Wednesday, May 22, 2013


AGE OF ULTRON #8 — Having escaped the past after irrevocably changing it with a single slash, we have also bid farewell to the Pacheco/Villarrubia retro art style that was so swell, but Brandon Peterson and Paul Mounts carry the torch for the entire issue to tremendous effect. I’m glad Tony didn’t turn out to be the Big Bad, that would have been a bit too obvious. All of the Le Fey stuff at the end does seem to just come out of nowhere, but I guess what the hell. When you’ve got the idea for Asgardian Doombots, you throw that in wherever you can. Still not really sure where this is going to land. And the further along we go, find it so weird they’ve already been going on about Angela.

FF #007 — Now, the story of The Wizard quoting the Bluth family motto in the first panel of the first page just in time for Season Four of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT to return from the grave, all in a desperate bid to brainwash himself a family from an odd assortment of individuals. Also, it’s good fun to get a MEANWHILE --! caption there on the bottom of Page Eight. This one went right by, lots of action, beautifully rendered by the Allreds, as ever. Nice crossover touch having Bentley send Blastarr to The End of All Things, there.

FATALE #14 — We don’t get the Josephine Thompson submachine-gun attack glory that this cover implies but of course Brubaker/Phillips/Breitweiser don’t fail to deliver another rock-solid installment of this Eisners favorite, something that starts out feeling like a second part to Jo’s secret origin but that, while entertaining on its own merit, contributes not as much to the overall mythology as I thought it might during the opening pages. It doesn’t matter. The Eisner judges are right, these people can basically do no wrong. I also enjoyed Brubaker’s brief televisual recap on the editorial page, I only watch GAME OF THRONES there but really dug on his pithy summation and of course have been meaning to pick up the other three for varying lengths of time now. Looking forward to finally catching up with poor old Nicolas next month. And how about another Jess Nevins essay? They spoil us.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #16 — Conan and Bêlit trip balls resulting in some magnificent pages telling the tale, courtesy of usual suspects Brian Wood and Dave Stewart, but man, this Davide Gianfelice fellow, as much as I’ve enjoyed the myriad of artistic talent that has already graced this run, this guy has got to be the best since Cloonan. Or at least his style feels like the most perfect fit to what I want to see. Just beautiful work. I would have liked a more balanced take on this, Conan’s horrible visions juxtaposed against whatever Bêlit was seeing at the time but maybe it’ll be her turn next month. Sixteen issues in and going strong. Not the Conan diehards want or are familiar with, but one well worth getting to know.

FABLES #129 — No no no no no no no, that’s not how it happened at all. No no no. Didn’t realize I cared so much.

WONDER WOMAN #20 — What is up with those first three pages? Something about doing breakdowns first maybe but I was shocked to turn the first page and find out that these were Cliff Chiang pages. Too much hustle, my man! In other news, I haven’t kept a running tally, but this one might have a record number of instances of clever Azzarello wordplay. That last panel on Page Fourteen, Diana slamming Moon down across the street is the real and true business. Old Cassandra there looks like she’s rocking some of the Maxine Manchester design from back in the Moore WILDC.A.T.S run. I’m still digging on this but am a bit disappointed we haven’t seen more from Orion or any more Kirby action seeing as how we’re coming up on an entire year since that initial seismic BOOM.

BATWOMAN #20 — Oh well hell, is Williams just done on art? I’m suddenly doing the math that this is I think the third fill-in in a row and it’s certainly probably time to start logging in SANDMAN pages. So it goes! Trevor McCarthy continues to fill the master’s shoes as ably as one might. And the writing is still impeccable, I love the Clayface question in the second panel, good call, Kate! And wow, what a new status quo for the book. I can’t imagine it’s going to go our ensemble’s way in the slightest, but it will be entertaining to watch them try.

(oh, and almost forgot, here's the obligatory dig that the MORNING GLORIES #26 made less sense with the pages printed in the intended order than it did when the first printing came out. As you were, Misters Spencer & Eisma!)

