Monday, September 30, 2013


A different sort of mass this time, Wednesday Faithful, usually I burn the barn down every week roaring through the new books and drinking all of the Lone Star and letting them both hit me full-force, certainly making instantaneous critical judgments but recording nothing, just bathing in the sweet Lazarus Pit glory of comic books that I wasn’t able to read the night before. Then, I’ll go back over the course of the week or all at once and read through them again to peel back the curtain, poke at the armature, and generally absorb the craft of the creators to the best of my ability. Then, I write the reviews.

That’s all out the window this week, you loony birds! Because this week is actually last week is actually . . . the thing is, I was in New York City all last week and though it might seem counter-intuitive that I failed to indulge in this holiest of holy Wednesday night pursuits while within the boundaries of the capital city of comic books, if you’ve ever been, it’s really not such a wonder. Last Wednesday, I was actually in Peter Parker’s old stomping grounds watching my little brother and some folks he plays with smoking some soul and blues and country standards. If you have the opportunity to witness Shelley Wade & the Dimestore Romeos at The Dog & Duck Pub in the Sunnyside neighborhood in Queens, I sincerely urge you to avail yourself of it. There is no cover and the music is impeccable. The gentleman who plays guitar has been the drummer in Woody Allen’s Dixieland band for decades and even loaned me his instrument so that I could play Miles Davis and The Meters music with the little brother, and my little girl got to see us play music in a bar for the first time. All wonderful! But now, I’m back, in a bubble of alternate history, it’s really Tuesday the 24th everywhere else, almost the 25th, come to think on it, now, but here, in this room, it’s Wednesday the 18th in the parallel universe where I was not playing Trane licks on a decades-old hollow-body in Sunnyside hours before retiring, as ever, to The Band and their last waltz.

BATMAN ’66 #3 — (and I meant to say, that means no filter, no multiple readings, tonight/this week/last week, I know more than ever how poor Jack Bauer feels because We’re Running Out Of Time!, new books are upon us again tomorrow already, what you see is what you get, let the havoc commence and release the Hunger Dogs, as the saying goes!) WHAT’S THIS? Quinones & Wicks on art? This is the team who banged out that superior Harley & Ivy story a couple of weeks back in BLACK AND WHITE, no? With Wicks scripting, I believe? Quinones’s style again veering in an Allredian direction. Holy Ghost Artist, Batman, will we ever see young Michael Allred on interiors for this title? But, wait! Quinones! I love your Batman, brother. It looks a hell of a lot like Pope’s. That’s high high praise from this direction, my man, but you gave him the white eye-slits. This isn’t that book. And but wow, the Boy Wonder manages two Holy. . .s ! in as many panels, that is some fine work. And it ends . . . with a wink. That Jeff Parker is one damn sly individual all the way around. If the impromptu physics lesson doesn’t carry the day, then we will always have the Egg Zeppelin. And, “I don’t mean to sound negative, Batman, but we’re still plummeting towards the earth!” as delivered by Burt Ward is the line of dialogue to beat tonight.

CLAYFACE #23.3 — Layman always does economical work imbuing characters that at first blush seem stock with humanity, peppering just enough details through narration or spoken dialogue to make them come alive. Such is the case here, the content of this story doesn’t punch you in the face to anywhere near the degree that the cover does, but it’s a character study that respects both subject and reader.

SCARECROW #23.3 — All right, I’m not going to type the whole thing out tonight, but Tomasi’s Scarecrow’s line about Two-Face’s Hamletesque duality takes the dialogue prize from the Boy Wonder’s plummeting. Perfect. And then, the “Bane problem,” can’t help but think of John Locke and what a problem that turned out not to be, at least in his original incarnation. At the end of the day, or the twentieth page, I should say, I could give less than a damn about FOREVER EVIL: ARKHAM WAR, but this was a hell of an issue, these two in a row, actually, quite a rousing combination.

UNCANNY X-MEN #012—Am digging on Hill as the antagonist in this series, nice to see Bendis dancing with her again on a regular basis. Professor K as an advocate for the kids rings true and makes for a great dynamic against the rest of the people who have pretty much raised her. Emma boils it all down to perfection, it is in fact the ultimate get for Scott. And don’t know how I didn’t see this coming, what a damn set-up for telepathic throwdown payback coming right up.

FABLES # 133 — Willingham/Buckingham/Leialoha keep the storytelling engine rolling at full capacity as Rose burns pretty much every bridge with Snow all at once and we get three pages of mostly horrifying seven dwarves flashback. I’m guessing that was Randy who got skewered?

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #20 — It is still very much a creepy ghost story in the woods for Conan and Bêlit, directly emphasized by the former’s horrifying tale by the campfire in the opening pages, just in case anyone is dubious about the situation. This whole thing has a Joe Landsdale vibe about it, which, Wood could do much worse than be evoking that kind of mood. And then we just fire off into what-the-hell? supernatural territory at the end there, good fun and madness. I had no problem with the last poppy fever-dream arc but am digging this one much more.

MORNING GLORIES #31 — This is solid character work with Hunter, who of course we all love. I am, though, experiencing compression pains, or whatever’s the opposite of growing pains, but after everything went so fucking ballistic and insane for months and months there at the end of Season One, I’m having a bit of trouble just suddenly settling down and zooming the scope back down to –centrics set in this school that they’re suddenly supposed to be attending again, hitting daily classes and so forth. This sounds more like bitching than I mean it to, I certainly enjoyed the issue, it’s just a bit jarring that suddenly we’re not all time-traveling and dimension-hopping and getting our lives saved by older versions of ourselves in disguise. And I still totally can’t figure out which character is supposed to be the smoke monster, which is becoming aggravating. But that’s on me.

DAREDEVIL #31 — No surprise here, nothing but quality from Waid/Samnee/Rodriguez as Matt deals with a Serpent Society-incited riot stemming from a case that was Ripped From The Headlines! These guys are just so good, man, even if, if your internal chemistry is so damaged to the point that somehow you hate Daredevil and everything he stands for, you’ll still love this book. Is that supposed to be Foggy on the last page, though? Unacceptable, Mr. Waid!

BEST OF WEEK: NEW AVENGERS #10 — I’m still really in love with the premise and roster of this book, it isn’t getting anywhere near the attention or love it deserves in the flood of superhero books hitting the racks every month. It was impossible not to hear T’Challa deliver that “convenience or providence” line in the library with Fishburne Morpheus inflections, that “three ships, three objectives” pep talk he gives on the verge of the third act to RELOADED. So much going on here, incredible to believe the Avengers are off in space dealing with the Avengers and all the shit going down here has seemingly nothing to do with it, shit is just erupting all over the place at once. That page with Namor, though, man. Tough to read. Stiff upper lip, your Imperius Rexness. What escalation, though! In three pages, the spy in Strange locates the son of Thanos and we get another incursion. I love how Ebony Man is just like whatever, I’m with Thanos. No, Ebony Man! Listen to the Stephen Strange, the red-skies incursion is really such a very big deal!

