Tuesday, June 25, 2013


AGE OF ULTRON #10 — For the most part, this is a well-executed finale. All of the guys who show up on art are talented and turn in dynamite pages. Bendis crafts a solution to the difficult problem that he has given our heroes and executes it in a believable manner that is nonetheless suspenseful. I almost believed they were going to off Tony for a minute there, even. Logan and Sue’s embrace on the rooftop was earned and surprised me by actually eliciting a fair degree of emotion, certainly much more so than I’ve ever felt at the end of any of these other Mighty Marvel Events, lo, these many years, True Believer! What’s really rubbing me the wrong way, though, is the conclusion. Not the thing with Marquez’s pages, that’s terrific and of course nobody should have drawn them but him and I’m glad, thrilled, that he’s on-board and in the mix and hurrah hurrah. I take exception, though, with the way they handled that last scene. This was the top-secret scene, the one that Quesada supposedly drew so that less people knew what happened on these pages. The reason that this issue was released all sealed up and polybagged like it was 1993. I know these are all just marketing moves to build hype, but I can’t help it, I was still intrigued to see what plot twist they were going to contain. And the answer is . . . the exact same thing that they announced to the media months ago. Angela comes to the Marvel Universe. Nothing more. At all. I was annoyed that they released that information but thinking that it was some kind of a trick, the reveal was really going to be Miracle/Marvelman being the best-case scenario, or, I don’t know, something else. Anything. Really, it’s not a spoiler because they spoiled it themselves when like the second issue of this title was on the rack, the last two pages are a splash of Angela swearing revenge on whomever brought her “here against my will” and unless this results in her setting her sights on Da Q, Axel Alonso, and her embattled creator Mr. Neil “Master Storyteller” Gaiman himself in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #5, that is like the flattest ending that this otherwise enjoyable time-travel A.I. apocalypse story could have possibly received. They told us how it would end months ago. And then acted like that never happened and that the ending was some mind-blowing secret. The massive amount of idiocy inherent in this maneuver is simply stunning.

ANIMAL MAN #21 — Once again, these guys have topped themselves and produced what, for my money, is the best single issue of this title yet. Buddy and Maxine both respond to the death in their family by expressing their heroic proclivities to a greater extent, though the difference in their power set means that they are operating on vastly different scales. Lemire also makes the intelligent choice to juxtapose Buddy’s on-panel action scenes against various folks’ comments on current events via social media, doing a terribly effective job framing the disconnect between their media-driven perception of reality and what’s actually going down. It is an ugly celebrity-devouring culture in which Buddy has submerged himself, and this couldn’t be driven home more effectively than having commenters posting and arguing over whether or not Buddy’s powers should take him out of contention for Best Actor or that the current Animal Man sightings are just a hoax while he’s getting knocked out by some horrific creature. Only <

WONDER WOMAN #21 — All right, I guess everybody in my New 52 books just decided to hit the gas this week. Chiang returns for all twenty pages and gives us just a hell of a throwdown between Diana and the monster with no name that I guess we’re just supposed to call The Firstborn. And then a whole bunch of crackletastic-type stuff happens that I really don’t want to go into because it was such a grand and glorious surprise to see it just dropped in like it was, but suffice it to say that this is no problem the best issue of this title’s second year and I absolutely can’t wait for the next two issues.

BATWOMAN #21 — Francesco Francavilla is the perfect choice to illutrate this third interlude starring Killer Croc. His layouts are more evocative of Williams’ work than anyone else has thus far managed but his raw and pulpy style suits the material of this particular issue better than any other artist I can think of off the top of my head. Todd Klein’s work also stands out here, the scratchy, crooked font he’s chosen doing a fair bit of heavy lifting in terms of getting us inside Croc’s head. This entire team’s work is so strong, I could just about sign up for an entire series featuring this character and talent. They do a great job conjuring that creepy old EC feel (an equivalent to David Simon’s “The Dickensian Aspect?” Discuss . . .). Of course, our protagonist is doomed the moment he sets his sights upon one of this title’s strong female protagonists in his sights, but it is nonetheless a pleasure to watch the way in which their interaction plays out. The finest kind of fill-in issue, right here.

BATMAN AND BATGIRL #21 — Well, I was of course pretty concerned when I took this one off the stack and noticed for the first time that Misters Gleason and Gray had taken a skip month, but Cliff Richards and his two guest inkers did a fine job filling in. (and bully for Gleason/Gray, it must be said, they took off #9 enabling Capullo’s squad down the alley on BATMAN to take the prize for longest post-reboot unbroken run on art but have turned in an utterly stellar eleven issues since then). But Barbara, though, speaking of issues in a row, when she lays it out like that, the Joker, the cave, the broken trust, Damian, yeah wow, definitely some discussion to be had with old Bruce there. Tomasi is doing fine work depicting how full-throttle close to the edge Bruce is, absolutely freaking out on first Bullock and then Barbara. And, the Bat-Cave monitors, for that matter. It’s rough seeing the grieving process play out like this, month by month. Not that I want him to or think he should get over it right away or anything. It’s just rough.

