Tuesday, March 31, 2015


ALL-NEW X-MEN #039 — This is generally good all-hands-on-deck fun that’s somewhat mitigated by the fact that Bendis is almost done with this incredible run, and here at the end, he’s got the core characters of this book out here messing around with the casts of three or four other titles that I don’t read. The Sorrentino art continues to impress. I’m ready to get back to Earth and finally launch the endgame, which, guess I’m in luck because I don’t see the next issue of this title on the checklist for the end of this crossover. A charming reunion between Teen Jean & Teen Scott, anyway.

BUCKY BARNES: THE WINTER SOLDIER #5 & #6 — There was some release-date trickery or some such because #5 completely got by me, but all is made well now. Langdon Foss stays on board to provide a kind of stained-glass splash-page art for the framing sequences before Marco Rudy resumes absolutely cutting loose and pushing himself to greater and greater heights during the feature presentation, conjuring the greatness of recent JHWIII layouts while populating his panels with images that dial all the way up to Mack or Sienciewicz watercolors or other mixed media. He even drops a Sienciewicz homage there on the Daisy-is-not-dead reveal. Really spectacular work. Ales Kot sneaks some Burroughs in here with the word virus thing, which is even cooler when you make it down to ZERO, a nice bit of same-day release syngery, there. The one negative criticism I have is that character work is occasionally getting lost in the shuffle of all of this cosmic alien madness. Six issues in and I don’t feel that dialed in to either Bucky or Daisy, at least at the depth that the first issue implied we might should be by now, but Crossbones’s planet-pistol is obviously the Sensational Character Find of 2015.

BEST OF WEEK: PRINCESS LEIA #2 — Waid & the Dodsons deliver on the promise of the first issue by sinking their teeth in to the narrative now that things are rolling. On just a linear level, this is perfectly engaging, fun bits sprinkled throughout with Leia giving the false name of Solo being the equivalent of a lovelorn student writing her crush’s name on her school notebook, but then there are a couple of tricks that completely put this over the top. The bottom of Page One shifts to a flashback of Leia eating ruica as a child on a royal terrace with her father, and he has one line about her growing big and strong, which then cuts back to her telling Evaan that she likes it just fine, which is enough all on its own before Waid takes us to a few years later and, in a single page, does more to flesh out Alderaanian culture than anyone I’ve ever run across (my Expanded Universe mileage is admittedly pretty low). That was well done enough, but then that page when Leia sees the stained-glass image of Amidala and then the damn picture turns and looks at her but Evaan doesn’t see her . . . that gave me goosebumps. Very strong character work. And what a great last-panel twist, quite deftly set up there amidst all of this other greatness. The Force is strong with these creators.

CHRONONAUTS #1 — Millar has been on a roll lately and bringing in the art team responsible for THE WAKE doesn’t exactly hurt his situation. The conceit is pretty simple here: a couple of quasi-douchebag Texas-based scientists perfect time-travel technology and unveil it live on global television before Things Go Wrong, but no surprise, what elevates this into greatness is the masterful work of Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth, who in a very short time have achieved particularly stratospheric synergistic heights and bring Millar’s widescreen vistas to life with a bombastic joy that revels in the medium while simultaneously elevating it. And the fun is only just getting started. Highly recommended to fans of STARLIGHT or anything Sean Murphy has ever drawn, natch (and really, if you don’t have JOE THE BARBARIAN or PUNK ROCK JESUS in your life already, make that fix pronto, buckaroo).

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS: THE SUN BEYOND THE STARS #1 — After a ten-page opener that is terrific but just as head-scratching for those of us who have been on board since the last (and first) #1 as the new kids, the story zooms in on poor Yuri, who has been awaiting trial in a cosmic court where justice is arbitrary, insane, and terribly swift. Rest in peace, Garru. No worries, though, our Yuri manages to not only survive but see his fondest wish come true by issue’s end, though there’s also a surprising component to what happens next. This new format of zooming in on specific characters for short mini-arcs seems to be working here at first blush, and Pitarra has once again managed to tighten up his already ridiculous linework, making Quitely and Darrow proud. Recommended jumping-on point!

SATELLITE SAM #12 — Chaykin continues to bring the black-and-white thunder as Fraction starts ramping this one up for the home stretch. This one definitely feels like part of the third act as the various plots skid toward some kind of potentially messy resolution. I really can’t praise the complexity and depth of Chaykin’s fine linework enough. You get the feeling that he could make someone walking uptown from the Village for twenty pages pretty much one of the most compelling series of pages you’ve ever laid eyes on. I’m definitely fully engaged to see where all of this lands.

ZERO #15 — As someone who has been waiting two years for his fourth issue of DEAD BEATS, starring exciting psychedelic action versions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs, to be drawn by people who obviously have better things to do, all I can say about this issue is great job on Ales Kot for nailing the cut-up vibe of Burroughs language, Ian Bertram was a terrific choice for the art style this issue, and it is certainly a narratively compelling choice to have all of this possibly be trapdoored out into the multiverse by way of a fungal Burroughs word virus.

BATGIRL #40 — Well, of course it wasn’t Oracle after all, but respect to all parties for the convincing fakeout. Babs Tarr just gets better and better over Cameron Stewart’s layouts, these is kinetic terrific pages. Great resolution with Dinah’s canary cry saving the day. We’re getting our rock band fix here while Gwendolyn sorts out her business with The Mary Janes across the street there, but now that she’s out of the picture, it looks like the roommate Frankie is all set up to provide technical support. I will confess to flinching when I read BATGIRL #41 in the Next Issue blurb.            
BATMAN ETERNAL #50 — Well, Blackgate is still rioting, Gotham is still burning, Batman is talking shit to a battered Bane, and it’s pretty much business as usual here. Alvaro Martinez turns in quality pages. I particularly like that shot of Batgirl discarding her opponent. She looks just like Tarr drew her, is the finest compliment I can give. Bruce’s follow-up comment that his sidekicks should “Save Everybody” is an interesting permutation of Hickman’s plan for Reed Richards to “Solve Everything.” The reveal at the end is earned and even terribly obvious in hindsight, but of course, I never saw it coming. Just one more, I suppose.

FUTURES END #46—The cover spoils this one, and people were happy to as well on the Internet, but that doesn’t take away from the execution of the story, pun intended, I am so sorry. The Fifty-Sue/Elsie-Dee creature is still providing a species of comic relief opposite Cole & Lana. That ending, though, it played well enough, butwas a little bit abrupt. Like, the injuries didn’t seem that definitive from a storytelling perspective to the point that it’s just like, Oh yeah, this guy totally has less than a minute to live suddenly. Not exactly a heartbreaking farewell, but competently conveyed.

Monday, March 30, 2015


STAR WARS #3 — Well, what a happy birthday to me. One of my favorite art teams of all time delivers more pages from one of the greatest stories in the galaxy. I had the vibe last issue that that was the end of the first arc, but there was obviously still plenty of exit strategy to engage. Vader taking down the AT-AT was, of course, terrific fun, and it was a pleasure to finally make hit lightspeed. Aaron once again nails all of the dialogue and characterization to the wall, and just when our merry band makes it to hyperspace, he does fine work teasing that all has not yet been told about the legacy of Obi-Wan Kenobi back on Tatooine, which is a tantalizingly possibility. Poor Luke can never seem to keep away from that place for long. That planet might actually have a stronger rubber-band effect for locals than glorious old Lubbock, Texas.