INFINITY #3 — I cannot overstate the emotional impact of seeing Kenneth Connell’s Star Brand insignia that I drew on my left hand easily three or four dozen times in the middle of class during fourth grade, having that particular cosmic energy serve as a turning point is really just about almost too much for me, oh no goodnight but so wonderful. I miss Royce Ching.

Friday, September 27, 2013



IT BEGINS with the DJ blasting “Pull Shapes” by The Pipettes, which will forever remind me of Penny and how we can transcend ourselves through dancing, music, stories, whatever magic we care to believe in. Standing out in front of the stage at the Body English, which is this subterranean nightclub that’s some kind of really big deal to get into, to even be allowed under this entire Hard Rock Las Vegas situation, but we are all of us in the room prepped and primed, live and willing conduits to the seething crackle that has brought us to this convergence in five-dimensional space/time. One thousand have gathered from Australia, Brazil, China, England, Finland, France, the Philippines, Scotland, Sweden, Tasmania, Uruguay, and quite a few of the United States for MorrisonCon, a celebration of chaos-magic and comic books and hypersigils and the people who create them and the people who love them, a happening designed to break down the barriers between all of those things, more in the vein of All Tomorrow’s Parties and TED than Comic-Con, instead of waiting hours in line to pack Hall H full of 6,500 fans to stare at the actors and writers and directors who channel their dreams, attendees are encouraged to engage the guests in an intimate social setting, lubricated by alcohol and starstruck delirium and all the teeming madness fueling this metropolis that Benjamin Siegel first watered with his lifeblood sixty-five years ago.
The show is supposed to start at nine but the notion of punctuality runs counter to the general aesthetic and so we have quite some time to get to know one another right away in the beginning. I’m standing with the stage-right speaker blasting right in my ear next to a freelance photographer who’s been here since 8:15 and only cares about performing the magical ritual of turning his pictures into money, but then also there’s this real sweet mother/daughter team-up from Oklahoma, Kristin is maybe ten years older than I am and loves My Chemical Romance, can’t believe she’s going to be this close to Gerard Way, while daughter Sage is ten years younger than me and a magic-journal-carrying Morrison acolyte all the way. They introduce me to some other folks from Oklahoma whose names get burned out of my brain by the impending set but we all have a hell of a time singing along to Elastica’s “Stutter” when it roars out of the PA. At one point, I make a Heineken run, $8.50 a pop. I am terribly pleased with myself for including a fifth of Jack Daniel’s amongst the contents of the backpack upon my shoulders.
At quarter to eleven, Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance and DJ James Dewees walk out and take their positions behind the two double-keyboard racks set up on either side of the stage. They’re both dressed like rock stars or Village kids slumming in the Bowery. Way is chewing gum harder than Dave Grohl, Party Poison in his secret identity. The house lights come down and a soft blue glow washes over the stage. A spectral a tempo blend of piano and keyboard fills the room, not too far removed from what it sounds like in Trent Reznor’s head. Grant Morrison enters from stage-right to the expected roar from the crowd, sharp in a tight-fitting suit with blue shirt and tie. He’s carrying a couple dozen pieces of printed paper. Or twenty-three, I hope, thinking or receiving the number right there, in the moment before it begins. He does not acknowledge the crowd, only takes the microphone in hand, steadies himself, and launches into a performance entitled THE CON, beginning with, “Here’s hoping, now that someone’s died/You’ll drown in grief, a proper tide/Ignoring what you feel inside, that moment when God and Jesus lied.” This, our smiling host goes on to relate, is the “bleak and enigmatic verse” that Walter Lee has wasted the morning composing. Following along to the utmost of my upper-dimensional capabilities yields the discovery that this Walter Lee is in fact Liberace, who eventually goes on to battle Howard Hughes for the soul of Las Vegas, the entire thirty-minute present-tense narrative delivered with roaring gusto, evoking the Beats and shamans and spellcasters scored by sleek skyscrapers. It is a test of endurance and sanity and comprehension that leaves me battered and damaged, able to do little more than shake my head as they make their way offstage. I’m not sure how the story ended but am already altered.
Retaining concert-going professionalism much better than me, Kristin doesn’t let the last man make it offstage before leaning in to grab Morrison’s pieces of paper cast off one-by-one after being read, relics and recipes of whatever enchantment or invocation has just taken place. She keeps one page for herself, another for Sage, and then starts handing them out to all the grasping hands. Possibly I don’t make it over in time but she saved me one and hands it to me once the rest are gone? This is the first thing I’m not certain about, that I remember in more than one version, already the timelines are fracturing and things seem to be happening in multiples. I definitely eventually make it back to my room with a piece of paper with the number ten in the upper-right corner written in black ink and encircled. It begins the fourth chapter, entitled THE WHITE KNIGHT RETURNS and the last sentence on it is “In the undergrowth of the starlet’s eyelashes, hunting packs of wild pseudomonas feast on black matter mascara clots, spurred on by microscopic demon riders.”
Akira the Don bounds up on the stage and tears into his set, eager to win over the entire crowd in that first bleeding instant and inspired to antics and banter of increasing magnitude when the roar of adulation is not total enough. Dispensing high-energy rapid-velocity UK hip-hop, he is constant motion and flow of dialogue, diminutive in stature with a dark beard framing wild eyes underneath long bleached-blond hair. I can’t figure out why he looks so familiar to me for the first few songs then suddenly realize he’s Vince Neil’s little brother. He earns +10 Kirby points for the name of his latest album, The Life Equation. I watch the set upstairs, where I meet Greg and Mark from Chicago and Brenda and Kai from Atlanta. Brenda could be the Ragged Robin from 2022 but it seems like that could possibly sound a bit forward, so I keep it to myself. Every time before I refill my Jack, I go to the bar and leave a tip for a fresh glass of water with ice, congratulating myself for not cutting the bartenders out of their due earnings and also hydrating my body very well.
After the set, I head down to the dance-floor to mingle and watch J.H. Williams III cut some serious rug, dashing in his suit. You can almost see the layout of his motion as a freeze-frame Williams double-page spread, dancing here with a jagged rectangle around him, then he spins on over here into another serrated rectangle, then a final unexpected lunge to the right side of the page for the last panel, it’s all very Kate Kane. The pungent scent of something green, delicious, and expensive wafts over me. A bouncer notices my bloodhound senses activate and walks up with a smile on his face and says, “Yeah, some of the guests were burning back in the Green Room but Management said they had to put it out. Maybe it’s not too late, you want me to take you back there?” It does not occur to me to question the way in which this man’s dialogue seems angled in direct opposition to his presumed job description. Maybe he isn’t a bouncer at all, some kind of hospitality director or facilitator? “Yes, that would actually be perfect,” I tell him. “Please do take me back there.”
There are maybe twenty people in the room, none of whom appear to be smoking anything. The bouncer deposits me next to the food spread and excuses himself. Most folks are huddled in the near side of the room, the only two I recognize are Way and Akira the Don. Morrison and James Sime are sitting on the couch in the center of the room, having a spirited conversation, though clearly Morrison is wiped from the performance. There’s a guy sitting a few feet down from Morrison holding some sort of camera out in front of him down low, angled sideways, filming. The effect is surreal. Just the sight of Sime is pretty arresting in and of itself, but especially in juxtaposition with Morrison. Sime has got a tower of maybe six inches of hair shooting straight up from the top of his head and a mustache that on its own would be right at home back on an old Deadwood gunslinger but, when taken in context with the hair and immaculately cut suit, suggests more of a Silver Age supervillain. Kirkman even made him a recurring character in INVINCIBLE named after his store. He’s the owner of San Francisco’s Isotope - The Comics Lounge and this entire thing was his idea, or at least the result of dreaming and discussion with his partner Kirsten Baldock and iFanboy’s Ron Richards over a meal or meals during Comic-Con 2010. It is clearly not the moment to approach my man Morrison. I wind up talking to Akira the Don for a few minutes and am maybe cool enough but shatter the illusion when Way walks by and I’ve just got to shake his hand and tell him with all my heart how much I care about THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY and the KILLJOYS business, blazing all kinds of new trails in the backstage dialogue department.
The Don pinballs off into his next situation and I strike up a conversation with the lady standing next to me. She’s a little older than I am and wearing this all-white dress that you could see from all the way across the club, when I noticed it, it conjured WHITE SWAN, the anti-Aronofsky/Portman flick in my head, which I almost manage to tell her before in walks none other than Frank Quitely himself, the other half of Morrison’s heartbeat, everything he’s drawn is one of my favorite comic books of all time and I make a real point and big effort not to just like bear-hug him right there on the spot but I guess enough of it’s on my face to tell because he just gives a real easy smile and walks up, holding out his hand and introducing himself as Vin, which is of course his real name. And it turns out this is his wife Jane who I’ve been talking to. Quitely (it’s at first impossible to think of him as Vin) takes out a pack of American Spirit Naturals and asks if I smoke. I haven’t had a cigarette in years and years but the only, the involuntary, response is, “With you, I do!” and so we all have a smoke back there by the vegetable tray and the two of them discuss the drawbacks of jet-lag with me interjecting upbeat exclamations about, yes, how terrible jet-lag really is.
Soon after, we get kicked out of the Green Room and exodus en masse up the stairs and across the casino lobby into an embedded nightclub in which a band called Dead-Eye Radio is performing passable covers of nineties alternative rock. I meet a member of Sime’s staff named Mike, a nice guy in a white suit. We sing along to “Say It Ain’t So.” I look around and realize that most of the other guests have evaporated off to bed. It’s 1:30 and the programming proper commences in exactly eight hours. I follow suit and end the day under the covers of my king-size bed, taking thirty minutes to scream everything that’s just happened at my little brother in Queens because he also smokes American Spirit Naturals. And received his own copy of the ARKHAM ASYLUM hardcover for Christmas ’89, so has loved Morrison’s work exactly as long as I have, though not to quite the same extent.


