Friday, May 22, 2015

5/13/15



BEST OF WEEK: SECRET WARS #2 — Now, forgive the pun, but as good as the first issue was, this was some seriously thunderous next-level business. It seems to me that it would have made a much better first issue of this whole deal, with the previous issue in hindsight serving as a much more effective finale to all that had come before packaged in a single entitled AVENGERS #45. Last issue was the end of all that came before. But this was a new beginning. And what a beginning it was! Even though the Ross cover should have acclimated us to the insanity of what’s essentially a Thor Corps, the opening scene with the young worthy from Higher Avalon serving as our entry-point character into Doomgard, a world (or nation, as it turns out) that houses the thunder knights of Doom, who go forth to wreak justice in his name. Just when we’ve barely got our brains wrapped around that, it’s off to meet a Braddock dynasty headed up by a sane James, and then there’s Mr. Sinister and Hyperion allegedly conspiring against the crown, oh but then they go to Doomstadt and the executive folks that God Doom has crouched around him are almost too much to handle in that first opening shot. And a version of the Future Foundation are still alive and well, as Dragon Man and Alex Powers-with-an-S unearth a crashed ship while giving voice to scientific speculation that borders on treason, and Doom’s ears are everywhere . . .

This is a fantastic conceit for an event. It’s kind of funny to see how CONVERGENCE basically ripped off the old SECRET WARS, but then Hickman comes roaring up doing them one or five better. Of course, I was expecting an insane map at the end and was not disappointed. He’s put that same level of craft and world-building that he did on EAST OF WEST into this monster, and there is a whole lot of ground to cover on this new Battleworld, many potentially very interesting stories to be told. Really, at first blush, given most of the creative teams listed on the solicits, it seems like just a few months isn’t enough. I could do an entire year of this. Ribic/Svorcina continue to excel, giving these pages the gravitas and weight that the massive plot demands. Very impressed with this, and they’re still just really barely getting started.

BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #008 — Good lord, Marco Rudy! These are probably the most beautiful pages yet, and that is really saying something. You just want to take a bath in all of that celestial brilliance. The innovative layouts, the mixed media, this book really pulls you in and never lets go. Those two sideways double-page splashes, in particular. This issue is a trip in every sense of the word, but it’s over too quickly and at such a tantalizing place to break off, too. Very glad to see the next issue solicited for a mere five weeks from now. Don’t chafe your wrists on the handcuffs keeping you at your board, Marco! This is all worth it! We love you!

DARTH VADER #005 — The creators continue to plunder the depths here and make Vader a workable protagonist, which is no mean feat. The plot thickens as we add an entire new faction to the cast, a welcome development. Larocca/Delgado once again absolutely slay it on the interiors, and Gillen is able to keep a surprise up his sleeve until just the right moment, even though it’s spoiled for you right there on the cover (I thought this was more one of those hypothetical covers that doesn’t necessarily have to come true). And of course, all of this is just set-up to make us really impatient to pick up the next issue. Fine work, all.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #004 — All right, knowing the copyright politics behind it, I (along with most other folks, I’m sure) do indeed find the retcon on Wanda & Pietro’s parentage absolutely stupid as hell. No, they were never mutants! That said, Remender sells it in-story as well as possible, and I was surprised to find my eyebrows involuntarily raising when presented with the alternative. And hell if Sabretooth’s internal monologue re: Logan wasn’t pitch-perfect Claremonty enough to make me interested in where this guy is heading. I haven’t been feeling this second volume too strongly, but this is more than a step in a positive direction. And the fold-out ad insert for all of the SECRET WARS mini-series and their creative teams, man, I wasn’t aware of those until reading this issue. That is quite a presentation, all stacked up one after another like that.

BLACK SCIENCE #14 — These guys appear to have found a way to up their game on this title again. Of COURSE we believe that Remender will kill the teenage daughter, he’s offed everybody else here and over in LOW without remorse, so the stakes are very palpable throughout this one. And but then there’s a great reversal with our hero’s overall attitude that was definitely needed, the disconnect between the principles that got them to where they are and the effect that all of this jumping has been having. Man, is this like Cosmic Time-Jump Wednesday or what? Just about every one of these titles is science fiction as hell and involves some form of time-travel or dimension-hopping. I mean, poor old DARTH VADER is the most boring one, is how we’re doing tonight. Oh well, cue the next round of yahoos.

CHRONONAUTS #3 — The hits just keep on coming. Millar can’t seem to resist having too much fun on nearly every page with laugh-out-loud concepts flying all over the place as all of the hijinx start bleeding innocent civilians together across multiple times. Players in Super Bowl 1969 getting gunned down by future timecops with their bodies flung into London 1895. A Lee Harvey Oswald gag with a punchline beat so perfect, it simply must be experienced to be believed. And the pace is so fast and furious, you can’t help but be dragged along in all of the insanity’s wake. Terrific fun, and Murphy/Hollingsworth continue to display an absolutely intimidating command of craft. Strong work all around.

ODY-C #5 — We zoom in on beautiful, bearded Hera this time out, and Christian Ward continues to deliver absolutely loony-bird eye-popping pages. Interesting tension building throughout, and then what a terrific release on that last page there. Fraction has crafted a really cool situation for himself here, very much out of what I perceive to be his comfort zone, and it’s causing him to dig deep and deliver some really compelling work.

EAST OF WEST #19 — Oh man, Babylon issues are just the best issues. Seriously, nuke everybody else in #25 and make the whole series suddenly now be nothing but him and that balloon wandering across the post-post-apocalyptic landscape of the seven kingdoms or whatever we’re calling them, and it would be one of the best books ever. Something about the tabula rasa innocence with which he views the world while simultaneously being such a hyper-genius about it all, delivered through that youthful naïveté, man, it just really works.

SAGA #28 — Staples really has this straight-digital thing worked into a very distinctive style that I feel like I could spot through a crowd of wannabes. The script was all right and didn’t put me off as much as it usually does, though once again, just opening with that aside about abortion feels like being needlessly transgressive for the sake of just being transgressive, which is happening way too much in this series, I feel like. I miss the guy who walked me down the road with Yorick Brown and 355 and that wonderful damn Capuchin named after the little sign on your keyboard up above the 7.

ASTRO CITY #23 — A talking gorilla drummer. This set-up is so immediately wonderful, it seems nearly impossible that it took twenty years for us to get to this point. I guess Busiek was out of pocket for a little while, but still. Once again, the creators join up in lockstep and do tremendous work getting the reader to not only care about Sticks in general but actually invested in seeing him fulfill his dreams. Of being a rock and roll drummer even though he’s a talking gorilla. There’s nothing in the world like this book, and we are all so lucky.


