Thursday, April 26, 2012


BATMAN #8—So, it turns out that the really quite excellent first arc of this new volume was nothing more than set-up for this first mini-crossover event. And the result is madcap! An army of Talons decide to grab a few dozen of Gotham’s most influential folk and storm into Wayne Manor with no idea what they’re getting into. As soon as the first Talon “Hoo Hoo”s his way down into the cave, I was all, “Alfred, you’re going to need to make a break for that giant penny, suh,” and could not have been happier a few pages later when that’s exactly how it went down. And what a last page, these guys are really bringing the fun. Also, cool way to do the backup, not filler at all, but actually expanding upon and advancing the plot of the main feature. Out of the gate, this looks like a hit, a logical progression from groundwork that’s been intentionally set up since September, but thrilling in its own right. Lots of viable contenders breathing down its neck, but this one’s still the best of Batch 52. 

WONDER WOMAN #8—Man, that is one hell of a cover by Chiang. More Greek Amazon shenanigans, here. I love how London is the template for Hell. Obviously. I wish Hades didn’t just remind me of Skinless Warren from BUFFY, that’s no good. Can’t stand that guy. Distressingly obvious confrontation at the end. Really trust Azzarello, but the luster is fading on this gem. Though I’m sure the next three issues will now make me eat my words.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #8—Johns continues to turn in a much much better script now that we’re through the inaugural arc (and that pesky Jim Lee is out of the way, what a shame it would have been if he and Williams had also provided the interiors for the past two issues, it drives me insane_) I love the dynamic that they’ve appropriated Apokolips tech and boom around all over the place but are rolling the dice with every port, at any point they might materialize at Darkseid’s doorstep. And then Cyborg all of a sudden bumping up against Talons? After not much of the reboot really lining up, this is quite the sudden interlock. And just a hell of a double-page Reis splash with the team throwing down with J’onn. So is/was he um bad guy? Or is this yet another of classic misunderstanding? And about the Shazam reboot, I really think I would have gone with more of an emphasis on the wish-fulfillment aspect of things, every kid can be a superhero, as opposed to reintroducing the Marvel Family as an update on Fagan’s gang. Though Frank of course continues to bring it.

FABLES #116—Well, Bad Sam is on the first page, so we’re going to go ahead and mark this one down in the W column out the gate. Incredible layout on pages 4 and 5, boy and tiger making the journey. I’m kind of worried about Therese’s nutritional requirements. Will somebody get these guys an Eisner, already?

AVENGERS VS X-MEN #2—All right. On the one hand, Aaron does a really really great job of nailing the classic Claremont tone in those narrative captions, while updating it for this day and age by only bombarding us with say about one-third of the word-count. It is a bit cheesy, but a perfect fit for people who have been reading these characters since the eighties. So straight-faced. That “The first of the day’s concussions” lining up with Cyclops getting the shit knocked out of him by Cap’s shield was total lolz, you guys. I did think JR,Jr’s art took a bit of a dip on the following pages, when the two teams face off. Wonky anatomy. On the other hand, that three-panel gag with Wanda was laugh-out-loud TURRble. Just an abomination. Wanda turns off the TV, walks away, and then we get a big reveal in the last panel. She’s been keeping a dream journal! We know because on the page that the dream journal happens to be opened up to, it says Wanda’s Dream Journal right there across the top. Then, we have the most recent entry, which consists entirely of, “This is how the world ends,” followed by a sketch of the Phoenix on the opposite page. Wanda has serious penciling chops! Maybe she can do one of the later issues if Coipel or inevitably Kubert has trouble making deadline? It’s just . . . I am having a really hard time reconciling the mind that created SCALPED out of empty white space, at this point in his career, dropping the Scarlet Witch’s dream journal on us to belabor the point that The Phoenix Is Bad. I’d probably better move on, it’s never going to make sense.

