Friday, April 17, 2015

4/15/15

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

4/08/15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, April 10, 2015

4/01/15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

3/25/15

THE MULTIVERSITY: ULTRA COMICS #1 — The story goes, as told by the man himself, that Morrison’s first superhero comic was FLASH #163, which depicts our titular hero showing the prospective reader his foreshortened empty palm in a halting gesture and proclaiming, “STOP! DON’T PASS UP THIS ISSUE! MY LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!” In the halcyon Schwartzian days of premises-delivered-by-cover crafted to move product, this one was a doozy and certainly worked its magic on the young boy and future multiversal architect. Morrison & Quitely first referenced it in 1996 on the cover of FLEX MENTALLO #1, a series that gives the impression of going on to say absolutely everything that Morrison had to say about the medium up until that time. But if he emptied out his tank twenty years ago, he still has plenty to celebrate about the DC Universe as a whole, which brings us to this final installment of single-Earth issues before the grand finale, featuring none other than the Earth designated for we the readers to occupy, the former Earth-Prime that is now known as Earth-33. As readers who have been on board with this series since the beginning know, this is a very special comic book. We’ve already seen the cover several times before and even gotten a glimpse at, I believe, five unlettered interior pages months in advance. The catch is that this is apparently a haunted and cursed comic. Every character on the other Earths who reads this thing winds up going on some psychotic rampage or committing suicide or doing something to make an army of Superman robots invade the entire planet or some other such horrible thing. Shit happens when you read this book. And I was completely convinced. Stared at the damn thing for twenty minutes and was just like, Nope nope, not yet. Kept thinking about my wife and daughter sleeping upstairs and wanting them to wake up to a happy Thursday morning free from invaders from the North Pole or the Phantom Zone or higher dimensions.

But of course, I couldn’t resist and finally sucked it up and opened that cover. And these were pages I had already seen! What I had assumed to be climax was only the opening. And that fourth wall came crashing down right away. Our hero just straight up addresses us first thing, confirming our worst fears and then freaking out at whatever he’s seeing when he looks at us and then screams for us not to turn the page, don’t turn the page! Who could resist? This leads to a framing sequence with some guy in a suit reading the same comic that we are (a THE MULTIVERSITY trope by now) and assuring us that all will be well, though in kind of a creepy manner. There’s a cool little one-page commercial that leads into our hero, Ultra Comics, emerging from some hyper-colored bath that immediately brings THE FILTH to mind. This is followed by a brief orientation, as much for the reader as our protagonist, and then we’re off into the adventure proper, which kind of has a whimsical Captain Marvel kind of vibe to it by way of a post-apocalyptic filter. This makes sense, given Ultra Comics’s costume’s evocation of not only The Big Red Cheese but also the aforementioned Scarlet Speedster and even Miracleman, who, remember, began his four-color existence under the name of Marvelman.

Okay, but then everything takes a seriously dark turn as our hero is defeated by a freaky dude called Ultraa, who is basically the Mad Max version of Prime from that ridiculous Malibu Ultraverse from the nineties, which I’m sure is some kind of commentary on how grim’n’gritty almost ruined comics or at least finished up The Bronze Age’s job of pretty much scrubbing them of all the Silver Age wonder. But, courage! That bad of rapscallion urchins and ne’er-do-wells, The Neighborhood Guard are in-panel stand-ins for us readers and help us along with sending our hero back to the beginning of the issue to warn us before summoning him back just in time to save the day. Which would work out perfectly, but this is a THE MULTIVERSITY issue, and so far, the only happy ending was more just that one with the Marvel Family flying forward to the next thing before something horrible had a chance to happen. Doug Mahnke, with the help of four inkers and two colorists, completely nails every page just the way we’ve come to expect, delivering the chops to execute every mad image that Morrison slings his way. I haven’t gone crazy or tried to kill anyone yet, but there is definitely foreboding in my heart about what will happen when the final issue of THE MULTIVERSITY is finally released upon our poor Earth-33, if we’re all still even here in four weeks.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #40 — This was a pretty tragic read for me. Early on, this became my favorite series in The New 52 with only Morrison’s ACTION and Snyder/Capullo’s BATMAN even coming close to matching it in terms of soaring month-after-month greatness. This was one of those books where every element lent something indispensable and the whole truly was greater than the sum of its parts. Going to miss it so much, but am so grateful to the creators for the ride.

It’s tremendous fun from the first page, with Superman’s in-dialogue reference to Wonder Woman’s sudden appearance since last month hitting just the right tone of knowing wink at the reader, whether or not the creators really did just randomly decide to include her after it was too late to draw her into #39. There are so many wonderful Holy Shit! moments occurring almost with the turn of every single page. Damian crossing heat vision with Superman, setting up Shazam calling down the lightning on that first cybernetic antagonist, Damian’s kiss-off to the entire League on the following page, passing out at the dinner table three panels after destroying a chicken leg, finishing the family portrait, failing to fly when jumping out of his bedroom window, that askew shot of the family in silhouette looking out the window at the Bat-Signal, as ever, that final glorious two-page no-dialogue Getting Ready montage, which is as magnificently executed as I’ve ever seen that old trick done, and those last perfect two pages. What a triumphant capstone to one of the best all-time runs in superhero comics, executed to such perfection from first page to last that I couldn’t help but shed a tear of gratitude over my beaming smile, this was always the best book of the third Wednesday of the month, and it was a privilege and honor to watch masters of the craft regularly deliver lessons on how to execute perfection of the form we all love so much while always remembering to entertain the reader by keeping character front and center. Bravo, Maestros!

GOTHAM ACADEMY #6 — What a terrific ending to the first arc, which it turns out has basically functioned as a pilot episode for my favorite new show-that’s-a-comic. Kerschl’s art continues to offer dynamic action at every turn of the page with Mingue Helen Chen more than holding up her end on the fill-in action. And just when we’ve got a snapshot status quo established, here comes that charming young Master Damian to upset the apple cart right away. Really looking forward to checking all this out in June.

