Wednesday, August 29, 2012


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. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


RORSCHACH #1—Of course, there’s all kinds of concern with giving this guy his own series. Not whether or not he can anchor it, but whether the poor bastards they’ve talked into producing it can come anywhere within hot-grease-throwing distance of a narrative worthy of the character who stood at the heart of, and indeed, served as the initial forward momentum for what many folks believe is the greatest comic book series of all time. I went in with optimism, Azzarello and Bermejo have a solid track record in previous collaboration. The cover is immaculate, one of those few things you can hold up to the no-look naysayers and say, “See, this is why BEFORE WATCHMEN.” But how are the interiors? Well, the art certainly holds up. Lee Bermejo is one of the master craftsman in the industry, I can’t believe that he’s produced as many pages of sequentials as he has in such a gorgeous, fully-rendered painted style. The zoom-out for the first two pages is perfect and then that opening shot of Rorschach-cloud New York is perfect. As is the dialogue on that third page. Of course, we’ve got to start with an entry in the good old diary, but Azzarello provides plenty of nuance here. It’s 1977, so the first word is “I,” our protagonist has not yet become the man whose narrative voice we know so well eight years hence. The second sentence, he drops the subject just like we’re used to, opens with the verb, but then still uses the first-person pronoun in the predicate. Smart smart writing. Walter Joseph proceeds to relate yet another old story about how his whore mother was basically just the worst in the world. And it’s tonally perfect. Especially the punchline after the page turn. This feels like Kovacs. The rest of the issue is basically all set-up. Our boy beats the hell out of some goons for information. Azzarello gets to have fun bouncing a sound effect off of dialogue with a gleeful abandon that would never work in any other context. We meet Bourquin and Fine, just barely less jaded and grizzled than they are in that last month of their lives, as they stumble across the body from the opening scene, natch. Rorschach gets ambushed and all beat to hell. Then he rolls into Gunga Diner and gives some tough talk to hold us over until next issue. The verdict on this one is that it has potential. If the rest of the issue had been as symphonic as that third page, then I’d be frothing at the mouth like I was for SILK SPECTRE. But Azzarello, ever the master of pace, makes the decision to dial it way down this opening issue. Not necessarily a bad thing, just a choice that makes it hard to judge this one too strongly one way or another. As a single, it did not destroy me. But this is a slow burn, I’ve got faith.

BEST OF WEEK: WONDER WOMAN #12—What a year-end payoff! Great Zeus, these gentlemen dropped the justice. This issue has all of the high-level trademarks we’ve come to expect: Azzarello’s whip-smart dialogue that almost seems too clever for its own good until you begin to suspect that its also operating on a third level that whose meaning is only clear to the author, dynamic shots from Chiang, and a vivid palette from Wilson (whose name really deserves to be on the cover). Only, this particular installment happens to serve as the climax for the entire story we’ve been rocking up until now with a couple of serious last-minute plot twists. That last page had me gasping and choking at the same time, just terribly messed up about the poetry of the whole thing, such a great idea that seems obvious in hindsight but that I seriously doubt anyone sitting around trying to guess the ending of this long arc could have possibly seen coming. There’s even a strong hint in-issue, when Diana throws off her bracelets, the Kirby Krackle is suddenly unleashed! We’ve still got one more week left, but with the first-year final pages of BATMAN, ACTION, ANIMAL MAN, and SWAMP THING on the stands, I think I’ve got to give it to this one above all others for providing a very satisfying resolution for what has come before while dropping the heartstopping out of nowhere madness last page that earns another year’s worth of patronage all by itself. A terrific idea and perfectly executed way to organically introduce one of my favorite corners of the DC Universe into this post-reboot landscape. I’ve got a million questions and can’t wait to find out what happens next. Which means you’re doing serial fiction right. Full marks.

