Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Twelve books this week! If JH can’t show up to draw Batwoman, it looks like poor Kate is going to get squeeeezed out, I’m sorry to say. On the other hand, this is as strong a week of Non-Big-Two offerings as I can remember consuming, really crushing. I always try to save the best for last but there was no chance of that after two months of waiting for this next installment (six weeks, incidentally, being how long it had taken me to dole out consumption of the previous 29 issues):

LOCKE & KEY: CLOCKWORKS #6—Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Jay Fotos deliver the goods on every level in my new Very Favorite Series Being Published Today. This is the final issue of the fifth and penultimate volume, in which we conclude our flashback to how it all went down 25 years ago before getting suckerpunched with an unreal final page that leaves you scratching your eyes out waiting for the final volume to arrive. I don’t want to get into the plot at all, really, just because I’d hate for someone to even skim over something and miss out on experiencing this for themselves, but the reason I think this book is the best on the rack is because it features the most fully-realized characters stumbling their way through a plot that always feels like an organic extension of what’s come before, never ever like a master storyteller just throwing the sickest shit at you imaginable as fast as he can, even though that’s happening too, and then the artists are a freakshow, never heard of either one of them outside of this and they simply burn it down with every single page. Just realized that trying to make it through the last issue of this is going to have me as twisted up as ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #12 or the finale of that show about the island did. Strong strong work. I highly recommend you purchase the first two volumes and then try to stop yourself from there.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #3—Man, just an immensely satisfying slab of serial narrative, here. I think I liked it better than FF, which makes it just improbably batshit good. This series takes a premise so wonderful that it would cripple the most ambitious mind this side of Morrison and then succeeds on every level. A triumph! And we’re just getting started, it appears that this has been a staggered three-issue rollout and now we’ve got the full cast and are ready for things to get rolling under something resembling a status quo. For as long as it lasts, anyway, this book is the opposite of static, all crackle. Pitarra continues to turn in beautiful pages, though I think I liked Cris Peter’s colors just a little bit better on the first two issues. Love Einstein & the Monolith, there’s your first spin-off, right there.

SAGA #3—Another enjoyable enough installment, though the wonder is starting to fade a bit for me. I had a problem with Izabel’s voice, her tone. You could argue that making her talk exactly like a present-tense teenage girl is some kind of universal statement, youth is youth is youth, no matter what end of the galaxy you’re from, but pretty much all of her word choices just made BKV come off as lazy to me, like he couldn’t write any more depth into the character. Which I know not to be the case, I mean, have been all the way down two long trails with him, but that’s just the way it seemed, whenever she’d say something like “I’m a fucking ghost, lady,” or “suck-ass,” it was just grating. So, not promising, as she’s clearly going to be around. Also, the cliffhanger fell pretty flat for me, especially given what a pro he is at jawdroppers month after month after month. This is still good comics, Staples keeps tearing it up, but I expect a little more from Mr. Vaughan on a monthly basis.

GLORY #26—Incredible cover from Ulises Farinas, verging on Stokoe levels of greatness. I found this issue a bit more meaty, very much a part of the larger tale as a whole but perfectly satisfying in its own right. There wasn’t any one thing, just that the sum of the parts felt like enough. I did love the parasite telling Xavier that this was awkward. Also a big fan of the new big alien guy, who I could swear is named Henry but I can’t find that anywhere in the book now. He looks like a Henry to me, I guess.

CONAN #4—Man, and then just with both barrels, Harren blows it up out of the water. I was very very morose to learn that Becky Cloonan was bailing after three issues, the long-time synergy between her and Brian Wood is a big reason why in a short time I’ve fallen harder for this series than I have with recent adaptations by such notables as Truman or Busiek/Nord. But we hold on to Dave Stewart’s magnificent tones and his B.P.R.D. collaborator James Harren gives us phenomenal lines, a double-page splash of the port of Messantia at Argos to rival the greatness we got in #1. Gripping until the last page. Just too many fantastic new series lately.

