Tuesday, June 24, 2014

6/11/14

FOREVER MAN AND THE INFINITY PEOPLE #1 — Didio/Giffen’s O.M.A.C. was one of my favorite books when The New 52 first unfolded, so I was naturally thrilled to hear that the team was returning with another “krackling Kirby creation,” this time from the Fourth World mythos, which, incomplete as they were, I still feel like it’s not too controversial to dub The King’s “magnum opus masterpiece.” So, Didio & Giffen are charged with bringing the concept into current DC continuity and shaving off any little bits that are not as, shall we say, timeless as the majority of the material, which means that we’re just calling the guy Vykin now instead of Vykin the Black, Serafin gets a genderbender so that there’s more than one girl in the group, and for some reason Beautiful Dreamer’s name gets inverted and she resembles Helena Bonham Carter. The first two, at least, are solid calls; I don’t have much of an opinion about the latter. But once these boys get to it, they do a great job introducing the characters, supercolliding them off one another initially, and establishing the new status quo in Venice Beach. All the beats pop along just the way you want them to. Of course, Giffen knocks the Kirby art out of the park, as is his wont. It’s really interesting to look at the way that he and Scioli and Larsen have extended the legacy in their own stylistic ways with Giffen taking probably the most direct old school approach and producing pages that really do seem like they could have been drawn by The King himself, or at least Son of The King. For the most part, he goes with the traditional six-panel grid when laying out panels, alternating with occasional 2 x 2’s. This is a strong beginning that still leaves plenty of cards left to turn over, most prominently the fact that the title character does not appear within this issue, which I’ve seen some people bitch about online (as is THEIR wont). I’m all right with it, no reason to jam him in there if the time is not right. And from the looks of the cover, maybe his absence is a good thing. The kids look mostly terrified running away from him. Mark Moonrider is losing his shit about as badly as that fella in the foreground of ACTION COMICS #1, even, so maybe old Infinity Man showing up is the last thing that we actually want. Time will tell.

FUTURE’S END #6 — More good fun from all parties. I cared less about the Terry plot this issue for whatever reason. Possibly because he was getting outflanked by Mr. Trending. I would buy an entire weekly series of just Frankenstein and Amethyst and Ray Palmer fighting criminals in the Phantom Zone, particularly if they were micronized for the duration. Folding Palmer into S.H.A.D.E. was some clever business. And of course Madison has prior dealings with Lois. And it’s actually testament to how engaging the series has been up until now that I haven’t even questioned where a major player like the one who appears here even is. Maybe 52 just conditioned me to accept non-Trinity leads without inquiry. An interesting wrinkle, nevertheless. As much as folks seem to love BATMAN ETERNAL, I think I like this one just a little bit better, still.

BATMAN ETERNAL #10 — Man, does Riccardo Burchielli bring the thunder in this one. Just that opening splash alone. Professor Pyg is as horrifying as ever. I could have used a bit more nuanced characterization with Julia Pennyworth but there’s certainly still time. I can’t believe there have already been ten of these things. It’s apparent here with the kicker at the end that the writers are in total control, they’ve just been messing with us up until now, entertaining but not taking us too far, but now we’re through the whole deal with the Roman and it’s maybe time to start telling the story. I really do kind of wish they would show us Jim Gordon not getting raped in prison every single issue, though. Just because it’s been a few issues now and there’s that whole thing Hitchcock said about the most effective horror being kept off-screen in the imagination and what not.

DETECTIVE COMICS #32 — These guys are finding their groove now. I dig it being kind of the Harvey “Catman” Bullock show. Now that I’m not expecting the Eisner titles, I can just about fully appreciate the double-page credits splashes for what they are, badass pieces of art. I can’t believe the angle between Bruce and the newly orphaned daredevil girl wasn’t apparent to me immediately. They both have no mommies! Really can’t overstate how slamming the art is on this throughout, there are several page-turns that just leave you staring for minutes.

