show Monday nights on Fox is golden. Scarecrow’s cabal certainly did not last a long time. My actual name is Roy, so I couldn’t help but find that LE ROI EST MORT sentiment scrawled in Bane’s blood a bit unsettling. Selina as The Boss is working for me.

BLACK SCIENCE #11 — Okay, this book is basically batshit insane. That’s the long and short of it, no more calls, we have a winner. It’s quite an ambitious set-up with a weighty premise that legitimately took this entire first year to completely unpack, and I have to say that going back through the whole run in a single go will only enhance my appreciation and understanding of it. How many Grant McKays will die before Remender is satisfied? It is a shame to lose Dean White, whose work on colors has been so key to enhancing Scalera’s cascading catastrophic lines throughout, but I’m sure they’ll have a more-than-capable permanent replacement lined up. Fans of parallel-universe-hopping indie science fiction need look no further than this glorious madness!

DAREDEVIL #011 — Waid is just a beast. He is a shining example of how to keep an ongoing superhero serial compelling and engaging, month after month and year after year. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that collaborators Chris Samnee & Matthew Wilson are also firing at the top of their game. This book has never been hurting, but the move to SF and this new sub-plot about Matt’s memoirs has breathed new life into this whole deal. It is great fun to watch Matt try to come to terms with this issue’s plot about an irreverent stuntman who’s appropriating any and all identities and taglines. Easily one of the most consistently high-performing books on the rack.

ALL-NEW X-MEN ANNUAL #1 — Pretty devastating work, here. I certainly enjoyed the first part of this story, but Bendis really lands this concluding installment to tremendous effect. Terrific work laying the groundwork for a still relatively new character. And, of course, Andrea Sorrentino continues to tear it up throughout. I was a big fan of those double-page splashes of Eva advancing through time. A cool trick how they hit actual publication dates, so that the original Human Torch was actually in 1944, Galactus was standing amidst the requisite Kirby Krackle in 1966, and then Secret Invasion was right there to be found in 2008. That last one was almost as pivotal of an event in the Marvel Universe, Bendis, you’re right, old friend! But all that struggle, finally making it back to 2099 only to encounter Doctor Anthony Stark quoting Obi-Wan Kenobi inevitably led to a gut-wrenching last page that actually got me choked up. Really amazing character work to be found here. It’s a great feeling to be this invested in a new mutant after all of these years.

UNCANNY X-MEN #029 — Man, Bendis has ratcheted up the stakes on this one considerably! Every scene of this one is great fun all by itself, but they really build momentum as the issue goes along. You’ve got to love Illyana busting in on Strange & Clea in the past to get some help for the current crisis, and then that is a nice counterpoint to Round 87 of Scott vs Magneto for the heart and soul of mutantkind. This segueways perfectly back to the headquarters, and, wow, Eva Bell has so much more gravitas and weight as a character now, no problem, a deft turn of characterization from Bendis, I’ll say again. Then there’s that climax back on the mountain with Scott & Matthew & Illyana, which looks fairly catastrophic and would be momentous enough all by itself, but that last page is so much heavier, even. This is a really exciting time to be reading these books, Bendis has everything elevated past a fever pitch. Bendis X-Men and Hickman Avengers both are just freaking out right now. And speaking of perfect segueways . . .

BEST OF WEEK: NEW AVENGERS #028 — I didn’t have a chance to get my pulsing hands on most of these books until it was actually 2015, and I couldn’t believe that more people weren’t freaking out about what goes down in this thing right here. Hickman has labored across many months and issues to set all this shit up and now he’s just supercolliding it together with reckless abandon! Old Man Steve drops Banner from a parallel universe on his foes in a double-page splash that is as iconic as anything that Deodato has ever drawn. I love limp Captain Britain just going flying, an interesting counterpoint to T’Challa, who apparently cannot be taken by surprise. Then enter Sunspot’s A.I.M. Avengers with the Shang-Chi army. This book is out of its mind. Steve is sure he’s outstrategized Reed, and if anyone was going to do it, it would have been him. But that’s Reed Richards. I really love him narrating this whole thing to Valeria. Hickman has got this thing cranked up to a point of maximum tension, it’s hard to see how the ever-escalating weight of all these plots and characters will be able to sustain itself from total collapse for a few months’ more.

