Wednesday, November 26, 2014


BATMAN #36 — This is a pretty bulletproof scenario, Capullo drawing Batman VS the Justice League. Of course, Snyder’s got to build all kinds of prep-time type business in here, but it’s a little funny to think about Bruce and Ray Palmer just bopping around dead solar systems collecting dead red suns for that one rainy afternoon that Clark is going to misbehave and Bruce is going to have to punch him. That is solid writing, though, making the crucial distinction that Bruce planned to fight the Superman he knows, not the safeguard-free Joker-venom version. The best line of the issue is about who wins in a fight between Batman and Superman: “Neither of us.” Thank you, Scott Snyder.

BEST OF WEEK: BATGIRL #36 — I liked this one even better than last issue. Babs Tarr channels more of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SCOTT PILGRIM vibe this time out, and this time she’s working over co-writer Cameron Stewart’s layouts, which makes the pages look even more dynamic and engaging than before. Is Jeremy DeGroot’s last name a L O S T reference? All instances of DeGroot and Hanso will I guess forever make me think about the Dharma Initiative. Also, a very strong single-page introduction for Nadimah. That’s where the Pilgrim influence really shows up, the cartoony manga-like exaggeration of the characters’ body language and facial expression. Love that on a mainstream non-alternate-world title. That costume suit-up at the bottom of Page Five is an elegant bit of cartooning, what would be Panel Seven splitting up into five quick-change panels with every single one of those sound effects absolutely essential to the flow. Beautiful work. And good on Barbara parkouring up the tree and brick wall. The tone of this is much wackier than what we usually get out of the Bat—universe. Some folks have remarked that they would be all right with it if it was an alternate continuity, but I don’t see why it’s got to be all heavy gloom and doom every minute that she’s not in the cave with the rest of the family. Solid work building the ensemble just a little bit and really just terrific sequentials throughout the issue. This and GOTHAM ACADEMY really are a breath of fresh air even while the big guy is strong work across the line that’s more tonally in line with what we expect from a Batman book.

BATMAN ETERNAL #32 — As many talented artist who have graced these pages here these last five or so months, and even as much of an admirer of Dustin Nguyen’s as I have been for years across the impressive range of his stylistic spectrum, nobody does it here for me on this series like Jason Fabok. I was really excited when they even announced his mighty DETECTIVE run with Layman, and he knocked that out of the park before jumping right over here with his hyper-rendered intricate linework that really gives these events a sense of import and gravitas. The emotional payoff of Alfred hugging his daughter alone is one of my favorite moments of the series, executed to perfection in just five panels with only a single three-word shot of dialogue necessary because of all the care that Fabok and colorist Brad Anderson are putting into every single shot. And then of course, ha ha, everything goes even wronger. If these boys keep escalating, there’s not going to be enough of old Gotham standing in March to be able to use it as a viable setting for skyscraper urban combat.

FUTURES END #28 — Everyone else hears Michael Giacchino music during all those island sequences, right? There’s certainly something wrong with me, I will be the first to admit. Maybe I’m the only one who still harbors a grudge against the douchebag director who used to go around calling himself McG, but that is an unacceptable sobriquet for Terry McGuinness, full stop. I do love that shot on the bottom of his first page of Bruce in silhouette roaring up from the fire to grab him, though. Probably the panel of the issue here this week. And then he goes ahead and utters some straight Frank Miller dialogue about the old L1 vertebra, hilarious. That’s how you show it’s Batman Five Years Later, people! Get him to talk like the ur-Marv. Also a funny revelation for Terry. No, dude, Bruce has just always been kind of a dick, or at least since he was eight, it wasn’t Brother Eye at all. And this thing with Madison, never has a plot-point pivoted so crucially on a study group. Everybody knows about that group!  

WYTCHES #2 — I love the book-within-a-book on the first page, reminds me of Carey pulling that trick over on THE UNWRITTEN (the kid’s name is Taylor, even!). The description of being a parent at the top of Page Seven is almost identical to one I have bounced back and forth with folks over the past half a dozen years. So much the truth. The plot thickens just a bit, and Snyder doesn’t feel like he’s got to dole out too much for the reader in terms of answers, escalating the situation with a whole family’s worth of cliffhangers. And Hollingsworth is producing some really interesting work with the splatter backgrounds all over every page, starting out with the opacity relatively lower at first and then dialing it up as the issue progresses, which of course primes the reader to expect particularly graphic presentations of extreme gore and violence. And no review of this would be complete without at least mentioning that Jock is a beast. Thank you, that is all.