BEST OF WEEK: WRAITH #7 — Joe Hill is one of my favorite writers. When he’s on, he’s firing as hard as anybody in the business. And it doesn’t look like he knows how to shut it off these past few years. His second novel HORNS was leaps and bounds better than his solid debut, but NOS4A2 took it to another level and can stand with the greatest novels that horror has to offer. I approached this mini-series with the least amount of trepidation only because Hill was coming off the white-hot glory of LOCKE & KEY, one of my favorite series ever and, for the first time, wasn’t going to be working with the brilliant Gabriel Rodriguez on art. As much as I dug THE STUFF OF LEGEND, I was nervous that Charles Paul Wilson III might just barely not be able to hang with all the thunder that Hill has been slinging. These fears were utterly misplaced as Wilson knocked his pages out of the park every single time out with Jay Fotos on hand to color everything to perfection. Having already told the secret origin of one Charles Talent Manx III in the first issue and followed that with a five-issue romp through Christmasland, I was very interested to see what sort of epilogue was in store for the final issue of this series. The boys drop the thunder with a second-person prose tale with several illustrations per page that tells the story of the cursed boy grifter who, quite unintentionally, sets in motion the chain of events that lead to the creation of Christmasland. In only twenty pages, Hill’s narrative voice, riddled with arcane jargon from early twentieth century grifter-speak, hammers the reader repeatedly, pulling us unflinchingly into Tommy’s world and generating a real and immediate emotional investment. Despite his lawless ways and unrepentant con artistry, we are rooting for him even while watching him tumble toward his inevitable doom. Hill and Wilson succeed in making the reader care about and feel sympathy for a huckster and a cad who never really seems to make the conscious decision to do bad things but only plays the cruel hand that life deals him as well as he can. But what a ride. If you missed this the first time out, go read NOS4A2 first and then come back for the collected edition. It will cut your heart out just a little bit, in the best of all possible ways.

STAR WARS #19 — Of course we need the opening three-page scene with Vader & Palpatine after missing out on their perspective for the last little bit. Leia showing up on her wedding day with a blaster is the next great and perfect thing. And then the fucking ion cannons. The only way to crank that development up is a jump to hyperspace. Which is the only beat I take exception with, the whole creative crew here pretty much nails everything, but that last page should have been tweaked or extended back into the previous page for the last panel, something to convey the majesty and try harder to roughly translate the greatness of the iconic hyperspace jump, we need at least three or really four beats and only got #s 2 and four to get serious about trying to sequentially translate the iconic glory of the fleet jumping to hyperspace. That half-second of the reader having to figure it out, “Oh, this page is the jump to hyperspace,” is everything, it should be immediate and breathless from the first glance.

STARLIGHT #4 — More good fun here. It’s a jetpack jailbreak courtesy of Tilda Starr, who leads McQueen and the gang to a secret forest base on the other side of the planet where the resistance is headquartered. Like you do. Parlov continues to absolutely knock the art out of the park. The page where Duke gets his sword back is my favorite. I have a bad feeling about the way things are going to go down next issue. Haven’t heard, but it seems like we’re about pacing out for a six-issue run here, at least of the first volume, assuming this isn’t one-and-done. It’s kind of fun not knowing in this digital age.

ASTRO CITY #13 — I think this is my favorite one of the new volume. How wonderful that this isn’t the first time I’ve said that. As great as Graham Nolan was filling in last time out, you just can’t beat Brent Anderson and Kurt Busiek firing on all cylinders. We’ve got a single-day fractured timeline a la Tarantino or ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #10, which leads to a couple of cool surprises that wouldn’t have happened if this was told in linear order. I thought we were going to get more Jack-in-the-Box, but Busiek pulls a feint and takes him right out of play, which is fine because the Gundog plot turns out to be my favorite of all the things that are popping throughout this issue. That Dancing Master business was a very interesting way to throw out some truly ominous breadcrumbs about the Hanged Man. This is consistently one of the very best books on the rack, and one year later, I still can’t get over the fact that it’s just coming out like clockwork now. What a wonderful world.

ALL-NEW X-MEN #028 — Man. You think they can’t crank it up and then there goes yet another coming-attractions-chalkboard (that I’m starting to really love that Bendis just straight lifted from 52/Geoff Johns, the sheer audacity) anchoring a serious damn opening five-page scene. The Xavier kid makes a pretty solid case for the validity of his motivations over that kickass days-of-future-past-again double-page splash. Future Deadpool’s refusal to say “I understand” is lovely. Is this the first time that Cyclops’s place has been captioned The Secret Xavier School? Because that’s working for me. I have to say, there near the end when Jean was like, “Scott, kill me,” and then Lil’ Future Xavier was like, “Kill her, Scott,” and then there were a few more panels of things heading that way capped off by the villain’s smile, I was really really pulling for a final page of Scott just LETTING LOOSE WITH THE OPTIC BLASTS, that deal that’s become just about a motif here, lately. I would have been so happy with it. Alas. Huh, though. That last scene. It really is strange/unfortunate how Bendis seems to have just dialed right in to the plot of the latest Singer-directed cinematic endeavor. Great kicker, though, this being the second round of future evil bad guys that we’ve been watching this issue. Does this even make sense to anyone else who’s read this issue? Certainly not if you haven’t, I fully understand.