I’m up at nine, showered and out the door fifteen minutes later. The coffee-shop line for smoothies is insane but there’s no one at the bar, a Bloody Mary morning it is. Fourteen dollars, with tip. I make my way into the hall and am delighted to find Kristin and Sage waving from the center of the second row, having saved a seat for the first new friend who walked in. Sime, Baldock and Richards come out and warm the crowd up. General euphoria abounds, no one can believe we’re all here, it’s actually happening. Morrison finally roars onstage at ten, voice already ragged from the previous evening’s exertions, and works the crowd, pacing from one end of the stage to the other, setting a strident tone. My dials are red-lined, an hours-long adrenaline rush surging that starts warping my perception of space and time. Maybe it’s here that he mentions he had to cut a few chapters from SUPERGODS that will eventually get posted online. And that the last issue of FINAL CRISIS had so much going on that they had to cut ten pages of multi-dimensional conflict to make deadline, pages that will be included in-sequence in the Absolute edition, which he considers to be the definitive version. After a few minutes, he calls Chris Burnham and Frank Quitely to join him on the two couches they’ve got up onstage.

Burnham’s young, impossibly young to have already produced so many pages with that level of detail and depth. It looks like he came straight from the barbershop, baby-smooth face and not a hair out of place. There’s a timeless quality to the way Quitely carries himself, like he hasn’t aged a day since finishing FLEX MENTALLO, which, maybe there’s something to that. They start off putting a few of Burnham’s pages from upcoming issues of BATMAN INCORPORATED up on the big screen. There’s a four-panel zoom-out from #5 starring the Damian Wayne Batman first glimpsed in BATMAN #666 that straddles the line between seeming reminiscent of Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS while managing a straight homage to Dave Gibbons's camerawork in WATCHMEN.

But then, the PAX AMERICANA pages.

SUPERCONTEXT: like a lot of readers around my age, WATCHMEN was absolutely my favorite comic book growing up, the fullest expression of how far one might push the medium structurally, stylistically, narratively, etc, etc. It wasn’t until I finally finally got my hands on the FLEX MENTALLO singles in November 2007 and then when Morrison/Quitely/Grant finally finished up ALL-STAR SUPERMAN the next year that I believed I had found work that had also managed to achieve such a high standard, total unity of form and content presented in a package that simultaneously elevates and celebrates the medium. All of this to say, I’m like demographic target-zero for Morrison & Quitely doing a thematic sequel to WATCHMEN and seeing those first few pages, that bold, finely detailed Quitely linework up there on the big screen just about melts my hard drive right there at 10:23 in the morning. Half of the peace sign crackling on the first page. An airborne assassination. The return of Captain Nathaniel Adam from SUPERMAN BEYOND 3-D. There’s this one page you might have seen online with this sequence of The Question jumping out onto some kind of metro-rail type situation with his old partner The Blue Beetle flying up on him, there. But the page is unlettered, so you’ve got to have Morrison fill in the dialogue for you, right before that jump, bringing us in from the previous page, is a line of dialogue ending in the words “leap of faith,” which is of course quintessential 80s-era Moore transition work, juxtaposing text and visuals to produce a stronger resonance than either would be capable of achieving individually. And oh hey, talking resonance, no post-Ditko nine-panel grid for this one, our boys are mixing it up with a base-8 system to reflect the groundwork that Morrison laid in FINAL CRISIS with the various parallel universes operating and interacting with one another on musical vibrational frequencies. So an eight-panel grid can stand in for the eight notes, octave to octave, on the diatonic scale. Do re mi and so forth, the harmony of the spheres. It’s not even eleven o’clock yet and the difference between the pressure on the inside and outside of my head is skyrocketing in a way that’s not wholly unpleasant, but also kind of worrisome.
Okay, and so but then Darick Robertson comes out and they show some pages from HAPPY. He’s a really affable fellow with much more of a breezy humor to him than one might reasonably expect from sixty issues of TRANSMETROPOLITAN or all of his work on THE BOYS. The way he wears that hat, you get the feeling that he lives in it, but you never know. Over the course of the next two hours, he jumps up like he’s about to walk off-stage or maybe a couple of times just because he can’t help himself. The comedy accrues over time.