THE FADE OUT #3 — Mmm, everything looks as gorgeous as usual, but I had trouble finding any reason to care about young Maya Silver this month. As talented as these creators are, it feels like they’re just lapsing into doing a SATELLITE SAM riff. Devin Faraci’s essay about Lana Turner and Sean Connery and most of all her fourteen-year-old daughter Cheryl versus Johnny Stompanato, on the other hand, is riveting.

MPH #4 — Duncan Fegredo is really something serious. He makes the sequential storytelling work but then can show up with pitch-perfect likenesses of Reagan and Gorbachev that are downright uncanny. What we have here is plenty of escalation by way of disintegration, and our boy Mad Mark Millar with only one issue left to sell the film rights to Fox or another friendly neighborhood studio. We wish him well, in this and all things.

SILVER SURFER #007 — That Dawn Greenwood is just so cool, man. “Nah, let’s go a little farther.” And what a nice time for a montage. So, this is more like issue #027 if we count all the adventures that have apparently happened in between issues. Dawn’s rapport with Twomie continues to be an inspired bit of character dynamics. This is just a fun book. The fruit pies at the atomic shotgun wedding or the maze on the following page are proof enough of that. And but now Norrin & Dawn are dating! So cute!

BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #002 — Good night, I cannot believe the amount of quality that Marco Rudy lavishes on every page. This is some stunning work, to be sure. I wasn’t really a fan of the meter and rhymed verse that Kot selected for Loki’s dialogue, it distanced me from Rudy’s lavish visuals rather than anchoring me within them. This is more than worth the $3.99 price-point for the art alone, but the plot this time out was a little bit skinnier than last month. Here’s to something meatier next time.

AVENGERS·X-MEN: AXIS #5 — Okay, I’m a little bit dense. I do go to some length to avoid copy of what a premise is for something that I’m already going to be consuming anyway, but I love that the main Axis flip deal happened at the end of #3 and then I was just totally confused last issue. Why were the Avengers being such dicks? Okay, now I get it. And it is a very cool elevator pitch. Awakened, indeed. Good on Remender. I do think it’s kind of a fucked up and fundamentally flawed move making Magneto be good now that he’s inverted. I would like it much better if he was a total megalomaniac and everybody was like, “Oh nooooooo, he really has been a hero all this time, just so like misunderstood.” Morrison making Thomas Wayne the only stand-up guy on Earth-2 back in that graphic novel with Quitely is still my favorite time somebody used that trick, keeping it just barely implicit that Bruce’s dad was just a piece of shit back over in Earth-1. But back over on good old 616, I also didn’t realize that the Apocalypse last issue was Genesis all grown up. I probably need to finish up on Aaron’s WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN run, admittedly. Okay. This was a pretty fun issue of superheroes beating up on each other. Even though I swear I’ve seen that a time or two before now.

Friday, November 21, 2014


BEST OF WEEK: SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #9 — Snyder/Lee/Williams/Sinclair finally bring this bad boy in. It does what it’s supposed to, veering a little on the side of overly talky with Luthor monologing (sp?) most of the first half of the issue. But this is of course offset by all the heavy lifting that that art team does. It pretty much doesn’t get more A-list than these guys, and there are plenty of iconic shots sprinkled throughout the issue. My favorite page is before the big guy flies off for the final battle and he says goodbye to Lois, and I swear to God, Lee does this Gabriel Rodriguez homage, this same little trick that was in LOCKE & KEY: OMEGA #’s 1 and I want to say 3, where the last shot of the page is nothing but two hands, formerly clasped but now parting. Another standout is when Luthor finally shuts up just as the art team gives us their rendition of Warren Ellis’s favorite script prompt to Bryan Hitch: “The ships engage.” And there’s even a nod to that iconic shot of Superman getting struck by lightning in the last issue of Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT FALLS. Snyder does a pretty good job sticking the landing on Luthor’s rant about Superman. It’s no ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, but I guess nothing else will be ever. The deal with Wraith swooping in and sacrificing himself was not set up at all in any way? Has there just been too long in between issues? I need to go back and check, but it seems like that came out of nowhere. And the Nguyen flashbacks came off as complete filler, as well drawn as they were. All in all, though, this was a pretty great ride. Not Snyder’s best effort but reasonably coherent, and of course Lee and the crew just drew the hell out of it.

ACTION COMICS #36 — Well, it looks like Smallville has a bit of a Halloween hangover. And I’ve missed some chapters? Did I skip last month because it was a fill-in? Or has a bunch of stuff happened elsewhere? Lana’s in bed with John? And Clark has a beard in the present, too? It really really is flattering that the architects behind “The New 52” are going to such lengths to make the big guy closer to my physical likeness, but it’s kind of taking me out of the story a little bit! I can’t fly, and Lana Lang is not my best friend, you know? Love getting Kuder back on the entire issue’s worth of interiors, in all seriousness.

