Wednesday, November 28, 2012


THE AVENGERS #34—Well, this was more big fun than we’ve had in the rampup to Bendis’s final issue of the main title. Peterson & Mayhew draw most of the issue with the Dodsons batting cleanup after a terrific artjam featuring Deodato, Simonson, Yu, Cheung, and Coipel drawing the entire team assembled in Central Park and just beating the hell out of a giant Lord Gouzar of, I think, Micronauts fame? The opening tiff between Hill and Daisy is classic Bendis. He even manages to work in a joke about their haircuts later on. And the much-ballyhooed Ultron thing is, in fact, going to be next year’s big event. That has the effect of not putting quite the punctuation I’d prefer on this epic run, nothing like Hickman just did on his relatively much shorter run across town over at the Baxter Building. I predict we’ll get more long-arc resolution next week with the Cage-Joneses in NEW AVENGERS but this right here is basically nothing more than a lateral to the next creative team, Tony’s last line of dialogue apparently feeding directly in to whatever’s coming next with Hickman’s run on this title, and you know what? I can’t wait.

BEST OF WEEK: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #698—Well, damn. I haven’t been picking this up lately, not due to a lack of quality but just because I can’t afford to keep up with its frequent publication schedule, but Dan Slott has been going on and on to such an extent in social media about no one spoiling it that finally, after his fifteenth post or so, I decided I had four dollars to invest and see what was such a great God-amighty deal. And boy! Glad I did. This is insane. I can’t imagine it’s going to stick, but it’s much more ominous, knowing that this original title is about to get cancelled and relaunched with a new adjectival moniker, one that is tonally in rhythm with the quite audacious jump in status quo that we get in this issue, something that might have been set up as far back as #600. I don’t know! Great to see Richard Elson, who was so excellent pulling art duty a while back on JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, get bumped up for this headlining gig. And I don't recognize colorist Antonio Fabela's name, but he provides thunder throughout. But what a level of craft on just Slott's part throughout the issue. A really well-done re-introduction to the title if you're just dropping in like me. After a compelling opening hook (the web-slinger's greatest nemesis on his deathbed, struggling to utter the name of his secret identity), we race through various aspects of our hero's life, checking in with how he's doing in terms of relating to the NYPD, his job, and of course MJ, before he gets a call from the Avengers and everything is we know is wrong, completely upended. This is the very definition of the term "shock ending," one that will send you all the way back through the issue rereading and suddenly picking up on little hints, things that just seemed the least bit off or that maybe you explained await as nuanced character evolution that is really anything but. That cover is total horror after you’ve hit the last page. Slott and his amazing friends knock this one out of the park and have definitely got me on the hook for the duration.

HAWKEYE #4—Well, I was pretty concerned about what would happen for our first inevitable no-Aja issue, and the good news is we come out all right. I mean, Javier Pulido is certainly no David Aja, the perfectly framed cinematic angles, masterful use of negative space, and innovative panel designwork are all gone, but Matt Hollingsworth’s palette goes a long way toward providing consistency and continuity to what’s gone before. And Pulido’s work has this scratchy kind of indie aesthetic that works for me, somewhat channeling a Beto Hernandez aesthetic. The premise is excellent high-concept fare that is well suited to this title, a VHS tape of Hawkeye committing a U.S. government-sanctioned assassination is released into the world and he has to go to Madripoor to buy it back at the supervillain black market auction. Like you do. Kate Bishop only needs a few pages this month to add to her resume making a strong case for her being this year’s breakout character under Fraction’s pen. Still tremendous fun, you could be reading only this and DAREDEVIL and have nothing but very good things to say about The House of Ideas. Hark! a transition . . .

DAREDEVIL #20—Man, when AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #589 hit a few years back (not as many as the numbers might suggest, Wacker has been cranking that business out!), many folks were wowed by what Fred Van Lente managed to do in a single issue with The Spot, a D-list Spidey villain who nobody ever cared much about. Mark Waid was on-deck to follow that issue on an arc with his usual cohort Barry Kitson and must have just been rubbing his hands together at all the things that either that issue suggested to him or that he already had in mind, because blow me over if we’re not now in the second of a three-part arc featuring the next model of The Spot as an antagonist who is as terrifying as he is horrific. This might be as dark as this series has gotten since this run began and that is really saying something, even given as much that was made of its lightness during those first few months. I mean, a closet full of living slave heads. Gah. I’ve finally made it around to that Landridge/Samnee THOR series they choked in the crib a couple of years ago and it’s a real delight to get to see Samnee’s stellar work back then and compare it with the subtle evolution that’s taken place in just a couple of years’ time. Truly an underrated master of the form. If only I could view his art in a slightly different context . . .

THE ROCKETEER: CARGO OF DOOM #4—This was a hell of a ride. I believe it’s the first non-Stevens Rocketeer story to ever be serialized, quite a leap from the all-star eight-page stories that IDW has been cranking out the past couple of years. With Waid/Samnee/Bellaire, they couldn’t have landed a more crackerjack creative team to push Cliff and the whole crew back into the spotlight, to say nothing of the potentially blasphemous addition of new members to the supporting cast. The art style, while not quite as hyper-detailed as Stevens’, lives up to the original in spirit, particularly in energy and dynamic motion. And of course Waid is maybe the best possible choice to be doing this, crafting brand-new yarns that feel as timeless as they might have under the original creator’s pen twenty or thirty years ago. Three years ago, I thought the world of him, and he’s suddenly burning brighter than ever, seemingly incapable of doing wrong. There is not a single false beat or misstep in either character or plot to be found within these pages. A more-than-worthy addition to the canon.

