Thursday, December 23, 2010


Happy birthday, Miller Li.

FANTASTIC FOUR #586—Overwhelming. I have for all this time wrongly assumed that this arc was only going to go four issues, I mean, I know how countdowns work, but I guess the fact that there hasn’t been a 0 in the countdown up on top of the cover? At any rate, that means I thought that somebody was going out this month until I got to that ad telling me different almost at the very end of the issue, consequently, it was a pretty tense ride, but I guess I’m just going to have to live with it for another four weeks. Rocking the 4 shirt, in honor.

MORNING GLORIES #5—Easily the best issue since the pilot. Hah, first issue, I mean. But that’s how this one feels, the rhythms of a show. Spencer ratchets up the craft level quite a bit with this one, words bleeding on the page so hard you can’t help but be like He’s Wriiiiiiiting, but, man, dude goes for it and gets the job done. I wasn’t half as bowled over by #s 2-4 as how hard #1 hit me, and this one restores my faith. The cheap trade of this is going to make for just one hell of a single sitting.

UNCANNY X-MEN #532—Land’s style is molting, I like where it seems to be heading. There are still quite a few shots that look just the way he’s been doing it now since that first PHOENIX mini, all super photo-ref’d and such, but he seems to be shedding it, working toward something more stylistic. Meanwhile, in the word balloons, I didn’t think it was going to be Guess the Writer time so damn immediately, but these were the first status tags that I loved, a feature that has been bugging the shit out of me since they showed up 32 months ago, but man, this time, they sing, sing to such an extent you’re just like, is Kieron walking up and suddenly killing it, or is Fraction just like scrawling out every single one of these per issue while staring into the sunrise the Tuesday that the script is due, and he’s finally got the hang of it? Best issue since #512 (though still, of course, a distant second).

IRON MAN #33—Oh! This was the finale? That was nice, I just expected it to go a whole 12 issues. This is like that last season of THE WIRE, that I didn’t realize was only ten episodes long until Completely Insane Shit started going down in the ninth episode. Um. This last installment is a huge success on every level, these guys are getting ready to close out their third year and have never looked better and #500 is around the corner. It’s no great surprise Fraction gets the next big event, between this and UNCANNY and just the first rumblings of THOR (without even, let’s don’t, so much as mention creator-owned properties), he’s pretty much pulled himself up to Bendis-level proportion in terms of overall importance to the company, from a standpoint of idea generation. With Mad Millar dancing around the fringes and Brubaker running anchor. Speaking of.

SECRET AVENGERS #8—Pretty shredding, man. Brubaker and Deodato are rocking the superspy action as hard as it can stand it.

SUPERIOR #3—This one gave me the opposite reaction from last month. Millar puts a ton of heart, by way of Smallville and Fawcett City, into this pastiche riff, and Yu turns it way the hell up for this issue, more than one simply legendary spread. Is this thing only four issues long? They are a'going for it.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #8—Levitz is blowing it up with this bi-weekly interaction. Why doesn’t Geoff Johns give him a call and get him to lead up the writing staff of a new Legion serial television show? Why doesn’t Johns do JSA, for God’s sake? Hawkman is in that one. And Black Adam, I believe he has some fondness for there. Back to it, this one was a classic before Earth Man busted out the Durlan powers. A fine time in the life cycle of this franchise.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #10—I was a bit concerned not to see our man Rafael’s name on the cover this time, but I suppose it was maybe just three weeks since last we met, and he was rocking 10 pages extra duty those first five months, so, we cannot fault his work ethic. We can, however, experience trepidation with regard to the quality of the fill-in artist, and, by extension, the editor, or whatever other unknown confluence of force dictates the acquisition of same. The concern, in this rare instance, is entirely misplaced.

NEONOMICON #3—After the previous joyful installment, I was certainly expecting no small amount of completely horrifying shit, and the first half certainly not disappoint. But then, you know, that Alan Moore is some kind of professional. He turns it around on you. Down there.

BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN, INCORPORATED #2—Just a hell of a cover by J.H. the IIIrd. No surprise that I found every page of this one pretty much perfect. Paquette is really a machine, can't imagine he's going to be able to keep up this level of quality in a monthly. Not that DC will mind bringing in a fill-in to keep this thing on-track. The format of this title lends itself well to fill-in singles, at least. Nothing about this issue particularly blows me away, but it's still a very good Batman comic. We get the first franchise player brought into the fold in an economical 44 pages, great interaction between Bruce and Selina (I dig how after a very subtle set-up last issue, this being a heist on the side for her gets exactly two pages this month, we're all expecting it, Bruce, her, they're just going through the motions of their traditional relationship while simultaneously interacting on other levels, team-up, romance [or just straight boning, if you prefer]), a callback to Bat-manga first published in the 60s (the manga itself a retelling of BATMAN #180, whose cover even manages to break back into this month's narrative redrawn as a flashback panel), a cameo from Shiny Happy Aquazon of Super Young Team (set-up for romantic lead for our new Batman?), Lord Death Man on a satellite, a potential action space set-up that has me licking my lips, and Selina channeling the reader question "What are you going to do when the bad guys come for Bruce Wayne?" answered/deflected to perfection by "You'll see." Oh. He has a plan!

And then, just when all is said and done, Morrison breaks our hearts by giving us that last killer splash of the Tokyo Batman in mortal conflict against that joker Professor Gorilla from the manga, a shot that begs for a ten-page fight sequence by Paul Pope and of course makes us wish we could just stay here for a while and watch this new Batman cut his teeth on all of that neon. I wish DC would take a page out of the KNIGHT & SQUIRE playbook and have Cornell and, let's say, Casey and Ellis and why not invite Aaron along for the ride? Get all those guys to catch laterals off this series, little one-shots or minis picking up on all these international threads that Morrison's leaving dangling, plates he starts spinning. Unless, God forbid, Morrison isn't playing the set-up game he did for SEVEN SOLDIERS and ATOM and METAL MEN (and I guess we can throw Super Young Team in here, as well) and is actually going to bring all of this together for the grandest of finales.

Far too soon to tell. Give Joe Casey a ring in the meantime, I say.

Monday, December 20, 2010


MOUSE GUARD: THE BLACK AXE #1—Petersen takes us back forty years to a pivotal day in the life of a young Celanawe and, in so doing, completely blows away everything he accomplished in the first dozen issues of this beautiful book. Epic. Everyone’s going to want to have this one in hardcover.

X-FACTOR #212—Maybe the best issue of David’s second run. This Lupacchino character is off the charts. A high watermark in a book that’s had quite a few pencillers pass through. David is such a master craftsman, it’s a delight to see him get to play with so many of Marvel’s toys, romps like this with Thor and Hela, or zipping up to the future like they did a while back, hooking up with the Summers Rebellion and crazy Alzheimer’s von Doom, always real good times. I confess that I wasn’t 100% with regard to the opening slots I gave these to, folks, and I want you to know that it’s been a slamming week so far.

THE UNWRITTEN #20—Lizzie Hexam dresses Grant Morrison’s musings on Superman (penultimate answer) up with the beautiful term “story-true.”

GREEN LANTERN #60—Batshit. I have often commented upon it, and here is a clear mark, part one of the Third Era of Mahnke, these months and months of transition culminating in this beautiful synthesis of his first two styles, the first that hyper-detailed but really strong and bold Kirby thing he climaxed in the back end of FINAL CRISIS there, followed by the really clean, somewhat reminiscent of MESMO DELIVERY and Paul Pope, lines monthly here for the last couple of years, and it’s led to this. Certainly the most consistent and excellent issue with four inkers that I’ve read in recent memory. This title’s been a slow burn for a while, but I was just being impatient, should have trusted that Johns would crank it up when the time was right.

BRIGHTEST DAY #16—Cranking it up. Maybe the best art of the series, thus far. And, oh noes! Firestorm destroyed everything! What about Batman?!?!? I bet he had a contingency plan in place.

BATMAN & ROBIN #18—Just the fact that Cornell can right out there in the middle of the page flat out say, “Little Nemo In Slumberland,” and it’s not a terrible crime or blasphemy but simply fucking perfect tells you all you need to know about this one. Except, too: if only my boy DFW had hung out long enough for this origin story. He would have just loved it. Oh, the empty spaces.

JOHN BYRNE’S NEXT MEN (vol. 2) #1—!!!! This made my day to see it on the racks, had read in some Comic-Con news wrap-up that Byrne was finally dusting this treasure off, but had no idea it was coming out today. I actually had to take a peek inside, something I never usually do, just to make sure it wasn’t a reprint, which would have made sense, given it’s something like sixteen years since this title was last published. It’s actually kind of a hybrid, the pages are technically all new, but almost half of them, ten of twenty-two are dedicated to recapping the thirty issues of the first volume. Made me glad that I hadn’t reread the whole run to get ready, like I might have if I’d have known. The recap was kind of hilarious to read. Since I’ve been jamming through Byrne’s early 80s runs on FF and ALPHA FLIGHT, that particular style of heavily expository recap wasn’t as jarring as it might have been otherwise, but it cracked me up to think about a complete newbie who’d never read a page of Volume One showing up for this, featuring a recap of 760-odd pages crammed into 10.

But, hilarity aside, Byrne uses a fairly ingenious way to frame the recap, reminding us all that he was rocking the “everything you know is a computer simulation” trope some time before the Wachowski boys decided that they had a hell of a graphic novel or two in them, or no, wait, maybe a movie. Too, it was cool, when Jazz got to the end of #30 and then just kept on going. Wait, slow down, go real time! And then, man, he hits the gas. Wait, all that future stuff was a dream! But then Nathan and Jazz disappear, as if they woke up somewhere else! But wait, here’s Reverend Jack at some unspecified date making a discovery that basically WTF’s everything that’s come before. ?!?!? Should be a hell of a second issue. They might should have offered this one for only a buck or two to bring in new readers and acknowledge the returning fans who already know the story, but, at least with that last page, Byrne throws in enough curveballs even for us jaded old school types.

I don’t think there was a definitive Best of Week, but it was a good time, all around.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


We’re going to attempt almost-real-time reaction to developments this evening, we’ll see how it goes. Opening with Fraction THOR and going out on the motherfucking Tome that the FABLES crew crashed down on us today . . . brr, we’ve got to get started. Probably going to be a little shorter, because I’m going to want to be getting to what’s next. The pervading energy this evening can only be described as primal.

THOR #618—This one’s really picking up some steam, now. And the fact that part 5 is a play on L O S T 1.11 turns my knees to butter.