GRAYSON #4 — This one is a little bit more of a romp than we’re used to, but after the heavy business that has frontloaded this series, it was honestly nice to just frolic around with our boy getting chased by some young killers-in-training at glorious old St. Hadrian’s. This book continues to do a nice job balancing out the character work with compact blasts of espionage and the requisite scrambled signal to Mister Malone hanging out in his cave fourteen miles out of Gotham, there. And the Mikel Janin pages are nothing less than exquisite. I love that Quitelyesque splash of how the mission got accomplished before Dick could even finish his sentence.

GOTHAM ACADEMY #2 — This one is a little bit more angsty in tone than I would prefer, but I guess that’s kind of what you get with the demographic of this ensemble. It does an interesting thing for a second issue, substantially raising the mystery quotient on Olive, particularly with regard to how she spent her summer and whatever the deal with her mom is. At first, it felt like an odd bit of pacing, but I’ve decided that I like it. It would have come on a little bit strong and maybe been doing to much heavy lifting last issue to introduce us to all these new characters and also throwing that in our face first thing. It was good to just meet everyone and now dig in a bit deeper. Kerschl’s art is again stunning, and the three colorists do a pretty good job of blending their styles so that the reader doesn’t get thrown when there’s a switch. All in all, a slight dip from the excellent first issue, but still really good material to be found here.

BATMAN ETERNAL #31 — When I saw this cover, my brain wouldn’t let me understand that it was Alfred standing on the left. This is a hilarious team-up. Julia Pennyworth on the threshold of not being able to hang on tech support is a pretty solid running C-plot. I am a fan of Fernando Pasarin on these interiors, this guy really showed up. Terrific splash page with Mr. Freeze, but the three-panel run a few pages later with Thunderclap Auriga is a very nice piece of work. Just a killer ending, though. It couldn’t have happened any other way. Very good, sir, indeed.

FUTURES END #27 — Once again, lots of plots clipping forward here. We are standing on the verge of getting it on, as the song goes. I’m still digging on Barda teaming up with the Green Arrow crew (can’t believe that show has made the first word in the dude’s name sound weird to me). Scott comes face to I guess eye with Brother Eye, but of course the big deal is Terry and Bruce are finally on-panel together, which should make for the series bat-slugfest next issue. Aaron Lopresti’s sequentials are looking a bit more rushed than they did when he first showed up, but this is a weekly! These Ryan Sook covers, though, man. Wow.

CHEW #44 — The Mighty Layman is still having fun toying with our hearts, delivering the near-mortal wound that was already given away on the final page of last issue but then only offering a scant four panels of development past that point. There’s a bit more no-holds-barred action in this one with Guillory delivering quite the kinetic fight sequence. The Babycakes fakeout on Poyo is only surpassed by the inevitable double-page splash showing where our boy really was. You get the sense that when this book is done, Layman’s still going to have a list of thirty-five more batshit ideas that are just as much fun as this one.

VELVET #8 — This is another meat-and-potatoes issue with Velvet executing her plan to storm HQ and running afoul of Roberts, who it looks like is getting set up as nemesis/antagonist. This entire issue is basically just a single action scene followed by a cliffhanger, but it does its job well and is very satisfying. It’s cool to see Brubaker not just drowning in noir (not that I ever have any problem with that), but the real draw here has got to be Epting/Breitweiser crushing it on art. Sorry that this one beat ZERO to the rack, as those make a charming double-feature, but so it goes.

PUNKS: THE COMIC #2 — Wow, the Skywalker/Adama/Fellowship of the Ring shout-out before the end of the first page. That is some hustle. That Page Three sequence of SuperDog flying in from the sky is maybe my favorite thing I’ve seen from this series. Until that panel of them all hugging him and telling him they love him. I hope to see more of SuperDog in the future. The Halloween masks are also a very nice touch. Reading this comic is like taking drugs, only it never lets you come down.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #03 — A relatively rational opening four pages this month. Or I’m just getting more acclimated to the madness? Sir Hippothesis brings those murderous scamps Seal Armstrong and Buzz Owldrin to Planet Crabulon, where they apologize to King Tiger Eating A Cheeseburger for killing all of those crab people. King Tiger Eating A Cheeseburger accepts their apology by killing them both with an enormous battle-axe. But then cut to Doctor Rhinoceros (not real name) waking up, only it wasn’t all a dream, and then he runs into a messy room where someone called Dave is crashed out in bondage gear. Dave has a muscular green arm attached to his chest that might as well be the Hulk’s right arm. That’s the first four pages. I can’t believe that they seemed kind of average to me, in terms of weirdness, but there you go. Ryan Browne ruins everything.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #009 — Well, I was enough of a fool for Spider-Gwen that I had to pick this one up. And it is pretty great work. Every time I check in with Slott’s run, he is making it happen on every level, truly a worthy custodian of this flagship character. That was a perfect opening scene, timeless and iconic and all, a perfect set-up for the lunar twist and surprise death. Coipel predictably knocks the interiors out of the park in his own inimitable A-list fashion. It is funny that with Hickman dragging all the Avengers through the multiverse and then of course with Morrison doing what he’s doing across the street that we’ve got enough multiverse for a Spidey-based spin on things. But, of course. I’m not sure how frequently this is coming out, but if I’ve got room, this is definitely worth staying with.

