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