Friday, October 24, 2014

10/15/14

BATMAN AND ROBIN #35 — Bruce’s Orphean quest into Apokolips continues. Gleason/Gray/Kalisz drop the serious ruckus on the five-page opening scene that sees him raining down justice on a gang of parademons. But, as great as that is, it’s even more fun to watch the gang of sidekicks sneak back into the Bat-Cave and band together to trick Cyborg into Boom-Tubing them to their mentor’s aid. I dig Jason’s “Ping Pang Poom” comment, but Kate’s subsequent “Who’s the idiot?” quip is even better. A pretty economical two-page scene with her, nothing but housekeeping, really, but a logical step before so many members of the family go off-world. But that is some cold-blooded shit, their dialogue while poor Vic is voluntarily strapping himself in to help out. And but how great is Alfred’s retrofit of Damian’s suits for the trio? This is another perfect slice of sequential narrative, completely satisfying on its own merits in episodic form even while pushing the main story along and leaving the reader ravenous for the next installment. Keep them coming, gentlemen!

BATMAN ETERNAL #28 — I do not like Jason calling him “Bats.” I wonder if the Moffat Building is a DOCTOR WHO shoutout. Have I said that before? And maybe it’s got something to do with this week’s THE WALKING DEAD Season Five premiere, but I’ve got to say, as soon as dude cocked back that baseball bat, I was totally flinching, Selina-as-The-Don-in-#35 ads notwithstanding. Meghan Hetrick and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.’s art really stands out in that scene in the Moffat Building, particularly in the close-ups of Selina. I love the tones on her face. But isn’t this the second or third time she’s brought up pole-dancing classes in this book? Let’s move on, already. But, man. As soon as Jade’s uncle pulled the trigger, you knew what was going to happen. So awful. Killer last panel (see above). For once, the ad placement opposite the last page is perfect. Another great issue of this weekly, going strong now for over half a year already.

FUTURES END #24 — This one was all right. A little bit coasting. Funny to have Angie all over Katar. Nice to see Scott and Barda back together even while expositing a bunch of carnage that we missed. The big hitch with this series is that I don’t give one great goddamn at any point when Superman shows up. Which means something has gone quite horribly wrong. Who can save us now?

FABLES #145 — Still loving the cover-as-first-page gag. That is certainly a strong three-page opening with Snow & Cinderella. Clever of Willingham to tack it on to the front of the issue “out of turn” and then just kick it into the main narrative. I assumed that we’d just get two pages of Roberson at the back. But the real trick is, setting that opening scene a week in the future and then winding the clock back for the Rose/Bellflower vs Bigby fight sets us up to know that the ladies are safe but that, hey, maybe Bigby’s about to get taken out of play with five issues still left to go. It’s a canny bit of narrative stagecraft. Willingham is so good. As are all of his cohorts, still, after all of these years.

SUPREME: BLUE ROSE #4 — The plot thickens pretty substantially here as we follow Doc Rocket away from Diana Dane and head over to the Hotel Krohme, which used to be the headquarters for a superhero team but is now apparently a bar where you can get a glass of quality rye whiskey. There, he meets Zayla Zarn, who relates that the generation of a Supreme is basically an inevitable occurrence that takes place whenever the world needs an “extremely energetic actor in human affairs.” However, all of this destabilizes the continuum and necessitates a continuity revision. But the last time that happened, something really screwed up, and it looks like the next eight hundred years are going to be a massive Dark Age. Unless something happens, presumably. Old Zayla did not seem terribly optimistic on that point. But, there must be hope! Professor Night is as wonderful as usual, but then we get a flash-forward to c. 2100 featuring “late human render ghosts” that is some pretty out shit, as far as these things go. Warren Ellis has considerable stones putting this out there. It is diamond-hard sci-fi, very much deserving of its Lynch-inspired title. There’s a narrative in here somewhere, but every time you think you’ve got your mind wrapped around it, it slithers away through some inverted hyper-dimensional triangular apparent non-sequitur that might mean everything in hindsight. Tula Lotay’s work is beautiful again. I never would have thought that anyone would be able to step to Moore’s classic run from fifteen years ago, but this is doing the job just fine.

TREES #6 — This book remains a very interesting study in restraint or really almost premise avoidance. It’s kind of a wacky trick. Here, we have this really solid set-up of these trees, giant towering alien ships that landed ten years ago in several major cities and that have just hung out there doing God knows what for all this time and don’t seem to consider human life worthy of the least bit of consideration. With that established, Ellis swerves all the way in the opposite direction from mythology or world-building and instead zooms all the way in on his cast for some in-depth character interaction. The majority of this issue is devoted to Chenglei dealing with the emotional aftermath of last night’s orgy with Zhen and friends. This is a complicated situation requiring several pages of hashing it out with his transgender uncle because Zhen is also transgender and Chenglei has been thinking that he was bi-sexual but now having completely fallen for a beautiful “girl with a cock” is kind of messing him up. Ellis never loses sight of the emotional core and writes honest relatable dialogue that manages to play as fairly universal even to straight folks who are comfortable with their initial gender and have not yet had the chance to participate in an orgy (never say never, young one!). Ellis’s beats do a bit more work here than usual, but Jason Howard still shoulders the bulk of the heavy lifting, really magnificent work on every page. Seems like there are only one or two more of these before they go on break, but I’ve enjoyed the relatively quiet introspective ride thus far.

DAREDEVIL #009 — Man, just in time for Halloween. These purple kids are horrifying. I dig the interaction first thing between Foggy, Kirsten, and Matt, the way that Waid bounces their dialogue off one another feels completely unforced and natural. Nice gag with Kirsten compressing “terse.” But all of that gives way to the main event, Matt vs. Killgrave’s offspring, which Waid choreographs to perfection. It’s like the guy’s been writing comics for nearly thirty years or something. And of course Samnee continues to rain down the destruction, more than ably abetted by Matthew Wilson. This one is still as great as they say, kids.

FANTASTIC FOUR #11 — Things continue to deteriorate for our intrepid quartet as Reed gets a pep talk from Wanda, Jen & Wyatt meet to discuss how bad everything is looking, Ben takes a shower in prison, Sue makes it back to Reed, and then someone who surely isn’t Barney Barton tries to fill Wyatt full of arrows but is stopped by a friendly neighborhood cameo. Robinson keeps everyone in character and Kirk/Kesel/Aburtov are turning in some A-list art. These guys aren’t garnering enough praise for the quality of their work.

UNCANNY X-MEN #027 — It is a such a joy to get Bachalo back on interiors, this book never really feels right without him. He takes a break from coloring his own lines this time (which maybe should be the deal for always if that will necessitate less fill-ins?) with Jose Villarrubia and Rain Beredo stepping in to provide work that manages to pop and maintain an even subtlety throughout. Old Matthew Malloy proves as formidable as Bendis has been Bendis-speaking us that he is as he manages to add a notch to the count of helicarriers that this book has swatted down from the sky like nothing more than a pesky housefly. The turn at the end isn’t quite a plot twist, but it’s exactly the way Scott would play it. It will be interesting to see where things go from here. Doesn’t Bendis know you’re not supposed to introduce formidable new mutants until the timeless evil of Fox Studios can be quashed? Shouldn’t the editors have nipped this whole thing in the bud before Bachalo ever got eyes on the script?

AVENGERS·X-MEN: AXIS #2—More good fun to be had here as Tony’s Sentinels kick the teams’ collective ass all up and down. I like the voice that Remender gives him in the first-person narrative captions, but the deal about Tony’s mental journal detailing everybody’s weaknesses is a biiiiiiit “Tower of Babel” for my taste. Did anyone think Young Nova was going to get his ruin smote upon the mountainside? The falling-for-Rogue thing seemed like a kiss of death, but I guess they’re not going to sacrifice him quite yet. If only readers had cottoned to Jeph Loeb’s random reboot of the character! Come to think of it, Remender has no problem doing a pretty straight cover version of AMAZING #33 with Tony on Page 12, there. That dude has a thing for reprising his favorite iconic mighty Marvel moments! Great deal with Magneto bailing. I still don’t care about Alex and Jan. At all. Pretty much anytime someone calls Nightcrawler “fuzzy elf,” that’s all it takes to get me all misty and nostalgic, apparently. And maybe it’s just coming off tonight’s previous issue, but that last shot of Magneto’s Eleven (apparently recruited in MAGNETO #11, natch!) reeeeeeally looks like Bachalo drew it. Kubert & Martin certainly tore it up, throughout, it must be said. Sorry to lose them next week, but of course Yu and friends will certainly crush it.

