BATMAN AND TWO-FACE #24 — The aspect of the New 52 reboot that I’ve enjoyed least is the way certain crucial bits of continuity in stories released during my formative reading years have been tossed out. As much as Snyder/Capullo and crew kill it over on ZERO YEAR, I’m still not great with every panel of YEAR ONE not actually having happened to the in-canon version of the character swinging around in the suit every issue. That said, Tomasi/Gleason/Gray drop in here with a retcon origin for Two-Face that not only absolutely works in its own right as straight exposition but immediately sets the stage for a compelling present-day story. Erin McKillen is a merciless worthy antagonist and addition to the Gotham crime family who I hope will stay in circulation for some time to come. Of course, this is a two-parter.
The huge deal that almost knocked me unconscious, though, is that single page of Alfred trying to fill in Damian and Talia’s graves. I really and truly believed that no one was ever going to pick up the gauntlet that Morrison threw down at the end of his run. Really, I almost hoped no one actually would run with it because I just about don’t trust anybody to hit the bar as high as it’s been set, but of course these guys were doing it side-by-side with INCORPORATED month by month, so it’s very exciting to have it set up that as soon as we’re done with the current situation, there’s potential follow-up to all of that insanity on the horizon. With Carrie Kelly still waiting in the wings, no less. These guys continue producing one of the best books on the rack every damn month.
BATMAN ’66 #4 — This is more great go-go camp fun from the land of daylight caped crusaders, dastardly villains, and commissioners without facial hair. I don’t really have any critical analysis for it past the fact that all parties are doing a fantastic job reviving the vibrations of a televisual sensation that premiered almost half a century ago.
BATMAN/SUPERMAN #4 — Pak levels it out a bit on the script as this opening arc winds up. It was solid enough but I’m not sure that I ever synched up with the disjunctive tonal alignment between Lee’s art and the content. I guess that’s why there aren’t a lot of Vertigo Superman mini-series.
BATWOMAN #24 — I was kind of bummed reading this, knowing that the writing team is about to leave, but thought that they had at least one more issue. No? That last panel punched me in the gut. The Zero Year issue is the replacement team’s first shot, yeah? THIS is how J.H. Williams’s run on Batwoman ends? That’s not, I mean, I just can’t no no nuuuuh
WONDER WOMAN #24 — Goran Sudzuka is first at-bat here as we head into Diana’s inaugural arc as God of War. And but why not Goddess of War? Is that like now some kind of retroactively sexist thing like with secretaries and stewardesses? Nothing here but the opening moves of what’s sure to be a year’s worth of sparring. Azzarello has definitely done a fine job heightening the stakes and setting up a dynamic that could make the third year of this title its best yet.
ANIMAL MAN #24 — To no great surprise, Rafael Albuquerque rolls in and absolutely blows it up, a terrific stylistic fit for this title. From Travel Foreman to Steve Pugh with a side of Francis Portela pinch-hitting, this book has really benefitted from top artistic talent across the board. And Lemire’s got the plot humming right along with the bad guys holding the Oscars ransom for Buddy to show up. The writer shows tremendous restraint in a page-turn slice of dialogue, the King of Limbs to Brother Blood saying, “There will be death, there will be rebirth . . .” because I have to tell you that I was turning the page expecting just to see Daniel Day-Lewis in straight-up Daniel Plainview mode. It seems like a bit of a jump for Buddy’s mother-in-law to suddenly be thanking God for her daughter’s reconciliation but I guess losing a grandchild, potentially both grandchildren, will do that to you. My main gripe is that I wish Albuquerque would stop signing every page that he’s really proud of. That’s what the credits box is for. Yes, you kicked ass on that splash, but probably the dominant element that draws my eye on initial glance to it shouldn’t be your signature in all that negative space. Even once an issue, I totally get, but we’ve got three signatures in twenty pages. I’m starting to feel bad for the other seventeen, they were all pretty good, too.