NEW AVENGERS #7—Unbelievable! Hands down, the best Bendis issue since the relaunch, that’s taking into account both stellar opening arcs in both flagships along with the PRIME thunder from Davis & Farmer, 16 issues already, and then at this critical juncture, this crackerjack creative team storms back up hard out of the bullpen for this opening issue of the second arc, not only easily leveling the competing efforts across the way from Misters Romita and Janson, no mean feat, but also kicking all that’s come before to the curb, just so much to like about this one, so many great beats in one spine, my favorite easily being the one-two set-up of Imomenen drawing Wolverine at his actual non-Jackman 5’3 height, followed by the hilarious exchange with Squirrel Girl. The gods wept.
(just realizing this is actually like the stereotypical Bendis complaint, everyone just sits around talking, it’s an aftermath issue, there’s no actual, like, battle with Kang or whomever, but it’s all gold. I guess the X-MEN baseball issues were also always my favorite, so there you go)

27 #1—A gorgeous debut. Well served by the format. The first Vertigo book released by Image, maybe.

FLASH #7—Okay, I’ve never bought into the Johns Glorious & Definitive Take on the Rogues hype that everyone’s always propagated . Didn’t pick up his FLASH run when it was coming out but went back with interest during his first year on the GL run, and it all just fell a bit flat for me. The FINAL CRISIS “tie-in,” as well, even. Not so, here. This was the good un. Complete with the totally random mid-issue Tarantinoesque decapitation. Loving this series.

SUPERBOY #2—Just impossibly strong. Is life just going to suddenly be like Jamie Grant is pumping out 22 pages every four weeks for $2.99 a pop? That is a fine time in your life to be buying the funny books, my friends. Not counting all the now crushing Batbooks,* this damn thing is suddenly maybe my favorite monthly out of DC. It’s really, really, really good. I’m going to blast through The Essex Trilogy here in the very immediate future and I bet it’s going to really knock my socks off.

HOUSE OF MYSTERY #32—Stunning. At the eleventh hour, Sturges throws down the gauntlet for Best Line of the Night: “I’m a hard-boiled time cop sent from the future to keep her from giving birth to Jack the Ripper. I fell in love with her, I admit, but in the end, I did what had to be done.”

The gauntlet has been thrown down, Mister Willingham! What you got?


: FABLES #100—Wow, all right, real time worked out until I got to this monster, and it took me over an hour to read without even taking a break and then it was oh so late. So! One week later, the latest review filed, thus far . . . .

This is really a fantastic issue and just a hell of an experience. A 62-page main story that acts like it’s going to resolve the Mr. Dark long arc that’s been building since #76, but then about-faces at the last minute and catapults the entire status quo into parts unknown (well, technically, known, but certainly parts unexpected)(but if I’d just written “parts unexpected” without explanation, reader comprehension would have suffered, and you know I am all about the reader comprehension). Great character moments throughout, a couple of cool surprises, and quite the duel between Frau and the bad guy. The usual top drawer work from everyone, Willingham is still a master of the beats and twists, and Buckingham, Leialoha, Pepoy, and Loughridge maintain the groove they’ve had going for I’m not even sure how long. Years. And that’s just the main story!

THEN, we get an entertaining inversion, Buckingham’s first prose outing, illustrated by Willingham, who’s come quite a ways since his 80s work on ELEMENTALS and the very occasional fill-in on early JLI. As perfect as this art team is for this book, the illustrations for “Pinnochio’s Army” have me wishing for a Willingham solo issue. Maybe #150 would give him enough leeway, time to get it done? Surely he’s got things plotted out maybe that far? This story also pulls a cool trick where it seems like it’s just a pre-Second Exodus romp, the boys having fun switching it up, you know, Paul on the drums instead of bass for a minute, but then right at the very end they pull the screws and set up a very interesting thread that is sure to have dire implications as the months and years roll by out here in the mundy.

Man, and it’s almost too laborious to list everything else that’s in this thing. Buckingham drew a damn cut-out puppet theater with a couple dozen characters and multiple locations, we get a couple of epilogues, one featuring that Chrissie Zullo who killed on the CINDERELLA mini’s covers, making what I presume is her sequential debut. Then, you know, Adam Hughes, J.H. Williams III, and a couple other folks show up for another shot at one of my all-time favorite things about this series, when they just dedicated #59 to answering reader questions with actual stories. Only the twist here is the questions are asked by celebrities. Apparently, Marvin from PULP FICTION has always been wondering about the comics that Pinocchio, Blue, and Fly used to read back in the day, and Rev. Steve Newlin himself from the Fellowship of the Sun asks a wonderful question about Pinocchio’s mouth. I wish J.H. and Dave Stewart would drop by and answer my burning FABLES questions.

So, yeah, it was a pretty solid week. Shame for Bendis, because he could not have done better, and SUPERBOY is killing it, man my God, but in the end, it’s just not a fair fight against the FABLES tome. It has a spine! It’s $10! How are they even going to trade it? What would be the point? This is Volume 15, right here! Or 16, I guess? I don’t know, I don’t speak trade**! This wasn’t as much a comic book, as a fully immersive experience, a ticket to someplace magical, and I’m grateful, and it’s why I keep showing up every Wednesday, just hoping, every now and again, to be taken away for a little while. Thanks, crew. Here’s to 100 more and counting, indeed.

*Here, we invoke the Tony Daniel Exemption.

**a bald-faced lie, I get SCALPED, NORTHLANDERS, and INVINCIBLE in trade, the latter in those ridiculous Ultimate monster editions, which take like a year to come out, so now I’m like three years behind. Which is really a pretty huge drag. How’s about that SCALPED vol. 7, DC? You are killing me with your talk of February this and March that!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #13—In 72 years, there have only been 13 of these things? So it goes. What we get here is basically a bonus chapter of Cornell’s excellent year-long Luthor arc, and burn my hair off during an experimental mishap in the garage, but this might be the best one yet! We get two stories, both of which retcon Young Science Action Hero Lex into running into two premiere DC bad guys, Darkseid and R’as al Ghul. Marco Rudy provides the art for the lead feature, never heard of him, but he does a fine job with it, excellent panel layouts reminiscent of some of Williams’ latest. The story is great, but almost pushes things to the point of caricature, Luthor will not give Darkseid one inch, which is perfectly in character, but you have to wonder if six weeks as a guest of Apokolips might mix things up just a bit for even Lex. We do get things bent a bit too far over to the pulp action hero for my liking when Luthor steals a parademon’s gun and hurls himself backwards out of the tower they’re in, backwards so that he can still be turned around and firing back up through the window. An awesome move? Yes, but I’m not sure it’s one that I buy from Luthor, even this pulped up version. Also, interesting stuff with young Perry White, is this a new idea, that he didn’t always have his nose so clean? I mean, he’s practically on Intergang’s payroll, looks like.

The other piece has art by Benes, and I’d be curious to get opinions from those who have maligned his work in the past (I found his work on Meltzer’s JLA relaunch to be pretty solid. Yeah, there were an insane number of ass shots. I battled through, somehow). But it’s a pretty striking departure from that kind of second-gen Jim Lee thing that he’s got down pretty pat. I liked the tone of the narration, the diction Cornell chose to tell the story. This one right here’s good comic books, yas, people.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON EIGHT #49—Weeeeell, it’s almost over. Sorry to say that this one fell flat for me. Jeanty’s style has certainly grown on me, but it didn’t feel like he gave the all-important death scene the blocking it deserved. It didn’t feel momentous and epic enough and I think that’s strictly a matter of the camera angle. Also, frankly, the guy didn’t get much of a send-off. I guess we’ll get to that next issue, but the buildup is just as important. I never went back and reread these from #36 like I meant to, but this sacrifice feels like it came from out of nowhere. Certainly not a bad issue, but it doesn’t hurt my heart the way I believe that it needs to in order to be judged a success, given what happens inside.

GENERATION HOPE #2—And the next generation of merry mutants are just barely hanging in there with their second installment. Espin’s art takes a bit of a dip this month out. Casting the fifth light as the first villain remains an inspired choice, but I don’t think Gillen did enough to raise the stakes this second issue out. Again, not terrible, but I’m not on pins and needles to have the next issue, and that’s what you need in this day and age.

FLASHBACK TO LAST WEEK!: THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #32—Somehow I missed this one. I tell you, I sure wish that every Marvel book priced at $3.99 had a McKelvie back-up. Though it is as grim as it possibly could be while remaining swathed in those beautiful phonogrammatic colors. This one’s just another notch in the belt for Fraction/Larocca and co. They keep cranking out the superior product. I definitely pity whoever has to follow them and hope that day is a long way off.

ADVENTURE COMICS #521—All right, this one threw me. The continuity from the other book just invaded this one, right? Kind of a crazy move for anyone who’s only buying that one. I guess they will be confused in two weeks. Pretty big moment in Legion history if you ever cared about Green Lanterns or Daxamites. Which, all of you, right? And I guess I’m on the hook for that Atom special whenever it comes out, they did a good job with it. Too, back to the feature, it has been a swell year to find the names Stephen King and Borges in the credits box from time to time.

BRIGHTEST DAY #15—All in all, really a throwaway, that whole it-was-all-a-mindtrap bit that surely everyone saw coming from page 2. That said, it was entertaining enough and did more to sell me on Gleason’s art style than any of his work over on GLC did. Going to have to give their B&R at least a chance, it looks like. This issue, though, none of it happened except the last two pages. And one of those features the Mikaal Starman and Congorilla playing chess. Buyer, beware.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #9—Oh! That was the end of the arc. Snyder wraps everything up in reasonably thrilling fashion, Albuquerque continues pumping out the work of his career, and we get a coda leading us right into LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, or at least a pretty close approximation thereof. I’ll be interested to see where this one heads next month.

THE BOYS #49—Mm, reading this one at the back end (read: considerably more blasted portion) of the evening might have been a disservice. Top drawer writing on that conversation the Homelander’s having with himself in the mirror, really the sequential equivalent of that Gollum malarkey. I like how it started out with one voice per panel, then when they start stacking them up in the same panel, the reader’s like, Wait no that isn’t right, because there’s such a strong illusion created that the dude isn’t talking to himself, there must be someone or –thing on the other side of that mirror. And this whole thing was a flashback, right? The Lamplighter is about to become the complete vegetable we know and love? Still can’t believe how much Braun is killing this. And Ennis is in full great guns blazing glory mode, next issue should be just a hell of a thing.


BEST OF WEEK: SUPERGOD #5—This one finally came out and was worth the wait. Ellis has been setting everything up for the past four issues/year or so it’s taken to get them out and Gastonny goes completely mad with the climax, six pages without a word of dialogue, a climactic fight sequence that you really have to see to believe, words, even the ones in the script that inspired/dictated the pages in the first place, surely can simply not do the finished product justice. Digikore Studios also ratchets up the coloring for this last bow. This series doesn’t make you feel good about any aspect of the human condition, I mean, the sole dialogue in the entire thing is an English mad scientist on the bank of the flaming Thames at the end of the world narrating how we got there, so, you know, not exactly KABUKI, but even while he’s lampooning or satirizing the idea of countries building themselves weaponized superheroes, Ellis still manages to pack each individual concept full of enough wow and wonder that you can almost believe or just for a moment grasp how they were each a good idea in and of themselves, in a platonic ideal sort of way, and only a complete disaster when actualized within the relatively realistic framework of this narrative, only a clusterfuck when placed next to all the other abominations of science.