My favorite quote from the panel, for FLEX MENTALLO Morrison instructed Quitely to draw “primordial chaos manifesting itself upon unseen neutron cores*.” Quitely couldn’t wrap his head around that, so when he turned in the page, he pointed to the panel and said, “I drew some circles for you.”
Next is the writer’s panel. Ron Richards moderates a group comprised of Jonathan Hickman, J.H. Williams III (rocking red shirt, red tie, and tailored suit, and stealing the title of Most Dapper Man in the Room from Sime), Jason Aaron, Robert Kirkman, and Morrison. The panelists embody a balance of corporate versus creator-owned comics, with Hickman and Aaron two of Marvel’s big guns while also having tremendous success with their original properties, Morrison and Williams two of DC’s very best, and Kirkman, forever, advocate and poster-boy success-story for independent work. They spend a fair amount of time talking about the annual (or sometimes twice-a-year) Marvel creative retreats, which seem like one of the most brutal writers’ rooms in the world offset by the occasional potential for uplifting synergy between extremely creative minds generously sharing their best work with one another in pursuit of the most compelling story possible, all under the watchful eye of Editorial and Marketing. The next day, Burnham says that it sounds like Hell.
When the writers are done, all the artists come out. Burnham, Quitely, Robertson, and Williams return to the stage, joined by Mr. Jim Lee, pretty much no contest the hottest, most bankable superstar artist in the industry for going on twenty years now. He elicits due deference from his fellow panelists, along with assorted good-natured jibes. An early highlight is Lee’s explanation of why the O’Neil/Adams SUPERMAN VS MUHAMMAD ALI crossover is a brilliant idea because of the pocket-dimension training montage in which Superman learns how to box, which leads into Lee getting visibly choked up while trying to express the beauty that he saw in those old Neal Adams spreads of KA-ZAR when they first came out. While all of this is going on, the artists take turns sketching in different fans’ MorrisonCon sketchbooks. Burnham is up first. Someone in the crowd drinking from a tankard yells for him to draw Robertson worshipping Jim Lee.

Robertson shoots right back at Lee with, “Fuck off! And by that I mean, I worship the altar you stand on.” “Was that a height crack?” is Lee’s reply. “My legs are too short and this couch is too long. If there’s ever a LeeCon, the furniture will be smaller.”

Burnham decides to go with a no-brainer shot of Officer Downe. Quitely follows that up with asketch of Fat Superman that’s impossibly clean and fast. It’s wild to watch it go down, I always assumed he did a massive amount of erasing to achieve such tight fine linework but he’s got his craft refined to such a level that every line that comes out is pretty much a keeper. And then Williams takes it to a whole new level, whereas Quitely at least dove right in with all kinds of initial rapid pencil-motion, Williams just sits there with the Sharpie marker making occasional little dabs of black just one level up from pointillism and then all of a sudden, Batwoman’s head appears from out of all that negativespace, magic. Robertson’s next with a quick Batman, during which time Jim Lee drops some calculus humor on Burnham about derivatives, I immediately forget the exact wording, but then Lee gets up and slams out a sketch of The Joker in maybe five minutes that’s ready for Alex Sinclair to do up so that they can sell 250,000 copies of the next issue. It is staggering to sit through. My favorite thing to hear at this panel, and almost all day long, is something that Kaare Andrews once told Darick Robertson. We all start out as artists. Every child draws. It’s the most basic form of communication, predating language, even. Someone once asked Andrews when he started being an artist. His answer was, When did you stop?
A quick lunch of Ham & Brie sandwich followed by a shot of Jack up in my room for dessert and then I grab all my Morrison/Quitely comics because I’ve got an appointment to sit down with both of them in the neighborhood of four o’clock. I catch a glimpse of what’s left of the six-pack of Lone Star talls I’ve smuggled over from Austin and realize that I must share them. The next panel is THE SOUND OF THE ATOM SPLITTING, the panel on music in comics featuring Akira the Don, Gerard Way, Robertson, Morrison, Williams, and Jimmy Urine (pronounced, inexplicably, you-rine). I’m not familiar with Urine’s work but he gets right in there and hashes it out with the rest of them, is one of the most outspoken at the panel and seems to know his shit with the double exception of challenging anyone to name a good concept album that’s come out recently and asking the crowd for a show of hands as to how many people don’t exclusively download singles but actually still buy and listen to entire albums. The answer to both questions is THE TRUE LIVES OF THE FABULOUS KILLJOYS. Morrison makes a solid insight about Warren Ellis’s scripts, they’re so percussive, just the rat-a-tat-tat of them, but the guy’s father is a drummer, which I already knew but never made the connection. Way reveals that while he was working on the last issue of UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS and Morrison was wading through the end of FINAL CRISIS, The Smashing Pumpkins had just gotten back together and released “Tarantula” and both writers were listening to it on infinite repeat, searing it into their heads. Morrison took acid and realized that the entire history of pop music could be distilled into that opening, Jimmy Chamberlain’s drums descending from Heat Death all the way back through space and time to The Big Bang and into the explosive tempo that kicks off the song. Morrison was having so much fun with the tune that he decided to try to deafen himself with it, so turned everything up as far as it would go and just pummeled his aural cavities into harmonic submission. “Don’t listen to music on acid! Don’t write comics on acid!” Around this time, for some reason David Bowie gets mentioned and Way says that there needs to be a Ziggy Stardust comic adaptation. Darick Robertson says he would draw it and they shake on it. A couple of recommendations make an impression: MGMT’s “Flash Delirium” and Teenage Fanclub’s “The Concept.” Robertson does a dead-on impression of Christopher Walken’s reading of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be . . .” soliloquy and then Morrison croons some Morrissey and somehow Alan Moore’s name comes up amidst speculation about his reaction should he descend from his upper-dimensional Northampton plane to confront the spectacle before him. There is, of course, all kinds of face-palming and wincing amongst the various panelists before Morrison lowers his voice for a baritone delivery of, “All of this is copied from me.” Which of course brings down the house.
As has been the case every panel, they take questions at the end. I make it up in line and wind up being the last question, which to me seems self-evident, no panel about music and comics would be complete without a discussion of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s much-beloved-though-criminally-under-read PHONOGRAM, a celebration of the glory of pop music and the life-altering effect it can have upon those who give their lives to it. My man Akira the Don’s response to the question is that Gillen has just recently tweeted him proclaiming that he and McKelvie were about to go to the pub and drink and listen to Kenickie and get serious about the long-awaited third volume. This is good news but hardly scathing critical analysis. Way says he doesn’t know what we’re talking about. A shake of the head from Robertson. Morrison says something like he lives out in the country and hasn’t gotten any e-mails or maybe any new non-DC comics since 2005? I’m not sure, there’s a low roaring rush pulsing in my ears. I feel like I should maybe bring up LOCAS to at least like high-five on the way out but then The Don puts the nail in the coffin with “All right, so that question sucked.” Which is not a very life-equation move, maybe the one guy on stage who has actually read the work could have championed it to those who hadn’t experienced it rather than name-drop that the creators were in touch with him last week. One day, the world will bow before the manic magical majesty of PHONOGRAM. The panel concludes with an impromptu performance of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” with Robertson on guitar singing along with Morrison and Akira the Don repeating the last word of every other line like a hip-hop sidekick.
I head across the hall and check out the art gallery, which has got many many original pages by the artists in attendance for display and sale. One of my favorite ones from FLEX MENTALLO is framed, the first thing I see when I walk in, some version of young Wallace Sage reading a comic book starting Nanoman and Mini-Miss. The Williams pages are staggering in person. I should take more pictures, but being confronted by so many images about knocks out my last shred of rational thought.

