Tuesday, March 27, 2012

3/21/12

TINY TITANS #50—(I suspect that this final issue will eventually take BestofWeek. However, it is taking a bit longer to rock a marathon 52-issue reread with a three-year-old than I initially reckoned upon. Watch this space!)

BATMAN #7—This one didn’t blow me up as much as previous installments. Capullo/Glapion still turn in gorgeous panels, but the story wandered a bit too far into melodrama for my taste. The “He was your great-grandfather!” line coming in from out of nowhere and the necessity of decking Dick Grayson to prove a point, in particular. Though, of course, you have to admire Bruce’s control and finesse. It takes some serious ninja precision to pinpoint a particular tooth to knock out with one punch! I remain quietly optimistic about this little event coming up here. Also looking forward to Albuquerque backup pencils next month.

WONDER WOMAN #7—Huh. The Amazons are siren/rapists and traded their boychildren to Hephaestus for weapons. I guess it makes sense in this new Greek context, but it’s kind of gross. Glad to have Chiang back, though, hey. Like a few other books from the relaunch, I’m enjoying this one well enough in individual issues but feel like they should be building toward a greater sum than they have thus far.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #7—Huh. Johns waited until Lee was gone to finally turn in a script that did it for me. Maybe I just wasn’t feeling every aspect of the whole together-again-for-the-first-time situation in the first arc, but this whole thing went much better for me. GL and Flash giving Batman the business, the throwaway bit with the umbrella for Aquaman, these little beats worked for me in a way that was falling entirely flat in the first arc. A strange call to make Steve Trevor suddenly the focus of this one, but it worked well enough for me. It seems like Johns is trying to mine out some of that superheroes vs/as government territory first carved out by Ellis a long long time ago in STORMWATCH/AUTHORITY and cursorily explored by Millar in ULTIMATES once he got his grubby Scottish hands on old Hitch. Is Johns trying to make the writer-guy the villain now, suddenly? That would be an odd play for the Trade Federation.

The Shazam backup is anathema. Beautiful work from Gary Frank as always, but turning Billy Batson into a bastard and making Shazam grim’n’gritty with a hoodie is pretty much straight-up caricature out of the gate. Like, if Michael Kupperman was dropping this, I’d be laughing my ass off. It just doesn’t seem like they’re joking, here. I can appreciate that if the Kunkel version didn’t take off and bringing the TINY TITANS guys in to write didn’t work, then you need a different approach, but this is a thousand times no not it. You have to have a certain amount of respect for the source material. Jettison too much and you might as well have created a different character. If you make Wonder Woman a heartless lying bitch trying to succeed in the world of big business, well, it’s not really Wonder Woman anymore, is it? Wish they would have given Palmiotti/Connor a shot at the boy reporter whose greatest wish comes true, those would have been fun comics. And, more than most characters, it seems important to me for Shazam to remain fun. Not not not hanging out in a dark alley. In a hoodie. Seriously.

FABLES #115—Again, not much new to report. This series remains a fine example of an engaging serial narrative distributed in a monthly format. Still holding my breath for the Bad Sam arc.

KICK-ASS 2#7—What a wild rumpus! Not much surprising in here, which is actually kind of a shock, in and of itself. Old Millar certainly likes to pull the rug out whenever he gets a wild idea, regardless of how well he’s set it up. Maybe it’s having Hit-Girl pull a Captain America, there. I don’t know, I’m not wild about the idea of a HIT-GIRL mini that takes place in-between the first and second volumes of this, if she winds up where she was in Vol 2 #1, who really cares what happens over the course of her own spinoff? All the dirty words she said? I bought this thinking that it might be my last Millar comic, but then that eight-page Gibbons preview was actually pretty solid. And I don’t know how I can not buy Quitely pages. *shakes fist at Millar*

THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #514—Fraction continues to keep the plates spinning and wring Tony’s planned relapse for every iota of story potential possible. Which, why not? This one continues to deliver the goods on a monthly basis.

X-FACTOR #233—We finally get to see the classic all-new all-different team back in action. I like how Kirk even dresses Val Cooper up in her c. ’91 wardrobe, the trenchcoat and tie. Really glad that Layla just cut through the bullshit as soon as she woke up, PAD knows that none of us want to sit through months of Madrox agonizing in caption boxes over all of that business. More true words on the recap page yet again. With this and FABLES coming out on the same day, there is a bedrock of reliability to the third week of the month that no other weeks can hope to match. Oh, and I enjoyed the letters column, how PAD kept nonchalantly jacking up the number of issues they produce per year. Hilarious business.

