Saturday, July 27, 2013


BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN ’66 — Man, I just picked this up on a lark because of my affection for the old series but am adding this to the Pull, no question. Jeff Parker completely nails the actor’s voice of every character, down to the narrator’s exclamations. You can really hear Adam West delivering, “YOU DELUDED FOOL! YOU’LL DESTROY YOUR OWN CRAFT!” Just perfect. And the Dracula window cameo is brilliant. Jonathan Case strikes a fine balance on art, a retro feel that is somewhat cartoony but manages to capture the actors’ respective likenesses without being too photo-realistic. And he even gives us the askew angle on that first Catwoman panel. And but there’s an offbeat follow-up joke to last week’s LIL’ GOTHAM backseat gag, strange convergence. Of course Adam West Batman has a Bat-3-D printer down, that makes perfect sense. This issue is a delight all the way through to the last panel. Cue the theme song.

BATMAN AND CATWOMAN #22 — Tomasi/Gleason/Gray/Kalisz continue to do nothing but murder it, scene by scene. Of course it was a given that the way Bruce and Carrie played off one another was going to be great fun to watch but I’m digging the natural affinity that Alfred has for her, which makes perfect sense. Thespian bonding. Bruce’s past tense, “DIDN’T WE ALL.” non-question is a crushing piece of business. Though that is I guess as bad as it got, the poor guy got off about as easy with Despair as was possible, at least on-panel. Really cool dynamic, teaming up with Selina to save the five-year-old. And of course everybody speaks broken gangster Chinese. Almost two years in, these guys are staying neck and neck with Snyder/Capullo over just down the alley in consistently delivering the most emotionally satisfying and utterly beautiful pages that can be found anywhere in the New 52 or about anywhere else on the rack, for that matter.

BATWOMAN #22 — Whoa, “the president’s drones,” can’t believe that Bones went there. And how horrifying to see Professor Pyg again, if only for four panels. The Murder of Crows out of nowhere was a terrific surprise, hope there’re going to stick around and remain part of the program. Some serious validation for Bette, no doubt. Though I do wish this issue ended with a little more weight, it was solid throughout but the dismount was a bit limp. However, this was the first time I turned all the way to DC’s back page and holy shit, I’m in for four out of those five annuals. Looks like I won’t be floating much savings on this particular fabled fifth week!

WONDER WOMAN #22 — And the Kirby Krackle abounds! I do wish we could have lingered on New Genesis a while longer but it was “improbable imagination overload” while it lasted. Zounds, Chaing/Wilson as just monsters! That splash of Diana descending, alone. I dig Highfather’s redesign, very sleek and apropos relative to what’s appeared in this title thus far. I also like the idea that Orion’s exterior visage is merely a reflection of his interior spirit, an update from the original set-up that is actually an improvement while remaining true to the spirit of the King. Terrific about-face from Orion, the whole gang is almost all back together (with one particularly gruesome exception, of course), and then here comes War with that trademark scintillating Azzarelo wordplay on our way out.

ANIMAL MAN #22 — Steve Pugh continues to tear it up, but then here comes Francis Portela with the crazy European fine linework. Just that first panel alone, what an insane level of intricacy. To say nothing of the following double-page spread. And of course it takes Maxine about two issues of being the boss to happen upon that great idea first popularized by poor, doomed Louis Creed something like twenty-five years ago. “Now, I want to play with yeeeeeew.” You just can’t keep a good mullet down. That particular terrible notion certainly ended as well as it possibly could have.

FABLES #131 — An intriguing title for the arc, the issue certainly didn’t go where the cover implied, but all was certainly made clear by the last page. Funny that Willingham devoted half the issue to the doctor and Miss Duglas with such an ensemble to choose from. You have got to respect the fellow’s forthrightness. The aftermath of Therese’s return was as sad as expected. I guess old Bigby is going to be just fine, after all. And of course Prince Brandish doesn’t have a heart, I could have told you that.

