Thursday, March 31, 2011


AVENGERS #11—Bendis and company slam down on the gas with this one, delivering seventeen splash pages in a row before breaking the flow for a three-panel page and a sixteen panel page of head shots before hitting us with three more splashes to take us out. This might not sound that good on paper, and I did take Finch to task for delivering far less splashes last week, but the effect here is one of steadily rising tension. I mean, don’t worry, there’s still a bit of talking going on, here. Even best, the Watcher narrates in purple prose captions, something I now can’t believe nobody thought of during Claremont’s classic run on UNCANNY. I suspect this arc will come to an end next month, just because after that last page, there’s really not that much further you can take this one. Bendis’s greatest feat on this one, though, is almost making the Red Hulk seem like a character for a couple of pages. Great big dumb summer blockbuster fun, and I mean that in the best way possible.

THOR #621—All right, yeah, those first three months were kind of a slow start, but this one is dials-in-the-red batshit from page one. Ferry has been turning in beauty from the beginning, but he really really outdoes himself here. And Matt Hollingsworth knocks the lights out on the coloring, just unbelievable tones. Very much looking forward to whatever Fraction and crew have in store this year. See you next month with Gillen and Braithwaite and the original classic moniker.

SECRET AVENGERS #11—Solid work. Think I’ll probably take off with Brubaker, though. The principle of them just charging an extra dollar for this because we’ll pay it drives me bananas in a way it doesn’t up there on THOR. I don’t know why.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #616—But then, man, this has to be the value buy of the week. For one measly extra dollar, you get 30 pages of Brubaker doled out across the first part of the next arc and a story about why we need Cap, not to mention a one page origin beautifully rendered by chronic sequential page dodger and cover artist Travis Charest. Then, there’s an excellent 14-page story by Chaykin, followed by three more 12-pagers, written and drawn mainly by people who I haven’t heard of, all of which are really excellent and diverse takes on the old stars and stripes. This is one of the better anniversary issues in recent memory, certainly standing head and shoulders next to the excellent AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #600.

INCOGNITO: BAD INFLUENCES #5—When it rains Brubaker, it pours. Must be that Portland weather. Events come spiraling to a head as Zack Overkill finds secret redemption that no one will even consider for a second as legitimate. These guys are just masters of the craft, man. Nobody colors raygun blasts like Val Staples. Extraordinary. Then, of course, Jess Nevins turns up at the end to blow everyone out of the water with yet another eye-opening essay, this time on the pulp supervillain. I keep meaning to dive back into his LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN annotations but am afraid that I wouldn’t resurface.

KICK-ASS 2 #2—A few months later, Romita’s managed to crank another one of these out alongside his flagship gig, and it maintains the momentum from last issue just fine, picking right up with the league of fools that Dave has inspired. But only one page of Hit-Girl! That will not stand, she was practically the lead last issue. Hope we don’t have to wait another six months for #3, but will be glad to get it whenever it shows up.

GIANT-SIZE JIMMY OLSEN #1—First of all, when I pulled out the last little run of ACTIONs in which the first 40 pages of this story was serialized, I stumbled upon #892, the month before Spencer and Silva got going. And what was the feature? SUPERBOY by Lemire and Gallo. No big deal, I thought this was the preview of #1 that sold me on the series originally, but no! It’s one of those in medias res (or, really, in finis res, the arc looks to be just about over) things, 10 pages of super action go time that we haven’t even made it up to yet by #5! It kind of blew my mind to reread something I first hit seven months ago, but now with all this built-in affection for the team and story. And it still takes place in our future! Huge bonus. So yeah, still loving SUPERBOY. Which didn’t come out this week.