GLORY #30—Keatinge & Campbell continue to crank it up throughout the issue, this is real solid escalation and terribly entertaining throughout. The battle between the sisters has to be seen to be believed. “Arms exploding” will never never convey the madness. I tell you what, though, old Roman Muradov sneaks in the front door with those first three pages of art featuring the titular character rampaging through Paris in the Twenties in pursuit of Fantomas while member of a league including Picasso, Stein, and, naturally, Hemingway. That first three-panel strip across the top of Page Two is as wonderful a thing as I can recall running across lately. Magdamnificent. This series continues to tear it up, I’m very happy to follow it and brother John PROPHET up north of the one-dollar price-bump, but am rabid for the idea of a series featuring more adventures of Glory in the company of The Lost Generation. What an incredible way to open the issue.

WONDER WOMAN #14—All right, I can’t tell if Akins art has just improved in some subtle way or the content of the script seemed more essential, but this is the first non-Chiang issue that felt like an indispensible part of the narrative and not just a fill-in. Matthew Wilson’s colors remain a thing of lush beauty. I can’t figure out who the prehistoric brain-eating chap is, had halfway convinced myself that it was Orion, but the last two pages of course knock that theory right out. Very good-looking pages, too, it must be said. I dig the design on those vertical lifescan bars or whatever they are, Source measurements, maybe. I hope Siracca is going to hang out and join the cast. Azzarello is building quite the merry band. Can’t wait for things to really get crackling with Orion and Chiang next month.

BATWOMAN #14—And the Amazon hat-trick power-hour keeps on slamming! I don’t know how much more I can take. Liked this one even better than last month. Williams’s layouts and composition are, as ever, jaw-dropping and staggering and probably make four artists give up for every one they inspire because, really, who can touch this guy? A singular talent. Once again, big kudos to DC editorial for letting twenty pages of story run straight through with no ads to disrupt the constant flow of double-splash artistic greatness. That just is not something you see every day. I especially like how balanced the two characters are written, Diana freaking out on how courageous Kate is, even while the opposite is obviously taking place as well. Because, you know, Wonder Woman. Glad to see that Maggie will apparently be the focus next month. This book is a gem, I seriously hope they’re talking to A-list talent to pick up the torch from Williams when he finally takes his interior sequential genius elsewhere.

FABLES #123—The second and final part of a ripping good yarn, here. I said it last month: if you simply must occasionally bench the regular art team for a fill-in, it is a grand and glorious thing to recruit talent as prodigiously gifted as Gene Ha and Art Lyon. Gorgeous lush art showing us just how Bigby wound up with the fate that we have been watching unfold page by page, month by month, lo these past ten years of Mundy-relative time. This two-parter has reinvigorated my love for this series, which, with all the rampant rebooting and –launching that’s been firing up all around the past couple years, is now the longest continual run that I’m still picking up. Will Willingham ever run out of gas? It doesn’t look like it, seems like he’s got enough to get to #200 and beyond. While just kicking out graphic novels and spinoffs on the side like it’s no problem. The man has drunk deeply of some powerful fountain, quite possibly made up out of words.

THE UNWRITTEN #43—The action definitely proceeds apace. In which we welcome Baron Karl Friedrich Hieronymous von Münchausen back to our august narrative, watch him send a carnivorous butcher polar bear into orbit with an ingenious blue salve, and make the twin revelations that all of reality is “a sort of infinite cetacean regression” and that the Bennet sisters are willing, under the proper degree of dire circumstances, to prostitute themselves for nutritive sustenance. In short, sir, the quintessential Vertigo tale.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


BEST OF WEEK: LOCKE & KEY: OMEGA #1—Roaring back this week amidst a very crowded field of thermonuclear contenders and just wiping up the floor with them, this book doesn’t let little things like the last issues of THE BOYS or Brendan McCarthy’s latest slab of glory or Snyder/Capullo and company’s sustained white-hot Gotham brilliance get in the way of being the very best book on the rack. Hill plays fair with his readers and doesn’t in any way hit the brakes on the promise of the final page of the last volume, refusing to contrive a bunch of obstacles to stand in the way and instead advancing our antagonist pretty much just a few feet from the threshold of total victory by issue’s end, juxtaposed opposite a B-plot that is a magnificent characterization device, Scot Kavanaugh filming several supporting players on the eve of graduation expressing what advice they would give their younger selves were the option available, which of course leads to all these really perfect little three- and four-panel blasts of strong strong work. Hill maybe gets the most mileage out of Jordan, I would say? If you don’t count the Locke kids, of course there’s aren’t as much vignettes as milestones in their long overall arcs. The Kinsey resolution kind of broke me down. Gabriel Rodriguez and Jay Fotos continue to produce absolutely jawdropping work page after page after page. This is my favorite story currently being serialized certainly on the rack, possibly in any medium. Though I sure do like HOMELAND, TREME, and MAD MEN. And BREAKING BAD is pretty okay. But I don’t know. I feel like I think about this one more when I’m not directly experiencing it. Todd, you should really.