12/17/14

THE MULTIVERSITY: THUNDERWORLD ADVENTURES #1 — Of course, I was looking forward to the return of Morrison/Quitely the most when some of these were announced (and typing that, I realize that I don’t actually know some of the remaining creative teams for THE MULTIVERSITY; Jim Lee was recently announced on the next book after the handbook, I believe, and that certainly looks like Frazer Irving art on all those terrifying Frazer-Irving-looking characters in the ads this week, but I’m not sure who’s left; I assume Reis will be returning for #2 a la JHWIII in SEVEN SOLDIERS?). But a reasonably close second was regular Morrison collaborator (SEAGUY, BATMAN AND ROBIN) Cameron Stewart on this Marvel Family riff. And what a riff it is! Why can’t this just be a book or an eight-issue mini, at least? I keep wanting that to happen. We open with some self-aware narration by a Wizard Shazam who seems a bit more meta-aware than usual, but that isn’t enough to hold off Dr. Sivana’s technological Rock of Eternity. Sivana soon has his three kids all powered up and down in the middle of Fawcett City, and Stewart’s economical lines convey the action perfectly, not too fussy, just bold fluid superhero dynamism. This is easily the most straight-ahead of the THE MULTIVERSITY issues so far. I think it’s the first one in which the ULTRA COMICS issue doesn’t make an appearance with Sivana instead getting the idea to form basically a Sivana Corps from the S.O.S. issue starring pulp Doc Fate and all those yahoos. I’ve been finally working my way through a reread of Moore’s MIRACLEMAN to get caught up on the Marvel reprints, so this was a cool juxtaposition. I guess the fact that I was doing that along with this following PAX made me expect this to be more of a commentary on the MIRACLEMAN run than it turned out to be, but I suppose Morrison drew the line at making more than one of these essentially a cover version of Eighties Moore work. “All of this was my idea.” I love the slightly updated redesign on the Lieutenant Marvels reporting for duty. Cap hitting the multiversal subway station has got to be the double-page splash of the week, what a gorgeous piece of pop art. Well, Stewart is certainly giving old JHWIII a run for his money, anyway. I have to tell you, though, given the way that every single one of these issues has ended, I was a pretty concerned reader once it was Black Sivana time. But what a stunning sentiment at the end. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but I really loved the last three pages on this about as much as any ending I’ve read lately, particularly the way that it blasts through all of your preconceptions that everything about this series so far has taught you to have. Absolutely terrific.

BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN AND ROBIN #37 — And now, that is how you do THAT. Tomasi/Gleason/Gray/Kalisz /Mangual bring eighteen months’ worth of narrative to a payoff that is heartfelt, action-packed, gripping, earned, and even manages to maintain its suspense despite this industry’s short-sighted and stupid proclivity to ruin almost any significant plot twist three months ahead of time. Every beat of this, every page does exactly what it’s supposed to do and then goes the distance past that point. This holds true on a narrative level from every single collaborator. The scripted beats fall right where they should. The layouts are dynamic and do indeed crackle. The finishes provide an ideal contrast between light and dark, and then the colors throw the entire climax into sharp relief as the words carry the reader effortlessly along the way. This is the first time since the reboot that Darkseid has projected the weight, menace, and intrinsic danger that Kirby embedded in his DNA almost half a century ago now. It’s hard not to just run through this thing page by page, panel by panel, and explain why this entire thing is perfect, from the Giffen “The Great Darkness Saga” homage on the first page to Ace growling on the next page followed by Darkseid’s pitch-perfect line about the Mother Box while crushing it before the monster payoff of that double-page splash. Really, the shock of that page-turn to Pages Four and Five is as close a thing as I’ve seen to original “Fourth World” material as I can recall in a long time, the breathless sense of dynamism and anything being possible as the action seems about to leap off of the page and into this very set of “three-dimensional spatial coordinates.” On Page Six and then again on Page Nine, Gleason does a terrific job capturing the depth of Barbara’s panic at the thought of being stranded on Apokolips through just her eyes. Terrific fakeout on Page Seven, I really did think it was going to be that easy. But of course, Bruce has to work for it quite a bit more than that. Another stunning splash on Page Eight. Terrific escalation in the fight between Batman and Darkseid until that perfect blast on Page Fourteen that leaves the scalded Bat-shadow from the emblem’s blast on the wall with only the Darkseid silhouette. But, all that was only preamble. This issue is so incredible that Batman in Hellbat armor vs Darkseid is merely the opening act! The climactic sequence of this book might be the most gripping that I read all year long. Bruce roars into the cave with less than four minutes before his armor overloads and only that amount of time to save his son with a sliver of the Chaos Shard in a nail-biting sequence illustrated to perfection by Gleason/Gray/Kalisz. And even though DC and even some of the book’s creators themselves spoiled the outcome two months ago by pasting next month’s solicits all over everything, that last scene plays out to perfection and really just about broke me down. It was the callback shot that really did it, that same shot of the father/son embrace at the end of #14 that they used to just batter us into submission already once with the shot of Bruce holding Damian’s lifeless body at the end of #18. This was the best possible way to bring him back imaginable. The looks on Barbara and Alfred and Tim’s faces threaten to steal the show, but nothing can trump the smile on Bruce’s face as he scores the biggest win of his entire tortured and really quite sad life coupled with the momentum of the son hurling himself toward his father, arms clasped around him. 2/27/13 is a day that will forever live in infamy in my heart, and I have always vehemently argued that to undo that death would cheapen the story and its impact upon the reader. I am so happy to have been proven wrong. Maybe the best is still yet to come. Which is an amazing thing to feel in the caves beneath Wayne Manor as opposed to soaring high above the skyscrapers of Metropolis.






BATMAN #37 — Snyder/Capullo carry on the good fun with the rampant Joker virus here. The opening page is a great callback to #17 or whatever that issue of DEATH OF THE FAMILY was that opened with one of the best Joker splashes in all of time and space. Snyder working in the line “My kids both had their tonsils out the day before that roof collapse,” into Gordon’s Gotham Pres recap is the dialogue that we deserve. That whole page between them, really. I also dig Alfred calling this Joker’s masterpiece; that is a pretty nifty way to substantially up the stakes with a single panel. But then, there’s that crazy twist on Page Ten. Capullo drops a bit of sleight-of-hand genius in Panel Five, I straight up thought that that face was ash falling from Gordon’s cigarette on my first pass through, but then the next panel sent me doubling right back. That face! And the line about the Gordon kids’ tonsils slams right back into an almost-immediate payoff. This is not the kind of thing you pull off in the first or second year of a continuous run, Wednesday Night Faithful! These men complete each other’s sentences now, in their own homes, without even realizing that their collaborators are also uttering apparently disjointed phrases aloud. And but what a double-scene finale. You know, I appreciate an eight-page backup as much as the next fella. Especially in this day and age of Merry Marvel $3.99 Twenty-Pagers. But following up the feature presentation with anything at all is almost disrespectful, no matter how good the backup is. Yow.

BATMAN ETERNAL #37 — This is another moving-things-along issue that doesn’t really hold up too well as a single. Andrea Mutti’s art looks a bit rushed and is a dip from the Fabok sickness that I’m still recovering from that happened just a couple of weeks back. I don’t really care about the haunting of Batwing or Scarecrow’s merry band as of yet. It is of course interesting to see Selina bat Bruce around like a kitty-cat with her toy. Here’s hoping next week has some more meat in it.