BATWOMAN #12—Cool transitioning on the pile this week, the double-shot of Azzarello giving way to his girl guest-starring here. And, you know, I really don’t pay that much attention to the covers until I’ve already read the issue + I had dropped this until JH came back on art, both of which combined for me to have no idea that Wonder Woman was even in this book until I got to the bottom of the first page, and let me tell you, it is good news to have already begun a story and realize that JH Williams III is about to drop a Batwoman/Wonder Woman team-up in your lap. And how he delivers! I wish that this could be the one New 52 book where they’re just like, Okay it isn’t monthly it comes out when it comes out and isn’t that what you people want? Because that’s the way it should be. It’s not fair to ANYone to have to draw fill-in arcs for this book. It’s impossible. I guess I’d like to see Jock or Francavilla try, but I’d rather just wait. Seven or eight issues a year would be fine. Williams, once again, like he has every single time since at least that “The Black Glove” arc with Morrison a few years back, plus I guess why not go ahead and count PROMETHEA, delivers a master class in sequential storytelling/page layout/panel composition/mixed-art style to reflect subject matter, I mean, the guy is a raging maniac. The opening ad-free 11-page scene is nothing less than a tour de force. I could probably do a thousand words about how each double-page spread is just the sickest thing ever, but then you turn the page and he bitchslaps you with an entirely different bag of tricks, this whole new level of innovation. I’d love it if the big bad monster at the very end of this long story turns out to be JH himself, frothing at the mouth, hunkered over his drawing board, warping Kate’s very reality into inconceivable panoramic vistas of ornate perfection that leaves even this hardened ex-Marine Batwoman a drooling vegetable because it’s all just so so pretty to look at.

FATALE #7—Here we are with Chapter 100 or however many of Brubaker/Phillips completely kicking ass, with series regular Dave Stewart along for the ride on pretty colors. This one is perfectly engaging and works well as a single installment, though I’ll be damned if I know how it’s going to lock in with the first chapter or the present-tense prologues we’ve been getting. There are comics professionals and then there are these guys, just a cut above almost everybody. The second installment of the Nevins essay is, like last month, perfectly informative but not quite as rhapsodic as we’ve grown accustomed to from the pen of the great annotator.

SAGA #6—Everyone’s falling all over themselves about how great this book is and I’m just not seeing it. It’s certainly not a bad read, but it’s nowhere near as flattening as it should be. If you pitched me “BKV’s new longform creator-owned space opera, in which science fiction and magic collide every bit as star-crossed as Romeo & Juliet + baby/attached ghost girl, and all of the galaxy is trying to catch them. Plus, he got Fiona Staples to do interiors,” then I’m all over that. That sounds wonderful, but the contemporary dialogue is just murdering it for me. Modern-day slang like “Because of course,” takes me right out of it. And that’s on the bottom of the second page. And Alanna says “literally” when she doesn’t have to, just like everybody else in the world at the moment. No sign of “epic fail,” as of yet. The art’s wonderful and expressive, as is Miz Staples’ hand-drawn lettering. I want to love this, am so in BKV’s corner, but not nearly as crushed as I feel like I should be by now. You can’t beat the value on that trade, though.

AVENGERS VS X-MEN #10—Ya-ha-hah, well the old girl is really ramping up now. There are enough slambang moments in this one to getcha all pumped up about WHO WINS/LOSES/LIVES/DIES?!?!? I’m not sure why Charley’s little speech on Page Five made Cap shed a patriotic tear, though. I mean, yeah, this whole thing sucks, but Big Daddy X is just now manning up, getting ready to go to work and tear down his old QB1, the Sentinel of Liberty/First Avenger getting all verklempt is like the last thing he needs to see right now. Was anybody hoping Magneto was going to somehow straight-up end dear Emma? I’ve certainly enjoyed her role this decade and can’t believe that editorial has let it last this long in this brave all-new all-different post-Morrison era, but that would have been the big damn fun. Which I’m given to understand is the point of this whole thing. Also, reclaiming market share from the New 52 and setting up increased revenue going forward, but come on, play with me here. The Chaos Fist knows what I’m talking about. She punched him to the Blue Area of the Moon! That’s where Jean died! Or at least the Phoenix simulacrum, but you know what I mean! UNCANNY #137 tore my heart out, son.