Required reading for fans of BLACK SUMMER or NO HERO. I haven’t heard that Ellis has any more of these in the can, but I hope so, or that they’re gestating, because it’s really been interesting to get these self-contained Avatar minis and longer one-shots to juxtapose with the excellent corporate work he’s been pumping out at Marvel. What will the future bring us from Warren? He knows but can’t tell us! But keeps talking about it anyway. Ranting, even, about all the secrecy!

Oh, when will the scribbled notes in Notebooks C & M yield sweet fruit?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010



Okay, so my store underordered a couple of books from last week, so I didn’t pick them up until now. They are:

SUPERIOR #2—Pretty underwhelmed by this. The backmatter shows that Yu’s original pencil work is much more impressive than the final product. The writing isn’t horrific, but pretty by-the-numbers, Millar giving us his version of the ol’ time-honored new powers testing sequence, most recently popularized by Claire Bennett but done to most impressive effect with Buffy and Xander by Brad Meltzer a few months back. Millar’s take on it is that kids pretty much say “Fuck!” a lot. I don’t know, I guess they do. And I realize the guy won a contest or made a donation or something, but the name Simon Pooni is just too unfortunate to overcome. This one’s a bit of a drop from the first issue, I’m sorry to say. Can probably hang with it if there are only two more issues. We’ll see.

OSBORN #1—This was excellent, really really good, which was fortunate, because I very much wanted to be blown away by my first dose of work by Miz Fraction herself, the supersonic Kelly Sue DeConnick. It certainly isn’t like we’re friends or they even know who I am, but just from the fact that I’ve been picking up all of his work since the first CASANOVA run and their internet presence on Whitechapel and such, you know, I’ve been virtually aware of the family for a little while now and kind of in her corner already, leaving me hoping it wouldn’t suck the way you do when your friend hands you a printout of a short story and wants you to go home and read it and come back with an honest opinion. But all this trepidation was needless, this could not have been better, a very engaging read, lovely art by Emma Rios, and, really, I could not give a shit about Norman Osborn at this point, was so done with him, but a good story is a good story, and it’s just getting started, looks like. Oh, and Warren Ellis gives PHONOGRAM’s Jamie McKelvie some pictures to draw starring one of Norman’s new friends, a stellar back-up. This one’s worth the $4 in every way, folks. It honestly feels too good to be a Marvel book starring Norman Osborn, I can’t parse how I derived so much enjoyment out of it. Let’s just thank the creators and come back next month.


All right, the week at hand! I got to help out at my original friendly neighborhood comic book shop this past Wednesday and had a fine time doing it. Star Comics, a synonym for love. I aorta you, Robert Mora!

But you are not here for Beatles allusions or transparent/confusing declarations of heterosexual affection, you want to know about the comics! I can tell you, I read them!

FANTASTIC FOUR #585—Hickman and Epting continue to rule my world. You can cut through the dread with a knife as Reed takes off to Nu-World with Galactus and the Silver Surfer, Johnny and Ben tell the kids a bedtime story dating back probably to the original Lee/Kirby run, and Sue attempts to broker an underwater peace treaty at a summit that goes very, very bad in the best possible way. And somebody dies next month! I’ve just completely 180’d on them promoting it thusly, probably said so last month, every scene, act, and decision is so dense with all this dread and gravity in a way that will be totally dispelled on the reread once we know who’s going to get the axe. Right now, the smart money’s Ben, but maybe the fact that he’s so obvious means it can’t be him. Really tweaking out to have next issue in my hands. Gah, kind of tweaking out on FF in general, am just now halfway through the Byrne run, picked up my last missing issues of the Simonson run this weekend, have Waid/’ringo waiting in the wings after that, and have just become obsessed with the original Lee/Kirby run. All of which to say, Never go away, Jonathan Hickman, get far enough ahead so that there will be many scripts yet to draw after you die.

UNCANNY X-MEN #530—Greg Land came back! Why, Marvel, why? I thought we understood each other. That splash of Storm cut and pasted over that flat skyscraper background could not have looked any more, mm, undead? When Photo-Reference Putrifies. Too, way to immediately dispel the momentum of that great Wolverine splash by following it up with three pages of ads, the opposite facing page a great Hitch cover reminding us that Wolverine is “the best there is” at the exact moment we’re supposed to be stunned that he’s laid low. Complete misfire. The writing is still solid, Warren and Alison’s reaction is perfectly in-character and will hopefully lead to some shenanigans. And dropping in a quintet with the power set of the original group is interesting enough. Man, I just wish somebody else was drawing this. Probably just refer back to this review for the rest of the arc. I want to sing a different tune, but these are the only notes I know.

NEW MUTANTS #19—Mm, I don’t have much to say about this one. Not as strong of a finish as I’d hoped for, but certainly solid work, all around. A conclusion with a cliffhanger that will bring us right back next month. Fair play, Zeb Wells.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #612—This one left me a little cold, and I don’t know why. Brubaker’s still in charge of the long game and Guice continues to kill it, having found an ideal collaborator in Elizabeth “call me Bettie” Breitweiser. I’m a huge fan of her work (her husband’s, too) and their panels sing. Or snow, I guess, this time out. Nothing really wrong with this one, it just didn’t level me. Love the TRON variant.

SECRET AVENGERS #7—Huh. Ant-Man screws up, Prince of Orphans and Valkyrie talk about how awesome Steve Rogers is, and then we meet America’s first super-soldier. Deodato’s still turning in maybe the pages of his career, but I’m not sure that’s enough to take this one off trade-wait death-watch after this arc. The Bru was a little flat for me this week, I’m sorry to say.

ACTION COMICS #895—Has a greater Lex Luthor story ever been written? Morrison did a hell of a job in ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #5, Azzarello & Bermejo did something pretty interesting in that MAN OF STEEL mini a few years back, but I’m hard-pressed to think of any other classics that actually star the bald nemesis. I’m sure there are some Silver Age gems that I haven’t read, but surely this story can stand right next to the best of them. I had strong doubts that Cornell was going to find any way to raise the stakes after last month’s romp with Death and Gaiman, but I’m delighted that he managed to do so, providing a compelling and believable portrait of Vandal Savage through the years, really the most realistic portrayal that I can recall seeing (with Shiner/Wayne’s TIME MASTERS mini from the late 80s maybe coming closest), ending with a heartstopping Oshit moment that is a fine place to conclude the first half of this story. The Spencer/Silva Olson backup remains entertaining.

BATMAN & ROBIN #17—I’m no McDaniel fan and would give Grant Morrison my left hand if he needed it to work magic, so it was with no small amount of trepidation that I picked this one up. But Cornell is killing it so well on ACTION, and did so to possibly even great effect back on CAPTAIN BRITAIN & MI:13, it would have been foolish not to give it a shot. So glad I did, this is much much better than I expected. Cornell nails the Dick/Damian dynamic better than I figured anybody this side of Gaiman might and McDaniel dials back his cartoony stylization enough just to the point that it works for this book in a zany Adam West kind of way. Both of these points best epitomized at the bottom of page 10, that look Dick shoots Damian when they hear it’s not her body just really almost trumps any bit of interaction that’s taken place in this book in the past sixteen issues, and that is psychotic. And a great reveal at the end. Really wish Cornell could just stay on with this one. With McDaniel, even. Can’t believe how much I dug the first non-Morrison issue of this title. Fine, fine work, all.

BATWOMAN #0—Though coming in a bit slight at only 16 pages, there’s not a single ad to be found amongst them, owing entirely to the fact that the Williams/Reeder artwork is jammed together with such symphonic precision, the pages, the narrative itself, cannot be rent asunder by mere commerce. It’s kind of a weird way to open. I was so immersed, I didn’t even catch it on the first read, but the title character does not utter one word of dialogue the entire issue. Our POV is the recently returned Master Wayne, playing catchup and ascertaining exactly how this new player affects his city/global franchise/holy war. It’s the first piece of writing I’ve read from Mr. Williams and I’ve never heard of W. Haden Blackman, but whatever they’re doing is working. Even the Moore word/phrase transitions between scenes don’t feel forced, just make you nod, which is harder to do than you’d think. At the end of the day, this is really just a teaser, a taste, it lets you know that along with extending Williams’s masterfully laid out seven-issue run with the character, we can all rejoice at the addition of Amy Reeder and her little Ewok friend to the proceedings and how seamlessly the two styles blend, with the narrative coiling and flexing to not only accommodate but bring them together into something greater than the sum of their parts.

BEST OF WEEK: DETECTIVE COMICS #871—You can make an argument for Hickman, as usual, and the other two Batman books were, as noted above, excellent, but this one’s just a little bit better than the rest. I was expecting great things from these guys on this title, not-spoiling-myself-by-reading-the-preview-expecting-great-things, but these boys really outdid themselves. I never read NIGHTWING, so this is probably an ignorant thing to say, but I’ve never read a better story starring Dick Grayson (oh, okay, and I’m not counting Wolfman/Perez in there because it was a team book, but you get my drift). The line about the Anti-Monitor and the pixie boots is a classic. The Dick/Gordon interaction was well-handled. Just when I was saying to myself, “Okay, Gordon’s got to know who he’s talking to here,” the old man slips in that “but as police yourself…” line to take us out of the scene. Very, very deft piece of writing, there. (Or, shit. Was Dick Grayson like a cop in Bludhaven? Do I need to go back and read NIGHTWING? Wasn’t Tomasi’s run at the end pretty great?)

Dick’s first appearance as Batman in these pages is suitably breathtaking and iconic. But, oh, Gordon’s line about Dick still being there, this is gold, people! All my hopes were not in vain. The Bat-Taser, tying it up at the end with the narration about his father, this one hits on all cylinders.

With Morrison catching one hell of a third wind five years down the line and these three teams knocking the lights out on their respective titles, it’s hard to remember a time when the Batman franchise has been in better hands. It is a good day to thrill to the adventures of the people who keep Gotham City safe at night.

Monday, November 22, 2010


AVENGERS #7—Mm, maybe I just have an anti-Red Hulk bias, or, really, a pro-time travel bias, but between the two, coming off the first arc, this one fell a little bit flat for me. Also, the Hood? When I bailed out on the last volume of NA, it was all about Dr. Strange, Brother Voodoo, and the Hood. Here we are a year and a half later and . . . yeah? Hell, maybe this means Kang will show up next over in NA, which would be charming. But this issue, this issue, I don’t know, maybe eight pages of Parker Robbins getting a single Infinity Gem just isn’t justified? And it kind of bugged me the way he pulled it over on Reed Richards. Seems like dude would have failsafe protocols written even for Infinity Gems. Powered by his own Infinity Gem. The one that embodies power. Infinity Gem. All right, we’re done. A bit of a dip for this title this month. Maybe Bendis will make me love Red Hulk next time out. I can’t wait, that would be a trick on the level of retro-justifying CIVIL WAR with that CONFESSION one-shot.