FUTURES END #33 — Now, that is a goddamn cover. Ryan Sook murders it every week, but come on now. Lopresti shows up to deliver even more thunder. I was certainly sad when we cut away from The Atom encountering the true face of Father Time, was hoping this would be another single-setting issue where all kinds of shit goes down like has been happening. So, is Father Time kin to Mister Mind by way of Lovecraft, or what is the deal here? Cole’s reaction to Fifty-Sue commandeering the call is priceless. Who knew he was so great at sitcom beats? We need an odd-couple book starring him and Azzarello’s Orion, as blasphemous as that sounds. For someone whose sole purpose in this timeline is exterminating that Brother Eye, old Terry is falling down on the job pretty hard and not even blinded by sex. The expository conversation between Madison & Jason on their first page is just the worst. “As you know, Madison, I can’t feel the wind rushing through your hair. That’s why we need to be flying to Columbia now, Madison. That’s what’s making the wind rush.” And Doctor Polaris should in no way be a cliffhanger, we’ve seen that coming all along. That is pretty limp. All told, though, this issue was better than the BE this week, can’t help but compare them.

FABLES #147 — This felt a bit like filler for the next-to-next-to-next-to-last-issue. I’m sure the tradewaiters won’t mind because they’ll just barrel on through to the actual Happily Ever After, but this entire thing does nothing but jump back and forth between two conflicts and then refuses to resolve one of them, with the other one never really being in doubt either. The pages are, as usual, gorgeous, but it feels funny for Willingham to drop the hammer the way he did back in #144 or 145 and then just hit the coast for this month. This is mitigated somewhat by the fairly ingenious conceit of resolving the various fates of such a crowded ensemble with these backups that have been running in this arc, and this month’s “The Last Story of Beauty and The Beast” is certainly no exception. Here’s to nothing but thunder for the final three issues of this fantastic long-running series.

WYTCHES #3 — I dug this one all right, but it kind of left me cold in a way that the first two didn’t, and I’m not sure why. There wasn’t enough escalation, perhaps. I maybe shouldn’t hold this one to the same standard as THE WAKE, but then again, all we’re doing is trading out Murphy for Jock, so it’s not like the talent isn’t still ridiculously stacked. I’m sure that it’s intentional and a reflection of the dad’s descent into some kind of panic-driven fever-dream madness, but the absolutely disjointed way that those last few scenes hit on the final four pages put me off. There’s nothing to grab hold of, from a narrative point of view, at least as far as is apparent in this installment. I assume that’s really Sailor there on the last page and that the wytch really has her, but this is the first time all issue that we’ve seen her in 2014, unless you count when she just popped up a couple pages before that, but then the jump-cut on the following page made it seem like that was just her dad hallucinating, so then I’m inclined to think this is just another hallucination, though I doubt it is. There’s no real sense of purchase here in a way that never happened in THE WAKE, no matter how over-the-top balls-out fantastic events got. The art remains immaculate, of course. Hollingsworth’s hand-painted spatters do so much work creating a sense of dread throughout the atmosphere, even back in good old 2011. This is still quality but hoping for a bit of a bump next time.

ZERO #13 — Okay, this, maybe I’d be better served with the trades after all. I think that this is only the second time that I’ve actually heard of an artist before he or she showed up on this book, but I was a huge fan of Ponticelli’s back on Lemire’s cancelled FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. book, so was already all dialed in for the panelwork, but this thing doesn’t pull its weight for me as a self-contained reading experience. There’s a big fight and a lot of blood and a few Fuck Yous, but there’s no emotional heft, nothing to make me care about any of it.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #6 — I still adore the art. But I also still can’t quite get dialed into caring about these people. McKelvie’s diagram of the bedroom was good fun and recalled YOUNG AVENGERS shenanigans. But our heroine’s decision to bravely get on Twitter and start shilling for con love is not the stuff that dreams are made of, at least not the ones that float through this head. Bring back PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL. Please.

EAST OF WEST: THE WORLD — I am glad that they released this thing, not a moment too soon. Hickman’s canny enough not to bail on the sequentials entirely, so we get six pages from Dragotta/Martin telling the tale of those cute li’l horsemen roping themselves a new bronco before we get to the meat of the book, some cold, hard, and sharp Hickman graphics, son, detailing all those things that you always kind of wondered about those territories what used to be these great United States but were always too distracted by all of the eye-popping insanity erupting from these pages every month to actually articulate. Things like year of independence or geographic area or population or GDP or currency or a really handy little bar graph letting you know just how much military or political strength or political stability or long-term viability that The Confederacy or the great fallen of Republic of Texas has (spoilers: not very damn much for the latter). It’s all really quite fascinating and a great way to get your hooks into this insane world just a little bit more firmly.