NEW AVENGERS #019 — Hickman is really firing now. I see that this Valerio Schiti fellow is one of the new Young Guns, so it looks like he’ll hopefully be around for a while. Which is terrific news, he is dropping the business. We are now roaring toward the culmination of everything that’s been building since the first issue of this title. Hickman devoted enough time to setting up the other DC-analogue world of Earth-4,290,001 that it’s a truly monumental moment when that world’s super-society finally comes face to face with our 616 Illuminati. Of course, the Superman guy is all smiles and open palms at first while right out of the gate the Batman guy is like, Nope. And it has to be Namor throwing the first punch. This whole thing roars along at a masterfully paced clip perfectly timed to detonate on the last page. “I certainly hope we don’t have to wait another four weeks for this $3.99 twenty-page Marvel comic,” is a thought I would be shocked at having formed only a couple of years ago. Tremendous work, all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

6/04/14

TINY TITANS: RETURN TO THE TREEHOUSE #1 — In a world that sees Mitchell Hurwitz get all the gang back together eight years later for arguably the best season of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT or that just suddenly has Jack Bauer clock back in for a ninth day four years after we’ve last laid eyes on him, it should come as no surprise for Baltazar/Franco to resurrect the title that made them a household name (at least in this house). This is the first comic book that my little girl ever loved when she was just a two-year-old baby girl and so obviously, if you’re looking for like a really objective scathing critical analysis, I’m probably not going to be able to do it for you. But this is more of the good fun we’ve come to expect from the 53 issues of this title’s first volume or in the all-too-short single-year run of SUPERMAN FAMILY ADVENTURES. Terra’s still pegging Beast Boy with rocks every chance she gets, Raven’s got a new cute haircut, and Braniac 5 & Psimon turn up to steal the Treehouse. Throw in a couple of cameos by Swamp Thing and Metamorpho and a new Bat-Treehouse constructed by Alfred Pennyworth himself and we are right back in the middle of it. And there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

ACTION COMICS #32 — Scott Kolins shows up with solid fill-in work but before we even get started, can I just say how horrifying the COMEDY BANG! BANG! ad is with Scott and Reggie in the leotards? I can’t unsee it and want to so badly. And then it just kept happening like it always does, every DC book I’d open up and there it would be again, cutting open the wound before it had even fifteen minutes to heal up or scar over. But this Superman comic book here, the story clips along well enough. Our guy should not have inhaled all of those Doomsday spores because they’re turning him into the guy. Which, yeah. I perhaps should have checked out that initial issue but I don’t see how the knee-jerk reaction when your antagonist turns into a cloud of dust like that is to just do ALL THE LINES of that bad guy. That shit goes right into your bloodstream, Kal! It’s going to have an effect. This is maybe when that Smallville upbringing left you just a little bit on the sheltered side to be making all of these on-the-fly calls. Drugs are bad, Kal. Snorting the bad guy all the way up is so much worse. Will be glad to get Kuder back next month.

FUTURE’S END #5 — Ah, there they are again, Scott & Reggie! Make it stop. So, Mister “Watch Me Trend” Terrific is only a douchebag now in this future? Or is he also one in the current New 52? I haven’t read anything with him since JSA folded. Not a fan of this guy, though. But good news to have O.M.A.C. back. I love that all my favorite cancelled books’ protagonists can just come hang out in the middle of all this, the more the merrier. And Constantine! And crop symbols! Whyever not? It seems like they’re just picking random plot beats out of a hat with this thing, but they’re holding it together well enough so far. Jesus Merino turns in killer pages this issue, just like you’d expect him to.

BATMAN ETERNAL #9 — Of course, Batman can’t come to Tokyo without running into Jiro and Kanaria. Man, I love that bit of Morrison mythology, nice to see folks playing in the same sandbox. Great to get Guillem March here blowing it up once more. And an interesting wrinkle with Alfred there at the end. Two months in and this one’s still quality.

