Wednesday, April 23, 2014


BATMAN #30 — Is it possible that Capullo/Miki/Plascencia managed to crank up the art on this issue? I wouldn’t have thought so, but these pages seem that much more beautiful. Capullo, in particular, what a force. So, it only took a year of real-time for us to learn why this has been called “Zero Year.” Ha ha, NOTHing to do with Frank Miller at all, no sir. Snyder has certainly recast Edward Nygma into a topical and much more formidable villain. It will be interesting to see where he winds up in this arc and how that relates to his present-day status. The simultaneous solution to the crossword puzzle at the end was a pretty forced beat, but I guess as long as you’ve got Batman & Jim shaking hands, life is good.

BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN AND WONDER WOMAN #30 — The Brave & the Bold Hunt for Robin continues! That is a pretty hilarious beat, the way that Bruce defuses the initial conflict with Aleka by doing his best to channel more testosterone than what she’s got pumping out, there. It is interesting for Peter Tomasi to have Bruce incorporate his son’s trademark *tt* on the following page in response to the revelation of Diana’s rebooted origin. Does anyone else always, no matter the context, hear the words “You will be,” in Yoda’s voice? Maybe it’s just me. While on the surface, this is a relatively straightforward tale of Batman trying to get back his dead son’s corpse from the boy’s grandfather, the juxtaposition between the hero and his nemesis’s opposing goals establishes an overall theme of parental regret that does a great deal to augment the aching loss that both the fathers and the reader feel in the absence of their fallen children. And then Tomasi blindsides you at the end with the comparison between the kid and the Neekta creature. Poignant material amidst the fisticuffs on Amazon Island, all of which Gleason/Gray/Kalisz masterfully render.

BATMAN ETERNAL #2 — It wasn’t until picking up this title this week along with the regular Snyder/Capullo series that I realized that “Zero Year” is such a beast, they had to go ahead and create a new series just to get me a Snyder-scripted Batman story that takes place in the here and now. The true test of this series is going to be how well it maintains quality after the creative team gets shaken up and the A-team gets benched, but this second issue has no problem maintaining the strong momentum generated by the fist installment. Jason Fabok continues to tear it up. That is a hell of a spread of the family on Pages Two and Three. Fox Manor made me laugh, is that a new joke? And is Dr. Phosphorous invoking the name of Starfire’s evil sister? Though it’s going to fall flat for newcomers to The New 52, we end with a beat that’s a pretty serious moment for long-time readers, one that is ominous news for our own Selina Kyle. Which is all well and good, but I am ready to move on to the near-future of BATMAN #28, with Harper as sidekick and Stephanie Brown as an on-panel character. Maybe next week!

WONDER WOMAN #30 — That is one hell of a cover by Cliff Chiang. Not to be outdone, Goran Sudžuka & Matthew Wilson bring the absolute justice for the double-page spread on Pages Two and Three. “Hera, it might be best if you left the island,” has got to be the understatement of the issue. Diana makes a shrewd political move during her speech by asking all of the Amazons to become mother to Zeke. And another hell of a last page. Azzarello needs to quit playing around!

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SECOND CYCLE #2 — Serious escalation. Snyder/Albuquerque continue to slam out the action in this new volume at an accelerated pace that is as propulsive as it is gripping. I had a bad feeling about old Calvin just as soon as he showed up. Really digging this, not sure if absence made the heart grow fonder or they used the break to craft a more compelling narrative, but at the end of the day, all I want to say is thank you very much.

THE UNWRITTEN: APOCALYPSE #4 — Nice to see Ryan Kelly pinch-hitting on layouts for half the issue. When Wilson mentions them being in a crisis on Page Five, I was definitely retroactively wishing that there had been red skies on the previous page. Because why not? I dig Lizzie’s foreplay dialogue. To the point, my dear! Page Ten is another tremendous example of Peter Gross pushing form to see what new shapes he can bend his pages into. Tommy definitely makes the right call with the wooden population there, I think. As macabre as it might be. Splinters on the old will are a dealbreaker.  I loved Sue dropping “frumious” as an adjective. But was surprised to feel a strong sense of melancholy when Tommy promises to meet his companions in class later. Which is a neat trick, Carey has done very little character work with the relationship between Tommy and his in-book cohorts, but the archetypes are functioning as an emotional shorthand, both standing on the shoulders of and symbolizing all relationships of this type that we have experienced in other stories, all stories.