NEW AVENGERS #025 — I am wild for the premise of this crew as just the straight-up bad guys of the Marvel universe with Tony still completely M.I.A.. I mean, the old deal about how the most timeless villain is a hero in his own eyes? How are you going to get more compelling than Reed Richards leading a team of the smartest people in the world to save it from itself? I’m definitely onboard with all of these shenanigans. It’s testament to how interesting the dynamic is, not much happens besides the guys getting set up in an old pre-Fury S.H.I.E.L.D. hideout (paaaaaaaging Dustin Weaver) and then just hanging out there on the other end of the line while Cho gets captured back in AVENGERS #035. That’s pretty much the whole deal, and it’s riveting. Kev Walker’s style is a bit looser than the insane realism we’ve come to expect on this book from Deodato and Schiti, but it’s also quite reminiscent of JRJr., so who’s going to question that DNA here in the glorious old 616? That’s some cold shit, though, Sue interrogating Amadeus. You kind of get the feeling that she knew they were being monitored and was just letting Reed have it via remote. Cold, Sue.


BEST OF WEEK: ANNIHILATOR #2 — Very nice balanced symmetry from Irving in these first few pages of Spass & Nomax, here. Morrison has really hit upon something here with the notion of the biography of a character beamed into the writer’s head as a data bullet brain tumor with the only hope for survival being that the writer has to tell the guy’s story. I love how Irving cranks up the art and washes out all the colors during the story-within-a-story screenplay scenes. Morrison plays up the interplay between writer and protagonist to comedic effect. It is good fun to hear Max going on about Act Three or demanding to know “what happened next.” Just realizing a funny trick here, Ray not only introduces Jet Makro the Arch-Annihilator in his script because it’s the end of Act One, but by issue’s end, that very individual makes planetfall, crashing into the Hollywood sign (and seriously, the colors that Irving drops on that last page alone are jaw-dropping). But on the previous page, Max tells Ray that he is “absolutely the bad guy.” All of this at the end of the second issue, which is about where the proper first act of this series is apparently landing. Morrison has been all about the meta- for twenty-five years, but it’s exciting to observe him kicking it back and forth on so many simultaneous levels. I saved this for the end in the headlining slot but probably should have paired it with SUPREME: BLUE ROSE in hindsight. Serious business, all around.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

10/08/14

BEST OF WEEK: BATTLING BOY: THE RISE OF AURORA WEST — This is a tough gig on art. Paul Pope’s BATTLING BOY was the best book released last year, adored in equal measure by critics and fans alike. It actually managed to surpass the monstrous amounts of hype that accrued around an A-list industry superstar taking more years than initially projected to produce a new original work of more than two hundred pages. Shortly after its release, this prequel starring the female co-protagonist was announced. I was thrilled until hearing that Pope was only co-writing. There was no way this project would be able to hit the heights of solo Pope, not with any other cooks in the kitchen. Enter David Rubín. I don’t know where Pope found him, but this guy does an uncanny cover version of Pope’s very distinctive style that completely sells the most jaded critic. The layouts are inventive and dynamic, and the body language is completely rocking the Kirby dynamism (particularly, crucially, in the action sequences). Rubín manages to straddle that same line that Pope does between over-exaggerated cartoony stylization that’s totally madcap and fun with this really creepy ominous foreboding inherent in the scratchy linework. Rubín does a fantastic job depicting Aurora at several different points in time, aging her in immediately recognizable and very convincing ways so that the reader can identify how old she is at a glance. Then, he’s got an entirely different skill set going on with Haggard and Gately, both of whom are these imposing physical presences whose massive statue and gruff exteriors belie their obvious affection for their young charge. I could go on and on about Rubín, how well his black-and-white work holds up next to Pope’s full-color situation last year. But this would all be nothing more than a bunch of brilliant technical craft without Pope and J.T. Petty’s script, which imbues the story with its heart and soul. There is, of course, a major theme of barely buried melancholy running through this entire thing as we examine what a massive hole the death of Rosetta West has left in the lives of her husband and daughter, which is unfortunate enough just on a surface level, but infinitely worse when you’ve already hit the original and know how that opening scene plays out, what’s just around the corner for these characters. On top of everything else, this functions as a coming-of-age story for Aurora as she figures out that her imaginary friend might not have been so imaginary after all. This goes a very long way toward fleshing out not just the title character but one of Sadisto’s previously generic henchmen as well and retroactively imbues BATTLING BOY with even more depth and pathos then a first reading could possibly provide. The writers never lose sight of keeping the family dynamic front and center, which goes a long way toward fleshing out these characters and making them fully realized. Which, of course, makes the wait until the next full-on Pope installment of BATTLING BOY all the more grueling.

G.I. JOE VS TRANSFORMERS #3 — Scioli continues to produce cracked-out mashed-up cracklin’ entertainment that is both celebration and codification of the medium’s vast potential. No matter how high the stakes escalate in this conflict between the various armies of two worlds, Scioli’s sense of thrill and exhilaration is always front and center, which makes this a consistently fun read page after page, no matter who’s getting blown up or killed for a fake funeral or what have you. This guy packs as much into a double-page splash as other artists do into entire issues. Scioli also continues to elevate the source material by providing richer backstories and character motivation than even Hama did during his immortal (and still ongoing!) run. I would devour an entire book about Destro and Megatron just hanging out, verbally sparring over tactics and the craft of war. I also love the fact that even though we weren’t on Earth at all for #2, Scioli goes ahead and says that an issue’s worth of business actually went down, but we just missed it and so have to catch up. Once again, one of the best books of the month.

BATGIRL #35 — Hopes have been high ever since Babs Tarr’s fresh and fun redesign of Barbara’s costume hit the Internet a little while back. It actually got to the point that the hype kept building and building and people kept posting more and more fan art, and I started to wonder if the poor script could possibly meet the expectations that were building to such a massive level, week after week. However, Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher overcome the odds and manage to deliver a first issue that sets a definitive tone from the first page that is a bit more light-hearted than what we have come to expect from the majority of The New 52. Opening with Barbara’s move places the focus squarely on her secret identity and provides a richness of characterization that has been lacking in the character since Simone’s exit. And the interpersonal reactions with her new roommates are entertaining unto themselves. The reader certainly isn’t sitting around waiting for the tights to come out, it’s fun enough to watch the characters all bounce off one another the morning after Barbara’s debaucherous moving-in party that is sadly only depicted in flashback (though it should be noted that the method of depiction via our heroine’s photographic memory is a very cool trick that is running neck-and-neck with Scioli above for this week’s best “only in comics!” moment). Stacking the supporting cast with Dinah Lance crashing on the couch is a great idea, particularly in light of the last-page twist. This one is a little bit less all-ages than I was expecting. It’s probably just barely over the line of not being appropriate for my five-year-old in the way that GOTHAM ACADEMY totally is, but the slightly racier tone is a good fit for the character and plays well here. Yet another impressive launch from DC’s line of Batman books, the only corner of Editorial that has been consistently knocking it out of the park for the past three years.

BATMAN #35 — At last! It’s almost been half of this volume’s lifespan, but we finally made it back to the present. So great to open with the simple “GOTHAM CITY, NOW” caption. Of course, ha ha, Snyder’s still got to mention Zero Year in the very first narrative caption. We get it, Snyder, it was a whole thing, man! Zero Year, it really happened! You’ve sold us on it. It’s cool to see young Lola there in the opening section and even better to at least get a page of that future from #28 that they keep teasing. Snyder naturally writes a terrific dynamic between Bruce, Alfred, and Julia. And the rest is Capullo/Miki/Plascencia slugfest thunder. The JLA attacks. This is one of those cases where there’s no way that what we got should have been the cover. I really wish they would have saved the one they used until next issue and let it actually be a surprise because as soon as Diana shows up, your first question shouldn’t be, “All right, cool, but where’s Clark?” It should be riveting enough that she’s there all by herself. A fun set-up here, though, going forward. Capullo’s had a couple of months to get ahead, so here’s hoping he’s strapped in for another blessed year of regular deadline delivery goodness.

BATMAN ETERNAL #27 — I don’t know these guys, Javier Garron on art with Romulo Fajardo, Jr. on colors, but they continue this book’s tradition of importing guys with a strong European aesthetic that really makes this book feel different from what we’ve been getting lately in all the regular books. When Ibanescu starts talking to the Zebra and actually addressing it as Zebra, though, that’s probably the high point of this issue for me. Cool to see Flamingo pop up, it’s always nice when someone runs with one of the million things Morrison’s tossed off. And we’ve definitely got a couple of crazy cliffhangers to follow up on. Next week!

FUTURES END #23 — Everything keeps clipping along here. I remain a fan of the Frankenstein/Amethyst crew’s extraplanetary explorations. That was a nice line Atom got about swords for those of us who collected comics in the eighties. Still really not caring about Voodoo’s squad, and the Tim/Madison plot is taking quite a dip now if we’re just going to turn it into a triangle with Ronnie, of all people. That ending, though. Yeah, man. It must be October. Completely horrifying.

ARROW: SEASON 2.5 #1 — All right, I’m confused. I picked this up because I was feeling giddy about the Season Three premiere today, but I thought this was supposed to be a bridge between the seasons? Why do we care about a Brother Blood cliffhanger at this point, is this supposed to be him coming back? I doubt it? The whole deal is ill-advised. I’m sticking with Amell.

