Thursday, January 19, 2012


TINY TITANS #48—Plenty goes down as Barbara takes off her mask to reveal that the red hair’s not a wig, even though she’s still rocking Yvonne Craig’s changing room in her lair. But Wonder Girl’s secret orange steals the show, inspiring a romp through Gordon and O'Hara's old disco wardrobe and a fever-dream sequence that might be the most I’ve ever enjoyed this book, just barking mad fun, even before the Fruit Lantern Core show up. A really good time, too much fun, I’m going to miss reading new issues of this book to my kid and having her recite them back to me so so much.

BATMAN #5—Insane! That’s the only word for this issue. Certainly Snyder, but particularly Capullo and Glapion take it To The Next Level. The captions perfectly capture Bruce’s hold on reality and himself slipping away and really, did such a fine job of projecting the reader into the labyrinth with him. The rotational trick is nothing short of brilliant, it was quite the suspenseful feeling to turn the page and have no idea how the next page was going to be oriented, went a long way toward putting us into Bruce’s head. But those last two pages are completely raving. Nothing short of ridiculous.

WONDER WOMAN #5—Mm, I was certainly bummed not to see Mister Chiang in here, but Tony Akins did a serviceable job, smoothed out by Matthew Wilson’s striking palette. With the exception of that last shot of Hera. The wife of Zeus should probably not look like a New Jersey housewife on a bad day. The story remains the most engaging Wonder Woman tale that I’ve read.

PROPHET #21—Man, this thing is gorgeous, glorious. I loved everything about it. The tone of the narration, the kind of Pope/Moebius/Darrow thing that Simon Roy had going on, Richard Ballermann’s eye-popping colors, the six-legged guys raising oonaka, the way Graham’s last two lines seemed to channel that old-school pulp tone of Ed Burroughs or Robert Howard. This book is nothing less than thrilling, a very very welcome addition to the monthly pull. Can’t wait to see what these guys have in store for us.

MORNING GLORIES #15—Probably my favorite issue yet. We get a continuation of Zoe’s flashback from #7 interspersed with her and Hunter tearing it up playing Wood Run war games. I kind of expected them to wind up humping in the forest, but the girl crushing on Hunter threw me for a loop. And of course even with plenty of set-up, sure didn’t see that ending coming. People complaining about not enough mysteries being revealed in this series need to take a walk, this thing’s supposed to roll on until they get to #100, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the mysteries that are in store. As long as character development remains this captivating and unexpected, we’re more than good to go. This is the real deal good stuff, right here.

FABLES #113—Nothing less than a tour de force. When I took a gander at the cover and didn’t see Buckingham’s name, definitely had the “Well, let’s see how we do…” mentality, but this Very Special issue blew me away. Willingham doesn’t know the meaning of the word “peak,” just keeps going up and up, getting better and best and better than best. The flashback to the contest of champions between Lord Karrant of the Westermark and the Adversary’s puppet leading to a fairly surprising retcon (arguably retcon, though I wouldn’t put it past Willingham to have known for years) was, in particular, quite the cracking yarn. It’s always a pleasure to get new sequentials from Mister P. Craig Russell. Ramon Bachs turns in beautiful work. And Adam Hughes always delivers nothing less than immaculate pages. A great deal to enjoy in this single issue. It really is stunning how great this book remains, month in month out, as we head on over into the back half of its tenth year, now.

THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #512—The pressure is on these guys to really make it happen every month to justify the price-tag, and they completely deliver this time out. Nice to see old Henry Hellrung from THE ORDER pop back in, no reason why Fraction can’t just kind of fold that entire situation in over here whenever he wants. Almost four years into the run, these guys are still making it happen for me, rocking quite possibly the best longform Tony Stark story ever told.

AVENGERS #21—Guedes does a fine job pinch-hitting for Acuña, their styles match up pretty well. Spider-Hulks are not to be trifled with. Red Hulk and Storm certainly went down like a house of cards. I guess they all did, really. I dug those two double-page spreads of thin thin panels firing out from the upper-left corner, the perfect way to layout a Quinjet going down. You’ve got to like Maria Hill’s last line, just perfect. So, I guess, paging Luke Cage’s New Avengers?

DAREDEVIL #8—So, this was maybe a stunt to lure Spidey readers over to all the glory going down over here? Waid continues to orchestrate a perfect balance of sharp dialogue, pitch-perfect Murdock narration, dynamic character beats, and superhero action. Of course Felicia’s still working an angle, even though it was completely convincing and perfect that Parker’s desperation drove her into the arms of the hornhead. Beautiful work from Kano and Rodriguez here, as well. This is rapidly shooting up toward the top of my list of favorite monthlies, each issue so rewarding on its own while pushing the ongoing story forward. Really hope Waid’s got 50 or 100 more of these in him.

