Thursday, August 28, 2014


Wow, so, I wrote this last month and then just forgot to post it. I guess just getting the words out was reward enough. But, I cannot deprive my Wednesday Night Faithful! So, out of sequence, but just as true as it was six weeks ago, we present without further ado: 


BEST OF WEEK: ROBIN RISES: OMEGA #1 — Pity Peter J. Tomasi. He has a story so big that it cannot be contained within the pages of his regular monthly that has been delivering the most consistent destruction since The New 52 began almost three years ago. So, he needs a 38-page special with art by none other than Andy Kubert, Jonathan Glapion, and Brad Anderson to kick the momentum into overdrive. Of course, Kubert’s participation gives anything involving poor deceased Damian Wayne as much validation as it’s going to get this side of Morrison himself returning to script the adventure, and Tomasi has more than earned his stripes. The seven-page recap was a pleasure to read, though I knew every beat, a seamless integration of the continuity beginning with the O’Neil/Adams run and threading all the way through the work that both Morrison and the regular BATMAN AND ROBIN team did in the back end of the former’s seven-year run. The remainder of this issue is a continuation of the battle begun of late in the latter title, picking up directly from last month’s #32, with Ra’s al-Ghul joining forces with Batman & Frankenstein against the hordes of Apokolips. The camaraderie between Batman & Frankenstein is brought into excellent relief through the simple device of having them toss Frank’s sword back and forth during the melee. The new Justice League showing up as cavalry provided just the escalation that the issue needed with Tomasi showing deft character work pertaining to the villains who have recently joined the team. And there’s a great set-up with Captain Marvel that pays off aces on the page turn. And of course, Luthor’s also got to get punched out as a lagniappe. Tomasi keeps shredding throughout, and the art team really does some heavy lifting during an exhilarating extended fight scene that manages to thrill while of course setting up the inevitable To Be Continued . . . Really fine work throughout.

BATMAN ETERNAL #15 — This one takes kind of an expected dip after last week’s mid-season finale (I can’t help thinking of these weeklies in serial live-action drama terms, what with the crowded ensembles). It is always a pleasure to see Nguyen/Fridolfs dropping in on art. I care a lot more about the Tim/Harper dynamic than I do Jim Corrigan and the new Batwing guy, that’s not exactly the most dynamic duo. It was cool to have Barbara and Jason run into Kate, there. Looking for things to build up more momentum next week.

FUTURE’S END #11 — Oh man, Georges Jeanty. I didn’t recognize him from his style alone, but when I read his name at the end, it definitely made sense why the art hadn’t been hitting for me for the first time in this series. He’s improved a lot since the early days of BUFFY SEASON 8, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop holding that series against him. The guy in the Superman mask is starting to annoy me. Nobody anywhere should say, “‘Fess up,” I don’t think, and certainly not someone wearing that insignia. This is the first issue of this title that let some of the air out. An unfortunate week for both weeklies to diminish in quality! We do hope they’ll be back next week with adventures that are a bit more scintillating to the soul.

TEEN TITANS #1 — As much shit rained down on this cover when it was solicited a few months back, I remained really interested to see what Teen Titans book would look like with Kenneth Rocafort on interiors. Because he’s a monster. And the pages are beautiful. Will Pfeifer’s story holds together well enough. It’s not spectacular, but it gets the job done. Every member of the team gets their moment this first time out. Though Bunker just about assaulting the anti-gay guy scans as pretty forced and probably much more aggressive than would be ideal here in the very first installment. I’m cool with all of the character designs like Cassie’s lasso that looks like some strange love child of barbed wire and McFarlane webbing, but I hate the Raven redesign. Which maybe just shows my age. My favorite thing about this group of kids is the continuity they used to share that has now been completely reset. I’ll probably pick up another issue or two for the art and see if the character dynamics can hook me a little bit better than they did this time out.

FABLES #142 — Well, everything is seeming pretty dire as we start ramping up into the home-stretch. The fact that Snow seems so unwilling to go to war does not seem like a good sign since we still have many many pages for some sort of motivation to evolve for her in that regard. There really wasn’t anything spectacular about this issue, just more of the rock-solid storytelling we’ve come to expect or even become dependent upon from Willingham/Buckingham/Leialoha/Loughridge. Don’t ever go nowhere, guys, okay?