THE WAKE #9 — Well, it is certainly all going down now, isn’t it? Snyder/Murphy/Hollingsworth pull out all the stops here for the penultimate issue of one of the strongest mini-series of 2013 or 2014. It’s probably just because this book was next in my queue, but I when they made it to the tomb and Leeward put her hand on the moon and then said, “What the…,” I was really pulling for old Marc Spector to come roaring up out from behind that wall on the page-turn. And that is a hell of a double-page splash reveal to kick it into Chapter 3 of this issue, all of the aerial and naval action, pretty stunning business. I’m the leeeeast bit unclear what happened at the end there, Leeward said it was all bogus about the call and then told her dolphin-buddy, “Good boy,” a couple of mers grabbed her and pulled her down . . . and then she was suddenly in some sort of iridescent light universe with our old friend Lee Archer? I feel like I’m missing something. Maybe all will be made clear next month. Snyder’s done fine work keeping this series clipping along at a breakneck pace while finagling in economical little character moments but, man, you cannot overstate how incredible the art on this book is and what a massive role it has in selling the narrative. Every page really is a beauty. And what’s even going on with those white-hot greens there on the last page? Just glorious.

BEST OF WEEK: MOON KNIGHT #004 — Oh, for the taste of a sweet Odinburger melting in my mouth! And it is nice to have a bit of the old Ellis quasi-science, those bits that sound just technical enough to just maybe be true but are usually nothing more than Uncle Warren devouring all the latest abstracts on bleeding-edge tech and New Scientist headlines or whatever grinder-type futurist insanity all of that is racing toward and then spitting it back at us in a way that’s barely almost plausible. Uncle is fortunate to have found such worthy collaborators in Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire, it’s all perfectly lovely sequential for the first little bit but then everything goes mental for the dream sequence. Really beautiful work throughout. I mean, really, just the choices Bellaire makes on those first two pages of Spector falling into the dreamworld are stunning. And then you turn the page and the bottom drops out. I have heard some people complaining about the decompressed pace of this series, how it takes less than five minutes to read an issue, everything’s done-in-one, there’s no palpable character development, etc, and I can see those points as being valid, but that’s obviously not what they’re going for here. The creators appear to be inviting us along for the ride, to hop directly into our protagonist’s mindset and have it be relayed to us through direct point-of-view rather than the first-person narrative captions that are more often found in this genre. The result is a title that’s as much an art artifact as a fragment of serial narrative fiction. A story where maybe it’s not so important that it has a profound and sweeping beginning, middle, and end but that is instead something you can just submerge yourself in and swim around for a little while to experience the way that this particular fellow filters the world. I am really sorry to learn that this team is jumping ship after #6 but it is a very cool bit of business that they’ve thrown together here while it lasts.

ORIGINAL SIN #3 — All right, business is now definitely steaming up just a bit. The Orb’s truth bomb is one of the better across-the-board high concepts to come out of one of these Big Events in years. Simple but with a terrific amount of elasticity for any creative team who’s in the mood to pick up and grab some serious mileage with it. Aaron doesn’t do much more than tease a few things here; I’m hoping we get more into depth with the ramifications actually in these pages. I’m thinking we’ve got the inciting incident for Waid’s upcoming THOR VS HULK mini, though. Deodato/Martin continue to absolutely burn it down on sequentials, A-game all the way. And, man! That twist at the end is certainly something that I did not see coming. It’s going to be pretty hard to put that particular genie back in the bottle! Unless they go the LMD route, which is such a trope by now, it would be a pretty cheap way to cheat out of an otherwise terrific cliffhanger.

Friday, June 6, 2014

5/28/14

BATMAN #31 — I believe that I’ve gone on a bit previously about how I found this ZERO YEAR a bit of a slow burn initially but one that’s reaping serious payoff here as we head into the homestretch with it. Capullo/Miki/Plascencia somehow manage to keep improving the caliber of their work so that a simple page of The Riddler monologuing and berating Gotham citizenry is suddenly one of the most gorgeous things you’ve ever laid eyes upon. Who knew Eddie Nygma was such a badass in the days before there was a Batmobile? Speaking of wheeled transport, that is one hell of a page-turn onto the no dialogue shot of Batman jumping over the crowd on the motorcycle. Some business just sells itself! Snyder goes on to craft a very tense action set-piece masterfully executed by the art crew in which our hero has got to keep the bad guy talking for nineteen minutes through escalating dangerous circumstances that results in a pretty iconic scene overall. I just hope these guys have got a lot of stories to tell when we finally make it back to the present, because it’s going to be rough going on this title without every single member of this creative crew involved.

FUTURE’S END #4 — This is as much Frankenstein as I need in my life! Really glad about this plot, particular when they’re dropping in Ray Palmer and The Phantom Zone. This can never be a bad thing. The writers also do a great job of establishing that Madison Payne as a pretty intelligent individual right off the bat, her third panel tells you all you need to know about Gotham. Just don’t do it!

