BEST OF WEEK: TRILLIUM #8 — What a stunning finale. I was certainly expecting these boys to land the trick, have been since the first issue, but they really really knocked it out of the park. Even though both of our leads have finally at long last overcome their obstacles and made it to 3797, there is no way that they’re going to get a happy ending, but Jeff Lemire handles this a way that’s seemingly calculated to break our hearts just as hard as possible. In just eight issues, Lemire has crafted a serious and damaging love story for the ages. Every issue has been very entertaining on its own, but this final installment is executed to perfection with a level of craft that takes my breath away and really just ripped me apart. Of course he wasn’t done with the flip-booking, there’s one last trick left to perform before we’re done. The final double-page painting is incredibly moving, dialogue-free art resolving the narrative on a primal level. Which of course takes us back to cave paintings. As much as I love THE ESSEX TRILOGY and SWEET TOOTH and THE UNDERWATER WELDER, this is very probably Lemire’s finest work. Magnificent on every level. Wonderful to have his frequent Jose Villarrubia along for the ride as well. I cannot recommend this highly enough and look forward to owning the collected edition.
ACTION COMICS #30 — All right, this one didn’t knock me out the way those first half a dozen hits of Pak/Kuder did, and I think I can attribute it to both the plot being a bit of a dip from the densely packed previous arc featuring both Lana and Baka along for the ride along with editorial’s refusal to just give Aaron Kuder a fill-in for an entire month and let him get some lead time rather than continuing to alternate his pages with Jed Dougherty’s, because the contrast is starting to be a bit more marked. The foreshortening on the bottom of Page Four might be technically correct but is a terrible stylistic mesh with Kuder’s style which, when it kicks back in on Page Eight, is a terrific relief. But we shouldn’t have this jarring clash. What’s Gene Ha doing? Not drawing that second season of TOP 10, is he? Or Cameron Stewart? Or maybe try to woo Marco Rudy back into the fold? There are plenty of top-drawer guys who can come in and blow it up for twenty pages and let Kuder get ahead with more of his greatness. It’s the greatness this city deserves, dammit.
DETECTIVE COMICS #30 — Well, we all knew that the art was going to be glorious, didn’t we? Unfortunately, I don’t know if the pressure of outdoing their work on the FLASH title pages was too much or the greatness of those pages was becoming too much of a thing all on its own, but Manapul & Buccellato elect to drop the Eisner title pages for this, which is disappointing enough, but combined with the painfully on-the-nose caption on that first two-page spread, we’re off to much more of a limping start, narratively speaking, than I had imagined possible. I am a fan of that beat they hit a few pages later when Elena Aguila mentions Damian reaching those awkward teen years. It’s just a vertical sliver of a panel with no dialogue only taking up an eighth of the page but the look on Bruce’s face carries all the emotional weight just fine. Unfortunately, overall this issue is a jagged collection of scenes that definitely throw some ideas out there and provide plenty of set-up but that don’t cohere into a whole that feels like anything we haven’t seen before. It’s certainly pretty to look at, but these boys did not blow it up here in their first installment to the extent that I was hoping they would.
MOON KNIGHT #002 — What an exceptionally cool opening scene. The first eight pages consist of eight panels per page, each one picking up the action on a separate protagonist with the final one taking a bullet in the head to kick things off. Each character is picked off one page at a time until all are dead. It’s a nifty trick, one of those things that can only work in this medium, and Ellis & Bellaire pull it off with plenty of flair. However, that only leaves twelve pages for our hero to quickly find the sniper and have a brief round with him before the issue comes to an abrupt end. Very well done, but a bit skinny on the narrative side for my three dollars American and ninety-nine cents.
PRETTY DEADLY #5 — Just when the recap can’t ball any harder, we get that ellipsis and “to save the world” to crank it on up into the stratosphere. So good. I didn’t think that DeConnick & Rios had any room to take this any higher, but they find a way here in the final issue of the first arc. This is once again nothing less than a rhapsodic and poetic elevation of the medium itself with both creators digging deep and summoning forth words and art that are as much a fever dream celebration of the ability to create as any kind of linear narrative. I find it difficult to critically analyze this series because I simply don’t want to. In the same way that I never ever want to learn how to play the intro to Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage.” Because I don’t want to understand the magic too well. I strongly suspect that that would spoil it, ruin it. It’s a precious thing that must be cradled and protected. Reading the back half of this issue made me picture David Lynch running down a long long string of an entire evening’s worth of fireworks, thousands and thousands of dollars worth, and he’s laughing kind of quietly to himself and has that mad glee sparkling in his eyes and he has a torch and is lighting them each and every one and then they all go off at once and it is beautiful and spectacular and unforgettable, only when it’s over, all you can remember is the quiet breathless happiness it gave you to see something like that, just to know that it could even be made anywhere by people and but all you can really see when you try to picture it in your memory is just the lingering flashes of all of those great explosions burned into your retinas.
SECRET #7 — Ryan Bodenheim continues to turn in very tight pencils, sharp details and a high quality of rendering. However, Hickman has done pretty much nothing to get me to invest in these people whatsoever. They sit around talking and punctuating badass clauses with italics or emboldening, and every now and again, someone gets all shot to pieces. I guess I’m going to keep picking this up just for the art? For another couple issues, at least?
BLACK SCIENCE #5—They are just cranking these out, aren’t they? We get an interesting perspective from Kadir’s point of view in the opening as to why our protagonist Grant McKay, in fact, sucks. When you read this issue’s title, were you hearing it in Gordon Gano’s voice? I sure was. I suspected our mysterious new antagonist was Mrs. McKay but probably should have seen the actual identity coming. I love that there are onion frequencies. Every time I hear the name Pia, I think about the nice lady who drew sixty issues of Yorick Brown running around with his capuchin and a bunch of ladies. That is one stellar double-page spread at the end, there. Which I thought was the high note we were going to go out on, but then Remender drops the bit in the letters column about Waylon narrating the adventures of them Duke boys being contained in a chip in this comic as part of some devastating twenty-first century immersive multi-media experience. Utterly crushing.
STARLIGHT #2—Millar & Parlov return to prove that the first issue was not a fluke in the masterful economy of its premise presentation. I’ve got to say that HAWKEYE has pretty much ruined me on being that scared of a predatory alien race called the Broteans, though. This issue does exactly what it’s supposed to with nearly ruthless precision, namely move our protagonist out of retirement and into play in our science fiction setting, all while tricking him out with a twelve-year-old spaceboy sidekick and providing all kinds of validation for forty years of everyone telling him that he’s crazy and totally was not a pulp adventure space hero way back when. Parlov continues to burn it down here and Ive Svorcina’s color choices deserve special recognition. Really stellar material here.