MORNING GLORIES #38 — Twenty-eight pages for regular price, SupaEisma continues to deliver the goods to an adoring public that’s still probably not grateful enough. Ike is probably my favorite character of the cast and, leaving out whatever that says about me, it’s of course going to be good news that a little more than half of this issue focuses on him. And isn’t even a flashback! It’s like I hit some sort of Ike-lottery or something. The way Spencer doles out hints and plot-point movement months and months later makes me wonder if he’s got some kind of fractal graph, using numerology to determine certain storytelling beats and reveals, not unlike what David Foster Wallace had going with INFINITE JEST back when. Are we really supposed to believe that this series is going to run for 100 issues and not 108? As for the big surprise reveal at the end, my money is not on reincarnation but this being the appearance of the character before (s)he got shot in the head.

UNCANNY X-MEN #020 — Oh my goodness, this book looks incredible. Six inkers do a pretty excellent job blending in to an amalgamate style. Or maybe Bachalo’s just such a force, he makes it easy on everybody else. This certainly has to be one of the most gorgeous pencil/coloring jobs of the month. Narratively, it’s probably the wrong month for Bendis to speculate about internal corruption within S.H.I.E.L.D., though who knows how far ahead he was working. And you’ve got to appreciate the return of Lubbock’s own Fred J. Dukes to fiend on some MGH and then guard “disco bitch” Alison Blaire. Okay, but wait, at the end, I’m going to have to go back and check the timelines, but is this supposed to be at the end of #018? This feels like at least the third time lately an issue has ended with Cyclops freaking out and suddenly dealing with uncontrollable optic-blast shenanigans. Which I could get used to being a thing, if that’s how we’re going to roll. Everyone starts getting nervous on Page 19, shuffling around, casting concerned glances Scottie’s way, then turn the page and . . .

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


BATMAN ETERNAL #1 — I have been particularly looking forward to this after this writing team’s #28 over on BATMAN. Even though I was most anticipating the time-jumping aspects of the premise that I presume will factor in to a greater extent later on, this issue delivers on every level. Jason Fabok, if anything, has raised his game from his work with Layman over on DETECTIVE. Good looking spreads and panelwork throughout. It seems like they maybe shouldn’t have plastered that two-page spread all over the back of every DC comic last week, it would have been a much greater impact if we hadn’t already all seen it, but it’s still a powerful moment. A strong debut.

ASTRO CITY #11 — It takes a few pages for us to figure out what we’re doing here, though of course it’s no surprise to longtime readers. Our narrator is the personal assistant to The Silver Adept, who seems to be a Zatanna analogue. The line at the bottom of Page Four cracked me up: “Still, this story isn’t about her, not really. It’s about . . .” Well, of COURSE it isn’t about her, that’s never how it works in this book! It’s always the schmoes. That used to drive me insane in the nineties, “Wait wait, no our guy’s flying away, we want to go with him, HIM! Why are we staying with this innocent bystander?” Busiek and Anderson have of course mined that premise for solid gold time and time again. I would love to see an arc or even anthology spinoff of nothing but the anti-premise, stories that only focused on the heroes or villains. Though I suppose that the recent Winged Victory arc had a hero as protagonist as opposed to a usual civilian. Not to disparage how effectively these gentlemen execute the concept. This might be my favorite issue of this latest volume. Immediately engaging and original work throughout.

SAVAGE DRAGON #194 — Larsen once again brings the justice, opening with another five-page flashback scene featuring a double-page splash that is pretty breathtaking. As is the one later in the book when dude throws a building at Our Hero. The focus on Malcolm continues to infuse this series with a new vitality, creating situations and tensions that weren’t possible with his dad as the lead. The overall quality of these issues is so high, I shudder to think of what Larsen is building toward for #200.

KICK-ASS 3 #7 — We get a bit of a surprising plot-twist here as Millar/Romita Jr. accelerate into the homestretch. The page with the Shakespeare head leading to the Hit-poles is truly one for the ages, just terrific material. I have to say, I was surprised at the extent of emotion that I felt during Dave & Mindy’s final conversation. It definitely seems like one or both of them aren’t going to make it, and I’m going to be sorry about that. Particularly if it’s Hit-Girl. Though that’s more due to Chloe Grace Moretz’s thunderous work with the character than anything.

