Friday, July 30, 2010


So, of late, I’ve been leading with whatever AVENGERS book is out that week and then working my way around to whatever installment of Morrison Batman we get our grubby little hands on, but with Hickman’s FF in the mix, thought I’d flip it just for fun. The resultant lineup is a strong walk through most of DC’s heavy artillery.

BEST OF WEEK: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #4 – Kicking off with my man lost in time. Wish I didn’t know that Cameron Stewart was originally booked for this gig (pulled to get started on THUNDER WORLD, I presume?), because, even though Jeanty’s work here is a big old leap above his thirty-odd issues on BUFFY’s latest season (particularly the double-pg spread early on of Gotham, his style might have trumped Stewart’s for at least that shot, we didn’t need slick and polished, but more scratchy, grainy, just what Jeanty delivered), several page turns left me pausing, trying to reimagine the visuals as provided by Stewart’s pen.

But be that as it may. What we have here, as before, is pretty much the be-all end-all ultimate version of whatever concept happens to be in rotation. This month, we get the Batman western. And maybe it’s just because avenging gunslinger is obviously a better fit for our guy than caveman or Puritan or pirate, but I think I dug this one even just a little bit more than what’s come before.

Nice imagery on the last panel of the first page, there, back to the old red and black, the reflection in blood of Daddy’s silhouette while he’s twisting in the wind.

Great prose style, a lot more purple, appropriate to the genre. “For there was nothing of chance that night and all of a subtle, terrifying design.

Jeanty appears to break the left→right rule of flowing motion with that last shot of Hex riding off into the sunset, but it works for me, kind of sets up a symmetry with the opposite page.

Was there an eclipse? I couldn’t find mention of one, or an image. Poor old Bruce just got shot, fell in another river (how many times has that happened now since the end of R.I.P.? Has it in every issue of this series? The only one I can’t recall one way or another right off the bat is #2), and stumbles out into, I guess, 80s Gotham? What’s the archetype here? White collar douchebag? It’s always been clear before, but I’ve got no idea this time. Also don’t even know who’s drawing next issue, which is kind of wonderful.

So, now we haven’t seen Superman and his crew since Bruce abandoned them at the end of #2. Wonder if they’re coming back in this title or if they’re just off in Jurgens’s mini for the duration?

It’s a delight to get all of these stories, Morrison going nuts with Batman. So glad that R.I.P. turned out not to be the end, but actually the springboard for an insane second act, which I guess is winding down about now. Can’t wait to see what it’s like when Bruce finally makes it home and gets serious about franchising.

ACTION COMICS #891 – First of all, I love that the cover doesn’t even remotely resemble anything that occurs within this issue. Bizarro is not so much as mentioned. That’s wonderful.

The first issue was a little bit better than I expected, but that always creates a burden on the next chapter, once we’re a bit surprised by the better than good, we crave another hit, the team’s got to keep mixing it up to give us what we want.

(and, okay, here’s as good a place as any to say that coming off a second weekend of INCEPTION, this was one strange series of reads. Like half of what I bought is a western at least for a little while, and right here, well, what is the Mr. Mind-spawn doing but failing to perform straight-up inception on Luthor, the entire freaking issue is a dream. Lois-bot as Bride of Luthor!)

The throwaway consciousness legacy getting passed down through 8-D RNA has got to be my favorite line of the issue. Or the entire This Is A Job For Luthor bit. But everyone’s going to say that.

At the moment, this issue seems like filler, at least as far as the big picture goes. But, at 30 pgs (RoBW was 32, if we’re keeping track), it was certainly an entertaining ride. Which is what we pays our money for. Cornell and Woods have got me coming back for more.

GREEN LANTERN #56 – I know I say it every time, but I can’t believe this is the guy who drew SUPERMAN BEYOND 3D just a year and a half ago. What a crazy stylistic sideways leap. This one’s all right, but lately I haven’t been feeling the Johns love on this title, I guess during and post-BLACKEST NIGHT. It doesn’t feel indispensable and like he’s totally invested in the way that, wait for it, the FLASH run does. It’s certainly not bad storytelling, but it just reads like a serial that’s constructed well enough but without the passion to make the reader invest anything in it. I don’t so much care about Hal and what’s going to happen next, just feel like we’re going through the motions. On the other hand . . .

FLASH #4 – This was the thunder AND lightning. As good as this one’s been off the starting line, Johns and Manipul really ratchet everything up here to breathtaking effect. The title page is maybe the best yet, just gorgeous. To say nothing of that “Nice view” spread, way to freaking kill it, Francis Manipul! And the plot thickening with regard to Barry’s future homicide as the only possible motive is, in a breach of protocol, explicitly revealed. This is everything I want from a Flash comic.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: GENERATION LOST #6 – You know, times are tight, more and more books are making the $3→$4 jump, and I picked this issue up wondering if, as much as I love JLI, this one’s worthy of biweekly support. Particularly in light of BRIGHTEST DAY’s dip last week. So, of course, it’s the best issue yet. I probably have a soft spot for old Nathaniel Adam, followed his monthly for a little while before getting hip to Dr. Jon Osterman and all of his simultaneous perception shenanigans, so there’s that. This one addresses that issue I had a while back with Atom absorbing that blast. Though, is the countdown to metabolizing the energy and jumping back new? Great bit with the moon. And maybe I’m still just expecting less from Winick, but I thought Old Karrie’s dialogue was spot-on. Kryptonite HURTS. Of course, until he and we realize, Nate thinks he’s back in the old West.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #5 – Ah, the two tales at least bleed together. Not sure where we’re heading from here, but this first arc has to be judged a complete success on every level. Snyder and King both weave engrossing tales, simultaneously anchored and catapulted into greatness by Albuquerque’s stunning linework. Pearl’s pilot episode comes to a satisfactory conclusion, but throw me out of the TARDIS if King doesn’t sledgehammer in a hilarious nod to the Doctah on Page 4. And “It’s my fertile time”? Really? Those seem like needless words to me, Sai. Oh, but here comes Felicia Book. Certainly intrigued to see what next issue looks like, particularly since I’m afraid our dear Constant Writer is taking his leave.

SECRET AVENGERS #3 – Since Steve Rogers and his Black-Ops squad are on Mars, it makes perfect sense to open this one up in the Old West. We can’t get shed of it!

Does Deodato just excel at silhouette swordplay, or what? That one page of Valkryie vs. Nova reminded me of how much I loved Ellis’s year with him on THUNDERBOLTS (ur-DARK REIGN). Ha, and then Serpent Crown Nova just oxidizes Mars. This is out of left field from Brubaker. As much as I love his street-level stuff, with the espionage-laced and still unfolding CAPTAIN AMERICA run being arguably one of, if not the definitive run on the character, those two years on UNCANNY were poop, never coalesced, and I’m really glad to see him just killing some straight-up science fiction hijinx here with this crew.