FABLES #130 — It’s never good news when Buckingham/Leialoha need a break but this book does such a great job of attracting top-shelf fill-in talent. It’s always a pleasure to see Barry Kitson’s pages. This is a one-off adventure starring the child of those two double-agent wooden soldiers who got their own two-parter a long long time ago, like #s 48-49, I want to say. Willingham pulls a bait-and-switch, we all think he’s co-opting the Weeping Angels as gargoyles but it’s really a bunch of illiterate though eloquent rat-men! A charming diversion from the main narrative. This title is so very rich in story potential, you really see how it could just keep going on forever, or at least as long as its creators’ mortal frames last.

FANTASTIC FOUR #009 — An exceptional issue here as Sue, Johnny, and the kids get benched in favor of Reed and Ben traveling back to the day of Doom’s accident or, as his multiple incarnations refer to it, the nativity. It looks great as usual, Bagley/Farmer/Mounts have a serious groove established by now, but Fraction’s characterization on this title has almost never been more pitch-perfect, he performs the dicey task of pulling off a quasi-retcon while never once letting us question that exactly this thing is all that ever happened. I do hope that Ben turns it around pretty soon here, more so than it seems like he’s going to at the end of this issue. A mopey Thing can only go so long without wearing on us.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #009—Man, the moral and philosophical debates in this title aren’t going anywhere, most talky-talk over a Danger Room session ever! This one has got a ton of set-up, the Apocalypse twins are all set to launch their assault spearheaded by their shocking crew of horsemen, what a revolving door is mortality in this Marvel universe. Remender contines to do a fine job delivering threats on a scale large enough to justify the amalgamation of these two franchises, who are all butting up against one another just the way it seems like they should if you stop to think about it. I don’t think old Logan is going to stop killing the bad guys any time soon, though.

AVENGERS #014 — Well, a lot of shit is going really badly all at once all over the world. Hickman does a great job of completely overloading the reader in a way that simulates what our heroes might be going through. I’m getting stressed out even considering trying to recapitulate what happens in this issue. It is cool to see old SECRET WARRIORS cohort Stefano Caselli back in the fold. And Frank Martin is apparently Hickman’s go-to color guy all over the place now, he’s on both Avengers books this week and seems like he’s the EAST OF WEST guy, as well. The four-face cube-men are pretty horrifying.

BEST OF WEEK: NEW AVENGERS #007 — Amidst the considerable amount of Avenging going on this week alone, this continues to be my favorite Marvel title currently published, as glorious as HAWKGUY and DAREDEVIL and all the Bendis and FF Fraction and Remender and Aaron books are. Really, not that much even happens this month, everyone’s just catching their breath after the universe-shattering events of the first arc, but it’s all still completely engaging. Come to think of it, Hickman could almost resort to the clichéd criticism of Bendis’s Avengers run being nothing but everyone sitting around the breakfast table talking and this title would remain terribly riveting. All the red/blue madness with that Swan is on hold for the moment, Terrax is just hanging out refusing to interact while she and Hank teach each other languages, Reed and Dr. Strange break bread with Doom and Kristoff, the tensions between Namor and T’Challa and their respective countries come to a head, and Black Bolt has his mad brother building some kind of insane contraption that will certainly complicate the situation down the line. Oh, and Reed has now built an entire gang of those anti-matter universe-killer bombs. The stakes on this book could not be higher and it is always a wild ride, even when we’re just idling in second gear waiting for everything to go nuclear again.


BEST OF WEEK: SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #1 — Now, this is certainly the way to capitalize on MAN OF STEEL release week. Pair one of your top writers with arguably the best and certainly most famous penciler in the industry and launch what else but another new #1. We open with a nice inversion on the old “It’s a bird . . .” bit, one lent a substantial amount of weight by framing it in Nagasaki four months to the day before the bomb dropped (I really really hope that’s not a typo and it’s supposed to be April not August, upon first and subsequent readings, it seems to make much more sense for this to be the day of the bombing, not four months before. Particularly in light of that epilogue. We will see). Snyder seeds all these terrific little one-panel juxtaposition gags throughout, like Superman telling the astronauts that they’re not going to burn up while irradiating the entire panel in the red of his heat-vision. Unfortunately, even in the DC Universe, you can’t say the word “gamma” without charging the reader’s expectation for the Hulk to show up on the next page. Which would have been quite a twist! I also quite liked Clark’s line to Jimmy about Bruce Wayne padding his shirts, hilarious little snipe, there. Also, much gratitude to Snyder for spelling “lede” the right way, seems like nobody in comics does that. I haven’t even mentioned the art. Of course it’s dynamite. Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair have been knocking it out of the park for quite some time now and this issue right here is no exception. More importantly, Morrison’s ACTION run notwithstanding, this feels like the first issue of a Superman title that really matters, in a way that the various teams on the regular New 52 titles haven’t been able to manage. It actually makes me wonder, he’s still missing the red underpants, but there’s not a New 52 logo on the cover. Is this thing existing in its own continuity vacuum a la ALL-STAR SUPERMAN? That wouldn’t be a bad thing. Either way, just really glad to be buying a Superman book in singles that I care about and can look forward to.