PROPHET #37 — Milonogannis is a one-man wrecking crew! Leaner and meaner than Brother John Atum. There is absolutely no bullshit to be found here, just direct-to-the-jugular science fiction goodness, an individually satisfying short whose contribution to the over-arching narrative will be made clearer over time. Still one of the best series on the rack, right here.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #18 — We open with a well-conceived exchange about boat-naming between Conan and his son. This whole “everything is perfect” set-up always reminds me of an X-Men dream, so it was a little bit surprising/unnerving to see it reinforced by “wee bairns” in the narration, a phrase that I will forever associate with that daft little Rahne Sinclair. There’s a heavy burden on these “it was all a dream” episodes because of course the only plot they’re driving along is what occurs through the character development that they incite or reveal. This issue, or really, the arc that it concludes, passes that test with flying colors as we bear witness to at least the possibility that one day the roaming warrior’s fires stirring within Conan will quit burning bright enough to allow him as much peace and stillness as possible for one such as he. In other news, I found the letter column quest for the correct way to pronounce Bêlit fascinating. I have personally always pronounced it “Beeh-lee” (long unstressed + short stressed) with that circumflex apparently kicking in my old French learnin’ and causing me to unconsciously silence the “t,” which is never given as an option in the myriad of choices considered by the various experts on hand.

YOUNG AVENGERS #007 — Huh, this apparently came out last week but didn’t get pulled for me until today. C’est la vie! This is the first proper post-pilot-episode all-hands-on-deck issue where we’ve got the status quo firmly established and the entire crew is hanging with one another from the get-go. It’s as great as I expected, am such a fan of what happens when McKelvie & Wilson get together and of course Gillen is by now an old hand at hitting all the various character dialogue interactions and character beats to perfection. As has thus far been the case, Loki pretty much steals every scene as effectively as he apparently has Gillen’s heart. Really digging on this, almost crushing on it harder than Waid’s DD, it’s probably blasphemy to say but there you go.

ALL-NEW X-MEN #014  — All right, I guess we’ll allow that bait-and-switch, it was a bit of a cheap shot to pull back from the Phoenix thing that quickly, but this book is so good, it’s hard to feel cheated by even that. Marte Gracia’s colors continue to be some of the very best in the business, what a force that guy is. Of course, Immonen/von Grawbadger are turning in serious work, as well, it must be said. The double Avengers appearance leading to young frost giant Bobby clobbering Thor with a snowball was priceless, good on ya, Bendis.

FANTASTIC FOUR #010 — Revolutionary Clobberin’ Time! Of course Ben Franklin is a Skrull. That actually makes perfect sense. I kind of wanted John Adams to look more like Paul Giamatti but recognize that as my own deficiency. But seriously, Bagley’s likenesses are excellent, perfectly straddling the line between photo-realistic depection and his somewhat cartoony style. I love how Val is totally not having the soft-sell confession from Reed. And Johnny’s dawning realization. But her line about the irony detector wins for this issue. Old Jason Stackhouse takes a page out of Johnny’s playbook, I’m suddenly realizing. Reed’s explanation for why they’ve been where/when they’ve been was of course well thought out and very cool. Yet another very enjoyable first blast of double-shot Fraction FF.

FF #009 — Who doesn’t love a good pool party? Fraction once again hits us with the inspired notion of framing at least the B-plot within a documentary by the great auteur Bentley-23, a character who it seems to be making a go at stealing every single scene of this run that he’s in. The real development, however, is that the alien-imposter Julius Caesar not only finally makes contact with the team after all of these years but goes ahead and reveals himself and sets them on at least the cusp of their way with the tech and info they need to potentially rescue the original quartet. Which I’m sure is going to happen just halfway through next issue. And Joe Quinones, man, once again does just an uncanny riff on Mike Allred’s art style, of course perfectly aided and abetted by Mrs. Laura Allred’s sublime palette, but it’s a freaky thing where halfway into the issue, I have to remind myself that this isn’t the mad man himself.

AVENGERS #016 — And we’re back with the new New Universe guys. Man, these things come out fast, I feel like Hickman just put them up on the shelf but it’s already been seven issues. That is certainly a pretty picture of all them Spaceknights soaring above Galador. When will those Avengers get big enough?!? They’ve been talking of little else for going on sixteen issues now, not even counting the last page of Bendis’s run. I suppose that it was about time for old Bruce to Hulk out, we were probably overdue for an incident. And Superia appears to have made a full recovery, I thought she was toast. Looks like our crew kind of got their asses handed to them, there. They are not going to have much in the tank when INFINITY comes knocking!