Why do folks keep setting the scene in Texas? It’s certainly not everyone, but I guess Ellis put a storage facility here in EXTREMIS and then Fraction took Hill back there for a chunk of the “World’s Most Wanted” arc, and now here we are with these Shadow Council guys.

(The first paragraph of Dr. Michael J. Ryan’s interview is a jaw-dropping study in escalation. Where else can you go from original King Kong followed by Harryhausen’s first and only archaeological dig but Kirby Savage Land? It is in no way intended as an insult to the adjacent sequential pages that I found all of this far more compelling)

This is the only $4 book that was just 22 pages. But it delivered everything from a post-Confederacy flashback to a two-page Celestial spread. And, of course, anyone with a heart beating in their breast will be compelled to lay down another four bills featuring our country’s first President next month in order to read the tale known as Steve Rogers: Human Rocket!

UNCANNY X-MEN # 526 – All right, I don’t know if it’s because the finest hour has come and gone, or if Fraction’s just got it down to a perfect mathematical science or what, but, though they used to just gnaw away at me, every single one of the little compressed character distillation titles here is simply perfect. And Dr. Nemesis makes a phone call! Who knew? All the grim ones are suckers for orphans. “You’re thin as a ghost” pulls off the meta-trick of being one of the thinnest examples of Moore scene-transition dialogue that I can recall. Though I’ve got to cop to totally geeking out at Box II in the room with the heart and soul of the old school Uncanny line-up, with Whedon’s first addition to the mythos presiding.

Heinberg’s story was interesting enough, with a nice bit of HOUSE OF M continuity via Copiel, until it ends up just being a commercial for something that came out a couple of weeks ago, yeah? Though it is nice to have Heinberg back. That’s a series worth at least checking in on, I guess.

FANTASTIC FOUR #581 – Man, Hickman keeps on and keeps on. This might not be the most imaginative issue yet (if only because we didn’t check in on Nu-Earth. See? I’m pining for montage updates from a place with such a stupid name! That, sir, is how you extend the Grand Corporate Narrative), but the Great Hunt definitely came from out of nowhere. And now hints of S.H.I.E.L.D. developments? Was the man with the quantum power source Leo da Vinci? Did Agent Richards just tease the end of the mini-series? Or something else, entirely? I’m sure that panel with the white background is going to make a lot more sense in a few months. Edwards continues to deliver solid work. Though I do miss Eaglesham. Can’t believe he got pulled so fast, not like he didn’t deliver almost monthly work for two years with Johns over on JSA. Be that as it may, am just over the moon about this title.

Another really good week to be reading comics.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Well, my darling little girl has a molar or two coming in and decided to wake up furious and throwing up about halfway through the evening’s first issue. We calmed her down and changed the sheets, but she kept getting back up, meaning by the time she was really down for good at quarter past one, I had only made it through both Bendis AVENGERS. Did I let that deter me? You already know the answer! And I have to say, reading Alan Moore’s NEONOMICON by candlelight at 3:30 in the morning was just about the perfect way to do it. But The Business kept unfolding around me, and I wasn’t able to get to reviews until just now. Cry yer pardon!

AVENGERS #3 – Bendis can seemingly do no wrong at the moment. I didn’t hit his SCARLET, but people seem to be digging it, and I’ve made no bones about it over here that he’s just knocking every one of these post-SIEGE reboot issues out of the park. This one’s no exception. We get a serious brouhaha between the team and Apocalypse-from-the-future and his Four Horsemen, who appear to be Spider-Man, Red Hulk, Wolverine, and the Scarlet Witch, the high point of which has our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man making a major save, keeping one of the Big Three from going splat on the sidewalk. And then the talky aftermath is, of course, even better than the fight, just what we expect. Great bit with Noh-Varr on the wall with Spider-Man and –Woman. And JRjr continues to just destroy it. One of my new favorite monthlies.

NEW AVENGERS #2 – And, yeah, killing it here, too. Immonen has always delivered quality pages, but he’s really raised his game on this title. Highlights here include (huh, again) Spidey running around trying to keep Luke & Jessica’s baby safe, the Thing vs. 20-ft tall Power Man, “Oh, I thought that meant it was cold outside,” and the potential End of Everything! Either one of these books really does the franchise proud, taken together, they’re almost too much to bear. Not to mention the crisp oral history serialized in the back of both books, totally earning the $4 price point.

Something that occurred to me, I guess when Spidey was saving Tony’s bacon back in the first book, was how silly it is that industry heavies aren’t writing all the feature films. I mean, I know not much about Hollywood makes sense, but whoever you tap to write your next Spider-Man screenplay, no matter his pedigree*, Bendis has pretty much got him smoked. Dude’s been writing monthly doses of the Ultimate incarnation for a decade. Ten YEARS, people. He knows what makes Parker tick. And that dialogue just sings, man. They’ve got Johns working on Flash and Captain Marvel, right? Why wasn’t he tapped to write the Green Lantern flick? No slight on Guggenheim et al, but come on, no one in this world has a bigger crush on Hal Jordan than Geoff Johns, and he would do it right, again, has years worth of monthly experience under his belt. Same deal with Morrison on Batman and Superman. Ah well, seems obvious to me. Hollywood makes Marvel and DC look like they’ve really got it all figured out.

ATLAS #3 – Man. I’m bummed. In all the Comic-Con aftermath, just stumbled across the apparently old news that Jeff Parker himself pulled the plug on this one, rather than limp it along through a bunch of other crossover and event gimmicks. Which, it must be said, if launching with DARK REIGN, then filtering the title through both X-Men and Avengers franchises before relaunching it under the new HEROIC AGE branding didn’t do the trick, not really sure what else you can pull. It’s a shame, this book more than almost any other on the stands epitomizes that kick of GoshWow that comics can provide better than anything else. I mean, “A spy, a spaceman, a siren, a mermaid, a robot, a gorilla.” That shit sells itself**. But, here’s the eulogy and we’ve still got two months to go. As for this issue, it’s nothing really special in the scheme of the series, just more quality. Jimmy Woo leads the team into great danger and things look particularly bleak by the end of the main feature. Hardman and Breitweiser have never looked better. The back-up story is just as engaging as the lead. Really going to miss this book.

NEW MUTANTS #15 – Well, the dust has finally settled and the original X-Babies have weathered the Second Coming and made it to the Heroic Age proper. Wells wisely spends most of the issue giving us some down-time, letting the team (I still want to call them kids, but I guess they aren’t any more, right? Hard to believe these characters have been getting published for almost thirty years) decompress. My favorite part of the issue was the chemistry between Sam and Dani, him breaking down his meeting with Cyclops for her. Rang so true. Enjoying Kirk, late of CAPTAIN BRITAIN & MI-13, on art here, he’s doing fine work.