Oh, but wait! I almost forgot to report how mind-blowing pages 5 and 6 were. I had no idea going in, maybe everybody knew but me, but not only is there not a single ad to be found in this entire issue but pages 5 and 6 are both fold-out quadra-splash pages, four in one, these gigantic monster shots of glory from Lee and friends that are frankly staggering if you’re just going along thinking you’re reading an ordinary comic and then you get hit with that. I was so confused at first to encounter a stack of folded glued-together pages, it made no sense, but this soon gave way to slack-jawed elation at the sight of such artistic thunder. It was a great idea but even much better execution, those guys really knocked it out of the park on the fold-out splash pages. All the reason in the world you need to stay away from digital and keep buying paper! And a steal at $4.99, again, no ads at all, 22 pages of uninterrupted Lee/Williams/Sinclair art, but two of those pages are four times the regular size. Stunning business!

BATMAN #21 — Scott Snyder’s week of domination continues! Now, I have to say, I was a bit skeptical about this storyline when it was announced. Even though Snyder/Capullo/Glapion(now Miki)/Plascensia have reliably turned in the very best monthly of the New 52 since September 2011, hearing that they were going to return to the well and give us another origin story was not music to my ears. Especially the way that the title evokes the Miller/Mazzucchelli classic. Better to leave such revered stories alone and blaze one’s own trail, I thought. Or, the last time Johns tried something like this over in Jordan’s book, it ate up half of a year and yielded only a small bit of goodness in the way of retconning an origin that, as far as I was and am concerned, should go no further than EMERALD DAWN, now and forever. So, it was with some amount of trepidation that I cracked the first page of this new arc and of course was greeted with nothing less than beautiful pages showing us as much about what was going on with Gotham at large six years ago as How Bruce Learned To Be Batman for the tenth time. Capullo and company really do a fine job setting the scene and breathing life into the no-dialogue shots of the city, fleshing it out as its own character. We open in medias res, Bruce has been hassling the Red Hood Gang, who think they’ve got him on the ropes but of course he’s got an unorthodox escape by way of grappling gun up his sleeve. There are no obvious tells as to whether or not this iteration of the Red Hood is going to be the pre-Joker, though I don’t see why Snyder would write that out. The most spot-on business is the conversation between Alfred and Master Bruce, which manages to be totally believable and make me feel like we’ve heard this kind of thing a hundred times before, though it’s not an exchange that I can actually ever remember encountering. And then there’s the 3-D modeling thing that Thomas Wayne and Lucius Fox have cribbed from Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT sans the accompanying moral objections that I guess is about to be some kind of retcon big deal when young Bruce stumbles upon the Bat-Cave this time. This issue is kind of a slow burn, not as insane out of the box as I expected, but of course we’re in good hands with the creative team and the best is surely yet to come.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: THE LONG ROAD TO HELL #1 — Give it a rest, Snyder! At least he had to turn the script for this over-sized 54-page one-shot over to regular series artist Rafael Albuquerque, who does a wonderful job slinging words as effectively as he does lines. Though I’d love to know what Rafael Grampá has to do with this. That first splash of the greaser slayer guy looked like it might be by him. But what we have here is quite possibly the best issue of this series yet, I believe that I got more dialed in to poor doomed Billy & Jolene than any of other our protagonists thus far and then there’s a pretty compelling mystery in maybe-not-really-that young Jasper Miller that is only hinted at here and will presumably be explored more in the main title when it returns. The break in publication obviously does not reflect these guys taking any time off at all, they’re working harder than ever and it shows. We do get a single mis-apostrophed “y’all,” though, that is one word them folks at Vertigo jest do knot no how to spell.

LIL’ GOTHAM #3 — The Caped Crusader takes a backseat to Joker’s disastrous romp through Valentine’s Day and then the adventures of Damian and Katana in Chinatown. The cuteness of the art aside, these characters are written with a strong voice that manages to be humorous without diminishing their intelligence, a common failing of all-ages books. That one page of the Justice League working on the satellite that came out of nowhere, in particular, man, just terrific stuff. Glad there’s a place for this on the rack.

STAR WARS #6 — This one is another solid entry, though it suffers a bit from spending such a large percentage of its pages trying to wrap us up in concern for Princess Leia, who is of course going to survive not only this series but Episodes V and VI. And VII as well, for that matter. We live in hope. It’s a tricky thing, though, of course Wood has to place her in those circumstances, try to make us care about the outcome but it’s almost impossible to pull off, given that we all know what we know. Targeting her jettisoned fuel canisters to nuke the Star Destroyer was pretty damn cool, though, I certainly did not see that one coming.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #12 — It’s the secret origin of Enrico Fermi that no one could have predicted. Is Feynman the only member of the team who’s actually our universe’s native human Feynman? I’m terrified what plans Hickman has for him. But that’s for another time. Having Fermi be the saboteur for Daghlian’s accident is a clever bit of business. And but then there’s a nifty little trick here where I think they recycle a full seven pages of art from a few issues back but with new dialogue of the Fermi drone secretly reporting to and receiving instructions from its superior that frames the climax of #8 or #9 in a new light with regard to Fermi, it’s really quite clever. And then there’s the final page, just in case anybody happened to have any lingering doubt this month whether or not everyone involved in the production of this book is a fundamentally disturbed individual. Einstein with a Chainsaw. Tell you me that you would not plunk down eleven dollars for that bit of excitement at your local cinematic multiplex!