Monday, July 22, 2013


SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #2 — Apparently, if you knock it out of the park the first time out, the smartest thing to do is add Luthor, Batman, and the Bat-Cave to your 250,000-selling comic book spectacular. That will do it for me, anyway. And but wow, before this series came out, I predicted that these would be some of my favorite first-person Clark Kent captions ever, just because nailing internal voices is really one of Snyder’s great strengths, but the second-person emergency options routine he gives himself in that opening scene are really not to be believed, just strong strong work. Of course the big guy winds up thanking God, how else could it all go down? But man, that COMEDY BANG! BANG! ad for the IFC show is very distracting. Then, a terrific scene between the World’s Finest. I guess it isn’t possible to be writing pages for Jim Lee and not ask for at least a page-and-a-half of Bat-Cave. No, I get it. And Bruce Wayne utters the phrase “One hundred and forty gigawatts,” we live in shining times! Lois shows up for a token page and then we get the main event of the issue, General Lane puts the smack-down on our favorite Kryptonian before a couple of excellent cliffhangers. Is this really going to stay monthly? How long will we get this art every four weeks? Stunning pages.

BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN: LIL’ GOTHAM #4 — And normally nothing could make me break up this opening Snyder double-shot but Dustin Nguyen’s epilogue sent me trapdooring over here into the artist’s digital-first book and, man, these two chapters fire on all cylinders. I have been loving what’s been happening every time out, but after putting the boss on the bench for the past two chapters, he comes roaring back with pretty much the entire ensemble of sidekicks and rogues that is really too much fun to be believed. I felt kind of screwed up to be so pumped about seeing dear Babs back in a wheelchair, but of course was involuntarily punching the sky to see Oracle back in action with no advance notice of any kind. But that backseat gag was maybe the best. That panel where Penguin joins the fun and Batman just has his right hand over his face was, no problem, the little girl’s favorite of the issue, she has reenacted it many many times, always ending with, “And then Batman is just like, ‘Oh, brother!’” This is not to slight the second Mad Hatter/Easter chapter, a couple pages of which really nail the insane absurdity of the Carroll source material and send the reader reeling. And the “Bring it, Honey Bunny” panel is another standout. Have been very much digging on this series since the first page, but these two chapters really take it to another level. Am thinking there are only going to be two issues left of this, as its holiday theme implies twelve chapters, but holding out hope for more. Superlative work, all around.

BATMAN #22 — Surprising no one, this crew continues to make a pretty much riveting comic book despite the massive number of times that we’ve had origin flashback arcs shoveled down our throats since 1987. And it all comes down to craft. Snyder locks us right in to the mindset of 25-year-old Bruce and makes him a compelling character even though we’re all shaking our heads and knowing exactly where things are heading. Alfred’s slap was choreographed to perfection. And of course the circular Riddler snake page is Exhibit #294 of why this has been the best New 52 book for just about two years running, the art rendered to perfection but then every line of dialogue singing just as sweetly, just one more slice of story that could not have been delivered in a superior fashion in any medium other than this. It will be a sad, sad day when Snyder/Capullo finally leave this title but let us hope that that tragedy is still many years off. They are laying down a run for the ages, issue by issue, page by page.

DAREDEVIL #028 — Javier Rodriguez shows up on pencils! And hangs with the considerable artistic talent that has preceded him on these pages. But Waid certainly doesn’t pull the punches just because Samnee is off changing his new kid’s diapers, we get an engaging enough flashback that does all the terrific character work with Matt that we’ve come to expect from this title but then there’s an about-face on the last page that is completely out of nowhere. Another kick-ass issue of Waid DAREDEVIL, what a surprise.

HAWKEYE #012 — And now, a brief interlude to introduce Clint’s brother, of whom I have lived my entire life in ignorance. But what a fine occasion for an actual recap page. Going in, I was expecting an antagonistic relationship more in the vein of what old Simon Williams has going on with his brother, so that last page kind of snuck up on me. Oh, the bonds of fraternal love! Francavilla of course shows up and lays waste to every page. Like DAREDEVIL, yet another installment of possibly the very best series that Marvel has on the rack today.

UNCANNY X-MEN #008 — So glad to welcome Bachalo back to these pages, hope he stays in rotation for the duration. Still can’t believe he’s coloring his own work, these pages look amazing. This issue is kind of a catch-your-breath installment. A mutant leaves, then other one we’ve been introduced to gets shot and then recruited, Scott and Magneto all but hug it out, and then Dazzler shows up in her fabulous Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform. Leave it to Alison Blaire to jump in at the last possible minute as soon as she finds out that Whedon’s about to sprinkle his magic all over that.

