Wednesday, August 31, 2011


FLASHPOINT #5—Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope, and Alex Sinclair have done a fine job throughout this series throwing down some beautiful pages, but Geoff Johns’s beats were never really dialing in for me in the month-by-month. I jammed #1-4 right before it was time to hit the midnight sale and the entire thing read much better in one sitting. And then the fifth issue cranked things up splendidly. I dug and completely bought the whole thing being Barry’s fault in the first place, which of course was laid out for us right there at the end of FLASH #12, it just seemed somewhat nonsensical and anticlimactic at the time. But now that conversation with Iris is so great. “Just give me one more day.” Huh, just grasping the phrasing of that, could Johns have intentionally been thumbing his nose at Spidey/MJ/Quesada before setting up his very own continuity reboot? I’ve been real curious to see how we were going to get from old DCU to Flashpoint continuity to new DCU, and while it’s nowhere near as elegant as a Flash Fact, I suppose it will do. Barry broke time trying to save his mom, caused Flashpoint, Future Barry went back to stop himself from triggering the change, but wound up summoning some sort of temporal guide mystery woman and inadvertently fusing the DC, Wildstorm and Vertigo timelines together, because they all used to be one? It is a bit of a stretch, but what the hell. Moore first mined out Vertigo ideaspace on a DC paycheck, eighteen years later Jim Lee contracted to publish America’s Best Comics and then DC bought him, so there’s your connective tissue between the three. The only hiccup that this issue gave me was that letter. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all about Bruce pulling a win where family is concerned, but along with the screwed-up timeline of his own mini-series, I just can’t see when Dr. Wayne had time to pen a heartfelt missive to his parallel universe son who didn’t get shot. In transit somewhere, on the way from the Beck house, sure, it just strains credulity a bit much for me. And I am all about the running-so-fast-you-change-the-past. Oh, well. I guess this Batman had a plan for everything, too.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #1—Of course the art is gorgeous. I mean, really well done. And the story’s engaging enough on a shallow level. Half of the people on the cover meet for the first time and Vic Stone scores a touchdown. I completely understand why Johns went this route, the kind of decompressed approach that served Bendis and Millar so well ten years ago in the first year of their Ultimate runs. But, good-looking art aside, it reads to me very much as a lowest common denominator reboot origin. Not as much The Secret Origin of the Justice League as Justice League Begins. Really really courting those non-readers who show up for the Nolan flicks. It’s slick as hell and the banter back and forth is rat-a-tat-tat (even in the places where it makes you wince), but the story did not fill me with wow and wonder. It didn’t even have to hit the notes of Morrison’s first issues of JLA or JLA:CLASSIFIED. Old Joe Kelly did a fantastic job setting the tone in a very dense first issue (#61) that not only sent several plates spinning but served as a manifesto, a mission statement, for his entire run. I understand why they’re not really challenging anybody with this, inviting everybody in the pool, but maybe there are more folks who don’t mind scratching their heads at all the insane shenanigans erupting than they think. I’m certainly glad I went and got these at midnight, took part in the event and all, but I wasn’t expecting this title to crack my personal top five. It didn’t, but was still fun to read, which is maybe sometimes enough. It does have me keyed up for this month, though, I tell you what. The best is yet to come.

Friday, August 26, 2011


BATMAN INCORPORATED #8—The perfection of the Burnham cover is a little bit false advertising, but I had a nice time in the cold stilted Internet 3.0 that Bruce and Babs and those other guys cooked up. Really appreciated the DIGITAL JUSTICE namecheck, at that point, really was already yelling it at the pages, and all with the wringing of the hands, like. Not up to encapsulating the greatness of the moment when Barbara first roars in, me with no clue who this month’s team-up’s with. I frankly almost thought she was going to start in with, “And thiiiiiiis is pretty much the show for next month with Gail. OR IS IT?!?!?” Tricky stuff.

BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #5—Ah God, I have no one but myself to blame for this, but for whatever reason, when I hit the captions on the first page, the voice of Cartman dropping the faux-Rorschach Coon narration just barreled in out of nowhere, so while I can definitely report that reading this issue was an entertaining experience, I certainly recommend approaching it from that perspective. This has got to be a joke. Right? Satire?

BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM #5—Huh, there sure seem to be a lot of DC finales coming out today for some reason. This excellent mini finished strong and then managed to dial right back in to up-to-the-week continuity, Bruce is coming back, Dick. Bout time to hit that there changing room, old chum! Cassandra jumped Drake’s bones, right? There’s no way that didn’t happen after the break. This one was a wonderful effort all around, everything you hope for out of your Bat-mini.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #18—Fresh off the Harveys, Snyder & Albuquerque serve up the best slice yet. This right here is a ride.

JOHN BYRNE’S NEXT MEN, VOLUME TWO #9—It all came to this! ? Built and built and then appeared to sputter out on the final pages. A gentle cliffhanger, we’ll call it. Need to hit all nine of these soon, but after #30 from volume one, this was a really really quiet way to leave off.


CAPTAIN AMERICA & BUCKY #621—This is better than most things have any right to be. To the shock of absolutely no one, Samnee & Breitweiser are murdering every page, staking most in the heart, even. You get the fleeting sensation that, despite all those Eisners and the acclaim and the Eisners, a small part of Ed Brubaker still cares about what he’s doing, if only for a few pages at a time.

UNCANNY X-FORCE #13—Tommy hasn’t given it to me, but #11 and 12 are insane! Brooks and Currie are a revelation. Logan’s opening monologue in #12 might be my favorite of his. The tenderness! I should probably borrow #13 just real quick now.

BEST OF WEEK: HICKMAN. FF #9/ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATE ISSUE #ONE: FOREVAH ULTIMATE—Yeah, I’m done trying to figure out which individual issue is better, this way is much easier and has generated the ripple shock of a Morrison-written issue of Batman careening off-panel with an unprecedented Bronze medal. So many great things about both of these issues. The best page of the night is probably Doom askew introducing Richards to the FF, but the structure of ULTIMATES is so much more flawless. Starring Samuel, of course. I mean, required by law, now, right? Does anyone dare read word balloons attributed to Ultimate Nick Fury and not have them shouted at you by Jules Winfield, usually somewhere between 6 and 7, at the very least? But yeah, ULTIMATES might actually take it, the effect of which is like what that first issue of ASTRO CITY did for the absolutely-true-to-life application of Being Superman? This does that for Being Nick, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. & The Avengers. Exceptional. Pushes forward the dust first kicked up by Ellis/Hitch AUTHORITY. And there were those couple of just perfect lines, Tony calling the guy My Jarvis, and I forget the other one, but this whole thing felt like coming home. I guess next I want Hickman to start in with his own PLANETARY.

I leave you with this shot from FF #9, which, even though he left this "MORTAL PLANE OF EXISTENCE" seventeen years ago, is still pretty Kirby.


TINY TITANS #43—All right, this was another time when we hit the first page and I just started cracking up, totally blindsided by the perfection of execution, and the two-and-a-half year old could only elbow her way in, clamoring to get in on the joke, Why’s so funny, Daddy? It’s funny because Cyborg shows up with a new pair of hiking boots and proclaims that he needs a re-boot. And then on the next page, the kids are all reading vintage DC comics and out of nowhere, Superboy yells, “IT’S TIME! I NEED A CAPE!” and flies off. And then they spend the rest of the issue trying to get new costumes. This is one of the best yet. Really hoping we make it to #100, though I’m just now realizing that if there ever came a day that my little girl grew out of it and didn’t want to read them anymore, even only once a month, it would break my heart.

LATER . . .