THE TRUE LIVES OF THE FABULOUS KILLJOYS #1 — Four years in the making and apparently featuring a plot entirely different from initial conception, the first issue of this four-issue mini-series manages to live up to the months and months of anticipation. It doesn’t hurt that artist Becky Cloonan has done nothing but improve her considerable artistic chops, so, as good as this would have been a few years back, we’re cooking with fire, here. This story picks up twelve years after the disastrous events depicted in the two videos starring the titular characters. I’m a little bit confused because our protagonist is supposed to be the girl who was riding with them, but that girl was African-American with curly hair and this character is clearly Anglo and a brunette. Does that mean that she’s not really the same character but just claiming to be? It’s a weird inconsistency, it isn’t like there’s just tons and tons of pre-existing continuity to synch up with. The bulk of the issue portrays the girl’s interaction with a band of Killjoys-inspired hellraisers calling themselves the Ultra-Vs who appear to meet as ignominious an end as their inspiration. We also get three pages of a porno droid named Blue doing her job and turning her wages right around to purchase a drug called Plus from a vending machine. The scenes with her are pretty underwritten, writers Gerard Way and Shaun Simon didn’t really do anything to make me care about her one way or another. And we know that Way knows how, by the fifth page of #1 of THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY, I was ready to open up a vein for those kids. But just like on the album, Dr. Death-Defying pretty much steals the show. All of his dialogue sings and you can really hear the voice delivering those rhyming lines. This is a good beginning and I’m excited to see where we go from here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


LOCKE & KEY: OMEGA #5 — This is the first one of these that I’ve read in singles (which, admittedly, there have not been that many, relatively speaking) that didn’t just cripple me with how much greatness was compressed into its twenty-two pages. Maybe it’s got something to do that this was the final issue of an arc called OMEGA that ends a bit . . . well, things trail off to a pretty significant degree. Dodge doesn’t even make an appearance. Neither does Rusty, for that matter, which, it’s not like either of those are dealbreakers, I was just expecting maybe the least bit more resolution than a pretty-much-literal cliffhanger (catwalk-hanger, if you want to split hairs, but of course that sounds terrible) from, again, the final issue of an arc entitled OMEGA. You know? Joe Hill’s writing is still master-class characterization all the way, Gabriel Rodriguez and Jay Fotos’s art is still breathtaking and glorious. Actually, being completely honest some amount of days after reading it for the first time, I guess my reaction is more than a bit influenced by the apparent death that takes place off-panel at the end, there. This book is only going to ever get two more chances to cut out my heart, but I’m positive that it’s going to make a damn serious go at it both times out.

DAREDEVIL: END OF DAYS #10 — With last issue’s death, the focus understandably shifts a bit for this final issue as the narrative winds down and we finally finally learn the secret of Mapone. I was honestly ready to be a bit let down, really couldn’t see how anything could actually live up to these months of speculation and escalation, but these boys pulled it off to perfection, that last page hit me like a volley of body-blows in the gut from Battlin’ Jack Murdock himself. Poetry. A couple more times back through hasn’t lessened the effect, I’m getting choked up just writing about it now. This mini-series has wildly succeeded at everything that it set out to do on both a narrative and artistic level but my favorite part is that this final installment manages to simultaneously bring the adventures of Matt Murdock to a definitive conclusion that is earned and tonally exactly what anyone who has ever loved the character believes “should” or “would” have happened, that feeling of absolute verisimilitude, it couldn’t have ended any other way, but then the simultaneous part kicks in that of course nothing ever really ends and life keeps on happening, The Falcon & Green Goblin are still somehow running the country and, oh, Kitty Pryde finally wound up with Peter Parker, as revealed by one of my favorite Easter eggs of all time, but just think on all of the rhapsodic storytelling implied by that particular coupling alone, none of these stories ever really end but continue to play out just barely off-panel in scenes where our eyes can’t take us but our hearts and imaginations can, cycling over and over, the circle never closes, mentor and student, stick and devil all through the years, making at least Hell’s Kitchen or even some small part of it a better place, one rescued victim, one more fearless leap out into the city spires at a time. These men have crafted a masterpiece for which I shall be forever grateful.

AGE OF ULTRON #9 — Haha, wow, everybody dies again again! Old Ultron has really gotten the situation pretty boogered up and it does not appear that Logan and Sue’s wacky time-traveling murder hijinx have done much to correct the course of the ship. Of course, that’s just all the more reason for everyone’s favorite hairy Canucklehead to go all Marty McFly-in-the-back-half-of-BACK-TO-THE-FUTURE-II if for no other reason than we can have an excuse to get back to that swell one-two retro combo on art from Pacheco/Villarrubia. And it is a thing of wonder that we all now definitively know the name of the lass who took Logan’s virginity. The final mystery revealed! Da Q’s work is done. But I really do love the point where the convolution of the time-travel shenanigans escalate to the point that Sue is like, “Fuck it, we just really need to call Reed.” That rings so true. And a pretty dark though perfectly in-character scene in the cave, there. Bendis has done fine work juggling all of this madness, am very interested to see where it all winds up next issue. Perhaps Neil Gaiman and Hank Pym will break the fourth wall to explain it to us over afternoon tea!

