BEST OF WEEK: LITTLE NEMO: RETURN TO SLUMBERLAND #3 — Well! The only way to crank this situation up, I suppose, is to do an M.C. Escher issue. Now, Gabriel Rodriguez is just showing off! Never even mind the Tessellated Tower exterior on Page Four, the romp through, up, down, and around it on Page Six opposite the birds turning into the fish turning into the bees on Page Seven is a stunning technical masterpiece that blows away just about anything I’ve seen lately this side of Quitely a couple weeks back on PAX AMERICANA. And then there are those gnomes/fairies, I swear. They haunt me. Nelson Daniel and Eric Shanower certainly do their share of heavy lifting as well, but it is Rodriguez’s insane mastery of perspective and ridiculously-tight-but-never-fussy linework that make these pages well worth revisiting over and over again. People throw around the term “master class” all the time these days, but that is exactly what is going on right here. A gift to us all.
SUPREME: BLUE ROSE #5 — This one seemed a little bit skinnier than previous issues? Maybe a couple more no-dialogue pages? Takes just as long to read, though, you can really get lost in Tula Lotay’s lush art. And this guy is Doc Rocket, too, I remembered that I had one in an old manuscript when that name surfaced last month in SAVAGE DRAGON, I think it was, but it just goes to show you that we’re all tapping into the same ideaspace. When we’re really really lucky. I dearly hope that the NEXT ISSUE is not a tease and that it’s just a straight Professor Night issue with only a single two-page non-sequitur back to the main action. Ha ha. Maybe some day, Supreme will appear in these pages. God, some people must really hate this book.
SEX CRIMINALS #9 — I’m not sure that our eponymous duo are in such a good place that introducing John’s porn-star sex-crush into the mix is necessarily going to be the best call for smoother sailing. They did bring that around nicely, though, I was certainly wondering who the hell was montage-narrating there at the beginning. This was another issue of Good Clean Sexy Fun. “The Lick-ed and the Divine” made a seriously inspired run at it, but the letters column was once again better than the sequential content. All of these people are like my friends or something, it is a source of great comfort to hear them all keep going on about their orgasms and such.
BITCH PLANET #1 — Rian Hughes has no problem claiming the trophy for best design of the week. Frankly, this is a terrific book, but it just barely manages to live up to that insane rocking exploitation cover and the fake (fake?) ads on the back. I was just cruising along totally lulled by all this smooth-sailin’ hyperviolent action, so that bait-and-switch definitely took me by surprise. Though that last line of dialogue was a bit on-the-nose for my taste. It looks like we really don’t quite know what this book is going to be like on a regular basis, so it will be interesting to check out the rhythms of the next issue that will presumably not follow such a pilot-episode vibe. Good on Kelly Sue, it looks like she has another hit on her hands! Several of my local friends who almost never mention the books they buy or even seldom buy books every Wednesday were talking about this before Wednesday and all the way up through the weekend. BITCH PLANET is here.
SOUTHERN BASTARDS #6 — Well, goddammit, but this right here really and truly seems to be the best issue so far. This really deserves Best of Week, but Rodriguez had to come along and ruin it for everyone. It is a goddamn subversive thing what these boys have done, pulling that little trick at the end of the first arc and then immediately pulling a 180 and making the antagonist sympathetic through flashback. Earl who-was-it-now? This whole deal pivots on the mentor relationship between young Coach Boss and his future defensive coordinator Coach Big. That two-page training montage alone is some of the best comic-booking of a really impressive week. But extra points for the spread of the young lad coming into his daddy’s trailer and encountering a drug-fueled orgy with stolen fighting chickens as innocent bystanders. The expression on the face of that dude on the couch at panel-left who’s got the cowgirl riding him is maybe my favorite part of the entire issue. I hope his arc is next.
