PREVIOUSLY, ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT MASS:
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.