FABLES #134 — The tone of Bigby’s narration is really evocative of that first-person business Claremont used to sling around all over the place on his much beloved UNCANNY run. I like how Blue returns to tell us that he’s never returning. I hope “The Vast Shitstorm Awaits” is the title of Volume 20 or what not. Of course, the writing and art is so consistently great that this entire issue being pretty much a conversation between these two guys about death, the afterlife, and the meaning of life is both very interesting and pitch-perfect in terms of characterization. I tell you what, though, those last two pages snuck up on me and just about broke me down, tragic tragic shit.
MORNING GLORIES #33 — Oooohhhh, they flipped it again! How many Bad Twin revelations can one continuity withstand? Spencer/Eisma aren’t going to let up until we all find out.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #21 — This spooky story resolves just in time for Halloween. Glad to see that there’s only one arc yet, it does feel like this one’s time is about up.
UNCANNY X-MEN #013 — The business going down! Bendis hits the gas, giving us two warring teams of future X-Men to pair up with our own present-tense divided house of mansion and island. The glory of Gracia coloring Bachalo/Townsend can’t be overstated, really beautiful panels here, throughout. A bit light on the patented Bendis characterization, as the shit is hitting the fan too consistently throughout, but how many times does the poor guy ever get to hear that? Definitely ramped up to see how this is going to close out, hoping that Aaron and crew will keep the quality high next week.
FANTASTIC FOUR #013 — All right, this is much much better. As predicted, Kesel levels the situation out into something past the point of bearable as we’re thrown into an initially confusing parallel dimension take on the FF revealing that Allred’s Old-Man One-Eye Johnny Storm who’s been hanging out mainly over in the other title isn’t even from the 616. Bagley’s art feels a bit too cartoonish and rushed-looking for me this time out, but I can’t overemphasize how much better this was for me than the previous two issues. A bit of a limp cliffhanger, though, that really just made me want this whole thing to be done. Pretty soon, now.
AVENGERS #21 — It’s a really cool thing that they named that Shi’ar battleship Lilandra. And but Ronan just doesn’t care! No Supreme Intelligence will talk him out of the bloodbath that is his by right. Then, once again, Hickman delivers strong montage narration that’s a perfect tonal fit for the grandeur and scope of what the art conveys. But it all comes back to that old Annihilus. I really dig how Gladiator takes the foreground in that one panel with the old die-as-I-lived trope and meanwhile Steve and Carol are just staring into one another’s eyes and we don’t need a word or, God forbid, thought-bubble to know what’s going on there, terrific restraint and a hell of a beat. And then some serious advancement on the Captain Universe front, casting into doubt how much story there’s even going to be left to tell for the remainder of the event. Which is always how you want to feel in something like this, the very opposite of padding.
NEW AVENGERS #11 — The Builder thread finally overlaps into what’s been going on in this book since the beginning as our cast is invited to play tourist with a group of Builders from yet another parallel universe. Which, the mind boggles, I mean, with this precedent, there’s no reason not to just keep introducing nigh-infinite groups of Builders. But surely that’s not going to go down, what a clusterfuck. There’s more than enough going on, though, as this group of alternate Builders takes the premise of this series’ first arc and escalates it up past the outer rim of the galaxy. Massive doings afoot, it feels like really this might the one time that Everything actually Changes. Really! It does!
BEST OF WEEK: HAWKEYE #013 — Always more than worth the wait. Fraction/Aja/Hollingsworth manage to squeeze in several hyper-compressed little vignettes that are all memorable in their own right, the two pages with Kate Bishop being probably my favorites. As ever. This one’s all over the place, a Clint-centric that runs in and out of several fragments we’ve already seen and places Grills’s murder and funeral in the proper sequence with and context of Barney’s appearance and Kate’s exit (which was a total drag, those two pages, I at first thought she was already back and we’d just see the make-up talk another time). Now, we’re all caught up and presumably ready to rocket forth with some kind of main narrative some time. Or just more drinking and grilling and hanging out with the lucky best pizza dog in the whole world. It will be a hell of a thing, whatever form it takes.