BEST OF WEEK is honestly too close to call. I could make a pretty convincing argument for it going to BATMAN, PROPHET, FABLES, or DAREDEVIL. And I might have had more fun with Wonder Girl’s dream in TINY TITANS than any of those. And I don't even pick up CHEW in singles. Quite the week, this, all for a measly twenty-five American dollars and four cents!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


BEST OF WEEK: SECRET AVENGERS #21—And that is how you do it. Ellis brings his all-too-brief run to a close with his old N.E.X.T.W.A.V.E. collaborator Stuart Immonen back in the fold to deliver the best action movie of the year. All hands are on deck to lock down a Shadow Council mole at the Houston O.N.E. offices and it is a thrill to behold as the clock counts down from 600 seconds. Ellis manages to work a Bad Signal reference into Sharon’s dialogue 40 seconds before the cryogenic flesh portals finally wake up and then it’s pages and pages of glorious giant monstah fighting. Gripping balls-to-the-wall excitement, this wonderful run proves that you can still turn in brilliant work while adhering to and pushing the boundaries of corporate superhero comics. As completely unflinching and unsentimental as these books were, I’m quite sad that the ride has already come to an end. So grateful that it happened at all, though.

NEW AVENGERS #20—Groar, doesn’t Deodato get it done. Quite the opening VS splash, there. But that spider-sense gag with Spidey and the look-at-the-reader-Bugs-Bunny-punchline, priceless, priceless. And great in-battle banter, as ever. The cliffhanger probably shouldn’t feel like a retread of the lamest part of CIVIL WAR, though. Crowded field, that.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #677—I dropped a couple titles and so heart Waid DAREDEVIL, consequently, was delighted to pick this up, not even counting how much I dug Rios knocking it out of the park on that OSBORN mini last year. This is, yeah, just the greatness of Waid’s regular gig shuffled over to one of Wacker’s other titles. Not that Waid didn’t do his share of pinchhitting over here during the massive constant shuffle that was BRAND NEW DAY. The second panel of the second page is as perfect a SPIDER-MAN panel as ever there has been. His hands are maybe my favorite part. All guns firing. Loved DD and Spidey discussing their respective routes. Rereading it, I wasn’t quite as blown away as I was the first time, because I already knew the beats, they weren’t such a revelation, but the magic is still there. Nothing too devastating happens in this one, just a quiet almost poetic motion of character beats and sharp dialogue as people in tights bounce off of each other on the rooftops of New York. Every monthly superhero book wishes it was this good, should be.

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #633—This continues to be one of Marvel’s most underrated quality titles, month in, month out. Nice of them to springboard a fantasy comic off the regular superhero fare. Never seen this Richard Elson fella before he showed up over here, but he does very good work. Wondered how this was going to manage after FEAR ITSELF finally burned itself out, but Gillen seems to be steering the ship in an even more compelling direction, great little family dynamic between Kid Loki and his hellhound and the handmaiden from Hel. And don’t even get me started on that double-page spread of the meeting of the fear gods, so so much going on, there. Fine work, all around.

X-FACTOR #230—Made it! When I finally glimpsed this issue’s cover in the ad blitz a couple of months back, figured the Big Deal that everyone was talking about was that Logan was going to join the cast. Which would of course be hilarious, given that he’s got his solo book, is running the school with Jason Aaron, rocking the black ops with Remender, and still right there whenever Bendis needs him on the A-team. But, no, it was these guys. Who I totally guessed right before the page-turn, only characters it could be from the dialogue set-up. Should be an interesting shift in interpersonal team dynamics, especially if Madrox ever makes it back, more than apparent from just the introductory line about Guido’s haircut. PAD’s ability to keep so many character arcs running at the same time for such duration is pretty astounding, I kind of expected him to start screaming at someone in the letter-column when the reader suggested that Elixir be added to the cast. We’re good! Enough going on, here. More than enough.

THE UNWRITTEN #33—was not pulled for me and sold out. Garbage!

FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #5—All right, now this book drew the short straw, if only because now it has to tell the story we already read last week from Frank’s point-of-view, only Giffen’s not drawing it. I haven’t had any sort of problem with Ponticelli’s work before this issue, and it’s fine on its own merits, just, you know, a bit lacking in the Absolute Thunder Dynamism that Giffen brought last week. Maybe kind of like getting Sal Buscema to follow Kirby. Nothing against Sal, but, you know, after getting your jaw broken, everything else kind of feels like a light facial massage.

GREEN LANTERN #5—This was great fun. Sinestro continues to be the star of the show. And didn’t lose his title of Lantern of 2814 at the end of the arc! Good show, Geoff Johns, very brave. Also, wonderful series-best interaction between Hal and Carol in just a couple of pages at the end of the issue. Looking forward to seeing where this goes next, especially if we manage to get rid of Hal for next issue and just hang with that pink-skinned totalitarian from Korugar. He just wants to bring order to the universe, what’s so difficult to grasp about that?