WYTCHES #1 — “The Black Mirror” is one of my favorite Dick Grayson stories of all time, so of course I was onboard when Scott Snyder & Jock announced this new creator-owned, very wisely soliciting the talents of one of the best colorists in the business and previous Snyder collaborator on THE WAKE, Matt Hollingsworth, and Clem Robins of 100 BULLETS lettering fame to round out the creative ensemble. This was even better than I was expecting, though. You can tell that everyone involved really put their heart and soul into the work even while hustling it up to get in print during the month of October. We open with a horrifying scene of a mother about to get apparently eaten by a tree and failing to receive assistance from her young son in a manner that is most disturbing and that yields the probable catch-phrase of the comic, “Pledged is pledged.” Cut to the present and we’ve got a dad trying to buoy the spirits of his daughter while waiting for the bus to take her to her first day at a new school. There are a couple of major plot escalations that I won’t spoil, but the bulk of this issue is spent laying groundwork, establishing who these people are. Snyder does really efficient characterization via a long-distance phone call between the dad, who’s a graphic novelist, and his editor. This is important work because we only get a few pages to ground these characters in a relatable situation before the serious shit really starts coming down, so serious that we’re going to have to wait another month to catch the whole thing on-panel. Razor-sharp narrative craft throughout from Snyder, but Jock and Hollingsworth do plenty of heavy lifting here, building suspense by sending the camera over to the woods just when we’re getting comfortable with some heartwarming characterization. Really, the dominant element that I’m coming away with sitting here typing without my copy within arm’s reach is Hollingsworth’s reds. He always varies up his palette depending on the project, but here he keeps things not quite as muted as HAWKEYE but pretty restrained nonetheless, reining it in with some quiet daytime yellows giving way to ominous blues and greens before exploding into these vibrant reds. This is a very promising start, and I fully expect all parties to deliver on the promise of this initial installment.

PUNKS: THE COMIC #1 — Very cool to see this return after such a long hiatus. I was lucky enough to pick up the first issue from Kody Chamberlain at a con a few years back and was struck by its completely unique usage of paste art in the name of depicting general skullfuck insanity. Fialkov & Chamberlain have only gotten more demented in the past few years. This issue’s sequence with Dog and Larry, then King Dog versus the all-out gnome attack is wonderful and horrifying. I had to take a little walk when it was over just to pull myself together. There’s really nothing else like this on the rack. Or anywhere else. Recommended to fans of the fundamentally disturbing absurd.

SEX CRIMINALS #8 — This book might actually be even better when it for the most part dodges its original premise and just lets the characters hang out and tell us shit through that broken fourth wall. As invested as everyone is in Jon & Suze’s relationship, the opening scene of the latter scoping out Robert Rainbow during an OB/GYN visit manages to play not as some kind of betrayal but actually does some solid work fleshing out her character out and making her seem even more endearing. Who wouldn’t want a bit of an escape to normalcy after all that crazy shit that went down in the first arc? And RR turning out to be the absent Cat Man from Jon’s past is wonderful. Once again, as good as the actual funny book pages are, they’re trumped by the heartfelt outpourings from the readers, many of whom have apparently just lost their virginity and/or are receiving powerful resonances with Jon battling ADHD/OCD, if this month is a representative sample. The absolute best thing about this whole issue, though, is Zdarsky telling the readers to drop Gillen/McKelvie a line at the THE WICKED + THE DIVINE e-mail address to tell them what their book helps readers masturbate onto. Incredible.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #24 — Goodness day! Our Mister Hickman is a bit zanier than he has previously let on. I mean, sure, you put Oswald on the first page, but I didn’t think that that meant that we were just going to do the whole thing here and now. Pitarra continues to hone the precision of his linework and Bellaire’s tones are as beautifully complementary as ever. A perfect example of the insanity of this book is that we can cut straight from 11/22/63 to four pages of Von Braun and Gagarin lost in space searching for Laika and then getting abducted by a giant alien mothership. This book is nothing but good fun.

ASTRO CITY #16 — I had no complaints with the previous two-parter, but Busiek and company all dig a little bit deeper here and reinforce why this has been one of the very best books on the rack whenever it’s shown up over the past twenty years. This is a really sweet tale that began life as an eight-page back-up feature detailing Superman’s college years (of course it did!). The Silver Age love is right there in the DNA. The main feature is timeless and universal. I had a bit of a hiccup toward the end jumping back to the present and then had to go back and reread the opening sequence to really fully process how it all went down. The transitioning overall could have been smoother, we saw the stitches a little bit, but I very much didn’t care. This is a beautiful piece of work, and I’m grateful that we live in a world where this book not only appears so regularly that we’re already on #16, but it’s still building and gaining momentum from the very first page of this volume toward something that has only barely been hinted at while we’ve been getting entertained as hell along the way. And nowhere else has the terrific cover-as-first-page gimmick Vertigo’s been doing this month yielded such glorious fruit as Alex Ross just about getting tricked into producing a page of sequential action. Good on ya, Shelly Bond!

BLACK SCIENCE #9 — Man, that is a pretty bleak way to open the issue here with the Becca’s Dead Twin flashback. Unfortunate. Matteo Scalera & Dean White have arguably never looked better. These pages are glorious. The two-page spread of the cars racing through the marketplace is out of control. And that whole second-person captions deal in the back half of this issue certainly does end on a crazy twist. Man, nine issues in, and these fellas are just barely ramping up the crazy. Strong work!

AVENGERS—X-MEN: AXIS #1 — Remender does a terrific job setting up the ensemble’s chemistry from the very first page, providing a tight rapid-fire shot of banter as the team flies up to the scene of the latest dastardly doing. The tone is Whedon meets Bendis, which I suppose is the bull’s-eye you want to be aiming for with the Avengers these days. Grounding the characters’ interactions in the rhythms of Whedonspeak goes a long way toward making these pages feel like a widescreen adventure at the multiplex, which helps distinguish it from the seemingly never-ending onslaught (I’m sorry) of these things that bleed one into another. This is a good choice to set the scene, checking in with these guys before cutting back to the cliffhanger from UNCANNY AVENGERS #025. Things get pretty drastic pretty quickly as the Red Onslaught fellow brings Wanda in his thrall the damn first page after the titles, which is really not a good thing. All the really horrible shit always starts with Wanda, seems like. But there is a nice moment of Summers brothers reconciliation before more horrible things are about to erupt. Adam Kubert & Laura Martin show up with their usual high level of craft, imbuing every scene with enough grandeur to make this feel like maybe possibly this one will be a big deal. Remender’s got a pretty strong track record, so I’m certainly willing to extend him some credit, but I’ve got to say that just in terms of premise, it seems like maybe he’s digging a little bit too deep into the old nineties well. I mean, I was all for going back to the Age of Apocalypse back in UNCANNY X-FORCE, but this whole Red Onslaught thing might be a little much. What’s next, “X-Cutioner’s Song 2?”


AVENGERS #036 — Well, this is one cover that certainly came true, isn’t it? The cool thing about Hickman’s time-jump is that he can actually make Thor and all the crew probably dying on the other side of the multiverse seem pretty plausible to the less jaded readership just because it will take years and years of present-day Marvel stories starring that unworthy fellow to catch up to this point. Really cool to see former SECRET WARRIORS collaborator Stefano Caselli back in the saddle on this one. The guy’s another seriously underrated professional. In other news, Bobby has pretty much just turned into Tony Stark? It’s not only his title and role within the ensemble, he even seems scripted like Downey’s delivery all of a sudden. Once again, Hickman does solid work filling an issue in which basically one thing happens (they leave) with enough strong character-based interaction that it makes for a satisfying read in singles. Thanks, man.

Friday, October 10, 2014

10/1/14

BEST OF WEEK: GOTHAM ACADEMY #1 — Ever since this was announced with the cover for this issue serving as the sole piece of promo art, I have been really pumped for this series, in large part because I couldn’t wait to read it with my little girl (we have a big old LI’L GOTHAM-sized hole in our month, these days), but also just because it looked like a slam-dunk from the beginning. I love everything from Cloonan and have been jonesing for some more sequentials from Kerschl since finding his offering from WEDNESDAY COMICS five years ago (!) to be arguably the greatest Flash story ever (except for probably that brilliant retcon Fleming/Infantino did in SECRET ORIGINS ANNUAL #2 that has Barry turning into the lightning bolt that hit him immediately after CRISIS #8, but whoa hey, we’re already way off-topic). Karl Kerschl is a seriously underrated A-list type of fella. I went into this with pretty high hopes that were completely surpassed. From the get-go, we’re thrown into the middle of it with a protagonist named Olive Silverlock whose grumpy disposition hints at a troubled summer and who, in the same dualistic fashion that is such a hallmark of these mythos, is saddled with a sidekick who is the embodiment of joy and excitement. That’s not all, as in due course, we are quickly introduced to the headmaster, the soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend, the nemesis, and the roommate before a dangerous climax erupts and we are treated to the inevitable cameo of our dear Master Bruce. Cloonan/Fletcher nail every beat of this, setting up these character interactions with an economical grace. These folks are all tropes of young adult fiction, but it’s the eponymous setting that’s the real star here, as well as its effect on these admittedly stock initial set-ups. The best thing about the characterization, though, is that Olive has total agency and requires no one to save her or even set her straight. Her motivation is totally internal. Which can be tricky to portray outside of moving pictures, and the team pulls it off well, here. But can we talk about Karl Kerschl? The building itself is a marvel, projecting the vibe of a haunted house that you wouldn’t mind getting lost in at least as long as the sun is up. Then, he’s got a quasi-manga thing going on with these faces, the bigger eyes and noses turned slightly upward, which is a good fit, here. And even the shape of his panel layouts is innovative, stacking them in ways that don’t immediately call attention to themselves but that are really quite impressive once you look a little closer, recalling bricks and other architectural structures. A master storyteller, to be sure. And on colors, Geyser (?) and Dave McCaig really make this feel like a living, breathing world that you could fall right into. This first issue does everything right and sets up what looks to be serious greatness to come.