ASTRO CITY #2 — Still can’t believe we’re just going to be getting these regularly now. When this series first started coming out close to twenty years ago now, it really drove me crazy to have all of these tantalizing hints of series mythology only to routinely have the emphasis diverted to salt-of-the-earth non-powered characters. I wanted ADVENTURES OF SAMARITAN, dammit! But, of course, I just didn’t get it. That’s what makes this series what it is. This issue is no exception, Busiek introduces us to a new civilian and dials us in right away so that we’re already invested in her voice and point-of-view even before we find out what her job is. And of course, no one can do it for you on the out-of-nowhere splash pages like Anderson and Sinclair. (are there maybe too many hyphens in this review?) Everything’s going along just fine and so well that of course we should have expected that gut-wrenching twist on the final page, there. Nothing less than another damn fine installment of this all-time great series.

AMERICA’S GOT POWERS #6 — Man, there is nothing like Bryan Hitch blowing it up on interiors. Take as long as you want, sir, it is always more than worth the wait. Jonathan Ross’s mini-series blew up out of even his control, as what should have been the final issue is apparently now penultimate. This one is relatively quiet after all of the madness that erupted last time a few months ago, but all of the developments escalate the narrative toward climax in a way that feels natural not forced. And Obama talks some serious trash to the lady who was running the whole reality show back at the top of the series.

CHEW #35 — Pity John Colby. The tension certainly keeps rising, but the six+ week gaps in between issues are starting to get to me. As if it was possible for me to lapse back into tradewaiting. Guillory’s background joke Easter eggs continue to delight, though we possibly hit new Ouroborosian heights with the notes about the 815 crash and smoke monster scrawled on Tony’s board, possibly drawn around the time that the creators found out the live-action Showtime adaptation of this series was dead and in which Ken “Miles” Leung would not, in fact, be appearing as the series lead.

STAR WARS #7 — Now, the past couple of issues have been solid enough but felt a little bit padded with not quite enough going down for my taste. Not so, here, we’re all over the place with several plots moving forward and young Skywalker getting a promotion. Really hoping that this series is going to last more than five more issues but not sure about how long the whole licensing thing is going to hold out. The princess had better find that ice planet pretty soon, now.

EAST OF WEST #4 — This one right here was the thunder! The adjective is terribly overused these days, but “epic” might be the only way to adequately describe what happens when Death comes a’courting his darling Xiaolian, who’s been held hostage by her father, the emperor Mao III, for quite some time. Hickman makes a good decision and stops jumping around so much throughout the many varying characters and locales that we’ve blistered through here since we got started. Almost this entire issue takes place in one setting with a single cut to Texas for commentary for and context of the aftermath. About the only valid criticism that one could make of the first few issues of this is that there was been such a massive amount of characters, backstory, and world-building that it was potentially overwhelming for readers who didn’t show up already acclimated to massive ensembles. I mean, I like to think that I’m pretty good to go and I about got a buzz off of working so hard real-time processing what was happening with #1 on the first pass through. As a result, Death is the only character who I feel like has been, for painful lack of a better term, fleshed out over the course of the first three issues. It’s therefore a nice piece of character work here to not only develop Xiaolian all on her own but then pull that little trick at the end where she almost inherits any attachment or emotional connection that the reader’s made to Death when we hit that final page. Bow down, indeed. Wonderful character work. And I haven’t even mentioned the art, just cracking good stuff.

THE TRUE LIVES OF THE FABULOUS KILLJOYS #2 — A solid post-apocalyptic double-bill headlining, here tonight. This issue picks up a little bit from last time out as the plot with the girl messiah advances and we spend some time with Killologist Korse, who looks just really a whole lot like King Mob, you guys. It turns out that he has a live-in secret gay lover and it is making him lose his edge. I would love to have been there for Way to break the news to Morrison, that would have been some comical business. Cloonan continues to turn in beautiful pages. We still have absolutely no reason to care about the drug-addicted sexbots, however, as of yet can’t understand why we’re burning pages on them. It looks like we’re going to get some serious escalation as we head into the back half of the series, though. Make some noise!

Friday, July 12, 2013


BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN INCORPORATED #12 — Exo-suit Man-Batman has it out with the clone of his son who killed his son and it is a brutal and glorious thing. Burnham imbues every punch and fall with weight and impact to the point that the reader directly experiences not only the physical violence of the confrontation but the partial catharsis of Bruce facing the creature that murdered his son. God, I’m still so fucked up about that little body lying there so still. Just the worst thing. Get it together. Get it together. There’s also a nice little homage to the double-punch shots coined during the initial BATMAN AND ROBIN run with Dick and Damian as Beryl subs in for the departed to get her own pound of flesh. And the Leviathan reveal was shocking and terrible in all the right ways. As was his final fate, just perfect. But what’s better than that final page? The only last cliffhanger that ever could have been, flawless resonance all the way back to seventies O’Neil/Adams thunder. It is so hard to believe that this is coming to an end. I am going to be some kind of damn mess here at the end of the month.