(NOTE: attached image pulled from a previous issue, #4 of Volume 5, but too perfect not to lead with here, at the beginning of the end)

THE BOYS #72—And so it ends. It’s been so long, but it seems like this was also the case with PREACHER, the main dramatic narrative came to an end before the final issue, which was pretty much an epilogue. Which makes sense. This is a worthy sendoff to those still standing. Great to get Robertson back, though it is a shame that he has so few original characters left to draw. All of the beats fall in places that feel right after six years’ serialized immersion in this world. Ennis pulls a great trick at the end, ramping up the potential for absolute heartbreak and horror in the very last pages. If any writer, if any book has the potential to just completely and explicitly disembowel the remaining protagonists on the cusp of a happy ending right there on the last page, it is this book, and I honestly could barely even spare the art a glance on the first pass, so enthralled and concerned was I for our potentially star-crucified couple. Of course, I’m not going to talk about the last page, but I will say that I really wish the opposite page had been all black out of respect for the conclusion of the run, as opposed to a pin-up of a character who I, in those first heartstopping instants before turning the page all the way and arriving at the final page of a 90-issue run, thought had somehow inexplicably returned. Which kind of messed with the momentum of the entire experience. Upon repeated viewings, I can kind of look at it as him watching over whatever’s happening on that last page. Tremendous tremendous long run, though. We shall not see anything like it again. Much gratitude to Ennis for never ever compromising, Robertson for every bit of hyperdetailed linework and exploding gore horrah, Braun for showing up two-thirds of the way through and turning in monthly work so excellent that it improbably kept me from walking off this title with the exit of Robertson and concurrent price-bump, quite the audacious step on Dynamite’s part. Really grateful for such a compelling longform narrative that kept me company for so many Wednesday nights.

BATMAN #14—This monster keeps rolling. It looks like Joker just grabbed Alfred as an incidental until we make it out to that bridge and he lays the entire premise on us and the comlink-assembled Batkiddies combined. Of course, everything is perfectly written and drawn, the in-panel staging and composition is some of the very best in comics today, the colors are lush and all of the captions are pitch-perfect. Even the lettering for Joker’s dialogue is a perfect fit. This is still, no question, the best of the New 52. And we’ll see how it all plays out. But right now, it’s hard to get too worried over the idea that Joker’s going to off any or all the sidekicks. Or that if he does, it’s going to stick. I mean, at this point are we supposed to get all worked up over the idea of him taking out the Red Hood with a crowbar? I’m sure it will still be a gripping yarn, but those are not the stakes that keep me on the edge of thrill and wonder.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #14—Ah, sorry not to get Gleason for the full twenty pages, nothing against the other fella but you can really tell. We still have several iconic images. Tomasi continues to mine all kinds of emotional depth from the dynamic between father and son as mentor and sidekick. Really beautiful last page there, man.

FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #14—This one’s kind of running out of gas for me a bit. Still good fun, but I miss Lemire. And Villarrubia this time out, what the hell?

THE NEW AVENGERS #33—Wow, Oeming dropping in I bet messes up some dyed-in-the-wool Marvel Zombies who are not down with the POWERS. Quite a bit more stylized than the great Carlos Pacheco, mm? The art really works for me, though, Oeming’s a singular talent. It kind of felt like Ba/Moon dropping in to play. So, yeah, apparently the Hitch Ultron thing is just going to be next year’s big event, kind of a shame not to let that play out as the climax of this Bendis run, but I guess we can all just hold our breath for four or five months and pretend the gap didn’t happen.

FANTASTIC FOUR #1—This was really excellent, much better than I dared hope. Very much more the CASANOVA/HAWKEYE Fraction showing up rather than the fellow who phoned in those couple years of UNCANNY. And I couldn’t be happier, regular readers will recall that there is a Hickman-sized hole in my heart that cannot be filled by all the creator-owned Image series he can throw at us (though we must give him credit for trying). But we get to keep colorist Paul Mounts (continuing his record-breaking stint on this book) for continuity and Fraction, Bagley, and Farmer drop us right in the thick of it, a Page One ONE YEAR FROM NOW . . . flash-forward that’s pretty much straight Morrison (the exact same trick as R.I.P., now that I think on it) and then we’re off to the races with some in medias res action from the mouth of a T-Rex to all over the breakfast nook at the Baxter Building. Kirby Krackle at the bottom of Page Four, we’re good, check. Fraction doesn’t quite nail Valeria’s voice, but it’s a nuanced thing, I’m sure he’ll get it. Or have hopes. The two-pager with Johnny & Darla in The Negative Zone is priceless, as is the bit with the Yancy Street Dummies. I’m also a fan of the premise of taking the entire Future Foundation aboard the deweaponized hyperdimensional warship for Adventures Across Space & Time. Why reveal who the replacement team is on the cover for FF? What ever happened to silhouettes and question marks? An auspicious debut. Looking forward to the Allreds clocking in.

THE ALL-NEW X-MEN #1—All right, I was planning on passing this up in general protest of the new Merry Marvel Double-Shipping-40-pgs/month-for-$8 policy, but that cover looked too good and I had to see how Bendis kicked off his run in this corner of the 616. It’s pretty solid. The art is magnificent. This Marte Garcia came out of nowhere, a serious force on colors. I was pretty taken with this the first time through, but it does seem a bit skinny on the second pass. Especially when you put it up next to Fraction’s FF. Or certainly LOCKE & KEY, though maybe that isn’t fair. Much has been made of Hank’s plot-driving decision being out of character, but it works for me, particularly in light of the fact that he’s dying and desperate. I would totally be on-board for this if it was single-shipping, I think I heard that it’s going to shift to that soon? Haven’t decided whether or not to pick up #2. I do want to support Local Boy Made Good David Marquez, so will probably have to at least snag his issues when he rotates in.