X-FACTOR #207 – Oh, and it’s a noir PI book, again? Okay, no reason not to drift back on over to the book’s original premise, that is what we all signed up for in the first place. Maybe Hela shouldn’t have been on the cover. I mean, not that we wouldn’t’ve figured it out pretty quick, but it deflates the suspense just a bit when there’s nothing mysterious about the femme fatale client in the opening scene. The bit with Mordo was deftly handled. Layla Miller reminds us that she can still steal a scene. And the cover for next issue is a great follow-up to the last beat of this particular installment. Good monthly fun, right here.


Man, did Marvel just whip DC this week, or what? My ratio is usually something like two DCs for every Marvel, but da Q and company dropped a solid amount of quality and DC barely stepped up to the plate. In their defense, I am tradewaiting LEGACIES and I bet Garcia-Lopez crushed that, but seems like if you’ve got Morrison putting out four of your titles at the moment, you might want to at least schedule one of those to come out the same week as Comic-Con, generate some buzz. Oh, well. What did I get from the Distinguished Competition?

BRIGHTEST DAY #6 – This one felt a little bit more disposable. Maybe I’m just not caring about J’onn, Firestorm and the Atlantean royalty as much? The double-page spread of the latter was certainly well done, but didn’t really justify the sticker price. This is the first issue of this to head into Meh territory for me, hope it bounces back in two weeks or it might already be time to think about the chopping block. I’m hemorrhaging money with all these $4 books!

DV8 #4 – I also didn’t find this one as engaging as the previous installments. It wasn’t bad, I just had trouble locking in and caring about old Matthew Callahan. Didn’t seem like this issue added to the tapestry of the story in the way that the past two did. Again, not bad, better than most series, it just didn’t hit me as hard as what’s come before has conditioned me to expect.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #3 – Surely that can’t be it. As much of a deal as they made of it ahead of time, if Earth-Man really is done with the ring, that’s far too abrupt for my liking, wasting a very interesting dynamic. But, too early to tell. And it isn’t like Levitz hasn’t built up just a ton of goodwill. As usual, quite a bit goes down this time out, they deal with Saturn Queen, have fun with Green Earth-Man on Dagobah, set up a sleeper cell of Durlans who’ll no doubt be up to mischief soon, and then we close out with an image guaranteed to get even the most jaded Legion fan’s (is there even such a thing?) mouth watering.

ALAN MOORE’S NEONOMICON #1 – Ah, the Wizard of Northampton descends from the lofty literary heights of his second novel (which sounds like it’s going to be way on the far side of ULYSSES, just madness) along with his idea-colliding magazine to grace us with another sequential narrative. And, no surprise, it’s an engaging and entertaining read. A bit of a slow burn, but there’s nothing wrong with that. This reads exactly like what I imagine happening if they brought in Alan Moore to write an episode of LAW & ORDER and he mandated that he would only do it if Cthulhu is the one who Did It. We get to know the cops through dialogue that always strikes the balance of flowing naturally while giving us enough exposition to make sense of things. Interested to see where this goes, particularly in light of the reports for months that drawing this was giving Burrows the worst nightmares of his life. The fact that nothing even close to inspiring anything like that appears this issue only heightens the dread. As previously noted, ideally read at 3:30 in the morning by candlelight with that last half glass of wine you’ve been saving to see you through to the end.

BEST OF WEEK: SCOTT PILGRIM’S FINEST HOUR – It’s not really fair to compare the final volume in one of the most influential and popular comics to be released in this entire decade to a bunch of 22-page singles, kind of like bringing a bazooka to an arm-wrestling match, but it’s almost impossible to coherently argue against the fact that the best thing to come out this week, by far, is the final series of chapters bringing at long last to a close the epic epic of our guy Scott and his memorable cast of characters (Wallace Wells is my co-pilot).

I ran red lights on the way to Austin Books & Comics, where they were having a midnight release party on Monday the 19th. My cohorts in The Robot Murders were unable to join me, so it was with a heavy heart that I walked in on the winners of the Rock Band tournament*** delivering their encore to those gathered in the back-issues room before I headed back up front to loiter by the cash register and actually managed to score the #2 position in line with five minutes left to go.

So, I bought it right at midnight and ran out of that place just as fast as my legs would carry me, and am only just now realizing that I’ve done this a few times for albums (Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness, say) or movies (WATCHMEN or, most recently, IRON MAN 2), but have never bought a comic at midnight, and isn’t this one right here the perfect blend?

I came home and read it once and loved it and the only thing to do was read it again right then and there on the couch, which, thematic from the title page, right? I am now, just one hour shy of week later, going to read it for a third time and let y’all know exactly how it’s hitting me throughout.


Any time I see a door without a wall to frame it, it takes me right back to that beach, Roland’s infected stubs pulsing hot infection up his arms before he draws the three.

So great to have our guy on the couch for the title page. Aaaaaaand, so begins the finest hour. It’s always darkest before the dawn, buddeh!

I know we saw him for like a page that one time in I think it was volume 3? but because of how close everything butts up against itself here in the Summer of Scott, it’s impossible to see Gideon on the page and not conjure Jason Schwartzman. This, however, is not a bad thing, in the way it would be if I was hearing all of Scott’s dialogue delivered by Michael Cera. Or, worst case, cross our fingers, nonono, George Michael.

Is “Things Stop Happening” the first chapter title that ISN’T a straight lift from a song? I haven’t been keeping up. (Hell, I just placed “It’s Only Divine Right” in Volume 2 this last pass through)(though in my “defense,” I’ve only been a New Pornographers fan for exactly 24 days as of this writing, but storming the beach HARD to make up for lost time, oh yes)

Wallace keeps being my favorite character, and him pssssssing with his eyes closed and the door open somehow really reinforces that. Then, just when the scene can’t get any better after Wallace tries to take Scott to Hooter’s, we get Zola’s J’accuse! Maaaaaasterful. So well played, it hurts me. Wallace can pretty much sit out the rest of the volume and retain his status.

(which, excepting that wonderful “Better comebacks, Scott!” cameo, he does)

That second dream, the nightmare, when the toothy beasties come out for impaled Scott and then turn into toothy Knives and Kim and Envy, man, O’Malley’s really really come a long way since Volume 1 (which got the job done just fine, thankyewverymuch)

Of all the brilliant character distillation titles, including every single one Fraction’s lift/dropped in these last two years of UNCANNY, “Sketchy-ass 24 year old,” of course combined with the visual in the panel, win win wins. Way to mirror reader expectations.