BATMAN ETERNAL #8 — This one is really going for it, Guillem March is not letting anyone down. And you knew the signal was a trap, but that’s still just the worst thing. Of course, Forbes is disgusting to al of us. Once again, interesting enough shenanigans unfolding throughout, but then they leave us in a place that has me looking forward to what’s about to unfold next week, the very definition of getting the sequential job done.

BEST OF WEEK: TREES #1 — Well damn, that is how you do it. Terrific opening sequence, throw us into the middle of the situation and then torch our apparent protagonists one by one with death rays and alien waste as they run for their doomed lives. The remainder of the issue is spent meeting our actual protagonists who presumably won’t all be murdered by faceless anonymous aliens, at least until Uncle Warren has had a proper chance to make us invested in their lives and daily struggles. There’s the mayoral candidate from Lower Manhattan, the young artist from the Chinese village who just moved in next to the hermaphrodite (transgender?), and the cranky research team getting to the bottom of things on the somewhat frosty Svalbard archipelago in Norway. What really puts this over the top, though, is the stunning level of cartooning from artist Jason Howard. I’m familiar with him from his work with Kirkman on the first few issues of ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN and SUPER DINOSAUR, but he has really upped his game for this. His body language retains that sense of dynamism and color palette is intelligently chosen, but what’s really cranked up from him are the backgrounds, the expansive cityscapes rendered in greater detail from what I’ve previously seen from him. Which is important in a comic with a premise that hinges on these eponymous massive unknowable columns of alien origin. This is a very strong opening, but these gentlemen are just getting started and will in all likelihood quicken our hearts and minds to an even greater extent next time out.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #2 — Now we are getting down to it! The debut of Coach Boss! Who has to be one of the best named antagonists ever. I dig the way Jason Latour depicts him on the cover, very much rocking that shorts-tucked-in high-school-coach vibe that always brings to mind the guys from DAZED AND CONFUSED. But yeah, what we have here is more of the goodness we’ve already come to expect from #1, Earl Tubb finishes packing up and makes the fateful decision not to just drive the hell out of town immediately and we all know that he’ll never make it now or if he does, it will be at the end of a bloody mess of killing and just about being killed himself, instead decides to do what everybody else does on Friday night and go watch the Runnin’ Rebs whup some ass, which is the issue’s centerpiece. Latour drops some serious justice in depicting Craw County’s pride and joy tearing it up on those poor Wildcats before someone who should have been murdered in the woods staggers back in to ruin it for everyone. And that old tree doesn’t last quite as long as I thought it would. But now Earl’s got a big stick. These boys are surely building something great, and you would do well to pay attention now.

FANTASTIC FOUR #005 — Well, this is a pretty cool deal, right here. It’s one of those artjam issues that they look to put out from time to time, a framing story that’s usually an excuse for a bunch of folks who either aren’t normally associated with the book or haven’t been around in a long time to jump back in the pool and contribute a page or two to the glory of the good work. However, as you might expect, most of the time these come off as kind of haphazard and unfocused events. It’s cool to see Simonson or someone like that pop back in, but overall, the result lacks an overall unity. That is certainly not the case here. This trial of the FF feels like an organic extension of all that has come before and so there’s no speedbump in terms of the overall narrative, but then editorial really knocked the lights out getting these great people in to jam out these flashbacks. Leonard Kirk blows up the main sequences and cover, as has been his wont for five issues running, but everybody else knocks it out of the park, as well. We get the rare treat of seeing Matt Wilson’s colors over Samnee channeling Kirby, the great Dean “Dino!” Haspiel gets to experience a dream come true and channel more Kirby with a page of straight Thing vs. Hulk brawling action (and special points to James Robinson for working in the “ever-lovin’” adjective, there), Paul Rivoche draws a riveting Atlantean invasion, Phil Jiminez throws down justice with that Inhumans splash, Samnee & Wilson are back with the FF vs. Doom with of course Daredevil thrown in, the Allreds return to the fold with a serious Galactus/Silver Surfer/Uatu splash delivered as only they can, but then we get the glory of Jim Starlin drawing a splash split of Annihilus & Blastarr that might take the cake, that is some serious business there, Ordway gives us Sue in that horrific Malice costume, before someone called Derlis Santacruz turns in some pretty cool sequentials of Val & Doom (of course, I am a sucker for Val & Doom), before last but never least June Brigman herself drops back in to illustrate the latest wrinkle in the lives of the Future Foundation, and it did my heart good to see her pencil produce Alex Power once again. All full of the obligatory krackle, of course. Like I said, these things can usually veer off into being a big old mess, but this was nothing but a pleasure, and the best part was not knowing who was coming next on art and receiving so many pleasant surprises. Terrific fun for one and all. As shitty of a time as the team is having, I guess it must be said.

