Friday, October 11, 2013


ALL-NEW X-MEN #17 — Now that is the real-life slam-bang accept-no-substitutes unfiltered goodness. Right from the first three pages, there. I knew knew knew it was all going to go so horribly wrong, but man, as soon as Future Hank shed a tear out there in front of the Capitol, I was right there with him. What a damn campaign it must have been that we didn’t even get to see a panel of. And Handlebar-stach Piotr seeing his little snowflake, man, that broke me down even worse. I almost take them for granted, these merry mutants, but I picked up my first issue of UNCANNY in the summer of 1988 when I was eleven years old, which certainly seemed at the time like the perfect age to check in to the mansion at 1407 Graymalkin Lane. The issue on the rack that day was #236 and I got #231 too because I liked the Leonardi cover but by the time #239 hit the stands and it was time to ignite Inferno, I was pretty much up to speed with the situation, had completely absorbed #155 on and also hit The Dark Phoenix Saga in trade (the first time that happened, I guess) and via the CLASSIC X-MEN reprints also spewing forth at the time was pretty well all caught up there within the first twelve weeks of that first Genosha arc. All of which to say, I grew up with these people. I love them. They are family to me. Long before my first beer, I dreamed of sneaking off to Harry’s for a pint or two with Logan and Kurt just for the comradery, the conversation. As much as I toe-crinklingly adored Morrison’s run and the ASTONISHING Whedon/Cassadayness that followed, Bendis’s run right here is the closest I’ve felt to them since that first white-hot pubescent blast.

MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN #1 — Well, I had very high hopes for this, have been a fan of Kindt since he took over FRANKENSTEIN… from Lemire and maintained the quality, had to go back and check out REVOLVER and MIND MGMT, which are both excellent, and have been a fan of Brother Rudy since he was over on Lemire’s rebooted-before-its-time SUPERBOY and then kicking all kinds of ass during the first year and a half of this latest volume of SWAMP THING. And the boys, they did not disappoint! From the first page, this feels very much like classic Marvel Knights, which is to say the off-kilter 616 equivalent of Vertigo, which is in no way a dig, I believe that is a very good thing. Right away, both the narrative voice and art are spot-on for Peter but simultaneously evoking that same kind of underlying sinister tone that Morrison had going with Jae Lee on the FF: 1234 deal or the aforementioned did with Jenkins on that killer INHUMANS series. They hit the gas right away with these pages. The level of depth and detail on that close-up of Peter on Page Three are not to be believed. And Rudy has managed to both refine and escalate the quality of his innovative layouts, one of the only guys in the industry who seems to be not only processing the insanity that J.H. Williams III brings to his panel arrangement but actually running with it and trying to push it forward. And I’m glad I took a moment on Page Three to slow and down and really appreciate the quality of what was going down there because after that, basically everything goes insane. They hit the gas on this issue in more ways then one. The little girl robot blows up, Peter gets dosed and since he’s our narrator, we basically have as little idea what’s actually going on right now as he does. He keeps saying that he’s dropping frames, which is a clever way for Kindt to translate the fact that Rudy is no longer giving us linear consecutive panels, the gutters are miiiiiiiiles long, and the effect upon the reader is perfectly identical to that upon Peter, we just get beat up every single direction backwards and forwards (even the lettering goes backwards for a page), things happen out of sequence, it’s an entire damn mess. A glorious one. Hard to believe that through all of this rabid madness, we actually get the set-up for the series. I presume they have some plan to escalate this next issue but don’t see how?