GRAYSON #3 — Heartbreaking. I think this one might just barely have been a tighter script than last month’s, which crushed me, except now we have Brother Janin’s immaculate linework and layouts to accentuate the emotional devastation. The Dick-pun thing really annoyed me on the promos and the first page of #1, but they pushed it so far here, not only on that already timeless Page 3/4 one-two punch here but then throughout in the remainder of Agent 8’s dialogue, I don’t know, I guess I just have to salute them for commitment? (but not dick-salute, it feels like I have to explicitly state) What I’m getting distracted from saying is that this is already blasting up over the horizon of DC’s very best monthly offerings and these guys are obviously only just getting started. Dick has never been in better hands. I hate to say?

BATMAN ETERNAL #26 — I really love Tim doing the Wiley Wiggins bridge-of-the-nose grab while saying “We’re getting away from the point.” And the point is: More Guera sequentials! Such a coup for this book, man. It is a really terrific touch how Guera recreates the black and white flashbacks that Lee did in Hush, not only so smart but what execution. That splash recreation of Hush running up the bridge shooting at our boy is strong material. I love Julia “Penny-Two” Pennytworth finally saying “Master Bruce.” That shit is earned, people.

FUTURES END #22 — Everything is certainly spinning along now! I can’t believe there have been twenty-two of these things, the time has raced on by. But storylines are paying off. I don’t care really at all about Voodoo’s squad, but that guy talking horrible exposition to himself, and acknowledging that he was doing so in-dialogue, was a pretty unfortunate part of an otherwise entertaining issue. I totally didn’t realize that that was Ronnie Raymond being a dick in Tim’s bar earlier, whenever that was. Zircher shows up and kills it again, that final double-page spread is every bit the stunner it needs to be. The Blood Moon, indeed!

WONDER WOMAN #34 — All hands are on deck and the dialogue is sharp and the art is sharper, but for a penultimate run-up, this whole situation feels a little bit shallow. The craft appears immaculate but isn’t devastating me like experience tells me should be happening here at the end of a run this long that I’ve enjoyed throughout. I’m confused.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SECOND CYCLE #5 — Whaaaaaaat? No Albuquerque?!? This seemed like a pretty scandalous deal when I turned to the first page and noticed this fact for the first time, but Matias Bergara does plenty of good work, and it turns out this is an American Vampire story really only nominally, being the mainly epistolary tale of an 1850 claim called Royal Forkes that is much more horrible than it at first appears. Snyder’s word count is probably three times what it usually is, what with all of the diary pages, and this whole deal is very much a thematic descendant of old EC Comics. Except for a brief mention to our doomed present-day hero’s friend Agent Book, this story has pretty much nothing to do with the AV mythos, but I didn’t care one little bit, as it provided solid entertainment watching the fella willfully lower himself right down out of this mortal coil. Don’t go down there, bro! What are you hoping to find?

LAST BORN #1 — The first issue of a brand new series is a very tricky beast to wrangle. You’ve got to hook the reader from the beginning while establishing both the rules of your universe and the tone that you’re going to be rolling with going forward, balancing action beats and dialogue while doing the most important work: getting your reader to invest in your character(s), all of this while delivering an installment that is both satisfying on its own merits and also gives a glimpse of this magnificent story that you’re going to tell with a satisfying conclusion sitting there just on the far side of the horizon. That’s why when it’s done perfectly, the results are symphonic. But, it’s a rare beast. UMBRELLA ACADEMY and CASANOVA are the last two that hit me as perfect first issues. This issue opens with a scene that seems intentionally disorienting, something goes wrong with some guys in hazmat suits at a cave, and it ruins the mind of the dad of our narrator, who turns out to be a girl in 1961 who wants to graduate high school and live life as a free-spirited Wellesley girl. But her aunt and boring boyfriend have other ideas. He proposes to her, and she’s not having it, so she runs into the woods and gets white-flashed into this ruined future landscape. Here’s the coolest deal about the issue, she stumbles upon some sort of projector that has a pair of possibly reptilian (?) guys in armor saying that Cycle 7 is over and they tried their best to take care of Cycle 8 in utero, but they just don’t know, and Goddess save Cycle 9. Cut back to blasted future landscape, there’s a brief conflict, she falls in with a couple of other folks, and they walk off. Then, some new dude crashes in from parts unknown, says he shouldn’t have drunk so much, cut to 2341 and it turns out the world’s going to end, so this same dude (who it looks like is probably a past version of the drunk dude from the last page, you can tell because he’s hitting a flask) says, Let’s start the world over. And we cut to a shot of hologram heads of our heroine and those two she just met here at the end along with a counter that confirms that the world will end in 46 days just like those guys said. There are definitely some cool concepts being flung around here, and I’m curious to see where they go. Unfortunately, Patrick Meany, whose Morrison documentary I really enjoyed, doesn’t pack his characters with anywhere near enough depth to make me invest in them. I just barely care about the protagonist, and every single other character is flat and underdeveloped. If the old guy and little girl from blasted future landscape are in any way pivotal to the development of the overall narrative, as that final panel suggests, then they need a much stronger introduction. Having the girl talk in 3-point type isn’t going to do it. I want to check this out next time and see where it goes, because it’s clearly just getting started, but this thing was nowhere near LOST meets . . . I forget now, advance hype had it as wither STAR WARS or THE INVISIBLES, but not even close, so far.

THE FADE OUT #2 — It’s kind of a trip, sets my mind spinning, these same talented folks just opening the door into yet another sprawling story. And the surface similarities to SATELLITE SAM don’t make it any easier, I think I said last month, though of course nobody’s confusing this also-great art with Chaykin in black and white. You know, if these folks put it out, I will be happy to drown in it, everybody was so at the top of their game fifty issues ago that this whole deal is like one gorgeous long noir tapestry and when one movie runs out, the projectionist already has the next one ready to go on the other reel, so it never really ends. That was an interesting note from Brubaker in the backmatter because I TOTALLY too away that Charlie thought he done killed her last issue, so I guess I’m going to have to go back and investigate all of this subtlety to which Brubaker is referring.

MORNING GLORIES #41 — A Guillaume-centric! Towerball! Jun/Hisao! I think really Jun! A rotting Hisao corpse! Or a rotting Jun corpse that used to have Hisao in it! A Jade sacrifice! Isn’t she the one we see with Hunter in the future, though? Or from the future? Or am I making all of that up? Shouldn’t I always read these much earlier in the night before having so many Lone Stars? When will I pull the trigger on the Very Necessary Reread of all this crazy?

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #2 — I feel like I need to be maybe a little bit more on drugs to fully appreciate this. Or fully appreciating this makes me feel maybe a little bit more on drugs? I believe that, like last month, I will simply summarize the four-page opening scene as a microcosm of the insane experience of willfully opening yourself up to Ryan Browne’s diseased mind with no filter. Because any more contemplation or consideration of this will surely reduce my once-noble mind to vegetative status. 3-D Cowboy introduces us to a flashback of Dr. Professor’s first day on the job at NASA. Dr. Professor is greeted by Dr. Axligator, an alligator with a battle axe. Dr. Professor is a rhinoceros, remember. Dr. Axligator escorts Dr. Professor to Mission Control, where an astronaut owl on the moon reports via comlink that he (the owl) had sex with Mrs. Axligator. But no, it is only a joke. The owl, Owldrin, and Seal Armstrong, a seal, are hitting golf balls on the moon when a little crab walks up, clearly smitten with the golf ball, the tee, or both. Seal Armstrong hits the crab into outer space while Owldrin somehow consumes a bottle of booze through his helmet. Seal offers the booze to Owldrin. They look up and are surprised to find a “crab blitzkrieg,” hundreds and hundreds of outer space crabs descending on them from outer space. That’s the first four pages.