SAGA #7—All right, this one is the first since #1 to pretty much do it for me. I’m still not a fan of the choice to have every single character using an up-to-the-bleeding-minute sort of twenty-first century tone, very much not digging on a baby from the future narrating the sweeping space opera with bits like, “So yeah, that happened.” But the characters are punching through into my heart, regardless. Or I’m at least developing empathy for them. I guess I didn’t just adore Yorick, 355, and the gang by #7, to be fair. Fiona Staples’s art is majestic. And the last page is perfect, probably the most perfect beat of the entire thing thus far, and that’s all down to Vaughan. Cautiously optimistic about this thing, going forward.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #10—We welcome a fourth artist to the fold, Declan Shalvey, and while his (his?) lines are even looser than Lolos’s, I’m finding myself able to acquire the taste a bit faster if I simply don’t expect everyone to just lay waste to every single page the way Cloonan and then Harren managed to. Appreciate the art on its own merits, not in relation to what’s come before. The plot thickens for our warrior pirate royalty couple as they head into their third act under the shadow of plague. Almost a year in, this one’s still holding my attention. Wonder how long Wood’s planning to hang out, whether or not he’s leaving with Bêlit.

THE MASSIVE #6—And speaking of Mr. Wood, it has proven a rewarding double-shot to get his other $3.50 periodical every week along with CONAN. Just the Dave Stewart colors alone justify yer seven-dollar cover price, no problem. This series is still exploring various corners of the globe while providing gripping done-in-ones, this time featuring Mag. I’m a fan of this pace, really tight little three-issue arcs with individual issues that all stand alone pretty well. Garry Brown continues to do a fine job drawing everything that Wood throws at him, and the backmatter is consistently the best on the rack at the moment, all kinds of efficient world-building going down just four pages of text at a time.

THE ZAUCER OF ZILK #2—What a mad phantasmagoric ride! Having never experienced ROGAN GOSH, this is the closest I’ve come to pure undiluted McCarthy. Some seriously resonant themes are tucked in amongst all the surging bleed of every technicolor known to man, age and accepting one’s mortality and adulation or lack thereof. Highly recommended to fans of the slipslide psychedelic and particularly Morrison’s more hyperdimensional fare. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


ACTION COMICS #14—This one right here embodies and fulfills all the science fiction madness and glory promised by the title “Superman’s Mission to Mars.” Really, just a perfect six-page opening scene. Especially the third page, our reader’s panel camera not quite ever being able to keep up with him. (advertising side-note: tag-lining “The Return of the New Gods begins in Issue #15!” for the WONDER WOMAN due in five weeks kind of undercuts how completely restrained and on the far side of coy Azzarello was in all of the interviews after that last page of #12, insisting that for now, it was just Orion, only Orion) And while I’m griping, revealing The Multitude on the cover was also a misfire, it would have been so much more effective if these new antagonists that nobody’s ever seen before actually made their first appearance in-story. There are many other ways to roll with a cover about a Superman on Mars issue. I probably would have fought for a Gibbons homage, myself. At any rate, when the bad guys show up, they are indeed a fearsome thing. (advertising side-note #2: that double-page ad in the middle featuring The New 52 Justice League action figures fighting Darkseid, complete with GL fending off The Omega Effect is dropping some serious compositional like all-time greatness for a toy ad). The fork-interacting-with-a-two-dimensional-surface metaphor is one of the better upper-dimensional ones I’ve encountered. Leave it to Kal. But wow, it all sure went wrong at the end, didn’t it? Good Lord! On the art side of things, I wish I was a bigger fan of the overall situation. That opening scene is, like I said, very well done, but a great deal of the back half of the lead story looks really rushed with flat camera-angles and wonky anatomy and body language. It’s all perfectly serviceable and de rigueur for monthly Morrison superhero books, but I was expecting a bit more thunder from Morales before this title launched, particularly in light of the fill-in lead-time he’s been given. On the other hand, Sprouse/Story/Bellaire turn in superior work for the back-up feature, which also happens to be the best writer Sholly Fisch has done thus far. You’ve got to love Neil deGrasse Tyson showing up in a sort of New 52 capacity as Emil Hamilton and the twist at the end really works.

DETECTIVE COMICS #14—Surprising no one, Layman/Fabok/Cox continue to absolutely blow it up on this title. Pretty flawless business, all around. Layman nails the narrative voice and keeps the plot moving along at just the right pace, Fabok’s lines are crisp and his splashes are a beautiful thing to behold, and Cox’s colors pop just right. Plus, there are several little character moments that really push this one over the top, like Bruce’s one-panel dressing-down of Damian re: breakfast. Daddy Bat is not putting up with that shit. Fine work all around, I’m hoping these boys are settling in for a nice long run. This issue also once again provides the definitive version of how to publish these $4 DC issues with back-up stories. Instead of having the extra story be random unrelated fill-in content by another creative team entirely (as much fun as we just had a minute ago with Dr. Tyson), pay the writer of the main feature to jam out additional material that complements the lead story. I get the whole deal about artists not being able to crank out thirty pages on a monthly deadline, but writers do not face the same dilemma. This is how it’s done!

ANIMAL MAN #14—And we’re back into it with Rotworld proper. Timothy Green II and Joseph Silver do a fine job blending in the style on their fill-in pages with Pugh. You’ve got to wonder how this will all be reset (how great if it wasn’t and these guys’ status quo was just in this new Vertigoesque post-Rot pocket, going forward? Yeah, I know, not likely), but there go Hawk, Dove, and Deathstroke! Grodd and M’sieu Mallah teaming up in this situation feels like the greatest BRAVE & THE BOLD-type situation ever.