The film panel is next, James Gunn, whose last film SUPER was pitch-perfect and improbably realistic in all the ways that KICK-ASS was over-the-top and histrionic, and Max Landis, who hit a similar blow tonally with the more recent CHRONICLE. Landis kind of runs away with the panel, is clearly just gacking out to be a part of all this, even earns his own serious heckler but then really turns it around in the end by straight-up walking us through this eight-page story that he wrote for ACTION COMICS #900 that features the Prankster leading Superman through a series of Gotcha's with incrementally increasing stakes that really, man, it’s just one hell of a story. So that’s all right but running long and now it’s 4:00 and even though Morrison’s still onstage, I head off to check-in for my signing appointment.
Bad news, there are dozens and dozens of folks already in line and the signing room is all full up, so it definitely doesn’t look like anything’s happening anytime soon. I’m all right with missing Kirkman’s WALKING DEAD panel but am already fearing for Hickman and Aaron’s next one about mythmaking, which is one of the most interesting-sounding of the weekend. I stand behind a guy named Jeff, not quite old enough to be my dad but maybe my youngest uncle. He used to run a shop that did real good business on the First Comics end of the spectrum but closed it up in the late eighties before Image boys and hologram covers started blowing up the speculator’s bubble. A half hour goes by. One of the girls who works at Isotope, I think, is running back and forth getting people drinks, which I find just nice as hell but am still rocking my three Lone Star talls in the ice-bucket and not really in the market for $8.50 Heinekens because it’s never just the one $8.50. A pair of guys a little ways back catch my attention. One of them has on a Barbelith T-shirt and is about to collapse under the weight of a massive stack of books, including THE INVISIBLES OMNIBUS. I offer to lighten his load a bit and have it in my hands for the first time at last, if only for a minute.

Dan is twenty-five from Brisbane. He wants to be a comic book writer and is planning to move to America to make it so. He became a Franciscan monk when he was eighteen, had a crisis of faith and dropped out of the order at twenty-one, fell in love at twenty-two, and broke up with her at twenty-three. And apparently in Australia, everyone keeps their wallet on the table in front of them, but when Dan made the attempt to bridge that cultural gap Thursday at a restaurant and then went to the bathroom, his wallet was eight hundred dollars lighter when he finally recovered it a few hours later. I tell Dan he’s already got some serious material for a Pekaresque memoir-type graphic novel in the can and should probably go ahead and get to work on that. He counters that he already writes an advice column for geek romance. Though over here, the accent apparently does half of the work, so the rest of us are just out of luck. Another incredible thing about Dan is that he’s got a picture on his phone of the owner at Alternate Reality Comics flashing a Polaroid of young Alan Moore in the 80s when he blew through town on his second and final American tour. A medium shot. Staring at the camera. Directly. Naturally. For some reason, Moore is shirtless. The effect upon the viewer is mystifying and profoundly unsettling.

Schedel is from San Antonio, just a hundred miles down the road from me, and has this wispy kind of soft-spoken thing going on with eyes that look like they’ve seen too much or maybe just enough. For years now, he’s been writing and drawing a series called Hero Blob about a hero who can transform into any kind of liquid, at any volume. He’s thinking of ending it soon with the hero’s final transformation into a villain who attempts to engulf the world in a Biblical flood, which sounds about right.

And there’s Greg again from last night. And a real nice guy named Brian. Or Bryan? We’re all sitting at this table, looking over each other’s comics. I’ve brought way too much for them to sign. A couple of hours go by. Apparently, the Trivia Contest is cancelled because the panels were all running late and Morrison, Quitely, and Way aren’t leaving until they sign for everybody. A strange delirium sets in. Or has always been. They call my name for Quitely. Or Vin, I want to call him but don’t call him anything, just sit down and start right back in like we’re old mates. Jane is sitting beside him. They’re both just really sweet people. I tell him I brought Jesse Custer’s favorite, some good cheap beer from Texas and he says, “I know it’s cheap but let me be the judge whether or not it’s any good.” We pop the tops and knock some back. After the hours of spirited discussion while waiting, the sensation of cold beer rushing down my throat is amazing. He signs my ABSOLUTE ALL-STAR SUPERMAN and FLEX MENTALLOsingles and the first five NEW X-MEN singles and WE3 singles and I give him some comics that I’ve written and my friends have drawn and we shake hands and all is well and soon I am back at the table, waiting for Morrison. I decide to head on up to my room to put on my suit and grab the whiskey and probably ice up the rest of the Stars while I’m at it.

So all of that takes place and I receive a hero’s welcome from my new gang when I roll back down all crisp and clean and we take pulls off the old bottle of Jack, Dan first, and but then it turns out that it’s almost 8:00 and they say we can only get Morrison to sign two books, which wouldn’t be a problem except of course I want to get all the ones Quitely signed also signed by Morrison and never even mind SUPERGODS or all the already-Stewart-signed SEAGUYs or my very own ARKHAM ASYLUM I got for Christmas ’89 and really quite a few other things. But what happens is I finally get up there and introduce myself and say that we met at Con in ’07 and he says, “Sure, I remember,” with such total convincing sincerity that it about knocks me out because such a thing simply cannot be, and then he asks, “So, what did you bring for me?” and I tell him about the beer from Texas and he shakes his head and gestures to the table next to him, which is loaded up with quite a few empty plastic glasses and one that’s still got maybe half a screwdriver in it and he says, “People have been taking care of me,” and Ron Richards sticks his head in to confirm, “He’s doing all right,” and so I tell Morrison that I brought him some comics I wrote too, and he says that I’ve got to sign them for him, so we get a rapid-fire autograph swap system going real quick, an obscene exchange of his very best for my very first work, and I want to thank him for the novel he gave me with a vigorous handshake but remember I’ve got to say what I already told Quitely too, about my dear friend in Seattle who I read ALL-STAR SUPERMAN to when he was dying but I was only trying to share my favorite comic book with him, didn’t grasp the hyperdensity of giving a terminal patient the story of Superman’s acceptance of his mortality and the final heroism that such an act inspires in him, how crushing of a load that of course was to drop on someone who knows he’s going to die, only he seemed to accept it, embrace it, even, and the way I watched the themes of that masterpiece’s hope and optimism waveform right up off the page and take root to effect positive change in the face of my brave friend, I will never forget that, resonating with me down through the years, and I want Morrison to know what work his story has wrought that he never knew, and he says, “Ah, you’re bringing tears to my eyes, Brother,” and it feels just like Orion has been going to town on my mid-section for a few minutes now, and we finish up and embrace and he grabs his Lone Star for the picture and says, “We’ve got to clink them, Brother!” and we do.