STAR WARS #16 — This one fell a bit flat for me. I don’t feel like Stéphane Créty’s work is quite up to snuff, and this latest arc isn’t moving me that much in general. Bring back Carlos D’Anda and the great sweeping space opera!

EAST OF WEST #11 — Well, yeah. I’ve been saying. Bring back Xiaolian and this thing will get humming right back along again. Hickman is building toward something big here and it seems like he’s only just getting started. This is another one packed so densely with quality material that it felt like an over-sized issue while I was reading it. Next issue’s summit should be fairly monumental. Nick Dragotta continues to turn in jaw-dropping work that is massive in scope and cinematic as hell.

ALL-NEW X-MEN #025—Hard to believe that we’ve already rocketed through twenty-five of these. This is an art-jam issue and Editorial has indeed assembled quite a crew. David Marquez and Justin Ponsor return (at last!) to illustrate a framing sequence of Hank McCoy in bed on a dark and stormy night, feeling bad about inciting the whole premise of this book, which he totally shouldn’t because it’s a wonderful series, but he’s talking to a bald guy in silhouette who, in that first shot in Panel Three, TOTALLY LOOKS LIKE BENDIS. Which really cranked things up for me and made me read this issue totally differently on the first pass. I mean, Bendis goes all meta-Morrison and inserts himself into the narrative. Surely the pissants who moan over the perpetual rat-a-tat-tat of Bendis’s Mamet-derived exchanges of dialogue will be driven insane by this latest wrinkle! Because this entire issue is just those two guys talking about stuff while the cavalcade of artists throws it down. Bruce Timm is a major get all by himself, not even counted being colored by Laura Martin, the perfect choice to illustrate teen Jean in her Marvel Girl years. Though his Dark Phoenix lacks a bit of the ominous, it must be said. I’m a little confused by who draws what page; if you go by the order of the credits (and why wouldn’t you?) then Timm/Martin only do that first Jean page and the second one where she’s all dark and evil on a throne of dudes is by Art Adams. Only it looks just like more Timm and, by definition, nothing like Art Adams. But the next page is certainly Brother David Mack, there’s no getting around that, producing another gorgeous painting of Scott completely losing his shit (which was also Marco Rudy’s last page of UNCANNY #018, now that I think about it; a rough couple of years for Scottie, here lately). And speaking of Skotties, wonderful to have the OZ artist show up to depict Bobby’s powers running amok. Marte Gracia’s only page of the book is coloring Lee Bermejo’s incredible Colossus, quite the stout bit of business, there. Then it looks like Art Adams finally shows up a couple of pages later with the Ka-Zar sequence. I think? But then can’t find what would be J.G. Jones. I don’t know. I dug the sequence of cartoonier strips by indie folks I’ve never heard of, that was a cool way to go. And, of course, wonderful to get Paul Smith back in the fold, if only for a page. Really wish he would sign up to pencil a full issue of interiors. Surely Bendis has a Logan-and-Kitty-return-to-Japan one-shot in him. We all do, yeah? All told, this is an entertaining series of riffage, not really advancing the plot in any concrete way but clearly the calm before whatever storm Bendis has set to crack loose over us and these poor mutants who, I’m starting to doubt are really ever going to be able to fit in and find tolerance living among the humans, you know?

