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.