WONDER WOMAN #9—Man, they put it on the cover and I was still as blindsided by Hades’s gambit as Diana. Outfoxed! Akins does a fine job once again picking up for Chiang, who will presumably carry us into the homestretch of this story. Are he and Azzarello hanging out after this arc? I’d be surprised, it really feels like they are going for broke all the way and will let somebody else pick up the pieces.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #9—And here’s that Mr. Lee back in the fold. Nice of them to give us that initial splash of Batman & Superman vs Arkham Breakout, what big fun. Wasn’t The Key in Morrison’s JLA #9 fifteen years back yonder? I thought Johns did a pretty solid job cramming five topically relevant mini-flashbacks into all the shenanigans. Spinning lots of plates. I still don’t get, though, why torture/Xtreme violence is now just like his go-to for any attempt at gravitas or creating a credible threat. The guy who went all Warren Haynes on the JSA and resuscitated them from life-support or imbued Old-52 Connor Kent with all of his heart and soul should be able to do better than just have the bad guy tear someone’s arm off or break a bunch of bones as shorthand for what a horrible villain he is. The SHAZAM back-up still looks great, but I still don’t care for how we’re apparently making Billy Batson grim’n’gritty here in 2012. Have we learned nothing from the 90s?

AVENGERS VS X-MEN #4—At last my man Hickman shows up to script. And . . . it’s pretty much a unified tone with what’s gone before. I guess that’s a good thing when you’ve got a revolving door of five writers, but I was expecting a bit more of the FF-style balls-to-the-wall science-fiction sickness. I guess I do have two other books this week alone for that. As we finish this first arc, there’s definitely the feeling of a shell game. Look, these people are over here, these others are over there, and they’re all fighting! I mean, really, we’ve had a few character moments and amusing exchanges of dialogue, but after four issues, all that’s happened is we’ve been handed the premise and now everyone’s up on the moon about to keep fighting (I guess I don’t have much room to complain when it says Round 4 right there on the cover) when the Phoenix shows up. That’s something, at least. Let’s get a little bit more of the What Happened Next? in here, now. Johnny Rom Jr, man I guess this series is the first time where I crossover to the side of people who feel like his art is just too stylistic and cartoony to be taken seriously for something like this. I was totally on-board with WORLD WAR HULK and Gaiman’s ETERNALS, really loved JRJr’s work on that first arc of Bendis’s relaunched AVENGERS this last time a couple of years ago, but it looks like he took about two weeks to draw this issue. The storytelling is of course there, but the rendering is a bit too rushed for my taste. As much as I love my Kirby. I think I’m probably going to dig on the more photorealistic work of Coipel coming up here just a bit more.

AVENGERS #26—So I guess you can just skip the three SECRET AVENGERS issues because they of course fail and then wind up over here? The art continues to flummox me in this one, Simonson definitely brings the justice, but I feel like Scott Hanna and Jason Keith are not realizing these pages to their fullest possible glory. We couldn’t get Miz Laura Martin coloring Uncle Walt’s return to Thor et al? I will say that I’m interested to see where this story is heading, and that’s success in and of itself, given that this is a tie-in. The biggest thrill of all, though, is seeing that famous signature on the cover. 1/13/12 was a good day.

DAREDEVIL #13—Man, I feel like I’m coming down hard on Marvel’s art today, but that’s the way it’s gone. I love love love Waid’s work on this title, and this issue is no exception, but the fact that Khoi Pham delivers sub-par work on this issue before getting shuffled off the book is much much more galling given the fact that this is, I believe the third issue to come out in four weeks. The Marvel overshipping thing is seriously pissing me off. Even at $3 a pop, here. We’ve got what appears to be the climax to the first year’s worth of stories and it’s the worst art the book has had so far. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible art, just nowhere near the incredibly high bar set by Martin, Rivera, and then even Samnee last week or the week before. Very satisfying resolution to the long plot of the 4 data drive, though, along with a couple of great cliffhangers. What did Foggy find? And what the hell is up with that ending? The title character suddenly finding himself imprisoned in a glass case in a Latverian castle, in THE Latverian castle, should be the go-to shocker for any book finishing up a slow-burn long arc. Give it time.

X-FACTOR #236—It is with a heavy heart that I type these words. I’ve been picking this one up since PAD relaunched that new #1 years ago. It’s been, what, maybe a hundred issues, now? He’s always entertained with an engaging ensemble and done a fine job plotting out the long game so that there’s serious payoff for readers who show up, month in and month out. But yeah, that’s the thing. The fact that the next issue is three weeks out with this one having been basically bi-weekly for some time now . . . man, I just can’t keep doing it. This one’s another fun romp. The art has never looked better, Leonard Kirk is a machine. Twelve issues a year with the odd special, I’m glad to support this, but like twenty issues per annum is just more than I can afford.