INJECTION #1 — Oh my goodness, Uncle Warren can just rat-a-tat-tat that dialogue can’t he? He’s talked before about the effect of percussion in general and (I want to say?) his father’s drumming in particular on his writing, and that’s almost never been more evident than when you get to the bottom of Page 3 here. Past that, it’s fairly standard creator-owned Ellis, which is not intended in a pejorative manner. If someone handed Uncle Warren the boilerplate, he would grab your free hand, sear all of the epidermis off of your palm with the boilerplate, and then type out some insane kind of nanite science that grafted new stem cells onto the damaged area while muttering curses about your grandmother’s dental hygiene (the cells doing the muttering, to be clear). There is nothing normal about this man or the way he crafts plot and character. We have a couple of lead protagonists, an interesting high concept that we can barely even see the tip of, and plenty of Englishness (not Britishness) to go around. And Shalvey/Bellaire are as wonderful as ever. The pacing here is the opposite of the MOON KNIGHT deal; this is very much open-ended and not a done-in-one, and I wonder if the folks who complained about devouring the other series inside of four minutes are finding this more to their liking. This is nothing more than an interesting beginning that actually barely gets its hooks into you, but I have so much regard for the creators that I can’t wait to see what happens next. The only blip in the entire affair for me is that I didn’t care for the unboxed block yellow letters in the narration, but there you have it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

4/06/15

SECRET WARS #1—After months of anticipation and a little more than two years of build-up, the 84th issue of Hickman’s Avengers run hits, and it is massive. There is all kinds of payoff here as the last two Earths have their own final incursion, and of course, it’s the good old 616 and the already-quite-often-rebooted 1610, otherwise known as the Ultimate Universe. Esad Ribic & Ive Svorcina provide interiors that are seismic enough to equal the huge scale of the proceedings. This issue pretty much delivers everything that we were expecting right here upfront, which is a welcome surprise, the 616 vs. Ultimate Universe, but Hickman is smart enough to burn all the way through that initial conflagration and on to the next thing, which will presumably be Battleworld, only Doom is also maybe already God and Reed has just lost his entire family. All kinds of shit raining down in this one, and we’re just getting going here. This is the only first issue of a Marvel event that I’ve read that is better than SECRET INVASION #1. Really fine work, all around.

SPIDER-GWEN #004 — Wow. This time out, we hit the brakes on the action-packed web-slinging and wall-crawling for the most part and instead just take emotional body blows at the old Parker homestead for the majority of the issue. Of COURSE in any reality, Aunt May knows exactly what to say to turn it all around for the heartsick teenager. Trading Peter “The Lizard” Parker for the 616 Uncle Ben in this iteration of the Spiderverse immediately felt like a masterstroke, but it isn’t until this issue that Latour really plunges us into the depths of what Gwen’s been feeling this entire time. And what a catharsis with the band. I suppose that it would be tough to pull off and make compelling for twenty pages in a row, but just the art alone on an all-The-Mary-Janes-concert issue sounds like the most wonderful thing. This was another beautiful single, the second in a row that not only completely delivers on the promise of that first episode but ups the ante and makes me really grateful that this title is so universally acclaimed and beloved and will hopefully be around for a long time to come. Like years, I mean.

CONVERGENCE: SPEED FORCE #2 — This is nothing but good fun. Meatloaf and macaroni & cheese. Perfectly inoffensive comfort comics. It wasn’t like pump-your-fist-in-the-sky awesome but enjoyable to folks who have missed Wally and would like to see him back in the fold. I was expecting a bit more of a conclusion or cliffhanger with regard to the main narrative, some kind of hook to make me want to dial into the main series, but I guess that’s not how they’re going to do things. The Zircher art on that GREEN ARROW preview is sick.

THE FOX: FOX HUNT #2 — What makes this a quality comic is that Haspiel & Waid have been producing excellent comics for such a long time and are both such masters of their craft that they know exactly what it takes to show up and hit every beat of what makes a superhero comic book enjoyable, regardless of how familiar the reader might be with the characters. Rather than evincing shame or offering in-text disclaimers to offset any awkwardness that they might be feeling by including necessary tropes of the genre, they appear to revel in their work and celebrate it. This positive energy is reflected in the artistic product. All of this pairs up really well with Larsen’s work on SAVAGE DRAGON. The moment when Paul throws up his lobster quesadillas while the bank-robber transforms into the brontosaurus guy is an instant classic. We throw subtlety out the window and revel in the over-the-top nature of the entire medium. There is a time for subtext, but this is not that time! He wants to quit, but life won’t let him, and neither will his son, and the bank robber turned into a monster, and so here is food poisoning vomit! And there is SPROING! It is a high-fiving good time for creator and reader alike. The “heroic ideal,” indeed.

SAVAGE DRAGON #203 — All of that stuff I just said here again. Every damn month, Larsen just cranks out the business. I can’t believe I’ve only been picking this title up for the past year. All love to Brother Matt Doman for his rabid acolyte insistence that I do so. This book does a fantastic job of juggling dramatic heartfelt moments with laugh-out-loud character beats, all with such heart that the characters feel real and completely fleshed out, even and especially sporting super-strength, fins on their heads, and Kirby krackle to spare.

ROCKET GIRL #6 — The time off has served Creative well, as we return with arguably the best-looking issue to date. The art is stunning. I can’t even parse if Reeder’s a better colorist or penciler. It doesn’t matter! Opening on Annie’s hot-dog-stand slap-fight is a charming way to bring us back in, but then you’ve got to love the flashback to Dayoung’s first day on the force. “By the book from now on.” Is that other officer from the future the son of Mr. T or something? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else use the term “jibber-jabber” before. Two slight hitches: I burned right through this issue and wish that there was a little bit more meat and overall narrative plot advancement to the proceedings this time out rather than just checking back in, and that last panel is completely jarring and comes out of nowhere (especially after the break), but these ad-free pages are so beautiful, all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you.

JUPITER’S CIRCLE #2 — Frank Quitely doesn’t do anyone a favor when he provides the cover for an issue that doesn’t feature his interior art because no matter how good you are, you’re going to come up short. What gravitas, what body language. I was a little bit surprised that this issue was again pretty much ninety percent about Blue Bolt being potentially outed by Hoover, but the resolution of that plot makes me hope that Millar’s going to pass around the spotlight a bit more evenly now. Torres does deliver some fine work, I should say.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #8 — Oh 3-D Cowboy, our old pal, never leave us again and we will certainly afford you the same kindness! And always stay drunk. Very cool of past Star Fighter to use the go-to CCP Comics phrase of disparagement, “Eat a dick.” And the “I have no clue what I am looking at” is the kind of punchline that it takes multiple time-traveling incursions to earn.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #10 — McKelvie/Wilson really outdo themselves here. That long shot of the two kids flying into Hyde Park over hundreds of thousands of fans congregating is some pretty special business. Those black hole masses of supplicants who can never get enough. I think Gillen is making some kind of commentary about the rampant and insatiable consumerism that is raging through Western society, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, London!