What we have right here is basically a spineless trade of JIMMY OLSEN back-up features, the first four of which already ran in ACTION COMICS #893-6. It’s somewhat unfortunate for the folks who actually showed up to support this in its original format, because we paid an extra dollar those months for 10 pages of this per pop. But then, to get the final three parts, we’ve got to throw down another $6 for the entire thing, only thirty pages of which are new to us. You know what, though, I don’t care, because this story is so much fun, it short-circuits petty economical concerns. Didn’t even occur to me until after the fact. Nick Spencer gives Jimmy more heart and characterization than I can about ever remember him having, RB Silva knocks it out on the sequentials, and those last couple of pages crank it so far up that the effect is pretty much breathtaking. Fine fine work, all around. A good-looking Amanda Conner cover tops off a very enjoyable self-contained seventy pages that you can recommend to anyone who wants intelligent but fun character-driven shenanigans starring Jimmy Olsen and, apparently, Allison Mack.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #13—Rafael Albuquerque returns and brings the thunder with him. And Snyder cranks it way up, as well. This book has never been anything less than great, but they really do take it up to a new level with this one. And barely anything’s happened yet! I’ve got to say, Snyder’s going to have to figure out an inversion or permutation of the trick of spending the entire first issue of a new arc setting up one situation only to have his title character show up on the last page for big Oh Noes! Even though, yeah, he still got me again this time. But one of these months, I’m going to remember and be looking for it!

DETECTIVE COMICS #875—No sign of Jock or Batman (well, mostly), but this is probably the best of Snyder’s short run yet. This one’s mainly a flashback depicting how little James, Jr. first displayed signs of the sociopath he would become. Never thought about it before now, but it makes perfect sense that the little baby that Bruce saves sans cowl at the end of YEAR ONE is still marked by the experience, tainted. Come to think of it, Gordon is standing on a bridge at the top of the issue. Do you think?!?!? Francesco Francavilla comes back with his best work yet, very reminiscent of Mazzucchelli’s lines in that all-time classic. This is a really strong done-in-one, folks.

And the L O S T nut in me can’t help noting that the dialogue in the first panel of page eight has a fifteen and not one but two eights in it, opposite an ad for ACTION COMICS #900, a monster anniversary issue whose lowest-billed writer is a guy named Damon Lindelof. And maybe that makes me crazy, but check this issue’s title.

ACTION COMICS #899—Pretty serious shit, right here. Jesus Merino drops in for amazing fill-in work to help Cornell ramp up for the home stretch next month. This one is a doozy. My favorite part is not the fanboy bait resolution to the Luthor/Braniac fight, but how Luthor, right before it gets going with Braniac, just lobs into the conversation the fact that he’s arranged for Superman to be caught in the same spacetime trap as his disciples. Almost positive that we’ve had no mention of the big guy whatsoever up until now, and that’s such a cool trick, subverting our assumptions. Just because this arc launched the same month as that JMS malarkey, I and I think most folks assumed that this ultimate Luthor story was running concurrent to Kal walking his way through what we might refer to as ANTI-STAR SUPERMAN, but no! This has nothing to do with that and Superman’s been maneuvered off-panel this entire time by the brilliant machinations of the star of our show. I heard Pete Woods is bailing out after next month, but I hope Merino or some other A-list talent holds the fort with Cornell for a long time to come, can’t imagine how wonderful mind-blowing it could get if this was a comic book starring, you know, Superman. Really really looking forward to next month.

BEST OF WEEK is about too close to call, folks! I could go to AVENGERS for fun, CAP for value and uniform excellence from many creative teams, really, either one of Snyder’s, or ACTION, or, I don’t know, those 70 pages of JIMMY OLSEN are really something, particularly if you happened to be reading them for the first time. Mm, yeah, if I pretend I hadn’t already gotten on board and then for some reason felt like gambling $6 on Olsen, yeah, that might be the one. It would be quite a lot to take in one blast.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


FF #1—Hickman’s run on FANTASTIC FOUR has been one of my favorite things coming out since the very first page, and he and Epting do not let us down over here with their sideways slide. This issue is, of course, a great jumping-on point for anyone who hasn’t been worshipping in the aisles, doling out a fair share of set-up that’s a joy to read in and of itself. I’m already loving the Parker dynamic. Nice touch giving all four members a single line of dialogue on their first page in action, you can’t fault the symmetry, there. Bringing the prophet into the fold is another bold stroke that will certainly lead to interesting developments as we head on down the road. Really really hope that they don’t reverse this and that I actually get to buy #12 of this title with Johnny still toast and no reversion to the old numbering. Great work, all around. I’m thrilled to be a part of tomorrow.