AVENGERS·X-MEN: AXIS #4 — Remender really hit a masterstroke giving Charles Xavier’s brain to the Red Skull. I defy anybody to engineer a superior way to slam together the X-Men and Avengers franchises in a manner that has more tension hard-wired into the premise. As soon as you beat the bad guy, all of the good guys can fight over who gets to keep him. But, damn! Did Captain Falcon just deck young Sam Jackson Fury? But man, why this compulsive return to our friendly neighborhood Carnage? I’m just not finding it compelling as of yet. I hope Remender proves me wrong. And then Tony sees U2’s free new album and raises the stakes pretty considerably! I guess that’s some kind of bad deal that he’s just swigging champagne there at home plate of Giants Stadium? But then Apocalypse onstage with the X-Men? Have I missed a crucial tie-in issue? And but then that goes double for all that business with the Avengers. And Kluh, the backwards Hulk’s Hulk. All of this characterization just took a bunch of LSD, man. Like, it’s kind of fun, you can’t say that nothing’s really at all happening early on, which has been the deal for the last couple of these, but there appears to be no in-book justification. Red Onslaught Xavier’s just making everyone do craaaaaaazy things to advance the plot? Strange times but good fun from your mainly mindless mighty Marvel superhero slugfest big event!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


BEST OF WEEK: LITTLE NEMO: RETURN TO SLUMBERLAND #2 — If anything, these guys somehow manage to up their game from the ridiculous level of greatness that they hit in the first issue. Our new Nemo becomes a bit more engaged with his situation, Bon-Bon returns, and Flip Flap finally makes an appearance. Gabriel Rodriguez continues to manage the herculean task of assimilating Winsor McCay’s kaleidoscopic style while still managing to make the pages his own, all beautifully colored by Nelson Daniel and masterfully paced by Eric Shanower. This really is the most magical endeavor. At MorrisonCon a couple of years ago, there was a panel (a very painful Sunday morning panel) wherein the mourners assembled took a character from the public domain and attempted to frame what a reboot would look like. That character was Little Nemo, and as talented and insightful as everyone there was, nothing uttered that morning came close to matching this take in terms of sheer brilliance of both premise and execution. Everyone is firing at the top of their game, yes, but Rodriguez appears to actively be attempting to surpass his work on LOCKE & KEY, which is about the highest that anybody can shoot for. My favorite thing about this is that it’s utterly engrossing for me on every level, but then I can share it with my daughter and she loves it just as much. This is why we have Wednesday nights. Just wonderful.

WONDER WOMAN #35 — This one is slam-bang and done. I would have gladly paid an extra dollar or two to get this story presented with all the ads at least in the back, but it’s kind of fitting that this run ends as it began, on the front lines of the mainstream, ARROW ads breaking up the flow, as ever. Azzarello/Chaing/Wilson’s final chapter does more of what they’ve been doing. And why not? It’s certainly been working out for them. There’s lots of pontificating wrapped up in clever wordplay and fighting and scrambling around to get a hold of Zeke. There’s a great moment when Diana takes off her wristbands and proclaims her various titles if only to point out how little they matter. She’s still going to kick dude’s ass. Azzarello weaves the golden lasso and submission into the resolution in an elegant manner. And then there’s a last-minute reveal that I didn’t see coming and hadn’t feel like we particularly needed, but as soon as it hit turned out to be a great latest reason to slap my forehead. My only quasi-gripe with this finale is that Orion never came back. I would have liked to see him take a final bow under this regime. However, everything pretty much turned into a sitcom whenever he was on-panel, so keeping him on the bench does make sense. It certainly would have broken up the breakneck flow we have going here. This team did more heavy lifting than arguably anyone in The New 52 reboot. Snyder/Capullo have been great, but that whole deal has been very much an extension of what Snyder was doing previously. No other creative team had such success taking an established mythology back to basically a reset point and then building it up into something resembling but unlike what had come before. I’ve never read the Perez issues from the eighties, but this is the best run on the character that I’ve ever experienced, and it has consistently been a terrific ride, month after month. Going to miss these creators but am grateful to them for showing us how it’s done.