ZERO #16 — Taken as a single issue, this is a moderately interesting sequential adaptation of some core concepts of Burroughs with Ginsberg as his co-pilot. It’s too soon to be certain before all is said and done, but at this point though, in terms of the series as a whole, tucking the main narrative into the notion that it’s all being channeled by a drug-takin’ WSB in 1961 Tangiers really seems to cheapen and devalue the titular story and doesn’t add any new weight to the overall affair. It would be interesting to know if this was always the plan or Kot just like drank some ayahuasca tea before it was time to plan out the third arc and then just had The Best Most Important Idea Ever (Or, So It Seemed At The Time).


BEST OF WEEK: DESCENDER #3 — More gorgeous and glorious science fiction beauty. The plot thickens with regard to The Harvesters’ methodology, and our hero-bot is reunited with his creator. Nguyen continues to deliver magnificent work that straddles the line between expressionism and impressionism and that can only come from years of operating at the top of his game. Lemire keeps on imbuing his characters with small quirks and foibles that render them all the more human and fleshed out, even if most of them are robots. And that’s not even counting terrific sub- or meta-textual bits like TIM-21 being pulled out of what is for all intents and purposes a near-death experience only to then literally meet his maker. The deal is, on first blush this series doesn’t scan as like some really dense hardcore work of fiction. The premise is simple enough. But the more you engage with this apparently simple fable of a little robot who thinks and acts just like a real boy, the more you find right there beneath the surface. It is immediately easy to empathize with this character and want to protect him, to want nothing tragic to befall him. These guys make that simple narrative trick seem so easy, so effortless, but I can attest that achieving this level of craft is anything but. I know that art is subjective and suppose that some people’s mileage will always vary, but this is as good as comics gets right here for me, pure raw story seething and surging up from the heart of ideaspace, and they’re still really only just getting started.

Friday, May 8, 2015

4/29/15

BEST OF WEEK: THE MULTIVERSITY #2 — At long last, it comes to this. I had been meaning to go back through the entire deal but never had time so when it got to Wednesday, I made the questionable call to read every single issue from Page One on, meaning that my day at work was more than a little wobbly, but by the time it was time to read the new comics, I still had the GUIDEBOOK and MASTERMEN and ULTRA COMICS left, so before I even cracked this thing open, I had scorched my brain out with 340-something pages of all that had come before since waking up. And the finale is magnificent. It not only delivers incredibly satisfying resolution to the initial plot from #1 but was wonderful enough to veer around through several of the other Earths that we only got glimpses of through Guidebook entries, the rhyming of the SuperDemon of Earth-13 being the most wonderful breakout example. Apparently the Li’l Batman of Earth-42 met an unfortunate fate on Earth-17 after the last time we saw him, which was a very unfortunate Easter egg. Morrison does a great job balancing the ensemble. I still can’t believe not only how much panel-time that Captain Carrot got but how terrific he was throughout. Really almost the breakout character! And Red Racer runs up out of nowhere to steal the show. I was a huge fan of how he not only one-upped me by reading the entire back-catalogue in-between panels and then explicitly referenced Flash’s sacrifice in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. But for all of this sound and fury and dimension-hopping and resolution, this whole massive event turns out only to be the beginning. I could not believe it when Nebuloh, the adult universe of Qwewq, showed up at the end, but of course that’s so obvious in hindsight! And poor lost Multiverse-2! And the over-the-top madness of Operation Justice Incarnate! All so wonderfully counterbalanced by Nix Uotan’s own personal crisis to just make the rent. This was another masterpiece that ranks with Morrison’s finest work such as FLEX MENTALLO, NEW X-MEN, ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, SEVEN SOLDIERS, and the brilliant BATMAN/FINAL CRISIS run. It is so inspiring to see such an imagination still firing at maximum capacity and getting wilder all the time.

BATMAN #40 — Way to make the line-wide event nonsense work for you! The last time something like this lined up so well was when Gaiman’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” was released during the post-FINAL-CRISIS time-zone when Bruce was apparently dead by Omega Effect, which lent the Gaiman/Kubert tale of Batman’s funeral an added resonance of being in-continuity and “counting” more than it certainly would have if it had been released opposite four other titles of Bruce Wayne swinging around and kicking ass that month. So, the deal here is that Snyder/Capullo/Miki/Plascencia bring at least The New 52 portion of their program crashing down around our protagonist’s pointy ears as the Endgame finally comes to a resolution that appears to be every bit as final as the entire arc has been teasing from the get-go. Over the past three and a half years, this team has done a hell of a job carving out a modern-day run that can stand tall with the all-time classics, and this finale, while not necessarily the definitive capstone on the entire endeavor, is definitely a compelling finale to all that has come before and worthy of being in the company of Miller, Morrison, and O’Neill.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #40 — First of all, good on DC for bringing in Kevin Maguire to draw the first nine pages of this book. No one can do Justice League for you like that man. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to have Lee/Williams and all of those other guys pitching in on the back end, there. Beautiful pages throughout, a hell of an art-jam issue. The story? Well, Johns basically does a cover version of Kirby’s classic “The Pact” from NEW GODS #8 and then borrows some pages from Morrison’s MULTIVERSITY GUIDEBOOK that just came out like three months ago and has Metron narrate the entire history of DC events to us in an attempt to fashion linearity out of corporate grand-unified-narrative insanity, all before introducing Darkseid’s daughter, who appears basically to just be the new Hot Topic version of Raven but is supposed to inspire dread. The art was terrific.

CONVERGENCE: DETECTIVE COMICS #1 — This is more the caliber of creative talent that I feel like they should have brought in across the board on this event. Wein/Cowan/Sienkiewicz lay some interesting groundwork here, juxtaposing the relationship between the Helena Wayne and Dick Grayson of Earth-2 with old Comrade Superman of the Red Son Earth-30. I was, in particular, a fan of the chemistry between Dick & Helena. We didn’t as much see them in action as get vignettes of how they related to one another, which was more compelling than just watching them beat dudes up. It looks like that might be over and done with, but it was nice while it lasted.

CONVERGENCE: SHAZAM #1 — Now, this business right here is exactly what I am talking about. Why couldn’t every CONVERGENCE title just knock it out of the damn park like Jeff Parker, Evan “Doc” Shaner, and Jordie Bellaire do here? This issue gives that THUNDERWORLD a run for its money, even! So so good. The characterization is spot-on. The art is intricate and fully realized but still stylized enough to match the cartoonier aspects of its subjects. There is adventure and just the right time to cry magic words. This was a wonderful wonderful Shazam issue, and we didn’t even have time for the Gotham by Gaslight folks. Which is a real shame. I would say, minimum, I would love to see a corresponding Gaslight solo issue before bringing the two together in one final issue, but I know that we’re just one more and done. It’s a shame. I would have devoured six issues of this business. I was certainly a fan of Parker’s AGENTS OF ATLAS a few years back, but he has struck gold again with this art team and these characters. Surely the best CONVERGENCE title of them all, just magical.

