BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN INCORPORATED #3—There is so much to love about this issue. The opening three-page montage illustrating to how great of an extent Leviathan’s insidious tentacles have already wrapped around the various systems that so critical to Gotham’s (or any city’s) future: educational, law enforcement, judicial, social services. Six pages of Bruce resurrecting his Matches Malone undercover disguise with near-constant side-splitting dialogue. Dick Grayson’s review of himself as Batman. The digital diagram of Leviathan’s web, a beautiful illustration of 34 images that recapitulates Morrison’s entire six-year run on this character, across all the various titles and iterations, complete with dialogue that already suggests a meta- quality that will surely only intensify in seven issues’ time, once we know how it all ends. That panel of Dick consoling a grounded Damian. The underworld bar from the Matches scene turning out to be called Three-Eyed Jacks, certainly a TWIN PEAKS homage. The bad guys getting the drop on “Matches,” followed by Damian getting the same on “Pennyworth,” just in time to invent a new identity and let Burnham channel some of that old Quitely/Stewart BATMAN & ROBIN no-dialogue fight-scene choreography brilliance. Everybody here is operating at the top of their game, creators and characters alike. I’m going to be so sad to see this run come to an end, but it has been a majestic demonstration of just how elastic the legend and mythos are, and it is a hell of a good time seeing it ramp up for this last roaring home-stretch.
ROCKETEER: CARGO OF DOOM #1—Man, I had no idea this was even coming out, what a terrific surprise to find in the old weekly pull. I’ve made no secret of absolutely loving Waid/Samnee’s recent work over on DAREDEVIL and this character is perfectly suited to their aesthetic, it’s a great thrill to watch them tear up this pulp goodness. The opening six-page scene is thrilling, they could not have showed up with a tighter or more instantly engaging opening. Jordie Bellaire shows up on colors as strong as Dave Stewart would have, which is about as high a compliment as I can pay. Cliff’s “Huh” on Page 19 is perfect. This is a real smart package, I’m happy to pay $4 a pop when they put all the ads at the back. Get in there, IDW. The first anthology they did a while back was full of jaw-dropping A-list goodness, but that last one wasn’t quite up to the same standard. Great to see the property return to form. And Samnee’s pin-up or cover on the Next Month page is almost the best part of the whole package. Stevens lives on!
FLASH #12—The action cranks way up as Glider makes her full-issue debut and accelerates this title back up to top form. It took her showing up to make me realize, but what this book’s been needing is something new on the antagonist front, and she certainly makes a strong initial showing. Manapul/Buccellato’s art is as kinetic and gorgeous as ever and I’m certainly intrigued to see how they’ll wrap this first year up next week, though I hope the folks they’ve brought in to help are capable of keeping the bar this high. The Trickster paraphrased “A Song of Ice and Fire” with the line about a Snart always paying his debts, right? That was weird.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #12—Man, the art on this is really beautiful. Janin’s a beast, but Ulises Arreola’s color work really makes the entire thing pop, every page sings. Even if I still can’t get over how young Constantine looks. I loved the Ellis AUTHORITY caption on the House of Mystery “currently traveling through Limbo at extradimensional speeds.” That business came out of nowhere, a nice little throwback. Though, why not just make it The Bleed, at this point? The whole idea is that these people are in the DC Universe proper with the Stormwatch gang, right? Not just tucked in their own pocket universe. And kudos again to Janin for those layouts on the Slaughter Swamp scene, that business is straight JH Williams. It’s interesting to see this kind of thing flowing into a title like this or over on SWAMP THING, a cool little microcosm of a house style. Really glad Lemire jumped in on this one here, good Vertigo fun in all but name. Though the title, man. Just because everyone bought Bendis’s DARK AVENGERS doesn’t mean that’s the way to go here.
FABLES #120—And speaking of dark. I’m usually too jaded by now to get too upset when a character dies on Wednesday night, I mean, Brubaker figured out a way to bring back Bucky (spoilers!), twice, even, but I seriously hope that this one won’t stick. Bleakest. Island of Toys arc. Ever. I could still care less about the backup, though McManus’s art is purty. Can’t believe I’ve been picking this one up for ten years running.
THE UNWRITTEN #40—And there’s our protagonist! This title’s worth picking up if only to have Carey wax eloquent and slam home for you every four weeks how important stories are to us a culture and individuals, the importance of narrative ideaspace on the collective unconsciousness, yadda yadda yadda, Gaiman Gaiman Gaiman. I say with love. I can’t find it now, but seems like someone made some simile involving putting the pin back in the hand grenade, which was a bit disturbing the week they start running ads for THE INVISIBLES OMNIBUS. What a beast of a tome that thing will be.
FANTASTIC FOUR #609—This is great fun. Probably the worst thing you can say about it is that it’s very likely one of those ideas at the bottom of the monster list of batshit crazy story ideas that Hickman made four years ago when he got this title. It provides resolution to a dangling plot-point from the Millar/Hitch run that I don’t think anybody remembered or cared about after the seventy-something issues of madness that have been thrown at us since. It doesn’t, at first glance, appear to drive the mega-narrative forward one little bit. It’s a fill-in issue. Arriving in a run with only six issues left to go. Drawn by an artist I’ve never heard of. All of that said, it’s glorious. The FF pretty much don’t do anything, we don’t even see the kids, there are like two dozen characters that Hickman has folded into this run who do not make an appearance, all that happens is that our title characters pretty much stand around while the Defenders of the future sub-contract with the Moloids to engineer the corpse of Galactus from the future into a galaxy-spanning god ship so that they can pilot him/it at 98% lightspeed on a 500 light-year round-trip and have all kinds of crazy adventures, but then because of all of that time dilation, arrive back at an Earth that’s one thousand years in the future. And Reed really believes that they can make it, even though there’s significant statistical probability that they won’t. That’s it, nothing happens, just universe-sized ideas blooming up out of every page turn. And Ryan Stegman’s art is magnificent, fully appropriate to the scale this issue is operating on. Stunning work.