CATALYST COMIX #4 — I am late to the party but have jammed this entire run and am now entirely caught up. Joe Casey has done a terribly cool thing here, this is an anthology featuring three different serials that take turns headlining, with the one in front getting fourteen pages and the other two seven pages each. 28 pages with a single ad and a letter-column for $2.99. You can’t afford NOT to buy this thing. The first headliner was “The Ballad of Frank Wells,” which scans as kind of an existentialist Zen riff that at least starts out in GØDLAND territory, though it’s clearly headed somewhere all its own. Dan McDaid provides suitably crackling art. Then Austin’s own Paul Maybury takes up the torch to present the adventures of a teen super-heroine named Amazing Grace, who it looks like is in the process of getting seduced by an extra-dimensional charmer called Mr. Seaver, though she seems to be turning it around on him here in this latest issue. “Amazing Grace” takes the headlining slot with this issue (and I assume for the next two) and I’m looking forward to seeing her story have twice the room to develop, this one is my favorite of the batch. But we also have “Agents of Change,” which features a super-team that’s been reunited but all they’ve done so far is go to group therapy and get blasted at a club, only it turns out they’re rocking a MATRIX-or-really-JOHN-BYRNE’S-NEXT-MEN-type virtual-reality situation. That one’s really been a slow burn so far but I have a feeling it’s going to blow up once it moves to the headliner slot. Ulises Farinas on art. But then Brad Simpson is coloring everything and really does a good job giving each story its own palette but really making them all feel unified, which seems like it would be a hard thing to do. And Rus Wooton is lettering the whole deal and manages not to toss in those italicized phrases that are so obtrusive over on the Hickman books, so I guess we can blame him for those. If you are one of those who complains that there is nothing new under the sun and the Big Two are incapable of producing superhero comics that set your heart a-racing, you should give this book a shot, there’s really nothing like it on the rack and quite a lot of story for your three American dollars.

MORNING GLORIES #32 — Aw, a Vanessa issue. I’ve got to say, I am almost almost getting wise to this book, when she was talking to the person on the other side of the wall, was thinking, “Well, I really wish that we could hear this person’s voice. If it’s a woman, it’s probably either Casey in disguise or Future Vanessa. If it’s a dude, got to be Future Hunter.” And the instruction site. Our august commentator lumps that right in with the tower and the cave, at this point, I’m okay if Hurley shows up. It would be a hell of a cliffhanger. He can be saying “Dude . . .” in the last panel on the penultimate page and then you turn the page and there’s Hugo. I would just completely break down if that happened.

TRILLIUM #3 — Man, a very efficient but nonetheless brutal little slice of backstory to open up, there. They pack just the right amount into only six panels. And we’re back to a flip for the past sequences. Flashes of manga, turning the pages from left to right. “Sorry, but I need your raygun,” is the line of dialogue to beat tonight. Elegant in its simplicity! Nika needs the raygun to kill that door at 78%-charge. And now everyone’s in the mix. Big brother Clayton makes it to the future and it looks like those three heavy glide bombers follow Nika back to the past. And next issue is the end of the universe. This continues to be one of the very best stories currently on the rack, just wonderful business all around. Lemire & Villarrubia ride again!

DETECTIVE COMICS #24 — That cover is like an old-school STAR WARS level of excitement-generating. I suppose, now that I mention it, the only way to possibly crank it up is to have them dueling with lightsabers. Layman/Fabok/Blond do nothing more than continue their run of greatness, bringing the arc with the Wrath to a conclusion of sorts while once again setting the next deal up right away, it looks like it’s probably Man-Bat’s turn in the rotation. I like how the epilogue of this one parallels the Emperor Penguin story, highlighting what happens when Batman wins, his antagonists are only beaten insofar as their current plan but they go right back to their cell in Arkham and start hatching their next dastardly scheme. A bittersweet announcement about the creative team, I have really enjoyed Manapul/Buccellato’s work on FLASH and am certainly onboard to see what they do here (and not just to see how many incredible ways they can Eisner the title sequence into the Gotham skyline). But man, would really love for this current team to hang out for another couple of years, this has been a terribly strong run all around.