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BEST OF WEEK, too close to call, everything was average to good but nothing particularly freaked me out and stood head and shoulders above the rest. Almost gave Fraction the nod just for the AD reference alone, but felt like the extra-textuality maybe makes it a cheat for the top spot? I don't know, I don't make the rules, I just devour the Lone Stars and new comic books on a weekly and somewhat alarming basis. See you next week, Wednesday night faithful!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


BATMAN #20 — The art on this is pretty outrageous. Miki has settled right in with Capullo’s lines and I find more to love about Fco Planscencia every month. Just finally made it through the sixth ultimate collection of INVINCIBLE and didn’t realize that I’d seen his business on that title before, starting with the previous collection. What a hoss. Clayface’s whole strategy of catching Batman with Bruce as a lure was hilarious. The Batman Beyond armor was a nice touch, particularly Lucius’s line about it not being cost-effective for twenty more years. Snyder does tremendous work there at the end having Clayface invoke Damian and making Batman lose it, which, I mean, isn’t that a pretty dead giveaway to all on hand? Maybe it was just hearing the line “To the Batmobile, Father,” unexpectedly but I found something terribly resonant and sad about the final image of Alfred and Bruce with the visors on, re-experiencing Bruce’s footage of final missions with Damian, not solely for the in-text reasons that are certainly heartbreaking enough but those guys symbolizing us, the fans, the creators, the industry as a whole, all stuck dialed into the past, trying to recapture the elusive moments when these sequential worlds seemed to overtake the one into which we’d been born, living on nostalgia, trying to wring the memories out for all they’re worth, drain them dry.

BATMAN AND THE RED HOOD #20 — This issue is clearly delineated into two sections. The first third continues the Carrie Kelly subplot, giving her an exchange with Bruce at the manor that manages to pack in quite a few solid beats of characterization through dialogue. Then, because we’re doing rage this month, Bruce recruits erstwhile Robin/crowbar victim Jason Todd to help him take out some assassins in Ethiopia, which, of course is nothing more than a ploy to trigger Jason’s memories of how he got resurrected. It was Superboy-Prime, Bruce! You need to break the fourth wall and get Geoff Johns to set you up, he’s the one that’ll get this thing wrapped right up. God forbid. The last page is a bit of a non-sequitur. I mean, it’s Two-Face, right? I guess it’s the setup for next issue but the way it drops in out of nowhere left me a bit confused, particularly in light of the symphonic precision with which this crew has been crafting their tales of late.

BEST OF WEEK: PROPHET #35 — Brandon Graham and friends really crank this one up to the next level, pushing the reader to elevate his or her reading processing ability. I mean, I’ve been devouring this series in singles since Day One and still felt like I had to throw the blinders wide to fully understand and appreciate everything that was happening in an issue jumping back and forth between Old Man Prophet’s band of irregulars following a once dog “across a moon surface littered with starcraft and statues” and only to find his old starship to a casualty-heavy bloodbath between three different factions of Prophet armies. Simon Roy and Giannis Milonogiannis’s styles are excellent contrasts for one another between the two settings, gracefully woven together by Joseph Bergin III’s varied palette. This issue really sent me reeling in a way that the last few haven’t, I kind of got the feeling that everyone involved, both cast and creative, goT their hands on old copies of KING CITY and individually smoked every last page.

STAR WARS #5 — Leia pulls off a gutsy near-suicide run while both Han and Vader make alliances with new characters that will hopefully get them to where they want to be. Five issues in, this title shows no sign of letting up, the creators just keep digging in deeper and letting the plot continue to thicken. Carlos D’Anda and Gabe Eltaeb’s art might be a high water mark in the history of the franchise, highly detailed renderings of the ships and cities while not being so photorealistic that it distracts the reader by falling short of the various actor likenesses (unlike Jeanty over on BUFFY, for instance). Top shelf work, once again.

WOLVERINE #003 — This is more of the same, nothing less than a tightly written and plotted Wolverine story that is immaculately rendered and colored by Davis/Farmer/Hollingsworth. Wolverine drinks a beer and slices up some guys in quasi-Mandroid armor and young Nick Fury gets to quote John McClane, which, maybe that sounds like something you’ve seen before and/or don’t care to see again, but when the pages are of this high a quality, you can’t look away.