NEW AVENGERS #031 — Hickman gives Dr. Strange the spotlight as he leads a legion of I-forget-whats to storm a door to The Library before the world that houses it suffers the fate of incursion. The reveal at the end is huge and makes all kinds of sense. Who else would it be? Of course, the presence of Owen Reece is not much of a surprise to anyone who has heard about what’s happening next in the Mighty Marvel Universe. This is, once again, a very entertaining slab of sequential fiction that just makes you thirsty for more right away, but I’m not worried, I’m sure they’ve got the next one lurking just around the corner.

HOWARD THE DUCK #1 — I was expecting something a bit closer to the oddball zaniness of the madcap SEX CRIMINALS letter column or Zdarsky’s charming flirtation/affirmation of his local Applebee’s, but he plays it quite a bit closer here, which probably serves the material better anyway. What you see with the cover is pretty much what you get. Howard is a down-on-his-luck private eye just trying to close a case and get paid in a world he never yadda yadda. Guest stars galore in the mighty Marvel tradition, probably the funniest moment is when Spidey loses Howard and then just straight breaks down and falls to his knees right there on the rooftop, crying about Uncle Ben. That was some pretty side-splitting shit. Quinones/Renzi show up with art that’s probably stylistically closest to what Samnee/Wilson have going on over in DAREDEVIL. And in case She-Hulk, Spider-Man, and Black Cat weren’t enough for the guest stars, they do go ahead and play up the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY film connection. And why not? This one is nothing but good fun, and I’ll definitely be picking up next issue.

SPIDER-GWEN #002 — I didn’t think anybody would ever top Morrison having deranged Zur En Arrh Batman accosted by Bat-Mite and being told about how imagination is the fifth dimension and so forth, but Latour comes close here with the Sporktcular Spider-Ham calling our eponymous heroine “Gwenzelle.” Not just a whole lot happens this issue either (that SPIDER-VERSE pilot was highly compressed to like a Silver Age level because, I guess, that might have been the creators’ only shot and they wanted to get everything in there, but now reader demand has clearly given the team the opportunity to lean back and take their time telling their story), but it’s a satisfying read. Really, it could have just been Gwen and Peter Porker the entire time, and that would have been lovely. These alternate versions of Frank Castle and Matt Murdock are kind of fun permutations to watch develop. Hoping to get some actual rock and roll happening next issue, as well as some daddy/daughter time, my two favorite things about that pilot issue. Terrific art once again from Rodriguez & Renzi, Marvel’s hippest new colorist, apparently.

SILVER SURFER #010 — Wow. This issue was really not fucking around. After such a relatively slow-burn series of done-in-ones to open the series, Slott & the Allreds just completely went for it this arc. I was completely ready to say goodbye to Dawn and lose her to Galactus forever. Tremendous character work from Slott, and of course, you can’t imagine anyone (living) beside the Allreds delivering these visuals. It is kind of funny, this has definitely been the Surfer by way of DOCTOR WHO since the get-go, so they just go ahead and throw BATTLESTAR GALACTICA into the mix while they’re at it. I don’t mind! Soar on, Norrin Radd!

FANTASTIC FOUR #644 — Robinson & Kirk have just about bring this global scale event-unto-itself to a close, and are doing a fine job tying up all of the loose ends, somehow still making the inclusion of Sleepwalker and the Heroes Reborn counterparts from eighteen years back make perfect sense. I just keep waiting for Darkhawk to drop in at the last minute to save the day, but I guess it’s probably too late for that now. Bentley-23 continues to shine, stealing every scene he’s in, despite the crowded ensemble. Of course, I don’t really believe that next issue is going to be the end of anything for more than maybe half a year, but the creative team has done solid work building this run up to a grand finale.  

ALL-NEW X-MEN #037— Diiiiid #038 of this already come out as part of that BLACK VORTEX hoo-hah? I guess these pretty paintings took a little bit longer. This time, Bendis focuses on Emma and Teen Jean, as they head off to Madripoor for Jean to develop her non-telepathic skill set. Having Emma assume a mentor role for her time-displaced rival for Scott’s affections is a pretty brilliant move on Bendis’s part and very rewarding for those of us who have been following this relationship over the years. As if all of that isn’t enough fun, the antagonist in this issue is Lubbock’s own Fred J. Dukes, a wonderful person if ever there was one. Good fun all around to be found here.

ACTION COMICS #40 — The Quinones KAL & DOOMSDAY variant cover is brilliant. I mean, shit, I wish that Chip Zdarsky was writing that comic book, that would be some deeply out-of-control nonsense. Alas, we are saddled with the regular excellent creative team of Pak/Kuder/Quintana, who deliver yet another Bizarro tale that is better than any I’ve read in recent years. Pak actually got the language right the entire way through, it seems like! That pretty much never happens. I loved the mention of continuity and “This Wednesday” on the first page. Because why not? This one has a lot of heart, really wonderful work. I just hope they can scoot this back up to first week of the month when we come back from Convergence, I prefer to start my comics-reading month off with this title every first Wednesday just because that feels like the right thing to do, and I’ve been all out of alignment here these past couple of months, hey.

BATMAN ETERNAL #49 — Quality panelwork from Fernando Blanco. I particularly liked that shot of Stephanie bailing on her dad. Though of course, nothing is better than Alfred putting the smackdown on that stupid stupid villain called Hush. And what a last page, that is some triumphant combat cliffhanger business, right there.

FUTURES END #45 — Aw. The second death of Frankenstein was very well handled and even touching. I wonder if we’ll see Amethyst again for the curtain call or if that was that. It kind of felt like the latter. Overall, solid work, even with guys splitting up pencil/ink duties at this late stage. You’re almost there, just a little further, fellas!

ASTRO CITY #21 — Busiek has indeed been saying for years that Quarrel is his favorite character, and it certainly shows. She’s not quite the typical woman-on-the-street type protagonist that this book typically gives us, but her role as an unpowered member of Honor Guard lets her straddle the line, giving us insight into the way someone views the world who isn’t a full powered superhero like Samaritan, but who still comes from a meager upbringing, resulting in some of the richest characterization and most moving arcs in this magnificent title’s thoroughly engaging history. I can’t believe we were ever without this book for any length of time, it feels like it’s always been here, a dear old friend showing us all how its done. Kudos to Busiek, Anderson, Ross, Sinclair, Fletcher, et al.

EAST OF WEST #18—Babylon is definitely one of my favorite characters in this rather vividly imagined ensemble, particularly his dynamic with trusty old Balloon there, so an issue focusing almost entirely on him is a welcome respite from all of the other crazy that this book pumps out on a monthly basis. Between Hickman grooming Valeria Richards to assume the mantle of Dr. Doom and all of Remender’s recent fun with Evan/Genesis/Apocalypse, the theme of innocent children who are predestined to become the embodiment of evil is getting some serious panel-time here lately. Dragotta & Martin have, if anything, gotten even better as time has gone on. They really seem to be able to deliver anything, just jaw-dropping pages throughout. This crazy book still seems to be accruing momentum as we head into the back half of its second year. Always a pleasure to pick up.