FOREVER EVIL #2 — Man. I’m not sure that having Luthor inner-monologue a quote on survival of the fittest by some obscure novelist named David E. Smalley is the way to make him come across as smarter. Unless the plot of his 1929 novel STUMBLING is some sort of foreshadowing clue? “…his mystery/suspense novel that was probably the inspiration of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE a generation later- about a vicious murderer, surgically altered to become a brilliant surgeon and philanthropist. And the complications that ensue.” That would be pretty nifty subtextual work if the end of that’s a clue to the end of the series, I have to say. And Otis! I can hear Ned Beatty now. “Mistah Luthor.” Raven needs to figure out that “an evil Justice League” is not a figurative term and does not require the “literally” qualifier. I swear to God. Like last issue, the art is lovingly hyper-rendered, it looks like it took three months to draw this thing, Finch is a beast and Friend and Oback complement his lines to tremendous effect, but if Johns can’t deliver characters that I can invest in taking party in a story that I care about, well, it’s not even worth quoting Faulkner over.

BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN: BLACK AND WHITE #2 — I’m honestly such a fan of this concept, it’s going to take something pretty special to knock it out of the top spot every week it comes out, critical bias confessed. This time out, we open with a tale by Co-Publisher Dan Didio and insanely talented photorealistic renderer J.G. Jones that looks like it’s Man-Bat saving his kids from a molesting worker at the foster home where they’re living. Narrated by the little girl. Pretty grim stuff, top drawer craftsmanship. Then we get a hell of a tale written and drawn by Brazilian phenom Rafael Grampá featuring the Joker talking some real creepy folks into robbing Wayne Manor by way of a very well written monologue about circles and patterns that is heavy on the symbolism. Killer twist at the end but the real star is of course Grampá on eight pages of Batman interior sequentials. Rafael Albuquerque of AMERICAN VAMPIRE fame steps up to the writer/artist plate next and delivers a solid romp through Purgatory for our dark knight that has another twist ending. These artists and their twists! The next one I’m not so sure about. Jeff Lemire predictably knocks his script out of the park but legendary Filipino illustrator Alex Nino makes the decision or didn’t have time to ink the pages. Maybe he thought gray markers would do the job for a gang of the shading but whether the effect is intentional or not, the end result looks to these eyes like pages that are sorely in need of finishing. And the story deserves more than that. Hellacious linework throughout, it must be said. Finally, the perfect headliner, long-time Hollywood Bat-producer Michael Uslan and Dave Bullock throw down a silent movie starring The Bat-Man, complete with the celluloid reels on either side of the page and title cards for the spoken dialogue. Bullock’s time spent making all those great cartoons is put to tremendous use here, this looks pretty much like screen shots from a silent black and white forties equivalent of the Timm/Dini animated series. And just when it seems like the thing’s possibly more style than substance and there’s maybe nothing wrong with that, Uslan pulls a knife on you in the end. Strong strong material. Forty pages, five dollars, no ads, and it’s all For Archie Goodwin. What is there not to adore about this series?

Thursday, October 3, 2013


FIRST BORN #23.2 — Aaahh, you could swear those oracle girls were in 100 BULLETS. Too bad they couldn’t rope in Risso for the single-month hit with his old partner. Of course, Azzarello nails the voice for the prophecy, the girls speaking in street-lingo. He’s always been so great at that. Probably it’s just because WONDER WOMAN is regularly one of the best books of The New 52, but more than any other title I read this Villain’s Month, this issue did more heavy lifting to expand the back-story and provide new insight into its given protagonist’s motivations while simultaneously advancing the overall narrative of the main title and whetting the reader’s appetite for what happens next. Fine work, all around.

BANE #23.4 — Very cool to get Graham Nolan in the mix on this one, the most spot-on creative assignment I saw from DC this month. Break the Rivera! Surprising no one, Tomasi hits a unified tone on characterization throughout. “Touch me again and YOU will die.” It is never a good sign when the interim warden at Arkham is straight-up quoting Dante Hicks. I hope Kevin Smith read that. Just like last week, I don’t care one little bit about the mini-series that this leads into, but this was a well-crafted done-in-one.

THE WAKE #4 — And the hits just don’t stop coming, this might be the best art on this series yet. I have to say that this is a pretty bleak situation, though, plot-wise. I really don’t see how this ever-diminishing crew of survivors has four more issues left in them. Snyder, as ever, is a deft hand at balancing character moments with all of the screaming horror crashing in on all sides. This remains one of the best books on the rack and will surely go down with TRILLIUM as the two best mini-series of the year.