FUTURES END #26 — Bruce meeting Michael is pretty grim, given what we know. I guess his important business was really giving the Jason & Robbie that gruff Bat-pep-talk? If all of this Madison Payne nonsense has been a lead-up to her getting fridged, I’m going to be unimpressed, but I guess they also set up her being the glue that brings Firestorm back together for good. It would be nice if she could just save herself. I was kind of sad for poor Fifty-Sue getting betrayed, there. Slade is just the worst in any continuity!

BATMAN ETERNAL #30 — Well. Kind of only one thing happens this issue, but it’s a pretty big deal. That is some pretty grim business with old Batwing, there. And I have got to say, I still really can’t get past how stupid I find the whole Joker’s Daughter business, and any time she shows up, it completely takes me out of the story. This series has been pretty solid based on protagonist interaction, but would do much better with antagonists that were worth a damn.

SAVAGE DRAGON #199 — Magnificent. A tour de force. Larsen blasts out ten double-page spreads and makes it look effortless. Not just the sequential content but the narrative flow. I mean, this must have been a bitch to compose this up out of nothing, but the impressive thing is that you can never see the strings, the eye glides effortlessly across the page. These pages were really over much too soon for my taste.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #3 — I wasn’t able to lock into this one as well as the first two. I dug all the art. Fox continues to bring the crazy, and both Mahfood and Dalrymple show up with strong work. I just don’t care as much about this series as I feel like I should? I don’t know. They keep putting Kirby’s name in the credits, how can I not support these guys? Solid but not as batshit as I want it to be.

BLACK SCIENCE #10 — Ten issues in, and these guys are only picking up steam. It’s a good call to move Pia more toward center stage. That is one angry young woman! Though I have to say, I was surprised to see her mention dropping out of college. Scalera doesn’t draw her looking older than a girl in her early teens. I’ve been thinking this whole time that she was thirteen, fifteen tops. Maybe she gets that youthful appearance from her mother. She does make a solid new protagonist for this series if Remender doesn’t take her out. I am a fan of the multiple iterations of characters that keep creeping in. You can see the level of complexity gradually increasing as the series progresses. It seems like there will be pretty insane things happening by #25! Respect to the art once again, Scalera/White create such an immersive and beautiful world, month after month.

LOW #4 — This double-shot of hard-science Remender is a heady concoction! After the first three issues pretty much serving as the pilot episode, we get our next installment here, which takes place in the pirate city of Poluma. The mom behaves just the way you expect her to, but it’s nice to see Marik begin to act like an actual human being. Though that’s a harsh deal with his sister, there, not cool! I feel like this book would benefit from doing a one-paragraph recap on the inside front cover, not so much because the reader needs it as I suspect that it would be great fun to both read and write. Tocchini continues to turn in more absolutely gorgeous work. You have to respect Remender, locking down these guys on both of these books with this sweeping European style of art while simultaneously taking his turn running the Big Event over at The House of Ideas. Hickman and he are both doing a pretty incredible job of balancing out creator-owned and work-for-hire and making both seem like labors of love, never phoning it in.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #5 — The Jasons pull off a nifty little trick here, shifting focus to our antagonist Coach Euless Boss and actually succeeding in making him just the least bit relatable. Flashing back to when he was a scrub at the bottom of the lineup causes the reader to feel a grudging respect for him, despite the shocking events of last issue. Not sure what to make of the fact that Coach Boss’s address is 616, what with Aaron being such an architect of the old Marvel Universe this last little bit, here.

SAGA #24 — After scaling it back for a few months, this title’s preciousness has returned. I don’t know if it’s a function of the massive amount of adulation it gets or what, but I feel like the tone and peccadilloes that I found somewhat annoying back when we were in single digits are really dialed all the way up by now, and I’m just shaking my head most of the way through this. The completely naturalistic twenty-first-century tone of every single character’s dialogue, how often everybody says, “Fuck!” just because they can. I am completely missing what is so cool about Lying Cat and why an utterance of “Lying,” ever ever merits its own splash panel. That page really kind of sums it all up for me. As soon as I turned to it, I was simultaneously hit by how flat it fell for me and the certainty that true fans around the world were throwing up their arms in victory. I don’t know. I’ll still keep picking this up just to be aware of what’s happening and in case it becomes less adoring of its own internal greatness. Staples is still producing some good-looking pages. I liked the gag at the end where Prince Robot’s screen is all red-skies crisis.