AVENGERS #25—Still not sure how to feel about this. In principle, I love it, bring in Simonson to help Bendis anchor the Big Event in one of the two flagship titles. No problem. I don’t know if I like needed the pages to be newsprint or something, but the combination of old-school Simonson art with the glossy stock and digital coloring, but it definitely disturbed me for the first few pages. Simonson Thor does totally show up, though, not as much right when he first drops in on Steve, but that Avengers Assemble! splash. I do have to strenuously object to Bendis making Noh-Varr a mole, that pretty much runs diametrically opposite to the character as established in his initial mini and, unless he turns out to be a Skrull again, then they might as well not even be using that particular character. When is a Marvel Boy not a marvel or a boy? (unless he’s a triple- or quadruple-agent, naturally) THE

DEFENDERS #5—Another fine slice of adventure comic, this. Fraction welcomes the Breitweisers to lend a hand in providing an opening page that is about as pulpy a thing as I can recall seeing from the House of Ideas in quite some time. Undersea adventure! And the footer fun continues with a journey into I guess Atlantean? In twenty pages, Fraction sends our intrepid band on a deep-sea mission that unearths the Nautilus, triggering a flashback strongly suggesting that Captain Nemo is actually Namor’s father, then Iron Fist excavates the ship before busting out some Tuvan throat-singers and Al Green on Misty Knight before some dead-looking dude busts down the door. Big American fun time! THE

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #515—I swear, “Dammit” is just all over the place in the books this week. It was just in the Next Month teaser for DEFENDERS and Tony utters it right out (over) the gate, here. Pretty dire finale to the latest arc. I’m definitely still on the hook to see what happens next. As evah. X-FACTOR #234—Mm, got to say my man PAD phones it in a bit with the recap page, we expect something greater. Havok is really rocking a TRON look these days, almost to the point of distraction. Kirk and Milla turn in seriously gorgeous pages.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #2—Another gripping installment from the men who brought us THE RED WING. I am really and truly in love with this one. It is a delight to see Feynman make an appearance, as well as learning that the radioactive monster scientist is one Harry K. Daghlian, in no way deceased but just secret origined up a couple of decades before Stan the Man started coming up with increasingly improbable reasons that his uncle’s company’s characters could have powers with which to astound the masses. Pitarra and Rosenburg continue to turn in beautiful work, this is a grade-A production right here, top to bottom. A delight.

BEST OF WEEK: PROPHET #24—Graham and Dalyrymple reduced me to a gibbering mess, not unlike one of the several dozen memorable creatures who have been granted brief walk-on roles in this gorgeous science adventure slice of perfection, part four. I really and truly hope that this isn’t the same one from the last three issues, we’re getting the adventures of a brand new John Prophet, a trend that will continue for the next little bit here. Or maybe this was a one-off and we’ll be right back with our Prime guy when Roy returns next month. It really doesn’t matter, because every one of these is everything a comic book should be, a wild exhilarating blast of future shock that looks like it was sent back from the future via tachyon solar storms by the seventieth regeneration of Moebius clones. We are so so lucky to have it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


BEST OF WEEK: FANTASTIC FOUR #605—All right, even I can grasp how implausible it’s getting to what a ridiculous extent Hickman is doing it for me. But it keeps happening! With the last issue of FF serving as a sort of palette-clearing sorbet epilogue to the massive three-year ride that finally pulled into the station, this issue is the proper first chapter to Whatever Comes Next, which turns out to be a fine summation of the issue, as Reed and his dad jump in their cloaked time sphere and make a series of millennium-sized hops to learn how the whole deal with Ben’s serum works out. The resultant fast-forward into the future of the team and New York itself is a fascinating glimpse that is over far too soon but incredibly rewarding. This functions as a microcosm of what makes this book’s initial premise so successful, opening up with blinding blasts of science wonder but then pirouetting mid-plane and resolving on the foundation of the beating heart of what really makes this series tick. Family. How we relate to our loved ones and the lengths to which we would go to save them. There were only a few words and panels by the time we made it to 6012, but they busted me up real real bad. Ron Garney, too, I’ve never really been a fan, but he provided beautiful scope for this far-reaching tale. Highly highly recommended, particularly as a drop-in issue. It’s kind of surprising that they didn’t go with this one for the .1 issue. This should still mostly crush you, even if this title hasn’t been one of your favorite books on the rack for months and months and months.