AVENGERS #011 — You’ve got to love going with the Viserys Targaryen reference in the title. One hopes things end up better for Shang-Chi than that fine individual. Also very cool to see Hickman using this title to further develop A.I.M. becoming a nation state, which he managed on the way out the door of the FF run. What a terrific three-page opening, laying out everything we need to know in a manner that is economical and in no way cramped. I enjoy Natasha’s direct approach. This issue is masterfully paced, every single cut between its four scenes executed at exactly the right beat. Mike Deodato delivers more of the top-drawer work we’ve come to expect from him over the years. Overall, this is nothing more or less than another entertaining slice of superhero espionage shenanigans, closer to the vibe of Ellis’s SECRET AVENGERS, say, than the all-hands-on-deck madness we’ve got in effect when all eighteen members of the team are on the issue’s roster.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #008 — All right, well I should have known but with this issue, it becomes glaringly obvious that I should have already caught up on the end of Remender’s X-FORCE run by now because they’re explicitly referencing business from that that came as a bit of a surprise to me. Daniel Acuña continues to turn in A-list material in his own watercolor style, far more dependent on the intricacies of shading than linework. Wolverine taking such a definitive no-killing stance with Rogue reads a little oddly in light of recent events in AGE OF ULTRON, but I suppose he is in vastly different circumstances. Remender continues to do a fine job cranking out stakes elevated enough to justify the wacky franchise amalgam that could have made this book a laughing stock rather than the blowout high-magnitude event catastrophe that it has so far turned out to be.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


AGE OF ULTRON #8 — Well, this one went right on by, but there was plenty of action. We only get five pages of the Pacheco/Villarrubia Past art, but they are beautiful. I like the way they frame it at the end there, Logan and Sue staring each other down as the portal rises up above their sightline. I really do dig the turn this series took, it looked like it was going to be this complicated labyrinth of multiple battle-fronts and timelines erupting simultaneously but instead we’ve just got these two holdouts from the 616 in what’s essentially the Age of Stark, it looks like. Who knew Pym was holding Tony down to such an extent? Does that have to make him the bad guy now? This blockbuster opening weekend of all blockbuster opening weekends? I’m hoping Bendis has got something more surprising up his sleeve. The re-designs and roster on The Defenders could have been a bit more shocking, particularly from the guy who made the contents of that shuttle back in SECRET INVASION #1 such a surprise. Enjoying the ride these past two issues, pulling for a strong finish.

ANIMAL MAN #20 — Man, Lemire is really doing a fine job of making TIGHTS as compelling as the main narrative. I just want Chaz to do well! Immaculate art from John Paul Leon, as ever. Lovern Kindzierski does a fine job shifting between his style and Timothy Green II’s, interesting to see how flatter colors seem to accentuate Leon’s work. Buddy’s trashed bedroom, though, man, just feel so bad for him. Not exactly Red-Carpet-ready, methinks.

DETECTIVE COMICS #20 — What striking art! Jason Fabok and Jeromy Cox could not be doing a better job. Every double-page splash they’ve turned in has been nothing less than a thing of glory. Taken all by itself, I was a bit disappointed with the main feature. It looked great, but after all of these months of set-up, it seemed a bit strange to have Batman and The Penguin march right in and take Ogilvy down inside of twenty pages. All of that set-up for what? But of course Layman has a plan that the back-up feature makes clear, not so much an epilogue as continuation of the character’s journey, there’s the single page of context establishing the character’s origins as in many ways running parallel to Batman’s while the remainder of the feature establishes his new status quo without missing a beat. It might be nice to put him on the bench for a little while, develop some other threads, and then drop him back in at the most shocking opportunity.

GREEN ARROW #20 — Andrea Sorrentino certainly keeps drawing very pretty pictures. The cliffhanger is kind of limp, not even catching back up to the opening, which wasn’t really that shocking. Pretty burned out on the in medias res cold-open followed by the flashback. This one’s going to have to start pulling its wait a bit more, Lemire is not managing to engage me so much here. There’s nothing wrong with it, just not feeling much of a connection to anyone in here, and we’re already four issues in.

FASHION BEAST #9 — Oh! So, our hero(ine) is just a straight bastard. That is some cold damn business to pull there throughout the issue, but what goes down on the last page is the living end. We’re going to need a serious blast of beauty in the final issue to counterbalance the ugliness of this issue, right here.

ALL-NEW X-MEN #011 — Okay, so the first half of this issue plays out the group’s reaction to the teammate’s departure, the aftermath of which we already saw over in UNCANNY. On the first pass through, I felt like the dialogue at the end of that scene with Logan, Kitty, and Ororo talking to Hank kind of sums up everything I love about this book, if you had to do it in one panel. But then that penultimate scene with Kitty and teenage Jean? Man. Just knocks me out. And a cliffhanger that’s about due. I gleefully await the hundreds of words the Summers brothers will exchange next issue.

INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #007 — Gaaaaah, so much Kirby dynamism! Just those first two pages alone, when have you ever seen seven panels that looked like they were all going so simultaneously batshit insane clashing up against one another like that? Followed by that perfectly framed four-panel zoom from Thor as a speck on a mountaintop all the way into tight on his left eye. “Holy Mother of Tesla!” has got to be the greatest rejoinder of at least the month. And Coulson pops out of the woodwork right on cue for opening weekend. This is a terrific slab of rock-em-sock-em Marvel. Waid keeps events crackling along at a blistering pace and of course Simonson is arguably the greatest living Thor artist, so this issue has that going for it, as well.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #009 — This was actually just really sad. Very well made, Slott and Stegman and everyone involved turn in fine work. But seeing those memories get choked out, erased, one by one, really no fun at all. Anyone who believes that this forever closes the door on the eventual triumphant Peter Parker, though, come on now. Given this set-up, there’s not even a way for them to produce a corpse.

BEST OF WEEK: HAWKEYE #010 — Wow, everything went all Gotham rhapsodic out of nowhere, didn’t it? That is some pretty serious history to just walk up and drop on somebody there, Miss Bishop. I’m wild for the blues and purples that Francavilla chooses to light Kate at the party with and then the way that the orange from Kazi tries to overtake her face throughout the course of their interaction. To no one’s surprise, Francavilla absolutely knocks it out of the park throughout. Nobody can do it for you on jagged-panel kill-spree montages like that boy. All told, the intention behind this entire installment seems to be to provide a proper introduction to the fellow who debuted on the final page of the previous issue. I’m not sure that we get a meaty enough origin/motivation-type situation for him if we were going to basically devote the entire issue (and even repeat the final page, for that matter), but it looked so good, and Kate Bishop’s party conversation is so scintillating, this one’s still the best thing I read all week.  


SUPERMAN FAMILY ADVENTURES #12 — As huge fans of TINY TITANS who rolled right over into this title and loved it for some of the same reasons and for others entirely its own, my entire household is very sorry to see this one go. Though it was a real pleasure to watch it hit the gas and just go for broke these last three months when Baltazar/Franco figured out that they were suddenly in the homestretch. Only Morrison has even come as close to this title of recapturing that insane Silver Age feeling of "anything goes" in a modern-day comic. Enjoyed seeing the kids from Sidekick Elementary again and kind of wish they would have charged into battle instead of sending Super-Pet proxies, but if the last ever TINY TITANS joke is that they couldn't pry themselves away from reading comics in the Fortress of Solitude to answer an emergency call from Conner, that's as good a place as any to stop. If we really have to. A massive percentage of my daughter's love for superheroes was generated and accelerated by these last 65 issues from Art Baltazar & Franco and I am forever grateful to the two of them for creating such resonant and wonderful stories.

BATMAN INCORPORATED #10 — Here we have, at long last, the beginning of the very end. Staggering that there are only three issues left after this. We open on a slow burn with the first-panel caption origin recapitulation foreshadowing the literal context it will achieve by issue’s end. Nice of Morrison to go ahead and make the Wayne/Stark comparison perfectly explicit with Lucius invoking “War Machines.” Jason Masters’s art doesn’t blend quite as well with Burnham’s style as it has in previous issues. Those deadlines are starting to show! And in the first panel of Page Fourteen there, does Morrison retcon the Superboy-Prime punch resurrecting Jason Todd with a single bubble of exposition from Talia? That’s what it looks like. Perfect escalation at the end of the issue, can’t believe we’ve only got three more of these. Really need to start the monster re-read pretty soon here.

