BEST OF WEEK: TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #5 — Well, Scioli keeps the thunder crackling, picking up right where he left off with last arc’s final page of Optimus Prime, Duke, and Snake Eyes tumbling unprotected into the seething blast of space-time. Once again, every single page is a symphony of licensed characters and blinding mad ideas supercolliding in distinct snapshots suggesting raging quantum foam if motion was only added. This double-page spread on Pages Two and Three is another hearkening back to how Kirby would just hammer you with that first page turn on every issue of his Fourth World Saga, but Scioli ups the ante here to a ridiculous extent, providing no less than thirteen panels inset against the monster splash of Trypticon vs Fortress Maximus as they lumber toward the sprawl of Metroplex. Then, you turn that page and get nothing less than a blue-skinned Zartan-in-disguise reveal, the most I have enjoyed that trick since Miller’s third issue of (HUNT) THE DARK KNIGHT way back almost thirty years ago with Old Bruce hollering about the Sebbin-Lebbin. The alternating question with Tomax and Xamot is classic and ridiculous. That Page Six flash to the damn Cybertron Viking Kirby Norse Gods rowing is insane. I don’t even know what it means, but it’s like my mind won’t fully let me process it or the white-hot truth will be too much to bear. And then you’ve got the damn Fortress Maximus advent calendar. As much love as this book received last year, it’s still not getting nearly enough praise. I mean, I could go through every single page expressing something I love about it and how it continually ups the ante on all that has come before, a streak that Scioli has kept going since the first FCDB issue last May. All the way through to Optimus Prime using his energon sword to slice through Ace’s Skystriker and the Coltonbolt satellites as he plunges down from orbit. This comic is everything that I ever hoped it can be and so much more.
ASTRO CITY #20 — Is that opening splash dialogue meta-commentary on corporate work-for-hire superhero gigs or just dialogue uttered in good fun by a fish man? Busiek and all of the usual delinquents continue to stretch out on this multi-part Quarrel arc, deepening her characterization through contrasting the way she treats poor MPH in a relationship as opposed to that scalawag Crackerjack, all in service of her undying obsession to train. Without powers, you can’t let up! The twist at the end is deftly executed. It seems inevitable in hindsight, but I never saw it coming because the creative team makes all of their foreshadowing work seem not like setting up a twist but just more details that flesh out this nuanced world. Almost twenty years in, and this is still one of the best books on the stand.
SOUTHERN BASTARDS #7 — It keeps not going young Euless Boss’s way. He finally gets a season of Rebel football, and the damn Jasons blast through the whole blamed thing in a montage. He stands up to his no-good daddy, though. This issue doesn’t dig in quite as deeply as the past couple, but it still does what it’s supposed to. I wonder if this arc will end next issue, or if old Coach Boss will tip over into being our main character longer than that Earl Tubb. Latour’s red-dominated palette stands out this issue, a good fit, given this book’s content. It’s impressive that he’s cranking out full sequentials and color on a monthly gig, not even counting the fact that he’s cooking up the soon-to-be unmissable adventures of Spider-Gwen, the Sensational Character Find of 2014!
SATELLITE SAM #11 — Well, it’s back to business as usual here, so there’s a bit of coitus, a bit more drinking before noon, and a whole bunch of shit-talk, all delivered in glorious Chaykin black and white. I think there are four more of these left, which is probably a good thing. It almost feels like this one is overstaying its welcome already in terms of character development and plot advancement. But damn, is that uncolored Chaykin art beautiful.
MORNING GLORIES #43 — Why can’t this book just be THE ADVENTURES OF CASEY & IKE? I would be all over that. Not that the Abraham flashback isn’t riveting in its own nasty way. And of course Ike wrote the books. I really should have seen that coming at this point. Lots of callbacks here to #25, I bet an infographic that visually depicts the links and references between issues of this series would just blind you. It’s funny that Ike explicitly mentions a tesseract here, there is definitely an extra-dimensional component to this narrative that makes you feel like we’re just getting a glimpse at these little corners folding down where we can see them, but that the bulk of the narrative exists in a higher dimension that we can’t quite understand. At least until some issue in the late nineties, one hopes!