SWAMP THING #14—Man, Paquette never seems like he’s got any room left to improve and then he shows up with something like that fifth page. Just masterful gorgeous business. And who isn’t all geeked out to see Snyder trot out Gotham City. Of course Batman is still holed up one year later, presumably working on the Ultimate Rot Nullifier. Perfect. Also, a nice bit of symmetry to have little Will Arcane showing up at the end of this one in the present opposite his flashback appearance with Maxine back in ANIMAL MAN. Snyder & Lemire are keeping everything nice and tight and it’s very rewarding to read something as simultaneously epic and simple as a two-book event with same-day monthly release. Full marks, all around.

BEST OF WEEK: THOUGHT BUBBLE—THE LEEDS COMIC ART FESTIVAL ANTHOLOGY 2012—Well, this was another great anthology surprise to find on the rack this week. I’m already a fan of that large-page newsprint WEDNESDAY COMICS format, but when you’ve got names like Kate Beaton, Warren Ellis, Tony Harris, Dave Johnson, Sean Phillips, Gail Simone, Richard Starkings, and Skottie Young on the cover, all for $3.99, it’s not much of a gamble. I was astonished by the overall quality of every single story inside, 28 pages of oversized greatness. We open with four single-pagers, whimsical stuff, including one about three English kids swapping comics in the early seventies and then Gail Simone dropping a gang of hilarious Victorian permutations of popular titles. Then the Elephantmen/Strontium Dog madness hits. I’ve never read either, but this fella Boo Cook murders it. The colors look incredible, actually seem enhanced by the newsprint. Kristyna Baczynski and Matthew Sheret produce a lovely eight-page story about a young girl’s search for Algernon Whipple that is reminiscent of a softer more delightful Chris Ware. Not every story even has creator credits but they’re refreshing little blasts of narrative, there and gone before you even know what’s happened. I dug Brandon/Gallagher’s “I’m Through.” Steve Reynolds’s “Dad’s Ear” is the right kind of crazy. Stephen Mooney and Jordie Bellaire’s “Half Past Danger” is more of a single-page trailer for something that’s coming out next summer, but it looks great. Dave Johnson’s true story of how he met Bob Layton is solid and makes you want more autobiographical material from that direction whenever he can break away from all those sweet cover gigs. “The Immortality Drive” is a pretty solid slab of science fiction in seven panels. Six, really. “Soon” has got to be the one by Ellis, a fine meditation and invocation on mankind’s unrelenting drive to press ever onward. “Dude Watchin’ with The Brontës” is as silly as it sounds. That “transreality: do-over” by Chris Lackey is a headscratching bit of business, veering into MOON territory, there. Another serious bit of story to convey in seven panels. And the last page is “C<3r 15-year-old="15-year-old" a="a" all="all" an="an" and="and" anything="anything" as="as" at="at" be="be" better="better" bottom="bottom" but="but" by="by" cartoonist="cartoonist" children="children" comics.="comics." cover="cover" depth="depth" despite="despite" dream="dream" dropping="dropping" ecoming="ecoming" else="else" ending="ending" entire="entire" especially="especially" first-prize-winner="first-prize-winner" found="found" full="full" fun="fun" future="future" gem="gem" got="got" has="has" heart="heart" here.="here." highly="highly" in="in" indie="indie" inside="inside" is="is" it="it" kamlish="kamlish" kinds="kinds" know="know" lady="lady" manages="manages" monogamous="monogamous" much="much" narrative="narrative" of="of" one="one" p="p" page.="page." panorama="panorama" person="person" rear="rear" recommended="recommended" relationship="relationship" s="s" school-aged="school-aged" serious="serious" sophie="sophie" still="still" submissions="submissions" superhero="superhero" the="the" there="there" thing.="thing." thing="thing" this="this" those="those" to="to" treasure="treasure" was="was" what="what" which="which" with="with" you="you" young="young">

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #7—Everything seems to lock in for this issue in a way that I didn’t realize it hadn’t yet. All the pieces are in place, both on the page and in terms of creator alignment, and all this horrible beast can do is lurch forward to consume any and all. The Oval Office orgy shot is appalling even before you see poor Hickman. Somehow, the toilet just hanging out in the upper-left corner without a stall of any kind to prevent watching folks do their business is the worst bit. Laika’s response in the affirmative is the most wonderful thing. Beware FDR: AI! Unbelievably, it still seems like we’re only seeing the tip of how completely stark raving this thing really is.

THE AVENGERS #33—Wow, everybody at the table jamming on Jarvis-served hot dogs as Daisy walks in. Bendis is just like taunting his detractors on the way out, hilarious. The Dodsons certainly crank the art up a bit from last issue. There’s really nothing wrong with this issue, it’s good fun, I just expected a bit more weight coming at the end of this monumental run that’s never been done in franchise history. Crushing character moments. The endgame! So, what, is that Ultron thing with Hitch cancelled? Or just the Big Event of 2013 now? Maybe it always was. Moving on to . . .

THE NEW AVENGERS #32—We welcome the great Carlos Pacheco! I have got to say, they need to vary up a little bit more about Maria Hill and Daisy Johnson than the part in their hair, they’re pretty much physically indistinguishable to me. And but meanwhile, it’s going quite poorly for the Luke Cage’s mansion squad. My man Bendis has got to break a few toys while heading out the door. Wonderful and a little hilarious to see Brother Voodoo again, or what’s left of him. So many pet characters! Here’s hoping for one last hurrah with The Hood. Not really.