THE NEW AVENGERS #24—I had a pretty strong hunch based on the last pages of last issue that it was about time for a Luke Cage-centric. And, no problem, this guy remains one of Bendis’s favorites and gets a strong little blast here as he is reunited with wife and child but learns that, maybe not right this Big Event, but pretty soon now, he’s going to have to make a choice between family and the big show. Worth it for the single page where Luke & Jessica go back and forth for like three hundred words in a single image. Bendis! Tricky lettering, there. Well done. Deodato continues to thrill. This should be a fine ride for the next little bit here, from as far back as CIVIL WAR, Bendis has always delivered tie-in issues that are as good or surpass whatever’s going on in the main event. It will be a fine thing to make it on over to Iron Fist next month. Especially if “Dragon VS Phoenix” means he squares off against Hope and she kicks his teeth in with his own powers.

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #636—Another arc comes to a close and this series continues to provide a good time. I’m not sure what else to say, it’s nothing more or less than solid serial entertainment. Go, Kid Loki.

SECRET #1—Hickman’s proud march back to the swamps of creator-owned indie that spawned him continues with the release of this first issue. The scenes are razor-sharp, clearly crafted by someone at the tip-top of his game in terms of building narrative, but I didn’t think Ryan Bodenheim’s art quite rose to the challenge. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t offensive, just strained in a few places. Whereas with Nick Pitarra, you’re like, Where did he GET this guy? and it seems like dude can probably draw anything, this much more seems the product of Hickman headhunting indie talent and making someone’s dreams come true, hoping they rise to the challenge (which is funny, because that’s exactly what happened with Pitarra and THE RED WING). But this is still a compelling initial look at corporate security and espionage and I will be interested to see where they take it. Of course, you can chalk it up as just the skill set he showed up with, but Hickman’s got the best sense of graphic design of any writer working today.

SAGA #2—Well, the first issue wasn’t an insane fluke, this one’s probably going to go the distance. As if there was any doubt. Vaughan & Staples overcome the potential sophomore slump of such a devastating first issue with a second ride that settles into more of an even pace, mixing danger, humor, violence, and a spider monster assassin. My favorite part, though, has to be Vaughan’s deranged survey that he drops in lieu of a letters column. I burned forty-five minutes of New Comic Book reading time answering those twenty-five wonderful wonderful questions.

CONAN #3—Talk about compression. Here in the third issue, we arrive at the end of the beginning of this tale, a satisfying conclusion in and of itself, even though the reader, like Conan, thrills at what adventure now awaits our titular barbarian on the horizon. This issue succeeds on every level. We get massive plot advancement, but more importantly, deeper insight into the characters. Mainly Conan, of course, but even Bêlit, who gives an indication of being every bit as crucial to the unfolding of this tale as Juliet was to that famous play she was in that time. Ah, yeah, I kind of wish this had been called Conan & Bêlit, though that’s not a very Robert Howard title. I cannot speak with enough hyperbole about Cloonan and Stewart, they are turning in amazing work, page after page after page. Everyone should be freaking out about this quite a bit more than they actually are. Nothing short of stunning.

AMERICA’S GOT POWERS #1—Wow, and then Ross & Hitch show up with 38 pages for the $2.99 cover price. 38 PAGES OF HITCH INTERIORS. Face-melting. This one very much comes across as a Mark Millar comic that’s more concerned with characterization than the Awesome Idea that he just had that’s about to get a whole hell of a lot of that Hollywood option money coming in to keep his Scottish boat afloat. The title is, of course, terrible but a perfect reflection of its subject matter, a superhero reality show. Ross does a fine job tempering the widescreen Hitch sickness—which you of course always want to lead with if you’ve got the choice—with enough expository world-building to ground all the madness in just barely enough context. I’m not like slashing open my wrists at how great this is but will probably stick around for five more issues. Especially since, let’s be honest, it’s not like #s 5 and 6 are going to show up at solid four-week intervals after #4.