SILVER SURFER #006 — This is nothing more than terrific cosmic fun. I know I always keep bringing it up, but it’s because Slott so nails the The Doctor/Companion dynamic in this book, and this issue is a really great second-episode-of-the-season all on its own. We’ve got the status quo established finally, and it’s time to ride that board out as far as it will take us. Has Dawn already been calling the board “Toomie” before now? I just got it this time out, that’s pretty funny. The Allreds continue to ascend toward a peak in the distant horizon, these pages look as good as anything we’ve ever seen from them. I was so grateful for that last shot, right when I made it to the page-turn, involuntarily stopped and said to myself, “Oh, they’re not going to GIVE it to us, are they?” They did. This book is as much fun as it should be. As comics should be, in general.

FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #1 — This was hard to get through in the best of ways. Gutwrenching, really. Robinson has put the titular quartet through the wringer since his first page, and it’s really starting to take a toll on not just the characters but me as a reader. I just want to go have some fun exploring the Negative Zone once in a while! Nothing bad ever happens there. But here, we have a visibly shaken Sue on her last legs just trying to force her family back together and make everything okay, but it’s too late for that. I’m still just having so much trouble reconciling this in my head. Doom was totally in the right here. At no point was he acting in any way that was completely morally and ethically acceptable given the circumstances. It was Sue who dropped in, threw a fit, and trashed the entire damn castle. This story benefits from the added page count of an annual to give Tom Grummett enough room to really stretch out and show us what happens when the most powerful member of the FF is pushed to the edge. And it doesn’t hurt that Hickman’s run coinciding with my daughter’s infancy made Valeria probably my favorite character in this title for all time. Some annuals and most Point-One issues are skippable fill-ins. This is not one of those.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #025 — Man, I don’t know. I hate to say that the thrill is all the way gone, but I’m just still having a hard time re-enlisting for a second tour with this crew after that brilliant first ride. I wish I could figure out how to shield myself from the advance media cycle, because I’m sure that seeing The Red Skull in Onslaught armor out of nowhere in full context might possibly have been an actually shocking moment, but Marvel keeps ruining it by plastering that shit all over everywhere three-months-and-counting-down-from-then-on before it happens, so by the time it’s time, I’m just like, “No, Magneto, don’t kill him, you’re just going to make him the psychic amalgam of you and Charles from the nineties. Somehow. I guess because Remender is serious aces at recycling All A That Shit?” And then I just turn the page and am like, Yeah, bring on the AXIS, then. It’s certainly a neat trick how they copped the NEW X-MEN upside-downable palindrome trick on the logo.


ALSO BEST OF WEEK: BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #001 — It’s quite the week for crushing debuts, and these two are so far on the end of the thematic and tonal spectrum, trying to decide which one is better than the other is ridiculous. This series sounded like a really serious set-up from the moment that the title and creative team were announced, but when the premise became clear at the end of ORIGINAL SIN, I knew that we were going to be in for a hell of a ride. But, man, did these guys deliver. Marco Rudy on full art continues to absolutely crush every single panel of every page, lavishing gorgeous painted tones all over the place that recall early Vertigo greats like McKean and Fegredo, as well as Sienkiewicz and cited inspiration David Mack. Just like that Spidey mini that came out a little while back with Kindt, I found myself much more indignant than usual at the presence of ads in this book. How dare they be presented opposite such works of beauty? Why not put them at the back of the book like DC was good enough to do for JWIII on BATWOMAN before they pissed him off? Brother Rudy’s just going to have to start coming with the all double-page layout spreads so that we won’t be inundated with the requisite ten pages of ads amidst all this beauty. I do notice, going back through it now, that these are all in-house ads. Weird deal. At any rate, Ales Kot delivers a tight, very well balanced script that has Bucky and Hickman’s Daisy Johnson being basically pro-active assassins across the universe in the name of keeping Earth safe from invasion. I do wish Jason Aaron, or whomever made it up, didn’t go with “The Man on the Wall” as the title because every single time I read those words, I can’t help but picture Jon Snow and all those other boys on the Knight’s Watch. Maybe that’s just me. What’s so great about this script, though, the balance I was talking about. This is a deeply weird, pretty hard science fiction type situation that could totally get bogged down in the seriousness and stakes of what they’re doing, but Kot knows just when to buoy the situation and keep things light with the platonic camaraderie between the two leads or lines like the already-famous “Imperius Sex.” He also manages to pack this first time out full of ideas that seem like they’re setting up a whole lot of what’s to come. This is yet another Marvel book that is very much its own creature and would have been unimaginable without the creative freedom and risk-taking that Editorial has been actively fostering under Alonso’s regime these past few years. I doubt that it’s deliberate, but they’ve basically taken all the superspy espionage that was such a focal component of Brubaker’s run and mashed it up with that madcap deep space weirdness that worked out so well for Chris Pratt and his crew at the multiplexes this summer. And, more importantly, made it work. An amalgam I can definitely get behind, and these boys are just getting started. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

9/24/14

FUTURE’S END #21 — These DC weeklies were slamming this week! First, Cully Hamner shows up to regulate all over this one. The deal with this issue is it’s like 95% exposition and still wonderful as we finally fill in a whole gang of blanks about what happened when The Big War finally went down. Though I have to say, I don’t see some random Parademon taking Cassie out. Basically, this entire issue is first the Earth-2 Red Arrow Ollie and then our Ollie laying it all out for Barda, and then on the last page, she snarls and is all ready to kick ass in the way that only she can be. And it’s a treasure.

BATMAN ETERNAL #25 — And then R.M. Guera destroys it over here! As many people as have already kicked ass on this title in the past 24 issues, Guera arguably manages to outdo them all. I dug Jason and Tim giving each other The Business while visiting Alfred in the hospital, great character dynamics, there. I’m maybe almost okay with Jason being alive again, is what this makes me realize. It only took, what, a dozen years? I was also into the Batman/Penny-Two back-and-forth. This was pretty much a perfect issue until they fumbled it on the one-yard line with that “We’ve got this,” business there in the last damn panel. I hate that phrase and can let it slide if it seems in-character, but Tim is too smart to be messing up English like that. Alfred damn sure taught him better.

BEST OF WEEK: CHEW #43 — Whoa there, Layman! That is some evil shit to pull, now. I mean Toni-evil. Terrific issue highlighting yet another permutation of this not being the Tony Chu Adventure Hour but instead playing around in a universe where several very entertaining combinations of characters and premises are possible. Who doesn’t want to read a book about Olive, Colby, and Poyo doing their thing with Mason and Cesar in cosplay disguise gently shepherding them through the mission? Even worse than FABLES last week, though, which was awful, I got lulled into this peaceful calm and then just ripped up by the uncaring capriciousness of a soulless scribe. So rough. Hoping it’s a trick. Guillory drew real pretty pictures again.

LOW #3 — Wow, I’m glad I hung with this. Remender takes a real chance here, dragging out the premise set-up of the entire series until really the last scene of this third issue. But, it’s a hell of a beautiful moment and definitely has me now all-in and on board to see what’s going to happen to these people next. Greg Tocchini again just knocks it out of the park. You really can’t believe this kind of thing is happening in regular sequentials. Breathtaking visuals.

SAGA #23 — BKV is a well-oiled machine at this point. He knows how to spin up that oh-so-ironic double-meaning dialogue Alan Moore business where there’s this heartbreaking tension between the caption and the visual and our knowledge of what’s to come because our baby narrator already told us in her patented Fiona-scrawl. I’m simple enough that I was engaged with the narrative to the point that I was simply waiting for Marko to stick it in because that’s where the signposts have been for months and I wasn’t hunting around for any tricky deals. But there turned out to be a twist! Oh, clever BKV! All of the Eisners are for you.


NEW AVENGERS #024 — We open with a very interesting dinner. Dr. Doom and Kristoff are entertaining Namor, which gives the two most prominent nemeses from the early days of Kirby FF time to riff off of one another while Namor sneaks in a little bit of exposition to catch us up on how it’s been going for the past eight months. It turns out that putting together a cabal that’s halfway composed of the folks who were responsible for INFINITY was a pretty bad idea; they’re a bit of an unruly mob to control, which the following scene does a fine job of illustrating for us in the present tense. Then, there’s a whole deal with T’Challa and his sister, and I guess it doesn’t look really good for her, though the one pitfall of having all of these alternate-reality heroes die is that it’s hard to make myself feel like this one actually counts. Ha, which I know is a ridiculous statement. Hickman is smart to not let The Cabal steal the show but remember that the best villain in the Marvel multiverse is not Thanos but Doctor Doom. This final scene sets him up as a major player in all that is to come, no matter how much other crazy shit is going on.