BEST OF WEEK: PROPHET #23—I really love this series. Graham & Roy do a fantastic job of presenting a satisfying episode in and of itself while still managing to launch their ongoing narrative right on off beyond the stratosphere. Even more than in previous installments, this really comes across as Moebius dropping some serious John Carter-type science pulp adventure. I’m crazy for it. Really dig the tone of the prose, the long-shot detail of whatever crazy thing our hero’s stumbled across next, and the gorgeous colors gracing the pages. I especially appreciate the way the entire thing just trapdoors out into the galaxy at the end of this one. Can’t imagine what they’ve got in the hopper for the fourth damn issue when this is what they do to shut down the third one. Top-drawer work/why we show up on Wednesday/everyone should be reading this to their children and pets/etc, etc…

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

3/14/12


BEST OF WEEK: FANTASTIC FOUR #604—I read this issue with a growing amount of dread and trepidation that cycled back and fed upon itself with every successive page. As I have noted in this space for the last few installments, there has been a strong feeling within the past few issues of this run that this story has been hurtling toward its logical end. Conclusive narrative gravitation, if you will. Which is a tricky thing on Marvel’s original flagship superhero serial. I mean, it’s not like they’re just going to quietly tuck this one in and give it the royal sendoff. The next logical conclusion was that Hickman was dropping the mic, blowing up everything on his way out the door Morrison-style and best of luck to the poor chump next month. This scenario seems most likely from the cover on, which is just the kind of generic team shot usually reserved for the first or last issue of an arc or run. It didn’t help when all that Kirby Krackle started erupting between Franklin and the Celestials. Or when Nathaniel makes direct reference to Reed going through the bridge way back in that very first arc, the DARK REIGN mini before they even let Hickman on the main book. And the hits keep on coming. That page about your children simply becoming who they’re going to be followed by those two pages of insanity. “TO ME . . . MY GALACTUS!” is some of the craziest shit that has ever gone down in this book, and that is really saying something. I love the flip on the consequences of our Reed choosing differently than all of his counterparts. And all the different shots of the extensive ensemble that Hickman has introduced and co-opted all pausing to watch the second sun, just a hell of a montage, there. Though what a final scene. Devastating imagery. Better than anyone since the initial glorious run, Hickman has drilled down into the beating heart of this book. What makes it work is not all the mad-science trappings, Negative Zones and Ultimate Nullifiers and Latverian despots. It’s the simple and eternal connections between family.

I made it to the end of the story. It didn’t actually say THE END, but the last page was all black and just had THE FANTASTIC FOUR logo with a 4. About as definitive and ending as we’re going to get from a #604 when there has to be a #605 coming the next month. Then we turn the page to an epilogue that’s a callback to the prologue from #570, Hickman’s first issue on the main title. It was perfect. I was crushed. Probably my favorite run of modern-day serial comics had come to a conclusion and provided satisfaction on every level, three years’ worth of plot threads spiraling up and around each other culminating in a resolution that naturally follow from all that had gone before and still managed to take my breath away. One of the best series finales I’ve ever made it through. I was gutted.

But oh look, Hickman’s still writing both books next month. Just on to the next tale. Cannot begin to imagine what he’s got planned next.

LOCKE & KEY #5—Wow. On the way to a New Orleans con six weeks ago, my friend put the first volume of this series in my hands. I’ve been hearing the hype for months and months and dove in, curious to see if it could possibly live up to the blistering acclaim. It surpassed it. When we stopped at Lake Charles for lunch, I let the crew go on inside and stayed in the van because I couldn’t put down Volume 2. The bastard left Volumes 3 and 4 at his house, so I had to purchase them at the con immediately, rabid to find out what happened next. When I made it to the end of 4, knew there was no way I’d be waiting until the middle of summer for the aftermath of all of that. But #s 1 and 2 of Volume 5 were sold-out and out-of-print. Oh noes! It was only Monday night of this week that another dear friend pointed out that we could just digitally download them. Off to the races! Jammed #s 1 and 2 Monday night, 3 and 4 Tuesday night (store-bought singles, waiting for weeks to be read) and there I was, right in the middle of SXSW with #5 piping hot off the rack and waiting to be consumed. So, it’s hard to just review the single issue. And you might say that I am one who is given to hyperbole from time to time. But, at least until MAD MEN finally clocks back in this weekend, this might be my very favorite story that’s currently being serialized in any medium. It is five-star top-of-the-line knocking-every-issue-into-the-stratosphere just damn good comics. What if Stephen King had a son who was pretty much a master storyteller before his first issue ever came out and so there was no learning curve whatsoever, from the very beginning every story beat and character interaction and line of dialogue was perfectly resonant, presaging what is yet to come and calling back to what’s gone before with surgical precision, with symphonic rhapsody? And then he found the perfect artist? This is not only one of my favorite horror stories of all time, it’s one of my favorite, period.