ORIGINAL SIN #6 — So Midas & Oubliette did it, right? That doesn’t seem to be such a mysterious deal. Aaron does let us know that Fury just started getting old right before this series started, so, nice of him to clear that up for us folks who might be more concerned about continuity than we perhaps should be. I dig Gamora’s reaction to everybody throughout. Deodato & Martin once again deliver A-game material that makes this feel like a Big Event that might actually still matter twelve months from now when the next one is going on. And I dig how everyone was freaking out that that was Cable on the cover of #7 when we can clearly see that it isn’t.

UNCANNY X-MEN #23 — I was expecting a little bit more from this, but I’m not sure why? I guess all of the gravitas that that title is slinging combined by the fact that I have very positive associations with Kris Anka on art, but this is one of the first issues from either of these Bendis titles that I didn’t feel like was slinging fire. Certainly not terrible by any stretch, but the fellow has set himself a pretty high bar, even in terms of singles. Maybe I just don’t care about this new mutant.

SILVER SURFER #004 — Now that we made it through what was essentially the three-issue pilot episode, I was interested to see what would happen with the established Surfer/Companion dynamic up and running, but of course Dawn Greenwood does not want to soar the spaceways even for a minute longer than she has to, so it’s back to Cape Cod for some of Dad’s seafood bisque. Though, of course, this being July, there are some certain Guardians of the Galaxy waiting to check out anyone entering even the distant proximity of earthspace. Man, I remember a few years ago when Iron Man was suddenly everywhere and we were all laughing about how he was the new ubiquitous character i.e. Wolverine/Punisher in the early nineties, but what a world we live in when the damn Guardians are being shoehorned into every conceivable title. At any rate, this title still ticks right along, Slott keeps everything humming and of course the Allreds never fail to bring their own unique form of justice. Four issues in and still good fun!

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #2 — Straight talk. Of course, the art is magnificent, McKelvie & Wilson can do no wrong. We all know that. And judging this series strictly on its own merits, I might be more forgiving. But unfortunately, this poor thing has to live up to not only following up the gorgeousness of YOUNG AVENGERS but in all truth should function as at least methadone to the surging heroin rush that is the promise of PHONOGRAM Volume 3, and Mr. Gillen’s script is thus far hitting me as much too precious and impressed with itself and not actually going out and earning sort of slavish wristcutting devotion from the reader that dear Kieron has made no bones about yearning for. One could argue that this will read better in trade, but if there’s anyone who is creating for the single, it’s this bunch. This is by no means a bad comic, it just doesn’t up the ante from the first issue. Because if you’re going to show up on the last page with the decapitated head of a pop star, it’s not enough to just talk about her for five pages leading up to that, we ideally should have seen her on-panel and really actually fallen in love with her, if we’re shooting for ideal. Let’s either crank this one a bit higher or wrap it up and get on with the story of Immaterial Emily and her mirror self. Please, darlings.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


SANDMAN: OVERTURE #3 — Okay, this is the first one where the insane release schedule worked against the book for me. I mean, this was announced two years ago, right? And then JWIII had, what, fifteen months’ lead-time before #1 hit. And we’ve stiiiiiill got to take like four-month breaks between issues? I guess that’s just what it takes. And the pages are certainly worth it, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to rush the greatness. Just wishing the greatness operated at a slightly higher velocity now that the story’s finally started? But the deal with this particular installment is, of course it’s brilliant and terribly well written and every single two-page spread is more of the same rabid genius that we’ve all been routinely expecting of poor JWIII since around the second arc of PROMETHEA. Our Dream and Cat Dream run into three sisters and have a Very Important-Seeming Conversation, and it really has been too long for me because I actually needed Neil to insert the whole “kind” bit in-dialogue the full four times before I remembered who those ladies would go on to be, or already were. And then there’s the apparent innocent to be rescued and, Neil being Neil, Morpheus needs to tell A Story that necessitates an entirely new art style. This is all lovely and wonderful, but I felt like I burned through it too quickly when that last page showed up and the months ahead instantly yawned out before me. A madness of stars, indeed.