ALL-NEW X-MEN #012 — This head-to-head with the Uncanny Avengers plays out exactly the way it seems like it should, every character beat detonating in exactly the right place. Of course Jean would go apeshit right at that instant over the “No More Mutants” thing. It seems as though my man Bendis is never going to stop getting mileage out of that! Though the prize gem of the encounter has to be Cap’s “I see you have your hands full here,” that one pretty much says it all. Which lulled me into a sense of calm that enabled Alex’s simple “I love you, man” to straight-up suckerpunch me. I have a brother, too! That one really worked on me. Twelve issues in and these guys are showing no signs of fatigue, roaring great guns harder than ever.

DETECTIVE COMICS #21 — I was a bit concerned to see that brother Fabok needed the month off, even though that’s perfectly understandable, but Scot Eaton carries the torch well and of course Layman’s script and Cox’s colors ensure continuity. This one feels pretty much like a placeholder in terms of the overall narrative but it’s executed well enough that it’s still worth cover-price. Maybe I just miss the artist-formerly-known-as-Emperor-Penguin, it should probably be said.

ASTRO CITY #1 — What a very fine thing it is to have this gem returned to us. The years slipped right on by, yes they did, it’s hard to believe how much time has passed since a new issue. The in-caption reference to how long it took THE DARK AGE to come out was laugh-out-loud good times. And, as ever, here we have a first issue that welcomes readers both new and old. Busiek really does that so well, hitting the reader with a wide-ranging span of his ensemble but never enough to make anyone’s eyes glaze over. The Mr. Myxlplyx-type fellow is both an engaging tour guide and compelling new plot device. The best news is that ten of these are already in the can. With both Morrison Batman and LOCKE & KEY winding down and causing the overall quality of my monthly consumption to naturally take a pretty serious dive, it is reassuring to have this stalwart title roaring up off the bench to pick up some of the slack.

KICK-ASS 3 #1 — More of what we’ve come to expect from this Millar/JRJr juggernaut. I don’t think it’s going to end very well for young Dave Lizewski.

FASHION BEAST #10 — A strong finish. It worked for me on every level, down to the last shot. Fine job, all around. What a shame that this couldn’t have been Danny Boyle’s first movie in the late eighties a few years ahead of SHALLOW GRAVE, somehow, across time and space. He’s the guy I’d want behind the camera on this.

EAST OF WEST #3 — This book is still half a dozen flavors of batshit and twice as crazy with stunning art. I think I’ve about got my head wrapped around exactly what’s going on, at least.

AVENGERS #012 — This one’s kind of sweet. Cold, impersonal Hyperion gets a new purpose in life and the best drinking buddy in all the Nine Realms, a new Terminus rears his massive no-neck head because of course The Savage Land, Spider-Man cracks wise and even a little bit grumpy, and poor old forward-thinking Herbert Wyndham gets his arm ripped off. I particularly dig Hickman’s take on that outside-of-time Doctor Manhattan perceiving-all-time-as-one deal by explaining Hyperion’s memory as a nonlinear photonic array that can be observed in simultaneity. Heady business!

Friday, June 7, 2013


This is the best fifth week that I believe I have ever experienced. Whereas there wasn’t a clear BEST OF WEEK option the past couple of times out, I would feel comfortable awarding that to at least the first three issues I read. And the rest were all just about as strong. Let’s just call it BEST FIFTH WEEK and leave it at that.

X-MEN #001 — Wow. When this team and premise was announced, I was expecting the jaw-dropping business and the crew did not disappoint. Coipel and Martin are unparalleled, just amazing damn pages. And Wood bringing in an XX version of Sublime as the initial series antagonist is brilliant and perfect. With Bendis burning it down just about every week on his two core titles, Aaron amok with Wolverine and his entire school, and now this title, I’m not sure the merry mutants have ever been this strong across the board. Really, just a terribly high caliber of material. My favorite part is how Coipel almost undersexualizes the women. Really, check out the cover, no brokeback poses to be found or a ridiculous surplus of skin, just the quiet dignity of a bunch of beautiful women who can kick your ass. Very refreshing. My sole quibble with this issue is that Wood has Kitty utter the anathema “OMG” in-dialogue at least once (the second time is unattributed). Which is absolutely the worst and so much more disappointing to be found amidst an issue in which everything is going along to such perfection. Really glad and grateful, though, to have this series suddenly in the world. Looks like it's going to be a terrific ride.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #1 — What a terrific reading experience. For $3.99, you get the first three ten-page stories that were released digitally a few months back. And this anthology packs all kinds of punch. Jeff Parker & Chris Samnee kick things off with the story of a telekinetic run amok. Pretty dark ending, too. I kind of feel like our hero should have figured out what was going on, there. The final story is solid, though I writer Justin Jordan flubbed the opening line of Bizarro dialogue, which is tough to recover from. Shouldn’t it be “AM NOT BIZARRO?” The line without “NOT” had me thinking for pages that this was actually Superman somehow transformed into Bizarro because there is no way that Bizarro would ever introduce himself as simply Bizarro. It doesn’t work that way. Bizarro language is hard. Riley Rossmo’s art was crisp, it must be said. My absolute favorite, though, was the second story, “Fortress,” by Jeff Lemire & Jose Villarrubia. If the guys from SWEET TOOTH on a Superman story has any sort of appeal for you at all. I was over the moon when I realized, love not knowing who the creators are going to be and then finding out that what’s in your hand is actually treasure. And it’s such a great premise, I was all but slapping my head that I hadn’t thought of it myself over the course of all these years while simultaneously marveling at the facility with which these greats executed the concept. It filled me with wonder and delight, which, really, is what keeps me coming back every Wednesday. Just wonderful.