BATMAN INCORPORATED #4—This Chris Burnham is a shredder! Never heard of him before they announced his exclusive this week, but I’m a huge fan. He seems to be coming from the Pope/Grampa neck of the woods by way of Quitely. Hope he just stays on this one forever. Since we’re only two weeks since last issue and what with Batwoman and a different art team, I spent the first five pages thinking this was just a new Part One and we’d get back to Batman and El Gaucho next month. Which would have been kind of cool, though I’m sure the Internets would have howled like starving babies. But no, we just fold last month in to bookend a flashback tale of Batman romancing and losing Batwoman. Loved the retro art for that sequence. Was thinking those three horizontal panels of Robin pouting about the ubiquitousness of masks was one of the greatest things, and then that last panel of the page just blew the doors off. Too much fun with this one.

THE DARK KNIGHT #2—Okay, so it was a huge disservice to this set of splashes to read them right after the Morrison. Even so, this one felt just a bit slight. And that’s not even taking into account the rather significant gap since the first issue. The art is rocking, in that Jim-Lee-is-king-of-1991 way that Finch has totally mastered, but there’s not quite enough narrative to hang it on. I mean, what happens in this book is: Batman chases Penguin, breaks three of his limbs, Croc smashes Batman’s face into a wall, a little girl jacks the Batmobile, Jason Blood turns into Etrigan, Batman wakes up in a deathtrap, and Ragman comes out of nowhere to burn the last two pages. Staged and drawn real well. Not bad, just not a whole lot to sink your teeth into for the next two or three months.

UNCANNY X-MEN #534—And so Matt Fraction takes a bow after three years of scripting the merry mutants’ flagship. Even though this is as much as I’ve enjoyed this book since the original Claremont run, I still feel just a bit let down. Which is maybe a dick thing to say, but Fraction has done such great work over on IRON MAN with no signs of letting up whatsoever, and he’s killing it over on THOR, and let’s not get me started on CASANOVA. And I just didn’t catch fire with this run the way I wanted to. It always felt like it was building toward something, some capstone that never arrived. I wish they all could have been as good as #512, which was thunder. Alas. Goodbye, Fraction. Crush the fear.

Of course, Gillen probably did most of the actual scripting on this one, anyway. And I’m interested to see where he takes it, particularly bringing the Dodsons back on art. With him on this title and over on GENERATION HOPE, we’ve all of a sudden got that old Claremont dynamic of one dude chronicling the exploits of the senior and junior team. Except, ah, there are like thirty other mutant monthlies coming out. But still!

OSBORN #4—I’ve been enjoying this one, but the ladies cranked it way WAY up for the penultimate ride. I haven’t read but a fraction of his total appearances (pun really really not intended, but uncut in pursuit of some vague infinitely receding notion of journalistic integrity), but Kelly Sue puts the best words in Norman’s mouth that I’ve ever read, manages to capture his charisma, egotism, and instability in a single speech that gives St. Crispin’s Day a fair run for its money. Strong, strong material. Emma Rios and Jose Villarrubia continue to dominate. And just a hell of a letters page, too. A very, very enjoyable read.

CAPTAIN AMEIRCA #615.1—Brubaker pulls the trick of landing the initiative’s goal of bringing in new readers while also pushing the overall narrative forward in a very interesting way for those of us who’ve been around for the past six years. And the Breitweisers show up with a much looser style than what we saw a while back in THEATER OF WAR. All of this capped off by a very iconic cover from Daniel Acuna, and this one’s ready to move. Shouldn’t it have maybe come out in July, though?

THOR #620.1—Well, when I got home and realized that Fraction and Ferry have nothing to do with this, I was a bit pissed. It’s one thing to pump these extra issues out in the middle of an arc and have them just be standalones, like they just did with Remender’s UNCANNY X-FORCE or over on DEADPOOL. I don’t even mind changing artists, so that the regular guy or gal can maintain the monthly schedule. But I really feel like at least the writer needs to be a part of this self-proclaimed jumping-on point. I mean, is this team going to be putting out any more THOR books? This is, for all intents and purposes a fill-in issue that fills in a non-existent gap between #620 and #621. Ridiculous.

However. Casting the principle of the thing aside, is this a good comic book? No. It’s a GREAT comic book. Mark Brooks’s always superior draftsmanship has never looked better, and Abnett/Lanning show that they’re just as adept at juggling the Marvel Norse pantheon and goofy old B-villains as they have been at making the cosmic spectrum of the Marvel Universe relevant and engaging. Just a hell of an entertaining done-in-one. I’m still all gaga over Burnham across the street, but this is definitely some of the very best art this week. And it doesn’t hurt to have Sonia Oback step out on her man and color somebody else’s pages, she’s top drawer.