COMEDIAN #6 — And with that, we’re done. The experiment has come to an end, this is the last issue of all seven series. But let’s zoom in for a moment before taking them as a whole. This one really did it for me, well worth the wait to get Jones interiors with no fill-ins, he and Azzarello really land this ending. The way that the climax was handled, the motivations behind it and the plot that brought us to that point never felt forced but an organic outgrowth of the established characterization of Eddie Blake, even while providing interesting twists and actual surprises. The only potential shortcoming is that Azzarello makes the call to give this issue’s last scene a no-dialogue slice of Blake potentially realizing or facing how horrible he actually is, scored by Dion’s “The Wanderer.” So, if you’re already familiar with the 1961 tune, you’re off to the races, but otherwise the entire enterprise is going to end up falling a bit flat (which is easily remedied on the reread, this is actually a pretty wonderful little montage they’ve got posted as a video for the tune that dials up just the right amount of clinging-ghost nostalgia).  All in all, though, these boys do well enough here to rank this for me above everything except the two Cooke projects, which, now that everything’s in the can, you know we’ve got to do the BEFORE WATCHMEN roundup hierarchy:

#1: SILK SPECTRE – jawdropping, stunning, achingly good, illuminates a previously under-developed aspect of the character without contradicting what came before while succeeding in being entertaining all on its own merit without any context from the primary source material, and the range of Amanda Conner’s stylistic diversity contained herein is quite frankly as good as comics get. The kind of thing you’d just love to hip Moebius to, if the stars aligned or collapsed, whatever it would take for me to actually be hanging out with Moebius at this point.
#2: MINUTEMEN – a bit of a slow start but overall a terrific though horrific romp through the last days of the Minutemen, highlighting exactly when and how It All Went Bad while containing a real surprise there at the end that I never saw coming but that makes perfect sense. Plus, if anyone else was ever going to write and draw a series starring the Minutemen, Darwyn Cooke is that man.
#3: COMEDIAN – Same deal with Laurie up above, Azzarello’s inversion on Blake’s relationship with the Kennedy brothers is probably the most brilliant bit of characterization that came out of this whole thing, such a perfect fit.
#4: OZYMANDIAS – Wein & Lee march us all the way up to the first page of the original while filling in the blanks/retconning a few bits that never bothered me but of course have maybe been driving Wein quietly insane for the past twenty-five years. Lee’s perpetually descending circular panels are probably the most effective nod to Gibbons’s innovative panel work, not aping the original but pressing on to the next logical step, or at least one of them.
#5 RORSHCACH – Gorgeous Bermejo art, but here Azzarello doesn’t find a way to tell us a single thing about the character that we didn’t already know
#6 NITE OWL – Excrement. A waste of a talented art crew. Dropped after the first issue. Still more than a little pissed off that I drew the short straw to wind up in the parallel universe in which this came to pass.
#7 DOCTOR MANHATTAN – After JMS’s script for above, the only one I didn’t even sample, mainly because the character remains so dear to my heart and, even after all of these years, WATCHMEN #4 might be my favorite single ever. What a goddamn waste. Can you imagine if they just gave Paul Pope free reign to tear it up? Or convinced Ellis or Casey to try to crack it? Ellis & Weston reuniting on this could have put it on the level of the Cooke efforts.
And I didn’t try MOLOCH or DOLLAR BILL either, because seriously. Cheers, Mark Chiarello! We look forward to your next endeavor. Why not entitle it SOLO 2?

JUPITER’S LEGACY #1 — I adore Quitely like no other and have, over the years, become less and less enamored with Millar, so I have viewed this project with no small amount of trepidation as its release finally approached. Isn’t this holding up the progress on MULTIVERSITY? The good news is that it’s Millar’s best work since THE ULTIMATES. Sharp scripting, I couldn’t believe that the opening five-page expository montage came from the pen of late responsible for such blatant Hollywood-pandering titles as NEMESIS, SUPERIOR, THE SECRET SERVICE, and that one about all the villains with Yu that I didn’t even bother with. And of course my man Quitely shows up like always, displaying total command of every aspect of sequential storytelling. The composition and fine linework you can just lose yourself in but, really, nobody in the world can touch him on body language or facial expressions. Like, when the kid Brandon finds out he’s going to get laid in the men’s room on the bottom of maybe Page Eight, we’ve just spent two pages learning via dialogue what an absolute piece of shit he is, but the winning smile that Quitely gives him, the ever-so-slight raise of the eyebrows, you’ve got to kind of love the bastard. In terms of mythos, this one’s not really blazing new trails. It is an initially interesting mashup of using the L O S T Island to save us from the Depression via superpowers, but the real kicker arrives after the jump to the present when we find out that really nothing at all has changed, these heroes have had so little an effect on the real world that they’ve got all the celebrity-fixated trash culture that we do with Obama into his second term and everything. Also, decent opening hooks on the characters, I could have used a little bit more on the two kids if they’re going to be our main folks but Millar underplaying is actually cause for alarm so I’m willing to roll with it, and I do like how Uncle Walter is obviously going to go rogue in #3 or maybe for the cliffhanger next time out. All in all, much more together than I expected.