BATMAN ETERNAL #51 — I dig the way that the double-page titles have lately been checking in with every sidekick across the bottom of the pages. Just realized that Julia Pennyworth looks almost exactly like Daisy Johnson during her time spent in SECRET WARRIORS. Another random thought: when someone off-panel says Selina’s time on the next page, I suddenly really wanted the middle two letters to be emboldened and it to turn out to be Holly from YEAR ONE saying her name. The random things a brain pumps out in times of crisis, Wednesday Night Faithful! Back on-point, I am very onboard with Cluemaster’s conceit that Bruce is, in fact, only human, and when he makes a mistake, he makes them bigger than anyone else. The ring of truth! And wow, Stephanie Brown, after all of that fanboy squawking for her return, she’s in and she’s out. And that guy at the end certainly comes out of nowhere all ex machina style. Kind of seems like a cheat at this point, but we’ll see how they explain it next week.

FUTURES END #47 — Terrific to have Ponticelli on some interiors here. He is definitely who you want for the slouching Brother Eye zombie fun. Cannot fucking believe they still have Plastique making Dick (Grayson) jokes. What a ridiculous motif to insert in a weekly series (innuendo unintentional). That’s a solid payoff on the Madison/Tim reunion, though, I will give them that. I do wish they didn’t have Tim dialogue that “Ain’t gonna lie.” That line is blossoming into a serious pet peeve of mine. A solid back end to the issue starring Tim in the suit, though. The writers do know how to craft a cliffhanger. I certainly want to know what’s on the next page. I thought that both of these weeklies were ending this week to get out of the way for CONVERGENCE next week, but obviously that is not the case.

FOREVER MAN AND THE INFINITY PEOPLE #9 — And so it ends. Another Kirby revival bites the dust before making double digits. It bums me out, man! This one functions as more of an epilogue, giving us the secret origin of the titular character at the expense of the rest of the cast. Giffen’s work is really strong here, as usual. Going to miss this monthly blast of Kirby in my life, but I’ve been meaning to go back through the original Fourth World issues for a while now, so there’s always that.

AVENGERS #032 — Well, so much for all of those guys. I mean, yeah, Bobby called it a few issues back, but I didn’t think Hickman was going to actually go through with it. There was so much going on at the time, it didn’t occur to me until now that it’s too late, but I really wish they had gotten someone to do solo series with that Star Brand or Nightmask. I wish they had gotten me, actually. Hickman did solid work imbuing Thor & Hyperion’s final exchange with just the right amount of gravitas. I got a little choked up, even. Of course, it’s too bad that by now we’re all so jaded that no one in their right mind believes that Odin’s boy won’t be not only alive again but also will have reclaimed that hammer by the time that Hemsworth’s third movie comes out, but this is still a powerful way to depict a momentous last stand. Deodato/Martin absolutely crush the interior sequentials, as ever.

UNCANNY X-MEN #032 — I’m surprised to find myself a little bit bummed at Scott closing the school. Didn’t think I was really that invested. Bendis shades Mr. Summers’s character with a bit of nuance here, explaining exactly what’s been going through his brain amidst all of his televised terroristic threats. Bachalo is wonderful again. This one reads a little bit skinny but is a necessary step to get to wherever Bendis is going to wind up taking us. My favorite line was Kitty explaining where she just got back from.

DAREDEVIL #014 — New heights of brilliance. Waid is such a beast at this point in his career that he is crafting every single issue to be both a pretty ideal jumping-on point and a terrifically engaging done-in-one for long-time readers that also pushes the overall plot forward. And of course, Samnee/Wilson continue to deliver a monthly master class in crafting superior superhero sequentials. And that Jordan Gibson and Bethany Gogo can’t seem to stay out of trouble; of course, within minutes of setting foot in San Francisco, they’re getting mugged and making Matt late for court. That suit, though, wow. Terrific design.

DARTH VADER #003 — There’s a bit of a hitch in the opening crawl. It shifts to past tense in the last sentence of the first paragraph when it should go to present. I do not care for that! Grammatical quibbles aside, Creative does very well with this issue. Larocca continues to impress, carrying a great deal of the first half with several pages of no dialogue. I dug the “How Vader Found Her” montage, some dark humor to be found there. But yikes, that Triple Zero dark Threepio guy is kind of terrifying. I guess I shouldn’t be hearing Anthony Daniels’s voice recite his lines? He’s only the opener for BT-1, though, the homicidal R2-unit. I can’t believe no one’s thought to do this in all these years, terrific idea. And the beat on the last page about Vader having no feelings about Geonosis is perfect. It’s an interesting call to wait until the third issue to introduce all of these supporting players, but I’m certainly glad that I hung around this long. They set up the potential for quite a cool dynamic.   

CHEW #47 — Poor Tony Chu just cannot catch a damn break, man. It’s that evil bastard Layman’s fault. D-Bear continues to stand out while John Colby is wracked with guilt and misery before the long-arc plot with Mason & Olive gets a serious push forward. There’s probably still close to two years left before these guys can pump out another thirteen issues (plus one more Poyo special?), but I’m already missing this one.

