BEST OF WEEK: SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #7 — Well, Snyder/Lee/Williams/Sinclair have spent some time laying the groundwork, but it all pays off here as they put the pedal all the way down on the floor and do nothing but drop the atomic thunder pretty much every single page, here. The arguably main part of the narrative deals with General Lane attacking The Fortress of Solitude while our hero does his best to protect Lois before donning Kryptonian battle-armor in yet another Very Iconic Splash Page by Jim Lee. But, you know. It’s Jim Lee. Even the splash of Gen. Lane in his attack-tank is pretty stunning in its level of technical precision and intricately detailed linework. If this issue was nothing but an Arctic slugfest, the creators would be doing a good job and all the readers could feel good about paying their four dollars for another collection of pages of Jim Lee drawing Superman making fight with Lois’s daddy featuring a nice little inversion at the end involving Lois saving our boy. However. What I guess we could possibly refer to as the B-plot of this thing is basically a fanboy’s wet dream and, for my money, the most impressive sequence that Jim Lee has produced since DC decided that it would be a wise investment to buy his little studio fifteen years ago. The entirety of HUSH and FOR TOMORROW have got nothing on this. Simply put, it’s Batman & Wonder Woman vs. The Superman from 1945 in the Batcave. And it is gorgeous. Let’s do a trick where I say what the shot is and you try to imagine how great it can be and then Jim Lee will roar up and stomp whatever you could come up with into the ground with the jawdropping expert craft he brings to each and every image. Begin!
Batman crashes the Batwing into The Superman from 1945. Batman sends All The Batmobiles at The Superman from 1945. Wonder Woman smashes The Superman from 1945 with the giant Lincoln penny. The Superman from 1945 smashes Batman and Wonder Woman with the giant robot Tyrannosaurus Rex. Sounds incredible, right? Good on Scott Snyder for envisioning such a ridiculous sequence of escalating nonsense, yah? Well . . .
ACTION COMICS #33 — I liked this about as much as I could like a part of an event of which I’m only reading this one title. Pak and Kuder continue to deliver solid work, wisely holding on to Lana as a focal-point character. I don’t know, though, man, then something that I don’t care for gets shoehorned in, like Supergirl as a Red Lantern. Maybe that seemed like a pretty great bit of syngery when whoever first had the idea, combining the franchises, but why can’t she be like blue? There’s just so much darkness running rampant throughout The New 52, even when I try to dodge it, it crowds in on the stuff I otherwise really dig. Ready for these creators to get their book all the way back and just keep crafting memorable stories that are for the most part self-contained within this title.
FUTURE’S END #9 — Does anyone else get the vibe that Lois is hunting for the island from L O S T? The Hawkman moment was great, of course he’s fine. What terrible needlessly amputating people they are in that S.H.A.D.E. away team! And I read that that very same thing happened over in one of the JUSTICE LEAGUE books in the present. It is a bad month to be one of Hawkman’s arms.
BATMAN ETERNAL #13 — Okay, wait, Gordon’s kid is not supposed to be Bard? I certainly misread that last week, but I have to say that maybe Bard’s design shouldn’t have been like, you know, exactly the same as James, Jr.’s? Old Bard is certainly doing a good job in Gordon’s stead. To the point that you kind of wonder if he isn’t the actual Big Bad clearing the way of what he considers to be obsolete material, perhaps. Mikel Janin delivers another beautiful set of pages. They’ve done a great job keeping top talent on interiors for this series.
EAST OF WEST #13 — And lo, the shit it did rain down. Hickman/Dragotta/Martin pull no punches and maintain the insane momentum from last issue by sending Death head-to-head with that ultimate Texas Ranger fella they’ve got running around here, and the results do the Thing vs. Hulk proud. Really, this entire issue is basically one beautifully choreographed fight scene, and it is a thing of beauty. Dragotta juxtaposes opposing panel angles and countershots with total mastery, lending immediacy to every page. It is not an insult to say I read this thing in under five minutes the first time. I just couldn’t stop turning pages fast enough. After slowing down to build up a head of speed in the back half of its first year, this title is really ripping great guns ahead now.
