ACTION COMICS #31 — I was a bit ambivalent about this going in because I hate it when multi-title events come in and derail books I’m really digging already, particularly when I don’t read the other books in the crossover. And I usually hate it when they bring back Doomsday, that actually immediately derailed Paul Cornell & Pete Woods’s greatness over there in the homestretch of this title’s first volume. On the other hand, I have been loving the Pak/Kuder action up until now. What we have here is an interesting take. I’ve already missed the great brawl in the one-shot that featured our guy embracing his New 52 Johns gory side and just straight tearing his antagonist apart, which I’m glad to skip, but here in the aftermath, he seems to be infected with the fella. I like that play on it. And it’s terrific to get Cameron Stewart in on a few pages. You know what, though? If he’s already done with his MULTIVERSITY pages, I would love to get him on this title alternating with Kuder, Stewart has the A-list talent that this title merits and doesn’t come off as much like a pinch-hitter the way Rafe Sandoval does in these pages. Every single page should be glorious, whether or not Brother Kuder is dropping the justice. Content-wise, it’s funny to hear Lois call Lana a True Believer. Can she say that? And it’s almost bizarre to have Gen. Lane and Irons refer to continuity from the Morrison/Morales run. I know that it’s the same title, but that really feels like a pocket of continuity that exists in its own bubble. No one can hang with it! All of that said, will be glad to see this all blown over next month and back to hopefully twenty pages by Kuder.
FUTURE’S END #2 — The best issue yet, focusing on Ollie’s funeral. It’s a really good thing I started watching ARROW, because bits like the Moira Queen Shelter for Homeless Youth or the appearance of “the mysterious Mr. Diggle” would have flown right by without me caring. Ha, now I’m even questioning Roy Harper’s on-panel appearance. Shouldn’t he have more of a chin and pouty scowl and be much more (almost freakishly) hairless? That shit is wrong. And where’s Thea?!? At any rate, Lemire pens an excellent eulogy for Ollie delivered via his old teammate Buddy Baker, Mister Terrific remains terrific (“Watch me trend” is a horrifying line that made me wince while also feeling awfully awfully true), and Firestorm straight melts down already. This New-52-Five-Years-Later Ronnie Raymond is a dick!
BATMAN ETERNAL #5 — Trevor McCarthy shows up to draw an occult-skewing tale that brings in Jim Corrigan and the Gentleman Ghost. And the Joker’s Daughter, about whom I give less than two shits. She doesn’t sink the issue all on her own, but this is the first one that feels like it’s coasting to me. Hopefully, we’ll ratchet it back up next week when we check in with some of the folks who were on the bench this week out.
FABLES #140 — The opening tag on last month’s Part 1 had the tension ratcheted up to a ridiculous level on what would otherwise have seemed like an enjoyable but for the most part throwaway filler arc. How would this motley crew of musicians stumble upon the inciting incident that would destroy Fabletown? Would it be an ancient curse? Unlocking an evil older than Mr. Dark or even Pinocchio’s father? Or the Mirror on the Wall? The reveal in the final panel is as elegant a piece of storytelling as anything that Bill Willingham has executed in eleven years of crafting these tales for us and already has me all misty at the thought of not having this series as a regular part of my life. Ten more months.
WRAITH #6 — Here we come to the grisly end of the arc that this series has been serving up since the second issue. There are grisly shenanigans and scissors-for-the-drifter a’plenty tempered by just enough hope and light in the form of those Delirium-101 balloons to give our protagonists a fighting chance. Wilson cranks it up on art for this finale. The double-page splash of the labyrinth is a serious blast of cartooning that can hang with any of the all-time greats. I wonder if he took any inspiration from JHWIII over on BATWOMAN #15. By issue’s end, I was surprised to find that Hill’s deft and very economical character work amidst all of this horror had snuck up on me to the point that I almost got broken up during Llewellyn & Agnes’s farewell. Strong work throughout, this series has turned out to be every bit as good as I hoped and expected it to be. Looking for an extra slice of devastation next month from the epilogue.