WYTCHES #5 — This one opens up in a pretty dark place and just gets more horrifying from there. Jock & Hollingsworth are really doing something special here every time, and Snyder has done a fine job ratcheting up the dread and tension before really pulling the trigger on it this month. Interested to see how this one’s going to turn out, but I’ve got a very bad feeling about how that’s going to go.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #6 — Well, this is not only batshit crazier than what we’ve grown accustomed to but also the best issue yet. There are so many terrific artists working today who wear their Kirby influence on their sleeve—Tom Scioli, Erik Larsen, Mike Allred, Keith Giffen—but I seldom think about the fact that of course Joe Casey has the writing nomination pretty much locked up. It might be offensive if somebody else just straight quoted the first page of NEW GODS #1 like happens here, but in this case, you’re just like, “Of course.”  And that is one impressive assortment of guest artists! Dragotta knocks it out of the park first up, and then everyone else does a terrific job seamlessly integrating into the greatness that Fox has already laid down. My man Morrison even slides right into place on a page of Kirbyesque sequentials. The walls really are breaking down. We need a mini-series with him as writer/artist. But this is a fantastic finish to the first (only?) arc of this series. “An adventure like no other,” indeed.

THE WICKED AND THE DIVINE #9 — This one fell a little bit short for me after the last two have been hitting hard. I just don’t care that much about a televised interview and am not invested enough in these characters that the Norn Three-in-One thing or whatever it is showing up is a big deal. God, that McKelvie/Wilson art, though. They could draw the phonebook and I would buy it every month. Or something.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #1 — I was always much more of a ROBOTIX man during that old SUPER SUNDAY anthology show back in good old ’85-’86, but this has remained the most successful property over the years. I really dug Ross Campbell’s art on GLORY just a little while back and that combined with being the father of a budding rock grrl convinced me to give this one a shot. It’s solid work, rebooting the franchise for a new generation while keeping all of its bombastic eighties awesomeness intact, all without the Misfits even showing up on-panel yet. Haven’t hit it with the little girl yet (we’re drowning in MY LITTLE PONYs and allllll of those damn Marvel STAR WARS and she just showed up with Jeffrey Brown’s excellent-looking JEDI ACADEMY), but time will tell.

MORNING GLORIES #44 — This one’s a relatively straightforward issue, typical non-linearity notwithstanding, that answers more questions than it asks. We really are coming up on the halfway point! Eisma continues to deliver straightforward staging in his storytelling, which is much appreciated while we wrap our brains around Spencer’s the-opposite-of-that scene-crafting. And I still want to just take a bath in those Esquejo covers, what a beast.

NEMO: RIVER OF GHOSTS — Janni Dakkar’s story finally comes to an end more than fifty years after we first meet her, and this final adventure is a powerful and rollicking finale to her story. Moore really sank this teeth into this character and obviously had no trouble dialing in from the get-go, and his obvious regard for her has been apparent at every step. Casting an elderly science pirate of Sikh descent as the protagonist against an army of Nazi Stepford wive automatons who can trace their lineage directly back to Maria of METROPOLIS (not that Metropolis) is a brilliant subversive move that is yet another example of Moore maximizing his premise and developing it far past the obvious connections and over the horizon into pure brilliance. Every succeeding installment has dramatically raised the stakes in Janni’s life, with this final issue finding her still captain of The Nautilus even in her twilight years while continuing to surround herself not only with her daughter and the Ishmael family but taking counsel and derision from the lingering ghosts of all of her significant loved ones who have already passed. This is a terrific set-up that begs for a whole raft of adventures spread out over many episodes, but of course, the creators can’t resist burning everything down by the final page even while setting up the next iteration because the story must, as ever, go on. There’s a deep and abiding level of pathos and tragedy to be found here when remembering the girl who we first met cliff-diving in the nude long ago back in 1907 to open that initial installment of CENTURY. For all of her passion and fury and initial resistance to adopting her father’s mantle, it found her anyway, and she was the best damn science pirate of the twentieth century, passing the legacy all the way down another three generations. There is something so beautiful and sad about the inescapability of that, I almost don’t know what to do. Between THE BLACK DOSSIER and CENTURY, a whole gang of people have jumped overboard from this series, but taken as a whole, this NEMO trilogy stands tall with the finest work that Moore & O’Neill have produced for this title since first embarking upon this patchwork voyage just before the turn of the century.

*  *  *  * 


BEST OF WEEK is too close to call between the titans, Morrison on ULTRA COMICS and Moore on the final NEMO installment. Both are perfect executions of their respective premises. And then there’s the end of BATMAN AND ROBIN. I don’t even know where to begin. Hell of a damn week.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

3/18/15

ALL-NEW X-MEN #039 — This is generally good all-hands-on-deck fun that’s somewhat mitigated by the fact that Bendis is almost done with this incredible run, and here at the end, he’s got the core characters of this book out here messing around with the casts of three or four other titles that I don’t read. The Sorrentino art continues to impress. I’m ready to get back to Earth and finally launch the endgame, which, guess I’m in luck because I don’t see the next issue of this title on the checklist for the end of this crossover. A charming reunion between Teen Jean & Teen Scott, anyway.

BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #5 & #6 — There was some release-date trickery or some such because #5 completely got by me, but all is made well now. Langdon Foss stays on board to provide a kind of stained-glass splash-page art for the framing sequences before Marco Rudy resumes absolutely cutting loose and pushing himself to greater and greater heights during the feature presentation, conjuring the greatness of recent JHWIII layouts while populating his panels with images that dial all the way up to Mack or Sienciewicz watercolors or other mixed media. He even drops a Sienciewicz homage there on the Daisy-is-not-dead reveal. Really spectacular work. Ales Kot sneaks some Burroughs in here with the word virus thing, which is even cooler when you make it down to ZERO, a nice bit of same-day release syngery, there. The one negative criticism I have is that character work is occasionally getting lost in the shuffle of all of this cosmic alien madness. Six issues in and I don’t feel that dialed in to either Bucky or Daisy, at least at the depth that the first issue implied we might should be by now, but Crossbones’s planet-pistol is obviously the Sensational Character Find of 2015.