Um, #5 of Volume 5 was really good. It’s going to be a long month.

SAGA #1—Gaaaaaah, this week just about blew me out, what a ridiculous level of quality. I can remember when I was ignoring his ULTIMATE X-MEN run and still picking up three monthly titles from him, but it’s been a couple years now since all that came to an end and Brian K. Vaughan’s published output dropped to nothing. He’s still been working on material, graphic novels and this, presumably, but I had forgotten how much I dig his beats, in-dialogue and the way that he paces a plot. He’s enticed Fiona Staples to blast off with him on this bold new adventure and lady makes it happen on every conceivable level. As much as I love the art, the species designs, the very human expressions on the aliens’ faces, the layouts, my favorite thing she does might be the hand-lettered narration. Beautiful work. The premise here is, if not boilerplate then fairly standard, as far as space opera goes. We’ve got a Romeo & Juliet-type situation and open the story with the birth of the child of the forbidden union. Then, everybody runs around and talks good. It’s basically as simple as that, but the creators imbue their alien characters with such a degree of (I can only describe it as) humanity that we’re onboard with them almost at once, fully engaged in their fairly serious dilemma. Probably my sole gripe is that the mom drops “retarded” as a pejorative, which, never mind how you feel about it, feels like such a 21st Century Earth bit of slang that it trapdoored me right out of the story for a second, there. Still, this is just ANOTHER new #1 that I’m so grateful to have, can’t believe how many tremendous new monthlies are falling out of the sky lately.

THE AVENGERS #24—PurpleOsbornHulk! Because why not. Storm speaking in contractions does not ring true for me. We’re finally done with Osborn? Kind of a silly way for him to go down after all this time, but whatever gets the job done. Bring on Simonson. Please.

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #635—Gillen continues to show off his chops here. Another fine and silly recap page. And plenty of work invested into each individual dreamer who we only meet for a page or two, the lad is earning his pounds for this work, yes.

GLORY #24—This one didn’t destroy me quite as much as last time, if only because I was expecting it to, the old sophomore jinx. Also, the mixed-breed between warring tribes bit fell a little flat for me this month after the SAGA. It was still solid work, Ross Campbell turns in some compelling draftsmanship and, again, really needs to be lauded for his refusal to adhere to the decades-old stereotype of drawing a bunch of women with D-cups rocking brokeback poses.

CONAN #2—The first issue blew everything out of the water the week that it came out, and I think I like this one better. Wood continues to balance just enough Courier captions to give us a flavor of Howard’s original source material but still provide the images of this more visual medium a chance to breathe. To sing, even. Cloonan again turns in work that is the equal of her formidable output to date, really doing a fine job of imbuing her protagonist with body language and facial expressions that convey his youth and arrogance, an interesting variation on the chiseled Frazetta barbarian that everyone knows and loves. And, yeah, a last page that leaves you wanting more immediately. Also, again, enjoyed that Two-Gun Bob strip, the words he was writing interesting enough before you make it to the end and find out to whom the letter is addressed.

MOUSE GUARD: THE BLACK AXE #4—Quite some time after #3, David Petersen finally delivers the next piece of his third volume and it is well worth the wait. Some beautiful rendering here, you can definitely see how the battle with the fox took much longer to draw than previous issues. Beautiful work, but I’ve got to say that I’m ready to get back to the present. Or 1152, whenever the first two volumes took place. It is past time for Spring 1153.

THE UNWRITTEN #35—Um, wow. I thought this was running 50 issues? Maybe that was a pre-.5 issues plan, don’t see now how there could be more than one epilogue arc to go. Huge payoffs and business going down, prehistoric secret origins revealed, people and wands and guns melting into words just all over the place. Very satisfying. I guess #35.5 is probably going to be a hell of a thing. I’m interested to see what they’ll do next, this has been quite the ride.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #7—This ballistic arc roars on with an aerial batmobile/tank crashing through the walls at the last possible second. It seemed to come to a conclusion but then we get another twist on the last page, there. Gleason’s work is starting to look a bit strained if you go back and compare the linework to #1, but kudos to him for maintaining the monthly grind. There were a couple of terrible lines in this that I really can’t believe came from Tomasi, Batman’s “BLEED . . . BADLY” bit and then Damian’s last line. Clich├ęs are pretty much never the way you want to leave off with your reader on the last page, no matter how clever they are, and this one simply wasn’t. Don’t know how that came out of him. This book is still holding its own in a very crowded and strong line of Batman family books, though.

FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E #7—Fine work here, Lemire and Ponticelli turn in one of their best issues yet. Going to be a shame to lose Lemire on this one, but I’ll probably hang out and give his buddy a chance.

GREEN LANTERN #7—Mahnke/Alamy return as we launch into Part 1 of the next thing. I don’t know, Carol’s Star Sapphire again, Black Hand returns . . . I didn’t really care when those things happened the first time. This run looks like it’s starting to eat itself. Lately, I’ve been dropping mainstream superhero titles I’ve been picking up out of habit and shifting more in the direction of creator-owned. This run that I’ve been picking up for seven years now might be next.

BATWOMAN #7—This book is suffering from spoiling us with JHW3 interiors for a few months in a row out of the gate. I know that those pages aren’t anywhere near monthly work, but I hoped that the massive lead-time (#1 was originally solicited for Feb 2011, no?) would have given us more than five issues in a row. Which wouldn’t be such a big deal if I was more into this art. It might be worse that Reeder is trying to mimic Williams’s innovative layouts, which only serves to highlight the massive discrepancies in their styles. Or maybe I’m just not feeling the inks and colors. Also, the jumping between timelines and characters. Like I said last month, I’m all about it when it serves a purpose, tightens up the dramatic tension, but so far it’s just a series of scenes that seem thrown out haphazardly and haven’t had a chance to connect up after forty pages, now. I was almost getting into it toward the end there, oh no, she’s got to go steal Croc from Maggie, that could be cool, but then scene-shift to the present, a confrontation I don’t care about and limp cliffhanger to take us out. I read that someone else was taking over art for #9, meaning JHW3 isn’t coming back next. I don’t know, I might bench this one until he does.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

3/07/12

These comics were consumed beginning at 1:30 early Thursday morning after scalping tickets to see Radiohead and then consuming Jameson on a patio in south Austin, so, started the experience in a bit stranger place than usual.

ACTION COMICS #7—After a superior two-issue interlude, we jump back into the opening arc with Morales and Bryant. Cool opening scene getting 1930s-power-level Superman into space. The best bit by far is the multi-planet origin of Brainiac, makes all kinds of sense. Chilling. I enjoyed the main feature well enough, but hope it wraps up after the next issue. Which I bet it will, now that he pulled his new costume out of nowhere. The back-up feature was pretty weak, filler. I’ve enjoyed a few of Sholly Fisch’s stories, but this one fell flat for me. I’ve got to say, why aren’t these a lot cooler? Is this the best DC can do to back up Morrison On ACTION? You know? If a Steel feature is it, it needs to be handled by at least B-list talent. But why not Giffen on Jimmy Olsen? Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios on Lois Lane? Busiek penning a Perry White feature? These Steel tangents are frankly boring. Though I appreciate them at least offering additional pages for the higher cover price.

O.M.A.C. #7—Superman! In the finest Kirby tradition, we open with a wall-smashing punch-up! And Giffen even gets to draw the big guy’s face and S. Can’t believe I didn’t figure out the bit about the tiger. Though maybe I was just bummed that the talking animals didn’t all find a way to work their own names into dialogue in the group panel in which they first appeared. I guess Didio’s setting up a Kamandi feature at some point? I’d be delighted to see this creative team carry on with that. This remains a lot of fun, will be sorry to see it go after next month.

ANIMAL MAN #7—Going to miss Travel Foreman, but Pugh shows here that he’s got more than enough chops to keep steering this book along in the disturbing direction to which we’ve become accustomed. Strange glimpse of the future, there, little Maxine and Constantine seemed older but was Buddy’s mother-in-law still the same age? Or just still really really old? I’m still digging this, but it feels like it’s spinning its wheels a little bit after all of this time. Enough driving around, I crave Beast War!