THE AVENGERS #29—Huh. This was just weird. Of course, it’s great fun to see Simonson draw yet another big throwdown of everyone’s favorite box-office icons, but Bendis usually regulates his tie-ins really well so that everything bounces off each other just so. It’s totally fine to have this take place before AvX #8 and come out now, but in weeklies, I always read the core title before tie-ins to make sure that the main cliffhangers don’t get spoiled and it’s incredibly anticlimactic to have Xavier swearing off the conflict and wiping everyone’s memories three issues in the past, when we’ve in the core series, we’ve just read him announce his intention to resolve the conflict once and for all. Narratively a misfire, but still, you know, Simonson.

DAREDEVIL #17—Like Snyder last week, Waid seizes the opportunity of a fill-in and crafts a pretty flattening done-in-one that does its dead-level best to surpass all that’s come before. The Allreds show up here and lay the business down. That super-clean retro hearkening-back-to-the-Silver-Age kind of style they’ve got going is a perfect fit for this book. Mrs. Laura, in particular, tears it up with her palette. The whole thing made me miss that batshit version of X-FORCE they did a few years back with Milligan. And what a beautiful yarn Waid crafted to anchor the flashback. Comics done right, people!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


BATMAN #12—Now, that’s what I call a fill-in issue. Snyder digs deep, all the way back to the first issue, and sheds new light on the behind-the-scenes machinations of Harper Row, who up until now in the series has appeared to be a random drop-in no-name cameo but gets more characterization in this issue than your average character in an entire arc of AMERICAN VAMPIRE. Snyder welcomes Becky Cloonan to the festivities, which is a perfect fit, Ms. Cloonan’s lines are already just about as synonymous in my heart with this particular character the way that J.H. Williams managed to dial his own aesthetic into the adventures of that Kathy Kane from those first few pages. Harper Row is everything we need in a modern-day female protagonist: strong, gutsy, ready to charge into danger to help Batman without a thought for herself, and in no way defined by or as a love interest. I was definitely concerned what would happen when/if this title’s stellar regular team took a break, but I should have realized that Snyder had a strategy up his sleeve from the very beginning. Strong, strong work. Even the art jump to Andy Clark wasn’t terribly jarring, timed perfectly in-line with the more superheroic elements crashing into the panel. Though I have to say, I would have enjoyed Cloonan’s work on the whole issue, we know she’s more than capable of excelling at action. The other little skip-up I had with this issue was the whole “seven words” thing, once he set up that first decoy on the first page, I kept counting words in whatever sentences seemed like contenders, which, you know, took me out of the story a bit, but a minor grumble. My favorite part might be how explicitly this issue displays arguably the best thing about Snyder's run, probably my favorite anyway, not the pitch-perfect characterization or galloping action beats, but his dogged commitment to adding to the mythology of Gotham as a character, brick by brick, every issue, just this entire Grid/ghost-grid thing alone, I mean, this is the first time this has really been discussed, right? It makes perfect sense and tucks back in to all that's gone before with surgical precision but then absolutely embodies the themes and motifs, Batman appearing to go all Robin Hood with the power but then turning out to be the true architecture holding the entire skeleton together, it's so nice when the ideas behind the words explode in your head even harder than everything they've imagined on the page. Highest possible marks for this one, all around.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #12—This team continues to turn in nothing less than a top-drawer Batman book, month-in and month-out. That Tomasi/Gleason/Gray can even step to what Snyder’s got going on down the way on a monthly basis is a massive feat. The augmentation suit shot is, of course, the fanboy moment of the week. I loved how the whole Robins subplot came together too, so priceless for Dick to just hand the trophy over. “Dude. You’re already Robin, you know.” That was a really cool shot of the four of them looking up at their robot-suit Iron Batman daddy in the sky there, but did it look kind of stretched to anyone else, horizontally distorted like you don’t have the orientation settings right on your TV? Tim’s head, in particular. Nice to see Damian still owning the book, though, of course he’s got to talk shit to the dying bad guy as the light fades from his eyes. What a kid.

FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #12—Yeah, maybe the best issue of the series yet, certainly my favorite since Lemire left. It would be great to see the monster throw off the shackles of agency control, just strangle that Father Time fellow in the little girl’s body and go all Nick Fury up on this shit. Kindt is really doing fine work, here. And the art never lets up, continues to blow the doors off every chance it gets. There have been no fill-ins, right? Ponticelli/Faucher/Villarrubia have grown accustomed to one another, are able to dart in and out of each other’s abilities, tightening and strengthening the pages into something greater than any single one of them would be able to produce. That splash of Frank engaging and infiltrating the threat near the end is my favorite, just good action pulp fun. Love that sky over the Leviathan graveyard. It’s a strong week for the DC #12s I picked up, all three going great guns blazing into their second years. Looking forward to seeing what they’ve got on tap for those zero-issues next month.

OZYMANDIAS #2—The title character’s not-that-secret-origin continues. We get an interesting October 11 time-stamp for the framing sequence, locking the narration down as taking place early in the original series. This one is the most middle of the road of the five series we’ve had a look at so far. It’s not offensive (or at least any more so than the entire endeavor) but not terribly compelling. The club manager slipping the payoff to the goon on the bottom of Page Seven while managing to work in both the name of the goon’s boss and the phrase “drug trade” is kind of hilarious and hopefully, surely, a throwback to that sort of hackneyed over-expository dialogue so prevalent in the Silver Age, during which this should be taking place. Right? The early- to mid-60s? Because this should be before the Crimebusters meeting in ’66. That one two-page spread of Adrian whupping ass all the way up to the rafters in silhouette is pretty gorgeous. It’s weird, though, I can’t disassociate Jae Lee’s faces with THE DARK TOWER, that following page looks taken straight out of WIZARD & GLASS to me. Digging on his layouts, those round panels breaking through page-length horizontal slits. The cover is hilarious, as there is nary a dominatrix to be found within these pages, though of course there are those pundits who will argue that willfully entering into any of these narratives at all constitutes an exercise in sadomasochism of the highest order. Maybe Eddie Blake will put on the outfit next month.

BEST OF WEEK: NEW AVENGERS #29—I really loved this issue. It reminds me of that CONFESSION special Bendis wrote that came out in the aftermath of CIVIL WAR that retroactively fixed up the majority of wreckage that Millar visited upon the Marvel Universe, just almost salvaged the entire event in 32 or so pages. Now, AvX isn’t anywhere near the mess that CW was, but Bendis is already going to work, employing his time-honored device of having characters sit around making with the back and forth to make much more sense of all the madness visited upon the Big Event-hungry superhero comic consumer. I mean, really, it shouldn’t work, all that happens in this issue is the heavies sit around and talk about what’s going on, a total respite from the battle, the opposite of that AvX: VERSUS series now that I think about it, but Bendis does such an ace job nailing the voices and tics of every one of these characters that verisimilitude is total, you really feel like you’re sitting in the room with these guys, and Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Stephen Strange, Charles Xavier, and Reed Richards are five fellas I would be thrilled to hang with just any old time. This is the gold standard of what a tie-in to a Big Event should be. Top-drawer work from Deodato, as well.

MOUSE GUARD: THE BLACK AXE #5—It’s been many a moon, but David Peterson’s singularly unique tale of medieval mice knights in the twelfth century returns with another installment in its third volume, this one a flashback relating how Celanawe’s fate first became intertwined with the Black Axe. It’s been long enough that I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to dial right back in to the story, but this was not the case. All told, pretty heartbreaking. These mice do not have an easy time of it! And we already know how it all ends for poor Celanawe. Rough going, all around. But a beautifully told story.