THE WAKE #1 — An immaculate first issue. Bookended by terrific headscratching moments set in the future and distant past, we get a strong dose of characterization of our protagonist and a string of supporting players before the real hook lands right where it’s supposed to. Sean Murphy’s art has as much detail and compositional brilliance as ever and Matt Hollingsworth’s subdued palette helps this pages stand out from everything else on the rack, even recent issues of END OF DAYS or HAWKGUY. And the story was so engaging that I straight up forgot that they all but give you that final splash page on the cover. This is, quite simply, how you do it.

MORNING GLORIES #27 — Another forty-page monster from Spencer/Eisma. We get more secret origin of Casey as her own inciting incident and plenty of crazy-talk speculation starring Hunter and Future Jade. Entertaining heady material, I love that it’s already gotten so convoluted that they’ve got to provide two pages worth of text and that wonderful little all-ages strip just to barely begin to explain all of the madness that we’ve seen thus far. Pretty terrified what that kind of thing is going to look like in a couple of years. Or, I mean, around #75? This thing makes L O S T seem pretty much linear.

CHEW #34 — Colby finally teams up with Savoy while The Collector and Tony talk it out over, what else, a feast. And but man, Layman just tosses off those “food-weirdo” Latin names and powers like it’s no big deal, makes you wonder how many he’s got tucked away in a notebook somewhere. As fast as I used to fly through those trades, I’m impressed by how substantive each single issue is, plenty going on every time out. This is, no problem, consistently one of the finest books on the rack every time it shows up.

INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #008 — The Simonson arc ends as it began, a tremendously fun romp through a Hulk/Thor teamup. I particularly enjoyed the physicist’s explanation regarding gravitons for Mjolnir being able to be lifted only by those it deems worthy. It was terrific getting to see Simonson draw Thor again. There was certainly enough Kirby krackle to go around.

NEW AVENGERS #006 — What’s probably the first arc comes to a close as everything comes around full-circle and none other than poor T’Challa pulls the crackling Kirby energy plug on another universe to save the good old 616. This is more A-list performance from Epting/Magyar/D’Armata, strong strong work all around. Six issues in, this book still feels like an event unto itself, some of Marvel’s most prominent heroes banding together to save their very universe from omega-level cataclysm. Kind of makes you wonder what Hickman’s got queued up for an encore.


BATMAN INCORPORATED #11 — This seemed like an extremely dicey proposition going in. With three issues left on Morrison’s probably unsurpassable seven-year run, the writer ducks out altogether and leaves the artist holding the keyboard with a fill-in guy to draw the pages? Hardly the ideal configuration in the final movement of the last symphony, mm? That said, this could not have gone better. Burnham’s chops for Silver-Age dialogue and plot rhythms are right in line with the carefully-choreographed-though-seemingly-freeform madness that we’ve come to expect from this title, and Jorge Lucas shows up in a big way with a scratchy style that is reminiscent of Burnham’s hyper-detailed realism though still uniquely his own. This is a perfect example of what should be happening with DC all the time. I mean, Morrison is just constantly darting around, leaving behind all these immaculate little seed-concepts for anyone who dares to pick up and but I guess either folks are too intimidated to run with the challenge or maybe editorial’s just not down with it. I skipped BATWING because of Winick, which is I guess the only example of someone even attempting to capitalize on the obvious massive franchising potential of the INCORPORATED premise. Casey did it best a few years back on that SUPER YOUNG TEAM mini. And speaking of, really cool to see Burnham bring in the character Crazy Shy Lolita Canary from that book as partner/romantic foil to Jiro, the very first franchised international Batman to whom we were introduced back in the first issue of INCORPORATED. It was certainly a shame to hit pause on all of that exo-suit Man-Batman climactic madness but if we had to, and with a team that didn’t even involve Morrison, I don’t see how these guys could have done a better job. This one is entertaining both on its own merits and to readers who have been with Morrison since the beginning, and it serves as a final interlude and oasis of relative sanity before the whole mess comes crashing down.