STARLIGHT #3 — A more regular rhythm has to kick in here as the creators have already set the stage, moved the characters into place, and it’s time to really get on with telling the story proper. The Kingfisher is established as a viable and serious threat. Gloves imbuing limited telekinetic abilities never seemed so horrifying. The centerpiece of the issue is a good old action fracas in the town square in which Duke proves that he’s still got what it takes but then there’s the punctuation mark of him now being an old guy who can get hit by a car just like anybody else. And we’ve got a jailbreak to look forward to next issue, as well as getting to know what looks to be a very strong female protagonist. Millar & Parlov still have their eye on the prize.
STAR WARS #17 — Well, this is more like it. This book was floundering a bit here in the past couple of months, but Wood pulls it together and hits the tone and plot beats a bit closer to how hard he had it rocking here in the first year of this series. Of COURSE there isn’t going to be a wedding and a gang of Star Destroyers have just jumped into the system from hyperspace. I dig how the cover copy is straight up addressing Luke, which lends a very old school feel to the proceedings. Glad to get this one back on track for however long the license lasts before reverting to Marvel.
ASTRO CITY #12 — Busiek delivers another fully realized character with the Ned Carroway, a dapper clotheshorse who can’t resist his wolflike tendencies to commit crimes and scheme his way up the social strata. “Newcomer” Graham Nolan delivers solid storytelling with every page, a perfect choice to fill in for series regular Brent Anderson. The beats of this story fall in both surprising and predictable places over the course of the issue but are always delivered with the master craftsmanship we have come to expect from this book over the years. And how about Alex Ross once again taking a single panel and blowing it up into a truly iconic image? We’re getting spoiled with this title as a regular monthly book, faithful ones.
ALL-NEW X-MEN #027 — This is another installment of The Really Serious Shit that escalates matters in Bendis’s mega-run quite definitively. Anyone who complains that all the man knows how to do is decompression and call-and-response quasi-Mamet dialogue needs to have a copy of this one right here jammed down their throat, because while the man writes yet another tense invasion of Cyclops’s repurposed Weapon X facility packed full of wonderful character supercollisions (my favorite was Teen Jean’s bit about now understanding how annoying it is that the original X-Men are there and Emma’s response), we also get nine pages of flash-forwards that give Lindelof and crew on their best day a run for their money. Three scenes and every one climaxing in an eyebrow-raising Holy Shit! moment. And, of course, the art. I just hope that Immonen/Von Grawbadger/Gracia will please all stay on board until Bendis types THE END, be that at #050, #100, whenever it happens.
FANTASTIC FOUR #004 — More good fun to be found here as Robinson/Kirk dedicate the entire issue to pretty much an issue-long slugfest that would have done The King proud while also giving Johnny something to do besides mope around. For a couple of pages anyway! Bonus points for bringing in 3/4 of the Fraction/Allred alternate crew, I know Medusa is all wrapped up elsewhere trying to build the corporate brand, but it’s nice to see Scott, Darla, and Jen anyway.
NEW AVENGERS #018 — Valerio Schiti fills in for Morales and does a beautiful job throughout with a style that skews a bit more anime and generally cartoony and is a very good fit for this issue. It’s so lovely when the random people you never heard of also kick ass. The bulk of this issue is dedicated to a council of dead Black Panthers giving T’Challa advice and a bit of shit near the end for not already stone-cold murdering his teammate/nemesis Namor. All of that drinking and laughing last issue was just for show! I fall for it every time. We jump to Hank more fully indoctrinating Banner into the circle of trust and then Tony has it out with the Black Swan, even allowing the lady to get in a zinger by slow-pitching her the line about lies of omission. But it all boils down to this being the 616 side of what’s been going on during the past two issues with all of the DC analogues over on Earth-4-million-something-something-something. This issue does a very effective job of ratcheting up the tension before finally crashing in to the first incursion during which our heroes are going to have to make the Horrible Choice that’s been looming since #double-oh-one.
AVENGERS #29—This takes place after ORIGINAL SIN #2, though it came out a week ahead of time. Silly Marvel publication schedule! A significant portion of this is dedicated to Yu redrawing the climax of the first arc of Hickman’s NEW AVENGERS. Which is still totally worth it, as it leads to the memory blocks that Strange cast in Steve’s mind finally breaking down, which gives way to a hell of a confrontation that does more in a single scene than Millar managed to accomplish in seven full issues of CIVIL WAR in terms of Rogers vs Stark. The full extent of the resolution of this single fracas has only begun to be explored but it’s a very interesting final page that has got me hoping that they keep slamming these things out every couple of weeks like they seem to enjoy doing.