THE MASSIVE #3—An excellent third issue here putting a definitive punctuation mark on the opening arc, which will make for a very strong reading experience in one sitting, though I hope the trade gets all of the backmatter. Maybe not, that might be the point of it, to drive singles sales. At any rate, Wood is a gifted enough storyteller with hundreds of scripts under his belt at this point who knows exactly how to come barreling out of the gate. I’ve enjoyed Kristian Donaldson’s art, impressive scope ranging from human interactions to the massive disaster-strewn vistas he’s called upon to provide, sometimes three to a page. Sorry to see him go. But I’m sure that Wood has another monster ready to wreak havoc upon the crew of The Kapital and those of us playing along at home.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #7—And in a nice bit of symmetry, we close out this evening’s Wood doubleheader with one of his most prolific collaborators and the artist who started off our Wednesday night, the gifted Becky Cloonan. It’s a little bittersweet because she’s only back for this one issue, but we’ll take what we can get. This is your average fish-out-of-water story except the setting is Conan’s home village. Apparently, some chucklehead is going around claiming to be Conan and raising just all kinds of hell upon the countryside. Our lovers have to stop them. That’s . . . pretty much it. This one’s a bit skinny on content as far as singles go, not quite as much thunder per issue as we’ve come to expect, but it’s so good to see the gang back together, we’ll let it slide just this once. Or any old time. Now, go make DEMO 3, please.


ACTION COMICS #12—And welcome to Grant Morrison Writes Mainstream Heroes, which means that, unless it’s some self-contained pocket universe situation like ALL-STAR SUPERMAN that can spend three years putting out twelve issues, invariably, whoever’s chosen on art is going to fall behind the monthly deadline and then inevitably editorial is going to reel in some bargain basement schmoe who’s got like a week to turn in ten pages type of situation. This happens every. Single. Time. There is no way that Brad Walker should be touching this script and even Rags and CAFU’s pages look rushed. Not that I can tell who did what, there are four inkers. Ha’s two issues were great, but it’s a shame that we couldn’t close out the first year without bungling the art duties on a flagship title, here. Really wish this team could have delivered a unified thing of beauty on the level of Capullo/Glapion over on BATMAN. The heartbreaker is, this is my favorite script yet, the business is really kicking into effect, to the point that by the back half of the book, I was so engaged with the story that I could stomach the art. Which is still no excuse. But bonus points for having Morrison write the entire issue, which, all told, still makes this a hell of a ride for $3.99. Looking forward to seeing what’s in store for #0.

ANIMAL MAN #12/SWAMP THING #12—There’s really no point in writing up separate reviews for these perfectly intertwined narratives. I had been wondering how the creative teams were going to follow up the superlative opening years they respectively threw down on both of these titles and then felt like both #11s did well enough tying up the loose ends while not providing a resounding enough conclusion. That’s perfectly all right, I take it all back, because all that has gone before, while entertaining in its own right, has been logical set-up for these two Vertigo mainstays to tumble down into a crossover event that is one of, if I may, the most organic we’ve seen in years. It’s really cool to go through both issues and try to parse the impact of Snyder upon ANIMAL MAN and Lemire on SWAMP THING. Steve Pugh and Lovern Kindzierski continue to knock it out of the park while Marco Rudy also finds a way to again turn in some of his best pages yet, abetted by Val Staples and two inkers in addition to himself pitching in on the back half of the book. The difference between these guys and the basketball team over on ACTION is night and day, there are certainly subtle distinctions between the inking styles but nothing that comes close to throwing you out of the story anywhere near as badly as on ACTION. And what an insane ending. Those zero issues sure sounded like a good idea until now, but I’m suddenly not really in the mood to wait nine weeks to get this Rotworld business up and running. These two titles close out their first year stronger than ever.

BEST OF WEEK: THE BOYS #69—Oh my word. Hate not to really dig in to explain what makes this the best read of the week, but can’t stand to ruin it for anyone. I mean, after last month’s cover and content, any reader with a shred of critical acumen has more than some idea what to expect going in, but this one still completely blew me away. Leveled me. One splash page in particular. I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed an Ennis script more than this. These last three issues are going to be Really Serious Shit. Any other week, DAREDEVIL or HAWKEYE would both make a great case for Best Of but I just can’t bear to even consider such a thing, though, given the contents of this issue. Shocked how much Ennis made me care about these people, a master.