GLORY #25—Considering that almost this whole issue was a prophetic dream harbinger of what’s to come, it’s still pretty entertaining. Unlike SAGA this time out, though, these guys haven’t quite managed to hit me as continually hard as they did with the first issue. Good comics, certainly, but that #23 flattened me. I do like how EXTREME it is when people’s arms get ripped off. Nineties!

THE UNWRITTEN #36—So, the eponymous antagonist is basically a blank-page version of The Nothing from THE NEVERENDING STORY? That’s what I’m deriving from this done-in-one that serves as a continuation of all that business that was going on with The Tinker a little while back. And I’m okay with that. It really makes all kinds of sense. Really interested to get back to the main characters next month, see where they’re going now that the status quo just about climaxed itself. But now I have to wait four weeks! No mean feat, after providing new material every two weeks for eleven issues running, that we’re still hungry for more even after all of that.

FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E #8—Oh man, Lemire/Ponticelli serve up a pretty crushing explanation of Where It All Went Wrong with Frank and his Bride. Rough, rough stuff. Was this Lemire’s last issue? If so, he could not have gone out on a higher note, fine work here on every level.

BATWOMAN #8—Yeeeeeeah, maybe this would read better in trade in a single shot, but the non-linear L O S T-esque timejumping does a massive disservice to consumption of this in singles. It’s not a complete mess, but if you’re going to go with delivering little slices of four discreet stories each time out, every single one of them absolutely must deliver and pull all kinds of weight that these just don’t manage. I’m getting more acclimated to Hadley’s style. Or more receptive of Williams not drawing this? Still planning to hang out, though, Williams has all kinds of goodwill accrued with me.

ACTUALLY, TIE! BEST OF WEEK, TOO: BATMAN AND ROBIN #8—Magnificent. In terms of action, this is nothing more than an epilogue, a coda to the main event. All that happens is Bruce rushes Damian back to Wayne Manor and Alfred patches him up and then they talk about what happened. But the characterization and dialogue is so rich, this one serves as the climax to the arc in all the ways that matter. Bruce and Damian come to terms with one another with grandfather Alfred presiding over the affair with all of the dapper grace and wit that we have come to expect. Tomasi’s spot-on characterization of these delicate exchanges is matched by Gleason/Gray, who have been blowing it up this entire time but never let up, really give it to us all the way up until the last exquisite page, which for my money can hang with any last page of any Batman story ever. Really, really beautiful work.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


ACTION COMICS #8— Morrison and friends shut down the initial run of this brand-new volume of ACTION COMICS. Very satisfying on a narrative level, but the art is crazy rushed. Not bad work by any means, but when compared to the early issues, there’s quite a discrepancy, there. I could deal with that, but the thing is, the main feature’s extended page count (and thank yew very much in that regard, 30 Morrison pages go down much better than 20) meant that Morales really did need a pinchhitter to get this one in on time, and fair play to him, but the art style for the last few pages of the main story is quite a jarring switch, this gaudily colored overpainted looking kind of mess, which isn’t really so bad until you turn the page and it’s the big climactic moment of Superman flying up, up, and away, only the foreshortening is a bit off and the look on his face is the delight of a man off to eat the legs of children while listening to their wails. Not the way I want to go out, here. Kind of wrecks the momentum of the climax. Let’s set up more of a Paquette/Rudy-on-SWAMP-THING-type situation, or the way Martin and Rivera blew up those first issues of DAREDEVIL across the street, get two guys who are both totally committed to the project and complement one another and don’t have such a massive stylistic gap between them.