Monday, October 6, 2014

9/17/14

BEST OF WEEK: THE MULTIVERSITY—SOCIETY OF SUPER-HEROES: CONQUERORS FROM THE COUNTER-WORLD! — More of nothing but The Serious Business, right here. After the initial issue setting up the premise, this is the first regular one-shot of Morrison’s higher-than-Cheech&Chong-concept series, and it’s a strong opening. The first Earth that serves as the setting for these regular one-shots is Earth-20, a retro-pulp science adventure sort of place where Doc Fate has already saved the world once and, twin pistols in hand, has assembled a Society of Super-Heroes to deal with the latest threat. The roster is full of good fun, sporting this universe’s permutations of Lady Blackhawk (captain of an all-female squad), Abin Sur, The Atom, and Immortal Man, an alternate Vandal Savage who also provides us with noir-inflected narration throughout. We’re treated to a seven-page opening scene that does a pitch-perfect job beat for beat of introducing our players and bouncing them off one another, leading up to Doc Fate’s call to arms on the splash page. That latest threat turns out to be an actual Vandal Savage from a parallel Earth who proves to be the eponymous “conqueror from the counter-world!” There are only two pages to set this up and suddenly it’s five years later and he’s already won and our guys are down to their last stand. That’s right, five years later. Given that all this was written three or four years ago (or more?), that’s a pretty neat trick, releasing this right in the middle of the month that all the regular DC books skip forward five years, as well. And there are zombies, natch. More fighting ensues, including Lady Shiva vs the Blackhawk squad. There’s a strong piece of writing where Doc Fate does a monologue on what he’s afraid of. And then, on the cusp of hope, everything heads off in a very ominous direction. And that’s all! This is not unlike the first issue, everything escalates and escalates and then it just ends. I’m not sure if it’s going to pick back up in the final issue or if this is all we get. Chris Sprouse is a very good choice on sequentials. His time on TOM STRONG leaves him better qualified than just about anybody I can think of to execute everything that this genre-bending script requires. This is a hell of a good read that, while entertaining, doesn’t appear (at least until subsequent releases prove me wrong) to be as jam-packed hyperdense with crackling ideas and Easter eggs as the previous issue, which almost makes thematic sense, starting off with this relatively more basic genre and then escalating the complexity month by month. I’m still a little stunned that this thing has finally at long last started coming out.

BATMAN AND ROBIN: FUTURES END #1 — Well, I’m the stupid person who for some reason thought that this event would mean that the regular creatives would get to use this concept as a springboard to incorporate into their own stellar runs and not just as stopgap fill-in issues to get ahead. I was really looking forward to seeing what Tomasi/Gleason/Gray were going to do for five years later. However, hilariously, while I have been impatiently waiting almost half a year for BATMAN ETERNAL to jump into the future as was implied by BATMAN #28, this is for all intents and purposes another issue of ETERNAL. I mean, I believe this is the exact creative team from last week, even, Fawkes/Nguyen/Fridolfs, no? Which is pretty good news to temper the disappointment. I really dug the new Robin and found the entire issue very gripping. Hey, Batman almost died, man! Terrific work from all parties.

WONDER WOMAN: FUTURES END #1 — On the other hand. The truest thing that I can say about this is “fucking offensive hackwork from prolific industry scab Charles Soule.” Would not have bought it if I knew the creator credits but still gave it a chance once I was home and it was in-hand. The gap in quality between this and the regular Azzarello/Chiang situation is jawdropping. The pages are just barely worth thumbing through to check out the ongoing evolution of Rags Morales’s style, but I cannot see how anyone in Editorial thought that this would be an acceptable effort to monthly readers of this series. They should have brought that Tom King who just murdered it on Grayson. That’s how you hire a scripter for a fill-in.

BATMAN ETERNAL #24 — It’s kind of stunning what a piece of shit Stephanie Brown’s dad is. No tolerance for a fella like that.

FUTURES END #20 — AHahahahha! Did Lois Lane just tell Tim Drake that she couldn’t put up with a boyfriend who was living a lie, leading a double life? That’s wonderful. And it looks like those coordinates are a little closer to Hurley’s Numbers than I realized there a couple panels down from that. All of the other plots are grooving along nicely. Though when I woke up today, I wasn’t planning on seeing the top of Bruce Wayne’s head carved open. Not cool, Future Brother Eye!

FABLES #144 — Okay, wow and damn, of course it makes sense that I’m invested in these characters after this damn many issues, but it still really surprised me how sorry I was to see these people go. Willingham and friends’ level of craft is so high, these character deaths really do hit Martin/Whedon levels of cut-your-heart-out sadness. I mean, I never saw it coming in a million years, was just having a ball enjoying the pretty words and pictures. Here, we enter some point-of-no-return territory with our apparent (!) antagonist, and it is suddenly thrown into stark unflinching relief that the final six issues of this title are going to be gutwrenching and utterly merciless. This one was really rough to get through and even worse to just be hanging out with.

THE UNWRITTEN: APOCALYPSE #9 — It is always a pleasure to see Tolkien & Lewis on the first page of anything, but rarely, if ever, more so than in this title. Everything escalates pretty seriously as Carey gives us the secret origin of Wilson Taylor and all that has gone before and, in doing so, spells out exactly what’s been at stake for the entire series, and it’s nothing left than using fiction to set humanity’s potential free from being suppressed by the unwritten cabal. Which is, of course, perfect. This is an immaculately crafted flashback issue that performs that most hallowed feat of sequential fiction, making the reader rabid for What Happens Next in the present-day storyline.

ANNIHILATOR #1 — This is a really interesting piece of work. Very obviously not Morrison’s first rodeo, this is the craft of a master circling back around to themes that he has been addressing throughout his career. The deal here is an examination of how what we create either saves or destroys us. Or maybe both. Ray Spass (prounonced “space,” natch) is a young screenwriter with a couple of big hits under his belt who now finds himself up against the wall and in sore need of sticking the landing on a new major franchise about a haunted house in outer space. Coming up short, he decides to rent a house with a sordid past and promptly starts dumping the details from everything around him into the work, which turns out to be about Max Novak, a creepy anti-hero type who wears an insect mask and sets up shop at a space station with its own sordid past that also happens to exist right outside the event horizon of a supermassive black hole. There are obvious parallels bouncing back and forth between the twin narratives, but this is all nothing more than laying groundwork, getting started before things really start spinning out of control. Frazer Irving, Morrison’s previous collaborator on KLARION, THE WITCH BOY and that really horrifying arc of BATMAN AND ROBIN, is a perfect choice for art on this, delivering atmospheric visuals that conjure up all of the darkness and horror called for in these two situations. This is predictably strong and intriguing material that’s clearly just barely getting started. Very interested to see how far out they’re going to take it because there certainly is a vast event horizon looming there in the distance. (I think this came out the previous week, but I somehow missed it. Slipping!)

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #5 — All right, Gillen reeled me back in a bit with this one. First of all, that “Read on, with your eyes and your seeing mind,” bit on the front inside cover is just wonderful. McKelvie can cop those TRON designs all year long if he wants to. Wilson really makes those colors pop. I’m still not sure that I’ve seen enough potential so far to keep this thing going for around 45 issues like Gillen says in the letters column (and I do hope that that allows for at least a PHONOGRAM volume 3 in the meantime), but I’m hanging out and seeing what happens this next little bit.

SATELLITE SAM #10 — Now, that is one seriously knowledgeable sales girl at the lingerie counter. And thank you, Fraction, for having Mike tell Dick that they “have this,” not “got this.” That splash of color with the fruit bowl was quite the surprising page turn, great work, there. I guess we can go ahead and call this a mid-season finale, as the boys go on hiatus to stock up for the five-part finale next year. Chaykin has produced some really strong black and white work here, and I’m definitely interested to see where all of the soap operatic hijinx land when they return. 

SUPREME: BLUE ROSE #3 — What a strange, strange book. Tula Lotay continues to produce beautiful work while calling the Allreds to mind in the best of ways. I love the fact that we’re probably not going to see the title character until the very end of the series, if then. Is the fact that we only get two pages per issue of PROFESSOR NIGHT the reason that I want to consume all of the PROFESSOR NIGHT that ever was? Possibly. It’s wonderful that they reveal the details of his alter ego in the character design sketches in the backmatter. These singles are instantly recognizable as beautiful artifacts.

TREES #5 — Man, the pacing on this is a languorous twisting thing that actually calls to mind the eponymous alien invaders. Or their ships? Everything floats along to such an extent that I tend not to remember characters’ names from month to month but remain invested in their various situations. The enormity of Jason Howard’s contribution to this cannot be overstated, the guy is throwing down the work of his career, here. And good on him!

ASTRO CITY #15 — The plot twist was a pretty easy spot for anyone who was remotely trying, but as is par for the course with this book, the pleasure lay in the execution. Nice wordplay at the end with the emboldened “sweet” leading to the honey-harvesting reserve. This title remains nothing but quality.

SAVAGE DRAGON #198 — I will tell you what, Mr. Erik Larsen is good for at the very least a pair of quality double-page splashes every single issue. That second one with fighting all the ant-people while plunging down to the center of the earth, that’s just good comics fun, right there. I continue to enjoy the hell out of this. Much gratitude to Brother Matt Doman for calling my local shop up all the way from Mississippi to have them add it. Even the next issue blurbs can’t be topped!

ALL-NEW X-MEN #032 — This one’s a bit decompressed for my taste, but Mahmud Asrar continues to absolutely blow it up, with Marte Gracia’s colors providing continuity with the original killer art team. That double-page shot of Miles’s life is stunning. And that last shot of Jean, if you just put it in front of my face, I’d swear it was Immonen/von Grawbadger. So, the gang is certainly in the Ultimate Universe.