AVENGERS #10 — Deodato and Omega Flight! What’s not to love about this follow-up from that one Regina panel? Wendigo subbing in for Sasquatch is mind-bogglingly obvious in hindsight and it’s a pleasure to see a Boxx back in service. Oh. Um. They last four hours across a three-page montage. I guess that’s about right. Blame Canada. But, man. What a creepy ominous science fiction blast of Avengers. Really disturbing stuff. Pretty soon now, it’s going to be eighteen heroes versus The System.

EAST OF WEST #2 — The problem of following up such a stunning first issue is that we’re expecting to be rocked in entirely new ways, even though we’re now familiar with the series premise. So why not open with a pre-titles Cabinet massacre? Oh, Hickman! The art remains beyond stunning, Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin create immersive vistas that completely sell the fantastic setting. And so but this new president is our POV character into the hierarchy? I particularly enjoyed the final two introductions. And you’ve got to love that STAR WARS reprise, the composition of Chamberlain’s shuttle docking in at the Black Towers pretty much a straight lift from any time anything ever docked at The Death Star. The plot certainly thickens and we get some insight into the overall motivation of the architects of the Apocalypse. I guess Death is our protagonist? We’re supposed to be rooting for Death, here? Hickman is kind of a madman.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #11 — Aw, the Dahglian/Fermi buddy issue. We have narration quoting the philosophy of Desmond David Hume, which seems about right. A little horrifying to see the new deference in FDR: A.I.. Which leads into a fine team shot of the crew assembled at Tranquility Base. And oh but hell, this Dahglian we’ve been hanging with is the red one, too? Oppenheimer’s plans are, of course, brilliant, perfectly plausible, and naturally accompanied by the requisite Hickman graphic imagery. Best last panel of the week, no problem.

MORNING GLORIES #26 — Baaaaah, and the straight double-page splash Hickman title card lift. This is the fourth time in a row I’ve seen this thing tonight. More drums as we montage through a gang of panels we’ve already seen before but now understand in proper chronological order. If such a thing can ever be said about this book, I don’t trust it. Casey’s staying in Room 813? Really? I guess Tom is next door having a meeting with Michael “Kevin Johnson” Dawson in the middle of Episode 4.08 right after giving old Arturo a kiss. And Island Show talk is really the only thing I know to say about this issue because I mean what the fuck. To only be one-quarter of the way through the run, these guys have already taken it out to a pretty insane place. Wish that it came out next to THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS every time, what an orbital ride, between the two of them.

THE MASSIVE #11—Hey there, old Declan Shalvey got picked up from his last CONAN arc. Way to keep it in the family, Boss Wood. I’m not sure that there should be any present tense on the first page, it reads oddly. That is a rough opening montage, though, man. Mary does a fine job reinforcing her status as ultimate Post-Crash badass. Which makes for a pretty nice set-piece, and Shalvey certainly tears it up with the more-than-able assistance of Jordie Bellaire, but this one felt a little bit slight as a single. Wood spoiled us with all that backmatter in the first few issues, is the thing.

THE UNWRITTEN #48 — The Business goes down this time in the Underworld! No filler issue this, there’s a fairly monumental moment that happens about two-thirds of the way through this one and then we get yet another serious cliffhanger that might outdo the serious humdingers that have come before these past few months. Serious escalation, no mean feat for Carey/Gross to pull off at this point. If Vertigo has to be down to I think pretty much this as the regular monthly title (which hurts my heart to type), I’m glad that the level of quality remains this high.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #19 — Oh man, a couple of these gatefold covers I wish I wouldn’t have checked out until after reading the issue and this was definitely one of them. Though I must say, I really don’t care for the character ever being referred to as “Swampy,” even in a footnote. Deadman’s ideal usage of old Larry Ross’s obese body, high-velocity consumption of a triple cheeseburger followed by beers and baseball comes across as a veiled condemnation of American life. Maybe it’s just the glazed look in his eyes on Page Three, Panel Five. Janin/Cifuentes/Cox’s looks particularly smooth this issue. However, now that we’ve moved on from Lemire’s initial arc, I’m finding the script a bit less than compelling. Don’t want to bail out on another DC title, but it’s going to have to start earning the monthly buy just a bit more than what we’ve got going on here.