SPAWN: RESURRECTION #1 — New series artist Jonboy Meyers is a friend of a friend whose work I’ve enjoyed via social media and cons over the past few years, so when McFarlane called him up to the big show, I couldn’t resist dropping in and seeing what’s what. It’s . . . been a while for Spawn and me. This is my first triple-digit issue. New writer Paul Jenkins makes the story accessible enough to someone who hasn’t checked in in a long time, and JonBoy definitely blows it up on the sequentials with dynamic staging and panelwork throughout. The story is a little boilerplate for an Eisner award winner. There’s the requisite newscaster-as-expository source, and most of the issue is our hero talking to a dog who is God before learning that he has to go to Hell to save the soul of his recently-deceased-by-way-race-riot wife who has joined the soul of their unborn son. That’s pretty much solid cliché. It would have been a really cool move to still 86 Wanda there in the riot but instead make her the protagonist, and she’s got to go get Al and the unborn kid’s soul. Inverting the dynamic to make her the hero and not the damsel would have been swell. But good on Jonboy, it must be said. The pages look great, and it’s nice to see good things happen to good people.

BEST OF THE WEEK: CASANOVA: ACEDIA #2 — Man, this volume acts all accessible and newbie-boardable unless you’ve read the first three volumes, and then it’s like, “What the fuck is Fraction actually doing now?” I need to go back and reread everything. I remember that photograph but completely space on the context altogether. The Moon art is thrilling, no matter what. That thing that crawls out of Zephyr is fucking horrifying. McShane and the Kato kid as buddy cops is a wonderful dynamic. And I deeply love that the kid is just reading DUNE on the clock there while standing guard over our guy, who is in serious danger just one door away. Wow, though. And then a page of Pulitzer-prize-winning Michael Chabon’s Metanauts discussing farts before it’s time to meet the J.I.M.M.Y. caps. We truly live in an age of science and wonder, my friends. Though Fabio’s demon calling Fraction “Bro” on the inside back cover is the finest thing of all. I’m sorry I can’t buy all five thousand or whatever the print run is because it certainly feels like they’re just making this thing for me.

Friday, March 27, 2015


MIRACLEMAN #16 — Okay, a kind of funny deal happened with this issue. I have always thought that #15 of the original series was the final issue of Moore’s run. And last issue certainly reinforced that as Moore brought the narrative to a satisfying, though terribly graphic, resolution. So, all month long, I’ve been really looking forward to see what the first issue of Gaiman/Buckingham looks like. And, boy howdy! This one knocked me out. I hadn’t realized, but the luster of Moore’s prose had faded a bit from those first issues as he had become more and more disenchanted with Dez Skinn and his own work on this series. But here was Our Neil, just knocking the lights out, wow! What a goddamn tour de force out of the gate, man. I was immediately so excited to read the rest of this run. The student is now the master, How embarrassing for Alan, etc, etc. So but, of course, I made it to the last page and saw the credits and, of course, this was actually Moore’s final issue, and I had a laugh at myself. Suffice it to say, he really cranked it up here at the end, and John Totelben again turns in magnificent work, particularly those first couple of double-splash pages. But just that opening text piece will almost make you weep with admiration. Really staggering material. That hyper-dimensional warpsmith orgy, man, I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around that. This whole thing, it’s really a montage with Moore’s rhapsodic first-person Michael Moran captions narrating the entire thing and only a very few scenes of dialogue scattered throughout and Totelben throwing down remarkable double-page vistas of impossible majestic architecture or superhumans making love through the sky like he can draw anything in the world or beyond. What makes this such an incomparable piece of sequential literature is how far they take it. Moore’s primary strength, beyond his stunning command of language itself, has always been the detail of his imagination, his ability to conceptualize exactly what should follow from a given twist or certain series of circumstances. Here, he basically gives us the last Superman story, the final superhero issue, the capstone of the entire genre taken to its logical conclusion. It’s a little stunning that he still had so much left to say in his SUPREME run the following decade. This is one of the most definitive and satisfying endings to a narrative that I have ever encountered. Simply a beautiful piece of literature. I have no idea how poor Neil and Buckingham ever followed it, but that’s next month, next month, still.

AVENGERS #042 — Hickman is really swinging for it now, man. Skinning the goddamn Living Tribunal. He also makes Cyclops seem like much more of an early Magneto than Bendis does. You’ve got to dig Reed & T’Challa scheming to build the lifeboat. Though I’m now so conditioned against that EAST OF WEST emboldening that just T’Challa doing it one time on “HOW NOT TO LOSE” made me flinch like hell.  Though of course I’ll forgive everything for some Hickman Reed/Valeria action. She eats ice cream! And I still can’t believe Sam Guthrie has a kid. I mean, it’s way past time, but still. That is some heavy shit about Gladiator calling the Smasher clan off-planet. You could mine such a great title or even back-up feature off of just that one little family caught in the middle. And after checking in with the Shi’ar Empire, why not throw the Guardians of the Galaxy into the mix? The scale and scope of what Hickman’s built up is staggering. And it just keeps escalating.

GUARDIANS TEAM-UP #001 — When I saw this cover a month or two ago in the form of an ad, I rolled my eyes because of course they’re going to get Bendis to write a sixth-or-however-many-there-are-now Guardians-related series, but then when I noticed that they had Art Adams on interiors, I said, “Well, dammit” because of course I’m not going to let that slide by. And a damn good thing, too. This is nothing but good fun. Total naked cross-media promotion, certainly, but an entertaining read on its own merits, and that is all that really matters. The opening page is funny because it sandwiches non-movie team members Angela, Venom, and Captain Marvel in between those irregulars we all know and love from a motion picture brought to you by James Gunn, but then those folks are nowhere to be seen for the duration of the issue. As usual, Bendis does a terrific job handling rapid-fire dialogue exchanges between this very crowded cast of characters, nailing the beats of just the eponymous team first before opening it up when the All-New Avengers show up. Spider-Woman drawing the line and flying away is laugh-out-loud funny. Hawkeye blowing up the space invader with three arrows is cool all on its own but is a whole different level of funny if you picked up Bendis’s third-ever issue of AVENGERS #502 off the rack and were privy to the collective fanboy howls of consternation over what happened to HAWKEYE that month. Art Adams’s work is as dynamic and exciting as ever, and Paul Mounts goes over and above to really make every single page pop.

BEST OF WEEK: ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #001 — Like most “Americans in the Know,” (and more than a few Europeans, I guess it must be said), I have found Fraction/Aja/Wu/Hollingsworth/
Eliopoulos’s HAWKEYE to be one of the very best things to come out of The House of Ideas in years and was pretty much ready to extend a middle finger to just about anybody with enough hubris to even suggest following up on such a glorious thing. However. I am a huge fan of both Jeff Lemire’s work and thought that that JIM HENSON’S TALE OF SAND that Ramón Pérez put out was, seems like, the best graphic novel of whatever year that was. 2011? It was one of those grudging acceptance deals, like, “All riiiiiiight, let’s see what they show up with.” The answer is basically a best-case scenario. Pérez drops the full shifting chameleon style, so that the beautiful opening flashback scene basically feels exactly like THE ESSEX TRILOGY by way of TALE OF SAND before we barrel into a present-day sequence starring Clint & Kate that feels as much like a cover version of standard Fraction/Aja as it possibly could, which might be almost offensive if they just opened up with such a hard clone of this vibe, but comes across as really pretty breathtaking after the shift from that opening, in which these guys nail the dynamic so brilliantly with nothing more than a three-panel one-page set-up paid off by a single-panel punchline on the next page. I love how the light-hearted tone shifts right at the end when they get separated, and he involuntarily calls her Katie while hammering on the door. And then the final three pages do a masterful job of blending the two timelines together. This is a hell of a first issue, easily Best of Week (since I don't think we can really in all fairness give it to Moore/Totelben for a book that's almost thirty years old). These guys, and Ian Herring, show up already at the top of their game and apparently ready to unleash a hell of a HAWKEYE story. I just hope Aja can get #022 out before the end of this first arc . . .