BEST OF WEEK: DAREDEVIL #1.50 — So it’s one-point-fifty, not one-point-five? Even if you’re supposed to drop the zero from the hundredths place? And if this is some sort of fiftieth anniversary spectacular, why didn’t the FF, Spidey, Iron Man, Hulk, X-Men, Avengers, etc get the same treatment? Well, it’s a little bit late to be looking for logic in the manner in which Marvel numbers their issues of late. All right. I have got to confess that I felt a dash of annoyance when I saw this in my Pull. I mean, we juuust relaunched, they finally did the inevitable cover-price markup. It seems much too soon to bust out a milestone anniversary issue like this. Particularly when there’s no precedent, as noted above. But this series has been nothing but quality from Page One, and there’s no reason to expect that to change. So, I paid my five dollars and am so glad that I did. We open with the latest episode from Waid /Rodriguez. Which you can in no way dismiss as “more of the same” because it very well might be better than every single issue from their first volume. The comparison might not be entirely fair because this one’s got a hell of a premise suggested by Wacker on his way out the door: instead of doing the usual retro lookback at times gone by, flash-forward to Matt at Age 50 and tell that story. Waid accepts the challenge and knocks it right out of the park, producing a story that’s not only a “perfect jumping-on point!” but an incredibly compelling glimpse into the future when taken on its own, all while managing the neat trick of dropping all kinds of foreshadowing bombs on events that haven’t even started to develop in the present-day series. Matt becomes mayor right after moving to SF? And hands off the suit to “you-know-who?!” And presumably marries Kristen, the presumed mother-of-his-child and current mayor? Or is it another woman? Before the plane crashes, it almost sounds like Matt’s about to say that he and the mother never would have met if he hadn’t been elected mayor. But then we get a solid adventure and an excellent last beat. Waid continues to excel and Javier Rodriguez turns in another beautiful series of interior pages.

Okay. And so but then, I have a confession. I’ve never read all of Bendis/Maleev’s run. I know, I know, it’s wonderful. It’s where many people fell in love with Bendis. I actually bought #26 when it came out and didn’t think that the last page had enough of a hook to warrant a return. Which shows how discerning I am. I certainly dug the hell out of that first year when I devoured it a couple/three years later (of course, I believe that that was the night that I drove to Dallas by myself to see the Foo Fighters/Red Hot Chili Peppers co-headline a show supporting ONE BY ONE and CALIFORNICATION and then I sat up in my hotel room with a twelve-pack of Lone Star crushing the entire hardcover in a single sitting, so I was definitely already in a really good mood that night, it probably need not be said), but by that time, I was so far behind I never caught up and instead jumped on with Brubaker/Lark, but that was that. So. This second story, I feel like I might be missing something? Some level of continuity? Maybe not. I’m certainly ignorant, have never heard of Stana Morgan. Maybe no one has. It doesn’t matter. Because this piece worked. On every level. Bendis nails the first-person voice. Maleev’s illustrations are, of course, perfect. With no idea of whether or not I’m supposed to already know this person, this story completely succeeds solely on its own merits. Heartbreaking.

And after that serious blast of darkness, the only cure is to veer things back in to the near side of Waid, even goofier nonsense than the first issues of his run as Karl Kesel and his Donald Kaufmanesque twin guide us through a video supposedly filmed in the halcyon days of Mike Murdock when Stan Lee & Gene Colan were apparently dropping the batshit crazy times every single month. All told, this is a very well done anniversary issue that does a tremendous job celebrating only a few aspects of the rich legacy that is the character’s past, the recent present as chronicled by Bendis/Maleev, and then even the present-day team giving us a very enticing glimpse of the near-future and what’s in store for the Man Without Fear in the months to come.

Monday, April 14, 2014


BEST OF WEEK: TRILLIUM #8 — What a stunning finale. I was certainly expecting these boys to land the trick, have been since the first issue, but they really really knocked it out of the park. Even though both of our leads have finally at long last overcome their obstacles and made it to 3797, there is no way that they’re going to get a happy ending, but Jeff Lemire handles this a way that’s seemingly calculated to break our hearts just as hard as possible. In just eight issues, Lemire has crafted a serious and damaging love story for the ages. Every issue has been very entertaining on its own, but this final installment is executed to perfection with a level of craft that takes my breath away and really just ripped me apart. Of course he wasn’t done with the flip-booking, there’s one last trick left to perform before we’re done. The final double-page painting is incredibly moving, dialogue-free art resolving the narrative on a primal level. Which of course takes us back to cave paintings. As much as I love THE ESSEX TRILOGY and SWEET TOOTH and THE UNDERWATER WELDER, this is very probably Lemire’s finest work. Magnificent on every level. Wonderful to have his frequent Jose Villarrubia along for the ride as well. I cannot recommend this highly enough and look forward to owning the collected edition.