SATELLITE SAM #1 — I was expecting pretty serious greatness from Fraction and his idol Chaykin but these guys really and truly knock it out of the park, here. Fraction channels his inner Sorkin, providing rapid-fire in-studio dialogue that sings with total authenticity even before you become acclimated to how tech-jargon-heavy it is. The easiest way I can sum up this premise is it’s like that QUANTUM LEAP episode when Sam jumped into the body of Future Boy, the sidekick on a live science fiction adventure serial but then the whole thing’s run through that Sorkin filter. Excellent writing, throughout. And I haven’t enjoyed Chaykin interiors this much in a long time. Lately over at Marvel, he’s run into the same problem that I had when Simonson was doing those issues of Bendis’s Avengers, the young guys coloring the work are completely over-rendering it and going way overboard when a flatter style more akin to what Hollingsworth has got going on in HAWKEYE would be much more the call. Here, Chaykin sidesteps the problem altogether by keeping it in black-and-white, an aesthetic decision that both fits in with the story conceptually and showcases just how much of a badass Chaykin is to this day. The shots of Libby walking through the East Village are particularly strong. But Fraction more than shows up, as well. Kara asking her co-star if can still see her cross in only her second appearance on-panel is a just ridiculously deft piece of characterization, dialing us in to her with surgical precision and efficiency. The only aspect of this issue that didn’t seem completely perfect to me was letterer Ken Bruzenak’s decision to exclude black lines from the word balloons. There are places where it works and is even necessary, but any time they’re over white space and not bounded by shadow, that doesn’t work for me, it looks like the dialogue’s just drifting out in space. But that’s a small quibble, these guys have something really special brewing here, top creators firing at the top of their game.

AVENGERS #15 — The Hickman juggernaut keeps right on rolling. It’s occurring to me with this arc that, among other things, he’s bringing the same sense of epic scope and grandeur with which Morrison imbued the JLA in 1997, that A-list all-hands-on-deck approach. A natural escalation from Bendis’s set-up but a little surprising in hindsight that it took this long for the franchise to follow suit. Pretty fine timing, in terms of other media. This was a big fighty issue, not too much on the nuance. I did find Frank Martin’s choices a bit off-putting in places, particularly coloring everyone in Banner’s action science room with purple skin even though every single light source was some shade of blue-green. Caselli tore it up, regardless. That two-page spread of the alien creature sending the signal across the cosmos was the real business. I do hope I don’t have to wait four weeks before the next issue comes out!

AVENGERS A.I. #1 — Well, I wasn’t going to check this one out but my shop pulled it for me and Marvel improbably launched a new series with AVENGERS in the title at the $2.99 price-point, plus I keep seeing this fellow Sam Humphries’s name about town, so I figured why not give it a try? Was pretty much disappointed on every level, the art verged on not even being pro-quality, really flat and static layouts throughout the interior pages of a book suffering from the terrible and unfortunate comparison of having a Weaver/Gracia cover. The dialogue was stilted and simply not engaging. The ensemble did not play well off each another one bit, there was no chemistry crackling whatsoever. I got the vibe that the writer phoned this in because he’s working on four titles this month and this happened to be the one where the quality slipped. Which is not the vibe one wants to cultivate at any time but certainly not on an #1 launch. If this iteration of Hank Pym is the third smartest man in the 616, then I’m the ruler of Latveria. And you will all bow before my superior intellectual might! Richards!

DAREDEVIL: DARK KNIGHTS #2—I made it home and realized that I should have looked at this cover a little bit closer. I was planning to check out this series later on in trade and passed on the first issue, took if off my pull and everything. But they put it back in muh stack and I didn’t look too close, it certainly wasn’t odd to see another DD book there so soon after the last one came out. This is not a very terrible problem with which to be saddled, I have fond memories of picking up Nocenti/Lee Weeks issues off the spinner rack at my friendly neighborhood 7-11 back when new comics were within walking distance from my parents’ house, so it was cool to check in with an old master and see what he has to say lately. Drum-tight business, certainly not lighting the world on fire but a very solid Daredevil story on every level, the script is tonally right where it needs to be and the art looks terrific. Lee Loughridge hits the target on the colors too in a way that those guys I was talking about up top who colored Simonson and Chaykin for Marvel lately haven’t, not such a garish palette but subdued and understated. Recommended to one and all.