BEST OF WEEK: PRINCESS LEIA #2 — Waid & the Dodsons deliver on the promise of the first issue by sinking their teeth in to the narrative now that things are rolling. On just a linear level, this is perfectly engaging, fun bits sprinkled throughout with Leia giving the false name of Solo being the equivalent of a lovelorn student writing her crush’s name on her school notebook, but then there are a couple of tricks that completely put this over the top. The bottom of Page One shifts to a flashback of Leia eating ruica as a child on a royal terrace with her father, and he has one line about her growing big and strong, which then cuts back to her telling Evaan that she likes it just fine, which is enough all on its own before Waid takes us to a few years later and, in a single page, does more to flesh out Alderaanian culture than anyone I’ve ever run across (my Expanded Universe mileage is admittedly pretty low). That was well done enough, but then that page when Leia sees the stained-glass image of Amidala and then the damn picture turns and looks at her but Evaan doesn’t see her . . . that gave me goosebumps. Very strong character work. And what a great last-panel twist, quite deftly set up there amidst all of this other greatness. The Force is strong with these creators.

CHRONONAUTS #1 — Millar has been on a roll lately and bringing in the art team responsible for THE WAKE doesn’t exactly hurt his situation. The conceit is pretty simple here: a couple of quasi-douchebag Texas-based scientists perfect time-travel technology and unveil it live on global television before Things Go Wrong, but no surprise, what elevates this into greatness is the masterful work of Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth, who in a very short time have achieved particularly stratospheric synergistic heights and bring Millar’s widescreen vistas to life with a bombastic joy that revels in the medium while simultaneously elevating it. And the fun is only just getting started. Highly recommended to fans of STARLIGHT or anything Sean Murphy has ever drawn, natch (and really, if you don’t have JOE THE BARBARIAN or PUNK ROCK JESUS in your life already, make that fix pronto, buckaroo).

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS: THE SUN BEYOND THE STARS #1 — After a ten-page opener that is terrific but just as head-scratching for those of us who have been on board since the last (and first) #1 as the new kids, the story zooms in on poor Yuri, who has been awaiting trial in a cosmic court where justice is arbitrary, insane, and terribly swift. Rest in peace, Garru. No worries, though, our Yuri manages to not only survive but see his fondest wish come true by issue’s end, though there’s also a surprising component to what happens next. This new format of zooming in on specific characters for short mini-arcs seems to be working here at first blush, and Pitarra has once again managed to tighten up his already ridiculous linework, making Quitely and Darrow proud. Recommended jumping-on point!

SATELLITE SAM #12 — Chaykin continues to bring the black-and-white thunder as Fraction starts ramping this one up for the home stretch. This one definitely feels like part of the third act as the various plots skid toward some kind of potentially messy resolution. I really can’t praise the complexity and depth of Chaykin’s fine linework enough. You get the feeling that he could make someone walking uptown from the Village for twenty pages pretty much one of the most compelling series of pages you’ve ever laid eyes on. I’m definitely fully engaged to see where all of this lands.

ZERO #15 — As someone who has been waiting two years for his fourth issue of DEAD BEATS, starring exciting psychedelic action versions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs, to be drawn by people who obviously have better things to do, all I can say about this issue is great job on Ales Kot for nailing the cut-up vibe of Burroughs language, Ian Bertram was a terrific choice for the art style this issue, and it is certainly a narratively compelling choice to have all of this possibly be trapdoored out into the multiverse by way of a fungal Burroughs word virus.

BATGIRL #40 — Well, of course it wasn’t Oracle after all, but respect to all parties for the convincing fakeout. Babs Tarr just gets better and better over Cameron Stewart’s layouts, these is kinetic terrific pages. Great resolution with Dinah’s canary cry saving the day. We’re getting our rock band fix here while Gwendolyn sorts out her business with The Mary Janes across the street there, but now that she’s out of the picture, it looks like the roommate Frankie is all set up to provide technical support. I will confess to flinching when I read BATGIRL #41 in the Next Issue blurb.            
BATMAN ETERNAL #50 — Well, Blackgate is still rioting, Gotham is still burning, Batman is talking shit to a battered Bane, and it’s pretty much business as usual here. Alvaro Martinez turns in quality pages. I particularly like that shot of Batgirl discarding her opponent. She looks just like Tarr drew her, is the finest compliment I can give. Bruce’s follow-up comment that his sidekicks should “Save Everybody” is an interesting permutation of Hickman’s plan for Reed Richards to “Solve Everything.” The reveal at the end is earned and even terribly obvious in hindsight, but of course, I never saw it coming. Just one more, I suppose.


FUTURES END #46—The cover spoils this one, and people were happy to as well on the Internet, but that doesn’t take away from the execution of the story, pun intended, I am so sorry. The Fifty-Sue/Elsie-Dee creature is still providing a species of comic relief opposite Cole & Lana. That ending, though, it played well enough, butwas a little bit abrupt. Like, the injuries didn’t seem that definitive from a storytelling perspective to the point that it’s just like, Oh yeah, this guy totally has less than a minute to live suddenly. Not exactly a heartbreaking farewell, but competently conveyed.

Monday, March 30, 2015

3/11/15

STAR WARS #3 — Well, what a happy birthday to me. One of my favorite art teams of all time delivers more pages from one of the greatest stories in the galaxy. I had the vibe last issue that that was the end of the first arc, but there was obviously still plenty of exit strategy to engage. Vader taking down the AT-AT was, of course, terrific fun, and it was a pleasure to finally make hit lightspeed. Aaron once again nails all of the dialogue and characterization to the wall, and just when our merry band makes it to hyperspace, he does fine work teasing that all has not yet been told about the legacy of Obi-Wan Kenobi back on Tatooine, which is a tantalizingly possibility. Poor Luke can never seem to keep away from that place for long. That planet might actually have a stronger rubber-band effect for locals than glorious old Lubbock, Texas.