BEST OF WEEK: THE WAKE #10 — Well, they certainly landed this one. It’s one thing to capture the reader’s attention with the perfect synthesis of words and art alchemizing into an unforgettable story. That’s certainly a big deal, don’t get me wrong. But it’s something else entirely to be able to bring everything to a resolution, wrap up all the mysteries and lingering sub-plots, and have the reader feel satisfied when he or she reads the words THE END. There have certainly been those who sank their ship even within sight of their narrative destination, but I was never worried about these guys. They’ve never given us cause. From the first issue, this was a relentless thrilling ride that only escalated when it rounded the turn and shot two hundred years into an aquatic future. So much goes down in this final installment, it’s hard to believe that they get it all done in twenty pages. But every creator rises to the challenge and really puts forth his best work. Snyder ties the admittedly disparate elements of plot and genre together and makes it all fit, even working in a reference to Stephen King & Amy Tan’s rock band. Murphy continues his unbroken streak of throwing down a master clinic on composition with every single page: tight character work from body language to facial expressions/acting, breathtaking vistas, and intricate gear that never sacrifices coolness for the sake of realism. And Hollingsworth has stormed in and quietly done some of the best coloring in the business, pulling off the very tricky feat of substantially elevating the material through his craft while managing to call as little attention to it as possible. This is a prime example of what has made this one of the best mini-series that’s come out lately, the fact that you can’t tell where one man’s work ends and another begins. Oh, and Fletcher! I forgot to call out good job on the lettering, but especially great fun with the little fish-silhouette swear words in the future dialogue. Tremendous. Congratulations to all involved on a job very well done. Looking forward to a single-sitting no-ad read when the trade comes out.

BODIES #1 — This is a pretty cool concept. Four different artists draw six pages each that are chapters set in different times and revolving around a single dead body. The styles are all a great fit. Meghan Hetrick tears up the modern day with some fine linework that recalls Burnham. Dean Ormston is positively Victorian depicting the adventures during 1890, Tula Lotay’s washed-out palette has already been featured of late over in that new SUPREME book but is also a great fit for 2050, and then Phil Winslade nails the 1940 noir look. So, this thing looks great. I wouldn’t say that Si Spencer does a particularly good job at engaging the reader with a single one of these sequences. I mean, there needs to be more of a narrative hook than, Oh look, there’s that body again. Ideally, we should in some slight way, care about each one of these characters by the end of the first issue. I know that six pages isn’t a whole lot of space to do that, but it seems like something to shoot for. I’m thinking I’ll probably just tradewait this and be glad to stumble upon it at half price in a couple years, give old Spencer a single sitting to take care of however much heavy lifting he’s inclined to in a single go of it.

BATMAN ETERNAL #17 — All right, still thrilled to have Nguyen/Fridolfs on board, but I just don’t care much for this particular lurch in the narrative. Don’t care about Deacon Blackfire or the Joker’s Daughter or Batwing or Jim Corrigan. So, you see, have a pretty hard time investing in this issue. The first one that’s altogether misfired for me.

FUTURE’S END #13 — Patch Zircher tears it up. Brother-Eye’s dialogue to Mr. Terrific is pretty damn creepy. I did not know that Grifter was from Texas. That is some dirty pool showing Scott & Barda last week in the teaser images and then having that only be a flashback. Next week should certainly be interesting as these two thread converge.

CHEW: WARRIOR CHICKEN POYO — This was great fun but for some reason didn’t melt my heart to the degree that SECRET AGENT POYO did. Though of course you’ve got to love that last page, that’s all anybody’s going to be talking about. POYO WAS THERE!

EAST OF WEST #14 — The art on this thing continues to be smoking. Dragotta/Martin deliver drop-dead mind-blowing business every single time out. It’s just these characters, man. Maybe it’s the lettering, it could always be the lettering, but these aren’t people to me at all, just a gang of amalgamated stereotypes uttering badass overly italicized/emboldened dialogue, and as much as the art and plot make me want to dial in, these people, these words coming out of their mouths, they keep taking me out of it and I just find it so infuriating.

MANHATTAN PROJECTS #22 — All right, it’s official. Uncle, I give up. Rus Wooton’s italicized and emboldened lettering makes this book just about unreadable for me. Every damn word-balloon feels like a speech teacher guiding me toward a more refined understanding of syllabic emphasis. This is a cotton-pickin’ shame because Nick Pitarra’s pages have never looked better. As dynamic and intricate and crackling with Darrow/Quitely imagery as his work was when he exploded on the scene with THE RED WING, it’s very rewarding to see him refine the tools of his craft on more of an exponential than incremental level. There are so many lines in this book, but every single one carries its own narrative weight and deserves to be there.

LOW #1 — Can the day withstand the inherent density two hard science-fiction titles from Remender without super-collapsing into a black hole or white dwarf star or some such? The answer is, Certainly! The premise and characterization are all well and good, but the real star of the show here is Greg Tocchini, whose atmospheric illustration really puts this over the top. Which completely took me by surprise. His arc of UNCANNY X-FORCE was my least favorite solely based on the art, but I picked this up figuring he would crank his situation up on such a high-profile creator-owned deal with Remender. This certainly proved to be the case! I will pick up the second issue and see how Stel fares once she gets a little bit of momentum going on her narrative.