ACTION COMICS #30 — All right, this one didn’t knock me out the way those first half a dozen hits of Pak/Kuder did, and I think I can attribute it to both the plot being a bit of a dip from the densely packed previous arc featuring both Lana and Baka along for the ride along with editorial’s refusal to just give Aaron Kuder a fill-in for an entire month and let him get some lead time rather than continuing to alternate his pages with Jed Dougherty’s, because the contrast is starting to be a bit more marked. The foreshortening on the bottom of Page Four might be technically correct but is a terrible stylistic mesh with Kuder’s style which, when it kicks back in on Page Eight, is a terrific relief. But we shouldn’t have this jarring clash. What’s Gene Ha doing? Not drawing that second season of TOP 10, is he? Or Cameron Stewart? Or maybe try to woo Marco Rudy back into the fold? There are plenty of top-drawer guys who can come in and blow it up for twenty pages and let Kuder get ahead with more of his greatness. It’s the greatness this city deserves, dammit.

DETECTIVE COMICS #30 — Well, we all knew that the art was going to be glorious, didn’t we? Unfortunately, I don’t know if the pressure of outdoing their work on the FLASH title pages was too much or the greatness of those pages was becoming too much of a thing all on its own, but Manapul & Buccellato elect to drop the Eisner title pages for this, which is disappointing enough, but combined with the painfully on-the-nose caption on that first two-page spread, we’re off to much more of a limping start, narratively speaking, than I had imagined possible. I am a fan of that beat they hit a few pages later when Elena Aguila mentions Damian reaching those awkward teen years. It’s just a vertical sliver of a panel with no dialogue only taking up an eighth of the page but the look on Bruce’s face carries all the emotional weight just fine. Unfortunately, overall this issue is a jagged collection of scenes that definitely throw some ideas out there and provide plenty of set-up but that don’t cohere into a whole that feels like anything we haven’t seen before. It’s certainly pretty to look at, but these boys did not blow it up here in their first installment to the extent that I was hoping they would.

MOON KNIGHT #002 — What an exceptionally cool opening scene. The first eight pages consist of eight panels per page, each one picking up the action on a separate protagonist with the final one taking a bullet in the head to kick things off. Each character is picked off one page at a time until all are dead. It’s a nifty trick, one of those things that can only work in this medium, and Ellis & Bellaire pull it off with plenty of flair. However, that only leaves twelve pages for our hero to quickly find the sniper and have a brief round with him before the issue comes to an abrupt end. Very well done, but a bit skinny on the narrative side for my three dollars American and ninety-nine cents.

PRETTY DEADLY #5 — Just when the recap can’t ball any harder, we get that ellipsis and “to save the world” to crank it on up into the stratosphere. So good. I didn’t think that DeConnick & Rios had any room to take this any higher, but they find a way here in the final issue of the first arc. This is once again nothing less than a rhapsodic and poetic elevation of the medium itself with both creators digging deep and summoning forth words and art that are as much a fever dream celebration of the ability to create as any kind of linear narrative. I find it difficult to critically analyze this series because I simply don’t want to. In the same way that I never ever want to learn how to play the intro to Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage.” Because I don’t want to understand the magic too well. I strongly suspect that that would spoil it, ruin it. It’s a precious thing that must be cradled and protected. Reading the back half of this issue made me picture David Lynch running down a long long string of an entire evening’s worth of fireworks, thousands and thousands of dollars worth, and he’s laughing kind of quietly to himself and has that mad glee sparkling in his eyes and he has a torch and is lighting them each and every one and then they all go off at once and it is beautiful and spectacular and unforgettable, only when it’s over, all you can remember is the quiet breathless happiness it gave you to see something like that, just to know that it could even be made anywhere by people and but all you can really see when you try to picture it in your memory is just the lingering flashes of all of those great explosions burned into your retinas.

SECRET #7 — Ryan Bodenheim continues to turn in very tight pencils, sharp details and a high quality of rendering. However, Hickman has done pretty much nothing to get me to invest in these people whatsoever. They sit around talking and punctuating badass clauses with italics or emboldening, and every now and again, someone gets all shot to pieces. I guess I’m going to keep picking this up just for the art? For another couple issues, at least?

