Wednesday, September 3, 2014

8/13/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

8/06/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

7/16/14 (SECRET LOST EPISODE!)

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

THE LOST EPISODE OF WEDNESDAY NIGHT MASS! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

7/30/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, August 4, 2014

7/23/14


BATMAN #33 — Well, over the course of the past, what, fifteen months, I have gone on and on about how long Snyder/Capullo/Miki/Plascencia strung out this flashback arc. It was admittedly a dicey move stranding the narrative in the past this many months in a row for our hero’s eponymous title, not as like a one-off mini or anything. But you know what, we’ve certainly had no shortage of killer Batman stories told in the present with Tomasi and the gang throwing down all kinds of thunder every month and then that ETERNAL business that’s gotten going here lately and, dear lord, I think Morrison and Burnham were still in play when this arc started, even. Wow. Okay. So, it’s taken a very long time out here in the reader’s world for this story to reach its conclusion. But, man, was it worth it. The team fires on all cylinders with our hero engaging the nascent Riddler in a complex battle of wits while the clock is ticking on some fighter jets swooping in and nuking Gotham like they always like to do the last Wednesday of every other month. Snyder does solid work writing the riddles with great intelligence but also with a cumulative arc. And the resolution to the conflict is well done enough, earned and heroic and sacrifice and all like we want, but the real thunder comes at the end, which, I don’t even want to go into it, to even chance spoiling it for anyone, but let’s just leave it that I was really loving that one page of dialogue that Bruce and Julie were having but then that six-panel montage on the next page absolutely came out of nowhere and punched me in the gut while ripping out my heart. It was rough opening the night with this one because then I had to sit there for a full twenty minutes just getting it together when I was done. And that page has not let go yet, will maybe never stop haunting me. Fierce, fierce material. These boys have created a serious addition to the canon worthy of standing alongside and being known for all time in the company of the all-time greats.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #33 — Belligerent Batman being a dick to the Justice League is a pretty fun way to open up. And it’s too bad to see Frankenstein go, but you’ve certainly got to understand where he’s coming from. Gleason’s Hellbat design is of course slamming, but I’m an even bigger fan of the thought that goes behind the montage of all of the League teaming up to help build it. Probably my favorite character beat in an issue crowded with an ensemble of such heavyweights was the look on Shazam’s face while he said, “I’m ready,” and Cyborg coming back with, “Shut up, Billy.” Plays so so funny within the context of that scene. The depiction of Kalibak is insane and over the top in all the right ways. Definitely worth a splash page. Despite the fact that this issue does not have the densest content (the League tries to stop Batman from going to Apokolips twice, he and Superman have a conversation, we find out that he’s going anyway with three sidekicks and maybe Alfred), both art and script elevate the interactions between all of these characters into very engaging worthwhile exchanges that it takes more than a single pass to appreciate in full.

BATMAN ETERNAL #16 — Nguyen & Fridolfs stay on for another issue. I’m liking this trend of artists hanging out and doing entire short arcs, it lends a sense of coherency to this. The writers are digging deep into their apparent affection for eighties villains as this issue features the first time I’ve seen Maxie Zeus in I don’t know how long and then even throws in old Deacon Blackfire here at the tail end. I suppose it’s too much to hope that Berni Wrightson is drawing #17?

FUTURE’S END #12 — Good deal to open with my favorite crew, Frankenstein & Amethyst & Hawkman in Deeeeeep Space! Five pages of space-action but then I really dig how much weight the writers give Angie when she shows up, just recycles her crew and nukes our heroes and, most ominously of all, good old S.H.A.D.E.NET is offline! It’s pretty challenging to escalate the stakes of the threat of the unknown when the only thing we’ve seen them do is kill the majority of the Ellis/Hitch Authority crew, but this single page right here does a fantastic job of accomplishing exactly that. Blah blah in the middle, I didn’t really care about Mercy or Voodoo or the douchebag checking his phone and messing with Rampage, but then that is all of course mitigated by a terribly ominous thirty-year flash-forward to some old friends hanging out in Arkham. Really a terribly well crafted scene on both shock value, which is easy enough to do when you’re flashing forward, but then they really land the character beats at the end. I mean really land. Even if I didn’t care about half of the issue, the beginning and end are thunderous enough to make me feel good about hanging out with this title. Terrific art from Merino/Green/Hi-Fi. And is that Scott & Barda I see in the coming attractions for next week? For joy!