DESCENDER #1 — And Lemire just keeps on murdering it. I have been a Dustin Nguyen fan for over a decade now, ever since he drew that Batman run that Winick wrote not-as-well all the way through his work on the title today and the glory of LI’L GOTHAM, so when this was announced, I was certainly expecting thunder. But, holy shit. These guys hurdle right past the world-building all the way to universe-building and –destroying here right up front. What a terrific set-up. Of course, Tim-21 is going to recall little Haley Joel from A.I., but it’s been long enough and Nguyen varies the design up enough that it’s no problem. The dynamic that Lemire sets up between Tim-21 and Bandit works immediately. I can’t decide if it’s the backwards barking or shorthand by cribbing the name from Jonny Quest’s dog, but whatever it is, we’re good to go. The only slight bone I have to pick is that it looked like the robotics doctor guy got white-blasted to oblivion in the opening scene, and it felt like a little bit of a cheat when he was still in the picture ten years later. Wonderful premise, though, you can envision Lemire rubbing his hands together while all of this comes pouring out from his head, Nguyen is a goddamn terrifying force, and I can’t wait to see what this looks like when all is said and done. That TRILLIUM was pretty okay, after all.

STAR WARS: PRINCESS LEIA #1 — Well, I certainly had no doubts about Waid and the Dodsons knocking this one out of the park, but that is certainly exactly what happens. Waid makes the kind of brilliant call to script a page of the Dodsons giving us the final thirty seconds of EPISODE IV but instead of cutting to those blue closing credits, we are at long last privy to the speech that Leia gave after she put the medals on those boys and that Wookie. And of course, it’s powerful. It’s pretty crazy, I thought Brian Wood did a solid to terrific job scripting exactly this situation, the aftermath of The Battle of Yavin, but Waid brings a nuance here that was lacking before now. The introduction of Evaan provides a nice foil to Leia. We need some kind of conflict for this book that doesn’t involve Han Solo, and Evaan’s lack of awe or subservience to her princess creates a solid interpersonal dynamic. Pretty much just add R2, and we’re good to go. Colorist Jordie Bellaire delivers top-notch work, as ever, and letterer Joe Caramagna’s work stands out in just the right ways, with his choices of font for R2-D2 and Chewbacca perfectly complementing Waid’s phonetic spellings of these sounds we know so well. This is a terrific opening and completes Marvel’s hat trick of introducing three titles with the A-list talent that this property deserves.

NAMELESS #2 — Well, they really rev it up here as the entire issue takes place on a moonbase hidden on the dark side of the moon, and our occult protagonist leads the reader to the unfortunate sight of a brilliant scientist covering her padded cell with a bunch of Enochian language written in her feces. How unfortunate. The horror element of this series ramps up quite a bit, particularly the Mr. Darius reveal, which I found particularly chilling. Burnham & Fairbairn turn in more beautiful work, particularly that shot of the war in heaven that drops in from out of nowhere. I’m a little bit nervous about where this one is heading, given the massive escalation from the first issue, here.

SUPREME: BLUE ROSE #7 — So, it all comes down to this. Tula Lotay continues to absolutely bring the thunder as our story winds its way up into itself. We fiiiiiiiinally see old Ethan Crane and have a lovely conversation meta-conversation with him. The “white guy with glasses” line is a classic. Professor Night to save the day is the most I have enjoyed a cavalry charge in I-don’t-know-how-long. What a resolution to all of that. PROFESSOR NIGHT really was the best show ever. And then what an odd climax. So, that was a revision gun Dax fired, perhaps? This is certainly the next cycle, I think, it’s not like we just looped back to a point prior to #1. I suspect that this will make for a very gratifying single-sitting read. Finally, someone managed to conceive of a SUPREME run that can stand with the madcap firework genius that Moore conjured all those years ago.

BLACK SCIENCE #12 — Remender & Scalera come roaring back great guns with new colorist Moreno Dinisio, who manages to mitigate the loss of Dean White to tremendous effect. The pace of this new arc has accelerated past what we’ve grown accustomed to, which is really saying something. Clearly, now that the fellas have laid the groundwork, we are off to the races. They’re doing a good job of mining the premise of this thing and not resting on their laurels for a single issue. Breakneck momentum, full ahead!

SAGA #26 — I don’t know. I just don’t care about these people. Fiona Staples has a wonderful sensibility and has created a very distinctive look for this series, but BKV has maybe evolved into a style that I just don’t care for. The tone of the whole thing really isn’t working for me. I keep buying this out of a sense of wanting to know what’s going on with it just because everyone in the industry can’t stop falling all over how wonderful it is, and it is nice of them to keep that cover price down, but I’m just not really feeling it, man.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #6 — Adding a recap page up top actually makes these first four pages even more batshit mental. I just want to walk around handing this thing out to people in the street, spreading the disease of its madness before it devours me whole. There’s a two-page flashback to a five-year-old meeting with the Power Persons Five that is chock full of winking asides to events that we as loyal readers already know are inevitable, but that last panel before the opening titles that quotes SUPERMAN #75 is just about the funniest thing, hilarious shorthand for those of us “in the know.” Time Giraffe dropping the ALIENS quote a few pages later is also much appreciated, as well as the T2 classic. My main concern is that future societies, alien or otherwise will have so much digging to do through the detritus of late 20th/early 21st century pop culture that wonderful little tricks like quoting Ripley or the T-1000 or Darth Vader in these pages will not be understood, and thus all hope will be lost.

INFINITY MAN AND THE FOREVER PEOPLE #8 — I want Keith Giffen to be drawing this book. That’s kind of the point, seems like. Is this some meta-commentary Didio’s sneaking in here, though? “The ways of the new are more corrupt than the ways of old, all their promises of change and glory are empty and worthless.” If he’d made it “all-new,” I guess that would have been too on-the-nose. Terrific brawl at the end. Once again, I missed Giffen a lot. All told, though, plenty happens in this one. I think we’re just one more and done? Alas.

DETECTIVE COMICS #40 — Once again, these pages are absolute gorgeous masterpieces of sequential panelwork. Manapul/Buccellato have incredible synergy and are peaking at a level that can only be achieved through years of regular collaboration. The art is a feast for the eyes. It’s too bad that folks like Greg Rucka or Ed Brubaker have fled these Gotham shores, though, because there is no character depth, just a series of events pushing the reader’s eye to the next glorious splash page of our hero soaring through the air or punching out the bad guy. There’s no narrative hook to be found here, as pretty as it all looks.