FANTASTIC FOUR #014 — What an off-kilter way to open the issue! Stellar art, as always, but I couldn’t believe that that wasn’t Victor with his face blurred out. Robinson got me. It’s a pretty ballsy retcon to just introduce a new fella who is not only responsible for all of the trouble since this latest run began but whose influence dates all the way back to the halcyon days of The King himself, but it plays pretty well here, all things considered. That’s a gorgeous double-page splash of all the panels from the past 54 years of FF glory. You have got to love Peter and powerless Johnny swinging around trying to get to the bottom of things. Hickman’s run implied this as well, but I can’t believe Marvel doesn’t just give those guys their own book. You know Slott would write it on the side in a heartbeat. I do think that last shot would have been better served without dialogue, or at least with less dialogue than seven syllables’ worth. Since I’m now searching for total verisimilitude in the dialogue of scenes featuring an invisible, force-field-wielding woman and her rock-skinned companion squaring off against a winged embodiment of the American ideal and the King of Atlantis. But this should be a solid home-stretch here from these guys, I’m thinking. Glad they’re bringing back the original numbering, I really felt like an asshole buying FANTASTIC FOUR #004 in 2014, you know?

ALL-NEW X-MEN #034 — I never got onboard with Millar’s ULTIMATE X-MEN situation, but it’s interesting enough to see how this Jean interacts with the Teen Jean we’ve come to know and love (and swoon over). Just Jeans hugging! I’m thinking Teen Hank alone with Victor Van Damme or-whatever-Ellis-named-him is a reasonably dangerous combination. The Bendis Express rides on!

AVENGERS·X-MEN: AXIS #8 — Well, now it’s certainly getting down to it. And Yu is on hand for increased cup size. I mean, that splash of Doom and Brother Voodoo teleporting in to take out Wanda, you just want to scream at Daniel: “Be careful, you can’t handle the weight, you’ll never stay aloft!” Only Wanda knows how. But as much shit as I love giving the guy, Yu has certainly come a long way, I couldn’t believe how clean those lines on Spider-Man were in the opening scene, very appropriate to the character before returning to his more signature scratchier style that’s more appropriate with Thor cleaving a nice little piece out of Apocalypse. It’s funny now, while this is all hitting the fan, to think about how this sounded in pitch. “It’s like AVENGERS VS X-MEN. But different!” I mean, barely. These are all solid beats moving everything into place for the big finale. You can’t get more old school vs new than Old Man Steve in armor supporting the weight of White Onslaught Skull and telling Evil Captain Falcon to fuck off. That requires some shifting about.

ANNIHILIATOR #4 — It’s getting crazier and more manic by the page! Of course, we need a new character to bounce these two guys off of, enter Luna Kozma just in time for a high-speed chase to avoid hails of bullets. I suspect Morrison is seeding this thing with more self-aware ADAPTATION-style meta-moments than is immediately apparent on the first couple reads. The screenplay segments are certainly getting even further out than they were before. The color scheme is interesting while Ray is sleeping; Nomax turns on the television and the static blue and purple tones are a match for what’s happening with the screenplay pages. Everything’s bleeding together. This is a dark and mean little story that certainly doesn’t make you feel better about the world, but I can’t look away from the whole evil mess, the wreckage of it all.