GREEN LANTERN #20 — All right, I don’t feel like you can discuss this issue without at least qualifying it with discussion of the run as a whole, so, quick as I can: I didn’t jump onboard with REBIRTH because it frankly sounded like a pretty gimmicky set-up, but the nigh-universal acclaim made me regret that and I picked up #1 of the monthly series eager to see what was so great about this take on old Hal. Possibly the second Johns issue I ever bought (I picked up the first issue of his TITANS reboot, don’t remember if I got into JSA before or after this). Found the monthly engaging, terrific art, solid pacing, but then was really impressed, bowled over, even, by the way that THE SINESTRO CORPS WAR built and built, gathering momentum that always felt earned without contrivance. #25 of that previous volume was a cataclysmic reading experience, tying up so many threads that had gone before and suddenly declaring bold new narrative paths for years to come. I always stayed with the title but never again felt quite the same thrill. Was impressed by the status quo shakeup at the reboot with Sinestro but then as soon as Black Hand showed up and Carol put on the Star Sapphire suit, things I didn’t care about when they’d happened not that long ago, I dropped the title during a fairly alarming culling that also included quality books like Fraction’s IRON MAN, Brubaker’s CAPTAIN AMERICA, and Gillen’s JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY. But just a few months later, I heard that Johns was leaving, so of course I had to catch up on the relatively few issues I had missed and see how he was going to go out.
Which brings us to his final issue. The idea of using a far-future framing sequence worked for me and it’s an impressive bit of multi-colored compression that reduced Johns’s entire run to two pages worth of vertical panels, which really do read as hyper-manic madness when taken one after another like that. All of which brings us back to the beginning of the end of the story on Page Six. I do want to stop here and say that, while I think it was very cool of DC to recognize the end of this run by having all of those notables offer little blurbs about how great Geoff Johns is, I really wish they would have been grouped all together in a single section at the end of the book. It would have not only reduced the breaks in narrative flow, but it’s kind of hard not to have a backlash against what you’re reading when the ads are eloquently expressing its innate brilliance for you. Yes? A televisual parallel, as much as I love MAD MEN, I absolutely do not want to sit through commercials during the series finale declaring it “an utter triumph . . . the finest show of our time.” Even if I can completely get behind the sentiment. At any rate. I do have to say that Doug Mahnke and all those inkers absolutely blew it up on those 55 pages, really strong work throughout. Mahnke has proven over the course of his run on this book to be one of the most prolific high-quality purveyors of mainstream superhero art in the industry. Very impressive. And it was great to see all the usual suspects and former cohorts dash back in for a final splash or page.

If Johns is going to have Hal quote The Beatles, he should just go all the way. Changing “my” to “some” is just distracting. But then how about the charge of all the lanterns? That multi-hued blast issuing forth from Mogo was something else, what a splash! And I dig that there are no less than three full-on cavalry charges by some new colored contingent charging into the fray. Johns really brought it all crashing down in spectacular fashion, a fine end to a nine-year run by a guy who might just be Hal Jordan’s biggest fan.

FLASH #20 — This one read a bit denser than the previous issues, a good thing. Wonderful titles, as ever, but then plenty of compression to offset the rapid-fire action scenes that invariably send the pages roaring right by. This is looking like an entertaining arc, though I wish the book would stay self-contained, I’ve been actively ignoring Scott Lobdell’s work over on TEEN TITANS (as opposed to railing against it on the Internet) and don’t dig the notion of these reboot revisions for which I don’t care encroaching upon a title that I regularly enjoy.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #20 — Ah, I want to be onboard, really love Lemire’s work most of the time and Janin/Cifuentes/Cox turn in some beautiful, lush pages, but this one is not doing it for me on a monthly level. Even with the addition of Frank (and Flash & Swamp Thing thrown in for good measure, come to think of it), the total is less than the sum of its parts. The execution of this one never managed to draw me in as much as the premise and talent should have. It’s time to say goodbye.

THE UNWRITTEN #49 — Carey throws the myth of Orpheus into the mix, because why not, and we get a fairly serious shift to the status quo going forward (the whole gang is back together, complete with new breakout character!). Only, of course, Tommy has to twist the plot and hang the cliff at the last minute. Really really sorry they felt the need to reveal the upcoming crossover ahead of time, having not attended those conventions and just had it trumpeted at me from headlines, such a shame, can’t imagine how cool that last page would have played with me, having no idea what was coming.

THE MASSIVE #12 — Mmm, not sure that Danijel Zezelj’s style is a very good fit for this book, particularly capping off a schizophrenic arc opened up by Gary Erskine and Declan Shalvey. Actually, I’m sure that the shift is too jarring for my tastes. And it would be one thing if this was some kind of self-contained character-centric done-in-one Secret Origin of Lars-type of thing, but the events in this issue pack a fair amount of weight when taken in context with the rest of the narrative to date. Just a really strange choice that took me out of the story on more than page. Paging Garry Brown!

OCCUPY COMICS #1 — Well, with that list of talent, I had to throw down three and a half dollars and see what was happening here. Now, anthologies are always a mixed bag, but this one was much more miss for me than hit. I probably dug the Kot/Crook/Cox piece the most, “Citizen Journalist.” The Rushkoff/Haspiel page was, of course, brilliant. Templesmith’s was horrifying, no surprises there, either. I’ve read that Moore essay before, maybe in DODGEM LOGIC? The DeMatteis piece is the one that did the least for me, which surprised me because I invariably dig his words, but I didn’t actually need him to explain this to me. Overall, this is a good looking piece of work, well put together, wish the content resonated a bit more with me. The David Lloyd V piece surprised me with how nostalgic is made me for my childhood reading about an anarchist taking on fascist London in 1997.