O.M.A.C. #8—What a magnificent last issue. Didio cranks the writing up, providing a solid expository secret origin of Kevin Kho via multiple pages of captions while the title character absolutely wrecks shit inside Mt. Rushmore. Great nod to the end of the original O.M.A.C. #8, I’m really glad that I just jammed through that original run concurrent with this series. Giffen’s contribution here really cannot be overstated. While Didio certainly gives this last blast a very solid architecture to hang itself upon, the real thrill is all of the Kirby greatness erupting from every page. The text/image ratio works really well, an impressive balance to strike, given the amount of expository captions. This was really fine work all around, and I’m sorry to see this one go. But, as ever, grateful for the ride.

ANIMAL MAN #8—I like how Buddy’s totally okay with just sending Maxine out as his go-to strategy. No, you dick, she’s four years old! The mother-in-law certainly sums it up pretty well a few pages later. Yipe. He’s maybe calling his daughter “Little Wing” a time or two too many. It’s a cool idea for a nickname in this setting, but is losing steam through repetition. Huh. Buddy’s “got this,” too. Just like ol’ Clark at Ma & Pa’s grave. Odd synchronicity. I’m glad it picked up this time out, we’ve kind of been coasting these last couple of months. But Buddy kicking a rabbit’s head off its body, with the head in the foreground dropping an “--UT!” is all the goodness that this humble reviewer needs. But what about that ending? Oh noes!

SWAMP THING #8—Man, so great to get these new Vertigo expatriates on the same day, an even better serial experience collectively. Lemire and Snyder have done great jobs setting their situations up and building them into these monster third-act climaxes that are thrilling to read back-to-back. I really dug the one page of Swamp Thing POV with the first-person captions, fine fine work. One hiccup a couple pages later, though, I wasn’t really feeling the badass “Or maybe SOME pain” line delivered by our hero. Maybe in keeping with this iteration of the Alec Holland character as established, but it felt a little bit off coming from Swamp Thing (though not as off as BRIGHTEST DAY #24! Never forget!). That’s just a tiny little nitpick, though, man, what about that art? Paquette and Rudy, as noted above, tag-team as well or better than anyone working today. Fantastic splash of our protagonist in the air. Followed by a series of ridiculous two-page shots that are as gorgeous to look at as they are horrific. Big props to Nathan Fairbairn on colors and an amazing tandem effort from Paquette and Rudy. This franchise really couldn’t have come off any better, these guys had the odds stacked against them. Can’t imagine what they’ve got on tap for a second arc, whenever that happens.

SUPREME #63—Shit, I’m so into my preferred rotation of the first week of the month, that I completely blew it and didn’t read brand new Alan Moore Supreme right up next to Grant Morrison Superman. Certainly never going to get another chance to do that again. Ah, well. The Chris Sprouse comment threw me. Did Larsen or Stephenson throw that in after the fact or was Moore already a fan fifteen-odd years ago? The thing is, man, I really really wish they’d gotten Sprouse or really a long list of folks to show up and knock out the pages on this ancient old script. Larsen’s facial expressions have improved, but I’m not a fan of his, shall we say, stylized anatomy. A few panels were on the far side of Liefeld, just chicken-scratch sketches. The really uncool thing is on the one page where New Dax is walking away, just a series of four horizontal panels, Larsen just straight copies his backgrounds for the entire page, meaning it’s a static shot of like five characters having the exact same reaction as one character walks into the foreground, the only thing that changes about the entire page. That kind of thing is all right with me when it shows up sparingly in INVINCIBLE or back a few years ago, Bendis used it as a crutch to convey his faux-Mamet beats, but, guy, you’re dusting off The Last Alan Moore SUPREME story. It’s kind of a big deal. Spend an extra afternoon on four panels worth of acting/varying facial expressions for some background characters. Overall, though, the art doesn’t throw the reader off the experience too much, just because it’s of course kind of what we grew to expect from the original run. Some Extreme horrah! The dialogue still sings all these years later, recaptures the Silver Age madness every bit as well even though it’s now so much further back in the rearview mirror. Such a damn shame that Moore didn’t finish the last issue of his second arc, or that they can’t talk him into jamming it out now. It seems like Image might be poised in a way that the Big Two of course aren’t to make some conciliatory gesture to bring him back into the fold for one last damn issue, and what a magnificent thing that would be. Drawn by Sprouse, naturally.

