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?