FANTASTIC FOUR #605.1—Crediting Lee/Kirby as the Universal Constant is a fine way to begin. Have I been missing that or is this the first time? I haven’t been feeling Choi’s Oback-less covers of late, but he turns in pretty good-looking work, here. You just know things aren’t going to go well for old Nazi Reed, that’s a permutation who’s going to have even more than his fair share of trouble. I do think this is hilarious being framed as an accessible “jumping-on point.” It’s much more like, “fucking awesome if you’ve been religiously devoted to this book for the last three years and change.” I am here to tell you. Should really have seen those last two pages coming, but of course they completely took me by surprise and made my night, just to come back around to the beginning of it all. Can’t imagine how Hickman’s going to get off this crazy ride, but it’s going to be a beautiful thing. In about ten years, I hope. Fifteen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


BATMAN #9—The T-Rex! Because, of course. How many fanboys wish they thought of that? The crossover gets properly underway this week as Capullo/Glapion manage to not only make their ninth monthly deadline but ship a week early, terrifying, given the quality of these pages. Thus far, this gives every indication of being the opposite of, say “The Resurrection of R’as Al-Ghul,” meaning the links are tight and organic as opposed to tenuous and forced, there are thus far no continuity errors and the writing in general is top-shelf. The Albuquerque back-up, though, man, gives every indication Snyder’s going to retcon the Wayne murder. Dodgy tightrope to walk, but I trust him.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #9—I love Damian in this issue. The one line where he straight up dresses-down the commando, ending with calling him an imbecile, is about the most I’ve ever enjoyed the character, so pitch-perfect. Which is fortunate, as Bruce is now stuck over there with Capullo and the gang and this is essentially a Robin solo-title. The kid can more than carry the weight. Not sure I’ve ever witnessed such an effective character rehabilitation, from his first appearance/return in BATMAN #655 up until now. And speaking of the first volume of Morrison, Lee Garbett clocks in here to deliver solid fill-in work, not quite up to the level we’ve come to expect from Gleason/Gray, but getting the job done. And Lord knows the lads needed the time off after the first eight issues.

FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E #9—Oh wow, so he just backtrails Animal Man? That’s . . . that’s wonderful, particularly since it wasn’t like advertised or anything, to the best of my knowledge. THIS is what we’ve been needing, not dozens of crossover tie-ins kicking off every April or May, just solid well-crafted issues that are entertaining enough in their own right and, hey, if they logically progress toward including one another, so much the better. I’d recommend this title, ANIMAL MAN, and SWAMP THING to anyone who’s ever been intrigued by the characters, and it’s a cool thing to see them naturally come together in a bigger story that’s not going to get me one extra dollar out of pocket, as I’m already showing up every month for all of the them anyway, delighted to see What Happens Next.

THE NEW AVENGERS #26—Bendis treads on dangerous hallowed ground here, having the audacity to enlist Hickman’s da Vinci Marvelization into this tie-in. For a couple of pages, there, I was blinded by nerd rage, thinking that the YEARS AGO… caption meant like the 1950s instead of, I guess, HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO…, was thinking that after all of this time having Weaver crank out S.H.I.E.L.D. pages as fast as he could, Bendis was just going to scoop our protagonist up into the present and hurl him into the frontlines of the latest Big Event, because why not? This proved thankfully not to be the case and we instead find the latest issue of this flashback tie-in getting much more interesting. Though, like Hickman retconning the Renaissance (or whatever era it was) to repel a Galactus invasion, suddenly saying here and now that, oh yeah, there was this whole other time with the Phoenix Force on Earth with this redhead in a monastery like hundreds of years ago does kind of take the shine off the original Saga. Deodato, though, man, even manages to channel Weaver with that big gun/sensor thing. The guy is incredible.

FATALE #5—Brubaker/Phillips/Stewart turn up with the last issue of the first part of their Lovecraft noir and do a fine job bringing this initial flashback set-up to a logical conclusion that pays off what’s already happened and, of course, sets up more of the scratch-your-eyes-out horrah. Enough can’t be said about how well these men make comic books together, the depth of the quality of their work. In their hands, most little moments that are no more than “Guy gets out of the car and looks around,” not even character moments but just occasional little flashes of filler you can’t cut to get from Point A to Point C, even these beats are things of majesty. I will say that I find it odd that this series is the one of theirs that’s like the breakout hit, apparently. It made total sense to me that INCOGNITO would do better than CRIMINAL, b/c you’ve got the entire demographic of the latter + everyone who will only buy superheroes potentially signing up for the former, but it doesn’t make sense that this one would come along and blow them both away. Ah, well. We wish them success wherever they find it. I also love Brubaker apologizing for no back-matter, like we’ll just storm his gates when we find out there is none, only to turn around and be like, “I’ve got the best Jess Nevins essay evah here on my hard drive, but we’ll just see you kids in a few months whenever I figure out how to write Issue Six . . .” 