BATMAN & ROBIN #5—Okay, yeah, this one slows it down pretty good, there aren’t nearly as many Perfect Moments Between Father, Son, and Surrogate Father/Grandfather/Butler as there were in the first couple three issues, but that isn’t to say this is a bad comic. It just didn’t lay me out like the first few issues. Over a third of the issue is flashback/retcon of Bruce-in-training first running into Henri Ducard and his son, included here as kind of a secret origin for the latter. I’m definitely on the hook to see how far the fall of Damian takes him. Tomasi, Gleason, Gray, all these guys still turning in really great work in a crowded field of Gotham excellence. Speaking of . . .

BATWOMAN #5—I just expected all the arcs to go six issues. It’s kind of nice to see some wrap up early. I think. This felt like enough closure for me, anyhow. Williams continues to astound and delight with his jaw-dropping facility, rendering, layouts, composition, every little damn thing. And, so dense, I totally didn’t get that the Bones guy and his agent in #1 were from that CHASE book Williams did a hundred years ago until they showed up at Kate’s place in this one. At least the skeleton wasn’t eating baked beans out of the can, I guess. I guess Amy Reeder Hadley’s probably going to show up here, pretty soon? Williams is spoiling us.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


BEST OF WEEK: ACTION COMICS #5—All participants here firing at the absolute zenith apex of their game, no matter where you fall on the Reeve/Siegel/Morrison appreciation spectrum, this one’s for you. Because this one’s for everybody. We finally crank it up to the level of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN-level jawdropping situation that is I guess the reason everyone’s been a little bit grumbly up until now or last month, just because this one had to spin its motors up a bit to do for what like the last time. The callbacks don’t hurt. The first page plays like an insane dilation of the locked-in-for-all-time eight-word origin that was the first page of ALL-STAR. The plan, the plan, taking a little bit longer to say the plan, way huh, no Jor-El! No! That’s not the plan! The Phantom Zone is not the plan! Those first four pages are a perfect set-up, ascend into the fifth splash, and then we turn the page to the double-spread, the millionth time we’ve seen Krypton die but it’s all new and precious and perfect again because it’s called Rocket Song. Then, yeah, Jonny and Martha get the treatment that Luthor got back in the last #5, possibly their best performance/appearance yet, really stirring material, here. And then we suddenly catch up to the first arc! And accelerate past? And the Legion trinity? To think that I first saw TINTIN Tuesday night, and was reading this twenty-four hours later, and then started running them both simultaneously, well, let’s just say that it was a pretty wild ride, Wednesday night faithful!

O.M.A.C. #5—It didn’t dawn on me until I turned to the first page what I treat I was in for getting to watch Giffen do Kirby drawing the title character fighting Frankenstein. Slug. Fest. A beautiful thing. Lemire dropping in to co-write never hurts the equation, though Didio’s been pitch-perfect on this all along. Brother Eye vs. Father Time was a cool little side-fight, a bit of strategy to offset the brutality of the main event. This one gets better and better. I hope that Giffen stays on for a long time and that it doesn’t gets cancelled.

ANIMAL MAN #5—Man, isn’t this a horror comic. Nothing here besides more greatness. Great to see Pugh return to the fold for the last four pages. Not sure that Alec is going to be that much help when you find him, though, Buddy, he’s got his own thing going on at the moment. And cue . . .

SWAMP THING #5—Another really good-looking issue, everyone should have been talking about Paquette at least since the first arc of BATMAN, INC and he’s only getting better and better. Composition, page layout, acting through body language and facial expression, he’s really on top of it all. And Snyder continues to pull off the unthinkable, tell a gripping Swamp Thing story after #64 of the old run. Beautiful shot, that kiss. Though, seems, not such a solid piece of strategy.

STORMWATCH #5—I guess we’re not going with the long-simmering plot about Harry. No Claremont pacing here! And no more pesky Adam, for that matter. Or team? I don’t know how they’re going to get out of this one, Georgie. Sorry that Cornell’s not hanging out, this is definitely the best I’ve seen anyone do with these characters since the original Ellis/Hitch greatness. Mm, except maybe Brubaker/Nguyen, that was some goodness, too.

THE BOYS #62—More fun from Ennis and the gang. Hughie confesses to superthumb violation and no one gives a shit, but he might have yet saved the day for the sake of a wank. What’s not to love? Merde!

FATALE #1—Really, really gripping opening, here. It’s not like the first issue of CRIMINAL was anything less than sequential noir perfection, but Brubaker/Phillips have come so far since then, it kind of makes you sick. Terrible things happen to people who might not even be that good, but the narrative voice makes you care, even though you’ve only known them for a few pages. And then Jess Nevins delivers an essay on Lovecraft. Cthulhu preserve us.