GRAYSON #8 — Jeez! People throw the term “game-changer” around all the time these days, but this issue is nothing short of that. These boys have no problem upsetting the entire apple cart just any old time. They didn’t even let the first full year of issues play out! Janin/Cox continue to absolutely knock every page out of the park. I’m not sure how I feel about the massive objectification of Dick Grayson in this title. We have graduated from the decades-old dick jokes to having a gaggle of his female students actually name both cheeks of his backside. On the one hand, that’s kind of funny in and of itself, and I get that this is like a drop in the bucket on the opposite end of the insane sexual objectification of women that’s been going on in this industry since William Moulton Marston’s mistress first started tying him and his wife up, I’m just not sure that the antidote is to do the same thing to the boys. It’s certainly a conversation.

BATMAN ETERNAL #48 — I know I shouldn’t let other media creep in, but now I can’t read about what Falcone stole from Cobblepot and not think about GOTHAM. You know? Of course, there’s another charming riot in Blackgate to clear out my head. This one’s moving along nicely now as we round the stretch to the big finish.

FUTURES END #44 — We welcome Zircher back to give us resolution to the Brainiac arc, which is overall reasonably satisfying but just seems a little bit limp in terms of delivering on the dread of this title’s opening issues. I guess the ominous deal is packed right in there with the resolution. How can Batman be so smart and still use Brother Eye to save the day? One thousand thank yous to regular cover artist Ryan Sook for that killer shot of me pulling an Atlas with New York City, though he overdid it on the biceps just the least bit, I’ve got to say in the interest of full disclosure.

Monday, March 9, 2015


BATMAN #39 — Jill Thompson supplies a truly ominous Harley Quinn variant this month. Okay, I’m sorry, but reading the phrase “AND THE DOCTOR WHO” in the fourth panel of the second page triggered an idea for the best mash-up ever, the Dark Knight as the ultimate Companion for The Doctor. I mean, think about it. In comic form, it would be swell, but what if they could get an anthology mini-series of that thing on the picture show tube? Any living Doctor or Batman. Kilmer & Tennant. Keaton & Eccleston. It almost doesn’t even matter what any other aspect of the conflict or show is, just putting those people together in that context would be fucking thunder. So, I spent like twenty minutes just staring off into space before finishing that fourth panel. So, why should this write-up be any different? But, well then! I love Batman’s resolution to the Court of Owls guy launching off on a monologue/tirade. And but doesn’t that Talon he meets on the next page just look like the bad guy out of BATTLING BOY. Definitely some Pope flavor on that business, there. Batman’s retort to his death sentence struck me kind of funny. “Dude, we’re all going to die. I know that. But not today.” (ß not an actual quote, but still). I love the anecdote about teenage Dick Grayson joking about it not being a weekend until his mentor’s heart stopped at least twice. Terrific bit. And I’m sorry to sound like an old guy, but I really hate the retcon that compresses the whole 75-year timeline and suddenly Bruce was thirteen when he fell down the cave instead of having already been an orphan for five years. Thas not cool, man. The attempted Mooresque juxtaposition of Bruce’s caption to Julia that it keeps getting worse opposite Joker saying it keeps getting better and better is forced and quite a dip from what I expect from Snyder on this book. As opposed to Joker’s wordplay with lumber/lumbar and chords/cord. Even though that seems more Eddie Nygma’s purview. This is a terrific set-up, though, all hands on deck vs the Joker with the big conclusion looming. Linguistic quibbles notwithstanding, this is another beautifully staged issue of a run by creators who are still finding a way to escalate the stakes and quality three and a half years in. Very impressive.

And wow, that backup is certainly one way to pay off a long-simmering sub-plot. Very EC Comics. Quality work.

SECRET ORIGINS #10 — That . . . did not clear up a great deal where Barbara Gordon is concerned. Which I’m all right with. I wasn’t looking for all the answers just doled out. The answer is in that deal about the last recorded memory being the second brain scan. I suspect that the whole “Oracle is back” deal is just a red herring and all we’re dealing with is a sentient algorithm that Barbara wrote that now thinks it actually is its creator and is going to be a really terrific nemesis just any minute now. Solid art from Irene Koh just even barely hanging with the greatness we’ve come to expect from Stewart doing layouts for Tarr.

So, of course I bought this one just for the Batgirl story, but the Jurgens/Chen Firestorm was solid, even though I’ve never really cared that much about the character and just got hammered with some strong work featuring him over on that new THE FLASH show. I have been wondering about old Sean Chen; it’s been years now since he showed up to help Hickman knock that DARK REIGN mini out of the park at the start of his FF run. Same deal with Christy Marx and Stjepan Seijic on that Poison Ivy origin. Never even heard of those two, but they did a good job. I definitely flinched at the $4.99 cover price but feel all right about the purchase, even though it will definitely take a name creator I care about to bring me back. Solid work, SECRET ORIGINS.

GOTHAM ACADEMY #5 — Oh wow, I absolutely did not get that that loveable blue monster who showed up at the end of last issue was Croc. Killer no more! What a sweet Gotham Academy filter we have here. And but that’s a pretty intriguing first-page fact about Olive’s mom being in Arkham. Though it certainly is about to time to start dropping this sort of thing. You’ve got to love Maps wrecking it for the final beat on that first page. And we get Maps’s real name a few pages later. Revelations abound. And her happy little face when Olive asks Kyle to the dance! This book really knocks out all the beats one by one. Even before mentioning the basilisk. That’s almost like bringing up a patronus, man. And but what a hell of a last page, man. This book is really up and firing on all cylinders now.

BATMAN ETERNAL #47 — More terrific art, this time from Juan Ferreyra. That first double-page spread is a hell of a layout. On the dialogue front, I don’t care what the context is, Alfred saying, “Yes. I heard as much before I fell asleep,” just scans wrong. I do dig that cross-section show of whatever Batplane he’s got up in the air there on Page 7, panel 4. It’s cool to see the sidekick montage, but I question the usage of the old amusement park for Batgirl. I mean, how many times since September 2011 have we brought up THE KILLING JOKE on-panel? More than since the turn of the century at least, right? Let’s move on. And Hush has some new ally who’s still off-panel and let him back out again. I’m certainly sorry that happened. It is about time to put this one to bed.

FUTURES END #43 — Andy McDonald? Seems like he’s been all right on interiors a time or two before now. His style in this opening scene skews a bit too indie for my tastes to depict a big Superman-fighting-giant-Brainiac-in-New-York situation. And New York?!? That’s just confusing. Shouldn’t the FF or Avengers be all over that? I had to chuckle at Azzarello’s trademark wordplay on that first page with Tim and Plastique, the “ass--” “hol’ up” thing. That is the first time I’ve seen in this one so far that some straight 100-BULLETS-type dialogue showed up. The Lois/Superman interaction is pretty damn boilerplate, particularly given what should be the collective firepower of this writing crew. And then, wow, we’re going to waste half a page with more Dick (Grayson) jokes? That is some pretty weak shit. I will say that old Andy McDonald did a good job with that one page where Terry and Plastique kiss. Other than that, man, this was a pretty serious dip all around, exactly what you don’t want to see as we ramp up into the home stretch.

