Thursday, May 26, 2011


Strong week.

FF #4—So, Barry Kitson is about as good of a fill-in artist as you could ever score. I actually got to the end of the second page and was like, Steve who? Totally blanked on the regular guy’s last name, which seems should maybe be the omega-level goal of any serious pinchhitter. The plot thickens to great hilarity at the Anti-Reed council. That page about Diablo liking those Reeds is priceless. Also the second last-panel-no-dialogue facial expression that Kitson just nails. Cool to see Alex Power nonchalantly suited up in the Gee uniform, after all this time. Still really really loving this. Hickman Hickman, hyperbole3.

THE MIGHTY THOR #2—A gorgeous issue that’s pretty much set-up for the slugfest to follow. Who will win? Who SHOULD win? Debate amongst yourselves.

UNCANNY X-MEN #537—Yeah, man, Gillen keeps nailing the tone of this, charting a nice line from Morrison’s run on NEW X MEN to Whedon/Cassaday’s romp on ASTONISHING and straight on over here, by way of Ellis and Fraction. Strong talent. The Dodsons continue to draw the beautiful. And oh noes! How will we get out of THIS ONE??!??

CAPTAIN AMERICA #618—Interesting structure here that I might or might not have remarked upon last month. The book costs $3.99, except instead of serving up the standard Marvel 22 pages, Brubaker drops three interrelated stories here, two six-pagers with art by Chris Samnee that bookend 18 pages of Bucky with pencils by Guice. Given the global scale of the current arc, it really works. It’s not looking good for poor ol’ Buck, but Natasha’s officially gone rogue, so I don’t think we should sweat it too much.

KIRBY: GENESIS #0—I’m about seven months into a serious Kirby bender, so have got to be the ideal demographic for this, meaning there’s almost no way to be objective about it. I mean, give me The King at his drawing board smoking his pipe on Page One and I’m pretty much yours, you can even keep the krackle down to a minimum at that point. This isn’t as much a single story as an overview, an overture, calling out the introductory themes of all this cosmic insanity that’s going to be coming our way here in the next little bit. And right here on the page, it promises to be quite a ride.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #15—This arc’s leaving me a bit cold. The art is, as ever, stunning, but Snyder’s not really plugging me into the characters as much as I’ve grown to expect him to. That’s all right, keep holding the line at $2.99!

GREEN LANTERN #66—I’m digging this about as much as someone who’s skipping the other two tie-ins could be. Pretty rocking Chapters 1, 4, and 7. It doesn’t hurt that I just started crashing through Kelly/Mahnke’s excellent post-Waid/Hitch run on JLA and am finding interesting alignments in what Mahnke was doing then compared to where he’s at now, post-FINAL CRISIS SUPERMAN BEYOND 3D. It’s a shame about Mogo. I hear.

ACTION COMICS #901—I just have no idea what went wrong. Who the hell is Kenneth Rocafort? Why did editorial think that he was the call to follow Pete Woods? Did Paul Cornell actually generate this arc? Reign of the Doomsdays? It smacks of editorial mandate. And is terrible. Not since Bill Mantlo took over ALPHA FLIGHT from Byrne has a title’s quality made such an insane plummet. Horrific. I pretty much want to bail out on this. Can’t believe after a year of looking forward to Cornell writing Superman, this is the result. Things were going so well just two months ago.

DETECTIVE COMICS #877—Yeah, Snyder and Jock continue to kill it. Not much to add. This is a Batman comic for Morrison haters. And lovers! That’s pretty much all of us.

BEST OF WEEK: STRANGE ADVENTURES #1—Well, I thought Pope had a story in here, too, so that was a shame, but other than that, just really loved this issue. Eight bucks, nine stories in seventy pages with a single ad amongst them. An anthology in which every story pulls its own weight. Reminds me of that old TIMEWARP series DC used to put out in the very early 80s, just good trashy done-in-eight-pages sci-fi. The 2000AD model, I guess. I’ve never heard of quite a few of these folks, and they all did a fine job. Peter Milligan’s story came with the creepy. Lemire, of course, brings the fucking thunder to Ultra the Multi-Alien, gives the impression of pretty much exploring the character to his/their fullest potential, or at least maximum emotional weight, in eight pages. I mean, I was loving this character when it was over and can’t think of a single thing to do with him that doesn’t simply diminish what Lemire accomplishes here. Kevin Colden’s “The Post-Modern Prometheus” was fantastic. Cornell’s “Saucer Country” was, interesting? Is there more to come? It definitely leaves you hanging in an uncomfortable way. Which very well might have been the point. And “Spaceman.” Azzarello is certainly a master of inhabiting his characters’ dialect. And does not care if the reader has no idea what is going on. Was the driver on Mars? One of the 17 kids engineered by Dr. Franklinstein? And isn’t that CNN newsanchor Megan Dietrich? I mean, Risso is a master. We all know that he can draw more than one female character. There are many, many women in 100 BULLETS. It’s odd that he went with this look. OR IS IT IN-STORY GENIUS? Tune in next issue! Or, wait. There's a next issue, right?