EPILOGUE: One could make the argument that, for me and me alone, MorrisonCon ends there. That is certainly the emotional climax of the experience. But it’s only 8:00 on Saturday night and my flight doesn’t leave for another twenty-four hours. And there is the whole matter of another night of play and day of programming. Quick as I can, bullet-point lightning-round edition:

I walk away from the Morrison signing and see a guy sitting by himself on a couch down the hall who’s got a jaunty hat and beard and looks pretty much like Darick Robertson. I wave, he waves back, I walk over and sit down, he denies being Darick Robertson, I don’t really believe him at first, we start talking comics because of course, eventually I ask him his real name** and it’s Markisan and he’s from Chicago and brews his own mead and has even just gotten name-checked by Azzarello in the new #0 issue of WONDER WOMAN that came out week before last. He has brought a bottle of his own mead to share with Jason Aaron, who will begin writing THOR in November. Perhaps Aaron will also name-check Markisan as a fine Asgardian brewer of mead, a talent now encompassing and transcending not only The Big Two but their fictitious versions of the Greek and Asgardian pantheons. He and his friend The Captain do a podcast called I Kick Your Face. It turns out Markisan is the one who made the request for Burnham to draw Robertson worshipping Lee, because of course, he’s still drinking from the same tankard. I finish all but the last Lone Star sitting there talking with them. It’s after nine. We go to the deli for more beer. I get a Fat Tire and sprint upstairs to drop off all of my autographed books. I drink the Fat Tire on the way down to the Body English. There’s Schedel. He introduces me to someone I never see again. There’s Sage. She’s mad at Akira the Don for his shabby treatment of my question. I decide that he probably owes me a drink just on general principle and head on over to tell him so but he’s in the middle of a conversation and it seems impolite to interrupt with such news, those are the kind of tidings one shakes hands before delivering, but not five minutes later, he’s in the DJ box, where he will be spinning records and beats all night long. I will have to fend for myself.

I find Markisan and The Captain. We sit down at an enormous booth with some other people we don’t know. Brian walks by in a suit and we invite him to join us. He buys me a Heineken. Dan stops by and is quite debonair, having also changed into a suit. Then he’s off to the dance floor to show us how it’s done. Markisan spots Jason Aaron up on the second floor and makes his move. The Captain follows suit and I am right behind them. Aaron is up for it, and we all have some mead. It is sweet and a damn fine thing. I want to rave to Aaron about my love for SCALPED but am afraid to really start engaging him because he’s got “y’all” misspelled in that thing through and across all the volumes with the apostrophe between the “a” and the “l” instead of the “y” and “a” where it belongs and those aren’t the kind of vibes I want to put out tonight but can sense that once I get going, I’m not going to be able to stop myself, so I just shake his hand and try to keep it all together for a few more hours.

I see Dan Didio hanging out at the bottom of the stairs and walk up to say hello, because surely the Publisher of DC Comics remembers me from that time we met in Dallas in November 2007 for five minutes, and but we stand there and shoot the shit for maybe fifteen minutes. He’s headed out in the morning on a 10:30 flight back to shepherd his 52+ titles through their various stages of deadline but would never have missed this, repeats the fact that he’s here for Grant, to show his support. I tell him that that is a fine thing and elect myself the positive vocal minority, to counter the effects of all the faceless everyones on the Internet bitching about the New 52, I instead tell him what about it is that’s working for me in the form of solid little nuggets like not resetting INCORPORATED was clearly the smartest move of all and also it’s certainly within his best interest to keep the teams on all Batman books as happy as possible because he’s got a pretty sweet little thing going over there, and Snyder & Lemire should be allowed to do whatever they want. I just barely manage to choke down my unique understanding of the fundamental framework for the ultimate THE ATOM story and also THE NEW ADVENTURES OF GRANT MORRISON & BUDDY BAKER but pitching right there on the spot feels like a bushwhacking dick move unworthy of this momentous occasion so we just keep bantering. At some point, Jim Lee and a couple of women and Mr. & Mrs. Quitely and Jason Aaron all roll up and we’re all kind of talk/shouting at each other in the way that groups do in clubs with loud music playing. I shake hands with the great Jim Lee and tell him that I have been buying his books in singles since the halcyon days on UNCANNY. He thanks me but does not ask me to dance.

And maybe it’s time to go? Chantal Claret’s playing at Vinyl and I’ve been listening to Morningwood the past couple weeks to get ready but then by the time we’re at the club maybe half past midnight, a guy is slow-mopping the floor in the definitive picture of The Gig Is Over. Which is terrible, I was looking forward to her set. Maybe I go back to The Body English but don’t find any friends still there? It is time to shut it down.


I wake up facedown on my bed at 8:38 AM, fully dressed in suit and boots. oh no. The act of raising my head up off the pillow is filled with throbbing pain and regret. I’ve got a little less than an hour before Burnham’s Hangover Breakfast & Sketch thing. Call it an even hour. I set my phone for 9:38, kick off my boots and pants, and go back to sleep.
Wake up at 10:28! Emergency! Morrison panel in two minutes + I need to hurl everything I own into my bags and check out of my room. I bound about trying to effect all of this as best I can, managing the checkout over the television I hope, not as much hitting Barry Allen levels of velocity but closer to a Baron/Guice version of Wally West who has had exactly the same Saturday as me and could really use a few hundred-thousand carbs to ramp up the old super-speed. This time, there’s no line for the seven-dollar peach smoothie that tastes like total forgiveness and redemption and I’m in the back row listening to Morrison answer all kinds of mad questions from the audience before eleven. He talks about how most often the connections we see in the universe are nothing more than what we create for ourselves or that are embedded for us by creators who are resonating on the same frequencies that we are, which is why 23 keeps showing up everywhere or why there were so many 108s all of a sudden all over the place after the second season of L O S T. Of course, my brain pounds back, I’ve been saying all this for years. Any time someone asks him for some kind of general life advice, Morrison always deflects it with the sentiment that he’s just another human being, not a guru or leader or demi-god of any kind. Which might sound disingenuous delivered from a man at his own panel at a convention that bears his name, but it’s delivered with such sincerity and absence of pretense that the effect is empowering. Quit looking for solutions from outside sources. Become the answer to your own questions.

My favorite thing he says at this panel, I think it’s at this one, everything starts blurring pretty hard from here on out as we approach the singularity of the last panel, maybe he even says it in that one, but it’s the story he tells about his mom taking him to see 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY three times in the theater when it opened back in ’68 and the profound effect it had on him creatively, but what of course really did a number on his eight-year-old psyche was naturally the psychedelic stargate scene that closes out the movie, the first-person POV shot of Dave Bowman actualizing humanity’s evolutionary potential and becoming the Star Child, or whatever you think it means, it’s not like Kubrick in any way makes it explicit, but the second time she took him, he brought along his favorite teddy bear and when it got to the stargate sequence, he hid his eyes but held the bear up to soak up the entire thing as some sort of proxy. The bear is the first stuffed animal he received as a baby and the story goes that he reached out to it and uttered his first syllables “buddhi,” which we all know is the female Sanskrit noun derived from the same root*** as the more common masculine version ending in –a, denoting an aspect of mind higher than rational thought and translated roughly as “intuitive intelligence” or “higher mind.” I would have to call bullshit on just about anyone else claiming those syllables as his or her first word but with Morrison am by now just like, “Of course you named your teddy bear that right before you picked up a red marker and drew the Barbelith circle on your own forehead chakra when you were eleven months old.”                       