NEW AVENGERS #031 — Hickman gives Dr. Strange the spotlight as he leads a legion of I-forget-whats to storm a door to The Library before the world that houses it suffers the fate of incursion. The reveal at the end is huge and makes all kinds of sense. Who else would it be? Of course, the presence of Owen Reece is not much of a surprise to anyone who has heard about what’s happening next in the Mighty Marvel Universe. This is, once again, a very entertaining slab of sequential fiction that just makes you thirsty for more right away, but I’m not worried, I’m sure they’ve got the next one lurking just around the corner.

HOWARD THE DUCK #1 — I was expecting something a bit closer to the oddball zaniness of the madcap SEX CRIMINALS letter column or Zdarsky’s charming flirtation/affirmation of his local Applebee’s, but he plays it quite a bit closer here, which probably serves the material better anyway. What you see with the cover is pretty much what you get. Howard is a down-on-his-luck private eye just trying to close a case and get paid in a world he never yadda yadda. Guest stars galore in the mighty Marvel tradition, probably the funniest moment is when Spidey loses Howard and then just straight breaks down and falls to his knees right there on the rooftop, crying about Uncle Ben. That was some pretty side-splitting shit. Quinones/Renzi show up with art that’s probably stylistically closest to what Samnee/Wilson have going on over in DAREDEVIL. And in case She-Hulk, Spider-Man, and Black Cat weren’t enough for the guest stars, they do go ahead and play up the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY film connection. And why not? This one is nothing but good fun, and I’ll definitely be picking up next issue.

SPIDER-GWEN #002 — I didn’t think anybody would ever top Morrison having deranged Zur En Arrh Batman accosted by Bat-Mite and being told about how imagination is the fifth dimension and so forth, but Latour comes close here with the Sporktcular Spider-Ham calling our eponymous heroine “Gwenzelle.” Not just a whole lot happens this issue either (that SPIDER-VERSE pilot was highly compressed to like a Silver Age level because, I guess, that might have been the creators’ only shot and they wanted to get everything in there, but now reader demand has clearly given the team the opportunity to lean back and take their time telling their story), but it’s a satisfying read. Really, it could have just been Gwen and Peter Porker the entire time, and that would have been lovely. These alternate versions of Frank Castle and Matt Murdock are kind of fun permutations to watch develop. Hoping to get some actual rock and roll happening next issue, as well as some daddy/daughter time, my two favorite things about that pilot issue. Terrific art once again from Rodriguez & Renzi, Marvel’s hippest new colorist, apparently.

SILVER SURFER #010 — Wow. This issue was really not fucking around. After such a relatively slow-burn series of done-in-ones to open the series, Slott & the Allreds just completely went for it this arc. I was completely ready to say goodbye to Dawn and lose her to Galactus forever. Tremendous character work from Slott, and of course, you can’t imagine anyone (living) beside the Allreds delivering these visuals. It is kind of funny, this has definitely been the Surfer by way of DOCTOR WHO since the get-go, so they just go ahead and throw BATTLESTAR GALACTICA into the mix while they’re at it. I don’t mind! Soar on, Norrin Radd!

FANTASTIC FOUR #644 — Robinson & Kirk have just about bring this global scale event-unto-itself to a close, and are doing a fine job tying up all of the loose ends, somehow still making the inclusion of Sleepwalker and the Heroes Reborn counterparts from eighteen years back make perfect sense. I just keep waiting for Darkhawk to drop in at the last minute to save the day, but I guess it’s probably too late for that now. Bentley-23 continues to shine, stealing every scene he’s in, despite the crowded ensemble. Of course, I don’t really believe that next issue is going to be the end of anything for more than maybe half a year, but the creative team has done solid work building this run up to a grand finale.  

ALL-NEW X-MEN #037— Diiiiid #038 of this already come out as part of that BLACK VORTEX hoo-hah? I guess these pretty paintings took a little bit longer. This time, Bendis focuses on Emma and Teen Jean, as they head off to Madripoor for Jean to develop her non-telepathic skill set. Having Emma assume a mentor role for her time-displaced rival for Scott’s affections is a pretty brilliant move on Bendis’s part and very rewarding for those of us who have been following this relationship over the years. As if all of that isn’t enough fun, the antagonist in this issue is Lubbock’s own Fred J. Dukes, a wonderful person if ever there was one. Good fun all around to be found here.

ACTION COMICS #40 — The Quinones KAL & DOOMSDAY variant cover is brilliant. I mean, shit, I wish that Chip Zdarsky was writing that comic book, that would be some deeply out-of-control nonsense. Alas, we are saddled with the regular excellent creative team of Pak/Kuder/Quintana, who deliver yet another Bizarro tale that is better than any I’ve read in recent years. Pak actually got the language right the entire way through, it seems like! That pretty much never happens. I loved the mention of continuity and “This Wednesday” on the first page. Because why not? This one has a lot of heart, really wonderful work. I just hope they can scoot this back up to first week of the month when we come back from Convergence, I prefer to start my comics-reading month off with this title every first Wednesday just because that feels like the right thing to do, and I’ve been all out of alignment here these past couple of months, hey.

BATMAN ETERNAL #49 — Quality panelwork from Fernando Blanco. I particularly liked that shot of Stephanie bailing on her dad. Though of course, nothing is better than Alfred putting the smackdown on that stupid stupid villain called Hush. And what a last page, that is some triumphant combat cliffhanger business, right there.

FUTURES END #45 — Aw. The second death of Frankenstein was very well handled and even touching. I wonder if we’ll see Amethyst again for the curtain call or if that was that. It kind of felt like the latter. Overall, solid work, even with guys splitting up pencil/ink duties at this late stage. You’re almost there, just a little further, fellas!