THE NEW YORK FIVE #3—Wood and Kelly are just on fire, here. What an alchemy between these guys. No complaints about the lettering, but you almost wish Jared K. Fletcher would have sat this one out and let Wood do it, just because that’s the only part of this that those two guys aren’t responsible for. For three American dollars, you get no ads and 32 pages of the best black and white art you’re going to see this month and maybe this entire year. And it’s all going down for our freshman quartet, some pretty serious business here, all filtered through what seems to be Wood’s most autobiographical authorial voice to date. That man loves his city. Really, really strong, can’t wait to see how it all shakes out next month. Ryan Kelly is just freaking me out, what a force. Dude should be getting the big money gigs.

GREEN LANTERN #64—I’m starting to run out of gas on this one, kind of an event fatigue thing. Nothing an issue of Hal and Ollie getting drunk and talking shit about Clark and Bruce wouldn’t clear up, but I feel like we’ve been running around the universe for like fifty issues now. Shouldn’t that ring be out of juice by now?

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #11—I’ve never heard of Daniel HBD either, but I love its name. I had a model like that, once. More great fill-in work. What a Legion Leader poll! Just beyond cool that they did that, and what a tally in the letters column. Levitz betrays no sign of flagging, is just getting his wind up.

FABLES #103—This is charging hard to trump all that’s come before as my favorite arc of the title. Wonderful, wonderful. The parallel plots of Super Team team-tup versus Mister Dark and the North Wind vs. his zephyr grandson are just about too much to handle. The trade-waiters are going to need diapers to read this thing in one sitting, I suspect. Strong.


BEST OF WEEK: NEONOMICON #4—Horrifying and executed to perfection. If this is the last page of sequentials that we ever get from Moore, it turns out to be really much more of a perfect way to go out than I ever saw coming, this whole time. Career best from Burrows. And probably Avatar, as well. Read it once by candlelight and then once with the Edisons on. Man, just that first page alone. A major work.

(reading this and finding out that SYM-BIONIC TITAN got cancelled, just a few hours apart, all of a sudden it’s the end of an era again. I hate it when that happens.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011


TINY TITANS #38—I keep meaning to bring this one up here, but I’m not reading it with the rest of these late at night and it keeps going by the wayside. This book is gold! Of course, it really really helps if you’ve got a young kid who loves superheroes and wants a dose of Robin and Superboy sans death by Joker crowbar or heat-vision rage. We’ve been picking these up since #35 was on the rack and snagging back issues on the off weeks.

Basically, this is a riff on the Titans by way of Schultz or Watterson, not unlike those loveable scamps the Lil’ Endless. The hilarity ensues when there are knowing winks to mainstream continuity for the parents. Coolest two moments that jump immediately to mind: in the Kalibak issue (oh, I forgot the funniest part of this, they’re all enrolled at Sidekick City Elementary, where Slade Wilson is the principal and Darkseid is the lunch lady. Yes.), a boom tube opens up to transport Lil’ Barda back from Apokolips and the sound effects are CRACKLE CRACKLE SPARKLE KIRBY. That was the first issue we ever read #32 and, brother, I was sold. Second best bit is guest-written by Geoff Johns and features the return of Superboy in #25, I guess around the time he returned to the main DCU as well. He flies up and they’re like, “Connor, where you been?” and he just says, “Oh . . . I was away for a while. But now I’m back!” And that’s it! The wife, not a habitual follower of Grand Corporate Narratives or Big Events just cannot understand that the reason this is still so funny after two hundred times is that the real reason he went away is this insane thread of Didio wanting to off Dick Grayson in INFINITE CRISIS but having Johns swerve at the last minute when the threatened fan boycott became too fearsome a thing to ignore and so poor Connor had to die this gruesome death in a mini-series known for over the top takedowns, yes, still looking at you, Pantha’s arm (or was it Wildebeest’s head? Or both?), and then the left field convoluted way that Johns brought him back in the FC: LEGION mini that I still never really wrapped my brain around, I mean, he was dead and then he wasn’t, it didn’t matter if he laid there for a millennium, I think? but in the end I just shrugged it off and said welcome back, plus all this not even counting the years of mourning and Tim kissing Cassie, just the whole deal compressed into “I was away for a while. But now I’m back!” such an elegant summation. Pull up a chair at the breakfast table, kid, there is a bowl of Aqua-Ohs with your name on it.