DAREDEVIL: END OF DAYS #2—President Sam Wilson! A slender ray of hope shining through all the misery and horrah of Ben Urich’s latter-day existence. That first double-splash is pretty overwhelming, it looks like someone in a Captain America mask is delivering the news, we receive confirmation that hot dogs, burgers, steak, and Coca-Cola are still in effect, Thor is being used to market insurance with a cute little in-text nod toward The Authority, there’s something going on with the FF or their images, there’s still wrestling, some fragrance called Relent, West Side Story and Tommy are still playing and there is also a Hulk musical, the Vision bought or was co-opted by Virgin and the Megastore is now a hotel (?), Bendis is still shilling for Spider-Men all these years later, oh, now the FF are a chain of restaurants and the X-Men have taken over McDonald’s and turned the arches upside down, I guess to stand for Wolverine? Bleak times, my friends. Oh right, and there are helicarriers with spotlights positively littering the sky. Ha ha, wow, and President Falcon is now calling the liberals a Latverian conspiracy. This is wonderful. What a Sienkiewicz painting of Natasha in her element. Did anyone else read 232 on that license plate at the funeral and think of Miller/Mazzucchelli’s penultimate BORN AGAIN issue? This is another slice of greatness, really fine work all around. And I love the cover to next issue, what’s not incredible about Officers Bendis & Mack finding Elektra having hung herself in-costume in The Big House?


GHOSTS #1—A superb and stunning anthology. It looks like several of the Vertigo regulars edited it, Shelly Bond and Will Dennis and such, but the overall high quality had me looking for Mark Chiarello’s name. This is top-shelf across the board, stories by folks I’ve never heard of or had little contact with are every bit as impressive as the ones by A-listers like Hernandez, Pope, or Lemire. Al Ewing (late of THE ZAUCER OF ZILK) and Rufus Dayglo deliver an excellent little 2000 ADesque yarn with the six-page “The Night After I Took The Data Entry Job I Was Visited By My Own Ghost,” though they owe us a comma after Job. Toby Litt and Mark Buckingham do little more than whet our appetites with eight pages of Dead Boy Detectives that turns out to only be the first part of a longer story (though it is a heartening thing to read the words “To Be Continued in the next Vertigo Anthology… at the conclusion of anything ever). Cecil Castellucci and Amy Reeder turn in an aching slice of beauty that starts out as a marital montage and becomes something more ambiguous and surreal. That one really snuck up on me, easily my favorite of the ones I wasn’t anticipating based on creator credits. Then, oh, we get the last eight pages Joe Kubert ever wrote and drew. Just unadulterated rough pencils with no modification whatsoever except for lettering. No inks, no color, Mr. Kubert shows once again and for all time why he is one of the greatest storytellers the medium has ever seen. Kleid/McCrea show up with something macabre, Mary Choi and Phil Jiminez provide gorgeous pages with which I failed to connect on a character level, and then Lapham/Pope/Kindzierski drop the absolute science fiction business, eight glorious pages, probably my favorite story in the whole book. I’m sure BATTLING BOY is one day going to make it all worthwhile, but I don’t get enough pages of Pope interiors per year to suit me, just glorious work. Then, the great Beto Hernandez drops in with what appears to be almost a riff on The Dead Boy Detectives, which was entertaining enough, but I could never quite lock into the story because I couldn’t stop thinking about just how much I love Beto and PALOMAR. Finally, Johns/Lemire/Villarrubia provide the final story starring a pair of brothers, one of whom is deceased, called GHOST-FOR-HIRE. This is a bunch of good fun and I’d like to see future installments of this story in these anthologies if these gentlemen’s prolific careers will let them have enough time to crank out a few pages every now and again. Any time the art team for SWEET TOOTH gets together, it doesn’t really matter who’s writing, the pages are going to be worth your time. I know anthologies traditionally never sell well but am certainly glad that DC put this one out anyway, just a hell of a collection of talented individuals. Here’s to GHOSTS #2, available next Halloween.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #30—A solid bit of retconning on Pearl’s dear best friend casts Sweet’s motivations during this arc in a much more believable light. Albuquerque/McCaig continue to do no wrong, every bit as terrifying as any of their characters.

ROCKETEER: CARGO OF DOOM #3—Dinosaurs. Naturally! This book continues to be terrific fun. I cannot imagine a single fan of this character coming away from these pages dissatisfied. Waid/Samnee/Bellaire/Lee are a unified force channeling an ideal incarnation of Dave Stevens’ vision. The artists really blow it wide open with that last splash, everything’s much tighter and more finely rendered than it has been up until now, suddenly into almost a Darrow or Quitely level of detail. This one’s worth every penny and with no in-story ads, there’s really no reason to trade-wait.

HAPPY #2—One grim Christmas story. The title character in no way mitigates and frankly serves to by comparison intensify the hyperbrutality to be found on these pages. You have got to love Nick using the invisible blue winged horse to cheat at poker. I’m frankly dreading whatever it is that’s going to motivate our protagonist to do the right thing here in the next little bit. It’s going to be on the far side of gruesome.