DETECTIVE COMICS #22 — The stunning Layman/Fabok run continues with the introduction of an Anti-Batman. Which is a terrific idea but I dearly dearly hope that he’s not going to turn out to be the anti-Bruce Wayne who was introduced in the second scene in this issue. Not a terribly elegant way to do your business, there. I’m thinking it’s got to be misdirection, the Mighty Layman’s too smart to go for something so obvious. If it does turn out to be him, it would have been cool to introduce the civilian foil a few issues ago as a subplot that just seemed designed to mess with Bruce’s business and then have him turn out to have this other identity here later on. Either way, he looks to be quite the opponent. Jason Fabok and Emilio Lopez are absolutely murdering these pages, really top quality material.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


BATMAN/SUPERMAN #1 — I was really looking forward to Pak/Lee’s take on the World’s Finest and this initial installment does not disappointment. Lee sprints past his regimented OZYMANDIAS layout structure, managing to seem both energized though still focused and restrained. Pak holds on to that blue/gray alternating narrative caption between the two leads bit that Loeb just immediately ran into the ground at the top of the last volume of this team-up, but the thing is, Pak manages to dial back the precious juxtaposition, doing a pretty fair job of channeling that first-person present-tense Bruce Wayne voice that Miller codified back in ’86 and ’87 in his two all-time classics. This “first encounter” manages to entertain even though we’ve all seen permutations of it several times before. I am particularly intrigued by the twist at the end. I do think it was a little bit weird to have Ben Oliver draw that section. I guess it was a deliberate choice? Because surely you wouldn’t be having a fill-in on a first issue. Possibly a stylistic decision, and no slight against Mr. Oliver, but it comes across as a strange call to have Jae Lee only drawing three-quarters of a first issue where his marquee name was arguably a bigger draw than the writer’s. Still, a solid beginning, looking forward to subsequent issues.

FLASH #21 — What could have been a fill-in crossover of heroes running the old misunderstanding/fisticuffs trope into the ground manages to be entertaining on its own merits with the art doing most of the heavy lifting. It is hard to conjure an artistic team who could do a better job of drawing an issue’s worth of two Flashes running around the world. The body language continues to be some of the most dynamic and energetic in the business and the layouts flow so beautifully, guiding the eye across the page with just the right amount of urgency and velocity that this title demands. And even an “impulsive” gag in Barry’s narration, groan.

THE WAKE #2 — All right, I jammed PUNK ROCK JESUS in between this and #1 so, as much respect as I had for Sean Murphy from JOE THE BARBARIAN and the AMERICAN VAMPIRE mini, have a whole newfound appreciation for the scope of his talent after seeing a couple hundred pages of his finished work in only black and white. All of which to say, jumping back in here with Matt Hollingsworth coloring it up to perfection is quite the heady experience. So, these guys are doing nothing but knocking it out of the park in the art department, but then Snyder again turns in pretty much a flawless script, we get just enough explanation/exposition that answers questions we have while generating new ones, a dab of characterization that is natural but not forced, and then serious escalation on the last pages, certainly in the present tense but then out-of-control hijinks there in the flash-forward. What is going on? How can that possibly tie in with our main narrative? If these boys keep it up, and I have to reason to doubt that they will, this mini-series is going to be one for the ages.

THE UNWRITTEN #50 — Man, I feel kind of terrible writing this, but Carey drops in and flat writes the pants off of Bill Willingham in this crossover, as solid as FABLES has been lately, this issue blows away what’s been going on over there for me. I mean, just grabbing that tone and running away with it. The bit about Ozma refusing to do the exposition part of the spell is really clever stuff. And I love the whole set-up/payoff with Tom showing up, everyone’s immediately thinking there’s no way that the spell worked. It was pretty nuts to see the current situation of both Snow and Bigby. I presume the continuity of all that will be made clear. I had completely written him off in the other title, crazier things have happened over there. I do wonder if there’s anyone at all who reads this and doesn’t pick up FABLES, they must be terribly terribly overwhelmed at this point. Same deal goes the other way, FABLES folks who don’t regularly pick this up would be well advised to begin doing so, seems like some fairly essential business going down right away. I had a great feeling about this arc/crossover when they first announced it a few months ago, but this is much better than I dared hope.