SANDMAN: OVERTURE #4 — Well, this certainly goes to another strange place while J.H. Williams III continues to give the appearance of evoking the furthest, most fluid regions of dreamspace right there on the page where you can see them shimmer. What a great narrative beat to have the first five pages take place in the gutters of a page late in #3. Only in SANDMAN is that kind of thing not only not cheating but kind of intrinsically expected and appreciated. As terrific as the series has been so far, it has admittedly been a great deal of set-up and folks walking around uttering perfect Gaiman dialogue, so it is nice to see a bit of actual confrontation breaking out here. The story about the cat-creature that was the annulet gave me déjà vu, and I can’t figure out if it’s just the whole deal with Rose Walker from way back in THE DOLL’S HOUSE being a dream vortex or something else. I should have probably reread the original series before this one came out. Ha, I probably have another year to knock it out before this sequel gets done. At least a year! At any rate, this is certainly worth the wait. JHWIII is operating at such a high level at this point that he really has no peer, and I can’t think of anyone who is better suited to not only navigate but depict the winding ways of Morpheus’s doomed journey than him.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12/10/14

BEST OF WEEK: LITTLE NEMO: RETURN TO SLUMBERLAND #3 — Well! The only way to crank this situation up, I suppose, is to do an M.C. Escher issue. Now, Gabriel Rodriguez is just showing off! Never even mind the Tessellated Tower exterior on Page Four, the romp through, up, down, and around it on Page Six opposite the birds turning into the fish turning into the bees on Page Seven is a stunning technical masterpiece that blows away just about anything I’ve seen lately this side of Quitely a couple weeks back on PAX AMERICANA. And then there are those gnomes/fairies, I swear. They haunt me. Nelson Daniel and Eric Shanower certainly do their share of heavy lifting as well, but it is Rodriguez’s insane mastery of perspective and ridiculously-tight-but-never-fussy linework that make these pages well worth revisiting over and over again. People throw around the term “master class” all the time these days, but that is exactly what is going on right here. A gift to us all.

SUPREME: BLUE ROSE #5 — This one seemed a little bit skinnier than previous issues? Maybe a couple more no-dialogue pages?  Takes just as long to read, though, you can really get lost in Tula Lotay’s lush art. And this guy is Doc Rocket, too, I remembered that I had one in an old manuscript when that name surfaced last month in SAVAGE DRAGON, I think it was, but it just goes to show you that we’re all tapping into the same ideaspace. When we’re really really lucky. I dearly hope that the NEXT ISSUE is not a tease and that it’s just a straight Professor Night issue with only a single two-page non-sequitur back to the main action. Ha ha. Maybe some day, Supreme will appear in these pages. God, some people must really hate this book.

SEX CRIMINALS #9 — I’m not sure that our eponymous duo are in such a good place that introducing John’s porn-star sex-crush into the mix is necessarily going to be the best call for smoother sailing. They did bring that around nicely, though, I was certainly wondering who the hell was montage-narrating there at the beginning. This was another issue of Good Clean Sexy Fun. “The Lick-ed and the Divine” made a seriously inspired run at it, but the letters column was once again better than the sequential content. All of these people are like my friends or something, it is a source of great comfort to hear them all keep going on about their orgasms and such.

BITCH PLANET #1 — Rian Hughes has no problem claiming the trophy for best design of the week. Frankly, this is a terrific book, but it just barely manages to live up to that insane rocking exploitation cover and the fake (fake?) ads on the back. I was just cruising along totally lulled by all this smooth-sailin’ hyperviolent action, so that bait-and-switch definitely took me by surprise. Though that last line of dialogue was a bit on-the-nose for my taste. It looks like we really don’t quite know what this book is going to be like on a regular basis, so it will be interesting to check out the rhythms of the next issue that will presumably not follow such a pilot-episode vibe. Good on Kelly Sue, it looks like she has another hit on her hands! Several of my local friends who almost never mention the books they buy or even seldom buy books every Wednesday were talking about this before Wednesday and all the way up through the weekend. BITCH PLANET is here.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #6 — Well, goddammit, but this right here really and truly seems to be the best issue so far. This really deserves Best of Week, but Rodriguez had to come along and ruin it for everyone. It is a goddamn subversive thing what these boys have done, pulling that little trick at the end of the first arc and then immediately pulling a 180 and making the antagonist sympathetic through flashback. Earl who-was-it-now? This whole deal pivots on the mentor relationship between young Coach Boss and his future defensive coordinator Coach Big. That two-page training montage alone is some of the best comic-booking of a really impressive week. But extra points for the spread of the young lad coming into his daddy’s trailer and encountering a drug-fueled orgy with stolen fighting chickens as innocent bystanders. The expression on the face of that dude on the couch at panel-left who’s got the cowgirl riding him is maybe my favorite part of the entire issue. I hope his arc is next.