THE UNWRITTEN #53 — These guys continue to throw down one of the best FABLES arcs in recent memory that just happens to involve Tommy Taylor and his friends. Oh, but all anyone wants to do is talk about story this, story that, I’m pretty much looking for some Gaiman ex Machina to amble in, blink his sleepy eyes, and make it all better. “Words MATTER, Mr. Pullman!” Again, though, the question of FABLES continuity rears its ugly head. This has got to be like a parallel situation going on, right? It doesn’t seem like some of the momentous events happening in this arc are really going to count in the main title. And of course, I’m wild for all that krackle on the last page, there. As if I even had to tell you.

JUPITER’S LEGACY #3 — So damn good to get Quitely on interiors. We must never take such things for granted. This is some grade-A evil-ass Millar shit right here, though, man. Garth Ennis taught that boy how to hate thum superherahs! It looks like these first three issues were just the pilot episode set-up, we’re now off on the premise implied by the title. Of course, Millar’s got to spoil next issue’s time-jump in the editorial page. Beautiful damn art, though, kudos to Peter Doherty for hanging with the greatness all around, colors, letters, and design.

SAGA #14 — Okay, that panel with Oswald D. Heist immediately sussing to the fact that they GOT his novel was a pretty cool moment. Hahah, and then Alana follows it up two panels later with a double “literally” that I don’t think actually qualifies as abuse of the proper usage but, man, just so sick of that word now. This one moves things along well enough. I’m still digging more on The Will/Gwendolyn/Sophie unit than our main characters, though Heist and Granny’s sit-down resonated pretty well for me.

BEST OF WEEK: SEX CRIMINALS #1 — I fell immediately and right in love with this to an arguably terrible extent, pretty much red-line all the way to how I felt about the first issues of CASANOVA or THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY, which, let’s all first just pause and breathe out that the stranglehold tyranny of Gabriel Ba has at last come to a once-and-for-all end, I mean, that guy. But the first-person voice of this, Fraction ratchets all the dials up and delivers so hard. I take back every single shred of my bitching about him bailing out on the double-FF run. If the choice is he either finish those out all the way or that now we get SATELLITE SAM and this concurrently, it’s not even a question. From the first page, which happens to be located on the inside cover, this is an engaging, challenging, and exhilarating piece of work so wholly original that it reinvigorates and reminds me why I show up every Wednesday ten times before the book is halfway done. This is the first time that I can see Fraction’s oft-professed love for Los Bros Hernandez not only actualized but blooming into something uniquely beautiful unto itself. Zdarsky’s art is both stunning and perfectly suited to the task at hand. I feel like I should make some kind of Andy Kaufman joke now about him, just because that’s how he apparently rolls and I love him for it, but maybe that’s what took me most by surprise about this, I only know the guy from like that horrific re-lettering deal he did on the 1986 Spider-Man/Power Pack child-safety/molestation ad and the campaign for Toronto mayor, so when I heard this was the team, I kind of just expected some of the pages to be drawn in feces? Maybe a Jackson Pollock sort of glory? All in context, but this tight kind of Team Phonogram McKelvie/Wilson thing really took me by surprise and totally seduced me into a sex criminal lifestyle of my own. If they would only have me! But, seriously, folks. This is one to lay down before your significant other, your parents, your boss at work who has trouble making eye contact, this is the bridge that must be built between the mainstream consumer of Joss Whedon’s MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS and the funny book in your hand, a modern-day twenty-first teen century’s SANDMAN or Y THE LAST MAN, if you will. Just so poignant a voice you ache for it, is mainly what I’ve been trying to say. Oh, and the time-stopping orgasms. Buy this book and you, too, can have one.

EAST OF WEST #6 — All right, this is a new character I can get behind. Of course, I am a sucker for a science-fiction Ranger. Nick Dragotta improbably manages to ratchet the art up a few levels past what we’ve seen thus far, a pretty serious escape scene, here. Cool, too, to see an entire issue carried along without the strength of our two strongest characters thus far, Death & Xiaolian. The emphasis on the dialogue communicated through italicizing is really getting under my skin, though, I have to say, don’t know if it’s Hickman or Rus Wooton’s idea but I wish whoever it is would knock it off and respect me enough to let the stressed phrases fall naturally, that business really takes me out of the story and it’s happening all over the place, multiple times per page.