AVENGERS ANNUAL #1—It’s not painted?!?!? That threw me a bit, but of course Dell’Otto blows it up, no matter how he presents himself. Bendis did a great job making Simon’s point-of-view not seem raving or megalomaniacal but actually pretty rational. What if the bad guy was right? Overall, very solid, from top to bottom. Though I don’t get what happened at the end, there. He just . . . disappeared?

UNCANNY X-MEN #4—Wow, Marvel, didn’t this just come out last week? And #5 is in two weeks? Three $4 singles in four weeks. Squeeze it dry! You know what, though, the work that Gillen and, here, Peterson turn in is compelling enough that I can’t really consider dropping it out of principle. Having the villain narrate and become pretty much a sympathetic character is a tough trick to pull and Gillen executes it well, here. This is as consistently rewarding as this book has been since the halcyon days of Claremont.

DEFENDERS #2—All right, at first the footer ads started annoying me, but Fraction was just messing with us, confounding expectations. Promising that the universe will break on second page following was funny enough, but promising the same thing would happen on single page following later in the issue was the lolz, you guys. Nothing beats the last one, though, too great. So. There’s this weird thing going on back and forth between the main narrative and these footers that, combined with narrative captions from multiple sources, really makes for a dense, head-spinning, and sometimes confusing reading experience. Which I believe to be the point. The art makes it even crazier, because the tone of the script seems to call for some rough sketchy more 70s-looking business like Ponticelli’s got going on over in FRANKENSTEIN or, really, talking classic Gerber updates, like Dalyrymple channeled to tremendous effect in that OMEGA THE UNKNOWN mini a few years back. Instead, we get the Dodsons’ super-clean lines and Oback’s lush tones, a bit of sweetness to make all the crazy go down that much easier. This book is subversive. Real good to see Fraction’s engines spinning up a bit higher in the 616 proper.


What say we blow the doors out with a whopping 15 books to close down 2011?

FF #13—Really really really good. Everything has been cranking up, building, and intertwining for so long now, you can’t it through an issue anymore without your feet getting all hurt from too much toe-crinkling. I pretty much expected the tension just to blow in #600, but all that did was up the stakes. What Byrne did was certainly a feat, but I can’t imagine anyone who was showing up for those monthlies and has still hung out doesn’t think this is the greatest this title has been since #108. The Celestials showing up is always just ominous as hell. Suddenly, the last alternate Reed is a sympathetic character? It works, just quite the hairpin curve, there. But oh, Valeria and Doom. Their relationship has come out of nowhere and stolen this book. Really, I enjoyed these last three pages as much or more than anything in the entire run, thus far. Must have been over them at least a dozen times. She doesn’t want anything to happen to him. And the silent, inscrutable reaction shot before Doom launches into surely some of his most extreme, in-character braggadocio of all time, off to face a pack of angry Celestials with only an inferior alternate Reed for a wingman and he’s still all, Doom will return shortly after this minor inconvenience, child! And next month, both books come out on the same day?!? Sweet fourth week, you have never been more thematic or lovely.

ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATES #5—Mm, after all the thundah from the first four issues, this one slows down the pace considerably. Like, almost to the point that I’m going to just bail and eventually pick these up cheap. Harsh, but with this at $4 and the other two Hickman FFs out the same day, I think I can make it.

BEST OF WEEK: SECRET AVENGERS #20—Magnificent. Stunning. A tour de force. It is a great tragedy that they couldn’t lock Ellis down for more than a half dozen of these, but what a brilliant run it’s been. The last two were absolute perfection and this one is somehow even better. When Captain America gets killed in the first panel of the done-in-one, without any sort of context going in other than The Black Widow is the greatest secret agent in the world, you know you’re in for a hell of a ride. Ellis dials into Natasha’s voice to the same tremendous effect as he did to Emma Frost during his ASTONISHING run. Him and the no-bullshit women, I guess. No one else in the world could pull off such a tightly focused ride, this entire 18-week trip back and forth between three eras in twenty pages. Maleev turns in his usual amazing work. My favorite was the three-panel newspaper strip comics that came right out of nowhere. Why can’t we get a syndicated Ellis/Maleev Black Widow strip? EVERYone would show up for that. And what a trick, Khronus & Kongo, in the space of a few pages, hell, a few panels, really they went from being the kind of joke at which Ennis excels to me actually getting choked up for that final sequence, there. And the understated glory of that last page. Nobody has ever, will ever, write a better Black Widow solo adventure. Brava, darling.

THE MIGHTY THOR #9—I just don’t get this whole Tanarus thing. How was Karnilla able to channel the power/energy/what have you from Thor’s funeral pyre and somehow replace everyone’s memories of Odin’s firstborn with one of her double-agents? Including the Silver Surfer? Really? It’s not quite lining up for me. Ferry’s work looks beautiful, as ever. Loki steals the show again, always. Don’t want to bail out on this, but kind of need a little bit more to be happening every month.