THE MIGHTY THOR #22—Well, last week the store was sold out of the final Brubaker CAP and Fraction IRON MAN issues, which is a shame because I followed those for years and years before the double-ship $4 situation made me bail, but I was also on board with this run even though it hasn’t lasted nearly as long. I thought it would be fun to just stumble back in at the last minute without most context and really no idea what’s been happening and just see how Fraction blows it up on his way out. Especially with Kitson on interiors. What follows are occasional potentially clueless page-by-page reactions. There Will Be Question Marks:

RECAP PAGE: Okay, Odin’s back. No surprise, there. No mention of the three wives having been in charge. Missed a comma between “Exile” and “Thor,” I wonder if that kind of thing is on the Assistant Editor?
1-“Doom Ring,” that sounds wonderful. I wonder what Victor Von Doom would do with one of those green rings.
2-Poor Balder can really just never catch a break, such a miserable fellow pretty much since Uncle Walt left.
3-Okay, who the hell are these kids at the bottom? Backwards baseball cap, I bet that dude’s from Oklahoma. What has always been the deal with Asgard and the OK? I never got it.
5 & 6-Odin is not behaving in a very magnanimous fashion.
7-Oh no, a trial. This is turning into the SEINFELD finale . . .
11& 12-Though that is a much cooler montage than what Jerry and his friends did or did not get up to.
15-All right, then, Kirby Krackle. We’re legit. This issue is okay.
20-Wait, Sif’s pregnant? With Thor’s kid? How is this THE END? That is a pretty cheeky way to bail out.

FATALE #9—More of the same from one of the most synergistic teams in comics. You kind of want Brubaker/Phillips/Stewart to drop like six pages of a story about something that absolutely should not work, a dyslexic bunny rabbit perhaps, and see what magic they’re able to conjure. Because they seem incapable of doing wrong.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK ANNUAL #1—Naturally, we need Frankenstein to see the thing through. Lemire, you are a darling man. And why not throw Amethyst into the mix? The art team continues to deliver beautiful work, particularly Arreola’s palette. But damn, Constantine completely sold me on that one horrible thing he did. Bastard! For all the talk of watering him down and migrating from VertigoàDC, etc, etc, that one-two shot a few pages later of him replying to Zatanna, “For you? Please,” followed by the look they exchange, that’s vintage perfect John Constantine. Very shiny and colorful and as far away from Karen Berger as he’s ever been, but Constantine all the same. And something of a random ending, regular readers who skipped this annual are going to be a bit befuddled next month.

SWAMP THING ANNUAL #1—Cloonan! What a treat, I had no idea she was dropping in over here. Nice to see her getting work at DC. Though all I want from her is Killjoy destruction. The double-page spread across Pages 2 and 3 immediately establishes her comfort level with the sort of panel layout/branch-border thing that Paquette and Rudy have been rocking through the first year of this title. Young Alec Holland’s first line being “In the flesh” is so on-the-nose, I’m pretty sure we don’t need that final word emboldened. But got to let that slide, this flashback does more to cement the relationship between Abby and Alec and make me more care about them more than the entire run since last September. Onward to the 14s, with more momentum than ever.

FASHION BEAST #2 & 3—This is still interesting but probably suffers from serialization, as we’re by now trained to expect these perfect little diamonds when Moore composes an issue while this is a screenplay that is very capably adapted into ten issues, but they don’t resonate with the same power and depth as Moore’s classics. As of yet. It’s an interesting enough riff on transvestite Beauty & the Beast. Kind of a weird convergence to see artist Fecundo Percio making choices to frame shots like a tracking camera, can’t decide if he’s referencing Gibbons’s seminal work on WATCHMEN or the fact that this was supposed to be a movie. I keep waiting for Sid & Johnny to show up. Barring, Sidney!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


BATMAN INCORPORATED #4—And we’re back into the homestretch of Morrison Batman. This follow-up to last month’s setup is nothing more or less than a blitzkrieg assault by several members of the Incorporated team to rescue “Matches Malone” from custody, which is glorious because we get pages and pages of Burnham drawing a fight scene. I’m not crazy about the Wingman identity reveal and it is quite a shame to see Bruce buckle at the end and give Talia what she wants, even if it winds up being for show. This issue was good fun but probably blew me away less than any of the previous three, though we’re in very good hands for next month, every single page of 666 Damian Batman has been nothing but teeming madness, and I can’t wait to see what Burnham pulls out next.

FLASH #13—Big fun and hijinx abound as Flash teams with the Rogues against the hordes of Grodd’s invading army. Grodd totally just ripped Trickster’s arm off! Did not see that one coming before the page-turn, these boys are trying to get in good with CCO Geoff Johns. More strong layout work from Manapul, he really has a masterful command of the page flow. Wish he and the aforementioned Johns would have hung out longer on ADVENTURE COMICS, that business was just getting started. The last page is too much fun, if that one doesn’t do it for you, I’m not really sure what you’re expecting from this title.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #13—They ought to change the name of this bad boy to JUSTICE LEAGUE VERTIGO. No reason not to. Lemire continues to shoehorn The Green & Red in every place he can possibly make it happen, with Black Orchid in this case. Mikel Janin, Victor Drujiniu, and Ulises Arreola again produce lush breathtaking vistas. That shot of Deadman tumbling down into Thorn is pretty ridiculous. And of course, now that we’ve met him in the zero-issue, Nick Necro struts right back into the situation the very next month. “sdrawkcab cigam dliehs” is the perfect gamestopper against Zatanna. I’m really a sucker for The House of Mystery chasing The House of Secrets through Limbo, these people really know what they’re doing, here. It’s a good thing that Dr. Mist’s narrative caption didn’t show up until the last page, because I had the Reverend Al Green singing in my head for the rest of the issue.

FABLES #122—Now, this is more like it. After what felt like three issues too long last arc, we return with Gene Ha filling in on an old legend of a pre-Fabletown Big Bad Wolf narrated in flowery prose by Ambrose, many years after growing up and presumably having a quarter-cub or two of his own. Bigby, a long time ago, remember, learns that in three days’ time, he is going to meet a monster that is his equal and die. How can he combat this fate? Tune in next month!

THE UNWRITTEN #42—Well, that’s a relief about that one person. This continues to entertain with embedded narratives as the entire beast slouches toward that inevitable THE END.