CHEW #46—Well, if that isn’t the most precious little gummy D-Bag on the cover, then I don’t know what my name is. Layman/Guillory are kind enough to give us at least four more pages of greatness with that opening scene before reality has to set in. Which I understand is a pretty relative term where this book is concerned, but you take my meaning. This issue manages to tell another entertaining done-in-one case and still push everything forward with that huge moment at the end that then just totally doesn’t happen. Which just makes a guy heartsick. Layman is such a bastard. He’s laughing at all of us. He wants to drink our tears.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #8 — This one holds up the momentum from last month and ups the ante by having our girl trip balls for most of the issue, which looked like a pretty solid representation to me. Better than I can convey, at any rate! Gillen’s still doing all right with it, but it’s McKelvie/Wilson who are carrying this thing on their shoulder, particularly the acid portion of the program, naturally. I tell you what, though, that PHONOGRAM on the inside back cover straight up gave me goosebumps. Hopefully, August will roll around soonish so that I can just give this book a fair shake on its own merits and quit bitching that it’s keeping McKelvie from drawing the book that God put him on the Earth to draw.

ODY-C #3 — The captions and art blend together in this one more effectively than what’s gone before. Not that it needed help, but the language here flows together with the images in a more seamless manner. Was Fraction using second person before now? That decision recalls seventies Goodwin and O’Neil Batman comics as much as Homer and really just works. This issue also does a little bit better job of wedding science fiction to Greek myth. That is one fearsome Cyclops of Kylos. I was already hoping this would be the call, but I’m pleased that Fraction decided not to fully resolve this in a single issue. I mean, the Cyclops just needs more time on-panel, right? Pretty clever inversion of the old “no man” gag, too. The deal with this issue is that they’re already really hitting their groove and settling in, here. You can’t see all the heavy lifting going on, which wasn’t necessarily the case when we were getting blasted in the face with all that insanity of the first two issues. Christian Ward’s art, those colors, you can’t really call them understated by they’re a little bit dialed down this time? Not so bombastic as what we’ve seen. This issue, at least. It’s nice to see them find their stride and start to pace it out a little bit, here. It’s going to be a pretty long trip, I betcha.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CRIMINAL — I’m such a zombie for everything that Brubaker/Phillips put out that it took me a couple of pages to get into the jailhouse section of this issue before realizing, Oh fuck, this is CRIMINAL, not INCOGNITO or FATALE or THE FADE OUT or whatever the hell else they made up to do last week, this is the original shit, man. I didn’t read SLEEPER when it was coming out, so this was my introduction to all things Brubaker/Phillips. And this one is still just the absolute best, man. This is a tantalizing glimpse into the life of Teeg Lawless, who did a short stretch of time in ’76, managing not to get shanked while also bringing us along on the sequential adventures of a Conan analogue. You can tell that everybody involved is just having a ball; the creators’ passion for the project is readily apparent. Nothing monumental happens, this one is just another tale of someone trying to get by the best he can with all of his wits deployed to help him through. The Phillips painted cover a la Frazetta on the oversized edition is the only version of this that you need in your life. Good fun, all around. Hope we don’t have to wait this many years again before the next installment of this excellent series.

LOW #6 — Jesus, Remender! You just don’t care, do you? Fella is making a hard charge for that hill that Whedon and Martin have claimed and that Kirkman keeps trying for every few years. The result, though, is genuinely shocking material. I certainly didn’t see that one coming. Greg Tocchini continues to turn in absolute painted glory. Glad I hung with this one for the first arc and will certainly be picking it back up in June when the next one gets going.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #002 — I cared a liiiiiittle bit more about this one? I don’t know. I’m going to hang with it for a little while longer, but I don’t care about too much of the ensemble, really for none of the new additions (why the fuck does everyone keep trying to make Brother Voodoo a thing? If it isn’t Fred Hembeck doing it, let’s leave the Drumm brothers back in the seventies where they belong). And it’s not like I’m not picking up enough Marvels. This one’s right on the line for me. 

NEW AVENGERS #030 — Um. This one is kind of a downer. I used to rag on Bendis as much as anybody when he would just drop an issue of straight talking-head exposition, but Hickman substantially mitigates that tactic here by having good old Hank Pym narrate the death of All the Fucking Celestials with all the Kirby-level insanity that such a thing implies, both artistically and conceptually. I wasn’t that onboard with Dalibor Talajic initially. He comes across as a bit rougher and flatter than even Kev Walker, who I did not find to be a suitable alternate to Deodato’s insane and almost painterly photo-realism. But dude opens up the can of crackle when it counts, man. Dear Lord. This issue is basically nothing but exposition set-up for all the crazy shit Hickman is about to ramp it all up to yet again in a couple of months, and yet by the end, when Hank says, “I went mad. Lost in the fireworks of universal genocide,” we’re all like, “Well, of course you did. That’s the only reaction that even makes sense after all of that.” Good hustle, everybody. Even with that major downer ending.

ALL-NEW X-MEN #038 — I completely ignored all of the other Black Vortex tie-ins and just went in to this cold as a regular reader of nothing but this title, and let me tell you, that recap page made for some entertaining reading. Glad to have Sorrentino still in the mix with Bendis here, this is singular artistic work. Given the cliffhanger, I’m a little bit tempted to jump on board with all of the other tie-ins, but I think it will be just as much fun to let everybody run around and keep fucking shit up for another little while, and I’ll just check back in next month.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #003 — I’m still issue-by-issue with this, but if you pass up a book with Davis/Farmer/Wilson on interiors, you’re just a damn fool, never even mind that you were even considering giving Waid a miss in the first place. No surprise, Spidey is Coulson’s best wingman yet, and this romp through Stephen Strange’s Village manse is great fun from the get-go. Between the art, setting, and characterization, there’s a kind of timeless quality to these pages. The coloring obviously brands it as modern, but if these were newsprint pages with nothing but flats, this could easily be a product of the eighties or late seventies, even. Given the subject matter, it feels the least bit odd to say, but yeah, again, this one’s just nothing but good fun.

DAREDEVIL #013 — More quality from the Waid/Samnee/Wilson machine. That’s one hell of a cover. A diverting done-in-one conflict with a twist that was not difficult to anticipate but Kirsten pumping her fist at getting her own arch-enemy was charming and worth the cover price all on its own. Also, the Page Six and Twenty splashes in this issue were particularly good, though I’m not sure anything tops that first page. Beautiful rendering, Kirby panel layout, nothing can go wrong.

FANTASTIC FOUR #543 — The around-the-world hijinx keep raining down, it’s basically all hands on deck even if they might be off-panel, and our first family is finally gloriously reunited now that Reed’s got his pluck back. Kirk/Kesel/Aburtov continue to throw down complete A-list game, capturing basically everybody in the Marvel Universe who isn’t an X-Man (or I guess we have to count the Guardians now, too, suddenly). I mean, Alpha Flight gets a shot in the montage before we head over to Rick “Sleepwalker” Sheridan to save the day, leading up to the Heroes Reborn Avengers assembling, with that A still missing from Cap’s head, even, no doubt infuriating true patriots from coast to coast. Bentley-23 and his daddy steal the show in terms of emotional content this time out, though; this was a relationship that Hickman set into play but didn’t have time to pay off before concluding his run, but Robinson does very nice work with them here. I’m all strapped in and ready for two more issues of Clobberin’ Time.