But then, oh, the Memory Cam. I hate hate all of that text talk lol omfg bullshit, but man, O’Malley elevates it to a thing of perfect beauty here.

Montrealhalla!!!!! Four exclamation points aren’t going to get it done for that one.

“yeah totes” The Memory Cam is very possibly the greatest thing about this entire 1,200+ pages.

Oh man, and he had me with that two-page, I’ve been totally pining for Scott and Kim to get back together (for the record, I still can’t understand what Hermione sees in that ginger when she’s got the Real Deal for a best friend, right there). But, no.

So wait, does the talk in the woods with Kim mean that we were rocking Unreliable Narrator and the entire first chapter of Volume 2 is malarkey? Combined with my good friend Memory Cam, that seems to be a pretty inescapable conclusion.

The layout of those two pages of Scott taking the elevator down into the Chaos Theater. Another power-up for B. O’Malley. Quality work, here.

Haha, only caught Young Neil playing the arcade version of Time Critics just now.

Oh man, and then Envy descending completely evokes Kidman as Satine, and I mean that as like hypersuperlative praise. One person wrote and drew this!

And then, immediately, that first fight, he lays it on so thick. PUMMEL as sound effect. Gideon stealing the sword. The WHAT A DICK! caption. Scott calling the secondary characters secondary characters. Straight up Empire. And then Scott dies.

I love how the reactions keep intensifying, ending with the juxtaposition of Joseph drinking and not really giving a shit next to Stephen who of course feels the opposite, then Kim even in the boonies senses a disturbance.

And Ramona finally shows up halfway through. Best, though, I was so shocked that he got killed, completely forgot about the 1UP. That is some deft and smooth shell game shit right there, I mean, I read that very scene maybe three days before hitting this volume for the first time, but there was so much going on, that grinning 1UP was the last thing on my mind.

Wow, the Ramona/Gideon alpha/omega flashback in three pages. Out of control.

And then, that Star-purse shattering is one of my favorite pages of all time. Aesthetic+Symbolic.

“I may have spiced them up a little.” Okay, does that mean GGG is responsible for the first chapter of Volume 2. I don’t know, but if Thom Yorke and the lads ever give me the power, they will play “Sulk” live, just that one time, for me. Best key change ever recorded. (D→E)

Then it looked like O’Malley was going to puss out with Gideon’s own sword just happening to land in his chest. But the next two pages (“I will punish you,” “I concur,” and then STRIKE resulting in a goddamn Z), perfection.

The look on Scott’s face when he’s quoting Kim’s “It just takes practice” line to Ramona on the elevator is pretty much the 1-UP facial expression.

And Stephen’s gay for Joseph, massively obvious in hindsight, leaving Scott and Kim to rekindle an undoubtedly superior White Stripes v. 2.0 (love the “bee-leavah” spelling)

And Knives saying goodbye to Scott, her last line evokes this whole other tangent for me that I guess I’m going to go into later or not at all, as it would really disrupt the flow here and now, but let’s just leave it at that. We wish Knives well. Maybe she’s the sequel, even.

Oh man, and then that last chapter still just melts my heart. Their forms become one. Their forms become one.

There’s really nothing else left to say.

*all right, I just checked and apparently James Vanderbilt is doing the Webb Spidey reboot, and while it’s not like getting, say, Zak Penn to do it (because, yeah, we’re chalking up everything that was great about the latest HULK to Norton and totally blaming Penn for gutting thirty years of continuity just so Brett Ratner could take a dump all over the X-franchise), I’m not like in love with his work. ZODIAC was pretty solid, but look at the director and cast, and I’m thinking that any enjoyment I derived out of BASIC was just overexcitement at seeing Jules & Vince back together again. Bendis Bendis Bendis.

**and aren’t the quotes around “reformed” in M-11’s bio maybe the greatest thing of that entire pitch-perfect opening page?

***and, truth be told, those kids completely blasted away any lingering sense of rivalry or usurpation or jealousy I might have still been feeling when I looked up a few seconds before midnight and caught the way that the drummer (in costume as Kim Pine) was looking at the guitarist (I think in costume as Stephen Stills?) while he was telling a story, and she was just like TOTALLY IN LOVE WITH HIM, plain as day right there for anybody to see, just how she was staring at him, and you know, maybe they were and are even a couple, but also maybe not, maybe it was still secret love just about to burst through all the containment, maybe even tonight, maybe in five minutes! and it was so in line and pitch perfect with the tone of the story, it really really solidified the feeling that this was a living and breathing narrative that had long since escaped two dimensions and black & white

Friday, July 16, 2010


X-MEN: SECOND COMING #2, CHAPTER 14 THE LAST ONE, IN WHICH WE ACTUALLY GET A FEW PRETTY SEAMLESS PAGES EACH BY ALL FIVE WRITERS WHO’VE GOT US HERE, AT LEAST, THOUGH WE SUB GREG LAND IN FOR ART OVER CHOI/OBACK – This one bucks the rhythm that most of these events adhere to, in that the climax really did in fact go down in the last pages of the previous chapter and all of this is fallout. But it’s all very well handled. Hope drops a killer eulogy for Cable when Cyke quite understandably can’t step up to the plate, probably the high point of the issue. Really sorry that I checked Bleeding Cool the day that the actual Uncanny X-Force reveal happened, wouldn’t usually care, but that sure sucked the life out of what might have been a mildly jarring splash. Of course, Fraction and the Dodsons knocked the lights out batting clean-up. I kind of want to interpret Namor destroying the backboard as a condemnation of Lobdell having Gambit playing basketball instead of baseball on Claremont’s very first issue out the door, way back nineteen years ago in X-MEN #4, I mean, that was just blasphemous, and I’m sure Fraction’s not above or below getting that crazy metatextual, but maybe it was just a good bit and worked and I shouldn’t gas it and pin it up next to all the other pretty things.