AVENGERS #30 — And then Hickman Avengers just goes batshit wonderful! What a way to escalate the standoff. Send them 48.3 years into the future for immediate eyewitness proof that all of Tony’s filthy clandestine lies yield three moon colonies and a data field containing helobytes of knowledge. In your face, Rogers! As great as all that big-picture business is, Clint’s standoff with himself and, upon realizing that that’s really his older self, immediately asking whether or not he ever gets the dog back, man, that really cut into me in a way for which I was unprepared. And but then poor old Tony Stark just cannot catch a break. EVERYone wants to beat the shit out of him in any and all time-zones. Lots of interesting hints dropped here in a compressed amount of time, the future death of Kevin the Star Brand, Hyperion into The White, and Clint getting separated from the group already with this very next jump? Hickman has accelerated the excitement level of this book into exponential proportions and Yu/Alanguilan/Gho keep all of the madness beautifully grounded,. Incredible work, all.


UNCANNY AVENGERS #020 — But then if you want the actual batshit wonderful craziest of them all, look no further than this monstrosity that Remender’s been chipping away at for almost two years, already. This issue does everything it’s supposed to, pits the amalgamated team of X-Men led by Havok & Wasp against the evil X-Men led by Magneto & Cyclops with Kang’s ragtag group of the worst bad guys across time and space caught in the middle, and everybody’s got some scenery-chewing questions of morality and loyalty and betrayal that need to play out, or really be screamed out at each other, in the middle of an ensemble superpowered confrontation. In short, vintage Claremont in action, and it is glorious. Almost the funniest part is that old-school dudes like Ahab and Doom 2099 are indeed in the mix, but there’s so much going on, they only have time for one line between them. Both Avengers and X-Men franchises have been absolutely slamming since the NOW! relaunches, but you can make a really strong case for this title being the most consistently excellent of the batch whenever it shows up. I am terribly curious if Remender has a plan for following up this arc or if they’re just going to crash the series after the next couple three issues, because I really can’t see them taking it anywhere else after unkilling Rogue and Wanda and Simon and unblowing up the Earth, etc. A terrific ride, to be sure.

5/21/14

BATMAN AND FRANKENSTEIN #31 — Man. Why can’t this be the book every month? Well wait, no no, I love the main guys too much, but a spinoff anyway. Tomasi/Mahnke giving us the adventures of Batman, Frankenstein, and Ace the Bat-Hound solving mysteries and punishing the evil occult at the top of the world or wherever their mission takes them every single month. We know that Mahnke can bang out the deadlines! The worst thing I can say about this issue is that twenty pages wasn’t even close to enough. I have been a fan of Mahnke’s for a long time, he tore it up with Kelly on JLA back when, FRANKENSTEIN was by far my favorite branch of the SEVEN SOLDIERS insanity, and then of course him rolling up on the back end of FINAL CRISIS was a pretty impossible save from an artistic standpoint that he executed flawlessly with grace. Not to mention how many months in a row he blew it up afterward with Johns on GREEN LANTERN without almost ever needing a fill-in. So, suffice to say, I was very pumped to hear about this set-up, can’t really imagine a more ideal fill-in situation for this book, particularly with it’s current B&tB set-up. The chemistry between the two leads is terrific. The beat of silence between Frank demanding the apology and receiving it is golden. And then of course they get to fight a bunch of yeti. If this issue doesn’t warm your Arctic heart, then you’re more of a corpse than good old Frank.

WONDER WOMAN #31 — Another installment that manages to be charming without Cliff Chiang. Though it was also a bit horrifying due to all the baby-in-mortal-danger action. A nice bit of character work with Diana as Queen of Amazons/God of War. Azzarello continues to throw down pretty incredible beats for this character and Goran Sud┼żuka manages to stay right there with him.

FOREVER EVIL #7 — This one started out a bit slowly for me but Johns and crew landed the entire thing pretty well. Of course, it was all the story of Luthor. Interesting implications for plot developments going forward, particularly in light of Johns shorthand cribbing the deal Byrne did with an identity reveal back when with his own SUPERMAN #2. I got a little bit concerned when Ultraman didn’t like get his face torn off or something equally graphic but then at least Luthor squashed that female evil Atom analogue under his boot, so I guess the graphic violence quota is maintained. I’m getting jaded enough that instead of that last page being some awesome reveal, it just made me sad about how superhero comics are mainly reduced these days to going all Ouroboros on their own previous continuity.