MULTIPLE WARHEADS #1—All right, prior to this, I was only familiar with Graham’s work on PROPHET, so this came as something of a revelation to me. What detail, what density! And 48 pages, no ads, for four bucks? Unstoppable. After making my way through the first half of KING CITY, this is obviously a clear extension of Graham’s solo work (now, in glorious color!), but it is no less impressive upon viewing with a somewhat more seasoned eye. The man packs an insane amount of thought and hyperdetail into several vistas and long shots of shelves or throne rooms, but nothing ever looks overrendered, no line is wasted, it’s all in service of verisimilitude, making the world on the page breathe and seem as real as this one we’ve got right here. There is plenty of overlap with PROPHET in terms of the same devil-may-care any-crazy-damn-thing-can-fall-out-of-the-sky sort of attitude, but it’s much more wrapped up in the aesthetic established by KING CITY. This possibly takes place in the same world? Quality comics, right here, people, this would take BEST OF WEEK just about any other week if it didn’t have the deck stacked so hard against it.

PROPHET #30—More greatness from the best science fiction comic on the rack. Old Man Prophet and his crew run afoul of a distinguished clan of Jinnah but pick up a new member in the form of Rein-East, Orphaned Assassin. Diehard continues to transcend his origins and provide comic relief while somehow simultaneously being awesome, a triumphant circle all the way back to his shoulder-pad origins. Wonderful to get Graham pages, if only for the final three-page chapter. This book is a perpetual delight and thrill.

AVENGERS #32—There’s still not nearly enough going on here for Bendis’s last ride around the mansion. Or tower, whatever you like. But this very much reads like he’s stretched thin, too deep into writing the fourth and seventh issues of ALL-NEW X-MEN that he doesn’t pack enough thunder per issue into the home-stretch of the longest run in this franchise’s history. And it’s a shame. There are a couple of nice moments, Spidey heckling Professor Logan and Jan kissing each one of them, armor and all, but I thought there was going to be some shit with Ultron? Maybe drawn by Hitch? Isn’t all of this ending next month? Really hoping we get nothing but The Business from this direction for November.

BEST OF WEEK: FF #23—Was there ever any doubt? Jonathan Hickman at long last brings his run to a close, a winding beast spanning not only 31 issues of the main title but a 5-issue mini-series kickstart while we waited for Millar/Hitch to finally finish up, as well as this glorious spinoff that actually replaced The World’s Greatest Comics Magazine for its first year, subbing in as FANTASTIC FOUR #s 589-99 before they brought the original back for the inevitable anniversary milestone but let this one run as a complementary title featuring the Future Foundation, the gang of genuises Reed assembled as the premiere 616 think-tank. Nick Dragotta and Cris Peter are excellent choices to draw this epilogue. While Eaglesham and Epting and Kitson and Stegman here in the homestretch have all excelled in depicting the mindblowing cosmic panoramas that serve as the backdrop for our First Family’s adventures, this team in particular has done beautiful work showing us the quiet moments, the subtle nuances of a raised eyebrow or half-smile that speak volumes about the impossible intricacies that lie at the heart of every single family dynamic. While he leaves the Future Foundation intact (it will be interesting to see what, if anything, Fraction will do with it, he’s certainly my first and only choice of any of the Marvel heavies to run with it)(though I would also be interested to see what Aaron would do with them, after strolling through the halls of The Jean Grey Institute for Higher Learning), Hickman does resolve several of the main plot points that he has set in motion over the course of his run. With all of the madness between the Inhumans and Kree behind us, and having already brought the Future Valeria/Uncle Doom/Grandfather Nathaniel situation to a close two weeks ago in the main title, all that’s left is Future Franklin Richards, the best mentor an Omega-level cosmic-scale mutant could have: himself. I was admittedly going into this completely prepared to lose my shit, but Val’s parting line on the third page really laid me out. And respect to Clayton Cowles on that, it definitely called for two word balloons, perfect rhythm. And then the romp through Franklin’s baby universe, followed by the talk with his future self and sister. “Creating is harder than knowing” is as profound of a maxim as I’ve run across in any medium. So so true. Of course, you have to follow that one up with dinosaurs and cowboys and Jell-O knights. I feel like I missed something on the last encounter with Leech. Has the little fellow been dissembling all of this time, never really afraid, just lonely? Or did Future Frank imbue him with courage in that no-dialogue pedal, a Jedi mind-trick? That last shot of Val waving goodbye broke my heart, her tiny little face and big sad eyes containing all that brilliance. Followed up by drinks with Uncles Ben & Johnny and that magnificent nostalgic story of the fake future. Though it would have been nice for an out-of-costume Peter Parker to have been the fourth man at the table, he never really got to take his last bow, and Hickman did so much so well with him. I guess there was no room, not sure where to squeeze him in on those two pages. Everything sings. And we have to end with Reed and Sue, who are powerless not to crash down their parental borders and just straight up ask their kid whether they screwed up or not, in a manner that manages to be eloquent and direct and, most importantly, ring true. Franklin answers the only way that he can and says goodbye, and so must we, goodbye to this incredible ride that has thrilled our minds and quickened our breath and broken our hearts and reminded us what it is we love about not just comic books but stories themselves, stories of any kind, the very best ones, their raw power to take you outside of yourself and excite with the possibility of the unimagined and incomprehensible while revealing something about who you are that you didn’t realize and never would have known if you hadn’t gone out on the adventure and let it transform you, change you into the person you always were who just needed a little bit of help to manifest and materialize and carry you along to the next place, the next story that you were always meant to write for yourself.