UNCANNY X-MEN #026 — Man, Bobby is still just really peeved at Scott for killing old Professor Xavier. His perpetual snark is probably my favorite part of this whole deal. It’s a little weird seeing him interact on-panel with Firestar, hearkening back to the whole . . . & His Amazing Friends deal as it does. Kris Anka is a real talent, but I certainly do miss Bachalo on this title and would even be happy to not have it coming out every two weeks if that’s what it took to keep one guy on an unbroken run. Hearken, True Believers, to The Mighty Marvel Age of Greedy Double-Shipping!

UNCANNY AVENGERS #024 — We get Larocca back, so the art takes an upswing, but this issue still has a hard time gathering up enough momentum to be remotely as engaging as the first couple years of this title have conditioned us to expect. I know that Remender is writing the next Big Event, which I can’t believe hasn’t started already, it’s already been a couple of weeks since ORIGINAL SIN finished, so I guess this is going to trap-door into that just real soon and this title is going to become wonderful again? I hope so. Still basically spinning wheels, here.

DAREDEVIL #008 — Well, it isn’t October yet, but Waid started the horror a bit early. I felt really foolish not keying in to those purple tones right off the bat. I almost forgot what a horrifying character Bendis made this guy a few years back. It’s nice to have Waid continually developing Kirsten as a drama-free positive influence in Matt’s life. I totally trust him not to fridge her, that would be just the worst. Her dad trying to induce Matt to write an autobiography is an inspired piece of work. And that ending is chilling! I suppose the real horror will be unleashed next month.

EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #002: GWEN STACY, SPIDER-WOMAN — This one is really too much fun. I dearly hope that Marvel greenlights a series of this exact thing by Latour/Rodriguez. The tone of the script is pitch-perfect from the first page on. This feels like exactly what a band rehearsal of The Mary Janes would be like. Great opening, but then there’s that killer double-page splash montage that does so much. First of all, there’s just that shot of her wailing the hell out of her trap set. Rodriguez manages to channel pure Paul Pope. I love the alternate deal about Peter and The Lizard and then of course JJJ ruthlessly orating against Gwen while championing the life of Peter Parker is hilarious. This issue does a fantastic job of giving us a world that already feels fully inhabited and developed, reads very much more like an issue #21 or so than the first time we’ve ever been here. And what a tremendous dynamic with her dad. Man. Marvel would be insane not to let them just run wild with this concept whenever she gets done doing whatever the hell Slott’s got lined up with Everybody.


AVENGERS #035 — It was a dick move of Marvel to spoil that they were doing a time-skip. I mean, really, what person who was not already reading this book was going to hear that fact and think, “Oh wow, eight months later, yeah, what’s this Hickman Avengers book all about, has it been good so far?” That said, Hickman’s first PREVIOUSLY… IN AVENGERS page to feature new narrative captions provides an elegant bit of catch-up, and then it was still a nice jarring effect to turn the page from the roster and still get that all-black EIGHT MONTHS LATER. The round robin of four artists does not, unfortunately, serve the material well. I’m a big fan of Nick Bradshaw, but the way Bobby & Eden are drawn on their first page makes it look like they’re beaming in from Earth-43, or whichever DC universe has all the chibi characters. Or is that Paco Medina’s work, maybe? At any rate, the story packs a wallop. Sam and Izzy are not only living on (I guess?) the Shi’Ar Throneworld, but they had a sweet little baby, as well. Thor appears to not have proven himself worthy of Mjolnir during the break but still be a thirsty sort of fellow. The issue takes a dramatic leap in quality in the final twelve-page scene with Jim Cheung’s art elevating the final string of revelations. Hell of a last page. This is a very exciting new set-up that Hickman has thrown us into, ratcheting up what was already one of the very best Marvel releases for coming up on two years now.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

9/10/14

FOREVER MAN AND THE INFINITY PEOPLE: FUTURES END #1 — Well, this was some TWILIGHT ZONE shit, right here. Or actually more THE OUTER LIMITS, I guess. A very ominous and gripping done-in-one, from the first splash of Mark Moonrider waking up, we know that something is very very wrong. I’m not crazy about Philip Tan’s work; it’s hit-or-miss for me. The Moonrider splashes are rendered in this overstylized way that works given the context of the issue’s premise, but then the main sequentials, the workman panels where bodies are actually moving from one place to another, that’s where that Kirby dynamism that Giffen so routinely knocks out of the park is missing. Very cool of Didio/Giffen to actually write their issue of this event and not farm it out to fill-in talent, though, it must be said. Consequently, this is one of the better issues of this I’ve read, owing a great deal to being in line with the regular team’s vision for the long arc.

BATMAN: FUTURES END #1 — This is a pretty solid effort. Like last week’s offering, it’s kind of another issue of ETERNAL that’s just getting thrown out under this other banner. Ray Fawkes holds it down on script that he co-plotted with Snyder and someone or –thing called Aco is responsible for the art, and it looks great, kind of a scratchy European vibe. Does that Lexcorp logo look like a Legion flight ring to anybody else? Also, charming to get Bizarro in the mix. It’s weird how they’re scattering this out, this issue seems to be the origin of all of the crazy stuff that that last story in the latest DETECTIVE #27 montaged over. This is one of the better issues of this month-long premise that I’ve read, with probably only GRAYSON doing a better job.

BEST OF WEEK: SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #8 — This business right here continues to ramp on up. It almost seems unfair comparing this to anything else anybody else is putting out. You have Lee/Williams/Sinclair firing as hard as they ever have, escalating toward a peak that is still nowhere in sight no matter how hard you squint, except instead of Loeb hacking it up all over the place, Snyder is hitting every single beat of character and motivation while still providing the slugfest fodder that we all frankly are expecting here in the penultimate round and managing to make it mostly clever while he’s at it. This whole thing really is going to be a crushing single-sitting read here in just the next little bit.

BATMAN ETERNAL #23 — All right, I still love those guys on art. This is a transition issue. It certainly seems time for Catwoman to be the Gotham Kingpin, and good on her. That centerpiece ad about GOTHAM the reality show on Fox with the eight head shots is really pumping me up in a way that hasn’t been happening until now.

FUTURE’S END #19 — Yes to Ray Palmer leading Stormwatch, that’s almost the best idea out of this thing yet. And that was a real dick move, Lois.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #2 — This one’s not nearly as batshit Kirby crazy as the first issue, but is still terrific fun. Nathan Fox & Joe Casey continue to display some serious synergy while Michael Fiffe drops in and somehow finds a way to elevate the krackle quotient from what’s gone before. This remains an interesting set-up and I’m certainly on the hook for what comes next.

MORNING GLORIES #40 — That was a real PKD move, Spencer! This kind of thing can come across as overly didactic and clogging up the narrative, but I had a lot of fun with it. Especially with everything in the world veering in such a multiversal direction all of a sudden. And kudos to Eisma for staging, keeping it all interesting even when Superman isn’t destroying Metropolis with collateral damage like he always likes to do. Slightly more related to the text at hand, I think the content of this issue was a cool nod to the tenth anniversary of L O S T, but I’m still holding out for Hurley just to ex machina in out of nowhere and feel like this would have been a great month for that.

PROPHET: STRIKEFILE #1 — Now, that is a cover. This entire issue is, if possible, a little bit more batshit insane than the previous volume. You can even hang out with Joseph Bergin III’s cover by itself for about five minutes. It’s cool to get Simon Roy back on gorgeous interiors, very much a feeling of full circle here as we start up another volume with nothing less than the secret origin of the Prophets. And it actually clears up quite a great deal. And that’s just the first ten pages. The rest of this glorious thing is kind of a Handbook of the Prophet Universe-type situation, dropping lots of expository backmatter that we’ve had to guess at up until now. And, man, come on. Diehard. When are we going to get a Diehard book. Admittedly, half of the fun is that there’s so much pregnant potential implied that we only get these little fragmentary glimpses of, well okay, that’s MOST of the fun, but I know that these guys would deliver if we could just get those units front and center. I can’t believe I’m begging for a Diehard book. These guys can do anything.

EAST OF WEST #15 — Wow. Babylon is the Sensational Character Find of 2014! This issue’s a pretty good trick, right here. It really does a good job of ramping up my affection for this book. Dragotta/Martin continue to absolutely knock every page out of the park and Hickman’s imagination is approaching escape velocity. For the first time, I’m wondering what sort of endgame might or might not be planned for this monster. It just keeps getting crazier and crazier.

MPH #3 — Shit got real, y’all! Millar is not coasting on the decompressed plot, I will give him that. Fegredo remains a master sequential assassin, good lawd.