X-FACTOR #211—Well, good, we couldn’t hang out with all these Asgardians for so many months and not have the big guy put in an appearance to help shut them down. I like the way the eye-talian fella (or lady? I guess Emanuela doesn’t seem that ambiguous) drew Longshot. More solid monthly fun from PAD. I long for the return of his zany recaps.

MORNING GLORIES #4—These covers really are glorious. Maybe I mentioned this last month, but particularly after four more weekly doses, this one’s really starting to bleed into TOWER PREP for me, and suffer for it. Where is the smoldering Dubba-Bee (WB) charisma of Ian Archer? Especially when the teachers talk about Headmaster. I mean, come on. They’re going to have to show the guy in this one soon just so I can maybe try not to think about the actor running Tower Prep every time someone utters the title/name. It doesn’t matter, though, of course this book’s got me on its side for another year+ just for the page of Hunter being glad he saw how L O S T ended before being about to drown. Too, I liked the way this book was put together, the paper stock, the feel of the cover. It wasn’t quite as, I don’t know, professional? as books from the Big Two, but I got some weird visceral charge from feeling the weight of the thing in my hands. Monthly singles, baby!

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #7—Loved how Mon-El dealt with Earth-Man (is it two words? I kind of think it’s got that Spidey hyphen. Let’s just say it does for the moment). Was the back-up story better than the lead? Cinar continues to deliver quality work, but I really enjoyed this Portela’s pages as well. And those colors, perfect for Naltor. And I’ve always been a huge Braniac 5 fan. It will be interesting to see what’s up with this Professor Li. Oh, new DETECTIVE pages! I want to look. But will not. Guess it will be out soon. So all you Morrison haters can have your linear non-subtextual Batman procedural. Unbelievers!

BRIGHTEST DAY #14—And welcome to the Geoff Johns hat trick. That guy certainly knows how to stay busy. Not so insane that he bailed out on ADVENTURE. Weeeell, Bruce Wayne finally came back, and he’s back and he’s back. Of course, we’ve got to fold him into this one, too, though it’s pretty much a feint on the level of Cornell’s fun with Luthor and Death last month over in ACTION. Reis destroys that opening double-page splash of Deadman. Having someone say “You’re dead, man,” while taking a shot at him, though, that’s unforgivable from guys with as much experience as Johns and Tomasi. I mean, one of them should have realized and battled the other one into submission not to let that one through. With the flashing back, I thought old Boston Brand might actually be toast. This one was an interesting diversion to open up the second half of our program. Does that last page mean that Bruce is showing up over in GENERATION LOST next week? His dance card is full.

GREEN LANTERN #59—Why is Johns’s SCREAM award on the other two covers but not this one? Do they believe that GL fans do not fit into the Spike demographic? Au contraire, marketing department! May I present Ryan Reynolds & Blake Lively? The redemption of Black Hand is an interesting move, the contrast between him and Hal. The funniest part of this issue is how Barry uses Superman & Batman as bogeymen, which I think anyone would totally do, given this any number of other situations. Even better because, yeah, Bruce is so sooooo busy this week, he’s totally on the way to talk to you, Hal, but just had to finish up with Boston Brand and the White Lantern ring, then check in with Booster Gold or someone about Max Lord, then reboot it in the cave with the sidekicks before grabbing Selina Kyle where it counts and hauling her off to Japan. And Clark, he’ll be here just as soon as he finishes walking.

But, I don’t know, Flash as Parallax, this book is starting to feel like a continuity ouroborous, just eating itself, its own back issues, until there’s nothing left. Mahnke is still a pleasure, of course.

FLASH #6—Meanwhile, in his own book, Johns & Manipul bring the first arc to a perfectly satisfying close. I was a huge fan of this from day one, and it never let me down. Paradoxes that didn’t unravel the story. Solid character beats between Barry and Iris. And a Reverse-Flash task force trying to erase crime from history! What’s not to love? I was so on board, I didn’t even mind that the last two pages turned into a commercial for next summer’s Big Event. It might actually be great. It was fun to see the Morrison Batman on a couple of screens in the 25th century, but I’m not sure what kind of a paradox it is for Luthor and Death to be talking. Maybe a Vertigo/DC thing? Karen Berger knows.

BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN: THE RETURN; BATMAN INCORPORATED #1—It seems foolish to split these up, as they feed right into each other. That opening sequence pretty much chewed me up and spat me out, I honestly didn’t know what was going on until the old bastard bat flew off for the safe cave, and then I recognized the stately manor and was really all of a sudden fighting back tears. “And in this cave, there was a wealthy young man.” Brrr. What a way to open up the new era. And the script tells us that this was the same bat that got Bruce back in Miller’s DARK KNIGHT? You say apophenia, I say genius! Sometimes, everything does fit perfectly together. Finch annihilates that two-page spread of the Batcave with the sidekicks, what an incredible piece. I’m just, I can’t even be objective or really even critical about this, feel like it’s being written for me, Bruce and Damian coasting down in their Bat jet-suits, their opening lines to each other, just pitch-perfect characterization. I’m a little unclear, though, on the last page, was Bruce sitting in the cave listening to a feed of what happened? Or Leviathan’s transmission? Don’t quite understand that last jump cut. It will doubtlessly all make more sense in two years. Morrison sure uses a lot of second person in his scripts.

And what of the first issue of the new Morrison franchise, Todd? Did you give it a chance? You had to, it has Batman in the title. Opening up this new take on Brave & the Bold-style storytelling with a Catwoman team-up was an unexpected move. It never occurred to me until now that I think Morrison has completely ignored her for the past five years of his run. But now, just the minute Bruce is back in circulation, it is game on, indeed. I like how she sits around his penthouse in her underwear drinking champagne out of the bottle while he presses the bench. That sounds about right. And of course she reads Japanese. Paquette’s lines are so so clean, it’s great that Morrison opens this one up with another new villain, and my favorite part is the questions at the end echoing the old TV show cliffhangers. With the new issues of DETECTIVE and BATWOMAN still not even on the rack, it feels like one of the best times to be a Batman fan. It’s just going to take a little adjustment, scaling down from all this gorging on Morrison, four issues in three weeks, now we’re back down to one monthly title. Alas. Alack. Onward!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


NEW AVENGERS #6—Jericho Drumm eats it as the first arc of this new one comes to a close. From that opening two-page spread with all the George Perez reaction shots, Immonen/Von Grawbadger/Martin display a seemingly effortless technical mastery of layout, composition, and detail that make each and every page one that you can almost take a bath in. Which is a good thing, because I could care less about a few of the folks on this roster (not to mention guest stars, Damon Hellstorm, I’m looking at you). A satisfying enough climax to the first arc with repurcussions for the Sorceror Supreme status quo that will undoubtedly play out in some crazy way as time goes by. And Bendis continues to kill it with the oral history.

AVENGERS PRIME #4—But not nearly as much as he burns it down with this mini. A lot of people are going to write this one off as non-essential and give the $4 singles a pass, and I see where they’re coming from, but this is a hell of a read with solid character beats between the Big Three and art that can go toe to toe with the best on the stands. Davis and Farmer really are top drawer. Definitely give this trade a shot if you’re sitting this one out and are any kind of Avengers fan.

THOR #617—Huh. This isn’t atomizing me like I was expecting the lovechild of CASANOVA and Simonson THOR to. The art is glorious, but the story beats are coming a bit slowly for my taste. I’m not sure that we’ve been given enough motivation for Thor to bring Loki back. Don’t think a simple “I miss my brother,” is good enough. He’s the God of Lies! Who brought about the destruction of Asgard! Maybe I could buy it after like 12 issues worth of a heavy heart building up to it, but just dropping it from the first month on, it’s not feeling right. That said, the idea of bringing him back as a tricksy little boy is an inspired shift in the dynamic. After JMS’s gender jump, it makes one think nobody’s got anything left to say with the classic iteration of the character. That first shot of him coming back, just a hell of a page. I’m enjoying this, but was expecting to be getting flattened a little bit more on a monthly basis, especially for the extra buck. Let’s see what happens in four weeks.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #8—Ha. Vampires as the secret silent investors of Las Vegas makes so much sense, it’s a shock that no one’s thought of it sooner. This one moves the action along just fine, more of what we’ve come to expect from this book, tightly written scenes, no wasted dialogue, and gorgeous work from Rafael Albuquerque, who certainly deserves to wind up with an Eisner nomination for his work this year on this series. Not too much happens until Snyder blows the doors open with the penultimate scene. I don’t feel too bad about dropping the $4 on these singles, but it sure is swell of them to drop the price starting next year.

THE UNWRITTEN #19—This one continues to entertain as we head into the Moby Dick portion of our program. That single page about the boy who touched the page and got wet ink and story mixed into his blood is really worth the price of admission alone. The art looks a bit rushed here, and not even the fill-in pages. Is the monthly grind getting to be too much for Gross? I’d be happy to see this book take a month off for purposes of quality control, we all know Gross has got the chops, as evidenced in the first year’s worth of stories. Carey certainly hits the acceleration at the end! Tom and Lizzie hook up out of nowhere? Saxon’s a vampire? It’s not exactly deft foreshadowing to have him order a bloody steak like the page before dropping the no reflection trick, you really need a few more pages, or preferably a month or two of space, in my opinion. But that’s all right, it’s all in good fun. This book leads the way as one of the better offerings from Vertigo, an imprint that continually puts out some of the best comic books on the rack, month after month.