UNCANNY X-MEN #3—I don’t know how he did it, but Gillen has made Sinister not suck. Not as much evolution as alchemy! I dug the sequence with Hope on Page Five, pitch-perfect characterization. Get in his face and say Thank You! I didn’t even notice that there were three pencilers while I was reading, so good show, all around, there. Loved the shot of The Celestials. Ah, Kirby. You’ll be keeping the lights on for a long time, your majesty.

CAPTAIN AMERICAs #5 & 6—Wow. I know McNiven got them behind, but it seems like a pretty dick move to drop two $4 singles of the same title on the same day. Bend the market until it breaks, Marvel! At least one of my brothers took that as his own true and personal jumping-off point, but I don’t want to live in a world where I don’t buy a book with Laura Martin coloring Alan Davis. Especially since it’s, what are we, seven years into Brubaker’s run? That said, Bru really seems to be coasting here. That first arc was the most decompressed-nothing-happens bit we’ve seen in this saga, enough to seriously make me consider jumping before they reeled me back in with the new art team. And really, the story’s still not pulling its weight. I hate to be so mercenary, but I buy a lot of books and it’s a simple metric. If you charge $4 suddenly, for the same or less content than before, you’ve got to be giving me 133% of the charge you were. Ellis SA does it, Bendis AVENGERS mostly does it, Hickman ULTIMATES was doing it, Fraction IRON and THOR, not so much. This is the least I’ve enjoyed the run since it started. Going to have to crank it up here, or I’m going to have to regretfully excuse myself. And no one wants that!

KICK-ASS 2 #6—I tell you what, I’ve bailed out on everything else Millar’s done (though, truthfully, I’m going to have to give the thing with Quitely at least a shot, I mean, it’s Quitely), but he’s still got me on the hook with this one, as hilariously over the top as it is. I think I really just want to see Hit-Girl cut McLovin’s head off. Her last line here is perfect.

SPACEMAN #3—This remains one of the most original books on the rack, brought to you by one of the tightest, most synergistic creative teams of all time. Azzarello nails the beats of his truncated futurespeak to perfection, making the words both understandable and plausible while singing almost like to a foreign language. And Risso, Mulvihill, Robins, these people are just supposed to be together. The action heats up as Orson makes it home with Tara, but the last page explodes the tension in this new hunkered-down status quo and will hopefully expand our ensemble and pull character dynamics in new and interesting ways in the issues to come. Great book.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #22—Man, and don’t the hits keep coming. Snyder does a fanTAStic job of crafting new protagonists who are instantly engaging. It was great fun to find out that Travis Kidd was not yet another fanged American badass but a hunter (I guess we can’t call them slayers?). Solid narrative voice out of the gate, interesting spin on the 50s drag-racing greaser archetype, and an excellent raising of the stakes on the final page. And Albuquerque shows no signs of slowing down. Good American fun to be found right here!

THE UNWRITTEN #32.5—Whoa, I didn’t think Gross was going to be drawing any of these .5s, what a nut. Once again, I dial into a brand new story and cast just the least bit more than the adventures of Tommy Taylor and his confederates. This one inverts the back end of the Gilgamesh epic. Instead of the hero going on a quest to discover the secret of immortality from Utnapishtim in Tablets 10 and 11, the flood-hero makes his way to Uruk and possibly conjures the flood that results in his extended notoriety. As is the case with many legends, the real guy turns out to be much more of a piece of shit than the tales have it. This does have interesting implications with regard to the origins of the main narrative. Is Abaddon the Big Bad? Or Utnapishtim? I feel like I should be catching that left-hand reference. Really going to have to blast back through this whole thing in one go when they announce what the last issue’s going to be, the threads are going to line up much better than in installments.

FLASH #4—This book looks so good! You would think these guys have been working together for years. They actually did such a job keeping things moving (again, so crucial to stay true to the title) that when Barry showed up, I was a little surprised, had barely missed him. It’s cool to see something this consistently excellent on all levels live up at the top of the charts.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #4—I think I’m bailing after the end of this arc. Maybe if I just loved Shade things would be different, but I never read it back in the day and don’t really care about Deadman, and Constantine pulling the old Rorschach-in-Dreiberg’s-kitchen routine is not enough to keep me around, as beautiful as the art is.

SUPERMAN #4—You can definitely see Merino feeling the heat, this is quite a different style from the first two issues. And by that, I mean rushed. The story remains rock-solid early-80s ACTION COMICS fare with a pacing and feel that reminds me of Cary Bates in a good way. I’ll definitely hang out with Pérez for the next couple of months to see him close it out but then make my exit with I hope as much grace.

ALL-STAR WESTERN #4—I need to go back and read #s 1 and 2 again, because I remember they knocked me out and I can’t figure out what the last two issues haven’t been doing for me that they did. Gray/Palmiotti deliver an action-packed enough narrative and Moritat can certainly draw some pretty pictures. I don’t know. I thought the back-up was a bit better than they have been. At $4 a pop, though, this one’s on the bubble. Dun dun DUUUUUUUUN!