ASTRO CITY #21 — Busiek has indeed been saying for years that Quarrel is his favorite character, and it certainly shows. She’s not quite the typical woman-on-the-street type protagonist that this book typically gives us, but her role as an unpowered member of Honor Guard lets her straddle the line, giving us insight into the way someone views the world who isn’t a full powered superhero like Samaritan, but who still comes from a meager upbringing, resulting in some of the richest characterization and most moving arcs in this magnificent title’s thoroughly engaging history. I can’t believe we were ever without this book for any length of time, it feels like it’s always been here, a dear old friend showing us all how its done. Kudos to Busiek, Anderson, Ross, Sinclair, Fletcher, et al.

EAST OF WEST #18—Babylon is definitely one of my favorite characters in this rather vividly imagined ensemble, particularly his dynamic with trusty old Balloon there, so an issue focusing almost entirely on him is a welcome respite from all of the other crazy that this book pumps out on a monthly basis. Between Hickman grooming Valeria Richards to assume the mantle of Dr. Doom and all of Remender’s recent fun with Evan/Genesis/Apocalypse, the theme of innocent children who are predestined to become the embodiment of evil is getting some serious panel-time here lately. Dragotta & Martin have, if anything, gotten even better as time has gone on. They really seem to be able to deliver anything, just jaw-dropping pages throughout. This crazy book still seems to be accruing momentum as we head into the back half of its second year. Always a pleasure to pick up.

SPAWN: RESURRECTION #1 — New series artist Jonboy Meyers is a friend of a friend whose work I’ve enjoyed via social media and cons over the past few years, so when McFarlane called him up to the big show, I couldn’t resist dropping in and seeing what’s what. It’s . . . been a while for Spawn and me. This is my first triple-digit issue. New writer Paul Jenkins makes the story accessible enough to someone who hasn’t checked in in a long time, and JonBoy definitely blows it up on the sequentials with dynamic staging and panelwork throughout. The story is a little boilerplate for an Eisner award winner. There’s the requisite newscaster-as-expository source, and most of the issue is our hero talking to a dog who is God before learning that he has to go to Hell to save the soul of his recently-deceased-by-way-race-riot wife who has joined the soul of their unborn son. That’s pretty much solid cliché. It would have been a really cool move to still 86 Wanda there in the riot but instead make her the protagonist, and she’s got to go get Al and the unborn kid’s soul. Inverting the dynamic to make her the hero and not the damsel would have been swell. But good on Jonboy, it must be said. The pages look great, and it’s nice to see good things happen to good people.


BEST OF THE WEEK: CASANOVA: ACEDIA #2 — Man, this volume acts all accessible and newbie-boardable unless you’ve read the first three volumes, and then it’s like, “What the fuck is Fraction actually doing now?” I need to go back and reread everything. I remember that photograph but completely space on the context altogether. The Moon art is thrilling, no matter what. That thing that crawls out of Zephyr is fucking horrifying. McShane and the Kato kid as buddy cops is a wonderful dynamic. And I deeply love that the kid is just reading DUNE on the clock there while standing guard over our guy, who is in serious danger just one door away. Wow, though. And then a page of Pulitzer-prize-winning Michael Chabon’s Metanauts discussing farts before it’s time to meet the J.I.M.M.Y. caps. We truly live in an age of science and wonder, my friends. Though Fabio’s demon calling Fraction “Bro” on the inside back cover is the finest thing of all. I’m sorry I can’t buy all five thousand or whatever the print run is because it certainly feels like they’re just making this thing for me.

Friday, March 27, 2015

3/04/15

MIRACLEMAN #16 — Okay, a kind of funny deal happened with this issue. I have always thought that #15 of the original series was the final issue of Moore’s run. And last issue certainly reinforced that as Moore brought the narrative to a satisfying, though terribly graphic, resolution. So, all month long, I’ve been really looking forward to see what the first issue of Gaiman/Buckingham looks like. And, boy howdy! This one knocked me out. I hadn’t realized, but the luster of Moore’s prose had faded a bit from those first issues as he had become more and more disenchanted with Dez Skinn and his own work on this series. But here was Our Neil, just knocking the lights out, wow! What a goddamn tour de force out of the gate, man. I was immediately so excited to read the rest of this run. The student is now the master, How embarrassing for Alan, etc, etc. So but, of course, I made it to the last page and saw the credits and, of course, this was actually Moore’s final issue, and I had a laugh at myself. Suffice it to say, he really cranked it up here at the end, and John Totelben again turns in magnificent work, particularly those first couple of double-splash pages. But just that opening text piece will almost make you weep with admiration. Really staggering material. That hyper-dimensional warpsmith orgy, man, I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around that. This whole thing, it’s really a montage with Moore’s rhapsodic first-person Michael Moran captions narrating the entire thing and only a very few scenes of dialogue scattered throughout and Totelben throwing down remarkable double-page vistas of impossible majestic architecture or superhumans making love through the sky like he can draw anything in the world or beyond. What makes this such an incomparable piece of sequential literature is how far they take it. Moore’s primary strength, beyond his stunning command of language itself, has always been the detail of his imagination, his ability to conceptualize exactly what should follow from a given twist or certain series of circumstances. Here, he basically gives us the last Superman story, the final superhero issue, the capstone of the entire genre taken to its logical conclusion. It’s a little stunning that he still had so much left to say in his SUPREME run the following decade. This is one of the most definitive and satisfying endings to a narrative that I have ever encountered. Simply a beautiful piece of literature. I have no idea how poor Neil and Buckingham ever followed it, but that’s next month, next month, still.