X-MEN: SCHISM #3—It just keeps getting better. Acuna is a scary, scary hoss. Of course I adored Morrison’s run back in the day, but three issues in, Jason Aaron is just about my #2 favorite X-Men writer Of All Time, and the notion that we are present in the timeline in which he and Gillen are both going to be writing monthly titles at the same time that Hickman has not one but two FFs going is really almost too much to bear, and don’t even get me started about new CASANOVA finally finally being at the printers, after all these years. Whatever AVARITIA even means. Oh, CASANOVA, come back to me after all of these years.

AVENGERS #16—And yes, here, occurring to me that not only is Fraction’s main program the best Marvel event of all time, Bendis is dropping career-best superhero arcs on his own two titles, just running alongside parallel. Had to bring back JRJr for a huge issue featuring Steve Rogers and his Avenging Angels. It has been a treat to mark the evolution of the former “Hunk of the Month’s” style for all these years and see him still here, right in the forefront and thick of it, channeling Kirby for all he’s worth. Marvel’s major franchises are so hot right now.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #507—Fraction remains out in full force with the usual cohorts. I really really feel for the poor slobs who are going to have to pick up the pieces whenever these guys decide to finally pack it in and drop the mic. Such a run.

UNCANNY X-MEN #542/JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #625/GENERATION HOPE #10—The Gillen triple shot is, yeah, about more than I can take, mainlining too much primo first-gen Marvel content at the moment, I don’t think a soul will argue, but this right here is almost too much, my considerable threshold met, most horrifying thing of the hat trick was how perfectly he welded the Idie thing into SCHISM, I can’t believe I’m experiencing these feelings here and now, Sam and Dani and Rahne and Xi’an and Bobby are eating popcorn in the yellow-and-blacks by the soft blue light of Magnum & Higgins while Kitty and Pete and Kurt and Logan drink malts and beers down the road at Harry’s. Hiya, sport.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #2—Pure testosterone gorgeous unbelievable. McNiven is terrifying.

X-FACTOR #224—After Siryn’s delivery, I was understandably concerned what was going to happen when Rahne gave birth. Not disappointed. Rahne’s cub is even more terrifying than McNiven. How long can David keep this up? What could his endgame possibly be? Does even he know?

BUTCHER, BAKER, CANDLESTICKMAKER #2—Ennis continues to serve up the brutal origin of his lead from THE BOYS with co-creator Robertson on hand to hammer the point home none too softly, my son. Ennis demonstrates here that he is comfortable weaving compelling yarns set in any battlefield, not just WWII. It really is just great to have Robertson back, as solid as Braun has been. We leave the Butcher cackling in a low point with true love just around the corner. Never a good sign in one of these stories.

FABLES #108—And the storytelling engine keeps chugging right on. We seem to have passed or be in the process of passing out of the Second Age of this title and there is no end in sight, just plenty of stuff going on every which where. First-rate material, all around. Was Ozma’s prophecy to Ambrose in #100? We saw it, right? I seem to recall my senses being completely oversaturated at that point. Which, ah, admittedly doesn’t really narrow it down so much as far as Wednesday nights go, but this was different! We do get the token emboldened “LOST” in this one, though on page 5, because Willingham is so cheeky. Those portraits of the cubs, their page frames, might be the all-time winners.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #16—Levitz brings this iteration of the Legion to another close. Fourth version? Fifth? These guys have to be the most rebooted team in sequential history. It seems like maybe they’ll just keep going with a new #1, a la the Batman and GL franchises. But this issue, all the beats fall where they need to. There’s a nice symmetry to these sixteen issues, it definitely turned out to be The Ballad of Earth Man, which was really cool, scooping up Johns’s addition like that and fleshing him out a bit, but where PAD breathed all kinds of pneumbra into Bendis’s Layla Miller cipher, I never really felt dialed in to old Kirt. There hasn’t been any kind of an emotional hook for me to hang on. Not bad, even competent fill-in artwork on the way out, but I expected a little bit more out of the publisher’s return to the choppy and merciless waters of the freelance writer’s gig.