AVENGERS VS X-MEN #9—Man, Parker does it again. Had no problem figuring out who was responsible for the opening narrative captions, which made for a somewhat gutwrenching ride throughout. This is another really smart, well-done script from Jason Aaron. Spidey mentoring Hope continues to be one of the best ideas to come out of the old architectural brain trust behind this issue. Kubert/Dell/Martin turn in beautiful pages. This continues to be everything an event of this kind should be, an omega-level conflict that at least projects the illusion to my jaded soul of having enormous stakes that will leave a lasting impact on this gang of superheroes we’ve all loved since we were kids, whether that was fifty years ago or twenty-five or just last week.

DAREDEVIL #16—This book continues to basically do no wrong, each issue a self-contained slice of wonderful that’s perfectly satisfying in and of itself while still managing to push the larger story forward. What’s great about this one, though, is something you have no way of gleaning from the cover. This issue features micronized Hank Pym in a Giant Man costume running around Matt’s brain shooting the hell out of nanites with an EMP cannon and talking shit at Tony Stark the entire time. Need I go on? Samnee/Rodriguez are brilliant, can’t wait for Allred next month.

HAWKEYE #1—I had pretty stratospheric hopes for this because I have a metric ton of affection for Fraction/Aja’s old IRON FIST update from six years back, always wished we could have gotten more of those. I do have some concern on what the plan is to backup Aja, who is certainly not known for rocking the monthly deadline (I’m thinking he’ll make it through #3 this time), but have plenty of faith in Simperin’ Steve Wacker and, never mind all of that, this is nothing less than a kickass first issue, an excellent and engaging fractured timeline romp featuring Hawkeye breaking three ribs, shattering his pelvis, spraining his neck, cracking his fibia, left clavicle, right ulna, and rupturing his spleen before taking on Russian bad guys in track suits who aren’t as much mob as capitalists of all things (the horrah!) before picking up a new canine sidekick with a broken pelvis, leg, two ribs, and lost eye, natch. And Aja and Hollingsworth are incapable of turning in a panel that isn’t stunning and gorgeous. All told, the entire thing comes across as an eloquent and frankly spot-on channeling of Miller/Mazzucchelli’s seminal YEAR ONE, the narrative captions, the style of art, the fight choreography, it’s all there. Which is kind of an odd play for a Clint Barton solo book after all these years, but hey, if you’re going to crib, crib from the very best and don’t fall short. That this thing looks and feels so much like that arguably-greatest-Batman-story-of-all-time and isn’t a massive disappointment is cause for celebration all by itself. All for $2.99 in a book that comes out monthly? Marvel’s onto some kind of crazy business model here . . .


COMEDIAN #2—I was already completely on-board with this one even before the decision to open the second installment with Eddie & Bobby ringside for Clay’s inaugural triumphant dance. Brilliant. The rest of the comic doesn’t quite crush me as much, more boilerplate crazy-Eddie-corrupting-it-up-around-Vietnam sort of fare, but I think Azzarello has yet to reveal the full scope of what he’s got planned for us. J.G. Jones continues to absolutely tear it up, I sure hope he’s already working on #5 or 6.

NATIONAL COMICS: ETERNITY #1—All kinds of value here, $3.99 for 32 pages with only five ads breaking up the flow of the first third, a pilot done-in-one injecting Kid Eternity into New 52 continuity. I would have picked this one up for Lemire alone, but having Hamner along for the ride certainly sweetens the pot, the man is a consummate professional. This issue works well as a standalone, like a sort of horror anthology, but I’m not sure how intrigued it makes me in terms of picking up a hypothetical monthly series. Though I’m sure I’d have to give these guys at least the first arc for a trial run.

SPACEMAN #8—This penultimate issue is exactly what it needs to be, cranks everything way up and leaves us hanging for the final installment. The expression on Orson’s bruddah’s face at the bottom of Page Three is classic, that’s a perfect little exchange, there. Looking forward to jamming this whole thing in one go here in the next little bit.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #29—This is shaping up to be maybe the best arc yet, an excellent dynamic with Pearl and Skinner partnered up tracking down the names on the blacklist. Albuquerque’s art is a bit looser but no energy is sacrificed.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #11—I missed #10, but went ahead and picked these two up when I saw this on the rack today. The art is breathtaking, Janin and Arreola have some serious synergy firing. Though Constantine has got to have some kind of glamour going on with his appearance, seems he should look like he’s got about fifteen years and half a million more miles on him than he does here. And of course, Tim Hunter, everyone roughly a decade on either side of me or Lemire’s age saw that one coming. I’m sure there’re all kinds of crazy items in that Black Room that I have no idea about. Is that a giant Diocletian coin to offset Bruce Wayne’s penny?

