ACTION COMICS #26 — 22 uninterrupted pages of Aaron Kuder is a pretty phenomenal situation. If the idea of Tony S. Daniel or certainly Lobdell scripts was keeping you off ACTION, I am so thrilled to report that there has never been a better time than now to get right back with it. Just pay the four dollars and there are, no lie, twenty-two continuous ad-free nothing-but-gorgeous pages of our boy getting it done. This is my first issue since #19 but I need to go back and pick up #25, a ZERO YEAR tie-in that Pak also wrote. Of note here, they do a really great job with Lana Lang, both on her own and on her relationship with Clark. In just a very few pages, she’s established as someone who can take care of herself in almost any situation and is happy to go all action hero on a giant alien monster. But if she’s outgunned in that situation, she always has her best friend to call in with a whisper. Who she will still scream at when he throws her van at aforementioned monster. Terrific dynamic between those Smallville kids. It should be no great surprise, but I didn’t realize what a deficiency in my life it created, not remaining plugged in to current in-canon developments of the first and greatest superhero, but am so gratified to have him back.
DETECTIVE COMICS #26 — This was a perfectly serviceable done-in-one following up on and potentially resolving the thread about the Langstroms that Layman’s had running through various back-ups since he came on board. Aaron Lopresti fills in on art while Jason Fabok gets some lead time on what’s presumably going to be a hell of a lot of pages for next month’s #27, which, if it isn’t $7.99 and 80 pages nine months after the last time they had an excuse to crank it up that high, I’ll be shocked. This issue didn’t particularly offend me or blow me away, just your garden-variety Man-Bat & Bat-Queen hijinx.
TRILLIUM #5—Again, Jeff Lemire manages an idea that pushes the medium forward in a way that I haven’t seen, staying with the flip-book theme of the first issue but this time cutting each and every page in half and running Nika’s story across the top in the regular direction and then turning us around and sending us from the back to the front of the book upside down across the bottom of the page. That would be enough, but of course Lemire isn’t content to rest there but then goes ahead and lines up panels across the page from one story to another, some layouts, a couple of compositions, just top-level business. You could say that this issue was a master class in how to arrange flip-books if we’d ever even see anything like this before. One cool way that the difference between time-zones is highlighted is that series regular colorist Jose Villarrubia provides the tones for Nika’s alternate 1921 across the top while Lemire delivers everything except I guess the lettering across the bottom of the page for Spaceman William. Our main characters are once again separated across time and space but the white flash at “the end” of last issue flipped their situations so that now Nika and her cast are in 1921 and William’s in the far future. But they both sense that something’s wrong. What follows is a pair of first-person-narration-heavy stories that do a ton of character work on our leads showing how they react to their different settings. This is an entertaining and necessary comedown from the breakneck pace we got up to in the first half of this series and gives us one last bit of calm with these two people before they presumably find one another again and all hell breaks loose all over the place once again.
VELVET #2—The plot thickens and this really is going to just be one of the best books now for as long as it lasts before they move on and just create something else. Brubaker can’t sit still! But we do right away get reveals into the situation with her secret past, which is so far just what we’d expect, she was an ultra-operative, the best of the best, the main question is still why did she ever get out? Half of the issue is a chase scene with her trashing Roberts and his goons, then Roberts gets all of the case-files that his clearance will allow and then she decides to bail on England. And the first-person narration pretty definitively lets us know that she’s not really the bad guy, so it doesn’t look like Brubaker will be pulling any Roger Ackroyd-type malarkey, I don’t think, which is the first thing probably most folks were looking for.
PROPHET #41 — Badrock vs Troll! Our three-dimensional minds and two-dimensional pages are almost not capable of processing this depth of conflict! The three panels across Pages Seven & Eight are pure thunder. Only Old Man Prophet would respond to such cosmic catastrophe with “FLY TO MEET THEM!” I still can’t believe about Newfather. And then this one just goes all Kirby on the last few pages there, the sense of size and scale cranks way up, almost past my ability to hang with it, three times through and it keeps making my head too light and puffy. Going to really miss this when it goes but these guys have taken us on a hell of a ride every single time out.
THE FOX #2 — Okay, yeah, this is more my speed. It’s interesting that this was Haspiel’s initial take on a first issue and then they decided to rein it in for the actual #1. I guess not everyone wants the madness right out of the gate. But this was more my speed, Lennon-quoting psychedelic hallucinations and all. These panels have just the perfect amount of detail to tell the story as dynamically as possible and get you moving on to the next beat. I am certainly a fan of the more heavily rendered Darrow/Quitely/Burnham school of sequentials but there is a lean and ruthless efficiency here that appeals to me, as well. The back-up with The Shield didn’t knock me out but was a nice extra, as the eighteen-page main feature justified the cover price all on its own. It will be interesting to see if DeMatteis follows up on the left turn at the end there, that everything’s relative and our guy’s just as propanganda-programmed as the godless bastards with whom he’s about to engage in the good old fisticuffs.