MORNING GLORIES #45 — Some pretty dark shit re: Jade, my friends. More rock-solid storytelling from that rascally Eisma. I like how Spencer starts off with Claire’s mother out in the road in 3.12 and then winds up with poor old Locke hanging out there at the end of 5.07. Glorious old MGA really has it in for its students’ parents, seems like!

BITCH PLANET #4 — All right, after getting some set-up out of the way, I found this done-in-one to be a bit more satisfying than the previous three issues. And that is not a reference to the obligatory shower scene(s). But the art is more banging than ever, Megaton seems like a pretty cool sport, and I’m digging the agency of our heroine as she refuses to get gamed by the system. Bring on #5!

SCARLET COUTURE #1 — I have been a fan of Des Taylor’s pin-up art for some time now and was happy to pick this up to support his foray into sequentials. This book is as good-looking as anyone familiar with his work would expect. There is a highly stylized and very bright Fleischer-by-way-of-Timm thing happening here that is very much its own thing. This fashion-meets-espionage gig is a solid thing to explore. It does seem like he might be limiting marketability with the dips into more adult language. While it’s certainly well within acceptability of the genre, the cartoonish style of the art could definitely draw in readers of any age.

PRINCESS LEIA #3 — Another stirring adventure as Leia, Evaan, and R2 blast their way through Stormtroopers, droids, giant monsters, and anything else that gets in between them and any stray Alderaan refugees. This refugee-pickup thing is very solid long-term motivation for our princess, and Waid does us a favor by advancing along the mole/spy plot pretty quickly, and the Dodsons/Bellaire continue to blow it up on every single page.

DAREDEVIL #015 — Another dynamite installment from one of the most consistently excellent creative teams making comics today. Matt’s new look continues to delight, the Owl’s apparently omniscient spyware is freakier and freakier, and an old friend returns just in time to welcome all of the kids tumbling into the situation from Netflix. It’s a testament to the overall strength of this run that I haven’t even missed him until now.

FANTASTIC FOUR #645 — And so we come to another end of The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine. Robinson/Kirk/Kesel/Aburtov certainly pull out all the stops here. It’s big and loud and guest-starring everybody, but of course, it all comes down to Val to save the day with the brightest intellect of all. Both of the Torches barely making it was also a nice touch. The creators did a fine job all around, but this issue might have suffered from getting billed as THE FINAL END, you know? I’m afraid that anyone who might care enough to get worked up about this title actually coming to a close is too jaded to believe that it could actually ever happen. There will be a new #1 in a few months, and if that volume makes it 54 issues, I guarantee that the next issue will be a milestone #700th issue, and we’ll be right back off to the races once again. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. The pages and pages of creators discussing their favorite covers was by far my favorite section. Kirby forever!

SILVER SURFER #011 — I knew that Slott & Allred were hyped about this ahead of time and with good reason. This comic is a damn Mobius strip, twisting and wrapping around itself with the content of the power cosmic and a stray chrono-cannon providing the reason for the form and resulting in a delirious and intoxicating sequential experience that leaves the reader as disoriented as our heroes. It’s almost a shame to resolve the new Battlestar Galactica status quo established last issue so quickly, but this was a hell of a way to do it. All the while, Slott never loses sight of his characters and even manages to make us care about a couple of supporting players’ points of view who I don’t even think we’ll revisit, all the while pushing the narrative forward. And the Allreds outdo themselves, turning in the best-looking stack of pages yet, never even mind the upside-down flip-book trickery. This continues to be an incredible run on a character that almost no one manages to get right.

AVENGERS #044 — This one let me down a bit. That plays into expectations I brought into the situation. I knew going in that this was going to feed into SECRET WARS, but I still expected there to be some sort of solid milestone resolution. This has been a hell of a run that has managed to steadily escalate and raise the stakes across a combined 77 issues pumped out in a little more than two years, just as fast as Mighty Marvel could super-collide them into being, and while I wasn’t expecting a definitive THE END, or certainly not even anything as perfect and beautiful as the two-part finale of Hickman’s FANTASTIC FOUR/FF run, I was hoping for more than a zoom-out and a “See You Next Week for SECRET WARS!” There were several memorable moments. You have to love T’Challa giving it to Obama straight or Ultimate Reed introducing Nick Fury & Hawkeye to 616 Thanos & Maximus (a nice bit of lettering there, keeping the Ultimate guys in lower-case and juxtaposing the 616 villains in all-caps). The long flashback to Steve & Tony in the diner was certainly trying to hearken back to the whole genesis of this thing, but it felt forced. The Kev Walker art didn’t help. While Stefano Caselli brought the usual justice, Walker’s perfectly serviceable efforts did not mesh well nor seem to be of the A-list caliber that a finale like this should merit. It is unfortunate that Hickman’s old S.H.I.E.L.D. collaborator couldn’t have made it in for a few pages instead. I don’t know, maybe with the Civil War now brewing in the Mighty Marvel Cinematic Universe (not to mention the impending horror-show of Snyder & Goyer trying to blow up all of their Superman & Batman toys), I’m just tired of watching my heroes pitted against one another, but it was kind of a drag to have the grand summation of this deal amount to nothing greater than Captain America and Iron Man repulsor-raying and beating the shit out of each other under red Crisis skies, of all things. Maybe all of this will seem more awesome in hindsight, and I am certainly still looking forward to SECRET WARS next week, but as the finale of a truly epic run judged on its own merits, this one came up short for me.


NEW AVENGERS #033 — On the other hand, this one worked. I don’t know if it’s because the first issue lowered my expectations, or if I’m just still such a fan of Hickman carrying over his six-years-and-running mastery of Doom from the FF run, or if it was that last-page twist framing the timeline of all of this, but this one landed for me. Deodato/Martin once again absolutely burned it down on the interiors. It was interesting to get the secret origin of the Black Swans and all of the machinations that have been driving our extra-dimensional antagonists for this entire run. Bring on the carnage. There is only SECRET WARS!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

4/22/15

BEST OF WEEK: STAR WARS #004 — The pacing on this series has been a really cool thing where every single issue after the first one has ended on a beat that felt like a solid resolution to any sort of arc that the reader might feel like arbitrarily imposing, but the story just continues unfolding, the plot ever thickening. Aaron mines some good fun out of Vader hanging out at Jabba’s palace for a few pages before we check in on our banged-up heroes in the aftermath of all that action on Cymoon 1. Luke bitches out Leia in a pitch-perfect young Mark Hamill whine before a gang of set-up for next issue. Not only are Vader and Jabba chilling on Tatooine, but there’s a mysterious new bounty hunter with a really cool voice-actuated scattergun crashing the party, in addition to an old favorite, and oh look, now Luke & R2 are headed in that direction, as well. I foresee a shootout at the old Kenobi homestead! Cassaday/Martin continue to absolutely burn it down to the ground. Be sure to blast this cut starting at 2:40 as soon as you start reading this issue. The effect is powerful. 