PUNKS: THE COMIC #3 — Just when this series gave the complete impression that it could go no further, Marko Ramius arrives on Page Six to make all that has come before seem like a bastion of linear sanity. “PLEASE, ALEC BALDWIN, ONLY YOU CAN HELP ME DEFECT!” Dog is not Alec Baldwin, from the past or any other time! But then Young Alec Baldwin is on hand, as well. And so handsome! And there is Capt. Ramius in his Zardoz uniform referring to Dog as “Highlander!” But who is there left to save Thanksgiving but the Baldwin brothers? This comic is wonderful and makes almost no sense at all. It doesn’t have to. Also, there is the best Rick Remender interview. Be still, my heart!

SAVAGE DRAGON #100 — This is, indeed, a “SUPER SPECTACULAR!” Over the past 22 years, Erik Larsen has written and drawn this title continuously with no fill-ins (I think? Surely?), at this point vaulting past every other creator with the exception of Dave Sim (obligatory readability/entertainment value joke here). Larsen hits his usual monthly quota of twenty pages and then writes almost the entire remainder of the issue, bringing in serious talents such as legendary Herb Trimpe and Chris Burnham on art. The entire issue is a rocking good time, with various stories referencing and flowing into one another. The narrative content of particular note has got to be the three-way that goes down in the first story between Malcolm, his girlfriend Maxine, and her best friend Angel. Who is also Malcolm’s step-sister. The way that it just came out of nowhere seemed pretty nonchalant. I completely buy Malcolm being all the way up for it, but maybe Angel could have taken like half a page more of convincing? I pretty much bought it, though I was expecting there to be at least a little bit of an Internet uproar about it. I guess everyone’s okay with it. What liberated times we live in! Man, these last two issues, Larsen is on fire and grooving possibly stronger than he ever has been. He is, no doubt,  planning to take us for quite a ride here in this next little bit.
(sexual innuendoes embedded within this review: 5. Did you catch them all?)

ASTRO CITY #18 — Brent Anderson returns, and once again, the reader has cause to bemoan the fact that there isn’t just a series about these people. Why does it have to always keep shifting focus? Of course, that might be ASTRO CITY’s best draw, but there are so many tantalizing glimpses into situations that we may or may not ever revisit, and even then, who knows how long it will be? The first half of the issue brings us up to date with the status quo of an aging Quarrel & Crackerjack before flashing back to the former’s secret origin, which is perfectly compelling taken on its own, before Busiek leaves us on a decidedly somber and melancholy note. It’s a moment of quiet reflection, all the more affecting for its lack of bombast amidst the nigh-infinite possibility of sudden shifts in plot development or characterization. No big twist to be found here, just our protagonist staring out her window at the great metropolis, wondering how it’s all going to end. There’s nothing like this book.

BATGIRL #36 — The crew finds a way to dial it up a notch here for the third time out. Tarr/Wicks continue to drop absolute justice over Stewart breakdowns with an energy and excitement that is completely infectious. Dagger Type is just the worst, though, there is no question about that. Of course, our heroine is more than a match for such ridiculous antics and manages to work in a positive message about managing her own social media presence by issue’s end. Very topical. Oooooh, it’s almost enough to make me not yearn for the acutalization of that slamming Cooke cover.

BATMAN ETERNAL #36 — Vicki Vale dives into the secret origin of Jason Bard and does not like what she finds. It is also regrettably similar motivation to what that Dr. Yamakaze fellow has steering him in a Dr. Psychowardly direction five years later over in the other weekly. And Julia calls our hero “Bats,” which you know I cannot stand from anyone but certainly seems out of character for her. An interesting twist at the end here, but we’ve been coasting for about two full issues now.