BLACK SCIENCE #7 — I’m still having trouble believing that the monumental events of last issue are going to stick, wasn’t even really entertaining that as a possibility, but Remender is certainly playing it that way here. I still figure every dead character is just one pillar-jump away, but Kadir as honorbound protagonist is certainly an interesting premise to fall into halfway into the first year of the book coming out. Scalera has managed to, if anything, up his game here. Really incredible spreads and images throughout. It’s not surprising that this book is a massive success. The only hitch is that the cliffhanger here (not so much with the hanging, but . . . ) is more than a bit reminiscent of where Remender just left us a minute ago at the end of LOW, but so it goes.

PROPHET #45 — Wow, man. It all comes down to this, the convergence of more John Prophets than you ever dared imagine in the halcyon daze of glorious nineties shoulder-pad rock! Series stalwarts Roy, Milonongiannis, Dalrymple, and Bergin are all on hand to help Graham bring it all crashing down. That opening four-page scene is about as in medias res as something is going to get. Always go for the oral neonaught birth on Page Two when you need to really shake the reader up! It’s satisfying when all of the various dudes come together, then Diehard gets to do something cool before being ripped in half, so I’d say that this issue definitely hits the beats that it needs to, though not such final ones as I’ve been dreading these past few months because this apparently just trapdoors into another series that might be twice as insane as this monster is, if that preview double-page spread is anything to go by. I’ll keep buying as many of these as they keep making. Who knew Liefeld was such a hell of a talent scout?

UNCANNY AVENGERS #022 — The mighty conclusion! You’ve got to love the Kirby homage on the cover. This is . . . a pretty dark way to go out. Of course, most of the folks got resurrected, but it looks like Alex’s face has gone the way of Harvey Dent and Rogue has somehow absorbed Simon. And Katie Summers, man. Rough. That Remender is so heartless with the kids this week! I mean, really No wonder the legions of fandom conspire against him. I have to say, though, this would have been an exponentially powerful ending if we had been given any opportunity whatsoever to invest in her as a character not just a concept. We’re all supposed to be upset because Alex & Jan lost their daughter, and of course that’s instant empathy shorthand for any parents (or most parents), but it would have been so much more crushing if we had been given just a two-page scene to fall in love with her ourselves. This was certainly a hell of an entertaining story, though. Not even counting Daken & The Grim Reaper quoting ANNIE on the way out, I certainly did not see that one coming.

UNCANNY X-MEN #24 — As great as Kris Anka is, Bachalo leaves shoes that are pretty impossible to fill. You’ve got to just get over that when anyone else is drawing this book.  I love that Bendis is still invested in devoting pages to introducing new mutants and trying to make us care about them, even though two issues in, he does not yet have me dialed in to this guy. Great twist there at the end, I love how both sides initially assume the same thing. Still really digging on this.

AVENGERS #33 — And then there was one. This arc has been heading more and more in the direction of science fiction (both dystopian and utopian versions) all along, but Hickman veers into hard sci-fi here with the revelation that the Star Brands are actually anachronauts created by an A.I. worldcore that fell away from the Ultron singularity. Heady business! Yu draws a pretty cool sequence of the Worldcore triggering the bomb that the Ultron Avenger doc hid inside Cap a couple of issues back, but then the issue just ends. This has all been pretty interesting but a bit decompressed for my taste, almost certainly a very compelling read in the trade, but spread a bit thin for $4 singles.

NEW AVENGERS #27 — Will they or won’t they? This title’s entire run has been heading to this moment. Does our team of self-appointed Illuminati have what it takes to destroy an alternate Earth in order to save their own dear and good 616? Valerio Schiti shows up and does good work with a drop-in from Sal Larocca bolstering his efforts. There’s a cool straight homage callback to that time in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS when the lightning bolt hits Superman and he’s all skeletal. They do that same thing for the thinly veiled analogue Sun God. But it finally comes down to who has the stones to push the button and nuke the DC analogues’ Earth? (I know they have it as like Earth 4-million and something, but it would have been funny if they had just straight up called it Earth-2) Without spoiling the last page, I will say that Hickman writes the ramp-up very well, every man’s decision to either detonate the deal or not is perfectly in character and feels like it’s been very well set up before now. This is really a legendary run, I can’t believe Hickman’s just over here relatively quietly dropping all of this sickness and more people aren’t freaking out about it.