FANTASTIC FOUR #011 — The boys keep moving things along and bringing them to a head. Kirk/Kesel/Aburtov continue to produce beautiful pages. I liked Spidey’s dialogue to Johnny. It rings true that for all the shit they sling each other’s way, Parker is there for the Torch in a heartbeat when things start crashing down. And, hey, it’s just cool to have Wyatt Wingfoot in play across more than a single issue. My favorite dynamic in this entire mythology, by far, has to be Valeria & Doom. I would just devour an entire series focusing on only their relationship down through the years, across time and space. I was more than a little disappointed by the reveal that she’s not having as much of an effect on him as seemed apparent, but that is certainly in-character.

ALL-NEW X-MEN #30 — It felt like more happened in this one then in the past few issues. I was already loving the opening scene with Bobby before that Page Six splash page with the hilarious quip, a really nice piece of comic-booking, there. I guess you can always win me over by doing a homage, that is probably the easiest way in. Bendis has queued up some entertaining chemistry in his matchups for everybody. I’m particularly interested in seeing where it goes with Hank and Doom, though of course Miles and Jean are total sweethearts. More terrific work from Asrar/Gracia.

Friday, November 7, 2014


BEST OF WEEK: THE MULTIVERSITY:theJUST #1 — The superheroes of Earth-16 won. In an inversion of the FINAL CRISIS premise, Morrison posits the aftermath of a world in which good triumphed over evil and there are no more supervillains to fight. This creates a problem for the next generation, who are left to basically wallow somewhere in the spectrum between existential ennui and the same kind of vapid celebrity adulation that is so common in our own world. Morrison does a good job here making the characters relatable but also kind of pieces of shit at the same time, as they would have to be, born as they are into this powered privileged life but never having been tempered by the conflict and strife that shaped their parents. Right off the bat, there is a pretty definitive statement that, though the premise in some ways suggests that this could be the aftermath of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN (this world’s Luthor succeeded in killing Superman), this story is the polar opposite of that one. Arguably the defining moment of that all-time classic occurs in #10 during the non-linearly-presented last day of Superman when he takes time out from performing many many other tasks to talk the goth girl Regan out of committing suicide by jumping off a ledge. Man, that moment is still so moving, just even mentioning it now is getting me choked up. But! This is straight up not the deal here as Metamorpho’s daughter commits suicide by the very same method on Page 2 with the difference highlighted by the fact that she is not technically alone at all but in the middle of a telepathic link with Shilo Norman’s daughter. But, she still feels really alone, get it? To top things off, when son of Superman, Chris Kent shows up, he can’t even be bothered to call her by anything other than Megamorpho. She’s not a person to him at all, only a teammeate. ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #10, this ain’t.

We move on to my favorite dynamic of the story, a fully-grown Damian Wayne hanging out with Alexis Luthor, the bald and brilliant daughter of the world’s greatest criminal mastermind. Lexi is smart enough to know how cool comics are, but as regular readers know, that is the kiss of death in this series because, yeah, she’s got herself a copy of the haunted ULTRA COMICS and is actually reading through the thing for the duration of this scene. There’s all kinds of meta-dialogue zinging back and forth this entire time. Damian’s watching the Superman robots repel an invasion and Lexi calls it “boring,” which is a straight reference to Wayne Boring, noted Silver Age Superman artist who illustrated more than one tale of Superman robots back when. Damian expresses disdain toward folks who don’t like calling comic books comic books in one beat and then with “I bet the artists don’t get a single dime,” references both the prevailing corporate culture down through the years of not rewarding creative talent as well as the original cover price for superhero funny books. We’ve already seen Ultra’s costume before, but this was the first time I realized that he seems to be functioning on multiple levels: as a Miracleman analogue that appears to be in Carol Danvers’s costume but also (if the cover copy is anything to go by) as a potential fiction suit for our own charming selves (see: INVISIBLES if you’re ginchy on the term “fiction suit”). Maybe folks who follow solicitations already know this, but it now seems clear that ULTRA will have to be the last one-shot before we head back into the climactic final issue. But back to Gotham, I love love love Damian hustling Lexi into his closet behind the lead-lined coat so that his best friend doesn’t bust him hanging out with the daughter of the guy who killed Chris’s dad. Oh but wait, then the two-panel bit about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman is one of my favorite conversations that’s ever happened. Morrison NAILS what that Superman/Sandman story would be in three word balloons. And it is hilarious. I, of course, love getting to read more Morrison-scripted adult Damian (we all knew there was a *tt* coming). It is interesting that this is basically the opposite of the #666 future situation, a paradise instead of a hell, and naturally Damian is miserable. I kept waiting for Alfred the cat to show up, but maybe Lexi’s allergic? But it’s so perfect for them to be together, an example of Damian following his father’s taste in romancing the villain like with Selina and his own mother, even, but then the weird deal is, that starts heading into Oedipal territory really quickly. OH, Damian. You never had a chance. Was Alexis trying to get him to read the comic in order to deliberately infect him?