FUTURE’S END #3 — Frankenstein again! It’s good to see that you’re still not taking guff off of that old Father Time in five years, fella. Bringing that character into the ensemble can only be a good thing. And wow, so Ronnie Raymond is just straight evil now. I like the range of Jason’s negotiating, how it runs from bargaining to just straight stone-cold “I’m going to kill you.” This has got to be the most fleshed out I’ve ever read the character of Cole Cash. Mister Terrific kind of turned into an asshole, too, so I’m in favor of his positioning as apparent antagonist for Terry. And sure Lois finds Tim alive, why not? I am a fan of these crowded ensemble weekly DC titles and this issue moves the pieces along nicely without anything too crazy happening. Jurgens layouts are charming as ever, getting the job done.

BATMAN ETERNAL #7 — Maybe I’m starting to get late onset Batmania, but while reading this I felt like I’d missed an issue. Emanuel Simeoni turns in pages that are almost overly rendered but pull back from the edge just in time. Tim Seeley’s script is serviceable except for the horror of making not one but two “What Does the Fox Say?” allusions, which is so much worse than anything Professor Pyg has ever or will ever do, I just don’t know where to start. I can’t decide if I’m all in on this one yet, the gang war inspired by Falcone’s return isn’t really knocking me out and the scripts have been coasting here this last little bit. Wondering when Snyder/Tynion will return and whether or not that will boost the overall quality.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SECOND CYCLE #3 — Now, finally at long last, that is a Skinner Sweet appearance that knocked me out. Well done, all around. Snyder & Alburquerque show no signs of letting up in bringing the absolute thunder to this series. Very strong.

THE UNWRITTEN: APOCALYPSE #5 — Well, of course being privy to Bruckner/Mr. Bun’s story is batshit bananas and terribly rewarding. That was a messed up bit of business in there with the woman and the kid fighting to be Rhea’s only blonde, horrible, really. And what at first blush feels like an issue that is a momentary digression that’s fulfilling all on its own turns out to have serious implications to the final stretch of the ongoing narrative based on those last couple of pages. These boys are going to do some terribly insane feats of storytelling alchemy here in the next seven months, I can’t wait.

PROPHET #44 — All right, let’s hang out with this astral entity. I think it’s been too long since I’ve been reading this series, I honestly am not sure who she even is if she’s shown up before now. But she sure seems like a swell character. A quality done-in-one here, to be sure, looking forward to seeing how she actually folds back in to the main narrative. The back-up strip is killing it as usual.

EAST OF WEST #12 — Man, once Miss Xioalian shows up to declare war, she doesn’t play about in the slightest. There is enough diplomatic intrigue and the old ultraviolence erupting in this single issue to fill up the third act of one a them Hollywood picture shows. But Hickman is barely just getting started, it looks like. This book channels glorious madness, barreling past any sort of conventional standard and plunging headlong into the abyss. How far we fall remains to be seen, but I’m confident that Dragotta and Martin are going to make the ride a visually stunning one to sing sweet accompaniment to all of Hickman’s batshit crazy.

MPH #1 — Old Millar’s got a little bit of goodwill in the bank with me after showing up with new material as strong as JUPITER’S CHILDREN and particularly STARLIGHT, and I’m such a sucker for superspeed, I honestly might have given this a shot anyway. And it’s nice to see Duncan Fegredo of KID ETERNITY fame kicking around again. So, what do we have here, on the eve of “Quicksilver in the Kitchen,” arguably one of the greatest translations of sequential glory into the cinematic medium via Bryan Singer’s X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST? Kind of a boilerplate morality play that traffics a bit too hard in black and white for my liking. Millar bends over so hard to make the protagonist a likeable good-guy-even-though-he’s-a-drug-dealer that you can see all of the marionette strings and my suspension of disbelief, at least, came crashing down. The one superspeed scene is cool enough, but I would like a first issue with a little bit more pop in it, the setup is all right, but there’s not like a really palpable gutpunch hook at the end the way he just hit us with STARLIGHT. I’ll definitely keep picking it up to see how it’s going. But am still just a little bit worried that if more than one person lays hands on this MPH formula, Millar’s going to go back to being all edgy and have one dude run around involuntarily sodomizing folks until our plucky morally upright hero has to put a stop to it. And I don’t want to read that book.