Thursday, May 19, 2011


TINY TITANS #40—Balthazar’s version of Croc is probably my favorite redesign of any of the four or five dozen DCU characters that populate this book, so getting an All-Croc issue is a very good thing. My kid was pissed, though, she’s got all 28 faces on the first page memorized and loves to bust them out every chance she gets, and when they up and added that fifth row of Batcow and Marvel family members, she did not appreciate it in the slightest. Probably have them down pretty soon, though. Can’t decide if it’s cooler that this book includes a character called Batcow or that they actually feature he/she/it on the front page right underneath Robin.

LATER . . . .

AVENGERS #13—Bendis pulls a hell of a trick, here, one that you’ve really got to step back away from to fully appreciate. He just straight-up zooms out from the oral histories he’s been rocking as backmatter since the relaunch and crashes those interviews into the main narrative. So, yeah, all of a sudden, it’s Bendis talking heads. And I know that’s a gripe with some people, but he does it so so well, I love it. Just crackling characterization. Of note, too, is the way that he fractures the interviews, spacing them out over years to excellent dramatic effect, oh, there’s the Wasp, these are all taking place pre-Secret Invasion, but then, no, they’re suddenly talking about the first issue of FEAR ITSELF. And what fanboy’s heart doesn’t beat faster at the sparks flying across the room between Hawkeye and Spider-Woman? Bachalo’s cartoony style is a great fit for all these interviews, he does a fine job of giving everyone distinctive expressions. So, yeah, even though the last two-page splash we pretty much already saw last month written by Fraction, even though they even drop the 22nd page from this issue and still charge $4, I’d say it’s still worth it. Maybe it’s the eight pages’ worth of 12-panel layouts. But Bendis makes it all sing. I mean, this entire thing is, by definition, set-up, there is no payoff whatsoever, but it’s so well done, I’m just enjoying the ride, and more engaged with the event than I was before, even.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #504—Fraction gives us maybe the best page of Tony and Pepper yet. Larroca continues showing up with the goods, as well, though something about D’Armata’s choices when it comes to coloring faces is putting me off. It’s like Tony’s wearing rouge or something. And it’s been going on for a little while, now. Regardless, the team lays it on thick and it doesn’t look like Paris will ever be the same. Sacre bleu!

GENERATION HOPE #7—I’m still really digging on this, loving the tone of the team dynamic Gillen’s got between these kids. Really reminds me of early Claremont NEW MUTANTS, which I mean in the best possible way. Espin got just a bit too cartoony for my taste on the last few pages, but it wasn’t a dealbreaker. Also a fan of these short arcs. On to the next thing.

X-FACTOR #219—Oh, Lupacchino, never never go. Ride this crazy train out with Peter David just as long as you both can make it. Digging on the return of silly to the recap, but that’s even trumped by the explanation for Jameson’s hair, after all this time.

FABLES #105—Ha, that cover is a hoot. Probably the first time anyone’s written the words “after Bogdanove,” I’m thinking. It certainly set the tone for a great deal more tension during Bigby’s confrontation with his father than it turned out was warranted. It really feels like all of these creators are in it to win up to #250 and beyond.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #13—Mm, I still can’t decide if I want to hang on to these. They aren’t bad, they’re just not crushing me. Mon-El getting the ring is really the only development that I care much about, and that’s not what you want when you’ve got a cast of like three dozen. Will I hang out through #16? Stay tuned!

BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM #1—This fell just the least bit flat for me, but that’s pretty much because I got confused and thought Sean Murphy was working with Snyder on this instead of the AMERICAN VAMPIRE mini. And Snyder didn’t even do dialogue, as it turns out! Still, this Higgins chap turned in fine work and I was all right with Trevor McCarthy’s somewhat mangafied approach. I like the idea of exploring the secret history of Gotham. If everyone could be made to give such a shit about Opal City, well, you know, half of your work is done for you, here. Only speedbump is it looks like they’re bringing Hush in at the end, there? Not the bait for me, my friends, but I guess I’ll ride this one out anyway, since they finally kicked me off of BATMAN & ROBIN by bringing in Winick. You know, not just that, I think I still would have given it a shot, but not Winick writing Jason Todd, nuh-uh, not going to happen. Jason Todd’s still dead, you know. The Joker killed him. It was a really good story, and it happened.