DARTH VADER #002 — Oh dear, someone misspelled Kieron Gillen’s name in the opening crawl credits. He probably doesn’t mind that much. The dynamic between Vader and Tagge is an interesting one and solid casting on Gillen’s part. I really dig the Death Star being called Tarkin’s Folly after the fact, not sure if that’s a new thing, but I’ve never heard it before. [Sidenote: does Darth Vader benefit more than any other character in comic book form from another media? Meaning, when I’ve got James Earl Jones delivering these lines in my head, is there any other character who gets more of a bump from a non-comic-book source? Hearing Kevin Conroy deliver Batman’s lines might be the only thing that comes close.] Oh man, though, Grand General Tagge, do not cast yourself as the wielder of Vader as lightsaber in your metaphor. That line immediately cuts Tagge’s life expectancy to whatever issue ends this arc, #4, #5, whenever. Remember when trades used to always be six issues long, for the most part? Oh, Marvel. Funny how even the Rebel station has that vertical ring around it when it blows up. Maybe that should just be a Death Star thing, kind of a special deal? I found this one a little bit more compelling than last issue. Vader certainly makes one hell of a protagonist. It’s kind of fun to root against those Rebel scum.

SPIDER-GWEN #001 — A pretty solid first issue after the glorious perfection of her debut a few months ago. Hard times have naturally already fallen upon Gwen and The Mary Janes (and pretty much every other secret identity analogue, what an ignominious fate for the ever-lovin’ Ben Grimm; though it is somehow gratifying to see old Frank Castle still punishing). Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi provide more dynamic interiors, dialing up the Ditko while still evoking enough Pope to keep the kinetic energy flowing. Jason Latour hits the right beats. The Heisen-bird pun took me out of it, but then the Marlo quote with all the graffiti won me back over (especially that “turrble comics” one). And then the ANCHORMAN quote. I don’t know, I can see the argument that in this information-saturated society, any plugged-in teenager is going to be thinking in pop-culture quotes. That’s inherently logical, but the effect is that they take me out of the story and reduce my role as a reader from being actively engaged in what’s happening on-panel to instead just playing spot-the-reference. Maybe I’ll get the hang of the rhythm. Overall, this was a terrific first outing. It really almost suffers from that sophomore slump of most #2s after their first issue left us breathless and jaw-dropped. It didn’t quiiiiiite capture the magic lightning in a bottle just the same that second time, but that might not even be possible. I’m certainly glad and grateful that this book exists and wish it a long life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


BEST OF WEEK: THE MULTIVERSITY: MASTERMEN #1 — Wow. If you’re going to bang out a Nazi Justice League comic, I guess opening with Hitler taking a shit while reading a comic book with Superman punching him out on the cover is totally the way to go. And I mean, the deal with those alternate Ratzis peppering baby Kal-El with machine-gun fire is totally evil business. They knew what was going to happen when we first see it happen, meaning they had already done it while Hitler was on the pot. That is some next-level type material. Those Nazis were so evil!

Lee’s interiors are overall a bit rawer than what we’ve grown accustomed to. They look a little rushed in places, but really, as much as I’ve seen some folks just tearing him up for it, I almost prefer it. Instead of his usual hyper-cross-hatched anatomical perfection, these pages are a bit more stylized and have slightly more, I don’t know, vitality to them? It’s the sequential equivalent of realizing that Ivan Drago is just a man, after all. And that’s a reassuring thing. Even though of course the “seventeen years later” flash-forward double-splash is as technically horrifying as ever, and Lee can’t resist reprising his iconic standing-with-left-knee bent shot of the big guy on the next page. But that scratchier style suits the image of Uncle Sam slinking away from the Fall of Washington, sliding a contraband Superman comic into his coat while Nazis empty mugs of beer onto the decapitated head of the Lincoln Memorial. That shot kind of says it all even before you get to the swastikas on the Washington Monument in the next panel.

Now, Overgirl died in FINAL CRISIS, right? Or, I mean, in the backstory to the Overman who showed up in SUPERMAN BEYOND 3-D? I think I have that right, but my eyes are starting to bleed, lining all of this up. Total comprehension of Morrison Multiverse leads to absolute aneurysm. But holy shit, that Human Bomb guy who drops in to wreck Overgirl’s memorial, that’s Lee doing like a straight Liefeld homage. Worlds will live and worlds will die! And I love that the Aquaman analogue here is just Underwaterman, that’s got a really funny undertone of the literalness of the German language tucked in there. Casting the Freedom Fighters as persecuted minorities who survived Nazi purges is a strong choice. Morrison also sidesteps the tricky issue of making our hero complicit in the Holocaust with a three-panel flashback revealing that he was apparently off-planet for three years of the genocide. I understand that there’s only so much you can work in to a forty-page book, but that’s quite a little hop to make. Hey kids, it’s okay, our guy didn’t do any of that oven or shower stuff!

Overman bringing up the annual performance of The Ring Cycle to his presumed best friend Jurgen Olsen is an Easter egg that lends this installment of THE MULTIVERSITY a frankly massive amount of subtext that I didn’t dredge up all by myself with just Brunhilde’s name to go on. Okay. So, Jurgen the Olsen analogue was the traitor, yes? But he died with Brunhilde and everyone else when the Eagle’s Nest crashed into the concert hall? And he was narrating from beyond the grave? Or. What if Overman himself is the mole? I mean, he really doesn’t do anything for most of the issue except express regret over the Holocaust. In order to be truly heroic, he would have to take action against that, right that injustice somehow. Now, check out that panel last panel of the interview between Jurgen and the big guy. Overman says, and I quote, “MR. OLSEN, WE HAVE ONE OF THE TERRORISTS IN CUSTODY, AND I HAVE NO DOUBT THE OTHERS WILL JOIN HIM SHORTLY. THIS YEAR’S PERFORMANCE OF THE RING CYCLE WILL GO AHEAD AS IT HAS EVERY YEAR SINCE 1876. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.” Nothing has changed? As in, “All systems are still go, proceed”? If we entertain the notion that Overman is himself the mole and in cahoots with Uncle Sam, it’s no jump at all to consider that those lines are instructions addressed directly to the American terrorists, confirming the time and location for the strike. Of course, he still tries to stop it in the end. But he fails. Due to internal conflict? I’m still not sure. It seems like this installment might be second only to PAX AMERICANA as one to reward intense engagement and scrutiny with a great deal of the narrative/opera buried in subtext and Wagnerian references.

Even with the mighty A-list art team of Lee/Williams/Sinclair on the clock, this issue takes a bit of a dip after last month’s surprising escalation of the GUIDEBOOK following PAX AMERICANA. It has a ton of baggage to overcome due to its content and mostly does the job, but you can’t help feeling just a little bit fucked up and dirty finishing up the ballad of the Nazi Superman and how he was laid low by the terrorist Uncle Sam and/or the crushing weight of his own guilt.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #39 — That ACTION COMICS #1 homage is glorious. The further adventures of SuperDamian continue, and they are a beautiful thing to behold. You can understand his father’s concern, though. That line about the Karman Line being the “difference between being an earthling or an astronaut” is chilling enough without seeing the way he’s gritting his teeth in poor Penguin’s face. The double-page title spread is gorgeous, Bruce still doing his damnedest to regulate with the “Down. Now.” The following two-page fishing scene is a terrific piece of characterization even before that fantastic splash page to bring it all home. You’ve got to love Damian finally making it up on the Justice League’s satellite headquarters. The interaction with Superman is priceless. Does Shazam not have the secret-word transformation thing happening anymore? I thought that Damian was trying to trick him into saying his name and changing back to Billy, but then I turned the page and he was still “The Big Red Cheese.” I do love the panel with, “Yeah, so grateful he punched me in the jaw in front of everybody,” with Damian’s single raised eyebrow really selling the whole deal. Already can’t wait to see how it goes down next issue. This right here is twenty pages of perfection right up until the last word when the letterer forgets the apostrophe in “let’s,” but we’ll sure let that one slide.