AVENGERS #042 — Hickman is really swinging for it now, man. Skinning the goddamn Living Tribunal. He also makes Cyclops seem like much more of an early Magneto than Bendis does. You’ve got to dig Reed & T’Challa scheming to build the lifeboat. Though I’m now so conditioned against that EAST OF WEST emboldening that just T’Challa doing it one time on “HOW NOT TO LOSE” made me flinch like hell.  Though of course I’ll forgive everything for some Hickman Reed/Valeria action. She eats ice cream! And I still can’t believe Sam Guthrie has a kid. I mean, it’s way past time, but still. That is some heavy shit about Gladiator calling the Smasher clan off-planet. You could mine such a great title or even back-up feature off of just that one little family caught in the middle. And after checking in with the Shi’ar Empire, why not throw the Guardians of the Galaxy into the mix? The scale and scope of what Hickman’s built up is staggering. And it just keeps escalating.

GUARDIANS TEAM-UP #001 — When I saw this cover a month or two ago in the form of an ad, I rolled my eyes because of course they’re going to get Bendis to write a sixth-or-however-many-there-are-now Guardians-related series, but then when I noticed that they had Art Adams on interiors, I said, “Well, dammit” because of course I’m not going to let that slide by. And a damn good thing, too. This is nothing but good fun. Total naked cross-media promotion, certainly, but an entertaining read on its own merits, and that is all that really matters. The opening page is funny because it sandwiches non-movie team members Angela, Venom, and Captain Marvel in between those irregulars we all know and love from a motion picture brought to you by James Gunn, but then those folks are nowhere to be seen for the duration of the issue. As usual, Bendis does a terrific job handling rapid-fire dialogue exchanges between this very crowded cast of characters, nailing the beats of just the eponymous team first before opening it up when the All-New Avengers show up. Spider-Woman drawing the line and flying away is laugh-out-loud funny. Hawkeye blowing up the space invader with three arrows is cool all on its own but is a whole different level of funny if you picked up Bendis’s third-ever issue of AVENGERS #502 off the rack and were privy to the collective fanboy howls of consternation over what happened to HAWKEYE that month. Art Adams’s work is as dynamic and exciting as ever, and Paul Mounts goes over and above to really make every single page pop.

BEST OF WEEK: ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #001 — Like most “Americans in the Know,” (and more than a few Europeans, I guess it must be said), I have found Fraction/Aja/Wu/Hollingsworth/
Eliopoulos’s HAWKEYE to be one of the very best things to come out of The House of Ideas in years and was pretty much ready to extend a middle finger to just about anybody with enough hubris to even suggest following up on such a glorious thing. However. I am a huge fan of both Jeff Lemire’s work and thought that that JIM HENSON’S TALE OF SAND that Ramón Pérez put out was, seems like, the best graphic novel of whatever year that was. 2011? It was one of those grudging acceptance deals, like, “All riiiiiiight, let’s see what they show up with.” The answer is basically a best-case scenario. Pérez drops the full shifting chameleon style, so that the beautiful opening flashback scene basically feels exactly like THE ESSEX TRILOGY by way of TALE OF SAND before we barrel into a present-day sequence starring Clint & Kate that feels as much like a cover version of standard Fraction/Aja as it possibly could, which might be almost offensive if they just opened up with such a hard clone of this vibe, but comes across as really pretty breathtaking after the shift from that opening, in which these guys nail the dynamic so brilliantly with nothing more than a three-panel one-page set-up paid off by a single-panel punchline on the next page. I love how the light-hearted tone shifts right at the end when they get separated, and he involuntarily calls her Katie while hammering on the door. And then the final three pages do a masterful job of blending the two timelines together. This is a hell of a first issue, easily Best of Week (since I don't think we can really in all fairness give it to Moore/Totelben for a book that's almost thirty years old). These guys, and Ian Herring, show up already at the top of their game and apparently ready to unleash a hell of a HAWKEYE story. I just hope Aja can get #022 out before the end of this first arc . . .

DESCENDER #1 — And Lemire just keeps on murdering it. I have been a Dustin Nguyen fan for over a decade now, ever since he drew that Batman run that Winick wrote not-as-well all the way through his work on the title today and the glory of LI’L GOTHAM, so when this was announced, I was certainly expecting thunder. But, holy shit. These guys hurdle right past the world-building all the way to universe-building and –destroying here right up front. What a terrific set-up. Of course, Tim-21 is going to recall little Haley Joel from A.I., but it’s been long enough and Nguyen varies the design up enough that it’s no problem. The dynamic that Lemire sets up between Tim-21 and Bandit works immediately. I can’t decide if it’s the backwards barking or shorthand by cribbing the name from Jonny Quest’s dog, but whatever it is, we’re good to go. The only slight bone I have to pick is that it looked like the robotics doctor guy got white-blasted to oblivion in the opening scene, and it felt like a little bit of a cheat when he was still in the picture ten years later. Wonderful premise, though, you can envision Lemire rubbing his hands together while all of this comes pouring out from his head, Nguyen is a goddamn terrifying force, and I can’t wait to see what this looks like when all is said and done. That TRILLIUM was pretty okay, after all.

STAR WARS: PRINCESS LEIA #1 — Well, I certainly had no doubts about Waid and the Dodsons knocking this one out of the park, but that is certainly exactly what happens. Waid makes the kind of brilliant call to script a page of the Dodsons giving us the final thirty seconds of EPISODE IV but instead of cutting to those blue closing credits, we are at long last privy to the speech that Leia gave after she put the medals on those boys and that Wookie. And of course, it’s powerful. It’s pretty crazy, I thought Brian Wood did a solid to terrific job scripting exactly this situation, the aftermath of The Battle of Yavin, but Waid brings a nuance here that was lacking before now. The introduction of Evaan provides a nice foil to Leia. We need some kind of conflict for this book that doesn’t involve Han Solo, and Evaan’s lack of awe or subservience to her princess creates a solid interpersonal dynamic. Pretty much just add R2, and we’re good to go. Colorist Jordie Bellaire delivers top-notch work, as ever, and letterer Joe Caramagna’s work stands out in just the right ways, with his choices of font for R2-D2 and Chewbacca perfectly complementing Waid’s phonetic spellings of these sounds we know so well. This is a terrific opening and completes Marvel’s hat trick of introducing three titles with the A-list talent that this property deserves.