WONDER WOMAN #33 — Grim developments as this run hurtles headlong toward its thrilling conclusion. Azzarello/Chiang/Wilson continue to fire at the top of their game as they have for almost three years running. I love how they just pull the trigger right at the end and in three pages, Diana and Orion and Aleka all get stabbed or impaled. Brutal! I have to confess that I’m not one-hundred percent cognizant as to what’s happening with the identity of the Amazon on the last page, if that’s like some amalgamate of all three of them, which seems pretty cool, or even just the ladies, or what. I’m not sure that we’re supposed to know at this point. It is certainly a badass splash-page to go out on. Kind of stunning that there are only two more of these left, that’s really snuck up on me, here.

THE UNWRITTEN: APOCALYSE #7 — Carey & Gross continue to display an utter command and mastery of their craft as we are treated to our characters flickering in and out of an Arthurian romance with art style, narration, and character development also in flux, panel by panel. It’s all impressive enough before Pullman breaks the rules and sends in Armida, Orlando, and Orgoglio from Spenser. These gentlemen are accelerating the pace of the narrative as we careen headlong toward the conclusion, which is giving every indication of being one hell of a story, indeed.

RAGNAROK #1 — The return of the Maestro and his companions! This thing has a hell of a pedigree. Walt Simonson, who produced the greatest THOR run in history, returns to the Norse mythos for a non-Marvel blast through the aftermath of Ragnarok, brilliantly abetted by the industry’s best, Laura Martin on colors and veteran collaborator John Workman on letters. IDW has a real coup here scoring these heavyweights producing anything at all, but the fact that it’s Simonson returning to Norse mythology really puts it over the top. And of course, it’s a thing of beauty. Simonson is somehow still peaking, only getting better and better as the years go by. There was a strange disconnect for me in his work a very few years back on Bendis’s AVENGERS, but it looked like that might be down to possibly inking and strange coloring choices, and that’s very much borne out here as Martin’s hues make Simonson’s lines pop like never before. What’s really cool about this is that it’s set in a post-Ragnarok situation years and years after it all goes down, so if you are something of a continuity integrationist, there’s so far really nothing stopping you from sliding this in as an official sequel to Simonson’s glorious THOR run. The opening scene is as thunderous and world-breaking as anything we have seen from this great man’s pen before the narrative get grounded and we meet our protagonist, a Black Elf called Brynja who sets out to assassinate an unnamed target who very well might be the horrifying specter of death who appears adorned in chains in both Brynja’s daughter’s nightmare and the final page, as well as possibly providing the first-person narration that opens the issue on the inside front cover. This title sounded liked a slam-dunk the moment that it was announced and the creators do not disappoint.

BEST OF WEEK: TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #1 — All right, admittedly, I am the bull’s eye Target Zero demographic for this book. I was aged seven and then eight when the animated adventures of these two franchises respectively debuted, and in a post-EPISODE VI world, was just as ravenous as everyone else for massive ensembles of new heroes and villains waging war against one another amidst an ongoing serial mythology that seemed to mature and evolve right along with us as the birthdays rolled by and the aircraft carriers and future cities that we asked for as presents grew in size right along with us. And then I got older and learned to revere the craft, untouchable dynamism, and seething energy of the one true King, Jack Kirby. So, as soon as IDW announced that GØDLAND’s own Tom Scioli was writing and drawing this book, I knew at once that I would treasure it, no matter what shape or form it manifested in this reality. And I thought that Scioli did a bang-up job with the zero-issue for Free Comic Book Day. But, holy shit! This is an optimum best-case scenario. If Kirby himself was convinced in 1985 to give Marvel a third chance and take over the sequential adventures of these two franchises, and he somehow once again unleashed the sheer furious thunder of his limitless cosmic imagination and tried to do his Fourth World saga one better, then it would be this good. Everything about this is total glory. I could write a couple hundred words breaking down what I love about each and every single page. Let’s just do a few bullet-points:

-that cover (above) that references both the original TRANSFORMERS #1 from the old Marvel series as well as the first page of the Hama G.I. JOE #1 while also giving us Snake Eyes turning his back on the whole damn mess of them, Silver Age-style (as noted in back-matter)
-the sheer clusterfuck insanity of just dropping us in on a no-context Springfield invasion on Page Two and making it both that crowded and instantly readable (right)
-Gung Ho calling Tomax & Xamot Siegfriend and Roy
-The “Face of Darkness” shout-out on Page Four
-The Biblical allusion in the title on Page Six introducing plane versions of both Sound- and Shockwave; also, Flagg calling the Autobot & Decepticon signs the masks of comedy and tragedy, which, I straight up involuntarily slapped my own forehead right away for never seeing it
-Ravage as principal negotiator
-Giiiiiiiant Soundwave reaching down to stop the Joes from fleeing in their jeep
-Page Thirteen, that insane foreshortened lineup of Decepticons with Ravage standing in for Cerberus as pointed out in the back-matter
-The Kirby Krackle around Gen. Colton at the center of Page Fifteen. And how he’s totally Highfather
-Page Sixteen. Any time Soundwave is in this book, he should totally have three splash pages or near-splashes. Minimum. That just seems like the call, and good on Scioli for starting us off right here; Also, “I offered you peace and you ran over me with your car,” is the sensational character line of 2014.
-The Revenge of Snake-Eyes
-COLTON BOLT!
-Yeah, and then just everything about the last four pages

If anything, I’m worried that Scioli has just maybe set the bar too high with this issue. But given that this appears to be actually set-up, and we really hit it hard next issue with the brilliantly inverted dynamic of Joes on Cyberton, well, I mean, in theory, I can intellectually grasp that there’s some hypothetical way that this could get better or that I could have more fun reading it, but I can’t actually imagine it. Beyond glorious!

SAVAGE DRAGON #196 — What an amazing lineup this week to get interiors from Simonson, Scioli, and Larsen, three men who have done so much to extend Kirby’s legacy while adding their own unique elements to his style. Certainly no one can do a double splash page for you like Erik Larsen, you get the feeling that the original linework displayed such energy and dynamism that the krackle appeared there all on its own “SPONTANEOUS GENERATION!” Larsen continues to entertain while depicting Malcolm bashing the hell out of Dart’s crew with whatever comes to hand. I tell you what, though, that GIANT-SIZE KUNG FU BIBLE STORIES he mentions at the top of the letters column does indeed sound like “the greatest publication in the history of mankind.” I also dig the comic strips on the last page, there, a nice sorbet to cleanse the palette before moving on.

SAGA #21 — It looks like some good old-fashioned married sex isn’t going to be enough to save Marko & Alanna’s marriage. If their infant daughter’s omniscient narration is anything to go by. So sad! The characters have settled into a consistent rhythm. All of their interactions feel natural and unforced. Good for BKV! It was probably a good move to bail out of that Dome debacle. Staples continues to do a beautiful job of crafting this unique universe page after page, as only she can.

ZERO #9 — Ah, God. This one snuck up on me, I really didn’t see that coming until it was happening. Deft character work, this thing spends almost the entire page count masquerading as a tense and very lean back-story piece for a supporting character that’s interesting enough but nothing that knocks your lights out before just gut-punching you right at the very end, there. More strong craft from Ales Kot. More killer art by someone I’ve never heard of called Tonči Zonjić, ably abetted by usual suspects Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles. More people should be talking about this book.

VELVET #6 — The past couple of issues didn’t seem particularly skinny in terms of content, but this one’s got a lot more plot to sink your teeth into. Maybe I’m just dense, but I didn’t realize that Codename: Mockingbird was actually her real husband and that was a not-pretend non-undercover honeymoon when they tried to kill one another that time. That is a pretty solid secret origin for our girl-Friday-turned-deadly-protagonist. If anything, Epting/Breitweiser have stepped up their game since taking the short break. This is grade-A material through and through.

TREES #3 — I liked this one quite a lot. Jason Howard continues to produce nothing but jawdropping pages and Ellis provides us with some interesting characters beats between Professor Luca Bongiorno & Eligia Gatti, as well as a four-page interlude starring young artist Chenglei and his cool new neighbor, Zhen, who look like they’re on the verge of a great adventure. This series is a weird beast, very much a straight character piece starring an ensemble who for the most part seem in no way on the verge of intersecting with one another and then with this terribly ominous premise that’s already so far in the background, I only counted two in-panel appearances and this is only the third issue. Which maybe sounds like a complaint, but I’m enjoying the hell out of this, the writing and art are both first-rate and I dig the languid pace that kind of recalls Marquez or maybe even Borges a little, now that I think about it. God bless Uncle Warren.