FATALE #17 — As a child of the nineties, I am still digging hard on this hard-rockin’ bank-robbin’ arc. That Jane/Jo is bad news, there is certainly no getting around that. Not much more to say than that, this team continues to absolutely crush it, Brubaker/Phillips’s hundred-odd issues together really show and Mrs. Breitweiser’s tones continue to provide a perfect complement to the entire affair. I was positive that Brubaker was going to be talking about Walter White on the editorial page but pleasantly surprised that his only other recommendation was PACIFIC RIM. That’s the first time I’ve batted 1.000 since he started passing out suggested material.

FF #12  — Well all right, to the surprise of no one, it turns out to be much better to welcome another Allred into the fold than some random guy from Portland. The Doom dialogue, in particular, is spot-on. And who can resist Adolf the Impossible Boy’s falling in love with old FF issues? Though why Mik (or Korr??) didn’t dig as far back as Kirby is certainly beyond me. The one serious bump here is the deal with Darla and Scott’s kiss getting interrupted because she spilled coffee on his leg. Of course that would freak a fella out, she has no business getting upset about that. A strange terribly ill-conceived little bit that didn’t make any sense to me at all.  The page of Adolf & Luna watching shojo anime was pretty great.

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #36 — Well, it’s looking like this crossover should have just been confined to the Bendis titles. I’m a huge fan of this series but read it in trade, so I’m not quite caught up yet. That is not a problem, as the contents of this issue are a direct continuation of the story so far and the only thing that distinguishes this particular chapter is a single-panel gag with Broo. But the script and art are not up to the lofty heights that Bendis and his collaborators have set on past chapters. Giuseppe Camuncoli is a perfectly serviceable artist but the dynamic composition and finely rendered detail and linework isn’t even close to what we’ve seen thus far. And the colors aren’t even close. And this script is nowhere as good as everything else I’ve read in previous issues this title. Let Jason Aaron write his book and tell his story, and let Bendis drop his bombs over on his other books four times a month. At least this title stands to get a sales bump from the crossover, I guess is the silver lining.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #012 — Remender welcomes Sal Larocca to the fold as the business continues to unfold with the Apocalypse twins. Between the multi-front madness unfolding in INFINITY and the BATTLE OF THE ATOM, maybe I’m just suffering from 616 epic event overload, but this arc isn’t crushing me quite as badly as it was a few months ago. Solidly constructed, just not blowing me away. Good for poor old pacifist Simon, though, it’s nice to see someone finally catch a break.

YOUNG AVENGERS #10 — That is one grisly opening. Mother devoured our narrative caption and implicitly our narrator! None are safe. We take a break from the ensemble at large this issue and divide the issue into Loki vs Mother in a game of questions that reveals little but just enough and then Leah takes Teddy to a magic circle of crazy stalkers who have been wronged by our Young Avengers. McKelvie/Norton/Wilson’s art remains beautiful but content-wise, this issue is kind of spinning its wheels a bit, relative to what we’ve come to expect from this title.

AVENGERS #20 — The cosmic madness continues to unfold! The rack Yu saddles Natasha with on Page Four of actual new content is ridiculous and too much by half, any superspy worth her salt would absolutely have to get that business reduced in order to be in any way effective in combat, zero-gravity or otherwise. Okay, and ha, Mentor’s “IF YOU WISH IT” is totally that same italicized Hickman emphasis thing that happens in EAST OF WEST and THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS but goes down just fine the single time here. I don’t recall seeing David Curiel’s name before now, but his digital coloring really pops, particularly on the female faces and that one page of Ex Nihilo and Abyss soaring through all the celestial swirl. It looks like we’re about halfway through this event and Hickman has managed to maintain the entertainment level thus far, interested to see what he’ll do to escalate the situation here in the second half.