BLACK SCIENCE #5—They are just cranking these out, aren’t they? We get an interesting perspective from Kadir’s point of view in the opening as to why our protagonist Grant McKay, in fact, sucks. When you read this issue’s title, were you hearing it in Gordon Gano’s voice? I sure was. I suspected our mysterious new antagonist was Mrs. McKay but probably should have seen the actual identity coming. I love that there are onion frequencies. Every time I hear the name Pia, I think about the nice lady who drew sixty issues of Yorick Brown running around with his capuchin and a bunch of ladies. That is one stellar double-page spread at the end, there. Which I thought was the high note we were going to go out on, but then Remender drops the bit in the letters column about Waylon narrating the adventures of them Duke boys being contained in a chip in this comic as part of some devastating twenty-first century immersive multi-media experience. Utterly crushing.

STARLIGHT #2—Millar & Parlov return to prove that the first issue was not a fluke in the masterful economy of its premise presentation. I’ve got to say that HAWKEYE has pretty much ruined me on being that scared of a predatory alien race called the Broteans, though. This issue does exactly what it’s supposed to with nearly ruthless precision, namely move our protagonist out of retirement and into play in our science fiction setting, all while tricking him out with a twelve-year-old spaceboy sidekick and providing all kinds of validation for forty years of everyone telling him that he’s crazy and totally was not a pulp adventure space hero way back when. Parlov continues to burn it down here and Ive Svorcina’s color choices deserve special recognition. Really stellar material here.

Monday, April 7, 2014


BEST OF WEEK: THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE #2 — Daniel has shown up at least a couple of times since SANDMAN #75 took its final bow twenty years ago. I recall him popping up toward the end of Morrison’s JLA run when everything was going insane enough that it was just like, Oh of course there’s the new Sandman, and then we were off to the next hyperdimensional assault with barely a beat to process what was happening. And then seems like he popped up in ENDLESS NIGHTS, I want to say? Somewhere under Gaiman’s pen, and I don’t believe there are any other contenders. At any rate, starting the first page of this issue off with the simple caption “NOW” and having Daniel apologize to Lucien and telling him that it is definitely today sent a serious charge rippling right through me. I only signed up for a prequel and tuning the narrative window in to whatever the latest incarnation is up to in this very moment is a glorious decision. Of course, we’ve got to have Mad Hettie along for the ride. I wonder if Alan Moore can be arsed to read even and only this one DC series to check in on his one-time protégé’s latest (when I saw Gaiman at Comic-Con in ’07, he told a terrific Alan Moore story involving Mad Hettie, and I have never since been able to see the character and not think of him). At any rate, we get eight pages of Daniel and Hettie walking around while she delivers her backstory after all this time, because OF COURSE, and then they unearth some pivotal macguffin that’s surely going to be all kinds of crucial to the main narrative at hand, namely the multiple incarnations of our protagonist that gave J.H. Williams III the chance last issue to prove how many different artistic styles he could cram into a single spread. Gaiman’s dialogue between the various Morpheuses is perfect, of course he would find himself an insufferably arrogant ass. The original Dream has an appropriately terrifying character design. This is the issue in which our premise is delivered. Nothing less than a star has gone mad and all of existence threatens to fold into the imminent void. Naturally, our Dream and the cat Dream pair off to go and save all of Creation, apparently by having what promises to be an emotionally detached conversation with his/their father. The Endless have parents?!? I love how Gaiman just tosses that off in the last panel, there. Kudos to DC for presenting these 24 pages ad-free and then making the ad-space in the back nothing but Buckingham interior pages of DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. That is worth your four dollar bills every single time right there, no problem. Williams continues to prove that absolutely no one could have done a better job at this than him, unflappably knocking out cross-sections of Mad Hettie’s old loony bin, the scene with the aforementioned Dreams, and cross-dimensional encounters involving lunatic stars with aplomb and apparent ease, though it has to be anything but. I hope we don’t have to wait five more months for #3, but as long as it takes, man, as long as it takes.