SUPREME: BLUE ROSE #1 — Man, I can’t believe we get two Ellis singles in one day. It feels like eight years ago! Coming on the heels of the monster reboots of PROPHET and GLORY (and where is that old PROPHET, anyway? Just realizing that it’s been quite some time), Ellis and newcomer-to-me-at-least Tula Lotay arrive with a surreal piece about an unemployed investigative journalist who has a dream that may or may not take place in the kind of hyper-continuity limbo that Moore trafficked in during his run and that Morrison loves to have his folks go run around in from time to time, but then after this dream, she wakes up and takes a meeting with Darius Dax (the Lex Luthor analogue previously, as I recall), who pays her three hundred thousand dollars right up front to go dig around looking for the titular character. Whose alter ego makes a single appearance this issue. Oh, and our female lead is Diana Dane, the Lois Lane analogue. Lotay is a spectacular find to realize Ellis’s fever dream vision. Even when she’s awake, the washed out pastels and overall palette lend a sense of unreality to the proceedings, which is all well and good for the background, but then the fine linework on the characters’ faces and even some of Diana’s body language recalls Mike Allred. Which is certainly something to shoot for. And in the middle there is a two-page six-panel thing Diana’s watching on her phone called Professor Night (the longest adventure serial in the world), that I can’t decide if it’s anime that took acid and then gobbled up DOCTOR WHO or if Uncle Warren has just crossed over to the far side past Ultimate Mental and is never coming back or what, but it’s glorious. I’m sure some people are going to bitch about Supreme not actually flying around in this or leaping tall buildings with a single bound, but that’s never been the point, and I dig the solid character groundwork that they lay down in this first issue. Now, if only we can get Gordon Cole to turn up and scream at us as to what this is all about.

DAREDEVIL #6 — Hickman might still get the prize for folding this latest Big Event ripple-effect into what he already had going on with Cap’s suppressed memories, but Waid certainly gives him a run for his money here, as he uses Aaron’s premise to cast Battlin’ Jack Murdock in a decidedly less flattering light than we’ve already seen him. Which seems like should be enough to hang an issue on, only Waid is never content to rest on his laurels, instead letting that be nothing more than an inciting incident that propels Matt into some not as much international espionage as let’s just call it diplomatic spycraft involving his mother the nun and Wakanda. A lot going on in twenty pages beautifully illustrated by regular colorist Javier Rodriguez, who knocks it out of the park every chance he gets. I’m not picking up a lot of Original Sin tie-ins, but every single one that I’ve read from my regular Pull has been really solid.

AVENGERS 100TH ANNIVERSARY #1 —When they announced these 100th Anniversary books, the one that I was certain that I was getting was this one. James Stokoe is a singular one-man band whose gritty detail and linework is only surpassed by his unique kaleidoscopic palette. Even the recap page is more fun than it is has any business being, giving us a new logo, a Previously… summary that tosses off asides like a Seventh Gender War, Dr. Franklin Richards, Herald of Galactus, the American continent being trapped in the Negative Zone, and the Avengers for some reason basing their headquarters in Malaysia. And most importantly, an ad for Marvel Quiblets, horrifying sentient pets that now come in Marvel superhero flavors. Really, just this page by itself almost cooked my brain here at the end of the night. But then you turn the page and it turns out Stokoe is responsible for one-hundred percent of the interiors, too. Beast! The double-page splash of Stark Tower in Kuala Lumpur is by itself almost more than you can take and worth the cover price all on its own. I could go on and on about how much I love every page of this book, but you really should just check it out for yourself, particularly if you are one of those who dig the indie creators on STRANGE TALES aesthetic from that anthology Marvel was putting out a few years back. This is more than just stunning vistas, though, Stokoe crafts a story with a lot of heart featuring a limited ensemble that really makes you wish that this could just be a regular series. Particularly when you get to the last page, I love how he threw that concept out there and then just barely returns to it at the end with such emphasis that it sends your mind reeling. Strong, strong work! Only surpassed tonight by Scioli and that Gotham epilogue.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