Wow, haven’t even talked about this issue. There’s an Aquacow in it. That’s all you need to know. It is a precious thing, and you need it in your life.

FEAR ITSELF: THE BOOK OF THE SKULL—Well, any diehard who’s been hanging with Brubaker since he first took out the Red Skull in one of the better debut issues of the last decade and who was planning on giving this Big Event a miss would probably do well to at least gamble four bones on this badboy, as it turns out to pretty much be #67 of Bru’s run, the bulk of which is a flashback to some rocking Dubba Dubba Two Invaders action that apparently sets the stage for this year’s line-wide crossover. And, you know, it’s a romp. Scot Eaton turns in dynamic work that’s cranked up from what I remember of him, those American heroes are thick. I enjoyed this and found the reveal to be eyebrow-raising enough to crank up my expectations for Fraction/Immonen/Martin’s upcoming core title that much more.

THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #502—This creative team juggernaut just rolls right on. Pepper does the heavier lifting on the action front while Tony and Otto talk it out for the most part, though the latter is probably more compelling, just because the characterization through dialogue is so spot-on. Fraction’s really locking into the rhythms now, every beat falling just where it ought to. I bitch about $4 cover prices a lot, but when it’s this consistently good, I’ll keep showing up every month.

GENERATION HOPE #5—Team Phonogram! With Matt Wilson’s gorgeous hues even along for the ride. Would that he and McKelvie could always be aboard. The only drawback of this issue was that it really just hammered home how much I miss these guys’ initial collaboration. This was, I guess, Gillen’s first baseball issue. Not that they actually played their equivalent, a first-person shooter or something, but this was the sit-around-and-rock-some-pinball-characterization issue, mainly Hope bouncing off the elder crew in interesting ways that can’t usually happen when they’re fighting the mutant menace of the month. This book remains a strong entry in the merry Marvel tradition of new mutant titles.

X-FACTOR #217—And PAD pulls in the ever-lovin’ mighty mayor of New York City as an engaging guest star/target, and heck if old JJJ isn’t as engaging and relatable as he’s ever been. PAD dials the rabid Spider-hate way back and does his best to make us care about one of our friendly neighborhood wallcrawler’s oldest antagonists. And man, I can’t speak highly enough of the art. Gorgeous work, all around. Then we get just a hell of a double cliffhanger, made much more ominous by the reveal of next issue’s cover. Still doing everything for you that 22 pages ought to be monthly at just $2.99, folks!

MORNING GLORIES #8—So yeah, this arc definitely looks like it’s going to straight up go the L O S T route and have flashbacks about one individual character per issue, revealing information pertaining to events as they unfold. And if you think I just have a disease, tell me that isn’t Hurley at the bottom of Page 12 firing Hunter from Mr. Cluck’s (of course, we all know that Hurley was never manager, he went straight from quitting as fry cook to winning the lottery to buying the entire franchise, but this is clearly an alternate reality, anyway). Anyway, yeah, this is yet another intriguing issue, inching things along while implying a grand plan for the overarching narrative. Will Nick Spencer’s exclusive with Marvel and subsequent corporate work dilute or supercharge the intensity of his work on this title? I’m hoping the latter.

THE UNWRITTEN #23—Well, of course, it shouldn’t be strange that all kinds of madness gets thrown down in #23 of this particular title. Eminently logical and sensible reveal as to what the whale really is, along with being maybe my favorite splash of the entire series thus far. And then we even get a nice little nod to the Savage/Falk THE PRINCESS BRIDE dynamic on that last page. We are all the consumers of story. And this is a really, really good one. Because, not only is it about all of them, but in the end, it’s about us, the ones who perform the alchemy that change the words or words and pictures on a page into so much more.

BRIGHTEST DAY#22—I, ah, thought this was running four more issues after this, so was kind of freaked out that so much was going down. But looks like #24 is it. I bet it’s a pretty big damn finish, this has been the best weekly since 52, with the art even a step up. Looking forward to seeing how it all comes down.