FLASH #11—This title’s first fill-in on art doesn’t break momentum as much as you’d expect, the title page as wonderful as ever. I’m still having trouble investing in the narrative, though, the luster’s fading for me on this one. Will definitely hang out through the zero-issue and probably give #13 a shot, but it’s time to crank this one up a bit more than it’s going right now in singles. I still don't understand why everyone is so fascinated by Flash's Rogues.

PROPHET #27—This has got to be hands-down the best new series of the year, if only because of how immersive and entertaining it is on a monthly basis while managing to almost entirely eschew a linear narrative but instead just fire perfect little storytelling bulls-eyes all over the universe. You can get the sense that all of this might connect up at some point or not, and it would be all right if it didn’t, it’s an entertaining enough ride the first time through, doesn’t all have to turn out to all be any closer together on this massive tapestry than it already seems to be. I laughed pretty hard at the shots of all the creators in that helmet from the cover, but then the sight of Diehard at the bottom of the first page was so much better. Really, relative to the rest of the series, this one’s probably one of my least favorites, but that’s not a dig, it’s just that these guys have already set the bar so high. It’s still better than just about everything else on the rack today. The phrase “created by Rob Liefeld” gets stranger and less applicable as the months go streaming by.

BEST OF WEEK: THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #5—Quite possibly the best issue of the series so far, we get a first contact and follow-up encounter that could only happen in this series. All kinds of depraved madman shit going on up in here. There’s a darkness to this book that’s more like dark matter, just a hyperdense crushing-in-from-all-sides Science Will Kill Us sort of thing. Though we open with a boyhood flashback and of course his epigraphs are all over the place, there’s been relatively very little of Feynman actually doing anything on-panel. With the exception of talking Einstein into helping them build the atom bomb, I guess I should say. But it’s an interesting long game that Hickman’s playing here, we’re conditioned to latch on to a protagonist, root for some kind of hero or at least anti-hero, but you know, this has basically been Oppenheimer’s show up until now and he’s, well, a monster. Really wondering what the landscape of this book is going to look like by #10. Pitarra/Bellaire continue to absolutely annihilate it on the sequential panelwork, I’m real proud to see such hyper-detailed sort of European Quitely/Darrow/Adams linework flourishing just down 290 in the great megalopolis of Houston, TX. This book and PROPHET on the same night are very nearly almost too much bleeding-edge science pulp to bear. Advantage goes to this one by a picometer.

THE AVENGERS #28—So powerful is the inner narrative voice of General “Thunderbolt” Ross in his incarnation as the Red Hulk that Bendis just provides us straight first-person prose in captions off to the side and gives all that lovely Simonson art room to breathe, in the full breadth of all of its Kirby dynamism, power, and fury. Which is pretty cool, but I have no idea what they’re saying around the breakfast table there on that second spread. And that’s why I buy my Bendis Avengers, you know, to hear who says what around the breakfast table. This is another filler, but it’s kind of fun to see a character I haven’t had that much exposure to try to punch so far above even his formidable weight class.

FF #20—Hickman is just now on-panel visibly beginning to roar up and round the bend, bringing the First Family and the massive ensemble he’s constructed at long last home, or at least and of course on to the next thing, as ever. Nice to see so much Kirby Krackle there when the Hooud booted Annihilus back into the Negative Zone. Reed lecturing was perfect, down to the students’ optimum lounging learning conditions. The two short scenes of the Richards kids’ interaction with their future selves are a perfect example of what puts this book (these books) on top, month after month. I’m 99% sure we’ve never even heard of Sara Jessen before and Hickman crushes it in a mere two panels, all the aching nostalgia for a childhood long since past.