Marvel’s former Talent Coordinator Bon Aligmano runs the next panel, leading the entire audience on a collective pitch for a new series based on a character who’s entered the public domain, with Aaron, Burnham, and Williams playing the role of editors. The character is Little Nemo. All kinds of wonderful ideas get thrown around the room, Nemo as an old man confronting death or cancer and dreaming of his childhood or maybe invert the entire original situation and have him badly injured, in a coma and trying to fight his way out of the dream into the real world. I wish we had Brendan McCarthy here to splash some of the images getting kicked around up on the big screen in his one-of-a-kind palette.

We pause for lunch and then Hickman does a panel on how to break in with creator-owned comics, lots of numbers and a few anecdotes that boil down to “be very very good and diversify your output.” Probably the best advice that comes out of it is that if your resources are limited, particularly if you’re a writer who has to pay an artist, it’s much more intelligent to put together four five-page previews of four unique projects across a variety of genres rather than putting all your eggs in one basket and producing a single twenty-page issue. Quadruple your odds of finding a concept that connects.

Next, Sime and Baldock sit down with J.H. Williams III, whose pages look absolutely gorgeous up there on the big screen. The previous day, the guy talked about being intimidated by various other talents in the industry, which is insane because ever since at least DESOLATION JONES was coming out, I was so grateful not to be a sequential artist whose livelihood was dependent upon innovative page composition, because as stirring and inspiring and beautiful as every Williams layout is, it seems like they would make the next white page impossibly difficult to fill with anything even remotely worthwhile. But he walks us through some of his relatively recent work, a couple of pages from the “The Black Glove” arc with Morrison, then on to Batwoman. The labyrinth that she and Wonder Woman make their way through in #12 took four-and-a-half days, an incredibly short amount of time for such masterful work, one that turns out to have completely screwed-up perspective lines that you just can’t discern because the drawing makes you believe in it, not unlike Kirby anatomy. He shows us the artwork he did for the new The Sword album Apochryphon**** and explains that the band threw out his first pitch to put a sword on the cover, a bit on-the-nose, but then how he found a way to slide one in anyway via the shape of the logo combined with all of the elements they wanted. And he’s doing Blondie’s next album cover and designing new costumes for the band, the latter Sime’s idea when he met the band backstage during their recent run through San Francisco.

Quitely’s panel is just him and Morrison sitting on a couch, joking around about any- and everything, just a real relaxed intimate vibe, you can tell they’re dear friends. We get a look inside Quitely’s sketchbook, thumbnails for a series of interconnected short stories called THE BUMHEIDS he’s been working on when not producing pages for Morrison. He’s on Page 24 of 38 of PAX AMERICANA. Someone from the crowd asks what tattoo he should get to commemorate the event. The crowd consensus is Barbelith’s eye but a guy a few questions later opens with suggesting Nanoman and Mini-Miss from FLEX MENTALLO, the founders of a new universe, and Morrison loves this. At some point, the evil joker running the projector throws up this Flickr stream of Olympic 2012 mascots Wenlock & Mandeville juxtaposed with dialogue uttered by INVISIBLES antagonists The Archons of the Outer Church, which really and truly fills me with such panic that I’m very close to running screaming for the hall. The panel runs fifteen minutes long to accommodate all of the people asking questions and then Akira the Don once again leaps up onstage, spilling just a few drops of screwdriver before plopping down next to Morrison. Quitely excuses himself and the pair dive into an in-depth discussion of the Singularity or Eschaton or end of the world as predicted by the Mayans and Hopi Indians and Terrence McKenna, et al, whatever you want to call it. The Don is really quite knowledgeable about the whole thing, seems to have read most of the books that have been published on the subject, even correcting Morrison a time or two. Apparently, McKenna’s original calculations put the date sometime in late October 2012 but then he bumped it back a couple of months upon learning of the Mayan prediction. I have to leave, the last flight out is at 7:35 and I have to work the next day and get to see my little girl first thing in the morning. It tears me up to walk out of there with no definitive conclusion but when 6:00 rolls around, I get up from my seat on the second row with at least a dozen people still lined up to ask questions. I run into Sime on the way out, thank him from the bottom of my heart and give him a handshake that turns into me hugging him as hard as I can.

An hour and a half later, I’m sitting in the back row of the plane, euphoric but battling a slight twist of regret, still floundering for punctuation, some definitive endpoint that I can tag as the conclusion to this transformative experience. I put on “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken” by Camera Obscura because the melancholy ache of the pop is perfect, soothing, exactly encapsulates me at this instant in space and time. I look up and realize that I’m sitting in Aisle 23 and suddenly understand that none of this has to end, ever, I never saw them stop, Morrison and company could be in that hall taking questions and sharing themselves forever, until the end of time or December 22nd, whichever comes last, channeling that enlightening embracing awareness out into the lives of anyone who comes into contact with their work. We can do anything, the only thing standing in the way of actualizing our potential is our own inertia, all we have to do is ignite our own escape velocity. We are all supergods.

* or quite possibly it was “neutrinos,” another example of the kind of poly-dimensional simultaneity flying around all over the place by that point, both versions exist in my head

** this thing with guys looking like Darick Robertson turns out to be a motif throughout the evening, before all is said and done, I wind up bumping into two other false articles with a beard and the same jaunty hat before finally running into the actual individual near the end of the evening, but only by the fourth time, I’m so jaded by the exchange that I perfunctorily ask, “Darick Robertson?” and when he replies in the affirmative, I just nod because it finally had to happen some time and then shamble right on off without another word