VELVET #8 — Interesting move to change POV from our lead, but it’s good idea to dial in to some other characters just to balance out the narrative a bit. And frankly, you know, Epting/Breitweiser are still doing all the pages, whoever Brubaker feels like writing about, it’s going to look beautiful. Creative does a good job of pushing the overall narrative forward, at first making us think that we’ve kind of hit Pause on the main deal and are just getting to know the other dudes, then pulling the rug out from under us at the end because of course our girl didn’t stop running around and kicking ass just because we couldn’t see her. Terrific cliffhanger. Terrific book. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #010 — Man, old bashful Benjy certainly does get slapped around by his ex. That’s half of the issue. Then Wyatt tells Johnny off and Reed has a pretty good fight. This script and art is all solid enough but for a little while now hasn’t quite been providing the heavy lifting of the Mighty Marvel Double-Shipping $3.99 Price Point. Which is kind of terrible, I want to simply judge this on its own merits, but the fact that it’s coming at me at twice the velocity to which I am acclimated causes me to expect it to provide something that it is not at this time. I guess we’ll see how it goes in two weeks.

AVENGERS #34.1 — Okay, hell, I got tricked. Pretty sure that if I had noticed that Hickman did not write this $5 Point-One issue of a book that already double-ships, I more than likely would have given it a pass, Keown interiors or not. I mean, what’s with the narrative captions on the PREVIOUSLY? That’s not supposed to be the deal. But overall, it’s all right. Not great but not too offensive, either. I mean, I don’t need Hyperion inner-monologue about how he needs to stay away from metaphors. Keown has really simplified his linework over the years. Which I guess is par for the course. At the end of the day, yeah, this isn’t terrible, but I can’t really recommend it, particularly at that price point. Real dick move, Marvel! I need to pay closer attention.


HAWKEYE #20 — A very satisfying conclusion to Kate’s west coast adventures. Annie Wu really delivers on every level: layouts, composition, your basic sequential storytelling, but then also body language, facial expressions, the whole deal. Looking forward to her rushing in to Clint’s rescue at a pivotal moment next issue in a few months or whenever that turns out to be.

Friday, September 26, 2014

9/3/14

ACTION COMICS: FUTURE’S END #1 — Well, this was really a very strange call. For four months, they’ve had that weird deal going on in the main FUTURE’S END series where Superman was wearing a helmet and we couldn’t see his face and he was acting a bit unlike himself, then last week, they dropped the big KINGDOM COME reveal that it was really Billy Batson all along, which of course begged the immediate question, “So, where’s the big guy?” Cue the perfect timing for this issue to come out. Well done, Editorial. So, for your next trick? A fill-in issue. In every sense of the word. Now, I dug Sholly Fisch’s back-ups in this title during the Morrison run. They had a lot of heart and served as compelling contrast to the madness that was going on in the headlining story. But the big idea for this issue that’s supposed to be showing what the greatest superhero of all time is doing with himself five years later is to introduce a group of new characters and show what they do when temporarily gifted with Superman’s powers. This isn’t ASTRO CITY. I can maybe see giving this story a pass if it was the SUPERMAN title and we’d already gotten the serious business from this flagship offering, but as the first issue of this latest month-long event, this is incredibly limp. A few pages of our guy being bearded and trying to solve famine in Africa. Like he does. Pretty disappointing.

DETECTIVE COMICS: FUTURE’S END #1 — This one’s a bit better. Of course, we’ve got to go with Calendar Man for a flash-forward antagonist. Amazing Infantino homage cover from Fabok. Riddler makes for an interesting foil. The change in art halfway through is not as jarring as it might otherwise be, falling where it does right when they make it into Arkham. I saw the twist at the end coming but was hoping that’s not how it would go. It feels a little too close to that “I don’t have to save you,” nonsense Goyer had Bale drop at the end of the first Nolan flick. I feel like I might not have dug this that much on any given day but coming after ACTION, was just grateful that Batman was even a lead character in his own series.

BEST OF WEEK: GRAYSON: FUTURE’S END #1 — And then there’s this. Wow. I am ignorant of Tom King, but he absolutely blew it up. This one runs a MEMENTO-style backwards chronology that has Helena hanging Dick in a noose on the first page and him appearing to die before we flashback to an EARLIER . . . on the following page. However, unlike that overused trope where we just open with some crazy thing and then build up to it, this issue never ever changes direction, just keeps going further and further back every single page with each scene providing new context and informing everything that we’ve already read. It is a hell of a trick to pull off just right there on its own, but then they bring the Cluemaster’s code into it. I loved the hell out of this thing before I figured out how entirely badass the first page is. The art from Stephen Mooney is serviceable, nothing that blew me away, but it does its job. This script, however, is so razor-sharp that it will cut you. One of the better single issues starring Dick Grayson that I have ever read and certainly the horse to beat this month in all the other FUTURE’S END titles.

FUTURE’S END #18 — Old Jeanty sure has some flat composition angles. I mean, I’m not sure that I could do better but it just seems like lazy camera placement. That three-panel beat with Constantine hitting the flask is where it really jumped out at me. Or failed to, ha. But that’s all right because BARDA ON THE ISLAND! I love how ARROW’s mythology is so badass, it’s invaded the comics and now Diggle is a real deal. How has Felicity not shown up yet?

BATMAN ETERNAL #22 — Mmmm, this isn’t offensive, Jorge Lucas is terrific on art, but I just don’t care about Hush. I want to give these guys the chance to remedy that, but it hasn’t happened yet. This series is a strange duck, very much with the ebb and flow, capable of hitting and missing multiple times in the same month. It’s batting about 50/50 for me at this point, here’s hoping that ratio improves.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #1 — Ryan Browne is obviously fucking mental. A very talented fellow, clearly, but no one you want to be alone in a room with. In the first four pages of this alone, we are introduced to Admiral Tiger Eating A Cheeseburger and his first mate, Mr. Crabtree, before they are killed when their crab spaceship gets hit by a rocket full of astro-farmers, then we are exposed to only the horrifying beginning of the expository origin of Lord Astro-Farmer who meets his one true love in the form of a chicken called Hennifer at a farmer’s market. He promptly buys his one true love and takes her home to have sex with her. That’s the first four pages. Terrific art. But fucking mental.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #4 — Wow. Talk about not padding out your story. The Jasons bring the first arc of this angry beast to a close and it is a fearsome thing with a one-two narrative punch at the end that can only be described as jaw-dropping. I’ve been enjoying the hell out of the ride thus far, just digging the tone and pacing of the narrative, but now these boys done flipped over all the tables and’re running rampaging hell, smashing the room all up with these bats they don’t seem to know how to stop swinging. Aaron and Latour already have a deep chemistry feedback-looping between them, to the point that you really have to work to even parse who’s doing what as far as the craft that goes into a particular issue, it’s so hard not to just fall all the way in. This is a damn fine way to end a first arc, and anyone reading these words who cares about supporting independent comics or loved SCALPED and hasn’t already checked this out would be a damn fool not to throw down $9.99 for that first trade the first chance they get. Amen.

ORIGINAL SIN #8 — Well, it all came down. As soon as the issue began, I felt like an asshole for not seeing the final twist coming from a mile away. This one isn’t a perfect tapestry for me, I still don’t get Uatu’s motivation in the first place. It’s not enough that he saw something coming and so brought it into being, that’s just lazy writing, but I feel like I should credit Aaron for putting something in here that’s getting by me, so far. All of the action scenes and resolution are staged very well, of course Deodato/Martin continue to kill it on sequentials. The Thor thing is totally dropped in, I feel like I can see the stitching on that way too easily. Really really wish they wouldn’t have announced that ahead of time, no reason they couldn’t have waited until now to do it and actually had a bit of a surprising moment for those of us who are good enough to still be picking up these things. I do love the choice of Fury’s replacement, that’s perfect, and am glad that the announcement of at least that series didn’t spoil the surprise for at least me. That one is going to be The Business, I am sure.

UNCANNY X-MEN #25 — I really dig Bachalo’s cover. It’s got that photographic quality to it that hearkens back to the glory days when Sienkiewicz did those fourteen issues of NEW MUTANTS. This is another solid single from X-Bendis, right here. I was giving him a bit of The Business last issue about still introducing new mutants, but he’s certainly putting enough into this Matthew Malloy backstory to give the whole thing enough weight and high stakes. Most of this issue is exposition, recorded Xavier telling the story (it is Bendis, after all; why show when you can have someone tell you the story in crackling BendisMamet-speak?), which is entertaining enough throughout, but Bendis wisely has Scott call for a mid-issue timeout so that we can get a break and have some actual present-tense interaction between the mutants. Which is, of course, all that any of us really want from these folks, mutants just sitting around being family and shit, and this pretty much makes the issue. Really just the page of Kitty and Kurt reuniting. Really just that one panel when they call each other “Katya” and “Elf.” That simple interaction sends all those years tumbling down and makes me feel exactly like an eleven-year-old falling into this world for the first time, wishing so badly that I could have a mutant power and be hated and feared by a world that doesn’t understand me and have to go live at 1407 Greymalkin Lane where I’d be sure to meet the best friends and greatest loves of my life.


MIRACLEMAN #10 — Well, hell, still haven’t made it happen. Ha! Allllllll these years waiting and now I can’t just sit down and read up to this point. Soon!