FLASH #19 — All right, slightly dick move toward regular readers just stripping Barry of his powers in another title, but I’m willing to cop that that’s on me for not checking out Miéville’s DC output. This continues to be one of the best examples of books I’ve seen in the New 52 who manage to pull in fill-in talent on art who both make the pages their own but blend well with the style of the regular guys. Abetted in no small part by Buccellato coloring the entire thing. But good on Marcio Takara, I’m trying to say! Am I the only one who can’t stop thinking of the butch Marine from ALIENS any time I see the name Vaz(s)quez? She would have made short work of all of these fools. Same deal with Omar. I dug the interaction at the end between Barry and Vic. And of course, as solid as Takara’s fill-in pages were, there’s nothing like Manapul crashing back home at the end of the issue. Next issue should be a mind-bender.

UNCANNY X-MEN #005 — On a whim, I threw on Graham Reynolds’ THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE in the earbuds before starting to read this issue and I’ve got to tell you, Wednesday night faithful, those jagged fearful notes set the perfect tone of paranoia to score these pages. Highly recommended! I was concerned about who they’d get to replace the very distinctive Chris Bachalo for the inevitable full-color artistic hand-off. Frazer Irving’s shadow-heavy style is a perfect choice for an issue/arc showcasing Illyana’s infernal difficulties. And, hey, Dormammu. This issue felt a bit more substantive than the past couple, after the expansive (I think they used to say “decompressed?”) VS Dormammu flashback, I expected us to be about done but Bendis managed to pack a fairly decent amount of ensemble-wide characterization into a four-page stretch at the end there before the cliffhanger. Very economically done. It is as though he has written hundreds of teh Marvelz commix! And, in keeping with this title being something of an extension/perversion of the old NEW MUTANTS premise, the whole gang finds themselves trapped in Limbo. Paging Dani Moonstar!

FF #006 —  Doppelganger Alert! What a freakshow to bring in Joe Quinones and have him do such a convincing damn job of simulating Mike Allred’s style. Of course, keeping Miz Laura onboard to color it up goes a very long way toward making the illusion complete, but I honestly don’t know if I would have been able to tell the difference if they hadn’t have told the truth in the credits, at least in those opening pages. And but speaking of credits, I really do appreciate Fraction or Brevoort or whoever it is coming up with a new title for Lee & Kirby every single time in both of these series. And speaking of those pioneering imaginauts, it’s very cool to get another Baxter Building cross-section diagram map while at the same time giving us a shot of where everyone is at the top of the issue. And the Yancy Street Gang continues to delight. Though nothing this issue can trump Tong’s sudden trans-gender revelation. Were there any subtle hints laid for this? I’d expect Fraction to have dropped a line or two about it before now but can’t recall anything off the top of my head. Really sweet page, though. And the cliffhanger is a nice parallel to what’s going on with Cyclops’s gang up above, there.

FANTASTIC FOUR #007 — “Everyone knows of Valeria Richards.” Well, naturally. I expect nothing less. Only hope it’s not one of those “Everyone’s heard of Darth Vader” kind of things. And there she is, talking shit about end-of-time nanotech assembler rates. And on the other side of the artist hustle spectrum, not only does Bagley not need a fill-in, it looks like dude just sped up to a bi-weekly pace, banging this one out while an eighth issue is due at its regularly scheduled time in two weeks. Kirby levels of output! This is a perfectly utilitarian issue of this book, there aren’t really any surprises, everything goes down just about exactly the way you’d expect it to, but it’s an enjoyable ride.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #007 — Wow damn, that is one of the most balls-out going-for-it Kirby-level openings I’ve hit in a while. But haha, mitigated by the team falling apart with Rogue on one end and Wanda on the other. Before she totally shoots down Simon. Again. Janet’s Unity line is clever and her whole philosophy on popular culture’s role in shaping the world rings true. And, oh, Alex. You’ve got to fire while there’s a target, buddy. If those concentric circles have taught you anything over the years. And we close as we began, with omega-level planetary disaster raining down on the four corners of the globe. Between what’s going over with Hickman’s bunch, Bendis’s new mutant civil war, and these hijinx over here, it is a rough time to be a civilian in the good old 616.