Monday, January 9, 2012


BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN: LEVIATHAN STRIKES—Well, that was more than worth the wait. This is, for all intents and purposes, BATMAN INCORPORATED #s 9 and 10, repurposed into a collected edition with a spine, such a handsome package. A 52-page story, naturally. The first issue is a last gasp of What Once Was, the greatness of the Stephanie Brown Batgirl. The sidekicks really are the ones who got burned on the reboot, we lost her and Dick Grayson Batman and the Lemire/Gallo SUPERBOY, all of which represented the culmination of years of continuity leading naturally to really engaging monthly adventures by creative teams firing at the top of their game. “The events of this story take place before FLASHPOINT and THE NEW 52.” Now, see, when they first announced that Morrison’s ungodly run was being shunted out of the new continuity, I was not a happy man. Suddenly, this isn’t The Real Bruce Wayne? The run is getting kneecapped and doesn’t “count” before it’s even over, even? Marvel at least had the good grace to wait a month! But as soon as I saw those words on the title page, it hit me. This is like the best thing that could have happened. You know what else doesn’t count? ALL-STAR SUPERMAN. And Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT. All of a sudden, Morrison can do anything, ANYthing that he wants. He’s no longer beholden to ongoing serial continuity, but free to smash whatever toys he sees fit or that the story dictates, because Editorial’s just going to turn off the lights in this universe when his story is over. This does not bode well for Damian, who was originally only ever supposed to make it to the last page of the fourth issue of the run. That was just a working theory until Batwing bought it, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Anything can happen. For the home-stretch, the last constraints are thrown away.

Let’s talk about these issues. We open with for-all-intents-and-purposes a Batgirl solo adventure, in which Morrison places her in the middle of St. Hadrian’s, a setting we’re somewhat familiar with these days, between Morning Glory Academy and Tower Prep. This really is a master class on how to write a teenage superheroine, she’s confident, resourceful, clever, never out of her depth despite significant obstacles, and just all-around kickass. Hell, she even saves Batman at the end. Cameron Stewart’s art is as clean and dynamic as ever, perfectly choreographed throughout, though he took me out of the story a couple of times casting Madonna, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and (I had to look up) Lady Gaga as the staff. Great bit with the gardener, so obvious in hindsight.

The second issue is, um, a lot more insane. Incredibly disorienting on the first pass, which I guess is surely the point, recreating the labyrinth experience for the reader. We open with pretty much the Morgan Freeman version of Lucius telling us the diamond from the first Inc. arc is a fifth material, a meta-material, and that it can lead to perpetual energy. Of course. Then cut to a death-trap, Batman finds himself cut off from his sons with Netz killing Batman, Inc agents every five minutes. And yes, theory confirmed, Batwing taken out off-panel after the greatest three pages in his short career! And did the Outsiders get popped at the five-minute mark? And poor El Gaucho. This reminds me of when my little brother and I would play action figures for like ten hours straight, all day Saturday, and we’d set up all these elaborate histories and family ties and motivations and connections before just massacring all ten dozen of them in a brutal protracted battle that always always left like two survivors finally falling on each other’s swords, but that was the thing, without the set-up, the character investment, the deaths didn’t mean anything. But that’s apparently what this whole Incorporated thing has turned out to be, Morrison was building a franchise that really could have had some legs and ranged the spectrum of narrative potential, I mean, world-wide Batmen? But then Editorial just reboots, so he gets to lay waste to any or all of them. Shit, at this point, he might as well give us Le Morte de Bruce Wayne at the end of the run and then run that back into the Damian/Commissioner Barbara Gordon future from #666.

But the last-scene revelation. Brilliant, fantastic, telegraphed all along, a perfect fit in hindsight. Really looking forward to the last ten issues. Hope the massive lead-time means that Burnham draws the whole thing, he absolutely blew it out of the water here on this last one, but failing that, a curtain call of Williams, Paquette, Stewart again, shut it down with Quitely, well, I’d be all right with that, too.

BATMAN #4—Gah, rough week to be putting out another Batman book. Of course, these guys don’t care, are still jamming out one of the best books on the rack. The pace of this one slows down a little bit, but I didn’t even notice on the first read because every single aspect of this book is put together to such perfection, it’s very engaging, no matter what happens. Or doesn’t. Nice bit with Bruce and Dick’s relationship. An interesting new story about Bruce Wayne, Boy Detective. And yeah, Capullo/Glapion are nothing less than terrifying, stage everything to perfection. Really really good, still everything I want from this book, even though the Americans have got their filthy Yank paws all over it!