BATGIRL #39 — Now, that Chiang variant cover is twisted and evil. Cameron Stewart continues to anchor this title, writing with Brendan Fletcher and providing breakdowns for Babs Tarr and Maris Wicks to work their magic on. This book really has some of the best-looking and most distinctive interiors on the rack today. I love that panel on Page Four with her hunched over up on the basketball goal. It’s a perfect microcosm of what this book does, embodying the Batman mythos while carving out its own unique place within them. And then on the next page, there’s terrific foreshadowing to the cliffhanger, that line of dialogue that Barbara walks in on about Riot Black getting rebooted and seeming like a totally different person. Hell, they even embolden “reboot.” Totally missed it the first time through, but it’s very catchable once you’ve seen how the issue ends. And I won’t spoil that last page, but that is certainly a hell of a way to get a bump on your SECRET ORIGINS sales. They’ve got my dollars, at least.

BATMAN ETERNAL #46 — Those Jae Lee covers are certainly distinctive! I usually hate it when anyone calls our hero “Bats,” but for some reason, it sounds totally appropriate coming out of Julia Pennyworth’s mouth. It must be her wonderful English accent. I love the page where Batman has visions of his potential successors. Good call, Tim Seeley and those four other writers, on nailing what makes that #666 Damian Batman the greatest to wear the cowl besides the original. “Is Batman eternal?” At last, we’re getting to it! I’m sorry to say that everyone on ARROW but the Asian couple mispronouncing Ra’s al-Ghul’s name is starting to infect me. Not cool. And Lord Death Man! Always a pleasure. It seems like we’ve had our last round of misdirection and will actually be gearing up to confront the Big Bad of this thing just any week now. Perhaps.

FUTURES END #42 — Oh good, I wasn’t ready for Ray Palmer to be toast, even five years from now. So, it appears that this version of Brainiac will have a great deal to do with dat old dang Convergence rearing its ugly head up from over yonder. I believe that we are going to see that cover of FLASH #123 and the JSA sitting around their table several times in the months to come. Some kind of happy resolution on that front. But I’m a little unclear on what Terry “did” to cause the deal with Brother Eye at the end. Possibly just fail in his mission, I guess? This issue was a bit of a bump up from what we’ve been getting lately, not so much water-treading.

FABLES #149 — All right, well yeah, I certainly had hopes, but Willingham was just fucking with us pretty hard, coasting for a few months and most of this issue, even, before hitting the gas right there in the final four pages. So, at long last, we’ve got our final bit of exposition flashed back, the full reason why it’s got to be Snow vs. Rose for all the power has been revealed and there’s nothing left but the making it to that final THE END. Which experience with this title suggests won’t be very final in any way, shape, or form. I like how Buckingham’s shot of Rose and Bigby making out in the forest on Page Thirteen is so evocative, Nimit Malavia pretty much exactly repaints that for the cover. Really going to miss this title. I wonder if I have time to power the whole thing through in the next month. Probably not if I’m going to rewatch all the MAD MEN as well, and that’s no choice at all.

BITCH PLANET #3 — This one is all right. A little boilerplate. I definitely feel like I know the character but didn’t find a reason to particularly care about her, which seems like kind of a waste of an issue, considering it’s a –centric devoted to her. Robert Wilson IV does fine work guesting on interiors. I found the backmatter more compelling than the issue itself, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Overall, this one isn’t that offensive but doesn’t really pull its weight for me in The Pull, pun honest-to-God not intended but left in for the sake of editorial integrity. Going to see if we can get something started next month when we return to the present, but this one is looming close to getting cut.

MPH #5 — A strong resolution to a mini-series that managed to remain compelling despite featuring characters that I never really managed to dial in to on any measureable level. I am a sucker for the superspeed, and that 11-page fight that took place in between the TICK and TOCK was a serious technical feat. Kudos to Duncan Fegredo for executing Millar’s inspired choreography. The twist at the end kind of borrows from the RED SON twist that Morrison gave Millar back when, but I didn’t mind. Overall, an entertaining read, though I would probably only roll in for the inevitable cinematic adaptation if Matthew Vaughan sees fit to stack it into his crowded slate.

SAVAGE DRAGON #202 — The sexual hijinx continue! And probably conclude for the most part, at least all the three-ways and the porn tape and that one four-way. College kids be crazy. Larsen escalates the deal substantially but then appears to most likely bring the arc to a close with a net-yield of would-be nemesis now waiting in the wings. This series continues to showcase strong narrative work by one-man-band Erik Larsen (aided and abetted by Chris Eliopolous on letters, but it’s Larsen’s show) and great fun all around.

SILVER SURFER #009 — The Galactus arc hits the turn here in its second act as our hero does his best to stop his former master from chowing down on the six billion souls on Newhaven, which is of course a pretty dicey endeavor considering the planet-devourer can take away the Power Cosmic as easily as he granted it to his first herald so long ago. Slott’s scripting remains pitch-perfect, and the Allreds continue to turn in beautiful pages. Norrin surfing the moon is a fantastic concept but Allred nails the imagery and staging to perfection.

UNCANNY X-MEN #031 — Well, huh. I can’t figure out what this cover has to do with anything at all, but other than that, this one right here is thunder. Bachalo is back going great guns with Antoino Fabela assisting him on color and, once again, no less than six inkers. I keep not being able to figure out how one guy can get so ahead of six. Maybe it would be one thing if he was doing loose loose work, but if that’s the case, these guys have done tremendous work tightening up the situation and making it look uniform. Massive resolution here as Bendis puts several genies back in the bottle, resurrecting a gang of beloved characters who of course had to come back but doing so in a way that didn’t feel like a cheat through the monumental circumstances that bring it about. Okay, and I’ve got to hit the SPOILER TAG here, but doesn’t this deal pretty much spell out how the whole run is going to end? Granted, I don’t recall the exact specifics of time travel rules that got laid out here when Beast tried to send the kids back early on, but what happens this issue proves that time is mutable and, at least via Eva Bell, events can be altered with no apparent consequence. So, can’t she just herd up all those teen X-Men and scoot them on back to #8 of the original run to fight Unus? No problem once we retrieve Teen Cyclops from making Star-Lord jealous by gallivanting through outer space with his not-dead daddy? It seems like kind of a simple fix to write in here near the very end, but I guess we’ll see how it all plays out. Bendis continues to do tremendous work with Eva Bell here. Rather than spread the love around the rest of the ensemble before he shuts it down, it looks like she’s just going to be the breakout star of his new roster, full stop. I was a fan of the backtalk she was giving Xavier last month and absolutely love the way that she dresses down Scott at the end of this issue. Terrific work, all around. Really going to miss this run when it’s over. This one and the guys on BATMAN AND ROBIN come really really close to the subtextual Nazis-vs-American-terrorist action that Morrison and the boys have going on.