BATMAN ETERNAL #45 — This opening scene, man, I have no idea how last issue ended. Weekly series fatigue. And oh good, more Jim Corrigan and Batwing. Don’t care, bro! We can certainly do without such scathing commentary as, “Gotham’s getting weird,” Jim Corrigan. And having Stephanie say the same thing the very next scene is not exactly Alan-Moore-level business. I am a fan of further development of the Bruce/Julia relationship. That is worth pages any time. And I’m pleased about the new antagonist reveal on the final page. Hoping this ramps up into greatness as we hit the home stretch, here.
FUTURES END #41 — Ha, Adam West! If all of this upcoming convergence brings the ’66 business screaming into the multiverse, then it will be worth any amount of horror committed under the specter of red skies. But that is some cold-blooded sterilization type business with Katar! All those dead guys on the first page with Batman, Tim, and Plastique really look like S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (not the ones on TV, kids!). But Tim threatening to kill Plastique in the elevator if she calls him Robin again seems like a bit of an extreme reaction. And that is a grim last couple of pages. Futures end, y’all.
STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #1—This team had some serious heavy lifting to do, coming up on the heels of Aaron/Cassaday/Martin’s near-flawless opening salvo from the flagship launch. They’re also a little bit hamstrung by the series conceit. Rather than have the full ensemble, the, ah, somewhat unsympathetic Dark Lord of the Sith is now our lead. And we’ve got to care about that. Which Gillen gets us to do for the most part. He’s got to lean on a lot of fanboy love to make it work, though. The first sequential page is an homage to the opening scene of JEDI, which is an element we’re seeing probably too much of already here in the first issues. These creators have got to shed their desire to take us to Cloud City so that we can see what a scoundrel Lando is again or back to the Mos Eisley cantina for just one more drink and dismemberment in favor of providing actual new material. The art is out-of-the-park terrific, though. Sal Larocca has come a very very long way since rolling with Fraction on the monthly IRON MAN gig. I mean, he almost outdoes Cassaday here, it’s not too controversial to say. However, ultimately, it’s hard to become too invested in the stakes of a scene in Jabba’s palace in which the three major players that we care about, Vader, Jabba, and Boba Fett, are in no danger whatsoever because they’ve still got beats in the original trilogy to hit. The latter two hadn’t even yet showed up on camera when this takes place! The flashback scene in the Emperor’s throne room on Coruscant does a nifty little job of connecting this one back up to REVENGE OF THE SITH in a way that’s organic and not as forced as the other references to the original trilogy. And Vader hiring Fett and a craaaazy Wookie bounty hunter to find Luke and get to the bottom of the deal with the Emperor’s new confidante sounds interesting enough, but that whole set-up feels like it’s going to once again be hamstrung by timeline. Can Luke even meet Fett this early, really? The week after it turns out that he first swung his dad’s old lightsaber at the big bad Darth Vader? We’ll see. Not completely sold on the long game with this script, but the art is stellar. That last shot is tons of payoff for folks who haven’t scoured all reference to Hayden Christiansen from their memories, but there probably should have been at least some barely-vague throwaway line in Jabba’s palace about how Vader doesn’t really like Sandpeople for some reason.
ALL-NEW X-MEN #036 — What a magnificent opening splash. Mahmud Asrur and Marte Gracia produce stunning work. After presumably a trade paperback’s worth of running around, all of our Teen X-Men are reunited and manage to hack their way back to good old 616, but not before Teen Jean plants a chaste kid of fan-favorite Miles Morales’s masked face. Oh, when are they going to do that on the big screen, everybody? Bendis once again milks the assorted doppelganger interaction for maximum comedy. But oh no, now even Teen Hank is growing disgruntled with his current situation. It is never never a good deal when one of those Beasts starts trying to fix things with science. That’s how we got here in the first place. This is the first issue that I’ve read since news broke that this monster Bendis run will be over soon, and I am already a little sad, knowing that events have just about stopped careening all around taking us who-knows-where and are instead gearing up for the grand finale, which should of course be one hell of a thing.