WONDER WOMAN #4—Man, Azzarello loves his wordplay. This one was a bit of a lull as well, but it didn’t knock my socks off quite as much as BATMAN. Which is not to knock it, because, again, everybody involved could not be doing a better job. And just a hell of a cliffhanger. Wondering how long these creators are going to stay on, what the long game actually is.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #4—Rather than have everyone joke about it like in the eponymous title, Johns elects to just show us why Aquaman’s a badass. To glorious Lee/Williams results. Man, I don’t know HOW Lee is getting this done, presuming he’s got to be drawing only in the night, I figure his business hours are pretty much accounted for. What else? The back-and-forth between Batman and GL is getting a bit ham-handed. Or repetitive. Biggest gripe is that Darkseid showing up at the end would have been a much bigger deal if they hadn’t done a press release three months ago showing us the final pencils and announcing that Darkseid would be showing up at the end of #4. Don’t really think that pulled too many converts. “Oh, I don’t care about Johns/Lee doing JUSTICE LEAGUE, but they’re bringing in Darkseid, you say?”

FABLES #112—The usual suspects crank it up a little bit higher than usual for this Christmas romp, plugging Rose in for Scrooge to rewarding results. The reason everyone is so over the moon about this book is because everyone involved could not be doing a better job than they are doing and they’ve been working together for almost a decade now, so getting into a scary scary groove.

BUTCHER BAKER CANDLESTICKMAKER #6—HA, the Garth Ennis shoutout is worth the $4 right there. And I love the Legend suggesting that Butcher get a dog. All in all, Ennis/Robertson deliver probably the best THE BOYS arc yet, locking us down with fine character work on behalf of the Butcher to take us into the home-stretch. Admirable, repugnant material.

DAREDEVIL #7—This is in fact the real deal right here, why Jack Kirby invented comic books, or whatever personal belief system you subscribe to. But, yeah. I was looking forward to this run as soon as it was announced, but then when #1 showed up, I already had like five or six other Marvel $4 singles in my pull that week, so foolishly walked away. Particularly foolish if they just dropped it down to $3 for #2, like I bet they did. But the hype has been building and building, making all the Best of Year lists, and when I saw that gorgeous Paolo Rivera cover of DD making a snow angel on a roof in Hell’s Kitchen, just couldn’t say no, and so glad I didn’t, because yes, believe the press, this right here is the real deal. Pitch-perfect characterization, dialogue, and plotting from veteran Waid and beautiful art from Rivera. Along with the Hickman output and the following title, this is easily the best thing Marvel is putting out right now. Added to pull, off to track down #1-6. Hopefully at Half Price Books.

UNCANNY X-FORCE #19—Why couldn’t Grampa do the interiors?!? Nothing against Rodriguez, he turns in great work, but that’s just a bit too much of a tease. Those colors on the cover, man, do they pop. This is nothing more than another installment of one of, again, the best things Marvel’s got going. You’ve got to love Logan stealing a few minutes with the AoA Jean, as well as her no-bullshit approach to the affair. As well as his relationship with Fantomex, whose motivations for the clone make perfect sense. Sharply drawn characters, all around. The best panel, though, had to be “Pipe down, Pryde.” Great work.

X-FACTOR #229—Well, this issue was weird. Gorgeous art. I thought that PAD was doing a brilliantly subtle little thing there when he had Madrox narrate that Longshot called Shatterstar brother when it was the other way around, given all those subtle other little tweaks to the 616, but it looks like it was just a goof. Wish the editors would have gone a little more batshit with the recap page.

AVENGERS #20—More fun with Norman. Is it just me or did the Avengers suddenly go all JLA and split up into a bunch of dynamic duo cliffhangers? Still digging Acuña’s painted art, quite a stylistic ways we’ve come from Finch at the top of Bendis’s run.

FANTASTIC FOUR #601—Well, we’re back to regular flagship numbering and pick up on all the madness that broke out of the lead story last month. Having Johnny’s family find out about his return via the flaming 4 in the sky was a masterstroke. “Here, hold my Annihilus.” I also loved Cap’s response to being introduced to the Midnight Blade, hilarious stuff. And perfect that Johnny’s not-even-short-term strategy results in obliterating the enemy armada but firebombing the planet into extinction, that sounds just about right. Hothead!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Well, I made it 49 weeks out of 2011 keeping this up, but end-of-the-year hijinx finally took their toll. I lugged a couple dozen comics 370 miles to Lubbock hoping to catch up before New Year’s, but it was all I could do to maintain the present tense in that particular asylum! I promise not to let it happen in 2012, Wednesday Night Faithful. But before we get cracking on all the new comics for the new year, let’s race through the home stretch of 2011!