BEST OF WEEK: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #6—Scheduling hijinx aside, this is a mind-blowing end to Bruce’s eclipse tumble through time. Full-on Morrison, this one gave me that FLEX MENTALLO/INVISIBLES feeling that I was on quality pharmaceuticals. And Lee Garbett turns in some good-looking pages. Which, I guess makes sense, dude’s had more lead time than anybody else to get these pages done but still needed help. Nice bit of symmetry there, he was the guy who drew those last Morrison issues of BATMAN after R.I.P., so he’s here to close out the second act as well. Even knowing exactly how it’s going to end up (Bruce suits up to help Dick & Damian save Gotham), the ride is more than worth it, featuring dust-ups with Superman’s time squad, the current iteration of the Justice League (which, got to be honest, folks, I am not feeling), and a conversation with the one sidekick who never lost faith in Bruce Wayne’s apparently infinite capacity for survival and adaptation. All of that with Year One callbacks, to boot. Best of all, completely out of nowhere, we get the shot of caveman Bruce killing the giant bat in #1! I almost fell off the couch, think I said that was the only way that #1 could have been more perfect. Actually, best of all has to be the revelation that Hurt/The Black Glove/Thomas Wayne is actually where Darkseid fell after Batman shot him in FINAL CRISIS #6. Think about it, that shot taken at the end of Morrison’s first act sends the New God tumbling back to 1765 where he infects one of Wayne’s ancestors and leads him to eventually become the principal antagonist for both the first and second acts of Morrison’s run. And the Joker killed him? Brain-melting. It’s even crazier with the scheduling thing, reading this as the very last issue, even after BATMAN & ROBIN #16, makes the revelation that much more mind-bending. So, was that bat-thing at the top of #16 actually Darkseid incarnating on this plane? My head hurts. Maybe the two Morrison books next week can help me with that. It is a fine time to be reading Batman. Unbelievers shall fall before the Omega Sanction!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #38—All right, fair play with the cover and last issue’s foreshadowing, not that they still won’t really do it, but after all the Angel spoilage, I was definitely riled and falling into their machinations. This was . . . a really strange issue. I think the oddness of the beats falls into this not actually being written as a comic unto itself but pretty much falling into all the gravity and heaviness of what would be happening in, say, and how can I not, minutes 34-51 of a L O S T season finale. There’s really no reason to bring up the show still other than I have a problem plus that was just what popped up to me (and, hey, they did the whole crashing plane thing last issue or the one before), but how satisfying would it be to watch a season finale from that series, or any other, just those minutes of it? I mean, there’s development. Every conversation counts. Dawn lived. That was a good thing. But this one just didn’t crush me. You know. which is fine. On one level, it almost feels wrong to grade the singles of this entire arc on any level except in totality. It is, after all, a Whedon season finale. But then again, this is the way it’s coming out, and FIREFLY never got one, and I am spiteful about the whole thing.

THE BOYS #48—How flattening is this book?!?!? This very installment? The first page and the last page pull the trick of both encapsulating the tone of all that has come before to perfection while simultaneously propelling the narrative on to heretofore unimagined heights. Especially the dexterity of that last page. My God, man. All this, while somehow the piss gets taken out of Butcher. Suddenly. All the pictures have.

GENERATION HOPE #1—This was pretty great. It’s nothing more than a new New Mutants set-up, basically, with go-to mutant messiah Hope doing her thing shepherding the kids that Fraction’s been doling out in the last few installments of UNCANNY, but what really got me, and it took a bounceback reflection, was the writing. Of course, I’m already so hard in Keiron Gillen’s corner, he’s got to really really Do Wrong for me to get derailed, and so at first I was disturbed and even annoyed by the tenor of the writing, the first-person, those characters, their voices. But then, going back over it, it became obvious that yes, this is exactly how these kids write/think/YEARONEmonologue, and it might grate a bit, but that’s a function of the filter we’re getting the words through, this teenage angst thing. I think. I don’t know. I’m going to watch Soundgarden play something live on Conan’s new show as soon as I’m done, so maybe that counts for something in here, somewhere. Rituaaalll!

DV8 #8—Ah, yes. Wood/Isaacs slam it home, conquer as well as we all knew they really would all along. I failed to do the rapidfire sprint 7-issue prep, so certainly some nuances got by me, but this one dropped all the hammers on me that I’ve been waiting for. Plus, especially now, just a splash of a shiftship carrier doing its business, that’s really all I need, even if every character beat on every other page isn’t right where it’s supposed to be. I’m really glad Wood got to blast this one out, here, at the very end of the storm.

HOUSE OF MYSTERY #31—Another great issue, but honestly, is there really anything to talk about besides the story-within-a story? FIG KEELE, TEEN DETECTIVE. Yah, still so Veronica Mars, but this accomplishment lets us know that this is what the world needs, there’s a vacuum that we must, by God, do all that we can to fill. A long time ago.

BRIGHTEST DAY #13—You can’t say that Finch is phoning in these covers. Yipe. The only thing crazier than maybe folding Wayne into this (which, yeah, I hit the order just right that the subsequent house ads didn’t spoil that last splash for me, real dick move again, DC) is Stringer Bell on the inside back cover. I was so sure that Omar got him. That motherfucker never misses, not even counting his Muslim wingman.

ADVENTURE COMICS #520—All right, now this one has blasted past my chronology awareness. Did Garth actually once die, in the fabled 60s or 50s or some such? It seemed for a minute like Levitz was just getting craaaaazy, but then the footnote was validating it. Unless they’re just being tricksy. I don’t know. Again, always, one of the finest representations of one of the company’s heretofore fully unrealized properties. And Lemire’s ATOM feature again spikes up to be my favorite pages ever featuring Ray Palmer. Not that there was so much competition, but still.

SUPERBOY #1—What a fantastic debut. While I failed to connect with SWEET TOOTH, I have been a fan of Lemire’s work on his ATOM back-up feature, and he cranks it up even more here. I care about Connor Kent about as little as someone who bought his first year’s worth of appearances way back during the Reign of the Supermen could, and I was real impressed with every beat of this. And the art is gorgeous. Never heard of Pier Gallo, really crisp lines, everything perfect. And Jamie Grant! I don’t know why it never occurred to me that he should be doing more work now that ALL-STAR SUPERMAN is done, but it is a delight to see him here. Beautiful tones. This is a first class effort from top to bottom. And only $2.99, to boot! Highly recommended.


BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN AND ROBIN #16—Domination. Morrison drops the hammer on the climax of the second act of his Batman mega-arc. It’s just a shame that this had to come out before THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #6. Kind of a garbage scheduling move, particularly since that issue should be coming out next week. They just churning this out so that we can get on with the Cornell arc? Really doing fans a disservice, seems like. Unless it’s on purpose and this is the way Morrison intended, for some reason. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Grousing aside, it really doesn’t matter, because everything about this is a delight. That first panel of Dick, Bruce and Damian really says it all, down to Damian’s trademark *tt*. I thought we were going to be in trouble with three guys tag teaming on the art duties, particularly not having heard of one of them, but this is about as seamless as such an undertaking could be. Cameron Stewart trumps the fantastic small panel fight choreography he crushed on #7-9 with a double-page spread totaling 31 panels that really just has to be seen to be believed. Such a talent. And Frazier Irving is wisely held over to illustrate the darkest scenes of the book, most of which feature the Joker. Quite an insane way for Hurt to finally go down, never saw it coming.

I’m okay with the final scene that’s got everyone so freaked out. Yes, it takes a pretty serious suspension of disbelief that people won’t put two and two together with two former Robins standing there behind him (but I can’t figure out who that’s supposed to be standing in between them. It looks like an Asian girl with a ponytail? Not supposed to be Tim Drake, is it?), but given what we’ve already accepted about this world, these stories, the cloaking power of a pair of glasses, it’s really just business as usual. Not counting the Batman global franchise part, of course.

Really pumped for what comes next. Wish I wouldn’t have heard about there being a Batman, Inc. ahead of time, but I guess I need to stay away from CBR and Comic-Con coverage if I want to preserve that bubble. Most of all, looking forward to the Bruce/Dick/Damian dynamic. It’s going to be a ride.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


AVENGERS #6—Bendis Bendis Avengers Avengers blah blah blah. Running out of superlatives for this relaunch. We make it to the end of the first arc, which is slightly anticlimactic in terms of linear narrative, before future Tony drops the whole Ultron Holocaust thing on his present-tense version and we realize that this whole mess has just been the warm-up act. I mean, hell, how much better than BREAKOUT was this arc? And I thought that was a pretty solid beginning. Not crazy about Red Hulk showing up, but I’m sure it’ll be better than I expect. Bendis continues to nail the oral history, taking us through the beginning of Hank and Wanda’s rough patch (i.e. the entire back three-quarters of their relationship, youch).

UNCANNY X-MEN #529—Portacio really pulls it together in this one! We get the spinoff trapdoor for the Generation Hope kids (and what self-respecting PHONOGRAM acolyte can’t jump right on over?), a Fantomex jailbreak, intrigue between Emma, Kitty, and Danger and then, out of nowhere, the best final page on this title in 21 years*. Just a fierce piece of writing, completely nailed everything that I love about this book, or really, want to love, the platonic ideal of this book, the complex tapestry of relationships between the diverse ensemble, all the friendships and loves and enmities and grudging mutual respect that spring up in the unlikeliest of places. I mean, I didn’t care one little bit when Nightcrawler went down, seen too many go and come back to work up the energy to care, or or believe, but those words, man, just leveled me.

SECRET AVENGERS #6—Deodato cranks the art up even more. I’m torn about this one, think I could live with getting it in trade, thanks to the price point, but this certainly isn’t bad in any way and, and I don’t know how to stop buying it! I bet my wife could convince me, but I don’t want her help! Gah!

CAPTAIN AMERICA #611—We knew how this issue was going to end, but Brubaker still takes us on an entertaining journey that feels completely organic, not shaped by the title of the arc. Wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about Acuna on this, but he’s working for me. Refined his style a bit since being over on GREEN LANTERN a few years ago. The NOMAD back-up wasn’t such a stinker.

INCOGNITO: BAD INFLUENCES #1—And the Brubaker hat trick! We all need a bit more of him in our lives. This one comes out swinging. Phillips is just a master. Forgot he did that DARK TOWER arc, going to have to track down that trade. And the essay by Jess Nevins, it probably need not be said, is utterly riveting. This is why we buys the comics, people! That variant cover is stunning, too, wish that one could have been the one I got.

FANTASTIC FOUR #584—All right, now the whole Countdown to Casualty is really cranking every scene in this one way, way up. Because when Reed and Sue say goodbye, we know that there are even odds that they might not lay eyes on each other ever again (or until Hickman leaves or Reed fixes it or whatever, but let me play!). Same thing with Johnny & Ben’s Day Off. Man, that whole montage, yet again, Hickman just nails everything about this book. I can’t believe more people aren’t making a bigger deal about this run, am still working my way through Byrne’s run, but given that I know that he takes a powder mid-arc to go do MAN OF STEEL, and of course depending on what happens in the next few years, man, God bless Waid and ‘Ringo and Uncle Walt, but this one might be gunning for #2 run of all time on a title that’s been pretty consistently excellent throughout its run. Giving it a pass for the 90s, of course. Don’t wait for this in trade!

ACTION COMICS #894—Only DC I picked up this week, but man, it held the line for the company all by itself. Word is that Gaiman made substantial contributions to Death’s dialogue and, I’ve got to say, it reads about as close to the Lex Luthor version of SANDMAN #8 as it possibly could. This is a good thing. Cornell takes the encounter about exactly where you would expect it to go, but he’s got such a lock on both characters that it’s just a joy to be along for the ride, to the point that you’re not even upset when you get to the end and she’s just like, “Nope, I was just checking in on you.” I mean, if that’s a set-up for something crazier in the run, so much the better, but my read on it was that it was just an excuse to get these two together, and I can live with that. Best issue of this run, yet. It will be interesting to see where we go with Vandal Savage next month (give or take a thousand years).