ALL-NEW X-MEN #040 — It’s funny. Well, actually, it’s really frustrating. But every time there’s some chance for a plot-twist to grab some mainstream hype, the Big Two will always announce it ahead of time and ruin it for anyone who actually shows up every Wednesday to help keep the book in print. And I didn’t hear any official announcement on this one, but every-damn-body, pros, friends of mine, so many people felt fine talking about it on Facebook 48 hours before the damn thing came out (pun intended, oh no). And not just talking about it, debating the pros and cons and implications of it, and I’m just like, “Could we please read it first before forming an opinion?” At any rate, Iceman is gay now. Or has always been, according to Bendis. It’s actually an interesting little wrinkle in your standard coming-out situation because the individual in this case is a time-displaced character whose modern-day version hasn’t ever really seemed demonstratively gay. But 39 issues of hanging out in the present seem to have unlocked something inside of young Robert Drake. The reveal is, of course, completely damaged by the advance hype, so it’s hard to judge it on its own merits. It definitely hit me as pretty arbitrary and out-of-nowhere. But at least it’s only Page 6, so there’s two-thirds of issue left. The subsequent conversation is definitely an idealized best-case scenario of being outed by your telepathic friend. It’s a pretty on-the-nose move to double-down on Bobby being a persecuted minority, given the whole metaphorical “feared and hunted” set-up with this book from the get-go, but it will be interesting to see what happens next. I’m pretty sure that Bendis is almost done with these crazy mutants, though, no? This run doesn’t really seem like it’s about to wind up. Is he just going to leave the kids in the present? That would be an odd play for the Trade Federation. I dug Maria Hill banging her head on her screen at even the thought of more mutant madness. And Mahmud Asrar, man, what a monster that guy is. I really loved that bucolic shot of the team just lying in a circle in the grassy meadow just the way young mutants do.

CONVERGENCE: THE NEW TEEN TITANS #1 —Now, this did my heart good. I grew up with the original Wolfman/Perez run, and from this first page, the tone is just right there where it’s always been. There’s no doubt in your mind who Donna is talking to from the very first bubble. Man, it’s just good to see Donna in the old red one-piece again. The interaction between Vic and Gar. Dick telling Donna he’s sorry. Kori’s bloodlust, bless her. I really didn’t care about the other team at all, would have been just happy with an issue of these folks having down-time. Nicola Scott joins Mr. Wolfman and does Mr. Perez proud with dynamic and detailed sequential work throughout. Admittedly, the nostalgia factor might be clouding my usual absolutely unbiased critical acumen, but that’s kind of the point of this whole deal anyway, it kind of seems? A welcome stroll down memory lane.

CONVERGENCE: THE FLASH #1 — I was glad to check in on Wally and the kids but certainly couldn’t say no to this gorgeous Allred cover. The inside’s working, as well. Abnett scripts a relatable unpowered Barry who remains interesting even when he can’t run fast (it probably doesn’t hurt that he meets Bruce Wayne for coffee, admittedly). Our hero regaining his power is a great moment that Dallocchio completely sells. The one problem is that I don’t really care in any way about this version of Superman from maybe the Tangent Universe? We’ll see how it all shakes down next issue.

EMPIRE: UPRISING #1 — Well, what a surprise and delight this was. I had no idea that Waid/Kitson even had this in the hopper until the Wednesday it came out, truly a wonderful thing to stumble upon. It’s been ten years for us but only one for Golgoth, and our evil protagonist is as inscrutable and fearsome as ever. The rebels have some cajones this issue but are, of course, as doomed as ever. Like the first volume, the real tension looks like it’s going to reside in the form of Golgoth’s lieutenants and the moves they make against or alongside their dread master. A welcome return, to be sure.

CHEW #48 — The capricious heart of Layman knows no bounds, not only resurrecting the vile Mike Applebee but straight-up assuring us that he will totally be around many years later in #60 to still be hating on poor Tony Chu, who it looks like might have lost everybody else except for Caesar. That’s all to come, though. Olive has plenty of agency here, proving that a little thing like The Collector slicing up her face so apparently fatally a few months back isn’t going to slow her down one bit, now that she’s up and at ’em. Guillory continues to absolutely put it down. Four-fifths of the way through its run, and this title remains one of the very best and most consistently entertaining books on the rack.

SATELLITE SAM #13 — Roaring into the serious endgame as Mike, at least, thinks he’s solved his father’s murder and is on the way to dispense justice with a full can of gasoline. And there’s certainly a grim development for poor Gene. I hope Libby comes running up toting a sawed-off shotgun to resolve that particular issue. Hey, it would be in character for her at this point. Chaykin is still an animal. Fraction continues to stretch out a bit here. It will definitely be interesting to see how they wind up these last couple of issues.


VELVET #10 — More solid spycraft from the Brubaker/Epting/Breitweiser machine. There’s nothing flashy about this, and most of the pages are darker than a Zach Snyder Superman movie, but the milieu is a perfect fit for the story, and we can’t help but root for our heroine as she makes moves and countermoves against her faceless, potentially legion, opponents. But in the letters column, Brubaker says that she’s going back home to America next issue? Is this the first that we’ve heard that she’s not a Brit? I’ve been reading her accent wrong in my head for over a year now!

Friday, April 17, 2015

4/15/15

Well, this Convergence is certainly agreeing with my pocketbook! Goodness day, what a light week.

CHRONONAUTS #2 — Now, this is a lot of fun. These guys seemed like fairly serious assholes last time, but Millar does a terrific job taking this somewhat wacky premise and stretching it pretty much to the breaking point. You can tell that he had a gang of fun writing it. This issue is packed full of crackling ideas, oftentimes several per page. The 1961 to 1929 montage is bananas, and that one’s got nothing on what follows later in the issue. And Quinn’s scoreboard is fucking hilarious. Lots of wit to be found throughout all of this time-hopping madness. The real stars of the book, though, are not Millar or his douchebag protagonists, but Sean Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth, who already put it down so hard last year on THE WAKE but really elevate their collective game to a new level here. Really, the cover just about says it all. I love the purples and soft blues and greens that Hollingsworth kicks in as soon as Danny makes it to the palace. They right away create the feel of an oasis almost subliminally; I totally missed it the first time, but that business was working on me. And Sean Gordon Murphy. Man. Nobody can do it for you like that guy. What a monster. Just on every level. So many people sing his praises, but he’s still one of the most underrated guys in the industry. I figured that this series would be good, but these guys are really knocking it out of the park on every level, here.