CHEW #25—Man, I love this series. Much much more satisfying in singles than I would have thought after jamming the first four trades. Nice to see Jay and Silent Bob kicking it with Statler and Waldorf (man, what would THAT group have done with Tony if they’d’ve won the auction?!?), always a pleasure to see Amelia on the case, and what a magnificent 35-issue flash-forward. This one really is on the short-list of comics that every lover of the medium must must must be reading.
I keep forgetting that Poyo is one of my favorite characters in all of comics and then again every time he pops up, I get that shock of thrill and delight right back for the first time. Poyo!

FATALE #3—Man, I’m buying more Image regularly than ever before, it seems. As a rule, Brubaker/Phillips/Stewart operate at such a high level of ideal energized collaboration that they are incapable of turning in work that is without hyperbole pretty much anything less than the best of which the medium is capable, whatever they want to call it. Right now, it’s FATALE. But it’s also still the best episode of SLEEPER, INCOGNITO, and oh laws yes, even CRIMINAL yet. That said, Phillips gives off more than a hint of rush here, not coasting as much as scrambling to get it done. All praise to Kirby. Did Phillips just crib the last panel on the second page for the cover here? That’s one way to get the book out on time, Johnny! I’m okay with that, though, especially if this one’s going to take as long as Brubaker has said, maybe the end chapters could stand to take a little bit longer, get every line in their right place, but there’s something to be said for just jamming it out, too. BONUS: You’d think that with losing Jess Nevins, the bar would drop a little bit on the essay, but this other fellow Stephen Blackmoore shows up with the secret origin of Phillip Marlowe via Harry Raymond and Raymond Chandler, and it is nothing less than riveting. Vice & Corruption in Prohibition LA!

KIRBY: GENESIS #6—Aaaaaaaaand on the opposite end of the spectrum, we have this. Of course, why not throw some non-Marvel Asgardians and Ulysses into the mix for good measure? What I love about this title is the insane scope that it’s managed to retain after six issues, where you still pretty expect the ground to start quaking halfway through any given issue and giant robots battling bionic subterranosaurs to roar up out from the center of the earth. This thing is frothing-at-the-mouth-insane and I hope it never changes. *(Dynamite is going to release an OGN of DINOSAURS vs. ALIENS?!? I guess I’m on the hook for that one . . .)* And the climactic confrontation begins next issue? Serious times.

THE BOYS #65—Wow. This plays out as a pretty satisfying climax to all that’s come before, in and of itself. I mean, I could probably deal with a single oversized issue to epilogue this entire situation. The fact that we’ve still got a five-issue arc left to go is almost as horrifying as some of the events that take place upon these pages. The mystery of Black Noir is finally revealed, and Butcher finally gets his. This is nothing but damn fine comics, the $5 price-point doubled up with CASANOVA made for a pretty tight week, but 38 pages of greatness over here is more than worth it. Also, cool that KIRBY: GENESIS finally showed up this week, I likes my groupings by publisher.

DAREDEVIL #10.1—All right, well, I see what the deal is/was about Khoi Pham. The linework certainly isn’t bad, but it’s nowhere near the astronomically high bar that Martin and Rivera have set. It might be best for him to move on and let Samnee take a shot, the man’s got the stuff. Waid gives us a few pages’ captions worth of status quo exposition to knock out the .1 aspect of things before thickening the plot with a meeting of the minds and subsequent escalation from Matt. Not reading Spidey or Punisher at the moment, but figure Waid will treat us right next month, folding us regulars into the third and final part of a crossover that we’re just stumbling in to.