UNCANNY X-MEN: THE HEROIC AGE #1 – Arrhythmia continues as we just hustle on into the next thing. I definitely could have used a week to let that whole event I’ve been riding for the past three or four months settle, but I guess there’s a bunch to do, and not like I’m sitting it out if Fraction’s writing the whole thing, so what do we have here? MAN! Wasn’t until I made it home that I realized the THE SINGLES CLUB art squad is up on a third of this thing! Fine times! Oh, but the yearning it creates. It would probably be like this if old Ba/Moon stuck their conjoined heads in the door over on LEGACY, of course I’d be tickled to see them dancing with Carey, but the entire affair would feel a bit off. Rose’s part was kind of like that, as great as it was. Really, if Gillen had just showed up at the end jabbering about the new MIA album maybe, then it would have been pitch-perfect. Can anyone even understand these reviews? I wonder if I’ll be able to piece them together into anything remotely coherent in a few years. The issue: always a pleasure to get Portacio back in the fold. And we do get Gillen represented with Sanders’s depiction of the much-reviled and beloved Beast snout. Fantastic angle, calling up Molly, the perfect foil to bounce that scene off of. And I guess that, say, Kitty Pryde or Jubilee aren’t feeling that precocious lately. Pretty serious stuff, what goes down with Cap and Cyclops here (again reinforcing, last week’s solo mini should have been titled THE UBIQUITOUS STEVE ROGERS, because dude snagged that all-places-at-all-times badge that Stark stole from Logan a few years back, and is, yeah, suddenly everywhere). This one’s pretty crucial for your UNCANNY regulars. Douche move to release it the same week as the SECOND COMING finale, but I guess there’s a lot more shit coming next week that’s been waiting for it. Ah, corporate singles, I love you but you’re really starting to dim it down for me.

INVINICIBLE IRON MAN #28 – Fraction rides again. I tell you, he and crew do a great job, because I always enjoy the ride on the first read-through, but then when I go back and process for these things, I come up with almost the same thing every month to say about this title. Almost always, nothing insane happens. It’s the opposite of the Morrison GoshWow. But it’s solid longform work. The pieces are always moving into place, never at the expense of character. I’ve never been more enthralled with the day to day of being Tony Stark, doled out in monthly installments, and that, my friends, is the name of this game, right here.

ASTRO CITY SPECIAL: SILVER AGENT #1 – Wow. And then this madness unfolds from the higher echelons of space/time. Fifteen years in the teasing, if not making, the secret origin and history of the Silver Agent has been at the top of a very long list of tangent asides near and dear to the heart of many an Astro City regular. And, man, do Busiek and company deliver. Just that fourth+ page, the entire iGod scenario, perfect Kirby Morrison madness, everything that makes comics great, right there in four colors. And the origin, of course, he was always really just the Steve Rogers archetype, the time-travelling and tragedy always dressed that up for me too much to see. Really going to be glad to getting this book in more regular doses, it’s always been one of the best on the racks, and these guys are about to hit celestial heights, this and the ASTRA two-shot make that pretty much a mortal lock.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: GENERATION LOST #5 – Man, I just wish Lopresti would draw this whole thing. Or, really, where’s Maguire? Or Hughes? What does it take to get these guys back on interiors? Nothing, well not so much, against the other two fellas in rotation, but this issue worked for me in a way that the last couple didn’t, and I don’t think Hey Judd had anything to do with it. My one problem, again: ISN’T CAPTAIN ATOM SUPPOSED TO JUMP INTO THE FUTURE EVERY TIME HE ABSORBS A BLAST? That’s rhetorical, because the answer is in 1986’s #1 of his eponymous title (which is pretty funny, when you think about it coming out alongside WATCHMEN). And yeah, even though Lopresti did much better than the other guys, so so hard not to miss Maguire when you get those three static pasted “I died” panels of Ice, all Bendis-style. Maguire would have won Tora an Oscar for something as small as that business, right there. You know what, though, five issues in, I’m on board and interested to see where we go from here, so, job well done.

THE UNWRITTEN #14 – Another wild romp. But how could that shot of Voldemort Ambrosio falling upon them not have been a page turn? Really, I can’t think of even a splash that shouldn’t mandate that, just because it’s not like you can’t see it out of the corner of your eye and it totally colors the experience of reading that page on the left side that should be on the right. Making it through this one, I suddenly wonder how many issues they’ve got planned. Because it doesn’t feel like it’s going to be 50 or 60, at the moment, no. Consistent and rewarding. Ah, Vertigo.

ADVENTURE COMICS #516 – Ha, there’s something wonderful and sad about old Superman comics getting retconned in to also inspire Brande in serpentine native form. Just because it makes perfect sense, especially here underneath this pen, but you kind of want there to just be some other fount of inspiration out in some little corner of the galaxy. You know, a pirate we never heard of. But always with the red and blue. They might as well have gone with the cover for ACTION COMICS #1. Maybe that’s mitigated a couple of pages later by Brande taking the form of space dragon to escape the Durlan hellhole when old Kal’s good looks won’t get the job done. That KNOWHOW! caption really seemed to name-check Mark Waid’s latest endeavor, no? Man, and then even the dead can still be grateful? That might be over the line, but I’m sitting here sober the next night typing, so it’s hard to be objective about it, at the moment. We’re going to give Levitz a pass based on the last three issues’ accrued good will, never mind the past thirty years. All told, a fine secret origin for R.J. Brande.

And I don’t mind the Atom back-up feature in the mix. Didn’t shoot my lights out, but certainly competent work. We’ll see. Reminds me how much I really loved those early Ryan Choi issues with Gail & Byrne. That combo seemed insane when they came out, still does.

SUPERMAN #701 – I want to like this. Not sure why, maybe it’s how horrible the premise sounds. Superman walks across America to reconnect with folks. For 12 issues. That really does not sound like much fun, and really, the opposite of why I pick up a Superman comic. It takes balls to submit the pitch and for editorial to accept. Ha, or stupidity, all around! But I am not wanting to look away. So, what have we here? The first chapter certainly has the taste of JMS kind of trying to cram in that LOCAL vibe that Wood/Kelly executed with quite a bit more fluidity a while back, street signs and stats on the meth houses on 52nd through 56th Street, and such. And I can’t stand the pop-culture references, the JFK/Castro/Ghandi bit I can live with, but dropping Project Runway for the sake of authenticity? Well, I suppose I’d rather things just didn’t get that authentic. And climaxing with the jumper, I guess the scene works fine on its own merits, but right there, that’s just the full-court press, JMS is not only daring you to care about the fact that we’re going to be doing, surely not, this for the next twelve issues, he just goes ahead and rubs your face in one of, if not THE, most emotionally resonant scenes from ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #10, for my money, the greatest single issue of all time*. So, the ending falls a bit flat for me, but we’ll see what happens next month. I wish he’d head up to Montana and just sit and hang out with Megan.