*** budh: to awaken, enlighten, to know

**** which means “secret writing,” naturally, released four weeks later on 10.22.12

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


BEST OF WEEK: LOCKE & KEY: ALPHA #1 — Just a staggering amount of Absolutely Holy Shit on almost every page. Really, without exaggerating, at the end of nearly every page, I had to fight the urge to step back and freak out and take a picture and send it to someone and just take a walk for a minute and get it all back together but of course it would have taken hours to make it through if I gave in to that so just had to power through every single damn time. Nothing else this week even came close. The real surprise is that it turns out that this oversized issue is basically the climax to the entire series. Sure, there’s one more issue, but everything that we’ve been building to all this time seems pretty much resolved. Despite seemingly impossible odds, the Locke family (with of course the indispensable last-minute assistance of one Rufus Whedon) has apparently overcome and destroyed Dodge with no in-family casualties. Because I don’t for a minute believe that Bode’s not going to find a way back into his body sometime next issue. I’m particularly surprised that old Uncle Dunk made it, that zoom-in on he and Tyler’s hands letting go of each other on the bottom of Page Four was a serious fake-out, calling back to Tyler and Jordan doing the same thing in #2 of the last volume and in the framing of that single shot, you just knew right away that one or both of them were doomed but that it was certainly the last time they would ever see one another alive. It’s a particularly effective repeat of the trick here with Duncan in light of the reveal of her smashed remains just two pages later. Glad that there was a proper hero’s death for Scot Kavanaugh, at least, I was glad to see that and thought the moment had already passed. But, you know, back to Jordan Gates, though, man, really really rough, she went out with no ceremony whatsoever, what a chilling exit. I really liked her. Didn’t think that it was possible Hill was going to take her out that way at the end of last issue, my mind wouldn’t accept it. That one’s going to mess me up for a little while, I think. And what a beat between Nina and Matuku, that was a hell of a one-two to kick things off with Pages Two and Three, there. Hill giveth and taketh away pretty hard. And of course Gabriel Rodriguez and Jay Fotos continue to bring their alpha-level superstar destruction to every page, every panel. This is that rare finale that brings many threads to a close while managing to feel completely organic and in no way forced, though I had no idea how they were going to pull it off. But obvious in hindsight, all the threads set up. Down to the strange little Erin Voss idea from her head at the end of #1 of the last volume, I was kicking myself this time for not having immediately sussed to what that was. And but I’m really still just in shock that all of the Lockes pulled through. Like I’m nervous, don’t trust it. As far as I can see, it’s problem solved. The good guys won. I’m not even sure what’s left for the next oversized issue besides getting Bode back in his body, though am completely confident that it will be a devastating epilogue. Also, very cool to see the shots from the set of the pilot. It’s a real shame to say goodbye to this one, really so sorry it ever had to end, though completely satisfying in its conclusion.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #14 — Oh, having Laika drop the ominous STAR WARS quote is perfect, topped only by the terribly grim Feynman epigram. It’s funny, Hickman channels JFK to such uncanny perfection, I can really hear every syllable of his dialogue delivered in the man’s Yankee accent. Pitarra continues to evolve and improve at a gradual but steady pace, refining his style and tightening up his linework, always giving the characters room to act, coaxing ever more nuanced performances out of them. Over a year in and this one is still bleeding delicious fun.

PROPHET #39 — Well, of course this is going to be one of the best things ever, a lock for Best of Week if Hill & Rodriguez hadn’t finally showed back up. I had no idea and was thrilled to open up to the title page revealing that this was a Diehard art-jam issue, starring a previously ridiculous supporting character who’s been threatening to steal this book almost since he first turned up. After opening with the 10,241-year-old incarnation of the character playing his flute in the corridors of the Starship Insula Tergum, we flashback to the character as a ten-year-old by a tree at sunset but within six pages, we’re all the way through the twentieth century and the next seven for good measure, into full-on Bolo War insanity on the planet Katella that can only be drawn and colored by James Stokoe, the best surprise of the night. And Badrock, Age 808! Too much fun. And poor Ohomm of The Mog. We only see him for three panels and yet mourn his passing. Such is the power of the montage. I really loved this issue.

THE TRUE LIVES OF THE FABULOUS KILLJOYS #4 — Man, yeah, I just officially don’t care. Which breaks my heart, have been looking forward to this title for so many years. But absolutely cannot invest in any of the characters or the action, it’s all just trite and terrible. A particular shame because Becky Cloonan is still so terrific on art. But she’s getting nothing to work with from the script. I guess it’s Shaun Simon’s fault, or Gerard Way’s from letting him near this book in the first place. There is no reason why a KILLJOYS book by Way & Cloonan shouldn’t be every bit as good as our beloved THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. This book, however, isn’t even close.

KICK-ASS 3 #3 — Eh. The deal with Hit-Girl and the JD is kind of cute, but if this one wasn’t already on the home-stretch, I think I’d be about done with it.

ASTRO CITY #4 — That Ross cover kind of says it all as we split the difference here with a protagonist who has powers but has also been content to rock more of a sideline everyday citizen kind of vibe. The little aside about her wanting to be one of The Doors is perfection, in that single sentiment, she’s a living, breathing character for me. Busiek not only once again comes up with an interesting real-world application of a power (this time, telekinesis) that hasn’t really been used in the funny books but then follows through on the logical extension of that to create an entirely new contingent of characters who are neither hero nor villain. Astro City is such a well realized myriad of characters, you never know who or how many more will show up next.

STAR WARS #9 — The plot inches along. Wood mines interesting territory with the guy who invented the Death Star laser array turning out to be a son of Alderaan. Oh, sweet irony! He still can’t help letting modern-day slang creep into the dialogue, though, with Wedge Antilles dropping a “legit.” How hard is it to screen something like that out? If not the writer, then the editor? Ryan Kelly’s work on this title is once again flawless, likenesses, spaceships, the whole deal.

REVERSE-FLASH #1—Manapul joins Buccellato on scripting duties while Scott Hepburn shows up for a pretty fair impression of the Manapul style that we’ve grown to love and expect on this title. I did think Manapul was on art for this one, guess he’s taking the extra month to polish up #s 24 and 25. Was sure sorry to hear that these guys are leaving this book, but I guess they’re going where their muse is taking them. Story-wise, this issue didn’t really knock me out, filled in a few blanks about Daniel West but nothing too revelatory or that we haven’t all seen before. I know that all the kids are lining up and the lenticular covers are lighting up the sales charts, but from where I’m sitting two weeks in, Villains Month is looking like kind of a bust.

FANTASTIC FOUR #012 — Sebela is back, no sign of Kesel. Also no unbearable tension as we go ahead and get the “literally” out of the way on the bottom of Page Two with the cliché “It’s not where, but when” thrown in for good measure. The dialogue from all characters and every aspect of their interaction is vapid, stale, and formulaic. It is unreal to me the velocity with which this book plummeted from entertaining to just fucking terrible. Such a shame. The Next Issue page promises Kesel really for true next time. We’ll see.

X-MEN #005 — The crossover loses a bit of momentum here as Bendis relinquishes the reins and lets Wood take a whack. David López draws very pretty still-lifes but there’s a dynamism missing from his figures in motion that doesn’t carry over from the damage we’ve had thus far from Immonen, Cho, and their worthy cohorts. This is very much a by-the-numbers Point-B-to-Point-C sort of affair, I should have guessed, the next part of the event takes place in UNCANNY, so where’s the only place Teen Scott and Teen Jean could be headed? This one is certainly not offensive but, yeah, a little bit of a dip from the greatness Bendis has been giving us with this event thus far.

WOLVERINE #009 — This A-list crew turns in another top-drawer issue that doesn’t trade in shock value or cheap storytelling devices, just rock-solid character work and veteran storytelling through sequentials. I mean, it’s not exactly a life-changing piece of work, Logan goes toe-to-toe with Batroc ze Leaper, but it’s nothing but quality, top to bottom. And now Logan and Kitty are flying off to fight Sabretooth and a splinter clan of The Hand. What more could you want?

AVENGERS #19—Hickman & Yu continue to crackle the cosmic as one squad of captive Avengers learn from their captors just how exceptional some of their teammates are and a guy who I think is the dad from the new GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY acts really superior to Cap & Thor, calling them a bunch of backwater apes before totally giving away the secret council’s location and getting everybody almost-on-the-last-page-about-to-be-space-nuked, it looks like. They haven’t “found us,” dick. They tracked the transmission that you voluntarily sent! The one during which you sold out Earth if they would just give your precious system a pass! Who is the backwater ape now, condescending spaceman?