MORNING GLORIES #18—Warn’t this supposed to be the conclusion of PE? Not the case, apparently, as we get the hot and dirty lowdown with a Hisao-centric and the results are . . . well, let’s just say topically relevant? I guess if you wanted to, you could make an argument that this title isn’t “mainstream” since it’s creator-owned at Image and isn’t like THE WALKING DEAD, but I think the trade’s been rocking the NYT bestseller list hard enough, all of this to say that the scene that goes down in here is a bit, ah, progressive for a title with as wide of a fanbase as I suspect this one has. Spencer again executes the Lindelof Manuever to perfection, brings us right back to the cliffhanger of, what was it, #14, confirms the image that we’ve had in our heads all along and then slams the door shut, we’ll see you next month. This remains the best arc of the series thus far, strong stuff.

There was no demonstrably apparent BEST OF WEEK this week. It was all pretty excellent. Sorry. Hey, it’s an election year!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Well, I dropped two more Fractions, IRON MAN and DEFENDERS. Just spending too much and the $4 Marvel singles have to go first. Was particularly digging the latter but it really hurt to bail out on Fraction/Larocca, especially on AVENGERS week, I’ve been hanging with those guys on this run since Wednesday after Favreau/Downey Jr. first showed us how viable a shared cinematic Marvel continuity could be. Alas. Can’t afford 18 or however many 20-page $4 singles. I wish Tony continued sobriety and will eagerly raid quarter-bins at Half Price Books in the months to come to check up on him. But I did buy . . .

BEST OF WEEK: ACTION COMICS #9—Terrific fun here as out of left field we blast over to Earth-23, first glimpsed on the opening pages of FINAL CRISIS #7, once again demonstrating that Morrison-continuity trumps corporate reboot policy, and tune in to the exploits of one President of the United States Calvin Ellis as he teams with his non-racist but nonetheless hateful arch-nemesis Lex Luthor to battle a brand-name permutation of Superman from another dimension thought into existence by that plane of reality’s Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen in a thinly veiled indictment of corporate treatment of creators. I don’t think I really have to say anything else. Gene Ha’s art looks terrific, as usual. Also, Cully Hammer blows it up on the back-up. This was a very entertaining slab of alternate continuity and great fun to have drop in on us in the monthly title.

ANIMAL MAN #9—It’s still looking bleak for the Bakers as Steve Pugh takes over full-time duties. Glad we get to keep Foreman for covers and Kindzierski on colors, which really helps with the transition. You know what, though, they’ve been driving in the direction of Alec Holland for like half of this series, now. Hit the gas! A deft segueway into . . . 

SWAMP THING #9—Paquette throws down a hell of a gauntlet for the first few pages before Rudy takes over and carries the torch very well. That ending definitely seemed too pat before the reveal at the end. No idea what these guys are going to do for an encore after this inevitably shuts down in #11 or #12, though. Sometimes following yourself can be the toughest act of all.

THE BOYS #65—I really wasn’t sure to expect after all of that climactic madness last month, but I guess this is about right. Butcher with the bazooka on Page Four is as iconic an image as anything this series has produced. Russ Braun’s characters’ facial expressions are some of the best acting in the business. So, we’re powered down, here. However, it is only the first part of a climactic eight-issue arc of one of Ennis’s very strongest efforts. Probably going to get pretty ugly before too long. I’m sure someone’s thought of “Ennis puts the ‘graphic’ in ‘graphic novel’” before me? 

DAREDEVIL #12—Huh, yeah, this is good, love Samnee and especially Javier Rodriguez on colors, but this is the first issue that feels almost like filler. It’s not, quite, Waid’s too good for that, but very much comes across as a quick little flashback he banged out in between regularly plotted arcs when told that he would need to be producing 16 scripts for this first twelve months of DD. One out last week and another due in two. It is one of the best books Marvel puts out, and is still only $3, but this over-shipping thing is really starting to stick in my craw.