BEST OF WEEK: CASANOVA: AVARITIA #3—This is beautiful work, everything coming together and escalating in a way and to a degree that it hadn’t quite worked its way up to in the first couple of installments back. That shot of Cass walking into the hospital room on the fourth page is almost my favorite Bá shot ever. And of course the new epilogue from GULA makes all kinds of sense now. Good night, this entire series is such a mindfuck. I’ve been through the whole thing at least half a dozen times and can just barely wrap my mind around what’s going on, and I’m pretty sure that what I’m understanding is a mirage. No, wait, the Kirby crackle time machine on Page 8, THAT’s my favorite Bá art. Cris Peter really steps it up, on this volume as a whole, but in particular with this issue. And as many letters columns as have suddenly come rushing back, the words generated by this crew of readers are no problem the most consistently entertaining and intelligent. Happy to spend $5 or whatever they’re asking for this piece of sequential entertainment, this slab of my heart frozen and recorded upon what appear to be static pages of two-dimensional space/time though I suspect they are so much more.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


BEST OF WEEK: FF#16—The epilogue issue. If this was classic Claremont UNCANNY, it would be ten pages of baseball and twelve pages of characters working out their feelings via long-winded and heavily stylized dialogue. Here, we have two versions of Franklin Richards giving each other nicknames, the corresponding versions of Valeria expressing their mutual dislike for one another via narrative captions and the miracle of time travel, the Torch inviting himself to move in with Spidey, because of course, a truly fantastic reveal with regard to a geosynchronous orbiting space station, and the secret of what Valeria whispered to Uncle Doom when shit was going down with the mad Celestials and Galactus and that last alternate Reed. As much a mission statement for what’s to come as respite from all that’s gone before, this glorious double-shot of sequential thunder from Hickman remains just about my favorite thing on the rack. So consistently rewarding.

DAREDEVIL #10—Though Waid and the Riveras certainly continue to blow it up with Matt Murdock. This is the second and final part of the battle with the Mole Man, some gorgeous fight choreography from Mister Paolo. And the radar-sense panels really don’t seem like they’re ever going to get old. Nice little twist on the Black Cat, I did not see that coming. Don’t let the crushing amount of hype turn you off this book. It completely surpasses it. This is about as good as corporate comics can get. Which is better than it sounds, fine fine work here, all around.

MORNING GLORIES #17—Otherwise known as The Talking Issue. Spencer takes yet another page out of the Lindelof playbook and follows up a devastating cliffhanger with no advancement whatsoever and instead revisits the events of the previous two issues from a different point of view, that of Jade and Ike sitting in the cave anchoring (or whatever) the bodies of our time wanderers. This is a Jade-centric episode that more than a little resembles Claire’s flashback from Season 3. In a good way. I have to say, between the dialogue and the way Eisma frames the shots, they keep this one moving along real well and make the entire issue pretty compelling. No mean feat, as it comes in at 34 pages for still just three measly dollahs! That’s almost eight dollars’ worth of Mighty Marvel Action! Rounding the bend of its second year, this book is as great as it’s ever been, which is no mean feat, considering how strongly it came out of the gate. Recommended for one and all.

THE UNWRITTEN #35.5—Yah, and this one was as crazy as expected. The story of a new character who winds up being one of the readers in The Grid and rocks a pivotal little set-up here in the epilogue of this pretty climactic arc. It will be interesting to see how what he does next plays in to the main narrative. Taking this book bi-weekly was definitely a gamble that we are now in a position to declare a success on every level.

SPACEMAN #5—Maybe the team behind 100 BULLETS deserves paper stock that is at least average? This is déjà vu, did I complain about this last month? Or wait, maybe it was for FAIREST or FABLES. Same difference, though, if it was across the board, I’d get it, but if Vertigo’s going to spring for decent quality paper for AMERICAN VAMPIRE, they really ought to do the same for this. I can even almost understand cutting costs for FABLES singles, that’s such a tradewaiting book for most folks, but something like this, the entire creative team of such a well-done and –regarded book reuniting for only nine issues, it seems to merit a bit better treatment. This installment was more of the same, top-drawer work from all parties. Sorry to only get four more of these, but can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #25—Snyder and Albuqeurque serve up the last part of “Death Race,” which might actually feature my favorite protagonist to date, particularly in light of that last shot. Really strong material before we dial back into the main narrative for an event that will surely reverberate in the months to come.