ADVENTURE COMICS #524—No huge bombshells in this issue, just solid characterization from Paul Levitz and top-drawer draftsmanship from Phil Jiminez. Enjoyable, if not particularly flattening. I think I sequenced it wrong.


CASANOVA: GULA #3—Took me exactly 1:08 to make it through, though it must be said that I had an omega humdinger of an idea about five pages in that must have taken me out of commission for at least ten or twenty minutes. It is unreal how good this book is! Zephyr’s massacre is even more gorgeous than I remembered, due in no small part to the added tones, I’m sure. It is a shame how it broke down, though, with the doubled-up issues. New readers didn’t have a month off in between #12 and #13 to chew over the absolute carnage that Cass’s sister wreaks. Which is a shame, what with all the reversal that goes down the next issue, now just a few pages later. That’s basically reaching as hard as I can to say anything less than superlative about the glorious eruption that is this book.

I’ve only read #14 the one time. It was one of the best single issue hits of my life, to the point that I have locked myself out of even opening the fucking thing back up, because to do it again, to really do it right, you would have to now be blasting the mix, one song per page, get that shit all synched up right, but to get the list, right, you’d have to open the book up and go through it page by page. But I don’t want to do that, see all those pages again, until everything is just perfect. So up until now, I’ve chicken-egged myself out of the experience altogether. And, and I think I remember the business, the heavy shit, the flip twist reveal that makes one reconsider the entire GULA run in a new light. But I really really want to just grab #14 out of my longbox and rip through it. But haven’t touched the initial run since we got going over here at Marvel, found all these pretty colors. I hope I can wait.

Want to rip my jaw off over the idea of new material, at this point. If I had to go down to one title a month, this would be it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


GIANT-SIZE ATOM SPECIAL #1—Was surprised rereading all of the first parts that there were actually six installments out, felt more like four, but yeah, 60 pages leading up to this big finale, format necessitated by Holding the Line! Well, not since FOX crapped out the final four episodes of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT opposite some Olympic opening ceremonies have I had such a good time. Lemire and company deliver glorious Silver Age tones that make you hope that an ongoing is imminent. It certainly turned into a pilot episode at the end there, out of nowhere. “See, Dad, think I’ll stay with you, get m’old job back.” You tricked us, Jeff Lemire!

CAPTAIN SWING & THE ELECTRICAL PIRATES OF CINDERY ISLAND #3—All right, the last issue of this came out so long ago that I was in New Orleans last October and made it into Crescent City Comics and saw #2 and couldn’t believe that it had come out/it had been so long, etc, then started reading it that night and realized that I had already picked it up when it came out so long before even then that I had forgotten about it. This was in October, remember. So, now, here we are. Well worth the wait. Ellis and Cacero drop the hammer on this one. As much as I enjoyed Ellis’s ASTONISHING romp, it’s quite apparent that he shines most in this element, tightly compressed minis in which he dreams up and compacts enough premise, plot and characterization that they would translate quite well to several other media (this and particularly IGNITION CITY of later. I mean, think about it. DEADWOOD is gone. What if we had an hourly IGNITION ongoing?). This and NECRONOMICON lately, man. AVATAR is putting out some quality. Still haven’t hit CROSSED but just dreading the hell out of Lapham’s upcoming CALIGULA. I mean, God.

NEW AVENGERS #10—What a wonderful world we are living in when Bendis and Chaykin throwing this down opposite Deodato pushing the present tense forward just as hard as he can is not even a big deal, just a monthly? Crushing work, again. I tell you, this title.

WEIRD WORLDS #3—I stumbled upon TIMEWARP, this old DC anthology that debuted right as ’79 kicked into ’80, a kind of Yank bimonthly approximation of 2000 AD, with Kaluta on covers and eight short stories by Levitz, Dematteis, Chaykin, Ditko, Garcia-Lopez, and a bunch of other talented guys I never heard of otherwise. This series reminds me of good old TIMEWARP. Beautiful work from all parties. But, still, Ordway on Lobo is really freaking me out. Terrific anthology.