SWAMP THING #7—I guess this is the end of the first arc? It’s quite a powerful image to go out on. This feels like the climax and culmination of the first movement. Unless there’s more of a definitive ending next month, but it’s a great beat to go out on, very reminiscent of the definitive oft-referenced Moore run. Snyder has taken his time, not as much rolling with a decompressed pace a la Bendis, but really investing the months and pages in enough character groundwork that when Alec makes his inevitable and only decision, the reader can see how far he’s come. And, my God, Paquette. I don’t understand why more people aren’t freaking out about him. Innovative layouts, an unreal amount of detail in his linework, the man has been knocking it out of the park for quite some time now. This one has swung up on the old Green/Red seesaw, I’m now much more invested in seeing what’s going to happen in this book vs Lemire’s. Though it will be neat-o when they finally intersect.

BEST OF WEEK: THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #1—Good lord, I was expecting quite a lot, have been since I first heard about the book and got to see some pages last November, but this blast of madness exceeded my expectations by far. I thought Hickman was swinging for the fences as hard as he could during these past three years of FF, but the amount of crazy he manages to pack into this debut issue can only be compared to Morrison. Several great ideas that he just tosses off like they were mundane. Divergence engines mining imaginary weapons, sentient origami, a kamikaze killing machine Zen-powered by Death Buddhists, this is why I show up every Wednesday, ladies and gentlemen. And Pitarra turns in somehow better work than what we got in last year’s THE RED WING, rock-solid composition and masterful detail that belie his years. His style is an engrossing amalgamation of Quitely, Darrow, and Burnham. And Cris Peter’s tones not only support the story but lend it considerable narrative depth. This is top-shelf comics right here, creator-owned or otherwise. Really delighted to be getting started with this crew. Especially if Feynman is narrating, I mean, my God.

THE BOYS #64—Yas yas, I keep saying it, but it keeps being more and more true, Ennis is clearly ramping up here to the endgame. We are not getting a latebreaking announcement that this series will now be running until #80. Butcher gets a couple of sentimental beats here before the awful end, that line about wanting to toughen Hughie up was great, but the bit about Mallory came so far out of nowhere that it really did a number on me. What is the mystery of Black Noir?

FATALE #3—Yeah, the plot keeps thickening and I find it hard to believe that Brubaker says he needs a full 15 issues versus 12 to tell the story. Got no problem with it, just can’t imagine how far we’re going to go. Nice to open up with the present day, I was wondering when we were going to get back to that. This is fine work again, again, just installment # one-hundred-something of Brubaker/Phillips in perfect tandem, with Dave Stewart certainly not hurting the cause, never.

FAIREST #1—Huh. If there was one book that was not going to fail the Bechdel test this week, I would have put up good money that it would be this one. I was kind of furious when I made it through the first pass. This is ostensibly a spinoff from FABLES featuring the considerable female cast that make up half of that book’s ensemble. Jimenez and Lanning’s pages look better than ever. The pages are still on that really cheap newsprint that only some Vertigo books seem to get saddled with, but I can live with that. The ridiculous part is that this pilot issue is all about Ali Baba and a bottle imp and a lone wooden soldier still running around tearing shit up even though the war has been over for 40 issues now. The only women that appear in the entire issue are asleep. One of them gets a line on the last page. If you remove the context, there’s nothing wrong with this on a narrative level. It’s as good as your average issue of FABLES. But as the debut issue of FAIREST, I find it extraordinarily lacking from someone I’ve come to respect and trust as much as Willingham. Here’s hoping for something much more substantive from the XX corner next month.

THE DEFENDERS #4—No Dodsons! Well, at least we’ve got monsters like Lark/Guadiano to carry the weight, fresh off their excellent issue of Ellis’s SECRET AVENGERS. This is pretty much a solo Dr. Strange issue, but there’s nothing wrong with that, I almost liked it better than the first arc. A bit less action from the advertising/surreal non-sequiturs this time out, or maybe I just didn’t know the song lyrics? Still can’t get over the logic of Marvel charging $4 for this and $3 for Hickman FFs and Waid DAREDEVIL, but enjoying it as long as it lasts.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

2/29/12

When is the last time that new comics came out on Leap Day? Quite some time, I reckon. Respect the milestone! After all of that indie last week, we are about to dive headfirst into corporate comics. Beware!

TINY TITANS #49—AyeGod, the penultimate issue and the boys don’t pull any punches. We get another random grouping of characters in the form of the Squishy Titans, ostensibly led by Plasmus, with Bumblebee hanging around I guess for company, returning friends like Offspring and Proty from the 31st Century, as well as Clayface, who I don’t think has shown up in these pages as of yet. The standout this issue is, no question, Clayface’s splash-page tirade on what all you can do with mud, which still about knocks my kid right off her bed a few days and twenty reads later. Fine fine work. It is ridiculous how badly reading the last issue next month is going to cut out my heart.