HAWKEYE #019 — I don’t know. I love this book. Love love love it. But this was the first issue that I thought was too cute for its own good. Maybe it’s the schedule. The non-linear releases, the fact that we’ve been sitting on that cliffhanger to #015 for months, very well might have worked against it. Or the sign-language thing. I guess it’s groundbreaking and all. But it felt too much like they were trying to do another #011, only with a concept that’s a little half-baked. Or at least, a shift down from #011, so it just plays as considerably less impressive. It’s certainly a good-looking issue. Aja is a master of the craft of sequential storytelling and Hollingsworth continues to make the perfect choice to complement the situation every single time. I just wanted a little bit more from this issue, was looking forward to it for too long, I’m afraid.

FATALE #24 — All good things come to an end, ladies and gentlemen. And the team comes out swinging here with a six-page knight’s fable that Uncle Dominic of all people is reading to Nick when he’s a kid (and still has that shock of Rogue skunk-stripe hair, strangely). This ending is kind of an odd duck. It does what it’s supposed to do. It looks terrific. Phillips & Breitweiser bring the thunder, as ever. It’s just, when all is said and done, I don’t care that much about these characters. Brubaker didn’t do enough over the course of twenty-four issues to get me invested in their plight. I felt in no way cheated by the ending but just kind of made it to the last page with a shrug. “Oh, that’s nice, then.” I feel kind of weird about it because I’ve enjoyed this series throughout its run and am a bit disturbed by my ho-hum response. I do appreciate the inclusion of a final Jess Nevins essay, though, always a treasure trove of information.

Monday, August 4, 2014


BATMAN #33 — Well, over the course of the past, what, fifteen months, I have gone on and on about how long Snyder/Capullo/Miki/Plascencia strung out this flashback arc. It was admittedly a dicey move stranding the narrative in the past this many months in a row for our hero’s eponymous title, not as like a one-off mini or anything. But you know what, we’ve certainly had no shortage of killer Batman stories told in the present with Tomasi and the gang throwing down all kinds of thunder every month and then that ETERNAL business that’s gotten going here lately and, dear lord, I think Morrison and Burnham were still in play when this arc started, even. Wow. Okay. So, it’s taken a very long time out here in the reader’s world for this story to reach its conclusion. But, man, was it worth it. The team fires on all cylinders with our hero engaging the nascent Riddler in a complex battle of wits while the clock is ticking on some fighter jets swooping in and nuking Gotham like they always like to do the last Wednesday of every other month. Snyder does solid work writing the riddles with great intelligence but also with a cumulative arc. And the resolution to the conflict is well done enough, earned and heroic and sacrifice and all like we want, but the real thunder comes at the end, which, I don’t even want to go into it, to even chance spoiling it for anyone, but let’s just leave it that I was really loving that one page of dialogue that Bruce and Julie were having but then that six-panel montage on the next page absolutely came out of nowhere and punched me in the gut while ripping out my heart. It was rough opening the night with this one because then I had to sit there for a full twenty minutes just getting it together when I was done. And that page has not let go yet, will maybe never stop haunting me. Fierce, fierce material. These boys have created a serious addition to the canon worthy of standing alongside and being known for all time in the company of the all-time greats.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #33 — Belligerent Batman being a dick to the Justice League is a pretty fun way to open up. And it’s too bad to see Frankenstein go, but you’ve certainly got to understand where he’s coming from. Gleason’s Hellbat design is of course slamming, but I’m an even bigger fan of the thought that goes behind the montage of all of the League teaming up to help build it. Probably my favorite character beat in an issue crowded with an ensemble of such heavyweights was the look on Shazam’s face while he said, “I’m ready,” and Cyborg coming back with, “Shut up, Billy.” Plays so so funny within the context of that scene. The depiction of Kalibak is insane and over the top in all the right ways. Definitely worth a splash page. Despite the fact that this issue does not have the densest content (the League tries to stop Batman from going to Apokolips twice, he and Superman have a conversation, we find out that he’s going anyway with three sidekicks and maybe Alfred), both art and script elevate the interactions between all of these characters into very engaging worthwhile exchanges that it takes more than a single pass to appreciate in full.

BATMAN ETERNAL #16 — Nguyen & Fridolfs stay on for another issue. I’m liking this trend of artists hanging out and doing entire short arcs, it lends a sense of coherency to this. The writers are digging deep into their apparent affection for eighties villains as this issue features the first time I’ve seen Maxie Zeus in I don’t know how long and then even throws in old Deacon Blackfire here at the tail end. I suppose it’s too much to hope that Berni Wrightson is drawing #17?