SUPERBOY #5—This really is everything a monthly should be. It occurs to me reading this that a lot of the top Marvel books seem like they might read better in trade (thinking Brubaker CAP, Fraction’s IRON MAN and UNCANNY and—until the last couple of issues—this first THOR arc, and all Bendis’s AVENGERS stuff), I mean, the beats just seem geared for it. Whereas something like this, really all of these last three come across as more satisfying single reads. Like, I wouldn’t want to wait for the trades, because, not even counting waiting, you would only get one 60-90 minute blast of goodness, as opposed to getting the singles doled out one at a time and really getting to savor them. But this issue, we get the first Superboy/Kid Flash race, an idea so head-smackingly obvious, you can’t believe that it hasn’t happened before now. The character beats between the two pals are pitch-perfect as ever. Simon and Sunjan pretty much get the month off, and Lori’s two and a half pages don’t quite earn the space on their own but, counter to what I said at the top here, I suspect that they’ll make more sense when we see where her plot takes her. Still one of my favorite monthlies five issues in. Jamie Grant is a god.

BATMAN INCORPORATED #3—I didn’t realize that it had been like ten weeks or something since the last issue of this came out. Yanick Paquette told me that he just signed on for a very few issues (while thumbing through the originals of the squid fight that opens #2. “Does this look like monthly art to you?” “No, sir, it does not.”) and that #4 was already being drawn by someone else (this, the last week of January), so maybe we’re back onto a monthly schedule now. Still, though, I hate to see the Batbook relaunch stall out pretty much out of the gate, what with Finch still way behind on the second freaking issue, the big gap here, and BATWOMAN desolicited until further notice (I guess I should go ahead and thumb through that preview?). Not the best follow-up to finally beating Marvel in December, good people! Let’s talk about the third chapter of BATMAN INCORPORATED, though, friends. The first five pages build the tension very well, read like a completely different and new title, which really lends itself well to the international flavor of this book. And then they blow the doors off for that two-page splash on 6 and 7. Also dug the lowercase Spanish captions for Don Vargas’s origin. You don’t need to be fluent to translate “Extravagante! Irresponsable! Enigmático!” as pretty much Argentinian Bruce Wayne. And that scene with the two guys dropping the secret identity machismo, perfect. Paquette’s body language of Wayne dancing the tango puts it way over the top, though. Then we pretty much just get deathtrap set-up and out. Drowning three blind kids in sewage is a pretty messed up concept if you go far enough to imagine what those last few moments must be like from their POV. Yep, all twenty pages of this are pretty much perfect for me, as usual, don’t even mind super-talented chameleon Pere Perez blending right in on pages 16 and 17. Give that man his own entire issue already, Editorial!


BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN & ROBIN #21—I’m as stunned as you are that this is able to trump the latest offering from Morrison and company, but you know what, it just pulled a little bit more love out of my heart. Possibly because it is such a dead-on continuation of the premise that Morrison/Quitely first set up back in issues #1-3 of this title before moving on with the rest of the longform Morrison plot juggernaut. The chemistry between Dick and Damian is just really tough to top, every beat crafted to perfection by Tomasi. And Gleason is on fire, what a spread on pages 4 and 5! And, hey, page 2. And he even riffs on those first arc Quitely splashes on page 14. Plus, just personal fanboy preference here, like every other word of this thing isn’t, but to me the ultimate answer to the Bruce vs. Batman Who Is He Really? question can be found with a shot of dude down in the cave, costume on but cowl off on a microscope or combing databases or just thinking, doing the work, being a detective. Was so pumped to get even a couple of minutes worth of that in the first Nolan/Bale flick, and it just slammed the whole thing home even more to get two pages of that with Dick, Damian, and Alfred in the cave. To say nothing of, “News flash, Pennyworth . . .” Just too great. DC knocked it out of the park this week.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


BEST OF WEEK: JOE THE BARBARIAN #8—Well, after six months without, how could it not be? Not even counting, let’s just jump to the last page, and there’s only that perfect last shot scored by three pieces of dialogue: 1) the last actual spoken line of in-story dialogue, which is of course total satisfaction on both narrative and suckerpunch-you-in-the-heart levels. First punctuation. 2) THE END. Second punctuation. That should do it. But, no. Not like it’s even in the bottom right, or halfway down to kind of guide the reader on out forever away, but right there, really crowding the space of the previous caption is 3) SEAN MURPHY. The artist tags his work. It invariably drives me insane when even genius folk like Risso or Guera just sign a page in the middle of the book, the original piece of art for sale, I totally get that and barely even care after the fact, but that first time through at least, if not second fourth and fifth, when it still feels like it belongs to me, then I really detest the conduit messing with the narrative flow even more than the editors dropping in an ad at the wrong page, because you can almost forgive them for just trying to stay above the bottom line, but it’s somehow so much more unforgivable when the guy or gal throws down all those beautiful lines and then doesn’t stop and has to go all the way back to scrawling their own special letters onto a wall, trying to make it theirs. This book. What I’m trying to say is, 100% of previous experience leads me to believe that the written climax of this breathtaking rapturous ride turning out to be dude tagging his shit, that should have driven me crazy. But it was the tenth perfect landing of the night! And yes no now we’re really done! In a word, triumphant.