BEST OF WEEK: SUPERBOY #11—I’ve made no secret of my gushing adoration of this title all along and almost the best praise I can give this is that they didn’t drop the ball, this is a finale worthy of what came before. The action flows organically but never at the expense of character development, the lines have a clean European look about them, and it looks like the guy from ALL-STAR SUPERMAN colored it. We even get the kid from ESSEX COUNTY back to bookend everything, which meant a hell of a lot more to me this time than it did last year. A shame that it didn’t keep going but this run was a brilliant flash of perfect writing complemented by artists who actualized the story beautifully. It was everything that SMALLVILLE could have and should have been. There were a couple of hiccups in the middle there when the Doomsday crossover barreled in and Gallo needed fill-in work, but this one right here will almost certainly be my preferred version of Superboy for all time. No mean feat to drop a definitive version of a seventeen-year old character inside of twelve months. I will miss this cast that just barely got to start stomping around together and will look forward to and devour future work from these creators.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


AND LO! there came one final New Comic Book Day & Night in our third-floor apartment, the walls that had seen the back half of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN and the first time that I finally made it over to LOVE AND ROCKETS and LONE WOLF & CUB and CEREBUS and Moebius, and and SCOTT PILGRIM, and those last couple issues of PLANETARY finally came out, and you know, really a whole other mess of incredible, CASANOVA and THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY and 100 BULLETS and SCALPED and oh, the place where I really began to understand how the word Kirby is code for “UNIVERSE-SPANNING SCOPE OF IMAGINATION,” where I read the last issues of Kabuki and fell in love with Ba and Moon and Pope, and that’s just what I can remember right here in the beating heart of this moment, and what perfection to end the early morning by at last beginning SUPERGODS, but first, #267 IN A 267-ISSUE LIMITED SERIES, NEW COMIC BOOK DAY IN APT. #936. One. More. Time.

FEAR ITSELF #5—Best yet from this team who’s been turning in first-rate work from the first issue, though we had to wade in a few episodes before realizing how deep in us their hooks really were. Funny, this is the exact thing that happened with me and FINAL CRISIS, those first couple of issues looked good and there were some interesting beats, but they weren’t just leveling me like I needed. This series seems to be heading in the same direction as FC, not as beholden to the serial installment as the experience as a whole. All of which to say, now that we’re rounding the turn into the home stretch, there’s plenty to love about most every page, everything’s burning bright now, every shift of perspective ratcheting up the conflict and tension that much higher, snatching up key moments from already-classic runs by Brubaker and Hickman, stomping them into the ground, and moving right on without a second thought. And enough can never be said about this art team, what magnificence. I wish the big events could all be this good. I wish they would really and truly stop after this, going to be pretty hard to top across the board after this one.

NEW AVENGERS #15—And then Bendis & Deodato drop the magnificent trick of making the damn Squirrel Girl-centric FEAR ITSELF tie-in worthy of pulling double-duty with the main title and managing to stand just as tall. Top to bottom, franchise to franchise, there is no doubt in my mind that Marvel has not been doing this well since the first seven years of production. It’s starting to freak me out, pondering what the next five years of Axel Marvel will entail. You wish he could lure over everyone from that SHOOT resurrected anthology from a few months back. That one about the toys really messed me up, man, what was going on with that last panel? We’re all toys for the bugs?!? But oh yes, Bendis. Marvel Architect Prime pulls another Tarantino, dusts off another, sorry, pet character from obscurity and injects her with just the right brew of motivation and pitch-perfect dialogue to make her shine, and us care.

THE RED WING #2—Another shot of beautiful from this team, who really only needed to not totally fumble the slick polish of the first issue. What I like about this one is that it gives me a little thrill of the new, sure there are little bits I could parse that remind me of this or that, but the blend makes me feel like I haven’t seen this anywhere before and have no idea what’s coming next. And the last page really confirms that. The pace of the next two issues is really going to be an insane thing.

CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT #3—Oh, that last page last month (or a couple of weeks ago?) was only the beginning. Of course it’s going too well for Riley, nothing in this series could ever be that easy. More than almost any other book, these guys are so good that every time I crack open the latest installment, I forget I’m reading a comic, completely fail on the first pass to marvel at the craft, how well Brubaker’s plot and dialogue line up with Phillips’s expressive lines and Staples’s masterful tones and shading, just get pulled along on the ride. Many more people should be reading this. Faerber’s Magnum essay finally broke the streak, not bad but it didn’t punch me in the face, either. Really, it’s amazing that anything ever did, after the Encylopedia Brown/Great Brain team-up.

MORNING GLORIES #11—Oh, Ike. You were always my favorite. Really intrigued by what Spencer and friends have cooking for the third arc. Half a year’s worth of -centrics was a risky move, but they’ve made them mostly compelling and it will be a cool thing to see everything slam back together and start moving forward faster.

THE UNWRITTEN #28—This Golden Age tale of creation is probably my favorite arc yet, always a good sign with yer long-form Vertigo serials. Gross’s chameleon trickery certainly reinforces my notion that I can never trust the man, or let him out of my sight for a minute.

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE CREATURES OF THE UNKNOWN #3—Huh. This one appears to just barrel right on in to Lemire’s post-FLASHPOINT pilot issue. I don’t really mind them apparently playing so loose with the continuity, just interesting to note. Was this the third art team in as many issues? I only remember Ibraim Roberson tearing it up. Wish Mahnke could have dropped in and knocked it out, but Lord knows he needed his ever-dwindling lead-time on GL.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST #3—Again, just can’t believe how good this thing looks. Nothing particularly crushing about the plot, but it takes us where we want to go and we never see the strings. Because of the pretty pretty pictures. Dave Stewart should really get his name on the cover.

****BEST OF WEEK: DETECTIVE COMICS #881—As soon as this creative lineup was announced the last time the Batbooks had a big shakeup (which I think was just right around last Thanskgiving, careful readers), I was quick to point out to any and all godless Morrison naysayers that THIS was going to be the book for them, a return to the deductive roots and seedy back-alley fisticuffs that have held the character, the legend, together against the flux and shift of all these decades that just keep rushing by and bearing us along with them. I mean, Jock on art, right? I did not imagine what a tight gemstone of perfection that Snyder was going to craft, yes, more than ably realized by Jock, but also by Francesco Francavilla, who I’ve never encountered but who really blew me away here. There are things going on in the first half of this run that completely got by me, setups that you have to hit the payoff to fully appreciate because the first time through, they just seem like good storytelling, solid character beats for their own sake, even while they quietly shore up the walls of the bigger story that Snyder is quietly telling.

This is about fathers and sons and daughters and what they hope and dream and fear for each other, about how the way the people of Gotham respond to nightmares shapes them, sending them off toward redemption or damnation, of how not knowing for sure is sometimes the most horrible part, and most of all, how you don’t really need to share the same blood to be family. That last, surely, must be one of the most enduring morals of the Batman mythos, but its articulation here is made all the more poignant by the absence of Bruce Wayne, never on-panel for this entire run and rarely even mentioned, but his good work is evident throughout, in the way these people relate to one another, band together against darkness and even love each other, all because one rich orphan chose to embrace fear rather than surrender to it, and attracted the hearts and minds of enough like-minded spirits that they are more than capable of carrying on the mission in his absence.

I really almost got a little choked up at the end, Dick closing down shop. I’m just not ready for it to be over. Everything is working so well! Wish this team, this set-up, could have gotten a couple more years to really stretch out, no telling where it would have gone.

Man, Snyder and Morrison trading off on a book of just Dick, Damian, Gordon, and Alfred having conversations in varying combinations really does sound like one of the coolest things. We’ve only got a little longer to wait and see, but here and now, regressing Dick out of the suit really seems like a terrible, terrible mistake. It’s such a perfect fit.

Monday, August 8, 2011


THE BOYS #57—Man, those first eight of ten pages are just almost the best yet. And it’s two people having a conversation, one on a bed, the other sleeping on the floor. Ennis is nothing less than a monster. This one’s got me by the throat as it revs ever so slowly into the home stretch.