FUTURES END #32 — So, it looks like that as grim as things seem for the old Wayne family fortune over there in ETERNAL, everything gets resolved nicely some time in the next five years. And I don’t understand why Terry has never had a slice of pizza. They don’t have pizza in the future? But there is still Coke? I just, I just don’t get it. There is a distinctly KNIGHT RIDER vibe about this month’s page with Brother Eye, you could totally hear him addressing Mr. Terrific in a K.I.T.T. voice. And now Grifter & Lana are totally rocking an odd-couple romcom. That’s a little weird. And but the doctor, enough with the internal monologuing. We get it. Your wife is dead. It’s the League’s fault. Cannot believe we burned a whole page on nothing but that. Ditto for Jason & Madison sniping at each other because they’re stuck sharing the same space. After Jason tells her that he needs to see Yamakaze’s lab, I really wanted her to launch into a diatribe about how the League killed the dude’s wife. That would have been funny. All of these shortcomings are totally mitigated, however, by the last scene, which is bananas. Father Time jumping for joy because of all the monsters is just the best.

UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #1 — With her superior Bachalo character design and combustible Australian temper, Eva Bell is arguably the strongest of the new batch of mutants that Bendis has introduced in this title, though there’s been so much going on, he hasn’t had much time to zoom in on her or anyone else to really flesh them out to a significant degree. That ends now as we get the story of her missing years, how she went from a teenager to a seven-years-or-so (?) older-but-still-young woman. This is only the first part, but it’s already quite a bit more heartbreaking than the aftermath has hinted at. I won’t spoil the particulars (I really never like to spoil anything, you know, Wednesday Night Faithful), but Eva’s various time-jumping provides cameos from a couple of noted Marvel stalwarts that propel the action ever forward. Hot off her stint with Lemire on GREEN ARROW, Andrea Sorrentino turns in a gorgeous run of pages that surely rank with her finest output. Everybody is certainly doing their job well because I made it to the last pages and was already getting a bit sorry that the story was coming to a close before getting hit with the usually-dreaded TO BE CONTINUED. I’m actually looking forward to an annual now, which, Marco-Rudy-Dr.-Strange-NEW-AVENGERS notwithstanding, is not a usual occurrence. I just hope Sorrentino also has the gig for Part Two. Recommended if you’ve been hearing how terrific Bendis’s run is, but have been hesitant to dip your toe into the heavy-continuity maelstrom. All you need to know is that a new mutant is lost in time. But it helps if you are an old-school fan of Killraven and the 2099 line. (which, hell, yeah, I know is kind of a spoiler, but here we are)

AVENGERS·X-MEN: AXIS #7 — Well, they bring in Kubert and certainly do kick the deal into high gear, here. Deadpool remains as much of a focal point/narrator as we get, and Remender does indeed squeeze tremendous mileage out of the few pages of action that he and Spider-Man have as each other’s sidekicks. The whole deal with Wanda. That definitely struck me as a wrong-headed bullshit retcon move on early Thursday morning when I was first going through this. Seemed like the story, “the canon,” suffering for the sake of a really kewl idea that Remender or even Editorial had. But apparently, the damn Whizzer used to be their dad until 1983? That was still four years before my first foray out toward gorgeous Greymalkin Lane, so I guess that whole father/daughter dynamic is not so sacrosanct as I once believed. I’m dialing back and willing to reserve judgment until seeing how the story that results from this retcon plays out. Shh, don’t tell Internet!


AVENGERS #038 — Man, Hickman all-but-officially extending his FF run into this title by swinging the spotlight over to Reed corresponding with Valeria is the serious good news. Deodato yet again brings the justice, that dude got done with ORIGINAL SIN and maybe like took a break for lunch before just pounding right into the next thing. The dude is very impressive, his pages have never looked better. I have to say that I did not share Carol’s confidence about the outcome of her encounter with the Hulk, upon what basis did she form that opinion? Getting punched into orbit was a very plausible outcome. And a nice soft twist there at the end, I don’t think I realized that Bobby’s rehabilitated A.I.M. squad was calling itself the Avengers, but that is good fun. It looks like the next part of this will consist of several heroes fighting one another over considerably more than a minor misunderstanding that will be resolved by story’s end in an energizing escalation of the merry Marvel tradition!