THE FOX: FOX HUNT #1 — Haspiel & Waid dial down on the Silver Age zany but maintain the Kirby dynamism (and krackle, natch) and overall sense that, hey, comics should be fun to read. Bringing Paul’s kid into the fold is a terrific way to ratchet up the tension here at the top of the second volume. Shinji is already following in his father’s footsteps as a photographer, and it makes all kinds of sense that he’d be drawn to his dad’s other gig, as well. The son priming himself up as an aspiring legacy just as our hero is losing heart in his mission adds a compelling dynamic to the series and will be interesting to watch the creators explore in future issues. Quality tones from Passalaqua make every page pop without calling attention to themselves, and of course you really can’t do better than scoring the lettering talents of the legendary John Workman. And this one is even all-ages-appropriate. Recommended for all human beings.

THE FADE-OUT #5 — Black-and-white SATELLITE SAM mug shots notwithstanding, the creative team is really hitting their stride here and carving out a narrative that’s engaging. Phillips has been so good for so long, it kind of freaks you out if you start to add up how many pages he’s been steadily throwing down with this Brubaker joker over the years. Brubaker continues to absolutely nail the tone and voice that he’s established for this entire family of books over the years. There was one little hitch where our hero mentally tells his drunk co-writer, “You had one job.” This is, of course, grammatically correct but much more evocative of latter-day slang than I think we might want, dispelling the timeframe with a brief anachronism before the mists of Golden Age Hollywood return. A minor quibble, this one’s pretty much perfect. Award for Least Surprising Plot Twist of All Time: Of course Brubaker loves BETTER CALL SAUL. I could have told him that two months before the pilot aired.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SECOND CYCLE #7 — That is grim, indeed. It’s too bad that this whole series couldn’t have been Pearl & Felicia for most of the time. The two ladies dial into a really solid camaraderie right off the bat. Vampires in Space! really is a terrific conceit on our way out the door, here. I am a fan. Albuquerque/McCaig continue to knock it out of the park on the interiors, these guys are in the zone.

BEST OF WEEK: UNCANNY X-MEN #033 — I’m way way in the wrong demographic to review this objectively. Twenty-six years ago, of all the complicated latticework of relationships amongst all of the characters who had a place to crash at good old 1407 Graymalkin, my absolute favorite nexus was the triumvirate of Piotr Nikolaievitch, Illyana Nikolievna, and that too-good-to-be-true Katherine Anne Pryde. As with several other interpersonal groupings, Claremont loaded these characters up with enough unique qualities that they could have filled up an entire book all on their own instead of sharing it with fifteen other merry mutants. All of which to say. Last issue, when Illyana grabbed Kitty and they bailed, I was certainly hoping that Bendis wasn’t going to make us wait too long to see where they went. It turned out well for me. Kitty & Illyana vs Monster Island is the medicine that I didn't know I needed so badly. And how about that Kris Anka bringing the justice page after page? As strong as the cover was, I was initially just the least bit melancholy that Bachalo was out of rotation for this adventure, but never mind all of that. No one could have done better. And as much as I enjoyed the entire issue, those last two pages back on the grounds of the mansion are just on another level. Storm only gets two lines, but her second one is a humdinger. And then, though, right there at the end. That last exchange between the two of them snuck up on me and punched me in the gut. Illyana’s “NOT LIKE BEFORE. I MISS YOU AND I MISS MY BROTHER. I MISS THOSE DAYS.” Maybe I’ve just been mainlining too many MAD MEN episodes lately and thinking about the course of my life, but when that demon princess threw down that quiet nostalgia for days gone by out of nowhere, it just about broke me down.


One weird thing, though, on Panel Four of that final page, the one that starts that last exchange. There’s a silhouette of someone watching little Bo run into the mansion after Ororo. The dialogue attribution of the bubble in the panel seems to indicate that this silhouette, who is saying, “YOU WERE RIGHT. WE DID NEED THAT,” is Kitty. Straightforward enough. However. When the pair follows Bo into the mansion three panels later, that silhouette returns in the exact same place in-panel. Which is creepy, like the girls are being watched, kind of? But the fact that the silhouette is exactly the same size as before even though the shot is zoomed in makes me wonder if it’s some kind of Photoshop error that just made it through edits. I don’t know. I was so messed up by Illyana, I missed it the first time, but that’s an odd little beat to land on.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

4/08/15

Happy L O S T day, one and all. Oh, and holy shit, I've been doing this for exactly five years. Every week. For five years. Happy anniversary, Wednesday Night Faithful. That is like 260 weeks. Holy shit. 

BEST OF WEEK: TRANSFORMERS VS G.I. JOE #6 — More glorious and absolutely mental insanity. Any collector of Joe action figures in the eighties is required by law to love Raptor mentioning Roadblock’s file card on Page One. And I could not help laughing my ass off at Snake Eyes kicking the drink in the face of that robot. I did not see that coming! That moment is The Sensational Character Find of 2015. It took a minute for me to adjust, but that phonetic recreation of Torch’s Dreadnok accent was spot-on. And using Metatron as an early bastardization of Megatron is fucking brilliant. And I don’t care who you are, Optimus Prime jamming his pink lightsaber/electron sword down through a Kirby cross-section of the Joes’ underground headquarters, The P.I.T. is simply the business. And then, out of nowhere, old Bruticus shows up to cue us into a double-page splash that of course features the series-first appearance of Battleforce 2000. Because why not? This comic book is so much fun, it should be illegal.

NAMELESS #3 — Jesus Christ. I thought we took a hard left into horror last issue. This last page right here is one of the most disturbing images I’ve ever seen in my life. Dear Lord. What is wrong with these people? Think of the children. Beautiful art, but I mean, my God. The children!

DESCENDER #2 — Now, I thought that first issue was very strong out of the gate and very nearly perfect in every way possible. But this one right here, featuring the secret origin of TIM-21 on most of the odd-numbered pages, punches you right in the gut over and over. Lemire’s script fuses with Ngyuen’s sepia washes to render a remarkably full breadth of characterization for our protagonist in really quite a short amount of time. The result is that the reader gets mainline dialed into this brand-new character and very invested in his fate even though we’ve spent less than fifty pages with him so far. This is strong, strong material. Highly recommended.

ASTRO CITY #22 — Well, this right here is one of the best single issues of this magnificent series that I’ve ever read. I can’t recall whether or not we’ve ever met Starfighter in passing before now, but Busiek loads this one up with rich characterization throughout, generating a fully immersive and rewarding experience. Just like the deal with Quarrel these past three issues, Busiek provides the story of a character who is actually a superhero but still experiences the foibles and peccadilloes that used to be reserved for civilian point-of-view characters back during this book’s first couple of volumes. The beauty of this one is that you can just give it to any newbie without any prior understanding of this series, and it’ll knock him or her out just as hard. Wonderful fill-in work from Merino. This one is nothing short of slamming.