THE WAKE #7 — We open with a four-page prologue that looks to be the secret origin of Leeward, in all likelihood the last time she laid eyes on her father and first encounters General Marlow, a seemingly even-tempered fellow who uses the pledge of allegiance to terrorize. Sean Murphy once again proves himself a master of character acting through facial expressions (Leeward’s glee at speaking into the CB-radio on Panel Five of the first page is infectious) giving way to sweeping cinematic vistas, in this case Leeward’s father’s airship making ready to depart with his neighbors’ vehicles hovering tethered in the background and the sky inviting escape. Tellingly, the ship is oriented to fly in a right-to-left direction, the opposite of how we read Western comics, which at first glance might be a dicey storytelling decision, but Murphy is such a beast, I figured right away that it was probably because this ship probably wasn’t going anywhere. The back half of this issue is straight oceanic action, an adventurous contrast to the claustrophobic horror that dominated the first half of this series. Scott Snyder, Murphy, and Matt Hollingsworth are once again firing on all cylinders as they bring this one around the bend and gearing up to hit the homestretch.

FABLES #139 — Well, this is an innocuous enough little romp featuring Boy Blue’s Farm band, most of whom we’ve barely spent any time with, but there is of course a pretty serious and ominous undercurrent brought upon by the opening prologue, revealing that this a “small adventure that leads to the final and inevitable destruction of Fabletown.” Harsh, Willingham! I suppose that’s one way to kick off your final year. Steve Leialoha returns to full art duties for this two-part arc with illustrations that are just as resplendent as ever.

WRAITH #4 — Well, if “Scissors for the Drifter” doesn’t sound like just the most horrifying game ever, wait until you see a round of it. Goodness day! One character comes to a predictable but nonetheless gory end while our convict and cop log in some character time up at the top of the Ferris wheel, or “simp-hoister” (and didn’t that lingo make me oh so terribly miss our dearly departed CARNIVALE). The last page does not paint a rosy future for our protagonist but I am confident that Christmasland will not settle for her caretaker to meet such an ignominious end!

FATALE #21 — Ha! I like how there’s no more time for lingering mysteries. Our hero asks a question and we get the answer in a flashback on the very next page. Brubaker/Phillips/Breitweiser are certainly circling the wagons, here. Quality abounds, as ever. Can’t believe there are only four more issues of this left. I wish Brubaker (or Nevins!) had time to crank out a big old essay about TRUE DETECTIVE before all here is said and done. Yes, an annotated Jess Nevins blast through TRUE DETECTIVE’s formative influences would be just fine, thank you.

SATELLITE SAM #7 — I dig the melody we get on the treble staff. Everybody getting skunked at lunch is priceless and all, but I feel like that could have been played up for another couple of pages. Don’t just scratch the surface of the funny drunk people, Fraction! Chaykin continues to excel without any color. And a hell of a revelation here on the last page that escalates our narrative quite nicely.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #19 — We come full-circle with a requiem for the major character who got shot in the head at the end of last issue. Ryan Browne returns to deliver another stellar performance. Hickman’s captions are as insane and alien as ever, careening us through the no-time of the mind of the recently departed and spending the entire issue adding serious weight and import to last issue’s cliffhanger before advancing the narrative forward nothing more than a single page but leaving us all breathless for more. Glorious barking madness here, people!

AVENGERS #027 — And the Hickman insanity continues in parallel as our main crew continues to battle parallel versions of themselves before getting absolutely creamed by the boys from Advanced Idea Mechanics. I’m not crazy about the style that Sal Larocca’s settled into here, and it isn’t well served by Frank Martin’s coloring, a bland palette that does nothing to increase the illusion of depth on the page. I’m certainly still invested in the story but am probably ready for the next batter up on art, here.