PUNKS: THE COMIC #3 — Just when this series gave the complete impression that it could go no further, Marko Ramius arrives on Page Six to make all that has come before seem like a bastion of linear sanity. “PLEASE, ALEC BALDWIN, ONLY YOU CAN HELP ME DEFECT!” Dog is not Alec Baldwin, from the past or any other time! But then Young Alec Baldwin is on hand, as well. And so handsome! And there is Capt. Ramius in his Zardoz uniform referring to Dog as “Highlander!” But who is there left to save Thanksgiving but the Baldwin brothers? This comic is wonderful and makes almost no sense at all. It doesn’t have to. Also, there is the best Rick Remender interview. Be still, my heart!
SAVAGE DRAGON #100 — This is, indeed, a “SUPER SPECTACULAR!” Over the past 22 years, Erik Larsen has written and drawn this title continuously with no fill-ins (I think? Surely?), at this point vaulting past every other creator with the exception of Dave Sim (obligatory readability/entertainment value joke here). Larsen hits his usual monthly quota of twenty pages and then writes almost the entire remainder of the issue, bringing in serious talents such as legendary Herb Trimpe and Chris Burnham on art. The entire issue is a rocking good time, with various stories referencing and flowing into one another. The narrative content of particular note has got to be the three-way that goes down in the first story between Malcolm, his girlfriend Maxine, and her best friend Angel. Who is also Malcolm’s step-sister. The way that it just came out of nowhere seemed pretty nonchalant. I completely buy Malcolm being all the way up for it, but maybe Angel could have taken like half a page more of convincing? I pretty much bought it, though I was expecting there to be at least a little bit of an Internet uproar about it. I guess everyone’s okay with it. What liberated times we live in! Man, these last two issues, Larsen is on fire and grooving possibly stronger than he ever has been. He is, no doubt, planning to take us for quite a ride here in this next little bit.
(sexual innuendoes embedded within this review: 5. Did you catch them all?)
ASTRO CITY #18 — Brent Anderson returns, and once again, the reader has cause to bemoan the fact that there isn’t just a series about these people. Why does it have to always keep shifting focus? Of course, that might be ASTRO CITY’s best draw, but there are so many tantalizing glimpses into situations that we may or may not ever revisit, and even then, who knows how long it will be? The first half of the issue brings us up to date with the status quo of an aging Quarrel & Crackerjack before flashing back to the former’s secret origin, which is perfectly compelling taken on its own, before Busiek leaves us on a decidedly somber and melancholy note. It’s a moment of quiet reflection, all the more affecting for its lack of bombast amidst the nigh-infinite possibility of sudden shifts in plot development or characterization. No big twist to be found here, just our protagonist staring out her window at the great metropolis, wondering how it’s all going to end. There’s nothing like this book.
BATGIRL #36 — The crew finds a way to dial it up a notch here for the third time out. Tarr/Wicks continue to drop absolute justice over Stewart breakdowns with an energy and excitement that is completely infectious. Dagger Type is just the worst, though, there is no question about that. Of course, our heroine is more than a match for such ridiculous antics and manages to work in a positive message about managing her own social media presence by issue’s end. Very topical. Oooooh, it’s almost enough to make me not yearn for the acutalization of that slamming Cooke cover.
BATMAN ETERNAL #36 — Vicki Vale dives into the secret origin of Jason Bard and does not like what she finds. It is also regrettably similar motivation to what that Dr. Yamakaze fellow has steering him in a Dr. Psychowardly direction five years later over in the other weekly. And Julia calls our hero “Bats,” which you know I cannot stand from anyone but certainly seems out of character for her. An interesting twist at the end here, but we’ve been coasting for about two full issues now.