BATMAN #701 – Wait, I just realized that these same issue numbers came out on the same day. Well, no wonder I had to read them concurrently. It’s not going to surprise anyone that I loved another installment of Morrison Batman, but hang out with me, because this one didn’t slap me upside the face all at once like they usually do. Especially when you’re used to the speed of, say, BATMAN & ROBIN. Let’s just look at last week, that was part one of another three-part arc, and soooo much went down. Not so here, this is almost like a poem, a painting, dabs of color, no concern for the monthly format. The story takes a deep breath and will return next month. This one’s the story that no one demanded (well, that’s probably not true, about a year and a half ago, they were screaming for it, so now that everyone’s forgotten and dismissed the jump in Bruce Wayne narrative between R.I.P.→FINAL CRISIS, of course, we get every panel laid out for us). But, here’s the thing. Daniel, again, really does solid work. I guess it just took a year with Morrison and another few issues of utter narrative bungling all by himself, but that opening chapter last month combined with this are the best that I’ve seen from him. Especially the lines on Bruce’s face when he’s not wearing the cowl. The high point, of course, is the narration. Because we know what’s going to happen, 30 days away from getting blasted with the Omega Effect so hard that he still hasn’t made it back, we zoom in on every word in Bruce’s journal (because it really is that, right? With most situations, I don’t care, but ever since Miller first did it, the perfection of that handwritten lettering really sells it for me, him at the desk or in bed as the sun comes up, purging himself of all that he can before finally calling it), and the trick of dropping this here also stretches out the happenings in BATMAN & ROBIN, gives them a bit more weight. Hurt. Having Bruce continually refer to the curse, ominous and perfect. It’s all so doomed, and our boy really thrives beneath that cloud, the dread of the void. I can’t wait for next issue. And all of its empty spaces in between. My favorite thing is that last line, at Orion’s crime scene and I guess he’s trying to pump himself up. “Think fast, Batman.” Just the notion that Bruce would internal monologue or write to himself in the second person, so inspired, some Ali-in-the-ring shit, right there**.

DAYTRIPPER #8 – Crushing. The only description of this series, if I was anybody, I’d have that blurb on one of these late covers, beating Pope and Moore and i09 for the brevity prize, anyway. Now, I’m just getting sad that it’s already almost over. Haven’t blasted through the run yet at all, only reread a few issues the week they came out. It’s all going to hang together in a far more enticing way, I think, going straight through. Interesting that the back half seems to still be playing out in continuations, just a little bit further down the trail. Though, have to say, I was on pins and needles over Ana and Miguel this entire time out, since our guy was never actually on-panel, wasn’t sure that he was the one who was actually going to eat it on the last page. And, speaking of, doesn’t somebody owe us the credits? I mean, I know Dave Stewart colored this beauty, but I’d have to know, because that information’s not in these pages. And I need a big 47 maybe at the top of Page 6 coming off that hilarious and delightful hand-lettered e-mail. I just love this series so much. Every month, I open myself wide all the way and let it pour in, and it always makes me happier and sadder and richer and better.

BEST OF WEEK: THE MAN WITH THE GETAWAY FACE – Strong strong week. I’d feel fine about Morrison or my favorite South American twins helping themselves to the prize, as ever. But this is the week that old Ted Adams is one hell of a generous guy and gives us all the goodness for basically nothing. 24 pages of Darwyn Cooke adapting, I guess, an entire Stark novel for us, all as a bridge between PARKER*** and THE OUTFIT, and did I mention they were charging $2 for it? Not even $1.99, which I can really respect and get behind. You just can’t . . . it’s not fair to put this up against a single issue of anything for comparison, even ruling out dimensions or price point, just because it flattens about everything else out there on a basic storytelling level. Just the plot is such a success, before you even get to Cooke making the correct decision every single time when adapting this. I read this and wonder if it’s the reason that CRIMINAL seems to be taking forever, either because Brubaker and Phillips are just running for cover with INCOGNITO or amping up their game on CRIMINAL to an almost unbearable level in response. Probably both. I hope.


*If it unseats WATCHMEN #4. Which it might, I keep meaning to read them both at the same time, or one backwards and one forward, possibly while watching PULP FICTION, to really work it out.

**and, yeah, this is totally lost on anyone who doesn’t worship WHEN WE WERE KINGS (meaning, folks who haven’t yet seen it), but the first thing this last bit made me think of was Norman Mailer’s almost awkward but beyond heartfelt commentary from late in the fight when he imagined what the Greatest was saying to Himself around about Round 7 or 8 and said something like, “Gonna have to get it together, Boy.”

***for my money, and this opinion is hardly controversial, the #2**** book that came out in 2009

****which always begs the question: What’s #1?!?!? Well, the hardly controversial part of the answer is ASTERIOS POLYP, people, get down with it if you’ve been holding out, make yourselves better

Friday, July 9, 2010


CASANOVA #1 – BEST OF WEEK. Surely. Was going to save this one for last, but just couldn't wait. Having read at least the first arc of the old $1.99 run through at least three times, this was still a revelation. The colors add so much, didn't think I could have been more in love with Ba's art, but here we are. And the story is such raving madness, don't think I've ever in all these years run across a book whose tone felt so just mainline hardwired into me. Fraction apparently wrote this for himself, only himself, wasn't worried about trying to lock into anybody, but we must have mindsets or sensibilities or whatever you like to call it running in parallel, because I swear he made this for me. This is everything that a comic can and should be, and that's really saying something, because the possibilities are infinite. I want to smoke this comic, I want to snort it, I want to rub it against my face until the pages are blank. Tell everyone you know, this right here, this is the one.

X-FORCE #28 – Fine job. It’s actually really horrifying, I’ve been working my way through the entire original volume of NEW MUTANTS for the past year, was a huge fan from back in the day, but had never read crucial CRUCIAL bits like the original graphic novel (MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #4, I believe they dubbed it, and that is so cute now, Shooter just sequencing them like that, collect them all! I love that guy) and, most glaringly, every single Sienkiewicz issue, I bought #60 randomly back in the day and was sure shocked to see Doug Ramsey, the character that I most took a shine to, just eat a bullet. I think #67 was the book on the rack that month, so I got monthly just in time for INFERNO, but lost interest halfway through the Asgard arc only to jump back in when Liefeld dropped in like a bomb (and, really, for all the shittalking that guy has conjured up around himself, you can’t deny that his appearance on the title was seismic, suddenly you had Cable and Deadpool and, yeah, an entire host of new folks who’ve gone by the wayside, but people were going inSANE for the book month by month, and, aside from Gambit, those were pretty much the last gasps of anything substantial that the twentieth century had for the franchise, which lurched on month by month until Morrison and Quitely arrived at the last second to water the tales with their heartblood). All of which to say: I have been on the long long NEW MUTANTS journey and yesterday. Yesterday. I finally read #86. The last one that I had never read. Because I’ve been down with 87-100 from way back, got six polybagged copies of the original X-FORCE #1 and even when my grandmom died, later my cousin sent me another one that she had in her files based on my assurances, turned my own sweet daddy’s mama into a speculator, people, and yes just stay with me we made it, Cable. All of that narrative, building to Cable’s introduction and transformation of the franchise, to the point that it actually punctuated the first volume and then sold a million or two copies of the new #1, just because of their strategy. Well, quite a ride, really. Cable’s smile said all that need be said.