JUPITER’S CIRCLE #1 — Respect to my brother Ben for pulling me the Sienkiewicz cover because he knew that I’d “want the MAD MEN one.” This kind of retro how-they-did-it-in-the-fifties thing is pretty commonplace now, I guess since at least Cooke’s gauntlet-throwdown on that THE NEW FRONTIER, and there’s both nothing wrong with this issue and nothing to really separate it from the pack (with the slight exception of that same doomed-future cloud hanging over everything just like in those excellent STAR WARS prequels). Wilfredo Torres turns in some terrific art, and Millar throws a couple of breadcrumbs teasing elements that will eventually lead to the massive betrayal in the original series. It’s kind of wacky that Hoover appears to be the Big Bad of this thing.

ODY-C #4 — The science fiction insanity takes a back-seat to the straight-up bone-crunching gore of the Cyclops chomping through meat, bone, and gristle. All is as it should be. Fraction has really found a unique voice on this one that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen from him, and of course, that Christian Ward is completely out of his mind. I do hope the rumours about Fraction keeping him chained down in their basement until the series is done are untrue (or at least distorted and inaccurate).

SPEED FORCE #1 — Such a blast of nostalgia reading those words: “My name is Wally West. And I’m the fastest man alive.” Wally was always my guy growing up, this whole deal with Barry is still a relatively recent phenomenon. They were banking on that nostalgia with this whole Convergence deal, I suppose. They could have picked Wally up from any point in his career, but Bedard elects to use the most recent version that Waid set up during his short-lived second stint on the character that borrowed more than a little liberally from THE INCREDIBLES. No Linda to be found here in town, unfortunately, but the kids are along for the ride. This one didn’t knock me over or anything but was solid and well-done.

DARTH VADER #004 — Wow, in hindsight, those first two issues were basically treading water, at least relatively speaking. Last issue set up the new status quo with the seventy-five-percent brand-new ensemble, but then this one pays it off immediately in terms of dynamics of character interaction and just the simple madcap glory of having evil/homicidal counterparts to Threepio and Artoo. The good-news/bad-news deal at the end is an instant classic. We just rewatched EPISODE II this weekend with the little girl, so this is as punch-in-the-gut affecting as a flashback to Anakin kissing Padme on the threshold of the arena in Geonosis is ever going to get. Larroca’s art looks quite a bit more rushed than those first couple issues that I bet he took twice as long on, but I don’t mind. Even a couple shots of wonky foreshortened anatomy have a kind of charm to them. Overall, this is really a terrific read. I kind of just naturally assumed that the Aaron/Cassaday/Martin crew was just going to have such a tactical advantage due to cast and set-up that these other two books wouldn’t be able to come anywhere close, but both crews are giving the flagship title a serious run for its money already.

BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #007 — Okay, it turns out I really need Brother Rudy on at least a few pages to sell this for me. I have been liking Foss on those framing sequences the past couple of months, but the art style got a bit tedious when it was time to carry the entire story. And the scripting, if this and that latest ZERO are anything to go by, did Kot just stumble into the stream-of-consciousness writings of Burroughs/Kerouac/et al? That kind of thing is often much more fun to write than read, and that’s certainly what’s happening here. Bring back Rudy. And take a month off, even. The world did just fine without regular installments of the adventures of Bucky Barnes for like fifty years. Or really, for all time until just a couple three years back.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #04 — Man. In just the four panels of that second page, Waid makes you miss his classic run with ‘Ringo so much. You’ve got to love him writing Johnny against type, spouting off advanced vehicular jargon that is almost stupefying. And leave it to Sue to completely carry off a solo adventure, both tactically and narratively. Sprouse/Story/Almara provide arguably the best interiors on this series yet. This is a terrific done-in-one that doesn’t need any crossovers or hyper-advanced knowledge of continuity to be completely entertaining on its own merits. I got the beautiful Doran variant.


ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #002 — I was worried that this would suffer from the dreaded second-issue slump after I loved the first one so much, but these guys manage to crank it up just a little bit. Adding Swordsman into the flashback scenes is a terrific way to elevate the dynamic there, and you’ve got to love Kate pulling Clint out of trouble. Though I’ve got to say, these guys are already starting to pummel that fine old series beat from Volume One into the ground. Overall, this is top-drawer work from all of these creators, though the tagline about “doing what they do best,” how that’s just straight copping Claremont Wolverine (deliberately, surely), you have to wonder if Fraction/Aja/Hollingsworth and the old sick crew can even bear to look at these pages. As great as this set-up is, it’s basically the exact opposite of everything they were winning all those awards for just a couple years ago. That’s got to kind of cut you up inside, I would think. How many issues is this new team going to pump out before Aja can wrap it up with #022? I vote four.

Friday, April 10, 2015

4/01/15

FUTURES END #48 — Huh. This is the last issue? As an installment unto itself, it’s well done and all. I certainly wasn’t quibbling while I was reading it. However. When you make it to the last page, you will not find terribly a lot of resolution for folks who have been plunking down three dollars every single Wednesday for eleven months solid. I mean, I’m all for those “The adventure continues . . .” endings. But there was like no resolution here at all. A time-travel reunion across thirty years doesn’t count when the antagonist is still just sitting there controlling the moon and making the DC skies all Crisis-red like he has been since the beginning. Solid art, but I have to call bullshit on these overall very talented writers for not resolving basically anything.

BATMAN ETERNAL #52 — On the other hand! Tynion returns to script a damn solid finale. As much as this series meandered in the middle and ebbed and flowed in terms of overall quality, everyone involved stuck the hell out of this landing. I will cop to having totally forgotten about the whole deal with Lincoln March that Snyder/Capullo set up at the top of their run (forgive me, I have never gone back to reread those issues since their debut on the rack during the grand and glorious reboot), but it makes all kinds of sense, him showing up here and now, and it’s a nice little final-act twist. Very cool to get contributing writers Tim Seeley and Ray Fawkes to draw a couple of pages each for the finale. Seeley, in particular, draws the hell out of that scene with Selina. These 38 pages pull off the spinning-plates maneuver of not only serving as a satisfying resolution to all that has come before but then delivering nice little epilogues for the entire ensemble that both provide closure and set these characters up for the next great thing. This was fine fine work, all around.

BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN AND ROBIN ANNUAL #3 — Another Tomasi-scripted blast of young Master Damian! After bidding such a sad farewell last week to BATMAN AND ROBIN, the appearance of this annual on the rack felt exactly like Christmas. Seems like Ryp drew the last annual, and he might well have been hard at work on these pages ever since turning that one in. The detail of the man’s linework is massive and impressive. And I haven’t seen Sonia Oback coloring anything lately; I remember when she used to always blow it up with Mike Choi back there on that pre-REmender X-FORCE. For this story, the dynamic duo go to the moon and fight aliens who have copied deceased astronauts and are occupying NASA’s discarded lunar landing modules. That’s pretty much all I feel like I have to say; the creators execute the magnificence of that premise to masterful effect. They ride a moon buggy. Nice touch having Damian quote Darth Vader while picking his father up from lunar orbit. And then that last line just sucker-punches the reader in the gut, ah God (I normally don't do this, but I couldn't resist posting the last page of the issue here; if you're planning on reading it and haven't yet, I certainly recommend not reading the dialogue until you've hit the rest of the issue). Don’t miss this perfect epilogue to Tomasi’s years’ worth of all-time brilliant character work with Damian Wayne.

SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN 19 — I didn’t realize that Tomasi and Mahnke were on this title, but I couldn’t resist picking it up after that GONE WITH THE WIND cover lured me in. This one’s pretty solid, not approaching BATMAN-AND-ROBIN-level thunder but Tomasi does good work with little sprinkles of characterization throughout and Manhke draws the hell out of our titular leads beating the shit out of each another. There’s a really nice turn at the end with Diana staying up all night writing obituaries for the folks who were collateral damage; that detail sits quite well with me.

CONVERGENCE #0 — Ethan Van Sciver’s art on this is magnificent. That one shot of all the Supermen dying on the receding islands, in particular, is quite iconic. But the story hits me pretty flat. Brainiac is basically just playing The Beyonder with the multiverse? Right? That is not knocking my lights out. Can’t decide if I’m even going to give #1 here a shot, might just quit while I’m mostly ahead with the DC weekly goodness.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: ENDGAME #1 — I’m such a fan of regular series artist Kerschl that I almost talked myself out of buying this, but I’m glad I didn’t. Of course, regular writers Cloonan & Fletcher bring the thunder with the terrific conceit of the girls freaking each other out with spooky Joker stories while all of that Endgame rages through the regular Snyder/Capullo narrative. Fine work all around, and there’s Sonia Oback again on Olive’s story. And there’s even a cool little revelation at the end, there. This is such a great new title.

SPIDER-GWEN #003 — The pacing on this issue feels just right. I think I was missing the father/daughter chemistry just a bit there in the first two issues. Latour has crafted a very complementary nemesis for our heroine in Officer Castle, and Rodriguez/Renzi continue to knock it out of the park on sequentials. The shot of Gwen decking The Vulture was magnificent. All this and we left The Mary Janes and evil Matt Murdock on the bench this month. There’s too much rocking material in this book!

AVENGERS #43 — I’m not crazy about artist Mike Mayhew’s work here. It’s solid storytelling but not quite the A-list thunder that we need as we rocket through this long-simmering climax. Gladiator is really popping out of this insanely dense ensemble and scoring some quality character beats. I also dig how Bobby & Sam manage to save the day and then disappoint the entire world all in a couple of pages. Those loveable buffoons! I’m not quite sure what the deal is with phasing the rogue planet in but am unclear if I’m missing something or if that will just be explained next issue. Probably the most impressive part of this one was Reed comparing and contrasting he and Steve’s motivations with Tony’s; that’s as solid an analysis of Mr. Stark as I have read in quite some time. Reed is so smart!

UNCANNY AVENGERS #003 — This time out, I made a conscious effort to attempt to enjoy this series on its own merits, not in the context of being the second volume to a steadily escalating story that I found far superior. And it’s all right. Remender certainly nails Rogue’s voice (some will tell you that having her employ “ah” as a first-person pronoun in internal monologue captions is taking the Claremont dialect a bit too far, but I am not one of those Philistines). I’m still not crazy about all the questions Wanda keeps asking herself. I don’t know. I’m going to hang out for this arc and then make the call whether to bail or not.

BLACK SCIENCE #13 — The title of this series is so appropriate, I’m just getting it’s possibly intended as a correlation to “black magic,” but yeah, that’s what’s going on here. With this issue in particular, you can’t help but feel dirty reading the thing. Extra-dimensional plague! Remender does more competent work making the reader care about characters and then just arbitrarily executing them, Martin-style. For me, though, he’s almost hitting the tipping point. There have so many “holy shit” surprise character deaths already, I wonder if it’s about to train me just not to get too invested in any of these people because they’re all eventually going to be cannon fodder anyway. The Scalera/Dinisio art remains absolutely stunning, and that cover for #14 is some next-level shit.

THE DYING & THE DEAD #2 — The opening credits to that excellent new series MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES make it hard for me to have any reaction to the action-movie trope besides uproarious laughter, but once we dig into the pages, the intricate Bodenheim linework drew me right in. If last issue was the pilot episode, this one definitely scans as the first regular installment now that things are getting up and running. Most of the exposition is out of the way, and it turns out we’ve got an entire team to meet. Hickman spends most of the first half of the issue letting us get to know some guy who appears to be our protagonist’s right-hand man, and then we’re off to the races. I was able to dial into this one a little bit better, though it remains surprising to me how much I prefer Hickman’s Marvel work and THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS compared to his other creator-owned shenanigans.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #8 — Earl who? Hell if these Jasons didn’t take the apparent series villain and make him more sympathetic than old Red Crow back over yonder in SCALPED. I’m almost rooting for the evil bastard now. He gave up everything to pursue what he loved most in the world and completely own it in every way possible. Aaron’s script is rock-solid with the exception of including “alright,” which is not a word that occurs in the English language, not once but twice, but if you can ever chalk something like that up to the ignorant intent of the person expressing said grammatical offense, it’s a pass, which I think is pretty much the case here. Latour is stretching out and really creating several iconic shots in this issue alone: the splash of Euless dealing with his father, the shot of the Rebs taking their field with the new coach for the first time, the final fate of Big, and that last page. Two arcs in, and these boys are clearly still just getting started. I’m already licking my chops for “Homecoming,” due in June. Which is funny. I didn’t think this book had anything to do with that CONVERGENCE at all, there.


GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #7 — Pity Ryan Browne. The artist continues to depict his inexorably unraveling mind breaking down in full public view, panel by panel, page by page. More captivating than a train crash, more haunting than a pre-orbital space shuttle explosion, this series continues to exist and to horrify. In a bold move, Browne retires his best character, the loveable narrator 3-D Cowboy, replacing him with Exclusive-Marvel-UNCANNY-INHUMANS writer Charles Soule, who is right away just a total dick about good ol’ 3-D and really rubbed me the wrong way. Not even his extensive etymological cheeseburger wisdom could win me back over. Bring back 3-D or we riot in the streets!