So, it’s a little weird that Ray Palmer is in this, just because he’s the only non-legacy hero. Can’t figure out what that means. When Kyle Rayner gets a look at Offspring’s copy of ULTRA COMICS, we get our first glimpse of two unlettered pages that have to be near the end of the issue, and they look pretty grim for our hero/us. It will be interesting to see if there actually is dialogue when we finally get our hands on the cursed comic book. This is the first time that I’m actually experiencing a sense of dread at the thought of reading this thing myself. I dig Kyle’s, “Dude! You’re into comics,” statement to Ernie, who it seems like is talking about analogues for the Marvel and Ultimate universes (and is possibly referencing all the shit that went down at the end of THE MULTIVERSITY #1? This shit is starting to make my head hurt).

Planet Krypton from KINGDOM COME showing back up really brings home the extent to which this entire set-up is just taking a bath in the mid-nineties. All of these versions of heroes with the exception of Chris & Damian are all who was running around back then (Artemis, for one).

This Chris Kent Superman is just terrible, though! There’s of course the initial failure to save Saffi, then him treating her suicide like a “super-mystery,” but Morrison keeps giving him these horrible moments, making fun of Batman behind his back and then just literally reading the chemical composition of the haunted comic, but then it looks like he even gets Ernie’s name wrong, calling him “Eddie” when they’re looking at the guy’s comics.

Damian and Chris try to rally their pitiful partnership at the end, tracking down leads. I just realized that I was so caught up in Megamorpho’s death being an anti-Regan thing that I missed that a hero(ine) landing on the sidewalk as an inciting incident is something that has been done before in a high-profile book.

Sister Miracle tweeting about how cool it would be to meet herself before looking out to see the devastation on the last page is a perfect last thematic beat embodying the rampant narcissism and navel-gazing that characterizes this entire issue. By now, we’re trained to know that some kind of really heavy shit is going to come raining down on the final page, and it apparently looks like Alexis has, in fact, been poison from the start. I love how Jakeem Thunder just suddenly shows up at the end, only ever having been mentioned on the cover. Which, I should have mentioned Ben Oliver before now. Assisted by Dan Brown on some coloring, the pair provide excellent visuals throughout, leaning on a likeness-heavy style that's a perfect fit for the content of this issue. Alexis is clearly Angelina, and Arrowette's shaved sides seem to be inspired by Miley's, but I'm having trouble placing who Chris and Sasha are supposed to be. That's usually a dicey Greg Land sort of move, but it works really well in this context. 

I have to say, though, that big ending was mostly hijacked for me by the opposite page because I had no idea when PAX AMERICANA was coming out. Morrison/Quitely are my very very favorite team working today and really just about of all time. I could not be more excited for their harmonic eight-panel-grid take on the Charlton/WATCHMEN universe. Soon. Soon.

BATMAN ETERNAL #29 — I am digging Julia/Penny-Two’s gradual assimilation into the family as an operator. Really don’t care about Blackfire or Joker’s Daughter, though. Or Hush, for that matter. Which, all those pages start to add up. This series is just all over the place. Everything blows up real good at the end, so hopefully I’ll be more into the players left standing next week.

FUTURES END #25 — Well! So honored to appear on the cover. It turns out that the old MIA Man of Steel decided to do a little bit of dressing up like me just to mix things up a bit. Good fun! The Stormwatch crew, who continue to be my favorite plot, get a great cliffhanger this week out. Slade dropping the uppercut on Cole while asking, “How bad does it have to get before the situation trumps the obsession?!” is my favorite incongruous panel of the week. And Brainiac, how many more times are we going to get another permutation of the old all-Braniacs-up-until-now-have-been-Doombots bit? I feel like Johns did it first a few years back but that it’s shown up more than once since then. Constantine certainly hasn’t felt the same since crossing over from Vertigo, but him dropping a “Sunshine Superman” is a nice touch. But man, I do not give one shit about that Firestorm plot. At this point, I’m only still halfway onboard this series. But if they keep putting me on the cover, I promise to keep picking it up.