CATALYST COMIX #6 — We close out Amazing Grace’s headlining stint in this anthology with what I actually expected to be the climax of the whole deal. It turns out this was all just precursor to the main event. Paul Maybury delivers in a big way on a pages’-long fight scene that would do The King Himself proud, concluding with a manual decapitation inside a volcano, natch. I’m definitely looking to seeing what kind of escalation we’re going to get in the last three chapters of that one. The Agents of Change crank things up with a dance-off and dance moves that are pure bananas and actual severe dance fever, and then Frank Wells is roused from his Lennonesque bed-in to freeze a water-based supervillain before getting the chance to quote some iconic Pacino on the way out. And I have to give respect to the MARLOW BRIGGS ad at the end of the issue, it did such a good job of evoking those old Hostess Pies ads from the seventies that I just assumed it was part of the regular program and not an advertisement at all, solid work.
MARVEL KNIGHTS: SPIDER-MAN #3 — These guys aren’t content just to tell the story of a drugged-up Spider-Man fighting basically his entire rogue’s gallery, they’ve got to push the reader’s accepted definition of what should be possible in a Spider-Man story and might as well go ahead and stretch out what you can get away with in terms of page layout and panel composition, all while making sure that we never lose touch with our protagonist by a first-person Parker anecdote, the word-choice of which naturally plays off and against the on-panel chaos in a way that would do mid-eighties Alan Moore proud. And that’s before we even make it to the symbiotes. I’m not sorry that I picked these singles up because they’re terrific fun to digest on multiple passes one at a time in between issues but this is one of those books where the art is so impressive that every single advertisement is just like such an insult and affront, you want to rip it right out of the issue. It’ll make a hell of a single-shot read in trade, is what I’m trying to say.
INHUMANITY #1 — It takes some balls to just straight up launch another event the week after the last one finishes, but I paid my money so can’t really say they were wrong to do it. But, it FEELS wrong though, right? But the talent is too strong, I had to see what Fraction was going to do with this, especially with Coipel & Martin on hand to make the pictures so pretty. I will say that it was cool to see Fraction’s Hawkeye in the panel with the Avengers during what at some point might turn into a Big Event rather than futzing around Bed-Stuy. What a terrific entrance, I hadn’t actually thought about the overlap with Fraction on both books, but that entrance was so perfect, my only response was, “Oh, it’s you!” So, that was cool. But then, yeah, maybe this should have been a prologue or some such? Because for someone who has actually studied all of these events over the years and professes to love FINAL CRISIS as much as I do, Fraction has produced a pretty lackluster first issue from a narrative standpoint. Of course it’s beautiful to look at. I wasn’t really reading it on the first pass thinking that nothing was happening but then got to the end and realized that, yeah, they pretty much just stood around Karnak’s cell for the entire issue and talked about shit. The big surprise at the end is more going through the motions than anything else, the sacrifice demanded to kick off a crossover such as this to illustrate that Shit Just Got Real! & Nothing Will Ever Be The Same!. I’m going to hang out with this for a little while but am bummed that the quicksilver mind that has been knocking me out all year with HAWKGUY and especially here in the tail end with SEX CRIMINALS didn’t show up with a little bit more krackle to a story starring the creations of arguably the greatest imaginations ever to explode upon a sequential page.
BEST OF THE WEEK: YOUNG AVENGERS #13 — This one right here is the climax in every way that would matter, were this a typical superhero book. And it is chock full of resolution and payoff. Loki, at long last, Tells The Truth. Mother is defeated. Billy & Teddy are most excellently reunited. Kate kicks Noh-Varr to the curb. And Miss America continues to talk all kinds of shit to everyone with the added bonus of being covered in at least three shades of blood for a significant portion of this issue. But, oh! The sadness! I took for granted that that was going to be an ongoing ongoing, had no idea that it was only a single season with an option to renew that the creators chose not to exercise. That is a bit of the old bittersweetness there, as I would certainly love to keep reading this series but also want them to walk away while still kicking ass. And this issue is yet another story that could only exist in this medium with Billy finally achieving demiurge status and tromping all over a tapestry of interlocked McKelvie pages from the past year. The silver lining is that it does free Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson to go back to work on the third season of a book that is near and dear to my heart. Which we’re almost getting a preview of next month, it looks like, the concept of these characters all sitting around not fighting extra-dimensional parasite invaders and just having an actual after-party has me almost ready to scratch my eyes out in all-consuming delight that seems like it would actually be quite unhealthy for me by the time it had run its course. “ATOMIC!”