X-FACTOR #223—I was, as usual, very much a fan of the David family recap crowding into that of our main narrative on the first page, but I think the Harry Potter mention means the reference of same has to get deleted from the sequential pages. Also, that Cerberus page works much better without dialogue. Still, good fun as always. No idea if that Agamemnon kid is someone we’re supposed to already know about or a new friend. I’m sure it will all turn out very well.

HOUSE OF MYSTERY #40—Um, is this only running 42 issues or something? It is always admirable to write yourself into a corner, but there doesn’t appear to be anywhere else for Sturges to go! Riveting and brilliant.

BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM #4—Yeah, this one’s just another quality installment of a case that all Bruce’s kids happen to be working while he’s Morrison, Inc’ing around the world. Gotham revisionist history just about never had it so good. Not counting Tony S. Daniel unmasking Black Mask as Jeremiah Arkham, of course, what a master stroke that was.

FLASHPOINT: KNIGHT OF VENGEANCE #3—Well, before it’s all over, Azzarello/Risso and accomplices couldn’t resist flashing back to show us The Death of Bruce Wayne in a sequence that’s pretty heartbreaking, unflinching in its depiction of damage done to his unfortunate parents. This is just a hell of an Elseworlds concept that’s executed to perfection by its A-list creators. No, it doesn’t make sense where it fits into the main book’s chronology, because Batman has never left Flash’s side since #1 and is very unlikely to do so and come have this last adventure in the middle of #5, and it would have been nice if Johns had built an Exit Stage Left in to make it more seamless, but in the end, it just doesn’t matter. Definitely the one to hit if you just want the best three issues that this crossover produced.

FLASHPOINT #4—All right, Fraction and crew are officially kicking this thing’s ass. It’s a fun enough romp on its own merits, Big Dumb Summer Fun, but pretty shallow and way too much emo this time out with the Marvel kids. Which, huh, might actually be pretty clever in a meta- kind of way, I had to type it out to see it. Not one thing about the last two pages was surprising, but it certainly makes me ready to get on to the next issue, as much to go ahead and put this thing behind us as finally witness the secret origin of the relaunchboot.

ADVENTURE COMICS #529—Mm, that last line, “Uh, ‘bye . . . I guess . . .” about sums it up for me. Not sure that I’ve received enough return for eighteen months’ worth of investment in these characters. Going to give the new #1 a shot, but that’s going to have to be one charming motherfucking pig.

SUPERBOY #10—Lemire ropes in a solid round robin crew to jump in before September and jam out this secret origin of Tannarak, a story stretching from almost five millennia in the past to the modern-day hijinx of Connor and his friends. And aNOTHer Potter/Voldemort reference. They really shook something loose last week. So, that first story that was published in ACTION #893 just happens next month, I presume? The way it’s been going, it’ll be a double-sized finale and they’ll just reprint those pages as part of it. Because I will be made to pay twice for every single Second Feature page that I ever purchased. But the book, even though the title character’s only in the last two pages, remains entertaining throughout, and I’ll be really sorry to see it go, easily the worst casualty of the relaunch. Onward!

BEST OF WEEK: S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol. 2 #2—This one wins just based on never hurts to have Todd Klein aboard. Never mind the whole Frankenstein implication with the auto-golem. Heady stuff. It’s very obvious in hindsight, but I didn’t understand until this installment that Leonid is on deck to become the next Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Which, yes, has all sorts of insane connotations for the present-day Marvel Universe, especially given the glimpse we got in one of those last issues of SECRET WARRIORS. Hickman! These pages are absolutely gorgeous and tell a brilliant story that stretches the limits of the imagination, not to mention anyone’s notion of what someone can do with fifty-year old corporate characters that should by rights have long been sucked dry of anything riveting by the unrelenting grind of serial publication, month by month by month. This and Morrison BATMAN and Hickman FF and (soon, again and at last!) CASANOVA are easily my favorite things being published in these glorious moments.