BEST OF WEEK: BATMAN AND ROBIN #38 — Well, this was perfect again. Those first two pages alone. These guys are just so inspired and inspiring, collectively firing at the top of their game and boosting one another to loftier creative heights. I’m insane about that cover, and then the splash/titles page is almost just as great. And you’ve got to love the following page of Damian just walking up while the dude is unloading his machine gun into the Boy Wonder’s bulletproof chest. Damian trying to assert himself by flying back home is yet another masterstroke of characterization from Tomasi. And then that dream is truly horrifying! And what beating heart amongst us doesn’t quicken at that majestic shot of Damian hovering far above Gotham and then having a brief encounter with that firefly? Just gorgeous. And then, wow, a terrific exchange with Aquaman leading to a sweet and sad coda to the issue. I was expecting nothing but absolute greatness, and these guys knocked it out of the park once again. This is, hands down, the best book in The New 52 and a master class on writing, penciling, inking, coloring, and lettering a mainstream superhero serial. Breathtaking, and they really have me believing that the best is somehow yet to come.
BATMAN ETERNAL #42 — It’s time to give the female teenage sidekicks a turn as this issue focuses on both Harper and Stephanie. The former’s trial by fire alone against The Mad Hatter leads to a terrific and very stylish splash of her declaring victory while the latter finds herself in still more trouble by issue’s end. The Sudzuka pages are terrific, wish he could be queued up for two or three issues at a time in the home-stretch, here.
FUTURES END #38 — And speaking of giving the women equal time, it’s nice to see Madison finally assert herself a little bit more, but it’s kind of ridiculous for Shazam/Superman and that new guy to make such a deal out of the fact that she is a girl/woman, kind of insulting. The Fifty-Sue/Lana/Grifter plot is running out of steam and needs some kind of momentum injection. I will be interested to see what’s going on in Castle Frankenstein next week, maybe we can make a whole issue out of that action.
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #7 — Well, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about this one, but this issue did it for me in a way that the series hasn’t so far. I would almost recommend just starting with this issue. The tone between character interactions clicked better for me in a way that I’ve tried to define but am having trouble parsing. McKelvie worked in that two-page graphic design map monstrosity and, more audaciously, set out to educate Frank Quitely on how to draw a scene of two people walking down some stairs, upping the ante to five damn stories while evoking a side-scrolling 8-bit video game by way of Chris Ware. And there were Tron costumes. Or cosplay. I’m not sure there’s a difference in this universe. At any rate, terrific fun, this.
FANTASTIC FOUR #642 — We’re ramping up another beginning of the end, it looks like. Valeria coming back was played with as much gravitas and emotional weight as the moment deserved. Robinson manages to up the ante on what an evil dick The Quiet Man is by working in the bit about him destroying the cure for cancer. And that’s before giving him the Ozymandias moment. That evil little Bentley-23 gets a terrific payoff before that final scene that sent me bug-eyed with shock. It is a truly bold choice to bring in a character who is so associated with the overall dip in quality that hit mainstream superhero comics by the mid-nineties. This art team can certainly carry the load, though.
BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #004 — I had a serious back-and-forth about this book before even getting started: Oh good, another issue of this great title! Oh no, Rudy is relegated to only four pages. Oh good, Langdon Foss is terrific, at least, so we’re in good hands. Huh, why is this coming out only two weeks later, I had really hoped that Rudy would get more issues before he needed a fill-in. Maybe we need to burn through a certain amount of material before SECRET WARS rampages in and destroys this status quo? Leave our Bucky and Daisy alone! Well, obviously that’s not going to be the case. There is, at least, a solid in-story narrative reason for the change in art style as Foss illustrates the tale of Future Bucky. And I’m not hip to Jordan Boyd on colors, but those were some interesting palette choices that set the mood very well in a drastically different manner than what we’ve seen thus far from Rudy, who returns with more absolute devastation on Page 17. Yes, Bucky, this is beautiful indeed. The Polarity Paradox Engine is out of control. And, um, that is a pretty rough last page there, yes.
ALL-NEW X-MEN #035 — Wow, Asrar/Gracia going for it on that opening splash. That is incredible. I am so so tired of the old convention of dropping the reader/viewer in medias res in the middle of something crazy and then flashing back to How We Got Here, but it works quite well in this instance. I got so caught up in the beats of the issue, I completely forgot that I had already seen the battle that they were flying off to have. I really love Bendis’s interaction between the two Jeans, but the best exchange of the book has to be that static shot on Page Ten of Miles and Teen Warren and Ultimate Kitty. Miles slapping his face is just the best. And then Hank gives us another Geoff Johns Chalkboard of Future Plot Developments. The only new thing I think I see on here is “Avengers Disappear.” But the last page provides no advancement on the Page Four cliffhanger except an exterior shot of part of Castle Doom blowing up. CAN THIS BE THE END FOR MILES MORALES?!?!?