PROPHET #36 — This is haaaaard science fiction, man. As if it wasn’t already, but seems like they found a way to crank it up, even now this far in. There isn’t even room for credits, you get the last names on the front cover and then on the inside-front cover, there’s the first page. Newfather vs Big John TO THE DEATH! The wild and improbable thing about this series continues to be the way in which the creators have made Diehard such a compelling character, one of the most subversive pieces of character work that I can think of lately, given the character’s initial incarnation. And that line about him just being tools that think he’s a man followed by the aside that he’s not even the only Diehard unit still functioning, just flattening business. Sometimes, I have to take pictures of what I’m reading and send them to my friends in the middle of the night. And naturally, he and first John first travelled with 108 other crewmembers, just nonsense. I wonder if these guys have an endgame in mind or are just burning bright as hard as they can for as long as possible. This book continues to be one of the very best of the month every single time out.

JUPITER’S LEGACY #2 — Another solid installment. Quitely’s art remains the star of the show and Millar does fine work letting the story tell itself and not get drenched in his own kick-ass sensibility. We’re getting to the betrayal/assassination angle a bit quicker than I expected. And the girl’s cousin has got to really be the father, right? It seemed pretty obvious from the first page that he walked in, not even counting that that would be so Millar. Really digging getting Quitely on interiors again, just hoping that it’s not going to hold up MULTIVERSITY anymore.

MORNING GLORIES #28 — I got the Irving cover! It’s a freakshow, how much more insane this book is nowthan it was just a few months ago. It continues to crack me up, the fact that it takes a full three pages of backmatter to even begin to piece together for the poor beleaguered fan what the hell is even happening here. And I’ve been trying, but man, we need it. All those callbacks to #13, I would love to know the percentage of readers who picked up what was going on there the first time through. I bet it’s in single-digits. Spencer & Eisma continue to deliver a hypercubic ton of entertainment across space and time starring an ensemble that keeps expanding at every opportunity, with multiple versions of characters dropping in at will, sometimes in disguise as people we’ve already seen. A hell of a lot to keep track of and a very rewarding experience for those willing to make the effort.

LAZARUS #1 — This left me a bit cold. I’ve been looking forward to this since it was first announced and Lark completely delivers on the art, colors the whole thing, even, but I did not find much of a hook on the narrative or character level. From the first page on, all of that medical language completely killed the momentum out of the gate, really think no captions alone would have done much better rather than dropping a gang of medical jargon on us. And the premise is interesting enough but there wasn’t one thing to draw me in and make me in any way care about Forever Carlyle as a person or protagonist. I suspect that it will become more intriguing as we go along but this is one strong Rucka woman I don’t mind waiting to check back up on in a few months or years when the trades are cheap. That art, though, man, spectacular.

THE MASSIVE #13 — Viva America! Good to get Garry Brown back on interiors. Storywise, it was interesting to check in on the old homefront, but this installment was not meaty enough to make me feel good about picking this title up in singles, particularly on such an insanely crowded week.

FATALE #15 — Oh dear, not another prologue. These things never end well for poor Nick. Though he actually came out of this one relatively unscathed. And but the main narrative, this is about a bank robber in a band called Amsterdam whose single hit is a PKD reference. Okay, I’m in. And then Jess Nevins on Aleister Crowley. Brubaker is very good at soliciting backmatter that consistently challenges his feature presentation’s superiority.

BEST OF THE WEEK: PIZZA DOG #11 — Goddamn. It really didn’t seem like this book had any room to get better. And then they go and nuke us with the Pizza Dog issue. As soon as I heard about it, I was expecting serious greatness, but this is above and beyond the call. With this issue, I realized that Fraction/Aja/Hollingsworth have probably already entered into the pantheon of all-time great creative teams on the level of Lee/Kirby, Moore/Gibbons, Morrison/Quitely, everydamnbody who worked on 100 BULLETS, etc. I mean, they were of course already there, but the sheer genius inherent in every beat and understood and not understood word and scent-graphic really codifies the situation to dramatic effect. Aja has always been a force, but the escalation here is really something to experience. And it’s not just clever olfactory graphic shenanigans in the vein of Chris Ware, that one page where Lucky sees the female walk by and then falls in love, gets his heart broken, and then mended within a five-panel stretch is timeless cartooning for the ages. It is also a terrific narrative conceit to take us back through events from the series that we’ve already experienced via normal point-of-view but now re-experienced through the dog’s senses, only to careen the narrative forward at the end to business that’s going down for reasons we can only guess at, but that is all the more exciting and engaging due to the confused way in which we first experience the events. Just when we got comfortable filtering this story through the perspective of a dog. Really brilliant work on all fronts, celebrating the medium while pushing it forward, all that good stuff.