NEW AVENGERS #016.NOW — This is a really cool move from editorial. In order to tell the story of yet another group of Illuminati operating on one of the infinite permutations of good old Earth-616, the crew at Marvel imports a talent from across the street. Rags Morales, renowned for providing interiors for the Brad Meltzer’s (in)famous tonally foundational mini-series IDENTITY CRISIS and, more recently, Morrison’s run on ACTION COMICS makes his Marvel comics debut in this issue. The reason that he’s such a perfect choice is that the team from the parallel universe that’s the focus of this issue is basically a Justice League analogue. So, they just went and got one of DC’s best guys and had him do his thing. “Archetypes of J.U.S.T.I.C.E.,” indeed! Hickman’s doing an interesting thing with T’Challa and Namor here, seeming to inject a bit of grudging respect into their relationship that’s until now been about as acrimonious as possible and just shy of a blood-feud, at least on Namor’s part. And you would never expect that from him. But it feels right. The nods to continuity and archetypes from both companies (“The Anti-Heroic Age” is a funny one) work together to not only highlight the differences in house styles between the two publishers but tell a story that’s engaging all on its own. This is still a very slow build and I understand the criticism that we’ve been too bogged down lately in our heroes basically doing research and watching a bunch of awful stuff happen to alternate versions of themselves who don’t necessarily matter, but permutations like this are helping the concept remain compelling to me.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #019 — Well, after killing every single Marvel character except Thor and Odin and blowing up the Earth last issue, Rick Remender definitely earned my $3.99 to see what he would do for an encore. And it’s the ALL-NEW UNCANNY AVENGERS OF APOCALYPSE! Not that Apocalypse is in this issue at all, but we basically have an Age-of-Apocalypse-type alternate Earth with Bearded Magneto as the tyrannical dictator and Havok & Wasp as the pretty sweet mutant power couple as our protagonists. Remender was definitely having Jan lob some none-too-subtle hints in Alex’s direction as all the shit was breaking down here these last few months, but it’s still a bit jarring to see them in full effect here in this alternate reality. The writing sells it almost immediately, though, they have terrific chemistry. Daniel Acuña returns with more world-spanning art on an even greater scale than the massive business he was turning in last time he was in the building. I’m still impressed that this book should be nothing but a punchline and it continues to be thunderous tremendous stuff.

SILVER SURFER #001 — Norrin Radd might be the quintessential example of the situation in which a comic book character is without a doubt rocking a killer character design and has been beloved by many fans for years and years as a supporting character but then just cannot hold down a series as the lead for any amount of time (Dr. Strange, Dr. Fate, and J’onn J’onnz are other examples of this that immediately spring to mind). One could make a case that Starlin/Lim’s run on the character in the early nineties is the exception that proves the rule, but it would probably help if one happened to be thirteen years old and discovering the character for the first time just then (and if one had a poster of Perez’s cover of THE INFINITY GAUNTLET #1 hung up in his bedroom, so much the better). All of which to say, the sheer number of volumes and mini-series featuring the Surfer are testament to the fact that he’s a tough nut to crack for any sustainable length of time. But courage, this latest iteration from Dan Slott and Mike & Laura Allred comes out swinging and looks like it might have what it takes to go the distance. And the solution is pretty ingenious. When it was first announced, we all knew that it was going to look amazing. The Allreds on this title are a no-brainer to knock it out of the park. The Kirby dynamism is there in full force and the colors pop in a way that seems timeless, not just the best that Photoshop CS6 can provide. This is never in greater evidence than the two-page splash of The Impericon at the center of the book. I mean, my God. But the great joy and real surprise is to be found in Slott’s approach. And of course, this is merely extrapolation from only the first issue but it looks like the antidote to the protagonist’s emotional distance (or vacuum, even), which has always made him hard for both readers and creators to dial into, is to ground him with a fully realized human companion, a character with whom the readers can empathize, someone whose wonder we can share while being confronted with all of these impossible unfathomable cosmic sights. In short, Slott straight up plugs in the DOCTOR WHO formula to this book and it’s already working like a charm. We’ve got twin sisters, one of whom has absolute wanderlust and roams the globe while the other is convinced that their home is the greatest place ever and she never wants to leave. So, of course, the thing to do is strand the latter in a distant corner of deep space as motivation for our lead character to save. I strongly suspect that before all is said and done, Miss Dawn will have gained a healthy respect and love of sights and sounds not immediately within range of the home that she has known for her entire life thus far. This book has been the source of great anticipation since its announcement and it delivers on every level, a terrific addition to the canon of Marvel books that are creator-based single-title events-unto-themselves including DAREDEVIL and HAWKEYE. Come soar the spaceways with Norrin and Dawn, but hang on!

And speaking of . . .

HAWKEYE #018 — Annie Wu returns to chronicle the latest in the L.A. adventures of Kate Bishop, which turns out to be the secret origin of Cat Food Guy. I love these stories just as much as the Aja-drawn installments with Clint. It has been such a cool thing the way that this book split into two essentially two different series while maintaining such a high level of quality. It seems like our two leads are going to converge sooner than later, but we need #019 to hurry up and come out in order to learn how well one of them can talk since he’s been shot in the head.