STEVE ROGERS: SUPER-SOLDIER #1 – Crushing and dynamic. This is a weird thing now with the second time, it’s not like Brubaker ever started treading water on the main title, TWO AMERICAS was good fun and he’s killing it with the new Zemo arc, but I guess Brubaker’s longform, what we might dub The Greatest Steve Rogers Story Of All Time, just cannot be contained in even or especially his renumbered original title. Am I being clear? REBORN was a massive jump in quality, like watching Mal and the gang make the model→name jump from the small screen to the large, FIREFLY→SERENITY, I’m trying to say, and here we are again. Of course, Eaglesham’s destruction has everything to do with it, but all of a sudden, this is the Steve Rogers arc I’ve been waiting for since our boy got derailed just a very few months after the monster arc of Bucky’s return and got sucked up in that war for southern independence, I mean, of course we already had Brubaker back with Steve for REBORN and so fine to have Hitch & Guice as well, but you know, that was the special return and here we are now back on track, business as usual. It’s funny, the fractal nature of everything unfolding. There was no Steve, then after all the reborn flashes, he’s ubiquitous, traveling backward a couple of shipping weeks to show up in Fraction’s IRON MAN before becoming justifiably indignant in his living room at the press coverage of the Oklahoma siege, then, let’s see, this month, he sent both core Avengers teams on their way before heading off to Mars with the black-ops unit, plus, Bendis/Davis/Neary start us out on this surely wonderful nine world lark the trio went on in between SIEGE and the AVENGERS reboot, plus you’ve got him in the core title assuring Bucky that this really is his book now and there’s nothing to worry about, then, not as much out of nowhere but everywhere, they pull Eaglesham off Hickman FF perfection to kill us even softer with this one. Don’t wait for the trade is, I think, the lesson learned from this first issue. For the first time, I am embracing the branding, not curdling into cynical when I see it but wanting to grab strangers’ shoulders and scream, Yes The Heroic Age, try it! They are really doing it right at the moment and showing signs that we might be lingering this high up above the bar for a good little while to come.

BRIGHTEST DAY #5 – That was a pretty ridiculous opening salvo from Marvel. I’m kind of freaked out about it. Maybe it’s the fact that Wacker edited the Cass reprint and didn’t say a word, Cornelius lurking behind Fraction Quinn. Actually . . .

HOUSE OF MYSTERY #27 – I had the biweekly queued up next, but I’m going to need that shot of McCarthy now to get on through. Loo and Lone Star and Let’s see here . . .*

But ha wow, we’ve got red skies in the opening panel mirroring the cover of BD #5. Yes, I have journeyed out of Marvel country. And this is a really strange first page to be reading while typing about it. The captions. I had better dig deeper into my own life story and stop writing about it for a few minutes. Excuse me.

And, yaaaaah, best segueway into a story, best example of a writer playing to his artist’s total mastery, those McCarthy pages are all of a sudden the high water mark of this wonderful series, oh, do I love it. Ha, I write, before reaching the footnote. Glorious.

And, um. That preview. The unfortunate thing is, I bet old one-T Mat Johnson was sitting there banging out this fantastic idea for a post-Katrina New Orleans story called DARK RAIN with no idea that all the Marvel books were going to be called that for a year or that Antoine Batiste and Big Chief Albert Lambreaux and David fucking McIlary and LeDonna and Jeanette and Kermit and all the rest were going to climb into our hearts and take up every little bit of all that sweet aorta real estate. Bug-jumpin and having fun!

And BRIGHTEST DAY #5, the actual review – Wait, fuck, are they sending Aquaman & Mera after the BP oil spill on the first page? Is this a trick or are they really doing it? If so, holy shit, inspired.

Hawkman quoting Heinlein fifty years later really just throws the entire origin back into chaos confusion. I mean, reconciling whatever was being published in 1958 with the entire compressed floating time dynamic, the way ten years can go by for us while we wait for our characters to have a single birthday. Mind the slipknots you tied, Master Geoff!

The two-page Wii ad really killed the momentum, there.

And, wow, speaking of ads, the Colgate MaxFresh campaign has proven so effective that I turned the page expecting to see a double-page advertisement spread, couldn’t wait to see who the kiss would be . . . but the ad was over! It was only more comic. And I felt cheated, wanted more. This is surely the best possible effect a campaign can hope for, some Draper shit, right there. I didn’t want comic, I wanted ad. Ta-doww.

And yeah, right about now, I just want Kyle Baker to show up and take over. You know it would be all right and even bettah.

Wait, Hawkworld? Timothy Truman?!? Last page? Uh?

THE BOYS #44 – Ayegod, Hughie. With Robertson bailing for a year and pinchhitter Russ Braun in for the foreseeable AND the price hike, which, of course is the standard at Avatar and most other places, but I’m so trained to resist Marvel pushing that one as far as it will go that I let it alienate me from this addictive narrative, but all of that to say, I would be a fool to bail out of this thing now, Ennis is a master, it has been a slow burn for such a long time, but that fuse is getting close, so close.

DEMO 2 #6 – Sad and beautiful sums it up so well. I know I keep saying this, but Vertigo's really just destroying it lately. I can't at the moment name a pair of creators putting out books these days who are more simpatico than Wood & Cloonan. Well, Morrison & Quitely, when they work together. But Wood & Cloonan, they're both so talented and have a wide spectrum of strengths, and it's been really wonderful to see them reunite for this second volume of the book that arguably made both of their reputations. I was pretty bummed to already be at the end of this series (when showing the wife the week's comics, as ever, actually said the word "sad" when I got to this one before reading the cover), but the afterwords make the prospects of an eventual Volume 3 pretty good, only a matter of time, after they go kick ass on a bunch of other series for another five or ten years.

BATMAN & ROBIN #13 – What a way to open the second year of this title. Inverting the beyond iconic image Miller & Mazzucchelli gave us way back in BATMAN #404 (this gets me thinking, what are the top five or ten most iconic Batman images? There's certainly going to be a lot DARK KNIGHT, YEAR ONE, and Adams and maybe Rogers and Breyfogle shots in the back end there, but that first cover has got to be way up there). What an insane insane opening six pages. Kind of hard to believe, I mean, that's not really Thomas Wayne, you know? My mind won't let me accept it. But after waiting such a long month to get back to the killer cliffhanger from last month, no one was looking for this scene to kick things off. I guess Dick will find a way to not be dead when we catch back up to the end of this scene, but it sure looks like he got shot in the back of the head. Not sure about that "brief bloom" that Thomas Wayne/The Black Glove says before he pulls the trigger. Anagram, maybe? Bible for Om? Lo, firebomb? Foil bomber?