BEST OF WEEK: You know, it’s a really close call. I almost want to give it to Death Doesn’t Take Luthor, but that one feels a bit flimsier on the reread. AVENGERS was excellent, but like I said, a bit anticlimactic in terms of the insane momentum that’s been building since #1. And then there’s that last Fraction page just suckerpunching me, man. No no, give it to Hickman. If only for Ben & Johnny’s early dinner with friends, that one messed me up, too, just the idea that The King would have it in him to break bread with The Man. Comics aren’t supposed to break your heart, King!


*And the last one that did that, as if you didn’t know, was #251, which came out maybe right around this time back in 1989, I had been picking up the book monthly (or biweekly in the summer, even? Can you imagine them trying to do that now?) for a little bit longer than a year, while, of course, just devouring every issue before #236 that I could get my sweaty little hands on, but #251, that issue with Logan crucified up on the X and Jubilee finally taking him down just about blew my twelve-year old mind, one of the heaviest things I’d ever read, at least that year. Along with WATCHMEN and Miller’s BATMAN and DAREDEVIL and even, yeah, Jean Grey going down that first time. It was a pretty serious time to be catching up on things.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


This one’s in real time, or as close as we can approximate it! Reactions to issues, and sometimes specific panels, as they are read! Before the rest of the night’s books are consumed! It might be too much to bear!

BATMAN & ROBIN #15—Had this as the headliner but couldn’t resist hitting it first. Can’t believe it’s over with Morrison on this. Insane way to go out, teasing Damian’s deal with the devil for his soul, really thought that was about to happen right in front of us. And we get an about-face from RoBW #5 two weeks ago, I was for the first time positive that Morrison wasn’t jerking our chains and it really was Thomas Wayne as Dr. Hurt, so of course we’ve got to get the inversion. Every panel with Joker was about the best I’ve ever seen with the character, just perfection. Rings so true.

MORNING GLORIES #3— Better than #2. Wonderful madness of opening w/ flashback in 1490. Somewhat diluted by information expositional dump in last two pages. I’m of two minds about hitting sites like CBR and Bleeding Cool, because I like hearing stuff about creators (the Ba/Moon footage at NYC Comic-Con being the most recent example), but then, almost without fail, I find teaser shit annoying and distracting, to wit, the online heralding of this issue’s Appearance of the First Message. Reading the book, instead of being caught up in the flow, I’m just like, Oh, here’s the first message now. Yep, wonder what it means. The hype diluted the moment for me. And, really, is someone not already reading this going to hear that we’re getting a first message in #3 and suddenly run out and buy this book. Hell, maybe they will. #2’s even up to $10 now. Anyway, yeah, better than #2.

KICK-ASS #1—Devastating. The movie was much better than the series, I thought, as great as both Millar and JRjr were, but Vaughan & Goodman just escalated it, I mean, really the best kind of adaptation where it probably transcends its excellent source material, the other three examples jumping to mind being the films The Neverending Story, The Hours, and Wonder Boys. But then Millar comes back just swinging for the fences. Typing this right now in the white hot ecstasy of not having read books subsequently listed, just really pumped with how much higher up he jacked the bar over what the filmed accomplished. The folks across the street should let the shy lad from Glasgow take another swing at the Big Guy. Also, the best text piece I’ve seen from him. Going to have to go back and reread SUPERIOR with a better attitude.

NEW MUTANTS #18—Brutal. Lots of teens and former teen superheroes getting there asses whupped this week, looks to be a trend in the evening ahead. Fun fact, though the New Mutants have only aged a couple of years, it’s been 22 actual years since the babies were abducted, so the 26-year gap in Limbo is almost real time for us. Does this mean . . . we live in Limbo?

X-FACTOR #210—Best single of these in a long long line. Writing and art both at the top of the class. A joy.

DV8 #7—Ha, know a thing or two about that Alan Moore reference on the first page. First Jocelyn page may be the best single piece of writing I’ve seen from Wood, a master, even and especially on that small small scale. Excellent issue, after two or three months of almost too slow burn, the shit hits the fan in a delightful manner. Looking forward to the wrapup. Isaacs is a force.

ADVENTURE COMICS #519—Best Levitz issue yet, on either side. Can’t believe, the way of the world, that it is that rare beast, a child left behind, came out last week, and just almost randomly, I mean I can’t believe it now, feel so guilty, but didn’t pay the extra for it last week, and it’s crushing, a winner, if you had Levitz and, let’s say, Morrison and Ellis, in a room with the charge, “Everyone give us your best Superboy meets Silver Age Legion in Smallville story,” then I can really see it being a three-way tie, just as much as I love and respect all three, and I’d be shocked if Levitz showed up at that particular high noon with anything but this, again. The Johns list being such a key factor. Embracing the relaunch tone, quoting, really, just really too much.

GAAAH! Insane perfectly justifiable Levitz retcon on the last page! Followed by perfect tone-shift next issue blurb! All this before Lemire on THE ATOM! Gorgeous!

And, yeah, then best Ray Palmer pages I’ve always suspected but never actually managed to stumble across until now. Thank you so much, everybody.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #6—This Portela guy’s fantastic, as is who- or whatever Hi-Fi is, gorgeous fill-in, the kind that makes you wish they’d shack up here for just the next little bit, see what happens.

(Do you know what the coolest thing about AGE OF APOCALYSE was? I just realized. It was the lack of solicits. Or, at least, my ignorance of them. Was it Harras’s first great act after the Image exodus? It might have been his only one, but it’s a compelling argument for his future across the street. We just saw all that malarkey go down with Storm and Bishop and the rest all stranded back in the early days of Charles & Erik and then Legion’s misfire, then, before you even had a chance to think, “Well, it’s not like this means that they’ll cancel X-Factor or Excalibur or certainly not Logan’s solo title,” then at the end of the issue we find out it’s a line-wide reboot, so effective, stunning in execution. All of this to say, instead of fucking laying it out for us in a series of ads just a very few weeks ahead of the actual conclusion, when Bruce hasn’t actually come back yet or, hey, we don’t already know that Dick gets to keep being Batman in Gotham, really, think about that, that’s a bigger deal to me than any supposed but hilarious long-lasting result/consequence that came out of INFINITE CRISIS, but they couldn’t do me the simple courtesy of letting Grant Morrison’s fucking script reveal that none-too-inconsequential plot development, because I’m supposed to be getting my trousers in a knit about the fact that Tony Daniel’s going to keep writing and drawing Dick’s adventures on the eponymous title. To me, that shows, despite the fact that Morrison’s been getting to somehow do this for five years and running now, a gaping void in editorial logic. Wouldn’t everyone have much rather heard Bruce say it after he got back?)

(though, of course, it must also be said that no one’s more pumped for BATMAN, INC., Snyder & Jock on DETECTIVE, and Williams/Hadley on BATWOMAN, and Finch/Williams on THE DARK KNIGHT than me, which actually got me thinking, something has been really rotten in the heart of Denmark when I haven’t been obligated to pick up BATMAN/DETECTIVE & SUPERMAN/ACTION every single month. I mean, someone’s messing something up when I don’t just have to, because I just realized that that should probably be and have been a given in my life and never has been. And I refuse to take responsibility for this gap, this lacking between ideal and actual.)

And wow, then also this is the best Levitz single of this issue, too, now so pumped to read them right together, but wait! It’s Jiminez!!!!

This is the first one where they get it right. Since Levitz returned, as great as the newcomers have been, I’ve always had the sense that it’s a shame not to have Giffen or Perez or Maguire or Jiminez on monthly duties, but of course, I see the problem there already, but man, just so right, getting Jiminez back here on these pages.

And we get to vote for Legion leader. Incredible. This one’s looking pretty much like the #1, here, BESTOF, fix it later.

BRIGHTEST DAY #12—Wow, what a dopey panel when the JLA show up, why not have Reis have drawn that? The Deadman & Dove panels were Reis, I guess. Best ones, anyway. That JT Krul editorial page is even worse than the ARSENAL shit, man, I mean, my God, I knew what I was getting into when I started reading it but then actually started boiling some water in a pot after, to scald my eyes out with. And the hands that held the page. DC’s refusal to attempt to simulate the Johns reboot model and hire A- or even B-list talent on the Titans franchise is galling, but putting tripe like this up on the page this week is way past insulting, not even counting the fact that this guy’s got this job, still, hasn’t been pulled like Stuart Townsend from that Jackson production. Absurdity.

FABLES #99—Lapham was such a delightful surprise at the top of the year, but Inaki Miranda is the best infusion of delight to hit these shores since Buckingham showed up in the first place. Willingham fires it up just as high as he can, yet again.

STEVE ROGERS: SUPER-SOLDIER #4—A fast and insane way to shut it down tonight. Pity the CAP readers who sat this one out. More later. Maybe. M’tired.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


A weekend in New Orleans followed by a crushing MAD MEN finale have held these words at bay just a little while now. Maybe the latest review yet, the new books are on the shelves but here’s last week’s reviews. Come on, now!

NEW AVENGERS #5—Bendis & company continue to lead the charge. This art team is just maybe the least bit better than over on the other book, I think, but that’s probably splitting hairs. Worst ad placement was behind those two pages with Brother Voodoo’s brother in fractal white space where you can see the logo from the wrestling action figure ads on the flip side of the page. Not cool, editors! Best panel of dialogue was when Logan called Parker “Webs,” tht whole exchange is vintage. It’s really asinine not to have Bendis scripting Spidey for the big screen. But, hey, I still think Morrison should be writing a Superman movie, what do I know? Meanwhile, in these very pages, we get a solid fanboy’s wet dream setup to take us into what’s surely the last issue of the arc. I want to not pay $4 for this in singles but don’t know how to stop. The oral histories really do make it pretty well worth it.

THE UNWRITTEN #18—Ah, it’s the old V FOR VENDETTA trick. I guess Morrison trotted it out for WEAPON X, so why can’t Carey have a whack at it, as well? Another single before the next arc kicks off. One gets the feeling that Carey & Gross are still just barely getting started, even a year and a half in. In a way that’s maybe not a bad thing.

GREEN LANTERN #58—Yeah, this whole multi-hued thing is getting pretty clustered up, here. It’s still for the most part working for me, but it must be just a hell of a thing to plot. It feels like Johns is going to have no problem making it to #100, and then, man, I’d have my eye on Bendis’s USM record. Not that that’s even over with. Nice to have the guest star cameo at the end feel like it’s going to matter or, I don’t know, count? since he’s written by the same guy. This book hasn’t been blowing me out of the water for a while now, even on the level of, say, Johns & Manipul killing it over on FLASH, but it’s solid, and you have to respect Johns’s long game.