SOUTHERN BASTARDS #3 — The plot thickens like smoky sweet barbecue sauce on the plate next to Shawna’s lip-smacking ribs. I don’t have much to add, but I’m enjoying the pace these boys are telling their story at and happy to stick around for as long as they take to tell it. It doesn’t as much feel like they’re conjuring up a world as telling a story that already happened right there outside their window.
SATELLITE SAM #9 — This is starting to ramp up a bit, here. I’m finding the individual plots a bit more compelling, like Guy suddenly making a principled stand, and Mike is a bit easier to root for when he’s not just drinking and fucking everything in sight. Which, I can’t decide if that’s counter-intuitive or not. But this is looking like maybe twelve issues and done? That length feels about right. Y’all can have that one for free.
MORNING GLORIES #39 — After an opening scene featuring a character meeting herself but not realizing on either side (I think?), we get another four-long-panel montage for four pages to check in with sixteen of our main characters, a much-appreciated reminder of just how many plates Spencer/Eisma have had spinning for quite some time now. Then, even better, we zoom right in on Casey waiting for Hodge and the rest of the issue (one nemesis-introducing flashback/almost-retcon notwithstanding) is nothing but the two of them postmorteming Casey’s jump. Only, and I know I keep saying this, but I really really am going to have to go back and read all this from the start, because certain fundamental aspects are getting by me that I don’t think should. If Casey jumped back and then lived out the intervening thirteen years up to the present, did she just eventually jump back into her present-day body with no memory of all that time? Or did like a fraction of her leave and go do all that and then this other part stayed at MGA the whole time? I bet Spencer’s master chart of all of this would get him committed.
ORIGINAL SIN #5 — The creators are doing nothing but pick up momentum here, as we’re treated to the secret ret-con of Nicholas J. Fury, who has basically been a one-man watcher on the wall, preventing alien invasions (in some cases preemptively) since witnessing the previous man who held the position, Woodrow McCord, die in 1958. Deodato/Martin continue to bring the thunder throughout, and Aaron’s script hums right along with a nice little moment in which Nicky decides not to assassinate a teenage Spider-Man just on a hunch. The only hiccup for me was the idea that Fury was actually running out of briefings and doing this new gig on the sly and none of his enemies in the espionage circuit ever got wind of it. I mean, everyone knew he wasn’t missing his Aunt Matilda’s birthday, but it seems like at some point, as out-maneuvered and –flanked as he’s been over the years, H.Y.D.R.A. or someone would have gotten hip to his other work. And I would also like to know at what point the LMDs took over and the actual guy stopped going out and just aging in private. Really digging on this one, though, and looking forward to seeing where they’re going to take it.
FANTASTIC FOUR: 100TH ANNIVERSARY #1 — This was magnificent fun. I wish they would have numbered it something crazy, FANTASTIC FOUR #1,693 or something. I’m not familiar with either of these creators’ work, but Jen Van Meter and Joanna Estep have crafted a very cool tale of the next next generation of the FF. It looks like Valeria had a son and daughter with Bart Banner, son of the Hulk? And of course the boy is named Kirby. That’s really becoming a thing lately. Van Meter does a great job giving us the shorthand and catching us up completely on a continuity that’s been invented just for this one issue, and Estep excels on full art duties, with the soft pastels of her palette in particular pleasing to the eye. And I dug the pair of footnotes referencing issues that don’t actually, as of yet, exist. Though who’s not down for GAMMA GIRLS? This issue sets out to provide tremendous Silver Age good times and completely succeeds.
MOON KNIGHT #005 — And then on the opposite of the tremendous fun spectrum, we have the penultimate issue of this Ellis/Shalvey/Bellaire horror show. The cover doesn’t lie; this one plays out as pretty much one of the best single-player guy-fights-his-way-through-a-building games ever, though of course Shalvey doesn’t limit the camera shots to side-scrolling (which would been kind of cool, too, honestly). There’s something gloriously unpretentious about this issue being nothing more than a simple hostage-saving fight scene. And that’s before Morris Day shows up on the fifth floor. I love the efficient way that our hero talks his way out of that hostage crisis in three panels so economical that they border on chilling. And then we get that perfect sole moment of pure characterization (as opposed to characterization through body language/fighting style/etc) with the kid correctly differentiating between mask and face. These are lean and mean little singles, man, I tell you what. It only takes five minutes to read them, but you can stare at them for hours and keep learning from them for always.