FUTURE’S END #12 — Good deal to open with my favorite crew, Frankenstein & Amethyst & Hawkman in Deeeeeep Space! Five pages of space-action but then I really dig how much weight the writers give Angie when she shows up, just recycles her crew and nukes our heroes and, most ominously of all, good old S.H.A.D.E.NET is offline! It’s pretty challenging to escalate the stakes of the threat of the unknown when the only thing we’ve seen them do is kill the majority of the Ellis/Hitch Authority crew, but this single page right here does a fantastic job of accomplishing exactly that. Blah blah in the middle, I didn’t really care about Mercy or Voodoo or the douchebag checking his phone and messing with Rampage, but then that is all of course mitigated by a terribly ominous thirty-year flash-forward to some old friends hanging out in Arkham. Really a terribly well crafted scene on both shock value, which is easy enough to do when you’re flashing forward, but then they really land the character beats at the end. I mean really land. Even if I didn’t care about half of the issue, the beginning and end are thunderous enough to make me feel good about hanging out with this title. Terrific art from Merino/Green/Hi-Fi. And is that Scott & Barda I see in the coming attractions for next week? For joy!

WONDER WOMAN #33 — Grim developments as this run hurtles headlong toward its thrilling conclusion. Azzarello/Chiang/Wilson continue to fire at the top of their game as they have for almost three years running. I love how they just pull the trigger right at the end and in three pages, Diana and Orion and Aleka all get stabbed or impaled. Brutal! I have to confess that I’m not one-hundred percent cognizant as to what’s happening with the identity of the Amazon on the last page, if that’s like some amalgamate of all three of them, which seems pretty cool, or even just the ladies, or what. I’m not sure that we’re supposed to know at this point. It is certainly a badass splash-page to go out on. Kind of stunning that there are only two more of these left, that’s really snuck up on me, here.

THE UNWRITTEN: APOCALYSE #7 — Carey & Gross continue to display an utter command and mastery of their craft as we are treated to our characters flickering in and out of an Arthurian romance with art style, narration, and character development also in flux, panel by panel. It’s all impressive enough before Pullman breaks the rules and sends in Armida, Orlando, and Orgoglio from Spenser. These gentlemen are accelerating the pace of the narrative as we careen headlong toward the conclusion, which is giving every indication of being one hell of a story, indeed.

RAGNAROK #1 — The return of the Maestro and his companions! This thing has a hell of a pedigree. Walt Simonson, who produced the greatest THOR run in history, returns to the Norse mythos for a non-Marvel blast through the aftermath of Ragnarok, brilliantly abetted by the industry’s best, Laura Martin on colors and veteran collaborator John Workman on letters. IDW has a real coup here scoring these heavyweights producing anything at all, but the fact that it’s Simonson returning to Norse mythology really puts it over the top. And of course, it’s a thing of beauty. Simonson is somehow still peaking, only getting better and better as the years go by. There was a strange disconnect for me in his work a very few years back on Bendis’s AVENGERS, but it looked like that might be down to possibly inking and strange coloring choices, and that’s very much borne out here as Martin’s hues make Simonson’s lines pop like never before. What’s really cool about this is that it’s set in a post-Ragnarok situation years and years after it all goes down, so if you are something of a continuity integrationist, there’s so far really nothing stopping you from sliding this in as an official sequel to Simonson’s glorious THOR run. The opening scene is as thunderous and world-breaking as anything we have seen from this great man’s pen before the narrative get grounded and we meet our protagonist, a Black Elf called Brynja who sets out to assassinate an unnamed target who very well might be the horrifying specter of death who appears adorned in chains in both Brynja’s daughter’s nightmare and the final page, as well as possibly providing the first-person narration that opens the issue on the inside front cover. This title sounded liked a slam-dunk the moment that it was announced and the creators do not disappoint.

BEST OF WEEK: TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #1 — All right, admittedly, I am the bull’s eye Target Zero demographic for this book. I was aged seven and then eight when the animated adventures of these two franchises respectively debuted, and in a post-EPISODE VI world, was just as ravenous as everyone else for massive ensembles of new heroes and villains waging war against one another amidst an ongoing serial mythology that seemed to mature and evolve right along with us as the birthdays rolled by and the aircraft carriers and future cities that we asked for as presents grew in size right along with us. And then I got older and learned to revere the craft, untouchable dynamism, and seething energy of the one true King, Jack Kirby. So, as soon as IDW announced that GØDLAND’s own Tom Scioli was writing and drawing this book, I knew at once that I would treasure it, no matter what shape or form it manifested in this reality. And I thought that Scioli did a bang-up job with the zero-issue for Free Comic Book Day. But, holy shit! This is an optimum best-case scenario. If Kirby himself was convinced in 1985 to give Marvel a third chance and take over the sequential adventures of these two franchises, and he somehow once again unleashed the sheer furious thunder of his limitless cosmic imagination and tried to do his Fourth World saga one better, then it would be this good. Everything about this is total glory. I could write a couple hundred words breaking down what I love about each and every single page. Let’s just do a few bullet-points:

-that cover (above) that references both the original TRANSFORMERS #1 from the old Marvel series as well as the first page of the Hama G.I. JOE #1 while also giving us Snake Eyes turning his back on the whole damn mess of them, Silver Age-style (as noted in back-matter)
-the sheer clusterfuck insanity of just dropping us in on a no-context Springfield invasion on Page Two and making it both that crowded and instantly readable (right)
-Gung Ho calling Tomax & Xamot Siegfriend and Roy
-The “Face of Darkness” shout-out on Page Four
-The Biblical allusion in the title on Page Six introducing plane versions of both Sound- and Shockwave; also, Flagg calling the Autobot & Decepticon signs the masks of comedy and tragedy, which, I straight up involuntarily slapped my own forehead right away for never seeing it
-Ravage as principal negotiator
-Giiiiiiiant Soundwave reaching down to stop the Joes from fleeing in their jeep
-Page Thirteen, that insane foreshortened lineup of Decepticons with Ravage standing in for Cerberus as pointed out in the back-matter
-The Kirby Krackle around Gen. Colton at the center of Page Fifteen. And how he’s totally Highfather
-Page Sixteen. Any time Soundwave is in this book, he should totally have three splash pages or near-splashes. Minimum. That just seems like the call, and good on Scioli for starting us off right here; Also, “I offered you peace and you ran over me with your car,” is the sensational character line of 2014.
-The Revenge of Snake-Eyes
-Yeah, and then just everything about the last four pages

If anything, I’m worried that Scioli has just maybe set the bar too high with this issue. But given that this appears to be actually set-up, and we really hit it hard next issue with the brilliantly inverted dynamic of Joes on Cyberton, well, I mean, in theory, I can intellectually grasp that there’s some hypothetical way that this could get better or that I could have more fun reading it, but I can’t actually imagine it. Beyond glorious!

SAVAGE DRAGON #196 — What an amazing lineup this week to get interiors from Simonson, Scioli, and Larsen, three men who have done so much to extend Kirby’s legacy while adding their own unique elements to his style. Certainly no one can do a double splash page for you like Erik Larsen, you get the feeling that the original linework displayed such energy and dynamism that the krackle appeared there all on its own “SPONTANEOUS GENERATION!” Larsen continues to entertain while depicting Malcolm bashing the hell out of Dart’s crew with whatever comes to hand. I tell you what, though, that GIANT-SIZE KUNG FU BIBLE STORIES he mentions at the top of the letters column does indeed sound like “the greatest publication in the history of mankind.” I also dig the comic strips on the last page, there, a nice sorbet to cleanse the palette before moving on.

SAGA #21 — It looks like some good old-fashioned married sex isn’t going to be enough to save Marko & Alanna’s marriage. If their infant daughter’s omniscient narration is anything to go by. So sad! The characters have settled into a consistent rhythm. All of their interactions feel natural and unforced. Good for BKV! It was probably a good move to bail out of that Dome debacle. Staples continues to do a beautiful job of crafting this unique universe page after page, as only she can.

ZERO #9 — Ah, God. This one snuck up on me, I really didn’t see that coming until it was happening. Deft character work, this thing spends almost the entire page count masquerading as a tense and very lean back-story piece for a supporting character that’s interesting enough but nothing that knocks your lights out before just gut-punching you right at the very end, there. More strong craft from Ales Kot. More killer art by someone I’ve never heard of called Tonči Zonjić, ably abetted by usual suspects Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles. More people should be talking about this book.

VELVET #6 — The past couple of issues didn’t seem particularly skinny in terms of content, but this one’s got a lot more plot to sink your teeth into. Maybe I’m just dense, but I didn’t realize that Codename: Mockingbird was actually her real husband and that was a not-pretend non-undercover honeymoon when they tried to kill one another that time. That is a pretty solid secret origin for our girl-Friday-turned-deadly-protagonist. If anything, Epting/Breitweiser have stepped up their game since taking the short break. This is grade-A material through and through.