BEST OF WEEK: S.H.I.E.L.D. vol. 2 #4—Absolutely barking mad insane. Eleven issues in, this might be the best one yet. I don’t know, last month was pretty incredible. This book is so smart, every single creator throwing lightning bolts at the very top of their game. That double-page spread of accelerating through history is masterfully paced. Just when we clear the first page and think we’ve seen it all, we get one last gasp of what we know, yet another rendition of Byrne’s iconic cover to UNCANNY X-MEN #142, before the entire thing runs off the tracks and everybody’s jaws crash to the floor at glimpses of near future yet to come. Was that Reed with Hope in a battlefield? Teenage Valeria about to don the Doom mask might be my favorite image of the year. What a stunning way to deliver that information. Then it looks like Bendis’s future Avengers storyline gets the fifth column, the upcoming Ultron War that will surely climax his titanic run. And for the last shot, we get a teeny-tiny silhouette checking out the total annihilation of civilization. Is it Valeria Doom? Thor? There aren’t that many capes in the Marvel Universe. It better not be the fucking Hood. Anyway, then the next nine pages are a tour de force that turn out to be nothing more than set-up for all the sheer lunacy that will slam us through at least three alternate dimensions sometime in the middle of February. Let the weeks fall past, we need those new pages.

UNCANNY X-FORCE #18—Remender and Opeña finally bring their Dark Angel Saga home and it delivers on every level. Visceral strong character work, easily the best development we’ve ever seen on classic X-Man Warren Worthington III, complete with a final two-page spread that has all the wtf? factor you could possibly want from a monster saga like this, going forward. I hope Remender has this thing mapped out until #50 or that they coerce Ellis into the fold if he has to go, because they can’t get Moore or Morrison and I really don’t believe that anyone else is capable of following what’s already happened in this very very strong first year-and-a-half.

THE NEW AVENGERS #19—Awkward encounter there at the top. Jessica’s “Just going over in my head…” line would have been so much stronger without the follow-up punchline. Bendis is actually almost making The Gorgon interesting. Did The Avengers swipe a Boom Tube for their Quinjet? And, ha, another team meal. Seems like Hand is running out of slack if she’s going to help Osborn scoop the team on something of that scale.

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #632—And now the Breitweisers! Good lord, I keep trying to trim my list, but Marvel is doing everything they can to keep this one in the pull. Volstagg Claus is, of course, a no-brainer. I really love Kid Loki. More than anyone since Simonson, Gillen’s done a pitch-perfect job capturing the tone of Norse myth in the narration, that age-old sensation, timeless. And the brand-new dynamic with The Death That Prowls On Four Legs, this one’s only picking up year steam heading into Year Two.

THE UNWRITTEN #32—Mm, this one was solid enough but doesn’t inspire further comment. As usual, I’m digging the tangential issues a bit better than the main narrative.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #21—I need to go back and read this whole arc. Didn’t get the revelation at the end. Jordi Bernet draws pretty pictures.

FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #4—This book is Monster Squad on Acid and I’m glad that Frederic Wertham is rotting in the ground. He should maybe show up as a bad guy, I guess.

DEMON KNIGHTS #4—Ooh, again a nailbiter close call, I was worried The Shining Knight impaled on the tree was going to be the only hardcore violence, but Cornell brings the average up at the end, there. I don’t care about these characters so much but am enjoying the overall storyline to hang out for a little while longer.

GREEN LANTERN #4—Johns continues to ascend, this arc remaining the best of his entire run. And getting tired of talking about Mahnke/Alamy/Champagne, they just keep knocking it out. The thing about making Carol for the last image was sweet. And Sinestro, man, so hope he’s still green after this first arc. But I think Bucky should still be Cap and Dick should have a cowl, so, you know, here’s hoping.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #4—In a really crowded field of excellent Bat-books, these guys keep swinging for the fences. Bruce Wayne’s parenting expectations are in-character, but more importantly, Universal & Perfect. “THREE THINGS—THAT’S ALL—THREE THINGS I EXPECT OF YOU: KEEP YOUR MIND AND BODY HEALTY, EXCEL AT YOUR STUDIES, AND LISTEN TO WHAT I HAVE TO SAY.” We get Damian’s dog’s name squared away, too, wonderful. Ominous tidings, though, Tomasi does not seem to be steering our Dark Squire (or Prince, maybe?)into one of the good places.

BATWOMAN #4—You know Williams just makes all of the pros sick. I mean, they love him, but it must turn their stomachs to watch this level of thunder get dropped, month after month, no matter how long it took him to actually stockpile all of this layout precision. The amount of styles he tries on and executes with seeming effortlessness is stunning. I love how all the ads have to be at the end because they just have to get out of his way, there’s no space for them this time. You could certainly make an argument on a level of purely technical mastery and achievement that this is a better book than S.H.I.E.L.D., but that shit’s more my joint, y’all. Does Williams have the best single- and double-page composition in the industry at the moment? Probably. Is he the best ever? We’ll have to trot out McCay and Eisner and Kirby and Steranko and probably five guys I never heard of and stack them all up. But Williams isn’t done yet, we should note. He’s certainly pushing the medium, the two-dimensional page, so far that it should break into a million pieces, but it just warbles there at the point of maximum elasticity, shimmering, beautiful in all of its incandescent glory and perfection.