DAREDEVIL #027 — Now, that was just a hell of a climax. Can’t imagine what Waid has cued up for an encore, I mean, really, everything since #1 has led to this. But that’s why he gets paid top dollar! If this volume ended on this issue, it would certainly stand as one of the best runs that so many talented creators have contributed to this character over the years. Though one that certainly made the transition from the light and fun version Waid made such an issue of in interviews to the typical macabre fare we associate with Matt Murdock and all of the individuals unfortunate enough to be counted among his loved ones. So, this was apparently a sustained two-year opening salvo. We’ll see what happens next. Congratulations to Brother Samnee on his new arrival, he certainly deserves a break. Looking forward to seeing what Rodriguez does all on his own next time out.

FF #008 — Man, the colors on that page when Darla slams her Thing rings together, just out of this world. This book is big and loud and poptastic and revels in its own glory. The “You look great, Tong” page is also a real winner. This is nothing more or less than the greatness to which we’ve become accustomed from this creative team, great fun throughout. It looks like the Allreds have even managed to slam out another twenty pages to be released in three weeks, I tell you, this production schedule is insane.

YOUNG AVENGERS #006 — There was certainly cause for concern when the inevitable fill-in kicked in for McKelvie/Norton (and even Wilson, yikes), but Kate Brown really shows up. I want to say she was helping Paul Duffield make deadlines in the back two-thirds of FREAKANGELS maybe, there? I miss those six-page Warren clusterbombs on Fridays. Brown even pulls off one of those insane technical things that I guess Gillen is always asking for, something like thirty panels on two pages of super-speed assembly action. What starts out as a charming little character piece featuring someone we know and someone we’ve just met turns into a bit of horror that definitely has me wondering how it’s all going to go down next month. Really hope Kate Brown hangs around on tag-team art chores, terrific work, especially the light on those last pages, there.

X-MEN #002 — That cover is gorgeous. And heightens my knee-jerk suspicion that Frank Martin is the man who married Laura, could it be true? This issue lives up to the out-of-the-gate thunder we had last issue, all of the character interactions feel just right and of course the mansion gets trashed again, so check and check, another successful merry mutant outing. A weird thing Sublime tells Jubilee about the baby though, “We leave a new person behind,” when they take over host bodies, meaning the kid’s original personality was absorbed/destroyed and now a “reset button” has been hit and this is basically now a new person? That’s weird, right? Amazing following page of Jubilee and the kid looking into one another’s eyes, Coipel’s lines are, of course, amazing but Martin’s tones really really sell the moment.

ALL-NEW X-MEN #013 — This remains one of the best-looking books on the stands. And Bendis certainly knows what to do the instant he throws teenage Jean in with Lady Mastermind, how could anything else have happened? I also love this issue’s reveal behind the subplot with Mystique stockpiling these insane reserves of cash. Bendis is carefully throwing in some big and sweeping ideas, but never at the cost of character moments. Or extended conversations, natch. It is hilarious that they reprint Havok, I mean Alex’s speech from UNCANNY AVENGERS #005 at the end of this book.

UNCANNY X-MEN #007 — The whole “gang lost in Limbo” arc comes to an end, so I presume we’ll now be saying goodbye to Frazer Irving, who completely knocked this one out of the park slinging full duties on art. Of course, Bendis being Bendis, the entire issue is relayed in the form of exposition, though there’s a nice little kicker at the end that makes the whole affair worthwhile and not just the ninety-ninth time he’s pulled that one out (but I mean seriously though, has anyone in the history of the medium ever been so in love with the rat-a-tat-tat of two people in dialogue with one another? Far too much Mamet consumed at an impressionable age, I’ve no doubt). I am a fan of letterer VC’s Joe Caramagna’s decision to, at least on that initial spread, just do all the talking in one little column and leave the rest of the two pages undisturbed so that we can fully appreciate Irving’s infernal Mindless One madness. I wasn’t sure if this series was going to have enough weight to sustain my interest independent of the title it spun out from, but so far so good. I just can’t wait until this whole $3.99 experiment ends and these babies are available for three bucks a pop again.