TREES #3 — I liked this one quite a lot. Jason Howard continues to produce nothing but jawdropping pages and Ellis provides us with some interesting characters beats between Professor Luca Bongiorno & Eligia Gatti, as well as a four-page interlude starring young artist Chenglei and his cool new neighbor, Zhen, who look like they’re on the verge of a great adventure. This series is a weird beast, very much a straight character piece starring an ensemble who for the most part seem in no way on the verge of intersecting with one another and then with this terribly ominous premise that’s already so far in the background, I only counted two in-panel appearances and this is only the third issue. Which maybe sounds like a complaint, but I’m enjoying the hell out of this, the writing and art are both first-rate and I dig the languid pace that kind of recalls Marquez or maybe even Borges a little, now that I think about it. God bless Uncle Warren.

SUPREME: BLUE ROSE #1 — Man, I can’t believe we get two Ellis singles in one day. It feels like eight years ago! Coming on the heels of the monster reboots of PROPHET and GLORY (and where is that old PROPHET, anyway? Just realizing that it’s been quite some time), Ellis and newcomer-to-me-at-least Tula Lotay arrive with a surreal piece about an unemployed investigative journalist who has a dream that may or may not take place in the kind of hyper-continuity limbo that Moore trafficked in during his run and that Morrison loves to have his folks go run around in from time to time, but then after this dream, she wakes up and takes a meeting with Darius Dax (the Lex Luthor analogue previously, as I recall), who pays her three hundred thousand dollars right up front to go dig around looking for the titular character. Whose alter ego makes a single appearance this issue. Oh, and our female lead is Diana Dane, the Lois Lane analogue. Lotay is a spectacular find to realize Ellis’s fever dream vision. Even when she’s awake, the washed out pastels and overall palette lend a sense of unreality to the proceedings, which is all well and good for the background, but then the fine linework on the characters’ faces and even some of Diana’s body language recalls Mike Allred. Which is certainly something to shoot for. And in the middle there is a two-page six-panel thing Diana’s watching on her phone called Professor Night (the longest adventure serial in the world), that I can’t decide if it’s anime that took acid and then gobbled up DOCTOR WHO or if Uncle Warren has just crossed over to the far side past Ultimate Mental and is never coming back or what, but it’s glorious. I’m sure some people are going to bitch about Supreme not actually flying around in this or leaping tall buildings with a single bound, but that’s never been the point, and I dig the solid character groundwork that they lay down in this first issue. Now, if only we can get Gordon Cole to turn up and scream at us as to what this is all about.

DAREDEVIL #6 — Hickman might still get the prize for folding this latest Big Event ripple-effect into what he already had going on with Cap’s suppressed memories, but Waid certainly gives him a run for his money here, as he uses Aaron’s premise to cast Battlin’ Jack Murdock in a decidedly less flattering light than we’ve already seen him. Which seems like should be enough to hang an issue on, only Waid is never content to rest on his laurels, instead letting that be nothing more than an inciting incident that propels Matt into some not as much international espionage as let’s just call it diplomatic spycraft involving his mother the nun and Wakanda. A lot going on in twenty pages beautifully illustrated by regular colorist Javier Rodriguez, who knocks it out of the park every chance he gets. I’m not picking up a lot of Original Sin tie-ins, but every single one that I’ve read from my regular Pull has been really solid.

AVENGERS 100TH ANNIVERSARY #1 —When they announced these 100th Anniversary books, the one that I was certain that I was getting was this one. James Stokoe is a singular one-man band whose gritty detail and linework is only surpassed by his unique kaleidoscopic palette. Even the recap page is more fun than it is has any business being, giving us a new logo, a Previously… summary that tosses off asides like a Seventh Gender War, Dr. Franklin Richards, Herald of Galactus, the American continent being trapped in the Negative Zone, and the Avengers for some reason basing their headquarters in Malaysia. And most importantly, an ad for Marvel Quiblets, horrifying sentient pets that now come in Marvel superhero flavors. Really, just this page by itself almost cooked my brain here at the end of the night. But then you turn the page and it turns out Stokoe is responsible for one-hundred percent of the interiors, too. Beast! The double-page splash of Stark Tower in Kuala Lumpur is by itself almost more than you can take and worth the cover price all on its own. I could go on and on about how much I love every page of this book, but you really should just check it out for yourself, particularly if you are one of those who dig the indie creators on STRANGE TALES aesthetic from that anthology Marvel was putting out a few years back. This is more than just stunning vistas, though, Stokoe crafts a story with a lot of heart featuring a limited ensemble that really makes you wish that this could just be a regular series. Particularly when you get to the last page, I love how he threw that concept out there and then just barely returns to it at the end with such emphasis that it sends your mind reeling. Strong, strong work! Only surpassed tonight by Scioli and that Gotham epilogue.