7/09/14

INFINITY MAN AND THE FOREVER PEOPLE #2 — Jesus, that is a hell of a way to frame a first page! And they even go the AMBUSH BUG route two pages later, a classic callback, of course that’s not really Darkseid just looming over Dreamer’s sleeping form in a non-astral completely physical sense. Giffen returning to a New 52! teration of his thirty-year-old gag makes a hell of a compelling opening. And reminds us that Darkseid can, very very occasionally, be funny. Then, I dig how Didio manages the ensemble one-by-one introductions in not quite as clunky a fashion as The One True King threw down back in the day, even working in a genuine revelation with regard to Big Bear’s place of birth. And the sudden subplot about Vykin having a romantic attachment to Mother Box is pretty funny. This reads as a bit decompressed for a single, we had the entire last issue to get to know the cast and take this entire one to maneuver them into place to actually form the titular character, who doesn’t appear until the last page, but I’m definitely enjoying the ride and how well Didio/Giffen manage to channel the Kirby krackle into the present day and am of course on board for as long as this one lasts! Taaru!

GRAYSON #1 — I have never been much of a fan of Dick Grayson’s solo adventures. Which is actually a bit of a conundrum to me, now that I think about it. He’s always been one of my favorite characters, ever since I was a little kid. I mean, when I was four, I wanted to grow up to be The Boy Wonder, you know? But the stars never aligned for me to devour 150 or however many issues of NIGHTWING when they were coming out. Though, of course I loved him in what I’ve read of the legendary Wolfman/Perez NEW TEEN TITANS run and the brief time that Morrison scripted his adventures with Damian in BATMAN AND ROBIN already holds some serious real estate in my heart for all-time great runs. All of which to say, I’m in no way the best barometer for how well this series stacks up to previous iterations, but I can say that I dug the hell out of this. The writers manage to combine just the right amount of gripping espionage action with succinct little character beats to make this feel like a story that could only be starring this particular character. And as usual, Mikel Janin (three weeks in a row now I’m saying this!) shows up and knocks the lights out on interiors with dynamic fluid movement and beautiful acting through body language and facial expressions. And any fan of Morrison’s run has to appreciate these guys setting the premise with Dick as the undercover Agent 37 in Spyral. I’m definitely curious to see where this is heading.

FUTURE’S END #10 — Um, that is some goofy banter between Masked Superman and Lois. Intentionally so, I’m sure, it just certainly plays weird. You’ve got to love Tim spotting Bruce’s Deathless Tonga Death Strike from across the bar when Terry throws it. It’s funny that the outer-space crew was just Hawkman and Amethyst this week, but we’ll allow it. And bringing Barda into all of this can’t be a bad thing. Who else could Jan Kirby be? So many Kirby name-checks lately!

BATMAN ETERNAL #14 — Well, no one can accuse this series of spinning its wheels! I love Tim’s reaction, it rings so true. And but did he really not know that Harper was creeping up on him last week? I did not get that at all, thought he was just being cute. Fabok knocks another issue out of the park as we reload for the next horrible thing that I guess will be at Arkham before we head over to the inevitable Blackgate riot. They seriously better not be trying to set up killing Gordon, though. You have to give him at least a couple of arcs in the present-day title, Snyder! If we ever make it back!

DETECTIVE COMICS #33 — Had to score the Steranko cover, even before the trash-talk. As for the interiors, Manapul/Buccellato's art has quite possibly never looked better. Which is really saying something. But, I’m still having trouble sinking my teeth into the characterizations of all these random characters. No one except Bullock is landing for me. And then they go and do something borderline unforgivable by invoking TRUE DETECTIVE in a giant panel with the lightning crackling behind our guy. Batman comics shouldn’t name-drop modern zeitgeist explosions, I don’t feel like. Especially when the guy creating that other thing is writing the pants off of what’s going down in this iteration of Gotham. And pretty much everything else, to be fair. But, come on. Gotham City is the last place that anybody needs to be thinking about old Rustin Cohle. And shit, now I’ve got to watch all eight of them again.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SECOND CYCLE #4 — Snyder/Albuquerque are still seriously tearing it apart in this second volume with no sign of letting up. They even make you fear for the adorable little monsters! The art remains a tour de force. Really, the only negative thing that I can say about this is that it’s such a whirlwind dervish that I’m positive this will read better in trade. But it’s not like I’m going to pull up now and start waiting for it. Also, it does seem unfortunate that the Hep-V plotline from this final season of TRUE BLOOD has also apparently spontaneously generated over here round these parts (last night’s cliffhanger was the very same as this one, even!), but I’m sure there’s room enough for both of those stories to be told in this big old bad world.