SUPERIOR #1—I liked this better than I thought I would, picked it up more for the Yu art than Millar premise (just really sick of the self-promotion, almost hilarious to not even be surprised to find the guy pimping a movie role for this out to Don Draper the very day the first issue hits the stands, just something really undignified about it). The MS thing came off as a bit of tearjerker shorthand, like he didn’t have to try any harder to characterize the kid as anything more than the same fanboy mold as old Dave Johnson, except Now With MS, Making the Whole Magic Wish Thing That Much More Poignant. Sure was happy to see that space monkey show up, though. I think I would have tried to do this without all the Vertigo language in the dialogue, the kind of story that seems like eight year olds should maybe be able to get their hands on. Nobody wants to hear Billy Batson talking like a sailor, but hell, maybe that’s the kernel that got Millar on this in the first place. I figure I’ll pick up #2 if it’s a light week, catch up on the trade eventually if not. Cool of them to make it $2.99, that was probably the creators’ call. Millar does hook his artists up, a very cool thing.


THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #31—I’ve decided that this one probably reads better in trade. Maybe the movies are spoiling me, but I feel like we’re inching along and not getting enough of a complete story every month. It’s all very well done, of course, the chapters just aren’t quite as satisfying as they could be. Like watching Downey, Jr. in six-minute doses. Great work, but then it’s over right when they’re about to get to the next good part. Not to say I’m not stoked for next month, as ever.

THOR #616—This, too, was more of a slow burn than I expected. And, of course, I’ve still got like stratospheric expectations for this brought about by the delays plus mainlining Simonson’s Surtur Saga right before we got going. Ferry’s work is breathtaking. I don’t see why the ad for the damn Red Hulk in THE AVENGERS can’t be on the right side of the page and not break up the momentum leading to such a momentous last page, not really a time you want to hiccup the flow. Editors! It also seems strange putting a LOKI #1 on sale next week, but I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised. Final verdict, enjoying this, but it’s taking a little while to get off the ground. But hey, they basically had to perform the equivalent of introducing Beta Ray Bill in the first issue to live up to the hope and hype.

CASANOVA #4—And just like that, Luxuria comes to an end. I am curious what someone who’s never hit it before thought about it in this concentrated colored dosage. I really like what Cris Smith did. And can not get enough of the Ba(Moon)! Hit PIXU just a couple weeks ago. Just waiting to find that DE:TALES for cheap, now. Looking forward to the next arc because I reread the hell out of this first one and remembered more beats than not, whereas I always meant to go back and do the same with #8-14 and never did, so should be a treat. Seems ill-advised to build a three-month gap in between now and the next arc, though. Monthly, people! I want this book to do as well as it possibly can. Really just can’t wait for #9, to be perfectly candid. The interview with Chaykin (heh, almost typed “Flagg” there) was interesting, but it seemed like Fraction went to the F-bomb a few times too many, as if that was automatic cred or something. I mean, like five or six times in a row. It loses weight through repetition, Boss! It got to the point where I was just expecting retorts like “Fucking fuck AMERICAN FLAGG, fuck me.” Ah well, I suppose I can really criticize his interviewing technique after I get Chaykin on the line myself. One thing it did accomplish was inspire me to finish tracking down the rest of that first run of AF in singles, so that’s surely going to improve my life.

And this would have been a footnote, since we’re all the way off the Quinn family now and already at the bottom of the page, what’s the point? But talking about AMERICAN FLAGG, I’ve been hitting some classic runs in singles that got by me in the first place, am two years into Byrne on FF, now about to lock it up with ALPHA FLIGHT and hit those side-by-side, month-by-month, and still need to knock out the remainder of Simonson’s THOR and the last year and change of Milligan/Allred on X-STATIX, (all of these are stacked up in my nightstand drawer, just waiting), then I still need to track down #37 of JLI (or I think it’s A by then, but you know what I mean, Giffen/Dematteis) to finish that one up, then yeah, let’s do Chaykin and maybe finally round up all those old Miller DAREDEVILs. And need to finish up CEREBUS and start LONE WOLF & CUB back up from the beginning now that I’ve got all those, too. Really no surprise that I’m not hitting that much prose these days, no.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Man. These books showed up for October, I’ll tell you what. This week was dark, people. I mean, really, on every level. Witness:

NEONOMICON #2 – I read this last, by candlelight, just like the previous issue. Moore’s got the headliner spot anytime he shows up. But ah God, just . . . it was very well written. That’s what’s so horrifying about it. Moore does such an effective job of bypassing all your defenses and dialing you right into his characters’ heads (and, yeah, here, bodies) that what transpires in the back half of the issue is all the more just scratch-out-your-eyes unbearable, because these are not images on a two-dimensional plane, these are really people and what’s happening to them should not be happening to anyone. It’s not so bad, not AS bad, just to describe the plot after the fact to somebody, you know, I mean, at this point, we’re all pretty jaded. How many SAWs have they made now? But right there in the middle of it, when those characters are breathing and screaming and begging, incarnate from the spellcraft of the Great Wizard of Northampton, man, that shit sticks with you and it is not a good thing. I really spent most of Thursday trying to wipe the images from my mind, not as much what was on the page but the business that my mind filled in in the gutters. The work of Jacen Burrows’s career, mind you. Wondering what could possibly be on the slate for the back half of this series. But, I can wait. You boys take your time, there.

THE BOYS #47—And then Ennis just gives us both barrels. That cover is much more of a damn shame after reading the issue. Everything in here makes perfect sense. Old Butcher came off as a few shades less subtle than I expected, especially given the deft touch he had with events last month, but I guess Hughie’s not exactly really paying attention at the moment. Nice bit juggling the scale there, we care so much more what’s going on with two people at a park than every superhero holding a clandestine stratospheric meeting, didn’t even realize we didn’t make it back up there until some time after finishing the issue. Sorry not to see Robertson hammering these nails into place on a coffin he did so much to build, but you can’t find fault with Braun. A riveting read, month in, month out.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #37—No! Xander & Dawn, don’t you realize that you are in the middle of a Whedon season finale? If there is one thing you never never do at that time, it’s nose up against the satisfying end of a character arc or, really, declare your undying affection for someone who might be your true love, and you really really don’t want to be talking about just getting away from all of this and on with the rest of your lives, just after this last mission is over. I like the retcon on the Season One Big Bad being the Hellmouth’s protector. If they’re not messing with us, nice of them to knock any speculation I might have re: the majority of this post by showing us the cover for next month, and, really, putting that on the cover in the first place. I swear to God, these people.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #7—This continues to be an excellent read even without any help from up north. No shortcuts here, just solid character work grafting vampire mythos onto actual history with Rafael Albuquerque destroying page after page. Was feeling all right hitting this at $4 a pop, delighted they’re rolling it back after I guess the next couple of issues.

HOUSE OF MYSTERY #30—Um. I’m not even sure what happened. But this series is still killing it after two and a half years and I think we might have gotten the best story-within-a-story yet. All praise be to Sturges.

BLACKEST NIGHT #9/BRIGHTEST DAY #11—But so you see? Two Vertigos, THE BOYS, BUFFY, all pretty creepy stuff. I figured the one bright patch would, you know, be this. Cue the inexplicable and completely uncalled for return of the Black Lanterns. Um, this might have been a little cooler or more jawdropping if the thing with them hadn’t just gotten resolved like in this same calendar year. As little as I really care about the participants of both conflicts in this issue, it was an entertaining enough read. Looks like I’ll probably hang out for the back half of this one, unlike that old JUSTICE LEAGUE book, the title of which I’m not even going to spell all the way out again.

BEST OF WEEK: S.H.I.E.L.D. #4—Ah, a mainline of the good stuff. This is another one of those that’re going to read so much better in trade, just because every single advertisement is an affront against whatever page of sequentials it’s opposite. Were Newton and da Vinci speaking in actual Egyptian hieroglyphics? Would love to know what they were saying. And, uh, what the words sounded like. We finally get to find out how the world does in fact end, information it’s been strongly implied since the first issue that somebody actually has. Does that last scene make Nostradamus the Big Bad? Loved the starbirth of that baby Celestial. Am just horribly impressed with every aspect of this series. Weaver is a force.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Small week, this fifth Wednesday, but certainly not lacking for quality. I deeply loved everything I bought and managed to get out of the store for under $20. Win and win! Let’s get into it.

AVENGERS: PRIME #3 – This, right here on its own in five little issues, is more of an event and more impressive than SIEGE, or really anything like that that I’ve seen from Bendis. Davis & Farmer cannot be contained. I mean, from that first two-page splash, they own you, body and soul. We’ve got Thor getting smote, naked Tony Stark on horseback fleeing a dragon before yukking it up with Steve, all flirty in a way that somehow manages not to be homoerotic, and then our boys in hell? Killer plot, but Bendis’s dialogue remains the star of the show, just sings here sweeter than ever. Dude is really at the top of his game right now, and I’m not even reading whatever they’re calling ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN anymore. And I can’t go on enough about how great the art is. This could totally be a filler mini-series, but like I said, it’s getting it done for me better than every event we’ve seen from Marvel in the past decade. Great great work and, yeah, totally worth the $4.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #610 – Brubaker, Guice and company knock this one out of the park. I loved those first 25 issues so much, the best Cap run that I’ve ever run across, but hell if I don’t like this stuff with Bucky even better. Really glad that he got to keep the shield even after big man came back. Wonder if Brubaker’s got an exit strategy lined up, or is just plotting ahead for the next couple of years with no end in sight. Man, I do not envy the guy who has to follow this act.

ACTION COMICS #893 – Yeah, this really is too good. Cornell just nailed it, setting up android Lois as Lex’s foil, because we totally need that interplay, but it would ring just the least bit false if the real woman was actually globetrotting with her husband’s nemesis. Which actually freaked me out pretty good this time, the globetrotting. I jammed the first volume of BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE a couple of weeks ago (which I can’t recommend highly enough, amazing stories in there, top-drawer talent), but all those succinct 8-pgrs set my brain firing and I had to exorcise an idea about the weekly Monday morning pool game that Bruce and Clark always play at sunrise before clocking in as their secret identities for the start of the week, just a couple of bros blowing off steam, but on the last page, Bruce asks about Lois and Clark mentions that she’s off in Uganda working on a piece, and lo and behold, two nights after I first typed the words, we’ve got Lex and android Lois on safari in Uganda, which freaked me out pretty good. But enough about unsolicited spec fanfic, this is another solid slab of Luthor goodness. Sean Chen does excellent fill-in work. Don’t know why he’s not working more, he killed that FF: DARK REIGN series to start out Hickman’s run early last year and this is the first I’ve seen of him since. Really excellent job. Incredibly annoyed with DC for announcing it and myself for reading it, because if I’d hit that last page not knowing what was already coming for this title, think I would have just started running around the room screaming. So great to see her again, after all these years. She really is just the best friend you wish you could hang out with forever and always. Which, I guess eventually you can.