FLASH #7—I didn’t feel like too much went down in this one, but they still managed to serve up two or three shots that make it worth picking up all on their own. And the consequences of Barry’s decision should make for compelling reading in the next little bit, here. Glad these guys aren’t going anywhere for some time.

UNCANNY X-FORCE #23—I’m still not quite acclimated to Tocchini’s style here, but the breakneck pace of the story more than makes up for it. We get an fairly insane resolution to this arc that sees the stakes ramp up to such an exponential high, it just about beggars the imagination. In this one, our heroes really do have only a few seconds to Save Everything, but to do it, they have to commit an action that is almost unimaginable. Remender delivers all of this madness via character work with Psylocke that continues what has turned into the best and most engaging run in her history. Two years in, this one is showing no signs of flagging. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.

NEW AVENGERS #23—And just under the wire, we get the last of the whole DARK REIGN 2.0 in before the next thing happens. This was fine. As much as I’ve ever cared about Skaar. Which isn’t really saying so much. Deodato remains a hoss.

AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #0—And is time! The Big Event is Upon Us! This right here is a prequel containing two stories that set up this story’s two female protagonists. Art on both by Cho. Bendis catches us up with The Scarlet Witch, who hasn’t been seen in some time, while Aaron checks us back in with Episode #47 of Rebelling Against Cyclops with Hope. There really was some nice tandem thematically between the two stories, they function very well as inversions of one another and are richer reading experiences due to their juxtaposition in a single periodical. Bendis has Vision put the Total Shutdown on poor Wanda while Aaron throws some none-too-subtle Eve parallels on our girl Hope (she fights the Serpent Society, for God’s sake). Cho certainly draws some beautiful faces, but his figurework comes across as a bit stiff in places here where I think we could use a bit more dynamism. Still, this book is pretty enjoyable and does a fine job of executing its mission parameters, bringing us up to speed for The Big Event XII (or whatever we’re up to now).

AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #1—Aaaaaaand the trusty LCS either didn’t realize or ignored (I’m going to go with the former) the whole street date situation, so after being furious that Marvel was throwing down four Bendis Avengers in one week (I abstained from the Vision-centric AVENGERS #24.1 [I mean, really, didn’t Hitch do a #12.1 last year?] and went ahead and with a heavy heart dropped Fraction THOR because it was yet another fill-in artist for a $4 20-pgr), I still picked this up and thought it was a very solid first issue. Which I guess we should suspect, Bendis’s SECRET INVASION #1 is the best first issue of this kind of thing that I’ve ever run across, as much of a mess as the series turned out to be. But yeah, we get Big Saving New York Action with the Avengers, a bit of check-in character building on Utopia with our merry mutants, then Steve & Tony break it down for Obama (which, this briefing made me totally pine for a montage of good old 44’s reaction to all the major catastrophic situations of Marvel days of yore. “You say he’s got a helmet like a tuning fork . . . and he wants to eat the planet? That is unbelievable. Truly unbelievable.”), followed by a pitch-perfect conversation between Scott and Steve that escalates in all the right ways. My favorite part of the issue was the look on Namor’s face when Cyke throws down the gauntlet, the bemused respect. Great work from Johnny RomRom, really cool to see him reconciling his classic mid-80s run alongside Claremont with his more recent work relaunching the flagship alongside Bendis post-SIEGE. This one also does everything that it’s supposed to do. The fact that five such excellent writers are passing this one back and forth between them gives me a great deal of hope that the narrative fumbles that have plagued Marvel events in the past decade will not recur here.

!EMERGENCY ALERT!: As we were going to press here at Wednesday Night Mass, your Excited Editor has learned of the very real and true possibility that the third issue of the new CASANOVA finally came out last week! If so, it was certainly the greatest thing that happened, in any and every medium! Stay tuned for further developments!