STAR WARS #19 — We’re introduced to Leia’s old best friend, who’s been undercover for years, spurring our main crew out of their upper-level positions with Rebellion and out into the dangerous void of space for a rescue op. More importantly, Carlos D’Anda returns to the fold. I was afraid that he was out of the picture, but it’s nice to see his quality illustrations return before Dark Horse has to shut this glorious operation down.

DAREDEVIL #005 — Waid fiiiiiiiiinally lets us in on what’s been the deal with Foggy this whole time and, no surprise, it’s a terrifically fun romp executed to sequential perfection by Samnee/Rodriguez, as ever. I initially rolled by eyes at Foggy/Waid opening with the THE USUAL SUSPECTS paraphrase, but of course they more than earn it by issue’s end.

FANTASTIC FOUR #007 — I couldn’t imagine what could be so horrible, but I think the scale of the secret and Ben’s reaction to the revelation fits the scope of this book perfectly. More than almost every other superhero title that has sprung up in the wake of this world’s greatest comics magazine, this series has always been first and foremost about the way that the characters interact with one another, and the way this latest tie-in reverberates through is no exception. Kudos to James Robinson. Though he does have Reed saying “From who?” at one point, which completely threw me out of it, the big brain knows well enough to use the object of the preposition “whom” in the objective case every time. And Leonard Kirk and Karl Kesel continue to throw down absolute justice on every page of present-day adventure with Dean Haspiel and Nolan Woodard on hand yet again to lend that extra bit of krackle to the flashbacks, all colored in the popping palette of Jesus Aburtov. We don’t get Sue beating the hell out of the Avengers, as the cover promises, but this one right here is certainly a quality read.

ALL-NEW X-MEN #029 — X-23 shows up in time to be enough reinforcements to tip the balance just enough in our guys’ favor in the rematch against Baby Xavier. Which is all well and good but then Cyclops has got to go and draw the line against killing THIS Xavier and the reset button gets pushed again at the end, it looks like. Which is a little frustrating, but just another day in the life, I suppose. Far FAR more heartbreaking is the very sudden news that this is apparently the art team’s last issue. Can this be true? Of course, we wish them well and kudos all around for them going on to what’s got to be a higher profile (or at least more mainstream) assignment depicting Sam Wilson’s adventures as the new Captain America, but I have got to say that if Bendis has been the brains behind this series, then Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, and Marte Gracia have been its beating heart and soul. Really, the main reason I even gave the first issue a shot amidst announcements of elevated price-points and double-shipping was their stunning cover, and then of course I was hooked. This has been one of my very favorite Marvel titles amidst a linewide roster that is jam-packed with serious talent and creative firepower, and I am going to miss them on this title very very much.


BEST OF WEEK: AVENGERS #32 — Man, it was past three in the morning, I had been tearing it up with the Fourth Coven in the Cattle Baron’s suite at the Driskell for the better part of the evening, and I was both sorely underprepared and in exactly the right frame of mind to experience Hickman bringing adult Franklin Richards from the far future back into our lives again. What an imaginative slice of glory this issue is. There’s actually barely even any conflict to speak of and it doesn’t even matter, we’re just grateful to be along for the ride as Franklin walks and flies Cap, Natasha, and Star Brand through the distant future and basically shows them how awesome everything is. Hickman has always excelled at that kind of accelerated bleeding-edge almost-plausible hyper-science that Morrison and Ellis have broke ground on down through the years, and this issue is probably the best example of that in his Avengers run so far as he has Franklin describe for us in detail exactly what it means to have an Avengers World five millennia in the future. The only hiccup actually has to do with that number. At the top of the issue, we get the standard “BETRAYAL +_____ YEARS” tag with the number of years this time being 5,045. And the issue is entitled “Five Thousand Into The Future.” So that’s all straightforward enough, but then early on in the issue, Franklin very clearly tells Steve that it’s 4,103 years into the future, or “four thousand, one hundred and three years, actually,” all spelled out there like it should be in-dialogue. So what gives? I thought he might just mean that’s the interval since their jump from last issue, but by my count they were only a total of BETRAYAL +470 YEARS at that point, so even that reduced number should have been 4,575. Where did those missing years go? That’s a pretty prominent piece of plot to have a discrepancy with. Am I the only one who cares? Probably? At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter, because this issue is a captivating glide through a future that’s full of wonder and hope, a positive futurist outlook that’s a refreshing break from the usual post-apocalyptic fare featuring Yu/Alanguilan/Gho’s strongest interiors on this title yet. And just when you think that Hickman can’t dig any deeper, he manages to land the Groot tie-in/punchline just in time for 8-01-14. Thank you, indeed.