THE BOUNCE #1 — I had to give this one a shot, if only because I love GØDLAND so much and was curious what Casey had in mind for what appears on the surface to be a Silver Age-level Spidey kind of super-hero. David Messina certainly brings some thunder on the art. This was entertaining but not quite enough of a hook to keep me around, judging by just this first issue alone. The premise is not very clearly stated, and I don’t think it’s a thing where the reader is supposed to be confused. What we have here is a high-grade dope-smoking guy who first turns out to be an acrobatic superhero who then turns out to be a ball-busting DA who then goes to the bathroom of a dance club to pay for some sort of ultimate high that turns out to be a character, maybe a villain or maybe just some shaman-type, who then turns into the drug that our hero inhales, which sends him spiraling across a series of psychedelic panels into what I suppose is a parallel universe. Like I said, the art is terrific, but there’s not enough of a hook here to engage me in any way, whatsoever, other than knowing that Casey is fucking crazy and in all likelihood holding all kinds of madness at bay for future issues. May or may not pick up #2 but will definitely make it through the trade eventually.

YOUNG AVENGERS #005 — And so that’s how HOUSE OF MYSTERY ended. Or the Gillen/Kid Loki portion, anyway. Really should have finished that one out before letting this one run as long as it has. Appropriately tragic and potentially undone, apparently. This is the grand climax to the first arc and suitably grand and climactic. Gillen murdered me with that line about the Kirby engines’ fuel, I’ve been going on about imagination engines for years now. Nothing else really new to report here, McKelvie/Norton/Wilson continue to dispense absolute sequential justice, Gillen has manufactured a reason for this team to exist that not only doesn’t contradict Heinberg’s conclusion but is actually a bit more cohesive than their original raison d’être. This series has thus far managed to meet my very high expectations and I look forward to more to come.  

UNCANNY AVENGERS #008AU — Huh, so this is just a weird thing, it appears to be inserted into the middle of the current UA arc, but this is what’s happening now suddenly that Logan Done What He Did? I guess we’ll reboot back to regular continuity next month when AGE OF ULTRON is done? This amounts to basically giving us some focused characterization on the Apocalypse twins with Kang kind of adopting their dad’s creed run through a segregationist filter versus alternate versions of the surviving members of our main cast. This time, it’s Havok’s turn to be Rogue’s husband. Big old trade up from the Age of Apocalypse.

UNCANNY X-MEN #006 — The reign of Bendis continues unabated. The two-page splash of Tempus and Fabio trying to quit is a real keeper. I love how Coulson is just in there all over the place now. His recommendation to Hill on a consulting mutant agent is . . . an interesting call. Angel’s one-bubble regret over his decision to bail on Logan’s school is perfectly timed for maximum comedic impact. I am really digging Frazier Irving rocking full art chores on this arc.

FANTASTIC FOUR #008 — Ah ha, the Godfathers, indeed. This is a terrific idea for Ben’s One Day In Human Form. Where else but Yancy Street? Fraction drops the small-print “That’s my favorite aunt’s name,” with surgical precision to devastating effect. Mounts does a tremendous job varying the color scheme between the vibrant blue-green hues of the team’s ship versus the muted tones down on Yancy. And I love how Fraction just folds the AU issue into main continuity here in the form of a shared dream between the kids. And but naturally Ben causes the entire feud here and now in the past. All these issues in, and everything’s still firing just exactly the way that I want it to be.

DAREDEVIL #026 — I really adore how Waid will in no way allow his pacing to be affected or controlled by the sort of external corporate-mandated nonsense that typically encroaches upon storied runs such as these. In this issue, Matt via Waid (and Foggy, I guess it must be said) begins to piece together what’s been happening to him since the very first issue of this volume, tying together all that has come before, and while it’s not really that much of a leap in logic, or even surprise almost, the fact that the events are allowed to play out in-story, not as part of a milestone oversized twenty-fifth special or whichever issue it was a few months back that this got folded into the MARVEL NOW! banner, every story beat occurs organically and (the reader suspects) right where Waid intended it to. And it’s always $2.99. And the art remains beautiful to an almost sickening degree. The beat goes on.

AVENGERS #012 — Oh oh, now I dig my MORNING GLORIES as much or more than the next bear, but if Hickman’s going to have to start needing a co-writer on this, maybe let’s not have it come out every two weeks, mm? Spencer’s spin on things seems most prevalent with regard to THOR, suddenly he’s the Hemsworth version. Deodato’s work continues to inspire. I should have guessed the ending based on Garokk the Petrified Man’s mid-issue appearance, there are only so many folks who are going to show up down there in the Savage Land. All told, though, this was a really interesting issue, with a couple of exceptions, there was virtually no action, just teaching this enigmatic new race of super-kids. Tony’s last line about the FF says it all, really, sums up the entire issue. These boys are out of their element.