YOUNG AVENGERS #004—Okay so yeah the recap hashtags are becoming a bit #unbearable, but I guess no one’s making me read them. But what did I say, what have I been saying all this time? The instant Kate Bishop and Noh-Varr finally show up, everything is hyper-dimensionally better. And the return of double-page splash insanity! It would be cool if it was a thing that we got one of these every time these two characters had an unbelievably badass five-page opening scene. What terrific, terrific work, of course you could burn a thousand works just taking it down point by all twelve points, but I’d rather just bask in the glory and move on. Another winning title page. These guys are really putting everything they have into making this the most ridiculously wonderful book possible or imaginable. Oh, and those glorious Matthew Wilson colors. Very rewarding to get everyone coming together after these couple of months spent circling the wagons, of course this will read brilliantly as a five-issue trade. The panel about the Kirby Engines and losing 4.2 Epiphanies/sec is the one to beat of the week, obv.

BEST OF WEEK: JOE HILL’S TERRIFYINGLY TRAGIC TREASURY EDITION — This is another one of those cases where it’s not really a fair fight, seventy pages of glossy oversized Joe Hill greatness is just going to do it for you even more so than twenty (or, really, sixteen) pages of Morrison/Burnham or even this week’s Hickman hat trick (if we count all three Hickman books as one entry, it’s a pretty close call between those and this). Some or all of these stories are reprints, but they were all new to me and glorious in this larger format, really a hell of a deal for the price. A very impressive showcase of stunning art, all around. We set the tone with an old tale of how a young fireblower won true love by fighting a monstrous bear that would give even Sienkiewicz’s fellow from NEW MUTANTS #18 a run for his money, this one still about as grounded in reality as we’re going to get but still brimming with a sense of fantastic, almost magical, possibility. Then, I was thrilled to find ten pages from great Seth Fisher & Langdon Foss that I didn’t know existed, a send-up entitled “Freddy Wertham Goes To Hell” that is a dead-on tonal match to the EC Comics that the eponymous so reviled. What follows is a straight adaptation of Hill’s excellent short story “The Cape.” I thought the mini-series that came out was a continuation of that, but this appears to be the original story verbatim with, no surprise, stunning art by a fella name of Zach Howard who really nails a visual depiction of the contrast between youthful optimism and post-adolescent malaise. This is, no problem, one of the most horrific stories I’ve about ever hit, certainly in the league of dear old dad’s “The Jaunt” or “Survivor Type,” and so I feel a great deal of gratitude toward Chris Ryall or whomever did the sequencing on this edition.
If it closed out with “The Cape,” this enormous book would leave the reader in a very bad place, indeed. But instead, we get “Open the Moon,” a LOCKE & KEY prequel first published in the GUIDE TO THE KNOWN KEYS special that is, I think, the one thing I haven’t been able to track down from that series. And I’m glad that’s proven to be the case because there is no other way that I’d want to experience this story than in this format. The preceding three art teams all turned in work that is far past the point of exceptional but, as regular readers of the main title know, there is absolutely nothing like the work of Gabriel Rodriguez and Jay Fotos. The very definition of incomparable. This is a story of a father and his son (a sickly boy who I’m thinking is about of an age to be Rendell’s great-uncle?) and their ride in a hot-air balloon to unlock the secrets of the moon. Without revealing specifics of the plot, I must commend the chameleonic virtuosity with which Rodriguez shifts into the style of Winsor McCay once all the business really kicks in toward the back half of the story. Though, of course, the larger dimensions of these pages benefit all of the exceptionally talented artists contained herein, it’s never a better fit than Rodriguez doing McCay. What a powerfully written and rendered story, only sixteen pages long but more than enough to dial me in to the characters to the extent that the last page just about broke me down even the second time I went through the entire story. Another very worthy entry into the canon that has absolutely nothing to do with Tyler, Kinsey, Bode, Dodge, or all the rest.

Individually, these short stories are all impressive displays of a relatively young writer’s range and testament to the breadth of talent found in his artistic collaborators. Taken together, this is easily one of the most impressive anthologies I’ve ever run across, with the giant-sized format evoking halcyon days of Pope THB gone by. Kudos to the creative talent involved and IDW for producing such a gorgeous tome that does indeed live up to every adjective in its title.