Monday, July 21, 2014

7/02/14

BEST OF WEEK: SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #7 — Well, Snyder/Lee/Williams/Sinclair have spent some time laying the groundwork, but it all pays off here as they put the pedal all the way down on the floor and do nothing but drop the atomic thunder pretty much every single page, here. The arguably main part of the narrative deals with General Lane attacking The Fortress of Solitude while our hero does his best to protect Lois before donning Kryptonian battle-armor in yet another Very Iconic Splash Page by Jim Lee. But, you know. It’s Jim Lee. Even the splash of Gen. Lane in his attack-tank is pretty stunning in its level of technical precision and intricately detailed linework. If this issue was nothing but an Arctic slugfest, the creators would be doing a good job and all the readers could feel good about paying their four dollars for another collection of pages of Jim Lee drawing Superman making fight with Lois’s daddy featuring a nice little inversion at the end involving Lois saving our boy. However. What I guess we could possibly refer to as the B-plot of this thing is basically a fanboy’s wet dream and, for my money, the most impressive sequence that Jim Lee has produced since DC decided that it would be a wise investment to buy his little studio fifteen years ago. The entirety of HUSH and FOR TOMORROW have got nothing on this. Simply put, it’s Batman & Wonder Woman vs. The Superman from 1945 in the Batcave. And it is gorgeous. Let’s do a trick where I say what the shot is and you try to imagine how great it can be and then Jim Lee will roar up and stomp whatever you could come up with into the ground with the jawdropping expert craft he brings to each and every image. Begin!

Batman crashes the Batwing into The Superman from 1945. Batman sends All The Batmobiles at The Superman from 1945. Wonder Woman smashes The Superman from 1945 with the giant Lincoln penny. The Superman from 1945 smashes Batman and Wonder Woman with the giant robot Tyrannosaurus Rex. Sounds incredible, right? Good on Scott Snyder for envisioning such a ridiculous sequence of escalating nonsense, yah? Well . . .





















ACTION COMICS #33 — I liked this about as much as I could like a part of an event of which I’m only reading this one title. Pak and Kuder continue to deliver solid work, wisely holding on to Lana as a focal-point character. I don’t know, though, man, then something that I don’t care for gets shoehorned in, like Supergirl as a Red Lantern. Maybe that seemed like a pretty great bit of syngery when whoever first had the idea, combining the franchises, but why can’t she be like blue? There’s just so much darkness running rampant throughout The New 52, even when I try to dodge it, it crowds in on the stuff I otherwise really dig. Ready for these creators to get their book all the way back and just keep crafting memorable stories that are for the most part self-contained within this title.

FUTURE’S END #9 — Does anyone else get the vibe that Lois is hunting for the island from L O S T? The Hawkman moment was great, of course he’s fine. What terrible needlessly amputating people they are in that S.H.A.D.E. away team! And I read that that very same thing happened over in one of the JUSTICE LEAGUE books in the present. It is a bad month to be one of Hawkman’s arms.

BATMAN ETERNAL #13 — Okay, wait, Gordon’s kid is not supposed to be Bard? I certainly misread that last week, but I have to say that maybe Bard’s design shouldn’t have been like, you know, exactly the same as James, Jr.’s? Old Bard is certainly doing a good job in Gordon’s stead. To the point that you kind of wonder if he isn’t the actual Big Bad clearing the way of what he considers to be obsolete material, perhaps. Mikel Janin delivers another beautiful set of pages. They’ve done a great job keeping top talent on interiors for this series.

EAST OF WEST #13 — And lo, the shit it did rain down. Hickman/Dragotta/Martin pull no punches and maintain the insane momentum from last issue by sending Death head-to-head with that ultimate Texas Ranger fella they’ve got running around here, and the results do the Thing vs. Hulk proud. Really, this entire issue is basically one beautifully choreographed fight scene, and it is a thing of beauty. Dragotta juxtaposes opposing panel angles and countershots with total mastery, lending immediacy to every page. It is not an insult to say I read this thing in under five minutes the first time. I just couldn’t stop turning pages fast enough. After slowing down to build up a head of speed in the back half of its first year, this title is really ripping great guns ahead now.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #3 — The plot thickens like smoky sweet barbecue sauce on the plate next to Shawna’s lip-smacking ribs. I don’t have much to add, but I’m enjoying the pace these boys are telling their story at and happy to stick around for as long as they take to tell it. It doesn’t as much feel like they’re conjuring up a world as telling a story that already happened right there outside their window.