SAGA #19 —  Oh, SAGA. I didn’t realize how much I missed you in my life until seeing that television-headed infant being delivered through that robot vagina. The miracle of life, indeed. As predicted, just flashing forward and having Hazel aged a year and change drastically raises the stakes. I dig Alana’s new job, an interesting take on soap-hero-operas in this universe. And of course Marko is kind of a pitiful stay-at-home dad whose act of rebellion is to take her to the park. Which is the beginning of the end, meeting that other mom? Just when I was thinking that final conversation between the parents at the end was coming across as a little ham-handed, Hazel runs in and is so precious, and then Vaughan just cuts your throat with a single line on that last page. Oh, man. Really good trick.

ZERO #8 — It took me maybe longer than it should have to get hip to the three timelines before they converged, but that’s probably on me and all of the Lone Stars I had while reading the other issues before this one. It was a pretty crowded week! Once again, Kot and friends deliver a really compelling single shot that is nail-biting and satisfying all on its own while moving the overall narrative along in a palpable way. Which is how you’re supposed to make them sequential funny books! Jorge Coelho, no surprise, is terrific and a perfect fit for this particular installment, ably abetted by Jordie Bellaire, as ever. Once again, I dug this but was immediately greedy for the next issue as soon as I got done. I tell you, that binge-reading stuff in trades will ruin you.

VELVET #5 — A hell of a compelling flashback. You’re not really supposed to do that for pretty much the entire issue, but of course Brubaker/Phillips can do whatever they want to. Just ask Batman’s butler (see unfortunate tangent below). I’ve got to confess that I’m not one-hundred percent what went wrong between Velvet and Mockingbird eighteen years ago, the nuance of what that phone call set off that suddenly it was go-time between them. Probably rereading the initial arc, or even just the previous issue or two would make that clearer to me. Too many fictions to juggle in this noggin! Terrific fight sequence, though. This remains a very compelling double-feature with ZERO, flip sides of the espionage coin.

ROCKET GIRL #5 — Wow, that seems like a pretty definitive shutdown there. Though I suppose that the plot will have to somehow thicken between now and September. If this was the last issue, though, Amy Reeder would have thrown down a serious bit of business, beginning middle and end. I’ve really enjoyed the hell out of this comic. Which actually brings up the sole issue I’ve had with it, language, something about the GoshGeeWow! feel of the book makes swearing come across to me as really anachronistic in this context. Even if it’s just a pedestrian in Times Square 1986. And it’s not like that’s usually an issue with me, but it just felt tonally off to me. A minor gripe. Beautiful art, particularly the coloring. I look forward to more in a few months.

DAREDEVIL #003 — Everything was just going along all normal, DD was kicking the hell out of a C-list villain (because I must disagree with his B-list characterization for The Shroud) and then he’s got to go and bring Lying Cat into this. Lying Cat! The implications are staggering! Are all Image titles available for perusal in the Marvel 616 Universe? Does Peter Parker read SPAWN obsessively or perhaps instead shudder every time he sees the exaggerated anatomy on the cover? Are the X-Men Whilce Portacio fans? Or at least the members of Storm’s Gold Team who stayed over in UNCANNY when they did the big Jim Lee split in ’91? And do subsidiaries like Top Cow also exist? How does Wolverine feel about Silvestri’s latest output? Or is he more of a Brubaker/Phillips fan? You know who would eat CRIMINAL or FATALE up with a spoon, though? Is that Alfred Pennyworth. I should think the work of Misters Brubaker/Phillips runs very much to his tastes. Of course, what would Matt think about Brubaker? Does he resent him for all of the trouble that he put him through? All right, I’m obviously not going to be able to do anything coherent with reviewing this issue. It’s exactly more of the same in the best possible way, Waid/Samnee/Rodriguez romping along with Silver Age fun in the merry Marvel tradition!

UNCANNY X-MEN #021 — Oh, why can’t we just have Bendis/Bachalo delivering madcap mutant misadventures for all time? Bachalo’s sickness does not want to be contained on a single page. Magneto’s rage at Fred J. Dukes triggering a flashback to the early days, complete with Kirby panel art, natch, is a fine little beat, there. But wait, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated! And the Helicarrier is firing on the mansion! And Firestar was taking a shower! I love how Bendis works that in amidst all of the other dialogue. A nuanced character moment! But I am just funning, this series continues to be tremendous work from all involved.


ORIGINAL SIN #2 — Aaron and the gang are easing into it a little bit more now. There’s at least enough requisite flying car action for a book that’s got Fury cast as the lead. Absolutely terrific to see Oubliette storming back into the fold, I can never believe how many good ideas and characters Morrison sets up who never get heard from again. Deodato and Martin completely throw down on the big ensemble action sequence in the final scene. This one is still ramping up but looks like it’s heading somewhere interesting.