FUTURES END #32 — So, it looks like that as grim as things seem for the old Wayne family fortune over there in ETERNAL, everything gets resolved nicely some time in the next five years. And I don’t understand why Terry has never had a slice of pizza. They don’t have pizza in the future? But there is still Coke? I just, I just don’t get it. There is a distinctly KNIGHT RIDER vibe about this month’s page with Brother Eye, you could totally hear him addressing Mr. Terrific in a K.I.T.T. voice. And now Grifter & Lana are totally rocking an odd-couple romcom. That’s a little weird. And but the doctor, enough with the internal monologuing. We get it. Your wife is dead. It’s the League’s fault. Cannot believe we burned a whole page on nothing but that. Ditto for Jason & Madison sniping at each other because they’re stuck sharing the same space. After Jason tells her that he needs to see Yamakaze’s lab, I really wanted her to launch into a diatribe about how the League killed the dude’s wife. That would have been funny. All of these shortcomings are totally mitigated, however, by the last scene, which is bananas. Father Time jumping for joy because of all the monsters is just the best.
UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #1 — With her superior Bachalo character design and combustible Australian temper, Eva Bell is arguably the strongest of the new batch of mutants that Bendis has introduced in this title, though there’s been so much going on, he hasn’t had much time to zoom in on her or anyone else to really flesh them out to a significant degree. That ends now as we get the story of her missing years, how she went from a teenager to a seven-years-or-so (?) older-but-still-young woman. This is only the first part, but it’s already quite a bit more heartbreaking than the aftermath has hinted at. I won’t spoil the particulars (I really never like to spoil anything, you know, Wednesday Night Faithful), but Eva’s various time-jumping provides cameos from a couple of noted Marvel stalwarts that propel the action ever forward. Hot off her stint with Lemire on GREEN ARROW, Andrea Sorrentino turns in a gorgeous run of pages that surely rank with her finest output. Everybody is certainly doing their job well because I made it to the last pages and was already getting a bit sorry that the story was coming to a close before getting hit with the usually-dreaded TO BE CONTINUED. I’m actually looking forward to an annual now, which, Marco-Rudy-Dr.-Strange-NEW-AVENGERS notwithstanding, is not a usual occurrence. I just hope Sorrentino also has the gig for Part Two. Recommended if you’ve been hearing how terrific Bendis’s run is, but have been hesitant to dip your toe into the heavy-continuity maelstrom. All you need to know is that a new mutant is lost in time. But it helps if you are an old-school fan of Killraven and the 2099 line. (which, hell, yeah, I know is kind of a spoiler, but here we are)
AVENGERS·X-MEN: AXIS #7 — Well, they bring in Kubert and certainly do kick the deal into high gear, here. Deadpool remains as much of a focal point/narrator as we get, and Remender does indeed squeeze tremendous mileage out of the few pages of action that he and Spider-Man have as each other’s sidekicks. The whole deal with Wanda. That definitely struck me as a wrong-headed bullshit retcon move on early Thursday morning when I was first going through this. Seemed like the story, “the canon,” suffering for the sake of a really kewl idea that Remender or even Editorial had. But apparently, the damn Whizzer used to be their dad until 1983? That was still four years before my first foray out toward gorgeous Greymalkin Lane, so I guess that whole father/daughter dynamic is not so sacrosanct as I once believed. I’m dialing back and willing to reserve judgment until seeing how the story that results from this retcon plays out. Shh, don’t tell Internet!
AVENGERS #038 — Man, Hickman all-but-officially extending his FF run into this title by swinging the spotlight over to Reed corresponding with Valeria is the serious good news. Deodato yet again brings the justice, that dude got done with ORIGINAL SIN and maybe like took a break for lunch before just pounding right into the next thing. The dude is very impressive, his pages have never looked better. I have to say that I did not share Carol’s confidence about the outcome of her encounter with the Hulk, upon what basis did she form that opinion? Getting punched into orbit was a very plausible outcome. And a nice soft twist there at the end, I don’t think I realized that Bobby’s rehabilitated A.I.M. squad was calling itself the Avengers, but that is good fun. It looks like the next part of this will consist of several heroes fighting one another over considerably more than a minor misunderstanding that will be resolved by story’s end in an energizing escalation of the merry Marvel tradition!