BEST OF WEEK: ROCKETEER ADVENTURES #1—Good lord. Quite the devastation of talent. Cassaday & Martin lead off with a sublime eight pages, short on plot but long on wow, that perfectly set the tone for the character’s first time out while not under the watchful eye and steady hand of his creator. Of course, it’s a huge blast of wonderful to have the PLANETARY team reunited, with my man Johnny Cassaday picking up scripting duties like he can direct serial television episodes or something. Pacing was perfect, though there was no uppercut, nothing about these pages shocked me, but it just really did a fine job of nailing that timeless or classic tone that Stevens had down pat, the RAIDERS guy channeling perfect 40s pulp in the 80s.

Oh, man, and I thought Mignola was doing an entire story, not a pin-up. So, that was kind of a drag. But, great page, of course.

Then the Allreds convinced me to pull the trigger on that gigantic MADMAN ATOMICA thing for this Christmas. Am a huge fan of Mike’s askew hand-lettering. Guy is such a master at this point, once Cliff took to the air, seems only this one mind could have given that interpretation. Dude has got to be a fan of Brendan McCarthy.

Oh, but then that last one just sneaks in and gives it to you on the mouth. It was hard, reading it, not to picture what the previous art teams were thinking about while going through those final pages, just punching the air all freaked out. As much as I loved the first two stories, the structure of this thing just smashes them all to pieces, and then virtuoso Mike Kaluta and good old Dave Stewart really you can’t say anything but mop the floor with all the beautiful pages we’ve made it through. Just an insane level of detail in these pages, completely breathing the story to life. Perfection.

This was perfectly sequenced. The list of next issue’s contributor’s freak me out almost more than anything. Unless Joe Casey really hits that VENGEANCE thing out of the park, which I’m not particularly expecting, this one right here is already looking like a lock for best mini-series of the year. Just astonishing stuff.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


FF #3—That invitation is a hoot. Hickman is still firing on all cylinders with this one. The only slight misfire is trotting old Uatu out, but that’s only because Bendis and Fraction have done the same thing in the past couple of months. If he shows up every month, you get diminishing returns on us believing that this is an oh noes! very big deal, fellas. Glad to get follow-up to what went on with Val and the alternate Reeds. “Sol’s anvil” is just a hell of an epithet, perfect for Reed. I’m a little bit confused on the timeline, we start out in the present and have the council, Val finishes her story, then we flash to MONTHS LATER, with the various Reeds running around setting up all manner of tomfoolery, then we cut to NOW, with three of the Reeds who were just running around wondering where the fourth Reed is from the last scene. Seems like NOW would be a jump back to the present after we got a glimpse of what’s to come. Regardless, this book is still a hell of a ride.

FLASH #12—Out of time, indeed. I just have no idea what they think they’re doing here. The first six issues was a great reboot, setting up a premise that could have lasted for years by taking Barry back to his forensics roots with a healthy dash of Steve Rogers-style man-out-of-time pathos. Six issues later, we’re cancelling and doing another reboot? Why should we invest in something that’s just going to be tossed aside in a few months? Which brings me to . . .

FLASHPOINT #1—This seems like a really ill-conceived event. Another watered down riff on Age of Apocalypse-style alternate universe hijinx. Just dumping an extra two dozen titles onto the rack for a few months does not seem like the way to go, I imagine most folks are just going to blow off the majority. There wasn’t a single hook in this issue to make me want to go track down what’s going on with would-be tyrants Aquaman or Wonder Woman or even Lois Lane behind enemy lines. So, clearly Zoom changed everything. I guess? We’ve certainly been given enough information in the FLASH monthly to assume that, but it would have been much more entertaining to get an Oshit moment analogous to when Legion fried Xavier instead of Magneto. I can definitely hang with five issues of this core title drawn by the always great Andy Kubert, but I’m afraid the tie-ins are going to just bomb.

THE UNWRITTEN #25—The story continues. Carey & Gross keep it entertaining. The endgame for this should be pretty great, whenever they get around to it.

JOHN BYRNE’S NEXT MEN #6—What is Byrne doing? I’m still enjoying these singles, but I have no idea what kind of a master plan he has for this. Yet another wtf last page, which I’m coming to expect, now.

NEW AVENGERS #12—Not too much to say about this, it’s more of the same. Deodato, Chaykin, Deodato, Chaykin. A bit stylistically incongruous, but they’re getting it done. Huh, just realizing that there was no oral history for the first time since these relaunched. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bendis just finally couldn’t keep up with the word count, he has really been pumping it out here, this past year.

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #623—Marvel pulled some serious alchemy here, taking the solid work JMS/Coipel were apparently doing and teasing that out into two series that are both quite compelling. Gillen gives us a Loki that remains true to the character, but who we can actually root for, no mean feat. And Braithwaite/Arreola’s art is lush and breathtaking. It seems like this book should have gotten more of a push this month, in particular. Maybe an initiative like buy it with Fraction’s THOR and save a dollar or something. Very entertaining. And hopefully yet another small step down the path that will end with Icon putting out PHONOGRAM vol. 3. Dare to dream, Wednesday night masses!

BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN INCORPORATED #6—By my count, this is the fifty-sixth issue of Morrison’s run that has spanned six years and counting and launched two new series. And just when it doesn’t seem like it could get any better, they find a way to blow the roof off and jet into the stratosphere. This monster team-up issue functions like a mission statement in action for the notion of Bruce running around setting up a global franchise for his anti-crime brand. The first five issues, as enjoyable as they were, now seem like nothing but set-up, we’ve arrived, the pieces have finally been set in motion and the game is afoot. The pacing on this thing is masterful, with several single-page scenes, giving us eleven different scenes splashed across the twenty-page issue. Which makes sense, is really the only way we can begin to grasp the challenge of setting up an infrastructure of this scale, one acolyte at a time. And the new character designs are intriguing. There isn’t as of yet a clear breakout star that you’ve just got to know everything about, but there are several cool spins on the old dark avenger archetype, and we haven’t yet met a new character that I wouldn’t happily check out in their own title, provided the creative team was up to snuff. It would be cool if Morrison would jam out a six-issue anthology of done-in-ones, each starring a different new character. Like Marvel did with YOUNG AVENGERS a couple years back. Cornell or Casey would also be good go-to guys for that, they’re the only two I’ve seen who haven’t fumbled Morrison’s ideas out of the gate.

And Chris Burnham. I really enjoyed his work in #4, and he does an even better job here, has got a very well-developed hyper-detailed sensibility that gives the pages a European look that’s a great fit for the scope of the story.

Simply put, I could not have enjoyed this issue more. There isn’t a wasted beat, panel, or line, everything packed in tight as can be in service of rocketing the narrative forward, and it is a thrill.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


FEAR ITSELF #2—The art’s gorgeous. The story’s still falling a bit flat for me. Maybe that’s because, again, any serious development that happens in this issue is already revealed ahead of time. The White House getting blown up was on the Coming Next Month page last month, and the Hulk and Juggernaut getting possessed is on this month’s cover. And, granted, these aren’t really even like insane developments, as far as events like this go, but they were the craziest things that happened in the issue, and they had already been revealed to me, even though I go out of my way to not run into details like that ahead of time. I’m still thinking the back end of this is going to be pretty crazy, but Fraction hasn’t given us enough yet in the first two issues to make us care. Dude has just set such an unreasonable standard for himself with CASANOVA. But we must hold him to it!

THE BOYS #54—Man, no one makes an expositional infodump conversation more riveting than Ennis. What happens in this issue? The founder of The Boys continues his conversation with Hughie, connects some dots and fills in a few more blanks. That’s it. This entire arc looks to be pretty much just this one conversation, but Ennis is such a great writer that he makes it compelling. No mean feat. It’s kind of disingenuous to put Robertson’s name in the titles on the cover when his only contribution to this book is that cover.

HOUSE OF MYSTERY #37—Why is the paper grade so much more terrible in this book? I don’t really mind, just wondering. As usual, I had a little bit more fun with the story-within-a-story than the main narrative. Which is so great, you never know what you’re going to get with this title, but it’s always quality.

WEIRD WORLDS #4 & 5—Well, they forgot to pull #4 for me last month, so we get two for the price of two this month! No real surprises this time out, I continue to be impressed with the overall quality of the writing and art on this anthology. Ordway’s just killing those Lobo pages and Maguire’s Tanga is a lot of fun.

ADVENTURE COMICS #526—Mm, I think I might be dropping the Levitz Legion books. They’re not bad, just not terribly compelling either, and there are two of them. Not really caring about any of the characters. The past year has fallen short of the bar set by Levitz/Giffen back in the day and even the altitude where Waid and Kitson were cruising for a couple years in the early part of the 00’s.

SUPERBOY #7—We need to get Gallo back on art. Marco Rudy does an interesting job playing with a few different styles, but the overall effect comes off a bit haphazard, it doesn’t really cohere. Though we can probably find this week’s coolest moment right here, future Tim decking future amnesiac Conner in a shot that’s a straight homage to Miller’s classic THE DARK KNIGHT FALLS. And in other stripmining-the-80s news, Lemire brings back a permutation of the Black Mercy from that old Alan Moore SUPERMAN annual that came out twentysomething years ago. Hey, if you’re going to crib some ideas for a DC superhero book, those two guys are where you want to go. Come back next month, Pier Gallo! I want my book back.


No BEST OF WEEK, it was a pretty average pile this time out. But, hey! This marks the one year anniversary of this blog. Every week, without fail, bringing you the reviews that fill up your heart and make light shoot out of your eyes and, before long, all of your pores. Thank you for taking part in Wednesday Night Mass.