 X-FACTOR #235—See, here, with this one, too. I feel like I’m coming home with it more weeks than not. And another one’s out in two weeks. Same deal, not quite ready to walk, Kirk is blowing it up on art, PAD is as deft and long-term as ever, and I’ve been on-board since the first issue back, that second #1, but Marvel is making it easier and easier to walk away from books I’ve been happy to pick up for years. Just, you know, every four or five weeks instead of every two like clockwork.

AVENGERS VS X-MEN #3—You can tell that JRJr is slamming this one out, not taking the most time in the world with it, but there’s nothing wrong with that, it is big dumb fun. Of course you throw Wolverine out of a Quinjet, if you’re Steve Rogers, that’s the only move that makes sense in this crazy world. This issue actually felt a little skinny on content, which, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but the first two seemed to pack more of a wallop. It will be neat when we finally make it to the issues scripted by Hickman and Fraction. I will continue to give this one a big thumbs-up while laughing at the chumps plunking down an additional $4 on the off-weeks for two 10-page fight scenes, also while simultaneously expressing confusion and dismay at all the kids pointing and laughing when I pick this one up off the rack.


BEST OF WEEK: FF #17—This is really for all intents and purposes a Peter Parker issue. And I mean that, it’s not really about his alter ego at all, instead putting the spotlight on Peter’s disastrous capitulation made amidst the climactic events of FANTASTIC FOUR #604 to have Johnny Storm move in with him in a delightful update of The Odd Couple. Peter excels in the role of Felix. Hickman certainly nails the tone of the character but this issue, as with last month, succeeds in large part due to Nick Dragotta’s art. The guy does a fantastic job recreating the overall vibe if not exact shape of the original Ditko Parker, whose head never looked quite right, couldn’t contain all of that brilliance. Of course, just when Peter can’t take any more, he gives in yet again, which leads to another no-dialogue montage that is a perfect thing of beauty and must be experienced by all. I especially loved Johnny’s closing conversation on the phone, one-sided, but we know exactly what’s gone down. In your face, Parker. This book is so good it can still toss out ninety percent of its cast and be better than everything else this week, no problem, just from smashing two characters we know so well together and managing to not even quite surprise but seriously entertain us all along the way. 

DAREDEVIL #11—All right, big finish to a crossover of which I have completely missed the first two parts! No problem. Waid’s got us covered. This Checchetto lad holds it together, doesn’t send the orbital artistic bar in place for this title hurtling back to Earth, in itself a tremendous accomplishment. My big worry coming out of this one was how poor Frank is going to be able to enjoy Whedon’s latest in 3-D. Surely someone’s already made that joke? 

THE NEW AVENGERS #25—It’s much more within Fraction’s wheelhouse to drop a hundreds-year old Iron Fist story in out of nowhere, but Bendis pretty much pulls it off, even while limiting all the serious Phoenix Fu to a couple of prophetic dreams that drive all the other walking around and talking that is, let’s be honest, the wheelhouse Bendis just about built at this point. Mike Deodato continues to tear it up, dude is just a hoss. FLASH #8—Manapul and Buccellato continue to provide a gorgeous up-tempo serial adventure starring The Fastest Man Alive! Interesting developments about what role Barry plays in regulating the Speed Force. And, hey. Grodd.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #26—Roger Cruz shoulders the mantle of not-being-Rafael-Albuquerque-and-drawing-this-book with grace and dignity. Snyder, again, does fine work, drawing us in to a brand-new setting within a few pages and engaging us with the small picture while slowly building up the overall mythos. Big fun.

SPACEMAN #6—More greatness from one of the most criminally unsung team in comics. I know everybody loves 100 BULLETS, but why isn’t anybody talking about this? Every page is a thing of beauty. Horrible and graphic, but beauty nonetheless. Mulivihill is not of this world. Not so much happens in this installment except for when that one guy gets his right hand chopped off, but it’s a slow burn before the home stretch, here. God bless Vertigo.

KIRBY: GENESIS #7—I thought this was an ongoing! But, yeah, it’s not hard to see that this hyperslambang is about to go Kirbynuclear and be done. It would have been cooler to hang out a bit longer, let all of these different properties bounce off of one another at a calmer rate, but I certainly haven’t minded all the crazy that this pace has provided. It’s . . . ah, I guess it’s safe to say that it’s all about to come crashing down? There are giant space gods about to reappear to unmake humanity or prove their salvation? A myriad of characters are scattered across time and space and the only thing they have in common is their dynamic krackle.