CASANOVA #3 – This pair of issues didn’t just bowl me over when they first came out, but they still make a cracking good read, especially served up side by side and in gorgeous living color. My favorite panel is probably the one when Cass goes native. Kal’laa yourself, guy! After getting flattened last month by the Chabon/Fraction backmatter, I couldn’t wait to see what my man had in the hopper this month and was pretty stunned to find an interview with Mike Doughty, late of Soul Coughing, about addiction and recovery. Fraction is an alcoholic and an addict?!? CASANOVA was conceived of and written under a state of total sobriety? It cannot be? Pretty shocking, I completely had him pegged as a put-the-kids-to-bed-then-light-up-and-jam-out-some-madness type of fella. Guess I got the personality type right, but he’s moved on. Well, good for him. Pretty compelling reading, the best on this topic I’ve seen, this side of INFINITE JEST, which reigns supreme, once and forever.

BEST OF WEEK: ATLAS #5 – I think I’d feel this way even if it wasn’t the last issue. But we’ll never know! Parker/Hardman et al have had a fantastic run on this series across almost thirty different issues worth of mini-series and truncated ongoings, but this has been my favorite arc of the entire batch. For all the mind-blowing Big Plot exploding across the pages, Parker never loses sight of the little beats that define character and are the glue that holds a team book like this together. This really is a cast of nobodies, C- and D-listers, and he does a fine job of making us care about them, as individuals and as a family. I adored the text pages. That first double-shot, especially, made total sense in the context of what was going on, and dude’s nailing the voices of his characters when he can just drop an entire scene on you without dialogue tags and you know exactly who’s talking from the cadence of their speech. Also, the text is a nice nod to this title’s pulp roots.

But, oh, those last three pages! Over the moon insanity. “May there be many before you ride with us on the steppes,” ayeGod, that line in context just completely blows the doors off of this series and makes Woo one of the most compelling characters in the entire Marvel Universe, at least from where I’m sitting. Amazing last page, perfect last panel. If we never get another page of this book, they could not have gone out on a higher note. If it ever comes back, Jeff Parker sure as hell better be the only person who writes it. But now the entire team’s off to HULK? I . . . I don’t care about HULK, I don’t want to read HULK! I must. Did it come out this week? I might have to trudge back and take a look. Plus, I hear that BRAVE & THE BOLD is amazing. Maybe not such a small week after all. But first, let us raise a glass and bow our heads and say a little prayer of thanks to Marvel Comics, Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Ramon Rosanas, and everyone else involved in making this dream a reality. A wonderful, wonderful series that will be missed every single month.

ATLAS. It was about Jimmy Woo.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


AVENGERS #5 – Man, how this one keeps doing it for me. They really need to get it together and have trades for sale in the lobby of theaters showing Marvel movies. Just this volume and the first Fraction/Ferry arc next spring after THOR would do some serious numbers, I reckon. This series continues to be—for better or worse, and I’m delighted with it—pretty much the benchmark for 2010 Marvel comics. Bendis is the architect, and Romita, Janson, and White make it a reality. The greatest thing about this issue, if you can believe it, is not Thor VS Galactus across pages 3 and 4, which, come on, but Bendis does this fantastic trick a few pages later where he soaks up all the technique Johns & co. dropped in 52 and BOOSTER GOLD these last few years of using all these cool little foreshadowing bits on Rip Hunter’s blackboard, but here Bendis just completely blows them out of the water, I mean, on the level of Charlie Parker double-timing the “Cherokee” changes and being like, “I call this ‘Koko’.” It certainly might not seem as cool in five or ten years after all of these arcs play out, but right now, calling the long game for the foreseeable future of the Marvel universe Babe Ruth-style in the form of insane timeline scribbling authored by future Tony Stark in an attempt to save the future by hurdling it past the Ultron War, well, it’s just a hell of a trick. My favorite nuggets, not counting the Ultron War (if only because we already got that double-splash last month), are ALL HOPE LIES IN DOOM and GALACTUS SEED. But then, wait, we went back to #3? I’m not even sure how it all lines up, and I almost don’t want to be. This is great big glorious fun, and a Wednesday night treasure.

SECRET AVENGERS #5 – Oh, David Aja, why have you stayed away from interiors for so long? You make me miss IRON FIST too much. This is a perfectly entertaining issue, but they’re stretching me out on the price point, just dropping a preview in the extra pages. Particularly with this title, it’s just begging for Hickmanesque backmatter, secret files and revelations and such, and their absence comes across as lazy. I want to put the next issue on probation for tradewaiting, but the only coming attraction is HONG KONG KUNG FU! so, you know, hard to walk away from.

UNCANNY X-MEN #528 – It feels good to have been buying this title for a few years running, now and again. Like your favorite old pair of mutant pants! Portacio tightens his lines up a bit this month. Is he just like the regular guy now, or on board for the whole arc, or what? It’s kind of freaking me out to get an Image founder three months in a row on this book, yah? I love Namor being folded into this title, the original mutant. (Isn’t he? That sounds right to me from way back, but now I can’t remember why. The little ankle wings?) Fraction writes a hell of an Ororo, but then the plot thickens pretty good on the last page. Oh, you strong Claremont women, it’s nice to see that somebody still loves you, and by that I mean respects you.

FLASH #5 – Yeah, these guys just keep doing it right. I’m not sure that anybody is more in love with DC continuity than our boy Mr. Johns, but he certainly knows what to do with it. Another trial for Barry, yeesh, I bet this one goes by just a little bit faster.

FABLES #98 – Aaaaaand Rose finally clocks back in. Hilarious montage of everyone’s complaints. This one’s been picking up steam for the last few months and I’m very interested to see what the crew’s got planned for #100, that’s going to be just a beast of an issue, no question.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #5 – All right, now which continuity is this one, again? I’m starting to get whiplash. Levitz has apparently made the interesting call to turn Earth-Man into pretty much the protagonist of this book, even though of course there’s still the monster ensemble. Or maybe that’s just the way this first arc’s going to go? Or is he even doing arcs? I guess this does seem more like last time, less trade-oriented and just one thing flowing into the next. All right, not the most tightly focused review. I liked this book, nothing mind-blowing but it good.

NEMESIS #3 – This book reminds me of that old Soundgarden song “Big Dumb Sex,” you know it? Pre-BADMOTORFINGER material, really vintage shit, basically parodying and glorifying the trappings of late-80s hair metal sometimes referred to as cock rock (and I’m talking more Whitesnake/Winger, here, Todd, no disrespect to the Leppard!). But I think maybe this book is like that. Millar can’t actually be this ridiculous, it’s surely surely a joke. I mean, the Air Force One stunt in #1 should have been clue enough. Nemesis is sooooo badassssss, I can barely handle it! Again, McNiven draws the hell out of that fight scene. And then Millar drops the Evil High Concept. Involuntary sibling in vitro fertilization. And just when it can’t get any worse, the brother is gay! So wrong! When viewed as satire, kind of hilarious.

ASTONISHING X-MEN: XENOGENESIS #3 – Ellis brings back the Warpies! What a hell of a thing to do on the way out the door. Now, you’re going to start referring to 25-year old Marvel UK Alan Moore continuity? With two issues left to go? Just almost a dick move. But wonderful. This arc kind of reads like Ellis jamming through a few issues of UNKNOWN SOLDIER and deciding to why not muscle that on in here. Which isn’t a bad thing. Andrews’ work is less stylized here, blends into the story a bit better. Though the cover is pretty regrettable. Really going to miss Ellis over in this corner of the work-for-hire.

FANTASTIC FOUR #583 – Ah, Epting. What a delight. Edwards really came along and got to be getting it done, but Epting is simply a cut above. I really don’t go in for all this Who’s Going To Die? hype, hard to get worked up about anything like that anymore, not even counting any momentary dramatic effect that might happen within the course of the story getting dulled by months of lead-in bullshit prior to the actual moment, but I want to think that Hickman’s aware of all that and playing off of our expectations. We’ll see. Either way, even though you can argue that, again, this entire issue is pretty much set-up, it remains cracking good comics, something to mutter incoherently then scream at your friends about when you’ve had half a bottle of fine vodka at a bachelor party, followed by some mead called Viking that causes you to rip a piece of steak in half with your bare hands and devour one of the pieces right there before any of them can close their shocked and gaping mouths. Why do people keep asking me to be in their wedding parties? I feel that I continuously make pretty compelling arguments against inclusion. The exchange between Val and Doom was golden before she muttered “All hope lies in Doom,” and then I wanted to just start smashing walls at the beautiful architecture of it all. And this was later, remember, five days after the bachelor party, though you had better believe that I was spitting that title out at them over the textwaves just as fast as my little fingers could type it.


BEST OF WEEK: THOR #615 – Man, have I been waiting for this one. Without really trying or meaning to, I jammed the first year+ of the Simonson run in the past week, the back post-Beta Ray Bill 2/3rds for the first time, and it just worked out that I hit #349 on Tuesday, so that mandated #350 as the first read for tonight, even though it came out like 1,300 and change Wednesdays ago. And I really was going to write up that entire first arc and how it hit me and pertained or didn’t to Fraction/Ferry’s first 22+ pages, and hey, then I was going to rewatch the L O S T finale and finally do the final roundup on that since it was September 22nd, but wouldn’t you know it, my hard drive crashed on the 21st, and I was writing insane chickenscratch in longhand on Legal Pads for days and now all is well and I have my word machine back and didn’t lose anything, but it’s nearly Wednesday again and I think I’m just going to talk about this particular issue, if that’s all right.

Oh, but the mead! I was like three pages into #350 and I remembered that I have a couple bottles of mead that my good buddy Seth Humble gave me like three years ago, and hey, when the hell is going to be a better time to crack one of those open than when you’re jamming #350→#615, so yas, that was in effect, the truth must be told. And since we’re telling truths, maybe I liked AVENGERS #5 better than this. It certainly was swell. But I read it first (well, first after THOR #350, but you see where this is going), and then read this last, and then there was the mead. And Lone Star. As ever. And there were comics? Being read at some point?

I like how Fraction structures this, bookending it with the Volstagg/cosmologist meeting, then opening it up to three striking double-page spreads of doomed inconsequential characters, before breaking it wide open, right there in the middle of the book with the staples and all, to that gorgeous double-splash and just “THOR!” Right, that guy. His name’s on the cover. And if I wasn’t already so on board, hadn’t already convinced myself last April that this was going to be the new and hot ultimate wonderful, Heimdall’s sudden appearance at the end of the issue does the job, hitting just the perfect ominous notes. Have really been digging Fraction’s runs on UNCANNY and IRON MAN, never even mind CASANOVA because that just isn’t fair, but this one here’s going to put both of those to shame, and I’m so glad to have a front row seat next to you to watch it unfold, page by page and week by week, here oh so late at night at the Wednesday night mass.