NAMELESS #2 — Well, they really rev it up here as the entire issue takes place on a moonbase hidden on the dark side of the moon, and our occult protagonist leads the reader to the unfortunate sight of a brilliant scientist covering her padded cell with a bunch of Enochian language written in her feces. How unfortunate. The horror element of this series ramps up quite a bit, particularly the Mr. Darius reveal, which I found particularly chilling. Burnham & Fairbairn turn in more beautiful work, particularly that shot of the war in heaven that drops in from out of nowhere. I’m a little bit nervous about where this one is heading, given the massive escalation from the first issue, here.

SUPREME: BLUE ROSE #7 — So, it all comes down to this. Tula Lotay continues to absolutely bring the thunder as our story winds its way up into itself. We fiiiiiiiinally see old Ethan Crane and have a lovely conversation meta-conversation with him. The “white guy with glasses” line is a classic. Professor Night to save the day is the most I have enjoyed a cavalry charge in I-don’t-know-how-long. What a resolution to all of that. PROFESSOR NIGHT really was the best show ever. And then what an odd climax. So, that was a revision gun Dax fired, perhaps? This is certainly the next cycle, I think, it’s not like we just looped back to a point prior to #1. I suspect that this will make for a very gratifying single-sitting read. Finally, someone managed to conceive of a SUPREME run that can stand with the madcap firework genius that Moore conjured all those years ago.

BLACK SCIENCE #12 — Remender & Scalera come roaring back great guns with new colorist Moreno Dinisio, who manages to mitigate the loss of Dean White to tremendous effect. The pace of this new arc has accelerated past what we’ve grown accustomed to, which is really saying something. Clearly, now that the fellas have laid the groundwork, we are off to the races. They’re doing a good job of mining the premise of this thing and not resting on their laurels for a single issue. Breakneck momentum, full ahead!

SAGA #26 — I don’t know. I just don’t care about these people. Fiona Staples has a wonderful sensibility and has created a very distinctive look for this series, but BKV has maybe evolved into a style that I just don’t care for. The tone of the whole thing really isn’t working for me. I keep buying this out of a sense of wanting to know what’s going on with it just because everyone in the industry can’t stop falling all over how wonderful it is, and it is nice of them to keep that cover price down, but I’m just not really feeling it, man.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #6 — Adding a recap page up top actually makes these first four pages even more batshit mental. I just want to walk around handing this thing out to people in the street, spreading the disease of its madness before it devours me whole. There’s a two-page flashback to a five-year-old meeting with the Power Persons Five that is chock full of winking asides to events that we as loyal readers already know are inevitable, but that last panel before the opening titles that quotes SUPERMAN #75 is just about the funniest thing, hilarious shorthand for those of us “in the know.” Time Giraffe dropping the ALIENS quote a few pages later is also much appreciated, as well as the T2 classic. My main concern is that future societies, alien or otherwise will have so much digging to do through the detritus of late 20th/early 21st century pop culture that wonderful little tricks like quoting Ripley or the T-1000 or Darth Vader in these pages will not be understood, and thus all hope will be lost.

INFINITY MAN AND THE FOREVER PEOPLE #8 — I want Keith Giffen to be drawing this book. That’s kind of the point, seems like. Is this some meta-commentary Didio’s sneaking in here, though? “The ways of the new are more corrupt than the ways of old, all their promises of change and glory are empty and worthless.” If he’d made it “all-new,” I guess that would have been too on-the-nose. Terrific brawl at the end. Once again, I missed Giffen a lot. All told, though, plenty happens in this one. I think we’re just one more and done? Alas.

DETECTIVE COMICS #40 — Once again, these pages are absolute gorgeous masterpieces of sequential panelwork. Manapul/Buccellato have incredible synergy and are peaking at a level that can only be achieved through years of regular collaboration. The art is a feast for the eyes. It’s too bad that folks like Greg Rucka or Ed Brubaker have fled these Gotham shores, though, because there is no character depth, just a series of events pushing the reader’s eye to the next glorious splash page of our hero soaring through the air or punching out the bad guy. There’s no narrative hook to be found here, as pretty as it all looks.

GRAYSON #8 — Jeez! People throw the term “game-changer” around all the time these days, but this issue is nothing short of that. These boys have no problem upsetting the entire apple cart just any old time. They didn’t even let the first full year of issues play out! Janin/Cox continue to absolutely knock every page out of the park. I’m not sure how I feel about the massive objectification of Dick Grayson in this title. We have graduated from the decades-old dick jokes to having a gaggle of his female students actually name both cheeks of his backside. On the one hand, that’s kind of funny in and of itself, and I get that this is like a drop in the bucket on the opposite end of the insane sexual objectification of women that’s been going on in this industry since William Moulton Marston’s mistress first started tying him and his wife up, I’m just not sure that the antidote is to do the same thing to the boys. It’s certainly a conversation.

BATMAN ETERNAL #48 — I know I shouldn’t let other media creep in, but now I can’t read about what Falcone stole from Cobblepot and not think about GOTHAM. You know? Of course, there’s another charming riot in Blackgate to clear out my head. This one’s moving along nicely now as we round the stretch to the big finish.


FUTURES END #44 — We welcome Zircher back to give us resolution to the Brainiac arc, which is overall reasonably satisfying but just seems a little bit limp in terms of delivering on the dread of this title’s opening issues. I guess the ominous deal is packed right in there with the resolution. How can Batman be so smart and still use Brother Eye to save the day? One thousand thank yous to regular cover artist Ryan Sook for that killer shot of me pulling an Atlas with New York City, though he overdid it on the biceps just the least bit, I’ve got to say in the interest of full disclosure.