I was so on the fence to open or close with this, am flattened an hour later, also just starting to wonder how it would have gone if this was the closer while simultaneously bemoaning impressions of subsequent reads. Onward!

But, just, in case we don’t make it back here tonight. How cool the names in the credit box still did not change. Morrison & Murphy. Klein & Stewart, which, who wants to argue with me that those are the best living embodiments of their chosen vocation? Leaving the ultimately named and summarily terminated Pornsak Pinchote and Karen Berger with sole editor credits, and I really relish the notion that even after that clearly sharp talent scout was let go because of corporate merger hijinx, the #1 used no proxies and got down dirty to ensure that every one of these pages was the very best that the imprint has to offer, which, yeah, put this one and DAYTRIPPER up against anything, ever. And that’s just lately. The greatest.

I haven’t been transparent enough. I got that bittersweet series finale gut sad when I found out this was coming out this week. I really, really adored this story and champion it as a shining example of the medium. I loved it and loved it, and after six months of waiting, the last 32 pages could not have done more to destroy me or been more perfect and I can’t wait to dive back in later, but always remembering these first golden dips.

But it’s still Wednesday.

HOUSE OF MYSTERY #35—It all went down. A definitive punctuation to not only the arc but also the first act or maybe call it movement of Sturges’s lumbering leviathan. Final words here that cause great concern, as well. First time for me that the main story crushed the embedded one, but maybe that’s because it wasn’t actually embedded or Sturges was cribbing too hard from Hitchcock or he’s the sick fuck after all or I just took a great big swig of wine before turning the page and thought of nothing, gave myself over entirely to what was next, which turned out to be the only way to outsmart the trick.

THE BOYS #52—Double fried. Apparently, now all seemingly tangential mini series are completely indispensible chunks of major character development. Jings! That said, putting together exactly how it went down with Hughie + the other guy from the previous arc was a major component of the enjoyment. Not to be outdone by the gratuitous slab of Butcher beefcake this time out. This line of dialogue refers to him! Recognize!

INCOGNITO: BAD INFLUENCES #4—I love how Phillips’s style seems to be degrading, becoming bogged down with mid-sixties Kirby workload or something. The energy of it versus those languid noir angles in CRIMINAL, both perfect in their places. The panel about “The moon and the darkness laugh in harmony and call me a fool…” is some pretty perfect sequential alchemy.

JOHN BYRNE’S NEXT MEN #4—Finally a rerun of Sawyer losing Juliet down the shaft that really and truly doubles as insane mindfuck. Page 4, panel 3 gives you so much perfect Byrne robotics that you’d be a fool to ask for more. It’s more fun to watch this man lose his mind than can be said for Frank Miller and/or most every other folk.

X-FACTOR #216—Another notch in the belt of this storied run and, looks like, the only Marvel worth buying this week. So choice. This girl really is firing, she is.

BRIGHTEST DAY #21—That was really really good. I am left puzzling over the image, just barely related/inspired from the content of this issue, of what a Trigonacerratops a’Rexasaurus looks like. Possibly red with antlers, methinks. (also, it is late, and I read the last issue of the TINY TITANS/ARCHIES crossover more times than I ought to’ve, seems)

GREEN LANTERN #63—Johns excels his continuity-eating-itself expertise into heretofore unimagined realms, as, based on the last two issues, Krona basically imagined and actualized everything in the Green Lantern mythos. Not counting, of course, his actual cohorts the Guardians of the Universe or himself in the original Crisis. Not yet. Next up, one suspects, Krona’s heretofore unrealized and retconned contributions toward the new genesis of the speed force. Wasn't this cover just a splash page from last issue? Has anyone noticed? Isn't that a problem?