BEST OF WEEK: FF #15—Hickman simply cannot stop knocking it out of the solar system. This one’s the flipside to last week’s flagship title, a few pages are even the exact same dialogue, every time that the kids intersect the adult team, but their journey here contains its own engaging character beats (Valeria to Kristoff, Franklin calling Leech his best friend) that are the heart and soul of this book, never mind all the Kirby Krackle and Celestial bombast. I’ve certainly been wondering about the mysterious figure in white since #600 and had some fun guessing his identity throughout this issue. I had been thinking it was Nathaniel but then settled on Tesla about halfway through this one. I spent the previous week just blown away by the last page of FANTASTIC FOUR and the trick Hickman pulls at the end of this one makes me glad that they weren’t released on the same day like last month, so I had that extra time to let the cliffhanger really percolate in my imagination. I’m starting to fear that Hickman’s run is coming to an end and no one’s told me, because it really really seems like everything that he’s been building to for the past three years is coming to an end, just any week now. And what’s with the AVX preview knocking out my split-page Coming Attractions for next month? I dig that. Oh, I've got to say, put me down with the folks who loved Bobillo's crazy indie style for these kids. Sorry to see him go so quickly, but Dragotta certainly picks up the slack. Also, talking art, I've got to take old Mike Choi to task for giving Julie Power a Britney Spears mid-riff costume on the cover when she’s rocking the same old full-body threads on the interior pages. We don’t have to see her belly to take her seriously as a character! Thanks for leaving Katie’s costume alone.

THE NEW AVENGERS #22—Deodato draws the shit out of this, fantastic double-page spread on 2 and 3, tweaking what he did last month. It still seems a bit ridiculous that we’re spending this much time on Osborn so soon after DARK REIGN, but Bendis makes the characters interactions just barely worth the $4 ride.

THE AVENGERS #23—Cool to see Daisy quake it up, as ever. Nice moment when the military shows up at the mansion to synch the two books up, I was wondering about that. Just three more of these and then we’re done with Osborn, yah?

JUSTICE LEAGUE #6—Well, Johns finally shows up here with some character moments that, while probably not as deft as the business he was regularly rocking years ago on JSA, at least manage to live up to the art and not come across as lowest-common-denominator as the series has thus far. That was supposed to be a compliment. The camaraderie between the team doesn’t come across as staged as it has up until now. Though Hal Jordan’s dialogue still seems a bit forced, which makes no sense at all, given that Johns has been writing the guy monthly for, what, like eight years, now? It was a nice touch that the everyman guy turned out to be the author of the backmatter a couple months back. As for the Pandora story, I found it mostly ridiculous. Been thinking she was Raven, but now she’s maybe Zealot? Or an amalgam? Possibly the daughter of Darkseid referenced in the main story? That’s not a horrible set-up, but the minute she went all acrobatic Grifter on THE PHANTOM STRANGER, I experienced a severe disconnect. I mean, first the Swamp Thing punchout in the last issue of BLACKEST NIGHT and now this. Yes, it’s been twenty years now, the minimum distance for official classic-rock-level-nostalgia, but that really doesn’t mean that we want to bring back the 90s again, even with hyperkewl magic guns. When writing The Phantom Stranger, aim for Moore and Gaiman, not Lobdell and Harras. No matter who the boss is.

THE UNWRITTEN #34.5—We get an even more engaging .5 than usual, the secret origin of Wilson Taylor (which of course turns out to not even be his real name). This basically functions as the zero issue for the entire series, chronicling the point at which the patriarch first stumbles upon the power of story and the effect that believing in it can affect reality. I’m now remembering the old lady who shows up at the end of this, whose origin I think we caught in 32.5. I really need to marathon back through all of these before the finale, it’s going to bring a lot of threads together that I think are eluding me in the month-by-month. Another solid done-in-one, great Erskine art. Though, you know what, the unrelenting pace of getting pummeled by this biweekly is starting to hit me, bring on #36 and a three weeks’ respite.

SPACEMAN #4—More top-flight work from one of the most synergistic teams in the industry. Azzarello’s gift for dialogue might have never been more in evidence, incredible things he does with phonetics and abbreviations, somehow completely futuristic and grounded in believability at the same time. That cliffhanger, it looks like Orson might have some trouble with his remote sexgirl. Which, we’ve all been there.