INFINITY MAN AND THE FOREVER PEOPLE #4 — Now, that is one good-looking Howard Porter cover. That guy has really transformed his style since the Morrison JLA run. Didio once more demonstrates his love for Bat-Cow, bringing the bovine detective in for an opening scene that actually leaves you wanting more. Giffen is back with all the Kirby seething up out of every page. I haven’t been following the Green Lantern books since Johns took off so was a bit surprised to learn about what’s going on with all of this business between them and New Genesis. And is that Red Lantern a bearded Guy Gardner? Funny doin’s abound! If Giffen sees fit to maintain the old 3x2 panel grid while channeling the King’s krackle, I’m here every month with a smile on my face.

THE UNWRITTEN: APOCALYPSE #10 — We’re not quite roaring into the climactic finale just yet, but Carey/Gross move most of the pieces into place in this substantive issue. There’s an inevitability about the proceedings as Gross sheds most of the impressive stylistic tricks he’s been employing in the past few months, content trumping form at the same time that Carey scripts the line, “Form defines function” for Tom. Those two things keep rattling around my head, and I don’t think I’ve quite worked them out yet. But, just when it can’t get anymore compelling with our two factions remotely facing off against one another, it’s time to head where else but into one of the later Tommy Taylor novels. Terrific penultimate cliffhanger. Feeling really confident that these boys are going to nail the ending, always the trickiest part of telling any great story.

STARLIGHT #6 — A very strong finish to a series that debuted with a perfect first issue. $5 for 36 pages of straight-ahead no-ad science-pulp greatness as Duke McQueen barrels toward THE END as fast as his classic Ford Mustang can carry him. There’s no ebb and flow here, not a single page where we’re concerned that things are not going to turn out well for our hero. All of that has already come and gone, but this lack of tension is not a bad thing. There’s a simple, direct joy to be found in watching Duke save Tantalus without a shred of doubt or angst, just taking care of business like he did back when. The final battle deservedly takes up most of the page count, but it isn’t until Duke and Krish make it back to Earth that Millar drops a pretty effective little bomb resolving the principal conflict from #1 and getting me more than a little choked up in the process. Parlov’s work, once again, is the star of the show. He communicates the various climactic action scenes with a direct immediacy that channels Kirby dynamism, but then it’s the character work, the burly hero embracing his much-smaller sidekick at the very end of the story, that brings home that emotional beat and really pays off the entire series. This was a delight from start to finish, and I recommend it unreservedly to one and all, even if you think you’re done with Millar. Beautiful work. It would have claimed Best of Week, no problem, if not for multiversal Morrison machinations.

ZERO #11 — More of the quality that we’ve come to expect from this title. Ricardo Lopez rotates in on art, lending a kinetic energetic style that makes the “scrawls of velocity” accompanying Edward’s drive home from getting supplies arguably the most dynamic movement of the entire issue. There’s not a lot of text in this one, but the art rewards contemplation. The Day Five action scene is very exciting.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #5 — There’s a nifty little twist here right at the end, but my suspicion that the general vacuity of every character in this series is borne out when a major character is killed and I don’t care one tiny little bit. The art remains tremendous, but these guys are all ciphers.

AVENGERS·X-MEN: AXIS #3—All right, the opening Deadpool captions are funny enough, but I am not a fan of the voice Remender gives Carnage and Loki. Really, not a fan of Carnage in general so maybe that’s a lost cause, but I didn’t realize to what extent Gillen’s take on the character has laid claim to the way I see him now. And actually, by the middle of the issue, even Deadpool covering The Monkees is a bit grating. It feels like a misfire to have the majority of this issue filled up with villains quipping clever. And then I totally don’t get what happened with Doom and everybody disappearing over that time-lapse. Very unclear cartooning from Yu, who delivers an otherwise good-looking issue. The script, at least, gets back on track in the final six-page scene when the heroes all wake up and start bickering about jurisdiction. And you know, Xavier’s mind potentially being salvaged from the Red Skull’s body, that’s a tricky one. Remender drops a fairly major plot beat here with Havok’s resignation. Other than that, three issues in, not a whole lot has happened thus far. We’ll see if they can get something cooking in a couple of weeks.

AVENGERS #037 — Well, Hickman likes his reversals, doesn’t he? Now that we’ve got up with Reed’s gang over in the other book, we get the regular artist of that title over here to check in with Steve’s crew, hot off of ORIGINAL SIN. And Deodato continues to knock it out of the park. This is yet another one of those issues that when you break down the plot into a synopsis, not really that much happens in terms of long-term development, but it always feels like just enough, and each single is a satisfying read unto itself. Hickman has struck upon the magic in the DNA of CIVIL WAR that Millar was so unable to mine. When you set hero against hero, you don’t need armies of villains. You’ve got enough character collision happening right there. More than enough! He has spent close to two years setting this up, stacking the ranks with dozens of heroes, and it is a delight to watch them play off one another now that the fuse has finally gone off.