Dick really tears it up throughout the rest of the issue. It's not that he was ever really lacking as Batman, but he seems to have cranked it up quite a bit by now. Breaking down the joker's ruse (don't know how that domino thing got by me, so obvious), the "I'll call you Commissioner Gordon, sir, if that's okay." So much about this issue is slide-into-place perfection. Gordon's men preferring this latest incarnation, an eclipse on the way, Dick's sprint-for-the-Batmobile horror at the idea of Damian alone in a room with the Joker, the way that that encounter plays out, and of course everything completely derails at the end. A hell of a first issue to the new arc. Not even counting the return of Pyg. The Morrison Batman run is my favorite thing that's happening right now. Oh, but CASANOVA. Still just barely wins.


*and, if it isn't now painfully obvious, rather than read through and then bang out the reviews, this was more like liveblogging Wednesday night. Which was all well and good until it was half past two and I still had to read DEMO and BATMAN & ROBIN. So, just read them and went to sleep. In case those reviews seem suddenly more coherent.

Friday, July 2, 2010


SECRET AVENGERS #2 – A double shot of Brubaker Steve Rogers is a fine way to kick things off. There’s a lot going on here. Carol’s trying to figure out why she got bushwacked by Fury, Fury goes into hyperdrive, Rhodey and Ant Man take a page out of the Grimm/Storm playbook then find a giant bad guy who wants to clobber them, Moon Knight, Valkyrie and the Widow find Nova, and we get a killer shot of Steve throwing himself into the fray yet again, shield up and fist cocked back, ready to pound somebody to paste. Oh, and they’re all on Mars (except Fury). Deodato supplies lively visuals and Brubaker keeps things moving, even though we’re still for the most part reading set-up. The franchise is still looking better than it about ever has.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #607 – Love Breitweiser on art, am just fine with Guice going back to inks if this is the level of quality we’re going to be getting. Is Brubaker ever going to walk? Not that I want him to, but it’s starting to freak me out how long he’s managed to keep the quality of this book so high. This is another part 2, so again, it’s more set-up, but it’s an enjoyable enough read. Bucky uses an EMP to attack a nanovirus that’s only trying to give him a buzz. Foolish! Glad he’s still Cap, he and Natasha make a solid couple to succeed Steve and Sharon. Love is in the air, behind the wheel of a flying car.

ACTION COMICS #890 – Marvel cancelled him, DC signed him, what’s the verdict on Cornell’s first issue? (on the company’s flagship, no less) Pretty enjoyable. I expected to dig Lex as protagonist and was not disappointed. The Lois reveal was a good time, particularly that smash mode, there. Cornell teases some nice character moments out of Luthor’s monologue, as well as his handling of that feisty employee. Woods’s work looks a bit more static than, for instance, the UP, UP & AWAY arc, but it gets the job done. Not crazy about the fact that the whole point of this is searching for a power ring, kind of time to move on from that, I’m afraid, but if the character beats stay this strong every issue, I’ll be happy to take a ride into space with Lex and his funky battle-armor and Braniac Kryptotech girlfriend.

GREEN LANTERN #55 – Johns and Mahnke welcome the Main Man into the fold and a fine time is had by all. Mahnke’s work continues to evolve, starting to remind me of Seth Fisher in places. Not as much pages like that splash of Lobo showing up, more like shots of just Hal, the linework. The backup with Dexter is a classic. Jamie Grant, keep working!

FLASH #3 – Loving this book. Am a huge fan of the concept of the Reverse-Rogues, showing up because Barry’s due to commit in three months (why show up that far back, though?). Manapul keeps making it happen, nails the quick-change sequence with aplomb. Sure loved these guys over on ADVENTURE COMICS, but this is a step up. The heart and soul of the book, though, is Barry and Iris, and these guys know it. Nice to have a FLASH title back where it’s supposed to be, up at the top of the heap.

THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN ANNUAL #1 – I bought the hard copy. Wasn’t Aja supposed to be drawing this? Positive I read Fraction saying that somewhere. Took me a little while to get over that, just because I was so ready for the old IRON FIST team to rock a reunion, but Carmine Di Giandomenico does fine. Fraction’s come up with a cool premise upon which to hang a Mandarin issue with the brilliant, doomed director as protagonist. It's tempting to delve into the subtext of this, or really a subtext, but Mandarin grabbing this prominent talented guy and using him to make art, the stories he wants to tell, you can certainly read that as a metaphor for editorial influence over massive corporate properties involving armor or mutants or thunder gods (can't wait!), but I think I'm going to go with the Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe school of thinking.

Marvel all of a sudden drops serious value here, more like what we've come to expect from DC, does them one better, even. For $5, I count 68 pages of story. That’s worth like $12 at AVENGERS page rates! This is a fine way to bring Mandarin out of hibernation and set him up to come crashing back into the main title at Fraction’s discretion, though certainly an interesting choice to debut their same day digital distribution model, an IRON MAN annual that's only got Tony Stark for like two pages of flashback. Great story, though, and at the end of the day, what else matters?

ASTONISHING X-MEN #34 – Man, Jimenez just deSTROYS this one, he really is industry gold standard at this point. Just gorgeous, gorgeous work. And old Frank D’Armata cranks up his usually excellent work from CAP. Ellis moves the plot along while filling the pages with perfect character interaction, Hank telling Scott to dial it down, Logan complaining about being sent off, Emma turning to Hisako for data on a random bad guy. Storm’s line about the Professor’s wheelchair was my favorite. You’ve got to love it when Brood Sauron shows up. Not sure who that is at the end, are we supposed to know? I mean, it ain’t Chuck, is it? Surely not a clone. Bummed that there’s only one more of these, I could read X-books from these guys until I go blind.


: I almost certainly blew it this week not picking up NORTHLANDERS #28, but one day I will read that in a trade along with #17 for the first time and it will be a sublime experience. My store either didn’t order or didn’t order enough CAPTAIN SWINGs, so I still need to pick that one up, and it would have to be a contendah, even though I’m not sure I’d like it better than those guys killing it over on AXM. But, you know what? I decided to treat the symptoms of my Tradewaiter’s Regret over NORTHLANDERS by finally doling out the last two issues of SCALPED Vol. 6, bookending the evening with them, even, meaning I opened up with #33 and was leveled, Guera’s maybe never looked better, especially that helicopter opening sequence, then it was murder to just stop on that last page and go on to the books that actually came out this week, but oh, #34 waiting for me at the end of the night, absolutely incredible. So, even though they came out months ago, I have to say that two issues of SCALPED are the best thing I read all night. Such a fine, fine series, so glad to be catching up with it. But the next trade isn’t supposed to come out until February! Looks like the wait is over.