SATELLITE SAM #9 — This is starting to ramp up a bit, here. I’m finding the individual plots a bit more compelling, like Guy suddenly making a principled stand, and Mike is a bit easier to root for when he’s not just drinking and fucking everything in sight. Which, I can’t decide if that’s counter-intuitive or not. But this is looking like maybe twelve issues and done? That length feels about right. Y’all can have that one for free.

MORNING GLORIES #39 — After an opening scene featuring a character meeting herself but not realizing on either side (I think?), we get another four-long-panel montage for four pages to check in with sixteen of our main characters, a much-appreciated reminder of just how many plates Spencer/Eisma have had spinning for quite some time now. Then, even better, we zoom right in on Casey waiting for Hodge and the rest of the issue (one nemesis-introducing flashback/almost-retcon notwithstanding) is nothing but the two of them postmorteming Casey’s jump. Only, and I know I keep saying this, but I really really am going to have to go back and read all this from the start, because certain fundamental aspects are getting by me that I don’t think should. If Casey jumped back and then lived out the intervening thirteen years up to the present, did she just eventually jump back into her present-day body with no memory of all that time? Or did like a fraction of her leave and go do all that and then this other part stayed at MGA the whole time? I bet Spencer’s master chart of all of this would get him committed.

ORIGINAL SIN #5 — The creators are doing nothing but pick up momentum here, as we’re treated to the secret ret-con of Nicholas J. Fury, who has basically been a one-man watcher on the wall, preventing alien invasions (in some cases preemptively) since witnessing the previous man who held the position, Woodrow McCord, die in 1958. Deodato/Martin continue to bring the thunder throughout, and Aaron’s script hums right along with a nice little moment in which Nicky decides not to assassinate a teenage Spider-Man just on a hunch. The only hiccup for me was the idea that Fury was actually running out of briefings and doing this new gig on the sly and none of his enemies in the espionage circuit ever got wind of it. I mean, everyone knew he wasn’t missing his Aunt Matilda’s birthday, but it seems like at some point, as out-maneuvered and –flanked as he’s been over the years, H.Y.D.R.A. or someone would have gotten hip to his other work. And I would also like to know at what point the LMDs took over and the actual guy stopped going out and just aging in private. Really digging on this one, though, and looking forward to seeing where they’re going to take it.

FANTASTIC FOUR: 100TH ANNIVERSARY #1 — This was magnificent fun. I wish they would have numbered it something crazy, FANTASTIC FOUR #1,693 or something. I’m not familiar with either of these creators’ work, but Jen Van Meter and Joanna Estep have crafted a very cool tale of the next next generation of the FF. It looks like Valeria had a son and daughter with Bart Banner, son of the Hulk? And of course the boy is named Kirby. That’s really becoming a thing lately. Van Meter does a great job giving us the shorthand and catching us up completely on a continuity that’s been invented just for this one issue, and Estep excels on full art duties, with the soft pastels of her palette in particular pleasing to the eye. And I dug the pair of footnotes referencing issues that don’t actually, as of yet, exist. Though who’s not down for GAMMA GIRLS? This issue sets out to provide tremendous Silver Age good times and completely succeeds.


MOON KNIGHT #005 — And then on the opposite of the tremendous fun spectrum, we have the penultimate issue of this Ellis/Shalvey/Bellaire horror show. The cover doesn’t lie; this one plays out as pretty much one of the best single-player guy-fights-his-way-through-a-building games ever, though of course Shalvey doesn’t limit the camera shots to side-scrolling (which would been kind of cool, too, honestly). There’s something gloriously unpretentious about this issue being nothing more than a simple hostage-saving fight scene. And that’s before Morris Day shows up on the fifth floor. I love the efficient way that our hero talks his way out of that hostage crisis in three panels so economical that they border on chilling. And then we get that perfect sole moment of pure characterization (as opposed to characterization through body language/fighting style/etc) with the kid correctly differentiating between mask and face. These are lean and mean little singles, man, I tell you what. It only takes five minutes to read them, but you can stare at them for hours and keep learning from them for always.